FOR BLYTHE... AGAIN. MORE THAN EVER.
First and foremost, to my friend and editor, Jason Kaufman, for working so hard on this project and for truly understanding what this book is all about. And to the incomparable Heide Lange tireless champion of The Da Vinci Code, agent extraordinaire, and trusted friend. I cannot fully express my gratitude to the exceptional team at Doubleday, for their generosity, faith, and superb guidance. Thank you especially to Bill Thomas and Steve
Rubin, who believed in this book from the start. My thanks also to the initial core of early in-house supporters, headed by Michael Palgon, Suzanne Herz, Janelle Moburg, Jackie Everly, and Adrienne Sparks, as well as to the talented people of Doubleday's sales force.
For their generous assistance in the research of the book, I would like to acknowledge the Louvre Museum, the French Ministry of Culture, Project Gutenberg, Bibliothèque 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, André 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 Brownfellow scribe, nurturer, musician, and role model. And my wife, Blytheart historian, painter, front-line editor, and without
a doubt the most astonishingly talented woman I have ever known.
FACT: The Priory of Sion a European secret society founded in 1099is a real organization. In 1975 Paris's Bibliothèque 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.
Prologue Louvre Museum, Paris 10:46 P.M. Renowned curator Jacques Saunière 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 Saunière 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 defenceless on the floor of the gallery. "I have no idea what you are talking about!"
"You are lying." The man stared at him, perfectly immobile except for the glint in his ghostly eyes. "You and your brethren possess something that is not yours."
The curator felt a surge of adrenaline. How could he possibly know this?
"Tonight the rightful guardians will be restored. Tell me where it is hidden, and you will live." The man leveled his gun at the curator's head. "Is it a secret you will die for?"
Saunière could not breathe.
The man tilted his head, peering down the barrel of his gun.
Saunière 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."
Saunière 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 sénéchaux, was almost as sacred as the ancient secret they protected.
Saunière now realized his sénéchaux, 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, Saunière rolled over and stared back through the bars at his attacker.
The man was now taking dead aim at Saunière's head.
Saunière closed his eyes, his thoughts a swirling tempest of fear and regret.
The click of an empty chamber echoed through the corridor.
The curator's eyes flew open.
The man glanced down at his weapon, looking almost amused. He reached for a second Clip, but then seemed to reconsider, smirking calmly at Saunière'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'Algérie, 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 Saunière 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 Saunière 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. Saunière 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 darknessa tinny, unfamiliar ring. He fumbled for the bedside lamp and turned it on. Squinting at his surroundings he saw a plush Renaissance bedroom with Louis XVI furniture, hand-frescoed walls, and a colossal mahogany four- poster bed.
Where the hell am I?
The jacquard bathrobe hanging on his bedpost bore the monogram: HOTEL RITZ PARIS.
Slowly, the fog began to lift.
Langdon picked up the receiver. "Hello?"
"Monsieur Langdon?" a man's voice said. "I hope I have not awoken you?"
Dazed, Langdon looked at the bedside clock. It was 12:32 A.M. He had been asleep only an hour, but he felt like the dead.
"This is the concierge, monsieur. I apologize for this intrusion, but you have a visitor. He insists it is urgent."
Langdon still felt fuzzy. A visitor? His eyes focused now on a crumpled flyer on his bedside table.
THE AMERICAN UNIVERSITY OF PARIS proudly presents
AN EVENING WITH ROBERT LANGDON
PROFESSOR OF RELIGIOUS SYMBOLOGY,
Langdon groaned. Tonight's lecture a slide show about pagan symbolism hidden in the stones of Chartres Cathedral had probably ruffled some conservative feathers in the audience. Most likely, some religious scholar had trailed him home to pick a fight.
"I'm sorry," Langdon said, "but I'm very tired and"
"Mais, monsieur," the concierge pressed, lowering his voice to an urgent whisper. "Your guest is an important man."
Langdon had little doubt. His books on religious paintings and cult symbology had made him a reluctant celebrity in the art world, and last year Langdon's visibility had increased a hundredfold after his involvement in a widely publicized incident at the Vatican. Since then, the stream of self-important historians and art buffs arriving at his door had seemed never-ending.
"If you would be so kind," Langdon said, doing his best to remain polite, "could you take the man's name and number, and tell him I'll try to call him before I leave Paris on
Tuesday? Thank you." He hung up before the concierge could protest.
Sitting up now, Langdon frowned at his bedside Guest Relations
Handbook, whose cover boasted: SLEEP LIKE A BABY IN THE CITY OF LIGHTS. SLUMBER AT THE PARIS RITZ. He turned and gazed tiredly into the full-length mirror across the room.
The man staring back at him was a stranger tousled and weary.
You need a vacation, Robert.
The past year had taken a heavy toll on him, but he didn't appreciate seeing proof in the mirror. His usually sharp blue eyes looked hazy and drawn tonight. A dark stubble was shrouding his strong jaw and dimpled chin. Around his temples, the gray highlights were advancing, making their way deeper into his thicket of coarse black hair. Although his female colleagues insisted the gray only accentuated his bookish appeal, Langdon knew better.
If Boston Magazine could see me now.
Last month, much to Langdon's embarrassment, Boston Magazine had listed him as one of that city's top ten most intriguing people a dubious honor that made him the brunt of endless ribbing by his Harvard colleagues. Tonight, three thousand miles from home, the accolade had resurfaced to haunt him at the lecture he had given.
"Ladies and gentlemen..." the hostess had announced to a full house at the American
University of Paris's Pavilion Dauphine, "Our guest tonight needs no introduction. He is the author of numerous books: The Symbology of Secret Sects, The
An of the Illuminati,
The Lost Language of Ideograms, and when I say he wrote the book on Religious
Iconology, I mean that quite literally. Many of you use his textbooks in class."
The students in the crowd nodded enthusiastically.
"I had planned to introduce him tonight by sharing his impressive curriculum vitae.
However..." She glanced playfully at Langdon, who was seated onstage. "An audience member has just handed me a far more, shall we say... intriguing introduction."
She held up a copy of Boston Magazine.
Langdon cringed. Where the hell did she get that?
The hostess began reading choice excerpts from the inane article, and Langdon felt himself sinking lower and lower in his chair. Thirty seconds later, the crowd was grinning, and the woman showed no signs of letting up. "And Mr. Langdon's refusal to speak publicly about his unusual role in last year's Vatican conclave certainly wins him points on our intrigue-o-meter." The hostess goaded the crowd. "Would you like to hear more?"
The crowd applauded.
Somebody stop her, Langdon pleaded as she dove into the article again.
"Although Professor Langdon might not be considered hunk- handsome like some of our younger awardees, this forty-something academic has more than his share of scholarly allure. His captivating presence is punctuated by an unusually low, baritone speaking voice, which his female students describe as 'chocolate for the ears.' "
The hall erupted in laughter.
Langdon forced an awkward smile. He knew what came next some ridiculous line about
"Harrison Ford in Harris tweed"and because this evening he had figured it was finally safe again to wear his Harris tweed and Burberry turtleneck, he decided to take action.
"Thank you, Monique," Langdon said, standing prematurely and edging her away from the podium. "Boston Magazine clearly has a gift for fiction." He turned to the audience with an embarrassed sigh. "And if I find which one of you provided that article, I'll have the consulate deport you."
The crowd laughed.
"Well, folks, as you all know, I'm here tonight to talk about the power of symbols..."
The ringing of Langdon's hotel phone once again broke the silence.
Groaning in disbelief, he picked up. "Yes?"
As expected, it was the concierge. "Mr. Langdon, again my apologies.
I am calling to inform you that your guest is now en route to your room. I thought I should alert you."
Langdon was wide awake now. "You sent someone to my room?"
"I apologize, monsieur, but a man like this... I cannot presume the authority to stop him."
"Who exactly is he?"
But the concierge was gone.
Almost immediately, a heavy fist pounded on Langdon's door.
Uncertain, Langdon slid off the bed, feeling his toes sink deep into the savonniere carpet.
He donned the hotel bathrobe and moved toward the door. "Who is it?"
