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…"is this appropriate for seedy transactions?" she mused. The plump dark mulatto sitting behind the 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. 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 mulatto excitedly exclaimed "Boy, do I have takers for you!" Chris looked down at Al waiting for an explanation, but Al did not turn around. The man behind the desk leaned back on his chair, tugged at his chin scruff, and elaborated.

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

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

"Of course not!" he interrupted Chris, in a flippant incredulous tone. He 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 to see what these so-called-ladies looked like, or, rather, what Al had been wasting his money on when he wanted female company.

The headshots were 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 his large gold framed glasses, and regaining composure, he coughed and proceeded, "Turn to the last page. That's Dawn. Pretty girl, if you're into vampires. She's a toothpick. Looks like a runway model. She's very quiet".

"Is this her?" inquired Al smugly, a victorious smile across his face. He handed the album to Chris who was glaring at the picture. 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. "It will only be a few hours, but when you leave her house, your ex will be sure 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.