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DREAM TUNNEL (36,784 words)
For ages 10 & up. NO foul language, sex, or graphic violence.

A young woman makes a dangerous trip through time to get to the boy of her dreams and bring him back to her world.

Conroe Williamson travels back in time to meet the boy she has fallen in love with while observing him on a device she found in the cellar: a time travel computer. She must marry and assume her mother’s throne before her eighteenth birthday or forfeit her destiny as Queen.

Initially, she tricks the boy into thinking they are dreaming together rather than traveling through time, fearing that the truth will scare him away. She is unaware that her evil cousin, who is next in line for the throne, is working behind the scenes to spoil her plans for royalty and happiness.

Raves for Dream Tunnel
“I almost missed class because I couldn’t put it down!” – Amazon reviewer
“There was never a dull or slow time in the book.” – Amazon reviewer
“Delightfully imaginative!” – Goodreads reviewer

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Read the six-chapter excerpt…

CHAPTER ONE

Conroe Williamson stepped into the shopping mall looking for trouble, wearing a black leather motorcycle jacket and pants with spike-toed combat boots that added two inches of height to her lean, muscular, six-foot frame. Lipstick color: Dead Black. The silver ring in her nose matched the ones in her ears. Her braid of dark brown hair hung at her back, curled up at the end, threatening onlookers like a venomous snake. The message tattooed across her forehead echoed her attitude: FLUSH IT.

A young mother stared at her as she walked by—obviously wondering what kind of horrible parents raised such a freak. Conroe saw the disdain in her eyes and smirked at her. The woman clutched her two children close to her sides, as though Conroe might try to snatch them away and bite their heads off.

A group of boys clowned around near the escalators. The leader of the pack shot Conroe a wink. Cocky and good-looking, he was probably the star quarterback. But she had no use for him or any of his teammates. She was looking for trouble, but not that kind of trouble.

Conroe saw cliques of girls shopping for clothes, flirting with boys, and eating ice cream in the food court—doing all the things that girly girls do. Maybe she would walk up and punch one of their pretty little faces. She wondered if a broken and bloody nose would be enough to get her thrown in jail. It was an option.

She stopped at a water fountain and overheard two girls talking. From what she could gather, they were planning some kind of mischief, and Conroe wanted to watch. It was a diversion, to be sure, and she had an agenda, a critical mission. Still, she couldn’t resist.

She followed the two girls into Babes, a teen clothing boutique. They headed straight for the sixty percent-off table, which was stacked with hundreds of pairs of shorts in a dozen different pastel shades. One of the girls grabbed a couple of pairs, seemingly at random, and took them into a dressing room, while the other continued to rummage through the pile.

Conroe stopped at a rack of costume jewelry nearby and pretended to study several of the items while waiting for the girls to put on their show.

The girl walked out of the dressing room wearing a pair of pink shorts, with only a black bra on top. “Well, Tiff—what do you think?” She struck a sexy pose.

Tiffany laughed. “That looks hot, Rachel.”

A middle-aged clerk intervened. “Miss, you can’t walk out here dressed like that.”

“Why? Oh—is it the bra? Is it the fact that it doesn’t match the shorts?”

“No. I just need you to—”

“Well, I like black, and I think it goes very well with pink. But if it’s against some stupid store policy to wear black with pink, I can solve that problem.” Rachel unhooked her bra, took it off, and slung it across the saleswoman’s shoulder. “How’s that?”

“Young lady, get back in the dressing room!”

Tiffany began laughing hysterically.

Several customers turned to see what was happening. Two pre-teen girls giggled.

“Please!” The saleswoman placed the bra cups over Rachel’s breasts and pushed her backward, toward the dressing rooms.

“Get your hands off me,” Rachel said.

Conroe had enjoyed watching the girls’ antics, but now it was time to get down to business. She stuffed dozens of the cheap jewelry items into her jacket pockets and walked out of the store.

The security alarm sounded.

Conroe froze.

