Can a dead man reach out from the grave to exact revenge against those responsible for his death? Welcome to the second installment of a story that explores that possibility. Before continuing, if you've not done so, read Part 1.
Despite both mental and physical exhaustion he could not succumb to the sleep he so desperately needed and wanted. He sat up on the edge of the bed and glanced at the window. Although the drapes were drawn, it was obvious that it was still dark outside.
He glanced at his watch and shook his head in dismay. He could not remember the last time he had been awake at three-thirty in the morning. He stumbled awkwardly into the bathroom. The haggard face that returned his gaze in the mirror was not pretty. He needed a long hot shower before he could even think of trying to shave the two-day growth from his face.
Just about an hour had passed when he handed the key to the clerk at the front desk. Somewhat invigorated he decided that he would drive to Bob's Biscuit House he'd passed a mile or so back. After a hearty breakfast of three eggs, biscuits and gravy washed down with some strong coffee, he felt he'd be in fairly good shape for the final fifteen miles of his journey.
He estimated that he would arrive in Soddy-Daisy at about the same time the sun would be emerging in the eastern sky. He smiled in reflection at the reaction his friends and co-workers in Pennsylvania had had when he mentioned the name of his home town. Had he not been born and raised there, he supposed he would have thought it an odd name too. When the towns of Soddy and Daisy had merged years ago, the respective inhabitants argued long and hard to keep their identities. Thus, in the end they had settled on the current hyphenated name.
Steve eased up on the accelerator as he navigated one of the many sharp curves on the twisting road to Soddy-Daisy. He frowned as a wall of fog loomed ahead of him. There were times when cool winds swept down from the nearby Appalachian Mountains and united with the warmer air of the valleys below producing a thick ground-hugging fog. At times like this this, it was not unusal to drive in and out of the banks of opaque mist as the road wound precariously between the steep banks of streams on one side and rocky hillsides on the other.
Through the billowing fog he could make out the refracted glow of headlights coming from the other direction. He instinctively pulled over to his right to the edge of the road and shoulder to insure there was enough room for the two vehicles to pass. The approaching vehicle suddenly veered to the right into his lane and grazed the hillside before abruptly careening to the left. He thought he caught sight of something running across its path.
Still a hundred yards away, Steve watched in horror as the hapless vehicle crashed through a wooden guard rail and took flight into a rocky creek bed. He could hear the terrible sounds of metal tearing, a tree splintering and rocks being crushed. Distracted by the accident he didn't see the figure standing in his path. He closed his eyes and slammed the brake pedal in the same instant.
His forehead rested on his knuckles, white from their death-grip on the steering wheel, before he dared raise his head. Odd, he thought, he hadn't heard or felt anything. How could he have avoided hitting the man?
Steve was frantic as he circled his car. He knelt down and peered under it. He stared blankly in both directions as he inspected the ditch running alongside the shoulder. There was no sign of a body. He breathed in a heavy sigh of relief. He had not hit the man. But ... what happened to him? Where did he go?
The earth trembled, the force of the explosion knocking him to the ground. He turned to see a ball of flame rising above the bare treetops. He raced to the broken guard rail and looked down into the gully upon the mangled SUV fully engulfed in flames.
He swallowed hard at the realization that had he tried to rescue the driver he would probably have been killed by the blast. He turned to look back at the spot where his car sat, its motor still running. He had been concerned about the pedestrian he thought he'd run over. That act may have saved his life!
He had an uneasy feeling that he was being watched. He sensed something on the hillside about thirty feet above the road. He thought he saw a man dressed in light blue climbing the steep grade. He shook his head and closed his eyes for a moment in case he might have been seeing things. When he focused again on the spot where the figure had been, there was nothing there but a tree stump partially veiled in the swirling fog.
Twenty minutes passed before he heard the wails of the sirens. He was still clutching the cell phone he'd used to call 9-1-1. It was only a matter of minutes more before the scene was bathed in flashing red and blue lights. By that time the sun had broken through and only scattered wisps of the fog clung to objects still in shadows.
The police officer approached Steve and asked him to remain until the emergency crews were finished with their gruesome job. He wanted to get a statement from him since he had been the only witness to the accident. Steve nodded in agreement but silently decided that he wouldn't mention his own near accident.
He was standing within an earshot of the ambulance crew when the policeman said to one of the EMTs, "You were right. That's Tommy Joe Baker's SUV."
The EMT nodded and responded, "The two bodies are burned beyond recognition, but the male is most certainly Tommy Joe. He'd never let anyone else drive his wheels."
The officer shook his head. "...And the girl?"
The other man looked to the ground and spoke with choked words, "I saw Tommy Joe and her at the Pancake House about an hour ago." He took a deep breath and continued, "He was with Mindy Alyson - the mayor's daughter."
Steve turned away and walked to his car. He had turned almost ashen white. Those memories were stirring again, memories that would soon turn into nightmares. Tommy Joe and Mindy! They had been there too. They were there that night - the night Eddie had died!
To be continued.... Echoes of Eddie - 3