Chapter Fifty Seven
Sloane returns one drone from the compound, Eloise has another out, still quiet there.
"Sloane, get some rest."
"It isn't a suggestion, go, we need you alert later."
She bares her teeth and gives me a fake growl, comes over for a kiss, goes to the second bedroom and shuts the door.
Chan, "She was observant her entire shift, not distracted."
"Her wolf nature. Before him, she was always high energy, some therapist would have labeled her ADHD, but we don't subscribe to the diagnosis. The wolf was her Ritalin, she can concentrate like she's glued."
"Like a predator for prey."
"Yep. And she's lighting fast, we bought her a treadmill that can handle twenty eight miles an hour. The fastest human hits about twenty four. Eloise boosted it to forty, Sloane rockets along up for a quarter mile, then I make her back off. She complains she can do more, a gray wolf can maintain speed for twenty minutes, I want to go carefully though. She can also snap a bone with her bite."
Chan smiles, not a common sight, "The old masters delight from the void, the things they saw you and Janah do, Zi and Chloe reading auras, now Sloane. Tan must be laughing on the other side. He taught us the illusion of limitation."
"He gave me grief from the day he met me, my teacher, and Mrs. Fong, a wonder I survived them both."
Chan, "Giving you grief was her fountain of youth, well, along with Master Sung, she practiced on him until you came along."
"Janah was floored with her bequest, she gave us almost everything, millions in cash and property. I have trouble grasping the magnitude of her generosity."
Chan, "Your family personifies generosity, she saw that, knew her gift would not be squandered and she knew it would stay in the community, not get sold off or redeveloped."
"We are grateful for Master Kim, who gave Susan and I the best training he had to offer, then introduced Janah and I to the Shaolin. I owe so much to so many, Ms. Alva, Master Kim, C-mom, Lacy, Sung, Chu, Zhang, Tan, and the inestimable Mrs. Epstein. Good thing we don't age, I have a thousand years of debt to repay."
Eloise, "Activity at the compound, and Black is on the van, it's still moving down I-10 east, towards Mobile."
I check the screens, see the two dots, the van in front, Black's cycle behind. On a second screen is the compound, a sedan pulls in the yard. Driver gets out, then the passenger, they go inside.
Janah, "You know what to do, be quick."
Eloise drops the drone to near ground level, zips it behind the car, underneath, then it backs out and straight up. She checks the signal.
"Tracker is on, it's the red one," she taps the screen, "here."
Janah, "Dasha, when they leave, make sure we're following with a mini."
Dasha, "Da, okay."
We don't need to launch the mini yet, once the car moves, the drone can catch up from the GPS signal.
Black's on the line, "Van's stopped, we're near someplace called Ocean Springs.. There's a boat, not a yacht, but a big one, cabin cruiser, cockpit up top, must be thirty-forty feet."
"Can you get a tracker on it?"
"What am I again?"
"A Shaolin priest."
"I can get on the boat, inside the cabin and take a nap without them knowing I'm there. Here's a photo, back to you in a bit," he clicks off.
I pass along the message to the others, "They're handing off the kids to a boat. Black sent a photo, get this, the boat's called Joy of Youth, there's no visible registration number."
Janah, "Give it to Daria, let's see if she can find an owner."
"Wait, more pictures, Black's getting the guys from the van and the two on the boat."
Janah, "Daria, take all of them and find out who's who. He should send the plates and pictures of any cars. I suspect the boat came from elsewhere."
"We should send a drone to follow the boat, how long to get one there?"
Eloise, "A mini can make it in a half hour, from there it depends on how far the boat goes. If there's a tracker, it's more efficient to wait until the boat docks someplace. A cruiser that size could make it to Miami, the drone won't."
"Then there's nothing to do. We wait to see where it goes."
Black calls, "Tracker's on the boat, had to find something metal, it’s under the transom in back. I'm wet, but the thing is in place, you getting a signal?"
I ask Eloise, "Signal from the boat?"
Eloise studies the screen, "No...wait, yes, just popped up, we're good."
"We have a signal, good job. For the exercise, photo all the cars and plates if there are any besides the van. We don't think the boat is local, but we don't know it isn't. After that, all you can do is follow the van again. Probably coming back, but in case."
Black, "There's four cars, it's a marina, small, maybe twenty berths, most of the boats are docked. I'll get them and send it along. The cars were here when we got here, the boat was berthed, nobody went from a car to the boat or the other way around."
"Probably unrelated then, check in if you need anything."
I go see about Sloane, she's dead to the world, good, let her rest.
Back in the main room, "What now?"
Janah, "Nothing, wait and watch. Amaya, Chloe, if you have things to do, write, check on the fan page, make any business calls or e-mails, do them. Daphne will connect with Amaya when we need you."
