I hadn’t felt comfortable in Puerto Vallarta since our wedding. I lived for the beach, but that immigration officer who’d tried to extort us lived there, and being anywhere close to him was terrifying. Plus, the last time we’d been out in Puerto Vallarta, a few weeks before we got married, we’d run into a Chicago police officer at a club downtown. He’d looked Peter and Junior right in the eyes and said, “I know who you are.” Then he pulled out his cell phone and snapped a photo of them.
At the end of January 2008, Peter and Junior had business associates in from China, and they wanted to go to the beach. If you were looking to impress someone and take them out, Punta Mita, which was right outside of Puerto Vallarta and where Olivia had gotten married, was the place to go, so Peter and Junior planned a short trip.
“I don’t want to go,” I said to Peter. “That immigration officer might find out we’re there.”
“There’s no way. We’re going to be so far away from their office downtown. We won’t even be on their radar.”
I relented, and the next morning, we packed up our things.
The two guys who’d flown in from China owned an import/export business, and they were there to talk about these things called buckets.
Junior and Peter had gotten into the meth business recently, and the buckets were the key to the whole operation. They were five‑gallon tubs, sort of like paint barrels you might pick up at Home Depot, and they were full of pseudoephedrine powder, which everyone just calls “pseudo,” which is one of the main ingredients in meth. They had a contact in Canada who was getting them from New Delhi, India, but the Chinese guys promised to sell them cheaper. Each bucket cost $150,000, and there were forty buckets in a ton. If Junior and Peter bought four tons, that would cost $24 million. The pseudo was worth way more in California than Mexico, and they could sell it to a manufacturer over the border for $80 million, a profit of $56 million. It was hard to buy pseudo in bulk in the United States since the government had cracked down with all kinds of new laws, so Junior and Peter were in a great position to make a lot of money.
The day before the men from China were set to show up, Junior explained to me how he’d transport the buckets once they’d made the deal. “When the guys from China ship the buckets,” he explained, “I’ll pay off the piso to clear customs agents at the port in Manzanillo, and then I’ll have the fleteros send them up to Mexicali. Then Puerca helps get them over.”
Junior and Pete had just moved their infrastructure to Mexicali, so they were seeing Puerca, who controlled the tunnels from Mexicali to Calexico, a lot more regularly. Puerca was handsome and very charismatic, older than all of us, but I always thought he was fun to have around. He’d become one of Peter’s best friends, in fact.
Junior added, “These Chinese guys approached me years ago about buying buckets, but I didn’t think much of it till Chapo and Mayo were talking to me about wanting pseudo because they have a chemist in California. I looked at them and said, ‘I know who to talk to.’ Then I thought to myself, You have no idea how long these guys have been bothering me about these buckets.”
A few hours later, buckets were the last thing anyone was talking about when we sat down to dinner with the Chinese businessmen and their associate.
“We’d like to see some girls,” they said.
“Then we know exactly where to go,” answered Peter.
When associates came into town, they always wanted to go to strip clubs. It was just what you did. And because Olivia and I went everywhere with Junior and Peter, they asked us to join them. I was reluctant, though. “Can’t we just have some girls come over to our house? I’m worried about being out.”
Peter looked at me and burst into laughter. “Brandon will be home. These are strippers, not babysitters.”
He had a point. Brandon had just turned two, and he’d be staying home with Adrian and Daniela. I finally agreed, and it was just after dark when we piled into a few SUVs and drove about twenty minutes away.
It was a Saturday night, and the club was packed. The music was pump‑ ing, we were popping bottles, having a good time. We were seated in the VIP section, in a roped‑off area the owner had specially reserved for us. He’d called a bunch of girls over, and they’d started dancing for the Chinese guys, who looked like they were having the time of their lives.
In Mexico, women do not go to strip clubs, so I could see some guys nearby staring at us. I shrugged it off; it had happened a lot, and wasn’t a big deal. As I scanned the room about five minutes later, though, I noticed one guy who looked strange. The expression on his face just didn’t seem normal. It was like he knew us, or like he wanted something from us. I turned to my husband.
“That guy is staring at us, Junior. Something’s wrong.”
