unattended long enough for Rémy Legaludec to make one inconspicuous addition.
Now, sitting in the back of the cab, Fache closed his eyes. One more thing to attend to before I return to Paris.
The St. Mary’s Hospital recovery room was sunny.
“You’ve impressed us all,” the nurse said, smiling down at him. “Nothing short of miraculous.”
Bishop Aringarosa gave a weak smile. “I have always been blessed.”
The nurse finished puttering, leaving the bishop alone. The sunlight felt welcome and warm on his face. Last night had been the darkest night of his life.
Despondently, he thought of Silas, whose body had been found in the park.
Please forgive me, my son.
Aringarosa had longed for Silas to be part of his glorious plan. Last night, however, Aringarosa had received a call from Bezu Fache, questioning the bishop about his apparent connection to a nun who had been murdered in Saint-Sulpice. Aringarosa realized the evening had taken a horrifying turn. News of the four additional murders transformed his horror to anguish. Silas, what have you done! Unable to reach the Teacher, the bishop knew he had been cut loose. Used. The only way to stop the horrific chain of events he had helped put in motion was to confess everything to Fache, and from that moment on, Aringarosa and Fache had been racing to catch up with Silas before the Teacher persuaded him to kill again.
Feeling bone weary, Aringarosa closed his eyes and listened to the television coverage of the arrest of a prominent British knight, Sir Leigh Teabing. The Teacher laid bare for all to see. Teabing had caught wind of the Vatican’s plans to disassociate itself from Opus Dei. He had chosen Aringarosa as the perfect pawn in his plan. After all, who more likely to leap blindly after the Holy Grail than a man like myself with everything to lose? The Grail would have brought enormous power to anyone who possessed it.
Leigh Teabing had protected his identity shrewdly—feigning a French accent and a pious heart, and demanding as payment the one thing he did not need—money. Aringarosa had been far too eager to be suspicious. The price tag of twenty million euro was paltry when compared with the prize of obtaining the Grail, and with the Vatican’s separation payment to Opus Dei, the finances had worked nicely. The blind see what they want to see. Teabing’s ultimate insult, of course, had been to demand payment in Vatican bonds, such that if anything went wrong, the investigation would lead to Rome.
“I am glad to see you’re well, My Lord.”
Aringarosa recognized the gruff voice in the doorway, but the face was unexpected—stern, powerful features, slicked-back hair, and a broad neck that strained against his dark suit. “Captain Fache?” Aringarosa asked. The compassion and concern the captain had shown for Aringarosa’s plight last night had conjured images of a far gentler physique.
The captain approached the bed and hoisted a familiar, heavy black briefcase onto a chair. “I believe this belongs to you.”
Aringarosa looked at the briefcase filled with bonds and immediately looked away, feeling only shame. “Yes … thank you.” He paused while working his fingers across the seam of his bedsheet, then continued. “Captain, I have been giving this deep thought, and I need to ask a favor of you.”
“The families of those in Paris who Silas …” He paused, swallowing the emotion. “I realize no sum could possibly serve as sufficient restitution, and yet, if you could be kind enough to divide the contents of this briefcase among them … the families of the deceased.”
Fache’s dark eyes studied him a long moment. “A virtuous gesture, My Lord. I will see to it your wishes are carried out.”
A heavy silence fell between them.
On the television, a lean French police officer was giving a press conference in front of a sprawling mansion. Fache saw who it was and turned his attention to the screen.
“Lieutenant Collet,” a BBC reporter said, her voice accusing. “Last night, your captain publicly charged two innocent people with murder. Will Robert Langdon and Sophie Neveu be seeking accountability from your department? Will this cost Captain Fache his job?”
Lieutenant Collet’s smile was tired but calm. “It is my experience that Captain Bezu Fache seldom makes mistakes. I have not yet spoken to him on this matter, but knowing how he operates, I suspect his public manhunt for Agent Neveu and Mr. Langdon was part of a ruse to lure out the real killer.”
The reporters exchanged surprised looks.
Collet continued. “Whether or not Mr. Langdon and Agent Neveu were willing participants in the sting, I do not know. Captain Fache tends to keep his more creative methods to himself. All I can confirm at this point is that the captain has successfully arrested the man responsible, and that Mr. Langdon and Agent Neveu are both innocent and safe.”
Fache had a faint smile on his lips as he turned back to Aringarosa. “A good man, that Collet.”
Several moments passed. Finally, Fache ran his hand over his forehead, slicking back his hair as he gazed down at Aringarosa. “My Lord, before I return to Paris, there is one final matter I’d like to discuss—your impromptu flight to London. You bribed a pilot to change course. In doing so, you broke a number of international laws.”
