VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
Just Another Prostitute?
Courtesy of Cyndy Koures, Cyndy's Corner
ŠThe Crime Reporter, May 2000
It is 9 at night and time for the ritual. We sit on the floor by my son's bed and read two books - one selected by each of my children. When we are done, I tuck my son into bed and follow my daughter to her room. She grabs her stuffed animals - a different group each night- tucks the book under her pillow, turns to me and orders, "Hand." And I sit on the edge of her bed and hold her hand until she falls asleep. Sometimes, when I'm not fighting to stay awake, I wonder at the luck I have to listen to my son talking to himself in his bed, and hold my daughter's hand and know what it really is to love someone more than yourself.
But tonight, I think, instead, about a woman I met years ago. I've never told a soul her real name. So, for right now, let's call her Mary.
I met Mary when I started covering a series of murders in my town. Women tied to drugs and prostitution were being shot and dumped. Mary brought something to the story no one else could. You see, Mary was a prostitute.
At least she had been, years before I met her. But she wants to put a face on a group of women labeled "prostitutes" as if the single word sums up their entire lives. So we sit together in a darkened studio, lights blocking her face from the camera's view. And she tells me her story.
It began with her mother when Mary was just 12. I'm not sure if she is looking me in the eye as she tells me about a day so disgusting, so horrifying I know I look away from her while she talks.
"When I was 12," she says, "my mother took me to a friend's house and I went in the room with the gentleman and my mother was.. she was in the next room. And we did what we had to do. He gave me money and I gave it to my mother."
Mary, like any child, wanted her mother to love her. And for a moment, when the deed was done and Mary was alone, for a moment, she wanted to think her mother didn't know what had happened in that room. But her mother knew. And Mary knows her mother pimped her for a few lousy bucks.
She lived with her mother until she was 27 years old. Her only friends were her customers, brought home to her mother's house. After her mother died, there were five other pimps. The first one fathered her child.
She drank to dull the pain. Most women who work the streets use something to get through the day, through the nights filled with customers who beat, rape and sodomize them - customers who smell bad and act even worse. After all, as Mary says, when someone buys you they figure they can do anything they want to you.
"It's not easy money," she says, "you doing what a prostitute does. You know, you can't say 'Oh, I'm just going to sleep with the nice looking customers.' That's not the case. It's the fat, stinky whoever has the money and a lot of times it's not the people who are sober or nice."
She was stabbed, beaten, left for dead. Once, a customer bragged to her he was the Green River killer. He pulled a knife on her. It ended when he beat her, sodomized her and dumped her along the road like a piece of trash.
She is close to my age - mid 30's. But she looks so old to me, so tired. When she talks, her voice is flat as if she has practiced taking all the emotion from it. She is not the kind of person you reach out to comfort. Her armor is thick. I can sense it from the chair I sit in three feet away.
"When you have women bringing their daughters to you, how do you trust people?" She doesn't pause for an answer. "When you have police officers and judges and ministers how do you trust people? And these are the same people who will stand in front of you and say you're awful and when the lights go down they're the first people who will be trying to get your services."
I learn Mary has given up the streets, gone to school and tried to start the life she never had a chance to live. She leaves the studio and one day, months later, I pass her on the street. She is wearing a nice suit, talking with another professional woman. Our eyes meet but I say nothing as the two of them walk by me.
Yet her story has never left me. I hear it when I fight with the boss who doesn't want to portray prostitutes as victims. "Why should we care about people who break the law?" he demands of me in front of our entire newsroom staff. And I want to yell back at him, we should care because who else does? But he would shout me down and long ago I quit trying to fight wars I could not win.
I want to tell him how some of the families of the serial killer's victims would drive up and down the red light district searching for their sisters. One woman last saw her sister walking the strip, wearing a long black trench coat. She begged her to call, begged her to go home to her family. Her sister promised she would. Two months later she was found buried in a shallow grave.
If years of covering this series of murders has taught me anything, it is that each woman who died was once a little girl - much like my daughter. A little girl who wanted nothing more than what Mary wanted - someone to love her - someone to hold her hand in the dark.
Cyndy Koures of The Crime Reporter has given permission to use this article on the website which will be added later. It appears on the serial killer net website and they have granted permission as well.
The Crime Reporter
Updated: August 21, 2016