I decide to take up the drums during my furlough in lockdown. I don’t think my neighbours are too happy about my new hobby….
I decide to take up the drums during my furlough in lockdown. I don’t think my neighbours are too happy about my new hobby….
Old Max had for many years sat in the chair outside his front door and watched the world go by. He waved to people he knew and yelled at the kids who played too loudly.
He had a dog called Bill, who loved to bark and charge at passersby. Old Max would laugh and just say he was playing as Bill bit someone’s leg or tore someone’s coat. When Bill became too old to chase, He would sleep at Max’s feet and growl in his dreams.
Bill passed away and the loss made old Max angry and grumpy then before. Max ran after the children in the neighbourhood and took away their balls and other toys. Parents would go over to take to him but Max was close the door in the faces.
For a few months, Max was seen to yell at no one and people said he was crazy. There was little anybody could do though but tell each other to stay away from the old man who seemed to be working his way through something.
It wasn’t until winter fell that Max stayed inside and the children rejoiced in their outside playtime. From his windows, he watched them and grumbled at their fun. What so delighted them about the cold snow and icy pathways? Max thought he could dimly recall from his own youth but it had been so long ago and his memories were full of holes.
Old Max went to bed on night soon after Christmas day and didn’t get up again.
For years, his chair sat empty on his doorstep weathering away until final the house was able to be sold and be brought back to life again.
She had made far too much flapjack. She decided to box it up and leave it on her neighbours’ doorsteps as a surprise.
I could feel the damp coldness on the window and hear the gale force wind driving the rain. Sighing, I pressed my fevered forehead to the glass. I had wanted to go out today, get some fresh air and pick up a few things. Instead, an open window and rummage through the kitchen cupboards would have to do.
Something warm and furry brushed my fingers then a cool wet tongue licked my hand. My guide dog, Hope, had come to my side. I could hear her tail wagging as I reached out and stroked her head and ears.
‘Looks like another day inside for me,’ I said, ‘though Bob should be around soon to take you out.’
Bob was my next door neighbour, he had a guide dog also and another Labrador. He was only blind in one eye but did have some blurred vision in his left. He liked walks and use to do a lot of hiking.
With having the flu, I had asked him to take Hope out for me. She enjoyed being with the other dogs and having some down time from her job of guiding me places.
I crossed the living room and Hope followed at my side.
‘Alexa,’ I called to the device, ‘what’s the weather like today?’
‘Currently it’s forty degrees, heavy rain, strong winds and cloudy. Tonight, there will be more rain.’
‘Alexa, what’s the weather like tomorrow?’
‘Tomorrow it will be forty-three degrees, scattered showers and heavy clouds.’
‘Thanks. I’ll try and go out tomorrow.’
There was a knocking on the door. Hope barked and guided me over, though I knew well enough were my front door was.
‘Kat, it’s Bob,’ he called through the door.
I unlocked things and let him in.
‘Hi,’ I said, ‘is the weather as bad as it seems?’
‘Yes,’ Bob replied, ‘I’m in my waterproofs and wellies. Hello Hope. How’s the flu doing?’
‘Bit better. I wanted to go shopping but might be best if I don’t.’
‘Oh? I can go and get you somethings. I climbed mountains so this weather doesn’t bother me!’ Bob replied and laughed.
‘No, it’s okay. I’ll try later,’ I answered.
‘Well, if you can’t, I really don’t mind.’
‘I know but it’s fine honest. Here’s Hope’s lead. Have fun, girl.’
We said goodbye and I went back into my apartment and to the window again. I opened the window and felt the almost freezing air on my face and arms. The wind was strong and water droplets hit my face.
I was glad Bob was heading outside instead of me, it sure felt horrible out there today.
I know everything now, I talked with my neighbour. His wife died. Unable to sort things, he had buried her stuff in ‘graves’. Shamed, he set about digging things up and I decided to help. What else could I do? I was embarrassed about over my thoughts and actions.
I had to know what my neighbour had buried. I broke into his garden when he was out and dug into the newly disturbed soil. The hole was deep. Two hours later, I found the sheet and opened it up. Inside was not as my wild imagination had been picturing….
The neighbour was digging again, shifting soil from the bottom of his garden. He had a wheelbarrow this time and there was something big wrapped in a sheet falling over the edges. The clock read three-thirty AM. I’m worried, should I call the police and report suspicious activity?
I found your hamster in my kitchen sink at 4am this morning!
From the ‘geeky guy’ at number 24.
Lucas opened his front door, ready to set off to work and almost walked straight into the deliveryman. The youngish man was half hidden behind the large cardboard box he was carrying both hands.
‘Mr. Bennett?’ the deliveryman asked.
‘Yes?’ Lucas replied as he eyed the box.
‘I need you to sign for this….’
The deliveryman placed the box down, breathed a big blow of air then took out his electric device.
Lucas sighed for it, the letters like a child’s first attempts at writing.
‘Thanks,’ the deliveryman said and hurried away.
