Дэн Браун. Код да Винчи (ENGL)
FOR BLYTHE... AGAIN. MORE THAN EVER.
First and foremost, to my friend and editor, Jason Kaufman, for working so hard on this project and for truly understanding what this book is all about. And to the incomparable Heide Lange--tireless champion of The Da Vinci Code, agent extraordinaire, and trusted friend.
I cannot fully express my gratitude to the exceptional team at Doubleday, for their generosity, faith, and superb guidance. Thank you especially to Bill Thomas and Steve Rubin, who believed in this book from the start. My thanks also to the initial core of early in-house supporters, headed by Michael Palgon, Suzanne Herz, Janelle Moburg, Jackie Everly, and Adrienne Sparks, as well as to the talented people of Doubleday's sales force.
For their generous assistance in the research of the book, I would like to acknowledge the Louvre Museum, the French Ministry of Culture, Project Gutenberg, Bibliothuque Nationale, the Gnostic Society Library, the Department of Paintings Study and Documentation Service at the Louvre, Catholic World News, Royal Observatory Greenwich, London Record Society, the Muniment Collection at Westminster Abbey, John Pike and the Federation of American Scientists, and the five members of Opus Dei (three active, two former) who recounted their stories, both positive and negative, regarding their experiences inside Opus Dei.
My gratitude also to Water Street Bookstore for tracking down so many of my research books, my father Richard Brown--mathematics teacher and author--for his assistance with the Divine Proportion and the Fibonacci Sequence, Stan Planton, Sylvie Baudeloque, Peter McGuigan, Francis McInerney, Margie Wachtel, Andru Vernet, Ken Kelleher at Anchorball Web Media, Cara Sottak, Karyn Popham, Esther Sung, Miriam Abramowitz, William Tunstall-Pedoe, and Griffin Wooden Brown.
And finally, in a novel drawing so heavily on the sacred feminine, I would be remiss if I did not mention the two extraordinary women who have touched my life. First, my mother, Connie Brown--fellow scribe, nurturer, musician, and role model. And my wife, Blythe--art historian, painter, front-line editor, and without a doubt the most astonishingly talented woman I have ever known.
The Priory of Sion--a European secret society founded in 1099--is a real organization. In 1975 Paris's Bibliothuque Nationale discovered parchments known as Les Dossiers Secrets, identifying numerous members of the Priory of Sion, including Sir Isaac Newton, Botticelli, Victor Hugo, and Leonardo da Vinci.
The Vatican prelature known as Opus Dei is a deeply devout Catholic sect that has been the topic of recent controversy due to reports of brainwashing, coercion, and a dangerous practice known as "corporal mortification." Opus Dei has just completed construction of a $47 million World Headquarters at 243 Lexington Avenue in New York City.
All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate.
LOUVRE MUSEUM, PARIS 10:46 P.M.
Renowned curator Jacques Sauniure staggered through the vaulted archway of the museum's Grand Gallery. He lunged for the nearest painting he could see, a Caravaggio. Grabbing the gilded frame, the seventy-six-year-old man heaved the masterpiece toward himself until it tore from the wall and Sauniure collapsed backward in a heap beneath the canvas.
As he had anticipated, a thundering iron gate fell nearby, barricading the entrance to the suite. The parquet floor shook. Far off, an alarm began to ring.
The curator lay a moment, gasping for breath, taking stock. I am still alive. He crawled out from under the canvas and scanned the cavernous space for someplace to hide.
A voice spoke, chillingly close. "Do not move."
On his hands and knees, the curator froze, turning his head slowly.
Only fifteen feet away, outside the sealed gate, the mountainous silhouette of his attacker stared through the iron bars. He was broad and tall, with ghost-pale skin and thinning white hair. His irises were pink with dark red pupils. The albino drew a pistol from his coat and aimed the barrel through the bars, directly at the curator. "You should not have run." His accent was not easy to place. "Now tell me where it is."
"I told you already," the curator stammered, kneeling defenseless on the floor of the gallery. "I have no idea what you are talking about!"
"You are lying." The man stared at him, perfectly immobile except for the glint in his ghostly eyes. "You and your brethren possess something that is not yours."
The curator felt a surge of adrenaline. How could he possibly know this?
"Tonight the rightful guardians will be restored. Tell me where it is hidden, and you will live." The man leveled his gun at the curator's head. "Is it a secret you will die for?"
Sauniure could not breathe.
The man tilted his head, peering down the barrel of his gun.
Sauniure held up his hands in defense. "Wait," he said slowly. "I will tell you what you need to know." The curator spoke his next words carefully. The lie he told was one he had rehearsed many times... each time praying he would never have to use it.
When the curator had finished speaking, his assailant smiled smugly. "Yes. This is exactly what the others told me."
Sauniure recoiled. The others?
"I found them, too," the huge man taunted. "All three of them. They confirmed what you have just said."
It cannot be! The curator's true identity, along with the identities of his three sunuchaux, was almost as sacred as the ancient secret they protected. Sauniure now realized his sunuchaux, following strict procedure, had told the same lie before their own deaths. It was part of the protocol.
The attacker aimed his gun again. "When you are gone, I will be the only one who knows the truth."
The truth. In an instant, the curator grasped the true horror of the situation. If I die, the truth will be lost forever. Instinctively, he tried to scramble for cover.
The gun roared, and the curator felt a searing heat as the bullet lodged in his stomach. He fell forward... struggling against the pain. Slowly, Sauniure rolled over and stared back through the bars at his attacker.
The man was now taking dead aim at Sauniure's head.
Sauniure closed his eyes, his thoughts a swirling tempest of fear and regret.
The click of an empty chamber echoed through the corridor.
The curator's eyes flew open.
The man glanced down at his weapon, looking almost amused. He reached for a second clip, but then seemed to reconsider, smirking calmly at Sauniure's gut. "My work here is done."
The curator looked down and saw the bullet hole in his white linen shirt. It was framed by a small circle of blood a few inches below his breastbone. My stomach. Almost cruelly, the bullet had missed his heart. As a veteran of la Guerre d'Algurie, the curator had witnessed this horribly drawn-out death before. For fifteen minutes, he would survive as his stomach acids seeped into his chest cavity, slowly poisoning him from within.
"Pain is good, monsieur," the man said.
Then he was gone.
Alone now, Jacques Sauniure turned his gaze again to the iron gate. He was trapped, and the doors could not be reopened for at least twenty minutes. By the time anyone got to him, he would be dead. Even so, the fear that now gripped him was a fear far greater than that of his own death.
I must pass on the secret.
Staggering to his feet, he pictured his three murdered brethren. He thought of the generations who had come before them... of the mission with which they had all been entrusted.
An unbroken chain of knowledge.
Suddenly, now, despite all the precautions... despite all the fail-safes... Jacques Sauniure was the only remaining link, the sole guardian of one of the most powerful secrets ever kept.
Shivering, he pulled himself to his feet.
I must find some way....
He was trapped inside the Grand Gallery, and there existed only one person on earth to whom he could pass the torch. Sauniure gazed up at the walls of his opulent prison. A collection of the world's most famous paintings seemed to smile down on him like old friends.
Wincing in pain, he summoned all of his faculties and strength. The desperate task before him, he knew, would require every remaining second of his life.
Robert Langdon awoke slowly.
A telephone was ringing in the darkness--a tinny, unfamiliar ring. He fumbled for the bedside lamp and turned it on. Squinting at his surroundings he saw a plush Renaissance bedroom with Louis XVI furniture, hand-frescoed walls, and a colossal mahogany four-poster bed.
Where the hell am I?
The jacquard bathrobe hanging on his bedpost bore the monogram: HOTEL RITZ PARIS.
Slowly, the fog began to lift.
Langdon picked up the receiver. "Hello?"
"Monsieur Langdon?" a man's voice said. "I hope I have not awoken you?"
Dazed, Langdon looked at the bedside clock. It was 12:32 A.M. He had been asleep only an hour, but he felt like the dead.
"This is the concierge, monsieur. I apologize for this intrusion, but you have a visitor. He insists it is urgent."
Langdon still felt fuzzy. A visitor? His eyes focused now on a crumpled flyer on his bedside table.
THE AMERICAN UNIVERSITY OF PARIS
AN EVENING WITH ROBERT LANGDON
PROFESSOR OF RELIGIOUS SYMBOLOGY,
Langdon groaned. Tonight's lecture--a slide show about pagan symbolism hidden in the stones of Chartres Cathedral--had probably ruffled some conservative feathers in the audience. Most likely, some religious scholar had trailed him home to pick a fight.
"I'm sorry," Langdon said, "but I'm very tired and--"
"Mais, monsieur," the concierge pressed, lowering his voice to an urgent whisper. "Your guest is an important man."
Langdon had little doubt. His books on religious paintings and cult symbology had made him a reluctant celebrity in the art world, and last year Langdon's visibility had increased a hundredfold after his involvement in a widely publicized incident at the Vatican. Since then, the stream of self-important historians and art buffs arriving at his door had seemed never-ending.
"If you would be so kind," Langdon said, doing his best to remain polite, "could you take the man's name and number, and tell him I'll try to call him before I leave Paris on Tuesday? Thank you." He hung up before the concierge could protest.
Sitting up now, Langdon frowned at his bedside Guest Relations Handbook, whose cover boasted: SLEEP LIKE A BABY IN THE CITY OF LIGHTS. SLUMBER AT THE PARIS RITZ. He turned and gazed tiredly into the full-length mirror across the room. The man staring back at him was a stranger--tousled and weary.
You need a vacation, Robert.
The past year had taken a heavy toll on him, but he didn't appreciate seeing proof in the mirror. His usually sharp blue eyes looked hazy and drawn tonight. A dark stubble was shrouding his strong jaw and dimpled chin. Around his temples, the gray highlights were advancing, making their way deeper into his thicket of coarse black hair. Although his female colleagues insisted the gray only accentuated his bookish appeal, Langdon knew better.
If Boston Magazine could see me now.
Last month, much to Langdon's embarrassment, Boston Magazine had listed him as one of that city's top ten most intriguing people--a dubious honor that made him the brunt of endless ribbing by his Harvard colleagues. Tonight, three thousand miles from home, the accolade had resurfaced to haunt him at the lecture he had given.
"Ladies and gentlemen..." the hostess had announced to a full house at the American University of Paris's Pavilion Dauphine, "Our guest tonight needs no introduction. He is the author of numerous books: The Symbology of Secret Sects, The An of the Illuminati, The Lost Language of Ideograms, and when I say he wrote the book on Religious Iconology, I mean that quite literally. Many of you use his textbooks in class."
The students in the crowd nodded enthusiastically.
"I had planned to introduce him tonight by sharing his impressive curriculum vitae. However..." She glanced playfully at Langdon, who was seated onstage. "An audience member has just handed me a far more, shall we say... intriguing introduction."
She held up a copy of Boston Magazine.
Langdon cringed. Where the hell did she get that?
The hostess began reading choice excerpts from the inane article, and Langdon felt himself sinking lower and lower in his chair. Thirty seconds later, the crowd was grinning, and the woman showed no signs of letting up. "And Mr. Langdon's refusal to speak publicly about his unusual role in last year's Vatican conclave certainly wins him points on our intrigue-o-meter." The hostess goaded the crowd. "Would you like to hear more?"
The crowd applauded.
Somebody stop her, Langdon pleaded as she dove into the article again.
"Although Professor Langdon might not be considered hunk-handsome like some of our younger awardees, this forty-something academic has more than his share of scholarly allure. His captivating presence is punctuated by an unusually low, baritone speaking voice, which his female students describe as 'chocolate for the ears.' "
The hall erupted in laughter.
Langdon forced an awkward smile. He knew what came next--some ridiculous line about "Harrison Ford in Harris tweed"--and because this evening he had figured it was finally safe again to wear his Harris tweed and Burberry turtleneck, he decided to take action.
"Thank you, Monique," Langdon said, standing prematurely and edging her away from the podium. "Boston Magazine clearly has a gift for fiction." He turned to the audience with an embarrassed sigh. "And if I find which one of you provided that article, I'll have the consulate deport you."
The crowd laughed.
"Well, folks, as you all know, I'm here tonight to talk about the power of symbols..."
The ringing of Langdon's hotel phone once again broke the silence.
Groaning in disbelief, he picked up. "Yes?"
As expected, it was the concierge. "Mr. Langdon, again my apologies. I am calling to inform you that your guest is now en route to your room. I thought I should alert you."
Langdon was wide awake now. "You sent someone to my room?"
"I apologize, monsieur, but a man like this... I cannot presume the authority to stop him."
"Who exactly is he?"
But the concierge was gone.
Almost immediately, a heavy fist pounded on Langdon's door.
Uncertain, Langdon slid off the bed, feeling his toes sink deep into the savonniere carpet. He donned the hotel bathrobe and moved toward the door. "Who is it?"
"Mr. Langdon? I need to speak with you." The man's English was accented--a sharp, authoritative bark. "My name is Lieutenant Jerome Collet. Direction Centrale Police Judiciaire."
Langdon paused. The Judicial Police? The DCPJ was the rough equivalent of the U.S. FBI.
Leaving the security chain in place, Langdon opened the door a few inches. The face staring back at him was thin and washed out. The man was exceptionally lean, dressed in an official-looking blue uniform.
"May I come in?" the agent asked.
Langdon hesitated, feeling uncertain as the stranger's sallow eyes studied him. "What is this all about?"
"My capitaine requires your expertise in a private matter."
"Now?" Langdon managed. "It's after midnight."
"Am I correct that you were scheduled to meet with the curator of the Louvre this evening?"
