The below is a blog I originally did as a guest post on the wonderful readingwrites website.
Picture the scene – it’s August 2002 in a stifling hot Shepherd’s Bush, London and I have a body to get rid of.
In many ways it was a simpler time …
A version of the band the Sugababes were topping the charts while containing people we actually recognised as being in the Sugababes. There had been a World Cup which Brazil had won as they are always supposed to, and the cinema was being dominated by a trilogy of small indie films about a little hairy fella trying to throw a ring into a volcano.
At the time, I was living with my friend Gary. He was ‘living our dream’, by which I mean he had given up his day job and was working full-time as a stand-up comedian. I, on the other hand, was gigging, getting by on a few hours sleep and providing some of the poorest quality IT support the City of London had ever seen. Was I jealous of Gary? Maybe a little, but this is not why I wanted to kill him.
We’d been in our first floor apartment for a few months. Our estate agent Phil had been very good at his job. His suit was so shiny you couldn’t look directly at him without risking blindness and oh my god could that man lie. In our defence, as soon as we’d walked into the flat, we had noticed the very large fridge freezer in the sitting room. Phil had cooed excitedly, ‘look guys – extra freezer space!’ Yes, I know, I know – obviously it meant the one in the kitchen didn’t work but the time for you to point that out was 14 years ago.
We were on a budget. Gary was able to lie in bed and touch all four walls of his bedroom simultaneously, while I was choosing to believe that the scrabbling noise I kept hearing in the roof was a neighbour’s pet. Phil had lied about everything. The landlord was putting new furniture in (he wasn’t). The electricity wasn’t on a meter (it was) and Yvonne from his office had a thing for comedians (she did, but as our subsequent phone calls about the furniture proved, that thing was contempt). Did I want to kill Phil? No, too risky. I’m pretty sure he had a lot of friends in hell already, or as they no doubt referred to it, a bijou fixer upper in a wonderfully warm climate.
I’d gone up to the Edinburgh Festival to do a few shows for a week. My reviews had been stellar – ‘also on’ The Scotsman. ‘Other acts included’ Three Weeks. No journalist had actually spelt my name correctly but I was taking great heart from the fact that they were definitely getting closer. Gary was also north of the border and was receiving honest-to-god rave reviews, which contained adjectives and everything, and his name was spelt correctly. Was I envious? Only a little – but that was not why I wanted to kill him.
I returned to our West London apartment at around 11pm on a balmy evening, in the midst of that rarest of things – an English heatwave. The first thing I’d noticed upon entering the building was the smell. It was like a punch in the face as soon as you opened the front door. It smelt like death. It was.
I went upstairs and opened the door to our apartment, keen to get away from the smell. It turns out I was heading for the source. I opened the door to be greeted by a puddle of blood in the centre of our front room.
There was blood everywhere. It was running down the front of the fridge freezer, covering our DVD collection, making a cuddly toy pig I’d won from a grabby machine at 3am in a motorway services, now look like an extra from a particularly violent Tarantino film.
Once I’d finished retching, it quickly became apparent what had happened. You see Gary, while he was living the dream, he wasn’t actually making a living. He was getting by on savings and whatever meagre fees he could get from gigging. He was also a master at stretching a quid, often to breaking point. His pathological dislike of all things vegetables meant he was constantly on the lookout for bargain meat, two words that should never go together. Just before he’d left for the Edinburgh Festival, he’d hit the motherload. A nearby supermarket had a vast quantity of steak to get rid of due to over-ordering. I remember this because he’d rang me for the exact dimensions of the freezer as he wanted to figure out exactly how much he could fit into it. Getting that much meat cheaply was the happiest I’ve ever seen him, and I include his wedding day in that. It’d also stretched his finances slightly, which is quite possibly why he’d forgotten to put any money in the electricity meter.
This, this was why I wanted to kill him.
So alright, in classic crime thriller style, I’d never said it was a human body I had to get rid of – it was a human torso-sized amount of rotting beef. Our freezer had thoroughly defrosted and you’d be amazed how much blood is in an unfrozen piece of meat, enough that a large freezer full can drench a front room in blood.
Welcome to London – where the smell of rotting death can pervade throughout a four storey building and nobody thinks to call the police. What made this all the more surprising was that at the time there actually was a serial killer active in London. The case had made the papers internationally due to the macabre fact that one of the victim’s bodies had been identified by the serial number on a breast implant.
I was faced with a death-drenched apartment to clean but first, I had to get rid of about a torso’s worth of rotting raw meat. It was a Sunday, our bin day was Friday – by which point the meat could’ve walked itself out to the kerb. So it was, I had to quadruple bin bag up bags of foul meat and make several trips to find bins and dumpsters to dispose of it in. This proved surprisingly difficult. Restaurants are highly protective of their dumpster space as evidenced by the scary Turkish man who chased me away from his. The bins around London are virtually non-existent due to the fact that the IRA used to plant bombs in them, which is anti-social on numerous levels.
Even with entire cans of deodorant sprayed into each bag, you couldn’t remove the stench of death so, as if I didn’t look suspicious enough, I had to keep crossing and re-crossing the street to avoid other pedestrians for fear of them catching the whiff and jumping to not entirely unreasonable conclusions.
I ended up walking around half of West London trying to find discrete, no-questions-asked locations to dump my bulging bags of death. One of these trips I had to make while fending off the attentions of a stray dog. He was like a drunk bloke who’d caught a whiff of the last remaining kebab on planet earth.
It took me several hours to eventually dispose of it all, days to wash most of the stains out and the smell, I’m pretty sure that 14 years later, the apartment still has an unpleasant whiff of death about it.
In summary, if you’re considering becoming a serial killer, I’d urge you to reconsider. It is an awful lot of effort. If your desire is to inflict pain and misery, do yourself a favour and become an estate agent instead.