Can a dead man reach out from the grave to exact revenge against those responsible for his death? Welcome to the twenty-seventh installment of a story that explores that possibility. If you've not done so, read the story from the beginning HERE.
Mayor Alyson approached the group and nodded, "Hello, Sam, or should I address you as Mr. Dobbs?"
He eyed the still figure on the ground and shrugged, "I suppose Doctor Jameson will not be joining us for the conversation we're about to have?"
The mayor then looked over the others present and began to acknowledge each of them in turn. "Agnes Nolan, I must admit that out of this cast of characters I'm most surprised to find you up here." He glanced in Sam's direction and added, "But then you and your husband are well embroiled in all that's happened recently ... and in the past."
"Catherine Cooper," he said not waiting for the Nolan matriarch to reply. "How are you, my dear?" He paused for a moment as she nodded nervously. "Catherine, perhaps it is not the right time or place, but I have some bad news for you and your brothers ..." He looked around and said, "I know they are up here somewhere."
She stepped forth and faced the man, "It's ... It's about mother, isn't it?" She began to sob while staring into his face.
He bowed his head slightly and replied, "I'm afraid so. Your mother passed on earlier at the hospital. I received word while I was on my way here. My condolences to you, Catherine." He turned away from her, cleared his throat and spoke with acid in his tone, "Don't waste too many tears on the departed Mildred Cooper, for she's not exactly without sin either."
Catherine lunged at him and repeatedly beat her fists upon his back. "You son of a bitch! You bastard!" she shrieked.
Marjorie grabbed the distraught woman's arms and pulled her away. She led her a few feet away and hugged her.
"Funny, you chose to use that word, Miss Cooper," he countered. "If you'll pardon me from twisting Julie Andrew's words, but this hill is alive with ... bastards!"
"Mitchell," Sam interjected. "Go easy on the girl." He stood before the portly mayor in a menacing manner. "Why must you pry into the past? What do you hope to find in their closets ...?" He grew silent and turned away.
"Skeletons, Sam?" he asked finishing Sam's question. He raised his arm extending his thumb in the direction of the disturbed grave behind him and said, "Indeed, Sam. Why would anyone want to dig up skeletons?"
In an almost apologetic manner he raised his hand and shook his head. "Look people, I authorized the police department to look into all of these recent deaths of our town's young men and women. I wanted everything they found to run by me. You have to admit to yourselves that all those accidents couldn't have been mere coincidences."
David, who had been quiet until that moment asked, "You've found evidence that they weren't coincidental ... That they weren't accidents?"
Alyson shook his head, "No. Nothing ironclad, that is. I do have my suspicions though." He pointed at the body and added, "The one who might have corroborated my theory ... isn't talking."
Jack tried to avoid eye contact with his brother as he spoke, "Yes, Steven. I was there that night ..."
Steve unleashed a hay maker striking Jack on the neck. "You son of a bitch. You never told me. You let me suffer all those years?"
Stunned, Jack rubbed his neck where Jack's fist had landed. "Hear me out, Steven. I didn't see what happened ... I saw nothing. I found you lying on the ground. I was seeing if you were okay."
Steve suddenly bolted upright. "What the hell? What happened to him? Where did he go?"
"Who?" Jack asked. "The one who attacked you?"
Steve scanned the hillside but could see no one. "Well, if it wasn't you, him too. There was another ... A police officer ... He had been shot. He was lying right back there, not three feet away from this very spot."
There was a sudden metallic sound, like that of the hammer of a gun being cocked behind them. They spun around to see a figure standing above them, the barrel of a revolver aimed in their direction.
"Don't move, boys," the man said in a stern commanding voice. He looked down at Steve and said to him, "Didn't I tell you to watch your back?"
From behind a row of tall weeds he watched the scene unfold. He cursed his luck that Jack had shown up when he had. It was fortunate that he'd seen Jack approaching and he'd had enough time to scramble for cover.
He'd had his own two hands around Steve's neck and he was squeezing the life out him. Another minute or so and Steve would have been out of the picture once and for all.
Then he'd overheard their conversation. He'd heard something that troubled him very much. Jack had been there that night ten years ago? That was not good. What did he know? How much had he witnessed? Well, Jack could be taken care of too.
He watched in silence as the cop crept up on them. He smiled as the officer trained his gun on the two Cooper boys. He realized that Jack had actually done him a favor. If Jack hadn't shown up when he had, the cop would've caught him strangling Steve.
He tried to put everything into perspective. Why were so many people up on the hill this night? How did so many know about their meeting? It had to be some kind of trap? Were they on to him? No! Impossible! They couldn't possibly know about his part in of this.
Then there was that kid, David, whoever he was. What was he doing hiding further up the hill with a gun and ready to use it? He'd spotted him up there right after he shot at the man, whom he'd assumed had been Steven coming up the hill.
He'd had no trouble sneaking up behind him and subduing him. While he was out cold he had wiped his fingerprints from his gun and had then swapped it for the one the kid had been carrying.
He watched as the officer joined Jack and Steve at the wrists with a pair of handcuffs. He then gave them instructions to move on up the hill and to head right to the cemetery where there would be others waiting.
Tiffany had been suppressing a growing fever of anger. She couldn't hold it back any longer. "Mr. Mayor, what gives you right to pry into everyone's secrets, and why are you so hell bent on making them public?"
"Ah, Tiffany, Tiffany Blake, the All-American girl. The most popular girl in her class!" The mayor continued his response with bitter sarcasm, "You my dear, certainly have enough secrets you wouldn't want known, don't you?"
Her face paled at his words. He was right of course. Nonetheless she remained defiant and retorted, "Why are doing this? Why are you singling me out?"
There was a smug smile on his face as he reached into his back pocket and produced a small book. He waved it in the air, "My daughter, Mindy," he choked back a feeling of remorse and made a sign of the cross with his hands and continued, "And one of your friends, I might add, kept a diary." He paused to let sink in the significance of the existence of such a diary.
He waved a finger and said, "Now before you think of me as a father who was snooping into his daughter's affairs, let me tell you that I didn't find her diary until this morning. I have not even opened it."
More subdued than moments before Tiffany asked, "Then why are you throwing it in our faces?"
"Five days ago I received a call from a friend. This friend works for a publishing company. It seems that Mindy submitted a manuscript to them. That manuscript was based upon the entries in her diary." He took a deep breath and studied Tiffany's stunned countenance.
"She ... She wrote a book? About what?" Tiffany muttered. She knew, but she had to hear it said aloud.
"Let me put it this way," Alyson said, "the working title was Echoes of Eddie: Death at the Quarry.
"She was going to break our vow of silence in a book - for money?" Tiffany grimaced as she realized what she'd just espoused in front of everyone.
The mayor nodded and spoke again, "I found out about it the other day. I told her about the call from a friend. She then admitted it and told me about the book and the diary. She was terrified and asked me to help her." He rubbed a finger against his cheek lest a visible tear reveal a softer more compassionate facet of him. "You see she had only that morning received a threat - a threat against her life!" He turned away from his captive audience and looked skyward and spoke again in almost a whisper, "Two hours later she was dead!"
(to be continued...Echoes of Eddie -28 )