Anna didn’t assault the Scarlet Freedom Brotherhood members like Val did. She didn’t evade them like Tam did either. Anna favored a more direct approach, so she rang their proverbial doorbell.
The upside to infiltrating a heavily monitored compound was that it was incredibly easy to get the inhabitants’ attention. After scoping out the Brotherhood’s base from a distance, and allowing Val and Tam the time they needed to get in place, Anna simply drove up the main road on her motorcycle and knocked on the security gate.
The guard there tried to turn her away. It was what he would have done on any day but especially during “hunting season” when there couldn’t be any breaches in security. Even the most rabid of members knew that organized mass murder wasn’t something they could walk away from if someone outside their cult found out.
Anna tossed the guard a trio of skulls, small ones, looped together by a silver chain drilled through the temples and asked, in a broad German accent, if she was too late to join the fun.
The skulls weren’t real, or at least weren’t the skulls of human children as they appeared to be. The guard had neither the training nor the instruments to determine that however. His ears heard the voice of the Nazi Reich he so admired, and his imagination was all too eager to cast the tall, light haired woman with eyes of steel as a modern day angel of the Iron Cross, so he did what any loyal, unquestioning follower was supposed to do; he called the main camp to ask his superiors for permission to bring her in.
Anna’s answering smile to the invitation said she was eager for the hunt, and it was true, except for the part where she wasn’t going to hunt children.
In her career in high finance, she’d run across all sorts of disgusting and disreputable people and the worst of them were the ones who cultivated groups like the Brotherhood. Some number of people were going to fixate on their hates under the best of circumstances, and the only thing easier to profit off than hate was the fear which bred it. She’d struggled over the years to drive those profit mongers into the ground, and met with mixed success because the victories always seemed to be indirect ones.
She shut down a company which peddled hateful rhetoric targeting the disadvantaged and kept an oligarch in power, but the cost of the shutdown was money and resources that could have done tremendous good if they could have been used to alleviate suffering elsewhere. Even something as simple as creating a community space where people could engage with those outside their isolated spheres, had cost her the opportunity to create a program which could foster a deeper understanding of other cultures for those who were already interested in learning.
The trade-offs were ones Anna believed were worth it at the time, but the urge to strike back in more a personal manner was a temptation that never went away.
She continued smiling as the guard opened the gate and passed her into the custody of two men in a jeep, each of whom was armed well enough to donate several thousand dollars of gear to the person who popped their fantasy bubbles of being an ‘elite warrior’ and simply shot them when they weren’t looking.
Anna wasn’t going to be that person though. In her eyes, their fates were already sealed. If they were lucky, Tam would get to them. If they weren’t Val would. And if they somehow escaped the Brotherhood’s compound before the end of the day? Well that would be the worst possible luck they could have. Then Charlene would be the one to deal with them.
When they arrived at the main camp, there was a small force waiting to meet them. Not the leadership of the Brotherhood. Those men were either out hunting or believed themselves too important to risk exposure to any unknown entities.
Anna repeated her story for them, but in greater detail.
She wanted to join their hunt.
Because she’d heard good things about their group and wanted to see if they could live up their online billing.
The hunt wasn’t advertised online. None of the members ever talked about. How had she heard about it? What branch of the government was she working for?
She offered them her hand. Run her fingerprints. See who she was. You’ve got cops on the member roll. It shouldn’t take long.
It didn’t. Interpol’s database had a very quick response when it came to the people on its global most wanted list.
Anna’s crimes were lengthy, at least as far as the dummy account assigned to Anna’s fingerprints showed. Tam had asked a helpful member of the Second Chance Club to create a fake profile tied to Anna’s real fingerprints. It would disappear within the hour but by then the need for deception would be long passed.
Among Anna’s fictional offenses was a string of murders of high profile civil rights activists, and several charges for organizing later day Nazi parties, which in Germany had been strictly illegal since WWII.
The false identity worked like a charm, which is to say it enchanted some of the Brotherhood members but others remained suspicious. As a whole though, they were willing to play along with the story, many of them immediately imagining how they could expand their reach to Europe and places Anna claimed to know where there were no extradition treaties with the U.S.
In the guise of welcoming her, the senior Brotherhood member assigned one of his trusted lieutenants to show Anna around. He explained that there was already a hunt in session, and that to make sure everyone had a chance to take part in the fun, they staggered things out into waves. If she wanted to be a part of a hunt, she would have to wait until one of the last rounds, once all the members had been a chance at “bagging a prize” first.
Anna shrugged. Waiting for last would be better than missing out entirely, she assured them, and she was pretty sure she’d win the best prize. Half of what she said there was true, just not the half the Brotherhood was going to be happy about.
