Almost an hour had passed now since they had started driving. In her quietness, the girl watched the trees pass by anxiously with her fingers tucked under her legs.
Her nervousness was evident in his glance back at her. Suddenly, the railway station appeared. There was a chill running through him. Now was the time to act.
Satbir Arora was a cab driver who loved his job. He felt like he played a crucial role in many people’s daily lives.
Being a cab driver meant more to Arora than just driving. He considered himself as the one in charge of everyone who entered his car. He had no notion how drastically this mindset would alter his life.
It was a usual Friday morning for Arora. He ate a lovely breakfast with his wife and then began his workday.
He had barely been on the road for 10 minutes when he spotted a young girl in need of his services. The young lady was dressed in her school uniform. Arora smiled as he drew his cab up next to her, oblivious to the fact that things were going to get out of control.
“Where to?” Arora asked the young girl. “Gloucestershire Railway Station, thanks,” the girl said nonchalantly. Arora couldn’t help but wonder as to why she was going there.
“A little far, isn’t it?” he asked, concerned and the girl let out a laugh. Arora stared back at her, and she averted his gaze. Was there a problem?
It was very rarely that Arora had passengers for over an hour, and the young girl’s stop was over two hours away. What also stood out to him was that she was not accompanied by an adult. Arora would have to investigate further.
“Do your folks know where you’re going?” he calmly inquired. The girl shuffled uncomfortably and nodded. That reaffirmed his concerns, something was definitely not right.
The girl had a worried expression on her face. Despite the fact that Arora had never interfered in the affairs of his customers before, he felt compelled to do so here.
“What’re you going to do at the station, traveling somewhere?” he inquired. The girl nodded once more, and as he kept his gaze fixed on her, she conveyed something that increased his anxiety even more.
“I’m meeting a friend,” the girl defensively responded. Arora knew that she was concealing something and asked, “Do your parents know about this friend?” She merely nodded, making it clear that she did not want to have this conversation.
Arora felt guilty for pressuring the young girl so much, so he decided to rather focus on the road. He noticed the girl’s discomfort as they approached their destination.
The young girl started gathering her things as soon as she spotted the train station. She jumped out of the cab before Arora could even park.
Arora watched as she walked to the entrance. It was clear to him that she felt uncomfortable, and he needed to help her.
He couldn’t abandon her in this state. Arora received no response from the girl. But he thought maybe his wife would know what to do. He promptly called his wife and informed her of the predicament.
She confirmed that she also felt like something was amiss with the girl. She requested to talk to the her on the phone. She had to get her to open up, and she would do anything she could to make the girl feel comfortable enough to do so.
Arora approached the girl and gave her the phone. He kindly told her, “I have someone here who’d like to talk to you, it would mean a lot to me if you talked to her. Please.”
The girl paused for a second before taking the phone and answering it. When his wife started speaking, Arora noticed a shift in her voice. The girl seemed to understand what his wife was saying to her and partook in the conversation.
Arora noticed that the girl was scared. Her eyes were wide as she stared around, searching for someone. There was a tremble to her fingers and a quiver to her lips.
She held her school bag tightly to her chest like she had not been used to such huge crowds. She felt and looked awkward and out of place. Watching her put a few things into perspective.
A few things became clear as Arora studied the girl. The first thing was that the girl had never been alone in such a crowded place. She wanted to appear like someone who had done this several times before but did the opposite.
The second thing was that whoever she was waiting for was someone she’d either never met before or was trying to impress. Each of these realizations only made Arora want to step in even more.
Arora’s fingers tightened around his steering wheel as he thought about the best way to approach the situation. It was already clear that the girl wouldn’t open up to him.
After all, he was a middle-aged man looking to connect with a teenager and get her to tell her what was worrying her. It was then that he had a brilliant idea.
In the years that Arora had been a married man, he had a weapon that had never failed in social situations. This weapon also doubled as his lovely wife, a woman Arora loved to high heaven and back.
Arora’s wife had her way of connecting with people. She was easy to talk to, with the most disarming smile on this earth. If there were anyone who could get the girl to speak, it would be her.
Arora knew his wife would get the job done. But there was only one problem. She was more than two hours away from the train station. She wouldn’t make it in time.
Arora thought about calling her, but that alone presented its own problems. First, would the girl accept to talk on the phone, and second, could his wife connect with her without being there in person and using her all mighty disarming smile?
Arora found himself where he began, with a half-solution to his issue. But he also knew there was no time to waste. The girl didn’t open up to him.
