I hauled the body over my shoulder again in a fireman’s lift, made trickier by the fact that it was encased in slippery plastic, and hoped that some of the more fluid contents of the bag didn’t leak over me. It was just shy of eight but I rarely had to worry about bumping into anyone. The only signs of the alcoholic downstairs were his nightly snore-fests, audible I would have thought to the entire block. The neighbours across the way, a posse of young men who rarely made their presence heard rather than felt before the wee small hours. As a nocturnal beast myself, that was something I could respect. I don’t think I’d seen or heard of any of the other folk with whom I shared this bower of bliss.
But normal service it seemed had been interrupted, because just as I opened my front door, a young man with long, golden dreads and a nose ring strode onto the landing about to descend the stairs when he spotted me.
“Oh, hi,” he grinned, with an Aussie accent you could cut with a knife and still have enough to balance the drinks on. “You must be our neighbour. Good to meet you. Here, let me help you with that. I’m not taking no for an answer,” he said taking the body as well, before I could tell him where to put his offer. He was tall and well built but even so I could see it cost him no little effort. Just for a second the Cheshire cat smile faltered as the big lunk realised just what I’d been hefting until machismo reasserted itself and he made his way stiffly down the stairs, trying to pretend it was no big deal.
This was definitely not part of the plan and if I could have ripped his innards out and hung them around his neck for decoration I would have.
“What have you got in here,” he said winking, “A body, by any chance?”
This was why predators like me could live in the heart of the city numbering a half million other souls whose lives intersected on a daily basis but didn’t actually connect. City folk were so wrapped up in their own lives it was highly unlikely they’d recognise a body wrapped in bin bags if they were forced to carry it down three flights of steep stairs. It simply wouldn’t have occurred to them. Each and every one cocooned in private worlds constructed with the help of ipods, the daily paper, fantasy conversations where they told there bosses exactly where to stick it, plans for the dinner that night, all necessary props cushioning them from the smother of humanity around them.
Ask Fred West’s former neighbours. Ask the numerous lodgers that had flowed through the house like water over the years. How many saw him burying the evidence in the back garden, heard him torturing young girls in the basement of the house they all shared? When they asked him if the family was getting under his feet, they had no idea that they were right on the money. The fact is you don’t know who or what you’re living next to. Hallelujah and praise the Lord I don’t believe in.
“Name’s Roy,” he said. Maybe he was from New Zealand, I could never tell.
“I’m Rose and I can manage just fine, thanks anyway. And yes, it is a body.”
“Was it an old boyfriend refusing to take the hint,” he sniggered, reaching the first floor with a hand clamped in a death grip on the handrail with me stalking behind him in two minds whether to body snatch and run.
“Don’t be daft,” I gabbled. “It was actually a nosy neighbour who wouldn’t stop bothering me. I keep my exes in jars in the living room like everyone else. Together forever as Rick Astley used to sing. Haven’t heard from him in while mind you. Maybe he’s in a jar on someone’s mantel.”
He stopped short and made the effort to turn and look at me for a moment. Long enough for me to notice some gaffer tape had come loose and a shrivelled finger poked out like a mummified worm. A dark liquid had dribbled down Roy’s vomit green chunky knit pullover. Maybe he hadn’t heard of Rick Astley.
“Sense of humour as well as sensational looks. You know you must be tired, because you’ve been running through my mind since I met you all of two minutes ago,” he said turning to give me another wink….