Can a dead man reach out from the grave to exact revenge against those responsible for his death? Welcome to the eighth installment of a story that explores that possibility. If you've not done so, read the story from the beginning HERE.
During the short ride into town they didn't say a word to each other. Himself lost in clouded thoughts of both the present and the past, Steve couldn't help but feel that he was on a deadly crash course with the future. His brother however, appeared outwardly stoic staring straight ahead as they sped through the winding turns of the narrow road.
A crowd had gathered across the street from the old City Hall building mindful of the police barricade that had closed the street off to all traffic. Perched in a cherry-picker a utility worker was occupied with a transformer junction above a small gray compact sedan. Lying across the crumpled hood of the car was an obviously live wire. The smell of ozone permeated the area as sparks of electricity danced about and arced across the ill-fated vehicle.
As he and Jack began to weave their way through the milling crowd, they could see the lifeless figure slumped over the steering wheel. Steve became aware that the people seemed to be giving them a wide berth, moving aside as they passed. He could hear a buzz of whispers and noticed several of the men and women pointing in their direction. He began to realize that he and not his brother was the center of their attention.
The utility worker shouted down to the fire chief who had been standing nearby that the power was secure. A group of firemen and EMTs then converged on the vehicle. Steve watched in grim silence as the young man's body was placed onto a stretcher and completely covered with a sheet before being wheeled to a waiting ambulance.
The crowd was beginning to disperse as a flat-bed tow truck aligned itself at the rear bumper of the car. Steve looked about as the crowd thinned, many of them taking circuitous routes seemingly to avoid him. He recognized many of the townfolk in the crowd but to a person they avoided eye contact and did not acknowledge him. Even his brother Jack no longer stood close to him.
He glanced down at his clothing and realized to his dismay that he still had on the soiled shirt and pants he had been wearing during his brush with death up at the quarry. Though self-conscious of his appearance, he knew that the nervous looks from the people had nothing to do with his hygene.
He could see Jack standing with a small group to his left. Although his brother's back was to him, there were furtive glances from those gathered about him. The faces were familiar despite the decade that had passed since he had been back in town. There to Jack's right stood Hunter Jameson. On either side of him were Freddy Tate and Jennifer Pope. Although his face was hidden, there was no mistaking the curly red hair of Brad Sampson.
The cacophany of the fire engine's back-up bell brought his attention to movement just to the right of where he stood. A careless young woman wearing headphones had just stepped into the path of the engine. Steve lunged out and grabbing the strap of her pocketbook pulled her roughly back onto the sidewalk.
"What are doing?" she cried out as they tumbled as one onto the cement. Even as he tried to help her to feet she struggled against her perceived assailant. Several well placed swings of her fist struck his face.
She suddenly relaxed as their eyes met. He too was able to let down his guard. "You almost walked into the fire truck," he managed to say.
She accepted his hand and allowed him to pull her to her feet. "Steven? Steven Cooper? Is it really you?"
He flashed an uncertain smile, "Hello, Tiffany. Long time no see."
He felt a little nervous. Tiffany Blake had been the most popular girl in school - Valedictorian, cheerleader, Prom Queen. She was by far the most beautiful girl he had ever known. Tiffany Blake under normal circumstances would have never given him the time of day ten years ago. Yet, they had shared a common bond - one Edward Nolan, and both of them had been present the night he had died.
At her insistence they entered a nearby coffee shop and sat down in a booth away from the window. They sat in silence until the waitress placed two cups of hot coffee before them.
It was Tiffany who spoke first, "I don't want to seem ungrateful, but thanks for saving me out there." She jiggled her spoon nervously against the rim of the cup before setting it down.
He studied her carefully, noting that she had changed so little in ten years. She was still beautiful. He blushed as he realized she was staring at him. Did she ever suspect that he'd been hopelessly in love with her so long ago? What would she think now if she sensed he still felt that way?
There was a sudden shadow of a figure looming over them. "What in the hell is going on here?" The menacing man who stood there was none other than Hunter Jameson. "What are doing with my wife, you nerd bastard?"
Tiffany tried to speak but the angry man grabbed her by the arm and pulled her to her feet from the booth. Steve tried to stand in protest, "Hunter, there's nothing ..." His words were silenced as the man's fist grazed his chin causing him to fall back into the booth.
Stunned, Steve could only listen as the man roared, "This is all your fault! None of this would be happening if you'd only stayed away! Why did you come back anyway, you god damned ... pariah!"
(To be continued.... Echoes of Eddie- 9)