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87

Langdon’s watch, now smeared with blood, read 9:41 P.M. as he ran across the Courtyard of the Belvedere and approached the fountain outside the Swiss Guard security center. His hand had stopped bleeding and now felt worse than it looked. As he arrived, it seemed everyone convened at once—Olivetti, Rocher, the camerlegno, Vittoria, and a handful of guards.

Vittoria hurried toward him immediately. “Robert, you’re hurt.”

Before Langdon could answer, Olivetti was before him. “Mr. Langdon, I’m relieved you’re okay. I’m sorry about the crossed signals in the archives.”

“Crossed signals?” Langdon demanded. “You knew damn well—”

“It was my fault,” Rocher said, stepping forward, sounding contrite. “I had no idea you were in the archives. Portions of our white zones are cross‑wired with that building. We were extending our search. I’m the one who killed power. If I had known . . .”

“Robert,” Vittoria said, taking his wounded hand in hers and looking it over, “the Pope was poisoned. The Illuminati killed him.”

Langdon heard the words, but they barely registered. He was saturated. All he could feel was the warmth of Vittoria’s hands.

The camerlegno pulled a silk handkerchief from his cassock and handed it to Langdon so he could clean himself. The man said nothing. His green eyes seemed filled with a new fire.

“Robert,” Vittoria pressed, “you said you found where the next cardinal is going to be killed?”

Langdon felt flighty. “I do, it’s at the—”

“No,” Olivetti interrupted. “Mr. Langdon, when I asked you not to speak another word on the walkie‑talkie, it was for a reason.” He turned to the handful of assembled Swiss Guards. “Excuse us, gentlemen.”

The soldiers disappeared into the security center. No indignity. Only compliance.

Olivetti turned back to the remaining group. “As much as it pains me to say this, the murder of our Pope is an act that could only have been accomplished with help from within these walls. For the good of all, we can trust no one. Including our guards.” He seemed to be suffering as he spoke the words.

Rocher looked anxious. “Inside collusion implies—”

“Yes,” Olivetti said. “The integrity of your search is compromised. And yet it is a gamble we must take. Keep looking.”

Rocher looked like he was about to say something, thought better of it, and left.

The camerlegno inhaled deeply. He had not said a word yet, and Langdon sensed a new rigor in the man, as if a turning point had been reached.

“Commander?” The camerlegno’s tone was impermeable. “I am going to break conclave.”

Olivetti pursed his lips, looking dour. “I advise against it. We still have two hours and twenty minutes.”

“A heartbeat.”

Olivetti’s tone was now challenging “What do you intend to do? Evacuate the cardinals single‑handedly?”

“I intend to save this church with whatever power God has given me. How I proceed is no longer your concern.”

Olivetti straightened. “Whatever you intend to do . . .” He paused. “I do not have the authority to restrain you. Particularly in light of my apparent failure as head of security. I ask only that you wait. Wait twenty minutes . . . until after ten o’clock. If Mr. Langdon’s information is correct, I may still have a chance to catch this assassin. There is still a chance to preserve protocol and decorum.”

“Decorum?” The camerlegno let out a choked laugh. “We have long since passed propriety, commander. In case you hadn’t noticed, this is war.”

A guard emerged from the security center and called out to the camerlegno, “Signore, I just got word we have detained the BBC reporter, Mr. Glick.”

The camerlegno nodded. “Have both he and his camerawoman meet me outside the Sistine Chapel.”

Olivetti’s eyes widened. “What are you doing?”

“Twenty minutes, commander. That’s all I’m giving you.” Then he was gone.

When Olivetti’s Alpha Romeo tore out of Vatican City, this time there was no line of unmarked cars following him. In the back seat, Vittoria bandaged Langdon’s hand with a first‑aid kit she’d found in the glove box.

Olivetti stared straight ahead. “Okay, Mr. Langdon. Where are we going?”