Comes a Horseman

Comes a Horseman

by Robert Liparulo


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The ancients saw Death as a blazing figure on horseback, swift and merciless. Those facing the black chasm often mistook their pounding hearts for the beating of hooves.

Now, two FBI agents pursuing a killer from a centuries-old cult realize they have become his prey.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781595541796
Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
Publication date: 08/08/2006
Pages: 496
Sales rank: 949,232
Product dimensions: 8.42(w) x 5.48(h) x 1.33(d)

About the Author

Robert Liparulo has received rave reviews for both his adult novels (Comes a Horseman, Germ, Deadfall, and Deadlock) and the best-selling Dreamhouse Kings series for young adults. He lives in Colorado with his wife and their four children.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Five years ago

Asia House, Tel Aviv, Israel

He waited with his face pressed against the warm metal and his pistol gouging the skin at his lower back. He thought about pulling the weapon from his waistband, setting it beside him or even holding it in his hand, but when the time came, he'd have to move fast, and he didn't want it getting in his way. He'd been there a long time, since well before the first party guests started arriving. Now it sounded as though quite a crowd had gathered on the third floor of the big building. Their voices drifted to him through the ventilation shaft, reverberating off its metal walls, reaching his ears as a jumble of undulating tones, punctuated at times by shrill laughter. He would close his eyes for long periods and try to discern the conversations, but whether by distortion or foreign tongue, even single words eluded him.

Luco Scaramuzzi lifted his cheek out of a pool of perspiration and peered for the hundredth time through the two-foot-square grille below him. He could still see the small spot on the marble floor where a bead of sweat had dropped from the tip of his nose before he could stop it. If that spot were the center point of a clock face, the toilet was at noon, the sink and vanity at two o'clock, and the door--just beyond Luco's view--at three. Despite the large room's intended function as a lavatory for one, modesty or tact had prompted the mounting of walnut partitions on the two unwalled sides of the toilet. It was these partitions that would allow him to descend from the air shaft without being seen by a person standing at the sink--by his target.

A gust of pungent wind blew past him, turning his stomach and forcing him to gasp for air through the grille. The building was home to several embassies, an art gallery, and a restaurant--enough people, food, and trash to generate some really awful effluvia. When the cooling system was idle, the temperature in the ventilation shafts quickly soared into summer-sun temperatures, despite the nighttime hour, and all sorts of odors roamed the ducts like rabid dogs. Then the air conditioner would kick in, chasing away the smells and freezing the perspiration to his body.

Arjan had warned him about such things. He had explained that covert operations necessitated subjecting the body and senses to elements sane men avoided: extreme heat and cold; long stretches of immobility in the most uncomfortable places and positions; contact with insects, rodents, decay. He had advised him to focus on a single object and think pleasant thoughts until equilibrium returned.

Luco shifted his eyes to a perfume bottle on the vanity. He imagined its fragrance, then thought of himself breathing it in as his fingers lifted hair away from the curve of an olive-skinned neck and felt the pulse with his lips.

He heard the bathroom door open and pulled his face back into the darkness. He held his breath, then exhaled when he heard the click of a woman's heels. Her shoes came into view, then her legs and body. Of course she was elegantly dressed. Not only did the nature of the gathering demand it, but this room was reserved for special guests--the target, his family, and his entourage: people who were expected to look their best. The woman stopped in front of the vanity mirror, glanced at herself, and continued into the stall. Turning, she yanked up her dress. Hooked by two thumbs, her hosiery came down as she sat.

The top of the partition's door obstructed Luco's view of her lap, and during the bathroom visits of two other lovely ladies, he had found that no amount of craning would change that fact. So he lay still and watched her face. She was model-beautiful, with big green eyes, sculpted cheekbones, and lips too full to be natural. She finished, flushed, and walked to the sink, where she was completely out of view. This reassured him that the plan had been well thought through. She fiddled at the sink for a minute after washing her hands--applying makeup, he guessed--and left.

