Nikko, “So security didn’t know how the girls were acquired?”
“Nope, Janah asked, so did Amaya. Janah knew they were telling the truth, Zi and Chloe confirmed. Wherever the girls come from is known only to the women, security was just that, they don’t procure the kids.”
Janah, “Which means either the women steal or buy them from foster parents, even real parents. That’s dicey, I suspect there’s another vendor in the mix, maybe more than one.”
“It won’t help to speculate, they come from someplace. We need to grab at least one of them today. They may already know there’s a problem, there were calls to the security guys, no meaningful message, just ‘where are you, call me.’ Calls came from Finney’s phone.”
Nikko, “And what about the story they tell?”
Janah, “We do our surveillance bit and verify for ourselves.”
Zi, “Without security, will they try and make deliveries?”
Janah, “Don’t know. If they don’t, current customers aren’t only disappointed, a hint of a problem, they become instant non-customers. Much of their business is repeat, not a string of new people. The security team vetted new customers, there’s no security team anymore so they can’t take new business. I think they can make deliveries to known clients without security, regulars know the rules. For that matter, she could say the guy was down with the car, or out sick if anyone asked.”
Nikko, “They won’t ask, likely glad not to see the big beast lurking outside their door. So, what now?”
“Check the trackers, one of the women leaves, we take her. The rest of us fly drones around the two houses and see what we pick up.”
Janah, “We need another car, Daphne order that, then Daria will go with me when we grab one of the women.”
“Take one more, Dasha or Nikko. Two women may leave, one house has three. You may be able to get them both and it would be difficult with just two of you.”
Janah, “Nikko then. If there are two, Daria and I will take their minds, they’ll get in the car with no struggle.”
Chloe, “Do we know they aren’t Shadows?”
“No, we don’t, but I can tell, maybe Zi goes with Daria and me rather than Nikko, she can spot them quickly.”
“Better, Eloise, Nikko and I will fly drones, Chloe can sense if there are Shadows in the house. I’ll drive one car, we need Amaya in the other.”
Amaya, “That leaves you with Chan, Dasha and Eloise. We have someone who can metal others in each group.”
Janah, “Good, it’s settled. As an aside, if we track deliveries, can we get the drones to check out the hotel room?”
Daria, “Sure, but we have to know what room.”
“Let’s put the thought on hold. If we follow deliveries, we can find out what room easily enough, we have three Shaolin priests and a samurai, stealth is tattooed in their brains. Let’s do this, stake out the houses, let the drone snoop. If deliveries happen, follow, Daphne, Chan, Zi or Nikko find out what room, we drone the room, pick up any conversation. These are generally suites, upper floors. They may even leave the curtains open, at least in the main room.”
I’ve arranged the third car, Dasha calls room service, we get to sneak in lunch after all. Soon we’re enjoying a variety of sandwiches, sides of coleslaw, salads, green tea and Coke Zero. Things are quiet, we chill, watch movies, the GPS lights up at four thirty.
“Activity, do you want to follow, or stick with the plan?”
Janah, “It’s early, but maybe it’s a dinner date, five o’clock delivery, time in the room, downstairs for dinner, or room service, pick the girl up at eight.”
Amaya, “I will drive, need one of our drone operators just in case, someone to follow the delivery to a room.”
Zi, “I’ll go, may be able to see if a Shadow is involved.”
Eloise, “I should do the drone.”
Janah, “Okay, go, keep in touch, Amaya can mental Daphne, let’s see what we’ve got.”
Nikko, “I’m going, if there’s trouble, Zi would have to cover Amaya and Eloise, and remove the problem.”
“Good point. When it gets dark, the rest of us will split up and go to the houses. We only have two drones, we can use the second at one house, Daphne can creep around and do her thing at the other, Chan can give her some cover.”
Plans frequently don’t go according to plan, the early opportunity cropped up, we adapt and move on.
Turns out it’s a delivery, that means Amaya’s group is occupied for the time being. One girl only, Demond brings her to one of the major hotels. Zi follows them up to the fortieth, takes the same elevator. When Demond and the girl get off, Zi stays on, gets off one floor up. She sends the elevator down two floors and waits on another. By the time she gets to forty, the hall is empty. Zi has the sense of the girl, it’s only a matter of walking the corridor until she feels the girl in one of the rooms.
