North Alabama – Two Years Earlier
Tamika Smith grew up poor in Owens Cross Roads, Alabama. Although she didn’t have a lot of life’s finer things, she did have something that mattered – two parents who believed in love and hard work. Love for the Smiths meant a close family unit.
Work for the Smith family meant daddy working for the Tennessee Valley Authority at the Guntersville Dam plant; mommy working in the school lunchroom at the local high school; and Tamika working hard on her studies and sports.
With the help of her mother, Tamika always excelled at school. She could always remember what her mother would say to her when she was discouraged – “Tamika, this is America. And in America you can work hard and be anything you want to be.” With a good work ethic of her own, and with the watchful eye of her mother, Tamika excelled in the classroom. She was the valedictorian at Owens Cross Roads High School, class of 1991.
Her father was a pipe fitter at the dam, part of a large system of U.S. government projects that provided electrical power to people all along the Tennessee River throughout the Southeast. He was a large man with burly arms that would rival any of Hulk Hogan’s wrestling buddies. He was once a great athlete, starring as a defensive lineman for legendary football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant at the University of Alabama. He was one of the first black players to wear the dark red jersey of the Crimson Tide. A knee injury against Tennessee cut short what looked like a promising football career. After surgery, he never returned to his original form and eventually dropped out of school and married Tamika’s mom.
Her father’s athletic ability was another quality Tamika inherited. She could run like a high performance racecar and she could jump like she had springs in her legs. Owens Cross Roads High School did not have a girl's football team, but there was a girl’s basketball team, and Tamika was the star. During one of her high school basketball games, the opposing smartass coach asked the referee to stop play and check to see if she was using an anti-gravity device.
With her athletic and intellectual skills, Tamika was a cinch to receive a scholarship to some big-time basketball-playing college, probably one of the South Eastern Conference teams – Alabama, Auburn and Tennessee were all in the running for her services – but she surprised everyone when she signed with the local black college in Huntsville – Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University. She said she liked the business school at A&M, and she really didn’t want to get too far from her mom and dad. The center of campus life at A&M was known as the Hill. It was only about a 20-minute drive up U. S. Highway 231 from the Cross Roads.
In her junior and senior years at A&M, academics became more important to Tamika than basketball. She learned the ins and outs of the business game better than she could run the cuts and passes of the motion shuffle offense. Instead of dreaming about stealing a pass and driving for a game-winning shot in a basketball game, she dreamed of closing the big deal in one of the world’s financial markets, buying a company, or financing a building plan for a skyscraper.
After graduating at the top of her class at A&M, Tamika left small-time Alabama for the bright lights of the big city. She looked at New York and thought the people in the Big Apple were far too busy and a little scary. She visited California, but there were too many people there and the west coast was just too far from her Alabama home. She settled on Chicago after many job interviews. She landed a job at one of the largest banks in America – CITI Bank. Chicago felt right to her.
She started her career in the banking industry as an assistant loan officer. In six short months she was promoted to an accounts manager in the bank’s main office on the Miracle Mile on North Michigan Avenue, right in the center of town. She was bright. She was beautiful. She was ambitious. Then she fell in love.
. . .
Chicago - Four Months Before Witherow’s Vehicle Found In River
He looked almost awkward as he entered the front door of the bank. Marcus Witherow was always easy to spot. At about 7 feet and weighing 275 pounds, he was a giant among mortal men. As a pro basketball star, he was also a financial giant. Heads turned and whispers could be heard as he walked through the lobby of the bank. “Hey, that’s Marcus Witherow, the basketball star.” Tamika Smith didn’t see him come in the door, but one of the tellers saw him – and he saw her.
“Can you help me, please?” Witherow said to the red-headed teller at the corner of the bank counter nearest to the bank’s doors. “I need to make some changes in my portfolio,” Witherow politely told the girl, flashing a smile with perfect teeth that seemed whiter than the first snow of the winter.
“Yes sir, Mr. Witherow,” Pam Feree replied. “I believe Tamika Smith, the second office on the left across the lobby, is not busy right now. Walk that way and I’ll call and tell her you’re coming.”
“Thank you,” Witherow said, leaving with another smile.
The presence of the handsome man made Pam weak in the knees, but she was able to quickly lift her phone and key in 3975 – Tamika’s number. “Are you still looking for a date? He’s coming to your office right now. You’re not going to believe him.”
The phone went dead before Tamika had a chance to say anything. Before she put down the receiver, there was a knock on the door and it slowly opened.
“Are you Ms. Smith?” Marcus asked entering the office, dipping his head to slide under the top of the door opening.
