Two blocks from the Pantheon, Langdon and Vittoria approached on foot past a line of taxis, their drivers sleeping in the front seats. Nap time was eternal in the Eternal City—the ubiquitous public dozing a perfected extension of the afternoon siestas born of ancient Spain.
Langdon fought to focus his thoughts, but the situation was too bizarre to grasp rationally. Six hours ago he had been sound asleep in Cambridge. Now he was in Europe, caught up in a surreal battle of ancient titans, packing a semiautomatic in his Harris tweed, and holding hands with a woman he had only just met.
He looked at Vittoria. She was focused straight ahead. There was a strength in her grasp—that of an independent and determined woman. Her fingers wrapped around his with the comfort of innate acceptance. No hesitation. Langdon felt a growing attraction. Get real, he told himself.
Vittoria seemed to sense his uneasiness. “Relax,” she said, without turning her head. “We’re supposed to look like newlyweds.”
“You’re crushing my hand.”
Langdon flushed and loosened up.
“Breathe through your eyes,” she said.
“It relaxes the muscles. It’s called pranayama.”
“Not the fish. Pranayama. Never mind.”
As they rounded the corner into Piazza della Rotunda, the Pantheon rose before them. Langdon admired it, as always, with awe. The Pantheon. Temple to all gods. Pagan gods. Gods of Nature and Earth. The structure seemed boxier from the outside than he remembered. The vertical pillars and triangular pronaus all but obscured the circular dome behind it. Still, the bold and immodest inscription over the entrance assured him they were in the right spot. M AGRIPPA L F COS TERTIUM FECIT. Langdon translated it, as always, with amusement. Marcus Agrippa, Consul for the third time, built this.
So much for humility, he thought, turning his eyes to the surrounding area. A scattering of tourists with video cameras wandered the area. Others sat enjoying Rome’s best iced coffee at La Tazza di Oro’s outdoor cafe. Outside the entrance to the Pantheon, four armed Roman policemen stood at attention just as Olivetti had predicted.
“Looks pretty quiet,” Vittoria said.
Langdon nodded, but he felt troubled. Now that he was standing here in person, the whole scenario seemed surreal. Despite Vittoria’s apparent faith that he was right, Langdon realized he had put everyone on the line here. The Illuminati poem lingered. From Santi’s earthly tomb with demon’s hole. YES, he told himself. This was the spot. Santi’s tomb. He had been here many times beneath the Pantheon’s oculus and stood before the grave of the great Raphael.
“What time is it?” Vittoria asked.
Langdon checked his watch. “Seven‑fifty. Ten minutes till show time.”
“Hope these guys are good,” Vittoria said, eyeing the scattered tourists entering the Pantheon. “If anything happens inside that dome, we’ll all be in the crossfire.”
Langdon exhaled heavily as they moved toward the entrance. The gun felt heavy in his pocket. He wondered what would happen if the policemen frisked him and found the weapon, but the officers did not give them a second look. Apparently the disguise was convincing.
Langdon whispered to Vittoria. “Ever fire anything other than a tranquilizer gun?”
“Don’t you trust me?”
“Trust you? I barely know you.”
Vittoria frowned. “And here I thought we were newlyweds.”