The Silent Girl
All day, I have been watching the girl. She gives no indication that she's aware of me, although my rental car is within view of the street corner where she and the other teenagers have gathered this afternoon, doing whatever bored kids do to pass the time. She looks younger than the others, but perhaps it's because she's Asian and petite at seventeen, just a wisp of a girl. Her black hair is cropped as short as a boy's, and her blue jeans are ragged and torn. Not a fashion statement, but a result of hard use and life on the streets. She puffs on a cigarette and exhales a cloud of smoke with the nonchalance of a street thug, an attitude that doesn't match her plae face and delicate Chinese features. She is pretty enough to attract the hungry stares of two men who pass by. The girl notices their looks and glares straight back at them, unafraid, but it's easy to be fearless when danger is merely an abstract concept. Faced with a real threat, how would this girl react? I wonder. Would she put up a fight or would she crumble? I want to know what she's made of, but I have not seen her put to the test.
As evening falls, the teenagers on the corner begin to disband. First one and then another wanders away, leaving only the girl, who has nowhere to go. She lingers alone, as though waiting for someone. At last she leaves the corner and walks in my direction, her hands thrust in her pockets. As she passes my car, she looks straight ahead, her gaze fierce, as if she's mentally churning over some dilemma.
She's probably unaware that two men are following her.
Seconds after she walks past my car, I spot the men emerging from an alley; it's the same pair who had stared at her earlier. One of the men looks at me through the windshield, just a quick glance to assess whether I am a threat. What he sees does not concern him in the least. He and his companion move like the confident predators they are, stalking weaker prey.
I step out of my car and follow them. Just as they are following the girl.
She heads into a neighbourhood where buildings stand abandoned, where the sidewalk seems paved with broken bottles. The girl betrays no hesitation, as if this is familiar territory. Not once does she glance back, which tells me she is either foolhardy or clueless about the world and what it can do to girls like her. The men don't glance back either. Even if they were to spot me, they would see nothing to be afraid of. No one ever does.
A block ahead, the girl turns right, vanishing through a door-way. I watch what happens next. The two men pause outside the building the girl has entered, conferring over strategy. Then they, too step inside.
It is a vacant warehouse posted with a NO TRESPASSING notice. I slip inside, into gloom so thick that I pause to let my eyes adjust. I hear the floor creaking. I smell burning candle wax. I see the faint glow of the doorway to my left. I peer into the room beyond.
The girl kneels before a makeshift table, her face lit by one flickering candle. Around her a sleeping-bag, tins of food and a small camping stove. She is struggling with a can opener, unaware of the men closing in from behind. Just as I draw in a breath to shout a warning, the girl whirls round. All she has in her hand is the can opener, a meagre weapon.
'This is my home,' she says. 'Get out.'
I had been prepared to intervene. Instead, I pause where I am to watch what happens next. To see what the girl is made of.
One of the men laughs. 'We're just visiting, honey. You look like you could use the company.'
'You look like you could use a brain.'
Not wise, I think. Now their lust is mingled with anger. Yet the girl stands perfectly calm, brandishing that pitiful kitchen utensil.
As the men lunge, I am ready to spring.
She springs first and her foot thuds straight into the first man's sternum. He staggers, gripping his chest. Before the second man can react, she slams the can opener against the side of his head. He howls and backs away.
This has become interesting.
The first man recovered and rushes at her, slamming into her so hard that they both go sprawling onto the floor. Her fist cracks into his jaw. But with a roar he rolls on top of her, immobilising her with his weight.
Now the second man grabs her wrists, pinning them against the floor. As fierce as she is, the girl is green and untrained, and the inevitable is about to happen. The first man yanks her jeans down past her skinny hips. His arousal is evident. Never is a man more vulnerable to attack.
He doesn't hear me coming. One moment he's unzipping his fly. The next, he's on the floor, loose teeth spilling from his mouth.
The second man is not quick enough. I am tiger and he is nothing more than a lumbering buffalo, helpless against my strike. With a shriek he drops to the ground and, judging by the grotesque angle of his arm, the bone has been snapped in two.
I grab the girl and yank her to her feet. She zips up her jeans. 'Who the hell are you?'
...What happen next? Were the girl be r...?