Langdon felt a sudden surge of uneasiness. He and the revered curator Jacques Sauniure had been slated to meet for drinks after Langdon's lecture tonight, but Sauniure had never shown up. "Yes. How did you know that?"
"We found your name in his daily planner."
"I trust nothing is wrong?"
The agent gave a dire sigh and slid a Polaroid snapshot through the narrow opening in the door.
When Langdon saw the photo, his entire body went rigid.
"This photo was taken less than an hour ago. Inside the Louvre."
As Langdon stared at the bizarre image, his initial revulsion and shock gave way to a sudden upwelling of anger. "Who would do this!"
"We had hoped that you might help us answer that very question, considering your knowledge in symbology and your plans to meet with him."
Langdon stared at the picture, his horror now laced with fear. The image was gruesome and profoundly strange, bringing with it an unsettling sense of duju vu. A little over a year ago, Langdon had received a photograph of a corpse and a similar request for help. Twenty-four hours later, he had almost lost his life inside Vatican City. This photo was entirely different, and yet something about the scenario felt disquietingly familiar.
The agent checked his watch. "My capitaine is waiting, sir."
Langdon barely heard him. His eyes were still riveted on the picture. "This symbol here, and the way his body is so oddly..."
"Positioned?" the agent offered.
Langdon nodded, feeling a chill as he looked up. "I can't imagine who would do this to someone."
The agent looked grim. "You don't understand, Mr. Langdon. What you see in this photograph..." He paused. "Monsieur Sauniure did that to himself."
One mile away, the hulking albino named Silas limped through the front gate of the luxurious brownstone residence on Rue La Bruyure. The spiked cilice belt that he wore around his thigh cut into his flesh, and yet his soul sang with satisfaction of service to the Lord.
Pain is good.
His red eyes scanned the lobby as he entered the residence. Empty. He climbed the stairs quietly, not wanting to awaken any of his fellow numeraries. His bedroom door was open; locks were forbidden here. He entered, closing the door behind him.
The room was spartan--hardwood floors, a pine dresser, a canvas mat in the corner that served as his bed. He was a visitor here this week, and yet for many years he had been blessed with a similar sanctuary in New York City.
The Lord has provided me shelter and purpose in my life.
Tonight, at last, Silas felt he had begun to repay his debt. Hurrying to the dresser, he found the cell phone hidden in his bottom drawer and placed a call.
"Yes?" a male voice answered.
"Teacher, I have returned."
"Speak," the voice commanded, sounding pleased to hear from him.
"All four are gone. The three sunuchaux... and the Grand Master himself."
There was a momentary pause, as if for prayer. "Then I assume you have the information?"
"All four concurred. Independently."
"And you believed them?"
"Their agreement was too great for coincidence."
An excited breath. "Excellent. I had feared the brotherhood's reputation for secrecy might prevail."
"The prospect of death is strong motivation."
"So, my pupil, tell me what I must know."
Silas knew the information he had gleaned from his victims would come as a shock. "Teacher, all four confirmed the existence of the clef de voute... the legendary keystone."
He heard a quick intake of breath over the phone and could feel the Teacher's excitement. "The keystone. Exactly as we suspected."
According to lore, the brotherhood had created a map of stone--a clef de voute... or keystone--an engraved tablet that revealed the final resting place of the brotherhood's greatest secret... information so powerful that its protection was the reason for the brotherhood's very existence.
"When we possess the keystone," the Teacher said, "we will be only one step away."
"We are closer than you think. The keystone is here in Paris."
"Paris? Incredible. It is almost too easy."
Silas relayed the earlier events of the evening... how all four of his victims, moments before death, had desperately tried to buy back their godless lives by telling their secret. Each had told Silas the exact same thing--that the keystone was ingeniously hidden at a precise location inside one of Paris's ancient churches--the Eglise de Saint-Sulpice.
"Inside a house of the Lord," the Teacher exclaimed. "How they mock us!"
"As they have for centuries."
The Teacher fell silent, as if letting the triumph of this moment settle over him. Finally, he spoke. "You have done a great service to God. We have waited centuries for this. You must retrieve the stone for me. Immediately. Tonight. You understand the stakes."
Silas knew the stakes were incalculable, and yet what the Teacher was now commanding seemed impossible. "But the church, it is a fortress. Especially at night. How will I enter?"
With the confident tone of a man of enormous influence, the Teacher explained what was to be done.
When Silas hung up the phone, his skin tingled with anticipation.
One hour, he told himself, grateful that the Teacher had given him time to carry out the necessary penance before entering a house of God. I must purge my soul of today's sins. The sins committed today had been holy in purpose. Acts of war against the enemies of God had been committed for centuries. Forgiveness was assured.
Even so, Silas knew, absolution required sacrifice.
Pulling his shades, he stripped naked and knelt in the center of his room. Looking down, he examined the spiked cilice belt clamped around his thigh. All true followers of The Way wore this device--a leather strap, studded with sharp metal barbs that cut into the flesh as a perpetual reminder of Christ's suffering. The pain caused by the device also helped counteract the desires of the flesh.
Although Silas already had worn his cilice today longer than the requisite two hours, he knew today was no ordinary day. Grasping the buckle, he cinched it one notch tighter, wincing as the barbs dug deeper into his flesh. Exhaling slowly, he savored the cleansing ritual of his pain.
Pain is good, Silas whispered, repeating the sacred mantra of Father Josemarua Escrivu--the Teacher of all Teachers. Although Escrivu had died in 1975, his wisdom lived on, his words still whispered by thousands of faithful servants around the globe as they knelt on the floor and performed the sacred practice known as "corporal mortification."
Silas turned his attention now to a heavy knotted rope coiled neatly on the floor beside him. The Discipline. The knots were caked with dried blood. Eager for the purifying effects of his own agony, Silas said a quick prayer. Then, gripping one end of the rope, he closed his eyes and swung it hard over his shoulder, feeling the knots slap against his back. He whipped it over his shoulder again, slashing at his flesh. Again and again, he lashed.
Castigo corpus meum.
Finally, he felt the blood begin to flow.
The crisp April air whipped through the open window of the Citroun ZX as it skimmed south past the Opera House and crossed Place Vendume. In the passenger seat, Robert Langdon felt the city tear past him as he tried to clear his thoughts. His quick shower and shave had left him looking reasonably presentable but had done little to ease his anxiety. The frightening image of the curator's body remained locked in his mind.
Jacques Sauniure is dead.
Langdon could not help but feel a deep sense of loss at the curator's death. Despite Sauniure's reputation for being reclusive, his recognition for dedication to the arts made him an easy man to revere. His books on the secret codes hidden in the paintings of Poussin and Teniers were some of Langdon's favorite classroom texts. Tonight's meeting had been one Langdon was very much looking forward to, and he was disappointed when the curator had not shown.
Again the image of the curator's body flashed in his mind. Jacques Sauniure did that to himself? Langdon turned and looked out the window, forcing the picture from his mind.
Outside, the city was just now winding down--street vendors wheeling carts of candied amandes, waiters carrying bags of garbage to the curb, a pair of late night lovers cuddling to stay warm in a breeze scented with jasmine blossom. The Citroun navigated the chaos with authority, its dissonant two-tone siren parting the traffic like a knife.
"Le capitaine was pleased to discover you were still in Paris tonight," the agent said, speaking for the first time since they'd left the hotel. "A fortunate coincidence."
Langdon was feeling anything but fortunate, and coincidence was a concept he did not entirely trust. As someone who had spent his life exploring the hidden interconnectivity of disparate emblems and ideologies, Langdon viewed the world as a web of profoundly intertwined histories and events. The connections may be invisible, he often preached to his symbology classes at Harvard, but they are always there, buried just beneath the surface.
"I assume," Langdon said, "that the American University of Paris told you where I was staying?"
The driver shook his head. "Interpol."
Interpol, Langdon thought. Of course. He had forgotten that the seemingly innocuous request of all European hotels to see a passport at check-in was more than a quaint formality--it was the law. On any given night, all across Europe, Interpol officials could pinpoint exactly who was sleeping where. Finding Langdon at the Ritz had probably taken all of five seconds.
As the Citroun accelerated southward across the city, the illuminated profile of the Eiffel Tower appeared, shooting skyward in the distance to the right. Seeing it, Langdon thought of Vittoria, recalling their playful promise a year ago that every six months they would meet again at a different romantic spot on the globe. The Eiffel Tower, Langdon suspected, would have made their list. Sadly, he last kissed Vittoria in a noisy airport in Rome more than a year ago.
"Did you mount her?" the agent asked, looking over.
Langdon glanced up, certain he had misunderstood. "I beg your pardon?"
"She is lovely, no?" The agent motioned through the windshield toward the Eiffel Tower. "Have you mounted her?"
Langdon rolled his eyes. "No, I haven't climbed the tower."
"She is the symbol of France. I think she is perfect."
Langdon nodded absently. Symbologists often remarked that France--a country renowned for machismo, womanizing, and diminutive insecure leaders like Napoleon and Pepin the Short--could not have chosen a more apt national emblem than a thousand-foot phallus.
When they reached the intersection at Rue de Rivoli, the traffic light was red, but the Citroun didn't slow. The agent gunned the sedan across the junction and sped onto a wooded section of Rue Castiglione, which served as the northern entrance to the famed Tuileries Gardens--Paris's own version of Central Park. Most tourists mistranslated Jardins des Tuileries as relating to the thousands of tulips that bloomed here, but Tuileries was actually a literal reference to something far less romantic. This park had once been an enormous, polluted excavation pit from which Parisian contractors mined clay to manufacture the city's famous red roofing tiles--or tuiles.
As they entered the deserted park, the agent reached under the dash and turned off the blaring siren. Langdon exhaled, savoring the sudden quiet. Outside the car, the pale wash of halogen headlights skimmed over the crushed gravel parkway, the rugged whir of the tires intoning a hypnotic rhythm. Langdon had always considered the Tuileries to be sacred ground. These were the gardens in which Claude Monet had experimented with form and color, and literally inspired the birth of the Impressionist movement. Tonight, however, this place held a strange aura of foreboding.
The Citroun swerved left now, angling west down the park's central boulevard. Curling around a circular pond, the driver cut across a desolate avenue out into a wide quadrangle beyond. Langdon could now see the end of the Tuileries Gardens, marked by a giant stone archway.
Arc du Carrousel.
Despite the orgiastic rituals once held at the Arc du Carrousel, art aficionados revered this place for another reason entirely. From the esplanade at the end of the Tuileries, four of the finest art museums in the world could be seen... one at each point of the compass.
Out the right-hand window, south across the Seine and Quai Voltaire, Langdon could see the dramatically lit facade of the old train station--now the esteemed Musue d'Orsay. Glancing left, he could make out the top of the ultramodern Pompidou Center, which housed the Museum of Modern Art. Behind him to the west, Langdon knew the ancient obelisk of Ramses rose above the trees, marking the Musue du Jeu de Paume.
But it was straight ahead, to the east, through the archway, that Langdon could now see the monolithic Renaissance palace that had become the most famous art museum in the world.
Musue du Louvre.
Langdon felt a familiar tinge of wonder as his eyes made a futile attempt to absorb the entire mass of the edifice. Across a staggeringly expansive plaza, the imposing facade of the Louvre rose like a citadel against the Paris sky. Shaped like an enormous horseshoe, the Louvre was the longest building in Europe, stretching farther than three Eiffel Towers laid end to end. Not even the million square feet of open plaza between the museum wings could challenge the majesty of the facade's breadth. Langdon had once walked the Louvre's entire perimeter, an astonishing three-mile journey.
Despite the estimated five days it would take a visitor to properly appreciate the 65,300 pieces of art in this building, most tourists chose an abbreviated experience Langdon referred to as "Louvre Lite"--a full sprint through the museum to see the three most famous objects: the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, and Winged Victory. Art Buchwald had once boasted he'd seen all three masterpieces in five minutes and fifty-six seconds.
The driver pulled out a handheld walkie-talkie and spoke in rapid-fire French. "Monsieur Langdon est arrivu. Deux minutes."
An indecipherable confirmation came crackling back.
The agent stowed the device, turning now to Langdon. "You will meet the capitaine at the main entrance."
The driver ignored the signs prohibiting auto traffic on the plaza, revved the engine, and gunned the Citroun up over the curb. The Louvre's main entrance was visible now, rising boldly in the distance, encircled by seven triangular pools from which spouted illuminated fountains.
The new entrance to the Paris Louvre had become almost as famous as the museum itself. The controversial, neomodern glass pyramid designed by Chinese-born American architect I. M. Pei still evoked scorn from traditionalists who felt it destroyed the dignity of the Renaissance courtyard. Goethe had described architecture as frozen music, and Pei's critics described this pyramid as fingernails on a chalkboard. Progressive admirers, though, hailed Pei's seventy-one-foot-tall transparent pyramid as a dazzling synergy of ancient structure and modern method--a symbolic link between the old and new--helping usher the Louvre into the next millennium.
"Do you like our pyramid?" the agent asked.
Langdon frowned. The French, it seemed, loved to ask Americans this. It was a loaded question, of course. Admitting you liked the pyramid made you a tasteless American, and expressing dislike was an insult to the French.
"Mitterrand was a bold man," Langdon replied, splitting the difference. The late French president who had commissioned the pyramid was said to have suffered from a "Pharaoh complex." Singlehandedly responsible for filling Paris with Egyptian obelisks, art, and artifacts.
Franuois Mitterrand had an affinity for Egyptian culture that was so all-consuming that the French still referred to him as the Sphinx.
