Carol was awake. Her eyes were still closed. A moment before she’d been asleep. She’d been dreaming of her cell, where Professor Copeland had kept her locked up for six days. Six days didn’t sound like a long time. But when you weren’t allowed much sleep, when your sense of time disintegrated, when you were threatened with starvation, when your world was defined by iron walls just a few feet apart, well, just saying six days, that didn’t really capture it. Six days could be a long time. A genius psychologist, like Copeland, well someone like that could fit a lot into six days.
Carol didn’t dream of her cell every night. But she was lucky if she went more than three days without it plaguing her sleep. It wasn’t so bad, she told herself. A few months ago, just after she had managed to escape, she dreamt about it every night. The dreams were getting fewer now. She could handle that.
Copeland had been sentenced a month ago. Thirty years. He’d pled guilty to nine counts of kidnapping. He’d only escaped life because he’d co-operated. Carol could remember him, as the judge passed sentence. The arrogance had gone. He was just a shell of the man he’d been. That had helped with the dreams. They’d been getting fewer anyway, but her sleep was much less restless after the sentencing.
It wasn’t the dreams about her cell that worried Carol. They were annoying, and she hated being reminded of how helpless she had been, locked in that cell. But she’d got out, she’d escaped. All on her own, without anyone’s help. She wasn’t in the cell any more. The dreams weren’t the problem. It was the words. The words that Copeland had made her say, over and over. Sometimes for hours at a time. When the light wouldn’t let her sleep. When she was so tired that she was only half aware. Under that light the words had bored into her. Now they wouldn’t let her go. She was out of the cell but the words were still inside of her. Inside her mind. They ran around in her head as she lay in her bed, not quite awake.
“I want to be a prostitute.”
“I’m happy to be a prostitute.”
“I want to be used, sexually.”
They were almost funny, in a way. Almost polite, banal. “Yes I’d like a coffee, please, one sugar, no milk. Can I have a paper as well? Oh, and I’d like to be a prostitute.” The words were so plain, so stereotyped, so juvenile, that they should have been a joke. But Carol wasn’t laughing.
The memory of everything to do with Copeland should have been fading, like the man himself had seemed to fade as the court case went on, even though the last time Carol had seen him was only a few weeks ago. Carol had worked on other cases since Copeland had captured her, had tried to brainwash her. She had to keep telling herself that. That he’d only tried, that he hadn’t succeeded. She’d been strong, she was strong. She was a policewoman, not a prostitute. She’d escaped. Only the cell, a voice in her head said, only the cell. Those cases had been the usual sort of thing. Work of the type she knew. Oh, Wainwright had insisted that she take some time off. Well, he hadn’t put it as time off. If Carol remembered correctly it was more like “Get out of here. And don’t come back till I can look you in the eyes and know you’re ready to get back to work.” To an outsider it might have sounded harsh. Not to Carol. People who worked in undercover understood each other. He didn’t want her working if she couldn’t cope with it. He didn’t want her to break.
Carol had known what Wainwright meant, that he was concerned for her. But she’d had been back at work as soon as she thought she could persuade her boss that she was ready. She’d thought it would help with the dreams. That having new cases to think about would help her forget Copeland, drive the words out of her head. That putting on another mask, whatever the assignment required, would help her forget. That was what she was good at, being whoever, whatever, the job required. Maybe the ease with which she could slip into whatever role was required was why the words wouldn’t let her go. Copeland had laid out a role for her. It wasn’t one she liked, but that didn’t help. Carol enjoyed her work, taking on new roles as an undercover policewoman. Over the years he’d been a factory worker, a secretary, a rock star groupie and more. What was one more role if all the others came so easily? Carol didn’t want to think about that.
For her first case back Carol had to act the part of a drug user, in one of the poorest parts of the city, so they could get a lead on the local suppliers. That one should have been easy. But drug users aren’t hermits. They mix with all the other detritus of society, their hangouts like the pipes of the city’s sewers, the contents running together in one great rush of filth. Carol had met thieves and fences and muggers. Nothing new. Nothing she hadn’t dealt with dozens of times before in other cases. And prostitutes. When you’re part of the hard drug scene you’ll meet prostitutes. Carol kept telling herself she’d met them before. But this time she found herself looking at them, out of the corner of her eye, the words running round and round her head faster and faster. She couldn’t stop herself wondering what it would be like. To sell yourself. To whore yourself. Then hating herself for letting her mind drift like that. Her only consolation was that her vacant stare at times like that made playing the part of a drugged-out young woman that much easier.
The words had made it hard, but Carol had done her job. Patiently following the trails of broken conversations from broken lives. Palming the drugs instead of taking them. Waiting until they had enough information to shut down the whole distribution ring. And every time she’d met a prostitute she’d struggle to stop herself imagining it being her dressed like that, doing that, living like that. But in the end she’d managed. Carol was proud of that.
