Dignity Retirement Village

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic

Who would have thought such a grave and foul act of murder could occur at the prestigious Dignity Retirement Village and Assisted Living Centre...

 

 

 Dignity Retirement Village

By

Sharief Hendricks

Detective Pringle looked around and monitored the senior residents and staff of the sought after old age home he found himself at.  He was aware that he too was being eyeballed by tired and confused faces. That was the last place the seasoned homicide detective ever expected he would be investigating.

Dignity Retirement Village was the pinnacle of retired and assisted living centres. Those who could afford it came from all parts of the world to retire there. The prices were exorbitant, yet they had a waiting list of well-off senior citizens was a mile long. The retirement village and assisted living facilities consisted of the most spacious condo apartments coupled with amenities that included a world-class gym, an indoor heated pool, a fully-fledged dance studio, many extramural activities ranging from Tai Chi to Yoga. The assisted living centre employed highly trained medical personnel, two doctors and an actual surgeon to perform minor surgeries with the latest medical equipment. The dining hall was an upmarket restaurant that was run by the resident 4-star French culinary head chef. There was even a well presented and quality stocked coffee café. Amongst the most cherished activities were the nature trails along the world-famous Tasman River whose headwaters ran from Aoraki.

Not all Dignity's residents were millionaires. Most were hard-working citizens that had good retirement packages, which afforded them the well-deserved lifestyle and care. Dignity wasn't only about the money. They also had several charitable initiatives that the shareholders and owners proudly promoted. Among those was their give-back program where staff who had worked there for more than ten years could nominate a family member or deserving senior to live out their days at Dignity free of charge. This reward was a big deal of course, and it encouraged staff loyalty as not many companies had such lifesaving and life-changing perks. This perk was however also subject to availability, so the give-back reward took time to be fulfilled because spaces only became available once a resident had moved on. Dignity charged thousands and wealthy applicants were more than eager to pay those thousands, even willing to bribe with additional thousands to secure a bed or one of the many fully equipped condominiums.

Dignity's residents ranged from retired politicians and actors to sports personalities, whose every need and luxury was seen to and those residents with ailments received the best medical care available.

Dignity Retirement Village and Assisted Living Centre nestled atop a mountain in the lower Southern Alps of New Zealand. The air was said to be as pure as living in mother nature’s bosom itself. The Retirement Village was 50 km from Queenstown, a popular holiday destination. The famous Mount Cook National Park was situated about 200 km from Dignity on the same chain line. It was an exclusive and isolated region of the country. The serenity of the location was a far cry from the more populated eastern side of the South Island. Besides the remoteness of the facility's location and the pristine air, there was no better location in the world to view stars at night as the skies were clear almost all year round in that specific region.

Detective Pringle was on a long-planned ski holiday at Coronet Peak in Queenstown when he received the urgent message from his good friend Nikau, the head of security at Dignity. They had planned to meet while Pringle was in the country but not under these circumstances. Nikau knew how long Pringle had been planning that trip. The Queenstown authorities were all searching for a hiking party lost in the mountains. The police station was left manned by an inexperienced Constable. Given the grave and disturbing circumstance of what transpired at the prestigious village, Nikau had no choice. The shareholders couldn't afford any negative publicity. There had been a spike in the news media of reported resident abuse, patient maltreatment, and sexual harassment at similar institutions. Nikau wanted to keep this under the radar yet get to the bottom of it.

Who could have killed the lovable 97-year-old Agatha Smith? She was after all lovingly called Granny Smith by all who worked and resided at Dignity Retirement Village. Why was the elderly-woman who was already on death's doorstep killed in such a manner? Choked with her oxygen cord wrapped around her pale neck and tightened around the wheelchair’s armrest.

This case was a first for the seasoned homicide detective.

Nikau escorted Pringle to where the victim's body was kept at the inhouse morgue at Dignity. Pringle examined the victim's body. The upper body displayed visible signs of dry and flaky skin from advanced xerosis, a common skin disease in the elderly. On further examination, he felt a slight indentation on her left thumb that remained in place due to rigor mortice, which is the stiffening of the dead body. Then Pringle removed a small vial from his pocket and used one of the stitching needles to make a prick in the victim's arm and extracted a droplet of her blood.

A few minutes later, Nikau introduced Pringle to the nurse that discovered the deceased.

"Hello, detective, my name is Rebecca. I am the shift manager here at Dignity," said a stunningly beautiful woman in a pristine nurse's white uniform. She looked so proper, hair tied in what seemed like a perfect bun that could have taken the best part of her morning to get just right. She stood with her hands behind her back. Chin up high as if trying to spot a problem with the light fixture. She did not break her gaze from whatever it was that she was fascinated with on the ceiling until Pringle spoke.

“Hello, nurse Rebecca, may I call you that?”

“Certainly, Detective.”

