Langdon stared in bewilderment at the study before him. “What is this place?” Despite the welcome blast of warm air on his face, he stepped through the door with trepidation.
Kohler said nothing as he followed Langdon inside.
Langdon scanned the room, not having the slightest idea what to make of it. It contained the most peculiar mix of artifacts he had ever seen. On the far wall, dominating the decor, was an enormous wooden crucifix, which Langdon placed as fourteenth‑century Spanish. Above the cruciform, suspended from the ceiling, was a metallic mobile of the orbiting planets. To the left was an oil painting of the Virgin Mary, and beside that was a laminated periodic table of elements. On the side wall, two additional brass cruciforms flanked a poster of Albert Einstein, his famous quote reading:
God Does Not Play Dice With the Universe
Langdon moved into the room, looking around in astonishment. A leather‑bound Bible sat on Vetra’s desk beside a plastic Bohr model of an atom and a miniature replica of Michelangelo’s Moses.
Talk about eclectic, Langdon thought. The warmth felt good, but something about the decor sent a new set of chills through his body. He felt like he was witnessing the clash of two philosophical titans . . . an unsettling blur of opposing forces. He scanned the titles on the bookshelf:
The God Particle
The Tao of Physics
God: The Evidence
One of the bookends was etched with a quote:
True science discovers God waiting behind every door.
Pope Pius XII
“Leonardo was a Catholic priest,” Kohler said.
Langdon turned. “A priest? I thought you said he was a physicist.”
“He was both. Men of science and religion are not unprecedented in history. Leonardo was one of them. He considered physics ‘God’s natural law.’ He claimed God’s handwriting was visible in the natural order all around us. Through science he hoped to prove God’s existence to the doubting masses. He considered himself a theo‑physicist.”
Theo‑physicist? Langdon thought it sounded impossibly oxymoronic.
“The field of particle physics,” Kohler said, “has made some shocking discoveries lately—discoveries quite spiritual in implication. Leonardo was responsible for many of them.”
Langdon studied CERN’s director, still trying to process the bizarre surroundings. “Spirituality and physics?” Langdon had spent his career studying religious history, and if there was one recurring theme, it was that science and religion had been oil and water since day one . . . archenemies . . . unmixable.
“Vetra was on the cutting edge of particle physics,” Kohler said. “He was starting to fuse science and religion . . . showing that they complement each other in most unanticipated ways. He called the field New Physics.” Kohler pulled a book from the shelf and handed it to Langdon.
Langdon studied the cover. God, Miracles, and the New Physics —by Leonardo Vetra.
“The field is small,” Kohler said, “but it’s bringing fresh answers to some old questions—questions about the origin of the universe and the forces that bind us all. Leonardo believed his research had the potential to convert millions to a more spiritual life. Last year he categorically proved the existence of an energy force that unites us all. He actually demonstrated that we are all physically connected . . . that the molecules in your body are intertwined with the molecules in mine . . . that there is a single force moving within all of us.”
Langdon felt disconcerted. And the power of God shall unite us all. “Mr. Vetra actually found a way to demonstrate that particles are connected?”
“Conclusive evidence. A recent Scientific American article hailed New Physics as a surer path to God than religion itself.”
The comment hit home. Langdon suddenly found himself thinking of the antireligious Illuminati. Reluctantly, he forced himself to permit a momentary intellectual foray into the impossible. If the Illuminati were indeed still active, would they have killed Leonardo to stop him from bringing his religious message to the masses? Langdon shook off the thought. Absurd! The Illuminati are ancient history! All academics know that!
“Vetra had plenty of enemies in the scientific world,” Kohler went on. “Many scientific purists despised him. Even here at CERN. They felt that using analytical physics to support religious principles was a treason against science.”
“But aren’t scientists today a bit less defensive about the church?”
Kohler grunted in disgust. “Why should we be? The church may not be burning scientists at the stake anymore, but if you think they’ve released their reign over science, ask yourself why half the schools in your country are not allowed to teach evolution. Ask yourself why the U.S. Christian Coalition is the most influential lobby against scientific progress in the world. The battle between science and religion is still raging, Mr. Langdon. It has moved from the battlefields to the boardrooms, but it is still raging.”
Langdon realized Kohler was right. Just last week the Harvard School of Divinity had marched on the Biology Building, protesting the genetic engineering taking place in the graduate program. The chairman of the Bio Department, famed ornithologist Richard Aaronian, defended his curriculum by hanging a huge banner from his office window. The banner depicted the Christian “fish” modified with four little feet—a tribute, Aaronian claimed, to the African lungfishes’ evolution onto dry land. Beneath the fish, instead of the word “Jesus,” was the proclamation “Darwin!”
A sharp beeping sound cut the air, and Langdon looked up. Kohler reached down into the array of electronics on his wheelchair. He slipped a beeper out of its holder and read the incoming message.
“Good. That is Leonardo’s daughter. Ms. Vetra is arriving at the helipad right now. We will meet her there. I think it best she not come up here and see her father this way.”
Langdon agreed. It would be a shock no child deserved.
“I will ask Ms. Vetra to explain the project she and her father have been working on . . . perhaps shedding light on why he was murdered.”
“You think Vetra’s work is why he was killed?”
“Quite possibly. Leonardo told me he was working on something groundbreaking. That is all he said. He had become very secretive about the project. He had a private lab and demanded seclusion, which I gladly afforded him on account of his brilliance. His work had been consuming huge amounts of electric power lately, but I refrained from questioning him.” Kohler rotated toward the study door. “There is, however, one more thing you need to know before we leave this flat.”
Langdon was not sure he wanted to hear it.
“An item was stolen from Vetra by his murderer.”
The director propelled his wheelchair back into the fog‑filled living room. Langdon followed, not knowing what to expect. Kohler maneuvered to within inches of Vetra’s body and stopped. He ushered Langdon to join him. Reluctantly, Langdon came close, bile rising in his throat at the smell of the victim’s frozen urine.
“Look at his face,” Kohler said.
Look at his face? Langdon frowned. I thought you said something was stolen.
Hesitantly, Langdon knelt down. He tried to see Vetra’s face, but the head was twisted 180 degrees backward, his face pressed into the carpet.
Struggling against his handicap Kohler reached down and carefully twisted Vetra’s frozen head. Cracking loudly, the corpse’s face rotated into view, contorted in agony. Kohler held it there a moment.
“Sweet Jesus!” Langdon cried, stumbling back in horror. Vetra’s face was covered in blood. A single hazel eye stared lifelessly back at him. The other socket was tattered and empty. “They stole his eye ?”