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by Alex Kava

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Tallahassee, Florida Sabrina Galloway is one of the top scientists at EchoEnergy - a company that has made a successful breakthrough in the quest for an alternative fuel. There is the promise of a cleaner tomorrow, and the economic impact on world markets could be staggering. But in the euphoria of excitement, Sabrina makes an alarming discovery: someone has…  See more details below


Tallahassee, Florida Sabrina Galloway is one of the top scientists at EchoEnergy - a company that has made a successful breakthrough in the quest for an alternative fuel. There is the promise of a cleaner tomorrow, and the economic impact on world markets could be staggering. But in the euphoria of excitement, Sabrina makes an alarming discovery: someone has tampered with the production process, and an eco-disaster of equally staggering proportions is imminent. Toxic waste is leaking into the Florida waterways and the Gulf of Mexico.

Washington, D.C.
Jason Brill, one of the youngest congressional chiefs of staff, prepares for the upcoming International Energy Summit. Working for influential senator John Quincy Allen, Jason is eager to prove himself. Despite his zeal and admiration for his boss, Jason begins to realize Senator Allen’s support of EchoEnergy, as well as his personal friendship with the firm’s CEO, may be more of a liability than an asset.

Sabrina and Jason have never met, but both are unwittingly drawn into a sinister plot that puts corporate greed and corruption above human life. As the energy summit draws near, Sabrina’s determination to expose EchoEnergy’s lethal secret has made her the target of silent, faceless enemies.

And the net is tightening, held in the relentless grip of powerful shadow players whose identities reach Pennsylvania Avenue itself.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Bestseller Kava takes a break from her Maggie O'Dell FBI profiler series (A Necessary Evil, etc.) with a fine topical thriller involving terrorism, government coverups and toxic waste. Sabrina Galloway, a young Chicago professor, becomes a hands-on scientist in Florida with EcoEnergy, a company that specializes in TCP—a process that converts refuse and other waste material into oil. EcoEnergy's CEO is angling for a $140 million military government contract, but after Sabrina's boss mysteriously disappears and Sabrina discovers a reactor processing something it shouldn't, her life becomes as endangered as Florida's waterways. She hits the road in a '47 Studebaker with Miss Sadie, a gutsy 81-year-old African-American neighbor, to find help, while Middle Eastern terrorists plot a nasty surprise for an upcoming energy summit. Engaging supporting characters include Leon, a funky hit man losing his touch but not his heart, and covert operative Natalie Richards, "a black Emma Peel." Kava lightens the seriousness with some deft touches of humor. Genre fans weary of serial-killer fare will find this a refreshing read. (June)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information

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Thursday, June 8

EchoEnergy Industrial Park

Tallahassee, Florida

Dr. Dwight Lansik refused to look down. He hated the smell wafting up from the steel grates beneath his feet, reminding him of an odd concoction—fried liver, raw sewage and spoiled meat. He knew that no matter how many times he'd shower or how hard he would scrub—leaving his skin red and bruised—he'd still be able to smell it. That's why he usually avoided the catwalks overlooking the tops of the silver-gray tanks and the maze of pipes that connected them. He especially avoided walking over this particular holding tank, its massive lid left open like a huge, smiling mouth while the last trucks of the day emptied into it. But this was exactly where Ernie Walker had asked to meet.

That was Ernie, always wanting to emphasize whatever his moronic point might be by going to the extreme. Just last week the man had insisted Dwight meet him directly under the flash-off water pipe so Dwight could feel the excessive heat for himself. "Ernie, you could have just told me the damn thing's too hot," he scolded the plant manager, who had simply shrugged and said, "Better you feel it for yourself."

As much as he hated to admit it, Ernie was right. Had he not dragged Dwight to the Depress Zone he would have never discovered the real problem, a much more serious problem than an overheated flash-off water pipe. And how would he? His job kept him down in the lab, exactly where he was supposed to be, where he preferred to be, analyzing and calculating cooking times and coking temperatures. He dealt in recipes and formulas.

