Linda folded her arms and scowled at Frank. She wasn’t going to let this guy just dismiss her. She was going to convince him to take a step back off of the bridge’s ledge and not jump. Linda was determined to save this man’s life, no matter how annoying and stubborn he was being.
She had already tried her first tactic of bribing him to come down, but this did not work, so she shifted gears and tried out the second technique she used when dealing with difficult kindergarten students. Threaten them.
“If you continue to stand on that stupid ledge, I’m going to call the cops. And then they’re going to come down here and arrest you for causing a panic or something,” Linda said.
“Yeah nice try lady,” Frank scoffed. “But they can’t possibly get here before I jump. By the time they show up, I’ll be at the bottom of the river, and you’ll be the one dealing with them.”
Linda’s scowl worsened. Did this guy have a sarcastic comeback for everything?
Third tactic was to use peer pressure.
“Look Frank, you know that there are plenty of people out there struggling with their own problems. That’s life. Look at me for example. I just lost my job yesterday. After being a teacher for fifteen years, they got rid of me. I was actually on my way back to the school to pick up my stuff when I saw you standing here. You don’t see people like me jumping off bridges, just because they had a bad day. They suck it up and move on with their lives. They don’t let their situation keep them down. That’s what you should be doing!”
Frank stood there for a few seconds and the silence seemed to encompass the entire bridge. Linda assumed they hadn’t been there for too long, but the morning mist was already evaporating and the sunlight was beginning to break through.
“Well?” Linda asked.
Frank took a while to respond, but eventually he spoke up.
“Why don’t you jump with me?” He asked.
Linda swore she must have heard him wrong or he was telling a bad joke.
“Jump with me,” Frank said, his voice unwavering. “You don’t have a job anymore, right?”
“Yeah I guess,” Linda said.
“And I’m assuming you don’t have a husband. Or kids.”
Offended by a guy who didn’t even know her.
“Wait, how did this become about me? And did you just assume that I don’t have a husband?”
Frank’s snarky comments were gone. Replaced by a very serious voice. He was serious about Linda jumping with him.
“Well do you?” He asked.
“Well, no…” She said shyly.
“Then we’re pretty much in the same boat, aren’t we?”
“I…I’m not going to jump, Frank. Neither are you. Neither of us are going to jump,” Linda said.
“Why don’t you come up here? It’s quite freeing standing up on this ledge. Plus the view is amazing.”
“Frank! Are you even listening to yourself? This isn’t some romanticized novel or movie. This is real life! You’re about to throw it all away.”
Frank’s tone went from flat to irritated.
“Look lady, if you’re going to keep bugging me with this crap, then at least you can do is stand up here with me. Consider it a favor to me and I’ll think about getting down off this ledge.”
Linda stood there confused by Frank. She didn’t really understand why Frank wanted her to stand up with him. Part of her wondered what harm it would do. Just standing up there on the ledge with him. One last thing she had to do and he would get down. She would save his life and then she could get on with hers. But could Linda really trust this guy? Maybe this was just some kind of sick joke.
“You’re not going to push me, are you?” Linda asked.
Now it was Frank’s turn to be taken back.
“Do I look like a murderer?” He asked.
“Fine I’ll stand up there with you,” Linda said with a sigh. “But no funny business. Then you’ll get down off the ledge.”
Linda climbed up on the concrete barrier that separated the traffic from the edge of the bridge. It took a second for her to balance herself and then she looked over at Frank. He gave her a smile. Finally her persistence was working. It wouldn’t be too much longer before Frank got off this ledge.
Linda turned to look out at the sunrise coming up from the river. Linda felt a wave of disbelief as she thought of the way her day was going. One last routine trip to her school had resulted in her standing on the edge of a bridge with some guy she didn’t even know.
“You’re right. This is actually a pretty nice view,” Linda said. “You can see the suburbs from up here and the river is really pretty.”
“Yeah it’s not a bad view at all,” Frank said staring straight ahead.
Linda turned to Frank.
