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The Da Vinci Code (chapter 62)

2006-07-07 17:55

  CHAPTER 62

  “I'm being framed, Leigh,” Langdon said, trying to stay calm. You know me. I wouldn't kill anyone.

  Teabing's tone did not soften. “Robert, you're on television, for Christ's sake. Did you know you were wanted by the authorities?”

  “Yes.”

  “Then you abused my trust. I'm astonished you would put me at risk by coming here and asking me to ramble on about the Grail so you could hide out in my home.”

  “I didn't kill anyone.”

  “Jacques Saunière is dead, and the police say you did it.” Teabing looked saddened. “Such a contributor to the arts……”

  “Sir?” The manservant had appeared now, standing behind Teabing in the study doorway, his arms crossed. “Shall I show them out?”

  “Allow me.” Teabing hobbled across the study, unlocked a set of wide glass doors, and swung them open onto a side lawn. “Please find your car, and leave.”

  Sophie did not move. “We have information about the clef de vo.te. The Priory keystone.”

  Teabing stared at her for several seconds and scoffed derisively. “A desperate ploy. Robert knows

  how I've sought it.“

  “She's telling the truth,” Langdon said. “That's why we came to you tonight. To talk to you about the keystone.”

  The manservant intervened now. “Leave, or I shall call the authorities.”

  “Leigh,” Langdon whispered, “we know where it is.”

  Teabing's balance seemed to falter a bit.

  Rémy now marched stiffly across the room. “Leave at once! Or I will forcibly-”

  “Rémy!” Teabing spun, snapping at his servant. “Excuse us for a moment.”

  The servant's jaw dropped. “Sir? I must protest. These people are-”

  “I'll handle this.” Teabing pointed to the hallway.

  After a moment of stunned silence, Rémy skulked out like a banished dog.

  In the cool night breeze coming through the open doors, Teabing turned back to Sophie and Langdon, his expression still wary. “This better be good. What do you know of the keystone?”

  In the thick brush outside Teabing's study, Silas clutched his pistol and gazed through the glass doors. Only moments ago, he had circled the house and seen Langdon and the woman talking in the large study. Before he could move in, a man on crutches entered, yelled at Langdon, threw open the doors, and demanded his guests leave. Then the woman mentioned the keystone, and everything changed. Shouts turned to whispers. Moods softened. And the glass doors were quickly closed.

  Now, as he huddled in the shadows, Silas peered through the glass. The keystone is somewhere inside the house. Silas could feel it.

  Staying in the shadows, he inched closer to the glass, eager to hear what was being said. He would give them five minutes. If they did not reveal where they had placed the keystone, Silas would have to enter and persuade them with force.

  Inside the study, Langdon could sense their host's bewilderment.

  “Grand Master?” Teabing choked, eyeing Sophie. “Jacques Saunière?”

  Sophie nodded, seeing the shock in his eyes.

  “But you could not possibly know that!”

  “Jacques Saunière was my grandfather.”

  Teabing staggered back on his crutches, shooting a glance at Langdon, who nodded. Teabing turned back to Sophie. “Miss Neveu, I am speechless. If this is true, then I am truly sorry for your loss. I should admit, for my research, I have kept lists of men in Paris whom I thought might be good candidates for involvement in the Priory. Jacques Saunière was on that list along with many others. But Grand Master, you say? It's hard to fathom.” Teabing was silent a moment and then shook his head. “But it still makes no sense. Even if your grandfather were the Priory Grand Master and created the keystone himself, he would never tell you how to find it. The keystone reveals the pathway to the brotherhood's ultimate treasure. Granddaughter or not, you are not eligible to receive such knowledge.”

  “Mr. Saunière was dying when he passed on the information,” Langdon said. “He had limited options.”

  “He didn't need options,” Teabing argued. “There exist three sénéchaux who also know the secret. That is the beauty of their system. One will rise to Grand Master and they will induct a new sénéchal and share the secret of the keystone.”

  “I guess you didn't see the entire news broadcast,” Sophie said. “In addition to my grandfather, three other prominent Parisians were murdered today. All in similar ways. All looked like they had been interrogated.”

  Teabing's jaw fell. “And you think they were……”

  “The sénéchaux,” Langdon said.

  “But how? A murderer could not possibly learn the identities of all four top members of the Priory of Sion! Look at me, I have been researching them for decades, and I can't even name one Priory member. It seems inconceivable that all three sénéchaux and the Grand Master could be discovered and killed in one day.”

