"Put yourself in my place. I want to know how my brother is. I want to hear his voice," he said. "Why don't you put him on the phone for a bit?"

The kidnapper refused, said he'd call the next morning. The conversation ended.

In Phoenix, kidnappers apparently don't call after midnight; usually, they're sleeping or they're high. So Garcia and the other detectives went home. It was late, and things were off to a typical start.

Ransom kidnapping is a rare crime in America. Most cops go their entire careers without handling one. These days, most kidnappings involve a husband taking a child from an estranged wife. That's how things were in Phoenix until a few years ago.

Then things changed in Sinaloa.

Along the Pacific Coast several hours south of Arizona, Sinaloa is the state where drug smuggling in Mexico began. Most Mexican cartels originated there. Kidnapping was how they collected debts. For many years, they kidnapped other smugglers and left law-abiding citizens alone.

But after several major traffickers died or went to prison, younger gunmen stopped playing by the old rules. In the late 1990s and 2000, Sinaloa had its first rash of kidnappings of legitimate merchants and businessmen.

Phoenix first saw large numbers of ransom kidnappings reported during these years as well.

A fast-growing city, Phoenix had long been a destination for Mexican immigrants, and for Sinaloans in particular. Today, Phoenix detectives say, only the rare kidnapper is not from Sinaloa. They often come from the same Sinaloan towns: Los Mochis, Leyva, Guasave.

Like construction or restaurant work, kidnapping in Phoenix relies on cheap Mexican laborers. The grunt work, like guarding the victim, is often done by young, unemployed illegal immigrants, desperate for work, who sign on for $50 to $200 a day, Garcia said.

Certain Phoenix bars -- Señor Lucky's, Bronco Bar and El Gran Mercado -- are known as places where kidnappers recruit, much the way builders go to Home Depot to hire day laborers, police say.

The day Perez-Torres was kidnapped, police raided a south Phoenix tire shop and found shotguns, ammunition and ballistic vests.

The business belonged to a man they suspected of setting up a kidnapping and home-invasion empire. He recruited illegal immigrants, provided them with criminal work and a place to live at the shop, then would order them around like a small-town baron, police said. Occasionally he'd hit them and interrogate them.

Kidnapping in Phoenix attracts immigrants whose American dream is to make it big in the underworld. In Mexico, cartels limit their options. But cartel control is weak in Phoenix. Many resort to kidnapping because "for once, they're the guys with the gun, the ones with the power," Salgado said. "They are in control. In Mexico they're not in control."

It was 7 p.m. Friday. After several phone calls, the kidnappers ordered money to be taken to an intersection in west Phoenix.

Perez-Torres' family had come in that afternoon with $12,000, which they said was from selling cars.

So detectives lied.

"We told the suspect we do have the 150K," said Sgt. Phil Roberts, a unit supervisor. "We're going to tell him whatever he wants."

The case now passed to Salgado, who went undercover, accompanying Andres -- still posing as Perez-Torres' brother -- into west Phoenix.

Nine years ago, Salgado was the first Phoenix detective to investigate the smuggler kidnappings. He comforted the victim's family, negotiated, oversaw rescues. He learned to listen for compassion or cold-bloodedness.