Aringarosa slumped. “I was desperate.”
“Yes. As was the pilot when my men interrogated him.” Fache reached in his pocket and produced a purple amethyst ring with a familiar hand-tooled mitre-crozier appliqué.
Aringarosa felt tears welling as he accepted the ring and slipped it back on his finger. “You’ve been so kind.” He held out his hand and clasped Fache’s. “Thank you.”
Fache waved off the gesture, walking to the window and gazing out at the city, his thoughts obviously far away. When he turned, there was an uncertainty about him. “My Lord, where do you go from here?”
Aringarosa had been asked the exact same question as he left Castel Gandolfo the night before. “I suspect my path is as uncertain as yours.”
“Yes.” Fache paused. “I suspect I will be retiring early.”
Aringarosa smiled. “A little faith can do wonders, Captain. A little faith.”
Rosslyn Chapel —often called the Cathedral of Codes—stands seven miles south of Edinburgh, Scotland, on the site of an ancient Mithraic temple. Built by the Knights Templar in 1446, the chapel is engraved with a mind-boggling array of symbols from the Jewish, Christian, Egyptian, Masonic, and pagan traditions.
The chapel’s geographic coordinates fall precisely on the north- south meridian that runs through Glastonbury. This longitudinal Rose Line is the traditional marker of King Arthur’s Isle of Avalon and is considered the central pillar of Britain’s sacred geometry. It is from this hallowed Rose Line that Rosslyn—originally spelled Roslin
—takes its name.
Rosslyn’s rugged spires were casting long evening shadows as Robert Langdon and Sophie Neveu pulled their rental car into the grassy parking area at the foot of the bluff on which the chapel stood. Their short flight from London to Edinburgh had been restful, although neither of them had slept for the anticipation of what lay ahead. Gazing up at the stark edifice framed against a cloud-swept sky, Langdon felt like Alice falling headlong into the rabbit hole. This must be a dream. And yet he knew the text of Saunière’s final message could not have been more specific.
The Holy Grail ’neath ancient Roslin waits.
Langdon had fantasized that Saunière’s “Grail map” would be a diagram—a drawing with an X-marks-the-spot—and yet the Priory’s final secret had been unveiled in the same way Saunière had spoken to them from the beginning. Simple verse. Four explicit lines that pointed without a doubt to this very spot. In addition to identifying Rosslyn by name, the verse made reference to several of the chapel’s renowned architectural features.
Despite the clarity of Saunière’s final revelation, Langdon had been left feeling more off balance than enlightened. To him, Rosslyn Chapel seemed far too obvious a location. For centuries, this stone
chapel had echoed with whispers of the Holy Grail’s presence. The whispers had turned to shouts in recent decades when ground- penetrating radar revealed the presence of an astonishing structure beneath the chapel—a massive subterranean chamber. Not only did this deep vault dwarf the chapel atop it, but it appeared to have no entrance or exit. Archaeologists petitioned to begin blasting through the bedrock to reach the mysterious chamber, but the Rosslyn Trust expressly forbade any excavation of the sacred site. Of course, this only fueled the fires of speculation. What was the Rosslyn Trust trying to hide?
Rosslyn had now become a pilgrimage site for mystery seekers. Some claimed they were drawn here by the powerful magnetic field that emanated inexplicably from these coordinates, some claimed they came to search the hillside for a hidden entrance to the vault, but most admitted they had come simply to wander the grounds and absorb the lore of the Holy Grail.
Although Langdon had never been to Rosslyn before now, he always chuckled when he heard the chapel described as the current home of the Holy Grail. Admittedly, Rosslyn once might have been home to the Grail, long ago … but certainly no longer. Far too much attention had been drawn to Rosslyn in past decades, and sooner or later someone would find a way to break into the vault.
True Grail academics agreed that Rosslyn was a decoy—one of the devious dead ends the Priory crafted so convincingly. Tonight, however, with the Priory’s keystone offering a verse that pointed directly to this spot, Langdon no longer felt so smug. A perplexing question had been running through his mind all day:
Why would Saunière go to such effort to guide us to so obvious a location?
There seemed only one logical answer.
There is something about Rosslyn we have yet to understand.
“Robert?” Sophie was standing outside the car, looking back at him. “Are you coming?” She was holding the rosewood box, which Captain Fache had returned to them. Inside, both cryptexes had been reassembled and nested as they had been found. The papyrus
verse was locked safely at its core—minus the shattered vial of vinegar.