“Is there anything I could possibly say to you to get you come down from this ledge?” Linda asked.
“Linda,” Frank’s tone was serious. “I’ve thought about it and I’ll get off this ledge right now. You just have to do one last thing, ok?”
Linda felt bubbles of excitement in her gut.
“Yeah definitely. Just name it!”
Frank looked over at Linda and met her eyes. This smile; however, did not resemble the smile he had earlier. This smile was one that Linda recognized as the smile a child had before misbehaving.
Frank turned and jumped off the barrier onto the concrete pathway next to the asphalt.
“What are you doing, Frank?” Linda asked nervously.
Frank turned back around to face Linda. He reached into the inner pocket of the large coat he was wearing and his hand emerged with a small handgun.
“Give me your keys, Linda,” Frank said pointing the gun at her.
“What?” Linda was in disbelief. “What are you doing Frank? I…I thought you weren’t a murderer!”
“Well technically I never said that. I asked you if you thought I was a murderer. That’s just semantics. I’m not a murderer. I’m just a car thief. Now, your keys before I’m forced to do something I don’t want to do. Like, say, give you a small push. I’m not usually that kind of guy, but you might force me to take some drastic actions.”
Linda couldn’t believe what was going on. One second this man was just a lonely soul on the edge of bridge, trying to commit suicide. Now he’s off the ledge and has a gun pointed at her.
“You’re going to shoot me?”
“Linda, I don’t have to shoot you. I really don’t want to do that to you. All I want is your car. That’s not that hard. If you do what I say, we both get to walk away from this without any harm coming to us. That’s really in both our best interests.
“Except you’re going to take my car!”
“So it’s not exactly a win-win for both of us, but it is way better than me taking your car after you’re at the bottom of this river,” Frank said.
“Anyway, they’ll probably just see it as suicide anyway,” Frank continued. “Just someone jumping off the bridge. You’re a teacher who just lost her job, and now you’re jumping off a bridge. It’s really not too far of a stretch. Sure, a gunshot would look suspicious, if it came to that, but nobody even know I’m here, so why would they suspect me?”
“I was trying to help you!” Linda shouted.
“Yeah, that may be true, but I did give you plenty of opportunities to leave. You were just really, really persistent on staying. Usually I try to target people who have more expensive cars, but then you just show up and you won’t leave. Now it’s time you help me out by giving me your keys without any trouble.”
“You’re…you’re a horrible human being, you know that? Taking advantage of a person who just wanted to help someone in need!”
“Save me the guilt trip. I don’t have time for any more of that!”
Frank held out his other hand guesturing towards Linda.
“Just give me your keys and we can both go our separate ways. It’s really that simple,” He said.
Begrudgingly , Linda put her hands in her pocket and pulled out her keys. She tossed them to Frank, who gave her a smile.
“Now throw me your cell phone. I wouldn’t want you calling the cops before I could get away.”
Linda swore under her breath. She was hoping that Frank had forgotten about her cellphone. That would leave her a way to call the authorities as well as get a ride home. Now, she was going to be stranded without any way to get help.
“Fine,” Linda pulled her cellphone out and threw it at him.
“Thanks, Linda,” Frank said before tossing the cell phone off the bridge.
She saw it sail through the air before tumbling towards the water down below.
“Well, that was fun,” Frank said. “Now turn and face the river.”
Linda was reluctant, but Frank motioned with his gun, and she obeyed. She turned and faced the river.
“I can’t believe I wanted to help you,” Linda said. “I should have pushed you.”
“Oh Linda, you were never going to do that. You’re such a nice person. I know you’re not a murderer.”
Linda stood there and felt a wave of embarrassment and anger. She was so furious that she could practically feel her face get red with rage. All she wanted to do was save this man’s life. Really all she wanted to do was go to the stupid school to get her stuff. Linda tried to do something nice and now she was getting repaid by having a gun pointed at her and getting her car stolen. All after losing her job due to a stupid budget cut.
“Hey, are you listening to me?” Frank asked.
“What? No…sorry,” Linda said noticing that Frank was in the middle of a long, monologue.
