Veteran : Another Psychologically Thrilling Short Quarantine Read From Author Rafael Alizo
Visiting hours were over. The seniors in the retirement home were returning to their boring afternoons of Bingo, lounge music, and re-runs of old TV shows.
Vanessa, Sally, and Christy were in charge of the shift that afternoon. So, it would be a piece of cake, at least until four curious-looking guys burst into the hall. Covered jackets, dark glasses, tattoos on their faces, well-groomed beards, asking to see Mike Scandol.
Vanessa, who was in charge of the reception, told them that by that time, visiting hours were over. So, they had to leave. She was actually nervous, as the men’s bad looks made them look like stereotypical criminals.
“Besides, Mr. Scandol is taking his afternoon nap. If you can tell me your relationship with him, I can send a messa…”
“Look, honey, do I look like Sandol’s friggin’ grandson?” Said the one leading the gang, the one with the most refined yet defiant look. He wasn’t going to take no for an answer, “This is what we’re gonna do, you tell me the room of that ol’ dog, and we will leave this place. And you even think about calling someone, because…”
The guy’s gaze made Vanessa go to the henchman’s belt. On the right, pointing at a high-caliber weapon, this was serious. Vanessa wondered who these men were; she remembered that one of the elders had been an ex-convict or something like that, but she would not imagine Scandol like that, who was one of the sleepiest patients in the whole place.
“Sir, we don’t want any troubles, I…”
“Oh, you think you can give us troubles, haha,” they all laughed and asked to call the other ladies in the place.
Vanessa went inside, where Christy was organizing the evening’s pills, and Sally was talking to one of the other elders. They didn’t understand Vanessa’s crying, who just called them at the front desk. In the hall, she was explaining the situation to the girls.
“Oh, my God; Scandol? Why would they want him?” Christy asked.
“I don’t know, I’m so scared. Can we call the police?”
“I don’t have my phone with…”
“Yo, ladies!” The man from before called them, approaching the corridor where they were, frightening them in the process, “This won’t take too much, I just need to pay a little visit to Scandol. We really need to talk to him,” the gun in his hand gave little to no choice to the ladies. So, they had to do what he wanted. It was all doomed for everyone that afternoon.
There was something that nobody expected, neither the girls, nor the intruders, nor the other residents, and it was that the place had been inhabited for three years by none other than Horace Millgroid, a little known name. Although, if he had been called by his nickname in the war platoon, ‘The Red Reaper,’ perhaps everything would have taken its usual course that afternoon.
He was the person Sally talked to when Vanessa showed up crying; he knew the variations of crying very well, so he was worried that something terrible would happen. By no longer hearing the girls’ voices in the distance, he knew something had dulled their voices.
First, he went to Raul Salamanca’s room, which had a direct view of the reception. There ,he realized that there were two subjects in the reception, watching. Doing the math, he knew they might be coming for Scandol, since in the records of everyone at the retirement home (which Horace read before to be aware of everyone around him), the man was said to have led a gang of criminals in the past. Urban legend was that Scandol had been rumored to have locked up a high stash of hidden cash somewhere in the city. With all the other remaining members already dead, it was only a matter of time before someone arrived to learn such valuable information. Horace had to act.
The first thing he did was go into Scandol’s room; although his joints did not allow him to go very fast, he knew that he had never been known for his speed, even in his younger years. Still, his wit was notorious, described by the enemy decades ago as a one-man army.
He found Scandol asleep and didn’t hesitate to wake him up abruptly, but he could tell that the girls and the intruders were nearby using his hearing aid. He asked Scandol to hide in the closet, even though he did not understand what was happening. They both waited in hiding.
The girls went to Scandol’s room, with one of the intruders, and found something strange: Horace was in the continuous bed, a bed that Scandol did not share with anyone, but they did not say anything. Horace seemed to be asleep, with a nasogastric tube that he must have placed himself, but this was not known by the intruder. The girls told him that Scandol was not in the room and that the other gentleman was not him. He did not believe them and inspected the alleged sleeping man; he did not care that the bed next to him was the one that clearly said Scandol’s name, but that is when Horace started the action.
