Home > Origin (Robert Langdon #5)(7)

Origin (Robert Langdon #5)(7)
Author: Dan Brown

The officer sat quietly for a long moment, and then reached into his jacket.

Both guys grabbed him. “Hey! What are you doing?!”

Very slowly, the officer pulled out a cell phone and said something to the men in Spanish. They stared at him uncomprehendingly, and he switched back to English. “I’m sorry, I just need to call my wife and tell her I’ll be late. It looks like I’m going to be here awhile.”

“Now you’re talking, mate!” the larger of the two said, draining his beer and slamming the glass down on the bar. “Another!”

As the barmaid refilled the thugs’ glasses, she watched in the mirror as the officer touched a few keys on his phone and then held it to his ear. The call went through, and he spoke in rapid Spanish.

“Le llamo desde el bar Molly Malone,” the officer said, reading the bar’s name and address off the coaster before him. “Calle Particular de Estraunza, ocho.” He waited a moment and then continued. “Necesitamos ayuda inmediatamente. Hay dos hombres heridos.” Then he hung up.

¿Dos hombres heridos? The barmaid’s pulse quickened. Two wounded men?

Before she could process his meaning, there was a blur of white, and the officer spun to his right, sending an elbow smashing upward into the larger thug’s nose with a sickening crunch. The man’s face erupted in red and he fell back. Before the second man could react, the officer spun again, this time to his left, his other elbow crashing hard into the man’s windpipe and sending him backward off the stool.

The barmaid stared in shock at the two men on the floor, one screaming in agony, the other gasping and clutching his throat.

The officer stood slowly. With an eerie calm, he removed his wallet and placed a hundred-euro note on the bar.

“My apologies,” he said to her in Spanish. “The police will be here shortly to help you.” Then he turned and left.

Outside, Admiral Ávila inhaled the night air and made his way along Alameda de Mazarredo toward the river. Police sirens approached, and he slipped into the shadows to let the authorities pass. There was serious work to do, and Ávila could not afford further complications tonight.

The Regent clearly outlined tonight’s mission.

For Ávila, there was a simple serenity in taking orders from the Regent. No decisions. No culpability. Just action. After a career of giving commands, it was a relief to relinquish the helm and let others steer this ship.

In this war, I am a foot soldier.

Several days ago, the Regent had shared with him a secret so disturbing that Ávila had seen no choice but to offer himself fully to the cause. The brutality of last night’s mission still haunted him, and yet he knew his actions would be forgiven.

Righteousness exists in many forms.

And more death will come before tonight is over.

As Ávila emerged into an open plaza on the riverbank, he raised his eyes to the massive structure before him. It was an undulating mess of perverse forms covered in metal tile—as if two thousand years of architectural progress had been tossed out the window in favor of total chaos.

Some call this a museum. I call it a monstrosity.

Focusing his thoughts, Ávila crossed the plaza, winding his way through a series of bizarre sculptures outside Bilbao’s Guggenheim Museum. As he neared the building, he watched dozens of guests mingling in their finest black and white.

The godless masses have congregated.

But tonight will not go as any of them imagine.

He straightened his admiral’s cap and smoothed his jacket, mentally fortifying himself for the task that lay ahead. Tonight was part of a far greater mission—a crusade of righteousness.

As Ávila crossed the courtyard toward the museum’s entrance, he gently touched the rosary in his pocket.

CHAPTER 3

THE MUSEUM ATRIUM felt like a futuristic cathedral.

As Langdon stepped inside, his gaze shifted immediately skyward, climbing a set of colossal white pillars along a towering curtain of glass, ascending two hundred feet to a vaulted ceiling, where halogen spotlights blazed pure white light. Suspended in the air, a network of catwalks and balconies traversed the heavens, dotted with black-and-white-clad visitors who moved in and out of the upper galleries and stood at high windows, admiring the lagoon below. Nearby, a glass elevator slid silently back down the wall, returning to earth to collect more guests.

It was like no museum Langdon had ever seen. Even the acoustics felt foreign. Instead of the traditional reverent hush created by sound-dampening finishes, this place was alive with murmuring echoes of voices percolating off the stone and glass. For Langdon, the only familiar sensation was the sterile tang on the back of his tongue; museum air was the same worldwide—filtered meticulously of all particulates and oxidants and then moistened with ionized water to 45 percent humidity.

Langdon moved through a series of surprisingly tight security points, noticing more than a few armed guards, and finally found himself standing at another check-in table. A young woman was handing out headsets. “Audioguía?”

Langdon smiled. “No, thank you.”

As he neared the table, though, the woman stopped him, switching to perfect English. “I’m sorry, sir, but our host tonight, Mr. Edmond Kirsch, has asked that everyone wear a headset. It’s part of the evening’s experience.”

“Oh, of course, I’ll take one.”

Langdon reached for a headset, but she waved him off, checking his name tag against a long list of guests, finding his name, and then handing him a headset whose number was matched with his name. “The tours tonight are customized for each individual visitor.”

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