She moved into the flat next door three months ago, then the killing started.
I’d been enjoying my morning immensely, pinning a couple of new beauties and preparing the display cases. I heard voices downstairs, so I crept out onto the landing and peered over the bannister. I could only see her shoes. Petite, pretty, brown little things with a silver broach on the toes. With each exclamation she shifted her weight from one side to the other, like a tiny boxer sizing up an opponent.
She was talking to Mr Chopra, just inside the big door.
“Is it strictly necessary to pay the full month’s deposit up front?” she asked.
It was for me, young lady, I thought. I don’t recall that miserly cad ever offering me any credit.
“I’m sure we can work something out.” he said. I could see Chopra more clearly. He was standing with his legs spread apart and one hand shoved in his pocket, a big satisfied grin on his greasy brown face. Ginny walked out of the open door behind me and mewed for food. I saw Chopra turn so I quickly ducked back into my flat and triple locked the door.
Mr Chopra hadn’t been at all happy with me since the bother with Seamus. The former tenant in flat three was the kind of slob who thought leaving his rubbish bags on the landing all night was somehow acceptable. I never once saw him tend to his window box and the cooking smells coming from his door made me gag. On top of all that, he spoke to me in that familiar Irish tone, as if we were drinking buddies down the pub.
“Bobby my boy, how the devil are ye?” he’d bellow, meeting me on the stairs, always with a heavy dose of sarcasm.
I began leaving notes for him, just to see if standards might improve. The first one told him to tidy up the post in his mail slot. I didn’t put my name to it, so it could have come from any of the others. There are four flats in the house. The Davies in flat one can be noisy but only on account of their baby. Jorges in flat two has been an absolute dream. Polite and tidy, he works as a cleaner in the local college.
When the notes didn’t have the desired effect, I escalated the matter. One morning Seamus left his flat and neglected to take out the stinking bag of rubbish on the landing. My landing. I’d been watching him through my peephole. As soon as he was gone, I picked up the bag and emptied it in front of his door. Then, quick as I could, I left the house for the day to visit Mother. When I arrived home that evening I was confronted by a snarling Irishman at my door.
It led, I’m sorry to say, to a physical confrontation. Nobody came out of with any dignity. We ended up wrestling on the floor and Jorges had to pull us apart.
I found out where he worked, which turned out to be a small landscaping company in Lewisham, and followed him to clients’ homes. I invented email addresses in the name of their customers and sent complaints about his conduct. Lewd and suggestive language, inappropriate touching of children, that kind of thing. He lasted two weeks before the boss got rid of him. I heard Seamus complaining bitterly on the phone to his girlfriend.
Without a job, he couldn’t afford the rent. A month after his unfortunate sacking, Seamus was moving in with his girlfriend. Job done.
Well. If I’d known then what I know now, perhaps I would have been more tolerant of the Irish slob. Two days after I saw her tiny brown shoes from the landing, I got a knock at the door. I opened it to find a petite woman with neat, short black hair and a face, I suppose, many men would consider beautiful. I’m not an expert on such things. Lurking behind her, his greasy face topped with lank, Brylcreemed hair, was Mr Chopra.
“Hello” she said, “I’m Kate, your new neighbour.”
Before I even had the chance to respond, Chopra chimed in. “Now, you are going to be friendly to Ms Halliday, aren’t you, Mr Gressly? I hope we won’t be having anymore nonsense.”
I turned to Kate and said, “Hello, I’m pleased to meet you.” Then to Mr Chopra, “I don’t recall you introducing me to the neighbours when I moved in Mr Chopra. How is Mrs Chopra these days? I understand she’s expecting another baby.” If the man had been genetically capable of blushing, I’m sure he would have.