I opened the door, it was Petula, my neighbour. “Oh, please come in!”
She came in and turned up her nose. “You must get some fresh air into this place, it don't smell too good, you've got to open the windows every day.” She was always very direct.
“Yes, yes.” I said. “You know that I have lost my sense of smell.”
We walked into the living room. “It smells even worse here.” I opened a window wide and some flies flew in and dived under the sofa. “Have you got a dead cat in here?”
I lifted the heavy sofa up, a blood-stained face stared up at me, I dropped the sofa and nearly puked. “Did you see that, Petula?”
Of course she had seen it. “Let's get out of here, shut the door and call the police.”
The police inspector questioned me in my office where I use my computer and watch TV. A sergeant questioned Petula somewhere else.
I had last vacuum-cleaned under the sofa sometime last week. No, I had noticed nothing. I normally kept the house locked up, Petula had a spare front door key, which hung on a hook in her cellar.
“Then I lifted the sofa, it's quite heavy, you know. And I saw her, she stared up at me. She? Yes, she looked like a she, but I only saw her face for half a second. It was covered in dried blood and creepy-crawly animals. I dropped the sofa, it was heavy, there was nothing I could do for her, I suppose that she had been dead for some time, not that I know anything about such things.”
The inspector gave me his telephone number, perhaps I would remember more later. I noticed that I was more shocked than Petula.
Some journalists wanted to interview me. I told them where to go. I reminded them that there were plenty of sofas in the world. I disconnected the doorbell and the landline phone; and lowered the shutters on all the windows.
Two days later I was invited to the morgue to identify the body, the face had been cleaned, I recognised it.
“Yes, I remember, but I don't have a name. About two months ago I was in the Aldi supermarket in Fleettown and I noticed an older-looking woman behaving strangely.”
“She was wearing a bright pea-green, pleated skirt and a black blouse, very odd, and walked around like a five-year-old girl, but with much makeup. I suppose I stared at her too much, she noticed that and kept away from me.”
“One of the store-workers, it could have been the manager, passed by me pulling a wooden palette of beer crates on a small forklift. Suddenly the woman appeared from nowhere, tripped over the palette and landed on her back – very embarrassing.”
“Everybody stared and did nothing. She was right in front of me. I don't think that she was badly hurt, there was no blood. I went down on my knees and held her hand. She was desperate to stand up, but I told her to slow down and take her time about it. I repeated the words slowly-slowly many times.”
“Nobody else moved, they just stared. I helped her to her feet. She walked around the palette and spoke to the store-worker; she told him that he was not to blame, it was all her fault. She ignored me completely, she said not a word to me, somehow I was not surprised.”
“I returned to my shopping. The next time I looked in that direction, she was not to be seen, again no surprise. However it was odd that I had not seen her once with a shopping trolley, what had she been doing in the supermarket?”
I walked to my car to go shopping. Is there a dead body in the boot or is it under the car I mused. There was a neighbour in the back of the car and the postman under the car. I went shopping the following day.
The inspector with the sergeant visited me again a week later at home. “Just some more questions.” No, they were the same as before.
“I have so little to tell you, Inspector. I wish I could help you more. I don't know why or how someone put a dead body under my sofa and in my car, an odd thing to do. Either somebody is trying to annoy me or...”
“Or you are trying to annoy somebody else,” chimed in the inspector. “And by the way the first dead person was a male.”
Every two or three years I climb onto the roof with a ladder to clear out the gutters, particularly in the valley between my house and the neighbour's house, there is no gap. Yes, you have guessed it, there were three neighbours on their roof with their legs up on my roof, just like a picnic.
I told the inspector, that perhaps I was sleep-walking and sleep-killing, perhaps I should see a doctor. He said that I might be stupid, but I was not crazy.
It was Petula. Why was she in the broom cupboard? Why was she dead?
There is a large five-door wardrobe in my cellar. It is my old wardrobe. No one wants an old wardrobe, however good it looks. I put it in the cellar when I bought a new one. I keep garden tools, plant pots, vases in it – they don't get dusty – and a sack of potatoes. You know: keep potatoes in the dark, they don't need to know.
I discovered one of the dead journalists, the police the other four. The house is not dark any more – I've raised the shutters.
I was having my daily chat with the inspector, the Twelve Days of Xmas was playing on the radio, and I asked if there had been any thefts from nearby morgues. He reacted annoyed.
It got more difficult when I discovered all the local police in my trough freezer.
I had gone to bed early. I woke later in the night to the sound of a loud party, too loud for the neighbours. No, the party was in my living room. I entered the room, every body was having fun, I poured myself a drink and waved at the inspector. I took a seat and chatted to Petula.