She’d found Gavin, just as Kathryn had wanted her to. Now as Adele listened to him speak, she could feel the depth of emotion he had for her friend. It was obvious there was a powerful connection between the two of them. Still, Adele found it hard to believe. Kathryn and Gavin were strangers; they’d never met—at least not in a way Adele’s mind could readily comprehend. But whether she understood it or not, she couldn’t disregard the facts. Kathryn was calling out to Gavin McDermott from another realm, desperately needing his help and leaving clues so Adele could assist her in her quest.

Other realms, parallel realities, paranormal activity—these were topics Adele knew little about, but she’d consulted a friend from college who specialized in such things. He assured her that other realms existed and that comas, hallucinations, sleep, even daydreaming drew people into those realms temporarily, although much of it remained in the subconscious. He explained that the shift in focus could be powerful enough to impress itself in a person’s conscious memory, as in Gavin’s experience. And in Kathryn’s case, he believed that what she was experiencing was so “real,” it had the power to hold her there.

Furthermore, he’d confirmed Adele’s belief that a visit from Gavin might be the impetus that could draw Kathryn out of the comatose state she was in. Now Adele just had to get him there, but it wasn’t going to be easy; there were obstacles to overcome. And time, as she knew it, was running out.

Chapter 1

“It’s a system kid. You learn the system, and you’ll do just fine.” Gavin remembered the words as if they’d been spoken yesterday. In reality, it was seventeen years ago.

As he watched the new inmate, Gavin felt sorry for him. The boy had to be eighteen, but he didn’t look it. He’d no doubt have it hard for the first while, but he’d get used to it; he really didn’t have a choice. He had some sense to him, staring straight ahead, or down—not looking at anyone, his face not portraying the emotions he must be feeling.

He continued that way till he was nearly across the big yard and then for some reason turned and looked at Gavin. He was a hundred feet away or more, but Gavin could see into his eyes—and for a moment not just into his eyes, but into his very soul. It was like looking at himself seventeen years earlier: a scared kid, tall but scrawny, feeling that his life was over—or wishing that it was, all because of one regrettable night, one very stupid decision.

The brief eye contact and sudden onslaught of memories that accompanied it left Gavin unsettled. Why did he look at me like that? It almost seemed like he did it on he knew me or something. Gavin was curious now. He couldn’t help but wonder what the kid was in for. It had to be something serious; Swenton was a maximum-security prison.

Gavin had been the topic of conversation himself all those years ago, so young and naïve. The nickname he’d received—Baby-face McDermott—reflected that. Anyone who knew him now, however, called him Gavin to his face.

Nearly everybody had nicknames in the joint, and Gavin didn’t really mind his. Somehow, he’d gained a tough reputation despite, or maybe because of the nickname; he wasn’t sure. At six-foot-four, two-hundred and thirty pounds, nobody messed with him anymore.

Anybody who had been there a few years knew how to present himself to a first-timer, or fish, as they were called. It was a game they played—forming allies, choosing friends carefully, spreading rumors. Gavin just shook his head at some of them. They were ridiculous at best, but the fish didn’t know that. Gavin had supposedly killed two fellow convicts. His hands, it was said, were lethal weapons, and a blow to the head in just the right spot would kill a man instantly.

Gavin played their game; it was a game of survival, but he wasn’t that person. In the first year of his prison term, he’d made the decision to take advantage of the programs the prison had to offer and become all he could be. He couldn’t change that unfortunate night; he couldn’t go back and undo what he had done, but he could move forward. He could change himself.

Alone in his cell at night was the only time he let his defenses down. It was there he would retreat into the world he had created—a world that had kept him sane all those years. In his own private domain, he could be the person he wanted to be—the person he was underneath. He could dream and imagine. He could escape.

The dinner bell sounded, jarring Gavin out of his uncharacteristic daydream. He looked around quickly to ensure no one had caught him staring off into space. Despite his tough reputation, he still kept himself guarded around the other convicts. He wasn’t about to take chances; he saw what had happened to Arthur Talon. Dubbed “Mr. T”, the guy was well respected by most of the men, but things changed. Arthur got religion, which wasn’t uncommon in the joint, but in his zeal for the Lord he made some enemies. What started out as a mealtime joke turned into a campaign to put a stop to his “holier than thou” behavior. He took it all piously, believing it was his cross to bear, but it became so bad that he was beaten within an inch of his life, and after that, he was transferred out.

The prisoners filed mindlessly to the dining hall. There was a system there too—an unwritten code dictating who sat where and with whom. It was dutifully followed day in and day out, nobody thinking to question a system that had been in place forever.

As Gavin filled his tray, he watched the new kid. He was six or seven men ahead of him in line, and Gavin could observe him without drawing attention to himself. As Gavin walked to his own table, he noticed the kid sitting alone. Everybody was avoiding him, which was typical treatment of a first-timer.

Suddenly Gavin did something that surprised even himself. He turned to Stubby who was filling his plate behind him and explained, “I’m gonna see what I can find out.” He then walked over to the new kid and without a word, sat across the table from him. Gavin was aware that the whole room had turned to watch, but it was too late to change his mind; he would have to deal with the consequences, whatever they might be.

The two ate in silence for a moment, not looking at anything but the food in front of them. Gavin was deciding what to say to the kid, how to question him while still playing the game. He was surprised when the boy was the first to speak.

“I’m Ryan.”

“Gavin.” As he replied, he met the boy’s eyes and again saw something that was almost familiar. Gavin was quick to dismiss it but there was something he couldn’t dismiss: the look on the boy’s face didn’t match his circumstances. The kid didn’t seem afraid, and it unnerved Gavin.

“I know who you are.”

A silent alarm went off in Gavin’s mind as he heard the calmly spoken declaration. Outwardly, he showed no evidence of it; he’d trained himself well. But inside his mind was scrambling. What did the kid mean by that? Has he heard things about me in the few short days he’s been here or did he hear about me on the outside?

Those questions brought up an issue Gavin had been grappling with in recent months. With his prison term nearing an end, he’d begun speculating what it would be like when he got out and what others would know and say about him. He’d asked his parents more than once, his sister too, but they were biased. They’d continued to love and support him all those years. His family didn’t see him as a murderer, or even a criminal for that matter, but that didn’t change the facts, and it didn’t determine how others would see him.

He let the comment go by without as much as a raised eyebrow. He had to play the kid. He had to stay in control of the conversation and defend his status. That, he knew for sure.

Ryan didn’t seem fazed by his lack of response. He was very composed for someone so young and, Gavin could only assume, out of his element.

“You’re Gavin McDermott. I know who you are,” he repeated. “I’m from Redding.”

Redding was just twenty miles from Gavin’s home. It was also where he’d gone to high school and where he’d been on that ill-fated night. Now the kid had the upper hand, and Gavin couldn’t help but ask, “What’s your last name?”


Gavin’s blood went cold. He knew the name all-too-well. More questions begged to be asked, but Gavin managed, somehow, to keep his composure. He wanted to know who the kid’s parents were, what crime he’d committed to get himself incarcerated at Swenton and most of all, what details he knew about Gavin.

Redding, a town with a population of about five thousand, was located near an Indian reservation. When Gavin went to school there, the natives were segregated and had their own school on the reserve, but there had always been animosity between the natives and the white kids. Gangs were common, and it was a run-in with a gang that had changed Gavin’s life forever.

Ryan appeared to be at least part native. And the name Trottier…it was the same last name as the kid Gavin had been charged with killing. Gavin wondered if the new kid was related and how much he knew of the details of that night.

“So, what did you do to get in here?”  Gavin asked as dispassionately as he could.

The kid looked at Gavin for a moment before he answered quietly, “I killed my stepfather.” It was a blunt admission of guilt, but Gavin grimaced inwardly, knowing there was much more to the story. He nodded and continued eating, as if hearing that kind of statement was commonplace. The truth was, he had never gotten used to it. Hearing about a murder only served to remind him of his own experience and fill him with the sickening dread he’d felt when it happened.

