The da vinci code, p.37
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       The Da Vinci Code, p.37
 

         Part #2 of Robert Langdon series by Dan Brown  

  them. When I setthis down, he will kill us both.Even without looking at Sophie, he could hear her heart beseeching him in silent desperation. Robert, this man is not worthy of the Grail.Please do not place it in his hands.No matter what the cost.

  Langdon had already made his decision several minutes ago, while standing alone at the window overlooking College Garden.

  Protect Sophie. Protect the Grail. Langdon had almost shouted out in desperation. But I cannot see how!

  The stark moments of disillusionment had brought with them a clarity unlike any he had ever felt. The Truth is right before your eyes, Robert.He knew not from where the epiphany came. The Grailis not mocking you, she is calling out to a worthy soul.

  Now, bowing down like a subject several yards in front of Leigh Teabing, Langdon lowered the cryptex to within inches of the stone floor.

  «Yes, Robert,» Teabing whispered, aiming the gun at him. «Set it down.»

  Langdon’s eyes moved heavenward, up into the gaping void of the Chapter House cupola. Crouching lower, Langdon lowered his gaze to Teabing’s gun, aimed directly at him.

  «I’m sorry, Leigh.»

  In one fluid motion, Langdon leapt up, swinging his arm skyward, launching the cryptex straight up toward the dome above.

  Leigh Teabing did not feel his finger pull the trigger, but the Medusa discharged with a thundering crash. Langdon’s crouched form was now vertical, almost airborne, and the bullet exploded in the floor near Langdon’s feet. Half of Teabing’s brain attempted to adjust his aim and fire again in rage, but the more powerful half dragged his eyes upward into the cupola.

  The keystone!

  Time seemed to freeze, morphing into a slow-motion dream as Teabing’s entire world became the airborne keystone. He watched it rise to the apex of its climb… hovering for a moment in the void… and then tumbling downward, end over end, back toward the stone floor.

  All of Teabing’s hopes and dreams were plummeting toward earth. It cannot strike the floor! I can reach it! Teabing’s body reacted on instinct. He released the gun and heaved himself forward, dropping his crutches as he reached out with his soft, manicured hands. Stretching his arms and fingers, he snatched the keystone from midair.

  Falling forward with the keystone victoriously clutched in his hand, Teabing knew he was falling too fast. With nothing to break his fall, his outstretched arms hit first, and the cryptex collided hard with the floor.

  There was a sickening crunch of glass within.

  For a full second, Teabing did not breathe. Lying there outstretched on the cold floor, staring the length of his outstretched arms at the marble cylinder in his bare palms, he implored the glass vial inside to hold. Then the acrid tang of vinegar cut the air, and Teabing felt the cool liquid flowing out through the dials onto his palm.

  Wild panic gripped him. NO! The vinegar was streaming now, and Teabing pictured the papyrus dissolving within. Robert, you fool! The secret is lost!

  Teabing felt himself sobbing uncontrollably. The Grail is gone.Everything destroyed.Shuddering in disbelief over Langdon’s actions, Teabing tried to force the cylinder apart, longing to catch a fleeting glimpse of history before it dissolved forever. To his shock, as he pulled the ends of the keystone, the cylinder separated.

  He gasped and peered inside. It was empty except for shards of wet glass. No dissolving papyrus. Teabing rolled over and looked up at Langdon. Sophie stood beside him, aiming the gun down at Teabing.

  Bewildered, Teabing looked back at the keystone and saw it. The dials were no longer at random. They spelled a five-letter word: APPLE.

  «The orb from which Eve partook,» Langdon said coolly,» incurring the Holy wrath of God. Original sin. The symbol of the fall of the sacred feminine.»

  Teabing felt the truth come crashing down on him in excruciating austerity. The orb that ought be on Newton’s tomb could be none other than the Rosy apple that fell from heaven, struck Newton on the head, and inspired his life’s work. His labor’s fruit! The Rosy flesh with a seeded womb!

  «Robert,» Teabing stammered, overwhelmed. «You opened it. Where… is the map?»