He waited for the click of a latch as the door settled into its jamb. It didn't come . . . Someone was holding the door open. Masculine shoes and pant legs stepped silently into view. Luco's breath stopped.

Watch for a bodyguard, Arjan had told him. He'll come in for a look. He may flush the toilet and run the water in the sink, but he won't use anything himself. The next man in is your guy.

He would recognize his target, of course, but getting these few seconds of warning allowed his mind to shift from vigilance to readiness.

He could see the bodyguard in the bathroom now, a square-jawed brute packed into an Armani. The guard stepped up to the vanity to examine each of the bottles and brushes in turn. He dropped to one knee, with more grace than seemed possible, and examined under the countertop and sink. The bathroom had been thoroughly checked once already, earlier in the day, but nobody liked surprises. Luco smiled at the thought.

Standing again, the guard glanced around, his eyes sweeping toward the grille. Luco pulled back farther, fighting the urge to move fast, which might cause the metal he was on to pop, or the gypsum boards that formed the bathroom's ceiling to creak. He imagined the guard's eyes taking in the screws that seemed to hold the grille firmly in place. In reality, they were screw heads only, glued in place after Luco had removed the actual screws. Now, a solitary wire held up the grille on the unhinged side.

The guard inspected the toilet, the padded bench opposite the sink, and the thin closet by the door, bare but for a few hand towels and extra tissue rolls. Every move he made was quick and efficient. He had done this countless times before--probably even did it in his dreams--and never expected to find anything that would validate his existence. He didn't this time either. After all, his boss was the benign prime minister of a democratic country with few enemies. A grudge would almost have to be personal, not political.

Or preordained, thought Luco. Preordained.

The guard spoke softly to someone in the hall.

The door closed, latching firmly. Someone set the lock. The target walked into view. He drained a crystal glass of amber fluid, almost missed the top of the vanity as he set down the glass, and belched loudly. He fumbled with his pants, and Luco saw that his belly had grown too round to let him see his own zipper, which could present a problem with the superfluous hooks and buttons common to finely tailored slacks. The target left the stall door open. He stood before the toilet with his pants and boxers crumpled around his ankles, his hips thrust forward for better aim, the way a child pees.

A confident assassin may have done the deed right then, just pulled back and shot through the grille into the target's head. And, certainly, he could have hired such professionalism. Arjan would have done it; had even requested the assignment.

But it has to be me. If I don't do this myself, then it is for nothing.

Given that requirement, Arjan had set about preparing his boss for this moment, arranging transportation and alibis, securing timetables and blueprints. Arjan had made him train for five weeks with Incursori loyalists. They had worked him physically and filled his mind with knowledge of ballistics and anatomy, close-quarters combat, the arts of vigilance and stealth--at least to the extent that time allowed. Arjan had explained that using a sniper's rifle and scope was infeasible, considering the deadline.

Shooting a man from three hundred yards is a skill! he had snapped. It's not like the movies, man. It takes years of training to guarantee a kill. And you'll have only one chance, right?


So somewhere in Arjan's dark mind, a switch labeled "close kill" had been thrown, sending Luco down a track that led to this ventilation shaft and his hand on the wire that held the grille in place. Slowly, he unwound it from an exposed screw. Then he recalled Arjan's instructions and relooped the wire.

The target's unabated flow told him he had at least a few more seconds. Luco removed a moist washcloth from a Ziploc baggy. He rubbed it over his face, removing sweat and dust from around his eyes, letting the water refresh him. Arjan had told him that countless missions failed because of haste and machismo myths about warriors fighting despite handicaps. "Perspiration in your eyes is a disadvantage you can avoid, so do it!" he had ordered.

Luco dried himself with a washcloth from another Ziploc. His fingers felt clammy inside the tight dishwashing gloves he wore, but that was better than trying to handle the wire and pistol with sweaty hands. Surgical gloves, he had learned, were too thin to prevent leaving fingerprints. And Arjan had been clear about wearing the gloves from ingress to egress--so clear, in fact, that he'd made Luco wear them the entire last week of his training.

