To start at the beginning, use this link: Link to Chapter 1
The next day was Friday, the grand re-opening of the aquarium. All of the merfolk participated, both the full-time group and the part-time newer mermaids. This allowed Audra to have two mermaids out in the aquarium galleries and two swimming in the aquarium at feeding times. The lower price and the publicity from the news story contributed to a record attendance for the day, despite the fact that the dolphin arena was closed. Katherine was looking forward to a rest in the evening when she got a call from Dave.
“Can I see you and Allen for a few minutes?” Dave asked.
“Sure, I suppose so. Do you want to come to the mermaid quarters again?”
“If you don’t mind, I can come to the aquarium but I’d prefer to stay dry.”
“We can meet you in the lobby and find a conference room.”
“That would be good. I can be there in 15 minutes.”
“OK, we’ll be ready.”
Katherine told her husband about the call.
“What do you think he wants?” Allen asked.
“I don’t know, but it seemed urgent.”
“We’d better get out of the water and get ready then.”
By the time they had gotten out of the pool, put on dry tops in the locker room, and wheeled themselves down to the lobby, fifteen minutes had passed. Dave showed up just a few moments later and they went into one of the small conference rooms near the lobby.
“What did you want to see us about?”
“I found something that I thought you would want to see.” Dave said. Then he took out a tablet and spent a few minutes working with it.
“Have you ever heard of the dark web?” He asked.
“I think I saw a news article about it some time ago.” Allen answered. “Isn’t it a set of hidden web sites used for illegal transactions?”
“It’s not only for illegal transactions, but it is highly encrypted and anonymous, so much of the content is illegal or at least not accepted by society. One of my informers told me about something he saw on a dark web site.”
Dave turned the tablet around and Katherine was surprised to see a picture of herself. The background was blurry but it appeared to be Carlos’s mermaid pool. Beside the picture was an ad for “Live-in mermaid servant girls” and a listing of the “benefits of ownership.” The benefits included such things as “permanently attached tail limits mobility,” “no talking back,” and “owner control of breathing,” as well as the ability to select various hair and skin colors.
“Is this for real?” Katherine asked.
“With these kinds of sites, you can never be sure.” Dave answered. “I’ve had one of my undercover operatives contact the seller, but it will take a few days to follow the lead.”
“Why my picture? They can’t exactly sell me again.”
“I’m guessing because you are blonde, and they don’t have as many blonde victims.”
“Could this be an old site? They shouldn’t have any mermaids left now that we escaped.”
“That’s what worries me. The picture is obviously older, but our computer experts say this site was just set up yesterday.”
“How would they get more mermaids?”
“Well, we know they created the tails for Fernando and Anna, and they had the plans for the collars. I’m guessing they are making their own mermaids now.”
“Do you think your secretary’s sister is one of them?”
“I think there is a good chance of that, yes.”
“So what do we do now?”
“We wait to hear from my undercover person. I need to gather as much information as possible before going in to take down this operation. Like who is doing the tails and the collars, and what kind of pull do they have with the government? It will likely take some time. I just hope they don’t sell too many girls before we get to them.”
A few days later, Dave visited Janice in her apartment. Janice fixed a tasty dinner for the two of them, and then they sat down on the couch to talk for a while.
“Remember that dark web ad I showed your daughter?” Dave asked.
“Of course. It still gives me nightmares.”
“Well, we’ve been working on it for a while and we’ve finally made some breakthroughs. We contacted the manufacturer of the breathing discs and found out their facility had been broken into about two weeks ago. No money was taken, but several cases of the base disc materials were stolen and the office was ransacked.”
“Sounds like somebody wants to make their own discs.”
“That’s what I thought. We talked with the manufacturer and discovered that while the base materials were stolen, some small containers of important additives were left behind. It turns out that a material called scandium oxide is very important in turning the base materials into the metal organic framework of the discs. So we contacted some chemical supply companies. Only one or two of them deal in scandium oxide, and one of those received some orders from Guatemala recently. That gave us an address for the likely disc manufacturer.”
“It also confirmed that they are starting the make the discs themselves.”
“Yes. The person who makes the tails was easier to find, because he has a web site and he advertises selling tails to the public. He lives in Puerto Barrios, Guatemala, not far from where your daughter was held. I think it likely that he is the one supplying the tails to the Kings gang.”
“So what are you going to do now? All these people are in another country where you have no jurisdiction.”
“That is true. And working with the government is very difficult because there is a great deal of corruption. No doubt that is why the Kings gang sited their headquarters there. That means that our only hope of rescuing Monica is via a covert operation.”
“How does it help to know who’s making the discs and the tails? You already know where they are likely to be keeping the girls.”
“Getting a spy into the gang headquarters would be very difficult, especially now that they know we are watching. But we might be able to get an operative into one of the suppliers.”
“How does that help?”
“Well what if our operative could put a bug or a tracking device into a tail or a box of discs?”
“Now I’m beginning to see.”
“They could also just ask questions and find out about schedules or security measures at the Kings gang compound.”
“How long will this take?”
“We are already working on it. I’m hoping we’ll be able to move in a few days.”