Chapter 34 – Taken in L.A.

Savannah Disappears after Party – Los Angeles, CA

I headed north on foot towards Chinatown and was picked up by one of the surveillance vehicles a couple of blocks away. From the outside it could have been mistaken for one of the many utility service trucks that operated in the Downtown area. The three agents who were inside and dressed in white overalls, could also have been mistaken to be service engineers or technical staff.

The vehicle was one of the latest state-of-the-art surveillance trucks that had been made available to the agency from sources unknown. It was a fully self-contained survival vehicle with both an office area with computer equipment, and workstations together with an accommodation area that comprised of sleeping pods, fitted kitchen dining area and bathroom with all mod cons. The designers knew how to combine space with functionality, it was an amazing asset that could be self-sufficient for days at a time in any urban or rural environment. I was seriously pleased that it was not my signature on the paperwork, if there was indeed any at all.

The team had been monitoring the Department of Public Works and following all the road closure patterns and had maintained full surveillance of Savannah wherever she had been Downtown. There were two support pickup trucks that protected the front and rear of the main vehicle and crew members could follow on foot when required. The trackers wore hard hats with 360-degree cameras and picked up all the activity without arousing the general public.

The team leader told me that Snoop the older techie had been tracking the activities of all the cameras for unusual patterns together with body movements and facial recognition. The system had started to flag up activity from just before 11AM, the time at which Savannah had been due to meet Coco, but she had not shown up. Snoop then proceeded to link all the flagged activity together and came up with some alarming analysis.

Although Coco had not turned up for their meeting she was picked up on the mobile cameras in several places during the day and it obvious that she was tracking Savannah. Coco was wearing dark glasses, a black hoodie, jeans and dark sneakers and was constantly talking into her cell-phone, but the surveillance could not pick up her signals and listen in to the conversations. The computer system could not identify her from any of the vast databanks, so Snoop tried another approach and scanned the vicinity for any possible connect activities.

It did not take long, because no sooner had Savannah stubbed out her second cigarette and started to move towards the entrance to City Hall than movements around the area were picked up and people followed by cameras. Over the next few hours it became very apparent that Coco and two other male accomplices were tracking every move that Savannah made. It was only a matter of time before the facial recognition networks would start searching through security databases and alert the team if anything at all could be found.

The team followed the three accomplices all day and it was not until 10PM when the information finally came through the communication channels and confirmed the findings and they had the necessary information and called me. The two male accomplices were both illegals with strong connections to human trafficking out of Mexico and across the USA. This was the news we had been waiting for and it would only be a matter of time before the next phase of the plan would be implemented.

That night the rains came down and hit central Los Angeles. The area around Skid Row was badly affected with high levels of water and Coco phoned Savannah for a meet up and maybe a coffee. She suggested the Starbuck’s to the north of Pershing Square, which they both knew, and Savannah agreed to 10AM. She had a mini umbrella for the rain and wore her grey hoodie with jeans and boots. She knew the surveillance team would have heard the conversation and that they would not be far away from her location at any time.

Savannah bought her own coffee and sat by the window and opened the Sexographies book which Savannah had been very fortunate to get as a hardback and just over 200 pages it would not be too hard to follow the plot. The intro on Amazon had given her some indication as to the direction and plot of the story as quoted below!

“In fierce and fearless first-person accounts, Gabriela Wiener records infiltrating the prisons of Lima, participating in sexual exchanges in swingers clubs, traveling the dark paths of the Bois de Boulogne in Paris to live with transvestites and prostitutes, undergoing a complicated process of egg donation, taking part in a ritual of ayahuasca ingestion in the Amazon jungle, and slipping into the bedroom of the porn superstar Nacho Vidal. At the same time, she takes us on deep, inward journeys. A reckless and exciting journey through the most savage side of narrative journalism.”

Savannah had only read a couple of pages before Coco arrived and breezed over, all smiling and excited, dropped her things on the table and went over to the counter to order a black coffee and returned only a few minutes later. She apologized again for missing the rendezvous yesterday and exclaimed that she had some good news.

She had been offered a room in a shared apartment a couple of blocks to the west of Little Tokyo and went to see it instead of meeting Savannah. It was perfect and shared with two lesbians who were both consultants in a Downtown employment agency. They had arranged her interview which had not gone well apparently, and Coco had simply shrugged her shoulders and said maybe next time. Coco had already moved her possessions into the apartment and wanted Savannah to share her good fortune.

Coco explained further that her roommates had suggested a girls-night in and check out all the Black Friday deals on the net and order a takeaway and would Savannah like to join them and have some fun. She saw a few doubts on Savannahs face and insisted that it would not be a lezziefest just some girl talk and crossed her heart, Savannah did not believe a word of it, but she smiled and laughed along with Coco, faking genuine pleasure in her friend’s good fortune. Customers were drifting in and out of the rain with heavy winter coats and umbrellas and Savannah excused herself for a few minutes and went to the rest tooms at the back.