“I believe you discovered the deceased body, is that correct?”

“Yes detective, Granny Smith, please refer to her in that manner and not as the deceased, she was the light of positivity in this facility.”

“Of course, Rebecca, my apology. Do you recall at what time you discovered Granny Smith?"

“Yes, it was at 3:45 am exactly, the time I make my rounds for bathroom breaks and certain prescription meds to a few residents.”

“Residents, surely you mean patients?”

“No detective, residents, Dignity does not have any patients. No one is ill here, just enjoying life until nature takes its course. Hence, we are not nurse’s, but rather caregivers. Think of Dignity as a glorified hotel and of us as the glorified hotel staff. We aim only to serve and to ensure our residents' comfort."

Pringle nodded and then his attention was drawn to a male resident resting on his walker that was interested in their conversation, so he asked her who the resident was.

“Oh, that is Mr Grandholm, everyone calls him Milky. He has Dementia. He is an ex-soldier that served in the Royal Army Elite Services his entire life. He served in WW2. Sadly, he returned from war a broken man and the military moved him around to places where they had no clue what was wrong with him.”

Just then, the lanky Nurse Ingrid stopped by and interjected the interview. “We have Rebecca to thank for having Milky here, she arranged his transfer from Dignity’s sister company in Australia, as part of the exchange patient needs scheme because her big heart felt she could help him."

Pringled smiled and thought to himself, "How rare, beautiful on the outside and the inside."

Rebecca responded to Ingrid. “He served our country, it’s the least we can do for him, a war hero who made the ultimate sacrifice next to dying for your country, he lost his soul and will to live.”

Then Ingrid, jokingly said, "And I suppose you are going to help him get his soul back and give the old perve a reason to live again, right?” To which Rebecca responded with a shy smile, “I am working on it.”

There were many rumours that Milky was wanted for military sedition and branded a traitor because he helped an enemy prisoner of war family escape execution because he believed they were innocent. Those conspiracy theories were laughed off as just one of the many conspiracy theories of who Milky really was and if Grandholm was even his real name. If the conspiracy theories were correct, and the Government were to discover Milky's existence, they would execute him for treason. His life was somewhat of a mystery surrounded by unaccounted years when he just disappeared off the face of the earth. No one knew for sure who he was.

__________________**_______________

The following day Pringle spotted Nurse Rebecca sitting quietly during her lunch break wiping tears from her face and clutching a black and white photograph. "Excuse me, Nurse Rebecca, are you alright?"

Startled and trying to hide her tears, she replied. "Oh, yes detective, I'm fine, sorry you had to see that" she said as she folded the black and white photograph and placed it in her uniform pocket. “I was thinking of Granny Smith’s 96th birthday last year. We were so happy for her. It's a strange thing detective, as old as she was, the thought never crossed my mind that it would be the last birthday we would spend together. How scared and alone she must have felt.”

Pringle got up and touched her on the shoulder. “I was going to interview you first, but I can tell you need a moment so I will interview Nurse Ingrid first and call you after. My condolences Rebecca, clearly you lost a loved one."

Pringle conducted his interview with the unusually tall Nurse Ingrid by letting her do all the talking. “You see detective resident assault is on the increase across retirement villagers. Violence in long care facilities between patients is on the up. Cuts bruises and lesions on resident's bodies are evident if you look closely enough. I might have put some of them there myself, purely by accident of course. Residents with Dementia are confused and disorientated. There are many forms of abuse at retirement villages and long-term care facilities. You see detective, assisted living facilities are not like retirement villages because those are healthy people who are just old, however with old age sometimes comes mental illness like Dementia and Alzheimer’s. So, Dignity combined the two facilities and created the village for elderly healthy people while the assisted living centre cares for elderly sick people.  We give Dementia patients powerful antipsychotic drugs. So, I guess we drug the elderly population into submission. Less work for us. We are already short-staffed so having docile patients makes the shift go easier. If I had my way detective, I would have capped the age limit at 90 then put them out to pasture, but please don’t put that on the record. I’m sorry if I sound cold and heartless, it's just that this job gets to me and the elderly get to me. Sorry detective, I got carried away. You must think I am despicable."

Pringle finished his notes then looked up and slowly slid his hand over the bald spot on his mature head and spoke. "Not at all Nurse Ingrid, I think more people should be that honest. Speaking of which, is it true that you didn’t take kindly to Granny Smith reporting you to the Superintendent that resulted in you receiving a Written Warning?”

To which she responded, “That old hag nearly got me fired. I hated her sure enough, but I didn’t kill her. For the record she didn’t report me to the Super, it was Rebecca that reported me. She has a soft heart that one.”

 Pringle nodded then said, “That is all for now.”

“But detective, you didn't ask me who I think killed the old hag."

