Sophie guided him out toward the tracks, where a familiar tone
chimed overhead and a
P.A. announcer gave the final boarding call for Lyon. Sixteen
separate tracks spread out
before them. In the distance to the right, at quay three, the train
to Lyon was belching and
wheezing in preparation for departure, but Sophie already had her
arm through Langdon's
and was guiding him in the exact opposite direction. They hurried
through a side lobby,
past an all-night cafe, and finally out a side door onto a quiet street
on the west side of the
A lone taxi sat idling by the doorway.
The driver saw Sophie and flicked his lights.
Sophie jumped in the back seat. Langdon got in after her.
As the taxi pulled away from station, Sophie took out their newly
purchased train tickets
and tore them up.
Langdon sighed. Seventy dollars well spent.
It was not until their taxi had settled into a monotonous northbound
hum on Rue de
Clichy that Langdon felt they'd actually escaped. Out the window to
his right, he could
see Montmartre and the beautiful dome of Sacré-Coeur. The image
was interrupted by the
flash of police lights sailing past them in the opposite direction.
Langdon and Sophie ducked down as the sirens faded.
Sophie had told the cab driver simply to head out of the city, and
from her firmly set jaw,
Langdon sensed she was trying to figure out their next move.
Langdon examined the cruciform key again, holding it to the window,
bringing it close to
his eyes in an effort to find any markings on it that might indicate
where the key had been
made. In the intermittent glow of passing streetlights, he saw no
markings except the
"It doesn't make sense," he finally said.
"That your grandfather would go to so much trouble to give you a
key that you wouldn't
know what to do with."
"Are you sure he didn't write anything else on the back of the
"I searched the whole area. This is all there was. This key, wedged
behind the painting. I
saw the Priory seal, stuck the key in my pocket, then we left."
Langdon frowned, peering now at the blunt end of the triangular
Squinting, he brought the key close to his eyes and examined the
rim of the head.
Nothing there either. "I think this key was cleaned recently."
"It smells like rubbing alcohol."
She turned. "I'm sorry?"
"It smells like somebody polished it with a cleaner." Langdon held
the key to his nose
and sniffed. "It's stronger on the other side." He flipped it over.
"Yes, it's alcohol-based,
like it's been buffed with a cleaner or" Langdon stopped.
He angled the key to the light and looked at the smooth surface on
the broad arm of the
cross. It seemed to shimmer in places... like it was wet. "How well
did you look at the
back of this key before you put it in your pocket?"
"What? Not well. I was in a hurry."
Langdon turned to her. "Do you still have the black light?"
Sophie reached in her pocket and produced the UV penlight.
Langdon took it and
switched it on, shining the beam on the back of the key.
The back luminesced instantly. There was writing there. In
penmanship that was hurried
"Well," Langdon said, smiling. "I guess we know what the alcohol
Sophie stared in amazement at the purple writing on the back of the
24 Rue Haxo
An address! My grandfather wrote down an address!
"Where is this?" Langdon asked.
Sophie had no idea. Facing front again, she leaned forward and
excitedly asked the driver,
"Connaissez-vous la Rue Haxo?"
The driver thought a moment and then nodded. He told Sophie it
was out near the tennis
stadium on the western outskirts of Paris. She asked him to take
them there immediately.
"Fastest route is through Bois de Boulogne," the driver told her in
French. "Is that okay?"
Sophie frowned. She could think of far less scandalous routes, but
tonight she was not
going to be picky. "Oui." We can shock the visiting American.
Sophie looked back at the key and wondered what they would
possibly find at 24 Rue
Haxo. A church? Some kind of Priory headquarters?
Her mind filled again with images of the secret ritual she had
witnessed in the basement
grotto ten years ago, and she heaved a long sigh. "Robert, I have a
lot of things to tell
you." She paused, locking eyes with him as the taxi raced westward.
"But first I want you
to tell me everything you know about this Priory of Sion."
Outside the Salle des Etats, Bezu Fache was fuming as Louvre
warden Grouard explained
how Sophie and Langdon had disarmed him. Why didn't you just
shoot the blessed
"Captain?" Lieutenant Collet loped toward them from the direction
of the command post.
"Captain, I just heard. They located Agent Neveu's car."
"Did she make the embassy?"
"No. Train station. Bought two tickets. Train just left."
Fache waved off warden Grouard and led Collet to a nearby alcove,
addressing him in
hushed tones. "What was the destination?"
"Probably a decoy." Fache exhaled, formulating a plan. "Okay, alert
the next station, have
the train stopped and searched, just in case. Leave her car where it
is and put plainclothes
on watch in case they try to come back to it. Send men to search
the streets around the
station in case they fled on foot. Are buses running from the
"Not at this hour, sir. Only the taxi queue."
"Good. Question the drivers. See if they saw anything. Then contact
the taxi company
dispatcher with descriptions. I'm calling Interpol."
Collet looked surprised. "You're putting this on the wire?"
Fache regretted the potential embarrassment, but he saw no other
Close the net fast, and close it tight.
The first hour was critical. Fugitives were predictable the first
hour after escape. They
always needed the same thing. Travel. Lodging. Cash. The Holy
Trinity. Interpol had the
power to make all three disappear in the blink of an eye. By
broadcast-faxing photos of
Langdon and Sophie to Paris travel authorities, hotels, and banks,
Interpol would leave no
optionsno way to leave the city, no place to hide, and no way to
withdraw cash without
being recognized. Usually, fugitives panicked on the street and did
Stole a car. Robbed a store. Used a bank card in desperation.
Whatever mistake they
committed, they quickly made their whereabouts known to local
"Only Langdon, right?" Collet said. "You're not flagging Sophie
Neveu. She's our own
"Of course I'm flagging her!" Fache snapped. "What good is flagging
Langdon if she can
do all his dirty work? I plan to run Neveu's employment filefriends,
contactsanyone she might turn to for help. I don't know what she
thinks she's doing out
there, but it's going to cost her one hell of a lot more than her job!"
"Do you want me on the phones or in the field?"
"Field. Get over to the train station and coordinate the team. You've
got the reins, but
don't make a move without talking to me."
"Yes, sir." Collet ran out.
Fache felt rigid as he stood in the alcove. Outside the window, the
glass pyramid shone,
its reflection rippling in the windswept pools. They slipped through
my fingers. He told
himself to relax.
Even a trained field agent would be lucky to withstand the pressure
that Interpol was
about to apply.
A female cryptologist and a schoolteacher?
They wouldn't last till dawn.
The heavily forested park known as the Bois de Boulogne was called
many things, but
the Parisian cognoscenti knew it as "the Garden of Earthly
Delights." The epithet, despite
sounding flattering, was quite to the contrary. Anyone who had seen
the lurid Bosch
painting of the same name understood the jab; the painting, like the
forest, was dark and
twisted, a purgatory for freaks and fetishists. At night, the
forest's winding lanes were
lined with hundreds of glistening bodies for hire, earthly delights to
satisfy one's deepest
unspoken desiresmale, female, and everything in between.
As Langdon gathered his thoughts to tell Sophie about the Priory of
Sion, their taxi
passed through the wooded entrance to the park and began heading
west on the
cobblestone crossfare. Langdon was having trouble concentrating as
a scattering of the
park's nocturnal residents were already emerging from the shadows
and flaunting their
wares in the glare of the headlights. Ahead, two topless teenage
girls shot smoldering
gazes into the taxi. Beyond them, a well-oiled black man in a G-
string turned and flexed
his buttocks. Beside him, a gorgeous blond woman lifted her
miniskirt to reveal that she
was not, in fact, a woman.
Heaven help me! Langdon turned his gaze back inside the cab and
took a deep breath.
"Tell me about the Priory of Sion," Sophie said.
Langdon nodded, unable to imagine a less congruous a backdrop for
the legend he was
about to tell. He wondered where to begin. The brotherhood's
history spanned more than
a millennium... an astonishing chronicle of secrets, blackmail,
betrayal, and even brutal
torture at the hands of an angry Pope.
"The Priory of Sion," he began, "was founded in Jerusalem in 1099
by a French king
named Godefroi de Bouillon, immediately after he had conquered the
Sophie nodded, her eyes riveted on him.
"King Godefroi was allegedly the possessor of a powerful secreta
secret that had been in
his family since the time of Christ. Fearing his secret might be lost
when he died, he
founded a secret brotherhoodthe Priory of Sionand charged them
with protecting his
secret by quietly passing it on from generation to generation. During
their years in
Jerusalem, the Priory learned of a stash of hidden documents
buried beneath the ruins of
Herod's temple, which had been built atop the earlier ruins of
Solomon's Temple. These
documents, they believed, corroborated Godefroi's powerful secret
and were so explosive
in nature that the Church would stop at nothing to get them."
Sophie looked uncertain.
"The Priory vowed that no matter how long it took, these documents
must be recovered
from the rubble beneath the temple and protected forever, so the
truth would never die. In
order to retrieve the documents from within the ruins, the Priory
created a military arma
group of nine knights called the Order of the Poor Knights of Christ
and the Temple of
Solomon." Langdon paused. "More commonly known as the Knights
Sophie glanced up with a surprised look of recognition. Langdon had
lectured often enough on the Knights Templar to know that almost
everyone on earth had heard of them, at least abstractedly. For
academics, the Templars' history was a precarious world where
fact, lore, and misinformation had become so intertwined that
extracting a pristine truth was almost impossible. Nowadays,
Langdon hesitated even to mention the Knights Templar while
lecturing because it invariably led to a barrage of convoluted
inquiries into assorted conspiracy theories. Sophie already looked
troubled. "You're saying the Knights Templar were founded by the
Priory of Sion to retrieve a collection of secret documents? I
thought the Templars were created to protect the Holy Land." "A
common misconception. The idea of protection of pilgrims was the
guise under which the Templars ran their mission. Their true goal in
the Holy Land was to retrieve the documents from beneath the
ruins of the temple." "And did they find them?" Langdon grinned.
"Nobody knows for sure, but the one thing on which all academics
agree is this: The Knights discovered something down there in the
ruins... something that made them wealthy and powerful beyond
anyone's wildest imagination." Langdon quickly gave Sophie the
standard academic sketch of the accepted Knights Templar history,
explaining how the Knights were in the Holy Land during the Second
Crusade and told King Baldwin II that they were there to protect
Christian pilgrims on the roadways. Although unpaid and sworn to
poverty, the Knights told the king they required basic shelter and
requested his permission to take up residence in the stables under
the ruins of the temple. King Baldwin granted the soldiers' request,
and the Knights took up their meager residence inside the
devastated shrine. The odd choice of lodging, Langdon explained,
had been anything but random. The Knights believed the documents
the Priory sought were buried deep under the ruinsbeneath the Holy
of Holies, a sacred chamber where God Himself was believed to
reside. Literally, the very center of the Jewish faith. For almost a
decade, the nine Knights lived in the ruins, excavating in total
secrecy through solid rock. Sophie looked over. "And you said they
discovered something?" "They certainly did," Langdon said,
explaining how it had taken nine years, but the Knights had finally
found what they had been searching for. They took the treasure
from the temple and traveled to Europe, where their influence
seemed to solidify overnight. Nobody was certain whether the
Knights had blackmailed the Vatican or whether the Church simply
tried to buy the Knights' silence, but Pope Innocent II immediately
issued an unprecedented papal bull that afforded the Knights
Templar limitless power and declared them "a law unto
themselves"an autonomous army independent of all interference
from kings and prelates, both religious and political. With their new
carte blanche from the Vatican, the Knights Templar expanded at a
staggering rate, both in numbers and political force, amassing vast
estates in over a dozen countries. They began extending credit to
bankrupt royals and charging interest in return, thereby
establishing modern banking and broadening their wealth and
influence still further. By the 1300s, the Vatican sanction had
helped the Knights amass so much power that Pope Clement V
decided that something had to be done. Working in concert with
France's King Philippe IV, the Pope devised an ingeniously planned
sting operation to quash the Templars and seize their treasure, thus
taking control of the secrets held over the Vatican. In a military
maneuver worthy of the CIA, Pope Clement issued secret sealed
orders to be opened simultaneously by his soldiers all across Europe
on Friday, October 13 of 1307. At dawn on the thirteenth, the
documents were unsealed and their appalling contents revealed.
Clement's letter claimed that God had visited him in a vision and
warned him that the Knights Templar were heretics guilty of devil
worship, homosexuality, defiling the cross, sodomy, and other
blasphemous behavior. Pope Clement had been asked by God to
cleanse the earth by rounding up all the Knights and torturing them
until they confessed their crimes against God. Clement's
Machiavellian operation came off with clockwork precision. On that
day, countless Knights were captured, tortured mercilessly, and
finally burned at the stake as heretics. Echoes of the tragedy still
resonated in modern culture; to this day, Friday the thirteenth was
considered unlucky. Sophie looked confused. "The Knights Templar
were obliterated? I thought fraternities of Templars still exist
today?" "They do, under a variety of names. Despite Clement's false
charges and best efforts to eradicate them, the Knights had
powerful allies, and some managed to escape the Vatican purges.
The Templars' potent treasure trove of documents, which had
apparently been their source of power, was Clement's true
objective, but it slipped through his fingers. The documents had
long since been entrusted to the Templars' shadowy architects, the
Priory of Sion, whose veil of secrecy had kept them safely out of
range of the Vatican's onslaught. As the Vatican closed in, the
Priory smuggled their documents from a Paris preceptory by night
onto Templar ships in La Rochelle." "Where did the documents go?"
