The Slave Across the Street: Kidnapped

The Slave Across the Street: Kidnapped

Peggysue WellsBy Peggysue Wells29 Minutes

Book Excerpt from The Slave Across the Street by Theresa Flores and Peggysue Wells

I was dangerously weary. Tired of the nightly abuse, too sleep deprived to keep up my grades in school, worried that the well being of my brothers, my dog, my mom, and my dad’s job would be hurt or ruined if I made a mistake. I was exhausted from hiding a hideous, and growing secret from my family, my classmates, and my boyfriend.

I stopped writing letters to Jim. I stopped going to track practice. I sunk into a deep despair. My desire for life was gone.

I refused Joseph’s offer. I couldn’t voluntarily do this. It was different now because I didn’t have a choice. I was trying to keep my family safe until Vince gave me the photos. The shame of being found out, the risk of my father losing his job if they leaked the pictures to his boss, the responsibility of keeping my brothers out of harms way, all gave me no choice in the matter. I felt forced to finish this out until the end. What ever that would be.

Joseph’s offer was to keep me as his prostitute. To work for him so he could offer me to wealthier, more powerful men. This wouldn’t be small time guys like Vince, it would be a more dangerous game.

David didn’t like that I had told him no. He asked everyday if I was sure. Did I want to reconsider? My answer remained the same.

Instead of me helping David with his math homework as I regularly did, he began asking me if I needed help with my homework. Even my Chaldean friends, Bassim and Haddam sensed the change in me. They noticed the dark circles under my eyes and my speech papers that passed by their desks with my failing grades. They realized all they had taught me would not be enough for my survival. There was a feeling of tension in the air, a brooding danger.

The weather grew colder as fall gave way to winter. The dreary weather matched my  spirit. Mechanically I went through the motions. By the evening, I could no longer remember what I had done during the day. I wished, hoped, someone would care enough to intervene before I ended up dead. Laying in bed that night, I sent out a prayer that the torture would soon be over. Numb to all feelings and emotions, I drifted off to sleep.

Hours later, I woke to the shrill sound of my personal phone. Sadly, I reached for the handle. I didn’t need to hear the message. I didn’t need to guess what or who it was. I knew.

“Theresa, I need to meet you. We really have to talk,” David said.

Groggily, I agreed. As if I had a choice.

“Things are about to change and you are in trouble. Can you meet me now?”

His words sent fresh fear coursing through my veins and I was instantly awake. I sensed that circumstances were about to get worse.

“What’s wrong? What is happening? David, I am scared.”

“I know. I will explain in a little while.”

“You have to help me,” I pleaded.

“All I can tell you is that I talked to my older brother, Joseph.”

“I don’t know how much longer I can do this.”

He sighed. “Meet me in the usual place in ten minutes.”

I believed that Joseph was the leader of something even more sinister than what I was experiencing. My one mysterious encounter with him led me to wonder what was really going on. Was I earning pictures or was this only the surface? I had seen and heard hints of confidential business dealings that seemed to involve high stakes. The expensive houses, clothes, and jewelry in addition to the amounts of money I’d seen laying around proved that they weren’t just working for their father’s grocery stores. I suspected I was a pawn in a dangerous, mafia-type game. This was a life or death situation.

Though it was growing cold outside, I didn’t risk the noise of pulling open my dresser drawers and changing clothes. My dad was home and I had to be extra careful not to wake my parents. I quietly opened my bedroom door, as I had done so many times before and crept past my parent’s closed bedroom door. Sneaking down the stairs, I was careful not to make a single sound.

Barefooted, I tiptoed through my back yard. The cold dew soaked my feet as I snuck through the neighbor’s yard, noticing the light on in their family room and the owner watching TV. I crouched behind the bushes so he wouldn’t see me and quietly ran toward the street.

Under dim streetlights, the neighborhood houses were quiet, the residents sound asleep. I never got used to waiting in this spot, waiting for the nightmare to begin all over again. Something felt odd tonight. My stomach churned nervously, fear induced adrenaline caused my heart to thunder in my ears.