After that had been a case where they’d been trying to catch some standover merchants. She and George had been acting as a married couple. They’d spent weeks working on the shop, building up a clientele. She’d come to know many of the people who had bought from them. When people see the same face over the counter they begin to trust you, sometimes they tell you things they wouldn’t tell anyone else. A little part of Carol hated lying to everyone. Another part liked creating these other lives, seeing how other people lived. And the policewoman part of her knew that sometimes you could get good leads from those little conversations. In the end it had almost gone wrong. The mobsters had finally leant on them, given them three days to hand over the money they’d wanted. But then come back the next day, demanding the cash. The backup planned for George and Carol wasn’t in place. No-one had expected the thugs to return so quickly. Carol knew that another officer was watching the shop, would have radioed in the emergency. But she knew that help would take time to arrive. George knew too. He tried to delay. Acted frightened. Said they didn’t have the money on them. Which was probably true. Carol wasn’t sure how much was in the till that day, but it almost certainly wasn’t enough to pay what the men demanded.
They didn’t care. Carol wasn’t sure what was driving them, but they were angry. She could smell violence in the air. She wasn’t surprised when one pulled a gun.
“The money. Now!” he demanded, waving the gun around, “Or maybe we’ll take it some other way.”
Carol could see the gun pointed at her. The man’s leering face above it. Carol froze. Not from the gun. She’d lost count of the number of times some thug had pointed a gun at her. It was the look on the man’s face that froze her. No, she realised it wasn’t even that. It was what he meant. If she and George didn’t hand over the money the thugs demanded then they’d take payment in another way. From her. Sex. Sex with her instead of money. Sex with her for the money the thugs wanted. Sex for money. Carol could feel herself start to tremble. Sex. Money. The ideas chased each other around her head. Images flashed between them. Her, stripping off in front of the men. Lying down. Passive, doing what they wanted. Carol could feel her breathing deepen.
Then the man looked away, over to George. The images receded, a fog lifting from Carol’s mind. The thug expected her to be afraid. She hunched, started to blubber. The man glanced back at her. Then dismissed her as no threat and turned his attention back to where his companion was menacing George.
“Last chance, or wifey gives us a party,” he sneered. Carol could see George tense, considering his chances of taking the men down. Carol didn’t like his odds. George was too far from the man with the gun, he’d get off at least one shot. But she was closer. She’d used the thug’s divided attention to edge nearer. Judging the range to be short enough she swung a kick into his side. The man grunted, doubled over. The gun swung away from her. But it hadn’t been enough to stop him.
Carol could see the gun begin to swing back around to point at her. “Why you little piece of…” he grunted.
Carol moved in close, inside the gun. She grabbed the man’s gun arm. With her left foot she stamped down on his right. She heard him scream. He tried to bring his other hand around to hit her. Carol pivoted, using his weight against him. She ducked his blow and twisted the arm she still held, the one with the gun. She could hear the bones in his arm scraping against each other. He screamed again, an animal noise, and dropped the weapon.
Carol elbowed him in the nose before diving for the gun. She had it, and was on her feet, before he could react. She could see George and the other man wrestling.
“Stop,” she called out, “or I’ll shoot.”
The man she’d wrestled, blood streaming down his face from his broken nose, scowled at her, then smiled. “No you won’t. You haven’t got the guts. Give me the gun. Then I’ll show you what a good time really is.” He took a step towards Carol, his hand beckoning for the weapon, the leer back on his face.
The noise behind Carol was the door being kicked open as their backup arrived. She smiled and put up the gun. As Wainwright said to her attacker later, “You’re lucky we got there. She would have shot you.”
Despite the successes Carol had caught Wainwright looking at her, once or twice. She knew he was trying to make sure that she was coping. She’d put on her best smile and told him everything was alright. She’d been fine on those cases, played her part, no trouble. No nerves, no seizing up like a rookie. Not unless you counted her staring at the prostitutes. But that was all part of the role wasn’t it? A drugged-up young girl might stare at a prostitute, wondering if she could do that to afford her next fix. Carol tried telling herself that’s what it was, just her playing the role. Sometimes she almost believed it. And the images running around her head when the men had threatened to take sex with her in place of the money? Well, that was just her imagination showing what they meant. It would have been hard not to imagine it. At least that’s what Carol told herself. She almost believed what she told herself about that too.
It didn’t matter what Carol told herself, she still dreamt and some of those dreams bothered her. Not the dreams of her cell. She knew in the end that she’d escaped the cell. It was the dreams that went with the words. Those were the ones that scared her. That haunted her while she was awake. Dreams of men, and money, and sex. It was the way the words would pop into her head, any time of day, anywhere. All she had to do was let herself drift off for a moment and they’d come creeping in. Not all the time. But sometimes, she’d find herself day-dreaming and the words would be chasing each other around her head.
Angrily Carol got out of bed. She looked around her small apartment. With the bonus money that undercover work brought she could have afforded better. But Carol didn’t see the point. Whenever she was on a case she couldn’t live there anyway. And she’d always been a saver, not a spender. So a little two-room apartment in a block built in the fifties suited her. Smaller meant easier to keep clean. Easier to find the clothes she’d just throw around whenever she got changed. For Carol the weekly washing always started with a treasure hunt.
