The only thing worse than having the police drag you home from running away is having them drag you back with a criminal record attached to your name. I’m not even sure how it happened. One day I was your normal kid, angry at my parents and the world and the next day, I was in jail. Or so it seemed.
It all started about six months ago. I’m the oldest of four and usually ended up having to babysit. My siblings, however, didn’t see me as any kind of authority. Bedtime didn’t exist for them when my parents were away for a few hours. I’d still be sending them to bed when my parents got home and I’d catch hell for not having my siblings asleep by then. Usually it was a slap across the face and being grounded for two weeks. I’d have to study the Bible on how to behave properly, as befits the oldest child.
It was a rainy night in Toronto in January of 1975. Mom and Dad had gone to see a movie and I was left to babysit. As usual, my siblings weren’t listening to me. I gave up then, and exploded.
“Right! I have had enough! You little bastards don’t want to listen to me? I’m leaving and letting you explain to Mom and Dad why you’re not in bed yet. I’m tired of getting into trouble because of you three.” I walked out of the house and down the lane without looking back.
I didn’t quite know where I was going and I didn’t have anything with me, not even a toothbrush. I had a dollar twenty-five in change in my pocket and my bank passbook. I walked for hours in the rain, cold, hungry and angry clean through. A bus pulled up beside me and, without thinking, I got on. It was warm and dry, something I wasn’t. I got a transfer, thinking I could ride for a bit until daylight and then find a friend to stay with for a while. Not that I had too many friends. My best friend had moved to Calgary the previous summer and I felt her loss deeply. I didn’t have anyone to talk to any more, no one to keep me sane.
Then it hit me. I could go to Calgary and stay with Robyn and her family. I didn’t know where Calgary was, not exactly, but I knew it was on the Trans-Canada Highway somewhere out west. So that’s where I’d start my journey. I took the bus downtown and then waited for several hours for the commuter trains to start running. I’d take the first one heading west and go from there.
While I waited, it occurred to me that I’d need some money. There was a bank on the corner near the train station but it wouldn’t open up until ten. So I waited until ten, went in and drew money out of my account. There wasn’t much, maybe eighty dollars, but it would do to get me going. One of the first things I did was to buy breakfast and a map of Canada. I studied the map while I ate.
I found Calgary, traced the route back to Toronto and realized I had to go north before I went west. Okay, so that’s where I’d go. North. Sault Ste. Marie seemed like a good place to start hitchhiking. It joined Highway 17 and seemed to be a jumping off point for several major routes to the west. It was as good a place as any and I’d have plenty of time to get things sorted out in my mind on the train ride up.
Well, that was the plan until I got to the ticket seller. I didn’t have enough to get to Sault Ste. Marie by train. The man behind the counter was sympathetic.
“I need to get to the Soo,” I said desperately.
“Don’t quote me on it, but the bus is cheaper. It’ll take you longer, I think, but it should get you home before midnight tomorrow.”
“Thanks, mister!” I said. I turned away and then turned back. “You don’t happen to know where the bus depot is, do you? I’m not familiar with downtown Toronto.”
He gave me directions, just a few blocks away, and I was off on my grand adventure.
The bus for the Soo was giving the second boarding call when I got to the bus depot. I hurried to buy a ticket and raced for the bus.
The trip to Sault Ste. Marie was boring, nothing but rocks and trees once you got out of southern Ontario. I spent most of the trip sleeping across two seats. The bus wasn’t crowded so I had them to myself.
I wasn’t quite prepared for the Soo. For one thing, it was colder than Toronto and had piles more snow. I was dressed for a Toronto winter’s day, not a Sault Ste. Marie winter’s night. I got off the bus at the stop and looked around. I knew from the map that I’d need to get to Highway 17 in order to get to the Trans-Canada. There was nothing for it but to ask.
One of the bus’ occupants had gotten out when I did. He looked at me strangely when I asked for directions to the truck stop.
“You’re not thinking of hitchhiking, are you?” he asked.
