|Posted on June 1, 2010 at 12:22 AM|
Three years later…
Sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of the bed Amanda sat, still humming the same tunes as she had the first day. She was alone. But she knew that wouldn’t last for long. Another one would walk up the stairs in a little bit and she would be forced to do those things with those men again. Jeremy was downstairs like always holding court while she was here doing unspeakable things. How could she ever have believed he loved her? How could anyone love her now? She was tainted. Ruined. With every passing day and with every man that touched her, she felt more and more worthless. She heard a tentative knock and she scrambled to her feet. This is new, she thought. None of the men had knocked before; they always just came bursting through the door, sometimes scaring her half to death with the sudden-ness of it.
“Amanda? Are you in there? Can I come in?”
Who was that? The voice sounded familiar like someone she had known eons ago; before she had been ruined.
“Yeah, I’m in here. Who wants to know?”
“It’s me… Kenny, your brother. Are you ok? Can I come in and talk to you?”
Kenny?! My brother is HERE?! , she thought.
“Just give me a minute OK?”
Amanda quickly pulled the thread bare blanket over the unmade bed, covering what she had become, and hastily dressed in the only clothing she owned—a raggedy pair of jeans and a t-shirt that was much too small. She didn’t bother looking in the cracked and dirty mirror above the dresser; there was nothing she could do about her appearance anyway.
Pulling the door open, she stared up at her older brother. All of the animosity of the past melted away once she saw him standing there in the flesh. The look on his face went from relief to a look of shock before he reached for her face with both hands and then looked enraged. Putting her hands on his wrists, she pulled his hands from her bruised jawline and tugged him inside the small cluttered room.
Kenny looked around the room and wanted to hurt that Jeremy guy even more than he already did. The sight of the sagging mattress and the dirty blanket combined with the smell of stale sex made him want to be sick. He shook his head and tried to focus on how to get Mandy out of this situation now that he had finally found her.
“How did you manage to get up here?” she asked, managing to sound both humiliated and grateful at the same time.
“I didn’t tell them I was your brother. I asked for Amanda and, well, you don’t need to know the details.”
He didn’t want to tell her about how the men downstairs snickered to one another at her name, or how he heard someone whisper she’s a popular one, eh? He also didn’t want to tell her about having to pay that Jeremy four hundred dollars and hear him say that it wasn’t his responsibility if he got hurt since she was known to put up a fight sometimes. That last statement almost broke him and he almost beat him to a pulp right there, but he knew that wouldn’t do any good and then he wouldn’t be able to talk to his sister at all.
She gave him a tired look that told him she already those details he tried to shield her from, but she just nodded and hung her head down lower.
“How is mom,” she asked. “Tell her anything, just so she won’t worry ok?”
“She died Amanda. Last month. It took me so long to find you…” Kenny’s voice broke at the end of his sentence and looked at her with a pained expression before adding, “That time we got the letter… it said you were a waitress. Why didn’t you tell us the truth?”
“You got a letter,” she whispered. “They never let me write to you Kenny, or even get near a phone. Not once.” She hung her head down even lower, put her face in her hands and began to cry softly. Kenny wanted to comfort her and hug her, but he knew that wouldn’t be wise after what she’d been through with all those men. Instead, he tried to comfort her with words.
“Mandy, don’t cry. You couldn’t have possibly known what would happen. I’m not angry, I just want you back home. Your friend Debra still asks about you, so does Derek. He’s been hanging around the house a lot since you disappeared. Come home with me Mandy.”
Her head suddenly snapped up. “Don’t you think I want to?” she asked through clenched teeth. “I’ve wanted to go back home since this started.” She gesturing to herself and the room. “He won’t let me go Kenny. He says I owe him and he’ll kill me if I try to leave.”
“Owe him? For what,” Kenny asked angrily. “He’s the one that owes you Mandy, not the other way around. He lied to you and took you from your family. Look what he’s made you do,” he shouted.
“How long has it been Kenny? I don’t even know how long I’ve been gone… all the days run together here.”
“Its been three years mandy. I’ve been looking for you, to bring you back home all that time.”
“He won’t let me leave,” she repeated weakly.
