As they tidied up the TV room, Ryan explained. “He did love her. So much he sacrificed everything for her.” They took the two chairs back to the games room.
“But if he loved her, why didn’t he go with her?”
“She was happy and safe with Laszlo. And he’s her husband. He did what he thought was best for her.”
Nora thought about it. “And then he had to leave his café and everything behind. He really sacrificed everything for her.”
She could see the wheels turning behind Ryan’s eyes as they straightened out the TV room chairs, picked up the tissues off the floor, and turned out the lights. She could turn him around. Keeping one eye on his face, she continued. “I thought he was a sleazy selfish bastard, but he actually put himself in danger for her.” Ryan’s face contorted. She was reaching him. “He broke the law. Gave up everything that mattered to him. You’re right, Ryan. Best movie ever!”
He grinned. They went down the hall to check on the residents. At the other end of the hall, one of the apes appeared. Nora and Ryan deeked into Mr. and Mrs. Edwards’s room.
“He has a key to every room here,” Nora said.
Ryan still looked uncertain. “And he’s a medium-sized t-rex.”
“I thought they were intelligent, comparatively. More of a brontosauraus.”
“Point is, how are we supposed to subdue him long enough to get those keys off him?”
Nora looked at Mrs. Edwards. Mrs. Edwards looked at Mr. Edwards. Mr. Edwards looked back at Nora and said, “Create a diversion.”
“You mean like, take off my shirt?” Nora asked.
Mr. Edwards said, “Once, about a year ago, one of the residents had a heart attack. The night nurse called Ray and Ben to take him to hospital.”
“I think it was closer to two years ago, dear. John Taylor was still alive.”
“No, it was after John Taylor’s funeral.”
“Which was two years ago. It was when the night nurse was Leslie.”
“Cole’s been the night nurse for over a year.”
“That’s what I meant.”
“So it could have been a year and a half ago.”
Nora flapped her arms in the air and stomped her foot. “It doesn’t matter how many years ago so-and-so had a heart attack! The point is, it’s an excellent idea!”
Ryan said, “So who wants to have a heart attack?”
Mr. Edwards raised his hand.
Mrs. Edwards freaked out. “Ralph, no!”
“I won’t have a real heart attack, Jean. I’ll fake it.”
Mrs. Edwards’s concern did not fade much. “How are you going to convincingly fake a heart attack?”
“Look. Jean. You were a theatre teacher for thirty years. You were the star of seven different community theatre projects. You were Juliet, for god’s sake!”
Nora and Ryan were duly impressed. They both gave Mrs. Edwards a round of polite applause.
“I reckon I have the easy part. I’ll lie on the bed clutching my chest and moaning, and you do your thing.”
“Yes!” Nora exclaimed. “And me and Ryan will freak out, too, and at some point while the ape is trying to deal with us, one of us will grab the keys off him!”
“It could work,” said Mrs. Edwards.
“It has to,” said Ryan. “Mrs. Edwards, break a leg.”
A very sly look came over Mrs. Edwards’s face, and she clasped her two hands together at her front, rose her face to the ceiling, and let out the most soul-chilling scream Nora had ever heard.
Nora mouthed wow to Ryan.
Mr. Edwards leapt onto the bed and gripped at his chest, moaning.
Mrs. Edwards screamed again. Mrs. Tillynaught appeared at the doorway.
“Mrs. Tillynaught,” Nora said, in her best freaking-out voice, “Mr. Edwards is having a heart attack! Go get Ray!”
Mrs. Tillynaught looked from one to another of them. Mrs. Edwards screamed again and fell across her husband.
“Ralph! Ralph! Stay with us, my darling!”
Mrs. Balanafeel appeared in the room.
“It’s Ralph,” said Mrs. Tillynaught. She pushed past Mrs. Balanafeel and headed down the corridor.
Mr. Greenfield entered the room. “What’s going on?”
Mrs. Edwards was now sobbing over her husband, who winked at Nora. Nora gave him a frown. Stay in character, Mr. Edwards! “It’s Mr. Edwards. I think he’s having a heart attack or something!”