“No, sir!” I lied promptly. “I’m meeting a friend there and we’re going on to Calgary together. She’s coming up from Nepean,” I added, naming a city along the highway.
He stared at me for a long moment and I struggled to hold the innocent expression on my face. He finally relented, gave me the directions I needed and I let out my held breath after turning away.
The truck stop, when I finally found it, had a huge parking lot with what seemed like a hundred big tractor-trailer trucks. Maybe I could catch a direct ride to Calgary with one of these guys? It couldn’t hurt to ask. But first things first. I hadn’t eaten since breakfast, many hours ago. My stomach reminded me of that as I smelled burgers, steaks and fries on the cold winter air. I checked my pocket. I had five dollars to my name. It would buy soup and coffee, I thought. Once here and maybe once in Winnipeg, however far away that was. What I’d do after that was anyone’s guess.
I pushed open the door to the restaurant and inhaled deeply. Warmth, food, coffee fresh brewed.
“You’re standing in the way, kid. Either in or out.”
The impatient voice brought me to my senses. I moved out of the driver’s way and scanned the restaurant for an empty seat. There was one tucked into a corner, a single table with a pile of dirty dishes on it. The waitress was busy elsewhere so I showed myself to the table, pushing the dishes to one side.
“Menu?” the waitress asked as she grabbed the dishes and took a swipe at the table with a damp rag.
“Soup and coffee, please,” I answered.
I thought about it. “Whatever you have that’s filling.”
She looked at me properly. What she saw was a skinny kid with long brown hair and freckles, not looking much older than thirteen, no make up and not properly dressed for a northern winter’s night. “You’re a runaway,” she guessed.
“I’m going to visit family in Calgary,” I said defiantly.
She gave me another searching look and shook her head. “Something filling and a coffee. Right.”
I looked around as I waited for my supper. The place was full of truck drivers, or what I assumed were truck drivers. Some were looking like they just woke up and some were looking like they could do with some sleep. Talk was quiet and desultory. There were a few men, younger ones, who looked like they were wide awake and ready to go. Their eyes were wide and their motions restless. For some reason, they made me nervous.
A large bowl of chili and a plate of Texas toast was placed in front of me and I jumped.
“Relax. I have a kid your age. This one’s on the house,” the waitress told me, and walked away before I could do more than splutter my thanks.
I’d never had chili before. It wasn’t something Mom made. It was spicier than I’d expected, given that it looked like plain brown beans and ground beef. I ate a bit of toast and it cooled the burn a but. I tried to make it last, but I was finished way too soon for my stomach’s liking. I could have eaten three more bowls, I was that hungry. I drew the full coffee cup towards me.
Seeing that I was finished eating. The waitress came over, bringing a man with her. He was taller than me and looked well-muscled. He had longish brown hair and sideburns. Little did I know it, but it was lust at first sight on my part. I thought he looked quite handsome and friendly. His eyes were wide and black. I wasn’t afraid of him.
“This is John. He’s heading to Winnipeg. He’s willing to take you that far and then he’ll see you get to Calgary with someone else. It’s the best I can do for you,” she said.
“If you’re ready to go, sweetheart,” he began in a deep, chocolate syrup voice. “I’ve got to be in the Pig before supper tonight.” It was well after midnight, I noticed, glancing at my watch.
I stood up and put my jacket on quickly. I tried to thank the waitress but she brushed it aside.
“Like I said, I have a kid your age. You just take care and trust John. He’s good people and is in every few days so I can check on you.” She bustled off and I was left standing.
A whistle got my attention. It was John, already halfway to the door. I hurried to catch up.
Getting into the truck was harder than I expected it to be. While not short, I wasn’t much past five foot five and my feet didn’t know where the ladder rungs were. It took a minute but I managed to get into the cab and settled into the comfortably warm seat. John was already to go and putting the truck into gear, we were off. I looked around for a seat belt and didn’t find one. I just sighed, warm, fed and feeling just a bit sleepy.