There wasn’t much in the way of personal items around her apartment. A few books, a couple of photos, the largest her police graduation shot. When every few weeks you might have to pretend to be someone new, when you might spend months at a time not living in your own home, Carol didn’t see the point of too much in the way of decoration. She knew others in the squad disagreed. Their homes were filled with photos, and trophies, and whatever hobbies they had. They said it helped ground them, bring them back to who they really were after each assignment. Carol never needed that. She knew who she was. At least she thought she did, until Copeland’s words had gotten into her head.
Carol stumbled into her small bathroom, yanked at the stiff tap until it moved. Looking in the mirror she ran her hands through her long brown hair. This wasn’t her. She was a police officer, damn it, not a whore. Copeland was locked up. She’d escaped him, She’d escape the words he’d put in her head. She wasn’t going to let him beat her now.
Later, at the office, Carol wondered if she should take up Wainwright’s offer of a shrink. He hadn’t spoken about it for months now, but she knew that she could see one if she wanted to. Yeah, she said to herself, and have everyone on the team mark her as weak. In undercover work you were either up to it or you weren’t. And the ones that were up to it were strong enough to get by without shrinks. Carol liked her work. She wasn’t planning on being one of the weak ones.
She heard her boss call her.
“Carol, get in here.” That was Wainwright’s version of “Good morning, how are you?”
Carefully Carol opened the door. Wainwright’s office was populated with piles of documents. Carol was always worried that he’d put one of the piles behind the door and never be able to find his way out. He hadn’t yet, but everywhere other than his desk was covered in a geography of the standard issue folders, hills and valleys and great ranges of towering peaks. Carol wasn’t sure how Wainwright kept track of them. She was sure that some of the piles hadn’t been touched for years. They were like old friends. Others seemed to move around at random. But Wainwright always knew where to find the one he wanted. And his desk, the almost empty plain amongst the riotous topography of his office, was always clear of anything except the files for the case he wanted to talk to you about.
Today there were ten folders on the desk. They were closed but spread out. Divided into groups. Five folders made the biggest pile. Then two groups of two. And one folder by itself. Carol looked at them. She wanted to look away. She knew what those folders were. Maybe it was just a test, Wainwright wanting to see how she’d react. She knew that one of those folders would have her name on it, but she wasn’t close enough to his desk to see which one.
Carol looked at the folders, from across the room. Not for too long. Too short a time or too long a time would make it look like she was scared of them. Maybe she was, but she didn’t want Wainwright thinking that. She looked at them for what she thought was the right amount of time then looked up at her boss.
A thin column of smoke drifted up from the cigarette he was holding. Outside his office Wainwright rarely smoked, but Carol couldn’t remember seeing him without a cigarette when he was in his private domain.
“Yes Captain?” she asked, when the silence became too long.
Wainwright said nothing. Carol knew then that this was also part of the test. She held his gaze. After some time she raised an eyebrow, not afraid to let her boss know she was willing to question him.
“You know what these are,” he said. The hand with the cigarette waved above the files, the smoke forming a layer of cloud above the plain of his desk.
“I can guess.”
“The ten girls we thought Copeland had kidnapped.”
Carol nodded. She knew that one of those “girls” was her, but she’d been called worse. She knew what Wainwright thought of her, whatever he called her.
“These two.” Wainwright indicated one of the piles with two folders. “Are you and Janice Thornton. Never taken further than the old tug Copeland used.”
He wasn’t telling Carol anything she didn’t know. She folded her arms and kept quiet. Her boss would get where he was going soon enough.
“This one.” He indicated the lone folder, “is Susan Halsey. We finally caught up with her the other day, in San Diego.” Carol raised her eyebrows. This was news to her. “Like you thought, she’d just dropped out. Nothing to do with Copeland.”
Copeland had always protested that Susan’s disappearance had been nothing to do with him. He’d even become indignant about it, the last display of his old arrogance. That he’d been telling the truth about that meant they could probably trust the rest of what he’d had to say. Probably.
“These five,” Wainwright indicated the largest pile of folders, “are the girls we found based on what Copeland told us.” Carol had guessed that. She knew that five of the missing girls had been found, held prisoner in various brothels around the city. The girls had thought that they were being held in Mexico or some other part of Central or South America. That’s what Copeland and the brothel owners had told the girls, to dissuade them from trying to escape. Keep them helpless, deprived of any hope. Make them feel that they were alone and trapped, just like in the cell on the tug. Just like I was, Carol thought, then hated herself for thinking it. Wainwright’s voice snapped her back to the present. She hoped that he hadn’t noticed the drift in her concentration.
“And these two,” Wainwright waved his cigarette at the last pile, “are the two girls we haven’t found. Karen Donovan and Laura Murray.” Carol knew those names. Two girls who’d been in the cells where she and Janice had been held prisoner. Just like all the other girls. But Karen and Laura were the ones they hadn’t found. That as far as anyone knew were still out, there, somewhere. Still with their minds bent and broken by Copeland, still being forced to prostitute themselves.
Copeland had given them information about all the girls he’d kidnapped. Carol had been told that he couldn’t tell his interrogators everything as fast as he wanted to, so eager was he. At least after he’d been told that Carol was a policewoman. Once he understood he couldn’t bluff and bluster his way out he’d been desperate to tell everything he knew, trying to save himself. He’d bought himself a slightly reduced sentence, but he was still locked up for a long, long time.
