A Sacrifice For Friendship

Part 10

by DS Bauden

Please see Part 1 for all disclaimers.

Chapter Nineteen

We splashed around the water until our skin was more pruned than the fruit. I hadn't felt this alive in ages. Strange that I would feel this way, when I wasn't even sure if this was real or not. It had to be real; it just had to be.

Annie rushed up to the shore and started to jump around trying to get dry without using the entire blanket for herself.

"Come on, Frankie, get over here before I get the whole thing wet." She shivered.

"I'm right behind you." I smiled.

We wrapped our naked bodies in the blanket and held each other close. We kissed softly and held each other reverently. She was the softest woman I had ever come in contact with. I never wanted to be without her again. I knew this was an impossible wish, however, I knew we were meant to be together. This had to come together soon or I was going to go mad.

We managed to get back into our clothing and began to warm up. The sun would be up in a couple hours so we waited on the beach to watch our first sunrise together. The clouds had thickened in the sky and I wondered if we were going to get rained on before the sun actually showed its light.

"It looks like it's going to storm, Annie. Are you sure you want to stay out here?" I asked.

"Yeah, I think we'll be okay. If we see any lightening, we'll go inside. I just thought it would be fitting to watch the sun come up with you."

"I agree with you. I also now know that you are a hopeless romantic." I grinned.

"Do you have a problem with that, Ms. Frankie?" She smirked.

"Absolutely not. In fact I think it suits you incredibly. You deserve romance in your life." I said as I brought her body close to mine again.

We settled on the damp blanket and lay in each other's arms. She rested her head on my shoulder as I drew imaginary circles on her back. She let out a deep sigh of contentment and I couldn't help but smile. I could feel her body weight increase which told me she was falling asleep.

I don't have the heart to wake her. I'll just lay here until morning or until we get poured on.

I snuggled closer to Annie and breathed in her scent. Even though we had just spent way too much time in Lake Michigan, she still smelled incredibly fresh. I closed my eyes to relish our new beginning. As I lay there I felt my own body give in and start to fall asleep. I could hear my last thoughts before I fell into deep asleep.

You own my heart, body and soul. I love you, Annie.

I felt the inevitable rain begin to splash at my face. I started awake into a seated position to find my back up against the metal that was my fire escape. The rain was coming down and playing a musical tune on the gutters of my building as I looked around in horror. My dream had come to an end once again and I felt my stomach turn in anguish.

This can't be happening...NO...please...tell me this isn't happening. Oh Jesus Christ in heaven! Oh Annie...Annie...I'm so sorry I had to leave you again. I'm so sorry. Not again...Oh God, not again.<

"NOOOOOOOO!" I screamed hoarsely into the new day. "WHY!?!" I sobbed and choked on the emotion and pain screeching through my body.

I could feel myself falling against the rails of the balcony. I couldn't hold myself up any longer. The weight of all of this had hit me harder than anything I could've ever imagined. It felt like I'd had the wind knocked out of me and I kept grasping at my chest hoping to relieve the pain that was so incredibly agonizing.

I can't breathe...I don't want to breathe without her. God, why are you doing this to me?

I sat in the pouring rain with my knees to my chin. I rocked back and forth choking down the tears with each breath I took. I had never needed someone so badly before, like I needed Annie.

She's gonna wake up and not find me there. After everything we just shared, I'm going to be gone. She's not going to understand any of this. Hell, I don't understand any of this. How can I expect her to understand this? Dear God in Heaven, if you can hear me, please keep her safe. Please.

The sobs wracked through my body continually and I sat in the same position for what seemed like days. I held my knees to my body to fill the empty space that used to be Annie.

I missed her.

I needed her.

I love
Chapter Twenty

The darkness had come and I hadn't even noticed. I hadn't even noticed that I wasn't outside any longer. I was in my bed and was dressed in clothes that I hadn't put on myself. I felt like a brick had hit my head. My mouth was incredibly dry and I felt a little disoriented. All in all, it was a pretty shitty feeling.

