jeudi 3 avril 2008

the Da Vinci Code part three

seated on the divan.
Sophie was holding an ice pack to his head. His skull ached. As
Langdon's vision finally
began to clear, he found himself staring at a body on the floor. Am I
hallucinating? The
massive body of an albino monk lay bound and gagged with duct tape.
His chin was split
open, and the robe over his right thigh was soaked with blood. He
too appeared to be just

now coming to.
Langdon turned to Sophie. "Who is that? What... happened?"
Teabing hobbled over. "You were rescued by a knight brandishing an
Excalibur made by
Acme Orthopedic."
Huh? Langdon tried to sit up.
Sophie's touch was shaken but tender. "Just give yourself a minute,
"I fear," Teabing said, "that I've just demonstrated for your lady
friend the unfortunate
benefit of my condition. It seems everyone underestimates you."
From his seat on the divan, Langdon gazed down at the monk and
tried to imagine what
had happened.
"He was wearing a cilice," Teabing explained.
"A what?"
Teabing pointed to a bloody strip of barbed leather that lay on the
floor. "A Discipline
belt. He wore it on his thigh. I took careful aim."
Langdon rubbed his head. He knew of Discipline belts. "But how... did
you know?"
Teabing grinned. "Christianity is my field of study, Robert, and
there are certain sects
who wear their hearts on their sleeves." He pointed his crutch at
the blood soaking
through the monk's cloak. "As it were."
"Opus Dei," Langdon whispered, recalling recent media coverage of
several prominent

Boston businessmen who were members of Opus Dei. Apprehensive
coworkers had
falsely and publicly accused the men of wearing Discipline belts
beneath their three-piece
suits. In fact, the three men did no such thing. Like many members
of Opus Dei, these
businessmen were at the "supernumerary" stage and practiced no
corporal mortification at
all. They were devout Catholics, caring fathers to their children, and
deeply dedicated
members of the community. Not surprisingly, the media spotlighted
their spiritual
commitment only briefly before moving on to the shock value of the
sect's more stringent
"numerary" members... members like the monk now lying on the floor
before Langdon.
Teabing was looking closely at the bloody belt. "But why would Opus
Dei be trying to
find the Holy Grail?"
Langdon was too groggy to consider it.
"Robert," Sophie said, walking to the wooden box. "What's this?"
She was holding the
small Rose inlay he had removed from the lid.
"It covered an engraving on the box. I think the text might tell us
how to open the
Before Sophie and Teabing could respond, a sea of blue police lights
and sirens erupted

at the bottom of the hill and began snaking up the half-mile
Teabing frowned. "My friends, it seems we have a decision to make.
And we'd better
make it fast."
Collet and his agents burst through the front door of Sir Leigh
Teabing's estate with their
guns drawn. Fanning out, they began searching all the rooms on the
first level. They
found a bullet hole in the drawing room floor, signs of a struggle, a
small amount of
blood, a strange, barbed leather belt, and a partially used roll of
duct tape. The entire level
seemed deserted.
Just as Collet was about to divide his men to search the basement
and grounds behind the
house, he heard voices on the level above them.
"They're upstairs!"
Rushing up the wide staircase, Collet and his men moved room by
room through the huge
home, securing darkened bedrooms and hallways as they closed in on
the sounds of
voices. The sound seemed to be coming from the last bedroom on an
exceptionally long
hallway. The agents inched down the corridor, sealing off alternate
As they neared the final bedroom, Collet could see the door was
wide open. The voices

had stopped suddenly, and had been replaced by an odd rumbling,
like an engine.
Sidearm raised, Collet gave the signal. Reaching silently around the
door frame, he found
the light switch and flicked it on. Spinning into the room with men
pouring in after him,
Collet shouted and aimed his weapon at... nothing.
An empty guest bedroom. Pristine.
The rumbling sounds of an automobile engine poured from a black
electronic panel on
the wall beside the bed. Collet had seen these elsewhere in the
house. Some kind of
intercom system. He raced over. The panel had about a dozen
labeled buttons:
So where the hell do I hear a car?
Barn! Collet was downstairs in seconds, running toward the back
door, grabbing one of
his agents on the way. The men crossed the rear lawn and arrived
breathless at the front
of a weathered gray barn. Even before they entered, Collet could
hear the fading sounds
of a car engine. He drew his weapon, rushed in, and flicked on the
The right side of the barn was a rudimentary workshoplawn-mowers,
automotive tools,

gardening supplies. A familiar intercom panel hung on the wall
nearby. One of its buttons
was flipped down, transmitting.
Collet wheeled, anger brimming. They lured us upstairs with the
intercom! Searching the
other side of the barn, he found a long line of horse stalls. No
horses. Apparently the
owner preferred a different kind of horsepower; the stalls had
been converted into an
impressive automotive parking facility. The collection was
astonishinga black Ferrari, a
pristine Rolls-Royce, an antique Astin Martin sports coupe, a vintage
Porsche 356.
The last stall was empty.
Collet ran over and saw oil stains on the stall floor. They can't get
off the compound. The
driveway and gate were barricaded with two patrol cars to prevent
this very situation.
"Sir?" The agent pointed down the length of the stalls.
The barn's rear slider was wide open, giving way to a dark, muddy
slope of rugged fields
that stretched out into the night behind the barn. Collet ran to the
door, trying to see out
into the darkness. All he could make out was the faint shadow of a
forest in the distance.
No headlights. This wooded valley was probably crisscrossed by
dozens of unmapped

fire roads and hunting trails, but Collet was confident his quarry
would never make the
woods. "Get some men spread out down there. They're probably
already stuck
somewhere nearby. These fancy sports cars can't handle terrain."
"Um, sir?" The agent pointed to a nearby pegboard on which hung
several sets of keys.
The labels above the keys bore familiar names.
The last peg was empty.
When Collet read the label above the empty peg, he knew he was in
The Range Rover was Java Black Pearl, four-wheel drive, standard
transmission, with
high-strength polypropylene lamps, rear light cluster fittings, and
the steering wheel on
the right.
Langdon was pleased he was not driving.
Teabing's manservant Rémy, on orders from his master, was doing
an impressive job of maneuvering the vehicle across the moonlit
fields behind Château Villette. With no headlights, he had crossed
an open knoll and was now descending a long slope, moving farther
away from the estate. He seemed to be heading toward a jagged
silhouette of wooded land in the distance. Langdon, cradling the
keystone, turned in the passenger seat and eyed Teabing and Sophie
in the back seat. "How's your head, Robert?" Sophie asked, sounding

concerned. Langdon forced a pained smile. "Better, thanks." It was
killing him. Beside her, Teabing glanced over his shoulder at the
bound and gagged monk lying in the cramped luggage area behind the
back seat. Teabing had the monk's gun on his lap and looked like an
old photo of a British safari chap posing over his kill. "So glad you
popped in this evening, Robert," Teabing said, grinning as if he were
having fun for the first time in years. "Sorry to get you involved in
this, Leigh." "Oh, please, I've waited my entire life to be involved."
Teabing looked past Langdon out the windshield at the shadow of a
long hedgerow. He tapped Rémy on the shoulder from behind.
"Remember, no brake lights. Use the emergency brake if you need
it. I want to get into the woods a bit. No reason to risk them seeing
us from the house." Rémy coasted to a crawl and guided the Range
Rover through an opening in the hedge. As the vehicle lurched onto
an overgrown pathway, almost immediately the trees overhead
blotted out the moonlight. I can't see a thing, Langdon thought,
straining to distinguish any shapes at all in front of them. It was
pitch black. Branches rubbed against the left side of the vehicle,
and Rémy corrected in the other direction. Keeping the wheel more
or less straight now, he inched ahead about thirty yards. "You're
doing beautifully, Rémy," Teabing said. "That should be far enough.
Robert, if you could press that little blue button just below the vent
there. See it?" Langdon found the button and pressed it. A muted
yellow glow fanned out across the path in front of them, revealing
thick underbrush on either side of the pathway. Fog lights, Langdon
realized. They gave off just enough light to keep them on the path,
and yet they were deep enough into the woods now that the lights
would not give them away. "Well, Rémy," Teabing chimed happily.
"The lights are on. Our lives are in your hands." "Where are we
going?" Sophie asked. "This trail continues about three kilometers

into the forest," Teabing said. "Cutting across the estate and then
arching north. Provided we don't hit any standing water or fallen
trees, we shall emerge unscathed on the shoulder of highway five."
Unscathed. Langdon's head begged to differ. He turned his eyes
down to his own lap, where the keystone was safely stowed in its
wooden box. The inlaid Rose on the lid was back in place, and
although his head felt muddled, Langdon was eager to remove the
inlay again and examine the engraving beneath more closely. He
unlatched the lid and began to raise it when Teabing laid a hand on
his shoulder from behind. "Patience, Robert," Teabing said. "It's
bumpy and dark. God save us if we break anything. If you didn't
recognize the language in the light, you won't do any better in the
dark. Let's focus on getting away in one piece, shall we? There will
be time for that very soon."
Langdon knew Teabing was right. With a nod, he relatched the box.
The monk in back was moaning now, struggling against his trusses.
Suddenly, he began kicking wildly. Teabing spun around and aimed
the pistol over the seat. "I can't imagine your complaint, sir. You
trespassed in my home and planted a nasty welt on the skull of a
dear friend. I would be well within my rights to shoot you right now
and leave you to rot in the woods." The monk fell silent. "Are you
sure we should have brought him?" Langdon asked. "Bloody well
positive!" Teabing exclaimed. "You're wanted for murder, Robert.
This scoundrel is your ticket to freedom. The police apparently want
you badly enough to have tailed you to my home." "My fault," Sophie
said. "The armored car probably had a transmitter." "Not the point,"
Teabing said. "I'm not surprised the police found you, but I am
surprised that this Opus Dei character found you. From all you've
told me, I can't imagine how this man could have tailed you to my
home unless he had a contact either within the Judicial Police or