“No, babe, it’s fine. He’s just not used to somebody’s wife being in a strip club. He probably thinks you should be home cooking and cleaning.” He laughed a little bit, and I did, too, nervously.
A few minutes passed, and he kept looking. I pulled on Junior’s arm. “This isn’t good. I don’t like that guy.”
Junior grabbed my hand, “It’s okay. We’re fine.” But it wasn’t. I just felt it.
I went back to drinking my champagne, watching a parade of girls make their way over to our table. This wasn’t a high‑class, VIP strip club like some we’d gone to in Guadalajara, but the customers were well dressed. They were spending good money. But the guy who’d been looking at me and Mia was different. He had something on his mind, and it wasn’t a lap dance. Another minute passed, and the man stood up, walked past us, his eyes glued to the side of my head, and moved out the door.
As I turned to tell Mia, I saw the front doors swing open. A group of men dressed in black poured in, their faces covered with ski masks and AK‑47s drawn. They began shouting in Spanish, “Get down! Get down!” The music cut off. It sounded like something from the movies, when a DJ’s record stops spinning, the needle scratches the vinyl, and the speaker blasts, errrr . . . I saw half‑naked girls running back and forth on the stage, screaming at the top of their lungs. Then I watched a crowd of masked men sprinting toward us. Mia had been right next to me, but there was no sign of her. Junior and Peter were still across from me, and in what seemed like less than a second, the men shoved the points of their AK‑47s into the backs of our heads, forcing us to the floor.
I’m going to die right here in this fucking strip club, I thought. God help us. Just then one of the men who’d been hightailing across the floor picked me up like a rag doll. I started fighting, kicking, and punching like a wild woman, and he dragged me toward the door with my shoes scraping across the floor as I flopped around. When he got me outside, I saw about five Suburbans lined up, their windows blacked out. In front of each car was a line of men, all armed with semiautomatic weapons. The man who’d pulled me out of the club pushed me forward, then picked me up and threw me into the passenger seat of one of the Suburbans.
Peter and Junior were in the backseat with two armed men sitting behind them with guns to their heads, and someone outside slammed the door shut.
When the music stopped, I was already on the floor, next to Olivia. Men and naked girls were running toward the door, screaming. It was a madhouse. As people were scrambling past me in every direction, the girls who’d been dancing for the Chinese guys grabbed me by the arm and dragged me. I glanced back, terrified, and saw Peter. He was looking right at me, his eyes big as saucers. Then someone ran up to him and put a gun to his head.
The girls hid me in a room in the back. It had been their dressing room, but right then it looked like a refugee camp.
I was on the floor, hysterical, and I could hear men screaming, “Get down! Get down on the floor!” Then, a stripper put her arms around me and said, “Stop crying. Be quiet. If they hear you, they’ll come for you.” We sat in that room for five minutes. I think I was the only one with
a top on. There was makeup scattered on the floor, bras and panties in piles in the corner, and sniffling, half‑naked women everywhere. But we were all as quiet as we could be, with just a few whimpers every now and then. Right then I heard footsteps coming toward the back, and a voice called, “Where is she? Where is she?”
My God, I thought, They’re coming for me.
A man broke through the door, pointed right at me, and then picked me up from my stomach. My legs dangled off the floor, and I kicked and screamed with all my might, trying to get away from him while he yelled, “Shut the fuck up! I’ll kill everyone in here if you’re not quiet!” Then he dragged me toward the door, marched through the club, opened the exit to the outside, and threw me into the front seat of a waiting SUV. In the back were the two Chinese guys and one of their associates.
I saw my chance. The window was cracked, and the car was running. I’m small, and I knew if I could get that window down just enough I could escape out of it. I pushed the button, bounded up, and threw my body toward the window. But the man grabbed my neck and pulled me to his lap.
“Stop fucking moving,” he said.
Someone in the back added, “Stop fucking moving or he’s going to hurt you.”
Junior, Peter, and I could see Mia being dragged into the truck’s front seat. I watched her squirm around, then face the window. I saw a hand reach up to her neck, and then I saw her pull back and freeze up. That’s when Peter spoke up.
