The squad was following the engine this time. As they approached an intersection, the engine stalled. Mike
did what he could to remedy the situation, but was failing miserably. Cap radioed the squad, and Roy slowed down.
A large truck barrelled through a red light. Cap jerked as if someone had poured ice water down his back, then put
his hands on his face. "That was close!" he exclaimed. Mike turned the key again, and the engine started purring.
He broke a sweat, then breathed a prayer of thanksgiving that the engine had stalled, sparing Cap his life.
Cap rested his right elbow on the window sill; held his forehead with his thumb and forefinger; and bit his lower lip.
Mike glanced over on occasion to make sure he was okay. The wind gliding past the open cab kept reminding Mike of the
unwelcome sweat he had broken, and there wasn't a lot he could do about it.
In fact, he felt they were entering a chapter of their lives where they wouldn't be able to do anything about the outcome. A
very uncomfortable feeling, indeed. No matter how anyone grasped at the straws and strings holding up their lives, there
were going to be huge changes. He just hoped they'd be ready.
The only other time he'd felt like this was before Betsy was. . .
"Squad 51 to Engine 51. Where are you going?"
"Mike!" yelled Cap.
"Sorry!" Mike exclaimed as he turned the corner to backtrack to the hospital complex.
Cap tied up the loose ends on the radio traffic, then made them available at Rampart.
Once inside the hospital, Johnny and Roy set out to find Dr. Brackett. The engine crew sat outside his office.
The paramedics found the physician upstairs in the Coronary Care Unit. Dixie was pale and ashen, her scope showing an
ugly EKG. Dr. Brackett's face was wet and red; he shook with silent weeping.
"Could you come downstairs to your office?" asked Roy.
"Stoker's got something to tell you," said Johnny.
"I was wanting to talk to him again, anyway," said Dr. Brackett with halting speech.
Downstairs, the entire crew went into his office with him to get a progress report on Dixie.
"The second M.I. was massive, and we're lucky it didn't kill her," he wept. He put his head on his desk and shook
Mike got up and went to him.
"If you're going to propose, you need to do it soon," Mike said.
Dr. Brackett looked up at him and their eyes met. Only their souls understood the communication between them.
Both of them grieving over their beloved, but Kel still had his. Dr. Brackett stood up and the two men embraced.
He patted Mike on the back. "C'mon," the doctor said. They returned to the CCU, and Mike wondered if Dixie
would be able to respond. Dr. Brackett went to her bedside, and gently lifted her head toward him. "Dixie," he
whispered. Dixie opened her eyes--she looked extremely tired.
Two broken-hearted people, Mike pondered. And in two very different ways. Keeping Dixie here was almost cruel.
He prayed for a miracle.
"Just smile if your answer is yes," Dr. Brackett started. "Will you marry me?"
She smiled. Her eyes closed, and she turned toward his palm. After he gently withdrew his hand, he took Mike
back out to the others. Fifty-one's crew congratulated the physician.
"What now? Who do we contact?" asked Dr. Brackett.
"The hospital chaplain?" Johnny offered.
A while later, the chaplain listened to Dr. Brackett's situation. "I'll see if I can get one of the county clerks
to work with us on the marriage license," he said. "I hope Dixie is able to sign her name."
Meanwhile, on a Nelson County, Kentucky, backroad, State Trooper Bobby Stanley turned on his patrol car's blue lights
and pulled over. A man stood at the front of his car, looking down at something. Upon inspection, Bobby found
a twitching doe at the man's feet. She was still alive.
"I didn't mean to hit her," he said. "She ran out in front of me!"
"I understand," said Bobby. "Get in your car."
The man complied as Bobby drew his weapon. Crouching down, he placed the muzzle squarely on the doe's pall,
and pulled the trigger. When the echo of his gunfire died down, he heard a snort, scratch, snort, scratch,
snort, scratch behind him. He followed the sound, and saw a stomping, snorting buck staring at him from across
the road. His stomach fell to his feet.
Bobby stepped over the doe and told the man who had hit her to drive down the road to the next subdivision. He
would fill out the paperwork there, he explained, pointing at the buck. The driver drew a sharp breath, and said, "I'll
meet you down there!" Bobby walked quickly to his patrol car and followed the man, radioing for Nelson County's animal
control officers and the Kentucky State Highway Department to come and take care of the carcass.
When the dispatchers were having a hard time ascertaining his location, he said, "Out here in front of the statue of
Our Lady of Plum Run." An apparently Catholic family had stuck an outdoor statue of Mary in a half-buried bathtub in
their front yard, which was not an unusual practice. However, this family had put a plaque on top of the "grotto" which said,
in hand-painted words, "Our Lady of Plum Run," the name of the road.
Mike alternated between laughing and crying when Bobby related the incident over the phone the next night. The
Stanleys called after 11pm Eastern time, which was when their long distance rates went down. "I can really feel for
the buck," said Mike. "Has the Madison County sheriff done anything about catching the culprits. . ." He broke
"Nobody's talking. This is starting to look really nasty. Of course, I can't participate in the investigation."
After they hung up, Mike was uncharacteristically overwhelmed with near-despair. He didn't know how long he had
sat on his couch, bawling like a scolded child. Betsy's loss, and now Dixie was dying. He'd never seen Dr. Brackett
in such an emotional mess. He had always been so hot tempered and demanding, but gentle when necessary, and a support
to those in need. Now he needed them.
Mike couldn't understand why he was beginning to feel uncomfortable in his own surroundings. He rose to go to his
bedroom, and took another look at his apartment. Then it dawned on him--Mandy's apartment from the dream.
That did it; he'd had enough for one day. He'd brush his teeth in the morning--he didn't want to look at himself
in the mirror. He cried himself to sleep thinking about Betsy. Nothing made sense anymore. His dreams
only confirmed the senselessness of his life.
When Mike awakened the next morning, something forced him to think about the dream, only who had been support for him.
Dr. Tristin Poe didn't really exist, but Christine Coe did. He decided to phone Marco.
When there was no answer at Marco's residence, Mike decided to go to the beach. As the memory of meeting with Brin
on the beach below their house returned, he caught a chill. What if. . .? No. He wasn't going to entertain
the thought. He wasn't going to receive a visit from Betsy while he was there, and he wasn't going near any grassy areas
where Christine Coe could meet him by chance. Absolutely, positively not.
Or so he thought.
As he passed the same park in which he met Dr. Poe in the dream, he spied Marco with a group of people. All of
them had either dogs on harnesses or white canes. Marco was serving them from behind a picnic table set with what looked
like a feast.
Then a nagging question arose within Mike: who was Rooster in real life? Did he need to go to one of the area tracks
to find him?
Marco's voice brought him out of his ponderings. He focused on the direction, and realized Marco was waving
to him. He certainly wouldn't have a chance to sit and make divots with his hands here. Was Christine Coe present?
Gee, mom, can I keep it?