In Mexico, life can come cheap - but some are worth millions. When ruthless gangs kidnap the loved ones of the wealthy, the ransoms can soar in to seven-figure sums. And when that happens, Nick Brokhausen and Jeff Miller are the men you want on your side of the negotiating table. They are former Special Forces operatives who've spent a lifetime solving problems and making money in some of the most dangerous parts of the world. In Part 1, Vanessa Kirby joins Jeff and Nick on the trail of a kidnapping victim in Texcoco - and they'll use any means necessary to see his safe return.
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True Spies Episode 124 Mexican Maneuvers Part 1: Poncho and Cisco

NARRATOR: Welcome to True Spies. Week by week, mission by mission, you’ll hear the true stories behind the world’s greatest espionage operations. You’ll meet the people who navigate this secret world. What do they know? What are their skills? And what would you do in their position? I’m Vanessa Kirby, and this is True Spies Episode 124 Mexican Manoeuvers Part 1: Poncho and Cisco. Texcoco, Mexico. A dusty, semi-rural town on the outskirts of the capital. A place that has seen violence for hundreds of years. Hernan Cortés even built ships destined to destroy the Aztec capital of enochtitlán here. By the late 1990s, the Mexican police had been at war with ruthless Texcoco gangs for years. 

NICK BROCKHAUSEN: They work like a well-oiled machine. Once they breach the building, it was all rapid. They took control of the entry point and they spread out in the building. They were checking off rooms that were clear. And when they got into the room, they just basically hosed everybody in that room. 

NARRATOR: But this story is about more than your usual drug-fuelled rift between the Mexican state and its adversaries. It centers on two Americans, drafted in to help some of Mexico’s wealthiest families recover kidnapped loved ones.

NICK BROCKHAUSEN: We watched the average ransom of a wealthy person when somebody had money go from the hundreds of thousands into the $30m or $40m and a scale in between. 

NARRATOR: These two men had not only the skill to negotiate a hostage situation. They also had the audacity to then track down the ransom money, and the gang responsible.

NICK BROCKHAUSEN: I think they wanted like $3m. You ever try and mark $3m worth of greenbacks and pesos?

NARRATOR: The two Americans audacious enough to pull off such stunts? Nick Brockhausen and Jeff Miller. You may remember them from Episode 91, where they hatched a plan to save the Bosnian Muslim population from the atrocities of mid-90s Sarajevo. A few years later, they found themselves fielding calls from desperate families just south of the US border, as the Mexican kidnapping epidemic exploded. As Nick explains…

NICK BROCKHAUSEN: At that time, you didn't have the cartel, so to speak. The cartel was in the drug business and kidnappers were a separate industry, even though they worked together. And there were things that worked with both communities, but it was pretty much separate. And by the time the year 2000 rolled around, it had become an industry to the point where they would rent the hostages to another group whose only function was to care for them. Then we busted the place one time and it had two nurses and a nutritionist, as well as nine kidnap victims in it. So it had grown more and more organized over the years.

NARRATOR: And why, you might wonder, were desperate families calling these two Americans in particular? Perhaps because both Nick and Jeff are ex-Special Forces. The elite. Nick served in MACV-SOG during the Vietnam War, short for Military Assistance Command, Vietnam - Studies and Observations Group. The unit conducted some of the most dangerous and covert missions of the conflict. Often landing deep behind enemy lines, massively outnumbered and outgunned.

NICK BROCKHAUSEN: If you're in the military, you want to be the best you possibly can be. I mean, that was it. I never wanted to be anything but Special Forces once I got into it. 

NARRATOR: Jeff took a slightly different path, spending most of his career in the Special Forces working in intelligence. The two met by chance on an airbase in Berlin in 1978 as the West tried to keep a beady eye on Soviet activity behind the Iron Curtain. By the early ‘80s however, they both wanted out.

JEFF MILLER: And then we both left the service in 1982 within about three or four months of each other.

NARRATOR: But what do two Special Forces veterans do with their newfound freedom? Leave it all behind and lead an ordinary life? Impossible.

