A few days later, Mike felt Brin's presence very strongly at home, and he heard within:
If you're going to propose, you'd better not put it off much longer.
No need to be. Everything happens for a reason. If you don't propose, I can't guarantee she'll return
to your life.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
Just what I said.
"Is something about to happen to her, too?"
What you're picking up on are the winds of change that are blowing in and from her direction.
Mike sat on his bed and put his face in his hands. "I'm too scared! She's been acting weird since the second.
I thought she understood!"
She's been going round and round with me about that. Let me handle it, and I'll let you know when you need
to speak up.
"Does she see you?"
"Must be nice!"
I have to go talk to Mandy now, but I will still be with you.
Brin found Mandy at the latter's apartment, loading dishes into the dishwasher.
"Aye?" asked Mandy. Brin wore black silks with a red broken heart.
If you leave him, he'll die. And I mean that literally.
"I could never measure up to ye," Mandy protested. "Why did ye even bother me with this?"
I'm only the messenger. You love him and you know it.
Mandy braced herself against the kitchen sink, looking down.
I'd be worried if you weren't jealous.
Mandy raised up and looked Brin in the eye. "He'll never love me like he loves ye," she said.
Loved me. He is falling in love with you. In fact, he already has. But you have to give love a
chance to grow.
"I thought he said he'd never remarry. I don't see what's in it for me."
I can't believe you said that! If he'd heard that, it would've cut him to the quick and confused him!
Mandy turned to walk away. "Don't ye realize how awkward it's going to be--the three of us together?"
I'll be respectful. You were the one we saw as being capable of loving him like I did, but in your own way.
Once he becomes more attached to you, I won't be around that much.
"I can't give ye an answer right now."
He senses that something is wrong. He's concerned about how you've been treating him since the second.
He thought you understood him and his grief.
Mandy looked ashamed, sat down at the kitchen table, and put her face in her hands.
I can't impress upon you enough how concerned he is about that. You were showing so much respect for his attachment
to me and his grief over losing me. His appreciation for your support for him in his time of need could never
be put into words. But, you're starting to look like a fair-weather friend.
"Nay!" she said, not looking up.
I guess we'll just have to go find someone else.
"Why?" Mandy exclaimed, standing up.
You don't want the assignment. I'll have to find someone I can entrust him to.
Mike felt Brin's presence again, but didn't like the vibes he was getting.
"Don't tell me. . ." he started.
The ball's in her court now. Just try to keep yourself from getting too deep again.
"She's leaving me, isn't she?"
She's ambivalent right now. She's thinking she'll never measure up to me.
Mike tried not to panic, but had difficulty keeping his feelings restrained, and gave a little cry. "What do I
do?" he exclaimed. Then he turned to where he felt Brin's presence. "But you said she'd be with child the next
time you appeared!"
I know, but she also has the right of refusing the assignment. The next couple of days will be trying for you.
See if you can get her to come over again.
"I'll do whatever you tell me!"
Mandy consented to coming over again. Mike was hoping that that was a good sign. He could tell she was
wrestling with herself within.
She came over, but Brin's prediction came to pass.
"I've been transferred to Sacramento," Mandy said. "I'll be leaving next week."
As she walked out the door, Mike flashed back to finding Brin's lifeless body on the track, and the giant axe sliced
through his heart again. He fell to the floor as he was screaming, "NO!" The sound was so shrill to Mandy that
she stopped and curled up as she stood on one foot.
With a clap of thunder, Brin flew down to Mandy as an angry angel, lightning bolt in hand, wearing red silks with fire
designs on the lower sleeves and lower half of the jacket. Her eyes were fiery; her hair flying back as if blown by
a great wind. "I WISH YOU'D TAKE BETTER CARE OF HIM!" she declared with a rebel yell.
Mandy screamed. She wasn't sure what was going on, but something made her go back into the house. Mike was
on his back, spread eagle on the floor. She wasn't able to call the fire department because he was in full cardiac
Next door, Sid and Suzie both heard Brin scream, "SID! SUZIE! HELP!" They didn't bother to ask
who'd said it; they just ran.
Suzie called the fire department. Sid took over on the CPR as Mandy continued the mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
When the paramedics arrived, Mandy stood silently weeping in the corner behind the front door; hands to mouth, holding
Brin's ring-on-chain in one hand; and watching almost in disbelief as they worked on Mike.
He saw Brin in spirit. She now wore white silks with a red maltese cross with blue Star of Life in the middle
of it. She touched his chest and he felt a shock which awakened him. He sat up.
"What are you doing here?" Mike asked the paramedic holding the paddles.
"What are you doing down there?" he asked.
Mandy dropped to the floor with relief.
After Mike signed away further treatment; everyone had left; and the scene was cleaned up, he took the weeping Mandy
to the den, and sat her down on the couch. She handed Brin's ring-on-chain to him.
"Thanks for taking care of it. You don't know what that means to me. So you're really going to Sacramento?"
he asked, choking on the last question. He put the ring and chain back on.
