A short story
|“Did you hear?!? They arrested Dr. Brown this morning.”
“Dr. Brown?!? Why? What are the charges?”
“They got him for murder...murder in the first degree...six counts.”
“Was it a mass murder? I mean, six counts, there has to be six bodies...who did he kill? How did he kill them? When did it all happen?”
“It didn't happen all at once. It was over a period of three months...”
Three months ago, Tim Brown was looking for some way to keep his family's business, Brown's Retirement Home, from going bankrupt. He had been cost cutting, saving a little here, a little there, but times had changed and everything except the revenue had kept increasing. Then, he came up with a clever plan. He worked out the numbers on paper, and thought he had found a viable answer. He was certain it would work, and didn't see any downside.
He figured that if he could save just one day's cost off the Retirement Home electric bill, it would put the whole thing on track. One day's bill. The cost of the electricity at the home had skyrocketed in recent years. In spite of all the cost-cutting measures, turning off lights in unused rooms, special regulators for appliances, the usage was a little more than the home could afford. He had asked the county for help, but they turned him away with a threat to take the home over if he couldn't keep up.
Tim Brown was no slouch. He was a smart man. If there was a way to solve a problem, he was usually able to figure it out. People came to expect him to figure out their problems. But, when it came to the dilemma of saving the cost of a day's electricity, he was at a quandary. Then, one day, about four months ago, it came to him: he couldn't shut off everything for a day. But maybe, if he spread the service shutdown over the entire year, a little at a time, he could achieve the savings he needed to keep the home afloat. So, he devised a plan. He would have Jay, the maintenance man, shut off the power for thirty minutes at a time, once every week. They set the schedule for Sunday mornings, at 3:30
Things seemed to be working fine as the first three weeks went off without a hitch. Then it happened: during the weekly shutdown, Jerry Douglas, one of the residents, went into cardiac arrest, and died. They didn't find him until four o'clock, when the power came back on, but it was clear that he had been dead for almost the entire time of the shutdown. If the electricity had been on, they very likely could have saved him.
After Dr. Brown had filed all the necessary reports, the county coroner had a few questions. Dr. Brown answered adequately, he thought, and the coroner left.
Two weeks later, Sam Cooper had a heart attack, and died. Like Jerry Douglas, he wasn't found until the power came back on. Dr. Brown wondered, but convinced himself the deaths were coincidence.
As luck would have it, the next week, Alice Parton died in precisely the same way. A heart attack, followed by nearly thirty minutes of neglect. All the necessary reports, again, and some more pointed questions from the coroner. He mentioned the coincidental times of death, and the fact that the bodies seemed to have not been disturbed, that no one had attempted CPR.
Three weeks passed, three more half-hour shutdowns, each without a problem. Nobody dying, no visits from the coroner, no reports. Just an hour and a half of power savings. Then, it happened. The fourth week after the third death, two more heart patients died, each in precisely the same manner. This time, the coroner was not so forgiving. An inquest was scheduled, and records of patient care were subpoenaed. But, an inquest was not to be.
The very next week, another resident died from a heart attack. The coroner had seen enough. The police were summoned, Tim Brown and Jay Jennings were arrested and led away in handcuffs.