Can a dead man reach out from the grave to exact revenge against those responsible for his death? Welcome to the seventeenth installment of a story that explores that possibility. If you've not done so, read the story from the beginning HERE.
Steve and Jack traded puzzled looks and turned back to their sister. "What are you saying, Cath? Because of you?" Steve implored.
"Just listen to me, Steven!" she said and turning to Jack she continued, "Don't grill me. Just listen to what I've got to say."
Dumbfounded her two brothers looked at each other and nodded. Jack was passive, relieved that his confessions had finally been voiced to his younger brother. Steve, on the other hand was perturbed that Catherine had chosen that moment to interrupt them. He felt that Jack was still hiding something. Yet he seemed unconcerned that their sister had heard their conversation. Could it be that the two of them shared some common knowledge of the missing facts?
For a moment his mind replayed that frozen moment of time when his father was beating him. Catherine was bawling and shouting something. What had she been trying to say? 'It was me. Stop hitting him. She made me.'
"Let's go down to the kitchen," Catherine said motioning to the hallway stairs. "I'll put on some coffee and throw some sandwiches together." Her two brothers didn't move but stood fast where they stood, bewilderment showing on their faces. "Look," she pleaded, "You might as get comfortable. There's a lot to tell, more you don't know about ... Even you, Jack."
"What? he shouted into the phone. "Damn! The way things are going ... there won't be anyone left to show up at the quarry this evening." He listened to her terrified voice with growing concern. He fumbled for the folded piece of paper in his shirt pocket. Beads of perspiration began to form on his forehead as he read the words of the cryptic poem that had appeared in the local paper two days ago. His facial features turned from worry to cold determination.
"No, I won't call off the meeting," he said to the hysterical woman. "Listen, I know what's got to be done. Pull yourself together. I'll pick you up in fifteen minutes. Be ready to go." He shut off his phone, grabbed his jacket and hurried out the back door. A sense of urgency guided him to the rickety old tool shed at the end of the driveway.
He emerged from the shed carrying a rusty pick axe and a long-handled spade. He tossed the objects into the trunk of the car. He stood looking down at the tools for a moment until he was satisfied he had all he would need for the task ahead. Perhaps to ease his tension he spoke aloud, "It's about time this nightmare came to an end. I've had enough of these ghost stories."
She was pacing the floor in front of the man standing in the shadows of the drapes. "I know you said this was the only way, but I can't help but feel something's going to go horribly wrong," she said to him.
"Relax, Marjorie," the man said with an air of morbid confidence. "I've been back in Soddy-Daisy for two years now and no one has shown even a hint of recognizing me. I've mixed and mingled with the lot of them. They don't have a clue who I am. Hell, I've even had a few beers with a couple of them."
"Everyone thinks Steve Cooper is responsible for all those deaths. I've heard them talking in the shop about some bluish glowing thing. They said it only appeared after he came back to town. They think it is somehow linked to Eddie's spirit. They think Steve is working with his ghost!" she said.
"Ha! The superstitious fools! They'll never know how easy they are making it for me," the man gloated. "You should have seen the looks on their faces when I told them that I've been seeing that same strange blue light floating in and around town. "
"What is that thing they've been seeing anyway? " she asked.
"Hell if I know," he answered with a shrug of his shoulders. "A mirage, maybe? Do you think it might be their ghost?" he queried in jest before winking. "Well, whatever it is, it added fuel to the embers. Soon ... Soon it will a blazing fire, my dear."
"Not all of them believe in ghosts. Just the other day I overheard Hunter telling Tiffany that he was beginning to think that Eddie never died in the first place, that someone else's body was buried in that casket," she said in response to his smug confidence.
"What's that? Marjorie! Marjorie, you were supposed to tell me about anything, anything that might put our plans in jeopardy," he roared. He calmed himself by pacing across the living room rug. "Okay. No problem. Not a problem at all," he snapped his fingers and turned to her. "Look, keep that cell phone close. Call me if anything doesn't look or sound right."
He opened the back door and said, "I'll have to get up there, just in case our boy Hunter shows up with any bright ideas and decides to go messing around that grave." He looked back and said, "Look, don't worry about him. He'll be alright. My son is just an unwitting pawn in the game."
Deep in thought, she was startled when Steve set the coffee cup down hard onto the table. "Alright, we've had our sandwiches and coffee, Catherine. I think Jack and I have waited long enough to hear what you've got to say." His arms folded across his chest Jack stoically nodded in agreement.
She took a deep breath and spoke in a slow and deliberate tone, "That night David came into my room crying. He told me wanted to go too," she paused and looked at her brothers. "When I asked him where it was he wanted to go, he said he wanted to go to the quarry too. He wanted to know why he couldn't go with his big brothers."
Jack leaned forward, "Huh? I didn't hear him crying. Why didn't you come and get me? ...And how did he know where I was going?" He glanced at Steve and added, "How did he know where Steve and Eddie were going?"
She lowered her head and swirled the remaining coffee in her cup with her teaspoon. "He could hear you and Eddie making your plans, Steve. He watched you and Eddie ride off on your bikes. Jack, he heard you talking on the phone with that girl you took up there. You were in the shower, Jack. That's why you didn't hear him crying."
Jack clinched his fists and cursed himself. "So, he went out to the truck and hid under the tarp in the back. Then I drove him there. That's what I thought must have happened. So tell me Catherine, how does that make you responsible in any way? Are you just trying to make me feel better? It's not working!"
Steve placed a hand on his brother's arm, "Jack, cool it. I think Catherine has more to add."
A stream of tears began to flow down her cheeks and dripped onto the table between her hands. "I don't know why I did it! God knows it has been killing me, eating at my insides all these years," she said ignoring the tears. "I helped him put on his shoes. I took him and his dinosaur downstairs. I helped him into the back of the truck," she was sobbing. "I ... I told him to hide under the tarp ... Oh God, what did I do ... why?" She buried her face in her hands, "Please forgive me. Please?"
Jack slammed his fist against the table top and screeched at his sister, "You little bitch! All those years ... all that time blaming myself ... blaming Steven too!"
"Jack," Steve whispered, "Leave her be. She needs to be let alone. She's suffered enough ... we've all suffered enough. In our own ways, we're all responsible for what happened to David. It's time to let go of David once and for all!"
She jumped up and ran from the room. She couldn't face her brothers for another minute. She ran up the stairs to her room. She need to be alone. She slammed the door shut and with her back pressed against it slumped to the floor.
She didn't have the strength to tell them the whole truth. How would they have reacted if they'd learned what happened to David was just the tip of the iceberg? What would their reaction be when they finally learned the dark family secret she'd been keeping and how that secret was connected to David.
She couldn't bring herself to tell them that David wasn't in that truck and that he was not at the quarry. How would she ever find the courage to tell Jack that she had placed the toy dinosaur under that tarp? She doubted that she would ever be able to tell them the reason behind her actions.
She looked up to the ceiling and spoke to whatever god might be listening, "What will they say, what will they do when they learn of David's real fate? I couldn't tell them, not now. I have to tell them soon ... that we've been in contact, that I've spoken to him. When can I tell them ... David is alive?"
(to be continued... Echoes of Eddie -18.)