The first scream could have been playful, but the second was unmistakably that of a woman in distress in the street below my apartment. A few seconds of silence, and then another. Loud and long, piercing the night air and the calm of our building.
Alone in my apartment, instantly I recalled the legendary New York incident where dozens of apartment dwellers apparently ignored the screams of a woman being murdered.
In the silence that followed, trepidation and guilt battled within me. I could remain safely in my apartment pretending I hadn't heard a thing, or investigate what could quite possibly be a nasty situation.
I may not be blessed with an excess of bravery, but a middle-class upbringing and a Quaker education have imbued within me a healthy dose of the oppressive western guilt complex.
Predictably guilt won. I put on my shoes and left the safety of my apartment. As I waited for the elevator the couple next door emerged. At least I wouldn't have to face the situation alone, but I could tell his enthusiasm matched my own. By the time we reached the street another resident, armed with a baseball bat and the fearless attitude of a man who has won a few knife fights, had joined us.