Chapter 36 – The Compound

The Journey from Los Angeles, CA to Mountain View, MO

The truck was heading north on I-100 N towards Downtown Los Angeles, and after another 10 miles it took a right lane and merged onto the CA-91 E in the direction of Las Vegas, NV. The whole team were now applying full shadow protocols, but we had no idea where the truck was actually headed or how long it would take to get there. The truck took exit 17 for the I-605 N then another 20 miles before taking exit 27A onto the I-210 E/Foothill Freeway, 8 miles further onto CA-210 then exit 64A towards Barstow and merged onto the I-15 N and a further 65 miles before taking a right fork onto the I-40 E towards Needles as we entered Arizona, the truck was maintaining a steady 50mph speed limit and 5 hours later we entered New Mexico in the direction of Albuquerque. We were wondering when their crew would need to stop for refreshments and rest rooms before the truck suddenly turned off the Interstate at exit 159A and pulled into the TA Travel Center. The 3 crew members took turns to use the facilities and half an hour later they were fuelled up and back onto the I-40 E, it was turning into one long and frustrating day.

The truck kept on moving, first past Santa Rosa, then Tucumcari, Amarillo, Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Springfield and onto the US-60 and past Mountain Grove heading towards Mountain View, MO. We had travelled over 1,700 miles in the last 36 hours and the whole team was exhausted and waiting in anticipation as the darkness crept in around us. With satellite surveillance we were following about 3 miles behind and a support truck was the same distance in-front of it, this gave us both flexibility and obscurity. But suddenly and without warning the truck appeared to slow down and when there were no other vehicles visible in either direction it sharply pulled off the road and onto a well maintained dirt track before disappearing into a densely forested area while we drove past the entrance and carried on towards Mountain View.

The team quickly worked on our location, the director was controlling the satellite surveillance and other assets which took up posts close to the where the truck left the road. We quickly fuelled up at the Signal Food Store in the city center and checked out the local fast food restaurants because the guys were by now seriously hungry and being typical techno nerds were thrilled with the choice of fast food Tacos, Burgers or Pizzas. We had stopped in Mountain View, MO a city in Howell County in the Ozarks region with a population just over 2,600 and a small airfield and we wondered what secrets it might have? The nearest international airport was in St. Louis 150 miles to the NE and the director had already arranged more assets to be sent immediately and indicated that more information would be coming through after analysis of the satellite images over the new location in the forested area.

I was reflecting on the last 48 hours and realized that we had crossed half of the American Continent, crossed State Lines, driven past cities, towns, deserts, forests, and mountains and in that time the weather had changed, the day became night and I had failed to notice any of it. Now I was sitting in a surveillance truck in a small town in Missouri and all that I had seen was the inside of a McDonald’s burger house, how low can you get? On the plus side the assistant had made a special effort and made a strong tea with boiling water and I was grateful drinking it outside in the smoking area. I had not smoked inside the vehicle and the hours had drifted slowly away. I should have finished one of my paperbacks but could not find the will to do it! I went back inside to use the rest room and order another tea and returned to the vehicle. The guys had been to the pizzeria and eaten as much as they could, we had an agreement that whenever possible food was to be eaten outside the vehicle to prevent foul odours permeating the interior and everyone was to keep it clean because it really helps team efficiency.

There had been unfortunate delays to the satellite links due to the adverse weather conditions and extreme meteorological activity in the upper atmosphere and the team were on edge waiting for fresh news and data. When it finally came through, we were shocked at the scale of the operation. The truck had continued into the forest for over 2 miles and stopped in a clearing that indicated a fenced compound that included an extensive colonial style farmhouse and several large out-buildings. The tracking devices had difficulty in recording any voices or conversations, so we had to observe in almost silence the frantic activities going on around the truck and the out-buildings. It was clear that the prisoners were being moved to specific areas and we waited for confirmation from the recon team on the ground. In the meantime, our techies were also hunting for communication channels through landlines, broadband, cell-phones and other possible satellite links.

