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“ROBERT …?” A VOICE whispered.

Langdon tried to respond, but his head was pounding.

“Robert …?”

A soft hand touched his face, and Langdon slowly opened his eyes. Momentarily disoriented, he actually thought he was dreaming. An angel in white is hovering over me.

When Langdon recognized her face, he managed a weak smile.

“Thank God,” Ambra said, exhaling all at once. “We heard the gunshot.” She crouched beside him. “Stay down.”

As Langdon’s awareness returned, he felt a sudden rush of fear. “The man who attacked—”

“He’s gone,” Ambra whispered, her voice calm. “You’re safe.” She gestured over the edge of the shaft. “He fell. All the way down.”

Langdon strained to absorb the news. It was all slowly coming back. He fought to clear the fog from his mind and take inventory of his wounds, his attention moving to the deep throbbing in his left hip and the sharp pain in his head. Otherwise, nothing felt broken. The sound of police radios echoed up the stairwell.

“How long … have I been …”

“A few minutes,” Ambra said. “You’ve been in and out. We need to get you checked.”

Gingerly, Langdon pulled himself to a sitting position, leaning against the wall of the staircase. “It was the navy … officer,” he said. “The one who—”

“I know,” Ambra said, nodding. “The one who killed Edmond. The police just ID’d him. They’re at the bottom of the stairwell with the body, and they want a statement from you, but Father Beña told them nobody comes up here before the medical team, who should be here any minute now.”

Langdon nodded, his head pounding.

“They’ll probably take you to the hospital,” Ambra told him, “which means you and I need to talk right now … before they arrive.”

“Talk … about what?”

Ambra studied him, looking concerned. She leaned down close to his ear and whispered, “Robert, don’t you remember? We found it—Edmond’s password: ‘The dark religions are departed and sweet science reigns.’”

Her words pierced the fog like an arrow, and Langdon bolted upright, the murkiness in his mind clearing abruptly.

“You’ve brought us this far,” Ambra said. “I can do the rest. You said you know how to find Winston. The location of Edmond’s computer lab? Just tell me where to go, and I’ll do the rest.”

Langdon’s memories rushed back now in torrents. “I do know.” At least I think I can figure it out.

“Tell me.”

“We need to go across town.”


“I don’t know the address,” Langdon said, now climbing unsteadily to his feet. “But I can take you—”

“Sit down, Robert, please!” Ambra said.

“Yes, sit down,” a man echoed, coming into view on the stairs below them. It was Father Beña, trudging up the staircase, breathless. “The EMTs are almost here.”

“I’m fine,” Langdon lied, feeling woozy as he leaned against the wall. “Ambra and I need to go now.”

“You won’t get very far,” Beña said, climbing slowly. “The police are waiting. They want a statement. Besides, the church is surrounded by media. Someone tipped off the press that you’re here.” The priest arrived beside them and gave Langdon a tired smile. “By the way, Ms. Vidal and I are relieved to see you’re okay. You saved our lives.”

Langdon laughed. “I’m pretty sure you saved ours.”

“Well, in either case, I just want you to know that you’ll be unable to leave this stairwell without facing the police.”

Langdon carefully placed his hands on the stone railing and leaned out, peering down. The macabre scene on the ground seemed so far away—Ávila’s awkwardly splayed body illuminated by the beams of several flashlights in the hands of police officers.

As Langdon peered down the spiral shaft, once again noting Gaudí’s elegant nautilus design, he flashed on the website for the Gaudí museum in the basement of this church. The online site, which Langdon had visited not long ago, featured a spectacular series of scale models of Sagrada Família—accurately rendered by CAD programs and massive 3-D printers—depicting the long evolution of the structure, from the laying of its foundation all the way to the church’s glorious future completion, still at least a decade away.

Where do we come from? Langdon thought. Where are we going?

A sudden memory struck him—one of the scale models of the church’s exterior. The image was lodged in his eidetic memory. It was a prototype depicting the church’s current stage of construction and was titled “Sagrada Família Today.”

If that model is up-to-date, then there could be a way out.

Langdon turned suddenly to Beña. “Father, could you please relay a message from me to someone outside?”

The priest looked puzzled.

As Langdon explained his plan to get out of the building, Ambra shook her head. “Robert, that’s impossible. There’s nowhere up there for—”

“Actually,” Beña interjected, “there is. It won’t be there forever, but at the moment, Mr. Langdon is correct. What he’s suggesting is possible.”

Ambra looked surprised. “But Robert … even if we can escape unseen, are you sure that you shouldn’t go to the hospital?”

Langdon wasn’t sure of very much at this point. “I can go later if I need to,” he said. “Right now, we owe it to Edmond to finish what we came here to do.” He turned to Beña, looking him directly in the eye. “I need to be honest with you, Father, about why we are here. As you know, Edmond Kirsch was murdered tonight to stop him from announcing a scientific discovery.”

“Yes,” the priest said, “and from the tone of Kirsch’s introduction, he seemed to believe this discovery would deeply damage the religions of the world.”

“Exactly, which is why I feel you should know that Ms. Vidal and I came to Barcelona tonight in an effort to release Edmond Kirsch’s discovery. We are very close to being able to do that. Meaning …” Langdon paused. “In requesting your help right now, I’m essentially asking you to help us globally broadcast the words of an atheist.”

Beña reached up and placed a hand on Langdon’s shoulder. “Professor,” he said with a chuckle, “Edmond Kirsch is not the first atheist in history to proclaim that ‘God is dead,’ nor will he be the last. Whatever it is that Mr. Kirsch has discovered, it will no doubt be debated on all sides. Since the beginning of time, the human intellect has always evolved, and it is not my role to impede that development. From my perspective, however, there has never been an intellectual advancement that has not included God.”

With that, Father Beña gave them both a reassuring smile and headed down the stairs.


Outside, waiting in the cockpit of the parked EC145 helicopter, the pilot watched with rising concern as the crowd outside Sagrada Família’s security fence continued to grow. He had not heard from the two Guardia agents inside and was about to radio in when a small man in black robes emerged from the basilica and approached the chopper.

The man introduced himself as Father Beña and relayed a shocking message from inside: both Guardia agents had been killed, and the future queen and Robert Langdon required evacuation at once. As if this weren’t startling enough, the priest then told the pilot where precisely he was to collect his passengers.

Impossible, the pilot had thought.

And yet now, as he soared over the spires of Sagrada Família, he realized that the priest had been correct. The church’s largest spire—a monolithic central tower—had not yet been built. Its foundation platform was a flat circular expanse, nestled deep among a cluster of spires, like a clearing in a forest of redwoods.

The pilot positioned himself high above the platform, and carefully lowered the chopper down among the spires. As he touched down, he saw two figures emerge from a stairwell—Ambra Vidal assisting an injured Robert Langdon.

The pilot jumped out and helped them both inside.

As he strapped them in, the future queen of Spain gave him a weary nod.

“Thank you very much,” she whispered. “Mr. Langdon will tell you where to go.”

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