Langdon shrugged. "That mystery's answer is known only to the
Priory of Sion. Because the documents remain the source of
constant investigation and speculation even today, they are believed
to have been moved and rehidden several times. Current speculation
places the documents somewhere in the United Kingdom." Sophie
looked uneasy. "For a thousand years," Langdon continued, "legends
of this secret have been passed on. The entire collection of
documents, its power, and the secret it reveals have become known
by a single nameSangreal. Hundreds of books have been written
about it, and few mysteries have caused as much interest among
historians as the Sangreal." "The Sangreal? Does the word have
anything to do with the French word sang or Spanish sangremeaning
'blood'?" Langdon nodded. Blood was the backbone of the Sangreal,
and yet not in the way Sophie probably imagined. "The legend is
complicated, but the important thing to remember is that the Priory
guards the proof, and is purportedly awaiting the right moment in
history to reveal the truth." "What truth? What secret could
possibly be that powerful?" Langdon took a deep breath and gazed
out at the underbelly of Paris leering in the shadows. "Sophie, the
word Sangreal is an ancient word. It has evolved over the years into
another term... a more modern name." He paused. "When I tell you
its modern name, you'll realize you already know a lot about it. In
fact, almost everyone on earth has heard the story of the
Sangreal." Sophie looked skeptical. "I've never heard of it."
"Sure you have." Langdon smiled. "You're just used to hearing it
called by the name
'Holy Grail.' "
Sophie scrutinized Langdon in the back of the taxi. He's joking.
"The Holy Grail?"
Langdon nodded, his expression serious. "Holy Grail is the literal
meaning of Sangreal.
The phrase derives from the French Sangraal, which evolved to
Sangreal, and was
eventually split into two words, San Greal."
Holy Grail. Sophie was surprised she had not spotted the linguistic
Even so, Langdon's claim still made no sense to her. "I thought the
Holy Grail was a cup.
You just told me the Sangreal is a collection of documents that
reveals some dark secret."
"Yes, but the Sangreal documents are only half of the Holy Grail
treasure. They are
buried with the Grail itself... and reveal its true meaning. The
documents gave the
Knights Templar so much power because the pages revealed the true
nature of the Grail."
The true nature of the Grail? Sophie felt even more lost now. The
Holy Grail, she had
thought, was the cup that Jesus drank from at the Last Supper and
with which Joseph of
Arimathea later caught His blood at the crucifixion. "The Holy Grail
is the Cup of
Christ," she said. "How much simpler could it be?"
"Sophie," Langdon whispered, leaning toward her now, "according to
the Priory of Sion,
the Holy Grail is not a cup at all. They claim the Grail legendthat of
a chaliceis actually
an ingeniously conceived allegory. That is, that the Grail story uses
the chalice as a
metaphor for something else, something far more powerful." He
paused. "Something that
fits perfectly with everything your grandfather has been trying to
tell us tonight, including
all his symbologic references to the sacred feminine."
Still unsure, Sophie sensed in Langdon's patient smile that he
empathized with her
confusion, and yet his eyes remained earnest. "But if the Holy Grail
is not a cup," she
asked, "what is it?"
Langdon had known this question was coming, and yet he still felt
uncertain exactly how
to tell her. If he did not present the answer in the proper historical
would be left with a vacant air of bewildermentthe exact expression
Langdon had seen on
his own editor's face a few months ago after Langdon handed him a
draft of the
manuscript he was working on.
"This manuscript claims what?" his editor had choked, setting down
his wineglass and
staring across his half-eaten power lunch. "You can't be serious."
"Serious enough to have spent a year researching it."
Prominent New York editor Jonas Faukman tugged nervously at his
goatee. Faukman no
doubt had heard some wild book ideas in his illustrious career, but
this one seemed to
have left the man flabbergasted.
"Robert," Faukman finally said, "don't get me wrong. I love your
work, and we've had a
great run together. But if I agree to publish an idea like this, I'll
have people picketing
outside my office for months. Besides, it will kill your reputation.
You're a Harvard
historian, for God's sake, not a pop schlockmeister looking for a
quick buck. Where could
you possibly find enough credible evidence to support a theory like
With a quiet smile Langdon pulled a piece of paper from the pocket
of his tweed coat and
handed it to Faukman. The page listed a bibliography of over fifty
titlesbooks by well-
known historians, some contemporary, some centuries oldmany of
bestsellers. All the book titles suggested the same premise Langdon
had just proposed. As
Faukman read down the list, he looked like a man who had just
discovered the earth was
actually flat. "I know some of these authors. They're... real
Langdon grinned. "As you can see, Jonas, this is not only my theory.
It's been around for
a long time. I'm simply building on it. No book has yet explored the
legend of the Holy
Grail from a symbologic angle. The iconographic evidence I'm finding
to support the
theory is, well, staggeringly persuasive."
Faukman was still staring at the list. "My God, one of these books
was written by Sir
Leigh Teabinga British Royal Historian."
"Teabing has spent much of his life studying the Holy Grail. I've
met with him. He was
actually a big part of my inspiration. He's a believer, Jonas, along
with all of the others on
"You're telling me all of these historians actually believe..." Faukman
apparently unable to say the words.
Langdon grinned again. "The Holy Grail is arguably the most sought-
after treasure in
human history. The Grail has spawned legends, wars, and lifelong
quests. Does it make
sense that it is merely a cup? If so, then certainly other relics
should generate similar or
greater interestthe Crown of Thorns, the True Cross of the
Crucifixion, the Titulusand yet,
they do not. Throughout history, the Holy Grail has been the most
grinned. "Now you know why."
Faukman was still shaking his head. "But with all these books written
about it, why isn't
this theory more widely known?"
"These books can't possibly compete with centuries of established
when that history is endorsed by the ultimate bestseller of all
Faukman's eyes went wide. "Don't tell me Harry Potter is actually
about the Holy Grail."
"I was referring to the Bible."
Faukman cringed. "I knew that."
"Laissez-le!" Sophie's shouts cut the air inside the taxi. "Put it
Langdon jumped as Sophie leaned forward over the seat and yelled
at the taxi driver.
Langdon could see the driver was clutching his radio mouthpiece and
speaking into it.
Sophie turned now and plunged her hand into the pocket of
Langdon's tweed jacket.
Before Langdon knew what had happened, she had yanked out the
pistol, swung it around,
and was pressing it to the back of the driver's head. The driver
instantly dropped his radio,
raising his one free hand overhead.
"Sophie!" Langdon choked. "What the hell"
"Arrêtez!" Sophie commanded the driver.
Trembling, the driver obeyed, stopping the car and putting it in
It was then that Langdon heard the metallic voice of the taxi
coming from the dashboard. "...qui s'appette Agent Sophie Neveu..."
the radio crackled.
"Et un Américain, Robert Langdon..."
Langdon's muscles turned rigid. They found us already?
"Descendez," Sophie demanded.
The trembling driver kept his arms over his head as he got out of
his taxi and took several
Sophie had rolled down her window and now aimed the gun outside at
cabbie. "Robert," she said quietly, "take the wheel. You're driving."
Langdon was not about to argue with a woman wielding a gun. He
climbed out of the car
and jumped back in behind the wheel. The driver was yelling curses,
his arms still raised
over his head.
"Robert," Sophie said from the back seat, "I trust you've seen
enough of our magic
He nodded. Plenty.
"Good. Drive us out of here."
Langdon looked down at the car's controls and hesitated. Shit. He
groped for the stick
shift and clutch. "Sophie? Maybe you"
"Go!" she yelled.
Outside, several hookers were walking over to see what was going
on. One woman was
placing a call on her cell phone. Langdon depressed the clutch and
jostled the stick into
what he hoped was first gear. He touched the accelerator, testing
Langdon popped the clutch. The tires howled as the taxi leapt
forward, fishtailing wildly
and sending the gathering crowd diving for cover. The woman with
the cell phone leapt
into the woods, only narrowly avoiding being run down.
"Doucement!" Sophie said, as the car lurched down the road. "What
are you doing?"
"I tried to warn you," he shouted over the sound of gnashing gears.
"I drive an
Although the spartan room in the brownstone on Rue La Bruyère had
witnessed a lot of
suffering, Silas doubted anything could match the anguish now
gripping his pale body. I
was deceived. Everything is lost.
Silas had been tricked. The brothers had lied, choosing death
instead of revealing their
true secret. Silas did not have the strength to call the Teacher. Not
only had Silas killed
the only four people who knew where the keystone was hidden, he
had killed a nun inside
Saint-Sulpice. She was working against God! She scorned the work
of Opus Dei!
A crime of impulse, the woman's death complicated matters greatly.
had placed the phone call that got Silas into Saint-Sulpice; what
would the abbé think
when he discovered the nun was dead? Although Silas had placed
her back in her bed, the
wound on her head was obvious. Silas had attempted to replace the
broken tiles in the
floor, but that damage too was obvious. They would know someone
had been there.
Silas had planned to hide within Opus Dei when his task here was
Aringarosa will protect me. Silas could imagine no more blissful
existence than a life of
meditation and prayer deep within the walls of Opus Dei's
headquarters in New York
City. He would never again set foot outside. Everything he needed
was within that
sanctuary. Nobody will miss me. Unfortunately, Silas knew, a
prominent man like Bishop
Aringarosa could not disappear so easily.
I have endangered the bishop. Silas gazed blankly at the floor and
pondered taking his
own life. After all, it had been Aringarosa who gave Silas life in the
first place... in that
small rectory in Spain, educating him, giving him purpose.
"My friend," Aringarosa had told him, "you were born an albino. Do
not let others shame
you for this. Do you not understand how special this makes you?
Were you not aware
that Noah himself was an albino?"
"Noah of the Ark?" Silas had never heard this.
Aringarosa was smiling. "Indeed, Noah of the Ark. An albino. Like
you, he had skin
white like an angel. Consider this. Noah saved all of life on the
planet. You are destined
for great things, Silas. The Lord has freed you for a reason. You
have your calling. The
Lord needs your help to do His work."
Over time, Silas learned to see himself in a new light. I am pure.
White. Beautiful. Like
At the moment, though, in his room at the residence hall, it was his
voice that whispered to him from the past.
Tu es un désastre. Un spectre.
Kneeling on the wooden floor, Silas prayed for forgiveness. Then,
stripping off his robe,
he reached again for the Discipline.
Struggling with the gear shift, Langdon managed to maneuver the
hijacked taxi to the far
side of the Bois de Boulogne while stalling only twice. Unfortunately,
the inherent humor
in the situation was overshadowed by the taxi dispatcher repeatedly
hailing their cab over
"Voiture cinq-six-trois. Où êtes-vous? Répondez!"
When Langdon reached the exit of the park, he swallowed his
machismo and jammed on
the brakes. "You'd better drive."
Sophie looked relieved as she jumped behind the wheel. Within
seconds she had the car
humming smoothly westward along Allée de Longchamp, leaving the
Garden of Earthly
"Which way is Rue Haxo?" Langdon asked, watching Sophie edge the
a hundred kilometers an hour.
Sophie's eyes remained focused on the road. "The cab driver said
it's adjacent to the
Roland Garros tennis stadium. I know that area."
Langdon pulled the heavy key from his pocket again, feeling the
weight in his palm. He
sensed it was an object of enormous consequence. Quite possibly
the key to his own
Earlier, while telling Sophie about the Knights Templar, Langdon had
realized that this
key, in addition to having the Priory seal embossed on it, possessed
a more subtle tie to
the Priory of Sion. The equal-armed cruciform was symbolic of
balance and harmony but
also of the Knights Templar. Everyone had seen the paintings of
wearing white tunics emblazoned with red equal-armed crosses.
Granted, the arms of the
Templar cross were slightly flared at the ends, but they were still
of equal length.
A square cross. Just like the one on this key.
Langdon felt his imagination starting to run wild as he fantasized
about what they might
find. The Holy Grail. He almost laughed out loud at the absurdity of
it. The Grail was
believed to be somewhere in England, buried in a hidden chamber
beneath one of the
many Templar churches, where it had been hidden since at least
The era of Grand Master Da Vinci.
The Priory, in order to keep their powerful documents safe, had
been forced to move them many times in the early centuries.
Historians now suspected as many as six different Grail relocations
since its arrival in Europe from Jerusalem. The last Grail "sighting"
had been in 1447 when numerous eyewitnesses described a fire that
had broken out and almost engulfed the documents before they
were carried to safety in four huge chests that each required six
men to carry. After that, nobody claimed to see the Grail ever
again. All that remained were occasional whisperings that it was
hidden in Great Britain, the land of King Arthur and the Knights of
the Round Table. Wherever it was, two important facts remained:
Leonardo knew where the Grail resided during his lifetime. That
hiding place had probably not changed to this day. For this reason,
Grail enthusiasts still pored over Da Vinci's art and diaries in hopes
of unearthing a hidden clue as to the Grail's current location. Some
claimed the mountainous backdrop in Madonna of the Rocks matched
the topography of a series of cave-ridden hills in Scotland. Others
insisted that the suspicious placement of disciples in The Last
Supper was some kind of code. Still others claimed that X rays of
the Mona Lisa revealed she originally had been painted wearing a
lapis lazuli pendant of Isisa detail Da Vinci purportedly later
decided to paint over. Langdon had never seen any evidence of the
pendant, nor could he imagine how it could possibly reveal the Holy
Grail, and yet Grail aficionados still discussed it ad nauseum on
Internet bulletin boards and worldwide-web chat rooms. Everyone
loves a conspiracy. And the conspiracies kept coming. Most recently,
of course, had been the earthshaking discovery that Da Vinci's
famed Adoration of the Magi was hiding a dark secret beneath its
layers of paint. Italian art diagnostician Maurizio Seracini had
unveiled the unsettling truth, which the New York Times Magazine
carried prominently in a story titled "The Leonardo Cover-Up."
