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The WKIZ-TV van skidded to a stop near the police cars blocking the entrance to the Memphis-Arkansas Bridge, and Grace Kincaid jumped from the vehicle before her cameraman had time to turn off the engine. The blue lights on the cruisers flashed in the cold December morning fog that drifted up from the Mississippi River below.
She held up her identification badge, which hung from a lanyard around her neck as she ran toward the officers who stood beside the cars. "Grace Kincaid, WKIZ. I had an urgent message that a man who's threatening to jump from the bridge wants to talk to me."
Captain Wilson, who she had interviewed once, pointed toward the middle of the bridge. "His name is Timothy Mitchell. Do you know him?"
Grace's eyes widened, and she nodded. "His son was a friend of mine in high school. He committed suicide on this bridge when we were seniors."
"We found that out," he said.
Grace's mind raced at the possibilities of this story. The father of her high school boyfriend was threatening suicide on the same bridge where his son had died, and he'd asked for her. Stories like this came along maybe once in a career. If she handled this right, the video would make a good addition to her application when she decided to apply to the networks again. She had to handle this carefully if she was to have a happy ending to this story by getting Mr. Mitchell safely off the bridge.
She turned to Captain Wilson. "Has he asked for anything else?"
"Mr. Mitchell asked for you and Detective Alex Crowne, but he's not here yet. You can wait here until he arrives," Captain Wilson said.
Grace groaned inwardly. Just what she needed. This story had just gotten a lot more complicated. She hadn't seen Alex since the wedding of their best friends Laura Webber and Brad Austin six months ago, and he'd ignored her then. He would probably do the same thing when he arrived at the bridge because he still couldn't stand to be near her. Instead of accepting his part in their failed romance, he had chosen to blame her, and she supposed he always would.
Grace shook her head. No way was he going to ignore her today and let this story slip through her fingers. She didn't need Alex Crowne to help her with a man she'd known well once upon a time. With any luck she could have Mr. Mitchell down and be gone before Alex arrived.
"No, thanks. He can join me when he gets here." A cold gust of wind whipped her coat around her knees, and she shivered at the early-morning chill. She pulled her gloves from her coat pocket, tugged them on and nodded to her cameraman Derek. "Let's go. Be sure you keep that camera on. This will be our lead-in story on the noon and six o'clock news." Derek nodded. "Gotcha."
Grace hurried toward the two officers who stood up ahead in the roadway next to the knee-high concrete barrier that separated it from the pedestrian walkway. As she came closer, her heart sank at the sight of the man who straddled the walkway railing on the river side of the bridge. His eyes were closed, and he swayed back and forth on the handrail as his long, white hair blew about his face.
The years had taken a toll on the once-handsome man. She'd heard that after his son's death he had spi-raled into a deep depression and had spent time in and out of mental institutions. Tears filled Grace's eyes. The man balancing on the railing just feet away from her looked nothing like the wealthy businessman she'd once known.
One of the officers glanced from her to Mr. Mitchell as she approached. "Just let him talk and tell you what's on his mind. Maybe you can distract him long enough for us to get him off that railing."
Grace glanced around to make sure Derek had the camera rolling and nodded. "I'll try."
She cleared her throat. "Mr. Mitchell," she called out.
Another gust of wind blew across the bridge, and the man wobbled as he struggled to maintain his balance. For a moment it looked as if he might fall to the river below, but he steadied himself. "Is that you, Grace?"
Chills rippled up her spine at the sight of the gaunt figure perched on the railing. She took a deep breath and stepped closer. "Yes. I understand you wanted to see me. What can I do to help you?"
The man didn't speak for a moment. His eyes narrowed, and his gaze raked Grace. Her skin burned as his intense stare bored into her very soul. "You can find out who murdered my son."
Grace didn't know if it was the force of Mr. Mitchell's words or the veins that stood out in his neck and face that frightened her the most. "Mr. Mitchell, Landon committed suicide. Don't you remember? His car was found parked on this bridge. The door was open, and the keys were still in the ignition. There was a note on the seat that said he was sorry."
