I’m Back! And with Something New – First Draft: Of Neighbors and Deceit
So, I did decide to take a month off and relax. During that time, however, I did some writing, including editing some old pieces (which I will be posting soon) and starting a few longer things. I’m also trying to iron out some HTML things so I can get an index up of the Card Challenge stories. So, I have one long-ish piece in the works, just trying to decide what to do with it. I’m not going to promise I’ll finish it, because I’m worried that in tone, it is way too similar to the piece I’m posting today. We’ll see how it goes, but the narrative tone is so similar, I’m not sure they work as stand-alones, even if the ideas are very different. Then again, I can just post both and see which one feels better.
Now that I’m back, my goal is 1-2 pieces per week. That will either be something new, edit of something old, a chapter of a longer piece, or a reflective-style discussion post from me. I’m not sure which days of the week I’m going to post, so I’ll have to work that out based on my general schedule. With classes over (and almost over for my entire life!!), I have more time, but I’m also starting data collection for my dissertation. Things may just have to be in flux right now.
All that aside, here is a new piece I’ve been working on the past few days. As usual, it is a first draft, so it has some problems that need to be worked out. However, I have been editing as I go and reworking aspects of it throughout the process, so I feel like it is a pretty solid piece. It is very long (5000+ words), so I have cut it behind a click-through. If you have strong feelings about such “Read More” tags (“I never click through to those” or “I wish this was always the case so long pieces don’t clog things up”) please let me know so I can plan accordingly in the future.
Without further ado, here is the piece. A bit of realistic horror. As always, happy reading!
Of Neighbors and Deceit
Marty and Dan—a pleasant, Midwestern couple from all appearances—moved in a bit too early one Saturday morning. I remember the sound of their couch thumping against our outside wall around 8:00am, followed by Dan’s short bark to the movers. I suppose he was concerned about waking the neighbors. Just not concerned enough to wait for a more reasonable hour. As strangers stomped through our tiny hallways, I sluggishly drifted from bed, to my closet, and then out the door. This was during an exercise kick, and so I was ruthlessly dragging my protesting limbs to the gym. If I had to be up early, I could make use of it.
Marty was coming up the stairs as I was going down, carrying a box with a handful of books stacked precariously on top. They shifted and slid to the floor as she reached the final landing, and I heard her mutter a soft curse before dropping the box down beside her. Her hair appeared to have once been tucked into a neat, tight bun. Now, it danced around her head or laid plastered to her sweaty brow. She had the look of a typical suburban mom, dressed in a pair of unflattering jeans and a pale blue blouse, darkening every moment as she sweated a bit more. It was July; they knew the risks when they decided to move. And apparently their gamble to beat the heat and move in early was not helping.
I stooped to pick up one of the books that had skidded to my feet. It was the neighborly thing to do, after all. Marty smiled at me and took it.
“Not how I wanted to meet the new neighbors,” she sang, a hint of breathlessness escaping through the cheer.
I laughed politely. I am not a good adult; I do not handle small talk and forced participation well. But I put on a smile and did my best. “You caught me in workout gear. I’d say we’re even. I’m Lyla. Uh, apartment 322.”
She took my hand, nodded. “And I’m Marty, apartment, um,” her eyes grew distant for a moment, and she squinted as she shuffled through her memory, “apartment 312!” she finally exclaimed. “We’re across-the-hall neighbors!”
She was obviously more excited about this news than I was. I smiled, and tried to creep down the stairs around her with a brief, “then I’ll be seeing you,” but she called out before I could escape.
“Dan! Come meet our neighbor, Lula!”
“It’s Lyla,” I whispered, mortified at the encounter. I had chosen a quiet apartment just so I would not have to meet my neighbors. I had a good streak, three years strong, without more than a friendly nod or holding a door. Now I was frozen on the stairs.
Dan was a large man, easily filling the doorway. He had that steelworker, cattle farmer look that I always associate with the Midwest. His arms were meaty appendages wedged onto his body, and they hung tensely at his side, reddened by the work of moving in. His face was flushed, speckled with its own sheen of sweat. I suddenly became acutely aware of the sweat prickling in my underarms as the awkwardness of the situation increased. There was a desperation in Marty’s voice as she called for him that made me feel responsible and terrified all at once.
One giant paw wiped Dan’s face as the other reached toward me. I took his hand, feeling his grip settle around like a vice as he nearly crushed my smaller one. “Well, Luna, nice to meet you.”
