Gayle Cranfield - Author
|Posted on January 5, 2015 at 12:05 AM|
The Jasmine Tree, the third book by Gayle Cranfield is on pre-sale today.
Michael Reynolds, ex Royal Marine and SBS (special forces) has been deep undercover in the Russian Mafia for two years. He hates his assignment, but because his mother was Russian, he was called upon to infiltrate the organisation by MI5. Now called Mikel, he has been tasked by his mafia bosses with finding girls in Eastern Europe who are to be put to work in the sex industry in New Orleans with the empty promise of a better life in the USA.
Mikel meets Lilly Summers in a Mafia owned club and starts a relationship with her, but soon backs away when he realises he is getting in too deep and doesn't want Lilly to get involved in his current life or to be dragged into the organisation he works in. But Lilly starts working for Mikel's Mafia boss and his love for Lilly grows.
When Mikel is encouraged to go further undercover by his MI5 boss than he is comfortable with, putting his relationship on the line, he finds himself in a battle between reality and the counterfeit life he has created for himself, but when he finds out Lilly is not all she is supposed to be that is where his troubles really start.
But Michael is troubled in other ways....what's in his nightmares and what is the significance of the large tattoo that covers his back?
Here is the first chapter as a little teaser for you...
Michael stood in front of his bathroom mirror, running his fingers through his hair.
When did he stop recognising his reflection? Apart from having a quick shave every other day, he hadn't really studied himself for a while. His forty-one-year-old weary, blue eyes looked back at him as he dragged his cheeks down and moved nearer to the mirror for a closer inspection.
The lines that were appearing around his eyes seemed to be getting deeper by the day. Dragging his fingers through his hair once again, he could just see the beginnings of grey coming through the dark brown. Where had that come from? He wondered if he could pull off the George Clooney look a few years down the line but decided he had a harder life than Mr. Clooney so probably not.
“I'm getting too old for this shit!” he said to himself in the mirror. “And talking to yourself, Mikey-boy? That's not going to go down well at your next psych eval is it?”
Walking back into the main room of his pokey bedsit, he sat down on the edge of his bed and put his head in his hands and massaged his aching skull with his large callused fingers. God he missed being himself, he was tired of this counterfeit life, he just wanted to climb to the highest point in London and shout, “I am Michael Reynolds!”
He got off the bed and knelt on the hard wooden floorboards and picked up his mattress. Stretching deep into the middle of the underside, he reached and felt for the cut he had made in the soft furnishing and pulled out the envelope he was fishing for. Sitting back down on the floor he opened the flap and carefully laid the three photographs in front of him.
The first picture he picked up was taken on the day of his passing out parade with the small group of friends he had made in his fifteen months of officer training in The Royal Marines. He had always dreamed of being an officer just like his father and it was one of Michael's proudest moments when he finally received his green beret. Throughout his long career he eventually made Major, one rank above his father, which Michael knew would have made him so proud, if he'd lived to see it.
The next photo showed his mother stood next to him on that same day. Although she sat in the audience and smiled for the camera that sunny afternoon, that smile never reached her eyes as deep down she hated his career choice. She loathed the Navy and the thought of her baby leading the same life as her husband distressed her greatly.
Nadia detested being an officer’s wife, especially being a foreigner. The other wives were very cliquey and she never felt accepted into the fold. Her husband was often away on tour for long periods of time and she became a very lonely woman. It was only Michael that kept her going, a son she totally idealised. When Michael's father was killed in 1982 in The Falklands Campaign at the age of forty-three, his mother returned to her native Russia and Michael was sent to boarding school in England at the age of ten. Nadia desperately wanted Michael to continue his English education as she felt he wouldn't have the same opportunities back in Russia, but she would always regret her decision to leave him.
Michael was fluent in Russian and from a very young age his parents insisted he would only speak Russian to his mother and English to his father as they were determined he would not lose his heritage. He spent many summer holidays as a child with his grandparents in Russia and had very fond memories of the country. He could also speak French and German along with a good amount of Pashto, one of the two Afghan languages, but it was for his Russian connection that he was chosen for this most recent mission.
