I wish life were like television. Once we get a street name, Diablo, we head back to the station, bang out a few computer keys and then go pick up the bad guy. It’s too bad this job can’t work that way.
The truth was, Gun and I knew where Diablo hung out. He was hiding somewhere in the Mojave desert, or on either side of the border. With a name like Diablo, it was not hard to get a description. He was one of the most prolific slave traders along the border.
It may sound like we had an easy job, but despite what you may have heard, the Mojave desert is a sizeable place. It is bordered by an even more significant desert known as The Great Basin as well as the Sierra Nevada mountains. The people who trade in human flesh are ruthless and fear nothing, including the desert’s hot days, cold nights, and deadly predators. These are the people who find barriers like walls merely an annoyance.
Diablo is one of the best at getting his cargo of hopeful souls to his customers. Gun and I knew we would have little opportunity for success trying to face him in his environment. Neither the Border Patrol nor Policia Federal forces had ever managed to capture him on either side of the border. Also, it was rumored that he had paid off authorities on both sides to allow him to travel through certain regions at certain times of the night.
Protocol demanded we involve federal agencies in our manhunt, but Gun and I agreed we would not give away everything we knew. We merely confined our inquiries to our murder investigation, and then worked with local ICE Agents concerning trafficking in our city.
In truth, Gun and I still did not understand how an innocent ten-year-old child ended up a sex slave to perverts. Circumstances pointed to her uncle. We knew Caleb was a very perverted and sick person. However, we would have expected him to kill her, or quietly disappear, not turn her over to the likes of Diablo. There was the possibility that Caleb had kept her captive in the desert and Diablo took her as payment when he killed Caleb. Although that was possible, Diablo did not seem foolish enough to try to pimp or kill an American girl. He had to know every police force in the nation would be looking for him, and that was bad for business.
Gun and I were pouring over this mystery when we got a tip that Diablo may be near Barstow at an abandoned ranch. I called ICE and the FBI. In less than six hours our small army was converging on the farm from all sides. I was not ready for what we found inside.
The smell of human sweat and waste was profuse. More than fifty people were chained to the old house’s walls that had been reinforced where the chains met metal loops connected to the walls. It was medieval, or something you read about in the eighteen hundreds. I could not believe this was happening in the twenty-first century. There was no sign of Diablo or any other traffickers. I went outside to catch my breath when an FBI agent walked up with a small man who appeared to be in his mid-fifties.
His name was Raul. Raul spoke broken English, and I spoke broken Spanish. The FBI agent helped translate. The group of people was a peace-offering from Diablo. He said he had nothing to do with the little girl’s death. As proof, he was setting free all the people he had stashed away in this country. Somehow, in Diablo’s twisted view of the world, this would make us go away.
The federal agents took over and arranged for the immigrants to be taken to area hospitals and then debriefed. I was more determined than ever to find Diablo. He had to pay for his crimes among the living, even if he was not found guilty among the dead. Besides, he apparently knew who had killed Kathy. What worried me was that Diablo himself had not delivered the murderer among those seeking out a better life and caught up in a nightmare.
Gun suggested I refocus on her Uncle and his associates instead of Diablo. According to everything I found, Caleb kept mostly to himself. His brother, John, had kicked him out of the home and had cut off ties with Caleb. The only person still on my list was Diablo. I knew I had to find a way to bring him to us.
I knew Diablo cared about only one thing, money. I contacted FBI agent Gil. He had been the translator between Raul and myself. I wanted to see if he had any information on Diablo’s trafficking business. Gil put together a plan to let Raul go near the border on Mexico’s side. Gil would leak out a message via Mexico’s Policia Federal that Raul had a note for Diablo from U.S. agents.
The message was simple. Give us the evidence concerning who killed Kathy and Caleb. We ended the letter stating that if he did not cooperate, we would find his customers in the U.S. and arrest every one until he complied. Diablo’s response was swift.
Border Patrol found Raul’s beaten body dead on the U.S. side of the border two days later. This morning Mr. Jackson was found dead in his home, shot behind the ear execution style. Mrs. Jackson is in a coma after being beaten and raped. The prospects for her recovery are minimal at best.
These final crimes may not be related, but the circumstantial evidence appears strong. I acknowledge I did not seek approval to involve Raul in my case. I decided on this course of action after Gil alerted me that some local politicians might be complicit in human trafficking. Per his suggestion, we kept this operation quiet.
I accept responsibility for my decisions and any consequences that may result from them. I make this statement of my free will and under no coercion.
Detective Barry Brown
Episode 5 is coming Monday