In 930 CE, a revered group of scholars pens the first sanctioned Bible, planting the seed from which other major religions will grow. But in 1953, half the manuscript goes missing while being transported from Syria. Around the same time, in the foothills of the Dead Sea, an ancient scroll is discovered—and promptly stolen.
Six decades later, both parchments stand at the heart of a geopolitical battle between foreign governments and radical extremists, threatening the lives of millions. With the American homeland under siege, the president turns to a team of uniquely trained covert operatives including FBI profiler Karen Vail, Special Forces veteran Hector DeSantos, and FBI terrorism expert Aaron Uziel. Their mission: Find the stolen documents and capture—or kill—those responsible for unleashing a coordinated and unprecedented terrorist attack on US soil.
Set in DC, New York, Paris, England, and Israel, The Lost Codex has been hailed by Douglas Preston as “a masterwork of international suspense” and “an outstanding novel."
About the Author
Jacobson’s books have been published internationally, and several have been optioned for film and television. A number have been named to Best of the Year lists.
Jacobson has been interviewed extensively on television and radio, including on CNN, NPR, and multiple ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox network affiliates.
Alan Jacobson is the national bestselling author of the critically acclaimed FBI profiler Karen Vail and OPSIG Team Black series. Jacobson’s years of extensive research and training while embedded with federal and local law enforcement agencies have influenced him both personally and professionally, and have helped shape the stories he tells and the diverse characters that populate his novels.
Read an Excerpt
The Lost Codex
An OPSIG Team Black Novel
By Alan Jacobson
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2015 Alan Jacobson
All rights reserved.
14th Street NW
The waitress set the glass of Board Meeting brown ale on the table in front of FBI profiler Karen Vail. Vail took a long sip and said, "Notes of dark chocolate and coffee. I've definitely developed a taste for this. It's very ... stimulating." She winked at her fiancé, DEA special agent Roberto Hernandez.
"You mean like an aphrodisiac?" Robby asked. "Beer?"
Vail leaned close to him, her lips tickling his ear. "When we get home, after I pull your pants off, I'm going to take your —"
Two gunshots echoed off the facades of the neighboring buildings. Vail and Robby pulled their pistols in unison and ran toward the exit of the storefront bar.
"That was nearby," Vail said as she hit the glass door. So much for a romantic night out.
"Anything?" Robby asked, swiveling in an arc, eyes scanning the nighttime cityscape.
The vapor from their now-rapid breathing trailed off like apparitions, carried on the breeze that found its way down the collar of Vail's sweater. She had left without pulling on her coat, and the chill made her shiver involuntarily.
A shrill scream off to the right in the vicinity of 14th Street NW sent them sprinting down the block. They turned the corner — and saw a body laid out on the sidewalk, the blood pooled next to it dripping over the edge of the curb.
"Call it in," Vail said as she continued on toward the injured man. She pressed two fingers against his carotid and shook her head. "Let's secure the perimeter, hold the scene for Metro PD."
Robby brought the phone to his ear and craned his neck to find the street signs so he could report their location.
Vail hovered over the body but could not resist the urge to check the identity of the deceased.
C'mon, Karen, let Metro do their jobs. This isn't your case. This isn't your jurisdiction.
She gently patted the man's jacket with the back of her hand, then moved on to his jeans. In his front pocket Vail felt a wallet. She forced two fingers against the denim and extracted the smooth black leather bi-fold. Her heart skipped a beat as she splayed it open and saw an FBI shield. Agent Harlon Filloon.
Whoa. Was he killed because he's a federal agent? Was he working a case? Or is it just a coincidence?
"Robby." Vail held up the credentials so he could see what she had found, then folded them and slid them into her pocket.
He nodded as he finished the call and then reholstered his phone.
"Something's not right." She rose from her crouch and glanced around, her Glock now tight in her grip, following the direction of her gaze.
She moved toward the street corner a few yards away and heard feet slapping against asphalt. Fleeing suspect?
