"Authors Charles & Lidia LoPinto tell an exciting story that weaves together the worlds of environmental destruction, blackmail, and politics."
Thomas Biblewski, Baker Street Dispatch
"Poised to be the E-Files of the Environment, within the first few paragraphs the reader is caught up in the story’s plot." Mason Canyon, Chatooga Press
"… reminds us that safeguarding our nation's nuclear facilities from terrorist attacks is a key component of our homeland security.” Senator Hillary Clinton, NY
Barnes & Noble.com
New Leaf Publications
In this novel, inspired by true crime, a special department of the FBI, ECU (Environmental Crimes Unit) enlists the aid of a scientist, Juliana Del Rio to help identify and solve the crimes.
This thrilling novel covers two major case files: Target Alaska, and Target Wilburn, Small Town USA. The protagonists, Juliana del Rio and Sean Ryan are government agents that team up to solve the cases and try to stop the terrorists before they succeed.
In Case File #1: Target Alaska, we meet Juliana Del Rio is an Environmental Engineer working for the EPA. She joins the FBI on special assignment to catch cruise liners in the act of dumping illegal waste into Alaskan waters. Reluctantly teamed with Sean Ryan, a stubborn and chauvinistic FBI ex-narc, who doesn't think environmental assignments are worthy of his skills, she begins one of the most amazing adventures of her career.
In Case file # 2: Target Small Town USA, a train of toxic chemicals is derailed near an area populated by African-Americans, causing a poisonous explosion that kills hundreds of residents. Juliana Del Rio of the EPA and Sean Ryan of the FBI must team up to unearth the culprits. Infiltrating hate groups and an environmental conference in Argentina, they seek to discover who is causing suspicious chemical accidents worldwide, before the death toll mounts further.
Having survived the previous adventure in Alaska and nearly loosing their lives and jobs, Juliana Del Rio, an EPA/FBI agent and Sean Ryan an ex-narc now working for the FBI’s Environmental Crimes Unit, are happy to work together again. Sean is slowly coming around to Juliana’s point of view and has embraced his new environmental assignment and kicked his alcohol addiction. He is a new man. Julie is finally getting the hang of being an FBI agent and took a new exam. They now enjoy each other’s company and are determined to crack this case. Will their new adventure lead to romance?
“They found buried drums with all kinds of poisonous chemicals right under our homes. The corroded drums were leaking concentrated toxic chemicals right into our basements. The vapors permeated our homes for years. We realized too late that the chemicals were slowly attacking the most vulnerable ones in the family — the children. Others in that neighborhood eventually developed illnesses and two children died of leukemia. A criminal who escaped justice dumped the toxic chemicals there. No one has paid yet. The poisons still remain trapped in the soil, waiting for the courts to decide who should pay for the cleanup.”
Sean was quiet.
Since her child’s death, Mrs. Gutierrez had moved up the ranks with a resolute furor, to become deputy assistant director of the FBI. She was skilled at her job, put herself through all the rigors of the training, and worked very hard at organizing this new unit. She wanted the best people; she was determined to bring the villains to justice.
“She has a keen ability to match the right people to the job, but in this case she’s wrong,” thought Sean. He was never in favor of women on the force, but when he met Mrs. Gutierrez, he changed his mind. Sean had a deep respect for “the lady” as he called her. In one case he’d seen her talk down terrorists that others couldn’t reach, in one case, but when she had to use force she was an excellent strategist and a good leader. He felt a special closeness to her, and, when off the job, he could tell her anything. They had met when he was in the narcotics unit. Since then, Gutierrez had had her eye on him, trying to get him to join her new division. Always professional and formal with each other, they shared a familiarity.
“Mr. Ryan, Sean," said Mrs. Gutierrez, now calmer, “you've served this department well; you are the best. Can you understand that if I’m assigning you to this department it’s because you have exactly the kind of experience we need? We have to make up for our limited resources by using our top people. You’re one of them.
“This new assignment is high profile. Joanna Hayes, U.S. attorney and Carolyn Sands, EPA director, are personally interested in seeing these perpetrators pay for their crimes. As you know, environmental criminal investigations have a whole new set of rules and that’s why you’ll be teamed up with an expert from the EPA’s Criminal Investigating Division, or CID. Juliana Del Rio, EPA principal investigator, has been assigned to this case and will be working for the FBI as part of our cooperative investigative program. You will direct the operation, but she will assist you with testing and educate you on the regulations.
