Operation Austin, Chapter Three – Traffickers

Mercenary in Black

Chapter Three – Traffickers

“Paige?” he began, as they cruised eastbound again on 84. “I hate to bring this up, and I promise after this, I won’t ask again because it’s in the past now, but I could help you better if I knew what happened. Can you take a minute and tell me about Vegas?”


“I understand,” she swallowed. This wasn’t easy for her to talk about. “I grew up in McCall, Idaho. I never really knew my dad, and my mom had problems; she wasn’t around much and took off for good when I was eight, so my grandma raised me. Grams had a hard life and had my mom late. She tried to do her best with me, I guess, but she wasn’t planning on raising another kid. I think she was worn out from raising my mom. She got cancer and died when I was seventeen, almost eighteen. There wasn’t anyone else, so I stayed with my friend Cassie’s family for a while. It was fine at first, but her dad ended up being an asshole who couldn’t keep his hands to himself. I tried to avoid him, but Cassie saw it once, and she was mad at me. Like it was my fault, the guy was a creep.”


She paused, looking out the window. “I’d been talking to a girl online from Las Vegas. We met in a Facebook group about modeling. I sent her some of my pictures, and she encouraged me to go visit her. I was working at a restaurant in McCall; she said there were lots of opportunities there working in the casinos and restaurants, jobs that would lead to modeling. I had a little money, some I got from Grams, and more I saved up, so I took a bus to meet Jenny. It was a last-minute decision, things just got bad at Cassie’s, and I grabbed my stuff and left.”


This story is too common.  He thought as he looked at her, listening, but not going to comment yet.  She needs to just get through this and get it out; it’s part of her healing.


“I got into town last Friday afternoon and went to Jenny’s apartment. I thought I could stay with her, but she had roommates, so she took me to a cheap motel. Saturday morning she said we were going to a party on the other side of town that night. She said the party house belonged to a friend of hers, someone with modeling connections, and it would be a great opportunity for me to meet him.”


“A car picked us up at my motel, and we got there about seven o’clock. The party was amazing, like something from a movie. I’ve never seen anything like it in McCall, that’s for sure. There were people everywhere, drinking and swimming in the pool. We mingled for a while, Jenny knew everybody there, and she was introducing me around. Most of the guests were men, older, and there were a lot of girls in bikinis. I figured they were models. It should have been a warning to me that I didn’t see any wives. I thought about it afterward, but I was just excited and followed Jenny around as I met the people there.”


“Jenny got me a drink, and after a few minutes, I started feeling strange; she helped me to a bedroom and suggested I rest for a minute. I didn’t drink enough to be drunk, but I must have passed out because I don’t remember anything until I woke up Sunday. There was a guy there. He scared me, so I tried to get out. He grabbed me and tore my dress. I fought with him, then he hit me in the eye. He just kept hitting and kicking me; he said I needed to “learn this lesson right now.”


She took a breath. Gary’s jaw was tight. His anger was cold and surgical. He could feel it, and it would be so easy to let it out, but that would terrify her. She needs him to just listen. Sometime in the future, he will use it when he finds whoever is left of the traffickers.


She continued, “At some point, I must have blacked out.” There were tears in her eyes. Gary held out his hand, and she cautiously took it in hers. Their hands rested in her lap, by her hip. She swallowed, and continued, “I woke up sometime later, tied up. Every part of me hurt, and I couldn’t see out of my eye. God, it hurt so much, I was afraid he blinded me. I was so afraid, Gary. I knew they were some kind of trafficking ring; he made that clear. I was going to the Middle East with another girl; sold to someone who was picking me up soon. He said they got a lot for me.” She paused and cried with her head down, “he said virgins are worth more. He laughed at me. He was so disgusting. Jenny must have told them all about me; I thought she was my friend, but she wasn’t. When he said that, I knew this was all planned from the start; they just didn’t know I was coming to town that weekend.”


She sat there holding his hand, crying softly. His heart was torn for her, his anger seething, yet on some animal level, he was aroused to know she was a virgin. He was aware of his desire for her, he knew it made him a horrible person, but it was a reflex he could not control. He did not even know her, and she was so vulnerable, and he wanted her. All of her. He wanted to be the man she needed, to protect her and give her security. He knew it was primal and irrational, but a raw desire was there.


She activated that part of him the minute he saw her walk out of the gate at the airport with her perfect body, and the stunning face which had been bruised and beaten. She was not aware of his anger or what it would eventually lead to. It would probably scare the shit out of her if she did. The hero in him wanted to protect her and let her heal, to take her home and show her the beautiful parts of his world. His inner barbarian wanted to possess her. That day the hero would win.


