Robert Langdon wandered barefoot through his deserted Massachusetts Victorian home and nursed his ritual insomnia remedy... a mug of steaming Nestle's Quik. The April moon filtered through the bay windows and played on the oriental carpets. Langdon's colleagues often joked that his place looked more like an anthropology museum than a home. His shelves were packed with religious artifacts from around the world an ekuaba from Ghana, a gold cross from Spain, a cycladic idol from the Aegean, and even a rare woven boccus from Borneo... a young warrior's symbol of perpetual youth.
As Langdon sat on his brass Maharishi's chest and savored the warmth of the chocolate, the bay window caught his reflection. The image was distorted and pale like a ghost. An aging ghost, he thought, cruelly reminded that his youthful spirit was living in a mortal shell.
Although not overly handsome in a classical sense, the forty-five-year-old Langdon had what his female colleagues referred to as an "erudite" appeal... wisps of gray in his thick brown hair, probing blue eyes, an arrestingly deep voice, and the strong, carefree smile of a collegiate athlete. A varsity diver in prep school and college, Langdon still had the body of a swimmer, a toned, six-foot physique that he vigilantly maintained with fifty laps a day in the university pool.
Langdon's friends had always viewed him as a bit of an enigma... a man caught between centuries. On weekends he could be seen lounging on the quad in blue-jeans, discussing computer graphics or religious history with students; other times he could be spotted in his Harris tweed and paisley vest, photographed in the pages of upscale art magazines at museum openings where he had been asked to lecture.
Although a tough teacher and strict disciplinarian, Langdon was the first to embrace what he hailed as the "lost art of good clean fun." He relished recreation with an infectious fanaticism that had earned him a fraternal acceptance among his students. His campus nickname... "The Dolphin"... was a reference both to his affable nature and his legendary ability to dive into a pool and outmaneuver the entire opposing squad in a waterpolo match.
As Langdon sat alone, absently gazing into the darkness, the silence of his home was shattered again, this time by the ring of his Fax machine. Too exhausted to be annoyed, Langdon forced a tired chuckle.
God's people, he thought. Two thousand years of waiting for their Messiah, and they're still persistent as hell.
Wearily, he returned his empty mug to the kitchen and walked slowly to his oak-paneled study. The incoming FAX lay in the tray. Sighing, he scooped up the paper and looked at it.
Instantly, a wave of nausea hit him.
The image on the page was that of a human corpse. The body had been stripped naked, and its head had been twisted, facing completely backwards. On the victim's chest was a terrible burn. The man had been branded imprinted with a single word. It was a word Langdon knew well. Very well. He stared at the ornate lettering in disbelief.
"Illuminati," he stammered, his heart pounding. It can't be
In slow motion, afraid of what he was about to witness, Langdon rotated the fax 180 degrees. He looked at the word upside down.
The breath went out of him. It was like he had been hit by a truck. Barely able to believe his eyes, he rotated the FAX again, reading the brand right side up and then upside down.
"Illuminati, " he whispered.
Stunned, Langdon collapsed in a chair. He sat a moment in utter bewilderment. Gradually, his eyes were drawn to the blinking red light on his FAX machine. Whoever had sent this FAX was still on the line waiting to talk. Langdon gazed at the blinking light a long time.
Copyright Dan Brown. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever.
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