NICK BROCKHAUSEN: There's no more addictive drug than adrenaline. You get to the point where you don't know any other way of life. We were doing it for over a decade each. And it's pretty much ingrained into you. You are what you became because of that. So transitioning to ‘Civvy Street’, as they used to call it, we had to find something that fit our grill because I just couldn't see myself being the greeter at Walmart. 

NARRATOR: Jeff invited Nick on his first contract not long after they demobbed - training the International Association of Chiefs of Police. The two of them never looked back.

JEFF MILLER: We've been doing things around the world together as private contractors for, well, since 1982. Fifty years.

NICK BROCKHAUSEN: Not quite. Forty.

JEFF MILLER: Forty years? Yeah. I can't count.

NARRATOR: Nick’s first job in Mexico involved training bodyguards for some of the country’s wealthiest families.

NICK BROCKHAUSEN: We still had a lot of talent and ideas, especially the SWAT tactics working-intel groups. And there was a need for it on the outside. So we kind of welded ourselves to that end of the effort.

NARRATOR: These services were essential by the late ‘90s in Mexico. Kidnapping was developing into a professional business and these wealthy families knew they needed professional help. The police were sometimes overwhelmed and often corrupt. Nick and Jeff’s military expertise in covert tracking and package retrieval were a perfect match.

NICK BROCKHAUSEN: When we were down there, I think at that time when we linked up with the special police unit, they were estimating there were 2,500 kidnapping gangs in Mexico City alone. That's the guys that come up and rob you and take you through and try and get money out of your family on a one or two-day kidnapping all the way out to somebody they're gonna hold until they get to full ransom.

NARRATOR: Through his time around the Mexican elite, Nick saw another business opportunity. These families had a huge appetite for armored cars.

NICK BROCKHAUSEN: Who gets kidnapped? The wealthy. So it was a natural flow of events and things just kind of snowballed from there. As long as we were willing to be adaptive and put out a good product one way or the other, what you're doing, services or training.

NARRATOR: But there was a problem. The vehicles Nick was sourcing for these families were not up to the standard he needed.

NICK BROCKHAUSEN: I tried to go to O’Gara-Hess, the big American manufacturer. They were too expensive and had no such thing as customer service. So I cast around and I found him.

NARRATOR: ‘He’ is Carlos. A tall, handsome Lebanese-Mexican with impeccable manners and courtly charm. Carlos owned an armoring plant and his firm was one of the premier armored car manufacturers in the country. Nick starts buying his vehicles from him. But one day, it’s Carlos who wants something from Nick. Out of the blue, Carlos rings Nick asking if he can help with a request from a mutual associate of theirs, a man by the name of Ricardo.

JEFF MILLER: Ricardo. He's an interesting character. Smart but kind of crude and rough around the edges.

NICK BROCKHAUSEN: He looked like… Oh, what's his name? Simpson. The father and son in the file, Homer Simpson. Homer, since they look like Homer Simpson.

JEFF MILLER: Yeah, he does kind of, come to think of it.

NARRATOR: Ricardo was a security guard at the US Embassy in Mexico before setting up his own private security consultancy. While Carlos came across as a Spanish grandee, Ricardo was something between a carnival hawker and barroom brawler. Tough. Canny. But Nick trusted him. And Ricardo needed his help.

JEFF MILLER: He was always kind of around. And yeah, he's the one that came up with the first of the kidnappings.

NARRATOR: Ricardo had a client whose son had been taken in broad daylight at a busy city interchange. He’d made himself an easy target for the gangs by ignoring the meticulous plans laid out for him to avoid precisely this sort of thing from happening.

NICK BROCKHAUSEN: He did everything he was told not to do. Don't be there with your windows open, stopped in traffic with the radio on real loud, not paying attention to what's going on around you. 

NARRATOR: It was obvious even at this stage that the police were involved too.

NICK BROCKHAUSEN: Ninety-nine percent of the kidnapping cases had police involvement in one way or another. Like, when a kid was grabbed, there was a traffic cop on the little white stand there, directing traffic because it's a big intersection right by the university coming off two smaller streets into the big circle. And he watched the whole thing go down and didn't even get off his stand. So obviously, somebody paid him to be blind that day. What's the old saying? ‘Silver or lead?’ Basically, take the silver or we're going to kill you.

