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Across the Borderline

Across the Borderline

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Across the Borderline

461 pages
6 hours
Feb 17, 2006


Across the Borderline is a psychological suspense thriller that captures the varied psychological worlds of its three main protagonists. The story examines the motivation and fears of a psychologist, the loneliness and guilt of a female business executive, and the cockiness and methodical analysis of a sophisticated cowboy detective. The three of them are thrown together by circumstances surrounding each of their efforts to solve a crime involving multiple murders and international intrigue. In the face of mounting danger, they are forced to forge an alliance to investigate the murders and the sabotage of implanted neurochips that have replaced psychotropic drugs such as Prozac and Well-Butrin. These neurochips have been implanted in half the population of the United States. Their investigation takes them on a roller coaster ride of suspense from the Southwest to the Northwest to New England to the Far East. In solving this crime their skills are pitted against a combination of the greed of a Health Maintenance Organization and attempted subversion by a foreign government. The foreign government is China; the United States last major adversary since the end of the Cold War.

Feb 17, 2006

Despre autor

Dr. Neil Weiner has been a psychologist with over twenty-five years experience in private practice  He has taught family systems, counseling, and group therapy courses at Arizona State University and The University of Phoenix. In addition, he has been a psychotherapist/consultant and staff development trainer for public schools, social service agencies, and hospitals. As a visiting professor, Dr. Weiner taught for a year in mainland China.   Neil has published journal articles on several subjects including topics on counseling and gifted children. His coauthored book, Shattered Innocence: A Practical Guide for Counseling Women Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse, published by Taylor & Francis in 1995, has become a standard for the field. Also, Dr. Weiner has authored a manuscript on his experiences living and teaching in a university in Mainland China. His coauthored first fiction book, The Art of Fine Whining: Or How Lori Lew Wrote Her Own Fortune Cookie, is also psychologically oriented.

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Across the Borderline - Dr. Neil Weiner


1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200       

Bloomington, IN 47403


Phone: 1-800-839-8640

AuthorHouse™ UK Ltd.

500 Avebury Boulevard

Central Milton Keynes, MK9 2BE


Phone: 08001974150

This book is a work of fiction. People, places, events, and situations are the product of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or historical events, is purely coincidental.

© 2007 Dr. Neil Weiner. All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means without the written permission of the author.

First published by AuthorHouse 6/8/2007

ISBN: 978-1-4678-0970-2 (ebk)

ISBN: 978-1-4259-0356-5 (sc)













































































A muffled sound of what seemed like a car backfiring interrupted Michael’s reverie. He always allowed himself ten minutes to collect his thoughts before seeing his next patient. In the last five years the break seemed superfluous. Michael’s days as a dynamic psychologist had receded almost as proportionately as his spare-tire had protruded over his once-firm waistline.

Michael contemplated checking on the sound. His last client, Maria, had just left the office. Normally, when he saw patients at night, he escorted them out to their cars since his receptionist left work at five o’clock. His appointment with Maria had turned into a petty squabble so in a pique, he had deviated from his routine. He was to regret this decision.

Squealing tires from the direction of his parking lot mobilized Michael. Reluctantly rising up from his plush, executive chair, Michael awkwardly shuffled to the door. As he opened the door, he promised himself he would lose weight and rehabilitate that damn right knee. Within a few seconds of walking, his gait returned to normal. Michael opened the front door of his suite. Squinting toward the freeway into the Phoenix sunset, he observed the outline of a Jeep speeding away. Then peering down the spiral adobe staircase that led from his suite to the parking lot, he became aware of a writhing shape on the steps. Michael was stunned! He heard a low moaning sound, intermingled with gurgling. Michael approached the now bloodstained body of Maria. To his horror, her chest was pouring blood out of a nickel-shaped hole. Her exquisite face, now contorted by pain, struggled to say something. Almost by reflex, he leaned his ear close to her crimson lips.

