Twenty minutes before eight o’clock, Peter Carrigan stood in his bedroom inspecting himself in the full-length mirror hanging from the back of his closet door. He looked adequate: the three-piece suit he wore hung a little too loose from his shoulders and his torso. He needed a new suit, but he was pleased enough with his snazzy appearance. It would do for the occasion.
Peter adjusted his bow-tie and checked his watch again. 7:42 p.m. He mustn’t be late — he had a very important date to keep. He combed through his thinning hair once more and reached for the bottle of cologne on his dresser. A cloud of odorous mist cascaded through the air onto him. When he reached absent-mindedly to place it back on the dresser, his hand slipped; the bottle fell onto the floor. Peter flinched, fearing he would have a stain to clean up. But the bottle’s impact was cushioned by a large pile of papers on the floor.
In fact, all of Peter’s bedroom was full of papers. Stacks of papers bound together and hole-punched; single leaflet sheets with scrawls of messy writing overtop of them; mostly, staff-lined paper with music notes scribbled on them, crossed out, and rewritten. Peter’s immaculate appearance now, at 7:47 p.m., served as a contrast to the heaps of paper on the floor. He stood in a clear spot in front of the mirror, his black-and-white figure erect in the backdrop of a mess. Aside from the papers, his bed was neatly made, his clothes were hung straight on hangers in his closet and his violin leaned quietly up against the wall near the door.
At 7:50 p.m. Peter walked out of his bedroom, picking up his violin on the way, and tiptoed down the stairs of his complex. He knew exactly how long it would take him to reach his destination, where he could finally put on a show. The closest tube station was a block south of his flat and he walked there stoically, nodding politely at the people he passed on the way. He walked down the stairs and directly onto the train, which had arrived exactly when he expected it would. He removed the strap of his violin case from his right shoulder and stood serenely near the door with it standing up between his legs. He balanced it against his knees while his hands remained in his coat pockets, fidgeting with what was inside them.
The ride took only a few minutes, and when the doors reopened at his stop, Peter picked up his violin, slung it over his shoulder again and exited the tube car. He weaved his way through the Friday night crowds in the city, up the stairs and back onto the street above ground. He turned left, walked twenty paces and found himself at the building where he would be giving his show. He pulled his left hand out of his pocket and checked his wrist again for the time: 7:57 p.m. Perfect timing.
The foyer and stairwell were completely empty. Looking around, Peter walked a few paces forward and then dropped to one knee, resting his forehead on it and clasping his hands together.
“O, Ruler of Darkness,” he whispered quietly, “I come to you in the night knowing what I am about to do will please you and satisfy you. Please release me of the responsibility of this act, knowing all I do I do in your name; please release me from this world and return me to where I belong. May I be free from the torment of the sins of my past and may I be allowed back into heavenly graces.”
It was the fourth such time he had prayed those words in the past month, and still he was called upon to commit more sins. Peter took a deep breath, crossed an X with his finger on his chest in the sign of the Angel of Light, and stood back up again. He straightened his suit coat thoroughly again, brushing off the specks of dirt that had accumulated on him on his journey.
Then, he walked to the elevator and pressed the button for the thirteenth floor. The doors closed and the world fell into a silence, during which Peter could hear nothing but his own breathing and the whirr of the elevator as it pulled him up. Then a faint ding and the mechanical doors opened, revealing a long hallway that Peter traversed quickly with long, purposeful steps. Finally he reached the room he was looking for, paused in front of it to straighten himself again, and knocked six times.
There was a pause of several seconds, during which Peter could hear the pitter-patter of toddler feet on the floor inside the door. Then, the door clicked and swung open, revealing a short Asian woman and a little boy with chubby cheeks whose footsteps he presumably heard.
The woman looked up at him curiously, this tall, lanky man in the doorway, a halo of light behind him from the lamps in the hall. He merely flashed a friendly smile at her and her child and extended a hand to her.
“Hello,” he said, “I’m Peter. May I come in?”
The woman hesitated a second too long. “Um—” she began, but Peter had already taken a step forward into her flat.
“What a lovely place you have,” he said, stepping in and looking around. “Do you mind…?” But he was already walking inside toward the family room. The little boy clung to his mother’s leg as he watched Peter wander through his home.
“Excuse me,” the woman said, furrowing her brow, “but I don’t—”
“Oh, ho!” Peter laughed, the sharp sound ringing out in the silence. “No need to worry, ma’am! I’m just here to play for you.” He pulled his violin case off his shoulder, laid it on the kitchen table and opened it, revealing a finely polished violin in a red velvet case. The little boy’s eyes widened, and his face perked up as he watched this strange man brandish the instrument at him. He looked up at his mother, confused. Once Peter had lifted the violin out of is case and adjusted its tuning pegs, he gestured toward the coach with the bow. “Please, have a seat,” he said, smiling still. “I’d like to play a requiem for you.”