within the Zurich Depository." Langdon considered it. Bezu Fache
certainly seemed intent on finding a scapegoat for tonight's
murders. And Vernet had turned on them rather suddenly, although
considering Langdon was being charged with four murders, the
banker's change of heart seemed understandable. "This monk is not
working alone, Robert," Teabing said, "and until you learn who is
behind all this, you both are in danger. The good news, my friend, is
that you are now in the position of power. This monster behind me
holds that information, and whoever is pulling his strings has got to
be quite nervous right now." Rémy was picking up speed, getting
comfortable with the trail. They splashed through some water,
climbed a small rise, and began descending again. "Robert, could you
be so kind as to hand me that phone?" Teabing pointed to the car
phone on the dash. Langdon handed it back, and Teabing dialed a
number. He waited for a very long time before someone answered.
"Richard? Did I wake you? Of course, I did. Silly question. I'm
sorry. I have a small problem. I'm feeling a bit off. Rémy and I need
to pop up to the Isles for my treatments. Well, right away, actually.
Sorry for the short notice. Can you have Elizabeth ready in about
twenty minutes? I know, do the best you can. See you shortly." He
hung up. "Elizabeth?" Langdon said. "My plane. She cost me a
Queen's ransom." Langdon turned full around and looked at him.
"What?" Teabing demanded. "You two can't expect to stay in France
with the entire Judicial Police after you. London will be much safer."
Sophie had turned to Teabing as well. "You think we should leave the
country?" "My friends, I am far more influential in the civilized
world than here in France. Furthermore, the Grail is believed to be
in Great Britain. If we unlock the keystone, I am certain we will
discover a map that indicates we have moved in the proper

direction." "You're running a big risk," Sophie said, "by helping us.
You won't make any friends with the French police."
Teabing gave a wave of disgust. "I am finished with France. I moved
here to find the
keystone. That work is now done. I shan't care if I ever again see
Château Villette."
Sophie sounded uncertain. "How will we get through airport
Teabing chuckled. "I fly from Le Bourgetan executive airfield not
far from here. French
doctors make me nervous, so every fortnight, I fly north to take my
treatments in England.
I pay for certain special privileges at both ends. Once we're
airborne, you can make a
decision as to whether or not you'd like someone from the U.S.
Embassy to meet us."
Langdon suddenly didn't want anything to do with the embassy. All
he could think of was
the keystone, the inscription, and whether it would all lead to the
Grail. He wondered if
Teabing was right about Britain. Admittedly most modern legends
placed the Grail
somewhere in the United Kingdom. Even King Arthur's mythical,
Grail-rich Isle of
Avalon was now believed to be none other than Glastonbury, England.
Wherever the
Grail lay, Langdon never imagined he would actually be looking for it.
The Sangreal
documents. The true history of Jesus Christ. The tomb of Mary
Magdalene. He suddenly

felt as if he were living in some kind of limbo tonight... a bubble
where the real world
could not reach him.
"Sir?" Rémy said. "Are you truly thinking of returning to England for
"Rémy, you needn't worry," Teabing assured. "Just because I am
returning to the Queen's
realm does not mean I intend to subject my palate to bangers and
mash for the rest of my
days. I expect you will join me there permanently. I'm planning to
buy a splendid villa in
Devonshire, and we'll have all your things shipped up immediately.
An adventure, Rémy.
I say, an adventure!"
Langdon had to smile. As Teabing railed on about his plans for a
triumphant return to
Britain, Langdon felt himself caught up in the man's infectious
Gazing absently out the window, Langdon watched the woods passing
by, ghostly pale in
the yellow blush of the fog lights. The side mirror was tipped
inward, brushed askew by
branches, and Langdon saw the reflection of Sophie sitting quietly in
the back seat. He
watched her for a long while and felt an unexpected upwelling of
contentment. Despite
his troubles tonight, Langdon was thankful to have landed in such
good company.
After several minutes, as if suddenly sensing his eyes on her, Sophie
leaned forward and

put her hands on his shoulders, giving him a quick rub. "You okay?"
"Yeah," Langdon said. "Somehow."
Sophie sat back in her seat, and Langdon saw a quiet smile cross her
lips. He realized that
he too was now grinning.
Wedged in the back of the Range Rover, Silas could barely breathe.
His arms were
wrenched backward and heavily lashed to his ankles with kitchen
twine and duct tape.
Every bump in the road sent pain shooting through his twisted
shoulders. At least his
captors had removed the cilice. Unable to inhale through the strip
of tape over his mouth,
he could only breathe through his nostrils, which were slowly
clogging up due to the
dusty rear cargo area into which he had been crammed. He began
"I think he's choking," the French driver said, sounding concerned.
The British man who had struck Silas with his crutch now turned
and peered over the seat,
frowning coldly at Silas. "Fortunately for you, we British judge
man's civility not by his
compassion for his friends, but by his compassion for his enemies."
The Brit reached
down and grabbed the duct tape on Silas's mouth. In one fast
motion, he tore it off.
Silas felt as if his lips had just caught fire, but the air pouring into
his lungs was sent from

"Whom do you work for?" the British man demanded.
"I do the work of God," Silas spat back through the pain in his jaw
where the woman had
kicked him.
"You belong to Opus Dei," the man said. It was not a question.
"You know nothing of who I am."
"Why does Opus Dei want the keystone?"
Silas had no intention of answering. The keystone was the link to
the Holy Grail, and the
Holy Grail was the key to protecting the faith.
I do the work of God. The Way is in peril.
Now, in the Range Rover, struggling against his bonds, Silas feared
he had failed the
Teacher and the bishop forever. He had no way even to contact
them and tell them the
terrible turn of events. My captors have the keystone! They will
reach the Grail before we
do! In the stifling darkness, Silas prayed. He let the pain of his
body fuel his supplications.
A miracle, Lord. I need a miracle. Silas had no way of knowing that
hours from now, he
would get one.
"Robert?" Sophie was still watching him. "A funny look just crossed
your face."
Langdon glanced back at her, realizing his jaw was firmly set and his
heart was racing.
An incredible notion had just occurred to him. Could it really be that
simple an

explanation? "I need to use your cell phone, Sophie."
"I think I just figured something out."
"I'll tell you in a minute. I need your phone."
Sophie looked wary. "I doubt Fache is tracing, but keep it under a
minute just in case."
She gave him her phone.
"How do I dial the States?"
"You need to reverse the charges. My service doesn't cover
Langdon dialed zero, knowing that the next sixty seconds might
answer a question that
had been puzzling him all night.
New York editor Jonas Faukman had just climbed into bed for the
night when the
telephone rang. A little late for callers, he grumbled, picking up the
An operator's voice asked him, "Will you accept charges for a
collect call from Robert
Puzzled, Jonas turned on the light. "Uh... sure, okay."
The line clicked. "Jonas?"
"Robert? You wake me up and you charge me for it?"
"Jonas, forgive me," Langdon said. "I'll keep this very short. I really
need to know. The
manuscript I gave you. Have you"

"Robert, I'm sorry, I know I said I'd send the edits out to you this
week, but I'm swamped.
Next Monday. I promise."
"I'm not worried about the edits. I need to know if you sent any
copies out for blurbs
without telling me?"
Faukman hesitated. Langdon's newest manuscriptan exploration of
the history of goddess
worshipincluded several sections about Mary Magdalene that were
going to raise some
eyebrows. Although the material was well documented and had been
covered by others,
Faukman had no intention of printing Advance Reading Copies of
Langdon's book
without at least a few endorsements from serious historians and art
luminaries. Jonas had
chosen ten big names in the art world and sent them all sections of
the manuscript along
with a polite letter asking if they would be willing to write a short
endorsement for the
jacket. In Faukman's experience, most people jumped at the
opportunity to see their name
in print.
"Jonas?" Langdon pressed. "You sent out my manuscript, didn't
Faukman frowned, sensing Langdon was not happy about it. "The
manuscript was clean,
Robert, and I wanted to surprise you with some terrific blurbs."
A pause. "Did you send one to the curator of the Paris Louvre?"

"What do you think? Your manuscript referenced his Louvre
collection several times, his
books are in your bibliography, and the guy has some serious clout
for foreign sales.
Saunière was a no-brainer."
The silence on the other end lasted a long time. "When did you send
"About a month ago. I also mentioned you would be in Paris soon and
suggested you two
chat. Did he ever call you to meet?" Faukman paused, rubbing his
eyes. "Hold on, aren't
you supposed to be in Paris this week?"
"I am in Paris."
Faukman sat upright. "You called me collect from Paris?"
"Take it out of my royalties, Jonas. Did you ever hear back from
Saunière? Did he like
the manuscript?"
"I don't know. I haven't yet heard from him."
"Well, don't hold your breath. I've got to run, but this explains a lot
But Langdon was gone.
Faukman hung up the phone, shaking his head in disbelief Authors,
he thought. Even the
sane ones are nuts.
Inside the Range Rover, Leigh Teabing let out a guffaw. "Robert,
you're saying you
wrote a manuscript that delves into a secret society, and your
editor sent a copy to that

secret society?"
Langdon slumped. "Evidently."
"A cruel coincidence, my friend."
Coincidence has nothing to do with it, Langdon knew. Asking Jacques
Saunière to
endorse a manuscript on goddess worship was as obvious as asking
Tiger Woods to
endorse a book on golf. Moreover, it was virtually guaranteed that
any book on goddess
worship would have to mention the Priory of Sion.
"Here's the million-dollar question," Teabing said, still chuckling.
"Was your position on
the Priory favorable or unfavorable?"
Langdon could hear Teabing's true meaning loud and clear. Many
historians questioned
why the Priory was still keeping the Sangreal documents hidden.
Some felt the
information should have been shared with the world long ago. "I
took no position on the
Priory's actions."
"You mean lack thereof."
Langdon shrugged. Teabing was apparently on the side of making the
documents public.
"I simply provided history on the brotherhood and described them
as a modern goddess
worship society, keepers of the Grail, and guardians of ancient
Sophie looked at him. "Did you mention the keystone?"

