Holcomb Bridge is a short story from my book, Devious Tales. If you like it and want more tales with a twist, you can purchase the complete book at Amazon (ebook and paperback), Barnes & Noble (ebook and paperback), and Kobo (ebook). The paperback contains two additional stories.
Holcomb Bridge was the sort of small bridge you find in many small towns. This particular one though had little traffic during the day and was even quieter at night. That is except for Friday and Saturday nights when local teens came out here way after dark looking for a deserted area where they could park and neck. As a cop, I knew all this pretty well. I was also a teenager once myself, and having grown up here, I had fond memories of kissing Caroline McKay, Janie Newton, and a few other girls right on that bridge. Not at the same time of course!
It’s a romantic spot. Especially if you got lucky and the moon was full, shining bright and reflecting off the river below. These days, this area of town was part of my regular patrol, and those nights of my teenage lust long gone except for the memories. I am married now to a great woman. Her name is Barbara. We have two terrific sons, Michael and Anthony. Still, whenever I drive by this bridge which is every night I am on duty, it brings back fond recollections of those late nights and early mornings. Today, as a police officer, I always left the kids alone.
Unlike Ray Morton.
Ray Morton was the police officer who patrolled this area back in those days when it was me and Caroline and Janie necking in the shadows of the bridge along with other kids. Soon as he spotted us, Morton jumped out of his car. He would shine a bright flashlight right at us and chase us all off threatening to tell our folks. Like we cared!
Me on the other hand, I just drive by, take a quick gaze at the surroundings making sure nothing looks out of the ordinary and let the kids be. Necking and maybe smoking a bit of weed was not the worst thing you could do.
This particular night though was a Wednesday. It was well past midnight, and the person on the bridge was not a teenager, and he was there all by himself. His car was parked right in the middle of the bridge. I pulled over stopping my car about twenty feet from him. I shut the headlights off and sat there looking at him for a bit getting the impression he didn’t even know I was there. He hadn’t moved. He was just staring down at the water. I quietly got out of my car and slowly walked over toward him until I was a couple of feet away. He still did not move or acknowledge my presence. I leaned over the railing and stared out into the darkness.
“Nice night, a bit cool maybe,” I said.
“I’ve seen better.”
“How long you been here?”
“I don’t know. An hour or so, maybe. Makes no difference.”
“You know, I bet that water is still cold after our snowy winter.”
He turned and looked at me for the first time, just for a moment. He nodded, “yeah, it probably is.” He then turned back to staring out into the dark nothingness.
He pulled out a pack of cigarettes. Put one in his mouth and then offered me one.
I shook my head. “Gave them up a while back.”
“I thought of doing that too, but lately it just doesn’t seem to matter.”
He lit up, took a long drag and blew out a mouth full of smoke.
“You know, life gives you a lot of twists and turns,” he said. “One moment it makes you think everything is finally going to ease up and go well. You could settle down, be happy, and then…then you suddenly, unexpectedly get a big knife right in your gut ripping you apart.”
“If you don’t mind me asking, what happened?”
He took the cigarette out of his mouth and held it in right hand.
“My wife died.”
“That’s what everyone says. They all say how sorry they are, friends, relatives, co-workers. They all offer help, food, comfort, companionship. Everything except for one thing.”
“What is that?” I asked even though I knew the answer.
“How do I get my wife back? She was everything to me, and now she’s gone. I’m alone.”
“Do you have kids?”
“No. Stella couldn’t have children, and that was okay with me. We had each other and always would, forever. At least, that’s what I thought. Forever ended sooner than expected.”
With that, he flicked the half-smoked cigarette into the river below. We were silent for a few minutes.
“You married?” he asked.
I nodded in the affirmative, “we have two boys,” I said.
“That’s nice. Like I said, Stella couldn’t have kids. I knew when we got married that she couldn’t have them. She had a hysterectomy when she was nineteen believe or not. Cancer. But they got it all, and here we were twelve years later, and she was doing great. We were happy.”
“The cancer didn’t come back if that’s what you’re thinking. It was a car accident. Some teenage kid. A seventeen-year-old asshole texting on her phone swerved, not paying attention to the road, slammed head on right into her. The doctors said she most likely died instantaneously. I guess that’s something to be grateful for huh?”
He pulled out another cigarette and lit it up. “Maybe, it was cancer that killed Stella. The stupid human kind. You know what I mean?”