When I finally got my bearings, I saw Crystal at the foot of my bed, asleep. She had a small cloth in her hands that I could only assume she was using on my head. I knew I had a fever since I was feeling so odd. Maybe I had been in the rain too long. She would always take care of me when I was sick. I felt sick to my stomach. I felt like I was dying.

I wanted to die. I didn't want to live without Annie. She was everything to me. The thoughts of us making love on the beach made my swollen eyes well up once again. I felt my lip quiver and my sobs began once again. I rolled onto my side in a fetal position and started to rock back and forth to comfort myself.

Maybe if I went back to sleep, I could be with Annie once again.

I couldn't think of anything else I would ever want to do more.

"Frankie?" Crystal's garbled voice whispered to me.

I couldn't form any words to answer.

"Frankie? Come on talk to me, babe. I know you can hear me." She climbed up towards my face and began to stroke the cool cloth on my forehead.

"Why?" Was the only word I could muster, before I started to cry like a baby.

Crystal instantly wrapped her body around mine and cuddled me from behind.

"Shh...I know honey. Let it out." She soothed as she let me cry. She combed my sweat-soaked hair with her fingers as she rocked me back and forth. "You found her again." It was a statement of fact.

I only nodded as I continued to cry.

"What happened? Can you tell me?" She asked softly.

"Everything Crys...everything." I sobbed. "Oh, Annie." I couldn't stop the tears that were streaming down my face. Crystal knew that I wouldn't be able to talk about this, so she just held me and spoke comforting words into my ears.

Several hours had passed and my condition hadn't changed at all. Crystal had called Nonnie up to my room to try and talk to me. To no avail, I must add. I didn't speak to either of them. Not because I wouldn't, but because I couldn't. The only words that came to my lips were Annie's name and how sorry I was that I had left her again.

I heard Nonnie and Crystal talking between them. I heard them speak of my journey and the strong possibilities of it being true. My head was screaming 'It Is True!', but I couldn't form the words.

"We'll be in the other room, Frankie. I'll be right back, sweetheart." I heard Crystal say. She leaned over me and kissed my temple. "I'll help you through this, Frankie, I promise."

I heard her and Nonnie leave my room and my sobs were the only sound I heard after that. My heart was indeed broken and there wasn't anything that I could do to change that. I didn't have control of the situation and I hated my knowledge of that. I needed Annie. That was all I knew to be true.

Crystal came back into my room and just watched over me. I stayed like this until the next day arrived. My sobbing had finally stopped. I think I just ran out of tears to shed. Crystal stayed with me the whole time. She looked exhausted.

"I'm sorry Crystal." I whispered.

"Oh, Honey. Don't you even apologize. I can see how much you are hurting. You know there isn't anything that I wouldn't do for you. So what if I was up for almost two days. You needed me. Whether you knew it or not." She smiled.

"Two days?" I asked.

"Yea, Frankie. You were out for about two days. We couldn't wake you. We brought Doc Sanders into look at you. He said you were asleep and your body must have needed the rest. He said not to worry unless you didn't wake after today. You just made the cut off."

"Good God. I have never slept like that before. Hell, there are lots of things I have done that I haven't done before actually." I couldn't keep the sarcasm from my voice.

"I know Honey. You've been through so much. I wish I could take away your pain." She said sadly.

"I love you, Crystal. Thank you." I stood from my bed and my body rebelled from being in the same position for so many hours. My chest still felt extremely heavy and my fever was still evident.

I reached over my head and felt my vertebrates slide back into their rightful places. The sudden movement caused me to wobble a bit and I sat back down.

"Whoa...my head is spinning." I said as I put my head in my hands.

"It's the fever. Frankie, you were outside in the rain for hours. When you didn't open your shop, I knew something was wrong. I'm glad you had Mario's number on your fridge. He was happy to work for you. He sends his regards." She informed me.

"Mmm. God, my head hurts. My eyes hurt. My heart hurts the most though." I said while looking into concerned eyes.

"I know sweetie, I know. I can tell just by looking at you."

"Crystal, she's the one. I have fallen so deeply in love with her. I think I have always been in love with her. To not love her would feel all wrong for me I think. She has completed me Crystal. I have always had this strange emptiness in my heart that she filled as soon as I met her."