Bingo – the techies had hit the motherload judging by the commotion around the monitors. They had been trawling the internet but not where Joe Public would be looking. They had searched across the deep web because that is where the bad guys hang out! To keep everyone in the loop it is important that you understand some of the techie stuff and I will put it into plain English.

The deep web is exactly what it sounds like: the underground internet, the portion that’s not indexed by traditional search engines like Google or Bing—and it’s much bigger than you might realize. In fact, major sites like Facebook, Wikipedia, and everything else you find through a search engine make up less than 1 percent of the internet.

The deep web, however, is not entirely without fault. Although the dark web only accounts for 0.01% of the deep web, this tiny sliver is probably the most dangerous and secretive part. Many people search the deep web to find drugs, illegal porn, or stolen credit cards. But deep web search engines also provide a lot of educational archives, hidden articles from academic journals, and intel on news around the world.

You cannot access the dark web via a standard web browser such as Google Chrome or Safari, you therefore need to download an encryption software such as Tor. To put it simply the Tor browser anonymizes the identity, location and data transfers of users, which in a nutshell explains why there is a lot of criminal activity associated with the dark web.

At this point it is important to point out to you that finding all the untapped information is not as difficult as it might seem at first glance and that with these user-friendly, deep web search engines, hidden information is just a few clicks away. But STOP and listen: The deep web is like a black hole. If you aren’t too careful, you may get sucked into the internet so far gone that things may never be the same again. Remember that you have been warned!

If you’re worried about privacy, Ixquick’s Start Page is one the best search engines available, even if you’re not using Tor. Unlike other search engines, Start Page doesn’t record your IP address, allowing you to keep your search history secret. According to reports from Government Agencies reports conducted by cyber intelligence experts, more than half of the dark websites offer illegal products or services. And be very much aware that it is practically impossible for national or international government or law enforcement agencies to track any of this legal or illegal activity.

But luckily, we have access via some of the very best communications hackers from the web communities and they have found their operational or business website which has detailed information on the persons confined in the compound. Entrance is via an encrypted gateway and we are all glued to the monitors which are connected to secure virtual private networks (VPN) in Virginia. The screens burst alive with a colourful and vibrant homepage which has a selection box offering a wide range of products and services that are specifically catering for the slave and sex trade markets. The prices are unbelievably high and various payment options are made available through a very sophisticated range of financial services including offshore accounts, cryptocurrencies and bearer bonds which are all designed to prevent traceable transactions for auditing purposes by global law enforcement agencies.

BUT there was something a lot more sinister about this page because there was also an exclusive entrance gateway for affiliated partners and platinum members, and we had to wait a couple of hours before the hackers had gotten access into it. While we waited further data came in from the recon team who were observing the activities inside the compound and all the signs indicated a very sophisticated international operation that was being run by top level professionals. Savannah still had a surveillance transmitter on her person, but she was clearly either drugged, asleep or gagged to prevent any vocal responses.

The English girls still had some of their original clothing as their transmitters were also working and their positions were indicated on the satellite images. We had no idea where the other two friends were located. There was considerable amount of telecoms communication both into and out of the compound and recon had indicated that the crew of the truck had returned and were preparing to leave. New satellite images indicated that all the persons originally onboard the vehicle had been relocated around the out-buildings in the compound.

There was a spurt of excitement in the team as the techie guys had managed to access the exclusive zone on the website and we all watched the screens in silence as the gateway opened. A soft and articulate woman’s voice that sounded well educated and suitably classy welcomed us to the exclusive club and spoke for several minutes about an exciting opportunity, an opportunity that the audience could not afford to miss. The voice also indicated that there would be a superb selection of fresh and beautiful merchandize that would be available to view online within the next 48 hours and there would be instructions on the timings and the registration process before the auction opened. The voice also announced that the auction would be the final one for the year and that there would also be a few Christmas bonus bundles available, in appreciation of their continued generosity and support over the last 12 months.

There was no other information on what could be coming up next and we could only speculate at this point.

