This story was very hard to write and will probably be hard to read. It deals with one of the greatest evils of any time, child prostitution. I’m sure that like others, I’ll turn a blind eye to may evils, but this is the lowest form of depredation mankind has every found, and we are pretty good at plumbing the depths of evil.
It picks up shortly after “It Happened Like This”. In that story Joey mentioned a friend named Denny. As the title suggests, this is about what happened to Denny. Some of it may sound fantastical. But do a little research. Everything I put in this story is actually going on today. As I said above, human evil knows no bounds. Sorry to end your week with a downer. I’ll post something lighter next week.
Whatever Happened to Denny Blue?
We’ve been staying with the Contessa for about a month now. I’ve been thinking it’s time to start looking for our own place but she keeps saying she “won’t hear of it”. She says she gets lonely rattling around her big palazzo all alone. Hardly alone. Besides all the servants she is continually entertaining luminaries and glitterati from all over the world. But she says we are her family now. I guess there are worse things. We do love her. It’s hard to believe that just a month ago I was living in a New York fire hazard and on the run for my life. Suddenly “inheriting” a mob boss’ retirement fund has a way of changing your life. The “we” in this equation is Brandon and me, Joey. He’s like my brother. I love him dearly. But do we split up and buy separate mansions now that we’re rich? I’d hate to lose him after all these years together. Well, only three years, but they were special. He’s all the family I have. I guess staying with the Contessa allows me to avoid that question.
The palazzo on the outskirts of Florence is so huge I believe my old neighborhood in New York City would fit inside it. And she is always entertaining someone you’ve seen in a magazine or on tv somewhere. Today we had a luncheon with Sheik Jahar al something. He’s headed back to Abu Dhabi after a meeting in Zurich where they tried to raise oil prices again. So, he stopped in for a few days. The Contessa is right when she says, “the Contessa knows everyone”.
The Sheik was a well-preserved middle-aged man. Somewhat handsome in a dark way. Not my type, but whatever. I was surprised to find him in a business suit rather than robes and a towel on his head. Is that racist? I don’t mean to be. I just don’t know what they call it. And every important Arab I’ve seen on tv is usually dressed like that. But he was totally Western. Intelligent, well informed, spoke with a bit of an English accent.
After lunch I was headed back to my rooms. The Contessa and Sheik were off to some museum. Brandy was doing whatever it is he does this time of day. As I made the long trek I had to pass by the ‘Lagoon’. This is a central atrium with a large koi pond. It’s open air but since it is protected on all sides it is usually very warm. There is also special heating if it becomes necessary. The Lagoon is filled with tropical plants – hibiscus, flowering ginger, gardenia, liana, even palms. And of course, lily pads. It is a little paradise right inside our home. The flora is thick and there are benches and chaises in little cleared areas. It is one of my favorite places in the palazzo. I had already wasted several entire afternoons drowsing in the sunshine in my month here.
As I was passing I noticed someone sitting on the low wall by the waterside trailing his hand in the water. It looked like a young man but I couldn’t be sure with all the plants in the way. I decided to check it out.
As I approached he was looking the other way, apparently lost in thought. His head was covered in thick, lustrous yellow gold hair, not quite shoulder length. He had on what looked like silk long gym pants and a very brief vest.
“Hi,” I said, hoping not to startle him too badly. I was not prepared for his reaction, though. He immediately dropped to the floor in a kneeling position and pressed his forehead to the ground. WFT?
“Um, you can get up.” No reaction.
“Look at me.” He raised his head but stared steadfast at my knees. That’s when I got my second shock.
He visibly started, but then
said in a soft voice.
“That person is no more. I am Abdur of the house of Sheik Jahar al Said bin Hassan.”
“Denny! It is you. What the fuck? We all thought you were dead. What happened? I heard the Dutchman got you.” I would recognize that golden hair and those soft blue eyes anywhere. How the hell did Denny get here? And why was he with the Sheik?
I guess a little background is in order. Before I worked for Tip in New York (another story for another time) I was on the street. Literally. And I was a kid. I was about 15 when I met Denny. He supposed he was the same age but wasn’t sure. You don’t have friends on the street. Just people you distrust a little less than other people. But Denny and I seemed drawn to each other and became best of friends. I remember that cold winter we lived in a box behind a dumpster on the lower East Side. We wrapped up in every piece of clothing we could find or steal and held each other to share body heat. We literally didn’t know if we would wake up in the mornings. We survived by pan handling, shop lifting, dumpster diving, selling cans, occasionally doing odd jobs, lurking around the backs of restaurants for leftovers, and when necessary, selling ourselves to lecherous guys looking to get off. That’s not something I’m proud of, but it’s just a fact. If it sounds like a hard, unpleasant life, well, yeah. But I found over that winter that it was better than what Denny had come from; far better.
