The da vinci code, p.1
The Da Vinci Code, page 1part #2 of Robert Langdon Series
The Da Vinci Code
The Da Vinci Code
FOR BLYTHE… AGAIN. MORE THAN EVER.
First and foremost, to my friend and editor, Jason Kaufman, for working so hard on this project and for truly understanding what this book is all about. And to the incomparable Heide Lange – tireless champion of The Da Vinci Code, agent extraordinaire, and trusted friend.
I cannot fully express my gratitude to the exceptional team at Doubleday, for their generosity, faith, and superb guidance. Thank you especially to Bill Thomas and Steve Rubin, who believed in this book from the start. My thanks also to the initial core of early in-house supporters, headed by Michael Palgon, Suzanne Herz, Janelle Moburg, Jackie Everly, and Adrienne Sparks, as well as to the talented people of Doubleday’s sales force.
For their generous assistance in the research of the book, I would like to acknowledge the Louvre Museum, the French Ministry of Culture, Project Gutenberg, Bibliothèque Nationale, the Gnostic Society Library, the Department of Paintings Study and Documentation Service at the Louvre, Catholic World News, Royal Observatory Greenwich, London Record Society, the Muniment Collection at Westminster Abbey, John Pike and the Federation of American Scientists, and the five members of Opus Dei (three active, two former) who recounted their stories, both positive and negative, regarding their experiences inside Opus Dei.
My gratitude also to Water Street Bookstore for tracking down so many of my research books, my father Richard Brown – mathematics teacher and author – for his assistance with the Divine Proportion and the Fibonacci Sequence, Stan Planton, Sylvie Baudeloque, Peter McGuigan, Francis McInerney, Margie Wachtel, André Vernet, Ken Kelleher at Anchorball Web Media, Cara Sottak, Karyn Popham, Esther Sung, Miriam Abramowitz, William Tunstall-Pedoe, and Griffin Wooden Brown.
And finally, in a novel drawing so heavily on the sacred feminine, I would be remiss if I did not mention the two extraordinary women who have touched my life. First, my mother, Connie Brown – fellow scribe, nurturer, musician, and role model. And my wife, Blythe – art historian, painter, front-line editor, and without a doubt the most astonishingly talented woman I have ever known.
The Priory of Sion – a European secret society founded in 1099 – is a real organization. In 1975 Paris’s Bibliothèque Nationale discovered parchments known as Les Dossiers Secrets, identifying numerous members of the Priory of Sion, including Sir Isaac Newton, Botticelli, Victor Hugo, and Leonardo Da Vinci.
The Vatican prelature known as Opus Dei is a deeply devout Catholic sect that has been the topic of recent controversy due to reports of brainwashing, coercion, and a dangerous practice known as «corporal mortification.» Opus Dei has just completed construction of a $47 million World Headquarters at 243 Lexington Avenue in New York City.
All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate.
Louvre Museum, Paris 10:46 P. M.
Renowned curator Jacques Saunière staggered through the vaulted archway of the museum’s Grand Gallery. He lunged for the nearest painting he could see, a Caravaggio. Grabbing the gilded frame, the seventy-six-year-old man heaved the masterpiece toward himself until it tore from the wall and Saunière collapsed backward in a heap beneath the canvas.
As he had anticipated, a thundering iron gate fell nearby, barricading the entrance to the suite. The parquet floor shook. Far off, an alarm began to ring.
The curator lay a moment, gasping for breath, taking stock. I am still alive.He crawled out from under the canvas and scanned the cavernous space for someplace to hide.
A voice spoke, chillingly close. «Do not move.»
On his hands and knees, the curator froze, turning his head slowly.
Only fifteen feet away, outside the sealed gate, the mountainous silhouette of his attacker stared through the iron bars. He was broad and tall, with ghost-pale skin and thinning white hair. His irises were pink with dark red pupils. The albino drew a pistol from his coat and aimed the barrel through the bars, directly at the curator. «You should not have run.» His accent was not easy to place. «Now tell me where it is.»