"What am I? Chopped liver?" Crystal joked.

"Crystal, you know you and I could never be more. We will always be the best of friends. I will hold you dear to my heart always." I smiled weakly at her.

"I know, Frankie, I was just trying to make you smile. It worked. I can see in your eyes, the changes that she has made in your heart."

"How can this be, Crystal? I don't understand this at all. This is a sick twisted joke. I'm not laughing, either!!" I screamed to no one in particular. "I've got to pee." I almost growled as I stood and walked to my bathroom.

I used the walls as support as I found the lightswitch. I went into the bathroom and looked at myself in the mirror. I thought I was looking at someone other than myself. I didn't even recognize myself.

I think this is how boxer's must feel after a fifteen round match. I feel like I have been hit with everything, including the kitchen sink.

I used the toilet and leaned my head against the wall as I sat. I imagined Annie's face as she woke on the beach and found me missing...again. I could feel the sadness bubbling up and I tried to choke it back down. I swallowed a few times and felt incredibly sick to my stomach.

I stood and spun as the contents of my stomach chose that moment to leave my body. I crouched down onto the floor and felt my body contract again and again while it purged my insides. As the spasms slowed I flushed the toilet and began to breathe normally again. I pulled my body off the floor and hung my head in the sink. I ran the cold water and splashed it against my face and pushed my hair back.

I stood to look at my face as I doused water against my throat and neck. I looked up to find the most glorious thing in the world branded to my neck. I immediately ripped off my shirt to make sure I wasn't seeing things.

"Oh, baby, you did it! You did it! This is the hope I was looking for!" I smiled feeling better instantly. "Crystal!!" I screamed. "Crystal, come here quick!" I screamed again.

I could hear her bolting from the bedroom.

"What? What is it, Frankie? Are you all right?" She looked at me strangely.
"Where's your shirt?"

"Crystal what do you see here?" I said indicating my beautiful marking. I had forgotten that I was naked from the waist up.

"Why are you smiling?"

"Because I have hope! Crystal, look!" I pointed again.

"Is that what I think it is?" She asked skeptically.

"It depends. What do you think it is?"

"It looks like a hickey."

"That's because, it IS A HICKEY!!! Annie gave it to me! Holy fucking shit! She IS real! I told you!" I grabbed Crystal's hands and pulled her into a huge hug.

"Frankie, are you sure?" She mumbled against my nakedness.

"I've never been more sure of anything in my life, Crystal. Annie and I made love the other night on the beach. She gave me this hickey. She called it a sucker bite." I laughed. "I've never been so happy to have been given a hickey in my whole life!"

"I can't believe it, Frankie. We have to tell Nonnie." She said stunned.

"What does this mean, Crystal? What can I do?"

"I honestly don't know, Frankie. We need to talk to Nonnie about this. She'll know what to do." She reassured me. "Are you feeling well enough to walk downstairs?"

"If you wanted me to, I could run down there."

"Do me a favor though, will you?" She asked.


"Put a damn shirt on." She said as she slapped my arm.

"Yes, ma'am." I agreed simply because I didn't want to have Nonnie in my face yelling about me catching pneumonia.

Chapter Twenty-One

We got down to Crystal's apartment to find Nonnie in the parlor with a client. Much to my dismay I was going to have to wait until she was free.

"How long do these things usually last?" I asked impatiently.

"It really depends on what they are looking to achieve from their visit." She stated simply.

"God! I've got to know how to get back there, Crystal. There has got to be a way." I started to pace in the living room.

"Frankie, you have got to calm down. Whether you realize it or not, you are still sick. You still have a fever and you are very weak. Please sit down and relax your body until she is finished, ok? For me?" She pleaded.

"Fine." I reluctantly acquiesced to her request. She was always right anyway.

I sat down on the couch and leaned over to Crystal. She reached around my shoulders and pulled my head to her shoulder.

"It'll be okay, Frankie. We are going to figure out how to get you back to Annie. Just relax ok?" She said as she rubbed my head.

