Mike continued coughing, but nodded in agreement with Johnny.
"Cap also had an interesting reaction when I asked him," Johnny continued.
Mike raised his eyebrows and continued to cough.
"Do you need some water?" Johnny asked. Mike nodded. The bedrail had to be dropped so the straw could be
lined up with his mouth. He was as dependent upon the nursing staff and friends as a newborn baby.
"Cap got upset when he was talking about her. He got even moreso when I told him you were the one asking.
He knows you had some kind of dream. I had to follow him into the office because he huffed away after the initial question."
"Sorry," Mike croaked.
Marco had not stopped crying. "Everything happens for a reason," Roy told him. "Someone's going to be coming
in to work with you on this."
"Johnny," Mike whispered.
"Yeah?" said Johnny, leaning closer.
"Everything's got me scared. What if she looks like one of my wives from the dream? What if something actually
Johnny patted Mike on his good shoulder. "Cross that bridge when you get there. You've got to take life one
minute at a time now."
Mike's eyes watered. "I know in my heart something's going to happen. I just know it."
"Have you been doing your breathing exercises?"
Mike looked confused.
"You need to do your coughing and deep breathing exercises. Since you're flat on your back, you're going to be
more prone to pneumonia. I know breathing hurts, but it's better to hurt a little now, than. . ."
Mike nodded. "I see what you're saying."
"Ask the nurses for an extra pillow to put across your chest. That should help with the ribs."
A few days later, Cap brought his neice with him to visit Mike and Marco. Mike had just received a pain shot.
"Don't be surprised by anything Stoker says," Cap said to her. "He had a bad case of scrambled brains."
"With a side of fractures, it looks like," she added.
Mike slowly moved his head to the right, following the sound of their voices. "Brin?"
"Cap?" asked Marco.
"What's your neice's name?"
"She goes by Betsy," he said. "But her full name is Sabrina Elizabeth Stanley."
"BRIN!" Mike cried, reaching with his right hand.
Betsy jumped backwards, but Cap caught her and took her to Mike's bedside. She was shaking like a leaf in
a steady wind.
She was moved to pity by the distressed look on his face. "No one has called me Brin since I was a little kid,"
The room was somewhat darkened for the sake of Mike's sensitive eyes. He reached out for her. "Come closer
so I can see you!" he begged.
Cap pushed her forward. Betsy was trying to regulate her breathing so she wouldn't faint. She bent over toward
him. Mike touched her face, and gazed into her eyes as he ran his fingers along her cheek. He then put his hand
over her left ear, which stuck his fingers into her hair. He pulled her closer to him until their noses nearly touched.
He looked deeper into her eyes.
"Your eyes, they're. . ." he started.
"Yes, one's sapphire blue. The other is emerald green. One of my nicknames is 'Two-Tone'," she explained.
"Some kind of genetic anomaly."
"Brin," Mike breathed. "What did you do to your hair?"
Betsy looked over at Cap, who now stood on the other side of the bed. He shrugged.
"You've got Brin's face, and hairstyle, but what color is your hair?"
"Red," she said.
"Mandy was a redhead."
Betsy couldn't believe she was actually experiencing jealousy. "Who's Mandy?" she asked.
Mike's eyes watered. "The woman you led me to after your death. She became my second wife."
Betsy had to catch a "WHAT?" that tried to escape her mouth. "I'm going to have to hear more about this dream of
yours. All of this is just too uncanny. But I need to get over to the track."
She could tell by his eyes that the medication was taking effect. The grip on the side of her head was loosening.
"Please don't leave me, Brin," he whispered. She helped him lower his arm so he wouldn't be hurt if it fell. His
head lulled to the right as his eyes closed.
Betsy went over to Marco.
"So sorry to hear about your eyes, sir," she said.
"Please! Call me Marco!" he said.
"Would you like see what I look like?" she said as she sat on the side of his bed.
"They haven't taught you that yet, have they?"
"Give me your hands."
Betsy took Marco's raised hands and put them on her face. Marco raised his eyebrows. "Now I see
what you're talking about," he said. "You seem to resemble your uncle."
"Sorry to put an end to this, but we've got to be going, Betsy," said Cap.
"Oh, of course! Would you like a hug, Marco?"
Without a word, he nearly flung himself into her arms. "Thank you," he said.
When he released her, Betsy went back over to Mike's bed. He was sleeping very soundly. She leaned over
and kissed his forehead. He didn't flinch.
As Betsy and Cap walked down the hall, she nearly fell over onto him.
