She’d been worried about her daughter all day. The little girl’s temperature had risen to 38° and she’d called the doctor. Now the child was sleeping in her room quietly after being given a large dose of paracetamol. Rather than let the maid keep an eye on her every half an hour the woman had walked quietly into the bedroom to check for herself. Her daughter seemed fine now and so she would go out after all. When she kissed the child on her forehead she stirred but didn’t wake.
“I’ll be back no later than eleven.”
“Yes, señora. Don’t worry.”
The woman had been working for the agency for about two years. The money was good. On the occasions when she thought about it she realised that it would be impossible to return to her old employment. They’d ask about her records and obviously she couldn’t say. They would want to know why she’d left her last position. That she couldn’t say either. It was because of him, her boss, the way he’d put pressure on her, a certain type of pressure she found humiliating and distressing. A new employer didn’t like to be offered such an answer. Of course it was too negative. In any case it didn’t matter. Now she was working for the agency.
The money was very good. Two years ago they’d lived in a poor part of the city and she’d been paying the woman in the apartment downstairs to take care of her daughter. She’d always had suspicions about that old woman, which she’d had to put out of her mind. It was better now. She had her own maid, a car, a nice address.
On most evenings after her daughter had gone to bed for the night she would pass the time watching TV with something to drink and then she’d receive a call. She’d clutch her bag and go down to the car park in the lift and drive to wherever it was, usually not very far. This was the district where the rich guys lived. She’d be away for several hours. Then she’d get dressed again and come back to the apartment. Usually she would have had a meal – the guys would take her out beforehand. In eveningwear she was beautiful enough for them to enjoy being seen with her before they took her to their apartments. Once she was back home she’d watch a movie, take some pills and go to bed. She knew other women who worked for the agency who would have more than one appointment a night. She could have done this. She could have come home and showered, redone her hair and make up and gone out a second time. But she didn’t like to do that. It seemed sordid. Going to a single appointment you could imagine it was like meeting someone in a bar and having dinner paid for you and then it just not working out, you deciding not to see them again. But twice on the same night made the pretence more difficult.
One evening she’d discovered almost at the last moment that the client was her old boss. She had a message to meet in the casino. As she’d walked into the bar she’d glimpsed him sitting alone at a table. Or maybe it wasn’t him. Maybe he’d been there by accident. She’d had a panic in any case and gone home. She’d rung the agency and excused herself. She had a migraine. They were unhappy, but too bad. What had troubled her most was the thought that her old boss had known she was working for the agency and had asked for her specifically.
On this occasion she had an early appointment with a guy in the business district in the city. She parked her own car in a parking station—the agency had supplied a card, she didn’t need to pay herself—and walked to the building she’d been told in a text. It was still light. While she was standing at the brass intercom by the door a car stopped nearby and honked. She waved it away without looking but it honked again and actually mounted the footpath. The driver shouted his name through the open window. It was the name in the message.
“Get in!” he insisted.
At first she was reluctant. Whenever the slightest thing unusual occurred with appointments her instinct told her to bail out. There were risks—always she was aware of the risks—and she had no need to take them. But the guy who was young and good-looking started laughing, as if he was a out on the town picking up girls instead of meeting an escort and he called to her by one of the names she used with the agency and then the doorman of the building in his liveried outfit stepped forward and opened the passenger side for her and in the end she did get in.
It was an expensive car, a imported two seater.
“What’s going on?” she said, a bit irritated.
Laughing, he told her it was early, he was going to take her for a drive and then they’d have dinner and maybe go dancing. She wasn’t quite comfortable with this. She liked things to be routine, but as soon as she’d sat in the seat he drove off so that the door shut by itself and the decision had been made. He cut through the traffic down the main street and took a left turn, introducing himself and talking pretty much constantly. In less than a minute they were on the elevated motorway, heading north.
It was then it started. Once through the tollgate he put his foot down and the car took off. Rush hour was petering out but it was still daylight. They were on a section where the limit was 120 and it took only seconds to cross that limit.
“What are you doing?”
He laughed again.
“Taking you for a drive! You like my car?”
She fumbled with the seatbelt and finally got it locked. The car was weaving in and out of traffic now even though the traffic was fast. He was already overtaking things so rapidly that if he’d stuck in the one lane he would’ve ploughed into the back of something and wrecked the car. They came within a hair’s breath of a van. She shrieked. When she shrieked he put his foot down further. She couldn’t believe how fast they were going. The lane markers strobed past the window, hypnotically. She yelled at him to stop. He giggled. She felt panic. Her mother had been killed in a car accident when she was a girl. She grabbed the handle by the door pillar and swallowed. Her heart was racing.
“What’s wrong? Don’t you like it?”
He was amused.
