My name is Andrew Parker. I work as a freelancer at the age of 33. My profession is a rather unusual one. In short, I purchase and sell mining licenses. Mainly in the third world. Mainly in areas not really high on anyone’s list of favorite travel destinations.
The job is not free of risk. There is a lot of money involved, a lot of dangerous guys, a lot of corruption, rivaling local war lords and so on. What usually is not involved is a working justice or police. Actually, the whole business tends to be quite dangerous. At least most of the more lucrative jobs.
So I have to rely on my contacts and on the honesty of my business partners. But I’m quite experienced and I’ve never been hurt or deceived so far. But I know that some of my competitors have died of unnatural causes, mostly involving lead poisoning.
The upside is that I’m rich. Very rich, indeed. My business is quite profitable. I’ve been able to avoid my premature death for almost ten years now. The result is a nice pile of money on my bank accounts. I could retire immediately without a problem, but I like my work. I get to know many countries and interesting people. And I’ve realized that even the most brutal warlords are often quite decent guys in private. And the job is quite exciting sometimes.
Of course, I see some rather disturbing things. Violence, slavery, war. My rule is not to try to change or criticize these people. They are living in a completely different world. I’m not in a position to judge them.
Today, my destination is Udmuristan. I’m going to meet Akmur Karimov. I would describe him as a local warlord, although there is currently no actual war going on in Udmuristan. But there certainly is no real government existing outside of the capital city Astura. The rest of the country is controlled by Akmur and four other warlords. I know three of them personally. Sometimes they fight each other, sometimes they are allies, you never know what to expect. The situation can change on a daily basis.
This time, I’m interested in buying the license for a potential copper mine from Akmur. This license has been issued by the government in Astura, so it’s officially valid and marketable. Akmur has gained it in some deal with the government. It’s better not to know too many details. Prospectors have already checked it and have come up with promising results, but I will check on my own, like I always do.
After landing in Astura in an old Tupolev and passing a weird immigration procedure, an endless and shaky ride in one of Akmur’s Land Cruisers begins. After we leave Astura, two other Toyotas join us, loaded with armed guys. Standard procedure.
After I’ve been jarred thoroughly, Akmur welcomes me to his “humble shack.” Which is, in fact, a medium sized palace. I like him and his sense of humor and I think he likes me too. We shake hands cordially. Hugging would be appropriate at this point in South America, but certainly not here. These guys cultivate a distinctive homophobia.
Of course, on the day of my arrival, speaking seriously about business would be impolite. It might be mentioned, but it is agreed that everything on the first day can not be taken seriously. Akmur makes a big show of wining and dining me. Hospitality is very important here, even if your host plans to kill you afterwards.
While we eat, local girls dance in various, mostly quite revealing outfits. I know that most of these girls are probably slaves. Slavery is quite common here.
Later in the evening, the dancer’s clothing gets even more sparse. After ten, they are nude altogether.
Obviously, the sly dog wants to distract me. While I watch the girls, he offers the license for 2 millions. I just laugh.
“Akmur, nice try. But you know, I’ve seen titties before. My brain is not completely bloodless now.”
He laughs. We’re just having fun.
I have a potential buyer for 3,2 million. But I don’t want to really start bargaining now, it would spoil the fun. The real negotiation will take place tomorrow. Today the guest has to be greeted and pampered, according to the local tradition.
Akmur claps his hands.
To my surprise, a stunning blonde European or American woman enters. She might be about 25 years old. She’s almost nude, has an outstandingly beautiful, aristocratic face and a killer body. She’d certainly qualify as a centerfold immediately. Now, this is something you rarely see here. I’m intrigued.
She calmly starts to dance in a very erotic way and slowly strips. She seems to be very confident and is taking her time. Wow, this is beyond hot. I’m totally captivated. I’m quite certain that this is the most erotic view I’ve ever laid my eyes on. Akmur notices and looks smug.
“Akmur, where did you get her?” I ask as casually as possible. Of course, he understands that I’m fascinated.
“I’ve bought her about a year ago. You like her?”
“She’s certainly pretty.”
