By: Jo Leigh


IT WAS TUESDAY AT one-fifteen in the afternoon, and with the precision of a Swiss watch Tate Baxter’s therapist leaned back in her chair, closed her notebook, smiled, then said, “Is there anything else you’d like to tell me?”

Tate’s response was just as mechanical. “No, Dr. Bay. Nothing to report.”

“Well, I have something I’d like to show you.”

Tate lifted her head. One-fifteen was the end of the session. Dr. Bay never went over. Never. “Oh?”

The doctor flipped her notebook over and pulled out a newspaper article. “Take a look at this,” she said.

Tate took the paper, torn between reading the article and watching Dr. Bay. The therapist, whom Tate had been seeing for almost two years, was clearly excited. That hardly ever happened. In fact, it never had. Not like this. Dr. Bay was a behaviorist, always setting up new challenges and goals for Tate to accomplish between sessions. The outcome never elicited anything but a favorable reaction, no matter the performance. Even when Tate had surpassed her own expectations, the doctor had always been reserved. But now Dr. Bay’s eyes were wide with anticipation and her pale cheeks looked flushed.

Tate glanced down and the headline sent her own pulse racing. Kidnapping For Hire. She looked back at Dr. Bay.

“It’s all right, Tate. Please, read it.”

After a moment of hesitation, Tate started reading.

It begins with a list of your wildest fears. For a few thousand dollars Jerry Brody’s personalized kidnapping service will make them come true. Your kidnappers might stuff you into a duffel bag or blindfold you and take you to a faraway cabin. In the dark you might see an alien’s mask or a man in a filthy suit stinking like a garbage Dumpster. No two abductions are staged the same way. Your custom kidnapping could stop at a code word or go on for days. Brody and his team might snatch you when you’re on the subway or showering in your apartment. After the “event,” which some clients compare to meditation, you may feel relief, exhilaration or a newfound sense of personal power.

Tate had to stop. She’d come a long way since she’d first told Dr. Bay about her kidnap phobia and she hadn’t had a full-blown panic attack in months. But this? This was-

“Breathe, Tate,” Dr. Bay said. “Remember what we’ve practiced.”

Closing her eyes, she went to her safe space. After several deep breaths, she focused on each part of her body from her toes to the top of her head.

“You’re safe. You’re in my office and no one’s going to hurt you. Picture the glade.”

Tate followed Dr. Bay’s instructions. By the time she’d finished the awareness exercise she had regained her equilibrium. Her eyes opened to the security of the familiar-and the disappointment that she was still, after so much work, at the mercy of her fears.

“Do you want to talk about this now?” Dr. Bay asked, gesturing at the paper still in Tate’s hand.

“You want me to hire this man? To let him take me?”

“I want you to think about it. I’ve been researching this approach for a long time now and I’ve spoken to a number of colleagues who have used similar techniques. There are reliable case studies where the subjects have been transformed. But remember, it’s simply an idea. You’re doing very well following the course we’re on, and I realize this is unconventional.”

Tate winced at the understatement. She could barely imagine what her father would say about this “unconventional” approach.

“When you go home tonight, I’d like you to do some work in your journal. Not about your reaction to the article but about what your life might be like if you could overcome this fear. Okay?”

Tate nodded. “I’ll try.”

“That’s all anyone can ask. For what it’s worth, you did a great job of calming down. It didn’t take long at all.”

Tate glanced at her watch. It was a quarter to two. Not bad, considering. It hadn’t been that long ago that even the suggestion of something like this would have put her in a panic for days.

She put the article on the side table and grabbed her purse. “I’ll see you next week.”

“Don’t forget to meditate.”

She never did. And it had helped. She went out more frequently these days, and the nightmares weren’t plaguing her nearly as often. Three cheers for the safe place. If only it could exist somewhere outside of her head.

As she was leaving, she nodded at Stephanie, Dr. Bay’s receptionist. There were two people in the waiting room, both of whom appeared perfectly normal. She imagined they thought the same thing about her.