"Mmm...you always know how to make me feel better."

"What the hell kind of friend would I be, if I didn't know how to make you feel better?"

"You are the best friend in the world, Crystal. Thank you." I snuggled closer.

"You're welcome, Frankie." She kissed the top of my head and continued to rub my head and neck.

We waited for what seemed like hours, but Nonnie finally came out of her parlor and found us sitting on the couch.

"Frankie, darling. Are you feeling better? You still look a little pale though." Nonnie said as she caressed my cheek.

"Hi, Nonnie. Yes, I am feeling much better. But I…"

"Nonnie, there is something going on here. I need to talk to you." Crystal uncharacteristically butted in. "Frankie, will you excuse us for a minute?"

"Sure." I said confusedly.

It was very odd that Crystal would do that. She seemed like she didn't want me to hear what she had to say to Nonnie.

What could she possibly say to her that I couldn't hear? We are like sisters for Christ's sake!

I sat on the couch forever. I rested my head on the armrest of the couch and felt myself drift off. It was about an hour later when they woke me.

"Morning sleepy head." Crystal smiled.

"What? Oh I must have fallen asleep. Sorry." I rubbed my eyes.

"Don't worry about it. I'm sorry, but I really wanted to talk to Nonnie about all of this. Sometimes you get a little emotional about this thing, so I wanted to talk to her rationally about this, before we spoke to you about what we think we can do."

"What we can do?"

"Yeah, about Annie." She confirmed.

"What do you want to know?" I asked.

"Well, we want to find out a little bit more about her. Do you know her last name for example?"

"Of course, it's Parker." I smiled proudly.

"Ok, has she lived in Chicago a long time?" Crystal continued.

"Well, as far as I know, she has lived in the Chicago area all her life. Why all the questions?"

"Well before we can try anything, we usually like to do some research."

"What kind of research? She isn't someone I made up Crystal. We are NOT having this discussion again." I was starting to feel angry.

"No, no, no, that's not what I meant. There's not an easy way to say this Frankie, so I'm just gonna tell you."

"Tell me what?" I suddenly felt worried about her answer.

"We need to find out if she is alive or dead." She stated flatly.


"Well the fact that she has called you back to 1974 tells me that she is probably not alive anymore." Crystal softly said.

"Jesus." I breathed out.

"Frankie, it's not like that." I held up my hands.

"I know, I know. I was just going to say that I never even considered that possibility. The thought of that really scares me." I honestly said.

We sat in silence for a long time. Crystal was just waiting for me to say something about what I wanted to do. I was waiting for her to tell me what could be done. This was really starting to confuse me. I just sat there and absorbed the possibility that Annie might not be alive in this time.

"How can we be sure whether or not she is alive or not?" The word "dead" was just not appealing to me at the moment.

"Well first we need to check the city's records to see if there is a record of her death. If she has died, there will be records of how and when it happened. You also said she went to Loyola University, we can check to see if she graduated and if there is any Alumni information. I think the first way is our best bet, but the other is just another option since you don't know too much about her." She looked carefully my way to judge my expression.

"Ok, when can we start this? I really want this mystery to be over." I needed closure to all of this. I couldn't take much more.

"Well as soon as your fever goes down, we'll start. I think you need one more night's sleep, and then we can start the investigation." Crystal stated practically.

"Crystal, I feel fine. Can we please just go to City Hall today?"

"Not unless you want to break in. They have been closed for at least three hours."

I checked my watch and it was about eight in the evening. I had absolutely no sense of time since I got back home.

"Shit, I guess I have no choice here." I said defeatedly.

"I'm sorry to say that we have to wait." Nonnie finally chimed in.

"Great, I hate waiting." I grumbled.

"Let me give you something for your fever, Frankie. You'll sleep better and it won't seem too long for you to wait if you are asleep." Nonnie said.

"That does sound like a good idea. Maybe I will take you up on that. I'll get lots more done if I'm really rested." I agreed.

"Good girl. This Annie must be really something. You never give in that easily." She smiled at me.

"She is Nonnie. She really is." I whispered.