Langdon winced. He had. Numerous times. "I talked about the
supposed keystone as an
example of the lengths to which the Priory would go to protect the
Sangreal documents."
Sophie looked amazed. "I guess that explains P.S. Find Robert
Langdon sensed it was actually something else in the manuscript
that had piqued
Saunière's interest, but that topic was something he would discuss
with Sophie when they
were alone.
"So," Sophie said, "you lied to Captain Fache."
"What?" Langdon demanded.
"You told him you had never corresponded with my grandfather."
"I didn't! My editor sent him a manuscript."
"Think about it, Robert. If Captain Fache didn't find the envelope in
which your editor
sent the manuscript, he would have to conclude that you sent it."
She paused. "Or worse,
that you hand-delivered it and lied about it."
When the Range Rover arrived at Le Bourget Airfield, Rémy drove
to a small hangar at
the far end of the airstrip. As they approached, a tousled man in
wrinkled khakis hurried
from the hangar, waved, and slid open the enormous corrugated
metal door to reveal a
sleek white jet within.
Langdon stared at the glistening fuselage. "That's Elizabeth?"
Teabing grinned. "Beats the bloody Chunnel."

The man in khakis hurried toward them, squinting into the
headlights. "Almost ready,
sir," he called in a British accent. "My apologies for the delay, but
you took me by
surprise and" He stopped short as the group unloaded. He looked at
Sophie and Langdon,
and then Teabing.
Teabing said, "My associates and I have urgent business in London.
We've no time to
waste. Please prepare to depart immediately." As he spoke, Teabing
took the pistol out of
the vehicle and handed it to Langdon.
The pilot's eyes bulged at the sight of the weapon. He walked over
to Teabing and
whispered, "Sir, my humble apologies, but my diplomatic flight
allowance provides only
for you and your manservant. I cannot take your guests."
"Richard," Teabing said, smiling warmly, "two thousand pounds
sterling and that loaded
gun say you can take my guests." He motioned to the Range Rover.
"And the unfortunate
fellow in the back."
The Hawker 731's twin Garrett TFE-731 engines thundered,
powering the plane skyward
with gut-wrenching force. Outside the window, Le Bourget Airfield
dropped away with
startling speed.

I'm fleeing the country, Sophie thought, her body forced back into
the leather seat. Until this moment, she had believed her game of
cat and mouse with Fache would be somehow justifiable to the
Ministry of Defense. I was attempting to protect an innocent man. I
was trying to fulfill my grandfather's dying wishes. That window of
opportunity, Sophie knew, had just closed. She was leaving the
country, without documentation, accompanying a wanted man, and
transporting a bound hostage. If a "line of reason" had ever existed,
she had just crossed it. At almost the speed of sound. Sophie was
seated with Langdon and Teabing near the front of the cabinthe Fan
Jet Executive Elite Design, according to the gold medallion on the
door. Their plush swivel chairs were bolted to tracks on the floor
and could be repositioned and locked around a rectangular hardwood
table. A mini-boardroom. The dignified surroundings, however, did
little to camouflage the less than dignified state of affairs in the
rear of the plane where, in a separate seating area near the rest
room, Teabing's manservant Rémy sat with the pistol in hand,
begrudgingly carrying out Teabing's orders to stand guard over the
bloody monk who lay trussed at his feet like a piece of luggage.
"Before we turn our attention to the keystone," Teabing said, "I was
wondering if you would permit me a few words." He sounded
apprehensive, like a father about to give the birds-and-the-bees
lecture to his children. "My friends, I realize I am but a guest on
this journey, and I am honored as such. And yet, as someone who
has spent his life in search of the Grail, I feel it is my duty to warn
you that you are about to step onto a path from which there is no
return, regardless of the dangers involved." He turned to Sophie.
"Miss Neveu, your grandfather gave you this cryptex in hopes you
would keep the secret of the Holy Grail alive." "Yes."
"Understandably, you feel obliged to follow the trail wherever it

leads." Sophie nodded, although she felt a second motivation still
burning within her. The truth about my family. Despite Langdon's
assurances that the keystone had nothing to do with her past,
Sophie still sensed something deeply personal entwined within this
mystery, as if this cryptex, forged by her grandfather's own hands,
were trying to speak to her and offer some kind of resolution to the
emptiness that had haunted her all these years. "Your grandfather
and three others died tonight," Teabing continued, "and they did so
to keep this keystone away from the Church. Opus Dei came within
inches tonight of possessing it. You understand, I hope, that this
puts you in a position of exceptional responsibility. You have been
handed a torch. A two-thousand-year-old flame that cannot be
allowed to go out. This torch cannot fall into the wrong hands." He
paused, glancing at the rosewood box. "I realize you have been given
no choice in this matter, Miss Neveu, but considering what is at
stake here, you must either fully embrace this responsibility... or
you must pass that responsibility to someone else." "My grandfather
gave the cryptex to me. I'm sure he thought I could handle the
responsibility." Teabing looked encouraged but unconvinced. "Good.
A strong will is necessary. And yet, I am curious if you understand
that successfully unlocking the keystone will bring with it a far
greater trial." "How so?" "My dear, imagine that you are suddenly
holding a map that reveals the location of the Holy Grail. In that
moment, you will be in possession of a truth capable of altering
history forever. You will be the keeper of a truth that man has
sought for centuries. You will be faced with the responsibility of
revealing that truth to the world. The individual who does so will be
revered by many and despised by many. The question is whether you
will have the necessary strength to carry out that task." Sophie
paused. "I'm not sure that is my decision to make." Teabing's

eyebrows arched. "No? If not the possessor of the keystone, then
who?" "The brotherhood who has successfully protected the secret
for so long." "The Priory?" Teabing looked skeptical. "But how? The
brotherhood was shattered tonight. Decapitated, as you so aptly put
it. Whether they were infiltrated by some kind of eavesdropping or
by a spy within their ranks, we will never know, but the fact remains
that someone got to them and uncovered the identities of their
four top members. I would not trust anyone who stepped forward
from the brotherhood at this point." "So what do you suggest?"
Langdon asked. "Robert, you know as well as I do that the Priory has
not protected the truth all these years to have it gather dust until
eternity. They have been waiting for the right moment in history to
share their secret. A time when the world is ready to handle the
truth." "And you believe that moment has arrived?" Langdon asked.
"Absolutely. It could not be more obvious. All the historical signs
are in place, and if the Priory did not intend to make their secret
known very soon, why has the Church now attacked?" Sophie argued,
"The monk has not yet told us his purpose." "The monk's purpose is
the Church's purpose," Teabing replied, "to destroy the documents
that reveal the great deception. The Church came closer tonight
than they have ever come, and the Priory has put its trust in you,
Miss Neveu. The task of saving the Holy Grail clearly includes
carrying out the Priory's final wishes of sharing the truth with the
world." Langdon intervened. "Leigh, asking Sophie to make that
decision is quite a load to drop on someone who only an hour ago
learned the Sangreal documents exist." Teabing sighed. "I apologize
if I am pressing, Miss Neveu. Clearly I have always believed these
documents should be made public, but in the end the decision
belongs to you. I simply feel it is important that you begin to think
about what happens should we succeed in opening the keystone."

"Gentlemen," Sophie said, her voice firm. "To quote your words, 'You
do not find the Grail, the Grail finds you.' I am going to trust that
the Grail has found me for a reason, and when the time comes, I will
know what to do." Both of them looked startled. "So then," she said,
motioning to the rosewood box. "Let's move on."
Standing in the drawing room of Château Villette, Lieutenant Collet
watched the dying fire and felt despondent. Captain Fache had
arrived moments earlier and was now in the next room, yelling into
the phone, trying to coordinate the failed attempt to locate the
missing Range Rover. It could be anywhere by now, Collet thought.
Having disobeyed Fache's direct orders and lost Langdon for a
second time, Collet was grateful that PTS had located a bullet hole
in the floor, which at least corroborated
Collet's claims that a shot had been fired. Still, Fache's mood was
sour, and Collet sensed
there would be dire repercussions when the dust settled.
Unfortunately, the clues they were turning up here seemed to shed
no light at all on what
was going on or who was involved. The black Audi outside had been
rented in a false
name with false credit card numbers, and the prints in the car
matched nothing in the
Interpol database.
Another agent hurried into the living room, his eyes urgent.
"Where's Captain Fache?"
Collet barely looked up from the burning embers. "He's on the
"I'm off the phone," Fache snapped, stalking into the room. "What
have you got?"

The second agent said, "Sir, Central just heard from André Vernet
at the Depository Bank
of Zurich. He wants to talk to you privately. He is changing his
"Oh?" Fache said.
Now Collet looked up.
"Vernet is admitting that Langdon and Neveu spent time inside his
bank tonight."
"We figured that out," Fache said. "Why did Vernet lie about it?"
"He said he'll talk only to you, but he's agreed to cooperate fully."
"In exchange for what?"
"For our keeping his bank's name out of the news and also for
helping him recover some
stolen property. It sounds like Langdon and Neveu stole something
from Saunière's
"What?" Collet blurted. "How?"
Fache never flinched, his eyes riveted on the second agent. "What
did they steal?"
"Vernet didn't elaborate, but he sounds like he's willing to do
anything to get it back."
Collet tried to imagine how this could happen. Maybe Langdon and
Neveu had held a
bank employee at gunpoint? Maybe they forced Vernet to open
Saunière's account and
facilitate an escape in the armored truck. As feasible as it was,
Collet was having trouble
believing Sophie Neveu could be involved in anything like that.
From the kitchen, another agent yelled to Fache. "Captain? I'm
going through Mr.

