“I don’t understand.”

“The Grail story is everywhere, but it is hidden. When the Church outlawed speaking of the shunned Mary Magdalene, her story and importance had to be passed on through more discreet channels … channels that supported metaphor and symbolism.”

“Of course. The arts.”

Langdon motioned to The Last Supper. “A perfect example. Some of today’s most enduring art, literature, and music secretly tell the history of Mary Magdalene and Jesus.”

Langdon quickly told her about works by Da Vinci, Botticelli, Poussin, Bernini, Mozart, and Victor Hugo that all whispered of the quest to restore the banished sacred feminine. Enduring legends like Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, King Arthur, and Sleeping Beauty were Grail allegories. Victor Hugo’s Hunchback of Notre Dame and Mozart’s Magic Flute were filled with Masonic symbolism and Grail secrets.

“Once you open your eyes to the Holy Grail,” Langdon said, “you see her everywhere. Paintings. Music. Books. Even in cartoons, theme parks, and popular movies.”

Langdon held up his Mickey Mouse watch and told her that Walt Disney had made it his quiet life’s work to pass on the Grail story to future generations. Throughout his entire life, Disney had been hailed as “the Modern-Day Leonardo da Vinci.” Both men were generations ahead of their times, uniquely gifted artists, members of secret societies, and, most notably, avid pranksters. Like Leonardo,

Walt Disney loved infusing hidden messages and symbolism in his art. For the trained symbologist, watching an early Disney movie was like being barraged by an avalanche of allusion and metaphor.

Most of Disney’s hidden messages dealt with religion, pagan myth, and stories of the subjugated goddess. It was no mistake that Disney retold tales like Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White—all of which dealt with the incarceration of the sacred feminine. Nor did one need a background in symbolism to understand that Snow White—a princess who fell from grace after partaking of a poisoned apple—was a clear allusion to the downfall of Eve in the Garden of Eden. Or that Sleeping Beauty’s Princess Aurora—code-named “Rose” and hidden deep in the forest to protect her from the clutches of the evil witch—was the Grail story for children.

Despite its corporate image, Disney still had a savvy, playful element among its employees, and their artists still amused themselves by inserting hidden symbolism in Disney products. Langdon would never forget one of his students bringing in a DVD of The Lion King and pausing the film to reveal a freeze-frame in which the word SEX was clearly visible, spelled out by floating dust particles over Simba’s head. Although Langdon suspected this was more of a cartoonist’s sophomoric prank than any kind of enlightened allusion to pagan human sexuality, he had learned not to underestimate Disney’s grasp of symbolism. The Little Mermaid was a spellbinding tapestry of spiritual symbols so specifically goddess-related that they could not be coincidence.

When Langdon had first seen The Little Mermaid, he had actually gasped aloud when he noticed that the painting in Ariel’s underwater home was none other than seventeenth-century artist Georges de la Tour’s The Penitent Magdalene—a famous homage to the banished Mary Magdalene—fitting decor considering the movie turned out to be a ninety-minute collage of blatant symbolic references to the lost sanctity of Isis, Eve, Pisces the fish goddess, and, repeatedly, Mary Magdalene. The Little Mermaid’s name, Ariel, possessed powerful ties to the sacred feminine and, in the Book of Isaiah, was synonymous with “the Holy City besieged.” Of course,

the Little Mermaid’s flowing red hair was certainly no coincidence either.

The clicking of Teabing’s crutches approached in the hallway, his pace unusually brisk. When their host entered the study, his expression was stern.

“You’d better explain yourself, Robert,” he said coldly. “You have not been honest with me.”

CHAPTER 62

“I’m being framed, Leigh,” Langdon said, trying to stay calm. You know me. I wouldn’t kill anyone.

Teabing’s tone did not soften. “Robert, you’re on television, for Christ’s sake. Did you know you were wanted by the authorities?”

“Yes.”

“Then you abused my trust. I’m astonished you would put me at risk by coming here and asking me to ramble on about the Grail so you could hide out in my home.”

“I didn’t kill anyone.”

“Jacques Saunière is dead, and the police say you did it.” Teabing looked saddened. “Such a contributor to the arts …”

“Sir?” The manservant had appeared now, standing behind Teabing in the study doorway, his arms crossed. “Shall I show them out?”

“Allow me.” Teabing hobbled across the study, unlocked a set of wide glass doors, and swung them open onto a side lawn. “Please find your car, and leave.”