Seracini had revealed beyond any doubt that while the Adoration's
gray-green sketched underdrawing was indeed Da Vinci's work, the
painting itself was not. The truth was that some anonymous painter
had filled in Da Vinci's sketch like a paint-by-numbers years after
Da Vinci's death. Far more troubling, however, was what lay beneath
the impostor's paint. Photographs taken with infrared
reflectography and X ray suggested that this rogue painter, while
filling in Da Vinci's sketched study, had made suspicious departures
from the underdrawing... as if to subvert Da Vinci's true intention.
Whatever the true nature of the underdrawing, it had yet to be
made public. Even so, embarrassed officials at Florence's Uffizi
Gallery immediately banished the painting to a warehouse across the
street. Visitors at the gallery's Leonardo Room now found a
misleading and unapologetic plaque where the Adoration once hung.
THIS WORK IS UNDERGOING DIAGNOSTIC TESTS IN
PREPARATION FOR RESTORATION.
In the bizarre underworld of modern Grail seekers, Leonardo da
Vinci remained the quest's great enigma. His artwork seemed
bursting to tell a secret, and yet whatever it was remained hidden,
perhaps beneath a layer of paint, perhaps enciphered in plain view,
or perhaps nowhere at all. Maybe Da Vinci's plethora of tantalizing
clues was nothing but an empty promise left behind to frustrate the
curious and bring a smirk to the face of his knowing Mona Lisa. "Is
it possible," Sophie asked, drawing Langdon back, "that the key
you're holding unlocks the hiding place of the Holy Grail?" Langdon's
laugh sounded forced, even to him. "I really can't imagine. Besides,
the Grail is believed to be hidden in the United Kingdom somewhere,
not France." He gave her the quick history. "But the Grail seems the
only rational conclusion," she insisted. "We have an extremely
secure key, stamped with the Priory of Sion seal, delivered to us by
a member of the Priory of Siona brotherhood which, you just told
me, are guardians of the Holy Grail." Langdon knew her contention
was logical, and yet intuitively he could not possibly accept it.
Rumors existed that the Priory had vowed someday to bring the
Grail back to France to a final resting place, but certainly no
historical evidence existed to suggest that this indeed had
happened. Even if the Priory had managed to bring the Grail back to
France, the address 24 Rue Haxo near a tennis stadium hardly
sounded like a noble final resting place. "Sophie, I really don't see
how this key could have anything to do with the Grail." "Because the
Grail is supposed to be in England?" "Not only that. The location of
the Holy Grail is one of the best kept secrets in history. Priory
members wait decades proving themselves trustworthy before being
elevated to the highest echelons of the fraternity and learning
where the Grail is. That secret is protected by an intricate system
of compartmentalized knowledge, and although the Priory
brotherhood is very large, only four members at any given time know
where the Grail is hiddenthe Grand Master and his three sénéchaux.
The probability of your grandfather being one of those four top
people is very slim." My grandfather was one of them, Sophie
thought, pressing down on the accelerator. She had an image
stamped in her memory that confirmed her grandfather's status
within the brotherhood beyond any doubt. "And even if your
grandfather were in the upper echelon, he would never be allowed to
reveal anything to anyone outside the brotherhood. It is
inconceivable that he would bring you into the inner circle." I've
already been there, Sophie thought, picturing the ritual in the
basement. She wondered if this were the moment to tell Langdon
what she had witnessed that night in the Normandy château. For
ten years now, simple shame had kept her from telling a soul. Just
thinking about it, she shuddered. Sirens howled somewhere in the
distance, and she felt a thickening shroud of fatigue settling over
her. "There!" Langdon said, feeling excited to see the huge complex
of the Roland Garros tennis stadium looming ahead. Sophie snaked
her way toward the stadium. After several passes, they located the
intersection of Rue Haxo and turned onto it, driving in the direction
of the lower numbers. The road became more industrial, lined with
businesses. We need number twenty-four, Langdon told himself,
realizing he was secretly scanning the horizon for the spires of a
church. Don't be ridiculous. A forgotten Templar church in this
neighborhood? "There it is," Sophie exclaimed, pointing. Langdon's
eyes followed to the structure ahead.
What in the world? The building was modern. A squat citadel with a
giant, neon equal-armed cross emblazoned atop its facade. Beneath
the cross were the words: DEPOSITORY BANK OF ZURICH
Langdon was thankful not to have shared his Templar church hopes
with Sophie. A career hazard of symbologists was a tendency to
extract hidden meaning from situations that had none. In this case,
Langdon had entirely forgotten that the peaceful, equal-armed
cross had been adopted as the perfect symbol for the flag of
neutral Switzerland. At least the mystery was solved. Sophie and
Langdon were holding the key to a Swiss bank deposit box.
Outside Castel Gandolfo, an updraft of mountain air gushed over
the top of the cliff and across the high bluff, sending a chill
through Bishop Aringarosa as he stepped from the Fiat. I should
have worn more than this cassock, he thought, fighting the reflex
to shiver. The last thing he needed to appear tonight was weak or
fearful. The castle was dark save the windows at the very top of
the building, which glowed ominously. The library, Aringarosa
thought. They are awake and waiting. He ducked his head against
the wind and continued on without so much as a glance toward the
observatory domes. The priest who greeted him at the door looked
sleepy. He was the same priest who had greeted Aringarosa five
months ago, albeit tonight he did so with much less hospitality. "We
were worried about you, Bishop," the priest said, checking his watch
and looking more perturbed than worried. "My apologies. Airlines are
so unreliable these days." The priest mumbled something inaudible
and then said, "They are waiting upstairs. I will escort you up." The
library was a vast square room with dark wood from floor to ceiling.
On all sides, towering bookcases burgeoned with volumes. The floor
was amber marble with black basalt trim, a handsome reminder that
this building had once been a palace. "Welcome, Bishop," a man's
voice said from across the room. Aringarosa tried to see who had
spoken, but the lights were ridiculously lowmuch lower than they
had been on his first visit, when everything was ablaze. The night of
stark awakening. Tonight, these men sat in the shadows, as if they
were somehow ashamed of what was about to transpire. Aringarosa
entered slowly, regally even. He could see the shapes of three men
at a long table on the far side of the room. The silhouette of the
man in the middle was immediately recognizablethe obese
Secretariat Vaticana, overlord of all legal matters within Vatican
City. The other two were high-ranking Italian cardinals. Aringarosa
crossed the library toward them. "My humble apologies for the
hour. We're on different time zones. You must be tired." "Not at
all," the secretariat said, his hands folded on his enormous belly.
"We are grateful you have come so far. The least we can do is be
awake to meet you. Can we offer you some coffee or
refreshments?" "I'd prefer we don't pretend this is a social visit. I
have another plane to catch. Shall we get to business?"
"Of course," the secretariat said. "You have acted more quickly than
"You still have a month."
"You made your concerns known five months ago," Aringarosa said.
"Why should I
"Indeed. We are very pleased with your expediency."
Aringarosa's eyes traveled the length of the long table to a large
black briefcase. "Is that
what I requested?"
"It is." The secretariat sounded uneasy. "Although, I must admit, we
are concerned with
the request. It seems quite..."
"Dangerous," one of the cardinals finished. "Are you certain we
cannot wire it to you
somewhere? The sum is exorbitant."
Freedom is expensive. "I have no concerns for my own safety. God is
The men actually looked doubtful.
"The funds are exactly as I requested?"
The secretariat nodded. "Large-denomination bearer bonds drawn
on the Vatican Bank.
Negotiable as cash anywhere in the world."
Aringarosa walked to the end of the table and opened the briefcase.
Inside were two thick
stacks of bonds, each embossed with the Vatican seal and the title
the bonds redeemable to whoever was holding them.
The secretariat looked tense. "I must say, Bishop, all of us would
feel less apprehensive if
these funds were in cash."
I could not lift that much cash, Aringarosa thought, closing the
case. "Bonds are
negotiable as cash. You said so yourself."
The cardinals exchanged uneasy looks, and finally one said, "Yes, but
these bonds are
traceable directly to the Vatican Bank."
Aringarosa smiled inwardly. That was precisely the reason the
Aringarosa get the money in Vatican Bank bonds. It served as
insurance. We are all in
this together now. "This is a perfectly legal transaction," Aringarosa
defended. "Opus Dei
is a personal prelature of Vatican City, and His Holiness can
disperse monies however he
sees fit. No law has been broken here."
"True, and yet..." The secretariat leaned forward and his chair
creaked under the burden.
"We have no knowledge of what you intend to do with these funds,
and if it is in any way
"Considering what you are asking of me," Aringarosa countered,
"what I do with this
money is not your concern."
There was a long silence.
They know I'm right, Aringarosa thought. "Now, I imagine you have
something for me to
They all jumped, eagerly pushing the paper toward him, as if they
wished he would
Aringarosa eyed the sheet before him. It bore the papal seal. "This
is identical to the copy
you sent me?"
Aringarosa was surprised how little emotion he felt as he signed the
document. The three
men present, however, seemed to sigh in relief.
"Thank you, Bishop," the secretariat said. "Your service to the
Church will never be
Aringarosa picked up the briefcase, sensing promise and authority in
its weight. The four
men looked at one another for a moment as if there were something
more to say, but
apparently there was not. Aringarosa turned and headed for the
"Bishop?" one of the cardinals called out as Aringarosa reached the
Aringarosa paused, turning. "Yes?"
"Where will you go from here?"
Aringarosa sensed the query was more spiritual than geographical,
and yet he had no
intention of discussing morality at this hour. "Paris," he said, and
walked out the door.
The Depository Bank of Zurich was a twenty-four-hour Geldschrank
bank offering the
full modern array of anonymous services in the tradition of the
Swiss numbered account.
Maintaining offices in Zurich, Kuala Lumpur, New York, and Paris,
the bank had
expanded its services in recent years to offer anonymous computer
source code escrow
services and faceless digitized backup.
The bread and butter of its operation was by far its oldest and
anonyme Lagerblind drop services, otherwise known as anonymous
Clients wishing to store anything from stock certificates to valuable
deposit their belongings anonymously, through a series of high-tech
veils of privacy,
withdrawing items at any time, also in total anonymity.
As Sophie pulled the taxi to a stop in front of their destination,
Langdon gazed out at the
building's uncompromising architecture and sensed the Depository
Bank of Zurich was a
firm with little sense of humor. The building was a windowless
rectangle that seemed to
be forged entirely of dull steel. Resembling an enormous metal
brick, the edifice sat back
from the road with a fifteen-foot-tall, neon, equilateral cross
glowing over its facade.
Switzerland's reputation for secrecy in banking had become one of
the country's most
lucrative exports. Facilities like this had become controversial in
the art community
because they provided a perfect place for art thieves to hide stolen
goods, for years if
necessary, until the heat was off. Because deposits were protected
from police inspection
by privacy laws and were attached to numbered accounts rather
than people's names,
thieves could rest easily knowing their stolen goods were safe and
could never be traced
Sophie stopped the taxi at an imposing gate that blocked the bank's
lined ramp that descended beneath the building. A video camera
overhead was aimed
directly at them, and Langdon had the feeling that this camera,
unlike those at the Louvre,
Sophie rolled down the window and surveyed the electronic podium
on the driver's side.
An LCD screen provided directions in seven languages. Topping the
list was English.
Sophie took the gold laser-pocked key from her pocket and turned
her attention back to
the podium. Below the screen was a triangular hole.
"Something tells me it will fit," Langdon said.
Sophie aligned the key's triangular shaft with the hole and inserted
it, sliding it in until
the entire shaft had disappeared. This key apparently required no
turning. Instantly, the
gate began to swing open. Sophie took her foot off the brake and
coasted down to a
second gate and podium. Behind her, the first gate closed, trapping
them like a ship in a
Langdon disliked the constricted sensation. Let's hope this second
gate works too.
This second podium bore familiar directions.
When Sophie inserted the key, the second gate immediately opened.
Moments later they
were winding down the ramp into the belly of the structure.
The private garage was small and dim, with spaces for about a dozen
cars. At the far end,
Langdon spied the building's main entrance. A red carpet stretched
across the cement
floor, welcoming visitors to a huge door that appeared to be forged
of solid metal.
Talk about mixed messages, Langdon thought. Welcome and keep
Sophie pulled the taxi into a parking space near the entrance and
killed the engine.
"You'd better leave the gun here."
With pleasure, Langdon thought, sliding the pistol under the seat.
Sophie and Langdon got out and walked up the red carpet toward
the slab of steel. The
door had no handle, but on the wall beside it was another triangular
directions were posted this time.
"Keeps out the slow learners," Langdon said.
Sophie laughed, looking nervous. "Here we go." She stuck the key in
the hole, and the
door swung inward with a low hum. Exchanging glances, Sophie and
The door shut with a thud behind them.
The foyer of the Depository Bank of Zurich employed as imposing a
decor as any
Langdon had ever seen. Where most banks were content with the
usual polished marble
and granite, this one had opted for wall-to-wall metal and rivets.
Who's their decorator? Langdon wondered. Allied Steel?
Sophie looked equally intimidated as her eyes scanned the lobby.
The gray metal was everywherethe floor, walls, counters, doors,
even the lobby chairs
appeared to be fashioned of molded iron. Nonetheless, the effect
was impressive. The
message was clear: You are walking into a vault.
A large man behind the counter glanced up as they entered. He
turned off the small
television he was watching and greeted them with a pleasant smile.