“Thanks for the ride, John,” I began.
“Not a problem. I could use the company. What’s your name, kid?”
“Where you headed in Calgary?”
I gave my friend’s street name, not wanting to give up too much information to a total stranger. Not just yet.
“Hmm. That’s in the northwest corner of the city. I know a guy that does deliveries out in that direction. I’m pretty sure he’ll let you ride along with him until you get close enough to walk. You have anything more than that jacket?”
I shook my head. I added, “no” when I realized that he couldn’t see me in the dark cab.
He sighed. “You picked a helluva time to run away, kid.”
“I’m going to visit relatives in Calgary,” I stated.
“Yeah, right. And I’m Cleavon Little.”
I looked him over. “You’ve lost some of your tan then,” I observed.
John threw back his head and laughed. “All right, smart ass. Have it your way. You’re going to visit family in Calgary.”
He changed the subject and we discussed all manner of things of no moment. He was twenty-seven, not married and living with a bunch of guys in Winnipeg. He did the Ottawa to Winnipeg run every few days. We talked about movies we’d seen and he turned on the radio just in time to catch the beginning of “Kung Fu Fighting.” We both sang, neither of us in key or tune. We listened and sang for as long as we had radio reception. It was fun. This was quite the adventure, I thought.
When the static got louder than the songs, John turned off the radio and looked over at me. “You okay,” he asked.
I had curled up on the seat, my boots on the floor of the cab and was holding my stomach. “I suppose so. Maybe supper isn’t agreeing with me.”
He jerked a thumb in the direction of the bunk. Go lay down, kid. I’ll wake you when we get to Nipigon.
“Are you sure you’re going to be okay driving? I mean, it is awfully late.”
He chuckled. “It’s three in the morning and I’ll be fine. Your snoring should keep me awake,” he teased.
“I don’t snore,” I retorted.
“Sure you don’t. No go lay down. The blanket’s at the end of the bunk and the pillow’s behind me.”
Sighing and hoping I could keep my supper down, I did as I was bid. Laying down did seem to help. Before I could tell John that, though, I was asleep.
It was what I didn’t hear that woke me up. The engine sound had changed and there were no sounds of highway traffic. There was just the rumble of a number of diesel engines. We’d stopped. I sat up.
“Oh, good. You’re awake. You hungry?”
My stomach answered with a loud rumble before my thoughts could form words.
John laughed. “It’s about nine a. m. and we’re in Nipigon. And you do snore.”
I blushed, which only made John laugh again.
“C’mon. I’m hungry. My treat.”
I stepped out into the cold and shivered. My boots, jeans and jacket were warm but the rest of me that was bare skin to open air was frozen in short order. It seemed to be miles to the truck stop but it couldn’t have been that far.
We had breakfast and lingered a bit over coffee. The waitress gave John and me a funny look but didn’t say anything. Now that I think about it, it probably did look odd, a sixteen-year-old who looked younger and a twenty-seven-year-old who looked older. At the time, I thought nothing of it. Well, maybe there was a lingering resentment that someone didn’t think I could look out for myself.
I discovered something when we got back into the truck and were on our way again. I couldn’t sit up and talk for any length of time. My stomach protested, thankfully not vigorously. I down on the bunk, my head near the opening of the bunk and my feet and legs up one wall. I could carry on a conversation with John and not need to worry about puking.
He managed to get my story out of me and offered his sympathy on the terrible treatment I got from my parents. I admitted that I wasn’t going to see family but to a friend’s who didn’t know I was coming. He didn’t seem to like that idea. He thought maybe we should call them at the lunch truck stop or call my parents. I refused point blank. When he persisted, I slid around to lay one the bunk proper.
“I’m tired. I’m going to have a nap,” I said, turning my back on the cab.
I actually did manage to fall asleep for a while. It was the truck grinding up to highway speeds that woke me.
“Lunch is on the housing, if you want it.”
“Where are we?”
“Just outside Upsala, heading west.”