In a last concerted effort, Maria’s barely audible whisper reached his ear, I love you. Her face went slack.

Michael’s thoughts raced to an October day on the Boston Common when he had been flying a kite in the bracing autumn air. Simultaneously, his psychologist observer mind recalled that people in shock reach for the most innocuous events to transport them far from the perceived trauma. He cursed this dual awareness, as his consciousness spiraled back to the grisly scene. Surreally, as if in a dream, he watched his hand snake into Maria’s handbag, which lay at the side of her body. His hand calmly unfastened the clasp, reached inside the bag and removed a red book. He placed the book, her journal, into the pocket inside his sports jacket. Then, as he heard sirens wailing in the twilight, Michael waited for the police.



Dr. Josh Grinvald felt the surge of his legs propelling him up the wooden stairway beneath the capitol building in Olympia, Washington. Pausing on the switchback for a moment, he gazed below at Capitol Lake. Mist and the flowing leaves of the pine trees obscured the picturesque scene below. Josh bent over to retie his Sauconys before resuming the heart-pounding run to the top. When he reached the top, the dome of the state capitol burst into view. Josh had always admired the stately structure even though rumor had it that the dome needed millions of dollars worth of fortification and cleaning. Josh nodded hello to a state senator as his run took him past the capitol’s steps.

I think that the rain has started early this year, Bob, panted Josh.

Well, keeps out those damn Californians and my relatives, replied Bob. Besides, let Arizona have that blazing sun and the skin cancer that goes with it. Take care Josh. Stop around my office when you get a chance. I would like to discuss the Verix contract with you.

Josh shook Bob’s hand. Then he continued his jog up Capitol Boulevard, over the bridge crossing the freeway and then turned off on a side street. Josh, a retired bioengineer at thirty-five, wondered whether the crowning achievement of his life had not been his albatross too. Verix still seemed to have its octopus-like tentacles around every facet of his life. His early retirement still could not alleviate that crushing feeling that he felt each time he heard that name. Verix, the mammoth health maintenance organization, would not be happy till they sucked the very marrow out of his bones.

Josh marveled at the varieties of flowers and bushes that made the last stage of his run a veritable banquet of the senses. He soaked in the scent of flowers, pine trees, and flowering bushes of every size imaginable, while gazing at the cornucopia of colors and shapes. Up the last hill he trudged the last few hundred yards, drinking in the sight of the lake far below him now. Soon he would make the familiar right, starting to worry, as usual, about the happiness of his wife, Alicia. She had not wanted to move out of the Bay Area, resenting him for the rain and the cold that the state of Washington offered up eight months a year. Just as he reached the door of his picturesque three-bedroom house, he wondered when he could just think of satisfying himself and not have to be satisfying everyone else.



Tanya rubbed her temples as she sat at her secretariat in the bowels of the Verix Building. The Berkeley sunshine filtering through her window was retreating before the relentless onslaught of the fog. Tanya loved the anonymity of the fog enveloping her as she drove home from work. She was often reminded of the driving snowstorms of her native Boston. She yearned for the womb-like embrace of the white flakes that sometimes blotted out the Boston skyline while she rode the Red line on her way home from Boston College. Those college days seemed so far away now, tucked like some discarded treasure in the attic of her mind.

Tanya brought her hands down from her head to the keyboard of her notebook computer. Calling up the details of the Neurochip project on her screen, Tanya marveled at the screen, which flashed the graphics of production and a prototype Neurochip II rotating on the same screen. All of a sudden the screen went blank. She had better notify the computer whiz kids down in research. They had assured her that the bugs from the new software changeover were fixed. All of a sudden the screen sputtered. New graphics sprang to life on her screen with a memo attached. Tanya noted that it was a secret memo from the president’s personal log. Addressed to the inventor of the Neurochip, Dr. Josh Grinvald, the email stated in terse language, Urgent! Problems developing in Neurochip I functioning. What is the lead-time for a working copy of Neurochip II? Erase this message immediately upon receipt.

