Jack didn't like the way things were playing out. It had seemed like with every passing hour that all of his planning was for naught. It was no wonder the whole town was spooked, what with his ad in local paper, the timing of Steven's return, Dobbs' account of a weird blue wraith-like thing, and all those freakish fatal accidents. He had to admit to himself that even he was getting a little spooked.
Eddie's "ghost" was supposed to have taunted those who had been there the night he had died. The suggestion of Eddie reaching out from the grave was designed to strengthen their vows to never speak of that night again. Then there were the inexplicable accidents that had silenced them once and for all.
The specter of Eddie was intended to play upon his brother's suppressed guilt. Had things gone the way he'd planned, Steven would have freaked out. He would have tucked his tail between his legs and he would have run away again. He hadn't counted on Steven's resolve to cleanse his tortured soul.
If he were allowed to reveal the truth of that night, that Eddie's death was not a suicide but an avoidable accident, he would only succeed in destroying everything he had worked so hard to set in place. It was only a matter of time that Tiffany would leave her loveless marriage to Hunter. Only then could they end their secret trysts. Only then could they raise their son together.
Images of that night were forming, coalescing behind his eyes. They were fuzzy flickering images like those of a black and white home-movie cast upon a screen by an old 35-millimeter projector. He had followed her up the hill in hopes of getting a chance to get her alone, away from Hunter's prying eyes.Jack closed his eyes and rubbed his temples in attempt to erase the images of the dark past. The last scene however, was an indelible one. There was relief upon Eddie's face as their hands locked. Since he was so slight of build he had no problem hoisting the terrified young man from the abyss of that quarry and a certain death on the rocks below.
He was shocked when his brother and his geek friend Eddie arrived uninvited on the scene. He could still hear Eddie's startling declaration and Steven's attempt to silence him. He watched as Tiffany struck him knocking his glasses from his face. He watched with mixed emotions as Steven tried to help his friend.
He felt a pang of guilt as he remembered he had not given a thought to coming to the aid of his brother or Eddie. He was watching, emotionless as Steven was being beaten and kicked until he was barely conscious. Then there was Tiffany's scream. She was standing at the edge of the quarry where Eddie had fallen.
He remembered watching and listening as Hunter managed to calm everyone. He gathered them close together over the unmoving form of Steven. He had a hastily formed plan and explained it to his attentive audience. All of them agreed to a vow of silence of the events of that night, and to an alibi that they had met elsewhere.
Then Hunter knelt down, grabbed Steven's collar and coerced him into agreeing with their plan. Barely coherent Steven swore he would corroborate their story. Then Hunter struck him with his fist, assuring Steven that more of the same would follow if he ever broke that vow.
Then the lot of them, except Steven, left the scene separately so as not to be seen together descending the hill. He was attempting to crawl to the edge of the quarry, still trying to help his friend. He stopped every few feet and buried his face, a reaction to the pain and his helplessness.
Out of Steven's line of sight, he hurried to the edge of the quarry and peered over the side. To his shock Eddie was only a few feet below the rim hanging dearly onto an exposed root of the old tree. The poor guy was crying and calling out for someone to help him. He bent down and extended his hand for Eddie to grab.
It hadn't been the fear that Jack had seen on Eddie's face. Looking up him was not the face of helpless teenager, but that of a rival for Tiffany's affections. As easily as he could have saved him, easier still had it been for him to loosen his grip on Eddie's hand. It was without emotion that he had watched Eddie disappear into the darkness of the quarry. Frozen in time even after ten years, that moment had not evoked any remorse whatsoever.
If Steven or anyone else had suspected what he had done or that he had also been there that night, his brother's revelations would only drive a wedge between him and Tiffany. He had worked too hard to win her heart only to lose her this night.
No, he couldn't allow that to happen. Steven had to be stopped.
Tiffany looked around wondering where Jack had gone. She had been talking to Marjorie whose friend had also wandered away. Tiffany shivered as a blast of cold wind swept across the clearing.
"Catherine was with us," Marjorie said, "but when David and I got to the clearing we noticed she wasn't with us. Now I look around and he's gone off somewhere!"
"Me too," Tiffany responded. "Jack seems to have disappeared too." She gasped suddenly remembering that Hunter had come up there earlier to open Eddie's grave. She turned and beckoned Marjorie to follow her. "I know where they are."
She was worried what Jack might do if he found Hunter digging up his brother's coffin. She knew just what Jack was capable of doing. Then there was Steven. She didn't know how he would react. Steve was passive, so unlike his older brother.
Her heart was aching as she reflected upon the tangled web that had been her life. She was worried that her life was about to be turned upside down, that all of her scheming was about to explode in her face. She didn't want to be alone.
She had been playing this dangerous game for too long. In high school she had played the game, she a cheerleader dating the football star. It was the natural order of things, the way it was supposed to be. What was it about Steven Cooper that she was blindly drawn to him like a moth to a lit candle? She lowered her head as felt a tinge of guilt. It was all about her, wasn't it? She was convinced that Steven was going to be successful in the computer field. He would be rich and take her away from that god forsaken town.
He'd been shy and had not reacted favorably to her advancements. Then she'd had the brilliant idea to hook up with Eddie to get closer to him. All the while she and Hunter were voted the cutest couple. She had inevitably succumbed to Hunter's sexual advancements in the backseat of his father's car. She knew she had become just another one of Hunter's conquests. It was a week later when with the help of a bottle of wine she had seduced Steven. She would only learn later why he continued to avoid her after their carnal encounter. Within a matter of days she had cooked up another plan to get closer to Steve, and that was to sleep with Eddie.
She hadn't counted on Eddie falling madly in love with her. She was horrified the night he had crashed their gathering at the quarry. She had a reputation to uphold. She couldn't let her friends know she'd slept with a pathetic geek. The guilt had never left her since that night. Yes, she'd saved her reputation when she'd hit him knocking his glasses from his face. They had cheered when she had ground her heel on them. She'd preserved her standing among her friends when she'd thrown the glasses near the quarry.
When she'd screamed at the rim of the quarry, it had been a diversion. She had seen Eddie alive clinging to a root. She didn't want the others to think she was glad he was alive. She let them think he was gone. After their vows of silence that night, she couldn't get away from that place fast enough. They had all scattered like cockroaches when a kitchen light had been suddenly turned on, scurrying for cover.
She had collapsed on the hillside overcome with grief and guilt. It was then that Steven's older brother Jack had sat down beside her. He'd held her and let her cry in his arms until she could cry no more. She had told him what had happened at the quarry and he had expressed concern for his brother. Then he'd told her that he'd witnessed the whole thing and had tried to save Eddie, but he couldn't hold onto him.
On that hillside they had grieved together. Their comforting embraces and caresses soon gave way to emotions much stronger than grief. After they'd made love a third time, Tiffany realized that she had found still another chance to get closer to Steven, and that was through his brother Jack.
She and Marjorie stopped in their tracks for a moment when they saw Catherine, Agnes Nolan and Dobbs standing over an unmoving body next to Eddie's defiled grave. Tiffany knew it had to be Hunter.
The night was shattered by a loud crack somewhere below where they stood. It sounded like a single gun shot.
(...to be continued... Echoes of Eddie - 25)