Oliver laid on the ground feeling his lifeblood flowing out of his body. Elizabeth stood over top of him grinning. The small 9mm pistol was only visible due to its silencer. “What’s the matter?” she asked with a smirk, “Surprised?”

Oliver tried to draw in a breath, but the bullet had entered his chest, and he found it difficult to get air. The burning pain in his back and the warmth of the ever-increasing blood pool beneath him told Oliver some part of the bullet had managed to escape from his body. He gasped, “Yes.”

Elizabeth’s laugh sounded demonic. “What, did you think I was some trophy girlfriend? Did you think I was nothing more than a turophile and wine connoisseur? You type of men are all alike. You’re vain, self-centered, and you think every beautiful woman thinks just like you do.”

Oliver was not sure if he understood Elizabeth. Perhaps it was a growing pain throughout his body and the slowly darkening room. He gasped out, “What, are, you, talking about?”

Elizabeth squatted down next to Oliver’s head. The smell of lilacs and roses he had enjoyed just a few moments earlier entered his nostrils that were now desperate for air. She grabbed his chin in her hand, “Come on, you’re at death’s door. Don’t play stupid with me. Don’t you remember a woman named Sharon?”

Oliver attempted to shake his head no. Elizabeth released his face. A painful slap met the left side of his face. The stinging effect brought him back into the fading world. A white flash of pain enveloped his mind. Instinctively he drew in his breath and nearly passed out from the agony. The room spun, and Oliver thought he saw Elizabeth standing up. She now stood over him like a hawk over its prey.

“You’re an idiot. Do you think denying killing my sister will get you off the hook? You’re dead already. You’re just too stupid to realize it. It was your company that put the pipeline through my sister’s neighborhood, even though everyone warned it could cause a catastrophic explosion if there were ever a leak. It was your company that paid off the politicians to make the pipeline happen. It was your company that tried to cover up the explosion that killed my sister. Did you think nobody would figure out that terrorists weren’t in the middle of Kansas?”

Oliver forced the words from his mouth. At first, he coughed up a mouthful of blood from his throat, and then he finally managed to get the words out, “Not me.”

“What do you mean it’s not you. Of course, it is. You’re Oliver Church. We’re inside your Manhattan condo. You’re the CEO of EcoGas. You’re to blame for the death of hundreds, including my sister.”

Oliver gasped, “No, not CEO. That’s my brother, Owen.”

Elizabeth shrugged, “What’s difference does it make. You’re just as complicit.”

Oliver shook his head, and the world spun. He stopped and focused on talking past the pain. “No, I fought my brother on the pipeline.  I don’t own any shares in his company. I work for United Nations Environment Programme.”

“Oh, God,” said Elizabeth.  Oliver closed his eyes and tried to keep breathing. He felt Elizabeth put a pillow under his head. A few moments later she carefully rolled his body over on its side and laid him back down on a soothing cold compress. “What have I done?”

Oliver spoke through the darkness, “I forgive you.”

“Don’t you leave me,” begged Elizabeth.

Oliver tried to speak, but could only mouth 911.

“What?” asked Elizabeth.

Darkness, and then light met Oliver as the pain, and the room slipped away.

“Oh my God,” said Elizabeth as she stood and paced. “What have I done? Oliver, please speak to me,” but Elizabeth knew he would not answer. She had heard the death rattle. Elizabeth prayed she was wrong. In desperation, Elizabeth grabbed a mirror off a nearby table and put it next to Oliver’s lips. No air passed from them. Elizabeth dropped the mirror, paced the condo, and spoke to herself, “What have I done? All I wanted was justice, and now I’m a murderer just like Owen. In fact, I’m worse than Oliver’s brother. His brother wanted money, I wanted to kill. What have I become?”

A dark voice inside Elizabeth’s mind spoke, You know what you have to do. You’ve killed an innocent man. Tears flowed down Elizabeth’s cheeks, and she nodded to the empty room. The voice was right. Only violence could stop her violence. She had to hate her hate. Elizabeth raised her trembling hand towards her mouth. In a moment it would be over. She would pay for Oliver’s death, and then peace.

No,  said a voice somewhere inside. You’re forgiven. Elizabeth looked down at Oliver’s body, had he said something? That was right, he had forgiven her, but how did that change anything? No, came a thought from inside her. I forgive you. Inside her memories, she could hear her Sunday School teacher telling her stories of Jesus and his forgiveness.

“This is stupid,” said Elizabeth to Oliver’s corpse. “I took your life, and I need to face justice.”

Then face it, came another thought.

Elizabeth looked down at the gun in her hand. She thought for a moment longer and then threw the weapon across the room.  Elizabeth reached into her pocket, got her cell phone, and dialed 911. “I need to report a murder,” she said to the operator. After giving the address, Elizabeth sat down in a nearby chair and looked at Oliver’s ashen body. “Thank you, for forgiving me.” Then, Elizabeth closed her eyes in prayer and waited for the police.

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