While on her way to school one morning, Maria Sanchez, 12, is kidnapped by strangers. She is taken from her poor Mexican village and brought to a dusty farm on the outskirts of a border town, where she joins other girls, all sad-eyed, who are forced into slavery in the town’s main factory. Maria is brutally raped by paying customers—mostly rich American men. She is left for dead, but unlike most of the other girls she survived, and once government forces destroy the farm, is taken away again by the man who has kidnapped her.
Years ahead in Los Angeles, Gideon Gold, 40, a marginal screenwriter and filmmaker, is interrupted while shooting a video magazine. His wife wants him to help an old Jewish woman whose husband, a famous talent agent in town, was brutally murdered a year ago. Case unsolved. Gideon, a past captain of an elite paratroops unit in the Israeli army and a former Mossad secret agent, is reluctant to embark on this new adventure. But when he meets the widow, he finds out that all she wants to know is why her husband was murdered, and why in such a gruesome manner: his penis severed and placed in his mouth. It reminds Gideon of similar cases in Israel’s wars with the Arabs and convinces him to take the case. Besides, he’s always short on money.
His investigation will be interwoven with Maria’s story, as depicted in a diary she keeps. We learn from it that Mario, one of the men who kidnapped her, brings her to America, where he uses her as a slave-worker in a sweatshop in Whittier by day, and as a sex-slave by night. One such night, when Maria can no longer take the abuse, she kills him while he’s drunk and drugged. She cuts his penis and sticks it in his mouth, the way she saw him do to one of the workers at the farm, who raped a girl without his permission. She runs away and ends up adopted by a middle-class Latino family. The father is the principal of a special East L.A. school for disadvantage Latino kids. He teaches Maria English and gives her proper education, as well as fatherly love.
Gideon’s investigation, meanwhile, is going nowhere fast. The only clue he discovers is a picture in Variety from the funeral of the agent, where among some rich and famous men, there‘s also a picture of an “Unidentified Woman.” He believes she’s connected somehow to the case, even though FBI agent Tami Yang finds no evidence to support that. She’s an Asian American young woman who fled Vietnam, and is the only person involved in this case who gives Gideon some daylight. The FBI is convinced that the Mexican Drug Cartel is responsible for it. The break in the case comes from Tami, when she informs Gideon that a prominent California State Senator was murdered in Sacramento in the same fashion.
This will lead Gideon eventually to Maria. When the son of her adopted family discovers her diary and her secret past, she runs away from home and becomes a high-class prostitute, known as “Schoolgirl Vicky.” She traces and seduces all those who raped her, using a list she has managed to take from the farm. Among them is a Wall Street broker, an Illinois rancher, the Hollywood agent and the Sacramento senator. She kills them all the same way.
Gideon meets her finally in a derelict motel in Tampa, Florida, where he learns of Maria’s terrifying ordeal, and the reason for the murders. He puts an end to it, and prevents her from killing her last rapist, a famous baseball player. She saves him, not killing him, and he saves her: enabling her to escape and returns to her poor Mexican village, in search of her family and roots. She decides to do some good with the money she has earned from prostitution and build a new elementary school, to be named after her adoptive father from Los Angeles, who taught her reading and writing.