当前位置: 在线阅读网 > English books > Origin > CHAPTER 23

CHAPTER 23

LANGDON’S FACE REMAINED pressed hard into the turf. The weight of the agent on top of him was crushing.

Strangely, he felt nothing.

Langdon’s emotions were scattered and numb—twisting layers of sadness, fear, and outrage. One of the world’s most brilliant minds—a dear friend—had just been publicly executed in the most brutal manner. He was killed only moments before he revealed the greatest discovery of his life.

Langdon now realized that the tragic loss of human life was accompanied by a second loss—a scientific one.

Now the world may never know what Edmond found.

Langdon flushed with sudden anger, followed by steely determination.

I will do everything possible to find out who is responsible for this. I will honor your legacy, Edmond. I will find a way to share your discovery with the world.

“You knew,” the guard’s voice rasped, close in his ear. “You were heading for the podium like you expected something to happen.”

“I … was … warned,” Langdon managed, barely able to breathe.

“Warned by whom?!”

Langdon could feel his transducer headset twisted and askew on his cheek. “The headset on my face … it’s an automated docent. Edmond Kirsch’s computer warned me. It found an anomaly on the guest list—a retired admiral from the Spanish navy.”

The guard’s head was now close enough to Langdon’s ear that he could hear the man’s radio earpiece crackle to life. The voice in the transmission was breathless and urgent, and although Langdon’s Spanish was spotty, he heard enough to decipher the bad news.

… el asesino ha huido …

The assassin had escaped.

… salida bloqueada …

An exit had been blocked.

… uniforme militar blanco …

As the words “military uniform” were spoken, the guard on top of Langdon eased off the pressure. “¿Uniforme naval?” he asked his partner. “Blanco … ¿Como de almirante?

The response was affirmative.

A naval uniform, Langdon realized. Winston was right.

The guard released Langdon and got off him. “Roll over.”

Langdon twisted painfully onto his back and propped himself up on his elbows. His head was spinning and his chest felt bruised.

“Don’t move,” the guard said.

Langdon had no intention of moving; the officer standing over him was about two hundred pounds of solid muscle and had already shown he was dead serious about his job.

¡Inmediatamente!” the guard barked into his radio, continuing with an urgent request for support from local authorities and roadblocks around the museum.

… policía local … bloqueos de carretera …

From his position on the floor, Langdon could see Ambra Vidal, still on the ground near the sidewall. She tried to stand up, but faltered, collapsing on her hands and knees.

Somebody help her!

But the guard was now shouting across the dome, seeming to address nobody in particular. “¡Luces! ¡Y cobertura de móvil!” I need lights and phone service!

Langdon reached up and straightened the transducer headset on his face.

“Winston, are you there?”

The guard turned, eyeing Langdon strangely.

“I am here.” Winston’s voice was flat.

“Winston, Edmond was shot. We need the lights back on right away. We need cellular service restored. Can you control that? Or contact someone who can?”

Seconds later, the lights in the dome rose abruptly, dissolving the magical illusion of a moonlit meadow and illuminating a deserted expanse of artificial turf scattered with abandoned blankets.

The guard seemed startled by Langdon’s apparent power. After a moment, he reached down and pulled Langdon to his feet. The two men faced each other in the stark light.

The agent was tall, the same height as Langdon, with a shaved head and a muscular body that strained at his blue blazer. His face was pale with muted features that set off his sharp eyes, which, at the moment, were focused like lasers on Langdon.

“You were in the video tonight. You’re Robert Langdon.”

“Yes. Edmond Kirsch was my student and friend.”

“I am Agent Fonseca with the Guardia Real,” he announced in perfect English. “Tell me how you knew about the navy uniform.”

Langdon turned toward Edmond’s body, which lay motionless on the grass beside the podium. Ambra Vidal knelt beside the body along with two museum security guards and a staff paramedic, who had already abandoned efforts to revive him. Ambra gently covered the corpse with a blanket.

Clearly, Edmond was gone.

Langdon felt nauseated, unable to pull his eyes from his murdered friend.

“We can’t help him,” the guard snapped. “Tell me how you knew.”

Langdon returned his eyes to the guard, whose tone left no room for misinterpretation. It was an order.

Langdon quickly relayed what Winston had told him—that the docent program had flagged one of the guest’s headsets as having been abandoned, and when a human docent found the headset in a trash receptacle, they checked which guest had been assigned that headset, alarmed to find that he was a last-minute write-in on the guest list.

