Ice Cream Man Ch. 02byMungoParkIII©
The call came at about nine p.m. that Friday night and suddenly we knew it was the worst possible news. We quickly threw on some clothes and then my wife, our other daughter and I climbed into our car and headed to the hospital. I drove carefully, there was no rush, there was no hope, we were coming to simply verify it was our daughter’s body.
I completed the drive mechanically, my mind focused somewhere else as I silently prayed, pleaded and dealt with whoever might be listening to make it someone else there, to make it someone else’s little girl. Parking near the emergency room entrance we slowly got out of the car and trudged across a driveway and went inside. Once inside we paused at the door as slowly the reality of it all began to creep into my mind.
Looking around I saw there were people, hurt people, people who loved these hurt people, people waiting as the hurt people were worked on and lived or not. I was one of these people, someone who loved someone who got hurt, someone who had not lived. I felt a little dizzy and looked for a chair.
“Mr. Wilson, I’m Detective Armstrong,” he said reaching out his hand to me as he nodded to my wife, “Mrs. Wilson.” I reached out my hand and took his, somehow drawing a bit of strength from his firm handshake. Not noticing my other daughter standing behind my wife he continued talking, “They aren’t quite ready for you yet but I have somewhere you can go and sit down.”
We followed him down the corridor and through a set of double doors. Once away from the commotion of the emergency room the building seemed to take on a very cold and quietly ominous tone. The sounds had changed from children crying, a TV playing, and numerous nervous conversations to the sound of our shoes squeaking on the polished floors, the high pitched drone of the florescent lights and the faint rumbling of air conditioning equipment.
Suddenly a high pitched musical tone startled all three of us and I saw the detective grab a cell phone. He quickly opened it and I heard him say, “Detective Armstrong, okay hold on a minute.” The detective turned to me and pointed down the hall saying, “Sorry, but I need to take this call, there is a small waiting room down there, the last door there on the right before the double doors.” He then wandered off down another corridor talking quietly on his cell phone.
I led my wife and daughter down the corridor and turned into the room. The floor was carpeted, a comfortable change from the sterile vinyl floors we had been squeaking across since we came into the ER. There was a couch and four other comfortable looking chairs. There also was several tables with magazines neatly stacked on them. I watched my wife and daughter go in and sit on the couch, putting their arms around each other.
While looking around the room I couldn’t help but think that this was the end of the line, something like the last waiting room before hell. And just outside, the double doors that opened into the morgue. I couldn’t sit down, instead I just leaned against the door frame, half in the room, half out in the hallway. After a few minutes I could see the detective heading towards me.
“He’s coming,” I said to my wife and daughter.
They stood up and as they moved to me my wife looked at me with a look of sheer terror. I reached out, took her hand and held it firmly. We waited a moment for the detective to reach us.
“Okay, they are ready for us. We’ll go through these double doors and immediately to the left is the entrance to their offices. Once in there we will only need one of you to come in and identify the... identify her. Are you ready?”
I nodded and we followed him through the doors and into an anteroom where there were doors into several offices and then a wider door into... into the morgue. Squeezing my wife’s hand I took a deep breath and then let go of her hand and then followed the detective to the door. He opened it and stood back letting me pass.
Inside was a hospital worker standing next to a table, where a body was under a sheet. Taking another deep breath I stepped forward and watched as he reached to the ends of the sheet. Before he moved it he said, “Now there is some bruising on her face and some swelling so prepare yourself.”
“Bruising and swelling,” I whispered and then nodded.
The sheet folded back slowly and as soon as I saw the curly hair I knew. Quickly grabbing the edge of the table to keep from falling I watched as her forehead appeared and then the rest of her face. The bruise was on her left cheekbone, her lips were badly swollen and her skin seemed a pallid gray color, but I knew it was her.
Nodding I said dejectedly, “Yes, that’s Katy.”
The detective motioned for me to follow, so I quickly reached out my hand to clear a stray bit of her hair from Katy's face, carefully moving it to the side of her head and tucking it behind her ear. I let my fingertips lightly run down her ear to her earlobe and then I moved my hand away. She had felt so cold, so cold.
Walking out of the morgue I looked at my wife and nodded as she collapsed into my arms crying. There was a couch in the corner of the anteroom that I kind of dragged her to and we both fell onto it. Stacy Ann just stood in the middle of the room, looking first at my wife and I and then looking toward the door of the morgue.
After a short while when my wife had recovered herself, the detective came over and squatted down and said, “At this point we don’t have any clues about who might have done this to your daughter, can you thing of anyone who might want to do her harm?”
As he talked Stacy Ann moved over and stood just to the side of my wife. It looked to me she was trying to understand what was happening. For the time being I just didn’t want her to know, we could tell her later, maybe in the morning.
My wife answered the detective, “No, she was popular in school and I never heard of any problem there. She would baby sit for a lot of our neighbors, everyone seemed to love her.”
“Okay, there was just one other thing. We found her holding this,” he said, holding up a plastic bag with a red mitten inside. “Do you recognize this?”
“What is it, a mitten?” my wife asked.
Suddenly Stacy Ann shouted, “That’s my mitten.”
Everyone looked at her as the detective asked, “Why did Katy take your mitten?”
“Katy didn’t take my mitten, the ice cream man did.”
Moving from the couch and kneeling on the floor next to Stacy Ann I asked, “Can you tell me about the ice cream man?”
“He came to our house a few days ago. Katy was busy so I went outside and waited for him. I wanted a kitty cat ice cream but the told me it would cost dollars, but I only had seventeen cents in my piggy bank. When I told him Katy has dollars he said I could have the ice cream if I gave him my mitten.
“After that he was going to let me pet his kitty cat. It was in his truck, but when I went to get in his truck Katy screamed her big mouth. She came running out and pulled me away and I didn’t get to pet the kitty cat.”
“What did the ice cream man do?” the detective asked.
“He took my mitten and climbed into his truck and drove away and then Katy made me promise not to tell mommy and daddy about it. Oops, I just told you.”
“Oh Stacy Ann it’s okay, you did good,” her mother said.
The detective looked at me and said, “I think your daughter may have just solved this case.”
“Can we go home now?” Stacy Ann asked.
Looking down at her, the detective said, “Yes you may, and thank you for being such a big girl.”
Stacy Ann smiled as we led her down the hallway. We found our way back to the ER and then headed out to the car. By the time we all climbed in, buckled our seatbelts and were ready to back out, Stacy Ann was asleep in the back seat. My wife and I would try to explain everything to her in the morning.