Sophie did not move. “We have information about the clef de voûte. The Priory keystone.

Teabing stared at her for several seconds and scoffed derisively. “A desperate ploy. Robert knows how I’ve sought it.”

“She’s telling the truth,” Langdon said. “That’s why we came to you tonight. To talk to you about the keystone.”

The manservant intervened now. “Leave, or I shall call the authorities.”

“Leigh,” Langdon whispered, “we know where it is.” Teabing’s balance seemed to falter a bit.

Rémy now marched stiffly across the room. “Leave at once! Or I will forcibly—”

“Rémy!” Teabing spun, snapping at his servant. “Excuse us for a moment.”

The servant’s jaw dropped. “Sir? I must protest. These people are

—”

“I’ll handle this.” Teabing pointed to the hallway.

After a moment of stunned silence, Rémy skulked out like a banished dog.

In the cool night breeze coming through the open doors, Teabing turned back to Sophie and Langdon, his expression still wary. “This better be good. What do you know of the keystone?”

In the thick brush outside Teabing’s study, Silas clutched his pistol and gazed through the glass doors. Only moments ago, he had circled the house and seen Langdon and the woman talking in the large study. Before he could move in, a man on crutches entered, yelled at Langdon, threw open the doors, and demanded his guests leave. Then the woman mentioned the keystone, and everything changed. Shouts turned to whispers. Moods softened. And the glass doors were quickly closed.

Now, as he huddled in the shadows, Silas peered through the glass. The keystone is somewhere inside the house. Silas could feel it.

Staying in the shadows, he inched closer to the glass, eager to hear what was being said. He would give them five minutes. If they did not reveal where they had placed the keystone, Silas would have to enter and persuade them with force.

Inside the study, Langdon could sense their host’s bewilderment. “Grand Master?” Teabing choked, eyeing Sophie. “Jacques

Saunière?”

Sophie nodded, seeing the shock in his eyes. “But you could not possibly know that!” “Jacques Saunière was my grandfather.”

Teabing staggered back on his crutches, shooting a glance at Langdon, who nodded. Teabing turned back to Sophie. “Miss Neveu, I am speechless. If this is true, then I am truly sorry for your loss. I should admit, for my research, I have kept lists of men in Paris

whom I thought might be good candidates for involvement in the Priory. Jacques Saunière was on that list along with many others. But Grand Master, you say? It’s hard to fathom.” Teabing was silent a moment and then shook his head. “But it still makes no sense. Even if your grandfather were the Priory Grand Master and created the keystone himself, he would never tell you how to find it. The keystone reveals the pathway to the brotherhood’s ultimate treasure. Granddaughter or not, you are not eligible to receive such knowledge.”

“Mr. Saunière was dying when he passed on the information,” Langdon said. “He had limited options.”

“He didn’t need options,” Teabing argued. “There exist three sénéchaux who also know the secret. That is the beauty of their system. One will rise to Grand Master and they will induct a new sénéchal and share the secret of the keystone.”

“I guess you didn’t see the entire news broadcast,” Sophie said. “In addition to my grandfather, three other prominent Parisians were murdered today. All in similar ways. All looked like they had been interrogated.”

Teabing’s jaw fell. “And you think they were …” “The sénéchaux,” Langdon said.

“But how? A murderer could not possibly learn the identities of all four top members of the Priory of Sion! Look at me, I have been researching them for decades, and I can’t even name one Priory member. It seems inconceivable that all three sénéchaux and the Grand Master could be discovered and killed in one day.”

“I doubt the information was gathered in a single day,” Sophie said. “It sounds like a well-planned décapiter. It’s a technique we use to fight organized crime syndicates. If DCPJ wants to move on a certain group, they will silently listen and watch for months, identify all the main players, and then move in and take them all at the same moment. Decapitation. With no leadership, the group falls into chaos and divulges other information. It’s possible someone patiently watched the Priory and then attacked, hoping the top people would reveal the location of the keystone.”

Teabing looked unconvinced. “But the brothers would never talk.

They are sworn to secrecy. Even in the face of death.”

“Exactly,” Langdon said. “Meaning, if they never divulged the secret, and they were killed …”

Teabing gasped. “Then the location of the keystone would be lost forever!”

“And with it,” Langdon said, “the location of the Holy Grail.”

Teabing’s body seemed to sway with the weight of Langdon’s words. Then, as if too tired to stand another moment, he flopped in a chair and stared out the window.