His eyes blazed with fury. "He didn't commit suicide. The note was printed off a computer. Landon hated typing on the computer. He would have left a handwritten note. Everybody was too quick to decide it was suicide."
She shook her head and frowned. "Mr. Mitchell, I noticed changes in Landon during the two years before he died. He started skipping school, his grades dropped and he cut himself off from his old friends. I thought he was going through some kind of depression, so I wasn't surprised when he killed himself."
The man closed his eyes and yelled at the top of his voice. "He didn't kill himself! He was murdered. It was that secret group he joined that killed him. You knew about it and didn't tell anybody."
Grace's eyes grew wide, and she held up her hand. "Mr. Mitchell, please be careful. You're going to fall."
The words were no sooner out of her mouth than another wind gust whipped across the bridge. The loose-fitting, unbuttoned coat he wore flapped around his body. He grabbed the bar he straddled and clamped his legs around the base of the railing as he wobbled from side to side. Grace drew in a sharp breath and released it when he steadied himself.
She waited until he'd regained his balance before she spoke. "I understand how hard his death must have been for you. I wish I could have done something to help him, but he shut me out of his life. He never told me he joined a secret group. What makes you think he did?"
"Because after his death I found money hidden everywhere in his room. And I also found his journal. It was filled with all kinds of rambling entries about his successful deals and how much money he and his partners had made. There was a wolf's head drawn on every page."
"I never heard him say anything about wolves. Maybe it was just his way of doodling on the page."
Mr. Mitchell shook his head. "No, it was more than that. One night I went into his room when he was sleeping to cover him with an extra blanket, and I saw a wolf's head tattooed on his shoulder. So don't tell me there wasn't a secret group. I know there was. They were evil, and they killed my son." The last words ended in a sob.
"If you're right about this, I would like to help prove it. You say there was a journal that told about this group. Where is it now?"
He reached in his coat pocket and pulled out a leather book. "Here it is. I've read it over and over ever since he died."
"Would you let me look at it?" Grace inched forward and stepped over the low barrier onto the pedestrian walkway.
"Grace, stop right there. Don't get too close." Her heart thudded at the voice that came from behind her.
It didn't matter how long it had been since she'd heard it. She'd know it anywhere. Alex Crowne had arrived on the bridge, and his command reminded her of the tone he'd used when cautioning her about something when they were children.
She frowned and shook her head. They weren't children anymore, and he'd long ago given up the right to be concerned about her safety. She arched an eyebrow and glanced over her shoulder. "It's all right, Alex. I just want to see the journal."
Mr. Mitchell tilted his head back and laughed before he glared at Alex. "So Detective Crowne who supposedly solves cold cases came, too." He leaned forward. "When I read in the paper you had been picked to help head up the new Cold Case Unit with the police, I begged you to solve my son's murder. When are you going to do it?"
"I looked into the case like I said I would do," Alex said, "and I told you I wasn't able to find any new evidence that his death was anything but a suicide."
Grace inched closer. "Mr. Mitchell, I'm sure Alex will be glad to look into Landon's death again." She turned her head and glanced at Alex over her shoulder. "You'll do that, won't you?"
Alex looked at her, then to Mr. Mitchell. "Of course I will."
Grace smiled and turned her gaze back to Landon's father. "We'll both see what we can find out. Now why don't you give me the journal and come down from the railing?"
Alex stepped over the barrier and came to a stop behind her. "No, Grace. Don't get any closer."
Without looking around, she waved Alex off. "It's okay." She moved closer to the railing and stretched out her hand. "I'm a reporter. If I see anything that makes me think Landon was murdered, I'll find out who did it."
Mr. Mitchell started to hold out the book but pulled it back. "Do you promise you'll find out who killed him?"
"I promise I'll look into his death, and Alex said he would also."
Hesitantly, he sat up straight and held out the book. Another strong gust of wind swept across the bridge, but it wasn't the sudden breeze that chilled Grace. Her skin prickled at the change in Mr. Mitchell's face. Whereas moments ago he had looked like a grieving father, his eyes now held a maniacal glare, and he stared at her as if seeing her for the first time.