  Without blinking, Langdon reached into the breast pocket of his tweed coat and carefully extracted a delicate rolled papyrus. Only a few yards from where Teabing lay, Langdon unrolled the scroll and looked at it. After a long moment, a knowing smile crossed Langdon’s face.

  He knows! Teabing’s heart craved that knowledge. His life’s dream was right in front of him. «Tell me!» Teabing demanded. «Please! Oh God, please! It’s not too late!»

  As the sound of heavy footsteps thundered down the hall toward the Chapter House, Langdon quietly rolled the papyrus and slipped it back in his pocket.

  «No!» Teabing cried out, trying in vain to stand.

  When the doors burst open, Bezu Fache entered like a bull into a ring, his feral eyes scanning, finding his target – Leigh Teabing – helpless on the floor. Exhaling in relief, Fache holstered his Manurhin sidearm and turned to Sophie. «Agent Neveu, I am relieved you and Mr. Langdon are safe. You should have come in when I asked.»

  The British police entered on Fache’s heels, seizing the anguished prisoner and placing him in handcuffs.

  Sophie seemed stunned to see Fache. «How did you find us?»

  Fache pointed to Teabing. «He made the mistake of showing his ID when he entered the abbey. The guards heard a police broadcast about our search for him.»

  «It’s in Langdon’s pocket!» Teabing was screaming like a madman. «The map to the Holy Grail!»

  As they hoisted Teabing and carried him out, he threw back his head and howled. «Robert! Tell me where it’s hidden!»

  As Teabing passed, Langdon looked him in the eye. «Only the worthy find the Grail, Leigh. You taught me that.»

  CHAPTER 102

  The mist had settled low on Kensington Gardens as Silas limped into a quiet hollow out of sight. Kneeling on the wet grass, he could feel a warm stream of blood flowing from the bullet wound below his ribs. Still, he stared straight ahead.

  The fog made it look like heaven here.

  Raising his bloody hands to pray, he watched the raindrops caress his fingers, turning them white again. As the droplets fell harder across his back and shoulders, he could feel his body disappearing bit by bit into the mist.

  I am a ghost.

  A breeze rustled past him, carrying the damp, earthy scent of new life. With every living cell in his broken body, Silas prayed. He prayed for forgiveness. He prayed for mercy. And, above all, he prayed for his mentor… Bishop Aringarosa… that the Lord would not take him before his time. Hehas so much work left to do.

  The fog was swirling around him now, and Silas felt so light that he was sure the wisps would carry him away. Closing his eyes, he said a final prayer.

  From somewhere in the mist, the voice of Manuel Aringarosa whispered to him.

  Our Lord is a good and merciful God.

  Silas’s pain at last began to fade, and he knew the bishop was right.

  CHAPTER 103

  It was late afternoon when the London sun broke through and the city began to dry. Bezu Fache felt weary as he emerged from the interrogation room and hailed a cab. Sir Leigh Teabing had vociferously proclaimed his innocence, and yet from his incoherent rantings about the Holy Grail, secret documents, and mysterious brotherhoods, Fache suspected the wily historian was setting the stage for his lawyers to plead an insanity defense.

  Sure , Fache thought. Insane.Teabing had displayed ingenious precision in formulating a plan that protected his innocence at every turn. He had exploited both the Vatican and Opus Dei, two groups that turned out to be completely innocent. His dirty work had been carried out unknowingly by a fanatical monk and a desperate bishop. More clever still, Teabing had situated his electronic listening post in the one place a man with polio could not possibly reach. The actual surveillance had been carried out by his manservant, Rémy – the lone person privy to Teabing’s true identity – now convenientl
y dead of an allergic reaction.

  Hardly the handiwork of someone lacking mental faculties, Fache thought.