“We’ll see about that. I’ll be back tomorrow morning,” he said as he stood to leave. “I’ll tell them that you’re sick or something so you won’t have to… So they won’t make you do this.”
“No! Don’t tell them I’m sick Kenny,” she pleaded, her voice filled with panic and her eyes wide with fright. “They’ll beat me! The last girl that said she was sick was actually pregnant and they beat her until she lost the baby. She died a few days later. Just go,” she said pushing him toward the door, “I’ll be ok.”
Kenny clenched his jaw and looked at her for a moment before he nodded and opened the door.
“Tomorrow, I’ll get you out tomorrow,” he repeated before closing the door behind him.
After he left, Amanda tried to sort through this new information. Kenny had been looking for her… he didn’t hate her after all. But her mother, her mother was dead! She would never get to tell her how those old songs she used to sing had helped her endure all these years. Three long years without the family that she had taken for granted. Oh how she wished she could actually leave with Kenny. She sincerely hoped that he would keep his promise and come back for her the next day, but when had any man kept his promise to her?
Sitting in his car the next morning a half block from where Jeremy was keeping Mandy hostage, Kenny sat with his hands on the steering wheel holding it so tightly that his knuckles were white and he was beginning to lose feeling at his fingertips. His thoughts were racing a mile a minute trying to figure out how he managed not to notice what Jeremy really was all those years ago.
Amanda seemed so happy when she had told their mother that it would probably be a couple of months before she got settled, but then she would call. Instead they got a type written letter telling them that the job at the law firm fell through so she was working as a waitress instead. The letter said she was still with Jeremy in New York, things were going great and that he was taking good care of her. That was it. No return address, no phone number, nothing. The letter, post marked in Texas, came three months after she had gone.
A year later, Kenny had heard about these places down in Mexico, not all that far from their home in San Diego, where there were girls practically stolen from their families here in the U.S. and forced into prostitution. He had heard about it when he was at a bar with some friends and had overheard some other guys talking about finding one of these places and having ‘a really good time.’ Kenny got very angry at that statement and had gotten into his first bar fight. Kenny suspected that was what happened to his sister. There was no other explanation for why they hadn’t heard from her and the more time passed, the more Kenny was aware of the small things he’d heard about Jeremy that didn’t seem to add up. Like how Amanda had never been to his room at the University, or how their mother described him as all hands the few times she had seen him dropping Mandy off at the house. At the time, he figured his mom was being old fashioned and maybe Mandy didn’t want their mother to know she’d been to his room. But now after the little meeting with Jeremy and after talking to his sister, he knew for certain that Jeremy was slime.
He sat there in the car for over an hour just watching the steady stream of men going in and coming out of the basement level of the apartment building. After seeing what these men were doing to his sister and the other girls trapped there last night, he’d had to stop on the way to his hotel and vomit on the sidewalk. He was as determined as ever to get her out of there. He’d made the call to his buddy Jake, who said he was already on his way.
Pulling himself back to the present, he spotted Jake and two other men he didn’t recognize walking down the street toward his car. Stepping out of the car, he waved them over and discussed the plan. It was pretty straightforward. Jake and the other two were going to walk in and cause a commotion with some of the girls down in the lobby while Kenny snuck up to retrieve his sister. Kenny told them that last night he’d only seen three men besides Jeremy running the lobby. The two men Jake brought with him, Mike and John, were armed so it would be an even fight if Jeremy’s cronies got too excited. They were going to go in about ten minutes to cause their commotion, and Kenny was to wait five minutes and follow them in.
After the allotted time, Kenny went walking for the building. Just steps away from the door, he could hear his friends start to get loud inside. They were starting to argue over one particular girl and then he heard glass breaking. That was his cue. He walked in, like he had business there and went straight for the stairs. The man who had made the snide remark the night before tried to block his way to the steps, but Kenny punched him between the mouth and the nose and down he went. Rushing up to the floor where Amanda’s room was he passed people peeking out of other rooms curious about the noise downstairs. One look at Kenny’s determined face and they quickly retreated and closed their doors. When he reached Amanda’s room, he declined to knock
And threw open the door. What he saw enraged him to the point where he saw nothing but red. Amanda was lying limply on the rumpled covers covering her face with her hands while a man in his late forties was raping her, seemingly indifferent to Amanda’s cries. Kenny grabbed the man by his neck and violently ripped him off of his sister, threw him on the floor and began hitting him over and over and over until he heard Amanda scream, “Stop! Kenny stop! He’s dead already!”
