Chapter Twenty One
In the last chapter we learned that O’ draconian devil, oh lame saint is an anagram for Leonardo da Vinci and The Mona Lisa. Well, Robert and Sophie did. Most of us have already figured this out about twelve chapters ago because we might have done a crossword or two at some point in our lives.
[Sophie’s] shock at over the anagram was matched only by her embarrassment at not having deciphered the message herself.
Sophie spends about a page feeling ashamed of herself, but she shouldn’t be. It’s not her fault she’s a poorly drawn fictional character who’s been dumbed down to make the hero look smarter.
Her grandfather’s voice had called out from beyond with chilling precision.
Leonardo da Vinci!
The Mona Lisa!
Why his final words to her referenced the famous painting, Sophie had no idea, but she could think of only one possibility.
That your grandfather was also an idiot? Seriously – even the solution is stupid. If you’re dying of massive internal bleeding and have a limited time to get your point across, why would you write out Leonardo da Vinci and The Mona Lisa when you could just write Mona Lisa? “Who painted the Mona Lisa?” isn’t even a Children’s Edition Trivial Pursuits question. It’s the kind of brain-teaser you get on the back of a Smarties box.
Oh God, and now Sophie’s having flashbacks. Is it contagious or something?
She remembers going to the Louvre as a child to see the Mona Lisa. This is mostly so that she can worry about whether she’s going to be pretty when she grows up, and to demonstrate that Dan Brown knows about the sfumato technique popular in high Renaissance art.
Child Sophie asks her grandfather if he knows why the Mona Lisa is smiling and he winks and says maybe one day he’ll tell her.
Okay, the flashbacks are annoying enough, but for the love of God, could men stop winking in them, please? It was creepy enough when Langdon winked at his students but when you’ve got old people winking at small children it just comes off all Werther’s Original. And that’s never a good thing.
Sophie realises she has to get to the Mona Lisa, because her grandfather might have left her another message there. She tells Robert to get to the Embassy and he agrees for the space of a page before having some unspecified symbological revelation about the letters P.S. on the message.
In that instant, Langdon felt Sauniere’s puzzling mix of symbolism fall into stark focus. Like a peal of thunder, a career’s worth of symbology and history came crashing down around him. Everything Jacques Sauniere had done tonight suddenly made perfect sense.
I’m guessing the P.S. didn’t stand for Perfect Sense, because this is The Da Vinci Code.
Chapter Twenty Two…
…returns us to Saint-Sulpice and reminds us that time works differently in this novel than it does elsewhere. Silas has been pretending to pray for about ten minutes, while elsewhere we’ve been catapulted back in time to Harvard circa 1994 and into the winky mists of Sophie’s art-gazing childhood. And back again.
I know it takes a while to get around the Louvre, but this is ridiculous.
Silas discovers a thin strip of brass on the floor of the church, which is supposed to be a Rose Line, which is basically the X that marks the spot of the keystone. A quick Google reveals that this isn’t an actual thing that exists but in this case I’m going to let the Church of Saint-Sulpice do my fact checking for me, since they have clearly had enough of this shit.
Fifteen years ago they issued this – perhaps suitably – pissy statement.
Contrary to fanciful allegations in a recent bestselling novel, this line in the floor is not the vestige of a pagan temple. No such temple ever existed in this place. It was never called a Rose Line. It does not coincide with the meridian traced through the middle of the Paris Observatory which serves as a reference for maps where longitudes are measured in degrees East or West of Paris. Please note that the letters P and S in the round windows at both ends of the transept refer to Peter and Sulpice, the patron saints of the church, and not an imaginary secret society.
They also refused to let Ron Howard film in the church. That’s probably why they took away the church’s italics in this printing. To teach them a lesson.
…takes us back to the Louvre where Sophie is about to go look at the Mona Lisa. Her grandfather’s dead body is lying abandoned some distance away, which is kind of weird now that I think about it. Are the forensics teams completely done already? Or are they supposed to have left the Louvre to run after a cake of soap like the rest of the Keystone Cops?
But never mind. The plot demands that Sauniere’s corpse is unattended, so there.
Sophie is full of regrets about not being in touch with her grandfather for all those years, but then she justifies it to herself by thinking about him in the terms usually reserved for 1970’s British celebrities who later turned out to be absolutely enormous child molesters. I don’t exactly recall what was The Thing that made Sophie cut him off, but it seems she did so so ruthlessly and completely that his winking in chapter twenty-one just grew another layer of creepy.
Sophie enters the Salle des Etats, but – because nobody in this book can do anything without taking one step forward and five steps back – remembers she needs a black-light. So she hurries back to the unattended crime scene, averts her eyes from the body (oh God, please tell me someone has at least covered up Grandpa’s dick by now?) and scuttles off back to the Salle de Etats where she bumps into Langdon, who has not run for the Embassy like she told him to.
He asks her if the initials PS mean anything to her and she says they mean Princesse Sophie, her grandfather’s nickname for her.
“I know, but did you see them anywhere else? Did your grandfather use the initials PS in any other way?”