“Why, why . . . yes, pl pl please come in,” Tamika stammered as he entered the room. She had never seen a man this large before. Even as a college basketball player, she had seen and practiced with big men who played on the varsity team, but none of them were in his class.
“Hello. I’m Marcus Witherow,” he said, extending a hand the size of a catcher’s mitt toward Tamika, followed by his trademark smile.
She just looked at him, still sitting at her desk. “You’re the basketball player for the Bulls,” she said, her mouth dropping wide open, even though she didn’t realize it.
“Yes, and you?” he responded.
“Oh, I’m no one,” she said. “I’m Tamika . . . Tamika Smith. I’m a financial account manager and analyst,” she said, finally realizing that his hand was still extended, waiting for her hand. “I’m sorry,” she blushed, extending her hand that fit into his like a child’s hand in a father’s glove, “I was stunned when you came in. I’m a big basketball fan. I even played in college. I apologize for my unprofessional behavior . . .”
“Don’t worry about it. I get that kind of response all the time. Where did you play ball?”
“Oh, you don’t want to know about me. I was just a small college player – you probably never heard of it – Alabama A&M.”
“I know the Bulldogs. One of my high school buddies almost went there. I actually visited there with him before I signed with Carolina and he signed with South Carolina A&T.”
“Well, I’ve wasted too much or your time talking about basketball,” she said, putting on her business face. “How can CITI Bank help you today?”
“I would like to add my mother’s name on all of my holdings, so that if anything happens to me, she will have access to all my financial accounts,” he said.
“That shouldn’t be a problem,” Tamika said. “We can start that process right now.”
. . .
On his way out the door, Witherow smiled again to Pam and waved goodbye. When he left the building, she closed her teller window and briskly walked to Tamika’s office, entering without knocking.
“Can you believe that guy?” Pam asked as she entered the office, closed the door and plopped down in a chair. “You know who he is, don’t you?”
“Yes. I know who he is.”
“Did he ask you out? Did you ask him to marry you? Did you offer to give him a blow job?” Pam continued, so excited she couldn’t sit still in her chair.
“Come on Pam, I’m a professional,” then she busted out laughing, unable to continue the facade any longer. “He was a dream. When he smiled at me, I just lost control,” Tamika said. “I was fumbling with my pen and I didn’t even notice that he was trying to shake my hand.”
“What did he want, Tammy?” Pam asked next.
“He needs some help with his financial holdings – about $15 million in total assets at our bank. He wants his mother to have access to all his accounts in case something happens to him. He seems like such a nice son to do that for his mother. You wouldn’t believe how much money the Bulls pay him.”
“Are we going to get to see him again? When he comes, can I be in your office?”
“You know better than that,” Tamika scolded Pam, wagging her forefinger at her friend. “He’ll be back in two days – 2:30 in the afternoon. He just has to sign some papers. I have got to check on some things for him between now and then.”
. . .
For the next two days, Tamika found herself constantly thinking about Marcus Witherow. She hardly got any of her regular work done, drifting in and out of daydreams about Marcus. Somehow she did concentrate enough to get his paperwork finished.
She awoke about an hour early on the morning when he was to return to the bank. She normally got up about daylight and went for a jog in the park near her four-story apartment on Chicago’s trendy North Side between Wrigley Field and the lakefront. She was careful not to wake up her roommate as she made a cup of coffee and donned her jogging gear. It was a little cold this morning, so gloves and a baseball cap were in order.
Her normal routine was about three miles – down the three flights of stairs in her apartment, half a mile to the park, eight laps around the quarter-mile track and then back home and back up to her appartment. She had always enjoyed running, but today she seemed to be on an unusual high. Each step seemed light and easy. She didn’t notice the hard breathing or the sweat that accompanied her 8-minute miles. The chill bounced off her like water falling on a duck’s back. She did notice the song of the early-rising mockingbirds. It sounded louder and sweeter on this day.
Although she didn’t know it yet, Tamika had fallen for Witherow. She felt so good, she ran an extra mile, four extra laps around the track, and when she arrived back at her apartment, she sprinted up the stairs.
After cooling off, gulping down a glass of orange juice and eating a banana, she took a long, hot shower. In the shower, her mind wandered to thoughts of Marcus. As she rubbed her tight body with the soap, she wondered what his hands would feel like on her. She lost all track of time.