“Impossible.” The guard’s eyes narrowed. “The guest list was locked yesterday. Everyone underwent a background check.”

“Not this man,” Winston’s voice announced in Langdon’s headset. “I was concerned and ran the guest’s name, only to find he was a former Spanish navy admiral, discharged for alcoholism and post-traumatic stress suffered in a terrorist attack in Seville five years ago.”

Langdon relayed the information to the guard.

“The bombing of the cathedral?” The guard looked incredulous.

“Furthermore,” Winston told Langdon, “I found the officer had no connection whatsoever to Mr. Kirsch, which concerned me, and so I contacted museum security to set off alarms, but without more conclusive information, they argued we should not ruin Edmond’s event—especially while it was being live-streamed to the world. Knowing how hard Edmond worked on tonight’s program, their logic made sense to me, and so I immediately contacted you, Robert, in hopes you could spot this man so I could discreetly guide a security team to him. I should have taken stronger action. I failed Edmond.”

Langdon found it somewhat unnerving that Edmond’s machine seemed to experience guilt. He glanced back toward Edmond’s covered body and saw Ambra Vidal approaching.

Fonseca ignored her, still focused directly on Langdon. “The computer,” he asked, “did it give you a name for the naval officer in question?”

Langdon nodded. “His name is Admiral Luis Ávila.”

As he spoke the name, Ambra stopped short and stared at Langdon, a look of utter horror on her face.

Fonseca noted her reaction and immediately moved toward her. “Ms. Vidal? You’re familiar with the name?”

Ambra seemed unable to reply. She lowered her gaze and stared at the floor as if she had just seen a ghost.

“Ms. Vidal,” Fonseca repeated. “Admiral Luis Ávila—do you know this name?”

Ambra’s shell-shocked expression left little doubt that she did indeed know the killer. After a stunned moment, she blinked twice and her dark eyes began to clear, as if she were emerging from a trance. “No … I don’t know the name,” she whispered, glancing at Langdon and then back at her security guard. “I was just … shocked to hear that the killer was an officer of the Spanish navy.”

She’s lying, Langdon sensed, puzzled as to why she would attempt to disguise her reaction. I saw it. She recognized that man’s name.

“Who was in charge of the guest list?!” Fonseca demanded, taking another step toward Ambra. “Who added this man’s name?”

Ambra’s lips were trembling now. “I … I have no idea.”

The guard’s questions were interrupted by a sudden cacophony of cell phones ringing and beeping throughout the dome. Winston had apparently found a way to restore cell service, and one of the phones now ringing was in Fonseca’s blazer pocket.

The Guardia agent reached for his phone and, seeing the caller ID, took a deep breath and answered. “Ambra Vidal está a salvo,” he announced.

Ambra Vidal is safe. Langdon moved his gaze to the distraught woman. She was already looking at him. When their eyes met, they held each other’s stare for a long moment.

Then Langdon heard Winston’s voice materialize in his headset.

“Professor,” Winston whispered. “Ambra Vidal knows very well how Luis Ávila got onto the guest list. She added his name herself.”

Langdon needed a moment to make sense of the information.

Ambra Vidal herself placed the killer on the guest list?

And now she’s lying about it?!

Before Langdon could fully process this information, Fonseca was handing his cell phone to Ambra.

The agent said, “Don Julián quiere hablar con usted.

Ambra seemed almost to recoil from the phone. “Tell him I’m fine,” she replied. “I’ll call him in a little while.”

The guard’s expression was one of utter disbelief. He covered the phone and whispered to Ambra, “Su alteza Don Julián, el príncipe, ha pedido—

“I don’t care if he’s the prince,” she fired back. “If he’s going to be my husband, he will have to learn to give me space when I need it. I just witnessed a murder, and I need a minute to myself! Tell him I’ll call him shortly.”

Fonseca stared at the woman, his eyes flashing an emotion that bordered on contempt. Then he turned and walked off to continue his call in private.

For Langdon, the bizarre exchange had solved one small mystery. Ambra Vidal is engaged to Prince Julián of Spain? This news explained the celebrity treatment she was receiving and also the presence of the Guardia Real, although it certainly did not explain her refusal to accept her fiancé’s call. The prince must be worried to death if he saw this on television.

Almost instantly, Langdon was struck by a second, far darker revelation.

Oh my God … Ambra Vidal is connected to Madrid’s Royal Palace.

The unexpected coincidence sent a chill through him as he recalled Edmond’s threatening voice mail from Bishop Valdespino.

在线阅读网:http://www.yUedu88.com/