Sophie walked over, her voice soft. “Considering my grandfather’s predicament, it seems possible that in total desperation he tried to pass the secret on to someone outside the brotherhood. Someone he thought he could trust. Someone in his family.”

Teabing was pale. “But someone capable of such an attack … of discovering so much about the brotherhood …” He paused, radiating a new fear. “It could only be one force. This kind of infiltration could only have come from the Priory’s oldest enemy.”

Langdon glanced up. “The Church.”

“Who else? Rome has been seeking the Grail for centuries.”

Sophie was skeptical. “You think the Church killed my grandfather?”

Teabing replied, “It would not be the first time in history the Church has killed to protect itself. The documents that accompany the Holy Grail are explosive, and the Church has wanted to destroy them for years.”

Langdon was having trouble buying Teabing’s premise that the Church would blatantly murder people to obtain these documents. Having met the new Pope and many of the cardinals, Langdon knew they were deeply spiritual men who would never condone assassination. Regardless of the stakes.

Sophie seemed to be having similar thoughts. “Isn’t it possible that these Priory members were murdered by someone outside the Church? Someone who didn’t understand what the Grail really is? The Cup of Christ, after all, would be quite an enticing treasure. Certainly treasure hunters have killed for less.”

“In my experience,” Teabing said, “men go to far greater lengths to avoid what they fear than to obtain what they desire. I sense a desperation in this assault on the Priory.”

“Leigh,” Langdon said, “the argument is paradoxical. Why would members of the Catholic clergy murder Priory members in an effort to find and destroy documents they believe are false testimony anyway?”

Teabing chuckled. “The ivory towers of Harvard have made you soft, Robert. Yes, the clergy in Rome are blessed with potent faith, and because of this, their beliefs can weather any storm, including documents that contradict everything they hold dear. But what about the rest of the world? What about those who are not blessed with absolute certainty? What about those who look at the cruelty in the world and say, where is God today? Those who look at Church scandals and ask, who are these men who claim to speak the truth about Christ and yet lie to cover up the sexual abuse of children by their own priests?” Teabing paused. “What happens to those people, Robert, if persuasive scientific evidence comes out that the Church’s version of the Christ story is inaccurate, and that the greatest story ever told is, in fact, the greatest story ever sold.”

Langdon did not respond.

“I’ll tell you what happens if the documents get out,” Teabing said. “The Vatican faces a crisis of faith unprecedented in its two- millennia history.”

After a long silence, Sophie said, “But if it is the Church who is responsible for this attack, why would they act now? After all these years? The Priory keeps the Sangreal documents hidden. They pose no immediate threat to the Church.”

Teabing heaved an ominous sigh and glanced at Langdon. “Robert, I assume you are familiar with the Priory’s final charge?”

Langdon felt his breath catch at the thought. “I am.”

“Miss Neveu,” Teabing said, “the Church and the Priory have had a tacit understanding for years. That is, the Church does not attack the Priory, and the Priory keeps the Sangreal documents hidden.” He paused. “However, part of the Priory history has always included a plan to unveil the secret. With the arrival of a specific date in

history, the brotherhood plans to break the silence and carry out its ultimate triumph by unveiling the Sangreal documents to the world and shouting the true story of Jesus Christ from the mountaintops.”

Sophie stared at Teabing in silence. Finally, she too sat down. “And you think that date is approaching? And the Church knows it?”

“A speculation,” Teabing said, “but it would certainly provide the Church motivation for an all-out attack to find the documents before it was too late.”

Langdon had the uneasy feeling that Teabing was making good sense. “Do you think the Church would actually be capable of uncovering hard evidence of the Priory’s date?”

“Why not—if we’re assuming the Church was able to uncover the identities of the Priory members, then certainly they could have learned of their plans. And even if they don’t have the exact date, their superstitions may be getting the best of them.”

“Superstitions?” Sophie asked.

“In terms of prophecy,” Teabing said, “we are currently in an epoch of enormous change. The millennium has recently passed, and with it has ended the two-thousand-year-long astrological Age of Pisces—the fish, which is also the sign of Jesus. As any astrological symbologist will tell you, the Piscean ideal believes that man must be told what to do by higher powers because man is incapable of thinking for himself. Hence it has been a time of fervent religion. Now, however, we are entering the Age of Aquarius

—the water bearer—whose ideals claim that man will learn the truth and be able to think for himself. The ideological shift is enormous, and it is occurring right now.”