«I told you already,» the curator stammered, kneeling defenseless on the floor of the gallery. «I have no idea what you are talking about!»
«You are lying.» The man stared at him, perfectly immobile except for the glint in his ghostly eyes. «You and your brethren possess something that is not yours.»
The curator felt a surge of adrenaline. How could he possibly know this?
«Tonight the rightful guardians will be restored. Tell me where it is hidden, and you will live.» The man leveled his gun at the curator’s head. «Is it a secret you will die for?»
Saunière could not breathe.
The man tilted his head, peering down the barrel of his gun.
Saunière held up his hands in defense. «Wait,» he said slowly. «I will tell you what you need to know.» The curator spoke his next words carefully. The lie he told was one he had rehearsed many times… each time praying he would never have to use it.
When the curator had finished speaking, his assailant smiled smugly. «Yes. This is exactly what the others told me.»
Saunière recoiled. The others?
«I found them, too,» the huge man taunted. «All three of them. They confirmed what you have just said.»
It cannot be! The curator’s true identity, along with the identities of his three sénéchaux, was almost as sacred as the ancient secret they protected. Saunière now realized his sénéchaux, following strict procedure, had told the same lie before their own deaths. It was part of the protocol.
The attacker aimed his gun again. «When you are gone, I will be the only one who knows the truth.»
The truth.In an instant, the curator grasped the true horror of the situation. If I die, the truth will be lost forever.Instinctively, he tried to scramble for cover.
The gun roared, and the curator felt a searing heat as the bullet lodged in his stomach. He fell forward… struggling against the pain. Slowly, Saunière rolled over and stared back through the bars at his attacker.
The man was now taking dead aim at Saunière’s head.
Saunière closed his eyes, his thoughts a swirling tempest of fear and regret. The click of an empty chamber echoed through the corridor. The curator’s eyes flew open.
The man glanced down at his weapon, looking almost amused. He reached for a second clip, but then seemed to reconsider, smirking calmly at Saunière’s gut. «My work here is done.»
The curator looked down and saw the bullet hole in his white linen shirt. It was framed by a small circle of blood a few inches below his breastbone. My stomach.Almost cruelly, the bullet had missed his heart. As a veteran of la Guerre d’Algérie, the curator had witnessed this horribly drawn-out death before. For fifteen minutes, he would survive as his stomach acids seeped into his chest cavity, slowly poisoning him from within.
«Pain is good, monsieur,» the man said. Then he was gone. Alone now, Jacques Saunière turned his gaze again to the iron gate. He was trapped, and the doors could not be reopened for at least twenty minutes. By the time anyone got to him, he would be dead. Even so, the fear that now gripped him was a fear far greater than that of his own death.
I must pass on the secret.
Staggering to his feet, he pictured his three murdered brethren. He thought of the generations who had come before them… of the mission with which they had all been entrusted.
An unbroken chain of knowledge.
Suddenly, now, despite all the precautions… despite all the fail-safes… Jacques Saunière was the only remaining link,
Shivering, he pulled himself to his feet.
I must find some way… .
He was trapped inside the Grand Gallery, and there existed only one person on earth to whom he could pass the torch. Saunière gazed up at the walls of his opulent prison. A collection of the world’s most famous paintings seemed to smile down on him like old friends.
Wincing in pain, he summoned all of his faculties and strength. The desperate task before him, he knew, would require every remaining second of his life.
Robert Langdon awoke slowly.
A telephone was ringing in the darkness – a tinny, unfamiliar ring. He fumbled for the bedside lamp and turned it on. Squinting at his surroundings he saw a plush Renaissance bedroom with Louis XVI furniture, hand-frescoed walls, and a colossal mahogany four-poster bed.
Where the hell am I?
The jacquard bathrobe hanging on his bedpost bore the monogram: HOTEL RITZ PARIS.
Slowly, the fog began to lift.
Langdon picked up the receiver. «Hello?»
«Monsieur Langdon?» a man’s voice said. «I hope I have not awoken you?»
Dazed, Langdon looked at the bedside clock. It was 12:32 A. M. He had been asleep only an hour, but he felt like the dead.
