Is Anybody’s Daughter ever safe? Thirteen-year-old Brianna Walker is ecstatic. She’s about to sneak off to meet her first real boyfriend–a boyfriend she met on Facebook. But Brianna is in for a horrifying surprise because her boyfriend doesn’t exist. Instead, she’s hurled her into the shocking world of human sex trafficking. Brianna’s Uncle Dre, a man with his own criminal past, is not content to rely on police to bring his niece home. He scours the dark corners of Los Angeles determined to end this nightmare. The woman he loves, attorney Angela Evans, knows the dangers faced by sexually exploited children because she represents them. Angela lends both her moral support and professional resources, but Dre ultimately comes up with a daring plan that puts many lives in danger, including his own. But will he find Brianna before it’s too late?
Brianna sat cross-legged in the middle of her bed, her thumbs rhythmically tapping the screen of her iPhone. She paused, then hit the Send button, firing off the text message.
Her soft hazel eyes lasered into the screen, anticipating—no craving—an instantaneous response. Jaden had told her to text him when she was about to leave the house. So why didn’t he respond?
She hopped off the bed and cracked open the door. A gentle tinkle—probably a spoon clanking against the side of a stainless steel pot—signaled that her mother was busy in the kitchen preparing breakfast.
Easing the door shut, Brianna leaned against it and closed her eyes. To pull this off, Brianna couldn’t just act calm, she had to be calm. Otherwise, her mother would surely notice. But at only thirteen, she’d become pretty clear after finding ways around mother’s unreasonable rules.
She gently shook the phone as if that might make Jaden’s response instantly appear. Brianna was both thrilled and nervous about finally meeting Jaden, her first real boyfriend—a boyfriend she wasn’t supposed to have. Texts and emails had been racing back and forth between them ever since Jaden friended her on Facebook five weeks earlier.
It still bothered Brianna—but only a little—that Jaden had refused to hook up with her on Skype or FaceTime or even talk to her on the phone. Jaden had explained that he wanted to hear her voice and see her face for the first time in person. When she thought about it, that was kind of romantic.
If it hadn’t been for her Uncle Dre, Brianna would never have been able to have a secret boyfriend. When her uncle presented her with an iPhone for her birthday two months ago, her mother immediately launched into a tirade about perverts and predators on the Internet. But Uncle Dre had teased her mother for being so uptight and successfully pleaded her case.
Thank God her mother was such a techno-square. Although she’d insisted that they share the same Gmail account and barred her from Facebook, Brianna simply used her iPhone to open a Facebook account using a Yahoo address that her mother knew nothing about. As for her texts, she immediately erased them.
A quiet chime signaled the message Brianna had been waiting for. A ripple of excitement shot through her.
Jaden: hey B almst there cant wait 2 c u.
Brianna: me 2
Jaden: cant wait 2 kss dem lips
Jaden: luv u grl!
Brianna: luv u 2
Brianna tossed the phone onto the bed and covered her mouth with both hands.
She was finally going to meet the love of her life. Jaden’s older brother Clint was taking them to the Starbucks off Wilmington. Her mother kept such tight reins on her, this was the only time she could get away. Jaden had assured her that Clint would make sure she got to school on time.
Turning around to face the mirror on the door, Brianna untied her bushy ponytail and let her hair fall across her shoulders. The yellow-and-purple Lakers tank top her Uncle Dre had given her fit snugly across her chest, but wasn’t slutty-looking. Jaden was a Kobe Bryant fanatic just like she was. He would be impressed when she showed up sporting No. 24.
Brianna slung her backpack over her shoulder and trudged down the hallway toward the kitchen.
“Hey, Mama. I have to be at school early for a Math Club meeting.”
Donna Walker turned away from the stove. “I’m making pancakes. You don’t have time for breakfast?”
Brianna felt a stab of guilt. Her mother was trying harder than ever to be a model parent. Brianna had spent much of the last year living with her grandmother after her mother’s last breakdown.
“Sorry.” She grabbed a cinnamon-raisin bagel from the breadbox on the counter. “Gotta go.”
