Sensing an icy chill from the table, Missy, the waitress backed away slowly with the promise that she’d come back a little later. Sadness permeated the room so thick that the entire tabled feared it would swallow them whole. The old friends looked at each other, hurts of their loss mirrored in the eyes of those at the table. Billy rose and excused himself though no one seemed to notice. They were each lost in the turmoil of emotions. Moments later, Billy returned with a pitcher and glasses for everyone.
“Let’s raise a glass to our friend, Seth. He left us too soon and with so much unsaid but we will never forget him. I’d like to think a small part of his unbridled and creative spirit resides in all of us. Most likely, if he was here right now he’d tell me to shut and drink already.”
“Yeah, he would have, Billy,” Angela’s voice broke and she dabbed her eyes but a feeble laugh still bubbled through the hurt. “Remember that time …”
Just one utterance of ‘Remember that time’ was enough to unleash the flood gates. Through tears, sniffles, and a great deal of happy memories, those who knew Seth best celebrated his life and his passion. Outrageous stories of college antics and fond memories tumbled out until it almost felt as if their friend was right there with them.
“Not to bring everyone down but,” Gillian interrupted. “How did he die? Kim, how did you find out?”
“He ended up on my table.” Kim replied. “We’ve had a rash of murders here lately but … I don’t know how Seth got involved in all of this but there is definitely something not right about what happened to him. Look, I can’t discuss a case out in public like this. After we eat, why don’t you all come back to my place but, for now … let’s talk about something else.”
“You know, I never got a chance to congratulate you, Kim. You made it; you became an MDI. We’re so proud of you!” Angela chimed in, doing her best to change the subject in case someone was listening. “We all, sort of, lost track of each other a few years after graduation. What’s everyone been up to?”
Kim gave her old roommate a smile and nodded to show her gratitude. She was always able to jump in when I needed her help. I guess some things never change no matter how long it’s been. It was a relief to change the subject so fast especially since Kim knew they’d have plenty of time later to discuss the gruesome details of Seth’s death.
They were pleased to learn that most of the ambitions they'd had while in school had become reality. John, in addition to his thriving dental practice, still played gigs on the weekends with his band. Angela’s photographs graced the covers of magazines all over the world and celebrities begged for her to do their photo shoots. As if raising a family wasn’t enough, Gillian put her psychology degree to good use. She counseled at a woman’s shelter for victims of abuse. Even Seth had managed to live his dream as a published author, though it was short lived, but Billy was the one that got the biggest reaction from the table.
“Wait a minute. Professor at our old Alma Matter? Get outta here!” John quipped. “You’re pulling my leg, right?”
“No! Why does everyone always say that?” Billy sighed then pulled out his phone. “Look, here’s the website and here’s my department and … there I am! See? Why is that so hard to believe?”
“Probably because of all the trouble you and Seth caused on campus,” Angela managed to say through her laughter. “Good thing Dean Newhouse retired. He never would have agreed to hire you.”
“Perhaps we should clue your students in on what you did to poor Professor Chan,” Kim added. “And don’t even think about trying to blame it all on Seth. We know you were just as guilty.”
The laughter and teasing continued until the check arrived. Unlike the old days, there was no playful banter about who was going to pay. They were too anxious to get out of there and discuss what happened to their old friend.
In the comfort of her own home, Kim was able to freely discuss the details she’d held back in the restaurant. She explained about the murders and the mutilations on the victim’s bodies.
“I know this is going to sound crazy but I swear; I am telling you the truth. When I saw Seth’s body, there was some kind of symbol carved into his flesh on the left side, just over his heart. It was a fresh, very raw, and bloody wound. We got called out to another crime scene but hours later when we came back, not only was the wound closed, it looked like he had been branded … years ago. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
“What did the symbol look like?” the others asked.
“I saved before and after pictures on my phone,” she muttered as she scrolled through her album to show them. “Here’s the before and here it is a few hour hours later.”
They passed around her phone; each looked at the images with an uncomfortable fascination— wanting to look away but unable to do so
“Oh my God! I think I’ve seen this somewhere before!”
**Be sure to return Tuesday, March 24th for the next installment of Specter of Death! Better yet, why not sign up for email alerts so you never miss a post?**