“You are scheduled to meet with Mr. Joslin and Ms. Del Rio this afternoon at EPA Region II offices in New York. Our contact, Mr. Joslin will introduce you to Ms. Del Rio and brief you on the case and your undercover operation. Following the briefing, you will both depart for Alaska, where you’ll board the Arctic Sunset cruise ship. That’s all.”
As Sean walked out, Mrs. Gutierrez yelled, “And Mr. Ryan, if I catch you rolling your eyes at this assignment again, you may find yourself doing night duty at the city landfill!”
Sean left the office infuriated. “Alaska! A cruise! I guess I’ve finally hit bottom! Now I’m stalking passengers to see if they dump their drinks overboard!”
For the next couple of hours, Sean didn’t have time to think about the future or the past. He went to his apartment to prepare for the trip. It didn’t take him long to pack — he always traveled light. He placed his gun, ID and shield in his bag, together with a number of fake IDs he always carried, just for undercover jobs. He made sure he had plenty of cash because he didn’t like to leave a trail of credit-card charges on assignment. He notified Ms. Boland, his landlady, that he was going to be gone for a few days. As always, he asked if she would pick up his mail, and feed his cat and fish. He never bothered to clean his refrigerator, which contained three cans of beer for company (he preferred scotch), a jar of pickles and a container of dried-up, moldy cream cheese that had probably been that way for a year.
He drove to the airport and parked his beat-up black sedan with just minutes to spare before boarding the shuttle to New York. Sean never liked to call a taxi. He liked finding his familiar car at the airport upon his return. He ran to the terminal and was the last to board the plane.
Sean reclined his seat and put on the earphones to drown out the noises in the aircraft cabin. He took a sip of his whiskey and dropped his head back, but the whiskey was not doing its job. As the plane headed for New York, Sean dropped into a restless sleep. He was again vividly reliving his past.
He was back in Colombia, watching a drug drop. His unit was ready to move in as the drug dealers packed the Coke into bags, readying for shipment. “Aquí viene el Jefe,” said one of the workers. Cantilla walked up to the shipment, dipped his finger in one of the open bags and tasted it. He walked away surrounded by his bodyguards, who were looking around and pointing machine guns. They didn't notice the group of CIA men hiding in the trees, wearing camouflage army gear. As Cantilla gave the OK to ship, Sean moved his arm forward, signaling the group to raid the camp. The first shot was returned with machine gun fire. Sean fired a grenade, then teargas, as the CIA men moved in. Cantilla fell; one of the bodyguards yelled “Jefe!” as he tried to haul Cantilla into the building. Just as Sean moved in for the kill, he was shot in the arm and knocked to the ground. He saw himself awaking in a foreign hospital, weak, in pain and, most of all, alone. Until then, his career was all that mattered; he was a soldier first. There was no time for a wife or even a lover.
“I am not a tin soldier,” he thought. “I bleed and feel pain, just like everyone else. Who the hell am I kidding? How long before I die trying to be a hero?” he uttered to himself, and just as he saw the nurse inject him with a painkiller, he woke up to hear the pilot say: “Please fasten your seatbelts. Our flight from Washington, D.C., to New York is scheduled to arrive at 10 a.m.” Sean took a good long drink and fastened his seat belt.
He drifted into sleep again. He was a young and vigorous Irish soldier in the IRA. He could hear and smell the burning flesh, the sound of grenades, bombs, the machine gun fire, the utter destruction and violence. He told himself he was fighting for his country, for Ireland, but he knew better. He loved being a soldier. It was a game, an adventure, and a chance to be a hero. He couldn’t get enough.
He saw himself saying goodbye to his mother as he left for America, and then again several years later swearing to serve his country as a CIA agent on a mission to fight the drug cartels in Colombia.
