Charles ambled down the hall with his cedar cane. Others said he had a bounce in his step, though that was probably his old fedora flopping about.
“Mr. Parkway! You have to go back to your room! Mr. Parkway!”
Nurses. They always get in the way. Charles kept walking.
“Hey, I’m talkin’ to you, old man!” The nurse seized him by the shoulder. It was Debbie. The bitch would probably see through the deaf-and-senile act, but he had to try.
“Huh? Oh, sorry Debbie. Did you need something?”
“I need you to get back to your room, Mr. Parkway. Do you have any idea what hour it is?”
“Oh. I’m sorry, Debbie. Restless legs. Pain in the ass—oh, pardon my French.” Charles used to have much more trouble with nurses. His cane was like having a bell wrapped around his neck. But he’d corked the bottom and put some felt over it to mute the noise. Still, Debbie was a tenacious bitch and would find him no matter what important case he was on.
“Let me guess, Mr. Parkway. You’re solving a mystery?”
Charles smacked his lips for a while. He should probably just be honest. No use pussyfooting around this. “Debbie, there are some damn murders going on around here. You know Mrs. Fennel who fell out of bed and broke her neck? Not an accide—”
“Now that’s nothin’ to joke about, Mr. Parkway! You just get on back and get yourself to bed. Come on, now.” She hooked her arm around his and Charles violently pulled away.
“Take your hands offa me! I got to get to Mrs. Tenenbaum’s room! She’s next, for chrissakes! It fits tha pattern! It fits the pattern!”
Debbie kept trying to grab him. Security would hear the ruckus and be here soon. But Charles wouldn’t be stopped until he’d thwarted the serial killer.
By the time he’d made it only a few labored steps, Debbie yanking at his sleeve, the entire community was starting to wake up. Doors were squeaking open, including the one down the hall that belonged to Mrs. Tenenbaum. Jack Mercer, of all people, walked out and was holding the door open for her.
“It’s you! Jack, I’ll kill ya! I’ll kill ya!” Charles started shuffling forward, waving his cane around. But before he could take his second step, Chris the security guy was on him like gangbusters. “It’s him, goddammit! It’s him!”
Chris stood guard in his room. “You gotta stop runnin’ around like that, Mr. Parkway. You’re actin’ crazy.”
Charles’s breathing got a bit more ragged. He started hacking and Chris got him a bowl to spit out his phlegm. He wouldn’t be surprised if one of these days he found his lung sitting in that bowl when he opened his eyes again.
“Yeah…” he waved at Chris to tell him to back off a little. Who would have thought the killer would be Mercer? He was an old marine, fit as a fiddle. Physically, he was capable of it, but he was a goddamn war hero. “I’ll be fine.”
A few days later, Mrs. Tenenbaum had died in bed. They said it was probably just her heart. Debbie came to visit Charles, who was still on high supervision to see that he didn’t do anything “crazy” again.
“Mrs. Tenenbaum died last night, Charles. I know you two were pretty close.”
“It was Mercer, dammit!”
“Don’t talk like that to me, Mr. Parkway! Those are angry words and I don’t deserve that.”
“Feh! You sound like my ex-wife.”
“I know you’re upset, but please don’t curse at me again. Understand?”
“Debbie, you know something’s going on. Be reasonable.”
“I’m tryin’ my best, Mr. Parkway. You’re the one who’s not being reasonable. Some people just die. It was just her time.”
Nurses. All they do is make life hard and make excuses for death. Which side are they on, really?
“Yeah, I got it.”
Debbie didn’t seem happy with this answer, but she swallowed whatever she was going to say. “I’ll leave you alone. We still got Chris guardin’ the door for your safety, Mr. Parkway. Don’t give him no trouble, you hear?”Charles just nodded.
“Good.” She closed the door and Charles sunk back into his bed, thinking about how he was going to have to die in this place.