Deliver Me From Evil: A Human Trafficking Story

Deliver Me From Evil: A Human Trafficking Story

Kathi MaciasBy Kathi Macias24 Minutes

Excerpt from Deliver Me From Evil by Kathi Macias

Mara fought to breathe against the thick darkness that pressed her down. The closet was so small … so dark and cramped. Impossible to stretch out, whether lying down or standing up. How long had it been now? Hours? Days? The blackness was too complete, the confines too cramped even to venture a guess.

She’d been in what they all termed “the hole” before, but not for a while now. In the beginning, before she’d learned to obey the rules without question or hesitation, she had often found herself confined in what felt like a tomb, wondering how long it would take before she crossed so far into insanity that there was no way back. And though the times in the hole were the worst, life outside the silent box wasn’t much better. To survive, Mara had quickly learned to remove herself from the horrifying reality that had become her life, to travel far away in her mind where the torture was only a distant terror, one she could endure if she disciplined herself to think of something else. Eventually she had become one of the most compliant of the twenty or more wretched creatures that dwelled in this nameless location, which she had come to understand was somewhere in the San Diego area of Southern California, not far from the Mexican border. As a result, her trips to the hole became only a vague yet obedience-motivating memory.

But this time she had dared to break a rule, not openly but secretly, praying to a god she didn’t really believe in to protect her. Unfortunately, the nonexistent god had apparently chosen not to answer her prayer, and she had been caught and severely punished—beaten mercilessly and thrown into the hole without food or water—because she had allowed the face of a young child to entice her to venture beyond the tentative bounds of safety.

And for what? Not only had she failed to help the girl escape, but she had probably caused her to be thrown into the hole as well, for there were several such confines within the compound. Nearly as bad as being in the claustrophobic enclosure herself was knowing that a captive no older than six or seven was being held in a similar prison nearby, terrified beyond imagining.

When would Mara learn? She herself hadn’t been much older than the tiny child when she was spirited away from her previous life, never again to see her home or family or anything else familiar. Thrust into a world of violence and perversion, Mara had learned to endure the most nightmarish and degrading of conditions. Though at first she had cried and begged to go home to her parents, even though they too had beaten and abused her, she finally came to understand that it was her father who had sold her into this new life from which there was no escape—and her very own uncle, her “tio” who had arranged the sale and was now her owner. And that was the worst part of it all—realizing that no one would ever come to rescue her, for those who should care enough to try were the ones who put her there—all for the price of a few weeks worth of drugs or alcohol, possibly even some food.

With that realization, Mara had chosen to harden her heart and do whatever she must to get through, one day at a time—sometimes one moment at a time. That was how she had gained the tiniest amount of freedom and privileges, being fed more regularly and even allowed to walk relatively unhindered around the small compound that had become her world—so long as she continued to obey her tio and his two henchmen without question.

But then the little girl with the terrified eyes had arrived, bound and gagged, bloody and bruised … and everything had changed.

Chapter 1

Jonathan had just turned eighteen and was less than a couple of weeks away from his high school graduation, but his lifelong dream of becoming a major league pitcher was no closer to materializing now than when he first entertained the thought while he was still in grammar school. He’d worked hard to try to achieve his goal, but it seemed that good just wasn’t good enough—not for turning pro, anyway. The best he could hope for was to enjoy the game as a leisurely pursuit and maybe coach his own children’s teams one day.

Meanwhile, he had to get serious about what seemed his only viable alternative—heading off to Bible college in the fall, just as his parents had always prayed he would. It wasn’t that Jonathan didn’t believe in Jesus or want to serve Him, but he really had no clue what that looked like in reality. His parents had been missionaries for several years, and his dad now served as an associate pastor at a healthy, growing church, so Jonathan and his younger sister and only sibling, Leah, had plenty of experience as missionary and pastor’s kids. But did Jonathan want to be a missionary or a pastor himself? Not really. He just wanted to throw a baseball faster and harder than anyone else in the history of the world.

Jonathan sighed. Just proved how totally unspiritual he really was. If he were a real on-fire Christian like his parents or even sixteen-year-old Leah, he’d be up already—even if it was Saturday—praying and reading his Bible. Instead, all he could think about was getting enough of the guys together to play a few innings before he had to head off to work this afternoon at his part-time pizza-delivery job.

