The heavyset man, apparently the leader, stepped forward using metal crutches. “I am Sir Leigh Teabing,” he said, his accent a highbrow, Saxonesque British. “As you are no doubt aware, I am escorting Mr. and Mrs. Christopher Wren the Fourth.” He stepped aside, flourishing his arm toward the attractive couple behind them. The woman was soft-featured, with lush burgundy hair. The man was tall, dark-haired, and looked vaguely familiar.
The altar boy had no idea how to respond. Sir Christopher Wren was the Temple Church’s most famous benefactor. He had made possible all the restorations following damage caused by the Great Fire. He had also been dead since the early eighteenth century. “Um
… an honor to meet you?”
The man on crutches frowned. “Good thing you’re not in sales, young man, you’re not very convincing. Where is Father Knowles?”
“It’s Saturday. He’s not due in until later.”
The crippled man’s scowl deepened. “There’s gratitude. He assured us he would be here, but it looks like we’ll do it without him. It won’t take long.”
The altar boy remained blocking the doorway. “I’m sorry, what
won’t take long?”
The visitor’s eyes sharpened now, and he leaned forward whispering as if to save everyone some embarrassment. “Young man, apparently you are new here. Every year Sir Christopher Wren’s descendants bring a pinch of the old man’s ashes to scatter in the Temple sanctuary. It is part of his last will and testament. Nobody is particularly happy about making the trip, but what can we do?”
The altar boy had been here a couple of years but had never heard of this custom. “It would be better if you waited until nine-thirty. The church isn’t open yet, and I’m not finished hoovering.”
The man on crutches glared angrily. “Young man, the only reason there’s anything left of this building for you to hoover is on account of the gentleman in that woman’s pocket.”
“Mrs. Wren,” the man on crutches said, “would you be so kind as to show this impertinent young man the reliquary of ashes?”
The woman hesitated a moment and then, as if awaking from a trance, reached in her sweater pocket and pulled out a small cylinder wrapped in protective fabric.
“There, you see?” the man on crutches snapped. “Now, you can either grant his dying wish and let us sprinkle his ashes in the sanctuary, or I tell Father Knowles how we’ve been treated.”
The altar boy hesitated, well acquainted with Father Knowles’ deep observance of church tradition … and, more importantly, with his foul temper when anything cast this time-honored shrine in anything but favorable light. Maybe Father Knowles had simply forgotten these family members were coming. If so, then there was far more risk in turning them away than in letting them in. After all, they said it would only take a minute. What harm could it do?
When the altar boy stepped aside to let the three people pass, he could have sworn Mr. and Mrs. Wren looked just as bewildered by all of this as he was. Uncertain, the boy returned to his chores, watching them out of the corner of his eye.
Langdon had to smile as the threesome moved deeper into the church. “Leigh,” he whispered, “you lie entirely too well.”
Teabing’s eyes twinkled. “Oxford Theatre Club. They still talk of my Julius Caesar. I’m certain nobody has ever performed the first scene of Act Three with more dedication.”
Langdon glanced over. “I thought Caesar was dead in that scene.”
Teabing smirked. “Yes, but my toga tore open when I fell, and I had to lie on stage for half an hour with my todger hanging out. Even so, I never moved a muscle. I was brilliant, I tell you.”
Langdon cringed. Sorry I missed it.
As the group moved through the rectangular annex toward the archway leading into the main church, Langdon was surprised by the barren austerity. Although the altar layout resembled that of a linear Christian chapel, the furnishings were stark and cold, bearing none of the traditional ornamentation. “Bleak,” he whispered.
Teabing chuckled. “Church of England. Anglicans drink their religion straight. Nothing to distract from their misery.”
Sophie motioned through the vast opening that gave way to the circular section of the church. “It looks like a fortress in there,” she whispered.
Langdon agreed. Even from here, the walls looked unusually robust.
“The Knights Templar were warriors,” Teabing reminded, the sound of his aluminum crutches echoing in this reverberant space. “A religio-military society. Their churches were their strongholds and their banks.”
“Banks?” Sophie asked, glancing at Leigh.