“Unfortunately, I do. Kids, texting and driving. It’s not just kids,” I said. “Not to sound like an advertisement or something, but it’s an epidemic.”
“Stupidity never dies.”
“I’ll take one if you don’t mind.”
“Thought you said you quit?”
“Generally speaking…” I smiled.
He smiled back and offered me the pack. I took one and lit up. We both stood there silent for a while again. This time it was longer though I can’t say how long, but we finished that pack of cigarettes, I know that.
The wind was beginning to pick up a little. It felt good.
“I hated that kid,” he said suddenly. “Lord knows I did. Marcy Stevens, that’s her name. I know you’re a cop, but I’ll tell you anyway. I wanted to kill her. I wanted her not just to die, but to suffer before she died, actually suffer like I have been suffering now.”
“Did you? I asked.
“Did I what?”
He looked at me incredulously. “No, of course not. I had a lot of rage for a long time, and I thought up a lot of bad things. A lot of different ways to make her suffer. Run her down like she did Stella. Then run over her again and again, going back and forth. Then I thought of shooting her or stabbing her. But I…I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t do any of that. Stella wouldn’t have wanted me to. She would have wanted me to forgive that kid. That’s the kind of sweet soul she was.”
“Sounds like she was a wonderful person.”
“Oh she was, she was.”
“Have you been seeing anybody? Professionally I mean, a doctor.”
“I did for a while, but I stopped going. I began drinking for a while, but I kept getting sick to my stomach. Never been able to tolerate booze well. I gave up on that too. That’s when I started coming out here to think. Thinking about a lot of things but mostly about,” he stops for a moment, “well, you can guess.”
“Yeah, probably,” I said. “You should go back to the doctor.”
“Yeah, but I have been coming out here for a while now. True, the first few times I came out here, I always had plans to…well, take the dive. End it all. But, somehow, I never did. Then I began coming out here as some sort of therapeutic thing. I’d talk to Stella, and for a while that was good. And she told me it was okay and I should go on with my life. Am I crazy, talking to a dead person?”
“Lots of people do when they miss someone,” I said.
“Well, believe it or not, it helped. I stopped coming here, and I thought I was over it all. You know, I figured I reached a point, with Stella’s blessings, where I could move on with my life. It was all okay for a time. A couple of months went by, and it was good. I even thought of dating. Then came one night when suddenly inside my head I felt all those old emotions and feelings come rushing back. The next night and the next were the same. I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to come out here. It all came back. I wanted to jump again. I wanted it all to end. Then you appeared, and we talked. I’m okay now, at least for tonight.”
“Well, I’m glad for that,” I said and truly was.
“I guess it’s like being an alcoholic. You have to take it one day at a time.”
“I guess, but I still think a doctor could help you along the way.”
“You’re probably right. I should go back. Maybe next time you won’t be here to talk me down.”
He looked at me.
“I want to thank you,” he said. “You know, I just realized I don’t know your name.”
“Moretti, Bob Moretti,” I said. “If you ever want to talk or need me, here is my cellphone number.” I took a card out and jotted down my personal number.
“Mine’s Fred Smith.”
We shook hands.
By now, a couple of hours had passed, and the sun was beginning to rise slowly.
“Wow, we’ve been here almost all night,” Fred said.
“Time goes by when you’re having fun…” I said, trying to keep it light. “Like I said, Fred. Anytime. Just call me, and we can talk. I don’t want to come here again some night and find you down at the bottom of that river.”
“I appreciate all this. Thanks, Officer Moretti.”
“Bob,” I said.
We shook hands again, and I walked over and got into my cruiser. I backed up to the end of the bridge and sat there for a moment watching as Fred got into his car. He was heading in the opposite direction from me. His car started up. Suddenly, there was the screech of his tires. Bob’s car burned rubber as he drove right through the railings and off the bridge plunging into the cold river below.
I waited for the rescue team to arrive. It took them a half hour to get here. By then the sun was almost up, and it was no longer a rescue operation. There’s no way Fred could have survived that frigid water, even if he survived the car’s dive into the river. Now, this was a recovery operation.
They dragged the car out of the river. As expected, Fred was dead. Still strapped in with his seat belt which I found ironic since he planned on killing himself. Habit maybe?
Also dead was the teenage girl, Marcy Stevens. She was tied up in the trunk of the car. Her cellphone was stuffed into her mouth and held there with tape.