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Uncaged Review – Who the F*ck Am I? by Stephen Bentley with Excerpt

Who the F*ck Am I?
Stephen Bentley
Suspense/Crime

This surely has to be a first? Crime fiction about an undercover cop written by a former undercover cop! From author, Stephen Bentley, comes a fictional undercover cop, Steve Regan, following on the success of his true crime undercover cop memoir ‘Undercover: Operation Julie – The Inside Story.’ 

In real life and while undercover, the author met a Mafia-connected gangster who involved Bentley, the undercover cop, in a conspiracy to import huge amounts of cocaine into the UK from Bolivia via Miami.

The gangster was reported to have been dealt with by the DEA and sentenced to a 25-year prison sentence. But was he? And was he all he was supposed to be?

This is where the author moves from fact (memoir) into fiction (this book). Reading this book gives you some insight into the shadowy world of drugs and undercover cops. It’s a world many simply don’t know about. 

Steve Regan, undercover detective, is tempted by the riches of drug smuggling so he can be free of debt, police bureaucracy, and help a loved one. He wonders whether he can go ‘rogue’ and cross the line. 

Regan gets involved in one deal with a Miami-based drug lord. But is everyone who they say they are? 

Short, fast-paced, high-impact entertainment, from a writer who knows how to suck you into a story.

Excerpt

“Boss, I need a passport and need it double quick.”
“What for? Where are you going?” asked Green.
“Miami, Florida, the United States of A!”
“Over my dead body!”
“Bang! Bang! You’re dead,” Regan pointed a make-believe gun and pulled the make-believe trigger twice.
Three days later Regan held his new passport in his hand. “Hey boss, I don’t know how you do it but that was rapid.”
Rick Green fired back, “You don’t want to know. Come in my office, Steve.”
As Regan eased into the leather high-backed chair and stretched out his long legs, Green closed the door behind them.
“Uh uh! I’ve seen that look before. I could be in for a bollocking.”
“No bollocking, but I do want a serious chat.”
“That’s even worse. A bollocking I can take, but seriousness …”
“Steve, shut the f*ck up … please. And take off those sunglasses. I bet you sleep with them on.”
Regan removed the Aviators and said, “Sorry boss. Go ahead.”
“I’m concerned about this trip …”
Regan’s mouth started to move … “Shut the fuck up.” Green cut off Regan before he could utter a word.
“These guys are serious players. Fucking Colombians ….”
“Bolivians actually, boss.”
“Same f*cking thing. They don’t f*ck about. This isn’t our guys making acid here. These are the real deal. Nasty f*ckers. What really worries me is you are going in alone now that Red is off the scene.”
“In some ways that’s better.”
“How so?”
“These guys are gonna be wary of a twosome. It’s kinda like classic Starsky & Hutch stuff, don’t you think? Besides less chance of cock-ups if I go alone.”
“Yes, there is that to be said for it but how are you going to keep in touch?”
“I’m not. Too risky.”
“Take a wire with you,” Green said.
“No f*cking way, boss. Those things are the size of house bricks. I’m dead if they pat me down and find that thing and the wires. Besides you need half a ton of sticky tape to stop it falling and hitting the floor with an almighty bang. ‘Oh fuck me!’ says I – ‘where did that come from?’ No way!”
“I have to agree with you on that one. Promise me this – as soon as you land back at Heathrow, call me.”
“Promise.”
“And don’t do anything stupid.”
“Such as?”
“Just behave, is all.”
“You sound like my dad,” laughed Regan.
“F*ck off, Steve. Who would want you as a son?”
“My mother?”
Green erupted in laughter, “You have always got an answer.”
“Let’s hope that is always the case. It may just keep me alive.”
“Bon Voyage, Steve, bonne chance.”
“Ca Va! Et au revoir.”
***

