She is soon shocked to discover, however, that she has been sold to a ruthless gang involved with human and drug trafficking. By miraculous chance, the enslaved Marisa is able to get word of her plight home to her father.
Her father trades everything he has to reach Canada, where he employs the assistance of washed-up former Toronto drug squad officer, Dan Huberman. Together, they are able to discover Marisa's location, but finding the young woman is only the beginning of their troubles. The gang takes swift and brutal retribution, sending Dan and Marisa on the run for their lives.
Their only hope is in gathering evidence to implicate the gang leader, a merciless Chechen warlord, and by doing so diminish the gang's far-reaching power. Dan soon realizes this case isn't just about Marisa; it's also about the ghost of his dead daughter, who died because of his own mistakes. By saving Marisa, he may find peace ... but staying alive can be difficult when you don't know who to trust, and the line between loyalty and betrayal is so blurred.
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.79(d)|
Read an Excerpt
CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY
By Paul Michael Dubal
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2011 Paul Michael Dubal
All right reserved.
Chapter OneAs she lay chained to the bed in the squalid Montreal flat, Marisa Dimitrov reflected on the events that had brought her to this terrible life. Travelling to a country that offered so much opportunity, she would never have believed the cruelty she would suffer.
Marisa had endured abject poverty living in a remote village in South-western Bulgaria at the base of the wonderful Pirin Mountains. At least there she had her cherished family.
Despite everything, Marisa's family had always been close and pulled together even when things appeared desperate. When her father Vasil lost his job at the Petar Dodov steel mill in Satovcha the family did not give up.
"We will get through this," he urged his family. "I will find another job, and soon." Her mother, Marisa and her younger brother and sister nodded in agreement but with very little conviction. Even her father did not really believe it, but he was a proud man and would not let his family see the worry that twisted him inside. A strong but simple man, his voice boomed across the bare wooden table as if the louder he spoke the more likely it was to come true.
As Marisa looked around the bare walls of their crumbling stone cottage, she realized her father, at forty-six years of age, would probably never work again. All of her seventeen years had been a fight to keep the family's head above water, but this time there was no escape from the merciless claws of poverty. Later that evening, she heard her father quietly sobbing in the coal bunker, the only place where one could find any privacy in the small cottage. She wanted to rush in and comfort him, but her father would never allow his children to see him like this. A Bulgarian man's duty was to his family, to provide a shelter and food for the table. Once the man of the house lost the ability or means to do this, he was somehow emasculated, less than a man. Marisa knew her father's tears were as much to do with his wounded pride as the bleak future now staring them in the face.
As she took the long walk back from her local college the following day, stepping between the muddy potholes on a drab, cloudy day, she reflected on her family's desperate situation. So many families in the village had been affected in the same way, yet that did not make it any easier. The village was so poor, it only survived through sheer determination that its people would have some kind of life, despite the humiliating effects of poverty. Tonight her family would huddle together in their living room, afraid even to light the log fire for fear their meagre stock of wood would soon be depleted.
She thought about her friend Deyana, who had talked about earning a living abroad. Marisa had confided in her, and while walking to their next class, Deyana had suggested the possibility of working abroad.
Marisa was sceptical. "Working abroad? Where? To do what?"
Deyana replied, "Have you not seen the posters at college, or heard the radio adverts? You can work as a nanny or au pair in somewhere like America or Western Europe and earn ten times as much as you would get here. You could have a brilliant time and still have enough money to send home. That's what I am going to do when I have finished college."
This had set Marisa thinking hard. Why wait to finish her education? The only reason she was studying now was because she could not find a job locally and her social studies course was incredibly boring anyway. Her family needed the money now. With her father out of work, her brother and sister too young, and her mother occupied with supporting the family, only Marisa really had the chance to bring some money to the family. The more she thought about it, the more the idea grew. Her brain nurtured the idea into a plan of action and the next day she decided she would find out about the opportunities available.
The college library was a useful source of information, but it was a small, amateurish poster which drew her attention. Against a backdrop of a poorly drawn Rocky Mountains scene, the poster proclaimed "Work in Canada" and gave a contact number and few other details, except a list of jobs—waitress, au pair, nanny, or a customer service rep, whatever that was. She knew very little about Canada, but had heard of its vast and beautiful scenery, and she could not stop thinking about it all day.
When she arrived home that evening, she peered at her parents' exhausted faces, every line of which revealed the abject poverty that haunted them day by day. It was more an existence than a life, a battle for survival that gradually eroded their willpower like waves beating endlessly against a cliff. With the loss of the family's sole income, the battle had just become much harder. Her father smiled weakly at her as she entered, but it was the hollow expression in his eyes that betrayed how he really felt. She saw fear, for his family and for their future.
