Rachel Todd-Elliott is faced with new challenges as she grows and matures as a woman of faith, utilizing the wisdom she acquired at her grandfather's knee to give her guidance.
Yet, new and dangerous struggles have emerged that she must confront. Hiding in the shadows of anonymity, a stalker pursues her wherever she goes. Suspicions multiply as she seeks to uncover the identity of the mysterious stranger. What she discovers is that no one is who they seem.
Rachel's fear eventually drives her to the only place of true safety: abiding under the shadow of the Almighty for protection.
Chapter One-The Bridge
Traffic to the bridge was closed off. Anxious camera crews aimed their lenses in the direction of the tall steel girders where a young terrified girl was capriciously perched. I watched from a quiet corner of the construction yard with several others who had been sectioned off from the news vans and equipment that now filled the earthy compound. Thundering silence filled the air with fearful intensity; each face transfixed on the dramatic scene unfolding before us.
The Richmond-San Rafael Bridge was shrouded in darkness one minute and sparkling brightly the next as the scattered clouds overhead moved silently across the sky. Rescue workers climbed the massive structure frantically hoping to reach the girl’s location. She stood motionless. We were riveted by fear and apprehensive of what she might do next.
Several news crews had been recording the details of the events unfolding on the bridge all morning. Cynthia Torres, a beautiful reporter of Latin descent, was stationed nearby. She, working with her cameraman, gave frequent updates on the rescue effort underway to an eager audience. Her long brown hair blew slightly in the breeze. She was tall and thin with a strong but melodious voice. I watched with awe as she clearly repeated the disturbing information garnered from a variety of sources.
“The drama began this morning,” Cynthia said, recapping the event, “when a police cruiser stopped to investigate an abandoned vintage Ford Mustang parked in the emergency lane of the bridge. It was located about halfway across the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, which spans San Francisco Bay; it was completed in 1956, is five and one half miles and links Contra Costa and Marin Counties.
“I interviewed Sergeant Joshua Garza, one of the first officers to arrive at the scene, a seasoned police officer with more than twenty years of service. He told me that at approximately 8:15 AM, he and his partner, Officer George Lincoln, found and searched the abandoned car. Almost instinctively, they walked to the side of the bridge and looked over the rail. The pylons beneath the roadway supporting the monolithic structure were shrouded in shadows; the water was dark and ominous. There was no sign of life beneath them. Looking upward into the sun was difficult; the light reflecting off the shiny steel made it difficult to see anything clearly. The officers walked in opposite directions surveying the scene from different angles. Officer Lincoln, new to the force, spotted the girl first. Calling out to his sergeant by name he pointed upward toward an overhead tower. Sergeant Garza acknowledged that he too had sited the terrified young woman, who was frantically clutching a slippery steel girder. When I asked Sergeant Garza what his first thought was at the time, he responded with only one word.
“‘Unbelievable!’ he cried. ‘I pray she doesn’t jump.’ No one has yet been able to figure out just how this tiny young woman was able to climb so high.”
Cynthia went on in her report to give her audience the girl’s description. She was small, not more than five feet two inches tall and approximately ninety to one hundred pounds. Her blonde hair was shoulder length. The camera lens that kept the woman in constant focus had zoomed in on her pretty but drawn face; it was filled with fear. What had compelled her? Was she really a frightened young woman? Or was she part of something more insidious? No one uttered the word but ‘terrorist’ was on everyone’s mind.
Cynthia’s account continued with resourced statistical data on the incidence of teen suicide in the Bay area, until the sound of a police helicopter, flying overhead, brought all action on the ground to a virtual halt. We turned and watched in silence to see what would happen.
Cal-trans crews had closed off a section of the bridge once the woman had been discovered so that fire department and rescue crews could move in without being hampered. Several news agencies were on the scene and had taken up a variety of positions around the bridge but the construction site where we were located was the most ideal. The camera lens was able to focus clearly on what our eyes could only catch a glimpse of. My heart raced as I watched the lonely occupant at the top of girders now shivering in the cold, clutching for her life.
The roar of the helicopter heightened the intensity of the moment; we watched with fretful anticipation to see what would occur. A rescue worker, dressed in a bright orange jumpsuit and helmet, was positioned at the door of the helicopter. Carefully, he strapped on a safety harness and equipment. As soon as he was securely attached to the strong steel wire cable, he sat on the edge of the helicopter and gently eased himself out onto one of the rudders. He dangled precariously from the steel wire, as he was carefully let down to the bridge tower below.
Trepidation seized me as I fearfully watched the man now hovering over San Francisco Bay reach for the girder. The wind pushed against him each time he tried to grasp the slippery steel. Grab hold! I said under my breath as if he could hear me. His gloved hand reached out and took hold; he quickly clamped a lanyard around one of the steel girders and then released the wire cable securing him to the helicopter. He was safe; I then breathed a sigh of relief. The action on the bridge ceased rather abruptly at this point, although I wasn’t sure why.
Noise emanated from the crowd of people surrounding me. A production assistant appeared to be moving everyone away from the news vans where they were about to film a new segment. Feeling out of place, I quickly left the scene and stepped into one of the on-site production trailers where I would be out of the way.
I rubbed my hands together to warm up my icy cold fingers. Why had I forgotten to bring my gloves? It really was much colder outside than I had realized and my heart went out to the poor young woman still perched on the bridge tower; she had to be freezing.
