The backstreets of the city were quiet at this time of night. There would be more people around closer to closing time, but now,
though the office buildings had been locked up for the night, the usual groups of drinkers were not yet travelling to and from the nearby
town centre. A few cars, a couple of vans, were parked at meters. The occasional train could be heard in the distance. But the only
person on view was a young woman slowly walking up and down.
I recognised her immediately as a prostitute; over the past couple of weeks I had learned to recognise the signs. It was evident not
only in the skimpy outfit – not really suited to the autumn chill – but in the stance, the air of waiting for someone, but not for anyone in
For years, I had been curious about what led women to sell sex. Ever since my early teens, when I had come to some understanding of
the profession’s existence and what it actually entailed, I had felt a mixture of fascination and revulsion toward sex workers. What must
it be like, I wondered as I lay awake late at night, to be obliged to give yourself to a different man, or men, every night? Did they enjoy
it, or did they long for an escape from the life?
As I grew older, I realised that many such women had not entered the trade through choice. But still, I found it hard to believe
that they had no chance of escape. There was the police, or organisations dedicated to supporting the victims of violence and exploitation.
I realise now how naive I was. Yet at the time, I could not shake my obsession with this twilight trade.
Intellectually, I knew that the continued exploitation of women by men was utterly unacceptable in a civilised society. I proclaimed
myself a feminist, one focussed on a successful professional career – and that claim was true, as far as it went. Secretly though, I
imagined myself as a whore, or courtesan; an upmarket one, naturally, for whose attention wealthy men and playboys would compete.
Sometimes, as I masturbated to the idea, I longed to play out that fantasy on real life. But of course, I never dared to do so.
The prostitute took a long drag on her cigarette and eyed me warily as I approached, stepping into the pool of light from a nearby
street lamp. I was a woman, and therefore not a customer. I was dressed in a smart zipped-up jacket, a short denim skirt, black tights,
and laced-up ankle boots. A bag was slung over my shoulder. Just as I made assumptions about her profession based on her appearance, I
suppose she would have spotted me for a student from the local college. I am dark haired, quite tall, but slim. I am quite pretty, I
suppose, or at least various men and women have told me I am. I have regular features, and large eyes.
“Are you Candy?” I asked.
The prostitute narrowed her eyes suspiciously. “Depends. Who wants to know?”
It was not the warmest reception, but I seized on it eagerly. “My name’s Kayleigh. I write for the student paper – I’m doing an
article on what leads women to, um, prostitution. I’ve been asking around, and some girls said you might be willing to talk to me.”
Candy took another drag on her cigarette. “Yeah, I’ve heard about you. Been asking lots of questions, apparently.”
I was fumbling in my bag for my notebook. I had my story ready, an acceptable reason for my interest to cover my secret fascination.
“I’m investigating rumours that some women working locally have been trafficked into the country, and are being held against their will.
Are you aware of anything like that?”
“Me? No. I don’t ask questions like that. They might know, though.” She indicated across the street.
I looked around, and to my consternation saw two large men getting out of a white transit van parked across the street. They made
for me across the road at a brisk pace, and did not look welcoming. I briefly considered making a run for it – I can go pretty fast when I
have to – but decided to brazen it out.
I pulled myself to my full height as the two approached, determined to give the impression of someone who knew her rights, and wasn’t
going to be pushed around. This was despite the fact that both men were larger and broader than me, putting me in mind of nightclub
bouncers with a particularly nasty streak. Somewhat to my irritation, however, they ignored me and spoke to Candy. “Is this her?” one said.
Candy nodded. “She’s the one, all right.”
I decided it was time I spoke up. “Look, I was just asking a few questions...”
“Shut the fuck up,” one said, in a voice that was almost a snarl. He wasn’t even looking at me. I gasped in fury, then immediately
regretted it as he turned to stare down at me. For the first time, I began to wonder if I was right to assume they would not dare harm me.
As he turned his head, I noticed a swastika tattooed on his neck.
“You’re becoming a bloody nuisance,” he said. “You’re coming with us to explain yourself.”
“I’m not going anywhere with you,” I insisted, my voice starting to tremble despite my best efforts. I backed away, turning to flee,
but felt strong fingers take hold of my arm and twist it viciously up my back. I cried out in pain, lifted up on my toes. I tried to pull
my arm free, but his grip was like a vice.