The target was tugging his pants up, running a hand around to tuck in his shirt. As soon as he rounded the partition to step in front of the sink, Luco whipped the wire off the screw and let the grille swing down. A string that was attached to the wire slid between his thumb and forefinger until a knot stopped it, halting the grille inches from the wall.

The water at the sink came on.

He used his strong arms to position himself directly above the opening. His legs pistonned down, and he dropped to the floor. By bending his knees as soon as the toes of his rubber-soled boots touched the marble, he managed an almost-silent landing. Still crouched, he pulled the pistol from his waistband. It was a China Type 64, old but especially suited for the job at hand. Its barrel was no longer than any handgun's, but included a silencer; its breech slide was lockable--and was now locked, he noted--to prevent the noises of cartridge ejection and round rechambering inherent to semiautomatic pistols. With its subsonic 7.65mm bullets, it was the quietest pistol ever made.

He stepped behind the target, who was bent over the sink, splashing water on his face. Perfect. The gun's locking slide meant he had only one quick shot. The next shot would take at least five seconds to prepare--an eternity if a wounded victim was screaming and thrashing around and bodyguards were kicking in the door. His goal was instant incapacitation . . . instant death. And that meant the bullet had to sever the brain stem, which was best achieved from behind. He pointed the pistol at the approximate spot where the man's head would be when he straightened.

But, still bent, the man reached for a hand towel, knocked it to the floor, and turned to retrieve it. Catching Luco in his peripheral vision, he stood to face him. His eyes focused on the gun, and he raised his hands in surrender. His attention rose to Luco's face. Puzzlement made his eyes squint, his mouth go slack.

He knows he's seen me before, Luco realized.

"Ti darò qualsiasi cosa oppure," the man pleaded. I will give you everything. His voice was hushed, obviously believing that cooperation would forestall his death.

"Sono sicuro che lo farai," Luco said. I know you will. Stepping forward, he touched the barrel to the indentation between the man's lips and nose--lightly, as if anointing him--and pulled the trigger. The man's head snapped back. Brain and blood and bone instantly caked the mirror behind him, as a dozen fissures snapped the glass from a central point where the bullet had struck. Miraculously, none of the shards came loose. The noise had been barely audible above the sound of the faucet. Luco caught the body as it crumpled and laid it gently on the floor.

Then the smell hit him, like meat shoved into his sinuses. He stood, tried to breathe. Something fell from the mirror and landed wetly on the countertop. Vomit rose in his throat. He slapped his palm over his mouth and willed it back down. Hand in place, he forced himself to survey the slaughter--the brain matter on the mirror and counter; the blood there, as well as spreading in a pool under the head, a rivulet breaking away and snaking toward a floor drain near the toilet; the face contorted in terror, mouth open, tongue protruding, eyes wide.

He wanted to remember.

Back below the ventilation opening, he jumped and pulled himself into the shaft. He could have used the bench for a boost up, but the idea was to slow his pursuers, even by mere seconds. It wasn't the time it would take the guards to move the bench into place that mattered, but any confusion produced by not having an obvious escape route to follow. First, they'd call for a screwdriver (or shoot away the screw heads). Then they'd tug at the grille, which the high-tensile wire would hold firm. Ultimately they'd get into the shaft, glance at the false metal wall he would place behind him, and head the other way.

Six minutes after the assassination, he clambered out of the shaft behind a stack of boxes in a storage room. Through the door, two steps down a hallway, and he was descending the narrow and dark servants' staircase, rarely used since the installation of elevators in the 1970s. He came out in a kitchen three floors below. Hands were immediately on him, pulling at his blood-spattered overalls.

"Hurry," a young man whispered in Italian. His head moved in all directions as he peeled the clothes away.

Luco stripped off the rubber gloves, then vigorously rubbed his hands together. He opened a pocketknife and ran the blade over the laces of his boots. The young man--Antonio, Luco remembered--tugged off the boots and pushed on a pair of expensive oxfords to match his suit. Everything went into an attaché case. Antonio scrubbed at his neck, face, and hair with a wet towel.

