11 Aug Chapter 18: Girl
Being on vacation means being able to sleep in, right? So I wake up late, order room service and stare out the window at the ocean. Sometimes it’s most enjoyable to just luxuriate in doing nothing.
I hear a knock, which is strange since I’m not expecting anyone. I hurriedly put on some clothes and open the door to see who it is. A hotel server dressed all in white comes in to collect the room service tray. I was eventually going to put it outside the door but I guess this is how they do things here. He stops on his way out, looks at me, and nods his head in the direction of the door. Wait—does he want me to follow him?
He motions again towards the door. I have no idea what’s going on but my curiosity compels me to grab my key and wallet and follow him out.
Without saying a word he takes me to the service elevator. After it arrives and we enter he hits the ‘B’ button. I kind of want to ask him where he’s taking me but I’m not even sure if he can speak. He stares straight ahead at the elevator doors while we descend to the lowest level. Once there I follow him down a dim concrete hallway that hotel guests were clearly never meant to see. He stops in front of a metal door and turns around to look at me, then the door. I guess I’m supposed to go in there? He sees that I’ve pickup up on his cue, and before I can even open my mouth to ask a question he’s already walked away. I feel a little stupid standing in a service hallway not having the slightest idea of what’s going on, but I’m already here so I might as well see what’s behind the door.
I open it to find a small work room. Inside is a clothes rack, a table with a sewing machine on it, and looking somewhat out of place, a girl who’s maybe five years old. She’s sitting in the middle of the cement floor playing with the bottom hem of a white curtain hung across the right side of the room. She looks up and says, “Are you with the Famy?
I enter and close the door behind me. “I don’t think so. What’s your name?”
“Uh, hi. Why are you here all alone, Lissie?”
“I don’t know. They said I gotta go back to my planet.” Her accent seems familiar but I can’t place it. She’s pulled a thread out of the curtain hem and is wrapping it around her finger.
Is this the ‘project’ that Laik hinted at? Doesn’t feel like his style so far…
She smiles at me. “Will you be my friend?”
“Uh, okay,” I respond.
“Good. I can touch my pee pee place. Wanna see?” Lissie starts lifting up her flowered dress.
“NO, no, I don’t need to see that, no need to touch there… Uh, thanks for offering though.” That was smooth. Oh crap, is this a case of child trafficking? Or molestation?
“Uh, Lissie,” I ask, “have other people touched you there? In your uh… pee pee place?” It occurs to me that there’s never an anatomically correct doll around when you need one.
“Noooooo,” she says. Well, that’s a relief, I relax a little bit more now.
“I can touch my poo poo place too.”
“That’s, uh, great but let’s do something else. We could, um…” I’m at a loss for how to entertain a five year old. First I should get her out of here though. I try the door handle but it won’t open from this side. Shit, that was stupid, I should have known that the door would lock behind me.
She picks her nose and rubs the result on the floor, then looks at me. “Let’s sing a song.”
“Okay, but I probably don’t know the words. How about you start?”
She thinks about it. “It goes like this:
The Lord of peace is our lord
Following Him is our reward
We are all made in His form
Obey or you will die in a—”
The room suddenly feels cold. “Wait, Lissie, are you an… Oliot?”
She looks down at the concrete floor. “Yesssssss.”
Before I can get a handle on the implications of her answer the door flies open and a woman wearing a dark business suit storms in. I put my hand up to stop the door from closing but I’m too late. Sigh.
She looks me up and down. “Good, you made it. I had my informant at the hotel fetch you.”
I nod. I’m feeling very confused.
“Detective corporal here. I’ve been investigating human trafficking by the mob so I thought I’d let you in on the action—we’ve got to save this girl.”
I nod again. I’m still very confused.
The detective corporal looks around the room. “Your coworker at Mizem wanted me to talk with you about it, but I thought I’d do one better.”
Coworker? Is this Laik’s doing? I’ll have to remember to ‘thank’ him later.
“No offense,” I say, “but I thought the cops were in bed with the mob… so I’m kind of surprised you’re here. And… why can’t you get one of your cop buddies to help you?”
