Meet the Characters of The Cartel: The Callahan Brothers

From Chapter 4:

The Callahan boys roared into Lake Bluff Station 45 in their pickup trucks. By the time they jogged into the station, the adrenaline of a middle-of-the-night call helping them to shake off the sleep, Ryan Schmidt was already in front of his gear rack, pulling up his bunker pants. In less than a minute, they were all dressed and loaded into 4519, a 2007 Pierce Saber that was Lake Bluff’s primary first-in engine. Before they even rounded the corner a block away from 205 East Scranton Avenue, the young Lake Bluff firefighters in Engine 4519 could smell smoke in the air. It only made their hearts race faster.

The Cartel“Dispatch, 4519 on scene at 205 East Scranton,” Tim Callahan, the acting officer, said into the radio as they pulled up in front of the house. “We’ve got a two-story, single-family home with heavy smoke showing from the garage in back. We’ll be out investigating. Advise incoming units to stage at the corner of Scranton and Evanston and the Knollwood engine to establish a water supply. 4519 will be in command.”

“Roger 4519.”

As the four Lake Bluff firefighters stepped off of Engine 4519, no one had to say anything; they all knew exactly what to do. Although the Callahan brothers often fought like brothers will, on the fire ground they were all business. Tim was the officer in charge until one of the older chiefs arrived. As the engineer, Matt Callahan set the brake, put the engine in neutral, shifted the transmission from road to pump, shifted back into drive and checked the tachometer to make sure that the two green lights were lit up, telling him that the fire engine’s transmission had successfully engaged the pump and he could now flow water to any of the pre-connected hoses. Russell Callahan and Ryan Schmidt pulled one of the 1 ¾-inch attack lines off the fire engine and were flaking it out in the driveway while Tim spoke to the homeowner, who’d met him at the end of the driveway.

“Everyone out of the house?” Tim asked.

“Yes, we’re all here,” the man said.

“Russell…Ryan….let’s see what we got,” Tim said.

“Matt, you ready to give us water if we need it?” Tim asked into his radio.

“Copy that.”

In addition to bringing the attack line up the driveway with them, Tim carried a set of irons – what firefighters call a Halligan bar and a flathead axe. Ryan Schmidt had the Thermal Imaging Camera, or TIC, slung over his shoulder. The TIC allows firefighters to see through the thick, black smoke of a fire and locate victims by their heat signature. Because it has a temperature gradient on the side of the screen that goes from coldest to hottest, it also helps them locate the seed of the fire. Russell Callahan, who would be on the nozzle, had a six-foot-long metal pike pole that had a claw on the end for ripping away dry wall. Once they had the primary fire extinguished, they’d rip open the walls to see if the fire had spread.

When the three Lake Bluff firefighters got to the back of the driveway, pungent gray smoke was billowing out from under the garage door and had coated the windows with a thin film of black soot. Aiming his flashlight, Tim could see that there was a padlock on the garage door.

“OK, guys, let’s pack up,” Tim said. “I’m going to knock the lock off with the axe and lift the door.”

“Matt, charge the line,” Tim said over his portable radio.


Matt pulled levers and adjusted the throttle on the pump panel of Lake Bluff Engine 4519, making sure that he was giving the attack crew enough water to extinguish whatever fire they might find inside the garage, but not so much that the pressure threw them off the line. Outside the garage, all three firefighters dropped to their padded knees, took off their helmets, donned their face masks, turned on their air bottles, and hooked up their regulators to the front of their masks. Next, they pulled their Nomex hoods over their heads, making sure to cover up all of their exposed skin and the edge of their face piece, just like they’d been taught to do in the fire academy. Once on air, they put their helmets back on, hooked the chin straps underneath their face piece so their helmet didn’t fall off, pulled on their gloves, and gave each other the thumbs up, signaling that they had air and were ready to go.

