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CHAPTER 47

AS KIRSCH’S GULFSTREAM G550 began its descent into Barcelona, Robert Langdon drained his second mug of coffee and gazed down at the remains of the impromptu late-night snack that he and Ambra had just shared from Edmond’s galley—nuts, rice cakes, and assorted “vegan bars” that all tasted the same to him.

Across the table, Ambra had just finished her second glass of red wine and was looking much more relaxed.

“Thanks for listening,” she said, sounding sheepish. “Obviously, I haven’t been able to talk about Julián with anyone.”

Langdon gave her an understanding nod, having just heard the story of Julián’s awkward proposal to her on television. She didn’t have a choice, Langdon agreed, knowing full well that Ambra could not risk shaming the future king of Spain on national television.

“Obviously, if I’d known he was going to propose so quickly,” Ambra said, “I would have told him I can’t have children. But it all happened without warning.” She shook her head and looked sadly out the window. “I thought I liked him. I don’t know, maybe it was just the thrill of—”

“A tall, dark, handsome prince?” Langdon ventured with a lopsided grin.

Ambra laughed quietly and turned back to him. “He did have that going for him. I don’t know, he seemed like a good man. Sheltered maybe, but a romantic—not the kind of man who would ever be involved in killing Edmond.”

Langdon suspected she was right. The prince had little to gain from Edmond’s death, and there was no solid evidence to suggest that the prince was involved in any way—only a phone call from someone inside the palace asking to add Admiral Ávila to the guest list. At this point, Bishop Valdespino seemed to be the most obvious suspect, having been privy to Edmond’s announcement early enough to formulate a plan to stop it, and also knowing better than anyone just how destructive it might be to the authority of the world’s religions.

“Obviously, I can’t marry Julián,” Ambra said quietly. “I keep thinking he’ll break off the engagement now that he knows I can’t have children. His bloodline has held the crown for most of the last four centuries. Something tells me that a museum administrator from Bilbao will not be the reason the lineage ends.”

The speaker overhead crackled, and the pilots announced that it was time to prepare for their landing in Barcelona.

Jarred from her ruminations about the prince, Ambra stood and began tidying up the cabin—rinsing their glasses in the galley and disposing of the uneaten food.

“Professor,” Winston chimed from Edmond’s phone on the table, “I thought you should be aware that there is new information now going viral online—strong evidence suggesting a secret link between Bishop Valdespino and the assassin Admiral Ávila.”

Langdon was alarmed by the news.

“Unfortunately, there is more,” Winston added. “As you know, Kirsch’s secret meeting with Bishop Valdespino included two other religious leaders—a prominent rabbi and a well-loved imam. Last night, the imam was found dead in the desert near Dubai. And, in the last few minutes, there is troubling news coming out of Budapest: it seems the rabbi has been found dead of an apparent heart attack.”

Langdon was stunned.

“Bloggers,” Winston said, “are already questioning the coincidental timing of their deaths.”

Langdon nodded in mute disbelief. One way or the other, Bishop Antonio Valdespino was now the only living person on earth who knew what Kirsch had discovered.

 

When the Gulfstream G550 touched down onto the lone runway at Sabadell Airport in the foothills of Barcelona, Ambra was relieved to see no signs of waiting paparazzi or press.

According to Edmond, in order to avoid dealing with starstruck fans at Barcelona’s El-Prat Airport, he chose to keep his plane at this small jetport.

That was not the real reason, Ambra knew.

In reality, Edmond loved attention, and admitted to keeping his plane at Sabadell only to have an excuse to drive the winding roads to his home in his favorite sports car—a Tesla Model X P90D that Elon Musk had allegedly hand-delivered to him as a gift. Supposedly, Edmond had once challenged his jet pilots to a one-mile drag race on the runway—Gulfstream vs. Tesla—but his pilots had done the math and declined.

I’ll miss Edmond, Ambra thought ruefully. Yes, he was self-indulgent and brash, but his brilliant imagination deserved so much more from life than what happened to him tonight. I just hope we can honor him by unveiling his discovery.

When the plane arrived inside Edmond’s single-plane hangar and powered down, Ambra could see that everything here was quiet. Apparently, she and Professor Langdon were still flying under the radar.

As she led the way down the jet’s staircase, Ambra breathed deeply, trying to clear her head. The second glass of wine had taken hold, and she regretted drinking it. Stepping down onto the cement floor of the hangar, she faltered slightly and felt Langdon’s strong hand on her shoulder, steadying her.

“Thanks,” she whispered, smiling back at the professor, whose two cups of coffee had left him looking wide-awake and wired.

“We should get out of sight as quickly as possible,” Langdon said, eyeing the sleek black SUV parked in the corner. “I assume that’s the vehicle you told me about?”

She nodded. “Edmond’s secret love.”

“Odd license plate.”

Ambra eyed the car’s vanity plate and chuckled.

E-WAVE

“Well,” she explained, “Edmond told me that Google and NASA recently acquired a groundbreaking supercomputer called D-Wave—one of the world’s first ‘quantum’ computers. He tried to explain it to me, but it was pretty complicated—something about superpositions and quantum mechanics and creating an entirely new breed of machine. Anyhow, Edmond said he wanted to build something that would blow D-Wave out of the water. He planned to call his new computer E-Wave.”

“E for Edmond,” Langdon mused.

And E is one step beyond D, Ambra thought, recalling Edmond’s story about the famous computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey, which, according to urban legend, had been named HAL because each letter occurred alphabetically one letter ahead of IBM.

“And the car key?” Langdon asked. “You said you know where he hides it.”

“He doesn’t use a key.” Ambra held up Edmond’s phone. “He showed me this when we came here last month.” She touched the phone screen, launched the Tesla app, and selected the summon command.

Instantly, in the corner of the hangar, the SUV’s headlights blazed to life, and the Tesla—without the slightest sound—slid smoothly up beside them and stopped.

Langdon cocked his head, looking unnerved by the prospect of a car that drove itself.

“Don’t worry,” Ambra assured him. “I’ll let you drive to Edmond’s apartment.”

Langdon nodded his agreement and began circling around to the driver’s side. As he passed the front of the car, he paused, staring down at the license plate and laughing out loud.

Ambra knew exactly what had amused him—Edmond’s license-plate frame: AND THE GEEK SHALL INHERIT THE EARTH.

“Only Edmond,” Langdon said as he climbed in behind the wheel. “Subtlety was never his forte.”

“He loved this car,” Ambra said, getting in next to Langdon. “Fully electric and faster than a Ferrari.”

Langdon shrugged, eyeing the high-tech dashboard. “I’m not really a car guy.”

Ambra smiled. “You will be.”

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