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CHAPTER 102

THERE ARE THIRTY-THREE “Shakespeare gardens” in existence worldwide. These botanical parks grow only those plants cited in the works of William Shakespeare—including Juliet’s “rose by any other name” and Ophelia’s bouquet of rosemary, pansies, fennel, columbines, rue, daisies, and violets. In addition to those in Stratford-upon-Avon, Vienna, San Francisco, and Central Park in New York City, there is a Shakespeare garden located alongside the Barcelona Supercomputing Center.

In the dim glow of distant streetlights, seated on a bench among the columbines, Ambra Vidal finished her emotional phone conversation with Prince Julián just as Robert Langdon emerged from the stone chapel. She handed the phone back to the two Guardia agents and called over to Langdon, who spotted her and approached through the darkness.

As the American professor strolled into the garden, she couldn’t help but smile at the way he’d tossed his suit jacket over his shoulder and rolled up his shirtsleeves, leaving the Mickey Mouse watch fully displayed.

“Hi there,” he said, sounding utterly drained, despite the lopsided grin on his face.

As the two of them walked around the garden, the Guardia officers gave them space, and Ambra told Langdon about her conversation with the prince—Julián’s apology, his claims of innocence, and his offer to break off their engagement and start dating all over again.

“A real Prince Charming,” Langdon said jokingly, although he sounded sincerely impressed.

“He’s been worried about me,” Ambra said. “Tonight was hard. He wants me to come to Madrid right away. His father is dying, and Julián—”

“Ambra,” Langdon said softly. “You don’t need to explain a thing. You should go.”

Ambra thought she sensed disappointment in his voice, and deep inside she felt it too. “Robert,” she said, “can I ask you a personal question?”

“Of course.”

She hesitated. “For you personally … are the laws of physics enough?”

Langdon glanced over as if he had expected an entirely different question. “Enough in what way?”

“Enough spiritually,” she said. “Is it enough to live in a universe whose laws spontaneously create life? Or do you prefer … God?” She paused, looking embarrassed. “Sorry, after all we’ve been through tonight, I know that’s a strange question.”

“Well,” Langdon said with a laugh, “I think my answer would benefit from a decent night’s sleep. But no, it’s not strange. People ask me all the time if I believe in God.”

“And how do you reply?”

“I reply with the truth,” he said. “I tell them that, for me, the question of God lies in understanding the difference between codes and patterns.”

Ambra glanced over. “I’m not sure I follow you.”

“Codes and patterns are very different from each other,” Langdon said. “And a lot of people confuse the two. In my field, it’s crucial to understand their fundamental difference.”

“That being?”

Langdon stopped walking and turned to her. “A pattern is any distinctly organized sequence. Patterns occur everywhere in nature—the spiraling seeds of a sunflower, the hexagonal cells of a honeycomb, the circular ripples on a pond when a fish jumps, et cetera.”

“Okay. And codes?”

“Codes are special,” Langdon said, his tone rising. “Codes, by definition, must carry information. They must do more than simply form a pattern—codes must transmit data and convey meaning. Examples of codes include written language, musical notation, mathematical equations, computer language, and even simple symbols like the crucifix. All of these examples can transmit meaning or information in a way that spiraling sunflowers cannot.”

Ambra grasped the concept, but not how it related to God.

“The other difference between codes and patterns,” Langdon continued, “is that codes do not occur naturally in the world. Musical notation does not sprout from trees, and symbols do not draw themselves in the sand. Codes are the deliberate inventions of intelligent consciousnesses.”

Ambra nodded. “So codes always have an intention or awareness behind them.”

“Exactly. Codes don’t appear organically; they must be created.”

Ambra studied him a long moment. “What about DNA?”

A professorial smile appeared on Langdon’s lips. “Bingo,” he said. “The genetic code. That’s the paradox.”

Ambra felt a rush of excitement. The genetic code obviously carried data—specific instructions on how to build organisms. By Langdon’s logic, that could mean only one thing. “You think DNA was created by an intelligence!”

