Teabing spun around and aimed the pistol over the seat. “I can’t imagine your complaint, sir. You trespassed in my home and planted a nasty welt on the skull of a dear friend. I would be well within my rights to shoot you right now and leave you to rot in the woods.”

The monk fell silent.

“Are you sure we should have brought him?” Langdon asked. “Bloody well positive!” Teabing exclaimed. “You’re wanted for

murder, Robert. This scoundrel is your ticket to freedom. The police apparently want you badly enough to have tailed you to my home.”

“My fault,” Sophie said. “The armored car probably had a transmitter.”

“Not the point,” Teabing said. “I’m not surprised the police found you, but I am surprised that this Opus Dei character found you. From all you’ve told me, I can’t imagine how this man could have tailed you to my home unless he had a contact either within the Judicial Police or within the Zurich Depository.”

Langdon considered it. Bezu Fache certainly seemed intent on finding a scapegoat for tonight’s murders. And Vernet had turned on them rather suddenly, although considering Langdon was being charged with four murders, the banker’s change of heart seemed understandable.

“This monk is not working alone, Robert,” Teabing said, “and until you learn who is behind all this, you both are in danger. The good news, my friend, is that you are now in the position of power. This monster behind me holds that information, and whoever is pulling his strings has got to be quite nervous right now.”

Rémy was picking up speed, getting comfortable with the trail. They splashed through some water, climbed a small rise, and began descending again.

“Robert, could you be so kind as to hand me that phone?” Teabing pointed to the car phone on the dash. Langdon handed it back, and Teabing dialed a number. He waited for a very long time before someone answered. “Richard? Did I wake you? Of course, I did. Silly question. I’m sorry. I have a small problem. I’m feeling a bit off. Rémy and I need to pop up to the Isles for my treatments. Well,

right away, actually. Sorry for the short notice. Can you have Elizabeth ready in about twenty minutes? I know, do the best you can. See you shortly.” He hung up.

“Elizabeth?” Langdon said.

“My plane. She cost me a Queen’s ransom.” Langdon turned full around and looked at him.

“What?” Teabing demanded. “You two can’t expect to stay in France with the entire Judicial Police after you. London will be much safer.”

Sophie had turned to Teabing as well. “You think we should leave the country?”

“My friends, I am far more influential in the civilized world than here in France. Furthermore, the Grail is believed to be in Great Britain. If we unlock the keystone, I am certain we will discover a map that indicates we have moved in the proper direction.”

“You’re running a big risk,” Sophie said, “by helping us. You won’t make any friends with the French police.”

Teabing gave a wave of disgust. “I am finished with France. I moved here to find the keystone. That work is now done. I shan’t care if I ever again see Château Villette.”

Sophie sounded uncertain. “How will we get through airport security?”

Teabing chuckled. “I fly from Le Bourget—an executive airfield not far from here. French doctors make me nervous, so every fortnight, I fly north to take my treatments in England. I pay for certain special privileges at both ends. Once we’re airborne, you can make a decision as to whether or not you’d like someone from the

U.S. Embassy to meet us.”

Langdon suddenly didn’t want anything to do with the embassy. All he could think of was the keystone, the inscription, and whether it would all lead to the Grail. He wondered if Teabing was right about Britain. Admittedly most modern legends placed the Grail somewhere in the United Kingdom. Even King Arthur’s mythical, Grail-rich Isle of Avalon was now believed to be none other than Glastonbury, England. Wherever the Grail lay, Langdon never imagined he would actually be looking for it. The Sangreal

documents. The true history of Jesus Christ. The tomb of Mary Magdalene. He suddenly felt as if he were living in some kind of limbo tonight … a bubble where the real world could not reach him. “Sir?” Rémy said. “Are you truly thinking of returning to England

for good?”

“Rémy, you needn’t worry,” Teabing assured. “Just because I am returning to the Queen’s realm does not mean I intend to subject my palate to bangers and mash for the rest of my days. I expect you will join me there permanently. I’m planning to buy a splendid villa in Devonshire, and we’ll have all your things shipped up immediately. An adventure, Rémy. I say, an adventure!”

Langdon had to smile. As Teabing railed on about his plans for a triumphant return to Britain, Langdon felt himself caught up in the man’s infectious enthusiasm.