“I saw what you did,” said an unfamiliar female voice.

The girl was two inches taller than Conroe, and twenty pounds heavier. She wore a denim jacket over a black T-shirt, with faded jeans and white sneakers. Her blond hair was cropped short enough to make her look like a boy—although the large breasts dispelled that possibility.

“It’s none of your business,” Conroe said, turning away, wondering what was taking the mall cops so long to get there.

The girl grabbed Conroe’s shoulder and spun her back around.

Conroe saw the fist coming toward her face and ducked.

The girl lost her balance and fell down. But she jumped right back up and cocked her fist.

“Stop!” a man yelled.

When the girls caught a glimpse of the skinny young man in uniform holding a shaking pistol, they threw their hands into the air.

“Why are you pointing that gun at me?” asked the girl. “This ain’t no bank robbery, Junior.”

“Both of you put your hands against the wall.” His voice cracked, as though he hadn’t quite made it through puberty.

He handcuffed the girl. A second guard arrived to cuff Conroe.

“You’re ridiculous,” said the girl to the skinny guard. “You wear that uniform like a skinny old lady.”

“We’ll see who’s ridiculous,” he replied, “when you’re sitting in jail.”

The girl snapped at Conroe, “What are you looking at, chicky? Wait until they put us in a cell together. I’m gonna tear your face off and stuff it down your throat.”

Conroe smiled. The first step of her plan had worked—although not exactly as she had envisioned it.

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CHAPTER TWO

Officer Johnson, a young black policewoman, sat between the two girls in the back seat of the cruiser. Her forty-something white male partner started the engine and drove out of the police station parking lot.

Conroe peered over the top of the front seat to check the time on the dashboard. It was 9:45 p.m. They had been at the police station for three hours. “Where are you taking us—jail?”

Officer Johnson answered, “Nope. You lucked out. The store manager agreed to drop the misdemeanor charges if we admitted you to Philanopian Children’s Home.”

“A children’s home?” Conroe asked. “I don’t belong in a children’s home.”

“Sure you do,” said the other girl, “because you’re a kid punk.”

“You’re going there too,” reminded the male cop.

“I’m a grown woman,” said the girl.

“You’re both seventeen,” replied Officer Johnson, “and neither of you have got any living relatives—at least none that we could locate—so you’re both going to Philly.”

“Philly?” the girl asked.

“That’s what everybody calls it. It’s a good place. They help a lot of kids. So, when you get there, try to be civil. Otherwise, you may get shipped off to juvie.” She looked at one girl and then the other, studying them in the beam of headlights from oncoming cars. “I don’t know if you two have been formally introduced, so let me do the honors. Conroe Williamson, meet Tonya Meloni.”

Both girls stared straight ahead.

“Shake hands.” The female cop took each of their right hands and touched them together. “I said, shake hands.”

Conroe took Tonya’s hand.

Tonya squeezed it hard.

Conroe squeezed back.

It turned into a death match—each one trying to out-squeeze the other.

Officer Johnson popped them in the foreheads with the back of her hands. “Cool it.”

They let go.

Tonya said, “Conroe? What kind of a name is that? Your parents named you after a city? If they were gonna do that, they should have gone big and named you Houston.” She laughed.

“I think going big would have been more appropriate for your parents.”

Tonya lurched at Conroe, but Officer Johnson elbowed her in the ribs, and she retreated.

“Actually, I was named after my mother. She’s the one who was named after the city.”

“Well, I’m just glad to know the name of the person I plan to kill.”

Officer Johnson said, “Now, Tonya, let’s try to have a positive attitude. No more talk about killing anybody. I know you didn’t really mean that anyway.”

“We’ll see,” Tonya replied, eying Conroe.

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CHAPTER THREE

At 10:50 p.m. Nurse Olive escorted Conroe to her living quarters. “Conroe, this is your roommate, Martha.”

Martha sat on her bed in pajamas, scribbling in a spiral notebook. She glared up at Nurse Olive. “I told you not to call me that. My name is M.” She eyed Conroe. “And I hate roommates.”

