Excerpt: 'The Da Vinci Code'

If Boston Magazine could see me now.

Last month, much to Langdon's embarrassment, Boston Magazine had listed him as one of that city's top ten most intriguing people — a dubious honor that made him the brunt of endless ribbing by his Harvard colleagues. Tonight, three thousand miles from home, the accolade had resurfaced to haunt him at the lecture he had given. "Ladies and gentlemen …" the hostess had announced to a full-house at The American University of Paris's Pavillon Dauphine, "Our guest tonight needs no introduction. He is the author of numerous books: The Symbology of Secret Sects, The Art of the Illuminati, The Lost Language of Ideograms, and when I say he wrote the book on Religious Iconology, I mean that quite literally. Many of you use his textbooks in class."

The students in the crowd nodded enthusiastically.

"I had planned to introduce him tonight by sharing his impressive curriculum vitae, however …" She glanced playfully at Langdon, who was seated onstage. "An audience member has just handed me a far more, shall we say …intriguing introduction."

She held up a copy of Boston Magazine.

Langdon cringed. Where the hell did she get that?

The hostess began reading choice excerpts from the inane article, and Langdon felt himself sinking lower and lower in his chair. Thirty seconds later, the crowd was grinning, and the woman showed no signs of letting up. "And Mr. Langdon's refusal to speak publicly about his unusual role in last year's Vatican conclave certainly wins him points on our intrigue-o-meter." The hostess goaded the crowd. "Would you like to hear more?"

The crowd applauded.

Somebody stop her, Langdon pleaded as she dove into the article again.

"Although Professor Langdon might not be considered hunk-handsome like some of our younger awardees, this forty-something academic has more than his share of scholarly allure. His captivating presence is punctuated by an unusually low, baritone speaking voice, which his female students describe as 'chocolate for the ears.''

The hall erupted in laughter.

Langdon forced an awkward smile. He knew what came next — some ridiculous line about "Harrison Ford in Harris tweed" — and because this evening he had figured it was finally safe again to wear his Harris tweed and Burberry turtleneck, he decided to take action.

"Thank you, Monique," Langdon said, standing prematurely and edging her away from the podium. "Boston Magazine clearly has a gift for fiction." He turned to the audience with an embarrassed sigh. "And if I find which one of you provided that article, I'll have the consulate deport you."

The crowd laughed.

"Well, folks, as you all know, I'm here tonight to talk about the power of symbols …"

* * *

The ringing of Langdon's hotel phone once again broke the silence.

Groaning in disbelief, he picked up. "Yes?"

As expected, it was the concierge. "Mr. Langdon, again my apologies. I am calling to inform you that your guest is now en route to your room. I thought I should alert you."

Langdon was wide awake now. "You sent someone to my room?"

"I apologize, monsieur, but a man like this … I cannot presume the authority to stop him."

"Who exactly is he?"

But the concierge was gone.

Almost immediately, a heavy fist pounded on Langdon's door.

Uncertain, Langdon slid off the bed, feeling his toes sink deep into the savonniere carpet. He donned the hotel bathrobe and moved toward the door. "Who is it?"

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