Pringle was taken aback but kept his composure and calmly asked her what she so desperately wanted, “Nurse Ingrid, who do you think killed Granny Smith and why?”

"Ok, now that you asked me, it was one of two residents, either Mr Grandholm, you know the one we call Milky and Ms Walters. You see Milky was angry with the old hag for taking his Rubik’s cube. When he wanted to take it back from Granny Smith, she hid it in her breast so when he tried to take the cube she screamed. I caught Mr Grandholm with his hands in Granny Smith’s gravity challenged flatness, so since I didn’t like both much, I left out the part of the Rubik’s cube and said he tried to milk her, and well since then the name just stuck. I got my revenge on both those old buggers with one incident. That’s why the old perve killed her. As for Ms Walters, she and Granny Smith fancied the same bloke you see, Mr Harris and Ms Walters were Dignity's assisted living couple for many years then Granny Smith stole her man. Ms Walters swore she would kill her, hahaha, I might be laughing detective, but true story, check it out."

"Thank you, Nurse Ingrid, that will be all. Please call Nurse Rebecca on your way out.”

She gave him a flirtatious smile and said, "Certainly detective, I will send miss- goody-two-shoes right on in.

Nurse Rebecca confirmed what Nurse Ingrid told detective Pringle, but she also informed him that Mr Grandholm suffered from Dementia, so he believed the Rubik's cube that belonged to Granny Smith was his. Patients suffering from this disease sometimes mistake things or people. They also wander around, not knowing where they are or where they were going. Sometimes they can even be mentally trapped in a place from their memory. "You see detective he didn't object to the name Milky with its malice intentions. He believed his name was Milky but not because of what happened with Granny Smith but from a former life, one in which he had a dog named Milky. When it died, he was so distraught that everyone started calling him Milky, hence the faded tattoo on his forearm."

Pringle took a sip of water then asked. "Did he tell you that?"

She hesitated at first, then nodded.

"Nurse Rebecca, can you take me to Ms Walters so I may have a word with her."

"Yes, sure detective, I just need to get my keys from my office if you don't mind."

A few moments later, Pringle was scanning Nurse Rebecca's office while she looked for her keys and a framed picture of her and Granny Smith caught his eye. They looked so happy in the picture on Granny Smith's 96th birthday. Rebecca proudly displayed her awards certificates on her wall.

A few hours had passed when Nikau found Pringle in the staff quarters going through the lockers and paying extra attention to Nurse Ingrid's locker. "There you are Pringle, any luck?"

 The veteran detective closed Nurse Ingrid's locker door. "Nikau, I am not going to make it for lunch today, I need to check out something in Queenstown, sorry. We will catch up tonight."

"I suppose you are on to something, right?”

“Maybe Nikau, maybe.”

_________________**_________________

The following day Pringle told Nikau to use the dining hall to gather the Dignity Assisted Living Centre staff and not the village staff.

When everyone was seated, Pringle entered accompanied by the Constable from the Queenstown Police Station. "Thank you all for availing yourselves, I know you have residents to attend to. Unfortunately, this is a serious matter, because sitting amongst you is a cold-blooded killer." Pringle took a moment to look over everyone in attendance. Then his eyes stopped on Nurse Ingrid. Without warning and in a dramatic tone he said,

“Why did you do it, Rebecca?”

The question drew gasps along with a few oohs and aahs. Rebecca’s facial expression did not reveal what emotions were stirred inside from the stark accusation levelled against her.

When the accused first tear reached her chin, she gave her response. “Because I loved Granny Smith and because she made me do it, you see detective Granny Smith couldn't take the pain anymore. She was tired, tired of living and she wanted to give me a gift to solve my own problems I was dealing with. Granny Smith grew more and more impatient with me and my delay to assist her with an overdose using her meds. She wrapped the oxygen cord around her neck that was fixed to the cylinder and she pressed her wheelchair remote forward and was choking herself. I tried to stop her, I couldn't stand to see her suffer, but I knew how strong-willed she was, so I helped her one last time. Maybe I was helping myself I am not sure anymore. All I did was hold her hand to ease her suffering as she kept her thumb on the remote-controlled joystick pressing it forward causing the oxygen cord to tighten around her neck.”

Nikau leaned over to Pringle and whispered, “Will it hold up in court without a motive?”

“Well Nikau, there was a motive and if not that then at least motivation to help Granny Smith, right Nurse Rebecca?”

Hesitantly she answered, "Yes, detective, there was. I made my mother a promise that she will get the best medical care in the world and that she will be close to the one that truly loved and cared for her.”

"But with you in jail, she won’t be close to you, now will she Rebecca, tragic, really tragic,” said Pringle as the inexperienced Constable took Nurse Rebecca away to the Queenstown Jail.

“I must admit it Pringle I am impressed, you solved the murder, and you got the killer to confess. How did you know it was Nurse Rebecca?”