“Nonsense,” Nurse Olive said. “I’ll bet you two will be the best of friends in no time.”

“Right,” Martha said, going back to her writing.

“Lights Out is at eleven, Conroe.” Nurse Olive checked her watch. “You’ve got ten minutes.”

“Ten minutes to be in bed?” Conroe asked.

Nurse Olive had already stepped out and closed the door.

Conroe sat down on her bed. “What am I supposed to do—sleep in my clothes?”

Martha closed her notebook and slapped it down on her bed, as though she were trying to swat a cockroach. “You’re not gonna have to worry about sleeping—you won’t be here for that long.”

“What do you mean?”

Martha leaped from her bed and ran at Conroe, knocking her down flat against the mattress, climbing on top of her, and straddling her at the stomach.

“Get off me!”

“I’m gonna mess up your face.”

The door opened, and Nurse Olive walked in. “Conroe, I almost forgot to give you your—what are you doing, Martha? Get off of her!”

“No problem—as soon as I break her perfect little nose.” Martha tightened her fist and contorted her face into something that looked like a Halloween mask.

Nurse Olive yelled down the hall for orderlies.

Conroe pulled her leg up and kicked Martha in the back with the heel of her boot.

Martha’s eyes widened until her eyeballs looked like they were about to pop. She raised her hands like claws—ready to tear into Conroe’s face.

Conroe caught Martha by the neck with her boot and flung her to the floor.

Martha sat in a daze for a moment before getting to her feet. Two orderlies rushed into the room and grabbed her as she lunged at Conroe.

“Take her to Solitary,” Nurse Olive ordered.

“I don’t like her,” Conroe said.

“Martha is somewhat high strung.”

“Somewhat?”

Nurse Olive handed Conroe a pill and a paper cup full of water. “This will help you sleep.”

“I don’t think I’ll have any trouble sleeping.”

“It’s not optional, my dear.”

Conroe took the pill.

“You’ll find a pair of pajamas in the dresser. Sweet dreams.” She smiled and walked out.

Conroe wondered how fast the pill would take effect. She changed into the pajamas and switched off the light.

The mattress was lumpy, but as she began to feel drowsy from the sleeping pill, she knew that the poor quality of the mattress was not going to be a problem. She didn’t like the sensation, though. Conroe wanted to be in control at all times. It had been a rough day: getting into two fights, spending three hours at the police station, and now being locked up in this place.

However, she was exactly where she wanted to be.

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CHAPTER FOUR

The next morning, at 11:30 a.m., Nurse Olive opened Conroe’s door and stuck her head in. “Hey, sleepyhead, you already missed breakfast, and you’re about to miss lunch. Get up.” She slammed the door and then reopened it. “And this was your one day to sleep in. From now on, you’ll set your alarm clock and get up at six like everybody else.” She shut the door.

Conroe opened her eyes. The sleeping pill had knocked her out cold. She forced herself to get out of bed and go into the bathroom to take a shower. The fake tattoo on her forehead washed off easily. The nose ring was fake too—a clip-on she had removed before falling asleep.

When she walked out of the bathroom to get dressed, she realized that her clothes were gone, as well as her boots. She checked the dresser and found an ugly pair of navy pants and a matching shirt. It looked like prison garb. In the closet, she located a pair of canvas sneakers that weren’t quite big enough for her feet. She put them on anyway.

Conroe was surprised to find her door unlocked. She walked out into the hallway, which was empty. She heard people talking or yelling—she wasn’t sure which. Following the noise, she was able to locate the cafeteria.

She walked in and saw a roomful of teenagers and elementary school kids sitting around dozens of tables, eating and talking. Their voices ricocheted off the painted concrete block walls, melding them into what sounded like an angry mob.

Passing through the serving line, she selected the least-disgusting-looking food items and picked up a glass of tea.

She saw Tonya sitting at a table with three other girls.

