“Thailand’s lovely at this time of year, come on Julie, you’ll have a great time, and you’ll see new sites and have a great adventure….”
“All right, ALL RIGHT!! Do you really want to get them angry with us again? Shut up and keep walking!”
Cassie stumbled as her foot caught a root of a tree, but she managed to regain her balance quickly enough that the armed men walking beside her didn’t notice, or her friends came falling down with her. They’d been on a boat trip that, as far as they were aware, had been organised by the hotel they were staying in, and promised to show them the beauty of the Thai coastline.
At first, it had gone as they had expected, but then Julie had spotted the three small boats coming from a little inlet in the shoreline. They’d all waved to the men in the moats as they came closer – then held each other as one of them had raised a gun and shot dead the man who was describing the coastline to them.
The girls on the boat had been forced to climb into the little craft and taken to the shore where each had their wrists bound behind their back and a rough canvas bag placed over their heads. The burlap bag was secured around their neck with an iron collar, and a long chain fed through so that the fourteen girls were connected a straight line. Julie was at the front of a line, with her desert brown blouse and red skirt, and Cassie behind her in a floral print sleeveless sundress. The armed men had pushed Julie forward, and for the last hour or so they had been walking through the steamy jungle.
The line was now climbing a hill, and Cassie was wondering how much further they were going to walk for. She could hear the sobbing of the other girls behind her, but she wasn’t sure what was bothering their escort more – the sobbing or Julie’s continued talking. She could hear their low murmurs in their native tongue, but apart from the push they occasionally gave the girls with the butts of their rifles there was no communication between the captors and the captives.
Further and further up the hill they climbed, until they were brought to a halt. Cassie listened as Julie said “What are you mpphh…” and then there was a shove and they continued to climb. The heat was stifling, and the humidity worse, but the black-clad captives offered no respite to the group as they climbed higher and higher. Eventually, a cool breeze was felt by Cassie through the canvas, and she realised they must be coming out of the trees. It was getting more difficult to breathe, so she assumed they had walked up some sort of large hill or small mountain, and were now coming out of the tree line.
The light dimmed through the cloth, and under her feet Cassie felt cool stone as opposed to grass and leaves. “We must be going into a cave,” she thought as the line was brought to a halt. She heard Julie give a gasp of air.
“Are you all right?” she whispered, and Julie just had time to say “Yes” when a deep voice called out “Silence! You will show due respect!”
The hood was pulled off Cassie’s head, and she looked over at her friend. There were signs of bruising around Julie’s mouth and cheeks, but otherwise she seemed unharmed – the ropes around their wrists and the heavy metal collars and chains notwithstanding.
She looked the other way, and watched as the hood was pulled off a young woman wearing a white chemo sang with red spots and a pair of red Capri pants. One by one, the hoods were pulled off by a huge Asian man, dressed in a grey outfit and with a black hood concealing the upper part of his face, only his piercing blue eyes showing. Their captors were stood at the end of the line, where there was also a stunningly beautiful woman dressed in black.
“Where are we?” Julie whispered, and Cassie turned back to face her.
“Somewhere in those mountains we saw from the boat, I think. We must have walked through the jungle to get here.”
“Help must be on the way, though – the hotel is bound to send out a search party when we don’t return….”
In the distance, there was the sound of an explosion, and the girls turned to look.
“You don’t suppose….” Cassie started to say, but the man pulled the hood off the last of the girls, and stood back. A gong sounded, and he called out again “Silence!”
The Asian woman started to slowly walk down the line, looking at each girl in turn. She was wearing a black silk skirt that reached the floor, and a long sleeved top on which a golden dragon was embroidered. From the way the captors were bowing to her, Cassie and Julie realised this was probably the person in charge, but at this point they were more concerned with the growing ache in their arms and on their shoulders.
The stranger walked past the line a few times, the clothes the women were wearing were dirty and torn – they had dressed for a day on a boat, not a jungle trek. Some quietly bowed their heads and sobbed, while others looked her defiantly in the eye. When she came to the end of the line, both Julie and Cassie took the latter approach.
The woman smiled, then walked back down the line and turned at the other end.
“My name,” she called out in a surprisingly clear accent, “is Soo Mai, and I am your mistress from this moment on. You have been brought here to serve a higher and deeper purpose, and you will serve that purpose without question or comment. Is that clear?”
“We’re not your slaves,” one of the girls called out. She had long dark hair, and was wearing a red blouse which was tied under her ample breasts and a red skirt with white polka dots that came up to the top of her hips at the side. Soo Mai walked back down the line and stood in front of the woman, staring at her with a mild look of interest. She suddenly raised her right hand, and slapped the girl across the face.
“Insubordination will be punished – it is important for all of you that you realise that now. Cooperate, and you will find your stay here – pleasant. Fight and you may not like what happens to you.”
Julie called out. “You can’t just take us like this – the hotel will look for us, our families will…..”
“Your families will learn that the boat you were travelling on blew up off shore, with no survivors. That was the explosion you heard – my men can be quite thorough in their work.”
Cassie and Julie looked at each other as the whole line fell silent. Soo Mai turned to the hooded man.
“I will indicate those who are to receive special treatment. The others may be taken straight to General Wong for his – amusement.”
Walking down the line, she tapped on the shoulders of twelve girls, including Julie and Cassie. They sighed as their collars were removed and they were made to step forward.
The remaining girls were led off by the masked man, as twelve other girls dressed in white chemosangs stepped forward out of the darkness.
“Take these ladies, bathe them and see they are comfortable for the night. We will deal with them at that time.”
