Spying on the Neighbors

I live in a courtyard building. About a year ago, a quarrel broke out between my next door neighbor and the person catty corner from him. Somehow, the quarrel escalated from an angry exchange of words in the 3 a.m. hour to a restraining order, a lawsuit, and a camera being trained on his—and subsequently, my—front door.

Not being 100% on board with the whole filming my comings and goings part of the scenario, I took an interest in what was going down. The offended person, let’s call her Missy, started decorating her windows with message signs to tenants who passed her apartment. “This camera is legal, just ask the LAPD,” said one. Another spoke to Karma, and additional signs addressed peace, respect, and a community of “getting along.” Missy might have pasted a sign about getting along, but the problem was that passing her windows every day led to tension within the building.

I complained to my landlord and—not willing to trust a scotch taped sign–checked about the legalities of the camera with the LAPD. It seemed there was nothing I could do. My neighbor, let’s call him Guy, moved out after over a decade of living in my building. The harassment wasn’t worth it, he said.

One afternoon, while doing my usual writing/tweeting/FB’ing/checking email/pretending-to-get-through-a-draft thing, I heard a loud knock on a door. Being a nosy curious person by nature, I stopped playing FreeCell and listened. It appeared that someone in my building was being evicted.

Now, I’m too sly to press my nose up against the window in such situations, but I did catch a name: Missy. And later that day, after realizing I have ample amateur sleuthing skills in my arsenal, I checked the directory and the mailboxes, came up with a last name, hopped on the internet, and discovered who I was dealing with. Let’s just say, there was a history of similar behavior out there.

And in the next 30 seconds, I saw a potential cozy mystery unfold before my eyes. Clearly Missy would be the victim. And suspects? Easy:

1. Guy, who had a restraining order—that was now part of his permanent record–filed against him.

2. Resident Artist, who had had numerous smoking complaints lodged against her.

3. Landlord, who had been ignored after multiple warnings about silly things like overdue rent.

4. Previous apartment manager, who had evicted her too.

5. Former boss in the TV industry, who had Missy’s character written off on the first week of her show, for unexplained reasons.

(It really is fascinating how much dirt you can dig up on someone when you come to terms with your inner amateur sleuth.)

I don’t know what became of the real Missy. After the eviction papers were served, she kept a low profile. My started getting egged once a week, coincidentally on the same days I heard the shower running in her apartment. On the weekend she moved out, her mother gave me the finger.

And funny thing, my car hasn’t been egged since.

PS: On a personal note, to celebrate Doris Day’s 90th Birthday, I’m kicking off a Mad for Mod fundraiser for Doris Day’s Animal Foundation. I didn’t want to hijack the spying theme from the Mysteristas, but if you’re interested, click here.


Author: Diane Vallere

Diane is the author of four mystery series. Like her character Samantha Kidd, she is a former fashion buyer; like her character Madison Night, she loves Doris Day movies, like her character Polyester Monroe, she lives in California; and like her character Margo Tamblyn, she has a thing for costumes. Find out more at http://dianevallere.com/.

9 thoughts on “Spying on the Neighbors”

  1. Y’all Californians are so restrained! On my block, we would all have been out on our front porches, watching. And then we’d have a round-robin of gossip sessions about it. Some people do seem to be natural-born trouble-makers. My brother’s former neighbor used to call the city for things like brush piles, minor parking violations, any trivial harassing complaint he could think of. They threw a party when he moved out. I love it that you found out all that stuff about her. Good practice!


  2. My neighbor’s son and his girlfriend (and before her, his ex-wife), used to have screaming arguments anywhere, all hours of the night. Too bad I wasn’t quite into crime fiction writing then – what material. And I would totally read this book! LOL


  3. Great post, Diane. Seems your quiet snooping was way more effective than the guy who decided to move, and she probably never knew who did it.


  4. Awesome! Clearly, I need to pay more attention to my neighbors–but we’re all five acres apart, so it’s not quite the same. This would make a great, fun story. Anna–I love your comment! I think I’d join in the front-porch watching session, but sit in the back.


  5. I’m sure my neighbors know as much about me as I know about them. “What’s up with that woman who’s always on her computer? Some days she doesn’t ever leave the building!”


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