  The information coming from Collet out of Château Villette suggested that Teabing’s cunning ran so deep that Fache himself might even learn from it. To successfully hide bugs in some of Paris’s most powerful offices, the British historian had turned to the Greeks. Trojan horses.Some of Teabing’s intended targets received lavish gifts of artwork, others unwittingly bid at auctions in which Teabing had placed specific lots. In Saunière’s case, the curator had received a dinner invitation to Château Villette to discuss the possibility of Teabing’s funding a new Da Vinci Wing at the Louvre. Saunière’s invitation had contained an innocuous postscript expressing fascination with a robotic knight that Saunière was rumored to have built. Bring him to dinner, Teabing had suggested. Saunière apparently had done just that and left the knight unattended long enough for Rémy Legaludec to make one inconspicuous addition.

  Now, sitting in the back of the cab, Fache closed his eyes. One more thing to attend to before Ireturn to Paris.

  The St. Mary’s Hospital recovery room was sunny.

  «You’ve impressed us all,» the nurse said, smiling down at him. «Nothing short of miraculous.» Bishop Aringarosa gave a weak smile. «I have always been blessed.» The nurse finished puttering, leaving the bishop alone. The sunlight felt welcome and warm on his face. Last night had been the darkest night of his life.

  Despondently, he thought of Silas, whose body had been found in the park.

  Please forgive me, my son.

  Aringarosa had longed for Silas to be part of his glorious plan. Last night, however, Aringarosa had received a call from Bezu Fache, questioning the bishop about his apparent connection to a nun who had been murdered in Saint-Sulpice. Aringarosa realized the evening had taken a horrifying turn. News of the four additional murders transformed his horror to anguish. Silas, what have you done! Unable to reach the Teacher, the bishop knew he had been cut loose. Used.The only way to stop the horrific chain of events he had helped put in motion was to confess everything to Fache, and from that moment on, Aringarosa and Fache had been racing to catch up with Silas before the Teacher persuaded him to kill again.

  Feeling bone weary, Aringarosa closed his eyes and listened to the television coverage of the arrest of a prominent British knight, Sir Leigh Teabing. The Teacher laid bare for all to see.Teabing had caught wind of the Vatican’s plans to disassociate itself from Opus Dei. He had chosen Aringarosa as the perfect pawn in his plan. After all, who more likely to leap blindly after the Holy Grail thana man like myself with everything to lose? The Grail would have brought enormous power to anyone who possessed it.

  Leigh Teabing had protected his identity shrewdly – feigning a French accent and a pious heart, and demanding as payment the one thing he did not need – money. Aringarosa had been far too eager to be suspicious. The price tag of twenty million euro was paltry when compared with the prize of obtaining the Grail, and with the Vatican’s separation payment to Opus Dei, the finances had worked nicely. The blind see what they want to see.Teabing’s ultimate insult, of course, had been to demand payment in Vatican bonds, such that if anything went wrong, the investigation would lead to Rome.

  «I am glad to see you’re well, My Lord.»

  Aringarosa recognized the gruff voice in the doorway, but the face was unexpected – stern, powerful features, slicked-back hair, and a broad neck that strained against his dark suit. «Captain Fache?» Aringarosa asked. The compassion and concern the captain had shown for Aringarosa’s plight last night had conjured images of a far gentler physique.

  The captain approached the bed and hoisted a familiar, heavy black briefcase onto a chair. «I believe this belongs to you.»

  Aringarosa looked at the briefcase filled with bonds and immediately looked away, feeling only shame. «Yes… thank you.» He paused while working his fingers across the seam of his bed sheet, then continued. «Captain, I have been giving this deep thought, and I need to ask a favor of you.»

  «Of course.»

  «The families of those in Paris who Silas…» He paused, swallowing the emotion. «I realize no sum could possibly serve as sufficient restitution, and yet, if you could be kind enough to divide the contents of this briefcase among them… the families of the deceased.»

  Fache’s dark eyes studied him a long moment. «A virtuous gesture, My Lord. I will see to it your wishes are carried out.»

  A heavy silence fell between them.

  On the television, a lean French police officer was giving a press conference in front of a sprawling mansion. Fache saw who it was and turned his attention to the screen.

