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Galileo Galilei, 1639 2 page

"You ask a lot of questions."

"My dad used to say that."

"Two possible reasons. One, the word Raphael has too many syllables. It would have destroyed the poem’s iambic pentameter."

"Sounds like a stretch."

Langdon agreed. "Okay, then maybe using ‘Santi’ was to make the clue more obscure, so only very enlightened men would recognize the reference to Raphael."

Vittoria didn’t appear to buy this either. "I’m sure Raphael’s last name was very well known when he was alive."

"Surprisingly not. Single name recognition was a status symbol. Raphael shunned his last name much like pop stars do today. Take Madonna, for example. She never uses her surname, Ciccone."

Vittoria looked amused. "You know Madonna’s last name?"

Langdon regretted the example. It was amazing the kind of garbage a mind picked up living with 10,000 adolescents.

As he and Vittoria passed the final gate toward the Office of the Swiss Guard, their progress was halted without warning.

"Para!" a voice bellowed behind them.

Langdon and Vittoria wheeled to find themselves looking into the barrel of a rifle.

"Attento!" Vittoria exclaimed, jumping back. "Watch it with–"

"Non sportarti!" the guard snapped, cocking the weapon.

"Soldato!" a voice commanded from across the courtyard. Olivetti was emerging from the security center. "Let them go!"

The guard looked bewildered. "Ma, signore, è una donna–"

"Inside!" he yelled at the guard.

"Signore, non posso–"

"Now! You have new orders. Captain Rocher will be briefing the corps in two minutes. We will be organizing a search."

Looking bewildered, the guard hurried into the security center. Olivetti marched toward Langdon, rigid and steaming. "Our most secret archives? I’ll want an explanation."

"We have good news," Langdon said.

Olivetti’s eyes narrowed. "It better be damn good."

 

 

 

The four unmarked Alpha Romeo 155 T‑Sparks roared down Via dei Coronari like fighter jets off a runway. The vehicles carried twelve plainclothed Swiss Guards armed with Cherchi‑Pardini semiautomatics, local‑radius nerve gas canisters, and long‑range stun guns. The three sharpshooters carried laser‑sighted rifles.

Sitting in the passenger seat of the lead car, Olivetti turned backward toward Langdon and Vittoria. His eyes were filled with rage. "You assured me a sound explanation, and this is what I get?"

Langdon felt cramped in the small car. "I understand your–"

"No, you don’t understand!" Olivetti never raised his voice, but his intensity tripled. "I have just removed a dozen of my best men from Vatican City on the eve of conclave. And I have done this to stake out the Pantheon based on the testimony of some American I have never met who has just interpreted a four‑hundred‑year‑old poem. I have also just left the search for this antimatter weapon in the hands of secondary officers."



Langdon resisted the urge to pull Folio 5 from his pocket and wave it in Olivetti’s face. "All I know is that the information we found refers to Raphael’s tomb, and Raphael’s tomb is inside the Pantheon."

The officer behind the wheel nodded. "He’s right, commander. My wife and I–"

"Drive," Olivetti snapped. He turned back to Langdon. "How could a killer accomplish an assassination in such a crowded place and escape unseen?"

"I don’t know," Langdon said. "But the Illuminati are obviously highly resourceful. They’ve broken into both CERN and Vatican City. It’s only by luck that we know where the first kill zone is. The Pantheon is your one chance to catch this guy."

"More contradictions," Olivetti said. "One chance? I thought you said there was some sort of pathway. A series of markers. If the Pantheon is the right spot, we can follow the pathway to the other markers. We will have four chances to catch this guy."

"I had hoped so," Langdon said. "And we would have… a century ago."

Langdon’s realization that the Pantheon was the first altar of science had been a bittersweet moment. History had a way of playing cruel tricks on those who chased it. It was a long shot that the Path of Illumination would be intact after all of these years, with all of its statues in place, but part of Langdon had fantasized about following the path all the way to the end and coming face to face with the sacred Illuminati lair. Alas, he realized, it was not to be. "The Vatican had all the statues in the Pantheon removed and destroyed in the late 1800s."