"What is the captain's name?" Langdon asked, changing topics.
"Bezu Fache," the driver said, approaching the pyramid's main entrance. "We call him le Taureau."
Langdon glanced over at him, wondering if every Frenchman had a mysterious animal epithet. "You call your captain the Bull?"
The man arched his eyebrows. "Your French is better than you admit, Monsieur Langdon."
My French stinks, Langdon thought, but my zodiac iconography is pretty good. Taurus was always the bull. Astrology was a symbolic constant all over the world.
The agent pulled the car to a stop and pointed between two fountains to a large door in the side of the pyramid. "There is the entrance. Good luck, monsieur."
"You're not coming?"
"My orders are to leave you here. I have other business to attend to."
Langdon heaved a sigh and climbed out. It's your circus.
The agent revved his engine and sped off.
As Langdon stood alone and watched the departing taillights, he realized he could easily reconsider, exit the courtyard, grab a taxi, and head home to bed. Something told him it was probably a lousy idea.
As he moved toward the mist of the fountains, Langdon had the uneasy sense he was crossing an imaginary threshold into another world. The dreamlike quality of the evening was settling around him again. Twenty minutes ago he had been asleep in his hotel room. Now he was standing in front of a transparent pyramid built by the Sphinx, waiting for a policeman they called the Bull.
I'm trapped in a Salvador Dali painting, he thought.
Langdon strode to the main entrance--an enormous revolving door. The foyer beyond was dimly lit and deserted.
Do I knock?
Langdon wondered if any of Harvard's revered Egyptologists had ever knocked on the front door of a pyramid and expected an answer. He raised his hand to bang on the glass, but out of the darkness below, a figure appeared, striding up the curving staircase. The man was stocky and dark, almost Neanderthal, dressed in a dark double-breasted suit that strained to cover his wide shoulders. He advanced with unmistakable authority on squat, powerful legs. He was speaking on his cell phone but finished the call as he arrived. He motioned for Langdon to enter.
"I am Bezu Fache," he announced as Langdon pushed through the revolving door. "Captain of the Central Directorate Judicial Police." His tone was fitting--a guttural rumble... like a gathering storm.
Langdon held out his hand to shake. "Robert Langdon."
Fache's enormous palm wrapped around Langdon's with crushing force.
"I saw the photo," Langdon said. "Your agent said Jacques Sauniure himself did--"
"Mr. Langdon," Fache's ebony eyes locked on. "What you see in the photo is only the beginning of what Sauniure did."
Captain Bezu Fache carried himself like an angry ox, with his wide shoulders thrown back and his chin tucked hard into his chest. His dark hair was slicked back with oil, accentuating an arrow-like widow's peak that divided his jutting brow and preceded him like the prow of a battleship. As he advanced, his dark eyes seemed to scorch the earth before him, radiating a fiery clarity that forecast his reputation for unblinking severity in all matters.
Langdon followed the captain down the famous marble staircase into the sunken atrium beneath the glass pyramid. As they descended, they passed between two armed Judicial Police guards with machine guns. The message was clear: Nobody goes in or out tonight without the blessing of Captain Fache.
Descending below ground level, Langdon fought a rising trepidation. Fache's presence was anything but welcoming, and the Louvre itself had an almost sepulchral aura at this hour. The staircase, like the aisle of a dark movie theater, was illuminated by subtle tread-lighting embedded in each step. Langdon could hear his own footsteps reverberating off the glass overhead. As he glanced up, he could see the faint illuminated wisps of mist from the fountains fading away outside the transparent roof.
"Do you approve?" Fache asked, nodding upward with his broad chin.
Langdon sighed, too tired to play games. "Yes, your pyramid is magnificent."
Fache grunted. "A scar on the face of Paris."
Strike one. Langdon sensed his host was a hard man to please. He wondered if Fache had any idea that this pyramid, at President Mitterrand's explicit demand, had been constructed of exactly 666 panes of glass--a bizarre request that had always been a hot topic among conspiracy buffs who claimed 666 was the number of Satan.
Langdon decided not to bring it up.
As they dropped farther into the subterranean foyer, the yawning space slowly emerged from the shadows. Built fifty-seven feet beneath ground level, the Louvre's newly constructed 70,000-square-foot lobby spread out like an endless grotto. Constructed in warm ocher marble to be compatible with the honey-colored stone of the Louvre facade above, the subterranean hall was usually vibrant with sunlight and tourists. Tonight, however, the lobby was barren and dark, giving the entire space a cold and crypt-like atmosphere.
"And the museum's regular security staff?" Langdon asked.
"En quarantaine," Fache replied, sounding as if Langdon were questioning the integrity of Fache's team. "Obviously, someone gained entry tonight who should not have. All Louvre night wardens are in the Sully Wing being questioned. My own agents have taken over museum security for the evening."
Langdon nodded, moving quickly to keep pace with Fache.
"How well did you know Jacques Sauniure?" the captain asked.
"Actually, not at all. We'd never met."
Fache looked surprised. "Your first meeting was to be tonight?"
"Yes. We'd planned to meet at the American University reception following my lecture, but he never showed up."
Fache scribbled some notes in a little book. As they walked, Langdon caught a glimpse of the Louvre's lesser-known pyramid--La Pyramide Inversue--a huge inverted skylight that hung from the ceiling like a stalactite in an adjoining section of the entresol. Fache guided Langdon up a short set of stairs to the mouth of an arched tunnel, over which a sign read: DENON. The Denon Wing was the most famous of the Louvre's three main sections.
"Who requested tonight's meeting?" Fache asked suddenly. "You or he?"
The question seemed odd. "Mr. Sauniure did," Langdon replied as they entered the tunnel. "His secretary contacted me a few weeks ago via e-mail. She said the curator had heard I would be lecturing in Paris this month and wanted to discuss something with me while I was here."
"I don't know. Art, I imagine. We share similar interests."
Fache looked skeptical. "You have no idea what your meeting was about?"
Langdon did not. He'd been curious at the time but had not felt comfortable demanding specifics. The venerated Jacques Sauniure had a renowned penchant for privacy and granted very few meetings; Langdon was grateful simply for the opportunity to meet him.
"Mr. Langdon, can you at least guess what our murder victim might have wanted to discuss with you on the night he was killed? It might be helpful."
The pointedness of the question made Langdon uncomfortable. "I really can't imagine. I didn't ask. I felt honored to have been contacted at all. I'm an admirer of Mr. Sauniure's work. I use his texts often in my classes."
Fache made note of that fact in his book.
The two men were now halfway up the Denon Wing's entry tunnel, and Langdon could see the twin ascending escalators at the far end, both motionless.
"So you shared interests with him?" Fache asked.
"Yes. In fact, I've spent much of the last year writing the draft for a book that deals with Mr. Sauniure's primary area of expertise. I was looking forward to picking his brain."
Fache glanced up. "Pardon?"
The idiom apparently didn't translate. "I was looking forward to learning his thoughts on the topic."
"I see. And what is the topic?"
Langdon hesitated, uncertain exactly how to put it. "Essentially, the manuscript is about the iconography of goddess worship--the concept of female sanctity and the art and symbols associated with it."
Fache ran a meaty hand across his hair. "And Sauniure was knowledgeable about this?"
"Nobody more so."
Langdon sensed Fache did not see at all. Jacques Sauniure was considered the premiere goddess iconographer on earth. Not only did Sauniure have a personal passion for relics relating to fertility, goddess cults, Wicca, and the sacred feminine, but during his twenty-year tenure as curator, Sauniure had helped the Louvre amass the largest collection of goddess art on earth--labrys axes from the priestesses' oldest Greek shrine in Delphi, gold caducei wands, hundreds of Tjet ankhs resembling small standing angels, sistrum rattles used in ancient Egypt to dispel evil spirits, and an astonishing array of statues depicting Horus being nursed by the goddess Isis.
"Perhaps Jacques Sauniure knew of your manuscript?" Fache offered. "And he called the meeting to offer his help on your book."
Langdon shook his head. "Actually, nobody yet knows about my manuscript. It's still in draft form, and I haven't shown it to anyone except my editor."
Fache fell silent.
Langdon did not add the reason he hadn't yet shown the manuscript to anyone else. The three-hundred-page draft--tentatively titled Symbols of the Lost Sacred Feminine--proposed some very unconventional interpretations of established religious iconography which would certainly be controversial.
Now, as Langdon approached the stationary escalators, he paused, realizing Fache was no longer beside him. Turning, Langdon saw Fache standing several yards back at a service elevator.
"We'll take the elevator," Fache said as the lift doors opened. "As I'm sure you're aware, the gallery is quite a distance on foot."
Although Langdon knew the elevator would expedite the long, two-story climb to the Denon Wing, he remained motionless.
"Is something wrong?" Fache was holding the door, looking impatient.
Langdon exhaled, turning a longing glance back up the open-air escalator. Nothing's wrong at all, he lied to himself, trudging back toward the elevator. As a boy, Langdon had fallen down an abandoned well shaft and almost died treading water in the narrow space for hours before being rescued. Since then, he'd suffered a haunting phobia of enclosed spaces--elevators, subways, squash courts. The elevator is a perfectly safe machine, Langdon continually told himself, never believing it. It's a tiny metal box hanging in an enclosed shaft! Holding his breath, he stepped into the lift, feeling the familiar tingle of adrenaline as the doors slid shut. Two floors. Ten seconds.
"You and Mr. Sauniure," Fache said as the lift began to move, "you never spoke at all? Never corresponded? Never sent each other anything in the mail?"
Another odd question. Langdon shook his head. "No. Never." Fache cocked his head, as if making a mental note of that fact. Saying nothing, he stared dead ahead at the chrome doors.
As they ascended, Langdon tried to focus on anything other than the four walls around him. In the reflection of the shiny elevator door, he saw the captain's tie clip--a silver crucifix with thirteen embedded pieces of black onyx. Langdon found it vaguely surprising. The symbol was known as a crux gemmata--a cross bearing thirteen gems--a Christian ideogram for Christ and His twelve apostles. Somehow Langdon had not expected the captain of the French police to broadcast his religion so openly. Then again, this was France; Christianity was not a religion here so much as a birthright.
"It's a crux gemmata" Fache said suddenly.
Startled, Langdon glanced up to find Fache's eyes on him in the reflection.
The elevator jolted to a stop, and the doors opened.
Langdon stepped quickly out into the hallway, eager for the wide-open space afforded by the famous high ceilings of the Louvre galleries. The world into which he stepped, however, was nothing like he expected.
Surprised, Langdon stopped short.
Fache glanced over. "I gather, Mr. Langdon, you have never seen the Louvre after hours?"
I guess not, Langdon thought, trying to get his bearings.
Usually impeccably illuminated, the Louvre galleries were startlingly dark tonight. Instead of the customary flat-white light flowing down from above, a muted red glow seemed to emanate upward from the baseboards--intermittent patches of red light spilling out onto the tile floors.
As Langdon gazed down the murky corridor, he realized he should have anticipated this scene. Virtually all major galleries employed red service lighting at night--strategically placed, low-level, noninvasive lights that enabled staff members to navigate hallways and yet kept the paintings in relative darkness to slow the fading effects of overexposure to light. Tonight, the museum possessed an almost oppressive quality. Long shadows encroached everywhere, and the usually soaring vaulted ceilings appeared as a low, black void.
"This way," Fache said, turning sharply right and setting out through a series of interconnected galleries.
Langdon followed, his vision slowly adjusting to the dark. All around, large-format oils began to materialize like photos developing before him in an enormous darkroom... their eyes following as he moved through the rooms. He could taste the familiar tang of museum air--an arid, deionized essence that carried a faint hint of carbon--the product of industrial, coal-filter dehumidifiers that ran around the clock to counteract the corrosive carbon dioxide exhaled by visitors.
Mounted high on the walls, the visible security cameras sent a clear message to visitors: We see you. Do not touch anything.
"Any of them real?" Langdon asked, motioning to the cameras.
Fache shook his head. "Of course not."
Langdon was not surprised. Video surveillance in museums this size was cost-prohibitive and ineffective. With acres of galleries to watch over, the Louvre would require several hundred technicians simply to monitor the feeds. Most large museums now used "containment security." Forget keeping thieves out. Keep them in. Containment was activated after hours, and if an intruder removed a piece of artwork, compartmentalized exits would seal around that gallery, and the thief would find himself behind bars even before the police arrived.
The sound of voices echoed down the marble corridor up ahead. The noise seemed to be coming from a large recessed alcove that lay ahead on the right. A bright light spilled out into the hallway.
"Office of the curator," the captain said.
As he and Fache drew nearer the alcove, Langdon peered down a short hallway, into Sauniure's luxurious study--warm wood, Old Master paintings, and an enormous antique desk on which stood a two-foot-tall model of a knight in full armor. A handful of police agents bustled about the room, talking on phones and taking notes. One of them was seated at Sauniure's desk, typing into a laptop. Apparently, the curator's private office had become DCPJ's makeshift command post for the evening.
"Messieurs," Fache called out, and the men turned. "Ne nous durangez pas sous aucun prutexte. Entendu?"
Everyone inside the office nodded their understanding.
Langdon had hung enough NE PAS DERANGER signs on hotel room doors to catch the gist of the captain's orders. Fache and Langdon were not to be disturbed under any circumstances.
Leaving the small congregation of agents behind, Fache led Langdon farther down the darkened hallway. Thirty yards ahead loomed the gateway to the Louvre's most popular section--la Grande Galerie--a seemingly endless corridor that housed the Louvre's most valuable Italian masterpieces. Langdon had already discerned that this was where Sauniure's body lay; the Grand Gallery's famous parquet floor had been unmistakable in the Polaroid.
