Chapter 68-72

   
CHAPTER 68

New York editor Jonas Faukman had just climbed into bed for the night when the telephone rang. A little late for callers, he grumbled, picking up the receiver.

An operator's voice asked him," Will you accept charges for a collect call from Robert Langdon?" Puzzled, Jonas turned on the light. "Uh... sure, okay." The line clicked. "Jonas?"

"Robert? You wake me up and you charge me for it?"

"Jonas, forgive me," Langdon said. "I'll keep this very short. I really need to know. The manuscript I gave you. Have you - "

"Robert, I'm sorry, I know I said I'd send the edits out to you this week, but I'm swamped. Next Monday. I promise."

"I'm not worried about the edits. I need to know if you sent any copies out for blurbs without telling me?"

Faukman hesitated. Langdon's newest manuscript - an exploration of the history of goddess worship - included several sections about Mary Magdalene that were going to raise some eyebrows. Although the material was well documented and had been covered by others, Faukman had no intention of printing Advance Reading Copies of Langdon's book without at least a few endorsements from serious historians and art luminaries. Jonas had chosen ten big names in the art world and sent them all sections of the manuscript along with a polite letter asking if they would be willing to write a short endorsement for the jacket. In Faukman's experience, most people jumped at the opportunity to see their name in print.

"Jonas?" Langdon pressed. "You sent out my manuscript, didn't you?"

Faukman frowned, sensing Langdon was not happy about it. "The manuscript was clean, Robert, and I wanted to surprise you with some terrific blurbs."

A pause. "Did you send one to the curator of the Paris Louvre?"

"What do you think? Your manuscript referenced his Louvre collection several times, his books are in your bibliography, and the guy has some serious clout for foreign sales. Sauniere was a no-brainer."

The silence on the other end lasted a long time. "When did you send it?"

"About a month ago. I also mentioned you would be in Paris soon and suggested you two chat. Did he ever call you to meet?" Faukman paused, rubbing his eyes. "Hold on, aren't you supposed to bein Paris this week?" "I am in Paris." Faukman sat upright. "You called me collect from Paris?"

"Take it out of my royalties, Jonas. Did you ever hear back from Sauniere? Did he like the manuscript?"

"I don't know. I haven't yet heard from him."

"Well, don't hold your breath. I've got to run, but this explains a lot Thanks." "Robert - "But Langdon was gone.

Faukman hung up the phone, shaking his head in disbelief Authors, he thought. Even the sane ones are nuts.

Inside the Range Rover, Leigh Teabing let out a guffaw. "Robert, you're saying you wrote a manuscript that delves into a secret society, and your editor sent a copy to that secret society?"

Langdon slumped. "Evidently."

"A cruel coincidence, my friend."

Coincidence has nothing to do with it, Langdon knew. Asking Jacques Sauniere to endorse a manuscript on goddess worship was as obvious as asking Tiger Woods to endorse a book on golf. Moreover, it was virtually guaranteed that any book on goddess worship would have to mention the Priory of Sion.

"Here's the million-dollar question," Teabing said, still chuckling. "Was your position on the Priory favorable or unfavorable?"

Langdon could hear Teabing's true meaning loud and clear. Many historians questioned why the Priory was still keeping the Sangreal documents hidden. Some felt the information should have been shared with the world long ago. "I took no position on the Priory's actions."

"You mean lack thereof."

Langdon shrugged. Teabing was apparently on the side of making the documents public. "I simply provided history on the brotherhood and described them as a modern goddess worship society, keepers of the Grail, and guardians of ancient documents." Sophie looked at him. "Did you mention the keystone?" Langdon winced. He had. Numerous times. "I talked about the supposed keystone as an example of the lengths to which the Priory would go to protect the Sangreal documents." Sophie looked amazed. "I guess that explains P. S. Find Robert Langdon." Langdon sensed it was actually something else in the manuscript that had piqued Sauniere's interest, but that topic was something he would discuss with Sophie when they were alone.

"So," Sophie said, "you lied to Captain Fache." "What?" Langdon demanded. "You told him you had never corresponded with my grandfather."

"I didn't! My editor sent him a manuscript."

