Settling into one of the workstations, Gettum eyed the slip of paper and began typing. “To begin, we’ll run a straight Boolean with a few obvious keywords and see what happens.”
Gettum typed in a few words:
LONDON, KNIGHT, POPE
As she clicked the SEARCH button, she could feel the hum of the massive mainframe downstairs scanning data at a rate of 500 MB/sec. “I’m asking the system to show us any documents whose complete text contains all three of these keywords. We’ll get more hits than we want, but it’s a good place to start.”
The screen was already showing the first of the hits now.
Painting the Pope. The Collected Portraits of Sir Joshua Reynolds.
London University Press.
Gettum shook her head. “Obviously not what you’re looking for.” She scrolled to the next hit.
The London Writings of Alexander Pope by G. Wilson Knight.
Again she shook her head.
As the system churned on, the hits came up more quickly than usual. Dozens of texts appeared, many of them referencing the eighteenth-century British writer Alexander Pope, whose counterreligious, mock-epic poetry apparently contained plenty of references to knights and London.
Gettum shot a quick glance to the numeric field at the bottom of the screen. This computer, by calculating the current number of hits and multiplying by the percentage of the database left to search, provided a rough guess of how much information would be found. This particular search looked like it was going to return an obscenely large amount of data.
Estimated number of total hits: 2,692
“We need to refine the parameters further,” Gettum said, stopping the search. “Is this all the information you have regarding the tomb? There’s nothing else to go on?”
Langdon glanced at Sophie Neveu, looking uncertain.
This is no scavenger hunt, Gettum sensed. She had heard the whisperings of Robert Langdon’s experience in Rome last year. This American had been granted access to the most secure library on earth—the Vatican Secret Archives. She wondered what kinds of secrets Langdon might have learned inside and if his current desperate hunt for a mysterious London tomb might relate to information he had gained within the Vatican. Gettum had been a librarian long enough to know the most common reason people came to London to look for knights. The Grail.
Gettum smiled and adjusted her glasses. “You are friends with Leigh Teabing, you are in England, and you are looking for a knight.” She folded her hands. “I can only assume you are on a Grail quest.”
Langdon and Sophie exchanged startled looks.
Gettum laughed. “My friends, this library is a base camp for Grail seekers. Leigh Teabing among them. I wish I had a shilling for every time I’d run searches for the Rose, Mary Magdalene, Sangreal, Merovingian, Priory of Sion, et cetera, et cetera. Everyone loves a conspiracy.” She took off her glasses and eyed them. “I need more information.”
In the silence, Gettum sensed her guests’ desire for discretion was quickly being outweighed by their eagerness for a fast result.
“Here,” Sophie Neveu blurted. “This is everything we know.” Borrowing a pen from Langdon, she wrote two more lines on the slip of paper and handed it to Gettum.
You seek the orb that ought be on his tomb. It speaks of Rosy flesh and seeded womb.
Gettum gave an inward smile. The Grail indeed, she thought, noting the references to the Rose and her seeded womb. “I can help you,”
she said, looking up from the slip of paper. “Might I ask where this verse came from? And why you are seeking an orb?”
“You might ask,” Langdon said, with a friendly smile, “but it’s a long story and we have very little time.”
“Sounds like a polite way of saying ‘mind your own business.’ ” “We would be forever in your debt, Pamela,” Langdon said, “if you
could find out who this knight is and where he is buried.”
“Very well,” Gettum said, typing again. “I’ll play along. If this is a Grail-related issue, we should cross-reference against Grail keywords. I’ll add a proximity parameter and remove the title weighting. That will limit our hits only to those instances of textual keywords that occur near a Grail-related word.”
KNIGHT, LONDON, POPE, TOMB
Within 100 word proximity of:
GRAIL, ROSE, SANGREAL, CHALICE
“How long will this take?” Sophie asked.
“A few hundred terabytes with multiple cross-referencing fields?” Gettum’s eyes glimmered as she clicked the SEARCH key. “A mere fifteen minutes.”
Langdon and Sophie said nothing, but Gettum sensed this sounded
like an eternity to them.
“Tea?” Gettum asked, standing and walking toward the pot she had made earlier. “Leigh always loves my tea.”
