Home > Origin (Robert Langdon #5)(6)

Origin (Robert Langdon #5)(6)
Author: Dan Brown

Ávila knelt at the Communion rail, his heart swelling with gratitude. After a lifetime of service to the sea, he had been blessed with the greatest of God’s gifts—a family. Smiling broadly, Ávila turned and glanced back over his shoulder at his young wife, María, who was still seated in the pews, far too pregnant to make the long walk up the aisle. Beside her, their three-year-old son, Pepe, waved excitedly at his father. Ávila winked at the boy, and María smiled warmly at her husband.

Thank you, God, Ávila thought as he turned back to the railing to accept the chalice.

An instant later, a deafening explosion ripped through the pristine cathedral.

In a flash of light, his entire world erupted in fire.

The blast wave drove Ávila violently forward into the Communion rail, his body crushed by the scalding surge of debris and human body parts. When Ávila regained consciousness, he was unable to breathe in the thick smoke, and for a moment he had no idea where he was or what had happened.

Then, above the ringing in his ears, he heard the anguished screams. Ávila clambered to his feet, realizing with horror where he was. He told himself this was all a terrible dream. He staggered back through the smoke-filled cathedral, clambering past moaning and mutilated victims, stumbling in desperation to the approximate area where his wife and son had been smiling only moments ago.

There was nothing there.

No pews. No people.

Only bloody debris on the charred stone floor.

The grisly memory was mercifully shattered by the chime of the jangling bar door. Ávila seized his tónica and took a quick sip, shaking off the darkness as he had been forced to do so many times before.

The bar door swung wide, and Ávila turned to see two burly men stumble in. They were singing an off-key Irish fight song and wearing green fútbol jerseys that strained to cover their bellies. Apparently, this afternoon’s match had gone the way of Ireland’s visiting team.

I’ll take that as my cue, Ávila thought, standing up. He asked for his bill, but the barmaid winked and waved him off. Ávila thanked her and turned to go.

“Bloody hell!” one of the newcomers shouted, staring at Ávila’s stately uniform. “It’s the king of Spain!”

Both men erupted with laughter, lurching toward him.

Ávila attempted to step around them and leave, but the larger man roughly grabbed his arm and pulled him back to a bar stool. “Hold on, Your Highness! We came all the way to Spain; we’re gonna have a pint with the king!”

Ávila eyed the man’s grubby hand on his freshly pressed sleeve. “Let go,” he said quietly. “I need to leave.”

“No … you need to stay for a beer, amigo.” The man tightened his grip as his friend started poking with a dirty finger at the medals on Ávila’s chest. “Looks like you’re quite a hero, Pops.” The man tugged on one of Ávila’s most prized emblems. “A medieval mace? So, you’re a knight in shining armor?!” He guffawed.

Tolerance, Ávila reminded himself. He had met countless men like these—simpleminded, unhappy souls, who had never stood for anything, men who blindly abused the liberties and freedoms that others had fought to give them.

“Actually,” Ávila replied gently, “the mace is the symbol of the Spanish navy’s Unidad de Operaciones Especiales.”

“Special ops?” The man feigned a fearful shudder. “That’s very impressive. And what about that symbol?” He pointed to Ávila’s right hand.

Ávila glanced down at his palm. In the center of the soft flesh was inscribed a black tattoo—a symbol that dated back to the fourteenth century.

This marking serves as my protection, Ávila thought, eyeing the emblem. Although I will not need it.

“Never mind,” the hooligan said, finally letting go of Ávila’s arm and turning his attention to the barmaid. “You’re a cute one,” he said. “Are you a hundred percent Spanish?”

“I am,” she answered graciously.

“You don’t have some Irish in you?”


“Would you like some?” The man convulsed in hysterics and pounded the bar.

“Leave her alone,” Ávila commanded.

The man wheeled, glaring at him.

The second thug poked Ávila hard in the chest. “You trying to tell us what to do?”

Ávila took a deep breath, feeling tired after this day’s long journey, and he motioned to the bar. “Gentlemen, please sit down. I’ll buy you a beer.”

I’m glad he’s staying, the barmaid thought. Although she could take care of herself, witnessing how calmly this officer was dealing with these two brutes had left her a little weak-kneed and hoping he might stay until closing time.

The officer had ordered two beers, and another tonic water for himself, reclaiming his seat at the bar. The two fútbol hooligans sat on either side of him.

“Tonic water?” one taunted. “I thought we were drinking together.”

The officer gave the barmaid a tired smile and finished his tonic.

“I’m afraid I have an appointment,” the officer said, standing up. “But enjoy your beers.”

As he stood, both men, as if rehearsed, slammed rough hands on his shoulders and shoved him back onto the stool. A spark of anger flashed across the officer’s eyes and then disappeared.

“Grandpa, I don’t think you want to leave us alone with your girlfriend here.” The thug looked at her and did something disgusting with his tongue.

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