Fortunately, Silas remained unaware of Teabing’s true identity and was easily fooled into taking him from the church and then watching naively as Rémy pretended to tie their hostage in the back of the limousine. With the soundproof divider raised, Teabing was able to phone Silas in the front seat, use the fake French accent of the Teacher, and direct Silas to go straight to Opus Dei. A simple anonymous tip to the police was all it would take to remove Silas from the picture.

One loose end tied up.

The other loose end was harder. Rémy.

Teabing struggled deeply with the decision, but in the end Rémy had proven himself a liability. Every Grail quest requires sacriftce. The cleanest solution had been staring Teabing in the face from the limousine’s wet bar—a flask, some cognac, and a can of peanuts. The powder at the bottom of the can would be more than enough to trigger Rémy’s deadly allergy. When Rémy parked the limo on Horse

Guards Parade, Teabing climbed out of the back, walked to the side passenger door, and sat in the front next to Rémy. Minutes later, Teabing got out of the car, climbed into the rear again, cleaned up the evidence, and finally emerged to carry out the final phase of his mission.

Westminster Abbey had been a short walk, and although Teabing’s leg braces, crutches, and gun had set off the metal detector, the rent-a-cops never knew what to do. Do we ask him to remove his braces and crawl through? Do we frisk his deformed body? Teabing presented the flustered guards a far easier solution—an embossed card identifying him as Knight of the Realm. The poor fellows practically tripped over one another ushering him in.

Now, eyeing the bewildered Langdon and Neveu, Teabing resisted the urge to reveal how he had brilliantly implicated Opus Dei in the plot that would soon bring about the demise of the entire Church. That would have to wait. Right now there was work to do.

Mes amis,” Teabing declared in flawless French, “vous ne trouvez pas le Saint-Graal, c’est le Saint-Graal qui vous trouve.” He smiled. “Our paths together could not be more clear. The Grail has found us.”

Silence.

He spoke to them in a whisper now. “Listen. Can you hear it? The Grail is speaking to us across the centuries. She is begging to be saved from the Priory’s folly. I implore you both to recognize this opportunity. There could not possibly be three more capable people assembled at this moment to break the final code and open the cryptex.” Teabing paused, his eyes alight. “We need to swear an oath together. A pledge of faith to one another. A knight’s allegiance to uncover the truth and make it known.”

Sophie stared deep into Teabing’s eyes and spoke in a steely tone. “I will never swear an oath with my grandfather’s murderer. Except an oath that I will see you go to prison.”

Teabing’s heart turned grave, then resolute. “I am sorry you feel that way, mademoiselle.” He turned and aimed the gun at Langdon. “And you, Robert? Are you with me, or against me?”

CHAPTER 100

Bishop Manuel Aringarosa’s body had endured many kinds of pain, and yet the searing heat of the bullet wound in his chest felt profoundly foreign to him. Deep and grave. Not a wound of the flesh … but closer to the soul.

He opened his eyes, trying to see, but the rain on his face blurred his vision. Where am I? He could feel powerful arms holding him, carrying his limp body like a rag doll, his black cassock flapping.

Lifting a weary arm, he mopped his eyes and saw the man holding him was Silas. The great albino was struggling down a misty sidewalk, shouting for a hospital, his voice a heartrending wail of agony. His red eyes were focused dead ahead, tears streaming down his pale, blood-spattered face.

“My son,” Aringarosa whispered, “you’re hurt.”

Silas glanced down, his visage contorted in anguish. “I am so very sorry, Father.” He seemed almost too pained to speak.

“No, Silas,” Aringarosa replied. “It is I who am sorry. This is my fault.” The Teacher promised me there would be no killing, and I told you to obey him fully. “I was too eager. Too fearful. You and I were deceived.” The Teacher was never going to deliver us the Holy Grail.

Cradled in the arms of the man he had taken in all those years ago, Bishop Aringarosa felt himself reel back in time. To Spain. To his modest beginnings, building a small Catholic church in Oviedo with Silas. And later, to New York City, where he had proclaimed the glory of God with the towering Opus Dei Center on Lexington Avenue.

Five months ago, Aringarosa had received devastating news. His life’s work was in jeopardy. He recalled, with vivid detail, the meeting inside Castel Gandolfo that had changed his life … the news that had set this entire calamity into motion.

Aringarosa had entered Gandolfo’s Astronomy Library with his head held high, fully expecting to be lauded by throngs of

welcoming hands, all eager to pat him on the back for his superior work representing Catholicism in America.

