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Home > Inferno (Robert Langdon #4)(14)

Inferno (Robert Langdon #4)(14)
Author: Dan Brown

Langdon stared. “What are you talking about?!”

“Robert, last night when you arrived at the hospital, you were carrying something unusual in your jacket pocket. Do you recall what it was?”

Langdon shook his head.

“You were carrying an object … a rather startling object. I found it by chance when we were cleaning you up.” She motioned to Langdon’s bloody Harris Tweed, which was laid out flat on the table. “It’s still in the pocket, if you’d like to have a look.”

Uncertain, Langdon eyed his jacket. At least that explains why she went back for my jacket. He grabbed his bloodstained coat and searched all the pockets, one by one. Nothing. He did it again. Finally, he turned to her with a shrug. “There’s nothing here.”

“How about the secret pocket?”

“What? My jacket doesn’t have a secret pocket.”

“No?” She looked puzzled. “Then is this jacket … someone else’s?”

Langdon’s brain felt muddled again. “No, this is my jacket.”

“You’re certain?”

Damned certain, he thought. In fact, it used to be my favorite Camberley.

He folded back the lining and showed Sienna the label bearing his favorite symbol in the fashion world—Harris Tweed’s iconic orb adorned with thirteen buttonlike jewels and topped by a Maltese cross.

Leave it to the Scots to invoke the Christian warriors on a piece of twill.

“Look at this,” Langdon said, pointing out the hand-embroidered initials—R.L.—that had been added to the label. He always sprang for Harris Tweed’s hand-tailored models, and for that reason, he always paid extra to have them sew his initials into the label. On a college campus where hundreds of tweed jackets were constantly doffed and donned in dining halls and classrooms, Langdon had no intention of getting the short end of an inadvertent trade.

“I believe you,” she said, taking the jacket from him. “Now you look.”

Sienna opened the jacket farther to reveal the lining near the nape of the back. Here, discreetly hidden in the lining, was a large, neatly fashioned pocket.

What the hell?!

Langdon was certain he had never seen this before.

The pocket consisted of a hidden seam, perfectly tailored.

“That wasn’t there before!” Langdon insisted.

“Then I’m imagining you’ve never seen … this?” Sienna reached into the pocket and extracted a sleek metal object, which she set gently in Langdon’s hands.

Langdon stared down at the object in utter bewilderment.

“Do you know what this is?” Sienna asked.

“No …” he stammered. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“Well, unfortunately, I do know what this is. And I’m fairly certain it’s the reason someone is trying to kill you.”

Now pacing his private cubicle aboard The Mendacium, facilitator Knowlton felt an increasing disquiet as he considered the video he was supposed to share with the world tomorrow morning.

I am the Shade?

Rumors had circulated that this particular client had suffered a psychotic break over the last few months, but this video seemed to confirm those rumors beyond any doubt.

Knowlton knew he had two choices. He could either prepare the video for delivery tomorrow as promised, or he could take it upstairs to the provost for a second opinion.

I already know his opinion, Knowlton thought, having never witnessed the provost take any action other than the one promised a client. He’ll tell me to upload this video to the world, no questions asked … and he’ll be furious at me for asking.

Knowlton returned his attention to the video, which he rewound to a particularly unsettling spot. He started the playback, and the eerily illuminated cavern reappeared accompanied by the sounds of lapping water. The humanoid shadow loomed on the dripping wall—a tall man with a long, birdlike beak.

In a muffled voice, the deformed shadow spoke:

These are the new Dark Ages.

Centuries ago, Europe was in the depths of its own misery—the population huddled, starving, mired in sin and hopelessness. They were as a congested forest, suffocated by deadwood, awaiting God’s lightning strike—the spark that would finally ignite the fire that would rage across the land and clear the deadwood, once again bringing sunshine to the healthy roots.

Culling is God’s Natural Order.

Ask yourself, What followed the Black Death?

We all know the answer.

The Renaissance.

Rebirth.

It has always been this way. Death is followed by birth.

To reach Paradise, man must pass through Inferno.

This, the master taught us.

And yet the silver-haired ignorant dares call me monster? Does she still not grasp the mathematics of the future? The horrors it will bring?

I am the Shade.

I am your salvation.

And so I stand, deep within this cavern, gazing out across the lagoon that reflects no stars. Here in this sunken palace, Inferno smolders beneath the waters.

Soon it will burst into flames.

And when it does, nothing on earth will be able to stop it.

CHAPTER 11

The object in Langdon’s hand felt surprisingly heavy for its size.

Slender and smooth, the polished metal cylinder was about six inches long and rounded at both ends, like a miniature torpedo.

“Before you handle that too roughly,” Sienna offered, “you may want to look at the other side.” She gave him a taut smile. “You say you’re a professor of symbols?”

Langdon refocused on the tube, turning it in his hands until a bright red symbol rolled into view, emblazoned on its side.

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