Making their way up the long gravel path, Langdon and Sophie passed the famous west wall of the chapel. Casual visitors assumed this oddly protruding wall was a section of the chapel that had not been finished. The truth, Langdon recalled, was far more intriguing.
The west wall of Solomon’s Temple.
The Knights Templar had designed Rosslyn Chapel as an exact architectural blueprint of Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem—complete with a west wall, a narrow rectangular sanctuary, and a subterranean vault like the Holy of Holies, in which the original nine knights had first unearthed their priceless treasure. Langdon had to admit, there existed an intriguing symmetry in the idea of the Templars building a modern Grail repository that echoed the Grail’s original hiding place.
Rosslyn Chapel’s entrance was more modest than Langdon expected. The small wooden door had two iron hinges and a simple, oak sign.
This ancient spelling, Langdon explained to Sophie, derived from the Rose Line meridian on which the chapel sat; or, as Grail academics preferred to believe, from the “Line of Rose”—the ancestral lineage of Mary Magdalene.
The chapel would be closing soon, and as Langdon pulled open the door, a warm puff of air escaped, as if the ancient edifice were heaving a weary sigh at the end of a long day. Her entry arches burgeoned with carved cinquefoils.
Roses. The womb of the goddess.
Entering with Sophie, Langdon felt his eyes reaching across the famous sanctuary and taking it all in. Although he had read accounts of Rosslyn’s arrestingly intricate stonework, seeing it in person was an overwhelming encounter.
Symbology heaven, one of Langdon’s colleagues had called it.
Every surface in the chapel had been carved with symbols— Christian cruciforms, Jewish stars, Masonic seals, Templar crosses, cornucopias, pyramids, astrological signs, plants, vegetables, pentacles, and roses. The Knights Templar had been master stonemasons, erecting Templar churches all over Europe, but Rosslyn was considered their most sublime labor of love and veneration. The master masons had left no stone uncarved. Rosslyn Chapel was a shrine to all faiths … to all traditions … and, above all, to nature and the goddess.
The sanctuary was empty except for a handful of visitors listening to a young man giving the day’s last tour. He was leading them in a single-file line along a well-known route on the floor—an invisible pathway linking six key architectural points within the sanctuary. Generations of visitors had walked these straight lines, connecting the points, and their countless footsteps had engraved an enormous symbol on the floor.
The Star of David, Langdon thought. No coincidence there. Also known as Solomon’s Seal, this hexagram had once been the secret symbol of the stargazing priests and was later adopted by the Israelite kings—David and Solomon.
The docent had seen Langdon and Sophie enter, and although it was closing time, offered a pleasant smile and motioned for them to feel free to look around.
Langdon nodded his thanks and began to move deeper into the sanctuary. Sophie, however, stood riveted in the entryway, a puzzled look on her face.
“What is it?” Langdon asked.
Sophie stared out at the chapel. “I think … I’ve been here.” Langdon was surprised. “But you said you hadn’t even heard of
“I hadn’t …” She scanned the sanctuary, looking uncertain. “My grandfather must have brought me here when I was very young. I don’t know. It feels familiar.” As her eyes scanned the room, she
began nodding with more certainty. “Yes.” She pointed to the front of the sanctuary. “Those two pillars … I’ve seen them.”
Langdon looked at the pair of intricately sculpted columns at the far end of the sanctuary. Their white lacework carvings seemed to smolder with a ruddy glow as the last of the day’s sunlight streamed in through the west window. The pillars—positioned where the altar would normally stand—were an oddly matched pair. The pillar on the left was carved with simple, vertical lines, while the pillar on the right was embellished with an ornate, flowering spiral.
Sophie was already moving toward them. Langdon hurried after her, and as they reached the pillars, Sophie was nodding with incredulity. “Yes, I’m positive I have seen these!”
“I don’t doubt you’ve seen them,” Langdon said, “but it wasn’t necessarily here.”
She turned. “What do you mean?”
“These two pillars are the most duplicated architectural structures in history. Replicas exist all over the world.”
“Replicas of Rosslyn?” She looked skeptical.
“No. Of the pillars. Do you remember earlier that I mentioned Rosslyn itself is a copy of Solomon’s Temple? Those two pillars are exact replicas of the two pillars that stood at the head of Solomon’s Temple.” Langdon pointed to the pillar on the left. “That’s called Boaz—or the Mason’s Pillar. The other is called Jachin—or the Apprentice Pillar.” He paused. “In fact, virtually every Masonic temple in the world has two pillars like these.”