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“Yes, signore. It is highly unlikely that an intruder gained access to the inner zones of Vatican City. The fact that the missing security camera was stolen from a public access area—a stairwell in one of the museums—clearly implies that the intruder had limited access. Therefore he would only have been able to relocate the camera and antimatter in another public access area. It is these areas on which we are focusing our search.”
“But the intruder kidnapped four cardinals. That certainly implies deeper infiltration than we thought.”
“Not necessarily. We must remember that the cardinals spent much of today in the Vatican museums and St. Peter’s Basilica, enjoying those areas without the crowds. It is probable that the missing cardinals were taken in one of these areas.”
“But how were they removed from our walls?”
“We are still assessing that.”
“I see.” The camerlegno exhaled and stood up. He walked over to Olivetti. “Commander, I would like to hear your contingency plan for evacuation.”
“We are still formalizing that, signore. In the meantime, I am faithful Captain Rocher will find the canister.”
Rocher clicked his boots as if in appreciation of the vote of confidence. “My men have already scanned two-thirds of the white zones. Confidence is high.”
The camerlegno did not appear to share that confidence.
At that moment the guard with a scar beneath one eye came through the door carrying a clipboard and a map. He strode toward Langdon. “Mr. Langdon? I have the information you requested on the West Ponente.”
Langdon swallowed his scone. “Good. Let’s have a look.”
The others kept talking while Vittoria joined Robert and the guard as they spread out the map on the Pope’s desk.
The soldier pointed to St. Peter’s Square. “This is where we are. The central line of West Ponente’s breath points due east, directly away from Vatican City.” The guard traced a line with his finger from St. Peter’s Square across the Tiber River and up into the heart of old Rome. “As you can see, the line passes through almost all of Rome. There are about twenty Catholic churches that fall near this line.”
Langdon slumped. “Twenty?”
“Do any of the churches fall directly on the line?”
“Some look closer than others,” the guard said, “but translating the exact bearing of the West Ponente onto a map leaves margin for error.”
Langdon looked out at St. Peter’s Square a moment. Then he scowled, stroking his chin. “How about fire? Any of them have Bernini artwork that has to do with fire?”
“How about obelisks?” he demanded. “Are any of the churches located near obelisks?”
The guard began checking the map.
Vittoria saw a glimmer of hope in Langdon’s eyes and realized what he was thinking. He’s right! The first two markers had been located on or near piazzas that contained obelisks! Maybe obelisks were a theme? Soaring pyramids marking the Illuminati path? The more Vittoria thought about it, the more perfect it seemed… four towering beacons rising over Rome to mark the altars of science.
“It’s a long shot,” Langdon said, “but I know that many of Rome’s obelisks were erected or moved during Bernini’s reign. He was no doubt involved in their placement.”
“Or,” Vittoria added, “Bernini could have placed his markers near existing obelisks.”
Langdon nodded. “True.”
“Bad news,” the guard said. “No obelisks on the line.” He traced his finger across the map. “None even remotely close. Nothing.”
Vittoria’s shoulders slumped. She’d thought it was a promising idea. Apparently, this was not going to be as easy as they’d hoped. She tried to stay positive. “Robert, think. You must know of a Bernini statue relating to fire. Anything at all.”
“Believe me, I’ve been thinking. Bernini was incredibly prolific. Hundreds of works. I was hoping West Ponente would point to a single church. Something that would ring a bell.”
“Fuòco,” she pressed. “Fire. No Bernini titles jump out?”
Langdon shrugged. “There’s his famous sketches of Fireworks, but they’re not sculpture, and they’re in Leipzig, Germany.”
Vittoria frowned. “And you’re sure the breath is what indicates the direction?”
“You saw the relief, Vittoria. The design was totally symmetrical. The only indication of bearing was the breath.”
Vittoria knew he was right.
“Not to mention,” he added, “because the West Ponente signifies Air, following the breath seems symbolically appropriate.”
Vittoria nodded. So we follow the breath. But where?
Olivetti came over. “What have you got?”
“Too many churches,” the soldier said. “Two dozen or so. I suppose we could put four men on each church—”
“Forget it,” Olivetti said. “We missed this guy twice when we knew exactly where he was going to be. A mass stakeout means leaving Vatican City unprotected and canceling the search.”
“We need a reference book,” Vittoria said. “An index of Bernini’s work. If we can scan titles, maybe something will jump out.”
“I don’t know,” Langdon said. “If it’s a work Bernini created specifically for the Illuminati, it may be very obscure. It probably won’t be listed in a book.”
Vittoria refused to believe it. “The other two sculptures were fairly well-known. You’d heard of them both.”
Langdon shrugged. “Yeah.”
