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CHAPTER 1.

 

A Young Girl In Trouble

 

The heavier rain had stopped about an hour ago, but the road was still damp from a light but steady drizzle, and reflected back the headlights, making it difficult to see the lane markings.  On each side land and sky were indistinguishable in one massive sea of black as the low dark clouds floating along on the moderately stiff breeze blocked out any light from the moon or stars, and just looking out at it was enough to make one shiver and want to pull their coat or whatever covering they had closer around their body.  Because of the damp and darkness and the twisting nature of the two-lane highway, Jim Ferguson was thankful there was very little other traffic on the road, with just an occasional car going in the opposite direction, and he was able to keep the high beams on most of the way.  He was in a hurry and was not familiar with the road, having only driven on it once before about six years ago.   Because of the poor conditions his knuckles were white from a too tight grip on the steering wheel, and he was bent forward concentrating on the illumination of the headlights stabbing into the almost impenetrable blackness ahead.  Although he could not see most of the countryside around him, he remembered there were a lot of trees close to the road on each side.  He also remembered that in several areas the road was cut into the side of a steep tree covered hill, and there were several steep drop-offs.  In spite of his apprehension about the driving conditions, another apprehension compelled him to take frequent glances in his rear-view mirror, and he was both pleased and surprised that no other traffic was travelling in his direction.  He was hoping his young companion had been mistaken when she said she thought she had seen Bruce Crandell as they left the hotel, but he was trying to drive as fast as the poor conditions would allow just in case she was right.  He glanced at her occasionally and smiled trying to reassure her everything was fine, but he could see she was still very visibly upset. 

            She was a young girl, he had not asked her age, but guessed she was about 18 or 19, certainly not more than 20.   She had a fair complexion, which at present was almost devoid of colour, and her big brown eyes, which seemed bigger than ever because of her fear, were an awesome and almost eerie sight with the rain and tear-induced smears and streaks of her mascara and makeup. Her shoulder length hair, which the previous evening had appeared almost golden, looked darker now, and was still a bit damp from the rain as she had ran to the car in the parking lot.  It was hanging in dark damp strands some of which were clinging to the side of her squarish face, and the rest still sent the occasional drop down onto her neck and then running apparently unnoticed down under her jacket.  The car was by now warming up, and although the air in the car was still a little cold and damp, it no longer had that biting damp cold which seemed to penetrate deep into your bones.  She still held her jacket tucked tightly around her with both hands however, and she bent forward occasionally in a slight rocking movement.  She was about five feet four inches tall, with long graceful legs and a nice body slightly on the thin side.  She was not wearing any stockings, and her short skirt had a slight rounded bulge, which indicated the early stages of her condition.  He was not sure of how the other girls who worked for Crandell felt about him, but there was no doubt that this younger lady was absolutely terrified of him, and he wondered what kind of person it took to instil such fear into such a fragile young girl.

 

Jim remembered the first time he saw her the previous evening, standing there on a street corner.  There she was, trying to look attractive to passing cars, but unable to control her shivering in the short skirt, no stockings, and holding her jacket tightly around her as she was doing at present.  That night he had been unable to determine whether she was holding the jacket tightly around her to ward off the cold, or to help her control her shivering, but apparently it was unsuccessful at both.  The cold damp wind had driven most of the other ladies of the night off the street to ply their trade elsewhere inside and warm.  He had to go along this street to get to his hotel, and had travelled along it several times during his many trips to this city, but he had never felt any sympathy or curiosity about the ladies, who plied their trade there.  He was well aware of the reputation of the street, and the pimps in their lavish out of place suits and large Cadillacs, and had often wondered if they realized how gaudy and vulgar they looked with their bizarre attempts to impress.  He had never been interested in the company of any of the girls, who’s ultra short tight skirts and tops were designed not only to over emphasize their feminine attributes, but perhaps more to advertise to any man seeking female companionship that they were available.  It was not because he was afraid of any of the pimps or any disease he might contract from one of the girls, but his love and desire for his wife Cathy, whom he had met at the age when most boys start to become curious about girls, had instilled in him a need for love, and love returned, which he did not think any of these ladies could provide.  Yes it was Cathy he missed rather than a need for any of the services these ladies might provide, and every night he was away he would call Cathy as soon as he got into his room.  He always looked forward to speaking to her and their little five-year-old daughter Ann, and would hurry to his hotel before Ann’s bedtime.  That night had been no different, but the sight of the young girl shivering tugged at his heartstrings, and as he waited for the light to change he looked at her longer than his usual casual glance at the other girls. When she saw him looking at her she took a few quick steps expectantly towards his car just as the light changed, and this jolted him to speed up and carry on to his hotel.  He was surprised by the feeling of guilt that came over him, which continued even as he started to speak to Cathy, and after the usual pleasant greetings he told her about the incident, and how guilty he felt about leaving that poor girl out there freezing in the cold. 

