Chapter 84-86

 

CHAPTER 84

In a rubbish-strewn alley very close to Temple Church, Remy Legaludec pulled the Jaguar limousine to a stop behind a row of industrial waste bins. Killing the engine, he checked the area. Deserted. He got out of the car, walked toward the rear, and climbed back into the limousine's main cabin where the monk was.

Sensing Remy's presence, the monk in the back emerged from a prayer-like trance, his red eyes looking more curious than fearful. All evening Remy had been impressed with this trussed man's ability to stay calm. After some initial struggles in the Range Rover, the monk seemed to have accepted his plight and given over his fate to a higher power.

Loosening his bow tie, Remy unbuttoned his high, starched, wing-tipped collar and felt as if he could breathe for the first time in years. He went to the limousine's wet bar, where he poured himself a Smirnoff vodka. He drank it in a single swallow and followed it with a second.

Soon I will be a man of leisure.

Searching the bar, Remy found a standard service wine-opener and flicked open the sharp blade. The knife was usually employed to slice the lead foil from corks on fine bottles of wine, but it would serve a far more dramatic purpose this morning. Remy turned and faced Silas, holding up the glimmering blade.

Now those red eyes flashed fear.

Remy smiled and moved toward the back of the limousine. The monk recoiled, struggling against his bonds.

"Be still," Remy whispered, raising the blade.

Silas could not believe that God had forsaken him. Even the physical pain of being bound Silas had turned into a spiritual exercise, asking the throb of his blood-starved muscles to remind him of the pain Christ endured. I have been praying all night for liberation.Now, as the knife descended, Silas clenched his eyes shut.

A slash of pain tore through his shoulder blades. He cried out, unable to believe he was going to die here in the back of this limousine, unable to defend himself. I was doing God's work.TheTeacher said he would protect me.

Silas felt the biting warmth spreading across his back and shoulders and could picture his own blood, spilling out over his flesh. A piercing pain cut through his thighs now, and he felt the onset of that familiar undertow of disorientation - the body's defense mechanism against the pain.

As the biting heat tore through all of his muscles now, Silas clenched his eyes tighter, determined that the final image of his life would not be of his own killer. Instead he pictured a younger Bishop Aringarosa, standing before the small church in Spain... the church that he and Silas had built with their own hands. The beginning of my life.

Silas felt as if his body were on fire.

"Take a drink," the tuxedoed man whispered, his accent French. "It will help with your circulation."

Silas's eyes flew open in surprise. A blurry image was leaning over him, offering a glass of liquid. A mound of shredded duct tape lay on the floor beside the bloodless knife.

"Drink this," he repeated. "The pain you feel is the blood rushing into your muscles."

Silas felt the fiery throb transforming now to a prickling sting. The vodka tasted terrible, but he drank it, feeling grateful. Fate had dealt Silas a healthy share of bad luck tonight, but God had solved it all with one miraculous twist.

God has not forsaken me.

Silas knew what Bishop Aringarosa would call it.

Divine intervention.

"I had wanted to free you earlier," the servant apologized," but it was impossible. With the police arriving at Chateau Villette, and then at Biggin Hill airport, this was the first possible moment. You understand, don't you, Silas?"

Silas recoiled, startled. "You know my name?" The servant smiled. Silas sat up now, rubbing his stiff muscles, his emotions a torrent of incredulity, appreciation, and confusion. "Are you... the Teacher?"

Remy shook his head, laughing at the proposition. "I wish I had that kind of power. No, I am not the Teacher. Like you, I serve him. But the Teacher speaks highly of you. My name is Remy."

Silas was amazed. "I don't understand. If you work for the Teacher, why did Langdon bring the keystone to your home?"

"Not my home. The home of the world's foremost Grail historian, Sir Leigh Teabing." "But you live there. The odds..." Remy smiled, seeming to have no trouble with the apparent coincidence of Langdon's chosen refuge. "It was all utterly predictable. Robert Langdon was in possession of the keystone, and he needed help. What more logical place to run than to the home of Leigh Teabing? That I happen to live there is why the Teacher approached me in the first place." He paused. "How do you think the Teacher knows so much about the Grail?"

Now it dawned, and Silas was stunned. The Teacher had recruited a servant who had access to all of Sir Leigh Teabing's research. It was brilliant.

"There is much I have to tell you," Remy said, handing Silas the loaded Heckler Koch pistol. Then he reached through the open partition and retrieved a small, palm-sized revolver from the glove box. "But first, you and I have a job to do."

