Can a dead man reach out from the grave to exact revenge against those responsible for his death? Welcome to the fifteenth installment of a story that explores that possibility. If you've not done so, read the story from the beginning HERE.
"Who was on the phone, dear?"
She was startled by her mother's voice. She'd been so deep in thought she had not heard her approach. "Oh, Mom. It was a ... friend. Guess what? I've been invited to a party!" she exclaimed.
"Wonderful! It'll do you good to get out for a change. Between your job and staying cooped up in the house with me all the time, what kind of a life is that for a pretty young single girl?"
She looked up to the ceiling and rolled her eyes. She was about to hear for the umpteenth time that 'When are you going to meet a nice man, get married and make me a grandmother?' speech.
When Steve entered the kitchen both Catherine and Jack were seated at the table. They were trying to look busy while occupying themselves with a deck of cards. He sat down in the chair opposite his sister and watched their game of double solitaire for a few moments. He raised an eyebrow when Catherine placed a black Queen upon a black King. Steve could see Jack's cards and noticed that he had a red Queen but he did not challenge her misplay.
"Ahem ... So what did the doctor's say about Mom?" he asked looking first at one and then the other.
Catherine spoke from behind the cards in her hands, "They're running tests - all kinds of them. I can't remember all those names and letters. They'll call us as soon as they know something. She's in good hands, Steven."
He turned his attention to his brother, "They must have some kind of an idea of what they're testing for!" His remarks were at first met with silence. When Jack returned his gaze he queried, "Well, don't they?"
"Steve," Jack responded at long last, "They know what they are doing. They're doctors for crying out loud!" He stood abruptly and stormed from the room toward the back of the house.
"He's upset, Steve. Can't you see that?" Catherine offered as he followed his brother's path from the table.
He shook his head in frustration and replied, "Upset? Then why is he ... Why are both of you acting so cavalier? Our mother is comatose! It's not like it's a nap or something!"
His words had no more than cleared his lips when he realized he was being insensitive of his sibling's feelings. They were dealing with the crisis in their own ways. How could he know what they were feeling?
Tears in her eyes, his sister answered, "Look ... Steve, we just don't wish to think about or discuss the worst that could happen to Mama. We ... We hope she wakes up ... Soon!"
"I'm sorry, sis. It's just that there is so much going on. I'm starting to come unglued." He rose and moved behind her. Gently squeezing her shoulders in attempt to comfort her he said, "Excuse me, please. I'd better go apologize to Jack."
As Steve was ascending the stairway he wasn't sure of what to say to his brother. He never was one for small talk. He paused at the door and took a deep breath. Ignoring the faded skull and crossbones beneath the words "Keep Out!", he pushed the door open and entered the room. Jack was standing by the window looking out over the backyard.
He joined him at the window and gently nudged him with his elbow. "Jack ... I'm sorry. I'm ... We're all a little on edge. I ... feel ... well, sort of out the loop," he said.
Jack turned and faced him and then retorted, "Out of the loop? Like you were in the loop the last ten years?"
Steve winced at his brother's burning remark. It was an uncomfortable moment. He wasn't sure how to react. He wanted no conflict with Jack. Alas, time had not healed the old wounds and apparently the scars were still very tender.
He glanced at the desk next to him. His eyes were drawn to a familiar object standing next to a calculator. It was a six-inch-tall Tyrannosaurus Rex, its body articulated as if it were stalking prey. A wave of memories swept over him as he picked up the plastic creature.
Without warning Jack grabbed the toy, wresting it from Steve's grasp. "Let that alone! Don't touch it!" Jack bellowed. His tone turned somber and he muttered, "It's the only piece of David I have left."
Steve stood in silence watching as Jack held the toy against his chest. He was touched by a tender side of his brother that he'd never seen before. He turned away to allow his brother unobserved, to wipe away a tear that trailed down his cheek.
Jock Thompson hated this damned old road through Soddy-Daisy. It had too many bends and hairpin turns, not to mention all the blind driveways as it snaked its way south to Chattanooga. He'd been hauling scrap iron for more than thirty years over some bad stretches of highway, but this one was one of the worst.
As he deftly maneuvered around one of several double "S" curves before reaching the outskirts of the town, he felt the load in back shift a bit. "Damn," he thought, "I hope those idiots back at the yard tightened all those chains." As a precaution, he began to slow down knowing that there was a straight stretch of road just ahead. He'd have to pull over, get out and check all the chains that secured the load of salvaged twenty-foot lengths of I-beams.
"Hello? Six o'clock, you say? At the quarry? Good. Maybe we can end it once and for all," the young man said into his cell phone. Brad Sampson smiled with satisfaction as he flipped the cover closed. He glanced momentarily down at the console as he placed the phone into one of the cup holder wells.
He had just come out of the last of the curves and had began to slow down when something blue darted in front of him. He slammed the brakes and the large tractor and iron-laden trailer bounced roughly to a halt. He had felt his load shift again. Cursing under his breath, Thompson lowered himself from the cab.
He looked all around but could see no sign of whatever it was that had crossed his path. He shook his head and remembered that there was a convenience store down the road that gave out light blue plastic bags. He figured that it must have been a discarded one blown by the wind.
"Damn it!" he swore aloud. He stood still, hands on hips, as he gazed at an I-beam projecting from the back of the trailer. It had slid backward and was dangling a full ten feet over the road behind his rig.
Brad looked up just in time to see the truck ahead. If he saw the I-beam at all, it was in the same instant that it came smashing through the windshield.
( to be continued.... Echoes of Eddie -16).)