"Mr. Langdon? I need to speak with you." The man's English was accented a sharp, authoritative bark. "My name is Lieutenant Jerome Collet. Direction
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 Saunière had been slated to meet for drinks after Langdon's lecture tonight, but Saunière 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 déjà vu. A little over a year ago, Langdon had received a photograph of a corpse and a similar request for help.
Twenty-four hours later, he had almost lost his life inside Vatican City. This photo was entirely different, and yet something about the scenario felt disquietingly familiar.
The agent checked his watch. "My capitaine is waiting, sir."
Langdon barely heard him. His eyes were still riveted on the picture.
"This symbol here, and the way his body is so oddly..."
"Positioned?" the agent offered.
Langdon nodded, feeling a chill as he looked up. "I can't imagine who would do this to someone."
The agent looked grim. "You don't understand, Mr. Langdon. What you see in this photograph..." He paused. "Monsieur Saunière 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 Bruyère. 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
Pain is good.
His red eyes scanned the lobby as he entered the residence. Empty.
He climbed the stairs quietly, not wanting to awaken any of his fellow numeraries. His bedroom door was open; locks were forbidden here. He entered, closing the door behind him.
The room was spartan hardwood floors, a pine dresser, a canvas mat in the corner that served as his bed. He was a visitor here this week, and yet for many years he had been blessed with a similar sanctuary in New York City.
The Lord has provided me shelter and purpose in my life.
Tonight, at last, Silas felt he had begun to repay his debt. Hurrying to the dresser, he found the cell phone hidden in his bottom drawer and placed a call.
"Yes?" a male voice answered.
"Teacher, I have returned."
"Speak," the voice commanded, sounding pleased to hear from him.
"All four are gone. The three sénéchaux... and the Grand Master himself."
There was a momentary pause, as if for prayer. "Then I assume you have the information?"
"All four concurred. Independently."
"And you believed them?"
"Their agreement was too great for coincidence."
An excited breath. "Excellent. I had feared the brotherhood's reputation for secrecy might prevail."
"The prospect of death is strong motivation."
"So, my pupil, tell me what I must know."
Silas knew the information he had gleaned from his victims would come as a shock.
"Teacher, all four confirmed the existence of the clef de voûte... 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 stonea clef de voûte... or
keystonean engraved tablet that revealed the final resting place of the brotherhood's greatest secret... information so powerful that its protection was the reason for the brotherhood's very existence.
"When we possess the keystone," the Teacher said, "we will be only one step away."
"We are closer than you think. The keystone is here in Paris."
"Paris? Incredible. It is almost too easy."
Silas relayed the earlier events of the evening... how all four of his victims, moments before death, had desperately tried to buy back their godless lives by telling their secret.
Each had told Silas the exact same thing that the keystone was ingeniously hidden at a precise location inside one of Paris's ancient churches the Eglise de Saint-Sulpice.
"Inside a house of the Lord," the Teacher exclaimed. "How they mock us!"
"As they have for centuries."
The Teacher fell silent, as if letting the triumph of this moment settle over him. Finally, he spoke. "You have done a great service to God. We have waited centuries for this. You must retrieve the stone for me. Immediately. Tonight. You understand the stakes."
Silas knew the stakes were incalculable, and yet what the Teacher was now commanding seemed impossible. "But the church, it is a fortress. Especially at night. How will I enter?" With the confident tone of a man of enormous influence, the Teacher explained what was to be done.
When Silas hung up the phone, his skin tingled with anticipation. One hour, he told himself, grateful that the Teacher had given him time to carry out the necessary penance before entering a house of God.
I must purge my soul of today's sins. The sins committed today had been holy in purpose. Acts of war against the enemies of God had been committed for centuries. Forgiveness was assured. Even so, Silas knew, absolution required sacrifice. Pulling his shades, he stripped naked and knelt in the center of his room. Looking down, he examined the spiked cilice belt clamped around his thigh. All true followers of The Way wore this device a leather strap, studded with sharp metal barbs that cut into the flesh as a perpetual reminder of Christ's suffering. The pain caused by the device also helped counteract the desires of the flesh. Although Silas already had worn his cilice today longer than the requisite two hours, he knew today was no ordinary day. Grasping the buckle, he cinched it one notch tighter, wincing as the barbs dug deeper into his flesh.
Exhaling slowly, he savored the cleansing ritual of his pain. Pain is good, Silas whispered, repeating the sacred mantra of Father
Josemaría Escriváthe Teacher of all Teachers. Although Escrivá 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 Citroën
ZX as it skimmed south past the Opera House and crossed Place Vendôme. 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 Saunière is dead. Langdon could not help but feel a deep sense of loss at the curator's death.
Despite Saunière'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 Saunière did that to himself? Langdon turned and looked out the window, forcing the picture from his mind. Outside, the city was just now winding downstreet 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 Citroën navigated the chaos with authority, its dissonant two-tone siren parting the traffic like a knife. "Le capitaine was pleased to discover you were still in Paris tonight," the agent said, speaking for the first time since they'd left the hotel.
"A fortunate coincidence." Langdon was feeling anything but fortunate, and coincidence was a concept he did not entirely trust.
As someone who had spent his life exploring the hidden interconnectivity of disparate emblems and ideologies, Langdon viewed the world as a web of profoundly intertwined histories and events. The connections may be invisible, he often preached to his symbology classes at Harvard, but they are always there, buried just beneath the surface. "I assume," Langdon said, "that the
American University of Paris told you where I was staying?" The driver shook his head. "Interpol." Interpol, Langdon thought. Of course. He had forgotten that the seemingly innocuous request of all European hotels to see a passport at check-in was more than a quaint formalityit was the law. On any given night, all across Europe,
Interpol officials could pinpoint exactly who was sleeping where.
Finding Langdon at the Ritz had probably taken all of five seconds.
As the Citroën 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 Shortcould 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
Citroën 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 GardensParis'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 tilesor 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 Citroën 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 Musée 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 Musée 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. Musée 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 façade of the Louvre rose like a citadel against the Paris sky. Shaped like an enormous horseshoe, the Louvre was the longest building in
Europe, stretching farther than three Eiffel Towers laid end to end. Not even the million square feet of open plaza between the museum wings could challenge the majesty of the facade's breadth.
Langdon had once walked the Louvre's entire perimeter, an astonishing three-mile journey. Despite the estimated five days it would take a visitor to properly appreciate the 65,300 pieces of art in this building, most tourists chose an abbreviated experience
Langdon referred to as "Louvre Lite"a full sprint through the museum to see the three most famous objects: the Mona Lisa,
Venus de Milo, and Winged Victory. Art Buchwald had once boasted he'd seen all three masterpieces in five minutes and fifty-six seconds. The driver pulled out a handheld walkie-talkie and spoke in rapid-fire French. "Monsieur Langdon est arrivé. 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 Citroën up over the curb. The Louvre's main entrance was visible now, rising boldly in the distance, encircled by seven triangular pools from which spouted illuminated fountains.
The new entrance to the Paris Louvre had become almost as famous as the museum itself.
The controversial, neomodern glass pyramid designed by Chinese- born American architect I. M. Pei still evoked scorn from traditionalists who felt it destroyed the dignity of the Renaissance courtyard. Goethe had described architecture as frozen music, and Pei's critics described this pyramid as fingernails on a chalkboard.
Progressive admirers, though, hailed Pei's seventy-one-foot-tall transparent pyramid as a dazzling synergy of ancient structure and modern method a symbolic link between the old and new helping usher the Louvre into the next millennium.
"Do you like our pyramid?" the agent asked.
Langdon frowned. The French, it seemed, loved to ask Americans this. It was a loaded question, of course. Admitting you liked the pyramid made you a tasteless American, and expressing dislike was an insult to the French.
"Mitterrand was a bold man," Langdon replied, splitting the difference. The late French president who had commissioned the pyramid was said to have suffered from a "Pharaoh complex." Singlehandedly responsible for filling Paris with Egyptian obelisks, art, and artifacts.
François Mitterrand had an affinity for Egyptian culture that was so all-consuming that the French still referred to him as the Sphinx.