As they approached, Langdon saw the entrance was blocked by an enormous steel grate that looked like something used by medieval castles to keep out marauding armies.
"Containment security," Fache said, as they neared the grate.
Even in the darkness, the barricade looked like it could have restrained a tank. Arriving outside, Langdon peered through the bars into the dimly lit caverns of the Grand Gallery.
"After you, Mr. Langdon," Fache said.
Langdon turned. After me, where?
Fache motioned toward the floor at the base of the grate.
Langdon looked down. In the darkness, he hadn't noticed. The barricade was raised about two feet, providing an awkward clearance underneath.
"This area is still off limits to Louvre security," Fache said. "My team from Police Technique et Scientifique has just finished their investigation." He motioned to the opening. "Please slide under."
Langdon stared at the narrow crawl space at his feet and then up at the massive iron grate. He's kidding, right? The barricade looked like a guillotine waiting to crush intruders.
Fache grumbled something in French and checked his watch. Then he dropped to his knees and slithered his bulky frame underneath the grate. On the other side, he stood up and looked back through the bars at Langdon.
Langdon sighed. Placing his palms flat on the polished parquet, he lay on his stomach and pulled himself forward. As he slid underneath, the nape of his Harris tweed snagged on the bottom of the grate, and he cracked the back of his head on the iron.
Very suave, Robert, he thought, fumbling and then finally pulling himself through. As he stood up, Langdon was beginning to suspect it was going to be a very long night.
Murray Hill Place--the new Opus Dei World Headquarters and conference center--is located at 243 Lexington Avenue in New York City. With a price tag of just over $47 million, the 133,000-square-foot tower is clad in red brick and Indiana limestone. Designed by May & Pinska, the building contains over one hundred bedrooms, six dining rooms, libraries, living rooms, meeting rooms, and offices. The second, eighth, and sixteenth floors contain chapels, ornamented with mill-work and marble. The seventeenth floor is entirely residential. Men enter the building through the main doors on Lexington Avenue. Women enter through a side street and are "acoustically and visually separated" from the men at all times within the building.
Earlier this evening, within the sanctuary of his penthouse apartment, Bishop Manuel Aringarosa had packed a small travel bag and dressed in a traditional black cassock. Normally, he would have wrapped a purple cincture around his waist, but tonight he would be traveling among the public, and he preferred not to draw attention to his high office. Only those with a keen eye would notice his 14-karat gold bishop's ring with purple amethyst, large diamonds, and hand-tooled mitre-crozier appliquu. Throwing the travel bag over his shoulder, he said a silent prayer and left his apartment, descending to the lobby where his driver was waiting to take him to the airport.
Now, sitting aboard a commercial airliner bound for Rome, Aringarosa gazed out the window at the dark Atlantic. The sun had already set, but Aringarosa knew his own star was on the rise. Tonight the battle will be won, he thought, amazed that only months ago he had felt powerless against the hands that threatened to destroy his empire.
As president-general of Opus Dei, Bishop Aringarosa had spent the last decade of his life spreading the message of "God's Work"--literally, Opus Dei. The congregation, founded in 1928 by the Spanish priest Josemarua Escrivu, promoted a return to conservative Catholic values and encouraged its members to make sweeping sacrifices in their own lives in order to do the Work of God.
Opus Dei's traditionalist philosophy initially had taken root in Spain before Franco's regime, but with the 1934 publication of Josemarua Escrivu's spiritual book The Way--999 points of meditation for doing God's Work in one's own life--Escrivu's message exploded across the world. Now, with over four million copies of The Way in circulation in forty-two languages, Opus Dei was a global force. Its residence halls, teaching centers, and even universities could be found in almost every major metropolis on earth. Opus Dei was the fastest-growing and most financially secure Catholic organization in the world. Unfortunately, Aringarosa had learned, in an age of religious cynicism, cults, and televangelists, Opus Dei's escalating wealth and power was a magnet for suspicion.
"Many call Opus Dei a brainwashing cult," reporters often challenged. "Others call you an ultraconservative Christian secret society. Which are you?"
"Opus Dei is neither," the bishop would patiently reply. "We are a Catholic Church. We are a congregation of Catholics who have chosen as our priority to follow Catholic doctrine as rigorously as we can in our own daily lives."
"Does God's Work necessarily include vows of chastity, tithing, and atonement for sins through self-flagellation and the cilice?"
"You are describing only a small portion of the Opus Dei population," Aringarosa said. "There are many levels of involvement. Thousands of Opus Dei members are married, have families, and do God's Work in their own communities. Others choose lives of asceticism within our cloistered residence halls. These choices are personal, but everyone in Opus Dei shares the goal of bettering the world by doing the Work of God. Surely this is an admirable quest."
Reason seldom worked, though. The media always gravitated toward scandal, and Opus Dei, like most large organizations, had within its membership a few misguided souls who cast a shadow over the entire group.
Two months ago, an Opus Dei group at a midwestern university had been caught drugging new recruits with mescaline in an effort to induce a euphoric state that neophytes would perceive as a religious experience. Another university student had used his barbed cilice belt more often than the recommended two hours a day and had given himself a near lethal infection. In Boston not long ago, a disillusioned young investment banker had signed over his entire life savings to Opus Dei before attempting suicide.
Misguided sheep, Aringarosa thought, his heart going out to them.
Of course the ultimate embarrassment had been the widely publicized trial of FBI spy Robert Hanssen, who, in addition to being a prominent member of Opus Dei, had turned out to be a sexual deviant, his trial uncovering evidence that he had rigged hidden video cameras in his own bedroom so his friends could watch him having sex with his wife. "Hardly the pastime of a devout Catholic," the judge had noted.
Sadly, all of these events had helped spawn the new watch group known as the Opus Dei Awareness Network (ODAN). The group's popular website--www.odan.org--relayed frightening stories from former Opus Dei members who warned of the dangers of joining. The media was now referring to Opus Dei as "God's Mafia" and "the Cult of Christ."
We fear what we do not understand, Aringarosa thought, wondering if these critics had any idea how many lives Opus Dei had enriched. The group enjoyed the full endorsement and blessing of the Vatican. Opus Dei is a personal prelature of the Pope himself.
Recently, however, Opus Dei had found itself threatened by a force infinitely more powerful than the media... an unexpected foe from which Aringarosa could not possibly hide. Five months ago, the kaleidoscope of power had been shaken, and Aringarosa was still reeling from the blow.
"They know not the war they have begun," Aringarosa whispered to himself, staring out the plane's window at the darkness of the ocean below. For an instant, his eyes refocused, lingering on the reflection of his awkward face--dark and oblong, dominated by a flat, crooked nose that had been shattered by a fist in Spain when he was a young missionary. The physical flaw barely registered now. Aringarosa's was a world of the soul, not of the flesh.
As the jet passed over the coast of Portugal, the cell phone in Aringarosa's cassock began vibrating in silent ring mode. Despite airline regulations prohibiting the use of cell phones during flights, Aringarosa knew this was a call he could not miss. Only one man possessed this number, the man who had mailed Aringarosa the phone.
Excited, the bishop answered quietly. "Yes?"
"Silas has located the keystone," the caller said. "It is in Paris. Within the Church of Saint-Sulpice."
Bishop Aringarosa smiled. "Then we are close."
"We can obtain it immediately. But we need your influence."
"Of course. Tell me what to do."
When Aringarosa switched off the phone, his heart was pounding. He gazed once again into the void of night, feeling dwarfed by the events he had put into motion.
Five hundred miles away, the albino named Silas stood over a small basin of water and dabbed the blood from his back, watching the patterns of red spinning in the water. Purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean, he prayed, quoting Psalms. Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Silas was feeling an aroused anticipation that he had not felt since his previous life. It both surprised and electrified him. For the last decade, he had been following The Way, cleansing himself of sins... rebuilding his life... erasing the violence in his past. Tonight, however, it had all come rushing back. The hatred he had fought so hard to bury had been summoned. He had been startled how quickly his past had resurfaced. And with it, of course, had come his skills. Rusty but serviceable.
Jesus' message is one of peace... of nonviolence... of love. This was the message Silas had been taught from the beginning, and the message he held in his heart. And yet this was the message the enemies of Christ now threatened to destroy. Those who threaten God with force will be met with force. Immovable and steadfast.
For two millennia, Christian soldiers had defended their faith against those who tried to displace it. Tonight, Silas had been called to battle.
Drying his wounds, he donned his ankle-length, hooded robe. It was plain, made of dark wool, accentuating the whiteness of his skin and hair. Tightening the rope-tie around his waist, he raised the hood over his head and allowed his red eyes to admire his reflection in the mirror. The wheels are in motion.
Having squeezed beneath the security gate, Robert Langdon now stood just inside the entrance to the Grand Gallery. He was staring into the mouth of a long, deep canyon. On either side of the gallery, stark walls rose thirty feet, evaporating into the darkness above. The reddish glow of the service lighting sifted upward, casting an unnatural smolder across a staggering collection of Da Vincis, Titians, and Caravaggios that hung suspended from ceiling cables. Still lifes, religious scenes, and landscapes accompanied portraits of nobility and politicians.
Although the Grand Gallery housed the Louvre's most famous Italian art, many visitors felt the wing's most stunning offering was actually its famous parquet floor. Laid out in a dazzling geometric design of diagonal oak slats, the floor produced an ephemeral optical illusion--a multi-dimensional network that gave visitors the sense they were floating through the gallery on a surface that changed with every step.
As Langdon's gaze began to trace the inlay, his eyes stopped short on an unexpected object lying on the floor just a few yards to his left, surrounded by police tape. He spun toward Fache. "Is that... a Caravaggio on the floor?"
Fache nodded without even looking.
The painting, Langdon guessed, was worth upward of two million dollars, and yet it was lying on the floor like a discarded poster. "What the devil is it doing on the floor!"
Fache glowered, clearly unmoved. "This is a crime scene, Mr. Langdon. We have touched nothing. That canvas was pulled from the wall by the curator. It was how he activated the security system."
Langdon looked back at the gate, trying to picture what had happened.
"The curator was attacked in his office, fled into the Grand Gallery, and activated the security gate by pulling that painting from the wall. The gate fell immediately, sealing off all access. This is the only door in or out of this gallery."
Langdon felt confused. "So the curator actually captured his attacker inside the Grand Gallery?"
Fache shook his head. "The security gate separated Sauniure from his attacker. The killer was locked out there in the hallway and shot Sauniure through this gate." Fache pointed toward an orange tag hanging from one of the bars on the gate under which they had just passed. "The PTS team found flashback residue from a gun. He fired through the bars. Sauniure died in here alone."
Langdon pictured the photograph of Sauniure's body. They said he did that to himself. Langdon looked out at the enormous corridor before them. "So where is his body?"
Fache straightened his cruciform tie clip and began to walk. "As you probably know, the Grand Gallery is quite long."
The exact length, if Langdon recalled correctly, was around fifteen hundred feet, the length of three Washington Monuments laid end to end. Equally breathtaking was the corridor's width, which easily could have accommodated a pair of side-by-side passenger trains. The center of the hallway was dotted by the occasional statue or colossal porcelain urn, which served as a tasteful divider and kept the flow of traffic moving down one wall and up the other.
Fache was silent now, striding briskly up the right side of the corridor with his gaze dead ahead. Langdon felt almost disrespectful to be racing past so many masterpieces without pausing for so much as a glance.
Not that I could see anything in this lighting, he thought.
The muted crimson lighting unfortunately conjured memories of Langdon's last experience in noninvasive lighting in the Vatican Secret Archives. This was tonight's second unsettling parallel with his near-death in Rome. He flashed on Vittoria again. She had been absent from his dreams for months. Langdon could not believe Rome had been only a year ago; it felt like decades. Another life. His last correspondence from Vittoria had been in December--a postcard saying she was headed to the Java Sea to continue her research in entanglement physics... something about using satellites to track manta ray migrations. Langdon had never harbored delusions that a woman like Vittoria Vetra could have been happy living with him on a college campus, but their encounter in Rome had unlocked in him a longing he never imagined he could feel. His lifelong affinity for bachelorhood and the simple freedoms it allowed had been shaken somehow... replaced by an unexpected emptiness that seemed to have grown over the past year.
They continued walking briskly, yet Langdon still saw no corpse. "Jacques Sauniure went this far?"
"Mr. Sauniure suffered a bullet wound to his stomach. He died very slowly. Perhaps over fifteen or twenty minutes. He was obviously a man of great personal strength."
Langdon turned, appalled. "Security took fifteen minutes to get here?"
"Of course not. Louvre security responded immediately to the alarm and found the Grand Gallery sealed. Through the gate, they could hear someone moving around at the far end of the corridor, but they could not see who it was. They shouted, but they got no answer. Assuming it could only be a criminal, they followed protocol and called in the Judicial Police. We took up positions within fifteen minutes. When we arrived, we raised the barricade enough to slip underneath, and I sent a dozen armed agents inside. They swept the length of the gallery to corner the intruder."
"They found no one inside. Except..." He pointed farther down the hall. "Him."
Langdon lifted his gaze and followed Fache's outstretched finger. At first he thought Fache was pointing to a large marble statue in the middle of the hallway. As they continued, though, Langdon began to see past the statue. Thirty yards down the hall, a single spotlight on a portable pole stand shone down on the floor, creating a stark island of white light in the dark crimson gallery. In the center of the light, like an insect under a microscope, the corpse of the curator lay naked on the parquet floor.
"You saw the photograph," Fache said, "so this should be of no surprise."
