Running his finger across the inlaid Rose, he lifted the ornate lid. Inside he found a stone cylinder with lettered dials. The five dials were arranged to spell SOFIA. Fache stared at the word a long moment and then lifted the cylinder from its padded resting place and examined every inch. Then, pulling slowly on the ends, Fache slid off one of the end caps. The cylinder was empty.

Fache set it back in the box and gazed absently out the jet’s window at the hangar, pondering his brief conversation with Sophie, as well as the information he’d received from PTS in Château Villette. The sound of his phone shook him from his daydream.

It was the DCPJ switchboard. The dispatcher was apologetic. The president of the Depository Bank of Zurich had been calling repeatedly, and although he had been told several times that the captain was in London on business, he just kept calling. Begrudgingly Fache told the operator to forward the call.

“Monsieur Vernet,” Fache said, before the man could even speak, “I am sorry I did not call you earlier. I have been busy. As promised, the name of your bank has not appeared in the media. So what precisely is your concern?”

Vernet’s voice was anxious as he told Fache how Langdon and Sophie had extracted a small wooden box from the bank and then persuaded Vernet to help them escape. “Then when I heard on the radio that they were criminals,” Vernet said, “I pulled over and demanded the box back, but they attacked me and stole the truck.”

“You are concerned for a wooden box,” Fache said, eyeing the Rose inlay on the cover and again gently opening the lid to reveal the white cylinder. “Can you tell me what was in the box?”

“The contents are immaterial,” Vernet fired back. “I am concerned with the reputation of my bank. We have never had a robbery. Ever. It will ruin us if I cannot recover this property on behalf of my client.”

“You said Agent Neveu and Robert Langdon had a password and a key. What makes you say they stole the box?”

“They murdered people tonight. Including Sophie Neveu’s grandfather. The key and password were obviously ill-gotten.”

“Mr. Vernet, my men have done some checking into your background and your interests. You are obviously a man of great culture and refinement. I would imagine you are a man of honor, as well. As am I. That said, I give you my word as commanding officer of the Police Judiciaire that your box, along with your bank’s reputation, are in the safest of hands.”

CHAPTER 90

High in the hayloft at Château Villette, Collet stared at the computer monitor in amazement. “This system is eavesdropping on all these locations?”

“Yes,” the agent said. “It looks like data has been collected for over a year now.”

Collet read the list again, speechless.

COLBERT SOSTAQUE—Chairman of the Conseil Constitutionnel JEAN CHAFFéE—Curator, Musée du Jeu de Paume

EDOUARD DESROCHERS—Senior Archivist, Mitterand Library JACQUES SAUNIèRE—Curator, Musée du Louvre

MICHEL BRETON—Head of DAS (French Intelligence)

The agent pointed to the screen. “Number four is of obvious concern.”

Collet nodded blankly. He had noticed it immediately. Jacques Saunière was being bugged. He looked at the rest of the list again. How could anyone possibly manage to bug these prominent people? “Have you heard any of the audio files?”

“A few. Here’s one of the most recent.” The agent clicked a few computer keys. The speakers crackled to life. “Capitaine, un agent du Département de Cryptographie est arrivé.

Collet could not believe his ears. “That’s me! That’s my voice!” He recalled sitting at Saunière’s desk and radioing Fache in the Grand Gallery to alert him of Sophie Neveu’s arrival.

The agent nodded. “A lot of our Louvre investigation tonight would have been audible if someone had been interested.”

“Have you sent anyone in to sweep for the bug?”

“No need. I know exactly where it is.” The agent went to a pile of old notes and blueprints on the worktable. He selected a page and handed it to Collet. “Look familiar?”

Collet was amazed. He was holding a photocopy of an ancient schematic diagram, which depicted a rudimentary machine. He was unable to read the handwritten Italian labels, and yet he knew what

he was looking at. A model for a fully articulated medieval French knight.

The knight sitting on Saunière’s desk!

Collet’s eyes moved to the margins, where someone had scribbled notes on the photocopy in red felt-tipped marker. The notes were in French and appeared to be ideas outlining how best to insert a listening device into the knight.

CHAPTER 91

Silas sat in the passenger seat of the parked Jaguar limousine near the Temple Church. His hands felt damp on the keystone as he waited for Rémy to finish tying and gagging Teabing in back with the rope they had found in the trunk.

Finally, Rémy climbed out of the rear of the limo, walked around, and slid into the driver’s seat beside Silas.

