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arm air filled the car with a gentle whirr, barely audible above the Christmas hits the radio played without interruption, protecting Patrick from the cold Christmas eve outside. His fingers tapped out the various beats on the steering wheel, his mind wandering to the woman he had left on the bed. Face down, blond hair splayed across her naked back, sheets crumpled just above her buttocks. He could still smell her perfume, still see the outline of her legs beneath the covers. She was beautiful. Her blue eyes had been warm and her voice deep and rich, her whole being inviting. He didn't feel guilty, he loved his wife and so had to ease the pressure he felt with others. If she knew she would surely understand. But it was better for her if she did not know. The kids would be asleep by the time he got home, trying their hardest to fall asleep so that morning would come all the sooner. Karen would be waiting for him with a Scotch in her hand. They would finish wrapping the presents and then go to bed together, a happily married couple. There would be no arguing and no blame. As far as Patrick could remember they hadn't had a fight since his first. It was hard for him to believe that it had been almost a year ago that he had first killed.

"Yes, darling. I won't be much longer than two hours, I'll be back before two. Love you." The hands free made a bleep sound and the radio came back on. The motor-way was almost deserted, just the odd business mum or dad rushing to get home to see the look of joy on their kid's faces as they ripped into their carefully wrapped presents. Despite the lack of cars, Patrick kept within the speed limit. It wasn't just about not wanting to draw attention to himself, he truly did not want to cause anyone any harm. It was his favourite time of year. Patrick was a Christmas person, he always had the tree up thirteen days before and after, his cards were always on time. Although his children were too old to believe in Santa he still put out the milk, biscuit and carrot, and one present under the tree was from 'Santa'. It was just such a happy time. Snow started to drift lazily from the sky and ahead Patrick saw hazard lights blinking furiously on the hard-shoulder. Without a second thought he slowed and pulled over, his headlights illuminating the license plate of the small red - 60 -

Estronomicon Christmas Special 2009