"Think about it, Robert. If Captain Fache didn't find the envelope in which your editor sent the manuscript, he would have to conclude that you sent it." She paused. "Or worse, that you hand- delivered it and lied about it."

When the Range Rover arrived at Le Bourget Airfield, Remy drove to a small hangar at the far end of the airstrip. As they approached, a tousled man in wrinkled khakis hurried from the hangar, waved, and slid open the enormous corrugated metal door to reveal a sleek white jet within.

Langdon stared at the glistening fuselage. "That's Elizabeth?" Teabing grinned. "Beats the bloody Chunnel." The man in khakis hurried toward them, squinting into the headlights. "Almost ready, sir," he called in a British accent. "My apologies for the delay, but you took me by surprise and - " He stopped short as the group unloaded. He looked at Sophie and Langdon, and then Teabing.

Teabing said, "My associates and I have urgent business in London. We've no time to waste. Please prepare to depart immediately." As he spoke, Teabing took the pistol out of the vehicle and handed it to Langdon.

The pilot's eyes bulged at the sight of the weapon. He walked over to Teabing and whispered," Sir, my humble apologies, but my diplomatic flight allowance provides only for you and your manservant. I cannot take your guests."

"Richard," Teabing said, smiling warmly," two thousand pounds sterling and that loaded gun say you can take my guests." He motioned to the Range Rover. "And the unfortunate fellow in the back."

CHAPTER 69

The Hawker 731's twin Garrett TFE-731 engines thundered, powering the plane skyward with gut- wrenching force. Outside the window, Le Bourget Airfield dropped away with startling speed.

I'm fleeing the country, Sophie thought, her body forced back into the leather seat. Until this moment, she had believed her game of cat and mouse with Fache would be somehow justifiable to the Ministry of Defense. I was attempting to protect an innocent man.I was trying to fulfill my grandfather's dying wishes.That window of opportunity, Sophie knew, had just closed. She was leaving the country, without documentation, accompanying a wanted man, and transporting abound hostage. If a" line of reason" had ever existed, she had just crossed it. At almost the speed of sound.

Sophie was seated with Langdon and Teabing near the front of the cabin - the Fan Jet ExecutiveElite Design, according to the gold medallion on the door. Their plush swivel chairs were bolted to tracks on the floor and could be repositioned and locked around a rectangular hardwood table. A mini-boardroom. The dignified surroundings, however, did little to camouflage the less than dignified state of affairs in the rear of the plane where, in a separate seating area near the rest room, Teabing's manservant Remy sat with the pistol in hand, begrudgingly carrying out Teabing's orders to stand guard over the bloody monk who lay trussed at his feet like a piece of luggage.

"Before we turn our attention to the keystone," Teabing said," I was wondering if you would permit me a few words." He sounded apprehensive, like a father about to give the birds-and-the-bees lecture to his children. "My friends, I realize I am but a guest on this journey, and I am honored as such. And yet, as someone who has spent his life in search of the Grail, I feel it is my duty to warn you that you are about to step onto a path from which there is no return, regardless of the dangers involved." He turned to Sophie. "Miss Neveu, your grandfather gave you this cryptex in hopes you would keep the secret of the Holy Grail alive."

"Yes."

"Understandably, you feel obliged to follow the trail wherever it leads."

Sophie nodded, although she felt a second motivation still burning within her. The truth about my family.Despite Langdon's assurances that the keystone had nothing to do with her past, Sophie still sensed something deeply personal entwined within this mystery, as if this cryptex, forged by her grandfather's own hands, were trying to speak to her and offer some kind of resolution to the emptiness that had haunted her all these years.

"Your grandfather and three others died tonight," Teabing continued," and they did so to keep this keystone away from the Church. Opus Dei came within inches tonight of possessing it. You understand, I hope, that this puts you in a position of exceptional responsibility. You have been handed a torch. A two-thousand-year-old flame that cannot be allowed to go out. This torch cannot fall into the wrong hands." He paused, glancing at the rosewood box. "I realize you have been given no choice in this matter, Miss Neveu, but considering what is at stake here, you must either fully embrace this responsibility... or you must pass that responsibility to someone else." "My grandfather gave the cryptex to me. I'm sure he thought I could handle the responsibility." Teabing looked encouraged but unconvinced. "Good. A strong will is necessary. And yet, I amcurious if you understand that successfully unlocking the keystone will bring with it a far greatertrial." "How so?" "My dear, imagine that you are suddenly holding a map that reveals the location of the Holy Grail. In that moment, you will be in possession of a truth capable of altering history forever. You will be the keeper of a truth that man has sought for centuries. You will be faced with the responsibility of revealing that truth to the world. The individual who does so will be revered by many and despised by many. The question is whether you will have the necessary strength to carry out that task."

