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The Golden Horn

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                  Page Six

McConike glared at the cadets to shut them up and to
spare Hank the humility. But his dogged I'm the superior
and you're not grin stayed firmly in place as he thoroughly
drank in Hank's discomforture. "Knew that would get ya,
Henry. I never miss my mark when I pull that one." and he
laughed loud, alone and long. The need to wipe away his
tears ended McConike's enjoyment and he said one last
parting shot before moving on to inspect the next
cadet to Hank's left. "Never liked my real name either,Henry.
So just call me Cap."


Hank started to mumble in his half state..
"Hank, call me Hank! D*mn him..No wonder I set his
hat on fire. He never let up the whole time with
those stupid slapstick jokes of his for as long as
I was his newest man at the station. It wasn't
until I became a captain myself that he finally
started calling me Hank like he should have.."
he chuckled weakly.

"CAP?!....CAp?!........Cap?!...........cap?!.... ..We're coming
DOWN..DOWn.......DOwn.......Down..........down..So there..rrrrr..e..
there rrrr..e...rre...just a little bit longer..rrrr..rrr...rr....r"  
another voice's ghostly echo floated over the loud
rushing waters ringing in Cap's ears.

::Roy?:: Cap's dulled mind ventured. ::Is that you?::
Hank coughed and then just hung limp where he
was, too tired to even think anymore.


Johnny Gage was a bit lower than his partner in
the cramped well shaft. "Gimme more slack!" he
said looking up the shaft.

Roy, sweating and climbing down on the boards
one by one in his harness, spoke. "Johnny have
you noticed how much rope we've been using?
I'm at the one hundred foot coil mark already."
DeSoto kicked away the extra belt they had for
Cap, from around his legs as he eased around
a tangle of mining wire..

"I know.." Johnny said, grunting as he tipped his
helmeted head down to avoid the water streams
from the ground seeps raining down on them
in the gloom. He didn't voice the fact that a fall
any farther than thirty feet usually ended up in
a fatality. "Just keep going.."

Around Gage's belt, hung Cap's bloodied helmet.
and he kept one superstitious glove on it as
they descended even deeper into the murky
gloom of the well. He shouted again down
the shaft towards their feet but yet again,
nothing but the bubbling echoes of his own voice
floated upwards along with the sounds
of the raging water below. Johnny began to
breathe harder as unwelcome negative thoughts
about Cap's continued sinking survival chances
came more and more frequently with every
passing moment.

They were still seeing splashes of blood on
the walls. Roy became analytical. "All of this
is bright red. He must have gotten a cut into
an artery.. "

"We hope.." Gage said sarcastically. "Grossly
displaced open fractures do this kind of thing
too, in a fall.."

"Yeah, well I prefer to be optimistic, Junior."
Roy sighed. "Because I can't bear to think
that Cap might actually have d-" and he broke
off his line of thinking.

"I know what you mean. I'm having those
kind of doubts myself right now. Come on,
let's keep going." Johnny said."Like you said,
we'll get all our answers soon enough."

Roy shouted back up the shaft..
"Gimme more slack!"


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Hank's breathing was coming with difficulty
now and to him, the moist cool air seemed
to be growing thinner. He could barely open
his eyes and the whirlpool seemed to weave
a hypnotic spell over him. "I'm sorry, Chief..
I won't do it again..I promise.. Please.. Just
get me out of can call me
anything you'd like.."

Hank lifted his numb arm in front of his
face by picking up its sleeve with his other
hand and he peered at the skin on his palm
there. "Man, looks like the mother of all
rug burns.. heh. Will take at least a graft
or two to patch that.."

::Will take a month or two to pass that Hank.
Only by becoming a captain will you find some
peace about him..What ever possessed you to
set the chief's hat on fire?:: his mental psyche
injected into his mind. "Emily?" he gasped, imagining
his wife's soft alto whispering to him next to
his ear. Cap's eyes closed as his deepening
hypothermia made him think the stony wall was
his cotton quilted bed at home and his hallucinations
real aspects of his family.

Cap finally slipped into a shadowy realm and
all trace of the chamber exited on the silent
black wings of unconsciousness. Hank's breathing
slowed to a crawl.


Johnny Gage stopped shouting Cap's name.
"Wait a minute. Wait a minute.. I see him..!"

