It had not been easy to transform the residents of the Sunny Glade Retirement Home into silent assassins.
Smuggling in the gay male stripper had probably been the catalyst. The utter revulsion on their sanctimonious faces, not to mention the shock of the stripper’s had been spectacularly funny and easily compensated for his exorbitant fee. Even after the paramedics had sedated everyone there, it wasn’t even as if any serious damage had been done. Even the stripper would be able to walk again – eventually.
Perhaps not all of them were as bad as the still-unknown ringleaders. In fact most were just kindly pensioners wafting carefully through gentle and genteel days while enjoying the twilight of their long lives. Thus it logically followed that at least a few had no direct involvement. However secrets rarely lasted in this or any such establishment. But as not even one of them had been brave enough to point a craggy finger at the offending party or parties, then by extension they were all jointly culpable. They had it coming.
A bored detective had listlessly attempted and failed to discover the perpetrator(s). His attempt at investigation had been commendable, if only for his reluctance to traumatise his grandmother who (it later transpired) was a resident of the retirement home. Thus negating her emergency relocation back to the family home. In fact the entire enquiry had been performed and classified as an accident within two working days. However none of this mattered; the wrinkled miscreants could return to their cosseted life once more since its brief disruption had been well worth the effort expended.
Retaliation from the home’s inmates had been worth the near fatal consequences. Long in the making and thoroughly enjoyed, but now sadly over.It would take a considerable time to prepare something quite as funny. So in the meantime, they would just have to find something else to break up the incredible monotony.
The essential problem was that life was good – too good. Year after monotonous year rambled uncomplainingly by without the slightest peril timidly knocking at their triple-locked doors. There was always plenty to eat. It was never cold. Not a drop of rain could penetrate their heavily cocooned environment. Even the mildly diverting prospect of a wild-eyed criminal breaking in was an impossibility given a security system that would make Fort Knox look like an eat-all-you-can buffet in comparison. Yet every aspect of this mind-blowing safety was taken entirely for granted by the aforementioned group on this, as every other day. As usual, all but the bed-ridden sat clustered in cosy, self-absorbed cliques, taking refined breakfasts or indulging in what the more cosmopolitan among them referred to as brunch. Or if not to eat then simply to talk, of trivial pleasantries, or past glories; some half remembered, others entirely fabricated. Any aspirations or desires once deemed important now relegated to distant memories.
To facilitate this agonisingly pleasant environment an artificially subdued sun dappled the ground floor dining area, designed solely to cater for the ‘guests’ and all their attendant ailments. Vigilantly ionised air wafted over greying heads with any residual aromas fellated to extinction by the very latest in extractor technology. A discreetly tinted ceiling mimicked a shady forest glade from which oozed the gentlest of pine scented zephyrs. While tasteful muted music crooned tenderly into hundreds of delicately balanced hearing aids. Accordingly it was here that all congregated for vigilantly planned, nutritionally certified and unidentifiably spice-free meals.
However, this well regimented paradise was not to everybody’s taste, and thus another slightly less refined daily custom was also well under way. Tediously raised voices audible to even the most hard of hearing, emanated from a peculiarly deserted section of the dining room. The source of the disturbance was, as usual, three old men slouching together at a debris covered table. It consisted of a noisy debate as to what they had just been served. Years of practise had lent some of the proposals creative if not disgusting implausibility:
‘Corned beef fried in the jet wash of a fighter running on dog piss.’ Inventive as always but not quite revolting enough to garner the required result.
‘It was an old tennis sock stuffed up someone’s ass for two weeks then baked using dead rats for seasoning.’ A collective groan of revulsion from those unable to distance themselves indicated a successful result.
The Old Geezers were up and about. Their names, even if any of the residents knew them, were never used. Any or all were just part of the whole. The unofficial title alone was enough for the management to identify the origin and cause of copious complaints; and in the latest hilarious (for the three at least) case, an abortive attempt to slaughter them all as they slept.
Quite who had tried to incinerate them would now be forever unknown. Which was probably fortunate for the person or persons in question, since the loudest and largest member of the group, Charles (Chet) Haughey, routinely offered, ever with an element of hope, to crush anyone who voiced a word against them. Except one; but more of her shortly.
Chet was an unashamed boor and a bully. A towering, white haired figure with the sagging body of an ex-prize-fighter and a bulbous, deeply reddened nose courtesy of a lifelong love affair with bourbon. In this, as in every other place he had ever lived, he was uniformly detested by everyone; a situation that, perversely, filled him with pride and which he reciprocated with an equal measure of passion.
Next to him sat Amon Macafferty; a short, wizened man of indeterminate ethnicity. As always he could be found with his two friends guzzling orange juice and scratching his head before their next foray into the disgusting. A particularly nasty case of cranial eczema obscured most of his heavily wrinkled face. This condition, which was not his fault, was accompanied by a swathe of revolting personal habits which were. These peculiarities had been the cause of his banishment from several other government institutions and a subsequently warm welcome from Chet at this. Even after a life spent in the military, he begrudgingly admitted Amon the better man when it came to grossing out almost every person who had the misfortune to encounter him.
Abraham Hankstetter was perhaps the oddest of the three, if only for his apparent normality. Why he had chosen the other two for companionship was probably the biggest mystery to anyone concerned enough to ponder the question; which, naturally were few. Needless to say his association with them precluded any invitations into the rarefied company of the other residents.
Unlike Chet, Abe did not appear to be the product of decades spent in a gymnasium, or of countless illegal fistfights. In fact he’d never been in a fight or entered a gym in his long life. And unlike his friends he had not developed the habit of hiding his face at the appearance of anyone he didn’t know lest he be an officer of the law bent on his arrest. Slim to the point of emaciation, it seemed that a gentle gust of wind might topple him. Only a careful look into his eyes would reveal an intelligence shared by neither of his strange friends, or indeed few of the many residents in the institution that housed them.
Many decades spent as a computer programmer poring over computer code and dim computer screens had left Abe permanently stooped. Jet black hair awash with brilliantine, his eyes peered myopically, rather alarmed by the daylight he’d spent most of his life trying to avoid. As usual he kept out of the mealtime autopsy.
Today, like every other before it, offered not the slightest chance of diversionary amusement. Thus a very bored Chet briefly toyed with the idea of announcing his birthday; his seventy forth birthday, making him the oldest of the three. Although with the impressive hangover he was currently enduring, any backslapping or ribald remarks which might accompany the news would result in him being forced to hurt someone. At any other time the prospect would have invigorated him, but this morning he felt tired and just a little delicate. So the news and the violence could probably be saved for another more convenient, time. And besides, birthdays were hardly an occasion for celebration these days. Between them the three had existed on this plain for almost three hundred years - hardly anything to get excited about any more.
What might have excited, or dismayed him was the news that an impulsive act of careless greed the previous night had, or shortly would result in the destruction of the entire world and simultaneous creation of a completely new one birthed amid the agonies of prehistoric savagery.