"What is the captain's name?" Langdon asked, changing topics.
"Bezu Fache," the driver said, approaching the pyramid's main entrance. "We call him le Taureau."
Langdon glanced over at him, wondering if every Frenchman had a mysterious animal epithet. "You call your captain the Bull?"
The man arched his eyebrows. "Your French is better than you admit, Monsieur Langdon."
My French stinks, Langdon thought, but my zodiac iconography is pretty good. Taurus was always the bull. Astrology was a symbolic constant all over the world.
The agent pulled the car to a stop and pointed between two fountains to a large door in the side of the pyramid. "There is the entrance. Good luck, monsieur."
"You're not coming?"
"My orders are to leave you here. I have other business to attend to."
Langdon heaved a sigh and climbed out. It's your circus.
The agent revved his engine and sped off.
As Langdon stood alone and watched the departing taillights, he realized he could easily reconsider, exit the courtyard, grab a taxi, and head home to bed.
Something told him it was probably a lousy idea.
As he moved toward the mist of the fountains, Langdon had the uneasy sense he was crossing an imaginary threshold into another world. The dreamlike quality of the evening was settling around him again. Twenty minutes ago he had been asleep in his hotel room.
Now he was standing in front of a transparent pyramid built by the
Sphinx, waiting for a policeman they called the Bull.
I'm trapped in a Salvador Dali painting, he thought.
Langdon strode to the main entrance an enormous revolving door.
The foyer beyond was dimly lit and deserted.
Do I knock?
Langdon wondered if any of Harvard's revered Egyptologists had ever knocked on the front door of a pyramid and expected an answer. He raised his hand to bang on the glass, but out of the darkness below, a figure appeared, striding up the curving staircase. The man was stocky and dark, almost Neanderthal, dressed in a dark double-breasted suit that strained to cover his wide shoulders. He advanced with unmistakable authority on squat, powerful legs. He was speaking on his cell phone but finished the call as he arrived. He motioned for Langdon to enter.
"I am Bezu Fache," he announced as Langdon pushed through the revolving door.
"Captain of the Central Directorate Judicial Police." His tone was
fittinga 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 Saunière himself did"
"Mr. Langdon," Fache's ebony eyes locked on. "What you see in the photo is only the beginning of what Saunière did."
Captain Bezu Fache carried himself like an angry ox, with his wide shoulders thrown back and his chin tucked hard into his chest. His dark hair was slicked back with oil, accentuating an arrow-like widow's peak that divided his jutting brow and preceded him like the prow of a battleship. As he advanced, his dark eyes seemed to scorch the earth before him, radiating a fiery clarity that forecast his reputation for unblinking severity in all matters.
Langdon followed the captain down the famous marble staircase into the sunken atrium beneath the glass pyramid. As they descended, they passed between two armed Judicial
Police guards with machine guns. The message was clear: Nobody goes in or out tonight without the blessing of Captain Fache.
Descending below ground level, Langdon fought a rising trepidation.
Fache's presence was anything but welcoming, and the Louvre itself had an almost sepulchral aura at this hour. The staircase, like the aisle of a dark movie theater, was illuminated by subtle tread-lighting embedded in each step. Langdon could hear his own footsteps reverberating off the glass overhead. As he glanced up, he could see the faint illuminated wisps of mist from the fountains fading away outside the transparent roof.
"Do you approve?" Fache asked, nodding upward with his broad chin.
Langdon sighed, too tired to play games. "Yes, your pyramid is magnificent."
Fache grunted. "A scar on the face of Paris."
Strike one. Langdon sensed his host was a hard man to please. He wondered if Fache had any idea that this pyramid, at President Mitterrand's explicit demand, had been constructed of exactly 666 panes of glass a bizarre request that had always been a hot topic among conspiracy buffs who claimed 666 was the number of
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 façade above, the subterranean hall was usually vibrant with sunlight and tourists. Tonight, however, the lobby was barren and dark, giving the entire space a cold and crypt-like atmosphere.
"And the museum's regular security staff?" Langdon asked.
"En quarantaine," Fache replied, sounding as if Langdon were questioning the integrity of Fache's team. "Obviously, someone gained entry tonight who should not have. All
Louvre night wardens are in the Sully Wing being questioned. My own agents have taken over museum security for the evening."
Langdon nodded, moving quickly to keep pace with Fache.
"How well did you know Jacques Saunière?" 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 pyramidLa Pyramide Inverséea huge inverted skylight that hung from the ceiling like a stalactite in an adjoining section of the entresol. Fache guided Langdon up a short set of stairs to the mouth of an arched tunnel, over which a sign read: DENON. The Denon Wing was the most famous of the Louvre's three main sections.
"Who requested tonight's meeting?" Fache asked suddenly. "You or he?"
The question seemed odd. "Mr. Saunière did," Langdon replied as they entered the tunnel.
"His secretary contacted me a few weeks ago via e-mail. She said the curator had heard I would be lecturing in Paris this month and wanted to discuss something with me while I was here."
"I don't know. Art, I imagine. We share similar interests."
Fache looked skeptical. "You have no idea what your meeting was about?"
Langdon did not. He'd been curious at the time but had not felt comfortable demanding specifics. The venerated Jacques Saunière 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. Saunière's work. I use his texts often in my classes."
Fache made note of that fact in his book.
The two men were now halfway up the Denon Wing's entry tunnel, and Langdon could see the twin ascending escalators at the far end, both motionless.
"So you shared interests with him?" Fache asked.
"Yes. In fact, I've spent much of the last year writing the draft for a book that deals with
Mr. Saunière'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 Saunière was knowledgeable about this?" "Nobody more so." "I see." Langdon sensed Fache did not see at all. Jacques Saunière was considered the premiere goddess iconographer on earth. Not only did Saunière have a personal passion for relics relating to fertility, goddess cults,
Wicca, and the sacred feminine, but during his twenty-year tenure as curator, Saunière had helped the Louvre amass the largest collection of goddess art on earthlabrys 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 Saunière 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. Saunière," 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. Sayingnothing, 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 clipa silver crucifix with thirteen embedded pieces of black onyx. Langdon found it vaguely surprising. The symbol was known as a crux gemmataa cross bearing thirteen gemsa Christian ideogram for Christ and His twelve apostles. Somehow Langdon had not expected the captain of the French police to broadcast his religion so openly. Then again, this was France; Christianity was not a religion here so much as a birthright. "It's a crux gemmata" Fache said suddenly. Startled, Langdon glanced up to find Fache's eyes on him in the reflection. The elevator jolted to a stop, and the doors opened. Langdon stepped quickly out into the hallway, eager for the wide-open space afforded by the famous high ceilings of the Louvre galleries. The world into which he stepped, however, was nothing like he expected. Surprised, Langdon stopped short. Fache glanced over. "I gather, Mr. Langdon, you have never seen the Louvre after hours?" I guess not, Langdon thought, trying to get his bearings. Usually impeccably illuminated, the Louvre galleries were startlingly dark tonight. Instead of the customary flat-white light flowing down from above, a muted red glow seemed to emanate upward from the baseboards intermittent patches of red light spilling out onto the tile floors. As Langdon gazed down the murky corridor, he realized he should have anticipated this scene.
Virtually all major galleries employed red service lighting at night strategically placed, low-level, noninvasive lights that enabled staff members to navigate hallways and yet kept the paintings in relative darkness to slow the fading effects of overexposure to light.
Tonight, the museum possessed an almost oppressive quality. Long shadows encroached everywhere, and the usually soaring vaulted ceilings appeared as a low, black void. "This way," Fache said, turning sharply right and setting out through a series of interconnected galleries. Langdon followed, his vision slowly adjusting to the dark.
All around, large-format oils began to materialize like photos developing before him in an enormous darkroom... their eyes following as he moved through the rooms. He could taste the familiar tang of museum air an arid, deionized essence that carried a faint hint of carbon the product of industrial, coal-filter dehumidifiers that ran around the clock to counteract the corrosive carbon dioxide exhaled by visitors. Mounted high on the walls, the visible security cameras sent a clear message to visitors: We see you. Do not touch anything. "Any of them real?" Langdon asked,
motioning to the cameras. Fache shook his head. "Of course not."
