"Tiffany? Uh ... What are you doing here?" Trying to collect his senses, he didn't think anything could surprise him anymore. Tiffany was the last person he ever expected to walk into his bedroom at ... "What ... what time is it?"
"Catherine told me to come on up here, Steve. She said you should be getting up anyway," she replied and then glanced at here wrist watch, "It's 9 o'clock in the morning. She said you've slept for eleven hours."
Catherine appeared in the doorway and exclaimed, "Ah, you're up!" She nodded at Tiffany, "I sent her upstairs, Steven. I didn't think you would mind." She turned to head back downstairs and said, "Mama's in stable condition ... in intensive care. She ... She's still in a coma ..." She wiped a tear from her cheek and added, "You talk with Tiffany for now ... We'll talk later."
"Steve, I'm so sorry to hear about your mother," Tiffany said lowering her head. "Look, I know this is an awful time for me to be here, but we really must ... talk! If you want me to leave, I'll understand."
"It's okay. You're here," he said stifling a yawn. "So, what is you want to talk about?"
"For starters, I want to apologize for Hunter's actions yesterday. He had no right."
Steve stood and faced her, "Sure he did! I'm a pariah. You heard him. I'm responsible for all those accidents. Tommy Joe, Mindy, Jeffrey and Freddy ... all of them are dead because of me." He took a deep breath before continuing, "Eddie's using me to get his revenge!" He turned his back to her, "That's what you want to talk about, right?"
"Yes ... NO!" She sighed and sat down on the edge of his bed. "Look Steven, I don't believe in curses or ghosts." She covered her face with her hands, "Damn it, I don't know what to believe any more." She began digging through her purse, trying to find something.
"Well your husband certainly does ... and apparently everyone else in town too. So, why not you?"
She pulled a clipping from her purse and extended it to him, "Here, read this. Read it out loud."
Steve eyed her curiously as he unfolded the piece of newsprint. He raised it closer to his face in attempt to make out the words upon it. He cleared his throat and read the four lines:
"Atop that hill we'll be together soon.In silence he read the lines again. He felt that same chill that he'd been feeling on and off since the day before. He hoped Tiffany didn't sense his unease. "O...kay! Who's the joker?" he asked.
Debts will be paid where it all started,
And underneath the big full moon
The living will soon join the departed."
Tiffany shrugged her shoulders, "It was an anonymous ad in the paper the day before yesterday. The assistant editor said it was left under the door with instructions on a typed letter and $16 in cash to cover a one day run in the Want Ads section."
The chill coursing through his veins began to intensify. "Did you say the day before yesterday?" he implored of her.
"Yes," she replied. "Why ...?"
"That's the day before I got here ... The day I talked to my mother on the phone and told her I was coming home," he whispered almost inaudibly. He slumped onto the bed next to her. His eyes met hers and still whispering he said, "You want to know something else about the day before yesterday?"
At first she shook her head but after a moment or two nodded with dread. "I'm sure you're going to tell me."
"The day before yesterday, ten years ago ... was the night Eddie ... died!"
She launched herself to her feet and began to pace the room. The cries of some of the creaking floorboards sounded almost foreboding. A blast of cold wind crept into the room from the portal that was the open window and brushed the blue curtains aside.
She stopped and stood before him, her arms folded tightly across her chest. "Listen Steve. The others ... those of us who are left ... we agreed that all of us should meet ... to discuss all that's been going on."
He walked Tiffany outside to her car. He hesitated momentarily when he saw a shiny red sports car parked next to his old sedan. As she slipped behind the steering wheel she laid her purse next to a pair of binoculars and looked up at him. "Bye, Steve. We'll see you at about six this evening, right?"
He nodded and returned her smile. "Yeah, but I'm not too comfortable about the meeting place. Even so, I'll be there."
He didn't like it. He didn't like the whole idea. He felt like he was being set up as a sacrificial lamb being lured to some unholy altar. With all that had been happening, why would they want to be together at that place? What if the deaths were related in some way other than coincidence? Was he ... Were they all being set up? He didn't think it wise for them to return to the scene of the ... crime.
As Tiffany's car left the driveway Steve turned for the house. "So!" he said to himself, "That fancy red sports car belongs to Tiffany?" His mind was tossing around the fact that Jack's 'friend' was none other than Tiffany Blake/Jameson. "I wonder just how friendly they are," he mused over the curious development.
He thought he noticed movement at one of the venetian blind slats in the kitchen window. Someone, Catherine or Jack, had been watching them in the driveway. There had been so much confusion and turmoil since he'd returned, that he hadn't really had a chance to sit down and talk at length with his siblings. It was time they had that little sit-down.
"Hello?" she said into the phone. "Six o'clock tonight? It's all set then? Great! Yes, I'll let him know right away." She placed the receiver onto the cradle and glanced at the calendar on the wall.
( to be continued ... Echoes of Eddie-15. )