INFERNO 21 - Welcome to My Woven Words

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INFERNO 21


LAURENCE KNOWLTON FELT a wave of relief wash over him.
The provost changed his mind about watching Zobrist’s video.
Knowlton practically dove for the crimson memory stick and inserted it into his computer so he could share it with his boss. The weight of Zobrist’s bizarre nine-minute message had been haunting the facilitator, and he was eager to have another set of eyes watch it.
This will no longer be on me.
Knowlton held his breath as he began the playback.
The screen darkened, and the sounds of gently lapping water filled the cubicle. The camera moved through the reddish haze of the underground cavern, and although the provost showed no visible reaction, Knowlton sensed that the man was as alarmed as he was bewildered.
The camera paused its forward motion and tipped downward at the surface of the lagoon, where it plunged beneath the water, diving several feet to reveal the polished titanium plaque bolted to the floor.
IN THIS PLACE, ON THIS DATE,
THE WORLD WAS CHANGED FOREVER.
The provost flinched ever so slightly. “Tomorrow,” he whispered, eyeing the date. “And do we know where ‘this place’ might be?” Knowlton shook his head.
The camera panned left now, revealing the submerged plastic sack of gelatinous, yellow-brown fluid.
“What in God’s name?!” The provost pulled up a chair and settled in, staring at the undulating bubble, suspended like a tethered balloon beneath the water.
An uncomfortable silence settled over the room as the video progressed. Soon the screen went dark, and then a strange, beak-nosed shadow appeared on the cavern wall and began talking in its arcane language.
I am the Shade …
Driven underground, I must speak to the world from deep within the earth, exiled to this gloomy cavern where the bloodred waters collect in the lagoon that reflects no stars.
But this is my paradise … the perfect womb for my fragile child.
Inferno.
The provost glanced up. “Inferno?”
Knowlton shrugged. “As I said, it’s disturbing.”
The provost returned his eyes to the screen, watching intently.
The beak-nosed shadow continued speaking for several minutes, talking of plagues, of the population’s need for purging, of his own glorious role in the future, of his battle against the ignorant souls who had been trying to stop him, and of the faithful few who realized that drastic action was the only way to save the planet.
Whatever this war was about, Knowlton had been wondering all morning if the Consortium might be fighting on the wrong side.
The voice continued.

I have forged a masterpiece of salvation, and yet my efforts have been rewarded not with trumpets and laurels … but with threats of death.
I do not fear death … for death transforms visionaries into martyrs … converts noble ideas into powerful movements.
Jesus. Socrates. Martin Luther King.
One day soon I will join them.
The masterpiece I have created is the work of God Himself … a gift from the One who imbued me with the intellect, tools, and courage required to forge such a creation.
Now the day grows near.
Inferno sleeps beneath me, preparing to spring from its watery womb … under the watchful eye of the chthonic monster and all her Furies.
Despite the virtue of my deeds, like you, I am no stranger to Sin.
Even I am guilty of the darkest of the seven—that lone temptation from which so few find sanctuary.
Pride.
By recording this very message I have succumbed to Pride’s goading pull … eager to ensure that the world would know my work.
And why not?
Mankind should know the source of his own salvation … the name of he who sealed the yawning gates of hell forever!
With each passing hour, the outcome grows more certain. Mathematics—as relentless as the law of gravity—is nonnegotiable. The same exponential blossoming of life that has nearly killed Mankind shall also be his deliverance. The beauty of a living organism—be it good or evil—is that it will follow the law of God with singular vision.
Be fruitful and multiply.
And so I fight fire … with fire.
“That’s enough,” the provost interrupted so quietly that Knowlton barely heard him.
“Sir?”
“Stop the video.”
Knowlton paused the playback. “Sir, the end is actually the most
frightening part.”
“I’ve seen enough.” The provost looked ill. He paced the cubicle for several moments and then turned suddenly. “We need to make contact with FS-2080.”