"Hey, you okay?" he asked as he caught her.
"Just a little freaked by what Stoker said."
"Yeah, I guess I would be too. Must've really left an impression on him."
"Whatever he saw while he was under."
Betsy coughed a dry, hacking cough.
"That doesn't sound good," said Cap.
Betsy shrugged. "Dunno."
On their way back to Cap's house, he pointed out the sights. Her dad's pickup truck--which she had used
to traverse the country--was parked in front of the small box of a house with pyramid roof and front porch.
When they reached the porch, they could hear Betsy's aunt wailing.
"What the. . ." said Cap as he hurried in.
Betsy couldn't believe her aunt dressed like she was still in the 1950s. She was also obsessed with the preservation
of her Edsel.
"Ettie, what's wrong?" Cap called. His wife was in the back room of the five-room house. Betsy took in the
floorplan--the front door opened into the living room, which was practically one with the dining area; and the kitchen was
at the very back. To her left were the rooms--one with a closed door; the bathroom; the master bedroom; then the room
in which her aunt wept.
"We're not putting her in the girls' room!" declared her aunt.
Betsy was perplexed. She had no idea her presence would bring such a reaction. First, Stoker was . . .whatever.
. .to see her, now her own family seemed to not want her around.
"That's okay," said Cap. "She can sleep on the couch."
"I can stay somewhere else. That's not a problem," said Betsy, not really knowing where she could stay.
Cap turned to her. "No! You're staying here!"
Her red-faced aunt looked out at her from her backroom refuge. Horn-rimmed glasses; beehive hair-do; fifties clothing.
She almost looked like she was going to a sock hop.
Ettie turned away from the door and looked out the window. Cap whisked Betsy out to the porch. They sat on
"Did your father ever tell you about your twin cousins?" said Cap.
He could tell by the look on Betsy's face that he hadn't. Cap pulled his handkerchief out of his back pocket.
He knew he'd be needing it.
Betsy looked first at her aunt through the screen door, then at her uncle sitting next to her. His eyes had started
A weeping aunt; her uncle looking like he was about to lose composure; the sacred space of the girls' room; twin cousins
she never knew about. . .she could see where this was going.
"How long ago?" she asked.
"Before I joined the department, about twenty-five years ago," he said.
The Stanley twins were thoroughly enjoying themselves on the back of a friend's bay pony, Geronimo. The trio were
taking a trotting hack in the woods behind the barn, and had just reached a clearing. They continued trotting alongside a
Geronimo suddenly whinnied and reared. The twins screamed as they came off. Both hit head-first into the
pond. They never got back up.
In the house, their friends' mother started panicking when she saw the twins weren't with her daughter.
"But they're just out on Geronimo!" the daughter protested.
"They're not supposed to be on him unsupervised!" the mother screamed.
They both tore off running for the woods. Geronimo was trotting back toward the house sans riders.
The pony whinnied and turned back the way he had just come.
"NO! NO!!!" the mother cried. When mother and daughter reached the clearing, the air was split by screams.
"Help me pull them out!" she yelled to her daughter, who was parylized by the sight. The mother carried
the twins one-by-one to her station wagon, and took them to the closest hospital. Nothing could be done; both
had drowned, their death having been facilitated by being knocked unconscious by the fall from the pony.
Nobody would know what had spooked Geronimo. Theories suggested either a snake or disturbed birds. The
pony was sold to a circus; the family never saw him again. His adolescent owner had a nervous breakdown, then
disappeared as a teen-ager.
The Stanleys' marriage very nearly fell apart. Ettie closed and locked the girls' bedroom door, and refused to
open it for any reason. Hank, on the other hand, mainly through his concern about spontaneous combustion, would
clean the room once a month.
Betsy sat with her knees drawn to her, and hid her face behind her arms. When she looked back up at Cap, he had
his face buried in his handkerchief. "Almost makes me want to take up another profession," she wept. Cap pulled
her to him. "Don't you dare," he said. "You go out there and make us proud!"
Betsy felt eyes on her, and turned around to see her aunt looking at them through the screen door. Then she turned
on her heel and went back to her room.
"And the irony of it all," said Cap. "Is that today is the anniversary."
Betsy felt like crawling in a hole. She couldn't put into words how uncomfortable she felt. For some
stupid reason, she wanted to go back to the hospital and see Mike.
Once Betsy had secured a California jockey's license, and passed her trainer's exam, she returned to Mike's bedside,
wearing a sapphire blue "Bragen-David Racing Stable" polo shirt and jeans. She pulled up a chair, and, sitting down, said,
"Now, tell me about this dream."