“If I had a gun, I’d shoot her myself.”
In Mexico, you never want a woman with you when shit’s going down. The things kidnappers do to women are inhumane: they torture, rape, and sodomize them. Knowing this, I realized, He doesn’t want to see her suffer.
Then it hit me: What the fuck was going to happen to us?
I had to do something.
I’d left my purse in the club, but I still had my phone with me, in my back pocket. It was a Nextel flip phone with a walkie‑talkie, and I slowly reached toward it, pressed the button that started up the two‑way feature, and prayed that it would connect me to someone. I moved it below me so no one could see it, and then I began yelling at the kidnapper next to me, who was wearing a mask.
“What do you want? How much do you fucking want? You want $10 million?”
“I don’t want your fucking money!” the driver said. He was speaking English.
I kept going. “Junior, tell them you got money. Tell them who you are.”
“I said I don’t want your fucking money.” The kidnapper banged on the dashboard. “They fucked me. They should have paid me when they had the fucking chance.” He was wearing a mask, motioning toward Junior and Peter at this point. “The U.S. is coming for you, and you’re spending the rest of your lives in prison.”
I had my finger still pressed to the side of my phone. If I took it off, I knew it would beep, so I held my finger there like my life depended on it. I was thinking the whole time, Please. Please someone be listening to this.
I had my hands hidden behind my back, clutching my phone, but my eyes were glued on the guy with the mask. I watched him move his hands toward his face, then pull off the mask. He faced us.
Holy shit, I thought. It’s that customs agent from Mia’s wedding, the one who extorted us. Chapo and Mayo told Junior and Peter not to pay him, so he’s back for revenge.
I don’t even know how long we drove. Maybe twenty minutes? All I remember is thinking, I’m going to die. I’m going to die, as the car I was in pulled up to this little building on the outskirts of town.
The kidnappers took me, the two Chinese guys, and their associate out of the car. They pushed us inside, slamming a steel door behind us. I noticed a poster on the wall with the AFI (Agencia Federal de Inves‑ tigación, which is the equivalent of the FBI in Mexico) emblem on it. There were two ratty sofas shoved up against the wall, with Peter, Olivia, and Junior smooshed up altogether on one. They were handcuffed. This building didn’t seem like a place where government officials worked; it looked like a spot where you tortured someone.
Someone threw me onto the sofa with Peter, Junior, and Olivia, and the three other men piled onto the other. A man with an AFI uniform on slapped handcuffs on me and Liv, then moved away and began talking to someone else, who was wearing a different type of uniform.
Holy shit, I realized. It’s that customs agent from my wedding. The one who extorted us.
Peter turned to me and started whispering. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. You don’t deserve this, Mia.”
I told him to stop apologizing, but I couldn’t shut my brain off. I never got a chance to be a mother. I never got to say goodbye to my parents. I’d started crying so hard I could hardly breathe, but I still choked out, “Peter, be honest with me. Are we going to die?”
My husband turned and looked me straight in the eyes. “No, we are not going to die.”
Even with handcuffs on, in a room full of armed men who looked like they wanted to kill us, I believed him.
I’d spent the entire car ride trying to negotiate to get us out of there, but when we’d been dragged inside and pushed onto those nasty couches, I decided to shut my mouth. These men were not playing, and I was out of my league. Mia and I were the only women in that room, and that was a position that no woman should ever be in.
Finally, Junior started talking to the customs officer. “I’ll give you $1 million for each girl. They have nothing to do with this.”
“I told you. I don’t want your fuckin’ money. I just want you.”
I looked over at Junior. Tears were coming down his face, and right then, I knew we weren’t getting out of this one. Junior had always been my rock. He’d always kept me strong and made me feel protected, but he looked broken, and I felt helpless.
“I’m sorry, Liv, you’re going to have to raise Brandon alone,” he said.
“Stop, Junior. Don’t say that.”
He looked down to the floor. “My poor baby. My poor girls. Please take care of them.”
“Junior, you’re scaring me.”
“I’m sorry for not listening to you about changing my life. All those years. I’m sorry for not giving you a normal life. I’m sorry I couldn’t give you another baby.”
