Rosa’s form appeared sprawled out on the desert floor on a large screen in the control room. The three guards were now seventy-five yards away. I prayed the moonless night would keep her concealed, and the desert’s nighttime predators were nowhere nearby. They got within fifty-yards and stopped. We watched as light particles of dust danced brightly on the screen. Bullets were hitting the ground around and near Rosa. The men continued spraying ammunition across a wide area, and then turned around and left.
I looked over at the monitor showing Rosa’s vitals. She appeared alive, although her heartbeat and blood pressure were high. Gil was looking as well. He turned to me and said, “Rosa is fine. I think my heart rate would be twice that high if I went through what she just did.”
The team kept the drone over the two trucks as they continued up highway 371. Once they were well out of sight of Rosa, the border patrol dispatched a helicopter to pick her up. The vehicles turned up highway 74 north and eventually ended up in Nuevo, California. The house was the perfect location for sex traffickers. Not far from Interstate 215, it gave them access to much of Orange County, Los Angeles County, and was only a few hours from Las Vegas.
I began to wonder if we had witnessed the sale of immigrants near the border, or if Alejandro had merely split up his cargo to keep us from tracking everyone. I assumed he expected us to keep a close eye on him. I looked up at Gil, “What do you think? Did Diablo sell those people, or did he just send us on a wild goose chase?”
Gil’s eyes widened a bit. I could see that idea had not crossed his mind yet. Gun and I stood there for a solid minute with nothing but silence between all of us. Gil finally shared what was running through his mind. “I think he probably split them up, but I don’t think it’s a wild goose chase. That’s the perfect location for a safe house for sex traffickers. We need to get eyes on it, but in a small town, any surveillance is going to get noticed.”
We could use the drone during the day, but that would only show us who is coming and going. It might be enough for a warrant, but the moment we converged on the house, the traffickers would scatter like cockroaches.
Gun spoke up, “Even if we can catch the traffickers, how will that conjure up Kathy’s killer?”
His question hit me hard in the gut, but then an idea began to form. I looked over at Gil and asked, “Can that drone help us determine somebody’s height and build?”
I began to nod my head. “What’s going through your mind?” Gun asked me.
“We don’t know what Kathy’s killer looked like because he was in disguise, but we do know his overall height and build. We only need one or two suspects that look like our guy. I’m sure we can apply enough pressure to get them to turn.”
Both men looked skeptical at me. Gun shared his thoughts first. “Maybe, but that’s a big gamble. Alejandro is called Diablo for a reason. If he’s involved, I don’t think anybody is going to turn on him. I know Diablo told you he wasn’t the killer, but I think we all agree that we trust this guy about as far as we can throw him.”
Gil smiled and then said, “I trust him less than that.”
“Still, it’s our best plan,” I said. “Besides, if one of Diablo’s workers wants to go down for murdering a ten-year-old girl, so be it. I’ll have the DA attempt to pin him with raping her as well.”
Gun’s voice went up an octave. “What! You would pin an innocent man with murder and rape of a child.”
“How do you know he’s innocent? How many women have these guys killed, or watched murdered? How many have they beaten and raped to prepare them as sex slaves? Nobody in that house is innocent.” I turned around from the table and watched the feed from the drone hovering over the house where the trucks had unloaded. The sky was starting to change from black to dark gray.
Gil’s voice spoke from behind me. “Barry, look, I get what you’re saying, but our mission is Alejandro. If we just arrest his workers and shut down one house, he’ll have won.”
Part of me agreed with Gil, but we needed leverage on Alejandro the devil. I wanted Kathy’s killer. I wanted her father’s killer and the man who beat and raped her mother. I knew the only way to expedite that was to get Diablo into an interrogation room. If he didn’t do it, I would make sure he knew never to come into my county again. If he did do it, I would make sure he never saw free daylight again.
I turned around and said, “Okay, what if we meet halfway. Let’s say we get lucky and a guy inside the house looks like our suspect, but it turns out he didn’t do it. Suppose we let leak that our suspect gave us important information and we are close to an arrest. We won’t call the guy a snitch, just that his alibi and evidence from the trafficking house has helped us zero in on our suspect.”
Gun was attempting to follow my idea, but I had been intentionally obtuse. He gave me an annoyed look and asked, “Okay, I’ll bite. And then what happens?”
I smiled and then said, “Glad you asked. Diablo will make a move. If I read him right, he will come to us, or rather to me. He was brazen enough to come to my house before, and I’m sure he will do it again.”
Gil shook his head and said, “I still don’t follow.”
I continued explaining the rest of my plan. “I don’t know about you, Gil, but I don’t like people breaking into my house. If he pays me a second visit that will make twice, he has broken into my home. I know, that isn’t a major crime, but we can hold him for forty-eight hours and question him. It will give us an excuse to search his home for stolen items. Since he broke in to talk about the murders, we should be able to search for evidence related to that as well.”
Both men considered my proposal. I knew it was a stretch, but at the moment a straw is all we had to grasp.