The Brotherhood had its own plans though. To keep up the appearance of welcoming her, they gave Anna a tour of the compound while the first hunt was run. The first stop was the armory, which she made appreciative noises at. The members all had their own collection of weapons, but their siege mentality demanded that they build up as large a horde as possible for ‘the coming war’.
Anna could have pointed out the futility of maintaining a militia arsenal against a modern military force, but allowing evil men to misspend their resources was like planting a seed for victories yet to come.
She did talk to them about the prices she usually paid for weapons, and some of the dealers that she knew who could ship product internationally. The names were real, but they belonged either to dead men or law enforcement officers who specialized stopping the flow of illegal weapons trading. With no easy method of verifying the names, the Brotherhood members who had joined her on the tour reacted only with disbelief that prices could be so low, or eagerness to increase their stockpiles at a discount.
As they talked, she drew info from them.
The members she spoke with mostly purchased their firearms legally, though they knew many routes to sidestep troublesome parts of the law, and more than a few methods of acquiring “untraceable” guns.
They were all proud of the collections they’d amassed in time for this year’s “hunt”, which was by far the biggest they’d ever attempted.
Usually the Brotherhood relied on kidnapping people from across the country within the month that led up to the hunt. That had proven to be more trouble than anyone cared for though. Kidnapped prisoners required upkeep – food and even medicine occasionally – or they wouldn’t be worth hunting at all.
The plan to kidnap a bus of immigrant children had been put into place after the Brotherhood’s leadership saw it becoming clear that the political climate was changing, that hating foreigners was acceptable at the highest levels of government and that people across the country would leap to defend even the most vile of actions rather than allow ‘their side’ to look bad. Nazis and paedophiles had become ‘good people too’ in enough people’s eyes that the Brotherhood thought they could get away with anything they desired.
Killing kids wasn’t something good people did of course, but the Brotherhood broke through the “weaker” members resistance to that with the conviction that children weren’t really people. They were “illegals”, and they’d forfeited their rights they moment they “invaded”.
Anna had dealt with monsters before. She was able to feed them exactly the justifications they wanted to hear, anticipating the arguments they were used to being presented with and feeding them their own words before they even had a chance to speak in their defense.
For the members that wanted to believe she was on the level, her speaking their language was enough to win their eternal devotion. For those who were suspicious, her claims raised their concerns even further. She was too good to be true. They couldn’t accept life as ever being in their favor and certainly not when it came in the form of a stern and powerful older woman.
The tour ended at the communication hubs of the compound. The more technically gifted members were monitoring the progress of the hunt and watching the state and local police bands for any sign that they’d been detected.
The hunters weren’t wearing any kind of tracking devices, in part because no one wanted to give away their secrets in how they tracked and brought down their quarry, and in part because no one thought it was necessary.
The child who was being hunted though had been injected with a GPS transmitter, and was wearing one of their radio listening devices, so the central communications station knew exactly where he was.
It made for a festive environment in the tech bunker, as the members who were present watched the child’s movement and speculated wildly on what the hunters were doing to find him.
There was a betting pool on which hunter would find the boy first, and a separate one for who would make it back to their base with “the trophy”.
Anna kept well away from the computers and controls so that no one would be concerned about her meddling with things. The Brotherhood didn’t trust her yet, and any move that tested that trust was likely to be accompanied by a fatal blowback.
Also, with the device Tam had given her, and being within range of their wifi system, there really wasn’t any reason Anna needed to touch their computers to harvest the information she needed.
The hunt hit a snag when the tracking device on the boy showed him moving in a straight line off the compound and towards the mountains.
There was a wide open stretch of plain between the forest’s border and the proper rise of the mountains. Plenty of open space for a hunter to finish the target off but despite the fact that someone should have had a shot at the kid, the boy kept moving.
Something was amiss and the Brotherhood was not in a position to deal with things going wrong.
Anna watched as one of the members lead the next child to be hunted into the room.
The young boy had been “being prepared”, which meant outfitting him with the injectable GPS tracker and providing the proper motivation by telling him that he had to run or the other kids would die.
He was eight years old. Anna recognized him from his file. Gabriel Sanchez. A mother, a father, and two sisters were praying for his safe return. He stood before the assembled Brotherhood members trying to be brave, but he couldn’t keep his limbs from trembling.
They handed her a gun, which she checked with a quick glance. The safety was off.
They didn’t like what was happening, and so she was going to have to prove herself. She wanted to be part of the hunt? Time to pass her first real test then. If she was who she claimed to be, she wouldn’t have any problem bagging the next body.
On the other hand, if she was a Fed, or working for anyone who stood against the Brotherhood, if she hesitated in the slightest then they’d know she was part of whatever was happening, and they would act…
They never got to finish the threat.
Anna pointed the gun directly at Gabriel’s head and pulled the trigger.