The scaffolding seemed less stable the higher Langdon climbed. His view of Rome, however, got better with every step. He continued upward.
He was breathing harder than he expected when he reached the upper tier. He pulled himself onto the last platform, brushed off the plaster, and stood up. The height did not bother him at all. In fact, it was invigorating.
The view was staggering. Like an ocean on fire, the red‑tiled rooftops of Rome spread out before him, glowing in the scarlet sunset. From that spot, for the first time in his life, Langdon saw beyond the pollution and traffic of Rome to its ancient roots—Cittа di Dio —The city of God.
Squinting into the sunset, Langdon scanned the rooftops for a church steeple or bell tower. But as he looked farther and farther toward the horizon, he saw nothing. There are hundreds of churches in Rome, he thought. There must be one southwest of here! If the church is even visible, he reminded himself. Hell, if the church is even still standing!
Forcing his eyes to trace the line slowly, he attempted the search again. He knew, of course, that not all churches would have visible spires, especially smaller, out‑of‑the‑way sanctuaries. Not to mention, Rome had changed dramatically since the 1600s when churches were by law the tallest buildings allowed. Now, as Langdon looked out, he saw apartment buildings, high‑rises, TV towers.
For the second time, Langdon’s eye reached the horizon without seeing anything. Not one single spire. In the distance, on the very edge of Rome, Michelangelo’s massive dome blotted the setting sun. St. Peter’s Basilica. Vatican City. Langdon found himself wondering how the cardinals were faring, and if the Swiss Guards’ search had turned up the antimatter. Something told him it hadn’t . . . and wouldn’t.
The poem was rattling through his head again. He considered it, carefully, line by line. From Santi’s earthly tomb with demon’s hole. They had found Santi’s tomb. ‘Cross Rome the mystic elements unfold. The mystic elements were Earth, Air, Fire, Water. The path of light is laid, the sacred test. The path of Illumination formed by Bernini’s sculptures. Let angels guide you on your lofty quest.
The angel was pointing southwest . . .
“Front stairs!” Glick exclaimed, pointing wildly through the windshield of the BBC van. “Something’s going on!”
Macri dropped her shot back down to the main entrance. Something was definitely going on. At the bottom of the stairs, the military‑looking man had pulled one of the Alpha Romeos close to the stairs and opened the trunk. Now he was scanning the square as if checking for onlookers. For a moment, Macri thought the man had spotted them, but his eyes kept moving. Apparently satisfied, he pulled out a walkie‑talkie and spoke into it.
Almost instantly, it seemed an army emerged from the church. Like an American football team breaking from a huddle, the soldiers formed a straight line across the top of the stairs. Moving like a human wall, they began to descend. Behind them, almost entirely hidden by the wall, four soldiers seemed to be carrying something. Something heavy. Awkward.
Glick leaned forward on the dashboard. “Are they stealing something from the church?”
Chinita tightened her shot even more, using the telephoto to probe the wall of men, looking for an opening. One split second, she willed. A single frame. That’s all I need. But the men moved as one. Come on! Macri stayed with them, and it paid off. When the soldiers tried to lift the object into the trunk, Macri found her opening. Ironically, it was the older man who faltered. Only for an instant, but long enough. Macri had her frame. Actually, it was more like ten frames.
“Call editorial,” Chinita said. “We’ve got a dead body.”
Far away, at CERN, Maximilian Kohler maneuvered his wheelchair into Leonardo Vetra’s study. With mechanical efficiency, he began sifting through Vetra’s files. Not finding what he was after, Kohler moved to Vetra’s bedroom. The top drawer of his bedside table was locked. Kohler pried it open with a knife from the kitchen.
Inside Kohler found exactly what he was looking for.