Dedication for this work goes to Ms. Kelly Harp
“I really think you should go in and talk to her right away; I mean this very evening — right now!”
The text string coming in from my Internet Drag Netter in Vermont was every bit importuning me to comply. She got that way now and then. She got fixated on some person or another posting on the Internet advertising for sex.
Argh. I hated it when she got this way; there was just no dealing with her! When she got like this there was no reasoning with her, I would just have to do this thing for her and get her to move on.
“Ok, why again are we so concerned about this girl over the rest of today’s posts? Rather than that, why are YOU so concerned about her because I’m not concerned at all.”
“She’s young. She looks really young and in every one of her posts, she looks so sad and so scared. I really think she is being coerced and needs someone to intervene right away!”
Well then… she didn’t look JUST sad and scared; she looked “so” sad and “so” scared. Wasn’t that so very differnt then?
Pure emotion at play here. Drag Netter was on the ethos and pathos bandwagon; I was the logos and, well, the cock-a-doody bathos path!
“What if Drag Netter was right?” I thought.
“Huh, what?” I caught myself off-guard now and then.
“What if she was right, and this was a minor in distress? So sad and scared just begging for a way out? Oh sure, and if just this one soul can be saved then it would have all been worth it, right?” I didn’t think so.
A thousand souls or even a hundred souls — now that would have been worth it; that made sense to me.
Yessiree, you could sink your teeth into, and wrap your intellect around numbers like 100 and 1000. Nobody wants to invest their dime in 0001.00. One is … well, one is the loneliest number that you’ll ever know or do, right? Yeah, right like me!
It takes one soul plus another plus another plus 97 more to equal a hundred. So, I’m going in because the logos is solid.
Argh. I hated it when I got this way; there was just no dealing with me. I started to tap a message to the phone number from BackPage.com:
“Hey bae! U in or out-call? U bizzy? Free 4 date??”
After not too horribly long, and a staunch dose of continued pining away by my girl in Vermont, I got a response:
“Yeah I’m free, in-call only. 200h 420 friendly r u affiliated with law enforcement?”
“Hellll no bae wot bowt u, r u law?”
“No. When can you come by?”
“I can b by in half hour. Wer U stay bae?”
“Motel 6 on Los Padres and Ortiz. Lemme no when u get her and I give u my room number”
And it was done; the date was on and I was hardly five minutes from the Motel 6 where she said she was staying. I told her 30 minutes to gift myself some composure time. It was bad enough when they called because they wanted to hear your voice and pulse your demeanor, but going in “complete” as the biz termed it, I hated that, me.
Me, I was just never at ease (not at all) in a prostitution environment; homes just wasn’t down with paying for personage. But this, this I remind myself is anything but that. This is important. This has to happen because what if I decided it wasn’t important enough to go see this lady, and I was wrong, right!?!
That’s all the more reasoning I needed to deal with myself. I was going in, do a good job, and leave with or without her; right in, right out, nobody gets hurt. If I left with her I at least had a place to take her that would accept her and give her a bed. I had finally tallied a particular “safe haven” establishment… although it had, it seemed, a myriad of requirements to take in a victim:
She (victim) had to be clean, meaning drug-free so put the crack up, you know, like Marky-Mark and the Funky Bunch. She had to be yet a minor. She had to be willing to accept treatment. She had to be willing to talk to Law Enforcement.
She had to be this, she had to be that, she had to be from freakin’ Mars. No, I mean Venus… that’s where women come from. But all the times I had called this place in preparation for pulling a junked-out prostitute that I was working as a Confidential Informant (CI) had paid off:
“Look hon, just bring her around to the door on the west side of the building, knock ten loud knocks, and wait. We’ll take her in, any time of day or night.” I didn’t care what enterprise I might be at the helm of, I would hire that person on the other end of the phone!
And sure, great work if you can get it: door-knocking while phone-calling while holding up a mind-blown-but-supposed-to-be-clean hooker off the ground really invoked mastery of multitasking.
I chalked that my auspicious relationship with the safe haven to the notion that I had tried so many times and was just so utterly clumsy and irresistibly charming that the fine women of the safe haven felt sorry for me and decided to blue chip me. Blue chip away, ladies. I’m tired of this $hite and want to go home for a mindless evening of reruns of “The Love Boat”.
Now Kelly was minutes away in one of these rooms in this Motel 6. Was it just me, or was every single one of the six Motel 6’s in town lousy with scumbags running dope and prostitutes? T’werent just me. Some of these motels in this city were so crooked that I came to recognize what I called a “clean side” and a “dirty side” of the building.
The clean side was the side of the motel where legitimate travel guests stayed: families with moms, dads, kids, pets, minivans with recreational stuff strapped to the roofs — legit revenue-bringing peeps.
Then there was the dirty side. The dirty side, lo and behold, faced away from convenient fields of observation: they faced away from the freeway, away from tall buildings nearby. They were at least on the side of the building that afforded fewer opportunities to be observed.
That’s just me and my own assessment. That was not written in the book. What book? Well shit me, there is no book. There is no publication on how to approach this human trafficking hunt. I have all my notes, and a ponderous tome of entries and redactions it is. Come to think of it, that is the book; I am writing the book on combating human trafficking.
