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The Da Vinci Code (chapter 68)

2006-07-07 17:58

  CHAPTER 68

  New York editor Jonas Faukman had just climbed into bed for the night when the telephone rang. A little late for callers, he grumbled, picking up the receiver.

  An operator's voice asked him, “Will you accept charges for a collect call from Robert Langdon?”

  Puzzled, Jonas turned on the light. “Uh…… sure, okay.”

  The line clicked. “Jonas?”

  “Robert? You wake me up and you charge me for it?”

  “Jonas, forgive me,” Langdon said. “I'll keep this very short. I really need to know. The manuscript I gave you. Have you-”

  “Robert, I'm sorry, I know I said I'd send the edits out to you this week, but I'm swamped. Next Monday. I promise.”

  “I'm not worried about the edits. I need to know if you sent any copies out for blurbs without telling me?”

  Faukman hesitated. Langdon's newest manuscript-an exploration of the history of goddess worship-included several sections about Mary Magdalene that were going to raise some eyebrows. Although the material was well documented and had been covered by others, Faukman had no intention of printing Advance Reading Copies of Langdon's book without at least a few endorsements from serious historians and art luminaries. Jonas had chosen ten big names in the art world and sent them all sections of the manuscript along with a polite letter asking if they would be willing to write a short endorsement for the jacket. In Faukman's experience, most people jumped at the opportunity to see their name in print.

  “Jonas?” Langdon pressed. “You sent out my manuscript, didn't you?”

  Faukman frowned, sensing Langdon was not happy about it. “The manuscript was clean, Robert, and I wanted to surprise you with some terrific blurbs.”

  A pause. “Did you send one to the curator of the Paris Louvre?”

  “What do you think? Your manuscript referenced his Louvre collection several times, his books are in your bibliography, and the guy has some serious clout for foreign sales. Saunière was a no-brainer.”

  The silence on the other end lasted a long time. “When did you send it?”

  “About a month ago. I also mentioned you would be in Paris soon and suggested you two chat. Did he ever call you to meet?” Faukman paused, rubbing his eyes. “Hold on, aren't you supposed to be in Paris this week?”

  “I am in Paris.”

  Faukman sat upright. “You called me collect from Paris?”

  “Take it out of my royalties, Jonas. Did you ever hear back from Saunière? Did he like the manuscript?”

  “I don't know. I haven't yet heard from him.”

  “Well, don't hold your breath. I've got to run, but this explains a lot Thanks.”

  “Robert-”

  But Langdon was gone.

  Faukman hung up the phone, shaking his head in disbelief Authors, he thought. Even the sane ones are nuts.

  Inside the Range Rover, Leigh Teabing let out a guffaw. “Robert, you're saying you wrote a manuscript that delves into a secret society, and your editor sent a copy to that secret society?”

  Langdon slumped. “Evidently.”

  “A cruel coincidence, my friend.”

  Coincidence has nothing to do with it, Langdon knew. Asking Jacques Saunière to endorse a manuscript on goddess worship was as obvious as asking Tiger Woods to endorse a book on golf. Moreover, it was virtually guaranteed that any book on goddess worship would have to mention the Priory of Sion.

  “Here's the million-dollar question,” Teabing said, still chuckling. “Was your position on the Priory favorable or unfavorable?”

  Langdon could hear Teabing's true meaning loud and clear. Many historians questioned why the Priory was still keeping the Sangreal documents hidden. Some felt the information should have been shared with the world long ago. “I took no position on the Priory's actions.”

  “You mean lack thereof.”

  Langdon shrugged. Teabing was apparently on the side of making the documents public. “I simply provided history on the brotherhood and described them as a modern goddess worship society, keepers of the Grail, and guardians of ancient documents.”

  Sophie looked at him. “Did you mention the keystone?”

  Langdon winced. He had. Numerous times. “I talked about the supposed keystone as an example of the lengths to which the Priory would go to protect the Sangreal documents.”

  Sophie looked amazed. “I guess that explains P.S. Find Robert Langdon.”

  Langdon sensed it was actually something else in the manuscript that had piqued Saunière's interest, but that topic was something he would discuss with Sophie when they were alone.

  “So,” Sophie said, “you lied to Captain Fache.”

  “What?” Langdon demanded.

  “You told him you had never corresponded with my grandfather.”

  “I didn't! My editor sent him a manuscript.”

  “Think about it, Robert. If Captain Fache didn't find the envelope in which your editor sent the manuscript, he would have to conclude that you sent it.” She paused. “Or worse, that you hand-delivered it and lied about it.”

  When the Range Rover arrived at Le Bourget Airfield, Rémy drove to a small hangar at the far end

  of the airstrip. As they approached, a tousled man in wrinkled khakis hurried from the hangar, waved, and slid open the enormous corrugated metal door to reveal a sleek white jet within.

  Langdon stared at the glistening fuselage. “That's Elizabeth?”

  Teabing grinned. “Beats the bloody Chunnel.”

  The man in khakis hurried toward them, squinting into the headlights. “Almost ready, sir,” he called in a British accent. “My apologies for the delay, but you took me by surprise and-” He stopped short as the group unloaded. He looked at Sophie and Langdon, and then Teabing.

  Teabing said, “My associates and I have urgent business in London. We've no time to waste. Please prepare to depart immediately.” As he spoke, Teabing took the pistol out of the vehicle and handed it to Langdon.

  The pilot's eyes bulged at the sight of the weapon. He walked over to Teabing and whispered, “Sir, my humble apologies, but my diplomatic flight allowance provides only for you and your manservant. I cannot take your guests.”

  “Richard,” Teabing said, smiling warmly, “two thousand pounds sterling and that loaded gun say you can take my guests.” He motioned to the Range Rover. “And the unfortunate fellow in the back.”

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