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CHAPTER 89

The immaculate cabin of Teabing’s Hawker was now covered with steel shavings and smelled of compressed air and propane. Bezu Fache had sent everyone away and sat alone with his drink and the heavy wooden box found in Teabing’s safe.

Running his finger across the inlaid Rose, he lifted the ornate lid. Inside he found a stone cylinder with lettered dials. The five dials were arranged to spell SOFIA. Fache stared at the word a long moment and then lifted the cylinder from its padded resting place and examined every inch. Then, pulling slowly on the ends, Fache slid off one of the end caps. The cylinder was empty.

Fache set it back in the box and gazed absently out the jet’s window at the hangar, pondering his brief conversation with Sophie, as well as the information he’d received from PTS in Château Villette. The sound of his phone shook him from his daydream.

It was the DCPJ switchboard. The dispatcher was apologetic. The president of the Depository Bank of Zurich had been calling repeatedly, and although he had been told several times that the captain was in London on business, he just kept calling. Begrudgingly Fache told the operator to forward the call.

«Monsieur Vernet,» Fache said, before the man could even speak,» I am sorry I did not call you earlier. I have been busy. As promised, the name of your bank has not appeared in the media. So what precisely is your concern?»

Vernet’s voice was anxious as he told Fache how Langdon and Sophie had extracted a small wooden box from the bank and then persuaded Vernet to help them escape. «Then when I heard on the radio that they were criminals,» Vernet said, «I pulled over and demanded the box back, but they attacked me and stole the truck.»

«You are concerned for a wooden box,» Fache said, eyeing the Rose inlay on the cover and again gently opening the lid to reveal the white cylinder. «Can you tell me what was in the box?»

«The contents are immaterial,» Vernet fired back. «I am concerned with the reputation of my bank. We have never had a robbery. Ever.It will ruin us if I cannot recover this property on behalf of my client.»

«You said Agent Neveu and Robert Langdon had a password and a key. What makes you say they stole the box?»

«They murdered people tonight. Including Sophie Neveu’s grandfather. The key and password were obviously ill-gotten.»

«Mr. Vernet, my men have done some checking into your background and your interests. You are obviously a man of great culture and refinement. I would imagine you are a man of honor, as well. As am I. That said, I give you my word as commanding officer of the Police Judiciaire that your box, along with your bank’s reputation, are in the safest of hands.»

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