She calls Nikko, “Forty oh four, east side, end of the hall north, I’m coming down,” she clicks off and returns to the car.
Meanwhile, we follow the tracker, Demond is returning to the house. It’s still only twilight. Janah, Chan and Dasha are at one house, Chloe, Daria and I at the other, waiting on darkness.
Eloise flies the drone. The curtains are pulled back, she can’t have the thing hover directly outside the window, it’s pulled back and to the left about fifty feet. The camera is zoomed like we’re right outside. A man has his back to the window, a girl of about ten is on the sofa. He’s not fat or slim, dark hair, well groomed, tall, six feet, maybe an inch or two more. She’s dressed in a white blouse and black silk flare skirt, made up, at least eyeliner and lipstick, dark brown hair to her shoulders, looks like gold earrings, her nails are done in a dark maroon.
Playing older, like she’s a date.
Amaya, Not a ten year old look, but the clothes and makeup are well done, skirt two inches over her knees, oops, spoke too soon.
The girl begins to play with the hem, like she’s adjusting it, except the adjustment includes lifting up enough for a quick flash of white panty, then crossing her legs, she inches the skirt up, I can see her smiling. Her hand moves slowly down her leg, then a return trip. She leans back against the couch, long legs stretch out in front of her, then one foot propped on the seat of the couch, slip of panty visible. Classic Lolita tease.
He motions her to stand, she walks the room, twirls, the skirt flares out. She goes out of sight, Eloise shifts the drone right. The girl is seated on a dining table, legs crossed, skirt high, then she leans to one elbow and props one foot on the table. Her fingers trail bare thigh.
Amaya, Yes, and either a good actor or she’s enjoying herself.
Ask Zi if she can tell.
I hear Amaya ask and Zi reply, “It’s not as clear through the camera, but I’d say yes, she’s clearly pleased with the attention, there’s no vibe of stress.”
Janah, you catching this? At least for the one girl we’ve seen, she’s into it.
Not too surprising. First they’ve played the game a lot, second, it’s the life she knows. She has nice clothes, they live in an upscale house. Something interesting here. Three girls just got in a car with the woman we don’t know. One girl is on a cell phone, they are dressed their age, nice jeans, new sneakers, cute tops. This thing isn’t as it appears to be.
Guess not, doesn’t sound like guarded prisoners to me.
It’s gotten dark, Dasha is going droning here, see what conversation we can pick up.
I’m going to snoop around this place, check in with you later.
An hour passes, I’ve seen and heard enough, Janah, we’re going back to the hotel, we need to think this through.
Janah, I’ll say.
Two hours later, Amaya and the others return, Amaya says, “Want to see a movie?”
We gather around the laptop. It’s more from the hotel. Room service shows up, the girl disappears to a bedroom. When the service is in place and the waiter gone, the girl appears. They eat, steak, fish for the girl, a couple of sides. The man has wine, the girl a soda of some sort. Conversation we can’t hear, but the girl giggles, the man is smiling.
It’s nearing the end of three hours. The girl gets up, strips and sits on the dining table, leans back on her hands, props a foot on the table and her leg cocks out. The man unzips, drops his pants, unbuttons his shirt and masturbates while the girl does the same. He unloads on her chest and legs. The girl smiles, wipes up some of the cum with her fingers and puts it in her mouth. She rubs the rest of it over her chest and legs. Sheesh.
Zi, “We had to cut it off here, the drone needed a recharge. I hung around downstairs, same woman picked her up, tracker showed them returning home.”
Janah, “There was another delivery we didn’t follow. Our choice was to listen in on the girls left at home or follow the delivery. While we listened, the woman and girls returned with shopping bags, appeared to be clothes. Inside we heard conversation about the purchases, enthusiastic conversation. The girls were happy, animated. A television was on, made it hard to get specifics.”
