Back at the base of tower, William paused and again checked his watch.
Ten minutes. It took two minutes to climb the tower stairs at his brisk trot and three to lower the bridge fully after he moved the lever that engaged the mighty gears.
He took one more moment with his son and pointed out a spot by the opposite bank where he occasionally saw fish jumping.
“You going up with me, Joshua?” William asked as he began moving toward the stairs.
“I’ll come up later, Daddy. I want to chuck a few rocks yet.”
William actually paused with his foot on the first step and considered warning his son yet again to stay away from the gear pit where those gigantic iron wheels ground against each other.
William decided against it. Joshua knew to steer clear.
Reaching his work platform at the top of the tower, William checked the river and his watch. Yep, it was now clear of ships and OK to lower the bridge. He was two minutes early but there was no reason to wait. He put both hands on the lever and pulled.
The familiar hum of the engines and grinding of gears began. And then ... and then a sound reached William’s ears that would haunt him for years afterward. A faint cry from somewhere below wafted up.
Horror struck. William pushed the lever back up, disengaging the gears, and dashed to the side of the tower. He looked down. Where was Joshua? Another cry and his eyes found Joshua’s blond hair. No. No!
In the gear pit, his legs already caught between two of the now stationary wheels, was his son.
Joshua looked up and his panicked gaze met his father’s. “Get me out, Dad!” he cried pleading.
He must have climbed the fence surrounding the pit for some reason, then fallen in.
A train whistle sounded in the distance.
Frantic, William checked his watch. In four minutes the train would be steaming across the bridge. There was no way he could descend the tower stairs, get his son out of the gear pit and come back up here in time to start the three-minute process of lowering the bridge. The train whistled again, louder now. Putting the bridge down would crush his son between the gears. Doing nothing would wreck the train with its hundreds of passengers.