by Ann Ruby
Devlin is tormented by the memory of a time when he descended into darkness, taking an innocent woman with him and barely making it out alive. His work as a sex therapist is the only thing that keeps him going. Where he cannot help the one from his past, he can at least help others like her. His best friend, Mac, thinks that someday one of his cases will be a breakthrough for him, allowing him to forgive himself and move on with his life. Devlin doesn’t agree.
Melissa is facing her own demons. As a teenager, she was kidnapped and held captive for months, losing her virginity and tangling her sexuality into her captor’s desires. She hasn’t had a romantic relationship since. She struggles with her feelings for her captor and her fear of intimacy of any sort.
When Devlin takes Melissa on as a client, everything they thought they knew about themselves and their past is challenged. Devlin may be able to help her – and himself – but only if she can overcome her fears and trust him with the truth. (M/F)
|How did you get here?|
Chapter 3: Arrival
Devlin’s superiors were certainly not happy with his disposition during the debriefing. They again lectured him on the importance of what he was doing and added the caution that he couldn’t make Kraus suspicious. Yes, even criminals have a conscience, they noted, but not one that would get in the way of doing the job and they worried that he was in danger of blowing it by letting his get the best of him.
He didn’t go to see Mac. Instead he stayed in his apartment in South Attleboro. He picked at his guitar but no music came, watched television but saw nothing, and slept. When Mac called, he answered with the usual, “Talk to me,” because Mac was the only one who would call.
“No, you talk to me,” Mac responded.
“I just needed to be alone for a couple of days,” he explained.
“You’re okay, though?”
“Yeah. I’ll be okay.”
“You can always come home, Dev. No matter what they tell you. If it’s too hard on you, you can always walk away.”
Devlin doubted that. Already he could feel himself falling toward some deep, dark place, a place that could swallow him alive, where he would be lost forever, and he didn’t know if he would go over the edge or pull back in time to save himself.
“I hear you, brother,” he reassured Mac. “If I need you, I’ll call.”
But Devlin didn’t call. He went two more rounds, getting duller, getting harder, proving to Kraus that he was efficient and could be trusted at his job. On his days off he went to South Attleboro, gave his report, and holed up in his apartment with nothing but the television and his guitar for company.
Something changed after that, and he wasn’t sure what, but he found himself getting angry with the girls that came through the camp. Were they really that naïve? Were their families really that stupid?
They had a chance that he had never had. When the social worker delivered him to the foster house from hell, he had been a child. He couldn’t choose where he went or who he stayed with, but these girls could. From everything he had heard and seen, they had chosen to come to America.
He had seen innocent immigrants at the center he worked at, but these girls beat anything he had encountered there. They were lambs about to be slaughtered and none of them saw it coming. Would they really have trusted two strange men in their own countries, he wondered.
Devlin had studied enough Freud that he eventually recognized his feelings for what they were; displacement. A defense mechanism marked by the transference of emotion from one target to another. He knew that the anger really came from his own frustration at having to watch what was happening at the camp and not being able to do anything about it.
He was a police officer. His job was about keeping people safe. Keeping them free from the kind of harm that he was now involved with. He was supposed to serve and protect. Help others the way that Mac and Sergeant Webster had helped him. Instead he was working with the criminals, violating the most basic of human rights, and the only outlet for his roiling emotions were the victims themselves.
The anger soon changed to disdain. It had to. Like the profound grief that had driven him to Mac’s apartment that first weekend, it would consume him if he let it. So he adopted this new emotion instead, one that took a lot less energy, one that wouldn’t threaten his sanity. Much like when he was a kid, he took on the persona most likely to help him operate, protect himself, survive. Only, where the young Devlin had become surly and aggressive, the adult Devlin became contemptuous and apathetic.
He still worked in his business-like manner, but he no longer remembered their faces or their names as they passed through his processing line. He no longer cared that they were being sent into a life of hell. It served them right. Anyone that stupid deserved what she got.