“Let’s get her to Gregor, quickly,” said the other man, looking round. Swiftly, they dragged me, struggling, across the road to the
van. A third man jumped from the driver’s seat and threw open the back as we approached. I realised with sudden terror that I was being
abducted, not just threatened or bullied into minding my own business, and gave a piercing scream of, “Help! Help me!” In response, the man
holding my arm slammed my head, hard, against the side of the van. My cries were cut off as I was momentarily dazed. It was long enough
for the two to throw me bodily into the back of the van, where I landed awkwardly on the floor. Swiftly, they leapt in behind me and closed
My head was still swimming as I heard the van engine start up and felt the vehicle move forward. My blood ran cold as I realised
just how serious my predicament had become. I had been working on this story for weeks, against the advice of my friends and housemates,
who had not understood my dogged interest in the subject. They had been so concerned about my safety that I had tired of their warnings – I
was 19 for heaven’s sake, not a child – and had decided not to tell them where I was going tonight. I would not be missed until morning, at
My only hope was to make these men see just how much trouble they could be in. “Look, you can just let me go here,” I said, trying
to keep my voice from shaking. “Nothing really serious has happened yet. I can get out now, and then I won’t need to talk to the police
about it. I’ll just forget I ever saw you. OK?”
I started to get up, but one of the men just smiled and gave me an admonishing wag of his finger. The other, the really aggressive
one who had hurt my arm, snapped “You’ll lie on the fucking floor until I tell you otherwise, bitch. Unless you want me to smash your face
There was no doubt that he meant it. Wretchedly, my heart pounding, I stayed where I was. My abductors were sitting on low benches
above the back wheels of the van; I was between the two of them, on the dirty floor next to a roll of old carpet. I noted the eyes of the
second man, the less aggressive one, moving up and down my body and realised that my skirt had ridden up my legs. Blushing, I quickly
pulled the hem down, as far as it would go. I had earlier decided against wearing trousers, on the grounds that it would mean allowing the
possibility of men’s reactions to dictate how I dressed. That decision had seemed the right one in my room; how I was regretting it now!
It’s not like they’re really going to do anything, I told myself. They’re just the muscle. They’ve been told to bring me in to this
Gregor, whoever he is. If he’s running things, maybe I can talk sensibly to him. He’ll want to calm things down rather than have the
police on his back. Maybe he’ll even give me an interview, if I promise not to use his real name.
As I tried to reassure myself, the van slowed to a halt and I heard the driver get out. “Up you get,” beckoned the second man, in a
friendly enough tone. As the van door opened he reached out a hand to help me to my feet, but I instinctively recoiled in alarm. He seemed
amused by this, rather than offended.
They had parked at the side or back of what appeared to be a slightly run down shop. As I emerged shakily from the van, I could see
the driver already closing and padlocking the tall gate we had come through. Beyond it was a dark back alley, with no sign of shops or
homes. There seemed little chance of escape that way.
The man held his hand out and beckoned; I realised he was indicating that I should hand over my bag. Glancing around, I saw his
friend – the really vicious one – glaring at me, as though waiting for an excuse to hit me again. Numbly, I handed the bag over. The man
smiled. “That’s a smart girl,” he said. He led me over to a doorway; I followed meekly. If I do what I’m told, maybe I can get out of
this, I thought. This one doesn’t seem so bad. I don’t think he’ll want to hurt me.
I followed the man into the building, his associates close behind. The room within resembled a taxi hire; a few men waiting on
chairs around the sides, peeling paint, a couple of posters of glamour models blu-tacked to the walls. The only woman visible, who despite
her bottle-blonde hair must have been in her fifties, was sitting behind a window at the reception desk.
Some of the men looked up as we entered, their eyes lingering on me. If they registered that I might be present under duress, they
showed no sign of it. Though a narrow flight of stairs was visible in one corner of the room, I was guided away from it to a door that
opened to a small office.
Here, in addition to the receptionist, another man was sitting at a desk. He was less threateningly built than the men who had
brought me in, but his demeanour – and his flashy, fashionable suit – exuded confidence, even arrogance. The desk was scattered with
paperwork, but at that moment he was engaged in a cheery conversation with someone on his mobile. He barely glanced up as we entered.
They pushed me to stand before his desk. I heard the door close behind them, and sensed that one man – the driver, I think – had
remained on the other side of it. I would have felt slightly happier had the tattooed man been with him, but he sat on a plastic seat to
the side of the room and started to flick through a tabloid newspaper. He was the one I feared most. I had never before encountered such
fury, such barely restrained, unreasoning violence, and had no concept of how to handle it.
I waited nervously, my heart hammering furiously in my chest, as the man at the desk – Gregor – finished laughing uproariously at
whatever anecdote the voice on the other end of the line was relating. Finally, he hung up and turned to face me.
