Can a dead man reach out from the grave to exact revenge against those responsible for his death? Welcome to the sixth installment of a story that explores that possibility. If you've not done so, read the story from the beginning HERE.
"Who are you? What do you want?" Steve stood up and faced the approaching figure.
"Are you feeling okay, Steve?" His sister stepped out of the shadows holding a folded blue blanket. "I was grabbing a blanket for your old room. You are spending the night, aren't you?"
"Yes. Yes, of course," he answered. Relieved, he looked back at his mother who was staring up at him. She seemed to sense his nervous state. He sat back into the chair next to her and smiled.
"Son, you are so tense. And look at yourself! You're shirt and pants are filthy!" Her index finger grazed his chest. "Did you run into some trouble?"
He took a deep breath and settled back. He tried to hide his inner anguish as he slowly told her about the accident he had witnessed on the way to the house. He wasn't going to mention his detour upon the hill. He explained how the other vehicle had swerved as if avoiding something in its path. His grief was genuine as he expressed the horror he'd felt at the tragic loss of life. "...And when I overheard them name the victims ... I knew them, Mama."
He was startled when Catherine spoke, he wasn't aware she was standing so close and resting her hands on the back of his chair. "Oh my God! Who were they?" she cried.
His voice was noticeably trembling as he said their names, "Tommy Joe Baker and Mindy Alyson. The truck exploded in flames ... they never stood a chance!"
Catherine's face turned pale and tears formed in her eyes. "No! Oh God, NO!" She backed away staring wildly at Steve, horror in her widened eyes. "This can't be happening!" She turned and ran from the room.
He moved to rise from the chair to go after her. He relaxed when his mother's hand grabbed his arm. She looked into his eyes and spoke, her voice strained and tired, "You didn't really like them, did you? Edward said he didn't like them either. Those kids and their friends always picked on the two of you."
Dumbfounded, Steve studied her face for a moment. How could she know? He'd never told her about his problems at school. He'd never mentioned the bullying and hazing he and Eddie had endured. There had been enough problems, turmoil and even tragedy within their family, for Steve to worry his mother over such a petty thing as his not getting along with classmates.
He could tell she was tiring, ready for a nap, as she whispered, "Son, God has his own ways when it comes to making things right. Edward knows it and it's time for you to realize it too." Her voice trailed off as she fell asleep, her hand still resting on his arm. He pulled the afghan in her lap up to her shoulders and then made his way out to the kitchen.
Catherine and Jack were sitting at the kitchen table when he entered the room. At first, neither of them made eye contact with their brother. He turned a chair around and straddled it resting his arms across its back. He looked at one and then the other before speaking, "Look, I was going to tell you about the accident after I saw mama. I didn't want to mention it in front of her. I didn't want to upset her."
Catherine wiped the remaining tears from her eyes with a tissue and said, "Steve, your news didn't upset her. Me, yes. How can I say this without you thinking I'm crazy?"
Steve looked at her quizzically, "Say what, Cath? Why would I think you're crazy?"
She leaned forward and rested her elbows on the old maple table. She took a deep breath, exhaled and replied, "Mama already knew about the accident."
Steve eyed her for a second or two and asked, "How? How could she have known? Oh, you or Jack heard about it. One of you told her, right?"
Jack cleared his throat and broke the icy silence he had been exhibiting since the moment Steve had arrived. "No, little brother, she told us."
"Wait a minute you two. Who told her?" He stared at his two siblings, both of whom looked tense and uncomfortable with the conversation.
Jack pushed himself away from the table and began to pace the floor. He stopped and looked down at the two seated before him, "Your sister's not crazy, Steve, and I'm not crazy either."
Steve waited for an answer that was not soon forthcoming. Growing impatient he stood too and said, "Okay. You're not crazy. So who told her?"
"She said that she heard about the accident from..." Catherine's voice cracked before she finally finished her statement, "She said Eddie told her."
Both Jack and Catherine then averted their eyes from his direction. Steve remained silent for a couple of minutes. Curious, he thought to himself, that his mother had mentioned Eddie when he was sitting with her. She had referred to him in the present tense.
He tried to act rational when he asked the next question, "Just when did mama have this little chat with Eddie, dear sister and brother?"
Jack allowed himself to fall heavily back into the chair and said in a trembling tone, "Two days ago, Steve. Right after you told her you were coming home. Right after she hung up the phone."
To be continued ... Echoes of Eddie - 7