Cover image for Wolf boys : two American teenagers and Mexico's most dangerous drug cartel
Title:
Wolf boys : two American teenagers and Mexico's most dangerous drug cartel
Publication Information:
New York : Simon & Schuster, 2016.

©2016
ISBN:
9781501126543
Physical Description:
342 pages : map ; 24 cm
Language:
English
Contents:
The Straight Hard Workers -- You're not from here -- Flickering candle -- My Dad does drugs -- The noble fight -- Overachieving bitch -- Underworld University -- The Company -- Original Vice Lord -- Bank of America -- The new people -- Raising wolves -- I'm the true one -- Spillover -- In the dirty room -- Garcia's orgasm -- Corporate raiders -- The clean soul of Gabriel Cardona -- The Kingdom of Judgment -- Who's the next top Drug Lord? -- All in the gang -- Brothers of the Black Hand -- Lesser Lords -- A boner for Bart -- The varieties of power -- I'm a good soldier! -- Prophecy -- Last meal -- Heroes and liars -- Career moments -- Catch that pussy -- Twilight -- Frozen in Time -- Legend of Laredo -- The messiest war -- No angels -- Hypocritical bastards -- Another media guy.
Abstract:
The story of two American teens recruited as killers for a Mexican cartel, and their pursuit by a Mexican-American detective who realizes the War on Drugs is unwinnable.

What it like to be an employee of a global drug-trafficking organization? In the border town of Laredo, Texas, Gabriel and his friend Bart abandon promising futures for the allure of the Zetas, a drug cartel with roots in the Mexican military. Mexican-born Detective Robert Garcia has worked hard all his life and is now struggling to raise his family in America. As violence spills over the border, Detective Garcia pursuit of the boys, and their cartel leaders, puts him face to face with the urgent consequences of a war he sees as unwinnable. Slater shows the way in which the border itself is changing, disappearing, and posing new, terrifying, and yet largely unseen threats to American security.
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Summary

Summary

Chicago Public Library's Best Books of 2016

The story of two American teens recruited as killers for a Mexican cartel, and their pursuit by a Mexican-American detective who realizes the War on Drugs is unwinnable.

What's it like to be an employee of a global drug-trafficking organization? And how does a fifteen-year-old American boy go from star quarterback to trained assassin, surging up the cartel corporate ladder?

At first glance, Gabriel Cardona is the poster boy American teenager: great athlete, bright, handsome, and charismatic. But the streets of his border town of Laredo, Texas, are poor and dangerous, and it isn't long before Gabriel abandons his promising future for the allure of the Zetas, a drug cartel with roots in the Mexican military. His younger friend Bart, as well as others from Gabriel's childhood, join him in working for the Zetas, boosting cars and smuggling drugs, eventually catching the eye of the cartel's leadership.

Meanwhile, Mexican-born Detective Robert Garcia has worked hard all his life and is now struggling to raise his family in America. As violence spills over the border, Detective Garcia's pursuit of the boys, and their cartel leaders, puts him face to face with the urgent consequences of a war he sees as unwinnable.

In Wolf Boys Dan Slater shares their stories, taking us from the Sierra Madre mountaintops to the dusty, dark alleys of Laredo, Texas, on a harrowing, often brutal journey into the heart of the Mexican drug trade. Gabriel's evolution from good-natured teenager into a feared assassin is as inevitable as Garcia's slow realization of the futile nature of his work. A nonfiction thriller, Wolf Boys depicts more than just Gabriel, Bart, and the officers who took them down. It shows, through vivid detail and rich, often moving, narrative, the way in which the border itself is changing, disappearing, and posing new, terrifying, and yet largely unseen threats to American security. Ultimately though, Wolf Boys is the intimate story of the "lobos" themselves: boys turned into pawns for cartels. Their stories show how poverty, ideas about identity, and government ignorance have warped the definition of the American dream.


Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

Journalist Slater (Love in a Time of Algorithms) offers a grim, gripping account of the lives of two boys caught up in the drug wars. In a dramatic prologue set in 2006, the reader is introduced to 19-year-old Gabriel Cardona, a soldier for the drug cartel known as the Company, who is in the midst of pep talk with a neophyte hit man. But before Gabriel and his comrade can go into action, he's arrested. Slater then backtracks to the mid-1990s in Laredo, Tex., "the poorest city in America" and Gabriel's hometown, to delineate how Gabriel went from an ordinary child to a murderous would-be manager for narcotics traffickers. Young Gabriel is depicted as a model student with perfect attendance and advanced reading skills. The details of his childhood are made all the more poignant by knowing where he will end up. The book also provides the story of one of Gabriel's cohorts, known as Bart because of his resemblance to the Simpsons character. Bart, who "carried the rage of a poor boy whose family couldn't feed him," turned to gang life at the age of 12, and ended up killing more than 30 people. Slater effectively alternates between Gabriel's perspective (based off extensive correspondence with his subject) and that of dedicated cop Robert Garcia, who worked tirelessly to capture and convict the two young men. Slater ends on a depressing note as he is led to troubling conclusions "about evil as a natural product of human consciousness." Slater's effective use of historical context, including tracing the roots of the Mexican drug trade back to the 16th century following the conquest of the Aztec Empire, elevates this above similar accounts.. (Sept.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Booklist Review

*Starred Review* This book will be a solid and popular addition to every library's true-crime shelf. Wolf boys is the term journalist Slater coined for the young boys recruited by Mexican cartels to be hit men. Slater's careful and exhaustive research delivers a thorough portrait of the illicit drug trade that currently flourishes on the U.S.-Mexico border. He provides rich historical context regarding its roots, which reach back to pre-Hispanic times and are nourished by the ebb and flow of byzantine trade regulations. The riveting narrative follows the life and career of wolf boy Gabriel Cardona, and of Robert Garcia, a cop who has dedicated his life to keeping the peace in Laredo, Texas. Cardona's transition from rising star on Laredo's high-school football team to rising star in the lethal Zetas cartel provides a stark contrast to Garcia's frustrating career dealing with the bureaucratic labyrinth dedicated to the drug wars. A certain amount of graphic content is to be expected due to the subject matter, but the gore factor is not titillating or overly gruesome. Instead, the deadening of human feeling it signifies is devastating.--Martinez, Sara Copyright 2016 Booklist