Teabing's speed dial numbers, and I'm on the phone with Le Bourget
Airfield. I've got
some bad news."
Thirty seconds later, Fache was packing up and preparing to leave
Château Villette. He
had just learned that Teabing kept a private jet nearby at Le
Bourget Airfield and that the
plane had taken off about a half hour ago.
The Bourget representative on the phone had claimed not to know
who was on the plane
or where it was headed. The takeoff had been unscheduled, and no
flight plan had been
logged. Highly illegal, even for a small airfield. Fache was certain
that by applying the
right pressure, he could get the answers he was looking for.
"Lieutenant Collet," Fache barked, heading for the door. "I have no
choice but to leave
you in charge of the PTS investigation here. Try to do something
right for a change."
As the Hawker leveled off, with its nose aimed for England, Langdon
carefully lifted the
rosewood box from his lap, where he had been protecting it during
takeoff. Now, as he
set the box on the table, he could sense Sophie and Teabing leaning
forward with

Unlatching the lid and opening the box, Langdon turned his attention
not to the lettered
dials of the cryptex, but rather to the tiny hole on the underside of
the box lid. Using the
tip of a pen, he carefully removed the inlaid Rose on top and
revealed the text beneath it.
Sub Rosa, he mused, hoping a fresh look at the text would bring
clarity. Focusing all his
energies, Langdon studied the strange text.
After several seconds, he began to feel the initial frustration
resurfacing. "Leigh, I just
can't seem to place it."
From where Sophie was seated across the table, she could not yet
see the text, but
Langdon's inability to immediately identify the language surprised
her. My grandfather
spoke a language so obscure that even a symbologist can't identify
it? She quickly
realized she should not find this surprising. This would not be the
first secret Jacques
Saunière had kept from his granddaughter.
Opposite Sophie, Leigh Teabing felt ready to burst. Eager for his
chance to see the text,
he quivered with excitement, leaning in, trying to see around
Langdon, who was still
hunched over the box.
"I don't know," Langdon whispered intently. "My first guess is a
Semitic, but now I'm not
so sure. Most primary Semitics include nekkudot. This has none."

"Probably ancient," Teabing offered.
"Nekkudot?" Sophie inquired.
Teabing never took his eyes from the box. "Most modern Semitic
alphabets have no
vowels and use nekkudottiny dots and dashes written either below
or within the
consonantsto indicate what vowel sound accompanies them.
Historically speaking,
nekkudot are a relatively modern addition to language."
Langdon was still hovering over the script. "A Sephardic
transliteration, perhaps...?"
Teabing could bear it no longer. "Perhaps if I just..." Reaching over,
he edged the box
away from Langdon and pulled it toward himself. No doubt Langdon
had a solid
familiarity with the standard ancientsGreek, Latin, the Romancesbut
from the fleeting
glance Teabing had of this language, he thought it looked more
specialized, possibly a
Rashi script or a STA'M with crowns.
Taking a deep breath, Teabing feasted his eyes upon the engraving.
He said nothing for a
very long time. With each passing second, Teabing felt his
confidence deflating. "I'm
astonished," he said. "This language looks like nothing I've ever
Langdon slumped.
"Might I see it?" Sophie asked.
Teabing pretended not to hear her. "Robert, you said earlier that
you thought you'd seen

something like this before?"
Langdon looked vexed. "I thought so. I'm not sure. The script looks
familiar somehow."
"Leigh?" Sophie repeated, clearly not appreciating being left out of
the discussion.
"Might I have a look at the box my grandfather made?"
"Of course, dear," Teabing said, pushing it over to her. He hadn't
meant to sound
belittling, and yet Sophie Neveu was light-years out of her league.
If a British Royal
Historian and a Harvard symbologist could not even identify the
"Aah," Sophie said, seconds after examining the box. "I should have
Teabing and Langdon turned in unison, staring at her.
"Guessed what?" Teabing demanded.
Sophie shrugged. "Guessed that this would be the language my
grandfather would have used." "You're saying you can read this
text?" Teabing exclaimed. "Quite easily," Sophie chimed, obviously
enjoying herself now. "My grandfather taught me this language
when I was only six years old. I'm fluent." She leaned across the
table and fixed Teabing with an admonishing glare. "And frankly, sir,
considering your allegiance to the Crown, I'm a little surprised you
didn't recognize it." In a flash, Langdon knew. No wonder the script
looks so damned familiar! Several years ago, Langdon had attended
an event at Harvard's Fogg Museum. Harvard dropout Bill Gates had
returned to his alma mater to lend to the museum one of his
priceless acquisitionseighteen sheets of paper he had recently
purchased at auction from the Armand Hammar Estate. His winning

bida cool $30.8 million. The author of the pagesLeonardo da Vinci.
The eighteen foliosnow known as Leonardo's Codex Leicester after
their famous owner, the Earl of Leicesterwere all that remained of
one of Leonardo's most fascinating notebooks: essays and drawings
outlining Da Vinci's progressive theories on astronomy, geology,
archaeology, and hydrology. Langdon would never forget his reaction
after waiting in line and finally viewing the priceless parchment.
Utter letdown. The pages were unintelligible. Despite being
beautifully preserved and written in an impeccably neat
penmanshipcrimson ink on cream paperthe codex looked like
gibberish. At first Langdon thought he could not read them because
Da Vinci wrote his notebooks in an archaic Italian. But after
studying them more closely, he realized he could not identify a
single Italian word, or even one letter. "Try this, sir," whispered the
female docent at the display case. She motioned to a hand mirror
affixed to the display on a chain. Langdon picked it up and examined
the text in the mirror's surface. Instantly it was clear. Langdon had
been so eager to peruse some of the great thinker's ideas that he
had forgotten one of the man's numerous artistic talents was an
ability to write in a mirrored script that was virtually illegible to
anyone other than himself. Historians still debated whether Da
Vinci wrote this way simply to amuse himself or to keep people from
peering over his shoulder and stealing his ideas, but the point was
moot. Da Vinci did as he pleased.
Sophie smiled inwardly to see that Robert understood her meaning.
"I can read the first few words," she said. "It's English." Teabing
was still sputtering. "What's going on?" "Reverse text," Langdon
said. "We need a mirror." "No we don't," Sophie said. "I bet this
veneer is thin enough." She lifted the rosewood box up to a canister
light on the wall and began examining the underside of the lid. Her

grandfather couldn't actually write in reverse, so he always cheated
by writing normally and then flipping the paper over and tracing the
reversed impression. Sophie's guess was that he had wood-burned
normal text into a block of wood and then run the back of the
block through a sander until the wood was paper thin and the wood-
burning could be
seen through the wood. Then he'd simply flipped the piece over, and
laid it in.
As Sophie moved the lid closer to the light, she saw she was right.
The bright beam sifted
through the thin layer of wood, and the script appeared in reverse
on the underside of the
Instantly legible.
"English," Teabing croaked, hanging his head in shame. "My native
At the rear of the plane, Rémy Legaludec strained to hear beyond
the rumbling engines,
but the conversation up front was inaudible. Rémy did not like the
way the night was
progressing. Not at all. He looked down at the bound monk at his
feet. The man lay
perfectly still now, as if in a trance of acceptance, or perhaps, in
silent prayer for
Fifteen thousand feet in the air, Robert Langdon felt the physical
world fade away as all

of his thoughts converged on Saunière's mirror-image poem, which
was illuminated
through the lid of the box.
Sophie quickly found some paper and copied it down longhand. When
she was done, the
three of them took turns reading the text. It was like some kind of
crossword... a riddle that promised to reveal how to open the
cryptex. Langdon read the
verse slowly.
An ancient word of wisdom frees this scroll... and helps us keep her
scatter'd family
whole... a headstone praised by templars is the key... and atbash will
reveal the truth to
Before Langdon could even ponder what ancient password the verse
was trying to reveal,
he felt something far more fundamental resonate within himthe
meter of the poem.
Iambic pentameter.
Langdon had come across this meter often over the years while
researching secret
societies across Europe, including just last year in the Vatican
Secret Archives. For
centuries, iambic pentameter had been a preferred poetic meter of
outspoken literati
across the globe, from the ancient Greek writer Archilochus to
Shakespeare, Milton,
Chaucer, and Voltairebold souls who chose to write their social
commentaries in a meter

that many of the day believed had mystical properties. The roots of
iambic pentameter
were deeply pagan.
Iambs. Two syllables with opposite emphasis. Stressed and
unstressed. Yin yang. A
balanced pair. Arranged in strings of five. Pentameter. Five for the
pentacle of Venus and
the sacred feminine.
"It's pentameter!" Teabing blurted, turning to Langdon. "And the
verse is in English! La
lingua pura!"
Langdon nodded. The Priory, like many European secret societies at
odds with the
Church, had considered English the only European pure language for
centuries. Unlike
French, Spanish, and Italian, which were rooted in Latinthe tongue
of the VaticanEnglish
was linguistically removed from Rome's propaganda machine, and
therefore became a
sacred, secret tongue for those brotherhoods educated enough to
learn it.
"This poem," Teabing gushed, "references not only the Grail, but the
Knights Templar and the scattered family of Mary Magdalene! What
more could we ask for?" "The password," Sophie said, looking again
at the poem. "It sounds like we need some kind of ancient word of
wisdom?" "Abracadabra?" Teabing ventured, his eyes twinkling. A
word of five letters, Langdon thought, pondering the staggering
number of ancient words that might be considered words of
wisdomselections from mystic chants, astrological prophecies,