  «Lieutenant Collet,» a BBC reporter said, her voice accusing. «Last night, your captain publicly charged two innocent people with murder. Will Robert Langdon and Sophie Neveu be seeking accountability from your department? Will this cost Captain Fache his job?»

  Lieutenant Collet’s smile was tired but calm. «It is my experience that Captain Bezu Fache seldom makes mistakes. I have not yet spoken to him on this matter, but knowing how he operates, I suspect his public manhunt for Agent Neveu and Mr. Langdon was part of a ruse to lure out the real killer.»

  The reporters exchanged surprised looks.

  Collet continued. «Whether or not Mr. Langdon and Agent Neveu were willing participants in the sting, I do not know. Captain Fache tends to keep his more creative methods to himself. All I can confirm at this point is that the captain has successfully arrested the man responsible, and that Mr. Langdon and Agent Neveu are both innocent and safe.»

  Fache had a faint smile on his lips as he turned back to Aringarosa. «A good man, that Collet.»

  Several moments passed. Finally, Fache ran his hand over his forehead, slicking back his hair as he gazed down at Aringarosa. «My Lord, before I return to Paris, there is one final matter I’d like to discuss – your impromptu flight to London. You bribed a pilot to change course. In doing so, you broke a number of international laws.» Aringarosa slumped. «I was desperate.» «Yes. As was the pilot when my men interrogated him.» Fache reached in his pocket and produced a purple amethyst ring with a familiar hand-tooled mitre-crozier appliqué.

  Aringarosa felt tears welling as he accepted the ring and slipped it back on his finger. «You’ve been so kind.» He held out his hand and clasped Fache’s. «Thank you.»

  Fache waved off the gesture, walking to the window and gazing out at the city, his thoughts obviously far away. When he turned, there was an uncertainty about him. «My Lord, where do you go from here?»

  Aringarosa had been asked the exact same question as he left Castel Gandolfo the night before. «I suspect my path is as uncertain as yours.»

  «Yes.» Fache paused. «I suspect I will be retiring early.»

  Aringarosa smiled. «A little faith can do wonders, Captain. A little faith.»

  CHAPTER 104

  Rosslyn Chapel – often called the Cathedral of Codes – stands seven miles south of Edinburgh, Scotland, on the site of an ancient Mithraic temple. Built by the Knights Templar in 1446, the chapel is engraved with a mind-boggling array of symbols from the Jewish, Christian, Egyptian, Masonic, and pagan traditions.

  The chapel’s geographic coordinates fall precisely on the north-south meridian that runs through Glastonbury. This longitudinal Rose Line is the traditional marker of King Arthur’s Isle of Avalon and is considered the central pillar of Britain’s sacred geometry. It is from this hallowed Rose Line that Rosslyn – originally spelled Roslin – takes its name.

  Rosslyn’s rugged spires were casting long evening shadows as Robert Langdon and Sophie Neveu pulled their rental car into the grassy parking area at the foot of the bluff on which the chapel stood. Their short flight from London to Edinburgh had been restful, although neither of them had slept for the anticipation of what lay ahead. Gazing up at the stark edifice framed against a cloud-swept sky, Langdon felt like Alice falling headlong into the rabbit hole. This m
ust be a dream.And yet he knew the text of Saunière’s final message could not have been more specific.

  The Holy Grail ‘neath ancient Roslin waits.

  Langdon had fantasized that Saunière’s «Grail map» would be a diagram – a drawing with an X- marks-the-spot – and yet the Priory’s final secret had been unveiled in the same way Saunière had spoken to them from the beginning. Simple verse.Four explicit lines that pointed without a doubt to this very spot. In addition to identifying Rosslyn by name, the verse made reference to several of the chapel’s renowned architectural features.

  Despite the clarity of Saunière’s final revelation, Langdon had been left feeling more off balance than enlightened. To him, Rosslyn Chapel seemed far too obvious a location. For centuries, this stone chapel had echoed with whispers of the Holy Grail’s presence. The whispers had turned to shouts in recent decades when ground-penetrating radar revealed the presence of an astonishing structure beneath the chapel – a massive subterranean chamber. Not only did this deep vault dwarf the chapel atop it, but it appeared to have no entrance or exit. Archaeologists petitioned to begin blasting through the bedrock to reach the mysterious chamber, but the Rosslyn Trust expressly forbade any excavation of the sacred site. Of course, this only fueled the fires of speculation. What was the Rosslyn Trust trying to hide?

