This story contains some adult content although not of a graphic nature.
"Bless me Father for I have sinned. It has been seventeen days since my last..."
Rory's thoughts were elsewhere. The soft-spoken man hidden in the dark shadows of the confessional was his last penitent of the day. Afterwards he was looking forward to a relaxed, enjoyable evening, far from the consta`nt demands of his parishioners.
"I'm sorry, would you mind repeating that?"
"Of course, father. I was just explaining why I had to kill the man. It was unquestionably for the greater good."
Rory listened incredulously as the stranger narrated how he had stumbled upon a terrorist's bomb factory. "I was just following the pipes," he explained. "I'm a plumber and water was cascading down into Mrs MacDonald's flat. The man's door was unlocked, so I tried it. It took me a moment to take in what I was seeing."
"Why didn't you call the police?"
"I don't know. I just thought this was proper somehow— using his own explosives. Besides, according to his calendar he was going to bomb a school the very next day. That's why I was in a hurry. My brother taught me, you see. He had this contract blowing up derelict buildings. That's how I knew how to set the fuses. I waited across the street for the bomber to come home. The last thing he heard was a click and then boom!"
The priest pulled out a faded cotton handkerchief and mopped his brow. "You murdered that man in cold blood. You could go straight to hell for that."
"I understand, father, that's why I came here. To confess. But also to explain why my actions were justified."
Rory didn't know what to say. The stranger took his silence as permission to continue his bizarre tale.
"Maybe I should talk about the second bomb. Then you can forgive me for everything all at once."
"What? You killed someone else?"
"Aye, father, but it was the only thing to do. There was this drug dealer, you see, who lived on our housing estate. The police must have arrested him a dozen times but he had this smart lawyer who always got him off. Seemed that no one could stop him, yet he was destroying the lives of hundreds of people. That's when I thought about the two other bombs that I took from that terrorist's flat."
"What happened?" Rory knew that he ought to maintain a firm tone of voice, but he was enthralled by a tale that was radically different from the usual confessions of adultery, petty theft and debauchery. Besides, the victims had probably deserved their fate. Who was going to miss an unscrupulous drug dealer or some indiscriminate bomber?
Noting the subtle change in the priest's manner, the man took his time explaining how the drug dealer had been despatched: "The moment he opened the door, there was this click and then boom!"
"I am not unsympathetic," Rory conceded. "The police don't approve of vigilantes, but desperate times can require desperate measures. My question is, are you genuinely sorry for your misdeeds? Contrition is, as I am sure you understand, a precondition for absolution."
"I don't know, father. Part of me believes that I did the right thing. Can I honestly say sorry for doing something that I would readily do again?"
Something niggled in the back of Rory's mind. "You said that you found three bombs. What happened to the third explosive?"
There was no response. The priest screwed up his eyes and peered through the lattice that connected the small compartments of the confessional box. The man had gone.
"It was probably all a hoax," he said to himself. "Someone put him up to it to see how I would respond. All the same, there's no harm in leaving an anonymous tip for the police. I dare say they could trace him through that Mrs MacDonald."
Closing the shutter, Rory took a moment to collect his thoughts. If he left straight away, he could get to the orphanage just before the evening meal. He would speak with the boarding mistress and ask her to send one of the boys for private catechism instruction. Perhaps sweet, innocent Philip. It was about time that he was initiated into the pleasures of sex. That was the advantage of preying on orphans; they had no one to stand up for them.
With a firm shove, Rory pushed open the door of the confessional and stepped outside. The click took him entirely by surprise.
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