“Oh, good lord! What are his symptoms?”
Ryan and Nora exchanged glances. The ape would be there any second.
“I’m a paramedic, I can help. What are his symptoms?”
Nora whispered in his ear, “mr. Greenfield, we’re creating a diversion so we can get the master keys off Ben or Ray, whichever one it is on patrol this evening, and break into Mrs. King’s office and find out what she’s up to. Are you in?”
Mr. Greenfield tugged his earlobe and said, “I’ve already taken out my hearing aids for the night. What exactly did you say, Nora?”
And then Ben appeared.
“Ben!” Nora shouted.
“Ray,” he corrected her in a grunting voice.
Mrs. Edwards wailed. Mr. Edwards rolled into the fetal position and groaned harder. He sounded like a zombie off the Walking Dead. Mrs. Tillynaught and Mrs. Balanafeel continued to freak out, wringing their hands and blabbering.
Ben bent over Mr. Edwards and pushed Mrs. Edwards to the side. “What are his symptoms?”
Nora focused all her mental attention on Mr. Greenfield. Please get it. Please get it.
She and Ryan moved closer to Ben’s backside. The keys hung tantalizingly on a clip on his belt.
Mr. Greenfield cleared his throat and looking at Nora, then at Mr. Edwards, then at Ben, he said, “He appears to be suffering from excruciating chest pain.”
Ben straightened up. “How do we know it’s not indigestion? How much meatloaf did you have tonight, Ralph?”
Mr. Edwards groaned louder, clutched his chest more firmly, and tucked his knees in. Mrs. Edwards, who had not stopped wailing, flung herself over her husband again and sobbed, “Ben, do something! Help him!”
Mr. Greenfield squeezed in and grabbed Mr. Edwards’s wrist. “He’s sweating and his pulse is erratic. You need to call an ambulance.”
Mrs. Tillynaught and Mrs. Balanafeel resumed shrieking. All the other residents were now gathered in the hall, chattering, sobbing, and wailing. Nora looked at Ryan. The diversion was working. The keys might be within their reach. Nora edged closer to Ben’s belt.
Now Ben had his hand on Mr. Edwards’s wrist. Mr. Edwards opened his eyes for a moment and coughed a bit, then snapped them closed again. Mrs. Edwards rolled around on the bed, making such a fuss, and shouting at Ben to save him, help him, do something, and at Mr. Edwards to stay with her.
“Breathe, my darling! Stay with us!”
Ben looked around at all the old people going nuts around him. Nora got closer. She reached out for Mr. Edwards’s forehead with her left hand, and hovered her right hand next to the belt clip.
“Do something!” Mrs. Edwards screamed in Ben’s face, making him even more flustered. “Oh, I can’t bear this!” She wailed harder, setting off another wave of shrieking and caterwauling in the room and the hall beyond.
Ben, not too bright and easily flustered, said, “Okay! We’ll get him to hospital. You—“ to Ryan, “Help me with him. Get his feet. We’ll carry him out to my car.”
Ben jostled against Nora a few times, getting Mr. Edwards arranged in a straighter position on the bed and then getting his burly arms around the frail old man. Nora put her fingers around the clip. As Ben lifted his end of Mr. Edwards off the bed, his movement knocked Nora’s hand away. The keys jingled tantalizingly as Ben and Ryan staggered towards the door, through the mob of sobbing old people.
Mr. Edwards flicked his eyes open long enough to glance at Nora. She gave him a slight nod and resumed fingering Ben’s belt. The old people pressed against them. Finally, Nora’s fingers found their mark and with a squeeze and a tug, the keys were hers.
Over Ben’s shoulder, Nora gave the thumbs-up to Mrs. Edwards. Mrs. Edwards masked her joy with another loud round of wailing. She gripped Mr. Edwards’s hand in hers and must have passed the message along to him with a special squeeze. Mr. Edwards moaned and groaned at each jostle from the stomping of Ben’s monstrous feet and the concerned strokes and caresses from his neighbours.