«This is the concierge, monsieur. I apologize for this intrusion, but you have a visitor. He insists it is urgent.»
Langdon still felt fuzzy. A visitor? His eyes focused now on a crumpled flyer on his bedside table.
THE AMERICAN UNIVERSITY OF PARIS
AN EVENING WITH ROBERT LANGDON
PROFESSOR OF RELIGIOUS SYMBOLOGY, HARVARD UNIVERSITY
Langdon groaned. Tonight’s lecture – a slide show about pagan symbolism hidden in the stones of Chartres Cathedral – had probably ruffled some conservative feathers in the audience. Most likely, some religious scholar had trailed him home to pick a fight. «I’m sorry,» Langdon said, «but I’m very tired and –» «Mais, monsieur,»the concierge pressed, lowering his voice to an urgent whisper. «Your guest is an important man.»
Langdon had little doubt. His books on religious paintings and cult symbology had made him a reluctant celebrity in the art world, and last year Langdon’s visibility had increased a hundred fold after his involvement in a widely publicized incident at the Vatican. Since then, the stream of self- important historians and art buffs arriving at his door had seemed never-ending.
«If you would be so kind,» Langdon said, doing his best to remain polite,» could you take the man’s name and number, and tell him I’ll try to call him before I leave Paris on Tuesday? Thank you.» He hung up before the concierge could protest.
Sitting up now, Langdon frowned at his bedside Guest Relations Handbook, whose cover boasted: SLEEP LIKE A BABY IN THE CITY OF LIGHTS. SLUMBER AT THE PARIS RITZ. He turned and gazed tiredly into the full-length mirror across the room. The man staring back at him was a stranger – tousled and weary.
You need a vacation, Robert.
The past year had taken a heavy toll on him, but he didn’t appreciate seeing proof in the mirror. His usually sharp blue eyes looked hazy and drawn tonight. A dark stubble was shrouding his strong jaw and dimpled chin. Around his temples, the gray highlights were advancing, making their way deeper into his thicket of coarse black hair. Although his female colleagues insisted the gray only accentuated his bookish appeal, Langdon knew better.
If Boston Magazine could see me now.
Last month, much to Langdon’s embarrassment, Boston Magazine had listed him as one of that city’s top ten most intriguing people – a dubious honor that made him the brunt of endless ribbing by his Harvard colleagues. Tonight, three thousand miles from home, the accolade had resurfaced to haunt him at the lecture he had given.
«Ladies and gentlemen…» the hostess had announced to a full house at the American University of Paris’s Pavilion Dauphine,» Our guest tonight needs no introduction. He is the author of numerous books: The Symbology of Secret Sects, The An of the Illuminati, The Lost Language of Ideograms, and when I say he wrote the book on Religious Iconology, I mean that quite literally. Many of you use his textbooks in class.»
The students in the crowd nodded enthusiastically.
«I had planned to introduce him tonight by sharing his impressive curriculum vitae. However…» She glanced playfully at Langdon, who was seated onstage. «An audience member has just handed me a far more, shall we say… intriguing introduction.» She held up a copy of Boston Magazine. Langdon cringed. Where the hell did she get that?
The hostess began reading choice excerpts from the inane article, and Langdon felt himself sinking lower and lower in his chair. Thirty seconds later, the crowd was grinning, and the woman showed no signs of letting up. «And Mr. Langdon’s refusal to speak publicly about his unusual role in last year’s Vatican conclave certainly wins him points on our intrigue-o-meter.» The hostess goaded the crowd. «Would you like to hear more?»
The crowd applauded.
Somebody stop her , Langdon pleaded as she dove into the article again.
«Although Professor Langdon might not be considered hunk-handsome like some of our younger awardees, this forty-something academic has more than his share of scholarly allure. His captivating presence is punctuated by an unusually low, baritone speaking voice, which his female students describe as ‘chocolate for the ears.’
The hall erupted in laughter.
Langdon forced an awkward smile. He knew what came next – some ridiculous line about» Harrison Ford in Harris tweed» – and because this evening he had figured it was finally safe again to wear his Harris tweed and Burberry turtleneck, he decided to take action.
