…may very well contain the answer to Life, The Universe and Everything, but probably doesn’t. Still, at least our heroes are no longer in the back of that taxi. It was rapidly becoming the new Louvre in terms of OH MY GOD JUST CHANGE THE SCENE ALREADY.
Thankfully they are about to detaxify in front of a Swiss bank.
The depository Bank of Zurich was a twenty-four hour Geldschrank bank offering the full modern array of anonymous services in the tradition of the Swiss numbered account. Maintaining offices in Zurich, Kuala Lumpur, New York and Paris, the bank had expanded its services in recent years to offer anonymous computer source code escrow services and faceless digitized backup.
On second thoughts, I think I preferred the taxi. This may be the most boring thing I’ve ever read in a so-called thriller since I decided to see what the fuss was about The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and found myself in an eyeball-glazing wasteland of Swedish financial journalism infodumps, scattered here and there with windblown laundry lists of laptop specs and IKEA products.
Langdon gazed out of the building’s uncompromising architecture and sensed the Depository Bank of Zurich was a firm with little sense of humour.
Says the man who thought the Eiffel Tower was a dick joke. This is the closest thing Langdon has ever come to being funny. All of his other attempts so far have been about as chortlesome as a bomb in a primary school.
Switzerland’s reputation for secrecy in banking had become one of the country’s most lucrative exports.
In other words, Nazi gold. Small digression, but I’m wondering if this book is going to get into just how fascinated the Nazis were by mythical relics like the Holy Grail and the Lance of Longinus (the Spear of Destiny) and similar esoterica. A lot of Grail lore as we know it today comes from a reluctant gay Nazi named Otto Rahn, whose work on the Albigensian Crusade and the Parzival of Wolfram Von Eschenbach caught the attention of occult nut and mass murderer, Heinrich Himmler.
Sophie rolls up to the front gate of the bank, sees an LCD screen that says INSERT KEY and does just that. The gate opens. Then there’s a second gate with another LCD screen that also says INSERT KEY. I’m so glad Dan Brown decided to do that bit twice; it was so good the first time round.
They enter the bank and find their way to the parking garage.
Sophie pulled the taxi into a parking space near the entrance and killed the engine. “You’d better leave the gun here.”
No shit, Sophie. It’s like that chapter in Fifty Shades Freed where our idiot heroine decided to walk into a fancy bank with a gun down the waistband of her jeans for no reason. At least Sophie here has slightly more sense, although I’m not going to give her too much credit. She did – after all – just carjack a taxi at gunpoint.
Sophie and Langdon got out and walked up the red carpet towards the slab of steel. The door had no handle, but on the wall beside it was another triangular keyhole. No directions were posted this time.
“Keeps out the slow learners,” Langdon said.
Can you imagine this guy with a shape sorter? “Well, actually the square is a potent symbol of regularity and mathematical order that was used by Western philosophers to denote conformity and calm.”
“Yes, that’s fascinating, Bob. But you keep trying to push it into the star shaped slot.”
Anyway, they find some Swiss bellhop who directs them to an elevator which will take them to a floor determined by the key. Then the bellhop gets a short section of his own where he recognises Sophie and Langdon from the TV, where their mugshots are conveniently playing on some kind of loop. He calls the bank manager and says that two wanted fugitives just walked into their bank. Uh oh.
By the way, there have already been about fifteen references to the décor in this fancy bank, which is grey, steel, vaultlike and probably looks a lot like the Industrial Zone in the Crystal Maze gameshow, right down to the puzzles that you would think a drooling simpleton would solve, only to find that’s not the case at all.
Langdon and Sophie stepped into another world. The small room before them looked like a lavish sitting room at a fine hotel. Gone were the metal and rivets, replaced with oriental carpets, dark oak furniture and cushioned chairs. On the broad desk in the middle of the room, two crystal glasses sat beside an opened bottle of Perrier, its bubbles still fizzing. A pewter pot of coffee steamed beside it.
A little character exercise for you, dear readers. Imagine that in the last forty-eight hours you have flown from Boston to Paris and that your Circadian rhythms are really what they shouldn’t be. You had about two hours sleep before being dragged from your bed at half past midnight, and since then you have been accused of murder, hunted by the authorities and forced to drive stick in a car-jacked taxi. It’s gone three o’clock in the morning and nothing has passed your lips since I don’t know when.
There is a pot of – probably very good – coffee in front of you. Do you…
a) Pour yourself a much needed cup.
b) Drop to your knees and weep for sheer gratitude for several minutes. Then pour yourself a cup of coffee.
c) Smugly think “Clockwork. Leave it to the Swiss,” and ignore the coffee.
Yeah. I think you know the answer to this one. Why does nobody in this book behave like a human being?
