Lindy Albright was tired and cold. She hadn’t thought the consequences of running away from home through, and now she was confused, hungry, and without a penny to her name. She spent the last of her babysitting money on a bus ticket and a sandwich from the bus depot vending machine. Coming from a small town near Spokane she’d never had to fend for herself in a big city and had no idea how challenging it would be. Blind flight into unknown territory turned out to be a poor decision. After stepping into a strange new world the night before, she huddled in a doorway in downtown Portland but couldn’t sleep. She quickly discovered how vulnerable a young girl alone could be. She fought off a crazy homeless man who kept touching her and rejected the advances of a smooth-talking man who promised to make her a star if she were willing to do dirty things with strangers. All she wanted when she ran away was escape from overbearing parents who beat her for not saying her prayers properly and skipping church. She didn’t know a lot but knew she didn’t want to be like them. Their desire to have her marry one of the church elders disgusted her. She wanted to be free but now realized she should have waited and planned instead of acting on emotional impulses. When a woman in a gray KIA pulled to the curb in front of where she sat, then waved at her, she waved back.
“Hi, honey. You look cold.” The woman said after exiting the car. “Been out here all night? Bet you’re hungry. I know I would be.”
Lindy sniffed, and a tear crept out of her eye though she didn’t want it to. The woman seemed friendly and had a great smile, but did she stop? “Yeah. But why should you care? I’m nobody.”
The woman smiled warmly. “I care because you’re in trouble and I can help. What say we go somewhere warm and get you some grub? My treat.”
“What makes you think I’m in trouble?” Lindy asked, without the defiance in her voice she intended.
“Because I’ve been there, honey. I know someone hurt you and you’re alone in a strange place. Come on. Hop in. I know a great place for breakfast. Later, we can shop for a warmer coat. Is that all you brought with you?” The woman asked, pointing at a small tote and Lindy’s denim purse sitting on the sidewalk.
Seconds later, another human fell into the web of deceit, to become a pawn in a centuries old game of usury and exploitation. It was warm in the car. Breakfast was the best thing she’d tasted in a long time. By nightfall, the woman had her in a holding cell in Rockwood, awaiting transport to Bogota and slavery to a cocaine magnate who ordered such freshness.
What happened to Lindy?
Part two of Runaway
As Lindy woke to blackness, her mother paced the kitchen of her home. Where did she go wrong? Not enough love at the right time? Trying to shape Lindy into a copy of herself? Or had she tried hard and wasn’t guilty of neglect? All she could do was pray that God would guide her daughter home. It was too late for that as Lindy was tied in the hold of a ship riding heavy seas near Nicaragua. Hurricane warnings crackled through radio static as the crew battened the hatches and stowed loose gear. Lindy wound up lying in a pool of vomit as they lurched and plowed through monstrous waves.
Surviving the storm, the ship docked at a seldom used pier near a rundown warehouse in Cartagena. When freed from the dark hold and drug on deck, the light was blinding. Two muscular shirtless men stripped her reeking clothes from her starving body, then hosed her down and scrubbed her with a brush. When they were done, a well-dressed Hispanic woman came from the forecastle and eyed her nakedness with disdain.
“You’re a sorry sight. We’ll have to clean you up before we take you to meet Chato.”
“Why are you doing this to me?” Lindy blubbered, trembling with fear and exhaustion.
“Money. Stark naked profit. Pretty young girls are worth a lot to powerful men. If you come peacefully, you won’t be hurt again. Resist and I’ll have you whipped before being tied in the trunk of my car. I’d rather get you into a pretty dress than drop you off covered in welts.” There was no choice but to comply. She had no idea where she was and lacked the strength to run.
“Could I have some water please?”
“Sure. There’s food at my house if you behave.”
Hours later, Lindy was full and warm for the first time in days. She was experiencing the onset of Stockholm Syndrome, grateful for the woman’s kindness. For the moment, the horror of her situation slipped into the background.
“Will I ever go home again?”
“No. You belong to Chato now. How your life proceeds depends on your behavior. He kills anyone who displeases him. Let’s not talk about the future. Enjoy tonight. Tomorrow will bring what it brings.”
She cried herself to sleep after contemplating escape, but realized she’d easily be captured and punished. Her only hope lie in finding out where she was, then looking for a way out.
The next morning she found fresh clothing laid out and decided it would be best to put it on and do as told to avoid being tied and dragged to her new master. Her body ached and her mind was tired and confused. Who was this person who purchased her? What kind of monster preyed on teenage captives? Was he hideous and couldn’t lure a girlfriend, or was it a game of power and manipulation? She wasn’t a virgin but the thought of being defiled by a stranger made her cry again. When the woman stepped into the room, she tried to compose herself, but failed. Instead of handing her a tissue or comforting her, the woman slapped her hard.
“Okay, Chica. Time to quit crying and put a smile on that face. Chato’s lack of patience is well known. If we’re late he might shoot both of us and I’m not ready to die.”
Meanwhile, her mother genuflected in front of a rhinestone covered plastic cross she bought at the bible store. “Are you listening? I need your help. Why don’t you speak to me? My daughter needs help and I don’t know what to do. I’m probably a bad mom but don’t kill her to punish me.”
No one answered.
Part three of Runaway
She was forced to kneel in front of a hawk-faced man with cruel dark eyes. He sat like an emperor on a throne, in charge of everything and everyone. The ground was hard and bit into her flesh as she quaked with fear.
“Too fat.” The man declared angrily. “I said I wanted skinny. Give her to the crew. They’ll have fun with her.”
Chato’s edict spelled danger for his procurer. Not pleasing him could lead to her death. “I’ll starve her again,” she said. “I let her eat so she wouldn’t die. I’m sorry you’re unhappy with my choice.”
“I said I don’t want her. Don’t make me punish you. Find someone else.”
Unknown to Chato, his greatest rival was watching this interaction through binoculars from a nearby hill. His soldados were poised and ready to attack.
Lindy rose when a rifle was placed in her back. She meekly preceded a brutish-looking man with knife scars on his face to an enclosure surrounded by barbed wire. Tears streamed as she realized she was about to be gang raped or worse. Had she curried the big man’s favor she might have bought time to plan an escape.
As the man shoved her into the enclosure, gunfire erupted. Diego Suarez and his men swarmed into Chato’s enclave like locusts. Blood spilled as bodies fell in every direction. Lindy hugged the ground and put her arms around her head. She had no idea whether rescue or death was imminent. All she knew was that she’d placed herself in harm’s way and wished she’d made better choices. The bus depot in Spokane seemed a million miles away and a lifetime ago.
While Lindy waited for death to come calling, her parents were receiving visitors expressing sympathy for their loss of a wayward daughter. The consensus was that they’d offered their child the comfort of Jesus and she chose to be a heathen. Everyone brought food and prayed for their offerings to be blessed.
Meanwhile, Lindy found an opening in the barbed wire and started running. She had no destination and no idea where safety lie. Unfortunately, bullets were flying in every direction and one of them tore through her thigh. She fell and writhed in pain.
A man with broken teeth soon stood over her grinning. Was he there to save her? Her blood flowed freely and without aid she would exsanguinate. In fiction stories heroes rise and come to the rescue in the nick of time. In real life, heroes are few and far between. In the heat of battle the man could only address his carnal desires. As Lindy took her last breaths, the man lowered his pants and delivered the final humiliation. As she died, her parents thanked everyone for coming and swore to bravely carry on.