"Who's he?" Don Giovani rasped, trying to focus rheumy eyes on the dark figure standing at the end of his bed.

"It's Brother Roberto," Luciano whispered. 

"What's he doing here?" 

"He's come to pray for you." 

Don Giovani huffed disparagingly.

"Get him to kneel here, beside me."

"Don Giovani," the priest murmured respectfully. 

"What do you want?" 

"Want, Don Giovani?" 

"People always want something. Favours. Money." 

"I have come to hear your confession, so you can make peace with God." 

"What do I need to confess?" 

Brother Roberto paused meaningfully.

"Have you not sinned, my son?" 

Of course, I have, Don Giovani thought, as you well know. 

"I have envied the belongings of others," he admitted. 

"Have you committed adultery, my son?"

"I have," he whispered, and he thought, I have bedded many wives, including my brother's and more virgins than I can recall. I have led a devil-may-care life. I have no regrets. 

"My son, have you … taken the life of another?" 

What is this? He had never confessed these matters to anyone. Not to the police, or to the highest judges in the land. Was this a trap? Was the priest wired? Don Giovani smiled. He relaxed into the pile of soft pillows. What could they do, now? He would be dead soon. 

"I have, but only those who deserved it."

Am I saying this or just thinking it? He felt strange. He became aware of a smell; vanilla and rose water. What was it? Suddenly he could see as clearly as when he was a boy. He looked around. All was as before, except for a man standing beyond the priest.  

He radiated love such as Giovani had never experienced. But it was his eyes. They were as blue as a summer sky and as deep as the heavens. 

Come, the man gesticulated. 

Giovani rose with surprising ease, he felt weightless. Everyone was ignoring him. He looked back. There he still lay. Oh, my dear God, I have died. He looked at the man. 

"Are you an angel?" 

The man nodded and turned to go. 

Giovani followed.

Thanks be to God, an angel. I have been forgiven all my sins. He smiled, congratulating himself. 

An intense, holy light bathed him, but he became aware of a smell … of garlic and rancid onions.  

"He's all yours," the angel said. 

"Good," a voice rasped.

The light turned dark and foreboding.

Giovani turned.

Before his stood a man. 

He radiated a malevolence such as Giovani had never experienced. But it was his eyes. They were as black as the night sky and as deep as the pits of hell. 

copyright Martin Marais 2019
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