“I climbed out of the bunk and sat down on the seat, moving the sandwich away before hand. While it may taste the same a bit squished, I wasn’t fussed on eating it like that. There was a coffee, double-double, too.
I took a sip of the hot liquid. “How did you know what I put in my coffee?”
“I didn’t,” John shrugged. “I guessed.”
For all the cream and sugar in the coffee, it was still bitter. I decided to let it cool and drink it in one go rather than sip the awful stuff and drag out the agony. The sandwich, however, didn’t take long to disappear, regardless of what I thought of it.
“You over your temper tantrum?” John asked after a few miles had passed.
I stared at him, not sure of his meaning. Then I remembered. “I’m not phoning my parents and I’ll phone Robyn when I get to Winnipeg.” It was a compromise.
He nodded his approval. “You can use the phone at my place. It’ll be after seven by the time I get this rig put to bed and we get home. I’ll call Carl in the morning. You need to sleep in a bed that doesn’t move.”
I hung my head, getting a whiff of myself. “And maybe a shower?”
John grinned. “You can go first. You can have my bedroom for the night. I’ll sleep on the couch and tell the guys why. Just in case they come in looking for a party.”
The trip to Kenora was filled with stories of John and his friends, from their high school days to moving in together and getting jobs that took them all over Canada. There was Buddy, the joker of the group, Chance, quiet but okay for all that, and Dallas. “You watch out for Dallas, Audrey. He can get ugly, especially when he’s been drinking. If he starts, you just do as he says.”
At Kenora, I asked if we could stop for a few minutes.
John looked at me inquiringly.
“I need to use the ladies room,” I admitted, blushing.
He huffed his amusement. “Yeah, we can stop. I wasn’t planning on it, but I can pick up coffee and sandwiches. You want one?”
“Yeah, sure. Thanks.”
I took the time to get washed up a bit, too, in a truck stop just outside Kenora. I guess, all told, I took about ten minutes. John was impatiently tapping his foot when I finally appeared.
“You took long enough,” he snapped.
“Sorry,” I mumbled. I’d forgotten that he was on a tighter schedule than I was. You were quite rude, I told myself.
We got into the cab and started west again.
“How long to Winnipeg?” I asked nervously into the silence.
“About three hours, traffic depending. Drink your coffee.”
I blinked, started. I usually waited for it to cool enough to drink. This command was out of character for John, I thought. I sipped the hot beverage, making a face at the bitter taste. “Is all truck stop coffee this bitter?” I asked.
John laughed. “Usually. There’s only a few places that make decent coffee, but they’re not on our route today. That’s why I suggest drinking it while it’s hot. It tastes better that way.”
“Better? That’s scary.”
“Just fact. Drink up.”
I drank the hot coffee.
About half an hour later, I was feeling odd, not quite attached to my body. I was still sitting up, which was unusual for me. The pain was distant and my head felt like it was stuffed with cotton wool. John asked me a question. It was hard for me to focus enough to swing my head around to answer him. My body felt like it was cut off at the knees and neck. I leaned back in the seat and slept.
I was woken up by a rough shaking. Someone wanted me to open my eyes but they were too heavy to do more than raise a fraction before closing again. My mind was sort of aware but my body wasn’t cooperating with my mind. I heard someone swear and then felt myself leave the seat to hang upside down over someone’s shoulder.
“You gave her too much, you stupid ass,” the person was saying.
“I wanted to make sure she was going to stay asleep for a few hours. She wanted to stop in Kenora and that was a perfect opportunity for me. There’s not much in the way of truck stops between there and here, you know.” It was John. His voice had a whine to it that I hadn’t heard before. “Just take her and go.”
I was thrown down onto a soft material and that’s the last I remember for several days.
The next few weeks were a blur. I remember bits and pieces of it, faces, small events like watching a news report on Dorothy Hamill’s gold medal. I couldn’t tell you the date or the day of the week. I vaguely remember having to wear clothes that didn’t quite fit me. They were too small for the most part and far too tight for my normal ‘jeans and a sweat shirt’ style. I remember being laced into a corset and being forced to stand up straight in order to breathe. I think I remember someone putting fishnet stockings on my legs and there was a stirring some something between my legs.
