Sherrie Miranda, Crimes and Impunity in New Orleans
As I lie there trying to sleep, I am suddenly aware of how stupid I’ve been. I replay every interaction with Rajib. How, as soon as he saw me, he treated me differently than everyone else. How quickly he decided he wanted me to be the head bartender. I thought it was because I’m from New York. For many people here, New York automatically means New York City. I wouldn’t do that to Claire, even if she did leave me alone with him.
I was drugged. It must have been chloroform. That’s why I fell asleep. That’s why I don’t remember him dropping them off. Oh my God, I’m lucky he didn’t rape me.
I lie there with all these thoughts going through my mind. How did this happen? Why didn’t I follow my intuition? I knew there was something not right about Rajib.
“You got a fag, love?” says a female voice with a British accent. I startle when I hear her whispering. Who’s she talking to? I’m wide awake and need to find out what’s going on here.
“No, darlin’, I’m clean out.”
I listen quietly. Can these two be trusted? Or did Rajib tell them to keep their eyes on me? Is this even real? Maybe I’m just dreaming? When I wake up, I need to remind myself to stop trusting unknown men.
“Have to tell Rajib to get us more. They’ll have to be American cigarettes. He said that store closed that had the fags from the U.K.” This voice sounds like a guy.
“He’ll add it to what we owe.” What is going on with these two? It sounds like they can’t leave here.
“I swear he adds stuff all the time. Or maybe he’s not even keeping track of what we owe him anymore.”
“Rajib looked pissed tonight. If we can catch him that drunk again, maybe we can get out.” It’s the female voice. Both of them are Brits.
“But we need to get our passports. Gotta figure out the combination to the safe,” says the male voice.
“I’d give anything to be back in Brixton.”
“Or any part of London. Any part of the U.K.” How did two educated people come here from another country and end up—basically—as slaves?
“I wish we’d slept on the street.” God, at least it was never that bad for me.
“Never shoulda trusted this guy.” Nope, me either. If I get out of this mess, I’m never trusting any man again. Any stranger, maybe. Male or female.
“All because his accent is similar to ours. Oh, if only we could go back and change that day.”
“I know, love.”
“Hey guys, maybe I can help you.” I’m whispering, but it comes out fast and hard. My eyes are adjusting to the dark, and I can see I’ve startled them. The young woman is black. I would never have guessed by her accent.
“Help us? You’re in a bloody worse situation than us.” They look at each other. I can see they love each other, and that’s probably all that’s keeping them going.
“Yeah, I think Rajib drugged me ‘cause I don’t remember what happened to my friends.”
“Wouldn’t bloody surprise me. Rajib will do whatever to get what he wants.”
“So, he doesn’t sleep here?” Dumb question. My mind is still not working right.
“No, course not. Probably got a fuckin’ mansion somewhere.” Maybe. But he looks pretty poor to me with his twenty-year-old fraying clothes and ugly shoes. I look around. I can see windows that have burglar bars on them.
“Can’t we just go out the front door even if it has an alarm; we could be long gone—”
“You think we never thought of that? It’s locked from the outside, and it’s a fuckin’ security door. Like this bloody piece of shit is worth a million bucks. He claims to the police that it’s to keep his bloody young people safe.”
“So, you’ve seen police? You couldn’t talk to them?”
“Ah, bloody ‘ell, girl. The cops brought us here.” Oh, God, that’s right. The police can’t be trusted. Man, I so wish I hadn’t dismissed what people warned me about.
“Don’t the others here ever want out before morning?” My voice is getting louder.
“Hush, by the time these fuckers get here, they’re so tired, they could sleep through anything.”
I’m up, walking back and forth. My shoes are gone. I still can’t think straight. Or move my limbs normally, but whatever shit he gave me is wearing off.
“What about the bathroom?” The Brits and I tiptoe toward the bathroom. A guest, or whatever you want to call him, startles me, and I jump about two feet. He must have had to go. He’s practically sleepwalking. I want nothing more than to sleep—but not now, Shelly. Stay alert. Think.
There’s a small window above the tub, barely big enough for a small person. “I could get through the window. You two are about my size.”
“We can’t leave, love. He has all our IDs locked up. Beatrix can give you her shoes, though.” This is the craziest thing I’ve ever heard. He has them like prisoners. Why do they think they can’t leave? They can get a new ID.
“How will you manage without shoes? Won’t he get angry?” I stare at her in disbelief.
“No worries, love. We’ll just say someone here stole them.” Beatrix takes off her shoes and hands them to me. “They should fit perfectly.”
He gets a couple of towels and goes to another part of the house. He comes back with a hammer and shears. He cuts the screen out. Then he tells Beatrix, “Hold the towels up so when I hit the glass, it’s not too loud.”
Surprisingly, it doesn’t make much noise. It looks like he’s thought about this a lot.
Finally, he hits the metal bar until it bends, and he can push it out. “Good thing you got them shoes, love, or your feet would be cut to bits.”
“You sure you can’t come too?” I suddenly feel such deep sadness for these two. How could this happen?
“No, love, we gotta get our IDs before we get the bloody ‘ell out of ‘ere. Thanks, though.”
“I’ll be back for you. I don’t know how, but I will.”
“No worries. As long as we got each other, we’ll be okay.” He sounds resigned; almost like getting away isn’t even a possibility.
They have put the towels down so I won’t scrape my belly going out. “But I’m going to land face and hands down.”
“No, we’ll hold you up so you can land on your feet.”
“But what’s your name? I heard Beatrix but not your name.”
“Oh, my favorite movie is Oliver.” I feel stupid after I say it. “You guys take care now.”
They hold my body and get my feet out. I can feel the bumps of where Oliver broke the middle bar, but the towels prevent them from poking me. I land, and the glass crackles under my feet.
“You’re off then. Take care. What is your name?”
“It’s Shelly. I’ll be back. I promise.”
“Go, Shelly. Rajib is coming. Hurry.”