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The Da Vinci Code (chapter 17)

2006-07-07 17:11

  CHAPTER 17

  “What do you mean she's not answering?” Fache looked incredulous. “You're calling her cell phone, right? I know she's carrying it.”

  Collet had been trying to reach Sophie now for several minutes. “Maybe her batteries are dead. Or her ringer's off.”

  Fache had looked distressed ever since talking to the director of Cryptology on the phone. After hanging up, he had marched over to Collet and demanded he get Agent Neveu on the line. Now Collet had failed, and Fache was pacing like a caged lion.

  “Why did Crypto call?” Collet now ventured.

  Fache turned. “To tell us they found no references to Draconian devils and lame saints.”

  “That's all?”

  “No, also to tell us that they had just identified the numerics as Fibonacci numbers, but they suspected the series was meaningless.”

  Collet was confused. “But they already sent Agent Neveu to tell us that.”

  Fache shook his head. “They didn't send Neveu.”

  “What?”

  “According to the director, at my orders he paged his entire team to look at the images I'd wired him. When Agent Neveu arrived, she took one look at the photos of Saunière and the code and left the office without a word. The director said he didn't question her behavior because she was understandably upset by the photos.”

  “Upset? She's never seen a picture of a dead body?”

  Fache was silent a moment. “I was not aware of this, and it seems neither was the director until a coworker informed him, but apparently Sophie Neveu is Jacques Saunière's granddaughter.”

  Collet was speechless.

  “The director said she never once mentioned Saunière to him, and he assumed it was because she probably didn't want preferential treatment for having a famous grandfather.”

  No wonder she was upset by the pictures. Collet could barely conceive of the unfortunate coincidence that called in a young woman to decipher a code written by a dead family member. Still, her actions made no sense. “But she obviously recognized the numbers as Fibonacci numbers because she came here and told us. I don't understand why she would leave the office without telling anyone she had figured it out.”

  Collet could think of only one scenario to explain the troubling developments: Saunière had written a numeric code on the floor in hopes Fache would involve cryptographers in the investigation, and therefore involve his own granddaughter. As for the rest of the message, was Saunière communicating in some way with his granddaughter? If so, what did the message tell her? And how did Langdon fit in?

  Before Collet could ponder it any further, the silence of the deserted museum was shattered by an alarm. The bell sounded like it was coming from inside the Grand Gallery.

  “Alarme!” one of the agents yelled, eyeing his feed from the Louvre security center. “Grande Galerie! Toilettes Messieurs!”

  Fache wheeled to Collet. “Where's Langdon?”

  “Still in the men's room!” Collet pointed to the blinking red dot on his laptop schematic. “He must have broken the window!” Collet knew Langdon wouldn't get far. Although Paris fire codes

  required windows above fifteen meters in public buildings be breakable in case of fire, exiting a Louvre second-story window without the help of a hook and ladder would be suicide. Furthermore, there were no trees or grass on the western end of the Denon Wing to cushion a fall. Directly beneath that rest room window, the two-lane Place du Carrousel ran within a few feet of the outer wall. “My God,” Collet exclaimed, eyeing the screen. “Langdon's moving to the window ledge!”

  But Fache was already in motion. Yanking his Manurhin MR-93 revolver from his shoulder holster, the captain dashed out of the office.

  Collet watched the screen in bewilderment as the blinking dot arrived at the window ledge and then did something utterly unexpected. The dot moved outside the perimeter of the building.

  What's going on? he wondered. Is Langdon out on a ledge or-

  “Jesu!” Collet jumped to his feet as the dot shot farther outside the wall. The signal seemed to shudder for a moment, and then the blinking dot came to an abrupt stop about ten yards outside the perimeter of the building.

  Fumbling with the controls, Collet called up a Paris street map and recalibrated the GPS. Zooming in, he could now see the exact location of the signal.

  It was no longer moving.

  It lay at a dead stop in the middle of Place du Carrousel.

  Langdon had jumped.

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