Knowlton considered the move.
FS-2080 was the code name of one of the provost’s trusted contacts—the same contact who had referred
Zobrist to the Consortium as a client. The provost was no doubt at this very moment chiding himself for trusting FS-2080’s judgment; the recommendation of Bertrand Zobrist as a client had brought chaos into the Consortium’s delicately structured world.
FS-2080 is the reason for this crisis.
The growing chain of calamities surrounding Zobrist only seemed to be getting worse, not merely for the Consortium, but quite possibly … for the world.
“We need to discover Zobrist’s true intentions,” the provost declared. “I want to know exactly what he
created, and if this threat is real.”
Knowlton knew that if anyone had the answers to these questions, it would be FS-2080. Nobody knew
Bertrand Zobrist better. It was time for the Consortium to break protocol and assess what kind of insanity the organization might have unwittingly supported over the past year.
Knowlton considered the possible ramifications of confronting FS-2080 directly. The mere act of initiating contact carried certain risks.
“Obviously, sir,” Knowlton said, “if you reach out to FS-2080, you’ll need to do so very delicately.”
The provost’s eyes flashed with anger as he pulled out his cell phone. “We’re well past delicate.”
Seated with his two traveling partners in the Frecciargento’s private cabin, the man with the paisley necktie and Plume Paris glasses did his best not to scratch at his still-worsening rash. The pain in his chest seemed to have increased as well.
As the train finally emerged from the tunnel, the man gazed over at Langdon, who opened his eyes
slowly, apparently returning from faroff thoughts. Beside him, Sienna began eyeing the man’s cell phone, which she had set down as the train sped through the tunnel, while there was no signal.
Sienna appeared eager to continue her Internet search, but before she could reach for the phone, it suddenly began vibrating, emitting a series of staccato pings.
Knowing the ring well, the man with the rash immediately grabbed the phone and eyed the illuminated screen, doing his best to hide his surprise.
“Sorry,” he said, standing up.
“Ailing mother. I’ve got to take this.”
Sienna and Langdon gave him understanding nods as the man excused himself and exited the cabin, moving quickly down the passageway into a nearby restroom.
The man with the rash locked the restroom door as he took the call.
“Hello?”
The voice on the line was grave.
“It’s the provost.”
THE FRECCIARGENTO’S RESTROOM was no larger than the restroom on a commercial airliner, with barely enough room to turn around. The man with the skin rash finished his phone call with the provost and pocketed his phone.
The ground has shifted, he realized. The entire landscape was suddenly upside down, and he needed a moment to get his bearings.
My friends are now my enemies.
The man loosened his paisley tie and stared at his pustuled face in the mirror. He looked worse than he thought. His face was of little concern, though, compared to the pain in his chest.
Hesitantly, he unfastened several buttons and pulled open his shirt.
He forced his eyes to the mirror … and studied his bare chest.
Jesus.
The black area was growing.
The skin on the center of his chest was a deep hue of bluish black. The area had begun last night as the size of a golf ball, but now it was the size of an orange. He gently touched the tender flesh and winced.
Hurriedly, he rebuttoned his shirt, hoping he would have the strength to carry out what he needed to do.
The next hour will be critical, he
thought. A delicate series of
maneuvers.
He closed his eyes and gathered himself, working through what needed to happen. My friends have
become my enemies, he thought again.
He took several deep, painful breaths, hoping it might calm his nerves. He knew he needed to stay serene if he was going to keep his intentions hidden.
Inner calm is critical to persuasive acting.
The man was no stranger to deception, and yet his heart was pounding wildly now. He took another deep, throbbing breath. You’ve been deceiving people for years, he reminded himself. It’s what you do.
Steeling himself, he prepared to return to Langdon and Sienna.
My final performance, he thought.
As a final precaution before exiting the restroom, he removed the battery from his cell phone, making sure the device was now inoperative.
He looks pale, Sienna thought as the man with the rash reentered the cabin and settled into his seat with a pained sigh.