Conroe avoided their table, walking to the back corner of the room where a teenage boy was sitting by himself. “Mind if I join you?”

He looked up from his tray and appeared to be speechless.

“It’s not life or death,” she said.

“Oh, sorry.” He stood up. “Sure, please. Have a seat.”

“Thank you. My name is Conroe.”

“Glad to meet you, Conroe. Funny name for a girl.”

“What’s yours?”

“Crane.”

“And you think my name is funny?”

“I was a long, skinny baby, so…”

“Looks like you still are,” she joked. “How tall are you?”

“Six foot four.”

“Basketball player, huh?”

“Yeah, but I’m no good,” he replied. “You’re tall too. Do you play?”

“Nah. Never even tried. What is this stuff anyway?” She picked at her food with her fork.

“They call it spaghetti and meat. The spaghetti part I believe. Not so sure about the meat.”

She smiled.

“You just checked in, huh?”

“Yep—last night. And then my roommate attacked me.”

“Did she hurt you?”

“No, I’m fine. And they sent her to Solitary.”

“I don’t have a roommate right now,” he said, “but I’ll probably get another any day now. Sure is a lot nicer when you have the room to yourself.”

“Yeah. I guess I’d better enjoy it while I can. I overslept this morning. The sleeping pill that nurse gave me was strong enough to knock out a horse.”

Crane broke a smile. “Yeah, I don’t ever take them.”

“I didn’t think I had a choice.”

“You don’t. Just put it under your tongue until Old Cracker leaves. Then spit it out.”

“Old Cracker?”

“Nurse Olive,” he explained. “Her name is Olive Olgencracker. Everybody calls her Old Cracker.”

“She must love that.”

“We don’t say it to her face.”

She sampled the meat. “Oh my, I see what you mean. This is horrid.”

He looked surprised—probably because of her word choice. She shouldn’t have said horrid. The next time she would use the word…awful. Yes, that would be an acceptable alternative. It was important that she talk like everyone else if she hoped to pull this off. That was good, she told herself. Pull this off was a good phrase. That was the key, she realized—to think colloquially. Then she would be less likely to make a mistake.

He studied her. “How did you end up in here?”

Before she could answer, Tonya walked up to the table. “Hey, chicky, what are you doing over here? I thought we were gonna be friends. I saved a place for you at my table.” She nodded to it. “Why don’t you come over and join my posse? Or am I not good enough for you?”

Conroe winked at Crane and then looked up at Tonya. “That’s exactly right, Tonya—you’re not good enough for me. So please go back to your buddies and leave us alone.”

Tonya snarled at Conroe. “Who do you think you’re talking to?”

“I think I’m talking to the least intelligent person in this room.”

Crane snickered.

Tonya’s new friends apparently smelled a fight coming on. They got up from their table and hurried over to watch.

Tonya took a deep breath and waited for her new buddies to gather at her back before responding.

Conroe rose to her feet. “Please excuse me, Crane.”

“You are so dead.” Tonya swung at Conroe.

Crane jumped up to help Conroe.

But something unexpected happened. At lightning-fast speed, Conroe grabbed Tonya’s fist with her right hand and spun Tonya’s arm around behind her back. With Tonya in a daze, Conroe jammed her left index finger up one of Tonya’s nostrils and pinched her nose between her finger and her thumb.

Tonya squealed.

Her posse stepped back in horror.

Tonya’s left shoulder went up, as though she was attempting to raise her fist and hit Conroe. But her arm just hung there at her side, limp.

Tonya’s knees buckled. “Please let go of me.”

Conroe released her, and she fell to the floor.

Tonya’s new friends deserted her and went back to their table.

Nurse Olive stormed up. “What’s going on here? Are you okay, Tonya?”

Tonya stood up, rubbing her nose and checking the functionality of her arms. “I’m fine.” She walked away.

Nurse Olive glared at Conroe. “You’re coming with me, young lady.”

Conroe followed her out of the cafeteria, looking back at Crane, shrugging.

