Read advanced excerpt from Navy SEAL’s CIA-thriller ‘CHAMELEON’
Former Navy SEAL Remi Adeleke is a man who gets things done. Since completing his service commitment, Adeleke continues to give back, from mentoring at-risk youth to fighting veteran homelessness and combating human trafficking. Also a professional actor, Adeleke completed his directorial debut in the short film The Unexpected, which will be adapted into a feature film titled Unexpected Redemption also directed by Adeleke in partnership with Gerard Butler and Alan Siegel’s production company.
Also an author, Adeleke’s debut book, Transformed was an autobiography that detailed Adeleke’s journey from African royalty, to losing his father and moving to the Bronx, getting caught up in illegal activities, and finding his way to the military.
Now he’s taking his combat experiences, passion for humanitarian efforts, and creativity and applying them to Chameleon, a novel about an elite CIA unit tracking down a global threat.
Here’s the official synopsis:
“When a mysterious former South African commando, Lucas Van Groot, begins taking wealthy hostages all over the world, it appears at first to be a typical ransom gambit. However, it soon becomes clear that his “Hostage Inc.” venture is manipulating worldwide stock markets and threatening global economic collapse.
Enter Black Box, the CIA’s most elite and specialized operative unit—so surreptitious that not even the Director of CIA is fully privy to the unit’s activities. Black Box is composed of highly skilled agents who operate with precision as chameleons who can transform into myriad characters, ghosts who are specialists in stealth and surveillance, wind operatives who are transportation experts, and aberration agents whose specialty is deep cover for years.”
Here’s what Jack Carr, former Navy SEAL Sniper and #1 New York Times bestselling author, had to say about the book: "Delivering authentic action from someone who has lived it, Chameleon is on target and scores a direct hit!”
Chameleon, which goes on sale July 25, 2023, is now available for pre-order.
Grab your copy and check out the excerpt of the opening chapters below today.
Outskirts of Rocinha, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
In the steaming lushness of the jungle, drug smugglers’ airstrips appear like vampires between midnight and dawn, then dissolve in gunfire or the rush of monsoons. This particular criminal enterprise was less like a runway and more like a shaving scar.
It was six hundred feet of flat umber earth, plowed and leveled by sweating cartel slaves after they’d hacked down kapok trees and hauled them aside. It broiled in the morning sun, silent except for the slithers of snakes and the howls of macaws. The only other things there were the carcass of an old Huey helicopter, the abandoned hut of a murdered cocaine boss, and a camouflage net laced with cocoa leaves that looked like mush from the sky. There was previously a fresh bomb crater in the middle of the strip, made by a Brazilian Tucano strike fighter, but it had just been repaired.
The CIA had asked the Brazilian air force to please not bomb it again. At least for today.
Twelve hard-looking men were standing under the net, surrounding three brown Land Rover Defenders parked nose to nose. They were the Package, operators from a US Army Special Forces Tier One unit, with untrimmed beards, Glock handguns under their bush shirts, and MK18 assault rifles racked in their rides. Off to one side were three CIA agents, two men and a striking woman. They were prepping a RMUS tactical surveillance drone, MBITR communications gear, and a battered white VW Kombi minibus. The woman was donning a long black frock and a pastel scarf to cover her face.
The Package commander, a large captain with Sicilian features called Pacenza, was poring over a map on the hood of one Land Rover with the CIA team leader, a middle-aged, square-jawed blond man called Thane. They all turned their heads as an aircraft engine buzzed over the trees.
A purple-and-white Cessna 180 bounced down on the far end of the strip in a cloud of grit, disgorged a single man from the cockpit, then kept right on going and took off again as if the place was infected with a plague. The man trudged through the sun-flickered dust. He was bronze-skinned, like the darkest of Brazilians, with a straw gaucho hat, a baggy tunic over worn jeans, and sandals. He was hauling a bulging leather satchel on a shoulder strap and slipping what looked like a bracelet of prayer beads into one pocket. He was frail, skinny, and weathered, with the posture and gait of an old train conductor who’s seen too many rides. Not the kind of man you’d want standing next to you in a bar fight.
Pacenza straightened up from the map and squinted at the intruder. Two of his men swept their bush shirts open and touched their Glocks.
“Who the hell’s this vagrant?” Pacenza said to Thane. “Take it easy,” Thane said. “He’s mine.”
The man walked under the camouflage net, but he remained outside the Package perimeter, just listening as Pacenza turned back to finish briefing his men.
“Truck One,” Pacenza said. “Remember, your only objective is to wrap this guy up. Grab him and get out of Dodge. Two and Three, when we move, head straight for the choke point.” His men nodded and a few gave a thumbs-up. “Thane?”