Tim Callahan broke off the cheap Master lock with one swing of the blunt end of the flathead axe. Using the Halligan bar, he hooked the bottom edge of the garage door, lifted it up and felt the smoke and heat wash over him. While he took a door chock out of the side pocket of his bunker pants to make sure the garage door stayed open, Russell Callahan and Ryan Schmidt advanced the 1 ¾-inch attack line and started spraying water into the garage using a straight stream. With Russell Callahan on the nozzle and Ryan Schmidt backing him up, Ryan used his free hand to raise the TIC and sweep the garage.

The Splendid Splinter

Excellent book review in today’s WSJ about the new Ted Williams book:

How does a baseball player evolve into a folkloric figure? He has to touch a nerve in society through means more compelling than athletic prowess. Babe Ruth embodied the flamboyant excesses of the Jazz Age. Joe DiMaggio was a Hemingwayesque hero—even to Hemingway—displaying grace under pressure. Ted Williams’s metamorphosis into a legend was much more idiosyncratic. As Ben Bradlee Jr. shows in his superb, sometimes troubling biography, “The Kid,” Williams was the apotheosis of the workaholic, the American autodidact-craftsman writ large—very large.

Ted Williams—the Splendid Splinter, Teddy Ballgame—wanted to be the greatest hitter who ever lived. Many think he succeeded (I’m one): The last major leaguer to hit .400 (.406 in 1941), he recorded a .344 lifetime batting average, plus 521 home runs, six batting titles, two Triple Crowns, two most-valuable-player awards, 19 All-Star Game appearances and a .482 on-base percentage, the best in baseball history. If he hadn’t lost three years of his career to World War II and almost two to the Korean War, he would certainly have collected more than 3,000 hits and might have hit more homers than Babe Ruth’s 714.

Ted WilliamsHis beginnings weren’t auspicious. He was born in 1918 in San Diego and grew up there. His mother, May, of Mexican heritage, was fervently devoted to her work with the Salvation Army; she was known as the “Angel of Tijuana.” (Her son refused to acknowledge his Mexican antecedents for most of his life, concerned that publicity about his ancestry would harm his career.) Williams’s father, Sam, ran a seedy photography studio and had a drinking problem. Money was scarce, and both parents were emotionally and often physically distant from Ted and his younger brother, Danny.

Danny became a ne’er-do-well, a petty criminal. Ted’s salvation was baseball. From boyhood on, he loved the sport more than anything or anyone else. (He once told a woman he was discussing marriage with that she came third, after baseball and fishing. She didn’t marry him.) While playing minor-league ball with a local team, he was signed by the Boston Red Sox. Williams grew to be 6-foot-3 or 6-foot-4 and had exceptional reflexes. But what made him truly extraordinary was the remarkable way he studied the art of hitting, analyzing its physical and mental elements, scrutinizing pitchers and hitters, testing his tenets, incessantly practicing. (He not only wanted to be good, he wanted to look good.) “Williams,” Mr. Bradlee writes, “always believed there was no such thing as a natural hitter. . . . There was only one way to really be great: through hard work and practice.”

Williams would eventually have an infamously difficult relationship with Boston and its press—he played for the Red Sox his whole career—but his first year in the majors, 1939, was an exhilarating one. He hit .327 with 31 homers, drove in 145 runs to lead the American League, and constantly, happily acknowledged the crowds in Fenway Park. Trouble began the next year. Williams failed to hit as many home runs as was expected of him and was accused of being lackadaisical at times. Fans and reporters started razzing him, and Williams, a world-class injustice collector and a man with a hair-trigger temper and an immature streak, reacted petulantly—and worse. An ugly pattern was established that would persist, at least with journalists, until Williams retired in 1960. (On Ted’s part, he believed that anger made him a better hitter.) Williams would, notoriously, spit toward fans and journalists from the field and sometimes tried to hit balls at particular tormentors in the stands.

Williams served as a Navy and Marine aviator during World War II. He never saw combat but became an excellent pilot, grasping arcane subjects like celestial navigation despite his flimsy formal education. In 1946, he appeared in his only World Series; the Red Sox lost in seven games to the St. Louis Cardinals. Williams had a terrible series, going five for 25, with no extra-base hits. He had an injured elbow but never used it as an alibi.

