When I first moved to Portland Oregon at 18, I rented a shitty house in a shitty neighbourhood and got a job at an exotic pet store. The guy who hired me almost immediately made me the manager since I was good at taking care of the animals and managing the place alone most the time. One day, off handed, my age came up and he looked disappointed, “oh, I thought you were much younger”. I laughed it off but was a little more aware of his behaviour after that. I realized he had made me manager and even hired me based on this – but it turned out my age made me safe.
Everyone he hired after was around 15-16 (we all got paid under the table). One of the employees was his foster daughter who one day told me they were sleeping together. I freaked out and tried to talk to her about it, she insisted it was what she wanted (he was about 6’2″ beer gut, mullet and missing front teeth) but I didn’t believe her. I told his girlfriend about it, who occasionally came in to socialize the parrots, She had a kind of strange ‘slightly miffed’ reaction and said she’d deal with it – she had an 11 year old daughter so you think she would care more. After that, the foster girl stopped working there and Susanne (his gf) came in less and less, actually neglecting the parrots and making one of them go nearly insane after it had bonded with her.
After a few months I was hiring my own people, older employees naturally. Meanwhile he bought a second exotic pet store on the other side of the city. I helped him sort it out and set up. I ran the till a few days here and there as needed. In the neighboring nail salon was a woman who had a young daughter. He had told the girl she could work a few afternoons a week. I told her mother that he was weird around young girls and shouldn’t be hiring them. She should keep her away. She looked kind of mad at me, I think she had crush on the owner and saw him as no threat. I also warned off and was rude to every single girl who came in with an application he had handed out while I was at the other store the rest of the week. Once he caught on my plan he told me he didn’t need me there anymore and to go back to the other shop full time.
I worked weeks without getting paid, paying my employees first out of the till, then rent for the space, with nothing left over for me. I stuck around so long because I didn’t want to leave the animals in the owner’s girlfriend’s or anyone else he would hire’s hands, but I had to quit to eat, and I took a couple of my good employees with me since there wasn’t much hope of getting paid in the future. We all went to work at a seasonal Halloween store. I told his girlfriend Susanne we were leaving and she came to take over the store. I didn’t hear from anyone again about the pay he owed me and a few months later he was under arrest for raping 2 (or 3) young girls in that other shop.
Years later I ran into one of the many young girl employees on a bus. I didn’t recognize here, there had been so many, but she remembered me and told me that the girlfriend Susanne, and 11 year old daughter, were on Jerry Springer because the young girl was pregnant with his kid. I always wonder if I could have done more but I didn’t know he was dangerous until he was, just thought he was a creep. I tried to keep girls away from him because it wasn’t healthy and I thought… I was trying to help him and them somehow, yes I was very naive.