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
     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.

     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
     "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
     The man was now taking dead aim at Sauniure's head.
     Sauniure closed his eyes, his thoughts  a  swirling tempest of fear and
     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
     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.
     proudly presents

     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
     "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
     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
     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
     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
     "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
     "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
     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
     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.
     La Pyramide.
     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,
     "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
     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
     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
     "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
     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
     "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."
     "Discuss what?"
     "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
     "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."
     "I see."
     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
     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
     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
     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
     "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
     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  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.
     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
     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 pentacle.
     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
     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."
     "Go on."
     "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
     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."
     "I'm sorry?"
     "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
     "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.
     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
     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
     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.
     Women's intuition?
     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
     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
     "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
     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
     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
     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
     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
     "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
     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.
     La marque.
     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
     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.
     "Excusez-moi, messieurs."
     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
     "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.
     "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.
     Fache's  expression  turned  to one  of  deepening  concern.  "For  Mr.
     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
     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
     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
     "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
     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.
     Acts 16.
     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
     "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
     "Your 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
     "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
     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
     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
     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
     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.
     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
     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
     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
     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
     "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.
     "Just look."
     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
     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
     "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
     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

     For  several  seconds, Langdon stared  in wonder at  the  photograph of
Sauniure's  postscript. P.S.  Find Robert Langdon. He felt as if  the  floor
were tilting beneath his feet. Sauniure left a  postscript with  my name  on
it? In his wildest dreams, Langdon could not fathom why.
     "Now do  you  understand,"  Sophie said, her  eyes  urgent,  "why Fache
ordered you here tonight, and why you are his primary suspect?"
     The only thing  Langdon understood  at the moment  was  why  Fache  had
looked so smug when Langdon suggested Sauniure would have accused his killer
by name.
     Find Robert Langdon.
     "Why would  Sauniure write this?" Langdon  demanded, his confusion  now
giving way to anger. "Why would I want to kill Jacques Sauniure?"
     "Fache has  yet  to uncover  a  motive,  but he has been  recording his
entire conversation with you tonight in hopes you might reveal one."
     Langdon opened his mouth, but still no words came.
     "He's  fitted with a  miniature microphone,"  Sophie  explained.  "It's
connected to  a transmitter in his pocket that radios the signal back to the
command post."
     "This is impossible," Langdon  stammered.  "I  have  an  alibi.  I went
directly back to my hotel after my lecture. You can ask the hotel desk."
     "Fache already did. His report shows you retrieving your room key  from
the concierge at about ten-thirty. Unfortunately, the time of the murder was
closer to eleven. You easily could have left your hotel room unseen."
     "This is insanity! Fache has no evidence!"
     Sophie's  eyes widened  as if to say: No evidence? "Mr.  Langdon,  your
name is written on the floor beside the body, and Sauniure's date book  says
you were  with him  at approximately  the time of  the  murder." She paused.
"Fache  has  more  than  enough  evidence  to  take  you  into  custody  for
     Langdon suddenly sensed that he needed a lawyer. "I didn't do this."
     Sophie sighed.  "This is  not  American  television,  Mr.  Langdon.  In
France,  the laws protect the police,  not criminals. Unfortunately, in this
case, there is  also the  media consideration. Jacques  Sauniure was  a very
prominent and well-loved figure in Paris, and his murder will be news in the
morning. Fache will be under immediate pressure to make a statement, and  he
looks a  lot better having a suspect  in custody already. Whether or not you
are guilty, you most  certainly will be held by  DCPJ  until they can figure
out what really happened."
     Langdon felt like a caged animal. "Why are you telling me all this?"
     "Because, Mr.  Langdon, I believe you are innocent." Sophie looked away
for a moment and then back into his eyes. "And also because  it is partially
my fault that you're in trouble."
     "I'm sorry? It's your fault Sauniure is trying to frame me?"
     "Sauniure wasn't trying to frame you. It was a mistake. That message on
the floor was meant for me."
     Langdon needed a minute to process that one. "I beg your pardon?"
     "That message wasn't for the police. He wrote it for me. I think he was
forced to do everything in such a hurry that he just  didn't  realize how it
would  look to the police." She paused. "The numbered code  is  meaningless.
Sauniure  wrote it  to  make sure the investigation included cryptographers,
ensuring that I would know as soon as possible what had happened to him."
     Langdon felt himself losing touch fast. Whether or not Sophie Neveu had
lost her  mind was at this point  up  for grabs, but  at  least Langdon  now
understood why she was  trying to help  him. P.S. Find  Robert  Langdon. She
apparently  believed  the curator had left her a cryptic  postscript telling
her to find Langdon. "But why do you think his message was for you?"
     "The  Vitruvian Man," she  said  flatly.  "That  particular sketch  has
always been  my favorite  Da  Vinci work. Tonight  he  used  it  to catch my
     "Hold on. You're saying the curator  knew  your favorite piece of art?"
She nodded. "I'm sorry. This is all coming  out  of  order. Jacques Sauniure
and I..."
     Sophie's voice caught, and  Langdon  heard a sudden melancholy there, a
painful past, simmering just below the surface.  Sophie and Jacques Sauniure
apparently  had  some  kind of  special  relationship.  Langdon studied  the
beautiful young woman before him, well aware that  aging men in France often
took  young mistresses.  Even  so,  Sophie  Neveu  as a "kept woman" somehow
didn't seem to fit.
     "We had a falling-out  ten years ago," Sophie said, her voice a whisper
now. "We've barely  spoken since. Tonight, when Crypto got the call that  he
had been murdered, and I saw the images of his body and text on the floor, I
realized he was trying to send me a message."
     "Because of The Vitruvian Man?"
     "Yes. And the letters P.S."
     "Post Script?"
     She shook her head. "P.S. are my initials."
     "But your name is Sophie Neveu."
     She  looked away. "P.S.  is the nickname he called me when I lived with
him." She blushed. "It stood for Princesse Sophie"
     Langdon had no response.
     "Silly,  I know,"  she said. "But it was years ago. When I was a little
     "You knew him when you were a little girl?"
     "Quite well,"  she said,  her eyes welling now  with emotion.  "Jacques
Sauniure was my grandfather."

     "Where's Langdon?" Fache demanded, exhaling the last of  a cigarette as
he paced back into the command post.
     "Still in the men's room, sir."  Lieutenant  Collet  had been expecting
the question.
     Fache grumbled, "Taking his time, I see."
     The captain eyed the  GPS dot over Collet's shoulder,  and Collet could
almost  hear the wheels turning. Fache was fighting the  urge to go check on
Langdon.  Ideally,  the subject of an observation was allowed the most  time
and freedom possible, lulling  him into a  false sense  of security. Langdon
needed to return of his own volition. Still, it had been almost ten minutes.
     Too long.
     "Any chance Langdon is onto us?" Fache asked.
     Collet  shook his head. "We're still  seeing small movements inside the
men's room, so the GPS dot is obviously still on him. Perhaps he feels  ill?
If he had found the dot, he would have removed it and tried to run."
     Fache checked his watch. "Fine."
     Still Fache  seemed preoccupied.  All  evening,  Collet had  sensed  an
atypical intensity in his captain. Usually detached and cool under pressure,
Fache tonight seemed emotionally engaged, as if this were somehow a personal
matter for him.
     Not  surprising,  Collet thought. Fache needs this  arrest desperately.
Recently  the  Board of  Ministers  and  the  media  had become  more openly
critical of Fache's  aggressive tactics, his clashes  with  powerful foreign
embassies,  and his  gross  overbudgeting on  new  technologies. Tonight,  a
high-tech, high-profile arrest of an American would go a long way to silence
Fache's critics, helping him secure the job a few more years until he  could
retire with  the lucrative pension.  God knows he needs the  pension, Collet
thought.  Fache's  zeal for technology had hurt him both professionally  and
personally.  Fache  was rumored  to have invested his entire savings  in the
technology craze a few years back and lost his shirt. And Fache is a man who
wears only the finest shirts.
     Tonight,  there  was  still  plenty   of   time.  Sophie   Neveu's  odd
interruption, though unfortunate, had  been  only  a  minor wrinkle. She was
gone now, and Fache still had cards  to  play. He  had yet to inform Langdon
that his name had been scrawled on the floor by the victim. P.S. Find Robert
Langdon.  The American's reaction  to that little  bit of evidence  would be
telling indeed.
     "Captain?" one of the DCPJ agents now called from across the office. "I
think you better  take this  call." He was holding out a telephone receiver,
looking concerned.
     "Who is it?" Fache said.
     The agent frowned. "It's the director of our Cryptology Department."
     "It's about Sophie Neveu, sir. Something is not quite right."

     It was time.
     Silas  felt strong  as  he stepped from  the black Audi, the  nighttime
breeze rustling  his loose-fitting robe. The winds of change are in the air.
He knew the task before him would require more finesse  than  force, and  he
left his handgun in the car. The thirteen-round Heckler Koch USP 40 had been
provided by the Teacher.
     A weapon of death has no place in a house of God.
     The plaza  before the great church was deserted at this hour,  the only
visible  souls on the  far side  of  Place Saint-Sulpice a couple of teenage
hookers showing their wares to the  late night tourist traffic. Their nubile
bodies  sent   a  familiar  longing  to  Silas's  loins.  His  thigh  flexed
instinctively, causing  the barbed  cilice  belt to cut  painfully into  his
     The lust evaporated instantly. For  ten years now, Silas had faithfully
denied himself  all  sexual indulgence,  even  self-administered. It was The
Way. He knew he  had sacrificed much to follow Opus Dei, but he had received
much  more  in  return.  A vow  of  celibacy and the relinquishment  of  all
personal assets  hardly  seemed  a sacrifice. Considering  the poverty  from
which he had come and the sexual horrors he had endured  in prison, celibacy
was a welcome change.
     Now, having returned to France  for the first time since being arrested
and shipped to prison in Andorra, Silas could feel his homeland testing him,
dragging violent  memories from his  redeemed soul. You have been reborn, he
reminded  himself.  His service to God today had required the sin of murder,
and it was a  sacrifice  Silas knew he  would have to  hold  silently in his
heart for all eternity.
     The measure of your faith is  the measure of the pain  you  can endure,
the Teacher had  told him. Silas was no stranger to pain  and felt  eager to
prove  himself to the Teacher, the one  who had assured him his actions were
ordained by a higher power.
     "Hago la obra de  Dios," Silas whispered, moving now toward the  church
     Pausing in the shadow of the massive doorway, he took a deep breath. It
was not until this instant that  he truly realized what he was about to  do,
and what awaited him inside.
     The keystone. It will lead us to our final goal.
     He raised his ghost-white fist and banged three times on the door.
     Moments later, the bolts of the enormous wooden portal began to move.

     Sophie  wondered how long it would take Fache to figure out she had not
left  the building. Seeing  that  Langdon  was clearly  overwhelmed,  Sophie
questioned whether she had done the right thing by cornering him here in the
men's room.
     What else was I supposed to do?
     She  pictured  her  grandfather's body, naked and  spread-eagle on  the
floor. There  was a time when  he had meant  the world to her, yet  tonight,
Sophie was surprised to feel almost no sadness for the man. Jacques Sauniure
was a stranger to her now.  Their  relationship  had evaporated in a  single
instant one March night when she was twenty-two. Ten  years ago. Sophie  had
come  home  a few  days  early  from  graduate  university  in  England  and
mistakenly  witnessed  her  grandfather  engaged  in  something  Sophie  was
obviously not supposed to see. It was an image she  barely could believe  to
this day.
     If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes...
     Too ashamed and stunned to endure her grandfather's  pained attempts to
explain,  Sophie immediately  moved  out on  her own,  taking money  she had
saved,  and  getting  a small flat with some  roommates. She  vowed never to
speak to anyone about what she  had seen. Her grandfather  tried desperately
to reach her, sending cards  and letters,  begging Sophie  to meet him so he
could explain.  Explain how!? Sophie never responded except once--to  forbid
him ever  to  call  her or  try  to meet her  in  public. She was afraid his
explanation would be more terrifying than the incident itself.
     Incredibly,  Sauniure  had  never  given up  on  her,  and  Sophie  now
possessed a  decade's worth of correspondence unopened in a  dresser drawer.
To her  grandfather's credit, he had never  once disobeyed  her request  and
phoned her.
     Until this afternoon.
     "Sophie?"  His  voice  had  sounded  startlingly old on  her  answering
machine. "I  have abided  by your wishes for so  long... and it pains me  to
call, but I must speak to you. Something terrible has happened."
     Standing in the kitchen of her Paris flat, Sophie felt a chill  to hear
him again  after  all these years. His gentle voice brought  back a flood of
fond childhood memories.
     "Sophie, please listen."  He was speaking English to her, as  he always
did when she was a little girl. Practice French at  school. Practice English
at home. "You cannot be mad forever. Have you not read the letters that I've
sent all these years?  Do you not yet understand?" He paused. "We must speak
at once. Please grant your grandfather this one wish. Call me at the Louvre.
Right away. I believe you  and  I are in grave danger." Sophie stared at the
answering machine. Danger? What was he talking about?
     "Princess..." Her  grandfather's voice cracked with an  emotion  Sophie
could not place. "I know I've kept  things from you, and  I know it has cost
me your love. But  it was for your own safety. Now you must know the  truth.
Please, I must tell you the truth about your family."
     Sophie suddenly could hear  her own heart. My  family? Sophie's parents
had  died  when  she  was  only  four. Their  car  went off  a  bridge  into
fast-moving water. Her  grandmother and younger brother had also been in the
car, and Sophie's entire family had been erased in an instant. She had a box
of newspaper clippings to confirm it.
     His words had sent an unexpected surge of longing through her bones. My
family! In  that fleeting instant, Sophie saw images from the dream that had
awoken her countless times when she was  a little girl: My family  is alive!
They are coming  home! But, as  in her  dream, the pictures  evaporated into
     Your family is dead, Sophie. They are not coming home.
     "Sophie..." her  grandfather said on  the machine. "I have been waiting
for years to tell you. Waiting for  the right moment, but now time  has  run
out.  Call me at the Louvre. As soon as  you get  this. I'll wait  here  all
night. I fear we both may be in danger. There's so much you need to know."
     The message ended.
     In the  silence, Sophie stood trembling for what felt  like minutes. As
she considered  her grandfather's  message, only one possibility made sense,
and his true intent dawned.
     It was bait.
     Obviously, her grandfather wanted desperately to see her. He was trying
anything. Her disgust for the  man deepened. Sophie wondered if maybe he had
fallen terminally ill and had decided  to attempt any ploy he could think of
to get Sophie to visit him one last time. If so, he had chosen wisely.
     My family.
     Now,  standing in the darkness of the Louvre  men's room,  Sophie could
hear the echoes of this afternoon's phone message. Sophie, we both may be in
danger. Call me.
     She  had not  called  him. Nor had  she planned  to. Now, however,  her
skepticism had been  deeply challenged. Her grandfather lay murdered  inside
his own museum. And he had written a code on the floor.
     A code for her. Of this, she was certain.
     Despite  not  understanding  the  meaning  of his  message, Sophie  was
certain its cryptic nature was additional proof that the words were intended
for her. Sophie's  passion and aptitude for cryptography  were  a product of
growing up with Jacques  Sauniure--a fanatic himself for codes, word  games,
and  puzzles. How  many  Sundays did  we  spend  doing the  cryptograms  and
crosswords in the newspaper?
     At the  age  of  twelve, Sophie could  finish  the Le  Monde  crossword
without  any  help, and  her  grandfather  graduated  her  to crosswords  in
English,  mathematical puzzles,  and substitution ciphers.  Sophie  devoured
them all. Eventually she turned her passion into  a profession by becoming a
codebreaker for the Judicial Police.
     Tonight,  the  cryptographer  in  Sophie  was  forced  to  respect  the
efficiency  with which  her grandfather  had used a simple code to unite two
total strangers--Sophie Neveu and Robert Langdon.
     The question was why?
     Unfortunately,  from  the  bewildered look  in  Langdon's eyes,  Sophie
sensed the American  had no more idea  than  she did why her grandfather had
thrown them together.
     She pressed again. "You and my grandfather had planned to meet tonight.
What about?"
     Langdon  looked truly perplexed. "His  secretary  set the  meeting  and
didn't offer any specific reason, and I didn't ask. I assumed he'd  heard  I
would  be lecturing  on  the  pagan  iconography of  French  cathedrals, was
interested  in  the  topic,  and thought it would be fun to  meet for drinks
after the talk."
     Sophie  didn't buy it. The connection  was flimsy. Her grandfather knew
more  about pagan  iconography than  anyone else on  earth. Moreover, he  an
exceptionally  private  man,  not  someone prone  to  chatting  with  random
American professors unless there were an important reason.
     Sophie took a deep breath and probed further. "My grandfather called me
this afternoon and  told  me  he and I were in grave danger. Does that  mean
anything to you?"
     Langdon's blue eyes now clouded with concern. "No, but considering what
just happened..."
     Sophie nodded. Considering tonight's events, she would be a fool not to
be frightened. Feeling  drained, she walked to the small plate-glass  window
at the far end  of the bathroom and gazed out in silence through the mesh of
alarm tape embedded in the glass. They were high up--forty feet at least.
     Sighing, she  raised  her  eyes  and  gazed  out  at  Paris's  dazzling
landscape.  On her left, across the  Seine, the  illuminated  Eiffel  Tower.
Straight ahead, the Arc de Triomphe. And to the right, high atop the sloping
rise of Montmartre, the graceful arabesque dome of Sacru-Coeur, its polished
stone glowing white like a resplendent sanctuary.
     Here  at  the  westernmost  tip  of  the Denon  Wing,  the  north-south
thoroughfare of  Place du Carrousel  ran almost flush with the building with
only a  narrow  sidewalk separating  it from  the Louvre's  outer wall.  Far
below, the usual caravan of the city's nighttime delivery trucks sat idling,
waiting for the  signals to change, their running  lights seeming to twinkle
mockingly up at Sophie.
     "I  don't know what to say," Langdon said, coming  up behind her. "Your
grandfather  is obviously trying to tell  us  something. I'm  sorry  I'm  so
little help."
     Sophie turned  from the  window, sensing a sincere  regret in Langdon's
deep voice.  Even with all  the trouble  around him,  he obviously wanted to
help her. The teacher  in  him, she thought,  having read  DCPJ's workup  on
their suspect. This was an academic who clearly despised not understanding.
     We have that in common, she thought.
     As  a  codebreaker,  Sophie  made  her  living extracting  meaning from
seemingly  senseless data. Tonight, her best guess  was that Robert Langdon,
whether  he  knew  it or  not,  possessed information  that she  desperately
needed. Princesse  Sophie, Find Robert Langdon.  How  much clearer could her
grandfather's  message  be? Sophie  needed  more time with  Langdon. Time to
think.  Time  to  sort  out this  mystery together. Unfortunately,  time was
running out.
     Gazing up at Langdon, Sophie made  the  only play she  could  think of.
"Bezu Fache will be taking you into custody at any minute. I can get you out
of this museum. But we need to act now."
     Langdon's eyes went wide. "You want me to run?"
     "It's the smartest  thing you could do. If  you let Fache take you into
custody now,  you'll spend weeks in a French jail while  DCPJ  and  the U.S.
Embassy fight over  which  courts  try your case. But if  we get  you out of
here, and  make it to your  embassy, then your  government will protect your
rights while you and I prove you had nothing to do with this murder."
     Langdon looked not even vaguely convinced.  "Forget it! Fache has armed
guards on  every single exit! Even if  we escape without being shot, running
away only makes me look guilty. You need to tell  Fache that  the message on
the floor was for you, and that my name is not there as an accusation."
     "I  will  do that," Sophie said, speaking hurriedly, "but after  you're
safely inside the U.S. Embassy. It's only about a mile from here, and my car
is  parked just outside the museum. Dealing with Fache from here is too much
of  a gamble. Don't you see? Fache has made it his mission tonight to  prove
you  are guilty. The only reason he postponed  your arrest was to  run  this
observance in hopes you did something that made his case stronger."
     "Exactly. Like running!"
     The cell phone in Sophie's sweater pocket suddenly began ringing. Fache
probably. She reached in her sweater and turned off the phone.
     "Mr.  Langdon,"  she  said hurriedly,  "I  need  to ask  you  one  last
question."  And  your entire future may depend on  it.  "The writing  on the
floor  is obviously not proof of your guilt, and  yet Fache told our team he
is certain  you are his  man. Can you think of any  other reason he might be
convinced you're guilty?"
     Langdon was silent for several seconds. "None whatsoever."
     Sophie sighed. Which means Fache  is lying. Why, Sophie could not begin
to imagine, but that was hardly the issue at this point. The  fact  remained
that Bezu Fache was determined to put Robert Langdon behind bars tonight, at
any cost.  Sophie  needed  Langdon for herself, and it was this dilemma that
left Sophie only one logical conclusion.
     I need to get Langdon to the U.S. Embassy.
     Turning toward the window, Sophie gazed through the alarm mesh embedded
in the plate glass, down the dizzying  forty feet to  the pavement below.  A
leap from this  height would  leave Langdon with a couple of broken legs. At
     Nonetheless, Sophie made her decision.
     Robert Langdon was  about to escape the Louvre, whether he wanted to or

     "What  do  you  mean  she's not answering?"  Fache  looked incredulous.
"You're calling her cell phone, right? I know she's carrying it."
     Collet had  been trying to reach Sophie now for several minutes. "Maybe
her batteries are dead. Or her ringer's off."
     Fache had  looked  distressed ever  since  talking to  the director  of
Cryptology on the phone. After hanging up, he had marched over to Collet and
demanded he get  Agent Neveu  on  the line. Now Collet had failed, and Fache
was pacing like a caged lion.
     "Why did Crypto call?" Collet now ventured.
     Fache turned. "To tell us they found  no references to Draconian devils
and lame saints."
     "That's all?"
     "No, also to  tell  us that they had  just identified  the numerics  as
Fibonacci numbers, but they suspected the series was meaningless."
     Collet was  confused. "But  they already sent  Agent  Neveu to  tell us
     Fache shook his head. "They didn't send Neveu."
     "According to the director, at my orders he paged  his entire  team  to
look  at the images I'd wired him.  When  Agent Neveu  arrived, she took one
look at the photos of Sauniure and  the  code and left the office without  a
word. The  director said  he didn't question her  behavior  because  she was
understandably upset by the photos."
     "Upset? She's never seen a picture of a dead body?"
     Fache  was  silent  a moment. "I was not aware of  this, and  it  seems
neither  was  the director  until a coworker  informed him,  but  apparently
Sophie Neveu is Jacques Sauniure's granddaughter."
     Collet was speechless.
     "The director  said  she never once mentioned Sauniure to  him, and  he
assumed  it was because  she probably didn't want preferential treatment for
having a famous grandfather."
     No wonder she was  upset  by the pictures. Collet could barely conceive
of the unfortunate  coincidence that called  in a young  woman to decipher a
code written by a dead family member. Still, her actions made no sense. "But
she obviously recognized the numbers  as Fibonacci numbers  because she came
here and told  us. I don't understand why she would leave the office without
telling anyone she had figured it out."
     Collet  could think  of  only  one scenario  to  explain  the troubling
developments:  Sauniure had  written a numeric code  on the  floor  in hopes
Fache  would  involve  cryptographers  in the investigation,  and  therefore
involve his own granddaughter. As for  the rest of the message, was Sauniure
communicating  in some way with  his  granddaughter? If  so,  what  did  the
message tell her? And how did Langdon fit in?
     Before Collet could ponder it any further,  the silence of the deserted
museum was shattered by an alarm. The bell  sounded like it was  coming from
inside the Grand Gallery.
     "Alarme!" one  of the  agents  yelled, eyeing  his feed from the Louvre
security center. "Grande Galerie! Toilettes Messieurs!"
     Fache wheeled to Collet. "Where's Langdon?"
     "Still  in  the men's room!" Collet pointed to  the blinking red dot on
his laptop schematic. "He must have broken the window!"  Collet knew Langdon
wouldn't get  far. Although Paris  fire codes required windows above fifteen
meters in public buildings be  breakable in  case of fire,  exiting a Louvre
second-story window without the help of  a hook and ladder would be suicide.
Furthermore, there were  no trees or grass on the  western  end of the Denon
Wing to cushion a fall. Directly beneath that rest room window, the two-lane
Place du Carrousel ran within a few feet of the outer wall. "My God," Collet
exclaimed, eyeing the screen. "Langdon's moving to the window ledge!"
     But Fache  was already in motion. Yanking  his Manurhin MR-93  revolver
from his shoulder holster, the captain dashed out of the office.
     Collet watched the  screen  in bewilderment as the blinking dot arrived
at the window ledge and then did something utterly unexpected. The dot moved
outside the perimeter of the building.
     What's going on? he wondered. Is Langdon out on a ledge or--
     "Jesu!" Collet  jumped to his feet as  the dot shot farther outside the
wall. The signal seemed to shudder for  a moment, and then the blinking  dot
came  to  an  abrupt  stop  about ten yards outside  the  perimeter  of  the
     Fumbling  with the controls, Collet  called up a  Paris  street map and
recalibrated the GPS. Zooming in, he could now see the exact location of the
     It was no longer moving.
     It lay at a dead stop in the middle of Place du Carrousel.
     Langdon had jumped.

     Fache sprinted down the Grand Gallery as Collet's radio blared over the
distant sound of the alarm.
     "He jumped!" Collet  was yelling. "I'm showing the signal out on  Place
du Carrousel! Outside the  bathroom  window! And  it's  not  moving at  all!
Jesus, I think Langdon has just committed suicide!"
     Fache  heard the words,  but they  made no sense. He  kept running. The
hallway seemed never-ending. As he sprinted past Sauniure's body, he set his
sights  on the partitions  at the far end of the  Denon Wing. The alarm  was
getting louder now.
     "Wait!"  Collet's voice blared again over the radio.  "He's  moving! My
God, he's alive. Langdon's moving!"
     Fache kept running, cursing the length of the hallway with every step.
     "Langdon's moving faster!" Collet was still yelling on the radio. "He's
running  down  Carrousel. Wait...  he's  picking  up speed. He's  moving too
     Arriving at the partitions, Fache snaked his way through them,  saw the
rest room door, and ran for it.
     The walkie-talkie was barely audible now over the alarm. "He must be in
a car! I think he's in a car! I can't--"
     Collet's words were swallowed by the alarm as Fache  finally burst into
the men's room with  his gun drawn. Wincing against the  piercing shrill, he
scanned the area.
     The stalls were  empty.  The  bathroom  deserted.  Fache's  eyes  moved
immediately to  the shattered window at the far end of  the room. He ran  to
the opening and looked over the edge. Langdon  was nowhere to be seen. Fache
could  not imagine  anyone risking a stunt like  this.  Certainly  if he had
dropped that far, he would be badly injured.
     The alarm cut off finally, and Collet's voice became audible again over
the walkie-talkie.
     "...moving south... faster... crossing the Seine on Pont du Carrousel!"
     Fache turned to his left. The only vehicle on Pont du  Carrousel was an
enormous twin-bed Trailor  delivery  truck moving  southward away  from  the
Louvre. The truck's  open-air  bed was covered with  a  vinyl tarp,  roughly
resembling a giant hammock. Fache felt a shiver of apprehension. That truck,
only moments ago, had probably been stopped at a  red light directly beneath
the rest room window.
     An insane risk, Fache told himself. Langdon had no way  of knowing what
the truck  was carrying beneath  that tarp. What if the truck were  carrying
steel? Or cement? Or even garbage? A forty-foot leap? It was madness.
     "The  dot  is turning!" Collet called. "He's turning right on  Pont des
     Sure enough, the Trailor truck that had crossed the bridge  was slowing
down and  making a  right turn  onto Pont des  Saints-Peres. So be it, Fache
thought. Amazed, he  watched the truck disappear  around the  corner. Collet
was  already radioing  the  agents  outside,  pulling  them off  the  Louvre
perimeter and sending them to their  patrol  cars in pursuit, all the  while
broadcasting  the  truck's  changing  location like  some  kind  of  bizarre
     It's over, Fache knew.  His  men would have the truck surrounded within
minutes. Langdon was not going anywhere.
     Stowing  his  weapon,  Fache exited  the rest room and  radioed Collet.
"Bring my car around. I want to be there when we make the arrest."
     As Fache jogged back down the length of the  Grand Gallery, he wondered
if Langdon had even survived the fall.
     Not that it mattered.
     Langdon ran. Guilty as charged.

     Only fifteen yards from the rest room, Langdon and  Sophie stood in the
darkness of  the Grand  Gallery, their  backs  pressed to one of  the  large
partitions that hid the bathrooms from the  gallery. They had barely managed
to hide  themselves  before  Fache had  darted past  them,  gun  drawn,  and
disappeared into the bathroom.
     The last sixty seconds had been a blur.
     Langdon had been standing  inside the men's room refusing to run from a
crime he didn't commit, when Sophie began eyeing the plate-glass  window and
examining  the  alarm mesh running through it. Then she peered downward into
the street, as if measuring the drop.
     "With a little aim, you can get out of here," she said.
     Aim? Uneasy, he peered out the rest room window.
     Up the street, an enormous twin-bed eighteen-wheeler was headed for the
stoplight beneath the window. Stretched across the truck's massive cargo bay
was  a  blue  vinyl tarp,  loosely covering the  truck's load. Langdon hoped
Sophie was not thinking what she seemed to be thinking.
     "Sophie, there's no way I'm jump--"
     "Take out the tracking dot."
     Bewildered,  Langdon fumbled  in  his pocket  until he  found the  tiny
metallic disk. Sophie took  it from him  and strode immediately to the sink.
She grabbed a  thick bar  of soap, placed the tracking dot on top of it, and
used her  thumb to  push  the disk down hard into the bar. As the disk  sank
into the soft surface,  she pinched  the  hole closed, firmly  embedding the
device in the bar.
     Handing the bar to Langdon, Sophie retrieved a heavy, cylindrical trash
can from under the sinks. Before  Langdon could  protest, Sophie  ran at the
window, holding the can before her like a battering ram. Driving  the bottom
of the trash can into the center of the window, she shattered the glass.
     Alarms erupted overhead at earsplitting decibel levels.
     "Give me the soap!" Sophie yelled, barely audible over the alarm.
     Langdon thrust the bar into her hand.
     Palming  the  soap,  she  peered   out  the  shattered  window  at  the
eighteen-wheeler  idling  below.  The target was plenty  big--an  expansive,
stationary  tarp--and  it  was  less than ten  feet  from  the  side of  the
building.  As  the traffic  lights prepared to change,  Sophie  took  a deep
breath and lobbed the bar of soap out into the night.
     The  soap plummeted downward toward the truck,  landing on the  edge of
the tarp,  and sliding downward into the cargo bay just as the traffic light
turned green.
     "Congratulations," Sophie said, dragging him toward the door. "You just
escaped from the Louvre."
     Fleeing the  men's room,  they  moved into  the shadows just  as  Fache
rushed past.

     Now, with the fire  alarm  silenced, Langdon could  hear the  sounds of
DCPJ sirens tearing away from the Louvre. A police exodus. Fache had hurried
off as well, leaving the Grand Gallery deserted.
     "There's an emergency stairwell about fifty meters back into the  Grand
Gallery," Sophie said. "Now  that the guards are leaving  the perimeter,  we
can get out of here."
     Langdon decided not to say  another word  all evening. Sophie Neveu was
clearly a hell of a lot smarter than he was.

     The Church of Saint-Sulpice, it is said, has the most eccentric history
of any building in Paris. Built  over the ruins of an  ancient temple to the
Egyptian  goddess Isis,  the  church possesses  an  architectural  footprint
matching that of Notre Dame to  within inches. The sanctuary has played host
to  the  baptisms of  the  Marquis  de Sade  and Baudelaire, as well  as the
marriage of Victor Hugo. The attached seminary has a well-documented history
of unorthodoxy and was once the clandestine meeting hall for numerous secret
     Tonight, the cavernous nave of Saint-Sulpice  was as silent  as a tomb,
the only  hint of  life the faint  smell of incense from  mass  earlier that
evening. Silas sensed an uneasiness in Sister Sandrine's demeanor as she led
him  into the  sanctuary. He was not surprised by this. Silas was accustomed
to people being uncomfortable with his appearance.
     "You're an American," she said.
     "French by birth," Silas responded. "I had my  calling  in Spain, and I
now study in the United States."
     Sister Sandrine nodded. She was a small woman with quiet eyes. "And you
have never seen Saint-Sulpice?"
     "I realize this is almost a sin in itself."
     "She is more beautiful by day."
     "I  am certain. Nonetheless,  I am grateful that you  would  provide me
this opportunity tonight."
     "The abbu requested it. You obviously have powerful friends."
     You have no idea, Silas thought.
     As he followed Sister Sandrine down the main aisle, Silas was surprised
by the  austerity of  the  sanctuary.  Unlike  Notre  Dame with its colorful
frescoes,  gilded  altar-work, and warm  wood,  Saint-Sulpice was stark  and
cold,  conveying  an  almost  barren  quality  reminiscent  of  the  ascetic
cathedrals of Spain.  The lack of  decor made the interior  look  even  more
expansive, and as  Silas gazed  up  into the soaring  ribbed  vault  of  the
ceiling,  he  imagined  he was  standing beneath the  hull  of  an  enormous
overturned ship.
     A  fitting image,  he thought. The brotherhood's ship  was  about to be
capsized forever. Feeling eager to get to work, Silas wished Sister Sandrine
would leave him. She was a small woman whom Silas could incapacitate easily,
but  he  had vowed not  to use force  unless  absolutely necessary. She is a
woman of the cloth, and it is not her fault the brotherhood chose her church
as a hiding  place for their  keystone. She should not  be  punished for the
sins of others.
     "I am embarrassed, Sister, that you were awoken on my behalf."
     "Not  at  all. You are  in Paris  a  short time.  You  should  not miss
Saint-Sulpice.  Are  your  interests in  the  church more  architectural  or
     "Actually, Sister, my interests are spiritual."
     She gave a pleasant laugh. "That goes without saying. I simply wondered
where to begin your tour."
     Silas felt  his eyes focus on the  altar. "A tour is  unnecessary.  You
have been more than kind. I can show myself around."
     "It is no trouble," she said. "After all, I am awake."
     Silas  stopped walking.  They  had reached the  front pew now,  and the
altar was only fifteen yards away. He turned  his massive body fully  toward
the small woman, and he could sense her recoil as she gazed  up into his red
eyes. "If it does not seem too rude, Sister, I am not  accustomed  to simply
walking into a house of God and taking a tour. Would you mind if I took some
time alone to pray before I look around?"
     Sister  Sandrine hesitated. "Oh, of course. I shall wait in the rear of
the church for you."
     Silas  put  a  soft but  heavy  hand on  her shoulder  and peered down.
"Sister, I feel  guilty already for having awoken you.  To  ask you  to stay
awake is  too  much.  Please, you should  return  to bed. I  can  enjoy your
sanctuary and then let myself out."
     She looked uneasy. "Are you sure you won't feel abandoned?"
     "Not at all. Prayer is a solitary joy."
     "As you wish."
     Silas  took his  hand from her shoulder.  "Sleep well,  Sister. May the
peace of the Lord be with you."
     "And also with you." Sister Sandrine headed for  the stairs. "Please be
sure the door closes tightly on your way out."
     "I will be sure  of it." Silas watched her climb out of sight.  Then he
turned and knelt in the front pew, feeling the cilice cut into his leg.
     Dear God, I offer up to you this work I do today....

     Crouching in  the shadows  of the  choir balcony  high above the altar,
Sister Sandrine peered silently through the balustrade  at the cloaked  monk
kneeling alone. The sudden dread in her soul made it hard to stay still. For
a fleeting instant,  she wondered if  this  mysterious  visitor could be the
enemy they had warned  her about, and if tonight she would have to carry out
the orders she had been  holding  all these years. She decided to stay there
in the darkness and watch his every move.

     Emerging from the  shadows, Langdon and Sophie moved stealthily  up the
deserted Grand Gallery corridor toward the emergency exit stairwell.
     As he moved,  Langdon  felt like he was  trying  to  assemble  a jigsaw
puzzle in the dark. The newest aspect of this mystery was a deeply troubling
one: The captain of the Judicial Police is trying to frame me for murder
     "Do you think," he whispered,  "that maybe Fache wrote that  message on
the floor?"
     Sophie didn't even turn. "Impossible."
     Langdon  wasn't so  sure.  "He seems pretty intent on  making  me  look
guilty. Maybe he thought writing my name on the floor would help his case?"
     "The  Fibonacci sequence?  The  P.S.? All  the  Da  Vinci  and  goddess
symbolism? That had to be my grandfather."
     Langdon  knew  she  was right. The symbolism  of the  clues  meshed too
perfectly--the pentacle, The Vitruvian Man, Da  Vinci, the goddess, and even
the Fibonacci sequence. A coherent symbolic set, as iconographers would call
it. All inextricably tied.
     "And  his phone call to  me this afternoon," Sophie added. "He  said he
had  to tell me something.  I'm certain  his message  at the Louvre  was his
final effort  to tell me something important, something he thought you could
help me understand."
     Langdon  frowned. O,  Draconian devil!  Oh, lame saint.! He  wished  he
could comprehend the message, both  for Sophie's well-being and for his own.
Things had  definitely gotten worse since he first laid eyes on  the cryptic
words. His fake leap out the bathroom window was not going to help Langdon's
popularity with Fache one bit. Somehow he doubted the captain of the  French
police would see the humor in chasing down and arresting a bar of soap.
     "The doorway isn't much farther," Sophie said.
     "Do  you  think  there's  a  possibility   that  the  numbers  in  your
grandfather's  message  hold  the  key  to  understanding the  other lines?"
Langdon had once worked on  a series of Baconian manuscripts  that contained
epigraphical ciphers  in which certain lines of code were clues as to how to
decipher the other lines.
     "I've  been  thinking about the  numbers all  night.  Sums,  quotients,
products. I don't see anything. Mathematically,  they're arranged at random.
Cryptographic gibberish."
     "And  yet  they're all  part  of the Fibonacci sequence. That can't  be
     "It's not. Using Fibonacci numbers was  my grandfather's way  of waving
another flag  at me--like writing  the  message  in  English,  or  arranging
himself like my favorite piece of art, or drawing a pentacle on himself. All
of it was to catch my attention."
     "The pentacle has meaning to you?"
     "Yes. I didn't get a chance to tell you, but the pentacle was a special
symbol between my grandfather and  me when I was growing up. We used to play
Tarot cards for fun,  and my indicator card always turned out to be from the
suit of pentacles. I'm sure he stacked the deck, but pentacles got to be our
little joke."
     Langdon felt a chill. They played Tarot? The medieval Italian card game
was so replete with hidden heretical symbolism that Langdon had dedicated an
entire chapter in his  new manuscript to the Tarot.  The  game's  twenty-two
cards  bore  names  like  The  Female  Pope,  The  Empress,  and  The  Star.
Originally, Tarot  had  been  devised  as  a  secret  means  to  pass  along
ideologies banned by the Church. Now, Tarot's mystical qualities were passed
on by modern fortune-tellers.
     The Tarot indicator suit for feminine  divinity  is  pentacles, Langdon
thought, realizing that  if  Sauniure had been stacking his  granddaughter's
deck for fun, pentacles was an apropos inside joke.
     They  arrived at  the emergency stairwell,  and Sophie carefully pulled
open the door. No alarm sounded.  Only the  doors to the outside were wired.
Sophie  led Langdon down  a tight set of switchback stairs toward the ground
level, picking up speed as they went.
     "Your grandfather," Langdon  said, hurrying behind her,  "when he  told
you about the  pentacle, did he mention goddess worship or any resentment of
the Catholic Church?"
     Sophie  shook her head.  "I was more interested  in the mathematics  of
it--the Divine Proportion, PHI, Fibonacci sequences, that sort of thing."
     Langdon  was surprised.  "Your grandfather taught you about the  number
     "Of course. The Divine Proportion." Her expression turned sheepish. "In
fact, he used to  joke  that I  was half divine... you  know, because of the
letters in my name."
     Langdon considered it a moment and then groaned.
     Still descending, Langdon refocused on PHI. He was  starting to realize
that Sauniure's clues were even more consistent than he had first imagined.
     Da Vinci... Fibonacci numbers... the pentacle.
     Incredibly, all of these things  were connected  by a single concept so
fundamental to art history that Langdon often spent several class periods on
the topic.
     He felt himself suddenly reeling  back to Harvard, standing in front of
his "Symbolism in Art" class, writing his favorite number on the chalkboard.

     Langdon turned to face his sea of eager students. "Who can tell me what
this number is?"
     A  long-legged math  major in back  raised his hand. "That's the number
PHI." He pronounced it fee.
     "Nice job, Stettner," Langdon said. "Everyone, meet PHI."
     "Not  to  be  confused  with  PI,"  Stettner  added,  grinning.  "As we
mathematicians like to say: PHI is one H of a lot cooler than PI!"
     Langdon laughed, but nobody else seemed to get the joke.
     Stettner slumped.
     "This  number PHI," Langdon continued, "one-point-six-one-eight,  is  a
very important number in art. Who can tell me why?"
     Stettner tried to redeem himself. "Because it's so pretty?"
     Everyone laughed.
     "Actually,"  Langdon  said, "Stettner's right again.  PHI is  generally
considered the most beautiful number in the universe."
     The laughter abruptly stopped, and Stettner gloated.
     As Langdon loaded his slide projector, he explained that the number PHI
was  derived from  the  Fibonacci sequence--a  progression famous  not  only
because the sum of adjacent terms equaled  the  next  term, but  because the
quotients   of  adjacent  terms  possessed   the   astonishing  property  of
approaching the number 1.618--PHI!
     Despite  PHI's  seemingly   mystical  mathematical   origins,   Langdon
explained,  the  truly  mind-boggling  aspect  of PHI  was  its  role  as  a
fundamental building block in nature. Plants, animals, and even human beings
all possessed dimensional properties that  adhered with eerie  exactitude to
the ratio of PHI to 1.
     "PHI's ubiquity in nature," Langdon said,  killing the lights, "clearly
exceeds coincidence,  and so  the ancients assumed the  number PHI must have
been  preordained by the Creator of  the universe. Early scientists heralded
one-point-six-one-eight as the Divine Proportion."
     "Hold on,"  said a young woman  in the front row. "I'm  a bio major and
I've never seen this Divine Proportion in nature."
     "No?" Langdon grinned. "Ever study the relationship between females and
males in a honeybee community?"
     "Sure. The female bees always outnumber the male bees."
     "Correct. And did you know that if you divide the number of female bees
by the number of male bees in any beehive in  the world, you  always get the
same number?"
     "You do?"
     "Yup. PHI."
     The girl gaped. "NO WAY!"
     "Way!" Langdon fired back, smiling as  he projected a slide of a spiral
seashell. "Recognize this?"
     "It's a nautilus," the bio major said. "A cephalopod mollusk that pumps
gas into its chambered shell to adjust its buoyancy."
     "Correct. And can you guess what the ratio is of each spiral's diameter
to the next?"
     The  girl  looked  uncertain  as  she  eyed the concentric arcs  of the
nautilus spiral.
     Langdon nodded. "PHI. The Divine Proportion. One-point-six-one-eight to
     The girl looked amazed.
     Langdon  advanced to the next  slide--a close-up of a sunflower's  seed
head. "Sunflower seeds grow in opposing spirals.  Can you guess the ratio of
each rotation's diameter to the next?"
     "PHI?" everyone said.
     "Bingo."  Langdon  began  racing through  slides now--spiraled pinecone
petals,  leaf   arrangement   on  plant  stalks,   insect  segmentation--all
displaying astonishing obedience to the Divine Proportion.
     "This is amazing!" someone cried out.
     "Yeah," someone else said, "but what does it have to do with art?"
     "Aha!" Langdon said.  "Glad  you  asked." He pulled up another slide--a
pale yellow parchment displaying  Leonardo da  Vinci's famous male nude--The
Vitruvian Man--named for Marcus Vitruvius, the brilliant Roman architect who
praised the Divine Proportion in his text De Architectura.
     "Nobody  understood better than Da  Vinci  the divine  structure of the
human  body.  Da  Vinci  actually  exhumed  corpses  to  measure  the  exact
proportions of human bone structure. He was the first to show that the human
body is literally made of  building blocks  whose proportional ratios always
equal PHI."
     Everyone in class gave him a dubious look.
     "Don't believe me?"  Langdon  challenged.  "Next  time  you're  in  the
shower, take a tape measure."
     A couple of football players snickered.
     "Not  just you insecure jocks," Langdon prompted. "All of you. Guys and
girls. Try it.  Measure the distance from the tip of your head to the floor.
Then divide  that by the distance from your belly button to the floor. Guess
what number you get."
     "Not PHI!" one of the jocks blurted out in disbelief.
     "Yes,  PHI," Langdon  replied.  "One-point-six-one-eight. Want  another
example? Measure the  distance  from your  shoulder to your  fingertips, and
then  divide it  by the distance from your  elbow  to your  fingertips.  PHI
again. Another? Hip to floor  divided  by knee to floor.  PHI  again. Finger
joints. Toes. Spinal divisions. PHI. PHI. PHI. My  friends, each of you is a
walking tribute to the Divine Proportion."
     Even in  the darkness, Langdon  could see they  were  all astounded. He
felt a  familiar warmth  inside. This is why he taught. "My friends, as  you
can see, the chaos  of the world has an underlying  order. When the ancients
discovered  PHI, they  were certain they had stumbled across  God's building
block for the world, and they worshipped Nature because of that. And one can
understand why. God's hand is evident in Nature, and even  to this day there
exist pagan, Mother  Earth-revering religions. Many of  us celebrate  nature
the  way  the  pagans did, and don't  even  know it. May  Day  is  a perfect
example,  the celebration  of spring...  the earth  coming  back to  life to
produce her bounty. The  mysterious magic  inherent in the Divine Proportion
was  written at the beginning  of time.  Man is  simply  playing by Nature's
rules, and  because art  is  man's  attempt to  imitate  the beauty  of  the
Creator's hand, you can imagine we might be seeing a lot of instances of the
Divine Proportion in art this semester."
     Over  the next half  hour,  Langdon showed  them slides  of artwork  by
Michelangelo,  Albrecht Durer, Da Vinci, and many others, demonstrating each
artist's intentional and rigorous adherence to the  Divine Proportion in the
layout  of his  compositions.  Langdon  unveiled PHI  in  the  architectural
dimensions of  the  Greek  Parthenon,  the pyramids of Egypt,  and even  the
United  Nations  Building in  New  York. PHI  appeared in the organizational
structures  of Mozart's sonatas, Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, as  well as the
works  of Bartuk, Debussy, and Schubert.  The number PHI, Langdon told them,
was  even  used by  Stradivarius  to calculate  the exact placement  of  the
f-holes in the construction of his famous violins.
     "In closing," Langdon said,  walking  to the  chalkboard, "we return to
symbols"  He drew five  intersecting lines that formed a five-pointed  star.
"This symbol  is  one of the most powerful images  you  will see this  term.
Formally known as a pentagram--or  pentacle, as the ancients called it--this
symbol is  considered both  divine and  magical by many cultures. Can anyone
tell me why that might be?"
     Stettner,  the math major,  raised his hand.  "Because  if you  draw  a
pentagram, the lines automatically divide themselves into segments according
to the Divine Proportion."
     Langdon  gave the kid a  proud nod. "Nice job. Yes, the ratios  of line
segments in  a pentacle all  equal  PHI,  making  this  symbol  the ultimate
expression of the Divine Proportion. For this reason, the  five-pointed star
has always been the symbol for beauty  and  perfection  associated with  the
goddess and the sacred feminine."
     The girls in class beamed.
     "One note,  folks. We've  only touched on  Da Vinci today, but we'll be
seeing  a lot more  of him this  semester. Leonardo  was  a  well-documented
devotee of  the  ancient  ways of  the goddess. Tomorrow, I'll  show you his
fresco The Last Supper, which is one of the most astonishing tributes to the
sacred feminine you will ever see."
     "You're kidding, right?" somebody said.  "I thought The Last Supper was
about Jesus!"
     Langdon winked. "There are  symbols  hidden in  places you would  never

     "Come on," Sophie whispered. "What's wrong? We're almost there. Hurry!"
     Langdon  glanced  up, feeling himself return from faraway  thoughts. He
realized  he was standing at a dead stop on  the stairs, paralyzed by sudden
     O, Draconian devil! Oh, lame saint!
     Sophie was looking back at him.
     It can't be that simple, Langdon thought.
     But he knew of course that it was.
     There  in the bowels of the Louvre... with images of PHI and  Da  Vinci
swirling  through  his  mind,  Robert   Langdon  suddenly  and  unexpectedly
deciphered Sauniure's code.
     "O,  Draconian devil!" he said. "Oh, lame saint! It's the simplest kind
of code!"

     Sophie was stopped on the stairs below him,  staring up in confusion. A
code? She had been pondering  the  words all night and had not seen a  code.
Especially a simple one.
     "You  said it yourself." Langdon's voice reverberated  with excitement.
"Fibonacci numbers  only  have  meaning  in  their  proper order.  Otherwise
they're mathematical gibberish."
     Sophie had no idea  what he  was talking  about. The Fibonacci numbers?
She was certain  they had been intended as nothing  more than a means to get
the Cryptography Department involved tonight. They have another purpose? She
plunged her hand into her  pocket  and pulled out the printout, studying her
grandfather's message again.
     O, Draconian devil!
     Oh, lame saint!

     What about the numbers?
     "The scrambled Fibonacci sequence is a clue," Langdon said,  taking the
printout. "The numbers are a hint as  to  how  to decipher  the  rest of the
message.  He  wrote the  sequence  out of order to tell us to apply the same
concept to  the text. O, Draconian devil? Oh,  lame saint?  Those lines mean
nothing. They are simply letters written out of order."
     Sophie needed only an instant  to process Langdon's implication, and it
seemed  laughably simple. "You  think this message is... une anagramme?" She
stared at him. "Like a word jumble from a newspaper?"
     Langdon  could  see  the  skepticism  on  Sophie's  face  and certainly
understood. Few people realized that anagrams, despite being a  trite modern
amusement, had a rich history of sacred symbolism.
     The   mystical    teachings   of   the   Kabbala   drew    heavily   on
anagrams--rearranging the letters  of Hebrew  words to derive new  meanings.
French kings throughout the Renaissance were so convinced that anagrams held
magic power  that  they appointed  royal  anagrammatists  to  help them make
better  decisions  by  analyzing words  in  important documents. The  Romans
actually referred to the study of anagrams as ars magna--"the great art."
     Langdon  looked  up  at  Sophie,  locking  eyes  with  her  now.  "Your
grandfather's  meaning was  right  in  front of us all along, and he left us
more than enough clues to see it."
     Without another  word, Langdon  pulled a pen from his jacket pocket and
rearranged the letters in each line.
     O, Draconian devil! Oh, lame saint!
     was a perfect anagram of...
     Leonardo da Vinci! The Mona Lisa!

     The Mona Lisa.
     For an instant, standing in the exit stairwell, Sophie forgot all about
trying to leave the Louvre.
     Her shock over the anagram was matched only by her embarrassment at not
having  deciphered  the  message  herself.  Sophie's  expertise  in  complex
cryptanalysis  had caused her to overlook simplistic word games, and yet she
knew  she  should  have  seen  it.  After  all,  she  was   no  stranger  to
anagrams--especially in English.
     When she  was young,  often her grandfather would use anagram games  to
hone her  English  spelling. Once he had written  the English word "planets"
and told Sophie that an astonishing sixty-two other English words of varying
lengths  could be formed using  those same letters.  Sophie had  spent three
days with an English dictionary until she found them all.
     "I  can't  imagine," Langdon said, staring  at the  printout, "how your
grandfather  created such  an  intricate anagram  in  the minutes before  he
     Sophie knew  the  explanation, and the  realization made her feel  even
worse.  I should have  seen this! She now  recalled that  her grandfather--a
wordplay aficionado and art lover--had entertained himself as a young man by
creating anagrams of famous works of art.  In  fact, one of his anagrams had
gotten him  in  trouble once  when Sophie was  a  little girl.  While  being
interviewed by an American art magazine, Sauniure had expressed his distaste
for  the modernist Cubist  movement by noting that Picasso's masterpiece Les
Demoiselles  d'Avignon  was a perfect anagram  of  vile meaningless doodles.
Picasso fans were not amused.
     "My grandfather probably  created  this  Mona Lisa anagram  long  ago,"
Sophie said,  glancing up at Langdon. And tonight he was forced to use it as
a makeshift code.  Her grandfather's  voice had  called out from beyond with
chilling precision.
     Leonardo da Vinci!
     The Mona Lisa!
     Why his final words to  her referenced the  famous painting, Sophie had
no idea, but she could think of only one possibility. A disturbing one.
     Those were not his final words....
     Was she supposed to visit the Mona Lisa? Had her grandfather left her a
message there? The  idea seemed  perfectly plausible. After all,  the famous
painting hung in the Salle des  Etats--a private viewing chamber  accessible
only from the Grand Gallery. In fact,  Sophie  now realized,  the doors that
opened into  the  chamber  were situated only  twenty meters from  where her
grandfather had been found dead.
     He easily could have visited the Mona Lisa before he died.
     Sophie gazed  back up the emergency  stairwell and  felt torn. She knew
she should usher Langdon from the museum immediately, and yet instinct urged
her to  the  contrary.  As Sophie recalled her first childhood visit to  the
Denon Wing, she realized that  if her  grandfather had a secret to tell her,
few places on earth made a more apt rendezvous than Da Vinci's Mona Lisa.

     "She's  just  a  little bit farther,"  her grandfather  had  whispered,
clutching Sophie's tiny hand as he led her through the deserted museum after
     Sophie was six years old. She felt small and insignificant as she gazed
up at the enormous ceilings and down at the dizzying floor. The empty museum
frightened her, although she was not about to let her grandfather know that.
She set her jaw firmly and let go of his hand.
     "Up  ahead is  the Salle  des  Etats,"  her  grandfather  said as  they
approached the Louvre's  most famous room. Despite her grandfather's obvious
excitement, Sophie wanted to go home. She had seen pictures of the Mona Lisa
in  books  and didn't like it at  all. She couldn't understand why  everyone
made such a fuss.
     "C'est ennuyeux," Sophie grumbled.
     "Boring," he corrected. "French at school. English at home."
     "Le Louvre, c'est pas chez moi!" she challenged.
     He gave her a  tired laugh. "Right  you are.  Then  let's speak English
just for fun."
     Sophie  pouted  and kept walking. As they entered the  Salle des Etats,
her  eyes  scanned the  narrow room  and  settled  on  the  obvious  spot of
honor--the center of the right-hand wall, where a lone portrait  hung behind
a  protective Plexiglas  wall. Her  grandfather paused  in  the  doorway and
motioned toward the painting.
     "Go ahead, Sophie. Not many people get a chance to visit her alone."
     Swallowing her apprehension, Sophie moved slowly across the room. After
everything  she'd  heard  about the  Mona Lisa,  she  felt  as  if she  were
approaching royalty. Arriving in front  of  the protective Plexiglas, Sophie
held her breath and looked up, taking it in all at once.
     Sophie  was  not sure what  she  had  expected to  feel,  but  it  most
certainly was not this.  No jolt  of amazement. No instant  of  wonder.  The
famous  face looked as it did in  books. She stood in silence for what  felt
like forever, waiting for something to happen.
     "So what do you think?" her grandfather whispered, arriving behind her.
"Beautiful, yes?"
     "She's too little."
     Sauniure smiled. "You're little and you're beautiful."
     I am  not  beautiful, she  thought.  Sophie  hated  her  red  hair  and
freckles, and she was bigger than all the boys in her class. She looked back
at the Mona Lisa and shook  her head. "She's  even worse than in the  books.
Her face is... brumeux."
     "Foggy," her grandfather tutored.
     "Foggy,"  Sophie repeated, knowing  the conversation would not continue
until she repeated her new vocabulary word.
     "That's called the sfumato  style of painting," he  told her, "and it's
very hard to do. Leonardo da Vinci was better at it than anyone."
     Sophie still  didn't like  the  painting. "She  looks  like  she  knows
something... like when kids at school have a secret."
     Her grandfather laughed. "That's part  of why she is  so famous. People
like to guess why she is smiling."
     "Do you know why she's smiling?"
     "Maybe." Her grandfather winked. "Someday I'll tell you all about it."
     Sophie stamped her foot. "I told you I don't like secrets!"
     "Princess,"  he smiled.  "Life is filled with secrets.  You can't learn
them all at once."

     "I'm  going  back  up,"  Sophie  declared,  her  voice  hollow  in  the
     "To the Mona Lisa?" Langdon recoiled. "Now?"
     Sophie  considered the risk.  "I'm not a  murder suspect. I'll  take my
chances. I need to understand what my grandfather was trying to tell me."
     "What about the embassy?"
     Sophie felt guilty turning Langdon into a fugitive only to abandon him,
but she saw  no  other option. She pointed down the stairs to a  metal door.
"Go through that door, and follow the illuminated exit signs. My grandfather
used to bring me down here. The signs will lead you to a security turnstile.
It's monodirectional and opens out." She handed Langdon her  car keys. "Mine
is the red SmartCar in  the employee lot. Directly outside this bulkhead. Do
you know how to get to the embassy?"
     Langdon nodded, eyeing the keys in his hand.
     "Listen," Sophie said, her voice softening. "I think my grandfather may
have left me a message at the Mona Lisa--some kind of clue as  to who killed
him. Or why I'm  in danger." Or what  happened to my  family. "I have to  go
     "But if he wanted to tell  you why you were in danger, why  wouldn't he
simply write it on the floor where he died? Why this complicated word game?"
     "Whatever my grandfather was trying to tell me, I don't think he wanted
anyone else to  hear it.  Not even the police." Clearly, her grandfather had
done everything in his power to send a confidential transmission directly to
her. He had written it in code, included her  secret initials, and told  her
to find Robert Langdon--a wise command, considering the American symbologist
had deciphered his code. "As strange as it may sound," Sophie said, "I think
he wants me to get to the Mona Lisa before anyone else does."
     "I'll come."
     "No! We don't know how long the Grand Gallery will stay empty. You have
to go."
     Langdon  seemed  hesitant,  as  if  his  own  academic  curiosity  were
threatening to override sound judgment and drag him back into Fache's hands.
     "Go. Now."  Sophie gave him  a grateful smile.  "I'll  see  you  at the
embassy, Mr. Langdon."
     Langdon  looked displeased. "I'll meet  you there on one condition," he
replied, his voice stern.
     She paused, startled. "What's that?"
     "That you stop calling me Mr. Langdon."
     Sophie  detected  the faint hint  of  a  lopsided grin  growing  across
Langdon's face, and she felt herself smile back. "Good luck, Robert."

     When Langdon  reached  the  landing at the  bottom of  the  stairs, the
unmistakable  smell of linseed oil and plaster dust assaulted his  nostrils.
Ahead, an illuminated SORTIE/EXIT displayed an arrow  pointing  down  a long
     Langdon stepped into the hallway.
     To the right gaped a  murky restoration studio  out of  which peered an
army of  statues  in various  states of repair. To the left,  Langdon saw  a
suite  of  studios  that resembled  Harvard art classrooms--rows of  easels,
paintings, palettes, framing tools--an art assembly line.
     As  he  moved down the  hallway, Langdon wondered  if at any  moment he
might awake  with a start  in his  bed in  Cambridge. The entire evening had
felt  like  a  bizarre dream.  I'm about to  dash  out  of  the Louvre...  a
     Sauniure's  clever  anagrammatic  message was  still  on  his mind, and
Langdon wondered what Sophie would find at the Mona Lisa... if anything. She
had seemed  certain her  grandfather  meant  for her  to  visit  the  famous
painting one  more time. As  plausible  an interpretation  as  this  seemed,
Langdon felt haunted now by a troubling paradox.
     P.S. Find Robert Langdon.
     Sauniure had written Langdon's name on the floor, commanding  Sophie to
find him. But why? Merely so Langdon could help her break an anagram?
     It seemed quite unlikely.
     After  all, Sauniure  had no reason  to  think Langdon  was  especially
skilled at anagrams. We've never even met. More important, Sophie had stated
flat out that she should have broken  the anagram on  her own.  It  had been
Sophie  who spotted the Fibonacci  sequence, and,  no doubt, Sophie  who, if
given a little more time,  would  have  deciphered the  message with no help
from Langdon.
     Sophie  was  supposed to  break  that anagram on her  own. Langdon  was
suddenly  feeling more certain  about this, and  yet the conclusion left  an
obvious gaping lapse in the logic of Sauniure's actions.
     Why me?  Langdon  wondered, heading down  the hall.  Why was Sauniure's
dying  wish  that his  estranged granddaughter  find  me? What  is  it  that
Sauniure thinks I know?
     With an  unexpected  jolt, Langdon  stopped short. Eyes wide, he dug in
his pocket and yanked out  the computer printout. He stared at the last line
of Sauniure's message.
     P.S. Find Robert Langdon.
     He fixated on two letters.
     In that instant, Langdon felt Sauniure's puzzling mix of symbolism fall
into stark focus. Like a peal of thunder, a career's  worth of symbology and
history came crashing down around him. Everything Jacques Sauniure  had done
tonight suddenly made perfect sense.
     Langdon's thoughts  raced as he tried  to assemble  the implications of
what this all meant. Wheeling, he stared back in the direction from which he
had come.
     Is there time?
     He knew it didn't matter.
     Without hesitation, Langdon broke into a sprint back toward the stairs.

     Kneeling in  the  first pew,  Silas pretended to pray as he scanned the
layout of the sanctuary. Saint-Sulpice, like most  churches, had  been built
in the shape of a giant Roman cross. Its long central section--the nave--led
directly to  the  main  altar,  where it was  transversely intersected by  a
shorter  section,  known as  the transept.  The  intersection  of  nave  and
transept occurred directly beneath the  main cupola  and was considered  the
heart of the church... her most sacred and mystical point.
     Not tonight, Silas thought. Saint-Sulpice hides her secrets elsewhere.
     Turning his head to the right, he gazed into the south transept, toward
the open area of floor beyond the end of the pews, to the object his victims
had described.
     There it is.
     Embedded in  the gray granite  floor,  a thin  polished  strip of brass
glistened in the stone... a golden line  slanting across the church's floor.
The line bore  graduated markings, like a ruler. It was a gnomon, Silas  had
been told, a pagan astronomical device like a sundial. Tourists, scientists,
historians, and pagans from  around the world  came to Saint-Sulpice to gaze
upon this famous line.
     The Rose Line.
     Slowly, Silas let his eyes trace the path of the brass strip as it made
its way across the floor from his right to left, slanting in front of him at
an awkward angle, entirely at odds with the symmetry  of the church. Slicing
across the main altar itself, the line  looked to Silas like  a  slash wound
across  a beautiful  face. The strip  cleaved the communion  rail in two and
then crossed the entire width  of the church, finally reaching the corner of
the  north transept,  where  it  arrived  at  the base  of a most unexpected
     A colossal Egyptian obelisk.
     Here,  the glistening Rose Line  took a ninety-degree vertical turn and
continued directly up the face of the obelisk itself, ascending thirty-three
feet to the very tip of the pyramidical apex, where it finally ceased.
     The Rose Line, Silas thought. The  brotherhood hid the keystone at  the
Rose Line.
     Earlier  tonight,  when Silas told the Teacher that the Priory keystone
was hidden inside  Saint-Sulpice, the Teacher had sounded doubtful. But when
Silas  added that the brothers had all given  him a precise  location,  with
relation to  a  brass  line running  through  Saint-Sulpice, the Teacher had
gasped with revelation. "You speak of the Rose Line!"
     The Teacher  quickly told Silas of Saint-Sulpice's famed  architectural
oddity--a  strip  of  brass  that  segmented  the  sanctuary  on  a  perfect
north-south axis. It was an ancient sundial of sorts, a vestige of the pagan
temple that  had  once  stood on this  very  spot.  The  sun's rays, shining
through the oculus on the south wall, moved farther down the line every day,
indicating the passage of time, from solstice to solstice.
     The north-south stripe had been known as the  Rose Line. For centuries,
the symbol of the  Rose had been associated with maps  and guiding souls  in
the proper direction. The Compass Rose--drawn on almost every map--indicated
North, East,  South, and West. Originally known as the Wind Rose, it denoted
the directions of the thirty-two winds, blowing from the directions of eight
major  winds, eight half-winds, and  sixteen quarter-winds. When  diagrammed
inside a circle,  these thirty-two points of the compass perfectly resembled
a  traditional  thirty-two petal rose  bloom.  To this  day, the fundamental
navigational tool  was still  known  as a  Compass  Rose,  its  northernmost
direction still marked  by an arrowhead... or, more commonly, the symbol  of
the fleur-de-lis.
     On a globe,  a Rose Line--also called  a meridian or longitude--was any
imaginary line drawn from the  North Pole  to the South Pole. There were, of
course, an infinite number  of Rose Lines because  every point  on the globe
could have a longitude drawn through it  connecting north and  south  poles.
The question for  early navigators was which of these lines would  be called
the Rose Line--the  zero longitude--the line from which all other longitudes
on earth would be measured.
     Today that line was in Greenwich, England.
     But it had not always been.
     Long  before the establishment of Greenwich as the prime  meridian, the
zero longitude of  the  entire world had  passed directly through Paris, and
through the Church of Saint-Sulpice. The brass marker in Saint-Sulpice was a
memorial to the world's  first prime meridian,  and although  Greenwich  had
stripped  Paris of  the  honor in 1888,  the  original Rose Line  was  still
visible today.
     "And so  the legend is true,"  the Teacher had told Silas. "The  Priory
keystone has been said to lie 'beneath the Sign of the Rose.' "
     Now, still on his knees  in a pew, Silas glanced around the church  and
listened to  make sure no one was there. For a moment, he thought he heard a
rustling  in the choir balcony. He turned  and gazed up for several seconds.
     I am alone.
     Standing now, he faced the altar and genuflected  three  times. Then he
turned left and followed the brass line due north toward the obelisk.

     At that moment, at Leonardo da Vinci International Airport in Rome, the
jolt  of tires  hitting  the  runway  startled  Bishop Aringarosa  from  his
     I drifted off, he thought, impressed he was relaxed enough to sleep.
     "Benvenuto a Roma," the intercom announced.
     Sitting  up, Aringarosa  straightened  his black  cassock  and  allowed
himself a rare smile. This  was  one  trip he had been happy to make. I have
been on the defensive for too long. Tonight, however, the rules had changed.
Only  five months  ago, Aringarosa had feared for the future  of the  Faith.
Now, as if by the will of God, the solution had presented itself.
     Divine intervention.
     If all went as planned  tonight in  Paris, Aringarosa would soon be  in
possession  of  something that  would  make  him the  most  powerful  man in

     Sophie  arrived breathless  outside the large wooden doors of the Salle
des  Etats--the room that housed the Mona Lisa.  Before entering,  she gazed
reluctantly farther down the hall, twenty yards or so, to the spot where her
grandfather's body still lay under the spotlight.
     The remorse that  gripped her  was powerful and sudden, a  deep sadness
laced with guilt. The man had reached out to her so many times over the past
ten years, and yet Sophie had remained  immovable--leaving  his  letters and
packages unopened in a bottom drawer and  denying his efforts to see her. He
lied to me! Kept appalling secrets! What was I  supposed to do?  And  so she
had blocked him out. Completely.
     Now her grandfather was dead, and he was talking to her from the grave.
     The Mona Lisa.
     She reached for the  huge wooden doors, and pushed. The entryway yawned
open. Sophie stood on the threshold a moment, scanning the large rectangular
chamber beyond. It  too was bathed in a soft red  light. The Salle des Etats
was one of this  museum's rare culs-de-sac--a dead end and the only room off
the  middle of the  Grand  Gallery.  This door, the  chamber's sole point of
entry, faced  a dominating fifteen-foot Botticelli on  the far wall. Beneath
it, centered on the parquet floor, an immense octagonal viewing divan served
as a welcome respite for thousands of visitors to rest their legs while they
admired the Louvre's most valuable asset.
     Even before Sophie entered, though, she knew she was missing something.
A black  light.  She gazed down the hall at her grandfather under the lights
in the distance, surrounded by electronic gear. If he  had written  anything
in  here,  he almost  certainly would have  written  it  with the  watermark
     Taking a deep  breath, Sophie hurried down to the well-lit crime scene.
Unable  to  look  at  her  grandfather, she focused solely on the PTS tools.
Finding a  small ultraviolet penlight,  she slipped it in the pocket of  her
sweater and hurried back  up the hallway toward  the open doors of the Salle
des Etats.
     Sophie turned the corner and stepped over the  threshold. Her entrance,
however, was  met by  an unexpected sound of muffled footsteps racing toward
her  from inside  the  chamber.  There's someone  in  here! A ghostly figure
emerged suddenly from out of the reddish haze. Sophie jumped back.
     "There you are!" Langdon's hoarse whisper cut the air as his silhouette
slid to a stop in front of her.
     Her relief was only momentary. "Robert, I told you to get  out of here!
If Fache--"
     "Where were you?"
     "I had to get  the black  light," she whispered, holding it  up. "If my
grandfather left me a message--"
     "Sophie, listen." Langdon caught  his breath  as his blue eyes held her
firmly. "The  letters P.S.... do they mean anything else to you? Anything at
     Afraid their  voices might echo down the  hall, Sophie pulled him  into
the  Salle  des  Etats  and closed the enormous twin doors silently, sealing
them inside. "I told you, the initials mean Princess Sophie."
     "I know, but did you ever see  them anywhere else? Did your grandfather
ever use P.S. in any other way? As a monogram, or maybe  on  stationery or a
personal item?"
     The  question  startled her.  How would  Robert know that?  Sophie  had
indeed seen the initials P.S. once before, in a kind of monogram. It was the
day before her ninth birthday. She was secretly combing the house, searching
for hidden  birthday  presents. Even then, she  could not bear  secrets kept
from her.  What did  Grand-pure  get  for  me  this  year?  She dug  through
cupboards and drawers. Did he get me the doll I wanted? Where would he  hide
     Finding nothing in the  entire house, Sophie mustered  the  courage  to
sneak into  her grandfather's bedroom. The room was off-limits  to her,  but
her grandfather was downstairs asleep on the couch.
     I'll just take a fast peek!
     Tiptoeing across the  creaky wood floor to his closet, Sophie peered on
the  shelves  behind his clothing. Nothing. Next  she looked  under the bed.
Still nothing. Moving to his bureau,  she opened the drawers and  one by one
began pawing carefully through them. There must be something for me here! As
she reached the bottom drawer, she  still  had not found any hint of a doll.
Dejected, she  opened the final drawer and pulled  aside some  black clothes
she had never seen him wear. She was about to close the drawer when her eyes
caught  a glint  of gold in the back of the drawer.  It looked like a pocket
watch  chain,  but she  knew  he  didn't  wear one. Her heart raced  as  she
realized what it must be.
     A necklace!
     Sophie carefully pulled the chain from the drawer. To  her surprise, on
the end was a brilliant gold key. Heavy and shimmering. Spellbound, she held
it  up. It looked like no  key  she  had ever seen. Most keys were flat with
jagged teeth, but this one had a triangular column with little pockmarks all
over it. Its large golden head was in the shape of a cross, but not a normal
cross. This was an even-armed one,  like a plus sign. Embossed in the middle
of the cross was a strange symbol--two letters intertwined with some kind of
flowery design.
     "P.S.," she whispered, scowling as she read the letters. Whatever could
this be?
     "Sophie?" her grandfather spoke from the doorway.
     Startled,  she spun, dropping  the key on the floor with a  loud clang.
She stared down  at the  key, afraid to  look up at her  grandfather's face.
"I...  was  looking for  my birthday  present," she said,  hanging her head,
knowing she had betrayed his trust.
     For what seemed like an eternity, her grandfather stood silently in the
doorway. Finally, he  let out a  long troubled  breath.  "Pick  up  the key,
     Sophie retrieved the key.
     Her grandfather walked in. "Sophie,  you need to respect other people's
privacy." Gently, he knelt down and took the key from her. "This key is very
special. If you had lost it..."
     Her grandfather's quiet voice made Sophie feel  even worse. "I'm sorry,
Grand-pure.  I really am." She paused. "I thought it was a  necklace for  my
     He gazed at her for several seconds. "I'll say this once more,  Sophie,
because  it's  important.  You  need to  learn  to  respect  other  people's
     "Yes, Grand-pure."
     "We'll talk about this some  other time. Right now, the garden needs to
be weeded."
     Sophie hurried outside to do her chores.
     The  next  morning,  Sophie  received  no  birthday  present  from  her
grandfather. She hadn't  expected one,  not after what she  had done. But he
didn't even wish her  happy birthday  all day. Sadly, she trudged up to  bed
that night.  As she climbed in, though,  she found a note card lying on  her
pillow. On the card was written a simple riddle. Even  before she solved the
riddle, she was smiling. I know what this is! Her grandfather  had done this
for her last Christmas morning.
     A treasure hunt!
     Eagerly, she pored over  the  riddle until she  solved it. The solution
pointed her to another part  of the house, where she found another card  and
another riddle. She solved this one too, racing on to the next card. Running
wildly, she darted back and forth across the house, from clue to clue, until
at last she found a  clue that directed her back  to her own bedroom. Sophie
dashed up the stairs, rushed into her room, and stopped in her tracks. There
in the  middle  of the room sat a shining red bicycle with a  ribbon tied to
the handlebars. Sophie shrieked with delight.
     "I  know you asked  for a doll," her grandfather said,  smiling  in the
corner. "I thought you might like this even better."
     The  next  day, her  grandfather taught her to ride, running beside her
down the walkway. When Sophie steered out over the thick lawn and  lost  her
balance, they both went tumbling onto the grass, rolling and laughing.
     "Grand-pure,"  Sophie  said, hugging him. "I'm  really sorry about  the
     "I  know,  sweetie. You're forgiven. I can't possibly  stay mad at you.
Grandfathers and granddaughters always forgive each other."
     Sophie knew she shouldn't ask, but she couldn't  help it. "What does it
open? I never saw a key like that. It was very pretty."
     Her grandfather  was silent  a long moment, and Sophie could see he was
uncertain how to answer. Grand-pure never lies. "It opens a box," he finally
said. "Where I keep many secrets."
     Sophie pouted. "I hate secrets!"
     "I know, but  these are important secrets. And someday, you'll learn to
appreciate them as much as I do."
     "I saw letters on the key, and a flower."
     "Yes, that's  my favorite flower.  It's called a  fleur-de-lis. We have
them in the garden. The white ones. In English we call that kind of flower a
     "I know those! They're my favorite too!"
     "Then I'll make a deal with you." Her grandfather's eyebrows raised the
way they always did  when he was about to give her a  challenge. "If you can
keep my key a secret, and never talk about it ever  again, to me or anybody,
then someday I will give it to you."
     Sophie couldn't believe her ears. "You will?"
     "I promise.  When  the time comes,  the key will  be yours. It has your
name on it."
     Sophie scowled. "No it doesn't. It said P.S. My name isn't P.S.!"
     Her grandfather lowered his voice and looked around as if to make  sure
no one was listening. "Okay, Sophie, if you  must know, P.S. is a code. It's
your secret initials."
     Her eyes went wide. "I have secret initials?"
     "Of course. Granddaughters always have secret initials that only  their
grandfathers know."
     He tickled her. "Princesse Sophie."
     She giggled. "I'm not a princess!"
     He winked. "You are to me."
     From that day on, they never again spoke of the key. And she became his
Princess Sophie.

     Inside  the  Salle  des Etats, Sophie stood in  silence and endured the
sharp pang of loss.
     "The initials," Langdon whispered, eyeing her strangely. "Have you seen
     Sophie  sensed  her grandfather's voice whispering in the corridors  of
the  museum. Never speak of this  key, Sophie. To me or  to anyone. She knew
she  had failed him in forgiveness, and she wondered if she could  break his
trust  again. P.S. Find Robert Langdon.  Her grandfather wanted  Langdon  to
help.  Sophie  nodded. "Yes, I saw the initials P.S.  once. When I was  very
     Sophie hesitated. "On something very important to him."
     Langdon locked eyes with her. "Sophie, this is crucial. Can you tell me
if the initials appeared with a symbol? A fleur-de-lis?"
     Sophie felt herself staggering backward in amazement. "But... how could
you possibly know that!"
     Langdon  exhaled  and  lowered his  voice.  "I'm  fairly  certain  your
grandfather  was  a  member  of  a  secret  society.   A  very  old   covert
     Sophie felt a  knot tighten in her stomach. She was certain of  it too.
For ten years she had tried to forget the incident  that had  confirmed that
horrifying  fact  for  her.   She   had   witnessed  something  unthinkable.
     "The fleur-de-lis,"  Langdon  said, "combined  with the initials  P.S.,
that is the brotherhood's official device. Their coat of arms. Their logo."
     "How  do you  know this?" Sophie was praying Langdon was  not going  to
tell her that he himself was a member.
     "I've written  about  this group," he  said,  his  voice tremulous with
excitement. "Researching the symbols of  secret societies is a  specialty of
mine. They call themselves the Prieuru de Sion--the Priory of  Sion. They're
based here in France and attract  powerful members from  all over Europe. In
fact, they are one of the oldest surviving secret societies on earth."
     Sophie had never heard of them.
     Langdon was talking in rapid bursts  now.  "The Priory's membership has
included some  of history's most cultured individuals: men  like Botticelli,
Sir Isaac  Newton,  Victor  Hugo." He paused,  his voice  brimming  now with
academic zeal. "And, Leonardo da Vinci."
     Sophie stared. "Da Vinci was in a secret society?"
     "Da  Vinci presided over  the  Priory  between  1510  and  1519  as the
brotherhood's Grand  Master,  which might  help  explain your  grandfather's
passion for Leonardo's  work. The two men share a historical fraternal bond.
And it  all  fits  perfectly  with  their fascination for goddess iconology,
paganism, feminine deities, and  contempt  for the Church.  The Priory has a
well-documented history of reverence for the sacred feminine."
     "You're telling me this group is a pagan goddess worship cult?"
     "More like the pagan goddess worship cult. But more important, they are
known as the guardians of an ancient secret. One that made them immeasurably
     Despite the total conviction  in Langdon's eyes,  Sophie's gut reaction
was one of stark disbelief. A secret pagan cult? Once headed by Leonardo  da
Vinci? It all sounded utterly absurd. And yet, even as she dismissed it, she
felt  her  mind  reeling  back  ten years--to the  night she had  mistakenly
surprised  her  grandfather  and witnessed what she still could  not accept.
Could that explain--?
     "The  identities of living Priory members  are kept  extremely secret,"
Langdon  said, "but the P.S. and fleur-de-lis that you saw  as  a child  are
proof. It could only have been related to the Priory."
     Sophie realized now  that  Langdon  knew far more about her grandfather
than she  had previously  imagined. This American  obviously had volumes  to
share  with her, but  this was not the place.  "I  can't afford  to let them
catch you, Robert. There's a lot we need to discuss. You need to go!"

     Langdon  heard  only  the faint murmur of  her  voice.  He wasn't going
anywhere. He was lost  in  another place now.  A place where ancient secrets
rose  to  the surface. A place  where forgotten histories emerged  from  the
     Slowly,  as  if  moving underwater, Langdon  turned  his head and gazed
through the reddish haze toward the Mona Lisa.
     The fleur-de-lis... the flower of Lisa... the Mona Lisa.
     It was all  intertwined, a  silent symphony echoing the deepest secrets
of the Priory of Sion and Leonardo da Vinci.