Donna wiped her hand on a dishtowel. “It’s too early for you to be walking by yourself. I can drop you off.”
Brianna’s breath caught, but she kept her face neutral. “No need. I’m picking up Sydney. We’re walking together.”
Brianna saw the hesitation in her mother’s overprotective eyes.
Taller and darker than her daughter, Donna wore her hair in short, natural curls. Her lips came together like two plump pillows and her eyes were a permanently sad shade of brown.
Donna had spent several years as a social worker, but now worked as an administrative assistant at St. Francis Hospital. Work, church and Brianna. That was her mother’s entire life. No man, no girlfriends, no fun.
Brianna wasn’t having any of that. She was gonna have a life, no matter how hard her mother tried to keep her on a short leash like a prized pet.
Donna finally walked over and gave her daughter a peck on the cheek, then repeated the same words she said every single morning: “You be careful.”
Brianna bolted through the front door and hurried down the street. As expected, no one was out yet. Her legs grew shaky as she scurried past Sydney’s house. Brianna had wanted to tell her BFF about hooking up with Jaden today, but he made her promise not to. Anyway, Sydney had the biggest mouth in the whole seventh grade. Brianna couldn’t afford to have her business in the street. She’d made Sydney swear on the Bible before telling her about Jaden.
As she neared the end of the block, she saw it. The burgundy Escalade with the tinted windows was parked behind Mario’s Fish Market just like Jaden had promised. Brianna was so excited her hands began to tremble. She was only a few feet away from the SUV when the driver’s door opened and a man climbed out.
“Hey, Brianna. I’m Clint, Jaden’s brother. He’s in the backseat.”
Brianna unconsciously took a step back. Jaden’s brother didn’t look anything like him. On his Facebook picture, Jaden had dark eyes, a narrow nose and could’ve passed for T.I.’s twin brother. This man was dark-skinned with a flat nose and crooked teeth. And there was no way he was nineteen. He had to be even older than her Uncle Dre, who was thirty-something.
Brianna bit her lip. Something unsettling tinkered in her gut, causing her senses to see-saw between fear and elation. But it was love, her love for Jaden, that won out. It didn’t matter what his brother looked like. They probably had different daddies.
She handed Clint her backpack and stooped to peer inside the back of the SUV.
At the same horrifying moment that Brianna realized that the man inside was not Jaden, Clint snatched her legs out from under her and shoved her inside the Escalade.
The man in the backseat grabbed a handful of her hair and jerked her toward him. Brianna tumbled face-first into his lap, inhaling sweat and weed and piss.
“Owwwww! Get your hands offa me!” Brianna shouted, her arms and legs thrashing about like a drowning swimmer. “Where’s Jaden? Let me go!”
“Relax, baby.” The stinky man’s voice sounded old and husky. “Just calm down.”
“Let me go!” Brianna screamed.
She tried to pull away, but Stinky Man palmed the back of her head like a basketball, easily holding her in place. Clint reached between the front seats, snatched her arms behind her back and bound them with rope.
When Brianna heard the quiet revving of the engine and the door locks click into place, panic exploded from her ears. She violently kicked her feet, hoping to break the window. But each kick landed with a sharp thud that launched needles of pain back up her legs.
“Don’t touch me! Let me goooooo!”
The stinky man thrust a calloused hand down the back of her pants.
“Damn, girl,” he cackled. “I like this big old behind.”
“Cut it out, Leon,” Clint shouted. “I’ve told you before. Don’t mess with the merchandise.”
Clint reached into the backseat again and stabbed Brianna’s arm with a needle just above the elbow.
A flash of fire lit up her entire body and in seconds, her eyelids felt like two heavy windows being forced shut. She tried to scream, but the ringing in her ears drowned out all sound. When she blinked up at Stinky Man, he had two—no three—heads.
Brianna could feel the motion of the SUV pulling away from Mario’s Fish Market. She needed to do something. But her body was growing heavy and her head ached. The thick haze that cluttered her mind allowed only one desperate thought to seep through.
Mommy! Uncle Dre! Please help me!
Copyright© Pamela Samuels Young. All rights reserved.