She returned only minutes later and told Coco that they had to leave immediately, and she would explain outside. Only seconds later they were grabbing a taxi to anywhere just to get-away from the coffeeshop asp. In the backseat of the taxi Savannah pulled a thick leather wallet out of her bag to show Coco and said it looks like we both had some luck, check this out. What she did not say was that had taken a few of the hundred dollar bills out of the wallet before leaving the restroom.

The wallet contained a mixture of dollar bills which they shared between themselves and a range of plastic cards, Coco told the driver to take them to the Fashion District a couple of miles to the south. It was Black Friday and the Fashion District was just the place for women who are down on their luck and had the opportunity to spend other people’s money.

The Los Angeles Fashion District is 100 square blocks of shoppers’ paradise in Downtown LA. The bulk of the LA Fashion District is roughly between the 10 Freeway to the south and 7th street to the north, and Main Street to the west and San Pedro to the East, with a little overflow in each direction on certain blocks. The primary function of the Fashion District is for designers and garment manufacturers to sell their products wholesale to boutiques and department stores. Designer showrooms are generally not open to the public. However, many of the manufacturers with storefronts also sell retail to the public.

Coco told the driver to drop them off at Santee Alley which is the most famous retail section of the LA Fashion District, having received a lot of attention from bargain-hunting media. It is a pedestrian shopping zone with 150 shops between Santee Street and Maple Avenue, from Olympic south to 12th Street. Although it’s in the middle of the Women’s Wear sub-district, it’s known for bargain prices on apparel, shoes and accessories for women, men and kids, toys, perfume, gadgets and more.

Santee Alley was as good a place to start as any and they had a few hours before the entire area closed for the day. They needed a plan to maximise their opportunity and use the plastic cards before they were cancelled. There were three cards they could use, but it was not known how many times they could be used before requiring a pin number. They decided to keep the card payments below $25 and stop each one after 5 payments, they started with the Bank of America and bought a mixture of tops, underwear and accessories.

The hours passed quickly, and the cards were all maxed up, there were so many fantastic outfits and awesome deals, but they kept looking and returning to their favorite stores and eventually had bags full of shopping before stopping for breath in a small wine bar. The bartender recommended the bottle of the day, a two years old Semillon, which was delicious, so they bought a couple to take away for the evening.

Savannah had one more stop to make and that was in a local liquor store, she fancied a bottle of Tequila and a few shots to chill as she relaxed for the next couple of hours. The young woman assistant recommended local Greenbar Distillery blend and gave a quick history on it while getting a bottle from the shelf.

Greenbar Distillery is LA’s first since Prohibition and one of the first craft distilleries in the USA, IXÁ Tequila is the only one of Greenbar Distillery’s spirits not made in the City of Angels, but over the border in Mexico. It is a deliciously smooth complex tequila full of flavor with a silky-smooth finish, great on its own or in simple cocktails. She told Savannah that she drank Greenbar Tequila herself and that it was her own special favorite, and she enjoyed it neat with plenty of ice and sometimes with some diet coke. She wrapped it in brown paper and changed the hundred Dollar bill before wishing Savannah good luck and enjoy.

Savannah took a taxi back to the hostel, she had simply bought too much, but had enjoyed the buzz of it all and flopped into the pod exhausted. She was alone in the large and well-equipped dormitory, which was designed specifically for four women with each having an individual and spacious pod zone, and took the opportunity to use the bathroom, which was surprisingly both clean and tidy. She hated sharing with other people and especially with women who tended to be far, far worse than men and many lived like complete wild pigs, it was just disgusting what so many of them did every-day and complained continually that it was always someone else and not them.

She needed to shave her legs and private parts and wanted to look young, sassy and cute. Savannah did not mind that there would be lezzies tonight because she had not hang-ups over other people’s sexuality and in a fun sort of way she secretly wanted to dress to both tease and tempt them but she was not quite sure that she might just push them just a little too far and was also not too sure whether or not she was either scared or secretly excited in the possibility of fulfilling one of her own sexual fantasies.

She took her time in the bathroom, the free samples of shower-gel and shampoo from shops in Santee Alley had been better than expected. She felt wonderfully clean and refreshed and dried off in the steam that had engulfed the small room that needed a window more than an extractor fan and the large mirror was now useless. She wrapped a small towel around her hair and stepped back into the dorm.

Two of the other guests had returned sometime over the last twenty minutes. They were both English, young, good looking and friendly and not in your face like many other travellers. She used the hairdryer on a low heat, brushing gently through her long hair to release the few small knots and ensuring that she did not to burn or damage her hair. Her long straight hair reached down to the middle of her back, she was a natural brunette and like all women she wanted it completely different and wished it was a deep black color with some amazing long curls.

