Can a dead man reach out from the grave to exact revenge against those responsible for his death? Welcome to the ninth installment of a story that explores that possibility. If you've not done so, read the story from the beginning HERE.
"As you can see, Hunter is still an asshole," said the young waitress as she sat down opposite him in the booth. "Are you okay, Steven?" she asked with concern as she reached to him with a napkin and placed it against a small cut on his chin.
He nodded and took the napkin from her. "Do I know you?"
She lowered her head as if hide the fact she was nervous, "Yes, you know me." She looked into his eyes and continued, "I've changed. I don't look the same - nothing like I did ten years ago."
There was something about her mannerisms, the way she tilted her head to one side and the twitch of her lower lip, that produced a glimmer of recognition. He sat up straight and uttered, "Marjorie?"
He stared in stunned silence as she bit her lip and looked away from him. Could it really be her he thought? Gone were the pink-framed coke-bottle eye glasses and the prominent corrective braces. Gone too was the chronic acne that had marred her young face. She had been transformed over the years into an attractive young woman. He could hardly believe that sitting there in front of him was Eddie's kid sister.
The pair spent about twenty minutes exchanging brief histories of their lives over the past decade. Like Steve, she too had left Soddy-Daisy shortly after her brother's death, and like Steve she had only recently returned due to the illness of her mother.
"It was like everything ... the people ... the whole town ... just changed overnight," she said looking into his eyes. "I can't explain it, Steve. It was as if a dark shadow had been cast over the whole area."
He nodded, "Strange. I felt the same thing. I just knew I had to get away from here. It was if I didn't belong here anymore. I couldn't even bring myself to go to the funeral." Tears were starting to form in his eyes as a wave of guilt swept over him. He turned away, not wanting her to see his face.
"We knew, Steve. Mother and I knew why you weren't there. He was you're best friend. It must been very hard for you..."
"I guess. But still, I should have at least visited you and your mother before I ... ran away."
She placed her hand on his and whispered, "Steve, you don't suppose that ... Eddie ... that he never really left?"
Steve shivered suddenly and pulled his hand away. "What are you saying, Marjorie?"
She jumped up from the booth and began to pace the tiled floor of the coffee shop. She stopped abruptly and stood before him, her arms folded across her chest. "Haven't you felt him, Steve? Ever since you arrived back in town ..."
Steve rose and faced her. He placed his hands on her shoulders and calmly spoke, "You too? You think I'm a ... what did Hunter call me? A pariah?"
She didn't answer but remained still. There was genuine fear etched on her face. The telephone on the counter next to the cash register began ringing breaking the awkward silence. He lowered his arms and allowed her to move past him to the phone.
He remained still as she picked up the handset. "Hello?"
Steve sensed something was wrong as several minutes passed and Marjorie hadn't spoken. He rushed to her side. She was just standing there, her mouth agape and her face pale white. She was holding the phone away from her face. He could hear a man's faint voice. "Hello? Hello? Marjorie?"
Although she was grasping the phone so hard that white was showing on her knuckles, Steve managed to pry it from her hand. "Hello, hello!" he spoke into it.
"Steve? Jack here. I thought you might still be there."
"Yeah, I'm here. What in the hell did you say to Marjorie? She looks like she's seen ... a ghost!"
There was a brief pause before Jack replied, "Do remember old man Jackson's Esso gas station? It's a Mobil now."
"Yeah. What about it?" He glanced at the stricken young girl. She has slumped against the wall. She was shaking and sobbing uncontrollably.
"There's been another accident over here." Steve froze upon hearing his brother's announcement. Jack must have been waiting for the words to sink in before continuing, "It's Freddy Tate. He was working on a car ... the jack must have slipped..."
( To be continued... Echoes of Eddie -10 )