April 25, 12:04 a.m.
It was just after midnight. The hallways of The Singing Bird apartment complex were nearly empty, and a deep silence filled the walls.
Suddenly, a scream rang out through one of the rooms in the nearly-vacant apartment building.
This scream was followed by an eerie silence, the sinister type of silence which leaves you both wondering and fearing what has just occurred.
Old Ms. Waters, who owned the building and had lived in it for the past thirty years, was down in her kitchen on the bottom floor of the apartment in her kitchen adding some milk to her coffee.
The scream echoed within her walls, shattering the silence.
She dropped her coffee spoon on the floor. It clattered loudly, piercing through the violent silence that followed the scream.
The nine tenants who lived in the building were generally quiet, but every once in a while, a homeless person or young hoodlum would enter the building and cause trouble. A few years ago, a violent fistfight had broken out in the hallway, a fight which resulted in the police being called in, and ten years back, a string of robberies had occurred. Still, nothing like this had ever occurred.
Ms. Waters considered phoning her son, who was 30 years old and lived down the hallway from her. He wasn’t married yet, but Ms. Waters hoped that would soon change. It had always been her hope that her son would marry and have children. Ms. Waters, who was in her early sixties, often dreamt about having grandchildren. She could see herself taking her grandchildren to the circus and the pool and baking cookies with them in the afternoon. Her son Matthew had been in the military for a couple of years and had won many metals, something which made Ms. Waters very proud. When neighbors would come over to her apartment, she’d often relay the story of how her son had saved many fellow soldiers with his quick thinking. Unfortunately, his experience in the war had left him with PSTD and left him with a permanently nervous disposition.
Matthew had many girlfriends throughout the years, but his relationships never lasted more than a few months, with only three exceptions.
Tonight, he was on a date with a woman named Sarah Thorton, who Ms. Waters hadn’t got a chance to meet but Matthew had told her all about. They were going to a local restaurant called The Flying Fish, a quaint little place situated in the downtown.
At this point, Ms. Waters decided to call her son, and she dialed in the number, desperately hoping that he’d pick it up. She didn’t want to be alone in the building. If someone had been attacked, their assailant might be coming for her next.
She reached her son’s voice mail.
Suddenly, she heard the sound of her front door open, and a moment later, close.
Terror-stricken, she was paralyzed for a moment, and something horrible occurred to her. Someone was in her apartment.
She finally found the courage to walk into her living room.
There was no one there.
Ms. Waters reached for her cell phone and shakily dialed 911.
The apartment complex, called The Singing Bird, but colloquially referred to as Stifled Bird, would be vacated and torn down in two weeks due to its age and lack of funds to keep it properly maintained. A major property company had bought the land to build a factory on it. Anyone who still remained in the complex would have to move somewhere else, and the property company hoped that these residents would move to one of the fancier and higher priced complexes that they owned.
Singing Bird was an old brick apartment complex with fire escape platforms and ladders covering the sides. The whole complex was enclosed, and you had to enter the front door of the building to get to the hallways which led past each apartment. It was relatively secure, except for the fact that many of the ladders on the fire escape were down, so it would be easy for someone to climb up them and access the apartments.
When the Singing Bird Apartment Complex was built, the town was reasonably high-class, but as fifty years came and went, crime from the surrounding areas began to seep in, and soon surrounded the entire building. Many tenants moved out because they didn’t feel secure, and some of the gossipers that used to live in the building had speculated that someone was running a meth lab in one of the rooms. Because nobody except the gossipers felt this way, nobody cared to investigate this further. Regardless whether this fact was true or not, no one in the building felt safe.
Families with children and higher-income residents moved out. Because of this, the value of the building went down, causing the middle class to move out as well. The only people who remained there were those who had little money or had lived there a long time and didn’t care to move. As desperate times called for desperate measures, ready or not, these remaining tenants would have to move out at the end of the two-week period remaining. The 150-unit apartment complex only contained nine tenants now, not including the owner of the building and her son.