“You want her to join you in your bed tonight?”
Oh my, this is more than tempting. But I don’t want to use a slave. Women should be in my bed out of their free will. It wouldn’t be enjoyable for both of us otherwise.
“No. But does she speak the local dialect?” Declining this offer took all of my available will power. She is really mouth-watering.
“Yes, she has learned it quite quickly. She’s smart. I think she’s been at an American college before she came here.”
Of course, she has been kidnapped. It’s no big deal here. Women are merchandise. But obviously she’s American. It’s rare that they abduct American or European women. It’s risky and it’s usually not Akmur’s style. He’s clever and avoids any unnecessary risks. So he probably has purchased her from someone else.
“I’d like her to accompany me tomorrow when I visit the mining site. Would that be acceptable for you?”
“Certainly, my friend. Certainly.” Yeah, sure, his friend. He’d sell or kill me in the blink of an eye if it would be an advantage for him. But still, he’s right. Somehow, we’re friends. Friendship, business and death are completely separated here.
I spend an uneasy night, mostly thinking about her. After breakfast, which has been served by other servants - probably also slaves - the blonde American joins me in the patio. Two Land Cruisers are parked there. One is packed with four armed guys - our bodyguards. Ours is empty - except for the driver and his AK-47.
“Good morning,” I greet her. Damn, she’s looking so beautiful and proud, even in the casual clothes she wears today. And even being a slave. She doesn’t reply, of course she doesn’t. She’s a slave and she knows the rules. I have to keep myself from boorishly staring at her in admiration.
We get into the back seats and both cars hit the road. If you are inclined to call this strip of dirt a road.
“So, I’m Andrew. Andrew Parker. Most people call me Andy.”
She looks incredulous at my outstretched hand. She’s between a rock and a hard place. If she rejects me, it would be rude and she might be in trouble. If she takes it and talks to me, she will break the slave rules too. It’s mean, but I need to break the ice.
“I’m Lela.” She shakes my hand briefly. Nice voice. I could get used to it. I realize that I’m quite fascinated.
“Is that your real name?”
She watches the driver fearfully and doesn’t respond. We continue the drive in silence. I don’t want to cause more trouble for her. Although the landscape is exceedingly boring, I look out of the window to avoid staring at her again.
We finally reach the potential mining site. I get off the car and just wander around. I regard the hills, the rocks, the landscape and take the whole scenery in. I see a small village about half a mile down the hill. I motion Lela to follow me and start to go towards it. The bodyguards want to follow us but I motion them to stay behind. Which they do, a little surprisingly.
Now Lela and I are finally alone for the first time.
“Okay, now you can speak. I need you as my interpreter. I want to talk to the people living in this village. Can you do that?”
“You can speak freely while we’re alone. Akmur will not know about it.”
She nods curtly but doesn’t answer. So she’s still cautious. Smart woman. She doesn’t know if she can trust me.
But in the village she serves just fine as an interpreter. She speaks the local dialect fluent. She seems to be quite intelligent. I enjoy watching her while she talks to the locals. She says that they are quite positive about the potential mine, enthusiastic even. I ask Lela if she thinks that they are sincere. She thinks they are. There’s not much work to have in this remote area. They hope for a better living. Of course, she could be lying because Akmur wants her to. It’s an important detail for the value of the mining license. If the local population supports it, the mine will run smoothly. I decide to trust her.
We leave the village and slowly walk towards the potential mining site. I need to take in the surroundings. I have a feeling for natural resources. I can almost sense them. That’s why the mining companies pay me the big bucks. My licenses are usually profitable. This time, I agree with the prospectors. This one is good, I will buy it.
After our return, I almost immediately meet Akmur. We drink tea and Lela serves it. Of course she does. Akmur wants to keep me distracted.
“So, Andy, what do you think.”
“Akmur, my friend, it’s hard to tell. These prospectors don’t know shit.”
“Right, but you usually do.”
“Yes, but I’m not sure about this one. There is some risk.”
“There always is some risk in life, Andy. Look, what about 1,8?”
