Authors: Patricia Rockwell
Tags: #assisted living, #elderly, #Detective, #Humor, #Mysteries, #female sleuths, #seniors, #amateur sleuths, #cozy mystery
An Essie Cobb Senior Sleuth Mystery
Published by Patricia Rockwell at Smashwords
Copyright 2011 Patricia Rockwell
“Growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional.”
A room of grey and white-haired heads tipped down in unison as they perused their Bingo cards. At a square table covered with a white cloth sporting one lovely fake flower in a crystal vase, the wide eyes of Essie Cobb quickly scanned the Bingo cards before her. Then, seeing that none of her three cards (the most allowable at Happy Haven’s Wednesday night Bingo games) sported the called-out letter-number combination, she quickly peeked over the tops of her glasses and gazed around the room to see if any of her competitors would beat her to a win. As no player apparently had a “52” in their “G” column, the caller selected another circular wooden piece from the wire bin.
“N-36,” called out Sue Barber in a strong voice, glancing around the room as she waited for the senior players to check their cards.
This was Sue’s second year as Happy Haven’s Social Director. The job of Bingo caller was one of her primary duties—and she took it seriously. Once, early in her tenure when she had read off the numbers too rapidly, the residents had complained vociferously—and immediately. What did she take them for? Speed readers? After all, most of them had three cards they had to check (although it wasn’t required that any player have three cards, their chances of winning increased—well—threefold—when they did. And to a one, the residents loved winning, even though the prize for winning a round of Bingo was only one dollar.) Sue reached carefully into the wire barrel again and pulled out another wooden tile.
“B-2,” she sang out. This time her reading was rewarded as an elderly gentleman sitting close to the main door to the dining hall (where Bingo was always held) said in a somewhat wavering voice,
“Bingo!” The old gentleman rose carefully from his seat, as the women at his table (women outnumbered the men at Happy Haven about eight to one) cooed with admiration. He stood, still clutching the edge of the table with his gnarled hands, and smiled, nodding his chin at all of the women around him.
“Mr. Weiderley!” announced Sue Barber. “You have Bingo, Bob?” She started towards the man.
“Foo!” whispered Essie to her three tablemates. “I was just one space short in my B column!”
“I was one space short in B and G!” topped the tiny lady next to her, her bright eyes sparkling. “What about you, Opal?”
“What does it matter?” replied the tall, morose-looking, grey-haired compatriot to her right. “I never win at Bingo. You know that, Marjorie.”
“Fay,” said Marjorie to the plump woman seated to her other side in a wheelchair, “Fay, wake up. Bob Weiderley just got Bingo.” She poked the woman, who sputtered and opened her eyes.
“What? What?” she tittered. “What happened?”
“Bob won Bingo,” reiterated Essie to the group. Chubby-cheeked Fay considered the information for a moment, and then allowed her head to plop back on her shoulder.
“I hate to lose, but if I have to lose, I can’t imagine losing to a nicer person,” continued Essie.
“You just say that, Essie, because you have a crush on Bob,” said Marjorie. Her head of tight reddish grey curls neatly hugged her skull like an aviator cap.
“Maude’s cods!” scoffed Essie. “I’m too old for him. He’s only 82.”
While the four women argued, Sue Barber had finished checking Bob Weiderley’s Bingo card for accuracy and had evidently found it all correct.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” she called out as she strode to the center of the room, her canvas apron flapping as she walked. All heads turned to their Social Director. “Bob’s card appears to be accurate. I am delighted to award him this $1.00 prize!” She reached into a front pocket of her apron and pulled out a crisp new bill, held it up high for all to see, and then handed it out in Bob Weiderley’s direction with great ceremony.
“Hmmph,” snorted Opal. “Have you noticed how more men seem to win Bingo ever since Sue Barber became our Social Director?”
“What?” asked Essie, pushing her round glasses back up her pointed little nose. “That’s impossible! First of all, there’s no way men could ever do anything more than women here because we outnumber them . . . ”
“Eight to one,” answered Opal and Marjorie together. Fay had again fallen asleep and was snoring gently in her wheelchair, her head resting on the collar of her fluffy pink lace blouse.
Bob Weiderley scooted to the center of the room, leaning on his three-footed cane. He reached out to accept the dollar bill from Sue Barber with a tentative smile. Sue held the bill in the air, showing his prize to the entire room.
“I see that Bob is all full of himself,” added Opal under her breath. “Just look at that. You’d think he’d just won the Olympics instead of a Bingo prize.”
“Hazel’s basil!” responded Essie with such force that her lower dentures almost came loose. “Opal, if my memory serves me . . .”
“And it hardly ever does,” opined Opal, giving Essie what Essie called her pretentious glare.
“If,” continued Essie, scowling ferociously at her pal, “my memory serves me correctly, Opal—you won a Bingo round last week and when you won that dollar you’d think they’d crowned you Miss America!”
“Oh, Essie,” interrupted Marjorie, poking Essie on her arm so hard it hurt, “technically, Opal couldn’t win the Miss America contest which is only for unmarried women and we all know that she was married once upon a time.”
“Who got married?” asked Fay the sleepyhead, suddenly aroused from her slumber. “Who got married?”
“No one, Fay,” answered Marjorie, bending over her wheelchair-bound buddy and giving her head a gentle pat. “Bob Weiderley just won Bingo.” Fay considered this piece of information for a moment then drifted back asleep.
“It doesn’t matter,” said Essie. “The point is that Bob is a dear and no one deserves to win Bingo more than he does.”