His wife, Adele, used to tease him and the memory brought a sting. She'd been gone almost a year and he still missed her terribly. Yes, she used to tease him—or was it goading—that he could break down any carbon-based object, including himself, just by looking at it. To which he confessed he already had. At a lanky hundred and fifty pounds he knew he amounted to exactly thirty-one pounds of oil, six pounds of gas, six pounds of minerals and a hundred and seven pounds of sterilized water. But that was the sort of thing he was supposed to know. He certainly couldn't be expected to know whether or not every depres-surization valve was fully functional or that all distillation columns remained unclogged. That was Ernie's job.

However, it wasn't Ernie's job to mess with the computer program that regulated and controlled the process—the directions and temperatures, which stage, how long and how fast the feedstock moved through the pipes, what was depressed and separated and released. No, that wasn't Ernie's job. It was supposed to be Dwight's and only his. As the creator of the software program he was the only one with the authority and the access to change it and make adjustments. But those greedy bastards found a way to override it, to override him. And now Dwight hoped Ernie hadn't discovered yet another telltale sign before Dwight had a chance to do something about it.

Suddenly Dwight grabbed the railing to steady himself. Had the steel grate beneath him started to vibrate?

He twisted around to look toward the ladder at the end of the catwalk. Would he even be able to hear Ernie climb up the wobbly metal slats? The safety earplugs muffled all the mechanical churning, the hissing and clanking of the pipes and coils that zigzagged from tank to tank, the hiss of hydraulics and the whine of rotors and pulleys, even that sloshing of the liquid below. Despite the momentary sway, there was no one where the railing ended.

He waited, expecting to see Ernie's hands reach up over the top of the ladder that poked up toward the sky. Another tanker truck rumbled below, grinding gears and sending up a cloud of diesel fumes. And the catwalk started to vibrate again. There were no hands on the railing, no sign of anyone coming up. Perhaps it had only been the truck's vibration. That or Dwight's imagination.

He adjusted his safety goggles and checked his watch. End of the day. Where the hell was Ernie? Dwight had hoped to leave a bit early, but now he'd be stuck in traffic. The men at the airport Marriott would end up waiting for him. Did he care? Why should he? They couldn't start without him. They had nothing without him. After several brief phone calls he knew they wanted any information he had. Hell, they were lucky he had decided to do the right thing.

It was his grandmother who had insisted he be named after the great general Dwight D. Eisenhower, but never once in his life had Dwight Lansik acted like a general. Instead, ever the meek, obedient soldier or servant churning out the brilliant, heroic work and letting everyone else take all the credit. It was about time he took charge. And so what if he was a little late getting to the hotel? It wouldn't matter. These guys were chomping at the bit for the information he had, anxious vultures, ready to rip and shred and destroy everything he had worked so hard to create. They'd wait.

He forced himself to look down. The soupy glop they called feedstock sputtered and swirled beneath him in the 2,500-gallon tank, waiting to get sucked down and into the massive, sharp blades that would chop and dice and mince it all into pea-sized sludge. Putrid gases erupted from the mixture quite naturally without any electronic interference or prodding. No, this stink was not man-made, but simply the natural and inevitable results of dumping together rotting slaughterhouse waste: slimy intestines, rust-colored blood and bright-orange spongy lungs floating and bobbing alongside rotting chicken heads with the eyes still intact and staring. Surely chickens had eyelids?

Christ! That smell. His eyes burned despite the goggles. Stop looking down, he told himself, willing his gag reflex to hold out.

He glanced at his watch again, giving it a twist on his bony wrist. The Rolex was worth more than his car, a frivolous gift from the CEO when they inaugurated this plant. He wore it to remind his subordinates how vital he was to the company, when in fact, he thought it a gaudy waste of money.

Where the hell was Ernie Walker? How dare he make him wait up here in the scorching sunlight and the disgusting fumes.

Dwight leaned against the railing, hoping the sway of the catwalk would stop. He was getting nauseated. His undershirt stuck to his back like a second skin. He pushed at the carefully rolled sleeves of his crisp oxford, unbuttoning the collar and loosening his tie all in two quick motions. Nothing helped. The muffled noises blended together in a roar that began pounding inside his head. He yanked off the yellow hard hat and swiped at his forehead. He felt off balance, a bit dizzy, so he didn't even notice the man come up behind him.