Chapter Twenty-Two

Morning came and I felt very stiff and sluggish from my sickness. Knowing that I was going to do research that would help me find Annie, made that feeling slightly less apparent. The question was though, if I were to find out that Annie weren't alive anymore, what would that mean of our encounter? Why did she summon me only for me to find out that she wasn't alive? Did she die prematurely? Who was responsible for her death? I didn't know nor would I know those answers until later on that day.

As soon as Crystal woke for the day, she came to see me.

"Good morning, sunshine." She chirped.

"Good morning, yourself." I smiled.

"Are you feeling better today?" She asked concerned.

"As a matter of fact, yes I am. I can't wait to get to City Hall to do some digging." I said excitedly.

"Oh no, first things first. Open." She said as she stuck the thermometer in my mouth.

"Hrrmmpph." I mock growled at her.

"Ooh, I'm so scared. Now hush, you have about two and a half more minutes." She said as she looked at her watch.

Without hearing the actual ding of the timer in my head, I reached up to grab the glass temperature gauge. Crystal, unfortunately, was two seconds ahead of me and pulled it from my mouth.

"Ha! Too slow, you must be ill." She grinned.

"Just tell me what the damn thing says."

"It says 'My name is Frankie, and I'm allowed to go outside today'." She playfully said.

"Great, what time does City Hall open?" I asked hoping she would know that answer.

"I would assume 9 A.M., but I'll call just to be sure." She said grabbing the phonebook from my junk drawer in my kitchen. "Are you sure Mario won't mind working for you today?"

"He loves big paychecks. He'll probably cry when I come back to work." I laughed.

"You're probably right." Crystal agreed.

She picked up the phone and called the city. She asked them their hours and she wrote it down on the scratch pad next to the phone. Crystal hung up the phone and reported the information back to me.

"They are open at nine which was an hour ago and are open until five o'clock tonight. Let's get dressed and mosey on over there." She said happily.

"I'll be right out. I really need to shower this ill body of mine. I haven't seen water since Lake Michigan."

"Lake Michigan?" She asked confused.

"A story, perhaps, for the ride to City Hall." I smirked as I walked towards my bathroom.

"I'm not sure I want to know." She said with a touch of apprehension.

I walked into the bathroom and smiled at my reflection, which still contained that beautiful marking on my neck.

"Good morning you beautiful sucker bite." I smiled. "We are going to find out a little more information on your creator today." I rolled my eyes at my words and stripped down. I leaned over the tub and turned on the water. I stepped in when the water's temperature became bearable.

I took the fastest shower in history that morning. I dried off and ran from the bathroom into my bedroom and changed into the first items of clothing that I saw. I grabbed a pair of jeans and one of my T-shirts. I didn't even look to see if they were clean, or right side out; they were just thrown on. I ran back into the bathroom, dragged a comb through my hair and put it in a Cubs baseball cap. It was my favorite since my Pop gave it to me after our first baseball game together. It usually brought me luck. I was hoping today was no different.

I ran into the kitchen to find Crystal eating a bowl of fruity loopy cereal. I just looked at her with impatience.

"Well? Aren't you ready to go?" I asked while sticking my hands on my hips.

"Easy, killer, I didn't know you were going for the record of fastest shower today. Give me two seconds and I'll be ready. Deal?"

"Fine." I said indignantly and sat next to her to watch her every bite.

"Oh Jesus Christ, let's go already!" She finally said and ran out the door with me in her shadow.

We jumped in my old Nissan and were off to City Hall. In one breath, I was very excited to find out the information to find Annie. In the other breath I was scared shitless. I didn't want to find out that everything I shared with Annie was in the annals of history, never to be relived again. The thought of that made me kind of sick to my stomach again.

"So what happened on your last visit, Frankie?" Crystal asked softly.

"Other than sharing the most beautiful moment in my life with Annie, something wonderful also happened." I said cryptically.

"Ooh, share please." She said as her leg tucked underneath the other to face me.

"I had breakfast with my parents." I nonchalantly stated.

"You what?!" Crystal said unbelieving.