“Junior, you’re getting out of this. I love you. Be strong.”
“You’re getting out of this. You and Mia. But I don’t know how the rest is going to play out.”
Right then, I knew he was right. Despite all our near misses and all our last‑chance saves, the danger we’d always faced was bound to catch up with us sooner or later. The moment of reckoning had come, and I thought to myself, Our beautiful family is about to fall apart, and there’s nothing I can do.
Then suddenly, everything stopped.
The immigration officer’s phone had started ringing. He looked down at the caller ID screen and answered it. After some back and forth, lots of “Sí, señor. Sí, sí,” with him pacing around nervously, looking like he’d seen a ghost, he put the phone down and turned into an animal.
“Who the fuck did you call? Who the fuck did you contact?” He was screaming, and veins were popping out of his neck. He started waving his gun around near Peter and Junior. Some spit shot out of his mouth, and his hands were shaking. I’d seen really irrational people act like this before, and it’s never good. This guy is scared out of his mind, I thought. And that’s worse than if he was just angry. The way he’s acting, he’s going to shoot one of us in the head.
Peter and Junior hadn’t called anyone. But I had, back in the SUV. I must have reached Adrian, and he heard me trying to negotiate a ransom. I’m sure he hung up and dialed up someone important, and whoever that was had just called the officer’s phone.
Then I suddenly realized I still had my Nextel phone in my back pocket, and I squirmed a little further back on the couch, manipulating it and wedging it in the crack of my ass. I knew if the agent saw it, he would pop me right between the eyes.
Olivia and I had been handcuffed together the whole time. We were terrified, holding each other’s hands. It felt like hours, but during that whole, awful time, our relationship shifted. It was our turning point. We had always been sisters‑in‑law and family no matter what, but right then, we became sisters.
I squeezed Olivia’s hand harder as the immigration officer paced furiously and waved his gun around. Then the AFI official in charge called Junior over to the phone.
“It’s El Jefe, Arturo Beltrán,” he said. “He wants to talk with you.”
Someone removed Junior’s handcuffs. Junior took the phone into
another room, talked for about ten minutes, and returned, all business. “Take the shackles off the girls right now,” Junior said. “They’re free
I had been red‑faced and crying the whole time Junior was in the other room. Peter was apologizing to Mia, begging her to be brave. But the second Junior walked back into the room, and we heard that we were free to go, Peter snapped out of husband mode and into business mode. He looked at me.
“Pay attention to every word I’m about to say, okay?”
“Of course,” I said. “What is it?
“When you get out of here, go to LA. But don’t let anyone find out. If they know we’re locked up, they’re not going to pay us. There’s $40 million out there, owed to us. Here are the wholesalers who are set to pay.” He started going through a list of names, asking me to repeat each one.
“Slow down!” I said. “I got this, but slow down.”
“Make sure you get that money. Your life depends on it.”
I knew he was right. If we didn’t take care of this, it didn’t matter where Junior and Peter were. The cartels were going to want their fucking money, and if we didn’t get it to them, they’d decapitate our whole family for it.
Then the officers took off our handcuffs and led us to the door. I turned around and looked at Junior. “Go. Just be careful,” he said. “I’ll see you soon.”
I started crying hysterically again. “No! You’re lying to me. I’m never going to see you again. You cut a deal. You’re just trying to save us. I’m not leaving you!”
Peter peeled me away from his brother, stared at me, serious, and said, “Go now before they change their minds.”
Mia and I looked back in disbelief, like it was our last goodbye, and shuffled out the door, followed by the two Chinese guys and their associate. One of the officers handed me a set of keys, pushed us into the SUV that we’d driven to the club, and walked away.
Then I started up the truck and began driving the five of us away from the scene of our own kidnapping.
The Chinese guys were so relieved. The whole time they’d been inside, they’d thought Junior and Peter had set them up. Unfortunately, their problems weren’t over because we had no clue how to get home.
In 2008, nobody had GPS in Mexico, so Olivia had no idea where she was going. We were out of our minds, hysterical, and I wasn’t sure Olivia could see well enough to drive. She was swerving, saying things like, “I have to get back to Brandon. Brandon needs me.”
