"You remember Christine Coe?" Marco asked as he guided Mike to the picnic.
"Are you kidding? How could I forget her?" he said. "Is she psychic like Dr. Poe in the dream?"
"I think so. Seems to be. I know I've started having experiences like that myself."
"Unfortunately, so have I," agreed Mike.
Christine was sitting on a blanket, wearing a skirt and blouse with her legs out to her side. A white cane sat
to her right. She was holding a plate full of food, navigating it like a sighted person. Mike nearly panicked.
"Marco," said Christine. "Did you get Mike anything to eat?"
"Were you hungry?" Marco asked Mike.
"How'd she know my name?"
"I have sharp ears. I heard Marco talking to you. But I know who you are because of him."
The explanation gave Mike a temporary reprieve. Marco nudged him and asked if he was hungry, again.
"I'm good," he said.
The two men sat down on the blanket with Christine, who continued to eat. Mike became uneasy with the situation.
"Don't worry, Mike, I don't bite," she said.
"I'm sorry, this is all so weird," he said.
"What? Having lunch with blind people?"
"Oh, no, not that! There's just so much resemblance to the dream I had while in a coma after my accident."
Christine nodded as she continued to eat. "What scares you so much about it?"
"I'm sitting in the park with a blind lady and her helper after the murder of the love of my life. All of that
happened in the dream in this same park."
"We'll have to talk in more detail about this," she said. "You need to face your fears."
"I have a problem keeping the dream separate from reality sometimes."
"That's not good," she said. Then her face lit up. "What kind of dialogue did you have with the blind lady
in the dream? And, by the way, what was her name?"
"Her name was Dr. Tristin Poe. She had sued a local university for the right to teach despite her blindness.
She came up behind me and started making statements. . ."
"True or false?" asked Christine.
"True. . .about the way I was feeling. She was psychic, and had grown up in the neighborhood of Churchill Downs."
"I've never been to Kentucky, and I have no plans of pursuing a Ph.D."
"But are you psychic?"
"I have my moments."
An uncomfortable silence befell the trio, and Christine said, "I don't anticipate a repeat of what you've already seen
in your dream--which to me is sounding like a premonition. You said you suffered a head injury. Sometimes that'll
knock the third eye wide open."
"I understand," said Mike. "I was a little psychic before the accident, now it seems like I'm living in two worlds
at one time."
"Wide open," said Christine. "Plus, didn't Betsy take you by the hand when you were healed?"
"Yes, she did."
"You received a gift as well. Actually, I should say that she brought the finishing touches to the gift you
received when you were t-boned."
"Oh," was all Mike could say.
"And now you're wanting to know who everyone else is from the dream, eh?"
"You'd have to check at the track. Since I'm not a racing person, I wouldn't have any idea."
Seemed fair enough.
After the picnic, he drove to the only track in the area having a racing meet at that time. Mike leaned against
the rail and watched the post parade through tears. Why was he even there? It was crazy to think that he could
find whomever Rooster or the other jockeys from the dream were supposed to be.
That didn't make any sense. Opposites? He blankly watched the toteboard lights flicker as the odds changed
for the race at hand. Opposites? What the heck did that mean? Pictures were trying to form in his mind's
eye of what the word was supposed to mean in this particular context, but the frenetic activity around him was chasing it
away. What was he doing there, again?
Okay, now how was he supposed to get to Bragen-David? His brain was feeling more like a dog's breakfast than human
The crowd became deafening as the pack turned home.
The race didn't matter. The deafening crowd didn't matter. What did matter was the infernal nagging within
him. Didn't Betsy matter to anyone anymore?
Racetracks were always crawling with reporters, so where was one now that he and Betsy needed one?
After the race, the crowd sat back down to handicap the next one. Mike looked around. He felt drained, and
was about to give up when persons at the back of the grandstand caught his eye. A short, stocky guy with glasses and
a notepad. Bingo.
Mike waited his turn, and had to jog after the reporter to catch his attention.
"Doesn't the murder of my fiance mean anything to anyone?" he asked.
"Jockey Betsy Stanley!"
"Oh! You mean assistant trainer Betsy Stanley. Yeah, real pity. Not a lot we can do about guys like
"It was a conspiracy!" Mike exclaimed. "And nobody's talking!"
"Conspiracy?! Let's sit down and talk."
They found a bench under a large tree, and Mike thought he'd burst with anticipation.
"Did you not hear what Ophelia said about when she was supposed to sing?"
The man scrunched his face and looked up. "No, I don't recall."
"Ophelia said that he told her to sing when the winning jockey started to the tunnel. Don't you think the word
'winning' is significant?"
Concern crossed his face. "He said that, eh? That does sound kind of flaky."
"Then why isn't anyone doing anything to find the co-conspirators?" Mike wept.