Copeland had given them the names of the men that he’d sold the girls to. For most of them he’d even given them the names and locations of the brothels they were held in. That had been enough for the police to find five of the missing girls. But not for Laura and Karen. Copeland may have been happy to sing, but his underworld contacts were made of sterner stuff. Their so-called honour, their code of silence, had kept them quiet. The police guessed that Laura and Karen had been sold on to other brothels, but there was no clue as to which ones or where the girls were now. Nothing they could do would get anyone in the brothels to talk, even the girls that worked there willingly. The kidnapped girls had been held separately. The police suspected that the other prostitutes knew that Laura and Karen had been there, possibly even knew where they had been sent. But they didn’t have enough proof to convict anyone but the owners. And no-one was talking. Carol hadn’t been allowed to do any of the interviews. As a victim (though she hated that word) there was too much of a conflict of interest. But she’d picked up from her colleagues the fear running through the people connected with the brothels. Normal enough, they were worried about what would happen to them if they talked. But frustrating. Carol knew that Copeland had to be held in protective custody, after the amount of information he’d given the police. Carol had laughed when she heard. Copeland, locked up by himself. That struck her as justice.
But none of it got them any closer to finding Laura and Karen.
“Yes, sir, but I know this.” Carol sighed, she wanted Wainwright to finish with his Columbo act.
“Don’t be a smartarse,” he said, emphasising his words by poking his cigarette in her direction, the jab leaving puffs of smoke in its wake. “You don’t know what I want you to do.”
Carol kept quiet, simply tilting her head to one side. She knew that giving her boss his space was the quickest way to get him to the point.
“I want you to talk to these girls.” Wainwright jabbed the largest pile with his finger.
“Why me? Aren’t I too close to this?” It was true, but it wasn’t Carol’s real objection. She wasn’t sure whether talking to other victims (ugh, that word again) of Copeland’s would help her dreams, help her fight the words, or make it all worse. But she couldn’t let her boss know what she was really worried about.
“That’s the point,” Wainwright smiled, like a cat about to pounce. “Let ’em know that you know what they went through. Maybe they’ll tell you something they didn’t tell the rest of us.”
It made sense. And Carol wanted Karen and Laura found. She could do this. She wasn’t going to let the words win.
“Okay,” she said, turning to go.
“Take the files Carol,” her boss’ voice reeked of exasperation.
Carol turned around and, with some reluctance, picked up the five files.
“And read them,” she heard Wainwright call out to her after she’d left his office. Carol would, but not where anyone could see her do it. She had a reputation to maintain.
The wheels of Carol’s ’74 Dodge Charger bit into the gravel as she pulled up in front of the Oakvale Sanatorium. Even through her sunglasses Carol could feel the glare of the sun off the white building in front of her. She’d been told Oakvale was one of the best. Good doctors, good recovery rate. Still not somewhere Carol ever wanted to be. She shook herself, slammed the door of her car shut. Like it or not she was here and she had a job to do.
Carol had hoped it wouldn’t come to this. There was little chance that the girl she was coming here to see would be able to tell her anything. Judy Rawlings was the last of Copeland’s victims that he’d sold to the brothels. The last one before Carol and Janice were taken. Judy had been found, and rescued, like four of Copeland’s other victims. But unlike them, and even though she’d been forced to work as a prostitute for the shortest time, she was the one still in an asylum. Carol had asked one of the doctors from Oakvale about it, when she’d been making the appointment to come here. The doctor, Simon Mulholland, had hesitated for a moment, Carol had been able to sense his shrug, even over the phone. People were different he’d said, some just healed quicker than others. Her policing instincts kicking in, Carol knew that the doctors weren’t getting very far at all in helping Judy heal. Dr. Mulholland had been reluctant to let her talk to Judy, until Carol had told him that she’d been taken by Copeland as well. That was when he agreed, even been eager for her to come.
Carol didn’t expect to get any useful information out of Judy. If she’d managed to get anything out of the other four she wouldn’t be here at all. But she hadn’t. It wasn’t that they’d refused to talk to her. They’d all agreed, some easily, some after a lot of persuading. But in the end they’d all said yes to being interviewed by Carol. It was just that they had nothing useful to tell her. Three of them, Linda Mathews, Mandy Hughes and Elizabeth Sanderson hadn’t even been held in the same brothel as either Karen or Laura. Elizabeth might have been on the tug at the same time as Karen, but that didn’t help. The fourth, Holly Campbell, had been held at the same brothel as Laura, before Laura had been sold on. But the girls had been kept under tight control. They weren’t allowed to talk to each other, or anyone except the brothel owner’s and their muscle and the customers. The owners didn’t want to risk the girls finding out that they were still in the United States, not some foreign country as they’d been told. Even so, Holly had known Laura had gone, but she’d no idea where, or who had bought her. One of the owner’s thugs had made a comment to Holly about Laura going somewhere new. Holly had even been able to identify the man, but he’d refused to talk. And this was all old news, anyway, nothing more than Holly had been able to give them months ago.