I learned Denny’s story over time. He told me pieces stoically, totally without emotion. I was the one who always cried. I was appalled that level of depredation existed. His mother was a teenage crack whore, no more than 14 or 15 when he was born. She had no business even being near a baby, much less having one. He was born in a crackhouse, midwived by hookers. His mother always reminded him of what a burden he was, that he was the result of a defective condom and not enough money to afford an abortion. Her pimp knew that blows to the body can cause a miscarriage so he beat Denny’s mother badly several times, but Denny stubbornly refused to abort. The pimp made her breast feed the infant to keep her milk flowing. It made her breasts larger and some of the clients would pay extra to breast feed from a whore. Other than that, he was mostly neglected. The other hookers took more care of him than his mother, but they were a transient lot. She made him call her Carol, because ‘mom’ made her sound old. She never mentioned a last name. He eventually called himself Denny Blue because it was his favorite color. He never had medical care, never went to any kind of school.
By some miracle he survived and by the time he was five he was a feral child, like a wild animal. Then things changed. As Denny told it, “I don’t remember much about my early life. I guess it’s probably better that way. I didn’t have much language. I never needed it. No one talked to me and if I said anything I usually got hit. So I just zoned out. When I was about 8 though, Uncle Alvin came into my life.”
“Uncle Alvin was Carol’s new pimp. Her old one got cut and died. Uncle Alvin was good to me. At first. He talked to me, got me new clothes that fit, made sure I had food to eat. I got real attached to him. Then he taught me about blowjobs. I’d been around sex stuff all my life so it didn’t seem unusual to me. He was so nice to me that I wanted to do what he said. I didn’t like it too much when he started bringing other guys around, but he petted me and said I was a good boy.” It took a while for me to get this much of his story. And what he did tell, it was so emotionless and without affect. It was almost spooky. Like he wasn’t even there, just observing from afar. After all my years on the street, it took a lot to get to me but this did. An eight-year old being forced to give blowjobs? I didn’t think anyone could get any lower than that. I was so wrong.
“When I was about 10 or so, I came home one day and found Carol dead, with a needle laying beside her. She was only about 24. Uncle Alvin said it was a pity and then he tossed her body in an alley. He said now that Carol wasn’t here to make money it was up to me. He wanted me to be a full service whore. I knew enough to know what he wanted. I said I wouldn’t. He told me I didn’t have any say in the matter. I screamed and cried every time he sold my ‘virgin ass’. He said that was good because it made the john believe I was really a virgin.”
Besides being evil the pimp had a mean streak and began beating Denny. He had always slapped Carol around but not Denny. But that had changed. He was always careful to avoid Denny’s face because he didn’t want to mess up his beauty. One night while particularly mean and drunk Uncle Alvin grabbed a kitchen knife and said he was going to “cut up that pretty face”. Denny grabbed a chair and broke it over the pimp’s head. It was a cheap chair and broke into pieces. But it was enough to stun him. Denny fled out the door and never looked back. He’d been on the street since he was 12.
I was always amazed at his peculiar stoicism. I guess it was the only way he knew how to survive. Just cut off all emotion. In the two years we ran together I only ever saw him show any emotion just once. One evening he crawled over me into our box. I could tell by the streetlight that his face was bruised. He said he’d been beaten by a john. That was an occupational hazard but that night it really got to him. I instinctively put my arms around him to give him comfort. After a few moments I felt a wetness on my shoulder and realized he was silently crying. I just held him tighter and began stroking his hair and crooning “it’s okay, baby, it’s okay”. That opened the flood gates and he began sobbing; huge, gut wrenching sobs as if his heart was breaking. I guess he was venting the pent up despair of 15 years. I just held on till he was done. It took a while.
Then, one evening he didn’t show up. I looked at all our regular places but there was no sign of him. Soon, I heard the rumor that the Dutchman had been seen in the area and had grabbed a blonde kid. The Dutchman was the local boogie man that the street kids told tales about to scare each other. He was also a very real child predator. No one knew what he did with the kids he took but no one he grabbed ever returned. It was common on the streets to hear kids say “watch out for the Dutchman.” It wasn’t long before I had to conclude that the Dutchman had taken Denny. The kid couldn’t seem to catch a break. All this went through my head in about half a second while I stared dumbstruck at Denny.