Vittoria looked shocked. "Why?"

"The statues were pagan Olympian Gods. Unfortunately, that means the first marker is gone… and with it–"

"Any hope," Vittoria said, "of finding the Path of Illumination and additional markers?"

Langdon shook his head. "We have one shot. The Pantheon. After that, the path disappears."

Olivetti stared at them both a long moment and then turned and faced front. "Pull over," he barked to the driver.

The driver swerved the car toward the curb and put on the brakes. Three other Alpha Romeos skidded in behind them. The Swiss Guard convoy screeched to a halt.

"What are you doing!" Vittoria demanded.

"My job," Olivetti said, turning in his seat, his voice like stone. "Mr. Langdon, when you told me you would explain the situation en route, I assumed I would be approaching the Pantheon with a clear idea of why my men are here. That is not the case. Because I am abandoning critical duties by being here, and because I have found very little that makes sense in this theory of yours about virgin sacrifices and ancient poetry, I cannot in good conscience continue. I am recalling this mission immediately." He pulled out his walkie‑talkie and clicked it on.

Vittoria reached across the seat and grabbed his arm. "You can’t!"

Olivetti slammed down the walkie‑talkie and fixed her with a red‑hot stare. "Have you been to the Pantheon, Ms. Vetra?"

"No, but I–"

"Let me tell you something about it. The Pantheon is a single room. A circular cell made of stone and cement. It has one entrance. No windows. One narrow entrance. That entrance is flanked at all times by no less than four armed Roman policemen who protect this shrine from art defacers, anti‑Christian terrorists, and gypsy tourist scams."

"Your point?" she said coolly.

"My point?" Olivetti’s knuckles gripped the seat. "My point is that what you have just told me is going to happen is utterly impossible! Can you give me one plausible scenario of how someone could kill a cardinal inside the Pantheon? How does one even get a hostage past the guards into the Pantheon in the first place? Much less actually kill him and get away?" Olivetti leaned over the seat, his coffee breath now in Langdon’s face. "How, Mr. Langdon? One plausible scenario."

Langdon felt the tiny car shrink around him. I have no idea! I’m not an assassin! I don’t know how he will do it! I only know

"One scenario?" Vittoria quipped, her voice unruffled. "How about this? The killer flies over in a helicopter and drops a screaming, branded cardinal down through the hole in the roof. The cardinal hits the marble floor and dies."

Everyone in the car turned and stared at Vittoria. Langdon didn’t know what to think. You’ve got one sick imagination, lady, but you are quick.

Olivetti frowned. "Possible, I admit… but hardly–"

"Or the killer drugs the cardinal," Vittoria said, "brings him to the Pantheon in a wheelchair like some old tourist. He wheels him inside, quietly slits his throat, and then walks out."

This seemed to wake up Olivetti a bit.

Not bad! Langdon thought.

"Or," she said, "the killer could–"

"I heard you," Olivetti said. "Enough." He took a deep breath and blew it out. Someone rapped sharply on the window, and everyone jumped. It was a soldier from one of the other cars. Olivetti rolled down the window.

"Everything all right, commander?" The soldier was dressed in street clothes. He pulled back the sleeve of his denim shirt to reveal a black chronograph military watch. "Seven‑forty, commander. We’ll need time to get in position."

Olivetti nodded vaguely but said nothing for many moments. He ran a finger back and forth across the dash, making a line in the dust. He studied Langdon in the side‑view mirror, and Langdon felt himself being measured and weighed. Finally Olivetti turned back to the guard. There was reluctance in his voice. "I’ll want separate approaches. Cars to Piazza della Rotunda, Via delgi Orfani, Piazza Sant’Ignacio, and Sant’Eustachio. No closer than two blocks. Once you’re parked, gear up and await my orders. Three minutes."

"Very good, sir." The soldier returned to his car.

Langdon gave Vittoria an impressed nod. She smiled back, and for an instant Langdon felt an unexpected connection… a thread of magnetism between them.

