"Sophie?" His voice had sounded startlingly old on her answering machine. "I have abided by your wishes for so long... and it pains me to call, but I must speak to you. Something terrible has happened."
Standing in the kitchen of her Paris flat, Sophie felt a chill to hear him again after all these years. His gentle voice brought back a flood of fond childhood memories.
"Sophie, please listen." He was speaking English to her, as he always did when she was a little girl. Practice French at school.Practice English at home. "You cannot be mad forever. Have you not read the letters that I've sent all these years? Do you not yet understand?" He paused. "We must speak at once. Please grant your grandfather this one wish. Call me at the Louvre. Right away. I believe you and I are in grave danger." Sophie stared at the answering machine. Danger? What was he talking about?
"Princess..." Her grandfather's voice cracked with an emotion Sophie could not place. "I know I've kept things from you, and I know it has cost me your love. But it was for your own safety. Now you must know the truth. Please, I must tell you the truth about your family."
Sophie suddenly could hear her own heart. My family? Sophie's parents had died when she was only four. Their car went off a bridge into fast-moving water. Her grandmother and younger brother had also been in the car, and Sophie's entire family had been erased in an instant. She had a box of newspaper clippings to confirm it.
His words had sent an unexpected surge of longing through her bones. My family! In that fleeting instant, Sophie saw images from the dream that had awoken her countless times when she was a little girl: My family is alive! They are coming home! But, as in her dream, the pictures evaporated into oblivion.
Your family is dead, Sophie. They are not coming home.
"Sophie..." her grandfather said on the machine. "I have been waiting for years to tell you. Waiting for the right moment, but now time has run out. Call me at the Louvre. As soon as you get this. I'll wait here all night. I fear we both may be in danger. There's so much you need to know."
The message ended.
In the silence, Sophie stood trembling for what felt like minutes. As she considered her grandfather's message, only one possibility made sense, and his true intent dawned.
It was bait.
Obviously, her grandfather wanted desperately to see her. He was trying anything. Her disgust for the man deepened. Sophie wondered if maybe he had fallen terminally ill and had decided to attempt any ploy he could think of to get Sophie to visit him one last time. If so, he had chosen wisely.
Now, standing in the darkness of the Louvre men's room, Sophie could hear the echoes of this afternoon's phone message. Sophie, we both may be in danger.Call me.
She had not called him. Nor had she planned to. Now, however, her skepticism had been deeply challenged. Her grandfather lay murdered inside his own museum. And he had written a code on the floor.
A code for her.Of this, she was certain.
Despite not understanding the meaning of his message, Sophie was certain its cryptic nature was additional proof that the words were intended for her. Sophie's passion and aptitude for cryptography were a product of growing up with Jacques Sauniere - a fanatic himself for codes, word games, and puzzles. How many Sundays did we spend doing the cryptograms and crosswords in the newspaper?
At the age of twelve, Sophie could finish the Le Monde crossword without any help, and her grandfather graduated her to crosswords in English, mathematical puzzles, and substitution ciphers. Sophie devoured them all. Eventually she turned her passion into a profession by becoming a code breaker for the Judicial Police.
Tonight, the cryptographer in Sophie was forced to respect the efficiency with which her grandfather had used a simple code to unite two total strangers - Sophie Neveu and Robert Langdon.
The question was why?
Unfortunately, from the bewildered look in Langdon's eyes, Sophie sensed the American had no more idea than she did why her grandfather had thrown them together.
She pressed again. "You and my grandfather had planned to meet tonight. What about?"
Langdon looked truly perplexed. "His secretary set the meeting and didn't offer any specific reason, and I didn't ask. I assumed he'd heard I would be lecturing on the pagan iconography of French cathedrals, was interested in the topic, and thought it would be fun to meet for drinks after the talk."
Sophie didn't buy it. The connection was flimsy. Her grandfather knew more about pagan iconography than anyone else on earth. Moreover, he an exceptionally private man, not someone prone to chatting with random American professors unless there were an important reason.
