The Ridgeway Curse
Everything about her was artificial. The way she spoke to friends, the way she looked at strangers, the way she screamed with feigned excitement upon hearing the latest gossip. He watched her for most of night, sipping a club soda, biding his time. He watched as she checked her phone regularly, punching the keys with a flurry of quick touches.
Kim had come to the bar with two friends. It was Friday night, and the bar was crowded as always. She wore a clinging short skirt, with enough make-up to warrant the attention she desired. She had no problems in this department, but the skirt and make-up just made it that much easier. He knew she would be there; she always went to Riley’s on Friday nights. James had become quite the private investigator in the last few months. There wasn’t much chance she would recognize him, she was too self absorbed, but as a precaution he wore a cap pulled low with an old pair of eye glasses.
Kim Mays worked part time at a beauty supply kiosk at the mall. After graduating from high school she'd spent a year in community college. She had never been big on her studies because she wasn’t all that bright,besides, she had always gotten by on her looks. At 23 she was young and attractive, but James didn't think she should be so happy and carefree after what she had done. He knew so much about her. It was safe to say it consumed him.
James Peters watched as she finished her drink and immediately received another. He restrained himself, inside he seethed with anger.
At one point the bartender leaned over and began wiping the bar area with the towel.
“She’s in here every Friday night, I’m not sure if she’s into the older guys.”
Shaken from his thoughts, James realized what he meant. “Oh no, I wasn’t…” The bartender smiled and walked away.
James took that as his cue, it was time to leave. He paid his tab and headed out to his truck. He sat in his truck, alone with his thoughts. I can’t believe she’s in there, drinking. After what she did to Steven! And now she’s going to drive, I should call the cops.
Kim continued doing what she did on Fridays, flirting and dancing. She and her friends had yet to buy their own drinks, which was par for the course. The girls took the floor, dancing together and enjoying the attention from a guy named Matt, offering shots, beer, or whatever else they may need. Or was it Mike? Regardless, the music was loud, the drinks were free, and the night was young.
At Beecher High School, Kim had been a popular, well liked student. She had multiple boyfriends and developed a bit of a reputation until she met Steven Peters. Steven was smart, popular, and played football and lacrosse. He was a leader, a senior with a bright future ahead of him. He had planned to enroll at Syracuse University in the fall, but looked forward to a fishing trip in the Gulf along with his dad and brother, Samuel, after graduation.
James had not liked Kim from the start. She always seemed to have something to hide. He didn’t trust her, and he thought his son could do better. They had been dating for most of the school year as prom night approached. Steven had asked for the keys to the Mustang. James and Pat, Steven’s mother,talked it over and in the end James agreed to relinquish the keys to his 1966 Ford Mustang convertible.
James Peters would never forget that night, the call that woke them, Pat’s face as she burst into tears, the feeling of dread that engulfed him when she hung up the phone. Talking to police that night, he could still see the sorrow in their face, as they explained how his son had died.
Steven and Kim had gone to a party after the dance. They had been out late, partying and drinking with friends. Steven, with little tolerance for alcohol, had at some point passed out in the back seat of the Mustang. Kim, having consumed nearly twice the amount of Steve, decided to drive them home. The details of the accident, while covered in court countless times, were never fully explained. On the way home, Kim passed out while behind the wheel, causing the vehicle to veer off of the road. Waking up, Kim overcorrected, causing the Mustang to fishtail. The car swerved, before flipping over and rolling three times only to be stopped by a sturdy oak tree in a field several hundred feet from the road.
Kim suffered only a broken collarbone and had walked away from the vehicle that night. Steven was not as fortunate. Kim had left him in the back seat to sleep off the booze. As the car flipped through the air, he was thrown from the vehicle and was found more than 200 feet from where the car came to rest.
As James sat in his truck, he remembered being in court. He remembered Kim’s tears during court proceedings; tears for her own situation, not his son’s death. He recalled the verdict, vehicular manslaughter. He thought about the lenient judge, the 5 year suspended sentence. He remembered the 30 day jail sentence and the loss of her driver’s license, the community service and the AA. They had treated her as the victim! He had sat in disbelief and watched his son’s killer flash a brazen smile in the courtroom upon receiving her sentence. His son was dead and she would walk away with a slap on the wrist. He vowed revenge.
James put the phone down; he decided not to call the police, what was the point? He would wait. He had been in the bar for the last three Friday nights and now he knew he had to do something.
Last call came and went. As the bar closed, the parking lot filled as the bevy of young people gathered to discuss the next course of action. James searched the crowd for Kim. She wasn't hard to find, flirting and laughing with a couple of guys. Her friends, preoccupied with two pierced and tattooed young men, looked to have found a ride home; the hunt had proven successful. James patiently waited until finally Kim appeared ready to leave. She fumbled through her purse, looking for her keys. To James’ disappointment, one of the guys followed. Beat it kid, he said to himself.