“Heavens, yes. The Templars invented the concept of modern banking. For European nobility, traveling with gold was perilous, so the Templars allowed nobles to deposit gold in their nearest Temple Church and then draw it from any other Temple Church across Europe. All they needed was proper documentation.” He winked. “And a small commission. They were the original ATMs.” Teabing pointed toward a stained-glass window where the breaking sun was refracting through a white-clad knight riding a rose-colored horse. “Alanus Marcel,” Teabing said, “Master of the Temple in the early
twelve hundreds. He and his successors actually held the Parliamentary chair of Primus Baro Angiae.”
Langdon was surprised. “First Baron of the Realm?”
Teabing nodded. “The Master of the Temple, some claim, held more influence than the king himself.” As they arrived outside the circular chamber, Teabing shot a glance over his shoulder at the altar boy, who was vacuuming in the distance. “You know,” Teabing whispered to Sophie, “the Holy Grail is said to once have been stored in this church overnight while the Templars moved it from one hiding place to another. Can you imagine the four chests of Sangreal documents sitting right here with Mary Magdalene’s sarcophagus? It gives me gooseflesh.”
Langdon was feeling gooseflesh too as they stepped into the circular chamber. His eye traced the curvature of the chamber’s pale stone perimeter, taking in the carvings of gargoyles, demons, monsters, and pained human faces, all staring inward. Beneath the carvings, a single stone pew curled around the entire circumference of the room.
“Theater in the round,” Langdon whispered.
Teabing raised a crutch, pointing toward the far left of the room and then to the far right. Langdon had already seen them.
Ten stone knights.
Five on the left. Five on the right.
Lying prone on the floor, the carved, life-sized figures rested in peaceful poses. The knights were depicted wearing full armor, shields, and swords, and the tombs gave Langdon the uneasy sensation that someone had snuck in and poured plaster over the knights while they were sleeping. All of the figures were deeply weathered, and yet each was clearly unique—different armory pieces, distinct leg and arm positions, facial features, and markings on their shields.
In London lies a knight a Pope interred.
Langdon felt shaky as he inched deeper into the circular room. This had to be the place.
In a rubbish-strewn alley very close to Temple Church, Rémy Legaludec pulled the Jaguar limousine to a stop behind a row of industrial waste bins. Killing the engine, he checked the area. Deserted. He got out of the car, walked toward the rear, and climbed back into the limousine’s main cabin where the monk was.
Sensing Rémy’s presence, the monk in the back emerged from a prayer-like trance, his red eyes looking more curious than fearful. All evening Rémy had been impressed with this trussed man’s ability to stay calm. After some initial struggles in the Range Rover, the monk seemed to have accepted his plight and given over his fate to a higher power.
Loosening his bow tie, Rémy unbuttoned his high, starched, wing- tipped collar and felt as if he could breathe for the first time in years. He went to the limousine’s wet bar, where he poured himself a Smirnoff vodka. He drank it in a single swallow and followed it with a second.
Soon I will be a man of leisure.
Searching the bar, Rémy found a standard service wine-opener and flicked open the sharp blade. The knife was usually employed to slice the lead foil from corks on fine bottles of wine, but it would serve a far more dramatic purpose this morning. Rémy turned and faced Silas, holding up the glimmering blade.
Now those red eyes flashed fear.
Rémy smiled and moved toward the back of the limousine. The monk recoiled, struggling against his bonds.
“Be still,” Rémy whispered, raising the blade.
Silas could not believe that God had forsaken him. Even the physical pain of being bound Silas had turned into a spiritual exercise, asking the throb of his blood-starved muscles to remind him of the pain Christ endured. I have been praying all night for liberation. Now, as the knife descended, Silas clenched his eyes shut.
A slash of pain tore through his shoulder blades. He cried out, unable to believe he was going to die here in the back of this limousine, unable to defend himself. I was doing God’s work. The Teacher said he would protect me.
Silas felt the biting warmth spreading across his back and shoulders and could picture his own blood, spilling out over his flesh. A piercing pain cut through his thighs now, and he felt the onset of that familiar undertow of disorientation—the body’s defense mechanism against the pain.
As the biting heat tore through all of his muscles now, Silas clenched his eyes tighter, determined that the final image of his life would not be of his own killer. Instead he pictured a younger Bishop Aringarosa, standing before the small church in Spain … the church that he and Silas had built with their own hands. The beginning of my life.
Silas felt as if his body were on fire.
“Take a drink,” the tuxedoed man whispered, his accent French. “It will help with your circulation.”
