Tonight, the cavernous nave of Saint-Sulpice was as silent as a tomb, the only hint of life the faintsmell of incense from mass earlier that evening. Silas sensed an uneasiness in Sister Sandrine'sdemeanor as she led him into the sanctuary. He was not surprised by this. Silas was accustomed topeople being uncomfortable with his appearance.
"You're an American," she said.
"French by birth," Silas responded. "I had my calling in Spain, and I now study in the UnitedStates."Sister Sandrine nodded. She was a small woman with quiet eyes. "And you have never seen Saint-Sulpice?""I realize this is almost a sin in itself.""She is more beautiful by day.""I am certain. Nonetheless, I am grateful that you would provide me this opportunity tonight.""The abbé requested it. You obviously have powerful friends."You have no idea, Silas thought.
As he followed Sister Sandrine down the main aisle, Silas was surprised by the austerity of thesanctuary. Unlike Notre Dame with its colorful frescoes, gilded altar-work, and warm wood, Saint-Sulpice was stark and cold, conveying an almost barren quality reminiscent of the asceticcathedrals of Spain. The lack of decor made the interior look even more expansive, and as Silasgazed up into the soaring ribbed vault of the ceiling, he imagined he was standing beneath the hullof an enormous overturned ship.
A fitting image, he thought. The brotherhood's ship was about to be capsized forever. Feeling eagerto get to work, Silas wished Sister Sandrine would leave him. She was a small woman whom Silascould incapacitate easily, but he had vowed not to use force unless absolutely necessary. She is awoman of the cloth, and it is not her fault the brotherhood chose her church as a hiding place fortheir keystone. She should not be punished for the sins of others.
"I am embarrassed, Sister, that you were awoken on my behalf.""Not at all. You are in Paris a short time. You should not miss Saint-Sulpice. Are your interests inthe church more architectural or historical?""Actually, Sister, my interests are spiritual."She gave a pleasant laugh. "That goes without saying. I simply wondered where to begin yourtour."Silas felt his eyes focus on the altar. "A tour is unnecessary. You have been more than kind. I canshow myself around.""It is no trouble," she said. "After all, I am awake."Silas stopped walking. They had reached the front pew now, and the altar was only fifteen yardsaway. He turned his massive body fully toward the small woman, and he could sense her recoil asshe gazed up into his red eyes. "If it does not seem too rude, Sister, I am not accustomed to simplywalking into a house of God and taking a tour. Would you mind if I took some time alone to praybefore I look around?"Sister Sandrine hesitated. "Oh, of course. I shall wait in the rear of the church for you."Silas put a soft but heavy hand on her shoulder and peered down. "Sister, I feel guilty already forhaving awoken you. To ask you to stay awake is too much. Please, you should return to bed. I canenjoy your sanctuary and then let myself out."She looked uneasy. "Are you sure you won't feel abandoned?""Not at all. Prayer is a solitary joy.""As you wish."Silas took his hand from her shoulder. "Sleep well, Sister. May the peace of the Lord be with you.""And also with you." Sister Sandrine headed for the stairs. "Please be sure the door closes tightlyon your way out.""I will be sure of it." Silas watched her climb out of sight. Then he turned and knelt in the frontpew, feeling the cilice cut into his leg.
Dear God, I offer up to you this work I do today....
Crouching in the shadows of the choir balcony high above the altar, Sister Sandrine peered silentlythrough the balustrade at the cloaked monk kneeling alone. The sudden dread in her soul made ithard to stay still. For a fleeting instant, she wondered if this mysterious visitor could be the enemythey had warned her about, and if tonight she would have to carry out the orders she had beenholding all these years. She decided to stay there in the darkness and watch his every move.