They were nearly done eating, and very few words had transpired between them, but Gavin had a plan in mind. He needed to know what the kid knew about him, and for that information, he was willing to make a deal.

“Listen. I don’t know what it is you’ve heard about me kid,” Gavin kept his voice low and even; he made it sound as threatening as he could. “But I decide what people say about me and what they don’t in here. Is that understood?”

Ryan nodded, and Gavin noticed there was still no fear in his eyes. The boy wasn’t more than a hundred and forty pounds; he even had a kind of frailty about him, and yet he wasn’t afraid. It didn’t seem right to Gavin.

“I’m going to do something for you,” he informed the kid. “In exchange for you keeping your mouth shut, I’m gonna save you some pain.”

The boy frowned slightly, obviously not understanding, but still not betraying his calm façade to the others watching.

“I’m going to spread a story about you to the other men,” Gavin stated. “It’ll keep a few of the troublemakers away. Your job is to dummy up. People question you, you don’t admit to anything; you don’t deny anything. Agreed?”

The kid nodded again as Gavin got up from the table, took his tray to the counter and then walked out of the dining hall, aware again that all eyes were on him.

Stubby caught up to Gavin as he walked down the hallway. As the name implied, the man was short and stocky; even so he was a force to be reckoned with if he got angry. Stubby had been in Swenton nearly as long as Gavin, and the two had become friends early on.


Gavin hadn’t completely settled on just how he would weave the story about Ryan, but he had some ideas and knew he had to go with them. Friend or not, Stubby had to be an unwitting accomplice in his little scheme for it to work.

“The kid’s psycho,” Gavin threw out some bait.

“Really? What did he say?” Stubby liked a good bit of gossip as well as the next guy, and Gavin knew he had him.

“It wasn’t so much what he said,” Gavin explained, “as what he didn’t say. The kid was as cool as a cucumber, and when I looked him in the eye…” Gavin stopped and shuddered, adding conviction to his words. “I could have been looking at a young Hannibal Lecter.”

“You don’t say,” Stubby replied, transfixed. What did he do?”

“Killed his father.” Gavin altered the truth slightly to provide more drama. And then for the clincher, he added, “Mother died mysteriously awhile back too. And when he told me it...his eyes…I couldn’t even look directly at him. There’s something really disturbing about him.”

That was all Gavin needed to say. The story was good. Stubby had bought it without question and would take it from there. By noon the next day, the whole place would know that the new fish was a cross between Damien Thorn, Hannibal Lecter and the devil, himself. Nevertheless, it left Gavin with a dilemma. He wanted to talk to the kid more and find out what he knew about him.

The men played basketball in the big yard after dinner, and Stubby was the first to notice that the kid was watching them.

“Why’s he looking at us like that? It’s kind of creepy, don’t you think?”

“Yeah, it is.” Gavin played along. “I hope I didn’t piss him off before. Maybe I should try to do something to get on his good side. Why don’t I ask him if he wants to join us for a game?”

Stubby shook his head adamantly. “Don’t rope me into this. I don’t want to have anything to do with the little shit.”

“Well, I gotta try something.” With that, Gavin walked over to where the boy was standing.

“It’s done,” he announced simply. “There’s gonna be all kinds of stories circulating about you tomorrow. You up for your end of the deal?”


The two men stood silently for a few minutes, hands in their pockets, kicking at the gravel beneath their feet. Finally Gavin had to ask, “So what did you hear about me?”

The kid continued looking down for a moment longer and then replied without emotion, “You killed my uncle.”

Chapter 2

A blade—cold, piercing steel—thrust itself into Gavin’s chest as he heard the boy’s words. A chill ran through him, and for a moment he was almost tempted to believe the dark rumors he’d started about the kid. Knife still twisting inside, Gavin continued looking down, rearranging the pebbles beneath him with the toe of his shoe.

“I never knew him, of course, but my mom talked about him. He was my dad’s brother.”

Gavin couldn’t see any other course of action than to stand there listening to the boy talk. He wanted to walk away—run away, make the kid stop, but he’d been the one to ask the question, and now he sincerely regretted it.

“Mom hated him.”

The words caused Gavin’s head to jerk upward, his eyes focusing in on the boy’s face.

“He raped her a couple of times when she was dating my dad and pregnant with me. She was only fifteen at the time. My dad disappeared not long after I was born, and Mom raised me on her own. A few years ago, she got married. The guy started beating her. I warned him to stop but he just laughed at me.” The kid’s face held no remorse as he summed up the story. “So I had to make him stop.”

Inwardly, Gavin reacted to the kid’s forthright disclosure. No remorse, no regret, no fear; how can he not show any emotion? From the sounds of it, he committed a premeditated, cold-blooded murder. And now he’s undoubtedly facing life in prison. How can he be so calm about it?

He couldn’t even think of an appropriate response. The kid had obviously had a rough life. He’d probably learned to shut off his emotions as a survival mechanism. There was more to him though; Gavin could sense it, but he couldn’t for the life of him figure out what it might be or why he felt drawn to the mysterious young man.

Gavin looked around them. Others glanced their way and then turned away just as quickly, but nobody came near.

“Look,” Gavin said finally. “About our deal. This’ll work if you keep quiet. But if you do run into any trouble…”

“It’s okay; I can take care of myself.” The kid’s words sounded convincing, not like a smart-ass with more brawn than brains, but rather like someone who had been taking care of himself for a very long time, someone who knew what he was talking about.

Gavin started to leave and then turned back to Ryan with what he hoped sounded like a threat, “It helps to know who your friends are in here.”

The kid nodded.

Gavin walked away maintaining an outward calm, yet silently imploding. He gave Stubby a look that said, “The kid’s even more messed than I thought,” and then continued past him, leaving his friend to draw his own conclusions.

Alone in his cell, Gavin sought refuge in the private world he had created. It was a world he could usually escape to easily; he’d been doing it for so many years. But that evening, his familiar place was haunted by the words Ryan had spoken.

The demons of his own past haunted him too. He’d worked hard to bury them, but he’d obviously been unsuccessful. He fell into a fitful sleep—he was eighteen again, filled with hope for the future ahead of him, and yet when he looked in a mirror, it was Ryan’s image not his own that stared back at him, and when he looked down there was blood on his hands.

Strict routine ruled the lives of the prisoners at Swenton. The morning bell sounded, bringing them all back to the harsh reality of their incarcerated world. For once Gavin was glad to re-enter that world. The one he’d just experienced in his dreams was a greater hell by far. He woke up in a sweat, having been running from something too frightening to remember.

At breakfast, announcements were made for the day. A groundbreaking rehabilitation program was being initiated at Swenton. Prisoners within two years of their parole were being “encouraged” to attend. Incentives were offered for those willing to participate in the program. What it boiled down to, as far as Gavin could understand, was that those who didn’t attend would have to work longer hours. It didn’t sound like incentive to him, just another form of coercion.

The program began that morning with nearly forty men in attendance in the prison auditorium. Gavin could hear the other convicts around him whispering about the so-called “rehab” program. There was the usual scoffing, some obviously against the idea, others asking questions. But the room went silent as a woman walked out on the stage in front of them.

She was fortyish, Gavin guessed, and not unattractive—just somewhat plain looking with her hair pulled back a little too severely in a bun. She probably had a decent figure, but it was covered in a coat-style dress that gave very little indication of what was underneath.

She may as well have been Madonna, judging by the response the men gave her. Gavin noticed her blush slightly as she cleared her throat to begin to speak.

Speaking loud and clearly over the still audible whistle, jeer or muffled comment, the woman introduced herself as Kathryn Harding. She went on to list her qualifications to which Gavin didn’t really listen; he was more interested in the conversations going on around him. She would have her work cut out for her—no one, it seemed, was taking her seriously.

