“God, you are such an idiot Tom!”
“Shut up, Sue!”
I could hear their exchange from the other side of the wall and the laughter following it.
Noisy neighbors, we all know them and I am sure many of you have their own first-hand experiences.
They come in all types and ages: Students partying in the middle of the week like Tom, Sue and their friends. But there was also old people watching TV at max volume, couples fighting and screaming at each other or kids who are a little too loud when playing.
Some years ago I used to live in the low-income area of my city. Some of you might have one word on their mind right away: ghetto. It wasn’t like that. The area itself wasn’t that bad. What was bad, were the buildings. Look up ‘Soviet Living Complexes Germany’ and you know what I am talking about. Even the better ones are cheaply made, old-fashioned and barely adequate for our times.
Back in the day, when these complexes were new, everyone wanted to live there. After the Germany reunion though, their reputation fell. As newer and better buildings became the norm. In the decade following the reunion everyone who could afford it moved to the more attractive parts of the city.
Only the poor and those living on welfare or other benefits stayed.
Nowadays the whole area is a sort of welfare town. It was a melting pot of alcoholics, the long-term-unemployed and various other, similar people.
How did I end up there? Well to make a long story short: I had to move, could only get a shitty job and couldn’t afford to get a better place.
As I said, things weren’t all bad. The worst you’d run into was some drunk idiots and those are easy to avoid.
Of course, there were people screaming at each other, but most of it was harmless. Actual violence was scarce. The worst that happened was that you woke up in the middle of the night because of some drunk idiot. In time, you got used to it.
That’s why I ignored the noisy neighbors upstairs as well. I had gotten used to hearing the occasional argument or things breaking apart.
I also didn’t like calling the police. The few times I actually did, they told people to knock it off. The noise had started again after half an hour or so but with double the intensity. From then on, I decided to lay low.
When the noises upstairs got too loud, I’d often turn the volume up or use my headphones to not be disturbed.
One day the doorbell rang and I saw a lady I assumed was in her late thirties. I had no idea who she was, but that didn’t mean much. I barely knew anyone in the building and I didn’t want to associate with the other tenants. The lady asked in an embarrassed way if it had been my girlfriend who’d been yelling last night.
Now at the time, I’d been dating a girl for some time who used to stay over at my place a lot. I guess she assumed that we were living together.
In a few sentences, I informed her that this wasn’t the case. I was living alone and my girlfriend hadn’t stayed over last night.
At that, the lady seemed a bit startled but then nodded. Of course, I asked what was going on. She told me she was living on one of the upper floors and she wasn’t feeling safe anymore.
She said she’d hoped that it wasn’t the alcoholic couple living above me who’d been at it again. It seemed that by now they were fighting almost every day. She was worried that they’d cause a ruckus in the hallways again like a couple weeks ago. After that, she went on to tell me those weren’t the only things that worried her. There were the drug addicts on floor number five and there were all those shady people who visited the apartment next to hers. No, she said shaking her head, things had gone downhill before she excused herself and left.
Well, I thought, at least now I know who is causing all the trouble.
As the days went on the noise above had almost grown to a constant. There was no night without a fight. At times I heard things break and in my mind, I could see their empty liquor bottles flying through the air.
I even bought ear plugs to be able to sleep through the night. At one point I considered calling the police, but the noise stopped after only a few minutes
That was until a Friday at the end of March. I was in a bad mood, a seriously bad mood. The past week had been quite shitty. My girlfriend had broken up with me out of the blue. On Wednesday, my boss informed me that the company was going through some restructuring. They’d have to let me go at the end of the month, he said.
I’d gotten myself a couple of beers and decided to watch a good movie or two. I didn’t want to think about how things had gone downhill.
It was about midnight that the noises upstairs started again. I heard a woman yell something, then the sound of breaking glass, before yet another fight seemed to erupt. At that point, I had had it. I had enough of this shit. This had been going on for almost two weeks. Why couldn’t they give me one, single night without it?
I took out my phone and called the police. I told them about a disturbance going on in the apartment upstairs. The local station was nearby, so it took only about ten minutes for them to arrive. The doorbell rang and I opened to a group of four police officers. I told them that trouble had been going on in the apartment on the next floor. Things had somewhat calmed down, but there was still some noise. They nodded and made their way upstairs.
With that I went back inside, smiling a bit, waiting to hear the surprised curses of the drunks above.
Instead, I heard absolute chaos and only minutes later more people could be heard on the stairs.
I went towards the window and saw that more police cars had arrived, as well as an ambulance. An injured woman was brought out on a stretcher. What the hell had happened up there? Those assholes must have given the police quite a fight.
It was about an hour later, that my doorbell rang again. The police informed me that I needed to give my statement at the station.
After my testimony, the officer asked me for how long the ruckus had been going on. When I answered that it had been almost two weeks, he asked me why I never called the cops. I told him that noises were quite common in the area and had to admit that I just wanted to lay low and not get involved.
He frowned and I could see he was suppressing his anger. Then he showed me a picture. It was the lady who’d been at my door not too long ago.
When he asked me how I knew her, I told him about the day she came to my door.
“So what you’re saying is that she is a tenant there like yourself?”
The question confused me, but I answered, that yes, she was living there as well.
He nodded and then told me that this woman was responsible for multiple murders. I almost jumped from my chair in surprise and asked what she’d done.
That’s when he told me what they had found in the apartment upstairs.
It was the remains of three people. One of them was the original tenant of the apartment, the other two were still unidentified.
My eyes grew wide when I heard this. I couldn’t believe it.
Other than the culprit, they also found her newest victim, a young lady, who was lucky to still be alive.
Right away I remembered the woman on the stretcher. The officer told me that from her statement they were able to put together a story.
The lady must have shown up at the apartment one day. If she knew the original tenants, is still unknown. They are not sure what exactly happened. The corpse of the original tenant showed severe signs of abuse.
The noises and the screams I thought and felt sick.
After killing the original tenant, she continued to invite people to her apartment and murder them. The last person being the woman that was rescued.
I sat there not able to say a word. I thought about all those times in the past weeks that I’d woken up in the middle. The angry, muffled voices I heard, the yells and things breaking. Only to curse at the people upstairs, assuming those damned drunks were at it again. In reality though… the implications were too much for me.
Suddenly it became clear to me why the lady must have come to my door. With one answer the officer affirmed that she’d not only been at my place. Instead, she’d gone around the whole place. She convinced everyone, that the noises were caused by drunk people or drug addicts.
There were enough harmless, drunk idiots living in the area and she used it to her advantage.
The officer asked me if I was never wondering about one of my neighbors going missing. I told him again that I didn’t know anyone and even if, people moved in and out all the time. You don’t see anyone anymore? They moved away. You see a new face? Maybe they just moved in.
The officer nodded.
In the end, he thanked me for the statement. As I got up to leave, he told me in a very serious voice, that if I ever heard similar noises, I shouldn’t assume it was just a bunch of alcoholics. If I’d call the police right when the noises started, those three people would most likely still be alive.
Days later I still couldn’t sleep. The only reason I’d even called the police was that I was mad, to fuck with people, not because I was worried at all. I felt like shit.
As soon as I could afford it, I moved to a different area. I couldn’t sleep in that apartment anymore. Every noise and every argument I heard made me question what was going on. I often spent hours listening to the noises around me, always with the phone in my hand. When I finally moved I was almost at my breaking point.
Looking back the worst thing is not what happened, but that it was possible to happen with so many people around…