Nora held back, and with the noise and hubbub to cover, dropped the massive ring of a hundred keys onto the floor and tucked it under the Edwards’s desk with her toes, then took up the rear of the procession to Ben’s car. Suddenly her blood froze. What if his car key was on that ring?
Luck was on their side. The car was unlocked and Bed merely indicated for Mr. Greenfield to open the passenger side door. Ben and Ryan stooped and placed Mr. Edwards on the seat. Ryan looped the seatbelt across the old man’s little chest and leaned over to buckle him up while Ben went round to the other side.
Nora came over and gave Mr. Edwards a quick victory sign while Ben was going around the car, to which Mr. Edwards responded with an exhausted smile. She leaned in. “Keep it up, Mr. Edwards. You’re doing great!” Mr. Edwards resumed moaning as they closed the door.
Mrs. Edwards slipped in the back seat.
As he got behind the wheel and started the car (keys left in the ignition), Ben said to her, “Where do you think you’re going?”
Mrs. Edwards appeared flabbergasted at the question. “Why, I’m going with you, young man! I absolutely insist that I accompany my husband to the hospital!”
Mr. Greenfield got in the other side. “I’m a paramedic. You’ll need my skills if, god forbid, he gets worse before we reach the hospital.”
“No. It’s against the rules.”
Mr. Greenfield’s knowledge would be useful at the hospital. A trained doctor would be able to tell that Mr. Edwards was not having a heart attack immediately, and they’d be back to OG in no time at all. They needed all the time they could get to investigate Mrs. King’s office and the two store rooms.
“But—“ said Mrs. Edwards.
“Rules is rules,” said Ben. “We don’t have the insurance to take you folks off property. Bad enough I’m taking Ralph here in my own personal car.”
“You know what would be even worse?” Nora said to Ben from the open passenger seat door, across Mr. Edwards’s head. “If Mr. Edwards here died before you get there. Imagine. What would happen then?”
Mrs. Edwards wailed. Mr. Greenfield nodded. “Could be a lot of trouble for you, son.”
Ben considered. “Fine, you can come. But Jean, you’re staying.”
Nora nodded at Mrs. Edwards. They appeared to have Ben fairly convinced of the heart attack, and they had the keys. Mr. Greenfield would make sure they were kept in the hospital for as long as possible. He was a clever old cookie.
Mrs. Edwards grudgingly got out of the car. Nora gave Mr. Edwards a squeeze on his shoulder and closed the door.
As soon as the car was out of the parking lot and out of sight, Nora said loudly, “Let’s get going!”
“Poor Ralph. I do hope he’ll be okay,” said Mrs. Tillynaught. Mrs. Balanafeel was still sniffling.
Ryan raised his hands and got everyone’s attention. “Ladies and Gentlemen. Mr. Greenfield will be fine. It’s all a fake. Nora here got Ben’s keys off him and now we’re going to look for clues in Mrs. King’s office. We need a volunteer to watch for Ben to come back.”
The old people didn’t quite get it at first. There was a lot of chatter amongst them and finally, Mrs. Tillynaught said, “I’ll do it.”
“What let’s do,” said Mrs. Caplan, “Is have three people stay on the look out. When they get back, one of us will rush to Mrs. King’s office and alert you, while the other two make sure to delay Ben’s progress as much as possible and make sure he does not come near the office until we know the coast is clear.”
“Sounds like an excellent plan,” said Ryan with a thumbs-up.
The old people selected their look-out team and the rest of the group went back to the main entrance, which was locked, as always.
“How are we going to get back in?”
“Nora has the keys.”
“No I don’t; I stashed them in the Edwards’s room just in case Ben noticed they were missing.”
“That was smart,” Ryan said with a quick smile at her. Nora was glad it was dark out because she knew that adorable smile and spurt of flattery would have her turning bright red.
One of the old people must have spotted the night nurse obliviously playing his video game at the reception desk, because he suddenly strode towards the door and pressed on the buzzer. Everyone looked at the reception desk. Startled, the night nurse looked up from his video screen, his doughy face bathed blue in its light. Slowly and with a look of perplexity, he rose and peeked out in the direction of the main entrance. His eyes widened when he saw in the dimness a sea of elderly faces. Nora could just imagine his stream of consciousness: That’s all of them! How did they get out there? What’s going on? Am I going to get in trouble?