“Slow down!” she yelled. “What the hell are you doing?”
He took his hands off the wheel—both his hands—and held them up in the air with a shrug, which made her lunge for the steering wheel. He even let her steer for a moment and then when they were about to veer off the road he grabbed it again and swerved in the other direction so hard she banged her head against the window. He roared with laughter.
“STOP!” she was screaming at him. “STOP!”
It was then that the red car came up behind them. The guy turned his head backwards to look at it. They were travelling at nearly 200 km—she could see from the dashboard—and the guy actually turned his head around and waved at the driver behind.
“NO!” she screamed because she could see a truck looming in front of them.
The guy whipped his head back round and without lifting his foot from the throttle swerved away, sneaking between the truck and the vehicle beside it by straddling one of the lane markers. She covered her face for a moment. When they emerged she could see that the red car was now alongside them in the far right lane. The guy looked sideways again and gave another thumbs up. The red car driver gave a thumbs up in return. They pulled away. She saw the speed move from 200 up to 250. The red car copied. Another cluster of cars appeared and within seconds they were closing in.
“You’re going to kill someone!”
She was so terrified now she was waving her hands helplessly in the air and then frantically slapping her own head and stamping up and down on the floor. He and the red driver wove in an out is if they were in an arcade playing a videogame. She was tossed from one side of the seat to the other. Then once they were through the traffic there was a clear stretch of road snaking through low hills. He hit the gas again. She watched the dashboard, terrified. They got to 280 then to 300. When she looked panic stricken out at the grass by the side of the road it was all a blur. Even the shanties up the hill by the side of the motorway were a blur. The guy was a maniac.
“Hey! Where’d he go!” he said, meaning the red car, as if it was a joke.
A pack of motorcyclists suddenly appeared.
“Don’t hit them! Stop!”
“Where’d he go?” the driver called again, blitzing past the motorcyclists.
He started hollering like a vaquero. Her mouth was dry and she felt sick on the stomach. They were going to die she was absolutely convinced. He was insane and they were going to die. He slowed to 220 and it seemed, incredibly, almost normal. The red car came up behind and passed rapidly. The driver hooted again and off they went. She was pressed back into the seat. The engine was making a hideous high-pitched noise. The car was shuddering like a jet before take-off.
Finally there was the next tollgate. Up until the last second she thought he was going to ram it. But he was desperate to reach it ahead of the red car. He hit the brakes and she was thrown forward and only stopped from colliding with the dashboard by the seatbelt. She could feel it cutting into her shoulder. He was shouting continuously and laughing and hollering. He gave a thumbs up to the guy in the red car and the guy in the red card gave a thumbs up back. At the end of the off-ramp there were red lights. She undid her seatbelt without him noticing and then suddenly leapt from the car without even shutting the door.
“Arse hole!” she yelled at him. “You fucking arse hole!”
He was laughing. She realised that she’d wet herself. She looked down at her dress and it was damp.
“You fucker!” she yelled at him. She yanked off one of her heels and hurled it at the car and heard it bounce off. He roared away. The passenger door slammed on its own and about fifty metres down the road he spun the wheels and smoke came out. He rotated a full 360° and then drove off. She burst into tears. She slumped onto the safety fence with her dress wet with piss and one shoe and burst into tears.
All night she lay awake with fright. She hadn’t been able to find a taxi and had come home on the train. Her shoulder was bruised from the seatbelt and she had a lump on the side of her head from where she’d hit the window but mostly she was terrified. She’d been convinced that they were going to die, that this guy was a lunatic and that he was going to kill them both. She’d never in her life felt so frightened. When the morning came and she couldn’t stop herself from shaking she decided she’d have to go to the police.
Although the local police station was in a fancy part of town inside it was worn and dilapidated like every other police station. Basically, the cops made fun of her. She was straight up with them since what she was doing to earn a living wasn’t illegal. Agencies were legitimate businesses. They paid taxes. At first the cops assumed she was complaining about being assaulted.
“What did he do to you?”
“What did he do to me? He almost killed me.”
“He got me in his car and then he drove me down the motorway like he was completely insane. I kept telling him I wanted to get out, I wanted to stop and he wouldn’t do it, he just kept going and going and going. I honestly thought I was going to die. I was so terrified. I was pleading with him, begging, but he wouldn’t stop. He just wouldn’t stop. He was getting fun out of it. He was laughing at me. He was screaming with laughter while I was terrified. I was so terrified I actually wet myself.”
The cops sniggered when they heard this. There were two of them in the office. One was leaning back in his swivel chair, picking his pen from his desk and tossing it back down onto the pile of papers repeatedly while she talked. The other one still had is cap on. He was propped against the wall behind the desk. They’d been watching and AC/DC clip on their computer when the woman had interrupted.
