Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Chapter 11: Revelations

I settled down on the couch, half turned so that I could watch Daise while she talked. She paused for a while, obviously gathering herself, before she launched into her story.

"Everything I have told you so far is true," she started, "except I have left out some of the most important parts."

"Like what?" I asked.

"Please, would you mind if I told you this in my own way? When I am finished, you can send me away if you want, but I need to tell you the whole story; I need to get it all out before I can think about answering questions."

"Sure. Sorry I interrupted. Carry on."

"OK. Well, when Alina and I finished school, we knew that there were no prospects for us. We had no money to go to University, to study anywhere actually; both of us started looking for jobs. I eventually found a job as a waitress in a small restaurant. Alina didn't find anything. The job didn't get me much money. I got a meal during the day, which meant that at least I had something to eat. I took some of the table-scraps home for Alina, you know. She looked after the flat; did all the things that needed to be done like washing the clothes and cleaning the place."

I nodded to show that I was paying attention. Daise had finished her tea, so while she was talking, I topped up her cup.

"That went on for almost six months, but it got very bad. They stopped me from taking home the table scraps and so I had to sneak part of my food out to take home for Alina. Both of us got very thin."

"What about Alina's mother?" I couldn't help asking.

Daise just looked at me reproachfully, and I shut my mouth and motioned for her to continue. She took a ship of her tea, and nodded gratefully at me.

"One night I got back from work late. Alina wasn't there. That was very unusual. I had to look after her mother that night, give her the medicine we had gotten for her from the State Hospital and change the sheets where she had messed on them. I had done it before, but mostly just helping Alina, not on my own. I waited and waited for Alina to come home, but she didn't. I finally fell asleep, and when I woke up, it was late morning and Alina has still not arrived.

"I went out then and walked to all the places that I knew Alina liked to go; the park; the library; a bridge over the river and she wasn't in any of those places. I didn't see her again for three days. I had to go to work again, and then look after Alina's mother when I was at home. I went to the police, but they laughed at me; they just wrote off my story as being about yet another pretty girl disappearing. They seemed to think that she was probably on a binge with a boy friend or something.

"The fourth night after Alina disappeared; I was sitting in our living room darning some of my work clothes, when I heard footsteps in the corridor, then a soft banging on the door. I rushed to the door to open it, and Alina practically fell into my arms. I helped her over to the couch and she sat and cried in my arms for a long time. When she was over that, I got a chance to take a look at her. She was a mess. Her clothes were torn and she was sticky all over. Her hair was matted and she was dirty, as if she had been rolling in the dirt. I got up to help her to the bathroom and I had to undress her to get her into the bath. When I took off her dress, I saw that she had no underwear on, nothing, not even panties. She had also been bleeding."

It was apparent that Daise was not just reciting this story; she was reliving the memory of it. Her eyes were blank as she stared off into the distance, and she was narrating the sequence of events in a monotone. She paused now, and I waited for a long time for her to go on. I had learnt my lesson; she needed to tell this story in her own words and at her own pace.

"She had dried blood all down her legs. It was mixed in with other stuff. She had bruises on her arms and legs, between her legs and on her breasts and stomach. As she turned around to get in the bath, I saw she had bruises all over her back and buttocks as well. Once she was settled in the bath, I asked Alina what had happened. All she would tell me then or later was that six men had continuously raped her. They took turns with her, and sometimes more than one penetrated her at the same time; front and back. Alina's voice was hoarse and when I asked her about that, she told me it was from screaming and then from choking from being raped there too while her nose was held so that she couldn't breath."

Daise paused. She breathed in and out heavily a few times. I could see she was both reliving the experience of hearing the story for the first time as well as imagining the violation as being her eventual fate. As she had told me about where Alina had been injured or bruised, she had touched herself in those places on her own body. I recognised that she had made the transferral of Alina's injuries to herself. When Daise had been quiet and lost in her thoughts for over ten minutes, I decided to prompt her gently.

"Did she tell you why it happened?"

Daise looked at me, but I could see it took a long time for her to come back from where-she had gone to in her head.

"Yes. That was the worst part. It was criminals and they wanted her to whore for them. They had chosen her and this was a deliberate strategy to 'break her in' to make her ready."

"And... ?"

"She only told me that the next morning. That night, after she had bathed, I took her to our bed and held her through the night. That was the last time she cried. After that, she just turned to stone. She would sometimes let me inside, but to everyone else she showed the mask that she developed after that night. They left her alone for two weeks, then one day there was a man on the doorstep. He had a cell-phone for her and told her that she would be called on it and told where to go whenever they needed her.

"After that she would get calls every few days and would go off to be with one of the clients. We found her photos on a website later. They had her listed as an 'independent' and were charging a lot of money for what she was doing. She was only given about 10% of it. It was enough for us to live, just, but I hated using the money. It was dirty. That is why I carried on working in the restaurant. Then we came up with a plan.