Slowly, he reached down and pressed the unlock button beside the reception desk. The door clicked loudly and Ryan pushed it open. The old people paraded in, some in their jammies and dressing robes. One of the old ladies even had mud mask drying and flaking off her face. They each gave him a polite nod or wave as they passed through reception and through the dining hall towards their rooms. Nora brought up the rear.
“Thanks,” she said.
The night nurse didn’t even answer. He just watched the proceedings with a look of utter confusion, and finally sat back down and resumed his game.
Mrs. Tillynaught, Mrs. Balanafeel, and Mrs. Caplan stayed at the patio entrance, with the patio lights on and the dining hall lights off so that they wouldn’t be visible when Ben returned, and everyone else reassembled in the Edwards’s room. Nora dropped to her knees and reached under the desk. Her fingers found the cold steel of her prize and she pulled it out to the awe of her adoring crowd.
There were dozens of keys on the ring. Nora had to try about half of them before the door opened, with Ryan over her shoulder saying inane stuff like, “Nope. Nope. Try the next one. That’s upside down. Try that big one.”
Mrs. King’s office actually had a window just behind the desk. It probably looked out over the garden, but just to be on the safe side, they didn’t turn the lights on. Using their cell phone flashlights, they split up the search so Nora started with the big wooden desk and Ryan started with the file cabinet.
There was nothing interesting on the desk or in the drawers. The only thing Nora found even mildly interesting was an empty stainless steel flask that smelled of alcohol tucked in the bottom drawer with some rolls of tape and other stationery.
She turned on Mrs. King’s computer. It took a while to boot up, and then of course asked for a password.
“Check this out,” said Ryan, still rifling through the first drawer of the file cabinet. She went over and looked over his shoulder with her cell phone light shining into the file he had open.
“This is for Mrs. Balanafeel, right? She comes from Milwaukee. That’s like, eight states away. And her entire family lives in Milwaukee, and most of them are dead. She gets pension but her family’s jobs and incomes are all listed here, and they’re all low income. That’s weird, right?”
“Weird that they list the family members’ incomes,” Nora agreed.
“But you know what’s really weird? They’re all like this.” He closed Mrs. Balanafeel’s file and started showing Nora the other files. “They all come from far away. They all have low incomes, but they all collect pensions.”
“Mrs. Edwards was saying that OG receives their pensions and gives them an allowance.”
“Right. All the residents are in here, except you know what I noticed?”
“Mrs. Rubens isn’t in here.”
Nora registered that information. “She just died a couple of days ago. She wasn’t on the desk or anywhere else.”
Ryan said, “We have to see what’s in the storage room.”
“Maybe we can find out what they do with the bodies.”
Ryan closed the drawer and they booked it to the first storage room.
“Nora, lock the door,” he said.
She ran back and started rifling through the keys again. Shit! Which one was it? They all looked the same. She must have flipped through three quarters of the keys this time, with Ryan behind her saying, “Come on, hurry!” He looked at his cell phone. “They’ve been gone half an hour. How long do you think they’ll be?”
Nora shrugged and started trying various keys in the first storage room door. “Maybe take ten minutes or so to get there, and then…”
“I went to the emergency room once. We had to fill in a bunch of paperwork about who your family doctor was and stuff before they would even look at you.”
“but he’s a little old man having a heart attack. You’d think they’d take him straight in.”
“you’d think. Who pays for it? Do the old people all have insurance?”
“I don’t know. Maybe the home gets some kind of group rates.”
“It didn’t mention anything in the files. They all did have pretty decent looking medical records, though.”
They went into the storage room, Nora holding her breath.
First of all, there were file cabinets inside. Banks of file cabinets. There was a photocopy machine, a laminating machine, a sort of work table with a cutter and some other mechanical tools on it.
“This must be where they doctor the paperwork,” Ryan said.