Despite her lack of success in finding anything useful Carol was impressed at how well the girls were recovering. Two of them, Holly and Mandy, were even back at college, trying to pick up their studies. Different colleges to the one where they had studied before Copeland had taken them, the one Carol had attended as Stephanie Chambers. Try as the police might, Copeland’s trial meant too much had ended up in the papers for the girls to be comfortable going back to their old college. She could see the nervousness, the hesitation in all the girls, she knew that the scars were there. Invisible. They’d carry the damage all their lives, but they were trying as best they could. Even Linda, though she wasn’t ready to do more than live at the moment, had insisted that they go somewhere public to talk. “I’ve got to make myself get out, be with people.” Linda had talked about how she was going to make herself go back to college next semester. Carol had listened, politely. It wasn’t telling her anything that would help find Laura or Karen, but she felt that someone had to listen, these girls were owed that.
Something more that they had in common was how they looked. Plain clothes, no makeup. Carol realised why they weren’t ready for anything like that. They knew that they were pretty, and that was in part why Copeland had chosen them. Drawing attention to their looks was something for the future. If ever.
Holly was the only one who’d mentioned Copeland’s words. She’d asked Carol if she remembered them.
Carol had sat there stunned. She could feel her eyes flitting around the lounge room of Holly’s parents’ house. She was struck by the incongruity of what they were discussing in this piece of suburbia. Talking of kidnapping and brainwashing and prostitution while sitting on the neat furniture, looking at the flowers in their vases. Carol could see the photographs, middle-class portraits in just expensive enough frames, shots of Holly in amongst those of her brothers and sisters. Carol was sure one was of Holly at her high-school graduation. She could see the girl’s smiling face, unaware of what the future had in store for her. She’d seen Holly try to smile today, but her uncertain effort didn’t match the warm, easy, smile in the photograph, her parents on either side of her.
That was another way the girls had been lucky. None of their families had disowned them. Sometimes the families did, with rape victims and forced prostitution. They blamed the girls. Carol couldn’t understand it, but it happened. It hadn’t happened this time, but Carol had been told that Wainwright had had to yell at one set of parents before they stopped threatening to abandon their daughter. Carol hadn’t been told who it was. Was it Holly? Holly’s mother, shorter than her daughter but Carol could see that she’d once been as pretty, had made herself scarce as soon as she could after Carol arrived. But that didn’t prove anything. Police made most people nervous. And even if she was supporting her daughter that didn’t mean she wanted to hear yet again what she’d been through.
Carol could feel her eyes wide, staring at Holly. She didn’t know how long she’d let her thoughts drift, her calm punctured by Holly’s question. Holly was quiet, hands clasped in her lap, looking away. Carol wanted to deny it. Say that she didn’t remember the words, that they didn’t worry her any more. But she couldn’t. Not to this girl. Holly had been through what she’d been through. More. She’d been right to the end of what Copeland had done to the girls. Then forced to whore herself. Brainwashed into thinking that was what she wanted to do. Carol couldn’t lie to her.
“Yes,” she said, unable to hide the bitterness in her voice. “I remember.”
Holly had nodded, still not meeting Carol’s eyes. “I know,” she replied, a brittle calmness in her voice, “they’re still here.” She tapped her temple with one finger.
“But I keep telling myself that I’m a student, I’m Holly. My words against his.” She paused for a moment, turning her head to look at Carol. “I’ll beat them eventually.”
Carol didn’t know what to say. The simple courage in those words, words!, had touched something deep inside her. She wasn’t alone, there were others fighting the same fight as her. Who had had it worse than her. If Holly could fight Copeland’s words then so could she.
Not noticing, or politely ignoring Carol’s silence, Holly went on. “I’m sorry about Laura. I wish I could help more.” Carol could see the pain in her eyes.
But Holly hadn’t been able to offer any more to help them in finding the missing girls, so here Carol was at Oakvale. It was probably a waste of time. Judy hadn’t even been in the same brothel as either Laura or Karen. But Carol had to try. She forced herself to move, to head towards the hospital’s entrance. To anyone watching they would have seen her moving briskly, her low-heeled shoes making a crunching noise as she walked across the gravel of the carpark. They wouldn’t have seen any signs of the doubts that roiled within her. Her fear that she’d never be free of the words. That she might someday end up in a place like this.
As she entered the building Carol blinked, her eyes adjusting to the sudden lack of glare. She took off her sunglasses and looked around. The entrance was clean, but sparse, only a couple of potted plant to break up the white expanse of the walls. It wasn’t immediately obvious to Carol where she should go. It took her a moment to notice the discreet little signs on the wall. “Admissions”, “Enquiries”, “Visitors”. Carol tossed up between the last two before deciding on enquiries. She was here to visit Judy, but she knew that she should talk to Dr. Mulholland first.
A nurse in a crisp white uniform was waiting behind the desk. Patricia Ridgway, at least that’s what her name tag said. She smiled as Carol approached, the slightly forced smile of someone who has to be nice to people they’ve never met.
“Detective Taylor. I’m here to see Dr. Mulholland.” Carol flipped out her badge. She wasn’t used to that. She never carried it, undercover. Too much of a risk.
