Fallen angels, powerful demons, and the tainted descendants of Templar knights threaten to wage war in heaven and upon Earth—and only Sam Connor and his fellow Offspring can put a stop them. There's only one problem: Sam is tired of using his special gifts to defend the universe. All he wants to do is lead a normal life. But when a book containing a series of devastating eternal secrets—one that dates back to King Solomon—is about to fall into the wrong hands, Sam's conscience gets the best of him…and he and his brethren set out to seize The Keys of Solomon and save mankind. But as soon as he answers the "call," Sam realizes that the fallen angels have gained in strength since their last encounter with the Offspring. And now they are on the brink of fulfilling their lethal legacy…
About the Author
LIAM JACKSON is a highly decorated twenty-year veteran of the U.S. criminal justice system, having served as a narcotics officer, tactical operator, Chief of Police and, most recently, a Deputy Program Manager and Operations Chief for a federal counter-terrorism program. He has been awarded the prestigious Silver Star for Bravery by the American Police Hall of Fame. He lives near Little Rock, Arkansas.
Liam Jackson is a highly decorated twenty-year veteran of the U.S. criminal justice system, having served as a narcotics officer, tactical operator, chief of police, and, most recently, in the field of WMD counter-measures and mitigation. He lives near Little Rock, Arkansas. Offspring is his first novel.
Read an Excerpt
The Keys of Solomon
By Liam Jackson
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2009 Liam Jackson
All rights reserved.
East St. Louis, Missouri
The building reeked of the enemy. The odor of sulfur and cat urine was stale, perhaps days or weeks old, but it was there nonetheless. Thomas Falco wrinkled his hypersensitive nose and looked around the dimly lit interior of the motel. Beneath the façade of new plaster and fresh paint, potentially lethal black mold festered on the walls and floors, spreading the length of the lobby. Falco grimaced at the metaphorical significance. He moved to the front desk and set his bags upon the dirty tiled floor.
The desk clerk blocked a yawn with the back of his hand, then said, "'Sup, man? What brings you to the murder capital of the western hemisphere?"
Without looking up from the desk, Falco said, "I thought Gary, Indiana, held that distinction."
"Bullshit," replied the young man between more yawns. "Gary's got nothing but a bunch of poseurs and wannabe playas. Eastside is the real deal."
Falco completed the motel registration card and slid it across the desk to the scruffily dressed clerk. The young man had the sleepy eyes and broad, idiot grin of the terminally stoned, and Falco immediately both resented and pitied him. He wanted to snatch the fool by the back of his scrawny neck and shake some sense into him. Instead, Falco thought, You really don't want to know why I'm here. So do yourself a favor, kid, and invest in another quarter-bag of whatever shit you're smoking. Trust me on this one.
"I'm just in town to visit an old friend and maybe do some sightseeing."
The word sightseeing seemed to trigger something in the stoner's hazy mind. He gave Falco a goofy, exaggerated nod, and a knowing wink. "Ah, sightseeing. Right. I'm tracking with you now. Well, here's a tip for you, my man. Don't let looks deceive you, know what I'm saying? We might be in the low-rent district, but we know how to show our guests a good time. Know what I'm sayin'? You need anything, anything at all, you let me know." Another exaggerated wink. "So, how long you staying?"
"I'm not sure. A couple of days, maybe. I'll let you know."
The clerk gave Falco a third wink followed by another lazy grin, and dropped a plastic door card onto the sticky countertop.
"That's cool, dude, that's cool. Room 112. As you walk out the front door, turn, umm, right. Yeah, right. Last room at the end of the walk."
Falco nodded, picked up the key and his suitcase, and started away from the desk. Over his shoulder, he called out, "No maids, no disturbances. Know what I'm sayin'?"
* * *
Once outside, Falco crossed the parking lot to the rental car and retrieved the rest of his luggage. On the way to the room, he chose a leisurely pace, taking care to thoroughly check his surroundings. Run-down strip mall to the left, mega truck stop to the right. Elementary school across the highway. Not much traffic. Nothing out of the ordinary. Not yet.
