“I’m Dr. Sienna Brooks,” she said, giving Langdon a smile as she entered. “I’ll be working with Dr. Marconi tonight.”

Langdon nodded weakly.

Tall and lissome, Dr. Brooks moved with the assertive gait of an athlete. Even in shapeless scrubs, she had a willowy elegance about her. Despite the absence of any makeup that Langdon could see, her complexion appeared unusually smooth, the only blemish a tiny beauty mark just above her lips. Her eyes, though a gentle brown, seemed unusually penetrating, as if they had witnessed a profundity of experience rarely encountered by a person her age.

“Dr. Marconi doesn’t speak much English,” she said, sitting down beside him, “and he asked me to fill out your admittance form.” She gave him another smile.

“Thanks,” Langdon croaked.

“Okay,” she began, her tone businesslike. “What is your name?” It took him a moment. “Robert … Langdon.”

She shone a penlight in Langdon’s eyes. “Occupation?”

This information surfaced even more slowly. “Professor. Art history … and symbology. Harvard University.”

Dr. Brooks lowered the light, looking startled. The doctor with the bushy eyebrows looked equally surprised.

“You’re … an American?” Langdon gave her a confused look.

“It’s just …” She hesitated. “You had no identification when you arrived tonight. You were wearing Harris Tweed and Somerset loafers, so we guessed British.”

“I’m American,” Langdon assured her, too exhausted to explain his preference for well-tailored clothing.

“Any pain?”

“My head,” Langdon replied, his throbbing skull only made worse by the bright penlight. Thankfully, she now pocketed it, taking Langdon’s wrist and checking his pulse.

“You woke up shouting,” the woman said. “Do you remember why?”

Langdon flashed again on the strange vision of the veiled woman surrounded by writhing bodies. Seek and ye shall ftnd. “I was having a nightmare.”

“About?” Langdon told her.

Dr. Brooks’s expression remained neutral as she made notes on a clipboard. “Any idea what might have sparked such a frightening vision?”

Langdon probed his memory and then shook his head, which pounded in protest.

“Okay, Mr. Langdon,” she said, still writing, “a couple of routine questions for you. What day of the week is it?”

Langdon thought for a moment. “It’s Saturday. I remember earlier today walking across campus … going to an afternoon lecture series, and then … that’s pretty much the last thing I remember. Did I fall?”

“We’ll get to that. Do you know where you are?”

Langdon took his best guess. “Massachusetts General Hospital?”

Dr. Brooks made another note. “And is there someone we should call for you? Wife? Children?”

“Nobody,” Langdon replied instinctively. He had always enjoyed the solitude and independence provided him by his chosen life of bachelorhood, although he had to admit, in his current situation, he’d prefer to have a familiar face at his side. “There are some colleagues I could call, but I’m fine.”

Dr. Brooks finished writing, and the older doctor approached. Smoothing back his bushy eyebrows, he produced a small voice recorder from his pocket and showed it to Dr. Brooks. She nodded in understanding and turned back to her patient.

“Mr. Langdon, when you arrived tonight, you were mumbling something over and over.” She glanced at Dr. Marconi, who held up the digital recorder and pressed a button.

A recording began to play, and Langdon heard his own groggy voice, repeatedly muttering the same phrase. “Ve … sorry. Ve … sorry.”

“It sounds to me,” the woman said, “like you’re saying, ‘Very sorry. Very sorry.’ ”

Langdon agreed, and yet he had no recollection of it.

Dr. Brooks fixed him with a disquietingly intense stare. “Do you have any idea why you’d be saying this? Are you sorry about something?”

As Langdon probed the dark recesses of his memory, he again saw the veiled woman. She was standing on the banks of a bloodred river surrounded by bodies. The stench of death returned.

Langdon was overcome by a sudden, instinctive sense of danger … not just for himself … but for everyone. The pinging of his heart monitor accelerated rapidly. His muscles tightened, and he tried to sit up.

Dr. Brooks quickly placed a firm hand on Langdon’s sternum, forcing him back down. She shot a glance at the bearded doctor, who walked over to a nearby counter and began preparing something.

Dr. Brooks hovered over Langdon, whispering now. “Mr. Langdon, anxiety is common with brain injuries, but you need to keep your pulse rate down. No movement. No excitement. Just lie still and rest. You’ll be okay. Your memory will come back slowly.”

The doctor returned now with a syringe, which he handed to Dr.

Brooks. She injected its contents into Langdon’s IV.

“Just a mild sedative to calm you down,” she explained, “and also to help with the pain.” She stood to go. “You’ll be fine, Mr. Langdon. Just sleep. If you need anything, press the button on your bedside.”

She turned out the light and departed with the bearded doctor.

In the darkness, Langdon felt the drugs washing through his system almost instantly, dragging his body back down into that deep well from which he had emerged. He fought the feeling, forcing his eyes open in the darkness of his room. He tried to sit up, but his body felt like cement.

As Langdon shifted, he found himself again facing the window. The lights were out, and in the dark glass, his own reflection had disappeared, replaced by an illuminated skyline in the distance.

Amid a contour of spires and domes, a single regal facade dominated Langdon’s field of view. The building was an imposing stone fortress with a notched parapet and a three-hundred-foot tower that swelled near the top, bulging outward into a massive machicolated battlement.

Langdon sat bolt upright in bed, pain exploding in his head. He fought off the searing throb and fixed his gaze on the tower.

Langdon knew the medieval structure well. It was unique in the world.

Unfortunately, it was also located four thousand miles from Massachusetts.

Outside his window, hidden in the shadows of the Via Torregalli, a powerfully built woman effortlessly unstraddled her BMW motorcycle and advanced with the intensity of a panther stalking its prey. Her gaze was sharp. Her close-cropped hair—styled into spikes

—stood out against the upturned collar of her black leather riding suit. She checked her silenced weapon, and stared up at the window where Robert Langdon’s light had just gone out.

Earlier tonight her original mission had gone horribly awry.

The coo of a single dove had changed everything. Now she had come to make it right.

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ALSO BY DAN BROWN ANGELS & DEMONS DECEPTION POINT DIGITAL FORTRESS THE LOST SYMBOL

ALSO BY DAN BROWN

THE LOST SYMBOL

Famed Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon answers an unexpected summons to appear at the U.S. Capitol Building. His planned lecture is interrupted when a disturbing object—artfully encoded with five symbols—is discovered in the building. Langdon recognizes in the find an ancient invitation into a lost world of esoteric, potentially dangerous wisdom. When his mentor Peter Solomon—a longstanding Mason and beloved philanthropist—is kidnapped, Langdon realizes that the only way to save Solomon is to accept the mystical invitation and plunge headlong into a clandestine world of Masonic secrets, hidden history, and one inconceivable truth … all under the watchful eye of Dan Brown’s most terrifying villain to date. Set within the hidden chambers, tunnels, and temples of Washington, D.C., The Lost Symbol is an intelligent, lightning-paced story with surprises at every turn.

Fiction

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