“Is everything okay?” Sienna asked, genuinely concerned.
      He        nodded.         “Thanks,          yes.
Everything’s fine.”
Apparently having received all the information the man intended to share, Sienna changed tacks. “I need your phone again,” she said. “If you don’t mind, I want to keep searching for more on the doge. Maybe we can get some answers before we visit St.
Mark’s.”
“No problem,” he said, taking his phone from his pocket and checking the display. “Oh, damn. My battery was dying during that call. Looks like it’s dead now.” He glanced at his watch. “We’ll be in Venice soon. We’ll just have to wait.”
Five miles off the coast of Italy, aboard The Mendacium, facilitator Knowlton watched in silence as the provost stalked around the perimeter of the cubicle like a caged animal. Following the phone call, the provost’s wheels were clearly turning, and Knowlton knew better than to utter a sound while the provost was thinking.
Finally, the deeply tanned man spoke, his voice as tight as Knowlton could remember. “We have no
choice. We need to share this video with Dr. Elizabeth Sinskey.”
Knowlton sat stock-still, not wanting to show his surprise. The silver-haired devil? The one we’ve helped Zobrist evade all year? “Okay,
sir. Should I find a way to e-mail the video to her?”
“God, no! And risk leaking the video to the public? It would be mass hysteria. I want Dr. Sinskey aboard this ship as soon as you can get her here.”
Knowlton stared in disbelief. He wants to bring the director of the WHO on board The Mendacium? “Sir, this breach of our secrecy protocol obviously risks—”
“Just do it, Knowlton! NOW!”
FS-2080 GAZED OUT the window of the speeding Frecciargento, watching Robert Langdon’s reflection in the glass. The professor was still brainstorming possible solutions to the death-mask riddle that Bertrand Zobrist had composed.
Bertrand, thought FS-2080. God, I miss him.
The pangs of loss felt fresh. The night the two had met still felt like a magical dream.
Chicago. The blizzard.
January, six years ago … but it still feels like yesterday. I am trudging through snowbanks along the windswept Magnificent Mile, collar upturned against the blinding whiteout. Despite the cold, I tell myself that nothing will keep me from my destination. Tonight is my chance to hear the great Bertrand Zobrist speak … in person.
I have read everything the man has ever written, and I know I am lucky to have one of the five hundred tickets that were printed for the event.
When I arrive at the hall, half numb from the wind, I feel a surge of panic to discover the room nearly empty. Has the speech been canceled?! The city is in near shutdown due to the weather … has it kept Zobrist from coming tonight?!
Then he is there.
A towering, elegant form takes the stage.
He is tall … so very tall … with vibrant green eyes that seem to hold all the mysteries of the world in their depths. He looks out over the empty hall—only a dozen or so stalwart fans —and I feel ashamed that the hall is nearly empty.
This is Bertrand Zobrist!
There is a terrible moment of silence as he stares at us, his face stern. Then, without warning, he bursts out laughing, his green eyes glimmering. “To hell with this empty auditorium,” he declares. “My hotel is next door. Let’s go to the bar!”
A cheer goes up, and a small group migrates next door to a hotel bar, where we crowd into a big booth and order drinks. Zobrist regales us with tales of his research, his rise to celebrity, and his thoughts about the future of genetic engineering. As the drinks flow, the topic turns to Zobrist’s newfound passion for Transhumanist philosophy.
“I believe Transhumanism is mankind’s only hope for long-term survival,” Zobrist preaches, pulling aside his shirt and showing them all the “H+” tattoo inscribed on his shoulder. “As you can see, I’m fully committed.”
I feel as if I’m having a private audience with a rock star. I never
imagined the lauded “genius of genetics” would be so charismatic or beguiling in person. Every time Zobrist glances over at me, his green eyes ignite a wholly unexpected feeling inside me … the deep pull of sexual attraction.