     A few miles away, on the riverbank beyond Les Invalides, the bewildered
driver  of  a twin-bed  Trailor truck stood at  gunpoint  and watched as the
captain of the Judicial Police let out a  guttural roar of rage and heaved a
bar of soap out into the turgid waters of the Seine.

     Silas gazed upward at the  Saint-Sulpice  obelisk, taking in the length
of the  massive marble  shaft. His  sinews felt  taut  with exhilaration. He
glanced around the  church one more time to make sure he was  alone. Then he
knelt  at  the base  of  the structure, not out  of reverence,  but  out  of
     The keystone is hidden beneath the Rose Line.
     At the base of the Sulpice obelisk.
     All the brothers had concurred.
     On his knees now, Silas ran his hands across the stone floor. He saw no
cracks  or  markings  to indicate a movable tile, so he began rapping softly
with  his  knuckles  on the floor. Following the brass  line closer  to  the
obelisk, he knocked on each tile adjacent to the brass line. Finally, one of
them echoed strangely.
     There's a hollow area beneath the floor!
     Silas smiled. His victims had spoken the truth.
     Standing,  he searched the sanctuary for something  with which to break
the floor tile.

     High  above Silas, in the balcony,  Sister Sandrine stifled a gasp. Her
darkest  fears had just been confirmed. This visitor was not  who he seemed.
The mysterious Opus Dei monk had come to Saint-Sulpice for another purpose.
     A secret purpose.
     You are not the only one with secrets, she thought.
     Sister Sandrine Bieil was more  than the keeper of this church. She was
a sentry. And tonight,  the  ancient  wheels  had been  set  in  motion. The
arrival of  this stranger at the base of the  obelisk was a signal from  the
     It was a silent call of distress.

     The U.S. Embassy in Paris is a compact  complex on Avenue Gabriel, just
north  of the Champs-Elysues.  The  three-acre compound is  considered  U.S.
soil, meaning  all  those  who stand on it are subject to the same laws  and
protections as they would encounter standing in the United States.
     The embassy's night  operator was reading Time magazine's International
Edition when the sound of her phone interrupted.
     "U.S. Embassy," she answered.
     "Good evening." The caller spoke English accented  with French. "I need
some  assistance."  Despite the  politeness  of  the  man's words, his  tone
sounded gruff  and official. "I was told  you had a phone message for  me on
your automated system. The name is Langdon. Unfortunately, I  have forgotten
my three-digit access code. If you could help me, I would be most grateful."
     The operator paused,  confused. "I'm sorry, sir.  Your  message must be
quite old. That system was  removed two  years ago for security precautions.
Moreover,  all  the  access  codes were  five-digit.  Who  told you we had a
message for you?"
     "You have no automated phone system?"
     "No, sir.  Any  message for  you  would be handwritten in  our services
department. What was your name again?"
     But the man had hung up.

     Bezu Fache felt dumbstruck as  he paced the  banks of the Seine. He was
certain  he had seen Langdon dial a  local number, enter a three-digit code,
and  then listen to a recording. But if Langdon  didn't  phone the  embassy,
then who the hell did he call?
     It was  at  that moment, eyeing his cellular phone, that Fache realized
the answers  were in the  palm of his hand.  Langdon used  my phone to place
that call.
     Keying into the cell phone's menu, Fache pulled up the list of recently
dialed numbers and found the call Langdon had placed.
     A Paris exchange, followed by the three-digit code 454.
     Redialing the phone number, Fache waited as the line began ringing.
     Finally a woman's voice answered. "Bonjour, vous utes bien chez  Sophie
Neveu," the recording announced. "Je suis absente pour le moment, mais..."
     Fache's blood was boiling as he typed the numbers 4... 5... 4.

     Despite her  monumental reputation, the Mona Lisa was a mere thirty-one
inches  by twenty-one  inches--smaller even  than the posters of her sold in
the Louvre gift shop. She hung on the  northwest wall of the Salle des Etats
behind  a two-inch-thick pane of protective  Plexiglas. Painted on a  poplar
wood  panel,  her  ethereal, mist-filled  atmosphere  was  attributed  to Da
Vinci's  mastery  of the sfumato style, in  which forms  appear to evaporate
into one another.
     Since taking up residence in the  Louvre, the Mona Lisa--or  La Jaconde
as they call  her in  France--had been stolen  twice, most recently in 1911,
when she disappeared from the Louvre's "satte impunutrable"--Le Salon Carre.
Parisians  wept  in the streets  and wrote newspaper  articles  begging  the
thieves  for the  painting's  return.  Two  years later, the Mona  Lisa  was
discovered hidden in the false bottom of a trunk in a Florence hotel room.
     Langdon, now having made it clear to Sophie that he had no intention of
leaving, moved with her across the Salle des Etats. The Mona  Lisa was still
twenty yards ahead  when Sophie  turned  on the black light, and  the bluish
crescent of penlight fanned out on the floor in front of them. She swung the
beam back and  forth  across the floor like a minesweeper, searching for any
hint of luminescent ink.
     Walking  beside  her,  Langdon  was   already  feeling  the  tingle  of
anticipation that accompanied his face-to-face reunions with great  works of
art.  He strained to see beyond the cocoon of purplish  light emanating from
the black light in Sophie's hand.  To the left, the room's octagonal viewing
divan emerged, looking like a dark island on the empty sea of parquet.
     Langdon  could now begin to  see  the panel of dark glass  on the wall.
Behind it, he knew,  in the confines  of her own private cell, hung the most
celebrated painting in the world.
     The Mona Lisa's status as the most famous piece  of  art in the  world,
Langdon knew, had nothing to do with her enigmatic smile. Nor was it  due to
the mysterious  interpretations  attributed her  by many  art historians and
conspiracy buffs. Quite simply, the Mona Lisa was famous because Leonardo da
Vinci claimed  she was  his finest accomplishment. He carried  the  painting
with him whenever he traveled and,  if asked why, would  reply that he found
it hard to part with his most sublime expression of female beauty.
     Even so,  many art historians suspected Da  Vinci's  reverence  for the
Mona  Lisa had nothing to do  with its artistic mastery.  In  actuality, the
painting was a surprisingly ordinary sfumato portrait. Da Vinci's veneration
for  this work,  many claimed, stemmed from something  far deeper:  a hidden
message in the  layers  of paint. The  Mona  Lisa was,  in fact, one of  the
world's most documented inside jokes. The painting's well-documented collage
of double entendres  and  playful  allusions  had been  revealed in most art
history tomes, and yet, incredibly, the public at large still considered her
smile a great mystery.
     No mystery at all, Langdon thought, moving forward and  watching as the
faint outline of the painting began to take shape. No mystery at all.
     Most  recently Langdon had shared the Mona Lisa's  secret with a rather
unlikely group--a dozen inmates at  the Essex County Penitentiary. Langdon's
jail  seminar was part  of  a Harvard  outreach program attempting to  bring
education  into  the  prison  system--Culture  for  Convicts,  as  Langdon's
colleagues liked to call it.
     Standing at an overhead projector  in a darkened  penitentiary library,
Langdon had  shared  the  Mona  Lisa's  secret with the prisoners  attending
class, men  whom he found  surprisingly engaged--rough, but  sharp. "You may
notice," Langdon  told them, walking  up to the projected image  of the Mona
Lisa on  the library wall, "that the  background behind her face is uneven."
Langdon motioned to the glaring discrepancy. "Da  Vinci painted  the horizon
line on the left significantly lower than the right."
     "He screwed it up?" one of the inmates asked.
     Langdon chuckled. "No. Da  Vinci didn't  do that too  often.  Actually,
this is  a little trick Da Vinci played. By lowering the countryside on  the
left, Da Vinci made Mona Lisa look much larger from the left side  than from
the right side. A little Da Vinci inside joke. Historically, the concepts of
male and female  have assigned sides--left  is  female, and  right  is male.
Because Da  Vinci  was a big  fan of feminine  principles, he made Mona Lisa
look more majestic from the left than the right."
     "I heard he was a fag," said a small man with a goatee.
     Langdon winced. "Historians don't generally put it quite  that way, but
yes, Da Vinci was a homosexual."
     "Is that why he was into that whole feminine thing?"
     "Actually,  Da Vinci was in  tune  with  the  balance between male  and
female. He believed that a human soul could not be enlightened unless it had
both male and female elements."
     "You mean like chicks with dicks?" someone called.
     This elicited a hearty round of laughs. Langdon considered  offering an
etymological sidebar about the word hermaphrodite and its ties to Hermes and
Aphrodite, but something told him it would be lost on this crowd.
     "Hey, Mr. Langford," a muscle-bound man said. "Is it true that the Mona
Lisa is a picture of Da Vinci in drag? I heard that was true."
     "It's  quite possible," Langdon said. "Da Vinci  was  a prankster,  and
computerized analysis of the Mona Lisa and Da Vinci's self-portraits confirm
some startling points of congruency in their faces. Whatever Da Vinci was up
to,"  Langdon said, "his Mona Lisa is neither male nor female. It  carries a
subtle message of androgyny. It is a fusing of both."
     "You sure that's not just some Harvard bullshit way of saying Mona Lisa
is one ugly chick."
     Now Langdon laughed. "You may be  right. But  actually Da  Vinci left a
big clue that the painting was supposed to  be  androgynous. Has anyone here
ever heard of an Egyptian god named Amon?"
     "Hell yes!" the big guy said. "God of masculine fertility!"
     Langdon was stunned.
     "It says so on every box of Amon condoms." The muscular man gave a wide
grin. "It's got a  guy with  a  ram's  head on  the front and  says he's the
Egyptian god of fertility."
     Langdon was not familiar with  the brand name, but he  was glad to hear
the  prophylactic  manufacturers had gotten their  hieroglyphs right.  "Well
done. Amon  is  indeed  represented as a  man with  a ram's  head,  and  his
promiscuity and curved horns are related to our modern sexual slang 'horny.'
     "No shit!"
     "No shit," Langdon said. "And  do you know who Amon's counterpart  was?
The Egyptian goddess of fertility?"
     The question met with several seconds of silence.
     "It was  Isis," Langdon  told them,  grabbing a grease pen. "So we have
the male  god, Amon." He wrote it down. "And the female goddess, Isis, whose
ancient pictogram was once called L'ISA."
     Langdon finished writing and stepped back from the projector.

     "Ring any bells?" he asked.
     "Mona Lisa... holy crap," somebody gasped.
     Langdon nodded.  "Gentlemen,  not  only does the face of Mona Lisa look
androgynous, but  her name  is an anagram of the  divine  union  of male and
female. And that, my friends,  is  Da Vinci's little secret, and  the reason
for Mona Lisa's knowing smile."

     "My grandfather was here," Sophie said, dropping suddenly to her knees,
now  only  ten  feet  from  the Mona  Lisa.  She  pointed  the  black  light
tentatively to a spot on the parquet floor.
     At first  Langdon saw nothing.  Then, as he knelt  beside her, he saw a
tiny droplet of dried liquid that was luminescing. Ink? Suddenly he recalled
what black lights were actually used for.  Blood. His senses tingled. Sophie
was right. Jacques Sauniure had indeed paid a visit to the  Mona Lisa before
he died.
     "He  wouldn't have  come  here  without  a  reason,"  Sophie whispered,
standing  up. "I  know he left a message for me here."  Quickly striding the
final  few steps to the  Mona  Lisa, she illuminated  the  floor directly in
front  of the painting. She waved  the light  back and forth across the bare
     "There's nothing here!"
     At that moment,  Langdon saw a faint purple  glimmer on the  protective
glass before the Mona Lisa. Reaching down, he took Sophie's wrist and slowly
moved the light up to the painting itself.
     They both froze.
     On the  glass, six words glowed in purple, scrawled directly across the
Mona Lisa's face.

     Seated  at Sauniure's desk, Lieutenant Collet pressed the phone to  his
ear in disbelief. Did I hear Fache correctly? "A bar of soap?  But how could
Langdon have known about the GPS dot?"
     "Sophie Neveu," Fache replied. "She told him."
     "What! Why?"
     "Damned good question,  but I just heard a recording that confirms  she
tipped him off."
     Collet was speechless. What  was Neveu  thinking?  Fache had proof that
Sophie had interfered with a DCPJ sting operation? Sophie Neveu was not only
going to be  fired, she was  also going to jail. "But, Captain... then where
is Langdon now?"
     "Have any fire alarms gone off there?"
     "No, sir."
     "And no one has come out under the Grand Gallery gate?"
     "No.  We've got  a Louvre security officer on  the gate.  Just  as  you
     "Okay, Langdon must still be inside the Grand Gallery."
     "Inside? But what is he doing?"
     "Is the Louvre security guard armed?"
     "Yes, sir. He's a senior warden."
     "Send  him  in,"  Fache commanded.  "I  can't  get my men  back  to the
perimeter for a few minutes, and I don't want Langdon breaking for an exit."
Fache paused. "And  you'd better  tell the guard  Agent Neveu is probably in
there with him."
     "Agent Neveu left, I thought."
     "Did you actually see her leave?"
     "No, sir, but--"
     "Well, nobody on the perimeter saw  her leave either. They only saw her
go in."
     Collet was flabbergasted  by Sophie Neveu's bravado. She's still inside
the building?
     "Handle it," Fache ordered.  "I want Langdon and Neveu  at gunpoint  by
the time I get back."

     As the Trailor truck  drove off,  Captain  Fache  rounded  up his  men.
Robert Langdon had  proven an elusive quarry tonight,  and with  Agent Neveu
now helping him, he might be far harder to corner than expected.
     Fache decided not to take any chances.
     Hedging his  bets, he  ordered half  of  his  men  back to  the  Louvre
perimeter. The other half he sent to guard the only location in  Paris where
Robert Langdon could find safe harbor.

     Inside the Salle des Etats, Langdon stared in  astonishment at the  six
words glowing on the Plexiglas. The text seemed to hover in space, casting a
jagged shadow across Mona Lisa's mysterious smile.
     "The Priory,"  Langdon whispered. "This proves your  grandfather was  a
     Sophie looked at him in confusion. "You understand this?"
     "It's flawless," Langdon said, nodding as his thoughts churned. "It's a
proclamation of one of the Priory's most fundamental philosophies!"
     Sophie looked baffled  in  the  glow of the message scrawled across the
Mona Lisa's face.

     "Sophie," Langdon said, "the Priory's tradition of perpetuating goddess
worship is based on a belief that powerful men in the early Christian church
'conned'  the world by propagating lies  that devalued the female and tipped
the scales in favor of the masculine."
     Sophie remained silent, staring at the words.
     "The  Priory   believes  that  Constantine  and  his  male   successors
successfully converted  the world from matriarchal  paganism to  patriarchal
Christianity  by waging a campaign of propaganda  that  demonized the sacred
feminine, obliterating the goddess from modern religion forever."
     Sophie's expression remained uncertain. "My grandfather sent me to this
spot to find this. He must be trying to tell me more than that."
     Langdon  understood  her meaning.  She  thinks  this is  another  code.
Whether a hidden meaning  existed here or not, Langdon could not immediately
say. His  mind was  still  grappling  with the  bold  clarity of  Sauniure's
outward message.
     So dark the con of man, he thought. So dark indeed.
     Nobody could deny the enormous good  the  modern Church did  in today's
troubled  world,  and yet the Church  had  a deceitful and  violent history.
Their  brutal  crusade  to  "reeducate"  the pagan  and feminine-worshipping
religions  spanned three centuries,  employing methods as  inspired as  they
were horrific.
     The  Catholic Inquisition published  the book  that  arguably could  be
called   the  most  blood-soaked   publication  in  human  history.  Malleus
Maleficarum--or The Witches' Hammer--indoctrinated the world to "the dangers
of freethinking women" and instructed the clergy how to locate, torture, and
destroy them.  Those deemed "witches" by  the  Church  included  all  female
scholars, priestesses, gypsies, mystics,  nature lovers, herb gatherers, and
any  women "suspiciously  attuned  to the natural world." Midwives also were
killed for their heretical practice of using  medical knowledge to  ease the
pain of childbirth--a suffering, the Church claimed, that was God's rightful
punishment for Eve's partaking  of the Apple of Knowledge, thus giving birth
to the idea of Original Sin. During three  hundred years of witch hunts, the
Church burned at the stake an astounding five million women.
     The propaganda and bloodshed had worked.
     Today's world was living proof.
     Women, once celebrated as an essential half of spiritual enlightenment,
had  been banished  from the  temples  of  the world.  There were  no female
Orthodox rabbis,  Catholic priests, nor Islamic  clerics. The once  hallowed
act of Hieros Gamos--the natural  sexual union between man and woman through
which each became spiritually whole--had been recast as a shameful act. Holy
men  who had once required sexual union with  their female  counterparts  to
commune  with God now feared their natural sexual urges as the  work  of the
devil, collaborating with his favorite accomplice... woman.
     Not even the feminine association with the left-hand  side could escape
the Church's  defamation. In France  and Italy, the words for "left"--gauche
and sinistra--came to have deeply negative overtones, while their right-hand
counterparts rang of righteousness, dexterity, and correctness. To this day,
radical thought was considered left wing, irrational thought was left brain,
and anything evil, sinister.
     The days of the goddess were over. The pendulum had swung. Mother Earth
had  become a man's world, and the gods of  destruction and war  were taking
their toll.  The male ego had  spent  two millennia running unchecked by its
female   counterpart.  The  Priory  of  Sion  believed   that  it  was  this
obliteration  of the sacred feminine in modern life that had caused what the
Hopi  Native  Americans  called  koyanisquatsi--"life  out  of  balance"--an
unstable  situation  marked  by  testosterone-fueled  wars,  a  plethora  of
misogynistic societies, and a growing disrespect for Mother Earth.
     "Robert!"  Sophie  said,  her  whisper  yanking  him  back.  "Someone's
     He heard the approaching footsteps out in the hallway.
     "Over  here!"  Sophie  extinguished  the  black  light  and  seemed  to
evaporate before Langdon's eyes.
     For an instant he felt totally blind. Over where! As his vision cleared
he saw Sophie's silhouette  racing toward the center of the room and ducking
out of sight behind the octagonal  viewing bench. He was about to dash after
her when a booming voice stopped him cold.
     "Arrutez!" a man commanded from the doorway.
     The  Louvre  security agent  advanced through the entrance to the Salle
des Etats, his pistol outstretched, taking deadly aim at Langdon's chest.
     Langdon felt his arms raise instinctively for the ceiling.
     "Couchez-vous!" the guard commanded. "Lie down!"
     Langdon was face first on the floor in a matter of  seconds.  The guard
hurried over and kicked his legs apart, spreading Langdon out.
     "Mauvaise idue, Monsieur Langdon,"  he said, pressing the gun hard into
Langdon's back. "Mauvaise idue."
     Face  down on  the parquet  floor with  his arms and legs  spread wide,
Langdon found little humor in the  irony of his position. The Vitruvian Man,
he thought. Face down.

     Inside Saint-Sulpice, Silas carried the heavy iron votive candle holder
from  the altar back toward  the  obelisk.  The shaft would do nicely  as  a
battering ram. Eyeing the gray marble panel that covered the apparent hollow
in the floor, he realized he could not possibly shatter the covering without
making considerable noise.
     Iron on marble. It would echo off the vaulted ceilings.
     Would the nun hear him? She should be asleep by now. Even  so, it was a
chance  Silas preferred  not  to take.  Looking  around for a  cloth to wrap
around the tip of the  iron pole, he  saw  nothing except  the altar's linen
mantle, which he  refused to defile.  My cloak, he  thought. Knowing he  was
alone  in the great church, Silas  untied his cloak and  slipped it  off his
body. As he  removed  it,  he  felt a sting as the wool fibers  stuck to the
fresh wounds on his back.
     Naked now, except  for his loin  swaddle, Silas wrapped his  cloak over
the end of  the iron rod.  Then, aiming at the center of the floor  tile, he
drove the tip into it. A muffled thud. The stone did not break. He drove the
pole into it again. Again a dull thud, but this time accompanied by a crack.
On the third swing, the covering finally  shattered,  and stone  shards fell
into a hollow area beneath the floor.
     A compartment!
     Quickly pulling the remaining pieces from the opening, Silas gazed into
the void. His blood pounded  as he knelt  down before  it. Raising his  pale
bare arm, he reached inside.
     At first he felt nothing. The floor of the compartment was bare, smooth
stone.  Then, feeling deeper, reaching his arm in under  the Rose  Line,  he
touched something!  A thick stone tablet. Getting  his  fingers  around  the
edge, he  gripped it  and gently  lifted  the tablet  out.  As he  stood and
examined his find, he  realized  he was holding a rough-hewn stone slab with
engraved words. He felt for an instant like a modern-day Moses.
     As  Silas  read  the words on  the  tablet, he  felt  surprise. He  had
expected  the keystone  to  be  a  map,  or  a complex series of directions,
perhaps  even  encoded.  The  keystone,   however,  bore  the  simplest   of
     Job 38:11
     A  Bible verse?  Silas was stunned with  the  devilish  simplicity. The
secret location of that which they sought was revealed in a Bible verse? The
brotherhood stopped at nothing to mock the righteous!
     Job. Chapter thirty-eight. Verse eleven.
     Although  Silas  did not recall the  exact  contents of verse eleven by
heart, he knew the Book of Job told the story of a man whose  faith  in  God
survived repeated tests. Appropriate, he thought, barely able to contain his
     Looking over his shoulder, he  gazed down the shimmering Rose Line  and
couldn't help but smile. There atop the main altar, propped open on a gilded
book stand, sat an enormous leather-bound Bible.

     Up in the balcony,  Sister  Sandrine was shaking. Moments ago,  she had
been  about to flee and carry out  her  orders, when the  man below suddenly
removed his cloak. When she saw his alabaster-white flesh, she was  overcome
with  a  horrified  bewilderment.  His  broad,  pale back  was  soaked  with
blood-red slashes. Even from here she could see the wounds were fresh.
     This man has been mercilessly whipped!
     She also saw the  bloody cilice around his thigh,  the wound beneath it
dripping. What kind of God would want  a body punished this way? The rituals
of  Opus  Dei,  Sister Sandrine  knew,  were  not something  she would  ever
understand. But that was hardly  her concern  at this instant.  Opus Dei  is
searching for the keystone.  How they knew of it, Sister  Sandrine could not
imagine, although she knew she did not have time to think.
     The bloody monk was now quietly donning his cloak again,  clutching his
prize as he moved toward the altar, toward the Bible.
     In breathless silence, Sister Sandrine  left the balcony and raced down
the  hall  to  her quarters. Getting  on her  hands and  knees, she  reached
beneath her wooden  bed frame and  retrieved  the  sealed  envelope she  had
hidden there years ago.
     Tearing it open, she found four Paris phone numbers.
     Trembling, she began to dial.

     Downstairs, Silas laid  the stone  tablet on the  altar and  turned his
eager hands  to the leather Bible. His  long white fingers were sweating now
as  he  turned the  pages. Flipping  through the Old Testament, he found the
Book of Job. He  located chapter thirty-eight. As he ran his finger down the
column of text, he anticipated the words he was about to read.
     They will lead the way!
     Finding  verse number  eleven, Silas read the text. It was  only  seven
words. Confused,  he read it  again,  sensing  something  had gone  terribly
wrong. The verse simply read:

     Security  warden Claude Grouard simmered with rage as he stood over his
prostrate  captive in  front of the Mona Lisa.  This bastard  killed Jacques
Sauniure! Sauniure  had  been  like a well-loved  father to Grouard and  his
security team.
     Grouard wanted  nothing more than to pull the trigger and bury a bullet
in  Robert  Langdon's back. As  senior  warden, Grouard  was one of  the few
guards  who actually carried a loaded weapon. He reminded  himself, however,
that killing Langdon would be a generous fate compared to the  misery  about
to be communicated by Bezu Fache and the French prison system.
     Grouard  yanked his walkie-talkie off his  belt and  attempted to radio
for backup. All he  heard was static. The additional electronic security  in
this chamber always wrought havoc with the guards' communications. I have to
move to  the doorway. Still  aiming his  weapon  at  Langdon,  Grouard began
backing  slowly toward  the entrance.  On his third step, he spied something
that made him stop short.
     What the hell is that!
     An inexplicable mirage was materializing near the center of the room. A
silhouette. There was  someone else in the room? A woman  was moving through
the darkness, walking  briskly toward  the far left wall. In front of her, a
purplish beam of light swung back and forth across the floor, as if she were
searching for something with a colored flashlight.
     "Qui  est lu?" Grouard demanded,  feeling  his adrenaline spike  for  a
second time in the last thirty seconds. He suddenly didn't know where to aim
his gun or what direction to move.
     "PTS," the woman  replied  calmly,  still scanning the  floor  with her
     Police  Technique et Scientifique. Grouard was sweating now. I  thought
all the agents were gone! He now recognized the purple light as ultraviolet,
consistent with a PTS team, and yet he could not  understand why DCPJ  would
be looking for evidence in here.
     "Votre nom!" Grouard yelled,  instinct telling him something was amiss.
     "C'est mot," the voice responded in calm French. "Sophie Neveu."
     Somewhere  in  the  distant  recesses   of  Grouard's  mind,  the  name
registered. Sophie  Neveu? That  was  the  name of Sauniure's granddaughter,
wasn't it? She used to come in here as a little kid, but that was years ago.
This couldn't  possibly be her! And even  if it were  Sophie Neveu, that was
hardly a reason to trust her; Grouard  had heard  the rumors of the  painful
falling-out between Sauniure and his granddaughter.
     "You know me," the woman  called. "And Robert  Langdon did not kill  my
grandfather. Believe me."
     Warden Grouard was not  about to take that  on  faith.  I need  backup!
Trying his walkie-talkie again, he got only static. The entrance was still a
good twenty yards behind him, and Grouard  began backing up slowly, choosing
to  leave his  gun trained  on  the man  on  the  floor.  As  Grouard inched
backward, he could see the woman  across the  room  raising her UV light and
scrutinizing a  large  painting that hung on the  far side of  the Salle des
Etats, directly opposite the Mona Lisa.
     Grouard gasped, realizing which painting it was.
     What in the name of God is she doing?

     Across  the room, Sophie  Neveu felt a  cold sweat  breaking across her
forehead. Langdon was  still  spread-eagle  on the floor.  Hold  on, Robert.
Almost there.  Knowing the guard  would never actually shoot either of them,
Sophie  now  turned her  attention back to the matter at hand, scanning  the
entire area around one  masterpiece in particular--another Da Vinci. But the
UV light  revealed nothing out of  the ordinary.  Not on the floor,  on  the
walls, or even on the canvas itself.
     There must be something here!
     Sophie felt  totally  certain  she  had  deciphered  her  grandfather's
intentions correctly.
     What else could he possibly intend?
     The masterpiece  she  was examining was  a five-foot-tall  canvas.  The
bizarre scene Da Vinci had  painted included  an awkwardly posed Virgin Mary
sitting with Baby Jesus, John the Baptist, and the Angel Uriel on a perilous
outcropping of rocks. When Sophie was  a little  girl, no  trip  to the Mona
Lisa had been complete without her grandfather dragging  her across the room
to see this second painting.
     Grand-pure, I'm here! But I don't see it!
     Behind her, Sophie could hear the guard trying to radio again for help.
     She pictured  the message scrawled on the protective  glass of the Mona
Lisa.  So dark the con of  man.  The painting before  her had  no protective
glass  on which  to write a  message, and Sophie knew her  grandfather would
never  have defaced this masterpiece by writing on  the painting itself. She
paused. At least not on the front. Her eyes  shot upward, climbing the  long
cables that dangled from the ceiling to support the canvas.
     Could that  be it? Grabbing the left side of the carved wood frame, she
pulled it toward  her. The painting was large and the backing flexed as  she
swung it away from the wall. Sophie slipped her head and shoulders in behind
the painting and raised the black light to inspect the back.
     It took only seconds to realize her  instinct had  been wrong. The back
of the  painting was pale and blank. There was no purple text here, only the
mottled brown backside of aging canvas and--
     Sophie's eyes  locked on an incongruous glint  of lustrous metal lodged
near the bottom  edge of the frame's wooden armature. The  object was small,
partially wedged in the  slit  where  the canvas met the frame. A shimmering
gold chain dangled off it.
     To Sophie's utter  amazement, the chain  was affixed to a familiar gold
key. The  broad, sculpted  head  was  in the  shape of a cross  and  bore an
engraved seal she  had not seen since she was nine years old. A fleur-de-lis
with the  initials  P.S. In that  instant,  Sophie  felt  the  ghost of  her
grandfather whispering  in her ear.  When the  time  comes, the key will  be
yours. A tightness gripped her throat as she  realized that her grandfather,
even in  death, had kept  his promise. This key  opens a box, his voice  was
saying, where I keep many secrets.
     Sophie now realized that the entire  purpose of tonight's word game had
been  this key.  Her grandfather had it  with him  when he  was  killed. Not
wanting it to  fall into  the  hands of the police,  he  hid it  behind this
painting. Then he devised an ingenious treasure hunt to  ensure  only Sophie
would find it.
     "Au secours!" the guard's voice yelled.
     Sophie snatched the key from behind the painting and slipped it deep in
her  pocket along with the UV penlight. Peering out from behind the  canvas,
she could see the guard was still trying desperately to raise someone on the
walkie-talkie.  He  was  backing toward the  entrance, still aiming  the gun
firmly at Langdon.
     "Au secours!" he shouted again into his radio.
     He  can't transmit, Sophie  realized, recalling that tourists with cell
phones  often got frustrated in here when  they  tried to call  home to brag
about seeing the Mona Lisa. The extra surveillance wiring in the  walls made
it virtually impossible to get  a  carrier unless  you stepped out into  the
hall. The guard was backing quickly toward the exit now, and Sophie knew she
had to act immediately.
     Gazing  up  at  the  large  painting  behind  which  she was  partially
ensconced, Sophie  realized that  Leonardo da  Vinci,  for  the  second time
tonight, was there to help.

     Another few meters, Grouard told himself, keeping his gun leveled.
     "Arrutez! Ou je la dutruis!" the woman's voice echoed across the room.
     Grouard glanced over and stopped in his tracks. "Mon dieu, non!"
     Through the reddish  haze, he  could  see  that  the woman had actually
lifted  the large  painting off its  cables  and propped it  on the floor in
front of  her.  At five feet tall, the canvas almost  entirely hid her body.
Grouard's  first  thought was to wonder why the painting's trip wires hadn't
set off alarms, but of course  the artwork cable sensors had yet to be reset
tonight. What is she doing!
     When he saw it, his blood went cold.
     The canvas started to bulge in the middle, the fragile outlines  of the
Virgin Mary, Baby Jesus, and John the Baptist beginning to distort.
     "Non!" Grouard screamed, frozen in horror as  he watched  the priceless
Da  Vinci  stretching. The woman was pushing her knee into the center of the
canvas from behind! "NON!"
     Grouard wheeled  and aimed his gun at her but instantly realized it was
an  empty  threat.   The  canvas  was  only  fabric,  but  it   was  utterly
impenetrable--a six-million-dollar piece of body armor.
     I can't put a bullet through a Da Vinci!
     "Set  down your gun and radio," the woman said in calm French, "or I'll
put my knee through this painting. I think you know how my grandfather would
feel about that."
     Grouard felt dizzy. "Please...  no. That's  Madonna of  the  Rocks!" He
dropped his gun and radio, raising his hands over his head.
     "Thank  you," the  woman  said.  "Now  do exactly as I  tell  you,  and
everything will work out fine."

     Moments  later,  Langdon's  pulse was still thundering as he ran beside
Sophie down the emergency stairwell toward the ground level. Neither of them
had  said a word since leaving the trembling Louvre guard lying in the Salle
des  Etats. The guard's pistol was  now clutched tightly in Langdon's hands,
and he couldn't wait to get rid of it. The weapon felt heavy and dangerously
     Taking the stairs  two at  a time, Langdon wondered  if Sophie  had any
idea how valuable a painting she had almost ruined. Her choice in art seemed
eerily pertinent to tonight's  adventure. The Da Vinci she had grabbed, much
like the Mona Lisa,  was notorious  among art historians for its plethora of
hidden pagan symbolism.
     "You chose a valuable hostage," he said as they ran.
     "Madonna  of the  Rocks,"  she  replied. "But  I  didn't choose it,  my
grandfather did. He left me a little something behind the painting."
     Langdon shot her a startled look. "What!?  But how  did you know  which
painting? Why Madonna of the Rocks?"
     "So dark the con of man." She flashed a triumphant smile. "I missed the
first two anagrams, Robert. I wasn't about to miss the third."

     "They're  dead!"  Sister  Sandrine  stammered into the telephone in her
Saint-Sulpice residence. She was leaving a  message on an answering machine.
"Please pick up! They're all dead!"
     The first three  phone  numbers  on  the  list had  produced terrifying
results--a hysterical widow, a detective working late at a murder scene, and
a  somber  priest consoling a bereaved family. All three contacts were dead.
And now, as she called the fourth  and final  number--the number she was not
supposed to  call unless the  first three could not be  reached--she got  an
answering machine. The outgoing message offered no name but simply asked the
caller to leave a message.
     "The floor panel has been broken!" she pleaded as she left the message.
"The other three are dead!"
     Sister  Sandrine did not  know  the identities  of  the  four  men  she
protected, but the private phone  numbers stashed beneath her  bed were  for
use on only one condition.
     If  that floor  panel is  ever broken,  the faceless messenger had told
her,  it means  the  upper echelon  has  been  breached. One of  us has been
mortally  threatened  and  been forced  to tell  a  desperate lie.  Call the
numbers. Warn the others. Do not fail us in this.
     It was a silent alarm. Foolproof in its simplicity. The plan had amazed
her when she first heard it. If the identity of one brother was compromised,
he could tell  a lie that would  start  in motion  a mechanism to  warn  the
others. Tonight, however, it seemed that more than one had been compromised.
     "Please answer," she whispered in fear. "Where are you?"
     "Hang up the phone," a deep voice said from the doorway.
     Turning in terror, she saw the massive monk. He was clutching the heavy
iron candle stand. Shaking, she set the phone back in the cradle.
     "They are dead," the monk said. "All four of them. And they have played
me for a fool. Tell me where the keystone is."
     "I  don't  know!" Sister  Sandrine said  truthfully.  "That  secret  is
guarded by others." Others who are dead!
     The  man advanced, his white fists gripping  the iron stand. "You are a
sister of the Church, and yet you serve them?"
     "Jesus had but  one  true message," Sister Sandrine said defiantly.  "I
cannot see that message in Opus Dei."
     A sudden explosion of rage erupted behind the  monk's  eyes. He lunged,
lashing out  with the candle stand like a club. As Sister Sandrine fell, her
last feeling was an overwhelming sense of foreboding.
     All four are dead.
     The precious truth is lost forever.

     The security alarm  on the west end of the Denon Wing sent  the pigeons
in the nearby Tuileries Gardens scattering as Langdon and Sophie  dashed out
of the  bulkhead  into  the  Paris night. As they  ran  across the  plaza to
Sophie's car, Langdon could hear police sirens wailing in the distance.
     "That's  it  there,"  Sophie  called,  pointing  to  a  red  snub-nosed
two-seater parked on the plaza.
     She's kidding, right? The  vehicle was easily the  smallest car Langdon
had ever seen.
     "SmartCar," she said. "A hundred kilometers to the liter."
     Langdon had barely thrown himself into the passenger seat before Sophie
gunned the SmartCar up and over a curb onto a gravel divider. He gripped the
dash  as the car shot out  across a sidewalk and bounced back down over into
the small rotary at Carrousel du Louvre.
     For  an instant, Sophie seemed to consider  taking  the shortcut across
the rotary by plowing straight ahead, through the median's  perimeter hedge,
and bisecting the large circle of grass in the center.
     "No!"  Langdon shouted,  knowing the  hedges around Carrousel du Louvre
were   there  to  hide  the  perilous  chasm  in  the  center--La   Pyramide
Inversue--the  upside-down pyramid skylight he had seen earlier from  inside
the museum. It was large enough to swallow their Smart-Car in a single gulp.
Fortunately,  Sophie decided  on the more conventional  route,  jamming  the
wheel hard to the right, circling properly  until she exited,  cut left, and
swung into the northbound lane, accelerating toward Rue de Rivoli.
     The two-tone police sirens blared louder behind them, and Langdon could
see the lights now in his side view mirror.  The SmartCar  engine  whined in
protest as  Sophie urged it faster away from the  Louvre. Fifty yards ahead,
the traffic light at Rivoli turned red. Sophie cursed  under her  breath and
kept racing toward it. Langdon felt his muscles tighten.
     Slowing only slightly as they  reached the intersection, Sophie flicked
her  headlights  and  stole  a  quick  glance both ways  before flooring the
accelerator  again  and  carving  a   sharp  left  turn  through  the  empty
intersection onto Rivoli. Accelerating west for  a quarter of a mile, Sophie
banked to the right around a  wide rotary. Soon they  were shooting out  the
other side onto the wide avenue of Champs-Elysues.
     As they straightened out, Langdon turned in his seat, craning his  neck
to look out the rear window toward the Louvre. The police did not seem to be
chasing them. The sea of blue lights was assembling at the museum.
     His heartbeat finally slowing,  Langdon  turned back around.  "That was
     Sophie didn't seem to hear. Her eyes remained fixed ahead down the long
thoroughfare  of Champs-Elysues,  the two-mile stretch  of posh  storefronts
that was often called the Fifth Avenue of Paris. The embassy  was only about
a  mile away, and  Langdon settled into  his  seat. So dark the con of  man.
Sophie's quick thinking had been impressive. Madonna of the Rocks.
     Sophie had said her grandfather left her something behind the painting.
A final message? Langdon could not help but marvel over Sauniure's brilliant
hiding place; Madonna of the Rocks  was  yet  another  fitting link  in  the
evening's chain of interconnected  symbolism. Sauniure,  it seemed, at every
turn, was  reinforcing  his fondness for the  dark  and mischievous side  of
Leonardo da Vinci.
     Da Vinci's original commission for Madonna of  the  Rocks had come from
an organization  known as the  Confraternity  of the  Immaculate Conception,
which needed a  painting for the centerpiece of  an altar  triptych in their
church  of  San  Francesco  in   Milan.  The  nuns  gave  Leonardo  specific
dimensions,  and  the desired theme for the painting--the  Virgin Mary, baby
John the Baptist, Uriel, and  Baby  Jesus sheltering in a cave. Although  Da
Vinci did as they requested, when he delivered  the work, the  group reacted
with horror.  He  had  filled the  painting  with  explosive and  disturbing
     The painting  showed  a blue-robed Virgin  Mary sitting  with  her  arm
around an infant child, presumably Baby Jesus. Opposite Mary sat Uriel, also
with an infant, presumably baby John the Baptist. Oddly, though, rather than
the usual Jesus-blessing-John  scenario, it was  baby John who  was blessing
Jesus... and Jesus was submitting to his  authority! More  troubling  still,
Mary was  holding  one hand high above the head of infant  John and making a
decidedly  threatening gesture--her  fingers  looking  like  eagle's talons,
gripping an invisible head. Finally, the most obvious and frightening image:
Just below Mary's curled fingers,  Uriel was making  a cutting gesture  with
his hand--as if slicing the neck of the invisible  head  gripped  by  Mary's
claw-like hand.
     Langdon's students were always amused to learn that Da Vinci eventually
mollified  the  confraternity  by  painting  them  a  second, "watered-down"
version of Madonna  of  the Rocks in  which everyone  was arranged in a more
orthodox  manner. The second version  now hung in London's National  Gallery
under the name Virgin  of  the Rocks,  although Langdon  still preferred the
Louvre's more intriguing original.
     As  Sophie  gunned  the  car  up  Champs-Elysues,  Langdon  said,  "The
painting. What was behind it?"
     Her eyes remained on the road. "I'll show you once  we're safely inside
the embassy."
     "You'll show it to  me?" Langdon was surprised. "He left you a physical
     Sophie gave  a curt nod. "Embossed with a fleur-de-lis and the initials
     Langdon couldn't believe his ears.

     We're  going  to  make it, Sophie  thought as  she swung the SmartCar's
wheel to the right, cutting sharply past the luxurious Hutel de Crillon into
Paris's tree-lined diplomatic neighborhood. The embassy was less than a mile
away now. She was finally feeling like she could breathe normally again.
     Even  as she drove, Sophie's mind remained locked  on  the  key  in her
pocket, her memories of seeing it many years ago, the gold head shaped as an
equal-armed  cross, the  triangular shaft,  the  indentations,  the embossed
flowery seal, and the letters P.S.
     Although the  key  barely  had entered  Sophie's  thoughts through  the
years,  her work in the intelligence  community had taught  her plenty about
security, and now the key's peculiar tooling no longer looked so mystifying.
A  laser-tooled varying matrix. Impossible to duplicate.  Rather than  teeth
that moved tumblers, this key's complex series of laser-burned pockmarks was
examined by  an electric  eye. If  the eye  determined  that  the  hexagonal
pockmarks were correctly spaced, arranged, and rotated, then  the lock would
     Sophie could not begin to imagine what a key like this opened, but  she
sensed  Robert  would be able to tell  her.  After all, he had described the
key's embossed seal without ever seeing it. The cruciform on top implied the
key belonged to some kind of Christian organization, and  yet Sophie knew of
no churches that used laser-tooled varying matrix keys.
     Besides, my grandfather was no Christian....
     Sophie had  witnessed  proof of that ten years ago. Ironically, it  had
been another  key--a far more normal one--that had revealed  his true nature
to her.
     The  afternoon  had  been  warm when  she landed at Charles  de  Gaulle
Airport and hailed a taxi  home. Grand-pure will  be so surprised to see me,
she thought. Returning  from graduate school in Britain  for  spring break a
few days early, Sophie couldn't wait to see  him and tell him all  about the
encryption methods she was studying.
     When she  arrived at their Paris home, however, her grandfather was not
there. Disappointed, she knew he had not been expecting her and was probably
working at the Louvre. But it's Saturday afternoon, she realized. He  seldom
worked on weekends. On weekends, he usually--
     Grinning, Sophie ran out to the garage. Sure  enough, his car was gone.
It was the weekend. Jacques Sauniure  despised city driving and owned a  car
for one destination only--his vacation chuteau in Normandy, north  of Paris.
Sophie, after months in the congestion of  London,  was eager for the smells
of nature and to start her vacation right away. It was  still early evening,
and she decided  to leave immediately and surprise him. Borrowing a friend's
car,  Sophie drove north, winding into  the  deserted  moon-swept hills near
Creully. She arrived just after  ten o'clock, turning down the  long private
driveway toward  her grandfather's retreat. The access road  was over a mile
long, and she was halfway  down it before she  could  start to see the house
through  the trees--a mammoth, old stone chuteau nestled in the woods on the
side of a hill.
     Sophie had half expected to  find her  grandfather  asleep at this hour
and was excited to see  the house twinkling  with lights. Her delight turned
to  surprise,  however, when she  arrived to  find  the driveway filled with
parked cars--Mercedeses, BMWs, Audis, and a Rolls-Royce.
     Sophie stared a moment and then burst  out laughing. My grand-pure, the
famous recluse! Jacques Sauniure, it seemed, was far less reclusive  than he
liked  to pretend. Clearly he was  hosting a party while  Sophie was away at
school,  and from  the  looks  of  the automobiles,  some  of  Paris's  most
influential people were in attendance.
     Eager  to surprise him,  she  hurried to the  front door. When she  got
there, though, she found it locked. She  knocked. Nobody answered.  Puzzled,
she walked around and tried the back door. It too was locked. No answer.
     Confused, she stood a moment and listened. The only sound she heard was
the  cool Normandy air  letting  out  a  low  moan as it swirled through the
     No music.
     No voices.
     In the silence of  the  woods, Sophie hurried to the side  of the house
and clambered up on a woodpile, pressing her face to the living room window.
What she saw inside made no sense at all.
     "Nobody's here!"
     The entire first floor looked deserted.
     Where are all the people?
     Heart racing, Sophie ran to  the  woodshed  and  got the spare key  her
grandfather  kept  hidden under the kindling box. She ran  to the front door
and let  herself  in.  As she stepped into the deserted  foyer, the  control
panel  for  the  security  system started blinking red--a  warning that  the
entrant had ten seconds  to type the proper code before the  security alarms
went off.
     He has the alarm on during a party?
     Sophie quickly typed the code and deactivated the system.
     Entering, she found the entire house uninhabited. Upstairs too. As  she
descended  again to  the  deserted living  room, she stood a  moment in  the
silence, wondering what could possibly be happening.
     It was then that Sophie heard it.
     Muffled  voices.  And they  seemed to be  coming from  underneath  her.
Sophie could not  imagine.  Crouching,  she put  her ear  to the  floor  and
listened. Yes, the sound was definitely coming from below. The voices seemed
to be  singing, or... chanting? She  was frightened.  Almost more eerie than
the sound  itself  was the realization that  this house did not even have  a
     At least none I've ever seen.
     Turning  now  and scanning the living room,  Sophie's  eyes fell to the
only object in the entire house that  seemed out of place--her grandfather's
favorite antique, a sprawling Aubusson tapestry. It usually hung on the east
wall beside the fireplace, but tonight it had been pulled aside on its brass
rod, exposing the wall behind it.
     Walking toward the bare wooden wall, Sophie sensed the chanting getting
louder.  Hesitant,  she leaned  her ear  against  the wood. The voices  were
clearer now. People  were definitely chanting... intoning words Sophie could
not discern.
     The space behind this wall is hollow!
     Feeling  around  the  edge  of  the  panels, Sophie  found  a  recessed
fingerhold. It  was discreetly crafted. A sliding door. Heart  pounding, she
placed her  finger in the  slot and pulled it. With noiseless precision, the
heavy wall slid sideways. From out of the darkness beyond, the voices echoed
     Sophie slipped through the door and found herself on a rough-hewn stone
staircase that spiraled downward. She'd  been coming to this house since she
was a child and yet had no idea this staircase even existed!
     As she descended, the air  grew cooler. The voices clearer.  She  heard
men  and  women  now.  Her  line of  sight was limited by the spiral  of the
staircase, but the last  step  was  now  rounding into view. Beyond  it, she
could  see a small patch  of the basement  floor--stone, illuminated  by the
flickering orange blaze of firelight.
     Holding her breath, Sophie  inched down another few steps and  crouched
down to look. It took her several seconds to process what she was seeing.
     The  room  was a grotto--a coarse  chamber that  appeared  to have been
hollowed from the granite  of the hillside. The only light came from torches
on  the walls. In  the glow of  the  flames, thirty or so people stood  in a
circle in the center of the room.
     I'm dreaming, Sophie told herself. A dream. What else could this be?
     Everyone in the  room  was  wearing a  mask. The women  were dressed in
white gossamer gowns and golden shoes. Their  masks were white, and in their
hands they  carried golden orbs. The men wore long  black tunics,  and their
masks were black.  They looked like pieces in a giant chess set. Everyone in
the circle rocked back  and  forth and chanted in reverence to something  on
the floor before them... something Sophie could not see.
     The  chanting grew  steady again. Accelerating. Thundering now. Faster.
The participants took a step inward and knelt. In that instant, Sophie could
finally  see what  they  all were witnessing. Even  as she staggered back in
horror, she felt the image searing itself into her memory forever. Overtaken
by nausea,  Sophie spun,  clutching at the stone walls as she clambered back
up  the stairs.  Pulling the door closed, she fled the  deserted house,  and
drove in a tearful stupor back to Paris.
     That night, with  her life  shattered by disillusionment and  betrayal,
she packed her belongings and  left her home.  On the dining room table, she
left a note.

     Beside  the note,  she  laid  the  old  spare  key  from  the chuteau's

     "Sophie! Langdon's voice intruded. "Stop! Stop!"
     Emerging  from the memory,  Sophie slammed on the brakes, skidding to a
halt. "What? What happened?!"
     Langdon pointed down the long street before them.
     When  she saw it, Sophie's blood went cold. A hundred  yards ahead, the
intersection was  blocked by a  couple of  DCPJ  police  cars, parked askew,
their purpose obvious. They've sealed off Avenue Gabriel!
     Langdon gave  a grim  sigh. "I  take it the  embassy is off-limits this
     Down the street, the two DCPJ officers who stood beside their cars were
now staring in their direction, apparently curious about the headlights that
had halted so abruptly up the street from them.
     Okay, Sophie, turn around very slowly.
     Putting the SmartCar in reverse,  she performed  a composed three-point
turn and reversed her direction.  As she drove  away, she heard the sound of
squealing tires behind them. Sirens blared to life.
     Cursing, Sophie slammed down the accelerator.

     Sophie's SmartCar  tore  through  the diplomatic quarter,  weaving past
embassies  and consulates,  finally racing  out  a  side street and taking a
right turn back onto the massive thoroughfare of Champs-Elysues.
     Langdon  sat  white-knuckled  in the passenger seat,  twisted backward,
scanning behind them for any signs of the  police. He suddenly wished he had
not  decided to  run. You didn't, he reminded  himself. Sophie  had made the
decision for him when she threw the GPS dot out the bathroom window. Now, as
they sped  away  from the embassy, serpentining  through sparse  traffic  on
Champs-Elysues,  Langdon  felt his options  deteriorating.  Although  Sophie
seemed to  have lost the police, at  least  for the  moment, Langdon doubted
their luck would hold for long.
     Behind the wheel Sophie was fishing in  her sweater pocket. She removed
a small metal object and held  it out  for him. "Robert, you'd better have a
look at  this. This is  what  my grandfather left me behind  Madonna  of the
     Feeling a shiver of anticipation, Langdon took the  object and examined
it. It was heavy and shaped like a cruciform. His first instinct was that he
was holding a funeral pieu--a miniature version of a memorial spike designed
to be  stuck into  the ground at a gravesite.  But then he  noted  the shaft
protruding from the cruciform was  prismatic  and triangular.  The shaft was
also pockmarked with hundreds of  tiny hexagons  that  appeared to be finely
tooled and scattered at random.
     "It's a laser-cut key," Sophie told him. "Those hexagons are read by an
electric eye."
     A key? Langdon had never seen anything like it.
     "Look at the other side," she said, changing lanes and sailing  through
an intersection.
     When Langdon turned the key, he felt his jaw  drop. There,  intricately
embossed on the center  of the cross, was a stylized  fleur-de-lis with  the
initials P.S.! "Sophie," he said, "this is  the  seal I told  you about! The
official device of the Priory of Sion."
     She nodded. "As I told you,  I saw the key a long time ago. He  told me
never to speak of it again."
     Langdon's eyes were  still  riveted on the embossed key. Its  high-tech
tooling and age-old symbolism exuded  an eerie fusion  of ancient and modern
     "He told me the key opened a box where he kept many secrets."
     Langdon felt a chill to imagine what kind of secrets a man like Jacques
Sauniure might keep. What an ancient brotherhood was doing with a futuristic
key,  Langdon  had no  idea. The  Priory  existed  for the  sole purpose  of
protecting a  secret. A secret of  incredible  power.  Could  this key  have
something to do with it? The thought was  overwhelming. "Do you know what it
     Sophie looked disappointed. "I was hoping you knew."
     Langdon  remained  silent  as he  turned the  cruciform  in  his  hand,
examining it.
     "It looks Christian," Sophie pressed.
     Langdon was not so sure about  that. The head  of this key was  not the
traditional long-stemmed Christian cross but rather was a square cross--with
four arms of equal length--which predated  Christianity  by  fifteen hundred
years.  This kind  of  cross  carried none of the  Christian connotations of
crucifixion associated with  the  longer-stemmed Latin Cross,  originated by
Romans as a torture device. Langdon was always surprised how few  Christians
who gazed upon "the crucifix" realized  their  symbol's  violent history was
reflected in its  very name: "cross" and "crucifix" came from the Latin verb
cruciare--to torture.
     "Sophie," he said, "all I can tell you is that equal-armed crosses like
this one are considered peaceful  crosses. Their square configurations  make
them impractical for use in crucifixion,  and  their  balanced vertical  and
horizontal elements convey a natural union of male and  female, making  them
symbolically consistent with Priory philosophy."
     She gave him a weary look. "You have no idea, do you?"
     Langdon frowned. "Not a clue."
     "Okay,  we have  to  get off  the  road." Sophie  checked  her rearview
mirror. "We need a safe place to figure out what that key opens."
     Langdon  thought  longingly  of  his  comfortable  room  at  the  Ritz.
Obviously,  that  was not  an option.  "How about  my hosts  at the American
University of Paris?"
     "Too obvious. Fache will check with them."
     "You must know people. You live here."
     "Fache  will  run my phone and e-mail records, talk to my coworkers. My
contacts  are compromised,  and finding a hotel is no  good because they all
require identification."
     Langdon  wondered again if he  might have  been better  off taking  his
chances  letting  Fache arrest him at the Louvre. "Let's call the embassy. I
can  explain  the  situation  and have the  embassy send someone to meet  us
     "Meet  us?" Sophie  turned and  stared  at  him  as if he  were  crazy.
"Robert, you're dreaming. Your  embassy has  no jurisdiction except on their
own property.  Sending someone to retrieve us would be  considered  aiding a
fugitive of the French  government.  It won't happen. If  you walk into your
embassy  and  request temporary asylum, that's one thing, but asking them to
take  action against  French law  enforcement in the  field?" She  shook her
head. "Call your embassy  right now, and they are going to tell you to avoid
further  damage  and  turn yourself over to Fache. Then they'll  promise  to
pursue diplomatic channels  to get you a fair trial." She gazed up the  line
of elegant storefronts on Champs-Elysues. "How much cash do you have?"
     Langdon checked his wallet. "A hundred dollars. A few euro. Why?"
     "Credit cards?"
     "Of course."
     As Sophie accelerated, Langdon sensed  she was formulating a plan. Dead
ahead, at the end of Champs-Elysues, stood the  Arc de  Triomphe--Napoleon's
164-foot-tall tribute to his own  military  potency--encircled  by  France's
largest rotary, a nine-lane behemoth.
     Sophie's eyes were on the rearview mirror again  as they approached the
rotary. "We lost  them for the time  being,"  she said, "but  we  won't last
another five minutes if we stay in this car."
     So  steal  a different  one, Langdon mused, now  that we're  criminals.
"What are you going to do?"
     Sophie gunned the SmartCar into the rotary. "Trust me."
     Langdon  made no  response. Trust  had  not  gotten him  very  far this
evening. Pulling  back  the  sleeve of his  jacket, he  checked his watch--a
vintage, collector's-edition Mickey  Mouse wristwatch  that had  been a gift
from  his parents  on his  tenth birthday. Although its  juvenile dial often
drew odd looks,  Langdon had never owned  any other watch; Disney animations
had been his first introduction  to the magic of form and color,  and Mickey
now  served  as  Langdon's daily reminder to  stay  young  at  heart. At the
moment, however, Mickey's  arms were skewed at an awkward angle,  indicating
an equally awkward hour.
     2:51 A.M.
     "Interesting watch," Sophie said, glancing at his wrist and maneuvering
the SmartCar around the wide, counterclockwise rotary.
     "Long story," he said, pulling his sleeve back down.
     "I imagine it would have to be." She  gave him a quick smile and exited
the rotary, heading due north, away from the city center. Barely making  two
green lights, she reached  the third intersection and took a hard right onto
Boulevard  Malesherbes.  They'd  left the  rich, tree-lined  streets of  the
diplomatic neighborhood and  plunged into a  darker industrial neighborhood.
Sophie took a  quick left, and a moment  later, Langdon realized  where they
     Gare Saint-Lazare.
     Ahead of them,  the glass-roofed train terminal resembled  the  awkward
offspring of an  airplane  hangar and a greenhouse.  European train stations
never slept. Even  at  this  hour,  a  half-dozen  taxis idled near the main
entrance. Vendors manned carts  of sandwiches and mineral water while grungy
kids  in  backpacks emerged  from the  station rubbing  their eyes,  looking
around  as if trying to remember what city they were in now. Up ahead on the
street, a couple  of  city policemen  stood on the curb giving directions to
some confused tourists.
     Sophie pulled her SmartCar  in behind the line of taxis and parked in a
red zone despite plenty  of legal parking across the  street. Before Langdon
could  ask  what was going on,  she was out of the  car. She hurried to  the
window of the taxi in front of them and began speaking to the driver.
     As Langdon got out of the SmartCar, he saw Sophie hand  the taxi driver
a  big  wad  of  cash.  The  taxi  driver  nodded  and  then,  to  Langdon's
bewilderment, sped off without them.
     "What happened?" Langdon demanded,  joining Sophie on the  curb as  the
taxi disappeared.
     Sophie was already heading for  the train station  entrance. "Come  on.
We're buying two tickets on the next train out of Paris."
     Langdon hurried along beside her. What had  begun as a one-mile dash to
the  U.S. Embassy had  now  become  a  full-fledged  evacuation  from Paris.
Langdon was liking this idea less and less.

     The  driver  who  collected Bishop  Aringarosa from  Leonardo da  Vinci
International Airport pulled up in  a small, unimpressive black Fiat  sedan.
Aringarosa recalled a  day when all Vatican transports were big luxury  cars
that sported grille-plate medallions and flags  emblazoned with the seal  of
the Holy See. Those days are gone.  Vatican cars  were now less ostentatious
and almost  always unmarked. The  Vatican claimed this was to  cut  costs to
better serve their  dioceses,  but Aringarosa  suspected  it  was more of  a
security measure.  The  world  had gone mad,  and in many parts  of  Europe,
advertising your love of Jesus Christ was like painting a bull's-eye  on the
roof of your car.
     Bundling his black cassock  around himself, Aringarosa climbed into the
back seat and settled in for the long drive  to Castel Gandolfo. It would be
the same ride he had taken five months ago.
     Last year's trip to Rome, he sighed. The longest night of my life.
     Five  months  ago, the  Vatican  had  phoned  to  request  Aringarosa's
immediate presence in Rome. They offered no explanation. Your tickets are at
the airport. The Holy See worked hard to retain a veil  of mystery, even for
its highest clergy.
     The mysterious  summons,  Aringarosa suspected,  was probably  a  photo
opportunity for the  Pope and other  Vatican officials to  piggyback on Opus
Dei's recent  public success--the completion of  their World Headquarters in
New  York  City. Architectural  Digest had  called  Opus  Dei's  building "a
shining  beacon  of  Catholicism   sublimely  integrated   with  the  modern
landscape,"  and  lately the Vatican  seemed  to be  drawn  to anything  and
everything that included the word "modern."
     Aringarosa  had  no  choice  but  to  accept  the   invitation,  albeit
reluctantly. Not a fan of the current papal administration, Aringarosa, like
most conservative  clergy, had watched with  grave concern  as  the new Pope
settled  into his  first  year  in  office.  An  unprecedented liberal,  His
Holiness had secured  the  papacy through one of the  most controversial and
unusual conclaves in Vatican history. Now, rather than being  humbled by his
unexpected rise to power, the Holy Father had wasted no time flexing all the
muscle  associated with the  highest  office in Christendom.  Drawing  on an
unsettling tide of liberal support within the College of Cardinals, the Pope
was now declaring his papal mission  to be "rejuvenation of Vatican doctrine
and updating Catholicism into the third millennium."
     The  translation, Aringarosa feared, was  that  the  man  was  actually
arrogant enough to think he could rewrite God's laws and win back the hearts
of  those   who  felt  the  demands  of  true  Catholicism  had  become  too
inconvenient in a modern world.
     Aringarosa  had  been  using  all  of  his  political sway--substantial
considering  the size of the Opus  Dei  constituency and  their bankroll--to
persuade the Pope and  his advisers that softening the Church's laws was not
only  faithless and cowardly, but political suicide.  He reminded  them that
previous  tempering  of  Church  law--the  Vatican  II  fiasco--had  left  a
devastating legacy:  Church attendance  was now  lower than ever,  donations
were drying up, and there were not  even  enough Catholic priests to preside
over their churches.
     People  need  structure  and  direction  from  the  Church,  Aringarosa
insisted, not coddling and indulgence!
     On that night, months ago, as the Fiat had left the airport, Aringarosa
was  surprised  to  find himself heading not  toward Vatican City but rather
eastward up a sinuous mountain road. "Where are  we  going?" he had demanded
of his driver.
     "Alban Hills," the man replied. "Your meeting is at Castel Gandolfo."
     The Pope's summer residence? Aringarosa had never been, nor had he ever
desired to see it. In addition to being the Pope's summer vacation home, the
sixteenth-century   citadel  housed   the   Specula   Vaticana--the  Vatican
Observatory--one of the most  advanced astronomical observatories in Europe.
Aringarosa  had never been comfortable with the Vatican's historical need to
dabble in science.  What  was the  rationale for fusing  science and  faith?
Unbiased science could  not  possibly  be  performed by  a man who possessed
faith in God. Nor did  faith  have any need for physical confirmation of its
     Nonetheless, there it is, he thought as Castel Gandolfo came into view,
rising against  a  star-filled November sky. From the access  road, Gandolfo
resembled  a  great stone monster pondering  a suicidal leap. Perched at the
very edge  of a  cliff, the  castle  leaned  out over the cradle  of Italian
civilization--the  valley  where  the Curiazi and  Orazi  clans  fought long
before the founding of Rome.
     Even  in silhouette,  Gandolfo  was a  sight to  behold--an  impressive
example of  tiered, defensive architecture,  echoing  the  potency  of  this
dramatic  cliffside  setting. Sadly,  Aringarosa now  saw, the  Vatican  had
ruined the building  by constructing two huge  aluminum telescope domes atop
the roof, leaving this once dignified edifice looking like  a  proud warrior
wearing a couple of party hats.
     When Aringarosa  got out of the car,  a young Jesuit priest hurried out
and greeted him. "Bishop, welcome. I am Father Mangano. An astronomer here."
     Good for you. Aringarosa grumbled his hello  and followed his host into
the castle's  foyer--a wide-open space whose decor was a graceless blend  of
Renaissance art  and  astronomy  images.  Following his escort up  the  wide
travertine  marble  staircase, Aringarosa saw signs for  conference centers,
science lecture halls, and  tourist information  services. It amazed  him to
think the Vatican  was failing at every turn to  provide coherent, stringent
guidelines  for spiritual  growth and yet somehow still found  time to  give
astrophysics lectures to tourists.
     "Tell  me,"  Aringarosa said  to the young priest, "when  did the  tail
start wagging the dog?"
     The priest gave him an odd look. "Sir?"
     Aringarosa  waved it off, deciding not to  launch into that  particular
offensive again this evening. The Vatican  has gone mad. Like a lazy  parent
who found it easier  to  acquiesce to  the whims  of a spoiled child than to
stand  firm and teach values, the Church just kept  softening at every turn,
trying to reinvent itself to accommodate a culture gone astray.
     The  top floor's  corridor  was wide, lushly appointed, and led in only
one direction--toward a huge set of oak doors with a brass sign.

     Aringarosa   had   heard   of  this   place--the  Vatican's   Astronomy
Library--rumored   to  contain   more  than  twenty-five  thousand  volumes,
including  rare  works of Copernicus,  Galileo, Kepler,  Newton, and Secchi.
Allegedly, it was  also the  place in which the Pope's highest officers held
private  meetings...  those  meetings they  preferred not to hold within the
walls of Vatican City.
     Approaching the door,  Bishop Aringarosa would never  have imagined the
shocking news  he was about to receive inside, or the deadly chain of events
it would put into motion. It  was  not until an hour later, as he  staggered
from  the meeting, that the devastating implications settled  in. Six months
from now! he had thought. God help us!

     Now, seated  in the Fiat,  Bishop Aringarosa  realized his  fists  were
clenched  just thinking about that first meeting. He  released his  grip and
forced a slow inhalation, relaxing his muscles.
     Everything will be fine, he told himself as the Fiat  wound higher into
the mountains. Still,  he wished  his  cell phone would ring. Why hasn't the
Teacher called me? Silas should have the keystone by now.
     Trying to ease his nerves, the bishop meditated on the purple  amethyst
in  his  ring.  Feeling  the textures of the mitre-crozier appliquu  and the
facets of the diamonds, he reminded  himself that this ring was a symbol  of
power far less than that which he would soon attain.

     The inside  of  Gare Saint-Lazare looked like every other train station
in   Europe,  a  gaping  indoor-outdoor   cavern  dotted   with   the  usual
suspects--homeless men  holding cardboard  signs, collections of bleary-eyed
college  kids  sleeping  on backpacks and zoning  out to  their portable MP3
players, and clusters of blue-clad baggage porters smoking cigarettes.
     Sophie raised  her eyes  to  the enormous departure board overhead. The
black  and  white  tabs reshuffled,  ruffling downward  as  the  information
refreshed.  When  the update was  finished, Langdon eyed the offerings.  The
topmost listing read: LYON--RAPIDE--3:06
     "I  wish  it  left  sooner," Sophie  said, "but Lyon will  have to do."
Sooner? Langdon checked his watch 2:59 A.M. The train  left in seven minutes
and they didn't even have tickets yet.
     Sophie guided Langdon  toward the ticket window  and said, "Buy us  two
tickets with your credit card."
     "I thought credit card usage could be traced by--"
     Langdon decided to stop trying to keep ahead of Sophie Neveu. Using his
Visa card, he purchased two coach tickets to Lyon and handed them to Sophie.
     Sophie  guided him out  toward the tracks, where a familiar tone chimed
overhead and a P.A. announcer gave the final boarding call for Lyon. Sixteen
separate tracks  spread  out  before them. In the distance to  the right, at
quay three,  the train to Lyon was belching and wheezing in  preparation for
departure, but Sophie already had her arm through Langdon's and  was guiding
him in the exact opposite direction. They hurried through a side lobby, past
an  all-night cafe, and finally out a side door onto  a quiet  street on the
west side of the station.
     A lone taxi sat idling by the doorway.
     The driver saw Sophie and flicked his lights.
     Sophie jumped in the back seat. Langdon got in after her.
     As the  taxi pulled  away  from  station, Sophie  took out their  newly
purchased train tickets and tore them up.
     Langdon sighed. Seventy dollars well spent.
     It  was  not until their taxi had settled  into a monotonous northbound
hum  on Rue  de Clichy  that Langdon  felt they'd actually escaped. Out  the
window  to his right, he  could  see  Montmartre and  the beautiful dome  of
Sacru-Coeur. The image was interrupted by the flash of police lights sailing
past them in the opposite direction.
     Langdon and Sophie ducked down as the sirens faded.
     Sophie had told the cab driver simply to head out of the city, and from
her firmly set  jaw, Langdon sensed she was trying to figure out their  next
     Langdon examined the  cruciform  key again,  holding it to the  window,
bringing it close to his eyes in  an effort to find any markings on  it that
might indicate where  the  key  had been made. In  the intermittent  glow of
passing streetlights, he saw no markings except the Priory seal.
     "It doesn't make sense," he finally said.
     "Which part?"
     "That your grandfather would  go to so much trouble  to give you a  key
that you wouldn't know what to do with."
     "I agree."
     "Are  you  sure  he didn't  write anything  else on  the  back  of  the
     "I  searched the whole area.  This is  all there  was. This key, wedged
behind the painting. I saw the Priory seal, stuck the key in my pocket, then
we left."
     Langdon frowned, peering now at the blunt end of the  triangular shaft.
Nothing. Squinting, he brought the  key  close to his  eyes and examined the
rim  of  the  head. Nothing  there  either. "I think  this key  was  cleaned
     "It smells like rubbing alcohol."
     She turned. "I'm sorry?"
     "It smells like  somebody polished it with a cleaner." Langdon held the
key to his nose  and sniffed. "It's  stronger on the other side." He flipped
it  over.  "Yes,  it's alcohol-based, like it's  been  buffed with a cleaner
or--" Langdon stopped.
     He angled the key  to the light and looked at the smooth surface on the
broad arm of the  cross. It seemed to shimmer  in places... like it was wet.
"How well did you  look at the back  of this key before you  put it in  your
     "What? Not well. I was in a hurry."
     Langdon turned to her. "Do you still have the black light?"
     Sophie reached in her pocket and produced the UV penlight. Langdon took
it and switched it on, shining the beam on the back of the key.
     The back luminesced instantly. There was writing  there. In  penmanship
that was hurried but legible.
     "Well," Langdon said, smiling. "I guess  we know what the alcohol smell

     Sophie stared  in amazement at the  purple writing  on the  back of the
     24 Rue Haxo

     An address! My grandfather wrote down an address!
     "Where is this?" Langdon asked.
     Sophie had  no  idea.  Facing  front  again,  she  leaned  forward  and
excitedly asked the driver, "Connaissez-vous la Rue Haxo?"
     The driver thought a moment and then nodded. He  told Sophie it was out
near the tennis stadium on the western outskirts of Paris. She  asked him to
take them there immediately.
     "Fastest route is  through  Bois de Boulogne," the  driver  told her in
French. "Is that okay?"
     Sophie frowned. She  could  think  of  far less scandalous routes,  but
tonight  she  was not  going to be picky. "Oui." We  can shock the  visiting
     Sophie  looked back at  the key  and wondered what they would  possibly
find at 24 Rue Haxo. A church? Some kind of Priory headquarters?
     Her  mind  filled  again  with  images of the  secret  ritual  she  had
witnessed in the basement grotto ten  years ago, and she heaved a long sigh.
"Robert, I have a lot of things to tell  you." She paused, locking eyes with
him as the taxi  raced westward. "But first I want you to tell me everything
you know about this Priory of Sion."

     Outside the Salle  des Etats,  Bezu  Fache was fuming as  Louvre warden
Grouard explained how Sophie and  Langdon  had disarmed  him. Why didn't you
just shoot the blessed painting!
     "Captain?" Lieutenant Collet  loped toward them from the  direction  of
the command post. "Captain, I just heard. They located Agent Neveu's car."
     "Did she make the embassy?"
     "No. Train station. Bought two tickets. Train just left."
     Fache  waved off  warden  Grouard and led  Collet  to a nearby  alcove,
addressing him in hushed tones. "What was the destination?"
     "Probably a decoy." Fache exhaled, formulating a plan. "Okay, alert the
next station, have the  train stopped and searched, just in case. Leave  her
car where it is and put plainclothes on  watch in case they try to come back
to it. Send men to search  the streets around the station in case  they fled
on foot. Are buses running from the station?"
     "Not at this hour, sir. Only the taxi queue."
     "Good. Question the drivers. See if they saw anything. Then contact the
taxi company dispatcher with descriptions. I'm calling Interpol."
     Collet looked surprised. "You're putting this on the wire?"
     Fache  regretted the  potential  embarrassment,  but  he  saw  no other
     Close the net fast, and close it tight.
     The first hour was critical. Fugitives  were predictable the first hour
after escape. They always needed the same thing. Travel. Lodging. Cash.  The
Holy Trinity.  Interpol had the power to  make  all  three disappear  in the
blink of  an eye. By broadcast-faxing photos of  Langdon and Sophie to Paris
travel  authorities, hotels,  and banks, Interpol would leave no options--no
way to leave the city, no place to hide, and no way to withdraw cash without
being  recognized.  Usually,  fugitives  panicked  on  the  street  and  did
something  stupid.  Stole a  car.  Robbed  a  store.  Used  a  bank card  in
desperation.  Whatever  mistake  they  committed,  they  quickly made  their
whereabouts known to local authorities.
     "Only Langdon, right?" Collet  said. "You're not flagging Sophie Neveu.
She's our own agent."
     "Of course I'm  flagging  her!" Fache  snapped. "What good is  flagging
Langdon if she can do all his dirty work? I plan to  run Neveu's  employment
file--friends, family, personal contacts--anyone she might turn to for help.
I don't  know what she thinks  she's doing out there, but it's going to cost
her one hell of a lot more than her job!"
     "Do you want me on the phones or in the field?"
     "Field. Get over  to the train station and coordinate the  team. You've
got the reins, but don't make a move without talking to me."
     "Yes, sir." Collet ran out.
     Fache felt rigid as  he  stood in the  alcove. Outside  the window, the
glass  pyramid shone,  its reflection  rippling in the windswept pools. They
slipped through my fingers. He told himself to relax.
     Even  a  trained field agent would be lucky to  withstand  the pressure
that Interpol was about to apply.
     A female cryptologist and a schoolteacher?
     They wouldn't last till dawn.