Williams did see combat as a fighter pilot during the Korean War. He was 33 when he was recalled, and Mr. Bradlee writes that “Williams was not alone in suspecting a Marine ploy to use his star power as a recruiting tool.” He was almost killed on his first mission when his jet took ground fire. After 39 missions, suffering from pneumonia and its complications, he was sent home.

When Williams returned to the Red Sox, the team, not to mince words, stank. This meant that the local press, with not much else to write about, concentrated on the activities of the club’s only star—Ted—a circumstance that inevitably exacerbated the mutual hostility. But Williams went about his business and became a superlative “older” hitter. In 1957 he hit .388; in his last season, 1960, at the age of 42, he hit .316 with 29 homers; and in his last at bat in the major leagues, he clubbed a home run.

Williams didn’t disappear after his retirement. He was elected to baseball’s Hall of Fame the first year he was eligible. He “wrote” (i.e., provided reflections and information to co-authors) five books. He managed the Washington Senators (later the Texas Rangers) for four years. Williams won a Manager of the Year award after his first season; the other three weren’t as successful. He refined his already superlative fishing skills and designed outdoor gear for Sears. A staunch Republican, he campaigned for George H.W. Bush and his son; the first President Bush would present Williams with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He opened the Ted Williams Retrospective Museum and Library in Hernando, Fla. (Ted lived much of his adult life in Florida, for the fishing.) He acquired wealth through the sports-memorabilia business. And Ted became a beloved figure for generations of baseball fans who had never seen him play.

Unfortunately, his death, at the age of 83 in 2002, seemed less than dignified because of a peculiar incident. Williams’s son, John-Henry, was a fierce believer in cryonics, described by Mr. Bradlee as “a fringe movement that freezes people after they die in the hope that medical technology will someday advance to the point where it will be possible to stop or reverse the aging process and cure now incurable diseases.”

John-Henry dispatched his father’s corpse to the Alcor Life Extension Foundation, where his head was severed from his body and both were frozen. Williams’s son claimed that he was carrying out his father’s wishes and offered as proof a piece of paper, dated 2000 and signed by John-Henry, his sister Claudia and their father, stating that all three wanted to be preserved. Williams’s other daughter, Bobby-Jo, was adamant that these weren’t her father’s wishes, and Mr. Bradlee interviewed a number of people who worked for Williams during the last years of his life who insisted that he wanted to be cremated.

Reading about this episode—the decapitation is graphically described in “The Kid”—is chilling, no pun intended. Mr. Bradlee concludes that John-Henry loved his father and that his “cryonics decision for Ted was not about exploitation. It was about not wanting to let go.” But to me, John-Henry appears much more sinister than sympathetic. My hunch is that the cryonics venture was more about perpetuating the Ted Williams “brand” than about perpetuating Ted Williams.

Williams had a profoundly fragmented personality. The good Ted was farsighted and benevolent. When Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby integrated the major leagues in 1947, Williams sent a congratulatory letter to Robinson and made Doby feel welcome whenever the Red Sox played Doby’s Cleveland Indians. The Red Sox were the last team to integrate, in 1959; Williams went out of his way to be friendly and helpful to Pumpsie Green, the club’s first black player. Ted was also a prodigious fundraiser for cancer research. He was wonderful with sick children and thought nothing of visiting them in all parts of the country, insisting that his good deeds go unreported. And he was extremely generous with his money, not only with family and friends but with strangers he might hear about who were in need.

The bad Ted was an incorrigible adulterer when married (three times) and an insatiable philanderer when he wasn’t; moreover, his attitude and behavior toward women were swinish. Williams was an absentee father to his son and two daughters. He was also a quintessential control freak. That certainly contributed to his success at hitting, fishing and flying. But when things didn’t go his way, when someone disappointed him—even disagreed with him—he would often go berserk, venting streams of invective. Sometimes he went beyond verbal abuse: One ex-wife accused him of socking her on the jaw during an argument, and he punched his beloved dog, Slugger, while fulminating about his son.

