Title: Wired by the F.B.I.
Author: Glenn Painter
Genre: Mystery/Suspense, Thriller
Christian Romano lives his life as a con-artist, burglar, drug dealer, and a ladies’ man, using his good looks to con wealthy women out of jewels and money. When he is arrested and jailed in one of the most violent jails in the U.S. (Cook County in Chicago), a steamy affair begins with a nympho female jail guard. When he loses control of the romance, Christian must end the affair by reporting her to Internal Affairs. It turns out that she is already under suspicion for supplying drugs to various gang members inside the jail. He has to decide if he is “rogue” enough to help set her up for arrest. Meanwhile, the FBI wants to recruit Christian to gather information against a sadist ex-cop, Scott Mason, who has been arrested for murder. The risk? Christian must wear a wire and testify. The reward? Witness protection for Christian and his girlfriend and a modification of his prison sentence. Will Christian risk his life for a chance at freedom? Will the female sheriff “get even” with him? Or will his life end at the hands of the jail’s drug lords or a lunatic former cop?
Not normally a book I would pick up on my own, however, I was pleasantly intrigued by the story, once I started to get into it. Based on true events, Wired by the FBI takes us into the mindset of Christian Romano as he’s jerked this way and that by the legal system and law enforcement. Christian’s straight-forward way of talking reminded me of the film, Blow, with Johnny Depp, in terms of his covert drug empire. The flow of the novel took some getting used to, and this is one for the long-haul readers, covering Romano’s life from beginning to now. I would say that there were a few proofing issues that did take me out of the story occasionally, and missing quotation marks at places, but they were easy enough to decipher based on the dialogue. This is definitely one for true crime fans, and I found myself looking up some of the case information about the man on which the main character is based. A solid four star read.
U.S.S. Just Kill Me Now
Once we were through that charade, Smith began to explain how it all worked.
“This is a Swiss-made Nagra recorder. It’s a little heavy, but it gets the clearest recording of any machine we have ever used. Once you turn the machine on, you must let it run until the two hours expire, then take the tape out and exchange it with another. We will come by every couple day to bring new tapes and pick up the ones you have recorded. Do you understand everything so far?”
I could feel my mouth go dry as I stared into the case and wondered, What the f*** have I gotten myself into?
Then, the sound of Smith’s voice snapped me back to attention, “Here, get a feel for it.”
I took the silver-cased recorder from him and thought to myself, It’s too heavy and clunky to ever be concealed. The recorder was the size as a Sony Walkman cassette player, but three times heavier. Two wires, four feet each, ran from the machine with white plastic heads attached to each end. I had a bad feeling about the size and shape of this thing. It would be a real concern later.
Then Rogers said, “Because the heads on this machine are so sensitive, we will tape the recorder to your upper thigh and run the wires around your leg until the heads sit directly under the waistband of your underwear.”
Out of frustration, I said, “Great, if I have to piss and someone saddles up next to me and happens to look over at my manhood, they’re gonna get an eyeful of recorder wiring. Chances are I will be beaten to death after that miscue.”
My mind kept going back to the obvious lack of insight these square, fed boys had toward the real life within a jail.
“I’m about to go back to a jail with zero airflow and 100-degree heat. We walk around in our boxers all day.”
It was crystal clear that neither of these agents gave a rat’s ass about my safety.
Smith said, “We’ll just have to tape it higher up your thigh.”
“No, how about we strap it up your ass and let you go up there face-to-face with your boy.”
That was all they wanted to hear of my sarcasm and all hell broke loose as we tried to figure out how this was ever gonna work. The real logistical nightmare hit when I finally dropped my jail uniform pants and pulled up my boxers to see how it would fit on my inner thigh. After several years of martial arts and weightlifting, my thighs were far too big to fit the recorder under my boxers. Two agents played with the leg of my underwear, as they slid the fabric up and down with no success in figuring out how to get the damn machine up under my nut sack. Finally, I had had enough.
I asked, “Does anyone here have a knife with them?” They all stared at me in stunned silence.
Rogers finally spoke up. “I have a pocketknife,” he said as he handed it to me.
I jerked my boxers off and stood there with my dick dangling in the wind for all to admire. I measured the boxers to see where this heavy sack of metal was going to be placed. I began cutting a crude square hole in the upper right leg of my underwear. I was pretty certain the recorder would fit snugly in the hole. I slid my boxers back on and held the recorder where I had just cut the hole. The fit was very good, but now there was a different problem.
The recorder showed, so I had to come up with another way to cover the hole. I decided that if I was gonna pull this off, I would have to wear a second pair of boxers over the first pair. The outer ones had to hang lower on my torso and loosely enough to cover the recorder where it stuck out of my underwear. The hope was that the inner pair would hold the recorder in place well enough so it wouldn’t slip around. If this worked, I might be able to get away with it.
In my mind, I was thinking, what a cluster f*** this operation is. This would soon prove to be the way the F.B.I. does everything. So long as they are getting what they want, all else be damned. But at the moment, I had to wear this heavy chunk of metal under my nuts and hope that it stayed put and didn’t fall from my boxers like the anchor of the U.S.S. Just Kill Me Now.
