Can a dead man reach out from the grave to exact revenge against those responsible for his death? Welcome to the twenty-first installment of a story that explores that possibility. If you've not done so, read the story from the beginning HERE.
Steve sat in the car drumming his fingers on the steering wheel. Staring blankly at the hospital's facade he was fighting another surge of memories. He and Eddie were almost nose to nose in a heated argument. Their words resonated in his head.
"Eddie, you can't go up there. You need to stay away," he pleaded to his best friend. "She won't risk her standing with her friends."
"She will if I bring it out in the open," Eddie retorted in defiance. "I love her. We've been having sex. She's in love with me. She said so!" He clinched his fists and continued, "When the others find out ... then they'll have to accept me."
"Come on, Eddie. Think about it. Why has she been keeping your relationship a secret all this time?" Steve countered. "You and I are nerds, geeks. They'll never accept you. You know it, I know it and Tiffany knows it."
He turned his eyes from the hospital and took a deep breath. He had been unable to sway Eddie's resolve that night. He'd ended up doing the only other thing he could have done, he'd gone to the quarry with him.
It had been no secret that their high school's elite students would be meeting that night at the quarry to plan for the annual Holiday Pageant. The theme, the music and the decorations would be in the hands of a Prom Queen, a star quarterback, two cheerleaders, a track star, a basketball star, a class president and a classical pianist. The most popular and most affluent students in the senior class were there. The group consisted of Freddy, Tommy Joe, Mindy, Jennifer, Jeffery, Brad, Hunter and Tiffany . They had been sitting in a circle on blankets placed upon the frozen ground.
Steve tried to swallow but a lump caught in his throat. Ten years later they were to have all met once again at the quarry. He shook his head in disbelief at the realization that only Hunter and Tiffany were still alive out of that group. Then there were the two uninvited interlopers - he and Eddie - and only he remained of that pair.
It was Hunter who had jumped to his feet and shouted, "What in the hell are two geeks doing here? This is a private meeting and you two were not invited."
Steve shuddered as he remembered Eddie standing before him and boldly announcing, "Tiffany and I are in love with each other!" He then walked past Hunter and said to a horrified Tiffany, "Right, Tiff?"
What happened next had been a blur in Steve's mind for the past ten years, until that moment. The events began to play in his mind's eye with sharp clarity. Everything had happened so fast! First, Hunter had grabbed Eddie by the arm and had raised a fist to strike the impudent party crasher. Then there was the stream of expletives spouting from Tiffany's mouth. Without warning, it had been not Hunter, but the fist of Tiffany that had struck Eddie's face, sending him in one direction and his glasses another.
Then he'd rushed in to try to help Eddie. In an involuntary motion Steve rubbed his left side. Ten years ago Hunter had nearly buried his fist in Steve's ribcage as he'd tried to protect Eddie. As he'd bent forward in pain, his assailant had continued the attack by bringing up his knee into his throat. As he squirmed on the ground gasping for his breath someone's foot slammed into the side of his head.
Struggling to remain conscious, he'd helplessly watched as Eddie groped the ground trying to find his glasses. He could hear Tiffany's voice as she yelled down at Eddie, "In love with you? What are you trying to do to me, you little shit?" Then she kicked Eddie in the face. Steve saw her smash the heel of her shoe down onto Eddie's glasses. He could hear the lens shatter. By that time other sets of legs, male and female joined in on what had become a frenzy. Tiffany in the meantime had picked up the broken spectacles and was taunting Eddie. "You want your glasses, nerd boy?" Then she hurled them in the direction of the quarry rim.
His vision blurred from the blood oozing from a cut on his forehead, Steve had called out for them to stop the mayhem. Whether or not it had been his pleas he didn't know, but the violence had finally come to an end. It was as if only then had they realized they were committing brutal acts.
Then there was that blood curdling scream! Steve and the others had turned at the very moment Eddie had slipped over the edge into the quarry. Tiffany was standing by the edge crying in utter hysteria. They all had rushed to her side and stood there in shock. Steve, weakened by the beatings had been the last to reach the edge of the quarry. The sun had long been set and it was dark - too dark to see into the depths of the quarry. It wouldn't be until the next morning that his body would be found on the rocks fifty feet below the quarry rim.
Steve let his forehead rest upon the steering wheel as if the act would absolve him in some small way from the guilt that had been tormenting him for so long. Had it been the guilt or the fear of restitution that had brought him to agree to their pact, a vow of silence? So it was that ten teenagers had gone to the quarry that night. So it was that only nine would leave there. It had been agreed that none of them had been there that night! None of them had seen Eddie since the previous day! So it was that they had agreed that none of them would ever mention the events of that night.
Dobbs stood before the disturbed grave. He shook his head in anger as he looked down upon the partially buried man. "It's a shame what has happened you, Hunter, but you just cannot go around digging up bodies," he bent over and picked up the spade. "No way was I going to let you disturb my son Eddie's grave."
He looked around in all directions. There was a look of concern on his hardened face. "This is not good...," he thought, "... Not good at all."
He glanced at his watch and whispered to himself, "It's almost six o'clock."
As they drove away from the back entrance of the hospital Catherine felt very uncomfortable. Marjorie was sitting shoulder to shoulder next to David in the front seat. Although they had talked only recently on the telephone a couple of times, before that moment when she'd climbed into the back seat of his car, she had not seen her baby brother since the night she'd helped to arrange his "death."
Catherine had come and gone. Steven had come and gone. There was someone or something still there in the room with her. She could feel the cold presence. She sensed that it was trying to communicate with her.
The attending nurse on duty thought she heard something from within Mildred Cooper's room. She hurried to the room down the hall from her station. Was she coming out of her coma? She shivered when she stepped inside. The room was cold. She was about to check the thermostat when she heard a weak voice.
The nurse moved closer to the bed and saw that Mrs. Cooper's lips were moving. She bent forward and turned her ear close to the woman's face.
"You ... must tell him ... tell Steven ..." her labored words were barely a whisper. "Tell Steven ... Eddie forgives him."
For the nurse everything seemed to happen at the same instant. The woman's body tensed. The machinery monitoring her heart began to flat line. The room temperature returned to normal.
(to be continued... Echoes of Eddie -22)