NARRATOR: Twenty-four hours after the kidnapping, the gang called the family to lay out their demands - $3m dropped at a location of their choice and no police, otherwise the kid was dead. Nick had several requests of his own, however, before he agreed to come on board with the rescue operation.

​​NICK BROCKHAUSEN: When we did contracts, we told them we would do everything in our power to assist the police in getting your loved one back. In Mexico, I would never go so far as to guarantee the life of the hostage. It's got to be, ‘We're going to do our best effort to make this go smoothly and make it go safely. But if the hostage dies, the hostage dies.’

NARRATOR: The case is also moved out of the hands of the local police to a specially vetted state unit. But Nick wasn’t taking any chances. He used his own connections before making up his mind.

NICK BROCKHAUSEN: I vetted them thoroughly through my padrino, my godfather, who's the senior partner of the most prestigious law firm in Mexico. So his connections with the government and with people who really are trying to run Mexico were invaluable because they got a clean brush saying, “Yeah, these guys are trustworthy, go with it.”

NARRATOR: Nick also insists on Jeff coming down to Mexico to handle logistics and plan an escape route if the drop turns ugly.

NICK BROCKHAUSEN: I don't care how many assurances I was getting from the state governor or even to my padrino, there's nothing better than coming up with Plan B, which is the one you pull out of your pocket when everything else falls apart. So he had a dual function. One is the back door and also two, to provide me with intel. 

JEFF MILLER: Well, you're dealing with enormous amounts of money. Yeah. That is basically loose. You can't trust anybody, and maybe especially the police, because the police are so heavily involved in so much of the crime down there. 

NARRATOR: Nick and Jeff then start investigating how to get ahead of the gang and track the $3m ransom without being caught. Jeff suggests an experimental piece of chemical taggant technology being cooked up by an ex-CIA scientist in a commercial lab in Washington, D.C. That’s a unique, invisible material that is impossible to duplicate - sort of like a chemical fingerprint that can be planted on an object. In this case, $3m in cash.

JEFF MILLER: I remember going back to D.C. and hanging around the office with these guys. As you can imagine, it's a weird little crew of eggheads who spend their lives studying esoteric things like identifiable fluorocarbons.

NARRATOR: Independent contractors like Nick and Jeff were an ideal match for secretive companies who wanted to test their new contraptions out in the wild.

JEFF MILLER: We have, over the years, had the opportunity to test a lot of different experimental technologies just because the kind of things we were out there doing made us an easy test agency with plausible deniability.

NARRATOR: Colorless, odorless, yet still perceptible with a specially made scanning machine. It was perfect for tracking millions of dollars that someone didn’t want to be tracked.

NICK BROCKHAUSEN: The biggest thing about the taggant was that it was found nowhere else in nature. And that's what made it unique. You could not deny there was only that, no false positives. It's only that particular compound that we were reading.

NARRATOR: Nick flew back to the US to pick up the taggant and scanner. But already he could see an issue. The company insisted that the machine be accompanied by its own men, which meant bringing two of them with Nick on the mission.

NICK BROCKHAUSEN: Both of them were former Marines and one had been a staff sergeant and the other one had been a buck sergeant, something like, that many years ago. So they come down and the senior guy who doesn't know how to operate the machine all that well, the other guy does it perfectly, constantly making little quips about why these thieving Mexicans are going to do this. “We’ve got to be careful about protecting the technology, arf, arf, arf.” And it got to the point where he was getting beyond annoying about it. 

NARRATOR: And there’s another problem. After arriving back in Mexico with his two unwanted guests, Nick learns more about the gang leader he’s dealing with.

NICK BROCKHAUSEN: He had been in Special Forces, the Mexican Special Forces, and his wife got sick. He was a Major. His wife got sick. And instead of taking her to the hospital, they put her in a hospital where all the Indians go to, the poor people, and she died. And at that point, he decided that he was going to get back at the military and the government. Later there was an entire group of people from Special Forces that deserted en masse. They're now their own cartel. I mean this guy, he was ruthless.

