The crowded joys and familiar despair of poor, back-alley life in 1950 Pittsburgh have a hold on most people there, but there are those who need to escape. Jeremiah Henderson and his woman, Willet Mercer, set their sights on New York City - but making good is easier said than done. Left with no choice but to give in to the pimp who'd like to try Willet on for size before selling her to his clientele, Jeremiah and Willet try to focus on the future. But just before the pimp has his way with her, Willet balks, stabbing him to death in the back of his car. Horrified, but, nonetheless now flush with the pimp's fat wad and fancy Buick, it looks as if they may be in sight of their dreams; they just have to make one last stop outside Wilmington, North Carolina, where Willet intends to see the little boy she abandoned long ago.