This story is by Lorry Hubbard and was part of our 2018 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Sue Dawson lived in a relatively small Chicago suburb. Working in the Human Resource Department of a medium-sized company, she was often bored and given to daydreams. She wanted to travel to, in, and around the island of Sicily. She wasn’t just fervent about it, she was passionate. She knew it could be expensive. Her choices were to charter a boat with a captain herself and be the only other person on board making all the decisions on when and where to go, but she was afraid she would be lonely. Or, she could find a captain and ask five of her friends to join her on this adventure, share the expenses, and hope they would agree with her choices of sites to stop and see. She was confused. Good choices are difficult to make. There was no doubt that one good choice she would make was to travel during the month of September. In her reading resource, this was suggested because the children were back in school, and parents would be home after a busy August vacationing with their families.
Sue contacted the Taormina Tourist Bureau in Sicily after finding the number online. Taormina was said to be a charming medieval town on the island of Sicily and was the 2400-year-old center of Sicilian culture and commerce and Sue definitely wanted to spend some time touring there. From this town, she had read, that you could see the snowcapped Mt. Etna, Europe’s highest volcano. The woman she reached in the Bureau spoke English and easily understood Sue. She agreed to mail her contacts for hotel, car rental, boat rental, and places of interest.
Now, Sue had to set her arrival dates, buy euros, and make plane reservations after she consulted with her friends. It was agreed they would all fly into Malta from France, stay overnight in a hotel in Valletta, its capital, and in the morning, locate the boat Sue had arranged for that had enough cabins in which they could sleep on their excursions.
The boat was located quickly. They spoke to the captain who had a heavy Italian accent but was gracious and friendly. “Welcome to my boat I have named Luna. I am Leo. Come on board and see what Luna has to offer you.”
When they saw the tiny kitchen or galley, as it is called, John from the group called out, “Will you cook for us, Captain Leo?”
“Of course, of course. Italian cooking is very nice for a group of your size,” Leo assured them. “If you will now go and pick up your luggage, I will help you get it on the boat, you stow your clothes and necessary shoes in your cabin, and I will put the bags in the bow where there is a place for them. Please take only the things you are certain you will need. You can wear very simple clothes on the cruise, and be sure to bring your bathing suits to your cabin.”
Everyone except Sue did what he suggested, some immediately pulling on bathing suits before they returned to the deck. Leo told them he would now go to the grocery store and buy enough food for the next few days.
Sue called out to her friends, “I want to take a little tour on my own since I’m not tired. I’’ll return in time for that fine Italian dinner Leo will cook for us, and I’ll pick up some good Italian Chianti,”
Jill, one of Sue’s friends said, “Let us give you some money, and we’ll tally it up later.” They each gave her several hundred euros and Sue stowed it away in her handbag.
After walking for a while, she encountered a market in the center of Valletta. She found many hand-crafted items, purchased some of them, and walked on when a man approached her with a smile and suggested he could escort her around the bustling town. He took her arm. She didn’t hesitate. After a short walk, he pulled her into a shaded corridor and pulled her up steps that led to an open door. Since the man had seemed so courteous, Sue thought an amorous interlude in Sicily might be fun. But as soon as he closed the door, he pulled her handbag from her arm, threw her on the bed, and pulled off her clothes. She started to scream but he covered her mouth with his hand, unzipped his pants, and tried to rape her but she kept hitting his face and head with her hands. Finally, he rushed from the room taking her clothes and handbag with him. Sue started to scream, “Help, help!” as she looked for a phone and pressed zero. No one spoke. “Help me please!” she shouted as she pulled down a drape and covered herself. She ran out the door to find the office on the floor below, and the person there picked up the phone, spoke briefly, and hung up. Sue tried to explain but the person obviously didn’t understand English. In a very few minutes, she heard sirens, and police cars pulled up to the hotel. They rushed into the office, wrapped Sue’s wrists with cuff links and tied the drape tightly around her. They pulled her into one of the cars while she kept screaming, “No, no, I didn’t do anything!” A uniformed man came to the car and spoke in English, “We don’t like whores here in Valletta.”
“I’m not, I’m not,” Sue shouted.”
“I was at the market when a man came along and said he would show me the sights of Valletta, but he dragged me into a room, tried to rape me, then took my clothes and handbag that had a lot of money in it; much of it belonged to my friends.”
The policeman said quietly, “Calm down now. We’ll take you to the hospital and have them check you out, then go to the station and you can tell us everything that happened.”
The hospital doctor said no harm was done and she could leave. A nurse brought her a robe. When they arrived at the station, a policewoman took Sue to a restroom and gave her some clothes. Sue said, “Thank you so much. I’m so uncomfortable like this, and I want to tell you everything. I have nothing to hide. I should contact my friends somehow and tell them where I am and what happened.”
“Tell me where they are, and we will send someone to inform them. Perhaps they could come to be with you? Do you and they have cell phones?”
“Well, they do, but mine was in my handbag,” Sue said.
After Sue was dressed, she was escorted to a room with a table and a number of chairs. Several police officers were already there.
“We want you to know that yours is not an unfamiliar story. We have been trying to find this man who has attacked a number of female tourists here in Valletta and taken their money. We are close now. I would suggest that after we hear the complete story of your abduction, we return you to your charter boat and you stay in the harbor so that we can reach you quickly.”
“Thank you,” Sue said. “Thank you so very much.”
Sue’s friends were in the outer office and greeted her warmly after she was interrogated. They were confident the police would do their job.
Not long after they were back at the boat, Leo served them a delicious Italian spaghetti dinner with a glass of Chianti wine that Leo had purchased for them. Dessert was just being served when a police car appeared and an officer came to the boat. In his hand was Sue’s handbag.
He presented it to her and said, “I’m happy to say that there is money in it and I’d like you to count it and see if it is all there. We don’t think he had enough time to spend it.”