The strange couple next door 

Background: Writer’s group assignment. Title given.   Words required -1 500. Used – 1607

The bang was enormous and the wall between number 26 and the next flat shook visibly for a moment. That was the start of it. All had been quiet in the neighborhood until the Nutters moved into number 27.  Now strange things were happening every few days.

The next event occurred 3 days later. First there was a strange chemical sort of odour that seemed to just seep under the front door. After a while it got stronger and jasper went out into the access passageway to investigate. Sure enough a yellowish smoke could be seen issuing from inside number 27. As he watched, it grew thicker and the smell became more pungent. Jasper ran back inside excitedly.

“What shall we do? The place might be on fire or something.”

“Not much we can do” said Jane. “Just watch and see what happens.”

After an hour or so the acrid smoke thinned out and disappeared and that was the end of it.

“Wake up Jasper. Wake up” Jane was shaking his shoulder. “There are some eerie sounds coming from next door.” This was about a week after the smoke incident. Jasper shook his head to clear it and listened.

“By Jove you’re right” he said. It sounds as though they are entertaining ghosts in there or something. What can they be up to?”

“Those wailing sounds are quite eerie” she said. “Almost as if they are holding a séance or something.”

“Yes! And that strange creaking sound. I’ve never heard the like said Jasper. Well there’s naught I can do about it at two o’clock  in the morning but I am certainly going to start investigating tomorrow.

When dawn came it was Saturday and so not a work day for Jasper. He dressed quickly and went straight across to visit his friend Al who lived in the block directly opposite them. They were good friends and at times they even waved to each other across the narrow street between the buildings.

“Hello” said Al. “What brings you over on a Saturday morning when you should be out playing golf.”

“Well it’s kind of hard to explain you know Al but it’s about our neighbours. They get up to some pretty strange stuff and I need to know what it’s all about” He told Al of the experiences they had had.

“Aha! So you want to spy on them from my lounge window do you?”

“Well yes. In a nutshell I guess that is what I want to do”

“O.K.” said Al. “You can do it. I don’t want to become a peeping Tom but I suppose your reasons are good enough. You can use my telescope if you like. I only ever use it for looking at the stars of course but it would probably work well across the street”

“Great” said Jasper. Can I have a look through it now to see how it works?”

Without waiting for Al’s answer, Jasper pushed through into his friend’s lounge and went straight to the telescope. He swung it round and aimed it across the street and then a look of despair clouded his face. As luck would have it, the partial wall on the patio made it impossible to see his neighbour’s flat. He moved the telescope around the room but could not find a position that worked. Jasper was disconcerted to say the least.

“Oh well, thanks anyway Al. We must go bowling again soon.”

“Good call Jasper, Chat later.”

Back in his own apartment Jasper was looking for solutions. Eventually a rather daring plan occurred to him. He knew he could not see into the neighbour’s flat from his own balcony but he had a lot of pieces of timber left over from a deck he had built at his mother’s house and Jasper was nothing if not inventive. He rigged a couple of stout poles out from his patio to act as cantilevers and started nailing decking timbers across them to form a platform. He stepped out onto it and froze as he looked down from 3 floors above the street. He didn’t really want the platform to be visible to the Nutters next door but he had to be safe. After a while he had contrived a low guardrail around the platform and he was satisfied with his day’s work.

“Nothing seems to be happening now that I’ve built the platform” said Jasper to Jane about 4 days later.

“No it’s been very quiet. Mind you” she said, “I’m not too keen for you to be climbing out on that platform of yours late at night anyway”

Two days later it happened. The terrible screeching sounds started at about 2 in the morning again. They sounded as though their neighbours were cutting someone up on a band-saw.

“My God! said Jasper. I bet you they are serial killers and now they are sawing up the latest body to dispose of it.”

“I do believe you could be right Jasper” whispered Jane. “Then that acrid smoke we saw and smelled before could have been some kind of acid bath being used to dissolve some poor victim.”

“I’m going out to take a look”

“Oh do be careful Jasper”

Out on the platform Jasper leaned out and strained to see through the slightly open curtain of the flat next door. He could see a wall and some demonic looking equipment with little flickering screens on it but he could not see what was happening in the middle of the room. Eventually Jasper took his courage in his hands and reached across till he could get a grasp of the railing of the balcony next door.  It was the hardest thing he had ever forced himself to do but with a supreme effort, he stretched a leg out and a small hop later he was perched on the outside of the railing, hanging onto the top of it and purchased about 10 metres above the ground. From there he still could not see what was going on in the Nutter’s flat. He had to climb over the railing and onto the balcony.

As he was about to swing his leg up, the curtain was flung open and Mr. Nutter was standing at the window peering out into the night. Jasper froze. He knew he had been heard and expected at any moment to see his neighbour burst out and discover him.

‘What would he do now? This man was a killer. He would probably be armed. He would kill Jasper and drag his body inside and dispose of it in some ghastly manner.’ The seconds dragged by but Mr. Nutter did not come out onto the balcony. It was a pretty dark night and Jasper realized that perhaps he could not be seen from inside as he hung precariously out over the street. Eventually the curtain was drawn all the way shut and all was quite. Jasper’s arms were aching and his body was starting to shake. When he finally judged it safe, he quietly worked his way back onto his balcony and the safety of his own flat.

“I thought you had fallen to the street and broken your neck Jasper” was the icy reception from Jane.” Please just lock the doors now and get back to sleep.”

 

 

They did go back to bed but sleep was out of the question for Jasper as grotesque images churned in his mind of the maniacal serial murderer going about his grizzly deeds. He finally managed to drop off just as the sun was licking colour into the world and then it was to dream the dreams of the troubled.

Jasper and Jane had hardly slept at all when the doorbell rang. It was not just a single ring but an insistent ringing that demanded attention. Jasper struggled into his dressing gown and shook his head to clear it as he headed for the front door.  Outside were two policemen.

“Good morning sir” said the older officer. “Are you the resident in this flat sir?”

Jasper thought it a strange question but nodded in assent.

”Well sir we’ve had reports of some strange goings on around here lately and we have been asked to investigate sir.”

“Well officer I’m very glad you’ve arrived. There are indeed strange things happening and I reckon it’s high time the police got involved.”

“Well I didn’t quite expect you to take that line sir. The point is that Mr. Nutter next door has asked us to investigate your doings sir.”

“What can you mean officer? I’ve not done anything that needs investigating.”

“Well sir, Mr. Nutter is a special effects technician for the film industry. He sometimes has to bring his projects home and work on them late at night. Last night he was doing just that when he heard a noise outside the front of his flat. He looked out and saw a man clinging to the outside of his balcony. He was too scared to come out and confront the person sir but he said he caught a glimpse of the man. He says he thought it was you sir. And this morning when he checked he saw that you had rigged a platform out beyond your balcony. Suspicious behavior sir if I may say so.”

“You’ve got things all wrong officers. Let me explain”

“I do hope you can sir. My instructions at the moment are to follow up on Mr. Nutter’s complaint. He requested us and may I quote him sir, ‘Please investigate the behavior of the strange couple next door'”