Langdon saw what he was looking for a good ten yards before they reached it. Through the scattered tourists, the white marble ellipse of Bernini’s West Ponente stood out against the gray granite cubes that made up the rest of the piazza. Vittoria apparently saw it too. Her hand tensed.
“Relax,” Langdon whispered. “Do your piranha thing.”
Vittoria loosened her grip.
As they drew nearer, everything seemed forbiddingly normal. Tourists wandered, nuns chatted along the perimeter of the piazza, a girl fed pigeons at the base of the obelisk.
Langdon refrained from checking his watch. He knew it was almost time.
The elliptical stone arrived beneath their feet, and Langdon and Vittoria slowed to a stop—not overeagerly—just two tourists pausing dutifully at a point of mild interest.
“West Ponente,” Vittoria said, reading the inscription on the stone.
Langdon gazed down at the marble relief and felt suddenly naive. Not in his art books, not in his numerous trips to Rome, not ever had West Ponente ’s significance jumped out at him.
Not until now.
The relief was elliptical, about three feet long, and carved with a rudimentary face—a depiction of the West Wind as an angel‑like countenance. Gusting from the angel’s mouth, Bernini had drawn a powerful breath of air blowing outward away from the Vatican . . . the breath of God. This was Bernini’s tribute to the second element . . . Air . . . an ethereal zephyr blown from angel’s lips. As Langdon stared, he realized the significance of the relief went deeper still. Bernini had carved the air in five distinct gusts . . . five! What was more, flanking the medallion were two shining stars. Langdon thought of Galileo. Two stars, five gusts, ellipses, symmetry . . . He felt hollow. His head hurt.
Vittoria began walking again almost immediately, leading Langdon away from the relief. “I think someone’s following us,” she said.
Langdon looked up. “Where?”
Vittoria moved a good thirty yards before speaking. She pointed up at the Vatican as if showing Langdon something on the dome. “The same person has been behind us all the way across the square.” Casually, Vittoria glanced over her shoulder. “Still on us. Keep moving.”
“You think it’s the Hassassin?”
Vittoria shook her head. “Not unless the Illuminati hires women with BBC cameras.”
When the bells of St. Peter’s began their deafening clamor, both Langdon and Vittoria jumped. It was time. They had circled away from West Ponente in an attempt to lose the reporter but were now moving back toward the relief.
Despite the clanging bells, the area seemed perfectly calm. Tourists wandered. A homeless drunk dozed awkwardly at the base of the obelisk. A little girl fed pigeons. Langdon wondered if the reporter had scared the killer off. Doubtful, he decided, recalling the killer’s promise. I will make your cardinals media luminaries.
As the echo of the ninth bell faded away, a peaceful silence descended across the square.
Then . . . the little girl began to scream.