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The two women slowly walked along the terrace and cautiously avoided every subsidence. The late autumn sun was low and its light cast long shadows in the extensive, worn out garden. 

Mia B. was a stout woman of about forty-five years of age. Her hairs were gray and on her face were quite a few wrinkles. Her gray eyes looked into the world with sadness. 

Carol V. was her opposite in every way. She was a little woman, somewhat plump, with brown hairs and brown twinkling eyes. When you looked at her you'd say she was at least ten years younger than Mia, but in fact she was a few months older. Mia looked around the neglected garden. 

'It is such a pity that no one feel obliged to take care of it,' she said. 'It could be such a beautiful place.' 'I think it has a charm of its own,' Carol replied. 'This old ramshackle castle and its worn out, overgrown garden tells us a lot more than a new, perfectly arranged site.' 'Too much is falling to pieces,' Mia said. 'The world is coming apart under our hands. That's why I had to do it, you understand?' 

Carol looked at her friend's profile. She knew Mia for over thirty years and they had always shared good and bad times. Mia had no secrets for her. That was at least what she had thought until Mia had called her this afternoon and urged her to meet her at the old castle. Carol was stunned by the tone of her friend's voice but she had of course agreed. 

'Mia, you are upset. Why?' 'Do you know how long ago it is? Five years, three months and sixteen days.' Carol glanced at her watch. 'And four hours. Why do you keep torturing yourself with it?' 'We had to hear it on the radio! Because the police said they hadn't had time to inform the relatives!' 'They did inform us, didn't they?' 'They had to! What else could they do? Confirm that the woman journalist was there before them and knew everything before the coppers even had a clue?' 'Come on, Mia, that was a coincidence. She was driving past the site when it happened!' 'And instead of calling 911 she got out and started taking pictures.' 'Well, that is her job. Besides, I don't think there was much she could do.

 The guy was completely unsusceptible to reason.' 'But my Robert is dead, Carol, just as your Chris is.' 'We won't get them back by mourning, Mia. And the guy was sentenced.' 'Sentenced? Don't make me laugh.' 'Why, do you think it's fun to be on a closed ward of an institution?' 'If he would really be irresponsible for his actions he wouldn't even know he'd be there! Sentenced. Phew!' 'Somebody who kills his former colleagues just because he was laid off, is ill.' 'Correct me if I'm wrong. But wasn't he laid off because he stole and sold company secrets to the Iraqis? How can you still hold on to your opinion that he was irresponsible?'

Carol carefully took the four steps that led down from the terrace and kept silent for a while. It didn't really matter what she said. Mia wouldn't listen. They still were best friends, but the dead of their respective husbands had driven them apart. 

'I didn't believe a word of it,' Mia continued. 'I mean, just look at the papers. They are filled with words like 'domestic problems', 'difficult upbringing', 'extenuating circumstances' and all. It is as if there are no criminals anymore. These days everybody is a victim of anything! And don't expect psychiatrists to deny that. They just jump into the market and make a fortune keeping the carousel going.'

 'Now you are exaggerating. Today's society is a demanding one...' 'Sure, defend him as well. But I still think that if you can't handle the life you live, you'll have to step out of it instead of killing innocent others. And the more I thought of that, the more I came to the conclusion I couldn't leave it at this.' 

Carol turned her head and squeezed her eyes. It was as if a knot was tied to her stomach. Mia held still, took a pack of cigarettes from her coat and pulled one out. She lit herself with a miniature gun. Carol looked at the barrel that produced the small flame and shook her head. 'That is quite a strange toy to see in your hands.' 

Mia looked at the lighter and shrugged her shoulders. 'You're the one who's always telling me to lighten up. And he loved it. Don't you want to know what happened?' 'What would you do if I said no?' 'I'd force you to listen.' 'Then what is the difference?' 'I want to talk to my friend. Not to some distant goat who could just as well be my counselor.' 'You know I'm not. What happened? Or should I ask what you have done?' 

