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

Chapter 3 -- "High Tide"

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

Mike nearly fell off the couch.
"Mike, are you still there?" Elizabeth asked.
"Yeah, I'm here, I think," he replied.  "You're never going to believe what just happened."
"I'm a dispatcher, dear, I believe just about anything."
"The cat responded when you called its name."

Pele got up, walked over to Mike and sniffed the telephone receiver.
"She's at the phone now.  Try calling her name again."
The cat gave another closed-mouth meow.
"Oh, my gosh!  I heard her this time!"
Mike's mind was totally blown; he didn't know what to say.
"How did you say you found her again?"
"She was a scrawny, dehydrated and starving mess laying at my apartment door."
Elizabeth chuckled.   "Well, I guess if I had hiked two thousand miles on foot, I'd look that way, too."

The next day at work, Headquarters called Cap, and asked him to get Marco and Mike to the phone.  They were requested to come to headquarters for a meeting with the fire department's attorneys regarding their accident.  Once there, they learned that the settlement between County Fire and the trucking firm had been finalized: both Mike and Marco would receive two million dollars each.  Both men fell on each other for support.  At long last, Mike thought, he could get out of the apartment, and find a home for him and Meowzie.  Their landlord was growing cantankerous about the cat's presence.

Mike was thinking about a house overlooking something, and a nagging wouldn't let him omit the possibility of a house overlooking the ocean.  The very idea gave him the creeps.

However, his new realtor, Ham Harp, was insistent.  "Just a look.  It doesn't hurt to just look!  You've only just started your search for your new home."

A house overlooking the ocean.  The realtor calling the house a home.  His jockey-fiance murdered by an ex-boyfriend.  This was getting too weird.

When Mike got out of the realtor's car, he felt as if he were entering the twilight zone, and drew a sharp breath, falling against the car.  The house was almost exactly the same as his in the dream.  His emotions felt as if they were in a centrifuge, and were starting to play with his equilibrium.

A small sign at the gate said, "High Tide."  Well, okay, whatever.  On a day when tank tops and shorts were the norm, he was wishing he'd brought a jacket.

They walked in the front door.  The foyer area was the same.  To his right was a room that could've been used for a parlor.  There was no fireplace and no fire pole in the open area, despite the concurrence with the dream's kitchen and den.
The area where his alcove would've been located was a large closet with pull-apart doors.   A fairly large broom closet stood in the same place as the Tack Room, but the closet could be converted to a smaller version of his Beloved's shrine.
Down the hall were three bedrooms, one large enough for a double bed on the right, and two smaller rooms on the left.  A full bathroom was at the end of the hallway.  His reflection in the mirror startled him.
Over the den was--ta da--the master bedroom in exact configuration as theirs in the dream.

I've heard of a dream house, but this is ridiculous, he thought.

"What's the history of the house?" he asked, not knowing why.  Well, yes, he did know why he asked such a question: how did it match the dream?
The realtor's face grew solemn.  "Older man's wife was murdered, then his daughter died in an automobile accident.  Said the house had too many memories."
"I know how that is," said Mike.  "My fiance was murdered, too."
The realtor looked surprised.  "We can look at other properties, if you wish."
"That's okay.  I'll take this one."