As she continued, however, a few words and phrases caught Gavin’s interest. Others around him must have heard too, because the room became very quiet.

“This is an innovative approach,” she was saying, “developed by some of the leading Psychologists in the country. With this methodology, we don’t use labels. There is no longer therapist, or patient, no one is a murderer, or a criminal. Neither is anyone a victim. We are all equal—human beings who have chosen different experiences in life.

“Our goal will be to help you see yourself free of those labels. And once free of them you can begin to see yourself as anything you want to be.”

Gavin was riveted to her words. They were completely different from what he’d been expecting to hear, and they affected him deeply. He felt torn. He wanted to dismiss them as outlandish, even impossible, and yet part of him wanted to believe they were true. Commonsense argued that it wouldn’t matter how he saw himself; people would always look at what he had done and label him as a murderer. He could hide from it; he could pretend otherwise, but he couldn’t change what was.

She went on to describe the program. There would be group sessions and individual counseling. In addition, she would be choosing six to eight men to work with for an extended period, those particular men being chosen according to the proximity of their parole, their record of behavior and their participation in the group and individual sessions. These sessions would continue once the men were eligible for day passes and even once they were fully released.

Gavin wasn’t sure why, when he still had serious doubts about the validity of the things the woman was saying, but for some reason he wanted to be a part of her little experimental group. Moreover, he sensed he would be.

The woman introduced her colleagues, two men and another woman who would be working with her in the program. Sessions would be starting the following week, and groups and times would be posted in the dining hall.

The prisoners were then dismissed to go to their jobs, glad to have missed an hour of work. Gavin listened to the chatter as the men made their way to the industry area. Some were still making crude jokes about the women they had just seen; some were challenging the effectiveness of the rehabilitation program.

Gavin was caught up in his own introspection—a mixture of thoughts and feelings composed of Ryan’s words, his own unsettling dream and the strange, enticing things the woman had just shared.

“The only thing I need to rehabilitate me,” Stubby interjected, “is a good woman and place to call home when I get out of this shit-hole.”

Several others agreed with Stubby by nodding or grunting. Although somewhat primal, Gavin couldn’t disagree with the sentiment. Stubby, along with many of the other lifers Gavin had gotten to know, had learned their lesson; they wouldn’t be repeating their crime. In a sense, they were already rehabilitated. They weren’t the same men they’d been ten or twenty years before.

Gavin wasn’t either. He hardly knew the foolish kid he’d been seventeen years earlier. That kid was long gone—or at least he’d thought so—till he’d met Ryan, till that dream had made it all seem so real again.

As Gavin entered the millwork shop where he worked as a supervisor, the first face to greet him was none other than Ryan’s. The kid shrugged and said, “They told me to report here. What do you want me to do?”

Gavin quickly assessed the situation. Jobs were assigned according to seniority. Gavin pretty much ran the place now and had several men he trusted working the big machines. Fish were usually a pain in the ass, and more often than not they liked to complain rather than work. The work was basic, but a stupid or careless move could cost someone a finger or an arm.

Gavin sighed. He didn’t have any choice in the situation. He gave Ryan some simple instructions and assigned him to work with Rocco. Then he went to work on the other side of the room. One of the planers was acting up, and he could repair it with his eyes closed, he knew it so well.

As he worked, his thoughts fixated on the woman they’d just heard. Does she really believe that we’re all the same? Does she honestly see herself as equal to the men she just addressed?

He questioned again what the benefit of that kind of reasoning would be. Is it for real or just some new psychological trickery—a way to mess with our minds?

Gavin believed that the mind was a powerful thing. He’d proved it to himself over the years. He could completely escape in his mind when he was alone at night. He’d honed it well but he’d never spoken of it to anyone, not even his family who visited him regularly.

He wondered what this woman’s view might be on subjects like that. He doubted it was something he would ever be comfortable sharing, but he was curious just the same.

Gavin looked up to see Rocco walking toward him with a strange look on his face.

“I can’t work with the kid, Gavin. I don’t know if you’ve heard the rumors but I’ve heard some wild stuff about him. I believe it too. You just have to look at his eyes—there’s something really disturbing about him.”

Gavin coughed to keep from laughing, as he listened to the older man’s concerns. Rocco was a friend of Stubbies and as superstitious as they come. Gavin’s plan was going smoothly.

“All right, send him over here.”

Ryan appeared minutes later, and Gavin put him to work tightening some bolts on the planer. After a few minutes of silence, he was hoping the kid would be content with the lack of communication, but it didn’t last.

“How long till you get out?”

“A year, maybe longer.” Gavin was eligible for parole within the year, but most were denied the first time, and he didn’t want to get his hopes up.

“What are you gonna do?”

Gavin shrugged, “Don’t know yet.”

“What’s that rehab program all about?”

“I guess they want to try and make respectable citizens out of us.”

“We’re no different than they are.”

Gavin looked at the kid. It was an odd statement—similar to the one the psychologist woman had made earlier. Again it came, not so much from a place of defiance, as a place of knowing. He wondered what made the kid tick, how his mind worked.

“Why do you say that?” Gavin asked.

“It’s who we are, deep down. You, me, the guard over there,” Ryan motioned ever so slightly with his head. “We’re the same.”

“In what way?”

“What we’re made of, what we’re capable of…None of this is real you know.”

Chapter 3

Again, Gavin woke up in a panic, drenched in sweat as the morning bell sounded. It was becoming an uncomfortable pattern—one that he longed to change.

He had been going to the group sessions three times a week for two weeks now. Individual sessions were to start that morning. Kathryn, the woman that had introduced the program, was the facilitator of his group, but she was different from the woman who’d spoken in the assembly that first morning. She seemed more relaxed as she got to know the men and as she loosened up, she let more of her personality show. Gavin was truly enjoying the meetings and was looking forward to the individual sessions.

She led the men through a guided meditation at the start of each meeting. At first, the men found it a joke, and when she instructed them to focus on something enjoyable, all kinds of crude suggestions were offered. By the end of the second week, Kate, as she’d asked the men to call her, was making progress. Gavin found the exercise easy, although he kept most of his thoughts to himself. If was very similar to the mind games he played—or used to play—at night. He wondered if he would be able to return to the place he had created. Something about Ryan’s presence in his life and even Kate’s now had changed things, complicated things.

Kate had them close their eyes and imagine a space. She helped them to define the space, make it their own. Each time they would return to the space, but they would embellish it, notice or create something new within it. She repeatedly told them that the space was theirs alone, that it was a safe place that no one else could enter without their permission. She encouraged them to make it personal with pictures or images of loved ones, to fill it with objects and activities that interested them. It was their haven, a space that was uniquely theirs that no one could take away, change, or destroy.

Gavin was amazed at how he could, even in the presence of Kate and nine other men, enter his space and become so caught up in it that he was unaware of anything else happening. It seemed like some sort of hypnotism and yet different.

The men sat in a circle facing out. Kate would walk around, talking in a soft, soothing voice, guiding them each to their own personal refuge. She usually had soft music playing or sounds of waterfalls or birds singing in the background. It was easy to be drawn away to a better place.

After meditating for about fifteen minutes, Kate spoke to the group, and then they participated in a question and answer period. Gavin hung on her words, and as the days progressed, he had increasingly more questions for her, but somehow he couldn’t bring himself to ask them. He hoped that maybe he would feel more comfortable during the one on one time.

Gavin entered the designated room when it was time for his private session, and Kate greeted him with a smile. He couldn’t help but notice that she had a nice smile and an attractive quality about her. She still wore her hair in a bun and dressed a little too conservatively for her age, but her eyes had a gentleness that made Gavin feel at ease.

