[After a strange incident around a trash burner a few blocks from her home, Ella is unnerved by reports of a corpse discovered inside it. Her neighbor Fanny helps her calm down but when Ella returns to her apartment, she hears strange sounds next door. She phones Animal Control to report possible abuse.]
Maybe the stress of moving was catching up with me, but I couldn’t accept I was hallucinating. Officer Falk’s patronizing tone when he walked me and the cat back to our building had made me feel small and silly. But there was that body…torn apart, he’d said. I hadn’t checked the news and I made a mental note to do so.
Was it my age or the wine? I no longer tolerated either as well as I used to. I dismissed the thought. A woman in her sixties, able-bodied and energetic, was not ‘old.’ I argued with myself until I saw Falk’s van park down the block. I left the building and walked over to meet him.
Locking his car and looming over it, he faced me as I stood on the curb and without greeting me he said, “You must really be worried about this animal. Where is it?”
“And hello again, Officer Falk. Yes, whatever it is, the problem’s been going on for weeks. I am concerned.”
“Okay, show me what’s…concerning you.”
He came around the car, grabbed my elbow, and steered me to Number 1515. I pulled my arm away and said, “No need to be so protective, Officer. I’m just fine, but if an animal is in trouble, you’re the one to call, right?”
For such a big man, his vulpine face didn’t match. A thick auburn mustache and heavy eyebrows made his small, pointed chin look as if it belonged on a fox. He smiled, showing sturdy, if yellowing teeth. “Little lady, you’ve called the right person. Now let’s see what’s going on.”
As we passed through the vestibule, I spotted Fanny’s door, open just a crack. She was watching us but closed the door without a sound when I caught her eye. Falk and I went up to the second floor. Just as we reached the top stairs, Dave came out of his apartment. He called up to me.
“Ella, what’s going on? I thought the noises had stopped.”
See, I thought, now take me more seriously, Falk. I answered Dave. “Hi, Dave. I thought you were out so I called Animal Control. This evening the scratching and whining started up again.”
Falk asked, “Who’s that?”
“My downstairs neighbor, Dave Straybill. Hey, Dave, come on up if you like.”
“No, thanks, I have to walk King.”
With his meaty hand on the banister, Falk leaned over to watch Dave and King leave the building, then he turned to face me. “He has a dog. You’ve probably been hearing his dog. Maybe I should question him.”
“No, no. Dave’s dog is a happy pup. And when the scratching was at its worst, King sniffed this door (I pointed to 2A) and seemed terrified of whatever was in there.”
“Terrified?” Falk cocked an eyebrow.
“Well, what do you call it when a dog sniffs something, runs back and forth, and raises his hackles?”
“Hmm, usually when he senses competition for a female’s attention.” Big smile.
This was going nowhere. “Look, Officer. I called because I heard scratching—claws scratching—on the inside of this door. I’ve never seen anyone go in or out of here, nor have the downstairs neighbors. So, I think someone has abandoned an animal in there and you need to rescue it.”
Falk turned toward the door, knocked, then jiggled the handle. “Looks like no one’s home, and…” He pressed his ear against the door. “And I don’t hear anything in there. Usually, if an animal is in pain—”
Dave’s voice downstairs interrupted him. “Look who I found, Ella. It’s time you met. Joe, this is Ella, our newest tenant. We think there’s a problem in 2A. Can you open it for us?”
I looked downstairs. Standing next to Dave with his back to me, was a tall, thin man wearing a hoodie hiding his face. “Not without permission, I can’t,” the man grumbled.
“Well, I give you permission. According to this lady, there’s probable cause. You have the keys?” Falk bellowed.
Joe nodded and plodded up the stairs. Keeping his head turned away from me, he pulled a ring of keys from his back pocket and opened 2A.
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