The woman gathered up her son close to her and hurried to the couch, her eyes wide with fear. The boy’s eyes, too, remained wide, but he reached out curiously to touch the violin strings. His mother pulled him back and hugged him close. She sat down on the couch, in the shadow of Peter, who stood over them with the same toothy smile as he placed the bow on the violin strings, which seemed to glow a faint red color in the dusk light in the woman’s flat.
The moment the strings touched each other, Peter was in ecstasy, his eyes closed, his body rolling with the rhythm of the melody he was playing. His fingers fluttered gracefully on the strings, moving up and down depending on the note, the bow dancing gently on the violin’s strings. As Peter moved back and forth, dancing to his own melody, lights inside the flat reflected off the violin’s body in time with the music. The woman and the boy sat watching him the whole time, seemingly entranced by the music, not daring to move or hardly to breathe.
Peter’s melody lasted four or five minutes, an eternity to everyone in the room. When the music stopped, and only an echo hung in the air, Peter hung his hands out to the sides, violin dangling from one hand and bow from the other, relishing in the moment of the music before opening his eyes and curling his lips into the ominous smile he entered the flat with.
“What did you think?” he asked the woman. “Was it heavenly?” The woman only stared at Peter completely bewildered. They only looked at each other, their eyes locked.
Suddenly Peter dropped to his knees again and let out a cry. “Please, My Lord of Darkness, haven’t I been punished enough? Am I always destined to do your bidding and be exiled from the Kingdom of Heaven?” He keeled forward onto his forehead, pressing his face into the floor and wailing at having sinned once more. “Can I not join Christ past the Pearly Gates? I swear, Lord, I have repented! I have repented! I have lived my life for you!” He bolted upright again and raised his hands to the sky. “Am I always to be punished in Hell for the sins of a child?”
The woman and her son just stared at him fearfully, watching him from the couch below.
Peter stood erect again and looked down at his victims. “I don’t want to do this, but I must. My Lord requires that I do it, to atone for my sins of long ago. If I am to be saved, to be freed from this Hell and re-enter purgatory, I must do this. You must understand.” He looked down at the woman, whose eyes stared into his desperately, beseeching him to leave their flat and leave them alone. His eyes had turned cold and dark, and he thought only of the task he must complete now.
Humming the tune he had just finished playing, Peter set his violin down on the couch next to the little boy, at whom he smiled one last time. He brushed his hands off on his suit jacket and walked around the back of the couch. The woman and the boy seemed to be frozen there; they stared straight ahead, trembling, not daring to watch the movement behind them.
Peter walked around the couch, placed his hands on the back and inhaled deeply. Then he reached into his pocket, pulled out a Swiss army knife, and, brandishing it, he leaned forward and slit both the woman’s and the boy’s throats. Both convulsed momentarily, and emitted a grotesque rattling breath sound as their bodies reacted to the gash.
Peter hummed calmly. He walked back around to the front of the couch, watching the woman’s and boy’s throat bubble full of blood, and picked up his violin again, his fingertips dotted in blood; the droplets spread onto the violin strings as he placed his hands in the correct position on the strings.
As his victims keeled forward in death in front of him, he began to play. This time it was a requiem, his favorite style of music, dark and somber — the perfect music to lead his victims’ souls to his Master.
The bodies had slumped forward onto the floor in front of him, their throats dripping with the blood that that Ruler of Demons requested for anyone in his kingdom to pay the price for his sins. Peter watched with casual disdain and fingered his violin with the same enthusiasm as before. The notes were the only sound to be heard in the flat; not even the city sounds outside — the rushing traffic, the hurried ambulance noises — could interfere with Peter playing his requiem. He closed his eyes and listened to the melody floating in the air. He smiled to himself.
When he opened his eyes again, the bodies had stopped moving altogether. Peter stopped playing abruptly, holding the bow perpendicular to the instrument as he watched the woman and the boy lying there, lifeless. Then he calmly bent down, put his violin back in its bright red velvet case, stood up, brushed the dirt and dust off his suit once more — carefully inspecting it for specks of blood, of which was there were none — and walked out the door again. But before leaving, he stopped in the threshold, looked back at the corpses in the living room and knelt down once more in the door way. He shut his eyes tightly and whispered in a hoarse voice, “That’s nine now, master. How many more do you require from me?”