Captain Fache descended from his transport plane at Biggin Hill and listened in disbelief to the Kent chief inspector's account of what had happened in Teabing's hangar.

"I searched the plane myself," the inspector insisted," and there was no one inside." His tone turned haughty. "And I should add that if Sir Leigh Teabing presses charges against me, I will - "

"Did you interrogate the pilot?"

"Of course not. He is French, and our jurisdiction requires - "Take me to the plane." Arriving at the hangar, Fache needed only sixty seconds to locate an anomalous smear of blood on the pavement near where the limousine had been parked. Fache walked up to the plane and rapped loudly on the fuselage.

"This is the captain of the French Judicial Police. Open the door!" The terrified pilot opened the hatch and lowered the stairs. Fache ascended. Three minutes later, with the help of his sidearm, he had a full confession, including a description of the bound albino monk. In addition, he learned that the pilot saw Langdon and Sophie leave something behind in Teabing's safe, a wooden box of some sort. Although the pilot denied knowing what was in the box, he admitted it had been the focus of Langdon's full attention during the flight to London.

"Open the safe," Fache demanded.

The pilot looked terrified. "I don't know the combination!"

"That's too bad. I was going to offer to let you keep your pilot's license."

The pilot wrung his hands. "I know some men in maintenance here. Maybe they could drill it?" "You have half an hour." The pilot leapt for his radio.

Fache strode to the back of the plane and poured himself a hard drink. It was early, but he had not yet slept, so this hardly counted as drinking before noon. Sitting in a plush bucket seat, he closed his eyes, trying to sort out what was going on. The Kent police's blunder could cost me dearly. Everyone was now on the lookout for a black Jaguar limousine. Fache's phone rang, and he wished for a moment's peace. "Allo?" "I'm en route to London." It was Bishop Aringarosa. "I'll be arriving in an hour." Fache sat up. "I thought you were going to Paris." "I am deeply concerned. I have changed my plans." "You should not have." "Do you have Silas?"

"No. His captors eluded the local police before I landed."

Aringarosa's anger rang sharply. "You assured me you would stop that plane!"

Fache lowered his voice. "Bishop, considering your situation, I recommend you not test my patience today. I will find Silas and the others as soon as possible. Where are you landing?"

"One moment." Aringarosa covered the receiver and then came back. "The pilot is trying to get clearance at Heathrow. I'm his only passenger, but our redirect was unscheduled."

"Tell him to come to Biggin Hill Executive Airport in Kent. I'll get him clearance. If I'm not here when you land, I'll have a car waiting for you."

"Thank you."

"As I expressed when we first spoke, Bishop, you would do well to remember that you are not the only man on the verge of losing everything."

CHAPTER 85

You seek the orb that ought be on his tomb.

Each of the carved knights within the Temple Church lay on his back with his head resting on a rectangular stone pillow. Sophie felt a chill. The poem's reference to an" orb" conjured images of the night in her grandfather's basement.

Hieros Gamos. The orbs.

Sophie wondered if the ritual had been performed in this very sanctuary. The circular room seemed custom-built for such a pagan rite. A stone pew encircled a bare expanse of floor in the middle. A theater in the round, as Robert had called it. She imagined this chamber at night, filled with masked people, chanting by torchlight, all witnessing a" sacred communion" in the center of the room.

Forcing the image from her mind, she advanced with Langdon and Teabing toward the first group of knights. Despite Teabing's insistence that their investigation should be conducted meticulously, Sophie felt eager and pushed ahead of them, making a cursory walk-through of the five knights on the left.

Scrutinizing these first tombs, Sophie noted the similarities and differences between them. Every knight was on his back, but three of the knights had their legs extended straight out while two had their legs crossed. The oddity seemed to have no relevance to the missing orb. Examining their clothing, Sophie noted that two of the knights wore tunics over their armor, while the other three wore ankle-length robes. Again, utterly unhelpful. Sophie turned her attention to the only other obvious difference - their hand positions. Two knights clutched swords, two prayed, and one had his arms at his side. After a long moment looking at the hands, Sophie shrugged, having seen no hint anywhere of a conspicuously absent orb.

Feeling the weight of the cryptex in her sweater pocket, she glanced back at Langdon and Teabing. The men were moving slowly, still only at the third knight, apparently having no luck either. In no mood to wait, she turned away from them toward the second group of knights.

As she crossed the open space, she quietly recited the poem she had read so many times now that it was committed to memory.