"Where?.." Roy asked eagerly, and very tired.

"To my right.. straight down beyond that
outcropping. Looks like he's mostly out
of the water. More slack!!!" his voice sliced
up the shaft..  

Finally, Johnny lowered another six feet.
He strained reaching for the nearest part
of Cap to his fingertips. His bloody right hand.

Gage grasped that wrist, feeling for a pulse.
He didn't find one. "What?" he startled,
eyes shooting to Cap's face for a confirming
off color. But Cap was still pink. Then Johnny noticed
the shiny coils tied around that arm. "It's a cannula,
Roy, acting as a tourniquet.." he sighed in relief.
"I thought he was dead for a second.." Gage grunted
as he angled in a little closer to reach Cap's limp head.
Johnny had to swing and grope three times before
he landed a solid touch on the side of Hank's neck.
"He's still got a carotid. But its thready. And he's
real cold. Here. Gimme the safety belt, Roy. I'll put it
around him."

As Gage struggled nearer, his gloves felt Cap's
stomach expand ever so slightly as he worked
to place the belt around Hank's waist to secure
it to their third lifeline."Breathing's shallow. But
he's doing it."

Gage couldn't quite reach the fastener on Cap's
belt to their free rope and unconsciously, Gage
gave a tug, trying to bridge the final inch separating

Captain Stanley's snag on his collar suddenly snapped
and he started sliding down the slope like a stone
towards the creek streaming passageway below.

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"Cap!!" Roy shouted, but he was at the end of his rope
and could go no lower.

Johnny made a grab for Cap and only got the loose end of
the cannula tubing in his grip. It tore loose, untying from
Cap's arm before Hank fell the rest of the way to
the bottom. He sank rapidly under the water.

Johnny didn't have time to think. He acted. "I'm
going in!" and he cut his short rope from the main
one with his holster bowie knife not even hearing
Roy's shout not to.
Johnny Gage was shocked by the utter icyness
of the torrent of water. He barely got his head back above
its frothy surface before his lungs shuddered into an
instinctive involuntary gasp. He wasted no time.
"Roy.. lower another rope after I get him up!" and
Johnny began a powerful stroke down stream
towards the dead end wall. Briefly, Cap's back
surfaced as his body floated up in the grip of
the leading edge of the eddy. Gage grabbed him,
lifting Hank's pale head above the water before
he flopped it back onto his shoulder. "I got you Cap..!"
he sputtered as he fought the rapid undertow forming
beneath them. His face filled with a sudden horror
when Johnny realized the danger.

Roy saw the underglow lit whirlpool
surge and it dragged his struggling partner
and their ragdoll captain inside a ferocious swirl
as it hungrily sucked both of them under.

The submersed shadows that he could see
of their clinging bodies, spun wildly beneath the flow's
surface for one terrifying second before they
disappeared entirely as the whirlpool suddenly
folded noisily onto itself and rippled away into stillness.

Hot tears blinded DeSoto when he realized the
implications of what he had just witnessed.

"Johnnyyyyy!!!  Caaaappp!!!" Roy screamed and
his terror echoed a dozen fold above the underground

Roy never remembered pulling on his rope for
a hasty ascent.


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From : "Roxy Dee" <>  
Subject : Washout  
Date : Tue, 15 Apr 2003 20:27:20 +0000  
Hands reached for Roy the moment everyone
around the caved in well could see him.

"Captain Stone?! They fell.." his voice cracked.

"What?!" the station eight captain gasped.

Roy let the crew around him pull him out by the arms.
"My partner was about to secure Cap to a lifeline
when the debris holding him on the wall gave way.
Johnny cut his rope and went after him but they're
in trouble. The current had an undertow at the
end of what I think is a dead end passage and they
both were swept under."

Captain Carter rubbed his chin, thinking.
"A dead end passage did you say?"

"Yeah." Roy coughed, catching his wind after
the long climb upward. "Is that important?"

"Sure is.." Steven nodded. "When these old mines
were open, certain tunnels had sloughs specifically
designed for discharging excess rainwater into an aqueduct
that feeds into the main quarry just over that rise.."
he said, pointing. "If your captain and partner are
still alive, that's where they'll end up."