Langdon held up a hand in mock self-defense. “Easy, tiger!” he said, laughing. “You’re treading on dangerous ground. Let me just say this. Ever since I was a child, I’ve had the gut sense that there’s a consciousness behind the universe. When I witness the precision of mathematics, the reliability of physics, and the symmetries of the cosmos, I don’t feel like I’m observing cold science; I feel as if I’m seeing a living footprint … the shadow of some greater force that is just beyond our grasp.”

Ambra could feel the power in his words. “I wish everyone thought like you do,” she finally said. “It seems we do a lot of fighting over God. Everyone has a different version of the truth.”

“Yes, which is why Edmond hoped science could one day unify us,” Langdon said. “In his own words: ‘If we all worshipped gravity, there would be no disagreements over which way it pulled.’”

Langdon used his heel to scratch some lines on the gravel path between them. “True or false?” he asked.

Puzzled, Ambra eyed his scratchings—a simple Roman-numeral equation.

I + XI = X

One plus eleven is ten? “False,” she said immediately.

“And can you see any way this could be true?”

Ambra shook her head. “No, your statement is definitely false.”

Langdon gently reached out and took her hand, guiding her around to where he had been standing. Now, when Ambra glanced down, she saw the markings from Langdon’s vantage point.

The equation was upside down.

X = IX + I

Startled, she glanced up at him.

“Ten equals nine plus one,” Langdon said with a smile. “Sometimes, all you have to do is shift your perspective to see someone else’s truth.”

Ambra nodded, recalling how she had seen Winston’s self-portrait countless times without ever grasping its true meaning.

“Speaking of glimpsing a hidden truth,” Langdon said, looking suddenly amused. “You’re in luck. There’s a secret symbol hiding right over there.” He pointed. “On the side of that truck.”

Ambra glanced up and saw a FedEx truck idling at a red light on Avenue of Pedralbes.

Secret symbol? All Ambra could see was the company’s ubiquitous logo.

“Their name is coded,” Langdon told her. “It contains a second level of meaning—a hidden symbol that reflects the company’s forward motion.”

Ambra stared. “It’s just letters.”

“Trust me, there’s a very common symbol in the FedEx logo—and it happens to be pointing the way forward.”

“Pointing? You mean like … an arrow?”

“Exactly.” Langdon grinned. “You’re a curator—think negative space.”

Ambra stared at the logo but saw nothing. When the truck drove off, she wheeled to Langdon. “Tell me!”

He laughed. “No, someday you’ll see it. And when you do … good luck un-seeing it.”

Ambra was about to protest but her Guardia agents were approaching. “Ms. Vidal, the plane is waiting.”

She nodded and turned back to Langdon. “Why don’t you come?” she whispered. “I’m sure the prince would love to thank you in pers—”

“That’s kind,” he interrupted. “I think you and I both know I’d be a third wheel, and I’ve already booked my bed right over there.” Langdon pointed to the nearby tower of the Gran Hotel Princesa Sofía, where he and Edmond had once had lunch. “I’ve got my credit card, and I borrowed a phone from Edmond’s lab. I’m all set.”

The sudden prospect of saying good-bye pulled at Ambra’s heart, and she sensed that Langdon, despite his stoic expression, was feeling some of the same. No longer caring what her guards might think, she boldly stepped forward and wrapped her arms around Robert Langdon.

The professor received her warmly, his strong hands on her back pulling her very close. He held her for several seconds, longer than he probably should have, then he gently let her go.

In that moment, Ambra Vidal felt something stir inside her. She suddenly understood what Edmond had been saying about the energy of love and light … blossoming outward infinitely to fill the universe.

Love is not a finite emotion.

We don’t have only so much to share.

Our hearts create love as we need it.

Just as parents could love a newborn instantly without diminishing their love for each other, so now could Ambra feel affection for two different men.

Love truly is not a finite emotion, she realized. It can be generated spontaneously out of nothing at all.

Now, as the car that was taking her back to her prince slowly pulled away, she gazed at Langdon, who was standing alone in the garden. He was watching with steadfast eyes. He gave a soft smile and a tender wave and then abruptly glanced away … seeming to need a moment before he hoisted his jacket over his shoulder again and began walking alone to his hotel.

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