Sophie took a deep breath and probed further. "My grandfather called me this afternoon and told me he and I were in grave danger. Does that mean anything to you?" Langdon's blue eyes now clouded with concern. "No, but considering what just happened..." Sophie nodded. Considering tonight's events, she would be a fool not to be frightened. Feeling drained, she walked to the small plate-glass window at the far end of the bathroom and gazed out in silence through the mesh of alarm tape embedded in the glass. They were high up - forty feet at least.
Sighing, she raised her eyes and gazed out at Paris's dazzling landscape. On her left, across the Seine, the illuminated Eiffel Tower. Straight ahead, the Arc de Triomphe. And to the right, high atop the sloping rise of Montmartre, the graceful arabesque dome of Sacre-Coeur, its polished stone glowing white like a resplendent sanctuary.
Here at the westernmost tip of the Denon Wing, the north-south thoroughfare of Place du Carrousel ran almost flush with the building with only a narrow sidewalk separating it from the Louvre's outer wall. Far below, the usual caravan of the city's nighttime delivery trucks sat idling, waiting for the signals to change, their running lights seeming to twinkle mockingly up at Sophie.
"I don't know what to say," Langdon said, coming up behind her. "Your grandfather is obviously trying to tell us something. I'm sorry I'm so little help."
Sophie turned from the window, sensing a sincere regret in Langdon's deep voice. Even with all the trouble around him, he obviously wanted to help her. The teacher in him, she thought, having read DCPJ's workup on their suspect. This was an academic who clearly despised not understanding.
We have that in common, she thought.
As a code breaker, Sophie made her living extracting meaning from seemingly senseless data. Tonight, her best guess was that Robert Langdon, whether he knew it or not, possessed information that she desperately needed. Princesse Sophie, Find Robert Langdon.How much clearer could her grandfather's message be? Sophie needed more time with Langdon. Time to think. Time to sort out this mystery together. Unfortunately, time was running out.
Gazing up at Langdon, Sophie made the only play she could think of. "Bezu Fache will be taking you into custody at any minute. I can get you out of this museum. But we need to act now." Langdon's eyes went wide. "You want me to run?" "It's the smartest thing you could do. If you let Fache take you into custody now, you'll spend weeks in a French jail while DCPJ and the U. S. Embassy fight over which courts try your case. But if we get you out of here, and make it to your embassy, then your government will protect your rights while you and I prove you had nothing to do with this murder."
Langdon looked not even vaguely convinced. "Forget it! Fache has armed guards on every single exit! Even if we escape without being shot, running away only makes me look guilty. You need to tell Fache that the message on the floor was for you, and that my name is not there as an accusation."
"I will do that," Sophie said, speaking hurriedly," but after you're safely inside the U. S. Embassy. It's only about a mile from here, and my car is parked just outside the museum. Dealing with Fache from here is too much of a gamble. Don't you see? Fache has made it his mission tonight to prove you are guilty. The only reason he postponed your arrest was to run this observance in hopes you did something that made his case stronger." "Exactly. Like running!" The cell phone in Sophie's sweater pocket suddenly began ringing. Fache probably.She reached in her sweater and turned off the phone.
"Mr. Langdon," she said hurriedly," I need to ask you one last question." And your entire future may depend on it. "The writing on the floor is obviously not proof of your guilt, and yet Fache told our team he is certain you are his man. Can you think of any other reason he might be convinced you're guilty?"
Langdon was silent for several seconds. "None whatsoever."
Sophie sighed. Which means Fache is lying.Why, Sophie could not begin to imagine, but that was hardly the issue at this point. The fact remained that Bezu Fache was determined to put Robert Langdon behind bars tonight, at any cost. Sophie needed Langdon for herself, and it was this dilemma that left Sophie only one logical conclusion.
I need to get Langdon to the U. S. Embassy.
Turning toward the window, Sophie gazed through the alarm mesh embedded in the plate glass, down the dizzying forty feet to the pavement below. A leap from this height would leave Langdon with a couple of broken legs. At best.
