Some of you have seen my apartment... it's heinously overpriced, but it's cozy and in a coveted locale. I live in Arlington (the Lyon Park neighborhood of Clarendon, for those of you in the know), which is yuppie heaven. On any given Saturday, you will see a sea of dogs and brunch advertisements, and no children. There are a proliferation of Starbucks and gyms, and the only nights I can find a parking spot in my neighborhood are Thirsty Thursday and TGIFridays.
My particular little nook of the Clarendon hood is an interesting offshoot of this teeming mass of young professionals on the prowl. On the outside it looks like any other non-descript condo park that was built in the 60's, but it's surprising homely once you get past the parking lot. There's a little lane that comes down from the car park and my apartment is off that path, with my tiny yard covered in pretty trees and bushes. All the apartments open onto the walkway, and therefore each other, separated only by stoops. The distance from my door to the one across from me is about 20 feet, so you can imagine that you grow to recognize everyone on the "block" fairly quickly. Especially since it's a really quiet block so, if and when you pass each other on the path, you are the only ones there and you are awkwardly forced to acknowledge each other.
There's a grouping of grad students at the very end of the way- they have parties sometimes, but the guys always offer to help me carry my groceries or trash if it's a big load, so they're on my good list. They also haven't drunkenly banged on my door in the middle of the night like other neighbors I've had, so that's really all it takes for me not to report your illegal habachi to the condo managers. There's a really sweet Asian couple across from me who don't speak much English but smile a lot. There's a cute boy caddy corner from me who I flirt with at the mailbox and a single gal next to him who I chit chat with sometimes. And I just realized that the couple with the cat at the beginning of the path go to the same church I do! I'm trying to figure out how to communicate that to them without looking like a stalker. Not sure there's a good way to do that... so I guess they may never know.
Suffice it to say, you can tell that we all know who our neighbors are. So it has not escaped my notice that the apartment next to mine has been vacant since I moved it. At first I lived in constant (at least when I thought about it) dread about who would move in, since the wall are so thin. I worried it would be some grad student studying the jazz flute or a family with a screaming baby or an old man who kept C-SPAN on blast 24/7. But as the months went by and no one moved in, I stopped worrying about it so much. The people who moved in above me weren't too loud and only had the occasional party. The family on the other side of me was freakishly quiet. I reasoned that anyone who would move into the unit would be as unintrusive as the rest of us. And there was the bewildering blizzard of realtor's signs... in the six months I've lived here, there's been 3 different listing companies. Yet there still were no signs of life in the unit, no showings I ever heard, nada.
Until Snowmageddon. Now, I went to stay with my aunt for the blizzard because I knew they would get dug out more quickly and I didn't want to be snowed in by myself for that long. When I left, there was the latest realtor's sign up and the usual lack of any kind of action from the apartment. When I returned a week later, the sign was gone... yet there were no footprints in the snow leading into or out of the apartment. I wondered if the owner had given up.
Over the next week, I began to notice odd sounds coming from the shared wall. They've continued since then and sound like weird rattlings of a hammer on pipes. They happen at night, in the morning, in the afternoon- not obnoxious, but peculiar. I monitored the snow drift to see if I had new neighbors coming and going that I just hadn't seen, but the snow in front of the door remained untouched and immaculate. I have yet to see any kind of move-in activity, but I've noticed sounds like opening and closing doors from that side of the wall. From all of these clues, I've come to the conclusion that this can mean only one of three things:
1) Whoever is listing he unit is allowing their slacker brother to rent for cash under the table for below market value. The brother is keeping a low profile because he doesn't want the guy who sells him his pot to get made by the narcs when he's coming and going from the apartment.
2) A ghost, sprite, or phantom of some kind has taken up home in the apartment. This would explain why a reasonably priced unit in this highly sought area has remained on the market for so long. But considering our noticeable deficit of old crones or local talk of an old man who eats children, this seems like an undesirable neighborhood for malevolent spirits.
However, I've become pretty convinced that the last option is the correct one:
3) The owner is a serial killer who has commandeered the property as his own personal slaughterhouse. This would explain the odd clanging noises, the constant change of realtor (don't want any one of them to get too suspicious- or they could become victims, take your pick), and the length of time it's been on the market... the buyers can sense the death that pervades the property. Additionally, the unit is right next to several large dumpsters for body and/or evidence disposal, and the central location allows him to hunt from a wide range of local neighborhoods.
So, gentle reader, if you decide to come visit me here in our nation's capital, be advised that there is a high probability that my mysterious, seemingly non-existant neighbor is a serial murderer, and since we have no clues as to what he looks for in his victims, you could be his next target. I'm clearly not his type or else I'd be in dumpster by now. That is a relief, at least.