"I got busted sleeping on the fire escape. I woke up to my Pop's eyes staring down at me. He thought I was homeless and sleeping on his escape." I smiled.

"Oh, God. I bet you almost shit your pants." She grinned.

"Well, that was only the beginning. He asked me inside after I explained some bullshit story about me being too tired to realize I wasn't at home."

"And he believed you?"

"Of course. Wouldn't you believe this face?" I said while giving her my best sad puppy look.

"Oh, Jesus. So what happened next?"

"Well, he walked me into the eat in part of the kitchen where I actually met my mother."

"You actually talked to her?" Her eyes got really wide.


"So what did you think?" She asked apprehensively.

"To tell you the truth, Crystal, she wasn't really nice." I answered honestly.


"Nope. Well I think I struck a nerve in her when I asked her if they had any children." I smugly smiled.

"Oh God, you didn't."

"I did."

"I wasn't born yet, so I guess I wanted to find out a little bit more of what she thought about being a mom. Needless to say, she wasn't very happy and immediately wanted the subject changed. It's no mystery to me now, that my Pop was the one who wanted kids. It definitely wasn't her." I explained.

"Wow. How was your dad through all of this? Did he seem like he wanted to talk about it?"

"Yes, in fact it was when he said he wanted kids, that she really glared at him and demanded a subject change. Bitch."

"Damn. I bet that was really something to see." She pondered.

"It was." I agreed. "Anyway, the rest of the meal was kinda quiet except for a little small talk about movies and such. I really had forgotten what a kind and generous man my Pop was. He asked a total stranger into his house, after they slept on his fire escape without his knowledge, and then asked them to stay for breakfast. Not many people in this day and age would do that. They'd probably call the Police now. Not Pop, he wanted to meet my family the next time I was around the neighborhood." I giggled.

"He was a very special man, Frankie." She said as she touched my forearm.

"I know...I'm just grateful I got to see him again. I gave him a hug and kiss when I left and it was almost as if he knew who I was. It was really freaky." I concluded as we pulled into the parking lot of City Hall.

I took a deep breath and stood from the car. Crystal looked over at me and gave me that reassuring smile I had grown to adore. We approached the Hall steps and I heard Crystal laughing behind me.

"What is so funny?" I asked puzzled.

"You obviously were in quite a hurry this morning. Have you seen what shirt you're wearing?" She couldn't help but laugh.

I looked down to see a white T-shirt and looked back at Crystal with a questioning stare.

"A white T-shirt is bad?" I queried.

"Only when you are wearing it backwards and the front of it says, 'I only sleep with the best'. Nice touch, Frankie." She smiled again.

"Oh shit, I got this for free when I bought my new mattress. I gotta turn this inside out." I said and ran back to the car. Within seconds I had the shirt inside out and backwards.

"Very nice, Frankie, very nice." Crystal smirked as she shook her head and we walked into the building.

"Hey, I could've done that on the stairs." I challenged.

"I don't even want to go there." She knew I would have too.

Chapter Twenty-Three

We strolled up to the nearest occupied window and waited to be helped.

"May I help you?" A small elderly lady asked.

"Yes, I am looking for someone and I was wondering if I could find out if there is a coroner's record of their death." Crystal inquired.

"Just a minute, please." She walked away from the window and returned with a key. "The first hour will cost you ten dollars. Five dollars for every hour after that."

"Ten bucks?" Crystal griped until I threw the money at her. "Is fine, thank you." She finished and took the key from the old woman.

"Go down this hall and take your first right. You'll find what you need in there. There is someone on duty to help you if you can't find what you are looking for." She smiled and disappeared behind the thick glass.

"I can't believe they charge by the hour!" Crystal said unbelieving.

"Well, how else can they guarantee that people won't use these rooms to live in?" I said pragmatically.

"I guess that's true. That's really sad, but true."

"Some people really dislike homeless people. Doesn't matter that most of them are harmless. As I have experienced, what people don't know about, tends to scare them. Hell, look at people when it comes to my sexuality. I've had people grab their kids away from me when they find out that I'm gay. It's a bit ridiculous being that it is the twenty-first century and all, but yet it still happens."

