Chapter 37 – Online Auction

Middle of Nowhere – State of Missouri

Christmas preparations were in full swing across the 48 States and for a very select few those preparations would include the opportunity to purchase a calibre of merchandise that would shock even some of the world’s most hardened criminals. Millions of gifts would be bought over the festive period from online trading websites, but only a very few of those gifts could possibly match those which were about to be auctioned from a website that was based in a small town in the middle of nowhere in Missouri.

The clock finally ticked over to exactly 0400hrs and the doors to the online auction opened with a medley of Christmas favorites and the familiar voice of the MC (Mistress of Ceremonies) welcoming the visitors to the most prestigious and exciting sales event of the year, before requesting their undivided attention and instructing them how the Christmas Extravaganza (auction) would be conducted. The tech team was working ferociously to identify where the visitors were coming from, but in some cases that would prove to be almost impossible due to the complexities of some of the security protocols that had been established by the more privacy conscious visitors.

The merchandise was arranged in the format of an extensive menu that comprised both male and female lots which were categorized by age, ethnicity and physical attributes. There were 30 male lots and 70 female lots and each one had a reserve price indicated in US Dollars.

The silence inside the vehicle was deafening, the techies had stopped hitting the keyboards and the communication channels were silent as the horror show on the screens began to unfold.

The male group was auctioned first and consisted of individual lots of boys aged from approximately 7/8 years old to older teenagers. They were all as to be expected, good looking and in a range of ethnic colors, and graded as bred being from excellent stock, well educated, with no physical or mental defects and absolutely no STDs. The final male lot was sold just before 0500hrs and the MC indicated that there would be a short interlude for refreshments and payment confirmations.

The techies had been observing the first couple of sales and then in unison as if directed by a higher being focused on their primary tasks and were beginning to obtain significant results while conferring with other agents across the networks. In the morbid silence I had lit a rolled cigarette from my precious tin and no-one had said a word. It was technically a big no-no to smoke inside the vehicle, but I had more important matters on my mind and I would deal with any unlikely fallout in due course.

The agency monitored all the local, national and international news channels across the North American Continent, and for the most times it was the stories that were not reported on the news that were in general the most interesting. The director had received information from New York that a news bulletin had come in from Los Angeles about the disappearance of the 2 English girls from a hostel in Downtown L.A. and the details were being fully investigated by the forensic report staff who would validate where possible the details before they could run the story on the New Channels.

I do not know the internal workings of a news channel but apparently the storyline was going to be used as a breaking news thread, which would be updated throughout the day because there was the serious possibility of it becoming a major story. The director had used a lot of muscle to have the news editor pull the story at the last minute on the pretext of a possible major diplomatic incident and the news editor had the good sense to understand the tone of the warnings which were aimed directly at both himself in person and the board of the news channel.

There was however, a very clear indication that if there was a significant opportunity for competitors from other channels breaking the news story first, he would have no hesitation in doing so because that was the primary nature of the news industry. It did however buy the director some very valuable time because we needed to know a whole lot more about the operation in Missouri and there was also the danger of the agency being implicated in any of the possible headlines if anything should go pear shaped. The news editor would receive a brief visit from persons unknown within the hour to make absolutely crystal clear that those threats would be activated accordingly.

In the meantime, it was imperative that our team directly focussed all our attentions and resources on the location in Missouri, which included the technicalities of the website, the auction process being conducted on it, and the activities both inside and around the compound. The MC was introducing the delights of the female lots which included girls from what appeared to be children aged from 4/5 years old to young women in their early twenties. The scale of the fees involved with each purchase indicated the enormity of the business model and the activities being observed both on and offline appeared to be very well co-ordinated and run with almost total ruthless military precision and efficiency.

Our targets had been identified by their lot numbers and the MC was moving as rapidly as the online bidding permitted through the list on the menu cards. It was obvious and quite understandable that there was a business objective to get the whole auction process done and dusted ASP. It was imperative to get the auction completed, the financial arrangements confirmed and the whole website offline and hidden in the dark web ASAP to deter any tracking and unwanted hacking techniques from persons unknown. It was important to remain very much detached from any possible sources of investigation or intrusion from the likes of the IRS, CIA, FBI and other American Government Agencies. But in this dark and unscrupulous business there were always other parties looking for an opportunity to gain an advantage and those parties could be very dangerous indeed.

