Chapter 1

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The dusk sky loomed heavy over inner city Detroit as she parked her crimson sports car in the empty lot. She hoped she wasn’t too late. The hem of her white coat scraped the ground as she got out and took a look around. Then she raised her hood to cover her long black hair. She walked toward the church doors, her four-inch heeled boots tapping against the long neglected pavement. Her coat fluttered against the light breeze.

It seemed her visits to church had become an unsuccessful ritual, but she kept them up. She knew no other way. She needed to seek forgiveness for what she was about to do. For this new life she led. She paused for a brief moment in the doorway before walking down the aisle. Her thoughts drifted to his beautiful face, but her attempt to stay focused on him was futile.

Annie pushed aside her yearning to be back in the life she once knew, found her usual spot in the back, and sat down. The church was as empty as the parking lot, but the haunting silence calmed her, just as it had when she was a young girl. Gazing up at the enormous cross on the front altar, a single tear made its way down her cheek. There was no point in wiping it away. The realization of her destiny would surely bring more tears, but she would fight them for as long as it took. Annie Crawford was ready. There was no turning back. 


 Annie flung open the church doors, heading back to the parking lot. She whipped off her coat, feeling relief in the smoothness of suede leather shorts and matching halter top. Her hair was pulled back into a ponytail out of necessity. At her car, she tossed her coat in the passenger seat and slammed the door. She stood for a moment, scanning the nearby area. Then she sucked in a deep breath, and headed down the street on foot. A chill pricked her skin and it had nothing to do with the cool night breeze. Annie picked up her pace and soon arrived at her destination only a few blocks south of the church.

The club was bustling as always. People dressed to impress were lined up outside, waiting impatiently to go in. Music pumped through the walls, spilled out to the street.

Annie walked past the line and over to the bouncer, whispering briefly in his ear. As she passed him to enter the club, he stared in appreciation for her toned body.

A man at the bar dressed in a charcoal colored suit caught her eye, and she made her way over to him. While the man spoke to her, she examined the crowded club. It had all the ingredients of a typical party scene. Inebriated dancers packed the dance floor while lonely singles mingled at the edges. For a split second she wished she was one of those carefree women who’d had a few: laughing, talking, forgetting their troubles. It wasn’t that long ago that she had been one of them, enjoying a life of freedom. Annie wondered if she would ever feel that way again. She gave the man a confirming nod and headed to the back of the club.

She was so focused on her mission that the music faded into the background, like a teacher’s lecture right before summer break. Annie stared straight ahead, pushing past crowds of people, and approached a table where three men sat together. She could already hear them as she got closer to the table. One of them glanced up with an impish grin. “Whoa! Check it out!” He raised an empty glass. “Hey sweet thing. We’ll take another round.”

“I’m not your waitress,” she said flatly. “Which one of you is Frank Tappa?” Her tone and stature made all three men straighten in their seats. They smiled and exchanged glances as if it were an episode of The Dating Game.

“I'm Frank. Who’s asking?” said the man on the left. He had black hair, a little more than a five o’clock shadow, and wore a mechanic’s work shirt.

“Follow me out and you’ll find out.”

That response elicited whoops and high-fives between the other two men. The blue-collar grease monkey rose from the table in triumph. “I’d follow you anywhere, baby!”

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