She looked out the window as she finished her story, “They mostly left me alone, other than bringing something to eat. On Monday evening I heard a lot of noise. Yelling, sharp sounds which I guess were gunshots. After a couple of minutes, the door flew open, and John came in with his gun out; it scared the hell out of me. He looked like a military guy, like in the movies. He took one look around the room and said, ‘I found another girl.’ I had been tied to the bed; he cut me loose and said, ‘I’m here to get you out, but we need to move fast. Follow me.’ I was frightened. I didn’t know him, but I was going to take any opportunity I could to escape. I grabbed my shoes from the floor, and as we left the room, there were dead guys in the outer rooms. I don’t know how many, but several. As we ran through the room, I saw my purse and grabbed it from a table. My wallet and passport were sitting beside my purse, so I grabbed them also. John had another guy with him who was helping another girl. As we left the house, the guy who owned the place and another guy were dead in the living room. The minute we got outside, a car pulled up, and the other girl and I jumped in. The driver was huge, and he asked if we were ok. They did not tell us his name, but he referred to the other girl as Christie, she looked like she was about my age. John and the other guy, I don’t know his name either but the one that helped the other girl, he opened the trunk. They changed some of their clothes really quick, and threw the military stuff in.”


“We dropped the other girl at a hotel. A couple who John said were her parents, and another woman and a Black girl were there. We didn’t stay long, just dropped Christie off, then the driver took John and me to another hotel, the Rio. They didn’t talk much, and I didn’t hear their names, but we went straight up to a room, John’s room, and the other guy stayed out in the hall as a guard. John called for room service and left me there to go downstairs. Before he left, he asked me what size pants I wear. I told him usually a size two. He must have gone down to the shops in the lobby. He came back with this T-shirt and two pairs of pants, a size two and a four. Room service came in with him, and we ate. I was so tired, I just wanted to curl up and sleep. He gave me some ibuprofen and one of his shirts to wear to bed. I took a shower, and he threw away my dress and my phone. All of my photos and contacts were on it, but he explained they could track me through my phone. The dress was ripped anyway, and he said we needed to get rid of anything which could be recognized. He cleaned up my face a little. I was so tired; I got into bed and went to sleep. That was the last thing I remember until I woke up this morning, and John told me he was sending me to a friend of his who had a safe place for me to stay for a while.”


She looked at him. “You know the rest.”


She was still holding his hand. As she finished her story, she looked at their hands resting in her lap. She got self-conscious and released her grip to brush her hair away from her tear-stained face. Using the bottom of her T-shirt, she wiped her tears away. As she did, he could see her skin, her board-flat tummy exposed as she lifted the shirt. The smoothness, the tan skin against the top of her jeans, and her belly button. She had a piercing. He was again aware of how attractive she was, and he had to refocus on the road and take a deep breath. His hand was back on the steering wheel. He groaned audibly as he saw her navel piercing.


“Are you ok?” she asked.


“Yeah.” He felt transparent, as he looked over at her. “Something about you touches me,” he paused and looked away. “I’m sorry if that alarms you.” Her eyes had gotten a little wider after his admission. “I’m just trying to sort this out. I didn’t expect… YOU.”


She nodded in understanding. “I know what you mean,” she replied softly. “I don’t know what I expected, but I didn’t expect you either. It feels like static electricity every time you look at me.”


They became quiet. The sound system played ‘In the air tonight,’ the Panski remix. As Dana Kelson’s incredible voice created a moment in time, Paige laid her seat back so she could nap.


She is played out,  he thought.  Poor kid.  He reached down and gave her thigh a little squeeze; she looked up at him. He wanted to share one more thought, “There is one other thing you might not know. It seems a short while after you left the party house, there was a fire. The place is a complete loss, burned to the ground.”


He shrugged his shoulders innocently, but he smiled. She just looked at him, trying to figure out the implication.


“There is another possibility, the reason you were there for a couple of days. They probably had an order from overseas. When they confirmed how beautiful you are, they might have been waiting for contact from a foreign buyer, and nobody would have known you were there. This would be a good thing.”


“You think I’m beautiful?” she asked, with a knowing smile, baiting him.


He looked at her, shook his head, and smiled. “Is that what you got from my comment, libra? Yes, stunning but only in the purely academic sense of the word.”


She giggled, “Ahhh, good to know.”


“I want you to understand you are being taken care of. We are going to be careful, but it’s over. Take a nap. In two hours, we will be in Yakima, and we’ll have some fun. You have a new life ahead.”


“That would be nice,” she sighed. “I was getting tired of the other one.”


“Well, that’s good because you can’t go back to it, not for a long time.”


To Be Continued!

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