Satisfied, he kicked the snow from his boots and entered the motel room. The place smelled of cigarette smoke, sour beer, and more cat piss. The furnishings were sparse and in poor condition. Against the far wall, a swayback mattress lay atop a warped, metal frame. A funky little neo-modernist lamp leaned crazily atop a three-legged bedside table. A pair of ugly, vinyl-covered chairs flanked a rickety desk in front of the room's single window. Falco was certain the decorator had been a fan of Pleistocene-era art nouveau, a dinosaur best left dead and in the ground.
A shrill bell sounded across the street, and the shouts of young children penetrated the thin walls of the room. It's not time for school to let out. I can't be running that far behind. Falco glanced at his watch. It was 1:45 P.M. Good. Just an afternoon recess. I'm not too far off schedule.
He stepped to the window and looked out on the busy grade-school playground across the street. A pair of marked police cars were parked along the shoulder of the highway, at opposite ends of the school property. Falco was certain more cruisers were similarly situated on the back side of the grounds. Prudent considering current events, he thought.
Prudent, but futile. You can't stop them, Mr. Policeman, sir. You and a thousand more just like you can't stop them. Legion comes. Falco drew the curtains together and returned to the bed. It was time to prepare.
He opened his suitcase and carefully removed his clothing and equipment and arranged the items in neat, separate piles on the bed. First, he inspected the night-vision monocular, a small cylindrical device that allowed him to see thermal imprints in total darkness. A quick self-test indicated that the battery was hot and the instrument was working properly.
Next, he removed a sound suppressor from its protective pouch and inspected the screw threads. Dry. He took a tube of waxy lip balm from his pocket, removed the cap, and squeezed a liberal amount of the balm inside the threaded connector. He worked the greasy paste into the threads, then reexamined his handiwork. Much better. He laid the suppressor aside and opened a small polymer case.
Inside the case, surrounded by thick foam, was another primary tool of his trade, a Glock model 29, chambered in powerful 10 millimeter. Falco inspected the weapon, then threaded the suppressor onto the barrel extension. Then he checked the ammunition and spare magazines. He tapped each magazine against the heel of his hand to seat the shells, ensuring a proper feed into the semi-automatic handgun.
Finally, he checked his combat knife, a legacy item and constant reminder of his former life. The knife slid easily from the oiled sheath. Thomas thumbed the single edge of the Ka-Bar. If only men were as strong and reliable as the steel in my blade.
Stifling a yawn, Falco inserted the knife back into the sheath and rubbed his eyes with thick, callused fingers. "So tired." Thomas shook his head. "No. I can be tired when this is over." He resumed his meticulous preparations.
A half-hour later, after each tool had been thoroughly examined and the ammo counted and recounted, it was time to perform the Sacrament of Holy Orders, one of seven such sacraments of the Catholic Church, and a requirement of the codex by which Falco lived and served. This particular ritual was steeped in tradition and far older than the Brotherhood Falco served. Many members within his sect had long argued against using the Sacrament of Holy Orders in favor of some other ritual.
Yet in the end, use of the sacrament was approved for servants of Falco's unique vocation. After all, the Sacrament of Holy Orders was intended to imbue a priest with the voice and authority of Christ in certain instances. How could any other ritual be more pertinent or germane to Falco's mission? Was he not speaking for all of Christendom through his actions?
The sacrament was followed by another process, the Rite of Purification. This ceremony, based on New Testament scripture, had a two-fold purpose. First, it was designed to free the tools of any extraneous contamination. The second purpose, and one of much greater significance for Thomas, was to free the user from sin or guilt associated with using the tools. Thomas had never fully bought into the notion that any ritual could absolve him of his many sins, past, present, or future. However, he faithfully performed the rite before every mission. He decided long ago that in his line of work, it was best to cover all the bases.
