As I shared a little more about my fictitious proposal, Michael explained how he could personally guarantee every woman and girl who worked for him. With little emotion and without any compunction, Michael said that he held a prescreening session with every girl. This involved him and some other men having sex with each girl to see how she performed. He then pulled out his cell phone and showed me a video of two very young African American girls engaging in oral and anal sex with different men in the same room and at the same time.
After some negotiation around the price and terms for the purchase of each of the girls, Michael agreed to meet me again the following evening to show me some of his best "products." I agreed to pay each girl $100 for her time.
As arranged, the next day Michael duly arrived at another apartment used by Kelvin for his photography business. At Michael's command, each of the girls paraded in front of me before removing their clothes and adopting provocative and seductive poses. While each of the women were of age, it was apparent from their demeanor and from the way they quickly moved when Michael spoke, that they were under his power and control.
I paid each girl and thanked her for her time. Michael was pleased with the many compliments I paid the girls, and we sealed our agreement on behalf of my imaginary clients with a handshake.
As Michael drove away, waving from the front seat as he did so, Kelvin looked on and expressed admiration and envy for one who was so clearly making a lot of money while at the same time enjoying all the pleasures of the flesh. He had obviously not seen or identified in any way with the women sitting in the backseat, their smiles now gone and their tired eyes staring vacantly back at us as the vehicle disappeared. This information was passed on to the local authorities.
All of the information I gathered during my time in Atlanta was given to the law enforcement authorities: federal, state and city. All were aware of the sex slavery occurring within their respective jurisdictions, and each one expressed the same frustration and sense of powerlessness at doing anything about it. They each recounted the many meetings they had attended in order to communicate their concerns to the Atlanta Visitors Bureau and the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce.
The law enforcement officers were united in their sentiment that while the leaders of their city were always polite and listened to evidence of the growing sexual exploitation of women and children in Atlanta, they were ultimately completely ineffectual in doing anything about it. Most disheartening of all for some of the police officers involved was the knowledge that when a young girl runs away from her home in the city of Atlanta, statistically the police have only forty-eight hours to find her before she is recruited into prostitution.
Those police officers tasked with combating the growth of such exploitation said that the criminal gangs involved were completely ruthless and very well-organized. Often the men who joined the gangs were more afraid of their own gang than they were of going to jail. Many of the ethnic gangs were said to be very close-knit and only targeted male customers from within their own ethnic communities, making them very difficult to infiltrate by the law enforcement community. The officers explained that at every Atlanta Convention Center event and outside every hotel, patrons would be handed information cards promoting and advertising the sexual services of those women and children enslaved in the industry.
Most alarming for me was to learn what happened during an operation set up to target some of the escort agencies involved. When it became apparent during the investigation that some of the male clients were senior members of the Atlanta city council and U.S. Senators, the operation was quickly shut down. Those officers involved were reassigned.
Many gangs used women who were trafficked into the United States and then forced to work as prostitutes to pay off the debts imposed on them. Many endured extreme forms of exploitation and abuse, and even if given the opportunity they would not speak with authorities out of complete terror. Others did not want to leave the United States and so did not complain for fear of deportation. Still others were told that if they ever agreed to testify, their families and children back in Central or South America would be murdered before their cases ever reached an American courtroom.
I stopped to refuel my car late one evening at a gas station in an industrial area just off one of the main interstates that converge on Atlanta. A small black man materialized from the darkness and slowly approached me. He casually asked in an unconcerned manner, as if in passing, whether I wanted any "company" for the evening. When I expressed an interest, he sprang to life and the greed that lay beneath his casual veneer was exposed. He offered to connect me with whatever my heart desired and sang the praises of one particular girl who he said was young, beautiful and very "fresh."