“Secure?” Silas asked.

Rémy chuckled, shaking off the rain and glancing over his shoulder through the open partition at the crumpled form of Leigh Teabing, who was barely visible in the shadows in the rear. “He’s not going anywhere.”

Silas could hear Teabing’s muffled cries and realized Rémy had used some of the old duct tape to gag him.

“Ferme ta gueule!” Rémy shouted over his shoulder at Teabing. Reaching to a control panel on the elaborate dash, Rémy pressed a button. An opaque partition raised behind them, sealing off the back. Teabing disappeared, and his voice was silenced. Rémy glanced at Silas. “I’ve been listening to his miserable whimpering long enough.”

Minutes later, as the Jaguar stretch limo powered through the streets, Silas’s cell phone rang. The Teacher. He answered excitedly. “Hello?”

“Silas,” the Teacher’s familiar French accent said, “I am relieved to hear your voice. This means you are safe.”

Silas was equally comforted to hear the Teacher. It had been hours, and the operation had veered wildly off course. Now, at last, it seemed to be back on track. “I have the keystone.”

“This is superb news,” the Teacher told him. “Is Rémy with you?” Silas was surprised to hear the Teacher use Rémy’s name. “Yes.

Rémy freed me.”

“As I ordered him to do. I am only sorry you had to endure captivity for so long.”

“Physical discomfort has no meaning. The important thing is that the keystone is ours.”

“Yes. I need it delivered to me at once. Time is of the essence.”

Silas was eager to meet the Teacher face-to-face at last. “Yes, sir, I would be honored.”

“Silas, I would like Rémy to bring it to me.”

Rémy? Silas was crestfallen. After everything Silas had done for the Teacher, he had believed he would be the one to hand over the prize. The Teacher favors Rémy?

“I sense your disappointment,” the Teacher said, “which tells me you do not understand my meaning.” He lowered his voice to a whisper. “You must believe that I would much prefer to receive the keystone from you—a man of God rather than a criminal—but Rémy must be dealt with. He disobeyed my orders and made a grave mistake that has put our entire mission at risk.”

Silas felt a chill and glanced over at Rémy. Kidnapping Teabing had not been part of the plan, and deciding what to do with him posed a new problem.

“You and I are men of God,” the Teacher whispered. “We cannot be deterred from our goal.” There was an ominous pause on the line. “For this reason alone, I will ask Rémy to bring me the keystone. Do you understand?”

Silas sensed anger in the Teacher’s voice and was surprised the man was not more understanding. Showing his face could not be avoided, Silas thought. Rémy did what he had to do. He saved the keystone. “I understand,” Silas managed.

“Good. For your own safety, you need to get off the street immediately. The police will be looking for the limousine soon, and I do not want you caught. Opus Dei has a residence in London, no?”

“Of course.”

“And you are welcome there?” “As a brother.”

“Then go there and stay out of sight. I will call you the moment I am in possession of the keystone and have attended to my current

problem.”

“You are in London?”

“Do as I say, and everything will be fine.” “Yes, sir.”

The Teacher heaved a sigh, as if what he now had to do was profoundly regrettable. “It’s time I speak to Rémy.”

Silas handed Rémy the phone, sensing it might be the last call Rémy Legaludec ever took.

As Rémy took the phone, he knew this poor, twisted monk had no idea what fate awaited him now that he had served his purpose.

The Teacher used you, Silas. And your bishop is a pawn.

Rémy still marveled at the Teacher’s powers of persuasion. Bishop Aringarosa had trusted everything. He had been blinded by his own desperation. Aringarosa was far too eager to believe. Although Rémy did not particularly like the Teacher, he felt pride at having gained the man’s trust and helped him so substantially. I have earned my payday.

“Listen carefully,” the Teacher said. “Take Silas to the Opus Dei residence hall and drop him off a few streets away. Then drive to St. James’s Park. It is adjacent to Parliament and Big Ben. You can park the limousine on Horse Guards Parade. We’ll talk there.”

With that, the connection went dead.

CHAPTER 92

King’s College, established by King George IV in 1829, houses its Department of Theology and Religious Studies adjacent to Parliament on property granted by the Crown. King’s College Religion Department boasts not only 150 years’ experience in teaching and research, but the 1982 establishment of the Research Institute in Systematic Theology, which possesses one of the most complete and electronically advanced religious research libraries in the world.

