P.S.I. Part II -- The Thaw

Chapter 13 -- The Video, The Article, and The Interviews

Home | Chapter 1 -- The Dead Eyes of the Prophet | Chapter 2 -- Rooster & Mundelein | Chapter 3 -- Where's Mike? | Chapter 4 -- The First Visitation | Chapter 5 -- Two Bridegrooms and a Baby | Chapter 6 -- Adding Emeralds to Sapphires | Chapter 7 -- Body Memory | Chapter 8 -- "I Wish You'd Take Better Care of Him!" | Chapter 9 -- Farewell, Big Red | Chapter 10 -- The Real Brin | Chapter 11 -- As Newfangled as Pringles | Chapter 12 -- When the Fat Lady Sings | Chapter 13 -- The Video, The Article and The Interviews | Chapter 14 -- Letters | Chapter 15 -- The Thaw | Chapter 16 -- Where She Walked | Epilogue | Author's Notes | Soundtrack

Cap explained to Chief Houts what had transpired in the ICU.
"Is there any way I could talk to him?" asked the chief.
Dr. Brackett came on the scene.  "Talk to who about what?" he asked.  After the chief and physician conferred, the latter decided Mike needed to hear from his boss.  When the chief arrived at Mike's bedside, he was disturbed by what he saw, despite many years in the fire service.

He leaned close to Mike's ear.  "Stoker," he said.  "Chief Houts.  Snap out of it, man, we need you!"
No response, but the chief somehow knew that Mike had heard him.
The next day, Mike heard what he thought was a lion roaring in a cave, but the sound was that of himself screaming from the very depths of his soul.  Sharon tried to talk to him, but he fell into a very deep sleep.  He woke up the next morning, still in the ICU, and somehow aware that his routine had been messed up.  In fact, he was starting to be driven by a desire to reestablish his routine.

"You know Chief Houts visited, don't you?" asked Sharon.
"Uh, no," said Mike.  "Did he say anything?"
"He called your name; said who he was; then told you to snap out of it because they needed you."
Perhaps that was why he had such a drive to return to work despite his abysmal depression.  As he watched the lights pass over him in the hallway on his way back to his room, a minute sense of hope returned.  The chief and his driver awaited him.
After the orderlies had Mike settled into his bed, the chief came to his bedside.
"Did I say anything about your not having a job?" he asked, arms behind his back.
"No, sir."
"You're on the payroll until you sign papers taking yourself off.  Understand?"
"Yes, sir."
The chief removed his white uniform hat and put it over his heart.  "And I'm very sorry to hear about your fiance."
"Thank you," Mike said as he choked up.  He brought his extra pillow up to his face, humiliated by the sobs that were forcing their way out.
Chief Houts patted him on the arm.  "It's okay.  We understand.  You're a lot calmer than I think I would be in the same situation."

Marco started sniffing the air.  "I smell something burned or burning," he said.
The chief's driver pulled a burlap sack from behind him.
"Lopez," said the chief.  "I want you to smell what my driver hands you."
"Yes, sir," said Marco.
The driver put Marco's hand on a burnt piece of wood which the former had retrieved from the sack.  Marco sniffed.
"Obviously burnt wood, but I smell an accelerant--smells like gasoline."
All three were pleasantly baffled.  At least it took Mike's mind off of Betsy for a few minutes.
"Once you get through rehab, we'll put you with the arson investigation team," said the chief.  He turned to Mike.  "We'll find you something to do, too, so don't despair."
"Thank you, sir," they both said.

