Mike didn't sleep easy that night. The murdered boy would creep into his room every time he began to doze, shocking him into frightened wakefulness. He got up and fixed himself coffee, padding around the kitchen and hall in bare feet; then into the living room to watch a little TV. Wrong move! But then what else could he expect in the early hours but a horror movie.
He poured another coffee and sat, small and huddled around the warm mug while the bloody face of the dead boy hovered at the edge of Mike's vision. Sometimes he cursed the strength of his imagination.
Little Stevie had lived in this house. Maybe he was a street kid just like Mike himself and maybe he too put out for money. Nope - Mike was done with all that, he reminded himself. That was in the past. Maybe Stevie had done what Mike used to do. Perhaps the Wilbur's had been as good to Stevie as they now were to him. And maybe... the coffee wasn't hot enough to ward off the spine-chill - maybe Mike would end up just like Stevie.
Mike swore at the voice in his head - the one that was so damned pessimistic. It always came along, when things were going well; did it's best to sour things. When he was little and it was nearing Christmas, it was this same voice that would tell him "Mommy might die before Santa gets here. Then how will you feel?"
He forced down a mouthful of coffee and with that swallow he felt the ghost of the previous evening's heartburn. The pain of it had dragged him into wakefulness and away from the coziness of his favorite dream. But after all, it had been a good way to wake up, with the concerned faces of Johnny and Kate looking down at him. For an instant he thought he was still in the dream and he was about to reach out to one of them - about to make the choice. Then reality poked him in the chest with another flaring of pain.
'I'm okay. I guess it's just gas. Help me sit up.'
'You went out like a light, Mike,' said Kate. 'Does it always happen so fast?' He could smell her perfume as she leaned closer to get a steadying arm behind him. Then he smelt the musty leather of Johnny's jacket. He knew which he preferred. Johnny's strong arms hoisted him to a sitting position.
'Who's "Scott", Mike? You kept saying the name. Over and over,' said Johnny.
Mike became instantly glad of the pain in his chest. He winced against a stab of pain that wasn't really there to cover the blush he felt rising. What else had he said in his sleep? He covered his blush - and avoided answering the question, in one go.
'Steady man,' eased Johnny. 'You're one hell of a mess. You were a horse it'd be cruel not to shoot you.'
'Thanks pal!' said Mike noticing Johnny's wry smile. 'Just having a bad day is all.'