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Housitter deals with impetuous next door neighbor.
This time the cry did not stop. It went on, rising in intensity until she felt sure she could only be listening to the sound of a violent assault or perhaps even an attempt on the poor woman's life. Powerless to intervene - who knows what madman was at work behind the door - she rushed down in search of help.
The Proprietor was behind the tiny reception desk hunched over a column of figures.
"Quickly - you must call the police."
"Something dreadful is happening upstairs," Lena said.
The man seemed not to have understood because instead of hurrying out to find a gendarme he was looking quizzically at his guest.
"Upstairs," Lena said again. "The room opposite mine. Someone is being hurt."
"I don't think so, mademoiselle."
"It's true -- we must get help."
But the Proprietor merely shook his head and returned to his column of figures.
Lena was at a loss. She could no more bring herself to ignore the woman's plight upstairs than she could un-hear her dreadful cries.
"Then I will go myself," she said and turned away. His voice stopped her before she reached the street.
"Before we call anyone, mademoiselle," he said shutting his book. "I think I'd like to hear for myself. We wouldn't want to go calling the police for a simple misunderstanding now would we?"
And taking the time to recap his pen, close the ledger and lock it away in the cupboard below the desk he at last accompanied Lena back upstairs.
The sounds from within the room had lessened but the keening was still there and as they stood listening another sharp exclamation of pain reached them.
"There," said Lena. "Now do you see?"
The man was still unconvinced, but when Lena began to protest he at last seemed inclined to take things more seriously. His manner became brisk and business-like.
"Very well -- you can leave this to me." He led her to her own door. "You go back inside and I'll make sure everything is taken care of. Thank you for bringing this to my attention."
Lena was ushered inside.
"I'm very grateful, mademoiselle, believe me."
And then she was alone once more facing a closing door.
Lena sat on the bed. Her breathing was shallow and fast. She found she was trembling. Would they be in time? When help finally arrived would the woman, whoever she was, still be alive. The thought that they might be too late was more than she could bear.
She could not tell how long she sat, waiting for the sound of heavy feet on the stairs, the hammering on the door and the demands to open to the gendarmerie. But all she heard was silence.
At length unable to sit still any longer she carefully opened the door. This time there was nothing. Just the stillness of the corridor and the far off sound of a cistern filling with water. It was as if the animal cries had never existed. Normality had returned with such force that Lena was left wondering if she had imagined the whole thing.
And then all doubt left her.
"No more -- please!"
The woman's voice cut through the silence. Lena knew she must not wait a moment longer. She turned and ran.
The Proprietor was no longer behind the front desk. Had he gone for the police? Surely he would have been back by now? Perhaps she should run into the street and stop a passer by? Should she try to contact the police herself? She must surely do something.
In the end she did none of these things. Because she was interrupted by the sound of a closing door from the landing above and turned to find a man descending the stairs. He was middle aged, respectable. His coat was obviously expensive. He carried a pair of pigskin gloves and -- like a stage prop from an Edwardian melodrama - a silver topped cane. He nodded to her as he passed and moved on into the street.
Lena was rooted to the spot. It was a moment before she was able to move and slowly retrace her steps. Upstairs she listened outside the door. From within she heard nothing. The keening had stopped. The woman's voice was silent. Not knowing what else to do she returned to her own room and sat on the bed.
The incident had unset