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The Da Vinci Code (chapter 84)

2006-07-07 18:28

  CHAPTER 84

  In a rubbish-strewn alley very close to Temple Church, Rémy Legaludec pulled the Jaguar limousine to a stop behind a row of industrial waste bins. Killing the engine, he checked the area. Deserted. He got out of the car, walked toward the rear, and climbed back into the limousine's main cabin where the monk was.

  Sensing Rémy's presence, the monk in the back emerged from a prayer-like trance, his red eyes looking more curious than fearful. All evening Rémy had been impressed with this trussed man's ability to stay calm. After some initial struggles in the Range Rover, the monk seemed to have accepted his plight and given over his fate to a higher power.

  Loosening his bow tie, Rémy unbuttoned his high, starched, wing-tipped collar and felt as if he could breathe for the first time in years. He went to the limousine's wet bar, where he poured himself a Smirnoff vodka. He drank it in a single swallow and followed it with a second.

  Soon I will be a man of leisure.

  Searching the bar, Rémy found a standard service wine-opener and flicked open the sharp blade. The knife was usually employed to slice the lead foil from corks on fine bottles of wine, but it would serve a far more dramatic purpose this morning. Rémy turned and faced Silas, holding up the glimmering blade.

  Now those red eyes flashed fear.

  Rémy smiled and moved toward the back of the limousine. The monk recoiled, struggling against his bonds.

  “Be still,” Rémy whispered, raising the blade.

  Silas could not believe that God had forsaken him. Even the physical pain of being bound Silas had turned into a spiritual exercise, asking the throb of his blood-starved muscles to remind him of the pain Christ endured. I have been praying all night for liberation. Now, as the knife descended, Silas clenched his eyes shut.

  A slash of pain tore through his shoulder blades. He cried out, unable to believe he was going to die here in the back of this limousine, unable to defend himself. I was doing God's work. The Teacher said he would protect me.

  Silas felt the biting warmth spreading across his back and shoulders and could picture his own blood, spilling out over his flesh. A piercing pain cut through his thighs now, and he felt the onset of that familiar undertow of disorientation-the body's defense mechanism against the pain.

  As the biting heat tore through all of his muscles now, Silas clenched his eyes tighter, determined that the final image of his life would not be of his own killer. Instead he pictured a younger Bishop Aringarosa, standing before the small church in Spain…… the church that he and Silas had built with their own hands. The beginning of my life.

  Silas felt as if his body were on fire.

  “Take a drink,” the tuxedoed man whispered, his accent French. “It will help with your circulation.”

  Silas's eyes flew open in surprise. A blurry image was leaning over him, offering a glass of liquid. A mound of shredded duct tape lay on the floor beside the bloodless knife.

  “Drink this,” he repeated. “The pain you feel is the blood rushing into your muscles.”

  Silas felt the fiery throb transforming now to a prickling sting. The vodka tasted terrible, but he drank it, feeling grateful. Fate had dealt Silas a healthy share of bad luck tonight, but God had solved it all with one miraculous twist.

  God has not forsaken me.

  Silas knew what Bishop Aringarosa would call it.

  Divine intervention.

  “I had wanted to free you earlier,” the servant apologized, “but it was impossible. With the police arriving at Chateau Villette, and then at Biggin Hill airport, this was the first possible moment. You understand, don't you, Silas?”

  Silas recoiled, startled. “You know my name?”

  The servant smiled.

  Silas sat up now, rubbing his stiff muscles, his emotions a torrent of incredulity, appreciation, and confusion. “Are you…… the Teacher?”

  Rémy shook his head, laughing at the proposition. “I wish I had that kind of power. No, I am not the Teacher. Like you, I serve him. But the Teacher speaks highly of you. My name is Rémy.”

  Silas was amazed. “I don't understand. If you work for the Teacher, why did Langdon bring the keystone to your home?”

  “Not my home. The home of the world's foremost Grail historian, Sir Leigh Teabing.”

  “But you live there. The odds……”

  Rémy smiled, seeming to have no trouble with the apparent coincidence of Langdon's chosen refuge. “It was all utterly predictable. Robert Langdon was in possession of the keystone, and he needed help. What more logical place to run than to the home of Leigh Teabing? That I happen to live there is why the Teacher approached me in the first place.” He paused. “How do you think the Teacher knows so much about the Grail?”

  Now it dawned, and Silas was stunned. The Teacher had recruited a servant who had access to all of Sir Leigh Teabing's research. It was brilliant.

  “There is much I have to tell you,” Rémy said, handing Silas the loaded Heckler Koch pistol. Then he reached through the open partition and retrieved a small, palm-sized revolver from the glove box. “But first, you and I have a job to do.”

  Captain Fache descended from his transport plane at Biggin Hill and listened in disbelief to the Kent chief inspector's account of what had happened in Teabing's hangar.

  “I searched the plane myself,” the inspector insisted, “and there was no one inside.” His tone turned haughty. “And I should add that if Sir Leigh Teabing presses charges against me, I will-”

  “Did you interrogate the pilot?”

  “Of course not. He is French, and our jurisdiction requires-”

  “Take me to the plane.”

  Arriving at the hangar, Fache needed only sixty seconds to locate an anomalous smear of blood on the pavement near where the limousine had been parked. Fache walked up to the plane and rapped loudly on the fuselage.

  “This is the captain of the French Judicial Police. Open the door!”

  The terrified pilot opened the hatch and lowered the stairs.

  Fache ascended. Three minutes later, with the help of his sidearm, he had a full confession,

  including a description of the bound albino monk. In addition, he learned that the pilot saw Langdon and Sophie leave something behind in Teabing's safe, a wooden box of some sort. Although the pilot denied knowing what was in the box, he admitted it had been the focus of Langdon's full attention during the flight to London.

  “Open the safe,” Fache demanded.

  The pilot looked terrified. “I don't know the combination!”

  “That's too bad. I was going to offer to let you keep your pilot's license.”

  The pilot wrung his hands. “I know some men in maintenance here. Maybe they could drill it?”

  “You have half an hour.”

  The pilot leapt for his radio.

  Fache strode to the back of the plane and poured himself a hard drink. It was early, but he had not yet slept, so this hardly counted as drinking before noon. Sitting in a plush bucket seat, he closed his eyes, trying to sort out what was going on. The Kent police's blunder could cost me dearly. Everyone was now on the lookout for a black Jaguar limousine.

  Fache's phone rang, and he wished for a moment's peace. “Allo?”

  “I'm en route to London.” It was Bishop Aringarosa. “I'll be arriving in an hour.”

  Fache sat up. “I thought you were going to Paris.”

  “I am deeply concerned. I have changed my plans.”

  “You should not have.”

  “Do you have Silas?”

  “No. His captors eluded the local police before I landed.”

  Aringarosa's anger rang sharply. “You assured me you would stop that plane!”

  Fache lowered his voice. “Bishop, considering your situation, I recommend you not test my patience today. I will find Silas and the others as soon as possible. Where are you landing?”

  “One moment.” Aringarosa covered the receiver and then came back. “The pilot is trying to get clearance at Heathrow. I'm his only passenger, but our redirect was unscheduled.”

  “Tell him to come to Biggin Hill Executive Airport in Kent. I'll get him clearance. If I'm not here when you land, I'll have a car waiting for you.”

  “Thank you.”

  “As I expressed when we first spoke, Bishop, you would do well to remember that you are not the only man on the verge of losing everything.”

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