Chapter 1

Chris stepped into a small office on the 4th floor of a newly constructed yet nearly abandoned building. Surrounded by white, unadorned walls, bathed in bright, synthetic lights, she loosened her tie and wondered if the setting was appropriate for seedy transactions. The plump mulatto sitting behind a bulky brown desk, phone seemingly glued to his ear and hand, didn't wear a feathered hat, nor was there a cane in sight, much to Christabel's disappointment. The shave-headed pimp acknowledged his clients with a smile but his eyes were hidden behind dark gold-rimmed sunglasses. Chris remained standing, staring a little at the stranger's gold velvet jogging suit, while Al sat himself before the corpulent fellow jabbering across the desk. When his conversation ended, the pimp snapped his clam shell mobile shut, shoved it in his pocket, and stood, arm outstretched. Al shook his hand warmly. Turning to Chris, the pimp exclaimed, "Boy, do I have takers for you!" Chris looked down at Al waiting for an explanation, but Al did not turn around to give her any clue as to just what he'd divulged to this merchant of flesh. The man behind the desk sat and leaned back on his chair, rocking as he tugged his chin scruff.

"Three of my girls are up for the "'lezzie job'," he elaborated.

"No no no no no, you see, I'm not looking to sleep-"

"Of course not!" he interrupted Christabel, in a flippant incredulous tone. He leaned back and turned to remove the only item on the shelf behind him, adding "let me show you what we've got."

Chris nearly giggled, finding the situation amusing enough to postpone running out. Al had mentioned using this type of service before, and, although she was no longer interested in Al's plan now that post-inebriated clarity had set in, she was curious. She wanted to know what "goods" Al had been wasting his money on when he desired female company.

There were head-shots in the album Al was handed. Chris bent forward, leaning over his shoulder to peer, while the pimp proudly proceeded to describe "his girls." "Trish, that blond curvy girl, she's real sassy. She draws a lot of attention. Men just fall all over themselves when she's around. If you turn the page you'll see Nancy. She's athletic. People might think she's your bodyguard. Looks intimidating 'cause she will put it down on you. She will whop you and call you filthy names." At this, Chris looked up noticing the pimp's sudden surge of agitation. Adjusting glasses, he coughed and proceeded. "Turn to the last page." Al flipped past six pages of women he'd at some point met and saw one he'd not seen before. "That's Dawn," said the pimp flatly. "Pretty girl, if you're into vampires. She's a toothpick. No ass. Looks like a runway model. She's quiet." He spoke as if she'd landed from Mars.

"Is this her?" inquired Al smugly, a victorious smile across his face. He handed the album to Chris who was glaring at the picture. She cradled the album and stared hard. He knew she had a weakness for waifs, ones who looked like cancer victims or heroin addicts. Blue eyes, pale skin, black hair…"'Pretty' is a gross understatement," Chris murmured. She pictured herself walking past Stephanie arm in arm with this creature. A moment after, the price was set, the date and time scheduled.

They left the building, eyes protected by Italian shades. Their slick hair glistened under the bright sun as they neared their cars. "It will only be a few hours," Al staid standing besides his red vintage Alfa Romero, "but when you leave her house, your ex will have no doubt you got over her, and with luck, she'll be wishing she weren't stuck behind a white picket fence with Mr. 2.3 minutes. Make sure her husband knows who the man is. It's all in the ride…." Al's words, which trailed off and diminished in volume as Chris drifted, didn't justify her actions, nor did they reflect her true intent. But, as he'd mentioned, she'd only be lying for a few hours. This lessened the likelihood of being caught in a humiliating situation, which couldn't but potentiate should deceit of such proportions be revealed. She reminded herself that Dawn wouldn't be more than a shield to dive under in the face of what could otherwise be a crippling experience. Chris looked over at her best friend, who hadn't yet stopped speaking, attempting to tune him back in and stay calm.