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Home > Inferno (Robert Langdon #4)(8)

Inferno (Robert Langdon #4)(8)
Author: Dan Brown

Engraved at the bottom of the plaque was a name and a date.

The name was that of their client.

The date … tomorrow.

CHAPTER 6

Langdon felt firm hands lifting him now … urging him from his delirium, helping him out of the taxi. The pavement felt cold beneath his bare feet.

Half supported by the slender frame of Dr. Brooks, Langdon staggered down a deserted walkway between two apartment buildings. The dawn air rustled, billowing his hospital gown, and Langdon felt cold air in places he knew he shouldn’t.

The sedative he’d been given in the hospital had left his mind as blurred as his vision. Langdon felt like he was underwater, attempting to claw his way through a viscous, dimly lit world. Sienna Brooks dragged him onward, supporting him with surprising strength.

“Stairs,” she said, and Langdon realized they had reached a side entrance of the building.

Langdon gripped the railing and trudged dizzily upward, one step at a time. His body felt ponderous. Dr. Brooks physically pushed him now. When they reached the landing, she typed some numbers into a rusted old keypad and the door buzzed open.

The air inside was not much warmer, but the tile floors felt like soft carpet on the soles of his feet compared to the rough pavement outside. Dr. Brooks led Langdon to a tiny elevator and yanked open a folding door, herding Langdon into a cubicle that was about the size of a phone booth. The air inside smelled of MS cigarettes—a bittersweet fragrance as ubiquitous in Italy as the aroma of fresh espresso. Ever so slightly, the smell helped clear Langdon’s mind. Dr. Brooks pressed a button, and somewhere high above them, a series of tired gears clunked and whirred into motion.

Upward …

The creaky carriage shimmied and vibrated as it began its ascent. Because the walls were nothing but metal screens, Langdon found himself watching the inside of the elevator shaft slide rhythmically past them. Even in his semiconscious state, Langdon’s lifelong fear of cramped spaces was alive and well.

Don’t look.

He leaned on the wall, trying to catch his breath. His forearm ached, and when he looked down, he saw that the sleeve of his Harris Tweed had been tied awkwardly around his arm like a bandage. The remainder of the jacket was dragging behind him on the ground, frayed and filthy.

He closed his eyes against his pounding headache, but the blackness engulfed him again.

A familiar vision materialized—the statuesque, veiled woman with the amulet and silver hair in ringlets. As before, she was on the banks of a bloodred river and surrounded by writhing bodies. She spoke to Langdon, her voice pleading. Seek and ye shall find!

Langdon was overcome with the feeling that he had to save her … save them all. The half-buried, upside-down legs were falling limp … one by one.

Who are you!? he called out in silence. What do you want?!

Her luxuriant silver hair began fluttering in a hot wind. Our time grows short, she whispered, touching her amulet necklace. Then, without warning, she erupted in a blinding pillar of fire, which billowed across the river, engulfing them both.

Langdon shouted, his eyes flying open.

Dr. Brooks eyed him with concern. “What is it?”

“I keep hallucinating!” Langdon exclaimed. “The same scene.”

“The silver-haired woman? And all the dead bodies?”

Langdon nodded, perspiration beading on his brow.

“You’ll be okay,” she assured him, despite sounding shaky herself. “Recurring visions are common with amnesia. The brain function that sorts and catalogs your memories has been temporarily shaken up, and so it throws everything into one picture.”

“Not a very nice picture,” he managed.

“I know, but until you heal, your memories will be muddled and uncataloged—past, present, and imagination all mixed together. The same thing happens in dreams.”

The elevator lurched to a stop, and Dr. Brooks yanked open the folding door. They were walking again, this time down a dark, narrow corridor. They passed a window, outside of which the murky silhouettes of Florence rooftops had begun emerging in the predawn light. At the far end of the hall, she crouched down and retrieved a key from beneath a thirsty-looking houseplant and unlocked a door.

The apartment was tiny, the air inside hinting at an ongoing battle between a vanilla-scented candle and old carpeting. The furniture and artwork were meager at best—as if she had furnished it at a yard sale. Dr. Brooks adjusted a thermostat, and the radiators banged to life.

She stood a moment and closed her eyes, exhaling heavily, as if to collect herself. Then she turned and helped Langdon into a modest kitchenette whose Formica table had two flimsy chairs.

Langdon made a move toward a chair in hopes of sitting down, but Dr. Brooks grabbed his arm with one hand and opened a cabinet with her other. The cabinet was nearly bare … crackers, a few bags of pasta, a can of Coke, and a bottle of NoDoz.

She took out the bottle and dumped six caplets into Langdon’s palm. “Caffeine,” she said. “For when I work night shifts like tonight.”

Langdon put the pills in his mouth and glanced around for some water.

“Chew them,” she said. “They’ll hit your system faster and help counteract the sedative.”

Langdon began chewing and instantly cringed. The pills were bitter, clearly meant to be swallowed whole. Dr. Brooks opened the refrigerator and handed Langdon a half-empty bottle of San Pellegrino. He gratefully took a long drink.

The ponytailed doctor now took his right arm and removed the makeshift bandage that she’d fashioned out of his jacket, which she laid on the kitchen table. Then she carefully examined his wound. As she held his bare arm, Langdon could feel her slender hands trembling.

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