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Craig Edmonds stared at hands sticky with darkening blood.

His hands.

He held them away from his body and looked down at his chest in horror. Large, dirty-red blotches marred the once pristine white shirt. Forgetting the blood on his hands, he tore at the buttons, ripping the shirt open.

Breathing in short, sharp gasps, he frantically examined his torso, looking for the wound. No cuts. No injuries. No holes where there shouldn’t be any. His chest heaved in relief. He wasn’t dying, after all.

But then, mid-sigh, it struck him: if it wasn’t his blood, whose was it? His head whipped around, his eyes scanning the room like radar on overdrive.

Even in the half-light, he quickly saw all was not as it should be. The glass shade from one of the bedside lamps lay in shattered fragments on the floor. The curtain rail over the bedroom’s bay window hung at a precarious angle. Usually a black-and-white photo of a nude, tattooed woman hung above the bed; now the frame lay in pieces in the doorway.

He focused on the queen-sized bed. His stomach clenched as he took in the twisted and dishevelled bedclothes. Instinctively, he knew the dark patches on the sheets weren’t shadows that would disappear once the curtains were opened.

He swallowed, the acrid morning-after taste of whisky harsh in his parched mouth.

“Kirsty?” he croaked. Clearing his throat, he called again, hesitant but louder.

In the crushing silence, time stood still.

“Kirsty!” he screamed, as he dashed into the master bedroom’s compact, white-tiled en suite. He stumbled, clutching at the doorframe. He took in the bloodied handprints adorning the vanity unit and walls like some sort of macabre finger-painting. Fighting an intense wave of nausea, he looked down at the blood-smeared floor.

Trying desperately to rein in his growing panic, he raced to the main bathroom. His wife wasn’t there either. Next room.

Out of breath, heart hammering, he reached the internal door that led to the double garage and opened it. The external roller door was down and his red Alfa Romeo and Kirsty’s silver Lexus were parked next to each other.

Gripping the door handle, he sagged against the door. He took a deep breath. Fought for control of his adrenaline-charged body. He lurched into the kitchen, heading for the sink.

Hands shaking violently, he somehow managed to turn on the cold water tap. He watched, mesmerized, as the blood from his hands, diluted by water, swirled in a pink eddy in the bottom of the sink before disappearing down the plughole.

Oblivious to the water dripping from his hands, he dropped onto the pine storage-box-cum-bench beneath the window at the end of the kitchen. Elbows on knees, he dropped his forehead into his hands. If only the infernal pounding would let up, he could think straight.

His memory of the previous evening was patchy, to say the least. He had a vague recollection of arriving home stressed after a late-night meeting at the office and, bypassing the dried-out dinner Kirsty had kept warm for him, heading for the bottle of Chivas Regal. After that, it was anyone’s guess as to what had happened.

A series of short clips flashed through his mind. In one, he saw himself shouting at Kirsty, her throwing up her hands and yelling back. What had they been arguing about? In another, he was picking up his car keys, and…

Damn it! Why can’t I remember? he thought, glancing towards the door leading into the garage. It was then he saw the set of four smudged, rust-brown streaks low on the doorframe. He closed his eyes, praying for the nightmare to end.

Except he had a feeling the nightmare was only beginning…

Thin Blood Sample