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Home > Inferno (Robert Langdon #4)(37)

Inferno (Robert Langdon #4)(37)
Author: Dan Brown

I have a very good idea where Langdon will go.

Revving the throttle on her BMW, she spun it 180 degrees around and headed back the way she came. Ponte alle Grazie, she thought, picturing the bridge to the north. There existed more than one route into the old city.

CHAPTER 25

Not an apology, Langdon mused. An artist’s name.

“Vasari,” Sienna stammered, taking a full step backward on the path. “The artist who hid the words cerca trova in his mural.”

Langdon couldn’t help but smile. Vasari. Vasari. In addition to shedding a ray of light on his strange predicament, this revelation also meant Langdon was no longer wondering what terrible thing he might have done … for which he had been profusely saying he was very sorry.

“Robert, you clearly had seen this Botticelli image on the projector before you were injured, and you knew it contained a code that pointed to Vasari’s mural. That’s why you woke up and kept repeating Vasari’s name!”

Langdon tried to calculate what all of this meant. Giorgio Vasari—a sixteenth-century artist, architect, and writer—was a man Langdon often referred to as “the world’s first art historian.” Despite the hundreds of paintings Vasari created, and the dozens of buildings he designed, his most enduring legacy was his seminal book, Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, a collection of biographies of Italian artists, which to this day remains requisite reading for students of art history.

The words cerca trova had placed Vasari back in the mainstream consciousness about thirty years ago when his “secret message” was discovered high on his sprawling mural in the Palazzo Vecchio’s Hall of the Five Hundred. The tiny letters appeared on a green battle flag, barely visible among the chaos of the war scene. While consensus had yet to be reached as to why Vasari added this strange message to his mural, the leading theory was that it was a clue to future generations of the existence of a lost Leonardo da Vinci fresco hidden in a three-centimeter gap behind that wall.

Sienna was glancing nervously up through the trees. “There’s still one thing I don’t understand. If you weren’t saying ‘very sorry, very sorry’ … then why are people trying to kill you?”

Langdon had been wondering the same thing.

The distant buzz of the surveillance drone was getting louder again, and Langdon knew the time had come for a decision. He failed to see how Vasari’s Battaglia di Marciano could possibly relate to Dante’s Inferno, or the gunshot wound he had suffered the night before, and yet he finally saw a tangible path before him.

Cerca trova.

Seek and find.

Again Langdon saw the silver-haired woman calling out to him from across the river. Time is running out! If there were answers, Langdon sensed, they would be at the Palazzo Vecchio.

He now flashed on an old adage from early Grecian free divers who hunted lobsters in the coral caves of the Aegean Islands. When swimming into a dark tunnel, there arrives a point of no return when you no longer have enough breath to double back. Your only choice is to swim forward into the unknown … and pray for an exit.

Langdon wondered if they had reached that point.

He eyed the maze of garden pathways before them. If he and Sienna could reach the Pitti Palace and exit the gardens, then the old city was just a short walk across the most famous footbridge in the world—the Ponte Vecchio. It was always crowded and would provide good cover. From there, the Palazzo Vecchio was only a few blocks away.

The drone hummed closer now, and Langdon felt momentarily overwhelmed by exhaustion. The realization that he had not been saying “very sorry” left him feeling conflicted about running from the police.

“Eventually, they’re going to catch me, Sienna,” Langdon said. “It might be better for me to stop running.”

Sienna looked at him with alarm. “Robert, every time you stop, someone starts shooting at you! You need to figure out what you’re involved in. You need to look at that Vasari mural and hope it jars your memory. Maybe it will help you learn where this projector came from and why you’re carrying it.”

Langdon pictured the spike-haired woman coldly killing Dr. Marconi … the soldiers firing on them … the Italian military police gathering in the Porta Romana … and now a surveillance drone tracking them through the Boboli Gardens. He fell silent, rubbing his tired eyes as he considered his options.

“Robert?” Sienna’s voice rose. “There’s one other thing … something that didn’t seem important, but now seems like it might be.”

Langdon raised his eyes, reacting to the gravity in her tone.

“I intended to tell you at the apartment,” she said, “but …”

“What is it?”

Sienna pursed her lips, looking uncomfortable. “When you arrived at the hospital, you were delirious and trying to communicate.”

“Yes,” Langdon said, “mumbling ‘Vasari, Vasari.’ ”

“Yes, but before that … before we got out the recorder, in the first moments after you arrived, you said one other thing I remember. You only said it once, but I’m positive I understood.”

“What did I say?”

Sienna glanced up toward the drone and then back at Langdon. “You said, ‘I hold the key to finding it … if I fail, then all is death.’ ”

Langdon could only stare.

Sienna continued. “I thought you were referring to the object in your jacket pocket, but now I’m not so sure.”

If I fail, then all is death? The words hit Langdon hard. The haunting images of death flickered before him … Dante’s inferno, the biohazard symbol, the plague doctor. Yet again, the face of the beautiful silver-haired woman pleaded with him across the bloodred river. Seek and find! Time is running out!

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