Ted Williams hated what he considered invasions of his privacy, but perfectionist that he was, he would probably have to concede that the work ethic that underpins “The Kid” is exemplary. Mr. Bradlee, who was a reporter and editor at the Boston Globe for 25 years, spent 10 years researching and writing this book; he interviewed about 600 people and seems to have read everything about and by Williams. (There have been numerous previous books about Williams, including another doorstop biography, Leigh Montville’s 2005 “Ted Williams: The Biography of an American Hero.” Williams was also the subject of John Updike’s celebrated 1960 essay “Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu.” An account of Ted’s last game, which Updike attended, it displays the author’s usual scintillant style but is a little too hero-worshipful for my taste. Williams liked it, though, and asked Updike to co-write his memoir.)

But research alone doesn’t make “The Kid” a first-rate biography. The author was able to organize the great mass of data into a lucid and readable whole and—most important—bring his subject and the people around him to provocative and stormy life. When I began reading this book, I thought that only baseball fans would find it interesting. But after finishing “The Kid,” I suspect that even those indifferent to the sport might find its human drama absorbing.

My one complaint is that Mr. Bradlee doesn’t discuss Curt Flood’s brief tenure as a player for Williams’s Washington Senators. It was a clash of generations and values: Flood, while a Senator, had a lawsuit working its way through the courts challenging baseball’s reserve clause, which gave team owners the right to trade or keep a player at their discretion (he eventually lost in the Supreme Court); Williams favored retaining the clause. Ted didn’t want Flood on his team, and it was true that he was washed up. But in his prime, Flood was one of baseball’s best center fielders ever, and he deserved more respect than Williams showed him.

Williams’s odious personality traits haven’t marred his posthumous reputation. Decades after his playing days, Ted was and is considered an American hero and will, I’m sure, remain so for a long time to come. Sublime mastery of devilishly difficult, crowd-pleasing techniques has trumped significant character flaws. Though I never saw Ted play, since I was a teenager I have viewed baseball through the medium of Williams’s theories of hitting, presented in his memoir “My Turn at Bat” and “The Science of Hitting.” (Both are still well worth reading, and the memoir is a lot funnier than “The Kid.”) When, for instance, I see the Yankees’ Mark Teixeira kill a rally because he is unable or unwilling to hit to the opposite field against the defensive shift always used against him, I ardently wish that Ted was still around to explain the facts of life—hitting division—to him. For me, Ted Williams lives, cryonics be damned.

Meet the Characters of The Cartel: John Nardini

From Chapter 9:

“Lake Bluff command from Truck 37,” Nardini said into the mike as they pulled up on the fire scene that now saw about 10 fire trucks and two ambulances parked on the western edge of the southbound lanes of State Highway 41.

The Cartel“Go for Lake Bluff command,” said Jerry Callahan, who’d arrived about 10 minutes ago and, as the highest-ranking officer on scene, taken over command from his oldest son.

“Truck 37 on scene with four, ready to go to work,” Nardini said.

Just then, Tim Callahan walked up to the officer’s side of Truck 37. Nardini rolled down the window.

“What’s goin’ on BC?” Tim said, referring to him by rank.

“Coming to your BBQ,” Nardini said. “Thanks for inviting us.”

“The bank is pretty gradual about a hundred yards down the road,” Tim Callahan said. “And the field is frozen pretty solid. Think you guys could drive across there and put the stick up and douse it from above. We got two greenhouses on fire.”

“Will do,” Nardini said. “Nick can handle the stick. You need the rest of us to do anything?”

“Check in with my dad when you get down there. He’s in command.”

“Still the big dog,” Nardini said.

“Yeah….” Tim Callahan said.

“Vito!” Nardini yelled into the back of the cab.


“Get out, go around back and grab the four inch and find us a water supply.”

“Roger boss.”

