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The Killer Next Door

by Anita G. Gorman

 



Anita grew up in Queens and now lives in northeast Ohio. Since 2014 she has had 85 short stories and 20 essays accepted for publication. Her one-act play, Astrid: or, My Swedish Mama, produced at Youngstown Ohio's Hopewell Theatre in March 2018, starred Anita and her daughter Ingrid.

People keep renting the house right alongside mine, and then they seem to disappear. The mail piles up. No one puts out the trash. Then I call the police, and they find a dead person. Sometimes the police say it was suicide or an accident, but I don't believe them. Too many deaths in one house.

The first one to die was, let me see, an old woman named Louella something or other. Well, she was old, so it wasn't all that strange that she died while having a cup of tea at her kitchen table. Earl Grey tea, probably. That's what old women like. I thought that maybe she could have been poisoned. A little poison in the tea, that would certainly do in a frail old lady. But I wasn't going to suggest that to the police. They know how to do their job, and I don't think they like it when ordinary citizens butt in. So I just kept my suspicions to myself.

The next tenant was a middle-aged guy named Frank. A good-looking guy, yes, he was. I was kind of interested in him. I've never been married, though I've been close to tying the knot more than a few times. Well, maybe two times. So this guy Frank, he drank a lot. He was in the house maybe two months, and I talked to him once in a while. We shared a glass of wine or two in his backyard. Thought something would happen with the two of us. It didn't. And then he was gone. His car was parked in the driveway, because he filled up the garage with his stuff. The newspapers piled up. I went over and knocked on his door. Thought maybe he could have a glass of wine with me at my house. Or something stronger even. I didn't have his phone number. So no one answered the door. I kind of peeked into the little window in the front door, and I saw someone sprawled on the couch. I also saw empty bottles. Bottles of the hard stuff. So I did what any good citizen would do. I called the police.

They asked me if I had any idea what happened to Frank. Told them just what I told you. Frank liked to drink. He must have really liked to drink the night he died. Seems he drank two bottles of whiskey the night he died. Strong stuff. The neighbors thought Frank was lonely or something and just drank himself to death. As for me, I think there's more to it than that. No, I think someone made him drink that stuff. Maybe at gunpoint. I mean, that could happen. If someone had a loaded gun pointed at you, you would drink a bottle of whiskey, wouldn't you? Whiskey or death by gunshot? I'd gamble on drinking the whiskey.

But the police would have laughed at me if I had told them my theory. I can hear them now. "So, Ms. Jefferson, you're playing Sherlock Holmes?" No, I don't want to be made fun of. I have enough problems as it is. So I just kept my mouth shut.

You'd think that no one would want to rent that house after two people were murdered in it in a matter of months. Well, of course, all anyone knew or thought was that the old lady had died of old age and the young man had died from his alcoholism. So another person rented the house. You may be wondering why families weren't renting. It's a small house, really nice for one person but a bit small for even two people. So the next renter was this old man named Chang. From China I guess. Or maybe his parents or his grandparents came to America from China. Not that it mattered. I wasn't even sure if Chang was his last name or his first name. He didn't have an accent, so he was probably born here. That's my guess, anyway.

Chang had a little dog. Don't know what brand. Probably a mutt. Chang named it Yangtze. He said that was a river in China. Seemed like an OK name for a dog. None of my business anyway. But the dog was such a barker and yapper. I learned to hate that dog. It barked in the middle of the night or at the crack of dawn. Just a stupid dog. I think Chang let Yangtze out in the yard any time of night. He didn't care if I was sleeping. No consideration for others.

So after a month of this noise, the dog was no longer in the yard. I thought I could hear some whimpering coming from the house. And there they were again, those newspapers piled up on the front steps. Very unsightly. I don't even get a paper. Too much bad stuff in it. One day there was a big box left by a delivery person. Kind of messy, if you ask me.

I called the police. You would think they would notice newspapers piled up, but they don't care. They just watch out for people running stop signs and red lights and speeding up and down these quiet, or usually quiet streets.

This time the old man, this Chang, died from a fall. That's what the police said. He was old. Maybe he tripped over that stupid dog. Chang hit his head on the brick fireplace when he fell. He bled a lot. That's what the police said. Maybe he had that disease, hemophilia I think it's called. More likely someone pushed him.

The police took the mutt to the dog pound. There's a For Rent sign on the front lawn of that house now. It's peaceful over there now.

I really don't care if the house next door ever gets rented again. I think I'll take down the For Rent sign.

It is, after all, my house.


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