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CHAPTER 54

THE HANDCUFFS ON Garza’s wrists felt unnecessarily tight.

These guys are serious, he thought, still utterly bewildered by the actions of his own Guardia agents.

“What the hell is going on?!” Garza demanded again as his men marched him out of the cathedral and into the night air of the plaza.

Still no reply.

As the entourage moved across the wide expanse toward the palace, Garza realized there was an array of TV cameras and protesters outside the front gate.

“At least take me around back,” he said to his lead man. “Don’t make this a public spectacle.”

The soldiers ignored his plea and pressed on, forcing Garza to march directly across the plaza. Within seconds, voices outside the gate started shouting, and the blazing glare of spotlights swung toward him. Blinded and fuming, Garza forced himself to assume a calm expression and hold his head high as the Guardia marched him within a few yards of the gate, directly past the yelling cameramen and reporters.

A cacophony of voices began hurling questions at Garza.

“Why are you being arrested?”

“What did you do, Commander?”

“Were you involved in the assassination of Edmond Kirsch?”

Garza fully expected his agents to continue past the crowd without even a glance, but to his shock, the agents stopped abruptly, holding him still in front of the cameras. From the direction of the palace, a familiar pantsuited figure was striding briskly across the plaza toward them.

It was Mónica Martín.

Garza had no doubt that she would be stunned to see his predicament.

Strangely, though, when Martín arrived she eyed him not with surprise, but with contempt. The guards forcibly turned Garza to face the reporters.

Mónica Martín held up her hand to quiet the crowd and then drew a small sheet of paper from her pocket. Adjusting her thick glasses, she read a statement directly into the television cameras.

“The Royal Palace,” she announced, “is hereby arresting Commander Diego Garza for his role in the murder of Edmond Kirsch, as well as his attempts to implicate Bishop Valdespino in that crime.”

Before Garza could even process the preposterous accusation, the guards were muscling him off toward the palace. As he departed, he could hear Mónica Martín continuing her statement.

“Regarding our future queen, Ambra Vidal,” she declared, “and the American professor Robert Langdon, I’m afraid I have some deeply disturbing news.”

 

Downstairs in the palace, director of electronic security Suresh Bhalla stood in front of the television, riveted by the live broadcast of Mónica Martín’s impromptu press conference in the plaza.

She does not look happy.

Only five minutes ago, Martín had received a personal phone call, which she had taken in her office, speaking in hushed tones and taking careful notes. Sixty seconds later, she had emerged, looking as shaken as Suresh had ever seen her. With no explanation, Martín carried her notes directly out to the plaza and addressed the media.

Whether or not her claims were accurate, one thing was certain—the person who had ordered this statement had just placed Robert Langdon in very serious danger.

Who gave those orders to Mónica? Suresh wondered.

As he tried to make sense of the PR coordinator’s bizarre behavior, his computer pinged with an incoming message. Suresh went over and eyed the screen, stunned to see who had written him.

monte@iglesia.org

The informant, thought Suresh.

It was the same person who had been feeding information to ConspiracyNet all night. And now, for some reason, that person was contacting Suresh directly.

Warily, Suresh sat down and opened the e-mail.

It read:

i hacked valdespino’s texts.

he has dangerous secrets.

the palace should access his sms records.

now.

Alarmed, Suresh read the message again. Then he deleted it.

For a long moment, he sat in silence, pondering his options.

Then, coming to a decision, he quickly generated a master key card to the royal apartments and slipped upstairs unseen.

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