Langdon was not surprised. Video surveillance in museums this size
was cost-prohibitive and ineffective. With acres of galleries to
watch over, the Louvre would require several hundred technicians
simply to monitor the feeds. Most large museums now used
"containment security." Forget keeping thieves out. Keep them in.
Containment was activated after hours, and if an intruder removed a
piece of artwork, compartmentalized exits would seal around that
gallery, and the thief would find himself behind bars even before
the police arrived. The sound of voices echoed down the marble
corridor up ahead. The noise seemed to be coming from a large
recessed alcove that lay ahead on the right. A bright light spilled
out into the hallway. "Office of the curator," the captain said. As he
and Fache drew nearer the alcove, Langdon peered down a short
hallway, into Saunière'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 Saunière'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 dérangez pas sous aucun
prétexte. 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 Galeriea
seemingly endless corridor that housed the Louvre's most valuable
Italian masterpieces. Langdon had already discerned that this was
where Saunière'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
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 appliqué. Throwing the travel bag over his shoulder, he said a silent prayer and left his apartment, descending to the lobby where his driver was waiting to
take him to the airport. Now, sitting aboard a commercial airliner
bound for Rome, Aringarosa gazed out the window at the dark
Atlantic. The sun had already set, but Aringarosa knew his own star
was on the rise. Tonight the battle will be won, he thought, amazed
that only months ago he had felt powerless against the hands that
threatened to destroy his empire. As president-general of Opus
Dei, Bishop Aringarosa had spent the last decade of his life
spreading the message of "God's Work" literally, Opus Dei. The
congregation, founded in 1928 by the Spanish priest Josemaría
Escrivá, 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 Josemaría Escrivá's spiritual book
The Way999 points of meditation for doing God's Work in one's
own life Escrivá's message exploded across the world. Now, with
over four million copies of The Way in circulation in forty-two
languages, Opus Dei was a global force. Its residence halls, teaching
centers, and even universities could be found in almost every major
metropolis on earth. Opus Dei was the fastest-growing and most
financially secure Catholic organization in the world. Unfortunately,
Aringarosa had learned, in an age of religious cynicism, cults, and
televangelists, Opus Dei's escalating wealth and power was a magnet
for suspicion. "Many call Opus Dei a brainwashing cult," reporters
often challenged. "Others call you an ultraconservative Christian
secret society. Which are you?"
"Opus Dei is neither," the bishop would patiently reply. "We are a Catholic Church. We are a congregation of Catholics who have chosen as our priority to follow Catholic doctrine as rigorously as we can in our own daily lives." "Does God's Work necessarily include
vows of chastity, tithing, and atonement for sins through self-
flagellation and the cilice?" "You are describing only a small portion
of the Opus Dei population," Aringarosa said. "There are many levels
of involvement. Thousands of Opus Dei members are married, have
families, and do God's Work in their own communities. Others
choose lives of asceticism within our cloistered residence halls.
These choices are personal, but everyone in Opus Dei shares the
goal of bettering the world by doing the Work of God. Surely this is
an admirable quest." Reason seldom worked, though. The media
always gravitated toward scandal, and Opus Dei, like most large
organizations, had within its membership a few misguided souls who
cast a shadow over the entire group. Two months ago, an Opus Dei
group at a midwestern university had been caught drugging new
recruits with mescaline in an effort to induce a euphoric state that
neophytes would perceive as a religious experience. Another
university student had used his barbed cilice belt more often than
the recommended two hours a day and had given himself a near
lethal infection. In Boston not long ago, a disillusioned young
investment banker had signed over his entire life savings to Opus
Dei before attempting suicide. Misguided sheep, Aringarosa
thought, his heart going out to them. Of course the ultimate
embarrassment had been the widely publicized trial of FBI spy
Robert Hanssen, who, in addition to being a prominent member of
Opus Dei, had turned out to be a sexual deviant, his trial uncovering
evidence that he had rigged hidden video cameras in his own
bedroom so his friends could watch him having sex with his wife.
"Hardly the pastime of a devout Catholic," the judge had noted.
Sadly, all of these events had helped spawn the new watch group known as the Opus Dei Awareness Network (ODAN). The group's popular website www.odan.org relayed frightening stories from former Opus Dei members who warned of the dangers of joining.
The media was now referring to Opus Dei as "God's Mafia" and "the
Cult of Christ." We fear what we do not understand, Aringarosa
thought, wondering if these critics had any idea how many lives
Opus Dei had enriched. The group enjoyed the full endorsement and
blessing of the Vatican. Opus Dei is a personal prelature of the Pope
himself. Recently, however, Opus Dei had found itself threatened by
a force infinitely more powerful than the media... an unexpected foe
from which Aringarosa could not possibly hide. Five months ago, the
kaleidoscope of power had been shaken, and Aringarosa was still
reeling from the blow. "They know not the war they have begun,"
Aringarosa whispered to himself, staring out the plane's window at
the darkness of the ocean below. For an instant, his eyes refocused,
lingering on the reflection of his awkward facedark 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
illusiona 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 Saunière from his attacker. The
killer was locked out there in the hallway and shot Saunière 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. Saunière died in here alone." Langdon pictured the photograph
of Saunière'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 Decembera 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 Saunière went this far?" "Mr. Saunière 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."
"And?" "They found no one inside. Except..." He pointed farther
down the hall. "Him." Langdon lifted his gaze and followed Fache's
outstretched finger. At first he thought Fache was pointing to a
large marble statue in the middle of the hallway. As they continued,
though, Langdon began to see past the statue. Thirty yards down
the hall, a single spotlight on a portable pole stand shone down on
the floor, creating a stark island of white light in the dark crimson
gallery. In the center of the light, like an insect under a microscope,
the corpse of the curator lay naked on the parquet floor. "You saw
the photograph," Fache said, "so this should be of no surprise."
Langdon felt a deep chill as they approached the body. Before him
was one of the strangest images he had ever seen.
The pallid corpse of Jacques Saunière 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 Saunière had spent his last minutes of life arranging his own body in this strange fashion. Saunière 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 Saunière'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. Saunière'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, Saunière 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 Saunière's navel, gave his corpse a distinctly ghoulish aura. The
photo Langdon had seen was chilling enough, but now, witnessing the
scene in person, Langdon felt a deepening uneasiness. He did this to himself.
"Mr. Langdon?" Fache's dark eyes settled on him again. "It's a
pentacle," Langdon offered, his voice feeling hollow in the huge
space. "One of the oldest symbols on earth. Used over four
thousand years before Christ." "And what does it mean?" Langdon
always hesitated when he got this question. Telling someone what a
symbol "meant" was like telling them how a song should make them
feel it was different for all people. A white Ku Klux Klan headpiece
conjured images of hatred and racism in the United States, and yet
the same costume carried a meaning of religious faith in Spain.
"Symbols carry different meanings in different settings," Langdon
said. "Primarily, the pentacle is a pagan religious symbol." Fache
nodded. "Devil worship." "No," Langdon corrected, immediately
realizing his choice of vocabulary should have been clearer.
Nowadays, the term pagan had become almost synonymous with devil
worship a gross misconception. The word's roots actually reached
back to the Latin paganus, meaning country-dwellers. "Pagans" were
literally unindoctrinated country-folk who clung to the old, rural
religions of Nature worship. In fact, so strong was the Church's
fear of those who lived in the rural villes that the once innocuous
word for "villager" villain came to mean a wicked soul. "The
pentacle," Langdon clarified, "is a pre-Christian symbol that relates
to Nature worship. The ancients envisioned their world in two halves
masculine and feminine. Their gods and goddesses worked to keep a
balance of power. Yin and yang. When male and female were
balanced, there was harmony in the world. When they were
unbalanced, there was chaos." Langdon motioned to Saunière'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.' Saunière, of all people, would know this."
"Saunière 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 cliché 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 Saunière 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 Saunière's arms,
legs, and head as he again ran a hand across his slick hair.
