Friday, September 23

Chapter 29:

"A Time to Die"

It was hot for June in Illinois. Too hot for April's liking, but that didn't matter... or, at least, it wouldn't matter to her for long. She inched slowly along the 4 foot high concrete wall dividing the roadway from a fall into the river. She was scooting along the foot-wide piece of metal exposed to the drop below slowly making her way to the middle of the bridge. She didn't want to land on the ricks, but in the water: falling and being rendered unconscious by her plunge, she would drift downstream as she drown herself.

"Excuse me miss," a voice from the center of the bridge said to her, "this is my spot." She looked up and saw a man also standing on the edge.

"Look, I won't take long," April told him matter-of-factly.

"Neither will I." He replied.

She then relly looked at the man: he wore a pressed gray suit and black tie, and was holding a black suitcase in his left hand. He was in his late forties to early fifties, she guessed, as his full head of black hair was streaked with white. He adusted the glasses on his aqualine nose with hir right index finger and asked, "what's your story?"

"Tale as old as time:" she began, "girl falls for jerk." She told him briefly of how she had been seeing an older man she met at a bar once a week, and how it had gotten more serious. She soon fell in love with him, and he asked her to go with him on a business trip to California. They were both on the plane when an aquaintance of the man's came up and asked how his wife was.
"Tom was married;" she continued, "how stupid could I be. So I got on the return flight, cried for a couple weeks, and here I am."

He gave her a wry smile.

"What?" She asked him a bit offended, "you have a better reason?"

He nodded and began his tale. "I owned Leroy's Paint and Tile," he said "A deceptive name, as we have branched the franchise into at least twelve major cities in each of six different states, and were heading towards seven. Big corporation." He told her briefly how his business boomed in the last four years, and how he was making money hand-over-fist. He had bought a large house, had servants, and two really nice cars and a truck even though he lived alone. Then he told her of his accountant who had been changing the books without his knowing, and had ruined him and driven his corporation into bankrupcy, small claims court, and finally into a large trial for embezzlement, fraud, etc. next week being the culminating trial -- and himself as the fall guy. "Next week I stand trial for things I didn't do. My name is ruined, my business in ruins. But I'm not about to take that fall."

She smiled and let out a small laugh. He looked hurt so she quickly said, "so instead you chose to take the plunge?" He smiled. "Listen," she continued, edging herself a bit closer to him on the small ledge, "I'm still a bit skiddish about doing this alone."

"Me too," he said, moving closer to her and offering her his hand. "What say we do it together?"

She took his hand. "Okay. Count of three?" He nodded.

"One," he said slowly.

"What's your name?" She asked quickly.

"Leroy," he said. "And you?"

"April." She said. "Hi."


"Two." She said next.

"Are you two going to jump or what?" Another voice said from justbehind them, "because if you are just going to stand there counting and holding hands, let someone else go first, or get off the bridge." His head leered over the concrete divider at them, and was followed by the rest of the young man's body. He was in his late teens and wore a "get out of my face" expression that matched his black "F-you" t-shirt.

"What's your story?" Leroy asked.

"Life is pointless," he said running a hand through his dyed black hair, "my family is stupid, and nobody cares about what happens to me, and I hate myself." And with that, he stepped off the bridge.

His body didn't hit the water, but struck the rocks below with a sickening thud -- like a watermellon being dropped: a sickening, almost rubbery thud. April and Leroy stared at him lying there below without any of them moving a muscle. April was frozen with fear and horror, Leroy with sickness, dropping his briefcase into the icy waters below. Then the boy groaned. The boy was still alive. Somehow he was not dead. The others quickly climbed over the wall, and ran: April to see if she could help the kid, and Leroy to find help.

"Hang on!" She said to the kid. His eyes lolled about his skull a bit, then tried to focus on her.

"I..." he began, "I... didn't want... to..." he gasped for breath, "die like... this..."

"We're going to get you to a hospital, and you will be fine," she said lying more to herself than to him. "Leroy went for help."

Leroy stood in the middle of the road as the yellow car approached. He waved his arms frantically until the car slowed and stopped in front of him. He ran to the driver's side of the Taxi, and told the driver "there's a boy down there and he's hurt. We need to get him to a hospital!"

The driver stepped out of the cab, and ignoring the loud complaints of the lone female passenger, followed Leroy down the embankment to April and the boy. The men grabbed his head and shoulders, and April took the boy's legs, and very carefully carried him up to the cab where the passenger was out with the door opened for them. Her face went white as April climbed in and they put the boy's head on her lap, and Leroy supporting the rest of the boy -- both in the back seat. The lady passenger took shotgun, and the driver sped them towards county general.

"What happened?" The lady in the front seat asked, obviously shaken. She was dressed in a khaki power suit and tie; her face was slightly wrinkled -- more of life than her forty-five years should have experienced. Her hair was tied into a bun was pure white, and at the moment, her complexion matched.

"He jumped from the bridge," April said quickly while stroking the boy's forehead, "family issues."

The lady seemed to choke for a moment before saying, "with that concrete wall, I am supreised you saw him at all." April and Leroy exchanged a guilty look, but said nothing.

"Ah." The lady said. "I see."

"We had our reasons," Leroy said trying to justify himself.

"I am sure you did," she said. She paused for a moment then continued, "as did I."

"What's that supposed to..." Leroy began asking, but was shot a look from April that told him all: the lady was to be the fourth jumper that day. All were silent for quite a while, except the boy who occasionally uttered faint groans.

The boy was rushed into the emergency room while Leroy and April went to the waiting room. The lady paid the cabbie, and then entered the emergency-room herself going, not to where the two were seated, but to the counter. Minutes passed while the lady conversed with the receptionist, thenshe rejoined the others. On sitting down, she broke into a fit of uncontrolled weeping. April tried tocomfort her while Leroy just began pacing the floor.

"I... I suppose you think me foolish," the lady said at last, finally calming herself down enough to speak. "I am a fool." She then began telling them her story: an attorney, she had been assigned a case by the courts to defend a man of multiple homicide in the first degree: the man was her husband. As the facts of the case came out, she discovered he had had six affairs in the last three years, and in all but the last case, the girl had been brutally murdered and left in the California Redwoods. The sixth woman had fled once they reached California, and had not been heard from since. "It consumed me, " she said, "and I ended up neglecting everything important to me. Neglecting my son. My only son. And now..." she looked up at the emergency room, "there he is, andit's myu fault."

"Holy mother of..." Leroy began, but was interrupted by a doctor.

"Mrs. Green?" The doctor began, "I am sorry. There was nothing we could do for him."

Mrs. Green took the news rather well, and sat there in silence as Leroy and April looked at her in a mixture of horror and pity. Then April gasped and asked a question: "Mrs. Tom Green?"

"How do you know my accountant?" Leroy asked, then stopped, horrified at his realization.

"Your accountant?" April almost yelled in horror.

"How do you know my husband?" Mrs. Green asked April blindly.

"I was..." April began then stopped. "I was the sixth. The one who got away." April and Leroy sat down on either side of Mrs. Green, and they began to share their stories, then they all wept for a very long time.


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