They return to their suite, Amaya's inbox stays full between publishers and managing Chloe's career. The fan page is busy, but there's nothing new since Chloe's last film so the stream isn't buzzing. She doesn't tweet, there's no Facebook page she operates, somebody put up a fan page but not us. It mostly regurgitates stuff from Chloe's website or posts film trailers and modeling shots from magazines. It's Chloe friendly, so Amaya decided to let it slide. If the magazines wanted to deal with copyright issues, she'll leave that up to them.
Janah, "I hope we haven't hit a slack period in the child selling business. Based on a private compound and its size, this operation must go further than delivering a few kids to a boat."
"It's ten in the morning, our first full day. I'm hoping we don't wind up tracking twenty vehicles all over the Gulf Coast."
Chapter Fifty Eight
An hour later, the van returns to the compound, Black calls, "I'm watching, want to see if there are more deliveries. No point in coming to the hotel just to leave again."
"Good point, I see you on the drone, smile."
Just then, a second van comes along, Black says, "See it? I don't have another tracker."
"Yeah, when they get inside, we'll drop the drone and stick one on," just then the front desk calls, there's a package, it must be the extra trackers Eloise ordered, "Dasha, can you go get it?"
"Sorry, where was I, oh yeah, Eloise will take care of the van, we have a package downstairs, I assume it's the new trackers. This is starting to resemble air traffic control at JFK."
We watch, two men exit the second van, enter the primary building. Eloise shoots the drone under the van, tracker clicks contact, she backs it out and up.
Black, "She zips that sucker in like a laser beam."
"Actually, it is a laser beam, I just got the signal, you should see it on your phone."
"Yeah, got 'em both, one blue, the new one, the other is red, hang on, they're coming out."
We watch the second van drive to the smaller building, four kids some out, blinking in the bright sun, into the van, the side door slides shut.
Black, "Want me to follow?"
"You stay with van one, Dasha will pick up two from a drone."
Now we have Black waiting, Dasha is flying the mini above the second van, too soon to tell if it's east or westbound just yet, just coming to the interstate.
Eloise, "Need to have a replacement drone at the compound."
Daria, "I have it, be there in a minute."
When Daria's arrives, she hands it off to Eloise, takes control of the returning one and pilots it back to our balcony.
Chan, "Amazing, the skies will be filled with drones one day."
"If Google and Amazon have their way. Works for us, we can let targets assume it's one of theirs."
Nikko, "Janah, we have kids handed off to a boat going who knows where, now another van delivering more kids. I don't see how waiting is helping eight children we know about."
Janah, "Point taken. Dasha, take a bike and follow the second van...no, Daphne, get Amaya, tell her we need a driver. Dasha, you and Nikko go with Amaya, take out the second van. Make sure the men don't contact anyone, by whatever means necessary."
They are downstairs and on the road in minutes, Janah, "Where's the boat?"
Daria, "Still docked."
"Zi, see if you and Chan can get over there in time to clear the boat."
"Oceane, get a drone to the site, one with darts, tranquilizers. If the boat starts to move the pilot will be in the cockpit, we can zap him and create confusion. Someone else will go up top to see what happened, take them too. We'll figure out what to do when the boat's dead in the water."
Daria loads the drone, Oceane lifts it from the balcony and it heads east.
"Full speed Oceane, better to get them at the dock if we can."
We can't, halfway to the target, the GPS shows the boat moving out into open Gulf, not just following a shoreline.
Janah, "Tell Zi and Chan to return. We'll handle the boat differently."
I call Chan, they aren't yet ten miles down the interstate, "Long as you're out, turn around, go to the compound and hang with Black, we may need to move on it."
Chan clicks off. Turn my attention to Amaya.
"Got them in sight, as you can see, heading west, the next city is Bay St. Louis, after that, it's Slidell, in Louisiana."
"Engage when you have a clear opportunity. It would be messy to cut them off on the interstate, but if you spot a chance when they stop, or get to a less well traveled road, take it."
"We're on it, those kids are going no place but to safety, Nikko's got that look."
'That look' doesn't bode well for the two dopes in the van, they have at most a couple of hours to live.
Black calls, "See you sent me some company."
"Yep, plans are changing. Nikko correctly pointed out we have four kids on a boat and four more being delivered someplace west of you. We want to nail as many of these pukes as we can, but we can't have eight children handed off to pervs and just sit."
Black, "Nikko's right. You want us to clean house here?"
"Janah, I think we turn Black, Chan and Zi loose on the compound, then we get whatever other names we need through physical persuasion."
"Black, take the compound, I'll be along to dig into any electronics they have, probably nothing, they wouldn't want digital records, but we want their phones intact."
"Talk to you later," he clicks off.
"Daria, I'm going to the compound, I need you and Chloe here to coordinate the internet searches and take care of Janah, Oceane and Eloise."
