Authors: Dan Brown
Tags: #General, #Fiction, #Action & Adventure, #Thrillers, #Fiction - Espionage, #Suspense, #Thriller, #Adventure fiction, #American Mystery & Suspense Fiction, #Mystery & Thrillers, #Papacy, #Popular American Fiction, #Adventure, #Vatican City, #Crime & Thriller, #Murder, #Adventure stories; American, #Secret societies, #Antimatter, #Churches, #Papacy - Vatican City, #Brotherhoods, #Illuminati
“And these answers are in a physics lab?”
“You sound surprised.”
“I am. The questions seem spiritual.”
“Mr. Langdon, all questions were once spiritual. Since the beginning of time, spirituality and religion have been called on to fill in the gaps that science did not understand. The rising and setting of the sun was once attributed to
and a flaming chariot. Earthquakes and tidal waves were the wrath of Poseidon. Science has now proven those gods to be false idols. Soon
Gods will be proven to be false idols. Science has now provided answers to almost every question man can ask. There are only a few questions left, and they are the esoteric ones. Where do we come from? What are we doing here? What is the meaning of life and the universe?”
Langdon was amazed. “And these are questions CERN is trying to answer?”
“Correction. These are questions we
Langdon fell silent as the two men wound through the residential quadrangles. As they walked, a Frisbee sailed overhead and skidded to a stop directly in front of them. Kohler ignored it and kept going. A voice called out from across the quad.
“S’il vous plaît!”
Langdon looked over. An elderly white-haired man in a COLLEGE PARIS sweatshirt waved to him. Langdon picked up the Frisbee and expertly threw it back. The old man caught it on one finger and bounced it a few times before whipping it over his shoulder to his partner. “Merci!” he called to Langdon.
“Congratulations,” Kohler said when Langdon finally caught up. “You just played toss with a Noble prizewinner, Georges Charpak, inventor of the multiwire proportional chamber.”
My lucky day
It took Langdon and Kohler three more minutes to reach their destination—a large, well-kept dormitory sitting in a grove of aspens. Compared to the other dorms, this structure seemed luxurious. The carved stone sign in front read BUILDING C.
, Langdon thought.
But despite its sterile name, Building C appealed to Langdon’s sense of architectural style—conservative and solid. It had a red brick facade, an ornate balustrade, and sat framed by sculpted symmetrical hedges. As the two men ascended the stone path toward the entry, they passed under a gateway formed by a pair of marble columns. Someone had put a sticky-note on one of them.
Langdon mused, eyeing the column and chuckling to himself. “I’m relieved to see that even brilliant physicists make mistakes.”
Kohler looked over. “What do you mean?”
“Whoever wrote that note made a mistake. That column isn’t Ionic. Ionic columns are uniform in width. That one’s tapered. It’s Doric—the Greek counterpart. A common mistake.”
Kohler did not smile. “The author meant it as a joke, Mr. Langdon.
means containing ions—electrically charged particles. Most objects contain them.”
Langdon looked back at the column and groaned.
Langdon was still feeling stupid when he stepped from the elevator on the top floor of Building C. He followed Kohler down a well-appointed corridor. The decor was unexpected—traditional colonial French—a cherry divan, porcelain floor vase, and scrolled woodwork.
“We like to keep our tenured scientists comfortable,” Kohler explained.
, Langdon thought. “So the man in the fax lived up here? One of your upper-level employees?”
“Quite,” Kohler said. “He missed a meeting with me this morning and did not answer his page. I came up here to locate him and found him dead in his living room.”
Langdon felt a sudden chill realizing that he was about to see a dead body. His stomach had never been particularly stalwart. It was a weakness he’d discovered as an art student when the teacher informed the class that Leonardo da Vinci had gained his expertise in the human form by exhuming corpses and dissecting their musculature.
Kohler led the way to the far end of the hallway. There was a single door. “The Penthouse, as you would say,” Kohler announced, dabbing a bead of perspiration from his forehead. Langdon eyed the lone oak door before them. The name plate read:
“Leonardo Vetra,” Kohler said, “would have been fifty-eight next week. He was one of the most brilliant scientists of our time. His death is a profound loss for science.”
For an instant Langdon thought he sensed emotion in Kohler’s hardened face. But as quickly as it had come, it was gone. Kohler reached in his pocket and began sifting through a large key ring. An odd thought suddenly occurred to Langdon. The building seemed deserted. “Where is everyone?” he asked. The lack of activity was hardly what he expected considering they were about to enter a murder scene.
“The residents are in their labs,” Kohler replied, finding the key.
“I mean the
,” Langdon clarified. “Have they left already?”
Kohler paused, his key halfway into the lock. “Police?”
Langdon’s eyes met the director’s. “Police. You sent me a fax of a homicide. You
have called the police.”
“I most certainly have not.”
Kohler’s gray eyes sharpened. “The situation is complex, Mr. Langdon.”
Langdon felt a wave of apprehension. “But . . . certainly someone else knows about this!”
“Yes. Leonardo’s adopted daughter. She is also a physicist here at CERN. She and her father share a lab. They are partners. Ms. Vetra has been away this week doing field research. I have notified her of her father’s death, and she is returning as we speak.”
“But a man has been murd—”
“A formal investigation,” Kohler said, his voice firm, “will take place. However, it will most certainly involve a search of Vetra’s lab, a space he and his daughter hold most private. Therefore, it will wait until Ms. Vetra has arrived. I feel I owe her at least that modicum of discretion.”
Kohler turned the key.
As the door swung open, a blast of icy air hissed into the hall and hit Langdon in the face. He fell back in
bewilderment. He was gazing across the threshold of an alien world. The flat before him was immersed in a thick, white fog. The mist swirled in smoky vortexes around the furniture and shrouded the room in opaque haze.