Crystal wrapped her arm around my shoulder and gave me a quick squeeze. "I'm sorry, Frankie. That has to feel horrible."

"No worse than having people spit on you or kick you because you're asleep on the sidewalk." I stopped and took a deep breath. "Boy this has been an uplifting conversation hasn't it? Let's hope we find better news in there." I said as I motioned to the Hall of History.

I inserted the key and walked in with Crystal close behind. I spotted a computer instead of a microfiche machine. I walked over to the available resource and sat down. A woman of large stature walked over to see if we needed assistance.

"Good morning, ladies. Is there anything I can help you find today?" She asked pleasantly.

"Yes, I am trying to find records of an individual. Would you be able to help me find that?" I asked.

"Of course. I need some information. Do you know the full name of the person you wish to research?"

"Yes, her name is Annie Parker. I'm gonna guess that she…" I paused not wanting to say the next few words. "I think she died in 1974." Crystal put her hands on my shoulders and began to rub them.

She always knew what I needed.

"OK, let me bring up the program and insert this information and see what we come up with." She said nonchalantly. I almost didn't want to know the answer. I could feel myself tremble with trepidation.

"It'll just be a moment or two. Do you have any other information that might be useful if nothing comes up?" She asked and I searched my head for any more insightful details that Annie may have shared with me. I couldn't think of anything more.

"I'm sorry I don't think so. Let's just see if we can narrow it down to May or June of 1974. Does that help?"

"We'll see. Ah, here we are. Yes, there was a record of a fatal car accident on May 28, 1974 involving William D. Johnson, 24 and Anne M. Parker, 21." My heart was in my throat as she continued to read the screen. "The accident happened at 10:44 P.M. in Rogers Park around Loyola University. It seems that Mr. Johnson was intoxicated while he was driving and hit an oncoming car killing both him and his passenger, Anne Parker."

I could feel Crystal's hands stiffen as the woman read the account of the incident. I couldn't breathe.

Annie was...dead.

"Does it say if she..." I paused to take a deep breath. "Did she suffer at all?" I managed to choke out.

"According to the records, Mr. Johnson died instantly while the woman was taken by ambulance to Loyola University Hospital. She died on arrival." Seeing my distress of the new information she gazed sympathetically my way. "I'm very sorry. She must've been someone special."

"She was." Crystal chimed in knowing I wouldn't be able to answer.

The woman nodded. "Was there anything else?" I could tell that she really didn't know what to say.

"No, thanks you have been really helpful. We found out all that we needed to." Crystal explained gently.

"OK. If you need anything else, my name is Nancy and I'll be over at the information desk." She said as she motioned to the large marble desk at the front of the room.

"Thank you, Nancy." Crystal said again. I looked over at her and could only nod numbly at her.

Nancy walked away and I felt my resolve crack shamelessly. Crystal took one look at me and I began to sob. She reached down and hugged me from behind.

"I'm so sorry, honey." She held tightly to me.

"She's gone, Crystal," I wept. "I can't believe she's really gone."

We stayed this way for several minutes. My breathing was still erratic but the tears had finally slowed. Crystal's hold on me lessened and she turned to face me to wipe my tears. I looked up at her with my swollen eyes and asked the only question that came to my head.

"What do I do now?" I said sniffling like a toddler.

"Now you leave this up to me. This is what I know best." I had never seen her more determined and confident in my whole life. The woman in front of me had shown me every hat she had ever worn except this one. As much as this Crystal impressed me, she scared me as well. I knew better than anyone that a woman on a mission was one not to be messed with. This was no longer my show, it was hers. And I couldn't think of more capable hands to keep my heart safe.

"Let's go home." I suggested. She looked at me and held my face in her hands.

"No, let's go get your other half."

I had never heard sweeter words than that. Crystal stood and walked towards the exit.

"I'm right behind you." I said as I wiped my eyes. I adjusted my cap and took off after Crystal with hopes of finding Annie once again.

Hang on Annie, I'm coming for you.

To Be Continued...

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