“It’s Lyla,” I meekly offered again, smiling and trying not to wince at his grip.
“My apologies, Lyla!” He beamed, and I watched a bead of sweat trickle from his forehead, down his nose, and crash against the slight bulge of his belly beneath the damp t-shirt. “Sorry for the noise this morning. We should have it all out of your hair in just another few hours.” He jutted a short thumb back towards the hallway where I could see two spindly movers—high school students scrounging for a summer job, I assumed—trying to find a way to wedge a dressed in the narrow space between the door and wall.
This was my chance, and I nabbed. ‘It’s no problem. Got me up early for the gym. It was nice to meet you Dan and Marty,” I offered them both a smile. Marty’s mouth began to open again, but I was three stairs down before she could begin.
“Would you—I guess we’ll see you around!”
From the bottom floor, I could hear her still going, her attention turned to Dan. “Nice girl.” I could hear her pick up the cardboard box again. “But what kind of name is Lyna?”
I had been home from the gym less than an hour when someone knocked on my door. The peephole showed me Marty, standing outside with a fishbowl-enhanced smile and a plate of cookies. I unwrapped the towel from my head, tucking it behind the door, and opened the door for her.
“Just a little welcome from your new neighbors.” She smiled and hefted the plate of cookies.
I was confused, but did my best not to show it, pasting on a gracious smile. Unfortunately, my mouth was not so good at hiding my confusion. “Aren’t I supposed to bring you guys cookies?”
She laughed, a high-pitched, twittering sound, and shoved the cookies toward me once again. “Oh, don’t be silly. You were at the gym! How could you have baked us anything?”
Manners took over and I took the offered plate. They were still warm. “You must have gotten unpacked quick,” I said, still standing awkwardly in my doorway with the fresh baked cookies and a sense I had already messed up something important.
“It’s all about priorities, dear.” She patted my hand gently, and then turned to walk the couple steps to her door. “Oh, and just a note, I do need the plate back. You know where to find me!” With a laugh at her own cleverness, she entered her apartment. I could still see a few boxes stacked in the main room, but it was shockingly sparse for someone just moving in. Who was I to judge? Maybe they had fallen on hard times. That could certainly explain why two textbook suburbanites would wind up in a low-end apartment complex.
I’d love to say my exercise kick helped me resist the allure of cookies, but that would be a bold lie. I have not met anyone—not anyone with a soul, at least—who can resists a plate of fresh, homemade, chewy, delicious cookies. Still, I waited a good week and a half to return the plate, hoping to allay suspicion of my cookie-eating binges.
Dan answered the door, and I could hear someone in the kitchen, apparently stirring a pan of something that sizzled deliciously. My mouth watered, but I did my best to console myself with thoughts of the frozen dinner waiting in my freezer.
“Oh, Lyla. How’s life across the hall?” He was dressed in a dingy white t-shirt and dusty jeans, fatigue from what must have been a long day of work etched across his face.
“You got my name!” I started, initially feeling confident and comfortable. Then I realized how whiny that might have sounded, and lost my footing. “I just wanted to return the plate.” The words tumbled out of my mouth, almost colliding with one another in my haste. Dan just smiled.
“Marty’s cookies are irresistible,” he beamed, snatching the pate from my hand.
“Who is it?” echoed from the kitchen, and I watched as Marty’s shadow moved towards the door. She did not wait from the response. “Oh, Lyla! Dan told me your name was ‘Lyla.’ Like Delilah, but without the ‘De.’ What brings you over?”
I opened my mouth, but Dan’s words cut me off. “Just returning the plate, dear. Another satisfied customer, I presume.” He gave me a wink, and I just smiled and nodded. There was something about being around the two that always left me feeling absolutely overwhelmed by their down-home, good-natured bantering, friendly selves. It was like being forcefully enveloped in a warm, loving hug. Even briefly, it began to feel suffocating. But a pleasant suffocation, at least.
“Oh, you enjoyed them? Good good. I aim to please!” She brushed her hands on her floral apron, her smiling face appearing just behind Dan’s shoulder. “Did you invite her in?” she asked, a scolding edge to her voice. Dan looked down at her sheepishly.
“Not yet. We had barely gotten to talking before you jumped in.”
“Well then, won’t you come in?” Marty gestured into their apartment, and then scampered back into the kitchen with her trademark smile. Dan swung the door open wider. Inside, the scent of pork chops was heavy and mouthwatering.
“I really don’t want to intrude. It’s dinner time, and so—“
“I can’t believe Marty! Of course. Would you like to stay for dinner?”
