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CHAPTER 36

Outside the Salle des Etats, Bezu Fache was fuming as Louvre warden Grouard explained how Sophie and Langdon had disarmed him. Why didn’t you just shoot the blessed painting!

«Captain?» Lieutenant Collet loped toward them from the direction of the command post. «Captain, I just heard. They located Agent Neveu’s car.» «Did she make the embassyThe Da Vinci Code – CHAPTER 36?» «No. Train station. Bought two tickets. Train just left.»

Fache waved off warden Grouard and led Collet to a nearby alcove, addressing him in hushed tones. «What was the destination?»

«Lyon.»

«Probably a decoy.» Fache exhaled, formulating a plan. «Okay, alert the next station, have the train stopped and searched, just in case. Leave her car where it is and put plainclothes on watch in case they try to come back to it. Send men to search the streets around the station in case they fled on foot. Are buses running from the station?»

«Not at this hour, sir. Only the taxi queue.»

«Good. Question the drivers. See if they saw anything. Then contact the taxi company dispatcher with descriptions. I’m calling Interpol.»

Collet looked surprised. «You’re putting this on the wire?»

Fache regretted the potential embarrassment, but he saw no other choice.

Close the net fast, and close it tight.

The first hour was critical. Fugitives were predictable the first hour after escape. They always needed the same thing. Travel.Lodging.Cash.The Holy Trinity. Interpol had the power to make all three disappear in the blink of an eye. By broadcast-faxing photos of Langdon and Sophie to Paris travel authorities, hotels, and banks, Interpol would leave no options – no way to leave the city, no place to hide, and no way to withdraw cash without being recognized. Usually, fugitives panicked on the street and did something stupid. Stole a car. Robbed a store. Used a bank card in desperation. Whatever mistake they committed, they quickly made their whereabouts known to local authorities.

«Only Langdon, right?» Collet said. «You’re not flagging Sophie Neveu. She’s our own agent.»

«Of course I’m flagging her!» Fache snapped. «What good is flagging Langdon if she can do all his dirty work? I plan to run Neveu’s employment file – friends, family, personal contacts – anyone she might turn to for help. I don’t know what she thinks she’s doing out there, but it’s going to cost her one hell of a lot more than her job!»

«Do you want me on the phones or in the field?»

«Field. Get over to the train station and coordinate the team. You’ve got the reins, but don’t make a move without talking to me.»

«Yes, sir.» Collet ran out.

Fache felt rigid as he stood in the alcove. Outside the window, the glass pyramid shone, its reflection rippling in the windswept pools. They slipped through my fingers.He told himself to relax.

Even a trained field agent would be lucky to withstand the pressure that Interpol was about to apply.

A female cryptologist and a schoolteacher?

They wouldn’t last till dawn.

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