Grace Roe lived in apartment #78. After a long night out spent dancing at local clubs, as she often did, she was tired and hungry. Although she was in her early sixties, she still was filled with a vigor and energy often unmatched by people half her age. When she told people her age, they were surprised to hear that she was fifteen or twenty years older than they thought she was.
Grace’s feet hurt. She blamed it on her new high heels, which were covered in blue glitter. They were probably too tall for someone her age to be wearing, but she didn’t care. She did things her own way, wore what she wanted to, did what she wanted to, and didn’t care what others thought of this. She wasn’t the type to follow the crowd, and she’d always prided herself in this independence.
When she was a teenager, she’d gone against the current fashions and stereotypes and done her own thing, creating her own fashion from the things she loved. When her classmates were trying to impress their crushes, Grace had been more concerned with her education. When her classmates were busy discussing what they’d wear to prom, Grace was sitting quietly in the corner reading Shakespeare. When her peers went to college, graduated, and started their families, Grace was busy working at a florist shop, dancing every chance she got, and traveling the world.
At the time, when she’d decided that she would live the way she wanted to, she was somewhat concerned that others would find her strange, or that she was making a mistake. Perhaps they were right in following the crowd, the time-tested formula that many went for. But now as she looked back, Grace was more and more thankful with each passing day that she’d chosen to forge her own path. This sense of gratitude increased each time she heard her friends complaining about what they wish they had done when they were younger, richer, or more beautiful. When Grace looked back on her life, she had no regrets whatsoever.
As soon as Grace entered her apartment, she removed the painful shoes and slung them to the side. It was silent in her apartment – too silent – so she decided to put on some classical music.
Grace walked barefoot across the cool linoleum of the apartment, noticing just how good it felt on her sore feet. She flexed her toes against the floor, massaging them from their stiffness. When she entered her kitchen and headed for her tiny pantry, she removed a box of fettuccine. Smiling with the afterglow of her night out, she filled a pot with water and set it on the stove.
At that moment, a scream rang out across the silence, stopping her in her tracks.
Heart pounding, she was unsure of what to do. She’d never heard a scream so terrible in her life, yet she didn’t want to worry the cops about something insignificant. When she considered how horrible, how desperate the scream sounded, she decided to call the police, realizing it was better to report it and find out that it was nothing than not. If the scream was relevant and she didn’t call, someone could be harmed worse than they already were, and Grace would be aware of the fact that her call could have saved this person.
She rushed towards the phone and dialed 911. Grace told them what she’d heard, and they told her they’d be sending someone to check it out, saying that they’d received several similar calls already. It was around this point that Grace began panicking. What if whoever had killed someone – that was Grace’s biggest fear regarding what had happened – was coming for her?
She hurried into her kitchen, opening the knife drawer and removing the largest, most dangerous looking blade. Heart pounding quickly, she proceeded to stand in her apartment near the front floor, waiting for either the arrival of the police or of the murderer.
Mr. Klaus had awoken from a deep sleep. Immediately, he noticed a sharp pain in his back and sighed. His back occasionally pained him overnight. It was about time him and his wife got a new mattress, but that would have to wait until after they moved from the apartment complex. Carefully, he moved his wife’s hand off of his shoulder. She opened her eyes slowly.
“Where are we?” She asked him quietly.
He smiled sadly at her.
Dementia. She had dementia and usually couldn’t remember very much about what happened. She was liable to say strange or incoherent things, and this pained Mr. Klaus greatly. Every time she forgot something, he felt an incredibly pity filling him, a pity which was mixed with great affection. He loved his wife more dearly with every day, and would do anything to make her happy.
“We’re at our apartment.” He told her gently, swinging his legs over the edge of his bed and grunting when his back pained him again.
They’d lived at this apartment for 15 years, ever since they’d immigrated from Germany to the United States. It made Karl Klaus sad to think that after all this time, they’d have to move. His wife wasn’t always sure of where they were, even after their lengthy stay here, and he hated the fact that she’d have to get used to a new place all over again. They had a comfortable life at the Singing Bird, and as they were both retired now, Mr. Klaus feared what the future would bring for him and his wife. They had picked out a small one-story house nearby, and when they could stay in the apartment complex no longer, they would move there.