“This target’s elusive,” Thane said to the men. “He never shows his face.” He looked briefly at the stranger, then turned back again. “The asset will lead us right to him, but we’ll only get this one shot.” Again the operators nodded, while peering over at the weird interloper.
Pacenza said, “All right, mount up,” and they began moving toward the Land Rovers. The man ambled up to Thane. They didn’t shake hands, and he ignored the glares of the operators and the smirks of the CIA agents. The expression on his mahogany features was indiscernible, though his deep, dark eyes beneath the floppy brim of his hat seemed to tell tales of pain. Thane made no small talk. There was something in the man’s demeanor he didn’t want to disturb.
“You ready?” Thane said.
“I am,” said the man in a Portuguese accent. He glanced anxiously at the operators. “And are they?”
“Pit bulls are always ready.”
The man sighed, almost mournfully, and said, “May I ask about the bad ones?” He had a voice like gravel mixed with honey.
“They’re about fourteen kilometers away. I’d say thirty minutes.” The man nodded, then looked over Thane’s shoulder at the CIA agents. They had already loaded the drone into an open-topped box that looked like a luggage carrier atop the minibus. They had the doors open, the woman was climbing into the rear cargo compartment, and the two male agents in civilian Brazilian garb were standing by. One of them smiled at the man and swept an inviting arm toward the bus like a chauffeur. The man didn’t smile back, but he crossed himself.
He walked past Thane toward the Kombi, his gait still crooked as if one hip ached, and all the operators followed him with suspicious eyes. They were accustomed to working with some strange characters, but having an entire kinetic mission depend on one hobo seemed over the top. The man climbed into the cargo compartment beside the woman and slid the door shut. The other two CIA agents looked at Thane, who twirled a finger in the air, then they jumped in the front and the Kombi took off through the jungle in a tire spray of mud.
Thane turned to the Package and barked, “We’re rolling. Now.”
The operators turned over their Land Rovers and gunned the engines. Pacenza held back for a moment and gripped Thane’s arm.
“Okay, Thane, spill it. Who is that dude?”
Thane looked down at Pacenza’s grip, then up at his face.
“They call him Perdido.” “What’s that mean?”
“The Lost One,” said Thane.
The tri-border area of South America, where the fingers of Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil reach out to touch, is one of the most dangerous places on earth. And the mischief that flows out of the Tri-Border easily makes its way to Rio.
Cocaine is harvested there by the bushel, drug kingpins rule, and bandits and terrorists ply their trades while paying off policemen and politicians. Hezbollah, the notorious terror proxy of Iran, ships boatloads of mind-altering treats from Rio de Janeiro to Europe, earning their keep for Tehran. The Comando Vermelho, the vicious Brazilian gun-running and drug cartel, rules the streets of Rio with an iron fist.
But there’s always room for good business. You can buy and sell nearly anything in the TBA, except for a nuclear warhead. Odds are, however, that’s coming soon.
The Kombi minibus rumbled out from the jungle hills, where the muddy track became the broken lane of Rua Tenente Márcio Pinto and crooked mountain huts kissed the road, and it headed downslope for the favela called Rocinha. The CIA driver, a compact, rust-haired man called Spencer, kept his pace modest as he gripped the steering wheel in one hand and with the other used a controller to launch the rooftop drone. The agent in the passenger seat, a former recon marine named Jason, looked out the dirty windshield through a pair of cheap sunglasses and said nothing. The woman in the back, Neveah, twisted a bone mic deep in one ear, but she didn’t speak to the disheveled man sitting next to her either.
They’d all been told to leave the man called Perdido alone. He was staring out his window, as if taking a moment to steel his heart. Spencer picked up speed, skewing left, then right, until he was cruising due west along Estrada da Gávea. Then from the back Perdido muttered, “Un momento, por favor.” Spencer stopped the Kombi at an overlook, while Perdido rolled down his window and appeared to be taking in great gulps of air.
From their perch, Rocinha looked as though God had squatted with his butt to the beach, scooped out a muddy trough between two enormous slabs of granite, then spilled pastel Legos all over the bowl. There were thousands of crooked houses piled atop one another, with winding streets and alleys and switchbacks, and every wall and storefront was splashed with some sort of rainbow graffiti. The favela echoed with motorbike engines, coughing old cars, and the wild twangs of samba. Yet despite its carefree daylight rhythms, it was no place to be after dark.
“Avante,” Perdido whispered.