New York Review of Books Review

IN 2005, TWO Mexican drug trafficking organizations were fighting for control over the sister cities of Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, and Laredo, Tex., the linchpin for one of the most lucrative smuggling routes in the Americas. On the Mexican side of the border, the conflict took on all the trappings of war, as men dressed in black tactical outfits with assault rifles and grenades went house to house rooting out members of the opposition, torturing and executing them, or else engaged in gun battles in the streets of Nuevo Laredo. From 2006 to 2012, as the battles between warring cartels and between cartels and the Mexican Army spread across the country, more than 150,000 people were killed or went missing. On the Texas side of the border, life went on largely unchanged, despite the proximity to the chaos across the Rio Grande. Yet of all the headlines generated by the conflict, perhaps the most sensational was the story of a pair of American teenagers from Laredo who were recruited and trained by one of the warring factions, known as the Zetas, to work as paid assassins. Between them, the two boys, Gabriel Cardona and Rosalio Reta, apparently killed dozens of the Zetas' opponents on the Mexican side. Taking advantage of the boys' citizenship and familiarity with Laredo, Zeta commanders also sent them across the border with a list of enemies to kill on the Texas side, a brazen move that set their story apart from that of the average young soldier in the cartel wars. Both young men wound up in Texas prisons with very long sentences, but not before they had managed to eliminate several of their targets on American soil. "I like what I do," Reta told police after he was arrested in 2006. "I don't deny it." It's a hell of a story, one deserving of the former Wall Street Journal reporter Dan Slater's book-length treatment, which is based largely on a yearslong exchange of letters with Cardona, along with interviews with the diligent Laredo detective who orchestrated his capture. Both Cardona and Reta, known as Bart (for his resemblance to the "Simpsons" character), have given numerous interviews in the decade or so since they were incarcerated, and Slater's reporting covers territory that has been well mined by other reporters. This wouldn't necessarily be a problem, if the bookwere especially well written or offered an original take on the story. But Slater, whose previous book was about the internet dating business, is an uneven narrator. Cardona, we read, "dreamed of something glorious to fill the blah of life"; quitting the high school football team was "a decision in which loads of portent would later be vested." A digression into the history of Prohibition in America - which might have provided some useful historical context - ends, curiously, in 1831, with government agents chasing Indian bootleggers on the Missouri River. Here and there the prose makes an ill-advised turn toward the hard-boiled - sex between Cardona and his girlfriend lasted "till their nerves rang numb," while cartel parties featured women with breasts "spilling out of tight leather jackets" - complete with jarring bits of profanity in the author's own voice. Some of the book's scenes are undeniably gripping. Detectives surveil Cardona and his companions as they are about to make a hit on the driver of a blue Hummer outside a Laredo nightclub, who, in a case of mistaken identity, turns out to be not a rival but a local dentist. (This scene, among others, owes a considerable debt to a 2009 account by Luke Dittrich in Esquire.) Slater's take on the political economy of our own "drug war" - a metaphor that seems less useful than ever considering the literal warfare going on across the Rio Grande - is sophisticated in places. Veteran reporters of the border beat will find themselves nodding as Slater describes a Laredo principal observing that his school "fostered two groups: those who would go into the drug business, and those who would chase them." Sadly, they will also be shaking their heads to read Slater's odd account of snorting cocaine with one of his sources; not to mention his somewhat too pithy description of Laredo, a city founded two decades before the American colonies declared independence, as "a giant, unimproved truck stop." Crime rates in American border communities have remained low throughout the crisis in Mexico, and Slater, to his credit, does not overplay the "spillover violence" meme, a concept that surfaced around 2009 and was promulgated chiefly as a Republican talking point meant to hammer President Obama for his party's alleged weakness on the issue of border security in advance of the 2010 midterm elections. Yet Slater's book, landing as it does in the midst of an election season in which immigrants are once again being demonized, seems destined to further muddy the waters. His decision to call Cardona and Reta "wolf boys," a label hatched (as a footnote informs us) from a combination of cartel slang and the author's own imagination, surely doesn't help, conjuring as it does unfortunate echoes of the 1990s scare about so-called superpredator teenagers running rampant in the streets of American cities. CARDONAS TALE is really a story about poverty. Slater knows this, and his correspondence with the boy killer offers some poignant insights on his upbringing in El Azteca, one of Laredo's hardscrabble barrios. But the best moments are mostly in the epilogue, in which we encounter a much more reflective Cardona as an inmate approaching the age of 30, with decades left to serve. Readers hoping to understand why he did what he did when he was a teenage agent of mayhem on both sides of the river - the only question really worth asking - will be left unsatisfied. NATE BLAKESLEE, the author of "Tulia: Race, Cocaine, and Corruption in a Small Texas Town," is working on a hook about the battle over wolves in the American West.


Library Journal Review

Raw, gut-wrenching, and deflating, journalist Slater's (Love in the Time of Algorithms) investigation into Mexican drug cartel activity will give readers pause. Gabriel Cardona, a teenager growing up in Laredo, TX, had a promising future before he was sucked into the alluring lifestyle of a drug smuggler and enforcer for a drug cartel. Concurrently, Det. Robert Garcia, having spent years working with the DEA, began a murder investigation that led him to Cardona. The intermingling stories involve a laundry list of nefarious, terrifying, and unfortunately real-life characters, and explain Mexico's drug history and the law enforcement officials who have tried to quell the spillover onto American soil. There is a feeling of uncertainty and disappointment that law enforcement efforts to stop these groups are futile. Beyond that, this is a cautionary tale for youth who may be marginalized and feel they have few other options than to join cartels. Slater is adept at filling in details and weaving a story, all the while impressing upon readers Garcia's anguish and exhaustion. Similarly, he explains his long correspondence with Cardona and deftly portrays him as both villain and victim. VERDICT A must-read for fans of true crime and investigative journalism.-Kaitlin Malixi, formerly at Virginia Beach P.L. © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