"Ah," Luco complained, wiping at his eye.

"Dishwasher soap. Nothing better for blood." Antonio tossed the towel into the attaché, produced a comb, and ran it through Luco's hair. "Come." He led Luco to a heavy fire door at the rear of the building and signaled for him to wait. He opened it and slipped through. Fifteen seconds later he was back, beckoning Luco outside.

A long alley ran away from the Asia House, cutting a canyon between two tall buildings. The only illumination appeared to be the glow of a mercury-vapor lamp on the far street where the alley ended. Everything else was submerged in blackness. Propping the door open with his foot, Antonio pointed down the alley. "The car is parked on Henriata Sold."

Luco gripped the young man's shoulder and gave it a shake. He leaned closer. "Grazie."

Antonio whispered back, "Anything for you."

Luco stepped into the dark alley, the click of his heels echoing quietly. The door closed behind him. He smiled.

It was finished.

And it had just begun.

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Comes a Horseman 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 53 reviews.
drumsrfun More than 1 year ago
I originally picked up this book for the cover art. I normally don't do this, but the synopsis didn't sound bad, so I went with it. Awesome book. Watching as all the parts come together for the climax was great. The interrogation scene actually spooked me, which is no easy feat. I read nothing but supernatural/thriller/horror books, and there are only 2 others that got to me the way this one did. Writing style was easy to follow, and the characters were great.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What a good read! It was a page-turner in every sense of the term. The characters were very well-developed, the plot was intriguing, and the suspense kept me up at night. There was plenty of food for deeper thought on bigger issues for those who are interested. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who appreciates a very-well written book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Tired of the same old serial killer story? Robert Liparulo has crafted a marvelous and scary story that is all too believable. Plenty of twists and turns and action to keep you turning pages until the end.
lawh More than 1 year ago
i found this book (comes a horseman) sat at the bottom of a pile of books at my sisters it wasnt one of my typical authors or stories i thought oh the anticrist world descruction and thought it would be one of them stories where your always one step in front - but oh no it was slow at first then it was all go totally unpridictable plot and fabulous way of writing it didnt come accross as trpical american but a bit twisted/wierd for an english writer. if you have not read this book you should it is not an average day end of the world book its full of twist and turns and some stomach wrenching fear and as with the best of writers everything that is going on is all plauseable you could be the one that was sat alone at home before being ferousley attacked by wolf dogs then decapitated. excerlent book i want more of them and am having to rely on the internet to collect them all why does america get all the best authors! you should share or robert liparulo's agent should be doing there jobs and get him published in the uk boost his sales etc well good luck with that i hope to see him on the shelves soon i also think that people should remember where all the good ideas for films, plays and books come from its from authors that have pride in their work and without authors of some and every kind it would be a bleak world on the entertainment front, not that i am saying this book should be made into a film i dont believe that it should as there have been far to many world descruction films made in the last 20 years. good luck robers=t and keep up the good work it doesnt matter what the reviews say if you are acomplishing your goals
Kujo222 More than 1 year ago
Absolutely awesome book! Intriguing and suspenceful from page one until the epilogue! I loved that until 2/3s through the book every chapter switched charachters, after that the story got more intense and just moved from event to event. The description in the book was amazing, and you were able to get into the mind of each of the main characters. This book was just shy of 500 pages and the timeline inside the book was just a few days. It was a great book and I definitely would recommend it to others.
Fatgourmand More than 1 year ago
When starting this 620 page paperback version I wondered if I would be done by Labor Day (9/6/2010). Two days later I'm writing this in a bit of a daze due to a whirlwind trip of the imagination from Colorado to New York, to Rome, to Isreal. THIS NOT A DAN BROWN IMITATOR! Mr. Liparulo's story is based on factual reality and, as near as I can tell, well researched. The primary conflict is a religious theme, but the story does not necessarily provide an uplifting of faith! Dare to question authority! Criminal acts, forensic technology, behavioral profiling, investigative procedure combined with Dirty Harry, Indiana Jones and a touch of Dennis Lehane.
