While I paid for my gas, he made a call on his cell phone, and by the time I returned to my vehicle it had all been arranged. I would pay him $100 for the referral and I would pay the girl $300 for sex. I gave him the name of my hotel, along with my room number and cell phone number. I warned him that I would not pay him unless he delivered on his promises. He reassured me with all the charm and experience of a used car salesman before quickly vanishing into the night.
I was not back at my hotel room for long when I received a knock on my door. Standing outside was the same man I had met while pumping gas. He was in the company of a small Latino girl who was exactly as he had described her. Emily entered my room with the same forced smile, hiding a combination of dread, desperation and fear that I had seen in the eyes of so many girls in so many different countries. I duly paid the man his $100 and he left, leaving Emily to deal with me alone.
I quickly put Emily at ease by explaining that while I would pay her the agreed sum of $300, I did not want nor expect her to have sex with me. Instead I repeated my earlier ruse that I was a businessman who was bringing a number of clients to the area and that I wanted to secure the services of a number of beautiful girls who would be available to pleasure them upon their arrival. My manner as much as my story put Emily at ease, and it was only then that she began to relax.
Sixteen-year-old Emily then told me her story. She had recently traveled to the United States from Puerto Rico with her mother. However not long after their arrival, her mother died, and Emily was left alone and very vulnerable. Into this void stepped a man named Steve. Steve was a pimp and had little difficulty in providing all of the reassurance and affection Emily needed. Once he had sufficiently ensnared her in his web of deceit and manipulation, Steve put her to work in the strip clubs, truck stops and cheap hotels on the outskirts of Atlanta. She explained how she was forced to work every day, either prostituting herself to truck drivers and hotel patrons or having sex in the back rooms of a nearby strip club. She could not hide her tears as she lamented her plight and the very different dreams her mother had held for her future once they had arrived in the United States.
Having covertly recorded our conversation, I hoped that it might somehow be used by local law enforcement to intervene in some way. I then asked if I could speak with Steve directly under the guise of needing to secure additional women.
Emily duly pulled a cell phone out of her pocket and called her pimp, communicating in quick and dutiful sentences what I was proposing. After hanging up she informed me that Steve had agreed to meet with me that evening. Following Emily's directions, I drove back through the city to the same industrial area I had visited earlier. We arrived at a large, dirty, rundown and very dark apartment block, and Emily duly escorted me inside.
The interior was even worse than the outside, with bars on the windows and around doorways, an overpowering stench of urine and body odor, and anxious-looking men and women eyeing me suspiciously as they passed me in the hallway. Emily took me to the hallway outside an apartment on the seventh floor, where she asked me to wait while she disappeared inside. I was beginning to wonder whether anyone would ever emerge, when suddenly a very large and muscular black male with a very mean look on his face stepped into the hallway. With eyes flashing and teeth clenched, he approached me quickly and, in a very threatening and intimidating manner, demanded to know what I wanted and why I was in his space.
While every part of my body screamed at me to run in the other direction, I calmly informed him that I wanted to make him some money. This stopped him in his tracks and gave him pause to reconsider his original plan of attack. I repeated the same proposal I had earlier explained to Emily in the hope that this would en- sure that I left the building with my head still attached to my body and that it may have even led to further evidence against Steve.
After mulling over my suggestion, Steve agreed to help. He said he could supply even younger and more beautiful girls than Emily, and insisted that I would not be disappointed. As if to ensure that others would not thwart or compete with his new business venture, he escorted me from the building, and we agreed to meet again the following day. Unfortunately, when Steve and I met again, he had reverted to his paranoid, angry self and was so intent on playing the angry bully that it became impossible to negotiate with him further. He was completely unable to see beyond his immediate gratification and short-term profit, nor was he willing to release Emily or any of the other girls from under his immediate control.
Before I left Atlanta I met with several police officers responsible for the jurisdiction where Steve was operating, and I provided them with copies of all of the intelligence I had gathered to date. I hoped that they would be able and willing to intervene and use the information to prosecute Steve and place Emily in the care of a child welfare agency. However while they were grateful for the information, the officers explained that they did not have the political support of the city behind them to proactively pursue those involved in the sex industry. They went on to explain that Atlanta was an entrenched area for those advocating for the rights of women to prostitute themselves and that the scrutiny of law enforcement was generally viewed as an unwelcome and unnecessary intrusion.