Lucas looked down at the box. He hadn’t ordered anything, nor was it close to his birthday or Christmas. He tried to nudge the box inside his apartment, but it was too heavy. Picking it up, he put it next to the sofa.
He paused really wanting to open it, but he was going to be late for work. Deciding it would have to wait, Lucas dashed out.
His day was boring and long. He answered the phone and sent emails, he dealt with a few cases that were in his inbox. He had a quiet lunch in the park and then went back to his desk. He avoided his co-workers as much as possible. He didn’t mind them really, but the woman were always so loud and gossipy and the men; only talking about sport and being overly flirty with the ladies.
When Lucas got home he sank on to the sofa and looked at the ceiling, exhausted. Then he remembered the large box from this morning and hurried to open it. He ripped the duck tape off and yanked back the cardboard flaps.
Inside was a case of twelve bottles of wine.
He took one out and looked at it. He didn’t know much about wine. He read the label; a deep fruity red from France. Setting it aside, he pulled out another one. It was different; a light refreshing red from California. He selected a third: a full bodied red from Africa.
One by one he pulled out the other bottles and looked at them. They were all red wines from around the world.
Lucas put them back in the box and closed the flaps. He looked at the label; Mr L. Bennatt. A slight misspelling of his surname. Then his full address, but the number of his apartment was wrong.
Lucas tapped the lid then began looking for a note or a receipt of any kind. Finding nothing, he shrugged and pulled out on the bottles that had taken his fancy.
A month later, he was coming back from work, his thoughts on opening another bottle from the mysterious wine case, when he saw a man at his door. The man was tall and wearing comfy clothes. He had dark hair and looked about Lucas’s age – middle thirties.
‘Can I help you?’ Lucas called over.
‘Do you live here?’ the man asked.
‘Yes,’ Lucas answered.
‘I live in the apartment above. I moved in two months back. I’m Luke Bennatt. Pleased to meet you.’
‘Lucas Bennett,’ he replied, without thinking.
The man held his hand out and Lucas shook it as he felt a sinking feeling in his belly.
‘I was expecting a case of wine and I believe it might have been delivered to you by mistake due to our names being so close in spelling.’
‘Wine?’ Lucas questioned.
‘Yes. It would have been in a big heavy box. Have you seen it?’ Luke asked.
Lucas paused as if thinking then said, ‘no, I don’t think so…’
‘Are you sure?’
‘Positive. I’ve never been into drinking it myself,’ Lucas added, ‘well it was nice to have meet you…’
‘Yes of course. Thank you,’ Luke spoke and turned away.
Lucas watched him leave then hurried inside. He went straight to the box of wine that was set on his kitchen floor. The lid was open and inside were ten bottles. He debated what to do then decided to hold on to his blessing.
Bradley paused and listened again. The faint crying of a baby brushed his ears once more. He looked over at the wall next to him, with its slightly peeling and faded floral paper and old family photographs. The noise seemed to be coming from behind there. He wondered if someone had finally moved in next door. He tried to remember if he had seen any signs this morning or before when he came back from work.
The crying stopped and Bradley, with a shrug, unmuted the TV and started eating his pasta ready meal. The news was full of the latest political scandals, murders and weather. Bradley hurried through his food, trying not to notice the gloopy, bland taste. He turned the TV channels over and turned on his game console.
The crying came again, muted only slightly by the single brick wall between the houses. The wailing noise rose and fall and Bradly couldn’t help but think about a baby in a cot seeking comfort. Shaking his head, he got back to his game, the sound of gun fire blocking out any more noise.
He went to bed far too late. The creaking of the stairs in what had once been his grandfather’s house, but was now his, seemed to accuse him of laziness. Getting ready for bed, Bradley just knew he was going to be grumpy for work in the morning. He flipped back the covers and stopped. The baby was crying again, only it seemed to be directly behind the bedroom wall now. Bradley walked over and put his hand on the wall then his ear. There was most defiantly a baby living next door to him now.
Groaning, he got into bed and put a pillow over his head. Luckily, he was far too tried and drifted off quickly.
His phone alarm clock broke into Bradley’s dreamless sleep. He reached out and turned it off before rolling over and snuggling back down. He awoke suddenly minutes later and hurried out of the bed, nearly tripping in his desperation. Flying through his morning routine and skipping breakfast, he dashed out of the house and into his ancient red Mini.
Driving, he had no other thoughts other than to get to work on time and he did barely make it. Dropping into his chair, he dragged a few breaths of stale, coffee scent air then cracked open the window next to his desk. He spent a few moments straighten his black tie, white crinkled shirt and trying to flatten down his mop of blond hair.
He brought his hand down and nodded at Mark, the only real friend he had in this Hell hole.
‘Sleep okay? Looks like you didn’t,’ Mark chucked.
‘I think someone moved in next door,’ Bradley began.
‘They have a baby,’ he finished.
‘Damn. Unlucky. When my neighbour had her brat it kept me up all night too. You’re going to have to invest in some ear plugs, my friend,’ Mark stated and patted Bradley on the shoulder.
