It had been an unusually long night, followed by an inordinately short morning. Stan Cage, Private Eye, found himself at his lower east side desk, too early in the morning, 11:07 am to be precise, nursing the grand dam of hangovers, looking at the picture of what was to be his next case. The dame was exotic: ebony hair cascading behind her shoulders, skin kissed by the sun gods, and the eyes; yes the eyes. They bore into his soul. He didn’t even know her name, yet they seemed to be pleading with him, demanding of him; find me soon, save me. Stan grabbed his hat from his head and threw it onto the greasy desk. He had no idea who this woman was, or where she was, or what kind of danger she was in. But he knew, as he knew the handle grip of his gun, that he must help her.
He cased the streets of the middle eastern district. He showed the photo of the woman to anyone who would slow down long enough to take a cursory look. Most times he came up snake eyes. Even if the residents of the neighborhood slowed long enough to look at the photo, their eyes got larger than saucers, and they violently shook their heads. “No, I don’t know this woman . . . never seen her before.” That was the same response he got every time. No change of the wording. No attempt at making the comment their own. Frustrated, but feeling he was on to something, Stan went into the next open restaurant. He waited, patiently, until he could garner the attention of the mama-san of the establishment. He understood that if anyone would be willing to talk, it would be an old woman who had nothing left to lose.
As Stan and the old woman sat down at the farthest corner table, away from prying eyes and ears, one of her waiters brought a tea pot and two porcelain cups. A few minutes passed as the woman made a grand ceremony of pouring the rich pungent liquid into the cups then offering sugar. Stan took two cubes to cut through the slightly bitter taste of the tea. Once the ritual was complete and they were both sitting back in their respective chairs, Stan pulled the picture of the young woman he found in his mail slot earlier in the day. Stan studied the old woman’s features for any hint of recognition, fear, anything. She stared at the photo for several seconds before she looked up into the detective’s questioning eyes.
“How much you know about trafficking?” she asked, still not acknowledging that she knew the woman in the photo.
“Drugs or human?” Stan asked back, wondering where this could possibly be leading.
“Human,” came the response.
“Some, but not a lot. Word is there are two main families who run an extensive network. Cops never can get anyone to talk or get any evidence that will stick.”
The woman tapped her finger on the photo. “This woman, why you seek her?”
Stan rubbed his jaw, realizing that he was in desperate need of a shave. How was he to explain that this photo was simply left for him, with a cursory note scribbled on the back.
“It was at my office when I came in this morning.” Stan flipped the photo over to reveal the note on the back. “This is all I have to go on. But it seems to me that she is need of some serious help.”
The mama-san picked up the picture and read the inscription: “Please find me. I have something for you.”
“Finish your tea,” the woman commanded. Not understanding why he was being instructed to do such a thing, Stan none the less complied. She then took the cup and looked intently at the glob of tea leaves at the bottom. “You must find her. She has something very important to give you. Something that could cost her her life.”
“But who is she?” Stan asked flabbergasted at the crypticness of the situation.
“She is one of the first children that the Two Monkeys brought here for the sex trade. She was a favorite. Now she runs an underground from inside the organization, freeing the children that are forced here to be slaves. Those families you spoke of, they will do all they can to stop her. You must find her.”
Stan shook his head. “Where do I start?”
“Look to the waterfront, and the Green Serpent.” The old woman got up from the table and took the tea set back to the kitchen. She did not reappear. Stan threw some money on the table, grabbed the photograph, and left the restaurant.
Return tomorrow for Part Two
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I have a hard time understanding inspiration. Looking at a painting of a summertime landscape can result in pages of story. Or a bee gathering pollen on a thistle can be the beginning of a photo essay. I saw this beautiful photo of our recently returned Rarasaur and a story came to mind. Searching for someone who is looking for help but in the end the subject of the assistance gives more assistance to others. That is our Rara. She is always there to lend a helping hand or a shoulder or whatever is needed. And she never asks anything in return. If you have yet to be introduced to the marvelous woman, please head over to her blog, rarasaur. You will find some fantastic stories that will make you laugh and cry and be inspired.