Langdon felt a deep chill as they approached the body. Before him was one of the strangest images he had ever seen.
The pallid corpse of Jacques Sauniure lay on the parquet floor exactly as it appeared in the photograph. As Langdon stood over the body and squinted in the harsh light, he reminded himself to his amazement that Sauniure had spent his last minutes of life arranging his own body in this strange fashion.
Sauniure looked remarkably fit for a man of his years... and all of his musculature was in plain view. He had stripped off every shred of clothing, placed it neatly on the floor, and laid down on his back in the center of the wide corridor, perfectly aligned with the long axis of the room. His arms and legs were sprawled outward in a wide spread eagle, like those of a child making a snow angel... or, perhaps more appropriately, like a man being drawn and quartered by some invisible force.
Just below Sauniure's breastbone, a bloody smear marked the spot where the bullet had pierced his flesh. The wound had bled surprisingly little, leaving only a small pool of blackened blood.
Sauniure's left index finger was also bloody, apparently having been dipped into the wound to create the most unsettling aspect of his own macabre deathbed; using his own blood as ink, and employing his own naked abdomen as a canvas, Sauniure had drawn a simple symbol on his flesh--five straight lines that intersected to form a five-pointed star.
The bloody star, centered on Sauniure's navel, gave his corpse a distinctly ghoulish aura. The photo Langdon had seen was chilling enough, but now, witnessing the scene in person, Langdon felt a deepening uneasiness.
He did this to himself.
"Mr. Langdon?" Fache's dark eyes settled on him again.
"It's a pentacle," Langdon offered, his voice feeling hollow in the huge space. "One of the oldest symbols on earth. Used over four thousand years before Christ."
"And what does it mean?"
Langdon always hesitated when he got this question. Telling someone what a symbol "meant" was like telling them how a song should make them feel--it was different for all people. A white Ku Klux Klan headpiece conjured images of hatred and racism in the United States, and yet the same costume carried a meaning of religious faith in Spain.
"Symbols carry different meanings in different settings," Langdon said. "Primarily, the pentacle is a pagan religious symbol."
Fache nodded. "Devil worship."
"No," Langdon corrected, immediately realizing his choice of vocabulary should have been clearer.
Nowadays, the term pagan had become almost synonymous with devil worship--a gross misconception. The word's roots actually reached back to the Latin paganus, meaning country-dwellers. "Pagans" were literally unindoctrinated country-folk who clung to the old, rural religions of Nature worship. In fact, so strong was the Church's fear of those who lived in the rural villes that the once innocuous word for "villager"--villain--came to mean a wicked soul.
"The pentacle," Langdon clarified, "is a pre-Christian symbol that relates to Nature worship. The ancients envisioned their world in two halves--masculine and feminine. Their gods and goddesses worked to keep a balance of power. Yin and yang. When male and female were balanced, there was harmony in the world. When they were unbalanced, there was chaos." Langdon motioned to Sauniure's stomach. "This pentacle is representative of the female half of all things--a concept religious historians call the 'sacred feminine' or the 'divine goddess.' Sauniure, of all people, would know this."
"Sauniure drew a goddess symbol on his stomach?"
Langdon had to admit, it seemed odd. "In its most specific interpretation, the pentacle symbolizes Venus--the goddess of female sexual love and beauty."
Fache eyed the naked man, and grunted.
"Early religion was based on the divine order of Nature. The goddess Venus and the planet Venus were one and the same. The goddess had a place in the nighttime sky and was known by many names--Venus, the Eastern Star, Ishtar, Astarte--all of them powerful female concepts with ties to Nature and Mother Earth."
Fache looked more troubled now, as if he somehow preferred the idea of devil worship.
Langdon decided not to share the pentacle's most astonishing property--the graphic origin of its ties to Venus. As a young astronomy student, Langdon had been stunned to learn the planet Venus traced a perfect pentacle across the ecliptic sky every four years. So astonished were the ancients to observe this phenomenon, that Venus and her pentacle became symbols of perfection, beauty, and the cyclic qualities of sexual love. As a tribute to the magic of Venus, the Greeks used her four-year cycle to organize their Olympiads. Nowadays, few people realized that the four-year schedule of modern Olympic Games still followed the cycles of Venus. Even fewer people knew that the five-pointed star had almost become the official Olympic seal but was modified at the last moment--its five points exchanged for five intersecting rings to better reflect the games' spirit of inclusion and harmony.
"Mr. Langdon," Fache said abruptly. "Obviously, the pentacle must also relate to the devil. Your American horror movies make that point clearly."
Langdon frowned. Thank you, Hollywood. The five-pointed star was now a virtual clichu in Satanic serial killer movies, usually scrawled on the wall of some Satanist's apartment along with other alleged demonic symbology. Langdon was always frustrated when he saw the symbol in this context; the pentacle's true origins were actually quite godly.
"I assure you," Langdon said, "despite what you see in the movies, the pentacle's demonic interpretation is historically inaccurate. The original feminine meaning is correct, but the symbolism of the pentacle has been distorted over the millennia. In this case, through bloodshed."
"I'm not sure I follow."
Langdon glanced at Fache's crucifix, uncertain how to phrase his next point. "The Church, sir. Symbols are very resilient, but the pentacle was altered by the early Roman Catholic Church. As part of the Vatican's campaign to eradicate pagan religions and convert the masses to Christianity, the Church launched a smear campaign against the pagan gods and goddesses, recasting their divine symbols as evil."
"This is very common in times of turmoil," Langdon continued. "A newly emerging power will take over the existing symbols and degrade them over time in an attempt to erase their meaning. In the battle between the pagan symbols and Christian symbols, the pagans lost; Poseidon's trident became the devil's pitchfork, the wise crone's pointed hat became the symbol of a witch, and Venus's pentacle became a sign of the devil." Langdon paused. "Unfortunately, the United States military has also perverted the pentacle; it's now our foremost symbol of war. We paint it on all our fighter jets and hang it on the shoulders of all our generals." So much for the goddess of love and beauty.
"Interesting." Fache nodded toward the spread-eagle corpse. "And the positioning of the body? What do you make of that?"
Langdon shrugged. "The position simply reinforces the reference to the pentacle and sacred feminine."
Fache's expression clouded. "I beg your pardon?"
"Replication. Repeating a symbol is the simplest way to strengthen its meaning. Jacques Sauniure positioned himself in the shape of a five-pointed star." If one pentacle is good, two is better.
Fache's eyes followed the five points of Sauniure's arms, legs, and head as he again ran a hand across his slick hair. "Interesting analysis." He paused. "And the nudity?" He grumbled as he spoke the word, sounding repulsed by the sight of an aging male body. "Why did he remove his clothing?"
Damned good question, Langdon thought. He'd been wondering the same thing ever since he first saw the Polaroid. His best guess was that a naked human form was yet another endorsement of Venus--the goddess of human sexuality. Although modern culture had erased much of Venus's association with the male/female physical union, a sharp etymological eye could still spot a vestige of Venus's original meaning in the word "venereal." Langdon decided not to go there.
"Mr. Fache, I obviously can't tell you why Mr. Sauniure drew that symbol on himself or placed himself in this way, but I can tell you that a man like Jacques Sauniure would consider the pentacle a sign of the female deity. The correlation between this symbol and the sacred feminine is widely known by art historians and symbologists."
"Fine. And the use of his own blood as ink?"
"Obviously he had nothing else to write with."
Fache was silent a moment. "Actually, I believe he used blood such that the police would follow certain forensic procedures."
"Look at his left hand."
Langdon's eyes traced the length of the curator's pale arm to his left hand but saw nothing. Uncertain, he circled the corpse and crouched down, now noting with surprise that the curator was clutching a large, felt-tipped marker.
"Sauniure was holding it when we found him," Fache said, leaving Langdon and moving several yards to a portable table covered with investigation tools, cables, and assorted electronic gear. "As I told you," he said, rummaging around the table, "we have touched nothing. Are you familiar with this kind of pen?"
Langdon knelt down farther to see the pen's label.
STYLO DE LUMIERE NOIRE.
He glanced up in surprise.
The black-light pen or watermark stylus was a specialized felt-tipped marker originally designed by museums, restorers, and forgery police to place invisible marks on items. The stylus wrote in a noncorrosive, alcohol-based fluorescent ink that was visible only under black light. Nowadays, museum maintenance staffs carried these markers on their daily rounds to place invisible "tick marks" on the frames of paintings that needed restoration.
As Langdon stood up, Fache walked over to the spotlight and turned it off. The gallery plunged into sudden darkness.
Momentarily blinded, Langdon felt a rising uncertainty. Fache's silhouette appeared, illuminated in bright purple. He approached carrying a portable light source, which shrouded him in a violet haze.
"As you may know," Fache said, his eyes luminescing in the violet glow, "police use black-light illumination to search crime scenes for blood and other forensic evidence. So you can imagine our surprise..." Abruptly, he pointed the light down at the corpse.
Langdon looked down and jumped back in shock.
His heart pounded as he took in the bizarre sight now glowing before him on the parquet floor. Scrawled in luminescent handwriting, the curator's final words glowed purple beside his corpse. As Langdon stared at the shimmering text, he felt the fog that had surrounded this entire night growing thicker.
Langdon read the message again and looked up at Fache. "What the hell does this mean!"
Fache's eyes shone white. "That, monsieur, is precisely the question you are here to answer."
Not far away, inside Sauniure's office, Lieutenant Collet had returned to the Louvre and was huddled over an audio console set up on the curator's enormous desk. With the exception of the eerie, robot-like doll of a medieval knight that seemed to be staring at him from the corner of Sauniure's desk, Collet was comfortable. He adjusted his AKG headphones and checked the input levels on the hard-disk recording system. All systems were go. The microphones were functioning flawlessly, and the audio feed was crystal clear.
Le moment de vuritu, he mused.
Smiling, he closed his eyes and settled in to enjoy the rest of the conversation now being taped inside the Grand Gallery.
The modest dwelling within the Church of Saint-Sulpice was located on the second floor of the church itself, to the left of the choir balcony. A two-room suite with a stone floor and minimal furnishings, it had been home to Sister Sandrine Bieil for over a decade. The nearby convent was her formal residence, if anyone asked, but she preferred the quiet of the church and had made herself quite comfortable upstairs with a bed, phone, and hot plate.
As the church's conservatrice d'affaires, Sister Sandrine was responsible for overseeing all nonreligious aspects of church operations--general maintenance, hiring support staff and guides, securing the building after hours, and ordering supplies like communion wine and wafers.
Tonight, asleep in her small bed, she awoke to the shrill of her telephone. Tiredly, she lifted the receiver.
"Soeur Sandrine. Eglise Saint-Sulpice."
"Hello, Sister," the man said in French.
Sister Sandrine sat up. What time is it? Although she recognized her boss's voice, in fifteen years she had never been awoken by him. The abbu was a deeply pious man who went home to bed immediately after mass.
"I apologize if I have awoken you, Sister," the abbu said, his own voice sounding groggy and on edge. "I have a favor to ask of you. I just received a call from an influential American bishop. Perhaps you know him? Manuel Aringarosa?"
"The head of Opus Dei?" Of course I know of him. Who in the Church doesn't? Aringarosa's conservative prelature had grown powerful in recent years. Their ascension to grace was jump-started in 1982 when Pope John Paul II unexpectedly elevated them to a "personal prelature of the Pope," officially sanctioning all of their practices. Suspiciously, Opus Dei's elevation occurred the same year the wealthy sect allegedly had transferred almost one billion dollars into the Vatican's Institute for Religious Works--commonly known as the Vatican Bank--bailing it out of an embarrassing bankruptcy. In a second maneuver that raised eyebrows, the Pope placed the founder of Opus Dei on the "fast track" for sainthood, accelerating an often century-long waiting period for canonization to a mere twenty years. Sister Sandrine could not help but feel that Opus Dei's good standing in Rome was suspect, but one did not argue with the Holy See.
"Bishop Aringarosa called to ask me a favor," the abbu told her, his voice nervous. "One of his numeraries is in Paris tonight...."
As Sister Sandrine listened to the odd request, she felt a deepening confusion. "I'm sorry, you say this visiting Opus Dei numerary cannot wait until morning?"
"I'm afraid not. His plane leaves very early. He has always dreamed of seeing Saint-Sulpice."
"But the church is far more interesting by day. The sun's rays through the oculus, the graduated shadows on the gnomon, this is what makes Saint-Sulpice unique."
"Sister, I agree, and yet I would consider it a personal favor if you could let him in tonight. He can be there at... say one o'clock? That's in twenty minutes."
Sister Sandrine frowned. "Of course. It would be my pleasure."
The abbu thanked her and hung up.
Puzzled, Sister Sandrine remained a moment in the warmth of her bed, trying to shake off the cobwebs of sleep. Her sixty-year-old body did not awake as fast as it used to, although tonight's phone call had certainly roused her senses. Opus Dei had always made her uneasy. Beyond the prelature's adherence to the arcane ritual of corporal mortification, their views on women were medieval at best. She had been shocked to learn that female numeraries were forced to clean the men's residence halls for no pay while the men were at mass; women slept on hardwood floors, while the men had straw mats; and women were forced to endure additional requirements of corporal mortification... all as added penance for original sin. It seemed Eve's bite from the apple of knowledge was a debt women were doomed to pay for eternity. Sadly, while most of the Catholic Church was gradually moving in the right direction with respect to women's rights, Opus Dei threatened to reverse the progress. Even so, Sister Sandrine had her orders.
Swinging her legs off the bed, she stood slowly, chilled by the cold stone on the soles of her bare feet. As the chill rose through her flesh, she felt an unexpected apprehension.