Despite his enormous
muscles and visible sidearm, his diction chimed with the polished
courtesy of a Swiss
"Bonsoir," he said. "How may I help you?"
The dual-language greeting was the newest hospitality trick of the
European host. It
presumed nothing and opened the door for the guest to reply in
whichever language was
Sophie replied with neither. She simply laid the gold key on the
counter in front of the
The man glanced down and immediately stood straighter. "Of
course. Your elevator is at
the end of the hall. I will alert someone that you are on your way."
Sophie nodded and took her key back. "Which floor?"
The man gave her an odd look. "Your key instructs the elevator
She smiled. "Ah, yes."
The guard watched as the two newcomers made their way to the
elevators, inserted their
key, boarded the lift, and disappeared. As soon as the door had
closed, he grabbed the
phone. He was not calling to alert anyone of their arrival; there was
no need for that. A
vault greeter already had been alerted automatically when the
client's key was inserted
outside in the entry gate.
Instead, the guard was calling the bank's night manager. As the line
rang, the guard
switched the television back on and stared at it. The news story he
had been watching
was just ending. It didn't matter. He got another look at the two
faces on the television.
The manager answered. "Oui?"
"We have a situation down here."
"What's happening?" the manager demanded.
"The French police are tracking two fugitives tonight."
"Both of them just walked into our bank."
The manager cursed quietly. "Okay. I'll contact Monsieur Vernet
The guard then hung up and placed a second call. This one to
Langdon was surprised to feel the elevator dropping rather than
climbing. He had no idea
how many floors they had descended beneath the Depository Bank
of Zurich before the
door finally opened. He didn't care. He was happy to be out of the
Displaying impressive alacrity, a host was already standing there to
greet them. He was
elderly and pleasant, wearing a neatly pressed flannel suit that made
him look oddly out
of placean old-world banker in a high-tech world.
"Bonsoir," the man said. "Good evening. Would you be so kind as to
follow me, s'il vous
plait?" Without waiting for a response, he spun on his heel and
strode briskly down a
narrow metal corridor.
Langdon walked with Sophie down a series of corridors, past several
large rooms filled
with blinking mainframe computers.
"Voici," their host said, arriving at a steel door and opening it for
them. "Here you are."
Langdon and Sophie stepped into another world. The small room
before them looked like
a lavish sitting room at a fine hotel. Gone were the metal and rivets,
oriental carpets, dark oak furniture, and cushioned chairs. On the
broad desk in the
middle of the room, two crystal glasses sat beside an opened bottle
of Perrier, its bubbles
still fizzing. A pewter pot of coffee steamed beside it.
Clockwork, Langdon thought. Leave it to the Swiss.
The man gave a perceptive smile. "I sense this is your first visit to
Sophie hesitated and then nodded.
"Understood. Keys are often passed on as inheritance, and our first-
time users are
invariably uncertain of the protocol." He motioned to the table of
drinks. "This room is
yours as long as you care to use it."
"You say keys are sometimes inherited?" Sophie asked.
"Indeed. Your key is like a Swiss numbered account, which are often
generations. On our gold accounts, the shortest safety-deposit box
lease is fifty years.
Paid in advance. So we see plenty of family turnover."
Langdon stared. "Did you say fifty years?"
"At a minimum," their host replied. "Of course, you can purchase
much longer leases, but
barring further arrangements, if there is no activity on an account
for fifty years, the
contents of that safe-deposit box are automatically destroyed.
Shall I run through the
process of accessing your box?"
Sophie nodded. "Please."
Their host swept an arm across the luxurious salon. "This is your
private viewing room.
Once I leave the room, you may spend all the time you need in here
to review and modify
the contents of your safe-deposit box, which arrives... over here."
He walked them to the
far wall where a wide conveyor belt entered the room in a graceful
resembling a baggage claim carousel. "You insert your key in that
slot there...." The man
pointed to a large electronic podium facing the conveyor belt. The
podium had a familiar
triangular hole. "Once the computer confirms the markings on your
key, you enter your
account number, and your safe-deposit box will be retrieved
robotically from the vault
below for your inspection. When you are finished with your box, you
place it back on the
conveyor belt, insert your key again, and the process is reversed.
Because everything is
automated, your privacy is guaranteed, even from the staff of this
bank. If you need
anything at all, simply press the call button on the table in the
center of the room."
Sophie was about to ask a question when a telephone rang. The man
looked puzzled and
embarrassed. "Excuse me, please." He walked over to the phone,
which was sitting on the
table beside the coffee and Perrier.
"Oui?" he answered.
His brow furrowed as he listened to the caller. "Oui... oui...
d'accord." He hung up, and
gave them an uneasy smile. "I'm sorry, I must leave you now. Make
yourselves at home."
He moved quickly toward the door.
"Excuse me," Sophie called. "Could you clarify something before you
mentioned that we enter an account number?"
The man paused at the door, looking pale. "But of course. Like most
Swiss banks, our
safe-deposit boxes are attached to a number, not a name. You have
a key and a personal
account number known only to you. Your key is only half of your
personal account number is the other half. Otherwise, if you lost
your key, anyone could
Sophie hesitated. "And if my benefactor gave me no account
The banker's heart pounded. Then you obviously have no business
here! He gave them a
calm smile. "I will ask someone to help you. He will be in shortly."
Leaving, the banker closed the door behind him and twisted a heavy
lock, sealing them
Across town, Collet was standing in the Gare du Nord train terminal
when his phone rang.
It was Fache. "Interpol got a tip," he said. "Forget the train.
Langdon and Neveu just
walked into the Paris branch of the Depository Bank of Zurich. I
want your men over
there right away."
"Any leads yet on what Saunière was trying to tell Agent Neveu and
Fache's tone was cold. "If you arrest them, Lieutenant Collet, then
I can ask them
Collet took the hint. "Twenty-four Rue Haxo. Right away, Captain."
He hung up and
radioed his men.
André Vernetpresident of the Paris branch of the Depository Bank
of Zurichlived in a
lavish flat above the bank. Despite his plush accommodations, he had
always dreamed of
owning a riverside apartment on L'lle Saint-Louis, where he could
rub shoulders with the
true cognoscenti, rather than here, where he simply met the filthy
When I retire, Vernet told himself, I will fill my cellar with rare
Bordeaux, adorn my
salon with a Fragonard and perhaps a Boucher, and spend my days
hunting for antique
furniture and rare books in the Quartier Latin.
Tonight, Vernet had been awake only six and a half minutes. Even so,
as he hurried
through the bank's underground corridor, he looked as if his
personal tailor and
hairdresser had polished him to a fine sheen. Impeccably dressed in
a silk suit, Vernet
sprayed some breath spray in his mouth and tightened his tie as he
walked. No stranger to
being awoken to attend to his international clients arriving from
different time zones,
Vernet modeled his sleep habits after the Maasai warriorsthe
African tribe famous for
their ability to rise from the deepest sleep to a state of total
battle readiness in a matter of
Battle ready, Vernet thought, fearing the comparison might be
tonight. The arrival of a gold key client always required an extra
flurry of attention, but
the arrival of a gold key client who was wanted by the Judicial Police
would be an
extremely delicate matter. The bank had enough battles with law
enforcement over the
privacy rights of their clients without proof that some of them
Five minutes, Vernet told himself. I need these people out of my
bank before the police
If he moved quickly, this impending disaster could be deftly
sidestepped. Vernet could
tell the police that the fugitives in question had indeed walked into
his bank as reported,
but because they were not clients and had no account number, they
were turned away. He
wished the damned watchman had not called Interpol. Discretion
was apparently not part
of the vocabulary of a 15-euro-per-hour watchman.
Stopping at the doorway, he took a deep breath and loosened his
muscles. Then, forcing a
balmy smile, he unlocked the door and swirled into the room like a
"Good evening," he said, his eyes finding his clients. "I am André
Vernet. How can I be
of serv" The rest of the sentence lodged somewhere beneath his
Adam's apple. The
woman before him was as unexpected a visitor as Vernet had ever
"I'm sorry, do we know each other?" Sophie asked. She did not
recognize the banker, but
he for a moment looked as if he'd seen a ghost.
"No...," the bank president fumbled. "I don't... believe so. Our
services are anonymous."
He exhaled and forced a calm smile. "My assistant tells me you have
a gold key but no
account number? Might I ask how you came by this key?"
"My grandfather gave it to me," Sophie replied, watching the man
closely. His uneasiness
seemed more evident now.
"Really? Your grandfather gave you the key but failed to give you
the account number?"
"I don't think he had time," Sophie said. "He was murdered tonight."
Her words sent the man staggering backward. "Jacques Saunière is
dead?" he demanded,
his eyes filling with horror. "But... how?!"
Now it was Sophie who reeled, numb with shock. "You knew my
Banker André Vernet looked equally astounded, steadying himself by
leaning on an end
table. "Jacques and I were dear friends. When did this happen?"
"Earlier this evening. Inside the Louvre."
Vernet walked to a deep leather chair and sank into it. "I need to
ask you both a very
important question." He glanced up at Langdon and then back to
Sophie. "Did either of
you have anything to do with his death?"
"No!" Sophie declared. "Absolutely not."
Vernet's face was grim, and he paused, pondering. "Your pictures
are being circulated by
Interpol. This is how I recognized you. You're wanted for a murder."
Sophie slumped. Fache ran an Interpol broadcast already? It
seemed the captain was more
motivated than Sophie had anticipated. She quickly told Vernet who
Langdon was and
what had happened inside the Louvre tonight.
Vernet looked amazed. "And as your grandfather was dying, he left
you a message telling
you to find Mr. Langdon?"
"Yes. And this key." Sophie laid the gold key on the coffee table in
front of Vernet,
placing the Priory seal face down.
Vernet glanced at the key but made no move to touch it. "He left
you only this key?
Nothing else? No slip of paper?"
Sophie knew she had been in a hurry inside the Louvre, but she was
certain she had seen
nothing else behind Madonna of the Rocks. "No. Just the key."
Vernet gave a helpless sigh. "I'm afraid every key is electronically
paired with a ten-digit
account number that functions as a password. Without that number,
your key is
Ten digits. Sophie reluctantly calculated the cryptographic odds.
Over ten billion possible
choices. Even if she could bring in DCPJ's most powerful parallel
she still would need weeks to break the code. "Certainly, monsieur,
circumstances, you can help us."
"I'm sorry. I truly can do nothing. Clients select their own account
numbers via a secure
terminal, meaning account numbers are known only to the client and
computer. This is
one way we ensure anonymity. And the safety of our employees."
Sophie understood. Convenience stores did the same thing.
EMPLOYEES DO NOT
HAVE KEYS TO THE SAFE. This bank obviously did not want to risk
a key and then holding an employee hostage for the account number.
Sophie sat down beside Langdon, glanced down at the key and then
up at Vernet. "Do
you have any idea what my grandfather is storing in your bank?"
"None whatsoever. That is the definition of a Geldschrank bank."
"Monsieur Vernet," she pressed, "our time tonight is short. I am
going to be very direct if
I may." She reached out to the gold key and flipped it over,
watching the man's eyes as
she revealed the Priory of Sion seal. "Does the symbol on this key
mean anything to
Vernet glanced down at the fleur-de-lis seal and made no reaction.
"No, but many of our
clients emboss corporate logos or initials onto their keys."
Sophie sighed, still watching him carefully. "This seal is the symbol
of a secret society
known as the Priory of Sion."
Vernet again showed no reaction. "I know nothing of this. Your
grandfather was a friend,
but we spoke mostly of business." The man adjusted his tie, looking
"Monsieur Vernet," Sophie pressed, her tone firm. "My grandfather
called me tonight and
told me he and I were in grave danger. He said he had to give me
something. He gave me
a key to your bank. Now he is dead. Anything you can tell us would
Vernet broke a sweat. "We need to get out of the building. I'm
afraid the police will arrive
shortly. My watchman felt obliged to call Interpol."
Sophie had feared as much. She took one last shot. "My
grandfather said he needed to tell
me the truth about my family. Does that mean anything to you?"
"Mademoiselle, your family died in a car accident when you were
young. I'm sorry. I
know your grandfather loved you very much. He mentioned to me
several times how
much it pained him that you two had fallen out of touch."
Sophie was uncertain how to respond.
Langdon asked, "Do the contents of this account have anything to do
with the Sangreal?"
Vernet gave him an odd look. "I have no idea what that is." Just
then, Vernet's cell phone
rang, and he snatched it off his belt. "Oui?" He listened a moment,
his expression one of
surprise and growing concern. "La police? Si rapidement?" He
cursed, gave some quick
directions in French, and said he would be up to the lobby in a
Hanging up the phone, he turned back to Sophie. "The police have
responded far more
quickly than usual. They are arriving as we speak."
Sophie had no intention of leaving empty-handed. "Tell them we
came and went already.
If they want to search the bank, demand a search warrant. That will
take them time."
"Listen," Vernet said, "Jacques was a friend, and my bank does not
need this kind of
press, so for those two reasons, I have no intention of allowing this
arrest to be made on
my premises. Give me a minute and I will see what I can do to help
you leave the bank
undetected. Beyond that, I cannot get involved." He stood up and
hurried for the door.
"Stay here. I'll make arrangements and be right back."
"But the safe-deposit box," Sophie declared. "We can't just leave."
"There's nothing I can do," Vernet said, hurrying out the door. "I'm
Sophie stared after him a moment, wondering if maybe the account
number was buried in
one of the countless letters and packages her grandfather had sent
her over the years and
which she had left unopened.
