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Know Thy Neighbor   By:

Know Thy Neighbor by Elisabeth R. Lewis

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Know Thy Neighbor


Illustrated by Tom Beecham

[Transcriber Note: This etext was produced from Galaxy Science Fiction February 1953. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]

[Sidenote: The terrors that inhabit the night may be even more awful in deceitful broad daylight! ]


It began with the dead cat on the fire escape and ended with the green monster in the incinerator chute, but still, it wouldn't be quite fair to blame it all on the neighborhood....

The apartment house was in the heart of the district that is known as "The Tenderloin" that section of San Francisco from Ellis to Market and east from Leavenworth to Mason Street. Not the best section.

To Ellen's mind, it was an unsavory neighborhood, but with apartments so hard to get and this one only $38.00 a month and in a regular apartment building with an elevator and all well, as she often told the girls at the office, you can't be too particular these days.

Nevertheless, it was an ordeal to walk up the two blocks from Market Street, particularly at night when the noise of juke boxes dinned from the garish bars, when the sidewalks spilled over with soldiers and sailors, with peroxided, blowsy looking women and the furtive gamblers who haunted the back rooms of the innocent appearing cigar stores that lined the street. She walked very fast then, never looking to left or right, and her heart would pound when a passing male whistled.


But once inside the apartment house lobby, she relaxed. In spite of its location, the place seemed very respectable. She seldom met anyone in the lobby or the elevator and, except on rare occasions like last night, the halls were as silent as those in the swanky apartment houses on Nob Hill.

She knew by sight only two of her neighbors the short, stocky young man who lived in 410, and Mrs. Moffatt, in 404. Mrs. Moffatt was the essence of lavender and old lace, and the young man he was all right, really; you couldn't honestly say he was shady looking.

On this particular morning, the man from 410 was waiting for the elevator when Ellen came out to get her paper. He glanced up at the sound of the door and stared. Quickly, she shut the door again. She didn't like the way he looked at her. She was wearing a housecoat over her nightgown, and a scarf wrapped around her head to cover the bobbypins a costume as unrevealing as a nun's but she felt as though he had invaded her privacy with his stare, like surprising her in the bathtub.

She waited until she heard the elevator start down before opening her door again. The boy must have aimed from the stairs; her paper was several yards down the hall, almost in front of 404. She went down to get it.

Mrs. Moffatt must have heard Ellen's footsteps in the hall. An old lady with a small income (from her late husband, as she had explained to Ellen) and little to do, she was intensely interested in her neighbors. She opened the door of her apartment and peered out. Her thin white hair was done up in tight kid curlers. With her round faded blue eyes and round wrinkled apple cheeks, she looked like an inquisitive aged baby.

"Good morning," said Ellen pleasantly.

"Good morning, my dear," the old lady answered. "You're up early for a Saturday."

"Well, I thought I might as well get up and start my house cleaning. I didn't sleep a wink after four o'clock this morning anyway. Did you hear all that racket in the hall?"

"Why, no, I didn't." The old lady sounded disappointed. "I don't see how I missed it. I guess because I went to bed so late. My nephews you've seen them, haven't you? They're such nice boys. They took me to a movie last night."

"Well, I'm surprised you didn't hear it," said Ellen. "Thumping and scratching, like somebody was dragging a rake along the floor. I just couldn't get back to sleep... Continue reading book >>

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