One day led into the next, day being when I was woken up and night being when I was allowed to sleep. I was gradually weaned off the drugs but what I remember from those times made me wish to be drugged again. I wore scanty clothing and posed for a photographer in poses that made me feel decidedly uncomfortable. The first time I objected, a man hit me. Hard. I later found out that that was Dallas. I fell over something, I don’t know what, and I heard china break. It wasn’t my fault but Dallas wasn’t interested in my excuses. I got the first of many beatings for breaking a coffee mug.
It didn’t take me long to figure out what had happened to me. John had drugged me and it had been Dallas who took me out of the cab of the tractor-trailer. I was being groomed as an ‘escort.’ I wasn’t sure what that was. Chance clued me in as he taught me how to walk in high heels.
“An escort is a high class prostitute, girl. You’re going to learn to please men and then we’ll take you out in public for some publicity shots. You’re a virgin, so you’ll fetch a greater price.”
“I’m a what?”
“Christ on a crooked cross, you are stupid, aren’t you? Just do as I say, as Dallas tells you and you’ll be fine.” He smiled then, trying to be reassuring. “It’s okay, kid. I’m told it only hurts once and after that you’ll be safe enough with Dallas and the rest of the girls.”
“You mean there’s more?”
He nodded. “About Seven or eight girls are being trained right now. You’ll meet them at your debut. We do a photo shoot every spring for the new clients.”
I paled. I didn’t know specifics of what was involved but it scared me.
I learned a lot in the next few weeks, how to dress, how to apply makeup, how to walk in high heels, how to eat and look suggestive at the same time. I also learned how to please men and women. When Betty first came in, I thought she was going to be my rescue but I was firmly abused of that notion after Dallas gave her her instructions. That’s when I wished I was drugged again. I didn’t want to do this. “I want to go home,” I whined. Dallas hit me.
“You’ll do as you’re told or I’ll beat you senseless again.” It wasn’t a threat. It was a promise.
I did as I was told, closing my mind to preserve my sanity. The lessons were hard. Betty had me do everything several times over until I ‘got it right’. Buddy was my ‘dummy’ for learning how to please men. I was beaten for not being able to please him. I tried my hardest to do as I was told. I later learned that the fault wasn’t mine. Buddy preferred little boys.
One night, after a particularly grueling ‘lesson’ with Buddy, I woke up early. The bedrooms were small and the windows has heavy, dark curtains over them. I got up, stiff and sore, and went to the window to look out at the night. You can imagine my surprise to find it was broad daylight. There were lilac bushes starting to bloom in front of the window, so I couldn’t see much of the back yard. What I could see was neatly kept and looking fresh and green. There wasn’t any snow on the ground. Spring had arrived. I let the curtain fall back. The photo shoot would be coming up soon, I guessed. I would be sold to the highest bidder. I crawled back into bed and cried myself to sleep, wishing desperately that I was back home, getting hit for not having the kids in bed on time.
A few days later, Betty came in with an armful of new clothes. “It’s time to get dressed for the photo shoot. We have two hours to get you ready, so don’t dawdle and don’t slouch.”
I had sagged when she mentioned the photo shoot.
Betty got me dressed with particular care. There were black fishnet stockings and a garter belt over black, skimpy panties. A corset was put on me and tightened painfully. My breasts were plumped up so that they almost fell out of the corset. I wore a short black skirt with a black velvet bolero jacket over everything. Betty put a black choker with a cameo around my neck. Black stiletto heels completed the ensemble.
Betty made me up, putting false eyelashes on me for the first time. They made my eyes water. Betty slapped me for that.
“Never mind crying. You’ll ruin your makeup and Dallas will kill us both,” she said fiercely. “And I’m not going to take a beating for a little snot like you.” The last thing we did was to put false nails on me. Betty had just finished painting the last one black when Dallas walked in without knocking.