Vail pressed her back against the building's masonry wall as Robby headed toward her.
"Footsteps. Running. Could be nothing."
Glock out in front, chest high, elbows locked against her ribcage, she swung left, around the corner of the edifice —
And saw a man sprinting across Irving Street, approaching a row of brick townhouses. "Hey!"
He turned, their eyes met, and that's when she saw the handgun glint in the amber glow of the streetlight.
"FBI, don't move!"
He twisted his torso and something flew from his hands as he brought up the pistol. But Vail and Robby fired first.
One or both of them scored a direct hit — and a concussive blast blew them both back onto their buttocks, glass and shrapnel flying past, and against, them. Vail shook her head, opened her eyes, and looked up into a fog of detritus floating down toward her. She rolled onto all fours, her hearing diminished. Robby —
She swung her gaze around and saw him on a knee, slowly pushing himself upright. "You okay?"
"I think so." He staggered toward her, slipping on shards of glass littering the asphalt.
Car alarms blared as people scurried out of the nearby buildings, running this way and that, trying to escape a formless threat.
As Vail made her way toward the area where the perp was standing when they shot him, she became aware of her phone ringing — and vibrating violently in her pocket.
Vail stopped and brought the handset to her face.
"Agent Vail, this is Director Knox."
A call from the FBI director? On a Saturday night?
"Yes sir," she said as she caught a glimpse of Robby starting to sift through the rubble. "Can you speak louder?" I just escaped being blown to bits and my hearing's a bit muffled.
There was a pause, then, "We've got a situation I need you to handle."
"Does it have anything to do with the gunshots? Or the bomb that just went off?"
"Yes. I know you're on site."
Vail looked around, her eyes trying to locate a camera — but she did not see one. "You do?"
Then she remembered the ShotSpotter system installed around the district: hundreds of acoustic sensors designed to capture and instantaneously pinpoint certain sound frequencies, in particular those of gunfire.
"I need you to secure the scene."
Vail jerked her head around as sirens blared in the distance. It was muted, but she definitely knew the unmistakable cry of a law enforcement vehicle. "Metro PD's gonna be here in seconds. Why do you need me to —"
"You are to take control of that scene. Not Metro PD."
"But s —"
"No buts. Listen to me, Agent Vail. You are to take control of that scene on my authority."
"Okay, but —"
"This is the time to follow orders and not ask questions. Can you do that?"
"Of course." Who am I kidding? Hopefully the director.
"Harlon Filloon, the downed man, is an agent. You're to protect his identity and keep others — meaning police, medical examiners, forensic personnel — away from his body."
"Send Agent Hernandez home. And tell him not to talk with anyone about what he just saw."
"Send him home?"
"I don't have time to repeat my orders. Do as you're told. I'll be in touch."
"We've dispatched a team that's four minutes out. Let them in. No one else is to enter that scene. No one. Understood?"
"Who was that?" Robby asked as Vail shoved the phone back in her pocket.
"You need to leave," she said, still trying to process what Knox told her — attempting to read between the lines, attempting to understand, attempting to clear her head of the fog induced by the blast. "Go home."
Robby tilted his head. "What the hell are you talking about?"
"I can't say anymore. And you can't either. Not to anyone." She started toward the end of the block, where she had been standing when she pulled the trigger. "Just listen to me. I'll call you as soon as I can."
"What the hell's going on? Why do I need to go home?"
"I don't know. But I've got my orders. And —"
"Your orders are to send me home?"
"Yes. And it'd be best for you to listen."
"Robby, please. Let me deal with this and we'll sort it out later, okay?"
Jonathan. What are the chances he was on this block at this exact moment when the bomb exploded? C'mon, Karen. Don't be ridiculous. Ridiculous or not, she wanted to be certain her son was safe. "And check in on Jonathan. Make sure he's okay."
"I'm sure he's fine. He's probably at a bar with some friends."