She shook her head. "Not now. But about the only way I can get out of it is quit."
Brin's ring burned as he took Mandy in his arms. "We can handle that."
Mandy saw Brin across the room at the windows. Don't act stupid, she said, her fists on her hips.
You know what he means. Her white silks now bore a red Cupid.
"Sounds like ye're talking about a permanent relationship," Mandy said.
Mike held her tighter. "That's exactly what I'm talking about."
Mandy tightened her hug. "I was so scared that ye were going to depart a few minutes ago. Everything happened
so fast. But it really drove home to me that I'm where I belong."
The April wedding was at St. Vibiana's. Mandy's family flew in from Ireland. Mike thought she had a
thick brogue, but that was nothing compared to those of her family. They kept teasing her about her "American accent."
The newlyweds went to Las Vegas for the honeymoon.
Mike then understood why he'd left such a gap between the photos in the Tack Room: where else was he to put his
and Brin's wedding portrait? Moving it there made him sick, but he had to have someplace to hang the new one.
Thawing out. Healing. Whatever one wanted to call it, he never thought he'd ever be anything close to happy
after Brin's murder. Now lilting Celtic music was filling the air, and the house was starting to feel like a home again.
One morning at breakfast, Mandy was discussing telephone calls to Ireland. "They're ten dollars a minute," she
Mike nearly sprayed her with the coffee he had just sipped. "Ten dollars a minute!" he exclaimed. "You'll
have my inheritance spent in a week! But we can work something out."
His grieving, however, wasn't over. He'd be going about his business around the house when, suddenly, he'd be hit
with a fit of grief over Brin, triggered by some small reminder popping up in the course his new life. Mandy would put
an arm around him, lead him to the den couch, and hold her weeping husband until the memory passed. His first flashback
was a simple scene of him and Brin in the house together.
Mandy had nicknamed him, "Tullymungan," which was a combination of two Celtic surnames. One meant 'peaceful;' the
other, 'mild.' Mike thought of himself as anything but 'peaceful;' he seemed to be in a constant state of chaos within.
The Stokers soon had a bun in the oven. Mike made sure he was home for his birthday. He was sitting
next to Mandy on the guestroom-turned-master bedroom bed. She was in a deep sleep.
Brin appeared just as she had last year. He was disturbed that she wore black silks, and asked her about it.
"The truth is about to be revealed," said Brin.
His thoughts shot immediately to his child growing within his new spouse.
"Is it about the baby? Why is Mandy sleeping so much?"
"Making a baby is a lot of hard work. Just make sure that if she isn't able to eat, that she gets water.
Food, fluids, and vitamins are of the utmost importance right now."
Unfortunately, Brin disappeared before he could ask more questions about his new life. Then it dawned on him that
the further he got into his new life with Mandy, the less and less he'd see of Brin, to the point of her appearance being
perhaps only a flash by the time he was ready to depart the Earth.
Two months later, while Mike was at work, Mandy was walking through the house when she gasped and grabbed her chest. She
had pain in the left arm; severe nausea; crushing chest pain; the choking sensation; and the sudden copious sweating.
She fell to the floor, but managed to crawl to the phone. After calling the fire department, she fell to the
Go forth Christian soul, she prayed as she looked at the den ceiling. In the name of the Father who
created you. . . Everything went black.
The paramedics had to break in. Mike had been notified, and was told to meet them at The Pavilion. Once there,
Mandy was admitted to the Coronary Care Unit.
"Why can't she be transferred to Rampart?!" Mike demanded.
"She's not stable enough to make the trip," said the doctor.
He could see the consternation on Mike's face, and took him to the consultation room.
"I've got to be honest with you, Mr. Stoker," he said. "She's a very sick woman, and I'm not even sure if we'll be
able to save either one of them."
"No!" Mike cried, putting his hands to his face. This wasn't happening. His world was almost literally
spinning out of control. Brin! What's going on?! he pled within as he walked back to the waiting
The truth is about to be revealed, she said, her ring burning. And it's not going to be pleasant.
TRUTH?! WHAT TRUTH?! Mike demanded within. YOU KEEP TALKING ABOUT THE TRUTH! WHAT IS GOING
You're about to see. Farewell. Her ring turned cold.
BRIN! DON'T GO! DON'T GO!
A Code Blue page rang out for the CCU. Mike recognized the feelings he was experiencing--and they were too much
like October 2, 1978.
A priest entered the CCU with his Holy Oils, obviously making ready to administer the last sacraments. Five
excruciating minutes later, a solemn-faced doctor emerged and looked at Mike.
Mike's psyche had had enough. He really didn't know what he was doing as he ran screaming towards the window at
the end of the hallway. As he went through it, he heard the crash of glass, but the situation didn't look like he was
going through a window. Glass was showering him, but from the left. . .
"Dr. Brackett, ICU stat. Dr. Brackett, ICU stat," he heard the hospital switchboard operator page.
Time to get Mike a new fun card. . .