This is a surprising turn of events. I’m almost shocked, although I manage not to show it. He needs money. He drops the price too quickly. He’s in trouble, I can sense it. If he really is, he’s already a dead man.
“Akmur, be serious. 1,8? For copper?”
“Make me an offer, Andy.” This will go on for hours, probably. I will start at 1 million. And after about 5 or 6 hours of haggling fun, arguing and having lunch breaks, we will agree on 1,3 or 1,4. But this time it’s different. To his and my own surprise, I decide to take a shortcut. I think I can get away with it because he’s as anxious to finalize this as I am. But we are for completely different reasons.
“Akmur, we both enjoy the haggling. I don’t want to be impolite, but I’d like to shorten it this time. I will make you a one-time offer. It will be very generous.”
He looks at me with an expectant look.
“1,5 and Lela.”
She gasps audibly. Akmur smiles. He knows that this is a good deal.
“Deal, Andy.” We shake hands to finalize the deal.
I look at Lela. She has tears in her eyes, I’m just not sure why. I have no idea how she feels about being sold.
“Akmur, I will transfer the money as usual. But I want to take her with me when I depart tomorrow. Is that okay for you?”
“Certainly, my friend. Certainly. A man has his needs.” He smiles. He seems to be very happy. He needs the money desperately. I pity him a little. He’s not a bad man, regarding the circumstances. I hope he enjoys his short remaining lifespan.
“Thank you, my friend. I will have to organize a private jet this time to avoid customs trouble in Astura. I don’t know how much time this will take.”
“Andy, you’re always welcome in my humble home. Stay as long as you want.”
He certainly means it, but I’m not feeling good about it. I always try to stay in these countries as shortly as possible to minimize the risk. Of course, my hosts must never know that. That would be a bad, maybe deadly insult.
“Lela, Andy is now your owner. Serve him well.”
“I understand, master. Master Andy, please accept me as your slave.”
Wow, this is weird and awkward. But I can’t avoid having a small boner. “You are accepted,” I answer in what I hope is regarded as a solemn tone. I’m not sure what else might be expected of me. I’ve never participated in a slave trading ceremony. She bows her head. I think I might detect a hint of a smile. I wish I knew what’s going on in that beautiful head.
I immediately try to organize a private jet and I’m able to get one for tomorrow. Great.
After we’ve retreated into my rooms, I’d really like to explain the true situation to her. But my rooms will be bugged with microphones and cameras, so I have to be cautious. Akmur certainly expects me to fuck her. For some reason, men in this part of the world really want to make sure that their business partners are not gay. But I’ve fucked some of Akmur’s girls in the past (for that very reason) and I’m quite safe in that regard.
So I just spend the time reading. She stays attentively at my side. I hate that but I have no choice right now. I wink at her once and she also winks, barely noticeable. Smart girl. We both understand the situation.
Finally, we are being driven to the airport in Astura. Lela is dressed casually and is carrying a surprisingly small bag with her belongings. Our private jet is already waiting. Without any customs check we enter and immediately depart.
The moment of truth has come.
“Okay Lela. We’re safe now. We’re heading for Los Angeles. That means you’re not a slave any more.”
She remains silent. Maybe she doesn’t know what to say. Maybe she’s still unsure about her situation. I need to break the ice a little.
“What’s your real name?”
Lela, Laura ... why had anyone bothered to change her name in the first place when they are that similar? Just because he could, I suppose. Maybe this is some kind of power demonstration or a tradition. I realize that I have no idea about the practical side of slavery. And that I don’t really need to find out.
“Okay, Laura. Please don’t call yourself Lela again. That part of your life is over. Do you have a family somewhere?”
“Yes, a sister and my parents. At least I hope so.”
Her impassive face begins to show some emotions finally.
“Are you married? Do you have a boyfriend?”
“How did you get into this mess anyway?”
“By being foolish. I wanted to travel into the Caucasus region on my own. Show everybody how strong and independent I am. That I don’t need a man to protect me.”
“Oh, wow. That’s foolish for sure. How long did you last?”
“Two days. I was kidnapped, sold and then sold again to Akmur. You know him?”
