As he drove his 1970 Plymouth Barracuda across the bridge, Fontaine’s eyes drifted to the expanse of water in the fog-shrouded dawn. A casual passerby might mistake floating objects for river debris, but Fontaine knew better . . . some of those objects actually breathed.
Years ago, when he was a rookie cop working the graveyard shift, he often stopped on the bridge and shone a spotlight into the water, illuminating the red eyes of floating alligators. His life was uncluttered then.
On this quiet Saturday morning, Fontaine had the bridge to himself. The restored Barracuda, one of the few pleasures in his life, was running great. In the passenger seat, Badge 1202 rattled against the seat buckle. It sounded like the frenzied hum of crickets on a humid Florida morning. He scooped up the badge and hurled it out the window.
He was burned out after spending months investigating several city councilmen and a few rogue cops involved in a corruption ring, but the charges didn’t stick, thanks to fancy lawyers. Fontaine had become a lone wolf, with more enemies than friends in the police department. His biggest fear was that one day he’d call for backup, and no one would respond. So, after twenty-four years, he pulled the pin. “Stick a fork in me . . . I’m done,” he wrote in a resignation letter to Lieutenant Clark, and left it on his blotter.
Suddenly, the blast of a car horn jarred him. He glanced in the rearview. The grille of a Mercedes was bearing down on him with a speed too hot for a two-lane rickety bridge built back when Truman was in office. He couldn’t see the driver through the heavily tinted windshield.
“Hey! What’s the deal?” Fontaine yelled. He goosed the ‘Cuda’s throaty 426 Hemi engine up to 65 mph, but the Mercedes didn’t let up. He fought the wheel, trying to shake the car off his tail, hoping it wouldn’t force him off the bridge.
BAM! With a tremendous force, the Mercedes rammed the Barracuda. Fontaine’s head bounced hard against the headrest. Pain exploded in his neck. His grip on the wheel loosened. The ‘Cuda spun, and the driver’s side slammed into a concrete bridge support. Fontaine screamed as he felt the sickening snap of breaking bones. The Mercedes roared past, missing his crippled car by inches.
Fontaine smelled gasoline and knew the score . . . there wasn’t much time. Summoning his ebbing strength, he painfully scrambled over into the passenger seat, but the door handle was jammed!
Suddenly, the wind carried a sound to him that chilled him to the bone. He gaped in horror. The Mercedes had turned around and was coming back!
Ignoring the pain, Fontaine kicked the door frantically until it finally burst open. He hit the pavement and rolled away before the Mercedes collided with the ‘Cuda. Both vehicles exploded into flames, a rolling ball of fire that veered through the bridge supports and soared briefly in a grotesque ballet before crashing into the river.
A motorcyclist ran to his aid. “Wow, buddy, some guy had it in for you . . . are you OK?”
Fontaine passed out.
He awoke in a darkened hospital room. Pain medication dripped from an IV into his right arm. His other arm was in a cast. A cervical collar encased his neck. Lieutenant Clark stood nearby sipping a cup of coffee.
“Fontaine, you’re lucky to be alive!”
Memories came back in a rush. Fontaine was torn between pain and anger. Too much had happened. He was mentally and physically overwhelmed. “Who was driving that Mercedes?”
Clark sighed. “Brimmel, one of the cops you investigated. When his wife found out he was involved in the corruption mess, she left him. He was overheard swearing revenge on you.”
Fontaine leaned back on the pillow. Despite the pain medication, his body ached. “Well, I quit the department! Nobody can blame me for anything else!”
“You can’t quit! We need you!”
“No!” Fontaine exploded. “Somebody else can be righteous!”
Clark stepped forward and retrieved a Gideon Bible from the nightstand. “Listen to this verse . . . ‘Ill-gotten treasures are of no value, but righteousness delivers from death.’* Fontaine, you were delivered from death for a reason.” He reached into his pocket and threw Fontaine’s badge on the bed. “A fisherman found this . . . maybe there’s a reason why it survived, too.”
(*Proverbs 10:2 NIV)
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