     The heavily forested park known as the Bois de Boulogne was called many
things, but  the  Parisian cognoscenti  knew  it as  "the Garden  of Earthly
Delights." The  epithet,  despite sounding  flattering,  was  quite  to  the
contrary.  Anyone who had  seen the lurid Bosch painting  of  the same  name
understood the jab; the painting,  like the forest, was dark and  twisted, a
purgatory for  freaks and fetishists.  At night, the forest's  winding lanes
were  lined with hundreds of glistening bodies for hire, earthly delights to
satisfy one's  deepest unspoken  desires--male, female,  and  everything  in
     As Langdon gathered  his  thoughts to tell Sophie about  the  Priory of
Sion, their taxi passed through  the wooded  entrance to the park and  began
heading  west  on  the cobblestone  crossfare.  Langdon  was having  trouble
concentrating as a scattering of the park's nocturnal residents were already
emerging from  the shadows and  flaunting their wares  in  the  glare of the
headlights. Ahead, two topless teenage girls shot smoldering  gazes into the
taxi.  Beyond them, a  well-oiled black man in a  G-string turned and flexed
his  buttocks. Beside  him, a gorgeous blond woman lifted  her miniskirt  to
reveal that she was not, in fact, a woman.
     Heaven help me! Langdon turned  his gaze back inside the cab and took a
deep breath.
     "Tell me about the Priory of Sion," Sophie said.
     Langdon nodded, unable to  imagine a  less congruous a backdrop for the
legend he was about to tell.  He wondered where to begin.  The brotherhood's
history  spanned  more  than a  millennium...  an astonishing  chronicle  of
secrets, blackmail,  betrayal, and even brutal torture  at  the hands  of an
angry Pope.
     "The Priory of Sion," he began, "was  founded in Jerusalem in 1099 by a
French king named Godefroi de Bouillon,  immediately after he  had conquered
the city."
     Sophie nodded, her eyes riveted on him.
     "King  Godefroi was  allegedly  the possessor of  a powerful  secret--a
secret that had been  in  his  family since the time  of Christ. Fearing his
secret  might be  lost when  he  died,  he founded a secret brotherhood--the
Priory  of Sion--and charged them  with  protecting  his  secret by  quietly
passing  it  on  from  generation  to  generation.  During  their  years  in
Jerusalem, the Priory  learned of a stash of hidden documents buried beneath
the ruins of Herod's temple, which had been built  atop the earlier ruins of
Solomon's  Temple. These  documents, they believed, corroborated  Godefroi's
powerful  secret and were so explosive in  nature that the Church would stop
at nothing to get them." Sophie looked uncertain.
     "The Priory vowed that no matter how long it took, these documents must
be recovered from  the rubble beneath  the  temple and protected forever, so
the truth would never die. In  order to retrieve  the  documents from within
the ruins, the Priory created a military arm--a group of nine knights called
the Order of the Poor Knights of Christ and  the Temple of Solomon." Langdon
paused. "More commonly known as the Knights Templar."
     Sophie  glanced  up  with a  surprised look of recognition. Langdon had
lectured often enough on the Knights Templar to know that almost everyone on
earth had heard of them, at least abstractedly. For academics, the Templars'
history was a  precarious world where fact,  lore,  and  misinformation  had
become   so  intertwined  that  extracting   a  pristine  truth  was  almost
impossible. Nowadays, Langdon hesitated even to mention the Knights  Templar
while  lecturing because  it  invariably  led  to  a barrage  of  convoluted
inquiries into assorted conspiracy theories.
     Sophie already looked troubled. "You're saying the Knights Templar were
founded by  the Priory of Sion to retrieve a collection of secret documents?
I thought the Templars were created to protect the Holy Land."
     "A  common  misconception.  The idea of protection of pilgrims  was the
guise  under which  the Templars ran their  mission. Their true goal in  the
Holy Land  was to  retrieve  the  documents  from beneath  the  ruins of the
     "And did they find them?"
     Langdon grinned. "Nobody knows for sure, but the one thing on which all
academics agree is  this: The Knights discovered something down there in the
ruins... something  that  made  them  wealthy  and powerful beyond  anyone's
wildest imagination."
     Langdon  quickly gave  Sophie  the  standard  academic  sketch  of  the
accepted  Knights Templar  history,  explaining how  the Knights were in the
Holy Land  during the Second Crusade and told King Baldwin II that they were
there  to protect  Christian pilgrims  on the roadways.  Although unpaid and
sworn to poverty, the Knights told the king they required  basic shelter and
requested his permission to take up residence in the stables under the ruins
of the temple. King  Baldwin granted the soldiers' request,  and the Knights
took up their meager residence inside the devastated shrine.
     The odd  choice of lodging, Langdon explained,  had  been  anything but
random.  The Knights believed  the documents the  Priory sought  were buried
deep under the ruins--beneath the Holy of Holies, a sacred chamber where God
Himself was  believed to reside. Literally, the  very  center  of the Jewish
faith. For almost  a decade, the nine Knights lived in the ruins, excavating
in total secrecy through solid rock.
     Sophie looked over. "And you said they discovered something?"
     "They certainly did,"  Langdon said, explaining  how  it had taken nine
years, but the Knights had  finally found what they had been searching  for.
They  took the  treasure from the temple and traveled to Europe, where their
influence seemed to solidify overnight.
     Nobody was certain whether the Knights  had  blackmailed the Vatican or
whether  the  Church simply tried  to  buy  the Knights'  silence,  but Pope
Innocent II immediately issued an unprecedented papal bull that afforded the
Knights   Templar   limitless   power   and  declared   them  "a   law  unto
themselves"--an autonomous army independent of all  interference from  kings
and prelates, both religious and political.
     With their  new  carte  blanche from the Vatican,  the Knights  Templar
expanded at a staggering rate, both in numbers and political force, amassing
vast  estates in  over  a  dozen countries.  They began extending credit  to
bankrupt royals and charging interest in return, thereby establishing modern
banking and broadening their wealth and influence still further.
     By the 1300s, the Vatican sanction had helped the Knights amass so much
power that Pope Clement V decided that something had to be  done. Working in
concert with  France's  King  Philippe IV, the Pope  devised  an ingeniously
planned sting operation to quash the Templars and seize their treasure, thus
taking control of the secrets held over the  Vatican. In a military maneuver
worthy of the  CIA,  Pope Clement  issued secret  sealed orders to be opened
simultaneously by his  soldiers all  across Europe on Friday,  October 13 of
     At  dawn  on  the  thirteenth, the documents  were unsealed  and  their
appalling contents revealed. Clement's letter  claimed that God had  visited
him in a vision and warned him that the Knights Templar were heretics guilty
of  devil  worship,  homosexuality, defiling the cross,  sodomy,  and  other
blasphemous behavior. Pope Clement had  been  asked  by God  to cleanse  the
earth by rounding up all the Knights and torturing them until they confessed
their crimes  against God. Clement's Machiavellian  operation  came off with
clockwork precision.  On that day, countless Knights were captured, tortured
mercilessly,  and finally  burned  at the stake as heretics.  Echoes of  the
tragedy  still  resonated  in  modern  culture;  to  this  day,  Friday  the
thirteenth was considered unlucky.
     Sophie  looked  confused.  "The  Knights  Templar  were obliterated?  I
thought fraternities of Templars still exist today?"
     "They do, under a variety of names. Despite Clement's false charges and
best efforts  to eradicate them,  the Knights had powerful allies,  and some
managed to escape the Vatican purges. The Templars' potent treasure trove of
documents, which  had apparently been their source  of power,  was Clement's
true objective,  but it slipped through his fingers. The  documents had long
since  been  entrusted  to the Templars' shadowy  architects,  the Priory of
Sion,  whose veil  of  secrecy  had  kept them safely  out of  range of  the
Vatican's  onslaught.  As the  Vatican closed  in, the Priory smuggled their
documents  from  a  Paris  preceptory  by  night  onto  Templar ships  in La
     "Where did the documents go?"
     Langdon shrugged. "That mystery's answer is known only to the Priory of
Sion. Because the documents remain the source  of constant investigation and
speculation  even today, they are  believed to  have been moved and rehidden
several times. Current speculation places  the  documents somewhere  in  the
United Kingdom."
     Sophie looked uneasy.
     "For a thousand years," Langdon continued, "legends of this secret have
been passed  on. The  entire  collection  of documents, its  power,  and the
secret  it reveals have become known by a single name--Sangreal. Hundreds of
books have been  written  about  it,  and few mysteries  have caused as much
interest among historians as the Sangreal."
     "The Sangreal? Does  the word have anything to  do with the French word
sang or Spanish sangre--meaning 'blood'?"
     Langdon nodded. Blood was the backbone of the Sangreal, and yet not  in
the  way Sophie  probably  imagined. "The  legend is  complicated,  but  the
important thing to  remember  is that the  Priory  guards  the proof, and is
purportedly awaiting the right moment in history to reveal the truth."
     "What truth? What secret could possibly be that powerful?"
     Langdon took a  deep  breath and gazed out at the  underbelly of  Paris
leering in the shadows. "Sophie, the  word Sangreal is  an  ancient word. It
has  evolved over the  years into another  term... a  more  modern name." He
paused. "When  I tell you its modern name, you'll realize you already know a
lot about it. In fact, almost everyone  on earth has heard the story of  the
     Sophie looked skeptical. "I've never heard of it."
     "Sure you have." Langdon smiled. "You're just used to hearing it called
by the name 'Holy Grail.' "

     Sophie scrutinized Langdon  in the back of the  taxi. He's joking. "The
Holy Grail?"
     Langdon  nodded,  his  expression serious.  "Holy Grail  is the literal
meaning of  Sangreal.  The phrase  derives  from the French  Sangraal, which
evolved to Sangreal, and was eventually split into two words, San Greal."
     Holy Grail. Sophie was  surprised she  had not  spotted the  linguistic
ties immediately. Even  so, Langdon's claim still made no  sense to her.  "I
thought the  Holy  Grail  was a cup.  You  just told  me  the  Sangreal is a
collection of documents that reveals some dark secret."
     "Yes, but  the Sangreal  documents  are only  half of  the  Holy  Grail
treasure. They  are  buried with the Grail  itself...  and reveal  its  true
meaning. The documents gave the Knights  Templar so  much power because  the
pages revealed the true nature of the Grail."
     The true nature of the  Grail? Sophie felt even more lost now. The Holy
Grail, she had thought, was the cup that Jesus drank from at the Last Supper
and  with   which  Joseph  of  Arimathea  later  caught  His  blood  at  the
crucifixion.  "The Holy Grail is  the Cup  of  Christ,"  she said. "How much
simpler could it be?"
     "Sophie,"  Langdon whispered, leaning toward her now, "according to the
Priory of Sion, the  Holy Grail is not a  cup  at all. They claim the  Grail
legend--that  of a  chalice--is  actually an ingeniously conceived allegory.
That is, that the Grail story uses the  chalice  as a metaphor for something
else,  something  far  more  powerful."  He  paused.  "Something  that  fits
perfectly  with everything  your  grandfather has  been  trying  to tell  us
tonight, including all his symbologic references to the sacred feminine."
     Still  unsure,  Sophie  sensed  in  Langdon's  patient  smile  that  he
empathized with  her confusion, and yet his eyes remained  earnest.  "But if
the Holy Grail is not a cup," she asked, "what is it?"
     Langdon  had  known this question was  coming,  and yet  he still  felt
uncertain exactly how  to tell her. If he did not present  the answer in the
proper  historical background,  Sophie  would be left  with  a vacant air of
bewilderment--the exact expression Langdon had seen on his own editor's face
a few months ago after  Langdon handed him a draft of the  manuscript he was
working on.
     "This manuscript claims what?" his  editor had choked, setting down his
wineglass and staring  across  his  half-eaten power  lunch. "You  can't  be
     "Serious enough to have spent a year researching it."
     Prominent New York editor Jonas Faukman tugged nervously at his goatee.
Faukman no  doubt had heard some  wild book ideas in his illustrious career,
but this one seemed to have left the man flabbergasted.
     "Robert," Faukman finally said, "don't get me wrong.  I love your work,
and we've had a  great run together. But if  I agree to publish an idea like
this, I'll have  people picketing  outside my office for months. Besides, it
will kill your reputation. You're a Harvard historian, for God's sake, not a
pop schlockmeister  looking for a quick  buck. Where could you possibly find
enough credible evidence to support a theory like this?"
     With  a quiet smile Langdon pulled a  piece of paper from the pocket of
his tweed coat and  handed it to Faukman. The page listed a  bibliography of
over fifty  titles--books by  well-known historians, some contemporary, some
centuries old--many  of  them  academic bestsellers.  All  the  book  titles
suggested the  same premise Langdon had just proposed.  As Faukman read down
the list,  he  looked  like  a  man who  had  just discovered the  earth was
actually flat. "I know some of these authors. They're... real historians!"
     Langdon  grinned. "As you  can see, Jonas, this is not only  my theory.
It's been around for a long time. I'm simply building on it. No book has yet
explored  the  legend  of  the  Holy  Grail from  a  symbologic  angle.  The
iconographic   evidence  I'm  finding  to  support  the   theory  is,  well,
staggeringly persuasive."
     Faukman  was still staring at the list. "My God, one of these books was
written by Sir Leigh Teabing--a British Royal Historian."
     "Teabing  has spent much of his life studying the Holy Grail. I've  met
with  him.  He was actually a big part of  my  inspiration. He's a believer,
Jonas, along with all of the others on that list."
     "You're telling me all of these historians actually believe..." Faukman
swallowed, apparently unable to say the words.
     Langdon   grinned   again.  "The  Holy  Grail  is   arguably  the  most
sought-after treasure in human history. The Grail has spawned legends, wars,
and lifelong quests. Does it make sense that it is merely a cup? If so, then
certainly  other relics  should generate  similar or  greater  interest--the
Crown  of  Thorns, the  True Cross of the Crucifixion, the Titulus--and yet,
they do not. Throughout history, the Holy Grail has  been the most special."
Langdon grinned. "Now you know why."
     Faukman was still shaking  his head. "But with  all these books written
about it, why isn't this theory more widely known?"
     "These  books can't possibly  compete  with  centuries  of  established
history, especially when that history is endorsed by the ultimate bestseller
of all time."
     Faukman's eyes went wide. "Don't tell me Harry Potter is actually about
the Holy Grail."
     "I was referring to the Bible."
     Faukman cringed. "I knew that."

     "Laissez-le!"  Sophie's  shouts cut  the air inside the taxi.  "Put  it
     Langdon jumped as Sophie leaned forward over the seat and yelled at the
taxi driver. Langdon could see the driver was clutching his radio mouthpiece
and speaking into it.
     Sophie  turned  now  and  plunged her hand into the pocket of Langdon's
tweed jacket. Before  Langdon knew what had happened, she had yanked out the
pistol,  swung it around,  and was pressing it to the  back of the  driver's
head.  The  driver instantly  dropped his radio, raising his  one free  hand
     "Sophie!" Langdon choked. "What the hell--"
     "Arrutez!" Sophie commanded the driver.
     Trembling, the driver obeyed, stopping the car and putting it in park.
     It was then that Langdon heard the metallic voice of the taxi company's
dispatcher  coming  from  the  dashboard.  "...qui  s'appette  Agent  Sophie
Neveu..." the radio crackled. "Et un Amuricain, Robert Langdon..."
     Langdon's muscles turned rigid. They found us already?
     "Descendez," Sophie demanded.
     The  trembling driver kept his  arms over his head as he got out of his
taxi and took several steps backward.
     Sophie had  rolled down her window and now aimed the gun outside at the
bewildered  cabbie.  "Robert,"  she  said  quietly, "take  the wheel. You're
     Langdon was not about  to argue with a woman wielding a gun. He climbed
out of the car and jumped back in behind the  wheel. The  driver was yelling
curses, his arms still raised over his head.
     "Robert," Sophie said from  the back seat, "I  trust you've seen enough
of our magic forest?"
     He nodded. Plenty.
     "Good. Drive us out of here."
     Langdon  looked down  at the  car's controls  and  hesitated. Shit.  He
groped for the stick shift and clutch. "Sophie? Maybe you--"
     "Go!" she yelled.
     Outside, several hookers were walking over  to  see what  was going on.
One woman was placing a call on her cell phone. Langdon depressed the clutch
and jostled  the  stick  into what  he hoped was first gear. He  touched the
accelerator, testing the gas.
     Langdon popped the clutch. The tires howled as  the taxi leapt forward,
fishtailing  wildly and sending the gathering crowd  diving  for cover.  The
woman with the cell phone leapt into the woods, only narrowly avoiding being
run down.
     "Doucement!" Sophie said, as  the car lurched  down the road. "What are
you doing?"
     "I tried to warn you,"  he shouted over the sound of gnashing gears. "I
drive an automatic!"

     Although  the spartan  room in the  brownstone on  Rue  La  Bruyure had
witnessed a lot of suffering, Silas doubted anything could match the anguish
now gripping his pale body. I was deceived. Everything is lost.
     Silas had  been tricked.  The brothers had lied, choosing death instead
of revealing their true secret. Silas did not have the strength to call  the
Teacher. Not only had Silas  killed the only four people  who knew where the
keystone  was hidden,  he  had killed a  nun inside Saint-Sulpice.  She  was
working against God! She scorned the work of Opus Dei!
     A crime  of  impulse,  the  woman's death complicated matters  greatly.
Bishop  Aringarosa  had  placed   the  phone   call  that  got   Silas  into
Saint-Sulpice; what  would  the  abbu  think when  he discovered the nun was
dead? Although Silas  had placed her back in her bed,  the wound on her head
was obvious. Silas had  attempted to replace the broken tiles  in the floor,
but that damage too was obvious. They would know someone had been there.
     Silas had  planned to  hide  within  Opus Dei when his  task  here  was
complete. Bishop  Aringarosa  will protect me.  Silas could  imagine no more
blissful  existence than  a  life of  meditation  and prayer deep within the
walls of Opus  Dei's headquarters in New York City. He would never again set
foot  outside. Everything  he needed was  within that sanctuary. Nobody will
miss me. Unfortunately, Silas knew,  a prominent  man like Bishop Aringarosa
could not disappear so easily.
     I have endangered  the  bishop. Silas  gazed  blankly at the floor  and
pondered taking his own life.  After all,  it had  been Aringarosa who  gave
Silas life in the first place... in that  small rectory in  Spain, educating
him, giving him purpose.
     "My friend,"  Aringarosa had told him, "you were born an albino. Do not
let others shame you for this. Do you  not understand how special this makes
you? Were you not aware that Noah himself was an albino?"
     "Noah of the Ark?" Silas had never heard this.
     Aringarosa was smiling.  "Indeed, Noah of the Ark. An albino. Like you,
he had skin  white like  an angel. Consider this.  Noah saved all of life on
the planet. You are destined for great things, Silas. The Lord has freed you
for a  reason.  You have your calling. The Lord  needs  your help to do  His
     Over time, Silas  learned to see  himself  in a  new light.  I am pure.
White. Beautiful. Like an angel.
     At the moment, though, in his room  at the  residence hall,  it was his
father's disappointed voice that whispered to him from the past.
     Tu es un dusastre. Un spectre.
     Kneeling  on  the wooden  floor,  Silas  prayed  for forgiveness. Then,
stripping off his robe, he reached again for the Discipline.

     Struggling  with  the  gear  shift,  Langdon  managed  to  maneuver the
hijacked taxi to  the far  side of the Bois de Boulogne while stalling  only
twice. Unfortunately, the  inherent humor  in the situation was overshadowed
by the taxi dispatcher repeatedly hailing their cab over the radio.
     "Voiture cinq-six-trois. Ou utes-vous? Rupondez!"
     When Langdon reached the  exit  of the park,  he swallowed his machismo
and jammed on the brakes. "You'd better drive."
     Sophie looked  relieved as she jumped behind the wheel. Within  seconds
she had the car humming  smoothly westward along Allue de Longchamp, leaving
the Garden of Earthly Delights behind.
     "Which  way is  Rue  Haxo?" Langdon  asked, watching  Sophie  edge  the
speedometer over a hundred kilometers an hour.
     Sophie's  eyes remained focused on the road. "The cab driver  said it's
adjacent to the Roland Garros tennis stadium. I know that area."
     Langdon pulled the heavy key from  his pocket again, feeling the weight
in  his palm. He sensed  it  was an  object of  enormous consequence.  Quite
possibly the key to his own freedom.
     Earlier,  while telling Sophie about the  Knights Templar,  Langdon had
realized that this key, in  addition to  having the  Priory seal embossed on
it,  possessed  a  more subtle tie to  the Priory of Sion.  The  equal-armed
cruciform  was  symbolic of  balance  and harmony  but also of  the  Knights
Templar. Everyone  had seen the paintings of Knights Templar  wearing  white
tunics emblazoned with red equal-armed  crosses. Granted,  the  arms  of the
Templar cross were slightly flared at the ends, but they were still of equal
     A square cross. Just like the one on this key.
     Langdon  felt his imagination  starting to  run wild as  he  fantasized
about what they might find. The Holy Grail.  He  almost laughed out  loud at
the  absurdity of  it. The Grail was believed  to  be somewhere in  England,
buried  in a  hidden chamber beneath one of the many Templar churches, where
it had been hidden since at least 1500.
     The era of Grand Master Da Vinci.
     The Priory,  in order to  keep their powerful documents safe,  had been
forced  to  move  them many times in  the  early  centuries.  Historians now
suspected as many as  six different Grail  relocations since its arrival  in
Europe from  Jerusalem.  The  last  Grail "sighting"  had been  in 1447 when
numerous  eyewitnesses  described a fire  that had  broken  out  and  almost
engulfed  the  documents  before they were  carried to  safety  in four huge
chests that each required six men to  carry.  After  that, nobody claimed to
see the Grail ever again. All that remained were occasional whisperings that
it was hidden in  Great  Britain, the land of King Arthur and the Knights of
the Round Table.
     Wherever it was, two important facts remained:
     Leonardo knew where the Grail resided during his lifetime.
     That hiding place had probably not changed to this day.
     For  this reason, Grail enthusiasts still pored over Da Vinci's art and
diaries in  hopes of  unearthing a  hidden  clue  as to the Grail's  current
location. Some claimed  the  mountainous  backdrop  in Madonna of  the Rocks
matched the topography of a series of cave-ridden hills in Scotland.  Others
insisted that the suspicious placement of disciples  in The Last  Supper was
some kind of  code. Still  others claimed  that  X rays  of  the  Mona  Lisa
revealed she originally had been  painted wearing a lapis lazuli  pendant of
Isis--a detail Da Vinci purportedly later decided to paint over. Langdon had
never  seen any evidence of the pendant, nor could  he imagine  how it could
possibly reveal the Holy Grail, and yet Grail aficionados still discussed it
ad nauseum on Internet bulletin boards and worldwide-web chat rooms.
     Everyone loves a conspiracy.
     And the conspiracies  kept coming. Most recently, of course,  had  been
the earthshaking  discovery  that Da Vinci's famed Adoration of the Magi was
hiding a dark secret beneath its layers of  paint. Italian art diagnostician
Maurizio  Seracini had unveiled the unsettling  truth,  which  the New  York
Times  Magazine  carried  prominently  in  a  story  titled  "The   Leonardo
     Seracini had revealed  beyond  any  doubt  that  while  the Adoration's
gray-green sketched  underdrawing was  indeed Da Vinci's  work, the painting
itself was not. The truth was that some anonymous painter had filled  in  Da
Vinci's sketch  like a  paint-by-numbers  years after Da Vinci's  death. Far
more  troubling,  however,  was  what  lay  beneath  the  impostor's  paint.
Photographs taken with infrared reflectography and X ray suggested that this
rogue  painter,  while  filling  in  Da  Vinci's  sketched study,  had  made
suspicious departures from the underdrawing...  as if to subvert Da  Vinci's
true intention. Whatever the true nature of the underdrawing, it had yet  to
be made public. Even so, embarrassed officials at Florence's Uffizi  Gallery
immediately banished the painting to a warehouse across the street. Visitors
at the  gallery's  Leonardo Room now  found  a  misleading  and unapologetic
plaque where the Adoration once hung.

     In the bizarre underworld  of  modern Grail  seekers, Leonardo da Vinci
remained the quest's great  enigma.  His  artwork  seemed bursting to tell a
secret, and yet whatever it was remained hidden, perhaps beneath a layer  of
paint, perhaps enciphered in plain view, or perhaps nowhere at all. Maybe Da
Vinci's plethora  of tantalizing clues was nothing but an empty promise left
behind to frustrate the curious and bring a smirk to the face of his knowing
Mona Lisa.
     "Is  it possible,"  Sophie asked, drawing Langdon  back, "that  the key
you're holding unlocks the hiding place of the Holy Grail?"
     Langdon's laugh sounded forced,  even to him.  "I really can't imagine.
Besides, the Grail is believed to be hidden in the United Kingdom somewhere,
not France." He gave her the quick history.
     "But the  Grail seems the  only rational conclusion," she insisted. "We
have an  extremely  secure  key,  stamped with  the  Priory  of  Sion  seal,
delivered to us by a  member of the Priory of Sion--a brotherhood which, you
just told me, are guardians of the Holy Grail."
     Langdon knew  her contention was logical, and yet intuitively he  could
not possibly accept it. Rumors existed that the Priory  had vowed someday to
bring the Grail  back to  France to a final resting place,  but certainly no
historical evidence  existed to  suggest that this indeed had happened. Even
if the Priory had managed to bring the Grail back to France,  the address 24
Rue  Haxo near  a tennis stadium hardly  sounded like a noble final  resting
place. "Sophie,  I really don't see how this key could  have  anything to do
with the Grail."
     "Because the Grail is supposed to be in England?"
     "Not only that. The location of the Holy Grail  is one of the best kept
secrets  in  history.   Priory  members  wait   decades  proving  themselves
trustworthy before being elevated to the highest echelons of  the fraternity
and  learning where the Grail is. That secret is  protected by an  intricate
system of compartmentalized  knowledge, and although the  Priory brotherhood
is very large,  only  four members at any given time know where the Grail is
hidden--the  Grand Master and his three sunuchaux.  The probability of  your
grandfather being one of those four top people is very slim."
     My  grandfather was one of them, Sophie thought, pressing  down  on the
accelerator.  She  had an image stamped in her  memory  that  confirmed  her
grandfather's status within the brotherhood beyond any doubt.
     "And even if your grandfather were in the upper echelon, he would never
be allowed  to  reveal  anything to  anyone  outside the  brotherhood. It is
inconceivable that he would bring you into the inner circle."
     I've  already been there, Sophie thought,  picturing the ritual  in the
basement. She wondered  if this were the moment to tell Langdon what she had
witnessed  that night  in the Normandy chuteau.  For  ten years  now, simple
shame had  kept  her from  telling  a  soul.  Just  thinking about  it,  she
shuddered.  Sirens  howled  somewhere  in  the  distance,  and  she  felt  a
thickening shroud of fatigue settling over her.
     "There!" Langdon  said, feeling excited to see the huge  complex of the
Roland Garros tennis stadium looming ahead.
     Sophie snaked her way toward the  stadium.  After several  passes, they
located the  intersection of  Rue Haxo  and turned onto it,  driving  in the
direction of the lower numbers. The road became more  industrial, lined with
     We  need number  twenty-four, Langdon told  himself, realizing  he  was
secretly  scanning  the  horizon  for  the  spires  of a  church.  Don't  be
ridiculous. A forgotten Templar church in this neighborhood?
     "There it is," Sophie exclaimed, pointing.
     Langdon's eyes followed to the structure ahead.
     What in the world?
     The building was modern. A squat citadel with a giant, neon equal-armed
cross emblazoned atop its facade. Beneath the cross were the words:

     Langdon  was thankful not to have shared his Templar church  hopes with
Sophie.  A career hazard of  symbologists was a tendency  to  extract hidden
meaning  from  situations that had none. In this case, Langdon had  entirely
forgotten that the  peaceful,  equal-armed  cross had been  adopted  as  the
perfect symbol for the flag of neutral Switzerland.
     At least the mystery was solved.
     Sophie and Langdon were holding the key to a Swiss bank deposit box.

     Outside Castel Gandolfo, an updraft of mountain air gushed over the top
of the cliff  and across  the  high bluff,  sending  a chill through  Bishop
Aringarosa as he stepped from the Fiat.  I  should have worn more  than this
cassock, he thought, fighting the reflex to shiver. The last thing he needed
to appear tonight was weak or fearful.
     The castle was dark save the windows at the  very  top of the building,
which glowed ominously. The library, Aringarosa thought.  They are awake and
waiting. He  ducked  his head against the  wind and continued on without  so
much as a glance toward the observatory domes.
     The priest who  greeted him at  the door looked sleepy. He was the same
priest who had greeted Aringarosa  five months ago, albeit tonight he did so
with much  less hospitality. "We were worried about you, Bishop," the priest
said, checking his watch and looking more perturbed than worried.
     "My apologies. Airlines are so unreliable these days."
     The priest mumbled something inaudible and then said, "They are waiting
upstairs. I will escort you up."
     The  library  was  a vast square  room with dark  wood  from  floor  to
ceiling. On  all sides, towering bookcases burgeoned with volumes. The floor
was  amber marble with  black basalt  trim,  a  handsome reminder that  this
building had once been a palace.
     "Welcome, Bishop," a man's voice said from across the room.
     Aringarosa  tried   to   see  who  had  spoken,  but  the  lights  were
ridiculously low--much  lower than they  had  been on his first  visit, when
everything was ablaze. The night of  stark awakening. Tonight, these men sat
in the  shadows, as  if  they were somehow  ashamed  of  what was  about  to
     Aringarosa entered  slowly, regally even. He  could  see  the shapes of
three men at a long table on the far side of the room. The silhouette of the
man  in  the  middle  was  immediately recognizable--the  obese  Secretariat
Vaticana, overlord of all legal matters within Vatican  City. The  other two
were high-ranking Italian cardinals.
     Aringarosa  crossed the  library toward them. "My  humble apologies for
the hour. We're on different time zones. You must be tired."
     "Not at  all," the secretariat said, his  hands folded on  his enormous
belly. "We  are  grateful  you have come so far. The  least  we can do is be
awake to meet you. Can we offer you some coffee or refreshments?"
     "I'd prefer  we don't  pretend this is a social visit.  I  have another
plane to catch. Shall we get to business?"
     "Of course," the secretariat said. "You have acted more quickly than we
     "Have I?"
     "You still have a month."
     "You made  your concerns known  five months ago," Aringarosa said. "Why
should I wait?"
     "Indeed. We are very pleased with your expediency."
     Aringarosa's  eyes  traveled the length  of the long table  to  a large
black briefcase. "Is that what I requested?"
     "It  is." The  secretariat sounded  uneasy. "Although, I must admit, we
are concerned with the request. It seems quite..."
     "Dangerous," one of  the cardinals finished. "Are you certain we cannot
wire it to you somewhere? The sum is exorbitant."
     Freedom is  expensive. "I have  no concerns for  my own safety.  God is
with me."
     The men actually looked doubtful.
     "The funds are exactly as I requested?"
     The secretariat nodded.  "Large-denomination  bearer bonds drawn on the
Vatican Bank. Negotiable as cash anywhere in the world."
     Aringarosa  walked to  the end  of the  table and opened the briefcase.
Inside were two thick stacks of bonds, each embossed  with  the Vatican seal
and the title PORTATORE, making the bonds redeemable to whoever was  holding
     The secretariat looked tense. "I must say, Bishop, all of us would feel
less apprehensive if these funds were in cash."
     I could  not lift that much cash, Aringarosa thought, closing the case.
"Bonds are negotiable as cash. You said so yourself."
     The cardinals  exchanged uneasy looks, and finally one said, "Yes,  but
these bonds are traceable directly to the Vatican Bank."
     Aringarosa smiled inwardly.  That was precisely the  reason the Teacher
suggested  Aringarosa get  the  money in  Vatican Bank bonds. It  served  as
insurance.  We are all  in this together  now. "This is  a  perfectly  legal
transaction,"  Aringarosa defended.  "Opus Dei  is  a personal prelature  of
Vatican City, and  His Holiness can  disperse monies however he sees fit. No
law has been broken here."
     "True, and yet..." The secretariat leaned forward and his chair creaked
under the burden. "We have no  knowledge of what you intend to do with these
funds, and if it is in any way illegal..."
     "Considering what you are asking of me," Aringarosa countered, "what  I
do with this money is not your concern."
     There was a long silence.
     They know I'm  right, Aringarosa  thought. "Now,  I  imagine  you  have
something for me to sign?"
     They all  jumped,  eagerly  pushing  the paper toward him,  as  if they
wished he would simply leave.
     Aringarosa eyed the sheet before  him. It bore the papal seal. "This is
identical to the copy you sent me?"
     Aringarosa was surprised how little  emotion  he felt  as he signed the
document. The three men present, however, seemed to sigh in relief.
     "Thank you, Bishop," the secretariat said.  "Your service to the Church
will never be forgotten."
     Aringarosa picked up  the briefcase, sensing promise  and  authority in
its weight. The four men looked at one another for a moment as if there were
something more to  say, but apparently  there was not. Aringarosa turned and
headed for the door.
     "Bishop?"  one  of the  cardinals called  out as Aringarosa reached the
     Aringarosa paused, turning. "Yes?"
     "Where will you go from here?"
     Aringarosa  sensed the  query was more spiritual than geographical, and
yet he  had no intention of  discussing  morality at this hour.  "Paris," he
said, and walked out the door.

     The  Depository Bank  of Zurich was a twenty-four-hour Geldschrank bank
offering the full modern array of anonymous services in the tradition of the
Swiss numbered  account. Maintaining  offices  in Zurich, Kuala  Lumpur, New
York, and Paris, the bank had expanded its services in recent years to offer
anonymous  computer  source  code escrow  services  and  faceless  digitized
     The  bread  and  butter  of  its operation  was by  far  its oldest and
simplest offering--the  anonyme Lager--blind  drop services, otherwise known
as  anonymous safe-deposit  boxes. Clients wishing  to store  anything  from
stock certificates  to  valuable  paintings could  deposit  their belongings
anonymously,  through a  series of  high-tech veils  of privacy, withdrawing
items at any time, also in total anonymity.
     As Sophie pulled  the taxi  to a stop in  front  of  their destination,
Langdon gazed  out at the building's  uncompromising architecture and sensed
the Depository  Bank of Zurich  was a firm with little  sense  of humor. The
building was a  windowless rectangle that  seemed to be  forged entirely  of
dull steel. Resembling an  enormous metal brick, the edifice sat  back  from
the road with a fifteen-foot-tall,  neon, equilateral cross glowing over its
     Switzerland's reputation  for  secrecy in banking had become one of the
country's  most  lucrative   exports.  Facilities   like   this  had  become
controversial in the art community because they provided a perfect place for
art thieves to hide stolen goods, for years if necessary, until the heat was
off.  Because deposits were protected from police inspection by privacy laws
and were attached to numbered accounts rather  than  people's names, thieves
could rest  easily knowing  their stolen goods were  safe and could never be
traced to them.
     Sophie stopped  the  taxi at an imposing gate  that blocked the  bank's
driveway--a cement-lined ramp that descended  beneath the building. A  video
camera overhead was aimed directly at them, and Langdon had the feeling that
this camera, unlike those at the Louvre, was authentic.
     Sophie rolled down the window and surveyed the electronic podium on the
driver's side. An LCD screen provided directions in seven languages. Topping
the list was English.

     Sophie  took the  gold laser-pocked key from her  pocket and turned her
attention back to the podium. Below the screen was a triangular hole.
     "Something tells me it will fit," Langdon said.
     Sophie aligned the key's triangular shaft with the  hole  and  inserted
it,  sliding  it  in  until  the  entire  shaft  had  disappeared. This  key
apparently  required  no turning. Instantly,  the gate began  to swing open.
Sophie took her foot  off the  brake  and coasted down to a second  gate and
podium.  Behind her, the first gate closed,  trapping them  like a ship in a
     Langdon disliked the constricted sensation. Let's hope this second gate
works too.
     This second podium bore familiar directions.

     When  Sophie  inserted  the  key, the second  gate immediately  opened.
Moments later  they  were  winding  down the  ramp  into the  belly  of  the
     The private  garage was small and  dim, with  spaces  for about a dozen
cars.  At the  far end, Langdon  spied the building's  main  entrance. A red
carpet stretched across the cement floor,  welcoming visitors to a huge door
that appeared to be forged of solid metal.
     Talk about mixed messages, Langdon thought. Welcome and keep out.
     Sophie  pulled the  taxi  into a  parking space near the  entrance  and
killed the engine. "You'd better leave the gun here."
     With pleasure, Langdon thought, sliding the pistol under the seat.
     Sophie and Langdon got out and walked up the red carpet toward the slab
of  steel.  The door  had no handle, but on the wall  beside it  was another
triangular keyhole. No directions were posted this time.
     "Keeps out the slow learners," Langdon said.
     Sophie laughed, looking nervous. "Here we go." She stuck the key in the
hole, and the door  swung  inward with a low hum. Exchanging glances, Sophie
and Langdon entered. The door shut with a thud behind them.
     The foyer of the Depository Bank of Zurich employed as imposing a decor
as any Langdon had ever seen.  Where  most banks were content with the usual
polished marble and granite, this one had opted for  wall-to-wall metal  and
     Who's their decorator? Langdon wondered. Allied Steel?
     Sophie looked equally intimidated as her eyes scanned the lobby.
     The gray metal was everywhere--the floor, walls, counters, doors,  even
the lobby  chairs appeared to be fashioned of molded iron. Nonetheless,  the
effect was impressive. The message was clear: You are walking into a vault.
     A large  man behind the counter  glanced up as they  entered. He turned
off the small television  he was watching and greeted them  with a  pleasant
smile. Despite his enormous muscles and visible sidearm,  his diction chimed
with the polished courtesy of a Swiss bellhop.
     "Bonsoir," he said. "How may I help you?"
     The  dual-language greeting  was  the  newest hospitality trick of  the
European host.  It presumed nothing  and opened  the door for  the  guest to
reply in whichever language was more comfortable.
     Sophie  replied with neither.  She simply  laid  the  gold key  on  the
counter in front of the man.
     The man glanced down and immediately stood straighter. "Of course. Your
elevator  is  at the  end of the hall. I will alert  someone that you are on
your way."
     Sophie nodded and took her key back. "Which floor?"
     The man gave her an odd look. "Your key  instructs  the elevator  which
     She smiled. "Ah, yes."

     The guard watched as the two newcomers made their way to the elevators,
inserted their  key, boarded  the lift, and disappeared. As soon as the door
had  closed, he  grabbed the phone. He was  not  calling to  alert anyone of
their arrival; there was  no need for that. A vault greeter already had been
alerted  automatically  when  the client's key  was  inserted outside in the
entry gate.
     Instead,  the guard  was calling the  bank's night manager. As the line
rang, the guard switched the television back on and  stared at it.  The news
story he had been watching was just ending. It didn't matter. He got another
look at the two faces on the television.
     The manager answered. "Oui?"
     "We have a situation down here."
     "What's happening?" the manager demanded.
     "The French police are tracking two fugitives tonight."
     "Both of them just walked into our bank."
     The  manager  cursed  quietly.  "Okay.  I'll  contact  Monsieur  Vernet
     The guard then hung up and placed a second call. This one to Interpol.

     Langdon  was  surprised  to feel  the  elevator  dropping  rather  than
climbing. He had  no idea  how  many  floors they had descended  beneath the
Depository Bank of Zurich before the door finally opened. He didn't care. He
was happy to be out of the elevator.
     Displaying impressive alacrity, a host  was  already standing  there to
greet them.  He  was elderly and pleasant, wearing a neatly  pressed flannel
suit  that made  him  look  oddly  out of  place--an old-world banker  in  a
high-tech world.
     "Bonsoir,"  the man said. "Good evening.  Would  you be so  kind as  to
follow me, s'il vous plait?" Without waiting  for a response, he spun on his
heel and strode briskly down a narrow metal corridor.
     Langdon  walked with Sophie down  a series of  corridors,  past several
large rooms filled with blinking mainframe computers.
     "Voici," their host said,  arriving at a steel  door and opening it for
them. "Here you are."
     Langdon and Sophie stepped  into another  world. The small room  before
them looked like a lavish sitting room at a fine hotel. Gone were  the metal
and  rivets,  replaced  with  oriental  carpets,  dark  oak  furniture,  and
cushioned chairs. On the broad desk  in the middle of the room, two  crystal
glasses sat beside an opened bottle of Perrier, its bubbles still fizzing. A
pewter pot of coffee steamed beside it.
     Clockwork, Langdon thought. Leave it to the Swiss.
     The man gave a perceptive  smile. "I sense this is your  first visit to
     Sophie hesitated and then nodded.
     "Understood.   Keys  are  often  passed  on  as  inheritance,  and  our
first-time  users are invariably  uncertain of the protocol." He motioned to
the table of drinks. "This room is yours as long as you care to use it."
     "You say keys are sometimes inherited?" Sophie asked.
     "Indeed.  Your key  is like  a Swiss numbered account, which  are often
willed   through   generations.  On   our   gold   accounts,   the  shortest
safety-deposit box lease is  fifty years. Paid in  advance. So we see plenty
of family turnover."
     Langdon stared. "Did you say fifty years?"
     "At a minimum," their host replied. "Of course, you  can  purchase much
longer leases, but barring further arrangements, if there  is no activity on
an  account for fifty  years,  the  contents  of that  safe-deposit box  are
automatically destroyed. Shall I  run  through the process of accessing your
     Sophie nodded. "Please."
     Their  host swept  an  arm across  the luxurious salon.  "This  is your
private viewing room. Once  I leave the room, you may spend all the time you
need in here to  review and modify the contents of  your  safe-deposit  box,
which arrives...  over here."  He walked them to the  far wall where a  wide
conveyor  belt entered the room  in  a graceful  curve, vaguely resembling a
baggage claim carousel. "You insert your key in that slot there...." The man
pointed  to a large electronic podium facing  the conveyor  belt. The podium
had a familiar triangular hole. "Once the computer confirms  the markings on
your key, you enter your account  number, and  your safe-deposit box will be
retrieved robotically from the vault below for your inspection. When you are
finished with your box, you place  it back on the conveyor belt, insert your
key again,  and  the process is reversed.  Because everything is  automated,
your privacy is guaranteed, even from the  staff  of  this bank. If you need
anything at all, simply press the call button on  the table in the center of
the room."
     Sophie was about to ask  a  question  when a  telephone  rang. The  man
looked  puzzled and  embarrassed. "Excuse me, please." He walked over to the
phone, which was sitting on the table beside the coffee and Perrier.
     "Oui?" he answered.
     His  brow  furrowed  as  he  listened  to  the caller.  "Oui...  oui...
d'accord." He hung up,  and gave them an  uneasy  smile. "I'm  sorry, I must
leave you now. Make yourselves at home." He moved quickly toward the door.
     "Excuse me," Sophie called. "Could you clarify something before you go?
You mentioned that we enter an account number?"
     The  man  paused at the door, looking pale.  "But of course. Like  most
Swiss banks,  our safe-deposit boxes are  attached to a number, not  a name.
You have a key and a personal account number known only to you. Your  key is
only half of  your identification. Your personal account number is the other
half. Otherwise, if you lost your key, anyone could use it."
     Sophie hesitated. "And if my benefactor gave me no account number?"
     The banker's heart pounded. Then you obviously  have no  business here!
He  gave them a calm smile. "I will ask someone to help  you.  He will be in
     Leaving, the banker  closed the door  behind  him  and  twisted a heavy
lock, sealing them inside.

     Across town,  Collet was  standing  in the Gare du Nord train  terminal
when his phone rang.
     It was Fache. "Interpol got a tip," he said. "Forget the train. Langdon
and  Neveu  just walked into the  Paris branch of  the  Depository  Bank  of
Zurich. I want your men over there right away."
     "Any  leads yet on  what Sauniure  was trying to  tell  Agent Neveu and
Robert Langdon?"
     Fache's tone  was cold. "If you arrest them, Lieutenant Collet, then  I
can ask them personally."
     Collet took the  hint. "Twenty-four Rue Haxo.  Right away, Captain." He
hung up and radioed his men.

     Andru Vernet--president of  the Paris branch of the Depository  Bank of
Zurich--lived  in  a  lavish  flat  above   the  bank.  Despite   his  plush
accommodations, he had always  dreamed of owning  a riverside  apartment  on
L'lle Saint-Louis, where  he could rub shoulders with the true  cognoscenti,
rather than here, where he simply met the filthy rich.
     When  I retire,  Vernet told himself, I will fill my  cellar  with rare
Bordeaux,  adorn my salon with a  Fragonard and perhaps a Boucher, and spend
my days hunting for antique furniture and rare books in the Quartier Latin.
     Tonight, Vernet had been awake only six and a half minutes. Even so, as
he  hurried through  the  bank's  underground corridor,  he looked as if his
personal tailor and hairdresser had polished him to a fine sheen. Impeccably
dressed in a silk suit, Vernet sprayed  some  breath spray in his mouth  and
tightened his tie as he walked. No stranger to being awoken to attend to his
international clients arriving from different time zones, Vernet modeled his
sleep habits after the Maasai warriors--the African tribe famous  for  their
ability  to rise from the deepest sleep to a state of total battle readiness
in a matter of seconds.
     Battle  ready,  Vernet  thought,  fearing  the   comparison   might  be
uncharacteristically  apt tonight. The arrival of  a gold key  client always
required  an extra flurry of attention, but the arrival of a gold key client
who was wanted by the Judicial Police would be an extremely delicate matter.
The bank had enough  battles with law enforcement over the privacy rights of
their clients without proof that some of them were criminals.
     Five  minutes, Vernet told  himself. I need these people out of my bank
before the police arrive.
     If  he  moved  quickly,   this  impending  disaster   could  be  deftly
sidestepped. Vernet could tell the police that the fugitives in question had
indeed walked into  his bank as reported,  but because they were not clients
and had  no  account number, they  were  turned  away. He wished  the damned
watchman had not called Interpol. Discretion was apparently not part of  the
vocabulary of a 15-euro-per-hour watchman.
     Stopping  at the  doorway,  he  took  a deep  breath  and loosened  his
muscles. Then, forcing a balmy smile, he unlocked the door and  swirled into
the room like a warm breeze.
     "Good  evening," he  said,  his eyes finding his  clients. "I  am Andru
Vernet. How  can  I be  of serv--" The rest of the sentence lodged somewhere
beneath his Adam's apple. The  woman before him  was as unexpected a visitor
as Vernet had ever had.

     "I'm sorry, do we know each other?" Sophie asked. She did not recognize
the banker, but he for a moment looked as if he'd seen a ghost.
     "No...," the bank  president  fumbled.  "I  don't...  believe  so.  Our
services are  anonymous." He exhaled and forced a calm  smile. "My assistant
tells me you have a gold key but no account number? Might I ask how you came
by this key?"
     "My  grandfather gave  it  to me,"  Sophie replied,  watching  the  man
closely. His uneasiness seemed more evident now.
     "Really?  Your grandfather gave you  the key but failed to give you the
account number?"
     "I don't think he had time," Sophie said. "He was murdered tonight."
     Her words sent the man staggering backward. "Jacques Sauniure is dead?"
he demanded, his eyes filling with horror. "But... how?!"
     Now  it  was  Sophie  who  reeled,   numb  with  shock.  "You  knew  my
     Banker  Andru  Vernet  looked  equally astounded,  steadying himself by
leaning  on  an end  table. "Jacques and  I were dear friends. When did this
     "Earlier this evening. Inside the Louvre."
     Vernet walked to a deep leather chair and  sank into it. "I need to ask
you both a  very important question." He glanced up at Langdon and then back
to Sophie. "Did either of you have anything to do with his death?"
     "No!" Sophie declared. "Absolutely not."
     Vernet's face was  grim, and he  paused, pondering. "Your  pictures are
being  circulated  by Interpol. This is how I recognized you.  You're wanted
for a murder."
     Sophie slumped. Fache ran an Interpol broadcast already? It seemed  the
captain was more motivated  than Sophie had  anticipated. She  quickly  told
Vernet who Langdon was and what had happened inside the Louvre tonight.
     Vernet looked amazed. "And as your grandfather was dying, he left you a
message telling you to find Mr. Langdon?"
     "Yes. And  this key."  Sophie  laid the gold key on the coffee table in
front of Vernet, placing the Priory seal face down.
     Vernet  glanced  at the key but made no  move to touch it. "He left you
only this key? Nothing else? No slip of paper?"
     Sophie  knew  she had been in a  hurry inside the Louvre,  but  she was
certain she had seen nothing else behind Madonna of the Rocks. "No. Just the
     Vernet gave a helpless  sigh. "I'm afraid  every  key is electronically
paired with a ten-digit account number that functions as a password. Without
that number, your key is worthless."
     Ten digits. Sophie reluctantly calculated the cryptographic odds.  Over
ten  billion  possible  choices.  Even  if she  could  bring in DCPJ's  most
powerful parallel processing computers,  she still would need weeks to break
the code. "Certainly, monsieur, considering  the circumstances, you can help
     "I'm sorry. I truly  can  do nothing. Clients select their own  account
numbers via a secure terminal, meaning account numbers are known only to the
client and computer. This is one way we ensure anonymity.  And the safety of
our employees."
     Sophie understood. Convenience stores did the  same thing. EMPLOYEES DO
NOT  HAVE KEYS TO THE SAFE. This bank obviously did not want to risk someone
stealing a key and then holding an employee hostage for the account number.
     Sophie sat down beside Langdon, glanced down at the key and then  up at
Vernet. "Do you have any idea what my grandfather is storing in your bank?"
     "None whatsoever. That is the definition of a Geldschrank bank."
     "Monsieur Vernet," she pressed, "our time tonight is short. I  am going
to be very direct if I may." She reached  out to the gold key and flipped it
over, watching the man's eyes as she revealed the Priory of Sion seal. "Does
the symbol on this key mean anything to you?"
     Vernet glanced down at the fleur-de-lis seal and made no reaction. "No,
but many of our clients emboss corporate logos or initials onto their keys."
     Sophie sighed, still watching him carefully. "This seal is  the  symbol
of a secret society known as the Priory of Sion."
     Vernet  again  showed  no  reaction.  "I know  nothing  of  this.  Your
grandfather was a friend, but we spoke mostly of business." The man adjusted
his tie, looking nervous now.
     "Monsieur Vernet,"  Sophie  pressed,  her tone  firm.  "My  grandfather
called me tonight and told me he and  I were in grave danger. He said he had
to give me something.  He  gave  me a  key  to your  bank.  Now he  is dead.
Anything you can tell us would be helpful."
     Vernet broke a sweat.  "We need to get out of the building.  I'm afraid
the police will arrive shortly. My watchman felt obliged to call Interpol."
     Sophie had feared as much. She took one last shot. "My grandfather said
he needed  to tell me the truth about my family. Does  that mean anything to
     "Mademoiselle, your family died in a car accident when  you were young.
I'm sorry. I know your grandfather loved you  very  much. He mentioned to me
several times how much it pained him that you two had fallen out of touch."
     Sophie was uncertain how to respond.
     Langdon asked, "Do the contents  of  this account have  anything  to do
with the Sangreal?"
     Vernet gave him an odd look. "I have  no idea what that is." Just then,
Vernet's  cell  phone  rang, and he  snatched it off  his  belt.  "Oui?"  He
listened a moment,  his expression one  of surprise and growing concern. "La
police? Si rapidement?" He cursed, gave some quick directions in French, and
said he would be up to the lobby in a minute.
     Hanging up  the  phone,  he  turned back to  Sophie.  "The police  have
responded far more quickly than usual. They are arriving as we speak."
     Sophie had no intention of leaving empty-handed. "Tell them we came and
went already. If they want to search the bank, demand a search warrant. That
will take them time."
     "Listen," Vernet said, "Jacques was a friend, and my bank does not need
this  kind of press, so  for  those two  reasons,  I  have  no  intention of
allowing this arrest to be made on my premises. Give me a minute and  I will
see what  I can do  to help you  leave the  bank  undetected. Beyond that, I
cannot get involved." He stood up and hurried for the door. "Stay here. I'll
make arrangements and be right back."
     "But the safe-deposit box," Sophie declared. "We can't just leave."
     "There's nothing  I can do," Vernet said, hurrying out the  door.  "I'm
     Sophie stared after him a moment, wondering if maybe the account number
was buried in one of the countless letters and packages her  grandfather had
sent her over the years and which she had left unopened.
     Langdon  stood  suddenly, and  Sophie sensed  an unexpected glimmer  of
contentment in his eyes.
     "Robert? You're smiling."
     "Your grandfather was a genius."
     "I'm sorry?"
     "Ten digits?"
     Sophie had no idea what he was talking about.
     "The account number," he said, a familiar lopsided grin now craning his
face. "I'm pretty sure he left it for us after all."
     Langdon produced the printout of the crime  scene  photo and  spread it
out on the coffee  table. Sophie needed only to read the first line to  know
Langdon was correct.
     O, Draconian devil!
     Oh, lame saint!
     P.S. Find Robert Langdon

     "Ten  digits,"  Sophie  said,  her  cryptologic  senses tingling as she
studied the printout.
     Grand-pure wrote his account number on the Louvre floor!
     When  Sophie  had  first  seen the scrambled Fibonacci sequence  on the
parquet, she had assumed its sole purpose was to  encourage  DCPJ to call in
their  cryptographers  and  get  Sophie  involved. Later,  she realized  the
numbers were  also a  clue as to how to decipher the other lines--a sequence
out of order... a numeric anagram. Now, utterly amazed,  she saw the numbers
had a more important meaning still. They were almost certainly the final key
to opening her grandfather's mysterious safe-deposit box.
     "He was  the  master of  double-entendres,"  Sophie  said,  turning  to
Langdon. "He  loved anything  with multiple  layers of meaning. Codes within
     Langdon  was already  moving  toward  the  electronic  podium near  the
conveyor belt. Sophie grabbed the computer printout and followed.
     The  podium had a keypad similar  to  that of a bank ATM  terminal. The
screen  displayed  the  bank's  cruciform  logo.  Beside  the  keypad  was a
triangular hole.  Sophie wasted no time inserting the shaft of  her key into
the hole.
     The screen refreshed instantly.
     ACCOUNT NUMBER: _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

     The cursor blinked. Waiting.
     Ten digits. Sophie read the numbers off the printout, and Langdon typed
them in.
     ACCOUNT NUMBER: 1332211185

     When he had typed the last digit, the screen refreshed again. A message
in several languages appeared. English was on top.
     Before you strike the enter  key, please check  the  accuracy  of  your
account number.
     For your own security, if the computer does  not recognize your account
number, this system will automatically shut down.

     "Fonction terminer," Sophie said, frowning. "Looks like we only get one
try." Standard  ATM machines  allowed  users  three attempts to type  a  PIN
before confiscating  their bank  card. This  was  obviously no ordinary cash
     "The number  looks right,"  Langdon confirmed, carefully checking  what
they had typed and comparing  it to  the printout. He motioned to  the ENTER
key. "Fire away."
     Sophie extended  her index finger toward the keypad,  but hesitated, an
odd thought now hitting her.
     "Go ahead," Langdon urged. "Vernet will be back soon."
     "No." She pulled her hand away. "This isn't the right account number."
     "Of course it is! Ten digits. What else would it be?"
     "It's too random."
     Too  random? Langdon could not have disagreed more. Every bank  advised
its customers to choose PINs at random so nobody could guess them. Certainly
clients here would be advised to choose their account numbers at random.
     Sophie  deleted  everything  she had  just  typed in  and  looked up at
Langdon,  her  gaze  self-assured.  "It's  far  too  coincidental  that this
supposedly random account  number could be rearranged to form the  Fibonacci
     Langdon realized she  had a point.  Earlier, Sophie had rearranged this
account number into the Fibonacci sequence. What were the odds of being able
to do that?
     Sophie was at the keypad again, entering a different number, as if from
memory. "Moreover, with my  grandfather's  love of  symbolism and codes,  it
seems to follow that he would have chosen an account number that had meaning
to him, something  he could easily remember." She finished  typing the entry
and  gave a  sly smile. "Something that  appeared  random...  but  was not."
Langdon looked at the screen.
     ACCOUNT NUMBER: 1123581321

     It took him an instant, but  when Langdon spotted it,  he knew she  was
     The Fibonacci sequence.
     When the Fibonacci sequence was melded  into a single ten-digit number,
it  became  virtually  unrecognizable. Easy to remember,  and  yet seemingly
random.  A  brilliant  ten-digit  code  that  Sauniure  would  never forget.
Furthermore, it perfectly explained why  the scrambled numbers on the Louvre
floor could be rearranged to form the famous progression.
     Sophie reached down and pressed the ENTER key.
     Nothing happened.
     At least nothing they could detect.

     At  that moment, beneath  them,  in  the bank's cavernous  subterranean
vault, a  robotic  claw  sprang to life. Sliding on a  double-axis transport
system attached to the ceiling, the claw headed off  in search of the proper
coordinates. On the cement floor below, hundreds of identical plastic crates
lay  aligned  on  an  enormous grid... like  rows  of small  coffins  in  an
underground crypt.
     Whirring to a stop over the correct spot on the floor, the claw dropped
down, an  electric eye  confirming  the  bar code  on  the  box.  Then, with
computer precision, the claw grasped the  heavy handle and hoisted the crate
vertically.  New gears engaged, and the claw  transported the box to the far
side of the vault, coming to a stop over a stationary conveyor belt.
     Gently now, the retrieval arm set down the crate and retracted.
     Once the arm was clear, the conveyor belt whirred to life....

     Upstairs, Sophie and Langdon exhaled in relief to see the conveyor belt
move.  Standing beside the  belt, they  felt like weary travelers at baggage
claim awaiting a mysterious piece of luggage whose contents were unknown.
     The conveyor belt entered the room on their right through a narrow slit
beneath  a retractable door. The metal  door slid up, and a huge plastic box
appeared, emerging from the  depths on the  inclined conveyor belt. The  box
was black, heavy molded plastic, and far larger than she imagined. It looked
like an air-freight pet transport crate without any airholes.
     The box coasted to a stop directly in front of them.
     Langdon  and Sophie  stood  there, silent,  staring  at the  mysterious
     Like  everything else about this bank, this crate was industrial--metal
clasps, a bar code sticker on top,  and  molded  heavy-duty  handle.  Sophie
thought it looked like a giant toolbox.
     Wasting no time, Sophie unhooked  the two  buckles facing her. Then she
glanced over at Langdon. Together, they raised the heavy lid and let it fall
     Stepping forward, they peered down into the crate.
     At  first  glance, Sophie thought  the crate was empty.  Then  she  saw
something. Sitting at the bottom of the crate. A lone item.
     The polished wooden box was about the  size of a shoebox and had ornate
hinges.  The wood was a lustrous deep  purple with a strong grain. Rosewood,
Sophie realized. Her grandfather's favorite. The lid bore a beautiful inlaid
design of a  rose. She and Langdon exchanged puzzled looks. Sophie leaned in
and grabbed the box, lifting it out.
     My God, it's heavy!
     She carried it  gingerly  to a large  receiving table and set  it down.
Langdon stood beside her, both of them staring  at the small  treasure chest
her grandfather apparently had sent them to retrieve.
     Langdon  stared  in  wonderment  at  the   lid's  hand-carved  inlay--a
five-petal  rose. He  had seen this type of rose many times. "The five-petal
rose," he whispered, "is a Priory symbol for the Holy Grail."
     Sophie  turned  and  looked  at  him.  Langdon could see  what she  was
thinking,  and  he  was thinking it  too.  The  dimensions of  the box,  the
apparent  weight  of its  contents, and a Priory  symbol  for the  Grail all
seemed  to imply one unfathomable conclusion.  The Cup of Christ  is in this
wooden box. Langdon again told himself it was impossible.
     "It's a perfect size," Sophie whispered, "to hold... a chalice."
     It can't be a chalice.
     Sophie pulled the  box toward her across the  table,  preparing to open
it. As she  moved it, though, something unexpected happened. The box let out
an odd gurgling sound.
     Langdon did a double take. There's liquid inside?
     Sophie looked equally confused. "Did you just hear...?"
     Langdon nodded, lost. "Liquid."
     Reaching forward, Sophie slowly unhooked the clasp and raised the lid.
     The  object inside was unlike anything Langdon had ever seen. One thing
was immediately  clear to both of them, however. This was definitely not the
Cup of Christ.

     "The police are blocking  the street,"  Andru Vernet said, walking into
the waiting room. "Getting you out will be difficult." As he closed the door
behind him, Vernet saw the heavy-duty plastic case on the  conveyor belt and
halted in his tracks. My God! They accessed Sauniure's account?
     Sophie and Langdon were at the table, huddling over what looked to be a
large wooden jewelry box. Sophie  immediately closed the  lid and looked up.
"We had the account number after all," she said.
     Vernet  was  speechless.  This   changed  everything.  He  respectfully
diverted his eyes from the box and tried to figure out his next move. I have
to get them  out  of the bank! But with  the police already having set  up a
roadblock, Vernet  could imagine  only  one way  to do  that.  "Mademoiselle
Neveu, if  I can get you safely out of the bank, will you be taking the item
with you or returning it to the vault before you leave?"
     Sophie glanced at  Langdon and then  back to Vernet. "We  need to  take
     Vernet nodded. "Very  well. Then  whatever the item  is, I suggest  you
wrap it  in  your  jacket  as we  move through the  hallways. I would prefer
nobody else see it."
     As Langdon shed his  jacket, Vernet hurried over to the conveyor  belt,
closed  the  now  empty crate,  and typed  a  series of simple commands. The
conveyor belt  began moving again, carrying the plastic container  back down
to the vault. Pulling the gold key from the podium, he handed it to Sophie.
     "This way please. Hurry."
     When they reached the rear loading dock, Vernet could see  the flash of
police lights filtering through  the  underground  garage. He  frowned. They
were probably blocking the ramp. Am I really going  to try to pull this off?
He was sweating now.
     Vernet  motioned to one  of the bank's small armored  trucks. Transport
sur was another service offered by the Depository Bank of Zurich.
     "Get in  the cargo  hold," he said,  heaving open the massive rear door
and motioning to the glistening steel compartment. "I'll be right back."
     As Sophie and  Langdon climbed in,  Vernet hurried  across  the loading
dock to the dock overseer's office,  let himself  in, collected the keys for
the truck, and found a driver's uniform  jacket  and  cap. Shedding his  own
suit coat and tie, he began to put on the driver's jacket. Reconsidering, he
donned a shoulder holster beneath  the uniform. On his way out, he grabbed a
driver's pistol from the rack, put in a clip, and stuffed it in the holster,
buttoning his uniform over  it.  Returning  to the truck,  Vernet pulled the
driver's cap down low and peered in at Sophie and Langdon, who were standing
inside the empty steel box.
     "You'll want this on," Vernet said, reaching inside and flicking a wall
switch to  illuminate  the lone courtesy bulb  on the  hold's ceiling.  "And
you'd better sit down. Not a sound on our way out the gate."
     Sophie and  Langdon sat  down on  the metal  floor. Langdon cradled the
treasure wadded in his tweed jacket. Swinging the heavy doors closed, Vernet
locked them inside. Then he got in behind the wheel and revved the engine.
     As the armored truck lumbered toward the top of the ramp,  Vernet could
feel the sweat already collecting  beneath his driver's  cap.  He could  see
there  were far  more police lights  in  front  than he had imagined. As the
truck powered  up the ramp, the interior gate swung inward to let him  pass.
Vernet advanced and  waited while the  gate behind him closed before pulling
forward  and tripping the next sensor.  The second gate opened, and the exit
     Except for the police car blocking the top of the ramp.
     Vernet dabbed his brow and pulled forward.
     A  lanky officer stepped out and waved him to a stop a  few meters from
the roadblock. Four patrol cars were parked out front.
     Vernet stopped. Pulling his driver's cap down  farther,  he effected as
rough  a facade as his  cultured  upbringing  would allow. Not budging  from
behind the wheel, he opened the door and gazed down at the agent, whose face
was stern and sallow.
     "Qu'est-ce qui se passe?" Vernet asked, his tone rough.
     "Je  suis   Jurome  Collet,"  the  agent   said.   "Lieutenant   Police
Judiciaire." He  motioned to the truck's cargo hold. "Qu'est-ce qu'ily  a lu
     "Hell if I know," Vernet replied in crude French. "I'm only a driver."
     Collet looked unimpressed. "We're looking for two criminals."
     Vernet laughed. "Then  you came  to  the  right  spot.  Some  of  these
bastards I drive for have so much money they must be criminals."
     The agent held up  a passport picture of Robert Langdon. "Was this  man
in your bank tonight?"
     Vernet shrugged. "No clue. I'm  a  dock rat. They don't let us anywhere
near the clients. You need to go in and ask the front desk."
     "Your bank is demanding a search warrant before we can enter."
     Vernet put on a disgusted look. "Administrators. Don't get me started."
     "Open your truck, please." Collet motioned toward the cargo hold.
     Vernet  stared at the agent and forced  an obnoxious  laugh.  "Open the
truck? You think I have keys?  You think they  trust us? You should see  the
crap wages I get paid."
     The agent's head tilted  to one side,  his skepticism  evident. "You're
telling me you don't have keys to your own truck?"
     Vernet shook his head. "Not the cargo area. Ignition only. These trucks
get  sealed by overseers on the  loading  dock. Then  the truck sits in dock
while someone drives the cargo keys to the drop-off.  Once we get  the  call
that  the cargo keys are with the  recipient, then  I get the okay to drive.
Not a second before. I never know what the hell I'm lugging."
     "When was this truck sealed?"
     "Must have been  hours ago. I'm driving all  the way up to St.  Thurial
tonight. Cargo keys are already up there."
     The  agent made  no response,  his  eyes probing  as if trying  to read
Vernet's mind.
     A drop of sweat was preparing to slide down Vernet's nose.  "You mind?"
he said,  wiping his nose with his  sleeve and motioning  to the police  car
blocking his way. "I'm on a tight schedule."
     "Do  all the  drivers  wear  Rolexes?"  the  agent  asked, pointing  to
Vernet's wrist.
     Vernet  glanced  down and  saw  the  glistening  band of  his  absurdly
expensive watch  peeking  out from beneath  the sleeve of his jacket. Merde.
"This  piece of shit?  Bought it for twenty euro  from  a  Taiwanese  street
vendor in St. Germain des Prus. I'll sell it to you for forty."
     The  agent paused and finally  stepped aside.  "No thanks. Have a  safe
     Vernet did not breathe again until the truck  was  a good fifty  meters
down the street. And now he had  another problem. His cargo. Where do I take

     Silas lay prone on the canvas mat in his room, allowing the lash wounds
on his back to clot in the air. Tonight's second session with the Discipline
had  left  him dizzy and weak. He had yet to remove the  cilice belt, and he
could feel the blood trickling  down his  inner thigh. Still,  he  could not
justify removing the strap.
     I have failed the Church.
     Far worse, I have failed the bishop.
     Tonight was supposed  to be Bishop  Aringarosa's salvation. Five months
ago,  the bishop had returned  from a  meeting at the  Vatican  Observatory,
where he had learned something that  left him deeply changed. Depressed  for
weeks, Aringarosa had finally shared the news with Silas.
     "But this is impossible!" Silas had cried out. "I cannot accept it!"
     "It is true,"  Aringarosa  said. "Unthinkable,  but true.  In  only six
     The bishop's words terrified Silas. He prayed for deliverance, and even
in those dark days, his trust  in God and The Way never wavered. It was only
a  month  later  that  the  clouds  parted  miraculously  and  the  light of
possibility shone through.
     Divine intervention, Aringarosa had called it.
     The  bishop  had  seemed  hopeful  for  the  first  time.  "Silas,"  he
whispered, "God  has bestowed upon us an opportunity to protect The Way. Our
battle,  like all  battles, will take sacrifice. Will  you  be a  soldier of
     Silas fell to his knees before Bishop Aringarosa--the man who had given
him a new life--and he said, "I  am a lamb of God. Shepherd me as your heart
     When Aringarosa described  the  opportunity that had  presented itself,
Silas  knew  it could  only  be  the  hand of  God at work. Miraculous fate!
Aringarosa put  Silas  in contact with the man who had  proposed the plan--a
man who called himself the Teacher. Although the Teacher and Silas never met
face-to-face,  each  time they spoke by phone, Silas was awed,  both  by the
profundity of the Teacher's faith and by the scope of his power. The Teacher
seemed to be a man who knew all, a man with eyes and ears in all places. How
the Teacher gathered his information, Silas did not know, but Aringarosa had
placed enormous trust in the Teacher, and he had told Silas  to do the same.
"Do  as the Teacher commands  you," the  bishop told Silas. "And we  will be
     Victorious. Silas now  gazed  at the bare  floor and feared victory had
eluded them. The Teacher had  been tricked. The keystone was  a devious dead
end. And with the deception, all hope had vanished.
     Silas wished he could  call  Bishop Aringarosa and  warn  him, but  the
Teacher had removed all their lines of direct communication tonight. For our
     Finally, overcoming enormous trepidation, Silas crawled to his feet and
found  his robe, which lay on  the  floor. He  dug  his cell phone from  the
pocket. Hanging his head in shame, he dialed.
     "Teacher,"  he whispered, "all is lost." Silas truthfully  told the man
how he had been tricked.
     "You lose  your faith too  quickly,"  the Teacher replied. "I have just
received news.  Most  unexpected  and  welcome.  The  secret lives.  Jacques
Sauniure transferred information before he  died. I will call you  soon. Our
work tonight is not yet done."

     Riding  inside the dimly  lit cargo hold  of the armored truck was like
being transported inside a cell for solitary confinement. Langdon fought the
all too familiar anxiety that haunted him in confined spaces. Vernet said he
would take us a safe distance out of the city. Where? How far?
     Langdon's legs had gotten stiff from sitting cross-legged on  the metal
floor, and he shifted  his  position, wincing to feel the blood pouring back
into  his lower body. In his  arms,  he still  clutched the bizarre treasure
they had extricated from the bank.
     "I think we're on the highway now," Sophie whispered.
     Langdon sensed the same thing. The truck, after an unnerving pause atop
the bank ramp, had moved on, snaking left and right for a minute or two, and
was  now  accelerating  to  what  felt  like  top speed. Beneath  them,  the
bulletproof tires hummed on smooth  pavement. Forcing  his attention to  the
rosewood box in his arms,  Langdon laid the  precious  bundle  on the floor,
unwrapped his  jacket, and extracted the box, pulling it  toward him. Sophie
shifted  her position  so they were  sitting side by  side. Langdon suddenly
felt like they were two kids huddled over a Christmas present.
     In contrast to the warm colors of the rosewood box, the inlaid rose had
been crafted of  a pale wood, probably  ash,  which shone clearly in the dim
light. The Rose.  Entire armies and religions had been built on this symbol,
as had secret societies. The Rosicrucians. The Knights of the Rosy Cross.
     "Go ahead," Sophie said. "Open it."
     Langdon  took  a deep breath. Reaching  for the lid, he  stole one more
admiring glance at the intricate woodwork and then, unhooking  the clasp, he
opened the lid, revealing the object within.
     Langdon had  harbored  several  fantasies about  what  they  might find
inside this  box, but  clearly he had been  wrong on  every account. Nestled
snugly  inside  the box's heavily padded interior  of  crimson silk  lay  an
object Langdon could not even begin to comprehend.
     Crafted of polished white marble, it was a stone cylinder approximately
the dimensions of a tennis ball can. More  complicated than  a simple column
of stone,  however, the cylinder appeared  to  have been  assembled  in many
pieces. Six doughnut-sized disks of  marble had  been stacked and affixed to
one another within a delicate brass framework. It  looked like  some kind of
tubular, multiwheeled  kaleidoscope. Each  end of  the cylinder was  affixed
with an end cap,  also marble,  making it  impossible  to see inside. Having
heard liquid within, Langdon assumed the cylinder was hollow.
     As mystifying as the construction of the cylinder was,  however, it was
the  engravings around  the tube's circumference that drew Langdon's primary
focus.  Each  of the  six  disks  had  been  carefully carved with the  same
unlikely  series  of  letters--the entire alphabet.  The  lettered  cylinder
reminded Langdon of one of his childhood toys--a rod  threaded with lettered
tumblers that could be rotated to spell different words.
     "Amazing, isn't it?" Sophie whispered.
     Langdon glanced up. "I don't know. What the hell is it?"
     Now there was a glint in  Sophie's eye. "My grandfather  used to  craft
these as a hobby. They were invented by Leonardo da Vinci."
     Even in the diffuse light, Sophie could see Langdon's surprise.
     "Da Vinci?" he muttered, looking again at the canister.
     "Yes.  It's  called  a  cryptex.  According  to  my  grandfather,   the
blueprints come from one of Da Vinci's secret diaries."
     "What is it for?"
     Considering tonight's  events, Sophie knew  the answer might have  some
interesting  implications.  "It's  a vault," she said.  "For storing  secret
     Langdon's eyes widened further.
     Sophie explained  that creating models of Da Vinci's inventions was one
of her  grandfather's  best-loved hobbies.  A  talented craftsman  who spent
hours in his wood and metal shop, Jacques Sauniure  enjoyed imitating master
craftsmen--Fabergu, assorted cloisonne  artisans, and the less artistic, but
far more practical, Leonardo da Vinci.
     Even  a  cursory glance  through  Da Vinci's journals  revealed why the
luminary  was as  notorious for his  lack of follow-through as he was famous
for  his brilliance.  Da  Vinci  had drawn  up  blueprints  for  hundreds of
inventions he had  never built. One of  Jacques Sauniure's favorite pastimes
was bringing Da Vinci's more obscure brainstorms to  life--timepieces, water
pumps, cryptexes, and even  a fully articulated  model of a  medieval French
knight, which now stood proudly  on  the desk in his office. Designed  by Da
Vinci  in  1495 as  an  outgrowth of  his  earliest anatomy and  kinesiology
studies,  the  internal  mechanism  of the  robot knight possessed  accurate
joints and tendons, and was designed to  sit up, wave its arms, and move its
head via a  flexible neck  while opening and closing an anatomically correct
jaw.  This armor-clad  knight, Sophie  had  always  believed,  was  the most
beautiful object her grandfather had ever built... that  was,  until she had
seen the cryptex in this rosewood box.
     "He  made me one  of  these when I  was little," Sophie said. "But I've
never seen one so ornate and large."
     Langdon's eyes had never left the box. "I've never heard of a cryptex."
     Sophie  was not  surprised.  Most of Leonardo's  unbuilt inventions had
never been studied or even  named. The  term  cryptex possibly had been  her
grandfather's creation, an apt title for this  device that used the  science
of  cryptology to protect  information  written  on the contained scroll  or
     Da Vinci had been  a cryptology  pioneer,  Sophie knew, although he was
seldom  given credit.  Sophie's  university  instructors,  while  presenting
computer encryption  methods for securing data, praised modern cryptologists
like Zimmerman and Schneier but failed to mention  that  it was Leonardo who
had invented  one  of the first  rudimentary forms of  public key encryption
centuries ago. Sophie's grandfather, of course, had been the one to tell her
all about that.
     As their  armored  truck roared down the highway,  Sophie explained  to
Langdon  that the  cryptex  had been  Da  Vinci's solution to the dilemma of
sending secure messages over long distances. In an era without telephones or
e-mail, anyone wanting to convey private information to someone far away had
no  option  but  to  write it down and  then trust a messenger to  carry the
letter. Unfortunately,  if a  messenger suspected  the letter might  contain
valuable information,  he could make far more money  selling the information
to adversaries than he could delivering the letter properly.
     Many great minds in history had invented  cryptologic solutions to  the
challenge  of  data protection: Julius Caesar  devised a code-writing scheme
called the  Caesar Box;  Mary, Queen of Scots created a transposition cipher
and sent  secret communiquus from prison; and  the brilliant  Arab scientist
Abu  Yusuf  Ismail  al-Kindi  protected  his  secrets  with  an  ingeniously
conceived polyalphabetic substitution cipher.
     Da Vinci, however, eschewed mathematics and cryptology for a mechanical
solution.  The cryptex.  A portable container that could  safeguard letters,
maps,  diagrams,  anything at all. Once information  was  sealed inside  the
cryptex, only the individual with the proper password could access it.
     "We require a  password," Sophie said, pointing out the lettered dials.
"A  cryptex works much like a bicycle's combination lock. If you  align  the
dials in  the proper position, the  lock slides  open. This cryptex has five
lettered dials. When you rotate them to their proper sequence,  the tumblers
inside align, and the entire cylinder slides apart."
     "And inside?"
     "Once the cylinder slides apart, you have  access to  a hollow  central
compartment, which can  hold a scroll of  paper on which is  the information
you want to keep private."
     Langdon  looked incredulous. "And  you say your grandfather built these
for you when you were younger?"
     "Some smaller ones, yes. A couple  times for my birthday, he gave me  a
cryptex and told me a riddle. The answer to the riddle  was the  password to
the  cryptex, and once I  figured  it out,  I could open  it up and find  my
birthday card."
     "A lot of work for a card."
     "No, the cards always contained another riddle or clue. My  grandfather
loved creating elaborate treasure hunts around  our house, a string of clues
that  eventually led  to  my real  gift. Each treasure  hunt was  a  test of
character and merit, to ensure I earned my rewards. And the tests were never
     Langdon eyed  the device  again, still looking skeptical.  "But why not
just pry it apart? Or smash it?  The metal looks  delicate, and marble  is a
soft rock."
     Sophie smiled. "Because Da Vinci is too smart for that. He designed the
cryptex so  that if you try  to  force it open in any way,  the  information
self-destructs. Watch." Sophie reached into the box and carefully lifted out
the cylinder. "Any information to  be inserted is first written on a papyrus
     "Not vellum?"
     Sophie shook her head. "Papyrus. I know sheep's vellum was more durable
and  more common in those days, but  it  had to be papyrus. The thinner  the
     "Before the papyrus was inserted into the cryptex's compartment, it was
rolled around a delicate glass vial." She tipped the cryptex, and the liquid
inside gurgled. "A vial of liquid."
     "Liquid what?"
     Sophie smiled. "Vinegar."
     Langdon hesitated a moment and then began nodding. "Brilliant."
     Vinegar and papyrus, Sophie thought. If someone attempted to force open
the cryptex,  the  glass vial  would break,  and the  vinegar would  quickly
dissolve  the papyrus. By the time anyone extracted  the  secret message, it
would be a glob of meaningless pulp.
     "As you  can see,"  Sophie told  him,  "the  only  way  to  access  the
information inside is to know the proper five-letter password. And with five
dials, each with twenty-six letters, that's twenty-six to  the fifth power."
She  quickly  estimated  the  permutations.  "Approximately  twelve  million
     "If you say so," Langdon said, looking like he had approximately twelve
million  questions running through his head. "What information do  you think
is inside?"
     "Whatever it is,  my grandfather obviously wanted very badly to keep it
secret."  She  paused, closing the box lid and  eyeing the  five-petal  Rose
inlaid  on it. Something was  bothering  her.  "Did you say earlier that the
Rose is a symbol for the Grail?"
     "Exactly. In Priory symbolism, the Rose and the Grail are synonymous."
     Sophie  furrowed  her  brow.  "That's  strange, because my  grandfather
always told  me the Rose meant secrecy. He used to hang a rose on his office
door at home when he was having a confidential phone call and didn't want me
to disturb him.  He encouraged me to do the  same." Sweetie, her grandfather
said, rather than lock each other out, we can each hang a rose--la fleur des
secrets--on our door when we need privacy. This  way we learn to respect and
trust each other. Hanging a rose is an ancient Roman custom.
     "Sub  rosa," Langdon said.  "The Romans hung  a  rose  over meetings to
indicate the meeting  was confidential.  Attendees  understood that whatever
was said under the rose--or sub rosa--had to remain a secret."
     Langdon quickly  explained that the Rose's overtone  of secrecy was not
the only reason the Priory used it as a  symbol for the Grail.  Rosa rugosa,
one of  the oldest species of rose, had five petals and pentagonal symmetry,
just  like the guiding  star of Venus, giving the  Rose strong  iconographic
ties to womanhood.  In addition, the  Rose had close ties to the  concept of
"true direction" and navigating one's way. The Compass Rose helped travelers
navigate,  as  did Rose Lines,  the  longitudinal lines on  maps.  For  this
reason,  the  Rose   was  a  symbol   that   spoke  of  the  Grail  on  many
levels--secrecy,  womanhood, and guidance--the feminine chalice  and guiding
star that led to secret truth.
     As Langdon finished his  explanation, his expression  seemed to tighten
     "Robert? Are you okay?"
     His eyes were riveted to  the rosewood box. "Sub... rosa," he choked, a
fearful bewilderment sweeping across his face. "It can't be."
     Langdon slowly  raised  his eyes.  "Under  the  sign of the  Rose,"  he
whispered. "This cryptex... I think I know what it is."

     Langdon  could   scarcely  believe  his   own   supposition,  and  yet,
considering  who had given this  stone cylinder to them, how he had given it
to them, and now, the  inlaid Rose on the container, Langdon could formulate
only one conclusion.
     I am holding the Priory keystone.
     The legend was specific.
     The  keystone is  an encoded stone that  lies beneath the  sign  of the
     "Robert?" Sophie was watching him. "What's going on?"
     Langdon needed a  moment to  gather his thoughts. "Did your grandfather
ever speak to you of something called la clef de voute?"
     "The key to the vault?" Sophie translated.
     "No,  that's  the  literal  translation.  Clef  de voute  is  a  common
architectural term. Voute refers not  to  a bank vault, but to a vault in an
archway. Like a vaulted ceiling."
     "But vaulted ceilings don't have keys."
     "Actually they do. Every stone archway requires a central, wedge-shaped
stone at the top which locks the pieces together and carries all the weight.
This stone is,  in an architectural sense,  the key to the vault. In English
we  call  it  a  keystone."  Langdon  watched  her  eyes  for  any spark  of
     Sophie shrugged,  glancing down  at the cryptex. "But this obviously is
not a keystone."
     Langdon  didn't know where to begin.  Keystones as a  masonry technique
for  building stone  archways  had been one of the best-kept  secrets of the
early Masonic brotherhood. The Royal Arch Degree.  Architecture.  Keystones.
It was  all  interconnected. The  secret  knowledge of  how to  use a wedged
keystone to build a vaulted archway was part of the wisdom that had made the
Masons  such wealthy craftsmen, and it was a secret  they guarded carefully.
Keystones had always had a tradition of secrecy. And yet, the stone cylinder
in the  rosewood box  was obviously something quite  different.  The  Priory
keystone--if  this was indeed what  they  were holding--was not  at all what
Langdon had imagined.
     "The Priory  keystone is  not  my  specialty,"  Langdon  admitted.  "My
interest in the Holy Grail  is primarily symbologic, so I tend to ignore the
plethora of lore regarding how to actually find it."
     Sophie's eyebrows arched. "Find the Holy Grail?"
     Langdon gave an uneasy nod, speaking his next words carefully. "Sophie,
according  to  Priory  lore, the keystone  is an  encoded map... a map  that
reveals the hiding place of the Holy Grail."
     Sophie's face went blank. "And you think this is it?"
     Langdon didn't  know what to  say. Even to him it sounded unbelievable,
and  yet  the  keystone was the only logical conclusion he  could muster. An
encrypted stone, hidden beneath the sign of the Rose.
     The   idea  that  the  cryptex  had  been  designed   by  Leonardo   da
Vinci--former   Grand  Master  of  the  Priory  of  Sion--shone  as  another
tantalizing indicator  that this was  indeed the Priory keystone.  A  former
Grand Master's  blueprint... brought  to  life  centuries later  by  another
Priory member. The bond was too palpable to dismiss.
     For the last decade, historians had been searching for the keystone  in
French  churches. Grail seekers,  familiar  with  the  Priory's  history  of
cryptic  double-talk,  had  concluded   la  clef  de  voute  was  a  literal
keystone--an architectural wedge--an  engraved,  encrypted  stone,  inserted
into  a vaulted archway  in a  church.  Beneath  the  sign of  the  Rose. In
architecture, there was no shortage of roses. Rose windows. Rosette reliefs.
And, of  course, an  abundance  of  cinquefoils--the five-petaled decorative
flowers often found at the top of archways, directly over the keystone.  The
hiding  place  seemed  diabolically  simple. The  map to  the Holy Grail was
incorporated high in an archway of some forgotten church, mocking  the blind
churchgoers who wandered beneath it.
     "This cryptex can't  be the keystone,"  Sophie  argued.  "It's  not old
enough.  I'm  certain my grandfather  made this.  It  can't be part  of  any
ancient Grail legend."
     "Actually,"  Langdon  replied,  feeling  a tingle of excitement  ripple
through him, "the keystone is  believed  to  have been created by the Priory
sometime in the past couple of decades."
     Sophie's  eyes flashed disbelief. "But  if  this  cryptex  reveals  the
hiding place of the  Holy Grail, why would  my grandfather give  it to me? I
have  no  idea how to open it or what to do with  it. I don't even know what
the Holy Grail is!"
     Langdon realized to his surprise that she was right. He had not yet had
a chance to explain to Sophie the true  nature of the Holy Grail. That story
would have to wait. At the moment, they were focused on the keystone.
     If that is indeed what this is....
     Against the hum of the bulletproof wheels beneath them, Langdon quickly
explained to Sophie everything  he had heard about  the keystone. Allegedly,
for  centuries,  the Priory's  biggest  secret--the  location  of  the  Holy
Grail--was  never  written  down.  For  security's  sake,  it  was  verbally
transferred  to each new rising sunuchal at a clandestine ceremony. However,
at some point during the last century, whisperings began to surface that the
Priory  policy  had  changed. Perhaps  it  was on account of new  electronic
eavesdropping capabilities, but the Priory vowed never again  even to  speak
the location of the sacred hiding place.
     "But then how could they pass on the secret?" Sophie asked.
     "That's where  the keystone comes in," Langdon explained.  "When one of
the top four members  died, the remaining three would  choose from the lower
echelons the next candidate to ascend  as sunuchal. Rather than  telling the
new sunuchal where the Grail was hidden, they  gave him a test through which
he could prove he was worthy."
     Sophie  looked  unsettled by  this, and Langdon  suddenly recalled  her
mentioning how her grandfather used to make treasure  hunts for her--preuves
de murite. Admittedly, the keystone was a similar concept. Then again, tests
like this were extremely common in secret societies. The best known was  the
Masons',  wherein members ascended to higher degrees by  proving they  could
keep a secret and by performing rituals and various tests of merit over many
years.  The tasks became progressively  harder  until  they culminated in  a
successful candidate's induction as thirty-second-degree Mason.
     "So the keystone is a  preuve de  murite,"  Sophie said.  "If a  rising
Priory sunuchal can open it, he proves himself worthy of the  information it
     Langdon  nodded.  "I forgot  you'd had experience  with  this  sort  of
     "Not  only  with  my  grandfather.  In  cryptology,   that's  called  a
'self-authorizing language.' That  is, if you're smart  enough  to  read it,
you're permitted to know what is being said."
     Langdon hesitated a moment. "Sophie, you realize that if this is indeed
the keystone,  your grandfather's access to it implies  he was exceptionally
powerful within the Priory  of Sion. He would have to have been one  of  the
highest four members."
     Sophie sighed. "He was powerful in a secret society. I'm certain of it.
I can only assume it was the Priory."
     Langdon did a double take. "You knew he was in a secret society?"
     "I saw some things I wasn't  supposed to see ten years  ago. We haven't
spoken since." She paused. "My grandfather was not only a ranking top member
of the group... I believe he was the top member."
     Langdon could not believe what she had just said. "Grand Master? But...
there's no way you could know that!"
     "I'd rather  not talk about it." Sophie looked away, her expression  as
determined as it was pained.
     Langdon sat in stunned silence. Jacques Sauniure? Grand Master? Despite
the  astonishing repercussions  if  it were  true,  Langdon  had  the  eerie
sensation  it almost  made perfect sense.  After  all, previous Priory Grand
Masters had  also  been  distinguished public  figures with  artistic souls.
Proof of  that fact had been  uncovered years ago  in  Paris's  Bibliothuque
Nationale in papers that became known as Les Dossiers Secrets.
     Every Priory historian and Grail buff had read  the Dossiers. Cataloged
under  Number  4   lm1  249,  the   Dossiers  Secrets  had  been
authenticated  by  many  specialists  and  incontrovertibly  confirmed  what
historians  had suspected for  a long time:  Priory Grand  Masters  included
Leonardo  da Vinci,  Botticelli, Sir  Isaac Newton, Victor  Hugo,  and, more
recently, Jean Cocteau, the famous Parisian artist.
     Why not Jacques Sauniure?
     Langdon's incredulity intensified with the realization that he had been
slated  to meet Sauniure tonight. The  Priory Grand  Master called a meeting
with  me. Why? To  make artistic small  talk? It  suddenly  seemed unlikely.
After  all,  if  Langdon's  instincts were correct, the Grand Master of  the
Priory of Sion had just transferred the brotherhood's legendary  keystone to
his granddaughter and simultaneously commanded her to find Robert Langdon.
     Langdon's imagination could conjure no set of circumstances that  would
explain Sauniure's  behavior. Even if  Sauniure feared his own death,  there
were  three sunuchaux who also possessed the secret and therefore guaranteed
the Priory's security. Why would Sauniure take such  an enormous risk giving
his granddaughter  the keystone, especially  when the two of them didn't get
along? And why involve Langdon... a total stranger?
     A piece of this puzzle is missing, Langdon thought.
     The answers  were  apparently going  to have to  wait. The sound of the
slowing engine caused  them both to look  up.  Gravel  crunched  beneath the
tires.  Why is he pulling  over  already?  Langdon wondered. Vernet had told
them he  would  take  them  well  outside  the  city  to safety.  The  truck
decelerated  to a  crawl and made its way over  unexpectedly rough  terrain.
Sophie  shot Langdon an uneasy look,  hastily  closing  the cryptex  box and
latching it. Langdon slipped his jacket back on.
     When the truck came to  a stop, the engine remained idling as the locks
on  the  rear  doors began to  turn.  When the doors swung open, Langdon was
surprised  to  see  they  were parked in  a wooded area, well off  the road.
Vernet stepped into view, a strained look in his eye. In his hand, he held a
     "I'm sorry about this," he said. "I really have no choice."