Silas’s eyes flew open in surprise. A blurry image was leaning over him, offering a glass of liquid. A mound of shredded duct tape lay on the floor beside the bloodless knife.
“Drink this,” he repeated. “The pain you feel is the blood rushing into your muscles.”
Silas felt the fiery throb transforming now to a prickling sting. The vodka tasted terrible, but he drank it, feeling grateful. Fate had dealt Silas a healthy share of bad luck tonight, but God had solved it all with one miraculous twist.
God has not forsaken me.
Silas knew what Bishop Aringarosa would call it.
“I had wanted to free you earlier,” the servant apologized, “but it was impossible. With the police arriving at Château Villette, and then at Biggin Hill airport, this was the first possible moment. You understand, don’t you, Silas?”
Silas recoiled, startled. “You know my name?” The servant smiled.
Silas sat up now, rubbing his stiff muscles, his emotions a torrent of incredulity, appreciation, and confusion. “Are you … the Teacher?”
Rémy shook his head, laughing at the proposition. “I wish I had that kind of power. No, I am not the Teacher. Like you, I serve him. But the Teacher speaks highly of you. My name is Rémy.”
Silas was amazed. “I don’t understand. If you work for the Teacher, why did Langdon bring the keystone to your home?”
“Not my home. The home of the world’s foremost Grail historian, Sir Leigh Teabing.”
“But you live there. The odds …”
Rémy smiled, seeming to have no trouble with the apparent coincidence of Langdon’s chosen refuge. “It was all utterly predictable. Robert Langdon was in possession of the keystone, and he needed help. What more logical place to run than to the home of Leigh Teabing? That I happen to live there is why the Teacher approached me in the first place.” He paused. “How do you think the Teacher knows so much about the Grail?”
Now it dawned, and Silas was stunned. The Teacher had recruited a servant who had access to all of Sir Leigh Teabing’s research. It was brilliant.
“There is much I have to tell you,” Rémy said, handing Silas the loaded Heckler Koch pistol. Then he reached through the open partition and retrieved a small, palm-sized revolver from the glove box. “But first, you and I have a job to do.”
Captain Fache descended from his transport plane at Biggin Hill and listened in disbelief to the Kent chief inspector’s account of what had happened in Teabing’s hangar.
“I searched the plane myself,” the inspector insisted, “and there was no one inside.” His tone turned haughty. “And I should add that if Sir Leigh Teabing presses charges against me, I will—”
“Did you interrogate the pilot?”
“Of course not. He is French, and our jurisdiction requires—” “Take me to the plane.”
Arriving at the hangar, Fache needed only sixty seconds to locate an anomalous smear of blood on the pavement near where the limousine had been parked. Fache walked up to the plane and rapped loudly on the fuselage.
“This is the captain of the French Judicial Police. Open the door!” The terrified pilot opened the hatch and lowered the stairs.
Fache ascended. Three minutes later, with the help of his sidearm, he had a full confession, including a description of the bound albino monk. In addition, he learned that the pilot saw Langdon and Sophie leave something behind in Teabing’s safe, a wooden box of some sort. Although the pilot denied knowing what was in the box, he admitted it had been the focus of Langdon’s full attention during the flight to London.
“Open the safe,” Fache demanded.
The pilot looked terrified. “I don’t know the combination!”
“That’s too bad. I was going to offer to let you keep your pilot’s license.”
The pilot wrung his hands. “I know some men in maintenance here. Maybe they could drill it?”
“You have half an hour.” The pilot leapt for his radio.
Fache strode to the back of the plane and poured himself a hard drink. It was early, but he had not yet slept, so this hardly counted as drinking before noon. Sitting in a plush bucket seat, he closed his eyes, trying to sort out what was going on. The Kent police’s blunder could cost me dearly. Everyone was now on the lookout for a black Jaguar limousine.
Fache’s phone rang, and he wished for a moment’s peace. “Allo?”
“I’m en route to London.” It was Bishop Aringarosa. “I’ll be arriving in an hour.”
Fache sat up. “I thought you were going to Paris.” “I am deeply concerned. I have changed my plans.” “You should not have.”
“Do you have Silas?”
“No. His captors eluded the local police before I landed.”
Aringarosa’s anger rang sharply. “You assured me you would stop that plane!”
Fache lowered his voice. “Bishop, considering your situation, I recommend you not test my patience today. I will find Silas and the others as soon as possible. Where are you landing?”