At 6:59pm, I heard what sounded like a woman’s scream and a thump.

It came from the other half of the duplex, and it was followed by frantic dog barking.

I spent 5 minutes trying to assure myself that it was nothing. Maybe one of the four dogs in residence knocked something over and yelped, and my suggestible imagination was responsible for it sounding like a woman’s voice.

Feeling a little ridiculous, I walked over to the apartment and rang the doorbell twice, but there was no answer. That nixed my “It was my neighbor, but she’s fine” theory. The lights were off in the front room, but what little I could see of the rest of the apartment was brightly lit. I didn’t know what her car looks like, so I had no way of verifying if she was actually home. I thought I remembered hearing a person-sized being walking around, but the neighbor was playing host to a Great Dane the size of a Manhattan apartment, and I wasn’t really paying attention.

I was 95% sure that there was absolutely nothing to worry about, but that 5% rankled me. The dogs were still barking ten minutes later. If someone was hurt and I did nothing, I don’t know how I could forgive myself.

I called my mom for advice, and she suggested I call 911, because the Emergency folks would have experience dealing with this kind of situation, and they could advise me. I did so, and they dispatched an ambulance just in case and told me to try to track down someone with a key. I called the landlady, but she didn’t have a copy, and she was in the Valley, 30-plus minutes away.

The ambulance arrived, and I told them the situation. We were joined by the neighbor above the unit in question (it’s a two-story building, split down the middle for four units total). He didn’t hear the noise in question, as he was watching TV, but as he’d been her neighbor a while, he had insight we didn’t. He tried calling her cell, and when she didn’t pick up, he left a message, telling her to call him. More indecision! Fortunately, he also knew what her car looks like, and he was able to confirm that her car was not parked behind the building. As there were plenty of empty spaces, we could be reasonably sure she wasn’t parked on the street.

The ambulance folks peeked through as many windows as they could reach (most of them are pretty far up, as the first floor is a short staircase above ground level), but they didn’t see anything. We were forced to conclude that it was a false alarm. I apologized for wasting their time, but the upstairs neighbor and my landlady both thanked me for being vigilant, so I felt a little less absurd.

The dogs continued to bark until 8:30, then were silent for about ten minutes. Then at 8:39, they started HOWLING in an eerie, unearthly chorus, before returning to silence a minute or so later.

And that was my evening. I can’t wait until my neighbor gets home.