Stone stepped back from the hole as Chet and Marco
helped Roy out of his repelling belt and ropes.
He thumbed his radio and said, "HT Eight to Engine
8 and Brush 4. We've two men washed away in a
subterranean current near our location. Send four
men with a pair of stokes and mountain rescue gear
to the north side of McGregor Quarry. The place
we're looking for them to reappear is anywhere along
that shoreline. Over."

##10-4, Engine 8. Slope extrication and stokes
to the north escarpment of the quarry. We're moving
out now.##

"10-4." Ben sighed.

Roy's face was pale with fright for his crewmates and
he found he couldn't think clearly at all. Chet Kelly
grasped him on the shoulder and said. "Roy, they're
ok man. You heard Captain Carter. That tunnel wash has an
outlet that's not very long. You know how Johnny always ends
up back on his feet after something like this happens.."
he nodded animatedly.

"Yeah? But he doesn't ever do that without injury, Chet.
Gonna be harder this time because Cap's got more going on
besides just shock and hypothermia. His arm was in a
tourniquet when we found him for a very significant laceration
and that came free when he fell. On top of the drowning danger,
Cap may just bleed to death before Johnny can do anything to
stop it." DeSoto said.

Kelly's face sobered, but immediately, he said.
"Roy, quit freaking out. You're snowballing.
Just go with the other guys running over there.
Marco and I will handle the squad gear and we'll meet
you in two minutes! I see Stoker already booking for it."

With a heavy heart,  Roy took up Chet's advice and
jogged after the two fire captains to the edge of the
abandoned quarry just beyond Engine 51.


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From:   "Ziggy" <>
Date:  Tue Apr 15, 2003  6:36 pm
Subject:  A Brief Return


Station 51's captain stirred slightly, but did not awaken fully.

"Hank." The voice, vaguely familiar, insisted more insistently.

Hank's eyes fluttered, but no other response was forthcoming. *Go 'way! 'm
wet, cold and tired. So tired. Just wanna sleep-*

"Henry Adams Stanley! Ten-hut!"

Hank started awake at that. Old habits faded slowly. He raised his head a
few inches off the stony ground and blinked as the blurry form kneeling
beside him. The form coalesced itself into-"Chief?" Hank knew it wasn't
possible, but the figure at his side appeared to be McConnikee. The chief
was dressed in his day uniform, including his turnout coat and white helmet.
"But-you're dead. aren't you?"

McConnikee smiled somewhat sadly. "I'd like to say the rumors of my death
have been greatly exaggerated, but I'm afraid I can't. But I'm not allowing
the same to happen to you, Hank. You've got to hang in there. Help's on it's
way. Just a short while longer."

Hank blinked. "I--can't. Too--tired."

"You must and you will. The department can't afford to lose another
experienced leader. You've got to hold on." The chief's image smiled. "God
knows Gail is a strong woman, but I need you to help her get through this."

As McConnikee spoke, Hank felt something being tightened around his bleeding
arm. In his half-faded state, he barely paid it any mind.

"Chief, I-I'm sorry f-for-"

"Burning my hat?" McConnikee chuckled. "I admit, I had it coming. Another
reason for you to stick around, Hank. You gotta let your men know the reason
for that. I forgave you for it a long time ago." The chief looked behind
him. "Help's coming now," he stated as he turned to face his rapidly fading
captain. "You were one of my best men, Hank. I'm proud to have been your

That said, McConnikee rose. Hank thought he saw him pause beside the
unconscious form of another blue-uniformed firefighter near-by. His eyes
closed briefly and when he managed to crack them open again, McConnikee's image-- ghost?--had disappeared.

Again, Hank lapsed back into darkness.

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From : "Patti Keiper" <>
Subject : Recovering the Past..
Date: Wed, 16 Apr 2003 23:30:14 +0000

They had found them. Amazingly, on the only
horizontal margin possible, rimming the flooded icy
watered quarry. There had never been a faster descent
by rope than the one made by Johnny and Cap's
rescue team.


"Got that tourniquet in place, Chet?" Roy asked in
a strained voice, crouching to check Johnny's
breathing yet again where he lay on his stomach
semi prone.

"Yeah. It's tight. Thought he was awake for a second
here. He just mumbled something."

