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state: first draft
last update: 1999 September 3

Killing Buddha

15. He Who Hesitates Is Sometimes Saved

By Kevin Kelleher

During the rapid car ride to Piazza Napoli, the devil repeated in various ways the small amount of time in which the deed could be done. "An hour from now, it will be impossible, and another chance will not arise."

"If you want to turn back, Renzo, the time is now."

Renzo, ashen-faced but determined, said, "No, I'm going to do it."

"I know you are," the devil replied. "Have you noticed that you haven't asked me who the man is?"

Renzo looked at him, startled. "I hadn't thought of it!"

"Good," the devil chuckled. "That's a good sign. But I want to tell you for a very particular reason of my own. This man is a holy man. In fact, he's a saint."

"Then why should I kill him?" Renzo asked.

"Because he is about to become something far more than a saint. He is destined to be some sort of avatar or world savior." The devil stopped the car abruptly at a corner and shut off the engine. He turned to Renzo and looked him full in the face. "If this man lives, he will change the course of human history."

"In what way?"

The devil frowned and hesitated before replying. Then he said, "I don't know. Most things are so mechanically predictable that I can see into the future for a long way. People like this throw me off and when they do I have a hard time recovering."

"What do you mean?" Renzo asked.

"Never mind what I mean," the devil answered. "Let's leave it at that. What I want you to understand is that you are in a quite powerful bargaining position at this moment. I am ready to give you virtually anything you could ask for or imagine in return for killing that man. Think about it." The devil glanced at his watch. "You have five minutes before you have to go into the building."

Renzo shook his head. "I've already thought about it and I know what I want."

"Fine," the devil concluded. "This is what you have to do. In five minutes a group of people are going to come out of that building --" he indicated an apartment building with a large portal. "They will turn right and walk off. As soon as they have their backs to you, run up and enter the building. Go into the courtyard and take the second stair on the left all the way to the top. There will be a door directly in front of you. Knock, and the man will open the door for you. Go in and kill him as quickly as you can.

"When you've finished, leave the same way you came. I'll be waiting here for you. Nothing will go wrong."

He glanced at his watch and took a breath. "It's nearly time. Let's get out of the car." Renzo opened the door and stepped out. The devil quickly came around the car and placed himself directly in front of Renzo, grabbing his shoulders and looking directly into his eyes.

"Remember two things, Renzo. This is very important. The first is: time is very limited. From the moment you enter the apartment you will have only fifteen minutes to do it and get out. This is your only chance. There will NEVER be another.

"The second thing: don't let him talk to you. Just do it and go."

Renzo paused. "How can I be sure it's the right person?"

The devil smiled sardonically. "Don't worry. You'll be sure." He stiffened and looked down the street. "They've come out. Get ready. Once they turn, go. And remember: fifteen minutes."

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