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CHAPTER 59

AS ROBERT LANGDON searched the final few sections of Edmond’s library, he felt his hopes fading. Outside, the two-tone police sirens had grown louder and louder before abruptly stopping directly in front of Casa Milà. Through the apartment’s tiny portal windows, Langdon could see the flash of spinning police lights.

We’re trapped in here, he realized. We need that forty-seven-letter password, or there will be no way out.

Unfortunately, Langdon had yet to see a single book of poems.

The shelves in the final section were deeper than the rest and appeared to hold Edmond’s collection of large-format art books. As Langdon hurried along the wall, scanning the titles, he saw books that reflected Edmond’s passion for the hippest and newest in contemporary art.

SERRA … KOONS … HIRST … BRUGUERA … BASQUIAT … BANKSY … ABRAMOVIĆ …

The collection stopped abruptly at a series of smaller volumes, and Langdon paused in hopes of finding a book on poetry.

Nothing.

The books here were commentaries and critiques of abstract art, and Langdon spotted a few titles that Edmond had sent for him to peruse.

WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING AT?

WHY YOUR FIVE-YEAR-OLD COULD NOT HAVE DONE THAT

HOW TO SURVIVE MODERN ART

I’m still trying to survive it, Langdon thought, quickly moving on. He stepped around another rib and started sifting through the next section.

Modern art books, he mused. Even at a glance, Langdon could see that this group was dedicated to an earlier period. At least we’re moving back in time … toward art I understand.

Langdon’s eyes moved quickly along the book spines, taking in biographies and catalogues raisonnés of the Impressionists, Cubists, and Surrealists who had stunned the world between 1870 and 1960 by entirely redefining art.

VAN GOGH … SEURAT … PICASSO … MUNCH … MATISSE … MAGRITTE … KLIMT … KANDINSKY … JOHNS … HOCKNEY … GAUGUIN … DUCHAMP … DEGAS … CHAGALL … CÉZANNE … CASSATT … BRAQUE … ARP … ALBERS …

This section terminated at one last architectural rib, and Langdon moved past it, finding himself in the final section of the library. The volumes here appeared to be dedicated to the group of artists that Edmond, in Langdon’s presence, liked to call “the school of boring dead white guys”—essentially, anything predating the modernist movement of the mid-nineteenth century.

Unlike Edmond, it was here that Langdon felt most at home, surrounded by the Old Masters.

VERMEER … VELÁZQUEZ … TITIAN … TINTORETTO … RUBENS … REMBRANDT … RAPHAEL … POUSSIN … MICHELANGELO … LIPPI … GOYA … GIOTTO … GHIRLANDAIO … EL GRECO … DÜRER … DA VINCI … COROT … CARAVAGGIO … BOTTICELLI … BOSCH …

The last few feet of the final shelf were dominated by a large glass cabinet, sealed with a heavy lock. Langdon peered through the glass and saw an ancient-looking leather box inside—a protective casing for a massive antique book. The text on the outside of the box was barely legible, but Langdon could see enough to decrypt the title of the volume inside.

My God, he thought, now realizing why this book had been locked away from the hands of visitors. It’s probably worth a fortune.

Langdon knew there were precious few early editions of this legendary artist’s work in existence.

I’m not surprised Edmond invested in this, he thought, recalling that Edmond had once referred to this British artist as “the only premodern with any imagination.” Langdon disagreed, but he could certainly understand Edmond’s special affection for this artist. They are both cut from the same cloth.

Langdon crouched down and peered through the glass at the box’s gilded engraving: The Complete Works of William Blake.

William Blake, Langdon mused. The Edmond Kirsch of the eighteen hundreds.

Blake had been an idiosyncratic genius—a prolific luminary whose painting style was so progressive that some believed he had magically glimpsed the future in his dreams. His symbol-infused religious illustrations depicted angels, demons, Satan, God, mythical creatures, biblical themes, and a pantheon of deities from his own spiritual hallucinations.

And just like Kirsch, Blake loved to challenge Christianity.

The thought caused Langdon to stand up abruptly.

William Blake.

He drew a startled breath.

Finding Blake among so many other visual artists had caused Langdon to forget one crucial fact about the mystical genius.

Blake was not only an artist and illustrator …

Blake was a prolific poet.

For an instant, Langdon felt his heart begin to race. Much of Blake’s poetry espoused revolutionary ideas that meshed perfectly with Edmond’s views. In fact, some of Blake’s most widely known aphorisms—those in “satanic” works like The Marriage of Heaven and Hell—could almost have been written by Edmond himself.