Wolf Boys 1 You're Not from Here Robert Garcia was twenty-nine the first time he questioned success. Every accomplishment, it seemed, came with some deficit or drawback or innocence-eroding knowledge. You earned a scholarship but didn't feel college. You won the battle but lost the bonus. You fell in love, and faced a dishonorable discharge. The autumn of 1997 should've been the brightest season in Robert's promising career, but it arrived with sorrow. The yin and the yang, he called it. Two decades earlier, as a child of Norma and Robert Sr., Robert emigrated from Piedras Negras, Mexico, to the Texas border town of Eagle Pass--an international journey of one mile. Robert Sr., needing to support his family, had been working in the States as an illegal immigrant; once he demonstrated an income and showed that he was spending money in Texas, he gained a green card for the family, meaning that Norma, Robert Sr., Robert, and Robert's younger sister, Blanca, could come to the States as "resident aliens," not U.S. citizens. After they arrived, Norma gave birth to another daughter, Diana, and another son, Jesse. Robert, the oldest, started third grade in an American school. After school and on weekends, he and Robert Sr. picked cucumbers, onions, and cantaloupes on local farms. In spring and summer, Norma, a seamstress for Dickie's, the work-wear manufacturer, stayed in Eagle Pass with the girls and Jesse while Robert and his father followed fellow migrants to Oregon and Montana for the sugar beet season. There, Robert attended migrant programs at local schools. Dark-skinned but ethnically ambiguous, he found northern communities mostly welcoming, with their food festivals and roadside stands where Indians sold tourist stuff. The verdant landscapes were a reprieve from the dusty flatiron of South Texas. America was a beautiful place. Back in Eagle Pass, land was cheap. There were no codes. People could build what they wanted. The Garcia family lived in a two-room hut while they built the home they'd live in forever. It was piecework. They saved up, then tiled the bathroom; saved more, then bought a tub. In winter they heated the place with brazas, coal fires in barrels, and in the mornings Robert went to school smelling like smoke. When would the house be finished? No one asked. Work drew them together. As other immigrants settled nearby, Robert Sr. built a one-man concession stand where he sold snacks and sodas to neighborhood kids. Robert Sr. brought his family to the States for a better way of life, but in his mind he would always be Mexican. He was proud to live next to other immigrants in Eagle Pass. By the time Reagan took office, their patch of dirt was becoming a bona fide suburb, sprouting neat rows of handmade houses. When neighbors needed assistance with an addition or a plumbing issue, they turned to "the Roberts" for help. Robert Sr. treated his oldest boy like a man, and Robert's siblings respected him as a kind of second father. Trim, bony, and bespectacled, he walked taller than his five feet, eight inches. In high school, he enrolled in ROTC and played bass clarinet in the marching band. He finished high school a semester early, took a fast-food job at Long John Silver's, and deliberated over whether he should capitalize on a college scholarship in design, or go in a different direction. At seventeen he seemed to know himself: hyperactive, confident. He had a talent for improvisation. He was respectful in a rank-conscious way, but didn't care what others said or advised. Introverted and impatient, he had his own way of doing things. He learned as much from his father as he did in school. He also felt the lure of service, a patriotic duty toward the adopted country that gave him and his family so much. Formal education, he decided, was not for him. So, in the summer of 1986--the same year a boy who would change Robert's life was born in Laredo, another Texas border town 140 miles southeast--Robert, much to the dismay of his non-English-speaking parents, passed up the scholarship and enlisted in the U.S. Army. Since he'd enrolled in ROTC during high school, he arrived at basic training as a seventeen-year-old platoon leader, instructing men who were older. To compensate for the age difference, and his small size, he acted extra tough and earned the nickname Little Hitler. After basic training, he began to work as a watercraft engineer at Fort Eustis, Virginia, where