THE WAY TO A MAN'S HEART - GARY DOBBS
Of course he knew that killing and then consuming one's wife was frowned upon in polite society; indeed in the eyes of the law it was positively forbidden and could bring grave consequences. But all the same, he thought of maybe adding a little seasoning, as he chomped down on another finger.
Marge, the wife, was surprisingly succulent. In life she had been a tough old bird but roasted and the simmered in a little red wine she was tender, her meat had the consistency of a good ham. He swallowed another chunk, thinking it may have come from the breast area and washed it down with a glass of Californian Merlot.
There was a knock at the door.
Startled, he looked up and wondered who it could be. He didn’t usually receive visitors and he figured that if he ignored whoever it was they would go away. He forked another piece of the pale meat into his mouth and frowned when the knocking sounded again.
Grumbling, he took his plate, which still contained several slices of his wife, a few boiled potatoes and a rich gravy and placed it in the cupboard out of sight. He downed the remainder of the glass of wine and went to answer the door.
It was a woman, middle-aged and frumpy-looking. She had dark red hair styled in one of those beehive jobs that were a few decades out of style. Despite the warm weather, she wore a thick woolen coat and had a newspaper tucked under her arm. It looked as if she took her style hints from a forty year-old fashion magazine.
‘I’m Rose Moore,’ she said and held out a hand.
He shook it and then had to bring a hand to his mouth to allow out a gentle burp. ‘Excuse me.’ Succulent or not, Marge was sitting heavy on his stomach.
‘How can I help you?’ he asked.
‘I’m here about the room,’ she said.
‘Yes. In the paper.’ She held the newspaper up for his perusal and jabbed a podgy finger at the advert.
‘Let me see that.’ He snatched the newspaper from her and started at the advertisement.
Stupid bloody paper!
They’d run the advert a fortnight earlier than agreed. He didn’t know what this country was coming to – it was something when a copy editor couldn’t follow a basic set of instructions. The advert was to run from the seventeenth until further notice. Which he’d figured wouldn’t be too long since the room would be taken quickly, his house being in such a desirable part of Cardiff and within walking distance of the city centre.
‘I’m from the valleys,’ she said as if that explained everything.
He mumbled something in reply. He still couldn’t believe the balls up the newspaper had made.
‘Yes,’ she went on. ‘I’ve just taken a job managing the bookshop on Queen’s Street. I’m looking for somewhere nice but not too expensive.’ She looked around her. The fact that they were so close to the wide-open areas of Bute Park met with her satisfaction.
‘Well,’ he said after making a mental note to telephone the newspaper’s advertising department and play bollocks. ‘I’m afraid...’
It was too late. The frumpy woman had already pushed past him and was in the hallway looking around. She seemed to be regarding the flock wallpaper with a certain amount of distaste. Which was odd because the pattern was a close facsimile of her coat.
‘Is this the living room?’ she asked and pushed open the door and walked into the room.
He looked up and down the street and then closed the front door and went after the dammed woman. He could hear her talking to him as if he were in the room with her. He went through to the living room just in time to see the woman run a finger over the television set and examine it for dust.
‘Course,’ she said and turned and smiled at him. ‘You can’t expect a man to keep a house spick and span all on his own. This is reasonably tidy but it needs a woman’s touch. You do live alone, don’t you, Mr…?’
‘Kipling,’ he said. ‘Stanley Kipling. Yes, my wife left me. I don’t know where she is.’
‘Well, Stanley,’ she smiled. ‘Do you mind if I call you Stanley? Can’t go around on formality when we’re going to be living together, so to speak. You can call me Rose.’
‘Well, Rose,‘ he said but once again the woman cut short his words and came at him like junk mail. She had the air of someone who was used to most conversations being one-sided.
‘I’ll move in immediately,’ she said. ‘One month’s rent in advance is the norm. I’ve got my taxi outside and I’ll just get my bags.’
With that, she left the house in search of her cab, leaving Stanley thinking that he still had two legs, an arm and a good section of torso to eat and a pile of bones to crush before all signs of his late wife were eradicated forever.
This wasn’t good at all.
Stanley felt as if he was an observer in his own life, a third party standing on the sideline while absurdity was piled upon absurdity. He was a voyeur in the ballad of Stanley Kipling.
The woman who called herself Rose had made herself at home and was sitting in front of the television, knitting and watching an episode of Frank Parade Investigates. On the screen the aftermath of a brutal murder was played out but Stanley couldn’t concentrate. All he could think of was how he was going to get the rest of Marge from the freezer and into his stomach without this damn woman finding out.