“I heard much the same, two girls were preparing for all nighters, they left around eight. They talked about their ‘dates,’ that’s what they call them. One was particularly enthusiastic, how the sex was wonderful and he gave her the best presents, jewelry, a cool leather jacket. She was wondering what she would score tonight. One of the other girls had been with this particular customer as well, she was more excited about the size of his cock, her word.”
I let it sink in, then, “So the stories security told are right, the girls have no problem with it.”
Nikko, “Cripes, what in hell do we do with them?”
Janah, “What I’m wondering.”
Chloe, “There’s no Shadow. The adult women are less bubbly, but laughed along with the girls. The girls are not being restricted, nor punished, nor intimidated. It’s one big happy family of child escorts and their den mothers.”
Janah, “I’m a blank. We can put a stop to it, deconstruct the women, but how to deal with girls who think this is just dandy escapes me.”
Amaya, “You want to turn the whole mess over to the authorities, let them sort it out?”
Janah, “It crossed my mind. We don’t do that as a general rule because our evidence isn’t usually legal evidence. But we could put Darrell Dixon on notice that it is happening and let him take it to the Vegas cops. It’s what I was trying to avoid, they may sweep the whole thing under the rug.”
“Let’s have a light dinner and sleep on it. Something will come up.”
I order room service, more sandwiches, chips, Amaya makes drinks while we wait. We’re all thinking over what to do, my grey cells are either on vacation or deserted me.
Nikko, “Strange, they don’t seem upset about the disappearance of their security. At the least they must wonder if they got busted and are downloading confessions.”
Chloe, “Yes, it’s like they ignored it completely.”
Janah, “We picked up some conversation about it. In my bafflement, I forgot to mention it. For the moment, Finney is chalking it up to miscommunication. There were no appointments until late. If there is no business, the security guys generally go to one sporting event or another, take a girlfriend out, or have a few beers. Sometimes it happens, they don’t really need security for regular customers, so she didn’t make a thing of it. I should have mentioned it, but we were caught up in what to do next after a willing, even eager, kiddie porn show, I’m having another glass of champagne, marinate my brain. In the morning we’ll revisit the issue.”
It’s quiet, the others go off to their rooms, Janah and I, the twins, and Eloise sit around the table.
Dasha, “Why not leave alone? Girls are happy, ees not hurting anyone. Eef we interfere, now girls are unhappy.”
Janah, “I understand. Society would say they were coerced due to their age. The accepted wisdom is young people can’t think for themselves, so they need the guidance of social convention. But children are brainwashed by religion fed to them by their parents. That’s just another form of coercion, but society doesn’t see it that way.”
“Who ees care what society think?”
“We don’t, or we wouldn’t be doing vigilante work.”
“So, better to let girls continue than decide they are too stupid to know what they do.”
“She has a point, Janah.”
“I know. Let me sleep on it, we’ll talk it over tomorrow.”
Chapter Nineteen XII
Morning doesn’t bring any blistering insights. We have coffee in the room, when everyone is ready we hit the buffet again. You could eat here for a week and never have the same thing twice.
Chan is at the table with Dasha, Amaya and me.
“Any thoughts on what to do next?”
Chan, “Talked to Ning this morning. Gave her a quick version. She said there is no good alternative. Break up the business, girls are stuck in social services.”
Amaya, “And what we know of that is they wind up exploited. One may argue they are being exploited here I suppose.”
“The problem remains as to how they get the girls. For instance, they were stolen, and families have no idea what happened to their daughter. Who stole them isn’t material at this point. If that’s the case, there’s a problem to be rectified. But what if they came from parents or foster parents who sold them? That’s different.”
Janah, “There’s the further issue of new blood. Doing nothing about the current crew is problematical, but allowing new girls in is unacceptable.”
Dasha, “We will get Demond or Finney, Janah will talk, we will haf truth.”
Back in the room, I relate Dasha’s observation to the others.
Janah, “She’s right. Daphne, get one of them, bring her to the motel. We’ll have one more interrogation. And check in with the Minders, make sure our security boys are indisposed.”
I do, they are. Now we monitor trackers until we can snatch one of the women.
Dasha, Eloise, Amaya and I prepare to leave. We decided to stake out Demond’s place, nose around with the drone if we can.