“Strange. People are usually better at listening when they have a gun pointed at them,” Frank said. “Anyway, I’m going to go now. Just close your eyes and count to twenty. Then you can get down. Ok? And no peeking! That will ruin all the fun.”
“Fine,” Linda said through clenched teeth.
“Goodbye, Linda. It’s been great talking to you. Good luck with the job hunt. Of course, you could always just take a step forward after I leave,” Frank said with a shrug of his shoulders. “Nobody would blame you.”
Frank strolled over to the car.
“No peeking!” He shouted as climbed inside.
He turned the key and started up the car. He honked the horn and drove away, leaving Linda on the bridge by the count of sixteen.
“Thank you for coming down, Ma’am,” The officer said. “All you have to do is identify the man who stole your car, and then you’ll be free to go. It won’t take too long.”
Linda was walking down the hallway of a police station with one of the police officers responsible for the recovery of her car and the arrest of Frank. It had taken about a month to track down Frank after Linda got off that bridge and filed a police report. In that time, she had taken time to compose herself, pick up the rest of her belongings from the school, and start looking for teaching jobs in other school districts. She had just put in a call at a private school in the area when the police department called her and asked her to come down.
Linda and the officer made their way past several rooms and then turned into an interrogation room. The officer opened the door and Linda stepped inside. There was a female officer waiting in the room which was a small, white room with large window directly in front of her which lead to another room. In that room, there were four men standing her, facing her. All of them had numbers stuck to their shorts ranging from one to four. The female officer positioned herself at the back of the room while the male officer, who walked her here, moved to the front of the room next to the intercom.
“Don’t worry. It’s a one-way mirror. They can’t see you or hear anything you say,” The officer said.
Linda must have had a look on her face, because he tried his best to comfort her. It’s true, that she was nervous about the whole experience. It had been a few weeks since she last saw Frank, but the thought of his grin and the gun pointed at her still occupied her mind and made her feel uneasy.
She walked up to the window and studied the four men. They all looked similar with similar builds, but she recognized Frank immediately. The man with the number two on his shirt was Frank. The same black, greasy hair and the same smirk plastered on his face. The same smirk he had given her before pulling his gun. That was the man she had tried to save on the bridge.
“Ma’am, can you point to the man that stole your car?” The officer asked.
“It’s number two. That’s definitely Frank,” Linda said.
The office pressed the button for the intercom.
“Number two, please take a step forward.”
Frank took as step forward still looking at Linda. The officer had made it clear that he could not see her, but Linda still felt like Frank’s eyes were piercing her soul.
“Now turn and face your left,” The officer said over the intercom again.
“Are you sure that this is the guy?’ The officer asked Linda. “It’s not that we doubt you. We just have to make sure.”
“Yeah that’s definitely Frank. I’d never forget that smirk on his face,” Linda said.
“Ok. That’s all we need from you, Ma’am. Thank you for coming in. My associate here will help you find your way out.”
Linda gave him a silent nod to the officer and turned to walk out of the room with the female officer.
As they walked down the hallway, the officer spoke up.
“I’m not sure if I’m allowed to tell you this, but I think you should know. That man is not named Frank. His real name is Elijah Green. He’s had several different offences on his record. You’re not his fist victim. And he’s going to prison for a long time.”
Linda didn’t really know what to say, so she just thanked the officer and walked out of the police station.
She didn’t know if the female officer was trying to comfort her or just letting her know this information, because she thought Linda would be interested. Either way, it didn’t make her feel any better.
Linda sat down on the bench outside of the police station and put her head in her hands. All she wanted to do was help someone in need and instead it lead to a month of pain. She tried to do good and ended up running into Frank, or Elijah, whoever he is.
Ultimately, she was happy that he was going to jail and that Linda could move on with her life. She would no longer have to worry and could focus on what was ahead of her.
She took a deep breath and stood up. Linda pulled out her cell phone and dialed the number of the private school as she made her way over to her now returned car.
Header Photo Credit to wbur.com