Josh Kramer saw the young man peering into the dark water under the bridge. It was almost midnight. Way past time for a casual stroll. The man had a troubled, lost soul kind of look, and he was so committed to the murky depths thirty feet below, he hadn’t noticed Josh walking toward him on the bridge.
Josh was a cop, and he came here several times a night to check if there were people on the bridge contemplating suicide. He walked this beat five nights a week.
“The water’s pretty cold in October,” Josh shouted.
The man recoiled backwards from the railing and turned toward the police officer. “What?”
“I said the water’s pretty cold this time of year if you’re thinking about jumping.”
“Why don’t you mind your own business?”
“Right now, you are my business. I’m a cop, and suicide is a crime. More importantly, I don’t want you taking a dive on my beat so please step away from the railing.”
“If you come any closer, I’ll jump.”
“Take it easy. Tell me about it. I’m all ears. I want to help you.”
“Fuck off, copper,” The young man snapped. “I’m not in the mood for your bullshit.”
“Did some girl dump you?”
“No… Yes… I don’t know. I’m confused, and I’m really hurting emotionally.”
“Sometimes life can be a bitch, but it’s a long way down, and there’s no turning back. You don’t get a second chance. Are you sure you want to throw your life away tonight?”
“Can’t you go away and write someone a parking ticket? There’s nothing you can say that’s going to make a difference. My life is over. She was my soul mate. The only girl I’ll ever love.”
“Maybe so. Maybe not,” Josh said. “Answer one question before you piss your life away. What do you have to lose? You’re going to jump anyway. I can’t stop you. I’m too far away to reach you in time.”
“Let’s make it quick. What’s your question?”
“Let’s say there are five hundred high schools in North Dakota.”
“Why North Dakota, Sherlock?”
“Bear with me. Let’s say you attended one of those high schools. You also went through elementary, middle school, and then high school with most of the females in your class.”
“What’s your point?”
“Let’s say you were born in one of those small towns, and you lived and died there. You never went anywhere else. Odds are you would’ve fallen in love and married someone in your high school. So, if there are five hundred high schools in North Dakota, you could have fallen in love and married someone in any one of them. Consequently, there’s no such thing as one girl you could ever love. Thinking otherwise is some adolescent bullshit that I see here on the bridge about every other week. You’re too old to think that way.”
The young man shrugged his shoulders, and looked back into the dark water below.
“So my question is,” Josh continued, “Are you really going to throw your life away over one girl when I’ve just proved there are thousands and thousands of girls all over the country you could love and who could love you? Are you really going to be that stupid?”
The young man stood looking back at Josh for a time without saying a word, mulling over what he’d said carefully.
As Josh spoke, he edged closer to the distraught young man about twenty years old who only moments ago was ready to jump.
“Don’t come any closer. I know what you’re trying to do.”
The police officer stopped, but continued to speak calmly, “If I’m wrong about you being able to fall in love with five hundred girls in North Dakota, I’d like to hear you tell me where my logic is wrong.”
“I can’t dispute your logic, but love is from the heart. It’s not about logic. I’m hurting, man. I’m as low as I can go.”
“Do us both a favor, don’t throw your life away because some girl dumped you. You don’t look like the hunchback of Notre Dame from here. You don’t have three heads or one eyeball in the middle of your head. There’s no reason why you can’t find another girl to fall in love with. What do you say? Go on home and think about it. If you want to commit suicide tomorrow, come back during Chad Harper’s beat. Let him get the blemish on his record, not mine. What do you say?”
The young man started to cry as he slumped on the railing. Josh ran to him and tried to comfort him.
“What your name?”
“Justin, I’m Josh Kramer. You’re not the first person to be dumped by a woman, and you won’t be the last. Believe me I had my share of dumpings and heartbreaks before I met Jessica. We just got married this past weekend.”
“You really think I’ll find someone else who’ll love me, and I can love like…” he paused. Then, said sadly, “Mary.”
“My father told me one time, when Mary called him, he had to be careful before he spoke, because he didn’t know which Mary was calling.”
“Well, I guess I’m not like your father, I’m just looking for one girl to love me.”
“I was just trying to make a point, Justin. Trust me. I’m not like him either. Just believe you will find someone else, get married, and live happily ever after.”