Nora wasn’t sure if he was joking. “Right?” she answered.
Ryan pulled open the top file drawer. Right in the front, there was Mrs. Rubens’s file. Behind her, Mr. Carpenter. And then after that, Mrs. Cranberry.
“They’re in there in the order that they died.”
“The ones in Mrs. King’s office weren’t in alphabetical order, or order of age, or anything like that.”
“They’re in order of death!” Nora started freaking out. “Who’s next?”
Ryan looked at her. He didn’t remember who was in the front of the file cabinet.
“I have to go back and look,” Nora whispered.
“We don’t’ have time! We have to figure this out!”
“I need to know!”
Ryan took her by the shoulders and looked into her eyes. “Nora. If we figure out what’s going on, and find some actual evidence, nobody will be next. Let’s just get this figured out, okay?”
Nora nodded. He was right. They had lots of evidence already, but none of it made any sense and it didn’t add up to anything. Suddenly she had an idea. “Look at the intake dates. The dates they arrived. Mr. Edwards was saying that nobody dies until they’ve been there at least three years with no visits.”
Ryan flipped through the files. “Shine your light in here. Just here,” he said, pointing. He read out the dates as he flipped through the files.
“Mrs. Rubens came in on October 17, 2013. Mr. Carpenter… June fifth, 2013. Mrs. Cranberry… January 12, 2013. And behind her, we have a Mrs. Edinburg, who arrived here on December 24, 2012 and died on January 18th of this year. Right behind her, Mr. Edinburg. Arrived December 24. Died February 1st.”
They looked at each other. “Definitely killing them in order.” Nora felt like she was going to throw up and cry and scream all at the same time.
“Definitely. But how?”
“I think we should take these.”
“No, Nora. If we take these, someone will notice for sure. I know what; I’ll take pictures of them.”
Ryan started systematically pulling the papers out and photographing them with his phone.
“How about the death certificates? Get copies of them, too.”
Ryan flipped through Mrs. Rubens’s file. His mouth set in a grim line across his face. He flipped through it again. Then one more time, slowly. “There’s nothing in here.”
Nora frowned. “Maybe it hasn’t arrived yet? Try Mr. Carpenter.”
Flip flip flip flip flip. “Nope.” He tried Mrs. Cranberry’s, and then flipped through the Edinburgs’ files. “Nothing. None of these people have official certificates of any kind proving that they died.”
“But the coroner comes. Doesn’t he have to file paperwork?”
“Yeah, it’s like a birth certificate. You have to register it. Otherwise, the person is still supposed to do census, vote, pay taxes…”
Nora gasped: “Collect pension…”
They looked at each other, eyes wide, and simultaneously said, “Oh. My. God.”
Ryan said, “I think we’ve figured out why they’re killing the residents.”
“Yeah! But how?”
They looked around the room some more. Mostly stuff for doing photocopying and stuff. There were a couple of old computers and some other computer peripherals, dusty and boxed up, but nothing else.
“We’re running out of time. We’d better check out the other storage room,” Nora said.
“So we have proof that she’s killing them. But we need to find out how, and where she’s dumping the bodies, and then we can go to the police.”
“Right.” The glanced around to make sure they hadn’t left any evidence of their rooting about in the storage room, and then locked it behind themselves. This time Nora had set the keys down in a clever way with the key that had opened the door separated from the others as far as it would go, so she knew exactly which key to use.
Just as the lock clicked into place, Mrs. Balanafeel came tearing up the hall as fast as her walker could carry her.
“Nora! Ryan! They’re coming!”
She stopped her walker in front of them and huffed and puffed. Placing her hand on her chest, Mrs. Balanafeel said, “We saw the car pull up. The others are going to stall him for as long as they can, but you have to come back now.”
“We can’t, Mrs. Balanafeel. We have to check the other storage room. Just give me five minutes!”
The keys jangled loudly in Nora’s shaking hand as she tried one, then another, then another. Her fingers were sore from turning hard metal keys against firmly locked tumblers. After what seemed like ages, they were in.
