Neighbors

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There were so many loud noises from upstairs. I tried to ignore them, but it was different; not something someone had dropped on accident.

What the ef are they doing up there?! It sounded like the angry fights they have sometimes…but something was different. I could hear muffled shouts and then what I assumed to be glass dishes being hurled at the walls and shattering. The noises were manic and violent – nothing I had ever heard from them before. I started looking for my wallet and car keys while calling my mom from the house phone. As I began punching in her number, I could hear there was no dial tone whatsoever.

That’s weird, I thought. Throwing the house phone onto the couch, I picked up my cell phone and called my mom’s office again, and then with no luck, my last resort- I texted her.

“Mom, something weird is going on at the McCord’s…Tried calling the office, went to your voicemail…Calling the police and getting the hell out of here. Will come to ur work. Love u see u soon,” Feeling rushed towards the end.

After I sent that text to my mom, I dialed 911 faster than I knew my fingers could dial. All my senses were heightened, my hands were sweating and I couldn’t keep still.

“911, what’s your emergency?” The operator had this nice comforting and motherly tone, but that didn’t make me feel any less panicky.
“Hi I live at 24 Beacon Complex and at apartment 8C, there are a lot of loud noises coming from there, some yelling and I’m really concerned about it and I…”
There was a sound of glass being shattered and something thumped to the ground.
“Are you still there? What els-” The operator expels and audible gasp. “We’ve dispatched police and an ambulance. Whatever you do – do not get off the phone with me. Do you understand?” Her tone took on such authority, I didn’t even think about questioning her.
“T-t-the noises. They’ve stopped.”
“Okay, what do you hear now?”
“I hear nothing now,” Then a door opened upstairs and slammed shut, seeming to shake the whole building. I began to hear heavy footsteps pacing above and then move in the direction of the stairwell. I urgently whisper, “Oh my god. There’s footsteps. I hear footsteps! They’re getting closer – g-going down the steps. This is feels so wrong. That’s a bad person out there! Th—”
“Is there a safe way out of your home? You need to get out now.”
“Yeah, I’m on the first floor, I can jump out the window.” Forgetting anything about the wallet and car keys I had been searching for; there was just no time for that.
Jumping out the window, everything changed for me. My adrenaline started pumping from the moment I picked up the phone to call the police. If there was any silence, it would’ve been broken by my heartbeat, which I’m pretty sure could have been heard from about a mile in any direction. Before the sunny sky started clouding up earlier today, I had taken a bike ride on the beach that’s just a few blocks from my home. When the wind started picking up, I called it a day and stuck my bike right under the window on the side of our apartment. Thank God I had done this earlier or I would have been running into town, away from that horror scene. After jumping out the window, I landed on my bike and started pedaling as fast as my little legs could go. Because we lived in a beach town, people are always teeming about. Normally I’m aggravated by all the tourists, but it’s comforting to know that if you somehow get attacked on the way to town, at least someone would have witnessed it. A warm yet chilly breeze began again, adding a strange sensation of unease to an already eerily and cloudy gray day.

This cannot be happening. This is just a dream! HA! Not a dream – that would be a nightmare then, right? Oh, my bright eyes, you’re almost there! Just keep pedaling faster you’re almost there! I had almost forgotten about the operator on my speaker phone until she started speaking to me again.
“I’m going to my mom’s office. I told her that’s where I was going. I’m almost there!” I told her without even listening to the question she had really asked me.
“Okay, just stay on the line with me. Where does she work? I’m sending an officer there too.”
This was getting way beyond anything I had ever imagined could happen. “She works at J&S Designers – but why..?”
“Honey, the officer will explain everything to you and your mom when he gets there.”
My ears pick out the screaming sirens in the distance. They seem more frantic than usual – if that’s even possible. Something is so very, very wrong. As the pedals slice through the air, wind whooshes all around me and my eyes start to water, whether that’s from the wind or from my complete panic, I will never know. I see the J&S sign sprint up into view and the automatic doors open just in time for me to run my bike in, startling the secretary.
“Hey Sav, you know you can’t have a bi-”
“Cheryl, where’s mom? I need to talk to her.”
“She’s in her off-”
I yell an ‘okay, thank you’ at the ceiling because I was already pedaling down the hall before the words even left her mouth. I tell the operator, who’s been on the line with me the whole time that I’ve made it as I hear, “Why hello officer, what can I do for you?” coming from the lobby. I open the door to my mom’s office and she’s pacing back and forth like it’s an Olympic sport and she’s wearing such a horrified look on her face.
“Savvy, I’ve been worried sick – I tried calling your cell phone but the line was busy and the home line was disconnected and I don’t know what’s going on!” I’ve never seen my mom so worried before ever in my life.
I had forgotten I was still on the phone with the emergency services operator until she spoke up, “Let me speak to your mother to make sure you’re safe as well as the officer, who should be there by now.”
I mutter an ‘okay’ into the phone and as if on cue, Officer DeFrank walked right up to me and my mother and waited for his turn on the phone.
We sat in my mother’s office for a little over 2 hours after she cancelled all of her afternoon appointments. He asked for my witness statement and about a billion other questions.
I got the gist of the story, but I felt like I was back at my house when I had first escaped. I wasn’t really in my body anymore; I was watching the room unfold from above. All voices were muffled by the thump, crash and echoing footsteps that replay in my mind.
As it turned out, our upstairs neighbor’s husband is a wanted serial killer. He was never convicted because there was never any evidence left behind at previous crime scenes. He had killed his wife. I had heard a murder happen less than 10 feet above me. But he had been messy this time, the officer had said. Because I had called it in so soon, the police were able to catch him as he was ‘casually strolling’ down the street after he had committed the murder. The team dispatched to our apartment found our door smashed open and they found bloody handprints at the window sill of the window that I had jumped out of. Apparently, he had caught a glimpse of me escaping, somehow, and he tried to follow me before the police caught him; that’s why the operator wanted me to stay on the phone and also why she sent an officer to check that I made it to a safe place, safely. Officer DeFrank said that if I would’ve hesitated for even a second, I wouldn’t have made it out.
The McCords were our upstairs neighbors. Mrs. McCord was one of the most genuinely nice people you ever wanted to meet. She was always so full of life and she was always so optimistic about everything. Mr. McCord was the man we never truly knew, I guess. Before the police ever had a name to the killings, he was known as the ‘Boca Ripper’. A lot of people had been dying in and around the Boca area lately but there had never been any solid evidence to convict anyone. Sure there were suspects, but never Mr. McCord.
But the part I don’t speak about often, which still haunts me besides the panic and anxiety I feel when I hear any thumps, bumps, crashes, heavy footsteps or slamming doors is what the police found at the window sill along with the blood handprints: it was a crimson note he had left on the wall underneath the window.

“Little, sweet Savannah.

You got lucky. I was so close.

Next time?
With love,

Your neighbor, John McCord”





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