At Judy’s window, he cupped his hands around his face. Everything changed then, past, present, and future. “I shaded my eyes from the sun and I seen that her lips were blue.”
He’d worked at an undertaker’s before, and he knew how a body looks. Her bed was so close to the window that he could see the strange color of her lips, the teaspoon that was balanced across her mouth. Still, he reached in his pocket and found a 50-cent piece. He tapped hard on the window, to attract her attention, but she didn’t move. She didn’t move at all.
He had a key to the house, of course, so he went to the service porch and unlocked the back door. He shoved it open, but the chain was on. He went back to the yard to find a stick, then used it to push the chain up and down, trying to free the knob from the slot. It didn’t work, so he slit the screen, reached in, and slid out the chain.
It was then that he saw his wife.
“I saw Mrs. Huscher. She was lying on the floor with her head towards the kitchen door, and her feet towards the hall door going into the bedroom, and she was snoring.” Snoring in spite of how close she was to the door he had just rattled and fiddled with and poked and pushed open.
“And I turned her over on her stomach. She was on her side. I turned her over on her stomach, removed her glasses and tried artificial respiration, and I got nowhere. I ran into the bedroom to see how the child was. I was sure she was gone. I found her in the condition you see her in, cold and stiff, rigor mortis had set in, and a spoon was laying across her mouth, and I picked up the spoon and as I picked up the spoon, I realized that I had picked up something that wasn’t right, and I dropped it, and there was also, it looked like a piece of Kleenex, or a roll of toilet paper, and I didn’t know whether it looked like it had been a gag or not, but it had the appearance to me that it could have been used for such, and I came out here and then into the dining room, and I called Dr. Powell and he was out here within three or four minutes, and he took over.”
Dr. Powell had been in Fallbrook since 1941. He delivered babies and saw older patients too, such as Gladys, for whom he had prescribed the pills that were collected on the dining room table.
Dr. Powell told Mr. Huscher that his wife was in bad shape and that his daughter had been dead a number of hours. He assured Carroll there was nothing he could have done for Judy. He said it was too bad, though, that Judy hadn’t lain on her side when she was vomiting. “Maybe she could have gotten rid of some of it,” he said.
“Up to then,” Carroll told the police, “he didn’t know anything about this damn strychnine, and that stuff, so I don’t know, I’m just relating the conversation.”
Dr. Powell called an ambulance to take Gladys to the hospital, and one of the Harrison boys came out to watch. He wasn’t the only one to notice the police cars, of course, the going in and coming out. In a town where the constable’s usual job was to grab Carlin Yokum by the ear and make him roll the stop sign back to its place on the corner of Main and Alvarado (Carlin and his friends were always hiding the sign behind Westfall’s in hopes there’d be a crash), somebody was bound to tell somebody why there were cops at the Huscher place on Sunday.
It was one o’clock when Deputy Bob Majors, head of what was called the crimes of violence division, walked into the house. He wore a dark suit, a white shirt, a tie, and a hat. His steel-rimmed glasses were round and official-looking, like the hat. He was there to detect things.
Judy was still in her bedroom, but Gladys was gone. A sergeant was taking photographs of Judy, of the kitchen sink, of the ice cream carton in the trash. Another sergeant was dusting for fingerprints. Carroll Huscher had been in the house with his daughter’s body for two and a half hours when Deputy Majors and the coroner sat him down for the first interrogation.
“Would you state your full name, Mr. Huscher?” Majors asked.
Carroll stated it, but the deputy wrote it down wrong. “Harold B. Huscher” Majors wrote.
“And your age?”
And so on, through the address, Judy’s full name, his wife’s full name, all the easy questions.
“And now, about how long have you been estranged from your wife, or separated and not living here?” asked the deputy.
“Better than 90 days,” Carroll said.
“And during that time, the daughter has been living with her. Now, as I understand it, yesterday you had the daughter with you for part of the day. Is that right?”
“From a quarter of one,” Huscher said, “to approximately 4:30 in the afternoon.”
“Did you come here to the house and get her?”
“Her mother brought her to me and came and picked her up.”
“Is that a usual circumstance?”
“That is the usual circumstance. Either I come here and get her or she will bring her to me.”
In those days, Fallbrook was a small town with the usual small-town attractions. The air-conditioned Mission Theater was three short blocks away from Huscher’s business, and on the weekend of Judy’s death, the main feature was Oklahoma! The soda fountain was two blocks away, as was Reader’s store. Sometimes, at the far end of Main Street, a company like a traveling circus would lay down a wooden floor, set up a canvas tent, and let you skate all day for 25 cents. A lady played the organ, and when she stopped, you stopped.