  “I doubt the information was gathered in a single day,” Sophie said. “It sounds like a well-planned décapiter. It's a technique we use to fight organized crime syndicates. If DCPJ wants to move on a certain group, they will silently listen and watch for months, identify all the main players, and then move in and take them all at the same moment. Decapitation. With no leadership, the group falls into chaos and divulges other information. It's possible someone patiently watched the Priory and

  then attacked, hoping the top people would reveal the location of the keystone.“

  Teabing looked unconvinced. “But the brothers would never talk. They are sworn to secrecy. Even in the face of death.”

  “Exactly,” Langdon said. “Meaning, if they never divulged the secret, and they were killed……”

  Teabing gasped. “Then the location of the keystone would be lost forever!”

  “And with it,” Langdon said, “the location of the Holy Grail.”

  Teabing's body seemed to sway with the weight of Langdon's words. Then, as if too tired to stand another moment, he flopped in a chair and stared out the window.

  Sophie walked over, her voice soft. “Considering my grandfather's predicament, it seems possible that in total desperation he tried to pass the secret on to someone outside the brotherhood. Someone he thought he could trust. Someone in his family.”

  Teabing was pale. “But someone capable of such an attack…… of discovering so much about the brotherhood……” He paused, radiating a new fear. “It could only be one force. This kind of infiltration could only have come from the Priory's oldest enemy.”

  Langdon glanced up. “The Church.”

  “Who else? Rome has been seeking the Grail for centuries.”

  Sophie was skeptical. “You think the Church killed my grandfather?”

  Teabing replied, “It would not be the first time in history the Church has killed to protect itself. The documents that accompany the Holy Grail are explosive, and the Church has wanted to destroy them for years.”

  Langdon was having trouble buying Teabing's premise that the Church would blatantly murder people to obtain these documents. Having met the new Pope and many of the cardinals, Langdon knew they were deeply spiritual men who would never condone assassination. Regardless of the stakes.

  Sophie seemed to be having similar thoughts. “Isn't it possible that these Priory members were murdered by someone outside the Church? Someone who didn't understand what the Grail really is? The Cup of Christ, after all, would be quite an enticing treasure. Certainly treasure hunters have killed for less.”

  “In my experience,” Teabing said, “men go to far greater lengths to avoid what they fear than to

  obtain what they desire. I sense a desperation in this assault on the Priory.“

  “Leigh,” Langdon said, “the argument is paradoxical. Why would members of the Catholic clergy murder Priory members in an effort to find and destroy documents they believe are false testimony anyway?”

  Teabing chuckled. “The ivory towers of Harvard have made you soft, Robert. Yes, the clergy in Rome are blessed with potent faith, and because of this, their beliefs can weather any storm, including documents that contradict everything they hold dear. But what about the rest of the world? What about those who are not blessed with absolute certainty? What about those who look at the cruelty in the world and say, where is God today? Those who look at Church scandals and ask, who are these men who claim to speak the truth about Christ and yet lie to cover up the sexual abuse of children by their own priests?” Teabing paused. “What happens to those people, Robert, if persuasive scientific evidence comes out that the Church's version of the Christ story is inaccurate, and that the greatest story ever told is, in fact, the greatest story ever sold”

  Langdon did not respond.

  “I'll tell you what happens if the documents get out,” Teabing said. “The Vatican faces a crisis of faith unprecedented in its two-millennia history.”

  After a long silence, Sophie said, “But if it is the Church who is responsible for this attack, why would they act now? After all these years? The Priory keeps the Sangreal documents hidden. They pose no immediate threat to the Church.”

  Teabing heaved an ominous sigh and glanced at Langdon. “Robert, I assume you are familiar with the Priory's final charge?”

  Langdon felt his breath catch at the thought. “I am.”

  “Miss Neveu,” Teabing said, “the Church and the Priory have had a tacit understanding for years. That is, the Church does not attack the Priory, and the Priory keeps the Sangreal documents hidden.” He paused. “However, part of the Priory history has always included a plan to unveil the secret. With the arrival of a specific date in history, the brotherhood plans to break the silence and carry out its ultimate triumph by unveiling the Sangreal documents to the world and shouting the true story of Jesus Christ from the mountaintops.”

  Sophie stared at Teabing in silence. Finally, she too sat down. “And you think that date is approaching? And the Church knows it?”

  “A speculation,” Teabing said, “but it would certainly provide the Church motivation for an all-out attack to find the documents before it was too late.”

  Langdon had the uneasy feeling that Teabing was making good sense. “Do you think the Church would actually be capable of uncovering hard evidence of the Priory's date?”