Falco removed an ornate, leather-bound box from an inner pocket of his suitcase. From the box he took a centuries-old rosary and laid it aside. Next, he removed a white satin vestment stole, pressed it to his lips, then draped it around his neck and crossed the ends over his chest. Finally, he took the last item from the box, a small bottle made of jeweled cloisonné.
Falco knelt beside the bed and removed the cork stopper from the bottle. He dribbled some of the water into his palm and with his index finger, traced the outline of a cross upon his forehead. In a final act of consecration, he sprinkled droplets onto the grips of the handgun and combat knife. Bowing his head, he intoned the ancient ritual prayer, much as it had been recited some eight hundred years earlier. Minutes later, as he neared the finish, Falco raised his hands toward the ceiling and whispered, "Non Nobis Domine Non Nobis Sed Nomini Tuo Da Gloriam." Not Unto Us, O Lord, But Unto Thy Name Be Given Glory.
Monday 11:05 P.M., Room 312
A puzzling and persistent noise nagged at Falco's tired mind from some distant place. He was sure he had heard the bothersome sound before and knew he should recognize it. Fire alarm? No. Phone? Phone! Rolling over onto his side, Falco took a moment to readjust the shoulder holster, then picked up his cell phone. He checked the incoming call and recognized the number.
A hoarse, raspy voice answered, "Thomas?"
The voice was familiar but this was a time for extreme caution. The Enemy was treacherous and deceitful beyond imagination.
"Who's calling?" Falco asked.
There was a slight hesitation on the other end, then, "The First Shield. You sound a bit disoriented. Did I wake you?"
Falco felt none of the inner alarms ringing in his head. Still, he needed confirmation. It was highly unusual for a man of the First Shield's status to call a mere field operative, even if the two men were old acquaintances.
"I'm fine, Your Grace. Just a bit groggy. Guess the miles are catching up with me. That's a long flight out of Boston."
"Understandable, Thomas, quite so. However, you didn't fly out of Boston. It was Miami. And please, 'Your Grace' seems too formal among old friends. If not Nicholas, then Bishop Gilbert will do."
Bishop. Heh. Falco relaxed. "Just checking, Your Gra — Nicholas. I hope you aren't offended by my suspicions."
"No, not at all. In fact, I prefer that you always exercise such caution. We live in very dangerous times, my boy. You know what happened to Cohlin Ridley only a month past."
Falco's jaw muscles twitched at the mention of his former partner. "Yes, I know."
"I — I'm sorry. Of course you do. I know the two of you were very close." Archbishop Gilbert quickly changed the subject. "When do you expect William?"
"I'm scheduled to fly out tomorrow afternoon, and arrive in Phoenix around 9:30 P.M. A freak snowstorm came through the area last night, but it's blown itself out. I doubt there'll be any airport delays."
Once more, there was a hesitation, though Falco could hear the sound of labored breathing. Gilbert's bronchitis was acting up again.
After a long pause, Gilbert said, "Did you receive the packet?"
"Yeah. Lexis personally gave it to me just before I boarded my flight. I'm set unless there have been some last-minute changes."
"No changes," replied Gilbert. "Our orders stand." Again, an extended silence.
After a moment, Falco nodded absently. "I'll be in touch once I'm in the air and en route to Phoenix."
Gilbert coughed, then said, "Did you have a chance to catch the evening news? Depressing but telling. It seems things are heating up very quickly."
Falco was unsure how to answer. Of course, things are heating up! Why else would I be in St. Louis, preparing to kill ...
Instead of wasting sarcasm on his well-intentioned superior, Falco simply said, "Yes, Nicholas, things are certainly heating up. That's why I'm here."
"Of course, of course. I'll let you attend your task, now. God speed, Thomas."
