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7 / Dancing with the Devil in the Pale Moonlight

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Love. A many splintered thing. Excuse me, splendored.

There was a lot of love in my house. Our house. The one I shared with Amanda and our children. I never, actually, really called it or thought of it as my house. Yes, I'd owned it when Amanda moved in, but she certainly paid her way and made her mark on it to make it a real home. I didn't agree with all her changes or additions, but if it kept her happy (and weren't too outlandish) I didn't mind.

When Amanda had Grace and, two years later, I gave birth to Alexandra, any straggling thoughts of it being my house dissolved. After our wedding, Amanda was added to the deeds. She was no longer an interloper. We were a family.

The two that I killed were parts of families too. It said on the news. Of course, the first had been hit by the train rather than being murdered, but I wasn't about to call the TV station and put them right.

Her name was Sara, without an aitch. She was twenty three and had a husband and a very small child. She was studying law and had written poetry as a hobby, publishing a book. The poetry was a little flowery for me, but I could appreciate the flow and cadence of the words. Her husband, Iian, with two I's - I bet they both had to get used to misspellings – was devastated. The interview with him had Sara's sister, Yvonne, by his side with her arm around him. I could easily have imagined the way they looked at each other, but I couldn't help wondering how long he would be upset for.

Savinda. She was the second one. Her death hadn't been linked to Sara's, at least not immediately. She lived with her brother in an apartment in the town centre. She wanted to be a doctor and was in her second year of study. Her brother was an engineer. They're parents had died when they were young, not that they were yet old, and they had been each others support. They were, apparently, inseparable.

Until I separated them.

I had thought about avoiding the reports about their deaths. I didn't want it to upset me. I know that sounds insensitive, but it's a fact. I was nonplussed about the murders. I didn't was to be... plussed. If I gave way to emotion, I would be discovered. I could lose Amanda. Never see Grace and Alex again. And, once I had felt what I sought, I'd stop.

But, curiosity meowed within me, a cat that would pace and rub up against me until I gave in and stroked it. When I took Savinda's life, I avoided seeing her face in case it made a connection between us. The television screen seemed to understand that and stood as a barrier between us. I watched and I heard and I felt the same. They were dead. That was that. Even knowing them and their families and the pain I had caused, I still sighed and I still wondered about the next one.

Or ones.

The previous night, though, after Amanda came home and we went to bed and I held her until she stopped crying and then made love to her so she would, for a time, forget, I was pleased that Sara and Savinda both had known love. Whether that of a husband and child or of a brother, they had felt its touch. They had been as blessed as I.

I thought that I should be more discerning and less random in my choice of victim. While the homeless might not be missed and, in some cases, their absence welcomed, they didn't have arms to hold them or smiles to brighten their day. They had damp. Cold. Hunger and despair. How could I end their lives when they didn't have love to warm their final breaths?

I should concentrate on those who had partners or families. Those who had some sense of fulfilment in their lives. Perhaps, too, something of that fulfilment might pass on to me.

If there was a hereafter of some sort, those with love in their lives were more likely to have loved ones on the Other Side than those who lived on the streets, begging for pennies and raiding bins for food. If I left them alive, there was a chance their fortunes could change and they might find that which they lacked. I could give them that. I should.

I dreamed I was standing in an old disused car park. Clouds hovered in the night sky, watching me. The moon was a faceless orb that cast shadows were there should be none and my hands were being shaken by a steady stream of homeless men, women and children. Some had dogs by their side. Some were wrapped in sleeping bags with hats pulled down over their ears and ragged scarves around their necks. Some were smoking and others were holding bottles, taking the occasionally swig and grimacing as it burned their throats. One was a disadvantaged version of Pinhead, with syringes impaled in almost all of his body. He was trembling violently, but it didn't prevent him from extending his hand.

All were smiling, even as, when I looked down, my own hands were, in fact, elongated blades that shredded the flesh from their limbs.

Yet they thanked me and smiled and shuffled away.

When I awoke, I was immediately wide awake. There was no blurry fumble for my phone to see the time or yawn and stretch. My eyes opened and the world, already bright, flooded in. I couldn't help but check my hands to ensure I actually had fingers and not bloodstained shards of metal.

My hands were intact.

With her back to me, Amanda was snoring softly, a sound that was more heavy breathing with delusions of grandeur than nasal thrumming. Every so often, her shoulder twitched. She'd forgotten to put her hair up before falling asleep, something she was usually diligent about. Her mother had told her when she was young that long hair could strangle her while she slept. It was meant as a scare tactic to get a young girl to do as she was told by a sometimes overbearing parent, but left a lasting impression. Amanda knew it wouldn't hurt her, but had never managed, apart from the odd occasion, to shake the habit.

It lay across her bare shoulder, keeping it warm where the duvet didn't quite reach. I leaned in to kiss the back of her head and gently climbed out of bed. Slipping into my slippers and pulling on my dressing gown, wrapping it gingerly over my breasts that were a little sore from Amanda's enthusiasm or escapism, I went downstairs. A latte, my favourite drink of an early morning, was calling.

Then the sofa. Then the television, via Alexa. The news. The introduction to Sara and Savinda. The continuing nothing.

I heard Amanda stirring about upstairs. A toilet flushing. I made her a cup of tea, adding a dash of cold water so she could drink it immediately. She came down and took the cup from me with a thanks and a kiss, then slumped on the sofa next to where she knew I would be sitting. I settled beside her and stroked her thigh.

"Can we turn this over?" she asked, quietly.

I nodded, picked up the remote control and changed the channel.

"Morning, Piers," she said, smiling as the presenter spoke over the politicians foolish enough to think they could have a conversation with him.

"Morning, Piers," she said, smiling as the presenter spoke over the politicians foolish enough to think they could have a conversation with him

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