Perhaps she picked the wrong line of work. Joan was looking out the window, down at the street below. She was thirty storeys up, and she was terrified of heights. The glass had been shattered, and already fallen to the earth, though a few shards remained on the ledge, which stuck out less than a foot. A ledge covered in a layer of ice. Down at the bottom, a myriad of pedestrians lined the sidewalk across the road, staring and pointing. A circus.
Minutes passed as Joan took deep breaths; trying to motivate herself.
“Are you okay, detective?” asked the sergeant.
“Yeah, I’ll be fine. It’s just heights.”
“Maybe it’s time for a new job?” said the sergeant, implying a crisis negotiator deals with people about to commit suicide. He implied something she already knew, and she didn’t appreciate it.
Joan went back to the window, and looked out, first left, and then right, where she found the guy a foot away, preparing to jump. “Hey!” she called to him.
The man had his arms and legs spread out for balance, and his feet fanned so they didn’t stick over the edge. And he was no feather-weight. He was big and round, and would drop like a stone. When he briefly looked at Joan, she saw he had been crying, and or was sweating uncontrollably. His face was beet red, and he looked terrified. He didn’t answer.
“Beecher is it?” Joan asked.
He nodded yes, and replied, “Paul Beecher.”
“I’m Joan. Joan Norton… What do you say, you inch back over here, and talk?”
“Well, for starters, why are you up here?”
“Isn’t it obvious?” sobbed Paul.
“Mr. Beecher, do you mind if I call you Paul?”
Paul agreed with another nod.
“Well Paul, I’m here to talk about it. I’m just gonna make myself a little more comfortable out here, so don’t make any rash decisions on my account okay?” But Paul didn’t answer. Joan broke off the glass the was still in the window frame, and laid her leather jacket on it, before sticking her legs out, and sitting on the window sill. Paul didn’t take any notice. Joan looked down again, and trembled, as a winter breeze swept by.
“Can I tell you something Paul? I’m afraid of heights. Seem silly, right?”
“Yeah,” Paul pouted, and couldn’t help but joke, “I’d reconsider your career.”
Joan laughed, “I know, I know. That’s what everyone keeps telling me… What about you?”
He hesitated a moment, but Joan felt she had already earned his trust, and so he revealed, “That’s why I’m up here actually. I got fired.”
“I’m sorry, Paul. That’s rough.”
“That’s all I had. My work.”
An eagle flew past, the crowd on the street grew, and Joan was still afraid. So when she stood up right next to Paul, she heard gasps of fear, which only fueled hers further. She shuddered, and clung onto the inside jamb with her right hand.
“Whoa, what are you doing?” Paul exclaimed.
“No it’s okay, I just… Paul, it’s really scary up here.”
Paul agreed with a shake of his head, and sniffled, “I know.”
“I don’t feel safe up here, and there’s people watching me…” and Paul continued to agree.
“What if I fell, Paul?… I’d never see my kids, or my husband… I’d never see my family ever again.” Joan looked at Paul while he soaked up her lie. He was about to open up again.
“I have a kid too.”
“Yeah? What’s their name?”
“That’s a good name. How old is he?”
“Paul… don’t you want to see Joe again?”
“Yes. But I don’t want him to see me like this.”
“Hey, Paul? Look at me.” Paul looked, and listened to what Joan had to say. “I know losing a job isn’t easy. And maybe Joe will be disappointed. But kids are tough. And you’re his dad.”
“You know what the worst thing is?”
“A kid growing up without a mother. Or a father. And it would be hard for Joe to look at you in any light, if you jump off this building. And you’ll regret it all the way down.”
Paul quickly wiped his face, and then regained his balance, as he sobbed again, agreeing that Joan was right.
“What happens when we go downstairs?”
“People are going to want to talk to you.”
“Will I be in trouble?”
Joan paused, and told a white lie, “Only for the window.”
Paul sniffled again.
“Come on, Paul, grab my hand” said Joan, offering her free one, “Let’s go see Joe. We’ll take the elevator.”
Joan smiled, and then Paul smiled, and she was relieved. She faced her fears, and she was going to go back inside. Slowly, Paul reached out and took her hand, as the crowd watched and cheered at Joan’s success. That Paul wasn’t going to jump.
But the ice, was all it took. A single misstep. As Joan lifted her leg, she slid on the ice, and gravity took over. The mob watched in horror, as Paul and Joan fell to their deaths. As they hit the pavement.