I moved into my new apartment back in July. I was sick and tired of my small one-room apartment and was on the look-out for a new one.
It was by sheer accident that I stumbled upon a cheap three-room one online. The rent was only a couple hundred Euros, which was almost unbelievable.
It was only half an hour later that I called the landlord to ask for visitation.
When I arrived, it was clear in an instant why the place was so cheap. It was on the second floor of what must have once been an old warehouse.
The first thing I noticed, when the landlord led me to the entry door at the back of the building, were the cats.
There were at least two dozens of them all over the yard. I asked the landlord about them and if they were strays, but he told me they belonged to a neighbor living nearby.
He pointed at an older two-storied family house. The place must have once been nice, but now it looked dated. The front yard was completely overgrown, and it looked like it hadn’t been cared for in years.
Inside the building, the landlord led me through a long hallway until we reached a sturdy metal door. To be honest, I didn’t feel too great about this whole thing anymore. While he fondled with the keys, I was about to make up an excuse to get out of there.
The moment I saw the actual apartment I stopped. The place looked nothing short of amazing. It was huge, nicely renovated and as modern as could be.
I moved in about a week later.
It wasn’t long before the problems started.
At first, I didn’t mind the cats at all. Sure it was a bit creepy that they all eyed me suspiciously whenever I got outside, but that was about it. After a while, some of them even approached me and let me pet them.
I don’t have a problem with animals, it’s the opposite, I adore them. It’s just that these cats were quite the pests at night.
I don’t know what’s going on, but it seems that some of them were fighting during the night. Many times, loud screeching, hissing and growling noises woke me up at night.
It never lasted for a long time. Whenever I got up and made my way to the window to yell at them the fight and the noises were already over.
For the longest time, I tried to ignore it and shrug it off. I mean, it’s just cats, not like they were hurting anyone, right?
The problem was that it happened all the time. I have quite the stressful job, and it’s quite normal for me to work ten or twelve hours a day. If you can’t get a good night’s sleep before a tough day like this, you start to get angry, pissed even.
So a couple of weeks ago, I had enough and approached my neighbor about it.
He was a middle-aged man, late forties I’d say, living all by himself. I don’t know why he owned all those cats. Did he adopt all the strays in the area?
I’d never talked to him yet, but he’d greeted me a few times and seemed friendly enough. When I walked over to his front door, I told myself to stay calm and talk to him like a level-headed person.
I stepped past his many cats and rang the doorbell. It had barely stopped ringing when the man opened the door. He looked surprised when he saw me, almost a bit anxious.
“Hello there, mister…?”
“Schwartz,” I finished his sentence, “I am here because of your cats.”
His eyes grew wide for a moment.
“What do you mean? There’s been no one living here, so they-”
“They are too loud!” I pressed out in anger and told myself once more to calm down.
“What I mean is during the night. Their constant fighting is waking me up all the time. Isn’t there something you can do about it?”
“Oh, so that’s it. I am sorry for that I… well the cats are quite protective of the area. There are these other strays, you know, they are-”
“Okay, I get it, I really do, but I’ve got to get my sleep! Can’t you put them inside or something?”
“I can try, but they don’t like the indoors much, but I’ll see what I can do.”
“Great, I wouldn’t like to take it any further.”
For a quick moment, I saw how shock washed over his face before he nodded. I didn’t say anything else and left.
I felt like a bit of an asshole, but I couldn’t deal with this anymore. Now, of course, I wouldn’t go to the police because of a few cats, but sometimes a hint like this worked wonders.
I don’t know how the guy did it, but from that day onward, there was no more trouble. The cats were still outside, but somehow they weren’t fighting anymore.
After two weeks, I toyed with the idea of going over there and thanking him. I was a bit too early with that one.
One night, about a week ago, I was woken up again by the same noises outside. It was terribly loud as if one of the cats was fighting for dear life.
The moment I was at the window and opened it the noise was fading again. When I looked at the clock, I saw that it was barely two in the morning. I shut the window and went back to bed. I am a light sleeper though, and it took me almost an hour to fall back asleep.
I got an idea the next day. Sure, I could go and yell at the guy again, but what would it help? No, I’d thought of something else. That last night, the noise had come from almost precisely below my window. There were quite a few ways to scare off cats, I thought.
I got myself a bucket of water and put it right next to my window. If I’d hear these cats again, I’d make sure they’d regret it.
Two days later I got my chance. It was long past midnight when the noises started again. It was the weekend, so I was still up at that time. I rushed to the window, ripped it open and took up the bucket. The noise was fading as always, and I cursed to myself, but then I saw movement in the dark below.
In my pure anger, I picked up the bucket and sprayed its content in a long ark over everything below.
What I’d expected was to hear the frightened screams of cats as they rushed off into the night. Instead, I heard something different.
“What in the hell,” I heard my neighbor’s voice curse below me.
Then lower, in what was almost a whisper, he said, “No, don’t you dare!”
I was utterly dumbfounded and didn’t understand. Don’t tell me he was out there fighting the cats himself.
In a second I picked up my phone to illuminate the area below.
What I saw was indeed my neighbor. He wasn’t alone though. He was holding a little girl in his arms who was desperately struggling against his grip trying to get away. I saw that he had his hand over her mouth, but I could still hear the same low, muffled cat-like sounds.
The moment my neighbor realized that I was there, he sprinted back to his house holding the child in his arms. Only moments the two of them had vanished.
What the hell had just happened? I stood there, confused and befuddled.
Only minutes later my confusion was replaced by logic and concern. Who was this girl and what was he doing with her? She tried to get away from him, I remembered. Something was definitely not alright with this whole situation.
I called the cops and told them what I’d seen, and thought was going on.
They arrived soon after. From my window I could see my neighbor yelling at them and then pleading with them, trying to make excuses. The police didn’t have any of it and made their way inside.
It was a couple days later that I learned what had been going on there.
My neighbor hadn’t always lived in this building. Six years ago, he was a married man, living in a different part of the country.
His wife had died during the birth of their daughter due to complications. The man had vowed to take care of the child by himself. He sold most of his belongings and left the life he’d led with his wife behind and moved here, into this old, cheap home.
At first, he’d cared for the child in honest, he admitted in a police interview. Soon enough though, he started to despise her and blamed the child for the death of his wife.
Instead of taking care of the child, he kept her as one of the stray cats that turned up around his place.
That’s why the little girl had sounded like a cat. That’s all she ever knew and ever heard since the man said he’d refused to talk to her at all. She tried her best to mimic the sounds and speech of the only ones around her.
Once she got older though, he realized there was no way he could let her roam freely. Instead, he locked her away in the house’s basement.
As the years went by though, the little child figured out how to sneak away at night, to the frustration of her father.
Looking back I can’t help but blame myself. Each night I stood at my window cursing at what I thought was cat fights below. Instead, it must have been this little girl, trying to escape her father’s clutches.