Kim settled most of her friends either into her guest rooms or on the pull-out sofas, all except John. He’d made a reservation at the Holiday Inn and saw no reason to cram onto a sofa or chair when he had a perfectly comfortable king sized bed waiting for him. His vow to be a better friend was all but forgotten the moment he climbed into his cab.
Bill had staggered to one of the bedrooms in the hopes of gaining a few hours of sleep before his trek home. Angela and Gillian were still trying to convince the other to take the second guest room when Kim shuffled off to bed. She set her alarm and hoped coffee would be enough to get her through the next few days.
She closed her eyes and was whisked away to a day long-past and a time in her youth where the cares of her current life were unable to be imagined. Instead, her days were filled with classes and evenings spent with friends or at parties near campus. In that omniscient way of dreams, she was both young but retained her memories of days gone by and found herself in a familiar setting. Kim’s memory screamed to wake, for fear of further pain, but her dream-self continued down the familiar street. Using every ounce of strength, she struggled to keep a younger Seth steady as they walked back to their apartment building. He and Billy shared a room two doors down from her, Gillian, and Angela. They’d all been to the bar, blowing off steam from exams when Seth’s behavior warranted ejection from the establishment— a surprising turn of events given the regular clientele was riotous on a good night. Rather than ruin the evening for everyone, Kim had volunteered to walk him home. Wake up screamed her inner voice but the dream girl continued on her way, drunken friend in tow. The memory jumped ahead to the part she wished to avoid.
“I’m sorry I ruined your night,” Seth slurred. “I could’ve made it home alright but I was glad to have you for company. Look, I know you’re involved with … aw, hell.”
Before she realized it, Seth had pulled her close and his lips pressed against hers, gentle at first then more demanding. The kiss had stunned her in the dream just as it had in real life. The room spun and he pulled away just long enough to whisper in her ear.
“I shall tuck away this moment in my heart to mend the break … as you will never be mine to have and hold.”
His gentle hand caressed her cheek as he stumbled into the apartment and immediately passed out on the sofa. When Kim awoke, a single tear cooled the cheek where, in the dream, his hand had been.
“Damned writers! Even piss drunk they can manipulate words to haunt us in our dreams.” She sighed and wiped the moisture from her eyes.
Knowing she’d get no more sleep, Kim hauled her weary body from the comfort of her bed and decided to tiptoe to the kitchen for a cup of tea. She took great care in turning the door knob to not make any noise that might wake her guests. Her footfalls soft as a whisper, she crept to the kitchen only to find everyone else seated at the table with steaming mugs of coffee.
“I see I’m not the only one who couldn’t sleep,” she yawned and smiled at her friends.
While it was no surprise that they’d all had a dream about their dear departed friend, the fact that their dreams were all from different times of that same exact day sent up waving red flags.
“I think we’re reaching,” Bill muttered as he downed the last dregs of his coffee. “Just because we all had a dream from the same day over a decade ago doesn’t mean it’s a sign. It means that we each had a significant encounter with Seth on that day. For example, that was the day we went for our first tattoos.” He rolled up his sleeve to show off his ink. “See, no other-worldly symbols or messages from the grave. Just a normal tat. Seth’s didn’t look anything like mine either.”
“But what if the significance is his tattoo?” Gillian interrupted.
“It could be,” Angela agreed. “Kim, you can check tomorrow when you— wait, make that in a few hours when you go to work. Sorry, we’ve kept you up.”
“Not at all, I wouldn’t have slept anyway. I have too much on my mind. In addition to Seth, I’ve got a slew of other deaths of mysterious means. Speaking of, I’d better get ready. I have a feeling it is going to be a long day.”
By 9:03AM, Kim was already wishing she’d called in sick. Kenj filled her in and none of it was good news. While she was gone, another body had been discovered. Initially, there were no markings on the body but just like Seth’s, it appeared later.
“As for Candace Malone, her wound has sealed just like his too. None of this makes any sense,” said Kenji.
“No, it sure as hell doesn’t.”
Startled, both Kim and Kenj turned toward the voice. Detective McDonald hovered in the doorway, shaking her head.
“I’m sorry about your friend, Kim” Marie continued. “Please tell me you know what’s going on and what these damn symbols mean. He was your friend so I’m counting on you. We need answers.”
“We’re working on that.”
“We? Oh God, we who?”
“There was a group of us, old college buddies. We’re trying to figure out what the symbols mean. Apparently, they were on the cover of his book … Specter of Death. As for more, we’re working on it.”
“Please, I’m begging you. Work faster!”
***Part 6 of Specter of Death will be available Tuesday, April 6th but be sure to pop in tomorrow for a special surprise. Yes, it is April Fool's Day but no, it is not a prank. I have a treat, rather than a trick, planned for you, my loyal readers. Until tomorrow ....