As the night wears on, the group slowly thins as the guests excuse themselves to get back to reality. By midnight, I am seated all alone with Bertrand Zobrist.
“Thank you for tonight,” I say to him, a little tipsy from one drink too many. “You’re an amazing teacher.”
“Flattery?” Zobrist smiles and leans closer, our legs touching now. “It will get you everywhere.”
The flirtation is clearly inappropriate, but it is a snowy night in a deserted Chicago hotel, and it feels as if the entire world has stopped.
“So what do you think?” Zobrist says. “Nightcap in my room?”
I freeze, knowing I must look like a deer in the headlights.
Zobrist’s eyes twinkle warmly. “Let me guess,” he whispers. “You’ve never been with a famous man.”
I feel myself flush, fighting to hide a surge of emotions— embarrassment, excitement, fear.
“Actually, to be honest,” I say to him,
“I’ve never been with any man.” Zobrist smiles and inches closer. “I’m not sure what you’ve been waiting for, but please let me be your first.”
In that moment all the awkward sexual fears and frustrations of my childhood disappear … evaporating into the snowy night.
For the first time ever, I feel a yearning unfettered by shame.
I want him.
Ten minutes later, we are in Zobrist’s hotel room, naked in each other’s arms. Zobrist takes his time, his patient hands coaxing sensations I’ve never felt before out of my inexperienced body.
This is my choice. He didn’t force me.
In the cocoon of Zobrist’s embrace, I feel as if everything is right in the world. Lying there, staring out the window at the snowy night, I know I will follow this man anywhere.
The Frecciargento train slowed suddenly, and FS-2080 emerged from the blissful memory and back into the depressing present.
Bertrand … you’re gone.
Their first night together had been the first step of an incredible journey.
I became more than his lover. I became his disciple.
“Libertà Bridge,” Langdon said.
“We’re almost there.”
FS-2080 nodded mournfully, staring out at the waters of the Laguna Veneta, remembering sailing here once with Bertrand … a peaceful image that dissolved now into a horrific memory from a week before.
I was there when he jumped off the Badia tower.
Mine were the last eyes he ever saw.

THE NETJETS CITATION Excel bounced through heavy turbulence as it rocketed skyward out of Tassignano Airport and banked toward Venice. On board, Dr. Elizabeth Sinskey barely noticed the bumpy departure as she absently stroked her amulet and gazed out the window into empty space.
They had finally stopped giving her the injections, and Sinskey’s mind was already feeling clearer. In the seat beside her, Agent Brüder remained silent, probably pondering the bizarre turn of events that had just transpired.
Everything is upside down, Sinskey thought, still struggling to believe what she had just witnessed.
Thirty minutes ago, they had stormed the tiny airfield to intercept Langdon as he boarded the private jet he had summoned. Instead of finding the professor, however, they discovered an idling Citation Excel and two NetJets pilots pacing the tarmac and checking their watches.
Robert Langdon was a no-show.
Then came the phone call.
When the cell phone rang, Sinskey was where she had been all day—in the backseat of the black van. Agent Brüder entered the vehicle with a stupefied look on his face as he handed her his phone.
“Urgent call for you, ma’am.” “Who is it?” she asked.
“He asked me to tell you only that he has pressing information to give you about Bertrand Zobrist.”
Sinskey grabbed the phone. “This is Dr. Elizabeth Sinskey.”
“Dr. Sinskey, you and I have never met, but my organization has been responsible for hiding Bertrand
Zobrist from you for the last year.”
Sinskey sat bolt upright. “Whoever the hell you are, you’ve been
harboring a criminal!”
“We’ve done nothing illegal, but that’s not—”
“The hell you haven’t!”
The man on the line took a long, patient breath, speaking very softly now. “You and I will have plenty of time to debate the ethics of my actions. I know you don’t know me, but I do know quite a bit about you. Mr. Zobrist has been paying me handsomely to keep you and others away from him for the past year. I am now breaching my own strict protocol by contacting you. And yet, I believe we have no choice but to pool our resources. Bertrand Zobrist, I fear, may have done something terrible.”