The next day, Cap opened the door and lead in a contingent of people who were strangers to Marco, but not to Mike--he recognized them as Betsy's family.  He'd never met them before except in the dream.  As Betsy's mom stood before the chair closest to Mike's bed, the other three stood up against the wall.  All four had red, swollen faces.  Cap came to Mike's bedside.  "Betsy's family," he started.
Mike pointed at her mom.  "Elizabeth?" he asked.
"Yes," she said, with a very pleasant smile.  "Did she tell you?"
"He had a dream," said Cap.  "And from the sound of it, he could name each one of you."  Cap turned to Mike.  "Proceed."
Mike pointed at her dad.  "Harold?"
The man was almost startled.  "Yes," he said.
Mike then pointed at Betsy's sister.  "Barbara.  And you're Bobby's twin."
The twins grinned and nodded.
"And when you two have a disagreement, Bobby will sometimes say, 'I know you kicked me in the womb!'"
Everybody laughed.  Bobby blushed.  "How'd you know about that?"

Mike half-shrugged, since his left shoulder wasn't exactly cooperating at the moment.  "The dream," he said simply. 

Mike noticed each one holding large padded mailing envelopes.  Elizabeth stepped up.  "We brought you a lot of stuff about Betsy," she said, choking when she said her daughter's name.  "She actually changed her will after you two got engaged.  She made you her beneficiary."
Money?  Mike's head spun so fast he was grateful he was flat on his back with a rail next to him.
"She didn't have a lot.  Our biggest problem is going to be getting it from Kentucky to California," she said.
"Did she have any winner's circle photos?" he asked.
"Less than twenty," said Bobby.
Darla walked in the door.  "Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't know you had visitors!" she said.  She carried something flat in her hand.  "I'll just come back later."
"That's okay!" said Mike, motioning for her to come in.  "Meet Betsy's family!"
After the obligatory salutations, Darla took a photo out of an envelope.  "Remember that photo you asked me to take of you and Betsy?" she said.
The Stanleys drew a collective breath.
Darla held the photo up so he could see it.  He and Betsy were on his hospital bed, and she had messy, matted hair, hospital gown, and oxygen mask on.  He had his arm around her, smiling the best he could.
Before he knew it, he was bawling into his extra pillow.  The Stanleys were gathered around the photo.  Darla leaned over to embrace Mike, who felt as if his emotional floodgates had failed.  "I need a tranquilizer," he said.
After the usual gyrations on the part of the nursing staff, Dr. Brackett ordered Diazepam.   "If you get to feeling like you can't exist without it, let us know," said Cammie as she gave the injection.
Sleep, glorious sleep.

Mike decided the best time for the medication would be at bedtime.  Otherwise, he'd be too dopey during his physical therapy sessions for his shoulder.  In the remaining fourteen hours, he would sift through the information the Stanleys had brought him.  One envelope contained a videotape, labeled with a Kentucky television station's call letters, and "murder special" in handwritten letters.
He was almost afraid to venture a guess as to what was on the tape, but he had a hunch it was a TV special on Betsy's assault.  Then the question popped into his head--whatever happened to Geoff?  Mike shook with chills.  No one had mentioned whether or not Geoff had been apprehended after. . .
"Did anyone ever say anything about what happened to Geoff?"
"No, but I have a hunch he's not alive."
Mike rung his call bell, and asked the nurse to dial Station 51.  After consulting Cap, he gave Marco a verbal pat on the back.
"Geoff was found hanging in his cell at the sheriff's office in Kentucky about 48 hours after he shot . . ."
"I told you he wasn't alive.  Didn't both Georges die in jail in your dream?"
"As a matter of fact, yes."
"Maybe it's on that videotape you've got there."
Mike called the nurse again.  She said she thought Dr. Brackett had a VCR in his office.  Upon further inquiry, the physician consented to bringing the equipment to Mike's room.

"And, as promised, a tribute to the late jockey Betsy Stanley.  We felt it necessary to fill in some blanks at the scene of the crime.  Viewer discretion is advised.  This clip contains graphic footage," said the sportscaster.
Mike didn't know if he wanted to keep watching, but the clip moved faster than his brain.  Before he knew it, he saw Betsy handing her saddle off to her valet; someone distracting her to her right; Geoff pointing the pistol at her chest; the crowd going bananas when he pulls the trigger; Betsy swirling around and falling on her face--landing just like Brin in the dream; four teenaged girls jumping the bannister and landing on top of Geoff; security attending to both Geoff and Betsy; and the track physician crouching next to Betsy-- taking her pulse--and shaking his head while looking up at the guard.

