From the Inside Flap
'What time was it exactly?'
'Well, let me think,' she replied, pausing for a moment. 'The milk is usually dropped off around five, a good two hours before I open up, and my usual half a dozen litres was tucked away to the left of the doorway. But the box was right in front, making it impossible for me to miss.'
'I was a bit annoyed actually and was thinking I was going to give the wholesaler a piece of my mind for not letting me know they'd be delivering outside opening hours,' she continued, her tone measured. 'And then, just as I was about to open the box to see if they were indeed the culprits, I heard ... well some kind of sound coming from it.'
'A sort of whine, I suppose? Very weak, like from a small animal or something. Of course straight away I thought; here we go, another wretched creature to add to the family.'
'You thought that someone who knows you take in strays was leaving another one for you?'
'Exactly. Everyone here in Lakeview knows what I'm like and that I can't say no.' She smiled a little. 'But then I thought well, at least this one was coming with a ready-made name. So I reached inside, already deciding that if it was a cat, dog, hamster or whatever that I would call it Doughnut.' She shook her head. 'But when I pulled back the folds and discovered exactly what I'd been landed with this time, I got the biggest shock of my life.'
'And what did you do then?'
'Well, I called the guards of course ... Frank was here within a couple of minutes, the police station is only walking distance but he took the car anyway. And I rang Jim Kelly too.'
'The local GP.''
'Yes. An ambulance too just in case, although the box looked well insulated and there were plenty of blankets. Still I thought it best to be sure.'
'Sounds like you were very clear-headed about it.'
'Not at all,' she protested, sounding a little nervous. 'Truth be told I was in complete shock. It was only when the ambulance left and Doctor Kelly told us that vitals looked good and there were no signs of hypothermia that I managed to relax a little. As I said, I doubted the box was there that long - and we all agreed that whoever left it must have been acquainted with my routine.'
'No excuse though, is it? I mean what kind of person would dump a new-born baby in a cardboard box on the side of the street in the freezing cold?'
'I know and Frank suggested that maybe the mother was hiding nearby, keeping an eye out, waiting for me to show up. To be honest I was so taken aback that I didn't think to look.'
'He reckoned that it was most likely a misunderstanding of some kind and that he'd have it all sorted out in no time. He said to me "Ella, for what it's worth, I think leaving it outside your place was intentional because if there's one person in this village who'd know exactly what to do it's you. You're great with kids and sure aren't you always taking in strays? This place isn't nicknamed The Heartbreak Café for nothing." She shook her head sadly. 'And while I agreed with him, I just thought that this was a lot more than a miserable old mongrel - it was a poor innocent little baby. And not only that, but this is a small town, a small community where people look out for each other - not some anonymous city.'
'I know what you mean.'
'So I had very little sympathy and as far as I was concerned there's nothing - absolutely no reason in the world that could justify abandoning a poor defenceless baby on the street. But,' Ella added with a heavy sigh, 'I suppose it's all too easy to play judge and jury until you know the whole story.'