“Hello Gavin,” she said in the soft, fluid voice that he had come to know from their group sessions. “Have a seat.”

There was a desk in the room, but Kate didn’t sit behind it. She sat in one of two identical chairs that were positioned in the center of the small room. The lighting was soft—just a dim lamp on the desk and some natural light coming in through vertical blinds directed away from them.


“Have you been enjoying our sessions?”

“Yeah, I have,” Gavin replied sincerely. “It’s nice of you to help us escape like that.”

She smiled at his play on words. “It’s something you can do yourself now that you know how. You can go to your special place any time you like.”

Gavin wanted to share about his own experiences, but still felt some apprehension. Instead, he just nodded.

“What I want to convey in these sessions is an understanding of who you are. How would you describe yourself Gavin?”

Gavin knew she would have background information on the prisoners that she was counseling, but he was candid anyway. “I’m a convicted felon, serving a life sentence for manslaughter.”

“Is that all that you are?”

Gavin shrugged, “In here it is.”

She gently corrected him. “You’re still a son, even though you’re in prison. Isn’t that right?

Gavin nodded.

“Aren’t you a brother, a friend, a citizen of this country? What about the work you do every day—aren’t you a supervisor?” She glanced down at her notes.

He nodded again, beginning to understand where she was leading.

“Those are labels our society has given you Gavin, and they all define you in some way or another.” She handed him a sheet of paper with several columns of words on it. “Now, I want you to look at these words and circle the ones that you think describe you best.”

Gavin took the pen that she offered and looked down at the page in front of him. It was an extensive collection of adjectives in alphabetical order from “able” to “zealous.”

As he stared at the intimidating list, Kate encouraged him. “Nobody else gets to see this, and there’s no right or wrong; it’s just a starting place to help me know how you see yourself.”

Gavin circled half a dozen words, trying to be as honest as he could in describing himself. He handed the paper back to Kate.

“Now,” she handed him another paper. Gavin looked down to notice that it was the same as the first. “I want you to circle words that you think others might use to describe you.”

Gavin grimaced, not liking the second exercise. His parents had been nothing but supportive; he had the respect of many of the other convicts and even some of the guards; but still, when he heard the word others, he thought of the world in general, and he felt as if the word murderer was tattooed across his forehead for all to see.

He looked up at Kate; she was patiently waiting for him to complete the exercise. “It’s not as easy, is it?”

“No,” Gavin sighed.

“Okay, let’s move on. I want you to circle the words that you would like people to use to describe you. But Gavin...I want you to imagine that you’ve just come to this planet; nobody knows you, and you have no past. You’re a brand new person, ready to make a brand new life for yourself. The words that you choose to define yourself are exactly what you’ll be.”

“That’s easier,” Gavin admitted, liking the world of make-believe that Kate offered, but questioning it just the same.

Kate looked at the list Gavin handed her. She smiled. “This is the Gavin McDermott I see before me.” She read the words aloud. “You already are all these things, Gavin. Do you believe that?”

Gavin frowned. “No,” he admitted. “Not really.”

“This is going to be our work together. For the next few weeks, I’m going to help you see that who you are is not what you think about yourself, not what others think of you—who you are is something fundamental and unchanging. It’s the basis of who we all are. We’re the same Gavin—you and me. You just don’t know it yet.”

Gavin left the meeting uplifted. Being around Kate left him feeling like a normal human being. He almost did feel like her equal when he was with her. He still didn’t understand how others would see it that way, but it was a start and something he truly enjoyed.

He’d been managing to avoid conversations with Ryan. He found the kid peculiar, making Gavin uneasy and oddly enough, curious at the same time. What was really strange was that some of the things the boy said seemed to reiterate the ideas Kate was introducing.

That morning, after listening to more complaints about the kid who’d gotten the nickname “Spook” from the other men, Gavin had no choice but to put Ryan to work with him.

“I might have spread it on a bit too thick telling those stories about you,” Gavin admitted. “Now nobody wants to have anything to do with you.”

“It’s the way I wanted it,” Ryan replied.

Gavin frowned. It almost seemed like the kid believed he was responsible for the situation turning out the way it did—like he was controlling the events of his life somehow. If he truly believed that, Gavin had to question what the kid was doing in prison.

“This isn’t real you know,” Ryan repeated the strange words he’d spoken once before. “You, me, this place…none of it’s real.”

He was sure now that Ryan wasn’t playing with a full deck, and Gavin was thankful suddenly for the rumors he’d started about him. It served to keep the kid quiet. If the others found out what he really believed, if they heard him talking this nonsense they’d know he was really just crazy, delusional, and they’d have him for lunch.

He decided to humor the kid. “Okay, we’re not real; this place isn’t real. What are we doing here then?”

“You could be anywhere you want, tell any story you want. You get stuck sometimes though, believing you can’t leave. The prison is really in your mind.”

“Well, then, my mind is a powerful thing kid,” Gavin replied sarcastically.

Ryan nodded and looked at him as if acknowledging the great truth just spoken. Gavin felt it too, but now he was more confused than ever. He was glad when the lunch bell sounded and the conversation was over. He turned off the machine they were working on and walked away.

Gavin was surprised that the other men didn’t talk about the counseling sessions they were attending. He quietly listened to the usual banter around the lunch table, but he didn’t feel inclined to bring up the sessions either. He was enjoying them for reasons he couldn’t explain, and he knew if it became a topic at mealtime it would be reduced to a joke with Kate and the other councilors the center of it.

He liked Kate; he respected her. And if he was honest with himself he had to admit he was somewhat attracted to her. He’d barely seen a woman in seventeen years, let alone spent time alone with one, and Kate made him feel good about himself. He looked forward to their sessions. He decided a little crush on his therapist wasn’t a bad thing—probably even normal. He wasn’t crazy; he wouldn’t let it get out of control. He knew he’d never act on it as it was purely one sided. She was a professional, an older woman—and a married one at that; Gavin couldn’t help but notice the rings on her left hand.

At their next session, Gavin observed something different about Kate. Her hair was up, but in a looser, more attractive style, and although she was still dressed conservatively, her outfit was more fashionable, more becoming. She even had a touch of make-up on.

She must have noticed the look he gave her, because she explained, “I’m meeting with some representatives from the University right after our session. They want me to update them on the progress we’re making with the program here.”

“So you are making progress?” he asked, wanting to engage in conversation with Kate. He was curious to know more about the woman.

“Yes,” she smiled. “I have some very favorable results to show them.”

Gavin wondered what she meant by favorable. He also wondered what she thought of his progress and if he would be regarded as a candidate for her ongoing program.

She was polite but their time was limited, and she got right down to business. “Gavin, today I want to start with a guided meditation. Are you okay with that?"

“Sure,” he shrugged. He enjoyed the meditations they did in the group and liked hearing the sound of her voice.

She walked over and completely closed the blinds on the window, blanketing the room in soft shadows. She then turned on a CD, and gentle, flowing music filled the room. It had a pleasing tone to it. She instructed him to close his eyes and take several deep breaths to relax.

“Gavin,” she began in her velvety tone. “I want you to imagine yourself sitting in your special place. It’s a warm, cozy space—a place where you’re safe. You can relax there and be yourself,” she reminded him softly. “It’s a space that’s yours alone.” She paused, and Gavin let himself be drawn into the make-believe world.

“You’re comfortable and secure in your space, but you’re curious now; you’re wanting to expand, to explore this new world of yours. You stand up, and as you move forward, your space moves and expands with you.

“As you look into the distance, you see a beach. It’s a beach with golden sand beside a pristine lake, with water as bright an emerald green as you’ve ever seen before. It’s enticing, and as you begin to think about it, you’re right there. Time and distance don’t exist in your space, Gavin, only thought.” Again, she paused to let Gavin take in his new surroundings.