Mia took a hard draw and exhaled a big cloud of smoke. 'I had to gain his confidence. I just had to know what was really going on inside that monstrous brain of his.' 'Did you go visit him?' Carol couldn't hold back the astonishment she felt. 'What did you think?    continue>

 
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Ever since Robert died my Sunday afternoons are quite filled with nothingness. Yes, I started visiting him.' 'And they allowed you to talk to him.' 'Not right away, they didn't. The first thing I did was contacting his doctors. I introduced myself as a writer who had read everything in the papers and was now writing a novel about it.' 'Did they actually believe that?' 'I used my maiden name. They had no reason not to believe me.' Mia lit another cigarette and looked at her gun shaped lighter. 'He is not allowed to have a lighter with him, or even just one match. Whenever he wants a smoke, he has to ask the warden.' 'See? He isn't in that place for no reason.' Mias smoking became agitated. 'A psychiatrist, any psychiatrist, just keeps on looking for anything in his books that fits with the patient he has before him. Next thing he does is basing all his theories for supposed cures on that. They don't fool me. All the conversations I had with those doctors? I didn't listen to them. I nodded and smiled and pretended I was taking notes. But all I was interested in was the man who killed my husband.' 'But what did you want? Did you expect him to take your pain off your chest like some kind of Jesus?' 

'If his mind at the time of the shooting was as absent as they tried to tell the jury during the trial, the guy would by now at least show some remorse, don't you think? Killing one man is not something your mind can easily discard, let alone killing two men.' 'And was he repentant?' 'He is now, I should say.' 'It don't understand you.' 'Today was the last time I visited him.' 

The women had reached the edge of a black pool. They held still, the noses of their shoes close to the water. Mia looked unnoticing towards the center of the pool. 'They tell me this pool is at least ten yards deep.' Carol watched her. The knot in her stomach got tighter. 'Mia? What are trying to tell me?' Mia put her hands in her pockets. When they reappeared she held a miniature gun in each hand. 'I spent moths talking with him. Time and time again did I listen to him talking about how bad it is to be a victim.' 

She now looked Carol straight in the eye. Her gray eyes were almost literally spitting fire with anger. 'But all those moths I also had to listen to his pride. How easy it was to get the rifle onto the company's premises. How he enjoyed the moment when he produced the gun when he was standing in front of them. How he savored the expression of fear and astonishment on the faces of his soon to be dead colleagues. How much pleasure it did him when he opened fire.' 

Mia looked at the small guns in her hands and put one of them back in her pocket. The other one she held up and she looked at it against the dark red sun. 'One shot,' she said. 'That was all I was given.' Carol followed Mias gaze and the knot in her stomach made her sick when she began to realize what Mia had done. 'Did you...?' 'Do you know that there actually are people with compulsive behavior? One of his fellow patients throws his dinner-set against the wall, every time he finished his meal. It's made of hard plastic so it won't break. But it makes quite some noise, I can assure you.' Mia kept silent for a minute or two. 'I couldn't listen to his stories anymore. I hated the sound of his voice, the way he cleared his throat. I hated the look in his eyes, which was one of pride.' 

She glanced down at the miniature gun in her hand. 'All I had to do was to wait for the right moment. He never knew what hit him. I only lit his smoke, as usual.' She pulled her arm back, threw the gun into the black pool and watched the rings growing wider until they completely disappeared. 'But...how can you walk away with murder?' Carol stuttered. Mia laughed sarcastically. 'The rest of his life he will be looking with one eye. Every time he looks in a mirror, he'll see the consequences of his deed. That is good.' She looked a long time at Carol, who was ultimately stunned and unable to move. 'Murder?' she finally said and she didn't hide her disappointment. 'I fail to understand how you could even consider that.' Then she shook her head, turned around and walked back to the terrace without saying another word, leaving Carol to her own thoughts.    End

 
 
 
 
 

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