P.S.I.--An "Emergency!" Story

Chapter 17--PSI Means What Again?

Home | Cast of Characters | Soundtrack | Chapter 1--"I Wanna Be With Her" | Chapter 2--As Mike Lay Dying | Chapter 3--The Three Clues | Chapter 4--A Bullet With Her Name On It | Chapter 5--"Beauty Doesn't Belong in the Ground!" | Chapter 6--Cassie Lou Remembers | Chapter 7--The Video, The Ad, and The Interview | Chapter 8 --The Perfect Wife for a Firefighter | Chapter 9--"Win It For Dixie!" | Chapter 10--Angel in Topboots | Chapter 11--"Don't Have a Stroke, Mike!" | Chapter 12--Waterloo | Chapter 13--Retail Murder | Chapter 14--The Mares | Chapter 15--Notes | Chapter 16--A Homecoming--Sort Of | Chapter 17--PSI Means What Again? | Epilogue | Author's Notes | Gemma's E! Vision in the Monastery | Guestbook

Mike returned home clutching a photo album.   His in-laws had allowed him to make one from their five bulging scrapbooks showing Brin's Kentucky years on the track.  They were also the years about which he knew next to nothing.  He finally learned where his favorite photo of her had come from--a publicity shot for Latonia Race Course in Florence, Kentucky.  He and the Stanleys had sat around the living room all Christmas day and into the night looking through the photos and newspaper clippings.  They had been gracious enough to let him keep what materials he wanted.

In the undercurrent of his soul, he could tell that Brin's prediction of his crew being scattered was about to come to pass.  He also knew his tenure behind the wheel of the engine was speeding to a close--but he was fighting it.  He really didn't want to go on to captain, but he could feel Brin pushing him toward it.
Gage and DeSoto were constantly preoccupied.   Roy had declined the promotion to engineer a few years ago.  Would he really take captain if he passed the test?


The next day on the fireground, when Mike was going about his work with the engine's pump gauges, he heard Brin say within him:
Which version is preferred?
Pounds per Square Inch
Or Poor Sabrina's Interred?
His mind reeled, and he had to sit down on the running board.  Brin, that wasn't fair.
She'd done it now.  "Poor Sabrina's Interred" had invaded his brain like a ganglion.  I had to cut the apron strings, he heard within.   

Back at the station, after everyone had cleaned up--and cleaned the equipment--Mike sat in his locker, with feet on the bench, head down on his arms crossed on his lap.  Cap came in and confronted  him.
"Something's eating at you," Cap said.
"Just what Brin did when we were out there," Mike said, sitting up.
"What was that?"
Mike related Brin's poetry.  Cap frowned and looked around the ceiling.  "Sabrina Elizabeth!  You have some nerve harassing my engineer like that!" he scolded.
"I told you what she said about our crew, didn't I?" Mike asked.
"No, you didn't."
"We're about to be scattered to the four winds."
Cap became thoughtful.  "Gage and DeSoto have both taken their captain's exams.   To be honest, Chet and Marco have taken interest in other divisions."  He walked over to the aisle between the lockers and checked for unwanted listeners.  When he came back to Mike, he whispered, "And I passed the battalion chief's exam."
Mike stuck his hand out.  "Congrats!"
Cap accepted the shake.  "Thanks.  The only reason I told you is because you're family."

That evening, Mike learned from the detectives' phone call that the reward was to be split between Rooster, Joel, Sylvia, and the Posse.
Rooster decided to retire from race riding, and focus entirely on his psychology degree.
Joel planned to return to Boston, Massachusetts, spurred on by Mike's devotion to Brin, and be reconciled with his estranged wife.
Sylvia Ramsey would use her money to start a new life for herself and her children--and help victims of violent crime.
The parents of the Posse members would squirrel away their reward into trust funds before the girls could even think about what to do with the money.
The corrupt stewards had been apprehended in other states on other charges.  Their licenses had been revoked due to their alleged crimes.  Mike was somewhat satisfied.  At least they couldn't work in racing anymore. 

The next morning, as they were leaving work, Cap caught up with Mike at Brin's corvette.  The widower was giving the car some badly needed exercise.
"Did Brin put a mental block on you and your job?" Cap asked.
Mike pondered, though he really didn't need to.  He nodded.  "I guess I'll be back when P.S.I. doesn't mean 'Poor Sabrina's Interred.'"
Cap's eyes misted.  "If you need me, call me!  I'm still mad at her for doing that."
"She said she had to cut the apron strings."   The tears caught him by surprise.  "Let's get in," Mike said, pointing to the corvette.

The other four had already left, and the new shift was busy with their duties.  Mike and Cap were pretty much alone in the parking lot.
"I don't think I'm ready for captain," Mike conceded.  "I can't figure out why Brin's so determined to get me promoted."
"So you get messages from her?" Cap asked, voice strained.  He was looking at the station.
"Her ring either burns or freezes me, depending on what's about to happen.  Then I hear her voice in my heart whenever she has something to say."

Cap put his right elbow on the window sill and his fist to his mouth.  "Must be nice," he said, voice still strained.  "What I wouldn't give to hear her voice again.  You don't realize how blessed you are.  And I think you're ready for a promotion."
"I guess I'm hanging on to everything familiar for the sake of security.  I suppose that's what she means when she talks about cutting the apron strings."
"Cutting the apron strings?  She actually said that to you?"
Mike nodded.
"A bit strong, if you ask me."

"Why don't you come on over to the house?"  Mike invited.  "You've not been there since. . ."
"I know.  And yes, I will.  Thanks."