Langdon stood suddenly, and Sophie sensed an unexpected glimmer
of contentment in
"Robert? You're smiling."
"Your grandfather was a genius."
Sophie had no idea what he was talking about.
"The account number," he said, a familiar lopsided grin now craning
his face. "I'm pretty
sure he left it for us after all."
Langdon produced the printout of the crime scene photo and spread
it out on the coffee
table. Sophie needed only to read the first line to know Langdon was
O, Draconian devil!
Oh, lame saint!
P.S. Find Robert Langdon
"Ten digits," Sophie said, her cryptologic senses tingling as she
studied the printout.
Grand-père wrote his account number on the Louvre floor!
When Sophie had first seen the scrambled Fibonacci sequence on
the parquet, she had
assumed its sole purpose was to encourage DCPJ to call in their
cryptographers and get
Sophie involved. Later, she realized the numbers were also a clue as
to how to decipher
the other linesa sequence out of order... a numeric anagram. Now,
utterly amazed, she
saw the numbers had a more important meaning still. They were
almost certainly the final
key to opening her grandfather's mysterious safe-deposit box.
"He was the master of double-entendres," Sophie said, turning to
Langdon. "He loved
anything with multiple layers of meaning. Codes within codes."
Langdon was already moving toward the electronic podium near the
Sophie grabbed the computer printout and followed.
The podium had a keypad similar to that of a bank ATM terminal.
The screen displayed
the bank's cruciform logo. Beside the keypad was a triangular hole.
Sophie wasted no
time inserting the shaft of her key into the hole.
The screen refreshed instantly.
ACCOUNT NUMBER: _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
The cursor blinked. Waiting.
Ten digits. Sophie read the numbers off the printout, and Langdon
typed them in.
ACCOUNT NUMBER: 1332211185
When he had typed the last digit, the screen refreshed again. A
message in several
languages appeared. English was on top.
Before you strike the enter key, please check the accuracy of your
For your own security, if the computer does not recognize your
account number, this
system will automatically shut down.
"Fonction terminer," Sophie said, frowning. "Looks like we only get
one try." Standard
ATM machines allowed users three attempts to type a PIN before
confiscating their bank
card. This was obviously no ordinary cash machine.
"The number looks right," Langdon confirmed, carefully checking
what they had typed
and comparing it to the printout. He motioned to the ENTER key.
Sophie extended her index finger toward the keypad, but hesitated,
an odd thought now
"Go ahead," Langdon urged. "Vernet will be back soon."
"No." She pulled her hand away. "This isn't the right account
"Of course it is! Ten digits. What else would it be?"
"It's too random."
Too random? Langdon could not have disagreed more. Every bank
advised its customers
to choose PINs at random so nobody could guess them. Certainly
clients here would be
advised to choose their account numbers at random.
Sophie deleted everything she had just typed in and looked up at
Langdon, her gaze self-
assured. "It's far too coincidental that this supposedly random
account number could be
rearranged to form the Fibonacci sequence."
Langdon realized she had a point. Earlier, Sophie had rearranged
this account number
into the Fibonacci sequence. What were the odds of being able to do
Sophie was at the keypad again, entering a different number, as if
"Moreover, with my grandfather's love of symbolism and codes, it
seems to follow that
he would have chosen an account number that had meaning to him,
something he could
easily remember." She finished typing the entry and gave a sly
smile. "Something that
appeared random... but was not." Langdon looked at the screen.
ACCOUNT NUMBER: 1123581321
It took him an instant, but when Langdon spotted it, he knew she
The Fibonacci sequence.
When the Fibonacci sequence was melded into a single ten-digit
number, it became
virtually unrecognizable. Easy to remember, and yet seemingly
random. A brilliant ten-
digit code that Saunière would never forget. Furthermore, it
perfectly explained why the
scrambled numbers on the Louvre floor could be rearranged to form
Sophie reached down and pressed the ENTER key.
At least nothing they could detect.
At that moment, beneath them, in the bank's cavernous
subterranean vault, a robotic claw
sprang to life. Sliding on a double-axis transport system attached to
the ceiling, the claw
headed off in search of the proper coordinates. On the cement
floor below, hundreds of
identical plastic crates lay aligned on an enormous grid... like rows of
small coffins in an
Whirring to a stop over the correct spot on the floor, the claw
dropped down, an electric
eye confirming the bar code on the box. Then, with computer
precision, the claw grasped
the heavy handle and hoisted the crate vertically. New gears
engaged, and the claw
transported the box to the far side of the vault, coming to a stop
over a stationary
Gently now, the retrieval arm set down the crate and retracted.
Once the arm was clear, the conveyor belt whirred to life....
Upstairs, Sophie and Langdon exhaled in relief to see the conveyor
belt move. Standing
beside the belt, they felt like weary travelers at baggage claim
awaiting a mysterious
piece of luggage whose contents were unknown.
The conveyor belt entered the room on their right through a narrow
slit beneath a
retractable door. The metal door slid up, and a huge plastic box
appeared, emerging from
the depths on the inclined conveyor belt. The box was black, heavy
molded plastic, and
far larger than she imagined. It looked like an air-freight pet
transport crate without any
The box coasted to a stop directly in front of them.
Langdon and Sophie stood there, silent, staring at the mysterious
Like everything else about this bank, this crate was industrialmetal
clasps, a bar code
sticker on top, and molded heavy-duty handle. Sophie thought it
looked like a giant
Wasting no time, Sophie unhooked the two buckles facing her. Then
she glanced over at
Langdon. Together, they raised the heavy lid and let it fall back.
Stepping forward, they peered down into the crate.
At first glance, Sophie thought the crate was empty. Then she saw
something. Sitting at
the bottom of the crate. A lone item.
The polished wooden box was about the size of a shoebox and had
ornate hinges. The
wood was a lustrous deep purple with a strong grain. Rosewood,
Sophie realized. Her
grandfather's favorite. The lid bore a beautiful inlaid design of a
rose. She and Langdon
exchanged puzzled looks. Sophie leaned in and grabbed the box,
lifting it out.
My God, it's heavy!
She carried it gingerly to a large receiving table and set it down.
Langdon stood beside
her, both of them staring at the small treasure chest her
grandfather apparently had sent
them to retrieve.
Langdon stared in wonderment at the lid's hand-carved inlaya five-
petal rose. He had
seen this type of rose many times. "The five-petal rose," he
whispered, "is a Priory
symbol for the Holy Grail."
Sophie turned and looked at him. Langdon could see what she was
thinking, and he was
thinking it too. The dimensions of the box, the apparent weight of
its contents, and a
Priory symbol for the Grail all seemed to imply one unfathomable
conclusion. The Cup
of Christ is in this wooden box. Langdon again told himself it was
"It's a perfect size," Sophie whispered, "to hold... a chalice."
It can't be a chalice.
Sophie pulled the box toward her across the table, preparing to
open it. As she moved it,
though, something unexpected happened. The box let out an odd
Langdon did a double take. There's liquid inside?
Sophie looked equally confused. "Did you just hear...?"
Langdon nodded, lost. "Liquid."
Reaching forward, Sophie slowly unhooked the clasp and raised the
The object inside was unlike anything Langdon had ever seen. One
immediately clear to both of them, however. This was definitely not
the Cup of Christ.
"The police are blocking the street," André Vernet said, walking into
the waiting room. "Getting you out will be difficult." As he closed
the door behind him, Vernet saw the heavy-duty plastic case on the
conveyor belt and halted in his tracks. My God! They accessed
Saunière's account? Sophie and Langdon were at the table, huddling
over what looked to be a large wooden jewelry box. Sophie
immediately closed the lid and looked up. "We had the account
number after all," she said. Vernet was speechless. This changed
everything. He respectfully diverted his eyes from the box and
tried to figure out his next move. I have to get them out of the
bank! But with the police already having set up a roadblock, Vernet
could imagine only one way to do that. "Mademoiselle Neveu, if I can
get you safely out of the bank, will you be taking the item with you
or returning it to the vault before you leave?" Sophie glanced at
Langdon and then back to Vernet. "We need to take it." Vernet
nodded. "Very well. Then whatever the item is, I suggest you wrap it
in your jacket as we move through the hallways. I would prefer
nobody else see it." As Langdon shed his jacket, Vernet hurried over
to the conveyor belt, closed the now empty crate, and typed a
series of simple commands. The conveyor belt began moving again,
carrying the plastic container back down to the vault. Pulling the
gold key from the podium, he handed it to Sophie. "This way please.
Hurry." When they reached the rear loading dock, Vernet could see
the flash of police lights filtering through the underground garage.
He frowned. They were probably blocking the ramp. Am I really
going to try to pull this off? He was sweating now. Vernet motioned
to one of the bank's small armored trucks. Transport sûr was
another service offered by the Depository Bank of Zurich. "Get in
the cargo hold," he said, heaving open the massive rear door and
motioning to the glistening steel compartment. "I'll be right back."
As Sophie and Langdon climbed in, Vernet hurried across the loading
dock to the dock overseer's office, let himself in, collected the
keys for the truck, and found a driver's uniform jacket and cap.
Shedding his own suit coat and tie, he began to put on the driver's
jacket. Reconsidering, he donned a shoulder holster beneath the
uniform. On his way out, he grabbed a driver's pistol from the rack,
put in a clip, and stuffed it in the holster, buttoning his uniform
over it. Returning to the truck, Vernet pulled the driver's cap down
low and peered in at Sophie and Langdon, who were standing inside
the empty steel box. "You'll want this on," Vernet said, reaching
inside and flicking a wall switch to illuminate the lone courtesy bulb
on the hold's ceiling. "And you'd better sit down. Not a sound on our
way out the gate." Sophie and Langdon sat down on the metal floor.
Langdon cradled the treasure wadded in his tweed jacket. Swinging
the heavy doors closed, Vernet locked them inside. Then he got in
behind the wheel and revved the engine. As the armored truck
lumbered toward the top of the ramp, Vernet could feel the sweat
already collecting beneath his driver's cap. He could see there were
far more police lights in front than he had imagined. As the truck
powered up the ramp, the interior gate swung inward to let him pass.
Vernet advanced and waited while the gate behind him closed
before pulling forward and tripping the next sensor. The second
gate opened, and the exit beckoned.
Except for the police car blocking the top of the ramp.
Vernet dabbed his brow and pulled forward.
A lanky officer stepped out and waved him to a stop a few meters
from the roadblock.
Four patrol cars were parked out front.
Vernet stopped. Pulling his driver's cap down farther, he effected
as rough a facade as his
cultured upbringing would allow. Not budging from behind the wheel,
he opened the
door and gazed down at the agent, whose face was stern and sallow.
"Qu'est-ce qui se passe?" Vernet asked, his tone rough.
"Je suis Jérome Collet," the agent said. "Lieutenant Police
Judiciaire." He motioned to the
truck's cargo hold. "Qu'est-ce qu'ily a là dedans?"
"Hell if I know," Vernet replied in crude French. "I'm only a driver."
Collet looked unimpressed. "We're looking for two criminals."
Vernet laughed. "Then you came to the right spot. Some of these
bastards I drive for have
so much money they must be criminals."
The agent held up a passport picture of Robert Langdon. "Was this
man in your bank
Vernet shrugged. "No clue. I'm a dock rat. They don't let us
anywhere near the clients.
You need to go in and ask the front desk."
"Your bank is demanding a search warrant before we can enter."
Vernet put on a disgusted look. "Administrators. Don't get me
"Open your truck, please." Collet motioned toward the cargo hold.
Vernet stared at the agent and forced an obnoxious laugh. "Open
the truck? You think I
have keys? You think they trust us? You should see the crap wages I
The agent's head tilted to one side, his skepticism evident. "You're
telling me you don't
have keys to your own truck?"
Vernet shook his head. "Not the cargo area. Ignition only. These
trucks get sealed by
overseers on the loading dock. Then the truck sits in dock while
someone drives the cargo
keys to the drop-off. Once we get the call that the cargo keys are
with the recipient, then I
get the okay to drive. Not a second before. I never know what the
hell I'm lugging."
"When was this truck sealed?"
"Must have been hours ago. I'm driving all the way up to St. Thurial
tonight. Cargo keys
are already up there."
The agent made no response, his eyes probing as if trying to read
A drop of sweat was preparing to slide down Vernet's nose. "You
mind?" he said, wiping
his nose with his sleeve and motioning to the police car blocking his
way. "I'm on a tight
"Do all the drivers wear Rolexes?" the agent asked, pointing to
Vernet glanced down and saw the glistening band of his absurdly
peeking out from beneath the sleeve of his jacket. Merde. "This
piece of shit? Bought it
for twenty euro from a Taiwanese street vendor in St. Germain des
Prés. I'll sell it to you
The agent paused and finally stepped aside. "No thanks. Have a safe
Vernet did not breathe again until the truck was a good fifty
meters down the street. And
now he had another problem. His cargo. Where do I take them?
Silas lay prone on the canvas mat in his room, allowing the lash
wounds on his back to
clot in the air. Tonight's second session with the Discipline had left
him dizzy and weak.
He had yet to remove the cilice belt, and he could feel the blood
trickling down his inner
thigh. Still, he could not justify removing the strap.
I have failed the Church.
Far worse, I have failed the bishop.
Tonight was supposed to be Bishop Aringarosa's salvation. Five
months ago, the bishop
had returned from a meeting at the Vatican Observatory, where he
had learned something
that left him deeply changed. Depressed for weeks, Aringarosa had
finally shared the
news with Silas.
"But this is impossible!" Silas had cried out. "I cannot accept it!"
