"Dr. Chase, a word please," she was breaking up the huddle, annoying a certain brilliant, but, shall we say, acerbic department head.
"We're busy," said department head squibbed.
"My busy is more important than your busy," she replied calmly.
"Hey, we're saving lives here!" His voice was taking on that familiar higher pitch.
"So… am… I," she hissed, giving him the look that told him to back off, at least for the moment.
Dr. Robert Chase broke away from the small group in the hallway and approached the interloper. "What is it, Chloe?" She rarely addressed him specifically and he was curious as to what would have caused her to take the risk of defying his boss.
Chloe Marzhal, night shift charge nurse of the 3rd floor Medical/Surgical Overflow unit at Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital, was on temporary day shift duty due to another staffing crisis. An obligation she would rather not have, but was stuck with. She took his arm and guided him to a quiet place down the hall. Away from prying ears.
"Dr. Chase, I have a patient you may be able to help. Her name is Esi Dagomba. She was admitted yesterday under unusual circumstances. She was found outside the emergency department, seemingly having been dumped there after a particularly vicious physical attack. She's from Ghana. Her English is quite good, but she doesn't say much and we can't get a decent history on her. I don't believe she's more than sixteen." Her words were clipped, her tone serious and concerned.
"Is there a diagnostics problem?" Chase asked.
Chloe took a deep breath and continued, "No, she has at least three STIs which are being treated in addition to treatment for the trauma she sustained. Physical difficulties aren't the problem."
Chase was truly puzzled. "What do you need from me?"
"It is my understanding," she began, choosing her words carefully, "that you have something of a working knowledge of BDSM." She looked at him, judging the impact of her words.
Chase backed up a bit, a quizzical look crossing his face. "What's this about, Chloe?"
She patted his arm, trying to calm him, "I have a strong suspicion that this young woman is a victim of human trafficking. I've spent quite a long time with her, hoping to build trust. However, as a woman, I can't quite get her to tell me that which is most important." She paused, "That's where I need your help. If you could join with me in a frank conversation with her, I think she would open up. I don't think you'd have to say a word, just be there."
"Are the police involved? What about social services?" Chase was, indeed, intrigued, though a little embarrassed. His 'working knowledge' of bondage/discipline//dominance/submission//sadomasochism was limited, but he knew and understood the basics.
"Social services has spoken to her, but didn't get very far, the police have not been called in as yet, she's terribly frightened and won't allow it."
"Alright, give me a minute." She nodded and waited as Chase returned to the huddle and made his excuses to his boss.
"I'll run the tests and get back to you." The voice that answered him was even higher pitched and angry. Chase spoke a few low words and the sniping stopped. Chloe noted with some satisfaction the raised eyebrows all around the little group.
"Today!" Dr. Gregory House shouted at Chase, turning to limp back down to the elevators, Drs. Foreman and Cameron trying to keep up.
"Whose toes am I stepping on, here, Chloe?" Chase was referring to Esi's admitting physician.
"Dr. Albert, need I say more?"
Chase chuckled. Albert would welcome anyone 'consulting' on his cases as he couldn't make up his mind about anything. "Okay, Chloe, lead on." Chase smiled at her conspiratorially.
They walked down the hall to the end room. Chloe knocked gently on the door, then entered, Chase following. The bright eyes shining from the hospital bed grew wide, then averted to her hands, which were lying quietly in her lap. Her chocolate brown skin shone in the dim light, her many long braids draped across her shoulders. Chase positioned himself in the far corner of the room where Esi could see him. He crossed his arms and leaned back against the wall, never taking his eyes off her, a look of studious disdain on his face. "Esi, this is Dr. Chase, he's my good friend and he has much medicine, I'd like you to tell him what you told me. We'd like to help you and your family, Esi. Please let us help you." The frightened girl darted a look at Chase. His head nodded ever so slightly, granting her permission to speak.
