Can a dead man reach out from the grave to exact revenge against those responsible for his death? Welcome to the twenty-ninth installment of a story that explores that possibility. If you've not done so, read the story from the beginning HERE.
Despite the chill of the night air heavy droplets of perspiration were visible upon Mayor Alyson's forehead. "What in the hell have you gotten us into?" he roared poking his finger against Sam's chest.
Sam grabbed the man's finger and bent it backwards forcing the man to wince in pain. "Hold on there, your honor," he said with an apparent tone of sarcasm. "Let us not forget your part in all of this." He let go of his finger and stared into the man's face.
"Okay. I admit responsibility for ordering the investigation. It's no secret," the Mayor answered reverting to the politician that he was. "The people of Soddy-Daisy would expect no less from its mayor."
"Alyson, get off your high horse!" Sam countered. "You know I'm not referring to the accidents and the deaths of those kids." He inhaled long and deep and continued his discourse after exhaling, "Look, I'm sorry your daughter was one of those who died. Investigations into highway deaths are standard procedure. Don't sugarcoat your actions, not now."
Tiffany Blake had been listening intently to the exchange between Sam and the Mayor. If anyone there had anything to lose by having their secrets exposed, it was her. To learn that the honorable Mayor had secrets of his own related to all that had been happening, intrigued her. She was not one to cast stones, but she couldn't remain silent.
"Sam, just what are you saying? If it isn't about the accidents, what else is there?" she asked of him.
Sam grinned at the irony of the girl's resolve. She was no angel, but that wasn't about to stop her from deflecting attention from herself by honing in on another's transgressions. No, her hands weren't clean, but maybe the Mayor's paws were dirtier?
Steve stepped forward, his movements pulling Jack with him. "Mr. Mayor," he said in anger, "Are Jack and I under arrest? If so, what are the charges?"
Alyson nodded to the policeman, "Charlie, you can remove the cuffs from the Cooper boys. There are no charges."
Charlie inserted the key into lock of the handcuffs and removed them from their wrists. He looked them both in the eyes and said, "It was for your protection." He saw that Jack was about to protest but held up a hand and added, "When that shot was fired, I wasn't sure who was the intended target - me or one of you." He rubbed his neck where the bullet had grazed him.
He had been hiding behind a large tree for what seemed like an eternity. He couldn't believe how many people were there. The meeting he had arranged had been intended only for those who had been there that night, or least those who were still alive. He counted the heads and shook his head in anger.
Someone had talked about the meeting, but who? Was it Steve Cooper? Had his guilt gotten the better of him? His eyes fell on Tiffany. She must have told Jack and then Jack must have told his sister Catherine. From there it must have been like the domino principle. Great, just great he thought, it was a wonder the whole damned town wasn't up there.
He was about to come out of hiding until he heard the prevalent conversation among the group. The truth he'd worked so hard to keep secret for all those years was about to be brought out into the open. Their pact was meaningless.
He was still looking at Tiffany. His marriage was meaningless also. At one time he had reveled in the praise given him; that he was a good kid, a good kid doing the right thing. He knew Billy wasn't his. He'd known all along. Their marriage was a joke on two fronts. Tiffany had wanted her baby to have a name. He, however, had wanted acceptance from his father. He'd hoped that by giving him a grandson his old man would have embraced his newly extended family.
He glanced beyond the group standing by the grave. The lifeless body that lie there only solidified the fact that any acceptance would not be forthcoming. He felt a slight tinge of remorse, but it passed in a trice.
He once again focused his attention on Tiffany. There was Jack standing close behind her. He sneered at the thought of them being together. Did the two of them think of him as being that stupid? Did they honestly think he didn't know about their trysts? He wasn't so much angry about their affair itself, but that they thought they were pulling the wool over his eyes.
A smug grin crept onto his face. It was his affair that Tiffany didn't suspect! She hadn't had a clue. No one had a clue! She had been so busy keeping her affair a secret, that she'd had no idea what he'd been doing or whom he might have been seeing.
"Well, Mr. Mayor," Sam said, "Shall I give some measure of satisfaction to Tiffany's question, or do you want the honors?"
Alyson cleared his throat and replied, "They say confession is good for the soul, don't they? By the time this night is over, the truth will come out." He glanced in turn at six of the pairs of eyes trained upon him. He avoided direct contact with a seventh pair, those of Agnes Nolan. He began to pace, a nervous gait in his steps.
"When Eddie Nolan's body was found that morning at the bottom of the quarry, I stepped in and put a gag order into effect concerning the investigation." He noticed that Agnes had turned her head away from him. He couldn't be certain if she was crying or trying to stifle pent up angry feelings.
"There were rumors," he continued, "mostly hearsay that a group of high school seniors had gathered up here to plan for a ... a dance, I believe. Since there were sons and daughters of some our, how should I say, ah ... influential citizens among that group, I determined it was unnecessary to publicly mention their names."
Alice rushed forward and stood defiantly before the mayor. "Why? To protect their reputations, their good names? Well, God damn them. God damn their good names!"
Nonplussed, the Mayor spoke again, "Please understand that at the time it seemed the right thing to do. We questioned those kids one by one and they each said they weren't at the quarry that night. They claimed they had changed their plans and met somewhere else. To a person, none of them had seen Eddie that night."
He loosed his necktie and tried to gain some semblance of composure before continuing, "Since there were no signs of foul play, we had no reason to doubt the students' alibis. It was determined and confirmed in the autopsy that Eddie Nolan must have jumped from the edge of the quarry ... to his death. It was a clear case of suicide. As such, I ordered the case closed."
Still standing in front of him Agnes said, "A clear case of suicide? Tell me, Mr. Alyson, did those ... influential citizens show you their appreciation for handling the case ... so delicately?"
So focused upon the mayor and his confession, they failed to see the figure emerge from the shadows. Holding a gun pointed at the crowd, his stealth-like approach was not detected until he was a mere ten feet from them.
His voice was a graveled one, "Yes, the good Mayor is known for his delicate handling of such matters. Am I right, Mr. Mayor?"
"YOU!" Agnes screeched.
Jack rushed headlong toward the man and shouted, "You son of a bitch!"
The two wrestled in a violent thrashing of legs and arms. The gun fell to the ground at their shuffling feet. Then in one surge of adrenaline charged muscle the man grabbed Jack's shoulders and thrust him aside. The man knelt retrieving his gun and once again pointed it at the stunned group. They froze at the sound of the weapon being cocked.
In response to his baleful moans Tiffany rushed to Jack's side. She screamed in horror. "Jack! No!"
Jack had fallen backward to the ground next to the grave. The spiked end of a pick axe was protruding from his chest. Blood was freely flowing from the wound.
(To be continued ... Echoes of Eddie-30.)