Sophie paused. "I'm not sure that is my decision to make."

Teabing's eyebrows arched. "No? If not the possessor of the keystone, then who?" "The brotherhood who has successfully protected the secret for so long." "The Priory?" Teabing looked skeptical. "But how? The brotherhood was shattered tonight. Decapitated, as you so aptly put it. Whether they were infiltrated by some kind of eavesdropping or by a spy within their ranks, we will never know, but the fact remains that someone got to them and uncovered the identities of their four top members. I would not trust anyone who stepped forward from the brotherhood at this point."

"So what do you suggest?" Langdon asked.

"Robert, you know as well as I do that the Priory has not protected the truth all these years to have it gather dust until eternity. They have been waiting for the right moment in history to share their secret. A time when the world is ready to handle the truth."

"And you believe that moment has arrived?" Langdon asked.

"Absolutely. It could not be more obvious. All the historical signs are in place, and if the Priory did not intend to make their secret known very soon, why has the Church now attacked?" Sophie argued," The monk has not yet told us his purpose." "The monk's purpose is the Church's purpose," Teabing replied," to destroy the documents that reveal the great deception. The Church came closer tonight than they have ever come, and the Priory has put its trust in you, Miss Neveu. The task of saving the Holy Grail clearly includes carrying out the Priory's final wishes of sharing the truth with the world."

Langdon intervened. "Leigh, asking Sophie to make that decision is quite a load to drop on someone who only an hour ago learned the Sangreal documents exist."

Teabing sighed. "I apologize if I am pressing, Miss Neveu. Clearly I have always believed these documents should be made public, but in the end the decision belongs to you. I simply feel it is important that you begin to think about what happens should we succeed in opening the keystone."

"Gentlemen," Sophie said, her voice firm. "To quote your words, 'You do not find the Grail, the Grail finds you.' I am going to trust that the Grail has found me for a reason, and when the time comes, I will know what to do."

Both of them looked startled.

"So then," she said, motioning to the rosewood box. "Let's move on."

CHAPTER 70

Standing in the drawing room of Chateau Villette, Lieutenant Collet watched the dying fire and felt despondent. Captain Fache had arrived moments earlier and was now in the next room, yelling into the phone, trying to coordinate the failed attempt to locate the missing Range Rover.

It could be anywhere by now, Collet thought.

Having disobeyed Fache's direct orders and lost Langdon for a second time, Collet was grateful that PTS had located a bullet hole in the floor, which at least corroborated Collet's claims that a shot had been fired. Still, Fache's mood was sour, and Collet sensed there would be dire repercussions when the dust settled.

Unfortunately, the clues they were turning up here seemed to shed no light at all on what was going on or who was involved. The black Audi outside had been rented in a false name with false credit card numbers, and the prints in the car matched nothing in the Interpol database.

Another agent hurried into the living room, his eyes urgent. "Where's Captain Fache?" Collet barely looked up from the burning embers. "He's on the phone." "I'm off the phone," Fache snapped, stalking into the room. "What have you got?"

The second agent said," Sir, Central just heard from Andre Vernet at the Depository Bank of Zurich. He wants to talk to you privately. He is changing his story." "Oh?" Fache said. Now Collet looked up.

"Vernet is admitting that Langdon and Neveu spent time inside his bank tonight." "We figured that out," Fache said. "Why did Vernet lie about it?" "He said he'll talk only to you, but he's agreed to cooperate fully." "In exchange for what?"

"For our keeping his bank's name out of the news and also for helping him recover some stolen property. It sounds like Langdon and Neveu stole something from Sauniere's account."

"What?" Collet blurted. "How?"