The commander turned in his seat and locked eyes with Langdon. "Mr. Langdon, this had better not blow up in our faces."

Langdon smiled uneasily. How could it?

 

 

 

The director of CERN, Maximilian Kohler, opened his eyes to the cool rush of cromolyn and leukotriene in his body, dilating his bronchial tubes and pulmonary capillaries. He was breathing normally again. He found himself lying in a private room in the CERN infirmary, his wheelchair beside the bed.

He took stock, examining the paper robe they had put him in. His clothing was folded on the chair beside the bed. Outside he could hear a nurse making the rounds. He lay there a long minute listening. Then, as quietly as possible, he pulled himself to the edge of the bed and retrieved his clothing. Struggling with his dead legs, he dressed himself. Then he dragged his body onto his wheelchair.

Muffling a cough, he wheeled himself to the door. He moved manually, careful not to engage the motor. When he arrived at the door he peered out. The hall was empty.

Silently, Maximilian Kohler slipped out of the infirmary.

 

 

 

"Seven‑forty‑six and thirty… mark." Even speaking into his walkie‑talkie, Olivetti’s voice never seemed to rise above a whisper.

Langdon felt himself sweating now in his Harris tweed in the backseat of the Alpha Romeo, which was idling in Piazza de la Concorde, three blocks from the Pantheon. Vittoria sat beside him, looking engrossed by Olivetti, who was transmitting his final orders.

"Deployment will be an eight‑point hem," the commander said. "Full perimeter with a bias on the entry. Target may know you visually, so you will be pas‑visible. Nonmortal force only. We’ll need someone to spot the roof. Target is primary. Asset secondary."

Jesus, Langdon thought, chilled by the efficiency with which Olivetti had just told his men the cardinal was expendable. Asset secondary.

"I repeat. Nonmortal procurement. We need the target alive. Go." Olivetti snapped off his walkie‑talkie.

Vittoria looked stunned, almost angry. "Commander, isn’t anyone going inside?"

Olivetti turned. "Inside?"

"Inside the Pantheon! Where this is supposed to happen?"

"Attento," Olivetti said, his eyes fossilizing. "If my ranks have been infiltrated, my men may be known by sight. Your colleague has just finished warning me that this will be our sole chance to catch the target. I have no intention of scaring anyone off by marching my men inside."

"But what if the killer is already inside?"

Olivetti checked his watch. "The target was specific. Eight o’clock. We have fifteen minutes."

"He said he would kill the cardinal at eight o’clock. But he may already have gotten the victim inside somehow. What if your men see the target come out but don’t know who he is? Someone needs to make sure the inside is clean."

"Too risky at this point."

"Not if the person going in was unrecognizable."

"Disguising operatives is time consuming and–"

"I meant me," Vittoria said.

Langdon turned and stared at her.

Olivetti shook his head. "Absolutely not."

"He killed my father."

"Exactly, so he may know who you are."

"You heard him on the phone. He had no idea Leonardo Vetra even had a daughter. He sure as hell doesn’t know what I look like. I could walk in like a tourist. If I see anything suspicious, I could walk into the square and signal your men to move in."

"I’m sorry, I cannot allow that."

"Comandante?" Olivetti’s receiver crackled. "We’ve got a situation from the north point. The fountain is blocking our line of sight. We can’t see the entrance unless we move into plain view on the piazza. What’s your call? Do you want us blind or vulnerable?"

Vittoria apparently had endured enough. "That’s it. I’m going." She opened her door and got out.

Olivetti dropped his walkie‑talkie and jumped out of the car, circling in front of Vittoria.

Langdon got out too. What the hell is she doing!

Olivetti blocked Vittoria’s way. "Ms. Vetra, your instincts are good, but I cannot let a civilian interfere."

"Interfere? You’re flying blind. Let me help."

"I would love to have a recon point inside, but…"

"But what?" Vittoria demanded. "But I’m a woman?"

Olivetti said nothing.

"That had better not be what you were going to say, Commander, because you know damn well this is a good idea, and if you let some archaic macho bullshit–"

"Let us do our job."

