"My ring! Someone has stolen my ring!"
The voice shrieked down the halls and echoed through the dining room where the residents of Autumn Leaves Manor were beginning to gather for lunch. Emma McCabe, sitting at her favourite table at the far corner of the room, stopped in the midst of reaching for a glass of water. "Oh, fiddle,"
she thought, "She's at it again.. I hoped it was finished after the last episode." Emma was a tiny woman with a snowy crown of hair that, depending on her expression , gave her either an angelic or regal appearance. Her complexion had changed to the feathery softness of age against which her blue eyes shone with the sparkle and interest of youth.
She had been living at the manor for nearly 18 months and, although she had, at first, resisted the idea of giving up her home, she had to admit that she was glad her children had talked her into it. She appreciated not having to cook, make beds or do the other household chores which had become increasingly difficult. She enjoyed not having to think about snow removal or all those millions of other jobs. She liked having people her own age to talk to and, if she wanted privacy and quiet, she could go back to her own room. She even found pleasure in being able to quilt again. She didn't have room for a lot of things but a small sewing machine was tucked into her closet and a little tote held her supplies. She only bought fabric as she needed it and as she only did hand appliqued blocks, she didn't need a lot.
the scream had set off a reaction around the room. Jenny MacMillan, the newest staff, dropped the teacup she was handing to one of the resident's and watched, horrified, as the liquid pooled onto the table and started seeping toward the elderly man. Both seemed incapable of movement. From the kitchen, came the sound of something hitting the floor followed by a frustrated exclamation.
The Manor's director, Stephanie Morrison, had been greeting the residents and, when she heard the scream, turned and hurried from the room. Emma was sure she heard her mutter something about 'that woman' and it mirrored her own thoughts. She had recognized the shriek as belonging to Mrs. James, who had the room next to hers. Ethel James wasn't well liked by the residents, nor she suspected, the staff either. The woman complained about everything. Her room was either too hot or too cold. Residents talked to loud and the staff whispered, her food wasn't cooked properly or someone had a bigger portion than her. Most of the residents tried to avoid her but the employees weren't as fortunate and she had reported more than one for some imagined infraction.
Lately, her complaints had become more serious. She believed someone was stealing her belongings. She had lost a silver picture frame, as small vase and then a stuffed bear that usually sat on her bed. Every item that she had claimed to be stolen had, however, been found either tucked in a drawer or behind a chair. She had been examined by a doctor and found that there wasn't a medical cause for her behaviour. Most people assumed she was just trying to get attention. Whatever the cause, the result was a tenseness amongst the staff that was felt my the residents. All had been quiet the past two weeks, however, and everyone was hoping the accusations had stopped. Now it seemed as though that hope was fruitless.