A Silver Medallion: James R. Callan
Some stories need to be told for many reasons. This one will hit home and ring true if you listen to the news and hear the many Amber Alerts that newscasters bring to our attention. Reading about the author I read that he learned about a woman held as a virtual slave. The article was in the L.A. Times and even though she might not have been beaten or chained to a chair or a bed, the threat was real if she dared to tell anyone or seek help. Threats to her family were made and were real who were left behind in a foreign country. Out of this came this story that is not so far from reality and might be happening right now. Researching the incident and learning more about slave trade, slave labor and many kidnappings that go unreported for fear of reprisals, the U.S. needs to be more vigilant as well as the countries that seem to be profiting from selling young children and young women into slavery.
Crystal Moore is the main character in this novel and after you meet her you might think what she is doing and is willing to do for a young mother and total stranger is unthinkable and dangerous. When a young girl is seen outside of her grandmother’s house picking through her garbage, she immediately goes into action and hopes to understand why she is there. Learning that Rosa, which is her name, escaped her captors and found out that her husband who worked for another man was killed, she saw no reason not to try and leave and gain her freedom. But, she is just one there is another who works for the same man named Hunter Blackwood who is dangerous, relentless and when he learns about Crystal and meets her is determined to silence her at all costs. Headstrong and not really planning out a plot that might work with the help of her roommate Brandi she intends to confront Blackwood hoping that the other mother Lucita will come away with her. Thinking that she made her point yet realizing from his stare he might be deadly, Crystal confronts Lucita who insists she is happy working for him even though she is a slave. Sometimes we go with a gut feeling and nothing can change the way we feel including nightmares that Crystal has imagining that she is begin tortured, chained and held captive. Waking up in a feverish state she decides to discuss the issue with her boyfriend and boss Dr. Mark O’Malley at IRS or Intelligent Retrieval Systems. Being candid about the situation raises many red flags in his mind as she states she wants to take a chance, go to a country that has corruption in the police department, try not to come face to face with the man who has the two children belonging to this young mother, named Juan, and hopefully rescue them. Tall order and dangerous. A young mother’s faith in Crystal and a special medallion to show her trust that just might hold its own special power and secret.
Going to a country where you hardly speak the language, know no one and need backup is not smart. But, Mark has a contact and when Crystal arrives things heat up real fast as she is instructed to take several journeys, meeting with different people hoping to bring Lucita her children. Deciding to go to Mexico she is contacted by a man named Juan who is close to Mark. But, as the plan comes into place Crystal decides that she’s ready to teak on whatever these men hand her in order to save the girls. Her parents were killed when she was just seven and the nightmares the author shares about the children are vivid as she sees through her eyes what they are enduring. Three young girls in her dreams and one looks like her. Not able to shake them off she decides to help Lucita but will the police help her or will she be on her own?
If becomes clear to Crystal that the only way to free Lucita is to rescue the two young girls first. Only when the girls are free and safe will Lucita dare to escape. Buying a car from a strange man she ventures into the jungles of Mexico to see where this man Jose lives who has the children. At times she is quite impulsive and does not think through what might happen and when deciding to go along with Juan and his men she learns that not everything goes as planned. How far would you go to find someone you don’t know? How far will Crystal go to save the lives of two young girls? But, why risk her life and why not let Juan do his job? Why is she so insistent on going along? Lucita’s story is one that has been in the newspapers before and meeting her, realizing that she is in danger and living under a dangerous roof, why should she risk it all for her? The author describes the first attempted rescue; you hear her frustration and not understanding what went wrong. With the help of Juan’s wife it is clarified but what happens next will change it all and as warned if she gets caught she is on her own.
Things changed and the second attempt she successful but the exit plan was anything but what Crystal expected. Would you be able to manipulate a powered parachute and fly it out of danger with two young children? Shot at, hoping to survive she manages to get to the contact person, bring the children to Juan’s house but the following day they are gone. Convincing her to leave Mexico took some real threats, someone trying to kidnap her and being rescued by a vendor who came to her aid. Crystal is bent on bringing the girls home but according to Juan unless Lucita comes herself they were never going to get to America.
Crystal confides in Mark and explains how she was able with Juan’s help to get the girls free. But, Jose their captor and Blackwood seek revenge. While working she calls her housemate Brandi and when she arrives home learns that someone tried to kill Brandi but they were really after her. Relentless and not caring as long as they get revenge and Lucita back, Crystal is now a target and no one close to her is safe. Jose seeks revenge and Blackwood wants her dead. Anyway he can take her out is fine but will he succeed? Eula her grandmother has taken in Rosa to work for her but is they safe? Anyone close to her is in danger!
Slave trade and slave trafficking is not new to Mexico and the officials often look the other way. This is an issue that has been brought to light in this novel and although based on a true story he read in the newspaper if you look long and hard there are many more written about the same thing. Human trafficking is not just a problem in Mexico it is one that is happening everywhere in the world. It affects the lives of millions of people as these women, men and children are forced into situations that exploit their freedom and dignity. Some are used as servants while others for sexual purposes and sold to men. Some are forced to work for no money in homes and children are preyed upon at times for their organs. Jose and Blackwood are profiting from owning Lucita and her children as collateral for not leaving or telling anyone about them. Everyone needs to be vigilant but Crystal had a duel purpose in wanting to free these children but authorities are often seen to be the only ones to stop it. Crystal proves that everyday people staying aware and vigilant can make a difference and help those that are victims when you thing you see something wrong. How many would do what she did and how many would continue after putting her own life in danger and that of her close friend?
When the truth about the assault comes to light Crystal realizes that she is still in danger and that there just might be more than one assailant. Why would the ADA cut a deal with the man that tried to kill Brandi? Why is Blackwood so powerful and knowing what he lost will he seek revenge? With her best friend fighting for her life and the police thinking they have the right guy no one realizes that Crystal might still be a target. Going to stay with her grandmother puts everyone there in danger as a killer finds his way and then everything changes even more. When other lies and truths come out and people turn on each other we learn that Blackwood was into more than just slave trade. Thinking he is immune to the law and powerful will the skate free? Will Brandi pull through and what happens when Crystal is targeted? Friendships and loyalties are tested and one young girl will not stop until justice is done for all those who lost so much at the hand of greed. Slave trade puts young children, women and men at risk for more than just being someone’s robot, victim and fall guy when it comes to illegal acts. Using people for money, sexual favors and taking away their dignity and rights is immoral and more than wrong. So, why can’t it be stopped? Why do so many turn a blind eye? This novel brings to light what happens when someone refuses to turn the other way. Maybe this novel will bring awareness to a serious problem that needs to be addressed.
Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ magazine