And he felt like a ghost … transparent … floating from seaport to seaport.
People seemed to look right through him.
At eighteen, in a port town, while attempting to steal a case of cured ham from a cargo ship, he was caught by a pair of crewmen. The two sailors who began to beat him smelled of beer, just as his father had. The memories of fear and hatred surfaced like a monster from the deep. The young man broke the first sailor’s neck with his bare hands, and only the arrival of the police saved the second sailor from a similar fate.
Two months later, in shackles, he arrived at a prison in Andorra.
You are as white as a ghost, the inmates ridiculed as the guards marched him in, naked and cold. Mira el espectro! Perhaps the ghost will pass right through these walls!
Over the course of twelve years, his flesh and soul withered until he knew he had become transparent.
I am a ghost.
I am weightless.
Yo soy un espectro … pálido como una fantasma … caminando este mundo a solas.
One night the ghost awoke to the screams of other inmates. He didn’t know what invisible force was shaking the floor on which he slept, nor what mighty hand was trembling the mortar of his stone cell, but as he jumped to his feet, a large boulder toppled onto the very spot where he had been sleeping. Looking up to see where the stone had come from, he saw a hole in the trembling wall, and beyond it, a vision he had not seen in over ten years. The moon.
Even while the earth still shook, the ghost found himself scrambling through a narrow tunnel, staggering out into an expansive vista, and tumbling down a barren mountainside into the woods. He ran all night, always downward, delirious with hunger and exhaustion.
Skirting the edges of consciousness, he found himself at dawn in a clearing where train tracks cut a swath across the forest. Following the rails, he moved on as if dreaming. Seeing an empty freight car, he crawled in for shelter and rest. When he awoke the train was
moving. How long? How far? A pain was growing in his gut. Am I dying? He slept again. This time he awoke to someone yelling, beating him, throwing him out of the freight car. Bloody, he wandered the outskirts of a small village looking in vain for food. Finally, his body too weak to take another step, he lay down by the side of the road and slipped into unconsciousness.
The light came slowly, and the ghost wondered how long he had been dead. A day? Three days? It didn’t matter. His bed was soft like a cloud, and the air around him smelled sweet with candles. Jesus was there, staring down at him. I am here, Jesus said. The stone has been rolled aside, and you are born again.
He slept and awoke. Fog shrouded his thoughts. He had never believed in heaven, and yet Jesus was watching over him. Food appeared beside his bed, and the ghost ate it, almost able to feel the flesh materializing on his bones. He slept again. When he awoke, Jesus was still smiling down, speaking. You are saved, my son. Blessed are those who follow my path.
Again, he slept.
It was a scream of anguish that startled the ghost from his slumber. His body leapt out of bed, staggered down a hallway toward the sounds of shouting. He entered into a kitchen and saw a large man beating a smaller man. Without knowing why, the ghost grabbed the large man and hurled him backward against a wall. The man fled, leaving the ghost standing over the body of a young man in priest’s robes. The priest had a badly shattered nose. Lifting the bloody priest, the ghost carried him to a couch.
“Thank you, my friend,” the priest said in awkward French. “The offertory money is tempting for thieves. You speak French in your sleep. Do you also speak Spanish?”
The ghost shook his head.
“What is your name?” he continued in broken French.
The ghost could not remember the name his parents had given him. All he heard were the taunting gibes of the prison guards.
The priest smiled. “No hay problema. My name is Manuel Aringarosa. I am a missionary from Madrid. I was sent here to build a church for the Obra de Dios.”
“Where am I?” His voice sounded hollow. “Oviedo. In the north of Spain.”
“How did I get here?”
“Someone left you on my doorstep. You were ill. I fed you. You’ve been here many days.”
The ghost studied his young caretaker. Years had passed since anyone had shown any kindness. “Thank you, Father.”
The priest touched his bloody lip. “It is I who am thankful, my friend.”
When the ghost awoke in the morning, his world felt clearer. He gazed up at the crucifix on the wall above his bed. Although it no longer spoke to him, he felt a comforting aura in its presence. Sitting up, he was surprised to find a newspaper clipping on his bedside table. The article was in French, a week old. When he read the story, he filled with fear. It told of an earthquake in the mountains that had destroyed a prison and freed many dangerous criminals.