Spencer gunned the Kombi and drove into the ruckus, weaving among fruit stalls, garbage bins, motor scooters, prostitutes, drug peddlers, and rough men in loose shirts that barely concealed their guns. Driving due west, he spotted the rendezvous point at last, a hotel called Nossa Senhora da Boa Viagem, which looked strangely like the Texas Alamo, except it was painted azure blue.
“Aqui,” Perdido said when they were still three blocks from the hotel square. Spencer pulled over, Perdido unfolded himself from the van as if his old limbs were arthritic, and the Kombi kept on going and disappeared somewhere.
Perdido walked toward the square, muttering to himself as if engaged in a conflict with his soul, the hunch of his back making him appear even shorter than before. As he neared the hotel, he could see the agent called Jason already seated at an outdoor café, sipping cafezinho and reading O Globo. The Kombi was parked a block farther down, where from inside the agent called Spencer was controlling the drone high in the sky. The woman, Neveah, was nowhere to be seen.
“Dark Horse Two for Overwatch,” Jason murmured as he sipped from his coffee cup and glanced at Perdido. “Our guy is moving to contact.” A “Roger” from Thane crackled in the bone mic inside his ear.
Across from the blue hotel was the canopy of a carpet shop, with a black-and-silver Moto Guzzi California 1400 motorcycle parked in front, leaning on its kickstand. Perdido trudged past the bike and went inside. The shop was lined with shelves full of finely woven rugs, with the shop owner perched behind his teakwood counter at the far end, and the motorcycle rider standing close by.
The rider was tall, with walnut-colored skin and short black hair. His hazel eyes were watchful, while his mouth was set in a relaxed smile above a square jaw. He wore a leather motorcycle jacket over broad shoulders, black jeans, and steel-tipped boots. He was the sort of man you would want next to you in a bar fight. He was slipping a wad of Brazilian reals into the shop owner’s hand.
“Please watch the bike, my friend,” the rider said in a Portuguese baritone.
“Take your time, irmão.” The shop owner placed the cash into an inlaid wooden box. Now the rider could leave his motorcycle in peace and it would not be touched.
Perdido hung back, as if reluctant to intrude. The rider turned, grinned at the frail man, and said, “Bom dia, irmão.” Good morning, brother.
“Bom dia, Senhor Marco,” said Perdido, but before he could say anything else, the rider took his elbow and walked him deeper into the rows of carpets. Perdido cringed as if the rider’s fingers were claws.
“Do you have the microchip, Perdido?” The rider looked down at the smaller man. He was half a head taller, athletically built.
“Yes, of course, Mr. Marco.”
“You are sure?” The rider squeezed his arm a bit tighter. “These men are the Red Commando. They do not play games.”
“Y-yes, I have it,” Perdido stammered.
“Tell me again how you got it. And please don’t lie.”
“I told you,” Perdido pleaded. “My cousin, Armando, he works for the American drug men in Panama. He is taking a terrible risk, but he badly needs the money, as do I.”
“Good.” The rider called Marco grinned. “We all like money.” “But . . . but what if they simply decide to kill me?” Perdido seemed panicky now. “And keep their money, and take the chip?” Marco moved his large hand to Perdido’s shoulder and squeezed.
“Have no fear, Perdido. Their leader trusts me. That will not happen.”
Perdido’s knees trembled. Marco glanced at his leather satchel. “What’s in that bag, Perdido?”
“Clothes, for my journey.” Perdido’s eyes gleamed as if he might cry. “And food.”
Marco laughed. “Well, after today you will have enough cash to buy a feast for the entire favela. Now come.” He slapped the smaller man’s back. “It is time to go to church.”
He took Perdido’s elbow again and walked him out of the shop, and the agents in the square saw them exit and made their moves . . .
The Igreja Santo Pedro was a small Catholic church three blocks south from the hotel square, surprising in its orderly cleanliness given the slum that filled the surrounding air with swill. Its interior walls were plaster white, the pews of rough-hewn candlewood, and the ceiling of wooden beams that looked like Kit Kat bars. There was a small office behind the church’s podium and gleaming crucifix, and the priest was hunkered down inside, reading a passage from James 2:13 about mercy. He’d been ordered by the Comando Vermelho, the Red Command, not to emerge until they were gone. Marco, the rider, rapped on the church’s heavy oak door, then pushed it open and led Perdido inside, gripping his neck as if he were a child. But Perdido saw none of the chapel’s quaint decor. He saw only the six frightening men of the Commando. They were spread out among the pews, wearing pricey kicks and slim jeans, their muscular arms bursting through leather vests or cutoff shirts. They had red bandanas over their faces, like bandits of the Old West, and backward ball caps. They gripped short-barreled Russian Krinkov submachine guns and had silver revolvers jammed in their leather belts.
