Case XII: Chapter 1: A Social Call Interrupted
Matthew Dudley was engaged in his normal daily routine, sitting in the Main Dining Room at La Vida Aureo, enjoying a second cup of coffee and reading The Wall Street Journal. Paloma Angostura had just returned to the kitchen to begin preparing the noon meal. Dudley didn’t notice Isabella Duncan, La Vida Aureo’s Executive Director as she approached and quietly sat down across the table from him.
“Oh. Good Morning, Isabella. I didn’t see you sneak up on me.”
“Sorry to startle you, Doc. I was out walking and noticed you sitting here.”
“Don’t worry, Isabella, I about finished with my paper and was headed to the Second Floor to look at a leaky faucet in Mrs. Thomas’ apartment.”
“I wasn’t checking up on you, Doc. You should know by now that I trust you explicitly. But, before you dash off, I need your input on something.”
“I know, Isabella. I just didn’t want anyone to complain to you that I was loafing on the job. I saw Mrs. Branch wandering around this morning and I assume she believes it is her duty to report everything she sees, or suspects, to you.”
“Not to worry. We both have had plenty of interesting and exciting experiences with her and know to take her “helpful input” with a grain of salt.
“Right! I wanted to review our overall occupancy and readiness situation with you. I don’t think there are any casitas available, but I believe there may be one or two vacant suites in the Independent Living Wing of the Main Building. I’d appreciate it if you would let me know if there are any maintenance or repair issues to address before I allow someone new to move in. Thanks, Doc. I knew I could count on you.”
As Dudley had suspected, Millicent Branch was out and about. Mrs. Branch had been a La Vida Aureo Resident for a number of years and had taken it upon herself to walk through the campus virtually every day and report her observations to Isabella Duncan. Today, however, she was on a much different mission. She was walking directly to the Second Floor of the Main Building carrying a bottle of Harvey’s Bristol Cream sherry in a brightly-colored gift bag for a social call on Mrs. Harriet Aldridge. As she approached Mrs. Aldridge’s apartment, she noticed Staff Supervisor Frida Savino standing in the doorway.
“I’m here to call on Mrs. Aldridge and would appreciate it if you would move out of my way,” said Mrs. Branch with an air of indignity.
“Oh, Señora Branch, I don’t think you should enter the apartment. There has been a terrible accident and Mrs. Aldridge appears to be unconscious. I’ve asked one of the girls to go and get Señora Duncan and Señor Dudley.”
“What are you talking about? I talked to Harriet just a short while ago and she is obviously expecting me. Please get out of my way!”
“I’m sorry, Señora Branch. I cannot allow you to enter until Señora Duncan arrives.”
Millicent Branch stormed away and met Isabella Duncan at the top of the main staircase. “That Mexican girl is being very rude to me and won’t let me into Mrs. Aldridge’s apartment. I expect you to do something about it.”
Isabella Duncan paused only briefly. “Please calm down, Mrs. Branch. It is important that I find out exactly what is going on and I would appreciate it if you would clear the hallway. The Fire Department and Paramedics will be here any moment. Thank you.”
Just then, Matthew Dudley arrived on the Second Floor leading two Albuquerque Firemen and two Paramedics. The Paramedics walked quickly into Mrs. Aldridge’s apartment and immediately started to assess the situation and her condition. Isabella Duncan stood nearby intensely observing while Matthew Dudley and Frida Savino tried to keep the hallway clear from the gathering group of curious on-lookers.
After working on Mrs. Aldridge for about fifteen minutes, one of the Paramedics stood up and walked over to Isabella and shook his head. “I’m sorry, Ms. Duncan. Mrs. Aldridge is dead. There wasn’t really anything we could do. I’m pretty certain she was dead before we arrived. I’m sorry.”
“Can you tell me anything? She was fairly active here and I never noticed any signs of illness. I’d have to check here records to be absolutely certain, but I don’t believe she reported any significant medical conditions.”
“It isn’t typically our role to determine the actual cause of death but I suggest you contact the Police. We are required to notify them of any unaccompanied deaths like this. I can tell you that there is a large contusion on the back of her head as if she fell and hit the end table next to the sofa. My guess is that contributed to her death, but I imagine the Police will want to have the Medical Examiner look at the situation in detail and draw their own conclusions.”
“Thank you. I appreciate your very prompt response and your being straight-forward with me; I’ll handle things with the Police from here. I’m going to ask someone to escort all of you out of the building so that you don’t get side-tracked by any of our overly curious Residents.”
“Thank you and again I’m sorry about the situation.”
Isabella walked into the hallway and approached Dudley and Frida Savino. “Doc, would you escort the Team get out of the building so they can get on their way? Then, please meet me in my office. Frida, please securely lock Mrs. Aldridge’s apartment and then come to my office. The Police will be arriving shortly and I’m sure they will want to talk to you.”
Turning to the small group of Residents gathered in the hallway, Isabella said, “There has been an accident and I would appreciate it if you would all go on about your own activities. As soon as I have more information, I will let everyone know. Thank you.”
Then, ignoring Millicent Branch who was waving her hand for attention, Isabella turned and went quickly to her office to call Lt. Frank Garcia of the Albuquerque Metropolitan Police.