The Canadian could be an assassin. For sure, a big player dealing in vast quantities of heroin and cocaine. Bolivia is the source of the cocaine powder. It arrived into his control in an almost 100 percent form. By the time it reached the streets of London it became a changed beast. If lucky, you may have had a purity of 45 percent.
He did not control the chain of distribution all the way to street-level dealers. No need for that. Way too risky and more importantly, by the time he sold a one-pound ‘weight’ to me, Steve Jackson, he had made a handsome profit.
I am the British man talking to the Canadian in a Liverpool nightclub in 1976. Coke, charlie or snow, to use some of its names, remained the preserve of the wealthy in 1976. Expensive, but popular with rock stars. A massive market and a huge opportunity for profit existed in Britain.
The deal had been laid out on the table. The Canadian and I became parties to a conspiracy to import serious weights of cocaine into Britain.
The Canadian’s mood changed. Why? Not clear to me at all. Without him revealing too many details, the Canadian had impressed me with the plan.
Bolivia – check!
Go-fast boat in place – check!
Air hostess to bring the contraband into Britain – check!
Prices and discounts for quantity – check!
Snap! The mood did change, and how!
“Are you guys cops?”
Wham! This question hit me like a vivid lightning strike from a clear blue sky. The words rolled around inside my head like rolling thunder.
A simulated assassination followed. A double-tap from a silenced semi-automatic pistol favoured by professional hitmen the world over. A close-range execution.
He raised one hand next to my head. The Canadian pointed his joined forefinger and middle finger in imitating a gun. The fingers touched my skin.
He silently mouthed the silenced spitting sound as two imaginary shells splattered my brains out of the gaping exit wounds at the far side of my head.
From 1976 to 1980 Steve Bentley the detective turned into Steve Jackson the drug dealer, who turned back into Steve Bentley, the police officer. I am both men and this is my story.
Depression is no fun. My superiors had beckoned me, no, ordered me to attend Hampshire Police Headquarters in Winchester in the March of 1980.
I drove myself to Winchester from Farnborough. It seemed a long 20 miles. The radio turned off in the car. No cassette in the slot. The only noise inside my own head. A spinning noise. But silent! More like a whirring noise. But silent! Noise can be silent. I had no idea what I was doing save for the fact I had an appointment with the police force doctor and the Deputy Chief Constable (DCC). The DCC is like an Assistant Commissioner of Police in the United States.
In a state of fugue, I managed to walk through the entrance doors of the multi-storey police headquarters. I introduced myself to Reception showing my warrant card. She, the receptionist, expected me and told me to take the lift to the higher reaches of the building. There a seat awaited me. I also waited for the summons by one of the gods. It felt like a flashback to schooldays and being sent to see the beak. Like a good boy, I complied and waited.
The route to the floor of the gods seemed littered with the faces of people familiar to me. Some of them were unfamiliar, but they appeared to know me. On occasions, someone said hello. A sort of nervous twitch hello, not a “how the hell are you” kind of hello. I was aware but unaware. It seemed like a void. Kind of like watching a silent movie but with me as one of the actors.
I had a two o’ clock appointment. A good time owing to the fact my recent habits included lying in bed until at least noon. I sat on a chair in a corridor and waited. I stared at the floor, stared at the walls and stared at the ceiling. No windows to stare out. I waited and stared. Silent whirring noises still spun in my head. My thoughts were a blank canvas with splashes of invisible colour. ‘Is this real? Am I dreaming it?’ My thoughts would not leave my head.
“Sergeant Bentley.” A woman in a nurse’s uniform startled me.
“Please come in.”
She gestured towards a door with a sign saying “Force Surgeon.”
Glancing at my watch, I saw the hands had turned 3 pm. I recall thinking, ‘I have been waiting here since 1.45 pm!’
The doctor introduced himself. He made a point of telling me his speciality - a general practitioner. Not a psychiatrist or psychologist.
He started with, “So what’s the problem?”
“I don’t know. You tell me.”
“You have been off work sick for some three months now. Is that correct?”
“When do you plan on returning?”
“Straight after this meeting.”
“Yeah, I’m going straight home after this meeting.”
“I see. I thought you …”
“I know what you thought I meant.”
“So, what about a return to work?”
“I have no idea.”
“Hmm. Okay, tell me how you feel.”
“Please be more explicit.”
“Like fucking shit. How’s that for explicit?”
My nothing in my head would not allow me to be explicit. I could not explain what was troubling me. I knew what it felt like but it was in a deep part of me that I could not see or touch. I knew it was there. It had a rawness like an open wound. In place of frankness that I found impossible, I asked a question.
“Is this confidential? Between me and you. Doctor and patient stuff.”
“Well, I have a duty to make a report on your fitness to work.”
The word ‘well’ at the beginning of an answer usually bodes ill in my experience. It is similar to the use of the words ‘with respect’ when addressing a matter with which you do not agree.
“Look, with respect, how can you make a report when you’re not qualified?”
“You heard, you aren’t qualified. Can you see anything physically wrong with me?”
“Well there you are then. I’m off!”
The corridor and the chair welcomed me back. They didn’t wish to talk and I didn’t need to explain anything to them. I waited for the summons into the DCC’s office. His secretary spoke to me after I had been waiting for an hour. It is now 4.30 pm. She apologised to me, telling me the DCC had been unexpectedly involved in a long but important telephone call.
“Okay, thanks.” But I wasn’t thinking ‘okay’ at all.
Important? What’s more important than keeping an appointment with me? This is my future up for discussion. My thoughts were still whirring. ‘DCC?’ He was known for his sourpuss face and hard-man reputation. The DCC role in all police forces is known as an arbiter of internal disciplinary matters. The thought train continued… ‘Maybe heads are going to roll?’
I swear I saw disembodied heads rolling along the corridor. I laughed out loud. ‘I’m for the high jump?’ popped my next thought. ‘Perhaps Fosbury2 flopping would be a good way to enter the DCC’s office?’ These thoughts ran through my mind at the same time as Procol Harum’s ‘Whiter Shade of Pale.’
At that point, a lucidity returned. It became so clear what I had to do. I rose from the silent chair, walked to the lift and retraced my journey to the floor of the gods in reverse. I knew I had made my decision. Fuck them all!
No one in the history of the Hampshire Police had dared to walk out of such an appointment before or since that day.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish