P.S.I. Part III -- Without Betsy . . .And Others

Chapter 16 -- The "Wedding Portrait"

Chapter 1 -- Stomping, Snorting Buck
Chapter 2 -- Pele or Meowzie?
Chapter 3 -- "High Tide"
Chapter 4 -- Three Phone Calls
Chapter 5 -- The Fire Pole
Chapter 6 -- "She's Got You Spoiled, Doesn't She?"
Chapter 7 -- Heartbreak Hotel
Chapter 8 -- Kentucky Christmas
Chapter 9 -- Betsy's Estate
Chapter 10 -- Alone With a Madwoman
Chapter 11 -- "Why, Ettie, why?"
Chapter 12 -- Three Starbursts
Chapter 13 -- Weep No More, My Lady
Chapter 14 -- 'Betsy's Revenge'
Chapter 15 -- The Geoff Papers
Chapter 16 -- The "Wedding Portrait"
Chapter 17 -- Silence Requested

Cap went to live with Dr. Brackett.  Mike had only Meowzie and the ocean to keep him company.
While Cap was on bereavement leave, Mike had worked with Captains Dick Hammer and John Smith.  Talk about night and day.  No matter how much "persuading" they tried on Captain Smith, he still would not be one hundred percent convinced of the necessity of paramedics.  Mike had thought, after Johnny and Roy had administered epinephrine to an asthmatic little boy, that Capt. Smith was finally won over.  As the song said, "Dream on."

The song's chorus wouldn't leave him alone.  Without even turning on the stereo, the song played full force within him.  One day, he sat in his corner as rain fell in torrents against his deck windows.  Perhaps he needed to be out in it, so his tears wouldn't be so noticable.
He felt Betsy's presence, and heard her voice within: "Isn't there something else you could be doing?"
Mike sprung to the spot where he felt her presence, and put his arms around air.  "My love!  My life!  My everything!" he exclaimed, weeping.
Meowzie ran into the den, and started purring and rubbing against his arms.  Mike looked up and continued: "Dear wife, if I might call you that. . ."
He could feel her eyes burning through his soul, and saw her compassionate face in his mind's eye.  "You know I love you," she said.  "I did not leave of my own volition.  You know that."
Was she becoming more material?  She wore the racing colors she died in.  Please kiss me one more time, he found himself begging interiorly.  Please, just kiss me one more time!
Before he knew it, he was engulfed with incredible love.  He screamed for joy.  When she pulled away, she met him nose to nose.  Do the housework, she said, then slowly vanished from sight.
He got up, still whooping, gathered cleaning supplies from the closet-that-could-be-a-shrine, and got to work cleaning house.
At work the next day, they were thankfully busy.  He was even more thankful that Capt. Hammer was at the helm.  "How's Hank doing?" he asked at a juncture.
"A lot better than I had expected," said Mike, "But he was dealing with me at the time, so maybe Dr. Brackett is seeing something else." 

The next morning, Mike was sure he was losing his mind.  What he saw in the dream was just, well, crazy.  For 15 seconds before he woke up, he saw an artist's rendition of what his and Betsy's wedding portrait would've looked like.  That's insane.
At least she hadn't married someone else.  Then the idea would really be crazy.  But what of having someone paint a wedding portrait?  What would the artist need?
A call to Bardstown once home.  He knew Betsy had planned on their getting married at her home parish church.  Perhaps Elizabeth could secure someone's wedding portrait.  Tears interrupted everything, again.  He could almost feel his heart keeling.  They'd had a long shift.  Why push himself?  Meowzie preceeded him to the bed.

He woke up thinking, Surely someone within County Fire could paint portraits--or knows an artist.
The more he fought the idea, the stronger it became.  When he did call Betsy's family, Elizabeth was in tears when she picked up the phone.
"I just had a terrible dream about Bobby," she cried.
Mike felt as if someone had dumped an ice chest of ice water on him.  "I don't like the sound of that," he said.  "What was it, if you don't mind my asking?"
"Line of duty. . ." she wept, unable to finish the sentence.
Mike thought he'd get sick.  "That is terrible," he managed to say.  He thought back to the dream, and how Bobby had said that Mike was the brother he'd never had.  Then his original intention for calling popped into his head.
"I've a really strange favor to ask," he said.
"What's that?" she asked, sounding grateful for the diversion.
"I need someone's wedding portrait that was taken in your church."
Mike could tell Elizabeth was taken aback by the request.  "It's for a good cause," he continued, then related the dream.  He was hoping against hope that she wouldn't refer him to the church office.
"I'll look in the paper," she said.  "They're having weddings over there all the time."

Mike finally found an artist within County Fire who was willing to cut him a deal on the price.  Once the newspaper clipping arrived from Kentucky, the two men set to work.  With Mike's consent, the artist used the couple in the photo, and changed the faces and some other features to bring the picture into conformity with the dream.
Once finished, Mike admired the man's work, losing track of time.

Okay, so the "portrait" was his birthday gift to himself, in a strange sort of way.
The Belmont was approaching.  Damon said he had been working on Hague to let Ann ride the horse.  Josiah wasn't so sure it was the best thing to do.  He was still a little skeptical of female riders.  Damon was also learning quickly just how fickle trainers could be.
"Don't you think your role as reporter might have something to do with it?" Mike suggested.
"Oh, possibly, though the thought never occurred to me." 

No amount of persuasion would work though, and Josiah Hague was photographed holding the reins of another Triple Crown winner in the Belmont winner's circle.  The colt had had three different riders for the big races, but none of them were women.  Cap and Mike sat on the latter's den floor, holding each other as they cried.  The rest of 51's crew converged on the house, and Roy pointed out that, "At least the big races are over, and we can get on with life."

Shhh. . .