Mark walked to his own desk, which was behind Bradley’s and began shuffling papers around. Bradley nodded and looked down at his clutched desk. Too much work with left over from yesterday and he knew today’s would have to wait.
‘Hey, you coming to the pub tonight?’ Mark called out.
‘Maybe,’ Bradley replied over his shoulder then threw himself into his job.
Work done for the day, Bradley couldn’t talk himself out of going to the pub even though he didn’t feel like it. He sank into a plush sofa that felt too hard and still stank of cig smoke though the ban had been years ago. He nursed his pint and thought about all the trouble he was going to be in on Monday. He couldn’t risk getting fired; there were too many outstanding bills of his grandfather’s left to pay. Someone brought another round just as he had finished his first and he couldn’t refuse a free drink.
It was late by the time he left, the sky was dark with clouds and no stars or moon peered down. Bradley got into his car, sure he was over the limit as he put the key in. He drove back straight enough, with the street lamps flashing by like a count down. A light rain started falling as he pulled up outside his house.
Getting out, he wobbled up to the terrace house on the end and let himself in. He stumbled in the dark upstairs and into his bedroom. There he threw himself on the bed, grabbing pillows and blankets to wrap himself in. He was fast sleep when the crying began.
In the morning, his head hurt so much, it took him a while to clock the sounds of crying coming from the wall. He sat in the living room, sipping too hot coffee and regretting last night. He put a hand to his head and thought about the fact he could have gone into work and tried to catch up on everything. The baby screamed.
‘Shut up!’ he yelled and almost threw his coffee at the wall.
Instead, he splashed it down and stormed to the front door. Opening it, he walked out and around to the gate of the next house, he went through and was at the front door before he realised that the front bay windows were boarded up and so was the front door. A for sale sign stuck up from the front fence and the street was as silent as ever.
Unclenching his hands, Bradley looked about confused then quickly left. Going through his house, he went out the back door and looked over the wired fence that divided the two gardens. He could clearly see the boarded up back door and windows of the house next door. Wondering what was going on, he went back in then out onto the street once more. Maybe a neighbour had had a baby and the noise was carrying a lot?
Undecided, he went back in and spent the day being too hungover to do much else. As evening came through, he heard the crying of a baby once more. Getting up, he went to the living room wall and really listened. The noise was just too loud and there could be no doubt it was coming from next door.
Maybe, squatters got in somehow? He thought.
Grabbing the phone he dialled the police and told them what he now believed.
‘I’ll send someone around as soon as I can,’ the too cheery female voice on the other end replied.
Bradley hung up and turned the TV on to block out the noise.
The knocking at his door came hours later and it was now dark outside. Bradley let the two male officers in and told them about the baby crying. Together they went to the front then the back of the house, looking for away in. The wooden board was nailed down too well and no corner had come away at any of the doors or windows. There was no access inside.
‘Maybe it’s an animal they left behind?’ one of the officers suggested.
‘I don’t know,’ Bradley replied, ‘I’ve been here four years now and before that it must have been empty for about six years or so…would a pet survive that long?’
‘No,’ the other policemen put in, ‘it could be a wild animal that has got stuck though. We’ll get the RSPCA and come back tomorrow.’
‘It just doesn’t sound like an animal though…’ Bradley muttered as the cops left.
He went back inside and got into bed. As soon as his head touched the pillow the crying started again. Growling, Bradley put the other pillow over his face and tried to ignore it.
Finally the morning arrived. He awoke, sore eyed and tried as if he’d had another night drinking. The sound of hammering and a drill buzzed through his head. Scrambling up, he threw on some clothes and rushed outside. A police car, an RSPCA van and a locksmith’s van were parked outside.
He looked across and saw a burly man removing the board over the front door. Two different police men and a female animal inspector were standing next to the gate, watching him work. Bradley eager though he was to join them, decided to stay where he was and just watch. Soon the locksmith had gotten in and they all entered the building.
It seemed to take forever, but at last the animal inspecting came out. She was gulping down air and looking very pale. She walked down the path and back to her van, where she rested against it as if trying not to throw up.
‘What did you find? Was it an animal?’ Bradley called out.
She looked at him, wiped her hair back then got into the van. Starting the engine, she drove off, leaving Bradley more puzzled. He went and lent on the wall to try and peer into the now open front door, but he couldn’t see anything. For a few minutes, he debated jumping over and going inside to see for himself, but then the locksmith and cops appeared.
‘What was it?’ he asked.
The cops looked at him, whilst the locksmith hurried off as if desperate to be far away.
‘I was the one that phoned about the baby crying last night,’ Bradley explained.
‘Oh…did you know the people who lived here?’ one of the officers asked.
‘No. I never saw them and I never asked my grandad about it,’ Bradley answered.
‘All right then, I’ll go and call it in,’ the second policeman said.
‘Wait, wait! What was it?’ Bradley shouted.
The two cops eyed each other, then the second walked away as the first turned to him, ‘I shouldn’t be telling you this,’ he said a low voice, ‘but we found the mummified remains of three babies…..Now, are you sure you know nothing about the people who lived here?’
Bradley shook his head, too shocked to open his mouth.
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