Again Kraus seemed to know what was happening with him, seemed to sense the demons riding his shoulders. When they had prepared the camp for the sixth batch of girls to arrive, he told Devlin that he should make the trip to the airport and meet their contact there.
“Why the change?” Devlin asked, suspicious.
“You need to get out. See more of the operation. If we keep growing, we’ll need two sites, and you could run the other one. So you meet Stanislaw, get the girls, pick one for yourself while you’re at it.”
“Sure. Is not good for a man to look at fresh young girls all day and not have one of his own. So you pick one. Keep her.”
“Keep her? For the week?” Devlin queried.
“For the week, for a month,” he shrugged. “Whatever you want. She is yours. You do what you want with her.”
It was a long drive to Philadelphia in the camp van. They rotated international airports so the authorities wouldn’t get suspicious, and this week it was Philadelphia. That gave Devlin five hours to consider the suggestion. Was the Czech right? Would having a woman of his own make it easier for him to get through the job he had? That didn’t mean he wanted one of the girls that came through the camp, but she would probably be better off with him than with some of the lechers they were sold to. Especially the female buyers; the female buyers were the worst because the girls mistakenly thought they would have some sympathy for their situation. When they instead inspected and touched the girls as if they were livestock, revulsion and horror replaced that last bit of hope. It was the ultimate betrayal to them; betrayal by one of their own. Was Devlin a better alternative to that?
By the time he arrived at the airport, he found himself considering Kraus’s suggestion. He knew that Kraus slept with at least one girl each week if not more, but Devlin would rather have just one and, again, the other man had read him correctly in this.
Maybe he could pick one of the more experienced ones. That way he would not be raping innocence because, in spite of the hardening of his emotions, he could still distinguish between being party to someone else’s demise and being directly responsible for it. She would be spared from a much worse fate. He would not be alone all the time. It would really be better than the alternative for both of them.
Devlin had probably never done so much rationalizing in his life, he realized as he pulled the van into a parking spot.
He found their contact easily enough, a big Russian all in black, surrounded by a dozen young women wearing bright green t-shirts that said Camp Sunshine on them. They were chattering away excitedly, remarking on everything they saw, admiring outfits that passersby were wearing, and generally enjoying their first taste of America. Devlin introduced himself to the Russian and they went through a security check with one another before herding their charges out to the van.
At the beginning of the ride the girls were eager to take in everything they saw, but it was a five-hour trip that began with a one-hour traffic gridlock, so by the time they were halfway to Rhode Island, it was dark and most of them were asleep. Devlin was glad for the quiet. He needed it to get his head in order.
Not one of the girls fit the description he had settled on. None bore the look of experience he had hoped to find and he was wrestling with both an acute sense of relief and a deep disappointment. To have gone through all the mental machinations it took to convince himself that he was doing the right thing, or at least an acceptable thing, only to have the opportunity lost was hitting him harder than he expected.
The only break in the monotonous drive was the couple of times he had to pull over on the side of the road for one of the girls to be carsick. Eventually she moved up to the front seat, right where he could see her.
That’s when he made his decision.
She was nothing like the woman he had decided on. Her name was Masha Wozny, and she came from Kharkhiv, Ukraine. At sixteen she was one of the youngest to go through the camp in the weeks Devlin had worked there. She was tall, lean, had long light brown hair, heavy dark eyebrows over hazel eyes, and a wide mouth with a big, eager looking smile when she thought it was expected. Otherwise, she was rather solemn looking. She did not seem to completely trust him or the Russian, and he marveled that such a young girl should be able to see what the older girls were oblivious to. It didn’t matter, though; her fate was already sealed.
“You like one?” Kraus asked after they were settled for the night at the lodge.
“The skinny Ukrainian girl with the long hair. Big eyes.”
“Ahhh,” Kraus smiled. “A good choice for you, I think. Very young. Trainable.”
“We’ll see,” Devlin remarked, but for the first time since working with the Czech, his smile was a real one.
|How did you get here?|