Gary was an oddball, a weirdo. His jokes always went a bit too far and too dark.
I got to know him after joining a Skype chat for aspiring online entrepreneurs.
We were both enthusiastic about earning a living online and make it big one day. Like me, Gary was frustrated about his day job, his lack of money and life in general.
Every member of the chat was a bloody beginner.
Like many other members of our group, Gary earned a big fat zero in his initial couple of months. What made him different from the rest of us was his drive and ambition. Even after many members gave up after not earning a dime, he kept going. He was the type who’d either make it or die trying. If for nothing else, I respected him for that.
It was another month later when he finally showed me a screenshot of his first few affiliate marketing commissions. Sure it wasn’t anything significant, but it was a good enough start.
For me, things didn’t go too well. Even after half a year of trying all sorts of ways and techniques, I hadn’t earned a thing. On the contrary, this whole endeavor had turned into a money sink for me. In the end, I gave up as well.
After that, I didn’t hear from Gary for quite some time. It was only after more than half a year had passed that he talked to me again. His first few commissions, he told me, had grown into a nice and steady income. He’d pretty much made it, I thought.
Finally, though, he asked me if I was interested in earning a bit of money. He had seen me vent in our entrepreneurial group chat; how I had all sorts of bills to pay and how I could barely afford to eat each month. He said he was going to earn some *real money* soon and he could use a few helping hands.
I told him I was in right away.
The following week we had a long voice call, and Gary told me about a few things he’d tapped into.
While online marketing is a vast, legitimate industry, it also has its dark sides. It is the same as real life. Most people stick to the legal ways of earning money. Not so Gary. For the first time, I started to see his true face and found out how unscrupulous and greedy he really was.
He started out with social media bots and automated blogs. He explained some of the details to me, but I didn’t understand even half of it.
When Gary found the adult niche, he said, he struck gold.
“It’s the perfect evergreen market, my friend. Everyone needs to rub one out every once in a while,” he said with a sleazy voice.
He went on to tell me about all the different niches he was working with: sex toys, erotica, hardcore porn and adult webcam sites.
One thing that pretty went well for him was setting up fake dating sites. That was also where I came into play. It was simple, he said. First, you set up a fake dating site. Then you add some premium features. Finally, you trick people to not only sign up for those but also for other adult subscriptions.
“There are so many suckers out there who are too horny to think straight. The moment they realize Maria ain’t real, they at least got themselves a subscription for Brazzers or BangBros. They should thank me for it!”
I didn’t feel too good about the whole thing. I guess, my need for money was stronger than my conscience. I got a percentage of each page’s earnings and the money added up.
I can’t tell anymore how many of those pages I created. It must have been dozens. They were really simple and really shitty, but they did the job. I was pretty sure though that I was not the only person Gary was working with. So the real numbers could very well have been in the three digits.
That was only the beginning though. If you dig deep enough, you’ll often end up with more than you bargained for. It was exactly what Gary had been looking for.
It was during one of our weekly Skype calls that he told me he had found some new business partners from overseas. The word overseas made me look up. It sounded like Gary was playing in the big league now. He told me it took him weeks of negotiations. He was now working with the owners of certain special interest sites and niche adult networks.
“Those are some huge, untapped markets, my friend!”
I wasn’t sure what he was talking about. Was it Japanese porn? That’s not untapped though. Or Russian webcam shows?
The latter proved not to be too far off. When I asked Gary what kind of stuff it was, he sent me a link to one of his partner’s pages. I am going to say one word: amputee-porn.
As soon as I’d seen some of the images, I hit the close icon of my browser.
“What the fuck kinda shit is that, man?” I yelled at him over Skype.
“Something that is gonna earn *me* a lot of money.” He had a big grin on his face as he said this.
In on the other hand was disgusted. I felt sick to my stomach. This stuff was wrong. I decided then and there to cut my ties with him.
“I am not going to get involved in this shit. This is just sick, man!”
“Oh, so now you got a conscience? You didn’t mind fucking people over before.”