Maybe his wife would have a better chance, even if it was over the phone. With that thought in mind, Arora dialed her number. He was running out of time and options.
Arora’s wife picked up immediately, and Arora wasted no time in filling her in on the situation. He explained everything from the start, detailing where he picked the girl and how she’d acted in the car.
He described her answers and where she was right now. Arora’s wife agreed that there was something off about the whole situation. So what could she do?
“Can you go and ask if I can talk to her?” Arora’s wife asked. Her plan was simple, Arora would approach the girl with his phone out, telling her that his wife wanted to talk to her.
Of course, she would be apprehensive at first. But her walls would lower when she saw the phone and not Arora needing to talk to her. Once she had the phone in her ear, Arora’s wife would handle the rest.
Arora hopped out of his taxi with the plan set and casually walked to the girl. She seemed to recoil when she saw him, although there was something else that Arora had caught.
At the moment that the girl realized she knew Arora, there was a fleeting look of relief that flashed across her face. She even smiled for a microsecond before taking a step back.
Arora didn’t let the reaction get to him. All he needed to do for now was hand over the phone and stand aside as his wife did the rest.
His lips curled into a loving smile, and he waved at the girl as he walked up the curb and onto where she was standing. It was now or never.
Arora lowered onto one knee and said, “I have someone here who’d like to talk to you.” His lips curved again, “It would mean a lot to me if you talked to her. Please.”
The girl hesitated for a second, then took the phone, placing it in her ear. Arora heard his wife’s voice change when she began speaking. It was more soothing. The girl nodded severally and started talking.
If the girl seemed nervous before, now she looked terrified. She passed the phone back to Arora and stepped closer to him, her eyes darting all over the station.
Arora didn’t know what to make of the situation. But it was clear that whatever his wife had said to the girl in the few minutes she had her over the call had made her trust them. He put the phone in his ear.
“Hello,” he said casually, hoping not to spook the girl with his eagerness to know what was happening. The girl was now standing too close to him. Her fear was almost palpable.
“It is bad,” Arora’s wife divulged over the phone. “She’s meeting someone she’s been talking to over the internet. She’s anxious about meeting him because she’s a minor. Call the police, Satbir.”
Arora didn’t hesitate to call the police. His sight tried to follow the girl’s, to see who she was looking for. This morning, the station was busy. So, Arora couldn’t pinpoint any suspicious person in the crowd.
The police arrived shortly. The person that Arora’s passenger was meeting was nowhere to be seen. Maybe he came and saw the cop cars and got spooked. Arora had a genius plan to corner him.
“Mind giving me the lad’s number,” he asked the girl, and she handed it over. Arora called the number, and the man picked up before immediately canceling.
Although the man canceled the call, Arora got him where he wanted him. He told the police what he’d done and asked if they could use the railway’s surveillance system for the next part of his plan.
With the help of the railway’s surveillance system, Arora and the police tracked down several individuals staring at or using their phones at the exact time Arora made his call.
But the problem with the plan was that the station was flocked with travelers and loved ones seeing their friends and families off or receiving them. How would Arora and his team pinpoint one person out of this staggering mass?
Arora and the police were still wondering how they would tag the right person when Arora had another brilliant idea. Since the man had been talking to the girl, there was a possibility she would recognize him from the rest. The girl stepped up and pointed at one of the camera stills.
A man was standing inside a parked train, a seemingly harmless-looking individual in his twenties. It’s him, she said, and the police sprang into action.
The police identified the man as Sam Hewings. He was a dangerous twenty-four-year-old predator who’d made a habit of luring children and kidnapping them.
More was discovered about the man, revealing his intentions with Arora’s passenger. His online chat logs were incriminating evidence that helped the jury make a sound decision about his sentence. But there was more to him than the investigation had first revealed.
After further investigation, it became clear who Mr. Hewings truly was. He was part of a bigger ring of offenders who made a name for themselves by hurting minors all over the United Kingdom.
Their conversations revealed sickening things that could make any man hurl. Each of these discoveries made everyone thankful that Arora had helped apprehend the man.
Arora shared that he’d attended safeguarding training some months before the incident. What he’d learned then helped him save the little girl.
Gloucestershire Police granted him the highest honor in the police. To Arora, knowing that the girl reached home safely was a good enough prize. He only hopes that more cab drivers will undergo the training to defuse these dangerous situations before they escalate. Disclaimer: To protect the privacy of those depicted, some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed and are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblances to actual events, places, or persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.