By then her mind was made up. "I have decided to work in Canada," she blurted out to her parents.
Her father's smile faded rapidly and her mother stopped her kitchen chores and came to the table.
"Canada?" exclaimed her father. "Why?" His voice had the disapproving air she knew so well.
"Papa, look at us! We cannot live like this. We have no money coming in to the house."
"I told you before Marisa I will find a job!" he replied. "It just takes time, that's all." His tone of voice fooled no-one, not even himself.
Her mother looked concerned but said nothing.
"Papa, I know you are trying but look at us. Look at the people in the village!" She felt her voice rising. "There is nothing here for us. Deyana says they earn really good money in Canada. If I can find a job in Canada I can send money back."
"What job will you do in Canada?"
"I can be an au pair or waitress, anything, it doesn't matter!" she said.
"You are still at college. You must complete your studies," he replied flatly.
"What good is a college education if there is no job at the end of it Papa?" she screamed.
Her father banged his fist on the table in a rare moment of passion. "No I will not hear of it. We will be okay. We will get some money somehow." His voice had an air of finality to it, but Marisa's mother, having observed silently, decided to intervene.
"Listen to the child, Vasil. We have nothing here," she said, gently squeezing her husband's hand.
He pulled away from her and stood up. "No, I will not break up this family," he shouted and stormed off to the coal bunker to smoke another roll up, even that remaining pleasure threatened by their financial situation.
She could still picture the expression on his face, his stubborn refusal to accept what had happened to his family. Her mother had not liked the idea, either, but she also knew how obstinate Marisa could be and had finally agreed to speak to her husband.
As Marisa lay in bed at night shivering in the room she shared with her sister and brother, she had decided to enquire about Canada with or without her parents' blessing. Marisa had rarely left this region of Bulgaria throughout her life, and she was tired of the village. She did not want to be around to see it slowly dying in front of her, while her family stayed here helpless. Her mind was made up as she drifted into a restless sleep.
Chapter TwoMarisa's friend Deyana had agreed to accompany her to the international recruiter's office. Marisa felt rather guilty that she was skipping lectures, especially when her mother had cheerfully waved farewell with a "Have a good day at college!" She did not like deceiving them and her unease at having to do so increased when Deyana sent a text just before they were due to meet to say she had remembered a late assignment and had to submit it that day. The message ended with an embarrassed apology which only served to reinforce Marisa's sense of unease about this venture.
As she took the long bus ride through the picturesque mountains southwest to Sandanski, she scanned the address of the international recruitment agency she had copied from the poster. She had called the previous day from a pay phone at college and the voice at the other end had been effusive and helpful, urging her to come in and talk about the "opportunity of a lifetime." The man at the agency had been highly persuasive and had urged her to come in and see him immediately. After having talked to him she was convinced she was doing the right thing, but as she sat alone on the bus, watching the mist creeping over the sweeping valley below, and the rain start to drum against the windows of the bus, she began to feel some nagging doubts.
She arrived in town by late morning. She had never been to Sandanski and her enquiries at the bus station for directions to the office yielded only blank stares. She asked a taxi driver who offered to take her there but he turned away in disgust when she explained she wanted directions only and could not afford the ride. He vaguely pointed in the general direction of the streetcars and she headed to them and checked the route. She took a streetcar to the edge of town near the street where the office was located. It was the last stop and when she arrived she was the last one to alight. As the streetcar circled back to repeat its journey in the opposite direction, Marisa walked briskly through the quiet street of run down grimy looking buildings, and was relieved to quickly find the address she was looking for. The tall, dingy building had the number scratched on the inside and a few peeling nameplates, one which showed the agency she was looking for was on the fifth floor. The stairwell smelt damp and banished all light from outside, and the wall light had long since been vandalized. She carefully climbed the narrow stone steps, spotting graffiti in the gloom and knocked timidly at the door.
She heard movement within the office and the click of a spy hole. The door opened and she was greeted by a pockmarked, scowling face which instantly broke into a wide grin at the sight of Marisa.
"Ah, you must be Marisa," the man smiled, extending his hand. "I am Georgi—we spoke on the phone. Come in, come in. Follow me please."
Marisa smiled back and shook his hand and followed him through the outer office into a small room stacked with boxes and papers. The office felt bright after the gloomy stairwell, but the windows were grubby, as if they had not been washed in years, and the office untidy. She had expected to see an array of consultants and secretaries but it was clear Georgi was alone. Maybe everyone was at lunch or the secretaries had the day off, thought Marisa. He cleared a chair of boxes and beckoned her to the seat and he squeezed his obese frame behind his large desk, grunting as he did so.