secret society inductions, Wicca incantations, Egyptian magic spells,
pagan mantrasthe list was endless. "The password," Sophie said,
"appears to have something to do with the Templars." She read the
text aloud. " 'A headstone praised by Templars is the key.' "
"Leigh," Langdon said, "you're the Templar specialist. Any ideas?"
Teabing was silent for several seconds and then sighed. "Well, a
headstone is obviously a grave marker of some sort. It's possible
the poem is referencing a gravestone the Templars praised at the
tomb of Magdalene, but that doesn't help us much because we have
no idea where her tomb is." "The last line," Sophie said, "says that
Atbash will reveal the truth. I've heard that word. Atbash." "I'm
not surprised," Langdon replied. "You probably heard it in Cryptology
101. The Atbash Cipher is one of the oldest codes known to man." Of
course! Sophie thought. The famous Hebrew encoding system. The
Atbash Cipher had indeed been part of Sophie's early cryptology
training. The cipher dated back to 500 B.C. and was now used as a
classroom example of a basic rotational substitution scheme. A
common form of Jewish cryptogram, the Atbash Cipher was a simple
substitution code based on the twenty-two-letter Hebrew alphabet.
In Atbash, the first letter was substituted by the last letter, the
second letter by the next to last letter, and so on. "Atbash is
sublimely appropriate," Teabing said. "Text encrypted with Atbash
is found throughout the Kabbala, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and even the
Old Testament. Jewish scholars and mystics are still finding hidden
meanings using Atbash. The Priory certainly would include the
Atbash Cipher as part of their teachings." "The only problem,"
Langdon said, "is that we don't have anything on which to apply the
cipher." Teabing sighed. "There must be a code word on the
headstone. We must find this headstone praised by Templars."
Sophie sensed from the grim look on Langdon's face that finding

the Templar headstone would be no small feat. Atbash is the key,
Sophie thought. But we don't have a door. It was three minutes
later that Teabing heaved a frustrated sigh and shook his head. "My
friends, I'm stymied. Let me ponder this while I get us some
nibblies and check on Rémy and our guest." He stood up and headed
for the back of the plane. Sophie felt tired as she watched him go.
Outside the window, the blackness of the predawn was absolute.
Sophie felt as if she were being hurtled through space with no idea
where she would land. Having grown up solving her grandfather's
riddles, she had the uneasy sense right now that this poem before
them contained information they still had not seen.
There is more there, she told herself. Ingeniously hidden... but
present nonetheless. Also plaguing her thoughts was a fear that
what they eventually found inside this cryptex would not be as
simple as "a map to the Holy Grail." Despite Teabing's and Langdon's
confidence that the truth lay just within the marble cylinder,
Sophie had solved enough of her grandfather's treasure hunts to
know that Jacques Saunière did not give up his secrets easily.
Bourget Airfield's night shift air traffic controller had been dozing
before a blank radar screen when the captain of the Judicial Police
practically broke down his door. "Teabing's jet," Bezu Fache blared,
marching into the small tower, "where did it go?" The controller's
initial response was a babbling, lame attempt to protect the privacy
of their British clientone of the airfield's most respected
customers. It failed miserably. "Okay," Fache said, "I am placing you
under arrest for permitting a private plane to take off without
registering a flight plan." Fache motioned to another officer, who
approached with handcuffs, and the traffic controller felt a surge
of terror. He thought of the newspaper articles debating whether

the nation's police captain was a hero or a menace. That question
had just been answered. "Wait!" the controller heard himself
whimper at the sight of the handcuffs. "I can tell you this much. Sir
Leigh Teabing makes frequent trips to London for medical
treatments. He has a hangar at Biggin Hill Executive Airport in
Kent. On the outskirts of London." Fache waved off the man with
the cuffs. "Is Biggin Hill his destination tonight?" "I don't know,"
the controller said honestly. "The plane left on its usual tack, and
his last radar contact suggested the United Kingdom. Biggin Hill is
an extremely likely guess." "Did he have others onboard?" "I swear,
sir, there is no way for me to know that. Our clients can drive
directly to their hangars, and load as they please. Who is onboard is
the responsibility of the customs officials at the receiving airport."
Fache checked his watch and gazed out at the scattering of jets
parked in front of the terminal. "If they're going to Biggin Hill, how
long until they land?" The controller fumbled through his records.
"It's a short flight. His plane could be on the ground by... around
six-thirty. Fifteen minutes from now." Fache frowned and turned to
one of his men. "Get a transport up here. I'm going to London. And
get me the Kent local police. Not British MI5. I want this quiet.
Kent local. Tell them I want Teabing's plane to be permitted to land.
Then I want it surrounded on the tarmac. Nobody deplanes until I
get there."
"You're quiet," Langdon said, gazing across the Hawker's cabin at
Sophie. "Just tired," she replied. "And the poem. I don't know."
Langdon was feeling the same way. The hum of the engines and the
gentle rocking of the plane were hypnotic, and his head still
throbbed where he'd been hit by the monk. Teabing was still in the
back of the plane, and Langdon decided to take advantage of the

moment alone with Sophie to tell her something that had been on his
mind. "I think I know part of the reason why your grandfather
conspired to put us together. I think there's something he wanted
me to explain to you."
"The history of the Holy Grail and Mary Magdalene isn't enough?"
Langdon felt uncertain how to proceed. "The rift between you. The
reason you haven't
spoken to him in ten years. I think maybe he was hoping I could
somehow make that
right by explaining what drove you apart."
Sophie squirmed in her seat. "I haven't told you what drove us
Langdon eyed her carefully. "You witnessed a sex rite. Didn't you?"
Sophie recoiled. "How do you know that?"
"Sophie, you told me you witnessed something that convinced you
your grandfather was
in a secret society. And whatever you saw upset you enough that you
haven't spoken to
him since. I know a fair amount about secret societies. It doesn't
take the brains of Da
Vinci to guess what you saw."
Sophie stared.
"Was it in the spring?" Langdon asked. "Sometime around the
equinox? Mid-March?"
Sophie looked out the window. "I was on spring break from
university. I came home a
few days early."
"You want to tell me about it?"
"I'd rather not." She turned suddenly back to Langdon, her eyes
welling with emotion. "I

don't know what I saw."
"Were both men and women present?"
After a beat, she nodded.
"Dressed in white and black?"
She wiped her eyes and then nodded, seeming to open up a little.
"The women were in
white gossamer gowns... with golden shoes. They held golden orbs.
The men wore black
tunics and black shoes."
Langdon strained to hide his emotion, and yet he could not believe
what he was hearing.
Sophie Neveu had unwittingly witnessed a two-thousand-year-old
sacred ceremony.
"Masks?" he asked, keeping his voice calm. "Androgynous masks?"
"Yes. Everyone. Identical masks. White on the women. Black on the
Langdon had read descriptions of this ceremony and understood its
mystic roots. "It's
called Hieros Gamos," he said softly. "It dates back more than two
thousand years.
Egyptian priests and priestesses performed it regularly to
celebrate the reproductive
power of the female," He paused, leaning toward her. "And if you
witnessed Hieros
Gamos without being properly prepared to understand its meaning, I
imagine it would be
pretty shocking."
Sophie said nothing.
"Hieros Gamos is Greek," he continued. "It means sacred marriage."
"The ritual I saw was no marriage."

"Marriage as in union, Sophie."
"You mean as in sex."
"No?" she said, her olive eyes testing him.
Langdon backpedaled. "Well... yes, in a manner of speaking, but not
as we understand it
today." He explained that although what she saw probably looked
like a sex ritual, Hieros
Gamos had nothing to do with eroticism. It was a spiritual act.
Historically, intercourse
was the act through which male and female experienced God. The
ancients believed that
the male was spiritually incomplete until he had carnal knowledge of
the sacred feminine.
Physical union with the female remained the sole means through
which man could become spiritually complete and ultimately achieve
gnosisknowledge of the divine. Since the days of Isis, sex rites had
been considered man's only bridge from earth to heaven. "By
communing with woman," Langdon said, "man could achieve a
climactic instant when his mind went totally blank and he could see
God." Sophie looked skeptical. "Orgasm as prayer?" Langdon gave a
noncommittal shrug, although Sophie was essentially correct.
Physiologically speaking, the male climax was accompanied by a split
second entirely devoid of thought. A brief mental vacuum. A moment
of clarity during which God could be glimpsed. Meditation gurus
achieved similar states of thoughtlessness without sex and often
described Nirvana as a never-ending spiritual orgasm. "Sophie,"
Langdon said quietly, "it's important to remember that the ancients'
view of sex was entirely opposite from ours today. Sex begot new

lifethe ultimate miracleand miracles could be performed only by a
god. The ability of the woman to produce life from her womb made
her sacred. A god. Intercourse was the revered union of the two
halves of the human spiritmale and femalethrough which the male
could find spiritual wholeness and communion with God. What you
saw was not about sex, it was about spirituality. The Hieros Gamos
ritual is not a perversion. It's a deeply sacrosanct ceremony." His
words seemed to strike a nerve. Sophie had been remarkably poised
all evening, but now, for the first time, Langdon saw the aura of
composure beginning to crack. Tears materialized in her eyes again,
and she dabbed them away with her sleeve. He gave her a moment.
Admittedly, the concept of sex as a pathway to God was mind-
boggling at first. Langdon's Jewish students always looked
flabbergasted when he first told them that the early Jewish
tradition involved ritualistic sex. In the Temple, no less. Early Jews
believed that the Holy of Holies in Solomon's Temple housed not
only God but also His powerful female equal, Shekinah. Men seeking
spiritual wholeness came to the Temple to visit priestessesor
hieroduleswith whom they made love and experienced the divine
through physical union. The Jewish tetragrammaton YHWHthe
sacred name of Godin fact derived from Jehovah, an androgynous
physical union between the masculine Jah and the pre-Hebraic name
for Eve, Havah. "For the early Church," Langdon explained in a soft
voice, "mankind's use of sex to commune directly with God posed a
serious threat to the Catholic power base. It left the Church out of
the loop, undermining their self-proclaimed status as the sole
conduit to God. For obvious reasons, they worked hard to demonize
sex and recast it as a disgusting and sinful act. Other major
religions did the same." Sophie was silent, but Langdon sensed she
was starting to understand her grandfather better. Ironically,