“Absolutely,” agreed Marjorie. “I’m so happy for him!” She shook her shoulders with enthusiasm and pulled down her sweater. Essie always disliked this mannerism because she believed Marjorie used it to call attention to her figure, which was actually fairly good for a woman of 84.
“You’re both ridiculous,” whispered Opal with disdain to the two awake women. Then she leaned back in her chair and glanced back at the ceremony taking place in the center of the room. Bob Weiderley was still accepting the accolades from his friends. All of a sudden, as the women at Essie’s table looked on from a distance, Bob Weiderley slumped to the floor. Several women screamed.
“Oh, my!” shouted Sue Barber. “Call the duty nurse! Someone get Violet!”
An attendant dressed in a white jacket who had been standing watch quickly exited the main entrance to the dining hall as Sue Barber knelt beside the prone Bob Weiderley. Residents started to gather around the man on the ground and Sue attempted to wave them back as she began loosening Bob’s shirt collar and placing her ear to his mouth.
“Does he have heart trouble?” asked Marjorie.
“Everybody has heart trouble at that age,” responded Essie.
“I don’t,” added Opal. “My heart is in excellent condition, according to my cardiologist.”
“If your heart’s in excellent condition,” said Marjorie, “why do you need a cardiologist?” Opal huffed.
“Please, you two,” whispered Essie to her friends. “This is no time to bicker. Bob is sick.”
“Should we do something?” asked Marjorie.
“I say the best thing we can do,” responded Essie, “is to stay right here and do nothing until they tell us to do something.”
“That’s what we always do,” retorted Marjorie.
“We might as well go to our rooms,” suggested Opal. “After all, they probably won’t continue with Bingo now that this has happened.”
“Opal!” said Essie, aghast. “Let’s just stay out of the way. “
Within seconds, Violet Hendrickson, the Director of the Happy Haven Assisted Living Facility, arrived at the scene along with Mildred, the night duty nurse. Mildred quickly bent down and conducted a cursory examination of Bob Weiderley. Then she spoke quietly to the Happy Haven Director, who turned and addressed the group.
“Residents,” Violet announced. “We have an ambulance coming for Bob—Mr. Weiderley. I’d appreciate it if you’d all remain in your seats until the ambulance has taken Bob to the hospital. Then you all may return to your apartments. I’m certainly sorry for this disruption to Bingo night but I know you all are concerned about Bob and we will keep you updated on his condition.”
With that, Violet Hendrickson, a slender, dark-haired elegant woman, slipped out of the room. The nurse Mildred and Sue Barber continued their vigil with Bob Weiderley. Sue held his hand while Mildred continued to check his vitals.
“Do you think it’s his heart?” asked Marjorie.
“I don’t know,” answered Essie. “I just wish he had family. There’s no one to call.”
“I know,” said Marjorie, “he’s all alone. Poor Bob.”
“He’s lucky, if you ask me,” interjected Opal with a sneer.
“Now what does that mean, Opal?” asked Marjorie in a confrontational manner.
“It means that far too many of the residents here have relatives who cause more trouble than they’re worth!”
“That’s ridiculous!” responded Essie. “Where do you get these ideas, Opal? I, for one, appreciate my family. Marjorie loves her relatives. And Opal, your daughter is lovely! What a delightful woman.”
“Hmmm,” said Opal with a downward inflection.
“For the love of Leonard, what’s wrong with your daughter?”
“Nothing. Nothing,” said Opal. “But just because the three of us have tolerable kin doesn’t mean that everyone who lives here gets along with theirs.”
“Why do you say the three of us? What about Fay?”
“Fay,” whispered Opal, “is oblivious to the—adventures—of her, uh, children.”
“What are you talking about, Opal?”
But before Opal could explain her words further, two EMTs arrived with a rolling gurney. They quickly relieved the nurse and Social Director Sue Barber from their posts beside Bob Weiderley. The men kneeled next to the man and began attaching various tubes and devices to his body. One EMT rolled a blood pressure cuff around Bob’s arm and pumped it up and began to record his bp readings. The residents of Happy Haven watched in awed silence as the men worked quickly and quietly on their unconscious friend.
“So who gets the dollar?” asked Opal.
“What?” responded Essie.
“Who gets the dollar Bob won?” continued Opal. “He won’t need it.”
“Good Groundhog, Opal!” said Essie. “How can you think about such a thing with the poor man lying there on the floor?”
“He’s not lying there anymore,” said Opal. “He’s on the gurney.”
And indeed Bob Weiderley had been transferred by the efficient EMTs to the rolling gurney and was at that moment being pushed from the dining hall. Essie and her tablemates and all of the other residents maintained a respectful silence until the medical entourage had disappeared. Then they erupted in a whirlwind of chattering.
“I hope they get him to the hospital in time,” said Marjorie breathlessly.
“Lucky for him, the hospital’s only two blocks away,” added Opal.
“Do you think he’ll be. . . okay?” queried Marjorie.
“I hope so,” answered Essie.
“What do you think caused him to pass out?” asked Marjorie.
“I guess winning Bingo was just too exciting,” suggested Essie. The three women looked back and forth at each other.
“I guess if you have to go, winning at Bingo is the best way,” offered Marjorie.
“I can think of a few better ways,” said Opal.
“Such as?” asked Essie, glancing sideways at her straight-laced and somber friend.
“Never mind,” said Opal, shaking her head. “He’s not dead yet. Let’s be positive.”
“Yes,” agreed Essie.
“Yes,” said Marjorie.
All of a sudden, the pudgy short lady in the wheelchair awakened with a start.
“Bingo!” she yelled out loud and clear.
Her tablemates looked at her incredulously and then at each other, trying to subdue their inappropriate laughter.