They didn’t dare turn the light on. “Close the door and lock it,” Ryan said. “In case he comes down this way.”
“Mrs. Balanafeel, can you stay out here and give us some sort of signal if he comes this way?”
“I’ll knock on the door.”
“Um, no, that might be a bit too obvious. We don’t want Ben to know that we stole his keys and are looking through all the locked rooms. How about if you just… I don’t know…”
Ryan said, “Rattle the doorknob as if you’re lost. Tell Ben you’re so flustered you can’t find your room.”
“That’s an excellent idea!” Mrs. Balanafeel exclaimed. “I’ll do that if he comes.”
Ryan nodded at their adorable little comrade and closed the door. Nora turned the deadbolt with a clunk. They were now locked into a pitch black room, alone together.
The dim glow of Ryan’s phone screen gave them a small circumference of light. He looked at her and she looked at him. With the amount of adrenaline pumping through her body, and the incredible adorableness of his face just in front of hers in the darkness, she almost grabbed him and kissed him. The look on his face told her that he almost did the same. She did a flustered giggle and he turned on the flashlight of his phone. He shone it around the room.
It didn’t give them much to go by, but it appeared as though they had a lot of actual storage stuff in there: big brushed steel boxes, trunks, old beat up furniture, stacks of paper tied with string, all piled up everywhere. A hoarder’s delight.
“Over there,” Nora said, painting at the darkest corner of the room. Something had glinted over there
They went over there in the dark, careful not to knock their body parts on any of the stacks of storage.
“Hurry,” Ryan said, and he took her hand in his warm one. Nora felt the warmth of his skin flush through her entire body: up her arm, across her chest where it sped up her heart beat even more, down her other arm and down her legs, and up into her head where she was sure it turned her bright red. Once again, she was lucky for the darkness.
“Good call, Nora,” Ryan said, opening the steel door of a medical cabinet. “Lots of pills and stuff in here. Do you think something in here is being used to poison them?”
There were bandages, finger splints, and bottles of creams and iodine and rubbing alcohol, and heaps and heaps of pills.
There was a tappity-tap at the door.
Ryan and Nora looked at each other. “Shit!”
They heard muffled voices on the other side of the door.
“Let’s boogie!” Ryan said, closing the cabinet.
“Wait!” Something caught Nora’s eye. Off to one side, in a cardboard box, there were stacks of pill bottles exactly like the one Nora had found in Mrs. Rubens’s bed side table.
She snatched one dropped it in her pocket. Ryan eased the cabinet door closed silently, and they tiptoed to the storage room door.
Mrs. Balanafeel and Ben were conversing on the other side. Nora and Ryan held their breaths and listened.
“I’ll take you,” they heard Ben say. Ryan pumped his fist at Nora. They heard Mrs. Balanafeel’s walker creaking along into the distance. Nora’s heart felt like it was going to explode in her chest. Ryan was still holding her hand. She sucked in her breath. This was it. They might get caught. The whole thing might be over. Ryan put his hand on the deadbolt and slowly, gently turned it. The deadbolt slid silently open.
Nora reached up and smushed her lips against Ryan’s. He jolted, and then kissed her back. They grinned, opened the door, and slipped out into the hall.
Ryan pulled the door closed behind them gently and they started down the hall. “Wait.” Ryan stopped. “Aren’t you going to lock the door?”
Nora was so flustered from the chaotic kiss that she had fumbled the keys into a blob of identical steel sticks. Which one was it? She sighed as quietly as she could and, hands shaking harder than ever before in her entire life, started trying the keys in the lock one by one. Each key she had to waggle around to get it in the hole. Her sweaty fingers slipped on each one and kept getting them mixed up. Ryan held her other hand, whispering, “Come on, come on…”
Ben had to be on his way back by now. Unless Mrs. Balanafeel or one of the others had found another way to slow him down.
Finally the key she rammed into the lock turned and the deadbolt clunked into place.
They heard footsteps coming from around the corner.
“This way!” Pulling her gently, Ryan took off towards the carpeted corridor. Once muffled by the carpet, they ran down towards the main foyer. The night nurse glanced up from his game and then lowered his eyes again. Nothing fazed this guy.