fingerpost on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of the best in this genre I've ever read. Two FBI agents investigating a serial killer become hunted themselves. Tracing the killer leads them to a secret society plotting to usher the antichrist into the world. Liparulo knows how to keep a reader on the edge of his seat for hundreds of pages.
multilingualmaid on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An Italian named Luco comes up with the perfect plan to gain both power and wealth. It¿s simple: he¿ll just have to convince everyone that he¿s Antichrist. But first, he must convince a group known as the Watchers of his alleged identity. Luco will allow nothing to interfere with his scheme as he becomes more and more engrossed in his role. On the other side of the Atlantic, FBI agents are desperately tracking a ruthless killer who beheads his victims. Could he possibly be linked to events occurring in Europe? Written in a similar style as The DaVinci Code, though more religiously conservative, Liparulo¿s novel is filled with both grand schemes as well as everyday struggles. I appreciated that the author took the time to develop his characters on a more personal level rather than allowing them to become faceless pawns. For example, Liparulo includes the FBI agent who struggles with the grief of losing his wife, the son who is terrified of losing his father, the ruthless killer who is also the compassionate father/husband, and the little boy who has a narrow brush with death but doesn¿t know it. These snatches of the commonplace help bring the story to life for the reader. On the more negative side, the book contains many gruesome scenes. I think the author went a little far with some of his unnecessarily coarse descriptions. The plot goes back and forth between the FBI agents in the United States and the machinations of the supposed Antichrist in Europe until both, rather predictably, converge. Full of mystery and intrigue including an evil cult, a Cardinal with dubious loyalties, and a trek through an underground labyrinth, the author nevertheless includes some humor to keep the novel from being too dark. Overall, Comes a Horseman is a good option for those who enjoy intrigue, action, suspense, and aren¿t overly squeamish.
BlondeBibliophile on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I will never read another book by this author for as long as I live. It amazes me that I withstood the torture that is this book and actually finished it. I found it so incredibly boring. As far as Christian fiction is concered, I am sticking with Ted Dekker.Update: I have checked other reviews of this book on various sites and it appears that I am the ONLY exception to this book. Everyone else positively loves it. I'm pregnant, maybe that's my problem. :-)
debs4jc on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Plot Summary: What happens, When & Where, Central Characters, Major ConflictsFBI Brady Moore and Alicia Walker have the perfect case to test out their new Crime Scene device on--a serial murder who beheads his victims with an ax. While investigating, they begin to see how the case is more than it appears, it somehow ties into the victims all having had near death experiences. They travel to Italy and discover that the murders are part of a plot by a man who wants to be recognized as the Antichrist by a secret organization that has existed since the middle ages. They want the antichrist to come and to share in his power--but now Alicia and Brady have gotten in their way and are now in terrible danger.Style Characterisics: Pacing, clarity, structure, narrative devices, etc.The story shifts from the good guys to the bad guys, and it takes a while to start to see how it all ties together. The author doesn't shy away from the blood and gore, and there is a lot of brutal violence. Plausiblity is stretched, as in many stories that involve conspiracies, but it makes for a exciting tale. The characters are typical of the suspense genre, the bad guys have been fleshed out enough to make their motivations work. The existance of a top secret group that wants to see the antichrist come and that is working with a bunch of Vikings works for the story but upon reflection seems unbelievable. How Good is it?Excellent thriller, for those that don't mind blood and gore and are into conspiracies.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is my first book by this author. I had a little trouble getting into it at first...all those thread flailing around. But then they began to weave together, knitting closer, into a tapestry I found very hard to put down. Well worth the wait!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
So suspenseful. Action packed. Could actually happen. Cant wait to read more! Excelllent!
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Story had me looking over my shoulder frequently! Scary stuff. A little too plausible in this day's unreligious climate.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Already to page 170 and it is slow going. I was expecting something more. The characters are not very interesting. I will finish the book just to find out if it gets better (because I am an avid reader). If I knew it would this before I bought the book I would have saved my money
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