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The Da Vinci Code (chapter 82)

2006-07-07 18:27

  CHAPTER 82

  “Fleet Street?” Langdon asked, eyeing Teabing in the back of the limo. There's a crypt on Fleet Street? So far, Leigh was being playfully cagey about where he thought they would find the “knight's tomb,” which, according to the poem, would provide the password for opening the smaller cryptex.

  Teabing grinned and turned to Sophie. “Miss Neveu, give the Harvard boy one more shot at the verse, will you?”

  Sophie fished in her pocket and pulled out the black cryptex, which was wrapped in the vellum. Everyone had decided to leave the rosewood box and larger cryptex behind in the plane's strongbox, carrying with them only what they needed, the far more portable and discreet black cryptex. Sophie unwrapped the vellum and handed the sheet to Langdon.

  Although Langdon had read the poem several times onboard the jet, he had been unable to extract any specific location. Now, as he read the words again, he processed them slowly and carefully, hoping the pentametric rhythms would reveal a clearer meaning now that he was on the ground.

  In London lies a knight a Pope interred.

  His labor's fruit a Holy wrath incurred.

  You seek the orb that ought be on his tomb.

  It speaks of Rosy flesh and seeded womb.

  The language seemed simple enough. There was a knight buried in London. A knight who labored at something that angered the Church. A knight whose tomb was missing an orb that should be present. The poem's final reference-Rosy flesh and seeded womb-was a clear allusion to Mary Magdalene, the Rose who bore the seed of Jesus.

  Despite the apparent straightforwardness of the verse, Langdon still had no idea who this knight was or where he was buried. Moreover, once they located the tomb, it sounded as if they would be searching for something that was absent. The orb that ought be on his tomb?

  “No thoughts?” Teabing clucked in disappointment, although Langdon sensed the Royal Historian was enjoying being one up. “Miss Neveu?”

  She shook her head.

  “What would you two do without me?” Teabing said. “Very well, I will walk you through it. It's quite simple really. The first line is the key. Would you read it please?”

  Langdon read aloud. “ 'In London lies a knight a Pope interred.' ”

  “Precisely. A knight a Pope interred.” He eyed Langdon. “What does that mean to you?”

  Langdon shrugged. “A knight buried by a Pope? A knight whose funeral was presided over by a Pope?”

  Teabing laughed loudly. “Oh, that's rich. Always the optimist, Robert. Look at the second line. This knight obviously did something that incurred the Holy wrath of the Church. Think again. Consider the dynamic between the Church and the Knights Templar. A knight a Pope interred?”

  “A knight a Pope killed?” Sophie asked.

  Teabing smiled and patted her knee. “Well done, my dear. A knight a Pope buried. Or killed.”

  Langdon thought of the notorious Templar round-up in 1307-unlucky Friday the thirteenth-when Pope Clement killed and interred hundreds of Knights Templar. “But there must be endless graves of 'knights killed by Popes.' ”

  “Aha, not so! ”Teabing said. “Many of them were burned at the stake and tossed unceremoniously into the Tiber River. But this poem refers to a tomb. A tomb in London. And there are few knights buried in London.” He paused, eyeing Langdon as if waiting for light to dawn. Finally he huffed. “Robert, for heaven's sake! The church built in London by the Priory's military arm-the Knights Templar themselves!”

  “The Temple Church?” Langdon drew a startled breath. “It has a crypt?”

  “Ten of the most frightening tombs you will ever see.”

  Langdon had never actually visited the Temple Church, although he'd come across numerous references in his Priory research. Once the epicenter of all Templar/Priory activities in the United Kingdom, the Temple Church had been so named in honor of Solomon's Temple, from which the Knights Templar had extracted their own title, as well as the Sangreal documents that gave them all their influence in Rome. Tales abounded of knights performing strange, secretive rituals within the Temple Church's unusual sanctuary. “The Temple Church is on Fleet Street?”

  “Actually, it's just off Fleet Street on Inner Temple Lane.” Teabing looked mischievous. “I wanted to see you sweat a little more before I gave it away.”

  “Thanks.”

  “Neither of you has ever been there?”

  Sophie and Langdon shook their heads.

  “I'm not surprised,” Teabing said. “The church is hidden now behind much larger buildings. Few people even know it's there. Eerie old place. The architecture is pagan to the core.”

  Sophie looked surprised. “Pagan?”

  “Pantheonically pagan!” Teabing exclaimed. “The church is round. The Templars ignored the traditional Christian cruciform layout and built a perfectly circular church in honor of the sun.” His eyebrows did a devilish dance. “A not so subtle howdy-do to the boys in Rome. They might as well have resurrected Stonehenge in downtown London.”

  Sophie eyed Teabing. “What about the rest of the poem?”

  The historian's mirthful air faded. “I'm not sure. It's puzzling. We will need to examine each of the ten tombs carefully. With luck, one of them will have a conspicuously absent orb.”

  Langdon realized how close they really were. If the missing orb revealed the password, they would be able to open the second cryptex. He had a hard time imagining what they might find inside.

  Langdon eyed the poem again. It was like some kind of primordial crossword puzzle. A five-letter word that speaks of the Grail? On the plane, they had already tried all the obvious passwords-GRAIL, GRAAL, GREAL, VENUS, MARIA, JESUS, SARAH-but the cylinder had not budged. Far too obvious. Apparently there existed some other five-letter reference to the Rose's seeded womb. The fact that the word was eluding a specialist like Leigh Teabing signified to Langdon that it was no ordinary Grail reference.

  “Sir Leigh?” Rémy called over his shoulder. He was watching them in the rearview mirror through the open divider. “You said Fleet Street is near Blackfriars Bridge?”