“She ready yet?”
Betty put the lid on the nail polish and stood up. “As she’ll ever be.”
“She’d better be. Stand up, bitch.”
I stood up.
I did so, trying not to trip on the carpet. Heels were easier to manage when you weren’t trying to turn on carpet. I presented myself for inspection.
“She’ll do,” he finally pronounced. “Bitch, you just remember to keep your mouth shut in public. You’ll talk about nothing in particular and if you so much as breathe wrong, I’ll dump your body into Lake Winnipeg. Do you understand me?”
I nodded. “Yes, sir.”
His eyes narrowed, searching my face for any trace of rebellion. He didn’t find any. Turning on his heel, he snapped, “The car’s here.”
The trip to the night club didn’t take long. I couldn’t stop staring out the window, drinking in everything that wasn’t my bedroom or the bathroom, the two places I’d spent most of the last few months. The weather was nice, not too chilly, but cold enough that I was glad of the jacket.
We pulled up outside what looked like an abandoned warehouse. We were met by a man in a business suit. “This the first-timer?” he asked, indicating me.
“She’d better be.” His voice was cold and calculating.
It would appear that there was someone who could cow Dallas. I kept that thought in mind as he led the way into the building, not bothering to hold the door open for us. That was left to Chance, who had been driving.
“I won’t be long,” Dallas said. “I’m just going to see her settled and then we can leave.”
The lights were dim for the most part, with spots of light behind frosted windows along the interior wall. There were several other women there, some dressed as I was, short skirts, blouses that left little to the imagination, high heels and startling makeup. They looked comfortable in their outfits. I was afraid to take a deep breath for fear of falling out of my corset.
There were quite a few men there, too, older ones. They gave me the creeps, the way they were staring at me. I wanted to cover myself but Dallas would have had my head if I did that. That much I knew. I looked around for some idea of what I was to do next. I didn’t want to stay with Dallas but he seemed like the safest place to be.
“Creepy, aren’t they?” The low voice came from behind me.
I jumped and spun around. The man was tall, taller than John, with dark hair and a five o’clock shadow. His voice was quiet and he looked at me like I was a person and not a commodity. I liked him on sight.
“I can’t say they’re creepy,” I hedged.
“You can’t but I can,” he chuckled. “Have a drink with me.” He took a glass from a passing waiter and handed it to me. It reeked of alcohol. It would be my first drink.
I looked around, wanting to see what the others were doing. The creepy guys were talking to the other girls and to Dallas and the manager. I sipped the drink cautiously. I didn’t like the taste at all and I couldn’t tell if it was drugged. Maybe, I thought, being drugged would get me through tonight without embarrassing myself and getting into trouble with Dallas and the manager. I sipped again and tried not to make a face.
He threw his head back and laughed, a cheerful sound to my frightened ears. “It’s not to everyone’s taste, no, but it’ll get you through the night. You’re new here, aren’t you?”
I nodded. “I’m Audrey. Who are you?”
“Hi.” I struggled for something witty to say. “I take it you’re not new?” I finally managed.
He grinned. “No, I’ve been here before.”
Before I could say anything else, Dallas came over and grabbed my shoulder warningly. “They’re wanting to take pictures,” was all he said.
I followed Dallas to an even dimmer part of the club. The photographer was an older man, skinny and balding. What hair he had was slicked back like it was still wet. I didn’t like him. He didn’t look like he could be trusted. I didn’t know him and I didn’t want to, not even his name.
He motioned me to sit in a booth with two other girls. “In between them, if you please.”
When I took the assigned place, he came over and made me put one knee on the other. His touch made my skin crawl. The other two girls cuddled up beside me and put their hands on my knee. I didn’t like the way it felt. My defiance must have showed on my face because we had to take several shots before the photographer was happy. Dallas glaring at me over the shorter man’s shoulder didn’t help my expression either. Other poses were set up both with other girls and each of us singly.