In London lies a knight a Pope interred. His labor's fruit a Holy wrath incurred. You seek the orb that ought be on his tomb. It speaks of Rosy flesh and seeded womb.

When Sophie arrived at the second group of knights, she found that this second group was similar to the first. All lay with varied body positions, wearing armor and swords. That was, all except the tenth and final tomb. Hurrying over to it, she stared down.

No pillow. No armor. No tunic. No sword.

"Robert? Leigh?" she called, her voice echoing around the chamber. "There's something missing over here."

Both men looked up and immediately began to cross the room toward her.

"An orb?" Teabing called excitedly. His crutches clicked out a rapid staccato as he hurried across the room. "Are we missing an orb?" "Not exactly," Sophie said, frowning at the tenth tomb. "We seem to be missing an entire knight." Arriving beside her both men gazed down in confusion at the tenth tomb. Rather than a knight lying in the open air, this tomb was a sealed stone casket. The casket was trapezoidal, tapered at the feet, widening toward the top, with a peaked lid.

"Why isn't this knight shown?" Langdon asked.

"Fascinating," Teabing said, stroking his chin. "I had forgotten about this oddity. It's been years since I was here."

"This coffin," Sophie said," looks like it was carved at the same time and by the same sculptor as the other nine tombs. So why is this knight in a casket rather than in the open?"

Teabing shook his head. "One of this church's mysteries. To the best of my knowledge, nobody has ever found any explanation for it."

"Hello?" the altar boy said, arriving with a perturbed look on his face. "Forgive me if this seems rude, but you told me you wanted to spread ashes, and yet you seem to be sightseeing."

Teabing scowled at the boy and turned to Langdon. "Mr. Wren, apparently your family's philanthropy does not buy you the time it used to, so perhaps we should take out the ashes and get on with it." Teabing turned to Sophie. "Mrs. Wren?"

Sophie played along, pulling the vellum-wrapped cryptex from her pocket.

"Now then," Teabing snapped at the boy," if you would give us some privacy?"

The altar boy did not move. He was eyeing Langdon closely now. "You look familiar." Teabing huffed. "Perhaps that is because Mr. Wren comes here every year!" Or perhaps, Sophie now feared, because he saw Langdon on television at the Vatican last year.

"I have never met Mr. Wren," the altar boy declared.

"You're mistaken," Langdon said politely. "I believe you and I met in passing last year. Father Knowles failed to formally introduce us, but I recognized your face as we came in. Now, I realize this is an intrusion, but if you could afford me a few more minutes, I have traveled a great distance to scatter ashes amongst these tombs." Langdon spoke his lines with Teabing-esque believability. The altar boy's expression turned even more skeptical. "These are not tombs." "I'm sorry?" Langdon said.

"Of course they are tombs," Teabing declared. "What are you talking about?"

The altar boy shook his head. "Tombs contain bodies. These are effigies. Stone tributes to real men. There are no bodies beneath these figures."

"This is a crypt!" Teabing said.

"Only in outdated history books. This was believed to be a crypt but was revealed as nothing of the sort during the 1950 renovation." He turned back to Langdon. "And I imagine Mr. Wren would know that. Considering it was his family that uncovered that fact." An uneasy silence fell.

It was broken by the sound of a door slamming out in the annex.

"That must be Father Knowles," Teabing said. "Perhaps you should go see?"

The altar boy looked doubtful but stalked back toward the annex, leaving Langdon, Sophie, and Teabing to eye one another gloomily.

"Leigh," Langdon whispered. "No bodies? What is he talking about?"

Teabing looked distraught. "I don't know. I always thought... certainly, this must be the place. I can't imagine he knows what he is talking about. It makes no sense!" "Can I see the poem again?" Langdon said. Sophie pulled the cryptex from her pocket and carefully handed it to him.

Langdon unwrapped the vellum, holding the cryptex in his hand while he examined the poem. "Yes, the poem definitely references a tomb.Not an effigy."

"Could the poem be wrong?" Teabing asked. "Could Jacques Sauniere have made the same mistake I just did?"

Langdon considered it and shook his head. "Leigh, you said it yourself. This church was built by Templars, the military arm of the Priory. Something tells me the Grand Master of the Priory would have a pretty good idea if there were knights buried here."

Teabing looked flabbergasted. "But this place is perfect." He wheeled back toward the knights. "We must be missing something!"