“You slip off your shoes and feel the soft, warm sand on your feet. As you step into the sparkling water, you feel the refreshing coolness splashing on your legs. You shed your outer clothes and dive in. You’re a powerful swimmer, and you feel your body slicing across the sun-warmed lake.” As she let the words sink in again, Gavin could feel the forward movement of his body in the water.

“You’re enjoying the delicious freedom of movement, but now you begin to relax in the gentle waves and let them carry you away…”

Gavin was mesmerized by her words. He felt his body leaning—he was so relaxed, but he knew that the chair would support him. He was so completely caught up in the rapturous sound of Kate’s voice and the titillating world into which she was leading him.

Hearing her voice made him feel her presence there with him, and he welcomed her into his imaginary world. It seemed right that she was there with him, enjoying the place they had created. As they walked together on the beach, she reached for his hand, and he turned to her. Her hair fell past her shoulders, freely flowing in the breeze. Her skin was bronze from the sun and her cheeks, rosy. Her lips looked soft and inviting. Gavin couldn’t resist; he kissed her, and she responded as if it was the most natural thing in the world.

Suddenly she laughed and ran ahead of him, teasing, beckoning him to follow. Then, instead of running on the beach, they were on horseback. They rode on the endless beach, side by side, the wind in their faces, laughing at the pleasure of it.

“Feel the wind in your hair, Gavin,” Kate’s lulling voice continued. “Now look down. See the emerald lake below. See the lush hillsides and the pastures. Feel your body catch the current and rise with it. Now let yourself fall, and feel the rush as you dive down, down—and then up again. Let the current carry you. Let it take you wherever you want to go.”

Gavin was somewhat aware that he was sliding down in the chair, his body completely limp, but at the same time, he was soaring high in the sky, caring little about what was happening in his physical body.

“Now you’re standing in a sun-drenched meadow, daisies all around you. The smell of clover is thick in the air. You breathe in the wonderful smells and feel the velvety rays on your face. As you sit down in the tall, flowing grass, you feel a warmth gather around you. It’s a familiar warmth. It’s your space, Gavin. Your comfortable, personal space.

Take a deep breath now, and feel immense appreciation for this space of yours. You know you can return any time you like and have any adventure you want. It’s okay to leave it; you know you’ll return soon.” She paused and then said softly. “You can open your eyes now, Gavin.”

Gavin opened his eyes to see her sitting in the chair across from him, clip board and pen in hand as if she’d been taking notes. Gavin was immediately aware that he was halfway out of his chair and quickly pulled himself upright.

“Did you enjoy that?” she asked.

“Mmm,” he nodded, not sure that he was even capable of words at the moment. He had no idea what had just happened to him. Whatever it was, it had felt very real, like he’d actually experienced it—even the kiss. He could feel his lips tingling. He hoped that Kate wouldn’t ask him to describe the details of his adventure, because her being in it with him had been purely his creation, not hers.

It was far beyond what he’d experienced in the group sessions or alone in his cell at night. He could go places in his imagination and enjoy the feeling of being somewhere else, but never had he felt the rich, visceral sensations he’d just experienced.

He had to know. “Was that an out of body experience?”

“Is that what it felt like?”

“Yeah,” he nodded. “I think so.”

“Good,” she smiled. “You looked like you’d gone somewhere. Your body nearly slithered off the chair like it was an empty shell. Most people don’t have such a complete withdrawal of consciousness their first time. Have you ever done this before?”

“At night, sometimes, I like to escape,” he admitted. “But I’ve never felt so completely gone.”

“It was probably just the next step for you then.”

“How does it work?”

“It’s quite simple, really. What we are is consciousness focused in a physical body. Most of us spend our lives so completely focused in this way that we think this body is the sum of all that we are. We believe that we begin at birth and end at death.”

Gavin glanced at her to make sure she wasn’t joking. Her face told him that she was serious, although her eyes had a sparkle he hadn’t noticed before.

“We’re eternal beings Gavin.”

He loved hearing her say his name. It was like a gentle caress each time she said it.

“There’s more to you than this physical body. You just experienced it.” She must have noticed by the look on his face that he wasn’t quite convinced, so she continued, “Think of the ocean, Gavin. Our physical bodies are like individual drops of water, but at the same time we’re part of something infinitely bigger. There’s no separation; we have all the qualities and characteristics of the ocean we’re a part of, and if we start to really examine ourselves we can’t see where we end and where the ocean begins.

“Only instead of water, it’s an ocean of energy we exist in. Everything is made up of this energy; it’s conscious and alive, pure and complete. And and I and everyone else are a part of it. That’s what I meant when I said we’re all the same.”

She stopped talking, allowing Gavin time to absorb what she’d just said.

He had a question burning in his mind, and although he was trying to resist it, arguing that it was a really stupid question, he couldn’t.

“Are we real, then? Is anything real?”

“Reality is…a tricky thing,” Kate replied, but the sparkle in her eyes hinted at so much more.

Gavin knew by the clock on the wall that their time was up. He had a hundred more questions begging to be asked.

“We’ll talk more about this next time,” she assured him. “Keep practicing. I want you to trust your space, and let it take you anywhere you want to go. Remember Gavin, nothing is wrong or off limits or inappropriate.”

As she added the last statement, Gavin wondered if she suspected that there’d been more to his adventure than just the words she’d offered as guidance—if she knew somehow that he’d embellished the meditation with thoughts of her.

Chapter 4

Gavin awoke to the sound of a gunshot. He bolted upright, his heart pounding and hands shaking as he gripped the sides of his cot. Looking around his familiar cell, lit only by the dim lighting in the corridor, he breathed heavily, still on edge but relieved to be free from his terrifying dream.

Suddenly he longed for Kate’s soothing voice. He wanted to escape with her on one of their adventures. She’d said it was something he could do anytime; he’d tried, but it didn’t feel the same without her leading. There in the darkness, he tried to imagine her voice. He tried to picture the places she’d shown him in their sessions together. She was always with him in his mind as he explored his imaginary world. They had flown a biplane, ridden camels in the desert, sailed the ocean. They’d climbed mountains, swam in placid lakes. They had sat together watching a brilliant, fiery sunset and had laid together on a deserted beach at night watching the stars.

They’d kissed. Nothing more—just the exquisite thrill of a first kiss every time they were together. Gavin knew he was limiting it to that. He knew that to allow it to become anything more would be to cross a forbidden boundary. And yet he felt it could be so much more.

Thoughts of Kate helped to diminish the gut-wrenching panic that had woken him. The panic was something that was happening regularly now and something he had yet to share with Kate in their sessions. He knew he wanted to—now more then ever. They were accelerating in intensity, and keeping it to himself was nearly unbearable.

He was scheduled to have a session with Kate that morning, but it was several long hours away, and he didn’t dare fall back asleep, to be drawn into that gripping horror again. Instead, he leaned against the cold bare wall beside his cot and took some deep breaths. Kate always instructed the men to breathe deeply before a guided meditation. Gavin hadn’t really understood the significance of it, but now as he breathed in with thoughts of Kate active in his mind he felt her presence. There was even a sensation of warmth as if a physical presence was next to him, but he didn’t dare open his eyes. He wanted to go wherever the presence would lead him.

He continued to breathe consciously and keep his thoughts focused on Kate. He could see her in his mind, and he carefully went over every detail—the way he saw her in their adventures together. Unlike her conservative physical appearance, the Kate of his dreams wore her hair down. Always smiling and laughing, she wore bright, colorful clothing—loose flowing, airy fabrics wrapped around her beautiful body, covering and yet revealing. She was always calling to him or taking him by the hand, leading him on to even more enticing adventures. With Kate, he was free. With her, he could be anyone or anything he wanted to be. She was his salvation, his angel, his guide. She was loving and encouraging, never judging, never correcting.