He smiled at her.

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CHAPTER FIVE

At 10:45 p.m., Nurse Olive came to Conroe’s room and gave her a sleeping pill. “Did you enjoy Solitary?”

“No, ma’am. Eight hours is a long time in that place.”

“That’s the punishment for a first offense. Next time you’ll get three days—like your roommate did.” She nodded to Martha’s empty bed.

Conroe had explained to Nurse Olive that she was not the one who started the fight in the cafeteria—although it wasn’t much of a fight since Tonya never landed a punch. She placed the sleeping pill under her tongue and drank the water.

“Goodnight.” Nurse Olive left.

Conroe went into the bathroom, spit the pill into the toilet, and flushed.

She turned out her lights just before the eleven o’clock Lights Out and lay in bed fully dressed, waiting. She knew it was too soon to make her move. The original plan called for waiting a few days to let things develop naturally. Hasty actions could lead to failure. Conroe understood all of the rational arguments for a slow and steady pace. But any time reason and emotion clashed, Conroe went with her gut.

She slipped out of her room and walked down the long girls’ hallway. In order to get to the boys’ hallway, she would have to get past the glass-walled office where Nurse Olive sat working on a computer. Conroe waited for an opportunity.

Ten minutes had passed when the phone in the office began to ring. Nurse Olive rolled across to the desk behind her and answered it. Her back was to the hallway. Conroe ran to the boys’ hallway, praying she had rounded the corner before Old Cracker turned back around.

Earlier in the day she had studied the room chart on the wall in the office while waiting to be transferred to Solitary. She went to Room 157 and tapped lightly on the door.

There was no immediate response, which was not surprising since nobody would be expecting a visitor after Lights Out.

She tapped again—this time rhythmically.

Crane cracked the door. “What are you doing here?”

“Please let me in.”

He opened the door, and she rushed inside.

“This is crazy,” he said. “You’re gonna get both of us thrown into Solitary for a week.”

With the lights off, her vision aided only by the moonlight, she could barely see him. “Not if we’re quiet. Believe me, I don’t want to go to Solitary any more than you do. I spent eight hours in there today.”

“Because of your fight with that Tonya girl?”

“Yeah.”

“That was cool—the way you handled her.”

“Thanks.”

“How did you do that?”

“I’ll explain later. Were you awake when I knocked?”

“Yeah. I don’t sleep much,” he replied.

“Then why don’t you take your sleeping pill?”

“Because I want to be able to wake up—and I don’t think I could if I took one of those pills. If there was a fire, I’d sleep right through it and die.”

“I hadn’t thought of that.”

“Apparently, you didn’t take yours either,” he observed.

“I like to be in control. And besides, I have my own method for getting to sleep.”

“Some more of that magic like you used on Tonya?”

“Sort of, yeah—but it takes two,” she said. “I need a partner.”

Even in the soft glow of the moonlight, she could see that he was stunned.

“You’re saying…you want to sleep with me?”

She slapped him gently on the arm. “Not like that. Real sleep.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“I’ll show you. Put your shoes on.”

“My shoes?”

“Yeah, I know it sounds funny, but it’s important—you’ll see.”

“Okay.” He sat on the side of the bed and slipped into his shoes.

“Now, lie down, and move over to one side.”

“Okay.”

She lay down beside him. “Now hold my hand and close your eyes.” The touch of his hand caused her to tremble briefly.

“Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” she answered. “Now close your eyes, and I will describe our dream.”

“Our dream?”

“That’s right. We’re going to have the same dream. We’re gonna be in the dream together.”

“Ooookay,” he said.

“You don’t believe me?”

“Yes, I do. I mean—I want to believe you.”

“Good enough.” Conroe could sense that Crane liked her very much, and that he would probably bark like a dog if she asked him to. “Just close your eyes and listen.”

“Are you closing your eyes too, or are you staring at me?”

“We both have to close our eyes and let ourselves fall into the dream world together,” she explained.

