"Come here," Angel told him.
Paolo did not move. He stared at the sullied blade, at the hand holding the knife, at the arm that did not shake. The rain drummed on the metallic roof, as if announcing a trapeze artist's somersault at the circus.
"How old are you?" Angel asked.
"I don't know," Paolo answered.
"Can you make soup?"
Angel had a firm grip on the handle of his knife, and yet remained undecided. The child, very small, very dirty, very wet, stood in front of him, and he could not imagine putting an end to his life. An unexpected twist of his conscience, maybe a little pity, held back his arm.
"I've never killed a child," he said.
"Neither have I," said Paolo.
The answer made Angel smile.
"Can you make soup, or not?" he asked again.
"I think so."
"Make me some soup, then."
Angel put his knife away. He was sparing the child, and with some relief told himself that he did not need to kill him. The little one would not prevent him from sleeping here; besides, it would be convenient to send the boy to fetch water at the well rather than go himself.
Paolo headed for the back of the house, entered a dark recess where his mother kept some meager supplies, and soon came out with a few potatoes, a leek, a turnip, and a piece of dried-up lard. He knew how to make soup, although he had never made any. He had watched his mother so often that the recipe was imprinted in his mind. To make a fire, he only had to imitate his father's gestures. It was easy.
Once the soup was ready, he turned to Angel Allegria.
"Serve me," said the killer.
Paolo went to fetch one of his father's iron bowls, the largest one, and put it on the table, far from the blood and wine stain. He poured the soup into it.
"Eat with me," Angel ordered.
Paolo went to fetch another bowl, the smallest and most dented one, his own. He helped himself and sat on the bench, facing the man, who was already slurping his soup. The rain had stopped. It was not cold in the house, thanks to the fire that crackled in the fireplace. Behind the window, night was coming like an ocean wave about to engulf the house and drown the world. Paolo lit a candle.
Excerpted from The Killer's Tears by Anne-Laure Bondoux Copyright © 2006 by Anne-Laure Bondoux. Excerpted by permission of Delacorte Books for Young Readers, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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