His heart soared as he thought of her. Appreciation filled his heart. Whether in person, as his councilor, or in spirit as his adventure-mate and guide, he owed her so much. She had shown him a new world—a world he had barely begun to examine. There were so many questions he wanted to ask her, but he’d held back, not wanting to let slip the way he felt about her, not wanting to admit that she was such a vital part of his fantasy world.

Feeling her comforting presence there in the darkness, he dared to ask the questions that were on his mind—questions he couldn’t ask her physical counterpart.

Who are you Kate?

I represent all that you are and all that you want to be.” Gavin heard her response clearly. The voice was in his head, but he could easily differentiate it from his own questioning thoughts.

But you’re a woman.

“Male and female are distinctions that we make in the physical world; but here, there is no such distinction.”

Where are you?

“I’m everywhere that you are, always with you. Your dreams are my dreams; your experiences are mine too. We’re inseparable.”

But you’re not real.

“We’re the same, Gavin.”

What does that mean—that I’m not real either? It was the question that had been pressing on his mind. How can I not be real? Gavin felt himself getting frustrated. Ryan says stuff like that too, but it makes no sense. I’m alive. I breathe. If I stop breathing, I die. How is that not real?

“Remember what I said about the ocean of energy that we’re all a part of.”


“Feel yourself in that ocean, Gavin,” Kate’s soothing voice continued. “Flowing freely, lovingly being carried by the current—that’s who you really are. You have the ability to focus on something and experience it in what seems like a real way, but you never stop being who you are—part of that great ocean.”

So I’m just focusing on an experience right now—that’s all this is? You’re telling me this “experience” of being in jail for the past seventeen years hasn’t been real? Gavin sighed. I’d like to believe that.

“I’m here to help you do that Gavin,” Kate replied. “I love you, and I know who you are. I’m here to help you remember.”

I love you, too.

The questions continued. He had so many, and Kate was there—listening, knowing and willing to answer them.

So I’m creating this experience? He persisted, needing to find clarity on the subject. Why would I do that? If I get to choose what I focus on and create it, why wouldn’t I create an easy, comfortable life? Why aren’t I rich and successful, or at least living a normal life like everybody else?

“You’ve already created those things—many times before, and you will again. But this time, you had some specific desires that only this experience could help you fulfill.”

What desires?

“You knew you were free,” she explained. “Conceptually, you knew freedom completely and thoroughly, but you wanted to experience it in a new way. You knew who you were—with a knowing that can’t be shaken, but you wanted to taste that identity so fully and completely that even being branded as a murderer and spending years behind bars wouldn’t stop you from realizing it.”

Gavin listened to Kate’s words in his mind, he marveled at them. They sounded so profound, so true. Suddenly, everything he’d lived in his life up to that point began to make sense. Even spending all those years in prison, seemed a small price to pay for that knowing.

So now that I know this, what do I do? Start over? Learn something new?

“You’re just beginning to understand, Gavin.” Kate reminded him. “You’ve provided yourself with the contrast necessary to create powerful desires. Now the fun begins; now you get to see them manifest. You get to focus on the outcome of each desire and feel the invigorating, insatiable joy that coming into alignment with it brings.”

How do I do that?

“You created this experience by your focus on it. You told yourself a story and began living it. Now if you want to change your circumstances, you just change the story that you’re telling.”


“So where did you learn all this stuff?” Gavin asked Ryan as they worked together.

“I’ve always known it,” Ryan replied and then looked at Gavin with something of a frown. “Are you saying you believe me now?”

“I’m not sure,” Gavin hesitated. “Maybe.”

“You know it’s true,” Ryan asserted. “Deep down you know you believe it. It just feels right.”

Gavin had to admit it was true. It was more of a feeling than any kind of rational belief, and it was coming from a place deep within. He was still curious, however. Kate had helped him to understand his reasons for choosing to spend so many years of his life in prison. Now he wondered if Ryan was there for the same reasons.

“So why are you here?” Gavin inquired.

“To help you remember.”

Gavin was thrown by Ryan’s response. “You’re here...because of me?”

“You’ll understand soon enough,” Ryan responded without really answering his question. “Things are going to get interesting, but what you want to remember is that you’re a powerful creator, and you’re in control of what happens to you. This is where life starts to get really fun.”

Ryan had just repeated the very words that Kate had used in his dream. Gavin looked at the boy in shock, anxiety rising within him. He had no idea how to respond.

What’s going on? He looked to something greater than himself for wisdom. Am I loosing my mind? I have conversations with a woman in my head, and as if that’s not enough to get me committed, now this kid tells me the same things. Am I going crazy; is this place finally getting to me? Gavin started to feel extremely uncomfortable. His pulse quickened, and he began to perspire.

“You’re not crazy,” Ryan replied, somehow reading his mind. “All this and so much more is possible; believe me. You’re getting out of here soon, and you wanted to know this to prepare you for what’s ahead. It might seem a little confusing now, but if you remember these things you’ll be okay.”

What things? And how do you know when I’m getting out? Gavin tried to ask but his throat wouldn’t let the words pass.

Suddenly the all-too-familiar panic that had been frequenting his dreams seemed to take over his entire body. His heart was racing, and the room started to spin out of control. Beads of sweat were running down his face. Before he knew it, people around him were yelling orders and moving about.

He couldn’t recall what happened after that, but he assumed he must have blacked out because when he awoke he was in the prison infirmary. He didn’t know how long he’d been there, or what time of day it was when the doors opened, and he saw Kate walking toward him. She was a welcome sight; he couldn’t think of anyone he’d rather see. She was smiling too. Neither said a word for a moment. Then she reached out, gently touching his hand. “You’re going to be all right, Gavin. The doctor said you had a panic attack. Is this the first time it’s happened?”

“No.” Gavin was relieved to finally tell Kate about the things that had been happening to him. “I wake up feeling like that almost every night.”

“How long has this been going on?” She looked concerned.

“A few weeks.”

Kate frowned. “You’ve never mentioned anything about this in our sessions.” She was stating a fact; there was no tone of rebuke in her voice. “Do you feel comfortable talking about it now?”

“I wanted to mention it, but…”

“You don’t need to explain, Gavin. Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?”

Gavin shook his head, thankful to be able to share what had been troubling him.

“Do you remember your dreams?”

“I’m terrified and usually running from something. I know it has to do with the killing. I get that sickening feeling and often look down to see blood on my hands. But I don’t know what it means.”

“Dreams are manifestations—directly related to the thoughts we think, the emotions we feel every day,” Kate explained. “They can be confusing, especially if we try to sort out the specific details. What’s important here, Gavin, is how they make you feel. How you feel as you dream is representative of things going on in other areas of your life. Has anything changed for you in the past few weeks? Is there anything you can think of that might have triggered this?”

The dreams had started soon after Ryan came to Swenton, but they also coincided with Kate’s rehabilitation program. And that, Gavin couldn’t understand. He looked at her, desperately wanting to tell her what he was feeling, but not knowing how. Instead, he frowned and shook his head, “I…” he shrugged helplessly. “I don’t know.”

“May I?” She took his hand and held it in both of hers. He nodded, liking the silken feel of her touch.

Closing her eyes, she gently rubbed the back of his hand. Listening to her soft, even breaths, Gavin watched her chest rise and fall, mesmerized by the beauty and rhythm. Without even thinking to question what she was doing or why, he felt himself drift effortlessly into his private world, Kate right there with him. They were on a calm river, relaxing in a small dinghy, letting the river carry them.

The scenery along the water was breathtaking. Trees in vibrant shades of orange, burgundy and yellow decorated the gentle banks. Fences climbed the slopes, attaching themselves to picturesque farms with red barns and two story houses all looking similar, with shutters on the windows and verandas stretched across the front. Children were playing on the hills and in the shallow water near the edge of the river. They waved as Gavin and Kate drifted by.

“Mmm, this is nice.” Kate leaned her head back as if to more fully take in the perfection of the moment.