he picked up a mentor, a sergeant major, who led him to work on military bases in Spain and England. On the bases, he played baseball and lifted weights. Little Hitler sported ropy arms. His neck, once nerd-thin, disappeared into his shoulders. In the Azores islands, on a small U.S. Navy installation off the coast of Portugal, Robert met Veronica, a blond gringa from Arizona. The daughter of a navy man, Ronnie was the only female mechanic at the base. She was tough. While fixing the hydraulic system on a tugboat one day, Robert snuck up and slapped her neck with grease-shaft oil. She wheeled around, called him an asshole. "Fuck off!" she said. One week later they conceived a son. Ronnie was twenty, already married to a soldier, and had a two-year-old son. Her parents never liked her husband. As far as they were concerned, he was a freeloader who drank excessively at the bar they owned in Arizona. They didn't like seeing their daughter be the breadwinner and the parent. And now here was Robert: didn't drink, didn't smoke, would do anything for her. But adultery in the military was a serious crime; at the discretion of a military court, it carried felony time and a dishonorable discharge. The chiefs read Ronnie and Robert their rights. They owned up to the affair. Ronnie's husband flew to Portugal; furious, he stomped around the base, drank, got in fights, and broke windows at Ronnie's house. No one liked her husband. So the chiefs held a meeting to arbitrate the love triangle, and let Robert and Ronnie walk away with reprimands. When the husband called Ronnie's mother and said, "Your daughter's a whore!" Ronnie's father grabbed the phone and said: "You weren't even born from a woman! Two freight trains bumped together and you fell out of a hobo's ass!" From there, the separation went smoothly. In 1991, Robert's four-year military contract neared its end as the First Gulf War started. Robert saw other soldiers reenlisting and collecting $10,000 bonuses. He was willing to reenlist, until the U.S. government offered him citizenship instead of the bonus. Robert didn't care much about citizenship. Like his father, he'd always think of himself as Mexican; and, besides, his resident-alien status entitled him to a U.S. passport. But he still took the denial of the bonus--and the offer of citizenship as a substitute for the money that other soldiers received--as an insult. How could he serve his country for four years and not get citizenship automatically? So he declined reenlistment, walked away with neither the bonus nor citizenship, and returned to Texas with Ronnie and the boys, where he got a job as a diesel mechanic in Laredo--a border town neither of them knew. IF IT WAS YOUR FIRST time, you drove south on Interstate 35, passed San Antonio, and expected to hit the border, but the highway kept plunging south. Texas hill country flattened out into a plain so fathomlessly vast, it gave you a feeling of driving down into the end of the earth. One hundred twenty miles later, and still in America, you reached the spindly neon signs of hotels and fast-food joints, gazed back north, and felt as if what you'd just traveled through was a buffer, neither here nor there. To the west, several blocks off I-35, rows of warehouses colonized the area around the railroad track. To the east, upper-middle-class suburbs gave way to sprawling developments, ghettos, and sub-ghettos called colonias. Go two more miles south, and I-35 dumped out at the border crossing, 1,600 miles south of the interstate's northern terminus in Duluth, Minnesota. Robert and Ronnie were small-town people. Sprawling Laredo, with its 125,000 residents, was a big city compared to a place like Eagle Pass, which had a population of fewer than 20,000. "Oh well," Ronnie sighed. "We'll try it for a year or two." A few months later, while recovering from a work-related hand injury, Robert saw an ad for the Laredo Police Department. He enjoyed public service more than working for a company. But he had to be a U.S. citizen to be a cop. He didn't see any benefit to citizenship, aside from this policing career, and wasn't feeling especially patriotic after his snub by the military. He wondered: What would his father do? His father would shut up and do right by his family. Land the career, move forward. So Robert studied, took the test, and took the oath of U.S. citizenship. When he joined the force, the Laredo