"Well, Nikau, I first had my suspicions when I learned about the 10-year employee give-back program. Then I saw the long service award on Nurse Rebecca's wall. When I first interviewed Rebecca, she mentioned that she had just returned from Lakes, which I first assumed to be the hiking trail along the glacier lakes. Later I learned that by lakes she referred to Queenstown Lakes District Hospital where her mother was a full-time clinical patient for Parkinson’s disease. One of the doctor's here at Dignity told me he could successfully treat Rebecca's mother's condition but only at the assisted living centre. So, I cancelled our lunch and went to check out the Queenstown Lakes Hospital. You see Nikau, Rebecca told me that she found Granny Smith's body when she made her rounds to administer her meds. The toxicology report from the hospital done on the victim's blood proved that Granny Smith had to be murdered after taking her meds because there were traces of it in her bloodwork. That means that when Rebecca did her meds-rounds, Granny Smith was still alive. That confirmed that Rebecca was indeed the last person to see the deceased alive.

Then there was the case of the missing rubber gloves. You see Nikau when I first interviewed Nurse Rebecca, she was wearing rubber gloves and took them off when our interview began. When I asked her why she wore gloves, she said for administering meds. She had just completed her rounds before the interview. So, I went through the medical disposal bin looking for the set of gloves she wore the day before. The medical disposal bin was full of used medical supplies but no rubber gloves, and that's why you found me snooping around the staff lockers. I found the rubber gloves in Rebecca's locker and sent it to Queenstown for analysis. I believe it will prove two things, one, that there are traces of the chemicals associated with the oxygen pipe on the gloves and two, it will most definitely have dry skin on it that came from the victims advance case of xerosis.

Nikau, stunned by the overwhelming evidence and brilliant detective work, had one question for the seasoned detective. “How can you be so sure that the rubber gloves belong to Rebecca and not to one of the other nurses?”

To which Pringle was happy to respond. "You see Nikau, none of the other nurses wears rubber gloves when administering meds, and as nurse Ingrid put it so eloquently, "We don’t care enough for the old hags to bother wearing gloves. Only Rebecca does.”

________________**______________

On the way from Queenstown Lakes Hospital to her new home at Dignity Retirement Village and Assisted Living Centre, Rebecca’s mother had bittersweet emotions. For her to get the much needed care and love she required, she might have lost her daughter. She unfolded an old black and white photograph she kept close to her bosom for nearly forty years. In the photograph was a much younger version of herself, baby Rebecca, and her beloved husband.

“Thank you for the sacrifice and for keeping your promise my dearest Becky, for finding your father and finally re-uniting us after all this time so we can live out our last days together.”

As she brought it towards her lips, a message on the back of the black and white photograph became visible.

We will be together again one day after the war has ended my sweetheart.

Love always,

your loving husband,

Lieutenant Joshua “Milky” Grant.

 

 

The End


Submitted: January 28, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Sharief Hendricks. All rights reserved.

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Comments

hullabaloo22

Well written, Sharief, with a well-thought-out plot.

Thu, January 28th, 2021 7:05pm

Author
Reply

Happy New Year Hully !!!

Thanx sooooo much for the kind comment, it is a real joy to hear from you again...

I was away on a month long golfing holiday and returned to Booksie a few days ago when I posted my first story for 2021, I am extremely pleased to see the number of reads and generous comments I started the year with...

Thanx again Hully !

Thu, January 28th, 2021 12:48pm

JE Falcon aka JEF

Well played, and a good plot.

Thu, January 28th, 2021 9:27pm

Author
Reply

Happy new Year Jef !!!

Thanx soooo much...

I am so happy to be back on Booksie after a month long golf holiday, and to come back and be greeted by such positive and encouraging comments, is just amazing...

Thanx again Jef !!

Thu, January 28th, 2021 2:34pm

Vance Currie

Good story, Sharief. I noticed a few errors on the way through, but nothing that you don't know about already. For example, there were places where you included dialogue from more than one character in the same paragraph. I marked one of these, but there are others. Maybe a bit more revision needed? The opening sentence could be a bit too long too, but that could be a matter of preference.

Fri, January 29th, 2021 8:01am

Author
Reply

Hi Joe

Thanx once again for pointing me in the right direction...

I think I figured out my confusion, regarding dialogue, I applied what I learnt recently about it but used it in the wrong ways or areas...

I will start the revision and will try and polish it even further using your Icomments, you generously left for me...

Thanx again Joe !!!

Fri, January 29th, 2021 12:34am

bloodman

A good read, I enjoy Pringle stories. Great work.

Mon, February 1st, 2021 4:48pm

Author
Reply

Happy New Year Bloodman !

Thanx so much , I was away for a month and I am so pleased to return to such postive and encouraging comments...

Thanx again Bloodman...

Mon, February 1st, 2021 1:36pm

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