NARRATOR: Once the family had learned who the gang was, the madre took matters into her own hands, taking control of the hostage negotiations herself.

NICK BROCKHAUSEN: Part of the motivation for her taking over the negotiation was after he got kidnapped. They had a case - within two or three days of his kidnapping - where they again grabbed a kid and demanded ransom. They wanted the ransom delivered to a public toilet where it had to be dropped. And then they'd go to the public toilet, they’d find their son who would be tied up. He wasn't tied up. His throat was slit and he was laying on the floor. So the mom was not going to take any chances with their son.

NARRATOR: To Nick’s astonishment though, the mother proved to be more effective than the trained negotiators offered up by the police.

NICK BROCKHAUSEN: The gang called her ‘Iron Britches’. And she was great. I'm telling you, She stuck to her points. She made sure that she always had a proof of life every 72 hours. And as we got closer, it was every 24 hours that they had to do something to show that he was still alive. So it was. And you can read all the textbooks and go, “Wow, for God's sakes. Don't let the family negotiate with the gang in this case.” She was the best person for the job.

NARRATOR: The gang demands that one person, alone, drops the ransom. They are instructed to retrieve a burner phone hidden in a cubicle of a public toilet, keep it on at all times, and await further instructions. Eventually, the phone rings. The person nominated to drop the $3m is ordered to follow one of the major toll roads out of the city. The whole operation is now live.

NICK BROCKHAUSEN: That way of operating was the signature of this gang. Same techniques, the same method of operation that you drive out the toll roads until somebody goes, “Okay, turn here up this arroyo.” So they would and the cops and the gang are playing a game of surveillance and countersurveillance while the guy’s going out to deliver the money. There's somebody following him in a vehicle and they use the same technique, three or four vehicles. And then they go to a heavily populated area, out to a sparsely populated area, so they can detect if anybody's behind that vehicle.

NARRATOR: The state police unit opts for loose surveillance on the driver and a drop point just off the highway. 

NICK BROCKHAUSEN: As far as if the victim was harmed, it's risky business. There's always the chance that somebody is going to get a stray round or the gang loses its discipline and just wants to whack the victim because they saw too much. There are a lot of different variables and how do we deal with them? Pragmatism.

NARRATOR: The chemical taggant offers Nick and Jeff the pragmatism they need.

JEFF MILLER: The beauty of this tag is that you don't have to do close surveillance. It couldn't be way off where your surveillance cannot be detected because you're not actively following a car.

NICK BROCKHAUSEN: You're following the...

JEFF MILLER: Scent, a chemical trail that that car is leaving in its wake.

NARRATOR: A couple of hours after the ransom is delivered and the hostage released, the machine lights up. They have a trace on the cash. The first phase of the mission is complete but the most dangerous phase is about to begin. By the time Nick’s crew reaches the drop site to begin tailing the cash, there’s already a problem. The police unit ferrying the taggant detector needs to collect some more equipment. 

NICK BROCKHAUSEN: It was about a half mile away on the other side of a big parking lot. 

NARRATOR: One of the Marines accompanying the machine loses his cool.

NICK BROCKHAUSEN: As soon as they got in the vehicle and hauled off, this guy is gone and saying, “I told you. The Mexicans are stealing our technology. They're going to go over there and take pictures of it, break it apart.” Meanwhile, the rest of the team heard this guy. All these guys spoke English. So they heard his rant and everything.

NARRATOR: The unwanted guest is threatening the mission. What would you do in Nick’s position? 

NICK BROCKHAUSEN: And when they came back over, I got him over to the side and said, “You go back to the hotel right now. You're about that far from me turning you over to the people you just called a bunch of MFs and liars and thieves and all that, and they understood you. So go back to the hotel and Ricardo will come to see you and arrange for your transport out of this country tonight.” And then I called up Ricardo and said this is the problem with this guy. Get him out of here. 

NARRATOR: While Nick’s unit is dealing with the problem Marine, the state police have already identified a couple of the safe houses used by the gang. They’re based in Texcoco, on the outskirts of Mexico City. The state police Comandante orders everyone back to base to regroup. The next morning, Nick is quietly breakfasting alone at his hotel, strategically placed opposite the US Embassy. All seems calm until the Comandante marches straight up to his table.