Carefully, Mr. Klaus got up to go to the bathroom.
“Where are you going?” Mrs. Klaus called softly.
“To the bathroom. I’ve got to take a painkiller.” He replied.
He made it to the bathroom and filled the glass near the sink with water, reaching for the bottle of painkillers on the counter.
A minute later, a scream shattered the peace of night.
Adrenaline rushed through him, followed immediately by fear.
What if something had happened to his wife?
He rushed from the bathroom and he froze.
Mrs. Klaus was nowhere to be seen, and the front door of his apartment was handing wide open.
His breath caught in his throat.
Mr. Klaus rushed into the hallway, rushing barefoot down the hallways, searching frantically for his lost wife. She couldn’t walk that fast, but if she evaded him, she could go downstairs, leave the apartment, and go out into the street. Karl didn’t even want to think about what could happen to her if she got outside…
“Emily!” He called. “Emily!”
After a few minutes of searching, he finally found his wife, emerging confusedly from a room that had been apparently left unlocked.
“Emily!” He cried with relief upon seeing her.
She rushed into his arms, crying and repeating his name.
“Did you scream?” He asked her.
She shook her head.
“They’re coming for you.” She said softly, her eyes wide with fear.
“Let’s get you back home. I’ve got to call the police.”
Together, they headed back to the safety of their apartment.
In the darkness, Jenny Sampson made her way over towards the fire escape. The night around her was silent, and the only sound she could hear was her own breathing and her footsteps upon the dried grass. Ever since the lock on her door had suddenly broken a week ago, the fire escape had been her means of getting into her apartment. While she understood it was risky to leave her fire escape window unlocked, she was unable to afford a locksmith, and therefore had to make the best of her situation.
Jenny locked her bike to the metal of the fire escape, balancing the five pound bag of cat food on her leg as she did so.
There was very little light around, the only illumination coming from the moonlight above. It was a full moon, luckily, but it was still almost too dim for her to lock the bicycle.
“Damn.” She cursed quietly, fumbling with the lock.
She would have gone and bought the cat food earlier, had she not been teaching a ballet lesson that had gone on until seven-thirty and after that, had to practice at the studio for the upcoming ballet she would be dancing in. By the time she was finished, it was ten thirty at night. She then had to ride her bicycle back to her apartment, change clothing, and go out again to buy food for her cat.
The young blonde dancer locked her bike up and began climbing the fire escape, carrying the cat food under one arm, and her bicycle helmet under the other.
Halfway up the stairs, she heard a muffled scream ringing from within the apartment complex.
She froze, her heart skipping a beat.
Her mind sprang to the conclusion that someone had just been killed. She was aware that she could be dramatic at times and assume the worst, but this time, she was sure she was right.
Should she go up or down? If she went up to her apartment, the attacker of whoever screamed could possibly be in her apartment. If she remained on the fire escape, she could still be harmed. What if the murderer climbed out onto the fire escape to get away? What if there were others on the ground, or on the fire escape?
She decided to take her chances and get back to her apartment as quickly as possible. Scrambling quicker than before, she climbed onto the third landing of the fire escape and shoved her window open. She clambered in and locked the window behind her, heart pounding in her throat.
Swiftly, she made sure that all of her doors and windows were locked, then proceeded to call the police.
The phone rang through to the local emergency department.
“911, what is the nature of the emergency?” The dispatcher had asked.
“Police.” Jenny said in a choked voice. “Someone just screamed so terribly in the apartment complex where I live. It sounded like someone was being killed.”
Travis Harrison had been outside, speaking to his beautiful girlfriend, whom he’d just been speaking to. This encounter left him feeling light and happy. Every time he spoke to Hannah, he loved her more and more. Just when he thought he loved her as much as anyone possibly could, he found himself falling even deeper and deeper in love. Often times, he hardly felt like it was real at all, and he couldn’t believe that something like this was really happening to him. To him, true love had always been a figment of fiction, but after he met Hannah, everything changed.