Fache never flinched, his eyes riveted on the second agent. "What did they steal?" "Vernet didn't elaborate, but he sounds like he's willing to do anything to get it back." Collet tried to imagine how this could happen. Maybe Langdon and Neveu had held a bank employee at gunpoint? Maybe they forced Vernet to open Sauniere's account and facilitate an escape in the armored truck. As feasible as it was, Collet was having trouble believing Sophie Neveu could be involved in anything like that.

From the kitchen, another agent yelled to Fache. "Captain? I'm going through Mr. Teabing's speed dial numbers, and I'm on the phone with Le Bourget Airfield. I've got some bad news."

Thirty seconds later, Fache was packing up and preparing to leave Chateau Villette. He had just learned that Teabing kept a private jet nearby at Le Bourget Airfield and that the plane had taken off about a half hour ago.

The Bourget representative on the phone had claimed not to know who was on the plane or where it was headed. The takeoff had been unscheduled, and no flight plan had been logged. Highly illegal, even for a small airfield. Fache was certain that by applying the right pressure, he could get the answers he was looking for.

"Lieutenant Collet," Fache barked, heading for the door. "I have no choice but to leave you in charge of the PTS investigation here. Try to do something right for a change."

CHAPTER 71

As the Hawker leveled off, with its nose aimed for England, Langdon carefully lifted the rosewood box from his lap, where he had been protecting it during takeoff. Now, as he set the box on the table, he could sense Sophie and Teabing leaning forward with anticipation.

Unlatching the lid and opening the box, Langdon turned his attention not to the lettered dials of the cryptex, but rather to the tiny hole on the underside of the box lid. Using the tip of a pen, he carefully removed the inlaid Rose on top and revealed the text beneath it. Sub Rosa, he mused, hoping a fresh look at the text would bring clarity. Focusing all his energies, Langdon studied the strange text.


The Da Vinci Code


After several seconds, he began to feel the initial frustration resurfacing. "Leigh, I just can't seem to place it."

From where Sophie was seated across the table, she could not yet see the text, but Langdon's inability to immediately identify the language surprised her. My grandfather spoke a language so obscure that even a symbologist can't identify it? She quickly realized she should not find this surprising. This would not be the first secret Jacques Sauniere had kept from his granddaughter.

Opposite Sophie, Leigh Teabing felt ready to burst. Eager for his chance to see the text, he quivered with excitement, leaning in, trying to see around Langdon, who was still hunched over the box.

"I don't know," Langdon whispered intently. "My first guess is a Semitic, but now I'm not so sure. Most primary Semitics include nekkudot.This has none."

"Probably ancient," Teabing offered.

"Nekkudot?" Sophie inquired.

Teabing never took his eyes from the box. "Most modern Semitic alphabets have no vowels and use nekkudot - tiny dots and dashes written either below or within the consonants - to indicate what vowel sound accompanies them. Historically speaking, nekkudot are a relatively modern addition to language."

Langdon was still hovering over the script. "A Sephardic transliteration, perhaps... ?"

Teabing could bear it no longer. "Perhaps if I just..." Reaching over, he edged the box away from Langdon and pulled it toward himself. No doubt Langdon had a solid familiarity with the standard ancients - Greek, Latin, the Romances - but from the fleeting glance Teabing had of this language, he thought it looked more specialized, possibly a Rashi script or a STA'M with crowns.

Taking a deep breath, Teabing feasted his eyes upon the engraving. He said nothing for a very long time. With each passing second, Teabing felt his confidence deflating. "I'm astonished," he said." This language looks like nothing I've ever seen!" Langdon slumped." Might I see it?" Sophie asked.

Teabing pretended not to hear her. "Robert, you said earlier that you thought you'd seen something like this before?"

Langdon looked vexed. "I thought so. I'm not sure. The script looks familiar somehow."

"Leigh?" Sophie repeated, clearly not appreciating being left out of the discussion. "Might I have a look at the box my grandfather made?"

"Of course, dear," Teabing said, pushing it over to her. He hadn't meant to sound belittling, and yet Sophie Neveu was light-years out of her league. If a British Royal Historian and a Harvard symbologist could not even identify the language -

"Aah," Sophie said, seconds after examining the box. "I should have guessed." Teabing and Langdon turned in unison, staring at her." Guessed what?" Teabing demanded.