“That was fucking different!”
“Well, tell me, don’t you need money? What about all those bills? You sure you want to keep working at your measly dead-end job?”
I didn’t say a thing.
“Guess you are just another poor sucker. I just have to find someone who has some actual balls.”
With that, he hung up. It was the last time I talked to him.
There was one thing he was right about though: There were enough people with desires that were a little odd or downright wrong. Join the cam show of a Lolita girl or pretty much any girl that looks a bit underage. You can always find a few sick fucks there. I am sure those are only the tip of the iceberg.
I thought I had heard the last of Gary the moment I cut ties with him. I had all but forgotten about him. That was until two huge, burly man jumped me one morning as I was about to leave my apartment. Without a word, they pushed me back inside and locked the door behind.
“Where’s your friend Gary?” one of them asked. He had a strong Eastern European accent.
I was about to ask who he was talking about. Then the name rang a bell.
“I have no clue. How’d I know?”
One of them stepped forward, raising his hands. I cringed back a few steps, toppling a chair in the course. It prompted a short laugh from the two of them.
“You worked with him.”
“That was more than a freaking year ago. After he got involved in some sick shit, I-”
I stopped talking. As I said it, it hit me. Those two guys were not with the police or any law enforcement. They were most likely involved in what I had called *sick shit* a moment ago. A knowing smile on their faces showed me I was correct.
There was no need for violence or even words anymore. I told them everything I knew about Gary. I showed them everything: all our past chat logs, all the payments I’d received from him, the fake sites I could still remember as well as all his online usernames, accounts and aliases.
They instructed me to forward all this to a specific email. There is one thing I learned that morning. Typing is hard when you’re shaking, and your hands are wet with sweat.
Once I sent the email, they merely nodded.
“That’s all,” the speaker of the two said, and they turned towards the door. Before they left, they said one more thing.
“Just so you know, we will know if you lied to us. If you did, we’ll find little Daniel, and we are going to cut off his hands.”
Daniel was my sister’s eight-year-old son.
For one more second, they studied my face. Then they left.
After this, I fell to the floor. All strength had left me.
“Holy shit,” I said over and over again.
What was that all about? What the fuck had Gary been messing with? What the fuck had he gotten me involved with?!
My question was answered about a week later. One of the old members of our Skype group sent me a news article.
Bizarre case puzzles authorities in L. A.
The article was about a presumed murder of a man in East Los Angeles. At about two in the morning, someone had broken into the victim’s penthouse apartment. They turned the place upside down but didn’t steal anything. The most bizarre thing about the case is what else they found. It was the victims lower legs, an arm, his ears and part of the lower jaw. The rest of the body has yet to be found.
Attached to the article was a picture of Gary.
I soon found out what Gary had been up to. He had become quite a prominent member of some of the online marketing forums I frequented. It was only natural that people looked into his activities as his case hit the news. Before long they uncovered more about the inner workings of his ventures.
What Gary had done was to play the middleman. He used special software to funnel part of his pages audiences to these special interest sites of his overseas partners.
At least for a while. A month into it, he got the idea of starting his own, private network. The goal was to cut out the backend and take all the profit for himself.
It hadn’t taken long for things to take shape. There are always people who are willing to go to certain lengths to earn money, especially if it is good money. So before long, he found the right people to work with and even a few models, if you could even call them models. From then on he’d start to send people to his pages, but only a few at a time.
Now I know Gary was not an idiot. He had always been careful, but I guess in the end he got a little too greedy. No one found out who Gary had gotten involved with. Some stories say it was the Russian Mafia, yet others say it was one of the many Balkan groups. Either way, one thing is clear: Gary tried to cheat the wrong people.
There is one last thing. It still makes me shiver even now. Some people did dig a little deeper. They found some of the pages Gary had been working with. He had taken a quick look at some of the many *models* featured on the page.
One of them was a severely mutilated man. He was missing all his limbs except the left arm, as well as his lower jaw.
Even in this state, I thought as I looked at the screenshots, there was no doubt who the man was.