     Andru Vernet looked awkward with a pistol, but  his  eyes  shone with a
determination that Langdon sensed would be unwise to test.
     "I'm afraid I must insist," Vernet said, training the weapon on the two
of them in the back of the idling truck. "Set the box down."
     Sophie clutched the box to her chest. "You said you and my  grandfather
were friends."
     "I have  a  duty to protect your grandfather's assets," Vernet replied.
"And that is exactly what I am doing. Now set the box on the floor."
     "My grandfather entrusted this to me!" Sophie declared.
     "Do it," Vernet commanded, raising the gun.
     Sophie set the box at her feet.
     Langdon watched the gun barrel swing now in his direction.
     "Mr. Langdon," Vernet said, "you will bring the box  over to me. And be
aware that I'm asking you because you I would not hesitate to shoot."
     Langdon stared at the banker in disbelief. "Why are you doing this?"
     "Why  do you imagine?" Vernet snapped, his  accented English terse now.
"To protect my client's assets."
     "We are your clients now," Sophie said.
     Vernet's visage turned ice-cold, an eerie transformation. "Mademoiselle
Neveu, I don't know how you got that key and account number  tonight, but it
seems obvious that foul play was involved.  Had  I known the extent  of your
crimes, I would never have helped you leave the bank."
     "I told you," Sophie said, "we had nothing to  do with my grandfather's
     Vernet looked at Langdon. "And yet the  radio claims you are wanted not
only for the murder of Jacques Sauniure but for those of three other  men as
     "What!" Langdon was thunderstruck. Three more murders? The coincidental
number hit him harder than the fact that he was the prime suspect. It seemed
too  unlikely  to be  a coincidence.  The  three sunuchaux?  Langdon's  eyes
dropped to the rosewood box. If the sunuchaux were murdered, Sauniure had no
options. He had to transfer the keystone to someone.
     "The police can sort that out when I turn you in," Vernet said. "I have
gotten my bank involved too far already."
     Sophie glared at Vernet. "You obviously have no intention of turning us
in.  You would have driven us back to the bank. And instead you bring us out
here and hold us at gunpoint?"
     "Your grandfather hired me for one reason--to keep his possessions both
safe and private. Whatever this box contains, I have no intention of letting
it become a  piece  of  cataloged evidence in  a police  investigation.  Mr.
Langdon, bring me the box."
     Sophie shook her head. "Don't do it."
     A gunshot  roared,  and a bullet tore  into the  wall  above  him.  The
reverberation  shook the back of the truck as a spent shell clinked onto the
cargo floor.
     Shit! Langdon froze.
     Vernet spoke more confidently now. "Mr. Langdon, pick up the box."
     Langdon lifted the box.
     "Now  bring it over to me." Vernet was taking dead aim, standing on the
ground behind the rear bumper, his gun outstretched into the cargo hold now.
     Box in hand, Langdon moved across the hold toward the open door.
     I've got to do something! Langdon thought.  I'm about  to hand over the
Priory keystone! As Langdon moved toward the doorway, his position of higher
ground became more pronounced,  and  he began wondering if  he could somehow
use it to his advantage. Vernet's gun, though raised, was at Langdon's  knee
level. A well-placed kick perhaps? Unfortunately,  as Langdon neared, Vernet
seemed to sense the dangerous dynamic developing, and he took  several steps
back, repositioning himself six feet away. Well out of reach.
     Vernet commanded, "Place the box beside the door."
     Seeing no options, Langdon knelt down  and set the rosewood box  at the
edge of the cargo hold, directly in front of the open doors.
     "Now stand up."
     Langdon began to stand  up  but  paused, spying the small, spent pistol
shell on the floor beside the truck's precision-crafted doorsill.
     "Stand up, and step away from the box."
     Langdon  paused a  moment longer,  eyeing the  metal threshold. Then he
stood. As  he did, he  discreetly brushed the  shell over  the edge onto the
narrow  ledge that was the  door's  lower sill. Fully  upright  now, Langdon
stepped backward.
     "Return to the back wall and turn around."
     Langdon obeyed.

     Vernet could feel his own heart pounding. Aiming the gun with his right
hand, he reached now with his left for the wooden box. He discovered that it
was far too heavy. I need two hands. Turning his  eyes back to his captives,
he calculated the risk. Both were  a good fifteen feet  away, at the far end
of the cargo hold, facing away from him.  Vernet made up his mind.  Quickly,
he laid down the gun on the bumper, lifted the  box with two hands,  and set
it on the ground, immediately grabbing the gun again and aiming it back into
the hold. Neither of his prisoners had moved.
     Perfect. Now  all that remained was to close and lock the door. Leaving
the box on the ground for the moment, he grabbed the metal door and began to
heave  it closed. As the door swung past him, Vernet reached up to grab  the
single bolt that  needed to be slid into place. The door closed with a thud,
and Vernet quickly grabbed the bolt, pulling it to the left. The bolt slid a
few  inches  and  crunched  to an  unexpected halt, not  lining  up with its
sleeve. What's  going on? Vernet pulled again, but  the bolt  wouldn't lock.
The mechanism was not properly aligned. The door isn't fully closed! Feeling
a surge of panic, Vernet shoved hard against the outside of the door, but it
refused  to  budge.  Something is  blocking it! Vernet turned to  throw full
shoulder into  the door,  but this time the  door exploded outward, striking
Vernet in the  face and  sending him reeling backward onto the  ground,  his
nose  shattering in pain.  The gun flew as Vernet  reached for his face  and
felt the warm blood running from his nose.
     Robert Langdon hit the ground somewhere nearby, and Vernet tried to get
up, but he  couldn't see.  His  vision blurred and  he  fell backward again.
Sophie  Neveu was shouting. Moments later,  Vernet felt  a cloud of dirt and
exhaust billowing over him.  He heard the crunching of tires  on gravel  and
sat up  just  in time to see the truck's wide  wheelbase  fail to navigate a
turn. There was  a crash as  the  front  bumper clipped a tree.  The  engine
roared,  and  the tree bent. Finally, it was the  bumper that gave,  tearing
half  off. The armored car lurched away, its front bumper dragging. When the
truck reached  the  paved access road, a  shower of sparks lit up the night,
trailing the truck as it sped away.
     Vernet  turned  his eyes back to the ground  where the  truck had  been
parked. Even in the faint moonlight he could see there was nothing there.
     The wooden box was gone.

     The  unmarked  Fiat  sedan  departing Castel  Gandolfo  snaked downward
through  the  Alban Hills into the valley below.  In the  back  seat, Bishop
Aringarosa smiled, feeling  the  weight of the bearer bonds in the briefcase
on  his lap  and wondering  how long it would be  before  he and the Teacher
could make the exchange.
     Twenty million euro.
     The sum would buy Aringarosa power far more valuable than that.
     As  his  car  sped  back  toward  Rome, Aringarosa again  found himself
wondering  why the Teacher had not yet contacted him. Pulling his cell phone
from his cassock pocket, he checked the carrier signal. Extremely faint.
     "Cell service is intermittent up  here," the driver  said,  glancing at
him in the rearview mirror. "In about  five  minutes,  we'll  be out  of the
mountains, and service improves."
     "Thank you." Aringarosa  felt a sudden surge of concern.  No service in
the mountains? Maybe the Teacher had been trying to reach him all this time.
Maybe something had gone terribly wrong.
     Quickly,  Aringarosa checked the  phone's  voice  mail.  Nothing.  Then
again, he realized, the Teacher never would have left a recorded message; he
was a man who took enormous care  with his communications. Nobody understood
better than the Teacher the perils of speaking  openly in this modern world.
Electronic eavesdropping had played a major role in how he had gathered  his
astonishing array of secret knowledge.
     For this reason, he takes extra precautions.
     Unfortunately,  the Teacher's protocols for caution  included a refusal
to  give  Aringarosa any  kind of  contact  number.  I alone  will  initiate
contact, the Teacher  had  informed him. So keep your  phone close. Now that
Aringarosa  realized  his phone  might  not  have been working properly,  he
feared what the  Teacher might think if he had been  repeatedly phoning with
no answer.
     He'll think something is wrong.
     Or that I failed to get the bonds.
     The bishop broke a light sweat.
     Or worse... that I took the money and ran!

     Even at a modest sixty kilometers an hour, the dangling front bumper of
the armored  truck grated against the deserted suburban road with a grinding
roar, spraying sparks up onto the hood.
     We've got to get off the road, Langdon thought.
     He  could barely  even  see  where  they were headed. The truck's  lone
working headlight  had been knocked  off-center and  was  casting  a  skewed
sidelong  beam into  the  woods beside the country  highway.  Apparently the
armor  in this "armored truck"  referred only  to the cargo hold and not the
front end.
     Sophie sat in  the passenger  seat, staring blankly at the rosewood box
on her lap.
     "Are you okay?" Langdon asked.
     Sophie looked shaken. "Do you believe him?"
     "About the three  additional murders? Absolutely. It answers  a lot  of
questions--the issue  of  your  grandfather's desperation  to  pass  on  the
keystone, as well as the intensity with which Fache is hunting me."
     "No, I meant about Vernet trying to protect his bank."
     Langdon glanced over. "As opposed to?"
     "Taking the keystone for himself."
     Langdon had not even  considered it. "How  would he even know what this
box contains?"
     "His bank stored it. He knew my  grandfather. Maybe he knew things.  He
might have decided he wanted the Grail for himself."
     Langdon  shook  his  head.  Vernet  hardly  seemed  the  type.  "In  my
experience, there are only two reasons people  seek the  Grail.  Either they
are naive and believe they are searching for the long-lost Cup of Christ..."
     "Or  they  know  the  truth  and are  threatened  by  it.  Many  groups
throughout history have sought to destroy the Grail."
     The silence between  them accentuated the sound of the scraping bumper.
They had driven a few kilometers now, and as Langdon watched the cascade  of
sparks coming off  the  front of the truck, he wondered if it was dangerous.
Either way, if they passed another  car, it would certainly  draw attention.
Langdon made up his mind.
     "I'm going to see if I can bend this bumper back."
     Pulling onto the shoulder, he brought the truck to a stop.
     Silence at last.
     As Langdon walked  toward the front of  the truck, he felt surprisingly
alert.  Staring into the  barrel of yet another gun tonight had given  him a
second  wind. He took a deep  breath of  nighttime air and tried  to get his
wits about him. Accompanying the gravity of being a hunted man, Langdon  was
starting to feel the ponderous  weight of responsibility, the prospect  that
he and Sophie might actually  be  holding  an encrypted set of directions to
one of the most enduring mysteries of all time.
     As if  this burden were not great enough, Langdon now realized that any
possibility  of finding a way to return  the keystone to the Priory had just
evaporated. News of the  three additional murders had dire implications. The
Priory  has  been infiltrated. They  are compromised.  The  brotherhood  was
obviously being watched, or there  was a mole within the ranks. It seemed to
explain  why Sauniure  might  have  transferred  the keystone to Sophie  and
Langdon--people   outside  the  brotherhood,  people   he   knew  were   not
compromised. We can't  very well give the keystone back to  the brotherhood.
Even if Langdon had any idea how to  find a Priory member, chances were good
that whoever  stepped  forward  to  take the  keystone  could  be the  enemy
himself. For the moment,  at least, it seemed the keystone was in Sophie and
Langdon's hands, whether they wanted it or not.
     The truck's front end looked worse than Langdon had imagined. The  left
headlight was gone, and the right  one looked  like an eyeball dangling from
its  socket. Langdon straightened it, and it dislodged  again. The only good
news was that the front bumper had been torn  almost clean off. Langdon gave
it a hard kick and sensed he might be able to break it off entirely.
     As he repeatedly kicked the twisted metal, Langdon recalled his earlier
conversation with Sophie. My grandfather left me a phone message, Sophie had
told him.  He  said he needed to  tell me  the truth about my family. At the
time it had meant nothing, but now, knowing the Priory of Sion was involved,
Langdon felt a startling new possibility emerge.
     The bumper broke off suddenly with a crash. Langdon paused to catch his
breath.  At least the  truck would  no longer look  like  a  Fourth  of July
sparkler. He grabbed the  bumper and began dragging it out of sight into the
woods, wondering where they should go next. They had no idea how to open the
cryptex, or why Sauniure had given it to them. Unfortunately, their survival
tonight seemed to depend on getting answers to those very questions.
     We need help, Langdon decided. Professional help.
     In the world of the Holy Grail  and the Priory of Sion, that meant only
one man. The challenge, of course, would be selling the idea to Sophie.

     Inside the armored car, while Sophie waited for Langdon  to return, she
could feel the weight of the  rosewood  box on  her lap and resented it. Why
did my grandfather give this to me? She had not  the slightest idea  what to
do with it.
     Think,  Sophie!  Use  your head.  Grand-pure  is  trying  to  tell  you
     Opening the  box, she eyed the  cryptex's dials. A proof  of merit. She
could feel her grandfather's hand at work. The keystone is a map that can be
followed only by the worthy. It sounded like her grandfather to the core.
     Lifting  the  cryptex out  of the box, Sophie ran her fingers over  the
dials. Five letters. She rotated the dials one by  one. The mechanism  moved
smoothly.  She  aligned  the disks  such that  her chosen  letters lined  up
between  the cryptex's  two  brass  alignment arrows on  either  end  of the
cylinder. The dials  now spelled  a five-letter  word that  Sophie  knew was
absurdly obvious.
     Gently,  she  held the  two ends  of  the cylinder and pulled, applying
pressure  slowly. The  cryptex  didn't budge. She  heard  the vinegar inside
gurgle and stopped pulling. Then she tried again.
     Again, no movement.
     Nothing. The cryptex remained locked solid.
     Frowning,  she replaced  it  in the  rosewood  box and closed the  lid.
Looking outside at Langdon, Sophie felt grateful  he  was with her  tonight.
P.S. Find Robert Langdon.  Her grandfather's rationale for including him was
now   clear.  Sophie  was  not  equipped  to  understand  her  grandfather's
intentions, and so  he  had assigned Robert Langdon as her guide. A tutor to
oversee her education. Unfortunately  for Langdon,  he had turned out to  be
far more than a tutor tonight. He had become the target of Bezu Fache... and
some unseen force intent on possessing the Holy Grail.
     Whatever the Grail turns out to be.
     Sophie wondered if finding out was worth her life.

     As  the armored truck  accelerated again, Langdon was  pleased how much
more smoothly it drove. "Do you know how to get to Versailles?"
     Sophie eyed him. "Sightseeing?"
     "No, I have a plan. There's a religious historian I know who lives near
Versailles. I can't remember exactly where, but we can look it up. I've been
to his estate a few times. His name is Leigh Teabing. He's a  former British
Royal Historian."
     "And he lives in Paris?"
     "Teabing's life  passion is the  Grail. When whisperings of the  Priory
keystone  surfaced  about  fifteen years ago, he moved to France  to  search
churches in hopes of finding it. He's written some books on the keystone and
the Grail. He may be able to help us figure  out how to  open it and what to
do with it."
     Sophie's eyes were wary. "Can you trust him?"
     "Trust him to what? Not steal the information?"
     "And not to turn us in."
     "I don't intend  to tell  him  we're wanted by the police.  I'm  hoping
he'll take us in until we can sort all this out."
     "Robert, has  it occurred  to you  that  every television  in France is
probably getting ready to broadcast our pictures? Bezu Fache always uses the
media  to  his  advantage.  He'll  make it impossible for us  to move around
without being recognized."
     Terrific, Langdon thought. My French TV debut will be  on "Paris's Most
Wanted." At least  Jonas  Faukman would  be pleased; every time Langdon made
the news, his book sales jumped.
     "Is this man a good enough friend?" Sophie asked.
     Langdon doubted  Teabing was someone who watched television, especially
at  this  hour, but still the question deserved consideration. Instinct told
Langdon that  Teabing would  be  totally trustworthy. An ideal  safe harbor.
Considering the circumstances, Teabing  would probably trip over himself  to
help them  as  much as possible.  Not only did he  owe Langdon  a favor, but
Teabing was a Grail researcher, and Sophie  claimed her grandfather  was the
actual Grand Master of the Priory of Sion. If  Teabing heard that, he  would
salivate at the thought of helping them figure this out.
     "Teabing could be a powerful ally," Langdon said. Depending on how much
you want to tell him.
     "Fache probably will be offering a monetary reward."
     Langdon laughed. "Believe me, money is the  last thing this guy needs."
Leigh  Teabing  was wealthy  in  the  way  small countries  were wealthy.  A
descendant  of  Britain's First  Duke  of Lancaster,  Teabing had gotten his
money the old-fashioned way--he'd inherited it. His estate outside of  Paris
was a seventeenth-century palace with two private lakes.
     Langdon  had  first  met Teabing several years ago  through the British
Broadcasting Corporation. Teabing had approached the BBC with a proposal for
a historical documentary in which he would  expose  the explosive history of
the Holy Grail to  a mainstream television audience. The BBC producers loved
Teabing's  hot  premise,  his  research, and  his credentials, but  they had
concerns  that the concept was  so  shocking  and  hard to swallow that  the
network  might end up tarnishing its  reputation for quality  journalism. At
Teabing's  suggestion, the  BBC solved its credibility  fears by  soliciting
three cameos from respected historians from around  the world,  all  of whom
corroborated  the  stunning nature of the Holy  Grail secret with  their own
     Langdon had been among those chosen.
     The BBC had flown Langdon to Teabing's Paris estate for the filming. He
sat before cameras in  Teabing's opulent drawing room and shared  his story,
admitting his  initial skepticism on  hearing of  the  alternate Holy  Grail
story,  then describing  how years of  research  had  persuaded him that the
story  was true. Finally, Langdon offered some of his own research--a series
of   symbologic   connections   that   strongly  supported   the   seemingly
controversial claims.
     When  the program aired  in  Britain,  despite its  ensemble  cast  and
well-documented evidence, the  premise rubbed so hard  against the grain  of
popular  Christian  thought that  it  instantly confronted  a  firestorm  of
hostility. It never aired in the States, but the repercussions echoed across
the Atlantic.  Shortly  afterward, Langdon received a postcard from  an  old
friend--the Catholic Bishop of  Philadelphia.  The card simply read:  Et tu,
     "Robert," Sophie asked, "you're certain we can trust this man?"
     "Absolutely. We're colleagues, he doesn't need money, and I  happen  to
know he despises the French authorities. The French government  taxes him at
absurd rates because he bought a historic landmark. He'll  be in no hurry to
cooperate with Fache."
     Sophie stared out  at the dark  roadway. "If we  go to him, how much do
you want to tell him?"
     Langdon looked unconcerned. "Believe me, Leigh Teabing knows more about
the Priory of Sion and the Holy Grail than anyone on earth."
     Sophie eyed him. "More than my grandfather?"
     "I meant more than anyone outside the brotherhood."
     "How do you know Teabing isn't a member of the brotherhood?"
     "Teabing has spent his life  trying to  broadcast  the  truth about the
Holy Grail. The Priory's oath is to keep its true nature hidden."
     "Sounds to me like a conflict of interest."
     Langdon  understood  her  concerns.  Sauniure  had  given  the  cryptex
directly  to Sophie, and although she  didn't know what it contained or what
she  was  supposed to  do  with it, she  was  hesitant  to  involve a  total
stranger. Considering the information potentially enclosed, the instinct was
probably  a good  one. "We  don't  need to  tell  Teabing about the keystone
immediately. Or at all, even. His  house will  give us  a place to  hide and
think,  and maybe when we talk to him about the Grail, you'll start to  have
an idea why your grandfather gave this to you."
     "Us," Sophie reminded.
     Langdon  felt  a humble pride and wondered  yet again  why Sauniure had
included him.
     "Do you know more or less where Mr. Teabing lives?" Sophie asked.
     "His estate is called Chuteau Villette."
     Sophie turned with an incredulous look. "The Chuteau Villette?"
     "That's the one."
     "Nice friends."
     "You know the estate?"
     "I've  passed  it. It's  in  the castle district. Twenty  minutes  from
     Langdon frowned. "That far?"
     "Yes, which will give you enough  time  to  tell me what the Holy Grail
really is."
     Langdon  paused. "I'll  tell you at Teabing's.  He  and I specialize in
different areas of the legend, so between the two of us, you'll get the full
story."  Langdon smiled. "Besides, the  Grail  has been  Teabing's life, and
hearing the story of the  Holy Grail from Leigh Teabing will be like hearing
the theory of relativity from Einstein himself."
     "Let's hope Leigh doesn't mind late-night visitors."
     "For the record,  it's  Sir Leigh." Langdon had made that  mistake only
once. "Teabing is  quite a character. He was  knighted  by the Queen several
years back after composing an extensive history on the House of York."
     Sophie looked over.  "You're kidding, right?  We're going  to  visit  a
     Langdon  gave  an  awkward smile. "We're on a Grail  quest, Sophie. Who
better to help us than a knight?"

     The  Sprawling  185-acre  estate  of  Chuteau   Villette   was  located
twenty-five  minutes northwest  of  Paris  in  the environs  of  Versailles.
Designed by Franuois Mansart in 1668 for the Count of Aufflay, it was one of
Paris's most significant historical chuteaux. Complete with two  rectangular
lakes  and  gardens designed by Le Nutre,  Chuteau Villette  was more  of  a
modest castle  than a mansion. The  estate  fondly  had become  known as  la
Petite Versailles.
     Langdon  brought the armored truck to a  shuddering stop at the foot of
the  mile-long  driveway.  Beyond  the  imposing  security gate,  Sir  Leigh
Teabing's residence  rose on a  meadow in the distance. The sign on the gate
     As if to proclaim his home a British  Isle unto itself, Teabing had not
only posted his signs  in English, but  he had installed his gate's intercom
entry  system  on the  right-hand  side of the truck--the  passenger's  side
everywhere in Europe except England.
     Sophie gave the misplaced intercom an odd look. "And if someone arrives
without a passenger?"
     "Don't ask."  Langdon had already been  through that  with Teabing. "He
prefers things the way they are at home."
     Sophie rolled down her window. "Robert, you'd better do the talking."
     Langdon shifted  his position, leaning  out across  Sophie to press the
intercom button. As he did, an alluring whiff of Sophie's perfume filled his
nostrils, and  he  realized how  close they were. He waited there, awkwardly
prone, while a telephone began ringing over the small speaker.
     Finally,  the intercom crackled and  an  irritated French accent spoke.
"Chuteau Villette. Who is calling?"
     "This is Robert Langdon," Langdon called out, sprawled  across Sophie's
lap. "I'm a friend of Sir Leigh Teabing. I need his help."
     "My master is sleeping. As was I. What is your business with him?"
     "It is a private matter. One of great interest to him."
     "Then I'm sure he will be pleased to receive you in the morning."
     Langdon shifted his weight. "It's quite important."
     "As is Sir Leigh's sleep. If you are a friend, then you are aware he is
in poor health."
     Sir  Leigh Teabing  had suffered from polio as a child and now wore leg
braces and walked with crutches, but Langdon had found him such a lively and
colorful man on  his last visit that  it hardly seemed an infirmity. "If you
would, please tell him  I have uncovered  new  information  about the Grail.
Information that cannot wait until morning."
     There was a long pause.
     Langdon and Sophie waited, the truck idling loudly.
     A full minute passed.
     Finally,  someone spoke.  "My  good  man,  I  daresay  you are still on
Harvard Standard Time." The voice was crisp and light.
     Langdon  grinned,  recognizing  the thick  British  accent. "Leigh,  my
apologies for waking you at this obscene hour."
     "My  manservant tells me that not only are you in Paris, but  you speak
of the Grail."
     "I thought that might get you out of bed."
     "And so it has."
     "Any chance you'd open the gate for an old friend?"
     "Those who seek the truth are more than friends. They are brothers."
     Langdon  rolled his  eyes  at  Sophie,  well  accustomed  to  Teabing's
predilection for dramatic antics.
     "Indeed I will open  the  gate," Teabing  proclaimed, "but first I must
confirm your  heart is true. A test  of  your  honor. You will answer  three
     Langdon  groaned,  whispering at  Sophie. "Bear  with  me  here.  As  I
mentioned, he's something of a character."
     "Your first question," Teabing declared, his tone Herculean.  "Shall  I
serve you coffee, or tea?"
     Langdon  knew  Teabing's  feelings  about  the  American  phenomenon of
coffee. "Tea," he replied. "Earl Grey."
     "Excellent. Your second question. Milk or sugar?"
     Langdon hesitated.
     "Milk," Sophie whispered in his ear. "I think the British take milk."
     "Milk," Langdon said.
     Teabing made no reply.
     Wait!  Langdon now recalled  the bitter beverage  he had been served on
his last visit and realized this question was a trick. "Lemon!" he declared.
"Earl Grey with lemon"
     "Indeed." Teabing sounded deeply amused now. "And finally, I must  make
the most grave of inquiries." Teabing  paused  and then spoke  in  a  solemn
tone.  "In which year  did a Harvard  sculler last  outrow an  Oxford man at
     Langdon had no idea, but he could imagine  only one reason the question
had been asked. "Surely such a travesty has never occurred."
     The gate clicked open. "Your heart is true, my friend. You may pass."

     "Monsieur Vernet!" The night manager of  the Depository  Bank of Zurich
felt  relieved to hear  the bank president's voice  on the phone. "Where did
you go, sir? The police are here, everyone is waiting for you!"
     "I  have  a  little  problem,"  the   bank   president  said,  sounding
distressed. "I need your help right away."
     You  have more than a little  problem, the manager thought.  The police
had entirely  surrounded  the  bank and  were threatening to  have the  DCPJ
captain  himself show up  with the warrant the bank had demanded. "How can I
help you, sir?"
     "Armored truck number three. I need to find it."
     Puzzled,  the  manager  checked  his  delivery  schedule.  "It's  here.
Downstairs at the loading dock."
     "Actually,  no. The truck was  stolen by the two individuals the police
are tracking."
     "What? How did they drive out?"
     "I can't go into the  specifics on the phone,  but we have a  situation
here that could potentially be extremely unfortunate for the bank."
     "What do you need me to do, sir?"
     "I'd like you to activate the truck's emergency transponder."
     The night manager's eyes  moved to the  LoJack control box  across  the
room.  Like many armored  cars,  each of the bank's trucks had been equipped
with a  radio-controlled homing  device,  which could  be activated remotely
from the bank. The manager had only used  the emergency system once, after a
hijacking, and it had worked flawlessly--locating the truck and transmitting
the  coordinates  to the  authorities automatically.  Tonight, however,  the
manager had the impression the president was hoping for a bit more prudence.
"Sir, you are aware that  if I activate  the LoJack system, the  transponder
will simultaneously inform the authorities that we have a problem."
     Vernet was silent for  several seconds.  "Yes, I  know. Do  it  anyway.
Truck  number three. I'll hold. I need the exact  location of that truck the
instant you have it."
     "Right away, sir."

     Thirty   seconds   later,   forty   kilometers  away,   hidden  in  the
undercarriage of the armored truck, a tiny transponder blinked to life.

     As  Langdon  and  Sophie  drove  the  armored  truck  up  the  winding,
poplar-lined  driveway  toward  the house,  Sophie  could  already feel  her
muscles relaxing. It was a relief to be off the road, and she could think of
few  safer  places to  get  their feet  under  them than this private, gated
estate owned by a good-natured foreigner.
     They  turned into the sweeping  circular driveway, and Chuteau Villette
came into view on their right. Three stories tall and at least  sixty meters
long, the edifice had gray  stone facing illuminated by  outside spotlights.
The  coarse  facade  stood  in  stark   juxtaposition  to  the  immaculately
landscaped gardens and glassy pond.
     The inside lights were just now coming on.
     Rather than driving to the front door,  Langdon  pulled into a  parking
area  nestled in the evergreens. "No reason to  risk  being spotted from the
road," he said. "Or having Leigh wonder why we  arrived in a wrecked armored
     Sophie  nodded. "What do we do with the cryptex? We probably  shouldn't
leave it out here, but if Leigh  sees it, he'll certainly want to know  what
it is."
     "Not to worry,"  Langdon said, removing his jacket as he stepped out of
the car. He wrapped the tweed coat around the box and held the bundle in his
arms like a baby.
     Sophie looked dubious. "Subtle."
     "Teabing  never answers his own door; he prefers  to  make an entrance.
I'll find  somewhere inside  to  stash this before  he  joins  us."  Langdon
paused. "Actually, I should probably warn you before you meet him. Sir Leigh
has a sense of humor that people often find a bit... strange."
     Sophie doubted anything tonight would strike her as strange anymore.
     The pathway to the main entrance was hand-laid cobblestone.  It  curved
to a door of carved  oak  and  cherry  with a brass knocker  the size  of  a
grapefruit. Before  Sophie could grasp the knocker, the door swung open from
     A  prim and elegant  butler stood before them, making final adjustments
on the white tie and tuxedo  he had apparently just donned. He looked  to be
about  fifty,  with  refined  features and  an austere  expression that left
little doubt he was unamused by their presence here.
     "Sir Leigh will  be  down  presently," he declared,  his  accent  thick
French. "He is dressing. He prefers not to greet visitors while wearing only
a nightshirt. May I  take your coat?" He scowled at the bunched-up  tweed in
Langdon's arms.
     "Thank you, I'm fine."
     "Of course you are. Right this way, please."
     The butler guided them through a lush marble foyer into  an exquisitely
adorned drawing room, softly lit by  tassel-draped Victorian lamps.  The air
inside smelled antediluvian, regal somehow, with traces of pipe tobacco, tea
leaves, cooking sherry, and the earthen aroma of stone architecture. Against
the far  wall, flanked between two glistening suits of chain mail armor, was
a rough-hewn fireplace large enough to roast  an ox.  Walking to the hearth,
the butler  knelt and touched  a match to a pre-laid arrangement of oak logs
and kindling. A fire quickly crackled to life.
     The man stood, straightening his jacket. "His master requests  that you
make yourselves at home." With that, he departed, leaving Langdon and Sophie
     Sophie wondered  which of the fireside antiques she was supposed to sit
on--the Renaissance velvet divan, the rustic eagle-claw rocker, or the  pair
of  stone pews that looked  like  they'd been  lifted  from  some  Byzantine
     Langdon  unwrapped  the cryptex  from  his coat,  walked to  the velvet
divan, and  slid the wooden box deep underneath it, well out of sight. Then,
shaking out his jacket, he  put it back on, smoothed  the lapels, and smiled
at Sophie as he sat down directly over the stashed treasure.
     The divan it is, Sophie thought, taking a seat beside him.
     As she stared  into the growing fire,  enjoying the  warmth, Sophie had
the sensation that her grandfather would have loved this room. The dark wood
paneling  was  bedecked  with  Old  Master  paintings,  one of which  Sophie
recognized as  a Poussin, her grandfather's second-favorite painter.  On the
mantel above the fireplace, an alabaster bust of Isis watched over the room.
     Beneath the Egyptian goddess, inside the fireplace, two stone gargoyles
served as  andirons, their  mouths  gaping  to reveal their  menacing hollow
throats.  Gargoyles had always terrified Sophie as a child; that  was, until
her  grandfather  cured  her  of  the  fear  by taking  her atop Notre  Dame
Cathedral in a rainstorm. "Princess, look  at these silly creatures," he had
told her, pointing  to  the  gargoyle  rainspouts with  their mouths gushing
water.  "Do you hear  that funny  sound in  their  throats?"  Sophie nodded,
having  to smile at the  burping sound of the  water gurgling through  their
throats. "They're  gargling," her grandfather  told  her.  "Gargariser!  And
that's where they get the silly name  'gargoyles.' " Sophie  had never again
been afraid.
     The fond memory caused Sophie a pang of sadness as the harsh reality of
the  murder gripped her again. Grand-pure is gone. She pictured  the cryptex
under the divan  and wondered if  Leigh Teabing would have any  idea how  to
open it.  Or if we  even  should ask him. Sophie's grandfather's final words
had instructed her  to  find Robert  Langdon.  He  had  said  nothing  about
involving anyone else. We needed somewhere to hide, Sophie said, deciding to
trust Robert's judgment.
     "Sir Robert!" a voice bellowed somewhere behind them. "I see you travel
with a maiden."
     Langdon stood up. Sophie jumped to her feet as well. The voice had come
from the  top  of  a curled staircase that snaked up to the shadows  of  the
second floor. At the top  of the stairs,  a form moved in the  shadows, only
his silhouette visible.
     "Good evening,"  Langdon called  up.  "Sir Leigh, may I  present Sophie
     "An honor." Teabing moved into the light.
     "Thank you  for having us," Sophie said, now seeing the  man wore metal
leg braces and used crutches.  He  was coming down  one stair at  a time. "I
realize it's quite late."
     "It  is so  late,  my dear,  it's early."  He laughed. "Vous n'utes pas
     Sophie shook her head. "Parisienne."
     "Your English is superb."
     "Thank you. I studied at the Royal Holloway."
     "So then, that explains it." Teabing hobbled lower through the shadows.
"Perhaps  Robert told  you I schooled just down the road at Oxford." Teabing
fixed Langdon with a  devilish  smile. "Of course, I also applied to Harvard
as my safety school."
     Their host arrived at the  bottom of the stairs, appearing to Sophie no
more like  a  knight  than Sir Elton  John. Portly and ruby-faced, Sir Leigh
Teabing had bushy red hair and jovial hazel eyes  that seemed to twinkle  as
he spoke. He wore pleated pants and a roomy silk shirt under a paisley vest.
Despite  the  aluminum  braces on  his  legs,  he  carried  himself  with  a
resilient,  vertical dignity that seemed more a by-product of noble ancestry
than any kind of conscious effort.
     Teabing  arrived and  extended a hand to Langdon. "Robert, you've  lost
     Langdon grinned. "And you've found some."
     Teabing  laughed heartily,  patting his rotund belly. "Touchu. My  only
carnal pleasures these days  seem to be culinary." Turning now to Sophie, he
gently  took  her  hand, bowing his head slightly, breathing lightly  on her
fingers, and diverting his eyes. "M'lady."
     Sophie glanced at Langdon, uncertain whether she'd stepped back in time
or into a nuthouse.
     The  butler  who  had  answered  the door now  entered  carrying a  tea
service, which he arranged on a table in front of the fireplace.
     "This is Rumy Legaludec," Teabing said, "my manservant."
     The slender butler gave a stiff nod and disappeared yet again.
     "Rumy is  Lyonais," Teabing whispered,  as if  it were  an  unfortunate
disease. "But he does sauces quite nicely."
     Langdon looked  amused. "I would have thought  you'd import an  English
     "Good heavens, no! I would not wish a British chef on anyone except the
French  tax  collectors."   He  glanced  over   at  Sophie.  "Pardonnez-moi,
Mademoiselle  Neveu.  Please  be assured  that  my distaste  for  the French
extends  only  to politics  and  the soccer pitch. Your government steals my
money, and your football squad recently humiliated us."
     Sophie offered an easy smile.
     Teabing eyed her a moment  and then looked  at Langdon. "Something  has
happened. You both look shaken."
     Langdon nodded. "We've had an interesting night, Leigh."
     "No  doubt. You arrive on my doorstep  unannounced in the middle of the
night speaking of the Grail. Tell me, is this indeed about the Grail, or did
you simply say that because you know it is  the lone topic for which I would
rouse myself in the middle of the night?"
     A little of both, Sophie thought,  picturing the cryptex hidden beneath
the couch.
     "Leigh," Langdon  said, "we'd like to talk to you  about the  Priory of
     Teabing's bushy eyebrows arched with intrigue. "The keepers. So this is
indeed about the Grail. You  say  you come with information?  Something new,
     "Perhaps. We're not quite sure. We might have a better idea if we could
get some information from you first."
     Teabing  wagged his finger. "Ever the wily American. A game of quid pro
quo. Very well. I am at your service. What is it I can tell you?"
     Langdon sighed.  "I was hoping  you would be kind enough  to explain to
Ms. Neveu the true nature of the Holy Grail."
     Teabing looked stunned. "She doesn't know?"
     Langdon shook his head.
     The  smile  that grew  on Teabing's  face was almost obscene.  "Robert,
you've brought me a virgin?"
     Langdon  winced,  glancing  at  Sophie.  "Virgin  is  the  term   Grail
enthusiasts  use to  describe  anyone who has  never heard  the  true  Grail
     Teabing turned eagerly to Sophie. "How much do you know, my dear?"
     Sophie quickly outlined what  Langdon had explained earlier--the Priory
of Sion, the  Knights Templar, the Sangreal documents, and  the Holy  Grail,
which many claimed was not a cup... but rather something far more powerful.
     "That's all?"  Teabing  fired  Langdon  a scandalous  look.  "Robert, I
thought you were a gentleman. You've robbed her of the climax!"
     "I  know,  I thought  perhaps  you and I  could..."  Langdon apparently
decided the unseemly metaphor had gone far enough.
     Teabing already had  Sophie locked  in his twinkling  gaze. "You are  a
Grail virgin, my dear. And trust me, you will never forget your first time."

     Seated on the divan beside  Langdon,  Sophie  drank her  tea and ate  a
scone,  feeling the welcome effects of caffeine and food. Sir Leigh  Teabing
was beaming as he  awkwardly paced  before  the open  fire,  his leg  braces
clicking on the stone hearth.
     "The Holy Grail," Teabing said, his voice sermonic. "Most people ask me
only where it  is. I fear that is a  question I may never answer." He turned
and looked directly at Sophie. "However... the far more relevant question is
this: What is the Holy Grail?"
     Sophie  sensed a rising air of academic anticipation now in both of her
male companions.
     "To  fully  understand  the Grail," Teabing continued,  "we must  first
understand the Bible. How well do you know the New Testament?"
     Sophie shrugged.  "Not  at  all,  really.  I was raised  by a  man  who
worshipped Leonardo da Vinci."
     Teabing looked both startled and pleased. "An enlightened soul. Superb!
Then you must be aware that Leonardo was one of the keepers of the secret of
the Holy Grail. And he hid clues in his art."
     "Robert told me as much, yes."
     "And Da Vinci's views on the New Testament?"
     "I have no idea."
     Teabing's eyes turned  mirthful as he motioned to the  bookshelf across
the  room.  "Robert,  would you  mind? On  the bottom  shelf. La  Storia  di
     Langdon  went across the  room, found a large art book, and  brought it
back, setting it down on the  table between  them. Twisting the book to face
Sophie, Teabing flipped open  the heavy  cover and  pointed inside the  rear
cover to a series of quotations. "From Da Vinci's notebook on  polemics  and
speculation,"  Teabing said, indicating one quote  in particular.  "I  think
you'll find this relevant to our discussion."
     Sophie read the words.
     Many have made a trade of delusions
     and false miracles, deceiving the stupid multitude.

     "Here's another," Teabing said, pointing to a different quote.
     Blinding ignorance does mislead us.
     O! Wretched mortals, open your eyes!

     Sophie felt a little chill. "Da Vinci is talking about the Bible?"
     Teabing nodded. "Leonardo's feelings about the Bible relate directly to
the Holy Grail. In fact, Da Vinci painted the true Grail, which I  will show
you momentarily, but first we must speak of the Bible." Teabing smiled. "And
everything you need  to know about the Bible can be summed  up  by the great
canon  doctor Martyn  Percy." Teabing  cleared his throat and declared, "The
Bible did not arrive by fax from heaven."
     "I beg your pardon?"
     "The Bible is a product  of man, my dear. Not of God. The Bible did not
fall magically  from the clouds. Man created  it as a  historical  record of
tumultuous  times,  and  it  has  evolved  through  countless  translations,
additions, and revisions.  History has never had a definitive version of the
     "Jesus  Christ was a historical figure of staggering influence, perhaps
the most enigmatic and inspirational leader the world  has ever seen. As the
prophesied Messiah, Jesus toppled kings, inspired millions,  and founded new
philosophies. As a descendant  of the  lines of King Solomon and King David,
Jesus  possessed  a rightful  claim to  the  throne of the King of the Jews.
Understandably, His life was recorded by  thousands of followers across  the
land." Teabing paused to sip  his tea and  then placed the cup  back  on the
mantel. "More than eighty gospels were considered for the New Testament, and
yet only a relative few were chosen for  inclusion--Matthew, Mark, Luke, and
John among them.
     "Who chose which gospels to include?" Sophie asked.
     "Aha!"  Teabing  burst in  with  enthusiasm. "The  fundamental irony of
Christianity! The Bible,  as  we  know it  today, was collated by  the pagan
Roman emperor Constantine the Great."
     "I thought Constantine was a Christian," Sophie said.
     "Hardly," Teabing scoffed. "He was a lifelong pagan who was baptized on
his  deathbed, too  weak to protest.  In Constantine's  day, Rome's official
religion was  sun  worship--the  cult of  Sol  Invictus,  or the  Invincible
Sun--and Constantine was its head  priest. Unfortunately for him,  a growing
religious  turmoil  was gripping Rome. Three centuries after the crucifixion
of Jesus Christ, Christ's followers had multiplied exponentially. Christians
and pagans began  warring, and the conflict grew to such proportions that it
threatened to  rend  Rome in two.  Constantine  decided something had to  be
done.  In 325  A.D., he  decided  to  unify Rome under  a  single  religion.
     Sophie was surprised. "Why would a pagan emperor choose Christianity as
the official religion?"
     Teabing  chuckled. "Constantine  was a very good businessman. He  could
see  that Christianity was  on the rise, and  he  simply  backed the winning
horse.  Historians  still marvel at the  brilliance  with  which Constantine
converted  the  sun-worshipping pagans  to  Christianity.  By  fusing  pagan
symbols, dates, and rituals into the growing Christian tradition, he created
a kind of hybrid religion that was acceptable to both parties."
     "Transmogrification," Langdon said. "The  vestiges of pagan religion in
Christian symbology are undeniable. Egyptian sun  disks became  the halos of
Catholic saints. Pictograms of  Isis nursing  her miraculously conceived son
Horus became the blueprint for our modern images of  the Virgin Mary nursing
Baby  Jesus. And  virtually  all the elements  of the  Catholic  ritual--the
miter, the altar, the doxology, and communion, the act of "God-eating"--were
taken directly from earlier pagan mystery religions."
     Teabing groaned. "Don't  get  a symbologist started on Christian icons.
Nothing in Christianity  is original. The  pre-Christian God Mithras--called
the Son  of God and  the Light of the World--was born on  December 25, died,
was buried in a rock tomb, and  then resurrected in three days. By the  way,
December  25  is also the  birthday  of Osiris,  Adonis,  and  Dionysus. The
newborn  Krishna  was presented with  gold,  frankincense,  and myrrh.  Even
Christianity's weekly holy day was stolen from the pagans."
     "What do you mean?"
     "Originally," Langdon said, "Christianity honored the Jewish Sabbath of
Saturday, but Constantine shifted it to coincide with the pagan's veneration
day of the sun." He paused, grinning. "To  this day, most churchgoers attend
services on Sunday morning with no idea  that they  are there on account  of
the pagan sun god's weekly tribute--Sunday."
     Sophie's head was spinning. "And all of this relates to the Grail?"
     "Indeed," Teabing said. "Stay with me. During this fusion of religions,
Constantine  needed to strengthen  the  new Christian tradition, and held  a
famous ecumenical gathering known as the Council of Nicaea."
     Sophie had heard  of it only insofar as its being the birthplace of the
Nicene Creed.
     "At  this gathering," Teabing said, "many aspects of Christianity  were
debated and  voted upon--the  date of Easter, the  role of the bishops,  the
administration of sacraments, and, of course, the divinity of Jesus."
     "I don't follow. His divinity?"
     "My  dear," Teabing  declared, "until that moment in history, Jesus was
viewed by His followers as a mortal prophet... a great and powerful man, but
a man nonetheless. A mortal."
     "Not the Son of God?"
     "Right," Teabing said. "Jesus' establishment  as  'the Son of  God' was
officially proposed and voted on by the Council of Nicaea."
     "Hold on. You're saying Jesus' divinity was the result of a vote?"
     "A  relatively  close  vote  at  that,"  Teabing  added.  "Nonetheless,
establishing  Christ's divinity was critical to  the further unification  of
the Roman empire and to the new  Vatican power base. By officially endorsing
Jesus as  the Son of God, Constantine turned Jesus into a  deity who existed
beyond  the  scope  of   the   human  world,   an  entity  whose  power  was
unchallengeable.  This  not  only  precluded  further  pagan  challenges  to
Christianity, but now the followers of Christ were able to redeem themselves
only via the established sacred channel--the Roman Catholic Church."
     Sophie glanced at Langdon, and he gave her a soft nod of concurrence.
     "It  was all  about power," Teabing  continued.  "Christ as Messiah was
critical to the functioning of Church  and state.  Many scholars claim  that
the  early  Church  literally  stole  Jesus  from  His  original  followers,
hijacking  His  human  message, shrouding  it  in an impenetrable  cloak  of
divinity, and using it to expand their own power. I've written several books
on the topic."
     "And I assume devout Christians send you hate mail on a daily basis?"
     "Why  would  they?" Teabing countered. "The  vast  majority of educated
Christians know the history  of their faith.  Jesus  was indeed a  great and
powerful man.  Constantine's underhanded  political maneuvers don't diminish
the  majesty  of  Christ's  life.  Nobody is saying Christ was  a fraud,  or
denying that He walked the earth and inspired millions to better lives.  All
we  are  saying is  that Constantine took advantage of Christ's  substantial
influence  and  importance.  And  in  doing  so,  he  shaped   the  face  of
Christianity as we know it today."
     Sophie glanced at the art book before her, eager to move on and see the
Da Vinci painting of the Holy Grail.
     "The  twist  is this,"  Teabing  said,  talking  faster  now.  "Because
Constantine upgraded Jesus' status almost four centuries after Jesus' death,
thousands of documents already existed chronicling His life as a mortal man.
To rewrite the history books, Constantine  knew he would need a bold stroke.
From  this sprang  the most profound moment  in  Christian history." Teabing
paused,  eyeing Sophie.  "Constantine commissioned and financed a new Bible,
which  omitted those  gospels  that  spoke  of  Christ's  human  traits  and
embellished those gospels  that made  Him godlike. The earlier gospels  were
outlawed, gathered up, and burned."
     "An  interesting note," Langdon added. "Anyone who chose  the forbidden
gospels over  Constantine's  version was  deemed a heretic. The word heretic
derives  from  that  moment  in history.  The  Latin  word  haereticus means
'choice.' Those who 'chose' the original  history of Christ were the world's
first heretics."
     "Fortunately for  historians," Teabing said, "some of the gospels  that
Constantine attempted to eradicate managed to survive. The Dead  Sea Scrolls
were found in the 1950s  hidden in a cave near Qumran in the Judean  desert.
And, of course, the Coptic Scrolls in 1945 at  Nag Hammadi.  In addition  to
telling the  true Grail story, these documents speak of Christ's ministry in
very human terms. Of course, the Vatican, in keeping with their tradition of
misinformation,  tried very hard to  suppress the release of these  scrolls.
And   why  wouldn't  they?   The   scrolls   highlight  glaring   historical
discrepancies and fabrications, clearly confirming that the modern Bible was
compiled and edited by men who possessed a political  agenda--to promote the
divinity of the man Jesus Christ and use His influence to solidify their own
power base."
     "And  yet," Langdon countered,  "it's  important to remember  that  the
modern Church's desire  to suppress these  documents  comes  from a  sincere
belief in their established view of Christ. The Vatican is made up of deeply
pious  men who truly believe  these  contrary documents could only be  false
     Teabing chuckled as he eased himself  into a chair opposite Sophie. "As
you  can see,  our  professor has a far softer  heart for  Rome than  I  do.
Nonetheless, he is correct about the modern clergy  believing these opposing
documents are  false testimony.  That's  understandable. Constantine's Bible
has been their  truth  for  ages.  Nobody is  more  indoctrinated  than  the
     "What  he means," Langdon  said, "is that we worship  the  gods  of our
     "What  I  mean,"  Teabing countered,  "is that  almost  everything  our
fathers taught us about Christ is false.  As  are the stories about the Holy
     Sophie  looked  again at  the  Da  Vinci  quote  before  her.  Blinding
ignorance does mislead us. O! Wretched mortals, open your eyes!
     Teabing  reached  for the  book and  flipped  toward  the  center. "And
finally,  before I show you Da Vinci's paintings of the Holy Grail, I'd like
you to take a quick look at this." He opened the book to a colorful  graphic
that spanned both full pages. "I assume you recognize this fresco?"
     He's  kidding, right? Sophie was staring  at  the most famous fresco of
all time--The Last Supper--Da Vinci's legendary  painting  from  the wall of
Santa Maria delle Grazie near Milan. The decaying fresco portrayed Jesus and
His  disciples at  the moment that Jesus announced  one of them would betray
Him. "I know the fresco, yes."
     "Then perhaps you would indulge me this little game? Close your eyes if
you would."
     Uncertain, Sophie closed her eyes.
     "Where is Jesus sitting?" Teabing asked.
     "In the center."
     "Good. And what food are He and His disciples breaking and eating?"
     "Bread." Obviously.
     "Superb. And what drink?"
     "Wine. They drank wine."
     "Great. And one final question. How many wineglasses are on the table?"
     Sophie paused, realizing it was  the trick question. And after  dinner,
Jesus  took the cup of wine,  sharing  it with His disciples. "One cup," she
said. "The chalice."  The Cup  of Christ.  The Holy  Grail. "Jesus  passed a
single chalice of wine, just as modern Christians do at communion."
     Teabing sighed. "Open your eyes."
     She  did.  Teabing  was grinning  smugly.  Sophie  looked  down  at the
painting, seeing to her astonishment that everyone at the table  had a glass
of wine, including Christ. Thirteen cups.  Moreover,  the  cups  were  tiny,
stemless,  and made  of glass. There was no chalice in the painting. No Holy
     Teabing's eyes twinkled. "A bit  strange, don't you  think, considering
that both the Bible and  our standard Grail legend celebrate this moment  as
the  definitive arrival  of the Holy Grail.  Oddly, Da Vinci appears to have
forgotten to paint the Cup of Christ."
     "Surely art scholars must have noted that."
     "You will be shocked to learn what  anomalies Da  Vinci  included  here
that  most  scholars  either do not  see or simply  choose  to  ignore. This
fresco, in fact, is the entire key to  the Holy Grail mystery. Da Vinci lays
it all out in the open in The Last Supper"
     Sophie scanned the  work eagerly. "Does this  fresco  tell us what  the
Grail really is?"
     "Not what  it is,"  Teabing whispered. "But rather who it is. The  Holy
Grail is not a thing. It is, in fact... a person"

     Sophie stared at Teabing a long moment and then turned to Langdon. "The
Holy Grail is a person?"
     Langdon  nodded.  "A woman, in  fact."  From the blank look on Sophie's
face, Langdon could tell  they  had already lost  her. He  recalled having a
similar reaction the first time he heard the statement. It  was not until he
understood  the  symbology  behind the  Grail that the  feminine  connection
became clear.
     Teabing apparently had a similar thought. "Robert,  perhaps this is the
moment for the symbologist to clarify?" He went to a nearby end table, found
a piece of paper, and laid it in front of Langdon.
     Langdon pulled a pen  from his pocket.  "Sophie, are you familiar  with
the modern icons for male and female?" He  drew the  common male symbol 0x01 graphic
     and female symbol 0x01 graphic
     "Of course," she said.
     "These,"  he said quietly, "are not the original  symbols  for male and
female.  Many people  incorrectly  assume the male  symbol is derived from a
shield  and spear,  while the female  symbol represents  a mirror reflecting
beauty. In fact, the symbols  originated as ancient astronomical symbols for
the planet-god Mars  and planet-goddess Venus. The original symbols  are far
simpler." Langdon drew another icon on the paper.
     0x01 graphic

     "This  symbol  is  the  original  icon  for  male,"  he  told  her.  "A
rudimentary phallus."
     "Quite to the point," Sophie said.
     "As it were," Teabing added.
     Langdon went on. "This  icon is formally  known  as  the blade, and  it
represents  aggression and manhood.  In  fact, this exact phallus  symbol is
still used today on modern military uniforms to denote rank."
     "Indeed." Teabing grinned. "The more  penises you have, the higher your
rank. Boys will be boys."
     Langdon winced. "Moving on, the female symbol, as you might imagine, is
the exact opposite." He drew another symbol on the page. "This is called the
     0x01 graphic

     Sophie glanced up, looking surprised.
     Langdon could see  she had made the connection. "The chalice," he said,
"resembles  a cup or vessel, and more important, it resembles the shape of a
woman's  womb.  This  symbol   communicates   femininity,   womanhood,   and
fertility." Langdon looked directly at her now. "Sophie, legend tells us the
Holy Grail is a chalice--a cup.  But the Grail's description as a chalice is
actually an allegory  to protect the true nature of the Holy  Grail. That is
to say, the legend  uses the  chalice as a metaphor for  something  far more
     "A woman," Sophie said.
     "Exactly." Langdon smiled. "The Grail is  literally the  ancient symbol
for  womanhood, and  the  Holy Grail represents the sacred feminine and  the
goddess, which of course has  now  been  lost,  virtually  eliminated by the
Church. The power of the female  and her  ability to  produce  life was once
very  sacred, but it posed a threat to the rise  of  the  predominantly male
Church, and so the sacred feminine was demonized and called  unclean. It was
man, not God, who created the concept  of 'original sin,' whereby Eve tasted
of the  apple and  caused  the downfall of the human race.  Woman, once  the
sacred giver of life, was now the enemy."
     "I  should  add,"  Teabing  chimed,  "that  this concept  of  woman  as
life-bringer was the foundation of ancient religion. Childbirth was mystical
and powerful. Sadly, Christian  philosophy decided to embezzle  the female's
creative  power  by  ignoring  biological  truth and making man the Creator.
Genesis tells us  that  Eve  was  created from Adam's  rib. Woman became  an
offshoot of man. And a sinful one at that. Genesis was the beginning of  the
end for the goddess."
     "The  Grail,"  Langdon said,  "is symbolic  of  the lost goddess.  When
Christianity came along, the old pagan religions did not die easily. Legends
of chivalric quests for  the  lost Grail were in  fact  stories of forbidden
quests  to  find  the  lost  sacred  feminine.  Knights who  claimed  to  be
"searching  for  the  chalice" were  speaking in code  as  a  way to protect
themselves from a Church  that had  subjugated women,  banished the Goddess,
burned  nonbelievers,  and forbidden  the  pagan  reverence  for  the sacred
     Sophie shook her head. "I'm sorry, when you said the  Holy Grail was  a
person, I thought you meant it was an actual person."
     "It is," Langdon said.
     "And not just any person," Teabing blurted, clambering excitedly to his
feet. "A woman who carried with her  a secret so powerful that, if revealed,
it threatened to devastate the very foundation of Christianity!"
     Sophie looked overwhelmed. "Is this woman well known in history?"
     "Quite."  Teabing  collected his crutches and motioned  down the  hall.
"And if we adjourn to the  study, my friends, it  would  be my honor to show
you Da Vinci's painting of her."

     Two  rooms  away, in the  kitchen,  manservant Rumy Legaludec  stood in
silence before  a television. The  news station was broadcasting photos of a
man and woman... the same two individuals to whom Rumy had just served tea.

     Standing at  the  roadblock  outside  the Depository  Bank  of  Zurich,
Lieutenant Collet wondered what was taking Fache so long to come up with the
search warrant.  The bankers were obviously hiding  something.  They claimed
Langdon  and  Neveu had arrived earlier and were  turned away  from the bank
because they did not have proper account identification.
     So why won't they let us inside for a look?
     Finally, Collet's cellular phone rang. It was the command post  at  the
Louvre. "Do we have a search warrant yet?" Collet demanded.
     "Forget about the bank, Lieutenant," the agent told him. "We just got a
tip. We have the exact location where Langdon and Neveu are hiding."
     Collet sat down hard on the hood of his car. "You're kidding."
     "I have an address in the suburbs. Somewhere near Versailles."
     "Does Captain Fache know?"
     "Not yet. He's busy on an important call."
     "I'm on my way. Have him call  as soon  as he's free." Collet took down
the address and jumped  in  his car. As he peeled away from the bank, Collet
realized he  had forgotten  to ask  who had tipped  DCPJ  off  to  Langdon's
location.  Not that  it mattered. Collet  had been blessed with a chance  to
redeem his  skepticism and  earlier blunders. He was about  to make the most
high-profile arrest of his career.
     Collet radioed the five cars accompanying him. "No sirens, men. Langdon
can't know we're coming."

     Forty  kilometers away, a black Audi pulled off a rural road and parked
in the shadows on the edge of a field. Silas got out and  peered through the
rungs of the wrought-iron fence that encircled the vast compound before him.
He gazed up the long moonlit slope to the chuteau in the distance.
     The  downstairs  lights were  all ablaze.  Odd  for  this  hour,  Silas
thought, smiling. The  information the Teacher had  given  him was obviously
accurate. I will not leave this house without the keystone, he vowed. I will
not fail the bishop and the Teacher.
     Checking  the thirteen-round clip in  his Heckler Koch, Silas pushed it
through the bars and let it fall onto the mossy  ground inside the compound.
Then, gripping the top of the fence, he heaved himself up and over, dropping
to the ground on the other side. Ignoring the slash of pain from his cilice,
Silas retrieved his gun and began the long trek up the grassy slope.

     Teabing's "study" was  like no study Sophie had ever seen. Six or seven
times larger than  even the  most luxurious  of office  spaces, the knight's
cabinet  de  travail  resembled an  ungainly  hybrid  of science laboratory,
archival library, and indoor flea market. Lit by three overhead chandeliers,
the  boundless  tile floor was  dotted with  clustered islands of worktables
buried  beneath  books, artwork,  artifacts,  and  a  surprising  amount  of
electronic  gear--computers,  projectors,  microscopes, copy  machines,  and
flatbed scanners.
     "I  converted  the  ballroom," Teabing  said,  looking  sheepish as  he
shuffled into the room. "I have little occasion to dance."
     Sophie felt as if  the entire night had become some  kind  of  twilight
zone where nothing was as she expected. "This is all for your work?"
     "Learning the  truth has become my life's love," Teabing said. "And the
Sangreal is my favorite mistress."
     The Holy  Grail is  a  woman,  Sophie thought, her  mind  a  collage of
interrelated ideas that  seemed  to  make no  sense.  "You  said  you have a
picture of this woman who you claim is the Holy Grail."
     "Yes,  but it is not I  who claim she is the Grail. Christ Himself made
that claim."
     "Which one is the painting?" Sophie asked, scanning the walls.
     "Hmmm..." Teabing made  a  show of seeming to have forgotten. "The Holy
Grail. The  Sangreal.  The  Chalice." He wheeled suddenly and pointed to the
far  wall. On it hung an  eight-foot-long print of The Last Supper, the same
exact image Sophie had just been looking at. "There she is!"
     Sophie was certain she had missed  something. "That's the same painting
you just showed me."
     He winked. "I know, but the enlargement is so much more exciting. Don't
you think?"
     Sophie turned to Langdon for help. "I'm lost."
     Langdon smiled. "As  it turns out,  the Holy Grail does indeed  make an
appearance in The Last Supper. Leonardo included her prominently."
     "Hold  on,"  Sophie said. "You  told me the  Holy Grail is a woman. The
Last Supper is a painting of thirteen men."
     "Is it?" Teabing arched his eyebrows. "Take a closer look."
     Uncertain, Sophie made her way  closer to  the painting,  scanning  the
thirteen figures--Jesus Christ in the middle, six disciples on His left, and
six on His right. "They're all men," she confirmed.
     "Oh?" Teabing said. "How about the one seated in the place of honor, at
the right hand of the Lord?"
     Sophie examined the  figure to Jesus' immediate  right, focusing in. As
she studied the person's  face and body, a wave of astonishment rose  within
her. The  individual had  flowing red hair, delicate  folded hands,  and the
hint of a bosom. It was, without a doubt... female.
     "That's a woman!" Sophie exclaimed.
     Teabing was laughing. "Surprise, surprise. Believe me, it's no mistake.
Leonardo was skilled at painting the difference between the sexes."
     Sophie could not take her eyes from the woman  beside Christ. The  Last
Supper is  supposed to be thirteen  men. Who  is this woman? Although Sophie
had  seen  this  classic image  many times,  she had  not once noticed  this
glaring discrepancy.
     "Everyone  misses it," Teabing said. "Our preconceived notions  of this
scene are so powerful that our mind blocks out the incongruity and overrides
our eyes."
     "It's known  as  skitoma," Langdon added. "The  brain does it sometimes
with powerful symbols."
     "Another reason  you  might have  missed the woman,"  Teabing said, "is
that many of  the photographs  in art books were taken before 1954, when the
details  were still hidden  beneath layers of grime and several  restorative
repaintings done by  clumsy hands in the  eighteenth  century. Now, at last,
the fresco  has been cleaned down to Da Vinci's original layer of paint." He
motioned to the photograph. "Et voilu!"
     Sophie moved closer to the image. The  woman to Jesus' right was  young
and pious-looking, with a demure face, beautiful red hair, and  hands folded
quietly. This is the woman who singlehandedly could crumble the Church?
     "Who is she?" Sophie asked.
     "That, my dear," Teabing replied, "is Mary Magdalene."
     Sophie turned. "The prostitute?"
     Teabing drew a short breath, as if the word had injured him personally.
"Magdalene was no  such thing. That unfortunate misconception  is the legacy
of  a  smear  campaign  launched by the  early Church.  The Church needed to
defame Mary Magdalene in order to cover up her dangerous secret--her role as
the Holy Grail."
     "Her role?"
     "As I  mentioned,"  Teabing  clarified,  "the  early  Church needed  to
convince the world  that the  mortal  prophet  Jesus  was  a  divine  being.
Therefore, any gospels that described earthly  aspects of Jesus' life had to
be  omitted  from  the  Bible.  Unfortunately for  the  early  editors,  one
particularly  troubling  earthly theme  kept  recurring in the gospels. Mary
Magdalene." He paused. "More specifically, her marriage to Jesus Christ."
     "I beg your pardon?"  Sophie's eyes moved  to  Langdon and then back to
     "It's a matter of historical record," Teabing  said, "and Da  Vinci was
certainly  aware  of that  fact. The Last  Supper  practically shouts at the
viewer that Jesus and Magdalene were a pair."
     Sophie glanced back to the fresco.
     "Notice that  Jesus and Magdalene are clothed as mirror  images  of one
another."  Teabing  pointed to the two  individuals  in  the  center of  the
     Sophie was mesmerized.  Sure enough, their clothes were inverse colors.
Jesus wore a red  robe and  blue cloak; Mary  Magdalene wore a blue robe and
red cloak. Yin and yang.
     "Venturing  into the more bizarre," Teabing said,  "note that Jesus and
His bride  appear to  be  joined at the  hip and  are leaning away from  one
another  as  if to  create  this  clearly delineated negative space  between
     Even  before  Teabing traced the contour for  her, Sophie  saw  it--the
indisputable V shape  at the focal point of  the painting.  It was  the same
symbol Langdon had drawn earlier for the  Grail, the chalice, and the female
     "Finally,"  Teabing  said,   "if  you  view  Jesus   and  Magdalene  as
compositional elements  rather than  as people, you will see another obvious
shape leap out at you." He paused. "A letter of the alphabet."
     Sophie saw it  at once. To  say  the letter  leapt  out  at her was  an
understatement. The letter was suddenly all Sophie could see. Glaring in the
center  of  the  painting  was  the  unquestionable outline of an  enormous,
flawlessly formed letter M.
     "A bit too perfect for coincidence, wouldn't you say?" Teabing asked.
     Sophie was amazed. "Why is it there?"
     Teabing  shrugged. "Conspiracy  theorists  will tell you it  stands for
Matrimonio or Mary Magdalene.  To  be  honest,  nobody is certain.  The only
certainty is  that the hidden M is no mistake. Countless Grail-related works
contain the  hidden  letter  M--whether  as watermarks,  underpaintings,  or
compositional allusions. The most blatant M, of course, is emblazoned on the
altar at Our Lady of Paris in  London, which  was designed by a former Grand
Master of the Priory of Sion, Jean Cocteau."
     Sophie  weighed  the  information.  "I'll  admit,  the hidden  M's  are
intriguing, although I assume nobody  is claiming they  are  proof of Jesus'
marriage to Magdalene."
     "No, no," Teabing said,  going to a nearby table  of books.  "As I said
earlier, the  marriage of Jesus and Mary Magdalene is part of the historical
record." He began pawing through his  book collection. "Moreover, Jesus as a
married  man makes  infinitely more sense than our standard biblical view of
Jesus as a bachelor."
     "Why?" Sophie asked.
     "Because Jesus was  a  Jew," Langdon  said, taking  over while  Teabing
searched for his  book, "and the social decorum during  that time  virtually
forbid  a Jewish man  to  be unmarried. According to Jewish custom, celibacy
was condemned, and the obligation for a Jewish father was to find a suitable
wife for  his  son. If Jesus  were not married, at least one of the  Bible's
gospels  would  have mentioned it  and  offered  some  explanation  for  His
unnatural state of bachelorhood."
     Teabing located a huge book and pulled  it toward him across the table.
The leather-bound  edition  was poster-sized,  like a huge atlas. The  cover
read: The Gnostic Gospels. Teabing heaved  it open,  and  Langdon and Sophie
joined him. Sophie could see it contained photographs of what appeared to be
magnified passages of ancient  documents--tattered papyrus  with handwritten
text. She did not recognize the ancient language, but the facing pages  bore
typed translations.
     "These are photocopies of the Nag Hammadi and Dead Sea scrolls, which I
mentioned  earlier,"   Teabing  said.  "The  earliest   Christian   records.
Troublingly,  they do not  match up with the gospels in the Bible." Flipping
toward the middle of the book, Teabing pointed to a passage.  "The Gospel of
Philip is always a good place to start." Sophie read the passage:
     And the companion of the Saviour is  Mary Magdalene.  Christ loved  her
more than all the disciples  and used to kiss her often  on  her mouth.  The
rest of  the disciples were  offended by  it and expressed disapproval. They
said to him, "Why do you love her more than all of us?"
     The words surprised Sophie, and yet they hardly  seemed conclusive. "It
says nothing of marriage."
     "Au  contraire." Teabing smiled,  pointing to the first line.  "As  any
Aramaic scholar will tell you, the word companion, in those days,  literally
meant spouse."
     Langdon concurred with a nod.
     Sophie  read the first line again. And the companion of the  Saviour is
Mary Magdalene.
     Teabing flipped through the book and pointed out several other passages
that, to  Sophie's  surprise, clearly suggested  Magdalene and Jesus  had  a
romantic  relationship. As she  read the  passages, Sophie recalled an angry
priest who had banged on her grandfather's door when she was a schoolgirl.
     "Is this  the  home  of  Jacques  Sauniure?"  the priest  had demanded,
glaring down  at young Sophie when she pulled open the door. "I want to talk
to him about this editorial he wrote." The priest held up a newspaper.
     Sophie summoned her grandfather, and the two  men  disappeared into his
study and  closed the door.  My  grandfather  wrote something  in the paper?
Sophie  immediately  ran  to the  kitchen and flipped through that morning's
paper. She found her grandfather's  name on  an article on the  second page.
She  read it. Sophie didn't understand all  of what was said, but it sounded
like the French government, under  pressure from priests,  had agreed to ban
an  American movie called The Last Temptation  of  Christ,  which  was about
Jesus  having sex  with  a  lady  called Mary Magdalene.  Her  grandfather's
article said the Church was arrogant and wrong to ban it.
     No wonder the priest is mad, Sophie thought.
     "It's pornography!  Sacrilege!" the  priest  yelled,  emerging from the
study and storming to the front  door. "How  can you possibly  endorse that!
This American  Martin Scorsese is  a blasphemer, and the Church  will permit
him no pulpit in France!" The priest slammed the door on his way out.
     When  her  grandfather came  into the kitchen,  he  saw Sophie with the
paper and frowned. "You're quick."
     Sophie said, "You think Jesus Christ had a girlfriend?"
     "No, dear, I  said the  Church should  not be  allowed to  tell us what
notions we can and can't entertain."
     "Did Jesus have a girlfriend?"
     Her grandfather was  silent for several moments. "Would it be so bad if
He did?"
     Sophie considered it and then shrugged. "I wouldn't mind."

     Sir  Leigh  Teabing  was  still  talking.  "I shan't bore you  with the
countless references to Jesus and Magdalene's union. That has been  explored
ad nauseum by modern historians. I would,  however, like  to  point  out the
following." He motioned to another passage. "This is from the Gospel of Mary
     Sophie had not known  a  gospel existed in Magdalene's words.  She read
the text:
     And Peter said, "Did  the Saviour really speak with a woman without our
knowledge? Are we to turn about and all listen to her?  Did he prefer her to
     And Levi answered, "Peter, you have always been hot-tempered. Now I see
you  contending against the woman like an adversary. If the Saviour made her
worthy, who are you  indeed to reject her? Surely the Saviour knows her very
well. That is why he loved her more than us."
     "The  woman  they  are  speaking  of,"   Teabing  explained,  "is  Mary
Magdalene. Peter is jealous of her."
     "Because Jesus preferred Mary?"
     "Not only that.  The  stakes were far greater  than  mere affection. At
this  point in the  gospels,  Jesus suspects  He will  soon be  captured and
crucified. So He  gives Mary Magdalene instructions on how  to carry on  His
Church after He is  gone.  As a result, Peter expresses  his discontent over
playing  second  fiddle  to  a woman. I  daresay  Peter was  something  of a
     Sophie was trying to keep up. "This is Saint  Peter. The rock on  which
Jesus built His Church."
     "The same, except for one catch. According to these unaltered  gospels,
it  was not Peter to whom Christ gave directions with which to establish the
Christian Church. It was Mary Magdalene."
     Sophie  looked at him. "You're  saying  the Christian Church  was to be
carried on by a woman?"
     "That was the plan.  Jesus  was the original feminist.  He intended for
the future of His Church to be in the hands of Mary Magdalene."
     "And Peter had a problem with that," Langdon said, pointing to The Last
Supper. "That's Peter there. You can see that Da Vinci was well aware of how
Peter felt about Mary Magdalene."
     Again,  Sophie  was  speechless.  In  the  painting, Peter  was leaning
menacingly toward Mary Magdalene and  slicing his blade-like hand across her
neck. The same threatening gesture as in Madonna of the Rocks!
     "And  here too," Langdon  said, pointing now to the crowd of  disciples
near Peter. "A bit ominous, no?"
     Sophie  squinted and saw a hand emerging  from the crowd  of disciples.
"Is that hand wielding a dagger?"
     "Yes.  Stranger still, if you count the arms, you'll see that this hand
belongs to... no one at all. It's disembodied. Anonymous."
     Sophie was starting  to feel overwhelmed.  "I'm  sorry,  I still  don't
understand how all of this makes Mary Magdalene the Holy Grail."
     "Aha!" Teabing exclaimed  again. "Therein lies the rub!" He turned once
more to the table and pulled out a large chart, spreading it out for her. It
was an elaborate  genealogy. "Few people realize  that  Mary  Magdalene,  in
addition to being Christ's right hand, was a powerful woman already."
     Sophie could now see the title of the family tree.

     "Mary Magdalene  is here," Teabing said, pointing  near the top of  the
     Sophie was surprised. "She was of the House of Benjamin?"
     "Indeed," Teabing said. "Mary Magdalene was of royal descent."
     "But I was under the impression Magdalene was poor."
     Teabing  shook his head. "Magdalene was recast  as a  whore in order to
erase evidence of her powerful family ties."
     Sophie found herself  again glancing at Langdon, who  again nodded. She
turned back  to Teabing. "But why would the  early Church  care if Magdalene
had royal blood?"
     The Briton  smiled.  "My dear child,  it was not Mary Magdalene's royal
blood  that  concerned  the Church  so  much as  it was  her consorting with
Christ, who also had royal blood. As you know, the Book of  Matthew tells us
that Jesus was of the  House of David. A descendant of King Solomon--King of
the Jews.  By marrying into the powerful  House of Benjamin, Jesus fused two
royal bloodlines, creating a potent political union with  the  potential  of
making a legitimate claim to the throne and  restoring  the line of kings as
it was under Solomon."
     Sophie sensed he was at last coming to his point.
     Teabing looked excited now. "The legend  of the Holy Grail  is a legend
about royal blood. When Grail  legend speaks of  'the chalice that  held the
blood of Christ'... it speaks, in fact,  of Mary Magdalene--the female  womb
that carried Jesus' royal bloodline."
     The words seemed to echo across the ballroom and back before they fully
registered in  Sophie's mind. Mary Magdalene carried the royal  bloodline of
Jesus Christ? "But how could Christ  have a bloodline unless...?" She paused
and looked at Langdon.
     Langdon smiled softly. "Unless they had a child."
     Sophie stood transfixed.
     "Behold,"  Teabing proclaimed, "the greatest cover-up in human history.
Not  only was Jesus  Christ married,  but He  was  a  father. My dear,  Mary
Magdalene  was  the  Holy  Vessel. She was the chalice  that  bore the royal
bloodline  of Jesus Christ. She was the womb that bore the lineage,  and the
vine from which the sacred fruit sprang forth!"
     Sophie felt the  hairs  stand  up on her arms. "But how could  a secret
that big be kept quiet all of these years?"
     "Heavens!" Teabing  said. "It  has been  anything  but quiet! The royal
bloodline  of Jesus Christ is the source of the most enduring legend of  all
time--the  Holy Grail. Magdalene's story has  been shouted from the rooftops
for centuries  in  all  kinds  of  metaphors  and  languages. Her  story  is
everywhere once you open your eyes."
     "And  the  Sangreal documents?"  Sophie  said. "They allegedly  contain
proof that Jesus had a royal bloodline?"
     "They do."
     "So the entire Holy Grail legend is all about royal blood?"
     "Quite literally,"  Teabing said.  "The word  Sangreal derives from San
Greal--or Holy Grail.  But  in its most ancient form, the  word Sangreal was
divided in  a different spot." Teabing  wrote on a piece  of scrap paper and
handed it to her.
     She read what he had written.
     Sang Real

     Instantly, Sophie recognized the translation. Sang Real literally meant
Royal Blood.

     The  male receptionist  in  the  lobby of the Opus Dei headquarters  on
Lexington Avenue in New York City was surprised to hear Bishop  Aringarosa's
voice on the line. "Good evening, sir."
     "Have I had  any  messages?" the  bishop  demanded, sounding  unusually
     "Yes, sir. I'm  very  glad you called in. I couldn't  reach you in your
apartment. You had an urgent phone message about half an hour ago."
     "Yes?" He sounded relieved by the news. "Did the caller leave a name?"
     "No, sir, just a number." The operator relayed the number.
     "Prefix thirty-three? That's France, am I right?"
     "Yes, sir.  Paris.  The  caller  said it was  critical you contact  him
     "Thank you.  I have been  waiting  for that  call." Aringarosa  quickly
severed the connection.
     As the receptionist hung up the receiver, he wondered  why Aringarosa's
phone connection sounded so  crackly. The bishop's daily schedule showed him
in New York this weekend, and yet  he sounded a world away. The receptionist
shrugged it off.  Bishop Aringarosa had been  acting very strangely the last
few months.