  “Yes, take Victoria Embankment.”

  “I'm sorry. I'm not sure where that is. We usually go only to the hospital.”

  Teabing rolled his eyes at Langdon and Sophie and grumbled, “I swear, sometimes it's like baby-sitting a child. One moment please. Help yourself to a drink and savory snacks.” He left them, clambering awkwardly toward the open divider to talk to Rémy.

  Sophie turned to Langdon now, her voice quiet. “Robert, nobody knows you and I are in England.”

  Langdon realized she was right. The Kent police would tell Fache the plane was empty, and Fache would have to assume they were still in France. We are invisible. Leigh's little stunt had just bought them a lot of time.

  “Fache will not give up easily,” Sophie said. “He has too much riding on this arrest now.”

  Langdon had been trying not to think about Fache. Sophie had promised she would do everything in her power to exonerate Langdon once this was over, but Langdon was starting to fear it might not matter. Fache could easily be pan of this plot. Although Langdon could not imagine the Judicial Police tangled up in the Holy Grail, he sensed too much coincidence tonight to disregard Fache as a possible accomplice. Fache is religions, and he is intent on pinning these murders on me. Then again, Sophie had argued that Fache might simply be overzealous to make the arrest. After all, the evidence against Langdon was substantial. In addition to Langdon's name scrawled on the Louvre floor and in Saunière's date book, Langdon now appeared to have lied about his manuscript and then run away. At Sophie's suggestion.

  “Robert, I'm sorry you're so deeply involved,” Sophie said, placing her hand on his knee. “But I'm very glad you're here.”

  The comment sounded more pragmatic than romantic, and yet Langdon felt an unexpected flicker of attraction between them. He gave her a tired smile. “I'm a lot more fun when I've slept.”

  Sophie was silent for several seconds. “My grandfather asked me to trust you. I'm glad I listened to him for once.”

  “Your grandfather didn't even know me.”

  “Even so, I can't help but think you've done everything he would have wanted. You helped me find the keystone, explained the Sangreal, told me about the ritual in the basement.” She paused. “Somehow I feel closer to my grandfather tonight than I have in years. I know he would be happy

  about that.“

  In the distance, now, the skyline of London began to materialize through the dawn drizzle. Once dominated by Big Ben and Tower Bridge, the horizon now bowed to the Millennium Eye-a colossal, ultramodern Ferris wheel that climbed five hundred feet and afforded breathtaking views of the city. Langdon had attempted to board it once, but the “viewing capsules” reminded him of sealed sarcophagi, and he opted to keep his feet on the ground and enjoy the view from the airy banks of the Thames.

  Langdon felt a squeeze on his knee, pulling him back, and Sophie's green eyes were on him. He realized she had been speaking to him. “What do you think we should do with the Sangreal documents if we ever find them?” she whispered.

  “What I think is immaterial,” Langdon said. “Your grandfather gave the cryptex to you, and you should do with it what your instinct tells you he would want done.”

  “I'm asking for your opinion. You obviously wrote something in that manuscript that made my grandfather trust your judgment. He scheduled a private meeting with you. That's rare.”

  “Maybe he wanted to tell me I have it all wrong.”

  “Why would he tell me to find you unless he liked your ideas? In your manuscript, did you support the idea that the Sangreal documents should be revealed or stay buried?”

  “Neither. I made no judgment either way. The manuscript deals with the symbology of the sacred feminine-tracing her iconography throughout history. I certainly didn't presume to know where the Grail is hidden or whether it should ever be revealed.”

  “And yet you're writing a book about it, so you obviously feel the information should be shared.”

  “There's an enormous difference between hypothetically discussing an alternate history of Christ, and……” He paused.

  “And what?”

  “And presenting to the world thousands of ancient documents as scientific evidence that the New Testament is false testimony.”

  “But you told me the New Testament is based on fabrications.”

  Langdon smiled. “Sophie, every faith in the world is based on fabrication. That is the definition of faith-acceptance of that which we imagine to be true, that which we cannot prove. Every religion describes God through metaphor, allegory, and exaggeration, from the early Egyptians through

  modern Sunday school. Metaphors are a way to help our minds process the unprocessible. The problems arise when we begin to believe literally in our own metaphors.“

  “So you are in favor of the Sangreal documents staying buried forever?”

  “I'm a historian. I'm opposed to the destruction of documents, and I would love to see religious scholars have more information to ponder the exceptional life of Jesus Christ.”

  “You're arguing both sides of my question.”

  “Am I? The Bible represents a fundamental guidepost for millions of people on the planet, in much the same way the Koran, Torah, and Pali Canon offer guidance to people of other religions. If you and I could dig up documentation that contradicted the holy stories of Islamic belief, Judaic belief, Buddhist belief, pagan belief, should we do that? Should we wave a flag and tell the Buddhists that we have proof the Buddha did not come from a lotus blossom? Or that Jesus was not born of a literal virgin birth? Those who truly understand their faiths understand the stories are metaphorical.”

  Sophie looked skeptical. “My friends who are devout Christians definitely believe that Christ literally walked on water, literally turned water into wine, and was born of a literal virgin birth.”

  “My point exactly,” Langdon said. “Religious allegory has become a part of the fabric of reality. And living in that reality helps millions of people cope and be better people.”

  “But it appears their reality is false.”

  Langdon chuckled. “No more false than that of a mathematical cryptographer who believes in the imaginary number 'i' because it helps her break codes.”

  Sophie frowned. “That's not fair.”

  A moment passed.

  “What was your question again?” Langdon asked.

  “I can't remember.”

  He smiled. “Works every time.”

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