I didn’t have to wait long before the Trans-Am approached. Maybe tonight I would be released from bondage. Maybe they would give me the photos and leave me alone. As David’s car stopped in front of me, I felt the hairs on my arms stand straight up. I felt a tug on my shoulder, as if an angel was telling me not to go.

It was dark and I leaned in the passenger window. Arabic music played on the stereo. But David wasn’t in the driver seat.

“I thought David was coming to talk to me,” I said nervously.

“Yeah, we know,” Vince replied. “We made him call you.”

“Where is he? This is his car!”

“He won’t be able to help you tonight. Get in.”

I shrunk away from the car. Suddenly the car door opened and a strange Arabic man grabbed my waist and pulled me into the car. Fear surged though my veins and I struggled, trying to escape. I opened my mouth to scream, but a hand quickly shot out from somewhere, and struck me across the face. The blow made my head spin, and stars clouded my vision.

The door slammed shut and tires screeched as the driver sped from the subdivision. The inside of the car was filled with the cruel laughter of the men.

In shock, it took me a while to focus on where we were going and the surroundings. Outside the window, I saw we were in an unfamiliar, dark, poverty filled area of Detroit. The landscape was dotted with abandoned buildings, boarded up houses, and vacant lots. It smelled dirty.

If I escaped, where would I go? I had no idea where I was. Tears rolled down my cheeks. I understood a few words as the men talked a mixture of Arabic and English. Somehow I knew my survival was threatened tonight. Overwhelmed, I felt as if I was in another world. Far from from the comforts of my bedroom in my nice home with five bathrooms. Our summer pool pass to the club. None of that mattered at this moment.

Above the loud Arabic music, they spoke Arabic slang and laughed. The smell of their musky cologne mixed with the biting odor of alcohol that they passed around to each other. Someone pressed the bottle to my lips. I clenched my mouth tightly closed and was backhanded.

“Don’t hurt her too much,” I heard Vince caution from the front seat.

Gasping, I choked as hot liquid was dumped down my throat.

“We need her tonight,” Vince continued. “Besides, he’ll be mad if you hurt her.”

The car slowed and pulled into a sleazy, dirty motel. Broken down cars parked in front of the doors to their rooms. I was half-carried, half-dragged into the hotel room. It smelled of old cigarette smoke. I saw a large, king size bed and dresser. There was a mirror, several chairs and a table. And two dozen Arabic men. More nasty tasting liquid was poured down my throat. It tasted different than the other liquid they had made me drink in the car. It was a familiar bitter flavor.

I was told to strip and lie on the bed. When I tried to keep my underpants on, the room erupted into laugher. They were torn from me, by unknown hands and I was shoved to the bed.

As I scanned the room, I saw the only two people I knew – the evil Chaldean cousins.

“The present has arrived for you all,” Vince announced to the men. “For any that wish. His way of saying thank you for a job well done.”

At some point during the night, I lost consciousness. I lost count of how many men took their turn and abused my body for their pleasure. The fact that I was there not of my own free will excited them. I blacked out from the intense trauma overload and the liquor laced with some drug. Who knows what happened to me after that point. Or for how long.

When I finally came too, my head was spinning and cloudy. I didn’t want to open my eyes. I wanted to leave them closed for eternity. I listened. It was unusually quiet. Opening my eyes, I struggled to focus. The room was empty except for empty beer cans and liquor bottles strewn everywhere.

A wave of nausea caused me to bolt for the bathroom, but as I got to my feet, I doubled over as severe pain shot though my legs, my privates area, and my abdomen. I dropped to the floor, curled in the fetal position, gasping to breathe.

Eventually I got to my feet and glanced back at the bed. The sheets were bloody. Was that mine? I wobbled to the toilet and violently threw up. After rinsing my mouth, I washed my face with cold water from the sink. I searched the room for my clothes, picked up the sheets, and looked under the bed. Standing there, vulnerable and naked, spurred the rise of bile once again in my throat. After I vomited the second time, I laid my head on the toilet seat in desperation. With my head facing the shower, I saw my clothes. They were in the bathtub, wet.