Tanya did not understand what the message was referring to, but it sounded ominous. In the staff meeting just this morning no mention was made of developing problems. On the contrary, the company president, Charles Atkinson, had painted a glowing picture of company profits and the new vistas created by the Neurochip I marketing. The email further confirmed Tanya’s creeping suspicions that everything said in public did not match what was known in private. Tanya kept experiencing this nagging feeling tugging at the unconscious recesses of her mind.

Tanya reached out to pick up her nameplate. She caressed each embossed letter, especially lingering on the title, Executive Vice-President, which followed her name. How proud her parents had been when she was first promoted. Even with the gains of women over the last forty years, precious few females, and even fewer African Americans, guided the daily workings of such an illustrious firm as Verix. Verix was the largest health maintenance organization in the United States, having bought up most of the competition. Already articles were appearing in the New York Times comparing the near monopoly of Verix with Microsoft’s. With such heady achievement, Tanya felt she should be able to bask in the glow of the company’s success and her own success. Why was she so terrified? The intercepted email had sent a shiver down her spine, tensing the muscles in the small of her back. Tanya pushed the message into another recess of her mind far away from the Boston memories. Soon a migraine headache would blot out the last vestiges of productive work for Tanya that day.



Michael watched from the balcony as the officers roped off the crime scene on the stairs. He blankly stared down at the blood stained sleeve of his sports jacket. An inane question bubbled up to his mind. Would he ever be able to get his favorite sports jacket dry-cleaned or would the stain remain, forever etched in his mind?

A raspy cough centered his attention on the stairs again. A lean, tanned detective sporting a cowboy hat was threading his way around the corpse while making his way up the stairs to question Michael. Observing the cigarette dangling from the detective’s mouth, Michael wondered if smoking was the source of the cough.

In traumatic situations, Michael knew from his psychological study and experience in therapy that people dwelled on extraneous details preferring not to consider the situation at hand. Knowing this and doing something about it were two different things. Even though Michael could observe his mind, he couldn’t prevent it from continuing to seize anything that took him further away from the reality of Maria’s death and his own secret. At this specific moment, the smoking caught his attention

So, lost in another train of thought that dragged him away from impact of the shooting, Michael took in the irony of being questioned by this Western Marlboro Man with a hacker’s cough. Luckily, the cigarette manufacturers never showed you the before and after health captions in their smoking advertisements. Michael started to visualize the Camel Cigarette Logo saying that he would walk a mile for a Camel. The next image that surfaced in his mind was this very same camel having his humps removed in cancer surgery. The lanky detective interrupted his reverie.

Are you Dr. Michael Stern? barked Detective Jaminson.

Yes, I am. I came outside right after Maria was shot. Excuse me, I mean Miss Gonzales. Do you have any clues on who might have done this?

Hold on, Doc, retorted the detective. Wait until I ask the questions! We’ll take this one step at a time.

OK, Detective. Is it all right if we go inside to talk in my office? I feel worn out from finding Miss Gonzales’ body only seconds after leaving my office.

Composing himself, as well as he could, Michael led the detective through his waiting room and into his office. The modest suite, decorated tastefully in Southwestern Native American motif, was located in one of the more pretentious areas of the Camelback corridor.

Michael knew that he would gain an advantage if he let the detective interview him in his office. An upper hand was important to shield himself from the detective’s questions that could lead to exposing his secret. Michael planned to be sitting in his slightly elevated chair forcing the detective onto the couch. Even more imposing would be his bookcase to the right, filled with his professional books of imposing academic titles. On the left of his desk, the wall showcased all his degrees with their embossed gold seals in neat mahogany frames. As he opened the door, Michael mulled over why he even wanted the upper hand. Warming the inside of his sports jacket, Maria’s red journal reminded him that he had something to hide.