Uh…PlayStation? Parti Socialiste? Postscript? Psalms? Pulmonary stenosis? Static pressure? Pacific Southwestern?
He asks her if she’s seen them as a monogram or on stationary, prompting her to recall how she was hunting for her birthday gift when she was nine and came across a necklace with a key pendant.
Most keys were flat with jagged teeth, but this one had a triangular column with little pockmarks all over it. Its golden head was in the shape of a cross, but not a normal cross. This was an even-armed one, like a plus sign. Embossed in the middle of the cross was a strange symbol – two letters intertwined with some flowery design.
Her grandfather catches her and tells her off about respecting people’s privacy, but later buys her a bicycle to show there are no hard feelings.
By the way, the dialogue in these child Sophie flashbacks is enough to make you vomit longer and harder than Emma Bovary on her deathbed.
“I saw letters on the key, and a flower.”
“Yes, that’s my favourite flower. It’s called a fleur-de-lis. We have them in the garden. The white ones. In English we call that kind of flower a lily.”
“I know those! They’re my favourite too!”
“Then I’ll make a deal with you.” Her grandfather’s eyebrows raised the way they always did when he was about to give her a challenge. “If you can keep my key a secret, and never talk about it ever again, to me or anybody, then someday I will give it to you.”
Feeling queasy yet? No? Have some more. He tells her the key has her name on it.
Sophie scowled. “No it doesn’t. It says PS. My name isn’t PS!”
Her grandfather lowered his voice. “Okay, Sophie, if you must know, PS is a code. It’s your secret initials.”
Her eyes went wide. “I have secret initials?”
“Of course. Granddaughters always have secret initials that only their grandfather’s know.”
He tickled her. “Princesse Sophie.”
She giggled. “I’m not a princess.”
He winked. “You are to me.”
Goddamnit, Pop-Pop. What did we say about winking? And in conjunction with tickling? The winky level of creepy was bad enough but when you add in tickling and the Awful Unspecified Thing you did back in about 1994 we’re taking the creepiness level way past Werther’s Original and heading for Operation Yewtree.
Sophie – thankfully – returns to the present and admits to Langdon that she may have seen such a monogram before, although she does keep her promise and doesn’t reveal it was a key. Langdon asks her if the letters appeared with a fleur-de-lis and Sophie is flabbergasted by how he could possibly know that.
Langdon exhaled and lowered his voice. “I’m fairly certain that your grandfather was a member of a secret society. A very old covert brotherhood.”
Sophie felt a knot tighten in her stomach. She was certain of it too. For ten years she had tried to forget the incident that had confirmed that horrifying fact for her. She had witnessed something unthinkable. Unforgivable.
I’m trying to think of unforgivable things that people did in the mid-Nineties. The first thing that popped into my head was the Macarena. So, I’m just going to pretend it’s that.
Oh my God – there’s plot happening here. Langdon says that the PS and the fleur-de-lis is the logo of the shadowy Priory of Sion, a secret organisation so secret and shadowy that they…uh…have a logo? What?
Langdon explains that the Priory membership has included some of the greatest men in history – Botticelli, Newton, Victor Hugo and Leonardo da Vinci.
“The Priory has a well-documented history of reverence for the sacred feminine.”
“You’re telling me this group is a pagan goddess worship cult?”
“More like the pagan goddess worship cult.”
Really? Because so far their meetings sound like sausagefests. Nothing says reverence for the sacred feminine like a boy’s club, apparently.
Langdon says the PS and the fleur-de-lis that Sophie saw as a child are proof.
“It could only have been related to the Priory.”
No, it couldn’t, Robert. For all you know PS could stand for Piss Society and what Sophie mistook for a fleur-de-lis was actually a golden, stylised representation of a warm, reeking fountain of human urine, as appreciated by watersports enthusiastics everywhere. Do we really have to once again go over how many things the letters PS stand for? Or how many things the fleur-de-lis represents?
The house of Bourbon? The city of Florence and…actually pretty much the arms of every other aristocratic family in Europe. And flags. Lots of flags. If its presence is indicative of the presence of the Priory of Sion then people in the know include France, England, Bosnia, Montgomery County, Maryland, and the entire province of Quebec. Oh, and the famous Italian Farnese family, whose luminaries included an actual Pope. What I’m getting at is as that as a heraldic device the fleur-de-lis is so dirt common that it may as well be a colour. What are we going to do next, Bob? Impart everything blue with some kind of occult significance?
Wait, no. Isn’t that what happened with David Icke?
Anyway. Yes. Let’s not get into that. It’s transdimensional lizards all the way down and it’s far too early in the morning for that kind of thing. We’ll leave our muttonheaded heros gawping in the black-lit Louvre and toddle off to the banks of the Seine, where the best drawn character in this book so far is – sadly – about to bite the big one.
A few miles away, on the riverbank beyond Les Invalides, the bewildered driver of a twin-bed Trailor truck stood at gunpoint and watched as the captain of the Judicial Police let out a gutteral roar of rage and heaved a bar of soap into the turgid waters of the Seine.
Bar of Soap
2002 – 2003
An all too brief candle
Requiescat in pace