     My  cellular phone must not  have been receiving, Aringarosa thought as
the Fiat  approached  the  exit  for Rome's  Ciampino Charter  Airport.  The
Teacher  was trying  to  reach  me.  Despite  Aringarosa's concern at having
missed the call,  he felt encouraged that the Teacher  felt confident enough
to call Opus Dei headquarters directly.
     Things must have gone well in Paris tonight.
     As  Aringarosa  began dialing  the number, he  felt  excited to know he
would soon be in Paris. I'll be on the ground  before dawn. Aringarosa had a
chartered  turbo prop  awaiting  him  here for  the short flight to  France.
Commercial carriers were not an  option at this hour, especially considering
the contents of his briefcase.
     The line began to ring.
     A female voice answered. "Direction Centrale Police Judidaire."
     Aringarosa felt himself  hesitate. This was  unexpected. "Ah,  yes... I
was asked to call this number?"
     "Qui utes-vous?" the woman said. "Your name?"
     Aringarosa  was uncertain  if he should reveal it.  The French Judicial
     "Your name, monsieur?" the woman pressed.
     "Bishop Manuel Aringarosa."
     "Un moment." There was a click on the line.
     After  a long wait, another man came  on, his tone gruff and concerned.
"Bishop, I am glad I finally reached you. You and I have much to discuss."

     Sangreal... Sang Real... San Greal... Royal Blood... Holy Grail.
     It was all intertwined.
     The Holy  Grail is Mary Magdalene... the mother of the royal  bloodline
of  Jesus  Christ. Sophie felt  a new wave of disorientation as she stood in
the silence of  the ballroom and  stared at  Robert Langdon. The more pieces
Langdon and Teabing  laid on the table tonight,  the more unpredictable this
puzzle became.
     "As you can see, my dear," Teabing said, hobbling  toward a  bookshelf,
"Leonardo  is  not the only one who  has  been trying to  tell the world the
truth about  the  Holy Grail. The  royal bloodline  of Jesus Christ has been
chronicled in  exhaustive detail by scores  of historians." He  ran a finger
down a row of several dozen books.
     Sophie tilted her head and scanned the list of titles:
     Secret Guardians of the True Identity of Christ

     Mary Magdalene and the Holy Grail

     Reclaiming the Sacred Feminine

     "Here is perhaps the best-known tome," Teabing said, pulling a tattered
hardcover from the stack and handing it to her. The cover read:
     The Acclaimed International Bestseller

     Sophie glanced up. "An international bestseller?  I've  never heard  of
     "You  were  young.  This caused  quite  a  stir  back in  the  nineteen
eighties. To my taste, the authors made some dubious leaps of faith in their
analysis, but their fundamental premise is sound,  and to their credit, they
finally brought the idea of Christ's bloodline into the mainstream."
     "What was the Church's reaction to the book?"
     "Outrage, of course. But that was to be expected. After all, this was a
secret the Vatican had  tried to bury in the  fourth century. That's part of
what the  Crusades  were about.  Gathering and  destroying information.  The
threat Mary  Magdalene posed to the men of the early Church  was potentially
ruinous. Not only was she  the woman to whom Jesus had  assigned the task of
founding the Church, but she also had physical proof that the Church's newly
proclaimed deity had  spawned  a mortal bloodline. The  Church, in  order to
defend  itself against  the Magdalene's  power,  perpetuated  her image as a
whore and buried  evidence of Christ's marriage to her, thereby defusing any
potential claims that  Christ had  a  surviving bloodline and was  a  mortal
     Sophie glanced at Langdon, who nodded. "Sophie, the historical evidence
supporting this is substantial."
     "I  admit,"  Teabing  said,  "the  assertions  are dire,  but  you must
understand the  Church's powerful motivations  to  conduct  such a cover-up.
They could never have survived public  knowledge of a bloodline. A  child of
Jesus would undermine the critical notion of Christ's divinity and therefore
the  Christian  Church, which declared itself the sole vessel  through which
humanity  could access  the  divine and  gain  entrance  to the  kingdom  of
     "The five-petal  rose," Sophie  said, pointing suddenly to the spine of
one of Teabing's books. The same exact design inlaid on the rosewood box.
     Teabing glanced at Langdon and grinned. "She has a good eye." He turned
back to Sophie.  "That is  the Priory symbol for the Grail. Mary  Magdalene.
Because her name was forbidden by the Church, Mary Magdalene became secretly
known by  many pseudonyms--the Chalice, the Holy  Grail,  and  the Rose." He
paused. "The  Rose has ties to the five-pointed  pentacle  of Venus and  the
guiding  Compass Rose. By the  way, the word  rose is identical  in English,
French, German, and many other languages."
     "Rose,"  Langdon added, "is also an anagram of  Eros, the Greek  god of
sexual love."
     Sophie gave him a surprised look as Teabing plowed on.
     "The Rose has  always been the premiere  symbol of female sexuality. In
primitive goddess  cults, the five  petals represented  the five stations of
female  life--birth, menstruation, motherhood, menopause, and death.  And in
modern  times, the flowering rose's  ties to womanhood  are  considered more
visual." He glanced at Robert. "Perhaps the symbologist could explain?"
     Robert hesitated. A moment too long.
     "Oh, heavens!"  Teabing  huffed.  "You Americans are  such  prudes." He
looked back at Sophie. "What Robert is fumbling  with is the  fact  that the
blossoming flower resembles the female  genitalia, the sublime blossom  from
which all mankind enters the world. And if you've ever seen any paintings by
Georgia O'Keeffe, you'll know exactly what I mean."
     "The point here," Langdon said,  motioning  back  to the bookshelf, "is
that all of these books substantiate the same historical claim."
     "That Jesus was a father." Sophie was still uncertain.
     "Yes," Teabing said. "And that Mary Magdalene was the womb that carried
His royal lineage. The Priory  of Sion, to  this  day,  still  worships Mary
Magdalene as the Goddess, the Holy Grail, the Rose, and the Divine Mother."
     Sophie again flashed on the ritual in the basement.
     "According  to  the  Priory,"  Teabing continued,  "Mary Magdalene  was
pregnant at the time of  the crucifixion. For the safety  of Christ's unborn
child, she had no choice but to flee the Holy Land. With  the help of Jesus'
trusted  uncle,  Joseph  of Arimathea,  Mary Magdalene  secretly traveled to
France,  then known  as Gaul.  There she found  safe  refuge in  the  Jewish
community. It was here in France that she gave birth to a daughter. Her name
was Sarah."
     Sophie glanced up. "They actually know the child's name?"
     "Far  more than that. Magdalene's  and Sarah's lives  were scrutinously
chronicled  by  their  Jewish  protectors.  Remember  that Magdalene's child
belonged to the lineage of Jewish kings--David and Solomon. For this reason,
the Jews in France considered Magdalene  sacred  royalty and revered  her as
the progenitor  of the royal line of kings.  Countless  scholars of that era
chronicled Mary Magdalene's days in France, including the birth of Sarah and
the subsequent family tree."
     Sophie was startled. "There exists a family tree of Jesus Christ?"
     "Indeed. And  it is purportedly one of the cornerstones of the Sangreal
documents. A complete genealogy of the early descendants of Christ."
     "But what good is a documented genealogy of Christ's bloodline?" Sophie
asked.   "It's  not  proof.  Historians  could  not  possibly  confirm   its
     Teabing chuckled. "No more so than they can confirm the authenticity of
the Bible."
     "Meaning  that  history  is  always written  by the  winners.  When two
cultures clash,  the loser is obliterated, and the winner writes the history
books--books which glorify their own cause and disparage  the conquered foe.
As Napoleon  once  said, 'What is history,  but a  fable agreed upon?' "  He
smiled. "By its very nature, history is always a one-sided account."
     Sophie had never thought of it that way.
     "The Sangreal documents simply tell the other side of the Christ story.
In the end,  which side of the story you  believe becomes  a matter of faith
and personal  exploration, but  at least  the information has  survived. The
Sangreal documents  include  tens  of  thousands  of  pages of  information.
Eyewitness accounts of the Sangreal treasure describe it as being carried in
four  enormous  trunks.  In  those  trunks  are  reputed  to  be the  Purist
Documents--thousands  of  pages  of  unaltered,  pre-Constantine  documents,
written by the  early followers of  Jesus,  revering  Him as a  wholly human
teacher  and  prophet.  Also  rumored to  be part of  the  treasure  is  the
legendary  "Q" Document--a  manuscript  that even  the  Vatican  admits they
believe  exists.  Allegedly,  it is  a  book of  Jesus'  teachings, possibly
written in His own hand."
     "Writings by Christ Himself?"
     "Of course," Teabing said. "Why wouldn't Jesus have kept a chronicle of
His  ministry?  Most  people did in those days.  Another  explosive document
believed  to  be  in  the  treasure is  a  manuscript  called The  Magdalene
Diaries--Mary Magdalene's personal account of her  relationship with Christ,
His crucifixion, and her time in France."
     Sophie  was  silent  for  a  long  moment.  "And  these  four chests of
documents  were the treasure that the Knights  Templar found under Solomon's
     "Exactly.  The  documents  that  made  the  Knights  so  powerful.  The
documents  that have been  the  object of countless Grail quests  throughout
     "But  you  said  the  Holy  Grail  was Mary  Magdalene. If  people  are
searching for documents, why would you call it a search for the Holy Grail?"
     Teabing eyed  her, his expression softening.  "Because the hiding place
of the Holy Grail includes a sarcophagus."
     Outside, the wind howled in the trees.
     Teabing  spoke  more  quietly now.  "The quest  for  the Holy  Grail is
literally the quest to kneel before the bones of Mary  Magdalene.  A journey
to pray at the feet of the outcast one, the lost sacred feminine."
     Sophie  felt an unexpected wonder. "The hiding place of the Holy  Grail
is actually... a tomb?"
     Teabing's hazel eyes got  misty. "It  is. A tomb containing the body of
Mary Magdalene and the  documents  that tell the true story of her  life. At
its  heart, the quest  for the Holy Grail  has always been  a quest  for the
Magdalene--the wronged Queen,  entombed with  proof of her family's rightful
claim to power."
     Sophie waited a moment as  Teabing  gathered himself. So much about her
grandfather was still not making sense. "Members of the Priory," she finally
said, "all these  years have answered the charge of protecting the  Sangreal
documents and the tomb of Mary Magdalene?"
     "Yes, but the brotherhood had another, more  important duty as well--to
protect the bloodline itself. Christ's lineage was in perpetual danger.  The
early  Church feared that if the lineage were  permitted to grow, the secret
of  Jesus  and  Magdalene   would  eventually  surface  and  challenge   the
fundamental Catholic  doctrine--that of a divine Messiah who did not consort
with women  or  engage in sexual  union."  He paused. "Nonetheless, Christ's
line  grew  quietly  under cover in France until  making a bold  move in the
fifth century, when it  intermarried with  French  royal blood and created a
lineage known as the Merovingian bloodline."
     This  news  surprised  Sophie. Merovingian  was a term learned by every
student in France. "The Merovingians founded Paris."
     "Yes. That's  one of the reasons the Grail legend is so rich in France.
Many  of the Vatican's  Grail  quests here  were in fact stealth missions to
erase members of the royal bloodline. Have you heard of King Dagobert?"
     Sophie vaguely recalled the name from a grisly tale in  history  class.
"Dagobert  was  a Merovingian king,  wasn't he? Stabbed  in  the  eye  while
     "Exactly.  Assassinated   by  the  Vatican  in  collusion   with  Pepin
d'Heristal.  Late seventh  century. With  Dagobert's murder, the Merovingian
bloodline was almost exterminated. Fortunately,  Dagobert's  son, Sigisbert,
secretly escaped the attack and carried on the lineage, which later included
Godefroi de Bouillon--founder of the Priory of Sion."
     "The  same  man,"  Langdon said,  "who ordered  the Knights  Templar to
recover  the  Sangreal  documents  from  beneath  Solomon's Temple  and thus
provide the Merovingians proof of their hereditary ties to Jesus Christ."
     Teabing nodded,  heaving a ponderous  sigh. "The modern Priory  of Sion
has a  momentous  duty. Theirs is a  threefold charge. The brotherhood  must
protect  the  Sangreal  documents.  They  must  protect  the  tomb  of  Mary
Magdalene. And, of course, they  must  nurture and protect  the bloodline of
Christ--those  few members  of  the  royal  Merovingian  bloodline  who have
survived into modern times."
     The words hung in  the huge space, and Sophie felt an odd vibration, as
if her bones were reverberating with some new kind of truth. Descendants  of
Jesus who  survived into  modern times. Her grandfather's  voice  again  was
whispering in  her  ear.  Princess, I  must  tell  you the truth about  your
     A chill raked her flesh.
     Royal blood.
     She could not imagine.
     Princess Sophie.
     "Sir Leigh?"  The manservant's words  crackled through the intercom  on
the wall, and Sophie jumped. "If you could join me in the kitchen a moment?"
     Teabing  scowled  at  the  ill-timed  intrusion. He  went over  to  the
intercom  and pressed  the button.  "Rumy,  as you know,  I am busy  with my
guests. If  we need anything else from  the  kitchen  tonight, we  will help
ourselves. Thank you and good night."
     "A word with you before I retire, sir. If you would."
     Teabing grunted and pressed the button. "Make it quick, Rumy."
     "It is a household matter, sir, hardly fare for guests to endure."
     Teabing looked incredulous. "And it cannot wait until morning?"
     "No, sir. My question won't take a minute."
     Teabing  rolled his eyes and looked at Langdon and Sophie. "Sometimes I
wonder  who is serving  whom?" He pressed the button again. "I'll  be  right
there, Rumy. Can I bring you anything when I come?"
     "Only freedom from oppression, sir."
     "Rumy, you realize your steak  au poivre is  the only  reason you still
work for me."
     "So you tell me, sir. So you tell me."

     Princess Sophie.
     Sophie  felt  hollow as she  listened  to  the  clicking  of  Teabing's
crutches fade down the  hallway.  Numb,  she turned and faced Langdon in the
deserted ballroom. He was already shaking his head as if reading her mind.
     "No,  Sophie,"  he  whispered,  his eyes reassuring. "The same  thought
crossed my mind when  I realized your grandfather was in the Priory, and you
said he wanted to tell you a secret about your family. But it's impossible."
Langdon paused. "Sauniure is not a Merovingian name."
     Sophie wasn't sure whether  to feel  relieved or disappointed. Earlier,
Langdon had asked an unusual passing question about Sophie's mother's maiden
name.  Chauvel.  The  question now  made sense.  "And  Chauvel?" she  asked,
     Again  he  shook his head. "I'm sorry. I know that would  have answered
some questions for you. Only two direct lines of Merovingians remain.  Their
family names are  Plantard and  Saint-Clair. Both families  live  in hiding,
probably protected by the Priory."
     Sophie repeated the names silently in her mind and then shook her head.
There was  no one  in her family  named Plantard  or  Saint-Clair.  A  weary
undertow was pulling at her now. She realized she was no closer than she had
been at the Louvre to understanding what truth her grandfather had wanted to
reveal to her. Sophie wished her grandfather had  never mentioned her family
this afternoon. He  had torn  open  old wounds that felt as  painful now  as
ever. They are dead,  Sophie. They are not coming  back. She thought of  her
mother singing her to sleep at night, of her father giving  her rides on his
shoulders, and of her grandmother and  younger  brother smiling at  her with
their fervent green eyes. All that  was stolen. And all she had left was her
     And now he is gone too. I am alone.
     Sophie  turned  quietly  back to  The  Last Supper and  gazed  at  Mary
Magdalene's long red hair and quiet eyes. There was something in the woman's
expression that echoed the loss of a loved one. Sophie could feel it too.
     "Robert?" she said softly.
     He stepped closer.
     "I know Leigh said the Grail story is all around us, but tonight is the
first time I've ever heard any of this."
     Langdon  looked as  if  he  wanted  to  put a  comforting  hand on  her
shoulder, but he refrained. "You've heard her story before, Sophie. Everyone
has. We just don't realize it when we hear it."
     "I don't understand."
     "The  Grail story  is  everywhere,  but  it is hidden.  When the Church
outlawed speaking  of the shunned Mary Magdalene,  her  story and importance
had  to  be  passed  on  through  more  discreet  channels... channels  that
supported metaphor and symbolism."
     "Of course. The arts."
     Langdon  motioned  to  The Last  Supper. "A  perfect example.  Some  of
today's most  enduring art, literature, and music secretly tell the  history
of Mary Magdalene and Jesus."
     Langdon quickly told her about works by Da Vinci,  Botticelli, Poussin,
Bernini, Mozart, and Victor Hugo that all whispered  of the quest to restore
the banished sacred feminine. Enduring legends like Sir Gawain and the Green
Knight, King Arthur, and  Sleeping  Beauty  were  Grail  allegories.  Victor
Hugo's Hunchback  of  Notre Dame and Mozart's  Magic  Flute were filled with
Masonic symbolism and Grail secrets.
     "Once you open your eyes to the Holy Grail," Langdon said, "you see her
everywhere. Paintings.  Music.  Books. Even in  cartoons,  theme parks,  and
popular movies."
     Langdon held  up his Mickey Mouse watch  and told  her that Walt Disney
had made  it  his quiet life's  work  to pass on  the  Grail story to future
generations. Throughout  his  entire life, Disney  had been  hailed as  "the
Modern-Day  Leonardo da Vinci."  Both  men  were generations ahead of  their
times,  uniquely  gifted artists,  members  of  secret societies, and,  most
notably,  avid pranksters. Like Leonardo, Walt Disney loved infusing  hidden
messages and  symbolism in his art. For the trained symbologist, watching an
early Disney movie  was like being barraged by  an avalanche of allusion and
     Most of Disney's hidden  messages dealt with religion, pagan  myth, and
stories of  the  subjugated goddess. It  was no mistake  that  Disney retold
tales like Cinderella, Sleeping  Beauty, and Snow White--all of  which dealt
with the incarceration of the sacred feminine. Nor did one need a background
in symbolism to understand that  Snow White--a princess who fell from  grace
after partaking of a poisoned apple--was a clear allusion to the downfall of
Eve   in  the   Garden   of  Eden.  Or   that   Sleeping  Beauty's  Princess
Aurora--code-named "Rose" and hidden deep in the forest to protect  her from
the clutches of the evil witch--was the Grail story for children.
     Despite its corporate  image, Disney still had a savvy, playful element
among its  employees, and their artists still amused themselves by inserting
hidden symbolism in Disney products. Langdon would never  forget  one of his
students bringing in a DVD of The Lion King and pausing the film to reveal a
freeze-frame  in which the  word SEX was  clearly  visible,  spelled  out by
floating dust particles over  Simba's head. Although Langdon suspected  this
was more of  a cartoonist's  sophomoric prank than any  kind of  enlightened
allusion  to  pagan human  sexuality, he  had  learned  not to underestimate
Disney's grasp of symbolism. The Little Mermaid was  a spellbinding tapestry
of spiritual symbols so specifically goddess-related  that they could not be
     When Langdon had first seen The Little Mermaid,  he had actually gasped
aloud when he noticed that the painting in Ariel's underwater  home was none
other  than  seventeenth-century  artist Georges de  la  Tour's The Penitent
Magdalene--a famous  homage  to the  banished Mary Magdalene--fitting  decor
considering the movie turned out  to  be a ninety-minute collage of  blatant
symbolic references  to  the lost  sanctity of Isis,  Eve,  Pisces  the fish
goddess,  and, repeatedly, Mary Magdalene. The Little Mermaid's name, Ariel,
possessed powerful ties to the  sacred feminine  and, in the Book of Isaiah,
was  synonymous  with  "the  Holy  City  besieged."  Of  course, the  Little
Mermaid's flowing red hair was certainly no coincidence either.
     The clicking of Teabing's crutches  approached in the hallway, his pace
unusually brisk.  When  their  host entered the  study, his  expression  was
     "You'd better explain yourself, Robert," he said coldly. "You  have not
been honest with me."

     "I'm being  framed, Leigh," Langdon said, trying to stay calm. You know
me. I wouldn't kill anyone.
     Teabing's  tone  did  not soften.  "Robert, you're  on  television, for
Christ's sake. Did you know you were wanted by the authorities?"
     "Then you abused  my  trust. I'm astonished you would put me at risk by
coming here and asking me to ramble on about the Grail so you could hide out
in my home."
     "I didn't kill anyone."
     "Jacques  Sauniure is dead,  and the police  say  you  did it." Teabing
looked saddened. "Such a contributor to the arts..."
     "Sir?"  The manservant had appeared now, standing behind Teabing in the
study doorway, his arms crossed. "Shall I show them out?"
     "Allow  me." Teabing  hobbled across the study, unlocked a  set of wide
glass  doors,  and  swung them open onto a side lawn. "Please find your car,
and leave."
     Sophie did not  move. "We have information about the clef de voute. The
Priory keystone."
     Teabing stared  at  her for several  seconds and scoffed derisively. "A
desperate ploy. Robert knows how I've sought it."
     "She's  telling  the truth," Langdon  said. "That's why  we came to you
tonight. To talk to you about the keystone."
     The   manservant  intervened  now.  "Leave,   or  I   shall  call   the
     "Leigh," Langdon whispered, "we know where it is."
     Teabing's balance seemed to falter a bit.
     Rumy now marched  stiffly  across the room. "Leave  at once! Or I  will
     "Rumy!"  Teabing  spun, snapping  at  his  servant.  "Excuse  us for  a
     The servant's jaw dropped. "Sir? I must protest. These people are--"
     "I'll handle this." Teabing pointed to the hallway.
     After a moment  of  stunned  silence, Rumy skulked  out like a banished
     In the cool  night breeze coming through the open doors, Teabing turned
back to Sophie and Langdon, his expression still wary. "This better be good.
What do you know of the keystone?"

     In the thick brush outside Teabing's study, Silas clutched  his  pistol
and gazed through the  glass doors.  Only  moments  ago, he had  circled the
house and seen Langdon and the woman talking in the  large study. Before  he
could  move in, a man on crutches entered, yelled at Langdon, threw open the
doors, and demanded his guests leave. Then the woman mentioned the keystone,
and everything changed.  Shouts turned to whispers. Moods  softened. And the
glass doors were quickly closed.
     Now, as he huddled in  the shadows, Silas peered through the glass. The
keystone is somewhere inside the house. Silas could feel it.
     Staying in the shadows, he  inched closer to  the glass,  eager to hear
what was being said. He would give them five minutes. If they did not reveal
where they had placed the keystone, Silas would have  to enter and  persuade
them with force.

     Inside the study, Langdon could sense their host's bewilderment.
     "Grand Master?" Teabing choked, eyeing Sophie. "Jacques Sauniure?"
     Sophie nodded, seeing the shock in his eyes.
     "But you could not possibly know that!"
     "Jacques Sauniure was my grandfather."
     Teabing  staggered back on  his crutches, shooting a glance at Langdon,
who nodded. Teabing turned back to  Sophie. "Miss Neveu, I am speechless. If
this  is true, then I  am truly sorry for your loss. I  should admit, for my
research, I have kept  lists  of men in Paris whom I  thought  might be good
candidates  for involvement in the Priory. Jacques Sauniure was on that list
along  with  many  others. But  Grand Master, you say? It's hard to fathom."
Teabing was silent a moment and then shook his head. "But  it still makes no
sense. Even if your grandfather were the Priory Grand Master and created the
keystone himself, he  would  never tell you  how to  find  it.  The keystone
reveals the pathway to the brotherhood's ultimate treasure. Granddaughter or
not, you are not eligible to receive such knowledge."
     "Mr.  Sauniure  was dying  when  he passed on the information," Langdon
said. "He had limited options."
     "He didn't need options,"  Teabing argued. "There exist three sunuchaux
who also know the secret. That is the  beauty of their system. One will rise
to Grand  Master and they will induct a new sunuchal and share the secret of
the keystone."
     "I guess you  didn't see the entire news broadcast,"  Sophie  said. "In
addition  to  my grandfather, three other prominent  Parisians were murdered
today. All in similar ways. All looked like they had been interrogated."
     Teabing's jaw fell. "And you think they were..."
     "The sunuchaux," Langdon said.
     "But how? A  murderer  could  not possibly learn the identities of  all
four top members  of the Priory of Sion! Look at me, I have been researching
them for  decades,  and I  can't  even  name  one  Priory  member.  It seems
inconceivable  that  all three  sunuchaux and  the  Grand  Master  could  be
discovered and killed in one day."
     "I  doubt  the information was gathered in a single  day," Sophie said.
"It  sounds  like a well-planned ducapiter. It's a technique we use to fight
organized  crime syndicates. If DCPJ wants to move on a  certain group, they
will silently  listen and watch for months, identify all  the main  players,
and then move in and take them all at the same moment. Decapitation. With no
leadership, the  group falls into chaos and divulges other information. It's
possible someone patiently watched the  Priory and then attacked, hoping the
top people would reveal the location of the keystone."
     Teabing  looked unconvinced.  "But  the brothers would never talk. They
are sworn to secrecy. Even in the face of death."
     "Exactly," Langdon said. "Meaning, if they never  divulged the  secret,
and they were killed..."
     Teabing  gasped.  "Then  the  location of  the  keystone would  be lost
     "And with it," Langdon said, "the location of the Holy Grail."
     Teabing's body seemed to sway with the weight of Langdon's words. Then,
as if  too tired to  stand another moment, he flopped  in a chair and stared
out the window.
     Sophie  walked  over, her  voice  soft.  "Considering  my grandfather's
predicament, it seems possible that in total desperation he  tried  to  pass
the secret on  to someone  outside the  brotherhood.  Someone he thought  he
could trust. Someone in his family."
     Teabing  was  pale.  "But  someone capable  of  such  an  attack...  of
discovering  so  much about  the brotherhood..." He paused, radiating  a new
fear. "It could only be one force. This kind of infiltration could only have
come from the Priory's oldest enemy."
     Langdon glanced up. "The Church."
     "Who else? Rome has been seeking the Grail for centuries."
     Sophie was skeptical. "You think the Church killed my grandfather?"
     Teabing  replied, "It would not be the first time in history the Church
has  killed to protect itself. The documents  that  accompany the Holy Grail
are explosive, and the Church has wanted to destroy them for years."
     Langdon  was having trouble  buying  Teabing's  premise that the Church
would blatantly murder  people to obtain these documents. Having met the new
Pope and  many of the cardinals, Langdon knew they were deeply spiritual men
who would never condone assassination. Regardless of the stakes.
     Sophie  seemed  to be having similar thoughts. "Isn't  it possible that
these Priory members were murdered by someone  outside  the Church?  Someone
who  didn't understand  what  the Grail  really is? The Cup of Christ, after
all, would  be quite an enticing treasure.  Certainly  treasure hunters have
killed for less."
     "In  my experience,"  Teabing said, "men  go to  far greater lengths to
avoid what they fear than to obtain what they desire. I  sense a desperation
in this assault on the Priory."
     "Leigh," Langdon said,  "the argument is paradoxical. Why would members
of the Catholic clergy  murder  Priory  members  in an  effort  to  find and
destroy documents they believe are false testimony anyway?"
     Teabing  chuckled.  "The  ivory towers  of Harvard have made you  soft,
Robert. Yes, the  clergy  in Rome are blessed with potent faith, and because
of  this,  their  beliefs  can weather  any storm,  including documents that
contradict everything they hold dear. But what about the rest of  the world?
What about those who are not  blessed  with  absolute certainty?  What about
those  who  look at the cruelty in  the  world and  say, where is God today?
Those who look at Church  scandals  and  ask, who are these men who claim to
speak the  truth  about Christ  and yet lie to cover  up the sexual abuse of
children  by their  own priests?"  Teabing paused.  "What  happens  to those
people, Robert,  if  persuasive  scientific  evidence  comes  out  that  the
Church's  version  of  the Christ story is inaccurate, and that the greatest
story ever told is, in fact, the greatest story ever sold"
     Langdon did not respond.
     "I'll tell you what happens if the documents get  out,"  Teabing  said.
"The  Vatican faces a  crisis  of  faith unprecedented in its  two-millennia
     After a long silence, Sophie said,  "But  if  it  is  the Church who is
responsible for this attack, why would  they act now? After all these years?
The  Priory  keeps the  Sangreal  documents  hidden. They pose  no immediate
threat to the Church."
     Teabing  heaved  an ominous  sigh  and  glanced at  Langdon. "Robert, I
assume you are familiar with the Priory's final charge?"
     Langdon felt his breath catch at the thought. "I am."
     "Miss Neveu," Teabing said, "the Church and the Priory have had a tacit
understanding for years. That is, the Church does not attack the Priory, and
the Priory keeps the Sangreal documents hidden." He  paused.  "However, part
of the Priory history has always included a plan to unveil the secret.  With
the arrival  of a specific  date in history,  the brotherhood plans to break
the  silence and carry out its ultimate  triumph by  unveiling  the Sangreal
documents to the world  and shouting the true story of Jesus Christ from the
     Sophie  stared at Teabing in  silence. Finally, she  too sat down. "And
you think that date is approaching? And the Church knows it?"
     "A  speculation,"  Teabing said,  "but it  would  certainly provide the
Church motivation for an all-out attack  to find the documents before it was
too late."
     Langdon had the uneasy feeling that Teabing was making good sense.  "Do
you think the  Church would actually be capable  of uncovering hard evidence
of the Priory's date?"
     "Why  not--if  we're  assuming  the  Church  was  able  to uncover  the
identities of the Priory members, then certainly they could have learned  of
their plans. And even if they don't have the exact date, their superstitions
may be getting the best of them."
     "Superstitions?" Sophie asked.
     "In terms of prophecy," Teabing said, "we are currently in  an epoch of
enormous change. The millennium  has recently passed, and with it  has ended
the  two-thousand-year-long astrological Age  of  Pisces--the fish, which is
also the sign  of Jesus. As  any astrological symbologist will tell you, the
Piscean ideal believes that man must  be  told  what to  do by higher powers
because man is incapable of thinking  for  himself. Hence it has been a time
of fervent religion. Now, however, we are entering  the Age of Aquarius--the
water bearer--whose ideals claim that man  will learn the  truth and be able
to think for himself. The ideological shift is enormous, and it is occurring
right now."
     Langdon felt a  shiver. Astrological prophecy never  held much interest
or credibility  for  him, but  he  knew there  were those in the Church  who
followed it very closely. "The Church calls this transitional period the End
of Days."
     Sophie looked skeptical. "As in the end of the world? The Apocalypse?"
     "No." Langdon  replied. "That's a common misconception.  Many religions
speak of the End  of Days. It refers not to the end of the world, but rather
the  end of our  current age--Pisces,  which began  at  the time of Christ's
birth,  spanned two  thousand years,  and  waned  with the  passing  of  the
millennium. Now that we've passed into the Age of Aquarius, the  End of Days
has arrived."
     "Many Grail historians," Teabing added, "believe that if the Priory  is
indeed planning to  release this truth,  this  point in  history would be  a
symbolically  apt time. Most Priory academics,  myself included, anticipated
the  brotherhood's  release  would coincide precisely  with the  millennium.
Obviously,  it did  not.  Admittedly,  the  Roman  calendar  does  not  mesh
perfectly with  astrological  markers, so  there  is some  gray area in  the
prediction. Whether the Church now has inside information that an exact date
is  looming,  or  whether  they  are  just  getting  nervous  on  account of
astrological  prophecy,  I  don't  know.  Anyway,  it's  immaterial.  Either
scenario  explains  how the Church might be motivated to launch a preemptive
attack against the Priory." Teabing frowned. "And believe me,  if the Church
finds the Holy Grail, they will destroy it. The documents and the relics  of
the blessed Mary Magdalene as well."  His eyes  grew heavy. "Then,  my dear,
with the Sangreal documents gone, all evidence will be lost. The Church will
have  won  their  age-old  war to rewrite  history.  The past will be erased
     Slowly,  Sophie pulled the cruciform key  from her  sweater  pocket and
held it out to Teabing.
     Teabing took the key and studied  it. "My goodness.  The  Priory  seal.
Where did you get this?"
     "My grandfather gave it to me tonight before he died."
     Teabing ran his fingers across the cruciform. "A key to a church?"
     She drew a deep breath. "This key provides access to the keystone."
     Teabing's head snapped up, his  face wild with disbelief.  "Impossible!
What church did I miss? I've searched every church in France!"
     "It's not in a church," Sophie said. "It's in a Swiss depository bank."
     Teabing's look of excitement waned. "The keystone is in a bank?"
     "A vault," Langdon offered.
     "A bank vault?" Teabing shook  his head  violently. "That's impossible.
The keystone is supposed to be hidden beneath the sign of the Rose."
     "It  is," Langdon said. "It was stored in a rosewood  box inlaid with a
five-petal Rose."
     Teabing looked thunderstruck. "You've seen the keystone?"
     Sophie nodded. "We visited the bank."
     Teabing came over to  them, his  eyes wild  with fear. "My  friends, we
must  do something. The keystone is in danger! We have a duty to protect it.
What if there are other keys? Perhaps stolen from the murdered sunuchaux? If
the Church can gain access to the bank as you have--"
     "Then they will be too late," Sophie said. "We removed the keystone."
     "What! You removed the keystone from its hiding place?"
     "Don't worry," Langdon said. "The keystone is well hidden."
     "Extremely well hidden, I hope!"
     "Actually," Langdon said, unable to hide his grin, "that depends on how
often you dust under your couch."

     The  wind  outside Chuteau  Villette  had picked  up,  and Silas's robe
danced in  the breeze as he crouched near the window.  Although  he had been
unable  to hear  much of the  conversation,  the  word keystone  had  sifted
through the glass on numerous occasions.
     It is inside.
     The  Teacher's words were fresh in  his mind.  Enter  Chuteau Villette.
Take the keystone. Hun no one.
     Now,  Langdon  and  the others had  adjourned suddenly to another room,
extinguishing the study lights as they went. Feeling like a panther stalking
prey,  Silas crept  to the glass doors. Finding them  unlocked,  he  slipped
inside  and  closed  the doors silently  behind him. He  could  hear muffled
voices from another  room. Silas  pulled the  pistol from his pocket, turned
off the safety, and inched down the hallway.

     Lieutenant Collet stood alone at  the foot of Leigh  Teabing's driveway
and gazed up at the massive house. Isolated. Dark. Good ground cover. Collet
watched his half-dozen agents spreading silently out along the length of the
fence. They could be over it and  have the house  surrounded in a  matter of
minutes. Langdon could not have chosen a more ideal spot for Collet's men to
make a surprise assault.
     Collet was about to call Fache himself when at last his phone rang.
     Fache sounded  not  nearly as pleased  with the  developments as Collet
would have imagined. "Why didn't someone tell me we had a lead on Langdon?"
     "You were on a phone call and--"
     "Where exactly are you, Lieutenant Collet?"
     Collet gave him  the address. "The estate belongs to a British national
named Teabing. Langdon drove a fair distance to get here, and the vehicle is
inside the security gate, with no signs of forced entry, so chances are good
that Langdon knows the occupant."
     "I'm  coming  out," Fache  said.  "Don't make a  move. I'll handle this
     Collet's  jaw dropped.  "But  Captain, you're  twenty  minutes away! We
should  act immediately. I have  him staked out.  I'm  with eight men total.
Four of us have field rifles and the others have sidearms."
     "Wait for me."
     "Captain,  what if Langdon has a hostage in there?  What if  he sees us
and  decides  to leave on foot? We need  to move now! My men are in position
and ready to go."
     "Lieutenant  Collet,  you will wait  for  me to  arrive  before  taking
action. That is an order." Fache hung up.
     Stunned,  Lieutenant  Collet switched off  his  phone. Why  the hell is
Fache asking me to wait?  Collet knew the  answer. Fache, though famous  for
his  instinct, was  notorious for  his  pride. Fache wants  credit  for  the
arrest. After putting  the American's face  all  over the television,  Fache
wanted to be sure his own face got equal time. Collet's job  was  simply  to
hold down the fort until the boss showed up to save the day.
     As he stood there, Collet flashed on  a second possible explanation for
this delay.  Damage  control. In  law  enforcement,  hesitating to  arrest a
fugitive only occurred  when uncertainty had arisen regarding the  suspect's
guilt.  Is Fache having second thoughts that  Langdon is the right man?  The
thought  was frightening.  Captain Fache had  gone  out on a limb tonight to
arrest  Robert  Langdon--surveillance cachue, Interpol, and now  television.
Not even the great Bezu Fache would  survive the political fallout if he had
mistakenly splashed a prominent American's face all over French  television,
claiming he was a murderer. If Fache now realized he'd  made a mistake, then
it made perfect sense that he would tell Collet not to make a move. The last
thing Fache needed was for Collet to storm an innocent Brit's private estate
and take Langdon at gunpoint.
     Moreover,  Collet realized,  if Langdon were innocent, it explained one
of this case's strangest paradoxes: Why had  Sophie Neveu, the granddaughter
of the  victim, helped the alleged killer escape? Unless Sophie knew Langdon
was falsely charged. Fache  had posited all kinds of explanations tonight to
explain  Sophie's odd  behavior,  including that Sophie, as  Sauniure's sole
heir, had persuaded her secret lover Robert Langdon to kill off Sauniure for
the inheritance money.  Sauniure,  if he had suspected this, might have left
the police the message P.S.  Find Robert Langdon. Collet was  fairly certain
something  else  was going  on here. Sophie Neveu seemed  far too  solid  of
character to be mixed up in something that sordid.
     "Lieutenant?" One  of the  field agents came running over. "We found  a
     Collet followed the agent about  fifty  yards past  the  driveway.  The
agent pointed  to a  wide  shoulder on the opposite side of the road. There,
parked in the brush,  almost out of  sight,  was a black Audi. It had rental
plates. Collet felt the hood. Still warm. Hot even.
     "That  must  be how Langdon  got here," Collet said.  "Call the  rental
company. Find out if it's stolen."
     "Yes, sir."
     Another  agent waved Collet  back  over in  the direction of the fence.
"Lieutenant,  have a look at  this." He handed Collet a pair of night vision
binoculars. "The grove of trees near the top of the driveway."
     Collet  aimed  the  binoculars  up  the  hill  and adjusted  the  image
intensifier  dials. Slowly, the  greenish shapes came into focus. He located
the curve of the driveway  and slowly  followed it up, reaching the grove of
trees. All  he could do was stare. There,  shrouded in  the greenery, was an
armored truck. A truck identical to  the one Collet had permitted  to  leave
the Depository Bank of Zurich earlier tonight.  He prayed this was some kind
of bizarre coincidence, but he knew it could not be.
     "It seems obvious," the agent said, "that this truck is how Langdon and
Neveu got away from the bank."
     Collet  was speechless. He thought  of  the armored truck driver he had
stopped  at  the roadblock.  The Rolex. His  impatience  to  leave. I  never
checked the cargo hold.
     Incredulous, Collet realized that someone in the bank had actually lied
to DCPJ  about Langdon and Sophie's whereabouts and then helped them escape.
But who?  And why? Collet wondered if maybe this  were the  reason Fache had
told him not to take action yet. Maybe Fache realized there were more people
involved tonight  than  just  Langdon and  Sophie. And  if Langdon and Neveu
arrived in the armored truck, then who drove the Audi?

     Hundreds of miles  to the south, a chartered  Beechcraft Baron 58 raced
northward  over the  Tyrrhenian Sea. Despite  calm skies, Bishop  Aringarosa
clutched an  airsickness bag,  certain he  could be ill  at  any moment. His
conversation with Paris had not at all been what he had imagined.
     Alone  in the  small  cabin,  Aringarosa  twisted the gold ring on  his
finger  and tried to ease  his  overwhelming sense of  fear and desperation.
Everything in  Paris has gone terribly wrong. Closing  his  eyes, Aringarosa
said a prayer that Bezu Fache would have the means to fix it.

     Teabing  sat on the  divan, cradling  the  wooden  box  on his lap  and
admiring  the  lid's intricate inlaid Rose. Tonight has become the strangest
and most magical night of my life.
     "Lift the lid," Sophie whispered, standing over him, beside Langdon.
     Teabing smiled. Do not rush  me. Having spent over a  decade  searching
for this keystone, he wanted to savor every millisecond of this  moment.  He
ran a palm across the wooden lid, feeling the texture of the inlaid flower.
     "The Rose," he whispered.  The Rose is Magdalene is the Holy Grail. The
Rose is the compass  that guides the way. Teabing felt foolish. For years he
had traveled to cathedrals and churches all  over France, paying for special
access, examining hundreds of archways  beneath rose  windows, searching for
an encrypted keystone. La clef de voute--a stone key beneath the sign of the
     Teabing slowly unlatched the lid and raised it.
     As his eyes  finally gazed  upon the contents, he knew in an instant it
could  only be the keystone.  He was staring at a stone cylinder, crafted of
interconnecting lettered dials. The device  seemed surprisingly  familiar to
     "Designed from  Da  Vinci's diaries," Sophie said. "My grandfather made
them as a hobby."
     Of  course, Teabing  realized. He had seen the sketches and blueprints.
The key to finding the Holy Grail lies inside this stone. Teabing lifted the
heavy cryptex from the box,  holding it gently.  Although he had no idea how
to open the  cylinder,  he sensed his own destiny lay inside.  In moments of
failure,  Teabing  had  questioned whether his  life's quest  would ever  be
rewarded. Now those  doubts were  gone forever. He  could  hear the  ancient
words... the foundation of the Grail legend:
     Vous  ne  trouvez pas  le  Saint-Graal, c'est  le  Saint-Graal qui vous
     You do not find the Grail, the Grail finds you.
     And tonight, incredibly,  the key to finding  the Holy Grail had walked
right through his front door.

     While  Sophie  and Teabing sat with  the cryptex  and  talked about the
vinegar, the dials, and what  the  password might  be, Langdon  carried  the
rosewood box across the room to a well-lit table to get a better look at it.
Something Teabing had just said was now running through Langdon's mind.
     The key to the Grail is hidden beneath the sign of the Rose.
     Langdon held  the wooden box up  to the light and examined  the  inlaid
symbol  of  the Rose.  Although his familiarity with  art  did  not  include
woodworking or  inlaid  furniture, he  had just  recalled  the famous  tiled
ceiling of the Spanish  monastery outside of  Madrid, where, three centuries
after  its construction, the  ceiling tiles  began  to fall  out,  revealing
sacred texts scrawled by monks on the plaster beneath.
     Langdon looked again at the Rose.
     Beneath the Rose.
     Sub Rosa.
     A bump in the hallway behind him made  Langdon turn. He saw nothing but
shadows. Teabing's manservant most likely had passed through. Langdon turned
back  to  the  box.  He ran  his finger over  the smooth edge of the  inlay,
wondering if he could pry  the  Rose out, but the craftsmanship was perfect.
He doubted even a  razor blade could fit  in between the inlaid Rose and the
carefully carved depression into which it was seated.
     Opening the box, he examined the inside  of the lid. It was  smooth. As
he  shifted its position, though,  the light caught what  appeared  to  be a
small  hole  on  the underside of  the lid, positioned in the  exact center.
Langdon closed the lid and examined the inlaid symbol from the top. No hole.
     It doesn't pass through.
     Setting the  box on the table, he  looked around the  room and spied  a
stack  of papers with a paper clip on it. Borrowing the clip, he returned to
the box,  opened it, and studied the  hole again.  Carefully, he  unbent the
paper clip  and inserted  one  end into the hole. He gave  a gentle push. It
took almost  no  effort. He heard something clatter quietly onto  the table.
Langdon closed the lid to look. It was a small piece of wood, like  a puzzle
piece. The wooden Rose had popped out of the lid and fallen onto the desk.
     Speechless, Langdon stared at the bare spot  on the lid where the  Rose
had been. There, engraved in the  wood,  written in an immaculate hand, were
four lines of text in a language he had never seen.
     The characters  look  vaguely  Semitic, Langdon thought to himself, and
yet I don't recognize the language!
     A  sudden  movement behind him caught his attention. Out  of nowhere, a
crushing blow to the head knocked Langdon to his knees.
     As he  fell, he thought for a moment he saw a pale ghost hovering  over
him, clutching a gun. Then everything went black.

     Sophie  Neveu,  despite working  in  law enforcement,  had  never found
herself at gunpoint until tonight. Almost inconceivably, the  gun into which
she was now staring was clutched in the pale hand of an enormous albino with
long white hair. He looked at her with red eyes that radiated a frightening,
disembodied quality. Dressed in a wool  robe with a rope tie, he resembled a
medieval cleric.  Sophie could  not  imagine  who  he was, and yet  she  was
feeling a  sudden newfound  respect for Teabing's suspicions that the Church
was behind this.
     "You know what I have come for," the monk said, his voice hollow.
     Sophie  and  Teabing were  seated  on the divan,  arms  raised as their
attacker had  commanded. Langdon lay groaning on the floor.  The monk's eyes
fell immediately to the keystone on Teabing's lap.
     Teabing's tone was defiant. "You will not be able to open it."
     "My Teacher  is very wise," the monk  replied, inching closer,  the gun
shifting between Teabing and Sophie.
     Sophie wondered where Teabing's manservant  was. Didn't he hear  Robert
     "Who is your  teacher?" Teabing asked. "Perhaps we can make a financial
     "The Grail is priceless." He moved closer.
     "You're  bleeding," Teabing noted calmly, nodding to  the monk's  right
ankle where a trickle of blood had run down his leg. "And you're limping."
     "As do you," the monk replied, motioning to the  metal crutches propped
beside Teabing. "Now, hand me the keystone."
     "You know of the keystone?" Teabing said, sounding surprised.
     "Never mind what I know. Stand up slowly, and give it to me."
     "Standing is difficult for me."
     "Precisely. I would prefer nobody attempt any quick moves."
     Teabing slipped his right  hand through one of his crutches and grasped
the keystone  in his left. Lurching to his feet, he stood erect, palming the
heavy  cylinder in his left  hand, and leaning unsteadily on his crutch with
his right.
     The monk closed to within a few feet, keeping the gun aimed directly at
Teabing's head. Sophie watched,  feeling helpless as the monk reached out to
take the cylinder.
     "You will not succeed," Teabing  said. "Only the worthy can unlock this

     God alone judges the worthy, Silas thought.
     "It's quite heavy," the man on crutches said, his arm wavering now. "If
you don't take it soon, I'm afraid I shall drop it!" He swayed perilously.
     Silas stepped quickly forward to take the stone, and as he did, the man
on  crutches lost his balance. The crutch  slid out from under him,  and  he
began to  topple sideways to his right. No! Silas lunged to save  the stone,
lowering  his weapon in the  process. But  the keystone was moving away from
him now. As the man fell to his right, his left hand swung backward, and the
cylinder tumbled  from his  palm onto the couch.  At the  same instant,  the
metal  crutch  that  had  been sliding  out from under  the  man  seemed  to
accelerate, cutting a wide arc through the air toward Silas's leg.
     Splinters of pain tore  up Silas's  body as  the  crutch  made  perfect
contact  with his cilice,  crushing  the barbs  into his  already raw flesh.
Buckling, Silas crumpled to his knees, causing the belt to cut deeper still.
The pistol  discharged with  a  deafening  roar,  the bullet burying  itself
harmlessly in the  floorboards as Silas fell.  Before he could raise the gun
and fire again, the woman's foot caught him square beneath the jaw.

     At the  bottom  of the  driveway, Collet heard the gunshot. The muffled
pop sent panic through his veins. With Fache on the way, Collet had  already
relinquished  any hopes  of  claiming  personal  credit  for finding Langdon
tonight. But Collet would be damned if Fache's ego landed him in front  of a
Ministerial Review Board for negligent police procedure.
     A weapon was  discharged inside a private home!  And you waited  at the
bottom of the driveway?
     Collet  knew the opportunity for  a  stealth  approach had  long  since
passed.  He also knew if  he  stood idly by for  another second, his  entire
career would be history by morning. Eyeing the estate's iron  gate, he  made
his decision.
     "Tie on, and pull it down."

     In the distant recesses  of his groggy  mind, Robert Langdon had  heard
the gunshot. He'd also  heard a  scream of pain. His  own? A jackhammer  was
boring a hole  into the back of his  cranium. Somewhere nearby, people  were
     "Where the devil were you?" Teabing was yelling.
     The manservant hurried in. "What happened? Oh my God! Who is that? I'll
call the police!"
     "Bloody  hell! Don't  call the police.  Make yourself useful and get us
something with which to restrain this monster."
     "And some ice!" Sophie called after him.
     Langdon drifted out again. More voices. Movement.  Now he was seated on
the divan. Sophie was holding an ice pack to his  head. His skull  ached. As
Langdon's vision finally  began to clear, he found himself staring at a body
on  the floor.  Am I hallucinating?  The massive body of an albino  monk lay
bound and gagged with duct tape. His chin was split  open, and the robe over
his right thigh was soaked with blood. He too appeared to be just now coming
     Langdon turned to Sophie. "Who is that? What... happened?"
     Teabing  hobbled over. "You  were rescued by  a knight  brandishing  an
Excalibur made by Acme Orthopedic."
     Huh? Langdon tried to sit up.
     Sophie's  touch was  shaken but tender.  "Just give  yourself a minute,
     "I  fear," Teabing said,  "that I've just  demonstrated  for  your lady
friend   the  unfortunate  benefit  of  my  condition.   It  seems  everyone
underestimates you."
     From his seat on the divan, Langdon gazed down at the monk and tried to
imagine what had happened.
     "He was wearing a cilice," Teabing explained.
     "A what?"
     Teabing  pointed to a  bloody strip  of barbed leather that  lay on the
floor. "A Discipline belt. He wore it on his thigh. I took careful aim."
     Langdon rubbed his head.  He knew  of Discipline belts. "But how... did
you know?"
     Teabing grinned. "Christianity is my field of study, Robert, and  there
are certain sects who  wear their hearts  on their  sleeves." He pointed his
crutch at the blood soaking through the monk's cloak. "As it were."
     "Opus Dei,"  Langdon  whispered, recalling  recent  media  coverage  of
several  prominent  Boston  businessmen  who  were   members  of  Opus  Dei.
Apprehensive  coworkers had falsely  and publicly accused the men of wearing
Discipline belts beneath their three-piece suits. In fact, the three men did
no such thing. Like many members of Opus  Dei, these businessmen were at the
"supernumerary"  stage and practiced no corporal mortification  at all. They
were  devout  Catholics,  caring  fathers  to  their  children,  and  deeply
dedicated members of the community. Not surprisingly, the media  spotlighted
their spiritual commitment  only briefly before moving on to the shock value
of the sect's more stringent "numerary" members... members like the monk now
lying on the floor before Langdon.
     Teabing was looking closely at the bloody belt. "But why would Opus Dei
be trying to find the Holy Grail?"
     Langdon was too groggy to consider it.
     "Robert," Sophie said, walking to the  wooden box.  "What's  this?" She
was holding the small Rose inlay he had removed from the lid.
     "It covered an engraving on the box. I think the text might tell us how
to open the keystone."
     Before Sophie and Teabing could  respond,  a sea  of blue police lights
and  sirens  erupted at  the  bottom of the  hill  and began snaking  up the
half-mile driveway.
     Teabing frowned. "My friends, it seems  we have a decision to make. And
we'd better make it fast."

     Collet  and  his  agents  burst  through the front  door  of Sir  Leigh
Teabing's estate with  their guns drawn.  Fanning out, they began  searching
all the  rooms on  the first level. They found a bullet hole in  the drawing
room floor, signs  of a struggle, a small amount of blood, a strange, barbed
leather belt,  and  a partially  used roll  of duct  tape. The entire  level
seemed deserted.
     Just as  Collet was about to divide his men  to search the basement and
grounds behind the house, he heard voices on the level above them.
     "They're upstairs!"
     Rushing up  the wide  staircase, Collet and his men  moved room by room
through the  huge home, securing  darkened  bedrooms and  hallways  as  they
closed in on the  sounds of voices. The sound  seemed  to be coming from the
last  bedroom on an exceptionally long  hallway. The agents inched down  the
corridor, sealing off alternate exits.
     As they neared the  final bedroom, Collet could  see  the door was wide
open.  The  voices had stopped suddenly, and  had been  replaced by  an  odd
rumbling, like an engine.
     Sidearm  raised, Collet gave  the signal.  Reaching silently around the
door frame, he found the  light  switch and flicked it on. Spinning into the
room with men  pouring in after him,  Collet shouted  and  aimed  his weapon
at... nothing.
     An empty guest bedroom. Pristine.
     The  rumbling  sounds  of  an  automobile  engine  poured from a  black
electronic panel on the wall beside the bed. Collet had seen these elsewhere
in the  house.  Some  kind of intercom  system. He raced over. The panel had
about a dozen labeled buttons:

     So where the hell do I hear a car?

     Barn!  Collet was downstairs in seconds, running toward  the back door,
grabbing  one  of his  agents on the way. The men crossed the  rear lawn and
arrived breathless at  the  front of a weathered gray barn. Even before they
entered,  Collet could hear the  fading sounds of a car engine. He drew  his
weapon, rushed in, and flicked on the lights.
     The right side  of the barn  was  a rudimentary  workshop--lawn-mowers,
automotive tools, gardening supplies. A familiar intercom panel  hung on the
wall nearby. One of its buttons was flipped down, transmitting.

     Collet  wheeled,  anger brimming.  They  lured  us  upstairs  with  the
intercom! Searching  the other side of the barn,  he found  a  long line  of
horse stalls. No horses. Apparently the owner  preferred a different kind of
horsepower;  the  stalls had been converted  into  an impressive  automotive
parking  facility.  The  collection  was  astonishing--a  black  Ferrari,  a
pristine  Rolls-Royce,  an  antique  Astin  Martin sports coupe,  a  vintage
Porsche 356.
     The last stall was empty.
     Collet ran  over and saw oil  stains on the stall floor. They can't get
off the compound. The driveway and gate were barricaded with two patrol cars
to prevent this very situation.
     "Sir?" The agent pointed down the length of the stalls.
     The barn's rear slider was wide open, giving way to a dark, muddy slope
of rugged  fields that stretched out into the night behind the  barn. Collet
ran to the door, trying to see out into the darkness. All  he could make out
was the faint shadow of a forest in the distance. No headlights. This wooded
valley  was  probably crisscrossed  by  dozens  of unmapped  fire roads  and
hunting  trails, but Collet  was confident his  quarry would never make  the
woods.  "Get some men spread out down there. They're  probably already stuck
somewhere nearby. These fancy sports cars can't handle terrain."
     "Um, sir?" The agent pointed to a nearby pegboard on which hung several
sets of keys. The labels above the keys bore familiar names.

     The last peg was empty.
     When  Collet read the label above  the  empty peg, he  knew he  was  in

     The  Range Rover  was  Java  Black Pearl,  four-wheel  drive,  standard
transmission,  with high-strength  polypropylene lamps,  rear  light cluster
fittings, and the steering wheel on the right.
     Langdon was pleased he was not driving.
     Teabing's  manservant  Rumy,  on orders from his master, was  doing  an
impressive job of  maneuvering the vehicle  across the moonlit fields behind
Chuteau Villette. With no  headlights, he had crossed an  open knoll and was
now descending  a long slope, moving farther away from the estate. He seemed
to be heading toward a jagged silhouette of wooded land in the distance.
     Langdon, cradling  the keystone, turned in  the passenger seat and eyed
Teabing and Sophie in the back seat.
     "How's your head, Robert?" Sophie asked, sounding concerned.
     Langdon forced a pained smile. "Better, thanks." It was killing him.
     Beside her,  Teabing glanced over his shoulder at  the bound and gagged
monk lying in the cramped luggage area behind the back seat. Teabing had the
monk's gun  on his lap and looked like an old photo of a British safari chap
posing over his kill.
     "So glad you popped in this evening, Robert," Teabing said, grinning as
if he were having fun for the first time in years.
     "Sorry to get you involved in this, Leigh."
     "Oh, please, I've waited my entire life to be involved." Teabing looked
past Langdon out the windshield at the shadow of  a long hedgerow. He tapped
Rumy  on  the  shoulder from behind.  "Remember, no brake  lights.  Use  the
emergency  brake  if  you need it. I want to get  into the woods  a  bit. No
reason to risk them seeing us from the house."
     Rumy  coasted to a crawl and guided the Range Rover through  an opening
in the hedge.  As  the  vehicle lurched onto an  overgrown  pathway,  almost
immediately the trees overhead blotted out the moonlight.
     I  can't  see  a thing,  Langdon thought, straining  to distinguish any
shapes  at all in front of them. It was pitch black. Branches rubbed against
the  left side of  the  vehicle, and Rumy corrected in  the other direction.
Keeping  the wheel more  or less straight now, he inched ahead about  thirty
     "You're doing  beautifully, Rumy,"  Teabing said. "That should  be  far
enough. Robert,  if  you could press that little blue button just below  the
vent there. See it?"
     Langdon found the button and pressed it.
     A muted yellow glow  fanned  out  across  the  path in  front of  them,
revealing  thick  underbrush  on either  side of  the  pathway. Fog  lights,
Langdon realized. They gave off just  enough light to keep them on the path,
and  yet they were  deep enough into the woods now that the lights would not
give them away.
     "Well, Rumy," Teabing chimed happily. "The lights are on. Our lives are
in your hands."
     "Where are we going?" Sophie asked.
     "This trail continues about three  kilometers into the forest," Teabing
said. "Cutting across  the estate and then arching north.  Provided we don't
hit  any  standing water or fallen trees, we  shall emerge unscathed  on the
shoulder of highway five."
     Unscathed. Langdon's head begged  to differ. He turned his eyes down to
his own lap, where the keystone  was  safely stowed  in its wooden  box. The
inlaid  Rose on  the lid  was  back in  place,  and  although his  head felt
muddled,  Langdon was  eager  to  remove the  inlay  again  and  examine the
engraving beneath more  closely. He unlatched the lid  and began to raise it
when Teabing laid a hand on his shoulder from behind.
     "Patience, Robert," Teabing  said. "It's bumpy and dark. God save us if
we  break anything. If  you didn't recognize the language in  the light, you
won't do any better in  the dark. Let's focus on getting away in  one piece,
shall we? There will be time for that very soon."
     Langdon knew Teabing was right. With a nod, he relatched the box.
     The monk  in  back was  moaning  now,  struggling  against his trusses.
Suddenly, he began kicking wildly.
     Teabing  spun  around  and aimed the  pistol  over the  seat. "I  can't
imagine your complaint, sir. You trespassed in my home and  planted  a nasty
welt  on the skull of a  dear friend. I  would be well within  my  rights to
shoot you right now and leave you to rot in the woods."
     The monk fell silent.
     "Are you sure we should have brought him?" Langdon asked.
     "Bloody  well positive!" Teabing exclaimed. "You're wanted for  murder,
Robert. This scoundrel is your ticket to freedom. The police apparently want
you badly enough to have tailed you to my home."
     "My fault," Sophie said. "The armored car probably had a transmitter."
     "Not the point," Teabing said. "I'm not surprised the police found you,
but I  am surprised that this Opus Dei character found you. From all  you've
told  me, I  can't imagine  how this  man could have tailed  you to my  home
unless he had  a  contact either  within the Judicial Police  or within  the
Zurich Depository."
     Langdon considered it. Bezu Fache certainly  seemed intent on finding a
scapegoat  for tonight's  murders.  And Vernet  had  turned  on them  rather
suddenly, although considering Langdon  was being charged with four murders,
the banker's change of heart seemed understandable.
     "This monk is not working alone, Robert," Teabing said, "and  until you
learn who is behind all this, you  both  are in danger. The  good  news,  my
friend, is that you are now in the position of power. This monster behind me
holds that information,  and whoever  is pulling his strings  has got to  be
quite nervous right now."
     Rumy  was picking up  speed,  getting comfortable with  the trail. They
splashed through some  water,  climbed a  small rise, and  began  descending
     "Robert, could you  be  so kind as  to  hand me  that  phone?"  Teabing
pointed to  the car phone on the dash.  Langdon handed  it back, and Teabing
dialed a  number. He  waited for  a  very long time before someone answered.
"Richard? Did I wake you?  Of course,  I did. Silly  question. I'm sorry.  I
have a small problem. I'm feeling a  bit off. Rumy and I need to  pop  up to
the Isles for my treatments. Well, right away, actually. Sorry for the short
notice. Can you have Elizabeth ready in about twenty minutes? I know, do the
best you can. See you shortly." He hung up.
     "Elizabeth?" Langdon said.
     "My plane. She cost me a Queen's ransom."
     Langdon turned full around and looked at him.
     "What?" Teabing demanded. "You two can't expect to stay  in France with
the entire Judicial Police after you. London will be much safer."
     Sophie  had turned to Teabing as  well. "You think  we should leave the
     "My friends, I am far more influential in the civilized world than here
in France. Furthermore, the Grail is believed to be in Great Britain. If  we
unlock the keystone, I am certain we  will  discover a map that indicates we
have moved in the proper direction."
     "You're  running  a  big risk," Sophie  said, "by helping us. You won't
make any friends with the French police."
     Teabing  gave a  wave of disgust. "I am  finished  with France. I moved
here  to find the keystone. That work  is  now done. I shan't care if I ever
again see Chuteau Villette."
     Sophie sounded uncertain. "How will we get through airport security?"
     Teabing chuckled. "I fly from Le Bourget--an executive airfield not far
from here. French doctors make me nervous,  so every  fortnight, I fly north
to  take my  treatments in England. I pay for certain  special privileges at
both ends. Once we're airborne, you can make a decision as to whether or not
you'd like someone from the U.S. Embassy to meet us."
     Langdon suddenly didn't  want anything to do with  the  embassy. All he
could  think of was the keystone, the inscription, and whether it would  all
lead  to  the  Grail.  He  wondered if  Teabing  was  right  about  Britain.
Admittedly most modern  legends placed  the  Grail somewhere in  the  United
Kingdom. Even  King Arthur's  mythical,  Grail-rich Isle  of  Avalon was now
believed to be none other than Glastonbury, England. Wherever the Grail lay,
Langdon never imagined  he would  actually  be looking  for it. The Sangreal
documents. The true history  of Jesus Christ. The tomb of Mary Magdalene. He
suddenly felt as if he were living in some kind of limbo tonight... a bubble
where the real world could not reach him.
     "Sir?" Rumy said. "Are you truly thinking  of returning to England  for
     "Rumy,  you  needn't  worry,"  Teabing  assured.  "Just  because  I  am
returning to  the Queen's realm does  not mean I intend to subject my palate
to bangers and mash for the rest of my days. I expect you will join me there
permanently. I'm  planning  to buy a splendid villa in Devonshire, and we'll
have all your things shipped up immediately. An  adventure, Rumy. I  say, an
     Langdon  had to  smile.  As Teabing  railed  on  about  his plans for a
triumphant return to  Britain, Langdon felt himself  caught up in  the man's
infectious enthusiasm.
     Gazing absently out  the window, Langdon watched the woods  passing by,
ghostly pale  in  the yellow  blush  of the fog lights.  The side mirror was
tipped inward, brushed askew by branches, and Langdon  saw the reflection of
Sophie sitting quietly in the back seat. He watched her for a long while and
felt an unexpected upwelling  of contentment. Despite  his troubles tonight,
Langdon was thankful to have landed in such good company.
     After several minutes, as if suddenly sensing his eyes  on her,  Sophie
leaned  forward  and put her hands on his shoulders, giving him a quick rub.
"You okay?"
     "Yeah," Langdon said. "Somehow."
     Sophie sat back in  her seat, and  Langdon  saw a quiet smile cross her
lips. He realized that he too was now grinning.

     Wedged in the back of the Range Rover, Silas  could barely breathe. His
arms were  wrenched backward  and heavily lashed to his  ankles with kitchen
twine and duct tape.  Every bump in the  road sent pain shooting through his
twisted  shoulders. At least  his captors had removed the  cilice. Unable to
inhale  through  the strip of tape  over  his mouth, he  could  only breathe
through his nostrils, which were slowly  clogging  up due to  the dusty rear
cargo area into which he had been crammed. He began coughing.
     "I think he's choking," the French driver said, sounding concerned.
     The  British man  who had struck  Silas  with his crutch now turned and
peered  over the seat,  frowning coldly  at Silas. "Fortunately for you,  we
British judge man's  civility not by his  compassion for his friends, but by
his compassion for his enemies." The  Brit reached down and grabbed the duct
tape on Silas's mouth. In one fast motion, he tore it off.
     Silas felt as  if his lips  had just  caught fire,  but the air pouring
into his lungs was sent from God.
     "Whom do you work for?" the British man demanded.
     "I  do  the work of God," Silas spat back through the  pain  in his jaw
where the woman had kicked him.
     "You belong to Opus Dei," the man said. It was not a question.
     "You know nothing of who I am."
     "Why does Opus Dei want the keystone?"
     Silas had  no intention of answering. The keystone was the  link to the
Holy Grail, and the Holy Grail was the key to protecting the faith.
     I do the work of God. The Way is in peril.
     Now, in the Range Rover, struggling against his bonds,  Silas feared he
had failed the Teacher and the bishop forever. He had no way even to contact
them and  tell  them the  terrible  turn  of  events. My  captors  have  the
keystone! They will reach the Grail before we do!  In the stifling darkness,
Silas prayed. He let the pain of his body fuel his supplications.
     A miracle,  Lord. I need a miracle. Silas had  no way of  knowing  that
hours from now, he would get one.

     "Robert?"  Sophie was  still watching  him.  "A funny look just crossed
your face."
     Langdon glanced back at her, realizing his jaw  was  firmly set and his
heart was racing.  An incredible notion  had  just occurred to him. Could it
really  be  that simple  an explanation? "I  need to  use your  cell  phone,
     "I think I just figured something out."
     "I'll tell you in a minute. I need your phone."
     Sophie  looked wary.  "I doubt Fache  is tracing,  but keep it under  a
minute just in case." She gave him her phone.
     "How do I dial the States?"
     "You  need   to  reverse   the   charges.  My  service  doesn't   cover
     Langdon dialed zero, knowing that the next sixty seconds might answer a
question that had been puzzling him all night.

     New  York editor Jonas  Faukman had just climbed into bed for the night
when the telephone rang. A little late for callers, he grumbled, picking  up
the receiver.
     An operator's voice asked  him, "Will you  accept charges for a collect
call from Robert Langdon?"
     Puzzled, Jonas turned on the light. "Uh... sure, okay."
     The line clicked. "Jonas?"
     "Robert? You wake me up and you charge me for it?"
     "Jonas, forgive me," Langdon said. "I'll keep this very short. I really
need to know. The manuscript I gave you. Have you--"
     "Robert, I'm sorry, I know I said I'd send the edits  out  to you  this
week, but I'm swamped. Next Monday. I promise."
     "I'm not worried about the edits. I need to know if you sent any copies
out for blurbs without telling me?"
     Faukman hesitated. Langdon's newest  manuscript--an exploration of  the
history of goddess worship--included several  sections about  Mary Magdalene
that  were  going  to  raise some eyebrows.  Although the material was  well
documented  and had  been  covered  by  others,  Faukman had no intention of
printing  Advance  Reading Copies  of Langdon's book without  at least a few
endorsements  from serious historians and art  luminaries.  Jonas had chosen
ten  big names in the art world and sent them all sections of the manuscript
along with a polite letter  asking if they would be willing to write a short
endorsement for the jacket. In Faukman's experience,  most  people jumped at
the opportunity to see their name in print.
     "Jonas?" Langdon pressed. "You sent out my manuscript, didn't you?"
     Faukman  frowned,  sensing  Langdon  was   not  happy  about  it.  "The
manuscript  was  clean,  Robert,  and I wanted  to  surprise  you with  some
terrific blurbs."
     A pause. "Did you send one to the curator of the Paris Louvre?"
     "What  do you  think? Your manuscript referenced his Louvre  collection
several times, his  books  are in your bibliography,  and  the guy  has some
serious clout for foreign sales. Sauniure was a no-brainer."
     The silence  on the other end lasted  a long time. "When did  you  send
     "About  a month ago.  I also mentioned you would be  in Paris  soon and
suggested  you  two chat. Did he  ever call  you  to meet?" Faukman  paused,
rubbing his eyes. "Hold on, aren't you supposed to be in Paris this week?"
     "I am in Paris."
     Faukman sat upright. "You called me collect from Paris?"
     "Take  it  out of  my  royalties, Jonas. Did you  ever  hear  back from
Sauniure? Did he like the manuscript?"
     "I don't know. I haven't yet heard from him."
     "Well, don't hold your breath. I've got to run, but this explains a lot
     But Langdon was gone.
     Faukman hung  up the  phone,  shaking his head in disbelief Authors, he
thought. Even the sane ones are nuts.

     Inside the Range Rover, Leigh Teabing let out a guffaw. "Robert, you're
saying you wrote  a manuscript that delves into a secret society,  and  your
editor sent a copy to that secret society?"
     Langdon slumped. "Evidently."
     "A cruel coincidence, my friend."
     Coincidence  has  nothing to do  with it, Langdon  knew. Asking Jacques
Sauniure to endorse a manuscript on goddess worship was as obvious as asking
Tiger Woods to endorse a book on golf. Moreover, it was virtually guaranteed
that any book on goddess worship would have to mention the Priory of Sion.
     "Here's the  million-dollar  question," Teabing said, still  chuckling.
"Was your position on the Priory favorable or unfavorable?"
     Langdon  could  hear  Teabing's  true  meaning  loud  and  clear.  Many
historians  questioned  why  the  Priory  was  still  keeping  the  Sangreal
documents hidden. Some felt the information should have been shared with the
world long ago. "I took no position on the Priory's actions."
     "You mean lack thereof."
     Langdon shrugged.  Teabing was apparently  on the  side of  making  the
documents  public.  "I  simply  provided  history  on  the  brotherhood  and
described  them as a modern  goddess worship  society, keepers of the Grail,
and guardians of ancient documents."
     Sophie looked at him. "Did you mention the keystone?"
     Langdon winced.  He had. Numerous times.  "I talked about the  supposed
keystone  as  an  example  of  the lengths  to which the Priory  would go to
protect the Sangreal documents."
     Sophie looked amazed. "I guess that explains P.S. Find Robert Langdon."
     Langdon sensed  it was actually  something else in the manuscript  that
had  piqued Sauniure's  interest, but  that topic  was  something  he  would
discuss with Sophie when they were alone.
     "So," Sophie said, "you lied to Captain Fache."
     "What?" Langdon demanded.
     "You told him you had never corresponded with my grandfather."
     "I didn't! My editor sent him a manuscript."
     "Think about it, Robert. If Captain  Fache didn't find the  envelope in
which your editor sent the  manuscript, he  would have  to conclude that you
sent it." She paused. "Or worse,  that you  hand-delivered it and lied about

     When the Range Rover  arrived at Le Bourget Airfield, Rumy  drove to  a
small  hangar at the far end of the airstrip. As they  approached, a tousled
man in  wrinkled  khakis hurried from the  hangar, waved, and slid  open the
enormous corrugated metal door to reveal a sleek white jet within.
     Langdon stared at the glistening fuselage. "That's Elizabeth?"
     Teabing grinned. "Beats the bloody Chunnel."
     The man in khakis hurried toward  them, squinting into the  headlights.
"Almost ready,  sir," he  called in a British accent.  "My apologies for the
delay,  but you  took me by  surprise  and--" He stopped  short as the group
unloaded. He looked at Sophie and Langdon, and then Teabing.
     Teabing  said,  "My associates and  I have urgent  business in  London.
We've no time  to waste. Please prepare to depart immediately." As he spoke,
Teabing took the pistol out of the vehicle and handed it to Langdon.
     The pilot's eyes  bulged at the  sight of the weapon. He walked over to
Teabing  and whispered, "Sir, my humble apologies, but  my diplomatic flight
allowance  provides  only  for you  and your manservant. I cannot take  your
     "Richard," Teabing said, smiling warmly,  "two thousand pounds sterling
and that loaded  gun  say you can take my  guests." He motioned to the Range
Rover. "And the unfortunate fellow in the back."

     The  Hawker  731's twin Garrett TFE-731 engines thundered, powering the
plane  skyward  with  gut-wrenching force.  Outside the window,  Le  Bourget
Airfield dropped away with startling speed.
     I'm fleeing the country, Sophie thought,  her body forced back into the
leather seat. Until this moment, she had believed her game of cat  and mouse
with  Fache would be somehow justifiable to the Ministry  of Defense.  I was
attempting  to  protect  an  innocent  man.  I  was  trying  to  fulfill  my
grandfather's  dying wishes. That window  of  opportunity, Sophie  knew, had
just  closed.   She   was  leaving  the   country,  without   documentation,
accompanying a wanted  man, and  transporting a bound hostage. If a "line of
reason" had ever existed,  she  had just crossed it. At almost the speed  of
     Sophie  was  seated with  Langdon  and  Teabing near  the  front of the
cabin--the Fan Jet Executive Elite  Design, according to the  gold medallion
on the door. Their plush swivel  chairs  were bolted  to tracks on the floor
and could be repositioned and locked around a rectangular  hardwood table. A
mini-boardroom.   The  dignified  surroundings,  however,   did   little  to
camouflage the less than dignified state of affairs in the rear of the plane
where, in a separate  seating  area near the rest room, Teabing's manservant
Rumy sat with the pistol in hand, begrudgingly carrying out Teabing's orders
to stand guard over the bloody monk who lay trussed at his feet like a piece
of luggage.
     "Before we turn our  attention to the keystone,"  Teabing said,  "I was
wondering if you would permit me a few words." He sounded apprehensive, like
a  father  about to give the birds-and-the-bees lecture to his children. "My
friends, I realize I am  but  a guest on this journey,  and I  am honored as
such. And yet, as someone who has spent his  life in search of the  Grail, I
feel it is my duty to  warn  you that you are about to step onto a path from
which there is no return, regardless of the  dangers involved." He turned to
Sophie. "Miss Neveu,  your grandfather  gave you  this cryptex  in hopes you
would keep the secret of the Holy Grail alive."
     "Understandably,  you  feel  obliged  to follow  the  trail wherever it
     Sophie  nodded,  although she felt a  second motivation  still  burning
within her. The truth about my family. Despite Langdon's assurances that the
keystone  had  nothing to do  with  her past, Sophie still  sensed something
deeply personal entwined within this mystery, as if this  cryptex, forged by
her grandfather's own hands, were trying to speak to her and offer some kind
of resolution to the emptiness that had haunted her all these years.
     "Your  grandfather and three others died  tonight,"  Teabing continued,
"and they did so  to keep this keystone away from the Church.  Opus Dei came
within inches  tonight  of possessing it. You understand, I  hope, that this
puts you in a position of exceptional responsibility. You have been handed a
torch. A two-thousand-year-old flame that cannot be  allowed to go out. This
torch cannot fall into the wrong hands." He paused, glancing at the rosewood
box. "I  realize you have  been given no  choice in this matter, Miss Neveu,
but  considering  what is at stake here,  you must either fully embrace this
responsibility... or you must pass that responsibility to someone else."
     "My  grandfather gave  the cryptex to me. I'm  sure  he thought I could
handle the responsibility."
     Teabing  looked encouraged but unconvinced.  "Good.  A  strong will  is
necessary.  And  yet,  I am  curious if  you  understand  that  successfully
unlocking the keystone will bring with it a far greater trial."
     "How so?"
     "My dear, imagine that  you are suddenly holding a map that reveals the
location of the Holy Grail. In  that moment, you will be  in possession of a
truth capable of altering history forever. You will be the keeper of a truth
that man has sought for centuries. You will be faced with the responsibility
of revealing that truth to the  world. The  individual who does so  will  be
revered by many and despised  by many. The question is whether you will have
the necessary strength to carry out that task."
     Sophie paused. "I'm not sure that is my decision to make."
     Teabing's eyebrows arched. "No? If not  the possessor of  the keystone,
then who?"
     "The  brotherhood who  has  successfully  protected  the  secret for so
     "The Priory?" Teabing  looked skeptical. "But how?  The brotherhood was
shattered tonight.  Decapitated,  as you so aptly put  it. Whether they were
infiltrated by some kind of eavesdropping or by a spy within their ranks, we
will never know, but the fact remains that someone got to them and uncovered
the  identities  of their four  top members.  I would  not trust  anyone who
stepped forward from the brotherhood at this point."
     "So what do you suggest?" Langdon asked.
     "Robert, you know as well as I do that the Priory has not protected the
truth all these years to have it gather  dust until eternity. They have been
waiting for  the right moment in  history to share their secret. A time when
the world is ready to handle the truth."
     "And you believe that moment has arrived?" Langdon asked.
     "Absolutely. It could not be more obvious. All the historical signs are
in place, and if the Priory did not intend to make their  secret  known very
soon, why has the Church now attacked?"
     Sophie argued, "The monk has not yet told us his purpose."
     "The  monk's purpose  is the Church's  purpose,"  Teabing replied,  "to
destroy the documents  that  reveal  the great deception.  The  Church  came
closer tonight than they have ever come, and the Priory has put its trust in
you, Miss Neveu. The task of saving the Holy Grail clearly includes carrying
out the Priory's final wishes of sharing the truth with the world."
     Langdon  intervened. "Leigh,  asking  Sophie to make that  decision  is
quite a load to drop on someone  who  only  an hour ago learned the Sangreal
documents exist."
     Teabing  sighed.  "I apologize  if I am pressing, Miss Neveu. Clearly I
have always believed these documents should be made public,  but in  the end
the decision belongs to you. I simply feel it is important that you begin to
think about what happens should we succeed in opening the keystone."
     "Gentlemen," Sophie said, her voice firm. "To quote your words, 'You do
not find the Grail, the Grail finds you.' I am going to trust that the Grail
has found me for a reason, and when the time comes, I will know what to do."
     Both of them looked startled.
     "So then," she said, motioning to the rosewood box. "Let's move on."

     Standing  in  the drawing room of  Chuteau  Villette, Lieutenant Collet
watched  the  dying fire  and felt  despondent.  Captain  Fache had  arrived
moments earlier and was now in the next room, yelling into the phone, trying
to coordinate the failed attempt to locate the missing Range Rover.
     It could be anywhere by now, Collet thought.
     Having disobeyed Fache's  direct orders and lost  Langdon for  a second
time, Collet was grateful that  PTS  had located a bullet hole in the floor,
which  at  least corroborated  Collet's claims that a  shot  had been fired.
Still, Fache's  mood  was  sour,  and  Collet sensed  there  would  be  dire
repercussions when the dust settled.
     Unfortunately, the  clues  they were turning up  here seemed to shed no
light  at all  on  what was going on or  who was  involved.  The black  Audi
outside had been rented in  a false name with false credit card numbers, and
the prints in the car matched nothing in the Interpol database.
     Another  agent hurried into the living  room, his eyes urgent. "Where's
Captain Fache?"
     Collet barely looked up from the burning embers. "He's on the phone."
     "I'm off the phone," Fache snapped,  stalking into the room. "What have
you got?"
     The  second agent said, "Sir, Central  just heard from Andru Vernet  at
the  Depository  Bank of Zurich.  He wants to talk to  you  privately. He is
changing his story."
     "Oh?" Fache said.
     Now Collet looked up.
     "Vernet is admitting that Langdon  and Neveu spent time inside his bank
     "We figured that out," Fache said. "Why did Vernet lie about it?"
     "He said he'll talk only to you, but he's agreed to cooperate fully."
     "In exchange for what?"
     "For our keeping his bank's name out of the news  and also  for helping
him  recover  some  stolen property. It sounds like Langdon  and Neveu stole
something from Sauniure's account."
     "What?" Collet blurted. "How?"
     Fache never flinched,  his eyes riveted  on the second agent. "What did
they steal?"
     "Vernet  didn't elaborate,  but  he sounds  like  he's  willing  to  do
anything to get it back."
     Collet tried to imagine how this could happen. Maybe  Langdon and Neveu
had held  a bank employee  at gunpoint?  Maybe  they  forced Vernet to  open
Sauniure's  account  and  facilitate  an  escape  in  the  armored truck. As
feasible  as it was, Collet was having trouble believing  Sophie Neveu could
be involved in anything like that.
     From the kitchen,  another agent yelled to Fache. "Captain?  I'm  going
through  Mr. Teabing's  speed dial numbers, and  I'm on  the  phone  with Le
Bourget Airfield. I've got some bad news."