I stood on the edge of the group, watching as the photographer made one of the girls play around at the pool table. He finally had her climb up on the table and took photos of her cleavage. It was more revealing than my own costume. I shook my head, partly in disbelief and partly in disgust. This is what I’ve become, too, I had to remind myself.
A hand slipped into mind and Ken’s voice whispered in my ear. “C’mon. Let’s find a place to talk. They don’t need us here now.”
I went with him to one of the booths and we sat down.
“So how did you end up here?” he asked after getting me another drink. He wasn’t drinking himself.
I looked up to see Dallas watching me, a frown on his face. I shrugged as nonchalantly as I could. “I just did. There are worse places.” I couldn’t think of any, but with Dallas watching, I didn’t want to say the wrong thing. I wasn’t sure how Ken would react to the truth, either. He seemed like a nice guy.
“I can’t think of anything worse than a whore’s display, but if that’s your choice…” His voice trailed off.
“A whore’s display? I’m not a whore!” I exclaimed.
“Not a whore? Not yet, but you will be before the end of the night,” he promised.
I stared at him. I knew I was being groomed as an escort, but as a whore? I thought about it and my face must have shown my dismay.
“Listen, kid. You have two choices, as I see it. You can give up, or you can give in. Giving up means that you’re stuck here. Giving in means that you’ll survive a few more months and maybe escape.”
I stared, confused. Was he telling me he’d help me escape Dallas? “I can’t escape Dallas. He has the connections to find me.”
Ken shook his head. “Dallas isn’t all-powerful. He can be bought.”
“Give him enough money and he’ll forget he ever knew you existed.”
“I don’t have that kind of money!”
“Ah, but I do,” Ken murmured. “Don’t look now but Dallas is heading this way. Pretend you’re having fun and flirt with me.”
Dallas was halfway across the room when he was sidetracked by the photographer.; The man said something to Dallas who shrugged and pointed to me. The other man turned and stared at me. It made me feel uncomfortable, like he was mentally undressing me.
“Let’s take some pictures then.” Even his voice was oily.
Ken smiled and whispered, “Pretend you’re enjoying yourself.”
I took another sip of my drink and did as he told me. It was fun, this pretending. I sipped my drink again and laughed. Everything was suddenly very funny.
They took several pictures of different poses. I held onto my drink as being the only solid reality in the place. Ken was a great help, making me laugh and keeping me from paying attention to Dallas and the photographer. One shot I remember quite well, even after all this time. I was sitting next to Ken, my feet hooked under his knees and his hand on my upper thigh. I thought it looked too suggestive and was reluctant to have it remain there.
“C’mon, sugar. One last shot and we’re done,” Ken said softly. “Smile for the camera.”
I smiled, trying to look like I knew what I was doing but in reality having no clue. I took another sip of my drink. My head was starting to swim and it was hard to find my mouth. I managed, though, and had another sip. I was disappointed to find that my glass was empty. Ken saw this and motioned for a waiter to bring me another one.
“Here,” said Ken. “Take your jacket off. You’ll ruin it if you spill your drink.”
I tried to disagree but the words didn’t make it to my mouth.
Ken leaned over, undid the button on the jacket and pushed it down over my shoulders to my elbows. My arms were effectively pinned by velvet handcuffs. He leaned back and looked at me.
I struggled to get the bolero up or down, so I could cover myself. Ken’s whole attitude had changed. It was proprietorial, like he owned me. My feet were still trapped beneath his knees so I couldn’t back away.
“Don’t be shy, sugar. I’m just examining the merchandise.” His hand slipped further up my leg and up the inside of it.
I struggled to move away from him.
He slapped my thigh. “Ah, ah, ah, sugar. You don’t want me telling Dallas that you’re not cooperating, do you?”
I swallowed. Hard. I forced myself to relax.
