Home > Origin (Robert Langdon #5)(3)

Origin (Robert Langdon #5)(3)
Author: Dan Brown

Kirsch reached into his suit coat and pulled out an oversized smartphone—one that he had designed and built to serve his own unique needs. The phone had a vibrantly colored mosaic case, and he propped it up before the three men like a television. In a moment, he would use the device to dial into an ultrasecure server, enter his forty-seven-character password, and live-stream a presentation for them.

“What you are about to see,” Kirsch said, “is a rough cut of an announcement I hope to share with the world—perhaps in a month or so. But before I do, I wanted to consult with a few of the world’s most influential religious thinkers, to gain insight into how this news will be received by those it affects most.”

The bishop sighed loudly, sounding more bored than concerned. “An intriguing preamble, Mr. Kirsch. You speak as if whatever you are about to show us will shake the foundations of the world’s religions.”

Kirsch glanced around the ancient repository of sacred texts. It will not shake your foundations. It will shatter them.

Kirsch appraised the men before him. What they did not know was that in only three days’ time, Kirsch planned to go public with this presentation in a stunning, meticulously choreographed event. When he did, people across the world would realize that the teachings of all religions did indeed have one thing in common.

They were all dead wrong.

CHAPTER 1

PROFESSOR ROBERT LANGDON gazed up at the forty-foot-tall dog sitting in the plaza. The animal’s fur was a living carpet of grass and fragrant flowers.

I’m trying to love you, he thought. I truly am.

Langdon pondered the creature a bit longer and then continued along a suspended walkway, descending a sprawling terrace of stairs whose uneven treads were intended to jar the arriving visitor from his usual rhythm and gait. Mission accomplished, Langdon decided, nearly stumbling twice on the irregular steps.

At the bottom of the stairs, Langdon jolted to a stop, staring at a massive object that loomed ahead.

Now I’ve seen it all.

A towering black widow spider rose before him, its slender iron legs supporting a bulbous body at least thirty feet in the air. On the spider’s underbelly hung a wire-mesh egg sac filled with glass orbs.

“Her name is Maman,” a voice said.

Langdon lowered his gaze and saw a slender man standing beneath the spider. He wore a black brocade sherwani and had an almost comical curling Salvador Dalí mustache.

“My name is Fernando,” he continued, “and I’m here to welcome you to the museum.” The man perused a collection of name tags on a table before him. “May I have your name, please?”

“Certainly. Robert Langdon.”

The man’s eyes shot back up. “Ah, I am so sorry! I did not recognize you, sir!”

I barely recognize myself, Langdon thought, advancing stiffly in his white bow tie, black tails, and white waistcoat. I look like a Whiffenpoof. Langdon’s classic tails were almost thirty years old, preserved from his days as a member of the Ivy Club at Princeton, but thanks to his faithful daily regimen of swimming laps, the outfit still fit him fairly well. In Langdon’s haste to pack, he had grabbed the wrong hanging bag from his closet, leaving his usual tuxedo behind.

“The invitation said black and white,” Langdon said. “I trust tails are appropriate?”

“Tails are a classic! You look dashing!” The man scurried over and carefully pressed a name tag to the lapel of Langdon’s jacket.

“It’s an honor to meet you, sir,” the mustached man said. “No doubt you’ve visited us before?”

Langdon gazed through the spider’s legs at the glistening building before them. “Actually, I’m embarrassed to say, I’ve never been.”

“No!” The man feigned falling over. “You’re not a fan of modern art?”

Langdon had always enjoyed the challenge of modern art—primarily the exploration of why particular works were hailed as masterpieces: Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings; Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup cans; Mark Rothko’s simple rectangles of color. Even so, Langdon was far more comfortable discussing the religious symbolism of Hieronymus Bosch or the brushwork of Francisco de Goya.

“I’m more of a classicist,” Langdon replied. “I do better with da Vinci than with de Kooning.”

“But da Vinci and de Kooning are so similar!”

Langdon smiled patiently. “Then I clearly have a bit to learn about de Kooning.”

“Well, you’ve come to the right place!” The man swung his arm toward the massive building. “In this museum, you will find one of the finest collections of modern art on earth! I do hope you enjoy.”

“I intend to,” Langdon replied. “I only wish I knew why I’m here.”

“You and everyone else!” The man laughed merrily, shaking his head. “Your host has been very secretive about the purpose of tonight’s event. Not even the museum staff knows what’s happening. The mystery is half the fun of it—rumors are running wild! There are several hundred guests inside—many famous faces—and nobody has any idea what’s on the agenda tonight!”

Now Langdon grinned. Very few hosts on earth would have the bravado to send out last-minute invitations that essentially read: Saturday night. Be there. Trust me. And even fewer would be able to persuade hundreds of VIPs to drop everything and fly to northern Spain to attend the event.

Langdon walked out from beneath the spider and continued along the pathway, glancing up at an enormous red banner that billowed overhead.

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