Cade Williams' worst nightmare has come true. The Necromancer's black magick has not only released the Adversary from the infernal realms where Cade imprisoned it, but allowed the fallen angel to possess the body of Cade's beloved wife, Gabrielle, in the process. When the Templars interrupt the ritual and kill the Necromancer, the Adversary sprouts wings and escapes into the darkness.
Branded a traitor by the Templars for his cooperation with the sorcerer, willing or not, Cade finds himself hunted by his former allies as an enemy of the Order while working feverishly to track down the Adversary and rescue his wife from the vile creature's control. It is almost too much for the weary Echo Team commander to handle.
Just when he thinks things can't get any worse, he makes contact with a creature known as the Forsaken One and discovers answers to the questions that have haunted him since the Adversary first appeared in his life. Answers that may ultimately cost him more than he ever imagined.
Infernal Games ends on a whopper of a cliff-hanger and it didn't feel right to offer book four without including book five, Judgment Day as well. This volume literally picks up right where Infernal Games leaves off and continues the tale begun in the previous volume. Key secrets are revealed and the problems Cade Williams finds himself in grow exponentially with the revelations. – Joseph Nassise
"First-rate, stylish work from Mr. Nassise, with a steady escalation of the story's speed that makes it almost literally breath-taking."– Clive Barker
"A breakneck-paced thriller that delivers on the thrills and tosses in more than a few more chills."– Kelley Armstrong
Knight Captain Matthew Riley paced back and forth in the narrow confines of the anteroom outside Preceptor Johannson's office as he waited to be called inside. He'd just come in from the field and his grey jumpsuit was still stained with the blood of the duergar they'd been hunting not an hour before, but he'd be damned if he stopped to change just to save the sensibilities of the man who he was waiting to see. He'd been summoned to appear "forthwith" and so here he was, bloodstains and all.
Riley didn't like Johannson - thought the man was a pretentious pain-in-the-ass with a God complex – but he was forced to tolerate him thanks to recent changes in the chain of command that put the Echo Team, never mind the rest of the Templar special operations squads, under the control of the local Preceptors. Previously they'd reported to the Seneschal, the Order's second in command, but that had all changed in the wake of the recent prison break. Even worse, Echo was based in the same commandery as Johannson, which meant Riley got to see far more of the Preceptor than he card to. If he could have transferred the team somewhere else, anywhere else, he would have done so. Even Australia, under the control of that old pain-in-the-ass Dennison, would have been better than here.
The last two weeks had been sheer hell and not just politically. There had been a seemingly endless stream of disasters, one after another, from the escape of the Necromancer to the reappearance of the Adversary in the resurrected body of Gabrielle Williams, the once-dead wife of Echo's former commander – and Riley's closest personal friend – Cade Williams. Echo and the rest of the fast response combat teams had been hunting for the Adversary, and Cade, ever since that night in the warehouse when the fallen angel had broken the barriers between this world and the next and returned, no doubt intent on wreaking as much havoc as was physically possible.
It was Riley's job to prevent that and, so far, he wasn't having much luck.
Of course, getting dragged out of the field for bullshit meetings like this one wasn't helping.
No sooner had he finished the thought that the door to the Preceptor's office opened behind him. Riley spun around to find Hennessy, the Preceptor's aide, standing there.
Riley ignored the scathing look the aide gave his attire as he stepped into the office, but made sure to trod on the other man's foot as he went by. Hennessey was known to be rather fastidious when it came to personal hygiene and it would drive him nuts thinking about all the disgusting things that Riley's boots could have come in contact with while in the field.
It was petty, Riley knew that, but it made him smile nonetheless.
His smile was short-lived however as he remembered why he'd been summoned here.
The man he's come to see sat behind his desk, ostensibly reviewing a thick sheaf of paperwork but Riley thought he was just pretending to keep busy. Johannson was the perfect bureaucrat, far happier to be ordering people about behind the scenes than serving on the front lines. Like all Templars he'd spent some time in the ranks, but his penchant for Machiavellian maneuvering in order to build allies with one hand in each other's pockets allowed him to climb into an executive position relatively quickly and it had been many years since he'd held a weapon. For men like Riley, and Cade before him, that made him next to useless.
As was typical, the Preceptor didn't bother looking up from the work he was doing but simply ordered his subordinate to report.
"Update me on the search for Williams."
Riley stared at the Preceptor without saying anything for a moment. He didn't know what the hell the Preceptor's problem was with his friend and former commander, but rather than getting better since Cade had "retired", it had only gotten worse. Johannson was obsessed.
They had a fallen angel running around on the loose somewhere and this fool can't get his mind off Cade.
When he knew he'd get called for insubordination if he held back one second longer, he finally said, "I've been unable to locate the Knight Commander since the night he left the warehouse in Brooklyn."
The Preceptor's glanced up lazily, catching Riley in his stare. "You mean fled the warehouse, don't you?"
"No, I mean left. He was in pursuit of the Adversary."
Johannson' sneered. "He wasn't in pursuit of anything, Captain. Williams fled the scene to join his compatriots, leaving you and your men at the mercy of anything else that might have remained in that warehouse. He even ordered you not to fire on that infernal creature he's collaborating with as he did so!"
Riley knew that Cade had ordered them not to fire at the time for fear of killing the host body that the Adversary was possessing, the body, and possibly the soul, of his long-dead wife Gabrielle, but there was no way he was going to argue the theology and ethics of that one with a man like Johannson. Instead, all he said was, "I don't see it that way. Sir."