I put on my cold, wet pajama pants and t-shirt. My underwear were long gone, most likely carried off as someone’s souvenir from the night’s activities.

Part of me wanted to take a bath and soak my aching body. Had I been left  in the rundown motel because they thought I was dead? Were they trying to keep me captive? Knowing I had no way to return home. Forcing me to wait for them, for whatever future plans they had for me.

I needed to escape fast before someone returned. Outside, the parking lot was dirty. Barefoot, wet, and cold, my head was still cloudy and my stomach churned. I didn’t know where to go. I had no money, no identification, nothing. I didn’t have anyone to call to come get me.

A small restaurant was at the rear of the motel. People were inside. Maybe someone would give me a ride home. Maybe there was a way out of this situation after all. Maybe David would show up, looking for me and take me back. What a nasty place. Who would eat here? What if someone knows those guys and they come back for me? Should I hide?

Entering the lobby, I saw about six people sitting at booths, smoking, chatting, and eating. A middle-aged waitress, who looked like she’d experienced hardships, too, walked between the tables, smiling at the customers and making small talk as she poured coffee. At that moment, I would have traded my life for hers. No matter how much money I came from, how big our house was or what a good family I had, right now I would rather be in her shoes.

She caught my eye as I peered sheepishly through the window. Without shoes, bloody and wet, I looked a mess. I was sixteen years old and stuck somewhere within the depths of the slums of Detroit, somewhere between late night and early morning.

She opened the door and gave me a sympathetic look. “Can I help you?”

“No, I don’t have any money. I’m okay,” I stated proudly as I had been taught.

“Let me know if you change your mind,” she replied.

I sat on the dusty, cracked, orange cushioned bench and considered my options. I could call my parents. I needed to get home. Yet there was no way I could call home. Then my parents would finally know. My family’s lives would be in jeopardy.

A black car pulled up to the motel and I shrank down in the cushions. But it wasn’t them. I resolved to call home. I motioned to the waitress and she came back out to the lobby.

“Could I borrow a dime? I need to make a phone call.”

She nodded and pulled a coin from her apron pocket. She returned to her customers as I slid the dime into the lobby pay phone. My heart thundered as my shaking fingers pushed the numbers to my house. What time was it? As the number rang, I held my breath. A recorded message came on saying that I needed to first dial the area code. Where was I? My dime came back out. I had to make a collect call.

I gave the operator my home number. It rang once, twice, three times. I became more frightened with each ring of the phone. My dad would be would be furious.

“Hello?” A man’s voice groggily answered.

I slammed down the receiver before the operator could give him my name. I couldn’t do this. Not after what I had just gone through. Not both in the same night. To endure torture, and then disappoint the people who cared about me the most and put them in danger was more than I could bear. I rested my head on the side of the pay phone and cried.

Glancing up, I noticed the waitress watching me and talking on the phone inside the restaurant. Now what? 

While I silently prayed, a police car pulled up outside the motel restaurant. The officer got out of the cruiser, walked up to the door and looked at me. I didn’t know whether to be relieved or scared. I had never had dealings with police officers. Perhaps he could drop me off at home.

“What seems to be the problem here?”

“I need to get home,” I answered. “Can you give me a ride?”

“How old are you? Do your parents know you’re out this late? Where do you live?”

I shrunk back from the pummeling questions. “Um, I’m sixteen. I live in Birmingham. Could you just give me a ride?”

“Let’s talk in the car on the way home,” he answered.

I agreed. This just might work. He spoke with the waitress again and then talked on his walkie-talkie. The longer I waited, the more exhausted I became. It was a long time since I’d slept.

“Can you tell me what happened back there?” the officer asked as he drove. “Why are you all the way out here?”

