DARK LIAISON, A Christian Suspense Novel, Book One in The COIL Series by Author D.I. Telbat, is a clean, covert action/suspense where we meet ex-CIA Special Forces Agent Corban Dowler. As darkness closes on God’s servants in the field, Corban’s COIL organization exists only to rescue desperate and persecuted Christians from the talons of evil. Killing is not the COIL way, but the Dark Liaison has no such qualms and seeks to stab at the heart of COIL. This novel, recipient of the Redemptive Fiction Award of Excellence, follows free Prequel, Dark Edge, and is followed by four more in the series.
Targeted Age Group:: all
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
Though the famous Louis L'Amour inspired me to write novels, Robert Ludlum inspired me to write my first espionage.
I didn't want to write just another spy novel, though. That had been done and redone, so I thought, if I couldn't write something unique, I wouldn't write one at all. And in the spirit of L'Amour, I asked myself, if L'Amour were to write an out and out spy thriller, what would it be like? My answer? All action!
I've taken my thrill for action, tied it together with tension, and carried the plot through to a climactic ending. That first spy thriller became Dark Liaison, A Christian Suspense Novel.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
Sometimes an author is surprised by the turn of events and character traits in his own novel. I try to write character-driven stories, throwing my main characters into conflict and relying on their own abilities and characteristics to resolve the problem.
When writing Dark Liaison and Dark Hearted, books one and two in The COIL Series, I had an outline to follow. But within my outline, my characters surprised me at their selflessness. When I sat down and really examined their character sketches, I realized I hadn’t planned for the main characters to be portrayed as selfless men and women at all! So why had they become so?
Before I could understand why my characters had become selfless in their roles, I had to refer to my sources of inspiration for writing these novels. My inspiration was life itself—real people I’d read about from websites of Voice of the Martyrs or Samaritan’s Purse, who step out in faith daily to serve others.
But inspiration had also come from other people whom I know myself—missionaries in places like Turkey and Cameroon, whose real personalities and love for Christ had also come to life in my characters.
To me, some of the most wonderful parts of writing are surprises like these. Readers are not the only ones who discover grand schemes and larger-than-life characters. The writer does too—as (s)he writes!
Corban James Dowler had been shot before. This time was no different; the pain was no less. He stood in the shadow of a residential portico in Rome, Italy, gathering his senses before checking his wound. There was a dim streetlamp on the far corner but the light did not reveal where he was hiding. The mass of moving water to his left was the Tiber River. Because of darkness, it was out of sight now, but he knew where he was. Of Rome's seven hills, the peak of Palatine was a stone's throw away. His rental car was ten blocks up the street to the north, his destination four blocks to the south.
Corban took stock of the wound in his left side. It felt like a million needles. Blood streamed down his leg, but it wasn’t too serious. That love handle would never be the same, but he was thankful that the bullet had missed his kidney and ribs.
He eased farther back into the shadows as a lean man crept into the street and then paused. The man still held the silenced pistol that he’d used to shoot Corban. There was only one reason the assassin was standing in the street: he wanted to finish Corban off. The man waited, listening, twenty yards away.
Corban took off his glasses. His eyes were fine. The glasses were part of his costume. He blamed his current wound on his costume. Tonight he was Muhammad ibn Affal, an alias from his past that opened more doors in the Middle East than anywhere, but resulted in misfortune in places like Rome. It was his most accessible alias, requiring little prep-time; he’d had little choice but to use it on this emergency visit to Italy.
His foe still stood in the street, listening to the night. The slightest whisper of clothing would alert this predator. Nevertheless, Corban was calm as he disassembled his eyewear. Pulling off both earpieces, he was left with two stubby, straight lengths still connected to the frame. No one ever noticed that the frame itself was unusually thick and round as a pencil.
The man in the street seemed to look right at him, but Corban knew the darkness hid him. Corban also knew his foe was debating if he should venture into that darkness to investigate.
The assassin slinked toward the portico's shadow, his pistol leveled and sweeping.