The Swiss flunky who inhabits this Room of Requirement explains that keys are often inherited at this bank and that first time users don’t always know how to use their keys. Then he asks Sophie if she wants him to ‘run through the process of accessing [her] box’.
I laughed. Okay, so chapter forty-two wasn’t the answer to life, the universe and everything, but you can’t knock a good cunt joke.
After a page of unnecessary lip flapping, the banker reveals that they need an account number.
Sophie hesitated. “And if my benefactor gave me no account number?”
The banker’s heart pounded. Then you obviously have no business here! He gave them a calm smile. “I will ask someone to help you. He will be in shortly.”
Leaving, the banker closed the door behind him and twisted a heavy lock, sealing them inside.
No, no, no. Don’t lock them in places. It’s bad enough when they’re not locked in – they hang around in one place for ages and it’s really boring. Also, check out the headhop with the banker. He gets his thoughts in italics while the section is supposed to be from Langdon’s POV. I’m taking this as further evidence that Dan Brown and limited third person omniscient are now Done Professionally.
And the account number? Yeah – you know, I know. It’s the Fibonacci sequence Sauniere scribbled at the murder scene, obviously, but we can’t talk about that right now because we’ve got to check in with Fache, who has just been informed that Bob and Sophie are at the bank.
Chapter Forty Three
Oh good. Another chapter introducing a new character by his job description. This time it’s Andre Vernet, president of the Paris branch of Gringotts or wherever the hell we are now. Andre has dreams of retiring to an apartment on the Ile Saint-Louis, owning a Fragonard and quaffing fine Bordeaux with the fanciest people in Paris. He has also trained himself to sleep like a Masai warrior, whatever that’s supposed to mean, and I’m sure that – by now – you’re all very, very interested in Andre, his hopes, dreams and aspirations.
I’m guessing he’s going to be in the book for less time than the bar of soap.
Andre goes up to the Room of Requirement and is stunned cold to find Sophie there. Sophie says she has a key but no account number and then this happens.
“Really? Your grandfather gave you the key but failed to give you the account number?”
“I don’t think he had time,” Sophie said. “He was murdered tonight.”
Time? Are you fucking kidding me. This is Jacques Sauniere we’re talking about, a man who got shot in the stomach and not only managed to find the time to doodle all over the Louvre but also secreted the key to a safe deposit box behind a Leonardo and still found time for some artwork cosplay in his dying moments. If someone told me that his stomach was actually a portal to an alternate dimension in which time moved at the kind of speeds usually associated with black holes, and than in shooting him Silas had opened said portal and thus warped time to the point where even the timeline in this book started making some kind of sense, it still wouldn’t be the stupidest thing I’ve read in this book so far.
Her words sent the man staggering backward. “Jacques Sauniere is dead?” he demanded, his eyes filling with horror. “But…how?!”
I could get into the ridiculous how right now, but I’m too busy enjoying the sight of an interrobang in the wild.
Anyway, Vernet knew Sauniere, because of course he did. After a bit of rehashy business about the key, Vernet tells our nitwit heroes that without the account number the key is useless, and are they absolutely sure they haven’t seen any random number sequences in their long night of taxi stealing, soap hurling and finding anagrams and random number sequences on gallery floors?
Ten digits. Sophie reluctantly calculated the cryptographic odds. Ten billion possible choices. Even if she could bring in DCJP’s most powerful parallel processing computers, she would still need weeks to break the code.
My notes at this point just say BONEHEAD.
Because our heroes are so horrifyingly dim, they then ask Vernet if the symbol on the key means anything to him. Sophie explains it’s the secret symbol of the Priory of Sion but Vernet says he doesn’t know what she’s talking about. He then tells them they need to get out of the bank very soon because the police are on their way, but now it’s Langdon’s turn to ask idiotic questions instead of figuring out that the account number is the fucking Fibonnaci sequence on the fucking floor of the fucking Louvre. Fuck’s sake – how stupid are these people?
Langdon asked, “Do the contents of this account have anything to do with the Sangreal?”
See what I mean? You know how they say that the only stupid question is the question you don’t ask? Whoever said that had never met Robert ‘My Brain Hurts’ Langdon.
Vernet is understandably confused by this random piece of gibberish, and once again shoos our heroes towards the exit before the police arrive and put a stop to all this nonsense for once and for all. Then, finally, some rusty gears inside Langdon’s head squeak and grind into reluctant life. Hallelujah.
Langdon stood suddenly, and Sophie sensed an unexpected glimmer of contentment in his eyes.
“Robert? You’re smiling.”
“Your grandfather was a genius.”
Sophie had no idea what he was talking about.
“The account number,” he said, a familiar lopsided grin now crossing his face. “I’m pretty sure he left it for us after all.”
