AS THE EC145 helicopter streaked in low over the city, Agent Díaz stared down at the sprawl of lights beneath him. Despite the late hour, he could see the flicker of televisions and computers in the majority of apartment windows, painting the city with a faint blue haze.
The whole world is watching.
It made him nervous. He could feel this night spiraling wildly out of control, and he feared this growing crisis was headed for a disturbing conclusion.
In front of him, Agent Fonseca shouted and pointed into the distance directly ahead. Díaz nodded, spotting their target at once.
Hard to miss.
Even from a distance, the pulsating cluster of spinning blue police lights was unmistakable.
God help us.
Just as Díaz had feared, Casa Milà was overrun by local police cars. The Barcelona authorities had responded to an anonymous tip on the heels of Mónica Martín’s press announcement from the Royal Palace.
Robert Langdon has kidnapped the future queen of Spain.
The palace needs the public’s help in finding them.
A blatant lie, Díaz knew. With my own eyes I saw them leave the Guggenheim together.
While Martín’s ploy had been effective, it had set in motion an incredibly dangerous game. Creating a public manhunt by involving local authorities was perilous—not just for Robert Langdon, but for the future queen, who now had a very good chance of being caught in the cross fire of a bunch of amateur local cops. If the palace’s goal was to keep the future queen safe, this was definitely not the way to do it.
Commander Garza would never have permitted this situation to escalate so far.
Garza’s arrest remained a mystery to Díaz, who had no doubt that the charges against his commander were just as fictitious as those against Langdon.
Nonetheless, Fonseca had taken the call and received his orders.
Orders from above Garza’s head.
As the helicopter neared Casa Milà, Agent Díaz surveyed the scene below and realized there would be no safe place to land. The broad avenue and corner plaza in front of the building were packed with media trucks, police cars, and crowds of onlookers.
Díaz looked down at the building’s famous rooftop—an undulating figure eight of sloping pathways and staircases that wound above the building and provided visitors with breathtaking views of the Barcelona skyline … as well as views down into the building’s two gaping light wells, each of which dropped nine stories to interior courtyards.
No landing there.
In addition to the heaving hills and valleys of the terrain, the roof deck was protected by towering Gaudí chimneys that resembled futuristic chess pieces—helmeted sentinels that allegedly had so impressed film-maker George Lucas that he’d used them as models for his menacing storm troopers in Star Wars.
Díaz glanced away to scan the neighboring buildings for possible landing sites, but his gaze suddenly stopped on an unexpected vision atop Casa Milà.
A small figure stood among the huge statues.
Poised at a railing near the edge of the roof, the person was dressed in white, starkly illuminated by the upward-facing media lights in the plaza below. For an instant, the vision reminded Díaz of seeing the pope on his balcony over St. Peter’s Square, addressing his followers.
But this was not the pope.
This was a beautiful woman in a very familiar white dress.
Ambra Vidal could see nothing through the glare of the media lights, but she could hear a helicopter closing in and knew time was running out. Desperately, she leaned out over the railing and attempted to shout to the swarm of media people below.
Her words vanished into the deafening roar of helicopter rotors.
Winston had predicted that the television crews on the street would direct their cameras upward the instant Ambra was spotted on the edge of the roof. Indeed, that was exactly what had happened, and yet Ambra knew Winston’s plan had failed.
They can’t hear a word I’m saying!
The rooftop of Casa Milà stood too high over the blaring traffic and chaos below. And now the thrum of the helicopter threatened to drown out everything entirely.
“I have not been kidnapped!” Ambra yelled once again, mustering as much volume as she could. “The statement from the Royal Palace about Robert Langdon was inaccurate! I am not a hostage!”
You are the future queen of Spain, Winston had reminded her moments earlier. If you call off this manhunt, the authorities will stop dead in their tracks. Your statement will create utter confusion. Nobody will know which orders to follow.
Ambra knew Winston was right, but her words had been lost in the rotor wash above the boisterous crowd.
Suddenly the sky erupted in a thunderous howl. Ambra recoiled back from the railing as the helicopter swooped closer and halted abruptly, hovering directly in front of her. The fuselage doors were wide open, and two familiar faces stared intently out at her—Agents Fonseca and Díaz.
