Thanks to the folks at Blue Rider Press, here's an extract from Jon Steele's Angel City. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.
Here's the blurb:
It 's been almost three years since we left Detective Jay Harper and high-priced escort Katherine Taylor on the esplanade of Lausanne Cathedral, bruised and battered from a biblical showdown with the Nephilim. Katherine has retreated to small-town life in the woods of Washington State with her son, Max and a close protection detail of heavily-armed, elite members of the Swiss Guard. Harper is living in Paris, haunted by voices in his head and bone-tired after what turns out to be two and a half million years on Earth. Though Katherine and Harper have been prevented from remembering each other , baby Max has unwittingly stirred the interest of vengeful spirits and only a worldwide (and cosmic) effort to save his life will bring Harper and Katherine together again. Meanwhile, from the shadows steps a defrocked priest named Astruc, whose face looks as if it has been clawed by some terrible beast and who hides his eyes behind blue lenses. He and his brilliant young ward, Goose, have discovered something unfathomable in the Catacombs under Paris, something that will confirm that the time of the prophecy is at hand. . . Electrifying from its explosive first scene to its unexpected and shocking conclusion, Angel City reunites the unforgettable characters from The Watchers to reveal more of the earthly and otherworldy mysteries of the Angelus trilogy.
Monsieur Dufaux worked the tables in Café du Grütli, chatting with his customers. He checked table six at the windows. The fellow sitting there had finished his dinner, pushed his plate aside, and was now leaning over the front page of 24 Heures. Dufaux walked over, picked up the fellow’s plate and cutlery, and saw the empty glass on the table.
“Voulez-vous une autre carafe?”
“Just a glass, s’il vous plaît.”
“Put it on the inspector’s tab.” Monsieur Dufaux picked up the carafe.
“And perhaps one day the inspector will grace me with a visit to pay this tab? I mean, yes, you only come in a few nights a week, but after a couple of years, a tab adds up. It’s now longer than the Book of Numbers.”
Harper flipped over the newspaper. “Sorry?”
“Inspector Gobet’s tab and the Book of Numbers. From the Bible. They both go on and on.”
Harper thought about it.
“Let me know when it’s as long as the Book of Psalms.”
“One hundred fifty chapters. Longest book of the Bible.” Dufaux scratched his chin.
“Pas mal. I must remember that one. I’ll bring you a fresh glass, on the house. I’ll join you, too.”
Harper watched Monsieur Dufaux make his way through the tables, the man’s shoulders bouncing with chuckles. Harper made a mental note: Crack a joke in this joint, get a free glass. He turned his eyes to the windows. Outside, evening had given way to the dark. He focused on the pools of light beneath the streetlamps along Rue Mercerie. Unbe- knownst to the locals, the streetlamps in the protected zone had been fitted with Arc 9 filters. Part of Inspector Gobet’s plan to beef up secu- rity around Lausanne Cathedral. The filters slowed the speed of artifi- cial light by fifty thousand microns per second. Didn’t matter to the locals, but with Arc 9s, Harper’s kind could detect minute spikes of black body radiation in the light. Or so went the theory. He flashed the light mechanic from Berne, six months ago, positively giddy explaining how the filters worked.
“You see, when applied to sodium vapor lamps in areas sealed with a level four time warp, such as the protected zone, Arc 9s will allow you to see around corners and back over your shoulder at the same time. We’re very excited about it.”
“You don’t say.”
The filters still had some kinks, the mechanic chattered on. Some- thing about certain meteorological conditions interacting with negative resistance ions.
“As a result, a spike in black body radiation could be either a mortal threat moving through nearby shadows or a cat falling at terminal velocity.”
Harper stared at the mechanic.
“A cat. Falling at terminal velocity.”
“Cats, yes,” the mechanic replied. “You see, cats reach terminal veloc- ity at one hundred kilometers per hour. That’s a speed they reach when falling at a distance greater than one hundred feet. The Felis catus, or common domesticated cat as it’s known, then has the ability to stabilize and spread its legs, forming itself into something of a parachute. Fascinating stuff. Did you know a cat has a better chance of surviving a fall from forty floors than four?”
Harper considered the mechanic’s enthusiasm regarding the topic. “Mate, are you telling me you’ve been tossing cats from windows to
test your bloody lamp filters?”
The mechanic appeared pained.
“Why, no. It’s only based on computer simulations. Goodness, I love my cats. I have two of them. Would you like to see their pictures?”
Harper blinked and turned from the window. He saw Monsieur Du- faux setting two fresh glasses and a carafe of white on the table. Dufaux sat across from Harper and poured.
They touched glasses and sipped.
“So how have you been?” Dufaux said. “You haven’t been in the café for, what, a week or two?”
Harper thought about it. He couldn’t quite see his timeline. Mission debrief always included a memory scrub. Delete this, trim that. Made a jumble of things for a few days. He flashed the medics in the white coats at the Vevey infirmary. They checked, they scanned, they didn’t like what they’d found. They strapped him to a stretcher, shoved him into a regenerative stasis tank for days. Today was only Harper’s second day out.
“Had a bit of a holiday,” Harper said.
“Holiday. Good, very good. Need one myself. So, what’s happening in our crazy world?” Monsieur Dufaux said, turning over the newspaper and looking at the front page. “What on earth?”