Pressing both frame lengths toward the lenses, Corban aimed each end at his foe. Since he knew the armed delay of his miniature weapon, he counted the seconds. It was calibrated for ten yards, but this was a little close to use on a man with a drawn pistol.
A tiny red laser beam shot out. When Corban saw the red dot on the man's chest, he instantly crouched low against the building in anticipation. The sharp pop of a CO2 cartridge sent a tranquilizer dart tipped with falaco into the man's chest, right where Corban's laser sight had beamed. In return, two silenced rounds from the pistol slammed into the wall over Corban's head and peppered him with white dust. Like ricin, falaco required two beats of the heart to reach the vital organs. It was a powerful narcotic that would have killed the man if had the dart been dipped in more than a tiny drop of the toxin upon preparation.
The killer shuddered on his feet, then crumbled in place on the edge of the street.
Reassembling his glasses, Corban put them back on his face. If his foe wasn't alone, Corban would be in trouble. Though he had other non-lethal weapons at headquarters in New York City, he’d brought only the glasses on this trip.
Corban smoothed down his fake beard and mustache, both trimmed and styled in the most loyal Islamic fashion. Ignoring his trickling wound, he stepped out of the shadows and into the quiet street. Kneeling next to the killer, he checked the man's weapon: a 9-millimeter, custom-made, machine pistol with a French label. Corban had never seen one like it, which meant the man was a professional, a hunter-tracer of some type.
Rolling the man over, he dragged him out of the street. Falaco's effects would last for an hour, but no more. Though Corban was in a hurry, he was curious, as well. He checked the man's pockets. Two packs of chewing gum and a pack of cigarettes, but no matches or lighter. Corban was tempted to keep the cigarettes, but he decided against it. One never knew what the new generation of spies and assassins carried. It could be a transponder or even a bomb that would explode two steps away from its recognized body heat signature.
Studying the assassin's face up close, Corban engraved his features into his mind. The man was not over forty. His face was lean, cold, and clean-shaven, and he had black hair and bushy eyebrows. He appeared to be Italian. The Italian government was not hunting Muhammad ibn Affal, but he was on more than a few countries' watchdog lists. To them, he was an arms thief and smuggler—a terrorist. Such an alias was generally safe to use, even near Western countries that knew him well. But they were only supposed to watch him, not kill him. If someone wanted his identity gone, something in the world of terror had shifted.
Finished with his examination, Corban left the killer and jogged across the street. He slowed to a walk and entered a vine-crowded alley. Pausing every twenty paces, he listened to the night: the city traffic in the distance, a dog yelping, but no trailing footsteps.
A few blocks later, Corban put his back to a telephone pole and watched his target house and the surrounding neighborhood for several minutes. The Italian assassin, even if he woke early, would not know Corban was coming here. Or would he? Every stage was a potential ambush. The Italian could have followed him from the airport, or perhaps he began to tail him later. If his rental car was marked with a transponder, it didn't matter. He wasn't going back for it.
Corban kept a watchful eye on the house. It had a short, stone wall around its front courtyard. An ornate fountain sat dry and littered, molding from whatever last rains had graced its bowl. An old Audi was parked in the driveway. There were no lights on in the house. He knew it was a four-bedroom residence with a pool in the rear. The whole place reeked of neglect, but Corban expected no less. With the death threats that Tye and Sarah Mentolla had been receiving from extremists, he didn't blame them for remaining in the safety of their home and calling for help.
It was an age-old struggle that had started in the 1500s—apostate teaching versus the biblical teaching that came out of the Protestant Reformation. The Mentollas had been Christian missionaries in Rome for nine years, trained to reach apostates specifically. But the superstitions of the people had won over the washing of Christ's redemptive blood this day.
The Mentollas' dog had been killed a week ago, and the phone calls were becoming more threatening by the day. Just sixteen hours ago, their house had been stoned. Normally, other field agents would have handled this volatile situation, but they were in demand elsewhere. It was up to Corban to get them out this time.
