Soviet-occupied Eastern Europe, 1988
Adrenaline pushed James Clark hard. Twenty-two minutes and three and a
half miles of mountainous terrain behind him, a bright orange light
briefly illuminated his path through the woods. Explosions erupted in
the distance, shaking clumps of lingering snow from the trees. Heart
pounding, chest heaving, he paused briefly to look back. Fire painted
the night sky orange.
His mind flashed back to less than an hour before. He had infiltrated
the secret Soviet compound to extract her before the airstrike hit.
Startled awake, she had opened her mouth to scream, but Clark's hand had
been faster, stifling her into silence. Black clothing veiled his tall,
sinewy form and in the dark confines of her room, her fear-filled eyes
searched out his shadowed face. "Hello, Eliza," he whispered, his
breath falling warm against her face.
Her eyes softened in recognition and he released her mouth.
"Get dressed," he urged her. "We don't have much time."
"I had given up. I thought you were dead!"
"I'm hard to kill," he replied as he pulled back the scratchy woolen
blanket. Everything was going according to plan until he saw the newborn
infant swaddled on her chest. "What the hell?" he stammered.
"Her name is Alexia," Eliza offered in abbreviated response as she
passed the sleeping baby to Clark, leaving unspoken questions
Awkwardly, he accepted the tiny bundle and his stomach knotted. His
plans hadn't included extra passengers.
Sensing his tension, the child began to stir in his arms.
Clark didn't know much about babies. A nuclear warhead would have been
easier for him to handle--those he knew how to disarm.
Eliza scrambled to dress and began stuffing final items for her daughter
into a well-worn, brown leather bag.
Seconds counted down inside Clark like a timer on a detonator. He didn't
have to look at his watch. He could sense it--the airstrike was in
"We can't leave until I go to the lab!"
"There's no time for that! All you need is a coat."
The baby squirmed again, threatening to rouse.
Eliza hurriedly handed Clark the bag and slipped into a threadbare gray
overcoat. "I've got to get the map. I can't leave it behind!" she said.
"Damn it, Eliza! Forget the map," Clark said, as he awkwardly jiggled
the bundle to keep it quiet. "We have got to leave now!"
"I can't let them have it. The map leads to the Forbidden text!"
"You're the real asset. You can re-create the fucking map!"
"It's not that simple," she argued. "it's cryptic--filled with symbols
Clark wanted to let her retrieve it, but every second spent at
Blackheart's lair--Himmelshaus--was a second closer to death.
Unceremoniously and without another word, he shoved the baby back into
her arms, slung the satchel over his shoulder, and motioned toward the
door. "We're moving out," he ordered leaving no time for a reply.
With a frustrated sigh, Eliza complied, and hurriedly, they retraced
Clark's earlier footsteps through the hall and down the stairs, his
weapon leading the way. Stopping short in a darkened stairwell, Clark
paused to scout ahead with his senses. He had learned much from his
apache grandfather, Tsóyéé, during childhood; becoming 'one' with his
surroundings had saved his life countless times.
He felt it before he heard it--a forewarning in his gut. Instinctively,
he shoved Eliza flat up against the wall with an arm across her chest,
as the fingers of his other hand wrapped silently around the handle of
his carbonized dagger.
In Eliza's arms, the blanketed bundle stirred, threatening to cry. She
kissed her daughter's forehead softly, and began almost imperceptibly
swaying from side to side, praying that her racing heart would not
further alarm the child.
From down the hall, two long shadows approached, hurriedly making their
way across the white tile.
Clark couldn't see the shorter man's face, but immediately recognized
the taller of the pair as Nikolai Krueger, a high-ranking KGB official
he'd code-named cobra. The medium-built, slick-haired, pinch-faced
Russian had the smile of a charlatan and a razor-like mind. Cunning,
Krueger was determined to procure, to steal if he had to, the maximum
personal gain from the system in which he lived. What the hell was he
doing here? Clark wondered. He was supposed to be dead! Regardless, in a
few short moments, the airstrike would introduce Krueger to his maker.
As the shadows passed, Clark grabbed Eliza's hand and sneaked them out
an unmarked fire exit. Outside in the snow, they pressed into the dark
shadow of the building. A crackling, cold Siberian wind bit Clark's face
as he surveyed their escape route through the compound.
"Damn. The cloud cover's breaking," he muttered almost imperceptibly.
Intermittent rays of moonlight reflected brilliantly off smattered
patches of icy snow. Their shroud was rapidly dwindling.
