It was an explosive sound to jolt me right out of bed at 3 a.m., a fist bashing on the metal door to my Greenwich Village apartment, accompanied by the slurred threats of somebody drunk out of his skull.
No distant car alarm, this sound -- big trouble was just one not-so-sturdy lock away.
I jumped out of bed, raced to the door and leaned against it with all my weight. The lunatic on the other side kept pounding at the door, demanding to be let in, threatening to kill me if I didn't.
"Call 911 and tell them what's happening," I told my wife, forcing myself to sound calm.
Kim happens to be British. She grew up in the English countryside, riding horses and walking labrador retrievers. She's gotten most of her ideas about Manhattan life by watching "Sex and the City." Now, suddenly, we were in the middle of a "Law and Order" episode.
She called the cops, gave them our address, then hurried to the door to join me.
In the midst of the madness, I felt a warm glow for my wife. What a partner, I thought as that lunatic continued his pounding -- she's totally unafraid, ready to brace her weight against the door along with mine.
But no. With her keen eye for detail, Kim happened to notice that I was naked. And if there's such a thing as the textbook Proper Brit, it would be my wife.
"Charlie," she said, "you can't stand there like that in your birthday suit. Get your knickers on."
"Knickers," in case you wondered, are underpants. Kim held my Jockey shorts open for me, leg holes good and wide.
This was of vital importance to Kim, a superb TV producer who, like all good media people, was thinking ahead to the next day. She knew that if the intruder got in and killed me, WRITER SLAIN! was going to be a far less painful New York Post headline to my mother than NAKED WRITER SLAIN!
Any way you look at it -- that's class.
So I lifted one foot, stuck it in a leg hole. Did the same with the other foot. With both my hands pressed against the door, Kim was good enough to pull the shorts up to my waist for me.
Now I could die with dignity.
The pounding continued. I looked through the peephole and was stunned to see that the guy on the other side of the door was the man who lived directly above me. It hit me all at once -- drunk or stoned, he'd lost count of the flights and thought I was in his apartment!
Somehow I managed to convey this to him. The pounding stopped.
"Oh," he murmured meekly. "Sorry, man."
He slid a twenty dollar bill under the door -- to pay for damages? -- and went upstairs. A red strobe light cut across our windows. Kim went to take a look.
"The bloody cops have arrived!' she announced, tossing me a t-shirt.
We buzzed them up -- two uniforms, one young, the other gray-haired. We told them what had happened. They went upstairs to investigate and the guy answered the door with a knife in his hand. They had to cuff him. The young one stayed with him while the older one came down to give us two options -- press charges, or forget the whole thing.
The lock to my door was literally bent. "If he buys me a new lock," I said, "we'll forget the whole thing."
The cop nodded. "Yeah, well, talk to him when he's sober, 'cause right now he's outta his skull."
(Note: my neighbor later apologized and bought me a new lock. He moved away a short time later.)
So the cops uncuffed my neighbor, who by this time had passed out. Then both cops came back to say good night. It was a long good night, a thumbs-hooked-in-the-gun-belts good night, because they were racking up chest-thumping points with my wife, who happens to be a stunning blonde with pouty lips.
Kim wasn't doing much to speed up their departure, standing there wearing nothing more than a baggy t-shirt, wedding rings and toenail polish. The cops loved her accent and probably thought she was fascinated by everything they were saying, but this might not have been so.
That's because Kim's got these perky seagull-shaped eyebrows that give her a fascinated look, even when she's bored or daydreaming. Of course the cops didn't know that.
But at last they were out of tales to tell, and it was time to roll the credits on this caper, right? Ten-four, good buddy. Bed time at last.
Well, not quite.
Kim shook her hair, clasped at her hands at waist level and cocked her head as only the English can.
"Shall we all have a cup of tea, then?"
I'm not a gambling man, but I'll bet next month's rent that this was the first time in the history of the NYPD that a pair of cops ever got an offer like that at three in the morning.
So as the man who'd threatened to kill me fifteen minutes earlier slumbered away ten feet overhead, Kim "got the kettle on," as the English say, and her only regret was that we didn't have any crumpets to go with it.
Hard to find crumpets in New York City, you know. Such an uncivilized place.
Charlie Carillo's latest novel is "One Hit Wonder." He's a producer for the TV show "Inside Edition."