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CHAPTER 25

The U. S. Embassy in Paris is a compact complex on Avenue Gabriel, just north of the Champs-Elysées. The three-acre compound is considered U. S. soil, meaning all those who stand on it are subject to the same laws and protections as they would encounter standing in the United States.

The embassy’s night operator was reading Time magazine’s International Edition when the sound of her phone interrupted.

«U. S. Embassy,» she answered.

«Good evening.» The caller spoke English accented with French. «I need some assistance.» Despite the politeness of the man’s words, his tone sounded gruff and official. «I was told you had a phone message for me on your automated system. The name is Langdon. Unfortunately, I have forgotten my three-digit access code. If you could help me, I would be most grateful.»

The operator paused, confused. «I’m sorry, sir. Your message must be quite old. That system was removed two years ago for security precautions. Moreover, all the access codes were five-digit. Who told you we had a message for you?» «You have no automated phone system?» «No, sir. Any message for you would be handwritten in our services department. What was your name again?»

But the man had hung up.

Bezu Fache felt dumbstruck as he paced the banks of the Seine. He was certain he had seen Langdon dial a local number, enter a three-digit code, and then listen to a recording. But if Langdon didn’t phone the embassy, then who the hell did he call?

It was at that moment, eyeing his cellular phone, that Fache realized the answers were in the palm of his hand. Langdon used my phone to place that call.

Keying into the cell phone’s menu, Fache pulled up the list of recently dialed numbers and found the call Langdon had placed.

A Paris exchange, followed by the three-digit code 454.

Redialing the phone number, Fache waited as the line began ringing.

Finally a woman’s voice answered. «Bonjour, vous êtes bien chez Sophie Neveu,» the recording announced. «Je suis absente pour le moment, mais…»

Fache’s blood was boiling as he typed the numbers 4… 5… 4.

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