The first blow slammed him into the railing, knocking the air out of his lungs. He doubled over, his stomach wrapped around the metal. Before he got a chance to catch his breath he felt his legs being lifted out from under him.

"My God!" he yelled as he grabbed the railing.

His fingers clutched tight, hanging on even as he felt his body swing over. His feet kicked and slipped against the inside concrete. There was nothing: no ledge, no cracks. His legs thrashed and his rubber soles fought to make contact. His arms ached and his fingers gripped the metal already slick with his own sweat.

He tried to look up, tried to plead but his voice sounded small and far away, it, too, muffled by the earplugs, and he knew it was lost in the vibration, the screech and clanking. Still he begged between gasps to the shadow above him, a hulking figure with the sun behind adding a halo effect. His goggles had fogged up. His hard hat had plunged into the soup. And the earplugs continued to make his screams sound like they were only in his head.

When the pipe came smashing down on Dwight's fingers he was sure the bones had snapped. Despite the pain, he gripped and clawed at the metal, but his fingers were quickly becoming useless. He felt his body giving out from under him just as the pipe cracked over his head.

He plunged into the sludge. Consciousness slipped away. He could hear the vibration of the soup slosh around him, more like ocean waves crashing into him. Through a swirling blur of rust-colored water and blue sky he saw the wide-eyed chicken heads bobbing alongside him.

Dwight Lansik knew all too well that it would take only minutes before the liquid sucked him down, swallowing him whole, and that he would simply become a part of the very formula he had created. So he was grateful when everything finally went black.

Colin Jernigan marched through the crowded lobby of the Marriott Hotel, trying to find someplace quiet while his cell phone continued to vibrate. He shouldered his way past two lethargic businessmen, almost tripping on the oversized cases they dragged behind them.

"Yeah," he finally barked into the phone. Nothing. He pushed his way out the revolving door, trading chatter for car engines and still straining to hear. "Go ahead."

"Meeting just got canceled," he finally heard a male voice say.

Though he didn't recognize the caller it didn't matter. If the man had this phone number he had been approved to make this call. Colin didn't answer. He didn't need to because immediately there was a click then the buzz of a dial tone.

He slipped the phone into the pocket of his jacket. He was neither surprised nor disappointed, both worthless emotions he had long ago discarded. Still, his fingers found the gold tie bar and he rubbed his thumb over it as if for good luck while he straightened his tie using the reflection of the empty valet booth's glass.

He rubbed his eyes and took a good look at his reflection.

He looked like hell. Soon all his hair would be prematurely gray. The broad shoulders were slumped enough to remind him to straighten them. An ache in the back of his neck announced that maybe the gray wasn't all that premature.

It had been a wasted trip. A whole day blown. He wasn't looking forward to telling his boss. She'd be pissed; that, he already knew for certain. Briefly he wondered what it was that made Dr. Lansik back out at the last minute.

Colin Jernigan shrugged and checked his watch. Then he started looking for the airport shuttle. He'd catch some sleep on the trip back. Maybe he'd even make it to Washington before the eleven o'clock news.

Friday, June 9

Tallahassee, Florida

The phone had wakened Sabrina Galloway almost an hour before her alarm clock was set to go off. Now she snapped it off and replaced it on her nightstand. Even as she sank back into the pillows she found herself waiting for her heart to stop galloping and her breathing to return to normal.

What did she expect? This was exactly why she had uprooted her quiet, predictable life in Chicago and moved to Tallahassee. And she had given the hospital permission to call at any time of day. Still, it startled her each time the phone rang before sunrise.

"Did I wake you?"

The tone was always the same—abrupt, authoritarian and unapologetic. Even though it was a different nurse every time, each one said similar things. In the beginning Sabrina had tried to remember their names. Now that the calls became more frequent she had gotten lax in her manners, which would have made her father angry or at least it would have in another time. Not so much anymore.

