by Sasscer Hill
Author of the Nikki Latrelle mysteries
When I heard a recording of Amanda Berry’s desperate 911 plea for help, I wept for this girl who was abducted, torn from her family, and abused for ten years.
I’ve watched every episode of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, I saw the 2005 documentary Human Trafficking, I wrote The Sea Horse Trade, a just released novel where underage girls are abducted and forced into the sex trade, so I think I’m pretty tough.
Yeah, right. I heard Amanda’s voice pleading with the dispatcher to have the cops save her "before he comes back,” and I lost it.
Those words, “before he comes back,” are laden with terror, with evil, and with desperation. These are the kinds of words authors hope to use in exactly the right place at exactly the right time to grab their readers with the kind of emotion I felt listening to Amanda’s plea.
The idea of female abduction and slavery has always fascinated and horrified me. How could I weave the subject into a story about my jockey Nikki Latrelle?
As a breeder, owner, and avid fan of race horses, I had occasion to visit Gulfstream Park racetrack in Hallandale Beach, on the coast between Fort Lauderdale and Miami. I spent time at the track, toured Fort Lauderdale and Miami and saw the glitz, the glamour, the sex, the horses, and the money. A man could work at a desk for forty years and not earn a fraction of what it would cost to buy the immense yachts and huge mansions I saw there. Who owns something this valuable? Where does the money come from?
One morning, I got up early and walked down to the beach. A cold wind blew off the sea. Far, far out on the horizon, I saw a huge container ship shrouded in mist. It was creepy, like seeing a ghost on the water. The white caps were roiling, and a keen awareness of the depth of the water, the distance to the yacht, and the ice cold spray made me wonder how anyone could possibly feel safe out there on the ocean.
What if Nikki Latrelle was working the January meet at Gulfstream? What if her oldest friend’s daughter was missing, a girl Nikki has never met? What if on that first night in Hallandale Beach a girl is shot dead at Nikki’s feet? The story all came together. What a perfect safe harbor a city like Fort Lauderdale would be to spawn the trade of human trafficking.
I had to write this story.
I flew home to Maryland and rented the documentary, Human Trafficking. It was appalling, but it was fascinating. It was shocking, but it was engaging. It was disgusting, but it was believable. More than ever, I wanted to write my story, so I did.
I hope you will take The Sea Horse Trade for a ride! You can hear me read the first chapter on my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/SasscerHill. You don’t have to be a member of Facebook to go to this page. Just click the link and leave me a note!
Learn more about Sasscer and her books at http://www.sasscerhill.blogspot.com/.