"A bar? What the hell are you —"
"He's in college. That's what college students do."
"Just call him. No — text him, make sure he's okay. Humor me."
"Fine." Robby backed away, then slowly disappeared into the mass of people staring at the destruction — but keeping their distance, afraid to approach.
Vail did not like being rude to Robby, but what else could she do? When the boss of all your bosses ordered you to do something, you did it, right? Actually, I'd better not answer that.
As she was taking a quick survey of the area, getting a feel for what she was dealing with and making sure no one approached the scene, a police car pulled up behind her. "Police! Don't move."
You've gotta be kidding me. Vail turned slowly, hands up, and identified herself. "I'm a federal agent. I'm gonna remove my creds," she said, carefully extracting her Bureau ID and then holding it up. "I've taken control of the scene and I need you to clear the area. I'm under orders from FBI Director Douglas Knox. This is a federal investigation, a matter of national security."
The cop clicked on his tactical flashlight and pointed it at her face.
"Turn that goddamn thing off," Vail yelled. "Notify all responding units to establish a larger perimeter and evacuate any restaurants or residences in a two- block radius."
"I don't take orders from you. This is our jurisdiction —"
"Look, I'm just doing as told. You need to do the same. Tell your lieutenant to contact Director Knox's office. Let the brass fight it out."
The officer seemed to think that was a good idea because he pulled his radio and began speaking into it — hopefully conveying what she had said and not requesting reinforcements for dealing with a deranged redhead with stolen FBI creds standing in the middle of a potential crime scene.
While the cop jabbered into his two-way, a couple of large black unmarked cabover vans pulled up, two or three dozen personnel hopping out the back doors dressed in dark tactical coveralls with white luminescent block letters spelling POLICE.
"You Vail?" a man with a square jaw asked as he approached.
"Who are you?"
"The director told me to touch base with you. We'll secure the perimeter. He wants you to start your investigation."
My investigation? "Right."
He seemed satisfied with that response because he turned and headed toward the knot of similarly attired officers who were moving gawkers away from the scene.
A moment later, Vail felt a tap on her shoulder. She turned and saw one of the men holding up a jacket. "You've gotta be freezing."
Must've heard my teeth chattering. "Thanks so much. You're my hero."
The man nodded curtly. As Vail snuggled into the coat, her cell vibrated with a text from Robby:
jonathans fine. hes at a bar. told you.
She dashed off a quick thanks as a red Corvette pulled up. She knew that car, which now bore a personalized plate: BLACK 1.
The vehicle came to an abrupt stop and Hector DeSantos got out of the driver's seat, dressed in a leather jacket and wearing small metal rimmed glasses.
"Hector, what the hell's going on?"
"Nice to see you too. Knox is on his way with some intel. Other than that, you probably know more than I do."
Vail gave him a dubious look. But before she could reply, a DC Fire Chief vehicle — and two engine companies — arrived, their diesel engines and airbrakes making it difficult to speak at normal volume.
They watched as three members of the tactical team approached the commander. A healthy helping of testosterone flew in both directions, Vail catching snippets of the argument. Finally the chief backed away, promising to escalate the matter to higher ranks — after playing his trump card that they were endangering lives by not permitting his men to check gas mains and other flammable infrastructure.
As the commander turned to make his case to his superiors over the radio, a Ford Explorer pulled in behind DeSantos's Corvette. Supervisory Special Agent Aaron Uziel, head of the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force for the Washington Metro field office, got out and headed toward them.
"Santa," Uzi said with a fist bump against DeSantos's closed hand. He glanced at Vail, eyes moving head to toe. "Karen. You look very nice. Did we interrupt something?"
"I was out with Robby."
Uzi swiveled. "Where is the big guy?"
"I sent him home." She noticed Uzi's confused expression. "Knox's orders." Vail looked past his shoulder and saw the dozens of men in black outfits now establishing a physical boundary with unmarked sawhorses. I think I'm starting to see what's going on here. "A few months ago, I'd be at a loss to explain what's happening."
