Gunther Glick and Chinita Macri sat parked in the BBC van in the shadows at the far end of Piazza del Popolo. They had arrived shortly after the four Alpha Romeos, just in time to witness an inconceivable chain of events. Chinita still had no idea what it all meant, but she’d made sure the camera was rolling.
As soon as they’d arrived, Chinita and Glick had seen a veritable army of young men pour out of the Alpha Romeos and surround the church. Some had weapons drawn. One of them, a stiff older man, led a team up the front steps of the church. The soldiers drew guns and blew the locks off the front doors. Macri heard nothing and figured they must have had silencers. Then the soldiers entered.
Chinita had recommended they sit tight and film from the shadows. After all, guns were guns, and they had a clear view of the action from the van. Glick had not argued. Now, across the piazza, men moved in and out of the church. They yelled to each other. Chinita adjusted her camera to follow a team as they searched the surrounding area. All of them, though dressed in civilian clothes, seemed to move with military precision. “Who do you think they are?” she asked.
“Hell if I know.” Glick looked riveted. “You getting all this?”
Glick sounded smug. “Still think we should go back to Pope‑Watch?”
Chinita wasn’t sure what to say. There was obviously something going on here, but she had been in journalism long enough to know that there was often a very dull explanation for interesting events. “This could be nothing,” she said. “These guys could have gotten the same tip you got and are just checking it out. Could be a false alarm.”
Glick grabbed her arm. “Over there! Focus.” He pointed back to the church.
Chinita swung the camera back to the top of the stairs. “Hello there,” she said, training on the man now emerging from the church.
“Who’s the dapper?”
Chinita moved in for a close‑up. “Haven’t seen him before.” She tightened in on the man’s face and smiled. “But I wouldn’t mind seeing him again.”
Robert Langdon dashed down the stairs outside the church and into the middle of the piazza. It was getting dark now, the springtime sun setting late in southern Rome. The sun had dropped below the surrounding buildings, and shadows streaked the square.
“Okay, Bernini,” he said aloud to himself. “Where the hell is your angel pointing?”
He turned and examined the orientation of the church from which he had just come. He pictured the Chigi Chapel inside, and the sculpture of the angel inside that. Without hesitation he turned due west, into the glow of the impending sunset. Time was evaporating.
“Southwest,” he said, scowling at the shops and apartments blocking his view. “The next marker is out there.”
Racking his brain, Langdon pictured page after page of Italian art history. Although very familiar with Bernini’s work, Langdon knew the sculptor had been far too prolific for any nonspecialist to know all of it. Still, considering the relative fame of the first marker—Habakkuk and the Angel —Langdon hoped the second marker was a work he might know from memory.
Earth, Air, Fire, Water, he thought. Earth they had found—inside the Chapel of the Earth—Habakkuk, the prophet who predicted the earth’s annihilation.
Air is next. Langdon urged himself to think. A Bernini sculpture that has something to do with Air! He was drawing a total blank. Still he felt energized. I’m on the path of Illumination! It is still intact!
Looking southwest, Langdon strained to see a spire or cathedral tower jutting up over the obstacles. He saw nothing. He needed a map. If they could figure out what churches were southwest of here, maybe one of them would spark Langdon’s memory. Air, he pressed. Air. Bernini. Sculpture. Air. Think!
Langdon turned and headed back up the cathedral stairs. He was met beneath the scaffolding by Vittoria and Olivetti.
“Southwest,” Langdon said, panting. “The next church is southwest of here.”
Olivetti’s whisper was cold. “You sure this time?”
Langdon didn’t bite. “We need a map. One that shows all the churches in Rome.”
The commander studied him a moment, his expression never changing.
Langdon checked his watch. “We only have half an hour.”
Olivetti moved past Langdon down the stairs toward his car, parked directly in front of the cathedral. Langdon hoped he was going for a map.
Vittoria looked excited. “So the angel’s pointing southwest? No idea which churches are southwest?”
“I can’t see past the damn buildings.” Langdon turned and faced the square again. “And I don’t know Rome’s churches well enou—” He stopped.
Vittoria looked startled. “What?”
Langdon looked out at the piazza again. Having ascended the church stairs, he was now higher, and his view was better. He still couldn’t see anything, but he realized he was moving in the right direction. His eyes climbed the tower of rickety scaffolding above him. It rose six stories, almost to the top of the church’s rose window, far higher than the other buildings in the square. He knew in an instant where he was headed.
Across the square, Chinita Macri and Gunther Glick sat glued to the windshield of the BBC van.
“You getting this?” Gunther asked.
Macri tightened her shot on the man now climbing the scaffolding. “He’s a little well dressed to be playing Spiderman if you ask me.”
“And who’s Ms. Spidey?”
Chinita glanced at the attractive woman beneath the scaffolding. “Bet you’d like to find out.”
“Think I should call editorial?”
“Not yet. Let’s watch. Better to have something in the can before we admit we abandoned conclave.”
“You think somebody really killed one of the old farts in there?”
Chinita clucked. “You’re definitely going to hell.”
“And I’ll be taking the Pulitzer with me.”