Joe R. Lansdale
Deep in the alley, lit by the beam of the patrolman’s flashlight, she looked like a naked angel in midflight, sky-swimming toward a dark heaven.
One arm reached up as if to pull air. Her head was lifted and her shoulder-length blond hair was as solid as a helmet. Her face was smooth and snow white. Her eyes were blue ice. Her body was well shaped. One sweet knee was lifted like she had just pushed off from the earth. There was a birthmark on it that looked like a dog paw. She was frozen in a large block of ice, a thin pool of water spreading out below it. At the bottom of the block, the ice was cut in a serrated manner.
Patrolman Adam Coats pushed his cop hat back on his head and looked at her and moved the light around. He could hear the boy beside him breathing heavily.
“She’s so pretty,” the boy said. “And she ain’t got no clothes on.”
Coats looked down at the boy. Ten, twelve at the most, wearing a cap and ragged clothes, shoes that looked as if they were one scuff short of coming apart.
“What’s your name, son?” Coats asked.
“Tim,” said the boy.
“You found her like this? No one else was around?”
“I come through here on my way home.”
Coats flicked off the light and turned to talk to the boy in the dark. “It’s a dead-end alley.”
“There’s a ladder.”
Coats popped the light on again, poked it in the direction the boy was pointing. There was a wall of red brick there, and, indeed, there was a metal ladder fastened up the side of it, all the way to the top.
“You go across the roof?”
“Yes, sir, there’s a ladder on the other side, too, goes down to the street. I come through here and saw her.”
“Your parents know you’re out this late?”
“Don’t have any. My sister takes care of me. She’s got to work, though, so, you know—”
“You run around some?”
“You stay with me. I’ve got to get to a call box, then you got to get home.”
Detective Galloway came down the alley with Coats, who led the way, his flashlight bouncing its beam ahead of them. Coats thought it was pretty odd they were about to look at a lady in ice and they were sweating. It was hot in Los Angeles. The Santa Ana winds were blowing down from the mountains like dog breath. It made everything sticky, made you want to strip out of your clothes, find the ocean, and take a dip.
When they came to the frozen woman, Galloway said, “She’s in ice, all right.”
“You didn’t believe me?”
“I believed you, but I thought you were wrong,” Galloway said. “Something crazy as this, I thought maybe you had gone to drinking.”
Coats laughed a little.
“Odd birthmark,” Galloway said.
Coats nodded. “I couldn’t figure if this was murder, vice, or God dropped an ice cube.”
“Lot of guys would have liked to have put this baby in their tea,” Galloway said.
The ice had begun to melt a little, and the angel had shifted slightly.
Galloway studied the body and said, “She probably didn’t climb in that ice all by herself, so I think murder will cover it.”