He finally looked up at me and said, “Hi, Joey.”
I plopped down on the low wall and grabbed both his hands. “Denny, you’re alive! I was sure you were dead.”
“No. I’m okay. I probably shouldn’t be talking to you, though. I might get in trouble. Master has eyes everywhere.”
“Master?” That didn’t sound good.
“I’m a household servant of the Sheik. I should go.” He made to get up. I refused to let go of his hands.
“Denny, don’t go. We’re about as secluded as you can get. No one will see. Talk to me. What’s going on? What are you doing here? We really thought the Dutchman got you.”
“I’m not sure where ‘here’ is. Master said we were going on a trip.”
“We’re in Florence.” He looked puzzled. “Italy,” I added.
“That’s in Europe, right? I never had no schooling.”
“Yes, and how did you get here.”
He lowered his eyes and his voice got softer. I saw the old, stoic Denny appearing.
“I did get caught by the Dutchman. It was pretty awful. I was talking to a john, but getting a funny vibe from him. He wanted me to get in the back of his van to do him. I suddenly felt like I didn’t want to be in that van. I tried to bolt but he grabbed me. I got in a few good blows before the van door flew open and I was dragged in. They zip tied me and put a bag over my head. I felt a sting on my arm so I think they shot me up with something. You probably don’t really want to hear the rest. It’s pretty bad.”
“Denny, we’ve always shared everything. You know I care about you. You can tell me.”
He fixed me with his emotionless stare. That alone was frightening. “I woke up in a cage in a warehouse somewhere. There were ten of us. five girls and five boys. The age range was about 12 to 16 I figured. I was pretty sure I was the oldest. The girls were in one cage and we boys were in another. Most of the girls were crying but the boys were just huddled together looking scared.
“His face flushed a bit and his breathing became shallower, but he paused a few moments and got himself back under control. “I really don’t like to talk about it.”
“That’s okay, you don’t have to. I’m just so glad to see you alive and looking so well. That’s enough for me.”
“No, you said you wanted to hear it all. I think you need to.” After a pause he continued, “A real ugly guy came in later and talked to us. He said he was Van Hoek, who we call the Dutchman. He said we were now his property. If we cooperated we would be well, if we did not it would be ‘unpleasant’. We were taken out of our cages and walked to another room. We were stripped and washed with hoses. We were put back in the cages but with only a blanket each, no clothes.
“Van Hoek came back in with a couple of his men talking about us like animals. He didn’t seem to care if we heard what was to become of us. I guess he wanted to keep us scared. He was saying that he had an order from somebody named Marco who need two girls and a boy for a snuff film. He pointed to two of the girls and said they were too ugly to be good whores so he’d send them. His men took them out of the cage and led them away. When they came back he came over to our cage. After a moment he told his men to take the redhead. They pulled out this kid, he couldn’t have been more than twelve and took him away. You know what a snuff film is, don’t you, Joey?”
“Yeah, they torture and kill them on camera. That’s so sick.”
“Well, the Dutchman was a sick fuck. At the far end of the room was a metal table. The Dutchman’s men took one of the boys, a sweet looking black haired kid and led him to the table. He started to fight when he saw the tie downs on the table. The men strapped him down in a spread eagle position with another strap across his waist. The so-called doctor lifted the boy’s prick and taped it to his stomach. Then reaching between the boy’s stretched legs he sliced through the little piece of skin that held his balls to his body. The boy was screaming like crazy. The doctor just packed a lot of wads of bandages between his legs, they unstrapped him and put an adult diaper on him to hold the cotton in place and brought him back to the cage. We were scared to death. One by one they did us all, cut our fucking balls off without any painkiller. When we were done, they set about getting rid of the other three girls.
“All of us in that room were from the streets so won’t none of us virgins, but it was still rape what they did to those girls. Whenever they felt like it some of his men would come in and grab a girl, take her over to a mattress in the corner and fuck her. I guess we were lucky none of them liked boys. I guess it don’t really matter ‘cause they were going to a couple of whorehouses down in Jersey that had young girls who ‘like it rough’.
“In a couple of days I could unbend from my balled up position but it still hurt. The black haired boy’s wound turned bad. He got real sick. The doctor decided it would be too much trouble to keep him so he told his men to ‘dispose of him’.” A single tear slid down Denny’s cheek. He angrily brushed it away.