            Cathy asked him, “Have you ever seen her there before?”

            “I can’t say that I have.  She may have been there, and I just didn’t notice her.”

            “How old was she?” asked Cathy, “and what did she look like?”

            “I don’t know, but she looked like she was in her late teens.  She seemed to be a pretty young girl, perhaps a little on the thin side, but she just seemed so pathetic standing there shivering in a short skirt and no stockings.”

            “Jim, that may be a young girl in trouble.”

            Jim tried to explain to Cathy, as he understood it, the workings of the system with these girls.  It was not a simple case of a man picking up one of the girls, and taking her to his hotel room, where he would have to pay first before she performed her services.  Most of the girls had a pimp, and any freelancers were usually driven off their first night, or forced by a pimp to join his group.  The girls usually started the life to make money, but at the end of their career had little to show for it, since the pimp usually got the lion’s share, and the more ruthless ones got it all.  Sure they gave the girls protection from their customers, and made sure they got paid, but they could be equally ruthless with the girls themselves if they got out of line or did not do what they were told.  It wasn’t the girls’ welfare they were concerned with, but their own financial gain.  They made sure the customer paid the girl, but they also made sure they got the money from her, and were quite capable of giving a severe beating to whichever one they thought was holding out.

            “Doesn’t he have any compassion for her out in the cold, or what about the police.  Couldn’t they help?”

            “Believe me Cathy, these guys are really low-life, and all they are interested in is the money these girls make.  As for the police, she may or may not be lucky.  They might pick her up and take her to her home if she tells them or to a hostel.  They might also charge her with soliciting.”

            “How would you like it if that was your young sister, or Heaven forbid, in fourteen years your daughter.  Would you like her to be in the grips of a monster, who was treating her badly, and using her body to make him money, and have everyone pass her by without giving her any help.”

            The thought of that young girl being Ann was too painful for him to contemplate, and he pushed it from his mind, but he knew Cathy, and he knew she would not let go of this unless he did something.  He was feeling guilty enough himself however, so he had a double motivation to act.  Jim and Cathy could have their difference of opinion, and neither was afraid to express them strongly, but there was a very strong bond between them, and when it came to emotions they usually acted in unison.  He knew the pimp would be watching if he picked her up, and would be quite prepared to act if his financial gain was threatened.  Although he was not afraid of tangling with anyone in a fair fight, he knew the pimp would make sure the fight was heavily weighted in his favour, and the answer did not lie in picking the girl up.  There was a church a little further along the street, and maybe the pastor would have a bit more experience at this than him, after all they must know the area and have seen this before.  He told Cathy about the church, and although he did not know what denomination it was, he was going to contact the pastor.

         The pastor was a tall man and was wearing black slacks and a white shirt with an open collar.  He was a jolly person and like his wife was slightly over weight.  He came into the room with an outstretched hand and a broad smile as he welcomed Jim, and asked him what he could do for him.

            Jim told him about seeing the girl, and his guilt at not helping her.  The pastor listened attentively as he also related the conversation with his Cathy.  When Jim finished the pastor smiled at him as he squeezed his arm and said, “It is good that there are still good people as compassionate as you and your wife.  Now let’s see what we can do.”

            The pastor went to the phone, and called a Sergeant White at the local police station.  When he answered he told him about the young girl Jim had seen at the corner of John and Peter streets, who appeared to be soliciting.  He expressed his own and Jim’s concern that she did not appear to be dressed for the cold tonight, and also their concern there was probably a pimp around somewhere, that they would sooner not tangle with. Sergeant White explained he could not pick her up for soliciting unless she had in fact solicited someone, and if he did pick her up he would not be able to hold her for long, but the pastor did not give up so easily.  He asked if as a humanitarian act the police could pick her up to take her out of the cold.  If the police would pick her up he would like to come in the back way to the police station to speak to her, and if she was willing he would take her back to his home for the evening.  When the Sergeant agreed he thanked him, and said he would be there in ten minutes.