Not having read Michael’s script and not appearing intimidated, Detective Jaminson flopped down on Michael’s executive chair pulling a black notepad out of his back pocket. Michael, startled by the detective’s audacity, tried to remain standing for as long as he could. With no possible reason to be staring down at the detective, Michael reluctantly sat down on the couch. He leaned back with one arm draped over the couch’s arm. At the very least he could look relaxed and confident.

Detective Jaminson paused a couple of seconds before asking a question. Michael easily recognized this form of male dominance. God knows, he had used it himself with his patients. To gain the initiative back, Michael posed the first question.

So Detective Jaminson, who called you about the shooting?

Picking at a hair on his pants, the detective then reached across Michael’s desk for a pen. Michael sensed that he had met his match in this psychological battle for turf. If not for Maria’s red book pressing like a dead weight against his chest, he might have enjoyed the contest.

The real estate agent in Suite 105 phoned it in. She heard the shot but was too scared to leave her office. She told us that you got there a minute or so after the alleged murder, drawled the detective. Now go slowly, and tell me step-by-step what happened. Please be careful to include every detail, even if it seems unimportant.

Michael launched into the monologue that he had internally rehearsed while waiting to be interviewed. The cerebral game with this detective sharpened his concentration. Michael could feel the norepinephrine surging through his body. For a split second he could also feel his own critical self-appraisal for not using the word adrenaline like most people. He hated academics with their pedantic language so he was acutely attuned to his own transgressions.

Well, Detective. There’s really not much to relate. Miss Gonzales had just left my office after her appointment. I heard a sound like a backfire from a car followed by squealing tires. I went outside to look, finding Miss Gonzales on the ground. She was already dead when I got there. I saw a vehicle that looked like a Jeep in the distance. It was going very fast in the direction of the freeway. That’s all I remember.

Detective Jaminson, who had been busily scribbling in his notebook, glanced up with a look that seemed incredulous. You’re our only witness, Doctor. Can you tell me any more details about the Jeep? Had Miss Gonzales ever mentioned anyone who might have wanted to harm her?

Michael answered, No, I didn’t get a good look at the car, too far away. I regret that I can’t tell you more about Miss Gonzales. Anything that she might have told me is confidential. Michael felt an internal sigh of relief as he realized that the doctor/patient privilege wrapped a cocoon around this conversation.

Come on, Doc, the detective pleaded. This woman has been brutally murdered. Surely, you can help us out with our investigation.

Michael, sensing that he was regaining the upper hand, made the detective wait for his answer. No, the privilege is sacrosanct. I can only reveal patient information to you under three conditions: child abuse, patient danger to themselves, and patient intent to harm others. None of those conditions has been met.

The detective cajoled Michael. You and I both want to figure this out. I’m sure that you had a good relationship with this patient. Now she’s dead on your doorstep. Anything that you could tell me, one professional to another, might help.

Having regained an equal footing on the playing field, Michael did not want to utter another word. He simply nodded No while replying, I wish I could help you out, and if I remember anything else, I will call you immediately. May I have one of your cards please? Michael felt especially proud of himself for usurping the end of the interview.

The detective shrugged. He reached into his wallet and pulled out a business card with the logo of the Phoenix police department, a radiant sun at the top. O.K. I’m sure that I will need to talk with you again. Don’t leave the area without notifying me.

Giving the card to Michael, he held on to it for a split second too long, forcing Michael to pull it out of his hands. The duel finished, the detective turned around and ambled out of the office. Michael noticed that he ducked when he exited the door even though the top of the doorframe was about two inches above his head. Michael made a mental note of this last act of the detective. It seemed that Jaminson had mastered all the tricks of subtle intimidation.

Michael congratulated himself on his trained therapeutic skills. If not for Maria’s red journal and her untimely death, he might have relished this contest even more. However, her death and now his secret about Maria lay heavily on his conscience. Slumping at his desk, Michael felt himself lapsing into a dark mood. He hoped like hell that the depression would stay away, but knew from experience that its shroud was descending like a black cloth net ready to ensnare its prey.



