A car horn kept me up past midnight. At first it sounded like an impatient driver signaling a friend, but it persisted for another nine or ten minutes. It would periodically subside for a few restful minutes, then return again and again and again. It was probably a car alarm, but my imagination suggested a few darker possibilities: Was someone calling for help? Were they slumped over the wheel with chest pains? Fending off a car-jacker? I called the police.
They said someone was already sent out. Twenty minutes later there was still no relief. Finally I got dressed, expecting to find all my neighbors on the sidewalk in their robes and slippers. Instead, the street was empty. I heard a woman's tortured wail coming from the window of a nearby high-rise: "I'm trying to sleeeeeep!"
I spotted the offending vehicle a block away on Hutchinson Street. A man was hanging around the car. I decided not to go closer, thinking maybe I'd stumbled into some domestic disturbance. I flagged down a passing police car. "Are you looking for the car alarm?" I asked the officers.
"No, we got a call about a woman screaming."
I identified the source of her torment and returned to bed, but the horn persisted. I called the police again, and finally the irritating siren was silenced.
The next morning I inspected the vehicle more closely. It was a gray Subaru station wagon with a few children's toys piled in the back. Someone had stuck a typed note under its windshield wipers: "If this car's burglar alarm goes off one more time and we loose [sic] sleep, you will not see your car in one piece. Park this piece of shit in the park but not around here anymore." It was signed "serious meaning neighbor."