“Why did you want him to stop?”
“He was doing 300 km!”
The cop who was sitting down whistled.
“What type of car?”
“What type? I don’t know! It was a black car.”
“Was it foreign?”
“I wasn’t paying attention.”
“Was it German? A two seater? Did it have back seats? Two doors?”
The officer leaning against the wall muttered, “It could have been an R8.”
The one at his desk raised his eyebrows. “300? Not bad if it was an R8.”
She became furious. “He was out of his mind.”
“What you want us to do?”
“I thought he was going to kill me, he wouldn’t stop.”
“You want us to give him a ticket?”
“He wouldn’t stop!”
“You’ve come here to complain that he wouldn’t stop when you asked him to stop—but he let you out, he didn’t touch you according to what you’ve been telling us.”
They were impossible. She demanded to see a female officer. They made her wait for two hours. Eventually she was taken to another office where there was a woman in her late 30s with her hair in a tight ponytail. She was in uniform. She had a holster on her belt. Under her shirt she was wearing armour. It made the material stick out at angles. At first she was unsympathetic.
“You work for an agency?” she said.
Then the officer spent about 10 minutes reading through notes that her male colleague had written. She drank from a water bottle and kept shaking her head. “I don’t see what the point of all this is?”
The woman explained again that the point was that the driver wouldn’t stop, that she thought she was going to die and she was pleading with him but he wouldn’t stop.
“He assaulted you?”
The female officer rolled her eyes. “You know how much crime happens in this city? Hey? You’ve come here to complain about someone who wouldn’t let you out of a car for, what, ten minutes fifteen minutes? On a motorway? This is a waste of time,” she said looking as if she was about to get up.
“So you don’t believe me?”
“No. I don’t think this has anything to do with the police. What’s happened to you? He didn’t touch you? You’re lucky. Why do you need to bother us about this? The guy had an expensive car. He was rich. You know how many girls there are who aren’t going with rich guys? Every night they get beaten up. Why do you think you’re so privileged?” Then she said, “Have you ever been raped?”
It was like a slap in the face. The woman suddenly felt furious and instinctively wanted to strike back. The sight of the armour under the shirt made her shout, without even knowing why she was saying it, “Have you ever shot a person dead?”
Somehow she struck a horrible blow. The woman police officer froze and stared without saying anything until the other woman noticed that her lip was quivering. The officer sat for seconds, struggling, and the other woman, seeing this, felt her anger vanish as quickly as it had come.
“I’m sorry,” the woman said, sorry now that she’d spoken in anger. “I apologise. I don’t know why I said that. I’m sorry.”
The female officer swallowed and shook her head and swallowed again. “It doesn’t matter.” She was still struggling.
“No, I’m sorry. It wasn’t fair to say that. Look, look, you know that I’m a prostitute. If you’re a prostitute you understand that women are raped all the time. You learn straight away that it’s going to happen and it happens regularly.”
The woman felt compelled to say this even though she herself had never been raped, either because she was so cautious or simply because of luck. She’d been assaulted, robbed, but never raped. Except by her ex-husband.
The female officer kept swallowing but nodded as the other woman spoke.
“Look. What I’m telling you is that yesterday, with this guy, I was more afraid of dying than I’ve ever been and it wasn’t an accident, the guy wanted me to be afraid, he was loving it, he was enjoying every minute, the more I begged him to stop the more he kept it up, he piled it on. When I went home I thought, Forget it, just block it out—you know how you block things out? But it’s not possible, it’s eating me up, I kept thinking something has to be done, I’ve got to do something, I want them to do something about him, he made me feel as bad as I’ve ever felt in my life.”
Both women sat in silence for a minute. The officer pressed her lips together and shut her eyes.
“Okay,” she said. “We need to do something.”
She requisitioned video from the motorway traffic recorders and the guy was charged with a moving violation. The video confirmed the 300 km. That was all the female police officer could persuade the public prosecutor to get him for. The guy’s lawyer contested the fine. It went to the magistrate’s court. At the hearing the lawyer presented as evidence in-car footage the guy had taken surreptitiously. It showed the woman’s hysterics. After reviewing it the magistrate questioned its relevance to the case. The guy’s lawyer, tongue in cheek, asked the magistrate if the woman’s behaviour wouldn’t have driven him to exceed the speed limit too.
The fine was upheld, plus costs. A week later the in-car video appeared on the internet. In the following days it was viewed several million times. Versions were re-posted with the woman’s hysterics and the guy’s sarcasms subtitled in other languages. Of the hundreds of comments left on-line many made fun of the woman. It was pointed out that a dark patch appeared on her dress when the speedometer hit 300. The majority of comments, however, were about the guy’s driving, some in praise, most hateful and envious.