Immoral

Immoral

Jonathan Stride felt like a ghost, bathed in the white spotlights that illuminated the bridge. Below him, muddy brown swells flooded into the canal, spewing waves over the concrete piers and swallowing the spray in eight-foot troughs. The water tumbled over itself, squeezing from the violent lake to the placid inner harbor. At the end of the piers, where ships navigated the canal as delicately as thread through a needle, twin lighthouses flashed revolving beams of green and red.The bridge felt like a living thing. As cars sped onto the platform, a whine filled the air, like the buzz of hornets. The honeycomb sidewalk vibrated, quivering under his feet. Stride glanced upward, as he imagined Rachel would have done, at the crisscross scissors of steel towering above his head. The barely perceptible sway unsettled him and made him dizzy.

He was doing what he always did--putting himself inside the mind of the victim, seeing the world through her eyes. Rachel had been here on Friday night, alone on the bridge. After that, no one knew.'s generation. He heard her chanting the chorus over and over.

Stride turned his attention to the two teenagers who stood with him, impatiently stamping their feet against the cold. "Where was she when you first saw her?" he asked.

The boy, Kevin Lowry, extracted a beefy hand from his pocket. His third finger sported an oversized onyx high school ring. He tapped the three inches of wet steel railing. "Right here, Lieutenant. She was balanced on top of the railing. Arms stretched out. Sort of like Christ." He closed his eyes, tilted his chin toward heaven, and extended his arms with his palms upward. "Like this."

Stride frowned. It had been a bleak October, with angry swoops of wind and sleet raining like bullets from the night sky. He couldn't imagine anyone climbing on top of the railing that night without falling.

Kevin seemed to read his mind. "She was really graceful. Like a dancer." Stride peered over the railing. The narrow canal was deep enough to grant passage to giant freighters weighted down with bellies of iron ore. It could suck a body down in its wicked undertow and not let go.

The other teenager, Sally Lindner, spoke for the first time. Her voice was crabbed. "It was a stunt, like everything else she did. She wanted attention."

Kevin opened his mouth to complain but closed it again. Stride got the feeling this was an old argument between them. He noticed that Sally had her arm slung through Kevin's, and she tugged the boy a little closer when she talked.

Stride knew he wasn't going to get any more out of these two tonight. "Listen up, both of you. This isn't about who kissed who. A girl's missing. A friend of yours. I've got to go talk to her parents, who are wondering if they're ever going to see their daughter again, okay? So think. Is there anything else you remember from Friday night? Anything Rachel did or said? Anything that might tell us where she went when she left here or who she might have seen."

He took another glance out at the looming blackness of the lake, beyond the narrow canal. There was nothing to see. It was as empty and hollow as his world felt now. As he pushed past the two teenagers and headed to the parking lot, he felt it again. Déjà vu. It was an ugly memory.