"Just keep that arm elevated with that continued
pressure just like you're doing. When that bleeding slows,
pack it off with even more pads and then try to ease
the band loose enough to get that hand to pink up again.
If that bleeding starts up again with any substantial flow,
tell me, and I'll come over there with a hemostat.
Guys," Roy addressed the Station Eight firemen ringing
above them. "Get him into these mast trousers. Cap's
negative for cervical and spinal injuries." DeSoto said.

"It's a miracle he's not in a million pieces." Marco

"The walls of that well were very muddy, Marco.
Lots of soft clay and moss. No doubt it cushioned him
on the way down until those tree roots stopped his
fall. Only that arm's been cut by something sharp,
most likely on a loose nail or two. How's his breathing?"
Roy asked about Cap, feeling along Johnny's still body
for signs of misalignments or skin breaks. Roy was still
getting over a scare concerning his partner that had
occurred when they all had first located them.

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Captain Stone was at Hank's head with
one hundred percent O2 delivering abundantly
by demand valve. "Fast. Seems like he's panting a
little bit here. His rate's around 34 times a minute.
Pulse is up there, too."

"It's hypovolemic shock. As soon as I
finish detailing Johnny, I'll get on the line to
Rampart for Cap's IVs. Help him vent if he loses
color more than that lip cyanosis." Roy cut
the chin strap of Cap's helmet free that was still
twisted around Johnny's belt to get it out of the
way for a pelvis fracture check.

"Right." Ben nodded. He could see Marco
and Stoker scrambling to lay out the anti
shock trousers and fit them around Cap's
legs and lower abdomen.

As soon as Roy was convinced Johnny was
in no danger, intact, and truly C spine injury clear,
he waved the team of four Carter had mobilized, to
wrap him in a plastic blanket right where he
lay. There was still water trickling from his mouth.

Roy breathed a sigh of relief, finally daring to
think back to the first terrifying moments he had
experienced after his feet had touched stony ground
following his rapid repel descent down the face of
the quarry cliff to the water's edge.
Roy fervently began to thank his lucky stars for
where he now was, situation wise. ::Gage's
laryngospasm released only half a minute ago.::
DeSoto thought.::He's looking a LOT better now.
Thank G*d.::

Roy still had both eyes on Gage's chest as he watched
Carter place him on a high flow O2 mask. DeSoto
was ecstatic that a cricothyrotomy hadn't been needed.
Steve's obstructed airway maneuvers initially hadn't
had any effect at all during those first few seconds of
Roy's nightmarish recollection.

DeSoto had just about reached for the 14 guage
angiocatheter kit when Charlie's failed Magill forceps
relief attempt confirmed that it was a definitely a
laryngospasm causing Johnny's apnea.

Once I.D.'d, the cramp was forced to pass with gentle
manipulating. Soon after, the hasty gastric tube placement
that water decompressed Johnny's stomach, did much to
ease most of Gage's respiratory difficulties. It wasn't
long until they were resolved enough for good ventilating.
Johnny had begun to gasp right away on his own, soon
after Steve had given him a few firm breaths mouth to

::He's gonna be uncomfortable if he wakes
up with that NG in place, but breathing's better
than not breathing at all any day.:: DeSoto grinned.
Satisfied that Johnny was well seen to, Roy
turned his attention back onto Cap. "How's that
hemorrhaging over there?" he asked Kelly.

"The band's off. It seems to be easing, though
his breathing isn't by a long shot." Chet told

"I'll fix that in a minute. What Cap needs
is a lot of fluid next until he gets to Rampart
for a transfusion. Kelly, looks like you'll get to
be his donor once we get there." Roy rubbed
his chin, considering his next plan of attack.
"Looks like I can start his IVs here, the stokes
rigging isn't ready yet." Roy said glancing up at
the fast working set of firemen getting a pulley
system set to scale the towering quarry cliff walls.

Soon, Roy had his drug treatment go ahead from
Brackett on both his patients. Roy soon inflated
all the chambers of the mast suit happily,
but Cap's systolic BP remained in the low 60's.

DeSoto started two large bore NS bolus drips
for Cap wide open to elevate him into compensated
shock. Roy looked up at a moan from over
his shoulder.

