A Close Call.There was an incident when I was about 11 or 12 years old where I was nearly picked up by a predator in a super market. It was a real wake-up call for my family, particularly for me.
Between 1995 and 1997 it was the norm for me to accompany my mother once a week while she did her shopping at a large supermarket on a Friday evening. We used to do our shopping there because it was popular with nearby relatives, including my granny, with whom we sometimes did our shopping together after an afternoon visit.
While my mother busied herself about the supermarket I would usually go entertain myself by the entertainment, toy or book section or wherever. Sometimes my younger brother would join me, other times he and the youngest one would go around with my mother. There was always something to do while I waited. The whole duration of the shopping was, if I remember correctly, about two hours.
On this particular day, I was keeping myself occupied alone by the videos and books (near the exit to the supermarket) when this guy in a smart suit came and stood next to me. He came across to me as some kind of security personnel because he had a walky-talky on his belt. He made me feel a bit uncomfortable because he was standing so close to me, but I tried to ignore him. Then I noticed in the corner of my vision that he kept looking at me up and down and he had a look on his face that just made me feel sick when I looked at him. I didn’t really know about homosexuals or peadophiles when I was that age but I realize that he must have liked little boys.
I kept moving away from him and he would come and stand next to me again. Then he just stood there staring at me with that look on his face for a few moments. I heard him saying something into his walky-talky then he approached me again. “I think you need to come with me outside” he tried to say authoritively as though I had done something wrong. “No thank you” and I walked off quickly and momentarily lost him, hiding behind a pillar, while he hesitated.
I was hoping he would just go away but I caught a peek of him still looking for me, almost panicky, around the isles. Then he saw me again and walked towards me with an ah-I-found-you grin on his face. This time he was more aggressive, “You need to come with me outside, there’s someone who wants to see you” “No”, and I started to walk away again and he was following me looking really aggravated now. Now my adrenaline had really kicked in and my heart was beating so fast it felt as though it would jump out of my chest.
Now that I look back, I suspect he was part of a child kidnapping ring and he expected me to obey him like his previous victims. I took him by surprise by being so defiant.
When he was closing in on me, I started to run and he started chasing me. I was desperately looking for someone, an adult, to help me as I ran through the aisles, this guy in hot pursuit. I stopped at the first adult I saw, one of the guys working by the shelves, thinking he would help me. He must have heard the anxiety in my voice, “Please help me, this man won’t leave me alone and he wants me to go outside with him” “Why don’t you go with him then?” he said mockingly.
I’m not sure to this day if that employee was in on it or if he assumed that this guy was some kind of security who had caught some kid shoplifting, because of his walky-talky and smart appearance. I am more inclined to think the latter because this guy had stopped behind me hesitantly and he didn’t say a word or make a move. I looked at his face again this time I saw how dark and lifeless his eyes were.
I started walking again and as I looked back again I saw something in his face had changed and I knew this time he was just going to grab me and try to force me out of the store. I suspect he had some kind of a drug with him that he could put over my face and smother me with a clothe, rendering me unconscious or helpless, because there was no way he was going to drag me out of that store. The place was packed with people.
I started running again and made a bee-line straight for a restaurant, where my mother often stopped for a coffee or tea break, hoping to find her there. This guy stopped outside the entrance while I partially disappeared behind a wall. My mother wasn’t there and I tried to pretend like I had found my parent/s in there. I could see he was talking on his walky-talky and looked as though he was about to come in. I knew I couldn’t stay in there so I briskly walked out trying to look confident. I could see he wasn’t sure whether or not there was someone in there that I knew. But he was starting to look desperate.
He saw me walking out of the restaurant but wasn’t sure whether or not to dart for me just then. Then I started to run through the aisles again, hoping against hopes that I would find my mother in one of them. He was in hot pursuit, but now we were both bumping into people and bashing our way through them. He was determined to catch me and I am not sure what he was going to do once he caught me. I didn’t want to find out either, but he seemed pretty confident about what he was going to do once he did.
Then by chance, I ran into my mother pushing her trolly down the middle lane. She must have seen my face and I burst into tears when I reached her. She said afterwards that my face was pale white. This guy was right behind me and he stopped when he saw my mother. She was angry. “Yes? And what is this now? What is going on here?” “Oh, ah, he looked lost.” He didn’t have anything else to say and walked off.
My mother was on her way to fetch me before going back to the tills. On the way there, this guy was still following me and must have passed us like three times, all the time either talking or pretending to talk into his walky-talky, trying to look legitimate. I think he was waiting for an opportunity for me to let down my guard and move away from my mother so that he could still grab me.
I often think back to that incident that night and I wonder what would have happened if he had caught me. I probably would have disappeared and nobody would have ever seen me again. I could have ended up in a child prostitution ring or something. You hear of these kidnappings all the time, but people probably don’t realize how it practically happens under their noses.
I shudder to think what other victims he may have picked up over the years. I hope I was his only would-be victim though.
I believe the Lord was with me back then and that he gave me the wisdom to make the decisions that I made. I’m grateful to the Lord that a possible tragedy was averted and that I’m still here.