Langdon had made this same point in a class lecture earlier this
semester. "Is it surprising we feel conflicted about sex?" he asked
his students. "Our ancient heritage and our very physiologies tell us
sex is naturala cherished route to spiritual fulfillmentand yet
modern religion decries it as shameful, teaching us to fear our
sexual desire as the hand of the devil." Langdon decided not to
shock his students with the fact that more than a dozen secret
societies around the worldmany of them quite influentialstill
practiced sex rites and kept the ancient traditions alive. Tom
Cruise's character in the film Eyes Wide Shut discovered this the
hard way when he sneaked into a private gathering of ultraelite
Manhattanites only to find himself witnessing Hieros Gamos. Sadly,
the filmmakers had
gotten most of the specifics wrong, but the basic gist was therea
secret society
communing to celebrate the magic of sexual union.
"Professor Langdon?" A male student in back raised his hand,
sounding hopeful. "Are
you saying that instead of going to chapel, we should have more
Langdon chuckled, not about to take the bait. From what he'd heard
about Harvard parties,
these kids were having more than enough sex. "Gentlemen," he said,
knowing he was on
tender ground, "might I offer a suggestion for all of you. Without
being so bold as to
condone premarital sex, and without being so naive as to think
you're all chaste angels, I
will give you this bit of advice about your sex lives."
All the men in the audience leaned forward, listening intently.

"The next time you find yourself with a woman, look in your heart
and see if you cannot
approach sex as a mystical, spiritual act. Challenge yourself to find
that spark of divinity
that man can only achieve through union with the sacred feminine."
The women smiled knowingly, nodding.
The men exchanged dubious giggles and off-color jokes.
Langdon sighed. College men were still boys.
Sophie's forehead felt cold as she pressed it against the plane's
window and stared blankly
into the void, trying to process what Langdon had just told her. She
felt a new regret well
within her. Ten years. She pictured the stacks of unopened letters
her grandfather had
sent her. I will tell Robert everything. Without turning from the
window, Sophie began to
speak. Quietly. Fearfully.
As she began to recount what had happened that night, she felt
herself drifting back...
alighting in the woods outside her grandfather's Normandy
château... searching the
deserted house in confusion... hearing the voices below her... and
then finding the hidden
door. She inched down the stone staircase, one step at a time, into
that basement grotto.
She could taste the earthy air. Cool and light. It was March. In the
shadows of her hiding
place on the staircase, she watched as the strangers swayed and
chanted by flickering

orange candles.
I'm dreaming, Sophie told herself. This is a dream. What else could
this be?
The women and men were staggered, black, white, black, white. The
women's beautiful
gossamer gowns billowed as they raised in their right hands golden
orbs and called out in
unison, "I was with you in the beginning, in the dawn of all that is
holy, I bore you from
the womb before the start of day."
The women lowered their orbs, and everyone rocked back and forth
as if in a trance.
They were revering something in the center of the circle.
What are they looking at?
The voices accelerated now. Louder. Faster.
"The woman whom you behold is love!" The women called, raising
their orbs again.
The men responded, "She has her dwelling in eternity!"
The chanting grew steady again. Accelerating. Thundering now.
Faster. The participants
stepped inward and knelt.
In that instant, Sophie could finally see what they were all
On a low, ornate altar in the center of the circle lay a man. He was
naked, positioned on
his back, and wearing a black mask. Sophie instantly recognized his
body and the
birthmark on his shoulder. She almost cried out. Grand-père! This
image alone would

have shocked Sophie beyond belief, and yet there was more.
Straddling her grandfather was a naked woman wearing a white
mask, her luxuriant silver
hair flowing out behind it. Her body was plump, far from perfect,
and she was gyrating in
rhythm to the chantingmaking love to Sophie's grandfather.
Sophie wanted to turn and run, but she couldn't. The stone walls of
the grotto imprisoned
her as the chanting rose to a fever pitch. The circle of participants
seemed almost to be
singing now, the noise rising in crescendo to a frenzy. With a sudden
roar, the entire
room seemed to erupt in climax. Sophie could not breathe. She
suddenly realized she was
quietly sobbing. She turned and staggered silently up the stairs, out
of the house, and
drove trembling back to Paris.
The chartered turboprop was just passing over the twinkling lights
of Monaco when
Aringarosa hung up on Fache for the second time. He reached for
the airsickness bag
again but felt too drained even to be sick.
Just let it be over!
Fache's newest update seemed unfathomable, and yet almost
nothing tonight made sense
anymore. What is going on? Everything had spiraled wildly out of
control. What have I
gotten Silas into? What have I gotten myself into!

On shaky legs, Aringarosa walked to the cockpit. "I need to change
The pilot glanced over his shoulder and laughed. "You're joking,
"No. I have to get to London immediately."
"Father, this is a charter flight, not a taxi."
"I will pay you extra, of course. How much? London is only one hour
farther north and
requires almost no change of direction, so"
"It's not a question of money, Father, there are other issues."
"Ten thousand euro. Right now."
The pilot turned, his eyes wide with shock. "How much? What kind
of priest carries that
kind of cash?"
Aringarosa walked back to his black briefcase, opened it, and
removed one of the bearer
bonds. He handed it to the pilot.
"What is this?" the pilot demanded.
"A ten-thousand-euro bearer bond drawn on the Vatican Bank."
The pilot looked dubious.
"It's the same as cash."
"Only cash is cash," the pilot said, handing the bond back.
Aringarosa felt weak as he steadied himself against the cockpit
door. "This is a matter of
life or death. You must help me. I need to get to London."
The pilot eyed the bishop's gold ring. "Real diamonds?"
Aringarosa looked at the ring. "I could not possibly part with this."
The pilot shrugged, turning and focusing back out the windshield.
Aringarosa felt a deepening sadness. He looked at the ring.
Everything it represented was

about to be lost to the bishop anyway. After a long moment, he slid
the ring from his
finger and placed it gently on the instrument panel.
Aringarosa slunk out of the cockpit and sat back down. Fifteen
seconds later, he could
feel the pilot banking a few more degrees to the north.
Even so, Aringarosa's moment of glory was in shambles.
It had all begun as a holy cause. A brilliantly crafted scheme. Now,
like a house of cards,
it was collapsing in on itself... and the end was nowhere in sight.
Langdon could see Sophie was still shaken from recounting her
experience of Hieros
Gamos. For his part, Langdon was amazed to have heard it. Not only
had Sophie
witnessed the full-blown ritual, but her own grandfather had been
the celebrant... the
Grand Master of the Priory of Sion. It was heady company. Da Vinci,
Botticelli, Isaac
Newton, Victor Hugo, Jean Cocteau... Jacques Saunière.
"I don't know what else I can tell you," Langdon said softly.
Sophie's eyes were a deep green now, tearful. "He raised me like his
own daughter."
Langdon now recognized the emotion that had been growing in her
eyes as they spoke. It
was remorse. Distant and deep. Sophie Neveu had shunned her
grandfather and was now
seeing him in an entirely different light.

Outside, the dawn was coming fast, its crimson aura gathering off
the starboard. The
earth was still black beneath them.
"Victuals, my dears?" Teabing rejoined them with a flourish,
presenting several cans of
Coke and a box of old crackers. He apologized profusely for the
limited fare as he doled
out the goods. "Our friend the monk isn't talking yet," he chimed,
"but give him time." He
bit into a cracker and eyed the poem. "So, my lovely, any headway?"
He looked at Sophie.
"What is your grandfather trying to tell us here? Where the devil is
this headstone? This
headstone praised by Templars."
Sophie shook her head and remained silent.
While Teabing again dug into the verse, Langdon popped a Coke and
turned to the
window, his thoughts awash with images of secret rituals and
unbroken codes. A
headstone praised by Templars is the key. He took a long sip from
the can. A headstone
praised by Templars. The cola was warm.
The dissolving veil of night seemed to evaporate quickly, and as
Langdon watched the
transformation, he saw a shimmering ocean stretch out beneath
them. The English
Channel. It wouldn't be long now.
Langdon willed the light of day to bring with it a second kind of
illumination, but the

lighter it became outside, the further he felt from the truth. He
heard the rhythms of
iambic pentameter and chanting, Hieros Gamos and sacred rites,
resonating with the
rumble of the jet.
A headstone praised by Templars.
The plane was over land again when a flash of enlightenment struck
him. Langdon set
down his empty can of Coke hard. "You won't believe this," he said,
turning to the others.
"The Templar headstoneI figured it out."
Teabing's eyes turned to saucers. "You know where the headstone
Langdon smiled. "Not where it is. What it is."
Sophie leaned in to hear.
"I think the headstone references a literal stone head," Langdon
explained, savoring the
familiar excitement of academic breakthrough. "Not a grave
"A stone head?" Teabing demanded. Sophie looked equally confused.
"Leigh," Langdon said, turning, "during the Inquisition, the Church
accused the Knights Templar of all kinds of heresies, right?"
"Correct. They fabricated all kinds of charges. Sodomy, urination on
the cross, devil worship, quite a list." "And on that list was the
worship of false idols, right? Specifically, the Church accused the
Templars of secretly performing rituals in which they prayed to a
carved stone head... the pagan god" "Baphomet!" Teabing blurted.
"My heavens, Robert, you're right! A headstone praised by
Templars!" Langdon quickly explained to Sophie that Baphomet was a

