Looking back, I think it all started when our dog died. The memory is clear in my mind; the sound of his quivering lungs, gasping for another breath, the uselessly lolling tongue. The eyes, bulging with confusion and terror, and, it seemed to me, a mute pleading for release; though whether it was release from the tapestry of life or the release of my hands from around his throat I couldn’t be sure. So, to be on the safe side, I adjusted my grip, and broke his neck.
My parents never knew it was me. I walked home carrying the corpse in my arms, feeling the flesh cooling and beginning to stiffen. I had planned on confessing, spilling my guts (so to speak) to my parents about the gnawing compulsion, the explosion of adrenaline and the mad pulsing of Eddie’s jugular under my fingers. I wanted to be told it was just another part of growing up, like acne and greasy hair. But the expression on my mothers face when she saw my burden was enough. I had done something bad: something appallingly wrong and shameful that I could never share. I can still feel her salty tears as she hugged me, crushing me against her breast, and hear my father raging, shouting to the heavens, demanding to know what kind of lunatic would murder a family pet.
That was thirty years ago.
Now, here I am, driving along the M1 in a shiny new Lexus – an IS 250 Convertible, if you’re interested – fully suited and booted and with a smart Armani tie. A successful (yeah, right) businessman on his way home from work after a long day of software programming. The same, you might think, as any of my colleagues winding their way home on this rapidly darkening evening. I suppose the main difference is that the rest of them don’t have a body crammed in the boot of their car.
Sliding off the main road, I take a little detour. The roads begin to narrow, and as the light fails, they empty. I stop to let a mother and child pass in front of me. The child waves at me, and I give her an encouraging smile. Once again, I’m reminded of that crisp autumnal day with Eddie. Of course, in my teens I realised that I may be a killer in the making: after all, what better way to demonstrate psychopathic tendencies than murdering your own dog? It’s classic. I almost wish that I had started my career in killing in a different way, simply because I didn’t want to become just another cliché.
Back to the present. Tina, from the accounts department: cheerful, red-headed and with a penchant for tight skirts, one of the darlings of the office who, day by day, walks past me with barely a glance. I know my hair is graying and sometimes I need glasses, but her condescending manner is beyond irritating; as if I needed the metaphorical equivalent of a large neon sign saying ‘You Are Too Old For Me’ in pink flashing letters. All I asked was if she fancied a drink sometime. What a bitch.
I stop on the outskirts of Nottingham. No one around; the night is cold, and a bitter wind makes the trees rattle and sway in a crude parody of life. Getting out of the drivers seat, I begin to feel the echo of a thrill in my chest as my heart speeds up, and it takes somewhere between ten seconds and an eternity for me to reach the boot and open it. Seeing her in the glow of the taillights, I imagine her as a porcelain doll: pallid flesh and glassy eyes. No mess – no blood, apart from a tiny amount that has trickled from the corner of her lips and down onto her chin.
Carefully, I begin to pull her out of the car. Not an easy task; rigor mortis is already setting in. Finally she lies on the ground, sightless eyes watching the oscillating treetops: silent spectators at a diabolical ritual. The place I have chosen to hide her corpse is almost too good to be true: an apparently deserted side street, flanked by faceless brick, spiked intermittently with handy communal refuse bins, with not a soul in sight.
Before I begin with my garbage disposal, a moment of contemplation feels appropriate. Tina lies dead on the grubby paving stones, her neck blackened with bruises. Vividly I recall the thrum of her pulse beneath my grasping fingers as her frenzied hands clawed at my chest and face. I remember the moment, the surge of euphoria that came when her eyes rolled back and her limbs fell flaccid: the rush. Before tonight, my only victims were domestic animals; I feel a surge of pride at having had the courage to take the next step.