Gavin smiled at her. She was beautiful, elegant even, with her arms draped on the sides of the raft and long, graceful legs stretched out in front of her. He was content just to watch her.

She lifted her head and smiled lovingly at him. “You don’t have to be afraid anymore, Gavin.”

In the moment, Gavin felt no fear and wondered what she was referring to.

“You know who you are now. You know why you’re here. You don’t have to be afraid.”

Gavin looked at her blankly. “What am I afraid of?”

She leaned forward, and taking his hand she looked at him, genuine concern evident on her face. Gavin gazed at the amber flecks in her eyes for a moment before he closed his own in a deliberate attempt to concentrate. He wanted to remember, wanted to know what was causing the ongoing anxiety. The familiar emotion returned quickly in response to his focus, and the scene around him began to change. The sky darkened, and a giant wave washed over them, heaving their little dinghy in the air. He felt himself thrown to the side of the raft and grabbed the edge to keep from going right out. Still holding Kate’s hand, he pulled her to him wanting to keep her safe. Another wave lifted them again and this time sent them flying through the air.

“It’s not real, Gavin.” Kate breathed. “You can change it by your thoughts.”

Gavin was scared, but Kate’s words reminded him that in their make-believe world, a change of focus could create a whole new setting. With Kate in his arms, he closed his eyes and imagined them lying on a beach beside a tranquil lake. When he opened his eyes they were there together as if they had been all along. Only, she was completely dry, and he was soaked to the skin.

As he lay back exhausted, Kate stroked his cheek. “Are you okay?”

“What happened?”

“You focused on your fear and created a manifestation of it,” she explained. “But you changed your focus. You’re in control now. You don’t have to be afraid.”

Gavin felt the immense power of Kate’s words and was able to look at his situation clearly for the first time. “I know what I’m afraid of!” Gavin opened his eyes to see Kate standing by his bed. “I’m afraid of getting out of prison. I’m afraid of what people will think of me. I’m afraid I won’t fit in.” He wasn’t sure where the revelation had come from, but in that moment he knew precisely what was causing his fears.

“It’s natural to feel that way, Gavin,” Kate soothed. “You’ve spent nearly half your life in this place; you’ve adapted to it. It’s what you’re most familiar with and most comfortable with. Nearly everyone in your position experiences the same kind of fear or apprehension. But I’m here to help you. We can make that transition easier for you. You don’t have to be afraid anymore.”

Gavin looked at Kate, questioningly. She’d just reiterated the words she’d said to him in his vision. “I don’t understand what’s happening.” He shook his head, longing to bridge the gap between his two worlds.

“What do you mean, Gavin?”

“You and me…the visions...I don’t know what’s real anymore.”

Before she could respond, the doors to the infirmary burst open, and several people rushed in, one of them a guard carrying someone. A man was put on a bed, and the commotion continued as orders were shouted and carried out. Gavin turned to see Ryan lying on the bed next to him, his face blue, efforts to revive him already seeming futile. He continued to watch till the paramedic ceased his efforts and with a solemn look to the others around him, shook his head. At that point Gavin turned back to see Kate’s reaction, but she wasn’t by his bed. She wasn’t in the group that surrounded Ryan either. Gavin couldn’t understand why she would have left or where she’d have gone.

As he lay there in shock over the disturbing event he’d just witnessed, Gavin heard Ryan’s words began to play in his head. “You’ll understand soon enough.”

Gavin closed his eyes and turned away. He didn’t understand at all. He didn’t understand the bizarre occurrences that had been taking place in his life. He was even beginning to wonder if he was suffering from some kind of mental breakdown.

As confused as he was, however, he wanted to believe the things that he’d learned from Kate and from Ryan. Somehow, he knew that if they were true, then everything else would make sense, too.

Every person, all the events of your life are there

because you have drawn them there.

What you choose to do with them is up to you.


Chapter 5

Kathryn paced back and forth, nervously, as her colleague sat watching, with a look of anticipation on her face.

“Don’t worry,” Adele reassured her friend. “We’ll get the approval. They’ve pretty much assured us we’ll get it this time.”

“I know; I can feel it,” Kathryn replied. “It’s just that we’ve been here so many times before.”

The phone rang, and the two women looked at each other, spellbound for just a moment.

“This is it,” Kathryn tried to allay her jitters as she picked up the receiver.

“Thank-you.” Kathryn felt a rush of excitement in hearing the words that she’d been waiting so long for. “Thank-you, sir!”

“We got it!” Adele stood to her feet, triumphantly. “Any restrictions?”

“No; they’ve agreed to the full three-year funding and immediate go-ahead.”

“Which prison?”

“Swenton. They’ve already been approached and are willing to cooperate fully. We can start next week.”

Kathryn sat down at her desk to let the news she’d just received settle in. For two years they had been pushing to get the green light for their prison rehabilitation program—not to mention, all the years it took to develop it, all the criticism she and her co-workers had endured, and the tireless hours she’d spent writing and rewriting the proposal, only to have it shot down time and again.

She knew the struggle and hard work wasn’t over; in truth, it had just begun. The board wanted to see positive results early on if the funding was to continue. She knew the critics would be watching closely, too. But she didn’t want to dwell on that now. She wanted to savor the victory.

Adele had already informed the rest of the staff, and rounds of cheering had ensued. She re-entered Kathryn’s office holding up a bottle of champagne. “This baby’s been waiting a long time; do you want to do the honors?”



Gavin felt weak as he walked to the dining hall. Four days in the infirmary had taken a toll, and he was eager to get back his strength back.

It had been four days free of panic attacks and nightmares, however, and he was grateful for the reprieve. He couldn’t wait to see Kate again and talk to her about the things that had happened, especially now that he’d shared with her the reason for his fear in the first place.

He filled his tray and walked over to join the other men at his usual table. He glanced at the now empty table Ryan had once occupied. Stubby welcomed him with a friendly slap on the back, and several others made, what seemed to Gavin to be uncharacteristically polite remarks about his recovery.

Gavin was pleasantly surprised by their behavior. He’d wondered what reaction he would receive after the rumors inevitably spread that he’d had a panic attack.

He was curious, too, to know what their response had been to the news of Ryan’s suicide. No doubt, they were happy to hear the news. Gavin couldn’t help but be distressed by it, though. He wasn’t heartless. He’d come to know the kid, worked with him, talked with him. Despite Ryan’s strange manner, he’d gotten to Gavin somehow, and it seemed tragic, pointless even, that his life was over.

Gavin decided not to bring it up. He really wasn’t in the mood to hear the guys joke about it. As he listened, however, all he heard was the usual gossip, dirty jokes, and speculation about which movie would be showing on the weekend. It seemed as if life was back to normal. Unfortunately, normal was far from what Gavin was feeling. He didn’t even know what the word meant anymore.


“Oh my God; where did you get that dress?” Adele asked as Kathryn walked into the adjoining hotel room. “A paper bag would have been more flattering.”

“Flattering is not the look we want. Remember?” she retorted, looking at Adele’s pleated, black dress pants and sensible blouse, wishing now she’d chosen something similar. “Most of those men haven’t seen women in a long time. We don’t want to send the wrong message.”

“I’m sorry,” Adele laughed. “But I’ve never seen you look this frumpy. You’re not wearing make-up, and your hair—I hope it’s not going to cut off the circulation to your head, pulled back that tight.”

“Are you finished?”

Adele nodded, still smiling.

Kathryn had just spent the past half-hour stressing over what to wear, and now it was too late to change. Besides, her primary goal that morning was to be heard. She didn’t want the men looking at her as anything other than a professional. She had a program to offer that could change their lives, and she wanted to be taken seriously. She wanted to make a difference. As she thought about the morning ahead, she unconsciously twisted at her rings.

