“The lord loves stars.”

These were Dr. Albano’s words before he died, choking on blood coughed up by lungs breathing their last, red liquid forced upwards and out even as it bled through his torso, which was slashed raw, his entrails—liver, kidneys and intestines—shredded to ribbons, hot and steaming.

The words were said in a gurgle of blood, so soft I had to lean close to hear them, and to hear his last breath as it escaped from his lips.

“What did he say?” Minda asked.

“He said the ‘the lord loves stars.’”

Minda looked out the window, bulletproof glass now cracked, tiny spiderweb-like fault lines running through the formerly impenetrable glass. The curtain had long been torn away. Outside, the sky glowed light blue. Dawn had broken. I let go a breath I didn’t know I was holding in.

“Do you know what he meant?”

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