THE APARTMENT

When you read this, I’ll be dead. It began like this: I was super excited to have moved into my new place on Broadway and 91st Street.  The renovated brownstone apartment was twice as big as the studio I had lived in twenty blocks south. That address had been a short walk to my job managing a clothing store near Lincoln Center. I could still walk to work, but it would take me 30 minutes instead of five. I was okay with that as I could use more exercise in general. I preferred a bigger, less expensive place over proximity to work. Much less expensive. The rent at the new apartment was two-thirds of the old one yet it had an extra room. Another advantage was the fact that my new hood was less crowded, less busy in general.

            I’ve always hated taking the subway in New York. It’s dirty and dangerous. The tracks have disgusting rats running on them and there’s always a crazy person on the platform. People are rude and impatient, breathing germs on you and stepping on your feet. I’m now forced to take the subway more often than not because I have a terrible habit: I can’t manage my time properly, so I tend to run late. The one good thing about the subway in rush hour is that it gets you to your destination faster than a cab ever could. And I have to be at work at nine on weekdays.

            I got into the habit of taking the train that departs at eight thirty-seven. Lots of the same people took it then as well and I have to say, it gave me an odd sense of comfort. It’s nice to see the same faces around me every morning, even if most of their noses are in their smartphones. There was this chunky Latino man who liked to sit at the other end of the train, where he slept till his station came up. I was always amazed how he managed to wake up right before the train pulled in. It was like he had built-in clock. Another man, a young black guy with headphones and pants tied below his butt, always looked ready to break into a full-blown dance number the way his entire body bobbed along with the music, presumably, in his ears. A black-haired woman in her thirties often sat kitty-corner from me. When our eyes met, she gave me a tiny nod with an even tinier smile in greeting. She was always on the train when I got on and continued when I got off. Based on her conservative clothing, I figured she worked as an executive assistant for some hot shot in the financial district. Then there was this 50-something beefy man with a brown leather jacket and jeans. He never smiled or met my gaze as I entered the train. Mostly, he scowled and stared into the distance.

            After I had lived in the new apartment for a couple of weeks, something strange started happening. At first, I thought it was a neighbor making the sounds. A woman moaning, like maybe she was having sex or working out hard. In between the moans came loud, thudding sounds, like someone being pushed to the wall or falling to the floor. Over and over. It usually started at nine in the evening, going on for about thirty minutes. At first, I hoped it was a one-time deal and wouldn’t happen again. But it did, a few nights every week and around the same time. I increased the volume on the television to drown out the noise, but I could still hear it. Annoyed, I finally muted the show so I could get a better sense exactly where the sounds came from. Was it from above or from the neighbor next door? It was not from the person living under me.

            I walked around my place, pricking my ears and concentrating to hear better. Hmm. It wasn’t coming from above either. So from one of the people on my floor then, I mused.

It got louder when I entered the bedroom. Now I could tell the moans did not sound like a woman enjoying sex. At least not the normal kind. Maybe some form of sadism, because she sounded like she was in pain. Like someone hit her over and over. And she kept mumbling stuff I couldn’t make out. Only the word “no.”

            It always ended with one heavy thud followed by complete silence. About twenty seconds later, a heavy item was dragged across the hardwood floor.

            Like someone moving a dead body.

            A shiver ran up my spine as I realized that.

            I couldn’t tell whether all the noises came from the left or the right side of my bedroom. Frankly, it sounded more like it came from a source inside my bedroom.

            The fine hair at the back of my neck rose as I realized this. I shook my entire body. There has to be some scientific explanation for that! Some way the sound was ricocheting from a source somewhere else.

            I went to my laptop and googled the potential scenarios for this, but nothing explained it. I wasn’t one to give up easily, though, so I kept at it for a few nights, all the while drinking lots of wine to calm my increasingly agitated nerves.

            Deep inside I already knew what was going on, but I didn’t want to admit it to myself.

            One night I did, however. I had finished a bottle of red and my nerves were still frazzled.

            I admitted to myself there was a ghost in my bedroom who chose to appear every now and then in the evenings. More than one ghost, actually, because it sounded like someone was beating another person. A woman. It was always the same scene, ending the same way, with her being dragged over the floor.

            The following morning I called my landlord, furious to say the least.

            “This is Roger,” he said. He and his brother managed the building and were very hands on, easy to get a hold of.

            “Roger, this is Kate Underwood in 5 D on West 91st Street,” I said. “I moved in about a month ago.”

            “Yes, I remember. Hello, Kate. How do you like the apartment? Nice, isn’t it?”

            “Yes, except for the fact that I have a couple of ghosts visiting in the evenings.” I felt like an idiot, claiming the place was haunted. But what else could I say? There seemed to be no other viable explanation. Suddenly, anger filled me that I had been put in this awkward position. Obviously someone had been murdered in this bedroom, beaten to death somehow, and the landlord hadn’t bothered to disclose this fact. No wonder it was so cheap to live here! “Why didn’t you inform me about the murder that took place here before I moved in? Don’t you think that’s pretty relevant information for a new tenant?”

            I was furious by now, but I controlled myself to allow Roger to get a chance to reply.

            “Ahem,” he began. “As far as I know, no one’s ever been murdered in your apartment. Or in the entire building, for that matter. What makes you say it’s…ahem…haunted?”

            He sounded like he thought I was nuts, which made me even angrier. I wasn’t crazy!

            I explained the situation to him and he said he would look into it, but he really didn’t think it had anything to do with the apartment being haunted.

            When we were done speaking, I yelled “liar” at the phone in my hand. He knew exactly what I was talking about, but he was not going to flat out admit to anything.

            I laughed without humor. It would probably take forever before I’d hear back from him, if ever. If I wanted to find out what the hell had happened in my bedroom I’d better hire my own private investigator. So I did.

            Two days later, Peter Maher was working for me. He promised he’d get me information regarding anything going on in my apartment within a week, supernatural or not. Whatever caused the disturbing noise, he’d be able to tell me ASAP.

            He’d better, I thought, because his retainer was five thousand bucks. But I thought it was worth it given how stressed out the noise made me. In the meantime, I moved in with my mother in Brooklyn. I wasn’t about to live in a haunted house. Who knew what those ghosts would do to anyone encroaching on their space?

            Peter Maher turned out to be an excellent investigator. Within three days, he was able to inform me a thirty-something woman had indeed been beaten to death in my apartment. In the bedroom, to be specific. It happened a couple of years ago.

            I experienced a sense of exaltation upon reading the email report my PI had sent me. So I had been right then. My apartment was in fact haunted. I wasn’t crazy. I could hardly wait to show my PI’s findings to Roger. Then he would have to break my contract and allow me to move out. Maybe he’d even owe me damages for all the pain and suffering I’d endured.

            All that bliss streaming through my blood changed into terror when I saw a mugshot of the perp. It was the same 50-something man from the subway when I went to work in the mornings. Same scowl on his round face, same flat crooked nose. It looked like someone had broken it in a boxing match perhaps. There was no question it was him. His name was Igor Khasin and he was an ex-con.

            Why was he still walking around among regular people?

            I stopped worrying about that when I saw the victim’s picture and name underneath:

            Kate Underwood, 36, was beaten to death in her apartment May 18th, 2019.

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