“Tell me how you find the children you’ve taken. How many have there been?”

“I can’t answer how many,” he says. “How do I find them? Easy. You have to continuously be alert, and the opportunities will present themselves. Go sit in a schoolyard, ice rinks, movie house, malls, playgrounds. Pay attention. Shut your mouth and open your eyes. You will hear parents who are refusing to give their kids things, then you offer to give the kid that: money, McDonald’s, a trip to Disneyland.”

When he says this, I remember Jasmine’s little handwriting saying she wants a trip to Disneyland. It makes my heart lurch.

“Is that what you did with Jasmine?”

He sighs and rolls his eyes.

“Okay, then tell me how you choose the kids?”

“I told you already,” he says. “I have my standards. I’m going to talk to the kids who are unhappy at home, who don’t get what they want. They will want what I have to offer. They are innocent. They don’t play games. It’s the adults who are stupid.

“In fact, I think kids are the only ones who get it. I can have conversations that are more meaningful with kids than any adult on this planet. They still have that sense of wonder and awe about the world. They are more in touch with God—or a higher power or whatever you call it—than any adult walking this green earth. The kids are the ones who get it. I like kids so much that I wanted to have a career working with them. If I hadn’t gotten in trouble as a teen and gotten a record, I would have become a counselor for kids.”

Again, his crazy is shining through. “But you’re a … you prey on kids,” I finally manage. “Let’s say you’re telling the truth, and you love kids.”

“I told you I don’t lie,” he interrupts.

“Okay, so if you love them, how can you kill them?”

I note that he doesn’t deny killing them but is only worried about justifying the murders.

“I told you that people sometimes kill so they don’t get caught doing something that society doesn’t approve of. But you know after a while, you hate to see something you love suffering, and it’s often better just to put it out of its misery.”

It sounds like he keeps his victims alive for some time. “What do you mean after a while?”

“Well, it doesn’t matter how fucked up some kid’s home life is, eventually she’s going to miss her family. It’s just like when you don’t want to see cute little Rover suffering when he gets sick, so you take him to the vet and have him put to sleep. Same deal. We kill things we love all the time in this country. Look at Kevorkian, for example. People kill other people they love all the time. Maybe that’s what God or Buddha wants us to do?”

“I doubt that.”

“How do you know that I’m not releasing these people into Nirvana by what I do?” he says, lifting one eyebrow. “Maybe I’m saving them from their miserable little lives? How do you know I am not freeing them from pain and suffering? Unlike Christianity, Buddhism has recommendations, not commandments. That’s the beauty of it, you can interpret it any way you like, but the basic idea is that you have the freedom to do what makes you happy.”

“I think you are using it to justify your actions,” I say.

“You can think that if you want. I like grilled cheese sandwiches, baseball games, and having sex. Does this make me a bad person?”

“But you aren’t having sex with another consenting adult. That’s the problem.”

“You don’t think kids are capable of saying what they like and don’t like? Believe me, they are. I told you that the kids are the only ones who get it. Maybe one day, I’ll tell you what Caterina liked.”

I suddenly wish the glass wasn’t between us. The rage I feel inside at his words would probably give me the strength to kill him with my bare hands. He meets my glare with a smirk, as if he’s happy to have gotten that reaction.

Just then the guard comes. I stand up and turn my back on him, not moving until the elevator door opens.

 

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