But only three people were present. The Vatican secretariat. Obese. Dour.

Two high-ranking Italian cardinals. Sanctimonious. Smug. “Secretariat?” Aringarosa said, puzzled.

The rotund overseer of legal affairs shook Aringarosa’s hand and motioned to the chair opposite him. “Please, make yourself comfortable.”

Aringarosa sat, sensing something was wrong.

“I am not skilled in small talk, Bishop,” the secretariat said, “so let me be direct about the reason for your visit.”

“Please. Speak openly.” Aringarosa glanced at the two cardinals, who seemed to be measuring him with self-righteous anticipation.

“As you are well aware,” the secretariat said, “His Holiness and others in Rome have been concerned lately with the political fallout from Opus Dei’s more controversial practices.”

Aringarosa felt himself bristle instantly. He already had been through this on numerous occasions with the new pontiff, who, to Aringarosa’s great dismay, had turned out to be a distressingly fervent voice for liberal change in the Church.

“I want to assure you,” the secretariat added quickly, “that His Holiness does not seek to change anything about the way you run your ministry.”

I should hope not! “Then why am I here?”

The enormous man sighed. “Bishop, I am not sure how to say this delicately, so I will state it directly. Two days ago, the Secretariat Council voted unanimously to revoke the Vatican’s sanction of Opus Dei.”

Aringarosa was certain he had heard incorrectly. “I beg your pardon?”

“Plainly stated, six months from today, Opus Dei will no longer be considered a prelature of the Vatican. You will be a church unto yourself. The Holy See will be disassociating itself from you. His Holiness agrees and we are already drawing up the legal papers.”

“But … that is impossible!”

“On the contrary, it is quite possible. And necessary. His Holiness has become uneasy with your aggressive recruiting policies and your practices of corporal mortification.” He paused. “Also your policies regarding women. Quite frankly, Opus Dei has become a liability and an embarrassment.”

Bishop Aringarosa was stupefied. “An embarrassment?” “Certainly you cannot be surprised it has come to this.”

“Opus Dei is the only Catholic organization whose numbers are growing! We now have over eleven hundred priests!”

“True. A troubling issue for us all.”

Aringarosa shot to his feet. “Ask His Holiness if Opus Dei was an embarrassment in 1982 when we helped the Vatican Bank!”

“The Vatican will always be grateful for that,” the secretariat said, his tone appeasing, “and yet there are those who still believe your financial munificence in 1982 is the only reason you were granted prelature status in the first place.”

“That is not true!” The insinuation offended Aringarosa deeply. “Whatever the case, we plan to act in good faith. We are drawing

up severance terms that will include a reimbursement of those monies. It will be paid in five installments.”

“You are buying me off?” Aringarosa demanded. “Paying me to go quietly? When Opus Dei is the only remaining voice of reason!”

One of the cardinals glanced up. “I’m sorry, did you say reason?” Aringarosa leaned across the table, sharpening his tone to a point.

“Do you really wonder why Catholics are leaving the Church? Look around you, Cardinal. People have lost respect. The rigors of faith are gone. The doctrine has become a buffet line. Abstinence, confession, communion, baptism, mass—take your pick—choose whatever combination pleases you and ignore the rest. What kind of spiritual guidance is the Church offering?”

“Third-century laws,” the second cardinal said, “cannot be applied to the modern followers of Christ. The rules are not workable in today’s society.”

“Well, they seem to be working for Opus Dei!”

“Bishop Aringarosa,” the secretariat said, his voice conclusive. “Out of respect for your organization’s relationship with the

previous Pope, His Holiness will be giving Opus Dei six months to voluntarily break away from the Vatican. I suggest you cite your differences of opinion with the Holy See and establish yourself as your own Christian organization.”

“I refuse!” Aringarosa declared. “And I’ll tell him that in person!” “I’m afraid His Holiness no longer cares to meet with you.”

Aringarosa stood up. “He would not dare abolish a personal prelature established by a previous Pope!”

“I’m sorry.” The secretariat’s eyes did not flinch. “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.”

Aringarosa had staggered from that meeting in bewilderment and panic. Returning to New York, he stared out at the skyline in disillusionment for days, overwhelmed with sadness for the future of Christianity.

It was several weeks later that he received the phone call that changed all that. The caller sounded French and identified himself as the Teacher—a title common in the prelature. He said he knew of the Vatican’s plans to pull support from Opus Dei.