NICK BROCKHAUSEN: They came into the dining room. And you tell these guys are obviously undercover cops and they're all packing and everybody in there's all round-eyed like that. And he says, “Come on, you got to go with us.” And he pulled out a - I swear - this bulletproof vest had to have been made out of Prescott and it was solid and he insisted that I put it on right there. Yeah. And they basically palm me a weapon because, by law, I'm not permitted to be armed in Mexico. But as a witness, I happened to pick up a gun in a gunfight. That's fair.

NARRATOR: As the head waiter is trying to calm down the fellow diners, Nick joins the column of what looks like a small Army streaming out of the hotel lobby into a line of armored SUVs. On the way, he spots Jeff drop his newspaper, signaling that he’ll follow the convoy undetected by both the gang and the police.

NICK BROCKHAUSEN: Miller was there because he has my back. 

NARRATOR: It’s a role that Jeff plays particularly well.

JEFF MILLER: I don't fit the profile and I got white hair. I've had white hair since I was in my late forties. So I can play old really well. I don't need to play it anymore. But even back in those days, I played old, real well, and people don't notice the elderly. They tend to be somewhat invisible. People are looking for people that fit the profile of a young man with a military vibe. And I'm very good at not looking like that. So I guess that helps. 

NICK BROCKHAUSEN: Something the current generation can't get into their head. Yeah. Tattoos and earrings and all beefed up by working out 16 hours a day is not what they mean when they say “blend in with the crowd”.

NARRATOR: As the convoy pulls out of town toward Texcoco, the machine begins to flicker. Eventually, the crew passes a group of small farm houses on the left of the road. The machine spikes. The Comandante orders four SUVs from the group to peel off and encircle the village. Nick and the rest of the team carry on toward the main target - a safe house in town identified as the gang’s secret headquarters. Nick inspects the equipment he’s been given. A 9-millimeter pistol and an old bulletproof vest. He notices something unusual about the gun.

NICK BROCKHAUSEN: It did have the numbers removed. I did remember that. So they obviously got it out of the property room.

NARRATOR: Nick turns to one of the state police sitting beside him. He shrugs and gives a faint smile. The irony of having a dead sicario’s pistol for a gang raid is not lost on either of them. Eventually, the convoy reaches Texcoco. The Comandante orders them to drive past the local police station on the way to the hideout.

NICK BROCKHAUSEN: We drove by there and I realized there was a radio station like WKRP Cincinnati on one side and on the other side was the police headquarters with the iron gate and the big lot out back.

NARRATOR: The Comandante suspects local police involvement with the gang. Sure enough, as they reach the station the machine spikes again. Some of the ransom money is there. More SUVs drop out of the column and survey both the station and all the other sites that give off readings during the route. All are ready to raid each location at the same time the main team hits the gang’s headquarters. As they near the primary target, there’s another issue. A news crew has been set up before they can cordon off the area. A deadly gang raid could end up being on live television.

NICK BROCKHAUSEN: They weren't just kind of hanging around. They've been doing another story right down the street. They were a major news crew, like from Televisio. And they saw the activity around that house and they managed to sneak through the police lines before they got the cordon established all the way around the neighborhood and the building. So they were there. If they're looking out the window, they're going to see a news crew. But if you run out there to get them out of there, you're going to see a news crew and a bunch of police and do the math. 

NARRATOR: Despite the commotion, Jeff stays hidden in the background. Calm. Alert. He’s already linked up with some of their other contacts in the area and is ready to activate Plan B and get them out of there if the situation turns sour.

JEFF MILLER: I was just hanging back, watching very carefully what was going on, ready in case I was needed. 

NICK BROCKHAUSEN: Which is what he was supposed to be doing. Yeah. 

NARRATOR: The Comandante decides now is the moment. The assault team pours out of the SUVs, encircles the house, and awaits the order to breach. Nick is right behind the initial assault team.

