It was a cold, drizzly morning when Mrs. Halloran called. It must have been a holy day of obligation or Easter vacation because we were all home from school, and the public school kids weren’t. The Hallorans were new to Broadmoor Street, another Catholic family in an otherwise solidly Mormon neighborhood in Salt Lake City.
Mrs. Halloran talked to Mom for several minutes. “…really?” “Uh huh…” “Are you sure?” Mom said she’d be right over. When she got off the phone she told us she was going over to the Hallorans and surprisingly said we could come with her.
We all ran down the block, no boots or umbrellas, dripping into the house and then out onto the Halloran’s patio/deck that topped their underground garage. Earlier, Tommy, hiding from his brothers, had gone out onto the patio. He looked down and saw someone lying on the ground, between the bushes covering the fence and the yellow brick house next door. There was a blue sleeping bag hanging out the bedroom window, but the person was covered with a blanket or sheet. Mrs. Halloran wanted Mom to check to see if “the person” was okay. She didn’t know the neighbors and really neither did we. They were a mystery couple, no children, never outside or on the street. They had a large German Sheppard, he was in the yard, pacing.
As we peered from the patio through the bushes we could see that there was someone lying between the houses, still asleep despite the rain. Mom went back out and up to the neighbor’s front door. She knocked, no answer—she went around the other side of the house to the fenced and gated back yard. The German Sheppard came crashing up to the gate barking. Mom was the neighborhood dog lover and general animal expert. She talked to the dog rubbing his ears; eventually he stopped barking and let her open the gate. Mom came around to the side yard bent over the person, lifted the blanket and found that it was the neighbor lady, Mrs. Madsen. She talked quietly, shook her lightly—there was no response. She felt for a pulse—there was none.
Once back in Halloran’s house, Mom and Mrs. Halloran conferred in hushed tones. My older sister, Jane and I assigned the task of keeping the five Halloran kids and our three siblings out of the kitchen and away from the patio, took turns looking out the window and listening into the adult’s conversation. They called the police who arrived quickly. They needed Mom to calm the dog again before they could begin their examination of the scene. They looked around the yard and house and eventually took Mrs. Madsen away in an ambulance. In the house they found a number for Mr. Madsen and said they would try to call him.
I suppose that a more thorough investigation followed. The less than detailed story was that Mrs. Madsen committed suicide. She overdosed and then somehow fell out the window still wrapped in the blanket. Why the sleeping bag? Where was her husband? Had he been home that night? We never knew. Soon afterwards he and the German Sheppard moved away. It was a frequent topic of neighborhood gossip and speculation. We called the yellow brick house “the dead lady house”.
November 15, 2011