This was a train wreck of social niceties. “No, really, I don’t want to interrupt your evening—“
Marty suddenly reappeared from the kitchen, wiping her hand furiously on her apron. “I can’t believe myself! Where are my manners? Lyla, would you like to stay for dinner? There’s plenty, and—“ She caught Dan’s eyes and they both began to chuckle.
Still a hint of laughter in his voice, Dan turned back towards the door. “Well, great minds think alike. Guess you can tell we don’t take a ‘no’ easily.”
Much like the tides will always win out in the end, so too did Dan and Marty wear down my resolve. It was less awkward to sit through dinner than it would be to try and defend their advances for the next few minutes.
Dan led me over to the sofa, and I sat in the sparse apartment. It was strange being in their apartment. It was almost exactly like mine in every way, except flipped. Well, and they had the two bedroom model, so there was an extra door down the hall. It had a strange feeling of déjà vu, but was also notably distinct. It was also a clean apartment, which left me feeling out of place from my natural habitat of clutter.
Not only was it clean, but mostly empty. That left it feeling somewhat like a tomb, gaping and echoing. There was the couch that had woken me on move-in day, two bookshelves full of various self-help and dime store novels, and a plain wooden table and chairs. Otherwise, it was empty, No television, no photos, no art, not even a coffee table. From the dining room, I could see that the kitchen was similarly empty. The counters were blank, and the only color in there was Marty’s apron hung over the pantry door.
Dinner was as delicious as it smelled, and I could not contain my excitement at eating something fresh, not out of a box or can, and not in a restaurant take out box. “You have to teach me to cook,” I blurted out, catching myself too late to prevent the imposition.
Marty just laughed. “You are a feral one, aren’t you? Of course, I’ll teach you to cook whatever you like. Just like my momma taught me.” She patted my hand, smiling. “We can make a regular thing of tutoring and dinner, can’t we?”
Her eyes bored into mine, an intensity there that caught me off guard. “Y—Yeah, of—of course,” I stuttered, then filled my mouth with another forkful of mashed potatoes. Her expression returned to its bubbly, pleasant state, and I relaxed back in the chair. Everyone was a little awkward, I suppose.
I learned that Dan worked as a plumber, Marty as the receptionist at a local medical office. Hearing that and seeing them, it was a perfect match. People say owners look like their pets, but I believe people may look like their careers. If nothing else, Dan and Marty were evidence for the rule.
I as on the second helping of roasted vegetables when some strange, muffled cry came from back in the bedrooms. I was caught off guard by the sound, as well as by the response of Marty and Dan. Marty’s eyes flew wide, then snapped back to a look of confusion. I watched Dan’s face shift from shock, anger, and finally embarrassment.
“Guess I left the television on back there,” he said, shaking his head and pushing back from the table. Marty gave him an exaggerated wag of the finger.
“Ol’ Danny one time left the oven on for seven hours. Couldn’t figure out why the house was so darn hot,” she told me in a conspiratorial whisper.
“I can understand. I’ve got a terrible memory,” I added, and she patted my hand gently.
“Well, you’ll just have to find you a nice man with a good memory to help you out. Marriage is all about finding that person who can help you with your weaknesses and encourage you in your passions.”
I brushed off the patronizing remark, reminding myself that Marty obviously came from a very different background than myself. She wanted me to be as happy and supported as she felt around Dan, which I could respect. Even if I was not so certain a husband would do anything for me.
“Just some ad for one of those trashy made-for-tv movies,” grumbled Dan as he settled back into his chair. “Some Hollywood whore making mistakes and whining about them.” He and Marty exchanged a smile, like they had shared some wonderful inside joke. Whatever it was, I missed it, and the conversation had definitely taken a turn south.
“Language, dear,” reminded Marty through her smile, tilting an eyebrow my way.
“Oh, I’m sorry, Lyla. I just don’t have much patience for the disgusting, mindless fads in this world of ours. Not a thing like when I was growing up. Sometimes, it just gets to me, seeing how we elevate a pretty face and ignore millions of hardworking people putting their lives and livelihoods on the line. But, Marty’s right I was out of line.” His voice wavered just beyond his control, a hint or rage and pent-up frustration bubbling through. Even as he offered a penitent smile, there was a hungry, angry edge in his eyes that only heightened the bizarreness of the situation.