His heart began pounding. The priest knows who I am! The emotion he felt was one he had not felt for some time. Shame. Guilt. It was accompanied by the fear of being caught. He jumped from his bed. Where do I run?
“The Book of Acts,” a voice said from the door. The ghost turned, frightened.
The young priest was smiling as he entered. His nose was awkwardly bandaged, and he was holding out an old Bible. “I found one in French for you. The chapter is marked.”
Uncertain, the ghost took the Bible and looked at the chapter the priest had marked.
The verses told of a prisoner named Silas who lay naked and beaten in his cell, singing hymns to God. When the ghost reached Verse 26, he gasped in shock.
“… And suddenly, there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken, and all the doors fell open.”
His eyes shot up at the priest.
The priest smiled warmly. “From now on, my friend, if you have no other name, I shall call you Silas.”
The ghost nodded blankly. Silas. He had been given flesh. My name is Silas.
“It’s time for breakfast,” the priest said. “You will need your strength if you are to help me build this church.”
Twenty thousand feet above the Mediterranean, Alitalia flight 1618 bounced in turbulence, causing passengers to shift nervously. Bishop Aringarosa barely noticed. His thoughts were with the future of Opus Dei. Eager to know how plans in Paris were progressing, he wished he could phone Silas. But he could not. The Teacher had seen to that.
“It is for your own safety,” the Teacher had explained, speaking in English with a French accent. “I am familiar enough with electronic communications to know they can be intercepted. The results could be disastrous for you.”
Aringarosa knew he was right. The Teacher seemed an exceptionally careful man. He had not revealed his own identity to Aringarosa, and yet he had proven himself a man well worth obeying. After all, he had somehow obtained very secret information. The names of the brotherhood’s four top members! This had been one of the coups that convinced the bishop the Teacher was truly capable of delivering the astonishing prize he claimed he could unearth.
“Bishop,” the Teacher had told him, “I have made all the arrangements. For my plan to succeed, you must allow Silas to answer only to me for several days. The two of you will not speak. I will communicate with him through secure channels.”
“You will treat him with respect?”
“A man of faith deserves the highest.”
“Excellent. Then I understand. Silas and I shall not speak until this is over.”
“I do this to protect your identity, Silas’s identity, and my investment.”
“Bishop, if your own eagerness to keep abreast of progress puts you in jail, then you will be unable to pay me my fee.”
The bishop smiled. “A fine point. Our desires are in accord.
Twenty million euro, the bishop thought, now gazing out the plane’s window. The sum was approximately the same number of U.S. dollars. A pittance for something so powerful.
He felt a renewed confidence that the Teacher and Silas would not fail. Money and faith were powerful motivators.
“Une plaisanterie numérique?” Bezu Fache was livid, glaring at Sophie Neveu in disbelief. A numeric joke? “Your professional assessment of Saunière’s code is that it is some kind of mathematical prank?”
Fache was in utter incomprehension of this woman’s gall. Not only had she just barged in on Fache without permission, but she was now trying to convince him that Saunière, in his final moments of life, had been inspired to leave a mathematical gag?
“This code,” Sophie explained in rapid French, “is simplistic to the point of absurdity. Jacques Saunière must have known we would see through it immediately.” She pulled a scrap of paper from her sweater pocket and handed it to Fache. “Here is the decryption.”
Fache looked at the card.
“This is it?” he snapped. “All you did was put the numbers in increasing order!”
Sophie actually had the nerve to give a satisfied smile. “Exactly.”
Fache’s tone lowered to a guttural rumble. “Agent Neveu, I have no idea where the hell you’re going with this, but I suggest you get there fast.” He shot an anxious glance at Langdon, who stood nearby with the phone pressed to his ear, apparently still listening to his phone message from the U.S. Embassy. From Langdon’s ashen expression, Fache sensed the news was bad.
“Captain,” Sophie said, her tone dangerously defiant, “the sequence of numbers you have in your hand happens to be one of the most famous mathematical progressions in history.”
Fache was not aware there even existed a mathematical progression that qualified as famous, and he certainly didn’t appreciate Sophie’s off-handed tone.
“This is the Fibonacci sequence,” she declared, nodding toward the piece of paper in Fache’s hand. “A progression in which each term is
equal to the sum of the two preceding terms.”