"I know it's early," the nurse had continued, "but I'm getting ready to end my shift." This, too, was a frequent reason, whether the call came past midnight or before 6:00 a.m.

"Of course I understand," Sabrina said and bit down on her lower lip. Truth was, she didn't understand why someone on the next shift couldn't call her at a more reasonable time, at a time that wouldn't automatically jump-start her heart and put her into emergency mode, that is, if there wasn't an emergency. At this rate would she be able to tell when the real emergency came?

"He tried to leave the premises again," the woman said without alarm or urgency. More than anything, she sounded annoyed, like she was talking about an errant teenager breaking curfew. And almost as an afterthought she added, "He's demanding to see you. Dr. Fullerton seems to think it might settle him down a bit if he does see you."

Sabrina promised to be there as soon as possible, only to have the nurse tell her that sometime in the afternoon would be just fine. It wasn't that they didn't have the situation under control. So why did they need to wake her during that time frame reserved for alarm and emergency, triggering a panic that stuck with her for the rest of the morning? She knew better than to ask. She already had, once, only to be lectured that they were following her instructions, honoring her request that she be notified each time it was required to use restraints and sedate him.

"We aren't required to contact you," the charge nurse reminded Sabrina at the end of that lecture. It was strictly a "courtesy call."

Sabrina sat up on the edge of the bed, waiting for the tightness in her chest to ease. Each time she expected the worst or at least something similar to that phone call two years ago. The one that started all this. She rubbed her hands over her face. Was it only two years ago? The tightness in her chest gave way to an ache, not much better but familiar. She still missed her mom.

She reached for her running shoes exactly where she had left them next to the nightstand, ready for her so she wouldn't have to fumble around in the faint blur of morning. Despite the phone call Sabrina always woke up before sunrise. Her daily routine had been her saving grace, giving order to the sudden chaos that had taken over her structured, predictable life. She slept in her sports bra and jogging shorts instead of pajamas, so she couldn't talk herself out of her morning run. It was a habit she had developed when she moved to Florida. In those first weeks it took all her effort to push out from under the covers. She kept telling herself she needed to be strong for her dad. She couldn't afford to lose him, too.

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Meet the Author

ALEX KAVA’s two stand-alone novels and seven novels featuring FBI profiler Maggie O’Dell have been published in more than twenty countries, appearing on the bestseller lists in Britain, Australia, Poland, Germany, and Italy. She is a member of Mystery Writers of America and International Thriller Writers. Alex divides her time between Omaha, Nebraska, and Pensacola, Florida.

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Whitewash 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book's taken me over 2 years to finish between paper and e version. The crome and the mystery were good but all the politics and energy summit parts just left me bores. I love her other books & I kept expecting Dect O'Dell to pop in. Maybe in the next book.
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harstan More than 1 year ago
Whitewash Alex Kava Mira, Jun 2007, $24.95 ISBN: 0778324400 In Florida, research scientist Sabrina Galloway feels excited about working for EcoEnergy as the firm converts waste material into oil and bids on a $140 million military contract. However her euphoria about helping the environment ends when her supervisor Dr. Dwight Lansik vanishes. Although concerned she continues her work until she uncovers a ¿shut down¿ reactor is processing something that has nothing to do with making fuel out of garbage and could convert Florida and beyond into a wasteland. Frightened because she fears Dwight was murdered, Sabrina flees with octogenarian Miss Sadie in the latter¿s car bought just after WW II. Seeking help while the police think she killed Dwight and the real culprit wants her silenced, she realizes that terrorists plan for a big bang for at an energy conference with the seeming ¿WHITEWASH¿ cooperation of a senator and EcoEnergy. --- Leaving Maggie O¿Dell, a much needed breather from serial killing profiling, Alex Kava provides a wonderful thriller that grips the audience once the heroine realizes she is a scientist in distress. The plausible story line is fast-paced and loaded with non-stop action, but what makes the cat and mouse chase fresh and entertaining is the support cast who bring humor to the overall serious tone. Ms. Kava is at her best with this one sitting Studebaker escape. --- Harriet Klausner