Alone in the stone cell, Julien paced the perimeter until finally sliding his body down the unforgiving wall opposite the cell door. With her final words still stuck in his head, he focused on the cracks in the stones and the number of blocks stacked to form his enclosure. He tried to memorize the angles and the dimensions of the space instead of allowing thoughts of her warm curves pressed against him to overcome his focus. When the vision of her bright blue eyes came into his head, he changed his attention to the ceiling, taking in the cobwebs in the corners, the dim bulb hanging above, and the smell of mildew hanging in the air. As his mind fell upon the memories of their final moments together, he ground his fingernails into the hard stone beneath him.
His concentration wavered as something slipped through the bars of the cell door. Even in the dim lighting, he immediately recognized the medical grade pint of packed red blood cells. Although freshly sated by the girl’s last remaining ounce of life, the blood still called to him. The more he tried to ignore its presence, the louder the call became. His eyes repeatedly drifted back toward the bag as his tongue ran over his teeth. He sniffed the air, relieved that the scent of the bag’s contents remained trapped by the sterile sealing process.
His jaw clenched, and his fists tightened as the pain built in the back of his throat. Picturing himself back in France in the Church of Saint-Pierre de Montemartre, he swallowed back the saliva that collected in his mouth as he closed his eyes and began to chant.
“AVE MARIA, gratia plena, Dominus tecum. Benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Iesus. Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc, et in hora mortis nostrae. Amen.1”
With his eyes closed, he chanted the words over and over, repeating them until they became senseless in his mind. Placing his head between his knees, he squeezed his eyes closed tighter. When he started to wonder what blood type was written across the bag in bold letters or about how fresh it might be, he changed prayers. When the memories of the sensation of his lips on warm flesh, the sound of a pulse echoing in his ears, or the taste of that first drop of blood on his tongue entered his mind, he changed prayers. When he remembered her scent in his nostrils and her flavor in his mouth, he changed prayers.
Recognizing her footsteps and her smell, Julien did not look up as Agent Wolf stood in the doorway. After a long silence, she finally spoke. “Mr. Durant, tell me, why should I spare you?”
“You should not,” he said.
“And why is that?”
“I am a monster. I deserve to be ended. I wish to be ended.”
“And why should I give you what you desire?” Her voice hinted at genuine curiosity.
“You should not.”
She said nothing else as her footsteps disappeared down the long corridor. Silence filled the cell once again. He was alone, alone with the blood.
Imagining himself back in the Spiritual Exercises, he started to chant again. He had conquered the evil and disorder within himself once so many years ago; it could be done again. Ruth taught him that. It took losing her to prove to him that he had the choice, and her loss gave him the strength to take it.
Even though he had witnessed her passing with his own eyes, her presence still haunted his every thought. He sensed her fear and despair as if she sat next to him now. But now she was dead, and he sat alone in the stone cell.
1 Hail Mary, full of grace. Our Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.