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Unfortunately, Langdon had yet to see a single book of poems.
The shelves in the final section were deeper than the rest and appeared to hold Edmond’s collection of large-format art books. As Langdon hurried along the wall, scanning the titles, he saw books that reflected Edmond’s passion for the hippest and newest in contemporary art.
SERRA … KOONS … HIRST … BRUGUERA … BASQUIAT … BANKSY … ABRAMOVIC …
The collection stopped abruptly at a series of smaller volumes, and Langdon paused in hopes of finding a book on poetry.
The books here were commentaries and critiques of abstract art, and Langdon spotted a few titles that Edmond had sent for him to peruse.
WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING AT?
WHY YOUR FIVE-YEAR-OLD COULD NOT HAVE DONE THAT
HOW TO SURVIVE MODERN ART
I’m still trying to survive it, Langdon thought, quickly moving on. He stepped around another rib and started sifting through the next section.
Modern art books, he mused. Even at a glance, Langdon could see that this group was dedicated to an earlier period. At least we’re moving back in time … toward art I understand.
Langdon’s eyes moved quickly along the book spines, taking in biographies and catalogues raisonnes of the Impressionists, Cubists, and Surrealists who had stunned the world between 1870 and 1960 by entirely redefining art.
VAN GOGH … SEURAT … PICASSO … MUNCH … MATISSE … MAGRITTE … KLIMT … KANDINSKY … JOHNS … HOCKNEY … GAUGUIN … DUCHAMP … DEGAS … CHAGALL … CEZANNE … CASSATT … BRAQUE … ARP … ALBERS …
This section terminated at one last architectural rib, and Langdon moved past it, finding himself in the final section of the library. The volumes here appeared to be dedicated to the group of artists that Edmond, in Langdon’s presence, liked to call “the school of boring dead white guys”–essentially, anything predating the modernist movement of the mid-nineteenth century.
Unlike Edmond, it was here that Langdon felt most at home, surrounded by the Old Masters.
VERMEER … VELAZQUEZ … TITIAN … TINTORETTO … RUBENS … REMBRANDT … RAPHAEL … POUSSIN … MICHELANGELO … LIPPI … GOYA … GIOTTO … GHIRLANDAIO … EL GRECO … DURER … DA VINCI … COROT … CARAVAGGIO … BOTTICELLI … BOSCH …
The last few feet of the final shelf were dominated by a large glass cabinet, sealed with a heavy lock. Langdon peered through the glass and saw an ancient-looking leather box inside–a protective casing for a massive antique book. The text on the outside of the box was barely legible, but Langdon could see enough to decrypt the title of the volume inside.
My God, he thought, now realizing why this book had been locked away from the hands of visitors. It’s probably worth a fortune.
Langdon knew there were precious few early editions of this legendary artist’s work in existence.
I’m not surprised Edmond invested in this, he thought, recalling that Edmond had once referred to this British artist as “the only premodern with any imagination.” Langdon disagreed, but he could certainly understand Edmond’s special affection for this artist. They are both cut from the same cloth.
Langdon crouched down and peered through the glass at the box’s gilded engraving: The Complete Works of William Blake.
William Blake, Langdon mused. The Edmond Kirsch of the eighteen hundreds.
Blake had been an idiosyncratic genius–a prolific luminary whose painting style was so progressive that some believed he had magically glimpsed the future in his dreams. His symbol-infused religious illustrations depicted angels, demons, Satan, God, mythical creatures, biblical themes, and a pantheon of deities from his own spiritual hallucinations.
And just like Kirsch, Blake loved to challenge Christianity.
The thought caused Langdon to stand up abruptly.
He drew a startled breath.
Finding Blake among so many other visual artists had caused Langdon to forget one crucial fact about the mystical genius.
Blake was not only an artist and illustrator …
Blake was a prolific poet.
For an instant, Langdon felt his heart begin to race. Much of Blake’s poetry espoused revolutionary ideas that meshed perfectly with Edmond’s views. In fact, some of Blake’s most widely known aphorisms–those in “satanic” works like The Marriage of Heaven and Hell–could almost have been written by Edmond himself.
