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Home > Inferno (Robert Langdon #4)(23)

Inferno (Robert Langdon #4)(23)
Author: Dan Brown

Sienna’s focus remained locked on the road ahead as she raced down the avenue, weaving in and out of the light morning traffic. Several pedestrians did double takes as they passed, apparently puzzled to see a six-foot man in a Brioni suit riding behind a slender woman.

Langdon and Sienna had traveled three blocks and were approaching a major intersection when horns blared up ahead. A sleek black van rounded the corner on two wheels, fishtailing into the intersection, and then accelerating up the road directly toward them. The van was identical to the soldiers’ van back at the apartment building.

Sienna immediately swerved hard to her right and slammed on the brakes. Langdon’s chest pressed hard into her back as she skidded to a stop out of sight behind a parked delivery truck. She nestled the Trike up to the rear bumper of the truck and killed the engine.

Did they see us!?

She and Langdon huddled low and waited … breathless.

The van roared past without hesitation, apparently never having seen them. As the vehicle sped by, however, Langdon caught a fleeting glimpse of someone inside.

In the backseat, an attractive older woman was wedged between two soldiers like a captive. Her eyes sagged and her head bobbed as if she were delirious or maybe drugged. She wore an amulet and had long silver hair that fell in ringlets.

For a moment Langdon’s throat clenched, and he thought he’d seen a ghost.

It was the woman from his visions.

CHAPTER 17

The provost stormed out of the control room and marched along the long starboard deck of The Mendacium, trying to gather his thoughts. What had just transpired at the Florence apartment building was unthinkable.

He circled the entire ship twice before stalking into his office and taking out a bottle of fifty-year-old Highland Park single malt. Without pouring a glass, he set down the bottle and turned his back on it—a personal reminder that he was still very much in control.

His eyes moved instinctively to a heavy, weathered tome on his bookshelf—a gift from a client … the client whom he now wished he’d never met.

A year ago … how could I have known?

The provost did not normally interview prospective clients personally, but this one had come to him through a trusted source, and so he had made an exception.

It had been a dead calm day at sea when the client arrived aboard The Mendacium via his own private helicopter. The visitor, a notable figure in his field, was forty-six, clean-cut, and exceptionally tall, with piercing green eyes.

“As you know,” the man had begun, “your services were recommended to me by a mutual friend.” The visitor stretched out his long legs and made himself at home in the provost’s lushly appointed office. “So, let me tell you what I need.”

“Actually, no,” the provost interrupted, showing the man who was in charge. “My protocol requires that you tell me nothing. I will explain the services I provide, and you will decide which, if any, are of interest to you.”

The visitor looked taken aback but acquiesced and listened intently. In the end, what the lanky newcomer desired had turned out to be very standard fare for the Consortium—essentially a chance to become “invisible” for a while so he could pursue an endeavor far from prying eyes.

Child’s play.

The Consortium would accomplish this by providing him a fake identity and a secure location, entirely off the grid, where he could do his work in total secrecy—whatever his work might be. The Consortium never inquired for what purpose a client required a service, preferring to know as little as possible about those for whom they worked.

For a full year, at a staggering profit, the provost had provided safe haven to the green-eyed man, who had turned out to be an ideal client. The provost had no contact with him, and all of his bills were paid on time.

Then, two weeks ago, everything changed.

Unexpectedly, the client had made contact, demanding a personal meeting with the provost. Considering the sum of money the client had paid, the provost obliged.

The disheveled man who arrived on the yacht was barely recognizable as the steady, clean-cut person with whom the provost had done business the year before. He had a wild look in his once-sharp green eyes. He looked almost … ill.

What happened to him? What has he been doing?

The provost had ushered the jittery man into his office.

“The silver-haired devil,” his client stammered. “She’s getting closer every day.”

The provost glanced down at his client’s file, eyeing the photo of the attractive silver-haired woman. “Yes,” the provost said, “your silver-haired devil. We are well aware of your enemies. And as powerful as she may be, for a full year we’ve kept her from you, and we will continue to do so.”

The green-eyed man anxiously twisted strands of greasy hair around his fingertips. “Don’t let her beauty fool you, she is a dangerous foe.”

True, the provost thought, still displeased that his client had drawn the attention of someone so influential. The silver-haired woman had tremendous access and resources—not the kind of adversary the provost appreciated having to deflect.

“If she or her demons locate me …” the client began.

“They won’t,” the provost had assured him. “Have we not thus far hidden you and provided you everything you’ve requested?”

“Yes,” the man said. “And yet, I will sleep easier if …” He paused, regrouping. “I need to know that if anything happens to me, you will carry out my final wishes.”

“Those wishes being?”

The man reached into a bag and pulled out a small, sealed envelope. “The contents of this envelope provide access to a safe-deposit box in Florence. Inside the box, you will find a small object. If anything happens to me, I need you to deliver the object for me. It is a gift of sorts.”

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