Entering the annex, the altar boy was surprised to find it deserted. "Father Knowles?" I know Iheard the door, he thought, moving forward until he could see the entryway.

A thin man in a tuxedo stood near the doorway, scratching his head and looking lost. The altar boy gave an irritated huff, realizing he had forgotten to relock the door when he let the others in. Now some pathetic sod had wandered in off the street, looking for directions to some wedding from the looks of it. "I'm sorry," he called out, passing a large pillar," we're closed."

A flurry of cloth ruffled behind him, and before the altar boy could turn, his head snapped backward, a powerful hand clamping hard over his mouth from behind, muffling his scream. The hand over the boy's mouth was snow-white, and he smelled alcohol.

The prim man in the tuxedo calmly produced a very small revolver, which he aimed directly at the boy's forehead.

The altar boy felt his groin grow hot and realized he had wet himself.

"Listen carefully," the tuxedoed man whispered. "You will exit this church silently, and you will run. You will not stop. Is that clear?"

The boy nodded as best he could with the hand over his mouth.

"If you call the police..." The tuxedoed man pressed the gun to his skin. "I will find you."

The next thing the boy knew, he was sprinting across the outside courtyard with no plans of stopping until his legs gave out.

CHAPTER 86

Like a ghost, Silas drifted silently behind his target. Sophie Neveu sensed him too late. Before she could turn, Silas pressed the gun barrel into her spine and wrapped a powerful arm across her chest, pulling her back against his hulking body. She yelled in surprise. Teabing and Langdon both turned now, their expressions astonished and fearful.

"What... ?" Teabing choked out. "What did you do to Remy!"

"Your only concern," Silas said calmly," is that I leave here with the keystone." This recovery mission, as Remy had described it, was to be clean and simple: Enter the church, take the keystone, and walk out; no killing, no struggle.

Holding Sophie firm, Silas dropped his hand from her chest, down to her waist, slipping it inside her deep sweater pockets, searching. He could smell the soft fragrance of her hair through his own alcohol-laced breath. "Where is it?" he whispered. The keystone was in her sweater pocket earlier. So where is it now?

"It's over here," Langdon's deep voice resonated from across the room.

Silas turned to see Langdon holding the black cryptex before him, waving it back and forth like a matador tempting a dumb animal.

"Set it down," Silas demanded.

"Let Sophie and Leigh leave the church," Langdon replied. "You and I can settle this."

Silas pushed Sophie away from him and aimed the gun at Langdon, moving toward him. "Not a step closer," Langdon said. "Not until they leave the building." "You are in no position to make demands."

"I disagree." Langdon raised the cryptex high over his head. "I will not hesitate to smash this on the floor and break the vial inside."

Although Silas sneered outwardly at the threat, he felt a flash of fear. This was unexpected. He aimed the gun at Langdon's head and kept his voice as steady as his hand. "You would never break the keystone. You want to find the Grail as much as I do."

"You're wrong. You want it much more. You've proven you're willing to kill for it."

Forty feet away, peering out from the annex pews near the archway, Remy Legaludec felt a rising alarm. The maneuver had not gone as planned, and even from here, he could see Silas was uncertain how to handle the situation. At the Teacher's orders, Remy had forbidden Silas to fire his gun.

"Let them go," Langdon again demanded, holding the cryptex high over his head and staring into Silas's gun.

The monk's red eyes filled with anger and frustration, and Remy tightened with fear that Silas might actually shoot Langdon while he was holding the cryptex. The cryptex cannot fall!

The cryptex was to be Remy's ticket to freedom and wealth. A little over a year ago, he was simply a fifty-five-year-old manservant living within the walls of Chateau Villette, catering to the whims of the insufferable cripple Sir Leigh Teabing. Then he was approached with an extraordinary proposition. Remy's association with Sir Leigh Teabing - the preeminent Grail historian on earth - was going to bring Remy everything he had ever dreamed of in life. Since then, every moment he had spent inside Chateau Villette had been leading him to this very instant.

I am so close, Remy told himself, gazing into the sanctuary of the Temple Church and the keystone in Robert Langdon's hand. If Langdon dropped it, all would be lost.

Am I willing to show my face? It was something the Teacher had strictly forbidden. Remy was the only one who knew the Teacher's identity.

"Are you certain you want Silas to carry out this task?" Remy had asked the Teacher less than half an hour ago, upon getting orders to steal the keystone. "I myself am capable."