“Are you going to stay in there all day?” her roommate shouted. You’re going to make us both late,” Pam Feree yelled at her through the locked door. Pam and Tamika became roommates shortly after Tamika had moved to Chicago, and they had become best friends. The shout from Pam made Tamika snap back into reality and quickly end her shower. She wrapped a bathrobe around her wet body and exited the bathroom. She smiled at her roommate, who was standing in a pink robe, waiting impatiently in the hall outside the bathroom door, one hand on her hip, the other holding a coffee mug.
“Are you still thinking about Mr. Big Shot?” Pam asked.
“I can’t think about much of anything else,” Tamika said, rubbing her hair with a towel as she walked down the hall to her bedroom.
“What should I wear today,” she though out loud. “I want him to think that I’m pretty, but I don’t want to appear too forward,” she thought to herself as she touched different outfits that hung in her closet. “Maybe the red skirt and jacket. Will that blouse be too sexy? What the hell. I’m going for it. I might not ever see him again.”
She looked in the full-length mirror on the sliding closet doors as she held up the sexy power suit in front of her naked body. The red is it, she thought. She didn’t waste any time getting dressed.
. . .
At work, time dragged all through the morning. Tamika fidgeted through a staff meeting – not remembering anything that was said. She went to lunch with Pam and some other co-workers at the bank, but she had no appetite, only picking at her chicken Caesar salad. She wasn’t hungry because her stomach was full of butterflies. She never got this nervous even when she played basketball.
Through the window by the door in her office, she could see the large clock that hung high in the bank lobby. The hands were working in slow motion on this afternoon. She must have looked at it 500 times between 12:30 and 2 o’clock. At 2:23 p.m. Marcus Witherow walked through the front door and waved to Pam as he made his way gracefully across the marble lobby floor. His easy movement was more of a glide than a walk. He was dressed in a three-piece suit that must have taken miles of cloth to create. It was tailor-made, of course. He was way too large for off-the-rack clothes. His large, flowing stride put him at Tamika’s office door a few seconds after he entered the bank. Tamika tried to look like she was busy, but it didn’t work. He knocked on the door.
“Co . . . Come in,” she said, her voice cracking.
“Hello Ms. Smith,” he said. “May I call you Tamika?” He could have said “Hello Ms. Bitch” and Tamika wouldn't have noticed. His big smile filled the room, and she was under his spell again almost instantly.
“May I sit down?” he asked her. “I’m really making her nervous,” he thought as he noticed how good she looked in the red blouse. “Red’s a good color on her . . . kind of like my uniform. I like that.”
“Oh, I am sorry. Please come in and have a seat,” she said, so embarrassed she started to blush. As she swung her arm in a gesture toward the seat in front of her desk, she knocked over the small flowerpot sitting on the corner and scattered artificial chrysanthemums and broken glass all over the floor. “I’m so sorry Mr. Witherow, I . . .”
“Call me Marcus. All my friends call me Marcus.” He bent down to help Tamika collect the broken glass and the flowers. “Man, what a nice set of tits. I’d like to get my hands on those,” he thought, looking at her cleavage as she bent in front of him. The top three buttons on her blouse were unbuttoned and he got a good look at her lace push-up bra as she picked up the flowers. Their hands accidentally touched and both Tamika and Marcus seemed stuck in suspended animation, looking into each other’s eyes, squatting beside her desk.
. . .
It took about 20 minutes for Witherow and Smith to complete the paperwork placing Mae Witherow’s name on all of Marcus’s holdings. Then the big center was on his way back to wherever big centers go. He got up to leave, shook her hand and started toward the door. “I almost forgot,” he said and turned back to Tamika, who was standing behind her desk. “I have two tickets to the game tonight at the United Center. You and your boyfriend could come . . . if you like.”
“I don’t have a boyfriend,” she was quick to say, hoping she didn’t sound too happy about that fact. “I can’t believe he’s asking me to go to the game. He’s such a hunk,” she thought. “I would love to come . . . I mean I would like that very much, but who should I bring with me?” she asked.
“Bring one of your girlfriends,” he said. He walked over to her and handed her the pair of tickets. “See you tonight. Make sure you get there early and I’ll come by and say ‘Hey’ to you.”
He turned and left her office as she followed him to the door.
“I can’t believe it.” She thought, wanting to yell it out loud, as she stood in the doorway of her office and watched him walk through the bank lobby and out into the street. “Yes!”
“No boyfriend. That sounds good to me.” Witherow thought as he walked across the bank lobby. “I think I could really get to like her, stuttering, clumsiness and all.”
As soon as he had walked through the bank’s revolving doors that opened onto busy Michigan Avenue, Tamika’s phone started to ring. It was Pam.
