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The Da Vinci Code (chapter 85)

2006-07-07 18:29

  CHAPTER 85

  You seek the orb that ought be on his tomb.

  Each of the carved knights within the Temple Church lay on his back with his head resting on a rectangular stone pillow. Sophie felt a chill. The poem's reference to an “orb” conjured images of the night in her grandfather's basement.

  Hieros Gamos. The orbs.

  Sophie wondered if the ritual had been performed in this very sanctuary. The circular room seemed custom-built for such a pagan rite. A stone pew encircled a bare expanse of floor in the middle. A theater in the round, as Robert had called it. She imagined this chamber at night, filled with masked people, chanting by torchlight, all witnessing a “sacred communion” in the center of the room.

  Forcing the image from her mind, she advanced with Langdon and Teabing toward the first group of knights. Despite Teabing's insistence that their investigation should be conducted meticulously, Sophie felt eager and pushed ahead of them, making a cursory walk-through of the five knights on the left.

  Scrutinizing these first tombs, Sophie noted the similarities and differences between them. Every knight was on his back, but three of the knights had their legs extended straight out while two had their legs crossed. The oddity seemed to have no relevance to the missing orb. Examining their clothing, Sophie noted that two of the knights wore tunics over their armor, while the other three wore ankle-length robes. Again, utterly unhelpful. Sophie turned her attention to the only other obvious difference-their hand positions. Two knights clutched swords, two prayed, and one had his arms at his side. After a long moment looking at the hands, Sophie shrugged, having seen no hint anywhere of a conspicuously absent orb.

  Feeling the weight of the cryptex in her sweater pocket, she glanced back at Langdon and Teabing. The men were moving slowly, still only at the third knight, apparently having no luck either. In no

  mood to wait, she turned away from them toward the second group of knights.

  As she crossed the open space, she quietly recited the poem she had read so many times now that it was committed to memory.

  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.

  When Sophie arrived at the second group of knights, she found that this second group was similar to the first. All lay with varied body positions, wearing armor and swords.

  That was, all except the tenth and final tomb.

  Hurrying over to it, she stared down.

  No pillow. No armor. No tunic. No sword.

  “Robert? Leigh?” she called, her voice echoing around the chamber. “There's something missing over here.”

  Both men looked up and immediately began to cross the room toward her.

  “An orb?” Teabing called excitedly. His crutches clicked out a rapid staccato as he hurried across the room. “Are we missing an orb?”

  “Not exactly,” Sophie said, frowning at the tenth tomb. “We seem to be missing an entire knight.”

  Arriving beside her both men gazed down in confusion at the tenth tomb. Rather than a knight lying in the open air, this tomb was a sealed stone casket. The casket was trapezoidal, tapered at the feet, widening toward the top, with a peaked lid.

  “Why isn't this knight shown?” Langdon asked.

  “Fascinating,” Teabing said, stroking his chin. “I had forgotten about this oddity. It's been years since I was here.”

  “This coffin,” Sophie said, “looks like it was carved at the same time and by the same sculptor as the other nine tombs. So why is this knight in a casket rather than in the open?”

  Teabing shook his head. “One of this church's mysteries. To the best of my knowledge, nobody has

  ever found any explanation for it.“

  “Hello?” the altar boy said, arriving with a perturbed look on his face. “Forgive me if this seems rude, but you told me you wanted to spread ashes, and yet you seem to be sightseeing.”

  Teabing scowled at the boy and turned to Langdon. “Mr. Wren, apparently your family's philanthropy does not buy you the time it used to, so perhaps we should take out the ashes and get on with it.” Teabing turned to Sophie. “Mrs. Wren?”

  Sophie played along, pulling the vellum-wrapped cryptex from her pocket.

  “Now then,” Teabing snapped at the boy, “if you would give us some privacy?”

  The altar boy did not move. He was eyeing Langdon closely now. “You look familiar.”

  Teabing huffed. “Perhaps that is because Mr. Wren comes here every year!”

  Or perhaps, Sophie now feared, because he saw Langdon on television at the Vatican last year.

  “I have never met Mr. Wren,” the altar boy declared.

  “You're mistaken,” Langdon said politely. “I believe you and I met in passing last year. Father Knowles failed to formally introduce us, but I recognized your face as we came in. Now, I realize this is an intrusion, but if you could afford me a few more minutes, I have traveled a great distance to scatter ashes amongst these tombs.” Langdon spoke his lines with Teabing-esque believability.

  The altar boy's expression turned even more skeptical. “These are not tombs.”

  “I'm sorry?” Langdon said.

  “Of course they are tombs,” Teabing declared. “What are you talking about?”

  The altar boy shook his head. “Tombs contain bodies. These are effigies. Stone tributes to real men. There are no bodies beneath these figures.”

  “This is a crypt!” Teabing said.

  “Only in outdated history books. This was believed to be a crypt but was revealed as nothing of the sort during the 1950 renovation.” He turned back to Langdon. “And I imagine Mr. Wren would know that. Considering it was his family that uncovered that fact.”

  An uneasy silence fell.

  It was broken by the sound of a door slamming out in the annex.

  “That must be Father Knowles,” Teabing said. “Perhaps you should go see?”

  The altar boy looked doubtful but stalked back toward the annex, leaving Langdon, Sophie, and Teabing to eye one another gloomily.

  “Leigh,” Langdon whispered. “No bodies? What is he talking about?”

  Teabing looked distraught. “I don't know. I always thought…… certainly, this must be the place. I can't imagine he knows what he is talking about. It makes no sense!”

  “Can I see the poem again?” Langdon said.

  Sophie pulled the cryptex from her pocket and carefully handed it to him.

  Langdon unwrapped the vellum, holding the cryptex in his hand while he examined the poem. “Yes, the poem definitely references a tomb. Not an effigy.”

  “Could the poem be wrong?” Teabing asked. “Could Jacques Saunière have made the same mistake I just did?”

  Langdon considered it and shook his head. “Leigh, you said it yourself. This church was built by Templars, the military arm of the Priory. Something tells me the Grand Master of the Priory would have a pretty good idea if there were knights buried here.”

  Teabing looked flabbergasted. “But this place is perfect.” He wheeled back toward the knights. “We must be missing something!”

  Entering the annex, the altar boy was surprised to find it deserted. “Father Knowles?” I know I heard the door, he thought, moving forward until he could see the entryway.

  A thin man in a tuxedo stood near the doorway, scratching his head and looking lost. The altar boy gave an irritated huff, realizing he had forgotten to relock the door when he let the others in. Now some pathetic sod had wandered in off the street, looking for directions to some wedding from the looks of it. “I'm sorry,” he called out, passing a large pillar, “we're closed.”

  A flurry of cloth ruffled behind him, and before the altar boy could turn, his head snapped backward, a powerful hand clamping hard over his mouth from behind, muffling his scream. The hand over the boy's mouth was snow-white, and he smelled alcohol.

  The prim man in the tuxedo calmly produced a very small revolver, which he aimed directly at the boy's forehead.

  The altar boy felt his groin grow hot and realized he had wet himself.

  “Listen carefully,” the tuxedoed man whispered. “You will exit this church silently, and you will run. You will not stop. Is that clear?”

  The boy nodded as best he could with the hand over his mouth.

  “If you call the police……” The tuxedoed man pressed the gun to his skin. “I will find you.”

  The next thing the boy knew, he was sprinting across the outside courtyard with no plans of stopping until his legs gave out.

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