AZIYADÉ UNEARTHED (Being a travelogue with accompanying photos written in the summer of 2005, following a research trip to Istanbul; the Turkish novel is still woefully incomplete 15 …
Last year I wrote an article on Walter Wilkinson, which became the Wikipedia page for him. He never had one and I thought he deserved one…
Inspired by the serial killer magazines my mother used to leave lying around the house when I was growing up and a hardcore rock band from Hull my nephew was in, Gruesome Scenes was a chapter in The First of Nine that didn’t make the final cut due to its graphic nature. Here it is preserved for posterity…
Irene took a magazine from a stack on the side board. The title read Gruesome Scenes. ‘I don’t know how you can read these,’ she said, flicking through the magazine.
‘I used to read them when I couldn’t sleep,’ Wendy said. ‘But I don’t have the stomach for them anymore. I’m going to take them down the charity shop on Bishopthorpe Road… Been having a clear out.’
‘The Deep Fat Frier,’ Irene read.
‘Oh, that’s a good one. He was the one that smothered his wife in her sleep,’ Wendy said.
Bill chopped up her body into small parts and started to feed them to his dog. However, the dog turned up its nose at the chunks of raw human flesh, having previously only ever eaten processed dog food. The dismembered body parts were left rotting in the yard. Realising that the fleshy morsels would begin to attract unwanted attention and flies, he took out his deep fryer and fried them.
While they were cooking the dog began to take an interest, drooling onto the kitchen linoleum. The husband put two bits of deep fried arm in the dogs bowl, and within five minutes the bowl had been licked clean. For the next week the dog devoured his former mistress, though it never made the connection.
What the dog wouldn’t eat, Bill put beneath the floor boards. However, he was not a carpenter by trade, and when the police came round, at the request of her sister, a bouncy floorboard gave him away.
‘Sounds absolutely gruesome,’ Irene said. ‘Can I borrow it?’
‘Of course,’ Wendy said, picking out another magazine. ‘But this one here’s my favourite.’
‘Bonfire Jack,’ Irene read, taking the magazine from Wendy.
The local girls never took to Jack. ‘There was something odd about him, they would later say,’ Irene read.
So Jack imported a wife from Thailand. However, she overdid his steak one day (‘Do you not understand what medium rare means?’) and so he strangled her, doused her with petrol and put her on the bonfire at the bottom of his garden.
Jack soon became tired of being by himself, having now experienced the love of a woman. So he ordered another Thai wife. His neighbours never even noticed the difference.
This one fared better. She lasted a few months. But then one day she scorched a hole in one of Jack’s shirts, having being distracted by the Australian soap opera she had started to watch in the late afternoons. Jack strangled her and added her to his bonfire.
The third wife was untidy and within a week was on the bonfire, smouldering away with the other two. He considered asking for his money back over that one.
Jack would have ordered a fourth had a neighbour not complained to the council about the smoke. It was ruining her washing, she’d said. The Environmental Health Officer was confronted by the charred corpses when he paid an unannounced visit one morning while Jack was out at work.
‘I’ll take that one too,’ Irene said.
‘The Mexborough Chainsaw Mass Killer,’ Wendy said, pushing another magazine onto Irene.
The peaceful South Yorkshire town of Mexborough was infamous for fifteen minutes in the 1980s following a killing spree in the town centre. Archibald Templeton, a diagnosed schizophrenic in his mid-thirties, bought a chainsaw, filled it with petrol and headed into town. He first called in at the post office on Main Street, where he butchered twenty people, mainly pensioners. Once he had finished at the post office, the inside of which could only be described as a blood bath, he headed past Teddys Amusements, through the pedestrianised centre, where he cut up any person not fast enough to get out of his way. Body parts lay scattered where they fell.
The killing spree was brought to a dramatic end in front of The Boy and Barrel when Archibald took the chainsaw to his own head.
The street where Archie put an end to his sad life is now named Hope Street, and the town’s Heritage Society have done their utmost to remove all traces of the massacre from the history books.
‘I was wondering why I’d not heard of that one,’ Irene said.
‘There’s the festive special here,’ Wendy said, waving another magazine at Irene.
‘The Santa Claus Killer,’ Irene read, taking a sharp intake of breath. ‘No… I’ll just take these for now.’
This week my article about ghost cats of York was published on YorkMix, an internet-based news agency in York. After I wrote the article I wrote my own ghost cat story, inspired by one of the better-known York ghost stories.
The Cat With No Paws
Vicky woke in the middle of the night. She lay awake in bed. There came a scratting from the landing, just outside the closed bedroom door. A tearing at the new carpet.