"Let me help."

"Too dangerous. We would have no lines of communication with you. I can’t let you carry a walkie‑talkie, it would give you away."

Vittoria reached in her shirt pocket and produced her cell phone. "Plenty of tourists carry phones."

Olivetti frowned.

Vittoria unsnapped the phone and mimicked a call. "Hi, honey, I’m standing in the Pantheon. You should see this place!" She snapped the phone shut and glared at Olivetti. "Who the hell is going to know? It is a no‑risk situation. Let me be your eyes!" She motioned to the cell phone on Olivetti’s belt. "What’s your number?"

Olivetti did not reply.

The driver had been looking on and seemed to have some thoughts of his own. He got out of the car and took the commander aside. They spoke in hushed tones for ten seconds. Finally Olivetti nodded and returned. "Program this number." He began dictating digits.

Vittoria programmed her phone.

"Now call the number."

Vittoria pressed the auto dial. The phone on Olivetti’s belt began ringing. He picked it up and spoke into the receiver. "Go into the building, Ms. Vetra, look around, exit the building, then call and tell me what you see."

Vittoria snapped the phone shut. "Thank you, sir."

Langdon felt a sudden, unexpected surge of protective instinct. "Wait a minute," he said to Olivetti. "You’re sending her in there alone."

Vittoria scowled at him. "Robert, I’ll be fine."

The Swiss Guard driver was talking to Olivetti again.

"It’s dangerous," Langdon said to Vittoria.

"He’s right," Olivetti said. "Even my best men don’t work alone. My lieutenant has just pointed out that the masquerade will be more convincing with both of you anyway."

Both of us? Langdon hesitated. Actually, what I meant

"Both of you entering together," Olivetti said, "will look like a couple on holiday. You can also back each other up. I’m more comfortable with that."

Vittoria shrugged. "Fine, but we’ll need to go fast."

Langdon groaned. Nice move, cowboy.

Olivetti pointed down the street. "First street you hit will be Via degli Orfani. Go left. It takes you directly to the Pantheon. Two‑minute walk, tops. I’ll be here, directing my men and waiting for your call. I’d like you to have protection." He pulled out his pistol. "Do either of you know how to use a gun?"

Langdon’s heart skipped. We don’t need a gun!

Vittoria held her hand out. "I can tag a breaching porpoise from forty meters off the bow of a rocking ship."

"Good." Olivetti handed the gun to her. "You’ll have to conceal it."

Vittoria glanced down at her shorts. Then she looked at Langdon.

Oh no you don’t! Langdon thought, but Vittoria was too fast. She opened his jacket, and inserted the weapon into one of his breast pockets. It felt like a rock dropping into his coat, his only consolation being that Diagramma was in the other pocket.

"We look harmless," Vittoria said. "We’re leaving." She took Langdon’s arm and headed down the street.

The driver called out, "Arm in arm is good. Remember, you’re tourists. Newlyweds even. Perhaps if you held hands?"

As they turned the corner Langdon could have sworn he saw on Vittoria’s face the hint of a smile.

 

 

 

The Swiss Guard "staging room" is located adjacent to the Corpo di Vigilanza barracks and is used primarily for planning the security surrounding papal appearances and public Vatican events. Today, however, it was being used for something else.

The man addressing the assembled task force was the second‑in‑command of the Swiss Guard, Captain Elias Rocher. Rocher was a barrel‑chested man with soft, puttylike features. He wore the traditional blue captain’s uniform with his own personal flair–a red beret cocked sideways on his head. His voice was surprisingly crystalline for such a large man, and when he spoke, his tone had the clarity of a musical instrument. Despite the precision of his inflection, Rocher’s eyes were cloudy like those of some nocturnal mammal. His men called him "orso"–grizzly bear. They sometimes joked that Rocher was "the bear who walked in the viper’s shadow." Commander Olivetti was the viper. Rocher was just as deadly as the viper, but at least you could see him coming.

Rocher’s men stood at sharp attention, nobody moving a muscle, although the information they had just received had increased their aggregate blood pressure by a few thousand points.