Sophie shrugged. "Guessed that this would be the language my grandfather would have used." "You're saying you can read this text?" Teabing exclaimed." Quite easily," Sophie chimed, obviously enjoying herself now. "My grandfather taught me this language when I was only six years old. I'm fluent." She leaned across the table and fixed Teabing with an admonishing glare. "And frankly, sir, considering your allegiance to the Crown, I'm a little surprised you didn't recognize it."

In a flash, Langdon knew.

No wonder the script looks so damned familiar!

Several years ago, Langdon had attended an event at Harvard's Fogg Museum. Harvard dropout Bill Gates had returned to his alma mater to lend to the museum one of his priceless acquisitions - eighteen sheets of paper he had recently purchased at auction from the Armand Hammar Estate.

His winning bid - a cool $30.8 million.

The author of the pages - Leonardo Da Vinci.

The eighteen folios - now known as Leonardo's Codex Leicester after their famous owner, the Earl of Leicester - were all that remained of one of Leonardo's most fascinating notebooks: essays and drawings outlining Da Vinci's progressive theories on astronomy, geology, archaeology, and hydrology.

Langdon would never forget his reaction after waiting in line and finally viewing the priceless parchment. Utter letdown. The pages were unintelligible. Despite being beautifully preserved and written in an impeccably neat penmanship - crimson ink on cream paper - the codex looked like gibberish. At first Langdon thought he could not read them because Da Vinci wrote his notebooks in an archaic Italian. But after studying them more closely, he realized he could not identify a single Italian word, or even one letter.

"Try this, sir," whispered the female docent at the display case. She motioned to a hand mirror affixed to the display on a chain. Langdon picked it up and examined the text in the mirror's surface.

Instantly it was clear.

Langdon had been so eager to peruse some of the great thinker's ideas that he had forgotten one of the man's numerous artistic talents was an ability to write in a mirrored script that was virtually illegible to anyone other than himself. Historians still debated whether Da Vinci wrote this way simply to amuse himself or to keep people from peering over his shoulder and stealing his ideas, but the point was moot. Da Vinci did as he pleased.

Sophie smiled inwardly to see that Robert understood her meaning. "I can read the first few words," she said. "It's English."

Teabing was still sputtering. "What's going on?" "Reverse text," Langdon said. "We need a mirror."

"No we don't," Sophie said. "I bet this veneer is thin enough." She lifted the rosewood box up to a canister light on the wall and began examining the underside of the lid. Her grandfather couldn't actually write in reverse, so he always cheated by writing normally and then flipping the paper over and tracing the reversed impression. Sophie's guess was that he had wood-burned normal text into a block of wood and then run the back of the block through a sander until the wood was paper thin and the wood-burning could be seen through the wood. Then he'd simply flipped the piece over, and laid it in.

As Sophie moved the lid closer to the light, she saw she was right. The bright beam sifted through the thin layer of wood, and the script appeared in reverse on the underside of the lid. Instantly legible." English," Teabing croaked, hanging his head in shame. "My native tongue."

At the rear of the plane, Remy Legaludec strained to hear beyond the rumbling engines, but the conversation up front was inaudible. Remy did not like the way the night was progressing. Not at all. He looked down at the bound monk at his feet. The man lay perfectly still now, as if in a trance of acceptance, or perhaps, in silent prayer for deliverance.

CHAPTER 72

Fifteen thousand feet in the air, Robert Langdon felt the physical world fade away as all of his thoughts converged on Sauniere's mirror-image poem, which was illuminated through the lid of the box.


The Da Vinci Code


Sophie quickly found some paper and copied it down longhand. When she was done, the three of them took turns reading the text. It was like some kind of archaeological crossword... a riddle that promised to reveal how to open the cryptex. Langdon read the verse slowly.

An ancient word of wisdom frees this scroll... and helps us keep her scatter'd family whole... a headstone praised by templars is the key... and at bash will reveal the truth to thee.

Before Langdon could even ponder what ancient password the verse was trying to reveal, he felt something far more fundamental resonate within him - the meter of the poem. Iambic pentameter.