He’d met her at a party three years ago, when both of them were only twenty-two. She’d been dancing alone off to the side, and Travis had watched her from across the room. When he saw her face, something he’d never felt before came over him, and he suddenly believed that love at first sight was real.
Travis had approached Hannah. The two of them had flirted, and by the end of the night, they’d made plans to go out to the movies the next night.
There was and always had been a certain rebelliousness in their relationship, something that made everything they did seem even more romantic. Hannah’s parents didn’t approve of Travis. In their opinion, he was just a poor mechanic with big dreams. Travis wanted nothing more than to own his own mechanic shop, and to Hannah’s practical nine-to-five parents, this didn’t seem like a reliable thing to believe in.
But Hannah believed in it. She believed in Travis with all of her heart, a heart which was filled with utter affection for the kind and gentle Travis. Although Travis was tall, broad, and muscular, he was the type of person who always stood up for those weaker than him, and he used his strength to help others. Once, he’d been heading back to his apartment late at night, and he’d seen some men laughing and dangling a tiny, helpless kitten in front of their giant dog’s snapping jaws. Without hesitation, Travis had approached the men and ordered they give him the kitten immediately. When the men saw the menacing look on Travis’ face and realized that if they didn’t comply, it would be painful for them, they handed the kitten to Travis and hurried off.
Travis was allergic to cats and couldn’t keep it himself, but he’d given the tiny kitten to Hannah. She nursed the female kitten back to health and named her Buttons, and had cared for the cat ever since.
Now, Travis stood and watched Hannah get back into her car. As she drove off, they waved at each other, and when she was out of sight, Travis went back inside.
He climbed the stairs slowly, but with a bounce in his step. He couldn’t wipe the grin from his face as he walked. Someday soon, he was going to ask Hannah to marry him. He knew she loved him just as much as he loved her, and was sure she’d say yes to his proposal.
He was on the second floor when he heard it.
A scream. The most horrible scream that Travis had ever heard.
Travis froze. Immediately concerned for whoever had screamed, he rushed forward. Mentally calculating that the scream had rushed to the fifth floor, he ran past his own apartment on the fourth and up the stairs. He clenched his fists, prepared to take on any assailant and help whoever was in trouble.
When he reached the fourth floor, he found nothing. The place was utterly silent. There was nothing around, no sign that anything had occurred.
But despite the false calmness of the scene, Travis knew what he’d heard, and he knew that something was wrong. With that, he hurried back to his apartment, dialing 911 as he did so.
Nina Wentz, who lived in apartment #114, was flaming mad. Her husband – that good for nothing loser who she still lived with for some reason – clearly was cheating on her. Again. It had happened before, quite a while ago, and she’d forgiven him then. Why? Maybe it was because he had vowed he’d never cheat again. Either way, she certainly wasn’t going to forgive him again. Right now, he was most likely drunk and making out with some random chick he’d just met at the bar.
She hated him.
Flinging her belongings into her suitcase, she rushed around the apartment, making sure to get everything that she needed. She didn’t want to see Don ever again after she left him tonight, except when she brought the divorce papers to him so he could add his signature. Maybe she could just mail the papers to him. That would probably be more effective.
She shook her head and sighed as she shoved her makeup bag in amongst her belongings. Why did she always fall for the wrong men? She’d fallen in love with several others like Don before, and each time she vowed she wouldn’t do it again. When she met Don, she thought everything would be different. She thought that she’d finally found someone who would be loyal to her, someone she could always trust and depend upon. He’d seemed so caring when she’d met him, and he’d once discussed with her how much it angered him when his friends cheated on their girls. They had gotten married less than a year ago. Nina had thought she was in love. She thought she’d found “the one”.