"It is true," Aringarosa said. "Unthinkable, but true. In only six
The bishop's words terrified Silas. He prayed for deliverance, and
even in those dark days,
his trust in God and The Way never wavered. It was only a month
later that the clouds
parted miraculously and the light of possibility shone through.
Divine intervention, Aringarosa had called it.
The bishop had seemed hopeful for the first time. "Silas," he
whispered, "God has
bestowed upon us an opportunity to protect The Way. Our battle,
like all battles, will take
sacrifice. Will you be a soldier of God?"
Silas fell to his knees before Bishop Aringarosathe man who had
given him a new lifeand
he said, "I am a lamb of God. Shepherd me as your heart
When Aringarosa described the opportunity that had presented
itself, Silas knew it could
only be the hand of God at work. Miraculous fate! Aringarosa put
Silas in contact with
the man who had proposed the plana man who called himself the
Teacher. Although the
Teacher and Silas never met face-to-face, each time they spoke by
phone, Silas was awed,
both by the profundity of the Teacher's faith and by the scope of
his power. The Teacher
seemed to be a man who knew all, a man with eyes and ears in all
places. How the
Teacher gathered his information, Silas did not know, but
Aringarosa had placed
enormous trust in the Teacher, and he had told Silas to do the
same. "Do as the Teacher
commands you," the bishop told Silas. "And we will be victorious."
Victorious. Silas now gazed at the bare floor and feared victory had
eluded them. The
Teacher had been tricked. The keystone was a devious dead end.
And with the deception,
all hope had vanished.
Silas wished he could call Bishop Aringarosa and warn him, but the
removed all their lines of direct communication tonight. For our
Finally, overcoming enormous trepidation, Silas crawled to his feet
and found his robe,
which lay on the floor. He dug his cell phone from the pocket.
Hanging his head in shame,
"Teacher," he whispered, "all is lost." Silas truthfully told the man
how he had been
"You lose your faith too quickly," the Teacher replied. "I have just
received news. Most
unexpected and welcome. The secret lives. Jacques Saunière
before he died. I will call you soon. Our work tonight is not yet
Riding inside the dimly lit cargo hold of the armored truck was like
being transported inside a cell for solitary confinement. Langdon
fought the all too familiar anxiety that haunted him in confined
spaces. Vernet said he would take us a safe distance out of the city.
Where? How far? Langdon's legs had gotten stiff from sitting
cross-legged on the metal floor, and he shifted his position, wincing
to feel the blood pouring back into his lower body. In his arms, he
still clutched the bizarre treasure they had extricated from the
bank. "I think we're on the highway now," Sophie whispered.
Langdon sensed the same thing. The truck, after an unnerving pause
atop the bank ramp, had moved on, snaking left and right for a
minute or two, and was now accelerating to what felt like top speed.
Beneath them, the bulletproof tires hummed on smooth pavement.
Forcing his attention to the rosewood box in his arms, Langdon laid
the precious bundle on the floor, unwrapped his jacket, and
extracted the box, pulling it toward him. Sophie shifted her position
so they were sitting side by side. Langdon suddenly felt like they
were two kids huddled over a Christmas present. In contrast to the
warm colors of the rosewood box, the inlaid rose had been crafted
of a pale wood, probably ash, which shone clearly in the dim light.
The Rose. Entire armies and religions had been built on this symbol,
as had secret societies. The Rosicrucians. The Knights of the Rosy
Cross. "Go ahead," Sophie said. "Open it." Langdon took a deep
breath. Reaching for the lid, he stole one more admiring glance at
the intricate woodwork and then, unhooking the clasp, he opened the
lid, revealing the object within. Langdon had harbored several
fantasies about what they might find inside this box, but clearly he
had been wrong on every account. Nestled snugly inside the box's
heavily padded interior of crimson silk lay an object Langdon could
not even begin to comprehend. Crafted of polished white marble, it
was a stone cylinder approximately the dimensions of a tennis ball
can. More complicated than a simple column of stone, however, the
cylinder appeared to have been assembled in many pieces. Six
doughnut-sized disks of marble had been stacked and affixed to one
another within a delicate brass framework. It looked like some kind
of tubular, multiwheeled kaleidoscope. Each end of the cylinder was
affixed with an end cap, also marble, making it impossible to see
inside. Having heard liquid within, Langdon assumed the cylinder was
hollow. As mystifying as the construction of the cylinder was,
however, it was the engravings around the tube's circumference
that drew Langdon's primary focus. Each of the six disks had been
carefully carved with the same unlikely series of lettersthe entire
alphabet. The lettered cylinder reminded Langdon of one of his
childhood toysa rod threaded with lettered tumblers that could be
rotated to spell different words. "Amazing, isn't it?" Sophie
whispered. Langdon glanced up. "I don't know. What the hell is it?"
Now there was a glint in Sophie's eye. "My grandfather used to
craft these as a hobby. They were invented by Leonardo da Vinci."
Even in the diffuse light, Sophie could see Langdon's surprise. "Da
Vinci?" he muttered, looking again at the canister.
"Yes. It's called a cryptex. According to my grandfather, the
blueprints come from one of Da Vinci's secret diaries." "What is it
for?" Considering tonight's events, Sophie knew the answer might
have some interesting implications. "It's a vault," she said. "For
storing secret information." Langdon's eyes widened further. Sophie
explained that creating models of Da Vinci's inventions was one of
her grandfather's best-loved hobbies. A talented craftsman who
spent hours in his wood and metal shop, Jacques Saunière enjoyed
imitating master craftsmenFabergé, assorted cloisonne artisans,
and the less artistic, but far more practical, Leonardo da Vinci. Even
a cursory glance through Da Vinci's journals revealed why the
luminary was as notorious for his lack of follow-through as he was
famous for his brilliance. Da Vinci had drawn up blueprints for
hundreds of inventions he had never built. One of Jacques
Saunière's favorite pastimes was bringing Da Vinci's more obscure
brainstorms to lifetimepieces, water pumps, cryptexes, and even a
fully articulated model of a medieval French knight, which now stood
proudly on the desk in his office. Designed by Da Vinci in 1495 as an
outgrowth of his earliest anatomy and kinesiology studies, the
internal mechanism of the robot knight possessed accurate joints
and tendons, and was designed to sit up, wave its arms, and move its
head via a flexible neck while opening and closing an anatomically
correct jaw. This armor-clad knight, Sophie had always believed,
was the most beautiful object her grandfather had ever built... that
was, until she had seen the cryptex in this rosewood box. "He made
me one of these when I was little," Sophie said. "But I've never
seen one so ornate and large." Langdon's eyes had never left the
box. "I've never heard of a cryptex." Sophie was not surprised.
Most of Leonardo's unbuilt inventions had never been studied or
even named. The term cryptex possibly had been her grandfather's
creation, an apt title for this device that used the science of
cryptology to protect information written on the contained scroll or
codex. Da Vinci had been a cryptology pioneer, Sophie knew,
although he was seldom given credit. Sophie's university
instructors, while presenting computer encryption methods for
securing data, praised modern cryptologists like Zimmerman and
Schneier but failed to mention that it was Leonardo who had
invented one of the first rudimentary forms of public key
encryption centuries ago. Sophie's grandfather, of course, had been
the one to tell her all about that. As their armored truck roared
down the highway, Sophie explained to Langdon that the cryptex
had been Da Vinci's solution to the dilemma of sending secure
messages over long distances. In an era without telephones or e-
mail, anyone wanting to convey private information to someone far
away had no option but to write it down and then trust a messenger
to carry the letter. Unfortunately, if a messenger suspected the
letter might contain valuable information, he could make far more
money selling the information to adversaries than he could
delivering the letter properly. Many great minds in history had
invented cryptologic solutions to the challenge of data protection:
Julius Caesar devised a code-writing scheme called the Caesar Box;
Mary, Queen of Scots created a transposition cipher and sent
secret communiqués from prison;
and the brilliant Arab scientist Abu Yusuf Ismail al-Kindi protected
his secrets with an
ingeniously conceived polyalphabetic substitution cipher.
Da Vinci, however, eschewed mathematics and cryptology for a
mechanical solution. The
cryptex. A portable container that could safeguard letters, maps,
diagrams, anything at all.
Once information was sealed inside the cryptex, only the individual
with the proper
password could access it.
"We require a password," Sophie said, pointing out the lettered
dials. "A cryptex works
much like a bicycle's combination lock. If you align the dials in the
proper position, the
lock slides open. This cryptex has five lettered dials. When you
rotate them to their
proper sequence, the tumblers inside align, and the entire cylinder
"Once the cylinder slides apart, you have access to a hollow central
can hold a scroll of paper on which is the information you want to
Langdon looked incredulous. "And you say your grandfather built
these for you when
you were younger?"
"Some smaller ones, yes. A couple times for my birthday, he gave me
a cryptex and told
me a riddle. The answer to the riddle was the password to the
cryptex, and once I figured
it out, I could open it up and find my birthday card."
"A lot of work for a card."
"No, the cards always contained another riddle or clue. My
grandfather loved creating
elaborate treasure hunts around our house, a string of clues that
eventually led to my real
gift. Each treasure hunt was a test of character and merit, to
ensure I earned my rewards.
And the tests were never simple."
Langdon eyed the device again, still looking skeptical. "But why not
just pry it apart? Or
smash it? The metal looks delicate, and marble is a soft rock."
Sophie smiled. "Because Da Vinci is too smart for that. He designed
the cryptex so that if
you try to force it open in any way, the information self-destructs.
reached into the box and carefully lifted out the cylinder. "Any
information to be inserted
is first written on a papyrus scroll."
Sophie shook her head. "Papyrus. I know sheep's vellum was more
durable and more
common in those days, but it had to be papyrus. The thinner the
"Before the papyrus was inserted into the cryptex's compartment,
it was rolled around a
delicate glass vial." She tipped the cryptex, and the liquid inside
gurgled. "A vial of
Sophie smiled. "Vinegar."
Langdon hesitated a moment and then began nodding. "Brilliant."
Vinegar and papyrus, Sophie thought. If someone attempted to
force open the cryptex,
the glass vial would break, and the vinegar would quickly dissolve the
papyrus. By the
time anyone extracted the secret message, it would be a glob of
"As you can see," Sophie told him, "the only way to access the
information inside is to
know the proper five-letter password. And with five dials, each with
that's twenty-six to the fifth power." She quickly estimated the
"Approximately twelve million possibilities."
"If you say so," Langdon said, looking like he had approximately
questions running through his head. "What information do you think
"Whatever it is, my grandfather obviously wanted very badly to
keep it secret." She
paused, closing the box lid and eyeing the five-petal Rose inlaid on
it. Something was
bothering her. "Did you say earlier that the Rose is a symbol for the
"Exactly. In Priory symbolism, the Rose and the Grail are
Sophie furrowed her brow. "That's strange, because my
grandfather always told me the
Rose meant secrecy. He used to hang a rose on his office door at
home when he was
having a confidential phone call and didn't want me to disturb him.
He encouraged me to
do the same." Sweetie, her grandfather said, rather than lock each
other out, we can each
hang a rosela fleur des secretson our door when we need privacy.
This way we learn to
respect and trust each other. Hanging a rose is an ancient Roman
"Sub rosa," Langdon said. "The Romans hung a rose over meetings to
meeting was confidential. Attendees understood that whatever was
said under the roseor
sub rosahad to remain a secret."
Langdon quickly explained that the Rose's overtone of secrecy was
not the only reason
the Priory used it as a symbol for the Grail. Rosa rugosa, one of the
oldest species of rose,
had five petals and pentagonal symmetry, just like the guiding star
of Venus, giving the
Rose strong iconographic ties to womanhood. In addition, the Rose
had close ties to the
concept of "true direction" and navigating one's way. The Compass
Rose helped travelers
navigate, as did Rose Lines, the longitudinal lines on maps. For this
reason, the Rose was
a symbol that spoke of the Grail on many levelssecrecy, womanhood,
feminine chalice and guiding star that led to secret truth.
As Langdon finished his explanation, his expression seemed to
"Robert? Are you okay?"
His eyes were riveted to the rosewood box. "Sub... rosa," he choked,
bewilderment sweeping across his face. "It can't be."
Langdon slowly raised his eyes. "Under the sign of the Rose," he
cryptex... I think I know what it is."
Langdon could scarcely believe his own supposition, and yet,
considering who had given
this stone cylinder to them, how he had given it to them, and now,
the inlaid Rose on the
container, Langdon could formulate only one conclusion.
I am holding the Priory keystone.
The legend was specific.
The keystone is an encoded stone that lies beneath the sign of the
"Robert?" Sophie was watching him. "What's going on?"
Langdon needed a moment to gather his thoughts. "Did your
grandfather ever speak to
you of something called la clef de voûte?"
"The key to the vault?" Sophie translated.
"No, that's the literal translation. Clef de voûte is a common
architectural term. Voûte
refers not to a bank vault, but to a vault in an archway. Like a
"But vaulted ceilings don't have keys."
"Actually they do. Every stone archway requires a central, wedge-
shaped stone at the top which locks the pieces together and carries
all the weight. This stone is, in an architectural sense, the key to
the vault. In English we call it a keystone." Langdon watched her
eyes for any spark of recognition. Sophie shrugged, glancing down at
the cryptex. "But this obviously is not a keystone." Langdon didn't
know where to begin. Keystones as a masonry technique for building
stone archways had been one of the best-kept secrets of the early
Masonic brotherhood. The Royal Arch Degree. Architecture.
