In the days that followed I tried to put the latest incident out of my mind but it would come back to me in quiet moments and there were dreams I couldn’t quite recall that would leave me feeling uneasy the following morning.
It occurred to me to try to find out whom the driver of the cab had been and to ask him if there had been another passenger in the cab that night but discrete enquiries to the cab company and the newspaper were rebuffed on the grounds of privacy issues. I couldn’t for the life of me remember what the driver looked like. I had only glanced at him briefly at the light.
In the following months the memory of it all faded to a level that allowed me to get on with day-to-day living in a more comfortable way. I accepted that the mystery would have to remain just that but in the back of my mind I knew that since I had seen the stranger twice the possibility of it happening again was far from out of the question.
I’ve always been one to take things in my stride. I accepted from an early age that life throws us curve balls and that while we can’t control circumstances we can control our reaction to them. I think it was that more than anything that allowed me to get on with life after the two strange interludes I had experienced.
It was on a business trip to another city the following year that my equanimity received it’s most severe test to date. I had a couple of hours between meetings on a warm sunny day and decided to take a stroll along the pathway of a lake near my hotel. Not many people were about, it being a weekday but as I walked I came upon a yacht moored out in the lake with several people aboard having a party.
Something about the scene captured my attention more than it normally would and I continued to watch as I walked along the shore. The proceedings were very lively and one man in particular seemed to be regaling the group with a story. He was very animated and waved his hands about as he talked, one of them holding a sandwich that he used to illustrate his point to great effect. It seemed he was telling a joke because at one point the rest of the group laughed heartily.
He took a bow at the groups reaction and I saw him take a bite of his sandwich as he came up. I was about to look away when he took a step to one side and I stopped dead in my tracks. There, standing behind him was the pale dark stranger that I had so successfully relegated to the depths of my memory.
I was rooted to the spot and a scream rose in my throat and caught there as I saw the mystery man reach a pale limp hand slowly in the air and bring it to rest on the joke teller’s shoulder. Immediately the man brought a hand up to his throat, dropped his sandwich and began waving his hands in the air.
The group began laughing and pointing at him, apparently believing he was playing a practical joke on them. Through all of this the dark stranger stood by impassively and no one seemed to pay him any mind.
After several long moments the man collapsed to the deck of the boat, out of my sight and I saw several of the other partygoers rush to his side. I stood frozen on the shore watching all of this unfold with a growing sense of horror.
After several minutes I saw two of the men stand up and shake their heads. Some of the women began crying hysterically. Clearly the storyteller was dead. It seemed he had choked to death on a bite of sandwich. I stared at the pale stranger and as I did so he turned slowly to face in my direction and that horrible rictus grin covered his face.
Part 6 Tomorrow