When Langdon had left the Vatican Secret Archives only two hours ago, he had never imagined he would see them again. Now, winded from having jogged the entire way with his Swiss Guard escort, Langdon found himself back at the archives once again.
His escort, the guard with the scar, now led Langdon through the rows of translucent cubicles. The silence of the archives felt somehow more forbidding now, and Langdon was thankful when the guard broke it.
“Over here, I think,” he said, escorting Langdon to the back of the chamber where a series of smaller vaults lined the wall. The guard scanned the titles on the vaults and motioned to one of them. “Yes, here it is. Right where the commander said it would be.”
Langdon read the title. Attivi Vaticani. Vatican assets? He scanned the list of contents. Real estate… currency… Vatican Bank… antiquities… The list went on.
“Paperwork of all Vatican assets,” the guard said.
Langdon looked at the cubicle. Jesus. Even in the dark, he could tell it was packed.
“My commander said that whatever Bernini created while under Vatican patronage would be listed here as an asset.”
Langdon nodded, realizing the commander’s instincts just might pay off. In Bernini’s day, everything an artist created while under the patronage of the Pope became, by law, property of the Vatican. It was more like feudalism than patronage, but top artists lived well and seldom complained. “Including works placed in churches outside Vatican City?”
The soldier gave him an odd look. “Of course. All Catholic churches in Rome are property of the Vatican.”
Langdon looked at the list in his hand. It contained the names of the twenty or so churches that were located on a direct line with West Ponente’s breath. The third altar of science was one of them, and Langdon hoped he had time to figure out which it was. Under other circumstances, he would gladly have explored each church in person. Today, however, he had about twenty minutes to find what he was looking for—the one church containing a Bernini tribute to fire.
Langdon walked to the vault’s electronic revolving door. The guard did not follow. Langdon sensed an uncertain hesitation. He smiled. “The air’s fine. Thin, but breathable.”
“My orders are to escort you here and then return immediately to the security center.”
“Yes. The Swiss Guard are not allowed inside the archives. I am breaching protocol by escorting you this far. The commander reminded me of that.”
“Breaching protocol?” Do you have any idea what is going on here tonight? “Whose side is your damn commander on!”
All friendliness disappeared from the guard’s face. The scar under his eye twitched. The guard stared, looking suddenly a lot like Olivetti himself.
“I apologize,” Langdon said, regretting the comment. “It’s just… I could use some help.”
The guard did not blink. “I am trained to follow orders. Not debate them. When you find what you are looking for, contact the commander immediately.”
Langdon was flustered. “But where will he be?”
The guard removed his walkie-talkie and set it on a nearby table. “Channel one.” Then he disappeared into the dark.