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Along the chain-link fence bordering the airport apron, were several hundred Mexicans. Some were employees of the consulate who had not been allowed to join the official group and others were simply curious onlookers. But there were dozens who were friends of Kiki, who had come to pay their last respects. U.S. Ambassador John Gavin said a few words, a priest offered a prayer, everyone took a deep breath to sustain themselves and the brief ceremony was held.

Six of the agents carried Kiki’s flag-draped coffin from the hearse to the belly of the plane, their eyes streaming tears. There was no fanfare, no drumbeat, just six men, six DEA agents, on foreign soil, carrying the body of their fallen comrade. In the strained silence their shoes scraped loudly on the tarmac, one softly calling cadence and commands. The criteria for being a pallbearer? Those who had a blazer or sports jacket. No one had come to Guadalajara with a suit packed in his luggage. It was hard to believe we had tried so hard and failed.

While we were standing under the wing waiting to board, the word came that a young woman, a teenager actually, named Sara Cosio-Martinez had been kidnapped. The family automobile had been forced off the street, the rear window smashed with the butt of an AK-47. Sarah’s mother was slapped around for resisting, then Sarah was spirited away by a group of unknown, armed, men. But the family was sure it had been the work of Rafael Caro-Quintero. The trafficker was infatuated with the girl and had spirited her away once before, in December of the previous year, prompting a countrywide manhunt by the federal authorities, in no small part because Sara Cosio’s uncle was the national President of the PRI, Mexico’s ruling political party.

Even as the U.S. Air Force crew pushed the C-130 at half the speed of sound toward the international airport in San Diego, the Mexican government was moving to quiet the storm. Unbeknownst to anyone in the U.S. government, the legendary MFJP Comandante, Florentino Ventura, had arrived in Guadalajara with orders to make arrests and stop the bashing Mexico was receiving in the foreign press. DEA had repeatedly asked that Ventura be assigned to the investigation but had been refused.

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