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"You know how I like my American lit, Mag," Eddie began tentatively.
"Why do I think the witness is refusing to answer the question?" an impatient Maggie Mulhearn retorted.
"I'm closing in on it, Maggie," Ireland assured her. "I was just thinking of Jack
London's book, The Sea Wolf. See, the title character, this crusty, cynical sea captain
named Wolf Larsen gets into an argument with this San Francisco dandy... uh, the other
main character... that he rescued from a shipwreck. This other guy, he thinks that life is
good and God is just and all that. That's because he's had it pretty soft so far in his life.
Larson... the sea wolf... on the other hand has had a rough life and has had to fight for
everything he has. Anyhow, they're arguing about the value of human life, and Larson
says... Well, let me see if I can come pretty close: 'Why, if there is anything to supply and demand, life is the cheapest thing in the world. There is only so much water, so much earth, so much air; but the life that is demanding to be born is limitless.' Yeh, that's pretty close, I think." Ireland smiled in self-satisfaction, seeming to gaze inwardly on the pages of a favorite book.
From this literary beginning, Ireland's monologue meandered through a chronological account of the recent history of worldwide traffic in young women. Eddie explained to Maggie how in the 1980s Japanese business men took "sex tours" to Thailand and the Philippines... how in the 1990s this led enterprising Japanese entrepreneurs, usually affiliated with organized crime and prostitution rings in Tokyo and other major Nipon metropolises, to bring the Thai and Philippino women to the customers.
"You see, Mag," Eddie explained, "as Japan became more prosperous and its middle
class broadened, finding home-grown recruits for the flesh trade became more difficult. All that Geisha shit was becoming passe. So girls and women were brought in from outside the country. Usually, once they were on the ground, no matter what they or their families were promised back in Bangkok or Manila these chicks became virtual slaves." "Interesting, Eddie," said Maggie, masking with a touch of cynicism in her voice the
genuine interest she felt growing inside herself. "But only your past record for bringing me relevant information is providing some flimsy support for my faith that somehow this will connect up to the young lady across the room there... and sometime tonight perhaps. Yes?"
"Yeh, yeh," replied Ireland, himself feigning annoyance, when what he really felt was nervous anxiety that he was losing the most important audience of his life."Point is the business has done so damn well in Japan that gangs stateside have been copy™catting the Japs. Only they've concentrated on girls from Latin America more so than from
Asia. "Reasons are simple," Ireland continued his explanation. "The distances are shorter. Lots of times the hoods on the transportation end of the business can actually get their victims to pay for their own transport across the border into the U.S. Once inside, they're illegals. Little or no English. No friends or legitimate contacts. The next thing is to move them away from the border, get them to big cities like Chicago or Philadelphia, where they expect paying employment but where they literally are bought by brothel keepers and prostitution rings. Once inside the whore house, they generally don't ever come back out alive."
Eddie told Maggie that women who try to run away or who don't work hard are subjected to corporal punishment, including whipping and violent rape. "Forced drug addiction also helps keep them docile."
Maggie felt her anger rising as she listened with increasing attentiveness to Ireland's description of the mistreatment of these helpless members of her sex. She glanced frequently at Dalinda Garcia, sitting motionless like a small ball, curled up on the opposite side of the room. Maggie couldn't tell just how much of Eddie's tale the young Hispanic was catching. She displayed no emotion as Ireland went on, bringing his
story around to Dalinda's reluctant role in it.
"Well," he continued. "As you might imagine, Maggie, girls treated this way wear out fast. The turnover is high. It's heightened, so I'm told by some sources who ought to know, by the whore masters' willingness to cater to some pretty weird tastes... if the pervert has the bucks to finance his cravings. These girls, especially as their looks start to fade and their health deteriorates, are routinely used in snuff films or sold to guys who want to torture and kill them. That's the only retirement plan made available in this racket."
Eddie lit his umpteenth cigarette as he let this last bit of information hit home.
"Now, here comes the best part," he finally resumed. "The brothel that murders a girl in a snuff film, or lets a customer kill her, now has a corpus delecti... whole or in pieces, as the case may be."
"Alright, Eddie," Mulhearn interrupted. "Easy on a macbre." She stole another quick glance at Garcia before lighting up again too. Her rage was mixed with a sense of guilt at how good she had it, when the girl a few feet from her had apparently faced death and dismemberment just days (or was it mere hours?) ago.
"Sorry, Magg. Okay, anyhow, these boys are bright. Evil, cruel, heartless... all of the
above. But bright. Body disposal has always been the trickiest part of any murder, if the
killer wants to go undetected. These dudes figured out that, if the victim's major organs are relatively undamaged by the torture and killing, and if they can be removed and properly stored fast enough, a whole other black market line of commerce could be opened up."
"You have to be kidding, Eddie," Maggie responded, leaning forward, trying to read in Ireland's eyes whether he was telling her the truth or making this part up to draw her into whatever scheme he was leading up to. "I shit you not, lady," came Ireland's deadpan reply. "We're talking about a business in human flesh... girl flesh that I believe you fancy lawyers would label 'vertically integrated'," he added, cocking his head subtly in Dalinda's direction.
"Girls and women, hoping to sneak
into California or Texas or Florida as illegals and get jobs in garment mills or as domestics, pay all their bread to kidnappers who instead take them to towns like ours, where gangs and pimps pay cash money for them. They're made into drug©addicted sex slaves until hard use, physical punishment and neglect make them sick or unattractive to the customers. Then they're made to turn one last trick for their 'owners', while they're still living. And last, but (believe me, Magg) far from least, what's left after this last trick can turn the biggest profit of all for whore mongers. Hearts, kidneys, livers, retinas... you name it and it's being sold on the medical black market."
"Oh, my God." Mulhearn exhaled two lungs©full of smoke and looked more directly, more thoughtfully, at Garcia than she had so far that evening. "You poor child," she said softly. Dalinda's smile was one of embarassment, both at this attention and at the memory of the thing she had been part of, the thing that had led to all this attention. Maggie's next thoughts were more selfish, aimed as they were at self-preservation.
"Are there people looking for this girl?" she asked Eddie.
"I've only had her since I found her this morning, sleeping in a box with some old bum who could have been her father. No, strike that, counselor... her grandfather," Eddie
replied. "Nothing's happened yet. But I have to believe there are eyes and ears out on the
street that would love to get a line on this one. You let one run, and your hold on all the
rest is loosened, maybe irreparably. So there's got to be a bounty on her skinny little bod." "So what's our plan?" Maggie queried Ireland.
"Did you say our plan?"
"Yeh, I guess I did," said Maggie, no hint of any joy over her decision reflected in
either her expression or tone of voice. "Yeh, you got me on the hook, Ireland. I'm going to help you save this kid."
"Hey. That's great, Magg. I figured I could count on you. I figured you to be real people."