Gazing absently out the window, Langdon watched the woods passing by, ghostly pale in the yellow blush of the fog lights. The side mirror was tipped inward, brushed askew by branches, and Langdon saw the reflection of Sophie sitting quietly in the back seat. He watched her for a long while and felt an unexpected upwelling of contentment. Despite his troubles tonight, Langdon was thankful to have landed in such good company.

After several minutes, as if suddenly sensing his eyes on her, Sophie leaned forward and put her hands on his shoulders, giving him a quick rub. “You okay?”

“Yeah,” Langdon said. “Somehow.”

Sophie sat back in her seat, and Langdon saw a quiet smile cross her lips. He realized that he too was now grinning.

Wedged in the back of the Range Rover, Silas could barely breathe. His arms were wrenched backward and heavily lashed to his ankles with kitchen twine and duct tape. Every bump in the road sent pain shooting through his twisted shoulders. At least his captors had removed the cilice. Unable to inhale through the strip of tape over his mouth, he could only breathe through his nostrils, which were

slowly clogging up due to the dusty rear cargo area into which he had been crammed. He began coughing.

“I think he’s choking,” the French driver said, sounding concerned. The British man who had struck Silas with his crutch now turned and peered over the seat, frowning coldly at Silas. “Fortunately for you, we British judge man’s civility not by his compassion for his friends, but by his compassion for his enemies.” The Brit reached down and grabbed the duct tape on Silas’s mouth. In one fast

motion, he tore it off.

Silas felt as if his lips had just caught fire, but the air pouring into his lungs was sent from God.

“Whom do you work for?” the British man demanded.

“I do the work of God,” Silas spat back through the pain in his jaw where the woman had kicked him.

“You belong to Opus Dei,” the man said. It was not a question. “You know nothing of who I am.”

“Why does Opus Dei want the keystone?”

Silas had no intention of answering. The keystone was the link to the Holy Grail, and the Holy Grail was the key to protecting the faith.

I do the work of God. The Way is in peril.

Now, in the Range Rover, struggling against his bonds, Silas feared he had failed the Teacher and the bishop forever. He had no way even to contact them and tell them the terrible turn of events. My captors have the keystone! They will reach the Grail before we do! In the stifling darkness, Silas prayed. He let the pain of his body fuel his supplications.

A miracle, Lord. I need a miracle. Silas had no way of knowing that hours from now, he would get one.

“Robert?” Sophie was still watching him. “A funny look just crossed your face.”

Langdon glanced back at her, realizing his jaw was firmly set and his heart was racing. An incredible notion had just occurred to him.

Could it really be that simple an explanation? “I need to use your cell phone, Sophie.”

“Now?”

“I think I just figured something out.” “What?”

“I’ll tell you in a minute. I need your phone.”

Sophie looked wary. “I doubt Fache is tracing, but keep it under a minute just in case.” She gave him her phone.

“How do I dial the States?”

“You need to reverse the charges. My service doesn’t cover transatlantic.”

Langdon dialed zero, knowing that the next sixty seconds might answer a question that had been puzzling him all night.

CHAPTER 6S

New York editor Jonas Faukman had just climbed into bed for the night when the telephone rang. A little late for callers, he grumbled, picking up the receiver.

An operator’s voice asked him, “Will you accept charges for a collect call from Robert Langdon?”

Puzzled, Jonas turned on the light. “Uh … sure, okay.” The line clicked. “Jonas?”

“Robert? You wake me up and you charge me for it?”

“Jonas, forgive me,” Langdon said. “I’ll keep this very short. I really need to know. The manuscript I gave you. Have you—”

“Robert, I’m sorry, I know I said I’d send the edits out to you this week, but I’m swamped. Next Monday. I promise.”

“I’m not worried about the edits. I need to know if you sent any copies out for blurbs without telling me?”

Faukman hesitated. Langdon’s newest manuscript—an exploration of the history of goddess worship—included several sections about Mary Magdalene that were going to raise some eyebrows. Although the material was well documented and had been covered by others, Faukman had no intention of printing Advance Reading Copies of Langdon’s book without at least a few endorsements from serious historians and art luminaries. Jonas had chosen ten big names in the art world and sent them all sections of the manuscript along with a polite letter asking if they would be willing to write a short endorsement for the jacket. In Faukman’s experience, most people jumped at the opportunity to see their name in print.

“Jonas?” Langdon pressed. “You sent out my manuscript, didn’t you?”