The house is reasonably isolated, not in a subdivision, on a couple of acres, trees, a swimming pool. Amaya parks us a half mile out, Eloise launches the drone. There’s no activity outside, she drops the drone lower, but not window high, the microphone slides down over what we think is a kitchen window overlooking the pool.
A female says, “Anyone going swimming, nice day, sun’s out.”
I hear, “Yeah, in a minute. My date gave me a diamond bracelet, see? Don’t need to wear it in the pool.”
“It’s beautiful, wow, you must be a favorite.”
“He likes the way I suck his dick, and I let him think he’s fucking my brains out,” a giggle, “I’m lying, he does fuck my brains out.”
Laughter. A sliding door swips open, Eloise pulls the drone up and over the house, then in between trees with a shot of the pool. Three girls come out, one maybe fourteen, the other two eleven or twelve, carrying towels, water bottles, no bathing suits. They aren’t shy. The two younger jump in the pool, the other lays on a full length deck chair and plugs earbuds in her ears, fiddles with a phone.
I mental Janah, You following?
Yep. These are not unhappy kids, they are not being coerced or abused, how they got here is what we need to know.
“One of the women will run an errand soon enough. Everybody needs milk and eggs.”
As if on cue, Finney appears outside, “Going to the grocery, any requests?”
Earbud girl doesn’t reply, one of the swimmers says, “Condoms and Twizzlers, the rainbow kind.”
“Rainbow condoms or rainbow Twizzlers?”
The girls laugh, “Twizzlers, I don’t care about the color of condoms, once I put them on, I don’t see them.”
More laughter, the place is flipping Comedy Central.
So much for milk and eggs.
Janah, Some people’s staples are not everybody’s staples. I don’t want to snatch this woman now. Come back, I think we go about this differently.
I know what she’s thinking, Amaya returns us to the Bellagio, back in our suite with the crew.
Janah, “I don’t want to take forever on this, but I think busting up the business directly is the wrong way to go. So we bust it up indirectly.”
“We go after the customers. Once we’ve confronted a few, then I go to the women and explain the rules. In the meantime I need Daria and Susan to hack Finney, Demond and the others. I want to know where the money is. They only take cash, but it’s in amounts that don’t need to be reported, doesn’t need to be laundered. They have bank accounts, probably keep a fair amount of cash at home, perhaps a safe deposit box.”
Nikko, “Following around deliveries and targeting johns is going to take time.”
Janah, “Which is why everyone can go home except Daphne, the twins, Eloise and me. I’m putting Surveillance on as well. They will do most of the following, we use the drone for evidence where we can. After the girl has left, we go see the customer and explain he’s done.”
Chan, “And if you don’t have physical evidence you get it out of them with drugs.”
I add, “And when we’ve disrupted enough, we visit the women.”
Nikko, “I’ll stay if you wish.”
Janah, “This could stretch out a couple of weeks, maybe three. We need you running our businesses. If something unknown warrants it, we fly you back out. With Surveillance doing most of the legwork, we’re on a kind of extended vacation.”
Zi, “We do have appointments in a couple of days…and several next week.”
Nikko, “Okay. Let’s follow up any deliveries tonight, we’ll fly out in the morning.”
Amaya, “Chloe and I shall remain for a while. I can work here, Chloe needs a break anyway.”
“So, Chan, Nikko and Zi for tomorrow, I’ll call Transportation.”
It’s early evening, the trackers start moving, “Saddle up, I have three cars in motion.”
Janah, “Let me call Dixon, I think rather than our Surveillance people, it’s time for his people to get in on this.”
She calls, sends him photos of the women, the cars they drive and the plate numbers. His end is to alert his contacts and follow the delivery to a room. From there we have a name and location.
“How’d he react?”
“Happy to jump in. We end the business with no messy police interference, no FBI wondering about missing girls from out of state, no exposé in the news. The problem just goes away.”
Nikko, “What do you do with the security guys?”
Janah, “Cut them loose, with the clear understanding that they will be monitored. They call up Demond and say they want to retire, decided to move to LA or wherever, found a better paying gig, doesn’t matter. They can just disappear and not call anyone. They have no choice, it’s go along or go to prison.”
