Spoiler alert: The following post contains a spoiler for my forthcoming novel Fighting Back. If you’d rather be surprised by the plot points, skip this one and wait for my next post later this week. If you don’t mind knowing more of what the book is about than the summary on the back cover reveals, then read on.
A few days ago, I picked up a Boston Herald to read during lunch. I read about a police raid in Brighton (a Boston suburb) that saved ten women who appear to have been victims of a human trafficking operation. The account made my jaw drop. The article is here. http://www.bostonherald.com/news/local_coverage/2016/11/tip_led_cops_to_alleged_human_trafficking_hot_spot
I’ve spent the last three years learning about human trafficking as part of my research for this book, so I knew that suburbs all over America play unwitting hosts to criminal enterprises like this. It’s everywhere, including in a neighborhood near you.So my shocked reaction was not due to any surprise that the hideous crime of sex trafficking was going on in an average borough full of two-family houses.
Rather, it was about how the location of this particular bust mirrored what is described in the novel. The alleged house of ill repute described in the Herald is just steps away from a busy and active church that has been at that location for decades. At least three times per week, church members probably parked near this house and walked in front of it on their way to service, completely unaware of the people being victimized within earshot of their worship. This real-life tragedy reads almost exactly like the fictional one I dreamed up for Fighting Back: :
He took special note of the Framingham location. It was on Union Avenue, just one block from Solid Rock Church. Say it isn’t so. Innocent women might be held in bondage a stone’s throw from where two hundred people met weekly to sing and shout about deliverance and freedom.
I wrote my fictional account of a brothel located next to a church hoping that the irony of the location would add a little extra emotional impact to the story. Reading about that very thing happening in real life was more unpleasant than I would have imagined. It was made worse still by the fact that I know the church in question, having once attended it myself. Though three decades have passed since I was a member, I know the kind of people who go there. They are, for the most part, loving, caring people, the kind who would give you their last dollar or the shirt off their backs. Who knows how long this great evil coexisted next to so much love and good will? Who knows how such darkness flourished unnoticed by the light?
When I first found God, I wondered if I was supposed to become a missionary and travel to Ethiopia or Pakistan, or some other far-flung place. I now know that my calling, like most people’s, is to the residents of my own neighborhood. Sometimes the people in most desperate need of help are in a tidy little house or storefront business on your block. Making that point was one of the reasons I wrote Fighting Back. But I still I wasn’t quite prepared for the emotional jolt of life imitating art … so close to home.
The vigilant man in the newspaper story took one approach to human trafficking on his street. My novel’s lead character takes quite a different approach. Tell me in the comments: What would you do if you suspected this was going on in your neighborhood?