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She wiped her fingerprints off the stripper pole. She was in the kitchen when she heard more gunshots. Then she fled the house with the others, who split up the money and drugs they’d stolen.
Alexis told the story using only nicknames for the others she said were involved. Again and again, the detectives asked for their real names, asked her to point to pictures of who did it.
“They know where my sister is,” Alexis said. “What if they get some of their dudes to …”
“Then we will move your sister, okay?” Ross assured her.
“You promise?” she asked. “Whatever I say, you’re not going to let them hurt my sister?”
“Absolutely not,” Ross said.
They didn’t have a clear answer to the other question she kept asking: “Am I ever going to be able to do anything with my life?”
They reminded her that she was young. They offered her snacks. She told them she couldn’t keep food down.
“Can we please give you something to eat?” Lietke asked, softer now. “I’d feel better if we did. We’ve got muffins. Would you like a muffin? I’m going to get you a muffin.”
Alexis ate the muffin, and after a few minutes pointed to one of the pictures.
When the detectives left the room, she flopped onto the metal table and closed her eyes.
She hadn’t told the whole story. She would come to understand that she didn’t actually know the whole story, had never heard the words that could explain it.
It would be weeks before a social worker in the juvenile jail would introduce Alexis to the phrase “human trafficking” after Alexis began confiding what she had been through.
She really had been taken to Cincinnati, she said, by a drug dealer she hadn’t been able to pay back. He drove her to a strip club, and that was the first time she was forced to use her body to make money. After that, she started spending time with the father of a friend. A.K. Had always seemed to her like the kind of parent she wanted.