He inhaled deeply and dragged himself from bed, standing to his full six-foot two-inch height. He might as well jump in the shower before Leah locked herself in the bathroom for the morning or he’d never make it to the field on time.

He smiled in spite of himself. Leah. He’d spent the better part of his life complaining about his “pain in the rear” little sister tagging along behind him and doing her best to ruin his life in every possible way imaginable, but he couldn’t fathom not having her around. Sure, he’d miss his parents when he went off to school in a few months, but it was Leah he would miss the most—though he’d rather have his tongue cut out than admit it.

Wait a minute. The door to the hallway bathroom that he shared with his sister was closed. Surely she wasn’t up already! He tried the handle. Locked. Jonathan shook his head. Maybe life without her would have its advantages after all.


Leah swallowed a giggle. She’d heard Jonathan jiggle the bathroom doorknob, but when he called to her and asked how long she’d be, she’d turned on the shower and pretended not to hear. On weekdays she always let him have first crack at the bathroom, while she snuggled under the covers for a few extra minutes. It was only fair. Jonathan could shower and be dressed and out the door in less time than it took her to figure out what to do with her thick, curly mane of long red hair. And since her parents had allowed her to start wearing a touch of makeup, her morning beauty regimen took even longer, driving her brother crazy if he was pacing outside the door. So she allowed him first dibs on school days or when he had to get to work early. But Saturdays? Nah. He’d just have to wait his turn. Besides, if he’d really wanted in there first, he could have gotten up earlier.

When you snooze, you lose, she thought, grinning as she climbed into the shower and adjusted the water, all the time considering how irritated Jonathan got when she threw that phrase at him.

“Will you quit saying that?” he’d demand. “I’m not the one who lies around in bed until the last minute and then hogs the bathroom!”

She’d shrug and raise her eyebrows nonchalantly. “I’m just saying…” Her voice would trail off then, and she’d scoot past him before he grabbed her and they ended up in a wrestling match. True, he always cooled down and let her win, but her mother had made quite a big deal lately about their being too old to roll around on the floor and holler at one another.

“You’re going to break something one of these days,” she’d warn. “Either one of my lamps or one of your bones. So could you please settle down and try acting your age for a change? Honestly!”

By that time the siblings would become conspirators, grinning at one another behind their mother’s back. The thought that Jonathan would soon be gone away to college came like a streak of hot lightning to her heart, and her playful mood evaporated. She was glad her brother was going to attend Bible college, though she doubted it was for the right reasons, but she was going to miss him nonetheless. He’d been her protector and confidante her entire life, and things just wouldn’t be the same without him. On the positive side, she could only hope and pray that Jonathan’s stint at college would be the catalyst for launching him into the ministry she was sure God had for him. Selfishly, she hoped that ministry wouldn’t take him far from their San Diego home, as she really couldn’t imagine her life without Jonathan in it.


Mara’s feet still felt numb, as if she couldn’t get enough blood flowing through them to make them work right. And so she hobbled as best she could—and as quickly as possible—to do the bidding of her uncle or any of the others who claimed ownership over her. The time in the hole, which had so restricted her movement that her limbs no longer seemed to work right, had reminded her that even the confines of the compound and the humiliation that went with her position as slave were preferable to what could happen to her if she disobeyed again.

As she busied herself preparing a simple meal for her tio and the two other men who currently oversaw the twenty-plus young slaves in the compound, she wondered at the fate of the little girl who had precipitated her most recent punishment. Mara hadn’t seen her since being released from the hole the previous day. She didn’t even know the child’s name—and little else about the others in the compound, for that matter—as the captives were forbidden from discussing personal information. The names assigned the overseers were quite obviously made up, since Mara’s uncle’s real name was Tomas but they were all instructed to call him “Jefe” or “Chief.” The other two that assisted Jefe were known as “Destroyer” and “Enforcer,” no doubt for intimidation purposes, Mara presumed. And the customers who “dated” the girls—or even one of the two young boys also being held there—seldom divulged their real names.

Don’t ask names; don’t look at faces. Mara had learned that rule long ago. Her own name had eventually been changed from Maria to Mara because her uncle-turned-owner said that Mara meant “bitter” and it fit her personality since coming to live at the compound. Looking back, it was probably one of the few true statements she could remember Jefe ever making.