Langdon had come across this meter often over the years while researching secret societies across Europe, including just last year in the Vatican Secret Archives. For centuries, iambic pentameter had been a preferred poetic meter of outspoken literati across the globe, from the ancient Greek writer Archilochus to Shakespeare, Milton, Chaucer, and Voltaire - bold souls who chose to write their social commentaries in a meter that many of the day believed had mystical properties. The roots of iambic pentameter were deeply pagan.

Iambs. Two syllables with opposite emphasis. Stressed and unstressed. Yin yang. A balanced pair. Arranged in strings of five. Pentameter. Five for the pentacle of Venus and the sacred feminine.

"It's pentameter!" Teabing blurted, turning to Langdon. "And the verse is in English! La lingua pura!"

Langdon nodded. The Priory, like many European secret societies at odds with the Church, had considered English the only European pure language for centuries. Unlike French, Spanish, and Italian, which were rooted in Latin - the tongue of the Vatican - English was linguistically removed from Rome's propaganda machine, and therefore became a sacred, secret tongue for those brotherhoods educated enough to learn it.

"This poem," Teabing gushed," references not only the Grail, but the Knights Templar and the scattered family of Mary Magdalene! What more could we ask for?"

"The password," Sophie said, looking again at the poem. "It sounds like we need some kind of ancient word of wisdom?"

"Abracadabra?" Teabing ventured, his eyes twinkling.

A word of five letters, Langdon thought, pondering the staggering number of ancient words that might be considered words of wisdom - selections from mystic chants, astrological prophecies, secret society inductions, Wicca incantations, Egyptian magic spells, pagan mantras - the list was endless.

"The password," Sophie said, "appears to have something to do with the Templars." She read the text aloud. " 'A headstone praised by Templars is the key. '"

"Leigh," Langdon said, "you're the Templar specialist. Any ideas?"

Teabing was silent for several seconds and then sighed. "Well, a headstone is obviously a grave marker of some sort. It's possible the poem is referencing a gravestone the Templars praised at the tomb of Magdalene, but that doesn't help us much because we have no idea where her tomb is." "The last line," Sophie said," says that Atbash will reveal the truth. I've heard that word. Atbash." "I'm not surprised," Langdon replied. "You probably heard it in Cryptology 101. The Atbash Cipher is one of the oldest codes known to man."

Of course! Sophie thought. The famous Hebrew encoding system.

The Atbash Cipher had indeed been part of Sophie's early cryptology training. The cipher dated back to 500 B. C. and was now used as a classroom example of a basic rotational substitution scheme. A common form of Jewish cryptogram, the Atbash Cipher was a simple substitution code based on the twenty-two-letter Hebrew alphabet. In Atbash, the first letter was substituted by the last letter, the second letter by the next to last letter, and so on.

"Atbash is sublimely appropriate," Teabing said. "Text encrypted with Atbash is found throughout the Kabbala, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and even the Old Testament. Jewish scholars and mystics are stillfinding hidden meanings using Atbash. The Priory certainly would include the Atbash Cipher as part of their teachings."

"The only problem," Langdon said," is that we don't have anything on which to apply the cipher."

Teabing sighed. "There must be a code word on the headstone. We must find this headstone praised by Templars."

Sophie sensed from the grim look on Langdon's face that finding the Templar headstone would be no small feat.

Atbash is the key, Sophie thought. But we don't have a door.

It was three minutes later that Teabing heaved a frustrated sigh and shook his head. "My friends, I'm stymied. Let me ponder this while I get us some nibblies and check on Remy and our guest." He stood up and headed for the back of the plane. Sophie felt tired as she watched him go. Outside the window, the blackness of the predawn was absolute. Sophie felt as if she were being hurtled through space with no idea where she would land. Having grown up solving her grandfather's riddles, she had the uneasy sense right now that this poem before them contained information they still had not seen.

There is more there, she told herself. Ingeniously hidden... but present nonetheless.

Also plaguing her thoughts was a fear that what they eventually found inside this cryptex would not be as simple as" a map to the Holy Grail." Despite Teabing's and Langdon's confidence that the truth lay just within the marble cylinder, Sophie had solved enough of her grandfather's treasure hunts to know that Jacques Sauniere did not give up his secrets easily.
    
 

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