"Interesting analysis." He paused. "And the nudity?" He grumbled as
he spoke the word, sounding repulsed by the sight of an aging male
body. "Why did he remove his clothing?" Damned good question,
Langdon thought. He'd been wondering the same thing ever since he
first saw the Polaroid. His best guess was that a naked human form
was yet another endorsement of Venus the goddess of human
sexuality. Although modern culture had erased much of Venus's
association with the male/female physical union, a sharp
etymological eye could still spot a vestige of Venus's original
meaning in the word "venereal." Langdon decided not to go there.
"Mr. Fache, I obviously can't tell you why Mr. Saunière drew that
symbol on himself or placed himself in this way, but I can tell you
that a man like Jacques Saunière 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
"Fine. And the use of his own blood as ink?"
"Obviously he had nothing else to write with."
Fache was silent a moment. "Actually, I believe he used blood such
that the police would
follow certain forensic procedures."
"Look at his left hand."
Langdon's eyes traced the length of the curator's pale arm to his
left hand but saw nothing.
Uncertain, he circled the corpse and crouched down, now noting with
surprise that the
curator was clutching a large, felt-tipped marker.
"Saunière was holding it when we found him," Fache said, leaving
Langdon and moving
several yards to a portable table covered with investigation tools,
cables, and assorted electronic gear. "As I told you," he said, rummaging around the table, "we have touched nothing. Are you familiar with this kind of pen?"
Langdon knelt down farther to see the pen's label.
STYLO DE LUMIERE NOIRE.
He glanced up in surprise.
The black-light pen or watermark stylus was a specialized felt-tipped marker originally designed by museums, restorers, and forgery police to place invisible marks on items.
The stylus wrote in a noncorrosive, alcohol-based fluorescent ink that was visible only under black light. Nowadays, museum maintenance staffs carried these markers on their daily rounds to place invisible "tick marks" on the frames of paintings that needed restoration.
As Langdon stood up, Fache walked over to the spotlight and turned it off. The gallery plunged into sudden darkness.
Momentarily blinded, Langdon felt a rising uncertainty. Fache's
illuminated in bright purple. He approached carrying a portable light
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
Not far away, inside Saunière'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 Saunière'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 vérité, he mused.
Smiling, he closed his eyes and settled in to enjoy the rest of the conversation now being taped inside the Grand Gallery.
The modest dwelling within the Church of Saint-Sulpice was located on the second floor of the church itself, to the left of the choir balcony. A two-room
suite with a stone floor and minimal furnishings, it had been home to Sister Sandrine Bieil for over a decade. The nearby convent was her formal residence, if anyone asked, but she preferred the quiet of the church and had made herself quite comfortable upstairs with a bed, phone, and hot plate.
As the church's conservatrice d'affaires, Sister Sandrine was responsible for overseeing all nonreligious aspects of church operations general maintenance, hiring support staff and guides, securing the building after hours, and ordering supplies like communion wine and wafers.
Tonight, asleep in her small bed, she awoke to the shrill of her telephone. Tiredly, she lifted the receiver.
"Soeur Sandrine. Eglise Saint-Sulpice."
"Hello, Sister," the man said in French.
Sister Sandrine sat up. What time is it? Although she recognized
her boss's voice, in
fifteen years she had never been awoken by him. The abbé was a
deeply pious man who
went home to bed immediately after mass.
"I apologize if I have awoken you, Sister," the abbé 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
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
Suspiciously, Opus Dei's elevation occurred the same year the
wealthy sect allegedly had
transferred almost one billion dollars into the Vatican's Institute
Workscommonly known as the Vatican Bankbailing it out of an
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 abbé 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-
"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
"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 abbé 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 Saunière's final communication seemed as unlikely a departing message as any Langdon could imagine.
The message read: 13-3-2-21-1-1-8-5
O, Draconian devil!
Oh, lame saint!
Although Langdon had not the slightest idea what it meant, he did understand Fache's instinct that the pentacle had something to do with devil worship.
O, Draconian devil!
Saunière 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
Langdon looked again at the digits, sensing it would take him hours
to extract any
symbolic meaning. If Saunière 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 herethe pentacle, the text, the
numbersseemed disparate at the
most fundamental level.
"You alleged earlier," Fache said, "that Saunière'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 communiqué
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
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
"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.
"Saunière'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.
"Saunière 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. "Précisément. Any idea why?"
Langdon knew Saunière 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 Saunière's abdomen.
"Nothing to do with devil
worship? Are you still certain?"
Langdon was certain of nothing anymore. "The symbology and text
don't seem to
coincide. I'm sorry I can't be of more help."
"Perhaps this will clarify." Fache backed away from the body and
raised the black light
again, letting the beam spread out in a wider angle. "And now?"
To Langdon's amazement, a rudimentary circle glowed around the curator's body.
Saunière had apparently lay down and swung the pen around himself
in several long arcs,
essentially inscribing himself inside a circle.
In a flash, the meaning became clear.
"The Vitruvian Man," Langdon gasped. Saunière 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
Saunière'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 messagemale and female harmony. The question now,
though, was why Saunière 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 Saunière 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, Saunière was simply echoing
some of their shared frustrations with the modern Church's
demonization of the goddess." Fache's eyes hardened. "You think
Saunière 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. Saunière 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 Saunière 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 Saunière 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 Saunière wrote this note to tell us who killed him."
Langdon stared. "But that makes no sense whatsoever." "No?" "No,"
he fired back, tired and frustrated. "You told me Saunière was
attacked in his office by someone he had apparently invited in."
"Yes." "So it seems reasonable to conclude that the curator knew
his attacker." Fache nodded. "Go on." "So if Saunière knew the
person who killed him, what kind of indictment is this?" He pointed
at the floor. "Numeric codes? Lame saints? Draconian devils?
Pentacles on his stomach? It's all too cryptic." Fache frowned as if
the idea had never occurred to him. "You have a point." "Considering
the circumstances," Langdon said, "I would assume that if Saunière
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. "Précisément," Fache said. "Précisément."
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 supérieur 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 Saunière, Fache had said.
You know what to do. No mistakes tonight. And so far, no mistakes had been made. Collet was not yet privy to the evidence that had cemented Fache's certainty of their suspect's guilt, but he knew better than to question the instincts of the Bull. Fache's intuition seemed almost supernatural at times. God whispers in his ear, one agent had insisted after a particularly impressive display of Fache's sixth sense. Collet had to admit, if there was a God, Bezu Fache would be on His A-list. The captain attended mass and confession with zealous regularityfar 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 tonightthe 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 cachéeespecially 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 Département de Cryptographie est
arrivé." Fache's anger stalled momentarily. A cryptographer?
Despite the lousy timing, this was probably good news. Fache, after
finding Saunière'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 Saunière was trying to say. If a code breaker had now arrived, it most likely meant someone had decrypted Saunière'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 déchiffreuse 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
woman always drew eyes away from the work at hand.
The man on the radio said, "Agent Neveu insisted on speaking to you immediately,
Captain. I tried to stop her, but she's on her way into the gallery."
Fache recoiled in disbelief. "Unacceptable! I made it very clear"
For a moment, Robert Langdon thought Bezu Fache was suffering a stroke. The captain was mid-sentence when his jaw stopped moving and his eyes bulged.
His blistering gaze
seemed fixated on something over Langdon's shoulder. Before
Langdon could turn to see
what it was, he heard a woman's voice chime out behind him.
Langdon turned to see a young woman approaching. She was moving
down the corridor
toward them with long, fluid strides... a haunting certainty to her
gait. Dressed casually in
a knee-length, cream-colored Irish sweater over black leggings, she
was attractive and
looked to be about thirty. Her thick burgundy hair fell unstyled to
her shoulders, framing
the warmth of her face. Unlike the waifish, cookie-cutter blondes
that adorned Harvard
dorm room walls, this woman was healthy with an unembellished
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
words curved richly around her muted Anglo-Franco accent. "It is a
pleasure to meet
Langdon took her soft palm in his and felt himself momentarily
fixed in her strong gaze.
Her eyes were olive-greenincisive 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
"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.