Meet the Characters of The Cartel: Marco Toscano

From Chapter 1:

He looked exactly like you’d expect a cop named Marco Toscano to look. He was a six-foot, four-inch, barrel-chested, 270-pound mean motherfucker who, at 41, could still bench 475 on a good day.

The CartelHis head was shaved clean except for a thick goatee. The cord for his earpiece snaked behind his ear and down under the collar of his waist-length winter duty coat, the bulky inner liner making him seem even more massive than he actually was. The spiral cord went all the way down the inside of his coat to the Motorola portable radio that hung on the thick, black utility belt that hung around his expanding waistline and still shined like the day he’d bought it.

Sticking out from under the elastic band of his heavy winter coat was an array of tools he loved to use on drunken frat boys as much as Mexican drug dealers. Instead of the telescoping titanium rods that most cops like to carry nowadays, Marco preferred an old-school Billy club.

“Nothing like the sound of wood on skull,” he used to say with a smirk.

While that may seem like harsh language from a guy who’s supposed to protect and serve the public – all of the public – the truth was that Marco Toscano divided the world into two very distinct camps: good guys and bad guys.

The good guys – friends, neighbors, strangers in trouble – he treated like they were his own family. When Mrs. Bernardi, who’d been the fifth-grade math teacher at Oak Terrace Elementary School for as long as anyone could remember, was diagnosed with cancer and didn’t have a ride to her chemo treatments, Marco made sure that she got there, whether it meant taking her himself in the squad car when he was on duty, or driving into Highwood on his day off and taking her in his own car. When St. James Catholic Church needed help with something – the annual rummage sale, the food pantry, or hanging Christmas decorations – Marco Toscano was always there.

The bad guys, well…they were a little different. Hanging on the left side of his utility belt was a 7.8-million-volt Terminator stun gun, the most powerful model available. Snug to his right side was a nickel-plated Kimber .45, hammer back, safety on. With one click, he was ready to unload the full 8-round clip of hollow points into anyone who fucked with him.

Marco hadn’t fired his gun in 15 years on the job; mostly because one look at him and people knew not to mess with him. Even the hard cases – the career criminals who took the Metra train down to Highwood from North Chicago and Waukegan for a little midday B&E to feed their drug habit – were scared to death of him. Even if they’d never been to Highwood, they all knew the name Marco Toscano. If the train pulled into the Highwood Metra station and they saw him sitting in his prowl car or writing tickets in the parking lot, they wouldn’t even get off. They’d stay on the train for four or five more stops and get off in Wilmette or Winnetka, where they knew the cops weren’t as tough as Marco Toscano.


“The Cartel” is Wall Street Journal writer Mark Yost’s second installment in the critically acclaimed Nick Mattera Series. In the first book, “Soft Target,” former Marine EOD Tech turned Firefighter Nick Mattera and his crew from Station 37 took on a pair of Islamic extremists who opened up a whole new front in the War on Terror on the North Shore of Chicago.

In “The Cartel,” Mattera and his crew face a whole new enemy: Manny Banuelos is the head of the Sinaloa Cartel, one of the world’s most-powerful, drug-trafficking organization. In a ripped-from-the-headlines story, Manny and his gang don’t just go away when a newly elected Libertarian U.S. President legalizes marijuana. Instead, they fight back, sabotaging government labs, blackmailing executives, and hatching a plan to control the world-wide drug trade. The only thing that stands in their way is Nick Mattera and his brave crew of firefighters, who are caught in the middle of this bloody turf war that’s erupted in the neighborhood around their firehouse.

In addition to being a writer for The Wall Street Journal for more than 20 years, Mark Yost is also a part-time firefighter/paramedic on the North Shore of Chicago. “The Cartel’s” riveting story is punctuated with an unrivaled behind-the-scenes look at the calls and characters that make life interesting inside a busy urban firehouse. Add in a steamy love triangle, a crooked pharmaceutical CEO, and an Italian mob boss, and “The Cartel” is a fast-paced thriller that you won’t be able to put down.