pagan fertility god associated with the creative force of
reproduction. Baphomet's head was represented as that of a ram or
goat, a common symbol of procreation and fecundity. The Templars
honored Baphomet by encircling a stone replica of his head and
chanting prayers. "Baphomet," Teabing tittered. "The ceremony
honored the creative magic of sexual union, but Pope Clement
convinced everyone that Baphomet's head was in fact that of the
devil. The Pope used the head of Baphomet as the linchpin in his
case against the Templars." Langdon concurred. The modern belief
in a horned devil known as Satan could be traced back to Baphomet
and the Church's attempts to recast the horned fertility god as a
symbol of evil. The Church had obviously succeeded, although not
entirely. Traditional American Thanksgiving tables still bore pagan,
horned fertility symbols. The cornucopia or "horn of plenty" was a
tribute to Baphomet's fertility and dated back to Zeus being
suckled by a goat whose horn broke off and magically filled with
fruit. Baphomet also appeared in group photographs when some
joker raised two fingers behind a friend's head in the V-symbol of
horns; certainly few of the pranksters realized their mocking
gesture was in fact advertising their victim's robust sperm count.
"Yes, yes," Teabing was saying excitedly. "Baphomet must be what
the poem is referring to. A headstone praised by Templars." "Okay,"
Sophie said, "but if Baphomet is the headstone praised by Templars,
then we have a new dilemma." She pointed to the dials on the
cryptex. "Baphomet has eight letters. We only have room for five."
Teabing grinned broadly. "My dear, this is where the Atbash Cipher
comes into play"
Langdon was impressed. Teabing had just finished writing out the
entire twenty-two-letter Hebrew alphabetalef-beitfrom memory.

Granted, he'd used Roman equivalents rather than Hebrew
characters, but even so, he was now reading through them with
flawless pronunciation. A B G D H V Z Ch T Y K L M N S O P Tz Q R
Sh Th "Alef, Beit, Gimel, Dalet, Hei, Vav, Zayin, Chet, Tet, Yud, Kaf,
Lamed, Mem, Nun, Samech, Ayin, Pei, Tzadik, Kuf, Reish, Shin, and
Tav." Teabing dramatically mopped his brow and plowed on. "In
formal Hebrew spelling, the vowel sounds are not written.
Therefore, when we write the word Baphomet using the Hebrew
alphabet, it will lose its three vowels in translation, leaving us" "Five
letters," Sophie blurted.
Teabing nodded and began writing again. "Okay, here is the proper
spelling of Baphomet
in Hebrew letters. I'll sketch in the missing vowels for clarity's
B a P V o M e Th
"Remember, of course," he added, "that Hebrew is normally written
in the opposite
direction, but we can just as easily use Atbash this way. Next, all we
have to do is create
our substitution scheme by rewriting the entire alphabet in reverse
order opposite the
original alphabet."
"There's an easier way," Sophie said, taking the pen from Teabing.
"It works for all
reflectional substitution ciphers, including the Atbash. A little trick
I learned at the Royal
Holloway." Sophie wrote the first half of the alphabet from left to
right, and then, beneath

it, wrote the second half, right to left. "Cryptanalysts call it the
fold-over. Half as
complicated. Twice as clean."
Teabing eyed her handiwork and chuckled. "Right you are. Glad to
see those boys at the
Holloway are doing their job."

Looking at Sophie's substitution matrix, Langdon felt a rising thrill
that he imagined must
have rivaled the thrill felt by early scholars when they first used
the Atbash Cipher to
decrypt the now famous Mystery of Sheshach. For years, religious
scholars had been
baffled by biblical references to a city called Sheshach. The city
did not appear on any
map nor in any other documents, and yet it was mentioned
repeatedly in the Book of
Jeremiahthe king of Sheshach, the city of Sheshach, the people of
Sheshach. Finally, a
scholar applied the Atbash Cipher to the word, and his results were
mind-numbing. The
cipher revealed that Sheshach was in fact a code word for another
very well-known city.
The decryption process was simple.
Sheshach, in Hebrew, was spelled: Sh-Sh-K.
Sh-Sh-K, when placed in the substitution matrix, became B-B-L.
B-B-L, in Hebrew, spelled Babel.
The mysterious city of Sheshach was revealed as the city of Babel,
and a frenzy of
biblical examination ensued. Within weeks, several more Atbash
code words were
uncovered in the Old Testament, unveiling myriad hidden meanings
that scholars had no
idea were there.
"We're getting close," Langdon whispered, unable to control his

"Inches, Robert," Teabing said. He glanced over at Sophie and
smiled. "You ready?"
She nodded.
"Okay, Baphomet in Hebrew without the vowels reads: B-P-V-M-Th.
Now we simply
apply your Atbash substitution matrix to translate the letters into
our five-letter
Langdon's heart pounded. B-P-V-M-Th. The sun was pouring through
the windows now.
He looked at Sophie's substitution matrix and slowly began to make
the conversion. B is
Sh... P is V...
Teabing was grinning like a schoolboy at Christmas. "And the Atbash
Cipher reveals..."
He stopped short. "Good God!" His face went white.
Langdon's head snapped up.
"What's wrong?" Sophie demanded.
"You won't believe this." Teabing glanced at Sophie. "Especially you."
"What do you mean?" she said.
"This is... ingenious," he whispered. "Utterly ingenious!" Teabing
wrote again on the
paper. "Drumroll, please. Here is your password." He showed them
what he had written.
Sophie scowled. "What is it?"
Langdon didn't recognize it either.
Teabing's voice seemed to tremble with awe. "This, my friend, is
actually an ancient

word of wisdom."
Langdon read the letters again. An ancient word of wisdom frees
this scroll. An instant
later he got it. He had newer seen this coming. "An ancient word of
Teabing was laughing. "Quite literally!"
Sophie looked at the word and then at the dial. Immediately she
realized Langdon and
Teabing had failed to see a serious glitch. "Hold on! This can't be
the password," she
argued. "The cryptex doesn't have an Sh on the dial. It uses a
traditional Roman
"Read the word," Langdon urged. "Keep in mind two things. In
Hebrew, the symbol for
the sound Sh can also be pronounced as S, depending on the accent.
Just as the letter P
can be pronounced F."
SVFYA? she thought, puzzled.
"Genius!" Teabing added. "The letter Vav is often a placeholder for
the vowel sound O!"
Sophie again looked at the letters, attempting to sound them out.
She heard the sound of her voice, and could not believe what she
had just said. "Sophia?
This spells Sophia?"
Langdon was nodding enthusiastically. "Yes! Sophia literally means
wisdom in Greek.
The root of your name, Sophie, is literally a 'word of wisdom.' "

Sophie suddenly missed her grandfather immensely. He encrypted
the Priory keystone
with my name. A knot caught in her throat. It all seemed so perfect.
But as she turned her
gaze to the five lettered dials on the cryptex, she realized a
problem still existed. "But
wait... the word Sophia has six letters."
Teabing's smile never faded. "Look at the poem again. Your
grandfather wrote, 'An
ancient word of wisdom.' "
Teabing winked. "In ancient Greek, wisdom is spelled S-O-F-I-A."
Sophie felt a wild excitement as she cradled the cryptex and began
dialing in the letters.
An ancient word of wisdom frees this scroll. Langdon and Teabing
seemed to have
stopped breathing as they looked on.
S... O... F...
"Carefully," Teabing urged. "Ever so carefully."
...I... A.
Sophie aligned the final dial. "Okay," she whispered, glancing up at
the others. "I'm
going to pull it apart."
"Remember the vinegar," Langdon whispered with fearful
exhilaration. "Be careful."
Sophie knew that if this cryptex were like those she had opened in
her youth, all she

would need to do is grip the cylinder at both ends, just beyond the
dials, and pull,
applying slow, steady pressure in opposite directions. If the dials
were properly aligned
with the password, then one of the ends would slide off, much like a
lens cap, and she
could reach inside and remove the rolled papyrus document, which
would be wrapped
around the vial of vinegar. However, if the password they had
entered were incorrect,
Sophie's outward force on the ends would be transferred to a
hinged lever inside, which
would pivot downward into the cavity and apply pressure to the glass
vial, eventually
shattering it if she pulled too hard.
Pull gently, she told herself.
Teabing and Langdon both leaned in as Sophie wrapped her palms
around the ends of the
cylinder. In the excitement of deciphering the code word, Sophie
had almost forgotten
what they expected to find inside. This is the Priory keystone.
According to Teabing, it
contained a map to the Holy Grail, unveiling the tomb of Mary
Magdalene and the
Sangreal treasure... the ultimate treasure trove of secret truth.
Now gripping the stone tube, Sophie double-checked that all of the
letters were properly
aligned with the indicator. Then, slowly, she pulled. Nothing
happened. She applied a

little more force. Suddenly, the stone slid apart like a well-crafted
telescope. The heavy
end piece detached in her hand. Langdon and Teabing almost jumped
to their feet.
Sophie's heart rate climbed as she set the end cap on the table and
tipped the cylinder to
peer inside.
A scroll!
Peering down the hollow of the rolled paper, Sophie could see it had
been wrapped
around a cylindrical objectthe vial of vinegar, she assumed.
Strangely, though, the paper
around the vinegar was not the customary delicate papyrus but
rather, vellum. That's odd,
she thought, vinegar can't dissolve a lambskin vellum. She looked
again down the hollow
of the scroll and realized the object in the center was not a vial of
vinegar after all. It was
something else entirely.
"What's wrong?" Teabing asked. "Pull out the scroll."
Frowning, Sophie grabbed the rolled vellum and the object around
which it was wrapped,
pulling them both out of the container.
"That's not papyrus," Teabing said. "It's too heavy."
"I know. It's padding."
"For what? The vial of vinegar?"
"No." Sophie unrolled the scroll and revealed what was wrapped
inside. "For this."

