Note: Technically this contains “spoilers,” but since reading a book as badly written and full of self-important hooey as The DaVinci Code
provides little pleasure, I'm not sure what I'm spoiling. Still, I thought I’d mention it.
Breathless, Langdon ran the streets of Manhattan, looking for a business that was still open this late—a place full of people where he could be safe. He couldn’t see Silas, the homicidal albino, nearby, and there was nothing that proved Silas was still in pursuit, but this did nothing to sway Langdon’s fervent belief.
Then up ahead he saw a light: a Borders bookstore! Were they normally open at one? Langdon decided he would fact-check later. For now, he had to get inside. He raced to the door—it gave easily—and, ignoring the stares of the late-night shoppers, he raced up the escalator to the second floor, which is usually where they put the bathroom. And near the bathrooms, Langdon knew he would find a pay phone. In a few minutes he could relay his secret to his allies in France, and the world, if not his life, would be saved. If only the calling card he’d bought at that gas station in El Paso didn’t screw him over.
But no sooner had he dialed the first few numbers with nervous, fumbling hands, than a powerful grip seized him with one shoulder, and he felt a metal coil constrict around his neck. “We meet again, Langdon,” the albino hissed in his ear. “You ran, but not fast enough, n’est-ca pas? And this time, you will die. You will die, and the secret that I have dedicated my life to protecting will die with you!”
Langdon fought, but it was no use. He was weak and tired and he’d been up far too many nights already. He could feel the garrotte choke off his air, and his vision started fogging . . . fading . . .
“Excuse me,” said a young man of about twenty-two. His nametag said STAN. “We don’t allow fighting in the store. You’ll have to take it outside. At least fifty feet away from the front of the store so we’re not liable.” They looked at him, baffled, and he raised an apologetic hand. “That’s our policy—at least in Manhattan. In Detroit, you can fight on the sidewalk right in front of the store and we aren’t responsible as long as no blood gets on the windows.”
Silas relaxed his grip, and Langdon gasped in precious, life-sustaining air.
“So sorry,” said Silas, with one of his oleaginous smiles. “It was a simple misunderstanding. We’ll be leaving now. Come, Monsieur Langdon . . .”
“Wait!” said Langdon, trying to reach Stan’s lapels. “He’s trying to kill me because I know that Jesus was married! Leonardo daVinci knew all about it and hid messages in his paintings! And Christ’s bloodline extends through the Merovingian dynasty to the present! I’ve met his great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-
great-great-great-great-great-granddaughter and she’s really hot!”
“You fool!” hissed Silas. “You’re off by thirty ‘greats!’”
Stan looked puzzled. “That sounds like you’ve been reading Holy Blood, Holy Grail
, by Michael Baigent. It was a bestseller back in 1983 and it’s been in print ever since. I think we have a dozen in stock, but I can order it for you if you like.”
Silas’s jaw dropped. “You mean . . . the secret is out? The whole world knows?”
“I don’t know if you can call it a secret,” said Stan. “I mean, once something goes into its seventh printing . . .besides, can you really call it a secret if no respectable scholar believes it? I mean, that would be like saying, ‘The secret of the UFO masterminds who created the Easter Island statues has been exposed!’ I’d be like, Calm down. They’re made out of porous limestone, they’re light and easy to topple, and fifteen guys can create one in about a day. It’s nothing to kill anyone over.”
“But . . .” Langdon managed, “this truth—it strikes at the heart of all of Christianity!”
“What doesn’t?” said Stan. “Heck, I’ve got books right over here by G.A. Wells and Robert Price that claim that Jesus never even existed. And the idea that Jesus might have been married didn’t lead any church official to assassinate Bishop Shelby Spong, who’s mentioned the possibility in at least three of his bestsellers. And he's still an Episcopal bishop. Honestly, the scholarly wing of the church just isn't that touchy. It’s all out there. All you have to do is look.”
Silas blanched, possibly. “Then . . . all the people I’ve murdered . . . the vows I’ve taken . . . they were for nothing?”
Langdon, too, seemed stricken. “I’ve been threatened, fled from the French police, ruining my reputation and my family relationships . . . for a secret that’s silly and isn’t even secret?”
“Don’t feel too bad,” said Stan. “You’re not the first. I got a lot of this when that movie Stigmata
came out. In that one, the Catholic church—the magic, power-obsessed Catholic church!—was murdering people right and left in order to suppress the fact that there was a fifth gospel where Jesus denounced the church that’s been carrying on his name. And I had to tell people, Dude, they’re talking about the Gospel of Thomas, and we sell it right in this store. They even closed the movie with a quote from it. Very big with the New Agers. We sell about thirty a year. And that’s only one out of maybe a dozen other gospels that any scholar could tell you about. And here’s the secret—they’re all very badly written. The four we have really are the best anyone put out.”
“I saw that movie,” said Langdon, thoughtfully. “Isn’t that the one where Tom Berenger is a priest who falls in love with a hooker?”
“I think that was Last Rites,
” said Silas. “Stigmata
had Patricial Arquette and Gabriel Byrne.”
“Oh, right, that one,” said Langdon. “It wasn’t very good.”
“I wouldn’t know,” said Silas. “I live in a basement. All I do is read our Weekly Abominations newsletter.”
“Hey, you know what?” said Stan. “I’ve got to do this.” And, reaching to his left, he smashed open a fire emergency case holding an axe, and, while the alarms rang behind them all, Stan swung the axe and chopped at Silas’s head. The albino, too evil to move, was felled with a single blow, but this didn’t prevent Stan from continuing his carnage, chop after grisly chop. Soon there was blood everywhere.
“Whew!” said Stan, mopping his brow and smearing the blood that by now was on his face and arm. “I hope a skilled writer gets this down, because I’m not very good at describing things so you can actually picture them.”
“What the hell was that?” said Langdon. “Why did you kill him?”
Stan shrugged a bloody shrug. “I’d just spent a long time lecturing you two. It felt like it was about time for something violent and inexplicable to happen.”
Langdon nodded sagely. “You should write bestsellers,” he said.