Johnny stirred where he lay on his stomach and
the red haired station eight paramedic at his
head bent over him in a new primary assessment.
Gil quickly shifted the oxygen mask away
and removed the NG tube as Johnny angled his
soggy limbs from his recovery position in a shaking
tentative experiment of returning consciousness.
"ooooohhhHH." Gage groaned. Then he
froze when he realized that he was on oxygen
and that Cap was inches away from him
snuggly warm wrapped and fussed over by
a very welcome bunch of firefighters.
"*cough*..Cap? " And he spat out sandy loam from
his mouth as he drew the blanket tighter
around his chilled body. Gil sucked the rest of
the grit away with a portable suction lightly as
Gage's water irritated eyes fluttered opened

"Relax, Johnny. He's fine. We got to you both
in time. How's your chest?"

"Ooowww.. My whaa? Oh...yeah, that."  Analytically, he
decided his own lungs were clear of water. "Uh,,," he said
fuzzily. "No edema. But my gut's more than sore. Man,
feels like someone been squeezing me like a pack of

"Welcome to the world of near drowning, Johnny.
You were a textbook case of cold water laryngospastic
syndrome." Gil quipped.

"I'll never crack another joke about pool gulpers
ever again. I feel like sh*t."

"Better feeling like sh*t than dirt, Gage. Start smiling.
Your fool hardy just-being-a-hero stunt paid off so the
possibility of your feeling like dirt here's not even an
inkling. Man, Gage. We thought you both were goners
for sure until Stoker spotted you two in your blue shirts
and pants lying on the rocks." Chet commented,
placing another dressing pad over the stained one he
was leaning his weight on over Cap's cut lower arm.

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Roy agreed with Kelly wholeheartedly as he monitored Cap's
breathing through a stethoscope. "Nice work on getting Cap
and yourself to shore. Must have been hard getting your
turncoats off so that they wouldn't drag you under.
That alone probably made all the difference in the world
on your survival."

"Waitdaminute. * cough* I did what?" Gage said,
batting Gil's hands away when the medic tried to
reposition Johnny's mask back over his face.
"Roy. I didn't have time to do all that. Last
thing I remember, I was rushing along an underwater
passage, watching the walls whiz by in a sea
of bubbles with no air in my lungs, clinging for
dear life with my legs and arms, to Cap.
Whatdiya mean I got him to shore? Geesh. I was
blacked out even before I saw any daylight.*cough*"  
Johnny set his own O2 back onto his face and
he laid a muddy arm over his face to block
out the painful sunlight streaming into his
aching eyes and head. He let Gil fuss over
him without protest.

Marco, Stoker, Chet and Roy and the other men,
fell silent. They clearly remembered seeing Cap
and Gage, coat stripped and stretched neatly
out, both face down on the beach, as if they had
been carefully arranged there.

It wasn't until fifteen minutes into an airlift
that Hank Stanley roused and began to shout. Roy
and Chet Kelly had to hold him down in his delirium.
He seemed to be speaking about Chief McConike and
a solemn promise to visit his gravestone as soon
as he got out of the hospital.

Roy and Chet could only shrug as to why Cap
focused on that particular goal.


Hank Stanley adjusted his sling around his
loose fitting nautical ivory carnigan and he
sighed deeply, ...just before he rang the
McConike household doorbell.

The white lacy curtain on the other side
of the pane of glass shifted briefly, as
the slight form of Gail McConike checked to
see who had come calling so early in the morning.
She was still tired from days of crying since
the funeral. But Gail instantly changed her
outward demeanor when she saw who it was
who'd come calling. "Hank.. you've been
discharged from the hospital so soon?"

Hank Stanley pulled the bundle of white roses
with a gold enveloped sympathy card nestled
inside of them, from behind his back. "I...sort
of made a pest of myself, Gail. You see.. I...
had to come here. Sort of knew I....needed to
be here, now.. For you and your daughter."

Gail accepted the perfumey blooms, taking
comfort in their heady, water coaxed aroma.
"Thank you, Hank. Won't you come in?"

Cap nodded self consciously and he
only sat himself down on the flower patterned
couch when she insisted that he do so.
"So how are you holding up..?" he asked
without preamble. "I...sort of feel compelled
to ask you that. Stop me if I'm too personal
here. I- I--I don't want to overstep my bounds."