When Langdon saw the object inside the sheet of vellum, his heart
"God help us," Teabing said, slumping. "Your grandfather was a
pitiless architect."
Langdon stared in amazement. I see Saunière has no intention of
making this easy.
On the table sat a second cryptex. Smaller. Made of black onyx. It
had been nested within
the first. Saunière's passion for dualism. Two cryptexes. Everything
in pairs. Double
entendres. Male female. Black nested within white. Langdon felt the
web of symbolism
stretching onward. White gives birth to black.
Every man sprang from woman.
Reaching over, Langdon lifted the smaller cryptex. It looked
identical to the first, except
half the size and black. He heard the familiar gurgle. Apparently,
the vial of vinegar they
had heard earlier was inside this smaller cryptex.
"Well, Robert," Teabing said, sliding the page of vellum over to him.
"You'll be pleased to hear that at least we're flying in the right
Langdon examined the thick vellum sheet. Written in ornate
penmanship was another
four-line verse. Again, in iambic pentameter. The verse was cryptic,
but Langdon needed
to read only as far as the first line to realize that Teabing's plan to
come to Britain was

going to pay off.
The remainder of the poem clearly implied that the password for
opening the second
cryptex could be found by visiting this knight's tomb, somewhere in
the city.
Langdon turned excitedly to Teabing. "Do you have any idea what
knight this poem is
referring to?"
Teabing grinned. "Not the foggiest. But I know in precisely which
crypt we should look."
At that moment, fifteen miles ahead of them, six Kent police cars
streaked down rain-
soaked streets toward Biggin Hill Executive Airport.
Lieutenant Collet helped himself to a Perrier from Teabing's
refrigerator and strode back
out through the drawing room. Rather than accompanying Fache to
London where the
action was, he was now baby-sitting the PTS team that had spread
out through Château
So far, the evidence they had uncovered was unhelpful: a single
bullet buried in the floor;
a paper with several symbols scrawled on it along with the words
blade and chalice; and a

bloody spiked belt that PTS had told Collet was associated with the
conservative Catholic
group Opus Dei, which had caused a stir recently when a news
program exposed their
aggressive recruiting practices in Paris.
Collet sighed. Good luck making sense of this unlikely mélange.
Moving down a lavish hallway, Collet entered the vast ballroom
study, where the chief
PTS examiner was busy dusting for fingerprints. He was a corpulent
man in suspenders.
"Anything?" Collet asked, entering.
The examiner shook his head. "Nothing new. Multiple sets matching
those in the rest of
the house."
"How about the prints on the cilice belt?"
"Interpol is still working. I uploaded everything we found."
Collet motioned to two sealed evidence bags on the desk. "And
The man shrugged. "Force of habit. I bag anything peculiar."
Collet walked over. Peculiar?
"This Brit's a strange one," the examiner said. "Have a look at this."
He sifted through the
evidence bags and selected one, handing it to Collet.
The photo showed the main entrance of a Gothic cathedralthe
traditional, recessed
archway, narrowing through multiple, ribbed layers to a small
Collet studied the photo and turned. "This is peculiar?"
"Turn it over."

On the back, Collet found notations scrawled in English, describing a
cathedral's long
hollow nave as a secret pagan tribute to a woman's womb. This was
strange. The notation
describing the cathedral's doorway, however, was what startled
him. "Hold on! He thinks
a cathedral's entrance represents a woman's..."
The examiner nodded. "Complete with receding labial ridges and a
nice little cinquefoil
clitoris above the doorway." He sighed. "Kind of makes you want to
go back to church."
Collet picked up the second evidence bag. Through the plastic, he
could see a large
glossy photograph of what appeared to be an old document. The
heading at the top read:
Les Dossiers SecretsNumber 4° lm1 249
"What's this?" Collet asked.
"No idea. He's got copies of it all over the place, so I bagged it."
Collet studied the document.



Prieuré de Sion? Collet wondered.
"Lieutenant?" Another agent stuck his head in. "The switchboard
has an urgent call for
Captain Fache, but they can't reach him. Will you take it?"
Collet returned to the kitchen and took the call.
It was André Vernet.
The banker's refined accent did little to mask the tension in his
voice. "I thought Captain
Fache said he would call me, but I have not yet heard from him."
"The captain is quite busy," Collet replied. "May I help you?"
"I was assured I would be kept abreast of your progress tonight."
For a moment, Collet thought he recognized the timbre of the man's
voice, but he couldn't
quite place it. "Monsieur Vernet, I am currently in charge of the
Paris investigation. My
name is Lieutenant Collet."
There was a long pause on the line. "Lieutenant, I have another call
coming in. Please
excuse me. I will call you later." He hung up.
For several seconds, Collet held the receiver. Then it dawned on
him. I knew I recognized
that voice! The revelation made him gasp.

The armored car driver.
With the fake Rolex.
Collet now understood why the banker had hung up so quickly.
Vernet had remembered
the name Lieutenant Colletthe officer he blatantly lied to earlier
Collet pondered the implications of this bizarre development.
Vernet is involved.
Instinctively, he knew he should call Fache. Emotionally, he knew
this lucky break was
going to be his moment to shine.
He immediately called Interpol and requested every shred of
information they could find
on the Depository Bank of Zurich and its president, André Vernet.
"Seat belts, please," Teabing's pilot announced as the Hawker 731
descended into a
gloomy morning drizzle. "We'll be landing in five minutes."
Teabing felt a joyous sense of homecoming when he saw the misty
hills of Kent
spreading wide beneath the descending plane. England was less than
an hour from Paris,
and yet a world away. This morning, the damp, spring green of his
homeland looked
particularly welcoming. My time in France is over. I am returning to
England victorious.
The keystone has been found. The question remained, of course, as
to where the keystone

would ultimately lead. Somewhere in the United Kingdom. Where
exactly, Teabing had
no idea, but he was already tasting the glory.
As Langdon and Sophie looked on, Teabing got up and went to the
far side of the cabin,
then slid aside a wall panel to reveal a discreetly hidden wall safe.
He dialed in the
combination, opened the safe, and extracted two passports.
"Documentation for Rémy
and myself." He then removed a thick stack of fifty-pound notes.
"And documentation for
you two."
Sophie looked leery. "A bribe?"
"Creative diplomacy. Executive airfields make certain allowances. A
British customs
official will greet us at my hangar and ask to board the plane.
Rather than permitting him
to come on, I'll tell him I'm traveling with a French celebrity who
prefers that nobody
knows she is in Englandpress considerations, you knowand I'll offer
the official this
generous tip as gratitude for his discretion."
Langdon looked amazed. "And the official will accept?"
"Not from anyone, they won't, but these people all know me. I'm not
an arms dealer, for
heaven's sake. I was knighted." Teabing smiled. "Membership has its
Rémy approached up the aisle now, the Heckler Koch pistol cradled
in his hand. "Sir, my

Teabing glanced at his servant. "I'm going to have you stay onboard
with our guest until
we return. We can't very well drag him all over London with us."
Sophie looked wary. "Leigh, I was serious about the French police
finding your plane
before we return."
Teabing laughed. "Yes, imagine their surprise if they board and find
Sophie looked surprised by his cavalier attitude. "Leigh, you
transported a bound hostage
across international borders. This is serious."
"So are my lawyers." He scowled toward the monk in the rear of the
plane. "That animal
broke into my home and almost killed me. That is a fact, and Rémy
will corroborate."
"But you tied him up and flew him to London!" Langdon said.
Teabing held up his right hand and feigned a courtroom oath. "Your
honor, forgive an
eccentric old knight his foolish prejudice for the British court
system. I realize I should
have called the French authorities, but I'm a snob and do not trust
those laissez-faire
French to prosecute properly. This man almost murdered me. Yes, I
made a rash decision
forcing my manservant to help me bring him to England, but I was
under great stress.
Mea culpa. Mea culpa."
Langdon looked incredulous. "Coming from you, Leigh, that just
might fly."

"Sir?" the pilot called back. "The tower just radioed. They've got
some kind of
maintenance problem out near your hangar, and they're asking me to
bring the plane
directly to the terminal instead."
Teabing had been flying to Biggin Hill for over a decade, and this
was a first. "Did they
mention what the problem is?"
"The controller was vague. Something about a gas leak at the
pumping station? They
asked me to park in front of the terminal and keep everyone
onboard until further notice.
Safety precaution. We're not supposed to deplane until we get the
all clear from airport
Teabing was skeptical. Must be one hell of a gas leak. The pumping
station was a good
half mile from his hangar.
Rémy also looked concerned. "Sir, this sounds highly irregular."
Teabing turned to Sophie and Langdon. "My friends, I have an
unpleasant suspicion that
we are about to be met by a welcoming committee."
Langdon gave a bleak sigh. "I guess Fache still thinks I'm his man."
"Either that," Sophie said, "or he is too deep into this to admit his
Teabing was not listening. Regardless of Fache's mind-set, action
needed to be taken fast.
Don't lose sight of the ultimate goal. The Grail. We're so dose.
Below them, the landing
gear descended with a clunk.

"Leigh," Langdon said, sounding deeply remorseful, "I should turn
myself in and sort this
out legally. Leave you all out of it."
"Oh, heavens, Robert!" Teabing waved it off. "Do you really think
they're going to let the
rest of us go? I just transported you illegally. Miss Neveu assisted
in your escape from
the Louvre, and we have a man tied up in the back of the plane.
Really now! We're all in
this together."
"Maybe a different airport?" Sophie said.
Teabing shook his head. "If we pull up now, by the time we get
clearance anywhere else,
our welcoming party will include army tanks."
Sophie slumped.
Teabing sensed that if they were to have any chance of postponing
confrontation with the
British authorities long enough to find the Grail, bold action had to
be taken. "Give me a
minute," he said, hobbling toward the cockpit.
"What are you doing?" Langdon asked.
"Sales meeting," Teabing said, wondering how much it would cost him

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