Police Department employed about two hundred officers. Cops purchased their own guns. Uniforms consisted of jeans and denim shirts, to which wives sewed PD patches. Each patrol covered an enormous area. Squad cars called for backup, and good luck with that. But aside from domestic spats and some armed robbery, the city saw little violence. Across the river, Nuevo Laredo, with its larger population of 200,000 people, wasn't much worse. Drug and immigrant smuggling were rampant. But a smuggler's power came less from controlling territory with violence and intimidation than from the scope of his contacts in law enforcement and politics, and his ability to operate across Mexico with government protection. In exchange for bribes, politicians and cops refereed trafficking and settled disputes. Mexico's narcotics industry was well organized. The business consisted of two classes: producers and smugglers. On the western side of Mexico, in the fertile highlands of the Sierra Madre Occidental, gomeros--drug farmers--contracted with smuggling groups to move shipments north to border towns. In the states of Sinaloa, Durango, and Chihuahua, an ideal combination of altitude, rainfall, and soil acidity yielded bumper crops of Papaver somniferum. Those poppy fields--some with origins in plantings made by Chinese immigrants a century earlier--produced millions of metric tons of bulk opium per year. Marijuana, known by its slang, mota, was Mexico's other homegrown narcotic. When the marijuana craze hit the United States in the 1960s, mota came chiefly from the mountaintops of the Pacific states of Sinaloa and Sonora, then expanded to Nayarit, Jalisco, Guerrero, Veracruz, Oaxaca, Quintana Roo, and Campeche. The irrigated harvest for mota ran from February to March; the natural harvest from July to August. All merca, merchandise, had to reach the border by fall, November at the latest. Americans didn't work during the holidays. The large, curving horn of Mexico was anchored on two great mountain chains, or cordilleras, both rising from north to south, one on the east facing the green Gulf of Mexico, the other sloping westward to the blue Pacific Ocean. Between these mountain ranges, a high central plateau tapered down with the horn to the Yucatán Peninsula. Eons ago, volcanoes cut the plateau into countless jumbled valleys with forests of pine, oak, fir, and alder. The coastal lands were tropically humid, but the plateau had a climate of eternal spring. It should've been eminently fit for man. Instead, Mexico's future would be full of conquests, dictatorship, revolt, corruption, and crime. When Robert and Ronnie arrived in Laredo in 1991, the major crossings along the two-thousand-mile border between Mexico and America--from east to west: Matamoros, Nuevo Laredo, Juárez, and Tijuana--were controlled by "smuggling families" that straddled the border and charged a tax, known as a cuota or piso, which was in turn used to pay the bribes that secured the routes for trafficking in drugs and immigrants. Fights broke out between the families, and there was some spillover violence, but there were no cartels, not yet. Patrol officers in Laredo PD seized large quantities of narcotics and saw some dead guys left in the front yard. But nothing too graphic. The young cops, making their nine dollars per hour plus overtime, were cocky. They had no awareness of the larger world; everything revolved around them. Places like Florida, Colombia, Mexico City, Guadalajara, and Washington, D.C., were a world away, and changing. Drug-war politics were in flux. In Laredo, Robert and his partners knew little beyond their squad cars. As cops came up in PD, some set their sights on SWAT; others tried out state agencies like Child Protective Services and found that they didn't mind dealing with domestic nightmares. Robert liked drug work because of the local impact. A drug arrest wasn't mere pretext. You weren't just taking a guy with dope off the street. That guy also committed assaults and robberies to get drugs. If the guy was a big dealer, maybe he used kids as drug couriers and to operate "stash houses," the places where dealers kept their drugs and money. Robert would stop a guy with a gram of coke or a pound of weed, or bust a house that sold heroin to local Laredo addicts. He'd get his picture in the Laredo Morning Times perp-walking a guy to the local jail. He felt like he was "sweeping the streets of