"The first thing we thought was that if I could get some education then I could try to get a better job that would allow us to escape from them. As I neared the end of the course though, one of them called Alina on her cell phone and told her to tell me that they were waiting for me to finish my course so that they could 'recruit' me. They thought that they could use my qualification as an excuse on visa applications so I could travel more easily to see foreign clients. I was horrified. That was when Alina came up with the idea of using the web-site to try to find a foreign husband. It was only going to be me, she wanted to save me from them, but then her mother died and she decided that she would also try.

"After we had gone to the agency and put our details on the site, Alina got a call from them again. They laughed at her and told her that it was a wonderful idea. They explained how her and I were supposed to use the contacts we made with foreigners to trap them into sending us money. They explained it all to Alina. I thought it was terrible to lie to people like that. Alina explained to me that I should do it, but I should look out for someone who was genuine who I thought I might have a chance with. It was just lucky that you were the first person that I spoke to. I was so scared, and then we went against the rules of the agency and I gave you my contact details so that we could talk without the agency knowing what we were saying. Alina told them that I was running the scam that they told me to.

"I never did. I am sorry. I can leave now if you want me to."

Daise started crying again. I reached out and pulled her into my arms. "Shush Daise. It's OK. I am not going to chase you away. Don't worry, I will look after her." She didn't know it yet, but she had pushed all the right buttons with me. I am extremely protective of my own, and my own includes any woman who is in trouble. "Don't worry, it'll all be alright."

"I am so scared Rupert," she sobbed into my chest, "they will find me then they will hurt me and you. I am scared about what they will do to Alina. I don't know what to think."

"Don't worry about it. You've told me about it, now it's my problem. You just relax."

I think that telling me the whole story had been cathartic for Daise. She cried for a while longer, then eventually she fell asleep in my arms. I picked her up with one arm under the crook of her legs, and the other around her shoulders and carried her like a child up to her bedroom. I put her into her bed, pulled off her shoes and tucked her in, then I went down to my home-office and got onto the phone. I still had Alina's cell-phone number from when I had used it to contact Daise, and I called it again now. It was answered on the third ring with a curt "Alina."

"Hi Alina, this is Rupert. Do you have a few minutes to talk?" I asked her.

"Hi Rupert. Yes, is Daise alright?"

"She's OK. She told me her whole story though, the real story. About both of you." There was a stunned silence on the other end of the phone.

"What are you going to do?" she asked eventually.

"Alina, what do you have keeping you there? Is there anything that you need that you couldn't do without?"

"Nothing. Why do you ask?"

"I want you to walk away right now. I will send some money via Western Union. Dump this cell phone and buy another one. SMS me the new number and I will call you and we can talk then, OK?"

"Ok. How long will it take for the Western Union money? What are you going to do?"

"I am going to take care of you. The first step is to get you out of there, then we will talk about what follows. Just dump the phone. Go to the main Western Union office now. I have sent money like this before, it will be waiting for you when you get there."

"Ok," she said and hung up the phone.

I got back on the phone again and arranged for 1,000 Euros to be wired to the Kiev Western Union office for Alina, then got hold of the South African Embassy in Live and eventually got through to someone who seemed to know what he was doing. I explained that I wanted to bring Alina out to South Africa as it was an emergency with her step-sister and asked them to expedite her visa application. It must have been a slow day in heaven because miraculously, he agreed and took down Alina's details from me and promised that they would have a visa ready for her as soon as she got there.

I then called my travel agent and lit a fire under her to arrange for a flight for Alina. She thought it was very strange to book a flight on such short notice and for someone who I said I knew only as Alina. She asked me to get the additional details back to her as soon as possible, but that she would go ahead and make a tentative book from Kiev, via Amsterdam's Schipol airport landing in Cape Town the following day and then connecting to Durban on Kulula Airlines.

Now there was nothing left for me to do but wait for Alina to call me back. She did so not half an hour later.


"Hi Alina. I see you have a new number, good. Listen carefully to what you need to do."

I explained how she was to take a taxi to the South African Embassy and that they would provide her with a visa while she waited, then that her flight would leave Kiev that evening. She was flabbergasted that things were moving so quickly.

"But what are you planning on Rupert?" she asked plaintively.

"I told you; looking after you."

"These guys will chase me you know. They are not nice men."

"I know lots of men that are better than they are Alina. They will come onto my turf if they come after you here. I promise you that if they do, they will regret it. You have two choices: you can trust me or not. It's as simple as that."

"I will be on that plane Rupert. Thank you. I am not sure if I will survive this, but I am grateful to you for giving me the chance."

"No problem. Don't thank me, get your arse moving. SMS me with status updates."

"Ok. Thank you again. I will let you know, goodbye."

After that call, I decided that the need for immediate action was over, and it was now time for planning: strategy and tactics.

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