Rogers wrapped the recorder with the ACE bandage he had brought and stepped back long enough for me to give it a light tug. I tugged on it ever so gently and knew immediately that it was too heavy.
“This thing is not gonna stay on my leg while I spend several hours walking up and down the tier. Are you trying to get me killed?” I asked. “Did either of you think to bring duct tape?”
Barry Smith had the audacity to respond by saying, “I didn’t want to bring any because I did not want to take the chance of it being considered contraband here at the jail.”
“You thought to bring my suicide machine, but you thought duct tape would set off alarms?” I shot back.
By now, Williamson had heard enough and walked back to his office. He reappeared a few moments later with some heavy, clear packing tape. We used that over the ACE bandage that the feds had brought to hold the recorder up. I gave the new configuration another slightly harder tug and everything seemed better. We then moved on to the next logistical nightmare, the swapping out of the tapes. It was actually Walsh that brought it up.
“How can the tapes be retrieved from Christian without stirring up attention?”
I had seen a movie once where a thick book was carved out and contraband was kept in the hollowed-out hole inside.
“Hey, I have one of those super thick books by Michener. I think it is about ancient Israel. I could take a razor blade out when it is time to shave and cut a hole in the center pages of the book to make a cavity large enough for the tapes. What do you guys think?” I asked.
Everyone was nodding their heads in agreement.
“I can put the book in my bars on the rear side toward the catwalk where no one will notice anything different. I have about four or five books back there now. What I can do is reverse this book so that the title faces out. When Sergeant Walsh walks around the tier, that will be his cue to grab that particular book, take the tape out and replace it with a new one.” I suggested.
They all agreed with the plan, so with the tape swap seemingly figured out, I was feeling a little better. I stood up to see how the recorder looked under my pants; and to my surprise, I could not see it through the clothing. I felt ready to go back to the jail and put the second pair of shorts over the first.
Barry Smith handed me a piece of paper and said, “This is a private phone number to our office that we call the ‘Hello’ line.
“When it rings through, it will be at a central desk where all the agents can pick it up. They will only answer by saying ‘Hello.’ When the jail recording announces that it is a collect call, everyone knows to accept the charges. You will then be speaking to one of the agents in our office. If it is after hours, the answering machine will come on, so speak to it as if you were leaving a message for me or Agent Rogers.”
It both surprised and impressed me that he was willing to give me a direct line in case of an emergency. For the first time, I felt a little less like a disposable piece of trash to these people. I took a pen from Buchan and rewrote the number in code so that if it were ever found, no one could access the actual number. When I was done, I stuffed the paper in my sock for safekeeping.
I looked at the two F.B.I. agents and asked, “Am I supposed to steer the conversation toward any certain topics?”
Smith spoke for them. “Since the conversation seems to come out of Mason’s mouth so frequently, just let him go, and see what happens.”
Barry Smith then handed me a second tape to have as a backup for the one that was already in the machine. After stuffing it into my other sock, I walked out with the heavy recorder strapped under my balls.
When I arrived back to my tier, Scott was talking on the phone. I walked past him and headed to my cell to get out of the jail clothes. I stripped down to my boxers to beat the crazy heat that hung over the unit like napalm. I stuck my head out of my cell to make sure the hallway was clear and slipped the second pair of boxers over the first. After pulling the outer pair down a few inches, they seemed to cover the protruding recorder just enough. I looked down and couldn’t tell where the recorder was. Just to be on the safe side, I put on an oversized shirt and let it billow out as I walked; this looked natural for the surroundings. It wasn’t five minutes and Scott was at the bars of my cell.
“You go to the hospital?” he asked.
“Yeah, I had to wait for the MRI machine to empty before I could go in. The radiologist was taking a smoke break between every MRI.”
I walked out of my cell and turned left, away from the guard post and began the ritual of walking from one end of the long hallway to the other.
When I walked away from my cell, I could feel Scott place his hand on my back. I tried not to freeze out of panic, but he had never touched me like that before. I had to wonder, Is he cleverly checking for a recording device? I tried to push the paranoia out of my mind, but it was tough with the stakes this high.
About the Author:
Glenn Painter is single and lives in Central Florida. He became interested in writing at an early age but did not make it his career until 2014 when he published his first book, Beyond the Sentence.
Glenn has written this story from the notes by the man who actually lived it. However, extensive research was also require in order to make the story factual.
Glenn has also founded a company, ‘Prisoner Civil Right Services.’ He is an advocate for incarcerated individuals who have had their rights violated. He is in constant contact with these individuals, their families and the council. Most of his stories are inspired by ‘factual events’ that have happened to these individuals. This makes his stories both fiction and non-fiction.
Glenn says that writing is very challenging, and you must love the trials and tribulations that come with it. He believes that patience, perseverance and determination are required essentials to see a book through to being published. The journey is just as important as the destination.
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