As he related the dream, her expressions went through the gamut of emotions. She even cried at the beginning, and
hugged him on his unaffected right side. As she went back to her chair, he thought, Oh, that was nice! You
didn't have to leave. She did scoot closer so she could hold his hand.
"The record is impressive, and is more like what the Walton Wonder Boy, Steve Cauthen, was doing. He did win the
Triple Crown this year. It'll probably be ten or twenty years before a woman can pull off that kind of a winning
streak. The stick-in-the-muds of the backstretch won't put a woman on a horse, and if they do, they'll put a guy jock
on just before the race."
"That's outrageous!" Mike exclaimed.
"The work's already physically hard, then we have to put up with all the other . . .stuff."
Mike could tell he was falling in love with her. The emotions were too similar to the dream.
"I guess I'll let you get some rest," she said as she got up. "You probably need it after that."
He didn't want her to leave, but knew he should keep quiet. Apparently, such showed in his eyes because she
came back over to him after replacing the chair to the wall. She leaned over to him so the side of her head touched
his. "I'll try to get up here every day," she whispered in his ear. "My schedule's not exactly banker's hours,
so I'm not sure where I'm going to be from one day to the next. I could be sent to the East Coast for a week, for all
Mike nuzzled her, then she raised back up, holding his hand. If it was possible to have both happiness and sadness
in one's eyes, he had achieved it. He was overjoyed that she seemed to like him, especially her wish to visit daily,
but the uncertainty of such visits--or their frequency--was a huge letdown.
After Betsy left, Mike picked up the extra pillow on his bed with his good right hand, and buried his face in it.
His eyes stung with tears as he tried to separate the dream from reality. If absence made the heart grow fonder, he
must be falling in love. Her being away from him really, really hurt.
Betsy was an amalgamation of Brin and Mandy. His dream wives had loved him in their own way. Betsy seemed
to like him. If he revealed his feelings for her, and she said to get lost, he'd do it. It'd kill
him, but he'd leave her alone. He wasn't about to try to force her to love him. He'd just have to love her from
a distance, and never get married with the hope against hope that she'd someday come around.
Dr. Brackett said writing the dream down would be good occupational therapy for him. Until he got writing materials,
he'd have to be satisfied with remembering the details. He had a deep down nagging gut feeling, though, that there
was a warning in all this.
Brin had been murdered by a hitman hired by someone whom she didn't love. Betsy had said she had been engaged,
but the guy started acting weird, so she broke-up with him. He really didn't like the sound of that. Red
flag number one.
Mandy had died of a heart attack, obviously taking their baby with her, too. He'd had enough, and
that was the closest he'd ever felt to having a nervous breakdown. He didn't know what to make of that.
The room's door opened, and nurse Sharon Walters entered with a nurse he'd never seen before. Sharon looked
strange without her blue pinafore, but he'd heard that she'd graduated at the top of her class.
"Hi, Mike," she said. "How you feeling now?"
"Some days are better than others. At least I'm alive."
Sharon pointed at the other nurse. "This is Darla. She's another ICU nurse, and one of the nurses who took
care of you while you were with us."
"I didn't know you were working in ICU!"
Sharon smiled her trademark smile and nodded. "We were discussing your dream, and Darla seems to think she knows what
could've caused the sensation of a hot or cold ring on your chest."
Both women withdrew their stethoscopes from their pockets and held up the bell end. "Dr. Morton doesn't always
warm his up before he uses it. Drs. Brackett and Early do, though. Sometimes Dr. Morton would come in with one
of them, or even by himself," Darla, a brunette, explained.
"You're kidding. Please sit down, if you've more to tell."
"We can probably come back after our shift, but we have to get back to the unit. We're on break."
"Thanks for stopping in," said Marco.
"Hey, Marco," Sharon said. "We didn't mean to ignore you!"
Both women walked over to him and gave him a hug.
"Oh, wow!" Marco marveled. "Thanks!"
"Sharon! One more question!" Mike insisted.
Sharon stopped at the door and turned toward him.
"Did I code?"
She pursed her lips as she nodded. "The first forty-eight hours were really hairy."
"Extremely critical," Darla added.
"Did I flat-line?"
They both nodded. "Probably one of the reasons why your hip hurts so bad is because they had to shock you--several
times," said Sharon. "We've gotta go. Bye," she said, both women waving.
Then someone goes bankrupt on brains . . .