ALL RELIGIONS ARE ONE
THERE IS NO NATURAL RELIGION
Langdon now recalled Edmond’s description of his favorite line of poetry. He told Ambra it was a “prophecy.” Langdon knew of no poet in history who could be considered more of a prophet than William Blake, who, in the 1790s, had penned two dark and ominous poems:
AMERICA A PROPHECY
EUROPE A PROPHECY
Langdon owned both works–elegant reproductions of Blake’s handwritten poems and accompanying illustrations.
Langdon peered at the large leather box inside the cabinet.
The original editions of Blake’s “prophecies” would have been published as large-format illuminated texts!
With a surge of hope, Langdon crouched down in front of the cabinet, sensing the leather box might very well contain what he and Ambra had come here to find–a poem that contained a prophetic forty-seven-character line. The only question now was whether Edmond had somehow marked his favorite passage.
Langdon reached out and pulled the cabinet handle.
He glanced toward the spiral staircase, wondering whether he should simply dash upstairs and ask Winston to run a search on all of William Blake’s poetry. The sound of sirens had been replaced by the distant thrum of helicopter blades and voices yelling in the stairwell outside Edmond’s door.
Langdon eyed the cabinet and noted the faint greenish tint of modern museum-grade UV glass.
He whipped off his jacket, held it over the glass, turned his body, and without hesitation, rammed his elbow into the pane. With a muffled crunch, the cabinet door shattered. Carefully, Langdon reached through the jagged shards, unlocking the door. Then he swung the door open and gently lifted out the leather box.
Even before Langdon set the box on the floor, he could tell that something was wrong. It’s not heavy enough. Blake’s complete works seemed to weigh almost nothing.
Langdon set down the box and carefully raised the lid.
Just as he feared … empty.
He exhaled, staring into the vacant container. Where the hell is Edmond’s book?!
He was about to close the box when Langdon noticed something unexpected taped to the inside of the lid–an elegantly embossed ivory note card.
Langdon read the text on the card.
Then, in utter disbelief, he read it again.
Seconds later, he was racing up the spiral staircase toward the roof.
At that instant, on the second floor of Madrid’s Royal Palace, director of electronic security Suresh Bhalla was moving quietly through Prince Julian’s private apartment. After locating the digital wall safe, he entered the master override code that was kept for emergencies.
The safe popped open.
Inside, Suresh saw two phones–a secure palace-issued smartphone that belonged to Prince Julian and an iPhone that, he deduced, in all likelihood was the property of Bishop Valdespino.
He grabbed the iPhone.
Am I really doing this?
Again he pictured the message from firstname.lastname@example.org.
i hacked valdespino’s texts.
he has dangerous secrets.
the palace should access his sms records.
Suresh wondered what secrets the bishop’s texts could possibly reveal … and why the informant had decided to give the Royal Palace a heads-up.
Perhaps the informant is trying to protect the palace from collateral damage?
All Suresh knew was that if there was information that was of danger to the royal family, it was his job to access it.
He had already considered obtaining an emergency subpoena, but the PR risks and the delay made it impractical. Fortunately, Suresh had far more discreet and expedient methods at his disposal.
Holding Valdespino’s phone, he pressed the home button and the screen lit up.
Locked with a password.
“Hey, Siri,” Suresh said, holding the phone to his mouth. “What time is it?”
Still in locked mode, the phone displayed a clock. On this clock screen, Suresh ran through a series of simple commands–creating a new time zone for the clock, asking to share the time zone via SMS, adding a photo, and then, rather than trying to send the text, hitting the home button.
The phone unlocked.
This simple hack compliments of YouTube, Suresh thought, amused that iPhone users believed their password offered them any privacy at all.
Now, with full access to Valdespino’s phone, Suresh opened the iMessage app, fully anticipating that he would have to restore Valdespino’s deleted texts by tricking the iCloud backup into rebuilding the catalog.
Sure enough, he found the bishop’s text history entirely empty.
