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 his eyes.
“Robert? You’re smiling.”
“Your grandfather was a genius.” “I’m sorry?”
Sophie had no idea what he was talking about.
“The account number,” he said, a familiar lopsided grin now crossing 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 correct.
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 lines—a 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 conveyor belt. 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.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
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 account number. 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. “Fire away.”
Sophie extended her index finger toward the keypad, but hesitated, an odd thought now hitting her.
“Go ahead,” Langdon urged. “Vernet will be back soon.”
“No.” She pulled her hand away. “This isn’t the right account number.”
“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 that?
Sophie was at the keypad again, entering a different number, as if from memory. “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 was right.
The Fibonacci sequence. 1-1-2-3-5-8-13-21
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 the famous progression.
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 underground crypt. 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 conveyor belt.
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 airholes.
The box coasted to a stop directly in front of them.
Langdon and Sophie stood there, silent, staring at the mysterious container.
Like everything else about this bank, this crate was industrial— metal clasps, a bar code sticker on top, and molded heavy-duty handle. Sophie thought it looked like a giant toolbox.
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 inlay—a 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 impossible.
“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 gurgling sound.
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 lid.
The object inside was unlike anything Langdon had ever seen. One thing was 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’il y 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 tonight?”
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 started.”
“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 get paid.”
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 Vernet’s mind.
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 schedule.”
“Do all the drivers wear Rolexes?” the agent asked, pointing to Vernet’s wrist.
Vernet glanced down and saw the glistening band of his absurdly expensive watch 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 for forty.”