Faukman frowned, sensing Langdon was not happy about it. “The manuscript was clean, Robert, and I wanted to surprise you with some terrific blurbs.”

A pause. “Did you send one to the curator of the Paris Louvre?”

“What do you think? Your manuscript referenced his Louvre collection several times, his books are in your bibliography, and the guy has some serious clout for foreign sales. Saunière was a no- brainer.”

The silence on the other end lasted a long time. “When did you send it?”

“About a month ago. I also mentioned you would be in Paris soon and suggested you two chat. Did he ever call you to meet?” Faukman paused, rubbing his eyes. “Hold on, aren’t you supposed to be in Paris this week?”

“I am in Paris.”

Faukman sat upright. “You called me collect from Paris?

“Take it out of my royalties, Jonas. Did you ever hear back from Saunière? Did he like the manuscript?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t yet heard from him.”

“Well, don’t hold your breath. I’ve got to run, but this explains a lot. Thanks.”

“Robert—”

But Langdon was gone.

Faukman hung up the phone, shaking his head in disbelief.

Authors, he thought. Even the sane ones are nuts.

Inside the Range Rover, Leigh Teabing let out a guffaw. “Robert, you’re saying you wrote a manuscript that delves into a secret society, and your editor sent a copy to that secret society?”

Langdon slumped. “Evidently.” “A cruel coincidence, my friend.”

Coincidence has nothing to do with it, Langdon knew. Asking Jacques Saunière to endorse a manuscript on goddess worship was as obvious as asking Tiger Woods to endorse a book on golf. Moreover, it was virtually guaranteed that any book on goddess worship would have to mention the Priory of Sion.

“Here’s the million-dollar question,” Teabing said, still chuckling. “Was your position on the Priory favorable or unfavorable?”

Langdon could hear Teabing’s true meaning loud and clear. Many historians questioned why the Priory was still keeping the Sangreal documents hidden. Some felt the information should have been shared with the world long ago. “I took no position on the Priory’s actions.”

“You mean lack thereof.”

Langdon shrugged. Teabing was apparently on the side of making the documents public. “I simply provided history on the brotherhood and described them as a modern goddess worship society, keepers of the Grail, and guardians of ancient documents.”

Sophie looked at him. “Did you mention the keystone?”

Langdon winced. He had. Numerous times. “I talked about the supposed keystone as an example of the lengths to which the Priory would go to protect the Sangreal documents.”

Sophie looked amazed. “I guess that explains P.S. Find Robert Langdon.”

Langdon sensed it was actually something else in the manuscript that had piqued Saunière’s interest, but that topic was something he would discuss with Sophie when they were alone.

“So,” Sophie said, “you lied to Captain Fache.” “What?” Langdon demanded.

“You told him you had never corresponded with my grandfather.” “I didn’t! My editor sent him a manuscript.”

“Think about it, Robert. If Captain Fache didn’t find the envelope in which your editor sent the manuscript, he would have to conclude that you sent it.” She paused. “Or worse, that you hand- delivered it and lied about it.”

When the Range Rover arrived at Le Bourget Airfield, Rémy drove to a small hangar at the far end of the airstrip. As they approached, a tousled man in wrinkled khakis hurried from the hangar, waved, and slid open the enormous corrugated metal door to reveal a sleek white jet within.

Langdon stared at the glistening fuselage. “That’s Elizabeth?” Teabing grinned. “Beats the bloody Chunnel.”

The man in khakis hurried toward them, squinting into the headlights. “Almost ready, sir,” he called in a British accent. “My apologies for the delay, but you took me by surprise and—” He stopped short as the group unloaded. He looked at Sophie and Langdon, and then Teabing.

Teabing said, “My associates and I have urgent business in London. We’ve no time to waste. Please prepare to depart immediately.” As he spoke, Teabing took the pistol out of the vehicle and handed it to Langdon.

The pilot’s eyes bulged at the sight of the weapon. He walked over to Teabing and whispered, “Sir, my humble apologies, but my diplomatic flight allowance provides only for you and your manservant. I cannot take your guests.”

“Richard,” Teabing said, smiling warmly, “two thousand pounds sterling and that loaded gun say you can take my guests.” He motioned to the Range Rover. “And the unfortunate fellow in the back.”

CHAPTER 69

The Hawker 731’s twin Garrett TFE-731 engines thundered, powering the plane skyward with gut-wrenching force. Outside the window, Le Bourget Airfield dropped away with startling speed.