  Rosslyn had now become a pilgrimage site for mystery seekers. Some claimed they were drawn here by the powerful magnetic field that emanated inexplicably from these coordinates, some claimed they came to search the hillside for a hidden entrance to the vault, but most admitted they had come simply to wander the grounds and absorb the lore of the Holy Grail.

  Although Langdon had never been to Rosslyn before now, he always chuckled when he heard the chapel described as the current home of the Holy Grail. Admittedly, Rosslyn once might have been home to the Grail, long ago… but certainly no longer. Far too much attention had been drawn to Rosslyn in past decades, and sooner or later someone would find a way to break into the vault.

  True Grail academics agreed that Rosslyn was a decoy – one of the devious dead ends the Priory crafted so convincingly. Tonight, however, with the Priory’s keystone offering a verse that pointed directly to this spot, Langdon no longer felt so smug. A perplexing question had been running through his mind all day:

  Why would Saunière go to such effort to guide us to so obvious a location?

  There seemed only one logical answer.

  There is something about Rosslyn we have yet to understand.

  «Robert?» Sophie was standing outside the car, looking back at him. «Are you corning?» She was holding the rosewood box, which Captain Fache had returned to them. Inside, both cryptexes had been reassembled and nested as they had been found. The papyrus verse was locked safely at its core – minus the shattered vial of vinegar.

  Making their way up the long gravel path, Langdon and Sophie passed the famous west wall of the chapel. Casual visitors assumed this oddly protruding wall was a section of the chapel that had not been finished. The truth, Langdon recalled, was far more intriguing.

  The west wall of Solomon’s Temple.

  The Knights Templar had designed Rosslyn Chapel as an exact architectural blueprint of Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem – complete with a west wall, a narrow rectangular sanctuary, and a subterranean vault like the Holy of Holies, in which the original nine knights had first unearthed their priceless treasure. Langdon had to admit, there existed an intriguing symmetry in the idea of the Templars building a modern Grail repository that echoed the Grail’s original hiding place. Rosslyn Chapel’s entrance was more modest than Langdon expected. The small wooden door had two iron hinges and a simple, oak sign.

  ROSLIN

  This ancient spelling, Langdon explained to Sophie, derived from the Rose Line meridian on which the chapel sat; or, as Grail academics preferred to believe, from the» Line of Rose» – the ancestral lineage of Mary Magdalene.

  The chapel would be closing soon, and as Langdon pulled open the door, a warm puff of air escaped, as if the ancient edifice were heaving a weary sigh at the end of a long day. Her entry arches burgeoned with carved cinquefoils.

  Roses. The womb of the goddess.

  Entering with Sophie, Langdon felt his eyes reaching across the famous sanctuary and taking it all in. Although he had read accounts of Rosslyn’s arrestingly intricate stonework, seeing it in person was an overwhelming encounter.

  Symbology heaven , one of Langdon’s colleagues had called it.

  Every surface in the chapel had been carved with symbols – Christian cruciforms, Jewish stars, Masonic seals, Templar crosses, cornucopias, pyramids, astrological signs, plants, vegetables, pentacles, and roses. The Knights Templar had been master stonemasons, erecting Templar churches all over Europe, but Rosslyn was considered their most sublime labor of love and veneration. The master masons had left no stone uncarved. Rosslyn Chapel was a shrine to all faiths… to all traditions… and, above all, to nature and the goddess.

  The sanctuary was empty except for a handful of visitors listening to a young man giving the day’s last tour. He was leading them in a single-file line along a well-known route on the floor – an invisible pathway linking six key architectural points within the sanctuary. Generations of visitors had walked these straight lines, connecting the points, and their countless footsteps had engravedan enormous symbol on the floor.

 
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