“I do find policemen frightfully tiresome!’
Mrs Marigold Smith sat at the round table waving away the Detective Sargent’s polite question with a bored hand. The table had been moved to the window side of the dining hall so as not to interfere with the resident’s lunch service.
Detective Wallace reminded himself not to take anything personally. ‘Keep the professional wall up’ was his own internal advice. But as the old woman’s blue rinse hair and necklace of huge round glistening baubles caught the sun’s light, it gave her the glowing appearance of having been plugged into the mains power and lit up. The police officer couldn’t help but think; all that was missing was a Christmas Tree to shove her on top of.
“Glendora Retirement home should not be a setting for any policeman to visit, but it seems”, Marigold sighed airily, “we are swarming with them for the time being.” She looked upon the world with piercing blue eyes that contradicted any thoughts of gentleness her soft, powdered and wrinkled face may have created. ‘Look out,’ those icy blue orbs cried, ‘I’m harder and sharper than I seem.’
“It’s all so distasteful! It’s not as if anyone could really say that Bess didn’t deserve to die.” The old lady sighed as she gazed uninterested out the window. “I know I, for one, definitely think she did. Horrible woman!”
“Should I write that down as part of your statement Mrs Smith?” D.S. Wallace smiled as he paused over his notebook.
The wrinkled forehead rose as did her affronted tone, “I don’t give a damn if you do or you don’t write it down, young man.” She leant forwards with a bright red fingernail pointed directly at the detective’s smiling face. “If you ask me, Ted should be the one sitting here answering all your tiresome questions, not me!”
The old woman leant back, her hands resting in her bright floral-patterned lap. “You must be mad to think someone like me would have anything to do with… I don’t even like saying the word,” she moaned and fanned herself with a papery creped hand, “the… murder of Cook Brown.”
An unsympathetic holler rang out around the room, “I heard that Marigold Smith, and if anyone should be seated in front of the police, it ought to be you!”
Edward Rams pushed his Zimmer frame through the dining room’s double doors; it was like watching a thin elderly Viking attack in slow-motion. “If anyone’s going to be accusing everyone else and throwing the police off the scent, it’s the real killer!” He pointed a bone-thin arthritic finger at the seated woman, “Just like you’re doing now!”
Ted huffed and puffed, then mumbled to himself as he ambled forwards. “Never met a woman so evil and full of herself as Marigold Smith. Going about this place like she owns it. Spitting venom at every passer-by.”
“I speak my mind and pay my rent just like everyone else, so therefore I do own this place!” Marigold's blue eyes sharpened their worn daggers as she drew herself up to a full seated height.
“Blah blah blah, ya mean old hag.” Ted got one wheel stuck on the leg of a dining chair, “Blinking blue blazing… who moved the damn chairs? Can’t a man get to his own table to eat anymore? Gotta put up with all these stupid old people moving damn stuff around every damn time someone carks it!”
A frazzled-looking red-headed nurse burst through the doors, her arms full of an assorted collection of blankets. “Ted, hang on, don’t push the chair; you’ll only fall. Wait for me.”
The blankets were plonked on the nearest table as she began to move the metal-legged chair out of Ted’s way.
“Oh, that’s right.” Marigold gave a shark’s grin; she turned her smile to the police officer before sweetly announcing. “Sally dear, you had a fight with our dearly departed cook, didn’t you!”
Sally looked up from detangling Ted’s frame into the blank-faced detective.
“Marigold, that has nothing to do with what happened!” The nurse’s cheeks began to match her hair.
“That’s Mrs Smith to you, Sally.” Marigold patted the Detective’s hand to draw his attention back to her pleased face. “Sally had an absolute screaming match with Bess.”
The elderly woman held her hand up to stop any rebuttal from the nurse. “We all heard it; no need to deny the truth.” Leaning in towards the detective, Marigold continued in a loud whisper, “I’d say that’s …probable cause. You might want to write that down, young man.” She tapped his notebook, which he quickly drew out of her reach and eyesight.
“Everyone will be interviewed in time, Mrs Smith.” D.S. Wallace calmly straightened his tie. “No need worry; everyone will have their turn under the spotlight. I would prefer it, though, if the questioning of residents occurred with no other people in the room.” A tight grimace was directed to both Sally and Ted.
“Oh, you can call me Marigold Detective; you’re not one of the staff.”
The room took on a whole new feeling as Sally gripped her blanket pile tightly to her chest; her eyes busily forging their own set of personalised daggers for Marigold.
“See, I told ya, full of herself.” Ted was still defying the odds by moving forwards like an ancient glacier. “Be careful who you peeve off, ya old hag; you might be next.” Gravelly laughter erupted from his xylophone-like chest, “If we’re lucky, that is!”
Marigold shifted her round girth on the straining chair so as to face the sluggishly moving geriatric. “You were put on light rations for telling Cook her food was so awful; not even the dumpster rats would eat it. Weren’t you, Ted!”
Turning her raging eyes to the detective Marigold spoke rather loudly. “Cook told him to curl up and die, then Ted, during a lunch service non less, yelled right back that he would happily shove a carton of pills down his throat and click his heels if she did it first.”
“That’s it; I’ve had enough of this.” The blankets were thrown down onto the floor as tears erupted on Sally’s face.
“You are the most awful, nasty, spiteful woman I have ever had the misfortune to know.” The young woman’s voice warbled and quivered. “Why don’t you throw Saul under the bus too, hey? His family was bringing food in, so he didn’t have to come into the dining hall. Or maybe we shouldn’t even look at the residents; let’s look at the staff. What about Dr Colgate, hey? He had words with Bess and had her on review for the lack of nutritional planning.”
Sally threw her hands up in frustration as her volume rose, fuelled by indignation. “They could barely be in the same room as each other. Dr had access to pills. He could have overdosed her!”
Taking a deep, shuddering breath, Sally reeled her self-control back in, but not before a pointed and worn finger was directed at the gaping Marigold. “Just like you could have overdosed her… MARIGOLD!”
There was no stopping the nurse now she’d found her rhythm. “You had afternoon tea with her yesterday. You could have slipped the barbiturates into her food, her drink. Easily done.”
The nurse was outdone by Marigold's heartbroken wailing, “How could you accuse a poor 90-year-old woman of murder?” A tissue was wrenched from her sleeve and waved about with dramatic flair. “If anyone should be careful, it is you, Sally. You’ve had access to everyone’s medication for years. You could have stockpiled enough to kill poor Bess ten times over!”
“Why,” the detective yelled over the top of the three yelling suspects “, are you all talking about Bess Brown dying from an overdose? She died from a stab wound to the heart!
The room calmed instantly.
“Oh,” Marigold relaxed back into an old lady slump. “It wasn’t any of us then.” She smiled her predatory grin, her blue eyes igniting as she leant forwards. “You know, the gardener has a set of very sharp sheers.”