She tugged at his shirt, pleading with her eyes. “Doubt with me.”
He had escorted her in the rain, but now he had had enough. “I’m taking you home.”
“Nooooooo!!” The wail went up from desperation.
He dragged her to her feet, helping her find them, then kicking her ankles down when she started hanging off his arm.
“You’re going home.”
At the harbour end of the city, her little brother lay in a cage, her mom standing over him watching his round cheek through the bars. He slept, not the way he was just 10 minutes ago. She resisted the urge to reach out and touch him.
The barge came, seeking a delivery.
The man, Poomba by name, wandered up the rain-soaked porch, cursing his rotten luck. He had had an earful of whispers and pleadings from the drenched girl hanging like a dead weight, and he still held her arm in a tight grip. A few more steps, then an end to this burden. Off to the bar- a smoke, a drink, something for me.
Never mind the whispering talk, the pleas, that spoke of lowered conversation overheard in the kitchen, of child-traffickers and money troubles – kids imagine things.
He dragged her forward with the last surge of his tired arm and deposited her 14 year old body firmly on the porch, sobbing.
“You don’t understand..” she wept. He turned and left. “I’m not sure, I don’t know,” he heard through the rain. “Please don’t-”
The next day, over his morning cocktail, he saw the headline. Girl caught in shootout. Boy rescued. Child trafficking ring busted. One casualty – the girl. Mother held in remand. He felt sick.
He wished he choked on cigarette ash.
He swore off them..
He would listen, and hurt, and doubt.
And so it was ten years later, he successfully guided Rodriguez Martin back to his parents. The runaway needed some talking to. He was just the right man for the job.