“So, we have to fall asleep at the exact same time? How can we possibly do that?”

“Just relax, be quiet, and listen.”

“Okay,” he said.

“We’re traveling to a distant land. The first thing we will do is walk over a narrow wooden bridge, and then through a dark tunnel—I call it the Dream Tunnel. It’s long and wide, and it will be a challenge to make it through to the other end. But just keep holding onto my hand, and I will guide you. I’ve done it before.”

“With who?” he asked.

“Don’t talk. Just listen.”

“Sorry.”

“When we come out of the tunnel, we will see beautiful green hills, a perfectly blue sky, and…” Conroe continued to describe the dream world for several more minutes.

When she became silent, Crane asked, “Conroe?”

“We made it,” she said. “We’re standing on the bridge.”

“I can’t see anything. It’s so foggy.”

“But you can feel my hand—right?” she asked.

“Yeah, but…” He reached over with his other hand and made contact with her chest.

“Hey!” She pushed his hand away.

“I’m sorry. I can’t see you at all. Where are we?”

The fog began to clear in front of them, revealing the wooden pedestrian bridge on which they were standing. It led to a stone pathway and an opening in a massive rock wall. Two torches in the wall illuminated the area, one on each side of the pathway. There was no sky—only a black nothingness hanging low over their heads.

“Oh, wow,” Crane said. “Are you sure this bridge is safe?”

“We’ll be fine if we’re careful.”

He looked over the railing into the dark abyss below. “I don’t know. Maybe we should go back.” He turned around. There was nothing but thick fog behind him.

“It’s only a dream, Crane—remember? Now hold my hand tight and follow me, stepping exactly where I step.”

“What does that mean? Are some of the boards rotten?”

“Possibly.”

“I can’t believe I’m doing this. Are you sure this is a dream? It seems awfully real to me.”

“Let’s go.” Conroe placed her foot on the first board of the bridge and it creaked. She skipped the next two boards.

Crane watched her feet and followed in her footsteps.

Halfway across, she stepped on a board and it broke. Her leg went through to the knee. The broken board fell into the chasm.

Crane held tightly to her hand as she pulled her leg up through the gap and repositioned her foot to the next board, which held her weight.

“The broken boards haven’t hit bottom yet,” he said, listening for the sound of impact.

“We don’t have time to worry about that.”

He looked back. “I think the fog is gaining on us.”

“We’ve got to go.” She moved faster than before.

“What’s that sound?”

“The bridge is disintegrating behind us!” Conroe shouted. “Run!”

The bridge began to tilt downward behind them, causing them to run at an ever-increasing uphill angle.

They were nearly to the other side when Crane lost his grip on Conroe’s hand.

She pulled herself up on top of the stone walkway. “Come on, Crane—hurry!”

“I’m trying.”

A board broke beneath his foot, and he nearly fell through. The bridge continued to fall at the back end, turning it into more of a ladder than a bridge.

“Grab my hand,” Conroe said, reaching down with one hand while holding onto the edge of an embedded stone in the walkway with the other.

Crane latched onto her hand just as the bridge broke loose from the side and tumbled down into the chasm. He tried to climb up the jagged rock surface with his feet and one hand. He was reaching for the edge of the walkway when one of his feet slipped, then the other, and then his hand. He dangled against the rock wall. His only means of support: Conroe’s hand.

Her fingertips burned from the strain of supporting all of his weight. Her wrist, elbow, shoulder, back—every part of her body screamed for mercy.

“I can’t do it,” he said. “I’m afraid I’m gonna pull you down with me. Just let go of me. It’s only a dream.”

“No!” Conroe’s frantic voice echoed. “You can do it, Crane.”

Conroe’s reaction seemed to frighten Crane and spike his adrenaline.

He grabbed onto a rocky protrusion with his free hand, found a foothold, and then another. Grasping the edge of the stone walkway, he pulled himself up, assisting with his feet.

When Crane was safely on top on the walkway, he and Conroe collapsed together, exhausted.