To Ambra’s horror, Agent Fonseca raised some kind of device, which he aimed directly at her head. For a moment, the strangest of thoughts raced through her mind. Julián wants me dead. I am a barren woman. I cannot give him an heir. Killing me is his only escape from this engagement.
Ambra staggered back, away from the threatening-looking device, clutching Edmond’s cell phone in one hand and reaching out for balance with the other. But as she placed her foot behind her, the ground seemed to disappear. For an instant, she felt only empty space where she had expected solid cement. Her body twisted as she tried to regain her balance, but she felt herself pitching sidelong down a short flight of stairs.
Her left elbow smashed into the cement, and the rest of her crashed down an instant later. Even so, Ambra Vidal felt no pain. Her entire focus shifted to the object that had flown out of her hand—Edmond’s oversized turquoise cell phone.
My God, no!
She watched with dread as the phone skittered across the cement, bouncing down the stairs toward the edge of the nine-story drop to the building’s inner courtyard. She lunged for the phone, but it disappeared under the protective fencing, tumbling into the abyss.
Our connection to Winston …!
Ambra scrambled after it, arriving at the fence just in time to see Edmond’s phone tumbling end over end toward the lobby’s elegant stone floor, where, with a sharp crack, it exploded in a shower of shimmering glass and metal.
In an instant, Winston was gone.
Bounding up the steps, Langdon burst out of the stairwell turret onto the Casa Milà roof deck. He found himself in the middle of a deafening maelstrom. A helicopter was hovering very low beside the building, and Ambra was nowhere to be seen.
Dazed, Langdon scanned the area. Where is she? He had forgotten how bizarre this rooftop was—lopsided parapets … steep staircases … cement soldiers … bottomless pits.
When he spotted her, he felt a surge of dread. Ambra Vidal was lying crumpled on the cement at the edge of the light well.
As Langdon raced up and over a rise toward her, the sharp zing of a bullet whipped past his head and exploded in the cement behind him.
Jesus! Langdon dropped to his knees and scrambled toward lower ground as two more bullets sailed over his head. For a moment, he thought the shots were coming from the helicopter, but as he clambered toward Ambra, he saw a swarm of police flooding out of another turret on the far side of the rooftop with their guns drawn.
They want to kill me, he realized. They think I kidnapped the future queen! Her rooftop announcement apparently had gone unheard.
As Langdon looked toward Ambra, now only ten yards away, he realized to his horror that her arm was bleeding. My God, she’s been shot! Another bullet sailed over his head as Ambra began clawing at the railing that encircled the drop-off to the inner courtyard. She struggled to pull herself up.
“Stay down!” Langdon shouted, scrambling to Ambra and crouching protectively over her body. He looked up at the towering, helmeted storm-trooper figures that dotted the rooftop’s perimeter like silent guardians.
There was a deafening roar overhead, and buffeting winds whipped around them as the helicopter dropped down and hovered over the enormous shaft beside them, cutting off the police’s line of sight.
“¡Dejen de disparar!” boomed an amplified voice from the chopper. “¡Enfunden las armas!” Stop shooting! Holster your weapons!
Directly in front of Langdon and Ambra, Agent Díaz was crouched in the open bay door with one foot balanced on the skid and one hand outstretched toward them.
“Get in!” he shouted.
Langdon felt Ambra recoil beneath him.
“NOW!” Díaz screamed over the deafening rotors.
The agent pointed to the light well’s safety railing, urging them to climb onto it, grab his hand, and make the short leap over the abyss into the hovering aircraft.
Langdon hesitated an instant too long.
Díaz grabbed the bullhorn from Fonseca and aimed it directly at Langdon’s face. “PROFESSOR, GET IN THE HELICOPTER NOW!” The agent’s voice boomed like thunder. “THE LOCAL POLICE HAVE ORDERS TO SHOOT YOU! WE KNOW YOU DID NOT KIDNAP MS. VIDAL! I NEED YOU BOTH ON BOARD IMMEDIATELY—BEFORE SOMEONE GETS KILLED!”在线阅读网免费看书：http://www.yuedU88.cOm/