"No!" Langdon shouted, raising his arm and suspending the cryptex precariously over the hard stone floor. "Leigh, if you even think about it, I will drop this."
Teabing laughed. "That bluff worked on Remy. Not on me. I know you better than that." "Do you, Leigh?" Yes I do. Your poker face needs work, my friend. It took me several seconds, but I can see now that you are lying. You have no idea where on Newton's tomb the answer lies. "Truly, Robert? You know where on the tomb to look?"
The falter in Langdon's eyes was fleeting but Leigh caught it. There was a lie there. A desperate, pathetic ploy to save Sophie. Teabing felt a profound disappointment in Robert Langdon.
I am a lone knight, surrounded by unworthy souls. And I will have to decipher the keystone on my own.
Langdon and Neveu were nothing but a threat to Teabing now... and to the Grail. As painful as the solution was going to be, he knew he could carry it out with a clean conscience. The only challenge would be to persuade Langdon to set down the keystone so Teabing could safely end this charade.
"A show of faith," Teabing said, lowering the gun from Sophie. "Set down the keystone, and we'll talk."
Langdon knew his lie had failed.
He could see the dark resolve in Teabing's face and knew the moment was upon them. When I setthis down, he will kill us both.Even without looking at Sophie, he could hear her heart beseeching him in silent desperation. Robert, this man is not worthy of the Grail.Please do not place it in his hands.No matter what the cost.
Langdon had already made his decision several minutes ago, while standing alone at the window overlooking College Garden.
Protect Sophie. Protect the Grail. Langdon had almost shouted out in desperation. But I cannot see how!
The stark moments of disillusionment had brought with them a clarity unlike any he had ever felt. The Truth is right before your eyes, Robert.He knew not from where the epiphany came. The Grailis not mocking you, she is calling out to a worthy soul.
Now, bowing down like a subject several yards in front of Leigh Teabing, Langdon lowered the cryptex to within inches of the stone floor.
"Yes, Robert," Teabing whispered, aiming the gun at him. "Set it down."
Langdon's eyes moved heavenward, up into the gaping void of the Chapter House cupola. Crouching lower, Langdon lowered his gaze to Teabing's gun, aimed directly at him.
"I'm sorry, Leigh."
In one fluid motion, Langdon leapt up, swinging his arm skyward, launching the cryptex straight up toward the dome above.
Leigh Teabing did not feel his finger pull the trigger, but the Medusa discharged with a thundering crash. Langdon's crouched form was now vertical, almost airborne, and the bullet exploded in the floor near Langdon's feet. Half of Teabing's brain attempted to adjust his aim and fire again in rage, but the more powerful half dragged his eyes upward into the cupola.
Time seemed to freeze, morphing into a slow-motion dream as Teabing's entire world became the airborne keystone. He watched it rise to the apex of its climb... hovering for a moment in the void... and then tumbling downward, end over end, back toward the stone floor.
All of Teabing's hopes and dreams were plummeting toward earth. It cannot strike the floor! I can reach it! Teabing's body reacted on instinct. He released the gun and heaved himself forward, dropping his crutches as he reached out with his soft, manicured hands. Stretching his arms and fingers, he snatched the keystone from midair.
Falling forward with the keystone victoriously clutched in his hand, Teabing knew he was falling too fast. With nothing to break his fall, his outstretched arms hit first, and the cryptex collided hard with the floor.
There was a sickening crunch of glass within.
For a full second, Teabing did not breathe. Lying there outstretched on the cold floor, staring the length of his outstretched arms at the marble cylinder in his bare palms, he implored the glass vial inside to hold. Then the acrid tang of vinegar cut the air, and Teabing felt the cool liquid flowing out through the dials onto his palm.
Wild panic gripped him. NO! The vinegar was streaming now, and Teabing pictured the papyrus dissolving within. Robert, you fool! The secret is lost!
Teabing felt himself sobbing uncontrollably. The Grail is gone.Everything destroyed.Shuddering in disbelief over Langdon's actions, Teabing tried to force the cylinder apart, longing to catch a fleeting glimpse of history before it dissolved forever. To his shock, as he pulled the ends of the keystone, the cylinder separated.
He gasped and peered inside. It was empty except for shards of wet glass. No dissolving papyrus. Teabing rolled over and looked up at Langdon. Sophie stood beside him, aiming the gun down at Teabing.
Bewildered, Teabing looked back at the keystone and saw it. The dials were no longer at random. They spelled a five-letter word: APPLE.
"The orb from which Eve partook," Langdon said coolly," incurring the Holy wrath of God. Original sin. The symbol of the fall of the sacred feminine."
Teabing felt the truth come crashing down on him in excruciating austerity. The orb that ought be on Newton's tomb could be none other than the Rosy apple that fell from heaven, struck Newton on the head, and inspired his life's work. His labor's fruit! The Rosy flesh with a seeded womb!
"Robert," Teabing stammered, overwhelmed. "You opened it. Where... is the map?"
Without blinking, Langdon reached into the breast pocket of his tweed coat and carefully extracted a delicate rolled papyrus. Only a few yards from where Teabing lay, Langdon unrolled the scroll and looked at it. After a long moment, a knowing smile crossed Langdon's face.
He knows! Teabing's heart craved that knowledge. His life's dream was right in front of him. "Tell me!" Teabing demanded. "Please! Oh God, please! It's not too late!"
As the sound of heavy footsteps thundered down the hall toward the Chapter House, Langdon quietly rolled the papyrus and slipped it back in his pocket.
"No!" Teabing cried out, trying in vain to stand.
When the doors burst open, Bezu Fache entered like a bull into a ring, his feral eyes scanning, finding his target - Leigh Teabing - helpless on the floor. Exhaling in relief, Fache holstered his Manurhin sidearm and turned to Sophie. "Agent Neveu, I am relieved you and Mr. Langdon are safe. You should have come in when I asked."
The British police entered on Fache's heels, seizing the anguished prisoner and placing him in handcuffs.
Sophie seemed stunned to see Fache. "How did you find us?"
Fache pointed to Teabing. "He made the mistake of showing his ID when he entered the abbey. The guards heard a police broadcast about our search for him."
"It's in Langdon's pocket!" Teabing was screaming like a madman. "The map to the Holy Grail!"
As they hoisted Teabing and carried him out, he threw back his head and howled. "Robert! Tell me where it's hidden!"
As Teabing passed, Langdon looked him in the eye. "Only the worthy find the Grail, Leigh. You taught me that."