TAMPA — After she was kidnapped, bound and repeatedly raped, the 31-year-old heard the sound of clicking metal. She braced for the pain she imagined she'd feel once a bullet hit her head.
But she wasn't shot that night.
She lived to get away, to tell deputies, then lawyers, and on Tuesday, a jury, about the worst three hours of her life. She survived to stand up in a Hillsborough courtroom and point a finger at the man prosecutors said orchestrated one of the most violent rape cases they'd seen in years.
This one was in Apollo Beach. There was another in Gibsonton. And another, at the Table restaurant in St. Petersburg. All in the summer of 2008.
That was him, the woman on the stand testified.
The man who — past 3 a.m. Aug. 16, 2008, after two bartenders closed up the Docks restaurant — ran at her 24-year-old co-worker with a gun.
The man who, along with two others, duct taped both women, forced them into a truck and drove them to corners of east Hillsborough County so remote, no one could hear them scream.
The man who breathed alcohol on the younger woman as he groped her in the dark, then raped the 31-year-old in every way possible, forcing her to kiss him, leaving her in so much pain, she couldn't sit right afterward.
Rigoberto Martinez, 23, slouched at the defense table. The chained inmate wore a jail uniform, not a suit. The judge had told him it would benefit him to dress up, but the defendant said he didn't want to. He said it wouldn't matter. He faces life in prison, and deportation if the sentence falls short of that.
He and the woman made eye contact for only brief moments as she told jurors everything.
Like how, when she first heard a scream in the alley behind the restaurant, she laughed, thinking her friend had been startled by a bug.
And how, after the armed strangers drove the two to a secluded road, they duct taped her eyes, and she tried to wiggle her eyebrows to force open a slit to see.
How they all took turns.
Okay, just get through this, she told herself when it began.
I'm never going to see my daughter again, she told herself later that morning, in a field she envisioned the perfect place to dump a body. She thought of clues she might leave for a recovery team to find.
Her 24-year-old friend had eluded rape by lying about a deadly disease. "Are you sick, too?" Martinez asked the older one. But by then, another had raped her and she was afraid to make him mad, afraid of what could happen if they no longer found her valuable.
At one point, the younger woman was in the passenger seat of the truck, ordered to hide her head between her legs, as she heard everything Martinez did to the 31-year-old.
The woman who was raped said she heard her friend in the front seat crying. Once it was over, put she put her hand on the younger woman's back and told her, "We're going to be okay."
But she didn't believe herself.
Even after the attackers decided they were done and told them to jump out along Interstate 75, she threw herself onto the ground, pulling the other woman down with her, fearing still that they would be shot.
They wouldn't be.
The truck would be found burnt to the frame. Martinez would be found and tackled to the ground. Prosecutors would recount his first words to authorities, "I'm guilty."
The women would see co-defendant Jose Walle, now 16, plead guilty in Tampa and St. Petersburg and get sentenced to 92 years in prison.
They'd see Martinez plead guilty in St. Petersburg and get sentenced to 35 years for that rape before his Tampa trials.
They'd prepare for a trial against Vicente Reyes-Carbajal, 23, scheduled for February.
They'd embrace outside the courtroom Tuesday, after both were done testifying, and one would kiss the other on the head.
But before it all on that hot August morning, before anyone but the victims and their attackers knew what had happened, the two women stranded on the highway needed to find help.
They didn't want to flag down any cars. They were afraid it would happen again.
And the 31-year-old, duct tape tangled so badly in her hair that the chunk would have to be cut off, was missing a shoe.
So the younger one took a shoe off her own foot and gave it to her friend. And together, in search of a call box, they began walking.
Alexandra Zayas can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3354.