Rookie Lieutenant Chartrand stood in the back of the room wishing he had been among the 99 percent of applicants who had not qualified to be here. At twenty years old, Chartrand was the youngest guard on the force. He had been in Vatican City only three months. Like every man there, Chartrand was Swiss Army trained and had endured two years of additional ausbilding in Bern before qualifying for the grueling Vatican pròva held in a secret barracks outside of Rome. Nothing in his training, however, had prepared him for a crisis like this.

At first Chartrand thought the briefing was some sort of bizarre training exercise. Futuristic weapons? Ancient cults? Kidnapped cardinals? Then Rocher had shown them the live video feed of the weapon in question. Apparently this was no exercise.

"We will be killing power in selected areas," Rocher was saying, "to eradicate extraneous magnetic interference. We will move in teams of four. We will wear infrared goggles for vision. Reconnaissance will be done with traditional bug sweepers, recalibrated for sub‑three‑ohm flux fields. Any questions?"

None.

Chartrand’s mind was on overload. "What if we don’t find it in time?" he asked, immediately wishing he had not.

The grizzly bear gazed out at him from beneath his red beret. Then he dismissed the group with a somber salute. "Godspeed, men."

 

 

 

 

Two blocks from the Pantheon, Langdon and Vittoria approached on foot past a line of taxis, their drivers sleeping in the front seats. Nap time was eternal in the Eternal City–the ubiquitous public dozing a perfected extension of the afternoon siestas born of ancient Spain.

Langdon fought to focus his thoughts, but the situation was too bizarre to grasp rationally. Six hours ago he had been sound asleep in Cambridge. Now he was in Europe, caught up in a surreal battle of ancient titans, packing a semiautomatic in his Harris tweed, and holding hands with a woman he had only just met.

He looked at Vittoria. She was focused straight ahead. There was a strength in her grasp–that of an independent and determined woman. Her fingers wrapped around his with the comfort of innate acceptance. No hesitation. Langdon felt a growing attraction. Get real, he told himself.

Vittoria seemed to sense his uneasiness. "Relax," she said, without turning her head. "We’re supposed to look like newlyweds."

"I’m relaxed."

"You’re crushing my hand."

Langdon flushed and loosened up.

"Breathe through your eyes," she said.

"I’m sorry?"

"It relaxes the muscles. It’s called pranayama."

"Piranha?"

"Not the fish. Pranayama. Never mind."

As they rounded the corner into Piazza della Rotunda, the Pantheon rose before them. Langdon admired it, as always, with awe. The Pantheon. Temple to all gods. Pagan gods. Gods of Nature and Earth. The structure seemed boxier from the outside than he remembered. The vertical pillars and triangular pronaus all but obscured the circular dome behind it. Still, the bold and immodest inscription over the entrance assured him they were in the right spot. M AGRIPPA L F COS TERTIUM FECIT. Langdon translated it, as always, with amusement. Marcus Agrippa, Consul for the third time, built this.

So much for humility, he thought, turning his eyes to the surrounding area. A scattering of tourists with video cameras wandered the area. Others sat enjoying Rome’s best iced coffee at La Tazza di Oro’s outdoor cafe. Outside the entrance to the Pantheon, four armed Roman policemen stood at attention just as Olivetti had predicted.

"Looks pretty quiet," Vittoria said.

Langdon nodded, but he felt troubled. Now that he was standing here in person, the whole scenario seemed surreal. Despite Vittoria’s apparent faith that he was right, Langdon realized he had put everyone on the line here. The Illuminati poem lingered. From Santi’s earthly tomb with demon’s hole. YES, he told himself. This was the spot. Santi’s tomb. He had been here many times beneath the Pantheon’s oculus and stood before the grave of the great Raphael.

"What time is it?" Vittoria asked.

Langdon checked his watch. "Seven‑fifty. Ten minutes till show time."

"Hope these guys are good," Vittoria said, eyeing the scattered tourists entering the Pantheon. "If anything happens inside that dome, we’ll all be in the crossfire."