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 êtes 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
compared with the anguish of his life before Opus Dei had saved
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
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
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
by the arrival of an albino son, beat his mother regularly, blaming
her for the boy's
embarrassing condition. When the boy tried to defend her, he too
was badly beaten.
One night, there was a horrific fight, and his mother never got up.
The boy stood over his
lifeless mother and felt an unbearable up-welling of guilt for
permitting it to happen.
This is my fault!
As if some kind of demon were controlling his body, the boy walked
to the kitchen and
grasped a butcher knife. Hypnotically, he moved to the bedroom
where his father lay on
the bed in a drunken stupor. Without a word, the boy stabbed him in
the back. His father
cried out in pain and tried to roll over, but his son stabbed him
again, over and over until
the apartment fell quiet.
The boy fled home but found the streets of Marseilles equally
unfriendly. His strange appearance made him an outcast among the
other young runaways, and he was forced to live alone in the
basement of a dilapidated factory, eating stolen fruit and raw fish
from the dock. His only companions were tattered magazines he
found in the trash, and he taught himself to read them. Over time,
he grew strong. When he was twelve, another drifter a girl twice his
age mocked him on the streets and attempted to steal his food. The
girl found herself pummeled to within inches of her life. When the
authorities pulled the boy off her, they gave him an ultimatum leave
Marseilles or go to juvenile prison. The boy moved down the coast to
Toulon. Over time, the looks of pity on the streets turned to looks
of fear. The boy had grown to a powerful young man. When people
passed by, he could hear them whispering to one another. A ghost,
they would say, their eyes wide with fright as they stared at his
white skin. A ghost with the eyes of a devil! And he felt like a
ghost... transparent... floating from seaport to seaport. People
seemed to look right through him. At eighteen, in a port town, while
attempting to steal a case of cured ham from a cargo ship, he was
caught by a pair of crewmen. The two sailors who began to beat him
smelled of beer, just as his father had. The memories of fear and
hatred surfaced like a monster from the deep. The young man broke
the first sailor's neck with his bare hands, and only the arrival of
the police saved the second sailor from a similar fate. Two months
later, in shackles, he arrived at a prison in Andorra. You are as white
as a ghost, the inmates ridiculed as the guards marched him in,
naked and cold. Mira el espectro! Perhaps the ghost will pass right
through these walls! Over the course of twelve years, his flesh and
soul withered until he knew he had become transparent. I am a
ghost. I am weightless. Yo soy un espectro... palido coma una
fantasma... caminando este mundo a solas. One night the ghost
awoke to the screams of other inmates. He didn't know what
invisible force was shaking the floor on which he slept, nor what
mighty hand was trembling the mortar of his stone cell, but as he
jumped to his feet, a large boulder toppled onto the very spot
where he had been sleeping. Looking up to see where the stone had
come from, he saw a hole in the trembling wall, and beyond it, a
vision he had not seen in over ten years. The moon. Even while the
earth still shook, the ghost found himself scrambling through a
narrow tunnel, staggering out into an expansive vista, and tumbling
down a barren mountainside into the woods. He ran all night, always
downward, delirious with hunger and exhaustion. Skirting the edges
of consciousness, he found himself at dawn in a clearing where train
tracks cut a swath across the forest. Following the rails, he moved
on as if dreaming. Seeing an empty freight car, he crawled in for
shelter and rest. When he awoke the train was moving. How long?
How far? A pain was growing in his gut. Am I dying? He slept again.
This time he awoke to someone yelling, beating him, throwing him
out of the freight car. Bloody, he wandered the outskirts of a small
village looking in vain for food. Finally, his body too weak to take
another step, he lay down by the side of the road and slipped into
unconsciousness. The light came slowly, and the ghost wondered how
long he had been dead. A day? Three days? It didn't matter. His
bed was soft like a cloud, and the air around him smelled
sweet with candles. Jesus was there, staring down at him. I am
here, Jesus said. The stone
has been rolled aside, and you are born again.
He slept and awoke. Fog shrouded his thoughts. He had never
believed in heaven, and yet
Jesus was watching over him. Food appeared beside his bed, and the
ghost ate it, almost
able to feel the flesh materializing on his bones. He slept again.
When he awoke, Jesus
was still smiling down, speaking. You are saved, my son. Blessed are
those who follow
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
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
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
His heart began pounding. The priest knows who I am! The emotion
he felt was one he
had not felt for some time. Shame. Guilt. It was accompanied by the
fear of being caught.
He jumped from his bed. Where do I run?
"The Book of Acts," a voice said from the door.
The ghost turned, frightened.
The young priest was smiling as he entered. His nose was awkwardly
bandaged, and he
was holding out an old Bible. "I found one in French for you. The
chapter is marked."
Uncertain, the ghost took the Bible and looked at the chapter the
priest had marked.
The verses told of a prisoner named Silas who lay naked and beaten
in his cell, singing
hymns to God. When the ghost reached Verse 26, he gasped in
"...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
"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
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
"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
"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
"I do this to protect your identity, Silas's identity, and my
"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.
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
He felt a renewed confidence that the Teacher and Silas would not
fail. Money and faith
were powerful motivators.
"Une plaisanterie numérique?" Bezu Fache was livid, glaring at
Sophie Neveu in
disbelief. A numeric joke? "Your professional assessment of
Saunière'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 Saunière, in
his final moments of life, had been inspired to leave a mathematical
"This code," Sophie explained in rapid French, "is simplistic to the
point of absurdity.
Jacques Saunière 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
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
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
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
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
"Mathematician Leonardo Fibonacci created this succession of
numbers in the thirteenth-
century. Obviously there can be no coincidence that all of the
numbers Saunière wrote on
the floor belong to Fibonacci's famous sequence."
Fache stared at the young woman for several moments. "Fine, if
there is no coincidence,
would you tell me why Jacques Saunière chose to do this. What is he
saying? What does
She shrugged. "Absolutely nothing. That's the point. It's a
simplistic cryptographic joke.
Like taking the words of a famous poem and shuffling them at
random to see if anyone
recognizes what all the words have in common."
Fache took a menacing step forward, placing his face only inches
from Sophie's. "I
certainly hope you have a much more satisfying explanation than
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
Saunière 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 statetheir 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'émasculation de la Police Judiciaire, Fache called it.
Paris Match had run a cartoon recently depicting Fache as a police
dog, trying to bite an American criminal, but unable to reach
because it was chained to the U.S. Embassy. Not tonight, Fache told
himself. There is far too much at stake. By the time Robert Langdon
hung up the phone, he looked ill. "Is everything all right?" Fache
asked. Weakly, Langdon shook his head. Bad news from home, Fache
sensed, noticing Langdon was sweating slightly as Fache took back
his cell phone. "An accident," Langdon stammered, looking at Fache
with a strange expression. "A friend..." He hesitated. "I'll need to
fly home first thing in the morning." Fache had no doubt the shock
on Langdon's face was genuine, and yet he sensed another emotion
there too, as if a distant fear were suddenly simmering in the
American's eyes. "I'm sorry to hear that," Fache said, watching
Langdon closely. "Would you like to sit down?" He motioned toward
one of the viewing benches in the gallery. Langdon nodded absently
and took a few steps toward the bench. He paused, looking more
confused with every moment. "Actually, I think I'd like to use the
rest room." Fache frowned inwardly at the delay. "The rest room.
Of course. Let's take a break for a few minutes." He motioned back
down the long hallway in the direction they had come from. "The
rest rooms are back toward the curator's office." Langdon
hesitated, pointing in the other direction toward the far end of the
Grand Gallery corridor. "I believe there's a much closer rest room
at the end." Fache realized Langdon was right. They were two thirds
of the way down, and the Grand Gallery dead-ended at a pair of rest
rooms. "Shall I accompany you?" Langdon shook his head, already
moving deeper into the gallery. "Not necessary. I think I'd like a
few minutes alone." Fache was not wild about the idea of Langdon
wandering alone down the remaining length of corridor, but he took
comfort in knowing the Grand Gallery was a dead end whose only
exit was at the other end the gate under which they had entered.