What was he saying?  What was he saying?  Why was he condemning himself to a life of grief in this house?  The realtor was right--he had just started looking for a house.  Perhaps he should just move in with Cap or something.
Cap had a crazy wife to take care of, but Mike kept seeing Cap alone.  That didn't make sense.
Or maybe you'll be needing the space for more than just yourself.
"Are you okay?" the realtor asked.
"Huh?" Mike said, giving the man his attention.  "Yeah, I'm okay, just being introspective."
"You can stay here as long as you like.  The owner's in the process of moving out, but he's out-of-town today, and shouldn't be back until tomorrow.  I can go sit in my car and do paperwork.   If County Fire can entrust you to a fire engine, I think I can trust you here"
"Oh, okay.  Thank you."
With a nod, the realtor returned to his car.
Mike looked at where he was standing, and before he realized what was happening, the tears were flowing.  He stood where Mandy had said good-bye--and he nearly died of another heart attack.
He craved Betsy's presence.  "If I move in here, are you going to be here with me?" he asked out loud.  How funny--in the dream, her money built the house.  Here, his accident settlement was paying for it.  Financially speaking, he had been more successful than she.
But look at the riches she holds now.
Mike was starting to get really annoyed with this inner voice.  In a rush, the memories of the dream--all of them--overwhelmed him.  "What's the meaning of all this?  Why?" he cried.  "Are you going to be an angel in topboots again?  Am I really supposed to move in here?  I'm dying inside, Betsy.  Your death left a hole in me.  I realize I was miraculously healed, but there are times I just can't go on."
Something made him move from the spot he thought he was rooted to.  He went into the den, where the layout--right down to the half-bath and the deck doors--were identical to the house in the dream.  Almost feeling a hand on his shoulder, he went to the stairs and reluctantly climbed them.   He surprised himself with the sobs that escaped.  Upon inspection, the master bathroom was also identical to that of the dream.
The Brady Bunch-style stairs--yes, those matched, too.  As he descended them, he looked to the right and visualized the fire pole.  At the third step, he looked at the wall, and noticed a wall safe in the dirty outline of a picture frame.  He and Brin had put before and after pictures of their house being built to the left of the wall safe.  The picture of their post-Kentucky Derby victory kiss had covered the safe itself.  Various family photos had been hung to the right.
The hall closet--he guessed he could call it the alcove--had pull-apart doors.  What a strange place to put the washer and dryer.  In the dream they had been over by the refrigerator in the kitchen area.  For safety's sake, perhaps he should have the outlets moved.  He wondered if he could just as safely have the alcove built in.  Would a bed fit into the closet?  Probably not.  A cot maybe, but not a twin bed. 

He opened the broom closet again.  Yes, Betsy's miniscule portfolio of winner's circle photos would fit--and then some.  He leaned against the door frame and wept.  The burning within--he was all too familiar with it.  He felt something pull him way from the closet, and he crossed the hall to the large guestroom.  He and Mandy had made this their master bedroom.  What he had felt for her was a shadow of what he'd felt for Brin.
Brin.  If he'd had just a little of her fearlessness!  He felt like a lost child at the moment.
Keep moving.
The two smaller rooms overlooked the ocean.  The one on the left felt like home to him.  This room would be his alcove.  Only a single bed and maybe a small table of some kind would fit.  The other room wasn't much larger.

Mike's attention was pulled to the front foyer wall--where the wedding portraits had hung in his dream.  Now he didn't have anything to hang there.  "High Tide" would be a reclusive bachelor's pad, and that wall would stay empty--or perhaps he could hang the American LaFrance picture there.  Ha.  His engine and his job were his "spouse."
He buried his face in his handkerchief, and let the tears flow.  He didn't hear Mr. Harp walk back in.
"My stars, son, is there a problem?" asked the realtor.

"You wouldn't believe me if I told you," said Mike, trying to compose himself.
Great compassion crossed the realtor's face.  "I've been in this business for 30 years, Mr. Stoker.  I've seen a lot.  Nothing could surprise me.  I try to keep an open mind."

Mr. Harp motioned toward the breakfast bar stools.  "If there's something about the house that the owner doesn't know, I'd appreciate hearing about it.  I admit, I'm a little confused."
Once seated, Mike spilled everything about the dream and how it'd been coming to pass. 
"That's remarkable," said Mr. Harp thirty minutes later.  "I know such gifts exist, but I've never met anyone with them.  Don't feel pressured to buy this house.  It could be the worst thing you could do for yourself at this juncture.  Think about it long and hard."

The phone's runnin' over. . .