Oddly enough, that was Harper’s reaction on seeing it, too. A grainy, backlit, and shadowy image of a winged form falling through the fog at Pont des Arts, side by side with a four-hundred-year-old painting of Saint Michael the Archangel. The headline above the pictures read: “Was This the Angel Who Fell from the Sky to Save Paris?”
“Good Lord,” Dufaux said. “Can you believe this?”
“Not sure what it’s all about. Haven’t been following the news of late.”
Dufaux took a sip from his glass.
“Well,” he said. “Let me tell you what you missed while on vacation.” Seems while Harper was in the tank, the world’s newspapers went heavy on Paris. The usual hard news up front: pictures of the Manon’s wreckage, backstories about the dead and survivors. And, of course, the one picture of the man who fell from the sky at Pont des Arts. The French government’s line was that a foreign power had conducted an illegal counterstrike against Muqatileen Lillah on sovereign French soil. After rounds of finger-pointing at London and Washington, D.C., with no joy, the French government then pointed to the Israeli Mossad. The French president referred to the Mossad’s scorecard in assassinating Iranian nuclear scientists on Tehran’s streets in broad daylight as a case in point. The Israeli government wouldn’t comment, but seemed perfectly happy for the world to think, Of course Israel did it. Israel is very good at this sort of thing. Don’t fuck with Israel.
In answer to press queries regarding the type of WMD captured in the attack, the government would only reply, “We cannot comment at this time for reasons of national security.” The French press began to sniff out that the government was hiding something. Then came a scan- dal of lip-smacking proportions when it was learned the chief suspect in the counterstrike—the man falling from the sky at Pont des Arts—had escaped from La Santé Prison two days after being arrested. The French press went mad.
“Où Sont les Responsables?!” the headlines read.
The press went from mad to crazed when the head of the French police held a press conference to announce he’d issued an arrest warrant for a man no one could describe with any accuracy, and that “the sus- pect’s mug shots, fingerprints, and other relevant details have gone missing.” In an attempt to get a detailed description of the culprit, the twenty-one survivors from the Manon were reinterviewed by police sketch artists. None of the survivors could remember the man clearly.
“A normal reaction to a terrible shock,” the top cop said.
And with that, political commentators had a field day guessing the counterstrike was actually the work of France’s own Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure, who—in their greatest screwup since the 1985 Rainbow Warrior incident—had not bothered to inform the French po- lice of the operation. After all, the press concluded, who but the DGSE could arrange “an escape” from La Santé Prison? Then came the front page of Le Monde, suggesting that since the “unknown man who fell from the sky” had, in fact, saved Paris, the French president was duty- bound to identify the man and present him with the Legion of Honor. But with only nine dead in the attack, the press quickly lost interest and the world’s headlines returned to a civil war in Syria, where pictures of slaughter were plentiful. By the end of the week, the attack in Paris had moved to page three. The final “all is well” story came in a fluff piece about Parisians returning to their beloved cafés for aperitifs and conver- sation. The man who fell from the sky was forgotten. Monsieur Dufaux paused for breath and took a sip of wine. He pointed to the front page of today’s paper.
“And now comes this nonsense.”
Enter one Mr. Geoffroy de Villehardouin, blogger and amateur art historian from Dijon (where the mustard comes from, the Daily Mail was happy to mention). Mr. de Villehardouin recognized the similarity between the blurry image of the man falling from the sky and Guido Reni’s seventeenth-century painting of Saint Michael the Archangel. Mr. de Villehardouin wrote:
“Of course, one must admit the ‘wings’ I have highlighted in the pho- tograph are, surely, no more than the tails of the man’s coat flaring up- ward as he fell. Still, overall, the similarity to Reni’s image is more than remarkable.”
Mr. de Villehardouin then posted the images side by side on his blog (a space usually reserved for discussions of religious architecture in the Medici era) and wham. The blog became an overnight sensation, with more than fifteen million hits. And today, the side-by-side images were making the rounds of the world’s newspapers. Monsieur Dufaux pushed the paper aside with amusement.
“First he’s a Jewish James Bond, then he’s a beloved hero of France, now he’s Saint Michael reborn. Oh, I tell you, people do see what they need to see.”
Harper pulled the newspaper from the table, dropped it facedown on the empty chair next to him. He jumped on the man’s last words, happy to change the subject.
“What do you mean?” Monsieur Dufaux laughed.
“Three years ago, I had a tour group from Mexico in the café; they came for fondue. I gave them a few lessons. You know, here’s the fondue fork and here’s how you spear the bread, so on and so forth. They were soon dipping their bits of bread in the pots and sopping up the cheese, having a real fiesta. I left them to it and went back to my kitchen. Not ten minutes later I hear a shriek from the dining room. I run back and see the lot of them on their knees, praying to my fondue pot.”
“They were praying. To my fondue pot.”
Monsieur Dufaux paused for effect, took a sip of wine. No doubt he’d told the story a hundred times, Harper thought. No doubt it got better each time in the telling.
“So . . . what happened was one of them saw the face of the Virgin Mary in the crusted cheese at the bottom of the pot. My God, they were besides themselves, waving rosaries and singing ‘Ave Maria.’” They of- fered me a thousand Swiss francs for the fondue pot, on the spot.”
“What did you do?”
“What could I do? I gave it to them. For free.”
Monsieur Dufaux pronounced the F word in a manner that suggested it wounded him deeply.