She lay in the familiar bed in the unfamiliar bedroom; it was their first night in the new house.
The scratting came again. It sounded like a cat. But they didn’t have a cat. She sat up. She nudged her husband with her elbow.
Paul grunted in his sleep and turned over, away from her.
Again the scratching from behind the bedroom door.
Vicky got to her feet and padded to the door in the dark. She pulled the door open and was faced by a white cat with green eyes.
The cat turned and went down the stairs without a sound. She watched as its white tail descended the stairs. At the bottom of the stairs the tail turned left, towards the kitchen.
Vicky followed the cat down the stairs. She stopped in the kitchen doorway. She saw the white cat cross the kitchen floor. The strange thing was: the cat had no paws. The bottom half of its legs were missing, as though the cat was walking through black water and not on the newly laid slate tiles they’d had laid.
The cat then disappeared through the back door, through where you would expect a cat flap to be, but they did not have a cat flap in their new back door as they didn’t have a cat; Steve was allergic to them. Or so he said.
She approached the back door. Through the window she saw the white cat pad across the lawn, its paws now fully visible. Then, in the corner of the garden by the shed, it disappeared. Into the blackness of the night. She stared out of the back door window. All was dark. There was just the rustling of dry leaves. They’d put in their offer on the house at the start of the year; it was now near the end of autumn.
Her heart was thumping in her chest. She stared at the bottom of the back door, through which the cat had passed. She tapped it with her toes. It was solid. No real cat could have passed through a solid door. She had seen a ghost: a ghost cat.
She snapped on the kitchen light. Then she put on the kettle on.
When Steve joined her in the kitchen shortly after seven, she told him about the ghost cat.
Steve was sceptical. ‘Nothing could have walked through that door,’ he said. ‘It’s solid wood.’
‘But it did,’ Vicky said. ‘I saw it.’
‘I don’t believe it.’
‘I was standing over there in the doorway,’ Vicky went on. ‘It was white and had green eyes. It crossed the kitchen. But it didn’t have any paws. It was like the bottom of its legs were missing.’
‘You know they put two inches of concrete screed on the floor when they damp-proofed the kitchen?’
‘No,’ Vicky said. ‘I left all that side of things to you.’
‘Well, they did,’ Steve said. ‘That would explain why it had no paws.’
‘So you believe me now?’
‘I didn’t say that. I think you need to rest. We had a big day yesterday, moving in. Why don’t you go back to bed and I’ll bring you up a cup of tea?’
Vicky stared at him. ‘You don’t believe me, do you?’
‘I think there might be something in it. But I’m sure there is a rational explanation. I believe you may have seen a cat in the house. I don’t believe it walked through the back door… It must have got out some other way.’
‘They put a new back door in, didn’t they? The old one had a cat flap in it, didn’t it? …When we first looked round.’
‘It might have done. I didn’t take that much notice,’ Steve said, remembering the old back door with the cat flap sticking out of the skip in the driveway a few months ago.
Vicky went back to bed and later Steve took her up a cup of tea.
Back downstairs he spotted his new neighbour in the adjacent garden, burning old leaves on a bonfire. No time like the present to introduce himself, he thought.
Five minutes later he was chatting to his new neighbour over the hedge, acrid smoke billowing at them. Steve soon managed to bring the conversation round to the people who had lived in the house before them.
‘Retired,’ his neighbour told him. ‘They moved to the countryside. Must have been six months ago. I know the builders have been working on your house since the spring…’
‘They didn’t have a cat, the people before, did they?’
‘Oh, yes. A beautiful white cat,’ his neighbour told him. ‘Pandora they called her. Great big green eyes, she had.’
After his neighbour had gone back inside, Steve went and fetched a spade from the garage. He went to the spot in the corner where Vicky had said the white cat disappeared. The grass was sparser here, some bare soil at the surface between the clumps of turf.
He soon dug up the dead cat, white fur still stuck on her bones. Its neck had been broken. The collar around its neck confirmed that it was indeed Pandora. He left the dead cat lying on the lawn. He went back inside.
He was going to go upstairs and tell Vicky but he stopped in the entrance hall.
On a memo board tacked to the wall was a single note. On it was the forwarding address of the previous occupants, in case there was any post to forward. He stopped in front of the rectangle of paper, his eyes wide.
He took from the understairs cupboard a shoebox and then went back out into the garden.
‘Somebody’s been missing you,’ he wrote on the paper slip he placed in the shoebox on top of Pandora. He then set off for the post office, the package under his arm.