Over the next days the drone picks up more hotel activity, some of it only audio, some left curtains open so we got video as well. There are sessions every night, two to four girls out, Friday and Saturday all of them, several overnight.
We front nearly a dozen customers, others check out before we can get to them.
Janah, “I have other Social Work teams visiting those clients in their hometown. The hotel has names, credit cards, easy to track down. In all, we’ve talked with fifteen. They might stay in the pedophilia game, but it won’t be in Vegas and it won’t be with these girls.”
Chloe, “Somebody must have called the women by now.”
Janah, “Maybe, we warned the men though. If we discover they contact the women, we publically out them. We have enough to create significant problems with wives, employers, their social circles. Doesn’t mean nobody gets stupid, but we’ve been monitoring phones. I don’t think the women know. When security quit, I think they were relieved. Appears they have so many regulars there’s no pressing need to find new business. Security becomes an irrelevant expense.”
Chloe, “And if they fire them, there’s three loose cannons likely aggravated.”
“I wonder how many clients there are? Sooner or later, they have to notice a business slowdown.”
“Maybe, but considering the cost and the risk, most of the customers may show up a couple of times a year, the hardcore must come more often. The girls talk like they know many of them well.”
“Demond seems to be in charge, she directs the traffic. Is it time for a sit down?”
Janah, “Yes. We can rack up more customers by stretching this out, but that stretches out our time. We have enough to end it.”
Amaya, “What happens to the girls?”
“The den mothers are going to pay for the girls’ transition.”
“But they like the business, do they find another way to get back in?”
“Maybe. We fix what we have in front of us, if we find them veering from the path, we’ll worry about it then. If they turn pro at eighteen, so be it, we have no issue with prostitution as such.”
Demond is simple to grab, we snatch her on a grocery run at nine in the morning, have her in a motel room by nine fifteen, de-tranquilize her, start to chat.
Demond, “What is this about, you’re kidnapping me? Are you crazy? You think I’m rich?”
She’s in our favorite position, in the dark, facing a blank wall with a halogen light blinding her.
First step, get her to cough up the whereabouts of any cash. For that we take the quick route, David Li’s cooperation drug, in twenty minutes we know there’s a half million in safes at the two houses, another half in safety deposit boxes. With five women, they managed to get the rest of the cash in small amounts into the bank accounts we’d hijacked. Enough to live on for the foreseeable future.
Amaya brings her back from her trip down the rabbit hole. Rather than a voice scrambler, we use our human scrambler, Amaya. She can make herself sound like any voice she wants, today, it’s a soft spoken Midwestern man. Demond is blinking into the lamp, to make it easier for her to focus, Amaya blindfolds her.
Amaya, “Ms. Demond, I know how much money you have, and I know where you have it. You, Finney, Armstrong, Zimmerman and Schuss have in the neighborhood of nine million. A far amount in banks, a million in cash at home or in safe deposit boxes. Would you like me to tell you what banks and account numbers?”
Demond, “So fucking what? I’m not paying you shit.”
“Dear lady, I don’t need you to pay me. I’ve already cleaned out the bank accounts. Five million, two hundred twenty three thousand forty dollars and sixty seven cents. It’s currently on vacation around the world.”
Demond, “Bullshit,” Janah sees she’s faking the tough talk, that we know the exact amount is disconcerting. She doesn’t believe we can just take it though.
Amaya, “Let me demonstrate.”
She takes off the blindfold, its dark in the room now, an IPad appears before Demond’s face. Numbers tapped in, a password, the account pops up, shows a transfer. Another account, different bank in Finney’s name, then the others.
“Let’s see, gosh, besides your five, there’s four million six hundred seventy five thousand and change. Lucrative business.”
“How can….you can’t…what’s happening?”
“Ah, the most probative question, why?”
“To steal our money of course.”
“Nope. To get you out of the child prostitution business.”
“The what? You must be kidding, are you crazy?”
“Not me personally, but I have associates who…well, let’s not get into that now.”
Amaya proceeds to show her names, dates, video, both at hotels and the houses, audio of conversations. Demond has no place to hide.
