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CHAPTER 94

St. James’s Park is a sea of green in the middle of London, a public park bordering the palaces of Westminster, Buckingham, and St. James’s. Once enclosed by King Henry VIII and stocked with deer for the hunt, St. James’s Park is now open to the public. On sunny afternoons, Londoners picnic beneath the willows and feed the pond’s resident pelicans, whose ancestors were a gift to Charles II from the Russian ambassador.

The Teacher saw no pelicans today. The stormy weather had brought instead seagulls from the ocean. The lawns were covered with them – hundreds of white bodies all facing the same direction, patiently riding out the damp wind. Despite the morning fog, the park afforded splendid views of the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. Gazing across the sloping lawns, past the duck pond and the delicate silhouettes of the weeping willows, the Teacher could see the spires of the building that housed the knight’s tomb – the real reason he had told Rémy to come to this spot.

As the Teacher approached the front passenger door of the parked limousine, Rémy leaned across and opened the door. The Teacher paused outside, taking a pull from the flask of cognac he was carrying. Then, dabbing his mouth, he slid in beside Rémy and closed the door.

Rémy held up the keystone like a trophy. «It was almost lost.» «You have done well,» the Teacher said.

« We have done well,» Rémy replied, laying the keystone in the Teacher’s eager hands. The Teacher admired it a long moment, smiling. «And the gun? You wiped it down?» «Back in the glove box where I found it.» «Excellent.» The Teacher took another drink of cognac and handed the flask to Rémy. «Let’s toast our success. The end is near.»

Rémy accepted the bottle gratefully. The cognac tasted salty, but Rémy didn’t care. He and the Teacher were truly partners now. He could feel himself ascending to a higher station in life. I will never be a servant again.As Rémy gazed down the embankment at the duck pond below, Château Villette seemed miles away.

Taking another swig from the flask, Rémy could feel the cognac warming his blood. The warmth in Rémy’s throat, however, mutated quickly to an uncomfortable heat. Loosening his bow tie, Rémy tasted an unpleasant grittiness and handed the flask back to the Teacher. «I’ve probably had enough,» he managed, weakly.

Taking the flask, the Teacher said,» Rémy, as you are aware, you are the only one who knows my face. I placed enormous trust in you.»

«Yes,» he said, feeling feverish as he loosened his tie further. «And your identity shall go with me to the grave.»

The Teacher was silent a long moment. «I believe you.» Pocketing the flask and the keystone, the Teacher reached for the glove box and pulled out the tiny Medusa revolver. For an instant, Rémy felt a surge of fear, but the Teacher simply slipped it in his trousers pocket.

What is he doing? Rémy felt himself sweating suddenly.

«I know I promised you freedom,» the Teacher said, his voice now sounding regretful. «But considering your circumstances, this is the best I can do.»

The swelling in Rémy’s throat came on like an earthquake, and he lurched against the steering column, grabbing his throat and tasting vomit in his narrowing esophagus. He let out a muted croak of a scream, not even loud enough to be heard outside the car. The saltiness in the cognac now registered.

I’m being murdered!

Incredulous, Rémy turned to see the Teacher sitting calmly beside him, staring straight ahead out the windshield. Rémy’s eyesight blurred, and he gasped for breath. I made everything possible for him! How could he do this! Whether the Teacher had intended to kill Rémy all along or whether it had been Rémy’s actions in the Temple Church that had made the Teacher lose faith, Rémy would never know. Terror and rage coursed through him now. Rémy tried to lunge for the Teacher, but his stiffening body could barely move. I trusted you with everything!

Rémy tried to lift his clenched fists to blow the horn, but instead he slipped sideways, rolling onto the seat, lying on his side beside the Teacher, clutching at his throat. The rain fell harder now. Rémy could no longer see, but he could sense his oxygen-deprived brain straining to cling to his last faint shreds of lucidity. As his world slowly went black, Rémy Legaludec could have sworn he heard the sounds of the soft Riviera surf.

The Teacher stepped from the limousine, pleased to see that nobody was looking in his direction. Ihad no choice, he told himself, surprised how little remorse he felt for what he had just done. Rémy sealed his own fate.The Teacher had feared all along that Rémy might need to be eliminated when the mission was complete, but by brazenly showing himself in the Temple Church, Rémy had accelerated the necessity dramatically. Robert Langdon’s unexpected visit to Château Villette had brought the Teacher both a fortuitous windfall and an intricate dilemma. Langdon had delivered the keystone directly to the heart of the operation, which was a pleasant surprise, and yet he had brought the police on his tail. Rémy’s prints were all over Château Villette, as well as in the barn’s listening post, where Rémy had carried out the surveillance. The Teacher was grateful he had taken so much care in preventing any ties between Rémy’s activities and his own. Nobody could implicate the Teacher unless Rémy talked, and that was no longer a concern.

One more loose end to tie up here , the Teacher thought, moving now toward the rear door of the limousine. The police will have no idea what happened…and no living witness left to tell them.Glancing around to ensure nobody was watching, he pulled open the door and climbed into the spacious rear compartment.

Minutes later, the Teacher was crossing St. James’s Park. Only two people now remain.Langdonand Neveu.They were more complicated. But manageable. At the moment, however, the Teacher had the cryptex to attend to.

Gazing triumphantly across the park, he could see his destination. In London lies a knight a Pope interred.As soon as the Teacher had heard the poem, he had known the answer. Even so, that the others had not figured it out was not surprising. I have an unfair advantage.Having listened to Saunière’s conversations for months now, the Teacher had heard the Grand Master mention this famous knight on occasion, expressing esteem almost matching that he held for Da Vinci. The poem’s reference to the knight was brutally simple once one saw it – a credit to Saunière’s wit – and yet how this tomb would reveal the final password was still a mystery.

You seek the orb that ought be on his tomb.

The Teacher vaguely recalled photos of the famous tomb and, in particular, its most distinguishing feature. A magnificent orb.The huge sphere mounted atop the tomb was almost as large as the tomb itself. The presence of the orb seemed both encouraging and troubling to the Teacher. On one hand, it felt like a signpost, and yet, according to the poem, the missing piece of the puzzle was an orb that ought to be on his tomb… not one that was already there. He was counting on his closer inspection of the tomb to unveil the answer.

The rain was getting heavier now, and he tucked the cryptex deep in his right-hand pocket to protect it from the dampness. He kept the tiny Medusa revolver in his left, out of sight. Within minutes, he was stepping into the quiet sanctuary of London’s grandest nine-hundred-year-old building.

Just as the Teacher was stepping out of the rain, Bishop Aringarosa was stepping into it. On the rainy tarmac at Biggin Hill Executive Airport, Aringarosa emerged from his cramped plane, bundling his cassock against the cold damp. He had hoped to be greeted by Captain Fache. Instead a young British police officer approached with an umbrella.

«Bishop Aringarosa? Captain Fache had to leave. He asked me to look after you. He suggested I take you to Scotland Yard. He thought it would be safest.»

Safest? Aringarosa looked down at the heavy briefcase of Vatican bonds clutched in his hand. He had almost forgotten. «Yes, thank you.»

Aringarosa climbed into the police car, wondering where Silas could be. Minutes later, the police scanner crackled with the answer.

5 Orme Court.

Aringarosa recognized the address instantly.

The Opus Dei Centre in London.

He spun to the driver. «Take me there at once!»

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