Can a dead man reach out from the grave to exact revenge against those responsible for his death? Welcome to the fifth installment of a story that explores that possibility. If you've not done so, read the story from the beginning HERE.
Still trembling from his brush with death, Steve found it difficult to insert the key into the ignition switch. He steadied his arm by clasping his wrist with his free hand. The sound of the idling motor seemed to calm his frayed nerves.
Twenty minutes later he turned off Route 27 onto another familiar unpaved road. The house in which he'd grown up loomed ahead. The place looked the same as it had when he'd last cast his shadow there, ten years before. He was home.
The loose boards of the front steps and porch creaked in protest under his weight as he approached the screen door. The inner door opened and there stood his older brother. Jack only nodded as he moved aside to allow his estranged sibling to enter.
"Hello, Jack," he said to him as he passed. "It's been a long time."
Jack's initial response to his brother's greeting was another cursory nod and to point toward the back of the house. He finally spoke, his tone invidious, "Mom's in the living room. I'm sure she will be glad to see you." With that he turned abruptly and stepped outside, the screen door slamming behind him.
Steve moved to the door to go after Jack but paused to watch him kicking a small stone in the driveway, a small cloud of dust pluming about his foot. He noticed that he kept looking in the direction of the road at the other end of the driveway and then returning his attention to the stone.
He was still watching as his brother suddenly began running up the driveway. A small red sports car had come to a stop across the driveway. He watched with interest as Jack stood by the passenger side of the car, his arms flailing wildly. From his vantage point Steve could not see the driver.
For a minute or so Jack's head and shoulders disappeared inside the car through the passenger side window. When he emerged he placed his hands on his hips and stood watching as the car drove away. Steve moved away from the screen as Jack turned and started back toward the house.
Steve left the kitchen and stepped into the narrow hallway that led to the back of the house. Old dusty photographs, remnants of a nearly forgotten childhood, some of them hanging crookedly, lined the walls on either side of him. He paid them not even a glance. He moved into the large family room and stopped in the doorway a moment to allow his eyes to adjust to the change of lighting.
The young woman arose from one of a pair of matching armchairs positioned in front of an antique wood stove. She moved to where Steve stood and hugging him, allowed her lips to brush against his cheek. "It's good to see you, Steve. You're looking well," his younger sister said.
"Catherine, you're looking good yourself." He glanced in the direction of the chairs and asked, "How's she doing?"
As she led him to the occupied chair she replied, "As well as can be expected, I suppose." She gave him a furtive glance and added, "...Under the circumstances." She bent down by the chair and whispered, "Mama, guess who's here to see you?"
Catherine turned to walk away. She looked at him and said, "I'll leave you two for now. You have a lot of catching up to do, don't you?" Steve couldn't help but feel deserving of the acerbic undertone of her voice.
The frail woman turned and looked up at him. Her voice quavered, "Steven! I've been so worried about you." Her tremulous words trailed off for a moment before she continued, "I've been expecting you. You're late. Always the tardy one, aren't you?"
"Yes, mama. Always late. You always said that I'd probably be late for my own funeral." He was in mild shock as he studied his mother's weathered facial features. She appeared to have aged more than twice the ten years that had passed since he had last looked into her face. The guilt he had been enduring through the years suddenly seemed so selfish, so self-centered.
She chuckled and took his hand in hers. "You're so quiet, son. I'll bet you are wondering how I knew you would come to see me today?"
He smiled and nodded. Of course he knew, for he'd only spoken her two days earlier. "Yeah, I was wondering just that, mama."
"Your friend told me. Shame on you for telling your friend you were coming home before telling your mother," she said winking at him.
"My friend? Which friend would that be, mama?"
She lowered her eyebrows and playfully slapped his hand. "Why, Edward of course. Your best friend, Eddie Nolan."
Steve tensed at her words, a sudden chill seemed to run up his spine. He heard something behind them. It sounded like the swish of curtains by an open window. He turned slightly and caught a glimpse of something moving into the room. In the shadows of the room the form appeared almost wraith-like, a familiar muted blue shade to it.
To be continued... Part 6