Keystones. It was all interconnected. The secret knowledge of how
to use a wedged keystone to build a vaulted archway was part of the
wisdom that had made the Masons such wealthy craftsmen, and it
was a secret they guarded carefully. Keystones had always had a
tradition of secrecy. And yet, the stone cylinder in the rosewood
box was obviously something quite different. The Priory keystoneif
this was indeed what they were holdingwas not at all what Langdon
had imagined. "The Priory keystone is not my specialty," Langdon
admitted. "My interest in the Holy Grail is primarily symbologic, so I
tend to ignore the plethora of lore regarding how to actually find
it." Sophie's eyebrows arched. "Find the Holy Grail?" Langdon gave
an uneasy nod, speaking his next words carefully. "Sophie, according
to Priory lore, the keystone is an encoded map... a map that reveals
the hiding place of the Holy Grail." Sophie's face went blank. "And
you think this is it?" Langdon didn't know what to say. Even to him it
sounded unbelievable, and yet the keystone was the only logical
conclusion he could muster. An encrypted stone, hidden beneath the
sign of the Rose. The idea that the cryptex had been designed by
Leonardo da Vinciformer Grand Master of the Priory of Sionshone
as another tantalizing indicator that this was indeed the Priory
keystone. A former Grand Master's blueprint... brought to life
centuries later by another Priory member. The bond was too
palpable to dismiss. For the last decade, historians had been
searching for the keystone in French churches. Grail seekers,
familiar with the Priory's history of cryptic double-talk, had
concluded la clef de voûte was a literal keystonean architectural
wedgean engraved, encrypted stone, inserted into a vaulted archway
in a church. Beneath the sign of the Rose. In architecture, there
was no shortage of roses. Rose windows. Rosette reliefs. And, of
course, an abundance of cinquefoilsthe five-petaled decorative
flowers often found at the top of archways, directly over the
keystone. The hiding place seemed diabolically simple. The map to
the Holy Grail was incorporated high in an archway of some
forgotten church, mocking the blind churchgoers who wandered
beneath it. "This cryptex can't be the keystone," Sophie argued.
"It's not old enough. I'm certain my grandfather made this. It can't
be part of any ancient Grail legend." "Actually," Langdon replied,
feeling a tingle of excitement ripple through him, "the keystone is
believed to have been created by the Priory sometime in the past
couple of decades." Sophie's eyes flashed disbelief. "But if this
cryptex reveals the hiding place of the Holy Grail, why would my
grandfather give it to me? I have no idea how to open it or what to
do with it. I don't even know what the Holy Grail is!"
Langdon realized to his surprise that she was right. He had not yet
had a chance to explain to Sophie the true nature of the Holy Grail.
That story would have to wait. At the moment, they were focused
on the keystone. If that is indeed what this is.... Against the hum of
the bulletproof wheels beneath them, Langdon quickly explained to
Sophie everything he had heard about the keystone. Allegedly, for
centuries, the Priory's biggest secretthe location of the Holy
Grailwas never written down. For security's sake, it was verbally
transferred to each new rising sénéchal at a clandestine ceremony.
However, at some point during the last century, whisperings began
to surface that the Priory policy had changed. Perhaps it was on
account of new electronic eavesdropping capabilities, but the Priory
vowed never again even to speak the location of the sacred hiding
place. "But then how could they pass on the secret?" Sophie asked.
"That's where the keystone comes in," Langdon explained. "When
one of the top four members died, the remaining three would
choose from the lower echelons the next candidate to ascend as
sénéchal. Rather than telling the new sénéchal where the Grail was
hidden, they gave him a test through which he could prove he was
worthy." Sophie looked unsettled by this, and Langdon suddenly
recalled her mentioning how her grandfather used to make treasure
hunts for herpreuves de mérite. Admittedly, the keystone was a
similar concept. Then again, tests like this were extremely common
in secret societies. The best known was the Masons', wherein
members ascended to higher degrees by proving they could keep a
secret and by performing rituals and various tests of merit over
many years. The tasks became progressively harder until they
culminated in a successful candidate's induction as thirty-second-
degree Mason. "So the keystone is a preuve de mérite," Sophie said.
"If a rising Priory sénéchal can open it, he proves himself worthy of
the information it holds." Langdon nodded. "I forgot you'd had
experience with this sort of thing." "Not only with my grandfather.
In cryptology, that's called a 'self-authorizing language.' That is, if
you're smart enough to read it, you're permitted to know what is
being said." Langdon hesitated a moment. "Sophie, you realize that
if this is indeed the keystone, your grandfather's access to it
implies he was exceptionally powerful within the Priory of Sion. He
would have to have been one of the highest four members." Sophie
sighed. "He was powerful in a secret society. I'm certain of it. I can
only assume it was the Priory." Langdon did a double take. "You knew
he was in a secret society?" "I saw some things I wasn't supposed
to see ten years ago. We haven't spoken since." She paused. "My
grandfather was not only a ranking top member of the group... I
believe he was the top member." Langdon could not believe what she
had just said. "Grand Master? But... there's no way you could know
that!" "I'd rather not talk about it." Sophie looked away, her
expression as determined as it was pained. Langdon sat in stunned
silence. Jacques Saunière? Grand Master? Despite the astonishing
repercussions if it were true, Langdon had the eerie sensation it
almost made perfect sense. After all, previous Priory Grand Masters
had also been distinguished public figures with artistic souls. Proof
of that fact had been uncovered years ago in Paris's Bibliothèque
Nationale in papers that became known as Les Dossiers Secrets.
Every Priory historian and Grail buff had read the Dossiers.
Cataloged under Number 4°
lm1 249, the Dossiers Secrets had been authenticated by many
incontrovertibly confirmed what historians had suspected for a long
time: Priory Grand
Masters included Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, Sir Isaac Newton,
Victor Hugo, and,
more recently, Jean Cocteau, the famous Parisian artist.
Why not Jacques Saunière?
Langdon's incredulity intensified with the realization that he had
been slated to meet
Saunière tonight. The Priory Grand Master called a meeting with me.
Why? To make
artistic small talk? It suddenly seemed unlikely. After all, if
Langdon's instincts were
correct, the Grand Master of the Priory of Sion had just
transferred the brotherhood's
legendary keystone to his granddaughter and simultaneously
commanded her to find
Langdon's imagination could conjure no set of circumstances that
Saunière's behavior. Even if Saunière feared his own death, there
were three sénéchaux
who also possessed the secret and therefore guaranteed the
Priory's security. Why would
Saunière take such an enormous risk giving his granddaughter the
when the two of them didn't get along? And why involve Langdon... a
A piece of this puzzle is missing, Langdon thought.
The answers were apparently going to have to wait. The sound of
the slowing engine
caused them both to look up. Gravel crunched beneath the tires.
Why is he pulling over
already? Langdon wondered. Vernet had told them he would take
them well outside the
city to safety. The truck decelerated to a crawl and made its way
over unexpectedly rough
terrain. Sophie shot Langdon an uneasy look, hastily closing the
cryptex box and latching
it. Langdon slipped his jacket back on.
When the truck came to a stop, the engine remained idling as the
locks on the rear doors
began to turn. When the doors swung open, Langdon was surprised
to see they were
parked in a wooded area, well off the road. Vernet stepped into
view, a strained look in
his eye. In his hand, he held a pistol.
"I'm sorry about this," he said. "I really have no choice."
André Vernet looked awkward with a pistol, but his eyes shone with
a determination that
Langdon sensed would be unwise to test.
"I'm afraid I must insist," Vernet said, training the weapon on the
two of them in the back
of the idling truck. "Set the box down."
Sophie clutched the box to her chest. "You said you and my
grandfather were friends."
"I have a duty to protect your grandfather's assets," Vernet
replied. "And that is exactly
what I am doing. Now set the box on the floor."
"My grandfather entrusted this to me!" Sophie declared.
"Do it," Vernet commanded, raising the gun.
Sophie set the box at her feet.
Langdon watched the gun barrel swing now in his direction.
"Mr. Langdon," Vernet said, "you will bring the box over to me. And
be aware that I'm
asking you because you I would not hesitate to shoot."
Langdon stared at the banker in disbelief. "Why are you doing this?"
"Why do you imagine?" Vernet snapped, his accented English terse
now. "To protect my
"We are your clients now," Sophie said.
Vernet's visage turned ice-cold, an eerie transformation.
"Mademoiselle Neveu, I don't
know how you got that key and account number tonight, but it seems
obvious that foul
play was involved. Had I known the extent of your crimes, I would
never have helped
you leave the bank."
"I told you," Sophie said, "we had nothing to do with my
Vernet looked at Langdon. "And yet the radio claims you are wanted
not only for the
murder of Jacques Saunière but for those of three other men as
"What!" Langdon was thunderstruck. Three more murders? The
coincidental number hit
him harder than the fact that he was the prime suspect. It seemed
too unlikely to be a
coincidence. The three sénéchaux? Langdon's eyes dropped to the
rosewood box. If the
sénéchaux were murdered, Saunière had no options. He had to
transfer the keystone to
"The police can sort that out when I turn you in," Vernet said. "I
have gotten my bank
involved too far already."
Sophie glared at Vernet. "You obviously have no intention of turning
us in. You would
have driven us back to the bank. And instead you bring us out here
and hold us at
"Your grandfather hired me for one reasonto keep his possessions
both safe and private.
Whatever this box contains, I have no intention of letting it become
a piece of cataloged
evidence in a police investigation. Mr. Langdon, bring me the box."
Sophie shook her head. "Don't do it."
A gunshot roared, and a bullet tore into the wall above him. The
reverberation shook the
back of the truck as a spent shell clinked onto the cargo floor.
Shit! Langdon froze.
Vernet spoke more confidently now. "Mr. Langdon, pick up the box."
Langdon lifted the box.
"Now bring it over to me." Vernet was taking dead aim, standing on
the ground behind
the rear bumper, his gun outstretched into the cargo hold now.
Box in hand, Langdon moved across the hold toward the open door.
I've got to do something! Langdon thought. I'm about to hand over
the Priory keystone!
As Langdon moved toward the doorway, his position of higher
ground became more
pronounced, and he began wondering if he could somehow use it to
Vernet's gun, though raised, was at Langdon's knee level. A well-
placed kick perhaps?
Unfortunately, as Langdon neared, Vernet seemed to sense the
developing, and he took several steps back, repositioning himself six
feet away. Well out
Vernet commanded, "Place the box beside the door."
Seeing no options, Langdon knelt down and set the rosewood box at
the edge of the cargo
hold, directly in front of the open doors.
"Now stand up."
Langdon began to stand up but paused, spying the small, spent pistol
shell on the floor
beside the truck's precision-crafted doorsill.
"Stand up, and step away from the box."
Langdon paused a moment longer, eyeing the metal threshold. Then
he stood. As he did,
he discreetly brushed the shell over the edge onto the narrow ledge
that was the door's
lower sill. Fully upright now, Langdon stepped backward.
"Return to the back wall and turn around."
Vernet could feel his own heart pounding. Aiming the gun with his
right hand, he reached
now with his left for the wooden box. He discovered that it was far
too heavy. I need two
hands. Turning his eyes back to his captives, he calculated the risk.
Both were a good
fifteen feet away, at the far end of the cargo hold, facing away
from him. Vernet made up
his mind. Quickly, he laid down the gun on the bumper, lifted the
box with two hands,
and set it on the ground, immediately grabbing the gun again and
aiming it back into the
hold. Neither of his prisoners had moved.
Perfect. Now all that remained was to close and lock the door.
Leaving the box on the
ground for the moment, he grabbed the metal door and began to
heave it closed. As the
door swung past him, Vernet reached up to grab the single bolt that
needed to be slid into
place. The door closed with a thud, and Vernet quickly grabbed the
bolt, pulling it to the
left. The bolt slid a few inches and crunched to an unexpected halt,
not lining up with its
sleeve. What's going on? Vernet pulled again, but the bolt wouldn't
lock. The mechanism
was not properly aligned. The door isn't fully closed! Feeling a surge
of panic, Vernet
shoved hard against the outside of the door, but it refused to
budge. Something is
blocking it! Vernet turned to throw full shoulder into the door, but
this time the door
exploded outward, striking Vernet in the face and sending him
reeling backward onto the
ground, his nose shattering in pain. The gun flew as Vernet reached
for his face and felt
the warm blood running from his nose.
Robert Langdon hit the ground somewhere nearby, and Vernet tried
to get up, but he
couldn't see. His vision blurred and he fell backward again. Sophie
Neveu was shouting.
Moments later, Vernet felt a cloud of dirt and exhaust billowing
over him. He heard the
crunching of tires on gravel and sat up just in time to see the
truck's wide wheelbase fail
to navigate a turn. There was a crash as the front bumper clipped a
tree. The engine
roared, and the tree bent. Finally, it was the bumper that gave,
tearing half off. The
armored car lurched away, its front bumper dragging. When the
truck reached the paved
access road, a shower of sparks lit up the night, trailing the truck
as it sped away.
Vernet turned his eyes back to the ground where the truck had
been parked. Even in the
faint moonlight he could see there was nothing there.
The wooden box was gone.
The unmarked Fiat sedan departing Castel Gandolfo snaked
downward through the Alban
Hills into the valley below. In the back seat, Bishop Aringarosa
smiled, feeling the
weight of the bearer bonds in the briefcase on his lap and
wondering how long it would
be before he and the Teacher could make the exchange.
Twenty million euro.
The sum would buy Aringarosa power far more valuable than that.
As his car sped back toward Rome, Aringarosa again found himself
wondering why the
Teacher had not yet contacted him. Pulling his cell phone from his
cassock pocket, he
checked the carrier signal. Extremely faint.