Miami, October 1976

The Mercedes whispered along the boulevards. The hush was sustained all the way to a pastel pink coloured high wall topped with razor wire and bristling with cameras. The driver honked the horn twice, one long and one short. The solid metal gates slid back on their runners ending in a ‘clang’ as the gate struck the stop point.
The car inched forwards at the same time as the driver powered down his window.
“One guest,” said the driver.
The security guard gripped his machine pistol with one hand and saluted with the other. It wasn’t a formal military salute but more of a mock salute as between amigos. Regan felt his buttocks tighten. This is serious shit, my man, he thought. It was about one hundred yards of gravelled drive before reaching the large, pink Frank Lloyd Wright inspired house. Regan saw the three Dobermanns and the armed security in the grounds of the house. There were more cameras adorning the front of the building, no doubt all relayed to a central bank of monitors within. A glimpse to his right revealed a helicopter landing pad. Shit! This is real heavy.
The Mercedes came to a stop outside the front door. The door was huge and made up of two identical solid hardwood doors. One of them opened and a familiar face appeared.
“Steve! So good to see you again.”
“You too, Bill.”
Both men hugged for a moment until Bill spoke again.
“Follow me. I will introduce you to the team, as I call them. By the way, glad you smartened up some.”
Regan nodded and brushed his hair back with his hand to check the new length. He followed Bill down a large hallway. On the right was a wide spiralling staircase. To the left more rooms. They went through an open plan kitchen area leading to a three paned sliding door that led out to the pool at the back of the house.
Poolside sat three large round glass topped tables complete with parasols. Each table was surrounded by six comfortable padded high-backed chairs. Further down the pool were several loungers with topless female bodies draped on each one, some showing white cheeks, and some who were gazing upwards, showing tanned tits. Bill’s voice made him snap out of his thoughts.
“How is Red?”
“Lost his f*cking arm so I guess he’s pissed-off.”
“Better than losing his head,” someone interjected.
Regan wheeled around towards the direction of the voice.
There were three men sitting at one of the round tables. All looked dark skinned with olive complexions and shoulder length black hair. All three wore near identical clothes, white loose linen trousers and wildly loud Hawaiian shirts. Gucci loafers were the footwear of choice. All three men were bedecked in heavy gold – bracelets and neck chains. It appeared they all wore Rolex wrist watches.
The fattest of the three was facing Regan. He was about to insert a lit, fat Cuban cigar into his mouth after addressing his newly arrived guest. His jaw dropped when he heard what Regan had to say.
“That supposed to be some kind of a joke, my fat friend?”
“Sit down, Carlo!” Carlo was about to respond to Regan’s jibe until commanded to remain seated by the man next to him. Regan looked at the last speaker who by now had stood. He ambled rather than walked towards Regan with an outstretched hand.
“I am Enrico. You are a welcome guest in my home. Take no notice of Carlo. Sometimes he’s an asshole.”
Everyone present laughed, except Carlo.
Regan accepted the hand. They not only shook hands but embraced for a fleeting moment. It was long enough for Enrico to whisper, “Be careful, my friend. He will not forget that.”
Bill interrupted, “Guys, this is Steve Regan, the Brit I was telling you about. Steve, you have already met Carlo and Enrico. This is Marvin. He is our man in Bolivia.”
“Hi, Marvin.”
Marvin did not respond except for the smallest wave of his right hand as a gesture of salutation.
Regan knew who called the shots as Enrico ordered the girls to go do something even though they weren’t in earshot of any conversation.
The tallest of the girls stood, smiled and said, “Enrico baby, it’s too hot to play tennis.”
Enrico smiled back, “I hear you Laurie, here baby.” He beckoned Laurie towards him. Regan took her in. All of her from head to toe. Laurie was about five feet ten inches tall and slender, but with large tits. She wore nothing but a G-string. Regan thought, Yes. Yes, I could.
Enrico spoke to Laurie again, “Take the girls to the mall. Buy some clothes or something.” He peeled off a handful of one hundred dollar bills and gestured for her to come get it. She walked like a model and took the money. Enrico smacked her arse as she walked away giggling. The girls went inside to get changed leaving Regan, Bill, Carlo and Marvin seated at the round table.
Enrico pressed an intercom buzzer, “Bring more ice and the liquor cabinet.” He turned to the men at the table and said, “Okay, let’s start again. What happened to your buddy, Steve?