Fache studied the numbers. Each term was indeed the sum of the two previous, and yet Fache could not imagine what the relevance of all this was to Saunière’s death.
“Mathematician Leonardo Fibonacci created this succession of numbers in the thirteenth-century. Obviously there can be no coincidence that all of the numbers Saunière wrote on the floor belong to Fibonacci’s famous sequence.”
Fache stared at the young woman for several moments. “Fine, if there is no coincidence, would you tell me why Jacques Saunière chose to do this. What is he saying? What does this mean?”
She shrugged. “Absolutely nothing. That’s the point. It’s a simplistic cryptographic joke. Like taking the words of a famous poem and shuffling them at random to see if anyone recognizes what all the words have in common.”
Fache took a menacing step forward, placing his face only inches from Sophie’s. “I certainly hope you have a much more satisfying explanation than that.”
Sophie’s soft features grew surprisingly stern as she leaned in. “Captain, considering what you have at stake here tonight, I thought you might appreciate knowing that Jacques Saunière might be playing games with you. Apparently not. I’ll inform the director of Cryptography you no longer need our services.”
With that, she turned on her heel, and marched off the way she had come.
Stunned, Fache watched her disappear into the darkness. Is she out of her mind? Sophie Neveu had just redefined le suicide professionnel.
Fache turned to Langdon, who was still on the phone, looking more concerned than before, listening intently to his phone message. The U.S. Embassy. Bezu Fache despised many things … but few drew more wrath than the U.S. Embassy.
Fache and the ambassador locked horns regularly over shared affairs of state—their most common battleground being law enforcement for visiting Americans. Almost daily, DCPJ arrested American exchange students in possession of drugs, U.S. businessmen for soliciting underage prostitutes, American tourists
for shoplifting or destruction of property. Legally, the U.S. Embassy could intervene and extradite guilty citizens back to the United States, where they received nothing more than a slap on the wrist.
And the embassy invariably did just that.
L’émasculation de la Police Judiciaire, Fache called it. Paris Match had run a cartoon recently depicting Fache as a police dog, trying to bite an American criminal, but unable to reach because it was chained to the U.S. Embassy.
Not tonight, Fache told himself. There is far too much at stake. By the time Robert Langdon hung up the phone, he looked ill. “Is everything all right?” Fache asked.
Weakly, Langdon shook his head.
Bad news from home, Fache sensed, noticing Langdon was sweating slightly as Fache took back his cell phone.
“An accident,” Langdon stammered, looking at Fache with a strange expression. “A friend …” He hesitated. “I’ll need to fly home first thing in the morning.”
Fache had no doubt the shock on Langdon’s face was genuine, and yet he sensed another emotion there too, as if a distant fear were suddenly simmering in the American’s eyes. “I’m sorry to hear that,” Fache said, watching Langdon closely. “Would you like to sit down?” He motioned toward one of the viewing benches in the gallery.
Langdon nodded absently and took a few steps toward the bench. He paused, looking more confused with every moment. “Actually, I think I’d like to use the rest room.”
Fache frowned inwardly at the delay. “The rest room. Of course. Let’s take a break for a few minutes.” He motioned back down the long hallway in the direction they had come from. “The rest rooms are back toward the curator’s office.”
Langdon hesitated, pointing in the other direction toward the far end of the Grand Gallery corridor. “I believe there’s a much closer rest room at the end.”
Fache realized Langdon was right. They were two thirds of the way down, and the Grand Gallery dead-ended at a pair of rest rooms. “Shall I accompany you?”
Langdon shook his head, already moving deeper into the gallery. “Not necessary. I think I’d like a few minutes alone.”
Fache was not wild about the idea of Langdon wandering alone down the remaining length of corridor, but he took comfort in knowing the Grand Gallery was a dead end whose only exit was at the other end—the gate under which they had entered. Although French fire regulations required several emergency stairwells for a space this large, those stairwells had been sealed automatically when Saunière tripped the security system. Granted, that system had now been reset, unlocking the stairwells, but it didn’t matter—the external doors, if opened, would set off fire alarms and were guarded outside by DCPJ agents. Langdon could not possibly leave without Fache knowing about it.