“What the . . . ?” Langdon stammered.
“Freon cooling system,” Kohler replied. “I chilled the flat to preserve the body.”
Langdon buttoned his tweed jacket against the cold.
I’m in Oz,
And I forgot my magic
T he corpse on the floor before Langdon was hideous. The late Leonardo Vetra lay on his back, stripped naked, his skin bluish-gray. His neck bones were jutting out where they had been broken, and his head was twisted completely backward, pointing the wrong way. His face was out of view, pressed against the floor. The man lay in a frozen puddle of his own urine, the hair around his shriveled genitals spidered with frost.
Fighting a wave of nausea, Langdon let his eyes fall to the victim’s chest. Although Langdon had stared at the symmetrical wound a dozen times on the fax, the burn was infinitely more commanding in real life. The raised, broiled flesh was perfectly delineated . . . the symbol flawlessly formed. Langdon wondered if the intense chill now raking through his body was the air-conditioning or his utter amazement with the significance of what he was now staring at.
His heart pounded as he circled the body, reading the word upside down, reaffirming the genius of the symmetry. The symbol seemed even less conceivable now that he was staring at it.
Langdon did not hear. He was in another world . . . his world, his element, a world where history, myth, and fact collided, flooding his senses. The gears turned.
“Mr. Langdon?” Kohler’s eyes probed expectantly.
Langdon did not look up. His disposition now intensified, his focus total. “How much do you already know?”
“Only what I had time to read on your website. The word
means ‘the enlightened ones.’ It is the name of some sort of ancient brotherhood.”
Langdon nodded. “Had you heard the name before?”
“Not until I saw it branded on Mr. Vetra.”
“So you ran a web search for it?”
“And the word returned hundreds of references, no doubt.”
“Thousands,” Kohler said. “Yours, however, contained references to Harvard, Oxford, a reputable publisher, as well as a list of related publications. As a scientist I have come to learn that information is only as valuable as its source. Your credentials seemed authentic.”
Langdon’s eyes were still riveted on the body.
Kohler said nothing more. He simply stared, apparently waiting for Langdon to shed some light on the scene before them.
Langdon looked up, glancing around the frozen flat. “Perhaps we should discuss this in a warmer place?”
“This room is fine.” Kohler seemed oblivious to the cold. “We’ll talk here.”
Langdon frowned. The Illuminati history was by no means a simple one.
I’ll freeze to death trying to
. He gazed again at the brand, feeling a renewed sense of awe. Although accounts of the Illuminati emblem were legendary in modern symbology, no academic had ever actually
it. Ancient documents described the symbol as an
“both”—signifying it was legible
ways. And although ambigrams were common in symbology—swastikas, yin yang, Jewish stars, simple crosses—the idea that a
could be crafted into an ambigram seemed utterly impossible. Modern symbologists had tried for years to forge the word
“Illuminati” into a perfectly symmetrical style, but they had failed miserably. Most academics had now decided the symbol’s existence was a myth.
“So who are the Illuminati?” Kohler demanded.
, Langdon thought,
He began his tale.
“Since the beginning of history,” Langdon explained, “a deep rift has existed between science and religion. Outspoken scientists like Copernicus—”
“Were murdered,” Kohler interjected. “Murdered by the church for revealing scientific truths. Religion has always persecuted science.”
“Yes. But in the 1500s, a group of men in Rome fought back against the church. Some of Italy’s most enlightened men—physicists, mathematicians, astronomers—began meeting secretly to share their concerns about the church’s inaccurate teachings. They feared that the church’s monopoly on ‘truth’
threatened academic enlightenment around the world. They founded the world’s first scientific think tank, calling themselves ‘the enlightened ones.’ ”
“Yes,” Langdon said. “Europe’s most learned minds . . . dedicated to the quest for scientific truth.”
Kohler fell silent.
“Of course, the Illuminati were hunted ruthlessly by the Catholic Church. Only through rites of extreme secrecy did the scientists remain safe. Word spread through the academic underground, and the Illuminati brotherhood grew to include academics from all over Europe. The scientists met regularly in Rome at an ultrasecret lair they called the
Church of Illumination
Kohler coughed and shifted in his chair.
“Many of the Illuminati,” Langdon continued, “wanted to combat the church’s tyranny with acts of violence, but their most revered member persuaded them against it. He was a pacifist, as well as one of history’s most famous scientists.”
Langdon was certain Kohler would recognize the name. Even nonscientists were familiar with the ill-fated astronomer who had been arrested and almost executed by the church for proclaiming that the
, and not the earth, was the center of the solar system. Although his data were incontrovertible, the astronomer was severely punished for implying that God had placed mankind somewhere other than at the
of His universe.
“His name was Galileo Galilei,” Langdon said.
Kohler looked up. “Galileo?”
“Yes. Galileo was an Illuminatus. And he was also a devout Catholic. He tried to soften the church’s position on science by proclaiming that science did not undermine the existence of God, but rather
it. He wrote once that when he looked through his telescope at the spinning planets, he could hear God’s voice in the music of the spheres. He held that science and religion were not enemies, but rather
—two different languages telling the same story, a story of symmetry and balance . . . heaven and hell, night and day, hot and cold, God and Satan. Both science and religion rejoiced in God’s symmetry . . . the endless contest of light and dark.” Langdon paused, stamping his feet to stay warm. Kohler simply sat in his wheelchair and stared.
“Unfortunately,” Langdon added, “the unification of science and religion was not what the church wanted.”
“Of course not,” Kohler interrupted. “The union would have nullified the church’s claim as the
vessel through which man could understand God. So the church tried Galileo as a heretic, found him guilty, and put him under permanent house arrest. I am quite aware of scientific history, Mr. Langdon. But this was all centuries ago. What does it have to do with Leonardo Vetra?”