“Oh, yes,” Carol could see the nurse’s forced smile become more brittle. “He told me to expect you.” Another person nervous around the police. What if I’d told you I was a prostitute? the thought popped into Carol’s head, unbidden, Would I have got the same reaction?. Police, prostitutes, both existed outside the norm for most people. Carol shook her head, angry at the comparison.
Whatever reactions talking to a detective had caused in Nurse Holland, the directions she had given Carol had led her quickly to Mulholland’s office.
He was what Carol had expected from his voice on the phone. Middle-aged, a hint of tiredness about him. Much as his professional pride stopped him admitting it Carol could tell that the hospital wasn’t making much progress with Judy.
“She may not want to talk to you,” Mulholland warned her.
Carol frowned, “Why not? I didn’t see anything in her file about her not wanting to talk to the police.”
Mulholland’s face tightened. “Yes, but the detectives that spoke to her before were men. She usually refuses to talk to women.”
Carol didn’t bother to hide the surprise on her face. After everything Judy had been through she’d have expected it to be the other way around, if anything. After all, it was men who’d kidnapped Judy, brainwashed her, who’d spent weeks using her as a prostitute. Why would she talk to men and not women?
Mulholland read the question in her face. He was, Carol knew, good at his job, whatever his lack of success with Judy. “To be honest we’ve basically got nowhere with her. She wants to talk to men, because men might use her.” The words “for sex” went unspoken.
Carol sat, silent. She realised where Judy was. Still stuck where Copeland had put her. Still thinking that she wanted to be a prostitute. Waiting for the next man to come along who would pay for the use of her body.
“I,…, see,” Carol managed, eventually. “Well, I have to try anyway.”
“I know,” Mulholland nodded. “Let’s go see her. She’s waiting.”
The doctor led Carol to a room in another wing of the hospital. Through a large glass window she could see Judy sitting at a simple table. Carol recognised her from the photos in her file. She looked well, not drawn or vacant as Carol pictured the patients here would look. The girl’s blonde hair, still long, was drawn back in a simple pony tail. That combined with a lack of makeup, gave her a look of innocence. If anything she looked younger than her years. But as Carol watched she could see that Judy’s movements belied that innocence. She sat in her chair in a way designed to show off her figure, back arched slightly, legs crossed so the simple dress rode up her thighs. Occasionally her hands would stroke her body, slowly, an unmistakeable come-on. The girl was definitely still trapped in the world that Copeland had thrown her into.
“She does it even when she thinks nobody’s watching.” Carol jumped at the sound. “We don’t allow her any make-up, but we can’t stop her paying attention to her appearance. Probably wouldn’t help if we did.” She could hear the resignation in Mulholland’s voice.
“Does she know I’m coming to see her?”
“She knows someone from the police is coming. We didn’t tell her it was a woman. Sorry about that, but it made it easier to get her into the interview room.”
Carol bit off a retort. She might need Mulholland’s help getting anything out of Judy, so she refused the temptation of a sarcastic reply. No matter how much she might want to give one.
Judy looked up as Carol entered the room “Who are you?” Carol could hear the confusion in the seated girl’s voice, see her shift uneasily in her chair.
“Detective Taylor, police.” Carol replied, as she took the seat opposite Judy. “I was hoping you’d be able to help me.”
Judy had looked away as Carol sat. The policewoman could see her sitting there, arms crossed, determinedly looking at the wall. Her right leg was crossed over her left, the right foot tapping at the air.
“Two of the girls Copeland kidnapped are still missing Judy. We’re trying to find them.” Carol’s hands were clasped in front of her on the table. She leant slightly towards the other woman, trying to put on her best ‘good cop’ look.
Carol let the silence draw out, hoping that Judy might say something. She could see the blonde looking around the room, anywhere but at her. It was obviously going to be a test of wills.
Judy’s patience wore out first.
“I don’t want to talk to you. I don’t have to talk to you.” Carol had to strain to hear the last words as Judy’s voice dropped away.
“No Judy,” she said, gently, “but I was hoping you would.”
“You don’t, you, you, won’t, he,” the blonde stumbled in response, her resistance breaking like a brittle shell.
“I won’t what Judy?” Carol tried not to think about what the girl had been through, tried to ignore the small nervous movements of Judy’s hands, the hunted look in her face. Carol needed information. Even if she couldn’t get that she needed to help this girl. Mulholland had said to tell her that she’d been held by Copeland as well, but Carol needed an opening.
“You, you won’t pay me. You’re not a man.” Judy’s eyes were flicking around the room, wide and nervous.
“Why do you need that Judy?” Carol struggled to keep her voice even.
“Because, I’m, a, a, I’m a prostitute. M-men pay me for, for sex. I want to be paid for sex.” Judy’s voice was taking on a sing-song tone.
Carol shook her head. “No you don’t. That’s just words Judy.”
The blonde swivelled in her chair, anger darkening her features. “What do mean ‘just words’, they’re here,” she pointed to her head. “In here, always here. You don’t know anything about it.”
Carol hesitated. She knew what she wanted to say, what she had to say. But she had to force the words out.