A follower of God, Sister Sandrine had learned to find peace in the calming voices of her own soul. Tonight, however, those voices were as silent as the empty church around her.
Langdon couldn't tear his eyes from the glowing purple text scrawled across the parquet floor. Jacques Sauniure's final communication seemed as unlikely a departing message as any Langdon could imagine.
The message read:
O, Draconian devil!
Oh, lame saint!
Although Langdon had not the slightest idea what it meant, he did understand Fache's instinct that the pentacle had something to do with devil worship.
O, Draconian devil!
Sauniure had left a literal reference to the devil. Equally as bizarre was the series of numbers. "Part of it looks like a numeric cipher."
"Yes," Fache said. "Our cryptographers are already working on it. We believe these numbers may be the key to who killed him. Maybe a telephone exchange or some kind of social identification. Do the numbers have any symbolic meaning to you?"
Langdon looked again at the digits, sensing it would take him hours to extract any symbolic meaning. If Sauniure had even intended any. To Langdon, the numbers looked totally random. He was accustomed to symbolic progressions that made some semblance of sense, but everything here--the pentacle, the text, the numbers--seemed disparate at the most fundamental level.
"You alleged earlier," Fache said, "that Sauniure's actions here were all in an effort to send some sort of message... goddess worship or something in that vein? How does this message fit in?"
Langdon knew the question was rhetorical. This bizarre communiquu obviously did not fit Langdon's scenario of goddess worship at all.
O, Draconian devil? Oh, lame saint?
Fache said, "This text appears to be an accusation of some sort. Wouldn't you agree?"
Langdon tried to imagine the curator's final minutes trapped alone in the Grand Gallery, knowing he was about to die. It seemed logical. "An accusation against his murderer makes sense, I suppose."
"My job, of course, is to put a name to that person. Let me ask you this, Mr. Langdon. To your eye, beyond the numbers, what about this message is most strange?"
Most strange? A dying man had barricaded himself in the gallery, drawn a pentacle on himself, and scrawled a mysterious accusation on the floor. What about the scenario wasn't strange?
"The word 'Draconian'?" he ventured, offering the first thing that came to mind. Langdon was fairly certain that a reference to Draco--the ruthless seventh-century B.C. politician--was an unlikely dying thought. " 'Draconian devil' seems an odd choice of vocabulary."
"Draconian?" Fache's tone came with a tinge of impatience now. "Sauniure's choice of vocabulary hardly seems the primary issue here."
Langdon wasn't sure what issue Fache had in mind, but he was starting to suspect that Draco and Fache would have gotten along well.
"Sauniure was a Frenchman," Fache said flatly. "He lived in Paris. And yet he chose to write this message..."
"In English," Langdon said, now realizing the captain's meaning.
Fache nodded. "Prucisument. Any idea why?"
Langdon knew Sauniure spoke impeccable English, and yet the reason he had chosen English as the language in which to write his final words escaped Langdon. He shrugged.
Fache motioned back to the pentacle on Sauniure's abdomen. "Nothing to do with devil worship? Are you still certain?"
Langdon was certain of nothing anymore. "The symbology and text don't seem to coincide. I'm sorry I can't be of more help."
"Perhaps this will clarify." Fache backed away from the body and raised the black light again, letting the beam spread out in a wider angle. "And now?"
To Langdon's amazement, a rudimentary circle glowed around the curator's body. Sauniure had apparently lay down and swung the pen around himself in several long arcs, essentially inscribing himself inside a circle.
In a flash, the meaning became clear.
"The Vitruvian Man," Langdon gasped. Sauniure had created a life-sized replica of Leonardo da Vinci's most famous sketch.
Considered the most anatomically correct drawing of its day, Da Vinci's The Vitruvian Man had become a modern-day icon of culture, appearing on posters, mouse pads, and T-shirts around the world. The celebrated sketch consisted of a perfect circle in which was inscribed a nude male... his arms and legs outstretched in a naked spread eagle.
Da Vinci. Langdon felt a shiver of amazement. The clarity of Sauniure's intentions could not be denied. In his final moments of life, the curator had stripped off his clothing and arranged his body in a clear image of Leonardo da Vinci's Vitruvian Man.
The circle had been the missing critical element. A feminine symbol of protection, the circle around the naked man's body completed Da Vinci's intended message--male and female harmony. The question now, though, was why Sauniure would imitate a famous drawing.
"Mr. Langdon," Fache said, "certainly a man like yourself is aware that Leonardo da Vinci had a tendency toward the darker arts."
Langdon was surprised by Fache's knowledge of Da Vinci, and it certainly went a long way toward explaining the captain's suspicions about devil worship. Da Vinci had always been an awkward subject for historians, especially in the Christian tradition. Despite the visionary's genius, he was a flamboyant homosexual and worshipper of Nature's divine order, both of which placed him in a perpetual state of sin against God. Moreover, the artist's eerie eccentricities projected an admittedly demonic aura: Da Vinci exhumed corpses to study human anatomy; he kept mysterious journals in illegible reverse handwriting; he believed he possessed the alchemic power to turn lead into gold and even cheat God by creating an elixir to postpone death; and his inventions included horrific, never-before-imagined weapons of war and torture.
Misunderstanding breeds distrust, Langdon thought.
Even Da Vinci's enormous output of breathtaking Christian art only furthered the artist's reputation for spiritual hypocrisy. Accepting hundreds of lucrative Vatican commissions, Da Vinci painted Christian themes not as an expression of his own beliefs but rather as a commercial venture--a means of funding a lavish lifestyle. Unfortunately, Da Vinci was a prankster who often amused himself by quietly gnawing at the hand that fed him. He incorporated in many of his Christian paintings hidden symbolism that was anything but Christian--tributes to his own beliefs and a subtle thumbing of his nose at the Church. Langdon had even given a lecture once at the National Gallery in London entitled: "The Secret Life of Leonardo: Pagan Symbolism in Christian Art."
"I understand your concerns," Langdon now said, "but Da Vinci never really practiced any dark arts. He was an exceptionally spiritual man, albeit one in constant conflict with the Church." As Langdon said this, an odd thought popped into his mind. He glanced down at the message on the floor again. O, Draconian devil! Oh, lame saint!
"Yes?" Fache said.
Langdon weighed his words carefully. "I was just thinking that Sauniure shared a lot of spiritual ideologies with Da Vinci, including a concern over the Church's elimination of the sacred feminine from modern religion. Maybe, by imitating a famous Da Vinci drawing, Sauniure was simply echoing some of their shared frustrations with the modern Church's demonization of the goddess."
Fache's eyes hardened. "You think Sauniure is calling the Church a lame saint and a Draconian devil?"
Langdon had to admit it seemed far-fetched, and yet the pentacle seemed to endorse the idea on some level. "All I am saying is that Mr. Sauniure dedicated his life to studying the history of the goddess, and nothing has done more to erase that history than the Catholic Church. It seems reasonable that Sauniure might have chosen to express his disappointment in his final good-bye."
"Disappointment?" Fache demanded, sounding hostile now. "This message sounds more enraged than disappointed, wouldn't you say?"
Langdon was reaching the end of his patience. "Captain, you asked for my instincts as to what Sauniure is trying to say here, and that's what I'm giving you."
"That this is an indictment of the Church?" Fache's jaw tightened as he spoke through clenched teeth. "Mr. Langdon, I have seen a lot of death in my work, and let me tell you something. When a man is murdered by another man, I do not believe his final thoughts are to write an obscure spiritual statement that no one will understand. I believe he is thinking of one thing only." Fache's whispery voice sliced the air. "La vengeance. I believe Sauniure wrote this note to tell us who killed him." Langdon stared. "But that makes no sense whatsoever."
"No," he fired back, tired and frustrated. "You told me Sauniure was attacked in his office by someone he had apparently invited in."
"So it seems reasonable to conclude that the curator knew his attacker."
Fache nodded. "Go on."
"So if Sauniure knew the person who killed him, what kind of indictment is this?" He pointed at the floor. "Numeric codes? Lame saints? Draconian devils? Pentacles on his stomach? It's all too cryptic."
Fache frowned as if the idea had never occurred to him. "You have a point."
"Considering the circumstances," Langdon said, "I would assume that if Sauniure wanted to tell you who killed him, he would have written down somebody's name."
As Langdon spoke those words, a smug smile crossed Fache's lips for the first time all night. "Prucisument," Fache said. "Prucisument."
I am witnessing the work of a master, mused Lieutenant Collet as he tweaked his audio gear and listened to Fache's voice coming through the headphones. The agent supurieur knew it was moments like these that had lifted the captain to the pinnacle of French law enforcement.
Fache will do what no one else dares.
The delicate art of cajoler was a lost skill in modern law enforcement, one that required exceptional poise under pressure. Few men possessed the necessary sangfroid for this kind of operation, but Fache seemed born for it. His restraint and patience bordered on the robotic.
Fache's sole emotion this evening seemed to be one of intense resolve, as if this arrest were somehow personal to him. Fache's briefing of his agents an hour ago had been unusually succinct and assured. I know who murdered Jacques Sauniure, Fache had said. You know what to do. No mistakes tonight.
And so far, no mistakes had been made.
Collet was not yet privy to the evidence that had cemented Fache's certainty of their suspect's guilt, but he knew better than to question the instincts of the Bull. Fache's intuition seemed almost supernatural at times. God whispers in his ear, one agent had insisted after a particularly impressive display of Fache's sixth sense. Collet had to admit, if there was a God, Bezu Fache would be on His A-list. The captain attended mass and confession with zealous regularity--far more than the requisite holiday attendance fulfilled by other officials in the name of good public relations. When the Pope visited Paris a few years back, Fache had used all his muscle to obtain the honor of an audience. A photo of Fache with the Pope now hung in his office. The Papal Bull, the agents secretly called it.
Collet found it ironic that one of Fache's rare popular public stances in recent years had been his outspoken reaction to the Catholic pedophilia scandal. These priests should be hanged twice! Fache had declared. Once for their crimes against children. And once for shaming the good name of the Catholic Church. Collet had the odd sense it was the latter that angered Fache more.
Turning now to his laptop computer, Collet attended to the other half of his responsibilities here tonight--the GPS tracking system. The image onscreen revealed a detailed floor plan of the Denon Wing, a structural schematic uploaded from the Louvre Security Office. Letting his eyes trace the maze of galleries and hallways, Collet found what he was looking for.
Deep in the heart of the Grand Gallery blinked a tiny red dot.
Fache was keeping his prey on a very tight leash tonight. Wisely so. Robert Langdon had proven himself one cool customer.
To ensure his conversation with Mr. Langdon would not be interrupted, Bezu Fache had turned off his cellular phone. Unfortunately, it was an expensive model equipped with a two-way radio feature, which, contrary to his orders, was now being used by one of his agents to page him.
"Capitaine?" The phone crackled like a walkie-talkie.
Fache felt his teeth clench in rage. He could imagine nothing important enough that Collet would interrupt this surveillance cachue--especially at this critical juncture.
He gave Langdon a calm look of apology. "One moment please." He pulled the phone from his belt and pressed the radio transmission button. "Oui?"
"Capitaine, un agent du Dupartement de Cryptographie est arrivu."
Fache's anger stalled momentarily. A cryptographer? Despite the lousy timing, this was probably good news. Fache, after finding Sauniure's cryptic text on the floor, had uploaded photographs of the entire crime scene to the Cryptography Department in hopes someone there could tell him what the hell Sauniure was trying to say. If a code breaker had now arrived, it most likely meant someone had decrypted Sauniure's message.
"I'm busy at the moment," Fache radioed back, leaving no doubt in his tone that a line had been crossed. "Ask the cryptographer to wait at the command post. I'll speak to him when I'm done."
"Her," the voice corrected. "It's Agent Neveu."
Fache was becoming less amused with this call every passing moment. Sophie Neveu was one of DCPJ's biggest mistakes. A young Parisian duchiffreuse who had studied cryptography in England at the Royal Holloway, Sophie Neveu had been foisted on Fache two years ago as part of the ministry's attempt to incorporate more women into the police force. The ministry's ongoing foray into political correctness, Fache argued, was weakening the department. Women not only lacked the physicality necessary for police work, but their mere presence posed a dangerous distraction to the men in the field. As Fache had feared, Sophie Neveu was proving far more distracting than most.
At thirty-two years old, she had a dogged determination that bordered on obstinate. Her eager espousal of Britain's new cryptologic methodology continually exasperated the veteran French cryptographers above her. And by far the most troubling to Fache was the inescapable universal truth that in an office of middle-aged men, an attractive young woman always drew eyes away from the work at hand.
The man on the radio said, "Agent Neveu insisted on speaking to you immediately, Captain. I tried to stop her, but she's on her way into the gallery."
Fache recoiled in disbelief. "Unacceptable! I made it very clear--"
For a moment, Robert Langdon thought Bezu Fache was suffering a stroke. The captain was mid-sentence when his jaw stopped moving and his eyes bulged. His blistering gaze seemed fixated on something over Langdon's shoulder. Before Langdon could turn to see what it was, he heard a woman's voice chime out behind him.
Langdon turned to see a young woman approaching. She was moving down the corridor toward them with long, fluid strides... a haunting certainty to her gait. Dressed casually in a knee-length, cream-colored Irish sweater over black leggings, she was attractive and looked to be about thirty. Her thick burgundy hair fell unstyled to her shoulders, framing the warmth of her face. Unlike the waifish, cookie-cutter blondes that adorned Harvard dorm room walls, this woman was healthy with an unembellished beauty and genuineness that radiated a striking personal confidence.