The same old question was probably being asked of themselves by each of the individual members of the team, and that question would be, why are we not doing something about the prisoners in the compound? And in turn, the same response would be given to those thoughts, that we had to consider the bigger picture and that we were just a small cog in the big wheel of life trying to do something about it! That was little consolation to those individuals we were watching being traded on the screens. We were however gaining significant information on the buyers and the locations from which the purchases were being controlled.

The atmosphere in the vehicle was both frustrating and hostile and my smoking clearly did very little to break the tension but the team was professional enough to maintain their composure and control of the operation because they all knew that without their individual focus we would be totally screwed. Much to the dismay of the team I lit another cigarette but no-one had the balls to say anything. They had their own individual tasks to both monitor and complete without the added pressure of a personal assault which under the circumstances would benefit only the enemy and we all knew it. I sucked long and hard on the rolled up cigarette and as the air was exhaled from my lungs I ordered the team to prepare for a rapid Code Shadow Exit and requested additional satellite support to cover the area because sooner or later those Christmas packages would be on the move.

The demands of an imminent Code Shadow Exit bought fresh impetus to their collective inputs and any possible reprisals from their possible complaints about the toxic air inside the vehicle evaporated in a few milliseconds. The team was solid, dedicated and thoroughly professional and they all knew the repercussions of being ejected from the team and knew that their personal kudos would be well and truly fucked and that would only be the start of their problems and would soon find out that career employment within a few specific sectors would be almost impossible ever again. They also knew all too well that I would have no hesitation in terminating the life of anybody who so much as threatened the operation or the team unity. There would be no let ups or otherwise, just because it happened to be during the Christmas festivities, we were all too aware of that and no-one in the team believed in Santa anymore, because if they did they would not be in that vehicle in the middle of nowhere in Missouri on the 24th December!

The director called again with fresh updates and informed me that a very necessary special request had been made to higher authorities to provide additional support to our operations. The inclusion of the word very before special requests had significant meaning for the director and me. It meant simply that under the present evolving circumstances those higher authorities would in the natural course of events wish to take control of the whole operation and that outcome would seriously jeopardize our real objectives.

The word wish, in this context meant that they would be in immediate and total control of the operation. Both the director and myself, fully anticipated and accepted this MO approach and would be more than happy to allow another agency to take over but they would do so without realizing that it would be under our terms and conditions, and nothing else would suffice! How much did I hate this clandestine bullshit and longed to be totally out of it, period – but I had an investment in this operation and had every intention of fulfilling my contract to the letter.

The team was shocked by this news because they had no idea that we had a shadow unit and the fact that it had been hidden in a transporter vehicle only a few miles away on a private residential area. But now they knew that we had a duplicate and that at some time very soon the tech guys would have to erase all the data connecting our targets from the systems in the vehicle. This had been practiced before but not in a real time operation. It was a complicated process and the director, me and the team were all very much aware of the repercussions of failure!

The auction had been progressing quickly because the buyers had clearly identified their selective gifts and the bidding on each lot had been short but ferocious with enormous sums being confirmed at the end of each bid. By 0615hrs all the targets had been sold and we had a major piece of luck.

Savannah and the English girls had been sold to one of the buyers, who had made no other purchases. The other targets had been sold to a buyer who had also made the purchase of one male. They were both small packages and meant the tracking would be a whole lot less complicated. The MC was closing the auction and telling the audience that the gifts would be prepared for transit after verification of the payments and would be ready for the allocated modes of transportation under the usual strict terms and conditions. The MC offered a final thank you and best wishes to the clients before the auction closed with a final draw of the curtains and the screens went blank.

The news channels on the Eastern Seaboard were now focussed on the disappearance of the English Girls from the hostel in Los Angeles. The news anchors were discussing the case with a Government Law Enforcement Official who was trying to explain why the girls who happened to come from extremely wealthy families were staying at a cheap hostel in Downtown L.A. and the possible reasons why they would have been climbing into a limo outside the hostel, which had been recorded by one of the many security cameras in the vicinity. The families had been informed of the disappearance and the news anchors were pushing for further news and put it to the Official that they would more than likely anticipate ransom demands to be made within the next few hours or maybe days.

The Official remained calm under further questioning and maintained the stance that at the moment it was too early to anticipate what was going to happen next and concluded that it was more likely to be just young adults having fun and they were confident that they would turn up safe and well during the coming hours.