The flirting continued at the car, culminating with the exchanging of phone numbers. Then, after five hours at the bar, Kim started her car. James waited for her to pull out onto the road before following at a distance.
Kim wasn't headed home, she had a date. For the last few months, Kim had become involved with a married man on the outskirts of town. She would go out and have some fun and at the end of the night, she would drive off to meet up for a visit with her secret playmate. The fact that he was married only added to the excitement for her, it also meant there were no strings attached.
James felt a rush of adrenaline as he followed Kim’s Honda. He stared at the back of the vehicle as if in a trance. He focused on her license plate, KMZKARR, as though it were a bulls-eye. He loathed everything about her, her plastic face, her slutty clothes, her girlie little Honda with its stickers and vanity plates. She should be in jail, he said to himself. He had spent the last four years mourning his son while she had spent it partying with friends. It wasn't right. He would make it right.
On the two lane road, Kim was smoking a cigarette while singing along to a Katy Perry song when she took notice to the truck approaching behind her. She started to panic as the truck followed, only a few feet from her bumper. She sped up while trying to find her phone in her purse. “What’s your problem, asshole?” She yelled into her rear-view mirror while staring at the grill of the truck. Being under the influence, while speeding and looking down at her purse, she hadn't noticed the sharp curve in the road ahead.
Samuel Peters was home for the weekend from Hale College, just two hours south. Visiting friends, he’d overlooked the gas light on his dashboard earlier that day. On his way home, around 2am, the car began to sputter before finally giving out on Ridgeway Drive. He pulled the car to the shoulder, called a friend, and then waited for him to arrive, hopefully with a gas can in hand. The dark and curvy road was quite calm at this time of night, so when he saw the headlights rounding the turn, he was relieved that his friend had arrived.
James wasn't sure what exactly what his next move would be. He didn't plan for this, he hadn't planned at all. Gripping the steering wheel with all his might, he sped up to chase the shiny import ahead. He wasn't sure if he meant to hit the car or just tap the back-end. At that point it felt as if his body had been acting on its own, out of his control.
Watching the car skid into the shoulder of the road, he first noticed the parked car. In a flash, he watched as Kim’s vehicle spun out of control and slammed into the helpless car. The impact was deafening, James instinctively hit the brakes, watching as the Honda’s front end smashed into the side of the parked car.
James looked around, the night was quiet as his truck's engine hummed. The small compact was flipped on its side, a lone headlight shining into the dark night. With his heart racing, James held the steering wheel to keep his hands from shaking. He looked back once more, and then sped off.
Reality sunk in, James began to panic. He thought about going back. He could call the police, explain that he had just happened to come across the scene. But they would ask why he was out at this hour. Just out for a drive at 3 in the morning Mr. Peters? His actions had not seemed real. What have I done?
He turned onto his street, trying to compose himself. He had told Pat he would be out late that evening, playing poker again. He taken quite an interest in poker recently, playing every Friday night. He pulled into the driveway and cut the engine. He sat in the car and thought about what he had done. He tried to justify his actions. She had been drinking. She wrecked the car, not me. It was only a matter of time before she killed someone else.
Getting out of his truck, he headed towards the house. He jumped as the door opened, Pat was in the door way, the phone in her hand. Her eyes were swollen and puffy; she wiped the tears from her face.
“The police just called.” She whispered. “It’s Samuel…....he was hit by a car out on Ridgeway. His car had broken down on the side of the road. James….he gone…”
James stood at the first step before collapsing to one knee. He was breathing, but he couldn't feel the air in his lungs. He couldn't hear anything. He couldn't see his wife at his side. His thoughts had vanished, along with the life inside of him. Pat was outside, calling his name, crying. He couldn't feel her as she touched his shoulder, he would never feel anything again. James couldn’t go on; the pain inside of him would not allow him to live.
“James?” she whispered.
She fell beside him, sobbing. “James, please! I can’t lose you too, please James!”
James stood. He walked into the house. The pain he’d felt for the last four years had consumed him. The pain he felt now was unbearable. He continued down the hall and opened the basement door. He walked down the stairs, unable to hear his wife’s voice. He made his way to the gun safe, opening the door and finding the shotgun. In these last few moments, James had already left, it wasn’t him that moved his legs, and it wasn’t him that loaded the gun. There were no last thoughts in his head, as he was unable to process information. His brain, already shutting down, sent one last command to his thumb, and for James, the pain finally stopped.
Copyright 2012 by Shawn Fanning