She was staring at him with wide eyes that were red rimmed from crying and her mouth was freshly bruised. Kenny looked down at the man and vomited at the damage he had done to his face. He gestured for Mandy to get dressed then he headed for the door. Amanda joined him only a minute later wearing the same tattered outfit she wore the day before, and they began their break for freedom.
Downstairs, things were about to come apart at the seams. They were hoping that Jeremy wouldn’t put up too much of a fight for Amanda, but they were wrong. Jeremy took one look at Amanda and Kenny coming down the stairs and he rushed for his gun and pointed it in their direction.
At the sight of the gun, Amanda squeezed her eyes shut. All she could hear were shots firing all around them and then something heavy smashing her onto the ground. Someone was screaming… was it her? Finally it stopped and she opened her eyes. She saw Jeremy on the other side of the lobby with blood all over his chest. He wasn’t moving. Then she tried to stand, but there was still something heavy on her. It was Kenny! Amanda shoved him off of her so that she could see if he was OK. He wasn’t moving and he had some blood on his head, but it didn’t look like a gunshot wound. Crying, she started to shake him and finally, he started to come around. Three other guys started walking toward her and Kenny, so she held onto Kenny’s arm and shouted, “JUST LEAVE US ALONE!”
“It’s ok Amanda; It’s me, Jake from the old neighborhood.”
Recognition flooded her face and she heard Kenny whispering, “It’s ok Mandy, you’re safe. You can come home with me now. It’s ok.”
The other men helped Kenny to his feet and they rushed out the door to the car that was parked just down the road. Home, Amanda thought. I can finally go home. She knew she was safe because she was with Kenny, but she was still unsure of Jake and the other two men. After all she had been through, she couldn’t be sure that they wouldn’t try to hurt her. They all piled into the four door car with Jake in the driver seat and one of the men she didn’t know sat in the passenger seat. Kenny, Amanda, and the other man sat in the back with her in the middle. Kenny was doing fine now, he must have just banged his head when he jumped on her trying to shield her from Jeremy’s bullets.
The man sitting next to her tried to put a blanket around her shoulders, but she didn’t know how to react to a strange man’s hands coming at her like that so she shrank back into the seat of the car covering her already bruised face with her hands. For the past three years, anytime a man’s hands came toward her, it was to hit her or hurt her.
“It’s alright,” he told her, “I’m not going to hurt you Amanda. I just thought you might want to cover up some, that’s all.” He passed her the blanket to wrap around herself and gave her a weak smile that was full of pity and sadness. She remembered that he’d had a gun back at the apartments.
“Who are you guys?” Amanda asked quietly.
“My name is Mike,” said the man beside her, “and that’s John in the front seat. John and I are, well, we’ve lost people to Jeremy’s business before, so we were determined to help your brother and Jake get you out of that mess before you ended up like our Darla and Sue. Darla was John’s sister and Sue was my girlfriend,” he said with sadness in his voice. “When we overheard your brother’s friend Jake planning this, we decided to help.”
“What happened to Darla and Sue,” she asked Mike quietly.
“From what we’ve been able to piece together, Darla was beaten to death by one of Jeremy’s ‘clients’ when she tried to fight him off the first night she was taken, and they shot my Sue when they noticed that she was visibly pregnant. With my child,” he ended in a whisper. He gave her a small sad smile then and turned his head to look out the window. Amanda’s eyes welled with tears at his statement and she quickly wiped them away. She didn’t have the right to cry. She got to live. Darla and Sue didn’t and neither did Mike’s unborn child. Amanda got the hint. She wouldn’t be asking anymore questions. Instead, she tried to lean against her brother and sleep. She couldn’t remember the last time she felt safe enough to close her eyes and really rest…