30 Jul

           HE called her Anina. He loved the sound of it, the silvery way it tumbled off his tongue like the melody to a love song. A~N~I~N~A. He knew the very minute his eyes locked onto her as she stepped out of the van; he knew that air of queenliness, as if she were something special—and she was. He knew at that moment he would keep this one for himself. 

          His name was Lyle Corbin, but he was known as “The General,” a name his daddy gave him that stuck for life. Daddy was usually too smashed to remember his own son’s name, so he dubbed him The General. “The boy’s as straight and stiff as a board,” he’d complain. “like he’s a troop commander or somethin’—a general.” He’d often force the boy to his knees and have him spit shine his muddy boots under threat of a buckle whipping, which he carried out unsparingly. The General’s formal education ended in eleventh grade when he quit the hills of Georgia for the flatlands of Texas, and went into the import/export business. 

          Corbin was inherently bright, a voracious reader of the dailies—AJC, Dallas Morning News, NY Times, Washington Post, Boston Herald. He’d crisscross them in a stack in alphabetical order, and read each one from back to front, highlighting passages that could be useful. It was part of his routine business practice. He was, after all, a businessman who ran an intricate operation, as highly profitable as it was opprobrious. He needed to be well-informed. “Some folks say you are what you eat—I say you are what you read,” an aphorism he had heard somewhere and passed off as his own whenever questioned about his somewhat compulsive-obsessive reading habits.  

          He was astute and cautious in terms of his selections. Errors in judgment could prove costly, even fatal. On average, he took in thirty to fifty imports a month. A mix of runaways, illegals, or girls specifically targeted. They were lured by false promises and "boyfriends" who would soon become their pimps. A downward spiral that usually ended in death—or a wish to be dead. Each delivery included a number of special orders, young ladies chosen specifically by age, race, height; sometimes even hair color. These were the most lucrative and therefore selected with greater care to accommodate The General’s more. . . discriminating clientele. 

          Anina was a tragic mistake. It was her misfortune to have been inadvertently scooped up with five other girls outside Atlanta’s Underground in the summer of 2015. With sacks thrown over their heads, they were forced into the back of a mini-van already occupied by four other abductees. Ten hours later—after being compelled to breathe in the suffocating stench of loose bowels and vomit—they stumbled out of the van, choking on the fetor as they sucked in fresh air. Only one fourteen-year old remained in the back of the van, insisting to be taken home immediately. 

          The drop site was The General’s brainchild. Kinsmen Village—a tiny hamlet tucked between Meridian, Texas and the border town of Celito—the perfect front for a growing trafficking operation. There the girls would be processed and ultimately dispatched to various destinations, including Costa Rica, a newly opened market; the General’s coup de maître. 

          He watched, intrigued as she stepped out of the van, her regal demeanor defying the Glock pointed at her temple. She stood out like a swan among ducklings. Her blazing green eyes and long, ebony hair held his attention. This one is well above standard. He waved the gun away, removed a handkerchief from his jacket pocket and gently blotted the silent tears that trickled down her cheeks. 

          “What’s your name, baby girl?” 

          She glared at him, head held high.

           “Hey!” thundered a voice behind her. “The General asked you a question.”

           “Shut up, Dog.” The General shouted back. “Go find yourself a bone somewhere.”  He smiled at the girl. “Don’t mind him. He likes to growl is all.” The General waited patiently, having already decided that she would be a gift to himself. He stepped back and looked her over intently.  

           “ANINA,” he boomed.  “You are Anina.”  

          “My name is Carmen," she insisted. "Carmen Rosina Reyes.” 

           “Not any more, my little green-eyed princess,” he said, firmly. “A N I N A.  That’s your name now.” 

           In the underbelly of the warehouse, Anina sat on a cot for hours, neither moving nor speaking.  She sobbed continually. When she became completely exhausted and the tears dried up, she prayed. She would not be here long. They would find her-or she would find a way out. 

*Awaiting publication

Copyright:  R.S. Raniere 2020 - This original story may not be copied or re-distributed without the express consent of the author.

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