Sloane walks in, "Where you going?"
"To the compound."
"I'm going, can I get a coffee on the way out?"
Chapter Fifty Nine
By the time we get to the compound, the occupants, four, are trussed up like chickens in the main room of the big building. There are six children there in a separate room, zombied, as in drugged. I leave them for later and go downstairs to the perv parade. Four men, Middle Eastern, well, well. They're still in defiant mode, I shall gain their cooperation if not their admiration.
"Um, any of you familiar with water boarding?"
I am rewarded with widened eyes on three, a sneer on one, I turn to him, "What, you immune to drowning?"
He stupidly says, "I know my rights, I want a lawyer."
I hit him so hard his chair falls backwards, he's duct taped to it, his head bounces off the floor and the chair falls to the side. Titanium capped knuckles in my gloves are hard on skin and bone. Black rights him, his nose is rather a mess, he's bleary-eyed, I backhand him hard, "pay attention, Mohammed."
He blinks, the others say nothing, nobody else asks for an attorney.
"We aren't the law, not local, state or FBI. We are our own police and your judge and jury, you have been weighed in the balance and found wanting. You have no rights, you get no representation, you are accorded no courtesies. How many fingers and toes you get to keep are up to you."
For demonstration purposes, I remove the little finger of the talker, he screams, I think I've been cursed by some Muslim deity, but I don't do Farsi, so who knows?
For the exercise, I take the little toe from each of the others, "Understand boys, this is not a test, this is an actual alert, and if you want to survive, you need to accept that I am your God, and you will have no other Gods before me. Allah cringes in my presence, and so shall you."
It takes about an hour, an hour after a lot of yelling about blasphemy and satanic American whores. I had to demonstrate my satanity by a few more dismemberments, big toes and half a forefinger from each of our contestants. Bits lie on the floor, little bloody stubs, testament to intransigence. I'd performed a miracle, turned intransigence into transigence, almost groveling. A few more fingers and they'd be on rugs, ass in the air, praying to me five times a day.
My stomach turns at the thought. Sloane reads off numbers from their mobiles, I get names and locations, I find out who's in charge, at least in charge of them. We're pretty sure the bottom doesn't know the top, but if we work our way up, we'll get there eventually.
Janah, "Sounds like they're dry."
"Park them someplace, people are coming to take the kids, we'll monitor the compound from a drone. If anyone shows up, the place will be empty, that's okay, we track them and see what happens."
"Black, put these dopes someplace, tied up, locked up. If we get this wrapped before they die of dehydration, lucky them. If not, if the other players take too long to come around, then the fault is in their stars, or Allah’s faulty will."
Chan and Black haul them to the second building, find a room with no windows and one door, sit them along the wall. They're tied with both picture wire and duct tape, hog tied too. Can't talk, can't move, lights off.
"Can they untie each other?"
Chan, "Not without slashing their wrists."
Black, "What now?"
"Now we wait for whoever shows up," I hear a car, "that must be Extraction."
The Extraction team, grandparent types, we help get the kids in the van. Not sure what happens to them now, it remains to be sorted out, were they stolen, bought, come from the US or brought into the country? The Society will use its network to contact agencies and take care of the children until they are either returned to parents or placed. It would be dicey business, explaining how we got the kids without admitting sheer vigilantism. Which, when you cut to the chase, is what the Society does. Since Janah runs the Society, we're the primary vigilantes. But we won't have to explain, the kids will appear and anyone who doesn't need to know will be told 'anonymous tip.'
Janah is on our ethernet, "The drone is monitoring, you'll have a heads up if anyone comes down the road. If they have kids...guess you know what to do."
"I sent Daria phone numbers and names we got from our first, um, interviews. Our interviewees are locked tight. What do you want to do with them?"
"We don't kill outright, not unless we or innocents are in imminent danger. Let's do this. You guys have to sit around anyway. Take one at a time and have Chan downsize them. Erase enough memory to leave them functional but incapable of anything but light janitorial service. It's tiring work to blank a brain, I can send Daria or come myself."
"I'll let you know, stay put for now."
"Chan, pull one from the room and reconfigure him to second grade. Janah says take your time, do one, rest. When you feel recharged, do the next. She or Daria will come out if we get pressed for time or you need a longer break."
Black and Chan go off, there are a number of vacant rooms, just park one and let Chan go to work.
Black returns, "Chan will be occupied for a couple of hours."
"You and Zi monitor the drone overhead, if someone shows up, what we do depends on whether they have kids with them or not. Sloane and I are going to fiddle with phone numbers here while Dasha works on them from the hotel."
We park in the makeshift kitchen, start surfing the numbers called on four phones. Not surprisingly, a number of calls are to each other, we bypass those and go for the unknowns.
