Ghost Virus: Chapter 21


At 6:15 that evening, when it was beginning to grow dark, two police cars arrived outside the Nelsons’ semi-detached Edwardian house on Franciscan Road. Four uniformed officers climbed out and went to the front door, three male PCs and one female, and loudly knocked.

‘Mr Nelson! Mr David Nelson! Police! Can we have a word, please?’

There was no answer, so they knocked again.

‘Mr Nelson! If you fail to let us in, we have a warrant to enter the premises by force!’

This time, nobody looked out of the upstairs window, but one of the officers checked his iPhone and said, ‘That’s his car parked outside, that silver Audi. Even if he’s out, he hasn’t driven anywhere.’

‘Well, let’s give him one more chance,’ said one of his fellow PCs, and knocked seven or eight times, so loudly that a dog-walker across the road stopped to see what all the noise was about, and a woman in an apron came out of the next-door house and said, ‘What’s going on?’

‘Do you happen to know if Mr Nelson is in?’ the officer asked her.

‘I haven’t seen him go out, if that’s what you mean.’

‘What about Mrs Nelson?’

‘I haven’t seen her all day either, although I usually do.’

‘Haven’t heard any arguing between them, by any chance?’

The woman shook her head. ‘No, but you don’t hear anything in these old houses. The walls are too thick. You could scream blue murder and nobody would hear you.’

‘All right, ma’am, thank you,’ said the officer. ‘If you don’t mind going back inside now.’

The woman reluctantly went back into her house, but almost immediately she drew back the net curtains in her living-room window so that she could watch what was going on.

One of the officers went back to his car and came back swinging a bright red battering ram, but he had only just stepped into the porch, when the front door suddenly opened. David appeared, whey-faced, unshaven, his hair tousled, and still wearing the black sweater that he had taken from his mother’s house, although he was also wearing a pair of droopy grey boxer shorts.

‘Mr David Nelson?’ asked the officer.

‘Why? What do you want him for?’

‘Took you long enough to answer us knocking, didn’t it, sir?’

‘So? I was busy. What do you want?’

‘We’ve had a report that your wife may be missing, sir.’

‘Missing? Who told you that?’

‘I can’t tell you at the moment, sir, but would you mind telling us Mrs Nelson’s whereabouts?’

‘What do you mean, “whereabouts”? She’s here at home.’

Maggie the cat came padding to the front door. She looked up at the police officers and mewed, as if she were trying to tell them something.

‘All right if we have a quick word with Mrs Nelson, sir?’ asked the officer.

‘With his wife? No. She’s indisposed.’

‘We do need to see for ourselves that she’s here, sir. If she’s indisposed, WPC Bennett here can go and check on her.’

‘No. He can’t have her disturbed.’

‘Sorry, sir. Who’s “he”?’

‘David. He can’t let you see her and that’s all there is to it. Goodbye.’

David started to close the front door but the officer jammed his boot into it.

‘Sorry, sir, but you’ll have to let us see your wife. We have a warrant.’

David tried to close the door again but this time the officer leaned his shoulder against it and pushed it wide open. David raised both hands in surrender and took three or four steps back into the hallway. ‘All right. You win. Police brutality. I’ll have to see what the local paper has to say about this.’

WPC Bennett came up to him. She was blonde and square-jawed with her hair fastened in a French pleat and almost as tall as he was, with broader shoulders. ‘Is Mrs Nelson upstairs in bed, sir?’

‘No. No, she’s not.’

‘You said that she was indisposed.’

‘Yes. But she’s in the kitchen.’

WPC Bennett squeezed her way past him, and two of the other officers followed her, although the fourth officer stayed where he was and blocked the front door. It seemed unlikely that David might try to run away. He was prickly but he was outwardly calm, and he was wearing only his black sweater and his shorts, and his feet were bare. In spite of that, the officers had known suspects to sprint off down the street stark naked, rather than face arrest.

The officers went into the kitchen. An unwashed dinner-plate and two saucepans were stacked in the sink, and the table was cluttered with a crumpled-up copy of the Daily Express and empty yogurt pots, as well as an assortment of dirty cutlery and a hacksaw. Two twisted brown-stained tea-towels were lying on the floor. What struck the officers most, though, was a strong smell of singed hair. That, and the fact that there was nobody there.

‘So – where is she?’ demanded WPC Bennett.

David came into the kitchen, smiling at her. ‘He told you, didn’t he? She’s indisposed. But she’s looking at you. Even if you can’t see her, she can see you!’

‘I’m sorry, sir. I don’t understand you.’