Tanya awoke to the rousing sound of HoeDown from Rodeo by Copland. His music reminded her of the cowboy western television shows that she and her father loved so much. In fact, as a girl she looked forward to watching the reruns Hopalong Cassidy and Gunsmoke with him. Every once in a while, if her mother occupied herself with sewing at night, they could watch uninterrupted, The Rifleman and The Roy Rogers Show. Those nights with her father consisted of rooting for the good guys in white clothes and hats and screaming at the black-clad bad guys. In her youth, her father represented the dichotomy of good and bad presented by those early TV westerns.

Passionate and moral, he drew the boundaries between right and wrong with a straightforward approach that seemed to be lifted straight from their favorite westerns. When her friends were having all sorts of ethical dilemmas about unprotected sex, drugs, and the environment in the ‘80s at Boston College, Tanya felt protected by her father’s philosophy. He advised her to stay out of trouble and to study hard. As far as his own African American heritage, or Negro heritage as he still preferred to call it, her dad proclaimed that black people should be happy for what they had in this country. He was particularly virulent speaking about the radical blacks from the ‘60s such as Eldridge Cleaver, H. Rap Brown, and Stokley Carmichael. In those days, Tanya just listened and blindly followed his point of view.

Lately, the situation at Verix thrust Tanya right back into those turbulent days of marches and demonstrations. The major difference was that Tanya had experienced too much in the intervening years to pray at the altar of her father’s black and white world. The intercepted email was just one of the experiences that intuitively convinced her that something was wrong at work. There were furtive looks among certain key staff members at the weekly conference meetings. The research team seemed too busy to meet with her anymore. Before the email, Charles had informed Tanya that for the time being she was not to contact the HMO doctors contracted to Verix. Tanya felt like an outsider, slowly losing control of her responsibilities.

Sliding out of bed, Tanya groped for her running clothes and Nikes. She always left them on the chair to the right of her bed. She grasped the shorts and her Spandex halter-top. Effortlessly, she slipped on the contoured sports outfit. With a sense of middle-aged pride she admired how the clothes still hugged her in the right places on her trim, muscular body. She reached for the Nikes. With a start she realized that they were under the chair, not on top of it. Fear flooded her chest and arms. Her heart constricted with rapid palpitations and sweat started pouring from her underarms and down to her palms. Tanya never deviated from routines.

She glanced around the room. Nothing else was out of place. Carefully examining the closets and drawers, she could not pick up any other changes. Tanya flew out into the kitchen. Nothing looked amiss. Her briefcase was on the table facing her. One time her therapist had laughingly informed her that she scored in the highest standard deviation for obsessive-compulsive disorder. He explained to her that she was in the top two percent of the population. At first she felt insulted by his interpretation. Now she knew that his assessment was true and she was proud of her perception. Her briefcase had been moved from the edge of the table to the middle. She opened it. Nothing was missing, yet the contents had been rifled through and put back in a different order.

Finally, Tanya checked all the locks on the doors and all the windows. Everything was secure. She grasped in one frightening moment that a real professional had invaded the sanctity of her home. She felt raped.



Lying in his bed in the dark with his eyes wide open, Michael fingered Maria’s diary. The psychological combat with Detective Jaminson had receded into memory. The only feeling left was the dull sense of emptiness that had infiltrated his life when his world had come tumbling down. His two greatest loves had deserted him, his wife and psychology. Pouring into the breach left by these two losses, the red diary filled the hole with shame.

Meeting his wife while in his graduate studies, Michael had fulfilled one of the great axioms of relationships in graduate study for counseling. It was a well-known fact among these students that divorces and new marriages occurred in astounding numbers in these graduate programs. Many therapist attributed these transitions in relationships to the enormous pressure for self-reflection prompted by all the graduate papers, the in-depth relationships with patients and supervisors, and the intimacies forged by the common bonds among students of therapy. The time away from home might have helped too.

