Welcome to October
CHAPTER
12
A Lady Lifeless
During the course of the day, Ichabod watched many things happen. He watched as Mr. Mind and Dr. Down set up a bed for him in the attic. He watched each of the morbid Mortimers march up the stairs solemnly, then come down again, relieved.
He watched as the cat skirted and the dog hobbled around the hollow house.
He watched as Mr. Wutsitz wheeled himself as far as the front door. He watched as Mr. Wutsitz also watched Ichabod. The man never took his eyes off the boy as Mr. Gunn and Mr. Finn carried him inside and Downstairs. Ichabod watched the door to the Tunnels, sure Mr. Wutsitz was still watching him.
Ichabod knew Mrs. Wutsitz had followed him into the Down Home, but he forgot there’d be others who’d follow her in, too. He had to endure the worst parade of people passing him the worst kinds of funny faces.
Detectives Abe and Bee offered sympathetic smiles.
Mrs. Down also smiled, but her eyes were always filled with teetering tears.
Mr. Gunn shot blazing bullets with his grimace turned scowl.
And Mr. Finn just seemed abundantly annoyed that he had to transport Mr. Wutsitz anywhere. He was the one holding the man by the feet.
Ichabod knew what they’d all been thinking. They were thinking about Ichabod and what he did to the Wutsitz woman. Before this moment, he hadn’t thought he’d done anything. He was innocent and he’d swear this truth to the grave. Despite Mr. Wutsitz’s words, he’d thought it wasn’t wrong to have called Dr. Down for help. But after person after person came through the front room and looked at him sourly, he thought he could have done something differently.
Perhaps he had done something wrong.
He thought about the pools of people he may have hurt from his accidental actions.
He thought about Mrs. Wutsitz and how she looked asleep.
He thought about how he watched her for a moment. Maybe more.
He knew he had to do something besides watching.
He had to say sorry to the lady he’d fatally frightened.
There was a circus in a city Elsewhere that had a three-armed lady and the world’s hairiest man. The spinning lights and glittering colors of The Crimson Caravan always made Ichabod feel lighter. Less grounded and less bound to the weight of his usual responsibilities.
When he was there, Ichabod Graves felt free.
Perhaps this was why he had loved Miss Milano. Miss Milano on her Rockin’ Rope. It was the most celebrated act for The Crimson Caravan. With naught but an umbrella, Miss Milano took a net-less stroll across a hazardous, high wire. Ichabod’s mother said Miss Milano must have used magic; Grandfather said she must’ve been Jewish and reminded Ichabod to say his daily prayers.
Ichabod wasn’t sure whether she had faith or was a fairy, but Miss Milano was definitely free. She didn’t just walk across the tightrope— she danced; she rocked. And she skipped and she twirled and hopped. She had no fear.
Just a smile and a white umbrella.
To commemorate her 100th trek across the tightrope, she curled her hair and wore gloves. She put a bow on her umbrella. She wore socks but no shoes.
To commemorate the 100th trek, Ichabod brought his camera. He wore his favorite bowtie. Ichabod’s mother bought them seats in the very front row.
That night, Miss Milano was wonderful. She was wonderful, alive, and free. Until the moment she wasn’t any of those things. But she was still very free when she twirled, lost her footing, and fell down.
Ichabod knew he had seen the dead lady. He clearly remembered the umbrella floating in a spiral, floating down, down, down. But after a while, he couldn’t envision her. He saw her umbrella, her curls, and her gloves.
He couldn’t, however, remember the lady to which they belonged.
The Tunnels were bright and well-lit, unlike he’d imagined. And the morgue filled with bods was nowhere near as cold as Ichabod had believed. It was bright and white and sterile. And the only body out in the open was his own.
He noticed the wall of stainless steel drawers. He knew what was inside them. It didn’t need to be said. He counted how many drawers there were as he took his first steps into the room.
He wondered where all the living things had gone as he walked toward the wall of the dead.
It was strange and surreal. The number of bods in the wall. He imagined Miss Hour and Mr. Yu having a sleepover with Mr. Fine and Lady Green. In death, they were together.
In life, how far apart?
When Ichabod saw Mrs. Wutsitz’s drawer, he begged his brain to remember. Graying hair, long nose, thick glasses, he recalled. But even though he’d only known her briefly, he winced, wracking his brain. What else... What else?
For some reason, it was important. He thought it might have been for this: He couldn’t apologize properly if he didn’t properly care. But he couldn’t care properly if she was someone he didn’t properly know.
He thought he was sad because didn’t know her. He didn’t know her, but he should’ve because she made his meals and his bed. But when he opened the drawer and pulled her out, he was sadder.
She was somebody’s mother.
But this was a fact that Ichabod Graves had almost forgotten.
He looked at Mrs. Wutsitz— at her wrinkles and penciled in brows. He looked at the locket pressed into her hand. She’d been wearing it when she fell, but Dr. Down’d removed it. He’d handed it to Mr. Wutsitz. And Mr. Wutsitz must have given the locket back to his mother.
Ichabod should have noticed this. She was a mother and she was loved. She wasn’t just the innkeeper lady. To someone, she was family. She was someone’s wacky mom.
Ichabod’s eyes started to water. He let out a frustrated moan. His mother told him to be strong. But she was Elsewhere and she was dying.
Maybe even gone.
Her dying wish was that he would leave ‘til the deed was done. And Ichabod Graves had promised not to come home. He tried not to care, but he couldn’t remember. Her laugh, the sound of her voice, her heartbeat’s thump, thump
He didn’t know how she was doing. He didn’t know if she is or was.
“I’m sorry,” Ichabod choked. He tried not to cry over Mrs. Wutsitz. She looked frightened, as if he’d already revealed too much.
But Ichabod was determined. It was an accident, but maybe he had done terribly wrong.
“I’m sorry,” apologized Ichabod, “that I maybe took you from your son.”
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