: “It makes my head hurt.”
This sequence was tricky to write, and I’m still not convinced I’ve pulled it off. The trouble is that only certain, very intelligent species (elephants, apes, dolphins) recognise their own reflection.
Dogs do not understand how mirrors work. I tried to think of a different way of portraying this scene, and can only apologise if it is confusing for the reader.
However, this does provide some additional verisimilitude: Bleep does not understand what is going on, and neither do we.
: “It reminded me of how I looked when the ceiling fell on me.”
This scene has not been embellished. Nilsen would sometimes undergo an elaborate masturbatory ritual, where he would cover himself in talcum power, blue his lips, rub his eyes, and lie very still on the bed. He would then masturbate while watching his own reflection; the talc and cosmetics giving him the appearance of a fresh corpse.
It seems as though this ritual was able to assuage his fetish for a while, but ultimately his necrophilic tendencies overpowered him. I imagine that he abandoned this practice once his flats were filled with genuine cadavers.
: “What was Master doing?”
Dogs do masturbate, usually to relieve sexual tension while in mating season, by humping. Because they lack opposable thumbs, it is impossible to determine whether a dog can understand what a human male is doing if it were to see one masturbate. Perhaps they would understand, perhaps not. To preserve Bleep’s innocent nature, I have chose to depict her as being simply bemused by Nilsen’s onanism.
: “All I could manage was a little ‘yip!'”
The pet shop where Bleep was purchased was allegedly the ‘Palace in Wonderland’ pet shop in Willesden High Road. The shop is now closed.
This is another true detail. Gallichan and Nilsen gave their little puppy the name ‘Bleep’ because she was unable to bark, instead making an endearing squeaking sound.
Bleep was a naturally timid dog, and mostly quiet. I have however embellished her lack of vocalisation somewhat. It seems as though she did later grow out of her selective mutism, and there are some accounts by Nilsen, his neighbours, and his survivors, of Bleep barking.
However, I felt it was more thematically appropriate to have her be incapable of barking until the story’s climax, to symbolise the completion of her character arc.
: “A dog without a pack is nothing.”
Dogs are intensely social animals, and their pack/family mentality is far older than any behaviours we humans have programmed them with during the long course of our domestication of wolves.
They have an innate understanding of power structures and hierarchy within a family unit, with an alpha (male or female) leading the back, and a series of subordinates under them. This is not a strict alpha-beta binary (which the Incel movement insists in their tiresome fashion of applying to humans) but a complex system of shifting relationships. However, since Bleep was naturally rather submissive, it seemed reasonable that she should assign herself a beta role, and Nilsen be thought of as the alpha/master.
: “Was he going to join our pack?”
Nilsen’s first murder, the killing of 14-year-old Irish boy Stephen Dean Holmes, occurred early in the morning of December 30th, 1978.
Nilsen had apparently been intensely lonely in the days between Christmas and New Year (a period of deep isolation for many people) and went to the Cricklewood Arms pub on Cricklewood Broadway – approximately 10/12 minutes walk to the Northeast of Melrose Avenue. He began drinking Guinness with a bunch of underage youths. Holmes was one of their number.
The two men struck up conversation, drank heavily, and then walked back to Melrose Avenue together, arriving at the flat past well closing time.
: “They sat on the sofa and played nice noises on the noise-making machine.”
Nilsen was a great appreciator of music with a large collection of records. He would often play music with for victims and guests while entertaining them. Kenneth Ockendon, a Canadian tourist who became his second victim, was even strangled with the headphones he’d been listening to music with.
Nilsen’s favourite tracks (many of which became the diegetic soundtrack for his acts of murder) include ‘Tubular Bells’ (Mike Oldfield) ‘Fanfare for the Common Man’ (Emerson, Lake & Palmer) ‘Tommy’ (The Who) ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth’ (Rick Wakeman) and especially ‘Frankenstein’ (Edgar Winter Group). I have embedded some of these in the text.
: “He was too rough and his breath smelled of bad drink.”
This scene is an embellishment, but there is reasoning behind my exaggeration. It is true that Holmes and Nilsen stayed up late drinking, and had imbibed a lot by the time of Holmes’ death. I have no idea whether Holmes could hold his drink, but considering his tragically young age, it seems unlikely.
Similarly, I can only guess as to whether Bleep was standoffish with Holmes, as depicted here, or friendly and gentle. I have chosen to exaggerate Holmes’ drinking so that Bleep could smell alcohol on his breath and be intimidated by him – setting up a contrast between him and Carl Stotter, who appears later.
I meant no disrespect to Holmes’ memory by portraying him inebriated in this way: it is merely a necessary storytelling device
: “I stirred at dawn.”
Nilsen states that he was overwhelmed by the urge to kill Holmes at dawn; deeply anxious about him leaving him in the morning. Gazing at his still body, he made the sudden decision to strangle him. Holmes struggled, and at one point the two men rolled off the bed and fell onto the floor, before Holmes passed out.
: “Master came back with a bucket of water. He shut the door and locked it.”
According to Nilsen’s own testimony, he was unsure that strangling had managed to do the job of killing Holmes properly. In a panic, he filled a bucket of water from the kitchen sink and drowned Holmes in it.