  “Why not-if we're assuming the Church was able to uncover the identities of the Priory members, then certainly they could have learned of their plans. And even if they don't have the exact date, their superstitions may be getting the best of them.”

  “Superstitions?” Sophie asked.

  “In terms of prophecy,” Teabing said, “we are currently in an epoch of enormous change. The millennium has recently passed, and with it has ended the two-thousand-year-long astrological Age of Pisces-the fish, which is also the sign of Jesus. As any astrological symbologist will tell you, the Piscean ideal believes that man must be told what to do by higher powers because man is incapable of thinking for himself. Hence it has been a time of fervent religion. Now, however, we are entering the Age of Aquarius-the water bearer-whose ideals claim that man will learn the truth and be able to think for himself. The ideological shift is enormous, and it is occurring right now.”

  Langdon felt a shiver. Astrological prophecy never held much interest or credibility for him, but he knew there were those in the Church who followed it very closely. “The Church calls this transitional period the End of Days.”

  Sophie looked skeptical. “As in the end of the world? The Apocalypse?”

  “No.” Langdon replied. “That's a common misconception. Many religions speak of the End of Days. It refers not to the end of the world, but rather the end of our current age-Pisces, which began at the time of Christ's birth, spanned two thousand years, and waned with the passing of the millennium. Now that we've passed into the Age of Aquarius, the End of Days has arrived.”

  “Many Grail historians,” Teabing added, “believe that if the Priory is indeed planning to release this truth, this point in history would be a symbolically apt time. Most Priory academics, myself included, anticipated the brotherhood's release would coincide precisely with the millennium. Obviously, it did not. Admittedly, the Roman calendar does not mesh perfectly with astrological markers, so there is some gray area in the prediction. Whether the Church now has inside information that an exact date is looming, or whether they are just getting nervous on account of astrological prophecy, I don't know. Anyway, it's immaterial. Either scenario explains how the Church might be motivated to launch a preemptive attack against the Priory.” Teabing frowned. “And believe me, if the Church finds the Holy Grail, they will destroy it. The documents and the relics of the blessed Mary Magdalene as well.” His eyes grew heavy. “Then, my dear, with the Sangreal documents gone, all evidence will be lost. The Church will have won their age-old war to rewrite history. The past will be erased forever.”

  Slowly, Sophie pulled the cruciform key from her sweater pocket and held it out to Teabing.

  Teabing took the key and studied it. “My goodness. The Priory seal. Where did you get this?”

  “My grandfather gave it to me tonight before he died.”

  Teabing ran his fingers across the cruciform. “A key to a church?”

  She drew a deep breath. “This key provides access to the keystone.”

  Teabing's head snapped up, his face wild with disbelief. “Impossible! What church did I miss? I've searched every church in France!”

  “It's not in a church,” Sophie said. “It's in a Swiss depository bank.”

  Teabing's look of excitement waned. “The keystone is in a bank?”

  “A vault,” Langdon offered.

  “A bank vault?” Teabing shook his head violently. “That's impossible. The keystone is supposed to be hidden beneath the sign of the Rose.”

  “It is,” Langdon said. “It was stored in a rosewood box inlaid with a five-petal Rose.”

  Teabing looked thunderstruck. “You've seen the keystone?”

  Sophie nodded. “We visited the bank.”

  Teabing came over to them, his eyes wild with fear. “My friends, we must do something. The keystone is in danger! We have a duty to protect it. What if there are other keys? Perhaps stolen from the murdered sénéchaux? If the Church can gain access to the bank as you have-”

  “Then they will be too late,” Sophie said. “We removed the keystone.”

  “What! You removed the keystone from its hiding place?”

  “Don't worry,” Langdon said. “The keystone is well hidden.”

  “Extremely well hidden, I hope!”

  “Actually,” Langdon said, unable to hide his grin, “that depends on how often you dust under your couch.”

  The wind outside Chateau Villette had picked up, and Silas's robe danced in the breeze as he crouched near the window. Although he had been unable to hear much of the conversation, the word keystone had sifted through the glass on numerous occasions.

  It is inside.

  The Teacher's words were fresh in his mind. Enter Chateau Villette. Take the keystone. Hun no one.

  Now, Langdon and the others had adjourned suddenly to another room, extinguishing the study lights as they went. Feeling like a panther stalking prey, Silas crept to the glass doors. Finding them unlocked, he slipped inside and closed the doors silently behind him. He could hear muffled voices from another room. Silas pulled the pistol from his pocket, turned off the safety, and inched down the hallway.

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