He hadn’t meant to kill Marge, it hadn’t been pre-meditated or anything like that. If anything it had been a bizarre accident and maybe he should have telephoned the authorities immediately but he’d panicked and set about getting rid of the evidence.
And, by the time he had started to think clearly, he had already taken off the head with a power tool. Once that had been done, there had been no going to the police – he couldn’t say he had killed her on accident and then proceeded to remove her head and boil it.
No, it was too late.
Maybe if he’d gone to the police immediately, explained that he hadn’t meant to kill her, that she had struck her head on the side of the fire grate when he’d pushed her, then maybe, just maybe he would have escaped the full wrath of the law. That would have been the sensible thing to do and the law would have seen that it was a freak accident, a million-to-one chance. But as soon as he saw her lying on the floor, staring up at him with sightless eyes, knowing that she would never get up again, his mind had tripped into some sort of madness. And in the grip of that mania he had dragged the body out to the shed and started to cut her into little pieces with his power tools.
At first, he’d intended to bury her far from home – a section here, a bit there, maybe even dump some of her in the sea but he knew that one day some part of her would be found and that the forensic whiz-kids would be able to identify the person the remains belonged to.
He’d watched enough CSI to know that.
Now Stanley had an addiction. Not drugs or alcohol, not even a secret stash of pornographic books - nothing so commonplace, so vulgar. Stanley’s desire was for the “True Crime” books that filled the bookshops.
He read at least two a week, every week. It was one particular story about a Russian serial killer who ate his victims that had given him the idea. If he ate Marge, all of her and then crushed the bones in his vice and sprinkled the fine powder over his garden as compost, then he was sure he’d never be found out. Marge never had many friends and was pretty much a home bird. If anyone did enquire about her, he would say they’d had an argument and she’d left him. He didn’t know where she’d gone and wasn’t expecting to hear from her.
And everything had been going smoothly until this damn woman turned up from the valleys. She’d only been here a few hours and already she had made her presence felt. In a few more weeks, all signs of Marge would have been gone but, as it was, he still had a good section of her in the freezer.
‘I think a cup of tea,’ Rose said, breaking his reverie. She placed her knitting on the arm of her chair and stood up.
‘No. No.’ Stanley jumped from his chair. He couldn’t have her rooting about in the kitchen. ‘I’ll make it,’ he said.
‘Nonsense,’ Rose smiled. ‘I’ll do it. One of the benefits of having me here Stanley is that I’ll cook for you. I do so enjoy cooking so it’s no chore. I’ll make the tea. The sooner I get used to where everything is in the kitchen, the better.’
‘No!’ Stanley positively screamed and ran to the door. He threw his weight across it and stood there, blocking her way.
‘Out of my way, silly,’ Rose said. ‘No need to be embarrassed with me. Is the kitchen a mess? Is that what you’re worried about?’
Stanley nodded, meekly.
‘You’re such a silly sausage.’ Rose clucked her tongue against the roof of her mouth. ‘Silly man,’ she said and pushed him out of the way and went through to the kitchen.
Stanley ran after her.
‘Oh my,’ Rose said and pulled the plate from the cupboard. She looked at the half eaten meal and then scraped it into the pedal bin. ‘Men really have no place in the kitchen.’
‘My dinner,’ Stanley said. ‘I forgot about that.’ There had been a few slices of Marge on the plate but thankfully none of it had been recognisable as human.
Rose clucked her tongue again. ‘Men,’ she said. ‘Honestly. We’ll have a nice cup of tea and then I’ll cook you supper.’ She had already washed the plate that had contained the half-eaten meal and now she rinsed it under the cold-water tap.
‘No!’ Stanley screamed and then smiled when he noticed the woman was looking at him strangely. ‘I mean, I’m not hungry. That’s why I hadn’t finished my dinner.’
‘Nonsense,’ Rose said and put the kettle on for the boil. ‘A man needs three solid meals a day.’
‘I’ve eaten,’ Stanley protested.
‘That little thing?’ Rose pointed to the bin that contained the remains of his meal. ‘That’s not eating. Don’t take this wrong, but that meat was under-cooked. No wonder you couldn’t finish it.’
Stanley stared at her, open-mouthed. No matter what he said she was going to do pretty damn well what she pleased. There was no talking to her. This morning, he’d never even heard of this woman and yet here she was acting as if she’d been here forever.