But now: there is business to be taken care of. Tina’s body needs to be disposed of, as quickly as possible, and the large communal bins look perfect. Only problem is, she wont fit in a bin-liner whole: she needs to be cut up. I have never been too squeamish about blood before, so as long as I’m quick and calm, all should be fine. On the way here I stopped at a hardware store and purchased a pair of rubber gloves, a hacksaw, a roll of black bags and a tarpaulin (try buying that little lot without getting funny looks from the checkout girl) for this very eventuality.
Here goes. The tarp is laid out on the ground, flat. Tina is placed in the centre. Then out comes the saw. When I was younger, I worked part-time in a slaughterhouse to get money for my gap year travels to the Middle East (I wanted to observe the rite of Eid ul-Adha) and I vividly recall the butchers at their work, huge cleavers gleaming as they calmly jointed and boned dripping slabs of meat, dismembering an entire pig or cow into small, acceptable parcels wrapped in cellophane. Having seen first hand the inside of a slaughterhouse, the closest I’ll ever get to eating meat is smoky bacon flavour crisps.
The saw is making good progress. The parts have to be small enough to fit in the black bags, so I’m jointing the body. First the legs, at the ankle, knee and hip. I can feel the creak and snap of tendons through the vibrations of the saw. Her blood is beginning to coagulate, so it seeps slowly from the severed limbs and forms thick reeking pools. I try to close my nostrils to the smell, as a lurching sensation in my gut tells me I am close to vomiting.
Now the arms, at the wrist, elbow and shoulder: the saw gets jammed, and as I tug at the damn thing the blade twists, sending a spurt of crimson at me. Bloody, bloody hell. The stench of it assaults me. My stomach gives an almighty lurch as I wipe gouts of the stuff from my throat. Quickly, finish the job, and try and breathe through the mouth. Next, a few good goes with the saw, and it’s off with your head, milady.
Lastly, the torso, just under the ribs – save the worst till last. My arms are beginning to tire, and though the saw makes short work of her spine, the organs slop out, spilling their stinking contents all over the tarp, and that is the final straw: I heave, noisily, and the semi-digested Big Mac I ate earlier is splattered everywhere. Great.
Finally, she is fully bagged up. All that remains for me now is to heave her into these oh-so-handy bins, along with the rubber gloves and the tarp, and clean myself up. I have to remove the gloves to tie up the black bags. The knot has to be tight, and the gloves are so slippery with blood that earlier I dropped one of her kidneys and had to go haring after it.
Knots tied. Can’t stick them all in one bin, it might arouse suspicions. One in each, that sounds right. So, heave-ho, bag number one, and it’s au revoir to Tina’s legs.
Wait – was that the sound of a car? Footsteps?
No, must have been my imagination. I’m jittery from all that blood.
The second bag, all is still well. My heart is thudding like a piston, battering at my ribcage, and a flood of adrenaline is making my hands shake and my knees feel weak as I walk back and pick up the third bag.
Then the unthinkable happens.
Sirens. Noise, people running, and bright flashlights. A man shouts through a megaphone, but I can’t hear him over the sudden frenzied buzzing in my ears. Caught in the act. There are people approaching, and I’m blinded by the glare of headlights as a wailing police car pulls up. In a daze, I drop the bag, and raise my soiled hands in the air. A young cop approaches me. As he fastens the cuffs on my wrists I have to ask: How did you find me? His lips stay firmly compressed and he won’t look me in the eye, but his features flicker, which makes me glance up. On the corner of the building opposite, half-hidden behind some shrubbery, I see the single sightless eye of a CCTV camera winking down at me, and I suddenly realize how utterly ridiculous the situation is. Here I am, covered in blood and vomit, caught red-handed - never was a phrase so apt. The sheer hilarity of it hits me like a roundhouse kick, and I cant help but laugh out loud. It bubbles up from within me, and soon I am giggling hysterically like an excitable teenage girl. I thought I had planned everything so perfectly, only to be laid low by a simple idiotic blunder. It’s as if I’d been caught smoking behind the bike sheds at school. No one else here seems to see the joke, but as I am led away I turn my head, and smile: I’m on CCTV.