NICK BROCKHAUSEN: I mean, just classic textbook. I mean, these guys have been working together for several years and they came from all different parts of the state police. And there were some guys who had been detectives, some guys who had been patrol officers, whatever. But they practice, practice, practice, practice. On their entry techniques and on their intel gathering, on their crisis management, so to speak. So they work like a well-oiled machine.

NARRATOR: And then… the Comandante gives the order. Units roll into the house from every direction. Immediately there’s gunfire on every floor. Stun grenades explode. The noise is deafening, something from the frontline of a war zone.

NICK BROCKHAUSEN: Once they breached the building, it was all rapid. They took control of the entry point and they spread out in the building. They were checking off rooms that were clear.

NARRATOR: As the assault team enters one room, they’re met with submachine gun fire.

NICK BROCKHAUSEN: When they burst in through the door, this guy was so quick he got that submachine gun up and started firing at him and they just blasted everybody right there and then went through and cleared it. They just basically hosed everybody in that room.

NARRATOR: Nick makes an entry with a follow-up team. The assault unit is now locking down the building.

NICK BROCKHAUSEN: There were very few bullet holes on the wall of the point of their entry and there was a whole bunch of them on the other side and on the sidewalk. So they had to be looked at. You could see the fire sectors of the assault team almost. And of course, the victims or the gang members, not victims. 

NARRATOR: In the center of the room before him, circled around piles of the ransom money, are four of the gang. Dead. Next to them is a blood-spattered Walther MP Submachine gun. Government issue. The Comandante turns to Nick and points to one of the bodies. It is the deputy State Attorney General. He had been counting out the ransom bills as the assault team busted through the door.

NICK BROCKHAUSEN: They knew that, obviously, the gang had some pretty high contacts in the government. But they did not know specifically that it was this guy and I think the Comandante told me later, he said that was a real surprise when we saw who it was. We just knew that somebody in the State Department of Justice was involved with this gang and has been involved with this gang.

NARRATOR: By the window, there are two more of the gang. One is still alive writhing in pain from shots to the gut and leg.

NICK BROCKHAUSEN: He was a sicario. A gunman.

NARRATOR: Everyone is ordered to exit the building and regroup. Two officers stay with the bleeding sicario. Neither gives him first-aid.

NICK BROCKHAUSEN: They left a guy on the floor and let him bleed out rather than shoot them again. They just let him bleed out. I was talking to the Comandante and musing over the fact that they didn't leave any. And he looked at me and he said, “We don't take them to prison because all they are is a recruitment depot for the kidnap gangs. They'll go in and recruit members in prison to join him. Men in the gang. So we just shut down the recruitment office.” 

NARRATOR: Once outside, Nick and the rest of the unit have a rare moment to decompress.

NICK BROCKHAUSEN: When you do things like this, you get this terrible burst of adrenaline. And it really is the most addictive drug.

NARRATOR: The Comandante sees Nick struggling to remove the old bulletproof vest handed to him.

NICK BROCKHAUSEN: I'm pulling that stupid vest off and comes up and he goes - he's trying to explain to me because he was a former surgeon - and now he's trying to explain to me about adrenaline's effect on the body. And I know all that, and that they don't even make oral sex this exciting in my country. Yeah. Actually, I think he called me a ‘sick gringo’. 

NARRATOR: Out of the corner of his eye, Nick spots Jeff down the street. After witnessing what he has just witnessed, most people would probably be at least a little concerned. But Jeff is not like most people.

JEFF MILLER: Nothing was going unusual that was raising any red flags. And I didn't feel a need to inject myself in any way.

NARRATOR: Two police officers then approach him though. Nick turns to the Comandante.

NICK BROCKHAUSEN: I saw him down there being questioned on the street. And I said, “That’s one of mine down there.” And he said, “We know, we've been following him from the last drop-off point.” So evidently they'd missed him all the time prior to that but had watched that he had arrived at the scene. So they were keeping an eye on him when he looked at me and he goes, “Pancho and Cisco?”

NARRATOR: Pancho and Cisco, two 1950s TV desperados immortalized for their exploits assisting the needy when the law isn’t enough. The Comandante radioed the two officers to let Jeff go. They give him back his papers and he disappears into the hazy Mexican afternoon sun. Meanwhile, the news crew that had seen the whole thing were now turning their attention to the back of the building. Several men are lying on the floor screaming in pain. One has a clear compound fracture to his leg.