“Yes I do Judy, Copeland had me too.”
“You’re lying!” the blonde yelled. “You’re a cop.”
“Yeah, I’m a cop.” Carol could feel herself on the edge of tears, and hated herself for the weakness. Were the tears for Judy? Or for herself? “I was undercover, on campus, investigating what happened to you and the other girls. And Copeland took me. Put me in one of those cells on the boat. And tried to put the words in my head.”
Carol could see Judy staring at her. The blonde leapt out of her chair, ran over to the wall behind which Carol knew Mulholland stood, watching. On this side it was a mirror, but somehow Judy seemed to know that there was someone standing there.
“I know you’re there,” she shouted, “You want me, don’t you? I’m pretty. You can have me. You just have to pay. I’ll do anything you want. Please.” The last word was half-whispered, then louder “Please. I have to make them money. They’ll be angry if I don’t. I want to be a prostitute, I’m happy to be a prostitute. Fuck me, please.”
The desperation in Judy’s voice tore at Carol. She wondered if she should stop the interview. She knew that Mulholland was watching. She had to trust that he’d step in if things went too far.
Carol stood up, cautiously approached the other girl. “You don’t have to let him have his way.” She remembered what Holly had said. “You can put other words in your head.”
“Other words?” Judy was still looking at the wall, but Carol could tell that she was crying now.
“Tell yourself something else. Tell yourself that you’re Judy. That you want to go to college. That you don’t want to be a prostitute.”
Judy turned towards her. Carol could see the tears running down her face.
“Is, is that what you do?”
“Well, I’m a policewoman, not in college, but apart from that, yeah. And I know that the other girls Copeland took do it too.”
“Other words?” Carol could see the look of desperate hope in Judy’s eyes.
“Sure. Say, ‘I want to go to college’”
“I want to go to college.” Judy stopped, looked at Carol, “He, he really had you too?”
“Yeah, yeah he did.” Carol didn’t want to look away, but she couldn’t stop herself. “In one of those cells. The light that flickered, wouldn’t let you sleep. Copeland threatening to let me starve to death. Or die of thirst if I didn’t say his words.”
She looked back at Judy. The other girl was staring at her now.
“You, you were, weren’t you?” Carol simply nodded in reply. Before she could react Judy had covered the distance between them, had seized her arm. “Say it, say it, then I’ll know he had you too.”
Carol wanted to look away. She didn’t want to meet the desperation that she saw in Judy’s eyes. She didn’t want to say the words. But she couldn’t let this girl down now, let her think everything Carol had said had been a lie.
Keeping her voice calm, but unable to stop her body shaking, Carol replied. “I want to be a prostitute. I’m happy to be a prostitute.”
“More.” Judy demanded. “There were other words. You say them.”
Carol hesitated, “I, I,… don’t want.” Feebly she tried to break Judy’s grip on her arm.
“I don’t care. I have to know. That you were there.”
Carol opened her mouth but no words came out. She closed her eyes, took a deep breath. For a moment it was if she was back in her cell, “I’m happy to be a prostitute. I love it when men use me. I want to be used sexually. If a man pays me he can do anything he wants.” Shuddering she fell silent. She hadn’t said the words aloud since she’d been held by Copeland. She hadn’t wanted to now. Saying them out loud gave them power. Carol could feel a part of her wanting to give into them. Say all the other words Copland had put in her head. She’d forgotten how many there were. But she had to help Judy, and if this was what it took then she was prepared to deal with the consequences later.
Carol felt Judy’s grip on her arm relax. The policewoman opened her eyes, the reality of the room forced itself upon her, images of the cell retreated. She could see sobs convulse through the other girl. Instinctively she wrapped her arms around her.
“It’s, it’s true,” Judy managed through her crying. “He had you too.” Tearfully she looked up at Carol, “I can have other words?”
“Yes,” Carol whispered, “yes you can”.
“I.., I,” the blonde began, stumbling over the words, “I w-want to be Judy. I want to go to college. I don’t want to be a, a,”
“You can do it,” Carol encouraged.
“a prostitute. I don’t want to be a prostitute.” Through her tears Judy smiled up at Carol. Then the smile faded, her features becoming solemn. “But part of me does. Part of me wants men, to, to. Part of me wants to be paid and do what they say and,” Judy’s voice had risen as she spoke. Carol could see the panic growing in her eyes.
“Shush, it’s okay, it’s okay,” she soothed the blonde girl. A thought struck her. Maybe it was the wrong thing to do, but it felt right. “Remember, put yourself through the motions and soon will come the corresponding emotions.” It’s what Copeland had said. To her. To the other girls. Act like a prostitute and you’ll feel like a prostitute. Maybe she could turn it around, for Judy’s sake. “Be a student, be who you were before.”
Judy was calm again. “And that’s who I’ll be?” she asked.
“If that’s what you want,” replied Carol.
“And, and you, you want to be a policewoman?”
“Yes, yes, I do.” Carol wanted to be a policewoman. It was the truth. A t least for most of her.
