Short Stories · Twisted Tales

Looking Up

Written for a wonderful friend, who got fed up of noise from the flat above… 🙂

Claudia stretched herself on her new sofa and sighed contentedly. Silence. No blaring TV, no banging pipes, no Russian national anthem. It had been just over a week since she’d murdered her neighbour and, overall, it had been well worth it. She smiled and flicked on her own television, at a quiet and respectful volume, and was just about to enjoy an episode of Star Trek when she heard a loud banging at her front door. She closed her eyes, willing the disturbance to go away. The banging came again.

“Frau Mayer? Frau Mayer, open up, it’s the police!”

======

It had, like so many things, started small. Banging pipes at 5am. Stomping across his floor – her ceiling – at midnight. Just now and again. A quick “Shut the fuck UP!” at full volume seemed to have kept him in check. But then it progressed to weekend-long stompfests, sleeping bags draped from his balcony blocking her view, and finally, the Russian national anthem. Strange and unusual punishment. First came a loud trumpet blast from above. She tensed, a piece of toast half way to her lips. Then, at full, wall-shaking volume, “Rossiya! Svyashchennaya nasha derzhava, Rossiya! Lyubimaya nasha strana…” The toast fell, forgotten, as it continued, “Moguchaya volya, velikaya slava – Tvoyo dostoyanye na vse vremena!”

It was the final insult. She stood on the sofa, looking up, and sung the chorus at him through the ceiling, finishing with triumphant volume, “Slavsya, strana! MY GORDIMSYA TOBOY!!!”

There was silence after this. She had stunned the neighbour into silence. She smiled. Bet he didn’t know she knew the words. Just one of her many talents. She hung her jumper over Chris Pine and headed for bed.

But the man’s bizarre obsession with foreign nationalism had not ended. The following day, things got worse. She could actually hear the anthem roaring from the building as she parked her car – too far away, as usual, because the Neighbour had taken her space. The trumpets and singing drifted down the dark winter street, getting louder as she approached her place. In her flat, it was unbearable. It was the last straw.

She had never known what to do with the white marble cheese board and cheese wire that her mother had given her for Christmas a few years ago. Cheese was eaten in lumps off a plate on one’s knees on the sofa, like normal people. So the thing had been gathering dust for some time in the kitchen. But just now, for a reason she could never afterwards explain, her eyes fell on it. She detached the wire from the board, slipped on a pair of latex cleaning gloves and headed out of her front door. She climbed the stairs to the flat above as fervent singing echoed off the walls.

“Adler” said a little card by the side of the door.

She rang the bell.

After a short pause the Russian choir ceased and she heard shuffling slippered steps approaching. The door opened a crack and she saw – no one.

“Yes?” came a small voice beneath her. She looked down. There he was.

“I’m your neighbour from downstairs.” She said.

Immediately, the door began to close but she slipped her foot in the gap and shoved hard against the door. It swung open and Herr Adler was thrown backwards, landing on his petite behind.

She overpowered the little man easily and held his head between her hands as she sat on him in his immaculate living room. She looked around, catching her breath. The tidiness irked her – who works full time and keeps a tidy residence? It wasn’t normal.

She looked down at him.

“I. Am. Fed. Up,” she hissed, “of. Your. Fucking. Noise.”

He bucked his legs, but didn’t shift six foot Claudia, who had been working out for years. She laughed.

“You’re going nowhere until I’ve finished with you, wimp. You need to keep the noise down. Do you hear me?”

He squeaked.

“What was that, asshole?”

“I will! I… I’m sorry.”

“My name is Frau Mayer.”

“I’m sorry, Frau Mayer.”

“And will your noise ever happen again?”

“No! No, it won’t. No. Never.” He twitched his head frantically between her hands. She could see beads of sweat on his low forehead. She grimaced. Disgusting little man. And to think this was the source of all her misery for the past years. She should have dealt with this sooner.

“Right. Then we have an understanding.”

She stood up and he scrambled to his knees. As she headed for the door, she heard a beeping. She turned round. He was still on his knees, pressing buttons on his phone. In one step she was behind him, bending down, the cheese wire in her hands. As she hooked it round his neck, he dropped the phone and reached up to grab the wire. He was too late. His fingers scrabbled uselessly as the wire dug into his skin. Claudia pulled harder. He made a gargling sound, then no sound at at all. Finally, he slumped forward. She hung on to the wire, though, because she liked to do a job properly. She counted to fifty before she let go, then stepped nimbly away from the spreading pool of blood. Living room not so tidy now, is it? She smiled.

And she had left, swiftly, silently, and enjoyed the rest of her quiet evening. The next two evenings had been equally quiet, but the day after, a Saturday, had not. Police everywhere. Shouting in the stairwell, the street blocked with marked cars, her building taped off. They even wanted to interview her, and found her terrified to hear of such a dreadful thing happening above her. The tall, blond officer put his hand on her arm and smiled into her wide eyes. “Don’t worry, Fräulein Vogel, we’ll keep you safe.” “Thank you,” she had whispered, looking up at him through her lashes.

Afterwards, they searched her flat – “just a formality” – and found nothing, of course. She had seen enough episodes of Colombo to know how to dispose of a murder weapon: many miles away, in somebody else’s trash.

Then, for a few days, everything had become quiet again. Just a few officials coming and going to the flat above, and blissful silence in the evenings.

But now, this.

The banging came a third time.

“Police!”

Claudia stood up. Her legs were shaking. She swallowed hard and walked to the door. She undid the chain, unlocked and opened the door. In front of her, a broad chest in police uniform. Above, the handsome face of the officer who had reassured her on Saturday. He looked grave. Her stomach filled with ice.  She opened her mouth but her dry throat made no sound.

“Frau Mayer, I’m sorry to trouble you again, but I think this is your purse? I just found it dropped outside your door. It’s got your ID card in it – you should be more careful.” He raised his eyebrows and passed the purse to her. She reached out a trembling hand to take it, clinging onto the door for support.

“Thank you” she croaked.

“And, er…” he glanced up and down the stairwell, “would you like to go for a drink after this case is closed?”

“Is… Is it nearly closed?”

“I think so. Unsolved.” He shrugged. “We’re going to have to put it on the back burner – not enough manpower. Plus more important issues to deal with. Terrorism.”

“But what about, you know, forensics..?”

“Well, they did a sweep, of course. Didn’t find anything. The perp must have been very careful.”

“Oh. I thought forensics were so good these days?”

He laughed. “Not as good as they make out on TV. So… Drink some time?” He put his head on one side. He really was very cute. Claudia took a deep breath.

“Well, then… I’d love to have a drink with you, officer.”

“Jan.” He smiled, and she noticed his very blue eyes.

“I’d love to, Jan.”

Suddenly, things were looking up.

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