The detective snorts. “Yeah, the higher-ups are the mob’s bitch, all right. Us rank and file think the situation stinks, so we go behind their back. But I don’t know who I can trust on the force, so here we are.”
Loud voices reverberate from down the hallway. The detective grabs my arm and pulls me behind the curtain next to us. “Hide, we can’t fight those goons in here!”
I push myself up against the shelves the curtain is hiding, but there’s barely enough room for us both to fit. Even with my head turned the curtain brushes against my ear. My feet are as sideways as I can get them so that they don’t stick out. I whisper, “What happens if they discover us?”
She says way too loudly, “Eh, they’ll probably kill us.”
Great. I hear the door open and what sounds like three people enter. One of their elbows grazes the curtain, stopping my heart for a second.
“Take the girl to the boat. And treat her nice.” A man’s voice, gravely.
I’m trying to control my breathing so I make as little noise as possible. They’re so close to the curtain I can feel the air pressure change whenever one of them moves.
“Get going, we’re on a schedule here.”
“Can I bring my friend?” Lissie asks. Oh crap, I realize she’s talking about me. Here it comes.
“Yeah toots, where’s your friend?”
I just know Lissie’s pointing right at me. My earlobes are throbbing and I want to swallow really badly but I’m doing everything I can not to.
“Your friend is a curtain?”
Lissie laughs. “You’re funny.”
“Boss, can I pull down the… uh… curtain friend and take it with us?” a man with a high-pitched voice says as his hand grabs onto the edge of the fabric. I close my eyes tight.
“No you idiot, we’re not taking that thing. Her friend is imaginary,” the gravely-voiced man snorts. “No more delays.”
“But boss, I kinda like this curtain, it sure does look friendly. I can’t keep it?”
“Say one more word about that—”
There’s a pause. I don’t dare breathe.
“Fine, okay, you know I can’t resist when you look at me that way,” gravely-voice says.
“Thanks boss, you’re the greatest!” I feel the curtain flap about as the man with the high-pitched voice tries to pull it off its rail. I wonder if they’ll kill us with knifes or guns when they discover us.
“I can’t get it down,” high-pitched man whines.
Gravely sighs. “Leave it, I’ll buy you a damn curtain if you want one so badly. Now go!”
They all file out and I hear Lissie’s shoes tap-tap-tap on the floor before the metal door closes. I start breathing again. The detective slides the fabric out of the way and pulls a flat metal tool out of her pocket.
“Their boat is at the marina on the other side of the hotel, we can catch them there,” she says as she wiggles the tool around between the latch plate and the door frame. There’s a click and the door pops inwards. “All right, now we’re talking!” she says as she punches me in the arm. Maybe I should get one of those tools, it could come in handy.
She runs out into the hallway and I follow after her. It does occur to me that I don’t have to join along in this craziness, but I do want to help that little girl so I might as well see it through. We bound up the stairway and rush out the service exit of the hotel, then follow a path through some trees that ends at a boat dock I didn’t even know was there.
A large white powerboat has just left its dock and is picking up speed as it enters the canal from the marina. I spy Lissie sitting in the back of the boat accompanied by three bruiser types, the largest of which is driving.
“We can still catch them, untie the mooring rope.” The detective has boarded a long, fast looking speedboat and is yanking out wires from under the dashboard. Is she really going to hot-wire a random boat and chase after them? The engine roars to life, answering my question. I clumsily untie the rope and climb aboard. I’m immediately thrown backwards into the leather bench seat as she powers in their direction.
The front of the boat tips up and bobs as we pick up speed. We’re heading straight down a wide canal lined on either side with private docks connected to what look like the back gardens of expensive houses. The detective points up ahead and I can see the boat Lissie is in turn off into a side canal to the left.
