“Do you mind?” Julia snapped at her ceiling. God, this is terrible, she grumbled silently. Her upstairs neighbors were having another party. It was the third one this week. It was only Tuesday. “Who has a party at 4:00 in the afternoon anyhow?” she asked herself. Furthermore, if she stood in the right room of her own apartment, she could hear a baby crying right above her, where the loud noise had woken it up, but no one could hear it crying over the pounding of the bass.
“That’s it!” Julia had finally lost her cool. She could struggle through the day tomorrow at work, but those bastards on the fifth floor were neglecting their own child in favor of getting drunk and who knows what else. She grabbed her phone and called the cops.
“Yes, hello, I’d like to make a noise complaint, the apartment above me is having their third party this week… yes, I know it’s only Tuesday… and that it’s 5:30. It’s not like I know why they’re party addicts!” she snapped into the phone. “The worst part is that, when I stand in the room below the baby’s room, I can hear it crying because the noise woke it up. It’s been crying since they started the party at 4:00. No one’s gone to check on it, and it’s like this every time. The poor baby deserves better treatment… thank you. Summer Creek Apartments, they’re apartment 502. Thank you.”
Julia tossed her phone onto her bed and walked around her apartment aimlessly. She eventually decided to go outside to the picnic tables in front of the apartment to get away from the noise. “Though I doubt it’ll be any better out there,” she mumbled.
She grabbed her latest book and slipped out her door, rolling her eyes as she saw Steven and Lucas exchanging their daily tense greeting. They just need to get together already! She thought jokingly, knowing if she said that to either of them, she’d likely find rotten food on her doorstep for the next week.
She found a table in the sun, enjoying the warm, early summer day. She opened her book to where she had left off and continued reading, instantly enveloped in the drama. After about twenty minutes, her attention was drawn to the arrival of a cop car pulling to a halt in front of the building.
“This it?” one officer asked the other.
“Summer Creek Apartments, 502,” she replied to him. Julia decided to hop up and go over to them to see if they needed any help.
“Hi, I’m the one who phoned it in, is there anything I can do to help?” she asked the female officer.
They exchanged glances, then the man said, “Sure, if you come upstairs with us and wait down the hall a little way, we’ll hand you the baby you said was up there while we get everything else sorted out.”
The woman snorted. “Watch it just be some mechanical thing that they think is entertaining. People out here are crazy, they’ll do anything for a little amusement,” she muttered.
Julia followed them into the building, showing them to the elevator and standing behind them as it rose to the fifth floor. When they got off, she wandered down the hall until she stood in front of room 507. Not in the way, but not so far that she couldn’t dart in to help as needed.
“Police, open up!” called the man through the door as he knocked. The music didn’t waver a bit. Shrugging, and not looking at all upset by what he had to do, he kicked the door in. Julia couldn’t help but marvel at it, she would end up flat on her butt if she ever tried that.
Within the next couple minutes, there was a lot of drama. It turned out there was quite a bit of illegal drug usage at the party. Backup was radioed for help with the people who were resisting a bit, while a crisis officer was called for help with the two addicts they had discovered in there. Arrests were being made left and right; as she watched, the woman that lived in the apartment broke away from the officer holding her and hit the alarm that told everyone to get out of the building. Julia was jostled aside as people streamed from their rooms on the fifth floor, paying no attention to the officers surrounding 503.
The female officer swore, then said to her partner, “I’ll go deal with that, you talk to the girl.” It wasn’t until she glanced over at Julia that she realized the officer was talking about her.
The male cop walked over to her slowly, sympathy filling his gaze. Julia wasn’t sure why he looked so sad, wasn’t he used to parties like this? But then Julia thought to herself while the officer struggled to find the words. Everyone that was in the apartment had been removed, and yet no one had brought out the baby for her to hold. And now that she was listening, she couldn’t hear any crying coming from the apartment, despite the music being turned off.
“I’m sorry to have to tell you this, especially when you were so concerned. When we went into the nursery, the baby had been on his back, and he had been crying for so long that he had started to choke on his own spit. He was too young to roll over on his own, and when we got in there, he was already gone.” He watched Julia closely, clearly concerned, but Julia didn’t feel any particular emotions. This was the first she was discovering that the baby was a boy, and now it was dead? She wasn’t sure how to feel, she obviously had no personal connection to the baby, but it was still heartbreaking that a baby had died due to his own parents’ negligence.
She would later realize that she was in shock, but for now, all she could do was nod numbly and turn her feet toward the stairs to go back down to her own apartment.
“Wait!” came the officer’s voice behind her. Julia felt his hand grasp her shoulder gently. He handed her a couple of cards, and continued, “I know you don’t have much of a personal connection to this, but it’s still important to take care of yourself. That top one is the number to our station’s grief counselor. He’ll work with you for free since you were part of the case. And that bottom card is my personal number, in case you need someone to support you as you begin to grasp what’s happened. For now, please, let me walk you to your apartment.”
Julia could do nothing more than nod numbly. As they descended the staircase, she thought about what he’d said. She would be able to talk to the grief counselor free of charge. That would be nice, since her job didn’t provide her with health insurance. Then another thought crossed her mind, and she stopped in the middle of the stairwell, horrified. The officer had taken a few more steps before noticing and looked back with a questioning look on his face.
“It’s my fault,” she whispered. “If I had called sooner, the baby would still be alive.”
The officer instantly bounded up the few stairs between them and gripped her arms. “Do not go down that road,” he murmured. “I’ve been there too many times, and nothing good ever comes of it. Blaming yourself won’t change the outcome. I know a part of you will always blame yourself, but you can’t let it destroy your spirit. My partner would tell you this is a learning experience, but it’s not. It’s a tragedy, and you’re going to have to work hard to move on from it. But you can do it, I know you can.”
After that, he wrapped his arm around her shoulders and led her to her room, 403. She couldn’t fathom the idea of going into her bedroom, right below where she had been hearing crying every night for the past several weeks, crying that she would never hear again.
The officer made sure she got into her apartment safely, and only when she was settling down on the couch to sleep, as she couldn’t bear the idea of being in her room, did she realize she hadn’t thought to ask the officer if they had caught the lady that had triggered the alarm. She hadn’t seen her in all the chaos, and she was pretty sure that had been the baby’s mother. Hopefully, she had been caught and would go to prison for a very long time. Provided she was caught, that is.
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