Can a dead man reach out from the grave to exact revenge against those responsible for his death? Welcome to the tenth installment of a story that explores that possibility. If you've not done so, read the story from the beginning HERE.
It took Steve a few minutes to calm Marjorie. He helped her into the closest booth and knelt by her. "Are you going to be all right?" he asked her.
Visibly shaken she managed to nod. "I'll be okay, Steve. Thank you."
He stood up and said, "I better get over there."
"I know," she said and then looked up at him and added, "But be careful."
He pulled the door open, about to step outside when she called after him. "Steve, stop by the house later. Mother would love to see you."
He paused just long enough to reply, "I will." Visiting Eddie's mother while he was home had been a part of his plans since he'd left Pennsylvania. He touched the inside pocket of his jacket for the object he'd placed there earlier. He had mixed emotions whether or not he should give Mrs. Nolan the glasses he'd found up at the quarry.
Ten minutes later he pulled into the gas station lot. He was not surprised to see that besides the police and emergency vehicles a large crowd of bystanders had gathered. What was it about accidents that attracted gawkers like a moths to a flame?
His brother Jack approached as he was getting out of his car. "He's dead," Jack said matter-of-factly. "You'd better stay back, Steven. The natives are starting to get restless."
"What do you mean, restless?" he queried. "Wait a minute! They're afraid of me? They think these things are happening because of ... me?"
Jack lowered his head and kicked at a bit of gravel beside his foot. "They are spooked, Steve. All of these deaths ... they have all happened since you came home."
Steve looked over at the crowd milling about as the stretcher bearing the young man's body was lifted into back of the ambulance. Someone was pointing at him and several heads turned and gazed in his direction. He tried to avert his eyes when he caught a bluish blur of something near one of the gasoline pumps. Closing his eyes and shaking his head, he looked again only to see what appeared to be a rag tied to the pump nozzle.
His brother had said that the people were spooked. Well, he was beginning to feel spooked himself. There was too much going on, too many tragedies in such a short period of time. Then there was the connection that inexplicably tied them all together. Freddy Tate, like those who had died earlier that day, had also been at the quarry that night ... the night Eddie had died.
Jack's voice interrupted his thoughts, "Steve, some of them are coming this way. Hop back in your car and take off. There's nothing you can do here anyway."
He looked past his brother's shoulder. Several more of the crowd were beginning to move toward where they stood. One part of him didn't want to run, but to stand his ground. He'd done nothing wrong. Why should they dictate their will upon him? The calm logical part of him was in compliance with Jack's advice.
He backed to his car and called to Jack, "What about you? How are you going to get home?"
"Don't worry about me. I'll get a ride ... from a friend. Now go. I'll take care of them," he said motioning with his thumb over his shoulder.
He pulled off the lot leaving the station behind. In his rear view mirror he caught a glimpse of a red sports car parked on the other side of the pumps. It was probably the same red car that had stopped by the driveway at their house. The owner of the car must be the friend he mentioned. That same friend must have also given him a ride from downtown to the station. He wondered who the mysterious driver of that sports car might be.
"I know he's your brother," said a voice behind him. "Talk to him. Convince him he has to leave town ... the sooner the better."
"Or what?" Jack replied without turning.
Steve was fighting with his inner self. He should turn around and go back. He should stand up to those people. He shouldn't have left his brother back there alone to face that mob. Yet, Jack was calm and coolly confident. He seemed to know how and what the people of Soddy-Daisy were thinking. Did he feel the same way? The accidents were matters of coincidence since he'd arrived. Weren't they?
He slowed down and flicked his directional for a left turn as he approached the driveway to the house. Then as an afterthought he took his foot off the brake. He sped up past the driveway and continued along the winding road. He'd made a promise and it was as good a time as any to keep it.
He was startled by shrill siren. A police car with its lights flashing unnoticed had pulled up behind him. He was certain he'd broken no laws as he pulled over onto the narrow shoulder. He shook his head as he realized the cop might be pulling him over because of his Pennsylvania plates. It was a fact of life that Southern police officers loved singling out cars with Northern license plates.
He watched in the side view mirror as the officer approached his car. His eyes widened as he recognized him. It was the same officer who'd taken his account of the accident that had killed Tommy Joe Baker and Mindy Alyson.
He rolled down his window as the officer bent forward. "Anything wrong, officer?"
"I've been following you for a couple of miles," said the policeman. "Do you realize you've been driving with your left directional on?"
Steve glanced at the dash to see that the officer was right. He flicked the signal arm off and turned back to the man, "Sorry. I was lost in thought."
The officer's voice became stern, "Being sorry and thinking don't prevent accidents. You seem to have a penchant for being around accidents, especially fatal ones, don't you? You trying to become a statistic too?"
Before Steve could open his mouth to speak the officer spoke again, "I'm just going to make this a warning. Be careful." He turned to walk back to his cruiser but stopped for a moment. He glanced over his shoulder and said, "Don't you be expecting the Welcome Wagon while you're in town. If I were you, I'd be watching my back, son."
( To be continued... Echoes of Eddie -11. )