Short stories: THE CARE HOME MYSTERY
As a possible new feature, TEE would like to run a series of short stories, that is, texts that are no more than 1500 words. This one was presented by my son to English class, although I've done a little editing to get it nicely into shape...
DCI Mark Robinson, a detective at London’s crime and investigation police unit, was at his friend Bill Melton’s garage, getting his motorbike fixed.
“Clogged. Needs draining,” said Bill.
“I’ll do it myself. You go and have lunch,” replied Mark, getting up for the tools.
But as Mark began work, two men suddenly burst into the garage. One was brandishing a handgun. “We need cash, and fast!” yelled the first man.
However, the other stopped dead when he saw Mark’s uniform. “He's a bloody copper!” he exclaimed. The moment he pointed the gun, Mark hurled a spanner in his direction. It hit him, but then the other man struck Mark with another heavy tool and he fell to the floor, out cold.
Mark regained consciousness a few minutes later, rubbed the back of his head, and saw Bill looking at him in concern. “Sorry Mark, I couldn’t stop them,” he said, “but thankfully there was only 80 quid in the register so I didn't lose much.”
“Good job most people use cards or phones so could’ve been a lot worse,” said Mark. “I got a good look at the other guy though with that spiderweb tattoo on his neck, and – what’s that wallet on the floor?”
Bill picked it up and looked inside. “Leather. Nice. Let’s see… a fiver, one receipt, some loose change and… a business card. “‘Big Stretton Care Home, professional care for the elderly, 31 Fleet Street, Big Stretton”. No phone number – but a website address.”
“Must have fell out the pocket of the thug I hit as he fell,” muttered Mark as he took out his phone and googled the website. “Hmm. Well, it looks nice inside…”
“What’s a crook got to do with an old folks’ home?” asked Bill.
“I think we should check it out,” said Mark. “Coming?”
One hour of driving and a cover story later, they arrived at an old building with a garden, large statue and even a flag with a care homes logo fluttering on a tall flagpole.
Mark told the rather humourless nurse that greeted them they had a relative that needed care, so asked to be seen around.
“Sorry, we’re full,” she said tonelessly.
“Well, can we look around anyway?”
She agreed, but Mark could tell she wasn’t totally happy about this.
They walked around the facilities with her as she was doing her duties. “So, everything’s fine? You had any suspicious situations or weird people walking around?” asked Mark.
“Course there haven’t. We offer peace and comfort to the elderly. Why would there be anything suspicious happening? You the police or something?” said the nurse irritably.
“What kind of people come here?” asked Bill.
“Old people. What do you think?”
Then she quickly changed tone, as if remembering procedure. “Though we get handicapped and disabled patients too. Look, this is Mr. Arnold Blaskovic's room. He’s paralysed from the waist down and can’t leave his bed. Hello Arnold, how are you today?” she asked sweetly.
The man mumbled a reply and went back to reading his newspaper. The room was small, with just a bed, cupboard, and a table near the door with a small alarm clock. As they left the room, the nurse put a pot of tea on the table. “You have to go now,” she said firmly to the men. “I’ve spent an hour and got a lot of things to take care of. Check our website.”
They walked slowly to the car while some nurses were pushing residents around in their wheelchairs. “So, it’s just an old folks’ home after all,” said Bill. “Isn’t it?”
But Mark was staring at the window of Mr Blascovic's room. He saw the man drinking the tea, although he remembered the nurse putting it on the table out of reach of his bed. Wasn’t he paralyzed from the waist? He didn't remember there being a wheelchair in the room. Puzzling for sure, but as he turned around and looked at the garden, he noticed the flag had been lowered.
This gave him an idea. He rushed to the flag when nobody was looking and raised it to the top. “What are you doing?” hissed Bill angrily. “Get in the car, we’ve got to go!”
“Drive out the entrance then wait a few minutes,” said Mark. “I’ve got a feeling...”
Just as they parked out of sight, they saw a car drive up to the front gates. Mark recognised a familiar figure inside; he had a bandage around his head, but the tattoo was clearly visible.
Mark and Bill dashed through the gates in their car. “GET DOWN!” shouted Mark, just as the thug took out his gun, blasting the windscreen, bullets zinging by above their heads. They stopped next to the statue. “He’s run out of ammo! Get out and take cover!”
Suddenly all the ‘elderly’ outside in wheelchairs were running up towards them, automatic rifles retrieved from under their blankets. The nurses, also armed to the teeth, riddled Bill’s car with bullets just as they got out.
Then silence. “You can’t get away now! Come out and we’ll make it easy on you!” shouted the nurse they encountered earlier.
Suddenly five police cars and two armoured vans arrived at the scene. Several armed officers jumped out, all their weapons fixed on every figure around them.
“PUT YOUR WEAPONS DOWN NOW!”
“DON’T SHOOT! DON’T SHOOT!”
“But why did they steal my cash? Surely they have money and cards?” asked Bill as he and Mark sipped tea back at his garage.
“You can be found with cards. Seems they needed the cash for petrol to get back to the home.”
“Okay, so how did you know the whole set-up was fake?”
“Well, it was odd their website had lovely old photographs of the place inside, but nothing outside, making me think that they’ve basically got this from somewhere else and edited it. Then when I saw Blaskovic drinking the tea, I guessed he was faking being paralysed and the nurse knew about it. But it was the flag; I guessed it was a signalling sign as, for the same reason with cards, they couldn’t, or wouldn’t, use phones. I raised it to see what would happen, and sure enough, plenty did. I think that a raised flag meant ‘all’s well, come in’, while lowered meant no one should come in. Turns out I was right – the place was a criminal safe house! I had the police standing by just before we got there. Thankfully, everything went as planned and you’re going to get your 80 quid back!”
“And a new car maybe…?”
Students! If you've got a short story you would like to present, then please do send it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org . Your text must be no more than 1500 words, and don't worry if you have made a few spelling and grammar mistakes - we will do the corrections here (and tell you what those corrections are!) Sorry, there are no prizes, but there is the chance of having your piece of text privately assessed and marked.