To Langdon's surprise, the woman walked directly up to him and extended a polite hand. "Monsieur Langdon, I am Agent Neveu from DCPJ's Cryptology Department." Her words curved richly around her muted Anglo-Franco accent. "It is a pleasure to meet you."
Langdon took her soft palm in his and felt himself momentarily fixed in her strong gaze. Her eyes were olive-green--incisive and clear.
Fache drew a seething inhalation, clearly preparing to launch into a reprimand.
"Captain," she said, turning quickly and beating him to the punch, "please excuse the interruption, but--"
"Ce n'est pas le moment!" Fache sputtered.
"I tried to phone you." Sophie continued in English, as if out of courtesy to Langdon. "But your cell phone was turned off."
"I turned it off for a reason," Fache hissed. "I am speaking to Mr. Langdon."
"I've deciphered the numeric code," she said flatly.
Langdon felt a pulse of excitement. She broke the code?
Fache looked uncertain how to respond.
"Before I explain," Sophie said, "I have an urgent message for Mr. Langdon."
Fache's expression turned to one of deepening concern. "For Mr. Langdon?"
She nodded, turning back to Langdon. "You need to contact the U.S. Embassy, Mr. Langdon. They have a message for you from the States."
Langdon reacted with surprise, his excitement over the code giving way to a sudden ripple of concern. A message from the States? He tried to imagine who could be trying to reach him. Only a few of his colleagues knew he was in Paris.
Fache's broad jaw had tightened with the news. "The U.S. Embassy?" he demanded, sounding suspicious. "How would they know to find Mr. Langdon here?"
Sophie shrugged. "Apparently they called Mr. Langdon's hotel, and the concierge told them Mr. Langdon had been collected by a DCPJ agent."
Fache looked troubled. "And the embassy contacted DCPJ Cryptography?"
"No, sir," Sophie said, her voice firm. "When I called the DCPJ switchboard in an attempt to contact you, they had a message waiting for Mr. Langdon and asked me to pass it along if I got through to you."
Fache's brow furrowed in apparent confusion. He opened his mouth to speak, but Sophie had already turned back to Langdon.
"Mr. Langdon," she declared, pulling a small slip of paper from her pocket, "this is the number for your embassy's messaging service. They asked that you phone in as soon as possible." She handed him the paper with an intent gaze. "While I explain the code to Captain Fache, you need to make this call."
Langdon studied the slip. It had a Paris phone number and extension on it. "Thank you," he said, feeling worried now. "Where do I find a phone?"
Sophie began to pull a cell phone from her sweater pocket, but Fache waved her off. He now looked like Mount Vesuvius about to erupt. Without taking his eyes off Sophie, he produced his own cell phone and held it out. "This line is secure, Mr. Langdon. You may use it."
Langdon felt mystified by Fache's anger with the young woman. Feeling uneasy, he accepted the captain's phone. Fache immediately marched Sophie several steps away and began chastising her in hushed tones. Disliking the captain more and more, Langdon turned away from the odd confrontation and switched on the cell phone. Checking the slip of paper Sophie had given him, Langdon dialed the number.
The line began to ring.
One ring... two rings... three rings...
Finally the call connected.
Langdon expected to hear an embassy operator, but he found himself instead listening to an answering machine. Oddly, the voice on the tape was familiar. It was that of Sophie Neveu.
"Bonjour, vous utes bien chez Sophie Neveu," the woman's voice said. "Je suis absenle pour le moment, mais..."
Confused, Langdon turned back toward Sophie. "I'm sorry, Ms. Neveu? I think you may have given me--"
"No, that's the right number," Sophie interjected quickly, as if anticipating Langdon's confusion. "The embassy has an automated message system. You have to dial an access code to pick up your messages."
Langdon stared. "But--"
"It's the three-digit code on the paper I gave you."
Langdon opened his mouth to explain the bizarre error, but Sophie flashed him a silencing glare that lasted only an instant. Her green eyes sent a crystal-clear message.
Don't ask questions. Just do it.
Bewildered, Langdon punched in the extension on the slip of paper: 454.
Sophie's outgoing message immediately cut off, and Langdon heard an electronic voice announce in French: "You have one new message." Apparently, 454 was Sophie's remote access code for picking up her messages while away from home.
I'm picking up this woman's messages?
Langdon could hear the tape rewinding now. Finally, it stopped, and the machine engaged. Langdon listened as the message began to play. Again, the voice on the line was Sophie's.
"Mr. Langdon," the message began in a fearful whisper. "Do not react to this message. Just listen calmly. You are in danger right now. Follow my directions very closely."
Silas sat behind the wheel of the black Audi the Teacher had arranged for him and gazed out at the great Church of Saint-Sulpice. Lit from beneath by banks of floodlights, the church's two bell towers rose like stalwart sentinels above the building's long body. On either flank, a shadowy row of sleek buttresses jutted out like the ribs of a beautiful beast.
The heathens used a house of God to conceal their keystone. Again the brotherhood had confirmed their legendary reputation for illusion and deceit. Silas was looking forward to finding the keystone and giving it to the Teacher so they could recover what the brotherhood had long ago stolen from the faithful.
How powerful that will make Opus Dei.
Parking the Audi on the deserted Place Saint-Sulpice, Silas exhaled, telling himself to clear his mind for the task at hand. His broad back still ached from the corporal mortification he had endured earlier today, and yet the pain was inconsequential compared with the anguish of his life before Opus Dei had saved him.
Still, the memories haunted his soul.
Release your hatred, Silas commanded himself. Forgive those who trespassed against you.
Looking up at the stone towers of Saint-Sulpice, Silas fought that familiar undertow... that force that often dragged his mind back in time, locking him once again in the prison that had been his world as a young man. The memories of purgatory came as they always did, like a tempest to his senses... the reek of rotting cabbage, the stench of death, human urine and feces. The cries of hopelessness against the howling wind of the Pyrenees and the soft sobs of forgotten men.
Andorra, he thought, feeling his muscles tighten.
Incredibly, it was in that barren and forsaken suzerain between Spain and France, shivering in his stone cell, wanting only to die, that Silas had been saved.
He had not realized it at the time.
The light came long after the thunder.
His name was not Silas then, although he didn't recall the name his parents had given him. He had left home when he was seven. His drunken father, a burly dockworker, enraged by the arrival of an albino son, beat his mother regularly, blaming her for the boy's embarrassing condition. When the boy tried to defend her, he too was badly beaten.
One night, there was a horrific fight, and his mother never got up. The boy stood over his lifeless mother and felt an unbearable up-welling of guilt for permitting it to happen.
This is my fault!
As if some kind of demon were controlling his body, the boy walked to the kitchen and grasped a butcher knife. Hypnotically, he moved to the bedroom where his father lay on the bed in a drunken stupor. Without a word, the boy stabbed him in the back. His father cried out in pain and tried to roll over, but his son stabbed him again, over and over until the apartment fell quiet.
The boy fled home but found the streets of Marseilles equally unfriendly. His strange appearance made him an outcast among the other young runaways, and he was forced to live alone in the basement of a dilapidated factory, eating stolen fruit and raw fish from the dock. His only companions were tattered magazines he found in the trash, and he taught himself to read them. Over time, he grew strong. When he was twelve, another drifter--a girl twice his age--mocked him on the streets and attempted to steal his food. The girl found herself pummeled to within inches of her life. When the authorities pulled the boy off her, they gave him an ultimatum--leave Marseilles or go to juvenile prison.
The boy moved down the coast to Toulon. Over time, the looks of pity on the streets turned to looks of fear. The boy had grown to a powerful young man. When people passed by, he could hear them whispering to one another. A ghost, they would say, their eyes wide with fright as they stared at his white skin. A ghost with the eyes of a devil!
And he felt like a ghost... transparent... floating from seaport to seaport.
People seemed to look right through him.
At eighteen, in a port town, while attempting to steal a case of cured ham from a cargo ship, he was caught by a pair of crewmen. The two sailors who began to beat him smelled of beer, just as his father had. The memories of fear and hatred surfaced like a monster from the deep. The young man broke the first sailor's neck with his bare hands, and only the arrival of the police saved the second sailor from a similar fate.
Two months later, in shackles, he arrived at a prison in Andorra.
You are as white as a ghost, the inmates ridiculed as the guards marched him in, naked and cold. Mira el espectro! Perhaps the ghost will pass right through these walls!
Over the course of twelve years, his flesh and soul withered until he knew he had become transparent.
I am a ghost.
I am weightless.
Yo soy un espectro... palido coma una fantasma... caminando este mundo a solas.
One night the ghost awoke to the screams of other inmates. He didn't know what invisible force was shaking the floor on which he slept, nor what mighty hand was trembling the mortar of his stone cell, but as he jumped to his feet, a large boulder toppled onto the very spot where he had been sleeping. Looking up to see where the stone had come from, he saw a hole in the trembling wall, and beyond it, a vision he had not seen in over ten years. The moon.
Even while the earth still shook, the ghost found himself scrambling through a narrow tunnel, staggering out into an expansive vista, and tumbling down a barren mountainside into the woods. He ran all night, always downward, delirious with hunger and exhaustion.
Skirting the edges of consciousness, he found himself at dawn in a clearing where train tracks cut a swath across the forest. Following the rails, he moved on as if dreaming. Seeing an empty freight car, he crawled in for shelter and rest. When he awoke the train was moving. How long? How far? A pain was growing in his gut. Am I dying? He slept again. This time he awoke to someone yelling, beating him, throwing him out of the freight car. Bloody, he wandered the outskirts of a small village looking in vain for food. Finally, his body too weak to take another step, he lay down by the side of the road and slipped into unconsciousness.
The light came slowly, and the ghost wondered how long he had been dead. A day? Three days? It didn't matter. His bed was soft like a cloud, and the air around him smelled sweet with candles. Jesus was there, staring down at him. I am here, Jesus said. The stone has been rolled aside, and you are born again.
He slept and awoke. Fog shrouded his thoughts. He had never believed in heaven, and yet Jesus was watching over him. Food appeared beside his bed, and the ghost ate it, almost able to feel the flesh materializing on his bones. He slept again. When he awoke, Jesus was still smiling down, speaking. You are saved, my son. Blessed are those who follow my path.
Again, he slept.
It was a scream of anguish that startled the ghost from his slumber. His body leapt out of bed, staggered down a hallway toward the sounds of shouting. He entered into a kitchen and saw a large man beating a smaller man. Without knowing why, the ghost grabbed the large man and hurled him backward against a wall. The man fled, leaving the ghost standing over the body of a young man in priest's robes. The priest had a badly shattered nose. Lifting the bloody priest, the ghost carried him to a couch.
"Thank you, my friend," the priest said in awkward French. "The offertory money is tempting for thieves. You speak French in your sleep. Do you also speak Spanish?"
The ghost shook his head.
"What is your name?" he continued in broken French.
The ghost could not remember the name his parents had given him. All he heard were the taunting gibes of the prison guards.
The priest smiled. "No hay problema. My name is Manuel Aringarosa. I am a missionary from Madrid. I was sent here to build a church for the Obra de Dios."
"Where am I?" His voice sounded hollow.
"Oviedo. In the north of Spain."
"How did I get here?"
"Someone left you on my doorstep. You were ill. I fed you. You've been here many days."
The ghost studied his young caretaker. Years had passed since anyone had shown any kindness. "Thank you, Father."
The priest touched his bloody lip. "It is I who am thankful, my friend."
When the ghost awoke in the morning, his world felt clearer. He gazed up at the crucifix on the wall above his bed. Although it no longer spoke to him, he felt a comforting aura in its presence. Sitting up, he was surprised to find a newspaper clipping on his bedside table. The article was in French, a week old. When he read the story, he filled with fear. It told of an earthquake in the mountains that had destroyed a prison and freed many dangerous criminals.
His heart began pounding. The priest knows who I am! The emotion he felt was one he had not felt for some time. Shame. Guilt. It was accompanied by the fear of being caught. He jumped from his bed. Where do I run?
"The Book of Acts," a voice said from the door.
The ghost turned, frightened.
The young priest was smiling as he entered. His nose was awkwardly bandaged, and he was holding out an old Bible. "I found one in French for you. The chapter is marked."
Uncertain, the ghost took the Bible and looked at the chapter the priest had marked.
The verses told of a prisoner named Silas who lay naked and beaten in his cell, singing hymns to God. When the ghost reached Verse 26, he gasped in shock.
"...And suddenly, there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken, and all the doors fell open."
His eyes shot up at the priest.
The priest smiled warmly. "From now on, my friend, if you have no other name, I shall call you Silas."
The ghost nodded blankly. Silas. He had been given flesh. My name is Silas.
"It's time for breakfast," the priest said. "You will need your strength if you are to help me build this church."
Twenty thousand feet above the Mediterranean, Alitalia flight 1618 bounced in turbulence, causing passengers to shift nervously. Bishop Aringarosa barely noticed. His thoughts were with the future of Opus Dei. Eager to know how plans in Paris were progressing, he wished he could phone Silas. But he could not. The Teacher had seen to that.
"It is for your own safety," the Teacher had explained, speaking in English with a French accent. "I am familiar enough with electronic communications to know they can be intercepted. The results could be disastrous for you."
Aringarosa knew he was right. The Teacher seemed an exceptionally careful man. He had not revealed his own identity to Aringarosa, and yet he had proven himself a man well worth obeying. After all, he had somehow obtained very secret information. The names of the brotherhood's four top members! This had been one of the coups that convinced the bishop the Teacher was truly capable of delivering the astonishing prize he claimed he could unearth.