The Teacher was resolute. "Silas served us well with the four Priory members. He will recover the keystone. You must remain anonymous. If others see you, they will need to be eliminated, and there has been enough killing already. Do not reveal your face."

My face will change, Remy thought. With what you've promised to pay me, I will become an entirely new man.Surgery could even change his fingerprints, the Teacher had told him. Soon he would be free - another unrecognizable, beautiful face soaking up the sun on the beach. "Understood," Remy said. "I will assist Silas from the shadows."

"For your own knowledge, Remy," the Teacher had told him," the tomb in question is not in the Temple Church. So have no fear. They are looking in the wrong place." Remy was stunned. "And you know where the tomb is?" "Of course. Later, I will tell you. For the moment, you must act quickly. If the others figure out the true location of the tomb and leave the church before you take the cryptex, we could lose the Grail forever."

Remy didn't give a damn about the Grail, except that the Teacher refused to pay him until it was found. Remy felt giddy every time he thought of the money he soon would have. One third oftwenty million euro.Plenty to disappear forever.Remy had pictured the beach towns on the Côte d'Azur, where he planned to live out his days basking in the sun and letting others serve him for a change.

Now, however, here in the Temple Church, with Langdon threatening to break the keystone, Remy's future was at risk. Unable to bear the thought of coming this close only to lose it all, Remy made the decision to take bold action. The gun in his hand was a concealable, small-caliber, J-frame Medusa, but it would be plenty deadly at close range.

Stepping from the shadows, Remy marched into the circular chamber and aimed the gun directly at Teabing's head. "Old man, I've been waiting a long time to do this."

Sir Leigh Teabing's heart practically stalled to see Remy aiming a gun at him. What is he doing! Teabing recognized the tiny Medusa revolver as his own, the one he kept locked in the limousine glove box for safety.

"Remy?" Teabing sputtered in shock. "What is going on?" Langdon and Sophie looked equally dumbstruck.

Remy circled behind Teabing and rammed the pistol barrel into his back, high and on the left, directly behind his heart.

Teabing felt his muscles seize with terror. "Remy, I don't - "

"I'll make it simple," Remy snapped, eyeing Langdon over Teabing's shoulder. "Set down the keystone, or I pull the trigger."

Langdon seemed momentarily paralyzed. "The keystone is worthless to you," he stammered. "You cannot possibly open it."

"Arrogant fools," Remy sneered. "Have you not noticed that I have been listening tonight as you discussed these poems? Everything I heard, I have shared with others. Others who know more than you. You are not even looking in the right place. The tomb you seek is in another location entirely!"

Teabing felt panicked. What is he saying!

"Why do you want the Grail?" Langdon demanded. "To destroy it? Before the End of Days?" Remy called to the monk. "Silas, take the keystone from Mr. Langdon." As the monk advanced, Langdon stepped back, raising the keystone high, looking fully prepared to hurl it at the floor.

"I would rather break it," Langdon said, "than see it in the wrong hands."

Teabing now felt a wave of horror. He could see his life's work evaporating before his eyes. All his dreams about to be shattered.

"Robert, no!" Teabing exclaimed. "Don't! That's the Grail you're holding! Remy would never shoot me. We've known each other for ten - "

Remy aimed at the ceiling and fired the Medusa. The blast was enormous for such a small weapon, the gunshot echoing like thunder inside the stone chamber. Everyone froze." I am not playing games," Remy said. "The next one is in his back. Hand the keystone to Silas."

Langdon reluctantly held out the cryptex. Silas stepped forward and took it, his red eyes gleaming with the self-satisfaction of vengeance. Slipping the keystone in the pocket of his robe, Silas backed off, still holding Langdon and Sophie at gunpoint.

Teabing felt Remy's arm clamp hard around his neck as the servant began backing out of the building, dragging Teabing with him, the gun still pressed in his back.

"Let him go," Langdon demanded.

"We're taking Mr. Teabing for a drive," Remy said, still backing up. "If you call the police, he will die. If you do anything to interfere, he will die. Is that clear?"

"Take me," Langdon demanded, his voice cracking with emotion. "Let Leigh go."

Remy laughed. "I don't think so. He and I have such a nice history. Besides, he still might prove useful."

Silas was backing up now, keeping Langdon and Sophie at gunpoint as Remy pulled Leigh toward the exit, his crutches dragging behind him.

Sophie's voice was unwavering. "Who are you working for?"

The question brought a smirk to the departing Remy's face. "You would be surprised, Mademoiselle Neveu."

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