I was so out of sorts that I didn’t know what to do or where to go, and I started yelling, “I don’t want to leave them! Go back!”
“Hell, no,” she responded, finally in control of herself. “We’re going home.”
Soon, though, we began seeing signs that we were leaving Puerto Vallarta, a place I’d been so terrified to go the day before. Yet here I was now, and what had happened was just as bad as I feared.
“Get out a pen and paper,” Olivia said. “I need you to write down these names.”
As she reeled off the list of wholesalers, I took notes. There were so many names I couldn’t figure out how she remembered, but she had. Minutes later, we drove into our beach house driveway in Los Ranchos. As soon as we got through security, the three guys jumped out of the car like their pants were on fire and ran into the house, and we followed behind them.
We quickly realized we had a problem, though. The house was way too quiet. Adrian and Daniela were nowhere to be found, and wherever they’d gone, they’d taken Brandon with them.
The beach house was huge, with rooms on the left side and an equal number of rooms on the right. The back was all windows and doors that opened out to the sea, and there was an upstairs, too. I ran through each of those rooms screaming my head off, “Brandon! Adrian! Where’s my baby?” But there was no one there.
Adrian hadn’t been answering his phone as I’d been driving back home, and I was terrified. I walked into Brandon’s room, and his little bed was unmade. His stuffed animals were scattered around, and the blankie he always carried around was sitting on the bed, all balled up. In the corner of the room, there was his car seat.
Shit, I thought. Not only did someone take him, but they took him without his car seat.
Then, way down the hall, I heard one of our maids, who lived way back in another part of the house. She was just waking up as she stumbled toward me.
“They’re gone,” she said, and my heart stopped. “They left in the middle of the night.”
I’d been pacing around the kitchen, looking for Peter and Junior’s papers and phones, when Olivia ran into the kitchen. She was totally out of breath when she said, “Adrian and Daniela left with Brandon.”
“That’s great! They’re safe. Where did they go?”
“I don’t know. But they forgot to take his fucking car seat! He’s not safe without his car seat!”
Of all the things to focus on right then, that car seat had apparently become the most important thing in the world to her. I tried to get her attention off of it. “What do we do? Do we go back to Guadalajara?” I was pretty much screaming at her because somebody had to make a decision, and it wasn’t going to be me. I hadn’t slept, I’d just been kidnapped, my husband was probably on a flight back to the United States, and I’d cried so much I could hardly see. But Olivia didn’t answer.
“Let’s wait,” I finally said.
Olivia calmed down just enough to respond, “You’re crazy. We have to get the fuck out of here.”
But I’d made up my mind. “No,” I said. “I’m waiting for Peter.”
There was no way I was staying in that house. No fucking way. We had to make sure the deposits in LA were safe, we had to get the hell out of Puerto Vallarta, and most of all I had to find my son.
It took some time to convince her, but Mia finally agreed we should leave. We ran upstairs and started packing. We hadn’t planned to stay in Puerto Vallarta long, so we didn’t have much. I threw everything into one bag and could hear Mia doing the same. She’d started crying again, and every few seconds there would be a little whimper or sniff. After about ten minutes, they were getting less and less frequent, and soon there was more silence than tears.
Then, suddenly, I heard what sounded like the Mexican army com ing down our driveway. I became terrified all over again, and I thought, Someone’s coming to take our asses off to jail.
Oh my God, it was insane. I ran to the window in my room and saw pickup trucks and Hummers with armed men in the back, plus Suburbans and Jeeps, rolling down toward our house all in a line. There was car after car after car, windows all blacked out. I thought about heading downstairs, but I couldn’t move a muscle and couldn’t have run if I’d wanted to. Then it hit me. What the hell is going on? Whoever’s in those cars is going to kill us. You have to do something.
I saw the door of the first pickup truck open up, and it was Peter. I sprinted down the stairs and out the door faster than I’d ever run in my life.
In my mind it was Junior who jumped out of the car first, but they look so much alike and I was so out of my mind that, honestly, it could have been Peter. I was so happy to see both of them that it didn’t make a difference anyway.