Nora looked to Ryan. “What now?”
Ryan shrugged. “he could come this way. But what if for some idiotic reason he decides to come back that way?”
“That’s where his car is, right?”
They both looked at the night nurse at the same time.
“Come on,” Ryan said, with a pull towards the big, horseshoe shaped reception desk.
They ran around to the entrance gap and sat down on the floor, next to the night nurse’s chair, their backs to the inside of the desk.
They half giggled and half panted. They looked into each other’s eyes and then both glanced away again, Nora feeling red again.
Ryan pulled out his phone and checked through the paperwork he had photographed.
“Let’s see those pills,” he said.
Nora pulled them out of her pocket.
The light sounds of the video game filled the tense air.
“What do we do with the keys?”
Nora considered. “I say just drop them back in the Edwards’s room. He’ll just assume he dropped them in all the hubbub.”
Nora had a horrible thought. “What if he’s looking for them right now?”
Suddenly they heard the slappy sound of Ben’s massive flat feet crossing the foyer. Nora held her breath and bid her heart beat more quietly.
The footsteps stopped in front of the reception desk.
“Hey,” Ben’s voice said above them. Could he see their legs down beneath the desk? It did have quite an overhang. Nora dared not move.
Heaving an exasperated sigh, the night nurse slowly looked up from his video game. What a night he was having. “Hey,” he mumbled.
“So you had no idea that we had a heart attack victim here tonight?”
The night nurse sat gazing in the direction of Ben, silent and sullen. He did a slight shrug.
“You do realize that your job here is ‘night nurse’, right?”
Another sullen nod. “Yep. I got it.” The night nurse pointed at the tag on his nurse uniform bosom.
“So…” Ben growled, “if you hear, I don’t know, something like screaming, or if you see a big crowd of old farts on your monitors when they’re supposed to be tucked into their beddybies, maybe you could go check it out?”
“Yeah, I could do that.”
“So’s we don’t have an unexpected death on our hands?”
The night nurse rolled his eyes. “They’re all going to die sooner or later.”
“Well,” and the sound of Ben’s voice got nearer, as if he had leaned in toward the night nurse, “yes, that is true. But we prefer them to die peacefully, in their sleep, without the ladies crowded around screaming. Do you dig what I’m saying?”
“Yeah. Whatever.” The night nurse was absolutely unbelievable. How did he even have a job here? He must be related to Mrs. King, or be an ex-con who will do whatever they say. Maybe he was responsible for getting rid of the dead bodies!
With a grunt, Ben turned and slapped his flat feet towards the door. The night nurse buzzed him out and with the closing of the door, Nora and Ryan resumed breathing.
They waited until they heard the car engine start up and then disappear in the distance.
The night nurse had wasted not a second in getting back to his video game.
“Thanks,” Nora said as she got up off the floor and dusted off her jeans.
He glanced at her just long enough to convey the number of fucks he did not give.
Still holding hands, Nora and Ryan went down to see what happened with Mr. Edwards.
The Edwards, Mrs. Tillynaught, Mrs. Balanafeel, and Mr. Greenfield were all seated around the Edwards’s room chatting and laughing. Mr. Edwards was on his bed. Mrs. Edwards and Mrs. Tillynaught sat on her bed. Mrs. Balanafeel sat on one of the easy chairs and Mr. Greenfield sat in the desk chair, but had it turned to face the rest of them.
When Nora and Ryan entered, they all smiled and did golf claps.
“Good job, Nora! Well done, Ryan!”
Nora smiled around the room. “Well done, everyone! Mrs. Edwards, you’re the star of the show!” Mrs. Edwards beamed. “Mr. Edwards, bravo!”
There was more smiling and golf clapping. Nora pulled over the other easy chair and sat down, and Ryan sat on the bed next to Mr. Edwards.
“So tell us what happened at the hospital!” Nora said.
The old people all started talking at once. Then Mr. Edwards raised his hands and lowered his palms to calm them all down.