Although French fire regulations required several emergency
stairwells for a space this large, those stairwells had been sealed
automatically when Saunière 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. Saunière's office for a moment," Fache said. "Please come find
me directly, Mr. Langdon. There is more we need to discuss."
Langdon gave a quiet wave as he disappeared into the darkness.
Turning, Fache marched angrily in the opposite direction. Arriving at
the gate, he slid
under, exited the Grand Gallery, marched down the hall, and
stormed into the command
center at Saunière's office.
"Who gave the approval to let Sophie Neveu into this building!"
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
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
standing on Saunière's desk. Then he turned back to Collet. "Do you
Collet gave a curt nod and spun the laptop toward Fache. The red
dot was clearly visible
on the floor plan overlay, blinking methodically in a room marked
"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
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
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
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 cachée. 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
methodssurveillance cachéea 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 pocketone he never used. Feeling around inside, he found
nothing. What the devil did you expect? He began wondering if
Sophie might just be insane after all. Then his fingers brushed
something unexpected. Small and hard. Pinching the tiny object
between his fingers, Langdon pulled it out and stared in
astonishment. It was a metallic, button-shaped disk, about the size
of a watch battery. He had never seen it before. "What the...?"
"GPS tracking dot," Sophie said. "Continuously transmits its location
to a Global Positioning System satellite that DCPJ can monitor. We
use them to monitor people's locations. It's accurate within two
feet anywhere on the globe. They have you on an electronic leash.
The agent who picked you up at the hotel slipped it inside your
pocket before you left your room." Langdon flashed back to the
hotel room... his quick shower, getting dressed, the DCPJ agent
politely holding out Langdon's tweed coat as they left the room. It's
cool outside, Mr. Langdon, the agent had said. Spring in Paris is not
all your song boasts. Langdon had thanked him and donned the
jacket. Sophie's olive gaze was keen. "I didn't tell you about the
tracking dot earlier because I didn't want you checking your pocket
in front of Fache. He can't know you've found it." Langdon had no
idea how to respond. "They tagged you with GPS because they
thought you might run." She paused. "In fact, they hoped you would
run; it would make their case stronger." "Why would I run!" Langdon
demanded. "I'm innocent!" "Fache feels otherwise." Angrily, Langdon
stalked toward the trash receptacle to dispose of the tracking dot.
"No!" Sophie grabbed his arm and stopped him. "Leave it in your
pocket. If you throw it out, the signal will stop moving, and they'll
know you found the dot. The only reason
Fache left you alone is because he can monitor where you are. If he
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
"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 Saunière wrote on the
Langdon nodded. The numbers and words were imprinted on
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
earlier tonight in hopes we could figure out what Saunière's
message was trying to say.
This is a photo of the complete message." She handed the page to
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!
Find Robert Langdon
For several seconds, Langdon stared in wonder at the photograph
of Saunière's postscript.
Find Robert Langdon. He felt as if the floor were tilting beneath
his feet. Saunière
left a postscript with my name on it? In his wildest dreams, Langdon
could not fathom
"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 Saunière would have accused his killer by
Find Robert Langdon.
"Why would Saunière write this?" Langdon demanded, his confusion
now giving way to
anger. "Why would I want to kill Jacques Saunière?"
"Fache has yet to uncover a motive, but he has been recording his
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 Saunière'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
questioning." 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 Saunière 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 Saunière is trying to frame
me?" "Saunière 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.
Saunière 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 attention."
"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 Saunière and I..." Sophie's voice caught, and Langdon heard
a sudden melancholy there, a painful past, simmering just below the
surface. Sophie and Jacques Saunière 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
"Because of The Vitruvian Man?"
"Yes. And the letters P.S."
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
Saunière was my
"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
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.
"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
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
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,
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
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
"Who is it?" Fache said.
The agent frowned. "It's the director of our Cryptology
"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.
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 flesh.
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
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
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 Saunière 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 onceto 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,
Saunière 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 oblivion. 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 Saunièrea 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
strangersSophie 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 upforty 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 Sacré-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
"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
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 best.
Nonetheless, Sophie made her decision.
Robert Langdon was about to escape the Louvre, whether he wanted
to or not.
"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
"Why did Crypto call?" Collet now ventured.
Fache turned. "To tell us they found no references to Draconian
devils and lame saints."
"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 Saunière 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
Collet was speechless.
"The director said she never once mentioned Saunière 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: Saunière 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 Saunière 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 building.
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 signal. 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
Fache heard the words, but they made no sense. He kept running.
The hallway seemed
never-ending. As he sprinted past Saunière'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.
Fache kept running, cursing the length of the hallway with every
"Langdon's moving faster!" Collet was still yelling on the radio. "He's
Carrousel. Wait... he's picking up speed. He's moving too fast!"
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 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
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
It's over, Fache knew. His men would have the truck surrounded
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
"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
below. The target was plenty bigan expansive, stationary tarpand 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
"Congratulations," Sophie said, dragging him toward the door. "You
just escaped from
Fleeing the men's room, they moved into the shadows just as Fache
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
"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
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 societies. 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 abbé 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 historical?" "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
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
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
"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,
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
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
pentacle, The Vitruvian Man, Da Vinci, the goddess, and even the
Fibonacci sequence. A
coherent symbolic set, as iconographers would call it. All
"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
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.
"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
melike 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
"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
that if Saunière 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
Sophie shook her head. "I was more interested in the mathematics
of itthe Divine
Proportion, PHI, Fibonacci sequences, that sort of thing."
Langdon was surprised. "Your grandfather taught you about the
"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
Langdon considered it a moment and then groaned.
Still descending, Langdon refocused on PHI. He was starting to
realize that Saunière'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.
"This number PHI," Langdon continued, "one-point-six-one-eight, is a
number in art. Who can tell me why?"
Stettner tried to redeem himself. "Because it's so pretty?"
"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 sequencea 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 1.618PHI!
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
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
"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
"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
The girl gaped. "NO WAY!"
"Way!" Langdon fired back, smiling as he projected a slide of a
"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
Langdon nodded. "PHI. The Divine Proportion. One-point-six-one-
eight to one." The girl looked amazed. Langdon advanced to the next
slidea 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 nowspiraled pinecone petals, leaf arrangement on
plant stalks, insect segmentationall 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 slidea
pale yellow parchment displaying Leonardo da Vinci's famous male
nudeThe Vitruvian Mannamed 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 Dürer, Da
Vinci, and many others, demonstrating each artist's intentional and
rigorous adherence to the Divine Proportion in the layout of his
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 Bartók, 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
pentagramor pentacle, as
the ancients called itthis 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
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
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
"Come on," Sophie whispered. "What's wrong? We're almost there.
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
his mind, Robert Langdon suddenly and unexpectedly deciphered
"O, Draconian devil!" he said. "Oh, lame saint! It's the simplest kind
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
numbers only have meaning in their proper order. Otherwise they're
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
Department involved tonight. They have another purpose? She
plunged her hand into her
pocket and pulled out the printout, studying her grandfather's
13-3-2-21-1-1-8-5 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 anagramsrearranging 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 anagramsespecially 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 died." Sophie knew the explanation, and the realization
made her feel even worse. I should have seen this! She now recalled
that her grandfathera wordplay aficionado and art loverhad
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, Saunière 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
"My grandfather probably created this Mona Lisa anagram long ago,"
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
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
Etatsa 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 hours.
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
"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 honorthe 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.
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
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
"So what do you think?" her grandfather whispered, arriving behind
"She's too little."
Saunière 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
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 Lisasome kind of clue as to who killed him. Or
why I'm in danger."
Or what happened to my family. "I have to go see."
"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 Langdona wise command,
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
"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
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
displayed an arrow pointing down a long corridor.
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
Harvard art classroomsrows of easels, paintings, palettes, framing
toolsan art assembly
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 fugitive.
Saunière's clever anagrammatic message was still on his mind, and
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
Find Robert Langdon. Saunière 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, Saunière 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
and, no doubt, Sophie who, if given a little more time, would have
message with no help from Langdon.