"The Man came to our village one day, with stories of a better life in America. He spoke to all the parents and elders and they agreed to choose seven of us to accompany him. He promised to educate us and send us back to our families with the skills needed to help our village."
Chase raised his hand slightly and Esi stopped speaking immediately, averting her eyes again. "Esi, who taught you your English?" She whispered into the air, "the nuns." Chase tilted his head, "Did they know about the Man?" Esi simply shook her head 'no'.
Chloe had knelt beside Esi's bed and reached out to hold her hand. "There's a contract, isn't there, Esi?" The poor girl looked at Chloe with wonderment, like a small child who's just had a quarter 'pulled' out of her ear, but she looked to Chase before daring to answer. He nodded his head again, marveling himself at Chloe's knowledge base.
"How did you know?" Esi whispered.
"Do you have it with you?" Chloe's heart was breaking for this child.
"Yes, I must always keep it with me. It's a rule." Chase tried hard to hide his disgust.
"May we see it?" Esi hesitated and looked to Chase again.
"I'd like to see it, Esi."
She produced the much-folded paper from her meager belongings which consisted of not much else than the clothes she was found in. Chloe took it from her and standing, unfolded it and presented it to Chase. Neither one could hide their shock when they saw the name of The Man.
Chloe breathed, "Jason Adler, oh my God."
Jason Adler prided himself as being a self-made businessman. He owned a string of strip clubs all up and down the eastern seaboard. His tastes were expensive and extravagant. From his Giorgio Armani suits and Dolce & Gabbana accessories to his palatial homes, the man stunk of money. Ugly money.
More than one ex-wife had mysteriously 'disappeared' when she became bothersome, as had many of his female playthings. Yet, charges were never brought, nor sanctions taken. The man was seemingly untouchable. And dangerous.
He had grown up in the mean streets of New Jersey, learning his trademark terrorism from the best of the best. He had more than his fair share of physical scars, including a nasty one which ran from his left ear down to his right collarbone. If you asked him, he would tell you he received it while being tortured for information on his boss, implying that he valued loyalty above all things.
Truth? A prostitute, who later 'disappeared', got tired of his abuse and took a knife to him. She should have aimed lower, or dug deeper.
Needless to say, Mr. Adler was involved in most of Northern New Jersey's naked underbelly of crime. One of his most lucrative 'businesses' was prostitution. He owned several 'houses of ill-repute' including a large one right on the outskirts of Princeton. This particular house was an old Victorian structure, massively built by someone with a lot of money a long time ago. It boasted three floors, an attic which had once housed servants, and a full-sized basement. The house stood on four acres of land and was equipped with riding stables (no longer used as such) and two guest houses. The entire property was surrounded by high fencing which, so far, no one had ever dared breach.
On the outside, the structure appeared stolid and conservative. Painted a cadet blue with a wrap around porch and all the standard gingerbreading of a period Victorian home. Inside was another matter entirely. Imagine every seedy stereotype of a brothel you can imagine and multiply that by a factor of, oh say, a hundred and you'd have a glimpse of the interior. Each room was decorated in a different 'theme' ranging from Elvis Presley velvets to Hugh Hefner hot tubs to Madonna faux S&M.
The real S&M took place in the basement. You had to be a member to be admitted to that little den of iniquity, the price you paid being part, if not all, of your soul. Which explained Mr. Adler's untouchable status. More than one police chief or politician had visited the dungeon.
This is where the human trafficking came into it. Mr. Adler was a modern day slave trader. Pure and simple. He bought girls in third world countries and shipped them to the states for his own and others' personal use. After first training them in one of his dungeons, of course.
"Chloe, we have to get this to the police, this is an incredible piece of evidence!" They were back out in the hallway after calming and thanking Esi for her cooperation. "Listen, I know a guy at Immigration, he's a lawyer, he'll be able to steer this in the right direction."