Langdon still felt shaky as he and Sophie came in from the rain and entered the library. The primary research room was as Teabing had described it—a dramatic octagonal chamber dominated by an enormous round table around which King Arthur and his knights might have been comfortable were it not for the presence of twelve flat-screen computer workstations. On the far side of the room, a reference librarian was just pouring a pot of tea and settling in for her day of work.

“Lovely morning,” she said in a cheerful British accent, leaving the tea and walking over. “May I help you?”

“Thank you, yes,” Langdon replied. “My name is—”

“Robert Langdon.” She gave a pleasant smile. “I know who you are.”

For an instant, he feared Fache had put him on English television as well, but the librarian’s smile suggested otherwise. Langdon still had not gotten used to these moments of unexpected celebrity. Then again, if anyone on earth were going to recognize his face, it would be a librarian in a Religious Studies reference facility.

“Pamela Gettum,” the librarian said, offering her hand. She had a genial, erudite face and a pleasingly fluid voice. The horn-rimmed glasses hanging around her neck were thick.

“A pleasure,” Langdon said. “This is my friend Sophie Neveu.”

The two women greeted one another, and Gettum turned immediately back to Langdon. “I didn’t know you were coming.”

“Neither did we. If it’s not too much trouble, we could really use your help finding some information.”

Gettum shifted, looking uncertain. “Normally our services are by petition and appointment only, unless of course you’re the guest of someone at the college?”

Langdon shook his head. “I’m afraid we’ve come unannounced. A friend of mine speaks very highly of you. Sir Leigh Teabing?” Langdon felt a pang of gloom as he said the name. “The British Royal Historian.”

Gettum brightened now, laughing. “Heavens, yes. What a character. Fanatical! Every time he comes in, it’s always the same search strings. Grail. Grail. Grail. I swear that man will die before he gives up on that quest.” She winked. “Time and money afford one such lovely luxuries, wouldn’t you say? A regular Don Quixote, that one.”

“Is there any chance you can help us?” Sophie asked. “It’s quite important.”

Gettum glanced around the deserted library and then winked at them both. “Well, I can’t very well claim I’m too busy, now can I? As long as you sign in, I can’t imagine anyone being too upset. What did you have in mind?”

“We’re trying to find a tomb in London.”

Gettum looked dubious. “We’ve got about twenty thousand of them. Can you be a little more specific?”

“It’s the tomb of a knight. We don’t have a name.”

“A knight. That tightens the net substantially. Much less common.” “We don’t have much information about the knight we’re looking for,” Sophie said, “but this is what we know.” She produced a slip of paper on which she had written only the first two lines of the poem. Hesitant to show the entire poem to an outsider, Langdon and Sophie had decided to share just the first two lines, those that identified the knight. Compartmentalized cryptography, Sophie had called it. When an intelligence agency intercepted a code containing sensitive data, cryptographers each worked on a discrete section of the code. This way, when they broke it, no single cryptographer

possessed the entire deciphered message.

In this case, the precaution was probably excessive; even if this librarian saw the entire poem, identified the knight’s tomb, and knew what orb was missing, the information was useless without the cryptex.

Gettum sensed an urgency in the eyes of this famed American scholar, almost as if his finding this tomb quickly were a matter of critical importance. The green-eyed woman accompanying him also seemed anxious.

Puzzled, Gettum put on her glasses and examined the paper they had just handed her.

In London lies a knight a Pope interred. His labor’s fruit a Holy wrath incurred.

She glanced at her guests. “What is this? Some kind of Harvard scavenger hunt?”

Langdon’s laugh sounded forced. “Yeah, something like that.” Gettum paused, feeling she was not getting the whole story.

Nonetheless, she felt intrigued and found herself pondering the verse carefully. “According to this rhyme, a knight did something that incurred displeasure with God, and yet a Pope was kind enough to bury him in London.”

Langdon nodded. “Does it ring any bells?”

Gettum moved toward one of the workstations. “Not offhand, but let’s see what we can pull up in the database.”

Over the past two decades, King’s College Research Institute in Systematic Theology had used optical character recognition software in unison with linguistic translation devices to digitize and catalog an enormous collection of texts—encyclopedias of religion, religious biographies, sacred scriptures in dozens of languages, histories, Vatican letters, diaries of clerics, anything at all that qualified as writings on human spirituality. Because the massive collection was now in the form of bits and bytes rather than physical pages, the data was infinitely more accessible.