Sean recalled the day he got the memo from Gutierrez, congratulating him on his transfer to the Environmental Crimes group of the FBI. He was devastated. It was a step down as far as he was concerned. However, he knew that his last injury, and his drinking, had taken their toll. He was losing his edge. Yet this new unit still wanted him, because of his vast experience as a CIA and FBI agent working on major terrorist cases, investigating presidential threats and many drug-related crimes. “You should be glad you still have a job,” Sean thought.
Sean woke from his restless sleep and looked out the plane window at the familiar New York skyline. After circling the city a few times, the plane landed. Sean unfastened his seat belt and grabbed his carry-on bag, while waiting for the plane door to open. Leaving the plane, Sean headed directly to the terminal exit and the taxi stand.
He took a cab to the EPA Region II building, where he flashed his badge as he hurried through security. As he took the elevator to the 14th floor, he glanced at this rumpled appearance, but there was little he could do about it, as he approached the room where he was to meet Ms. Del Rio and another investigator.
“Good morning!” said Mr. Joslin, a dark figure of a man, who worked for the Bureau. He led the tall, redheaded and somewhat rugged aging Irishman into the room where Juliana sat. She barely looked at Sean; her attention was on a very thick report, “Hello, Mr. Ryan” she said, with a stuck-up tone.
“ 'Tis nice to finally meet you, Ms. Del Rio; I look forward to working together,” said Sean, pouring on the Irish that he knew had melted the hearts of many a cold woman.
“I look forward to getting the evidence so that we can bring these perpetrators to justice. They have already paid fines for other offenses in Puerto Rico. We need to gather enough evidence to charge them with illegal dumping in Alaska. They tell me you are the best in the business. I hope you can help us,” said Juliana, with a rather sophisticated and arrogant tone that had just the hint of a Spanish accent. She looked up over her glasses only briefly.
Juliana had a slight, compact figure, dark, straight hair cut in a no-nonsense style, and a flawless mocha complexion. She was impeccably groomed, not a hair out of place nor a wrinkle in her business suit, which looked well-tailored and far more expensive than something that someone on a government worker’s salary could afford. She wore two gold beads on her ears and fashionable gold-rimmed reading glasses, which she often took off and used as a pointer at meetings.
Ryan’s attire was less professional-looking, with an old-fashioned narrow tie, a wrinkled polyester suit, and socks that were sliding down his legs. He had the slight aroma of whiskey that he had obviously attempted to mask with mints. His hair was still red but streaked with gray and his once deep-blue eyes not quite as clear as in his youth. He was tall; his figure was still youthful, but behind the stubble of whiskers, his face showed his more than 48 years.
Mr. Joslin coughed, interrupting the rather awkward scene, hoping Sean and Juliana would warm up to each other.
“You and Ms. Del Rio will work as partners in this investigation. Ms. Del Rio has an environmental engineering degree from Cornell University and nine years’ experience as an EPA investigator. She’s an expert in her field, having led many successful investigations. She knows the law and what you need to gather for admissible evidence. She’s originally from Puerto Rico and was the lead investigator of the Adventure Cruiseline case in San Juan. She was recently also trained in weaponry and self-defense to prepare her for this joint assignment. I assume you’ve read the briefing on the case.”
“Yes, I’ve read the report, but one thing should be clear. This is a criminal investigation and I am in charge of it. Ms. Del Rio is consulting with the FBI at this point. I thought that was clear,” said Sean, showing a sharp territorial attitude.
“Mr. Ryan,” said Juliana looking over her reading glasses, “We are all professionals here, and in this agency we work as a team.”
Mr. Joslin coughed again and jokingly blurted, “Just like a married couple! That’s your cover is, so this is good practice!”
“I assume that Mr. Ryan is a thorough professional and has been briefed on our policies,” said Juliana, in an arrogant and commanding tone, ignoring Mr. Joslin’s attempt at levity.
Usual for Sean, but not for Juliana, their Yellow Cab arrived late at Kennedy Airport. Sean’s gun and badge were hidden in his travel bag. Juliana brought along several suitcases, including a large case on wheels, filled with analytical equipment. She kept her gun in her luggage, but carried her special badge in her purse.
As they passed through the metal detectors, Sean opened his bag, showing one of the guards his FBI badge. The officer nodded and let them both through without alerting others.
Sean and Juliana were on their way to Alaska.