From inside the sheet, a silenced bullet came out, with a brittle sound, hitting the head of the intruder, making sure he fell directly on the bed without making any noise.
Horace now had to act quickly; in his old but not senile mind, he had to: deal with the imminent scream of surprise from the girls, get rid of the body, continue hiding Scandol, and continue his hunt, all while explaining the tangled situation to everyone present.
Once he explained the plan, Sally asked Horace where he got a gun; he just said: “Honey, I love y’all, but sometimes you do a terrible job in keeping an eye on us; good luck that’s gonna save us today, hehe.”
As the gang leader visited someone else, leaving another of his men in charge of dealing with Scandol, Horace heard a faint sound. Immediately, he deduced that this was the final elimination of their objective.
“Goodbye, granny, hope you’re doing great here,” said the man to Loretta, unmindful of the card that declared her in a vegetative state. He kissed her on the hand and left to finish the job.
When he went to Scandol’s room, he found only a few bloodstains on the floor, but with the body of his colleague in the bed, and a note that stated: “Scandol is under the care of the Red Reaper.”
“What. The. Hell?”
With a shout, he called out to one of his henchmen, who went from the reception area to the corridor where the commotion had occurred at full speed.
However, he barely noticed the serum in the hallway, which caused him to slip. As he tried to stand up, he didn’t see the injection Horace gave him from behind, falling down almost instantly.
Now, the scales appeared to be finally tipping in their favor, had it not been for one thing: the criminals’ leader was actually across the hall, where he witnessed everything that had just happened. He clapped and congratulated Horace.
“Wow, man, you’re amazing!” Despite Horace’s serious rictus, the leader kept showing his malevolent smile, “What was it that you called yourself? It was you, isn’t it? The Bad Reaper.”
“The Red Reaper, twelve times decorated, war hero, squad 66.”
The leader started to approach, but that didn’t disturb Horace, “Congrat-the-frick-ulations, old man. But guess what? You won’t be able to make us leave here just like that. I’m not an easy player.”
“Son, I basically created the hard way.”
“Oh, we have a big mouth in here.”
“Didn’t your parents teach you to respect your elders?” The leader ended up only a few feet away from Horace, who, unlike his enemy, was unarmed, but that didn’t stop his ego from talking. “You know what? I’m feeling a little tired. Can I sit for a bit?”
“What? Are you kidding?”
Horace slowly made his way to one of the surrounding wheelchairs,
“Hey, don’t try any funny thing…”
“You and I know what’s about to happen; at least let me take a seat to leave this world in comfort. You know, in my best days, I would say something bold, like “I will run over you with this chair”, but now that I think about it, that would sound stupid.
“Those are some weird last words,” the man raised his gun, but just before he pulled the trigger, a loud noise came from behind. The leader thought this was a set-up, so he didn’t take a second chance, and before inspecting, he shot at Horace right in the chest.
Now that he felt safe, he looked backward, just to find the last henchmen on the floor; confused, he swung his gaze back to Horace, who was pointing at him.
Now, Horace, he didn’t want to risk it all, so he shot at the leader’s hand, blowing two of his fingers away.
That’s when the leader asked, “How?”
Horace didn’t say a word; he just took off an iron urinal from his chest, and ran his wheelchair directly over the leader’s foot, pressing it in the proces, and making him scream even more.
“Ha, who would guess it? I actually did it. Maybe because I’m still in my best days.”
When the police arrived, the ladies were asked how they had beaten four armed men (no one would ever believe a seventy-eight-year-old man did all that). The truth is that not even they knew how everything had happened. Even when they secretly asked him how Horace had solved the problem of the fourth thug, he only said that he needed to take a bath because even though the urinal was clean, he could not stop feeling sick.
Meanwhile, in one of the continuous corridors, the noise had awakened someone. Two days later, after waking up, Loretta wasn’t going to receive her grandson’s news well. Instead of being happy to come out of her multi-year coma, she decided to put her family’s central theme into action: Revenge.