Nonetheless, Sophie made her decision.
Robert Langdon was about to escape the Louvre, whether he wanted to or not.
"What do you mean she's not answering?" Fache looked incredulous. "You're calling her cell phone, right? I know she's carrying it."
Collet had been trying to reach Sophie now for several minutes. "Maybe her batteries are dead. Or her ringer's off."
Fache had looked distressed ever since talking to the director of Cryptology on the phone. After hanging up, he had marched over to Collet and demanded he get Agent Neveu on the line. Now Collet had failed, and Fache was pacing like a caged lion.
"Why did Crypto call?" Collet now ventured.
Fache turned. "To tell us they found no references to Draconian devils and lame saints." "That's all?" "No, also to tell us that they had just identified the numerics as Fibonacci numbers, but they suspected the series was meaningless."
Collet was confused. "But they already sent Agent Neveu to tell us that." Fache shook his head. "They didn't send Neveu." "What?"
"According to the director, at my orders he paged his entire team to look at the images I'd wired him. When Agent Neveu arrived, she took one look at the photos of Sauniere and the code and left the office without a word. The director said he didn't question her behavior because she was understandably upset by the photos."
"Upset? She's never seen a picture of a dead body?"
Fache was silent a moment. "I was not aware of this, and it seems neither was the director until a coworker informed him, but apparently Sophie Neveu is Jacques Sauniere's granddaughter."
Collet was speechless.
"The director said she never once mentioned Sauniere to him, and he assumed it was because she probably didn't want preferential treatment for having a famous grandfather."
No wonder she was upset by the pictures.Collet could barely conceive of the unfortunate coincidence that called in a young woman to decipher a code written by a dead family member. Still, her actions made no sense. "But she obviously recognized the numbers as Fibonacci numbers because she came here and told us. I don't understand why she would leave the office without telling anyone she had figured it out."
Collet could think of only one scenario to explain the troubling developments: Sauniere had written a numeric code on the floor in hopes Fache would involve cryptographers in the investigation, and therefore involve his own granddaughter. As for the rest of the message, was Saunie recommunicating in some way with his granddaughter? If so, what did the message tell her? And how did Langdon fit in?
Before Collet could ponder it any further, the silence of the deserted museum was shattered by an alarm. The bell sounded like it was coming from inside the Grand Gallery.
"Alarme!" one of the agents yelled, eyeing his feed from the Louvre security center. "GrandeGalerie! Toilettes Messieurs!"
Fache wheeled to Collet. "Where's Langdon?"
"Still in the men's room!" Collet pointed to the blinking red dot on his laptop schematic. "He must have broken the window!" Collet knew Langdon wouldn't get far. Although Paris fire codes required windows above fifteen meters in public buildings be breakable in case of fire, exiting a Louvre second-story window without the help of a hook and ladder would be suicide. Furthermore, there were no trees or grass on the western end of the Denon Wing to cushion a fall. Directly beneath that rest room window, the two-lane Place du Carrousel ran within a few feet of the outer wall. "My God," Collet exclaimed, eyeing the screen. "Langdon's moving to the window ledge!"
But Fache was already in motion. Yanking his Manurhin MR-93 revolver from his shoulder holster, the captain dashed out of the office.
Collet watched the screen in bewilderment as the blinking dot arrived at the window ledge and then did something utterly unexpected. The dot moved outside the perimeter of the building.
What's going on? he wondered. Is Langdon out on a ledge or -
"Jesu!" Collet jumped to his feet as the dot shot farther outside the wall. The signal seemed to shudder for a moment, and then the blinking dot came to an abrupt stop about ten yards outside the perimeter of the building.
Fumbling with the controls, Collet called up a Paris street map and recalibrated the GPS. Zooming in, he could now see the exact location of the signal.
It was no longer moving.
It lay at a dead stop in the middle of Place du Carrousel. Langdon had jumped.