I folded my napkin and made a mental note to not flaunt any overnight guests more than necessary, pushing my chair away from the table with a painted on smile. “Eh, we all say thing we regret from time to time. Especially after a long day. Speaking of, I should head back to my place. I’ve got an early morning tomorrow.”
Dan dug back into his plate while Marty led me to the door. “Don’t mind him, dear,” she said in a whisper as we stood in front of the door. “He’s a bit old fashioned, and I do my best to wear down his rough edges. But his mouth still gets away with him when he’s tired. This move—everything that’s happened—it’s just worn him out.” I saw a hint of sadness prickle through her sculpted mask, and I felt a surge of compassion for these poor people. Whatever had happened, it had clearly shaken them.
“It surprised me a bit, but I can understand. He’s a sweet guy. But everyone has their problems.”
Marty smiled gratefully as she opened the door. “Maybe I can have you over next week, teach you how to whip up a good, old fashioned meatloaf?”
We made the appointment, and I went home to my cluttered, dusty place. But it sure felt good to be home.
For the most part, that’s how every interaction with Dan and Marty went. They were saccharinely sweet, a little out of touch, but always inviting and considerate. That weekend, I met Dan on the way out of his apartment, carrying a couple of bulging trash bags. I was coming home in those early morning hours which, to me, still felt like late night since I had been out and about all night long. Knowing Dan’s possible judgmentalism, I tried to steady my steps and appear alert as I held the door for him.
“Still cleaning out after the move?” I asked, doing my best to be good-natured. It was counter to most of my introverted, reclusive tendencies, but they had been nothing but kind to me. Plus, it seemed friendliness was easier when I was tired and still feeling a little slaphappy from a night out. He just smiled and wiped his brow.
“Yep. Marty keeps turning up odds and ends to be taken care of.”
I held the door for him as he maneuvered the unwieldy bags, trying my best to dodge whatever was in there. From the odd angles and corners, I guessed it to be boxes and packing materials. But, still, I did not want to risk a hefty dose of garbage sludge on my nice “Art Gallery” clothes.
“Well, it does seem like she runs a tight ship!” I quipped as the door squeaked shut behind us. I expected Dan to move towards the two green dumpsters at the end of the lot, but he instead marched towards his white-paneled van, some obscure plumbing company logo emblazoned on the side.
“You know there’s a dumpster just down there?” I asked, pointing towards the very obvious boxes. He paused, looking between me, them, and the truck.
“Ah, right you are. But these here—“ he lifted the bags, his tongue snaking over his lips in the uncomfortable pause. Finally, he caught himself, words tumbling out of his lips, “these are some electronics. Got to take them to a disposal facility.”
“Ah, right you are. Hey, if you’re making a trip, I have an old busted printer. Think you could drop that off for me?”
His face was blank, emptied of its usual warmth. It was early, I reminded myself, and that was an impolite imposition. “I’m leaving now,” he deadpanned, and I just shrugged.
“Oh, never mind then. Have a safe trip.” I ducked into the apartment complex, feeling stupid for having made such a request simply because I was lazy. Sure, they were kind people, but I did not know them that well. And he was obviously trying to get some chores done early, when I was just dawdling.
Normally, awkward interactions like that would replay again and again in my head, picking apart all the little social cues I had missed, or how I had probably been slurring my words and waving on my feet. But, fortunately, I was so tried that I collapsed on my couch as soon as I got inside.
I was apparently determined to make my relationship with Marty and Dan as uncomfortable and awkward as possible. It was as if their kindness was a beacon for every possible social encounter you can have in apartment living.
Marty came to knock the day I turned a frozen pizza into a charcoal disk, worried about a potential fire after smelling the haze filling my apartment. Our cooking sessions, while good, often ended in her taking over with a gentle, but firm smile. And I exhausted their supply of bandaids within the first few weeks. It did not take long for our teaching sessions to go back to just weekly dinner. Dan, for his part, caught me sitting on the front steps after locking my keys inside. He also as the lucky recipient an early morning distress call when my toilet began overflowing into the floor. There are simply some things you don’t want your neighbors to see, even if that’s their job.
The worst, however, was on my part. It was around 2 in the morning, and I was just getting home after a weekend trip. Monday was coming—was there, if I’m being honest—and I was drowsy, but glad to be in my home hallway. But all of that fatigue and dread melted as I heard a scuffle, yells, and a muted scream coming from Dan and Marty’s apartment. I was surprised by the sudden concern and fear that overwhelmed me as I pounded on their door.
“Marty? Are you okay?” My voice was far too loud for the early morning, quiet hallway. But I did not care. I was hoping to be the hero.
