It’s just another day in paradise for US Coast Guard Lieutenant Joe Traynor, stationed in the Florida Keys…until he gets a call from his boss, Rear Admiral Jake Barnes. Barnes suspects that some Coast Guard members in Miami have been selling seized cocaine back to the Colombians, and Joe and his team are called in to investigate. But as Joe leaves the rear admiral’s office, he runs into an ambush, at the same time that his second in command is shot and nearly killed. It seems that members of the US Coast Guard Seventh District are selling more than cocaine to the drug cartels. They’re also selling information obtained from bugging the Coast Guard offices. How deep does it go, who is involved, and how are they getting away with it when audits of the warehouse where the drugs are stored show nothing is missing? Joe needs to find out—and fast—before any more top personnel and their families are threatened, including his own fiancée, Julie. However, keeping Julie safe while she negotiates a movie deal for her new book with Walt Disney Studios, outsmarting drug lords and their minions, and tracking down missing fifteen-year-old girls who have been sold into the human trafficking network are all in a day’s work for Joe and his team of special investigators…if they can just survive long enough.
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In Taking Care of Your Own by Daniel J. Barrett, we are once again reunited with Joe Traynor and Julie Chapman, now engaged to be married. Joe is called in on a special investigation for the US Coast Guard and is nearly killed in an ambush as he leaves his boss’s office. Angry that someone is out to kill him, as well as stealing cocaine from the Coast Guard warehouse where the drugs seized for evidence are kept, Joe is devastated to discover that some of his coworkers could be working for the drug lords. But he and his boss are determined to root out the bad apples in the Coast Guard and police their own, especially since both of their careers are on the line. In the background, Julie is dealing with issues of her own. Walt Disney Studios wants to make a movie of her book trilogy A Girl’s Life, and Julie isn’t at all sure that she wants to do that. Meanwhile, her life could be in danger as much as Joe’s, since drug cartels don’t care who they hurt as long as they get what they want.
Like the first two books in the series, this one is fast-paced, with a strong plot, lots of twists and turns, and quite a few unexpected surprises.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Taking Care of Your Own by Daniel J. Barrett is the story of corruption and greed in the US Coast Guard. Our hero, Joe Traynor, is a lieutenant in the Coast Guard in charge of investigations in Miami and the Florida Keys. But this time, it looks like the bad guys are some of Joe’s own Coast Guard members who are selling back to the drug lords the drugs seized in the investigations that Joe works so hard to solve. Joe knows why they are doing it—money—but he can’t figure out how, especially since the secured warehouse where the drugs are stored until they can be destroyed claims that no drugs are missing. And according to the audits of the bales of cocaine, all the bales that are supposed to be there are. Vying for Joe’s attention are his fiancée Julie and the movie deal for her book. Of course, Joe has to keep himself alive long enough to catch the bad guys who are trying to kill him and would certainly harm Julie as well, if they could get to her. Throw in a an ambush, a wounded partner, a bugged office, and couple of missing teenage girls, and Joe is having a very bad week.
Taking Care of Your Own is another Barrett page-turner. With fast action, a complicated plot, and intriguing characters, it’s a worthy addition to the series.
“Please hold for Rear Admiral Barnes,” the voice announced.
Joe Traynor was in the middle of a meeting in Islamorada with his investigation team that included Joan Talbot and the facility’s Chief Warrant Officer, Jacob Cramer. Ever since Joe had been promoted to lieutenant, Cramer had been on edge, and it was apparent. Joe tried to make life simple for Cramer by telling him that, even though he outranked him, Joe had no desire to take over Cramer’s duties. He told him that he’d report to both the Rear Admiral in Miami and to Cramer in Islamorada, when he was at either place. Joan had no problem with the reporting mechanism but evidently Cramer did. Joe figured his attempts to appease Cramer fell on deaf ears. So he stopped trying and simply did his job, which was to take down drug smugglers in the Keys, utilizing his vast experience in investigations and his linguistic skills in both Spanish and Russian. At that very moment, when the rear admiral called, they were reviewing a pending case that needed Joe’s attention in both Spanish and Russian.
The call came in from Warrant Officer Al Cummings, the chief aid to the district commander, Rear Admiral Jake Barnes, who had his office at the seventh district headquarters, in the Brickell Plaza Building, located at 909 South East First Avenue in Miami. This was the address for Joe’s new assignment, with an office only three doors down from the rear admiral’s. It was fifty-eight miles, door to door, from Joe’s office in Key Largo to the one in the federal building in downtown Miami. Joe made the trip three times a week to meet with the rear admiral and then worked on Islamorada cases around that schedule.
“Joe, it’s Rear Admiral Barnes. How are you? Sorry to interrupt your meeting but it’s important. I know this is one of your two days in the Keys but something has come up. Can you get up here quickly? I need to speak to you face to face, in private.”
“Will I be staying over, sir?”
“Probably for a few days, for now,” Barnes said.
“I’ll leave as soon as I pack a few things, sir. Will I need my dress uniforms or just my regular everyday Coast Guard work clothes?”
“Bring one dress uniform and some of your civilian clothes for now. You may be in circumstances where I don’t want you standing out,” Barnes ordered cryptically.
It was now 11:00 a.m. and they were about to finish the meeting, anyway. The meeting’s give and take was hanging there by a thread and Joe knew that he’d have to speak to Cramer privately and let him know that he wasn’t happy with his attitude. He thought Joan had probably realized that and may have already tried to smooth this over with Cramer. As good as Joan was at this, she might have to step aside and let Joe handle it himself. Joan was nearing the end of her career in the Coast Guard and he didn’t want her to be in the middle of anything. She’d been too good to him for too long and he knew that, upon her retirement, both she and her husband wanted to continue to work as contractors in Jeff Talbot’s side business, which included all the maintenance on the Coast Guard vessels docked in Islamorada. Jeff ran his own small marina and repair shop, side by side, next to the Coast Guard facility. They lived in Coast Guard housing at the station, only steps from Jeff’s business.