How could he know that? Aringarosa wondered. He had hoped only a handful of Vatican power brokers knew of Opus Dei’s impending annulment. Apparently the word was out. When it came to containing gossip, no walls in the world were as porous as those surrounding Vatican City.

“I have ears everywhere, Bishop,” the Teacher whispered, “and with these ears I have gained certain knowledge. With your help, I can uncover the hiding place of a sacred relic that will bring you enormous power … enough power to make the Vatican bow before you. Enough power to save the Faith.” He paused. “Not just for Opus Dei. But for all of us.”

The Lord taketh away … and the Lord giveth. Aringarosa felt a glorious ray of hope. “Tell me your plan.”

Bishop Aringarosa was unconscious when the doors of St. Mary’s Hospital hissed open. Silas lurched into the entryway delirious with exhaustion. Dropping to his knees on the tile floor, he cried out for

help. Everyone in the reception area gaped in wonderment at the half-naked albino offering forth a bleeding clergyman.

The doctor who helped Silas heave the delirious bishop onto a gurney looked gloomy as he felt Aringarosa’s pulse. “He’s lost a lot of blood. I am not hopeful.”

Aringarosa’s eyes flickered, and he returned for a moment, his gaze locating Silas. “My child …”

Silas’s soul thundered with remorse and rage. “Father, if it takes my lifetime, I will find the one who deceived us, and I will kill him.” Aringarosa shook his head, looking sad as they prepared to wheel him away. “Silas … if you have learned nothing from me, please … learn this.” He took Silas’s hand and gave it a firm squeeze.

“Forgiveness is God’s greatest gift.” “But Father …”

Aringarosa closed his eyes. “Silas, you must pray.”

CHAPTER 101

Robert Langdon stood beneath the lofty cupola of the deserted Chapter House and stared into the barrel of Leigh Teabing’s gun.

Robert, are you with me, or against me? The Royal Historian’s words echoed in the silence of Langdon’s mind.

There was no viable response, Langdon knew. Answer yes, and he would be selling out Sophie. Answer no, and Teabing would have no choice but to kill them both.

Langdon’s years in the classroom had not imbued him with any skills relevant to handling confrontations at gunpoint, but the classroom had taught him something about answering paradoxical questions. When a question has no correct answer, there is only one honest response.

The gray area between yes and no.

Silence.

Staring at the cryptex in his hands, Langdon chose simply to walk away.

Without ever lifting his eyes, he stepped backward, out into the room’s vast empty spaces. Neutral ground. He hoped his focus on the cryptex signaled Teabing that collaboration might be an option, and that his silence signaled Sophie he had not abandoned her.

All the while buying time to think.

The act of thinking, Langdon suspected, was exactly what Teabing wanted him to do. That’s why he handed me the cryptex. So I could feel the weight of my decision. The British historian hoped the touch of the Grand Master’s cryptex would make Langdon fully grasp the magnitude of its contents, coaxing his academic curiosity to overwhelm all else, forcing him to realize that failure to unlock the keystone would mean the loss of history itself.

With Sophie at gunpoint across the room, Langdon feared that discovering the cryptex’s elusive password would be his only remaining hope of bartering her release. If I can free the map, Teabing will negotiate. Forcing his mind to this critical task, Langdon moved

slowly toward the far windows … allowing his mind to fill with the numerous astronomical images on Newton’s tomb.

You seek the orb that ought be on his tomb. It speaks of Rosy flesh and seeded womb.

Turning his back to the others, he walked toward the towering windows, searching for any inspiration in their stained-glass mosaics. There was none.

Place yourself in Saunière’s mind, he urged, gazing outward now into College Garden. What would he believe is the orb that ought be on Newton’s tomb? Images of stars, comets, and planets twinkled in the falling rain, but Langdon ignored them. Saunière was not a man of science. He was a man of humanity, of art, of history. The sacred feminine … the chalice … the Rose … the banished Mary Magdalene … the decline of the goddess … the Holy Grail.

Legend had always portrayed the Grail as a cruel mistress, dancing in the shadows just out of sight, whispering in your ear, luring you one more step and then evaporating into the mist.

Gazing out at the rustling trees of College Garden, Langdon sensed her playful presence. The signs were everywhere. Like a taunting silhouette emerging from the fog, the branches of Britain’s oldest apple tree burgeoned with five-petaled blossoms, all glistening like Venus. The goddess was in the garden now. She was dancing in the rain, singing songs of the ages, peeking out from behind the bud- filled branches as if to remind Langdon that the fruit of knowledge was growing just beyond his reach.