“Besides me there was another blonde and a very young brown haired boy, probably 13. The Dutchman said he was shipping him to a warlord somewhere. One of his men said it was his third order this year. The Dutchman said Ratso liked to play rough. His boys didn’t last very long. He said we final two were going to Africa and the Middle East. Because of our blonde hair we would be very valuable as house slaves. Having a blonde servant is a very high status symbol in their cultures. I ended up in the Sheik’s house.”
“Wow,” I said, rather stupidly. “So you are a slave? Isn’t that, like, illegal?”
“It is very real where I live. I don’t know about anywhere else.”
“So you what, scrub floors, pick cotton?”
“Joey, don’t be stupid. He uses me for sex.” Now this was just getting too weird.
“I thought that was just made up for porno movies and stuff. People don’t really do that.”
“You’re dumb if you think that. Sex is big business in my country. I was trained for several weeks before I came to Master. It was a very painful time I try not to remember. My master has six wives and ten concubines. I am a concubine, but they call me a body servant. When allowed, I bathe and dress the master as well as attend him in bed. My duties are light. He mainly prefers women.”
“But, Denny. That’s just so wrong. This is the twenty-first century. No one should be a slave, especially a sex slave. Can’t you see that?”
“You never did tell me how you got here,” he quickly changed the subject. “Last time I saw you we were sharing a box in an alley.”
“A lot can happen in four years. In my case a pimp inadvertently left me twenty-three million dollars.”
“Yes. I’m rich. Crazy, huh? Hey, that’s it. I can buy you from the Sheik. You can be free. I don’t care what it costs, I can afford it. I’m sure the Contessa will help me convince the Sheik.”
“No, Joey. Stop.”
“What?” I thought it was a great idea.
“Let it be. What would I do if you freed me? Live off you for the rest of my life? I have only one real skill and it’s not talked about in polite company. I can’t even read. I would probably end up where I was a few years ago, cold, hungry and on the street. Forced to have sex with strangers, risking Allah knows what dangers at every turn. My master cares about me and cares for me. I am a member of his house. I have family. He never beats us and he has promised to never sell me. When he dies I will be freed with a pension and a residence on his estate.”
“But it’s wrong. He forces you to have sex. That’s rape.”
“You weren’t so concerned with the niceties of it four years ago when it was your legs up in the air,” he said. “The will to survive forced you to have sex just as surely as my master forces me. And besides, I love my master. He is good to me. He likes to have me serve wine at his banquets so everyone can see what a beautiful body slave he has. If some important guy seems interested, Master will sometimes offer to let him have me for the night. He also allows his younger sons access to me to keep them away from respectable girls. Both of them are quite hot. You’d do them in a heartbeat. So it’s not all bad. Except for that night in our box when you put your arms around me, I had never had anyone show me they cared. Never. In my master’s house I am loved. People care about me. Can you imaging being cold all your life and then suddenly finding a blanket? It works for me. And I am picking up some skills. I am fluent in Arabic and am beginning to learn to read it. I’m learning to make friends and trust people. That’s a major thing for me. For the first time in my entire life I feel…safe,” it took him a moment to find the word. “And that’s as close to happy as I can probably ever get.”
I wanted to argue it with him. I wanted to tell him about Stockholm Syndrome. No matter how you dress it up, slavery is wrong. But he was also one of the best friends I had ever had. I had loved him then and I love him now. So I hugged him and kissed him and said maybe we’d get a chance to see each other again before he left.
“I doubt it,” he said. “I’m not supposed to mingle with freemen.” Once again, I gritted my teeth. But I did have a germ of an idea. I talked with the Contessa about it. Of course she was in from the word go because she loves a good conspiracy. She made the pitch to the Sheik who was only too happy to do what he could to please his hostess.
So, two nights after my encounter with Denny there was a soft scratch at my bedroom door.
“Come,” I called.
Without looking up, the young man slipped in, knelt on the floor and said, “his excellency Jahar al Said bin Hassan would like to offer you my services tonight, Master.”
“Wonderful,” I said happily. His head jerked up.
“Yes, you said the Sheik sometimes lends you out, so I decided to get in on a good deal.” Denny’s face was turning red. I hoped he didn’t think I was making fun of what he is.
“Don’t worry. I just want you to lie in bed like we used to do in our box, and talk and giggle and just be young. Think you can do that?”
“Of course, Master. Your wish is my command.” And Denny actually smiled.
Denny was gone when I awoke. The Sheik and his entourage left that evening. I don’t know if I’ll ever see Denny again, but, hey, I’m rich. I may find myself travelling near the Middle East someday. Why not drop in on my old friend Sheik Jahar. As a visiting dignitary I might even get the services of that cute blonde boy.