Vittoria Vetra sipped a glass of water and nibbled absently at some tea scones just set out by one of the Swiss Guards. She knew she should eat, but she had no appetite. The Office of the Pope was bustling now, echoing with tense conversations. Captain Rocher, Commander Olivetti, and half a dozen guards assessed the damage and debated the next move.
Robert Langdon stood nearby staring out at St. Peter’s Square. He looked dejected. Vittoria walked over. “Ideas?”
He shook his head.
His mood seemed to brighten at the sight of food. “Hell yes. Thanks.” He ate voraciously.
The conversation behind them went quiet suddenly when two Swiss Guards escorted Camerlegno Ventresca through the door. If the chamberlain had looked drained before, Vittoria thought, now he looked empty.
“What happened?” the camerlegno said to Olivetti. From the look on the camerlegno’s face, he appeared to have already been told the worst of it.
Olivetti’s official update sounded like a battlefield casualty report. He gave the facts with flat efficacy. “Cardinal Ebner was found dead in the church of Santa Maria del Popolo just after eight o’clock. He had been suffocated and branded with the ambigrammatic word ‘Earth.’ Cardinal Lamassé was murdered in St. Peter’s Square ten minutes ago. He died of perforations to the chest. He was branded with the word ‘Air,’ also ambigrammatic. The killer escaped in both instances.”
The camerlegno crossed the room and sat heavily behind the Pope’s desk. He bowed his head.
“Cardinals Guidera and Baggia, however, are still alive.”
The camerlegno’s head shot up, his expression pained. “This is our consolation? Two cardinals have been murdered, commander. And the other two will obviously not be alive much longer unless you find them.”
“We will find them,” Olivetti assured. “I am encouraged.”
“Encouraged? We’ve had nothing but failure.”
“Untrue. We’ve lost two battles, signore, but we’re winning the war. The Illuminati had intended to turn this evening into a media circus. So far we have thwarted their plan. Both cardinals’ bodies have been recovered without incident. In addition,” Olivetti continued, “Captain Rocher tells me he is making excellent headway on the antimatter search.”
Captain Rocher stepped forward in his red beret. Vittoria thought he looked more human somehow than the other guards—stern but not so rigid. Rocher’s voice was emotional and crystalline, like a violin. “I am hopeful we will have the canister for you within an hour, signore.”
“Captain,” the camerlegno said, “excuse me if I seem less than hopeful, but I was under the impression that a search of Vatican City would take far more time than we have.”
“A full search, yes. However, after assessing the situation, I am confident the antimatter canister is located in one of our white zones—those Vatican sectors accessible to public tours—the museums and St. Peter’s Basilica, for example. We have already killed power in those zones and are conducting our scan.”
“You intend to search only a small percentage of Vatican City?”
“Yes, signore. It is highly unlikely that an intruder gained access to the inner zones of Vatican City. The fact that the missing security camera was stolen from a public access area—a stairwell in one of the museums—clearly implies that the intruder had limited access. Therefore he would only have been able to relocate the camera and antimatter in another public access area. It is these areas on which we are focusing our search.”
“But the intruder kidnapped four cardinals. That certainly implies deeper infiltration than we thought.”
“Not necessarily. We must remember that the cardinals spent much of today in the Vatican museums and St. Peter’s Basilica, enjoying those areas without the crowds. It is probable that the missing cardinals were taken in one of these areas.”
“But how were they removed from our walls?”
“We are still assessing that.”
“I see.” The camerlegno exhaled and stood up. He walked over to Olivetti. “Commander, I would like to hear your contingency plan for evacuation.”
“We are still formalizing that, signore. In the meantime, I am faithful Captain Rocher will find the canister.”
Rocher clicked his boots as if in appreciation of the vote of confidence. “My men have already scanned two‑thirds of the white zones. Confidence is high.”
The camerlegno did not appear to share that confidence.
At that moment the guard with a scar beneath one eye came through the door carrying a clipboard and a map. He strode toward Langdon. “Mr. Langdon? I have the information you requested on the West Ponente.”
Langdon swallowed his scone. “Good. Let’s have a look.”
The others kept talking while Vittoria joined Robert and the guard as they spread out the map on the Pope’s desk.
The soldier pointed to St. Peter’s Square. “This is where we are. The central line of West Ponente ’s breath points due east, directly away from Vatican City.” The guard traced a line with his finger from St. Peter’s Square across the Tiber River and up into the heart of old Rome. “As you can see, the line passes through almost all of Rome. There are about twenty Catholic churches that fall near this line.”