After the call, Joe told Joan that he had to leave for a few days. She never questioned him, especially since he now worked directly for the brass in Miami. She knew that he wasn’t just handed his promotion to lieutenant. Both he and Mark Silva had earned it through smarts and hard work. Solving critical investigations, one after the other, didn’t hurt either. As he was leaving to pack at his officer’s living quarters, Joe stopped in Cramer’s office to tell him why he had to leave.
“Jacob, I need to speak to you for a minute before I leave.”
“Where are you going now?” Cramer asked. “I wish you wouldn’t leave us stuck with these investigations. When are you coming back?”
Joe had just about had it with Cramer. He picked up his cell phone and dialed the rear admiral’s private cell number. Only Joe and two others had the number. One of them was Jake Barnes’s wife. The other was the rear admiral’s boss in Washington. As the phone rang and the rear admiral picked up, Joe asked him if he’d please speak to Chief Warrant Officer Cramer to tell him that he was going to Miami at the rear admiral’s request and that Mr. Cramer probably should stop questioning him about his comings and goings and his future duties.
Joe handed the cell phone to a very startled Cramer. At the end of the call, the chief warrant officer nodded to Joe. “I’ll never question you again.”
Evidently, he was given a direct order to that effect.
“I have a call to duty just as you do, and I wouldn’t question my commanding officer’s orders,” Joe told him, looking him right in the eyes. “I have no problem with you, but it’s clear that you’ve had a problem with me. I’ve never pulled rank on anyone since I’ve been in the Coast Guard and I have no intentions of doing so, ever.” He paused a moment for effect. “Of course, my personal preferences could change if your attitude doesn’t.”
Joe reached out to shake his hand and Cramer reached back to shake Joe’s as well. Joe hoped that this was the end of this little pissing contest. He wanted to be in Islamorada for as long as Julie wanted to remain in the Keys.
This was a perfect setup for him, but he wouldn’t allow himself to be stepped on by anyone. Joe knew himself very well. He could be a very belligerent Irishman. When provoked, he got even more obstinate. His own mother had told him that while he was growing up. He worked on it constantly, but once in a while, it reared its ugly head. This temper of his was both a hindrance and a help. Joe needed that attitude when he was in very trying and deadly circumstances. It gave him strength and fortitude not to fail under pressure. He’d get angry and turn that anger into aggression toward the lawbreakers he was hunting. Only a few times had it come out when his friends noticed. Julie’s grandmother, Tillie, even commented on it one day after Joe shot Julie’s father, Tom Chapman, who at the time, was holding a gun on both Julie and Tillie. Tillie was shocked that a man like Joe, who appeared so in control, actually had this other side to him.
At the time, Mark had told her about what happened in Albany when he had to shoot Luis Hernandez and his three gangbanger goons in the president’s office of the Albany Coalition for Families several years and many cases ago.
All of these thoughts were slowly going through Joe’s mind. It was difficult having a photographic memory. It brought up the good and the bad. He had to put everything out of his head and concentrate on heading up to Miami to meet with the rear admiral. Joe had no idea what Barnes wanted. He never questioned the rear admiral’s orders. Barnes had been very good to Joe and had bent over backward to accommodate his request to remove Dmitry Assinoff and his associates from Miami. Joe would never forget his support, and he wouldn’t let him down.
He hoped that traffic would be light getting out of the Keys at noon, when he finally got into his car for the drive to Miami. He had to call Julie and leave a message that he’d be gone for a few days and that he’d call her this evening when he got settled. The Coast Guard had a condo, right around the corner from headquarters, for visiting officers, who could then walk to the building and not waste time parking and getting back and forth from expensive downtown hotels. Joe knew how expensive it could be since he and Julie had stayed at the Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne the time Joe had picked Julie up at the airport when she finally got back from New York City. At $369.00 per night, he’d hoped she’d enjoy the room. She did. It was rated 4.7 out of 5 stars. Joe couldn’t figure out, at those prices, what would be missing, but it couldn’t be much.
Their guestroom had featured an ocean view. It had a beautiful balcony, marble bathroom, flat screen TV, and, of course, a fully stocked minibar. Joe could take or leave the WiFi hookup. Julie had to get some emails but, at the time, he certainly hoped that her online time would be short. It was. Now, staying alone, in the free condo, one block away from headquarters suited Joe just fine. It suited his pocketbook as well.
Joe headed right up Overseas Highway, which was US Route 1 North, to Florida Route 5. He merged onto 821 N, the Florida Turnpike, for seventeen miles toward the Miami International Airport. From there, he headed to the Don Shula Expressway toward FL 826 Miami. He took FL 878 E toward South Miami back to US 1. The Dixie Highway, which was also US 1, took him right to I-95 N. Taking Exit 1B brought him straight to Brickell Avenue. He drove the one-mile distance to the Brickell Plaza Federal Building and parked in the Coast Guard lot. He was here and had no idea why. In a few minutes, Joe knew, he’d find out there was a very good reason but, right now, he didn’t have a clue.
He walked in the front door, presented his credentials, and proceeded through the security checkpoints. Once through, he got back his cell phone, his bag, and his service weapon. He headed up to the rear admiral’s office and walked in.
© 2016 by Daniel J. Barrett