"Wait here," Eliza said as she thrust Alexia into his arms. "I'm not
leaving without the map." The silk scarf wrapped around her head,
concealed all but a few golden tresses. Her sapphire eyes showed no
fear, only determination.
Clark shot her a stern look. "My job is to get you out!" he snapped,
shoving the child back at her. "it's too dangerous!"
Eliza understood his fear, but ignored his warning. Meeting his gaze,
she took his hand in hers and placed it on the brown satchel.
"Sewn inside the lining," she began, her voice low and earnest, "are
My journals, along with notes about Blackheart's master plan. I can
explain everything later, but right now I've got to get the map. The
Forbidden text can never be allowed to fall into Father's hands!"
"Just tell me where to look. I'll go."
"You'll never find it in time," she replied. The resolve in her voice
left no doubt. She would be going with or without his permission.
"If you're not back in eight minutes, I'm coming after you."
She leaned in and placed a quick kiss on her daughter's cheek. Wisps of
the baby's auburn hair glinted in the moonlight. She glanced at the
timer on Clark's wristwatch--fourteen minutes until Himmelshaus would be
leveled. Pausing only a second longer to press her lips against his, she
turned to leave. Clark pulled her back, against his better judgment, and
deepened the kiss. Despite himself, emotions--a counterintelligence
agent's greatest weakness--flooded his being. For an instant he found
himself lost, floating in that space of timelessness, until a roving
searchlight descended out of the blackness and snapped them back to the
bitter, cold reality at hand.
"I'll be right back," Eliza whispered. Turning, she and darted through
the shadows and disappeared into a neighboring building.
Clark crouched and carefully laid the sleeping infant down, tucking it
out of harm's way. Silently, he threaded a suppressor onto the barrel of
his custom .45 caliber colt commander. Six terrible minutes passed.
A shrill alarm sliced through the air.
The baby whimpered and burst into a wail just as Eliza came crashing,
stumbling, out of a side door fifty yards away with guards in hot
"Run!" Clark roared, drawing his gun up to aim.
Quickly regaining her footing, Eliza sprinted full-tilt in his
The first guard from the door intercepted a muffled bullet from Clark's
suppressed colt with his temple, falling in a heap that the second guard
nearly tripped over.
Clark, forced to aim close over Eliza's shoulder, fired two more rounds
into the second man's chest. As the second guard hit the ground, Eliza
was closing the distance.
But a third guard leapt sideways from the door, placing himself behind
Eliza--Clark had no shot.
The soldier raised his rifle and squeezed off a round before Clark
managed to jump to the side and land a bullet in the man's knee.
But, the guard's single shot had been enough.
Eliza staggered and careened to the ground. Her blood splattered red
onto the snow and slowly pooled around her. Clark charged to protect
her, emptying the rest of his magazine into her assailant before pulling
out his knife, just as another guard emerged. With deadly accuracy,
Clark hurled his dagger.
Spinning through the air, the blade slammed hilt-deep into the man's
solar plexus, instantly dropping him to the wet stone.
Clark's world went into slow motion. Heart racing with adrenaline, he
ejected the empty magazine from his pistol and clicked a second one into
place as he knelt beside her, anxiously searching for signs of life.
Her eyes, light fading, locked on to his. Her breath came in short,
ragged pulls. "The map . . . It's gone . . ." she said, her face growing
Clark felt her hand touch his. He looked down to see her fingers unfurl
and reveal a bloodied, crumpled piece of paper inked with strange
Taking the note, his eyes brimmed with unspoken emotion.
"Keep Alexia safe," she said.
"I promise," he choked out.
A faint smile graced Eliza's lips before death arrived to soften the
pained expression on her face.
Clark kissed her mouth softly. The coppery taste of her blood mixed with
the salt of his tears. He pressed her eyelids closed. His focus shifted
onto escaping with the child. She was all he would have left of Eliza.
With his mind reeling, he raced back and scooped up the now mewling
infant. Gun in hand, he carried the baby like a football and ran,
escaping into the misty cover of the dark spruce forest.
Moments later, explosions cracked through the crisp night air. Clark
glanced back. The sky glowed orange with fire.
Himmelshaus--Blackheart's secret base of operations--was history.
Struggling to catch his breath, he looked down into the infant's pale
blue eyes and wondered, How in the hell am I going to save this child?
Excerpted from "The Forbidden Text" by Dawn Clark. Copyright © 2013 by Dawn Clark. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.