“This is the scariest, most realistic dream I’ve ever had,” he said.

Conroe put her arms around him. “You did great. I’m so proud of you.”

Her hug seemed to make him quickly forget the horror he had just experienced. “Now what?”

“Into the Dream Tunnel.” They stood up.

“But aren’t we already in the dream?” he asked.

“We’re sort of in limbo until we make it through the Dream Tunnel.” She took his hand and led him through the opening in the rock.

“Why does it have to be so black in here?” His voice echoed. “The air is sticky, and it smells musty. I don’t remember ever smelling anything in a dream before. And how are we supposed to find the other end? Shouldn’t we have brought a couple of flashlights?”

“No, they won’t work in here.”

“Why—because it’s a dream? I wore my shoes. Why couldn’t I have put a flashlight in my pocket?”

“Enough questions,” she said. “We need to get moving. But be careful not to trip—the ground is uneven.”

“How do we know which way to go?”

“There will be some light soon, but we can’t wait for it.”

“You just make up all these rules as you go along, don’t you?” he asked.

“Sort of.” She began walking.

“Not too fast. I’m afraid we’re gonna walk into a wall or something.”

“You’ll be okay as long as you hold onto my hand and do what I say.” She picked up the pace.

“Are you sure?”

“Do you trust me or not?”

“Well, yeah—I trust you.”

“Good.” She began to run.

“Are you kidding me?”

“You’ll be fine. Just hang on and keep running.”

They ran faster and faster. After a minute or two, a dim light appeared in the distance.

“There it is,” he said. “I can see the opening.”

The light grew brighter until they burst out of the tunnel into blinding white light, rolling onto the cool, grassy ground.

When Crane realized he was no longer holding Conroe’s hand, he jumped up. “I can’t see. Where are you?”

“It’s the sun,” she explained. “Your eyes will adjust in a second.”

“Where are we? And where did the tunnel go?”

Conroe got up and went over to him. “It’s not a real tunnel. Remember, this is a dream. But isn’t this place beautiful?”

“Yeah. It’s amazing—just like you described it.” He stood up. “And you made all this happen just by imagining it?”

She smiled at him.

Everything went black.

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CHAPTER SIX

Crane heard knocking and woke up. He was in his bed at Philly. He felt the bed beside him, expecting to find Conroe, but she was not there.

Nurse Olive opened his door and turned on the light. “Where is she?”

Crane sat up on the edge of his bed. “Who?”

Crane?

“Really. I don’t know what you’re talking about. I was asleep.” Most of the dysfunctional kids in Philly had developed professional-level poker faces long before they met Old Cracker—but not Crane. He just wasn’t much of a liar.

“Since when do you sleep in your shoes?”

He looked down at his feet. “Uh…”

“Search his room.” She signaled to someone in the hallway.

Two male orderlies charged into Crane’s room. One checked the closet while the other looked under the bed.

Crane held his breath. If they found her, he and Conroe were both headed to Solitary for at least three days. And even though he had just met her, he couldn’t bear the thought of being separated from her for that long.

The orderly looking under the bed reported, “Nothing here.”

The one at the closet turned to Nurse Olive and shook his head.

“Okay,” she said, as the orderlies exited. “But I still think you’re up to something, and I’m gonna figure out what it is. You know I will, Crane—it’s only a matter of time. So, you might as well come clean right now and make it easier on yourself. Would you like two days in Solitary or seven?”

Seven? He’d never heard of anybody spending seven days in Solitary. “How many times do I have to tell you? I have no idea what you’re talking about, and I’m not hiding anything.” He said it with such sincerity that he almost believed it himself.

“Good night, Crane.” She turned off his light and closed the door.

He lay back down. Where was Conroe? How had she escaped? Had she even been there at all? Crane began to wonder if the whole thing had been a dream.

Then he sniffed his hand and smiled. Relaxing, with his palm over his nose, he inhaled slowly and deeply, exploring every nuance of her wonderful scent.

End of Excerpt

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