     Thirty seconds  later,  Fache  was  packing up and preparing  to  leave
Chuteau Villette. He had just learned that Teabing kept a private jet nearby
at  Le Bourget  Airfield and that the plane  had taken off about a half hour
     The Bourget representative on the phone had claimed not to know who was
on the plane or where  it was headed. The takeoff had been  unscheduled, and
no flight  plan had been  logged. Highly illegal, even for a small airfield.
Fache was  certain  that by  applying the right pressure,  he could get  the
answers he was looking for.
     "Lieutenant Collet,"  Fache barked, heading for  the  door.  "I have no
choice  but to leave you in charge of the PTS investigation  here. Try to do
something right for a change."

     As the  Hawker leveled off,  with  its nose aimed for  England, Langdon
carefully lifted the rosewood box from his lap, where he had been protecting
it during  takeoff. Now, as  he  set  the box on  the  table, he could sense
Sophie and Teabing leaning forward with anticipation.
     Unlatching  the lid and opening the  box, Langdon turned  his attention
not to the lettered dials of the cryptex, but rather to the tiny hole on the
underside of the box lid. Using the tip of a pen, he  carefully removed  the
inlaid Rose  on top and revealed the  text beneath it. Sub  Rosa, he  mused,
hoping  a fresh  look at  the text  would bring  clarity.  Focusing  all his
energies, Langdon studied the strange text.
     0x01 graphic

     After  several  seconds,  he  began  to  feel  the  initial frustration
resurfacing. "Leigh, I just can't seem to place it."
     From where Sophie  was seated across the table, she  could  not yet see
the  text, but  Langdon's  inability  to  immediately identify  the language
surprised  her.  My  grandfather spoke a  language  so obscure that  even  a
symbologist can't identify it? She quickly realized she should not find this
surprising.  This would not be the first  secret  Jacques Sauniure had  kept
from his granddaughter.

     Opposite  Sophie,  Leigh  Teabing  felt  ready to burst. Eager  for his
chance  to see the text, he quivered with excitement,  leaning in, trying to
see around Langdon, who was still hunched over the box.
     "I  don't know," Langdon  whispered  intently.  "My first  guess  is  a
Semitic,  but now I'm not  so sure. Most primary  Semitics include nekkudot.
This has none."
     "Probably ancient," Teabing offered.
     "Nekkudot?" Sophie inquired.
     Teabing never  took  his  eyes  from  the  box.  "Most  modern  Semitic
alphabets  have  no  vowels  and use nekkudot--tiny dots and dashes  written
either  below  or  within  the  consonants--to  indicate  what  vowel  sound
accompanies them.  Historically speaking,  nekkudot are a relatively  modern
addition to language."
     Langdon   was   still   hovering   over   the   script.  "A   Sephardic
transliteration, perhaps...?"
     Teabing  could bear it no longer. "Perhaps if I just..." Reaching over,
he  edged the box  away from  Langdon and pulled it toward himself. No doubt
Langdon had  a solid familiarity  with the standard  ancients--Greek, Latin,
the  Romances--but from the fleeting glance Teabing had of this language, he
thought it looked more  specialized, possibly a Rashi script or a STA'M with
     Taking a deep breath, Teabing feasted his  eyes upon the engraving.  He
said  nothing for a very  long time. With each passing second, Teabing  felt
his confidence deflating. "I'm astonished," he  said.  "This language  looks
like nothing I've ever seen!"
     Langdon slumped.
     "Might I see it?" Sophie asked.
     Teabing pretended not to hear her. "Robert, you said  earlier  that you
thought you'd seen something like this before?"
     Langdon looked  vexed. "I  thought so. I'm  not  sure. The script looks
familiar somehow."
     "Leigh?"  Sophie repeated, clearly not appreciating  being  left out of
the discussion. "Might I have a look at the box my grandfather made?"
     "Of  course, dear,"  Teabing said, pushing it over  to  her. He  hadn't
meant to sound  belittling, and yet  Sophie Neveu was light-years out of her
league. If a British  Royal Historian and a  Harvard  symbologist  could not
even identify the language--
     "Aah,"  Sophie said,  seconds after examining  the box. "I should  have
     Teabing and Langdon turned in unison, staring at her.
     "Guessed what?" Teabing demanded.
     Sophie   shrugged.  "Guessed  that   this  would  be  the  language  my
grandfather would have used."
     "You're saying you can read this text?" Teabing exclaimed.
     "Quite  easily,"  Sophie  chimed, obviously enjoying  herself  now. "My
grandfather taught  me this language when  I  was only  six years  old.  I'm
fluent."  She leaned across the table and fixed Teabing with  an admonishing
glare. "And frankly,  sir, considering your  allegiance to the Crown, I'm  a
little surprised you didn't recognize it."
     In a flash, Langdon knew.
     No wonder the script looks so damned familiar!
     Several  years  ago, Langdon had  attended an event at  Harvard's  Fogg
Museum. Harvard dropout Bill Gates had returned to his alma mater to lend to
the  museum one of his  priceless acquisitions--eighteen sheets of  paper he
had recently purchased at auction from the Armand Hammar Estate.
     His winning bid--a cool $30.8 million.
     The author of the pages--Leonardo da Vinci.
     The eighteen  folios--now  known as Leonardo's  Codex  Leicester  after
their famous owner,  the Earl of Leicester--were all that remained of one of
Leonardo's most  fascinating notebooks:  essays  and  drawings outlining  Da
Vinci's   progressive  theories  on  astronomy,  geology,  archaeology,  and
     Langdon would  never forget  his  reaction after  waiting in  line  and
finally  viewing  the  priceless parchment.  Utter  letdown. The  pages were
unintelligible.  Despite  being  beautifully preserved  and  written  in  an
impeccably  neat penmanship--crimson  ink on  cream paper--the codex  looked
like gibberish. At first Langdon thought  he could not read them because  Da
Vinci  wrote his notebooks in  an archaic Italian.  But after  studying them
more  closely, he realized he  could not identify a single Italian word,  or
even one letter.
     "Try this,  sir," whispered the female docent at the  display case. She
motioned to a hand mirror  affixed to the display on a chain. Langdon picked
it up and examined the text in the mirror's surface.
     Instantly it was clear.
     Langdon had been so eager to peruse some of  the great thinker's  ideas
that  he  had  forgotten one of the man's  numerous artistic talents was  an
ability to write in a mirrored script that was virtually illegible to anyone
other than himself. Historians still debated whether Da Vinci wrote this way
simply to amuse himself or to keep people from peering over his shoulder and
stealing his ideas, but the point was moot. Da Vinci did as he pleased.

     Sophie smiled inwardly to see that  Robert understood  her  meaning. "I
can read the first few words," she said. "It's English."
     Teabing was still sputtering. "What's going on?"
     "Reverse text," Langdon said. "We need a mirror."
     "No we  don't,"  Sophie said. "I bet this  veneer is thin  enough." She
lifted  the rosewood  box  up to  a canister  light  on  the wall  and began
examining the underside of the  lid. Her grandfather couldn't actually write
in  reverse, so he always  cheated by writing normally and then flipping the
paper over and  tracing the reversed impression. Sophie's guess was that  he
had wood-burned normal text into  a block of wood and then run  the  back of
the  block  through  a  sander  until  the  wood  was  paper  thin  and  the
wood-burning could be  seen through  the wood. Then he'd  simply flipped the
piece over, and laid it in.
     As Sophie moved the lid closer to the light, she saw she was right. The
bright beam sifted through the thin  layer of wood, and the  script appeared
in reverse on the underside of the lid.
     Instantly legible.
     "English,"  Teabing  croaked,  hanging  his  head  in shame. "My native

     At the rear of  the plane, Rumy Legaludec  strained  to hear beyond the
rumbling engines, but the conversation up front  was inaudible. Rumy did not
like the way the night  was progressing.  Not at all. He looked  down at the
bound  monk at his feet. The man lay perfectly still now, as if  in a trance
of acceptance, or perhaps, in silent prayer for deliverance.

     Fifteen  thousand feet in the air, Robert  Langdon  felt  the  physical
world fade  away as all of his thoughts converged on Sauniure's mirror-image
poem, which was illuminated through the lid of the box.
     0x01 graphic

     Sophie quickly  found some paper and copied  it down longhand. When she
was  done, the three  of  them took turns reading the text. It was like some
kind of archaeological crossword... a riddle that promised  to reveal how to
open the cryptex. Langdon read the verse slowly.
     An  ancient word of wisdom frees this  scroll...  and helps us keep her
scatter'd family whole... a headstone praised by templars is the key...  and
atbash will reveal the truth to thee.
     Before Langdon could even  ponder what ancient  password the verse  was
trying to  reveal,  he  felt something far  more fundamental resonate within
him--the meter of the poem. Iambic pentameter.
     Langdon  had  come  across  this  meter  often  over  the  years  while
researching secret societies  across Europe, including just last year in the
Vatican  Secret  Archives.  For  centuries, iambic  pentameter  had  been  a
preferred poetic  meter  of outspoken  literati across the globe,  from  the
ancient  Greek  writer  Archilochus  to  Shakespeare, Milton,  Chaucer,  and
Voltaire--bold souls who chose to write their social commentaries in a meter
that many of the day believed  had mystical properties. The  roots of iambic
pentameter were deeply pagan.
     Iambs.  Two syllables with opposite emphasis. Stressed and  unstressed.
Yin yang. A balanced pair. Arranged in strings of five. Pentameter. Five for
the pentacle of Venus and the sacred feminine.
     "It's pentameter!" Teabing blurted,  turning to Langdon. "And the verse
is in English! La lingua pura!"
     Langdon nodded. The Priory, like many European secret societies at odds
with the Church,  had considered English the only European pure language for
centuries.  Unlike  French,  Spanish,  and  Italian,  which  were rooted  in
Latin--the tongue  of the  Vatican--English was  linguistically removed from
Rome's propaganda  machine, and therefore became a sacred, secret tongue for
those brotherhoods educated enough to learn it.
     "This poem," Teabing  gushed, "references not  only the  Grail, but the
Knights Templar and  the scattered family of Mary Magdalene! What more could
we ask for?"
     "The password," Sophie said, looking again at the poem. "It sounds like
we need some kind of ancient word of wisdom?"
     "Abracadabra?" Teabing ventured, his eyes twinkling.
     A  word of  five  letters,  Langdon thought, pondering  the  staggering
number of ancient words that might be considered words of wisdom--selections
from mystic  chants, astrological  prophecies,  secret  society  inductions,
Wicca  incantations,  Egyptian magic spells,  pagan  mantras--the  list  was
     "The password," Sophie said, "appears to have  something to do with the
Templars." She read the text aloud.  "  'A headstone praised by  Templars is
the key.' "
     "Leigh," Langdon said, "you're the Templar specialist. Any ideas?"
     Teabing was silent  for  several seconds  and  then  sighed.  "Well,  a
headstone is obviously a grave marker  of some sort.  It's possible the poem
is referencing a  gravestone the Templars praised  at the tomb of Magdalene,
but that doesn't help us much because we have no idea where her tomb is."
     "The last line," Sophie said, "says that Atbash  will reveal the truth.
I've heard that word. Atbash."
     "I'm  not  surprised,"  Langdon  replied. "You  probably  heard  it  in
Cryptology 101. The Atbash Cipher is one of the oldest codes known to man."
     Of course! Sophie thought. The famous Hebrew encoding system.
     The  Atbash  Cipher had indeed  been part of Sophie's early  cryptology
training. The cipher dated back to 500  B.C. and was now used as a classroom
example of a  basic rotational substitution scheme. A  common form of Jewish
cryptogram,  the Atbash  Cipher was a simple substitution code based  on the
twenty-two-letter  Hebrew  alphabet.  In  Atbash,  the   first   letter  was
substituted  by  the last  letter, the  second letter by  the next  to  last
letter, and so on.
     "Atbash is sublimely appropriate," Teabing said.  "Text encrypted  with
Atbash is  found throughout the  Kabbala, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and even the
Old Testament. Jewish scholars and mystics are still finding hidden meanings
using  Atbash.  The Priory certainly would include the Atbash Cipher as part
of their teachings."
     "The  only  problem," Langdon said, "is that we don't  have anything on
which to apply the cipher."
     Teabing sighed.  "There must  be a code  word on the headstone. We must
find this headstone praised by Templars."
     Sophie sensed  from the grim look on  Langdon's face that  finding  the
Templar headstone would be no small feat.
     Atbash is the key, Sophie thought. But we don't have a door.
     It was three minutes later that  Teabing heaved a frustrated  sigh  and
shook  his head. "My friends, I'm stymied. Let me ponder this while I get us
some nibblies and check on Rumy and our guest." He stood  up and  headed for
the back of the plane.
     Sophie felt tired as she watched him go.
     Outside the  window, the blackness of the predawn was  absolute. Sophie
felt as if she were being hurtled through space with no idea where she would
land. Having grown up solving her grandfather's riddles, she  had the uneasy
sense  right now that this poem before them contained information they still
had not seen.
     There  is  more there,  she  told  herself.  Ingeniously  hidden... but
present nonetheless.
     Also plaguing her thoughts was a fear  that what they eventually  found
inside this cryptex  would  not  be  as simple as "a map to the Holy Grail."
Despite  Teabing's  and  Langdon's confidence that the truth lay just within
the marble cylinder, Sophie had solved enough of her  grandfather's treasure
hunts to know that Jacques Sauniure did not give up his secrets easily.

     Bourget Airfield's night  shift  air traffic controller had been dozing
before  a  blank radar  screen  when  the captain  of  the  Judicial  Police
practically broke down his door.
     "Teabing's  jet," Bezu Fache  blared,  marching into the  small  tower,
"where did it go?"
     The  controller's  initial  response  was  a babbling, lame  attempt to
protect  the  privacy  of their British client--one of the  airfield's  most
respected customers. It failed miserably.
     "Okay,"  Fache said, "I am placing  you  under  arrest for permitting a
private plane to take off without registering a flight plan." Fache motioned
to  another  officer,   who  approached  with  handcuffs,  and  the  traffic
controller  felt a surge  of terror.  He  thought of the  newspaper articles
debating whether the  nation's police  captain was  a hero or a menace. That
question had just been answered.
     "Wait!"  the  controller heard  himself  whimper  at  the sight of  the
handcuffs. "I can tell you this much. Sir Leigh Teabing makes frequent trips
to London for medical  treatments. He has a hangar at Biggin  Hill Executive
Airport in Kent. On the outskirts of London."
     Fache waved off the man with the cuffs. "Is Biggin Hill his destination
     "I  don't know," the controller said  honestly. "The  plane left on its
usual tack, and his  last radar contact suggested the United Kingdom. Biggin
Hill is an extremely likely guess."
     "Did he have others onboard?"
     "I  swear, sir,  there is no way for me to  know that.  Our clients can
drive directly to their hangars,  and load as they please. Who is onboard is
the responsibility of the customs officials at the receiving airport."
     Fache checked his watch and  gazed out at the scattering of jets parked
in front of the terminal. "If they're going to  Biggin Hill, how  long until
they land?"
     The controller fumbled through his  records. "It's  a short flight. His
plane could be on the  ground by... around six-thirty. Fifteen  minutes from
     Fache  frowned and turned to one of his men. "Get a transport up  here.
I'm going to  London. And get  me the Kent local police. Not  British MI5. I
want  this  quiet.  Kent  local. Tell  them  I  want  Teabing's  plane to be
permitted to land. Then I  want it surrounded on the tarmac. Nobody deplanes
until I get there."

     "You're  quiet," Langdon  said,  gazing  across  the Hawker's  cabin at
     "Just tired," she replied. "And the poem. I don't know."
     Langdon was feeling the same way. The hum of the engines and the gentle
rocking of  the plane were hypnotic,  and his head still throbbed where he'd
been  hit by the monk.  Teabing was  still  in the  back  of the  plane, and
Langdon  decided to take  advantage of the moment alone with Sophie  to tell
her something that had been on his mind.  "I think I know part of the reason
why your grandfather conspired to put us together. I think there's something
he wanted me to explain to you."
     "The history of the Holy Grail and Mary Magdalene isn't enough?"
     Langdon  felt  uncertain  how  to  proceed. "The rift between  you. The
reason you haven't spoken to him in ten years. I think maybe he was hoping I
could somehow make that right by explaining what drove you apart."
     Sophie squirmed in her seat. "I haven't told you what drove us apart."
     Langdon eyed her carefully. "You witnessed a sex rite. Didn't you?"
     Sophie recoiled. "How do you know that?"
     "Sophie, you  told me you witnessed something that  convinced  you your
grandfather  was in a  secret society. And whatever you saw upset you enough
that  you  haven't spoken to him since. I  know  a fair amount  about secret
societies. It doesn't take the brains of Da Vinci to guess what you saw."
     Sophie stared.
     "Was  it  in the spring?" Langdon asked. "Sometime  around the equinox?
     Sophie looked out the window. "I was on spring break from university. I
came home a few days early."
     "You want to tell me about it?"
     "I'd rather not." She turned suddenly back to Langdon, her eyes welling
with emotion. "I don't know what I saw."
     "Were both men and women present?"
     After a beat, she nodded.
     "Dressed in white and black?"
     She wiped her eyes and then  nodded, seeming  to open up a little. "The
women  were in white  gossamer gowns...  with golden shoes. They held golden
orbs. The men wore black tunics and black shoes."
     Langdon strained to hide his emotion, and yet he could not believe what
he    was   hearing.    Sophie   Neveu   had   unwittingly    witnessed    a
two-thousand-year-old sacred ceremony. "Masks?"  he asked, keeping his voice
calm. "Androgynous masks?"
     "Yes. Everyone. Identical masks. White on the women. Black on the men."
     Langdon  had  read  descriptions of  this ceremony  and understood  its
mystic roots. "It's called  Hieros Gamos,"  he  said  softly. "It dates back
more than two thousand years. Egyptian priests  and priestesses performed it
regularly to celebrate the reproductive  power  of  the female," He  paused,
leaning  toward  her.  "And  if you  witnessed Hieros  Gamos  without  being
properly prepared to  understand its  meaning,  I imagine it would be pretty
     Sophie said nothing.
     "Hieros Gamos is Greek," he continued. "It means sacred marriage."
     "The ritual I saw was no marriage."
     "Marriage as in union, Sophie."
     "You mean as in sex."
     "No?" she said, her olive eyes testing him.
     Langdon backpedaled. "Well... yes, in a  manner of speaking, but not as
we understand  it today." He explained that  although what she  saw probably
looked like a sex ritual, Hieros Gamos had  nothing to do with eroticism. It
was a  spiritual  act. Historically, intercourse was  the act through  which
male and  female experienced  God. The  ancients believed that  the male was
spiritually incomplete until he had carnal knowledge of the sacred feminine.
Physical union  with  the female remained  the sole means through which  man
could become spiritually  complete and  ultimately achieve gnosis--knowledge
of the divine. Since the  days  of Isis, sex rites had been considered man's
only bridge  from earth to heaven. "By communing with woman," Langdon  said,
"man could achieve a climactic instant when his mind went totally  blank and
he could see God."
     Sophie looked skeptical. "Orgasm as prayer?"
     Langdon gave  a  noncommittal  shrug, although  Sophie was  essentially
correct. Physiologically  speaking,  the male  climax  was  accompanied by a
split second entirely  devoid of thought. A brief mental vacuum. A moment of
clarity  during which  God  could be  glimpsed.  Meditation  gurus  achieved
similar states of thoughtlessness without sex and often described Nirvana as
a never-ending spiritual orgasm.
     "Sophie," Langdon  said quietly, "it's  important to  remember that the
ancients' view of sex  was entirely opposite from ours today.  Sex begot new
life--the ultimate miracle--and miracles  could be  performed only by a god.
The  ability of the woman  to produce life from her womb made  her sacred. A
god.  Intercourse  was  the  revered union of  the  two halves of the  human
spirit--male  and  female--through  which  the  male  could  find  spiritual
wholeness and communion with  God. What  you saw was  not about sex, it  was
about  spirituality. The Hieros Gamos  ritual  is not a  perversion.  It's a
deeply sacrosanct ceremony."
     His words seemed to strike  a nerve.  Sophie had been remarkably poised
all  evening, but now, for the first time, Langdon saw the aura of composure
beginning  to  crack. Tears materialized in her  eyes again, and she  dabbed
them away with her sleeve.
     He gave her a moment. Admittedly,  the concept of sex as  a pathway  to
God  was  mind-boggling at first.  Langdon's Jewish students  always  looked
flabbergasted  when  he  first  told  them  that the early Jewish  tradition
involved ritualistic sex.  In the Temple, no less.  Early Jews believed that
the  Holy  of Holies  in Solomon's Temple  housed not only God but  also His
powerful female equal, Shekinah. Men seeking spiritual wholeness came to the
Temple to visit  priestesses--or hierodules--with  whom they  made love  and
experienced  the  divine  through physical union. The  Jewish tetragrammaton
YHWH--the sacred  name of God--in fact derived from  Jehovah, an androgynous
physical union  between the masculine Jah and the pre-Hebraic  name for Eve,
     "For the early  Church," Langdon explained  in a soft voice, "mankind's
use  of sex to  commune directly with  God  posed  a  serious threat  to the
Catholic power base. It left the Church out  of the loop, undermining  their
self-proclaimed status as the sole conduit to God. For obvious reasons, they
worked hard to  demonize sex and recast it  as a disgusting and  sinful act.
Other major religions did the same."
     Sophie  was silent, but  Langdon sensed she was  starting to understand
her grandfather better. Ironically,  Langdon  had made  this same point in a
class  lecture earlier this semester. "Is it  surprising we feel  conflicted
about sex?" he  asked  his  students. "Our ancient  heritage  and  our  very
physiologies  tell  us  sex  is  natural--a  cherished  route  to  spiritual
fulfillment--and yet modern religion  decries it as shameful, teaching us to
fear our sexual desire as the hand of the devil."
     Langdon decided not to  shock his students with the fact that more than
a   dozen  secret   societies   around   the  world--many   of   them  quite
influential--still  practiced  sex rites  and  kept  the ancient  traditions
alive. Tom Cruise's character in the film Eyes Wide Shut discovered this the
hard  way  when   he  sneaked  into  a  private   gathering   of  ultraelite
Manhattanites only  to find  himself  witnessing  Hieros  Gamos.  Sadly, the
filmmakers had  gotten most  of the specifics wrong, but the basic gist  was
there--a secret society communing to celebrate the magic of sexual union.
     "Professor  Langdon?" A male  student in back raised his hand, sounding
hopeful. "Are you  saying that instead of  going to  chapel, we should  have
more sex?"
     Langdon chuckled,  not about  to take the bait.  From  what  he'd heard
about  Harvard  parties,  these  kids  were having  more  than  enough  sex.
"Gentlemen," he  said, knowing he was on  tender  ground, "might  I  offer a
suggestion for all of  you.  Without being so bold as to  condone premarital
sex, and without being so naive as to think you're all chaste angels, I will
give you this bit of advice about your sex lives."
     All the men in the audience leaned forward, listening intently.
     "The next time you find yourself with a woman,  look in  your heart and
see  if  you  cannot  approach sex as a  mystical,  spiritual act. Challenge
yourself to find  that spark  of divinity that man  can only achieve through
union with the sacred feminine."
     The women smiled knowingly, nodding.
     The men exchanged dubious giggles and off-color jokes.
     Langdon sighed. College men were still boys.

     Sophie's forehead felt  cold  as  she  pressed  it against  the plane's
window and stared blankly into the void,  trying to process what Langdon had
just  told  her.  She  felt  a new  regret well within  her.  Ten years. She
pictured the stacks of unopened letters her grandfather had sent her. I will
tell  Robert  everything. Without turning from  the window, Sophie began  to
speak. Quietly. Fearfully.
     As she began to recount what had happened that  night, she felt herself
drifting  back...  alighting in the woods outside her grandfather's Normandy
chuteau...  searching the  deserted house in confusion... hearing the voices
below her...  and  then finding the hidden door. She inched  down the  stone
staircase, one step at a  time,  into that basement  grotto. She could taste
the earthy air. Cool  and light. It was March. In the  shadows of her hiding
place on the staircase, she watched as the  strangers swayed  and chanted by
flickering orange candles.
     I'm dreaming,  Sophie  told  herself. This is a dream. What  else could
this be?
     The  women  and  men were  staggered, black, white,  black, white.  The
women's beautiful  gossamer  gowns billowed as  they raised  in  their right
hands  golden orbs  and  called  out  in  unison, "I  was  with  you  in the
beginning, in the dawn of all that is holy,  I bore you from the womb before
the start of day."
     The women lowered their orbs,  and everyone rocked back and forth as if
in a trance. They were revering something in the center of the circle.
     What are they looking at?
     The voices accelerated now. Louder. Faster.
     "The woman whom  you behold  is love!" The  women called, raising their
orbs again.
     The men responded, "She has her dwelling in eternity!"
     The  chanting  grew steady again. Accelerating. Thundering now. Faster.
The participants stepped inward and knelt.
     In that instant, Sophie could finally see what they were all watching.
     On a low, ornate altar in the center of  the circle lay  a  man. He was
naked,  positioned  on his back, and  wearing a black mask. Sophie instantly
recognized his body and the birthmark on his shoulder. She almost cried out.
Grand-pure!  This image alone would have shocked Sophie  beyond  belief, and
yet there was more.
     Straddling her grandfather was a naked  woman wearing a white mask, her
luxuriant silver hair  flowing out behind it. Her  body was plump,  far from
perfect, and she  was gyrating  in rhythm to the  chanting--making  love  to
Sophie's grandfather.
     Sophie wanted to turn and run, but she couldn't. The stone walls of the
grotto  imprisoned her as the chanting rose to a  fever pitch. The circle of
participants seemed almost to be singing now, the noise  rising in crescendo
to a frenzy. With a sudden roar, the entire room seemed to erupt  in climax.
Sophie could not breathe. She suddenly realized she was quietly sobbing. She
turned  and staggered silently up the  stairs,  out of the house,  and drove
trembling back to Paris.

     The chartered turboprop  was just passing over the  twinkling lights of
Monaco when Aringarosa hung up on Fache for the second  time. He reached for
the airsickness bag again but felt too drained even to be sick.
     Just let it be over!
     Fache's  newest update  seemed unfathomable,  and  yet  almost  nothing
tonight made sense anymore. What is going on? Everything had spiraled wildly
out  of control.  What have I gotten Silas into? What  have I  gotten myself
     On  shaky legs, Aringarosa walked to the  cockpit.  "I  need to  change
     The  pilot  glanced  over his  shoulder  and laughed.  "You're  joking,
     "No. I have to get to London immediately."
     "Father, this is a charter flight, not a taxi."
     "I  will pay you  extra, of course. How much?  London  is only one hour
farther north and requires almost no change of direction, so--"
     "It's not a question of money, Father, there are other issues."
     "Ten thousand euro. Right now."
     The  pilot turned, his  eyes wide with shock.  "How much? What  kind of
priest carries that kind of cash?"
     Aringarosa walked back to his black  briefcase, opened  it, and removed
one of the bearer bonds. He handed it to the pilot.
     "What is this?" the pilot demanded.
     "A ten-thousand-euro bearer bond drawn on the Vatican Bank."
     The pilot looked dubious.
     "It's the same as cash."
     "Only cash is cash," the pilot said, handing the bond back.
     Aringarosa  felt weak as he steadied  himself against the cockpit door.
"This is a matter of life  or  death. You  must  help  me. I need to  get to
     The pilot eyed the bishop's gold ring. "Real diamonds?"
     Aringarosa looked at the ring. "I could not possibly part with this."
     The pilot shrugged, turning and focusing back out the windshield.
     Aringarosa felt  a deepening sadness. He looked at the ring. Everything
it  represented  was about  to  be lost  to the bishop anyway. After  a long
moment,  he  slid the  ring  from  his  finger  and  placed it gently on the
instrument panel.
     Aringarosa slunk out of the cockpit  and sat back down. Fifteen seconds
later, he could feel the pilot banking a few more degrees to the north.
     Even so, Aringarosa's moment of glory was in shambles.
     It had all begun as  a holy  cause. A brilliantly  crafted scheme. Now,
like a house of cards,  it was collapsing  in on itself... and  the end  was
nowhere in sight.

     Langdon  could   see  Sophie  was  still  shaken  from  recounting  her
experience of Hieros Gamos. For  his  part, Langdon was amazed to have heard
it.  Not only  had  Sophie  witnessed  the  full-blown  ritual, but  her own
grandfather  had been the  celebrant...  the Grand Master of  the Priory  of
Sion. It was heady company. Da Vinci, Botticelli, Isaac Newton, Victor Hugo,
Jean Cocteau... Jacques Sauniure.
     "I don't know what else I can tell you," Langdon said softly.
     Sophie's eyes were a deep green  now, tearful. "He  raised  me like his
own daughter."
     Langdon now recognized the emotion that had been growing in her eyes as
they  spoke. It was remorse. Distant and deep. Sophie Neveu  had shunned her
grandfather and was now seeing him in an entirely different light.
     Outside, the dawn was coming  fast, its crimson  aura gathering off the
starboard. The earth was still black beneath them.
     "Victuals, my dears?" Teabing rejoined them with a flourish, presenting
several cans of Coke and a box of old crackers. He apologized profusely  for
the  limited fare as he  doled out the goods. "Our  friend  the  monk  isn't
talking yet," he chimed, "but give him time." He bit into a cracker and eyed
the  poem. "So,  my lovely, any headway?" He looked at Sophie. "What is your
grandfather  trying to tell us here? Where the devil is this headstone? This
headstone praised by Templars."
     Sophie shook her head and remained silent.
     While  Teabing  again  dug into the  verse, Langdon popped  a  Coke and
turned to the window, his  thoughts awash  with images of secret rituals and
unbroken codes. A headstone  praised by Templars is the key. He took a  long
sip from the can. A headstone praised by Templars. The cola was warm.
     The  dissolving  veil of  night  seemed to  evaporate  quickly,  and as
Langdon watched the transformation, he  saw a shimmering  ocean stretch  out
beneath them. The English Channel. It wouldn't be long now.
     Langdon willed  the  light  of day to  bring with it a second  kind  of
illumination,  but the  lighter  it became outside, the further he felt from
the truth. He heard  the rhythms of  iambic  pentameter and chanting, Hieros
Gamos and sacred rites, resonating with the rumble of the jet.
     A headstone praised by Templars.
     The plane was over land again when a flash of enlightenment struck him.
Langdon set down his  empty can  of Coke hard. "You won't believe this,"  he
said, turning to the others. "The Templar headstone--I figured it out."
     Teabing's eyes turned to saucers. "You know where the headstone is?"
     Langdon smiled. "Not where it is. What it is."
     Sophie leaned in to hear.
     "I  think the  headstone  references  a  literal  stone  head," Langdon
explained, savoring the familiar excitement of academic breakthrough. "Not a
grave marker."
     "A stone head?" Teabing demanded.
     Sophie looked equally confused.
     "Leigh,"  Langdon  said, turning,  "during  the Inquisition, the Church
accused the Knights Templar of all kinds of heresies, right?"
     "Correct. They  fabricated all kinds of  charges. Sodomy, urination  on
the cross, devil worship, quite a list."
     "And on that list was the  worship of false idols, right? Specifically,
the Church accused the Templars of secretly performing rituals in which they
prayed to a carved stone head... the pagan god--"
     "Baphomet!" Teabing  blurted.  "My heavens,  Robert,  you're  right!  A
headstone praised by Templars!"
     Langdon quickly explained to Sophie that Baphomet was a pagan fertility
god associated with the creative force of reproduction. Baphomet's head  was
represented as that  of a ram or goat, a  common  symbol  of procreation and
fecundity. The Templars honored  Baphomet by encircling  a stone replica  of
his head and chanting prayers.
     "Baphomet," Teabing tittered. "The ceremony honored  the creative magic
of sexual union, but Pope Clement convinced  everyone  that Baphomet's  head
was in fact that of  the  devil. The Pope  used the  head of Baphomet as the
linchpin in his case against the Templars."
     Langdon concurred. The modern belief in a horned  devil  known as Satan
could be traced back  to Baphomet and  the Church's attempts  to recast  the
horned  fertility  god  as  a  symbol  of  evil.  The  Church  had obviously
succeeded, although  not entirely.  Traditional American Thanksgiving tables
still bore  pagan,  horned fertility  symbols. The  cornucopia  or "horn  of
plenty" was a tribute to Baphomet's  fertility and dated back to  Zeus being
suckled by a  goat whose horn broke  off  and magically  filled with  fruit.
Baphomet  also appeared  in group  photographs  when  some  joker raised two
fingers behind a friend's head  in the V-symbol  of horns; certainly  few of
the pranksters realized their mocking gesture was in fact  advertising their
victim's robust sperm count.
     "Yes, yes," Teabing  was saying  excitedly.  "Baphomet must be what the
poem is referring to. A headstone praised by Templars."
     "Okay," Sophie  said, "but  if  Baphomet  is the  headstone  praised by
Templars, then we have  a new  dilemma." She  pointed to  the  dials  on the
cryptex. "Baphomet has eight letters. We only have room for five."
     Teabing grinned  broadly. "My dear,  this  is where the  Atbash  Cipher
comes into play"

     Langdon was impressed. Teabing had just finished writing out the entire
twenty-two-letter Hebrew  alphabet--alef-beit--from  memory.  Granted,  he'd
used Roman equivalents rather than  Hebrew characters, but  even so, he  was
now reading through them with flawless pronunciation.
     A B G D H V Z Ch T Y K L M N S O P Tz Q R Sh Th
     "Alef, Beit, Gimel, Dalet, Hei, Vav, Zayin, Chet, Tet, Yud, Kaf, Lamed,
Mem,  Nun, Samech, Ayin, Pei, Tzadik, Kuf,  Reish,  Shin, and  Tav." Teabing
dramatically mopped his  brow and plowed on. "In formal Hebrew spelling, the
vowel  sounds  are not written.  Therefore, when we write the word  Baphomet
using the Hebrew alphabet, it will  lose its  three vowels  in  translation,
leaving us--"
     "Five letters," Sophie blurted.
     Teabing  nodded  and began  writing again. "Okay,  here  is  the proper
spelling of  Baphomet in Hebrew letters.  I'll  sketch in the missing vowels
for clarity's sake.
     B a P V o M e Th

