Sabrina's uncle, Captain Hank Stanley, and Firefighters Chet Kelly and Marco Lopez ran up to the scene.
"Johnny, Roy?" said Cap.
Johnny, Roy, and Dr. Brackett turned to him. Roy was dabbing his eyes with his handkerchief. Cap ran past
the three to Mike, who was still sitting on his heels, sobbing.
Mike was once again reclined on
his back under a tree in a park
with Sabrina, on a rare day that
they both had off from work--
the day he proposed to her. She
was propped on his chest. His
blue eyes looked into her sapphire
blues, and she knew he was
thinking of something.
"Those cog wheels are turning,"
she said. "Penny for your thoughts,
I'm getting gypped."
He rolled to his left, which put her
on her back. He put his right hand
on the back of her head.
"Just thinking how much I love you;
(kiss) how I can't hardly breathe
without you; (kiss) and how much
I want to spend the rest of my
with you. (Kiss). Please give
the great honor of marrying you."
"Oh, Mike, that's so sweet!" she
exclaimed. "Of course, I will!"
And now the very breath seemed to be sucked out of him, as every fiber of his being felt like an inferno. Mike
put a hand over his heart as he fought for breath, but no air came. His chest felt crushed. He lost all cognizance
of his surroundings, and as he found his breath, he heard what sounded like the wail of a wounded animal as the inferno within
burning for her living presence seemed to speed out his mouth.
Cap knelt on one knee next to Mike, who gyrated like a wet noodle as he wailed. Cap hung his head,
and wept bitterly, silently, as he kept a hand on Mike's back. The rest of 51's crew stood stunned.
"Jockeys, after weighing in, please report to the stewards' office," said the track announcer over the P.A. system.
"The Phantom would love to get his hands on whoever did this," wept Chet.
A security guard caught Dr. Brackett's attention, then pointed to Mike and Cap.
"Johnny, Roy," said Dr. Brackett, "You and I will take Mike. You two," he said, pointing to Chet and Marco, "Take
The weeping Captain went with Chet and Marco with no problem. Mike, on the other hand, was quickly becoming dead
weight. "I wanna be with her," he moaned. Johnny and Roy pulled his arms over their shoulders and supported him
around the waist. Dr. Brackett walked slightly ahead and kept an eye on him.
Mike's head lulled back and he nearly pulled Johnny and Roy over as he collapsed.
Back in the stands, the silent fans were riveted to the situation on the turn. They completely ignored the Winner's
Circle ceremonials, which today was going through the motions.
A man watched the turn of events with his binoculars. Above him in the stands was a group of school-aged equestrians
with their advisor. The pre-teens had all been Sabrina's fans.
"Is she moving yet?" asked the blonde girl.
The man shook his head.
"Ladies and gentlemen," said the track announcer. "The rest of today's racing card has been canceled due
to these unfortunate circumstances. You may receive a refund for any wagers placed on the 9th race. We regret
that no one, by order of track security, may leave our complex at the present time. We will notify you as
soon as possible of a change in orders. Thank you for your patience in this extremely serious matter."
"What's that mean?" asked the red-headed girl.
"What are they doing???" the brunette girl asked the man with the binoculars.
He lowered his field glasses slightly, drew a sharp breath, and looked as if he was having difficulty finding the
words. "They've covered her with a white sheet. Apparently, her husband's fellow firefighters were here, and they're
trying to comfort him."
"You mean her widower's fellow firefighters?" blurted the girls' advisor.
"What's a 'widower'?" asked the red-headed girl.
The man with the binoculars and the girls' advisor looked at each other. "You wanna tell them?" he asked.
The cat was out of the bag, and there was no getting it back. No sense beating around the bush. The advisor
knew what kind of situation she could potentially have on hand; her girls were dyed-in-the-wool fans of jockey
Sabrina Stanley-Stoker. "A man whose wife has died," she said as gently as possible.