            The pastor hung up the phone and turned to Jim.

            “I guess you got the gist of that conversation.  Now Jim you were just coming back to your hotel.  Do I take it that you have not had dinner yet?”

            “No, I haven’t, but I have already put you to enough trouble, and I did promise to call Cathy back and let her know what was happening.  It is probably best if I go, but I would like to know how things turn out.”

            “It is no trouble at all Jim, and I would like you here when and if I manage to bring her back.  Now take the phone and call Cathy, and I will get Martha you get you something to eat.  We made too much tonight, and all she has to do is warm something up for you.”

            Jim called Cathy and told her what was happening, and when he had finished Martha came and invited him into the dining room where she had set out a meal for him. 

            It was just over an hour before the pastor returned, and the girl was with him.  She looked very frightened and apprehensive as Martha took her jacket and led her into the living room by the fire.

            “We were right to be concerned about the pimp Jim.  His name is Bruce Crandell, and he tried to stop the police picking her up, saying they had no right to arrest her.  When they said they were just taking her in out of the cold, he tried to pull her away from them.  They had to call for backup and it took three big police officers to cuff him and put him in the second car.   Apparently he is a very nasty piece of work, but we don’t have to worry about him for tonight anyway.  The police locked him up for the night for obstructing them.  Oh Jim, this is Sandra.  Sandra this is Jim, the gentleman who spotted you standing out there in the cold.”

            Sandra nodded to Jim, but still looked frightened.  It was then that Martha dropped a bombshell as she asked “Why would he leave you out there in your condition dear.  How far on is your pregnancy?”

            “It is almost four months now.”

            Both Jim and the pastor gave a slight gasp and asked almost at the same time.  “Are you pregnant?  Did Bruce know your are pregnant when he sent you out?”

            “He was very angry when he found out I was pregnant, and beat me.  He wants me to have an abortion, and sent me out tonight to get the money to pay for it.”

            “Is he the father, and how do you feel about an abortion?” asked Martha.

            Sandra blushed and looked very sheepish as she replied.  “I don’t know who the father is, but I don’t want to kill my baby.  I don’t want Bruce to beat me any more though, so I will probably have to do it.”

            “But why do you have to have an abortion if you don’t want to?  Why don’t you just leave him, and get out of this life?” asked Martha.

            “Bruce won’t let me, and he has threatened to find me anywhere if I leave him.  He has even threatened to kill the baby if I have it.  So I guess it will get killed one way or another,” She added the last part very wistfully.

            Well I don’t think he would do that, because that definitely would be murder,” said Jim.

            “You don’t know Bruce.  He is not afraid of anyone.  He thinks he can get away with anything, and brags about that.  He can be very ruthless, and left one girl a cripple when she tried to leave him.  He also has a couple of guys who work with him.”

                    “My dear if you could go somewhere where he could not reach you, would you want to go and have your baby?” asked the Pastor.

            “Well yes I would,” said Sandra as her eyes seemed to light up for a few seconds, but almost immediately the fright and despair returned as she said, “But I have never been anywhere else other than here, and I don’t know anyone anywhere else”

            “Well we want to help you, and that is our problem,” said the Pastor.  Now you are going to stay here tonight, you go with Martha and she will get you something to eat, and then show you where you are going to sleep.”

            When Jim and the pastor were alone, the pastor turned to Jim and said, “ I’m afraid she is right about Crandell.  He is a nasty egotistic very bad man.  Unfortunately the only places I know are within a hundred and fifty miles of here, and that may not be enough to keep him from finding her.  How far away do you live Jim?  Do you know anywhere close to you?”

            “Well I live about eleven hundred miles from here, which would probably be far enough away, but it is a very small town in a farming area, and there are no facilities there that I know of.  I could call Cathy again to see if she knows of any, but I do not hold much hope.  Besides that plane tomorrow night is usually full and often oversold, so getting her there could be a problem as well.

            “Well, call Cathy anyway just in case, and if she doesn’t know anyone we will have to try something else.”

            Jim called Cathy and told her everything that had happened.  He explained the problem the pastor had with only knowing places within a hundred and fifty miles.  He asked her if she knew anywhere close to them where she could go.  He also explained about the problem of getting her there.