     "Remember, of course," he  added,  "that  Hebrew is normally written in
the opposite direction, but we can just as easily use Atbash this way. Next,
all we have to do is create our substitution scheme by  rewriting the entire
alphabet in reverse order opposite the original alphabet."
     "There's an easier way," Sophie said, taking the  pen from Teabing. "It
works  for all reflectional substitution  ciphers, including  the  Atbash. A
little trick I  learned at the Royal Holloway." Sophie wrote the first  half
of the alphabet from left to right, and then,  beneath it,  wrote the second
half,  right  to  left.  "Cryptanalysts  call  it  the  fold-over.  Half  as
complicated. Twice as clean." 
A B G D H V Z Ch T Y K
Th Sh R Q Tz P O S N M L
Teabing eyed her handiwork and chuckled. "Right you are. Glad to see those boys at the Holloway are doing their job." Looking at Sophie's substitution matrix, Langdon felt a rising thrill that he imagined must have rivaled the thrill felt by early scholars when they first used the Atbash Cipher to decrypt the now famous Mystery of Sheshach. For years, religious scholars had been baffled by biblical references to a city called Sheshach. The city did not appear on any map nor in any other documents, and yet it was mentioned repeatedly in the Book of Jeremiah--the king of Sheshach, the city of Sheshach, the people of Sheshach. Finally, a scholar applied the Atbash Cipher to the word, and his results were mind-numbing. The cipher revealed that Sheshach was in fact a code word for another very well-known city. The decryption process was simple. Sheshach, in Hebrew, was spelled: Sh-Sh-K. Sh-Sh-K, when placed in the substitution matrix, became B-B-L. B-B-L, in Hebrew, spelled Babel. The mysterious city of Sheshach was revealed as the city of Babel, and a frenzy of biblical examination ensued. Within weeks, several more Atbash code words were uncovered in the Old Testament, unveiling myriad hidden meanings that scholars had no idea were there. "We're getting close," Langdon whispered, unable to control his excitement. "Inches, Robert," Teabing said. He glanced over at Sophie and smiled. "You ready?" She nodded. "Okay, Baphomet in Hebrew without the vowels reads: B-P-V-M-Th. Now we simply apply your Atbash substitution matrix to translate the letters into our five-letter password." Langdon's heart pounded. B-P-V-M-Th. The sun was pouring through the windows now. He looked at Sophie's substitution matrix and slowly began to make the conversion. B is Sh... P is V... Teabing was grinning like a schoolboy at Christmas. "And the Atbash Cipher reveals..." He stopped short. "Good God!" His face went white. Langdon's head snapped up. "What's wrong?" Sophie demanded. "You won't believe this." Teabing glanced at Sophie. "Especially you." "What do you mean?" she said. "This is... ingenious," he whispered. "Utterly ingenious!" Teabing wrote again on the paper. "Drumroll, please. Here is your password." He showed them what he had written. Sh-V-P-Y-A Sophie scowled. "What is it?" Langdon didn't recognize it either. Teabing's voice seemed to tremble with awe. "This, my friend, is actually an ancient word of wisdom." Langdon read the letters again. An ancient word of wisdom frees this scroll. An instant later he got it. He had newer seen this coming. "An ancient word of wisdom!" Teabing was laughing. "Quite literally!" Sophie looked at the word and then at the dial. Immediately she realized Langdon and Teabing had failed to see a serious glitch. "Hold on! This can't be the password," she argued. "The cryptex doesn't have an Sh on the dial. It uses a traditional Roman alphabet." "Read the word," Langdon urged. "Keep in mind two things. In Hebrew, the symbol for the sound Sh can also be pronounced as S, depending on the accent. Just as the letter P can be pronounced F." SVFYA? she thought, puzzled. "Genius!" Teabing added. "The letter Vav is often a placeholder for the vowel sound O!" Sophie again looked at the letters, attempting to sound them out. "S...o...f...y...a." She heard the sound of her voice, and could not believe what she had just said. "Sophia? This spells Sophia?" Langdon was nodding enthusiastically. "Yes! Sophia literally means wisdom in Greek. The root of your name, Sophie, is literally a 'word of wisdom.' " Sophie suddenly missed her grandfather immensely. He encrypted the Priory keystone with my name. A knot caught in her throat. It all seemed so perfect. But as she turned her gaze to the five lettered dials on the cryptex, she realized a problem still existed. "But wait... the word Sophia has six letters." Teabing's smile never faded. "Look at the poem again. Your grandfather wrote, 'An ancient word of wisdom.' " "Yes?" Teabing winked. "In ancient Greek, wisdom is spelled S-O-F-I-A." Sophie felt a wild excitement as she cradled the cryptex and began dialing in the letters. An ancient word of wisdom frees this scroll. Langdon and Teabing seemed to have stopped breathing as they looked on. S... O... F... "Carefully," Teabing urged. "Ever so carefully." ...I... A. Sophie aligned the final dial. "Okay," she whispered, glancing up at the others. "I'm going to pull it apart." "Remember the vinegar," Langdon whispered with fearful exhilaration. "Be careful." Sophie knew that if this cryptex were like those she had opened in her youth, all she would need to do is grip the cylinder at both ends, just beyond the dials, and pull, applying slow, steady pressure in opposite directions. If the dials were properly aligned with the password, then one of the ends would slide off, much like a lens cap, and she could reach inside and remove the rolled papyrus document, which would be wrapped around the vial of vinegar. However, if the password they had entered were incorrect, Sophie's outward force on the ends would be transferred to a hinged lever inside, which would pivot downward into the cavity and apply pressure to the glass vial, eventually shattering it if she pulled too hard. Pull gently, she told herself. Teabing and Langdon both leaned in as Sophie wrapped her palms around the ends of the cylinder. In the excitement of deciphering the code word, Sophie had almost forgotten what they expected to find inside. This is the Priory keystone. According to Teabing, it contained a map to the Holy Grail, unveiling the tomb of Mary Magdalene and the Sangreal treasure... the ultimate treasure trove of secret truth. Now gripping the stone tube, Sophie double-checked that all of the letters were properly aligned with the indicator. Then, slowly, she pulled. Nothing happened. She applied a little more force. Suddenly, the stone slid apart like a well-crafted telescope. The heavy end piece detached in her hand. Langdon and Teabing almost jumped to their feet. Sophie's heart rate climbed as she set the end cap on the table and tipped the cylinder to peer inside. A scroll! Peering down the hollow of the rolled paper, Sophie could see it had been wrapped around a cylindrical object--the vial of vinegar, she assumed. Strangely, though, the paper around the vinegar was not the customary delicate papyrus but rather, vellum. That's odd, she thought, vinegar can't dissolve a lambskin vellum. She looked again down the hollow of the scroll and realized the object in the center was not a vial of vinegar after all. It was something else entirely. "What's wrong?" Teabing asked. "Pull out the scroll." Frowning, Sophie grabbed the rolled vellum and the object around which it was wrapped, pulling them both out of the container. "That's not papyrus," Teabing said. "It's too heavy." "I know. It's padding." "For what? The vial of vinegar?" "No." Sophie unrolled the scroll and revealed what was wrapped inside. "For this." When Langdon saw the object inside the sheet of vellum, his heart sank. "God help us," Teabing said, slumping. "Your grandfather was a pitiless architect." Langdon stared in amazement. I see Sauniure has no intention of making this easy. On the table sat a second cryptex. Smaller. Made of black onyx. It had been nested within the first. Sauniure's passion for dualism. Two cryptexes. Everything in pairs. Double entendres. Male female. Black nested within white. Langdon felt the web of symbolism stretching onward. White gives birth to black. Every man sprang from woman. White--female. Black--male. Reaching over, Langdon lifted the smaller cryptex. It looked identical to the first, except half the size and black. He heard the familiar gurgle. Apparently, the vial of vinegar they had heard earlier was inside this smaller cryptex. "Well, Robert," Teabing said, sliding the page of vellum over to him. "You'll be pleased to hear that at least we're flying in the right direction." Langdon examined the thick vellum sheet. Written in ornate penmanship was another four-line verse. Again, in iambic pentameter. The verse was cryptic, but Langdon needed to read only as far as the first line to realize that Teabing's plan to come to Britain was going to pay off. IN LONDON LIES A KNIGHT A POPE INTERRED. The remainder of the poem clearly implied that the password for opening the second cryptex could be found by visiting this knight's tomb, somewhere in the city. Langdon turned excitedly to Teabing. "Do you have any idea what knight this poem is referring to?" Teabing grinned. "Not the foggiest. But I know in precisely which crypt we should look." At that moment, fifteen miles ahead of them, six Kent police cars streaked down rain-soaked streets toward Biggin Hill Executive Airport. Lieutenant Collet helped himself to a Perrier from Teabing's refrigerator and strode back out through the drawing room. Rather than accompanying Fache to London where the action was, he was now baby-sitting the PTS team that had spread out through Chuteau Villette. So far, the evidence they had uncovered was unhelpful: a single bullet buried in the floor; a paper with several symbols scrawled on it along with the words blade and chalice; and a bloody spiked belt that PTS had told Collet was associated with the conservative Catholic group Opus Dei, which had caused a stir recently when a news program exposed their aggressive recruiting practices in Paris. Collet sighed. Good luck making sense of this unlikely mulange. Moving down a lavish hallway, Collet entered the vast ballroom study, where the chief PTS examiner was busy dusting for fingerprints. He was a corpulent man in suspenders. "Anything?" Collet asked, entering. The examiner shook his head. "Nothing new. Multiple sets matching those in the rest of the house." "How about the prints on the cilice belt?" "Interpol is still working. I uploaded everything we found." Collet motioned to two sealed evidence bags on the desk. "And this?" The man shrugged. "Force of habit. I bag anything peculiar." Collet walked over. Peculiar? "This Brit's a strange one," the examiner said. "Have a look at this." He sifted through the evidence bags and selected one, handing it to Collet. The photo showed the main entrance of a Gothic cathedral--the traditional, recessed archway, narrowing through multiple, ribbed layers to a small doorway. Collet studied the photo and turned. "This is peculiar?" "Turn it over." On the back, Collet found notations scrawled in English, describing a cathedral's long hollow nave as a secret pagan tribute to a woman's womb. This was strange. The notation describing the cathedral's doorway, however, was what startled him. "Hold on! He thinks a cathedral's entrance represents a woman's..." The examiner nodded. "Complete with receding labial ridges and a nice little cinquefoil clitoris above the doorway." He sighed. "Kind of makes you want to go back to church." Collet picked up the second evidence bag. Through the plastic, he could see a large glossy photograph of what appeared to be an old document. The heading at the top read: Les Dossiers Secrets--Number 4 lm1 249 "What's this?" Collet asked. "No idea. He's got copies of it all over the place, so I bagged it." Collet studied the document. PRIEURE DE SIGN--LES NAUTONIERS/GRAND MASTERS
JEAN DE GISORS 1188-1220
EDOUARD DE BAR 1307-1336
JEANNE DE BAR 1336-1351
RENE D'ANJOU 1418-1480
IOLANDE DE BAR 1480-1483
ROBERT FLUDD 1595-1637
ROBERT BOYLE 1654-1691
ISAAC NEWTON 1691-1727
VICTOR HUGO 1844-1885
JEAN COCTEAU 1918-1963
Prieuru de Sion? Collet wondered. "Lieutenant?" Another agent stuck his head in. "The switchboard has an urgent call for Captain Fache, but they can't reach him. Will you take it?" Collet returned to the kitchen and took the call. It was Andru Vernet. The banker's refined accent did little to mask the tension in his voice. "I thought Captain Fache said he would call me, but I have not yet heard from him." "The captain is quite busy," Collet replied. "May I help you?" "I was assured I would be kept abreast of your progress tonight." For a moment, Collet thought he recognized the timbre of the man's voice, but he couldn't quite place it. "Monsieur Vernet, I am currently in charge of the Paris investigation. My name is Lieutenant Collet." There was a long pause on the line. "Lieutenant, I have another call coming in. Please excuse me. I will call you later." He hung up. For several seconds, Collet held the receiver. Then it dawned on him. I knew I recognized that voice! The revelation made him gasp. The armored car driver. With the fake Rolex. Collet now understood why the banker had hung up so quickly. Vernet had remembered the name Lieutenant Collet--the officer he blatantly lied to earlier tonight. Collet pondered the implications of this bizarre development. Vernet is involved. Instinctively, he knew he should call Fache. Emotionally, he knew this lucky break was going to be his moment to shine. He immediately called Interpol and requested every shred of information they could find on the Depository Bank of Zurich and its president, Andru Vernet. "Seat belts, please," Teabing's pilot announced as the Hawker 731 descended into a gloomy morning drizzle. "We'll be landing in five minutes." Teabing felt a joyous sense of homecoming when he saw the misty hills of Kent spreading wide beneath the descending plane. England was less than an hour from Paris, and yet a world away. This morning, the damp, spring green of his homeland looked particularly welcoming. My time in France is over. I am returning to England victorious. The keystone has been found. The question remained, of course, as to where the keystone would ultimately lead. Somewhere in the United Kingdom. Where exactly, Teabing had no idea, but he was already tasting the glory. As Langdon and Sophie looked on, Teabing got up and went to the far side of the cabin, then slid aside a wall panel to reveal a discreetly hidden wall safe. He dialed in the combination, opened the safe, and extracted two passports. "Documentation for Rumy and myself." He then removed a thick stack of fifty-pound notes. "And documentation for you two." Sophie looked leery. "A bribe?" "Creative diplomacy. Executive airfields make certain allowances. A British customs official will greet us at my hangar and ask to board the plane. Rather than permitting him to come on, I'll tell him I'm traveling with a French celebrity who prefers that nobody knows she is in England--press considerations, you know--and I'll offer the official this generous tip as gratitude for his discretion." Langdon looked amazed. "And the official will accept?" "Not from anyone, they won't, but these people all know me. I'm not an arms dealer, for heaven's sake. I was knighted." Teabing smiled. "Membership has its privileges." Rumy approached up the aisle now, the Heckler Koch pistol cradled in his hand. "Sir, my agenda?" Teabing glanced at his servant. "I'm going to have you stay onboard with our guest until we return. We can't very well drag him all over London with us." Sophie looked wary. "Leigh, I was serious about the French police finding your plane before we return." Teabing laughed. "Yes, imagine their surprise if they board and find Rumy." Sophie looked surprised by his cavalier attitude. "Leigh, you transported a bound hostage across international borders. This is serious." "So are my lawyers." He scowled toward the monk in the rear of the plane. "That animal broke into my home and almost killed me. That is a fact, and Rumy will corroborate." "But you tied him up and flew him to London!" Langdon said. Teabing held up his right hand and feigned a courtroom oath. "Your honor, forgive an eccentric old knight his foolish prejudice for the British court system. I realize I should have called the French authorities, but I'm a snob and do not trust those laissez-faire French to prosecute properly. This man almost murdered me. Yes, I made a rash decision forcing my manservant to help me bring him to England, but I was under great stress. Mea culpa. Mea culpa." Langdon looked incredulous. "Coming from you, Leigh, that just might fly." "Sir?" the pilot called back. "The tower just radioed. They've got some kind of maintenance problem out near your hangar, and they're asking me to bring the plane directly to the terminal instead." Teabing had been flying to Biggin Hill for over a decade, and this was a first. "Did they mention what the problem is?" "The controller was vague. Something about a gas leak at the pumping station? They asked me to park in front of the terminal and keep everyone onboard until further notice. Safety precaution. We're not supposed to deplane until we get the all clear from airport authorities." Teabing was skeptical. Must be one hell of a gas leak. The pumping station was a good half mile from his hangar. Rumy also looked concerned. "Sir, this sounds highly irregular." Teabing turned to Sophie and Langdon. "My friends, I have an unpleasant suspicion that we are about to be met by a welcoming committee." Langdon gave a bleak sigh. "I guess Fache still thinks I'm his man." "Either that," Sophie said, "or he is too deep into this to admit his error. Teabing was not listening. Regardless of Fache's mind-set, action needed to be taken fast. Don't lose sight of the ultimate goal. The Grail. We're so dose. Below them, the landing gear descended with a clunk. "Leigh," Langdon said, sounding deeply remorseful, "I should turn myself in and sort this out legally. Leave you all out of it." "Oh, heavens, Robert!" Teabing waved it off. "Do you really think they're going to let the rest of us go? I just transported you illegally. Miss Neveu assisted in your escape from the Louvre, and we have a man tied up in the back of the plane. Really now! We're all in this together." "Maybe a different airport?" Sophie said. Teabing shook his head. "If we pull up now, by the time we get clearance anywhere else, our welcoming party will include army tanks." Sophie slumped. Teabing sensed that if they were to have any chance of postponing confrontation with the British authorities long enough to find the Grail, bold action had to be taken. "Give me a minute," he said, hobbling toward the cockpit. "What are you doing?" Langdon asked. "Sales meeting," Teabing said, wondering how much it would cost him to persuade his pilot to perform one highly irregular maneuver. The Hawker is on final approach. Simon Edwards--Executive Services Officer at Biggin Hill Airport--paced the control tower, squinting nervously at the rain-drenched runway. He never appreciated being awoken early on a Saturday morning, but it was particularly distasteful that he had been called in to oversee the arrest of one of his most lucrative clients. Sir Leigh Teabing paid Biggin Hill not only for a private hangar but a "per landing fee" for his frequent arrivals and departures. Usually, the airfield had advance warning of his schedule and was able to follow a strict protocol for his arrival. Teabing liked things just so. The custom-built Jaguar stretch limousine that he kept in his hangar was to be fully gassed, polished, and the day's London Times laid out on the back seat. A customs official was to be waiting for the plane at the hangar to expedite the mandatory documentation and luggage check. Occasionally, customs agents accepted large tips from Teabing in exchange for turning a blind eye to the transport of harmless organics--mostly luxury foods--French escargots, a particularly ripe unprocessed Roquefort, certain fruits. Many customs laws were absurd, anyway, and if Biggin Hill didn't accommodate its clients, certainly competing airfields would. Teabing was provided with what he wanted here at Biggin Hill, and the employees reaped the benefits. Edwards's nerves felt frayed now as he watched the jet coming in. He wondered if Teabing's penchant for spreading the wealth had gotten him in trouble somehow; the French authorities seemed very intent on containing him. Edwards had not yet been told what the charges were, but they were obviously serious. At the French authorities' request, Kent police had ordered the Biggin Hill air traffic controller to radio the Hawker's pilot and order him directly to the terminal rather than to the client's hangar. The pilot had agreed, apparently believing the far-fetched story of a gas leak. Though the British police did not generally carry weapons, the gravity of the situation had brought out an armed response team. Now, eight policemen with handguns stood just inside the terminal building, awaiting the moment when the plane's engines powered down. The instant this happened, a runway attendant would place safety wedges under the tires so the plane could no longer move. Then the police would step into view and hold the occupants at bay until the French police arrived to handle the situation. The Hawker was low in the sky now, skimming the treetops to their right. Simon Edwards went downstairs to watch the landing from tarmac level. The Kent police were poised, just out of sight, and the maintenance man waited with his wedges. Out on the runway, the Hawker's nose tipped up, and the tires touched down in a puff of smoke. The plane settled in for deceleration, streaking from right to left in front of the terminal, its white hull glistening in the wet weather. But rather than braking and turning into the terminal, the jet coasted calmly past the access lane and continued on toward Teabing's hangar in the distance. All the police spun and stared at Edwards. "I thought you said the pilot agreed to come to the terminal!" Edwards was bewildered. "He did!" Seconds later, Edwards found himself wedged in a police car racing across the tarmac toward the distant hangar. The convoy of police was still a good five hundred yards away as Teabing's Hawker taxied calmly into the private hangar and disappeared. When the cars finally arrived and skidded to a stop outside the gaping hangar door, the police poured out, guns drawn. Edwards jumped out too. The noise was deafening. The Hawker's engines were still roaring as the jet finished its usual rotation inside the hangar, positioning itself nose-out in preparation for later departure. As the plane completed its 180-degree turn and rolled toward the front of the hangar, Edwards could see the pilot's face, which understandably looked surprised and fearful to see the barricade of police cars. The pilot brought the plane to a final stop, and powered down the engines. The police streamed in, taking up positions around the jet. Edwards joined the Kent chief inspector, who moved warily toward the hatch. After several seconds, the fuselage door popped open. Leigh Teabing appeared in the doorway as the plane's electronic stairs smoothly dropped down. As he gazed out at the sea of weapons aimed at him, he propped himself on his crutches and scratched his head. "Simon, did I win the policemen's lottery while I was away?" He sounded more bewildered than concerned. Simon Edwards stepped forward, swallowing the frog in his throat. "Good morning, sir. I apologize for the confusion. We've had a gas leak and your pilot said he was coming to the terminal." "Yes, yes, well, I told him to come here instead. I'm late for an appointment. I pay for this hangar, and this rubbish about avoiding a gas leak sounded overcautious." "I'm afraid your arrival has taken us a bit off guard, sir." "I know. I'm off my schedule, I am. Between you and me, the new medication gives me the tinkles. Thought I'd come over for a tune-up." The policemen all exchanged looks. Edwards winced. "Very good, sir." "Sir," the Kent chief inspector said, stepping forward. "I need to ask you to stay onboard for another half hour or so." Teabing looked unamused as he hobbled down the stairs. "I'm afraid that is impossible. I have a medical appointment." He reached the tarmac. "I cannot afford to miss it." The chief inspector repositioned himself to block Teabing's progress away from the plane. "I am here at the orders of the French Judicial Police. They claim you are transporting fugitives from the law on this plane." Teabing stared at the chief inspector a long moment, and then burst out laughing. "Is this one of those hidden camera programs? Jolly good!" The chief inspector never flinched. "This is serious, sir. The French police claim you also may have a hostage onboard." Teabing's manservant Rumy appeared in the doorway at the top of the stairs. "I feel like a hostage working for Sir Leigh, but he assures me I am free to go." Rumy checked his watch. "Master, we really are running late." He nodded toward the Jaguar stretch limousine in the far corner of the hangar. The enormous automobile was ebony with smoked glass and whitewall tires. "I'll bring the car." Rumy started down the stairs. "I'm afraid we cannot let you leave," the chief inspector said. "Please return to your aircraft. Both of you. Representatives from the French police will be landing shortly." Teabing looked now toward Simon Edwards. "Simon, for heaven's sake, this is ridiculous! We don't have anyone else on board. Just the usual--Rumy, our pilot, and myself. Perhaps you could act as an intermediary? Go have a look onboard, and verify that the plane is empty." Edwards knew he was trapped. "Yes, sir. I can have a look." "The devil you will!" the Kent chief inspector declared, apparently knowing enough about executive airfields to suspect Simon Edwards might well lie about the plane's occupants in an effort to keep Teabing's business at Biggin Hill. "I will look myself." Teabing shook his head. "No you won't, Inspector. This is private property and until you have a search warrant, you will stay off my plane. I am offering you a reasonable option here. Mr. Edwards can perform the inspection." "No deal." Teabing's demeanor turned frosty. "Inspector, I'm afraid I don't have time to indulge in your games. I'm late, and I'm leaving. If it is that important to you to stop me, you'll just have to shoot me." With that, Teabing and Rumy walked around the chief inspector and headed across the hangar toward the parked limousine. The Kent chief inspector felt only distaste for Leigh Teabing as the man hobbled around him in defiance. Men of privilege always felt like they were above the law. They are not. The chief inspector turned and aimed at Teabing's back. "Stop! I will fire!" "Go ahead," Teabing said without breaking stride or glancing back. "My lawyers will fricassee your testicles for breakfast. And if you dare board my plane without a warrant, your spleen will follow." No stranger to power plays, the chief inspector was unimpressed. Technically, Teabing was correct and the police needed a warrant to board his jet, but because the flight had originated in France, and because the powerful Bezu Fache had given his authority, the Kent chief inspector felt certain his career would be far better served by finding out what it was on this plane that Teabing seemed so intent on hiding. "Stop them," the inspector ordered. "I'm searching the plane." His men raced over, guns leveled, and physically blocked Teabing and his servant from reaching the limousine. Now Teabing turned. "Inspector, this is your last warning. Do not even think of boarding that plane. You will regret it." Ignoring the threat, the chief inspector gripped his sidearm and marched up the plane's gangway. Arriving at the hatch, he peered inside. After a moment, he stepped into the cabin. What the devil? With the exception of the frightened-looking pilot in the cockpit, the aircraft was empty. Entirely devoid of human life. Quickly checking the bathroom, the chairs, and the luggage areas, the inspector found no traces of anyone hiding... much less multiple individuals. What the hell was Bezu Fache thinking? It seemed Leigh Teabing had been telling the truth. The Kent chief inspector stood alone in the deserted cabin and swallowed hard. Shit. His face flushed, he stepped back onto the gangway, gazing across the hangar at Leigh Teabing and his servant, who were now under gunpoint near the limousine. "Let them go," the inspector ordered. "We received a bad tip." Teabing's eyes were menacing even across the hangar. "You can expect a call from my lawyers. And for future reference, the French police cannot be trusted." With that, Teabing's manservant opened the door at the rear of the stretch limousine and helped his crippled master into the back seat. Then the servant walked the length of the car, climbed in behind the wheel, and gunned the engine. Policemen scattered as the Jaguar peeled out of the hangar. "Well played, my good man," Teabing chimed from the rear seat as the limousine accelerated out of the airport. He turned his eyes now to the dimly lit front recesses of the spacious interior. "Everyone comfy?" Langdon gave a weak nod. He and Sophie were still crouched on the floor beside the bound and gagged albino. Moments earlier, as the Hawker taxied into the deserted hangar, Rumy had popped the hatch as the plane jolted to a stop halfway through its turn. With the police closing in fast, Langdon and Sophie dragged the monk down the gangway to ground level and out of sight behind the limousine. Then the jet engines had roared again, rotating the plane and completing its turn as the police cars came skidding into the hangar. Now, as the limousine raced toward Kent, Langdon and Sophie clambered toward the rear of the limo's long interior, leaving the monk bound on the floor. They settled onto the long seat facing Teabing. The Brit gave them both a roguish smile and opened the cabinet on the limo's bar. "Could I offer you a drink? Some nibblies? Crisps? Nuts? Seltzer?" Sophie and Langdon both shook their heads. Teabing grinned and closed the bar. "So then, about this knight's tomb..." "Fleet Street?" Langdon asked, eyeing Teabing in the back of the limo. There's a crypt on Fleet Street? So far, Leigh was being playfully cagey about where he thought they would find the "knight's tomb," which, according to the poem, would provide the password for opening the smaller cryptex. Teabing grinned and turned to Sophie. "Miss Neveu, give the Harvard boy one more shot at the verse, will you?" Sophie fished in her pocket and pulled out the black cryptex, which was wrapped in the vellum. Everyone had decided to leave the rosewood box and larger cryptex behind in the plane's strongbox, carrying with them only what they needed, the far more portable and discreet black cryptex. Sophie unwrapped the vellum and handed the sheet to Langdon. Although Langdon had read the poem several times onboard the jet, he had been unable to extract any specific location. Now, as he read the words again, he processed them slowly and carefully, hoping the pentametric rhythms would reveal a clearer meaning now that he was on the ground. In London lies a knight a Pope interred. His labor's fruit a Holy wrath incurred. You seek the orb that ought be on his tomb. It speaks of Rosy flesh and seeded womb. The language seemed simple enough. There was a knight buried in London. A knight who labored at something that angered the Church. A knight whose tomb was missing an orb that should be present. The poem's final reference--Rosy flesh and seeded womb--was a clear allusion to Mary Magdalene, the Rose who bore the seed of Jesus. Despite the apparent straightforwardness of the verse, Langdon still had no idea who this knight was or where he was buried. Moreover, once they located the tomb, it sounded as if they would be searching for something that was absent. The orb that ought be on his tomb? "No thoughts?" Teabing clucked in disappointment, although Langdon sensed the Royal Historian was enjoying being one up. "Miss Neveu?" She shook her head. "What would you two do without me?" Teabing said. "Very well, I will walk you through it. It's quite simple really. The first line is the key. Would you read it please?" Langdon read aloud. " 'In London lies a knight a Pope interred.' " "Precisely. A knight a Pope interred." He eyed Langdon. "What does that mean to you?" Langdon shrugged. "A knight buried by a Pope? A knight whose funeral was presided over by a Pope?" Teabing laughed loudly. "Oh, that's rich. Always the optimist, Robert. Look at the second line. This knight obviously did something that incurred the Holy wrath of the Church. Think again. Consider the dynamic between the Church and the Knights Templar. A knight a Pope interred?" "A knight a Pope killed?" Sophie asked. Teabing smiled and patted her knee. "Well done, my dear. A knight a Pope buried. Or killed." Langdon thought of the notorious Templar round-up in 1307--unlucky Friday the thirteenth--when Pope Clement killed and interred hundreds of Knights Templar. "But there must be endless graves of 'knights killed by Popes.' " "Aha, not so! "Teabing said. "Many of them were burned at the stake and tossed unceremoniously into the Tiber River. But this poem refers to a tomb. A tomb in London. And there are few knights buried in London." He paused, eyeing Langdon as if waiting for light to dawn. Finally he huffed. "Robert, for heaven's sake! The church built in London by the Priory's military arm--the Knights Templar themselves!" "The Temple Church?" Langdon drew a startled breath. "It has a crypt?" "Ten of the most frightening tombs you will ever see." Langdon had never actually visited the Temple Church, although he'd come across numerous references in his Priory research. Once the epicenter of all Templar/Priory activities in the United Kingdom, the Temple Church had been so named in honor of Solomon's Temple, from which the Knights Templar had extracted their own title, as well as the Sangreal documents that gave them all their influence in Rome. Tales abounded of knights performing strange, secretive rituals within the Temple Church's unusual sanctuary. "The Temple Church is on Fleet Street?" "Actually, it's just off Fleet Street on Inner Temple Lane." Teabing looked mischievous. "I wanted to see you sweat a little more before I gave it away." "Thanks." "Neither of you has ever been there?" Sophie and Langdon shook their heads. "I'm not surprised," Teabing said. "The church is hidden now behind much larger buildings. Few people even know it's there. Eerie old place. The architecture is pagan to the core." Sophie looked surprised. "Pagan?" "Pantheonically pagan!" Teabing exclaimed. "The church is round. The Templars ignored the traditional Christian cruciform layout and built a perfectly circular church in honor of the sun." His eyebrows did a devilish dance. "A not so subtle howdy-do to the boys in Rome. They might as well have resurrected Stonehenge in downtown London." Sophie eyed Teabing. "What about the rest of the poem?" The historian's mirthful air faded. "I'm not sure. It's puzzling. We will need to examine each of the ten tombs carefully. With luck, one of them will have a conspicuously absent orb." Langdon realized how close they really were. If the missing orb revealed the password, they would be able to open the second cryptex. He had a hard time imagining what they might find inside. Langdon eyed the poem again. It was like some kind of primordial crossword puzzle. A five-letter word that speaks of the Grail? On the plane, they had already tried all the obvious passwords--GRAIL, GRAAL, GREAL, VENUS, MARIA, JESUS, SARAH--but the cylinder had not budged. Far too obvious. Apparently there existed some other five-letter reference to the Rose's seeded womb. The fact that the word was eluding a specialist like Leigh Teabing signified to Langdon that it was no ordinary Grail reference. "Sir Leigh?" Rumy called over his shoulder. He was watching them in the rearview mirror through the open divider. "You said Fleet Street is near Blackfriars Bridge?" "Yes, take Victoria Embankment." "I'm sorry. I'm not sure where that is. We usually go only to the hospital." Teabing rolled his eyes at Langdon and Sophie and grumbled, "I swear, sometimes it's like baby-sitting a child. One moment please. Help yourself to a drink and savory snacks." He left them, clambering awkwardly toward the open divider to talk to Rumy. Sophie turned to Langdon now, her voice quiet. "Robert, nobody knows you and I are in England." Langdon realized she was right. The Kent police would tell Fache the plane was empty, and Fache would have to assume they were still in France. We are invisible. Leigh's little stunt had just bought them a lot of time. "Fache will not give up easily," Sophie said. "He has too much riding on this arrest now." Langdon had been trying not to think about Fache. Sophie had promised she would do everything in her power to exonerate Langdon once this was over, but Langdon was starting to fear it might not matter. Fache could easily be pan of this plot. Although Langdon could not imagine the Judicial Police tangled up in the Holy Grail, he sensed too much coincidence tonight to disregard Fache as a possible accomplice. Fache is religions, and he is intent on pinning these murders on me. Then again, Sophie had argued that Fache might simply be overzealous to make the arrest. After all, the evidence against Langdon was substantial. In addition to Langdon's name scrawled on the Louvre floor and in Sauniure's date book, Langdon now appeared to have lied about his manuscript and then run away. At Sophie's suggestion. "Robert, I'm sorry you're so deeply involved," Sophie said, placing her hand on his knee. "But I'm very glad you're here." The comment sounded more pragmatic than romantic, and yet Langdon felt an unexpected flicker of attraction between them. He gave her a tired smile. "I'm a lot more fun when I've slept." Sophie was silent for several seconds. "My grandfather asked me to trust you. I'm glad I listened to him for once." "Your grandfather didn't even know me." "Even so, I can't help but think you've done everything he would have wanted. You helped me find the keystone, explained the Sangreal, told me about the ritual in the basement." She paused. "Somehow I feel closer to my grandfather tonight than I have in years. I know he would be happy about that." In the distance, now, the skyline of London began to materialize through the dawn drizzle. Once dominated by Big Ben and Tower Bridge, the horizon now bowed to the Millennium Eye--a colossal, ultramodern Ferris wheel that climbed five hundred feet and afforded breathtaking views of the city. Langdon had attempted to board it once, but the "viewing capsules" reminded him of sealed sarcophagi, and he opted to keep his feet on the ground and enjoy the view from the airy banks of the Thames. Langdon felt a squeeze on his knee, pulling him back, and Sophie's green eyes were on him. He realized she had been speaking to him. "What do you think we should do with the Sangreal documents if we ever find them?" she whispered. "What I think is immaterial," Langdon said. "Your grandfather gave the cryptex to you, and you should do with it what your instinct tells you he would want done." "I'm asking for your opinion. You obviously wrote something in that manuscript that made my grandfather trust your judgment. He scheduled a private meeting with you. That's rare." "Maybe he wanted to tell me I have it all wrong." "Why would he tell me to find you unless he liked your ideas? In your manuscript, did you support the idea that the Sangreal documents should be revealed or stay buried?" "Neither. I made no judgment either way. The manuscript deals with the symbology of the sacred feminine--tracing her iconography throughout history. I certainly didn't presume to know where the Grail is hidden or whether it should ever be revealed." "And yet you're writing a book about it, so you obviously feel the information should be shared." "There's an enormous difference between hypothetically discussing an alternate history of Christ, and..." He paused. "And what?" "And presenting to the world thousands of ancient documents as scientific evidence that the New Testament is false testimony." "But you told me the New Testament is based on fabrications." Langdon smiled. "Sophie, every faith in the world is based on fabrication. That is the definition of faith--acceptance of that which we imagine to be true, that which we cannot prove. Every religion describes God through metaphor, allegory, and exaggeration, from the early Egyptians through modern Sunday school. Metaphors are a way to help our minds process the unprocessible. The problems arise when we begin to believe literally in our own metaphors." "So you are in favor of the Sangreal documents staying buried forever?" "I'm a historian. I'm opposed to the destruction of documents, and I would love to see religious scholars have more information to ponder the exceptional life of Jesus Christ." "You're arguing both sides of my question." "Am I? The Bible represents a fundamental guidepost for millions of people on the planet, in much the same way the Koran, Torah, and Pali Canon offer guidance to people of other religions. If you and I could dig up documentation that contradicted the holy stories of Islamic belief, Judaic belief, Buddhist belief, pagan belief, should we do that? Should we wave a flag and tell the Buddhists that we have proof the Buddha did not come from a lotus blossom? Or that Jesus was not born of a literal virgin birth? Those who truly understand their faiths understand the stories are metaphorical." Sophie looked skeptical. "My friends who are devout Christians definitely believe that Christ literally walked on water, literally turned water into wine, and was born of a literal virgin birth." "My point exactly," Langdon said. "Religious allegory has become a part of the fabric of reality. And living in that reality helps millions of people cope and be better people." "But it appears their reality is false." Langdon chuckled. "No more false than that of a mathematical cryptographer who believes in the imaginary number 'i' because it helps her break codes." Sophie frowned. "That's not fair." A moment passed. "What was your question again?" Langdon asked. "I can't remember." He smiled. "Works every time." Langdon's Mickey Mouse wristwatch read almost seven-thirty when he emerged from the Jaguar limousine onto Inner Temple Lane with Sophie and Teabing. The threesome wound through a maze of buildings to a small courtyard outside the Temple Church. The rough-hewn stone shimmered in the rain, and doves cooed in the architecture overhead. London's ancient Temple Church was constructed entirely of Caen stone. A dramatic, circular edifice with a daunting facade, a central turret, and a protruding nave off one side, the church looked more like a military stronghold than a place of worship. Consecrated on the tenth of February in 1185 by Heraclius, Patriarch of Jerusalem, the Temple Church survived eight centuries of political turmoil, the Great Fire of London, and the First World War, only to be heavily damaged by Luftwaffe incendiary bombs in 1940. After the war, it was restored to its original, stark grandeur. The simplicity of the circle, Langdon thought, admiring the building for the first time. The architecture was coarse and simple, more reminiscent of Rome's rugged Castel Sant'Angelo than the refined Pantheon. The boxy annex jutting out to the right was an unfortunate eyesore, although it did little to shroud the original pagan shape of the primary structure. "It's early on a Saturday," Teabing said, hobbling toward the entrance, "so I'm assuming we won't have services to deal with." The church's entryway was a recessed stone niche inside which stood a large wooden door. To the left of the door, looking entirely out of place, hung a bulletin board covered with concert schedules and religious service announcements. Teabing frowned as he read the board. "They don't open to sightseers for another couple of hours." He moved to the door and tried it. The door didn't budge. Putting his ear to the wood, he listened. After a moment, he pulled back, a scheming look on his face as he pointed to the bulletin board. "Robert, check the service schedule, will you? Who is presiding this week?" Inside the church, an altar boy was almost finished vacuuming the communion kneelers when he heard a knocking on the sanctuary door. He ignored it. Father Harvey Knowles had his own keys and was not due for another couple of hours. The knocking was probably a curious tourist or indigent. The altar boy kept vacuuming, but the knocking continued. Can't you read? The sign on the door clearly stated that the church did not open until nine-thirty on Saturday. The altar boy remained with his chores. Suddenly, the knocking turned to a forceful banging, as if someone were hitting the door with a metal rod. The young man switched off his vacuum cleaner and marched angrily toward the door. Unlatching it from within, he swung it open. Three people stood in the entryway. Tourists, he grumbled. "We open at nine-thirty." The heavyset man, apparently the leader, stepped forward using metal crutches. "I am Sir Leigh Teabing," he said, his accent a highbrow, Saxonesque British. "As you are no doubt aware, I am escorting Mr. and Mrs. Christopher Wren the Fourth." He stepped aside, flourishing his arm toward the attractive couple behind them. The woman was soft-featured, with lush burgundy hair. The man was tall, dark-haired, and looked vaguely familiar. The altar boy had no idea how to respond. Sir Christopher Wren was the Temple Church's most famous benefactor. He had made possible all the restorations following damage caused by the Great Fire. He had also been dead since the early eighteenth century. "Um... an honor to meet you?" The man on crutches frowned. "Good thing you're not in sales, young man, you're not very convincing. Where is Father Knowles?" "It's Saturday. He's not due in until later." The crippled man's scowl deepened. "There's gratitude. He assured us he would be here, but it looks like we'll do it without him. It won't take long." The altar boy remained blocking the doorway. "I'm sorry, what won't take long?" The visitor's eyes sharpened now, and he leaned forward whispering as if to save everyone some embarrassment. "Young man, apparently you are new here. Every year Sir Christopher Wren's descendants bring a pinch of the old man's ashes to scatter in the Temple sanctuary. It is part of his last will and testament. Nobody is particularly happy about making the trip, but what can we do?" The altar boy had been here a couple of years but had never heard of this custom. "It would be better if you waited until nine-thirty. The church isn't open yet, and I'm not finished hoovering." The man on crutches glared angrily. "Young man, the only reason there's anything left of this building for you to hoover is on account of the gentleman in that woman's pocket." "I'm sorry?" "Mrs. Wren," the man on crutches said, "would you be so kind as to show this impertinent young man the reliquary of ashes?" The woman hesitated a moment and then, as if awaking from a trance, reached in her sweater pocket and pulled out a small cylinder wrapped in protective fabric. "There, you see?" the man on crutches snapped. "Now, you can either grant his dying wish and let us sprinkle his ashes in the sanctuary, or I tell Father Knowles how we've been treated." The altar boy hesitated, well acquainted with Father Knowles' deep observance of church tradition... and, more importantly, with his foul temper when anything cast this time-honored shrine in anything but favorable light. Maybe Father Knowles had simply forgotten these family members were coming. If so, then there was far more risk in turning them away than in letting them in. After all, they said it would only take a minute. What harm could it do? When the altar boy stepped aside to let the three people pass, he could have sworn Mr. and Mrs. Wren looked just as bewildered by all of this as he was. Uncertain, the boy returned to his chores, watching them out of the corner of his eye. Langdon had to smile as the threesome moved deeper into the church. "Leigh," he whispered, "you lie entirely too well." Teabing's eyes twinkled. "Oxford Theatre Club. They still talk of my Julius Caesar. I'm certain nobody has ever performed the first scene of Act Three with more dedication." Langdon glanced over. "I thought Caesar was dead in that scene." Teabing smirked. "Yes, but my toga tore open when I fell, and I had to lie on stage for half an hour with my todger hanging out. Even so, I never moved a muscle. I was brilliant, I tell you." Langdon cringed. Sorry I missed it. As the group moved through the rectangular annex toward the archway leading into the main church, Langdon was surprised by the barren austerity. Although the altar layout resembled that of a linear Christian chapel, the furnishings were stark and cold, bearing none of the traditional ornamentation. "Bleak," he whispered. Teabing chuckled. "Church of England. Anglicans drink their religion straight. Nothing to distract from their misery." Sophie motioned through the vast opening that gave way to the circular section of the church. "It looks like a fortress in there," she whispered. Langdon agreed. Even from here, the walls looked unusually robust. "The Knights Templar were warriors," Teabing reminded, the sound of his aluminum crutches echoing in this reverberant space. "A religio-military society. Their churches were their strongholds and their banks." "Banks?" Sophie asked, glancing at Leigh. "Heavens, yes. The Templars invented the concept of modern banking. For European nobility, traveling with gold was perilous, so the Templars allowed nobles to deposit gold in their nearest Temple Church and then draw it from any other Temple Church across Europe. All they needed was proper documentation." He winked. "And a small commission. They were the original ATMs." Teabing pointed toward a stained-glass window where the breaking sun was refracting through a white-clad knight riding a rose-colored horse. "Alanus Marcel," Teabing said, "Master of the Temple in the early twelve hundreds. He and his successors actually held the Parliamentary chair of Primus Baro Angiae." Langdon was surprised. "First Baron of the Realm?" Teabing nodded. "The Master of the Temple, some claim, held more influence than the king himself." As they arrived outside the circular chamber, Teabing shot a glance over his shoulder at the altar boy, who was vacuuming in the distance. "You know," Teabing whispered to Sophie, "the Holy Grail is said to once have been stored in this church overnight while the Templars moved it from one hiding place to another. Can you imagine the four chests of Sangreal documents sitting right here with Mary Magdalene's sarcophagus? It gives me gooseflesh." Langdon was feeling gooseflesh too as they stepped into the circular chamber. His eye traced the curvature of the chamber's pale stone perimeter, taking in the carvings of gargoyles, demons, monsters, and pained human faces, all staring inward. Beneath the carvings, a single stone pew curled around the entire circumference of the room. "Theater in the round," Langdon whispered. Teabing raised a crutch, pointing toward the far left of the room and then to the far right. Langdon had already seen them. Ten stone knights. Five on the left. Five on the right. Lying prone on the floor, the carved, life-sized figures rested in peaceful poses. The knights were depicted wearing full armor, shields, and swords, and the tombs gave Langdon the uneasy sensation that someone had snuck in and poured plaster over the knights while they were sleeping. All of the figures were deeply weathered, and yet each was clearly unique--different armory pieces, distinct leg and arm positions, facial features, and markings on their shields. In London lies a knight a Pope interred. Langdon felt shaky as he inched deeper into the circular room. This had to be the place. In a rubbish-strewn alley very close to Temple Church, Rumy Legaludec pulled the Jaguar limousine to a stop behind a row of industrial waste bins. Killing the engine, he checked the area. Deserted. He got out of the car, walked toward the rear, and climbed back into the limousine's main cabin where the monk was. Sensing Rumy's presence, the monk in the back emerged from a prayer-like trance, his red eyes looking more curious than fearful. All evening Rumy had been impressed with this trussed man's ability to stay calm. After some initial struggles in the Range Rover, the monk seemed to have accepted his plight and given over his fate to a higher power. Loosening his bow tie, Rumy unbuttoned his high, starched, wing-tipped collar and felt as if he could breathe for the first time in years. He went to the limousine's wet bar, where he poured himself a Smirnoff vodka. He drank it in a single swallow and followed it with a second. Soon I will be a man of leisure. Searching the bar, Rumy found a standard service wine-opener and flicked open the sharp blade. The knife was usually employed to slice the lead foil from corks on fine bottles of wine, but it would serve a far more dramatic purpose this morning. Rumy turned and faced Silas, holding up the glimmering blade. Now those red eyes flashed fear. Rumy smiled and moved toward the back of the limousine. The monk recoiled, struggling against his bonds. "Be still," Rumy whispered, raising the blade. Silas could not believe that God had forsaken him. Even the physical pain of being bound Silas had turned into a spiritual exercise, asking the throb of his blood-starved muscles to remind him of the pain Christ endured. I have been praying all night for liberation. Now, as the knife descended, Silas clenched his eyes shut. A slash of pain tore through his shoulder blades. He cried out, unable to believe he was going to die here in the back of this limousine, unable to defend himself. I was doing God's work. The Teacher said he would protect me. Silas felt the biting warmth spreading across his back and shoulders and could picture his own blood, spilling out over his flesh. A piercing pain cut through his thighs now, and he felt the onset of that familiar undertow of disorientation--the body's defense mechanism against the pain. As the biting heat tore through all of his muscles now, Silas clenched his eyes tighter, determined that the final image of his life would not be of his own killer. Instead he pictured a younger Bishop Aringarosa, standing before the small church in Spain... the church that he and Silas had built with their own hands. The beginning of my life. Silas felt as if his body were on fire. "Take a drink," the tuxedoed man whispered, his accent French. "It will help with your circulation." Silas's eyes flew open in surprise. A blurry image was leaning over him, offering a glass of liquid. A mound of shredded duct tape lay on the floor beside the bloodless knife. "Drink this," he repeated. "The pain you feel is the blood rushing into your muscles." Silas felt the fiery throb transforming now to a prickling sting. The vodka tasted terrible, but he drank it, feeling grateful. Fate had dealt Silas a healthy share of bad luck tonight, but God had solved it all with one miraculous twist. God has not forsaken me. Silas knew what Bishop Aringarosa would call it. Divine intervention. "I had wanted to free you earlier," the servant apologized, "but it was impossible. With the police arriving at Chuteau Villette, and then at Biggin Hill airport, this was the first possible moment. You understand, don't you, Silas?" Silas recoiled, startled. "You know my name?" The servant smiled. Silas sat up now, rubbing his stiff muscles, his emotions a torrent of incredulity, appreciation, and confusion. "Are you... the Teacher?" Rumy shook his head, laughing at the proposition. "I wish I had that kind of power. No, I am not the Teacher. Like you, I serve him. But the Teacher speaks highly of you. My name is Rumy." Silas was amazed. "I don't understand. If you work for the Teacher, why did Langdon bring the keystone to your home?" "Not my home. The home of the world's foremost Grail historian, Sir Leigh Teabing." "But you live there. The odds..." Rumy smiled, seeming to have no trouble with the apparent coincidence of Langdon's chosen refuge. "It was all utterly predictable. Robert Langdon was in possession of the keystone, and he needed help. What more logical place to run than to the home of Leigh Teabing? That I happen to live there is why the Teacher approached me in the first place." He paused. "How do you think the Teacher knows so much about the Grail?" Now it dawned, and Silas was stunned. The Teacher had recruited a servant who had access to all of Sir Leigh Teabing's research. It was brilliant. "There is much I have to tell you," Rumy said, handing Silas the loaded Heckler Koch pistol. Then he reached through the open partition and retrieved a small, palm-sized revolver from the glove box. "But first, you and I have a job to do." Captain Fache descended from his transport plane at Biggin Hill and listened in disbelief to the Kent chief inspector's account of what had happened in Teabing's hangar. "I searched the plane myself," the inspector insisted, "and there was no one inside." His tone turned haughty. "And I should add that if Sir Leigh Teabing presses charges against me, I will--" "Did you interrogate the pilot?" "Of course not. He is French, and our jurisdiction requires--" "Take me to the plane." Arriving at the hangar, Fache needed only sixty seconds to locate an anomalous smear of blood on the pavement near where the limousine had been parked. Fache walked up to the plane and rapped loudly on the fuselage. "This is the captain of the French Judicial Police. Open the door!" The terrified pilot opened the hatch and lowered the stairs. Fache ascended. Three minutes later, with the help of his sidearm, he had a full confession, including a description of the bound albino monk. In addition, he learned that the pilot saw Langdon and Sophie leave something behind in Teabing's safe, a wooden box of some sort. Although the pilot denied knowing what was in the box, he admitted it had been the focus of Langdon's full attention during the flight to London. "Open the safe," Fache demanded. The pilot looked terrified. "I don't know the combination!" "That's too bad. I was going to offer to let you keep your pilot's license." The pilot wrung his hands. "I know some men in maintenance here. Maybe they could drill it?" "You have half an hour." The pilot leapt for his radio. Fache strode to the back of the plane and poured himself a hard drink. It was early, but he had not yet slept, so this hardly counted as drinking before noon. Sitting in a plush bucket seat, he closed his eyes, trying to sort out what was going on. The Kent police's blunder could cost me dearly. Everyone was now on the lookout for a black Jaguar limousine. Fache's phone rang, and he wished for a moment's peace. "Allo?" "I'm en route to London." It was Bishop Aringarosa. "I'll be arriving in an hour." Fache sat up. "I thought you were going to Paris." "I am deeply concerned. I have changed my plans." "You should not have." "Do you have Silas?" "No. His captors eluded the local police before I landed." Aringarosa's anger rang sharply. "You assured me you would stop that plane!" Fache lowered his voice. "Bishop, considering your situation, I recommend you not test my patience today. I will find Silas and the others as soon as possible. Where are you landing?" "One moment." Aringarosa covered the receiver and then came back. "The pilot is trying to get clearance at Heathrow. I'm his only passenger, but our redirect was unscheduled." "Tell him to come to Biggin Hill Executive Airport in Kent. I'll get him clearance. If I'm not here when you land, I'll have a car waiting for you." "Thank you." "As I expressed when we first spoke, Bishop, you would do well to remember that you are not the only man on the verge of losing everything." You seek the orb that ought be on his tomb. Each of the carved knights within the Temple Church lay on his back with his head resting on a rectangular stone pillow. Sophie felt a chill. The poem's reference to an "orb" conjured images of the night in her grandfather's basement. Hieros Gamos. The orbs. Sophie wondered if the ritual had been performed in this very sanctuary. The circular room seemed custom-built for such a pagan rite. A stone pew encircled a bare expanse of floor in the middle. A theater in the round, as Robert had called it. She imagined this chamber at night, filled with masked people, chanting by torchlight, all witnessing a "sacred communion" in the center of the room. Forcing the image from her mind, she advanced with Langdon and Teabing toward the first group of knights. Despite Teabing's insistence that their investigation should be conducted meticulously, Sophie felt eager and pushed ahead of them, making a cursory walk-through of the five knights on the left. Scrutinizing these first tombs, Sophie noted the similarities and differences between them. Every knight was on his back, but three of the knights had their legs extended straight out while two had their legs crossed. The oddity seemed to have no relevance to the missing orb. Examining their clothing, Sophie noted that two of the knights wore tunics over their armor, while the other three wore ankle-length robes. Again, utterly unhelpful. Sophie turned her attention to the only other obvious difference--their hand positions. Two knights clutched swords, two prayed, and one had his arms at his side. After a long moment looking at the hands, Sophie shrugged, having seen no hint anywhere of a conspicuously absent orb. Feeling the weight of the cryptex in her sweater pocket, she glanced back at Langdon and Teabing. The men were moving slowly, still only at the third knight, apparently having no luck either. In no mood to wait, she turned away from them toward the second group of knights. As she crossed the open space, she quietly recited the poem she had read so many times now that it was committed to memory. In London lies a knight a Pope interred. His labor's fruit a Holy wrath incurred. You seek the orb that ought be on his tomb. It speaks of Rosy flesh and seeded womb. When Sophie arrived at the second group of knights, she found that this second group was similar to the first. All lay with varied body positions, wearing armor and swords. That was, all except the tenth and final tomb. Hurrying over to it, she stared down. No pillow. No armor. No tunic. No sword. "Robert? Leigh?" she called, her voice echoing around the chamber. "There's something missing over here." Both men looked up and immediately began to cross the room toward her. "An orb?" Teabing called excitedly. His crutches clicked out a rapid staccato as he hurried across the room. "Are we missing an orb?" "Not exactly," Sophie said, frowning at the tenth tomb. "We seem to be missing an entire knight." Arriving beside her both men gazed down in confusion at the tenth tomb. Rather than a knight lying in the open air, this tomb was a sealed stone casket. The casket was trapezoidal, tapered at the feet, widening toward the top, with a peaked lid. "Why isn't this knight shown?" Langdon asked. "Fascinating," Teabing said, stroking his chin. "I had forgotten about this oddity. It's been years since I was here." "This coffin," Sophie said, "looks like it was carved at the same time and by the same sculptor as the other nine tombs. So why is this knight in a casket rather than in the open?" Teabing shook his head. "One of this church's mysteries. To the best of my knowledge, nobody has ever found any explanation for it." "Hello?" the altar boy said, arriving with a perturbed look on his face. "Forgive me if this seems rude, but you told me you wanted to spread ashes, and yet you seem to be sightseeing." Teabing scowled at the boy and turned to Langdon. "Mr. Wren, apparently your family's philanthropy does not buy you the time it used to, so perhaps we should take out the ashes and get on with it." Teabing turned to Sophie. "Mrs. Wren?" Sophie played along, pulling the vellum-wrapped cryptex from her pocket. "Now then," Teabing snapped at the boy, "if you would give us some privacy?" The altar boy did not move. He was eyeing Langdon closely now. "You look familiar." Teabing huffed. "Perhaps that is because Mr. Wren comes here every year!" Or perhaps, Sophie now feared, because he saw Langdon on television at the Vatican last year. "I have never met Mr. Wren," the altar boy declared. "You're mistaken," Langdon said politely. "I believe you and I met in passing last year. Father Knowles failed to formally introduce us, but I recognized your face as we came in. Now, I realize this is an intrusion, but if you could afford me a few more minutes, I have traveled a great distance to scatter ashes amongst these tombs." Langdon spoke his lines with Teabing-esque believability. The altar boy's expression turned even more skeptical. "These are not tombs." "I'm sorry?" Langdon said. "Of course they are tombs," Teabing declared. "What are you talking about?" The altar boy shook his head. "Tombs contain bodies. These are effigies. Stone tributes to real men. There are no bodies beneath these figures." "This is a crypt!" Teabing said. "Only in outdated history books. This was believed to be a crypt but was revealed as nothing of the sort during the 1950 renovation." He turned back to Langdon. "And I imagine Mr. Wren would know that. Considering it was his family that uncovered that fact." An uneasy silence fell. It was broken by the sound of a door slamming out in the annex. "That must be Father Knowles," Teabing said. "Perhaps you should go see?" The altar boy looked doubtful but stalked back toward the annex, leaving Langdon, Sophie, and Teabing to eye one another gloomily. "Leigh," Langdon whispered. "No bodies? What is he talking about?" Teabing looked distraught. "I don't know. I always thought... certainly, this must be the place. I can't imagine he knows what he is talking about. It makes no sense!" "Can I see the poem again?" Langdon said. Sophie pulled the cryptex from her pocket and carefully handed it to him. Langdon unwrapped the vellum, holding the cryptex in his hand while he examined the poem. "Yes, the poem definitely references a tomb. Not an effigy." "Could the poem be wrong?" Teabing asked. "Could Jacques Sauniure have made the same mistake I just did?" Langdon considered it and shook his head. "Leigh, you said it yourself. This church was built by Templars, the military arm of the Priory. Something tells me the Grand Master of the Priory would have a pretty good idea if there were knights buried here." Teabing looked flabbergasted. "But this place is perfect." He wheeled back toward the knights. "We must be missing something!" Entering the annex, the altar boy was surprised to find it deserted. "Father Knowles?" I know I heard the door, he thought, moving forward until he could see the entryway. A thin man in a tuxedo stood near the doorway, scratching his head and looking lost. The altar boy gave an irritated huff, realizing he had forgotten to relock the door when he let the others in. Now some pathetic sod had wandered in off the street, looking for directions to some wedding from the looks of it. "I'm sorry," he called out, passing a large pillar, "we're closed." A flurry of cloth ruffled behind him, and before the altar boy could turn, his head snapped backward, a powerful hand clamping hard over his mouth from behind, muffling his scream. The hand over the boy's mouth was snow-white, and he smelled alcohol. The prim man in the tuxedo calmly produced a very small revolver, which he aimed directly at the boy's forehead. The altar boy felt his groin grow hot and realized he had wet himself. "Listen carefully," the tuxedoed man whispered. "You will exit this church silently, and you will run. You will not stop. Is that clear?" The boy nodded as best he could with the hand over his mouth. "If you call the police..." The tuxedoed man pressed the gun to his skin. "I will find you." The next thing the boy knew, he was sprinting across the outside courtyard with no plans of stopping until his legs gave out. Like a ghost, Silas drifted silently behind his target. Sophie Neveu sensed him too late. Before she could turn, Silas pressed the gun barrel into her spine and wrapped a powerful arm across her chest, pulling her back against his hulking body. She yelled in surprise. Teabing and Langdon both turned now, their expressions astonished and fearful. "What...?" Teabing choked out. "What did you do to Rumy!" "Your only concern," Silas said calmly, "is that I leave here with the keystone." This recovery mission, as Rumy had described it, was to be clean and simple: Enter the church, take the keystone, and walk out; no killing, no struggle. Holding Sophie firm, Silas dropped his hand from her chest, down to her waist, slipping it inside her deep sweater pockets, searching. He could smell the soft fragrance of her hair through his own alcohol-laced breath. "Where is it?" he whispered. The keystone was in her sweater pocket earlier. So where is it now? "It's over here," Langdon's deep voice resonated from across the room. Silas turned to see Langdon holding the black cryptex before him, waving it back and forth like a matador tempting a dumb animal. "Set it down," Silas demanded. "Let Sophie and Leigh leave the church," Langdon replied. "You and I can settle this." Silas pushed Sophie away from him and aimed the gun at Langdon, moving toward him. "Not a step closer," Langdon said. "Not until they leave the building." "You are in no position to make demands." "I disagree." Langdon raised the cryptex high over his head. "I will not hesitate to smash this on the floor and break the vial inside." Although Silas sneered outwardly at the threat, he felt a flash of fear. This was unexpected. He aimed the gun at Langdon's head and kept his voice as steady as his hand. "You would never break the keystone. You want to find the Grail as much as I do." "You're wrong. You want it much more. You've proven you're willing to kill for it." Forty feet away, peering out from the annex pews near the archway, Rumy Legaludec felt a rising alarm. The maneuver had not gone as planned, and even from here, he could see Silas was uncertain how to handle the situation. At the Teacher's orders, Rumy had forbidden Silas to fire his gun. "Let them go," Langdon again demanded, holding the cryptex high over his head and staring into Silas's gun. The monk's red eyes filled with anger and frustration, and Rumy tightened with fear that Silas might actually shoot Langdon while he was holding the cryptex. The cryptex cannot fall! The cryptex was to be Rumy's ticket to freedom and wealth. A little over a year ago, he was simply a fifty-five-year-old manservant living within the walls of Chuteau Villette, catering to the whims of the insufferable cripple Sir Leigh Teabing. Then he was approached with an extraordinary proposition. Rumy's association with Sir Leigh Teabing--the preeminent Grail historian on earth--was going to bring Rumy everything he had ever dreamed of in life. Since then, every moment he had spent inside Chuteau Villette had been leading him to this very instant. I am so close, Rumy told himself, gazing into the sanctuary of the Temple Church and the keystone in Robert Langdon's hand. If Langdon dropped it, all would be lost. Am I willing to show my face? It was something the Teacher had strictly forbidden. Rumy was the only one who knew the Teacher's identity. "Are you certain you want Silas to carry out this task?" Rumy had asked the Teacher less than half an hour ago, upon getting orders to steal the keystone. "I myself am capable." The Teacher was resolute. "Silas served us well with the four Priory members. He will recover the keystone. You must remain anonymous. If others see you, they will need to be eliminated, and there has been enough killing already. Do not reveal your face." My face will change, Rumy thought. With what you've promised to pay me, I will become an entirely new man. Surgery could even change his fingerprints, the Teacher had told him. Soon he would be free--another unrecognizable, beautiful face soaking up the sun on the beach. "Understood," Rumy said. "I will assist Silas from the shadows." "For your own knowledge, Rumy," the Teacher had told him, "the tomb in question is not in the Temple Church. So have no fear. They are looking in the wrong place." Rumy was stunned. "And you know where the tomb is?" "Of course. Later, I will tell you. For the moment, you must act quickly. If the others figure out the true location of the tomb and leave the church before you take the cryptex, we could lose the Grail forever." Rumy didn't give a damn about the Grail, except that the Teacher refused to pay him until it was found. Rumy felt giddy every time he thought of the money he soon would have. One third of twenty million euro. Plenty to disappear forever. Rumy had pictured the beach towns on the Cute d'Azur, where he planned to live out his days basking in the sun and letting others serve him for a change. Now, however, here in the Temple Church, with Langdon threatening to break the keystone, Rumy's future was at risk. Unable to bear the thought of coming this close only to lose it all, Rumy made the decision to take bold action. The gun in his hand was a concealable, small-caliber, J-frame Medusa, but it would be plenty deadly at close range. Stepping from the shadows, Rumy marched into the circular chamber and aimed the gun directly at Teabing's head. "Old man, I've been waiting a long time to do this." Sir Leigh Teabing's heart practically stalled to see Rumy aiming a gun at him. What is he doing! Teabing recognized the tiny Medusa revolver as his own, the one he kept locked in the limousine glove box for safety. "Rumy?" Teabing sputtered in shock. "What is going on?" Langdon and Sophie looked equally dumbstruck. Rumy circled behind Teabing and rammed the pistol barrel into his back, high and on the left, directly behind his heart. Teabing felt his muscles seize with terror. "Rumy, I don't--" "I'll make it simple," Rumy snapped, eyeing Langdon over Teabing's shoulder. "Set down the keystone, or I pull the trigger." Langdon seemed momentarily paralyzed. "The keystone is worthless to you," he stammered. "You cannot possibly open it." "Arrogant fools," Rumy sneered. "Have you not noticed that I have been listening tonight as you discussed these poems? Everything I heard, I have shared with others. Others who know more than you. You are not even looking in the right place. The tomb you seek is in another location entirely!" Teabing felt panicked. What is he saying! "Why do you want the Grail?" Langdon demanded. "To destroy it? Before the End of Days?" Rumy called to the monk. "Silas, take the keystone from Mr. Langdon." As the monk advanced, Langdon stepped back, raising the keystone high, looking fully prepared to hurl it at the floor. "I would rather break it," Langdon said, "than see it in the wrong hands." Teabing now felt a wave of horror. He could see his life's work evaporating before his eyes. All his dreams about to be shattered. "Robert, no!" Teabing exclaimed. "Don't! That's the Grail you're holding! Rumy would never shoot me. We've known each other for ten--" Rumy aimed at the ceiling and fired the Medusa. The blast was enormous for such a small weapon, the gunshot echoing like thunder inside the stone chamber. Everyone froze. "I am not playing games," Rumy said. "The next one is in his back. Hand the keystone to Silas." Langdon reluctantly held out the cryptex. Silas stepped forward and took it, his red eyes gleaming with the self-satisfaction of vengeance. Slipping the keystone in the pocket of his robe, Silas backed off, still holding Langdon and Sophie at gunpoint. Teabing felt Rumy's arm clamp hard around his neck as the servant began backing out of the building, dragging Teabing with him, the gun still pressed in his back. "Let him go," Langdon demanded. "We're taking Mr. Teabing for a drive," Rumy said, still backing up. "If you call the police, he will die. If you do anything to interfere, he will die. Is that clear?" "Take me," Langdon demanded, his voice cracking with emotion. "Let Leigh go." Rumy laughed. "I don't think so. He and I have such a nice history. Besides, he still might prove useful." Silas was backing up now, keeping Langdon and Sophie at gunpoint as Rumy pulled Leigh toward the exit, his crutches dragging behind him. Sophie's voice was unwavering. "Who are you working for?" The question brought a smirk to the departing Rumy's face. "You would be surprised, Mademoiselle Neveu." The fireplace in Chuteau Villette's drawing room was cold, but Collet paced before it nonetheless as he read the faxes from Interpol. Not at all what he expected. Andru Vernet, according to official records, was a model citizen. No police record--not even a parking ticket. Educated at prep school and the Sorbonne, he had a cum laude degree in international finance. Interpol said Vernet's name appeared in the newspapers from time to time, but always in a positive light. Apparently the man had helped design the security parameters that kept the Depository Bank of Zurich a leader in the ultramodern world of electronic security. Vernet's credit card records showed a penchant for art books, expensive wine, and classical CD's--mostly Brahms--which he apparently enjoyed on an exceptionally high-end stereo system he had purchased several years ago. Zero, Collet sighed. The only red flag tonight from Interpol had been a set of fingerprints that apparently belonged to Teabing's servant. The chief PTS examiner was reading the report in a comfortable chair across the room. Collet looked over. "Anything?" The examiner shrugged. "Prints belong to Rumy Legaludec. Wanted for petty crime. Nothing serious. Looks like he got kicked out of university for rewiring phone jacks to get free service... later did some petty theft. Breaking and entering. Skipped out on a hospital bill once for an emergency tracheotomy." He glanced up, chuckling. "Peanut allergy." Collet nodded, recalling a police investigation into a restaurant that had failed to notate on its menu that the chili recipe contained peanut oil. An unsuspecting patron had died of anaphylactic shock at the table after a single bite. "Legaludec is probably a live-in here to avoid getting picked up." The examiner looked amused. "His lucky night." Collet sighed. "All right, you better forward this info to Captain Fache." The examiner headed off just as another PTS agent burst into the living room. "Lieutenant! We found something in the barn." From the anxious look on the agent's face, Collet could only guess. "A body." "No, sir. Something more..." He hesitated. "Unexpected." Rubbing his eyes, Collet followed the agent out to the barn. As they entered the musty, cavernous space, the agent motioned toward the center of the room, where a wooden ladder now ascended high into the rafters, propped against the ledge of a hayloft suspended high above them. "That ladder wasn't there earlier," Collet said. "No, sir. I set that up. We were dusting for prints near the Rolls when I saw the ladder lying on the floor. I wouldn't have given it a second thought except the rungs were worn and muddy. This ladder gets regular use. The height of the hayloft matched the ladder, so I raised it and climbed up to have a look." Collet's eyes climbed the ladder's steep incline to the soaring hayloft. Someone goes up there regularly? From down here, the loft appeared to be a deserted platform, and yet admittedly most of it was invisible from this line of sight. A senior PTS agent appeared at the top of the ladder, looking down. "You'll definitely want to see this, Lieutenant," he said, waving Collet up with a latex-gloved hand. Nodding tiredly, Collet walked over to the base of the old ladder and grasped the bottom rungs. The ladder was an antique tapered design and narrowed as Collet ascended. As he neared the top, Collet almost lost his footing on a thin rung. The barn below him spun. Alert now, he moved on, finally reaching the top. The agent above him reached out, offering his wrist. Collet grabbed it and made the awkward transition onto the platform. "It's over there," the PTS agent said, pointing deep into the immaculately clean loft. "Only one set of prints up here. We'll have an ID shortly." Collet squinted through the dim light toward the far wall. What the hell? Nestled against the far wall sat an elaborate computer workstation--two tower CPUs, a flat-screen video monitor with speakers, an array of hard drives, and a multichannel audio console that appeared to have its own filtered power supply. Why in the world would anyone work all the way up here? Collet moved toward the gear. "Have you examined the system?" "It's a listening post." Collet spun. "Surveillance?" The agent nodded. "Very advanced surveillance." He motioned to a long project table strewn with electronic parts, manuals, tools, wires, soldering irons, and other electronic components. "Someone clearly knows what he's doing. A lot of this gear is as sophisticated as our own equipment. Miniature microphones, photoelectric recharging cells, high-capacity RAM chips. He's even got some of those new nano drives." Collet was impressed. "Here's a complete system," the agent said, handing Collet an assembly not much larger than a pocket calculator. Dangling off the contraption was a foot-long wire with a stamp-sized piece of wafer-thin foil stuck on the end. "The base is a high-capacity hard disk audio recording system with rechargeable battery. That strip of foil at the end of the wire is a combination microphone and photoelectric recharging cell." Collet knew them well. These foil-like, photocell microphones had been an enormous breakthrough a few years back. Now, a hard disk recorder could be affixed behind a lamp, for example, with its foil microphone molded into the contour of the base and dyed to match. As long as the microphone was positioned such that it received a few hours of sunlight per day, the photo cells would keep recharging the system. Bugs like this one could listen indefinitely. "Reception method?" Collet asked. The agent signaled to an insulated wire that ran out of the back of the computer, up the wall, through a hole in the barn roof. "Simple radio wave. Small antenna on the roof." Collet knew these recording systems were generally placed in offices, were voice-activated to save hard disk space, and recorded snippets of conversation during the day, transmitting compressed audio files at night to avoid detection. After transmitting, the hard drive erased itself and prepared to do it all over again the next day. Collet's gaze moved now to a shelf on which were stacked several hundred audio cassettes, all labeled with dates and numbers. Someone has been very busy. He turned back to the agent. "Do you have any idea what target is being bugged?" "Well, Lieutenant," the agent said, walking to the computer and launching a piece of software. "It's the strangest thing...." Langdon felt utterly spent as he and Sophie hurdled a turnstile at the Temple tube station and dashed deep into the grimy labyrinth of tunnels and platforms. The guilt ripped through him. I involved Leigh, and now he's in enormous danger. Rumy's involvement had been a shock, and yet it made sense. Whoever was pursuing the Grail had recruited someone on the inside. They went to Teabing's for the same reason I did. Throughout history, those who held knowledge of the Grail had always been magnets for thieves and scholars alike. The fact that Teabing had been a target all along should have made Langdon feel less guilty about involving him. It did not. We need to find Leigh and help him. Immediately. Langdon followed Sophie to the westbound District and Circle Line platform, where she hurried to a pay phone to call the police, despite Rumy's warning to the contrary. Langdon sat on a grungy bench nearby, feeling remorseful. "The best way to help Leigh," Sophie reiterated as she dialed, "is to involve the London authorities immediately. Trust me." Langdon had not initially agreed with this idea, but as they had hatched their plan, Sophie's logic began to make sense. Teabing was safe at the moment. Even if Rumy and the others knew where the knight's tomb was located, they still might need Teabing's help deciphering the orb reference. What worried Langdon was what would happen after the Grail map had been found. Leigh will become a huge liability. If Langdon were to have any chance of helping Leigh, or of ever seeing the keystone again, it was essential that he find the tomb first. Unfortunately, Rumy has a big head start. Slowing Rumy down had become Sophie's task. Finding the right tomb had become Langdon's. Sophie would make Rumy and Silas fugitives of the London police, forcing them into hiding or, better yet, catching them. Langdon's plan was less certain--to take the tube to nearby King's College, which was renowned for its electronic theological database. The ultimate research tool, Langdon had heard. Instant answers to any religious historical question. He wondered what the database would have to say about "a knight a Pope interred." He stood up and paced, wishing the train would hurry. At the pay phone, Sophie's call finally connected to the London police. "Snow Hill Division," the dispatcher said. "How may I direct your call?" "I'm reporting a kidnapping." Sophie knew to be concise. "Name please?" Sophie paused. "Agent Sophie Neveu with the French Judicial Police." The title had the desired effect. "Right away, ma'am. Let me get a detective on the line for you." As the call went through, Sophie began wondering if the police would even believe her description of Teabing's captors. A man in a tuxedo. How much easier to identify could a suspect be? Even if Rumy changed clothes, he was partnered with an albino monk. Impossible to miss. Moreover, they had a hostage and could not take public transportation. She wondered how many Jaguar stretch limos there could be in London. Sophie's connection to the detective seemed to be taking forever. Come on! She could hear the line clicking and buzzing, as if she was being transferred. Fifteen seconds passed. Finally a man came on the line. "Agent Neveu?" Stunned, Sophie registered the gruff tone immediately. "Agent Neveu," Bezu Fache demanded. "Where the hell are you?" Sophie was speechless. Captain Fache had apparently requested the London police dispatcher alert him if Sophie called in. "Listen," Fache said, speaking to her in terse French. "I made a terrible mistake tonight. Robert Langdon is innocent. All charges against him have been dropped. Even so, both of you are in danger. You need to come in." Sophie's jaw fell slack. She had no idea how to respond. Fache was not a man who apologized for anything. "You did not tell me," Fache continued, "that Jacques Sauniure was your grandfather. I fully intend to overlook your insubordination last night on account of the emotional stress you must be under. At the moment, however, you and Langdon need to go to the nearest London police headquarters for refuge." He knows I'm in London? What else does Fache know? Sophie heard what sounded like drilling or machinery in the background. She also heard an odd clicking on the line. "Are you tracing this call, Captain?" Fache's voice was firm now. "You and I need to cooperate, Agent Neveu. We both have a lot to lose here. This is damage control. I made errors in judgment last night, and if those errors result in the deaths of an American professor and a DCPJ cryptologist, my career will be over. I've been trying to pull you back into safety for the last several hours." A warm wind was now pushing through the station as a train approached with a low rumble. Sophie had every intention of being on it. Langdon apparently had the same idea; he was gathering himself together and moving toward her now. "The man you want is Rumy Legaludec," Sophie said. "He is Teabing's servant. He just kidnapped Teabing inside the Temple Church and--" "Agent Neveu!" Fache bellowed as the train thundered into the station. "This is not something to discuss on an open line. You and Langdon will come in now. For your own well-being! That is a direct order!" Sophie hung up and dashed with Langdon onto the train. The immaculate cabin of Teabing's Hawker was now covered with steel shavings and smelled of compressed air and propane. Bezu Fache had sent everyone away and sat alone with his drink and the heavy wooden box found in Teabing's safe. Running his finger across the inlaid Rose, he lifted the ornate lid. Inside he found a stone cylinder with lettered dials. The five dials were arranged to spell SOFIA. Fache stared at the word a long moment and then lifted the cylinder from its padded resting place and examined every inch. Then, pulling slowly on the ends, Fache slid off one of the end caps. The cylinder was empty. Fache set it back in the box and gazed absently out the jet's window at the hangar, pondering his brief conversation with Sophie, as well as the information he'd received from PTS in Chuteau Villette. The sound of his phone shook him from his daydream. It was the DCPJ switchboard. The dispatcher was apologetic. The president of the Depository Bank of Zurich had been calling repeatedly, and although he had been told several times that the captain was in London on business, he just kept calling. Begrudgingly Fache told the operator to forward the call. "Monsieur Vernet," Fache said, before the man could even speak, "I am sorry I did not call you earlier. I have been busy. As promised, the name of your bank has not appeared in the media. So what precisely is your concern?" Vernet's voice was anxious as he told Fache how Langdon and Sophie had extracted a small wooden box from the bank and then persuaded Vernet to help them escape. "Then when I heard on the radio that they were criminals," Vernet said, "I pulled over and demanded the box back, but they attacked me and stole the truck." "You are concerned for a wooden box," Fache said, eyeing the Rose inlay on the cover and again gently opening the lid to reveal the white cylinder. "Can you tell me what was in the box?" "The contents are immaterial," Vernet fired back. "I am concerned with the reputation of my bank. We have never had a robbery. Ever. It will ruin us if I cannot recover this property on behalf of my client." "You said Agent Neveu and Robert Langdon had a password and a key. What makes you say they stole the box?" "They murdered people tonight. Including Sophie Neveu's grandfather. The key and password were obviously ill-gotten." "Mr. Vernet, my men have done some checking into your background and your interests. You are obviously a man of great culture and refinement. I would imagine you are a man of honor, as well. As am I. That said, I give you my word as commanding officer of the Police Judiciaire that your box, along with your bank's reputation, are in the safest of hands." High in the hayloft at Chuteau Villette, Collet stared at the computer monitor in amazement. "This system is eavesdropping on all these locations?" "Yes," the agent said. "It looks like data has been collected for over a year now." Collet read the list again, speechless. COLBERT SOSTAQUE--Chairman of the Conseil Constitutionnel JEAN CHAFFuE--Curator, Musue du Jeu de Paume EDOUARD DESROCHERS--Senior Archivist, Mitterrand Library JACQUES SAUNIuRE--Curator, Musue du Louvre MICHEL BRETON--Head of DAS (French Intelligence) The agent pointed to the screen. "Number four is of obvious concern." Collet nodded blankly. He had noticed it immediately. Jacques Sauniure was being bugged. He looked at the rest of the list again. How could anyone possibly manage to bug these prominent people? "Have you heard any of the audio files?" "A few. Here's one of the most recent." The agent clicked a few computer keys. The speakers crackled to life. "Capitaine, un agent du Dupartement de Cryptographie est arrivu." Collet could not believe his ears. "That's me! That's my voice!" He recalled sitting at Sauniure's desk and radioing Fache in the Grand Gallery to alert him of Sophie Neveu's arrival. The agent nodded. "A lot of our Louvre investigation tonight would have been audible if someone had been interested." "Have you sent anyone in to sweep for the bug?" "No need. I know exactly where it is." The agent went to a pile of old notes and blueprints on the worktable. He selected a page and handed it to Collet. "Look familiar?" Collet was amazed. He was holding a photocopy of an ancient schematic diagram, which depicted a rudimentary machine. He was unable to read the handwritten Italian labels, and yet he knew what he was looking at. A model for a fully articulated medieval French knight. The knight sitting on Sauniure's desk! Collet's eyes moved to the margins, where someone had scribbled notes on the photocopy in red felt-tipped marker. The notes were in French and appeared to be ideas outlining how best to insert a listening device into the knight. Silas sat in the passenger seat of the parked Jaguar limousine near the Temple Church. His hands felt damp on the keystone as he waited for Rumy to finish tying and gagging Teabing in back with the rope they had found in the trunk. Finally, Rumy climbed out of the rear of the limo, walked around, and slid into the driver's seat beside Silas. "Secure?" Silas asked. Rumy chuckled, shaking off the rain and glancing over his shoulder through the open partition at the crumpled form of Leigh Teabing, who was barely visible in the shadows in the rear. "He's not going anywhere." Silas could hear Teabing's muffled cries and realized Rumy had used some of the old duct tape to gag him. "Ferme ta gueule!" Rumy shouted over his shoulder at Teabing. Reaching to a control panel on the elaborate dash, Rumy pressed a button. An opaque partition raised behind them, sealing off the back. Teabing disappeared, and his voice was silenced. Rumy glanced at Silas. "I've been listening to his miserable whimpering long enough." Minutes later, as the Jaguar stretch limo powered through the streets, Silas's cell phone rang. The Teacher. He answered excitedly. "Hello?" "Silas," the Teacher's familiar French accent said, "I am relieved to hear your voice. This means you are safe." Silas was equally comforted to hear the Teacher. It had been hours, and the operation had veered wildly off course. Now, at last, it seemed to be back on track. "I have the keystone." "This is superb news," the Teacher told him. "Is Rumy with you?" Silas was surprised to hear the Teacher use Rumy's name. "Yes. Rumy freed me." "As I ordered him to do. I am only sorry you had to endure captivity for so long." "Physical discomfort has no meaning. The important thing is that the keystone is ours." "Yes. I need it delivered to me at once. Time is of the essence." Silas was eager to meet the Teacher face-to-face at last. "Yes, sir, I would be honored." "Silas, I would like Rumy to bring it to me." Rumy? Silas was crestfallen. After everything Silas had done for the Teacher, he had believed he would be the one to hand over the prize. The Teacher favors Rumy? "I sense your disappointment," the Teacher said, "which tells me you do not understand my meaning." He lowered his voice to a whisper. "You must believe that I would much prefer to receive the keystone from you--a man of God rather than a criminal--but Rumy must be dealt with. He disobeyed my orders and made a grave mistake that has put our entire mission at risk." Silas felt a chill and glanced over at Rumy. Kidnapping Teabing had not been part of the plan, and deciding what to do with him posed a new problem. "You and I are men of God," the Teacher whispered. "We cannot be deterred from our goal." There was an ominous pause on the line. "For this reason alone, I will ask Rumy to bring me the keystone. Do you understand?" Silas sensed anger in the Teacher's voice and was surprised the man was not more understanding. Showing his face could not be avoided, Silas thought. Rumy did what he had to do. He saved the keystone. "I understand," Silas managed. "Good. For your own safety, you need to get off the street immediately. The police will be looking for the limousine soon, and I do not want you caught. Opus Dei has a residence in London, no?" "Of course." "And you are welcome there?" "As a brother." "Then go there and stay out of sight. I will call you the moment I am in possession of the keystone and have attended to my current problem." "You are in London?" "Do as I say, and everything will be fine." "Yes, sir." The Teacher heaved a sigh, as if what he now had to do was profoundly regrettable. "It's time I speak to Rumy." Silas handed Rumy the phone, sensing it might be the last call Rumy Legaludec ever took. As Rumy took the phone, he knew this poor, twisted monk had no idea what fate awaited him now that he had served his purpose. The Teacher used you, Silas. And your bishop is a pawn. Rumy still marveled at the Teacher's powers of persuasion. Bishop Aringarosa had trusted everything. He had been blinded by his own desperation. Aringarosa was far too eager to believe. Although Rumy did not particularly like the Teacher, he felt pride at having gained the man's trust and helped him so substantially. I have earned my payday. "Listen carefully," the Teacher said. "Take Silas to the Opus Dei residence hall and drop him off a few streets away. Then drive to St. James's Park. It is adjacent to Parliament and Big Ben. You can park the limousine on Horse Guards Parade. We'll talk there." With that, the connection went dead. King's College, established by King George IV in 1829, houses its Department of Theology and Religious Studies adjacent to Parliament on property granted by the Crown. King's College Religion Department boasts not only 150 years' experience in teaching and research, but the 1982 establishment of the Research Institute in Systematic Theology, which possesses one of the most complete and electronically advanced religious research libraries in the world. Langdon still felt shaky as he and Sophie came in from the rain and entered the library. The primary research room was as Teabing had described it--a dramatic octagonal chamber dominated by an enormous round table around which King Arthur and his knights might have been comfortable were it not for the presence of twelve flat-screen computer workstations. On the far side of the room, a reference librarian was just pouring a pot of tea and settling in for her day of work. "Lovely morning," she said in a cheerful British accent, leaving the tea and walking over. "May I help you?" "Thank you, yes," Langdon replied. "My name is--" "Robert Langdon." She gave a pleasant smile. "I know who you are." For an instant, he feared Fache had put him on English television as well, but the librarian's smile suggested otherwise. Langdon still had not gotten used to these moments of unexpected celebrity. Then again, if anyone on earth were going to recognize his face, it would be a librarian in a Religious Studies reference facility. "Pamela Gettum," the librarian said, offering her hand. She had a genial, erudite face and a pleasingly fluid voice. The horn-rimmed glasses hanging around her neck were thick. "A pleasure," Langdon said. "This is my friend Sophie Neveu." The two women greeted one another, and Gettum turned immediately back to Langdon. "I didn't know you were coming." "Neither did we. If it's not too much trouble, we could really use your help finding some information." Gettum shifted, looking uncertain. "Normally our services are by petition and appointment only, unless of course you're the guest of someone at the college?" Langdon shook his head. "I'm afraid we've come unannounced. A friend of mine speaks very highly of you. Sir Leigh Teabing?" Langdon felt a pang of gloom as he said the name. "The British Royal Historian." Gettum brightened now, laughing. "Heavens, yes. What a character. Fanatical! Every time he comes in, it's always the same search strings. Grail. Grail. Grail. I swear that man will die before he gives up on that quest." She winked. "Time and money afford one such lovely luxuries, wouldn't you say? A regular Don Quixote, that one." "Is there any chance you can help us?" Sophie asked. "It's quite important." Gettum glanced around the deserted library and then winked at them both. "Well, I can't very well claim I'm too busy, now can I? As long as you sign in, I can't imagine anyone being too upset. What did you have in mind?" "We're trying to find a tomb in London." Gettum looked dubious. "We've got about twenty thousand of them. Can you be a little more specific?" "It's the tomb of a knight. We don't have a name." "A knight. That tightens the net substantially. Much less common." "We don't have much information about the knight we're looking for," Sophie said, "but this is what we know." She produced a slip of paper on which she had written only the first two lines of the poem. Hesitant to show the entire poem to an outsider, Langdon and Sophie had decided to share just the first two lines, those that identified the knight. Compartmentalized cryptography, Sophie had called it. When an intelligence agency intercepted a code containing sensitive data, cryptographers each worked on a discrete section of the code. This way, when they broke it, no single cryptographer possessed the entire deciphered message. In this case, the precaution was probably excessive; even if this librarian saw the entire poem, identified the knight's tomb, and knew what orb was missing, the information was useless without the cryptex. Gettum sensed an urgency in the eyes of this famed American scholar, almost as if his finding this tomb quickly were a matter of critical importance. The green-eyed woman accompanying him also seemed anxious. Puzzled, Gettum put on her glasses and examined the paper they had just handed her. In London lies a knight a Pope interred. His labor's fruit a Holy wrath incurred. She glanced at her guests. "What is this? Some kind of Harvard scavenger hunt?" Langdon's laugh sounded forced. "Yeah, something like that." Gettum paused, feeling she was not getting the whole story. Nonetheless, she felt intrigued and found herself pondering the verse carefully. "According to this rhyme, a knight did something that incurred displeasure with God, and yet a Pope was kind enough to bury him in London." Langdon nodded. "Does it ring any bells?" Gettum moved toward one of the workstations. "Not offhand, but let's see what we can pull up in the database." Over the past two decades, King's College Research Institute in Systematic Theology had used optical character recognition software in unison with linguistic translation devices to digitize and catalog an enormous collection of texts--encyclopedias of religion, religious biographies, sacred scriptures in dozens of languages, histories, Vatican letters, diaries of clerics, anything at all that qualified as writings on human spirituality. Because the massive collection was now in the form of bits and bytes rather than physical pages, the data was infinitely more accessible. Settling into one of the workstations, Gettum eyed the slip of paper and began typing. "To begin, we'll run a straight Boolean with a few obvious keywords and see what happens." "Thank you." Gettum typed in a few words: LONDON, KNIGHT, POPE As she clicked the SEARCH button, she could feel the hum of the massive mainframe downstairs scanning data at a rate of 500 MB/sec. "I'm asking the system to show us any documents whose complete text contains all three of these keywords. We'll get more hits than we want, but it's a good place to start." The screen was already showing the first of the hits now. Painting the Pope. The Collected Portraits of Sir Joshua Reynolds. London University Press. Gettum shook her head. "Obviously not what you're looking for." She scrolled to the next hit. The London Writings of Alexander Pope by G. Wilson Knight. Again she shook her head. As the system churned on, the hits came up more quickly than usual. Dozens of texts appeared, many of them referencing the eighteenth-century British writer Alexander Pope, whose counterreligious, mock-epic poetry apparently contained plenty of references to knights and London. Gettum shot a quick glance to the numeric field at the bottom of the screen. This computer, by calculating the current number of hits and multiplying by the percentage of the database left to search, provided a rough guess of how much information would be found. This particular search looked like it was going to return an obscenely large amount of data. Estimated number of total hits: 2,692 "We need to refine the parameters further," Gettum said, stopping the search. "Is this all the information you have regarding the tomb? There's nothing else to go on?" Langdon glanced at Sophie Neveu, looking uncertain. This is no scavenger hunt, Gettum sensed. She had heard the whisperings of Robert Langdon's experience in Rome last year. This American had been granted access to the most secure library on earth--the Vatican Secret Archives. She wondered what kinds of secrets Langdon might have learned inside and if his current desperate hunt for a mysterious London tomb might relate to information he had gained within the Vatican. Gettum had been a librarian long enough to know the most common reason people came to London to look for knights. The Grail. Gettum smiled and adjusted her glasses. "You are friends with Leigh Teabing, you are in England, and you are looking for a knight." She folded her hands. "I can only assume you are on a Grail quest." Langdon and Sophie exchanged startled looks. Gettum laughed. "My friends, this library is a base camp for Grail seekers. Leigh Teabing among them. I wish I had a shilling for every time I'd run searches for the Rose, Mary Magdalene, Sangreal, Merovingian, Priory of Sion, et cetera, et cetera. Everyone loves a conspiracy." She took off her glasses and eyed them. "I need more information." In the silence, Gettum sensed her guests' desire for discretion was quickly being outweighed by their eagerness for a fast result. "Here," Sophie Neveu blurted. "This is everything we know." Borrowing a pen from Langdon, she wrote two more lines on the slip of paper and handed it to Gettum. You seek the orb that ought be on his tomb. It speaks of Rosy flesh and seeded womb. Gettum gave an inward smile. The Grail indeed, she thought, noting the references to the Rose and her seeded womb. "I can help you," she said, looking up from the slip of paper. "Might I ask where this verse came from? And why you are seeking an orb?" "You might ask," Langdon said, with a friendly smile, "but it's a long story and we have very little time." "Sounds like a polite way of saying 'mind your own business.' " "We would be forever in your debt, Pamela," Langdon said, "if you could find out who this knight is and where he is buried." "Very well," Gettum said, typing again. "I'll play along. If this is a Grail-related issue, we should cross-reference against Grail keywords. I'll add a proximity parameter and remove the title weighting. That will limit our hits only to those instances of textual keywords that occur near a Grail-related word." Search for: KNIGHT, LONDON, POPE, TOMB Within 100 word proximity of: GRAIL, ROSE, SANGREAL, CHALICE "How long will this take?" Sophie asked. "A few hundred terabytes with multiple cross-referencing fields?" Gettum's eyes glimmered as she clicked the SEARCH key. "A mere fifteen minutes." Langdon and Sophie said nothing, but Gettum sensed this sounded like an eternity to them. "Tea?" Gettum asked, standing and walking toward the pot she had made earlier. "Leigh always loves my tea." London's Opus Dei Centre is a modest brick building at 5 Orme Court, overlooking the North Walk at Kensington Gardens. Silas had never been here, but he felt a rising sense of refuge and asylum as he approached the building on foot. Despite the rain, Rumy had dropped him off a short distance away in order to keep the limousine off the main streets. Silas didn't mind the walk. The rain was cleansing. At Rumy's suggestion, Silas had wiped down his gun and disposed of it through a sewer grate. He was glad to get rid of it. He felt lighter. His legs still ached from being bound all that time, but Silas had endured far greater pain. He wondered, though, about Teabing, whom Rumy had left bound in the back of the limousine. The Briton certainly had to be feeling the pain by now. "What will you do with him?" Silas had asked Rumy as they drove over here. Rumy had shrugged. "That is a decision for the Teacher." There was an odd finality in his tone. Now, as Silas approached the Opus Dei building, the rain began to fall harder, soaking his heavy robe, stinging the wounds of the day before. He was ready to leave behind the sins of the last twenty-four hours and purge his soul. His work was done. Moving across a small courtyard to the front door, Silas was not surprised to find the door unlocked. He opened it and stepped into the minimalist foyer. A muted electronic chime sounded upstairs as Silas stepped onto the carpet. The bell was a common feature in these halls where the residents spent most of the day in their rooms in prayer. Silas could hear movement above on the creaky wood floors. A man in a cloak came downstairs. "May I help you?" He had kind eyes that seemed not even to register Silas's startling physical appearance. "Thank you. My name is Silas. I am an Opus Dei numerary." "American?" Silas nodded. "I am in town only for the day. Might I rest here?" "You need not even ask. There are two empty rooms on the third floor. Shall I bring you some tea and bread?" "Thank you." Silas was famished. Silas went upstairs to a modest room with a window, where he took off his wet robe and knelt down to pray in his undergarments. He heard his host come up and lay a tray outside his door. Silas finished his prayers, ate his food, and lay down to sleep. Three stories below, a phone was ringing. The Opus Dei numerary who had welcomed Silas answered the line. "This is the London police," the caller said. "We are trying to find an albino monk. We've had a tip-off that he might be there. Have you seen him?" The numerary was startled. "Yes, he is here. Is something wrong?" "He is there now?" "Yes, upstairs praying. What is going on?" "Leave him precisely where he is," the officer commanded. "Don't say a word to anyone. I'm sending officers over right away." St. James's Park is a sea of green in the middle of London, a public park bordering the palaces of Westminster, Buckingham, and St. James's. Once enclosed by King Henry VIII and stocked with deer for the hunt, St. James's Park is now open to the public. On sunny afternoons, Londoners picnic beneath the willows and feed the pond's resident pelicans, whose ancestors were a gift to Charles II from the Russian ambassador. The Teacher saw no pelicans today. The stormy weather had brought instead seagulls from the ocean. The lawns were covered with them--hundreds of white bodies all facing the same direction, patiently riding out the damp wind. Despite the morning fog, the park afforded splendid views of the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. Gazing across the sloping lawns, past the duck pond and the delicate silhouettes of the weeping willows, the Teacher could see the spires of the building that housed the knight's tomb--the real reason he had told Rumy to come to this spot. As the Teacher approached the front passenger door of the parked limousine, Rumy leaned across and opened the door. The Teacher paused outside, taking a pull from the flask of cognac he was carrying. Then, dabbing his mouth, he slid in beside Rumy and closed the door. Rumy held up the keystone like a trophy. "It was almost lost." "You have done well," the Teacher said. "We have done well," Rumy replied, laying the keystone in the Teacher's eager hands. The Teacher admired it a long moment, smiling. "And the gun? You wiped it down?" "Back in the glove box where I found it." "Excellent." The Teacher took another drink of cognac and handed the flask to Rumy. "Let's toast our success. The end is near." Rumy accepted the bottle gratefully. The cognac tasted salty, but Rumy didn't care. He and the Teacher were truly partners now. He could feel himself ascending to a higher station in life. I will never be a servant again. As Rumy gazed down the embankment at the duck pond below, Chuteau Villette seemed miles away. Taking another swig from the flask, Rumy could feel the cognac warming his blood. The warmth in Rumy's throat, however, mutated quickly to an uncomfortable heat. Loosening his bow tie, Rumy tasted an unpleasant grittiness and handed the flask back to the Teacher. "I've probably had enough," he managed, weakly. Taking the flask, the Teacher said, "Rumy, as you are aware, you are the only one who knows my face. I placed enormous trust in you." "Yes," he said, feeling feverish as he loosened his tie further. "And your identity shall go with me to the grave." The Teacher was silent a long moment. "I believe you." Pocketing the flask and the keystone, the Teacher reached for the glove box and pulled out the tiny Medusa revolver. For an instant, Rumy felt a surge of fear, but the Teacher simply slipped it in his trousers pocket. What is he doing? Rumy felt himself sweating suddenly. "I know I promised you freedom," the Teacher said, his voice now sounding regretful. "But considering your circumstances, this is the best I can do." The swelling in Rumy's throat came on like an earthquake, and he lurched against the steering column, grabbing his throat and tasting vomit in his narrowing esophagus. He let out a muted croak of a scream, not even loud enough to be heard outside the car. The saltiness in the cognac now registered. I'm being murdered! Incredulous, Rumy turned to see the Teacher sitting calmly beside him, staring straight ahead out the windshield. Rumy's eyesight blurred, and he gasped for breath. I made everything possible for him! How could he do this! Whether the Teacher had intended to kill Rumy all along or whether it had been Rumy's actions in the Temple Church that had made the Teacher lose faith, Rumy would never know. Terror and rage coursed through him now. Rumy tried to lunge for the Teacher, but his stiffening body could barely move. I trusted you with everything! Rumy tried to lift his clenched fists to blow the horn, but instead he slipped sideways, rolling onto the seat, lying on his side beside the Teacher, clutching at his throat. The rain fell harder now. Rumy could no longer see, but he could sense his oxygen-deprived brain straining to cling to his last faint shreds of lucidity. As his world slowly went black, Rumy Legaludec could have sworn he heard the sounds of the soft Riviera surf. The Teacher stepped from the limousine, pleased to see that nobody was looking in his direction. I had no choice, he told himself, surprised how little remorse he felt for what he had just done. Rumy sealed his own fate. The Teacher had feared all along that Rumy might need to be eliminated when the mission was complete, but by brazenly showing himself in the Temple Church, Rumy had accelerated the necessity dramatically. Robert Langdon's unexpected visit to Chuteau Villette had brought the Teacher both a fortuitous windfall and an intricate dilemma. Langdon had delivered the keystone directly to the heart of the operation, which was a pleasant surprise, and yet he had brought the police on his tail. Rumy's prints were all over Chuteau Villette, as well as in the barn's listening post, where Rumy had carried out the surveillance. The Teacher was grateful he had taken so much care in preventing any ties between Rumy's activities and his own. Nobody could implicate the Teacher unless Rumy talked, and that was no longer a concern. One more loose end to tie up here, the Teacher thought, moving now toward the rear door of the limousine. The police will have no idea what happened... and no living witness left to tell them. Glancing around to ensure nobody was watching, he pulled open the door and climbed into the spacious rear compartment. Minutes later, the Teacher was crossing St. James's Park. Only two people now remain. Langdon and Neveu. They were more complicated. But manageable. At the moment, however, the Teacher had the cryptex to attend to. Gazing triumphantly across the park, he could see his destination. In London lies a knight a Pope interred. As soon as the Teacher had heard the poem, he had known the answer. Even so, that the others had not figured it out was not surprising. I have an unfair advantage. Having listened to Sauniure's conversations for months now, the Teacher had heard the Grand Master mention this famous knight on occasion, expressing esteem almost matching that he held for Da Vinci. The poem's reference to the knight was brutally simple once one saw it--a credit to Sauniure's wit--and yet how this tomb would reveal the final password was still a mystery. You seek the orb that ought be on his tomb. The Teacher vaguely recalled photos of the famous tomb and, in particular, its most distinguishing feature. A magnificent orb. The huge sphere mounted atop the tomb was almost as large as the tomb itself. The presence of the orb seemed both encouraging and troubling to the Teacher. On one hand, it felt like a signpost, and yet, according to the poem, the missing piece of the puzzle was an orb that ought to be on his tomb... not one that was already there. He was counting on his closer inspection of the tomb to unveil the answer. The rain was getting heavier now, and he tucked the cryptex deep in his right-hand pocket to protect it from the dampness. He kept the tiny Medusa revolver in his left, out of sight. Within minutes, he was stepping into the quiet sanctuary of London's grandest nine-hundred-year-old building. Just as the Teacher was stepping out of the rain, Bishop Aringarosa was stepping into it. On the rainy tarmac at Biggin Hill Executive Airport, Aringarosa emerged from his cramped plane, bundling his cassock against the cold damp. He had hoped to be greeted by Captain Fache. Instead a young British police officer approached with an umbrella. "Bishop Aringarosa? Captain Fache had to leave. He asked me to look after you. He suggested I take you to Scotland Yard. He thought it would be safest." Safest? Aringarosa looked down at the heavy briefcase of Vatican bonds clutched in his hand. He had almost forgotten. "Yes, thank you." Aringarosa climbed into the police car, wondering where Silas could be. Minutes later, the police scanner crackled with the answer. 