Falco disconnected the call and looked at his watch. Not yet midnight. I can catch another hour of sleep. But as soon as the notion of sleep entered his mind, he pushed it aside. Falco knew that there would be no more rest tonight. He dressed in the dark, the mission unfolding, playing out in his mind. Again and again, he mentally traced the route leading to a country estate just north of the city of St. Louis. There he would find his target. He shouldered his nylon pack and headed for the parking lot.
He unlocked the door, then paused for a moment, breathing in the night air. He closed his eyes and extended his senses. He was rewarded by an immediate tug on the fringe of his consciousness, the faint, yet unmistakable presence of his supernatural adversaries. Detecting the Enemy by use of his Godgiven gift was always unnerving.
While the gift was accurate, it also meant the Enemy would be nearby. What he wouldn't give for a bit more range, say, another three or four miles. This Enemy was prowling the night, thus it was most likely a minor minion. At least Falco could be thankful for that. While minions were likely to kill, they usually claimed single victims before crawling back to the nest. The demon lords were another, far more serious matter. He quickly broke contact with the minion and closed his senses. Falco threw his pack into the passenger seat and folded himself into the compact. Thirty minutes later, he was outside of the city and headed toward the Bedford Country Club.
* * *
Falco was familiar with the long stretch of cracked asphalt. Every curve, every dip, every pothole was committed to memory. He exited the county road fourteen miles east of St. Louis and turned left onto a freshly paved roadway. He drove along for several miles before cutting his headlights. Falco preferred to drive the final miles by moonlight and instinct, paying close attention to the odometer. When he drew within a couple of miles of his destination, he pulled the car off the roadway and into the tree line. Killing the motor, he glanced at the luminous dial on his watch. It was 2:55 A.M. Right on time.
He rechecked the Glock, then donned a black nylon hood and cinched the thin elastic cord around his neck. The material was sheer; it allowed him to breathe and see, yet effectively concealed his face. With his small pack slung over one shoulder, Falco paused and tested the air.
The temperature was much colder out among the trees, away from the city. The air should have been fresher, sweeter. Yet, as he reached out with his senses, the stench slammed into his stomach like a fist. Falco bent forward and waited for the assault on his senses to pass. It took a few minutes longer than usual this time.
My God, he's strong! Just — hang on. It'll pass ... it'll pass.
A full minute later, the nausea began to fade and Falco relaxed. Taking up his gear, he set out on foot. It took almost half an hour to cover the final distance through the dense underbrush. No wasted motion, no noise of any kind. Falco silently recited the assassin's credo: Quick and silent in, quick and silent out. It sounded good, but he knew all too well that things didn't always work out that way. Nogales had been messy. Buenos Aires had escalated into a full-fledged fire fight.
As he crouched inside a thick patch of weeds and vines, Falco surveyed the area with the monocular. The estate was in reality a compound consisting of a main ranch house, surrounded by several large bungalows. Guard posts surrounded the perimeter of the grounds. A sprawling golf course flanked the southeast edge of the estate. The stables and polo grounds were just to the north and west of the main compound. The target expressed a great love for golf and the outdoors, thus he explained his unusual choice for a vacation spot to his superiors. Falco knew better. The country club, once a weekend hideaway for the Midwestern affluent, was now a haven for the Enemy. A nest.
Falco scanned the rest of the grounds. The largest of the bungalows was situated well away from the others, just beyond the periphery of the brilliant security lights. It was also the farthest removed from the stables. From experience, Falco knew the placement of the bungalows was no accident or coincidence. The horses, if any still remained, would not, could not abide such an abomination in close proximity. He would be surprised if any single animal remained on the premises.
Sweeping the night-vision instrument over the rest of the area, Falco detected two thermal outlines, most likely guards, he thought. Neither figure moved for several minutes, suggesting that both were possibly asleep. If only he could be so lucky, he thought.
Excerpted from The Keys of Solomon by Liam Jackson. Copyright © 2009 Liam Jackson. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A third book is needed to bring the story of Sam, Kat , and the war to an end. I felt it abrutly ended.
Keep them comming
Wow, so far a phenomenal series. Please keep 'em coming.