“I can try, I can say those words. But part of me doesn’t want to.” Carol could see the anxiety rising in Judy again, like a fever. “There’s a voice in my head. That wants to do it again, to, to sell, myself, be a w-whore. Is it like that for you?” Judy was staring right into her eyes.
“I, I never was. I escaped before he could sell me.” Part of Carol felt ashamed, that she hadn’t suffered as much as the other girls. She knew enough psychology to recognise a form of survivor’s guilt, but that didn’t help how she felt.
Judy had gripped both her arms, their faces close together. “But, but then doesn’t a part of you wonder, what it would be like? What would happen if the words took over? That wants to know?”
Carol leant back. She wanted to break away from the blonde, but she couldn’t. Something inside her did want to know. All the time, while she’d talked to the other four girls, that little part of her had wondered. What it would be like. To be a whore, a prostitute, to have sex for money. Deep inside, Carol realised, was a part of her that wanted to be a prostitute. It was why the words hadn’t gone away. Maybe it wasn’t really a part of her, maybe it was something Copeland had put there, that the words had created for themselves, but it was there. A part of her that wanted to her to whore herself, to sell her sex for money, that wanted to take the cash and do whatever she was told.
“Put yourself through the motions and soon will come the corresponding emotions.” Carol realised that that was what she had been doing for most of her adult life. Every time she went undercover she’d put herself through the motions of whatever role the case needed. Drug addict, shopkeeper, forger, gun runner. It would be so easy for her to take on the role of a prostitute. Going through the motions. It’s what she did. It’s what prostitutes do.
Dimly, Carol realised Judy was speaking. “I want to go college. I want to be who I was.” Silently Carol was thankful that Judy hadn’t pressed her for an answer. She didn’t want to lie to Judy but neither did she want to admit out loud that some part of her, no matter how small, no matter if it was only there because of what Copeland had done to her, did want to know what it would be like to go through what the other girls had gone through, to be a prostitute, to want to be a prostitute.
Angrily she pushed the thoughts aside. She could deal with them later. She would deal with them later.
“That’s it Judy,” Carol said. “Just keeping saying that. You’ll be okay now.”
Judy smiled, perhaps the first time, Carol thought, that she’d seen a really happy smile on that face. “I, I don’t know, but maybe, I think yeah, it’s not, it’s not just me and the words now.”
Mulholland looked at her strangely, as Carol left the interview room.
“Do you think she’ll be okay now?” Carol asked.
“Well, I think she has a better chance now. It’s always hard to say, but maybe that was what she needed. We hadn’t been able to reach her. You gave her that.”
Carol allowed herself a smile.
A frown creased Mulholland’s face. “But how about you? If it’s still having that much of an effect on you, what sort of support are you getting?”
“Oh, it’s okay,” Carol laughed, hoping Mulholland didn’t notice how forced it was. She waved a hand dismissively. “I was making some of it up in there.”
Carol could see Mulholland didn’t really believe her, but he didn’t say anything either.
Outside the hospital, Carol stopped beside her car. She could feel her hand gripping the door handle of her Charger. The uneven surface of the gravel beneath her feet. She’d forced herself to stay calm as she left the hospital. That facade was breaking now, she could feel herself begin to shake. Part of me, she couldn’t stop herself thinking, part of me wants to be a prostitute? Why? Why would I want to do that? It’s cheap and demeaning and horrible and … Carol could feel herself on the edge of tears. Angrily she yanked open her car’s door and threw herself into the driver’s seat. She felt torn in two. Part of her, the greater part, was the Carol she recognised. That wanted to be a policewoman. That would never lower herself to be a prostitute. But the other part, smaller, so small, but just as determined, wouldn’t let the image go. That fed off the words, kept forcing them around Carol’s head.
“I want to be a prostitute.”
“No I don’t.”
“I’m happy to be a prostitute.”
“I want to be paid for sex.”
“I want to policewoman. I am a policewoman.”
Carol realised she’d been talking out loud. Saying the Copeland’s word in a calm, reasonable voice. Angrily shouting her responses. She looked around the carpark fearful, that someone might have heard her.
There was a fight for dominance within her mind. It had been going on ever since she found her way out of that cell. The policewoman trying to track down and expel the traitorous part that echoed Copeland’s words. The would-be prostitute flitting through her mind, leaving images of having sex for money in her wake.
Carol realised that her hands were gripping the steering wheel so hard that they hurt. She was staring fixedly ahead. What was wrong with her? Even the other girls that Copeland had kidnapped were getting better. Why wasn’t she? Was it because they had been prostitutes? That they knew how bad it was? Why couldn’t she convince herself? Was it just her? Was it that she could so easily slip in and out of a role? Another thought flashed into her mind. Janice. Janice had been through exactly what she had. Held by Copeland but never actually a prostitute. How was she dealing with everything?
She needed to talk to Janice. Talking to the other five girls hadn’t yielded anything useful. Carol was sure she could get Wainwright’s okay to interview Janice. She’d been on the boat before Carol, maybe she knew something. Carol didn’t really believe that, but she knew that she had to talk to the redhead that she’d rescued from Copeland.
Because if she didn’t she feared that the treacherous little piece of her mind would never go away and the words would get louder and louder until she couldn’t ignore them.