YES IT WAS THE NUMBER ON THE FLOOR BEFORE THE ANAGRAM BUSINESS OH MY GOD WHY DID IT TAKE YOU THIS LONG TO FIGURE THIS OUT? YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO BE A HARVARD PROFESSOR AND A GENIUS.
It’s true that Sauniere was a genius, but only in relation to everyone else in this book. I think Forrest Gump might have the edge on Robert Langdon right now.
Chapter Forty Four
“Ten digits,” Sophie said, her cryptologic senses tingling as she studied the printout.
13-3-2-21-1-1-8-5 Grandpere wrote his account number on the Louvre floor!
Sophie, I may have mentioned this before, but your ‘cryptologic senses’ make Baby Alan Turing cry. Seriously, if I believed in ghosts I’d suspect the breeze I just felt was caused by various former denizens of Bletchley Park spinning in their respectives urns and graves.
Since they now have an account number it’s time for some more Crystal Maze shit with the bank’s computers. Apparently if you type the wrong number even once the system will shut you out, unlike a regular ATM where you get up to three tries. This causes Sophie to have some kind of anxiety attack because the number is too random, which even Langdon thinks is ridiculous.
Sophie deleted everything they had just typed in and looked up at Langdon, her gaze self-assured. “It’s far too coincidental that this supposedly random account number could be rearranged to form the Fibonacci sequence.”
I…what? No. I’m sorry. It’s either too early in the morning for this shit or everything stopped making sense some forty-four chapters ago. Why would he scramble up the account number on top of everything else he’s anagrammatised tonight? More to the point, how did these people ever manage to communicate with one another? Did Sophie and Grandpa Batshit ever leave each other notes on the fridge saying ‘Lasagne in the fridge – 30 minutes at 200C’ without turning it into a cryptic crossword clue or getting body fluids and black light involved in the mix? So many questions.
Langdon realised she had a point. Earlier, Sophie had rearranged this account number into the Fibonacci sequence. What were the odds of being able to do that?
I don’t know, Bob. What are the odds of you arranging the following random words into a question? – this of long been have how a much moron you?
Anyway, Sophie types in the Fibonacci sequence and nothing happens, at least not to them. Meanwhile Dan completely jettisons ominiscient third person limited and scurries off down to the vault to show us how his screen treatment for this turd is shaping up.
At that moment, beneath them, in the bank’s cavernous subterranean vault, a robotic claw sprung to life. Sliding on a double-axis transport system attached to the ceiling, the claw headed off in search of the proper coordinates. On the cement floor below, hundreds of identical plastic crates lay aligned on an enormous grid…like rows of small coffins in an underground crypt.
Following that short spell of Wall-E erotica or whatever it was that just happened, a thing appears on the conveyor belt in front of Sophie and Langdon.
Like everything else about this bank, this crate was industrial – metal clasps, a bar code sticker on top, and moulded heavy-duty handle. Sophie thought it looked like a giant toolbox.
Shows how much Sophie knows. She’s spent the past God knows many chapters in the company of a giant toolbox and still hasn’t the sense to realise that giant toolboxes also come in Harris tweed and turtlenecks.
They open the mystery box, only to find another box. Yay.
The polished wooden box was about the size of a shoebox and had ornate hinges. The wood was a lustrous deep purple with a strong grain. Rosewood, Sophie realised. Her grandfather’s favourite. The lid bore a beautiful inlaid design of a rose.
I blinked at this bit for a long time, then asked a passing person – one with whom I have shared my life for almost twenty years now – if he had any idea what my favourite wood was.
He didn’t have a clue, although I did learn that he’s not too keen on teak.
I’m sorry, but how fucking weird is Sophie’s family? No wonder these oddballs died in a car accident. They were probably on some family tour of lumberyards when whoever was driving the car saw a cryptic meaning in a road sign and paused just long enough for an articulated lorry to knock the car into the water.
Langdon stared in wonderment at the lid’s hand-carved inlay – a five-petal rose. “The five-petal rose,” he whispered. “is a Priory symbol for the Holy Grail.”
Also the symbol of the house of York, the house of Lancaster or the house of whoever the fuck also has five-petal roses on their heraldry, which as it turns out is quite a lot, since the five-petal rose is as common a symbol as the Fleur de Lis. It also – if you squint and are looking for an illustration of the origin of this book – could be said to an idealised representation of the human anus.
The idiots pick up the box, hear liquid gurgling inside and conclude that it’s probably not the literal Holy Grail. And of course, it’s not, because fuck you – that’s why. It’s time for another one of those exciting cliffhangers that we have all come to know and love almost as much as we know and love root-canals and pap smears.
The object inside was unlike anything Langdon had ever seen. One thing was immediately clear to both of them, however. This was definitely not the cup of Christ.