"And now?" Uzi said.
"Let's start with the fact that Hector's here." She looked at DeSantos, her head tilted ever so slightly, inviting him to jump in.
"And he doesn't get involved in a case unless it's a sensitive matter," Uzi said, glancing at the damaged storefronts and streetscape.
"I'm standing right here," DeSantos said. "You got a question?"
"You have the answers?" Vail asked. "Because, yeah, I've got questions. Like, What's going on? What the hell happened? Who was the guy who got blown to bits?"
"Can't tell you."
Vail narrowed her eyes. "Don't start with me."
"How about we go get some answers." DeSantos handed booties to Vail and Uzi, then led them down the street and into the epicenter of the blast. Some of the men Vail saw arrive in the black trucks were poring over the wreckage, taking photos and measurements along the periphery and working their way closer to the body. Or what was left of it, which wasn't much.
"Who are these guys?"
"A forensic crew," DeSantos said.
Doesn't look like any forensic crew I've ever seen.
"First impression?" Uzi said. "This was deliberate. And if that's the case, Santa, it needs to be investigated as a terror attack until proven otherwise. As head of the JTTF —"
"That's why you're here, Boychick," DeSantos said, using his nickname for Uzi — Yiddish for buddy.
Uzi glanced at Vail.
"Now you know how I feel," she said.
"Look." DeSantos gathered them together and said, "All I know is that officially this is being investigated as a gas main explosion. Unofficially, yeah, it's a terrorist event. And that's why you're here."
"If I'd been properly notified, I could've had my task force — "
"It's sensitive. These guys dressed in black?" He turned to Vail. "They're OPSIG operators."
Vail knew OPSIG stood for Operations Support Intelligence Group — DeSantos's unofficial employer — a black ops unit housed in the basement of the Pentagon that carried out covert, deniable missions around the world.
"Why is this an OPSIG mission?" she asked. "And why am I here?"
"My guess is that you owe Knox for getting your ass out of hot water in London. He needs your expertise and sensibilities on this. You also happened to be first on-scene and he needed someone here he could trust."
I was hoping he wasn't gonna say that. "I'm not a Special Forces operator. I haven't had the training."
"That," DeSantos said, "will come."
Two bright xenon headlights illuminated them, throwing their shadows across the buildings behind them.
"I think you're about to get some answers," DeSantos said.
The armored black Chevrolet Suburban SUV stopped alongside them and out stepped Douglas Knox, accompanied by two members of the director's protection detail.
"Status?" Knox said, looking at Vail.
"Area secured. Expect calls from DC Metro and Fire."
"Already taken care of."
"May I ask — "
"Sir," said one of the OPSIG agents. "We found something."
They followed the man into the nearest residential apartment building, where the destruction was more pronounced. The odor of cordite was thick and the air was smoky. Using a tactical flashlight, he led them down into a basement room that was stocked with bomb-making materials — and vests in various stages of construction.
"Holy shit," Vail said. "What are we looking at here?"
Knox turned to his protection detail. "Leave us."
"But sir —"
Knox faced the OPSIG operator. "Has this room been cleared? The building?"
"We're fine here," Knox said to the agents, who reluctantly left. When the door closed, he continued: "We received intel this morning that there was a high probability of the first-ever suicide bombing on US soil."
Vail felt her stomach tighten. This was not just bad news. It was horrible news of the worst kind. Planes hitting skyscrapers resulting in mass murder was traumatic enough. But conventional suicide bombings in a major US city was a whole other kind of terror — one affecting tens of millions of people all day, every day, until the bomber or bombers were caught. The majority of the country's population would be living on edge, waiting for the next explosion to rip through their restaurant, park, or playground.
"We've been working our sources trying to verify that information."
"Why wasn't I told?" Uzi asked.
Excerpted from The Lost Codex by Alan Jacobson. Copyright © 2015 Alan Jacobson. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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