Their leader, known only as Bruto, was a bear of a man with wild black hair like a member of Kiss. Wanted by six international police agencies, Bruto would emerge from hiding only for something of great value, and he now stood in the aisle like the wary captain of a pirate ship.
Perdido froze where he’d entered with Marco. These men thought nothing of taking fortunes and lives. He knew they ran drugs and guns from the TBA and over the southern US border, and even the Mexican cartels gave them full quarter. The previous month, the Commando had captured an American DEA agent and his female partner outside Ciudad Juárez.
Not only had they murdered the pair, but the way they’d done it could not be described.
Perdido had told Marco that his microchip contained a list of all the DEA’s undercover agents in the TBA, and Marco had agreed that the Commando would pay a very high price for it. Yet despite Marco’s assurance that all would be well, Perdido now looked like he wanted to be anywhere else on earth but there.
“Cristo sejalouvado.” Christ be praised, Bruto growled as he dipped his large head. “You have come, Marco.”
“Of course.” Marco grinned. “I am a man of my word.”
“We will see.” Bruto pulled his red kerchief down and spat on the church floor. He looked at Perdido. “Who is this scarecrow, Marco?”
“My source,” Marco said.
“Your source should eat more,” Bruto snarled. “A strong breeze would blow him away.” He glared at Perdido. “Show me the microchip.”
Perdido reached into his tunic pocket and produced a small black plastic box. He opened it to reveal a micro thumb drive nestled in metallic clips, and held it out with both quivering hands as if it were a scorpion.
“Muito bom.” Very good, said Bruto. “Give it to me now.” “And . . . the money, Senhor Bruto?” Marco asked.
Bruto’s smile was ugly, with gold-rimmed teeth. He dropped a canvas satchel onto the floor, then touched the butt of a heavy Browning pistol in his belt.
“You can take it, Marco,” he said, as if it were a dare. “But I suggest you wait.”
Marco didn’t move. Sweat was starting to pop on his brow as he suddenly realized that Perdido might have been right. They might not be leaving there alive.
One of Bruto’s men stepped up to take the chip from Perdido, but Bruto shoved the man back, walked to Perdido, and snatched the thumb drive himself. He snapped his fingers, another man handed him a small laptop, and he opened it next to Perdido on the back of a pew. He plugged the thumb drive in. Marco and Perdido held their breaths.
After an endless minute, Bruto nodded, unplugged the drive, and dropped it into the pocket of his leather jacket. He tossed the laptop to one of his men, snarled a victorious grin, then reached for his pistol and started turning back to Marco and Perdido.
All at once he was viciously spun around, yanked backward on his heels, barely able to grunt out with a gasp, “Babaca!” Bastard!
The man called Perdido, who only seconds before had seemed about to pass out, had Bruto in a headlock. Perdido’s eyes were like a shark’s; he was choking Bruto with his sinewy left arm, and a .45-caliber Derringer pistol had sprung from his sleeve into his right hand. He was grinding the barrel into Bruto’s temple, and his left fist held a gleaming digital detonator. Perdido’s leather satchel was now on the floor, and he toed it over toward Bruto’s men.
“Open it,” Perdido spat.
Bruto’s men were cursing and waving their weapons, yet his second-in-command bent to the satchel, opened it, and blinked. It was packed with four bricks of Semtex high explosives, with a digital readout flashing in neon green. He jerked back from the satchel as if it contained a hissing cobra.
“We shall be leaving now with the chip,” said Perdido. “And the money.”
“I . . . I have nothing to do with this!” Marco blurted.
“Shut up, Marco,” said Perdido as he ground the pistol into Bruto’s skull and held the detonator up, thumb poised on the trigger. “You all know I have nothing to lose.”
Bruto was choking in Perdido’s powerful armlock. His hands flailed toward his Browning, but it had fallen and skidded across the floor. “Sabaca!” he cursed again as he looked at his shocked men, who were training their weapons like a firing squad, but helpless to act.
“Do it,” Bruto gasped. One of them kicked the money satchel over.
“Pick it up, Marco,” Perdido snapped.
Marco stared at Perdido in shock, but he picked up the money. The man who he’d thought was a submissive weakling was now calling the shots and in complete control.
“Now,” said Perdido to the Commando as he backed up with Bruto toward the door, “if any of you move, you’ll be breaking bread with the devil tonight. So be wise, stay where you are, and count your blessings.”
And then he, Bruto, and Marco were gone . . .