Sinskey could not fathom who this man was. “You’re just figuring this out now?!”
“Yes, that is correct. Just now.” His tone was earnest.
Sinskey tried to shake off the cobwebs. “Who are you?”
“Someone who wants to help you before it’s too late. I’m in possession of a video message created by Bertrand Zobrist. He asked me to release it to the world … tomorrow. I think you need to see it
immediately.”
“What does it say?”
“Not on the phone. We need to meet.”
“How do I know I can trust you?”
“Because I’m about to tell you where Robert Langdon is … and why he’s acting so strangely.”
Sinskey reeled at the mention of Langdon’s name, and she listened in astonishment to the outlandish explanation. This man seemed to have been complicit with her enemy for the last year, and yet, as she listened to the details, Sinskey’s gut told her she needed to trust what he was saying.
I have no choice but to comply.
Their combined resources made short work of commandeering the “jilted” NetJets Citation Excel. Sinskey and the soldiers were now in pursuit, racing toward Venice, where, according to this man’s information, Langdon and his two traveling companions were at this very moment arriving by train. It was too late to summon the local authorities, but the man on the line claimed to know where Langdon was headed.
St. Mark’s Square? Sinskey felt a chill as she imagined the crowds in Venice’s most populated area. “How do you know this?”
“Not on the phone,” the man said.
“But you should be aware that Robert Langdon is unwittingly traveling with a very dangerous individual.”
“Who?!” Sinskey demanded.
“One of Zobrist’s closest confidants.” The man sighed heavily. “Someone I trusted. Foolishly, apparently. Someone I believe may now be a severe threat.”
As the private jet headed for
Venice’s Marco Polo Airport carrying
Sinskey        and      the      six         soldiers,
Sinskey’s thoughts returned to Robert Langdon. He lost his memory? He recalls nothing? The strange news, while explaining several things, made Sinskey feel even worse than she already did about involving the distinguished academic in this crisis.
I left him no choice.
Almost two days ago, when Sinskey recruited Langdon, she hadn’t even let him go back to his house for his passport. Instead, she had arranged for his quiet passage through the Florence Airport as a special liaison to the World Health Organization.
As the C-130 lumbered into the air and pointed east across the Atlantic, Sinskey had glanced at Langdon beside her and noticed he did not look well. He was staring intently at the sidewall of the windowless hull.
“Professor, you do realize this plane has no windows? Until recently, it was used as a military transport.”
Langdon turned, his face ashen. “Yes, I noticed that the moment I stepped aboard. I’m not so good in
enclosed spaces.”
“So you’re pretending to look out an imaginary window?”
      He      gave      a       sheepish          smile.
“Something like that, yes.”
“Well, look at this instead.” She pulled out a photo of her lanky, green-eyed nemesis and laid it in front of him. “This is Bertrand
Zobrist.”
Sinskey had already told Langdon about her confrontation with Zobrist at the Council on Foreign Relations, the man’s passion for the Population Apocalypse Equation, his widely circulated comments about the global benefits of the Black Plague, and, most ominously, his total disappearance from sight over the past year.
“How does   someone      that prominent stay hidden for so long?” Langdon asked.
“He had a lot of help. Professional help. Maybe even a foreign
government.”
“What government would condone the creation of a plague?”
“The same governments that try to obtain nuclear warheads on the black market. Don’t forget that an effective plague is the ultimate biochemical weapon, and it’s worth a fortune. Zobrist easily could have lied to his partners and assured them his
creation had a limited range. Zobrist would be the only one who had any idea what his creation actually did.” Langdon fell silent.
“In any case,” Sinskey continued, “if not for power or money, those helping Zobrist could have helped because they shared his ideology. Zobrist has no shortage of disciples who would do anything for him. He was quite a celebrity. In fact, he gave a speech at your university not long ago.”
“At Harvard?”