The 2014 FIA Formula One World Championship calendar

March 16, AUS Grand Prix of Australia
March 30, MYS Grand Prix of Malaysia
Scuderia FerrariApril 4 BHR Grand Prix of Bahrain
April 20 CHN Grand Prix of China
May 11 ESP Grand Prix of Spain
May 25 MCO Grand Prix of Monaco
June 8 CAN Grand Prix of Canada
June 22 AUT Grand Prix of Austria
July 6 GBR Great Britain
July 20 DEU Grand Prix of Germany
July 27 HUN Grand Prix of Hungary
Aug. 24 BEL Grand Prix of Belgium
Sept. 7 ITA Grand Prix of Italy
Sept. 21 SGP Grand Prix of Singapor
Oct. 5 JPN Grand Prix of Japan
Oct. 12 RUS Grand Prix of Russia
Nov. 2 USA Grand Prix of USA (Austin)
Nov. 9 BRA Grand Prix of Brazil
Nov. 23 ARE Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi

Meet the Characters of The Cartel: Nick Mattera

From Chapter 12:

Nick Mattera had other plans for this Valentine’s Day.

Originally, he’d thought about taking Rachel to dinner downtown – maybe Charlie Trotter’s or The Girl and the Goat. Or Taxim, a great little Greek place in Bucktown they’d heard about and had been planning to go to.

The CartelNick had thought about taking her to dinner and proposing to her. Just laying his cards all out on the table, telling Rachel how much he loved her, how he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her. He was all ready to do that. After the waiter brought the coffee – Nick had gotten Rachel into having café coretto (espresso ith grappa) after big meals – he’d get down on one knee, “in front of God and everyone,” as his Aunt Gilda used to say, and ask Rachel to marry him.

But then Nick had second thoughts. He’d always had good instincts – in the Marine Corps, on the fire ground, and with women.

“Nicky the Coke” was the nickname that the guys at the firehouse had given Nick. It was really “Nicky the Cock,” but the guys pronounced it like “Coke.” He’d earned it because, until Rachel came around, Nick was with a different woman almost every weekend. There were a few that lasted a month or maybe six weeks, but they were rare. Nick was a player; and why not.

He was buff.

He had dark, Mediterranean good looks.

And he was a firefighter.

Nick Mattera could basically walk into almost any bar in Chicago, pick out the best-looking woman in the place, and walk out with her phone number in about a half hour.

His instincts were particularly good when it came to Rachel. It was one of the things that she liked about him. He could read her moods. He knew her…sometimes better than she knew herself. And Nick’s gut told him that the time wasn’t right to bring out the ring (although he half suspected that Rachel had found it one day, putting his socks away after doing a load of laundry, and simply didn’t know what to say).

No, Nick had another plan.

Meet the Characters of The Cartel: Rachel Cohen

From Chapter 5:

Gerard eyed Rachel up and down like a fox looks at a chick that’s strayed too far from the coop. After about 20 seconds, it was embarrassingly clear to both Jim and Rachel that Gerard was undressing her with his eyes.

The CartelTruth was, Rachel reminded Gerard of Jennie when they first met at Harvard. Her hard body was tan – even in January. She was athletic, yet attractive in a very feminine way. She even wore her hair short like Jennie.

Today, Rachel looked sexier than ever, Gerard thought. She wore a form-fitting black pinstriped suit that was professional but showed just enough cleavage and thigh to distract whomever she was trying to persuade. Rachel knew that her body was a tactical asset. And she liked to use it whenever she could.

While Jim may have felt sorry for Rachel as she was subjected to Gerard’s lascivious leer, she’d traveled the power corridors of Washington and Corporate America long enough to know just how to handle a guy like Gerard Pearson. Looking over his shoulder at one of his Royal Marine pictures that hung on the office wall, she said matter-of-factly, “I see you were a Marine. So was my boyfriend.”

A stopwatch couldn’t have measured how quickly the smile on Gerard’s face turned to a frown.