The reporter looked at the ground. "I don't know," he said, shaking his head. "The girls in this sport
have to go through heck to try to make any kind of headway for themselves. Betsy--after watching her films from
Kentucky, I really wish she'd been given a chance here in California. She was smart to get that assistant
trainer job. If she had tried riding only, she would've starved."
As the note between Brin and Rooster about Dojo Mojo resurfaced in his mind, Mike dissolved into silent tears.
I am not starving, so I will not ride him, the note had said.
"I'm really sorry, pal," said the reporter, putting a hand on Mike's shoulder. "I wish there was some way
to bring her back, but I can't."
"Can't you do something to keep her memory and the need for justice alive?"
"Let me discuss this with my editor, and I'll get back to you," he said, removing a small notepad from his breast pocket.
He took Mike's information. "You won't be able to do any of this on the job or in uniform, y'know," he said.
"Yes, I'm aware of that. And I don't think I caught your name."
"Sparkill. Damon Sparkill."
"Damon," Mike said under his breath while staring at nothing in particular. "You didn't used to be an agent, did
"I know I'm short, but being a writer is all I've ever been. Never even been on the back of a horse--and I'm
not going to start now."
Mike wept all the way back to his black Dodge pick-up truck. Betsy's truck was still under cover at Cap's house.
Mike knew he shouldn't drive while upset, so he sat with his forehead on the steering wheel and gave himself a few moments
of grieving. A track security guard stopped by to see if everything was okay, and understood the need for solitude.
When Mike returned home from his bizarre experiences at the park and track, he found a sick, scrawny grey tabby cat at
his apartment door. It looked up at him, and gave a very weak meow.
"Hang on a minute," he said. "Let me get a towel."
Mike sat on his couch and held the cat--who was still wrapped in the towel--with its head on his shoulder.
The animal seemed so weak, he didn't think it'd pull through until Monday. He managed to find someone to work for him
then, so that wasn't a problem--or at least it wasn't something he would have to worry about.
Without thinking, he dialed Johnny, who, fortunately, was available to come over and help him. Gage had some extra
IV tubing, and helped Mike get some water into the cat. Although Gage had not had any veterinary experience, he said
the feline looked dehydrated and malnourished. The cat was too exhausted to even purr.
Johnny was half Seminole Indian, and had a way with animals. The cat responded to his sticking the end of the IV
tubing into its mouth--just a quarter inch or so--by lapping at the water drops.
"What are you going to name it?" Johnny asked as he held the tubing with one hand, and stroked the cat's head with the
"I hadn't really given it any thought," Mike conceded.
"If you take it to the vet, they're going to ask for a name."
Mike shrugged with his right shoulder. "Pele?" he said, naming the cat after a famous soccer player.
"I guess that would work for either a boy or a girl," said Johnny. "I wonder if she'll eat."
"How can you be so sure it's a girl?"
Johnny half-shrugged. "Something tells me it's a girl."
The scene became blurry as tears stung Mike's eyes yet again. Johnny looked up.
"Mike? What's wrong? She's responding--I think she's got a chance to survive."
Mike shook his head. "It's not that," he said. "One of Betsy's journal entries mentioned her cat having to
go live with friends because she didn't understand why the two of them couldn't be together."
Johnny looked confused.
"Betsy had inhalant pneumonia. . ."
"I didn't know that," said Johnny.
"Um, hum," said Mike, nodding. "And the cat kept meowing outside of her bedroom door. So they had to
send it to a cat-sitter."
Johnny stayed with Mike and Pele for most of the weekend. Since Gage had to work on Monday, he could explain Mike's
situation to the rest of the regular crew.
After food and rehydration, Pele was starting to perk up. The vet's office gave her a bath while Mike picked
up a critter carrier at a pet store. He started making plans for moving, but where--he didn't know yet.
Elizabeth, Betsy's mom, called to see how he was doing.
"I've spoken with a reporter at the track, and he's going to speak to his editor about getting Betsy's story back into
"I wish I had such good news," she said.
Mike felt the blood drain from his head.
"The authorities are having a very difficult time getting anyone to talk. . ."
"But, on another note, we have an unusual junior firefighter right now."
"He's very superstitious. He asked to be let out of the mini-pumper before they crossed downed electrical lines,
saying he'd had good luck once already that day, and he wasn't going to push it."
Mike threw his head back and laughed. "What about holding a ladder for someone?"
"The juniors don't get near ladders. They're more like gophers for the chief. It's really cute watching the
boys run across the ballfield from the high school to the fire department for a run. One of them almost got left behind,
and they started teasing him about getting a pony."
The conversation with her mom was refreshing, until she mentioned Betsy's cat, which was missing.
Mike looked over at Pele, who was curled up asleep at the opposite end of the couch. The idea to ask for a description
of Betsy's cat crossed his mind. He dismissed the idea, but the words came out of his mouth anyway.
"Grey tabby with a spot of brown on her nose."
"And what's the cat's name?"
The cat woke up and gave him a closed-mouth meow.
Dream, dream, dream . . .