Johannson threw down the papers he been holding and stared at Riley with disgust. "You don't see it that way? No, of course you wouldn't. Your loyalty to a known criminal is distressing, Captain. If I wasn't short staffed I'd remove you from command of the Echo Team."
Go ahead and try, Riley thought. Johannson had almost caused a mutiny after leaving him and Cade out to dry in the midst of the Chiang Shih incursion and the men in the ranks wouldn't take too kindly if it were to happen again, not while the Adversary was out there somewhere. The men didn't regard Riley with the same mix of fear and awe that they gave to Cade but that didn't mean he wasn't a well-respected commander in his own right. The men would follow Riley, perhaps even more willingly than they would Cade, as they regarded Riley as one of their own.
The Preceptor shook his head, as if in disgust, but Riley didn't rise to the bait. After a moment, Johannson said, "What news of the Adversary?"
Now, finally, he gets to what's important.
But Riley didn't have much better news on this topic either.
"We've had reports of several sightings but we've been unable to corroborate any of them. Our best bet is that our target has gone to ground, most likely to get used to the physical form it now controls.
"On the plus side, we've confirmed the death of Simon Logan and have recovered the Staff of Anubis."
"So you're not totally incompetent, is that what you're telling me?" the Preceptor asked.
Riley wisely kept his mouth shut.
"Any word on who the woman was?"
Riley hesitated, but then decided the truth would serve him better than being evasive. The information was bound to come out at some point and it went a long way to explaining why Cade had acted the way he had.
"The woman was Gabrielle Williams, sir, the Knight Commander's former wife."
Johannson stared at him. "Williams' wife was killed several years ago."
Riley nodded. "That's correct, sir."
"We don't know. Her body was there when we arrived and, given what happened, we didn't have time to investigate further."
Riley had no qualms about lying about Gabrielle, for he knew that if he told the truth Johannson would bring the Order's inquisitors down on his head faster than he could blink. He'd helped Cade dig up Gabrielle's grave, after all. He'd been there when his friend had levered the coffin open and found his wife's still-warm body lying inside, without the slightest hint of corruption or decay, like a modern day Sleeping Beauty just waiting for her prince to come. Most other Templars would have assumed the body was being sustained by black arts and destroyed it immediately, but Riley hadn't done anything of the sort. He'd ever helped Cade carry his wife's body – Riley couldn't bring himself to call it a corpse – to his vehicle and watched him drive off into the night. After all, it hadn't been that long before that when Gabrielle herself had rescued Riley and the rest of the Echo Team when they'd been trapped in the Beyond by the angel Baraquel. He'd stared into her eyes and spoken directly to her; if there was even the slightest chance that her soul could be reunited with her body, Riley wasn't going to be the one to stand in the way.
The Preceptor wasn't so accommodating.
"Why am I only now hearing about this?"
Riley shrugged. "I believe it was in my initial report."
It wasn't; he knew that. He'd intentionally left the woman's identity out of it, but he also knew that Johannson wouldn't remember one way or the other. If the Preceptor checked, and found out differently, then Riley would claim it was a simple oversight.
Johannson glared at him, as if the weight of his stare was going to cause Riley to suddenly break down and give up the truth.
Gonna take a lot more than what you've got to get me to break, Riley thought, as he gazed calmly back at the other man.
But then Preceptor surprised him.
"So help me understand this, Captain," Johannson said. "That night, at the warehouse, you entered the building and found both Commander Williams and the Necromancer inside together, along with the seemingly intact body of William's dead wife?"
"Well, yes, but..."
The Preceptor talked right over him. "And it never occurred to you that the reason this woman's body was intact after being in the ground for the last five years was because the Necromancer had just used his sorcery to make it so?"
"What? No, it wasn't..."
"And now both Williams and the Adversary, who, by the way is now using that suddenly intact body we were just talking about, have disappeared and YOU DON'T SEE A LINK BETWEEN THEM?!"
The Preceptor's face was bright red by the time he had stopped shouting and for a moment Riley wondered if the man was going to have a heart attack. Before he could say anything, however, the Preceptor stabbed the intercom button on his desk and said, "Get me Operations" when his aide replied.
Uh oh, Riley thought.
The phone rang seconds later and Johannson snatched it up.
"Operations? This is Preceptor Johannson. I'm issuing shoot-on-sight orders for both the Adversary and former Knight Commander Cade Williams. Have a written copy prepared and sent to my office for immediate signature."
Riley spoke up the moment the phone was back in its cradle. "Sir! You can't do that. Williams is a respected..."
"Shut up, Captain! That's an order!" the Preceptor yelled, then slammed his palm on his desk to emphasis the point.
Riley's mouth closed with a snap.
Into the silence, the Preceptor said, "I don't know who you think you are, Captain, but don't you dare presume to come into my office and tell me what I can or cannot do. Is that clear?"
Gritting his teeth, Riley snapped to attention and then replied, "Sir, yes sir!"
"As of this moment both you and Echo are relieved. I'm reassigning Gamma Team to handle the search for Williams and the Adversary. You are to stand down and stay out of the way."
Five minutes later Riley was headed for the barracks, determined to speak to as many of the men as possible before the alert spread through the ranks. Preceptor's authorization or not, he intended to make it clear that anyone who used deadly force again Cade was going to have to deal with the Echo Team afterward.
If Cade left them alive, that was.