My hand ached with the force of my knocks, and my other hand was scrambling for my phone in my purse. Then, suddenly, my hand missed the door and I barely caught it before rapping directly on Marty’s forehead. Her eyes were wide with excitement, but there was also a hefty dose of embarrassment covering her face. She was flushed, breathing slightly heavy, and clutching a robe tight around her chest.
“Lyla,” she began, her voice trailing off. The shame of being caught was clear on her face, and I felt the guilt of interrupting very private moment seeping into the hallway.
“I—uh—I just heard and thought you might, but you’re—“
We stood for a couple breaths in the awkward silence. “I’m guessing you’re fine, then?” I finally said, stuffing my phone back into my purse and trying to hide my red face.
Marty tucked her hair behind her ears, straightened up, and smiled. “Yes, dear. Just fine. Thank you for your concern.” I was amazed she could appear so refined in that moment, even as she was awash with embarrassment. She at least wore it better than I did.
The next day, I saw the discarded packaging for a handful of soundproofing tiles, and heard the whine of a drill when I walked past the apartment. My mortification was complete.
After about six months of living side by side, having our weekly dinners, and not always making eye contact when I was simply too embarrassed, we had fallen into a nice routine. As desperately as I had fought to maintain my isolation, it was nice having two friends. Marty was nice and motherly, cooing over my stories while offering important, if at times dated, advice. Dan was just a gruff presence, always hanging around, rarely speaking, but there if I ever needed a hand. He was always over as soon as he heard a hammer or drill starting up in my apartment, and he taught me how to fix a lot of household annoyances.
To be honest, I liked Dan and Marty. In the end, maybe that is the worst part. I truly liked them, even if they were overwhelming and rough around the edges. They were kind, familiar, comforting, and loving. All the humanity one person needed.
Three days before everything unraveled, I saw Dan in the stairwell and thought I finally got a piece of the puzzle for the cloud of emptiness, hurt, and anger that seemed to percolate below the surface. All of their kindness was genuine, at least I think, but there was evidence of a deep hurt which made me feel all the more for them. He had a girl leaning heavy on his shoulder, doing his best to walk her up the stairs. He looked shocked when he saw me, frozen in place as if I had uncovered his darkest secret.
I looked puzzled, a dozen scenarios running through my head, but none of them good. “Uh, Dan?” was the best I could muster. I was praying he had a good explanation.
He sighed, laying the girl’s head on his shoulder with one large arm while he carefully shifted her weight. She was wearing a hooded sweatshirt and jogging clothes, a tiny figure in his massive grip. “Hey, Lyla,” he said dully. His eyes danced along the floor, never looking at me. “This is my daughter,” he whispered.
“Your daughter?” I asked, incredulous. He gave a sad smile, but there was that persistent twinkle of anger in his eyes. “Is she okay? Do I need to call someone?”
“No!” he snapped, then softened again. “I mean, we don’t want to get the police involved. She’ll be okay. She made some bad decisions, but—“ he shrugged, and her arms limply mimicked the gesture. “Marty and I are going to get her back on track.”
The woman muttered something, pushing away from him as she began to exit whatever daze she was in. Dan patted her head stiffly, seeming to console her. “I need to get her inside, let her lie down and sleep this off,” he apologized as he continued his way up. “I’d appreciate if you don’t mention this to anyone? I was trying to bring her in when most folks are out for the day.”
“Of course, Dan. Whatever you need.”
“Thanks, Lyla. You’ve been such a help.”
In that moment, as Dan disappeared into our hallway, I suddenly understood the desperation and warmth they had slathered on me since day one. I was the daughter that had left them, a temporary stand-in for the prodigal child. It stung as I saw her, as I recognized that she might just take away that little slice of humanity that I had discovered. If only I had known then how right that was.
I’ve tipped my hand, so you know this story is drawing to a close. Three days later, all hell broke loose. It was four a.m. when I was awoken by screams, yells, and shouts. My first instinct was to yet again ignore it and hope the two lovebirds quieted down, but there was a vicious anger in the words that I did not remember. This sounded more than aggressive, but bordering on violent.
Suddenly, there was a scream in the hallway. “Help!” cried a feminine voice, the sound piercing through all the walls of isolation so delicately built. As I rushed to my door, I heard others along the hall opening as well. The daughter, I thought quickly. Something must have gone wrong. She must be trying to get away from the cure they offered, trying to return to whatever bad decisions she had made. She didn’t know a good thing when she had it.