London’s Opus Dei Centre is a modest brick building at 5 Orme Court, overlooking the North Walk at Kensington Gardens. Silas had never been here, but he felt a rising sense of refuge and asylum as he approached the building on foot. Despite the rain, Rémy had dropped him off a short distance away in order to keep the limousine off the main streets. Silas didn’t mind the walk. The rain was cleansing.
At Rémy’s suggestion, Silas had wiped down his gun and disposed of it through a sewer grate. He was glad to get rid of it. He felt lighter. His legs still ached from being bound all that time, but Silas had endured far greater pain. He wondered, though, about Teabing, whom Rémy had left bound in the back of the limousine. The Briton certainly had to be feeling the pain by now.
“What will you do with him?” Silas had asked Rémy as they drove over here.
Rémy had shrugged. “That is a decision for the Teacher.” There was an odd finality in his tone.
Now, as Silas approached the Opus Dei building, the rain began to fall harder, soaking his heavy robe, stinging the wounds of the day before. He was ready to leave behind the sins of the last twenty-four hours and purge his soul. His work was done.
Moving across a small courtyard to the front door, Silas was not surprised to find the door unlocked. He opened it and stepped into the minimalist foyer. A muted electronic chime sounded upstairs as Silas stepped onto the carpet. The bell was a common feature in these halls where the residents spent most of the day in their rooms in prayer. Silas could hear movement above on the creaky wood floors.
A man in a cloak came downstairs. “May I help you?” He had kind eyes that seemed not even to register Silas’s startling physical appearance.
“Thank you. My name is Silas. I am an Opus Dei numerary.”
Silas nodded. “I am in town only for the day. Might I rest here?” “You need not even ask. There are two empty rooms on the third
floor. Shall I bring you some tea and bread?” “Thank you.” Silas was famished.
Silas went upstairs to a modest room with a window, where he took off his wet robe and knelt down to pray in his undergarments. He heard his host come up and lay a tray outside his door. Silas finished his prayers, ate his food, and lay down to sleep.
Three stories below, a phone was ringing. The Opus Dei numerary who had welcomed Silas answered the line.
“This is the London police,” the caller said. “We are trying to find an albino monk. We’ve had a tip-off that he might be there. Have you seen him?”
The numerary was startled. “Yes, he is here. Is something wrong?” “He is there now?”
“Yes, upstairs praying. What is going on?”
“Leave him precisely where he is,” the officer commanded. “Don’t say a word to anyone. I’m sending officers over right away.”
St. James’s Park is a sea of green in the middle of London, a public park bordering the palaces of Westminster, Buckingham, and St. James’s. Once enclosed by King Henry VIII and stocked with deer for the hunt, St. James’s Park is now open to the public. On sunny afternoons, Londoners picnic beneath the willows and feed the pond’s resident pelicans, whose ancestors were a gift to Charles II from the Russian ambassador.
The Teacher saw no pelicans today. The stormy weather had brought instead seagulls from the ocean. The lawns were covered with them—hundreds of white bodies all facing the same direction, patiently riding out the damp wind. Despite the morning fog, the park afforded splendid views of the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. Gazing across the sloping lawns, past the duck pond and the delicate silhouettes of the weeping willows, the Teacher could see the spires of the building that housed the knight’s tomb—the real reason he had told Rémy to come to this spot.
As the Teacher approached the front passenger door of the parked limousine, Rémy leaned across and opened the door. The Teacher paused outside, taking a pull from the flask of cognac he was carrying. Then, dabbing his mouth, he slid in beside Rémy and closed the door.
Rémy held up the keystone like a trophy. “It was almost lost.” “You have done well,” the Teacher said.
“We have done well,” Rémy replied, laying the keystone in the Teacher’s eager hands.
The Teacher admired it a long moment, smiling. “And the gun?
You wiped it down?”
“Back in the glove box where I found it.”
“Excellent.” The Teacher took another drink of cognac and handed the flask to Rémy. “Let’s toast our success. The end is near.”
Rémy accepted the bottle gratefully. The cognac tasted salty, but Rémy didn’t care. He and the Teacher were truly partners now. He could feel himself ascending to a higher station in life. I will never be a servant again. As Rémy gazed down the embankment at the duck pond below, Château Villette seemed miles away.
Taking another swig from the flask, Rémy could feel the cognac warming his blood. The warmth in Rémy’s throat, however, mutated quickly to an uncomfortable heat. Loosening his bow tie, Rémy tasted an unpleasant grittiness and handed the flask back to the Teacher. “I’ve probably had enough,” he managed, weakly.
