Annie Crawford is an ex-cop living a double life. After her fiancé is murdered and she is left for dead, a desperate Annie steps outside the law to seek vengeance. She turns to a vigilante agency headed by a man with his own secrets. Annie must work for them as they investigate the murder and help her find the answers she needs.
Now working on the wrong side of the law, Annie’s life has one purpose: justice. Justice for her fiancé and for the city she lives in. But as Annie’s taste for the vigilante life grows, the agency struggles to control her, putting everyone involved at risk. And the deeper she sinks into this new unsavory life the more she fears she may never return.
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 quick 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 neglected pavement. Her coat fluttered against the light breeze, so she pulled the front over her body, attempting to keep her clothing hidden.
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 low 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. The moon made no appearance on this night, staying hidden behind ominous clouds. The rustle of the leaves in the trees sounded like a thousand tiny hands clapping. At last, 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 like a torn bag of grain.
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 nagging wife during a playoff game. 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!”
Annie left him there, ignoring his comment. She glanced back to find him giving his friends a thumbs-up before he ran to catch up with her. Typical.
“Hey, what’s going on?” he said when he reached her. “I mean I don’t wanna seem ungrateful, but it ain’t even my birthday or anything.”
The mix of arrogance and ignorance wormed its way under Annie’s skin as they plodded toward the door. Through gritted teeth, she blurted out, “August 18th, Detroit. That ring a bell, asshole?
Looking confused and still trying to keep her pace, he responded, “Shit! What the fuck do you know about that?”
Annie stopped, glared down at his barely five-foot-nine frame.
“Pretty much everything; right down to the color underwear you had on when you robbed that bank and killed a customer in front of her eight-year-old kid. Not to mention your other…exploits.”
“That was an accident, I swear.” The idiot was either too drunk or too stupid to keep his mouth shut. He continued to plead his case. “Everyone was freaking out. Her kid was crying. She ran. I didn’t know what to do. I was only trying to stop her, and the gun went off.” Then, like a shot, Frank Tappa bolted for the door.
Damn! Her jaw tightened, her heart quickened. Why hadn’t she waited until he was secure?
Annie chased him through the crowd, shoving past those that blocked her way. She was able to grab the back of his jacket before he stumbled out the front door, but he managed to squirm out of it. He ran down the street toward the church. It would be a challenge to catch him in boots, but she’d done it before. The loser was smashed, anyway. Luckily, he was slowed by a group of people and lost his balance, sending him to the ground on all fours. When Annie caught up, she locked him in a choke hold with one arm, twisted his arm behind his back with the other.
“Bitch, you better get off me!” He let out a loud growl and began squirming around. His head whipped back, slammed into her nose, causing her to loosen her grip. He broke loose from her and they began to fight. A few passers-by stopped, but no one interfered. In certain parts of the city, you could rob a store and ask someone to hold your cell while you stuffed the cash in your pocket.
Annie wouldn’t need a hero stepping in, tonight. She landed kicks to his stomach and shoulder, the heel of her boot grinding against his bones. Frank flailed, clung to her body like a beaten boxer. He grabbed for her neck, choking the hell out of her until she broke free. Then he threw a lucky punch to her shoulder blade when she was distracted by a horn from a passing car. But adrenaline pushed her through the pain and a final kick to his stomach sent him reeling to the ground. Frank coughed, blood dripping from his mouth, and raised a hand in surrender.
Annie suppressed her smile.
Bending down, she reached into her boot, grabbed a pair of handcuffs. As she slapped them on his wrists, she glanced back to a couple that still lingered around.
“Out of here! Both of you. Now!”
It wasn’t much further to the car, so Annie led him back toward the church parking lot. The street was pitch-black and eerily silent. Their feet shuffled across uneven cement, echoing off graffiti clad walls.
“Where are you taking me?” Frank asked weakly.
“Shut up and walk.” The route back to the car seemed longer now as she trailed behind this lowlife, but she would be rid of him soon. One more offender taken off the streets. This city claimed one of the highest crime rates in the country. Working with the Agency, and on her own, she’d taken down more criminals in the past six months than in all of her time on the force. But the ones that eluded her were the ones that meant the most. She still hadn’t heard anything concrete from the Agency about Michael’s killer. They’d have some answers for her soon or things would change.
“Who are you?” He tried to turn around to get another look at her. He squinted and shook his head as if he dreamt up the woman who had beaten the crap out of him.
Annie shoved his head forward. “Keep walking.”
Once she got him in the car, she headed back toward the main street. He slumped in the back seat, hands behind his back. He didn’t bother to speak during the ten minute drive to the drop off location, or maybe he just didn’t have the strength.
Annie pulled into an alley about five minutes ahead of schedule. A woman leaned against a dilapidated building. She watched as Annie got out, walked around to the other side of the car and pulled Frank out. His hands were still cuffed and he had to struggle to keep from falling. Annie made eye contact with the haggard street woman but neither spoke. The woman had no expression. Then, for no apparent reason, the woman walked over to Annie and Frank. She stood there staring at as Annie cuffed Frank’s arms to a sign post. “No Dumping.” She enjoyed the irony of it.
“What the hell is this crap?” the woman finally said, her head jerked to one side. A green sequined skirt revealed white legs, thin as two slats of a ladder.
From her back pocket Annie pulled out a twenty dollar bill. “Don’t worry about it.” She handed the bill to the woman.
Confused, the woman took it and watched as Annie walked back to her car.
“Uh, what am I supposed to do?” the woman said.
“Nothing.” Annie said over the top of the car.
“You can’t leave me here,” the man yelled as he tried to get to his knees.
“They’ll be here for you soon.”
She got in the car and caught a glimpse of her hazel eyes peering back at her in the review mirror. She still held the physical beauty that had elicited head turns her whole life, but recent trauma had aged her more than she expected. More than she noticed, until then. And something was missing in the reflection. There was an emptiness housed in the stranger she’d become.
Before she pulled away from the curb, Annie checked back at her captive. Complete bafflement spread across his face as she drove off down the street.
Once again she had been successful in her mission. She let out a cleansing breath as she sunk back in her seat. But the doubts started to creep in, and she questioned the validity of this new life. A life so foreign from traditional law enforcement, but one that was necessary in this world. A world that had taken both her father and her fiancé. For a brief instant in time, love had shown her things could be different. Annie had seen a glimmer of hope, the dream of a life filled with happiness and love. And the possibility that this forgotten city had a chance for redemption. But that had turned out to be fantasy. A fantasy that was ripped away from her before she had time to appreciate it. Now she was left trying to survive on her own. Attempting to right wrongs, even if she had to do it outside of the law. But I can stop anytime I want, she told herself once again. Then, as it always did, reality sank in like an anchor in sand. She knew she would not be able to stop until justice was served. Her justice.
Lia Fairchild has been been creating stories her whole life, but only for herself, in her own head. Then one day she sat down and started to write a book. Lia completed her first novel, In Search of Lucy, in February of 2011. Seven months later, AmazonEncore contacted Lia about representing her book. It’s currently in the top 20 for Kindle Drama.
Lia recently completed her second full-length novel, this time a thriller. Vigil Annie is now available on Amazon! One reviewer called it “suspenseful, well-crafted, and fast paced.”
Lia is also the author of a mystery series (A Hint of Murder) and a short, sweet romance (Special Delivery).
She was born and raised in Southern California and hold a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a multiple subject teaching credential. She’s also a wife and mother of two teenagers.