Iron on marble. It would echo off the vaulted ceilings.
Would the nun hear him? She should be asleep by now. Even so, it was a chance Silas preferrednot to take. Looking around for a cloth to wrap around the tip of the iron pole, he saw nothingexcept the altar's linen mantle, which he refused to defile. My cloak, he thought. Knowing he wasalone in the great church, Silas untied his cloak and slipped it off his body. As he removed it, hefelt a sting as the wool fibers stuck to the fresh wounds on his back.
Naked now, except for his loin swaddle, Silas wrapped his cloak over the end of the iron rod. Then,aiming at the center of the floor tile, he drove the tip into it. A muffled thud. The stone did notbreak. He drove the pole into it again. Again a dull thud, but this time accompanied by a crack. Onthe third swing, the covering finally shattered, and stone shards fell into a hollow area beneath thefloor.
Quickly pulling the remaining pieces from the opening, Silas gazed into the void. His bloodpounded as he knelt down before it. Raising his pale bare arm, he reached inside.
At first he felt nothing. The floor of the compartment was bare, smooth stone. Then, feeling deeper,reaching his arm in under the Rose Line, he touched something! A thick stone tablet. Getting hisfingers around the edge, he gripped it and gently lifted the tablet out. As he stood and examined hisfind, he realized he was holding a rough-hewn stone slab with engraved words. He felt for aninstant like a modern-day Moses.
As Silas read the words on the tablet, he felt surprise. He had expected the keystone to be a map, ora complex series of directions, perhaps even encoded. The keystone, however, bore the simplest ofinscriptions.
Job 38:11A Bible verse? Silas was stunned with the devilish simplicity. The secret location of that whichthey sought was revealed in a Bible verse? The brotherhood stopped at nothing to mock therighteous!
Job. Chapter thirty-eight. Verse eleven.
Although Silas did not recall the exact contents of verse eleven by heart, he knew the Book of Jobtold the story of a man whose faith in God survived repeated tests. Appropriate, he thought, barelyable to contain his excitement.
Looking over his shoulder, he gazed down the shimmering Rose Line and couldn't help but smile.
There atop the main altar, propped open on a gilded book stand, sat an enormous leather-boundBible.
Up in the balcony, Sister Sandrine was shaking. Moments ago, she had been about to flee and carryout her orders, when the man below suddenly removed his cloak. When she saw his alabaster-whiteflesh, she was overcome with a horrified bewilderment. His broad, pale back was soaked withblood-red slashes. Even from here she could see the wounds were fresh.
This man has been mercilessly whipped!
She also saw the bloody cilice around his thigh, the wound beneath it dripping. What kind of Godwould want a body punished this way? The rituals of Opus Dei, Sister Sandrine knew, were notsomething she would ever understand. But that was hardly her concern at this instant. Opus Dei issearching for the keystone. How they knew of it, Sister Sandrine could not imagine, although sheknew she did not have time to think.
The bloody monk was now quietly donning his cloak again, clutching his prize as he moved towardthe altar, toward the Bible.
In breathless silence, Sister Sandrine left the balcony and raced down the hall to her quarters.
Getting on her hands and knees, she reached beneath her wooden bed frame and retrieved thesealed envelope she had hidden there years ago.
Tearing it open, she found four Paris phone numbers.
Trembling, she began to dial.
Downstairs, Silas laid the stone tablet on the altar and turned his eager hands to the leather Bible.
His long white fingers were sweating now as he turned the pages. Flipping through the OldTestament, he found the Book of Job. He located chapter thirty-eight. As he ran his finger down thecolumn of text, he anticipated the words he was about to read.
They will lead the way!
Finding verse number eleven, Silas read the text. It was only seven words. Confused, he read itagain, sensing something had gone terribly wrong. The verse simply read:
HITHERTO SHALT THOU COME, BUT NO FURTHER.