After we’d finished hugging and kissing, Junior motioned for us to go inside. When I say, “us,” I mean the horde of guys who’d just stepped out of the twenty vehicles that had driven toward our house. There were men everywhere.
Our dining room had a table that seated about twenty people, and everyone filed in toward it. I immediately knew who was in charge; his name was Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, who everyone just called El Mencho. El Mencho’s now the head of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, which is pretty much the most violent cartel in Mexico right now. He uses shoulder‑held rocket launchers to shoot down military helicopters, and he actually once set part of Guadalajara on fire. But at the time, El Mencho ran the plaza in Vallarta. He was a semi‑regular drug lord in 2008, even though everyone—from the police all the way up to federal agents—feared him because he was a total maniac.
We all sat down at the dining room table and listened to Junior and Peter relate what had happened.
When Olivia had called Adrian on her Nextel from the blacked‑out Suburban, she had no idea whether or not he’d answered. Luckily, he’d heard every demand, scream, and threat. He understood his marching orders, and he quickly sprang into action making phone calls.
One person called another, moving the SOS up the ladder, until someone finally got the ear of Chapo, Mayo, and Arturo Beltrán.
At this point, Adrian and Daniela had decided to get the hell out of Puerto Vallarta because it wasn’t safe, and Adrian realized that although he couldn’t protect his little brothers, he could save his nephew. They loaded up their car so fast they forgot Brandon’s car seat, then started driving toward Guadalajara—a long, five‑hour trip, where cell service was spotty.
In the meantime, while Adrian’s car was winding into the mountains and we were tied up in that torture chamber, Arturo Beltrán Leyva called and demanded to talk to Junior about the ransom he and Peter were prepared to pay to set us free.
“What did you get yourself into, and why are you offering so much money?” he said firmly.
“Because I have to,” said Junior. “I have no other choice. I’m not going back to the States.”
“Look, we’re going to get you and your brother out,” the BLO boss said. “But it’s not going to be easy. What is the most important thing to you both?”
Junior didn’t have to think twice. “Getting our wives out of this mess.”
“It’s done,” Arturo said. Then he paused and added, “Keep this phone on you from now on. And remember: tú mandas cabrón! ” (meaning “You tell them what the fuck to do”).
That’s when the AFI officer started freaking out. He agreed to let Olivia and me go, knowing that if we got hurt, they’d be in deep shit. Then he released the Chinese guys and their associate because they weren’t worth anything to them.
Chapo, Mayo, and Vicente then got on a call together to figure out what to do. They realized they had $5 million sitting in a plane on a runway in Juárez, and if they rerouted that plane, they could get the money to Puerto Vallarta.
Vicente called the AFI office to negotiate.
“Keep the Flores brothers safe,” he demanded, “and we’ll pay you in exchange for their freedom. But it’s going to take about two and a half hours.”
“We don’t have that kind of time,” the official said.
Unfortunately, two and a half hours wasn’t going to work. The AFI and immigration officer had been serious about wanting to send Peter and Junior back to the United States, and they’d called the feds.
“The U.S. Marshals will be here in half an hour,” the AFI agent said. “They’re taking Peter and Junior. We can’t make a deal.”
The drug lords huddled together on the phone again and quickly came up with a plan B. They told Vicente to call the AFI officer right back.
“We could do this the easy way or the hard way,” he said, “but regardless, you’re not sending the twins back to the U.S. And since you’re apparently insisting on keeping them, we’re going to do things the hard way.”
As a matter of fact, the cartels were prepared to go to war to save Junior and Peter from being sent back to the United States; Chapo, Mayo, and Vicente had begun amassing an army to come get them.
The AFI agent knew he and his men were going to be outnumbered by whoever the cartels were sending, so they suited up in full war gear and shuttled Peter and Junior out of the station as fast as they could. They didn’t give them bulletproof vests, but they did push them into a bulletproof Suburban, with two armed agents stationed on either side of them. The U.S. Marshals were supposed to arrive by 1 p.m., and they had to meet them the minute they showed up.
The AFI agent got behind the wheel and began driving around the streets of Vallarta, frantic. After a few minutes, his phone rang. It was Músico, Arturo’s right‑hand man. Músico made all phone calls for Arturo and was one of Junior’s closest friends, and right then, he was demanding to speak with Junior.
