Tag Archives: burglary

Bloody Neighbors

Don’t you hate upstairs neighbors? I cannot tell you how long it took for me even to get a sniff at an apartment like mine—how many real estate agents I had to suck up to, and how much networking it took. Finally, I got it though, the whole first floor of a beautiful old building on the Lower East Side. Every inch of it was mine and I made it my castle. It was perfect, except for the guy living upstairs.

There were only three floors in the building—three apartments total. The upper apartment was occupied by an elderly couple—the Gerards, according to their mailbox. They looked well-off, but kept to themselves. I probably wouldn’t have minded being under them. The guy on the second floor, a Mr. R. Hart, was in his mid-thirties, single and active. I could hear every step he made: from bedroom to bathroom, from kitchen to living room. It drove me crazy. It was worse when his girlfriend stayed over, and almost unbearable when he decided to have a party for all his friends—yuppies or hipsters or whatever that type is called these days. I would go to sleep with headphones on, willing the strains of Aaron Copeland to drown out the blare of dubstep from above me.

Our building had a dedicated elevator—you needed a key to use it. That was one of the things that drew me to the apartment. It meant that it could only go to one apartment at a time, since only one key would fit at a time. I loved that feature more than anything. It meant no awkward elevator rides with neighbors that I had no desire to speak to—talking about the weather or some other nonsense. Sometimes I would come home to find one of the other neighbors waiting for the elevator and I would pretend to check my mail until they had gone up.

The elevator opened into my entryway, just off my living room, but I had a box rigged up in the kitchen with a call button and a display to show the floor the elevator was on. So, even though I never met my neighbors I knew a lot about when they came and went. The Gerards never went out after seven, except on Sundays. Mr. R. Hart came and went at all hours, but once he was in for the night, he usually didn’t go out again. And just like me, they never visited each other.

One night I was up late, reading Kafka in the living room with a glass of wine. I got up for another glass and saw that the elevator was moving. It went up to the third floor. It was just after midnight on a Tuesday and I suddenly became worried. The Gerards were elderly and anything off schedule couldn’t be good. I looked outside for an ambulance, but the street was deserted.

I finished my third glass of wine and was bringing the glass into the kitchen when I saw the elevator going down. It stopped on the second floor. Probably Mr. R. Hart had called it. I watched for it to go down to the lobby, but it never did.

There were several footsteps above me and then a thump. There was another thump and then a crash. Normally, I didn’t think anything of any sounds coming from the apartment of Mr. R. Hart but with the mystery of the elevator, I was getting seriously anxious.

There was another thump and then another. Then the sound became rhythmic—thump, thump, thump—and I realized with a flash of relief and disgust where I had heard it before: it sounded just like a headboard hitting the wall. Right away, I could picture the scenario. Mr. R. Hart had had a woman over. He had called the elevator for her to leave but they had gotten caught up in the throes of passion again and started crashing around up there. I had heard similar, and worse, from his place before.

The thumping continued, on and on, while I clenched my fists and ground my teeth. I grabbed a broom and started pounding on the ceiling.

“Hey, jerks!” I shouted. “Quit rutting like a pair of drugged up hyenas. Some people are trying to sleep. I just called the police—they’ll be here in a few minutes.”

The sound stopped abruptly and I gave a smug smile. A moment later, the elevator started moving down to the lobby.

I rinsed out the wine glass and was just about to turn off the light, when I heard a sizzle and smelled a hot, metallic smell. I looked up at the light, just to see a large drop fall from it and splash in a tiny red puddle on my polished oak floor. I called the police.

By the time the police arrived, blood was dripping down my light and the towel I had put down was soaked.  I was almost in hysterics—not something I like to admit, but I blame the wine. The police called the landlord and found Mr. R. Hart dead on his living room floor. His skull was crushed and blood was everywhere. The police estimated that the killers must have smashed his head against the floor at least fifty times.

The Gerards were dead too—brutally beaten to death and all their valuables taken. Based on my testimony, the police determined that the perpetrators had gone there first, then down to the apartment of Mr. R. Hart. No one knows how they got in, but the police suspected that they used a set of keys that the landlord admitted to losing several months earlier. Nothing was taken from Mr. R. Hart’s apartment. It seems the burglars had gotten scared and fled the scene. No one mentioned it, but I could only think of where they would have gone after the second floor.

*         *         *

The apartment building is silent now. The burglars were never caught and the two apartments above me are still active crime scenes. The police confided in me that even if they were arrested today, it would be years before the apartments could be rented again. I would never move though. I changed the locks, upgraded my security system, and now I sit, alone in a building that is two-thirds crime scene, while the ghosts of neighbors I never knew disrupt my sleep with their silent steps.

I almost wish I had gotten to know them.

The Woman in Blue, Part 3 of 3

The Woman in Blue, Part 2

…Jack Simons walked into the house. It seemed mere seconds since he had left it that morning. He was tired and aggravated, although he didn’t know why. And his finger hurt. Slowly, he parted his fingers and saw two words, cut in tiny strokes on the side of his left ring finger. Stay calm.

Someone must have known about his outburst the night before.

He sat down at the computer. Hi, Sarah.

