Gunther Glick floored the BBC van’s accelerator and swerved through traffic as he tailed the four speeding Alpha Romeos across the Tiber River on Ponte Margherita. Normally Glick would have made an effort to maintain an inconspicuous distance, but today he could barely keep up. These guys were flying.
Macri sat in her work area in the back of the van finishing a phone call with London. She hung up and yelled to Glick over the sound of the traffic. “You want the good news or bad news?”
Glick frowned. Nothing was ever simple when dealing with the home office. “Bad news.”
“Editorial is burned we abandoned our post.”
“They also think your tipster is a fraud.”
“And the boss just warned me that you’re a few crumpets short of a proper tea.”
Glick scowled. “Great. And the good news?”
“They agreed to look at the footage we just shot.”
Glick felt his scowl soften into a grin. I guess we’ll see who’s short a few crumpets. “So fire it off.”
“Can’t transmit until we stop and get a fixed cell read.”
Glick gunned the van onto Via Cola di Rienzo. “Can’t stop now.” He tailed the Alpha Romeos through a hard left swerve around Piazza Risorgimento.
Macri held on to her computer gear in back as everything slid. “Break my transmitter,” she warned, “and we’ll have to walk this footage to London.”
“Sit tight, love. Something tells me we’re almost there.”
Macri looked up. “Where?”
Glick gazed out at the familiar dome now looming directly in front of them. He smiled. “Right back where we started.”
The four Alpha Romeos slipped deftly into traffic surrounding St. Peter’s Square. They split up and spread out along the piazza perimeter, quietly unloading men at select points. The debarking guards moved into the throng of tourists and media vans on the edge of the square and instantly became invisible. Some of the guards entered the forest of pillars encompassing the colonnade. They too seemed to evaporate into the surroundings. As Langdon watched through the windshield, he sensed a noose tightening around St. Peter’s.
In addition to the men Olivetti had just dispatched, the commander had radioed ahead to the Vatican and sent additional undercover guards to the center where Bernini’s West Ponente was located. As Langdon looked out at the wide‑open spaces of St. Peter’s Square, a familiar question nagged. How does the Illuminati assassin plan to get away with this? How will he get a cardinal through all these people and kill him in plain view? Langdon checked his Mickey Mouse watch. It was 8:54 P.M. Six minutes.
In the front seat, Olivetti turned and faced Langdon and Vittoria. “I want you two right on top of this Bernini brick or block or whatever the hell it is. Same drill. You’re tourists. Use the phone if you see anything.”
Before Langdon could respond, Vittoria had his hand and was pulling him out of the car.
The springtime sun was setting behind St. Peter’s Basilica, and a massive shadow spread, engulfing the piazza. Langdon felt an ominous chill as he and Vittoria moved into the cool, black umbra. Snaking through the crowd, Langdon found himself searching every face they passed, wondering if the killer was among them. Vittoria’s hand felt warm.
As they crossed the open expanse of St. Peter’s Square, Langdon sensed Bernini’s sprawling piazza having the exact effect the artist had been commissioned to create—that of “humbling all those who entered.” Langdon certainly felt humbled at the moment. Humbled and hungry, he realized, surprised such a mundane thought could enter his head at a moment like this.
“To the obelisk?” Vittoria asked.
Langdon nodded, arching left across the piazza.
“Time?” Vittoria asked, walking briskly, but casually.
Vittoria said nothing, but Langdon felt her grip tighten. He was still carrying the gun. He hoped Vittoria would not decide she needed it. He could not imagine her whipping out a weapon in St. Peter’s Square and blowing away the kneecaps of some killer while the global media looked on. Then again, an incident like that would be nothing compared to the branding and murder of a cardinal out here.
Air, Langdon thought. The second element of science. He tried to picture the brand. The method of murder. Again he scanned the sprawling expanse of granite beneath his feet—St. Peter’s Square—an open desert surrounded by Swiss Guard. If the Hassassin really dared attempt this, Langdon could not imagine how he would escape.
In the center of the piazza rose Caligula’s 350‑ton Egyptian obelisk. It stretched eighty‑one feet skyward to the pyramidal apex onto which was affixed a hollow iron cross. Sufficiently high to catch the last of the evening sun, the cross shone as if magic . . . purportedly containing relics of the cross on which Christ was crucified.
Two fountains flanked the obelisk in perfect symmetry. Art historians knew the fountains marked the exact geometric focal points of Bernini’s elliptical piazza, but it was an architectural oddity Langdon had never really considered until today. It seemed Rome was suddenly filled with ellipses, pyramids, and startling geometry.
As they neared the obelisk, Vittoria slowed. She exhaled heavily, as if coaxing Langdon to relax along with her. Langdon made the effort, lowering his shoulders and loosening his clenched jaw.
Somewhere around the obelisk, boldly positioned outside the largest church in the world, was the second altar of science—Bernini’s West Ponente —an elliptical block in St. Peter’s Square.
Gunther Glick watched from the shadows of the pillars surrounding St. Peter’s Square. On any other day the man in the tweed jacket and the woman in khaki shorts would not have interested him in the least. They appeared to be nothing but tourists enjoying the square. But today was not any other day. Today had been a day of phone tips, corpses, unmarked cars racing through Rome, and men in tweed jackets climbing scaffolding in search of God only knew what. Glick would stay with them.
He looked out across the square and saw Macri. She was exactly where he had told her to go, on the far side of the couple, hovering on their flank. Macri carried her video camera casually, but despite her imitation of a bored member of the press, she stood out more than Glick would have liked. No other reporters were in this far corner of the square, and the acronym “BBC” stenciled on her camera was drawing some looks from tourists.
The tape Macri had shot earlier of the naked body dumped in the trunk was playing at this very moment on the VCR transmitter back in the van. Glick knew the images were sailing over his head right now en route to London. He wondered what editorial would say.
He wished he and Macri had reached the body sooner, before the army of plainclothed soldiers had intervened. The same army, he knew, had now fanned out and surrounded this piazza. Something big was about to happen.
The media is the right arm of anarchy, the killer had said. Glick wondered if he had missed his chance for a big scoop. He looked out at the other media vans in the distance and watched Macri tailing the mysterious couple across the piazza. Something told Glick he was still in the game . . .