David pointed to the microwave oven underneath the kitchen cabinets. WPC Bennett frowned at it. It wasn’t switched on, so there was no light inside, but she could make out a pale shape behind the laminated glass door. She turned to her fellow officers, who shrugged, and so she went over and opened it.

Inside, on a plate, was Evie’s head. Her cheeks were bloated and her lips were blood-red and her hair had been frizzed up by the heat of the microwave. She looked like some terrifying Gorgon.

WPC Bennett couldn’t believe at first that she was looking at a real head but then she saw that the skin around Evie’s neck had been jaggedly cut, and that congealed orange fluid was pooled on the plate around it.

‘There she is,’ David said, in a harsh voice that sounded thick with catarrh. ‘Fully defrosted and ready for cooking! You know what they say, don’t you? If you eat somebody’s brains, you inherit all of their memories… everything they’ve ever experienced, everything they’ve ever learned! Mind you, I don’t know what he’ll get from eating Evie’s brains… She wasn’t the sharpest tool in the box! But then neither was his hacksaw, as you can see! He wasn’t much of a solicitor, and I don’t think he’d make much of a butcher, either!’

Without a word, one of the officers came around the kitchen table, twisted David’s arms behind his back and handcuffed him. David offered no resistance at all, and kept on smiling.

His fellow officer went out into the hallway and called in to the station for immediate back-up, as well as a forensic team and an ambulance. WPC Bennett pulled on a pair of latex gloves and closed the oven door. Evie’s eyes had been poached until they were totally white like quail’s eggs, but they still had tiny pinpricks for pupils, and she found her stare too unnerving.

‘Where’s the rest of her, Mr Nelson?’ she demanded, trying to keep her voice steady.

David jerked his head towards the utility-room door. ‘He put her in the freezer. She’s all there, I promise you, apart from a bit of leg. The key’s right there, on the table. Go and look for yourself.’

‘Did you kill her?’

‘Evie deserved it! She’d been asking for it, for months.’

‘Why?’

‘Because of her endless complaining, and I mean endless! He’d had enough of it, as simple as that, and who can blame him? All right, yes, granted – his practice was going through a difficult patch, and he wasn’t bringing home much money, if any at all. But a husband needs support when times get hard, doesn’t he, not nagging. Sympathy – not slagging off! So – yes, David taught her a much-needed lesson.’

‘Mr Nelson, you are David.’

David stared at WPC Bennett in complete incomprehension. When he didn’t answer, she started to caution him.

‘David Nelson, I am arresting you on suspicion of murdering your wife, Mrs Evie Nelson. You do not have to say anything, but it may harm your defence—’

‘For God’s sake, how many times do I have to tell you that I’m not David!’ David shrilled at her. ‘Take these handcuffs off me and go away, all of you! I need to eat! I’m ravenous! Why do you think I was defrosting Evie’s head?’

‘Sir – if you’re not David Nelson, then who are you?’

‘His mother, Jeanette Nelson. Well, Netty they usually call me. Do I even look like a man?’

‘To be perfectly frank with you, sir – yes, you do. And whatever you’re calling yourself, you’re still under arrest for murder.’

One of the officers had gone into the utility-room with the key to the freezer. He came out again now, swallowing hard and pressing his hand against his stomach to suppress his nausea.

‘She’s in there all right, Sal. What’s left of her, anyway.’

David looked as if he were about to say something, but then he changed his mind and gave a petulant shake of his head, as if he couldn’t be bothered to explain himself to any of these fools.

They won’t be able to prove it was me, so I don’t know why they’re even bothering. Let them take me to court. They’ll only be wasting their time. But I wish they’d get the hint and go. I need to eat, badly.

David glanced towards the microwave. His insides were beginning to feel chilled and watery, as if his intestines were melting away, and he was losing his grip on reality.

I’m going to faint if I don’t eat soon. I’m going to disappear.

He didn’t pay any attention to what WPC Bennett was saying to him. All he could think of was taking Evie’s head out of the microwave and splitting her skull in half so that he could spoon out her brain and slice it up and melt some butter in the pan and fry it. Dear God, he could almost taste it.

‘Mr Nelson – do you have anything to say?’ WPC Bennett asked him, sharply, as if she were repeating herself.

David stared at her. ‘Please,’ he said. ‘If you don’t let me eat, I’m going to die again.’

‘They’ll give you something to eat at the station, once you’ve been formally charged.’

Despite the officer’s attempts to keep him upright, David sank to his knees, sobbing.

‘I don’t want to die again. Please. Not again. You don’t know what it’s like.’

The officer who had been blocking the front door came into the kitchen and said, ‘Back-up’s arrived.’

‘You don’t know what it’s like!’ David screamed, and his eyes were bulging with terror. ‘You’ve never died, so you don’t know what it’s like!’


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