“He had an accident with a chainsaw. Cut off his arm and nearly died.”
“Carlo, apologise to the man,” snapped Enrico.
“Yeah. Sorry … didn’t mean anything ….”
“Okay, apology accepted. You’re not fat. Just need to go on a bit of a diet,” grinned Regan.
Three men laughed. Two did not, but stared at each other – Carlo and Regan.
The liquor cabinet arrived. It was wheeled down from the house by a waiter dressed in a white top and black trouser uniform. He looked immaculate. The cabinet was similar to those on an airliner except it was gold plated. The waiter opened it up and removed an ice bucket, tongs and an ice pick along with a large bag of ice. He used the ice pick to break up the ice then tipped it into the bucket. Six bottles were placed on the white linen table cloth covering the table. Regan could see they were the finest single malt Scotch whiskeys, an Irish whiskey and some bottles of bourbon.
The waiter went about his business in silence and was the epitome of efficiency. He was then dismissed by Enrico.
Enrico spoke first after the drinks had been poured and ice administered. “Let’s talk business.” It wasn’t a request, more of a command.
“Before we do may I ask something,” Regan said.
“Sure,” replied Enrico.
“Bill, where’s Blue?”
“Back in the UK. He stayed to fix the connections over there in case, and in the hope, you decide to join our venture.”
Before Regan could open his mouth, Enrico spoke, “We can get to that later. First, we need to know if you are in. To answer that you have to know what you are getting ‘in’ to.”
“Sounds about right to me,” replied Regan.
“Excuse me?” Enrico asked.
Bill interpreted, “Just a Brit expression, Enrico. Means he’s agreeing with what you just said.”
“Why didn’t he say that then?”
“I did,” laughed Regan.
Enrico showed no emotion, for a second, then burst out laughing. “You Brits crack me up.”
Enrico Bruno spoke with a strong New York accent. He was second generation of a Sicilian immigrant family. Carlo Vitale was his cousin and a trusted consigliere. He also acted as an enforcer when required. He and Enrico had been inseparable since they were kids in Little Italy, Manhattan. Marvin Ledesma was Bolivian. He procured the virgin cocaine from the farmers’ cooperative in Bolivia and was the conduit to its supply to the Bruno family. The supply route was initially from Bolivia to Miami by small light aircraft. The cocaine parcels, wrapped in oilskin, were fished out of the sea by small fast boats which soon disappeared into the myriad of marinas and docks scattered all around Miami.
These men never went near the product. Nor did they physically handle the money. It was laundered through legitimate businesses. They organised it, controlled it, took the profits and got rid of any obstructions in their way. They were never content, always looking to make more money, find new outlets and satisfy an ever-growing worldwide demand for their product. Enrico knew Europe and the UK were hungry for his product. He saw Regan as the answer to his man in the UK, never quite having trusted Blue. Enrico knew he needed Bill for other things. Bill was busy enough with the supply lines into Miami and Vancouver.
Bruno’s crime syndicate was the kind of thing Regan aspired to combat even in his earliest days on the job. He was an idealist when he first became a police officer, thinking he could help change the world by fighting crime. He saw himself as a kind of superhero without super powers or a cape. He knew society needed laws and it needed the likes of him. Over time he became disillusioned. He was surrounded by incompetents, lazy uniform carriers and some corrupt officers. Moreover, he was surrounded by paperwork, the bane of his life. He soon noticed that many of the incompetents were moved out of the field but upwards, a promotion and more money. Money or lack of it was a constant problem for Regan.
His rapid rise as a star among the detective ranks saw him recruited for undercover work. There was no training, no assessment. Someone thought of him and he was asked. Regan loved the adrenaline rush so it took no time at all to agree. At first they were mundane undercover tasks, more like surveillance than deep undercover work. Then he was asked about the infiltration work. Once more, not much thought was needed despite the inherent dangers. He was a natural. Regan had an ability to blend in. He was a human chameleon. He stood six feet two inches tall but despite his height still merged into the background. Regan had those hooded ‘Robert Mitchum’ type hazel eyes that constantly gave off an aura of chill, as in relaxed. Many women found his looks attractive with his fine chiselled features and especially since his hair grew longer commensurate to the time he spent undercover.