Josh wiped the tears from his cheek. “Well. I do feel a lot better now, officer. I guess you saved my life. I was really going to jump. I would have if you hadn’t come along. Are you going to write me up?”
“What for? Standing on a bridge at midnight is not committing a crime in this town.”
Josh felt good about helping the young fellow through what could’ve been a disaster. He couldn’t wait to tell Jessica he’d saved a young man from committing suicide that evening.
“Thanks, Josh. I’ll never forget you. Maybe we’ll meet again somewhere. Thanks again.”
Josh removed a card from his wallet and said, “This is my personal business card. If you ever feel like committing suicide again, call me anytime day or night.”
“I will,” Justin said.
“And if you ever want to buy a house, call me about that, too.” They both laughed.
Justin headed toward the ramp leading from the bridge, and Josh followed behind him. They separated then, and Josh returned to his cruiser in the parking lot. He checked in with the precinct. It was a quiet night with nothing going down.
He started driving around the area he patrolled every night.
He noticed some rummies passing a cheap bottle of wine around next to an oil drum they used to burn paper and kindling to keep warm. He stopped the car and lowered the window. “How’s it going tonight, fellas? Anybody hit the lotto when they called it at eleven o’clock?”
“We wish,” one of the unshaven homeless men answered sucking on a wine bottle.”
“Well, maybe tomorrow night.”
Another man warming his hands by the fire called out, “Did that young fellow find you?”
“What young fellow, Jasper?” Josh asked.
“He stopped and asked about you about an hour ago. We told him you’d probably be checking the bridge for jumpers, and he headed in that direction.”
“What did he look like?”
“He was about twenty-five or thirty, and all I can remember is he wore dark clothes,” Jasper said scratching his head.
“Thanks, fellas. I talked to a young fellow not long ago, who was thinking about jumping, but I don’t think it was the same man you saw. Thanks for the heads up though.”
Josh drove away, puzzled by the young man asking about him. It must’ve been Justin; there was no one else on the bridge. But what did it mean?
His business phone vibrated in his front pants pocket. The ringer was off, but he scrambled to answer it in time.
On the third ring, he wrenched it from his pants pocket. It was the first time it had rung in a month. “Hello, Josh Kramer, Real Estate.”
“Hey, Josh. This is Justin, the guy on the bridge.”
Concerned, Josh asked, “You’re not considering suicide already, are you?” It hasn’t been an hour yet.”
“No. I’m not thinking about suicide. I just told you that bullshit to make you feel sorry for me.”
“So you’re the guy who asked the old-timers about me?”
“Yeah, I’m the one. They said you checked the bridge every night for jumpers, and it gave me a brainstorm to pretend to be one of them. It worked like a charm.”
“What was the ruse all about, Justin? Do I know you?”
“No, you don’t know me. I’m Jessica’s old boyfriend. I’m the one who was going to marry her before you horned in. With the phone number you gave me, I was able to get directory assistance to give me your address. I just left your apartment. Jessica wasn’t happy to see me, so, I’m leaving town.”
“What did you do?” Josh shrieked in horror.
“I told her when she dumped me, she was the only girl I’d ever love, and I would never let her marry anyone else. She ignored my threat.”
“What did you do?” Josh screamed.
“I kept hitting her, and hitting her, and hitting her with this frying pan. I don’t think you’ll be able to recognize her now. I messed her up pretty bad.”
“You killed my wife?”
“Yes, she’s dead all right, several times over.”
“If I get my hands on you….“
Justin interrupted, “I’m glad we had that talk on the bridge. When I left your place, I was feeling pretty down after you tried to help me, but then I remembered what you said, and I felt a whole lot better. Like you said, there might be five hundred women in North Dakota you can fall in love with and thousands everywhere else. Now I don’t feel so guilty about battering Jessica’s head into a pulp. I knew your philosophy would get you through this small bump in the road.”
Now Josh was crying and thinking about the bridge himself.
“After all,” Justin said with a smirk. Who gives a fuck about Jessica when there are so many other fish in the sea? Right. Josh?”
Justin hung up, and Josh redialed several times, but no one answered.
After racing home at breakneck speed in his cruiser and verifying the horror Justin had described, Josh headed back to the bridge.
When he saw the rummies huddled around their small fire trying to keep warm, he waved.
The water was very cold in October.
A selection from Scary Stories-Volume 4