"Cell service is intermittent up here," the driver said, glancing at
him in the rearview
mirror. "In about five minutes, we'll be out of the mountains, and
"Thank you." Aringarosa felt a sudden surge of concern. No service
in the mountains?
Maybe the Teacher had been trying to reach him all this time.
Maybe something had gone
Quickly, Aringarosa checked the phone's voice mail. Nothing. Then
again, he realized,
the Teacher never would have left a recorded message; he was a
man who took enormous
care with his communications. Nobody understood better than the
Teacher the perils of
speaking openly in this modern world. Electronic eavesdropping had
played a major role
in how he had gathered his astonishing array of secret knowledge.
For this reason, he takes extra precautions.
Unfortunately, the Teacher's protocols for caution included a
refusal to give Aringarosa
any kind of contact number. I alone will initiate contact, the
Teacher had informed him.
So keep your phone close. Now that Aringarosa realized his phone
might not have been
working properly, he feared what the Teacher might think if he had
phoning with no answer.
He'll think something is wrong.
Or that I failed to get the bonds.
The bishop broke a light sweat.
Or worse... that I took the money and ran!
Even at a modest sixty kilometers an hour, the dangling front
bumper of the armored
truck grated against the deserted suburban road with a grinding
roar, spraying sparks up
onto the hood.
We've got to get off the road, Langdon thought.
He could barely even see where they were headed. The truck's lone
had been knocked off-center and was casting a skewed sidelong
beam into the woods
beside the country highway. Apparently the armor in this "armored
truck" referred only
to the cargo hold and not the front end.
Sophie sat in the passenger seat, staring blankly at the rosewood
box on her lap.
"Are you okay?" Langdon asked.
Sophie looked shaken. "Do you believe him?"
"About the three additional murders? Absolutely. It answers a lot
of questionsthe issue of
your grandfather's desperation to pass on the keystone, as well as
the intensity with which
Fache is hunting me."
"No, I meant about Vernet trying to protect his bank."
Langdon glanced over. "As opposed to?"
"Taking the keystone for himself."
Langdon had not even considered it. "How would he even know what
this box contains?"
"His bank stored it. He knew my grandfather. Maybe he knew things.
He might have
decided he wanted the Grail for himself."
Langdon shook his head. Vernet hardly seemed the type. "In my
experience, there are only two reasons people seek the Grail. Either
they are naive and believe they are searching for the long-lost Cup
of Christ..." "Or?" "Or they know the truth and are threatened by
it. Many groups throughout history have sought to destroy the
Grail." The silence between them accentuated the sound of the
scraping bumper. They had driven a few kilometers now, and as
Langdon watched the cascade of sparks coming off the front of the
truck, he wondered if it was dangerous. Either way, if they passed
another car, it would certainly draw attention. Langdon made up his
mind. "I'm going to see if I can bend this bumper back." Pulling onto
the shoulder, he brought the truck to a stop. Silence at last. As
Langdon walked toward the front of the truck, he felt surprisingly
alert. Staring into the barrel of yet another gun tonight had given
him a second wind. He took a deep breath of nighttime air and tried
to get his wits about him. Accompanying the gravity of being a
hunted man, Langdon was starting to feel the ponderous weight of
responsibility, the prospect that he and Sophie might actually be
holding an encrypted set of directions to one of the most enduring
mysteries of all time. As if this burden were not great enough,
Langdon now realized that any possibility of finding a way to return
the keystone to the Priory had just evaporated. News of the three
additional murders had dire implications. The Priory has been
infiltrated. They are compromised. The brotherhood was obviously
being watched, or there was a mole within the ranks. It seemed to
explain why Saunière might have transferred the keystone to
Sophie and Langdonpeople outside the brotherhood, people he knew
were not compromised. We can't very well give the keystone back to
the brotherhood. Even if Langdon had any idea how to find a Priory
member, chances were good that whoever stepped forward to take
the keystone could be the enemy himself. For the moment, at least,
it seemed the keystone was in Sophie and Langdon's hands, whether
they wanted it or not. The truck's front end looked worse than
Langdon had imagined. The left headlight was gone, and the right
one looked like an eyeball dangling from its socket. Langdon
straightened it, and it dislodged again. The only good news was that
the front bumper had been torn almost clean off. Langdon gave it a
hard kick and sensed he might be able to break it off entirely. As
he repeatedly kicked the twisted metal, Langdon recalled his earlier
conversation with Sophie. My grandfather left me a phone message,
Sophie had told him. He said he needed to tell me the truth about
my family. At the time it had meant nothing, but now, knowing the
Priory of Sion was involved, Langdon felt a startling new possibility
emerge. The bumper broke off suddenly with a crash. Langdon
paused to catch his breath. At least the truck would no longer look
like a Fourth of July sparkler. He grabbed the bumper and began
dragging it out of sight into the woods, wondering where they
should go next. They had no idea how to open the cryptex, or why
Saunière had given it to them. Unfortunately, their survival tonight
seemed to depend on getting answers to those very questions. We
need help, Langdon decided. Professional help.
In the world of the Holy Grail and the Priory of Sion, that meant
only one man. The
challenge, of course, would be selling the idea to Sophie.
Inside the armored car, while Sophie waited for Langdon to return,
she could feel the
weight of the rosewood box on her lap and resented it. Why did my
grandfather give this
to me? She had not the slightest idea what to do with it.
Think, Sophie! Use your head. Grand-père is trying to tell you
Opening the box, she eyed the cryptex's dials. A proof of merit.
She could feel her
grandfather's hand at work. The keystone is a map that can be
followed only by the
worthy. It sounded like her grandfather to the core.
Lifting the cryptex out of the box, Sophie ran her fingers over the
dials. Five letters. She
rotated the dials one by one. The mechanism moved smoothly. She
aligned the disks such
that her chosen letters lined up between the cryptex's two brass
alignment arrows on
either end of the cylinder. The dials now spelled a five-letter word
that Sophie knew was
Gently, she held the two ends of the cylinder and pulled, applying
pressure slowly. The
cryptex didn't budge. She heard the vinegar inside gurgle and
stopped pulling. Then she
Again, no movement.
Nothing. The cryptex remained locked solid.
Frowning, she replaced it in the rosewood box and closed the lid.
Looking outside at
Langdon, Sophie felt grateful he was with her tonight. P.S. Find
Robert Langdon. Her
grandfather's rationale for including him was now clear. Sophie was
not equipped to
understand her grandfather's intentions, and so he had assigned
Robert Langdon as her
guide. A tutor to oversee her education. Unfortunately for Langdon,
he had turned out to
be far more than a tutor tonight. He had become the target of Bezu
Fache... and some
unseen force intent on possessing the Holy Grail.
Whatever the Grail turns out to be.
Sophie wondered if finding out was worth her life.
As the armored truck accelerated again, Langdon was pleased how
much more smoothly
it drove. "Do you know how to get to Versailles?"
Sophie eyed him. "Sightseeing?"
"No, I have a plan. There's a religious historian I know who lives
near Versailles. I can't
remember exactly where, but we can look it up. I've been to his
estate a few times. His
name is Leigh Teabing. He's a former British Royal Historian."
"And he lives in Paris?"
"Teabing's life passion is the Grail. When whisperings of the Priory
about fifteen years ago, he moved to France to search churches in
hopes of finding it.
He's written some books on the keystone and the Grail. He may be
able to help us figure
out how to open it and what to do with it."
Sophie's eyes were wary. "Can you trust him?"
"Trust him to what? Not steal the information?"
"And not to turn us in." "I don't intend to tell him we're wanted by
the police. I'm hoping he'll take us in until we can sort all this out."
"Robert, has it occurred to you that every television in France is
probably getting ready to broadcast our pictures? Bezu Fache
always uses the media to his advantage. He'll make it impossible for
us to move around without being recognized." Terrific, Langdon
thought. My French TV debut will be on "Paris's Most Wanted." At
least Jonas Faukman would be pleased; every time Langdon made the
news, his book sales jumped. "Is this man a good enough friend?"
Sophie asked. Langdon doubted Teabing was someone who watched
television, especially at this hour, but still the question deserved
consideration. Instinct told Langdon that Teabing would be totally
trustworthy. An ideal safe harbor. Considering the circumstances,
Teabing would probably trip over himself to help them as much as
possible. Not only did he owe Langdon a favor, but Teabing was a
Grail researcher, and Sophie claimed her grandfather was the
actual Grand Master of the Priory of Sion. If Teabing heard that,
he would salivate at the thought of helping them figure this out.
"Teabing could be a powerful ally," Langdon said. Depending on how
much you want to tell him. "Fache probably will be offering a
monetary reward." Langdon laughed. "Believe me, money is the last
thing this guy needs." Leigh Teabing was wealthy in the way small
countries were wealthy. A descendant of Britain's First Duke of
Lancaster, Teabing had gotten his money the old-fashioned wayhe'd
inherited it. His estate outside of Paris was a seventeenth-century
palace with two private lakes. Langdon had first met Teabing several
years ago through the British Broadcasting Corporation. Teabing
had approached the BBC with a proposal for a historical
documentary in which he would expose the explosive history of the
Holy Grail to a mainstream television audience. The BBC producers
loved Teabing's hot premise, his research, and his credentials, but
they had concerns that the concept was so shocking and hard to
swallow that the network might end up tarnishing its reputation for
quality journalism. At Teabing's suggestion, the BBC solved its
credibility fears by soliciting three cameos from respected
historians from around the world, all of whom corroborated the
stunning nature of the Holy Grail secret with their own research.
Langdon had been among those chosen. The BBC had flown Langdon
to Teabing's Paris estate for the filming. He sat before cameras in
Teabing's opulent drawing room and shared his story, admitting his
initial skepticism on hearing of the alternate Holy Grail story, then
describing how years of research had persuaded him that the story
was true. Finally, Langdon offered some of his own researcha series
of symbologic connections that strongly supported the seemingly
controversial claims. When the program aired in Britain, despite its
ensemble cast and well-documented evidence, the premise rubbed so
hard against the grain of popular Christian thought that it instantly
confronted a firestorm of hostility. It never aired in the States,
but the repercussions echoed across the Atlantic. Shortly
afterward, Langdon received a postcard from an old friendthe
Catholic Bishop of Philadelphia. The card simply read: Et tu, Robert?
"Robert," Sophie asked, "you're certain we can trust this man?"
"Absolutely. We're colleagues, he doesn't need money, and I happen
to know he despises
the French authorities. The French government taxes him at absurd
rates because he
bought a historic landmark. He'll be in no hurry to cooperate with
Sophie stared out at the dark roadway. "If we go to him, how much
do you want to tell
Langdon looked unconcerned. "Believe me, Leigh Teabing knows more
about the Priory
of Sion and the Holy Grail than anyone on earth."
Sophie eyed him. "More than my grandfather?"
"I meant more than anyone outside the brotherhood."
"How do you know Teabing isn't a member of the brotherhood?"
"Teabing has spent his life trying to broadcast the truth about the
Holy Grail. The Priory's
oath is to keep its true nature hidden."
"Sounds to me like a conflict of interest."
Langdon understood her concerns. Saunière had given the cryptex
directly to Sophie, and
although she didn't know what it contained or what she was
supposed to do with it, she
was hesitant to involve a total stranger. Considering the information
the instinct was probably a good one. "We don't need to tell Teabing
about the keystone
immediately. Or at all, even. His house will give us a place to hide
and think, and maybe
when we talk to him about the Grail, you'll start to have an idea why
gave this to you."
"Us," Sophie reminded.
Langdon felt a humble pride and wondered yet again why Saunière
had included him.
"Do you know more or less where Mr. Teabing lives?" Sophie asked.
"His estate is called Château Villette."
Sophie turned with an incredulous look. "The Château Villette?"
"That's the one."
"You know the estate?"
"I've passed it. It's in the castle district. Twenty minutes from
Langdon frowned. "That far?"
"Yes, which will give you enough time to tell me what the Holy Grail
Langdon paused. "I'll tell you at Teabing's. He and I specialize in
different areas of the
legend, so between the two of us, you'll get the full story." Langdon
smiled. "Besides, the
Grail has been Teabing's life, and hearing the story of the Holy
Grail from Leigh Teabing
will be like hearing the theory of relativity from Einstein himself."
"Let's hope Leigh doesn't mind late-night visitors."
"For the record, it's Sir Leigh." Langdon had made that mistake only
once. "Teabing is
quite a character. He was knighted by the Queen several years back
after composing an
extensive history on the House of York."
Sophie looked over. "You're kidding, right? We're going to visit a
Langdon gave an awkward smile. "We're on a Grail quest, Sophie.
Who better to help us
than a knight?"
The Sprawling 185-acre estate of Château Villette was located
northwest of Paris in the environs of Versailles. Designed by
François Mansart in 1668
for the Count of Aufflay, it was one of Paris's most significant
Complete with two rectangular lakes and gardens designed by Le
Nôtre, Château Villette
was more of a modest castle than a mansion. The estate fondly had
become known as la
Langdon brought the armored truck to a shuddering stop at the
foot of the mile-long
driveway. Beyond the imposing security gate, Sir Leigh Teabing's
residence rose on a
meadow in the distance. The sign on the gate was in English:
As if to proclaim his home a British Isle unto itself, Teabing had not
only posted his signs
in English, but he had installed his gate's intercom entry system on
the right-hand side of
the truckthe passenger's side everywhere in Europe except
Sophie gave the misplaced intercom an odd look. "And if someone
arrives without a
"Don't ask." Langdon had already been through that with Teabing.
"He prefers things the
way they are at home."
Sophie rolled down her window. "Robert, you'd better do the