Savannah then compared various combinations of underwear, tops and skirts, and would have loved a little sisterly advice but did not ask the English girls who kept to their own space. Finally, she decided on a black v shaped top with laces tied up at the sides, no bra, soft white silk hipster panties, black silk lace mesh thigh highs, red split pencil skirt, black jacket and soft ankle boot with gold trim.

Savannah felt young, sexy and dangerous, and that was before applying the makeups to her nails and face and a delicate gold cross pendant that had accidently fallen into Cocos’ bag in the accessories shop and gold bangles that looked expensive but had only cost a couple of bucks. The steam in the bathroom had cleared and she stood staring at the reflection in the mirror, she was pleased, thrilled and excited and was terrified of what may or may not happen tonight.

Savannah had been so focussed on her own personal stuff that she had failed to realize that the English girls were also preparing to go out for some fun and OMG did they transform into sex kittens, she was seriously jealous of the fact that they had spent so little time to look so ffing awesome. They told Savannah they were just going out to have a few drinks and check out some of the local hot spots that had been recommended on tripadvisor.

Savannah wished them some good luck and hoped to see them later and left to get a taxi over to the address Coco had given her. The apartment was about a dozen blocks away and from the first impressions Savannah was pleased for her friend, but she had no idea on rental prices in this part of town. The taxi pulled over beside the main entrance and Savannah paid the fare, adding a small tip and ran through the rain to the door and buzzed the apartment. Coco replied on the speaker and the door catch was released. The lobby was small and functional, and she took the elevator which was uninterrupted on the journey to the tenth floor in what seemed only milliseconds.

As the doors opened Coco was there to greet her, she looked sensational and what a transformation from the jeans earlier in the day! A gothic lace up boned bustier Brocade Basque corset and red leather skirt which had both been bought in the Fashion District on a Black Friday super deal. She was not wearing any footwear and the nail color on her fingers and toes matched the color of the skirt beautifully. The clothes were enhanced further with a few bargain accessories including a big round-faced wristwatch on the left wrist, silver earrings and matching silver bangles on the right wrist, completed the wow factor to a big 10 plus. They embraced lightly, and kissed cheeks before Coco guided her to the apartment while explaining the two roommates were not back yet, they were delayed by an impromptu business meeting at the office and would be back around 9PM ish.

The apartment was more spacious and luxuriously decorated than Savannah had expected. The first room for inspection was Coco’s which was big enough for an awesome king-size bed together with plenty of storage space, a mirrored dresser and large flat screen tv, the floor was wood tiles with two large white fur rugs. It was warm and cosy for the time of year and had a good ambiance about it. Next stop, the kitchen, another oh wow, there was so much space and a big old wooden table commanding the middle of the room, Coco reached into the fridge to retrieve a cold bottle of the same delicious Semillon they had shared earlier in the wine bar somewhere near Santee Alley. It somehow tasted better than before, probably due to the simple fact that it was colder and served in an enormous high stemmed thin glass that felt so fragile and delicate to the touch.

Into the lounge and they sat down on one of the two big couches covered by giant green cotton throw blankets, Coco was so excited and talked non-stop about the whole day experience, the apartment, her clothes and how she was looking forward to the evening. Savannah wondered how anyone could drink and talk so much at the same time. Coco had finished her first glass of wine in only a few minutes and was then up again retrieving the bottle from the kitchen and then promptly emptied the bottle by pouring the remaining half into both glasses before she finally stopped talking.

Coco found the remote and turned on the big screen and suggested that they chill a while and watch a movie and clicked onto the NetFlix channel, then flicked through the different categories before stopping at the romantic comedies. It took another ten minutes before they found a mutually agreeable movie and just before it started Coco went to find the bottle that Savannah had bought along earlier, knowing that it should have chilled a little by then.

Savannah didn’t really care about the movie and took very little notice of it as Coco was up and down like a bouncing firework and somehow the talking got around to where Savannah was staying and who else she was sharing with and casually mentioned the two English girls. The talking seemed to change direction and after a visit to the bathroom, Coco slowed down on the drinking although she had magically found a bottle of Cazadores Tequila Reposado. Savannah had drunk many bottles in the trailer parks as a kid because it was cheap but good value at under $20 (Made since 1922 in the Mexican community of Arandas) and bought back a lot of memories which were mostly bad!

The movie had stopped long ago, the drinking had been a little too excessive, and no food had been ordered or consumed which made matters worse as the alcohol slowly kicked in. The roommates had not appeared, and it was getting very late and Savannah made a move to leave. Coco suggested meeting up again, she knew an awesome Tequila Bar only a block away and there was always music and dancing on a Saturday night. Savannah just wanted to leave as she was feeling exhausted and agreed to the suggestion before too many hugs and kisses and a taxi back to the hostel.