Sinskey took out a pen and wrote on the border of Zobrist’s photo—the letter H followed by a plus sign.
“You’re good with symbols,” she said.
“Do you recognize this one?”
H+
“H-plus,” Langdon whispered, nodding vaguely. “Sure, a few summers ago it was posted all over campus. I assumed it was some kind of chemistry conference.”
Sinskey chuckled. “No, those were signs for the 2010 ‘Humanity-plus’
Summit—one            of        the           largest
Transhumanism gatherings ever. H-
plus       is      the       symbol       of        the
Transhumanist movement.”
Langdon cocked his head, as if trying to place the term.
“Transhumanism,” Sinskey said, “is an intellectual movement, a
philosophy of sorts, and it’s quickly taking root in the scientific
community. It essentially states that humans should use technology to transcend the weaknesses inherent in our human bodies. In other words, the next step in human evolution should be that we begin biologically engineering ourselves.”
“Sounds ominous,” Langdon said.
“Like all change, it’s just a matter of degree. Technically, we’ve been engineering ourselves for years now —developing vaccines that make children immune to certain diseases … polio, smallpox, typhoid. The difference is that now, with Zobrist’s breakthroughs in germ-line genetic engineering, we’re learning how to cre a te inheritable immunizations, those that would affect the recipient at the core germ-line level—making all subsequent generations immune to that disease.”
Langdon looked startled. “So the human species would essentially undergo an evolution that makes it immune to typhoid, for example?”
“It’s more of an assisted evolution,” Sinskey corrected. “Normally, the evolutionary process— whether it be a lungfish developing feet or an ape developing opposable thumbs—takes millennia to occur. Now we can make radical genetic adaptations in a single generation. Proponents of the technology consider it the ultimate expression of
Darwinian ‘survival of the fittest’— humans becoming a species that learns to improve its own
evolutionary process.”
“Sounds more like playing God,” Langdon replied.
“I agree wholeheartedly,” Sinskey said. “Zobrist, however, like many other Transhumanists, argued strongly that it is mankind’s evolutionary obligation to use all the powers at our disposal—germ-line genetic mutation, for one—to improve as a species. The problem is that our genetic makeup is like a house of cards—each piece connected to and supported by countless others—often in ways we don’t understand. If we try to remove a single human trait, we can cause hundreds of others to shift
simultaneously,              possibly            with
catastrophic effects.”
Langdon nodded. “There’s a reason evolution is a gradual process.”
“Precisely!” Sinskey said, feeling her admiration for the professor growing with each passing moment. “We’re tinkering with a process that took aeons to build. These are dangerous times. We now literally have the capacity to activate certain gene sequences that will result in our descendants having increased dexterity, stamina, strength, even intelligence—essentially a superrace. These hypothetical ‘enhanced’ individuals are what Transhumanists refer to as posthumans, which some believe will be the future of our species.”
“Sounds eerily like eugenics,” Langdon replied.
The reference made Sinskey’s skin crawl.
In the 1940s, Nazi scientists had dabbled in a technology they’d dubbed eugenics—an attempt to use rudimentary genetic engineering to increase the birth rate of those with certain “desirable” genetic traits, while decreasing the birth rate of those with “less desirable” ethnic traits.
Ethnic cleansing at the genetic level.
“There are similarities,” Sinskey admitted, “and while it’s hard to fathom how one would engineer a new human race, there are a lot of smart people who believe it is critical to our survival that we begin that very process. One of the contributors to the Transhumanist magazine H+ described germ-line genetic
engineering as ‘the clear next step,’ and claimed it ‘epitomized the true potential of our species.’ ” Sinskey paused. “Then again, in the
magazine’s defense, they also ran a
Discover magazine piece called ‘The
Most Dangerous Idea in the World.’ ”
“I think I’d side with the latter,” Langdon said. “At least from the sociocultural standpoint.”
“How so?”
“Well, I assume that genetic enhancements—much like cosmetic surgery—cost a lot of money, right?”