He regarded Marisa across the desk, saying nothing, just a lecherous grin on his face, revealing broken yellow teeth, his double chin wobbling. Marisa smiled weakly in return, trying not to show her discomfort. It felt like he was mentally undressing her, and she could not meet his steady gaze.
Georgi broke the awkward silence. "So tell me Marisa, why would you like to work in Canada?"
As Marisa explained her circumstances, Georgi listened with real empathy, letting her talk but gently interrupting now and then to clarify something. He scratched at some of the spots on his cheek as he listened and nodded approvingly, and Marisa's initial sense of unease wore off. She began to feel more relaxed as Georgi seemed supportive.
"A beautiful girl like you would have no trouble finding a good position as a nanny or au pair in a good Canadian home. Canadians are good people and they will treat you well. All of our clients prefer to have live-in nannies. That means you will not have to worry about accommodation or transport when you get there. In fact, my colleagues will even take you to your place of work when you arrive in Canada. Everything will be taken care of for you. We can even arrange your working visa."
He gave a leering grin again. "I think someone like you will be just the person the clients want. I do hope you will join our project."
Marisa blushed. Despite being flabby and full of acne, with an odd leer, he had a certain charm. It was a long time since anyone had been so complimentary to her. It felt good for her self esteem. Even her parents had forgotten how to be really nice to her.
As she thought about her parents, a twinge of guilt stabbed at her. "I don't think my parents would approve of me doing this."
Georgi leaned across the desk and took her hand in his sticky, fleshy palms. Although repulsed by the gesture, she did not move her hand away. "Marisa, let me tell you. We have hundreds of girls like you working all over the world making a good income and sending money to their families so they can survive. Many of their mothers and fathers objected at first but they soon saw the benefit because the money those girls sent back became their lifeline. They may not understand at first but when they start receiving money from you—then they will understand and they will love you for it. You can make them very proud of you." He squeezed her hand before letting go, still grinning in that disconcerting way.
"Well I have made up my mind, I want to do this."
Georgi's face brightened. "Good, good, let me get the papers." He quickly delved into a drawer and pulled out a crinkled bundle of papers. "I took the liberty of preparing the documents before you came. I knew you were a sensible girl when I spoke to you on the phone. Please sign at the bottom."
Marisa scanned the papers. It was full of small writing and grouped into numbered paragraphs full of legal jargon. She could feel Georgi's eyes boring into her, waiting expectantly for her to sign. "What is this charge—one thousand Euros?"
Georgi forced a smile. "Oh, did I forget to mention? It is the agency's fee for finding a position for you, arranging the visa, and it even covers the airfare. It is really good value."
"But I don't have one thousand Euros," replied Marisa.
"Don't worry," he assured her. "There are no fees up front. My agency will cover it. You just need to pay us back in stages when you are settled in Canada. It is much easier for you this way and you will have it paid off before long. If you are lucky sometimes your employer will pay toward it."
Marisa shrugged. Did she really think that travelling to Canada and getting a job would be free? Georgi was right—for the work his agency was doing, it did not seem too much. Once in Canada, she would pay it back as quickly as possible so she could start putting money aside for her parents. She barely gave it another thought as she signed the contract, thinking instead about what she would say when she got home.
She spent the next hour discussing the logistics with Georgi. He took copies of her passport to get her a visa and set up bank accounts, or so he claimed, and also gave her details of the flight she would take. Instead of landing at Toronto as she expected, she would fly to London and take a connecting flight to Montreal. From there she would take a local flight to St. John's and then go by land to Toronto. Marisa did not really understand the journey but it did sound rather strange. She thought it was possible to fly direct from Sofia to Toronto.
"Oh don't worry," he assured her. "It's all okay—you will be taken good care of. We do it this way because the air fares are cheaper. We have a good deal with the airlines. This way we can keep the costs down for you. We recognize how hard it is to get to Canada in the first place. It is a slightly longer journey I agree, but it will be worth it. You will love Canada!"
His explanation sounded genuine enough and they agreed Georgi would finalize the travel details and also fix her up with a nice family he knew with two young girls, aged four and two. He would call her in a few days to confirm the arrangements. Within a week she would be on her way to Canada.
As they parted he gave that disgusting grin. "They love brunettes in Toronto." It was an odd comment and one she never really paid much attention to at the time. Also it only occurred to Marisa later that he never once asked if she had ever worked with children.
Excerpted from CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY by Paul Michael Dubal Copyright © 2011 by Paul Michael Dubal. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Should be made into a movie