Chloe nodded, "You'll have to do this fast. Who knows when he'll send someone to reclaim her? My guess is he'll want her signed out AMA. She's just a child, Robert! He'll kill her!" She was distraught. This was big.
Taking a deep breath, she collected her thoughts. "Alright, we've got to notify administration and risk management. The hospital may be able to score some brownie points by protecting this girl. Human trafficking has become a regulatory catch phrase lately." She looked at his shocked face. "Robert, I've been doing this job a long time. I'm cynical and I admit it. House is right about one thing: everyone and every entity does what's in his, her, or its best interest and this hospital is no different. You make your call and I'll start up the chain of command. You might even want to make that call from Dr. Cuddy's office." Her eyebrow shot up. He agreed and started off down the hall. "Dr. Chase!" Chloe called after him. "Was there some tests you wanted to order on another patient up here?" He turned around and as quickly as he could, scribbled orders on a chart and handed it to her. "I'll take care of it myself," she reassured him.
"Well, well, well, if it isn't Little Lord Fauntleroy returning from doing his Auntie's errands," House oozed sarcasm like it was a second skin. Looking a little rougher than usual, his deep salmon-colored shirt hadn't seen an iron in over a year and Chase could swear he'd slept in those jeans and jacket. He was seated at his desk, tossing his oversized tennis ball back and forth and appeared to have been doing so for some time. There was nothing but malice in his grin. Chase had an air of aplomb about him that House didn't like one bit. He watched his fellow grab a cup of coffee and seat himself comfortably at the conference room table, flipping open the chart of the patient they had been discussing earlier that morning. "The tests you had me run are all negative. We're back to square one." Cameron moaned and Foreman clutched his head like it was going to explode.
House hobbled out of his office toward the white board. "So what does that tell us? They went through the long list, House crossing out first this then another disease. They wrestled with the differential diagnosis for a quarter hour, finally deciding on another round of different tests. The three rose to leave on their various missions. House eyeballed Chase. "Chase, stay here for a minute." Chase rolled his eyes at the others then turned to face his boss.
"What did Chloe want?" House had known Chloe for a long time and, although he would mock her from here to down the street and back when she challenged him like she had, all too often, she'd be closer to being right than he would. He hated the term 'feminine intuition', but if anyone had it, it was Chloe.
"A Ghanaian teenager brought here as a sex slave. Chloe had guessed it and she was right. The girl even had a 'contract' signed by the guy who bought her from her family." Chase paused, "I've been in Dr. Cuddy's office with the hospital's legal team. Everyone from local police to the FBI is on red alert. Chloe is afraid the bastard will come back to claim his property."
"So who is this slave trader?" Asked House.
"Jason Adler was the name on the contract," replied Chase. House whistled in his teeth. Then he got really still, his face turning inward as it does when he's thinking hard. "She's truly walked into it this time, hasn't she?" He said, almost to himself.
"You mean Chloe? Why would she be in danger?"
House looked at Chase like one would look at a stupid child. "She's deliberately put herself between this guy and his 'property'. I'm guessing he's not going to like the publicity. She just couldn't leave it alone, could she?"
Chase spread his hands out in front of him, a look of exasperation on his face. "What else could she do, for Christ's sake? Here's a young girl in a foreign country, no family, no friends, alone… being used in the most horrendous way. By what I saw he's had her in 'training' for awhile now."
House looked at him oddly, then smirked as only House can. "Just how long did you date this masochistic hottie?"
Chase gave him a disgusted look. "I'm glad I was able to corroborate Chloe's suspicions by observing the girl's reactions. The legal eagles didn't want to believe her. Now they do." Chase turned to go.
"Chase," began House, pausing, "watch your back." Chase turned his head just enough so House could see him nod.
House headed to Cuddy's office. Dr. Lisa Cuddy was House's boss and the Dean of Medicine at PPTH. A powerful position held by few women in the country. She was sure not to be happy about this situation and House was more than ready to rub it in.