On this lonely street, nobody heard, nobody saw

"He would lock these girls in a room, where he would beat them and urinate on them," Alvarez said. "That, I think, shocked everyone. He would urinate on them, leave them for days in a locked room and then they would become dope sick from the drug withdrawal. So we're talking about some really serious physical abuse of these women, and this was done to maintain control over them."

The women didn't turn tricks at the two-flat. That was just the place they were kept. Roman drove them everywhere, Alvarez said. He didn't take his eyes off them.

But how did no one hear a thing?

"I've seen some girls coming in and out, but I thought they were for him," Colon said. "We don't ask questions. We pay our rent every month."

Colon grew up on the Northwest Side and told me he ran with gangs as a young man. He straightened out his life, obtained a truck driver's license and became an owner-operator. He's determined to raise his children in the suburbs. He says he won't ever go back.

"We moved out here about seven years ago for my son," Colon said. "To get away from the gangs and stuff. I don't want him exposed to drugs or any of that nonsense."

So he didn't hear anything, or ask about anything, and neither did the others. You can moralize on it and say what you would do, that you'd be the one to stand and shine a light on things, but their block isn't a street of lawyers and doctors and business owners and columnists.

They're working people holding on. They don't have much influence. And a key survival skill for people of no influence is keeping your mouth shut.

Colon's priority is his wife and children. The Contrerases' priority is their children. The old guy across the street has a family too.

And nobody wanted any trouble. Nobody.

jskass@tribune.com

Twitter @John_Kass

CHICAGO

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