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The Da Vinci Code (chapter 66)

2006-07-07 17:57

  CHAPTER 66

  Collet and his agents burst through the front door of Sir Leigh Teabing's estate with their guns drawn. Fanning out, they began searching all the rooms on the first level. They found a bullet hole in the drawing room floor, signs of a struggle, a small amount of blood, a strange, barbed leather belt, and a partially used roll of duct tape. The entire level seemed deserted.

  Just as Collet was about to divide his men to search the basement and grounds behind the house, he heard voices on the level above them.

  “They're upstairs!”

  Rushing up the wide staircase, Collet and his men moved room by room through the huge home, securing darkened bedrooms and hallways as they closed in on the sounds of voices. The sound seemed to be coming from the last bedroom on an exceptionally long hallway. The agents inched down the corridor, sealing off alternate exits.

  As they neared the final bedroom, Collet could see the door was wide open. The voices had stopped suddenly, and had been replaced by an odd rumbling, like an engine.

  Sidearm raised, Collet gave the signal. Reaching silently around the door frame, he found the light switch and flicked it on. Spinning into the room with men pouring in after him, Collet shouted and aimed his weapon at…… nothing.

  An empty guest bedroom. Pristine.

  The rumbling sounds of an automobile engine poured from a black electronic panel on the wall beside the bed. Collet had seen these elsewhere in the house. Some kind of intercom system. He raced over. The panel had about a dozen labeled buttons:

  STUDY…… KITCHEN…… LAUNDRY…… CELLAR……

  So where the hell do I hear a car?

  MASTER BEDROOM…… SUN ROOM…… BARN…… LIBRARY……

  Barn! Collet was downstairs in seconds, running toward the back door, grabbing one of his agents on the way. The men crossed the rear lawn and arrived breathless at the front of a weathered gray barn. Even before they entered, Collet could hear the fading sounds of a car engine. He drew his weapon, rushed in, and flicked on the lights.

  The right side of the barn was a rudimentary workshop-lawn-mowers, automotive tools, gardening supplies. A familiar intercom panel hung on the wall nearby. One of its buttons was flipped down, transmitting.

  GUEST BEDROOM II.

  Collet wheeled, anger brimming. They lured us upstairs with the intercom! Searching the other side of the barn, he found a long line of horse stalls. No horses. Apparently the owner preferred a different kind of horsepower; the stalls had been converted into an impressive automotive parking facility. The collection was astonishing-a black Ferrari, a pristine Rolls-Royce, an antique Astin Martin sports coupe, a vintage Porsche 356.

  The last stall was empty.

  Collet ran over and saw oil stains on the stall floor. They can't get off the compound. The driveway and gate were barricaded with two patrol cars to prevent this very situation.

  “Sir?” The agent pointed down the length of the stalls.

  The barn's rear slider was wide open, giving way to a dark, muddy slope of rugged fields that stretched out into the night behind the barn. Collet ran to the door, trying to see out into the darkness. All he could make out was the faint shadow of a forest in the distance. No headlights. This wooded valley was probably crisscrossed by dozens of unmapped fire roads and hunting trails, but Collet was confident his quarry would never make the woods. “Get some men spread out down there. They're probably already stuck somewhere nearby. These fancy sports cars can't handle terrain.”

  “Um, sir?” The agent pointed to a nearby pegboard on which hung several sets of keys. The labels above the keys bore familiar names.

  DAIMLER…… ROLLS-ROYCE…… ASTIN MARTIN…… PORSCHE……

  The last peg was empty.

  When Collet read the label above the empty peg, he knew he was in trouble.

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