NEIGHBORLY DUTY • by Michael D. Davis

“This is stupid,” Burt said. He walked behind his wife down the hill. The darkness fell from the sky like an old lady in her shower.

“I don’t see why,” Cleo said. “We heard a bang and now we’re checking on our neighbor. What’s so stupid about that?”

“It could’ve been a gunshot.”

“Oh, it was not.”

“Yes, it could’ve and now we’re walking into our own deaths. Having not called the police and with no flashlights, may I add, something we both forgot.”

“Just shut up, nothing’s gonna happen and I thought you had a flash— damn, I just stepped in something.”

“Serves you right,” Burt said. “Anyways, I don’t even like Merrick Glassrope; even his name is ridiculous. And he’s always playing those damn show tunes over there, blaring the stuff. Who listens to show tunes? You listen to oldies, rock, even maybe some of this music that you can’t understand a damn thing they’re saying. It would be fine if he blared anything else, but show tunes? That’s not even the type of music you turn up full blast. If he’s gonna play it, keep it low for god’s sake.  I mean, I don’t know or trust anyone who listens to show tunes. So, why would I check on his well-being?”

“Because you’re a good person,” Cleo said, reaching the door and knocking.

“I don’t think I’m a good person. Nice, okay. But good, I don’t think so.”

“He’s not answering.”

“Well, we did all we can do; back home we go.”

“The door’s unlocked, let’s go in.”

“That’s breaking and entering.”

“With good intentions,” Cleo said. She entered the house, deaf to Burt’s objections, and he followed like a sheep at the back of the flock.

“We just committed a crime,” Burt said.

“Mr. Glassrope could be trapped under a fallen bookcase or something.”

Coming into an opening, Cleo felt the wall and switched on a light. Merrick Glassrope lay on the floor of his living room, out cold.

“Maybe they got him mid show tune.”

“Is he dead? I don’t see any blood,” Cleo said.

“His chest is moving.”

“Thank God he’s not dead.”

“Yeah, praise the heavens, he’s probably dead drunk. While you’re goin’, ‘Oh, no, it wasn’t a gunshot’,” Burt said in a high mocking voice, “ ‘but maybe he’s trapped under a bookcase.’ Christ almighty.”

“So, it’s a good thing we checked.”

“What? This isn’t good. I don’t want to have found this.”

Cleo had stopped listening; she’d grown very stiff with her eyes becoming as round as pop cans. Without unclenching her teeth or moving her lips Cleo said in a rapid whisper, “Masked killer in the house.”

“What? I can’t hear you.”

Cleo repeated herself slowly.

“Phyllis Diller is a mouse?”

Cleo pointed at the hall doorway with only her eyes and said, “Masked Killer! Masked Killer! Is in the house.”

“Oh, a masked killer in the house, oh shit… grab a weapon.”

Burt looked around but couldn’t find anything. He turned back to Cleo and she was holding a brass candlestick.

“What? Are we in a board game?” Burt said. “We need to call the cops. I don’t have my cell, do you?”

Cleo shook her head.

“Then let’s just get out of here.”

Burt turned towards the door. Cleo dropped the candlestick, running out of the house like a four-legged track star. As Burt tried to exit, he tripped and took a header on the carpet just as a man in a mask put a bullet hole in the wall where his head used to be. Burt picked up the brass candlestick which lay next to him and heaved it over his shoulder as he got to his feet and ran out. The candlestick flew through the air and struck the masked man in the head, laying him out next to Mr. Glassrope.

The following day, Burt and Cleo were the subject of a small media frenzy for single-handedly capturing the masked man and saving the life of their neighbor. In one interview Burt said, “I chucked the candlestick right at him. I knew my life depended on stopping him.”

“Even though now we know that the sound you heard was a set of firecrackers thrown at Mr. Glassrope’s house and many others in town last night by a local juvenile delinquent: What made you go over there after already hearing what you believed to be a gunshot?” one reporter said.

“Wasn’t sure if it was a shot at first, but me and the wife thought it was our neighborly duty to check on him. I said to her, heck, he could be trapped under a bookcase or somethin’.”

Michael D. Davis was born and raised in a small town in Iowa. A high school graduate and avid reader, he has aspired to be a writer for years. He has written over thirty short stories, ranging in genre from comedy to horror from flash fiction to novella, some of which have been published in Out of the Gutter Online, Near to the Knuckle online magazine, and The Dark City mystery and crime magazine. He continues in his accursed pursuit of a career in the written word, and in his hunt Michael’s love for stories in all genres and mediums will not falter.

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