P.S.I. Part IV -- Finding Maria

Chapter 1 -- The Shrine

Chapter 1 -- The Shrine
Chapter 2 -- To Build or Not to Build
Chapter 3 -- The Alcove
Chapter 4 -- Popery Aloud
Chapter 5 -- The Scream

Even before Mike hung up the phone with Marco and his warning from Christine Coe, he felt eyes upon him, although he was alone in the house.  The air felt heavy.
"Dear Tanner Family," Mike started as he hung up the receiver.   "I'm making changes to the house.  I'm going to add a room here off the hallway, and turn the closet into a shrine to my beloved Betsy."
The air lightened, and he could almost feel Mr. Tanner smiling; Vicksa starting to smile; and Olga still needing time to get used to the idea.
"Olga?" Mike attempted.
He felt frowning.
"Uh, Mrs. Tanner, I realize that you are not in favor of any changes being made, but I am in charge here now."
He was starting to see her in his mind's eye.  She still wore the white dress she was wearing on the day she died.  Her fists were on her hips, and she had a "Harumph!" look on her face.  The scene reminded him of Brin from the dream.
"I plan to begin construction as soon as I get everything lined up," he continued.  He could still feel her staring a hole through him. 

Shrine first.
Without a word, Mike took out the contents of the broom closet, and placed them in the kitchen area.
Then he removed the door, and leaned it up against a wall in the largest spare bedroom.  The door would make a nice workbench, he thought, if he laid it across two sawhorses.  At least now he had something in that room.  Even the closet was empty.
Fortunately, the closet-to-be-shrine had an overhead light.  The minute he turned it on, he had a series of pictures go through his mind from the dream.  First, a succession of before-during-after pictures of the finished room from the dream; the raw emotions from the dream were there, too; then he saw where he stood now; then he saw himself tapping the closet walls with a hammer.
"You've got to be kidding me," he said to no one in particular about the last scene.  The walls to either his right or left sounded solid, but the tapping he did on the wall before him sounded more hollow.  After fetching a bandana from his room, and tying it over his nose and mouth like an Old West bandit, he sank the claw end of the hammer through the wall and pulled.
Had his arm been long enough, he would have reached around the corner to retrieve his old Navy flashlight.  The curiosity was beginning to flutter within him.  He felt eyes on him, again.  As he returned to the closet with the flashlight, he said out loud to the Tanner spirits, "I'm not going to find any skeletons, am I?"

I didn't build the house, Mike heard Mr. Tanner say within him.
With three whacks of the claw-end of the hammer, Mike had cleared out enough of the wall to see behind it.  Chills went through him when he peered through the hole.
The "room" was there.
His heart nearly fell to his feet.  In a semi-crouch, he supported himself with one hand on his leg as he held his chest with the other.  He was glad he'd found the space before a fire had done so.  Now what?
Call my uncle, he heard Betsy say within.  For a few precious moments, he felt her love, again.  His lukewarm heart felt more alive than it had since. . .well. . .the last time she appeared. 

And call Hank he most certainly did.
"You're kidding," was all Cap said.
"I kid you not," Mike responded.  "Come over and see for yourself."
"I will."
About 30 minutes later, after Mike had taken an extended break, Cap peered through the hole himself, then turned to Mike.  "You've got a fire hazard in there, y'know.  It's a wonder it hasn't already spontaneously combusted, considering the amount of dust in there."
"I was afraid you were going to say that."
"We need to get it cleaned out.  Why don't you call around and see if anyone can come help us?"
Marco arrived with his new girlfriend, Maria Sanchez, on his arm, as well as Roy with JoAnn in tow.  The two women took care of the cooking, as Cap, Mike, Marco, and Roy remedied the problem.  Chet and Johnny "just happened to be in the neighborhood," and stopped by.
"We're not going to have anything to talk about at work tomorrow," Johnny joked.
"What'd ya do yesterday on your day off, Mike?" asked Chet.
"Ah, nothin'," Mike quipped.

Once the clean-up had been done, Cap and Mike looked further into the room, which dog-legged just as it had in the dream.  The walls were closer together, though.  The wall safe next to the stairs to the master bedroom seemed to just be hanging in the wall--there was no backing.  There was no window overlooking the ocean, but there was an opening in the wall where the room dead-ended.
"Maybe they ran out of money," said Mike, as he could visualize where the "hallway" could have opened into the den.
"Have you ever seen your house from the beach?" asked Cap.
"Come to think of it, no."

A few weeks later, Mike flipped the new switch, and the small hallway was illuminated by art gallery lights hanging from the ceiling.  He still couldn't figure out why the homebuilder had put the quirky little room into the plans.  He had put in a call to Ham Harp, but the man referred him to the county clerk's office.  Mike hadn't had the time to go sleuthing.
The wall safe had been removed, and the hole patched.  He and Cap had ascertained that the little hall had meant to come out in the den, but the TV and entertainment center were now in the way.  Mike had no intention of moving anything.
Before he started nailing up pictures, though, he decided he'd wait for the inspiration.
Go from what you know to what you don't know, he heard Betsy say within.
"What?" Mike said out loud.  He remembered the article with the full-color photo of Betsy in her racing colors which coordinated with her eyes.  In a flash, he saw the left wall of the room painted blue, the right, green; and the ceiling, bronze.

Then, the photos came to mind.  In his room, he separated the pictures from the letters and newspaper articles.  His mind wandered back to the dream, and opening the boxes containing her gear.
Whatever came of Betsy's gear?  It'd be so nice to have an article of clothing. . .or something.
Meowzie emerged from under the bed, and rubbed against his leg, purring.  Even if her gear were missing from his household, her cat was there with him.
Her jacket!  He retrieved it from his closet, and held it to his face.  Then, he draped it over his pillow.
Soon afterward, the photos were segregated from the articles and the letters.  He knew what he'd do with the letters--frame them and put them in his room.  He'd do the same with the photos and articles, only display them in the Shrine.  If he ever came to having any of her gear, the right side of the room would be reserved for that.  He didn't think Betsy had been riding long enough to have accumulated as much gear as Brin had had in the dream, though.

Decisions, decisions. . .