The AFI officer handed the phone back to Junior and Peter. Then, Músico started talking.
“We have hundreds of men ready to fight for your lives. Every road that leads to the Puerto Vallarta airport is blocked off. Every street is barricaded. There’s no way you’re getting on that plane. There’s no way you’re going back to the US.”
As he listened in, Peter paused for a minute and realized just what was happening. But before he could say anything, Músico started to talk again, his voice cracking. “I don’t know if there will be a shootout. This might not end well. But whatever happens, Junior, please know it’s been an honor knowing you. Knowing the both of you.”
When Músico said that, Peter thought about a million things, but three really stuck out. First, he remembered what his dad always said to him: “Don’t ever let them take you to jail.” Next, he thought about me. Finally, he said to himself, Junior and I came into this life together, and I guess we’re going to leave this world together. Then he grabbed his brother’s hand, closed his eyes, and felt hot tears start to run down his face.
Junior choked up as he was talking to Músico. “But . . . our family.” Músico replied, “Don’t worry about your family. You have my word that I will guard them with my life and get them out of Mexico safely. I promise I won’t let anything happen to them.”
That was the signal for the AFI officer to make his move. He rolled down his window, put on his turn signal, and as he inched toward the side of the road, he motioned for his caravan to pull over, too. Then he jumped out of the car and made a call.
As he held the phone to his ear, he began pacing back and forth, clearly distraught. The U.S. Marshals were about to roll into town, guns blazing, ready to capture the Flores brothers, and they were going to run right smack into the cartel’s army. Something devastating was about to happen, and the AFI officer knew he’d put his men in the middle of it.
Then, he got back in the car and drove slowly toward the plaza in downtown Vallarta. As he rounded a corner, he saw almost a hundred men holding AK‑47s, their guns drawn. Probably half of them surrounded the AFI officer’s caravan, and Mencho walked up to where Junior and Peter were sitting.
“Cuate? Time to go.”
The AFI officer looked at Peter and Junior, put his gun on the floor, and exited the car with his hands up. As he opened their door, Mencho said, “Vamos,” signaling for them to get out.
Junior and Peter slid off the seats just as two of Mencho’s men took their places in the back. They were decoys, intended to throw off the Marshals, who were getting closer.
Then Junior and Peter walked quickly toward a waiting car. Before they reached it, though, Junior turned around, approached the AFI agent, shook his hand, and told him, “You did the right thing. Don’t worry, I’m not going to let anyone harm you. My brother and I are going to look out for you.”
That’s when they started driving back toward Ranchos, where our beach house was. They were in a massive procession of bulletproof cars. Every guy on the passenger side had his window rolled down, his gun peeking out, ready to fire. There were also men piled in the back of pick‑ups, weapons drawn, in broad daylight.
They got to the first army checkpoint and switched cars, joining Mencho. When they entered the second checkpoint, Mencho rolled down his window and the Mexican army waved them through, their guns also drawn.
Not long after, they pulled up to our house, and Olivia and I ran out the door screaming.
Before we headed back to Guadalajara later that day, Junior had one more phone call to make. He needed to reach Adrian to tell him we were on our way back.
“Adrian!” he yelled. “We’re safe. We’re driving back to Guadalajara. We’ll be there tonight.”
I ran to my husband and grabbed the phone right out of his hands, mid‑conversation. I needed to know if my baby was okay that second.
“Brandon’s fine,” Adrian said. “He misses you but knows you’re coming.”
I was too upset to even hear what he said. “You took my baby without his car seat,” I yelled. “You forgot the fucking car seat.”
I hung up the phone and heard a room full of guys—including my husband—burst out in laughter.
Excerpted from Cartel Wives: A True Story of Deadly Decisions, Steadfast Love, and Bringing Down El Chapo by Mia Flores and Olivia Flores. Copyright © 2017 by Cartel Wives. Reprinted with permission from Grand Central Publishing. All rights reserved.
Mia Flores and Olivia Flores are married to the highest level drug traffickers ever to become U.S. informants. They are currently living in protective custody.