“So this is the young lady who is so interested in my business,” he said. His voice had an accent I couldn’t place; possibly Polish,
I thought, or something East European.
“I’m just writing a story on...” I started, but fell silent when he held his hand up peremptorily.
“You think I give a shit?” he asked, rhetorically. He looked past me to his henchmen. “Do we know who she is?”
The second man, the less thuggish of the two, spoke from behind my shoulder. “Yeah, just some nosey student who thinks she’s a
hotshot reporter. Got her ID and stuff here.” I saw my bag land on the desk, and flinched at the sound. Gregor opened it and glanced
through my things. He pulled out my keys, purse and phone. My rape alarm, the one all female students had been issued with during
Freshers’ Week, clattered uselessly to the desk; Gregor picked it up, glanced at it with mild amusement, and tossed it back in the bag.
“OK. Head over to her place, make sure nobody else is in, then pack some of her stuff up. Enough that it looks like she’s taking a
trip. Swing by the station and send her family a text from there saying she’ll ring them in a few days, then turn the phone off and dump
it. That should throw the cops off the scent for long enough.”
I found herself trembling almost uncontrollably as I heard him planning my disappearance. I wanted to speak, to protest that this
was unnecessary, I wouldn’t cause these people any trouble, but my mouth had turned completely dry and my legs seemed to be frozen in place.
As the man left with my stuff to carry out Gregor’s instructions, I managed to choke out, “Please let me go.”
Gregor looked at me appraisingly. I knew he could see the desperation in my face, the pleading look in my eyes. More than anything,
I wanted him to take pity on me, to show mercy. I’ve never harmed anyone! I don’t deserve to be threatened like this!
“What exactly did you think you were doing, nosing around my business, asking my girls a lot of questions?” he asked. “What did you
think you would get out of it? A job with a big paper? Something on TV?”
I struggled to find an answer that wouldn’t make me sound like the shallow career girl he was suggesting. In truth, I was ambitious
and had seen the story as having potential to open doors in my chosen profession. “I heard... that women were being exploited,” I
whispered. “People had the right to know.”
“Bullshit,” Gregor chuckled, standing up and coming around the desk. He put his hand on the back of my neck, squeezing it just hard
enough to let me feel his strength. “Self important princesses like you think men like me exploit women, don’t you? But you wanted to use
my girls to get ahead. So what makes you any different from me, sweetheart?”
Perhaps if I agree with him he’ll let me go, I thought. But my mouth was working ahead of my common sense, and I heard my voice say,
“I’m not your sweetheart.”
Gregor leaned in closer, his breath against her cheek. “From now on, little lady, you’re everybody’s sweetheart.”
He’s going to rape me, I realised, my stomach churning at the prospect. Oh God, I’m actually going to be raped.
I felt myself thrust forward roughly, landing on my stomach on the desk. I tried to push myself up with my hands, Gregor behind me,
but he slammed my head back down. “Stop that,” he snarled. Pinned down, I felt his other hand at my skirt, yanking it up over my hips.
“Girl’s got an arse, alright,” I heard another man’s voice say approvingly from somewhere behind me. I tried to scream, but could only make
little gasps of panic as I began to hyperventilate, shocked despite myself at the ferocity of the attack. I felt Gregor tearing my tights
and panties down, and heard the garment rip. Leaning down, one hand still on the back of my neck, he yanked them further down my thighs,
kicking my feet apart as far as they would go. I cried out as his rough fingers thrust between my legs, digging between the lips of my sex.
Immediately, I felt my body begin to lubricate itself, protecting itself instinctively against the assault. Gregor laughed. “She knows
enough to get wet, at least!”
There was the jingle of a belt being loosened, and I felt Gregor position his hips to penetrate me. I could not resist: shocked,
petrified, I lay frozen on the desk as he entered me.
I gave an involuntary grunt as I felt Gregor insert himself roughly into me. He was not especially big, but he was hard and thick,
and he had no qualms about hurting me. Through the tears that were trickling from my wide eyes, I saw the woman at reception glance across
to us, then look back disinterestedly.
Gregor slammed into me repeatedly, hammering furiously at my body. I felt myself being forced forward on the desk with each thrust,
my body sagging back limply each time he partially withdrew. He moved his hands to my hips, certain I was now sufficiently cowed to lie
still and take it. Gripping me tightly, he drove in and out with a furious rhythm, overwhelming me. I could feel the hard edges of the desk
digging uncomfortably into the top of my thighs. I could hear someone nearby sobbing, and realised it was me. I didn’t know how long he
took with me: perhaps it was only moments. At the time, it seemed an eternity until I felt him swell further, then abruptly spit his seed