Bitter. What else could she be, growing up in a place like this? She might as well have a name that fit her.

Don’t ask names; don’t look at faces. The warning still echoed in her mind. If only she’d remembered that when the little girl came in a few days earlier, maybe they both could have been spared some time in the hole.

So where is she now? Mara wondered again, using a large spoon to scoop the steaming canned stew into three bowls. Though it was her job to feed her captors, she had to wait to eat anything until they gave her permission. She hoped it wouldn’t be too long, as she’d had very little since emerging from her punishment the previous evening.

The kid probably hasn’t had anything at all yet, she thought, remembering how it was when she first arrived. Part of the painful process of breaking her down had been keeping her hungry, so much so that her stomach growled and burned almost constantly, and she was soon willing to do anything for a piece of stale bread. No doubt the new girl was receiving the same treatment.

It doesn’t matter, she told herself, steeling her heart. She’s not my problem. If either one of us is going to survive, I’ve got to remember that. And if she doesn’t survive…that’s not my problem either. The only problem I’ve got right now is getting these men fed before they get mad and throw me back in the hole.

Walking gingerly on feet that still felt like partially thawed blocks of ice, she concentrated on balancing the tray with the three bowls of food. More than once she’d paid the price for spilling even a drop, and she was not about to let that happen again. The memory of the beatings, plus two or three days with no food at all, were more than she could bear on top of what she’d already endured.

As she stood in her uncle’s office in front of the three men, her eyes downcast and her back straight, hoping her arms wouldn’t start shaking from the weight of the tray, she waited for them to acknowledge her, even as she sneaked peeks at them from under her lashes.

“How many healthy ones have we got right now?” Enforcer asked, his shaved head gleaming in the overhead light.

“Counting this one,” Jefe answered, jerking his head in Mara’s direction, “twelve or thirteen. But we’ll need to clean them up first. Tonight’s customers are particular. They want us to bring them clean and healthy.” He smirked. “And young, of course. A few more years and this one won’t be acceptable to them anymore.”

Mara’s heart constricted with fear. As much as she hated what she knew would be required of her this night, she had grown used to it. She knew how to escape in her mind and not even feel what was being done to her. She also knew the night’s activities, as distasteful as they were, meant she would get a bath and clean clothes, as well as something to eat, before going to meet the man or men—or occasionally a woman—who would be her companion through the long, dark hours. But when she got to the point that she was considered too old—as had happened with several others since Mara joined the group nearly ten years earlier—her life would hold no more value. She would become a liability to the men, and she would quickly disappear, like the others, sold to anyone who would take her or turned out on the street to fend for herself, sleeping behind deserted buildings and scavenging for food. As bad as it was to be used by the highest bidder for whatever his pleasure might be, it was better than the alternative.

Or so she tried to convince herself. There were also times when the bidder’s pleasure was such horrible torture for her that she wondered if death wouldn’t be the best option after all.

“Don’t just stand there,” her uncle barked, nearly causing Mara to drop the tray in front of her. Only years of disciplined practice kept it steady in her hands. “Give us our food and get out of here. We’ll get you ready for your night out later.”

Doing her best to control her breathing, Mara placed the bowls on the round glass table in front of the men and then, still gazing at her feet, turned to leave.

“It’s too bad about the new one,” she heard Destroyer say. “She was young and small—and you could smell the fear on her. She would have brought a lot of money.”

“Would have,” Jefe growled, the familiar lust in his voice evident. “Too late now, though. Who would have thought two days in the hole would kill her? I just wanted to teach her who was boss, that’s all.” He laughed, and the sound of it sent a chill snaking up Mara’s spine. If her stomach hadn’t been so empty, she might have vomited. “I wanted her myself,” her uncle continued. “Wanted to train her right before I turned her over to the customers.” He laughed again, and Mara could picture his lecherous grin. “Guess we’ll have to make a point of finding a nice young replacement for her real soon, now, won’t we?”

The overweight middle-aged man and his two slightly younger companions laughed heartily, continuing with their lewd conversation about what they would like to have done to the little girl whose fear they could smell. Mara hurried as quickly as she was able into the cramped room that served as home to her and several others. Hot tears stung her eyes, and she rebelled at the emotions she had thought were dead, now rising up within her once again.

So, the little girl with the terrified eyes had escaped after all. Perhaps there really was no other way out of this horrible place.

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