«Thank you, Monique,» Langdon said, standing prematurely and edging her away from the podium. «Boston Magazine clearly has a gift for fiction.» He turned to the audience with an embarrassed sigh. «And if I find which one of you provided that article, I’ll have the consulate deport you.»
The crowd laughed.
«Well, folks, as you all know, I’m here tonight to talk about the power of symbols ...»
The ringing of Langdon’s hotel phone once again broke the silence.
Groaning in disbelief, he picked up. «Yes?»
As expected, it was the concierge. «Mr. Langdon, again my apologies. I am calling to inform you that your guest is now en route to your room. I thought I should alert you.»
Langdon was wide awake now. «You sent someone to my room?»
«I apologize, monsieur, but a man like this… I cannot presume the authority to stop him.» «Who exactly is he?» But the concierge was gone.
Almost immediately, a heavy fist pounded on Langdon’s door.
Uncertain, Langdon slid off the bed, feeling his toes sink deep into the savonniere carpet. He donned the hotel bathrobe and moved toward the door. «Who is it?»
«Mr. Langdon? I need to speak with you.» The man’s English was accented – a sharp, authoritative bark. «My name is Lieutenant Jerome Collet. Direction Centrale Police Judiciaire.»
Langdon paused. The Judicial Police? The DCPJ was the rough equivalent of the U. S. FBI.
Leaving the security chain in place, Langdon opened the door a few inches. The face staring back at him was thin and washed out. The man was exceptionally lean, dressed in an official-looking blue uniform.
«May I come in?» the agent asked.
Langdon hesitated, feeling uncertain as the stranger’s sallow eyes studied him. «What is this all about?»
«My capitaine requires your expertise in a private matter.» «Now?» Langdon managed. «It’s after midnight.» «Am I correct that you were scheduled to meet with the curator of the Louvre this evening?»
Langdon felt a sudden surge of uneasiness. He and the revered curator Jacques Saunière had been slated to meet for drinks after Langdon’s lecture tonight, but Saunière had never shown up. «Yes. How did you know that?»
«We found your name in his daily planner.»
«I trust nothing is wrong?»
The agent gave a dire sigh and slid a Polaroid snapshot through the narrow opening in the door. When Langdon saw the photo, his entire body went rigid.» This photo was taken less than an hour ago. Inside the Louvre.»
As Langdon stared at the bizarre image, his initial revulsion and shock gave way to a sudden upwelling of anger. «Who would do this!»
«We had hoped that you might help us answer that very question, considering your knowledge in symbology and your plans to meet with him.»
Langdon stared at the picture, his horror now laced with fear. The image was gruesome and profoundly strange, bringing with it an unsettling sense of déjà vu. A little over a year ago, Langdon had received a photograph of a corpse and a similar request for help. Twenty-four hours later, he had almost lost his life inside Vatican City. This photo was entirely different, and yet something about the scenario felt disquietingly familiar.
The agent checked his watch. «My capitaine is waiting, sir.»
Langdon barely heard him. His eyes were still riveted on the picture. «This symbol here, and the way his body is so oddly…»
«Positioned?» the agent offered.
Langdon nodded, feeling a chill as he looked up. «I can’t imagine who would do this to someone.»
The agent looked grim. «You don’t understand, Mr. Langdon. What you see in this photograph…» He paused. «Monsieur Saunière did that to himself.»
One mile away, the hulking albino named Silas limped through the front gate of the luxurious brownstone residence on Rue La Bruyère. The spiked cilice belt that he wore around his thigh cut into his flesh, and yet his soul sang with satisfaction of service to the Lord.
Pain is good.
His red eyes scanned the lobby as he entered the residence. Empty. He climbed the stairs quietly, not wanting to awaken any of his fellow numeraries. His bedroom door was open; locks were forbidden here. He entered, closing the door behind him.
by Dan Brown / Mystery & Thrillers / Fiction / Suspense have rating 5.7 out of 5 / Based on34 votes