Except for one message, he realized, seeing a lone inbound text that had arrived a couple of hours ago from a blocked number.
Suresh clicked open the text and read the three-line message. For a moment, he thought he was hallucinating.
This can’t be true!
Suresh read the message again. The text was absolute proof of Valdespino’s involvement in acts of unthinkable treachery and deceit.
Not to mention arrogance, Suresh thought, stunned that the old cleric would feel so invulnerable as to communicate a message like this electronically.
If this text goes public …
Suresh shuddered at the possibility and immediately ran downstairs to find Monica Martin.
AS THE EC145 helicopter streaked in low over the city, Agent Diaz stared down at the sprawl of lights beneath him. Despite the late hour, he could see the flicker of televisions and computers in the majority of apartment windows, painting the city with a faint blue haze.
The whole world is watching.
It made him nervous. He could feel this night spiraling wildly out of control, and he feared this growing crisis was headed for a disturbing conclusion.
In front of him, Agent Fonseca shouted and pointed into the distance directly ahead. Diaz nodded, spotting their target at once.
Hard to miss.
Even from a distance, the pulsating cluster of spinning blue police lights was unmistakable.
God help us.
Just as Diaz had feared, Casa Mila was overrun by local police cars. The Barcelona authorities had responded to an anonymous tip on the heels of Monica Martin’s press announcement from the Royal Palace.
Robert Langdon has kidnapped the future queen of Spain.
The palace needs the public’s help in finding them.
A blatant lie, Diaz knew. With my own eyes I saw them leave the Guggenheim together.
While Martin’s ploy had been effective, it had set in motion an incredibly dangerous game. Creating a public manhunt by involving local authorities was perilous–not just for Robert Langdon, but for the future queen, who now had a very good chance of being caught in the cross fire of a bunch of amateur local cops. If the palace’s goal was to keep the future queen safe, this was definitely not the way to do it.
Commander Garza would never have permitted this situation to escalate so far.
Garza’s arrest remained a mystery to Diaz, who had no doubt that the charges against his commander were just as fictitious as those against Langdon.
Nonetheless, Fonseca had taken the call and received his orders.
Orders from above Garza’s head.
As the helicopter neared Casa Mila, Agent Diaz surveyed the scene below and realized there would be no safe place to land. The broad avenue and corner plaza in front of the building were packed with media trucks, police cars, and crowds of onlookers.
Diaz looked down at the building’s famous rooftop–an undulating figure eight of sloping pathways and staircases that wound above the building and provided visitors with breathtaking views of the Barcelona skyline … as well as views down into the building’s two gaping light wells, each of which dropped nine stories to interior courtyards.
No landing there.
In addition to the heaving hills and valleys of the terrain, the roof deck was protected by towering Gaudi chimneys that resembled futuristic chess pieces–helmeted sentinels that allegedly had so impressed film-maker George Lucas that he’d used them as models for his menacing storm troopers in Star Wars.
Diaz glanced away to scan the neighboring buildings for possible landing sites, but his gaze suddenly stopped on an unexpected vision atop Casa Mila.
A small figure stood among the huge statues.
Poised at a railing near the edge of the roof, the person was dressed in white, starkly illuminated by the upward-facing media lights in the plaza below. For an instant, the vision reminded Diaz of seeing the pope on his balcony over St. Peter’s Square, addressing his followers.
But this was not the pope.
This was a beautiful woman in a very familiar white dress.
Ambra Vidal could see nothing through the glare of the media lights, but she could hear a helicopter closing in and knew time was running out. Desperately, she leaned out over the railing and attempted to shout to the swarm of media people below.
Her words vanished into the deafening roar of helicopter rotors.
Winston had predicted that the television crews on the street would direct their cameras upward the instant Ambra was spotted on the edge of the roof. Indeed, that was exactly what had happened, and yet Ambra knew Winston’s plan had failed.
They can’t hear a word I’m saying!
The rooftop of Casa Mila stood too high over the blaring traffic and chaos below. And now the thrum of the helicopter threatened to drown out everything entirely.
