Nonagenaria

4 Dec

Could a 90-year old be a murderer? Gilbert Day asked himself.

The geriatric psychologist, himself 91, sat alone thinking in his tiny office. The police detectives had questioned him, along with the rest of the staff of Nonagenaria Colony. That afternoon they planned to interview the residents of the senior facility.

Dr. Day smiled with an odd pleasure. The ageing of American society had brought about the establishment of specialized communities for the ultra-old, those at the top of the chronological pyramid. He himself had come to Nonagenaria as a 71-year old. That was twenty years ago, when nostological psychology was still a comparatively new field.

His experience with the changing population of the colony made him reluctant to decide on the possibility of homicide having been committed.

There had been a lot of negative emotion toward the victim, sixty-three year old Dan Fielding. Many quarrels and differences had existed with other residents. Was it incredible that a disgruntled nonagenarian was capable of putting a knife into the body of the colony’s director?

I myself am ninety-one, Gilbert told himself, and perfectly capable of doing another human being in.

The circle of suspects must include nearly everyone here, he concluded.

I am physically and psychologically capable of the act, and so is nearly everyone else in the colony.

He glanced at the wall clock and realized it was time for the staff meeting that had been delayed because of the discovery of the butchered corpse of Director Fielding.

The business manager of Nonagenaria, 93-year old Tom Algren, was the only person in the meeting room when Gilbert entered.

The two men exchanged muted greetings and the psychiatrist sat down opposite the other.

“This unfortunate event will unravel our operations,” grumbled Algren. “But there are many questions that have to be decided even today, at this hour.”

“You are talking of the expansion plans of Dan Fielding?” inquired Dr. Day. “But I would suppose all those ideas of his are now suspended due to what has happened here.”

It was at that moment that the door opened and the physical therapist attached to the colony entered. He was a 46-year old named Cyril Gram with an appearance much younger than his age. The thin, muscular athlete greeted both men sitting at a round oak table, then himself took a chair there.

Within a few seconds, the social activity supervisor, a petite woman of 94 named Sally Lamb walked in and sat down without a single word to anyone. She wore a radiant dress of red and orange.

Last of the governing committee to appear was the representative of the residents, Bruce Freis, a sharp and vigorous 95. He said hello to everyone present before taking the last of the places at the table.

“So, we are all here and can begin with our pending business,” said Tom Algren. “Let me read the minutes of our last meeting, where the director presented his plan for a new wing.”

“I believe that after what happened to him, all that he may have had in mind is now moot,” interjected Bruce Freis. “We should do nothing until the police have arrested the individual who committed this dreadful crime.”

“Yes,” added Sally Lamb. “Now is not the time for anything like business.”

“Then what are we sitting in here for?” grumbled Tom Algren, who proceeded to read the minutes of the previous session as if no one but he was present in the room. He then looked around the table at all those seated there, raising the question of the future of the Nonagenaria colony.

“Because of our recent tragedy, five of our forty-six residents have given notice that they intend to leave the colony as soon as possible. I can foresee many more such announcements very soon.”

The resident representative, Bruce Freis, interrupted him. “You are exaggerating the danger of such a development, Mr. Algren. I am in contact with our three wings and the six independent cottages, and nowhere do I find any such fearful sentiment. It is no secret to any of us that Dan Fielding was an extremely unpopular person. Dare I tell the truth? More than a few of our residents are not sorry to see him removed, although they might have preferred a bloodless method.”

An explosion of comments followed.

“I agree that feeling against the director has reached a colossal height,” noted the therapist, Cyril Gram.

“The man was leading Nonagenaria down a path of bankruptcy and ruin,” darkly opined Sally Lamb, the social coordinator.

Gilbert Day sensed a duty to turn attention back to the problem hanging over everything else.

“If the colony is to survive and thrive, then the puzzle of this crime must be solved as soon as possible. It is up to us as a committee to help the police do that or else solve the mystery ourselves. That is how I see the situation that faces us today.”

He looked around the table and saw that the four others were doing exactly the same.

A sudden idea struck the mind of Gilbert like lightning.

In all probability, the killer of Dan Fielding was there in the room with them.

How could he determine which one of them it was?

An encounter, once again, with a pair of plainclothes detectives helped neither Gilbert Day nor the official investigators in comprehending what might have led to the murder of the director.

The psychologist was busy looking through individual records in his office when the resident representative, Bruce Freis, appeared at the door.

“Could I speak with you?” asked the unexpected committee member.

Day invited him to come in and take a chair. Freis did so, closing the door behind him.

“How can I help you, my friend?” asked the therapeutic practitioner.

“This crime that we suffered here in Nonagreneria was an extraordinary event. It unsettles everyone connected to our institution. I can only imagine how it will affect the general public’s view of seniors our age. The effects will turn out catastrophic, I fear.”

“Yes,” nodded Gilbert Day, sitting behind his desk. “The murder is a deep puzzle. Who could have had sufficient motive to carry out such a terrible act?”

Freis looked down at the Persian rug covering the office. “I have my suspicions,” he whispered lowly.

The psychologist perked up. “You do?”

“Take our business manager, Tom Algren. What if he were embezzling from our bank accounts and stock investments? There could be motive enough if the director was on to him and on the edge of taking some legal action against him.”

Gilbert stared at him with expanding eyes. “Do you have any evidence of that or are you only speculating?”

No direct answer was given to this question, but a statement came in a different direction.

“Our physical therapist, Cyril Gram, has a very shady background. I suspect that Dan Fielding uncovered it and was determined to fire and expel the nefarious fellow.”

“I know nothing about any of that,” confessed the psychologist in a muffled tone.

The resident raised his dark eyes. His face had turned ghostly pale.

“Sally Lamb was in love with Dan Fielding, a much younger man. Can’t you see what she might have done when he rejected her? When she was his age, she had the reputation of being a loose, seductive dame. She never lost her sexual interests and skills. Haven’t you heard any of the stories about Sally?”

Gilbert’s mind was speedily analyzing all he had heard from the mouth of Bruce Freis.

“What do you think we should do about these suspicions you have presented to me?” he asked the resident representative.

The latter suddenly bolted to his feet. “I can’t say because I really don’t know,” declared Freis as he hurried from the office.

Alone in his office for a long time, Gilbert Day went through some difficult thoughts and considerations.

We have an obvious paranoid person here at Nonagenaria colony. An individual who can blame at least three others, and probably many more of the crime. One who discovers all sorts of imagined motives for the murder.

Could it have happened that Bruce Freis suspected the director of plotting against him and constructing an evil conspiracy of some sort?

I must inform the police detectives that such an unusual scenario is the most probable one for what transpired here.

They must be told of the insane suspicions that I just heard from the resident representative. By trying to incriminate so many others, the man has made me curious and suspicious of his own motives and actions.

A concentrated, focused police investigation will certainly make him spit out more such self-serving suspicions and accusations.

As Gilbert Day reached for his videphone to summon the police, he heard a shuffling noise from out in the corridor.

He gulped hard.

Was it Bruce Freis coming after him with a large knife in hand, driven by a paranoid fever?

Or was he himself suffering from delusional suspicions?

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