There’s a stink in my sink. It wafts up to meet me each time I enter the kitchen. I don’t even need to go near the sink to get a whiff, and this kitchen is pretty large.
I wonder how to deal with this. It’s a definite stink, but there’s no blockage in the house, and the drain outside seems clear too. I’ve already poured a kettle full of boiling water into both plugholes. I’ve doused with thick bleach. I’ve pushed a long, skinny wire brush into the depths of the water pipe, and watched as it emerged, mucky and manky. But the smell still remains.
I am loath to add further chemicals to the bleach I’ve already used, as it seems such an extreme measure. But, on the other hand, this stink is extreme… it permeates my clothing when I settle in my armchair. The dog noticed something was different a few weeks back. He is a big dog, as you know, and jumped up to sniff the sink. It made him sneeze. He’s avoided the kitchen since.
My neighbour across the hall, Nigel, seems to be a nice man and I asked him in to have a look. He often wears overalls and I once saw him with a huge bag of tools and carrying a plunger, so I figured him for some kind of plumber. Turns out I was right. Turns out he has a stinky sink too. Bathroom as well as kitchen. Me too, I said, but the kitchen is worse. He poured some crystals into the plug hole and advised me to leave them for an hour or so then do it again if the smell hadn’t gone. He said it made a difference to his sink and that I shouldn’t report the smell to the council as it would no doubt dissipate soon. He didn’t say dissipate though – he said disappear.
But the smell stays. In despair I call the landlord, who comes to check all six of his flats. All six have stinky sinks and no amount of foaming crystals is going to put an end to this problem. I reported it to the council. Three days later the workmen arrives: a positively speedy response. They check within the drains and discover a problem: gooey stuff. At first they thought – fat iceberg – as these had been reported in the news as causing incredible problems for sewage workers. But these pieces weren’t fat. They were meat. Bit by bit, varying sizes of meat pieces appeared and the rancid flesh was placed into a bucket.
Then the council workers check five flats. In them, the smell reduces as the rotting meat is removed. In them, the tenants are grateful and happy that somebody has finally done something.
From the sixth flat, that of my neighbour Nigel, there is no response to the workmen’s knocking. Nigel appears to be out, so the landlord (who had been present throughout the council’s work, to ensure they didn’t try to charge him for works carried out) offers them a key. I watch with curiosity as the four-strong group open his door.
Within seconds, ashen-faced men emerge and I hear a snippet of their conversation. It turns out that there is a good reason why Nigel keeps himself to himself. It turns out that there is a good reason why he never has visitors, and insists on coming into a neighbour’s flat, should he wish for a little company. He’d been subletting his flat to the remains of fourteen corpses. Parts of these had been cut up and pushed into the drains which had been unable to cope. Hence the stench.
I never see Nigel again, but I still have his plastic pot of unblocking crystals. His flat had been wiped clean of all his fingerprints, but there are a handful of prints remaining on the crystals pot. The police discover Nigel’s identity speedily: Mark Charnock. He had killed before and had disposed of the bodies in this exact same way. He’d gone to prison, and had escaped. So Nigel, or Mark, had begun his life again as he took the lives of others.
Mark Charnock is soon caught. It seems he couldn’t stop with his madness. He couldn’t stop killing, and he made the terrible error of living on a new estate where the drainage system is woefully inadequate for his particular needs.
It is seven months later when I remember: seven months later when I run to the toilet to vomit. I remember the ‘home made chill-chicken pie’ he’d made for me. He brought it round in a beautiful earthenware dish. I remember at the time thinking it odd that he referred to the pie as a ‘she’. She’s a good one, he’d said. Full of spirit. Bit strong, but nothing I couldn’t handle. I’d thought nothing of it.
But I knew, as I wiped my mouth free of vomit, that I’d been an unwitting cannibal. And that Nigel had laughed his socks off at the thought.