“That’s better,” he purred. He opened his mouth to say something else, but was interrupted by a scuffle at the main doors. There were people there, police officers, herding everyone into a small group. One stopped by our table and, with a quick jerk of his head, motioned the two of us out of our seats and into the group. They separated us girls from the rest of the people and began to question us, one at a time. I didn’t know what to say and my knees started shaking. I couldn’t stop it even with Dallas glaring at me.
One police officer took me aside and began to question me. What was my name? I told him my first name only. Where did I live? With Dallas. How old was I? Eighteen, I lied. Where did I work? I didn’t. I lived with Dallas.
The questions went on for quite a while. I had stopped shaking after about the first twenty minutes of questioning. Did I know Dallas was a pimp? I didn’t know what a pimp was and said so without thinking. The officer gave me a strange look.
About an hour after the first wave of officers came into the club, there came a few more and we were hustled into waiting buses, girls in one and the guys in another. Ken winked at me as we passed him and the others. I couldn’t even manage a smile.
I was scared. What if I said the wrong thing and got Dallas into trouble? What if I was being sent to jail? Would Dallas bail me out? How long would I have to spend in jail? What did I do that was so wrong?
I spent the night in a cold cell with the other girls. I listened as they told their stories, making sure no one was going to say the wrong thing. I could only manage a nod when asked if I was going to agree to the story of being there only for a photo shoot and nothing else about Dallas or what the purpose of the shoot was.
The next day, it turned out, was a Saturday. Courts weren’t open then, so we would be spending the weekend in cells. I wasn’t nearly as upset as I should have been. I think I was in shock.
We were taken out, one at a time, for finger printing and questioning. I stuck to the story of a photo shoot to the best of my ability. I wasn’t used to lying and I don’t think the police officer believed me. He didn’t get ugly about it, much to my relief.
Monday morning at nine we were in court as a group. I didn’t see Ken or Dallas or even the club manager in the audience. Chance and Buddy were nowhere to be seen either. We were on our own.
The police officers were the first to talk to the judge. A harried-looking young woman came over to me and asked if I was sorry for what I had done.
I frowned at her. “I didn’t anything wrong and certainly nothing to be sorry for.”
She sighed and made a note on her clipboard. “You’re up next.”
I stood in front of the judge who stared at me. I was still dressed in my finery from the photo shoot. I stood up straight and glared back at him.
“Audrey of no name and no fixed address?”
I was going to repeat that I lived with Dallas, but one of the girls caught my eye and shook her head slightly.
“Yes,” was all I said.
Well, since you’re part and parcel of this group, you’ll be getting the same treatment as they are. Thirty days for prostitution. Next case.”
I was hustled out and into a waiting room for the other girls to be processed. We were eventually shuffled into a waiting bus.
Jail wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. It was regimented, sure. Get up at this time, go to bed at another, eat when and what I’m told. In some ways, it was no different from being at home. I just wanted to get out of there and away from Dallas. I didn’t know how I was going to do that and I didn’t trust any of the others enough to ask them for advice.
On my next to last day, a policewoman came to talk to me. It seems they did a check on me and my description, found out who I was and where I belonged. My whole being sagged in relief. Given that I wasn’t of age, I shouldn’t have been put in the adult jail with the other girls but what was done was done. The police didn’t want me in town any more. Dallas, or so I was told, was going to be spending quite a bit of time in jail and they didn’t need another homeless waif wandering the streets. I would be put on a bus, escorted, to Toronto the next day.
I could only nod. My parents, it turned out, would be meeting us at the bus depot.
I gathered up my things on that last day and looked around at my current home. It felt almost like home, too. Almost. I was glad to leave.
The bus took a day and a half to get to Toronto. My escort didn’t talk much, which was fine by me. I wasn’t in the mood to talk. I was trying to figure out what I’d say to my parents when I saw them. The jail guards were kind. I couldn’t wear what I was arrested in, so they gave me a pair of jeans and an old t-shirt to wear. I was allowed to take my prison underclothes with me. I wore prison sneakers, too. That, a criminal record and a toothbrush were all I had left of my grand adventure.