I pretended to sleep, occasionally mumbling an “I don’t know,” to pacify him. I could barely move the muscles of my mouth to respond. In shock, I worried about getting inside the house and into my own bed without anyone knowing. All I wanted was to get in the hot, soothing bath and soak away the aches, hurts, the blood, and the awful odor of the cologne and body fluids of so many disgusting men.

“Who took you all there way here and left you? I really need you to tell me. Are you hurt? Do you want to go to the hospital?”

Like I learned to do at the counselor appointments, I remained silent. They can’t do anything if I don’t answer. All I want is to go home. 

It was a long ride before the police cruiser pulled into my driveway. The big white pillars, looked familiar yet ominous.

I quickly got out. “Thanks for the ride,” I said and hurried to the front door.

He turned off the car and followed me. The front porch lights were on. Oh no. How was I going get out of this one?

I opened the door and my parents met me, clad in their pajamas, robes, and dark frowns. My puppy ran into my arms. I gingerly bent to pick him up. “Oh Bowzer!” I held him tightly as he licked my swollen face. His unconditional love was a balm for my body and soul.

“Stay here while we talk to the officer,” my father stated.

They went into the living room as I waited for what seemed an eternity. How could I continue to protect my family if the truth came out? David said these guys meant business. Maybe I should have taken Joseph’s offer, to keep my family safe. What would they do now that the police were involved? I was sure they were watching. How could I continue to do this without my family getting hurt? 

I recalled the string of dead animals that had shown up in our mailbox since the manipulation had begun 18 months ago. My brothers were often followed home from school. Holding my puppy, I knew that the truth wasn’t an option. My dad was traveling to the east coast on Monday for two weeks.

“Theresa,” my father summoned me to the living room. My parents believed that I had been out all night whoring around with boys. Their minds were made up. Nothing I said would change it without putting us all in grave danger.

The officer studied me with knowing eyes.

“May I talk with Theresa, alone?” the officer asked.

My parents went to the kitchen to make coffee. Day was dawning.

“Theresa, I know what happened,” he said gently. “I’ve seen this before. You’re not the only one. I know you’re not doing this voluntarily, like your parents think.” He leaned forward. “Am I right?”

I gave him the slightest indication of a nod.

“I can help,” he offered, “but I need your help. We believe there is a large criminal ring involving a large group of Chaldeans. Does the last name Gerard sound familiar?”

My heart dropped into my stomach and my eyes widened. I stared into his eyes, not nodding or denying.

“That’s what I thought.” He pulled out a business card and handed it to me. “Take my card and call me when you’re ready to talk. I need an insider in order to get to them. But you must realize that this is very dangerous.”

You have no idea.

“We want to get the top guy,” he continued. “Joseph.”

My eyes widened at his name and I swallowed. Memories of our one and only meeting flooded back.

Noting my reaction, the officer nodded and left.

Zombie-like, I went upstairs, filled the tub with scalding hot water and stayed there for hours. My tears flowed like the water facet as I attempted to wash only God knew what from my body.

I missed school that day. Surprisingly, I was allowed to sleep all day. My mind, body, and soul screamed inside. Each time I woke, often from the pain, I closed my eyes again preferring sleep to the harshness of reality.

Late that afternoon, my brother’s yelling woke me.

My mom knocked on my bedroom door. “Do you have Bowzer in there with you, Theresa?”


“Get up and help us look for him. We can’t find him.”

My three brothers and I combed the neighborhood, the subdivision, and the park. We made posters and hung them everywhere. The boys rode their bikes to the grocery store on the busy intersection. Allen wanted to stop by the police headquarters to give them a poster. I stalled. I knew I was being watched. If I was seen going in the police building, someone might think I was going to them for help for a different matter. I stood outside, waiting for my brothers to come back out.

Late that night, my private phone line rang. When I answered I heard a dog bark and a gunshot.

I went to my desk, opened the drawer, and took out the policeman’s business card. I read the name on the card, then tore it to shreds. I cried myself to sleep, knowing that even though I kept my mouth shut, the danger wasn’t over. I hadn’t been able to protect my dog.

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