NICK BROCKHAUSEN: Three of those guys jumped out the window to save their ass. When the assault took place. They were in a back room that was facing the street and the news crew was almost directly below. And when they heard the other room getting filled up with automatic fire, they just jumped out the window.

NARRATOR: As these remaining sicarios are rounded up the Comandante motions for Nick to get in his SUV. They are going to the local police station.

NICK BROCKHAUSEN: He said, “We suspected there's heavy involvement by the police in this. And everybody turned up hot except two guys that had been on vacation, hadn't been there when the incident went down. They were the only two that were not hot from actively participating in the split up of the cash. Those are the two luckiest cops on the planet.” 

NARRATOR: As he is being driven back to the hotel with the hostage safe, the ransom retrieved and the gang caught, Nick looks around at the special state police unit he’s been working with.

NICK BROCKHAUSEN: I admired these guys so much. They paid for all their own stuff. They paid for their own ammunition. Like, if they go on surveillance and they had to rent a hotel room or something like that, they paid for it and they did not get reimbursed. So they were really, really dedicated guys.

NARRATOR: Despite the mission’s success, Nick suspects the unit is not completely satisfied. Why? Because someone is missing. The gang’s notorious leader - remember, the Mexican military guy whose wife died in a state-run hospital - wasn’t at the raid.

NICK BROCKHAUSEN: It was obvious from this entire group they knew they were going after somebody that they really, really wanted to dial in. So they were full of piss and vinegar right from the beginning.

NARRATOR: After meeting with Ricardo and Jeff back at the hotel, Nick learns more about the case and just how ruthless the gang’s leader is.

NICK BROCKHAUSEN: This guy is SF School [Special Forces School] trained, so everything is compartmentalized. The guys who grabbed the kid aren't with the gang all the time and don't know the other members of the gang, a cellular organization. So the two guys that were given the job of getting rid of the kid had a Camaro. And they - instead of taking it out and trashing it and burning it like they were instructed to - they did another crime with it and got caught by a couple of state police troopers who realized that it was the kid's car. 

NARRATOR: After a few days in jail, these two gang members are released on bail.

NICK BROCKHAUSEN: And within 48 hours, they found their beaten bodies on the side of a road. He killed them for not following instructions.

NARRATOR: As I said, ruthless. But Nick and Jeff’s time in Mexico is coming to an end. For now, Nick heads off on some security and investigative work for a mining conglomerate. Jeff goes off-grid on what Nick calls one of his semi-regular disappearing acts, communing with his past and present ghosts. But then, some six months later, Carlos, the courtly Lebanese-Mexican who had first contacted Nick, is back in touch. There’s been another kidnapping.

JEFF MILLER: The victim was the patriarch of a family that owned the largest dairy processing plant and operation in Mexico. He was in the habit of going around and collecting the money from the individual dairies every week. And he was at one of those creameries when they just walked in the front door, stopped, grabbed the driver out in the parking lot, subdued him, walked in, grabbed the old man, and they were gone.

NARRATOR: This time, however, Nick finds himself largely without Jeff’s help. And more than that, his team ends up ahead of their police unit, facing the gang alone.

NICK BROCKHAUSEN: He's wearing an $800 tracksuit, designer tracksuit. And he has at least one of the pistols shoved in his belt line. And he's got his hand on the submachine gun and he's screaming in Spanish, “I've been sitting in here for over a day tracking you, and if I have to come down there and get you we're going to kill everybody in the village and the dogs.” And just going on and on, and the state police officer was down and he's going, “Aren't we supposed to be clandestine?” 

NARRATOR: That’s next week on True Spies.

Guest Bio

Minnesota-born Nick Brokhausen (pictured) was a member of the US Special Forces with a 17-year career that included combat tours in Vietnam with MACVSOG, a highly classified special operations unit.

California-based Jeff Miller joined the US Army and was selected for intelligence work with the US Special Forces. He has since worked with an array companies as an Instructor.

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