But no. She hadn’t. Don hadn’t been that knight in shining armor, that true love that she’d dreamed about finding. He’d just been another one of those men who drew her in with a smile and then showed her that they never cared for her at all.
At this moment, she heard a scream. Thinking little of it, she continued filling her suitcase. It was probably just some teens messing around or trying to scare each other in the empty and sinister looking hallways of the apartment. Either way, she was too angry to care.
All she cared about was getting as far away her pathetic excuse for a husband as soon as she could.
Henry Jackson’s whole body hurt – especially his mind. After all that had happened to him in the past few days, he didn’t want to think.
Earlier that evening, his girlfriend Wanda Richards had broken up with him.
He thought they’d had something going. He thought that she’d be the one, the one that he’d marry. He could see all of it in his head. He could picture himself holding her hand and walking down the aisle with her, could see them buying a house together and raising a family.
Yet the image replayed in his head repeatedly, the image of her softly saying,
“It’s over, Henry. I’ve got someone else – someone that I love – who wants to propose to me tonight. It’s time we both moved on.” His mind ached with the pain of it all.
Flipping through the channels on his television, he became more agitated with the realization that nearly all of them had something to do with romance, the last thing he wanted to think about at the time.
How could Wanda have let him get his hopes up? Hadn’t they spoken about spending the rest of their lives together? Hadn’t she assured him that she’d always love him?
And yet, her words hadn’t stopped her from doing what she’d done. Her words apparently meant nothing to her.
Henry continued flipping though the channels angrily, eventually finding a reality show . He turned up the volume all the way, as if this was the only way he could drown out his pain.
Henry sat like that for a while, his mind numb and replaying through each memory he made with Wanda.
He was only interrupted when the police pounded loudly on the door, demanding that he opened it.
Fear filling him, he made his way across his messy apartment.
When he answered the door, he saw several police officers standing out their and asked,
“Is there a problem, officers?”
“Many residents here have heard a scream. Did you hear it?”
“No.” Henry said. “I didn’t.”
Francis Quinn sat inside his apartment, listening to a meditation CD and sitting in the middle of the floor, calming his mind.
Breathe out, breathe in.
Breathe out, breathe in.
His mantra. The only thing which would calm him. He focused only on his breathing and the slow beating of his heart, losing himself in the calmness surrounding him.
And at this moment, he desperately needed to calm down.
Breathe out, breathe in.
Breathe out, breathe in.
His silence was shattered.
A scream pierced though the air, destroying Francis’ silence.
He wailed something incomprehensible and flung himself to the ground.
It all came rushing back to him. Every single thing. His mind was reeling, and the images filled his head once more.
His breath caught in his throat. Feeling as though his world were crashing around, he could do nothing but sit there, immobilized by his fear. Francis’ heart pounded wildly in his chest, and he was sure he was going to die.
A few minutes later, the feeling passed, yet the thoughts and sorrow still bombarded him.
Still panicking, it occurred to him that he should call the police. His hands shaking terribly, he managed to coherently call the police, explaining to them what he had heard. When he hung up, he broke down once more.
It was all happening.
It was all happening again.
Within ten minutes of the scream, the police showed up. The lights from two or three police cars danced across Ms. Waters’ kitchen.
She stood up, still shaking violently. She heard the police enter the apartment complex’s front door. Knowing that she’d be safe now, she fled from her apartment, making a beeline for the front hallway, where the police were standing. After briefly explaining what she’d heard to them, an officer remained downstairs to check her apartment for intruders.
The remaining five police officers walked up the creaking stairs slowly as they checked in each vacant apartment room using the keys Ms. Waters had given them. Ms. Waters had said she estimated the scream came from the fourth or fifth floor, the floors where all but one of the residents lived.
While three of the officers checked the empty rooms on the forth and fifth floors, the other two went and knocked on the apartment doors to speak to the residents. All except one resident admitted to hearing the scream.
The apartments contained no evidence of violence or struggle.
The only exception to this was Apartment #90, where the officers found a small pool of fresh blood.
That was when they called in Detective Davies.