In his late twenties, Michael had become another statistic in the annals of doctoral studies by meeting and falling in love with his wife, Joan, at Arizona State University. He was a candidate for a degree in counseling psychology and she was a master’s intern at the counseling center in the university. Their relationship had been a stormy one characterized by a roller coaster of emotional peaks and troughs. Against the advice of his best friends and parents, Michael had married Joan, deciding that their psychological background gave them a leg up on most couples. Weren’t they both aware of fair fighting, giving positive reinforcements, affirmations, communication theory, and all the other buzz words and practices of healthy relationships? Of course, Michael hadn’t considered that therapists’ divorce rates were higher than the national average and that knowing something and putting it into practice are decidedly different projects.

For both of them the ten-year marriage had been a disappointment. Michael wanted kids and she didn’t. Joan wanted to leave Arizona with its searing summer heat, interminable sunshiny days, and increasingly foul air. Michael didn’t. In the course of time they settled into their respective routines and jobs until time and negligence did the rest. When Joan asked for a divorce, Michael gave the perfunctory, Shouldn’t we see a counselor first?, before they separated. Only recently, after four years of divorce, Michael had phoned Joan in San Francisco to see if they might see each other again. He was lonely and felt that he could have compromised on the issue of children, instead of resenting her for her wishes. In fact, Michael had booked a reservation for the Bay Area for the following month knowing at that deep gut level that it was loneliness and mid-age crisis that were spurring him on. No children to dote on and going nowhere professionally had taken their toll. The issue of his chosen profession was another story that he did not want to consider in this despondent state.

Michael reached over to turn on the lamp. He opened the book to August 19. Maria’s effusive handwriting leaped off the pages. Michael read with dread.

Pointe at South Mountain

I took time off from work today. A doctor’s appointment should satisfy that nosy bitch in Verix’ human resources department in our Phoenix branch. You’d think I was the president of the company instead of an executive secretary the way they check out every minute of my day. Screw them! I ain’t no Mexican cleaning lady.

Michael has finally agreed to meet me at the hotel. I am wearing my favorite red dress. I don’t think he can resist this Latina with her dark hair cascading down her back. I knew that this Gringo was turned on after our very first appointment. He may have talked professional, but his eyes betrayed him. He kept checking me out when he thought that I was emotionally involved in my problems. This psychologist is pretty transparent.

The rendezvous worked out just like I had dreamed. Meeting me in the parking lot, he acted so nervous and child-like I thought I was going to laugh. He had already checked in. He wanted to escort me to our room by the back entrance. When he took my arm in his, he kept asking me if I really wanted to do it. Do it! I couldn’t have resisted this moment even if I had gotten run over by a Ford Bronco. I guess therapy boy must be feeling a bit guilty. Dios mio.

Michael put the diary down. Was he really that transparent? Oddly enough, his male ego felt battered by her revelations. He felt that he had been controlling the affair until this moment. Now, he got an image of Maria playing him like some marlin in a Hemingway novel, letting him dive deep until he surfaced out for a majestic leap. All the time, Maria was playing out the red tinged line, waiting until he tired. Then she had reeled him in again proclaiming her feminine wiles over his unconscious urges. Anger at his actions, revulsion for his weakness, and sadness for Maria’s death washed over him.

Michael read on in the diary.

I nudged his arm gently with my breast at every opportunity. I wonder how he is reacting to all this. If he is thinking about getting back together with his wife next month, this ought to throw a monkey wrench into the works. Why would he want that mousy, overweight bitch when he has this kind of passion with me?

It is amazing how many thoughts rattle around my mind while we approach our room. Is he just as preoccupied?

Opening the door with the plastic card seems to bring back Michael’s confidence. I can tell because he is making an effort not to limp. Michael goes over to the bed to sit down. I do not want to hurry this moment. I gaze around the room drinking in the Southwestern Art with their themes of Saguaro landscapes and adobe houses with Ocotillo under deep blue skies. Michael looks so cuddly on the bed with his dark hair accentuating those brown penetrating Jewish eyes. Even his paunch is turning me on right now. I wish my father had his sensitivity and wit. I better stop here or Michael will insist again that I am having sex with my father image in order to replay some incestuous experience. I don’t know where he gets that crap. Probably some professor in his training had him take those notes and memorize them.