“Of course. Not everyone could afford to improve themselves or their children.”
“Which means that legalized genetic enhancements would immediately create a world of haves and have-nots. We already have a growing chasm between the rich and the poor, but genetic engineering would create a race of superhumans and … perceived subhumans. You think people are concerned about the ultrarich one percent running the world? Just imagine if that one percent were also, quite literally, a superior species—smarter, stronger, healthier. It’s the kind of situation that would be ripe for slavery or ethnic cleansing.”
Sinskey smiled at the handsome academic beside her. “Professor, you have very quickly grasped what I believe to be the most serious pitfall of genetic engineering.”
“Well, I may have grasped that, but I’m still confused about Zobrist. All of this Transhumanist thinking seems to be about bettering
humankind, making us more healthy, curing fatal diseases, extending our longevity. And yet Zobrist’s views on overpopulation seem to endorse killing off people. His ideas on Transhumanism and overpopulation seem to be in conflict, don’t they?”
Sinskey gave a solemn sigh. It was a good question, and unfortunately it had a clear and troubling answer. “Zobrist believed wholeheartedly in Transhumanism—in bettering the species through technology; however, he also believed our species would go extinct before we got a chance to do that. In effect, if nobody takes action, our sheer numbers will kill off the species before we get a chance to realize the promise of genetic engineering.” Langdon’s eyes went wide. “So Zobrist wanted to thin the herd … in order to buy more time?”
Sinskey nodded. “He once described himself as being trapped on a ship where the passengers double in number every hour, while he is desperately trying to build a lifeboat before the ship sinks under its own weight.” She paused. “He advocated throwing half the people overboard.”
Langdon winced. “Frightening thought.”
“Quite. Make no mistake about it,” she said. “Zobrist firmly believed that a drastic curbing of the human population will be remembered one day as the ultimate act of heroism … the moment the human race chose to survive.”
“As I said, frightening.”
“More so because Zobrist was not alone in his thinking. When Zobrist died, he became a martyr for a lot of people. I have no idea who we’re going to run into when we arrive in Florence, but we’ll need to be very careful. We won’t be the only ones trying to find this plague, and for your own safety, we can’t let a soul know you’re in Italy looking for it.”
Langdon told her about his friend Ignazio Busoni, a Dante specialist, who Langdon believed could get him into Palazzo Vecchio for a quiet afterhours look at the painting that contained the words cerca trova, from Zobrist’s little projector. Busoni might also be able to help Langdon understand the strange quote about the eyes of death.
Sinskey pulled back her long silver hair and looked intently at Langdon. “Seek and find, Professor. Time is running out.”
Sinskey went to an onboard storeroom and retrieved the WHO’s most secure hazmat tube—a model with biometric sealing capability.
“Give me your thumb,” she said, setting the canister in front of Langdon.
Langdon       looked          puzzled         but obliged.
Sinskey programmed the tube so that Langdon would be the only person who could open it. Then she took the little projector and placed it safely inside.
“Think of it as a portable lockbox,” she said with a smile.
“With a biohazard symbol?” Langdon looked uneasy.
“It’s all we have. On the bright side, nobody will mess with it.” Langdon excused himself to stretch his legs and use the restroom. While he was gone, Sinskey tried to slip the sealed canister into his jacket pocket.
Unfortunately it didn’t fit.
He can’t be carrying this projector
around in plain sight. She thought a moment and then headed back to the storeroom for a scalpel and a stitch kit. With expert precision, she cut a slit in the lining of Langdon’s jacket and carefully sewed a hidden pocket that was the exact size required to conceal the biotube.
When Langdon returned, she was just finishing the final stitches.
The professor stopped and stared as if she had defaced the Mona Lisa.
“You sliced into the lining of my Harris Tweed?”
“Relax, Professor,” she said. “I’m a trained surgeon. The stitches are
quite professional.”



Dan Brown

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