Chapter 1

It started out as a typical Tuesday winter morning for Jennie Anderson as she walked her 3 year-old Vizsla, Dante, around the block in the pre-dawn darkness. The whistling wind sharply bit at her exposed cheeks, and dried the morning goo around her watery eyes into a hardened crust, which blurred her vision as she frantically swiped at her crunchy lashes with her thick gloves. Dante, with his thin auburn velvet fur, despised the cold weather and always had to be coaxed down the stairs from the second-floor two-bedroom apartment Jennie shared with her roommate of two years, Susie Gillis, in Boston’s historic North End.

The tired twosome slogged from the narrow street to the sidewalk, as a fire engine carefully crawled along with its flashing lights on, barely making its way through as it stopped a few feet ahead. A few firemen with shovels in hand quickly jumped off and removed a pile of snow away from a concealed hydrant. They quickly hopped back on in sync, repeating the same exercise with precision a hundred feet or so ahead at the next buried hydrant. Their adroitness was tantamount to a NASCAR pit crew to Jennie. The city had gotten hit with a ten-inch snowstorm over the weekend and frustrated car owners had little choice but to dump their shoveled snow on the sidewalk. Overnight, another inch or so had fallen masking the already grimy snow underneath.

Usually, Dante was steadfast in going about his business knowing his reward was to shortly return to the warm comforter on Jennie’s inviting queen-sized bed up in the apartment. However, he seemed distracted on this morning as


his nostrils flared while he quickened his pace, causing Jennie to stumble as she tugged at his leash unsuccessfully trying to control her curious companion. “What is it boy?” she softly asked in an attempt to stem Dante’s urge to bark so they wouldn’t wake up the neighborhood, if the fire engine’s loud motor hadn’t already done so. He looked back as if imploring her to follow. “Ok, you win, but we aren’t going far big guy,” she conceded, as the fire engine slowly made a right turn temporarily restoring some quiet to the scene.

Jennie could see two shadowy figures running around the corner in the opposite direction from the fire engine laboring to maintain their balance on the icy cobblestones. One appeared to be pulling the other along against their will until they finally disappeared out of sight. Dante forged ahead with his tail wagging and Jennie could barely contain him.  Her gloves popped out of her sore fingers as she struggled to control the tightly stretched leash.

They came across Bennie’s bakery on the corner. The delectable smells drifting from the blazing ovens aroused Jennie’s senses. The baker, not wearing a coat, and undoubtedly escaping the heat inside, stood outside of the open side-door smoking a cigarette looking like he was enjoying the frigid air. He was covered in flour from head to toe which made for an amusing sight. They shared a smile as Jennie passed by.

Dante began to bolt for the alley around the other side of the bakery. Unable to get any traction beneath her, Jennie skated behind. It wasn’t the kind of dead-end alley usually depicted on