Regan’s real family name was also Irish. He was brought up in Liverpool by an Irish Catholic family. His mother Khaterine and grandmother Janet were the driving force behind the family’s Catholic values. Both saintly women but tough as old nails. Steve, for that was his real given name, never gave much thought to his faith when growing up in the bosom of the family. It wasn’t a subject for discussion but was there, always there, and part of his fabric as a human being. In spite of that, faith did depart him at one stage of his life.
Steve Regan in his private life had once been married. He married his childhood sweetheart, Sarah, when they were both twenty-two years old. One year later Sarah gave birth to Rose. Another year later Steve was a widower. Both wife and baby daughter were killed in a car accident on the outskirts of Liverpool. He ranted and raged at the world and denied the very existence of a god.
Regan threw himself deeper into his undercover world. He became more committed than ever to right the wrongs of the world. His undercover world was where he hid. Regan did his best to isolate himself from reality and became more like the Regan he portrayed than his real self. As much as he tried to hide from reality, once more his real self was threatened when he received news about his mother’s illness. She had a tumour on her brain and it was said to be inoperable. The doctors gave her six months to live. Khaterine turned to her faith and enlisted her son’s help. He, reluctantly, agreed to accompany her on a pilgrimage to Lourdes in France. Regan was given compassionate leave.
It was during his time at Lourdes Regan regained his faith. It took him by utter surprise. He had taken on board all the doctors had told him about his mother’s tumour. He was resigned to losing her as an inevitability. His place was to be with her, to offer support and comfort. A mass was held every day during the week long pilgrimage. Prior to one of them, his mother’s parish priest, Father Desmond, asked her if she wished to receive the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. Naturally, she said “Yes.” The priest turned to Regan and asked the same question.
“I’m not sick or dying, Father.”
“No, son I’m sure that is correct but you don’t have to be. As a carer for your mother you are in need of the Lord’s succour and the sacrament also reminds us that God wants to give comfort to the suffering and wants us to relieve suffering where we can.”
Regan shrugged and said, “Okay.”
The ten o’ clock mass was said and both Khaterine and her son were called over to the side of the church. There were ten in the group.
To each in turn Father Desmond anointed them by making the Sign of the Cross on the forehead with the Chrism and said, “Through this holy anointing may the Lord in his love and mercy help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” He then anointed all on the hands, saying, “May the Lord who frees you from sin save you and raise you up. Amen.”
Regan experienced a feeling he had never known previously. One moment he was aware of his surroundings. He had been staring at the church walls and the Stations of the Cross. Next moment he was in another world. Regan lost focus. He couldn’t see. There were only vague images and they were out of focus. It was an out of body experience in which he seemed to regress to the womb and felt utterly cleansed. He felt brand new, clean.
The experience also had an impact on Regan’s mother. Within three months of arriving home from Lourdes, the doctors had no scientific explanation why her tumour had shrunk to the size of a pea. Khaterine turned to the open mouthed doctors and said, “Faith cannot be explained by science.” The medical team advised a further scan six months ahead. That scan revealed it had disappeared with no trace. That was two years ago.
Regan concentrated on the here and now of Miami. He reminded himself where he was and who he was surrounded by.

Uncaged Review

This book has something going for it in that an ex-undercover officer wrote about crime, so I think that is partly what made this very believable, even though I found some of their actions a bit on the shocking side. Pros – the characters are original and engaging and the plot is well thought out. The world is described well and it’s easy to picture the scene as you read along. Cons – this was a real slow starter. If you get through the first few chapters, you will be in for an engaging read. I like when a book starts out fast and peppers the action with the descriptions as we go, this one did not. But don’t let that hold you back – the real-life experiences of the author does the book justice. Reviewed by Cyrene

4 Stars

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