Thomas trained his attention to the passing world outside of the window to his right. It was dark, wet, and cold in the city. He was in the back of a cab, heading south toward the sketchy part of town. The boonies. He didn't know exactly where - the cab had shown up at his front door, apropos of nothing, and the driver had beckoned him to get in. His instructions had foretold such a situation: they couldn't risk any breach of security or else a lot of people were going to jail for a very long time. The blindness of it, and the spontaneity, were how they avoided being noticed. Thomas never tore his attention away form the passing architecture. He was nervous, so nervous, and the anxiety tied his stomach in knots and knots. That was par for the course when involved in something as ridiculously illegal as human trafficking. Thomas tried not to think about how long he would go away for if he were connected to this outfit by authorities. Even if he did think about it Thomas know his hand would not stay: he was a jilted virgin with a lot of money, and that did wonders for any sort of apprehension he may have had.
The cab turned onto a highway on-ramp and proceeded onto the eastbound expressway out of the city. The stone and steel polis dropped out of view and morphed into a dark skyline sprinkled with the twinkles of offices and those little lights they put on skyscrapers so that planes don't just run into them all night. They were hurrying to the outskirts of town, where the dive bars and gang-infested neighborhoods were. There was an old airport down there. One that only served to the outlying smaller cities a little ways south and perhaps the tri-state area. Thomas wondered if the people he was doing business with used that very airport to fly in their merchandise. The city skyline pulled away from the cab and faded into a dark silhouette choked with misty clouds. Thomas turned to face forward in his seat. He noticed the cab driver glance at him in the rearview mirror: Thomas was a young man of twenty-one with short brown hair dressed in a formal shirt and slacks with jacket. He was a college student, majoring in history.
The cab stayed on the highway for a good ten minutes before veering off. Thomas recognized the suburb they were headed toward: it was known to be a bad area, with at least one exploding meth lab in the last five years. Thomas couldn't remember clearly. The cab turned down a dark road with houses on either side. Neither of which looked to be occupied by the kind of person with the drive to keep it in good condition. Lawns were polka dotted with spots of brown and dying grass and dirt. Paint was curling away from paneling. A few cars showed damage from accidents that their owners could not afford to fix. Children toys were left strewn about, mixed and mingled with the odd tire iron and deflated pool. The cab proceeded through this awful place to a small, ostensibly industrial area with train tracks running right through the middle of it. There was a convenience store and a bar. The convenience store had gentlemen of color hanging around out front, Thomas noted, and a neon sign advertising the sale of cigarettes. The bar had a similar sign, advertising the sale of liquor as well as a group of white guys huddled around an old truck. The cab parked in front of the latter.
The cab driver peered over his shoulder and gestured for Thomas to get out. Thomas reached for his wallet to pay the man but was stayed with a wave of the hand from the driver. He'd been paid up front. Thomas opened the door and stepped out of the cab, pulling his dark leather jacket out with him and slinging it around his shoulders. The cab pulled away, leaving him there, at the mercy of those merry wretches that mingled about the Ford with the rusting hub caps. They caught site of him almost immediately and Thomas felt the urge to run but stuffed it. They approached with no caution whatsoever, as if they had been expecting him. Thomas realized that they most certainly had been expecting him. He was to do business with these gentlemen. He couldn't help but wonder how they had figured out how to use encryptions and crypto-currencies, but then again weirder things have happened, he would have to suppose.
"You here for the old girl?" One of the men piped up. He placed a hand on the aging Ford. Thomas thought about it for a second, the question having caught him off guard and confused him.
"What- no, I don't think I am," he replied, looking around, thinking maybe these weren't the men he was looking for. They continued to close in on him.
"You're Tom, right?" The old fella went on. "Tom Crock?" That was indeed Thomas's name, though he never went by 'Tom' or any variation of Thomas thereof. Thomas, not Tom. Never Tom.
"I'm Thomas Crock," he corrected.
"Come on in, son, we'll talk about the truck," the old timer said. Thomas had caught on by now: the truck was a smokescreen. The old timer lead Thomas into the bar. It was dark and choked with sound and cigarette smoke. Sorry-looking men and women were seated haphazardly around them, sipping drinks and sucking on cigarettes. The old timer lead Thomas past all of this through a door that lead into the storage room behind the bar. This room was also dimly lit, by but a single lightbulb hanging from the ceiling over a circular table. Thomas was directed to have a seat at this table. The old timer sat across from him, wearing a smile as big as big could be.
"Would you like to see what you're buyin', son?" Asked the old timer, to which Thomas nodded. The old timer gestured to one of his colleagues, who in turn disappeared around a stack of crates, only to return dragging a female by one of her arms. Thomas steeled himself to the sight, partly out of fear of the purveyors. Someone placed a laptop in between them, facing the old-timer. He managed to fumble his spectacles onto his face and inspect the bright screen before him. Thomas could only guess that it was his - or his company's - digital wallet because shortly after he closed the clam shell computer and smiled across to the younger gentleman. Thomas didn't like the way the old timer smiled. It struck him as a bit too innocent. Thomas knew what he was doing was illegal and wrong but this codger apparently had no such pretensions.
"Well," said the old timer. "We have a deal then." He stood and reached across the table to shake Thomas's hand. Thomas didn't move. Just looked at him, blankly. The old timer shrugged it off and gestured to the man dragging the woman, who unceremoniously tossed her to the floor. The old timer and his crew cleared the room then, apparently not having any interest in the logistics of Thomas getting this girl back to his house. Thomas continued to sit frozen until the room was empty save for the two of them. It took another moment or so still for him to actually look at her, and when he did his expression was one of fear. The expression of someone with a grave reality becoming clear to them. What he had just done was impressively illegal, wrong, and inhumane. But it was soon after did an excitement bubble up from his stomach and he smiled.
"What's your name?" He asked.