ALL RELIGIONS ARE ONE

THERE IS NO NATURAL RELIGION

Langdon now recalled Edmond’s description of his favorite line of poetry. He told Ambra it was a “prophecy.” Langdon knew of no poet in history who could be considered more of a prophet than William Blake, who, in the 1790s, had penned two dark and ominous poems:

AMERICA A PROPHECY

EUROPE A PROPHECY

Langdon owned both works—elegant reproductions of Blake’s handwritten poems and accompanying illustrations.

Langdon peered at the large leather box inside the cabinet.

The original editions of Blake’s “prophecies” would have been published as large-format illuminated texts!

With a surge of hope, Langdon crouched down in front of the cabinet, sensing the leather box might very well contain what he and Ambra had come here to find—a poem that contained a prophetic forty-seven-character line. The only question now was whether Edmond had somehow marked his favorite passage.

Langdon reached out and pulled the cabinet handle.

Locked.

He glanced toward the spiral staircase, wondering whether he should simply dash upstairs and ask Winston to run a search on all of William Blake’s poetry. The sound of sirens had been replaced by the distant thrum of helicopter blades and voices yelling in the stairwell outside Edmond’s door.

They’re here.

Langdon eyed the cabinet and noted the faint greenish tint of modern museum-grade UV glass.

He whipped off his jacket, held it over the glass, turned his body, and without hesitation, rammed his elbow into the pane. With a muffled crunch, the cabinet door shattered. Carefully, Langdon reached through the jagged shards, unlocking the door. Then he swung the door open and gently lifted out the leather box.

Even before Langdon set the box on the floor, he could tell that something was wrong. It’s not heavy enough. Blake’s complete works seemed to weigh almost nothing.

Langdon set down the box and carefully raised the lid.

Just as he feared … empty.

He exhaled, staring into the vacant container. Where the hell is Edmond’s book?!

He was about to close the box when Langdon noticed something unexpected taped to the inside of the lid—an elegantly embossed ivory note card.

Langdon read the text on the card.

Then, in utter disbelief, he read it again.

Seconds later, he was racing up the spiral staircase toward the roof.

 

At that instant, on the second floor of Madrid’s Royal Palace, director of electronic security Suresh Bhalla was moving quietly through Prince Julián’s private apartment. After locating the digital wall safe, he entered the master override code that was kept for emergencies.

The safe popped open.

Inside, Suresh saw two phones—a secure palace-issued smartphone that belonged to Prince Julián and an iPhone that, he deduced, in all likelihood was the property of Bishop Valdespino.

He grabbed the iPhone.

Am I really doing this?

Again he pictured the message from [email protected]

i hacked valdespino’s texts.

he has dangerous secrets.

the palace should access his sms records.

now.

Suresh wondered what secrets the bishop’s texts could possibly reveal … and why the informant had decided to give the Royal Palace a heads-up.

Perhaps the informant is trying to protect the palace from collateral damage?

All Suresh knew was that if there was information that was of danger to the royal family, it was his job to access it.

He had already considered obtaining an emergency subpoena, but the PR risks and the delay made it impractical. Fortunately, Suresh had far more discreet and expedient methods at his disposal.

Holding Valdespino’s phone, he pressed the home button and the screen lit up.

Locked with a password.

No problem.

“Hey, Siri,” Suresh said, holding the phone to his mouth. “What time is it?”

Still in locked mode, the phone displayed a clock. On this clock screen, Suresh ran through a series of simple commands—creating a new time zone for the clock, asking to share the time zone via SMS, adding a photo, and then, rather than trying to send the text, hitting the home button.

Click.

The phone unlocked.

This simple hack compliments of YouTube, Suresh thought, amused that iPhone users believed their password offered them any privacy at all.

Now, with full access to Valdespino’s phone, Suresh opened the iMessage app, fully anticipating that he would have to restore Valdespino’s deleted texts by tricking the iCloud backup into rebuilding the catalog.

Sure enough, he found the bishop’s text history entirely empty.

Except for one message, he realized, seeing a lone inbound text that had arrived a couple of hours ago from a blocked number.

Suresh clicked open the text and read the three-line message. For a moment, he thought he was hallucinating.

This can’t be true!

Suresh read the message again. The text was absolute proof of Valdespino’s involvement in acts of unthinkable treachery and deceit.

Not to mention arrogance, Suresh thought, stunned that the old cleric would feel so invulnerable as to communicate a message like this electronically.

If this text goes public …

Suresh shuddered at the possibility and immediately ran downstairs to find Mónica Martín.

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