I park near the church.
They built it in the middle of nowhere, so I’m surprised by its size. Ela said that up in the hills large churches are usually pilgrimage sites. We were sitting by the river, drinking. I had a beer, she had a coke and some cherries on the side. She put a whole cherry into her mouth and formed the stem into a loop.
She’s got skills, like her dad.
Then she quickly finished her coke and I haven’t seen her since. It’s been six months. I wonder how taller she is now, teenage girls grow so fast.
Like these pines surrounding the church.
Pines and church in front of me, hills and vineyards behind me. I open the window and breathe in the air. I can’t sense the aroma of the white grapes very well. My nostrils are partly stopped because of the prosthetic nose. I look in the mirror and check the fake nose, the fake eyebrows, the fake teeth. If i stumble upon someone in the woods, they can say to the cops they saw a man with a crooked nose, speaking in Italian. I’ve worked in Slovenia before. In these parts they understand German pretty well, not Italian though.
I get out of the car with Trieste plates. In the inner pocket of my jacket I can feel the loaded tool. I check the watch. I’ve been driving around several days now, observing the target at jogging. It’ll be on its location in 12 to 10 minutes.
People are creatures of habit. That comes very handy in my line of work. The client told me about the habits of the current target. I don’t ask clients about the motives for choosing the target, I don’t ask about their connections. But in this case the connection wasn’t hard to spot: the client and the target have the same last name.
Father is the client, son is the target.
I don’t ask why. And I don’t ask how much. I say how much. Half of the money before the cleaning, half after the cleaning. That’s why I demand the client’s last name. If they try to avoid payment, I can extort them after the cleaning. No sense in cleaning the client up for punishment. The dead don’t pay their debts. This is my main income. What I sell on the road is mainly for the cover. I haven’t been exposed yet. I’m fluent in seven languages. Someone mistook me for a linguist once. I suppose I could teach at the university. But I would get five times less money.
Now I need even more. For Ela. She wants to travel Germany. She’s interested in art history. Mainly baroque. I think this church belongs in the baroque period. I walk up to it, I still have 10 to 8 minutes. Maybe there are postcards or booklets inside, Ela would want them.
I go to the entrance. It’s locked.
I turn to the woods, when from behind the corner a fat man with a white collar shows up. A priest. He asks if I want to take a look inside. I tell him I don’t understand in perfect Italian.
He repeats in broken Italian what he just said in his eastern Slovene dialect.
I mustn’t arouse any suspicion. I say yes. I still have nine to seven minutes.
There are no booklets. Walls are covered with frescos. He points to a female figure and says it represents the allegory of life. The woman has a fat face, fat belly, fat ass. She reminds me of Ela’s mother. She was a miserable broad. I was still young back then, I had sex with whoever liked my cheap cocain. Fortunately I don’t see her mother in Ela.
Though I feel she has my eyes.
I stare at the allegory of life, the collared man takes that as my apprecation of the fresco. He points at another fresco and smiles: “If you liked life, you’re gonna love death.” There’s a fresco of the allegory of death. It’s a skeleton in rags, with rotting pieces of flesh. Its ugly, dirty. The allegory isn’t really fair. Nearing death may be ugly and messy. But death itself is clean. It makes a clean cut. No more fucking about, no more hope. No more questions: Am I good enough for her? Where will I be in ten years? Does my father love me? Death is the only possible answer. It swipes away all the bullshit.
I’m staring. I thank him and say goodbye. He’s locking the door, I dissapear into the woods.
The target will be on location in 4 to 3 minutes.
I’ll get to the path through the pines. Target will be running along the path, which winds around the hill. I can’t aim from below, the sun is peeking from behind the hill, so I cross the path and climb up the hillside. I lean on the wide pinetree, which provides a good cover. I’ve got the sun behind my back. I ascend easily. I’m in good shape. If we were to climb german castle hills, I could keep up with Ela. She screamed something about me being responsible for her mom’s suicide, but I know that’s not true.
I put on my gloves.
That woman didn’t tell me about our daughter. Ela found out about me only after she killed herself.
I take the tool out of the pocket.
If we went travelling together she would realize I’m not a bastard. God only knows what that whore was telling her about me.
I hear quick steps. That’ll be the target.
I move my leg for better balance. My nostrils are still stopped up. That’s why I can’t smell the shit that I step into.
I let go of the tool.
I slip down the hillside, the trees are scraping me.
I hear heavy breathing. The target is on its location. Unfortunately I’m on the location as well. It asks if it can help me. I’m quiet, I’m looking for the tool. It asks me what’s wrong with my nose. I can feel it moved. The eyebrows moved as well. The target is following my eyes. We both see the tool. It’s lying beside the path. The target is as strong and fast as I am. Yet it is younger. It picks up the tool and points it at me.
It’s strong, fast, young. It is also careless and scared, the tool is shaking. I kick it from its hands, the tool flies down the hillside. The kick is followed by a punch in the face. It knocks the target down. It’s rolling on the floor, holding its bleeding nose. It starts to yell.
Time to improvise. Beside the path grows a young pine tree, two feet in size.
What did Ela do with the stem?
I pull out the little tree, roots and all. Resin and needles don’t bother me due to my gloves. I kneel above the target and place the tree behind its neck. It moves its hands for selfdefense. I start to twist the young trunk around its neck. Like daughter, like father. It grabs my neck and starts choking me. We’re so close, I can see the colour of its eyes.
I wonder if it got them from dad.
Its young with strong hands. But it didn’t promise its daughter a trip through Europe. And it didn’t swear to never leave her alone again.
I make a noose around its neck. I squeeze it so hard my palms hurt.
The yelling stops. It is done. Target is cleaned up.
I loosen the little tree. I move the cleaned up target’s legs on the path, with the head pointing towards the woods. This way they can easily spot it, and if someone runs over it, the face would not be damaged. They must identify it easily.
I descend the hillside. The tool is shining in the brushes. I pick it up, I go back the way I came. I run pass the church. I sit in the car. I cose the door.
I calm down. I start to breathe slowly.
I turn the key. I drive off. I start to remove the nose, the eyebrows, the teeth. The job is done. The target is cleaned up. Death is clean, smooth. The end of everything. But not for me. Not yet. I must contact the client, to let it know about its son. It’s time for the rest of the payment. I need it. Ela really wants to go on that trip.
The things we do for our children.