"Bishop," the Teacher had told him, "I have made all the arrangements. For my plan to succeed, you must allow Silas to answer only to me for several days. The two of you will not speak. I will communicate with him through secure channels."
"You will treat him with respect?"
"A man of faith deserves the highest."
"Excellent. Then I understand. Silas and I shall not speak until this is over."
"I do this to protect your identity, Silas's identity, and my investment."
"Bishop, if your own eagerness to keep abreast of progress puts you in jail, then you will be unable to pay me my fee."
The bishop smiled. "A fine point. Our desires are in accord. Godspeed."
Twenty million euro, the bishop thought, now gazing out the plane's window. The sum was approximately the same number of U.S. dollars. A pittance for something so powerful.
He felt a renewed confidence that the Teacher and Silas would not fail. Money and faith were powerful motivators.
"Une plaisanterie numurique?" Bezu Fache was livid, glaring at Sophie Neveu in disbelief. A numeric joke? "Your professional assessment of Sauniure's code is that it is some kind of mathematical prank?"
Fache was in utter incomprehension of this woman's gall. Not only had she just barged in on Fache without permission, but she was now trying to convince him that Sauniure, in his final moments of life, had been inspired to leave a mathematical gag?
"This code," Sophie explained in rapid French, "is simplistic to the point of absurdity. Jacques Sauniure must have known we would see through it immediately." She pulled a scrap of paper from her sweater pocket and handed it to Fache. "Here is the decryption."
Fache looked at the card.
"This is it?" he snapped. "All you did was put the numbers in increasing order!"
Sophie actually had the nerve to give a satisfied smile. "Exactly."
Fache's tone lowered to a guttural rumble. "Agent Neveu, I have no idea where the hell you're going with this, but I suggest you get there fast." He shot an anxious glance at Langdon, who stood nearby with the phone pressed to his ear, apparently still listening to his phone message from the U.S. Embassy. From Langdon's ashen expression, Fache sensed the news was bad.
"Captain," Sophie said, her tone dangerously defiant, "the sequence of numbers you have in your hand happens to be one of the most famous mathematical progressions in history."
Fache was not aware there even existed a mathematical progression that qualified as famous, and he certainly didn't appreciate Sophie's off-handed tone.
"This is the Fibonacci sequence," she declared, nodding toward the piece of paper in Fache's hand. "A progression in which each term is equal to the sum of the two preceding terms."
Fache studied the numbers. Each term was indeed the sum of the two previous, and yet Fache could not imagine what the relevance of all this was to Sauniure's death.
"Mathematician Leonardo Fibonacci created this succession of numbers in the thirteenth-century. Obviously there can be no coincidence that all of the numbers Sauniure wrote on the floor belong to Fibonacci's famous sequence."
Fache stared at the young woman for several moments. "Fine, if there is no coincidence, would you tell me why Jacques Sauniure chose to do this. What is he saying? What does this mean?"
She shrugged. "Absolutely nothing. That's the point. It's a simplistic cryptographic joke. Like taking the words of a famous poem and shuffling them at random to see if anyone recognizes what all the words have in common."
Fache took a menacing step forward, placing his face only inches from Sophie's. "I certainly hope you have a much more satisfying explanation than that."
Sophie's soft features grew surprisingly stern as she leaned in. "Captain, considering what you have at stake here tonight, I thought you might appreciate knowing that Jacques Sauniure might be playing games with you. Apparently not. I'll inform the director of Cryptography you no longer need our services."
With that, she turned on her heel, and marched off the way she had come.
Stunned, Fache watched her disappear into the darkness. Is she out of her mind? Sophie Neveu had just redefined le suicide professionnel.
Fache turned to Langdon, who was still on the phone, looking more concerned than before, listening intently to his phone message. The U.S. Embassy. Bezu Fache despised many things... but few drew more wrath than the U.S. Embassy.
Fache and the ambassador locked horns regularly over shared affairs of state--their most common battleground being law enforcement for visiting Americans. Almost daily, DCPJ arrested American exchange students in possession of drugs, U.S. businessmen for soliciting underage Prostitutes, American tourists for shoplifting or destruction of property. Legally, the U.S. Embassy could intervene and extradite guilty citizens back to the United States, where they received nothing more than a slap on the wrist.
And the embassy invariably did just that.
L'umasculation de la Police Judiciaire, Fache called it. Paris Match had run a cartoon recently depicting Fache as a police dog, trying to bite an American criminal, but unable to reach because it was chained to the U.S. Embassy.
Not tonight, Fache told himself. There is far too much at stake.
By the time Robert Langdon hung up the phone, he looked ill.
"Is everything all right?" Fache asked.
Weakly, Langdon shook his head.
Bad news from home, Fache sensed, noticing Langdon was sweating slightly as Fache took back his cell phone.
"An accident," Langdon stammered, looking at Fache with a strange expression. "A friend..." He hesitated. "I'll need to fly home first thing in the morning."
Fache had no doubt the shock on Langdon's face was genuine, and yet he sensed another emotion there too, as if a distant fear were suddenly simmering in the American's eyes. "I'm sorry to hear that," Fache said, watching Langdon closely. "Would you like to sit down?" He motioned toward one of the viewing benches in the gallery.
Langdon nodded absently and took a few steps toward the bench. He paused, looking more confused with every moment. "Actually, I think I'd like to use the rest room."
Fache frowned inwardly at the delay. "The rest room. Of course. Let's take a break for a few minutes." He motioned back down the long hallway in the direction they had come from. "The rest rooms are back toward the curator's office."
Langdon hesitated, pointing in the other direction toward the far end of the Grand Gallery corridor. "I believe there's a much closer rest room at the end."
Fache realized Langdon was right. They were two thirds of the way down, and the Grand Gallery dead-ended at a pair of rest rooms. "Shall I accompany you?"
Langdon shook his head, already moving deeper into the gallery. "Not necessary. I think I'd like a few minutes alone."
Fache was not wild about the idea of Langdon wandering alone down the remaining length of corridor, but he took comfort in knowing the Grand Gallery was a dead end whose only exit was at the other end--the gate under which they had entered. Although French fire regulations required several emergency stairwells for a space this large, those stairwells had been sealed automatically when Sauniure tripped the security system. Granted, that system had now been reset, unlocking the stairwells, but it didn't matter--the external doors, if opened, would set off fire alarms and were guarded outside by DCPJ agents. Langdon could not possibly leave without Fache knowing about it.
"I need to return to Mr. Sauniure's office for a moment," Fache said. "Please come find me directly, Mr. Langdon. There is more we need to discuss."
Langdon gave a quiet wave as he disappeared into the darkness.
Turning, Fache marched angrily in the opposite direction. Arriving at the gate, he slid under, exited the Grand Gallery, marched down the hall, and stormed into the command center at Sauniure's office.
"Who gave the approval to let Sophie Neveu into this building!" Fache bellowed.
Collet was the first to answer. "She told the guards outside she'd broken the code."
Fache looked around. "Is she gone?"
"She's not with you?"
"She left." Fache glanced out at the darkened hallway. Apparently Sophie had been in no mood to stop by and chat with the other officers on her way out.
For a moment, Fache considered radioing the guards in the entresol and telling them to stop Sophie and drag her back up here before she could leave the premises. He thought better of it. That was only his pride talking... wanting the last word. He'd had enough distractions tonight.
Deal with Agent Neveu later, he told himself, already looking forward to firing her.
Pushing Sophie from his mind, Fache stared for a moment at the miniature knight standing on Sauniure's desk. Then he turned back to Collet. "Do you have him?"
Collet gave a curt nod and spun the laptop toward Fache. The red dot was clearly visible on the floor plan overlay, blinking methodically in a room marked TOILETTES PUBLIQUES.
"Good," Fache said, lighting a cigarette and stalking into the hall. I've got a phone call to make. Be damned sure the rest room is the only place Langdon goes."
Robert Langdon felt light-headed as he trudged toward the end of the Grand Gallery. Sophie's phone message played over and over in his mind. At the end of the corridor, illuminated signs bearing the international stick-figure symbols for rest rooms guided him through a maze-like series of dividers displaying Italian drawings and hiding the rest rooms from sight.
Finding the men's room door, Langdon entered and turned on the lights.
The room was empty.
Walking to the sink, he splashed cold water on his face and tried to wake up. Harsh fluorescent lights glared off the stark tile, and the room smelled of ammonia. As he toweled off, the rest room's door creaked open behind him. He spun.
Sophie Neveu entered, her green eyes flashing fear. "Thank God you came. We don't have much time."
Langdon stood beside the sinks, staring in bewilderment at DCPJ cryptographer Sophie Neveu. Only minutes ago, Langdon had listened to her phone message, thinking the newly arrived cryptographer must be insane. And yet, the more he listened, the more he sensed Sophie Neveu was speaking in earnest. Do not react to this message. Just listen calmly. You are in danger right now. Follow my directions very closely. Filled with uncertainty, Langdon had decided to do exactly as Sophie advised. He told Fache that the phone message was regarding an injured friend back home. Then he had asked to use the rest room at the end of the Grand Gallery.
Sophie stood before him now, still catching her breath after doubling back to the rest room. In the fluorescent lights, Langdon was surprised to see that her strong air actually radiated from unexpectedly soft features. Only her gaze was sharp, and the juxtaposition conjured images of a multilayered Renoir portrait... veiled but distinct, with a boldness that somehow retained its shroud of mystery.
"I wanted to warn you, Mr. Langdon..." Sophie began, still catching her breath, "that you are sous surveillance cachue. Under a guarded observation." As she spoke, her accented English resonated off the tile walls, giving her voice a hollow quality.
"But... why?" Langdon demanded. Sophie had already given him an explanation on the phone, but he wanted to hear it from her lips.
"Because," she said, stepping toward him, "Fache's primary suspect in this murder is you."
Langdon was braced for the words, and yet they still sounded utterly ridiculous. According to Sophie, Langdon had been called to the Louvre tonight not as a symbologist but rather as a suspect and was currently the unwitting target of one of DCPJ's favorite interrogation methods--surveillance cachue--a deft deception in which the police calmly invited a suspect to a crime scene and interviewed him in hopes he would get nervous and mistakenly incriminate himself.
"Look in your jacket's left pocket," Sophie said. "You'll find proof they are watching you."
Langdon felt his apprehension rising. Look in my pocket? It sounded like some kind of cheap magic trick.
Bewildered, Langdon reached his hand into his tweed jacket's left pocket--one he never used. Feeling around inside, he found nothing. What the devil did you expect? He began wondering if Sophie might just be insane after all. Then his fingers brushed something unexpected. Small and hard. Pinching the tiny object between his fingers, Langdon pulled it out and stared in astonishment. It was a metallic, button-shaped disk, about the size of a watch battery. He had never seen it before. "What the...?"
"GPS tracking dot," Sophie said. "Continuously transmits its location to a Global Positioning System satellite that DCPJ can monitor. We use them to monitor people's locations. It's accurate within two feet anywhere on the globe. They have you on an electronic leash. The agent who picked you up at the hotel slipped it inside your pocket before you left your room."
Langdon flashed back to the hotel room... his quick shower, getting dressed, the DCPJ agent politely holding out Langdon's tweed coat as they left the room. It's cool outside, Mr. Langdon, the agent had said. Spring in Paris is not all your song boasts. Langdon had thanked him and donned the jacket.
Sophie's olive gaze was keen. "I didn't tell you about the tracking dot earlier because I didn't want you checking your pocket in front of Fache. He can't know you've found it."
Langdon had no idea how to respond.
"They tagged you with GPS because they thought you might run." She paused. "In fact, they hoped you would run; it would make their case stronger."
"Why would I run!" Langdon demanded. "I'm innocent!"
"Fache feels otherwise."
Angrily, Langdon stalked toward the trash receptacle to dispose of the tracking dot.
"No!" Sophie grabbed his arm and stopped him. "Leave it in your pocket. If you throw it out, the signal will stop moving, and they'll know you found the dot. The only reason Fache left you alone is because he can monitor where you are. If he thinks you've discovered what he's doing..." Sophie did not finish the thought. Instead, she pried the metallic disk from Langdon's hand and slid it back into the pocket of his tweed coat. "The dot stays with you. At least for the moment."
Langdon felt lost. "How the hell could Fache actually believe I killed Jacques Sauniure!"
"He has some fairly persuasive reasons to suspect you." Sophie's expression was grim. "There is a piece of evidence here that you have not yet seen. Fache has kept it carefully hidden from you."
Langdon could only stare.
"Do you recall the three lines of text that Sauniure wrote on the floor?"
Langdon nodded. The numbers and words were imprinted on Langdon's mind.
Sophie's voice dropped to a whisper now. "Unfortunately, what you saw was not the entire message. There was a fourth line that Fache photographed and then wiped clean before you arrived."
Although Langdon knew the soluble ink of a watermark stylus could easily be wiped away, he could not imagine why Fache would erase evidence.
"The last line of the message," Sophie said, "was something Fache did not want you to know about." She paused. "At least not until he was done with you."
Sophie produced a computer printout of a photo from her sweater pocket and began unfolding it. "Fache uploaded images of the crime scene to the Cryptology Department earlier tonight in hopes we could figure out what Sauniure's message was trying to say. This is a photo of the complete message." She handed the page to Langdon.
Bewildered, Langdon looked at the image. The close-up photo revealed the glowing message on the parquet floor. The final line hit Langdon like a kick in the gut.
O, Draconian devil!
Oh, lame saint!
P.S. Find Robert Langdon
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Дэн Браун. Код да Винчи (ENGL)