“How did it go?” she asked.
“You’re not going to believe this,” Tamika said, sounding like a school girl. “We’re going to the Bulls game tonight. He gave me tickets to the game and you’re coming with me.”
. . .
About 45 minutes before game time, a member of the stadium usher crew escorted the two ladies to their seats in the VIP section at the United Center. “I can’t believe how close these seats are to the floor. People kill for seats like these,” Tamika said to Pam as the two moved down row 1, toward seats 12 and 13, section D, center court between the Bulls and visitors benches. “I wonder if Marcus will see us?”
It was Tamika's first NBA game. Pam had been to see the Bulls play before, but never with seats like these. Tamika had often wondered about the perks of being an NBA star. Was there really a party atmosphere that surrounded everything the players did? Did they have an entourage as part of the package? Were there people – who called themselves friends – trying to get a piece of the player? She wondered if Marcus enjoyed the attention, or was he as nice and genuine as he seemed in her office?
Marcus Witherow did not enjoy all the things that Tamika was wondering about, but there was one up side to this carnival called the NBA – he was able to give tickets to a girl like Tamika. It was an easy way for a player to get to know a girl. And this was one girl that Marcus Witherow wanted to get to know. Tamika Smith was a light-skinned ebony goddess, blessed with everything he was looking for – good looks, great body parts, athletically inclined and she had a quirky personality to boot. He was attracted to her when he first met her at the bank. Although Tamika didn’t realize it yet, this was the first of many Bulls games she would see as the guest of Marcus Witherow.
“I really can’t believe how big all these guys are,” Pam said, while watching the players run around on the court, getting warmed up for the game. “They looked much smaller from my usual seat.” A large grin slowly made its way across her face. “Do you think that all their body parts are proportional?”
“Now girl, how would I know that? He didn’t give me anything today but some signatures,” Tamika said laughing.
While most of the players shot from various spots on the court during the pre-game warm-up, a few had started to wander to their respective benches. The Bulls bench was just to the right of Tamika and Pam’s seats. As Marcus walked over to sit down after shooting several shots, he winked and smiled at the girls and walked right past the other players to where they were sitting.
“I’m glad you could come,” Marcus said smiling, “and you brought a friend.”
“Marcus, this is Pam Feree. She works with me at the bank.”
“I know,” he said. “She showed me to your office the other day.” He wiped his sweaty hand on his jersey and stuck it out toward Pam, followed by a smile warm enough to melt Velveeta cheese. “Nice to see you again.
“I was wondering if you ladies would like to get a bite to eat after the game?” Witherow asked. “I get really hungry after these things and I hate to eat alone.”
Tamika looked at Pam.
“Sure,” Pam shot back the answer before Tamika could say anything. “We love to eat, too.”
“Then it’s set. I’ll meet you here after the game. I’ll be out about 30 minutes after we smash this bunch of losers from New York.”
Witherow smiled, turned and jogged back to the bench.
“Are you crazy?” Tamika scolded Pam. “We don’t even know this guy.”
“There are three reasons we have to go out with him,” Pam started explaining to Tamika. “One: This could be the chance of a lifetime for you; Two: We haven’t eaten yet either; and Three: He might have some large friends with large proportional body parts who want to meet me.”
Both girls laughed out loud at suggestion number three. They would have to watch the game before they could find out.
. . .
Marcus was everything the girls imagined he would be on the court. His slashing style was too quick for the Knicks’ inside players to handle. He made several drives to the basket for easy dunks, one with about three minutes left in the game that got the home crowd so excited that Pam and Tamika thought the roof of the United Center would come off.
Waiting for him after the game as the crowd filed out of the arena, Tamika and Pam noticed that several other young ladies were also sitting near them and staying put.
“I think they are basketball groupies,” Pam said to Tamika in a whisper, so the other girls would not hear her. “They say they hang out with the players and go to all the parties – you know, sex, drugs, money, fast cars. Haven’t you read about that Kobe Bryant sexual assault case?”
“We’re not going to any drug party, girl,” Tamika said rather matter-of-factly. “We’re not playing that game.”
“Oh, I don’t think Marcus is like that,” she said. “That’s just some of the stuff I’ve heard, being from Chicago, you know.”
. . .
As Witherow strolled back to courtside from the locker room, a spattering of applause welcomed him. He was a star and everyone knew it. He walked up to Pam and Tamika and extended two rather large arms.
“Ladies, our limo awaits us.”
Causes John Haslam Supports
I support the Constitution of the United States of America.
I support St. Jude's Hospital.
I believe in GOD.