Vitamins, Supplements, Sport Nutrition

106

It was 11:07 P.M. Langdon’s car raced through the Roman night. Speeding down Lungotevere Tor Di Nona, parallel with the river, Langdon could now see his destination rising like a mountain to his right.

Castel Sant’ Angelo. Castle of the Angel.

Without warning, the turnoff to the narrow Bridge of Angels—Ponte Sant’ Angelo—appeared suddenly. Langdon slammed on his brakes and swerved. He turned in time, but the bridge was barricaded. He skidded ten feet and collided with a series of short cement pillars blocking his way. Langdon lurched forward as the vehicle stalled, wheezing and shuddering. He had forgotten the Bridge of Angels, in order to preserve it, was now zoned pedestrians only.

Shaken, Langdon staggered from the crumpled car, wishing now he had chosen one of the other routes. He felt chilled, shivering from the fountain. He donned his Harris tweed over his damp shirt, grateful for Harris’s trademark double lining. The Diagramma folio would remain dry. Before him, across the bridge, the stone fortress rose like a mountain. Aching and depleted, Langdon broke into a loping run.

On both sides of him now, like a gauntlet of escorts, a procession of Bernini angels whipped past, funneling him toward his final destination. Let angels guide you on your lofty quest. The castle seemed to rise as he advanced, an unscalable peak, more intimidating to him even than St. Peter’s. He sprinted toward the bastion, running on fumes, gazing upward at the citadel’s circular core as it shot skyward to a gargantuan, sword‑wielding angel.

The castle appeared deserted.

Langdon knew through the centuries the building had been used by the Vatican as a tomb, a fortress, a papal hideout, a prison for enemies of the church, and a museum. Apparently, the castle had other tenants as well—the Illuminati. Somehow it made eerie sense. Although the castle was property of the Vatican, it was used only sporadically, and Bernini had made numerous renovations to it over the years. The building was now rumored to be honeycombed with secret entries, passageways, and hidden chambers. Langdon had little doubt that the angel and surrounding pentagonal park were Bernini’s doing as well.

Arriving at the castle’s elephantine double doors, Langdon shoved them hard. Not surprisingly, they were immovable. Two iron knockers hung at eye level. Langdon didn’t bother. He stepped back, his eyes climbing the sheer outer wall. These ramparts had fended off armies of Berbers, heathens, and Moors. Somehow he sensed his chances of breaking in were slim.

Vittoria, Langdon thought. Are you in there?

Langdon hurried around the outer wall. There must be another entrance!

Rounding the second bulwark to the west, Langdon arrived breathless in a small parking area off Lungotere Angelo. On this wall he found a second castle entrance, a drawbridge‑type ingress, raised and sealed shut. Langdon gazed upward again.

The only lights on the castle were exterior floods illuminating the façade. All the tiny windows inside seemed black. Langdon’s eyes climbed higher. At the very peak of the central tower, a hundred feet above, directly beneath the angel’s sword, a single balcony protruded. The marble parapet seemed to shimmer slightly, as if the room beyond it were aglow with torchlight. Langdon paused, his soaked body shivering suddenly. A shadow? He waited, straining. Then he saw it again. His spine prickled. Someone is up there!

“Vittoria!” he called out, unable to help himself, but his voice was swallowed by the raging Tiber behind him. He wheeled in circles, wondering where the hell the Swiss Guard were. Had they even heard his transmission?

Across the lot a large media truck was parked. Langdon ran toward it. A paunchy man in headphones sat in the cabin adjusting levers. Langdon rapped on the side of the truck. The man jumped, saw Langdon’s dripping clothes, and yanked off his headset.

“What’s the worry, mate?” His accent was Australian.

“I need your phone.” Langdon was frenzied.

The man shrugged. “No dial tone. Been trying all night. Circuits are packed.”

Langdon swore aloud. “Have you seen anyone go in there?” He pointed to the drawbridge.

“Actually, yeah. A black van’s been going in and out all night.”

Langdon felt a brick hit the bottom of his stomach.

“Lucky bastard,” the Aussie said, gazing up at the tower, and then frowning at his obstructed view of the Vatican. “I bet the view from up there is perfect. I couldn’t get through the traffic in St. Peter’s, so I’m shooting from here.”

Langdon wasn’t listening. He was looking for options.

“What do you say?” the Australian said. “This 11th Hour Samaritan for real?”

Langdon turned. “The what?”

“You didn’t hear? The Captain of the Swiss Guard got a call from somebody who claims to have some primo info. The guy’s flying in right now. All I know is if he saves the day . . . there go the ratings!” The man laughed.

Langdon was suddenly confused. A good Samaritan flying in to help? Did the person somehow know where the antimatter was? Then why didn’t he just tell the Swiss Guard? Why was he coming in person? Something was odd, but Langdon didn’t have time to figure out what.

“Hey,” the Aussie said, studying Langdon more closely. “Ain’t you that guy I saw on TV? Trying to save that cardinal in St. Peter’s Square?”

Langdon did not answer. His eyes had suddenly locked on a contraption attached to the top of the truck—a satellite dish on a collapsible appendage. Langdon looked at the castle again. The outer rampart was fifty feet tall. The inner fortress climbed farther still. A shelled defense. The top was impossibly high from here, but maybe if he could clear the first wall . . .

Langdon spun to the newsman and pointed to the satellite arm. “How high does that go?”

“Huh?” The man looked confused. “Fifteen meters. Why?”

“Move the truck. Park next to the wall. I need help.”

“What are you talking about?”

Langdon explained.

The Aussie’s eyes went wide. “Are you insane? That’s a two‑

hundred‑thousand‑dollar telescoping extension. Not a ladder!”

“You want ratings? I’ve got information that will make your day.” Langdon was desperate.

“Information worth two hundred grand?”

Langdon told him what he would reveal in exchange for the favor.

Ninety seconds later, Robert Langdon was gripping the top of the satellite arm wavering in the breeze fifty feet off the ground. Leaning out, he grabbed the top of the first bulwark, dragged himself onto the wall, and dropped onto the castle’s lower bastion.

“Now keep your bargain!” the Aussie called up. “Where is he?”

Langdon felt guilt‑ridden for revealing this information, but a deal was a deal. Besides, the Hassassin would probably call the press anyway. “Piazza Navona,” Langdon shouted. “He’s in the fountain.”

The Aussie lowered his satellite dish and peeled out after the scoop of his career.

In a stone chamber high above the city, the Hassassin removed his soaking boots and bandaged his wounded toe. There was pain, but not so much that he couldn’t enjoy himself.

He turned to his prize.

She was in the corner of the room, on her back on a rudimentary divan, hands tied behind her, mouth gagged. The Hassassin moved toward her. She was awake now. This pleased him. Surprisingly, in her eyes, he saw fire instead of fear.

The fear will come.