All those bitted thoughts melted away as I saw her. She was dashing away from me, down the hall, naked and bloodied. There were large red welts along her back, blood from unknown sources spattering her arms and legs. Worst were the thick, red and oozing rings around her ankles and wrists. She kept my attention for a moment, but then the heavy, angry breaths from across the hall dragged me back.
Dan stood silhouetted in the door, holding a long, tapered knife in his hand. There was blood on his face, a spreading stain of red right near his kneecap. He limped toward me, anger in his eyes, and then looked down the hallway. The girl had disappeared into the stairwell.
“Get her!” snapped Marty’s voice from the shadows of their apartment. It carried none of its usual warmth, but was cold and stiff. Dan took off down the hallway as fast as he could, doors slamming in front of him along the way.
I slammed my door and called the cops, though I was not the first along the floor to do so. Marty’s knock was strong on my door. “Lyla,” she whispered with the old warmth. “You know it’s not what it looks like. Dan told you she’s our daughter. She’s just struggling. Please, just let me apologize.” When I did not open, I heard her move down the hall, rehearsing the same spiel. “She’s our daughter. Drug problems, you know? Went crazy this evening.” It repeated. “I’m so sorry for the noise. Trying to help our poor daughter. She’s got her demons. Don’t we all?
There were gunshots from outside the building, then the stomp of feet rushing up the stairwell. From my peephole view, I was able to see uniformed officers swarm in. Eventually, I saw Marty marched away in handcuffs while people flooded in and out of their apartment. Eventually, one of those uniforms knocked on my door.
“Ms. Cabot? It’s Officer Dewin. Can I take a statement?” I checked the peephole, opened the door a crack while leaving the chain locked, and inspected his badge. I was not sure why, because I certainly could not detect a fake. Nor did I expect fake police officers to be swarming whatever scene this was. I let him in.
“Can you tell me what you saw tonight?”
I relayed the information as best I could, the scenes coming out in fragments and half-understood impressions. “Is their daughter okay?” I finally asked. He gave me a strange look, almost a wince.
“The woman tonight was not their daughter. Have you heard the story about Jennifer McGee?”
“Um, not really. Who is she?”
“Housewife. Went missing earlier this week, leaving her two-year-old daughter home alone in the middle of the day. She’s the woman you saw.”
“But, if she wasn’t their daughter—“
“Ms. Cabot, did you ever notice any suspicious behavior from,” he consulted his notebook, “Mr. and Mrs. Sullivan?”
“Marty and Dan? No, of course not. They were wonderful people.” He smiled grimly and took the notes.
“People surprise you, Ms. Cabot. Is there anything else you can tell me about the girl? About the Sullivan’s?”
“Um, I saw Dan helping her in a few days ago. Said she was having a drug problem. But no, nothing else. They were great neighbors.”
“And the drugged woman did not seem suspicious?”
I shrugged, at a loss. Yes, it was suspicious. But not when you knew Dan and Marty. Not when he told you it was his daughter, and that they were just going to help her out. They didn’t seem suspicious. So, somehow, nothing did. “He said she was their daughter,” I finally admitted. Officer Dewin seemed disappointed in me. He closed up his notebook slowly and gave me an empty smile.
“If you think of anything else, please let us know.” He handed me his card. “But, honestly, I think the evidence is pretty damning on this one. You can sleep safe tonight, Ms. Cabot.”
As the news reports came out, the depth of their depravity came out. They had moved from Indiana after seven bodies turned up, before that they had been the Masons in Ohio, leaving four bodies in their wake. Nine women had died in the apartment across the hall from me. Dan was a plumber, granting him access to homes across the city. Marty worked in a medical office, which completed an audit of their drugs and found quite a few tranquilizers missing. They never had a daughter.
In hindsight, I realized how much had been suspicious. The sounds, the late night disposals, the empty apartment, the overbearing sweetness, the rage Dan seemed to carry. The police tape on their door brought it all into clarity, and I realized how well they had deceived me into falling for their lies.
Dan was killed the night the police came, and Marty had her day in court. She said she only helped Dan to save herself, but I heard the malice in her voice that night. I had seen their shared glances, their knowing smiles. She had played equal part in deceiving me. And I saw the blood on her hands, her face, her arms that night.
Her voice was soft, gentle, tempting. But out the peephole, I saw the knife in her hand and the malicious smile on her face. She was no more innocent than he.
But, you know what the worst part was?
They were great neighbors.
This work by Katherine C is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.