Hi, Jack. How are you feeling today?

He felt like crap and wanted to punch something, but he forced a smile onto his face. I feel great. How about you?

I’m good, Jack. I’m good.


Over the next few days, it seemed as if everything in the house began conspiring against him. The next day, the toaster started smoking on its own. That made the sprinkler system go off, which soaked everything in the house, including his bed, but strangely, not the computer. Sarah had no explanation for this, as much as he accused her of setting it up.

Stay calm. The words rang shrilly in his head, making him more angry, if anything, but he contained his rage. This got easier when he discovered an extra heating unit and other electronics stuffed inside the mangled remains of the toaster and he knew that they—whoever they were—were testing him, trying to get him angry.

On the night of May 21st, Jack was woken up by sounds of movement coming from the living room. He went out and turned on the light to see a burglar—no mask, though—standing in his living room, filling a large bag with electronics and knick-knacks.

“What in Styx do you think you’re doing?” Jack asked, although it was pretty obvious.

“Go back into the bedroom and you won’t get hurt,” the burglar said. He was young, in his early twenties probably. He gave Jack a saucy sneer and suddenly Jack wanted to kill him. Not for the stuff he was stealing—it wasn’t Jack’s anyway—but just for being an arrogant prick who thought he was tough and thought he was in control.

Stay calm.

Stay calm.

Stay calm.

Of course, this was only another test, to see what he would do. Jack forced a grin onto his face. Are you watching this, Sarah? he thought.

“Ah, come on. You’re not going to hurt me,” Jack said, suddenly changing his tone and giving the burglar a easy grin. “You just want this stuff and then you want to go, right? How did you get in?”

“Uh, the back door. It was unlocked,” the burglar said, suddenly unsure of himself.

“Makes sense, I honestly can’t remember ever locking it. Hey, do you want the TV?” Jack asked. “I don’t watch it anyway.” He unhooked the cables from the back and then carried it over to the door. “I’ll get the microwave for you too.”

Twenty minutes later, Jack and the burglar had stripped the house of anything of value and piled it by the back door. Everything except the computer and the telephone. Jack had offered them, but the burglar had declined, not surprisingly.

“Now go into the bedroom and shut the door,” the burglar ordered. “I’ll carry this stuff outside.”

“Fair enough,” Jack said. He went into the bedroom and lay down, listening to the burglar moving things out of the back door. He wondered if the burglar lost his memories every time he went through. That would be pretty funny. He wondered if Sarah was watching all this and what she thought of it all.

He heard the door shut and then there was silence. A moment later, the phone rang. Jack smiled and then got up to answer it.


“Hello, Jack. I saw you were up anyway.”

“Yeah, funny thing about that.”

“Jack, I’m here to tell you that it’s over. The experiment, that is. They say you passed.”

“Okay, now what?”

“Now, you can leave, for real.”

Jack heard a buzz and a click. Looking out in the hall, he saw that the front door was standing ajar.

“You’re in prison, Jack,” Sarah’s voice said. “You were sentenced to life in prison for killing two men, but you were lucky enough to be chosen for this experiment, to see if your behavior could change if you had no memories—to see if you were fundamentally bad or not.”

Jack knew he should shut up. His brain kept telling him to, but he couldn’t stop himself. “Is that what you think of me? That I’m a robot that has a GOOD-EVIL switch that might get flipped to GOOD if I couldn’t remember being a criminal? And you were going to prove this by trying to make me angry? Anger doesn’t equal evil, Sarah, and calm doesn’t equal good.”

“Jack,” her voice was sweet but warning at the same time. “They passed you; don’t try to convince them to undo that. This is only Stage 1. If you go out the front door, they will still be monitoring you, although you won’t know it. You’ll forget everything about this place and about prison. You’ll have a new identity and wake up in a hospital, supposedly with amnesia.”


“The Department of Corrections isn’t too creative with their ideas,” Sarah said and there was a hint of amusement in her voice.

“Will I remember you?”

“No, you won’t.”

“Then tell me: who are you, Sarah?” Jack asked.

“I am your fiancée,” she said, after a pause. “We would be married now, if two men hadn’t broken into your house a week before our wedding. You beat them both to death. The warden asked me to help in the experiment as a control, because I knew you. I was the one person you could never forget and they wanted to prove that you could. I love you, Jack.”

“I won’t do it,” Jack said. “If I have to be in prison for the rest of my life, so be it. I don’t want to forget you, out there. I’ve been trying to remember you in here and I couldn’t. I don’t want to live like that for the rest of my life, especially now.”

“Jack,” Sarah said, “you don’t remember now, but there was a time when you fell in love with me. You pursued me and charmed me and made me fall in love with you too. You told me you did this experiment for me, so let me do this for you, Jack. Let me find you and make you fall in love with me again.”

“Okay, I’ll trust you. What do I do?”

“Just walk through the front door. There are machines built into the door frame. You won’t remember anything after that and we can start again. I love you, Jack.”

He wanted to return the feeling, to say he loved her too, but the words sounded false in his mind. He didn’t even remember her. “I will love you too,” he said. Then he hung up the phone and walked out the front door…

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