“If we scan titles for references to the word ‘fire,’ maybe we’ll find a statue that’s listed as being in the right direction.”
Langdon seemed convinced it was worth a shot. He turned to Olivetti. “I need a list of all Bernini’s work. You guys probably don’t have a coffee-table Bernini book around here, do you?”
“Coffee-table book?” Olivetti seemed unfamiliar with the term.
“Never mind. Any list. How about the Vatican Museum? They must have Bernini references.”
The guard with the scar frowned. “Power in the museum is out, and the records room is enormous. Without the staff there to help—”
“The Bernini work in question,” Olivetti interrupted. “Would it have been created while Bernini was employed here at the Vatican?”
“Almost definitely,” Langdon said. “He was here almost his entire career. And certainly during the time period of the Galileo conflict.”
Olivetti nodded. “Then there’s another reference.”
Vittoria felt a flicker of optimism. “Where?”
The commander did not reply. He took his guard aside and spoke in hushed tones. The guard seemed uncertain but nodded obediently. When Olivetti was finished talking, the guard turned to Langdon.
“This way please, Mr. Langdon. It’s nine-fifteen. We’ll have to hurry.”
Langdon and the guard headed for the door.
Vittoria started after them. “I’ll help.”
Olivetti caught her by the arm. “No, Ms. Vetra. I need a word with you.” His grasp was authoritative.
Langdon and the guard left. Olivetti’s face was wooden as he took Vittoria aside. But whatever it was Olivetti had intended to say to her, he never got the chance. His walkie-talkie crackled loudly. “Commandante?”
Everyone in the room turned.
The voice on the transmitter was grim. “I think you better turn on the television.”
When Langdon had left the Vatican Secret Archives only two hours ago, he had never imagined he would see them again. Now, winded from having jogged the entire way with his Swiss Guard escort, Langdon found himself back at the archives once again.
His escort, the guard with the scar, now led Langdon through the rows of translucent cubicles. The silence of the archives felt somehow more forbidding now, and Langdon was thankful when the guard broke it.
“Over here, I think,” he said, escorting Langdon to the back of the chamber where a series of smaller vaults lined the wall. The guard scanned the titles on the vaults and motioned to one of them. “Yes, here it is. Right where the commander said it would be.”
Langdon read the title. Attivi Vaticani. Vatican assets? He scanned the list of contents. Real estate… currency… Vatican Bank… antiquities… The list went on.
“Paperwork of all Vatican assets,” the guard said.
Langdon looked at the cubicle. Jesus. Even in the dark, he could tell it was packed.
“My commander said that whatever Bernini created while under Vatican patronage would be listed here as an asset.”
Langdon nodded, realizing the commander’s instincts just might pay off. In Bernini’s day, everything an artist created while under the patronage of the Pope became, by law, property of the Vatican. It was more like feudalism than patronage, but top artists lived well and seldom complained. “Including works placed in churches outside Vatican City?”
The soldier gave him an odd look. “Of course. All Catholic churches in Rome are property of the Vatican.”
Langdon looked at the list in his hand. It contained the names of the twenty or so churches that were located on a direct line with West Ponente’s breath. The third altar of science was one of them, and Langdon hoped he had time to figure out which it was. Under other circumstances, he would gladly have explored each church in person. Today, however, he had about twenty minutes to find what he was looking for—the one church containing a Bernini tribute to fire.
Langdon walked to the vault’s electronic revolving door. The guard did not follow. Langdon sensed an uncertain hesitation. He smiled. “The air’s fine. Thin, but breathable.”
“My orders are to escort you here and then return immediately to the security center.”
“Yes. The Swiss Guard are not allowed inside the archives. I am breaching protocol by escorting you this far. The commander reminded me of that.”
“Breaching protocol?” Do you have any idea what is going on here tonight? “Whose side is your damn commander on!”
All friendliness disappeared from the guard’s face. The scar under his eye twitched. The guard stared, looking suddenly a lot like Olivetti himself.
“I apologize,” Langdon said, regretting the comment. “It’s just… I could use some help.”
The guard did not blink. “I am trained to follow orders. Not debate them. When you find what you are looking for, contact the commander immediately.”
Langdon was flustered. “But where will he be?”
The guard removed his walkie-talkie and set it on a nearby table. “Channel one.” Then he disappeared into the dark.
The television in the Office of the Pope was an oversized Hitachi hidden in a recessed cabinet opposite his desk. The doors to the cabinet were now open, and everyone gathered around. Vittoria moved in close. As the screen warmed up, a young female reporter came into view. She was a doe-eyed brunette.
“For MSNBC news,” she announced, “this is Kelly Horan-Jones, live from Vatican City.” The image behind her was a night shot of St. Peter’s Basilica with all its lights blazing.