crime." He'd turn on the TV, see some Nancy Reagan-type person telling everyone, "Say no to drugs!" and feel like Superman. THE LUMP-SUM PAYOUT RONNIE GOT when she left the military took some weight off her and Robert's life together. They paid cash for a mobile home in South Laredo. Robert's salary covered bills. Still, they were a young couple with two kids, trying to make it in a new city. There was plenty to fight about. One of about one thousand white people in a city where bloodlines and patronage determined jobs and social circles, Ronnie was more of an outsider than Robert. As a stay-at-home mom she felt isolated. Life in Laredo wasn't fulfilling. That was their biggest fight: She wanted to get out. When she did go looking for work, she felt lucky to get hired at a doctor's office, where she was told, "You know, I like it that you're not from here." Later, Robert would learn to divide the cop persona from the father-husband. But in his twenties, the machismo kicked in at home. I'm the man and you'll obey. I'm going out tonight. There's nothing you can do about it. Ronnie was dominant herself, until she grew sick of fighting and relented. "Okay," she told him one night, "have a good time." Taken aback by her capitulation, Robert worried about what she was going to do when he got home. He rushed back an hour later. Is that all it takes? Ronnie thought. If Robert's bravado failed to impress his wife, his little brother Jesse saw him as a hero. Jesse, feeling as though he could please their parents only by matching Robert's accomplishments, dropped out of high school in eleventh grade and came to live with Robert and Ronnie in Laredo, where he got a job as a high school security guard. Jesse wanted to become a cop, too, but he was young. Robert advised him to get an associate's degree in criminal justice at Laredo Community College. But Robert hadn't gone to college, and Jesse was eager to start a career. There were openings at the police academy in Uvalde, near Eagle Pass. In the summer of 1997, Robert gave Jesse some money, and his old service weapon, a .357 Magnum. Jesse completed the academy but failed the written test, then failed it again. If he failed a third time, he'd be barred forever from a job in Texas law enforcement. Meanwhile, after hundreds of drug arrests, fourteen cars wrecked in hot-pursuit chases, and a dozen minor fractures, Robert was awarded Officer of the Year. A week later, Jesse bused up to Wisconsin, where his parents were doing factory work that fall. He spent the weekend with them, showing no particular signs of depression, then returned to the family house in Eagle Pass and shot himself in the heart with Robert's service weapon. Rumors emerged in the aftermath of Jesse's death. A girlfriend might've been pregnant. He might've been messing around with drugs, might've owed people money. Robert put his fist through a wall, then stalked around Eagle Pass looking for people to speak with about Jesse, until his father said, "Déjale." Leave it. Don't investigate. So Robert took Jesse's prized possession, a Marlboro jacket he'd sent away for, and bundled up his grief. The Officer of the Year Award came with an opportunity. The Drug Enforcement Administration offered Robert a role as a task force officer. He wouldn't make the pay of a federal DEA agent. He'd remain a cop, collecting salary from Laredo PD. DEA agents, who had college degrees, made twice as much in base salary as task force officers. Agents also earned monetary awards for major investigations, sometimes as much as $5,000 per case. The only incentive for task force officers was overtime pay--an extra $10,000 or $12,000 a year for the crazy hours. Win an award, lose a brother. Get a promotion, make the same pay. But now Robert would have the power to investigate drug traffic and make arrests anywhere in the country. He talked to Ronnie. "I'll travel and won't see you or the boys much. But it's temporary. I can bust my ass for awhile." Eric, the older son, was in third grade; Trey, the younger, was in first. Ronnie knew this arrangement made her a single parent. "Okay," she said. "Take four years." For a young cop who believed in the drug war, joining the DEA was a big step in his career. It would be nothing like he expected. Excerpted from Wolf Boys: Two American Teenagers and Mexico's Most Dangerous Drug Cartel by Dan Slater All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.