            Cathy said, “I don’t know anywhere close to here, but I would imagine there must be some place not too faraway she could go.  Jim I have not met the girl and I don’t know if it would be a good idea to have her here with us, but if you think it would be OK, I am willing for you to bring her here on a temporary basis until we find somewhere else, perhaps even one of the farms in the area.  We could explain the situation to our pastor, and I am sure he would help.”

            “I hadn’t thought of her staying with us, but if you don’t mind, it may be at least a good temporary measure, but how are we going to get her there.”  As he said this he saw the pastor give a sigh of relief, and got the impression this had been what the pastor wanted all along.

            “I’m sure you will find a way to get her here, and it is settled, she will come here at least for the present.  I will start getting a room ready for her.  Let me know when you will get here as soon as you know what you are doing.”

            Jim turned to the pastor and said, “Well that is settled she will stay with Cathy and I until we can find somewhere more permanent for her to stay.  The only problem is how to get her there.”

            The Pastor said, “I am very pleased at that decision, for I don’t think I could find a more compassionate couple for her to stay with. I have a fund to help people in need and I think there is no one in more need than that young girl, so the church will pay for her airfare.”

            They checked with the airline Jim was supposed to fly with the following evening, and as Jim had guessed it was over booked, and could not take a reservation.  He asked them to check other flights for the following evening, but they did not have anything available for that airport until Sunday afternoon.  They tried other airlines, but they were even worse.  They told him there was a flight leaving later the following evening from an airport about a hundred and fifty miles away, which would get him home about two hours later than his current booking, if he had any means of getting to the other airport.  He called the car rental office at the local airport where he had rented the car and arranged to drop it off at the other airport at a later time, and all was settled.  They told Sandra, and watched the smile that came on her face as the news sank in.  She thanked everyone for their help, and gave a little laugh of joy as she said, “Now I can keep my baby.”

            Martha made coffee for everyone and they sat around talking for a bit.  Sandra was obviously feeling a lot better, and Jim noticed she sat with her hand on her stomach.   Jim was enjoying the company, and thinking it was a lot better than sitting in his hotel room watching television on his own.  After a while he looked at his watch, and realized it was 10:30, and he should go.  He then said good night to all, exchanged home phone numbers with the pastor, and as he left promised to call them tomorrow. 

            Jim called at noon the following day, and the pastor answered the phone.  He said, “I was hoping it was you Jim.  There has been a slight change of plans for tonight.  Bob White called me this morning and said they would have to release Crandell this afternoon.  I told him we are sending Sandra home with you this evening and asked him to keep that confidential.  He recommended that we move Sandra from the church to the hotel before he releases Crandell.”

            “But wouldn’t that be a worse place for her.”

            “Well Bob thought it was a gamble worth taking.  He felt churches and the police station as well as her mother’s home might be the places Crandell would concentrate on first, and he felt we might have a problem if it was known she was here.  He is going to get a room at the hotel about an hour before Crandell is released, then he will pick her up and take her in the back way to the hotel.  When you get to the hotel, go to a house phone and ask for Mr. White’s room.  When he gets your call, he will bring Sandra down to the back door of the hotel, and escort her and you to your car.”

            “O.K. Pastor I will meet him at the hotel about 5:30.  Can we trust him?”

            “Yes, he is a member of this church, and a good Christian man.  You can trust him and it would probably be useful to have him around if Crandell or one of his henchmen do show up.”

            “Yes, Pastor you are probably right.  I will give you a call tomorrow and let you know if we got home O.K.  Thank you very much for all you have done.”

            “No, Thank you Jim, and God be with you. I will wait for your call tomorrow.”

            Bob did escort Jim and a very frightened Sandra to the car, and Bob tried to comfort her by telling her she was mistaken.  He put Sandra in the passenger side of the car, and as he closed the door, he took Jim’s arm and told him to get going as fast as possible.  He promised he would look for Crandell, and if he was there he would delay him as much as he could.

 

As time passed both Jim, and his passenger to a lesser extent, started to relax, and he was beginning to believe she had indeed been wrong.  Unfortunately, as he neared the end a straight stretch of highway, he noticed headlights behind him, and it was gaining fairly fast.  He tensed up immediately, and glanced aside at his companion with a smile to try to assure her everything was fine, but she had seen him go tense, and she turned round to look behind.  She started to panic a little at the sight of the headlights, and could not take her eyes off them as the car caught up with and finally passed them.  Jim tried to calm her by telling her it could be any car passing them, and as it passed there was no way to tell who was in the car or who was driving.  As the car continued on its way she settled down again and so did Jim.

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