I don’t have a story for you. I have three pieces of a whole, only one of which I was actually there for. I hope you can tell me what to do about it because I’m at a loss, honestly. Who do I go to? The cops? Interpol?
I work with my friend Sanjay for that stereo place out by the highway. We’re the assholes in the van who haul your old systems away. Sanj was in the drivers seat and I was doing what I always do as a co-pilot: try to make him laugh and mess up so I could have a turn driving.
I was doing a bit as the guy ahead of us, the white van was swerving all over the lane. I came up with this long list of what I drank last night. Somewhere between jet fuel and his mom’s catheter bag I thought I had Sanj when he shouted “oh shit” and braked really hard. I looked in front of us just in time to see the van tip past the point of no return and hit the pavement.
We skidded. Thank god there was no one right behind us, or I wouldn’t have been alive to see this next part.
The back of the van was full of girls.
They all looked southeast Asian, but from different ethnic groups, I could tell. I heard Sanj whisper “oh god no,” and he was out of the car before I could get my seatbelt off. One of the girls had fallen through the back doors and was still moving. The others…weren’t.
Sanj got his arms beneath her neck and knees and by this point I was out of the car.
“Dude, open the doors,” he said, gesturing with his foot.
“Can you even see? What does this look like to you?”
We didn’t have to say it out loud. A bunch of girls crammed in the back of a van? Obvious trafficking ring. I popped the lock and let Sanj set her back there; while he did I took our big wrench and approached the driver’s side.
I was telling myself I just wanted a look, just a crack at the scumbag who did this so I could describe him to the cops.
There was no one in the drivers seat. No one anywhere in the cab. No blood, no open doors. In fact, the old-timey locks, the kind you can fish with a coathanger? Weren’t popped.
Sanjay screamed for me to get back in the car. Nether of us had a phone, so we decided to drive to the nearest place with a landline and call the cops. I took the wheel this time. Sanj sat in the passenger side, unbuckled, whispering to the back seat “it’ll be okay. It’ll all be okay.”
I don’t think she could understand. I don’t think she even heard us. She was all sweaty and really banged up from the accident. I think she had a concussion. She kept murmuring to herself, she sounded so weepy and worn out, like she couldn’t even get up enough energy to panic.
I pulled into a used car place right as some emergency vehicles screamed past us going the other way. Since calling 911 seemed moot now, we decided to go straight to the hospital. Sanjay had to navigate with the beat up old map from the glove box.
We pulled into the hospital parking lot and Sanjay yelled back: “it’s gonna be okay now.”
We looked back and found that the girl was gone. Not just gone, the back of the truck was swimming in an inch of water. I think we both just sat there in shock for a little while.
Of course everything we had in the back was ruined. Boss chewed us out, not that we cared. Sanj went home with me that day, and we both had a Guinness and put on the evening news.
They’d found the van on the road, but even less in it. No driver. No girls.
I have this friend, Amy. I went to high school with her, and we’re still on semi-friendly terms. She was born here and everything, but her family is full-blooded Vietnamese. So as such she gets a lot of aggro on public transit and whatnot. So when a sedan pulled up alongside her, she said she was already on defense.
The car was full of young, white guys dressed in business attire. They had suits but no jackets, in these pastel-floral colors. They didn’t smile or say anything so she gave them a weird look. This was a part of the road with no sidewalk and no shoulder, so she didn’t really have any convenient places to run.
The guy in the passenger seat spoke: “get in.”
She said the way he said it, like there wasn’t even room for objection, scared the shit out of her. She had her earbuds in, so she pretended not to hear and kept walking.
The guy in the car leaned forward. “Get in the fucking car.”
This startled her into saying: “fuck you!”
Without any warning, the guy driving turned the wheel so that the car nosed into the shoulder. Amy said she has no idea how she thought so fast, but she immediately dropped back and ran behind the car, into the oncoming traffic lane. She missed a few cars and was afraid there would be a gap in traffic, that they’d try and cross the lane to get her. The car revved up and turned the other way, but a little coupe coming up behind them clipped the mirror and spun out. The driver, this old guy, got out and started yelling at them. The guys in the car apparently decided to cut their losses and sped off. Amy said she had to walk around for a while before she could stop shaking so much.
The third thing is probably nothing. I don’t even know if it really belongs in here, but it’s just too much of a coincidence.
My brother is on the custodial crew for the chain hotel downtown. He’s seen shit that would turn you white. Mostly it’s amusing, but this one actually hit him so hard I ended up telling him my story.
So, anyway, there’s this party renting out the royal suite. Not whole lot lot of interaction between the desk staff and my brother’s people, so all he could tell me was based on what they asked for.
They went through towels like you wouldn’t believe. All their meals had to be absolutely salt-free, and apparently they could tell when even a little had fallen in because they sent it back. No nasty notes, no abuse, just weird.
So my brother hears that they asked for the custodial staff personally. Apparently there was a leak. So my brother goes up with his kit and doesn’t know what to expect. Guests can be pretty weird, especially rich guests. For all he knew “leak” was secret code for “watch me jack off.” And it’s not like the desk staff would warn him, anyway.
But no. He said the guy who opened the door seemed normal, if a little…off. Button-up shirt, tie, sleeves rolled up past the elbow and damp. He waved at my brother.
“C’mon. in here.”
He walked with my brother to the middle of the main room and pointed. My brother said at first he thought it was a joke. The puddle was barely the size of a head. It had soaked through the rug to the wood floor, but plenty of guests had let other less pleasant fluids do that and just left it.
Just to make sure, my brother pointed and asked, “there?”
The guy nodded. “Wipe it all up.”
My brother was weirded out, but not really in the position to say anything. He rolled up the rug, squirted a little 409, and wiped back and forth. He said he had this really odd feeling that he couldn’t place until he looked up. The guy was watching him clean really intently. Too intently. Like, if he had been jacking off, my brother wouldn’t have been surprised.
My brother took the rug and promised to get it back that day. The guy thanked him and said not to bother, it would just get messy again anyway. My brother couldn’t get out of the room soon enough after that.
He said he didn’t know what made him look back. Bullshit. I know what made him look back, because it’s the same thing that made Sanj get out of the van.
He said just as the door shut behind him, the door to the suite bathroom opened. More young guys were looking out. Their shirts were all soaking wet and they all looked really alert. He said that since the shirts were wet, they were kind of see-through, and he said that it looked like they all had some really gnarly body hair.
But the worst thing, he said, was what he noticed in that split-second before the door shut. A slender pair of hands handcuffed to the faucet in the tub, and a head of long, black hair in the water that was up to the tub’s brim.