When I threw back my hair and turned to face him, I could see that mixture of vulnerability and excitement on his face. The lace curtains broke the bright sun into a filigree pattern on my dress. Slowly I unzipped my dress letting him savor every click of the zipper. The dress dropped to my ankles revealing the red bra and underpants that I wore especially for this moment. His eyes flicked from me to the dress curled up around my ankles. He would not look me in the eye. His embarrassment deepened my breathing. I was determined to savor every last minute of my undressing.

Michael beckoned me to the bed with his index finger. I sat next to him with a sheepish look on my face. I knew he would enjoy the expression. He put his hand on my inner thigh. He began stroking it approaching my panties with each renewed circling. I moaned more for effect than anything. Men like it. His fingers gently caressed my panties before walking his fingers up to my stomach. I lay back on the bed and arched my back ever so slightly. His hand slid under my back to unhitch my bra. Erect nipples greeted him when he turned his attention to the front of my body. I looked in his eyes and could see that I had him; he was all mine.

At this point I cursed inwardly. I could feel a part of me go right up to the corner of the room to watch the rest of the lovemaking. Even his slow, sensual tongue licking every part of my body until he finally slid my panties down and off my feet could not dent the haze of nothingness that my body felt. I performed well without the slightest sensation or pleasure. Even my orgasm rippled up the length of my body without disturbing the surface of my inner lake. These waters were growing still through numbness. Luckily, Michael never will know how frozen I am to sexuality and intimacy. Still, I’m desperate to have him!

Michael closed his eyes. He had violated his ethics for this ravishing woman. Also, he felt the stabs of guilt for seducing or being seduced by his patient. Until this moment, Michael had thought that he had pulled all the strings. The realization that not only was she his patient, but a woman in the throes of recovery from sexual abuse by her father threatened to plunge Michael into the worst depression that he had ever felt. The darkness covering his heart and the deadening feeling in his body alerted him that the descent was in full force. The slope would now be more precipitous and gutted with potholes.



The pounding surf kept dragging him under, twisting and turning in the roiling water. Sand seeped into every orifice of his body while he kept struggling to the ocean’s surface. If he didn’t get a full breath soon, he knew that he would die. Just as he almost made it to the honey-tinged light at the top, a hand at the end of a muscular arm grabbed his ankle. That vise-like grip stopped him just inches from a life-sustaining breath. Josh awoke feeling drenched in his own sweat. When he reached for the safety of his wife’s body with his right hand, he came up empty.

After lying in bed for a few minutes to settle down, the elements of the dream cascaded back into his unconscious. Only the mood of the dream continued to haunt him as he prepared to join his wife for a continental breakfast on the patio.

Josh Grinvald sipped his morning tea as he gazed out the window at the rain. Josh had discovered that it rarely rained with the pelting variety of drops that he had experienced growing up in New Jersey. The rain in the Northwest sprinkled intermittently during the day; however, sometimes it poured. It was mostly the gloom spread by the threatening clouds that Josh enjoyed. It was perfect for reading a book, writing or just thinking. Since he left Verix, he reveled in these moments of not having a deadline or being responsible for troubleshooting a potential catastrophe.

Honey, please pass the English muffins, requested his wife, Alicia. Isn’t it strange, Josh, that I still love those Thomas’ English muffins after all these years. The butter seems to search out all the crevices before it pools.

Josh passed the muffins. He marveled at how much he enjoyed the mundane banter of his wife after all those years spent in research with engineers and computer personnel. She chatted on while he half-listened to her and the patter of the rain. After fifteen minutes of hearing about English muffins, the varieties of roses, and

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