The clock struck 0630hrs and the recon team surrounding the compound came through with an update that gave clear indication that the gifts were being prepared for transit away from the compound area. Several limos had emerged from one of the larger out-buildings and their appearances had changed with different colors and changed identification plates. There was a large collection of different styled vehicles which were going to be used for the transportation process and we had to wait until the gifts had been distributed amongst them before we could decide on how to track them.

One delivery truck had been allocated several of the gift packages and was moving swiftly out of the compound at the same time as a report came in from the local airport that several small planes were being prepared for take-off. We had to assume that the delivery truck which was the first vehicle to leave the compound was heading towards the airport. We had no idea where the airplanes would be heading and hoped that the support team in Washington was prepared for whatever happened next!

The director came through with the bad news that the agency had been instructed by higher powers to hand over control and we had approximately 45 minutes to do whatever we could to prevent the loss of our own targets. He explained further that more news bulletins were in the process of being aired nationally across the networks and we should prepare to abort the operation if there were no other alternative courses of action that we could realistically take.

As we had expected the delivery truck had reached the airport and had begun to offload the packages, from the level of activity the planes were almost ready for departure and the airport appeared to be fully prepared for their safe departures.

Our targets had finally been allocated spaces in an SUV and an Airstream Motorhome which were both being given final checks and instructions before leaving the compound. A long queue had built up along the track from the compound to the gated connection to the US-60. The vehicles then joined the road every few minutes going in both easterly and westerly directions to places very much unknown. The two target vehicles finally turned onto the road and fortunately for now they both went in an Easterly direction and a few minutes apart. There was little traffic on the road which was lit up through the town by Christmas decorations and traffic that generally heading to and from breakfast dining locations.

The clock finally struck 0700hrs and the news that we had fully anticipated exploded onto the screens. The techies were working as fast as they could to erase the most important details of our clandestine operation from the systems in the vehicle. We had, at the very most only 15 minutes and no more, to have deleted every detail of our localized online history and then disappeared without trace from the vicinity and we were cutting it dangerously fine.

The news anchors based on the Eastern Standard Time (EST) in New York (NYC) were giving their daily viewing audiences the very latest details that were coming through from their associated news channels across the American States. Further details followed regarding the disappearance of the English girls in Downtown Los Angeles, with new and significant information linking the limo they had taken to be the very same vehicle that had been caught on a CCTV link opposite the roadside entrance and the foyer with elevator access to the Spire 73 rooftop Bar.

The network did not show the apparently exclusive images but explained what they thought they had seen after conferring with staff at the location.

Both the English girls had left the vehicle with 2 other women and entered the foyer area but only a few minutes later they had returned to the vehicle with 2 other women who have not been identified at this time. They all got into the limo before driving off in a Westerly direction.

The news report continued with the details that the elevators in the building had been malfunctioning and it was confirmed that at the reception desk in the foyer the women had cancelled a reservation made for the rooftop bar and then met by pure chance the other women who had been leaving for what apparently appears to be the very same reason.

That chance meeting may very well have resulted in their own unfortunate disappearance which was now inextricably linked to that of the English girls. The reporters continued with other details that needed to be investigated because the CCTV images did not at any time indicate that anyone within the group had been coerced or forced into the vehicle. All the images indicated that they were all happy with the situation and so at this moment it was not at all possible to confirm whether or not they had been kidnapped or taken against their will, but what could be confirmed was that the English girls did not return to the hostel in Downtown Los Angeles and the whereabouts of any of the other women were unknown. The reporters concluded that the situation was very concerning and at this time the law enforcement agencies were doing their utmost to locate the limo and the passengers inside it and further reports would follow, if, and when more detailed information was forthcoming.

While the news reports had been coming through all the suspect vehicles had left the compound and then taken the track leading to the US-60 before heading in east or west towards unknown destinations. The aircraft at the local airport had all taken off and again there was no supportive knowledge or indications as to where any of them were heading.

The director signalled that we had two minutes to get out before the “Professionals arrived”. There would be no hand-over or acknowledgements, a techie would be staying in the vehicle while we departed in a support vehicle and joined several others in the Code Shadow Exit vehicle located only a few miles away to the east. We knew the new arrivals would be thoroughly pissed off but that was not our immediate concern.

The recon team and the remaining support staff were ready for the next phase of Code Shadow Exit and were preparing themselves for the handover. Christmas Eve was coming, and the shit was going to really hit the fan, big time and very, very soon!