Rose poured two cups of tea and then, without asking, sugared them both. She handed one to Stanley and took a gentle sip of the other. ‘That’s better,’ she said.Stanley sipped his tea. He had to admit it was a bloody fine cuppa. She’d used his tea bags, the only brand he ever bought, and yet this tasted better than any tea he’d ever tasted before.
‘Right,’ Rose said. ‘I’ll do some shopping in the morning and you can deduct it from next month’s rent. For now, I’ll throw something together.’
Stanley nodded, defeated and took another sip of his tea.
‘Now let’s see what we’ve got here,’ Rose said and, before Stanley could react, she had thrown the freezer door open and was peering inside. She pulled out the top drawer, which contained mostly fish products. She didn’t fancy that and so she closed the drawer and opened another.
Stanley groaned and drained the last of his tea. It was too late now and the woman was staring down into one of the drawers that contained several portions of the frozen Marge. She pulled out a joint that Stanley thought had come from Marge’s thigh. She looked at it carefully, turning it over and over in her hand. ‘What’s this,’ she asked, ‘pork?’
‘Lamb,’ Stanley said and drained his tea. ‘That’ll do nicely.’ If she went further into the drawer she would discover some cuts that could only have been human. Both of Marge’s feet were in the back of that drawer.
‘For a stew, maybe,’ Marge said. ‘No, let’s have a look for something better.’ She pulled the drawer out further and then recoiled in shock when she discovered the two feet and one of Marge’s hands.
Puzzled, she looked at the objects in her hands and then bent back to look further into the freezer. She reached in and pulled out what looked like a breast, the ice-frosted nipple like a treat atop a fleshy-coloured cupcake.
Rose screamed and dropped the tit.
It was then that Stanley hit her. He grabbed a heavy pan from the cupboard and bounced it off the woman’s skull. Her head split like a melon and her feet buckled beneath her and she fell to the floor.
Stanley turned on his feet and ran out into the hall. He needed to ensure the door was locked and all the curtains drawn. He did so – running from the living room, to the dining room and then back into hall just in time to see a stunned-looking Rose stumble out of the kitchen. She was holding the side of her head and blood trickled through her fingers.
She saw Stanley and screamed and ducked back through into the living room. She closed the door behind her and Stanley could hear her dragging something, the sofa probably, behind the door.
‘No!’ he screamed. The longer he took to get into the room, the more chance the damn woman would have of smashing a window or something and getting someone’s attention.
He threw himself at the door and bounced back but it gave slightly. He sprung to his feet and pounded the door with his shoulder until it opened and he fell into the room, rolling over the back of the sofa Rose had used to barricade the door closed.
‘I’m gonna’ fucking kill you!’ he screamed, getting to his feet and glaring through primal eyes at the terrified woman.
‘No!’ she cried out. ‘Stay back!’ For some absurd reason, she had picked up her knitting and was holding out the shaggy ball as if it were a weapon. ‘You’re mad. Leave me alone.’
Stanley howled in frustration and leapt at her but she managed to sidestep him and ran from the room. She made straight for the kitchen and attempted to close the door but Stanley was already there, coming hard against the door and sending her backwards painfully against the kitchen table.
‘No!’ she screamed. ‘Help! Help! Heeee….lllllllll…..ppppppppp…’
Stanley grinned and, holding his hands out, fingers clawed, like a strangler from a B-movie, he moved towards her. He felt something slippery underfoot and, when he looked down, he noticed he stood on Marge’s tit. He would have found it funny had it not sent him falling towards Rose. He came against her hard and one of her knitting needles found his left eye, his momentum carrying him onto the nylon spear.
There was a burst of optic fluid as the needle pierced his eye and continued upwards through his skull and into his brain. An idiotic grin crossed his face for a moment and then he was dead.
‘They’d never understand,’ Rose said to herself. ‘They’d never let me keep the house, either. No, Rose, girl – you’re doing the right thing.’ She smiled and carried her plate over to the table.
She placed her hands together and closed her eyes and spoke in an even, clear voice.
‘Our father make us truly grateful for what we are about to receive. Amen.’ And with that, she tucked into her first portion of Stanley Kipling.
BIO: Gary Dobbs writes under both his own name and that of Jack Martin. His first novel, a western under the Jack Martin name, will be published in June by Robert Hale LTD. You can find Gary and more of his writings at The Tainted Archive.
Launch: DECEMBER STORIES by Ian Sansom
19 hours ago