Several small televisions inside the trailer captured all angles of the action-taking place just outside. There were cameras set up everywhere photographing the scene bit by bit. One panned the entire stretch of the elevated bridge from San Rafael on the west, home of San Quentin Federal Penitentiary, to the city of Richmond on the east where I was located. They even shot scenes of lonely Angel Island, an uninhabited piece of earth situated on the south side of the channel.
Someone offered me a cup of coffee; I gladly accepted.
The action resumed suddenly and my attention quickly diverted to one of the monitors, which had zoomed in on the rescue worker now making his way carefully to the place where the young woman had secluded herself.
“I’d like to help you.” Sounds of a man’s voice came across the small screen; obviously the microphone in his helmet was working properly.
“Give me your hand,” he said stretching his arm forward towards her.
She shook her head; her eyes were filled with fear. The camera focused clearly on her face; she was very beautiful.
“You don’t really want to jump? Let me help you.” He said once again gently moving in her direction.
“NO!” She screamed. She released one hand from the steel girder and stumbled backwards. The rescuer stood still.
“I’d like to come closer.” He said without moving. “Is that all right?” She didn’t answer so he took another step toward her. She was almost within reach.
“Let me help you.” He said once again.
“Why? You don’t care!” Her angry voice could be heard faintly.
“Would I be here if I didn’t?” He replied gently.
“It’s a job.” She said, sounding unconvinced.
“There are easier jobs,” he declared. “I do this one because I care.” He didn’t move. The wait was excruciating but he didn’t press her. Finally, with tears streaming down her tiny face, she slowly volunteered her hand.
Suddenly, sunlight streaked through the girders and glistened into the lens of the camera blinding the scene. By the time the cameraman had refocused the lens the girl had disappeared.
“What happened?” I said frantically but no one responded. Another camera filming from a different angle picked up the girl; she was helplessly dangling in the air, one hand clasped by the gloved fingers of her rescuer, who had fallen on a cross beam.
“Stay still!” He shouted as she struggled in fear. “Do you want to die?” Another camera now caught the terror of the icy cold waters beneath them. My hand covered my mouth as I watched in anguish.
“Stay still!” He repeated a second time. She stopped struggling and he slowly drew her upward. My heart froze with fear until I couldn’t breathe…no one uttered a word as silence filled the crowded room. Mysteriously, the sun’s blinding light faded away and the sky turned dark; the shadow of a passing cloud enveloped the inhabitants of the bridge. The rescue worker abruptly pulled the girl to his side. Sitting upon the rafters he clutched her tenderly in his arms. I was surprised to feel a sense of relief surge through my body and could feel actual tears running down my face.
The drama had come abruptly to an end. Firemen perched nearby assisted in the woman’s rescue and in moments she was on the ground. A crew of bomb experts then scrambled throughout the girders looking for any hidden devices but found none. An ambulance eventually whisked the young teen away, her future uncertain. Even her name was unknown.
Ian Bruce, however, was now a hero. Escorted by police car to the construction site where we were located, cheers abounded at his stepped out of the vehicle. He was tall and handsome; smudges of grease were streaked across his tired face.
“Great job!” Someone yelled across the yard and applause rang out in every direction; he gently bowed his head in humble acknowledgement.
“Ian Bruce, you’re magnificent!” I said leaving the trailer. “But much too daring…I was petrified watching the monitor.”
He kissed me gently on the lips. “Rachel, it was a piece of cake.” He replied with a warm smile and embrace.
James, the director and Christopher’s best friend approached us both.
“How did you like it, Rachel?” He asked. “Too scary seeing your husband dangling from a helicopter?”
“Oh, it was terrible and wonderful at the same time, James. Very intense; what a roller coaster ride this has been. My heart has really been put through the wringer today!” I exclaimed, clutching my husband tightly.
“That’s what action flicks are all about, Rachel! I just wish your husband would use his stunt double more...that’s why he’s here. It puts me through tremendous turmoil to see myStar taking chances like he does. Tomorrow the pace will change though. Instead of your tender greeting, Chris will come back here with his police escort and be interviewed by Lena; she’s the new actress playing the part of ‘Cynthia’ the reporter.
“Where’s Violet, his leading lady?”
“Not in this segment. But you’ll see her soon enough if you stick around.”
“Oh, don’t worry, James. I will! I’ve promised Chris to stay close by.”
I gave our dear friend a kiss on the cheek and Christopher and I headed toward our car. Being the wife of an Academy Award winning actor wasn’t always easy; but it could be great fun!
Prudence, my bodyguard, walked ahead of us and opened the car door for me. I climbed into the back seat of our black limousine sedan and waited while Chris said good-bye to some of his friends. He took off his shoes and relaxed as we slowly drove through the construction site, which was being used by the production team. Sam was driving; Prudence sat up front next to him.
“Stop at the exit for a minute, Sam. I’d like a word with Lysa.” Chris said.
We parked at the edge of the dirt road and waved to Lysa Diane who was now seated in the back of the ambulance parked nearby. The young stuntwoman who had spent the better part of her day perched on the girders of the bridge was actually twenty-seven and the mother of one small son. She was drinking a hot cup of coffee and chatting with the crew.
Chris opened the car door and signaled to Lysa who walked toward us. He wanted to make sure she was all right after the long day of filming.
“Aren’t you freezing?” I asked after their conversation ended.
“Not too badly!” She replied. “I wear a thermal suit under my clothes. It does get a tad breezy up there, but it’s a tremendous thrill.”
“I was terrified just watching you today.” I said, with admiration.
“Actually,” she said smiling, “the hardest part for me is trying to look scared. I just LOVE it!” She said. We laughed as we drove down the street. What a job!