It was Nurse Clara that found Mr. Z. He was hunched over, seated on his toilet, pajama bottoms down around his ankles, his head between his knees, white hair still mussed from sleeping, arms hanging limp almost to the floor. He was still warm but his skin had begun to turn clammy, as if he were made from wax, carved like a statue on his commode.
Nurse Clara did not sound the claxon that would summon the crash team for a code blue. It was clearly passed the time when a resuscitation was possible. She returned calmly to the Hub and called down for Dr. Hauptman to come up to the third floor. She was surprised that Mr. Z had passed. He had been in reasonably good health, was nearly completely ambulatory again and in good spirits. ‘A heart attack perhaps,’ she thought. Dr. Hauptman would provide an initial assessment and then she would notify Mr. Z’s family.
Dr. Hauptman came promptly, riding the elevator up from his sub-basement cold room. Dr. Weppler was on his way to three as well to check on a supply of insulin that seemed to be missing from inventory; taken without being signed out perhaps. He joined them at Mr. Z’s bathroom.
“What a way to go,” Dr. Hauptman said. He raised his dark rimmed glasses hanging from a plastic chain, setting them close to the end of his nose so he could see clearly through the bifocal glass on the bottom. “At least he was enjoying himself.”
They stood in a semi-circle around Mr. Z. pondering him the way you might contemplate what to do with a flat tire.
A red nob was in Mr. Z’s hand. He had pulled it from the nurse call alarm. Pulled it right off the wall instead of pressing it to sound the alert.
“Must have known he wasn’t feeling well,” Dr. Weppler said.
“Doesn’t look like he was in pain though, ”Dr. Hauptman said. “They usually have a grimace, scrunched up face if they’ve had a heart attack. Could have been a stroke.”
Dr. Hauptman circled the slumped body.
“Looks like he was in mid poo,” Hauptman said. “Yes, what a way to go, poor fella.”
“I believe Elvis died the same way,” Karl Homesman said.
They had all come from the dining hall in search of their friend and companion Mr. Z.
Nurse Clara turned, surprised at the collection of residents crowded around Mr. Z’s bathroom door looking in upon him.
“Oh my gawd, you can’t be here,” she blurted.
“He’s dead, isn’t he,” Odd Gunnerson said.
“Oh no, my dear friend,” Peter van der Groot moaned. “I was here. I came to fetch him for breakfast. I heard him groaning on his toilet, I should have known something was wrong. I could have saved him.”
“You were here?” Nurse Clara asked.
“A while ago. Before breakfast. Sounded like he was having a bowel movement so I left and came back. I knocked on the door, there was no answer so I assumed he was gone to breakfast. Thought we must have passed each other and he went to eat. I should have checked inside. I could have saved him, it’s my fault.”
“Of course it’s not your fault Mr. van der Groot. You must all go; you can’t be here.”
“I thought we were done,” Jon said. “I was beginning to believe that our people really were just going from the infirmities of age. But clearly the killer is still amongst us. To kill someone on their toilet, my gawd how low can you get.”
“Probably took too much of his insulin,” Dr. Hauptman said as he retrieved an empty insulin vial that had fallen behind the toilet.
“Insulin shock,” Dr. Weppler added.
“He wasn’t diabetic,” Nurse Clara announced.
Dr. Hauptman held the insulin vial up between a finger and thumb to show it void of its medicine. Nurse Clara leaned close, squinting at the label.
“It says Sheldon Lipton,” Nurse Clara said. “Mr. Lipton passed away some time ago. Why would his medication be in Mr. Z’s bathroom anyway.”
Nurse Clara turned back to the gathered crowd. “You people must leave now,” she said sternly. “Mr. Magnusson perhaps you could invite these people to one of your readings in the Sunroom. You must go now.”
“Most of these people didn’t even know his first name,” Jon said. “We always called him Mr. Z.”
“Harold,” Nurse Clara said.
Karl turned away and left them to stare. ’Just a matter of time before the killer is caught,’ he thought.
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