Nikko, "Targets have stopped at a low end motel near Slidell, Budget something. They are transferring the kids to another van."
I can see through her eyes, there's a van next to a van, both with sliding side doors, it appears to be the empty side of the motel, "Do whatever it takes."
I hear Nikko tell Amaya, "Let me out, when Daphne gives you the go ahead, block the one facing out."
Nikko slips out the door, through a walkway that cuts the motel in half, around the rear. Rooms only face front, the back of the motel is a blank wall. Two men are transferring kids, one is watching the front, the other is smoking a cigarette, leaning against the rearward facing van. I presume he figures nothing is coming from behind the building.
Nikko, "I'm taking cigarette," I see him drag, exhale to the sky, then I see a knife in his throat and a quick sideways slash, so much for not killing.
"Amaya, Dasha, the kids are in the transfer van and the door is shut, block the vans, Dasha, take the first one you get to."
Dasha hops out and to the edge of the building, I see our car screech around the corner, Amaya slides it directly in front of the two vans. A man to Dasha's left turns, his eyes widen, then go blank. Not sure what she did, the picture changes and I can only see her staring at the sky, I switch to Amaya's view.
Dasha's being choked from behind by a big man, he's only got a partial stranglehold, she's got her chin tucked into her chest as we'd practiced a few thousand times. She stomps his foot, right on the instep, a howl, she drops to a half squat, grabs one ankle through her legs and yanks it up. He falls backwards, still holding her, but I also see she's got his ankle twisted at an unnatural angle. Then a hand, Amaya's, comes into view, her palm heel strikes him hard right under his nose and up. I see a boot smash his temple and he's down.
Amaya turns to find Nikko, last one's down, not sure what Nikko did, he's on the concrete between the vans and a pool of blood is forming on the pavement next to his chest.
"Dasha, get their phones, Amaya collect our tracker and drive the van, Nikko, go with her and calm the kids, Dasha will follow in the car. I'll give you an Extraction location in a minute."
Janah mentals Nikko, "Get to the Bay St. Louis exit, find a van that looks like an airport shuttle, white, no markings. They'll take the kids. Dump the van you're in someplace and come to the hotel."
It's a little complicated. Janah and I can mental with Nikko, but only I can mental with Amaya and the twins. Chloe, Zi, Oceane, Eloise and Sloane don't mental with anyone, we have to communicate with them the old fashioned way.
Forty minutes later, Nikko and the others show up.
I'm on a video call with the others at the hotel.
Dasha, "I keel perv man Dahfoney, then Eemaya smash one and kick him senseless. When we are feenish, Nikko haf already two dead. A gud day for us."
"A great day for the kids, I hope they didn't have to see all the violence."
Nikko, "They were in the panel van, no windows. It was quick, they may have seen a bit of scuffle out the windshield, but not the end result. If they saw more, none of them said anything. I didn't have to do much, they were dazed, leftover drug I guess. Extraction may see them livelier."
Janah, "The children know they were abducted or bought. These people don't worry about what the child thinks during negotiations, go back and forth on price right in front of them. Kids are in good hands now, safe."
I recap the compound, "Chan, Black and Zi got them under control, I went for a chat and we got more names and numbers. Chan is erasing memory now."
Why don't we just kill the guys at the compound? It's our way. Nikko, Dasha and Amaya had a face to face confrontation with the bad guys. It's okay to get terminal when we might get terminal instead. It's different when we capture them, like at the compound. Think of it as combat versus taking prisoners. We will torture, but, unless they are Shadows, we don't just outright kill them. I know, seems pointlessly hair splitting, the ones left alive will be mentally damaged beyond repair, near walking dead. It isn't really a moral question with us, it's how we do it.
Amaya, "What do we know, numbers turn up anything?
"Daria and Eloise are tracing the mobile numbers. We will tap into conversations soon. In the meantime, we at the compound are just waiting to see who shows, somebody's going to come out here sooner or later. Names don't mean much, a couple of them show up on arrest reports, minor stuff, nothing to do with child selling."
Janah, "What we want is the head of the snake. Right now, we know from Daphne's interviews that there are six more abductors, who either steal kids or buy them. And there are four more up level contacts who deal with buyers. We took out four at the motel, but two were delivery guys, the other two were in contact with buyers. Right now, we're on the hunt for the six abductors and the four who do end user contacts, buyers."
"The ones we have here at the compound dealt with delivery people, they are as far up in the chain as delivery knows about. I have four more names and numbers. Those guys know who the head of this mess is. We need one of them alive to get the next name. Daria is going through the phones you took at the motel, we might get a lead from that. They must call further up the line at some point."
Chloe, "Sounds like we wait for people to appear at the compound or get locations from the phones."
"Exactly. Get some downtime while we work these numbers, just stay sharp, you may be up in action on short notice."