He saw headlights far up the street. Climbing over the Mentollas' stone wall, Corban pushed through the bushes that choked a brick walkway until he reached the back door of the house. As suspected, the backyard pool was filthy, but drained. He was about to knock on the door when he heard breaking glass and shouts from the street. Jogging back to the walkway, he saw a car stopped in front of the house. A half dozen youths were throwing rocks at the windows as another lit a Molotov cocktail.
Returning to the back door, Corban kicked it in. Wood splintered before him as he barged through the frame and into the house. From there, he could see through the dining and living rooms to the front window. As he watched, the cocktail crashed through broken glass. Flames engulfed the floor and furniture.
A child cried, and Corban heard voices from down the hallway to his right. The thugs in front were lucky Corban was not the man he once was—a man who went heavily armed on every mission. He would've had no qualms about dashing into the street with his Beretta and . . .
But Corban was no longer that man. God had changed him six years before. Since then, he could not bring himself to kill. He had to retire from the CIA early, his pension only a few years away, yet his convictions intact. In many ways, though, he was still that old spy tracker. Even though he was fifty-six and not in the best physical condition, he still felt like a man of twenty. After years of honing his skills, he could move like a panther and think like a computer. He was the last of the old-school spies, and although he no longer used his craft for the government, he still used it—to preserve the defenseless.
Fire reflected off his forehead and glasses as he stared at the growing flames. A man shouted at him in Italian. Corban recognized Tye Mentolla right away. He'd never met his family, but Corban knew them well. In the man’s arms was his four-year-old daughter, Lacy. Six-year-old Forest was behind his father, clinging to his panic-stricken mother, Sarah. Corban couldn’t speak much Italian, but he didn't need to—the Mentollas were Americans.
"I'm here to help you," Corban said over the roar of the fire. The father didn’t move. "Sixteen hours ago, you called your mission board in the States. You requested emergency leave. I'm here to get you out. Carry what you can. The fire's still low, but we don't have much time. Quick! We'll leave out the back."
"They said no one would be here for another week," insisted Tye. "They said the threat level wasn't high enough."
"Fine. You want to stay here?"
Coughing at the smoking flames, Tye set his daughter down on the floor.
"Quick!" he urged his family. "Go get dressed!"
His children scampered down the hallway.
"I'll get the albums." Sarah hurried to a display cabinet against a wall. A stone thrown from outside bounced off the floor and hit her leg. She screamed and dropped a handful of photos. "Tye, help me!"
"Sarah, go get your clothes and help the kids!" Tye said as he knelt to gather the pictures from the floor. He muttered a prayer for safety and kept a wary eye on the encroaching flames. "I never thought it would come to this. After all our work."
Corban spotted movement from the corner of his eye. He pivoted to face a tall form in a hooded sweatshirt looming in the back doorway. It was one of the thugs he’d seen in the street. The chiseled shape of a machete rose to strike down at Corban. Shifting his feet, Corban heel-kicked the youth in the solar plexus, sending him skidding across the patio and into the empty pool. Corban heard the thug gasping for air and knew the hooded figure would be fine once he caught his breath.
". . . and so that’s when I called the board," Tye was saying. He turned to Corban, oblivious of Corban's confrontation with the youth. "What'd you say your name was?"
"I didn't say."
"Maybe you should get dressed, too, Mr. Mentolla."
Tye nodded and jogged down the hallway. Corban spied the growing flames while keeping an eye on the back door. Sarah soon emerged, pinning her hair up and helping Lacy into a sweatshirt, then Tye and Forest came from the hallway together, both carrying their Bibles. Sarah picked up her purse and a small bag.
"Do you have a plan?" Tye asked, gathering the stack of folders and albums. "We'll never get our car out with them blocking the way."
These were good, caring people, Corban thought as he watched Forest tug a baseball cap down over his brow. He hated to see the darkness overwhelm the light so horribly.
He turned toward the pool and the semi-darkness.
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