Gail's freckled face finally beamed inside a
frame of silver white and black curls. "Now
that's Melton rubbing off on you again. Right
to the core, Hank Adams Stanley. And you know it.
When you're in this house I expect you to be yourself
and yourself only. Is that clear?" she smiled slightly.

"Yes, maam.." Cap said, falling into a moment of
remembering the Chief's last words spoken to him
that day on the shoreline. He wasn't even sure that
it really happened. Days later, as he lay healing in his
hospital bed, he decided that how he had come to
experience them didn't matter. What was important
was realizing the profound effect that the Chief was still
having on both their lives. Cap tentatively reached out
and took Gail's hand in warm, close friendship.
"Hard to break a habit engrained in my very fiber.
Melton is still very much in my thoughts. There
isn't a day that passes when I don't think of him."

"Join the club.." Gail said gently. "Would you like
a drink? Coffee? Tea?"

"No, no thanks. I'm fine. I'm just about ready to
stop by the stationhouse and let the guys know
how I'm faring. They invited me to breakfast to
celebrate my breaking out of Rampart."

Gail laughed gently. "No doubt it's Marco's mom's
tamales again.." she guessed.

"How'd you know..?"

"It's Wednesday. Melton always used to bother
you men on A shift each month on surprise inspection
just so he could have an excuse to eat those wonderful
tamales with you."

Cap's eyes smiled and he folded his good hand onto
his lap.

"So how are YOU doing? That broken arm hurt much?" Gail
McConike asked of Cap's sling, misguessing what it was for.

"I just had some surgery to repair an artery that's all.
I didn't break anything. It doesn't hurt much anymore.
Brackett's a wonderful vascular surgeon. I-I...I am
healing just fine. " Cap looked down and his eyes
fell on the coffee table to the maroon photo album
that lay there of Melton McConike. It was opened, ironically
to the days when Cap was a new firefighter under him.

On the second page, there was an unexpected shot
from the day Cap first became Captain of Station 51. From
the first moments in fact, when he had fired off his first
surprise dress inspection on his new crew at 51 just to
stretch his newly appointed rank's muscle. It surprised
Hank that the photo was even there. He hadn't remembered
there even being a photographer present on that day.

But then again, six years of similar inspections and
years of runs made it difficult for recalling any great detail
of his first day as "Cap". Hank remembered feeling far
too nervous to remember much of anything.
Seeing his own men, younger, and very sharp in their
dress uniforms, gave Hank courage to return the question
back at Gail. "So, how are you healing, Gail? It can't
be easy for you to adjust at all. Again, stop me if I'm
being too personal, please.." he insisted.

Gail noticed the picture that Cap's eyes were focused
on and she slowly drew it out of the album so Cap
could take a better look at it. "Here.." she said, after
a slight hesitation. "Then keep it. It's a gift.."

"No, no, no.. I - I couldn't take this. It belonged to
the Chief.. I."

"Hank. It's yours now. Melton frequently sent photographers
out to the stations where his first old crew each promoted
into in order to hand those images back out to them during
a special occasion, or other moving moment such as.."
and her voice broke off..

Hank finished her thought for her. "...such as during
a fireman's funeral.."

Gail smiled slightly. "Only with your station,Hank, he never
ever got a chance to. You were too d*mned good at
keeping all your men's rears intact.." she joked.
"Melton loved that about you. One of the only captains
to never lose a man."

"Careful, Gail, you might jinx me.."

"Rubbish.. Superstition is for fools..."

"And firehouse captains.." Hank quipped, waiting for
Gail to gather herself to answer his question.

"True.." she admitted. Then her eyes grew bright with
a sadness that only hinted the depth of her grief that was
still very much a part of her existence." I'm taking
it one day at a time." she sighed. "Friends make my
days bearable. They bring food, flowers.." she laughed,
indicating the vase that Cap had brought to her.
"But the nights are the worse. I can...almost.....feel
him in bed beside me sometimes. " she confessed.

Cap just nodded. But then he leaned forward,
taking Gail's hand once more in comfort.
"This is going to sound crazy, but I had a chance
to ...feel ...him about me, too. I can't explain it, Gail.
And I'm not even going to try. All that kept running
through my mind while I lay there in deep shock on
that shoreline, was how much the Chief loved you
and how much he wanted you to be all right with
his going..."

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The Golden Horn

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