Even with its siren now affixed and blaring, Olivetti’s Alpha Romeo seemed to go unnoticed as it rocketed across the bridge into the heart of old Rome. All the traffic was moving in the other direction, toward the Vatican, as if the Holy See had suddenly become the hottest entertainment in Rome.
Langdon sat in the backseat, the questions whipping through his mind. He wondered about the killer, if they would catch him this time, if he would tell them what they needed to know, if it was already too late. How long before the camerlegno told the crowd in St. Peter’s Square they were in danger? The incident in the vault still nagged. A mistake.
Olivetti never touched the brakes as he snaked the howling Alpha Romeo toward the Church of Santa Maria della Vittoria. Langdon knew on any other day his knuckles would have been white. At the moment, however, he felt anesthetized. Only the throbbing in his hand reminded him where he was.
Overhead, the siren wailed. Nothing like telling him we’re coming, Langdon thought. And yet they were making incredible time. He guessed Olivetti would kill the siren as they drew nearer.
Now with a moment to sit and reflect, Langdon felt a tinge of amazement as the news of the Pope’s murder finally registered in his mind. The thought was inconceivable, and yet somehow it seemed a perfectly logical event. Infiltration had always been the Illuminati powerbase—rearrangements of power from within. And it was not as if Popes had never been murdered. Countless rumors of treachery abounded, although with no autopsy, none was ever confirmed. Until recently. Academics not long ago had gotten permission to X‑ray the tomb of Pope Celestine V, who had allegedly died at the hands of his overeager successor, Boniface VIII. The researchers had hoped the X‑ray might reveal some small hint of foul play—a broken bone perhaps. Incredibly, the X‑ray had revealed a ten‑inch nail driven into the Pope’s skull.
Langdon now recalled a series of news clippings fellow Illuminati buffs had sent him years ago. At first he had thought the clippings were a prank, so he’d gone to the Harvard microfiche collection to confirm the articles were authentic. Incredibly, they were. He now kept them on his bulletin board as examples of how even respectable news organizations sometimes got carried away with Illuminati paranoia. Suddenly, the media’s suspicions seemed a lot less paranoid. Langdon could see the articles clearly in his mind . . .
The British Broadcasting Corporation
June 14, 1998
Pope John Paul I, who died in 1978, fell victim to a plot by the P2 Masonic Lodge . . . The secret society P2 decided to murder John Paul I when it saw he was determined to dismiss the American Archbishop Paul Marcinkus as President of the Vatican Bank. The Bank had been implicated in shady financial deals with the Masonic Lodge . . .
The New York Times
August 24, 1998
Why was the late John Paul I wearing his day shirt in bed? Why was it torn? The questions don’t stop there. No medical investigations were made. Cardinal Villot forbade an autopsy on the grounds that no Pope was ever given a postmortem. And John Paul’s medicines mysteriously vanished from his bedside, as did his glasses, slippers and his last will and testament.
London Daily Mail
August 27, 1998
. . . a plot including a powerful, ruthless and illegal Masonic lodge with tentacles stretching into the Vatican.
The cellular in Vittoria’s pocket rang, thankfully erasing the memories from Langdon’s mind.
Vittoria answered, looking confused as to who might be calling her. Even from a few feet away, Langdon recognized the laserlike voice on the phone.
“Vittoria? This is Maximilian Kohler. Have you found the antimatter yet?”
“Max? You’re okay?”
“I saw the news. There was no mention of CERN or the antimatter. This is good. What is happening?”
“We haven’t located the canister yet. The situation is complex. Robert Langdon has been quite an asset. We have a lead on catching the man assassinating cardinals. Right now we are headed—”
“Ms. Vetra,” Olivetti interrupted. “You’ve said enough.”
She covered the receiver, clearly annoyed. “Commander, this is the president of CERN. Certainly he has a right to—”
“He has a right,” Olivetti snapped, “to be here handling this situation. You’re on an open cellular line. You’ve said enough.”
Vittoria took a deep breath. “Max?”
“I may have some information for you,” Max said. “About your father . . . I may know who he told about the antimatter.”
Vittoria’s expression clouded. “Max, my father said he told no one.”
“I’m afraid, Vittoria, your father did tell someone. I need to check some security records. I will be in touch soon.” The line went dead.
Vittoria looked waxen as she returned the phone to her pocket.
“You okay?” Langdon asked.
Vittoria nodded, her trembling fingers revealing the lie.
“The church is on Piazza Barberini,” Olivetti said, killing the siren and checking his watch. “We have nine minutes.”
When Langdon had first realized the location of the third marker, the position of the church had rung some distant bell for him. Piazza Barberini. Something about the name was familiar . . . something he could not place. Now Langdon realized what it was. The piazza was the sight of a controversial subway stop. Twenty years ago, construction of the subway terminal had created a stir among art historians who feared digging beneath Piazza Barberini might topple the multiton obelisk that stood in the center. City planners had removed the obelisk and replaced it with a small fountain called the Triton.
In Bernini’s day, Langdon now realized, Piazza Barberini had contained an obelisk! Whatever doubts Langdon had felt that this was the location of the third marker now totally evaporated.
A block from the piazza, Olivetti turned into an alley, gunned the car halfway down, and skidded to a stop. He pulled off his suit jacket, rolled up his sleeves, and loaded his weapon.
“We can’t risk your being recognized,” he said. “You two were on television. I want you across the piazza, out of sight, watching the front entrance. I’m going in the back.” He produced a familiar pistol and handed it to Langdon. “Just in case.”
Langdon frowned. It was the second time today he had been handed the gun. He slid it into his breast pocket. As he did, he realized he was still carrying the folio from Diagramma. He couldn’t believe he had forgotten to leave it behind. He pictured the Vatican Curator collapsing in spasms of outrage at the thought of this priceless artifact being packed around Rome like some tourist map. Then Langdon thought of the mess of shattered glass and strewn documents that he’d left behind in the archives. The curator had other problems. If the archives even survive the night . . .
Olivetti got out of the car and motioned back up the alley. “The piazza is that way. Keep your eyes open and don’t let yourselves be seen.” He tapped the phone on his belt. “Ms. Vetra, let’s retest our auto dial.”
Vittoria removed her phone and hit the auto dial number she and Olivetti had programmed at the Pantheon. Olivetti’s phone vibrated in silent‑ring mode on his belt.
The commander nodded. “Good. If you see anything, I want to know.” He cocked his weapon. “I’ll be inside waiting. This heathen is mine.”
At that moment, very nearby, another cellular phone was ringing.
The Hassassin answered. “Speak.”
“It is I,” the voice said. “Janus.”
The Hassassin smiled. “Hello, master.”
“Your position may be known. Someone is coming to stop you.”
“They are too late. I have already made the arrangements here.”
“Good. Make sure you escape alive. There is work yet to be done.”
“Those who stand in my way will die.”
“Those who stand in your way are knowledgeable.”
“You speak of an American scholar?”
“You are aware of him?”
The Hassassin chuckled. “Cool‑tempered but naive. He spoke to me on the phone earlier. He is with a female who seems quite the opposite.” The killer felt a stirring of arousal as he recalled the fiery temperament of Leonardo Vetra’s daughter.
There was a momentary silence on the line, the first hesitation the Hassassin had ever sensed from his Illuminati master. Finally, Janus spoke. “Eliminate them if need be.”
The killer smiled. “Consider it done.” He felt a warm anticipation spreading through his body. Although the woman I may keep as a prize.