Page 15 of Endless Whispers

Font Size:  

Carmen seemed amped up and full of energy suddenly. “Then that’s enough probable cause for the police to go in, cease the drugs, free the women and children as well as arrest the men there.”

“There are at least seven other buildings like this in the city,” Charlize warned. “We can take down one, but never be able to tie it back to the people in charge. Not to mention the lengths they may go to at the other buildings to silence the witnesses. It’s too big a risk.”

Mick nodded at Charlize, desperate for her to know they were in agreement on this. As traffic thickened around them, he stayed focused on the road as he continued the conversation with Carmen.

"Yeah, Carmen, it's way more complicated than we thought. We need to move carefully. I don't want to risk the lives of those women and children in the other locations."

Carmen's voice crackled through the phone, the connection sounding dodgy for a moment. Mick wondered if that was the case, or if Carmen was just faltering on what to do next. It was a big decision, and one he was glad not to have to make.

They’d just witnessed multiple crimes people could be charged for. Leaving that house without doing anything about what they saw felt terrible. But they had to look at the big picture and help as many of the women as they could.

"I understand, but we also need to make sure this is addressed quickly. Now that you’ve seen it with your own eyes, we have a responsibility to get this done. You also need to get those drugs off your hands and get some cash to continue your cover. Time is running out."

Charlize interjected, her voice rigid. "Carmen, we can't rush this. If we move too soon, they might retaliate against the captives in the other properties. We need to be strategic."

Carmen sighed audibly, her concern evident. "Listen, these decisions are never easy, and I feel the weight of all of them. I’m going to talk to the full leadership team here and get their input. I understand your worry, but we can't let the people you have seen keep suffering longer than needed. We'll find a balance. Tell me about the drugs and the evidence you have."

Mick glanced at Charlize before responding, "It’s a lot. These guys are clearly capable of moving a lot of product. Having a workforce of captives makes that possible, I guess. We have a bag of drugs, mostly pills and cocaine. But we need to find a way to dispose of them without raising suspicion. As for the evidence, Charlize managed to get photographs of the conditions inside one of the properties. She took the existing tapes from their security systems to keep them from being able to spot her, and we haven’t reviewed them yet. But the living situation is horrifying."

Charlize leaned in close to the phone, looking like she might place her head on his shoulder. He wished she would. "It would be very easy for the guards at any of these locations to move the women quickly or even resort to killing them if they had to. They are completely defenseless and have their children to worry about.”

Carmen paused for a moment, clearly considering their words. "It’s really going to come down to how much you two can put together to make a case for the police or federal team to move in all at once and with great force. We need to expose the entire operation and bring those responsible to justice. But we also need to keep you two safe."

Mick smiled at Charlize. They both knew their own lives would always fall to the back burner when it came down to something like this. Carmen had to do what she could to protect them and beg them to stay safe, but when push came to shove, it wouldn’t really matter. Charlize smiled back, sharing the same thought.

She squeezed his arm suddenly. "I did get one more thing, Carmen; maybe this will help. There's a real estate agent we suspect has been instrumental in acquiring these properties. If we can find a way to expose their involvement, it could be a crucial piece of the puzzle. Her name is Susan Morales. Will you try to dig up everything you can on her? How deep into this is she? If we can get her to tell what shell companies were used to buy the properties, we could make sure they’re all taken down at once."

Carmen sighed again, the weight of their mission pressing down on her. "I'll see what resources I can pull together. Maybe this real estate agent has some skeletons in her closet we can rattle. In the meantime, I’m texting you an address. I have someone down there who will take those drugs off your hands and give you a bit more cash for whatever you might need. Try not to blow it all at once this time.”

“I promise it was worth the money. Now we know for sure how bad it is in there. I’ll keep you posted on our progress and you let us know what everyone up there thinks should happen next.”

“Stay safe,” Carmen insisted. “Don’t forget you’ve got that vacation planned.”

Mick chuckled. “Right around the corner. I can practically feel the sand under my feet.”

After they disconnected the call, Mick guided the car through the quiet streets, following the GPS to the address Carmen sent them.

"We're in deep, Mick," Charlize said, her voice low. “I don’t think we’ve ever done anything with so many people’s lives hanging in the balance. It feels different, doesn’t it?”

“I think we’re different,” Mick explained. “Maybe that’s when you know you should be through with work like this. That killed me in there. Seeing those kids all crammed together, living like prisoners. Sniffling and coughing. Away from their mothers. I used to be able to compartmentalize that stuff. Stay focused. But all I wanted to do today was demolish those guys and get every single person out of that building. I barely held it together.”

She reached her hand up to his shoulder and squeezed it tightly. “I cried.”

“What?” He shot her a sideways glance.

“I came back to the car and cried. In everything we’ve done and seen before, that’s never happened. I mean, I’ve cried over cases before, but usually when it’s over. Like the adrenaline wears off and I’m relieved. But this was different. I was crying because I was scared. Scared for us. Scared for them. You’re right. It was different.”

He reached up and covered her hand with his. “We get this done. We save everyone. And maybe we really try to figure out how to say no to the next one.”

“Both of us say no?”

“Yeah. If we do it together, maybe we can make it stick.”

The safe house they reached was a modest, nondescript apartment tucked away in a quiet neighborhood. Carmen had arranged for someone to meet them there and take the drugs. They could do a lot of things in their job but driving around with a bag of illegal substances was too much of a risk. He wasn’t sure who this person was or what they’d do with the drugs, but he trusted Carmen.

They sat in the driveway and waited. Again, it was always part of the job. Hours passed, and when Luis, the person they were supposed to meet, finally arrived, it was well into the early hours of the morning. He was rugged-looking with a weary expression, the kind of person who had seen his share of the criminal underbelly. Maybe an undercover cop or, for all he knew, another drug dealer who just happened to hit the lottery tonight and get this stash.

Luis said nothing as he examined the bag of drugs, nodding in acknowledgment of its value. After a few moments he glanced at each of them again. “This is a lot of shit.”

Articles you may like