They cut to a weeping trainer.  "If I hadn't asked her to ride my horse, she'd still be alive," he said.
Bobby was next up.  "Geoff was out to get her," he said, as "Trooper Bobby Stanley, KSP/Victim's brother" appeared at the bottom of the screen.  "If she had been in the interior of Antartica, he would've found her."  He broke down crying, then excused himself.
Four disgruntled young ladies wearing matching t-shirts of different colors appeared next.  Their t-shirts bore the logo of a horse and jockey silouette, with "Be a winner" above it.  ". . .in Kentucky" was below the design.
"What you did took some nerve," asked the reporter.
"I thought the lady standing up and singing was weird," said the redhead.
"If I'd been paying more attention," said the black-haired girl, "I would've jumped him before he got any shots off."
"Don't be so hard on yourself, Callie Sue," said the blonde.  "You would've had to have been psychic to know such was going to happen."
Callie Sue?  Cassie Lou?  Eeek!
"But you still caught him," said the reporter.  "The sheriff's office said Geoff was going to shoot himself after shooting Miss Stanley.  You put your own lives on the line to catch him."
"He was right below me," said Callie Sue.  "I just had to fall on him."
Mike had seen enough, and turned the tape off.  The left side of his head started throbbing, and his world started spinning.  He shut his eyes, and cried himself to sleep.

After he woke up, Mike found among the padded mailers an envelope with a black and white picture of The Future Jockettes--or the FJs as they called themselves.  All wore jeans; boots; t-shirts with "Be a Winner. . .In Kentucky" in script above and below a cropped silouette of a horse and jockey; and black English riding helmets.  They stood somewhat slouched with arms around each other's shoulders.  The girl on the far right held a bridle up to her shoulder, as if carrying it high to keep the reins from dragging.  The girl on the far left carried an English saddle on her arm.  The photo must have been taken after they caught Geoff--all four looked grim.
On the back of the photo was a typed label bearing:
The Future Jockettes: Callie Sue; Opal; Katerina; and Jolie.  Started by Callie Sue as the Betsy Stanley Fan Club.  Changed name to "Future Jockettes" when the four decided to pursue their jockey's licenses.  Based at Sturgeon Farm, Louisville Road, Bardstown, Kentucky.

One of the larger Kentucky newspapers ran an article on Betsy in their Sunday magazine insert.  Mike didn't know if the racing colors had been designed specifically for the photograph or not, but the silks were the same colors as her eyes--the blue half under her blue eye, and the green half under the green eye.  He held the magazine to his heart with his left arm, and held his pillow to his face with his right as he cried into it.
"I'm so sorry," said Marco.
"Thanks.  I miss her so much!"
"Yeah, man, I know.  I know.  Everyone's cryin', too."
What little consolation Marco's words brought were washed away with the "dam breaking."  Mike would spend most of his days crying himself to sleep.  Cap would come in with the intention of trying to cheer the two up, but his visit usually resulted in his holding Mike while they both cried.

There was still a lot of stuff to go through, but Mike was too depressed to look at it.  If someone had told him that there was a pill on the other side of the room that would cure him, he would not have been able to get it, even if his hip were healed.

The pain in Mike's left hip was increasing, but concentrated on the backside.
"You've got a literal pain in the butt," said Marco.
"Ah, gee thanks, you clown," said Mike, pressing his call bell.
Cammie answered.  After checking him, she said, "Marco's right.  You've got a gluteal muscle gone into spasm."  She had Mike reach across his chest with his left arm--now freed from splints and slings--and take the bedrail next to his head.  She held his left ankle, and told him to stretch.

Addressing the Manfriend. . .