I do not know how the other team members personally evaluated our present predicament, but I felt both helpless and useless and genuinely hoped that I or we, would not or could not possibly allow Savannah or the others to disappear without trace into the belly of the underworld. I was shell shocked at how this operation had turned out so far, and had no idea how bad the situation was going to get over the next 48 hours and I felt a complete and utter shit because I had forgotten, no not forgotten, had re-positioned in my mind everything about what had happened to Charlie and Tuesday in Arizona and what I should be doing to the genitals of both Smythe and Jones.

My or in this case, our, team position was getting more complicated by the hour, there were dead bodies, unknown killers and a seriously well financed international organization of professional slave traders to deal with. I had a small team of the world’s best internet hackers and a military grade recon team of ex American Green Berets and ex British SAS mercenaries but I was still not too sure which side had the better poker hand, and really at this point only time could only guess at best! This team of ultra-professionals was costing the director and the agency an absolute fortune and I had no idea of the budget implications or for how much longer the team could rely on these assets, because without them we were well and truly screwed!

The surveillance truck had been moved to a less visible location just outside of the small city and operated a very similar routine to that of a small specialist military unit in which everybody knew exactly what their roles were and got on with them, no questions asked! All the eyes and ears of the team were on maximum alert as enormous volumes of data moved rapidly amongst appropriate personnel, and times like these are stressful as hell and it was imperative to maintain a functional environment, everybody knew the survival drills and operated accordingly.

I made myself useful and replenished drinks and snacks while maintaining local area security protocols and hoped the vehicle’s aircon would survive the pounding from both the heat generated by the equipment and the highly focussed personnel within it. The air was becoming stale and to relieve the pressure on the vehicle operating systems all personnel took turns in resting in one of the support vehicles. I took every opportunity to switch vehicles and leave the techie experts to what they knew best, it was also a selfish act in that in the fact that I could only function well when provided with a constant supply of fresh hot strong tea and rolled cigarettes. There was very little small talk or group banter as we waited for something to happen!

Christmas was coming in a few days, and no-one had discussed anything about friends, families, holidays at all, it was like being in a bubble where no fun was allowed! This assignment was becoming the one assignment that I would never ever likely be able to forget and for a multitude of reasons, the primary reason being that as of now I had not killed anybody.

The darkness was coming again, and the communication channels connecting the compound to the outside world were cranking up. Conversations were being heard on consignment deliveries and product packaging that were clearly business talk for movement of prisoners and advertising material which could only be directed towards the website which was being monitored 24/7. An hour into the darkness and another truck with no visible markings was spotted 10 miles to the east driving towards Mountain View and all the satellite data indicated that there was an unusual cargo and would investigate further.

It did not take long before more information came through and confirmed our suspicions that it was indeed carrying another cargo of people. The consignment was significantly smaller with only 8 suspected prisoners and 3 crew members. There was frantic activity on the communication channels as the vehicle approached the road leading to the compound. This time the vehicle emptied the cargo and left within 20 minutes and continued westwards on the US-60 and would be tracked by the satellites above.

An hour later and BOOM! There was a newsflash on the main page of the exclusive zone telling the members that the Xmas Special Promotion would begin at 0400hrs and all vendors should be logged into their accounts by 0350hrs. Those members who failed to confirm this action would lose their right of entry to the auction and may possibly incur further penalties that could seriously affect their access to future retail opportunities. We had no idea what the threats signified but we had the feeling that we would all find out more in the next few hours.

The recon team came through telling us that one of the outbuildings was preparing for the event because they witnessed a fleet of individually styled Airstream RVs being checked and made ready for departure to destinations as-yet unknown. Another report came in about unusual activity at the city airport and the tech guys were struggling to cope as a burst of global interest was homing into what was going on in the compound.

We did not have long to wait as 0400hrs was approaching fast and I ordered the team to get ready for the big bang that was coming soon. I took the opportunity to refresh myself and roll as many cigarettes as I could fit into the tin before returning to the screens and to have a final update with the director who was watching the shit hit the fan in Washington, DC.

Our immediate priority was to focus on what was going on in the compound. But everything had taken another turn for the worse and that would be confirmed by the reports on the early morning news channels on the East Coast. The news reports would be starting at 0500hrs in New York City which coincided with the start of the auction at 0400hrs in Missouri.