Sophie was supposed to break that anagram on her own. Langdon was
more certain about this, and yet the conclusion left an obvious
gaping lapse in the logic of
Why me? Langdon wondered, heading down the hall. Why was
Saunière's dying wish
that his estranged granddaughter find me? What is it that Saunière
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 Saunière's message.
Find Robert Langdon. He fixated on two letters.
In that instant, Langdon felt Saunière'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 Saunière 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
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 sectionthe
naveled 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
structure. 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
The Teacher quickly told Silas of Saint-Sulpice's famed
architectural odditya 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
Compass Rosedrawn on almost every mapindicated North, East,
South, and West.
Originally known as the Wind Rose, it denoted the directions of the
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
navigational tool was still known as a Compass Rose, its
northernmost direction still marked by an arrowhead... or, more commonly, the symbol of the
On a globe, a Rose Linealso called a meridian or longitudewas 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
connecting north and south poles. The question for early navigators
was which of these
lines would be called the Rose Linethe zero longitudethe 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. Nothing.
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 slumber.
I drifted off, he thought, impressed he was relaxed enough to
"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.
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 Christendom.
Sophie arrived breathless outside the large wooden doors of the
Salle des Etatsthe 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
immovableleaving 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-saca
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 stylus. 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
all?" 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
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-père get
for me this year? She
dug through cupboards and drawers. Did he get me the doll I
wanted? Where would he
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
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.
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 symboltwo letters intertwined
with some kind of
"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."
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-père. 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 privacy."
"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
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-père," Sophie said, hugging him. "I'm really sorry about the
"I know, sweetie. You're forgiven. I can't possibly stay mad at you.
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-père never lies. "It opens a box," he finally said.
"Where I keep many
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 lily."
"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
Her eyes went wide. "I have secret initials?"
"Of course. Granddaughters always have secret initials that only
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
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 young."
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
Langdon exhaled and lowered his voice. "I'm fairly certain your
grandfather was a
member of a secret society. A very old covert brotherhood."
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. Unforgivable.
"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
"Researching the symbols of secret societies is a specialty of mine.
They call themselves
the Prieuré de Sionthe 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
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
Hugo." He paused, his voice brimming now with academic zeal. "And,
Sophie stared. "Da Vinci was in a secret society?"
"Da Vinci presided over the Priory between 1510 and 1519 as the
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
"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 yearsto 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 shadows.
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
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 necessity.
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 brotherhood.
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-Elysées. 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
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
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
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 êtes 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 inchessmaller 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,
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 Lisaor La Jaconde as they call her
in Francehad been stolen twice, most recently in 1911, when she
disappeared from the Louvre's "satte impénétrable"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 groupa 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 systemCulture 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 engagedrough, 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
sidesleft 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
"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
sidebar about the word hermaphrodite and its ties to Hermes and
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
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
"You sure that's not just some Harvard bullshit way of saying Mona
Lisa is one ugly
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
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," 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
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
"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
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
Saunière 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 parquet.
"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
They both froze.
On the glass, six words glowed in purple, scrawled directly across
the Mona Lisa's face.
Seated at Saunière'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
"Sophie Neveu," Fache replied. "She told him."
"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?"
"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
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
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.
SO DARK THE CON OF MAN
"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
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 Saunière'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
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 Maleficarumor The
Hammerindoctrinated 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 childbirtha 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 Gamosthe natural sexual union between man and woman
through which each became spiritually wholehad 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 sinistracame 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 coming!" 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. "Arrêtez!" 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 idée, Monsieur Langdon," he
said, pressing the gun hard into Langdon's back. "Mauvaise idée."
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 inscriptions. 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 excitement. 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
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
HITHERTO SHALT THOU COME, BUT NO FURTHER.
Security warden Claude Grouard simmered with rage as he stood
over his prostrate
captive in front of the Mona Lisa. This bastard killed Jacques
Saunière! Saunière 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
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 là?" 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
"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 Saunière'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 Saunière and his granddaughter.
"You know me," the woman called. "And Robert Langdon did not kill
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
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
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
dragging her across the room to see this second painting.
Grand-père, I'm here! But I don't see it!
Behind her, Sophie could hear the guard trying to radio again for
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
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
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
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
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
realized that Leonardo da Vinci, for the second time tonight, was
there to help.
Another few meters, Grouard told himself, keeping his gun leveled.
"Arrêtez! Ou je la détruis!" the woman's voice echoed across the
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!
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 impenetrablea six-
million-dollar piece of
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
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 foreign.
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,
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
residence. She was leaving a message on an answering machine.
"Please pick up! They're
The first three phone numbers on the list had produced terrifying
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 numberthe number she was not supposed to call unless the
first three could not be
reachedshe 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
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
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
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
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 centerLa Pyramide Inverséethe
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
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. "Sophie?" 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-
Elysées. 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 interesting." Sophie didn't seem to
hear. Her eyes remained fixed ahead down the long thoroughfare of
Champs-Elysées, 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 Saunière's brilliant hiding place; Madonna of the Rocks was yet
another fitting link in the evening's chain of interconnected
symbolism. Saunière, 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
paintingthe 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 details. 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
gestureher 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
handas 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
now hung in London's National Gallery under the name Virgin of the
Langdon still preferred the Louvre's more intriguing original.
As Sophie gunned the car up Champs-Elysées, Langdon said, "The
painting. What was
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
Sophie gave a curt nod. "Embossed with a fleur-de-lis and the
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 Hôtel de Crillon into Paris's tree-
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
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.
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
Besides, my grandfather was no Christian....
Sophie had witnessed proof of that ten years ago. Ironically, it had
been another keya far
more normal onethat 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-père will be so surprised to see me, she thought.
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 Saunière despised city driving and owned a car
for one destination
onlyhis vacation château 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 treesa mammoth, old stone château 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 carsMercedeses,
BMWs, Audis, and a Rolls-Royce. Sophie stared a moment and then
burst out laughing. My grand-père, the famous recluse! Jacques
Saunière, 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 valley.
No music. No voices. Nothing. 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 reda 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 basement. 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 placeher 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
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 up.
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
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 grottoa 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
I'm dreaming, Sophie told herself. A dream. What else could this
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
I WAS THERE. DON'T TRY TO FIND ME.
Beside the note, she laid the old spare key from the château's
"Sophie! Langdon's voice intruded. "Stop! Stop!"
Emerging from the memory, Sophie slammed on the brakes, skidding
to a halt. "What?
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-Elysées.
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
serpentining through sparse traffic on Champs-Elysées, 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 Rocks."
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 pieua
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
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
She nodded. "As I told you, I saw the key a long time ago. He told
me never to speak of it
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 worlds.
"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 Saunière 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
"Do you know what it opens?"
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 crosswith
four arms of equal lengthwhich 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 cruciareto
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
somewhere." "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-Elysées. "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-Elysées, stood the Arc de
TriompheNapoleon's 164-foot-tall tribute to his own military
potencyencircled 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 watcha 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 were. 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
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 successthe 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
swaysubstantial considering the size of the Opus Dei constituency
and their bankrollto 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 lawthe Vatican II fiascohad 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 Vaticanathe Vatican
Observatoryone 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 beliefs. 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 civilizationthe valley where the Curiazi and Orazi clans
fought long before the founding of Rome. Even in silhouette,
Gandolfo was a sight to beholdan 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
foyera 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 directiontoward a huge
set of oak doors with a brass sign. BIBLIOTECA ASTRONOMICA
Aringarosa had heard of this placethe Vatican's Astronomy
Libraryrumored 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 appliqué and the facets of
the diamonds, he
reminded himself that this ring was a symbol of power far less than
that which he would
The inside of Gare Saint-Lazare looked like every other train
station in Europe, a gaping
indoor-outdoor cavern dotted with the usual suspectshomeless men
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:
"I wish it left sooner," Sophie said, "but Lyon will have to do."
checked his watch 2:59 A.M. The train left in seven minutes and
they didn't even have
Sophie guided Langdon toward the ticket window and said, "Buy us
two tickets with your
"I thought credit card usage could be traced by"
Langdon decided to stop trying to keep ahead of Sophie Neveu.