As Soo Mai walked off, the twelve remaining captives were led off to a large chamber, and their wrists untied. They stood there, rubbing the skin, as each had their tattered and dirty clothes removed from their bodies.
“Please,” one of the girls said, “enter the water and bathe.” She indicated a large pool of water, from which scented steam was rising. Julie was the first to step forward, lowering her naked body into the pool and sighing as the warm water caressed her skin.
“Cassie, it’s all right – I don’t think there are any booby traps.”
Cassie and the other ten walked over and lowered themselves into the pool. As they let the warm water wash away the dirt, Cassie turned and asked the girl who had spoken “What’s happened to the other girls?”
She looked worried for a moment, and then said “Please, do not think of them. You are the fortunate ones, the chosen ones, and you will be happy. Bring food for the guests!”
Platters of food, fruits and meats, were brought in as were white cotton robes. One by one, the girls were allowed to leave the pool and put on a robe, and they sat at a table and ate. As they did so, a number of armed men in black discreetly entered the room and stood around the walls.
“So what happens now,” Cassie asked.
“We must make you comfortable for the night. Please, lie on the mattresses and we will begin.”
Again, one by one the girls were led to soft mattresses that lay on the floor. As they lay on their backs, lengths of soft rope were produced and their wrists bound in front of them, then the rope passed down and around their ankles.
“You may talk, but I suggest you all rest – tomorrow will be a busy day,” the Asian girl said as the lights were extinguished, and the chamber fell into darkness. Cassie lay, listening to the sounds of the other eleven starting to fall asleep through exhaustion, and wondered what the girl had meant about a busy day.
Light was streaming into the chamber as Cassie was shaken awake. The girls had returned, each carrying a short white robe, and the twelve were instructed to each don one of the outfits. Each was made of white cotton, and fitted over the head of the girl with a v-neck at the front. Two white bands held the front and back together at each side.
“Nice outfit,” Julie said as she placed it over her head.
“What are you smiling about,” Cassie said as she donned her robe. “What do you think this is, an adventure holiday? Julie, we’ve been captured by slavers – don’t you see that?”
Julie frowned as she and Cassie were separated into separate groups if six. Stele manacles were placed around the wrists of the first group, including Julie, and they were led off by the black clad captors.
Cassie listened as muffled sounds came into the chambers – the sounds of taking of gongs and of screaming. Eventually, the guards returned and took the second group into another chamber.
This was a huge cave, with a giant brass gong at one end and an altar at the other. The altar was old, made of sandstone but covered with green moss. At each side of the room were three stone pillars and Cassie was pushed against the left hand side one which was nearest the gong. As with the first group, manacles had been placed around their wrists, and these were now fastened above their heads to the stone pillar.
Soo Mai entered the room, in a black silk outfit of pants and a jacket which fastened at the front, revealing her pale skin and breasts. The masked man was also there, in black silk pants and jacket with the dragon emblasoned on the front. Their captor walked into the canter of the chamber, and the masked man sounded the gong.
“Ladies, Gentlemen, I trust you have all managed to refresh yourselves. We now have the second half of our auction for today, each as fine a specimen as you can imagine.”
Soo Mai walked round the room, both behind and in front of each of the girls, “We will start,” she eventually said, “with this one” and Cassie felt a tap on her shoulder.
The masked man walked forward and removed the manacles from Cassie’s wrists. Before she got a chance to say “What now?” He walked behind her and lashed her wrists together with a leather strap. Taking an iron collar, he fastened it around Cassie’s neck and fed a length of chain through the front. He then pulled her forward and walked her into the centre of the chamber, Soo Mai walking behind her.
“As you can see, ladies and gentlemen, this is a fine example of the European woman. Fit of body and of mind, her long brown hair complements her hazel eyes beautifully. I will open the bidding at $5000 – do I hear that?”
From somewhere above, a voice called “five thousand”, then another called “Six”. Cassie listened with her head bowed as she realised she was being sold like an auction lot, to the highest bidder, for Lord alone knows what purpose. All hope left her at that point – her family thought she was dead, her best friend had disappeared earlier, and she was alone, all alone…..
“Twenty thousand dollars!”
Cassie suddenly raised her head as the gong sounded behind her.
“Excellent choice, sir” she heard Soo Mai say, “Take this one to the holding area and remove her chains.”
Cassie was led off into a side chamber, where the collar was removed and her hands free. As she was pushed in, she saw Julie sitting in a corner of the room.
“Cassie – oh thank god you’re all right,” Julie said as the two embraced. “I’ve no idea what is going on, but at least we’ll face it together,”
“We will, Julie, we will,” Cassie sobbed as the chamber door was opened and a large black man, dressed in a white shirt on grey slacks walked in.
“Good afternoon ladies,” he said in a clear London accent. “I apologise for the way you have both been treated so far. I trust you are well otherwise.”
“Who are you?” Cassie demanded.
“My name is George,” the man replied, “and I work for a group known as Objects of Beauty. Perhaps you have heard of us? No? Well, never mind – the point is that I now own you, and I have plans for both of you. Cooperate and it will be pleasant. Do you understand what has happened to you?”
“We’re… we’re your slaves aren’t we?” Julie sobbed.
“Not mine, no – but you will belong to someone else. For now, please don these outfits,” he said as the girl who had talked to them earlier brought in two dresses, “and rest. We will talk later.”
“You are lucky,” the girl said as she laid the dresses down, “George is a good man. Please, do not worry – you will be fine with him.”
As the door closed, both girls heard the screams as their companions on the trip were led off to their fates.