"Grace, be careful!" Alex's warning came too late.
Grace reached out to take the journal. Before she could touch it, Landon's father hurled the book into the air and grabbed her by the wrist. "You can look at it with me at the bottom of the river."
Grace slammed against the bridge railing and gaped in horror as the book sailed downward toward the river. She looked up into Mr. Mitchell's crazed eyes and tried to break free, but it was no use. He held her in a viselike grip. "You know who killed my son."
"Grace!" Alex's panicked yell reached her, and she struggled to twist free.
Mr. Mitchell's hold on her tightened, and with a loud scream he fell backward off the railing but managed to clamp his free hand around the handrail. With one hand circling her wrist and the other clutching the railing, he dangled in midair and pulled her toward him.
Grace clawed for a hold on the railing with her free hand and watched in horror as he uncurled one finger from his grip on the handrail. He grinned and lifted another finger. Her feet lifted from the walkway, and she screamed at the excruciating pain radiating up her arm. She tried to wedge her feet between the metal rods that supported the railing, but she couldn't grab a foothold as his weight pulled her closer and closer to the top of the railing. In a few seconds she would be pulled from the bridge to a watery grave below.
Just when she thought all hope was lost, Alex's left arm encircled her waist, and he stretched his right one over the railing in an effort to reach Mr. Mitchell. The two uniformed officers appeared on either side of her to help Alex. Before they could catch hold of Mr. Mitchell, he released his hold on Grace's wrist and the railing, but Alex grabbed him by the sleeve of his open coat before he could fall.
"Help me pull him up," Alex yelled as he tightened his grip on Mr. Mitchell's coat. The officers reached down to assist.
Before they could pull him to safety, Mr. Mitchell threw back his head, released a bone-chilling laugh, and wriggled out of the coat. Grace had a split-second glance of the surprised look that flashed across his face before he plummeted toward the murky waters below. With them free of Mr. Mitchell's weight, she and Alex tumbled backward and landed on the walkway pavement with his arms wrapped around her.
She only had a moment to realize she was safe before Alex was on his feet and rushing back to the railing. She sat up and watched him lean over the railing and scan the river below. He turned to the officer next to him. "I don't see him. Notify harbor patrol where he went into the water. If we're lucky, we may be able to recover his body before the current carries it downstream."
Alex's shoulders sagged as he continued to look down at the water. After a moment, he turned and glared at her. Grace tried to rise, but her shaking legs wouldn't cooperate. Alex strode back to her, grabbed her uninjured arm and lifted her to stand next to him. She pushed a lock of hair out of her face and struggled to keep from bursting into tears. "Thank you, Alex. If it wasn't for you, I'd be dead right now."
The muscle in his jaw twitched, and his eyebrows drew down across his nose. He released a long breath and shook his head. "I've seen you do a lot of crazy things, but nothing can top what you did today."
She started to answer, but she noticed Derek still held the camera. "Derek, you can stop now. Go on back to the van and wait for me."
He lowered the camera and glanced from her to Alex. "Are you sure you're all right?"
"I'm fine. I'll be with you in a few minutes." Her wrist throbbed, and she massaged it as she watched Derek walk away. Then she turned back to Alex. Anger boiled up in her, and she took a step closer to Alex and stared up into his angry eyes. "May I ask what your problem is, Detective Crowne?" she hissed.
He didn't back away from her. Instead, he leaned toward her until they were face-to-face. "My problem? It was your problem. You almost got yourself killed. Why didn't you wait for me to get here? I might have been able to talk him down off that railing."
Grace straightened her back and stared at him. "I had no idea when you'd get here, and I wanted to get Mr. Mitchell down as quickly as possible."
"And you wanted to be the main rescuer in the story, didn't you? You forget I know you too well, Grace. Your story on the noon news would sure look a lot better if you'd saved a man from a watery grave without the help of the police."
Her face grew warm, and she shook her head. "I think he was determined to end his life no matter who was here."
"Maybe," Alex said. "But we might have avoided the attempt on your life. I told you not to go any closer, and you didn't pay any attention to me. That shouldn't surprise me since you've never listened to me about anything."