“So, what? You think you can steal the business? Hah! Those girls won’t work for you, they are ours.”
“Those girls will work for the fun of it, for anyone who supports their lifestyle, you’re just the current business conduit. But that’s irrelevant. We aren’t taking them. You are going to convince them that the business is getting risky, that the security team has threatened to talk to the cops. That you have to pay them off and the business has to shut down.”
“They aren’t going to go for that. First, they get pampered at home, then they get double pampered by the client. They like what they do.”
“And you will convince them they won’t get to do much of anything caught up the juvenile system. That if they do, there won’t be any more pampering, some foster parent will have them pimped out to a far less wealthy clientele, doing a whole lot more work for a whole lot less money.”
“I have to talk to my partners, they are going to like it even less.”
“Ms. Demond, do you think I care what they like? I’m going to meet with a couple of the others, before you get to go home. Then the three of you will explain the change to the other two. It won’t be hard, I’ve wiped out most of your funds. If you want it back, you and your pals will go along. If you don’t, well, we don’t need you any longer…understand?”
“You’re threatening to kill us?”
“Threatening? Oh my no, consider it a guarantee.”
Amaya dopes her into unconsciousness. Janah stays with them while Dasha, Eloise and I go to fetch whoever is on the move, one of the trackers blinked on, a woman from the second house.
An hour later, we have contestant number two, Armstrong, same general conversation, same consequence. Finally, Finney leaves, she’s with a couple of the girls, no good. While we’re deciding whether to return to the motel where we have the first two parked, another tracker goes off. We catch up to Schuss, she drops off clothes at a dry cleaners, on the way to her car, Daria snatches her mind, now we have the third. We don’t need to grab the other two, three will be convincing enough, and we have everybody’s money.
Three women facing the wall, Janah and Chloe are convinced they are resigned to the situation.
Amaya, “Ladies, your ride awaits. You won’t be hurt, you are being returned to your cars, blindfolded of course. We want you functional, so no more drugs. Meet with the others, stick to the story. Since you didn’t actually kidnap the girls, you don’t know where they came from. They all have a mother and father someplace. If it’s as you say, it’s parents who dumped them, they won’t be returned. If there are grieving parents out there, that’s a different story.”
Demond, “You won’t find anyone who wants them, that’s why they’re with us.”
“That’s what the people who sold them to you said, you don’t really know.”
“We didn’t just buy that, the girls verified it. None of them came as infants, all of them knew they weren’t wanted. It’s why it works. Now, they are very much wanted, by us and highly desired by their clients.”
Janah, “hat’s not a lie, at least Demond believes it. Based on the child selling on various websites, it’s likely true.
I mental Janah’s comment to Amaya.
Amaya, “You best be convincing. You will be monitored, turn this into something normal and you will get your money returned. Not all at once, over time, and not until I think you’ve run through your cash. A million dollars ought to last close to five years, budget accordingly. Your homes are paid for, so are the cars. You’ll get enough to provide a good life for the girls, when the last one is eighteen, you get it all.”
Demond, “What if they go into the escort business then? You can’t blame us for that.”
Amaya, “Of course I can, do you think they would have become child prostitutes on their own? However, what they do when they are of age is not our concern. Some may return to it. I have no interest in adult prostitution. You taught them the business, you are culpable. The only reason you aren’t paying far more severe consequences is the risk that the girls get into worse situations if I have you arrested. As I said, you can use that to convince them to give it up.”
Armstrong, “What if they run away? Look for a way to stay in the game?”
“We aren’t monitoring just you. A girl leaves, we get her. That’s our problem.”
Schuss, “You got a lot of time on your hands, watch us and them twenty four seven.”
“Again, that’s our problem. You’re going to know you’re being watched, I’ll send you reminders, like your dentist. You won’t have to wonder if I’ve gone away. Oh, don’t get cute. If you sell a girl to a third party, that comes under the death penalty clause. And we won’t discriminate, all five of you go straight to pimp hell. For now, consider yourselves in pimp purgatory until I say otherwise. Enough talk, get this done. If there’s a next time, you’re out of time.”