I had worked with Rosa before. When Captain Collins approved her inclusion into the team, I could not be happier. Our plan to discover Diablo’s smuggling operation was perilous. Rosa would need to connect with a group of men and women coming over the border with Alejandro. Rosa would have to be under Mexico’s authority for a short time, and we would have no control. It also put her at the mercy of Diablo.
Gil fitted her with an internal GPS. A small capsule that the FBI inserted into her body. We received basic vital signs showing us she was alive and her GPS coordinates. Once on the other side of the border, Rosa would slip away, and we would pick her up. Considering what we knew about the slave trade our plan seemed a bit naive in hindsight. Fortunately, we did not need to have Rosa stay for long. A high altitude drone would track the group once Rosa crossed the border with the other soon to be slaves.
We were fortunate. Rosa arrived in Mexico and paid a contact to be smuggled into the U.S. Just two days later we got word from a trusted Policia Federal source that she would be getting smuggled over the border into California in one more night. We tracked the group via Rosa’s GPS sneaking across between Mexicali, Mexico and Jacumba Hot Springs, California. We watched from high above in the skies with our drone. The group was loaded into a truck in the desert near Interstate 8. The vehicle joined the interstate heading west and then turned off on highway 79. The semi began to make its long trek northward through the desert. We were afraid we might have to blow our cover. Recently, truckloads of immigrants were found in abandoned semi-trailers throughout southern California and Arizona. In many cases, people were found dead or spent significant time in the hospital because of dehydration. We could not risk putting Rosa or the others in that sort of situation.
It was close to 3 am when we saw the truck stop off the highway near the Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. From the vantage point of our drone, we saw parked vehicles with people standing around them. Several appeared to be armed with rifles. The Mexican nationals broke off into groups and loaded into different vehicles. At first, the convoy of six vehicles traveled in a loose line north on highway 79. However, at highway 78 they began to split off. Some went east, and others west. The remaining three continued north on 79. At first, we were bewildered about what to do. We only had one drone.
I checked Rosa’s tracker. Her vehicle was still heading north on highway 79. A second truck followed Rosa’s, and the third truck broke away at highway 76. I went with my gut and told Gil we should keep on Rosa if we had any hope of discovering who was involved with the sex slaves and hopefully find Kathy’s killer. Gun had remained silent to this point. Gil nodded his head in agreement, but Gun spoke up, “Why?” was the only word to come from his lips.
It seemed obvious, but everyone in the control room turned to me as if I were an oracle with the mystery of the universe. I cleared my throat and spoke confidently, although I knew my intuition was the only source of my wisdom. “I believe Diablo expects us to be watching him. He deals in far more than just sex slaves. There are farm workers and even domestic servants who become victims of these animals. Unfortunately, the farm owners or homeowners are often none the wiser. These people just assume their workers are dropped off in the morning and picked up at night by the person who is taking care of them while they are in the U.S.”
The Border Patrol and FBI agents appeared bored by my background information, but I continued. “Alejandro won’t risk his entire organization. Selling off his cargo closer to the border and then having the people split off in the middle of nowhere, and in the middle of the night means he gets his money. There is also a higher probability that at least some of his customers will escape.”
Frank, an Ice Agent, spoke up. “So are we ready to pick everyone up then?”
I shook my head. “No, we stay with Rosa. The trucks will stop somewhere along the path before daylight and force everyone out to use the bathroom. I have no doubt she’ll escape then. We simply continue to follow the trucks and see where they stop.
Frank looked annoyed. “What is this? Fast and Furious with human beings?”
Gil spoke up with a twinge of anger in his voice. “That’s a low blow, Frank. If we try to rescue this group, Alejandro will know we are watching. Worse, he won’t reveal the killer to us. Sure, we will save a few people, but he will go into hiding in Mexico. A month from now Diablo will be at it again. Except, this time we won’t be watching. We need to shut him down.”
Frank clasped his hands and spoke to Gil like a school teacher. “Do you think arresting this one man will stop human smuggling?”
Gil stepped away from the three of us at the strategy table to make sure Frank was looking up at him from his chair. “No, Frank. But we will stop this human smuggler. This human smuggler that currently funnels twenty-percent of his earnings to the Sinaloa cartel.” Gil turned around and rejoined us at our table, Frank became silent and faced his computer monitor.
The trucks had turned on to highway 371. They stopped along the highway between the towns of Cahuilla and Anza for their bathroom break. White silhouettes filed out of the vehicles and on to the side of the road. We watched a single silhouette slowly move away from the group and then begin to run in a southward direction away from the road. A few minutes later we could see the groups file back into the trucks. The guards must have done a head count because we could see them start walking around the vehicles. To our horror, we saw three men with rifles begin to fan out southward into the desert.