Back at the house, Mike showed Cap Brin's gear and the new photo album.  Cap came across a photo where he had been present for the winner's circle ceremonials.  Mike immediately pulled the photo and gave it to him.
At the door, Mike could tell Cap was wanting to say something.  "What's wrong?" he asked.
"You're serious about not coming back?"
"I'll probably be over it by the next shift.  Maybe she'll leave me alone after I put my name in for the test."
"Probably.  Just make sure you put your name in."

After Cap left, Mike sat in the tack room floor, going through Brin's gear.  Everything had "S. Stanley-Stoker" on it.  He recalled Brin saying that everything had to be personalized, or it would sprout legs and walk off.  In actuality, someone would take it.
She had helmet covers in all colors of the rainbow, then some which were white triangles alternating with another color.  Apparently she had ridden for a San Diego Chargers fan--a helmet cover in the Chargers' colors had a lightning bolt on either side.  How many pairs of goggles did she have?  About 20 clear; 10 amber; and 10 green.  He'd seen her use the green ones on bright sunny days as sunglasses.  The amber ones were good for cutting rainy haze.
There were several pairs of white nylon riding pants and a few leggings which looked like socks without feet.  They covered the inside of the leg between the top of the boots and the knee, which took the most abuse.  Topboots--there were several of those, too, in various states of wear.  Some had light brown tops; others, red.

Then there were 10 or so collared riding t-shirts.  Two had long sleeves; two were sleeveless.  A tube held her five crops of various lengths.  She said the stiffer the crop, the better.
Another box held the three saddles.  One was so tiny it almost fit in the palm of his hand.  The largest was the weight saddle she used in high-weighted stakes races.  Her weight had usually held at 110 pounds.  She somehow managed to weigh 103 as an apprentice, but that was before she was 'dropped.' With the saddles were the girths, pads, leathers, and stirrups.
Her jock room "occupations" were in the same box as the tape player.  For some reason, she had kept her copy of Modern Bride magazine.  Then he recalled the note he had put in it: No matter what you wear, you'll always be a beautiful bride.  He thumbed through the pages.  Yep, right where he'd put it, she'd left it there.

Later that night, after the sunset, Mike was inspired to take a walk on the beach.  He was below the house when he heard a horse's whinny behind him.
A horse?  At this hour?
Something made him turn around, and at first he thought one of County Fire's light units had set up behind him.  The light, however, wasn't hurting his eyes.  He heard the whinny again.
The light moved downward and started coming toward him.  He fell to his knees.

Suzie Bartlett, the Stokers' next door neighbor, caught sight of Mike down on the beach--and he wasn't alone.
"Sid!" she called to her husband. "SID!"
"Whaaaat?" he said as he came down the stairs.
"She's back."
"Who's back?"
She dragged him to the sliding glass deck doors.  "See?" she said, pointing.
Sid blinked a few times.  Then he saw a white mist standing in front of Mike, who had his back to them.  Sid opened the deck door, and put the big speakers out on the deck, facing the beach.  The Bee Gees' "Main Course" album was playing.
"He may not be able to hear it," Suzie said.  "The ocean may be too loud."
"Yeah, well, we can hear it," he said.  He knew "Baby As You Turn Away" was coming up next.  He grabbed his wife, and took her to the corner of the deck, where they sat cuddled to each other.

Here am I one sad and lonely guy 
One shadow of the man I used to be.

Mike was gesturing like he was talking.  The light was moving as if doing the same. . .

Now its past, the love I thought would last; 
You thought I had you chained, 
And now you're free.

Sid and Suzie both lost composure. . .

I know it's wrong but I'm still holding on, 
Still praying you will soon come back to me 

But then, you go, you let your feelings show; 
You said I gave you pain and now I see

Mike put his arms out at a 45 degree angle to his body, as if remonstrating with Brin. . .

But baby as you turn away, 
I will always think of what we had together

The light started rising straight up.  Mike was watching. . .

Baby this is just your way of breaking my heart 
And it's easier to say good-bye

The light formed a dazzling ball; shot up over Mike's house; and returned to the sea from over the Bartletts'. . .

Making me fall, making me try,

Mike went to his knees. . .

Try to make you stay as you turn away.

The light ball disappeared after becoming a starburst. . .

Now you're gone, this road I walk upon 
Is just another place where I can hide.

Mike got up and started walking to his left. . .

I'm still your man,

Mike took her ring out from under his shirt and held it to his mouth. . .

There's proof of who I am; 
Except without your love
I'm dead inside.

He stopped and turned his head right, toward the ocean. . .

But baby as you turn away 
I will always think of what we had together 
Baby, this is just your way
Of breaking my heart.
And it's easier to say good-bye 
Making me fall, making me try, try to make 
You stay, as you turn away.
The music reached Mike's ear and he looked up.  Sid and Suzie waved.  Mike half-waved, then kept staring up at them. . .
But baby as you turn away 
I will always think of what we had together
He turned back to the ocean, hope against hope that she would return. . .

Baby, this is just your way
Of breaking my heart.

She wouldn't be back until he'd taken and passed his captain's test.  Then she would appear to him yearly on his birthday.

And it's easier to say good-bye 
Making me fall, making me try, try to make 
You stay, as you turn away.
Baby as you turn away
He started making his way laboriously through the sand, still grasping her ring.  The sand reminded him of the track the day she died, only now there was no outrider to take him to . . .wherever.  Tonight's restless walk would be along the beach and not the neighborhood sidewalk.
Baby as you turn away
The Bartletts continued to watch him walking . . .
Baby as you turn away
Walking . . .walking. . .until he was a dot by the sea.

At the finish line. . .