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Thump, thump, thump!

I lay awake, staring at the ceiling. It had been a long time since I’d had an upstairs neighbor, and now I remembered what it was like. I grumbled to myself as I sat up in bed. Resigning myself to the loss of sleep, I turned my attention to the partially filled laundry basket in the corner. Doing laundry always seemed to soothe me with its mindlessness and repetitive action, and I had yet to use my new washer and dryer. Now seemed like the perfect time to kill two birds with one stone, so I picked up the basket and headed down to the basement.

I was days into my new apartment. I was so new, in fact, that I hadn't even met the other tenant. My desperation for a new place to live combined with the landlord's eagerness to rent his empty apartment meant that little information was exchanged between us besides the absolute necessaries. Oh well, I thought, and figured I'd meet them soon enough, hoping their second impression was better---and quieter---than the first.

Basement Laundry

I had just put my clothes in the washing machine and sat down nearby with my phone, when I heard the thump, thump, thump of heavy footsteps coming down the basement stairs. I laughed a little to myself at the thought of both of us, me and my new neighbor, doing laundry together late at night. I would be polite, of course, but just in case the opportunity presented itself, I was preparing a good-natured, oh-so-friendly scolding about the noise.

I looked up from my phone when a figure came into the room. It was a tall, dark-haired man. He was not at all unattractive. In fact, with the stubble he was sporting, he looked quite rugged. The trash bag he carried seemed to contain only a few items which I assumed were whatever articles of clothing he’d need for the next day. What stood out to me more than anything else, however, was that he was wearing a pink, feminine bathrobe.

"Sorry," I said. "Machine's taken for now. Nice bathrobe, though." I smiled playfully.

The man did not smile back. Instead, he blinked at me, seeming confused about my presence. "I'm sorry, I... I didn't realize...."

"Don't worry, dude," I said, taken somewhat aback by how flustered he was. "These'll be done soon, and then you can have the machine." The man was quiet for a moment. My discomfort began to mount, and so I decided to try and cut it with some small talk. “So, you’re a late night laundry-doer, too?

He stared at me intently. At last he said, "Yeah…. I guess it… calms me down.”

“Mm, same,” I said. “Going by what I heard, I’d say you need some calming right about now.”

His color drained. “Wh- what did you hear?” he stammered. I could have sworn I saw him shiver slightly. It alarmed me.

“Well, it was just a little noisy up there,” I said, with more caution than before. “Sounded like you were clog dancing or something,” I offered with a half-smile.

The man heaved a great sigh. He giggled softly to himself. “Clog dancing. Right,” he said.

“Are you okay?” I asked. So far, nothing about the way this man had been acting seemed normal. I was now on high alert.

“I’m fine,” he said, with a surprisingly warm smile. It was the most at ease I had seen him since he entered the room. “I’m just going to go back upstairs. I’ll come back down later to wash these.” With that, he turned to head back through the doorway from which he’d come.

I suddenly felt silly. Of course he'd be confused, I reasoned. The apartment I'd moved into had been vacant for at least a month, and if I hadn’t met him yet, he might not even have known I was living here.

"Hey," I called, stopping him before he could cross the room's threshold. I rose from my chair and approached him. "Sorry about that. We kind of got off on the wrong foot. I'm Kelly, your new downstairs neighbor." I held out my hand.

For a second, the man just looked at it, and then at me, and back again. Finally, he grinned widely and went in for the shake. "Nice to meet you, Kelly. I'm... Todd." He paused for another second before saying, "It’s nice to know there’s someone else living here now." And with that, he left. I distinctly remember being disappointed not to have asked him about the bathrobe. I never imagined the truth.

At last, my clothes were done, so I moved them over to the dryer and headed back upstairs to go to bed. I was finally feeling sleepy enough for a second try and, as soon as my head hit the pillow, I was out like a light. What I intended was to wake up in an hour to go back down and retrieve my clothes, but the next thing I knew, the sun had risen. I nearly ran downstairs, cursing myself for being rude and leaving Todd to deal with a dryer full of my things. He had every right, I thought, to throw them around the room.

To my complete surprise, however, I found that he had folded them all neatly and placed them in a pile for me. On top of the pile was a small slip of paper with a handwritten note that said, "Dear Kelly. It was lovely to meet you last night. No doubt we'll meet again soon. Todd."

That's so nice, I thought. I needed to find some way to repay him, I decided, the thought eventually taking a backseat to all the work I had to complete that day. It wasn’t until I returned home that I finally remembered Todd or his act of kindness.

As I turned onto my new street, I saw fire trucks, police cars, and an ambulance all gathered directly in front of the house. My landlord, Sal, wandered the sidewalk, his eyes wide with terror and confusion. Hurriedly, I parked my car and called to him as I exited. "Sal," I called. "What happened? Are you okay?"

"No," he said, gruffly. "Kelly, I hate to tell you, but you have to know. The other tenant was murdered last night. Strangled in her bedroom, looks like. And not only that. It looks like the murderer might have... done other things."

A wave of horror washed over me as the full impact of Sal's words rang in my brain. I felt sick. "I can't believe it," I said. "I saw him last night---"

"Him?" Sal cut me off.

“Yes,” I said, tears beginning to form in my eyes. “Todd, he said his name was. I can’t believe he’s---”

"Kelly….” Sal interrupted. His eyes were wild and terrified, and his brows knitted a wrinkle into his forehead. “The other tenant was a woman,” he said. “An old lady. She lived completely alone."

Written by Jdeschene
Content is available under CC BY-SA