The Specter of Virginia Street Bridge


The first couple of months after moving to the Reno area, I was lonely.  All I did is work, writing Keno tickets at the Cal-Neva, then go home.

One afternoon, I wrote a ticket for a woman from Canada, named Carol. She was visiting, having traveled with a gambling junket, as they were commonly known.

It was clear she wasn’t having a very good time. So engaged her in conversation as I wrote her what I ‘promised’ was a winning ticket.

She laughed as she paid her fee and wandered away. After the game posted to the number board, she returned having actually won some money.

We were talking about the downtown area as she waited for her pay-out. I told her I was new to town and had not really explored the area, save for the Woolworth and post office down the street.

Carol asked if when I got off work, if I’d walk to the Woolworth with her. I told her that I would be happy too.

Once I clocked out, I raced upstairs and met her near the Keno bar. We wandered outside into the chilly night-time air and towards the Woolworth located jus’ down the street at the end of the block.

Unfortunately, it had jus’ closed for the night. So I apologized and suggested walking over to the post office, which was another block down from the store.

As we walked, we talked about our significant others. Married, Carol had separated from her husband the week before, while I had a girlfriend, who was still living in Arcata, California some 400 miles away at the time.

After checking my mail box, and pointing out some of the interesting designs inside the old post office, we headed back towards the Cal Neva. As we crossed the Virginia Street Bridge, we stopped to chat some more.

Looking down onto the Truckee River, we could see our shadows dancing in the ripple of the fast-moving stream. It was a pair of mercury vapor lamps that helped cast our shadows over the water.

While we talked, people passed by us, en route to who knows where. One sight I had grown accustom to, was seeing the random cowboy, half-loaded on booze, moseying along the sidewalk.

Looking up I saw such a man, attired in older looking cowboy garb, walking our way. His hat, mangled and pants, torn, I recall thinking, “He’s has a good time painting the old town red.”

He stopped about 10 feet from us and peered over the side of the bridge into the water. Carol and I continued to talk, until she stopped and appeared to be focused on something in or perhaps on the water.

“What?” I asked.

Carol looked at me, her eyes wide and frightened, “Do you see his shadow?”

Quickly, I looked, and answered, “No.”

As I studied the water, I slowly turned my head to look at the man standing near us. He stood directly under one the lamps lining the bridge.

My gaze returned to the river, and then to the man – who in the blink of an eye — had vanished. I jumped slightly when I’d seen he had disappeared, and Carol noticed this.

She turned, looked in the direction where the man had been, then took off running in towards the Cal-Neva. Feeling her panic, I joined her.

Safely inside, she explained only ‘vampires’ are unable to cast a shadow. While I didn’t laugh at her outright, I did think she was being a bit foolish.

By this time, her bus was preparing to load and head for another casino. We hugged as thanked her for the visit and apologized for the scare on the bridge.

As I watched the bus pull away, I turned and started walking up town the several blocks to the Circus-Circus parking structure to get my car. All along the way, I kept my coat pulled high around my neck, wondering if Carol could be right.

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