“Hey, bae I’m here … so what room r u n?”
“room 227 give me ‘bowt ten min pls”
“Oooo-kay … but don’t keep me waiting too long!”
Oh snap. I think I totally sounded too eager that time. Sometimes I hated my work.
Well, eager-sounding or not I got an “lol” out of it. Sometimes I loved my work.
Then there was that phrase, that one that used to really get under my skin most of my years growing up. It usually revolved around some charity, like, “feed a kid for 23 cents a day and even get a picture of your kid eating the food you bought for the kid,“ or some $hite like that. “Even if one single child can be saved, all of this would be worth it.”
There it was, that was the phrase: “Even if just one kid can be saved it is worth it.” I had a problem with that pathetic (pathos) phrase: where the hell was their concept of Return on Investment (ROI)? “There are no teeth in that bangless-for-buck equation,” I pictured that maudlin mess Sally Struthers on TV blotting her tears with a Kleenex.
Today I found myself looking over once again the several photos my drag-netter send me of Kelly, Kelly… as she appeared on BackPage.com. I have to say, she does look rather unhappy, and yes sure… downright scared. You see there: I can at least agree with my drag-netter and still harvest an (albeit) lean semblance of composure.
I have to do this.
I rendered a sloppy shave-and-a-haircut, two-bits knock on 227 and stood to wait with my hands clasped being my back. Where they were I could feel my ultimate protective device where I had tucked it into my sweatpants and cinched the cord down tight to hold it in place. I chuckled as I thought to myself, “That must be why they call it a ‘drawstring’.”
No answer at the door, I peek-checked my text string to confirm that room number then leaned into my next thumps on her door. I tapped out a couple of WTF messages to her on my phone and jackhammered on her door several times more. It was time to leave…
The door finally creaked open and her sleepy-faced Highness stood rubbing her eyes like it was time for her to get up and go to school. She looked just like she did in the pictures that drag-netter sent me.
“WTF’s with you??”
“Oh, I’m so sorry I fell asleep; come in,” and she stepped aside to let me through rubbing her big stupid eyes.
Fell asleep, yeah she did; they always do. In my experience, they DON’T want to have sex with some stranger, not really at all they don’t but they have to make bank for their pimp and their habit. It’s either a strong arm thump or dope sick or both.
So they always take a spirited fix right before their John shows up so they can get through this profoundly unwelcome event… but alas, a stiff fix is almost always followed by a stiff nod.
As she nodded nearly napping
Suddenly there came a rapping
As if someone gently tapping
Tapping at her chamber door
“T’is some late-night visitor
Entreating entrance at my door
It is this, and nothing more”
That nod loses them a lot of legit Johns and maybe even some undercover cops trying to do a reach out. I take my time. I give them 50 minutes or even more to settle out of their junk stupor; they always come around, and they always lament that they fell asleep. It’s ok hon; I’m still here.
I moved straight and quickly to the bathroom and made sure nobody was in there. No closets. We two were the only ones in there. The room was safe. I sat at a tiny two-seater table in the room. Kelly ambled about doing positively nothing when I invited her to sit down.
I took out a $20.00 bill and laid it on the table where she could see it. She had sweet way about her I noticed. And by sweet I mean dunce: slow of the mind; not firing on all cylinders, a brick shy of a load, always faulting a quarter to her dollar: ça manque toujour un vingt- cinq sou pour fair son piastre.
“Kelly, I’m going to leave now; this money is for you. The reason I’m here is I’m offering you a way out of this life if you want out of it. We can leave right now if you want, and you will have safety and protection.” This I said with an earnest attempt to not sound canned or rehearsed.
“Oh, nooooo. No, no, nooooo. I’m fine here. Everything’s fine here and I don’t want to leave.”
“Kelly, it’s just that, well … (chuckling) you don’t look too good in your photos; you look sad and really scared. Definitely, you look unhappy.”
“Yeah, noooooo, no, nooooo (I was already tired of her drawn-out no’s) … I don’t know why I do that, I always look like that in photos… but really I’m just fine here; there is no problem.”
I stood and grinned a faux grin making my way to the door. I paused in the half-opened door fighting for some last clever thing to say in parting: “Ok, but you be sure and keep this door locked, young lady,” I said with a wink, my index finger bouncing up and down as if in petty scold. Nope, that sure wasn’t the clever thing I was after.
“Oooooooh-kay!” She chuckled and parade-waved.
Once in my car, I motored at least one terrain feature away and began to tap my status to Drag Netter: “She was adamant that she was not in danger of being kept there against her will.”
I included mention that there was something off with her intellect — like she was a bit slow. That could have been due to whatever substance she had taken right before I got there that made her so freaking hard to roust. Ultimately we learned that she was afflicted with autism. Autism! Oh… $hite me!
I glance a time again at the photos of Kelly that the Drag Netter had sent. I glanced… and for the first time ever in my job on the hunt I thought: “If this one child can be saved, it will have been all worth it.” Well, there you go — pathos.
By God and with honor,
Continued in part II