“I have not been kidnapped!” Ambra yelled once again, mustering as much volume as she could. “The statement from the Royal Palace about Robert Langdon was inaccurate! I am not a hostage!”
You are the future queen of Spain, Winston had reminded her moments earlier. If you call off this manhunt, the authorities will stop dead in their tracks. Your statement will create utter confusion. Nobody will know which orders to follow.
Ambra knew Winston was right, but her words had been lost in the rotor wash above the boisterous crowd.
Suddenly the sky erupted in a thunderous howl. Ambra recoiled back from the railing as the helicopter swooped closer and halted abruptly, hovering directly in front of her. The fuselage doors were wide open, and two familiar faces stared intently out at her–Agents Fonseca and Diaz.
To Ambra’s horror, Agent Fonseca raised some kind of device, which he aimed directly at her head. For a moment, the strangest of thoughts raced through her mind. Julian wants me dead. I am a barren woman. I cannot give him an heir. Killing me is his only escape from this engagement.
Ambra staggered back, away from the threatening-looking device, clutching Edmond’s cell phone in one hand and reaching out for balance with the other. But as she placed her foot behind her, the ground seemed to disappear. For an instant, she felt only empty space where she had expected solid cement. Her body twisted as she tried to regain her balance, but she felt herself pitching sidelong down a short flight of stairs.
Her left elbow smashed into the cement, and the rest of her crashed down an instant later. Even so, Ambra Vidal felt no pain. Her entire focus shifted to the object that had flown out of her hand–Edmond’s oversized turquoise cell phone.
My God, no!
She watched with dread as the phone skittered across the cement, bouncing down the stairs toward the edge of the nine-story drop to the building’s inner courtyard. She lunged for the phone, but it disappeared under the protective fencing, tumbling into the abyss.
Our connection to Winston …!
Ambra scrambled after it, arriving at the fence just in time to see Edmond’s phone tumbling end over end toward the lobby’s elegant stone floor, where, with a sharp crack, it exploded in a shower of shimmering glass and metal.
In an instant, Winston was gone.
Bounding up the steps, Langdon burst out of the stairwell turret onto the Casa Mila roof deck. He found himself in the middle of a deafening maelstrom. A helicopter was hovering very low beside the building, and Ambra was nowhere to be seen.
Dazed, Langdon scanned the area. Where is she? He had forgotten how bizarre this rooftop was–lopsided parapets … steep staircases … cement soldiers … bottomless pits.
When he spotted her, he felt a surge of dread. Ambra Vidal was lying crumpled on the cement at the edge of the light well.
As Langdon raced up and over a rise toward her, the sharp zing of a bullet whipped past his head and exploded in the cement behind him.
Jesus! Langdon dropped to his knees and scrambled toward lower ground as two more bullets sailed over his head. For a moment, he thought the shots were coming from the helicopter, but as he clambered toward Ambra, he saw a swarm of police flooding out of another turret on the far side of the rooftop with their guns drawn.
They want to kill me, he realized. They think I kidnapped the future queen! Her rooftop announcement apparently had gone unheard.
As Langdon looked toward Ambra, now only ten yards away, he realized to his horror that her arm was bleeding. My God, she’s been shot! Another bullet sailed over his head as Ambra began clawing at the railing that encircled the drop-off to the inner courtyard. She struggled to pull herself up.
“Stay down!” Langdon shouted, scrambling to Ambra and crouching protectively over her body. He looked up at the towering, helmeted storm-trooper figures that dotted the rooftop’s perimeter like silent guardians.
There was a deafening roar overhead, and buffeting winds whipped around them as the helicopter dropped down and hovered over the enormous shaft beside them, cutting off the police’s line of sight.
“!Dejen de disparar!” boomed an amplified voice from the chopper. “!Enfunden las armas!” Stop shooting! Holster your weapons!
Directly in front of Langdon and Ambra, Agent Diaz was crouched in the open bay door with one foot balanced on the skid and one hand outstretched toward them.
“Get in!” he shouted.