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

Chapter 6 -- "She's Got You Spoiled, Doesn't She?"

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 was sore for a couple of days, and Mike worked with another captain for one shift. 
To say that matters were strained at Cap's house would have been an understatement.  At work, Cap barely got through his required duties, and was uncharacteristically distant.  The crew drafted Roy to go talk to him--in case there was anything medical needing to be addressed.
"This is actually kind of scary," said Roy in the locker room when he returned.  "His wife is exhibiting bizarre behavior, and I've advised him to have her admitted to Rampart's psychiatric ward for three days."
"Is he going to do it?" asked Johnny.
"He's not sure.  I think he's in some form of denial right now."
"The Stanleys are stubborn," said Mike.
Roy shook his head.  "There's really nothing we can do about it.  It's all in his hands right now, and I know he's feeling the strain. . ." he said, then looked at Mike.  "And this on top of everything else going on in the family."
The alarm went off.  Another fire that would keep them occupied for the entire shift.

Mike was never so glad to get back home.  Cap's behavior was affecting everyone--and it hurt, to say the least.  As Mike cleaned out closets and took trash to the dumpster, he found himself wishing he could do the same for Cap's life.  Perhaps Ettie's bizarre behavior was going to lead to Cap being single.  Would he divorce her?  He didn't seem like the type.  Perhaps she had something that would lead to her death?
Oh, stop it, Mike! he reprimanded himself.  That's not nice.
No, go ahead, you're onto something, said the inner voice.  What had Christine Coe said about his intuitive abilities?   He had a sinking feeling, however, that Cap's problems had only just begun, but that they would be over quickly.  He, himself, would somehow be involved.

The adrenalin rush subsided, and Mike finally felt tired enough to get some shut-eye.  A purring Meowzie curled up on the pillow at the top of his head.
Ambiguous scenes from his life with Brin in his future house disturbed his sleep. 
                       He walked into the master bedroom to see
                       her off to sleep--he stayed up an hour or two
                      later than she--and saw her dressed in a
                      long, white, sleeveless nightgown, staring
                      off into the distance, or at the full moon
                      reflecting on the water.  Her looking like
                      that reminded him of what other men had
                     mentioned when they noticed something
                    wrong with their wives--and their marriages.
                    He put his arms around her and she clung
                    to him like a magnet.  "What's wrong?" he
                    asked softly as he stroked her hair.  She
                    shrugged.  Something was definitely
                    bothering her; he had never seen her this
                   melancholic.  Before he could say anything
                   else, she turned and walked into the bathroom
                   to start her retirement routine.  He sat on the
                   bed in the darkened room, and looked out over
                   the ocean.  Something was wrong--he could feel it.

                    He didn't know how long he'd sat there, but
                    apparently, Brin snuck into bed without him
                    knowing it.  He heard some strange breathing
                    from her--the Death Rattle to be exact--and he
                    crawled up next to her.  He tried rousing her
                    through shouting and shaking, but the
                    rattle only grew louder.
                    Next thing he knew, he was on his back,
                    with uniformed Johnny and Roy looking
                   over him.  Their faces were solemn.  What
                   was that infernal ringing?  He thought he
                   was losing his sanity as he was screaming,
Mike realized he had been dreaming as he gained consciousness.  The phone next to the bed was ringing.

"I got to thinking about what you've told me so far," said Damon on the other end of the line.  "I'm thinking of moonlighting as a girl jock's agent.  They've got talent, but nobody wants to take chances on them."
"Betsy said. . ." Mike started to say, but choked.  He recovered and continued.  "That the agents were afraid to lose money, so they wouldn't handle a girl's book."
"Absolutely.  And I'm talking with this one girl rider at the track, trying to see if she knows anything about any conspiracies--if she'd heard anything through the grapevine."
"Just Geoff's rage that she had left him, and how he'd sworn to get revenge."
"Who's been talking?"
"Little red-headed rider named Ann Tallman."
So that's what the inner voice meant by "opposites."
"Are you going to be handling her book?"
"Thinking seriously about it."

The closing on the house came and went, and 51's crew--including some from other shifts--helped Mike move.  They kept smacking him on the back, hinting at a housewarming barbeque.  "You're the ribs man," they kept reminding him.  Mike had already bought several six-packs of beer with which to pay them.

After everyone left, but before bringing Meowzie to her new home, Mike stood and stared at the front room.  Now that he thought of it, the alcove--despite its fitting so well in the house in the dream--would not be very practical with this floorplan.  Half of the living room would be taken up.
Four blank walls with two windows facing the front.  He was able to keep the window treatments--similar to those in the dream--with the house through the contract.  He turned to the front door.  No sidelights, and definitely only one door.  To the wall behind him, the wall which had been the source of so much pain for him--blank.  No potted trees in the corners by the front door.
Man, Brin had been rolling in the dough.  Why had he dreamed of such a successful woman when in reality, she hadn't had a chance?  He'd probably never understand.
He stepped into the open area.  To his left--in the dream--there had been a windowed alcove with a desk.  They had looked out onto the driveway.  Nothing of the sort here.  The cathedral ceiling, kitchen wall and bar were all almost identical down to the details as the dream.  Now he also had the fire pole, which a delivery service had brought by semi-trailer.  The fire pole's origins were the same as the dream--big city fire department tearing down an old, two-story firehouse.
The den was separated from the kitchen area by a real wall, not glass like in the dream.  They had been able to see straight through the house through the sidelights if the blinds were all left open.

Time to bring Meowzie to her new home.

"Okay, Meowzie," said Mike as they entered the house.   "Where we sleeping?"

The tabby headed straight for the stairs to the master bedroom.

"Nawww!" he bleated.

The cat turned to him at the top of the stairs and meowed.

"In the words of Bartleby the Scrivner, 'I would prefer not to,'" he said.

He was really, really wishing he had gone ahead and had the alcove built in.
Meowzie trotted back down the stairs and rubbed up against his legs.
"No!  And that's final!" he said.
Meowzie seemed to only then remember that she was a cat, and started investigating her new environs.

The den was bare to the walls, with the exception of a small entertainment center.  He never imagined living in a house with so much square feet, but he saw no problem with open spaces.
He sat in the corner where the deck glass met the interior wall, rested his arms on his knees, and looked out over the ocean.   He felt something come up under his left arm, and then heard the purring--Meowzie.  Nuzzle, nuzzle, nuzzle.
"She's got you spoiled, doesn't she?" he asked.   

The next morning, Mike felt something land on his chest as he slept, and with his left eye, awakened just enough to see Meowzie staring him in the face.


"Yes?" he mumbled.
Then he remembered--he had a much longer commute to work now.
The alarm went off.  Thankfully, he hadn't been so tired from moving that he'd slept through the alarm.  His muscles ached, and even a hot shower wouldn't make them let go.  He wondered what kind of day they'd have at work.
He felt a 'whoosh' go through his heart as he left his room to leave for work, then felt eyes on him.  Betsy.  Her presence was certain, but it left just as quickly as it had arrived.

What the. . .