Oh. Jason turned his attention back to his iPod and pressed play.
He leaned back on his hands. The two were seated on a thin grass sward that framed the open pedestrian plaza, called the Domvorplatz. It surrounded the massive gothic cathedral, the Kölner Dom. Perched on Cathedral Hill, it commanded a view over the entire city.
Jason gazed up the length of the twin spires, decorated with stone figures, carved in tiers of marble reliefs that ranged from the religious to the arcane. Now, lit up at night, it held an eerie sense of something ancient risen from deep underground, something not of this world.
Listening to the music leaking from the iPod, Jason watched Mandy. Both were on summer holiday from Boston College, backpacking through Germany and Austria. They were traveling with two other friends, Brenda and Karl, but the other two were more interested in the local pubs than attending tonight's midnight mass. Mandy, though, was raised Roman Catholic. Midnight masses at the cathedral were limited to a few select holidays, each attended by the Archbishop of Cologne himself, like tonight's Feast of the Three Kings. Mandy had not wanted to miss it.
And while Jason was Protestant, he had agreed to accompany her.
As they waited for the approach of midnight, Mandy's head bopped slightly to the music. Jason liked the way her bangs swept back and forth, the way her lower lip pouted out as she concentrated on the music. Suddenly he felt a touch on his hand. Mandy had shifted her arm closer, brushing her hand atop his. Her eyes, though, remained fixed on the cathedral.
Jason held his breath.
For the past ten days, the two had found themselves thrown together more and more often. Before the trip, they had been no more than acquaintances. Mandy was Brenda's best friend since high school, and Karl was Jason's roommate. Their two respective friends, new lovers, hadn't wanted to travel alone, in case their budding relationship soured while traveling.
So Jason and Mandy often ended up sightseeing alone.
Not that Jason minded. He had been studying art history back at college. Mandy was majoring in European studies. Here their dry academic textbooks were given flesh and girth, weight and substance. Sharing a similar thrill of discovery, the two found each other easy traveling companions.
Jason kept his own eyes averted from her touch, but he did move one finger closer to hers. Had the night just gotten a tad brighter?
Unfortunately the song ended too soon. Mandy sat straighter, pulling away her hand to remove the earphones.
"We should be getting inside," she whispered and nodded toward the line of people flowing through the open door of the cathedral. She stood up and buttoned her jacket, a conservative black suit coat, over her flamboyant t-shirt.
Jason joined her as she smoothed her ankle-length skirt and combed the pink tips of her hair behind her ears. In a breath, she transformed from a slightly punk college student into a staid Catholic schoolgirl.
Jason gaped at the sudden transformation. In black jeans and a light jacket, he felt suddenly underdressed to attend a religious service.
"You look fine," Mandy said, seeming to read his worry.
"Thanks," he mumbled out.
They gathered their things, threw their empty Coke cans into a nearby trashcan, and crossed the paved Domvorplatz.
"Guten abend," a black-frocked deacon greeted them at the door. "Willkommen."
"Danke," Mandy mumbled as they climbed the stairs.
Ahead, candlelight flowed through the cathedral's open doorway, flickering down the stone steps. It enhanced the feeling of age and ancientness. Earlier in the day, while taking a cathedral tour, Jason had learned that the cathedral's cornerstone had been laid back in the thirteenth century. It was hard to fathom such a breadth of time.
Copyright © 2004 James Rollins - Excerpted from Map of Bones by James Rollins. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher, William Morrow.
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