As Ted Brown reeled in another catch, he didn’t think the day could get much better. Not only was the weather perfect, but the fish were finally biting.
He had spent several weekends in his aluminum boat only to drag it in without a bounty on board. But today, when he went home to his wife, he could prove his time wasn’t wasted.
Times had been tough for them lately, and with him working extra on the weekends, Sundays were his only days to do what he liked. And if fishing brought a meal to the table, even better. It cut the guilt in half, and he did his best to ignore the rest.
Ted tossed the fish in his cooler and prepared to cast another line as another car came up the road. Even though the road was close, things had been fairly quiet and peaceful. So, when he heard tires squeal and what could only be described as metal scraping metal, he looked up at the bridge in the distance.
Instead of seeing someone clipping the short guard rail or sign post, he saw a car in mid-air just before it crashed into the water.
Ted’s heart began to pound as he reeled in his line. He dropped the pole into the boat and started up his trolling motor.
There was a driver in need of help, but he wasn’t sure he was going to be able to help them. What if they were already dead? Had he just watched someone die?
When he approached the area, he knew he couldn’t get too close and have his boat cause more trouble, so he tied it off to a tree and climbed out to wade up onto the bank. He was shaking like a leaf and still in disbelief at what he had witnessed.
How could something like that happen? He tried to work out the logistics in his brain, but it still didn’t add up. And as he approached the clearing closer to the bridge where he had parked his car and put his boat in, he spotted another motorist coming his way.
A man on a motorcycle had stopped, and he was just getting off of it as he pulled off his helmet. When he saw Todd, his eyes widened. “Did you see that?” he asked.
“Yes, I did. I was in my boat.” The car had flown at least twenty feet from a fifteen-foot bridge. “Do you think they are still alive in the car?”
“I think we have to find out,” said the man, who was already dialing his phone to call for help.
Ted wasn’t sure what he should do. What if he went into the water and didn’t make it out? But he couldn’t just sit by and let someone die. He took his phone from his pocket and put his wallet with it before going into the water.
“It’s right about here,” he said, noticing the top of the car was still visible under the surface.
The river wasn’t rough, but its undercurrents were swift, and with the car already submerged, he knew there was no time to waste. The car would be taking on the water already.
He said a quick prayer and went in, diving down to see if he could see anything.
The murky waters were not helpful, and the grit that had been disturbed by the sinking car was stinging his eyes.
He came up for air. “I can’t see anything,” he said, feeling the drop-off with his foot.
He went down again, this time swimming near the car, hoping to get inside. But that was when he felt something. It was either a big fish or a person. Either way, he came up to get out of the way.
That was when a blonde head came up from the water and gasped for air. Her hair was long and plastered to her face, so he couldn’t get a good look at her. But it was clear it was a female and a rather small one.
“Ma’am,” he said, swimming toward her.
She turned around and saw him, her eyes widening as she swam for the edge of the water.
She was out of breath when she finally got her footing, and even though Ted was still freaking out, he had to keep it together. “Is there anyone else in the car?” he shouted, treading water until he could feel the bank under his feet.
The woman got to the bank, her whole body animated as she tried to catch her breath. “My baby,” she said.
Ted, who was a father himself, felt a cold chill come over him. There was a baby in the car.
The biker, who had finally gotten his feet wet, came to get her. “Did you say your baby?”
“Yes,” she screamed. “My baby!” She looked to the water, her face a mask of horror, and pointed to the car. “My baby!”
Ted didn’t hesitate. He wasn’t about to let a baby die on his watch. He went back under and felt his way around the structure of the car. It was hard to see, but he could make out a door and an open window.
The car was shifting with the current, and while he didn’t want to leave anyone behind, especially a baby, it shifted as he was trying to go inside.
With it moving under him, he felt trapped. And he quickly found his way back to the surface.
He had to try once again, but he was losing his strength. He could hear the crying pleas of the woman as she screamed for her child, and finally, he could feel someone else in the water with him. He came up to see the biker had stripped off his leathers and jumped in.
“I got it,” he said before taking a deep breath and going under.
Ted was losing his strength fast and felt if he didn’t get out of the water soon, he was going to make matters worse.
As he swam to the shore, he watched the woman staring into the water. She had pushed her hair back, and now a fresh line of blood trickled from her forehead, smearing down over her eyes like something out of a horror movie.
She seemed to be in shock, and when he got out of the water and dripped his way over to check on her, she fell into his arms. “My baby,” she said again as if they were the only words she knew.
The other man came up for air and called out to Ted. “I don’t see anything. I think I found the car seat, but the baby isn’t in it.”
“Are you sure you had your baby with you?” he asked.
“Yes,” she said. “I tried to take it out of the seat when the car was sinking, but the current—” Her voice broke, giving way to tears that trailed down her cheeks, causing strange streaks in the blood. “It took her from me. It ripped her from my arms. I had to come up for air. I had to.”
Ted could feel the mother’s pain as he relayed the message to the biker. “She says the current took her baby from her arms.” Even as he was saying it, it didn’t seem real.
The other man came out of the water. He was down to his underwear, but that probably had given him better movement than going in with the heavy leather clothing he had on. “I’ll try to go again,” he said.
The woman put her hands up and tried to wipe her face as if the wetness were sweat. She managed to clear away a little bit of the blood and tears, and that was when Ted realized something.
This wasn’t just any woman.
“You’re Claire Ford,” he said as the sirens grew louder while approaching. His wife had been watching the woman’s latest scandals for months. And she would surely flip out when she heard about this.
“Yes,” she said. “And I want my baby.” She wrapped her arms around herself, showing him how helpless she was.
The first police car pulled into the clearing about that time, taking his attention from the helpless woman. And though he would be expected to make a statement and stick around at the scene, at least there was someone else there to help out with the situation, which he had a feeling was only going to get worse.
That was the way things always went with Claire Ford.