Langdon exhaled heavily as they moved toward the entrance. The gun felt heavy in his pocket. He wondered what would happen if the policemen frisked him and found the weapon, but the officers did not give them a second look. Apparently the disguise was convincing.

Langdon whispered to Vittoria. "Ever fire anything other than a tranquilizer gun?"

"Don’t you trust me?"

"Trust you? I barely know you."

Vittoria frowned. "And here I thought we were newlyweds."

 

 

 

The air inside the Pantheon was cool and damp, heavy with history. The sprawling ceiling hovered overhead as though weightless–the 141‑foot unsupported span larger even than the cupola at St. Peter’s. As always, Langdon felt a chill as he entered the cavernous room. It was a remarkable fusion of engineering and art. Above them the famous circular hole in the roof glowed with a narrow shaft of evening sun. The oculus, Langdon thought. The demon’s hole.

They had arrived.

Langdon’s eyes traced the arch of the ceiling sloping outward to the columned walls and finally down to the polished marble floor beneath their feet. The faint echo of footfalls and tourist murmurs reverberated around the dome. Langdon scanned the dozen or so tourists wandering aimlessly in the shadows. Are you here?

"Looks pretty quiet," Vittoria said, still holding his hand.

Langdon nodded.

"Where’s Raphael’s tomb?"

Langdon thought for a moment, trying to get his bearings. He surveyed the circumference of the room. Tombs. Altars. Pillars. Niches. He motioned to a particularly ornate funerary across the dome and to the left. "I think that’s Raphael’s over there."

Vittoria scanned the rest of the room. "I don’t see anyone who looks like an assassin about to kill a cardinal. Shall we look around?"

Langdon nodded. "There’s only one spot in here where anyone could be hiding. We better check the rientranze."

"The recesses?"

"Yes." Langdon pointed. "The recesses in the wall."

Around the perimeter, interspersed with the tombs, a series of semicircular niches were hewn in the wall. The niches, although not enormous, were big enough to hide someone in the shadows. Sadly, Langdon knew they once contained statues of the Olympian gods, but the pagan sculptures had been destroyed when the Vatican converted the Pantheon to a Christian church. He felt a pang of frustration to know he was standing at the first altar of science, and the marker was gone. He wondered which statue it had been, and where it had pointed. Langdon could imagine no greater thrill than finding an Illuminati marker–a statue that surreptitiously pointed the way down the Path of Illumination. Again he wondered who the anonymous Illuminati sculptor had been.

"I’ll take the left arc," Vittoria said, indicating the left half of the circumference. "You go right. See you in a hundred and eighty degrees."

Langdon smiled grimly.

As Vittoria moved off, Langdon felt the eerie horror of the situation seeping back into his mind. As he turned and made his way to the right, the killer’s voice seemed to whisper in the dead space around him. Eight o’clock. Virgin sacrifices on the altars of science. A mathematical progression of death. Eight, nine, ten, eleven… and at midnight. Langdon checked his watch: 7:52. Eight minutes.

As Langdon moved toward the first recess, he passed the tomb of one of Italy’s Catholic kings. The sarcophagus, like many in Rome, was askew with the wall, positioned awkwardly. A group of visitors seemed confused by this. Langdon did not stop to explain. Formal Christian tombs were often misaligned with the architecture so they could lie facing east. It was an ancient superstition that Langdon’s Symbology 212 class had discussed just last month.

"That’s totally incongruous!" a female student in the front had blurted when Langdon explained the reason for east‑facing tombs. "Why would Christians want their tombs to face the rising sun? We’re talking about Christianity… not sun worship!"

Langdon smiled, pacing before the blackboard, chewing an apple. "Mr. Hitzrot!" he shouted.

A young man dozing in back sat up with a start. "What! Me?"

Langdon pointed to a Renaissance art poster on the wall. "Who is that man kneeling before God?"

"Um… some saint?"

"Brilliant. And how do you know he’s a saint?"

"He’s got a halo?"

"Excellent, and does that golden halo remind you of anything?"


Date: 2015-12-11; view: 868


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