Taking the flask, the Teacher said, “Rémy, as you are aware, you are the only one who knows my face. I placed enormous trust in you.”
“Yes,” he said, feeling feverish as he loosened his tie further. “And your identity shall go with me to the grave.”
The Teacher was silent a long moment. “I believe you.” Pocketing the flask and the keystone, the Teacher reached for the glove box and pulled out the tiny Medusa revolver. For an instant, Rémy felt a surge of fear, but the Teacher simply slipped it in his trousers pocket.
What is he doing? Rémy felt himself sweating suddenly.
“I know I promised you freedom,” the Teacher said, his voice now sounding regretful. “But considering your circumstances, this is the best I can do.”
The swelling in Rémy’s throat came on like an earthquake, and he lurched against the steering column, grabbing his throat and tasting vomit in his narrowing esophagus. He let out a muted croak of a scream, not even loud enough to be heard outside the car. The saltiness in the cognac now registered.
I’m being murdered!
Incredulous, Rémy turned to see the Teacher sitting calmly beside him, staring straight ahead out the windshield. Rémy’s eyesight blurred, and he gasped for breath. I made everything possible for him! How could he do this! Whether the Teacher had intended to kill Rémy all along or whether it had been Rémy’s actions in the Temple Church that had made the Teacher lose faith, Rémy would never
know. Terror and rage coursed through him now. Rémy tried to lunge for the Teacher, but his stiffening body could barely move. I trusted you with everything!
Rémy tried to lift his clenched fists to blow the horn, but instead he slipped sideways, rolling onto the seat, lying on his side beside the Teacher, clutching at his throat. The rain fell harder now. Rémy could no longer see, but he could sense his oxygen-deprived brain straining to cling to his last faint shreds of lucidity. As his world slowly went black, Rémy Legaludec could have sworn he heard the sounds of the soft Riviera surf.
The Teacher stepped from the limousine, pleased to see that nobody was looking in his direction. I had no choice, he told himself, surprised how little remorse he felt for what he had just done. Rémy sealed his own fate. The Teacher had feared all along that Rémy might need to be eliminated when the mission was complete, but by brazenly showing himself in the Temple Church, Rémy had accelerated the necessity dramatically. Robert Langdon’s unexpected visit to Château Villette had brought the Teacher both a fortuitous windfall and an intricate dilemma. Langdon had delivered the keystone directly to the heart of the operation, which was a pleasant surprise, and yet he had brought the police on his tail. Rémy’s prints were all over Château Villette, as well as in the barn’s listening post, where Rémy had carried out the surveillance. The Teacher was grateful he had taken so much care in preventing any ties between Rémy’s activities and his own. Nobody could implicate the Teacher unless Rémy talked, and that was no longer a concern.
One more loose end to tie up here, the Teacher thought, moving now toward the rear door of the limousine. The police will have no idea what happened … and no living witness left to tell them. Glancing around to ensure nobody was watching, he pulled open the door and climbed into the spacious rear compartment.
Minutes later, the Teacher was crossing St. James’s Park. Only two people now remain. Langdon and Neveu. They were more complicated. But manageable. At the moment, however, the Teacher had the cryptex to attend to.
Gazing triumphantly across the park, he could see his destination. In London lies a knight a Pope interred. As soon as the Teacher had heard the poem, he had known the answer. Even so, that the others had not figured it out was not surprising. I have an unfair advantage. Having listened to Saunière’s conversations for months now, the Teacher had heard the Grand Master mention this famous knight on occasion, expressing esteem almost matching that he held for Da Vinci. The poem’s reference to the knight was brutally simple once one saw it—a credit to Saunière’s wit—and yet how this tomb would reveal the final password was still a mystery.
You seek the orb that ought be on his tomb.
The Teacher vaguely recalled photos of the famous tomb and, in particular, its most distinguishing feature. A magniftcent orb. The huge sphere mounted atop the tomb was almost as large as the tomb itself. The presence of the orb seemed both encouraging and troubling to the Teacher. On one hand, it felt like a signpost, and yet, according to the poem, the missing piece of the puzzle was an orb that ought to be on his tomb … not one that was already there. He was counting on his closer inspection of the tomb to unveil the answer.