Langdon slumped. “Twenty?”
“Do any of the churches fall directly on the line?”
“Some look closer than others,” the guard said, “but translating the exact bearing of the West Ponente onto a map leaves margin for error.”
Langdon looked out at St. Peter’s Square a moment. Then he scowled, stroking his chin. “How about fire ? Any of them have Bernini artwork that has to do with fire?”
“How about obelisks?” he demanded. “Are any of the churches located near obelisks?”
The guard began checking the map.
Vittoria saw a glimmer of hope in Langdon’s eyes and realized what he was thinking. He’s right! The first two markers had been located on or near piazzas that contained obelisks! Maybe obelisks were a theme? Soaring pyramids marking the Illuminati path? The more Vittoria thought about it, the more perfect it seemed . . . four towering beacons rising over Rome to mark the altars of science.
“It’s a long shot,” Langdon said, “but I know that many of Rome’s obelisks were erected or moved during Bernini’s reign. He was no doubt involved in their placement.”
“Or,” Vittoria added, “Bernini could have placed his markers near existing obelisks.”
Langdon nodded. “True.”
“Bad news,” the guard said. “No obelisks on the line.” He traced his finger across the map. “None even remotely close. Nothing.”
Vittoria’s shoulders slumped. She’d thought it was a promising idea. Apparently, this was not going to be as easy as they’d hoped. She tried to stay positive. “Robert, think. You must know of a Bernini statue relating to fire. Anything at all.”
“Believe me, I’ve been thinking. Bernini was incredibly prolific. Hundreds of works. I was hoping West Ponente would point to a single church. Something that would ring a bell.”
“Fuòco,” she pressed. “Fire. No Bernini titles jump out?”
Langdon shrugged. “There’s his famous sketches of Fireworks, but they’re not sculpture, and they’re in Leipzig, Germany.”
Vittoria frowned. “And you’re sure the breath is what indicates the direction?”
“You saw the relief, Vittoria. The design was totally symmetrical. The only indication of bearing was the breath.”
Vittoria knew he was right.
“Not to mention,” he added, “because the West Ponente signifies Air, following the breath seems symbolically appropriate.”
Vittoria nodded. So we follow the breath. But where?
Olivetti came over. “What have you got?”
“Too many churches,” the soldier said. “Two dozen or so. I suppose we could put four men on each church—”
“Forget it,” Olivetti said. “We missed this guy twice when we knew exactly where he was going to be. A mass stakeout means leaving Vatican City unprotected and canceling the search.”
“We need a reference book,” Vittoria said. “An index of Bernini’s work. If we can scan titles, maybe something will jump out.”
“I don’t know,” Langdon said. “If it’s a work Bernini created specifically for the Illuminati, it may be very obscure. It probably won’t be listed in a book.”
Vittoria refused to believe it. “The other two sculptures were fairly well‑known. You’d heard of them both.”
Langdon shrugged. “Yeah.”
“If we scan titles for references to the word ‘fire,’ maybe we’ll find a statue that’s listed as being in the right direction.”
Langdon seemed convinced it was worth a shot. He turned to Olivetti. “I need a list of all Bernini’s work. You guys probably don’t have a coffee‑table Bernini book around here, do you?”
“Coffee‑table book?” Olivetti seemed unfamiliar with the term.
“Never mind. Any list. How about the Vatican Museum? They must have Bernini references.”
The guard with the scar frowned. “Power in the museum is out, and the records room is enormous. Without the staff there to help—”
“The Bernini work in question,” Olivetti interrupted. “Would it have been created while Bernini was employed here at the Vatican?”
“Almost definitely,” Langdon said. “He was here almost his entire career. And certainly during the time period of the Galileo conflict.”
Olivetti nodded. “Then there’s another reference.”
Vittoria felt a flicker of optimism. “Where?”
The commander did not reply. He took his guard aside and spoke in hushed tones. The guard seemed uncertain but nodded obediently. When Olivetti was finished talking, the guard turned to Langdon.
“This way please, Mr. Langdon. It’s nine‑fifteen. We’ll have to hurry.”
Langdon and the guard headed for the door.
Vittoria started after them. “I’ll help.”
Olivetti caught her by the arm. “No, Ms. Vetra. I need a word with you.” His grasp was authoritative.
Langdon and the guard left. Olivetti’s face was wooden as he took Vittoria aside. But whatever it was Olivetti had intended to say to her, he never got the chance. His walkie‑talkie crackled loudly. “Commandante? “
Everyone in the room turned.
The voice on the transmitter was grim. “I think you better turn on the television.”