“Kathryn…your wedding rings…?” Adele looked at her friend, questioningly.

Kathryn had reluctantly stopped wearing her wedding rings several months back. It had been almost four years since her husband had passed away. Her friends and family wanted her to move on. She’d grieved long enough in their opinion and at forty-two, was still an eligible woman.

Dating was the furthest thing from her mind, however. She’d poured herself into her work, and now it seemed all her hard work was finally paying off.

“It sends a message,” she said, simply, in answer to her friend’s inquiry.

“Yes,” Adele replied. “It does.”

Kathryn heard the tone in Adele’s voice. She knew she was being judged, again, for her choice to refrain from playing the dating game. But for Kathryn, it was a choice that had been easy to make. She’d loved and been loved in return by a wonderful man for nearly twenty years. To have a love that deep and that special—even though it ended abruptly—was something to be treasured, remembered and honored. To be in a relationship with someone new, would defile the memories she held dear, obscure them, maybe even cause them to fade away altogether. The very thought scared Kathryn, because time itself was already starting to do those things, despite her efforts to keep it from happening.

“Well, lets get this show on the road,” she said abruptly, wanting to put a stop to the thoughts and feelings that had come crashing in around her, unbidden and unwelcome. “We’re meeting with the warden for a short conference and then addressing the men in an assembly format,” she added, knowing that Adele was aware of the details of this important first morning as well as she was. “But I’d like to get a look around the facility while we’re there, as well.”

They were joined, then, by the two men that would be rounding out their team for the project, and the four of them left for the prison. Kathryn’s excitement was coupled with a slight nervousness. She was confident as a public speaker, but this was new territory for her. Her audience was typically made up of peers in the mental health profession or graduate students wanting to expand their knowledge, not men being held against their will—forced or, as the warden had put it, ‘encouraged’ to participate in the program. It gave a whole new meaning to the term captive audience.

She was ready, however. She’d been preparing for this moment for a long time. She not only knew the material backward and forward, she believed in it wholeheartedly. She truly believed that she would see lives changed for the better.


Gavin listened as announcements were made after breakfast. The warden began telling the men about a rehabilitation program that was being initiated at Swenton. Gavin frowned as he looked around him to see what the other men’s response was to the warden’s words. All he saw was the usual look of disinterest in their faces.

He turned back to look at the warden as he informed them that prisoners within two years of their parole were encouraged to attend. He talked about incentives and told the men that the program was to begin that morning, with a lecture in the prison auditorium.

“What the hell?” Gavin said, just loud enough for Stubby to overhear.

“Yeah,” Stubby whispered back. “I don’t know what they think they’re gonna accomplish with that. It’s just another waste of taxpayer’s money.”

“But we already have a rehab program.”

“Since when?”

Gavin looked to see if Stubby was playing him, but his look was dead serious.

“The rehab program,” Gavin repeated. “It’s been running for weeks already.”

“Shit, Gavin,” Stubby frowned. “You’ve been in the infirmary for nearly three weeks. You must have been hallucinating or something; Bruno said you were in pretty rough shape.”

“Three weeks? I don’t remember…” Gavin shook his head.

The men were beginning to file out of the dining hall, and Stubby stood up to leave, too. Gavin followed, but he felt like he was in a twilight zone. The things he heard made no sense; he was more confused than ever.

“You got that weird virus,” Stubby explained. “They didn’t tell you anything?”

Gavin shook his head.

“About half a dozen others did, too. They quarantined the whole place. Yesterday was the first day we could have visitors. Word is several people in the city have died from it—mostly old people though.”

“I had a virus?”

“They’re calling it some fancy name, but it’s a virus, and apparently it spreads almost as easy the common cold—had the whole city in a panic for a while there.”

“And we don’t already have a Rehab program?”

Stubby frowned at him again, and Gavin started to think he’d better keep his inquiries to himself. There was just one more thing he needed to know.

“That new kid… Ryan. Did he really do himself in?”

“Who?” Stubby just shook his head. “I think you need to recuperate for a few more days, buddy. We don’t want rumors spreading. Keep this up,” he laughed, “and the only day pass you’ll be eligible for is to the psyche ward at Dellberg.”


As Kathryn and her associates waited in a small room near the front of the auditorium, she could hear the men assemble. There was talking and laughter, chairs being moved and an occasional command from one of the guards.

Once the men had settled down, the warden nodded for her to begin. They had decided to forgo an introduction; she simply walked out to the center of the platform where a small podium stood.

Kathryn had been warned about the probable response from the men at seeing a woman, but still she was slightly taken aback. The men responded with cheers and whistles, even catcalls. It was a few moments before the guards got the men settled down.

As she waited for silence, she looked over the group before her. She saw men of different size and physical appearance, ethnic groups, and most undoubtedly, belief systems. The one common factor was that they were serving time for committing a very serious crime, and that time was nearing an end.

One man in particular caught her attention. He was a large man—tall, well built and attractive. The look he was giving her was unmistakably different from the ones that the other men were directing at her. He had a look of surprise and confusion on his face, almost as if he knew her. He kept looking, even as their eyes met and held for a moment. She wondered what his story was.

She was anticipating being able to read up on the men before meeting with them in the group and individual sessions. The warden had a package made up—a profile on each of the men for her and her associates to look over and keep in their files. It would help them greatly in knowing how to tailor the program to the individual needs of the men they would be working with.

She began by introducing herself and then went on to describe the program. The men were not taking her very seriously so she decided to get to the heart of what she wanted to tell them, which was the essence of the program she and her colleagues were planning to implement.

Every once in a while, as she spoke, she glanced at the man that had been and was still looking at her oddly. At one point, she saw him put his hand up, rub his eyes and shake his head in dismay. It was subtle. The others around him probably wouldn’t notice anything strange about his action. However, her education and training caused her to notice behavior that was out of the ordinary, and his definitely stood out to her.

She had gained the men’s attention, so she made the most of it. She gave them a rundown of what she believed would be a life-changing program, the processes and tools the men could use to make the transition back into society. As well, she claimed that the valuable information would help them in every area of their lives, both now and in the future.

She described how the program would be set up and then introduced her colleagues. With that, she thanked the men for their willing participation and left them with the promise that they would not regret it.

The warden stepped forward to dismiss the men, and Kathryn watched as they filed out of the room. The man that had intrigued her was one of the last to leave his chair, and he even turned back once, as he left the room, to look directly at her. His face was clearly imprinted in her mind, and she was eager to go back to her hotel room and look through his file.

But for the time being, she was elated to have made her presentation and to have seen the men and the facility first hand. It was all beginning to sink in. Their hard work, which for so long, was just an idea, a theory, was now unfolding into an undeniable reality. Kathryn couldn’t have been more excited.


Gavin wondered if he wasn’t still in some sort of delusional state. He seriously considered reporting back to the infirmary to let them know he was still hallucinating.

The problem was, he didn’t know what was real and what he’d dreamed. The events of the last few weeks were unclear. He honestly couldn’t remember what had really happened and what he had seen in his hallucinatory state.

The most bizarre thing was that he had now sat through Kate’s presentation twice—the same identical speech. In fact, as he looked back on the first time he’d heard it, he realized everything about that day mirrored the current one. She and her associates were wearing the same clothes, the men around him had uttered the same rude comments, and the guards had responded the same way. Now, as they walked to the industry area, he heard Stubby make the same comment he had weeks earlier about his views on rehabilitation.

Gavin kept his thoughts to himself. He had a lot to sort out—if that were even a possibility. He had to try to make some sense of it all, somehow. He knew he wasn’t crazy. Unfortunately, he also knew that no one else would see it that way.


This reality that you think is so stable and solid is not

at all…it’s changing constantly. It’s changing and becoming

and morphing to the degree that you allow it.


<h1>Law of Attraction books by Jeane Watier | A Brief Moment in Time | Sample</h1>