“You’re not live,” Rocher snapped. “That’s stock footage! The lights in the basilica are out.”
Olivetti silenced him with a hiss.
The reporter continued, sounding tense. “Shocking developments in the Vatican elections this evening. We have reports that two members of the College of Cardinals have been brutally murdered in Rome.”
Olivetti swore under his breath.
As the reporter continued, a guard appeared at the door, breathless. “Commander, the central switchboard reports every line lit. They’re requesting our official position on—”
“Disconnect it,” Olivetti said, never taking his eyes from the TV.
The guard looked uncertain. “But, commander—”
The guard ran off.
Vittoria sensed the camerlegno had wanted to say something but had stopped himself. Instead, the man stared long and hard at Olivetti before turning back to the television.
MSNBC was now running tape. The Swiss Guards carried the body of Cardinal Ebner down the stairs outside Santa Maria del Popolo and lifted him into an Alpha Romeo. The tape froze and zoomed in as the cardinal’s naked body became visible just before they deposited him in the trunk of the car.
“Who the hell shot this footage?” Olivetti demanded.
The MSNBC reporter kept talking. “This is believed to be the body of Cardinal Ebner of Frankfurt, Germany. The men removing his body from the church are believed to be Vatican Swiss Guard.” The reporter looked like she was making every effort to appear appropriately moved. They closed in on her face, and she became even more somber. “At this time, MSNBC would like to issue our viewers a discretionary warning. The images we are about to show are exceptionally vivid and may not be suitable for all audiences.”
Vittoria grunted at the station’s feigned concern for viewer sensibility, recognizing the warning as exactly what it was—the ultimate media “teaser line.” Nobody ever changed channels after a promise like that.
The reporter drove it home. “Again, this footage may be shocking to some viewers.”
“What footage?” Olivetti demanded. “You just showed—”
The shot that filled the screen was of a couple in St. Peter’s Square, moving through the crowd. Vittoria instantly recognized the two people as Robert and herself. In the corner of the screen was a text overlay: Courtesy of the BBC. A bell was tolling.
“Oh, no,” Vittoria said aloud. “Oh… no.”
The camerlegno looked confused. He turned to Olivetti. “I thought you said you confiscated this tape!”
Suddenly, on television, a child was screaming. The image panned to find a little girl pointing at what appeared to be a bloody homeless man. Robert Langdon entered abruptly into the frame, trying to help the little girl. The shot tightened.
Everyone in the Pope’s office stared in horrified silence as the drama unfolded before them. The cardinal’s body fell face first onto the pavement. Vittoria appeared and called orders. There was blood. A brand. A ghastly, failed attempt to administer CPR.
“This astonishing footage,” the reporter was saying, “was shot only minutes ago outside the Vatican. Our sources tell us this is the body of Cardinal Lamassé from France. How he came to be dressed this way and why he was not in conclave remain a mystery. So far, the Vatican has refused to comment.” The tape began to roll again.
“Refused comment?” Rocher said. “Give us a damn minute!”
The reporter was still talking, her eyebrows furrowing with intensity. “Although MSNBC has yet to confirm a motive for the attack, our sources tell us that responsibility for the murders has been claimed by a group calling themselves the Illuminati.”
Olivetti exploded. “What!”
“… find out more about the Illuminati by visiting our website at—”
“Non é posibile!” Olivetti declared. He switched channels.
This station had a Hispanic male reporter. “—a satanic cult known as the Illuminati, who some historians believe—”
Olivetti began pressing the remote wildly. Every channel was in the middle of a live update. Most were in English.
“—Swiss Guards removing a body from a church earlier this evening. The body is believed to be that of Cardinal—”
“—lights in the basilica and museums are extinguished leaving speculation—”
“—will be speaking with conspiracy theorist Tyler Tingley, about this shocking resurgence—”
“—rumors of two more assassinations planned for later this evening—”
“—questioning now whether papal hopeful Cardinal Baggia is among the missing—”
Vittoria turned away. Everything was happening so fast. Outside the window, in the settling dark, the raw magnetism of human tragedy seemed to be sucking people toward Vatican City. The crowd in the square thickened almost by the instant. Pedestrians streamed toward them while a new batch of media personnel unloaded vans and staked their claim in St. Peter’s Square.
Olivetti set down the remote control and turned to the camerlegno. “Signore, I cannot imagine how this could happen. We took the tape that was in that camera!”
The camerlegno looked momentarily too stunned to speak.
Nobody said a word. The Swiss Guards stood rigid at attention.
“It appears,” the camerlegno said finally, sounding too devastated to be angry, “that we have not contained this crisis as well as I was led to believe.” He looked out the window at the gathering masses. “I need to make an address.”