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CHAPTER 26

FROM THE LOOK of wide-eyed disbelief on Fonseca’s face, Langdon couldn’t tell what surprised the agent more: the quick decryption of the windshield sticker, or Admiral Ávila’s odd choice of getaway car. He hired an Uber, Langdon thought, wondering if the move was brilliant or incredibly shortsighted.

Uber’s ubiquitous “on-demand driver” service had taken the world by storm over the past few years. Via smartphone, anyone requiring a ride could instantly connect with a growing army of Uber drivers who made extra money by hiring out their own cars as improvised taxis. Only recently legalized in Spain, Uber required its Spanish drivers to display Uber’s U logo on their windshields. Apparently, the driver of this Uber getaway car was also a fan of the new pope.

“Agent Fonseca,” Langdon said. “Winston says he has taken the liberty of sending the image of the getaway car to local authorities to distribute at roadblocks.”

Fonseca’s mouth fell open, and Langdon sensed that this highly trained agent was not accustomed to playing catch-up. Fonseca seemed uncertain whether to thank Winston or tell him to mind his own damn business.

“And he is now dialing Uber’s emergency number.”

“No!” Fonseca commanded. “Give me the number. I’ll call myself. Uber will be more likely to assist a senior member of the Royal Guard than they will a computer.”

Langdon had to admit Fonseca was probably right. Besides, it seemed far better that the Guardia assist in the manhunt than waste their skills transporting Ambra to Madrid.

After getting the number from Winston, Fonseca dialed, and Langdon felt rising confidence that they might catch the assassin in a matter of minutes. Locating vehicles was at the heart of Uber’s business; any customer with a smartphone could literally access the precise locations of every Uber driver on earth. All Fonseca would need to do was ask the company to locate the driver who had just picked up a passenger behind the Guggenheim Museum.

¡Hostia!” Fonseca cursed. “Automatizada.” He stabbed at a number on his keypad and waited, apparently having reached an automated list of menu options. “Professor, once I get through to Uber and order a trace on the car, I will be handing this matter over to local authorities so Agent Díaz and I can transport you and Ms. Vidal to Madrid.”

“Me?” Langdon replied, startled. “No, I can’t possibly join you.”

“You can and you will,” Fonseca declared. “As will your computer toy,” he added, pointing to Langdon’s headset.

“I’m sorry,” Langdon responded, his tone hardening. “There is no way I can accompany you to Madrid.”

“That’s odd,” Fonseca replied. “I thought you were a Harvard professor?”

Langdon gave him a puzzled look. “I am.”

“Good,” Fonseca snapped. “Then I assume you’re smart enough to realize you have no choice.”

With that, the agent stalked off, returning to his phone call. Langdon watched him go. What the hell?

“Professor?” Ambra had stepped very close to Langdon and whispered behind him. “I need you to listen to me. It’s very important.”

Langdon turned, startled to see that Ambra’s expression was one of profound fear. Her mute shock seemed to have passed, and her tone was desperate and clear.

“Professor,” she said, “Edmond showed you enormous respect by featuring you in his presentation. For this reason, I’m going to trust you. I need to tell you something.”

Langdon eyed her, uncertain.

“Edmond’s murder was my fault,” she whispered, her deep brown eyes welling with tears.

“I beg your pardon?”

Ambra glanced nervously at Fonseca, who was now out of earshot. “The guest list,” she said, returning to Langdon. “The last-minute addition. The name that was added?”

“Yes, Luis Ávila.”

I am the person who added that name,” she confessed, her voice cracking. “It was me!”

Winston was correct …, Langdon thought, stunned.

I’m the reason Edmond was murdered,” she said, now on the verge of tears. “I let his killer inside this building.”

“Hold on,” Langdon said, placing a hand on her trembling shoulder. “Just talk to me. Why did you add his name?”

Ambra shot another anxious glance at Fonseca, who was still on the phone twenty yards away. “Professor, I received a last-minute request from someone I trust deeply. He asked me to add Admiral Ávila’s name to the guest list as a personal favor. The request came only minutes before the doors opened, and I was busy, so I added the name without thinking. I mean, he was an admiral in the navy! How could I possibly have known?” She looked again at Edmond’s body and covered her mouth with a slender hand. “And now …”

“Ambra,” Langdon whispered. “Who was it that asked you to add Ávila’s name?”

Ambra swallowed hard. “It was my fiancé … the crown prince of Spain. Don Julián.”

Langdon stared at her in disbelief, trying to process her words. The director of the Guggenheim had just claimed that the crown prince of Spain had helped orchestrate the assassination of Edmond Kirsch. That’s impossible.

“I’m sure the palace never expected I would learn the killer’s identity,” she said. “But now that I know … I fear I’m in danger.”

Langdon put a hand on her shoulder. “You’re perfectly safe here.”

“No,” she whispered forcefully, “there are things going on here that you don’t understand. You and I need to get out. Now!

“We can’t run,” Langdon countered. “We’ll never—”

“Please listen to me,” she urged. “I know how to help Edmond.”

“I’m sorry?” Langdon sensed that she was still in shock. “Edmond can’t be helped.”

“Yes, he can,” she insisted, her tone lucid. “But first, we’ll need to get inside his home in Barcelona.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Please just listen to me carefully. I know what Edmond would want us to do.”

For the next fifteen seconds, Ambra Vidal spoke to Langdon in hushed tones. As she talked, Langdon felt his heart rate climbing. My God, he thought. She’s right. This changes everything.

When she was finished, Ambra looked up at him defiantly. “Now do you see why we need to go?”

Langdon nodded without hesitation. “Winston,” he said into his headset. “Did you hear what Ambra just told me?”

“I did, Professor.”

“Were you already aware of this?”

“No.”

Langdon considered his next words very carefully. “Winston, I don’t know if computers can feel loyalty to their creators, but if you can, this is your moment of truth. We could really use your help.”

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