It appears they’ve spotted us because they speed up when we catch sight of them again. The detective ups the throttle and the engines scream. She takes the left turn into the side canal too fast and almost slams into a wooden dock on the right. This canal is less spacious than the previous one and I almost fall out of the boat as she swerves around buoys, docked yachts and other water traffic. I find it hard to see through the spray of air and water shooting up from the front of the boat so I can’t tell if we’re gaining on the other craft or not. And I’m starting to feel seasick. Oh joy.
The detective turns to me and yells, “They’re trying to lose us in the tunnels. Grab something!” She banks hard to the right, and I reach for the handrail mounted along the back of the bench seat and hold on for dear life. We straighten out in a narrow canal with high concrete walls on both sides. We’re only a boat-length away from them now.
Up ahead it looks like the canal ends in two black circles. My stomach turns when I realize those are two tunnel entrances going under the hillside ahead of us. The speedboat Lissie is on turns at the last second and disappears into the right tunnel; the detective follows by yanking the wheel hard to send us after them.
Our boat enters the tunnel and within seconds we’re in total darkness. I can feel the walls of the tunnel rush by but I can’t see anything. Loud scraping sounds accompany hard jolts as we repeatedly bump into the side walls of the tunnel. With each collision tiny sparks illuminate for fractions of a second the curved ceiling as it rushes by. I realize that any second now there’ll be a sharp turn in the tunnel and we’ll all die in a fireball of gasoline and fiberglass. I think this is the most scared I’ve ever been.
Finally faint light appears—they’ve turned on their exterior lights up ahead. “Hey, help me find the switch for ours,” the detective yells over the deafening roar of the engines.
I stay low and pull myself up to the front of the cabin by grabbing onto the pilot’s seat. It’s still too dark to see anything so I feel around for switches on the dashboard. I start indiscriminately flipping things on and off—first the interior lights turn on, then the horn sounds, and finally I get the exterior lights on. The boat we’re chasing disappears for a second and the detective turns to follow them down the curving concrete walls of the tunnel. We’re going too fast for the tight bend —the left side of our boat scrapes painfully against the rough wall. More sparks shoot up and a loud cracking noise echoes down the tunnel.
We don’t lose much speed though so we’re still right behind the other boat. They misjudge the next curve and hit the right wall, causing pieces and parts of their boat to break off and fly past my head. I notice it’s brighter in the tunnel now—I look up ahead and see a tiny circle of light. Finally the tunnel exit!
My eyes adjust slowly to the brightness as we shoot out into a narrow high-walled canal. The detective points ahead to show me that this waterway doesn’t go through—construction barriers run across the entire width next to an old dock. The other boat slows down so as not to crash and the detective turns ours slightly to block them in as we reach the construction zone.
“Give me the girl,” the detective yells as she puts our boat in neutral. We float towards them until our two boats are touching.
“Look honey cheeks,” the goon driving responds, “you seem like a sweet broad so we don’t want to have to hurt you. Let’s resolve this the easy way—why don’t we ask the girl what she wants?”
The detective wasn’t expecting that. The man turns to Lissie and asks, “Toots, do you want to go with us or with them?”
Lissie scrunches up her mouth. “I wanna… go to my planet, back home.”
The man smiles. “Well, there you have it. Now if you would get out of our way we have a shuttle to catch.”
In a rage the detective leaps out of her seat across the side of our boat and into theirs. She reaches to grab the girl but one of the goons is too fast and punches her in the face. She loses consciousness and falls to the floor.
The driver goon tilts forward on the throttle. “Nice to have made your acquaintance,” he says as he salutes me. Their boat pushes mine out of the way as they go past. Lissie looks back at me and smiles. I feel nauseous.
Well there’s no way I’m driving this boat back into that tunnel, so I try to pull up to the dock. I saw someone do it in a movie once but it turns out to be much harder than it looks. I keep overshooting the dock and hitting the wall on either side. Finally I maneuver the boat close enough to get myself onto the dock without falling in the water. I tie the rope to a mooring post (although I’m not sure of the point since the boat is pretty much trashed) and go in search of a cab or something. I feel bad for whoever owns the boat but I know it would be a mistake to go to the police with all of this. I just have to hope that the detective and the girl are okay.