5 Orme Court. Aringarosa recognized the address instantly. The Opus Dei Centre in London. He spun to the driver. "Take me there at once!" Langdon's eyes had not left the computer screen since the search began. Five minutes. Only two hits. Both irrelevant. He was starting to get worried. Pamela Gettum was in the adjoining room, preparing hot drinks. Langdon and Sophie had inquired unwisely if there might be some coffee brewing alongside the tea Gettum had offered, and from the sound of the microwave beeps in the next room, Langdon suspected their request was about to be rewarded with instant Nescafe. Finally, the computer pinged happily. "Sounds like you got another," Gettum called from the next room. "What's the title?" Langdon eyed the screen. Grail Allegory in Medieval Literature: A Treatise on Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. "Allegory of the Green Knight," he called back. "No good," Gettum said. "Not many mythological green giants buried in London." Langdon and Sophie sat patiently in front of the screen and waited through two more dubious returns. When the computer pinged again, though, the offering was unexpected. DIE OPERN VON RICHARD WAGNER "The operas of Wagner?" Sophie asked. Gettum peeked back in the doorway, holding a packet of instant coffee. "That seems like a strange match. Was Wagner a knight?" "No," Langdon said, feeling a sudden intrigue. "But he was a well-known Freemason." Along with Mozart, Beethoven, Shakespeare, Gershwin, Houdini, and Disney. Volumes had been written about the ties between the Masons and the Knights Templar, the Priory of Sion, and the Holy Grail. "I want to look at this one. How do I see the full text?" "You don't want the full text," Gettum called. "Click on the hypertext title. The computer will display your keyword hits along with mono prelogs and triple postlogs for context." Langdon had no idea what she had just said, but he clicked anyway. A new window popped up. ...mythological knight named Parsifal who... ...metaphorical Grail quest that arguably... ...the London Philharmonic in 1855... Rebecca Pope's opera anthology "Diva's... ...Wagner's tomb in Bayreuth, Germany... "Wrong Pope," Langdon said, disappointed. Even so, he was amazed by the system's ease of use. The keywords with context were enough to remind him that Wagner's opera Parsifal was a tribute to Mary Magdalene and the bloodline of Jesus Christ, told through the story of a young knight on a quest for truth. "Just be patient," Gettum urged. "It's a numbers game. Let the machine run." Over the next few minutes, the computer returned several more Grail references, including a text about troubadours--France's famous wandering minstrels. Langdon knew it was no coincidence that the word minstrel and minister shared an etymological root. The troubadours were the traveling servants or "ministers" of the Church of Mary Magdalene, using music to disseminate the story of the sacred feminine among the common folk. To this day, the troubadours sang songs extolling the virtues of "our Lady"--a mysterious and beautiful woman to whom they pledged themselves forever. Eagerly, he checked the hypertext but found nothing. The computer pinged again. KNIGHTS, KNAVES, POPES, AND PENTACLES: THE HISTORY OF THE HOLY GRAIL THROUGH TAROT "Not surprising," Langdon said to Sophie. "Some of our keywords have the same names as individual cards." He reached for the mouse to click on a hyperlink. "I'm not sure if your grandfather ever mentioned it when you played Tarot with him, Sophie, but this game is a 'flash-card catechism' into the story of the Lost Bride and her subjugation by the evil Church." Sophie eyed him, looking incredulous. "I had no idea." "That's the point. By teaching through a metaphorical game, the followers of the Grail disguised their message from the watchful eye of the Church." Langdon often wondered how many modern card players had any clue that their four suits--spades, hearts, clubs, diamonds--were Grail-related symbols that came directly from Tarot's four suits of swords, cups, scepters, and pentacles. Spades were Swords--The blade. Male. Hearts were Cups--The chalice. Feminine. Clubs were Scepters--The Royal Line. The flowering staff. Diamonds were Pentacles--The goddess. The sacred feminine. Four minutes later, as Langdon began feeling fearful they would not find what they had come for, the computer produced another hit. The Gravity of Genius: Biography of a Modern Knight. "Gravity of Genius?" Langdon called out to Gettum. "Bio of a modern knight?" Gettum stuck her head around the corner. "How modern? Please don't tell me it's your Sir Rudy Giuliani. Personally, I found that one a bit off the mark." Langdon had his own qualms about the newly knighted Sir Mick Jagger, but this hardly seemed the moment to debate the politics of modern British knighthood. "Let's have a look." Langdon summoned up the hypertext keywords. ... honorable knight, Sir Isaac Newton... ... in London in 1727 and... ... his tomb in Westminster Abbey... ... Alexander Pope, friend and colleague... "I guess 'modern' is a relative term," Sophie called to Gettum. "It's an old book. About Sir Isaac Newton." Gettum shook her head in the doorway. "No good. Newton was buried in Westminster Abbey, the seat of English Protestantism. There's no way a Catholic Pope was present. Cream and sugar?" Sophie nodded. Gettum waited. "Robert?" Langdon's heart was hammering. He pulled his eyes from the screen and stood up. "Sir Isaac Newton is our knight." Sophie remained seated. "What are you talking about?" "Newton is buried in London," Langdon said. "His labors produced new sciences that incurred the wrath of the Church. And he was a Grand Master of the Priory of Sion. What more could we want?" "What more?" Sophie pointed to the poem. "How about a knight a Pope interred? You heard Ms. Gettum. Newton was not buried by a Catholic Pope." Langdon reached for the mouse. "Who said anything about a Catholic Pope?" He clicked on the "Pope" hyperlink, and the complete sentence appeared. Sir Isaac Newton's burial, attended by kings and nobles, was presided over by Alexander Pope, friend and colleague, who gave a stirring eulogy before sprinkling dirt on the tomb. Langdon looked at Sophie. "We had the correct Pope on our second hit. Alexander." He paused. "A. Pope." In London lies a knight A. Pope interred. Sophie stood up, looking stunned. Jacques Sauniure, the master of double-entendres, had proven once again that he was a frighteningly clever man. Silas awoke with a start. He had no idea what had awoken him or how long he had been asleep. Was I dreaming? Sitting up now on his straw mat, he listened to the quiet breathing of the Opus Dei residence hall, the stillness textured only by the soft murmurs of someone praying aloud in a room below him. These were familiar sounds and should have comforted him. And yet he felt a sudden and unexpected wariness. Standing, wearing only his undergarments, Silas walked to the window. Was I followed? The courtyard below was deserted, exactly as he had seen it when he entered. He listened. Silence. So why am I uneasy? Long ago Silas had learned to trust his intuition. Intuition had kept him alive as a child on the streets of Marseilles long before prison... long before he was born again by the hand of Bishop Aringarosa. Peering out the window, he now saw the faint outline of a car through the hedge. On the car's roof was a police siren. A floorboard creaked in the hallway. A door latch moved. Silas reacted on instinct, surging across the room and sliding to a stop just behind the door as it crashed open. The first police officer stormed through, swinging his gun left then right at what appeared an empty room. Before he realized where Silas was, Silas had thrown his shoulder into the door, crushing a second officer as he came through. As the first officer wheeled to shoot, Silas dove for his legs. The gun went off, the bullet sailing above Silas's head, just as he connected with the officer's shins, driving his legs out from under him, and sending the man down, his head hitting the floor. The second officer staggered to his feet in the doorway, and Silas drove a knee into his groin, then went clambering over the writhing body into the hall. Almost naked, Silas hurled his pale body down the staircase. He knew he had been betrayed, but by whom? When he reached the foyer, more officers were surging through the front door. Silas turned the other way and dashed deeper into the residence hall. The women's entrance. Every Opus Dei building has one. Winding down narrow hallways, Silas snaked through a kitchen, past terrified workers, who left to avoid the naked albino as he knocked over bowls and silverware, bursting into a dark hallway near the boiler room. He now saw the door he sought, an exit light gleaming at the end. Running full speed through the door out into the rain, Silas leapt off the low landing, not seeing the officer coming the other way until it was too late. The two men collided, Silas's broad, naked shoulder grinding into the man's sternum with crushing force. He drove the officer backward onto the pavement, landing hard on top of him. The officer's gun clattered away. Silas could hear men running down the hall shouting. Rolling, he grabbed the loose gun just as the officers emerged. A shot rang out on the stairs, and Silas felt a searing pain below his ribs. Filled with rage, he opened fire at all three officers, their blood spraying. A dark shadow loomed behind, coming out of nowhere. The angry hands that grabbed at his bare shoulders felt as if they were infused with the power of the devil himself. The man roared in his ear. SILAS, NO! Silas spun and fired. Their eyes met. Silas was already screaming in horror as Bishop Aringarosa fell. More than three thousand people are entombed or enshrined within Westminster Abbey. The colossal stone interior burgeons with the remains of kings, statesmen, scientists, poets, and musicians. Their tombs, packed into every last niche and alcove, range in grandeur from the most regal of mausoleums--that of Queen Elizabeth I, whose canopied sarcophagus inhabits its own private, apsidal chapel--down to the most modest etched floor tiles whose inscriptions have worn away with centuries of foot traffic, leaving it to one's imagination whose relics might lie below the tile in the undercroft. Designed in the style of the great cathedrals of Amiens, Chartres, and Canterbury, Westminster Abbey is considered neither cathedral nor parish church. It bears the classification of royal peculiar, subject only to the Sovereign. Since hosting the coronation of William the Conqueror on Christmas Day in 1066, the dazzling sanctuary has witnessed an endless procession of royal ceremonies and affairs of state--from the canonization of Edward the Confessor, to the marriage of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson, to the funerals of Henry V, Queen Elizabeth I, and Lady Diana. Even so, Robert Langdon currently felt no interest in any of the abbey's ancient history, save one event--the funeral of the British knight Sir Isaac Newton. In London lies a knight a Pope interred. Hurrying through the grand portico on the north transept, Langdon and Sophie were met by guards who politely ushered them through the abbey's newest addition--a large walk-through metal detector--now present in most historic buildings in London. They both passed through without setting off the alarm and continued to the abbey entrance. Stepping across the threshold into Westminster Abbey, Langdon felt the outside world evaporate with a sudden hush. No rumble of traffic. No hiss of rain. Just a deafening silence, which seemed to reverberate back and forth as if the building were whispering to itself. Langdon's and Sophie's eyes, like those of almost every visitor, shifted immediately skyward, where the abbey's great abyss seemed to explode overhead. Gray stone columns ascended like redwoods into the shadows, arching gracefully over dizzying expanses, and then shooting back down to the stone floor. Before them, the wide alley of the north transept stretched out like a deep canyon, flanked by sheer cliffs of stained glass. On sunny days, the abbey floor was a prismatic patchwork of light. Today, the rain and darkness gave this massive hollow a wraithlike aura... more like that of the crypt it truly was. "It's practically empty," Sophie whispered. Langdon felt disappointed. He had hoped for a lot more people. A more public place. Their earlier experience in the deserted Temple Church was not one Langdon wanted to repeat. He had been anticipating a certain feeling of security in the popular tourist destination, but Langdon's recollections of bustling throngs in a well-lit abbey had been formed during the peak summer tourist season. Today was a rainy April morning. Rather than crowds and shimmering stained glass, all Langdon saw was acres of desolate floor and shadowy, empty alcoves. "We passed through metal detectors," Sophie reminded, apparently sensing Langdon's apprehension. "If anyone is in here, they can't be armed." Langdon nodded but still felt circumspect. He had wanted to bring the London police with them, but Sophie's fears of who might be involved put a damper on any contact with the authorities. We need to recover the cryptex, Sophie had insisted. It is the key to everything. She was right, of course. The key to getting Leigh back alive. The key to finding the Holy Grail. The key to learning who is behind this. Unfortunately, their only chance to recover the keystone seemed to be here and now... at the tomb of Isaac Newton. Whoever held the cryptex would have to pay a visit to the tomb to decipher the final clue, and if they had not already come and gone, Sophie and Langdon intended to intercept them. Striding toward the left wall to get out of the open, they moved into an obscure side aisle behind a row of pilasters. Langdon couldn't shake the image of Leigh Teabing being held captive, probably tied up in the back of his own limousine. Whoever had ordered the top Priory members killed would not hesitate to eliminate others who stood in the way. It seemed a cruel irony that Teabing--a modern British knight--was a hostage in the search for his own countryman, Sir Isaac Newton. "Which way is it?" Sophie asked, looking around. The tomb. Langdon had no idea. "We should find a docent and ask." Langdon knew better than to wander aimlessly in here. Westminster Abbey was a tangled warren of mausoleums, perimeter chambers, and walk-in burial niches. Like the Louvre's Grand Gallery, it had a lone point of entry--the door through which they had just passed--easy to find your way in, but impossible to find your way out. A literal tourist trap, one of Langdon's befuddled colleagues had called it. Keeping architectural tradition, the abbey was laid out in the shape of a giant crucifix. Unlike most churches, however, it had its entrance on the side, rather than the standard rear of the church via the narthex at the bottom of the nave. Moreover, the abbey had a series of sprawling cloisters attached. One false step through the wrong archway, and a visitor was lost in a labyrinth of outdoor passageways surrounded by high walls. "Docents wear crimson robes," Langdon said, approaching the center of the church. Peering obliquely across the towering gilded altar to the far end of the south transept, Langdon saw several people crawling on their hands and knees. This prostrate pilgrimage was a common occurrence in Poets' Corner, although it was far less holy than it appeared. Tourists doing grave rubbings. "I don't see any docents," Sophie said. "Maybe we can find the tomb on our own?" Without a word, Langdon led her another few steps to the center of the abbey and pointed to the right. Sophie drew a startled breath as she looked down the length of the abbey's nave, the full magnitude of the building now visible. "Aah," she said. "Let's find a docent." At that moment, a hundred yards down the nave, out of sight behind the choir screen, the stately tomb of Sir Isaac Newton had a lone visitor. The Teacher had been scrutinizing the monument for ten minutes now. Newton's tomb consisted of a massive black-marble sarcophagus on which reclined the sculpted form of Sir Isaac Newton, wearing classical costume, and leaning proudly against a stack of his own books--Divinity, Chronology, Opticks, and Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica. At Newton's feet stood two winged boys holding a scroll. Behind Newton's recumbent body rose an austere pyramid. Although the pyramid itself seemed an oddity, it was the giant shape mounted halfway up the pyramid that most intrigued the Teacher. An orb. The Teacher pondered Sauniure's beguiling riddle. You seek the orb that ought be on his tomb. The massive orb protruding from the face of the pyramid was carved in basso-relievo and depicted all kinds of heavenly bodies--constellations, signs of the zodiac, comets, stars, and planets. Above it, the image of the Goddess of Astronomy beneath a field of stars. Countless orbs. The Teacher had been convinced that once he found the tomb, discerning the missing orb would be easy. Now he was not so sure. He was gazing at a complicated map of the heavens. Was there a missing planet? Had some astronomical orb been omitted from a constellation? He had no idea. Even so, the Teacher could not help but suspect that the solution would be ingeniously clean and simple--"a knight a pope interred." What orb am I looking for? Certainly, an advanced knowledge of astrophysics was not a prerequisite for finding the Holy Grail, was it? It speaks of Rosy flesh and seeded womb. The Teacher's concentration was broken by several approaching tourists. He slipped the cryptex back in his pocket and watched warily as the visitors went to a nearby table, left a donation in the cup, and restocked on the complimentary grave-rubbing supplies set out by the abbey. Armed with fresh charcoal pencils and large sheets of heavy paper, they headed off toward the front of the abbey, probably to the popular Poets' Corner to pay their respects to Chaucer, Tennyson, and Dickens by rubbing furiously on their graves. Alone again, he stepped closer to the tomb, scanning it from bottom to top. He began with the clawed feet beneath the sarcophagus, moved upward past Newton, past his books on science, past the two boys with their mathematical scroll, up the face of the pyramid to the giant orb with its constellations, and finally up to the niche's star-filled canopy. What orb ought to be here... and yet is missing? He touched the cryptex in his pocket as if he could somehow divine the answer from Sauniure's crafted marble. Only five letters separate me from the Grail. Pacing now near the corner of the choir screen, he took a deep breath and glanced up the long nave toward the main altar in the distance. His gaze dropped from the gilded altar down to the bright crimson robe of an abbey docent who was being waved over by two very familiar individuals. Langdon and Neveu. Calmly, the Teacher moved two steps back behind the choir screen. That was fast. He had anticipated Langdon and Sophie would eventually decipher the poem's meaning and come to Newton's tomb, but this was sooner than he had imagined. Taking a deep breath, the Teacher considered his options. He had grown accustomed to dealing with surprises. I am holding the cryptex. Reaching down to his pocket, he touched the second object that gave him his confidence: the Medusa revolver. As expected, the abbey's metal detectors had blared as the Teacher passed through with the concealed gun. Also as expected, the guards had backed off at once when the Teacher glared indignantly and flashed his identification card. Official rank always commanded the proper respect. Although initially the Teacher had hoped to solve the cryptex alone and avoid any further complications, he now sensed that the arrival of Langdon and Neveu was actually a welcome development. Considering the lack of success he was having with the "orb" reference, he might be able to use their expertise. After all, if Langdon had deciphered the poem to find the tomb, there was a reasonable chance he also knew something about the orb. And if Langdon knew the password, then it was just a matter of applying the right pressure. Not here, of course. Somewhere private. The Teacher recalled a small announcement sign he had seen on his way into the abbey. Immediately he knew the perfect place to lure them. The only question now... what to use as bait. Langdon and Sophie moved slowly down the north aisle, keeping to the shadows behind the ample pillars that separated it from the open nave. Despite having traveled more than halfway down the nave, they still had no clear view of Newton's tomb. The sarcophagus was recessed in a niche, obscured from this oblique angle. "At least there's nobody over there," Sophie whispered. Langdon nodded, relieved. The entire section of the nave near Newton's tomb was deserted. "I'll go over," he whispered. "You should stay hidden just in case someone--" Sophie had already stepped from the shadows and was headed across the open floor. "--is watching," Langdon sighed, hurrying to join her. Crossing the massive nave on a diagonal, Langdon and Sophie remained silent as the elaborate sepulchre revealed itself in tantalizing increments... a black-marble sarcophagus... a reclining statue of Newton... two winged boys... a huge pyramid... and... an enormous orb. "Did you know about that?" Sophie said, sounding startled. Langdon shook his head, also surprised. "Those look like constellations carved on it," Sophie said. As they approached the niche, Langdon felt a slow sinking sensation. Newton's tomb was covered with orbs--stars, comets, planets. You seek the orb that ought be on his tomb? It could turn out to be like trying to find a missing blade of grass on a golf course. "Astronomical bodies," Sophie said, looking concerned. "And a lot of them." Langdon frowned. The only link between the planets and the Grail that Langdon could imagine was the pentacle of Venus, and he had already tried the password "Venus" en route to the Temple Church. Sophie moved directly to the sarcophagus, but Langdon hung back a few feet, keeping an eye on the abbey around them. "Divinity," Sophie said, tilting her head and reading the titles of the books on which Newton was leaning. "Chronology. Opticks. Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica?" She turned to him. "Ring any bells?" Langdon stepped closer, considering it. "Principia Mathematica, as I remember, has something to do with the gravitation pull of planets... which admittedly are orbs, but it seems a little far-fetched." "How about the signs of the zodiac?" Sophie asked, pointing to the constellations on the orb. "You were talking about Pisces and Aquarius earlier, weren't you?" The End of Days, Langdon thought. "The end of Pisces and the beginning of Aquarius was allegedly the historical marker at which the Priory planned to release the Sangreal documents to the world." But the millennium came and went without incident, leaving historians uncertain when the truth was coming. "It seems possible," Sophie said, "that the Priory's plans to reveal the truth might be related to the last line of the poem." It speaks of Rosy flesh and seeded womb. Langdon felt a shiver of potential. He had not considered the line that way before. "You told me earlier," she said, "that the timing of the Priory's plans to unveil the truth about 'the Rose' and her fertile womb was linked directly to the position of planets--orbs." Langdon nodded, feeling the first faint wisps of possibility materializing. Even so, his intuition told him astronomy was not the key. The Grand Master's previous solutions had all possessed an eloquent, symbolic significance--the Mona Lisa, Madonna of the Rocks, SOFIA. This eloquence was definitely lacking in the concept of planetary orbs and the zodiac. Thus far, Jacques Sauniure had proven himself a meticulous code writer, and Langdon had to believe that his final password--those five letters that unlocked the Priory's ultimate secret--would prove to be not only symbolically fitting but also crystal clear. If this solution were anything like the others, it would be painfully obvious once it dawned. "Look!" Sophie gasped, jarring his thoughts as she grabbed his arm. From the fear in her touch Langdon sensed someone must be approaching, but when he turned to her, she was staring aghast at the top of the black marble sarcophagus. "Someone was here," she whispered, pointing to a spot on the sarcophagus near Newton's outstretched right foot. Langdon did not understand her concern. A careless tourist had left a charcoal, grave-rubbing pencil on the sarcophagus lid near Newton's foot. It's nothing. Langdon reached out to pick it up, but as he leaned toward the sarcophagus, the light shifted on the polished black-marble slab, and Langdon froze. Suddenly, he saw why Sophie was afraid. Scrawled on the sarcophagus lid, at Newton's feet, shimmered a barely visible charcoal-pencil message: I have Teabing. Go through Chapter House, out south exit, to public garden. Langdon read the words twice, his heart pounding wildly. Sophie turned and scanned the nave. Despite the pall of trepidation that settled over him upon seeing the words, Langdon told himself this was good news. Leigh is still alive. There was another implication here too. "They don't know the password either," he whispered. Sophie nodded. Otherwise why make their presence known? "They may want to trade Leigh for the password." "Or it's a trap." Langdon shook his head. "I don't think so. The garden is outside the abbey walls. A very public place." Langdon had once visited the abbey's famous College Garden--a small fruit orchard and herb garden--left over from the days when monks grew natural pharmacological remedies here. Boasting the oldest living fruit trees in Great Britain, College Garden was a popular spot for tourists to visit without having to enter the abbey. "I think sending us outside is a show of faith. So we feel safe." Sophie looked dubious. "You mean outside, where there are no metal detectors?" Langdon scowled. She had a point. Gazing back at the orb-filled tomb, Langdon wished he had some idea about the cryptex password... something with which to negotiate. I got Leigh involved in this, and I'll do whatever it takes if there is a chance to help him. "The note says to go through the Chapter House to the south exit," Sophie said. "Maybe from the exit we would have a view of the garden? That way we could assess the situation before we walked out there and exposed ourselves to any danger?" The idea was a good one. Langdon vaguely recalled the Chapter House as a huge octagonal hall where the original British Parliament convened in the days before the modern Parliament building existed. It had been years since he had been there, but he remembered it being out through the cloister somewhere. Taking several steps back from the tomb, Langdon peered around the choir screen to his right, across the nave to the side opposite that which they had descended. A gaping vaulted passageway stood nearby, with a large sign. THIS WAY TO: CLOISTERS DEANERY COLLEGE HALL MUSEUM PYX CHAMBER ST. FAITH'S CHAPEL CHAPTER HOUSE Langdon and Sophie were jogging as they passed beneath the sign, moving too quickly to notice the small announcement apologizing that certain areas were closed for renovations. They emerged immediately into a high-walled, open-roof courtyard through which morning rain was falling. Above them, the wind howled across the opening with a low drone, like someone blowing over the mouth of a bottle. Entering the narrow, low-hanging walkways that bordered the courtyard perimeter, Langdon felt the familiar uneasiness he always felt in enclosed spaces. These walkways were called cloisters, and Langdon noted with uneasiness that these particular cloisters lived up to their Latin ties to the word claustrophobic. Focusing his mind straight ahead toward the end of the tunnel, Langdon followed the signs for the Chapter House. The rain was spitting now, and the walkway was cold and damp with gusts of rain that blew through the lone pillared wall that was the cloister's only source of light. Another couple scurried past them the other way, hurrying to get out of the worsening weather. The cloisters looked deserted now, admittedly the abbey's least enticing section in the wind and rain. Forty yards down the east cloister, an archway materialized on their left, giving way to another hallway. Although this was the entrance they were looking for, the opening was cordoned off by a swag and an official-looking sign. CLOSED FOR RENOVATION PYX CHAMBER ST. FAITH'S CHAPEL CHAPTER HOUSE The long, deserted corridor beyond the swag was littered with scaffolding and drop cloths. Immediately beyond the swag, Langdon could see the entrances to the Pyx Chamber and St. Faith's Chapel on the right and left. The entrance to the Chapter House, however, was much farther away, at the far end of the long hallway. Even from here, Langdon could see that its heavy wooden door was wide open, and the spacious octagonal interior was bathed in a grayish natural light from the room's enormous windows that looked out on College Garden. Go through Chapter House, out south exit, to public garden. "We just left the east cloister," Langdon said, "so the south exit to the garden must be through there and to the right." Sophie was already stepping over the swag and moving forward. As they hurried down the dark corridor, the sounds of the wind and rain from the open cloister faded behind them. The Chapter House was a kind of satellite structure--a freestanding annex at the end of the long hallway to ensure the privacy of the Parliament proceedings housed there. "It looks huge," Sophie whispered as they approached. Langdon had forgotten just how large this room was. Even from outside the entrance, he could gaze across the vast expanse of floor to the breathtaking windows on the far side of the octagon, which rose five stories to a vaulted ceiling. They would certainly have a clear view of the garden from in here. Crossing the threshold, both Langdon and Sophie found themselves having to squint. After the gloomy cloisters, the Chapter House felt like a solarium. They were a good ten feet into the room, searching the south wall, when they realized the door they had been promised was not there. They were standing in an enormous dead end. The creaking of a heavy door behind them made them turn, just as the door closed with a resounding thud and the latch fell into place. The lone man who had been standing behind the door looked calm as he aimed a small revolver at them. He was portly and was propped on a pair of aluminum crutches. For a moment Langdon thought he must be dreaming. It was Leigh Teabing. Sir Leigh Teabing felt rueful as he gazed out over the barrel of his Medusa revolver at Robert Langdon and Sophie Neveu. "My friends," he said, "since the moment you walked into my home last night, I have done everything in my power to keep you out of harm's way. But your persistence has now put me in a difficult position." He could see the expressions of shock and betrayal on Sophie's and Langdon's faces, and yet he was confident that soon they would both understand the chain of events that had guided the three of them to this unlikely crossroads. There is so much I have to tell you both... so much you do not yet understand. "Please believe," Teabing said, "I never had any intention of your being involved. You came to my home. You came searching for me." "Leigh?" Langdon finally managed. "What the hell are you doing? We thought you were in trouble. We came here to help you!" "As I trusted you would," he said. "We have much to discuss." Langdon and Sophie seemed unable to tear their stunned gazes from the revolver aimed at them. "It is simply to ensure your full attention," Teabing said. "If I had wanted to harm you, you would be dead by now. When you walked into my home last night, I risked everything to spare your lives. I am a man of honor, and I vowed in my deepest conscience only to sacrifice those who had betrayed the Sangreal." "What are you talking about?" Langdon said. "Betrayed the Sangreal?" "I discovered a terrible truth," Teabing said, sighing. "I learned why the Sangreal documents were never revealed to the world. I learned that the Priory had decided not to release the truth after all. That's why the millennium passed without any revelation, why nothing happened as we entered the End of Days." Langdon drew a breath, about to protest. "The Priory," Teabing continued, "was given a sacred charge to share the truth. To release the Sangreal documents when the End of Days arrived. For centuries, men like Da Vinci, Botticelli, and Newton risked everything to protect the documents and carry out that charge. And now, at the ultimate moment of truth, Jacques Sauniure changed his mind. The man honored with the greatest responsibility in Christian history eschewed his duty. He decided the time was not right." Teabing turned to Sophie. "He failed the Grail. He failed the Priory. And he failed the memory of all the generations that had worked to make that moment possible." "You?" Sophie declared, glancing up now, her green eyes boring into him with rage and realization. "You are the one responsible for my grandfather's murder?" Teabing scoffed. "Your grandfather and his sunuchaux were traitors to the Grail." Sophie felt a fury rising from deep within. He's lying! Teabing's voice was relentless. "Your grandfather sold out to the Church. It is obvious they pressured him to keep the truth quiet." Sophie shook her head. "The Church had no influence on my grandfather!" Teabing laughed coldly. "My dear, the Church has two thousand years of experience pressuring those who threaten to unveil its lies. Since the days of Constantine, the Church has successfully hidden the truth about Mary Magdalene and Jesus. We should not be surprised that now, once again, they have found a way to keep the world in the dark. The Church may no longer employ crusaders to slaughter non-believers, but their influence is no less persuasive. No less insidious." He paused, as if to punctuate his next point. "Miss Neveu, for some time now your grandfather has wanted to tell you the truth about your family." Sophie was stunned. "How could you know that?" "My methods are immaterial. The important thing for you to grasp right now is this." He took a deep breath. "The deaths of your mother, father, grandmother, and brother were not accidental." The words sent Sophie's emotions reeling. She opened her mouth to speak but was unable. Langdon shook his head. "What are you saying?" "Robert, it explains everything. All the pieces fit. History repeats itself. The Church has a precedent of murder when it comes to silencing the Sangreal. With the End of Days imminent, killing the Grand Master's loved ones sent a very clear message. Be quiet, or you and Sophie are next." "It was a car accident," Sophie stammered, feeling the childhood pain welling inside her. "An accident!" "Bedtime stories to protect your innocence," Teabing said. "Consider that only two family members went untouched--the Priory's Grand Master and his lone granddaughter--the perfect pair to provide the Church with control over the brotherhood. I can only imagine the terror the Church wielded over your grandfather these past years, threatening to kill you if he dared release the Sangreal secret, threatening to finish the job they started unless Sauniure influenced the Priory to reconsider its ancient vow." "Leigh," Langdon argued, now visibly riled, "certainly you have no proof that the Church had anything to do with those deaths, or that it influenced the Priory's decision to remain silent." "Proof?" Teabing fired back. "You want proof the Priory was influenced? The new millennium has arrived, and yet the world remains ignorant! Is that not proof enough?" In the echoes of Teabing's words, Sophie heard another voice speaking. Sophie, I must tell you the truth about your family. She realized she was trembling. Could this possibly be that truth her grandfather had wanted to tell her? That her family had been murdered? What did she truly know about the crash that took her family? Only sketchy details. Even the stories in the newspaper had been vague. An accident? Bedtime stories? Sophie flashed suddenly on her grandfather's overprotectiveness, how he never liked to leave her alone when she was young. Even when Sophie was grown and away at university, she had the sense her grandfather was watching over. She wondered if there had been Priory members in the shadows throughout her entire life, looking after her. "You suspected he was being manipulated," Langdon said, glaring with disbelief at Teabing. "So you murdered him?" "I did not pull the trigger," Teabing said. "Sauniure was dead years ago, when the Church stole his family from him. He was compromised. Now he is free of that pain, released from the shame caused by his inability to carry out his sacred duty. Consider the alternative. Something had to be done. Shall the world be ignorant forever? Shall the Church be allowed to cement its lies into our history books for all eternity? Shall the Church be permitted to influence indefinitely with murder and extortion? No, something needed to be done! And now we are poised to carry out Sauniure's legacy and right a terrible wrong." He paused. "The three of us. Together." Sophie felt only incredulity. "How could you possibly believe that we would help you?" "Because, my dear, you are the reason the Priory failed to release the documents. Your grandfather's love for you prevented him from challenging the Church. His fear of reprisal against his only remaining family crippled him. He never had a chance to explain the truth because you rejected him, tying his hands, making him wait. Now you owe the world the truth. You owe it to the memory of your grandfather." Robert Langdon had given up trying to get his bearings. Despite the torrent of questions running through his mind, he knew only one thing mattered now--getting Sophie out of here alive. All the guilt Langdon had mistakenly felt earlier for involving Teabing had now been transferred to Sophie. I took her to Chuteau Villette. I am responsible. Langdon could not fathom that Leigh Teabing would be capable of killing them in cold blood here in the Chapter House, and yet Teabing certainly had been involved in killing others during his misguided quest. Langdon had the uneasy feeling that gunshots in this secluded, thick-walled chamber would go unheard, especially in this rain. And Leigh just admitted his guilt to us. Langdon glanced at Sophie, who looked shaken. The Church murdered Sophie's family to silence the Priory? Langdon felt certain the modern Church did not murder people. There had to be some other explanation. "Let Sophie leave," Langdon declared, staring at Leigh. "You and I should discuss this alone." Teabing gave an unnatural laugh. "I'm afraid that is one show of faith I cannot afford. I can, however, offer you this." He propped himself fully on his crutches, gracelessly keeping the gun aimed at Sophie, and removed the keystone from his pocket. He swayed a bit as he held it out for Langdon. "A token of trust, Robert." Robert felt wary and didn't move. Leigh is giving the keystone back to us? "Take it," Teabing said, thrusting it awkwardly toward Langdon. Langdon could imagine only one reason Teabing would give it back. "You opened it already. You removed the map." Teabing was shaking his head. "Robert, if I had solved the keystone, I would have disappeared to find the Grail myself and kept you uninvolved. No, I do not know the answer. And I can admit that freely. A true knight learns humility in the face of the Grail. He learns to obey the signs placed before him. When I saw you enter the abbey, I understood. You were here for a reason. To help. I am not looking for singular glory here. I serve a far greater master than my own pride. The Truth. Mankind deserves to know that truth. The Grail found us all, and now she is begging to be revealed. We must work together." Despite Teabing's pleas for cooperation and trust, his gun remained trained on Sophie as Langdon stepped forward and accepted the cold marble cylinder. The vinegar inside gurgled as Langdon grasped it and stepped backward. The dials were still in random order, and the cryptex remained locked. Langdon eyed Teabing. "How do you know I won't smash it right now?" Teabing's laugh was an eerie chortle. "I should have realized your threat to break it in the Temple Church was an empty one. Robert Langdon would never break the keystone. You are an historian, Robert. You are holding the key to two thousand years of history--the lost key to the Sangreal. You can feel the souls of all the knights burned at the stake to protect her secret. Would you have them die in vain? No, you will vindicate them. You will join the ranks of the great men you admire--Da Vinci, Botticelli, Newton--each of whom would have been honored to be in your shoes right now. The contents of the keystone are crying out to us. Longing to be set free. The time has come. Destiny has led us to this moment." "I cannot help you, Leigh. I have no idea how to open this. I only saw Newton's tomb for a moment. And even if I knew the password..." Langdon paused, realizing he had said too much. "You would not tell me?" Teabing sighed. "I am disappointed and surprised, Robert, that you do not appreciate the extent to which you are in my debt. My task would have been far simpler had Rumy and I eliminated you both when you walked into Chuteau Villette. Instead I risked everything to take the nobler course." "This is noble?" Langdon demanded, eyeing the gun. "Sauniure's fault," Teabing said. "He and his sunuchaux lied to Silas. Otherwise, I would have obtained the keystone without complication. How was I to imagine the Grand Master would go to such ends to deceive me and bequeath the keystone to an estranged granddaughter?" Teabing looked at Sophie with disdain. "Someone so unqualified to hold this knowledge that she required a symbologist baby-sitter." Teabing glanced back at Langdon. "Fortunately, Robert, your involvement turned out to be my saving grace. Rather than the keystone remaining locked in the depository bank forever, you extracted it and walked into my home." Where else would I run? Langdon thought. The community of Grail historians is small, and Teabing and I have a history together. Teabing now looked smug. "When I learned Sauniure left you a dying message, I had a pretty good idea you were holding valuable Priory information. Whether it was the keystone itself, or information on where to find it, I was not sure. But with the police on your heels, I had a sneaking suspicion you might arrive on my doorstep." Langdon glared. "And if we had not?" "I was formulating a plan to extend you a helping hand. One way or another, the keystone was coming to Chuteau Villette. The fact that you delivered it into my waiting hands only serves as proof that my cause is just." "What!" Langdon was appalled. "Silas was supposed to break in and steal the keystone from you in Chuteau Villette--thus removing you from the equation without hurting you, and exonerating me from any suspicion of complicity. However, when I saw the intricacy of Sauniure's codes, I decided to include you both in my quest a bit longer. I could have Silas steal the keystone later, once I knew enough to carry on alone." "The Temple Church," Sophie said, her tone awash with betrayal. Light begins to dawn, Teabing thought. The Temple Church was the perfect location to steal the keystone from Robert and Sophie, and its apparent relevance to the poem made it a plausible decoy. Rumy's orders had been clear--stay out of sight while Silas recovers the keystone. Unfortunately, Langdon's threat to smash the keystone on the chapel floor had caused Rumy to panic. If only Rumy had not revealed himself, Teabing thought ruefully, recalling his own mock kidnapping. Rumy was the sole link to me, and he showed his face! Fortunately, Silas remained unaware of Teabing's true identity and was easily fooled into taking him from the church and then watching naively as Rumy pretended to tie their hostage in the back of the limousine. With the soundproof divider raised, Teabing was able to phone Silas in the front seat, use the fake French accent of the Teacher, and direct Silas to go straight to Opus Dei. A simple anonymous tip to the police was all it would take to remove Silas from the picture. One loose end tied up. The other loose end was harder. Rumy. Teabing struggled deeply with the decision, but in the end Rumy had proven himself a liability. Every Grail quest requires sacrifice. The cleanest solution had been staring Teabing in the face from the limousine's wet bar--a flask, some cognac, and a can of peanuts. The powder at the bottom of the can would be more than enough to trigger Rumy's deadly allergy. When Rumy parked the limo on Horse Guards Parade, Teabing climbed out of the back, walked to the side passenger door, and sat in the front next to Rumy. Minutes later, Teabing got out of the car, climbed into the rear again, cleaned up the evidence, and finally emerged to carry out the final phase of his mission. Westminster Abbey had been a short walk, and although Teabing's leg braces, crutches, and gun had set off the metal detector, the rent-a-cops never knew what to do. Do we ask him to remove his braces and crawl through? Do we frisk his deformed body? Teabing presented the flustered guards a far easier solution--an embossed card identifying him as Knight of the Realm. The poor fellows practically tripped over one another ushering him in. Now, eyeing the bewildered Langdon and Neveu, Teabing resisted the urge to reveal how he had brilliantly implicated Opus Dei in the plot that would soon bring about the demise of the entire Church. That would have to wait. Right now there was work to do. "Mes amis," Teabing declared in flawless French, "vous ne trouvez pas le Saint-Graal, c'est le Saint-Graal qui vous trouve." He smiled. "Our paths together could not be more clear. The Grail has found us." Silence. He spoke to them in a whisper now. "Listen. Can you hear it? The Grail is speaking to us across the centuries. She is begging to be saved from the Priory's folly. I implore you both to recognize this opportunity. There could not possibly be three more capable people assembled at this moment to break the final code and open the cryptex." Teabing paused, his eyes alight. "We need to swear an oath together. A pledge of faith to one another. A knight's allegiance to uncover the truth and make it known." Sophie stared deep into Teabing's eyes and spoke in a steely tone. "I will never swear an oath with my grandfather's murderer. Except an oath that I will see you go to prison." Teabing's heart turned grave, then resolute. "I am sorry you feel that way, mademoiselle." He turned and aimed the gun at Langdon. "And you, Robert? Are you with me, or against me?" Bishop Manuel Aringarosa's body had endured many kinds of pain, and yet the searing heat of the bullet wound in his chest felt profoundly foreign to him. Deep and grave. Not a wound of the flesh... but closer to the soul. He opened his eyes, trying to see, but the rain on his face blurred his vision. Where am I? He could feel powerful arms holding him, carrying his limp body like a rag doll, his black cassock flapping. Lifting a weary arm, he mopped his eyes and saw the man holding him was Silas. The great albino was struggling down a misty sidewalk, shouting for a hospital, his voice a heartrending wail of agony. His red eyes were focused dead ahead, tears streaming down his pale, blood-spattered face. "My son," Aringarosa whispered, "you're hurt." Silas glanced down, his visage contorted in anguish. "I am so very sorry, Father." He seemed almost too pained to speak. "No, Silas," Aringarosa replied. "It is I who am sorry. This is my fault." The Teacher promised me there would be no killing, and I told you to obey him fully. "I was too eager. Too fearful. You and I were deceived." The Teacher was never going to deliver us the Holy Grail. Cradled in the arms of the man he had taken in all those years ago, Bishop Aringarosa felt himself reel back in time. To Spain. To his modest beginnings, building a small Catholic church in Oviedo with Silas. And later, to New York City, where he had proclaimed the glory of God with the towering Opus Dei Center on Lexington Avenue. Five months ago, Aringarosa had received devastating news. His life's work was in jeopardy. He recalled, with vivid detail, the meeting inside Castel Gandolfo that had changed his life... the news that had set this entire calamity into motion. Aringarosa had entered Gandolfo's Astronomy Library with his head held high, fully expecting to be lauded by throngs of welcoming hands, all eager to pat him on the back for his superior work representing Catholicism in America. But only three people were present. The Vatican secretariat. Obese. Dour. Two high-ranking Italian cardinals. Sanctimonious. Smug. "Secretariat?" Aringarosa said, puzzled. The rotund overseer of legal affairs shook Aringarosa's hand and motioned to the chair opposite him. "Please, make yourself comfortable." Aringarosa sat, sensing something was wrong. "I am not skilled in small talk, Bishop," the secretariat said, "so let me be direct about the reason for your visit." "Please. Speak openly." Aringarosa glanced at the two cardinals, who seemed to be measuring him with self-righteous anticipation. "As you are well aware," the secretariat said, "His Holiness and others in Rome have been concerned lately with the political fallout from Opus Dei's more controversial practices." Aringarosa felt himself bristle instantly. He already had been through this on numerous occasions with the new pontiff, who, to Aringarosa's great dismay, had turned out to be a distressingly fervent voice for liberal change in the Church. "I want to assure you," the secretariat added quickly, "that His Holiness does not seek to change anything about the way you run your ministry." I should hope not! "Then why am I here?" The enormous man sighed. "Bishop, I am not sure how to say this delicately, so I will state it directly. Two days ago, the Secretariat Council voted unanimously to revoke the Vatican's sanction of Opus Dei." Aringarosa was certain he had heard incorrectly. "I beg your pardon?" "Plainly stated, six months from today, Opus Dei will no longer be considered a prelature of the Vatican. You will be a church unto yourself. The Holy See will be disassociating itself from you. His Holiness agrees and we are already drawing up the legal papers." "But... that is impossible!" "On the contrary, it is quite possible. And necessary. His Holiness has become uneasy with your aggressive recruiting policies and your practices of corporal mortification." He paused. "Also your policies regarding women. Quite frankly, Opus Dei has become a liability and an embarrassment." Bishop Aringarosa was stupefied. "An embarrassment?" "Certainly you cannot be surprised it has come to this." "Opus Dei is the only Catholic organization whose numbers are growing! We now have over eleven hundred priests!" "True. A troubling issue for us all." Aringarosa shot to his feet. "Ask His Holiness if Opus Dei was an embarrassment in 1982 when we helped the Vatican Bank!" "The Vatican will always be grateful for that," the secretariat said, his tone appeasing, "and yet there are those who still believe your financial munificence in 1982 is the only reason you were granted prelature status in the first place." "That is not true!" The insinuation offended Aringarosa deeply. "Whatever the case, we plan to act in good faith. We are drawing up severance terms that will include a reimbursement of those monies. It will be paid in five installments." "You are buying me off?" Aringarosa demanded. "Paying me to go quietly? When Opus Dei is the only remaining voice of reason!" One of the cardinals glanced up. "I'm sorry, did you say reason?" Aringarosa leaned across the table, sharpening his tone to a point. "Do you really wonder why Catholics are leaving the Church? Look around you, Cardinal. People have lost respect. The rigors of faith are gone. The doctrine has become a buffet line. Abstinence, confession, communion, baptism, mass--take your pick--choose whatever combination pleases you and ignore the rest. What kind of spiritual guidance is the Church offering?" "Third-century laws," the second cardinal said, "cannot be applied to the modern followers of Christ. The rules are not workable in today's society." "Well, they seem to be working for Opus Dei!" "Bishop Aringarosa," the secretariat said, his voice conclusive. "Out of respect for your organization's relationship with the previous Pope, His Holiness will be giving Opus Dei six months to voluntarily break away from the Vatican. I suggest you cite your differences of opinion with the Holy See and establish yourself as your own Christian organization." "I refuse!" Aringarosa declared. "And I'll tell him that in person!" "I'm afraid His Holiness no longer cares to meet with you." Aringarosa stood up. "He would not dare abolish a personal prelature established by a previous Pope!" "I'm sorry." The secretariat's eyes did not flinch. "The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away." Aringarosa had staggered from that meeting in bewilderment and panic. Returning to New York, he stared out at the skyline in disillusionment for days, overwhelmed with sadness for the future of Christianity. It was several weeks later that he received the phone call that changed all that. The caller sounded French and identified himself as the Teacher--a title common in the prelature. He said he knew of the Vatican's plans to pull support from Opus Dei. How could he know that? Aringarosa wondered. He had hoped only a handful of Vatican power brokers knew of Opus Dei's impending annulment. Apparently the word was out. When it came to containing gossip, no walls in the world were as porous as those surrounding Vatican City. "I have ears everywhere, Bishop," the Teacher whispered, "and with these ears I have gained certain knowledge. With your help, I can uncover the hiding place of a sacred relic that will bring you enormous power... enough power to make the Vatican bow before you. Enough power to save the Faith." He paused. "Not just for Opus Dei. But for all of us." The Lord taketh away... and the Lord giveth. Aringarosa felt a glorious ray of hope. "Tell me your plan." Bishop Aringarosa was unconscious when the doors of St. Mary's Hospital hissed open. Silas lurched into the entryway delirious with exhaustion. Dropping to his knees on the tile floor, he cried out for help. Everyone in the reception area gaped in wonderment at the half-naked albino offering forth a bleeding clergyman. The doctor who helped Silas heave the delirious bishop onto a gurney looked gloomy as he felt Aringarosa's pulse. "He's lost a lot of blood. I am not hopeful." Aringarosa's eyes flickered, and he returned for a moment, his gaze locating Silas. "My child..." Silas's soul thundered with remorse and rage. "Father, if it takes my lifetime, I will find the one who deceived us, and I will kill him." Aringarosa shook his head, looking sad as they prepared to wheel him away. "Silas... if you have learned nothing from me, please... learn this." He took Silas's hand and gave it a firm squeeze. "Forgiveness is God's greatest gift." "But Father..." Aringarosa closed his eyes. "Silas, you must pray." Robert Langdon stood beneath the lofty cupola of the deserted Chapter House and stared into the barrel of Leigh Teabing's gun. Robert, are you with me, or against me? The Royal Historian's words echoed in the silence of Langdon's mind. There was no viable response, Langdon knew. Answer yes, and he would be selling out Sophie. Answer no, and Teabing would have no choice but to kill them both. Langdon's years in the classroom had not imbued him with any skills relevant to handling confrontations at gunpoint, but the classroom had taught him something about answering paradoxical questions. When a question has no correct answer, there is only one honest response. The gray area between yes and no. Silence. Staring at the cryptex in his hands, Langdon chose simply to walk away. Without ever lifting his eyes, he stepped backward, out into the room's vast empty spaces. Neutral ground. He hoped his focus on the cryptex signaled Teabing that collaboration might be an option, and that his silence signaled Sophie he had not abandoned her. All the while buying time to think. The act of thinking, Langdon suspected, was exactly what Teabing wanted him to do. That's why he handed me the cryptex. So I could feel the weight of my decision. The British historian hoped the touch of the Grand Master's cryptex would make Langdon fully grasp the magnitude of its contents, coaxing his academic curiosity to overwhelm all else, forcing him to realize that failure to unlock the keystone would mean the loss of history itself. With Sophie at gunpoint across the room, Langdon feared that discovering the cryptex's elusive password would be his only remaining hope of bartering her release. If I can free the map, Teabing will negotiate. Forcing his mind to this critical task, Langdon moved slowly toward the far windows... allowing his mind to fill with the numerous astronomical images on Newton's tomb. You seek the orb that ought be on his tomb. It speaks of Rosy flesh and seeded womb. Turning his back to the others, he walked toward the towering windows, searching for any inspiration in their stained-glass mosaics. There was none. Place yourself in Sauniure's mind, he urged, gazing outward now into College Garden. What would he believe is the orb that ought be on Newton's tomb? Images of stars, comets, and planets twinkled in the falling rain, but Langdon ignored them. Sauniure was not a man of science. He was a man of humanity, of art, of history. The sacred feminine... the chalice... the Rose... the banished Mary Magdalene... the decline of the goddess... the Holy Grail. Legend had always portrayed the Grail as a cruel mistress, dancing in the shadows just out of sight, whispering in your ear, luring you one more step and then evaporating into the mist. Gazing out at the rustling trees of College Garden, Langdon sensed her playful presence. The signs were everywhere. Like a taunting silhouette emerging from the fog, the branches of Britain's oldest apple tree burgeoned with five-petaled blossoms, all glistening like Venus. The goddess was in the garden now. She was dancing in the rain, singing songs of the ages, peeking out from behind the bud-filled branches as if to remind Langdon that the fruit of knowledge was growing just beyond his reach. Across the room, Sir Leigh Teabing watched with confidence as Langdon gazed out the window as if under a spell. Exactly as I hoped, Teabing thought. He will come around. For some time now, Teabing had suspected Langdon might hold the key to the Grail. It was no coincidence that Teabing launched his plan into action on the same night Langdon was scheduled to meet Jacques Sauniure. Listening in on the curator, Teabing was certain the man's eagerness to meet privately with Langdon could mean only one thing. Langdon's mysterious manuscript has touched a nerve with the Priory. Langdon has stumbled onto a truth, and Sauniure fears its release. Teabing felt certain the Grand Master was summoning Langdon to silence him. The Truth has been silenced long enough! Teabing knew he had to act quickly. Silas's attack would accomplish two goals. It would prevent Sauniure from persuading Langdon to keep quiet, and it would ensure that once the keystone was in Teabing's hands, Langdon would be in Paris for recruitment should Teabing need him. Arranging the fatal meeting between Sauniure and Silas had been almost too easy. I had inside information about Sauniure's deepest fears. Yesterday afternoon, Silas had phoned the curator and posed as a distraught priest. "Monsieur Sauniure, forgive me, I must speak to you at once. I should never breach the sanctity of the confessional, but in this case, I feel I must. I just took confession from a man who claimed to have murdered members of your family." Sauniure's response was startled but wary. "My family died in an accident. The police report was conclusive." "Yes, a car accident," Silas said, baiting the hook. "The man I spoke to said he forced their car off the road into a river." Sauniure fell silent. "Monsieur Sauniure, I would never have phoned you directly except this man made a comment which makes me now fear for your safety." He paused. "The man also mentioned your granddaughter, Sophie." The mention of Sophie's name had been the catalyst. The curator leapt into action. He ordered Silas to come see him immediately in the safest location Sauniure knew--his Louvre office. Then he phoned Sophie to warn her she might be in danger. Drinks with Robert Langdon were instantly abandoned. Now, with Langdon separated from Sophie on the far side of the room, Teabing sensed he had successfully alienated the two companions from one another. Sophie Neveu remained defiant, but Langdon clearly saw the larger picture. He was trying to figure out the password. He understands the importance of finding the Grail and releasing her from bondage. "He won't open it for you," Sophie said coldly. "Even if he can." Teabing was glancing at Langdon as he held the gun on Sophie. He was fairly certain now he was going to have to use the weapon. Although the idea troubled him, he knew he would not hesitate if it came to that. I have given her every opportunity to do the right thing. The Grail is bigger than any one of us. At that moment, Langdon turned from the window. "The tomb..." he said suddenly, facing them with a faint glimmer of hope in his eyes. "I know where to look on Newton's tomb. Yes, I think I can find the password!" Teabing's heart soared. "Where, Robert? Tell me!" Sophie sounded horrified. "Robert, no! You're not going to help him, are you?" Langdon approached with a resolute stride, holding the cryptex before him. "No," he said, his eyes hardening as he turned to Leigh. "Not until he lets you go." Teabing's optimism darkened. "We are so close, Robert. Don't you dare start playing games with me!" "No games," Langdon said. "Let her go. Then I'll take you to Newton's tomb. We'll open the cryptex together." "I'm not going anywhere," Sophie declared, her eyes narrowing with rage. "That cryptex was given to me by my grandfather. It is not yours to open." Langdon wheeled, looking fearful. "Sophie, please! You're in danger. I'm trying to help you!" "How? By unveiling the secret my grandfather died trying to protect? He trusted you, Robert. I trusted you!" Langdon's blue eyes showed panic now, and Teabing could not help but smile to see the two of them working against one another. Langdon's attempts to be gallant were more pathetic than anything. On the verge of unveiling one of history's greatest secrets, and he troubles himself with a woman who has proven herself unworthy of the quest. "Sophie," Langdon pleaded. "Please... you must leave." She shook her head. "Not unless you either hand me the cryptex or smash it on the floor." "What?" Langdon gasped. "Robert, my grandfather would prefer his secret lost forever than see it in the hands of his murderer." Sophie's eyes looked as if they would well with tears, but they did not. She stared directly back at Teabing. "Shoot me if you have to. I am not leaving my grandfather's legacy in your hands." Very well. Teabing aimed the weapon. "No!" Langdon shouted, raising his arm and suspending the cryptex precariously over the hard stone floor. "Leigh, if you even think about it, I will drop this." Teabing laughed. "That bluff worked on Rumy. Not on me. I know you better than that." "Do you, Leigh?" Yes I do. Your poker face needs work, my friend. It took me several seconds, but I can see now that you are lying. You have no idea where on Newton's tomb the answer lies. "Truly, Robert? You know where on the tomb to look?" "I do." The falter in Langdon's eyes was fleeting but Leigh caught it. There was a lie there. A desperate, pathetic ploy to save Sophie. Teabing felt a profound disappointment in Robert Langdon. I am a lone knight, surrounded by unworthy souls. And I will have to decipher the keystone on my own. Langdon and Neveu were nothing but a threat to Teabing now... and to the Grail. As painful as the solution was going to be, he knew he could carry it out with a clean conscience. The only challenge would be to persuade Langdon to set down the keystone so Teabing could safely end this charade. "A show of faith," Teabing said, lowering the gun from Sophie. "Set down the keystone, and we'll talk." Langdon knew his lie had failed. He could see the dark resolve in Teabing's face and knew the moment was upon them. When I set this down, he will kill us both. Even without looking at Sophie, he could hear her heart beseeching him in silent desperation. Robert, this man is not worthy of the Grail. Please do not place it in his hands. No matter what the cost. Langdon had already made his decision several minutes ago, while standing alone at the window overlooking College Garden. Protect Sophie. Protect the Grail. Langdon had almost shouted out in desperation. But I cannot see how! The stark moments of disillusionment had brought with them a clarity unlike any he had ever felt. The Truth is right before your eyes, Robert. He knew not from where the epiphany came. The Grail is not mocking you, she is calling out to a worthy soul. Now, bowing down like a subject several yards in front of Leigh Teabing, Langdon lowered the cryptex to within inches of the stone floor. "Yes, Robert," Teabing whispered, aiming the gun at him. "Set it down." Langdon's eyes moved heavenward, up into the gaping void of the Chapter House cupola. Crouching lower, Langdon lowered his gaze to Teabing's gun, aimed directly at him. "I'm sorry, Leigh." In one fluid motion, Langdon leapt up, swinging his arm skyward, launching the cryptex straight up toward the dome above. Leigh Teabing did not feel his finger pull the trigger, but the Medusa discharged with a thundering crash. Langdon's crouched form was now vertical, almost airborne, and the bullet exploded in the floor near Langdon's feet. Half of Teabing's brain attempted to adjust his aim and fire again in rage, but the more powerful half dragged his eyes upward into the cupola. The keystone! Time seemed to freeze, morphing into a slow-motion dream as Teabing's entire world became the airborne keystone. He watched it rise to the apex of its climb... hovering for a moment in the void... and then tumbling downward, end over end, back toward the stone floor. All of Teabing's hopes and dreams were plummeting toward earth. It cannot strike the floor! I can reach it! Teabing's body reacted on instinct. He released the gun and heaved himself forward, dropping his crutches as he reached out with his soft, manicured hands. Stretching his arms and fingers, he snatched the keystone from midair. Falling forward with the keystone victoriously clutched in his hand, Teabing knew he was falling too fast. With nothing to break his fall, his outstretched arms hit first, and the cryptex collided hard with the floor. There was a sickening crunch of glass within. For a full second, Teabing did not breathe. Lying there outstretched on the cold floor, staring the length of his outstretched arms at the marble cylinder in his bare palms, he implored the glass vial inside to hold. Then the acrid tang of vinegar cut the air, and Teabing felt the cool liquid flowing out through the dials onto his palm. Wild panic gripped him. NO! The vinegar was streaming now, and Teabing pictured the papyrus dissolving within. Robert, you fool! The secret is lost! Teabing felt himself sobbing uncontrollably. The Grail is gone. Everything destroyed. Shuddering in disbelief over Langdon's actions, Teabing tried to force the cylinder apart, longing to catch a fleeting glimpse of history before it dissolved forever. To his shock, as he pulled the ends of the keystone, the cylinder separated. He gasped and peered inside. It was empty except for shards of wet glass. No dissolving papyrus. Teabing rolled over and looked up at Langdon. Sophie stood beside him, aiming the gun down at Teabing. Bewildered, Teabing looked back at the keystone and saw it. The dials were no longer at random. They spelled a five-letter word: APPLE. "The orb from which Eve partook," Langdon said coolly, "incurring the Holy wrath of God. Original sin. The symbol of the fall of the sacred feminine." Teabing felt the truth come crashing down on him in excruciating austerity. The orb that ought be on Newton's tomb could be none other than the Rosy apple that fell from heaven, struck Newton on the head, and inspired his life's work. His labor's fruit! The Rosy flesh with a seeded womb! "Robert," Teabing stammered, overwhelmed. "You opened it. Where... is the map?" Without blinking, Langdon reached into the breast pocket of his tweed coat and carefully extracted a delicate rolled papyrus. Only a few yards from where Teabing lay, Langdon unrolled the scroll and looked at it. After a long moment, a knowing smile crossed Langdon's face. He knows! Teabing's heart craved that knowledge. His life's dream was right in front of him. "Tell me!" Teabing demanded. "Please! Oh God, please! It's not too late!" As the sound of heavy footsteps thundered down the hall toward the Chapter House, Langdon quietly rolled the papyrus and slipped it back in his pocket. "No!" Teabing cried out, trying in vain to stand. When the doors burst open, Bezu Fache entered like a bull into a ring, his feral eyes scanning, finding his target--Leigh Teabing--helpless on the floor. Exhaling in relief, Fache holstered his Manurhin sidearm and turned to Sophie. "Agent Neveu, I am relieved you and Mr. Langdon are safe. You should have come in when I asked." The British police entered on Fache's heels, seizing the anguished prisoner and placing him in handcuffs. Sophie seemed stunned to see Fache. "How did you find us?" Fache pointed to Teabing. "He made the mistake of showing his ID when he entered the abbey. The guards heard a police broadcast about our search for him." "It's in Langdon's pocket!" Teabing was screaming like a madman. "The map to the Holy Grail!" As they hoisted Teabing and carried him out, he threw back his head and howled. "Robert! Tell me where it's hidden!" As Teabing passed, Langdon looked him in the eye. "Only the worthy find the Grail, Leigh. You taught me that." The mist had settled low on Kensington Gardens as Silas limped into a quiet hollow out of sight. Kneeling on the wet grass, he could feel a warm stream of blood flowing from the bullet wound below his ribs. Still, he stared straight ahead. The fog made it look like heaven here. Raising his bloody hands to pray, he watched the raindrops caress his fingers, turning them white again. As the droplets fell harder across his back and shoulders, he could feel his body disappearing bit by bit into the mist. I am a ghost. A breeze rustled past him, carrying the damp, earthy scent of new life. With every living cell in his broken body, Silas prayed. He prayed for forgiveness. He prayed for mercy. And, above all, he prayed for his mentor... Bishop Aringarosa... that the Lord would not take him before his time. He has so much work left to do. The fog was swirling around him now, and Silas felt so light that he was sure the wisps would carry him away. Closing his eyes, he said a final prayer. From somewhere in the mist, the voice of Manuel Aringarosa whispered to him. Our Lord is a good and merciful God. Silas's pain at last began to fade, and he knew the bishop was right. It was late afternoon when the London sun broke through and the city began to dry. Bezu Fache felt weary as he emerged from the interrogation room and hailed a cab. Sir Leigh Teabing had vociferously proclaimed his innocence, and yet from his incoherent rantings about the Holy Grail, secret documents, and mysterious brotherhoods, Fache suspected the wily historian was setting the stage for his lawyers to plead an insanity defense. Sure, Fache thought. Insane. Teabing had displayed ingenious precision in formulating a plan that protected his innocence at every turn. He had exploited both the Vatican and Opus Dei, two groups that turned out to be completely innocent. His dirty work had been carried out unknowingly by a fanatical monk and a desperate bishop. More clever still, Teabing had situated his electronic listening post in the one place a man with polio could not possibly reach. The actual surveillance had been carried out by his manservant, Rumy--the lone person privy to Teabing's true identity--now conveniently dead of an allergic reaction. Hardly the handiwork of someone lacking mental faculties, Fache thought. The information coming from Collet out of Chuteau Villette suggested that Teabing's cunning ran so deep that Fache himself might even learn from it. To successfully hide bugs in some of Paris's most powerful offices, the British historian had turned to the Greeks. Trojan horses. Some of Teabing's intended targets received lavish gifts of artwork, others unwittingly bid at auctions in which Teabing had placed specific lots. In Sauniure's case, the curator had received a dinner invitation to Chuteau Villette to discuss the possibility of Teabing's funding a new Da Vinci Wing at the Louvre. Sauniure's invitation had contained an innocuous postscript expressing fascination with a robotic knight that Sauniure was rumored to have built. Bring him to dinner, Teabing had suggested. Sauniure apparently had done just that and left the knight unattended long enough for Rumy Legaludec to make one inconspicuous addition. Now, sitting in the back of the cab, Fache closed his eyes. One more thing to attend to before I return to Paris. The St. Mary's Hospital recovery room was sunny. "You've impressed us all," the nurse said, smiling down at him. "Nothing short of miraculous." Bishop Aringarosa gave a weak smile. "I have always been blessed." The nurse finished puttering, leaving the bishop alone. The sunlight felt welcome and warm on his face. Last night had been the darkest night of his life. Despondently, he thought of Silas, whose body had been found in the park. Please forgive me, my son. Aringarosa had longed for Silas to be part of his glorious plan. Last night, however, Aringarosa had received a call from Bezu Fache, questioning the bishop about his apparent connection to a nun who had been murdered in Saint-Sulpice. Aringarosa realized the evening had taken a horrifying turn. News of the four additional murders transformed his horror to anguish. Silas, what have you done! Unable to reach the Teacher, the bishop knew he had been cut loose. Used. The only way to stop the horrific chain of events he had helped put in motion was to confess everything to Fache, and from that moment on, Aringarosa and Fache had been racing to catch up with Silas before the Teacher persuaded him to kill again. Feeling bone weary, Aringarosa closed his eyes and listened to the television coverage of the arrest of a prominent British knight, Sir Leigh Teabing. The Teacher laid bare for all to see. Teabing had caught wind of the Vatican's plans to disassociate itself from Opus Dei. He had chosen Aringarosa as the perfect pawn in his plan. After all, who more likely to leap blindly after the Holy Grail than a man like myself with everything to lose? The Grail would have brought enormous power to anyone who possessed it. Leigh Teabing had protected his identity shrewdly--feigning a French accent and a pious heart, and demanding as payment the one thing he did not need--money. Aringarosa had been far too eager to be suspicious. The price tag of twenty million euro was paltry when compared with the prize of obtaining the Grail, and with the Vatican's separation payment to Opus Dei, the finances had worked nicely. The blind see what they want to see. Teabing's ultimate insult, of course, had been to demand payment in Vatican bonds, such that if anything went wrong, the investigation would lead to Rome. "I am glad to see you're well, My Lord." Aringarosa recognized the gruff voice in the doorway, but the face was unexpected--stern, powerful features, slicked-back hair, and a broad neck that strained against his dark suit. "Captain Fache?" Aringarosa asked. The compassion and concern the captain had shown for Aringarosa's plight last night had conjured images of a far gentler physique. The captain approached the bed and hoisted a familiar, heavy black briefcase onto a chair. "I believe this belongs to you." Aringarosa looked at the briefcase filled with bonds and immediately looked away, feeling only shame. "Yes... thank you." He paused while working his fingers across the seam of his bedsheet, then continued. "Captain, I have been giving this deep thought, and I need to ask a favor of you." "Of course." "The families of those in Paris who Silas..." He paused, swallowing the emotion. "I realize no sum could possibly serve as sufficient restitution, and yet, if you could be kind enough to divide the contents of this briefcase among them... the families of the deceased." Fache's dark eyes studied him a long moment. "A virtuous gesture, My Lord. I will see to it your wishes are carried out." A heavy silence fell between them. On the television, a lean French police officer was giving a press conference in front of a sprawling mansion. Fache saw who it was and turned his attention to the screen. "Lieutenant Collet," a BBC reporter said, her voice accusing. "Last night, your captain publicly charged two innocent people with murder. Will Robert Langdon and Sophie Neveu be seeking accountability from your department? Will this cost Captain Fache his job?" Lieutenant Collet's smile was tired but calm. "It is my experience that Captain Bezu Fache seldom makes mistakes. I have not yet spoken to him on this matter, but knowing how he operates, I suspect his public manhunt for Agent Neveu and Mr. Langdon was part of a ruse to lure out the real killer." The reporters exchanged surprised looks. Collet continued. "Whether or not Mr. Langdon and Agent Neveu were willing participants in the sting, I do not know. Captain Fache tends to keep his more creative methods to himself. All I can confirm at this point is that the captain has successfully arrested the man responsible, and that Mr. Langdon and Agent Neveu are both innocent and safe." Fache had a faint smile on his lips as he turned back to Aringarosa. "A good man, that Collet." Several moments passed. Finally, Fache ran his hand over his forehead, slicking back his hair as he gazed down at Aringarosa. "My Lord, before I return to Paris, there is one final matter I'd like to discuss--your impromptu flight to London. You bribed a pilot to change course. In doing so, you broke a number of international laws." Aringarosa slumped. "I was desperate." "Yes. As was the pilot when my men interrogated him." Fache reached in his pocket and produced a purple amethyst ring with a familiar hand-tooled mitre-crozier appliquu. Aringarosa felt tears welling as he accepted the ring and slipped it back on his finger. "You've been so kind." He held out his hand and clasped Fache's. "Thank you." Fache waved off the gesture, walking to the window and gazing out at the city, his thoughts obviously far away. When he turned, there was an uncertainty about him. "My Lord, where do you go from here?" Aringarosa had been asked the exact same question as he left Castel Gandolfo the night before. "I suspect my path is as uncertain as yours." "Yes." Fache paused. "I suspect I will be retiring early." Aringarosa smiled. "A little faith can do wonders, Captain. A little faith." Rosslyn Chapel--often called the Cathedral of Codes--stands seven miles south of Edinburgh, Scotland, on the site of an ancient Mithraic temple. Built by the Knights Templar in 1446, the chapel is engraved with a mind-boggling array of symbols from the Jewish, Christian, Egyptian, Masonic, and pagan traditions. The chapel's geographic coordinates fall precisely on the north-south meridian that runs through Glastonbury. This longitudinal Rose Line is the traditional marker of King Arthur's Isle of Avalon and is considered the central pillar of Britain's sacred geometry. It is from this hallowed Rose Line that Rosslyn--originally spelled Roslin--takes its name. Rosslyn's rugged spires were casting long evening shadows as Robert Langdon and Sophie Neveu pulled their rental car into the grassy parking area at the foot of the bluff on which the chapel stood. Their short flight from London to Edinburgh had been restful, although neither of them had slept for the anticipation of what lay ahead. Gazing up at the stark edifice framed against a cloud-swept sky, Langdon felt like Alice falling headlong into the rabbit hole. This must be a dream. And yet he knew the text of Sauniure's final message could not have been more specific. The Holy Grail 'neath ancient Roslin waits. Langdon had fantasized that Sauniure's "Grail map" would be a diagram--a drawing with an X-marks-the-spot--and yet the Priory's final secret had been unveiled in the same way Sauniure had spoken to them from the beginning. Simple verse. Four explicit lines that pointed without a doubt to this very spot. In addition to identifying Rosslyn by name, the verse made reference to several of the chapel's renowned architectural features. Despite the clarity of Sauniure's final revelation, Langdon had been left feeling more off balance than enlightened. To him, Rosslyn Chapel seemed far too obvious a location. For centuries, this stone chapel had echoed with whispers of the Holy Grail's presence. The whispers had turned to shouts in recent decades when ground-penetrating radar revealed the presence of an astonishing structure beneath the chapel--a massive subterranean chamber. Not only did this deep vault dwarf the chapel atop it, but it appeared to have no entrance or exit. Archaeologists petitioned to begin blasting through the bedrock to reach the mysterious chamber, but the Rosslyn Trust expressly forbade any excavation of the sacred site. Of course, this only fueled the fires of speculation. What was the Rosslyn Trust trying to hide? Rosslyn had now become a pilgrimage site for mystery seekers. Some claimed they were drawn here by the powerful magnetic field that emanated inexplicably from these coordinates, some claimed they came to search the hillside for a hidden entrance to the vault, but most admitted they had come simply to wander the grounds and absorb the lore of the Holy Grail. Although Langdon had never been to Rosslyn before now, he always chuckled when he heard the chapel described as the current home of the Holy Grail. Admittedly, Rosslyn once might have been home to the Grail, long ago... but certainly no longer. Far too much attention had been drawn to Rosslyn in past decades, and sooner or later someone would find a way to break into the vault. True Grail academics agreed that Rosslyn was a decoy--one of the devious dead ends the Priory crafted so convincingly. Tonight, however, with the Priory's keystone offering a verse that pointed directly to this spot, Langdon no longer felt so smug. A perplexing question had been running through his mind all day: Why would Sauniure go to such effort to guide us to so obvious a location? There seemed only one logical answer. There is something about Rosslyn we have yet to understand. "Robert?" Sophie was standing outside the car, looking back at him. "Are you corning?" She was holding the rosewood box, which Captain Fache had returned to them. Inside, both cryptexes had been reassembled and nested as they had been found. The papyrus verse was locked safely at its core--minus the shattered vial of vinegar. Making their way up the long gravel path, Langdon and Sophie passed the famous west wall of the chapel. Casual visitors assumed this oddly protruding wall was a section of the chapel that had not been finished. The truth, Langdon recalled, was far more intriguing. The west wall of Solomon's Temple. The Knights Templar had designed Rosslyn Chapel as an exact architectural blueprint of Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem--complete with a west wall, a narrow rectangular sanctuary, and a subterranean vault like the Holy of Holies, in which the original nine knights had first unearthed their priceless treasure. Langdon had to admit, there existed an intriguing symmetry in the idea of the Templars building a modern Grail repository that echoed the Grail's original hiding place. Rosslyn Chapel's entrance was more modest than Langdon expected. The small wooden door had two iron hinges and a simple, oak sign. This ancient spelling, Langdon explained to Sophie, derived from the Rose Line meridian on which the chapel sat; or, as Grail academics preferred to believe, from the "Line of Rose"--the ancestral lineage of Mary Magdalene. The chapel would be closing soon, and as Langdon pulled open the door, a warm puff of air escaped, as if the ancient edifice were heaving a weary sigh at the end of a long day. Her entry arches burgeoned with carved cinquefoils. Roses. The womb of the goddess. Entering with Sophie, Langdon felt his eyes reaching across the famous sanctuary and taking it all in. Although he had read accounts of Rosslyn's arrestingly intricate stonework, seeing it in person was an overwhelming encounter. Symbology heaven, one of Langdon's colleagues had called it. Every surface in the chapel had been carved with symbols--Christian cruciforms, Jewish stars, Masonic seals, Templar crosses, cornucopias, pyramids, astrological signs, plants, vegetables, pentacles, and roses. The Knights Templar had been master stonemasons, erecting Templar churches all over Europe, but Rosslyn was considered their most sublime labor of love and veneration. The master masons had left no stone uncarved. Rosslyn Chapel was a shrine to all faiths... to all traditions... and, above all, to nature and the goddess. The sanctuary was empty except for a handful of visitors listening to a young man giving the day's last tour. He was leading them in a single-file line along a well-known route on the floor--an invisible pathway linking six key architectural points within the sanctuary. Generations of visitors had walked these straight lines, connecting the points, and their countless footsteps had engraved an enormous symbol on the floor. 0x01 graphic The Star of David, Langdon thought. No coincidence there. Also known as Solomon's Seal, this hexagram had once been the secret symbol of the stargazing priests and was later adopted by the Israelite kings--David and Solomon. The docent had seen Langdon and Sophie enter, and although it was closing time, offered a pleasant smile and motioned for them to feel free to look around. Langdon nodded his thanks and began to move deeper into the sanctuary. Sophie, however, stood riveted in the entryway, a puzzled look on her face. "What is it?" Langdon asked. Sophie stared out at the chapel. "I think... I've been here." Langdon was surprised. "But you said you hadn't even heard of Rosslyn." "I hadn't..." She scanned the sanctuary, looking uncertain. "My grandfather must have brought me here when I was very young. I don't know. It feels familiar." As her eyes scanned the room, she began nodding with more certainty. "Yes." She pointed to the front of the sanctuary. "Those two pillars... I've seen them." Langdon looked at the pair of intricately sculpted columns at the far end of the sanctuary. Their white lacework carvings seemed to smolder with a ruddy glow as the last of the day's sunlight streamed in through the west window. The pillars--positioned where the altar would normally stand--were an oddly matched pair. The pillar on the left was carved with simple, vertical lines, while the pillar on the right was embellished with an ornate, flowering spiral. Sophie was already moving toward them. Langdon hurried after her, and as they reached the pillars, Sophie was nodding with incredulity. "Yes, I'm positive I have seen these!" "I don't doubt you've seen them," Langdon said, "but it wasn't necessarily here." She turned. "What do you mean?" "These two pillars are the most duplicated architectural structures in history. Replicas exist all over the world." "Replicas of Rosslyn?" She looked skeptical. "No. Of the pillars. Do you remember earlier that I mentioned Rosslyn itself is a copy of Solomon's Temple? Those two pillars are exact replicas of the two pillars that stood at the head of Solomon's Temple." Langdon pointed to the pillar on the left. "That's called Boaz--or the Mason's Pillar. The other is called Jachin--or the Apprentice Pillar." He paused. "In fact, virtually every Masonic temple in the world has two pillars like these." Langdon had already explained to her about the Templars' powerful historic ties to the modern Masonic secret societies, whose primary degrees--Apprentice Freemason, Fellowcraft Freemason, and Master Mason--harked back to early Templar days. Sophie's grandfather's final verse made direct reference to the Master Masons who adorned Rosslyn with their carved artistic offerings. It also noted Rosslyn's central ceiling, which was covered with carvings of stars and planets. "I've never been in a Masonic temple," Sophie said, still eyeing the pillars. "I am almost positive I saw these here." She turned back into the chapel, as if looking for something else to jog her memory. The rest of the visitors were now leaving, and the young docent made his way across the chapel to them with a pleasant smile. He was a handsome young man in his late twenties, with a Scottish brogue and strawberry blond hair. "I'm about to close up for the day. May I help you find anything?" How about the Holy Grail? Langdon wanted to say. "The code," Sophie blurted, in sudden revelation. "There's a code here!" The docent looked pleased by her enthusiasm. "Yes there is, ma'am." "It's on the ceiling," she said, turning to the right-hand wall. "Somewhere over... there." He smiled. "Not your first visit to Rosslyn, I see." The code, Langdon thought. He had forgotten that little bit of lore. Among Rosslyn's numerous mysteries was a vaulted archway from which hundreds of stone blocks protruded, jutting down to form a bizarre multifaceted surface. Each block was carved with a symbol, seemingly at random, creating a cipher of unfathomable proportion. Some people believed the code revealed the entrance to the vault beneath the chapel. Others believed it told the true Grail legend. Not that it mattered--cryptographers had been trying for centuries to decipher its meaning. To this day the Rosslyn Trust offered a generous reward to anyone who could unveil the secret meaning, but the code remained a mystery. "I'd be happy to show..." The docent's voice trailed off. My first code, Sophie thought, moving alone, in a trance, toward the encoded archway. Having handed the rosewood box to Langdon, she could feel herself momentarily forgetting all about the Holy Grail, the Priory of Sion, and all the mysteries of the past day. When she arrived beneath the encoded ceiling and saw the symbols above her, the memories came flooding back. She was recalling her first visit here, and strangely, the memories conjured an unexpected sadness. She was a little girl... a year or so after her family's death. Her grandfather had brought her to Scotland on a short vacation. They had come to see Rosslyn Chapel before going back to Paris. It was late evening, and the chapel was closed. But they were still inside. "Can we go home, Grand-pure?" Sophie begged, feeling tired. "Soon, dear, very soon." His voice was melancholy. "I have one last thing I need to do here. How about if you wait in the car?" "You're doing another big person thing?" He nodded. "I'll be fast. I promise." "Can I do the archway code again? That was fun." "I don't know. I have to step outside. You won't be frightened in here alone?" "Of course not!" she said with a huff. "It's not even dark yet!" He smiled. "Very well then." He led her over to the elaborate archway he had shown her earlier. Sophie immediately plopped down on the stone floor, lying on her back and staring up at the collage of puzzle pieces overhead. "I'm going to break this code before you get back!" "It's a race then." He bent over, kissed her forehead, and walked to the nearby side door. "I'll be right outside. I'll leave the door open. If you need me, just call." He exited into the soft evening light. Sophie lay there on the floor, gazing up at the code. Her eyes felt sleepy. After a few minutes, the symbols got fuzzy. And then they disappeared. When Sophie awoke, the floor felt cold. "Grand-pure?" There was no answer. Standing up, she brushed herself off. The side door was still open. The evening was getting darker. She walked outside and could see her grandfather standing on the porch of a nearby stone house directly behind the church. Her grandfather was talking quietly to a person barely visible inside the screened door. "Grand-pure?" she called. Her grandfather turned and waved, motioning for her to wait just a moment. Then, slowly, he said some final words to the person inside and blew a kiss toward the screened door. He came to her with tearful eyes. "Why are you crying, Grand-pure?" He picked her up and held her close. "Oh, Sophie, you and I have said good-bye to a lot of people this year. It's hard." Sophie thought of the accident, of saying good-bye to her mother and father, her grandmother and baby brother. "Were you saying goodbye to another person?" "To a dear friend whom I love very much," he replied, his voice heavy with emotion. "And I fear I will not see her again for a very long time." Standing with the docent, Langdon had been scanning the chapel walls and feeling a rising wariness that a dead end might be looming. Sophie had wandered off to look at the code and left Langdon holding the rosewood box, which contained a Grail map that now appeared to be no help at all. Although Sauniure's poem clearly indicated Rosslyn, Langdon was not sure what to do now that they had arrived. The poem made reference to a "blade and chalice," which Langdon saw nowhere. The Holy Grail 'neath ancient Roslin waits. The blade and chalice guarding o'er Her gates. Again Langdon sensed there remained some facet of this mystery yet to reveal itself. "I hate to pry," the docent said, eyeing the rosewood box in Langdon's hands. "But this box... might I ask where you got it?" Langdon gave a weary laugh. "That's an exceptionally long story." The young man hesitated, his eyes on the box again. "It's the strangest thing--my grandmother has a box exactly like that--a jewelry box. Identical polished rosewood, same inlaid rose, even the hinges look the same." Langdon knew the young man must be mistaken. If ever a box had been one of a kind, it was this one--the box custom-made for the Priory keystone. "The two boxes may be similar but--" The side door closed loudly, drawing both of their gazes. Sophie had exited without a word and was now wandering down the bluff toward a fieldstone house nearby. Langdon stared after her. Where is she going? She had been acting strangely ever since they entered the building. He turned to the docent. "Do you know what that house is?" He nodded, also looking puzzled that Sophie was going down there. "That's the chapel rectory. The chapel curator lives there. She also happens to be the head of the Rosslyn Trust." He paused. "And my grandmother." "Your grandmother heads the Rosslyn Trust?" The young man nodded. "I live with her in the rectory and help keep up the chapel and give tours." He shrugged. "I've lived here my whole life. My grandmother raised me in that house." Concerned for Sophie, Langdon moved across the chapel toward the door to call out to her. He was only halfway there when he stopped short. Something the young man said just registered. My grandmother raised me. Langdon looked out at Sophie on the bluff, then down at the rosewood box in his hand. Impossible. Slowly, Langdon turned back to the young man. "You said your grandmother has a box like this one?" "Almost identical." "Where did she get it?" "My grandfather made it for her. He died when I was a baby, but my grandmother still talks about him. She says he was a genius with his hands. He made all kinds of things." Langdon glimpsed an unimaginable web of connections emerging. "You said your grandmother raised you. Do you mind my asking what happened to your parents?" The young man looked surprised. "They died when I was young." He paused. "The same day as my grandfather." Langdon's heart pounded. "In a car accident?" The docent recoiled, a look of bewilderment in his olive-green eyes. "Yes. In a car accident. My entire family died that day. I lost my grandfather, my parents, and..." He hesitated, glancing down at the floor. "And your sister," Langdon said. Out on the bluff, the fieldstone house was exactly as Sophie remembered it. Night was falling now, and the house exuded a warm and inviting aura. The smell of bread wafted through the opened screened door, and a golden light shone in the windows. As Sophie approached, she could hear the quiet sounds of sobbing from within. Through the screened door, Sophie saw an elderly woman in the hallway. Her back was to the door, but Sophie could see she was crying. The woman had long, luxuriant, silver hair that conjured an unexpected wisp of memory. Feeling herself drawn closer, Sophie stepped onto the porch stairs. The woman was clutching a framed photograph of a man and touching her fingertips to his face with loving sadness. It was a face Sophie knew well. Grand-pure. The woman had obviously heard the sad news of his death last night. A board squeaked beneath Sophie's feet, and the woman turned slowly, her sad eyes finding Sophie's. Sophie wanted to run, but she stood transfixed. The woman's fervent gaze never wavered as she set down the photo and approached the screened door. An eternity seemed to pass as the two women stared at one another through the thin mesh. Then, like the slowly gathering swell of an ocean wave, the woman's visage transformed from one of uncertainty... to disbelief... to hope... and finally, to cresting joy. Throwing open the door, she came out, reaching with soft hands, cradling Sophie's thunderstruck face. "Oh, dear child... look at you!" Although Sophie did not recognize her, she knew who this woman was. She tried to speak but found she could not even breathe. "Sophie," the woman sobbed, kissing her forehead. Sophie's words were a choked whisper. "But... Grand-pure said you were..." "I know." The woman placed her tender hands on Sophie's shoulders and gazed at her with familiar eyes. "Your grandfather and I were forced to say so many things. We did what we thought was right. I'm so sorry. It was for your own safety, princess." Sophie heard her final word, and immediately thought of her grandfather, who had called her princess for so many years. The sound of his voice seemed to echo now in the ancient stones of Rosslyn, settling through the earth and reverberating in the unknown hollows below. The woman threw her arms around Sophie, the tears flowing faster. "Your grandfather wanted so badly to tell you everything. But things were difficult between you two. He tried so hard. There's so much to explain. So very much to explain." She kissed Sophie's forehead once again, then whispered in her ear. "No more secrets, princess. It's time you learn the truth about our family." Sophie and her grandmother were seated on the porch stairs in a tearful hug when the young docent dashed across the lawn, his eyes shining with hope and disbelief. "Sophie?" Through her tears, Sophie nodded, standing. She did not know the young man's face, but as they embraced, she could feel the power of the blood coursing through his veins... the blood she now understood they shared. When Langdon walked across the lawn to join them, Sophie could not imagine that only yesterday she had felt so alone in the world. And now, somehow, in this foreign place, in the company of three people she barely knew, she felt at last that she was home. Night had fallen over Rosslyn. Robert Langdon stood alone on the porch of the fieldstone house enjoying the sounds of laughter and reunion drifting through the screened door behind him. The mug of potent Brazilian coffee in his hand had granted him a hazy reprieve from his mounting exhaustion, and yet he sensed the reprieve would be fleeting. The fatigue in his body went to the core. "You slipped out quietly," a voice behind him said. He turned. Sophie's grandmother emerged, her silver hair shimmering in the night. Her name, for the last twenty-eight years at least, was Marie Chauvel. Langdon gave a tired smile. "I thought I'd give your family some time together." Through the window, he could see Sophie talking with her brother. Marie came over and stood beside him. "Mr. Langdon, when I first heard of Jacques's murder, I was terrified for Sophie's safety. Seeing her standing in my doorway tonight was the greatest relief of my life. I cannot thank you enough." Langdon had no idea how to respond. Although he had offered to give Sophie and her grandmother time to talk in private, Marie had asked him to stay and listen. My husband obviously trusted you, Mr. Langdon, so I do as well. And so Langdon had remained, standing beside Sophie and listening in mute astonishment while Marie told the story of Sophie's late parents. Incredibly, both had been from Merovingian families--direct descendants of Mary Magdalene and Jesus Christ. Sophie's parents and ancestors, for protection, had changed their family names of Plantard and Saint-Clair. Their children represented the most direct surviving royal bloodline and therefore were carefully guarded by the Priory. When Sophie's parents were killed in a car accident whose cause could not be determined, the Priory feared the identity of the royal line had been discovered. "Your grandfather and I," Marie had explained in a voice choked with pain, "had to make a grave decision the instant we received the phone call. Your parents' car had just been found in the river." She dabbed at the tears in her eyes. "All six of us--including you two grandchildren--were supposed to be traveling together in that car that very night. Fortunately we changed our plans at the last moment, and your parents were alone. Hearing of the accident, Jacques and I had no way to know what had really happened... or if this was truly an accident." Marie looked at Sophie. "We knew we had to protect our grandchildren, and we did what we thought was best. Jacques reported to the police that your brother and I had been in the car... our two bodies apparently washed off in the current. Then your brother and I went underground with the Priory. Jacques, being a man of prominence, did not have the luxury of disappearing. It only made sense that Sophie, being the eldest, would stay in Paris to be taught and raised by Jacques, close to the heart and protection of the Priory." Her voice fell to a whisper. "Separating the family was the hardest thing we ever had to do. Jacques and I saw each other only very infrequently, and always in the most secret of settings... under the protection of the Priory. There are certain ceremonies to which the brotherhood always stays faithful." Langdon had sensed the story went far deeper, but he also sensed it was not for him to hear. So he had stepped outside. Now, gazing up at the spires of Rosslyn, Langdon could not escape the hollow gnaw of Rosslyn's unsolved mystery. Is the Grail really here at Rosslyn? And if so, where are the blade and chalice that Sauniure mentioned in his poem? "I'll take that," Marie said, motioning to Langdon's hand. "Oh, thank you." Langdon held out his empty coffee cup. She stared at him. "I was referring to your other hand, Mr. Langdon." Langdon looked down and realized he was holding Sauniure's papyrus. He had taken it from the cryptex once again in hopes of seeing something he had missed earlier. "Of course, I'm sorry." Marie looked amused as she took the paper. "I know of a man at a bank in Paris who is probably very eager to see the return of this rosewood box. Andru Vernet was a dear friend of Jacques, and Jacques trusted him explicitly. Andru would have done anything to honor Jacques's requests for the care of this box." Including shooting me, Langdon recalled, deciding not to mention that he had probably broken the poor man's nose. Thinking of Paris, Langdon flashed on the three sunuchaux who had been killed the night before. "And the Priory? What happens now?" "The wheels are already in motion, Mr. Langdon. The brotherhood has endured for centuries, and it will endure this. There are always those waiting to move up and rebuild." All evening Langdon had suspected that Sophie's grandmother was closely tied to the operations of the Priory. After all, the Priory had always had women members. Four Grand Masters had been women. The sunuchaux were traditionally men--the guardians--and yet women held far more honored status within the Priory and could ascend to the highest post from virtually any rank. Langdon thought of Leigh Teabing and Westminster Abbey. It seemed a lifetime ago. "Was the Church pressuring your husband not to release the Sangreal documents at the End of Days?" "Heavens no. The End of Days is a legend of paranoid minds. There is nothing in the Priory doctrine that identifies a date at which the Grail should be unveiled. In fact the Priory has always maintained that the Grail should never be unveiled." "Never?" Langdon was stunned. "It is the mystery and wonderment that serve our souls, not the Grail itself. The beauty of the Grail lies in her ethereal nature." Marie Chauvel gazed up at Rosslyn now. "For some, the Grail is a chalice that will bring them everlasting life. For others, it is the quest for lost documents and secret history. And for most, I suspect the Holy Grail is simply a grand idea... a glorious unattainable treasure that somehow, even in today's world of chaos, inspires us." "But if the Sangreal documents remain hidden, the story of Mary Magdalene will be lost forever," Langdon said. "Will it? Look around you. Her story is being told in art, music, and books. More so every day. The pendulum is swinging. We are starting to sense the dangers of our history... and of our destructive paths. We are beginning to sense the need to restore the sacred feminine." She paused. "You mentioned you are writing a manuscript about the symbols of the sacred feminine, are you not?" "I am." She smiled. "Finish it, Mr. Langdon. Sing her song. The world needs modern troubadours." Langdon fell silent, feeling the weight of her message upon him. Across the open spaces, a new moon was rising above the tree line. Turning his eyes toward Rosslyn, Langdon felt a boyish craving to know her secrets. Don't ask, he told himself. This is not the moment. He glanced at the papyrus in Marie's hand, and then back at Rosslyn. "Ask the question, Mr. Langdon," Marie said, looking amused. "You have earned the right." Langdon felt himself flush. "You want to know if the Grail is here at Rosslyn." "Can you tell me?" She sighed in mock exasperation. "Why is it that men simply cannot let the Grail rest?" She laughed, obviously enjoying herself. "Why do you think it's here?" Langdon motioned to the papyrus in her hand. "Your husband's poem speaks specifically of Rosslyn, except it also mentions a blade and chalice watching over the Grail. I didn't see any symbols of the blade and chalice up there." "The blade and chalice?" Marie asked. "What exactly do they look like?" Langdon sensed she was toying with him, but he played along, quickly describing the symbols. A look of vague recollection crossed her face. "Ah, yes, of course. The blade represents all that is masculine. I believe it is drawn like this, no?" Using her index finger, she traced a shape on her palm. 0x01 graphic "Yes," Langdon said. Marie had drawn the less common "closed" form of the blade, although Langdon had seen the symbol portrayed both ways. "And the inverse," she said, drawing again on her palm, "is the chalice, which represents the feminine." 0x01 graphic "Correct," Langdon said. "And you are saying that in all the hundreds of symbols we have here in Rosslyn Chapel, these two shapes appear nowhere?" "I didn't see them." "And if I show them to you, will you get some sleep?" Before Langdon could answer, Marie Chauvel had stepped off the porch and was heading toward the chapel. Langdon hurried after her. Entering the ancient building, Marie turned on the lights and pointed to the center of the sanctuary floor. "There you are, Mr. Langdon. The blade and chalice." Langdon stared at the scuffed stone floor. It was blank. "There's nothing here...." Marie sighed and began to walk along the famous path worn into the chapel floor, the same path Langdon had seen the visitors walking earlier this evening. As his eyes adjusted to see the giant symbol, he still felt lost. "But that's the Star of Dav--" Langdon stopped short, mute with amazement as it dawned on him. 0x01 graphic The blade and chalice. Fused as one. The Star of David... the perfect union of male and female... Solomon's Seal... marking the Holy of Holies, where the male and female deities--Yahweh and Shekinah--were thought to dwell. Langdon needed a minute to find his words. "The verse does point here to Rosslyn. Completely. Perfectly." Marie smiled. "Apparently." The implications chilled him. "So the Holy Grail is in the vault beneath us?" She laughed. "Only in spirit. One of the Priory's most ancient charges was one day to return the Grail to her homeland of France where she could rest for eternity. For centuries, she was dragged across the countryside to keep her safe. Most undignified. Jacques's charge when he became Grand Master was to restore her honor by returning her to France and building her a resting place fit for a queen." "And he succeeded?" Now her face grew serious. "Mr. Langdon, considering what you've done for me tonight, and as curator of the Rosslyn Trust, I can tell you for certain that the Grail is no longer here." Langdon decided to press. "But the keystone is supposed to point to the place where the Holy Grail is hidden now. Why does it point to Rosslyn?" "Maybe you're misreading its meaning. Remember, the Grail can be deceptive. As could my late husband." "But how much clearer could he be?" he asked. "We are standing over an underground vault marked by the blade and chalice, underneath a ceiling of stars, surrounded by the art of Master Masons. Everything speaks of Rosslyn." "Very well, let me see this mysterious verse." She unrolled the papyrus and read the poem aloud in a deliberate tone. The Holy Grail 'neath ancient Roslin waits. The blade and chalice guarding o'er Her gates. Adorned in masters' loving art, She lies. She rests at last beneath the starry skies. When she finished, she was still for several seconds, until a knowing smile crossed her lips. "Aah, Jacques." Langdon watched her expectantly. "You understand this?" "As you have witnessed on the chapel floor, Mr. Langdon, there are many ways to see simple things." Langdon strained to understand. Everything about Jacques Sauniure seemed to have double meanings, and yet Langdon could see no further. Marie gave a tired yawn. "Mr. Langdon, I will make a confession to you. I have never officially been privy to the present location of the Grail. But, of course, I was married to a person of enormous influence... and my women's intuition is strong." Langdon started to speak but Marie continued. "I am sorry that after all your hard work, you will be leaving Rosslyn without any real answers. And yet, something tells me you will eventually find what you seek. One day it will dawn on you." She smiled. "And when it does, I trust that you, of all people, can keep a secret." There was a sound of someone arriving in the doorway. "Both of you disappeared," Sophie said, entering. "I was just leaving," her grandmother replied, walking over to Sophie at the door. "Good night, princess." She kissed Sophie's forehead. "Don't keep Mr. Langdon out too late." Langdon and Sophie watched her grandmother walk back toward the fieldstone house. When Sophie turned to him, her eyes were awash in deep emotion. "Not exactly the ending I expected." That makes two of us, he thought. Langdon could see she was overwhelmed. The news she had received tonight had changed everything in her life. "Are you okay? It's a lot to take in." She smiled quietly. "I have a family. That's where I'm going to start. Who we are and where we came from will take some time." Langdon remained silent. "Beyond tonight, will you stay with us?" Sophie asked. "At least for a few days?" Langdon sighed, wanting nothing more. "You need some time here with your family, Sophie. I'm going back to Paris in the morning." She looked disappointed but seemed to know it was the right thing to do. Neither of them spoke for a long time. Finally Sophie reached over and, taking his hand, led him out of the chapel. They walked to a small rise on the bluff. From here, the Scottish countryside spread out before them, suffused in a pale moonlight that sifted through the departing clouds. They stood in silence, holding hands, both of them fighting the descending shroud of exhaustion. The stars were just now appearing, but to the east, a single point of light glowed brighter than any other. Langdon smiled when he saw it. It was Venus. The ancient Goddess shining down with her steady and patient light. The night was growing cooler, a crisp breeze rolling up from the lowlands. After a while, Langdon looked over at Sophie. Her eyes were closed, her lips relaxed in a contented smile. Langdon could feel his own eyes growing heavy. Reluctantly, he squeezed her hand. "Sophie?" Slowly, she opened her eyes and turned to him. Her face was beautiful in the moonlight. She gave him a sleepy smile. "Hi." Langdon felt an unexpected sadness to realize he would be returning to Paris without her. "I may be gone before you wake up." He paused, a knot growing in his throat. "I'm sorry, I'm not very good at--" Sophie reached out and placed her soft hand on the side of his face. Then, leaning forward, she kissed him tenderly on the cheek. "When can I see you again?" Langdon reeled momentarily, lost in her eyes. "When?" He paused, curious if she had any idea how much he had been wondering the same thing. "Well, actually, next month I'm lecturing at a conference in Florence. I'll be there a week without much to do." "Is that an invitation?" "We'd be living in luxury. They're giving me a room at the Brunelleschi." Sophie smiled playfully. "You presume a lot, Mr. Langdon." He cringed at how it had sounded. "What I meant--" "I would love nothing more than to meet you in Florence, Robert. But on one condition." Her tone turned serious. "No museums, no churches, no tombs, no art, no relics." "In Florence? For a week? There's nothing else to do." Sophie leaned forward and kissed him again, now on the lips. Their bodies came together, softly at first, and then completely. When she pulled away, her eyes were full of promise. "Right," Langdon managed. "It's a date." Robert Langdon awoke with a start. He had been dreaming. The bathrobe beside his bed bore the monogram HOTEL RITZ PARIS. He saw a dim light filtering through the blinds. Is it dusk or dawn? he wondered. Langdon's body felt warm and deeply contented. He had slept the better part of the last two days. Sitting up slowly in bed, he now realized what had awoken him... the strangest thought. For days he had been trying to sort through a barrage of information, but now Langdon found himself fixed on something he'd not considered before. Could it be? He remained motionless a long moment. Getting out of bed, he walked to the marble shower. Stepping inside, he let the powerful jets message his shoulders. Still, the thought enthralled him. Impossible. Twenty minutes later, Langdon stepped out of the Hotel Ritz into Place Vendume. Night was falling. The days of sleep had left him disoriented... and yet his mind felt oddly lucid. He had promised himself he would stop in the hotel lobby for a cafe au lait to clear his thoughts, but instead his legs carried him directly out the front door into the gathering Paris night. Walking east on Rue des Petits Champs, Langdon felt a growing excitement. He turned south onto Rue Richelieu, where the air grew sweet with the scent of blossoming jasmine from the stately gardens of the Palais Royal. He continued south until he saw what he was looking for--the famous royal arcade--a glistening expanse of polished black marble. Moving onto it, Langdon scanned the surface beneath his feet. Within seconds, he found what he knew was there--several bronze medallions embedded in the ground in a perfectly straight line. Each disk was five inches in diameter and embossed with the letters N and S. Nord. Sud. He turned due south, letting his eye trace the extended line formed by the medallions. He began moving again, following the trail, watching the pavement as he walked. As he cut across the corner of the Comudie-Franuaise, another bronze medallion passed beneath his feet. Yes! The streets of Paris, Langdon had learned years ago, were adorned with 135 of these bronze markers, embedded in sidewalks, courtyards, and streets, on a north-south axis across the city. He had once followed the line from Sacru-Coeur, north across the Seine, and finally to the ancient Paris Observatory. There he discovered the significance of the sacred path it traced. The earth's original prime meridian. The first zero longitude of the world. Paris's ancient Rose Line. Now, as Langdon hurried across Rue de Rivoli, he could feel his destination within reach. Less than a block away. The Holy Grail 'neath ancient Roslin waits. The revelations were coming now in waves. Sauniure's ancient spelling of Roslin... the blade and chalice... the tomb adorned with masters' art. Is that why Sauniure needed to talk with me? Had I unknowingly guessed the truth? He broke into a jog, feeling the Rose Line beneath his feet, guiding him, pulling him toward his destination. As he entered the long tunnel of Passage Richelieu, the hairs on his neck began to bristle with anticipation. He knew that at the end of this tunnel stood the most mysterious of Parisian monuments--conceived and commissioned in the 1980s by the Sphinx himself, Franuois Mitterrand, a man rumored to move in secret circles, a man whose final legacy to Paris was a place Langdon had visited only days before. Another lifetime. With a final surge of energy, Langdon burst from the passageway into the familiar courtyard and came to a stop. Breathless, he raised his eyes, slowly, disbelieving, to the glistening structure in front of him. The Louvre Pyramid. Gleaming in the darkness. He admired it only a moment. He was more interested in what lay to his right. Turning, he felt his feet again tracing the invisible path of the ancient Rose Line, carrying him across the courtyard to the Carrousel du Louvre--the enormous circle of grass surrounded by a perimeter of neatly trimmed hedges--once the site of Paris's primeval nature-worshipping festivals... joyous rites to celebrate fertility and the Goddess. Langdon felt as if he were crossing into another world as he stepped over the bushes to the grassy area within. This hallowed ground was now marked by one of the city's most unusual monuments. There in the center, plunging into the earth like a crystal chasm, gaped the giant inverted pyramid of glass that he had seen a few nights ago when he entered the Louvre's subterranean entresol. La Pyramide Inversue. Tremulous, Langdon walked to the edge and peered down into the Louvre's sprawling underground complex, aglow with amber light. His eye was trained not just on the massive inverted pyramid, but on what lay directly beneath it. There, on the floor of the chamber below, stood the tiniest of structures... a structure Langdon had mentioned in his manuscript. Langdon felt himself awaken fully now to the thrill of unthinkable possibility. Raising his eyes again to the Louvre, he sensed the huge wings of the museum enveloping him... hallways that burgeoned with the world's finest art. Da Vinci... Botticelli... Adorned in masters' loving art, She lies. Alive with wonder, he stared once again downward through the glass at the tiny structure below. I must go down there! Stepping out of the circle, he hurried across the courtyard back toward the towering pyramid entrance of the Louvre. The day's last visitors were trickling out of the museum. Pushing through the revolving door, Langdon descended the curved staircase into the pyramid. He could feel the air grow cooler. When he reached the bottom, he entered the long tunnel that stretched beneath the Louvre's courtyard, back toward La Pyramide Inversue. At the end of the tunnel, he emerged into a large chamber. Directly before him, hanging down from above, gleamed the inverted pyramid--a breathtaking V-shaped contour of glass. The Chalice. Langdon's eyes traced its narrowing form downward to its tip, suspended only six feet above the floor. There, directly beneath it, stood the tiny structure. A miniature pyramid. Only three feet tall. The only structure in this colossal complex that had been built on a small scale. Langdon's manuscript, while discussing the Louvre's elaborate collection of goddess art, had made passing note of this modest pyramid. "The miniature structure itself protrudes up through the floor as though it were the tip of an iceberg--the apex, of an enormous, pyramidical vault, submerged below like a hidden chamber." Illuminated in the soft lights of the deserted entresol, the two pyramids pointed at one another, their bodies perfectly aligned, their tips almost touching. The Chalice above. The Blade below. The blade and chalice guarding o'er Her gates. Langdon heard Marie Chauvel's words. One day it will dawn on you. He was standing beneath the ancient Rose Line, surrounded by the work of masters. What better place for Sauniure to keep watch? Now at last, he sensed he understood the true meaning of the Grand Master's verse. Raising his eyes to heaven, he gazed upward through the glass to a glorious, star-filled night. She rests at last beneath the starry skies. Like the murmurs of spirits in the darkness, forgotten words echoed. The quest for the Holy Grail is the quest to kneel before the bones of Mary Magdalene. A journey to pray at the feet of the outcast one. With a sudden upwelling of reverence, Robert Langdon fell to his knees. For a moment, he thought he heard a woman's voice... the wisdom of the ages... whispering up from the chasms of the earth.

: 43, Last-modified: Wed, 16 Feb 2005 20:01:34 GMT