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Home > Inferno (Robert Langdon #4)(13)

Inferno (Robert Langdon #4)(13)
Author: Dan Brown

Inferno.

Soon you will know what I have left behind.

And yet, even here, I sense the footfalls of the ignorant souls who pursue me … willing to stop at nothing to thwart my actions.

Forgive them, you might say, for they know not what they do. But there comes a moment in history when ignorance is no longer a forgivable offense … a moment when only wisdom has the power to absolve.

With purity of conscience, I have bequeathed to you all the gift of Hope, of salvation, of tomorrow.

And yet still there are those who hunt me like a dog, fueled by the self-righteous belief that I am a madman. There is the silver-haired beauty who dares call me monster! Like the blind clerics who lobbied for the death of Copernicus, she scorns me as a demon, terrified that I have glimpsed the Truth.

But I am not a prophet.

I am your salvation.

I am the Shade.

CHAPTER 10

“Have a seat,” Sienna said. “I have some questions for you.”

As Langdon entered the kitchen, he felt much steadier on his feet. He was wearing the neighbor’s Brioni suit, which fit remarkably well. Even the loafers were comfortable, and Langdon made a mental note to switch to Italian footwear when he got home.

If I get home, he thought.

Sienna was transformed—a natural beauty—having changed into formfitting jeans and a cream-colored sweater, both of which complemented her lithe figure. Her hair was still pulled back in a ponytail, and without the authoritative air of medical scrubs, she seemed more vulnerable somehow. Langdon noticed her eyes were red, as if she had been crying, and an overwhelming guilt again gripped him.

“Sienna, I’m so sorry. I heard the phone message. I don’t know what to say.”

“Thanks,” she replied. “But we need to focus on you at the moment. Please sit down.”

Her tone was firmer now, conjuring memories of the articles Langdon had just read about her intellect and precocious childhood.

“I need you to think,” Sienna said, motioning for him to sit. “Can you remember how we got to this apartment?”

Langdon wasn’t sure how it was relevant. “In a taxi,” he said, sitting down at the table. “Someone was shooting at us.”

“Shooting at you, Professor. Let’s be clear on that.”

“Yes. Sorry.”

“And do you remember any gunshots while you were in the cab?”

Odd question. “Yes, two of them. One hit the side mirror, and the other broke the rear window.”

“Good, now close your eyes.”

Langdon realized she was testing his memory. He closed his eyes.

“What am I wearing?”

Langdon could see her perfectly. “Black flats, blue jeans, and a cream V-neck sweater. Your hair is blond, shoulder length, pulled back. Your eyes are brown.”

Langdon opened his eyes and studied her, pleased to see his eidetic memory was functioning normally.

“Good. Your visual cognitive imprinting is excellent, which confirms your amnesia is fully retrograde, and you have no permanent damage to the memory-making process. Have you recalled anything new from the last few days?”

“No, unfortunately. I did have another wave of visions while you were gone, though.”

Langdon told her about the recurrence of his hallucination of the veiled woman, the throngs of dead people, and the writhing, half-buried legs marked with the letter R. Then he told her about the strange, beaked mask hovering in the sky.

“ ‘I am death’?” Sienna asked, looking troubled.

“That’s what it said, yes.”

“Okay … I guess that beats ‘I am Vishnu, destroyer of worlds.’ ”

The young woman had just quoted Robert Oppenheimer at the moment he tested the first atomic bomb.

“And this beak-nosed … green-eyed mask?” Sienna said, looking puzzled. “Do you have any idea why your mind might have conjured that image?”

“No idea at all, but that style of mask was quite common in the Middle Ages.” Langdon paused. “It’s called a plague mask.”

Sienna looked strangely unnerved. “A plague mask?”

Langdon quickly explained that in his world of symbols, the unique shape of the long-beaked mask was nearly synonymous with the Black Death—the deadly plague that swept through Europe in the 1300s, killing off a third of the population in some regions. Most believed the “black” in Black Death was a reference to the darkening of the victims’ flesh through gangrene and subepidermal hemorrhages, but in fact the word black was a reference to the profound emotional dread that the pandemic spread through the population.

“That long-beaked mask,” Langdon said, “was worn by medieval plague doctors to keep the pestilence far from their nostrils while treating the infected. Nowadays, you only see them worn as costumes during Venice Carnevale—an eerie reminder of a grim period in Italy’s history.”

“And you’re certain you saw one of these masks in your visions?” Sienna asked, her voice now tremulous. “A mask of a medieval plague doctor?”

Langdon nodded. A beaked mask is hard to mistake.

Sienna was knitting her brow in a way that gave Langdon the sense she was trying to figure out how best to give him some bad news. “And the woman kept telling you to ‘seek and find’?”

“Yes. Just as before. But the problem is, I have no idea what I’m supposed to seek.”

Sienna let out a long slow breath, her expression grave. “I think I may know. And what’s more … I think you may have already found it.”

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