The Call Box: One Christmas Morning

By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD

There are no elves, nor grinches, no Jacob Marley and no Tiny Tim.This is the tale of one minor incident in the city on any given day.

The Call Box

I was a sergeant working Wilshire Division detectives and with three others were the “Christmas crew.” My hope for a quiet day to work on reports evaporated when a patrol officer called in a “DB” (dead body) call at the far west end of the division, the high rent area.

Homes were well-tended and pricey. I was met by the uniformand the neighbor who is a “Spring Byington” look-alike, both in looks andmannerisms. “Spring” came over to wish Merry Christmas to her friend Abigail. Receiving no answer, she went home and called. Alarmed when there was no reply, she phoned the police. 

The uniform had no trouble gaining entry and found Abigail deceased. 

Dressed in pajamas, quilted robe, and slippers she was seated in an overstuffed arm chair facing the tree. The remnants of a cocktail sat ona low table to her left. 

From all outward appearances she died the night before. After deciding cause of death to be “natural” and thinking that was a pretty good wayof checking out, I released the uniform and turned my attention to “Spring.” 

I covered Abigail’s face with a blanket and asked “Spring” about next of kin. She confirmed her friend like herself was in her 80’s and a long-time widow. 

Spring Byington in Kentucky Jones 1965

Three grown children, a daughter, Ellen, living in Arizona who she spoke to by phone on a weekly basis, and two sons both estranged, whom Abigail never discussed, names unknown.

Kitchen “wall phones” were popular then and usually had a corkboard or message receptacle adjacent. Abigail did not disappoint. In one corner of the board was “E” with an Arizona number. Directly below was “T” and “D”who I hoped were the sons. Neither E nor T answered nor did a machine.

D answered, “Merry Christmas, this is Dick.” Now the crappy part. Anyone who has ever made a death notification can verify there is just no easy way. I couldn’t blurt out, “Merry Christmas, mom’s dead.” So, in my most diplomatic fashion, I gave him the news as gently as possible.

Now, this is a man who, by his later admission, had not spoken to nor made any inquiry regards his mother’s health or well-being for many years. He completely went to pieces. He was an hour away and would be enroute.

“Spring,” bless her heart, had without prompting nor asking has made a pot of coffee. We sat with our coffee sharing the silence, I finally asked about Abigail’s doctor.

“Spring” had driven her friend to the cardiologist on several occasions. He was on Wilshire and although she could not remember his name it started with “W.” 

Abigail came through again when the board yielded Dr W. Department policy stated if a doctor who had seen the deceased within the last thirty days (I think) and was willing to attest to cause of death, he could sign the death certificate. Otherwise it became a coroner’s case.

Dr W’s service stated Dr G was covering for him. I asked Dr G’s service for a call back a.s.a.p.  Ten minutes later, Dr G confirmed his association with Dr W, knew Abigail and was sure Dr W would sign off.

Thank you.

“Spring” left and when Dick arrived, he cried openly and told me of his regrets. It was awkward and there was nothing I could really say. I was finally able to calm him down enough to call a mortuary. I then walked next door responding to “Spring’s” invitation and enjoyed a very good breakfast.

The names Abigail, Ellen, T and D along with the doctors’ are invented for this story as it was long ago. 

The story and of course, “Spring” are both true.

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6 thoughts on “The Call Box: One Christmas Morning

  1. I love your stories. Thanks for your years of service, working holidays and helping people in their most vulnerable moments. Merry Christmas, Ed.
    Maura Fitzgerald Sekas
    Ward’s daughter❤️

    Liked by 1 person

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