Savannah was relieved to get out of the apartment and away from the incessant talking. Her head was spinning a little from too much alcohol, the evening had not gone according to plan at all. She arrived back at the hostel just as the two English girls were also returning from their tour of the local bars and hotspots. They too were suffering from the effects of alcohol and there was a lot of girly giggling and shhhs to keep the noise down until they all fell into the shared pod space or dormitory as it was called.

The brunette was telling Blonde Jokes and the other retorted with Essex Girl Jokes as they rolled around laughing, before asking Savannah if she had any Spanish Jokes or whatever Jokes she knew. Savannah said she was hopeless at telling jokes but could listen to them while she poured some Tequila. There were fresh ice cubes in the fridge and small glasses in the side cupboard, Savannah poured a shot into each glass and handed them to the girls, they all clinked glasses and downed in one before the Blonde girl started spluttering and laughing before another Blonde Joke resounded around the room.

There was a lot more drinking, giggling and messing about as they told each other about their evenings. Savannah asked them what they were doing the following day and offered to show them around Downtown and mentioned the Tequila bar for the end of the day. They very much appreciated the offer and said they had hoped to see the sights today, but the rain had been disappointing, and they had not seen much so far. An hour later all three women were asleep in their pods and unaware of the other guest returning who could not believe the state of the room.

The morning came too soon for the three women, the other guest had booked out early and left them a card for the local coffee shop which delivered as they would probably need it. Savannah called the number and ordered a large black coffee and two large teas with milk but with boiling water if possible as so many served it with warm water US style. Savannah went down to reception when the order arrived, she could afford it as she had the advantage of a secret wallet that was replenished when she needed it.

The two English girls wanted a hot breakfast if possible, or what they called a fry-up to kick-start the day. Savannah knew the perfect place and they headed for Nick’s Café in Chinatown, the girls loved it and made Savannah order the same insisting she would feel so much better after all those calories collided with whatever was left in her stomach. She liked the kids and did indeed feel a whole lot better after breakfast and then discussed an agenda for the day ahead. Savannah really enjoyed the whole day because the English girls were such fun and good company and she felt like a tourist guide and queen of the selfies.

After a long day of walking and sightseeing the girls were hungry and insisted on a pit-stop at Wendy’s to taste their famous American Hamburgers. The assistant helped them order a traditional meal combo, which meant an S’Awesome Bacon Cheeseburger and a Dave’s Double, both with large fries, a large Peach Lemonade and a large Fanta and of course, more selfies. Savannah only wished that she could eat those calories and not put on weight, she was not particularly hungry and ordered a simple Double Chocolate Chip Cookie and a fresh brewed coffee.

The day was finally over, and they returned to the cold but functional hostel at just before 6PM. They were all exhausted and crashed into the pods immediately, no-one wanted to be first in the shower and then Savannah got the call from Coco. They had a couple of hours to prepare and enjoy the rest, the Blonde put some music on a small pocket sized JBL speaker box and the evening started!

Savannah did not know most of the music the English girls played but enjoyed it all the same. She had sneaked another bottle of Tequila while the girls took selfies in the park, bought a bag of ice at the corner deli plus lemons and limes and the pop-up bar opened. Hopefully they would have the room cleaned up by morning, but they had fun messing it up!

At last the three women were finally ready to go and looked amazing as they hugged together for the final selfie before they left the hostel and took a taxi to the Downtown Tequila Bar. The area was alive with music blasting out into the street and inside the bar was bouncing with well-dressed locals who were out for a good time Saturday night. They sure got one, Coco met them around 9PM and bought a round of drinks and showed the English girls how to take a Tequila Shot without making a fool of yourself. They still managed it though and everybody was laughing with them as the evening really kicked off.

Savannah had sneaked a few small notes into each of the other girls’ purses while they had been in the shower and everybody was having fun, drinking, dancing and laughing. Between songs when they had the chance to talk quickly Coco told them her roommates had a limo booked for a tour of the city around midnight and was expected depending on traffic conditions to last approximately an hour after which they would be taken back to the apartment and she promised that it would be a wild, wild night. At midnight the bar was still buzzing with an awesome atmosphere and the promised limo pulled up outside and Coco ushered them out to meet the other girls, the night tour around the city had begun. The limo took them all around the Downtown area and to many areas that none of them knew. There was Tequila, Wine and Mixes and loud music pumping everybody up as if there would be no tomorrow.

The limo never made the final call to the apartment, but it did make the industrial area off the I-110 near Carson where it pulled into a loading bay inside an industrial warehouse and the shutters closed swiftly behind it.

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