Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Write for the SUSPENSE and/or THRILLER Genre (10/23/14)
TITLE: Chi San
By Ellen Carr
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The children came to our centre from their rough-built homes, twenty-four straggly-haired children, gathered and marched in a line from disarray to order. Chi San, at sixteen, was the eldest - a slip of a girl but disarmingly beautiful.
The day passed, hectic as always, and David and I sat down to catch our breath.
“We've got to do something about Chi San,' David said. “Something must have happened. Let's go to the compound and ask around.”
“Yes. Someone's got to know something.”
In a dark, smelly hole of a room Chi San sobbed quietly. Mr Lan must not hear her. Already she had felt the force of his foot and the pain of having her arm twisted back behind her.
“Keep quiet,” he had hissed, “Or you'll wish you were dead.”
Water seeped down the wall, and a rat scurried across the floor. From somewhere she heard the cry of another girl, then a sickening thud. She buried her head in her arms as her tears wet her sleeves.
Chi San didn't know why she was a prisoner at Mr Lan's place but she knew that girls had disappeared from the compound before. No-one ever said what happened to them, but she knew it was something bad, very bad.
We reached Chi San's home and there was her mother, outside, stirring a pot on a gas stove. She stood up and gave a little bow.
“Ah, Mister Daveed, Miss Sereeh. You are well?'
We returned the bow, and I spoke. “Yes, very well, thank you See Rein. But we are very worried. Where is Chi San? She hasn't been to our centre since Monday.”
“Chi San have job. Brother find her cook job, with Mr Lan. She earn money for us.”
“Where does Mr Lan live? Where is she working?”
“I not know. Brother, he know.”
David frowned at me and I nodded. We knew something was amiss. Chi San's uncle was a shifty man, not to be trusted.
“Where is your brother, See Rein?” I asked.
See Rein shrugged. “I no see him since Chi San go.”
Stepping away, David whispered, “We've got to rescue her. I have a pretty good idea what that Mr Lan is up to.”
Three days had passed without Chi San leaving the dark room. There was a bowl for a toilet, and once a day a bowl of food was shoved in through the doorway. Today Mr Lan himself opened the door with the food.
“Eat now. You start work in an hour. Mrs Shoi will get you ready. She'll be here in half an hour.”
Chi San shivered. She wasn't cold but she was shaking. Hungry as she was, she could not eat the rice. Footsteps were approaching. She cowered in a corner, screaming inside.
A heavily made-up woman entered the room, shouting, “Stand up now! Come now!”
She poked Chi San with a red-laquered fingernail. “Move now! You make us money!”
She led Chi San to a room full of racks of clothing, grabbed a skimpy red dress and shoved it at Chi San .
“Put this on. Then I make your face beautiful,” she said. “You bring good money.”
It turned out that a boy had followed Chi San when her uncle had taken her away. He had just been curious.
“You give me ten dollar, I take you there,” he offered.
“OK,” said David not even beating the price down. We called our police contact, An Min, who told us to meet him at Mr Lan's. We followed the boy, at a run, and waited for An Min.
In a red-curtained room, Chi San was lined up with seven other girls, sitting on stools.
“You smile! You smile all the time!” ordered Mrs Shoi. Chi San sat stiffly, frozen with fear, forcing herself to smile.
The door sprang open. Four policemen pushed in, grabbing Chi San. She screamed and kicked out wildly at them. Police! Something even worse was about to happen.
Then she saw David and me. She fell into my arms and sobbed uncontrollably.
'You're safe now, Chi San. It's all over,' said David.
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