They never were visited by the ghost cat again.
In the outbuilding of a terraced house in Clementhorpe, York, the body of pigeon-fancier Peter Morris lies waiting to be discovered. In the grey light of dawn a cat enters the yard – just be…
The First of Nine is now in the shops… Well, one shop – Fossgate Books on Fossgate in York. We hope to put some books in other shops in York soon, and not just bookshops…
However, the stockpile is severely depleted and so we will be putting in another bulk order soon. There will be a few tweaks to the book prior to the second printing, so if you don’t have a first pressing, the clock is ticking.
The First of Nine is available at Amazon, CreateSpace and one good bookshop!
Peter Morris was already dead when Theodore woke.
The dim hour before dawn was usually his favourite time of day. The birds are awake. Most cats are awake. Most people are asleep.
But this spring morning Theodore sensed something was not right. He blinked open his eyes and stretched. His ears twitched.
The birds tweeted. The pigeons cooed. A young German shepherd whined. A car engine started up a few streets away. In the distance a train rumbled on its way to Leeds.
It sounded like any other morning. But why then did he feel something was not right?
He stirred from Emily’s side. In the grey light he padded downstairs. He glanced at his food bowls. It would be at least an hour before they were filled. He exited through the cat flap, out into the yard.
He arched his back. He stretched out his paws. The hairs along his spine bristled.
A light breeze blew from the south. He tasted the damp morning air.
His own scent dominated the yard; he made sure of that. The potted herbs at the bottom of the boundary wall he sprayed on a daily basis. He caught whiffs of other cats from adjoining ‘shared’ territories. He took in the fragrance from what flora grew in this urban environment, laced with the stench of human-generated waste that lay decomposing in rubbish bins and split bin liners. He made out the faint smell of cocoa hanging in the air.
He renewed his scent in a couple of locations before jumping up onto the boundary wall and making his way to the back wall.
He picked his way across the clematis, his ears twitching. He crossed the concrete plinth that spanned the back gate. He continued along the back walls, down the hill, until he was standing diagonally across from the house with the pigeon loft.
The house was on the corner of an access road to the back alley. The pigeon loft was fixed high up on the back gable wall. The yard was surrounded by a six foot high brick wall. On top of the wall was a wooden trellis, eighteen inches high. A single strand of rusted barbed wire was suspended two inches above the trellis.
Set into the wall was a wooden gate, coated black with thick creosote. The gate was never left open. Certainly not at this early hour, thought Theodore. But this morning the gate was open a few inches. Wide enough for a cat to slip through.
Theodore looked up and down the back alley, then jumped down from the wall. He padded over the grey hexagonal cobblestones. In front of the gate he paused and looked up and down the alley. He noticed a stocky black cat at the crest of the hill. He recognised the black cat as Arthur, a tom who lived further up the hill. Arthur licked his paws in the long shadows, his back to Theodore.
He turned back to the gate and, without further hesitation, padded into the yard.
The yard was all concrete, with leaves, feathers and other windblown debris gathered in the corners and against the bottom of the walls. Against the back wall lent a folded stepladder. Theodore looked up at the pigeons perched on the eaves of their loft, cooing excitedly.
He circled the yard. He looked up at the pigeons. They cooed down at him: a provocation to Theodore. He miaowed back up at them.
‘You can’t get at us. You can’t get at us,’ they called, their napes glistening green and blue in the early morning sun.
Pea-brainers, Theodore thought, and miaowed up at them with agitation.
Again he circled the yard, his tail straight up.
‘You can’t get at us,’ the pigeons cooed down. ‘You can’t get at us.’
The pigeon loft was of three-storey construction, with a pitched, felted roof. It was big enough to house five pairs of birds, eight on the lower floors and a pair in the attic. It measured about three foot by two and a half, taller than it was wide, and stood a foot proud of the red brick wall. Below the loft was fixed a security light that bathed the yard below in white, artificial light.
Theodore turned and noticed the door to an outbuilding. He approached and, in the shadows, made out a tartan slipper, its black shiny plastic sole facing him. He went closer, and that was when he discovered the body.
Peter Morris lay on his front. He wore brown corduroy trousers and a blue checked shirt, the upper part dyed maroon with blood. A dark pool extended from what had been his head, now a colourful mess of shattered bone, congealed blood and grey brain. Pigeon feed had spilled from an upturned sack. The little seeds coated the dead man’s head. It was more like some horrific dessert than a human head.
Theodore looked at the body with the same expression as he would a dead moth.
He had never seen a dead human before. His instinct was to turn tail and head home.