What else was I supposed to do?
She pictured her grandfather's body, naked and spread-eagle on the floor. There was a time whenhe had meant the world to her, yet tonight, Sophie was surprised to feel almost no sadness for theman. Jacques Saunière was a stranger to her now. Their relationship had evaporated in a singleinstant one March night when she was twenty-two. Ten years ago. Sophie had come home a fewdays early from graduate university in England and mistakenly witnessed her grandfather engagedin something Sophie was obviously not supposed to see. It was an image she barely could believeto this day.
If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes...
Too ashamed and stunned to endure her grandfather's pained attempts to explain, Sophieimmediately moved out on her own, taking money she had saved, and getting a small flat withsome roommates. She vowed never to speak to anyone about what she had seen. Her grandfathertried desperately to reach her, sending cards and letters, begging Sophie to meet him so he couldexplain. Explain how!? Sophie never responded except once—to forbid him ever to call her or tryto meet her in public. She was afraid his explanation would be more terrifying than the incidentitself.
Incredibly, Saunière had never given up on her, and Sophie now possessed a decade's worth ofcorrespondence unopened in a dresser drawer. To her grandfather's credit, he had never oncedisobeyed her request and phoned her.
Until this afternoon.
"Sophie?" His voice had sounded startlingly old on her answering machine. "I have abided by yourwishes for so long... and it pains me to call, but I must speak to you. Something terrible hashappened."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 notread the letters that I've sent all these years? Do you not yet understand?" He paused. "We mustspeak at once. Please grant your grandfather this one wish. Call me at the Louvre. Right away. Ibelieve you and I are in grave danger." Sophie stared at the answering machine. Danger? Whatwas he talking about?
"Princess..." Her grandfather's voice cracked with an emotion Sophie could not place. "I know I'vekept things from you, and I know it has cost me your love. But it was for your own safety. Nowyou 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 wasonly four. Their car went off a bridge into fast-moving water. Her grandmother and youngerbrother had also been in the car, and Sophie's entire family had been erased in an instant. She had abox of newspaper clippings to confirm it.
His words had sent an unexpected surge of longing through her bones. My family! In that fleetinginstant, Sophie saw images from the dream that had awoken her countless times when she was alittle girl: My family is alive! They are coming home! But, as in her dream, the pictures evaporatedinto 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. Waitingfor the right moment, but now time has run out. Call me at the Louvre. As soon as you get this. I'llwait 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 hergrandfather'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 forthe man deepened. Sophie wondered if maybe he had fallen terminally ill and had decided toattempt any ploy he could think of to get Sophie to visit him one last time. If so, he had chosenwisely.
Now, standing in the darkness of the Louvre men's room, Sophie could hear the echoes of thisafternoon'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 deeplychallenged. Her grandfather lay murdered inside his own museum. And he had written a code onthe floor.
A code for her. Of this, she was certain.
Despite not understanding the meaning of his message, Sophie was certain its cryptic nature wasadditional proof that the words were intended for her. Sophie's passion and aptitude forcryptography were a product of growing up with Jacques Saunière—a fanatic himself for codes,word games, and puzzles. How many Sundays did we spend doing the cryptograms and crosswordsin the newspaper?
At the age of twelve, Sophie could finish the Le Monde crossword without any help, and hergrandfather 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 acodebreaker for the Judicial Police.
Tonight, the cryptographer in Sophie was forced to respect the efficiency with which hergrandfather had used a simple code to unite two total strangers—Sophie Neveu and RobertLangdon.
The question was why?
Unfortunately, from the bewildered look in Langdon's eyes, Sophie sensed the American had nomore 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 Frenchcathedrals, was interested in the topic, and thought it would be fun to meet for drinks after thetalk."Sophie didn't buy it. The connection was flimsy. Her grandfather knew more about paganiconography than anyone else on earth. Moreover, he an exceptionally private man, not someoneprone 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 toldme 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. Feelingdrained, she walked to the small plate-glass window at the far end of the bathroom and gazed out insilence through the mesh of alarm tape embedded in the glass. They were high up—forty feet atleast.
Sighing, she raised her eyes and gazed out at Paris's dazzling landscape. On her left, across theSeine, the illuminated Eiffel Tower. Straight ahead, the Arc de Triomphe. And to the right, highatop the sloping rise of Montmartre, the graceful arabesque dome of Sacré-Coeur, its polishedstone glowing white like a resplendent sanctuary.
Here at the westernmost tip of the Denon Wing, the north-south thoroughfare of Place du Carrouselran almost flush with the building with only a narrow sidewalk separating it from the Louvre'souter wall. Far below, the usual caravan of the city's nighttime delivery trucks sat idling, waitingfor 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 obviouslytrying 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 thetrouble around him, he obviously wanted to help her. The teacher in him, she thought, having readDCPJ's workup on their suspect. This was an academic who clearly despised not understanding.
We have that in common, she thought.
As a codebreaker, 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 informationthat she desperately needed. Princesse Sophie, Find Robert Langdon. How much clearer could hergrandfather's message be? Sophie needed more time with Langdon. Time to think. Time to sort outthis mystery together. Unfortunately, time was running out.
Gazing up at Langdon, Sophie made the only play she could think of. "Bezu Fache will be takingyou 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 spendweeks in a French jail while DCPJ and the U.S. Embassy fight over which courts try your case. Butif we get you out of here, and make it to your embassy, then your government will protect yourrights 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 singleexit! Even if we escape without being shot, running away only makes me look guilty. You need totell Fache that the message on the floor was for you, and that my name is not there as anaccusation.""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 Fachefrom here is too much of a gamble. Don't you see? Fache has made it his mission tonight to proveyou are guilty. The only reason he postponed your arrest was to run this observance in hopes youdid something that made his case stronger.""Exactly. Like running!"The cell phone in Sophie's sweater pocket suddenly began ringing. Fache probably. She reached inher sweater and turned off the phone.
"Mr. Langdon," she said hurriedly, "I need to ask you one last question." And your entire futuremay depend on it. "The writing on the floor is obviously not proof of your guilt, and yet Fache toldour team he is certain you are his man. Can you think of any other reason he might be convincedyou'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 washardly the issue at this point. The fact remained that Bezu Fache was determined to put RobertLangdon behind bars tonight, at any cost. Sophie needed Langdon for herself, and it was thisdilemma 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 Langdonwith 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.