He had been working in the Special Boat Service or SBS for five long years on covert operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan. He would be sent in, eliminate his target or pull them out for further questioning and move on, no questions asked. It was hard life and he hated it but it was a job he felt he had to do, a job he needed to do. When eventually he was put out to pasture and semi-retired, he found himself living the life of a hermit on Grand Cayman, the largest of the three Cayman Islands which was sixty miles south of Cuba. He had been renovating a bar that he bought and was just beginning to enjoy his new life when he was approached to go deep undercover within the European Russian Mafia by the British Intelligence agency MI5. The Russians had been reportedly taking over European cities at an alarming rate, moving into distressed and run down areas, taking over districts that the Italians, Irish and Triads had abandoned.
MI5s files had been beginning to stack up against the Russian criminal gangs, when they inadvertently stumbled upon a strong and credible connection with their UK-European investigation with Louisiana in the USA. There had been reports of “merchandise” being shipped from mainland Europe, through the UK and onto the USA, but shipments of what? Whatever it was had only ever been referred to as “merchandise.”
MI5 started liaising with the CIA and they learnt from their American counterparts that following Hurricane Katrina, the Russians had made themselves very much at home running all underground activities in New Orleans and now protection rackets, drug dealing and gun running were quickly spreading throughout the US like a disease as the Russian mafia gangs grew in size and power.
Michael had been tasked to infiltrate the Mafia in London and build dossiers on individuals within the UK operation. He became known as Mikel Kozlov and had to quickly learn and memorise his new history and life of the man he had now become.
It had taken him six months to infiltrate the gang and gain his “Byki” status which translated meant “bodyguard,” and he soon became the personal near guard for Dimitri Markovic, a very high-ranking face in the London organisation.
Since working with Dimitri, Mikel had found that the “merchandise,” which was such a guarded secret, was girls from Eastern Europe, trafficked to Louisiana to work in the sex industry.
The head of the New Orleans mafia become disappointed with the calibre of women that the European organisations had been sending over and it was decided that as the UK was being used as a hub to transport the girls from mainland Europe to the US, a small team from the UK would be sent to vet the women in their home country first before shipping.
Sergio Markovic, the “Brigadier” or “Boss” of the UK operation, gave his nephew, Dimitri, the job, and in turn Dimitri had chosen Mikel, his most trusted “friend” in the organisation to help him. The trial run was so successful that they were moved over to human trafficking full time and were both given their “Warrior” or “Boyevik” promotion.
The boyeviks from the other European organisations would find girls by infiltrating women's shelters, abortion and drug rehabilitation clinics, where social workers that were assigned to these supposed safe havens were happy to pass over details of the young girls for payoffs.
Dimitri and Mikel would then approach the chosen girls and offer them new identities, a passport, and the promise a better life in the USA, selecting only two or three to obtain a ticket. The Shestyorka, or errand boy, was then deployed to escort the girls through to their final destinations a few days later. They were initially shipped to New Orleans, drugged and put to work in the clubs, either as strippers or prostitutes, or sometimes both. The operation was so successful that other US states were crying out for the UK’s services to ship girls to them, all of whom went to Louisiana first then they were sub-trafficked around the US from there. None of the girls ever saw their passports again and were threatened with harm to themselves or their families if they escaped.
Michael desperately wanted out. He had been the happiest he'd been in a long time in his little part of paradise building his bar and desperately wanted to be back there, anonymous and left alone. He’d had enough of the seediness of the industry he found himself in. Every time he issued a ticket to one of the girls, another part of him died. They were the innocents in this and yes, their life in their own country was a terrible existence, but what life was he sending them to? He was desperate to complete his mission, to at least help stop the movement of “merchandise,” even if it was too late for the girls he had already fucked over—the unfortunate collateral damage in this war on the illegal sex trade.
Two more years, that was all he had to do, two more long years—that's what his bosses in MI5 were telling him. He could then pick up his pension and live out his years in the Caribbean.
Michael had enough of protecting Queen and Country. She always wanted that little more than her pound of flesh. He had loved the military until ten years ago. It had been life, his whole existence…Was it ten years already? The final picture was picked from the floor and held close to his chest.
A silent tear slipped down his cheek.