The Endgame – A Memoir

Recollections: Training

Endless decades of selling entire nations, 
pulling the rug from under the people of those nations, 
pumping generations for resources, impoverishing their children, 
and displacing millions with ridiculous stage shows 
all so you can get that next drug or adrenaline rush 
is a bit much. 
So is allowing a bunch of addicts to do so 
and to lead the way. 

It was the autumn of 1996. I’d had (mostly) free reign to wander the United States, in feeble attempts to escape and to create a normal life, since 1994. When the recruiter needed me, she would usually send the same group of bounty hunters to collect me each time. By 1996, I knew them all by first name, would drop whatever I was doing when they located me, and get into their car. There was no point in fighting the inevitable. 

My only wish was that she would just send me the payments directly instead of spending it on them. I would have used the money on a bus ticket to where she needed me, and the rest on dental. I was already struggling with the results of a severely impacted wisdom tooth that had never been pulled, and that required an expensive oral surgeon in a hospital setting to remove.  

Image Source: Personal x-ray, 2016, taken shortly before the wisdom tooth (and the neighboring tooth it crushed) was removed by a specialist, at age 39, in Europe. 

Unfortunately, the tooth would have to wait to be removed. The recruiter never trusted the people she used. Not even the ones who had to call her family. I had tried to explain over and over again throughout the years that I would have continued to work for her willingly if she had given me a cut of the pay. She didn’t believe me. She thought I would always be loyal and work for her regardless, because that’s how I was, and apparently that’s how I had behaved. 

I’d already had a similar discussion with her and one of her cohort members when they were extorting a commercial real estate owner for 100% of his profits. When I said that they should at least leave him with 5-10% so that he could feed himself and keep his business functioning so that he could continue to pay them well into the future, they both looked at me like I was a peasant trying to con them. They said he had always found a way to pay and there was no reason to worry about that stopping.   

Even more concerning, when it comes to the mechanisms that keep us trapped, when I asked that same mogul why he allowed them to take him for everything, he cited the need to keep paying his own mortgage. He was worried that if he did not comply, they would simply steal his home using lawfare and he truly would have nothing. In that moment, at least he still had a roof over his head. To him, it made sense. But to me? It was just another small problem that could have been stopped in its tracks, preventing the larger problems ahead by removing funding from the psychopaths. But I digress…

In the autumn of 1996, I was at a gathering in Illinois where some of the recruiter’s colleagues had dropped me off. I met a man while I was there. He was a few years older than me and had been a gunner during the Gulf War. He personally had around 100 kills, something he was usually very quiet about, but you could tell he was raging internally. We hit it off and started spending all our time together.  

A few days later, the bounty hunters showed up. It was clear that they were about to pick me up and bring me somewhere, but then they spotted him. It turns out that we were running in a very small work/social circle at that gathering. They knew him. When he was at his post-war worst, he had taken up fighting in Las Vegas to pay for a drug addiction (cocaine; he’d still go missing about once a month when I knew him, and I would have to hunt him down to whatever hotel he was holed up in while going through several thousand dollars worth of cocaine and crack over a weekend). The bounty hunters had taken to managing his short-lived fighting career in Vegas and bailing him out when he needed it. It had only gone on for a few fights before he was too wrecked to continue. His ill-advised venture left him in rough shape. Despite being short, it also left him in debt to the bounty hunting group by the end of the experience. 

Instead of getting me into the car, they went to town to make a phone call. When they returned, they sat down with him and told him they would cancel all his debt if he would babysit me. I sat there, silently by the fire, listening as I was traded for a debt of around $20,000. This wasn’t the first time I was exchanged for money or favors, but it was the first time I was so fully aware of the fact. 

I didn’t even blink. I just left with him and pretended like it had never even happened. I spent the next year with him, as a couple, and he took the role of the bounty hunters, transporting me to where I was required. 

One of the requirements was a course, Hostage Training for Women, on a military base in the Pacific Northwest. I never had a chance in life, not at freedom, not at normalcy, and not at the safe American white-picket fence middle-class life my mother had been told I would receive. It was never going to happen. 

Day one of the training would start with being crammed into a cell that was more of a cage. There was not enough room to stand up. This wasn’t hostage negotiation training. It was training for female officers who risked being taken as hostages. Thank god I still had my mother’s charm, baby face, and smile back then. 

Image: Roxana Teresa Claros Romero, Source: Desaparecidos

(I’m not sure what I got from my father, but I can see him reflected so clearly in the face of my son that there are times it has brought me to tears.)

Image Source: Universidad National de La Plata

I walked onto that small hallway with the cages on one side with women cowering inside, and a young military officer at a desk on the other side, and I acted as if I had just entered a celebration as the life of the party. In my mind, I had. I recognized so many faces there that I hadn’t seen since military camp, since early days visiting a U.S. military base when the bulk of those trafficked in through Operation Condor were still being held on the base. It was like a homecoming to me. I didn’t care that there were prison cells. I was born in a prison. It was the people I was so happy to see, who filled the space. It felt like coming home.  

Most women spent a week or two in that part of the training before they “got it right” and could proceed downstairs to the next stage. But life and my mother had already trained me to be a good hostage. They graduated me from that floor in less than twenty-four hours. 

The entire purpose of the training was to get the enemy to believe you were on their side, sexually into them, or at least as human as they were. There was torture involved. The goal was to get the torturer to stop and let you go. The tools we had to use were the only things they believed a woman had back then – wits and sexuality. The sergeant flat-out told us that he didn’t believe we could escape by overpowering anyone. Later, I would argue that the training was useless. Because, honestly, by the time I’m ever in a serious hostage situation beyond the one I was trapped in for life, sexuality is going to have been replaced with gray hair. 

But there, hanging from chains in that large ground floor space, I tried the tactics he demanded. For some reason I felt that psychologically separating myself from the situation would allow me to connect with the soldier who had been assigned to stand in front of me (it was a bit of a conveyor belt type of situation, so each hostage spent time with each soldier in the room). I was making myself dizzy trying. The pain only intensified the feeling of separation between mind and body. Finally, when I was at the far end of the room, and closest to the door, I was up against a soldier who appeared emotionally weak. I took advantage of it and he released me. That was graduation, but it honestly felt like cheating. I hadn’t found a weakness in a man. I had found the weakest man in the room. 

After being freed, I stood against the wall, as near as I could get to the door without raising suspicion. Slowly, as the women were released, one by one, they came to stand and huddle next to me. When eyes were no longer on us, I snuck to the door, leading them, and we ran. We exited that large building and ran across the parking lot and then through brush and trees, eventually following a small road into the housing area of the reservation next to the base. We walked quietly down that road in the darkness until we saw a house with a light on and knocked on the door. An older Native American man answered and we begged him to call the police. He called someone. About two minutes later, men from the base showed up and brought us back to where we had just escaped from. 

That’s the real reason I felt the training was pointless. Not that little quip I had above about sexuality and aging. We hadn’t escaped. How is it successful hostage training if you’re not taught an effective way to escape? 

I was still a hostage.    

I was probably already pregnant by that time. He disappeared shortly after the baby was born. My second child came about quite the same way, several years down the road, just without the hostage training.

Next: Stage 4: Detonation