Good, this is the first time that she asks me something. That’s a good sign because it’s inappropriate behavior for a slave. “Yes, I know him. I’ve done some business with him in the past. And before you ask - yes, I know that these guys are involved in slavery. And violence, war. I don’t like it, but I can’t change it and I don’t criticize them.”
“Of course, I don’t blame you. I blame only myself.”
“How long have you been there?”
“About two years.”
“Do you need medical assistance?”
“No, I’ve been tested regularly. I’m healthy.”
“Okay, Laura. Maybe the U.S. immigration will have some questions about you. I will call my lawyer now. He can prepare our arrival. Please speak with him and give him some information about yourself.”
“Of course. Andy?”
“Have you done such a thing before?”
“Why have you done it for me?”
“I’d prefer not to answer that right now.” She smiles a little. I blush. “And Laura, please promise me not to feel obligated to me. I did that for myself and you owe me nothing.”
“Sure.” But she winks suspiciously.
I call Tom, my lawyer, and explain the situation. He’s used to some strange bullshit from me, but this is on a new level even for my standard. He asks Laura a lot of questions. I learn that she’s 27 years old, was at a Boston college, her last name is Stephens and that her parents live in a small town in the midwest. After she hangs up, she gives the phone back to me.
“Laura, do you know your parents’ phone number?”
“I think so. If it’s still the same.”
Laura suddenly starts to cry now. This takes me by surprise. She’s been so strong all the time. And now she tears up?
“I’m not sure if I can,” she says, still sobbing.
“May I help you?”
“If you would?” She looks so vulnerable now.
I can’t help it, I’m falling for her. Not that I ever had any illusions about my motives for rescuing her. But now I’m falling even harder.
“Carl Stephens speaking.”
“Mr. Stephens, my name is Andrew Parker. Do you have a daughter named Laura?”
“YES! I have. I have. Do you know anything about her? Where is she? Is she well?”
“She is. She’s sitting here with me. I’m bringing her back to the U.S. Do you want to talk to her?”
“YES. YES. PLEASE. THANK YOU! BRENDA! BREENDAAAA! COME DOWN HERE QUICKLY! IT’S LAURA! SHE’S ALIVE! COME...”
I hear a lot of commotion in the background and hand the phone to Laura. Wow, this scene alone was worth the 100K or 200K I’ve spent for her. I feel my eyes water.
“Dad?” she asks tentatively and starts to sob again. She suddenly sounds like a little girl. “Yes, dad, I seem to be coming home.” “No, you don’t want to know.” “Yes, I’m reasonably well and healthy.” “To L.A., I think.” “Mr. Parker, Andy did. He saved me.” “Yes, you can. I love you both too.” “They want to speak to you.”
“Yes, Andy here.”
“Andy, I don’t know what happened. But I want to thank you. I will probably do that a lot in the future if I have the chance. When can we see her?”
“I’m not sure about the immigration procedure. She obviously has no passport.”
“Oh, I have a passport.”
“Oh, wow. Then we’ll have to call Tom. That makes things easy. We wouldn’t have needed the private jet in that case.”
“Oh, you chartered that for me?”
“Wow.” She looks impressed and pleased.
“Ah, Andy,” Laura’s dad says. “Can we see her?”
“Of course. I plan to bring her to my house in Los Angeles. Afterwards she can decide where she wants to go. I will support her in any way I can, whatever she decides. I feel responsible for her.”
“Why do you feel responsible?”
“Ah, long story. I kind of own her.” I laugh a little. Laura laughs openly now, for the first time. I just stare at her, open-mouthed. Oh, my god. I’m in love. Badly.
“Never mind. That’s just nonsense.” Laura shakes her head, still smiling.
“Andy, would she have made it out of there if you hadn’t been there?”
“No, not in the foreseeable future. Your dad asked if you would have made it out of there on your own.”
I give Mr. Stephens my phone number and address in L.A. and hang up. Afterwards I call Tom and tell him to stop his immigration preparations, feeling foolish that I haven’t even asked Laura about her passport.
“Never mind. I could have told you.” She laughs, knowing exactly what I’ve been thinking.