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From the June, 2006 issue of Touchstone

 

Secret Sequel by Christopher Bailey

Secret Sequel

Christopher Bailey Gives an Exclusive Look at Dan Brown’s Next Blockbuster Novel

Don’t ask me how—I don’t want to confess to anything that might, to small minds, seem illegal—but I’ve managed to get access to a few chapters of Dan Brown’s upcoming novel, The Rockwell Cipher. I thought you might be interested to see that he’s still using the same techniques that made The Da Vinci Code such a big hit.

Chapter 83

Langdon gave the brick a toss, and the window shattered noisily. A loud alarm blared.

“Are you nuts?” Edith said petulantly. “People can hear that miles away!”

Langdon smiled indulgently. Such an educated woman, but how little she knows of the world. “This is an American high school,” he explained. “The alarm goes off at least three times a night. I estimate we have roughly twenty-three minutes before anyone worries about it. Come on!”

He crawled through the broken window and pulled her in after him. Apparently the glass didn’t cut them.

Inside, the security lantern shed a white glow over the classroom. Like a man who knew exactly what he was looking for, Langdon strode confidently toward the large blackboard.

“I thought so,” he said triumphantly. “Just where I thought it would be.”

Chapter 84

Renowned Chief Inspector Zeke Implacable of the Cincinnati Sureté slammed his fist on the desk.

“Merde!” he bellowed.

“Yes, sir!” responded Sergeant Anthony “Bull” Merde.

“What the hell does she think she’s doing?”

“Who, sir?”

“Agent Frumpe, you moron!”

Merde knew whom he was talking about. Agent Edith Frumpe, of the pop art department of the Cincinnati Sureté. The most promising art historian in law enforcement today. And yet, impulsively, she had given it all up sixty-two chapters ago. Now she was a fugitive. And Merde knew his boss. He knew that if there was one thing Implacable hated, it was an art historian on the wrong side of the law.

“Merde!” the chief inspector bellowed again. “Stop daydreaming and pay attention!”

“Yes, sir!”

“I know these symbologists,” Implacable growled. “They’re like rats—clever, but predictable. Have your men surround every school in the metropolitan area. Every church basement, too.”

“What are we looking for, sir?”

Implacable smiled to himself. Fugitive symbologists were tricky devils, but they all needed three things. A captive audience, a blackboard, and some chalk. The holy trinity.

Chapter 85

“Chalk?” Edith stared blankly. “How can chalk help us?”

Langdon sympathized with her stupid ignorance. He would have to begin at the beginning.

“Chalk is a very soft sort of mineral. So soft, in fact, that, when a certain amount of friction is created between the chalk and a suitable surface, some of the chalk will be left behind on that surface.”

“So it’s too fragile to build anything out of. Big deal. What’s the use of it?”

“Ah, but if, as you drag the chalk across the suitable surface, you move it in certain patterns, the chalk will leave behind traces of those patterns.”

Edith’s face lit up with comprehension. “You mean you can write with it?”

Langdon nodded.

“But, gee whillikers!” Edith exclaimed. “Where would we find such a surface?”

Langdon smiled. This was why he loved teaching.

Chapter 86

Calvin held his hideous head in his hideous hands. He had failed. Failed the Elder. Failed the Minister. Failed the whole Dayton Presbytery.

Yet he had been so close! The secret of Norman Rockwell’s Self-Portrait had almost been his—and he had lost it.

He sighed. There was only one thing that he could do. Only one discipline that could expiate his sin.

Groaning, he lifted the great, heavy book down from the shelf. He read the title again: Institutes of the Christian Religion.

Steeling himself, he opened the book and started to read.

Fourteen people called the front desk to report the screams in room 208.

Chapter 87

Edith stared at the conundrum on the blackboard.

1 + 1 =

What can it mean? What is he trying to tell me? Why do people always think in italics? Maybe if I listen to what he’s saying . . .

“Two,” Langdon was saying. “Isn’t it amazing that, in every world culture, in every time, whenever people have added one and one together, they have come up with two?”

He turned around and pressed the chalk to the blackboard. He moved it just a little bit upward, then to the right, then curved downward and to the left, then stopped abruptly and pulled it to the right in a straight line. Satisfied, he stood back to admire what he had done. Amazingly, the chalk had left an almost perfect Arabic numeral 2 on the blackboard, right at the end of the equation.

Edith felt her heart beat faster. Mother always wanted me to marry a symbologist, she recalled.

“The early Church tried to suppress this ancient wisdom,” Langdon continued. “But there was one group that kept alive the secret knowledge of the Two. They were called Manichees.”

Edith looked puzzled. “Manatees?”

Langdon smiled. The peroxide must be leaking into her brain, he thought sympathetically. “No, Manichees. A secret society founded to preserve the forbidden knowledge that 1 + 1 = 2.” His voice lowered to an almost reverent undertone. “This is what symbologists refer to as dualism.

Edith nodded. Suddenly it all made sense. Latin duo, Italian due, French deux—how could she have missed it?

“According to Manichee researchers who have written actual published books, some of the world’s greatest artists have been secret Manichees. You know, of course, that a painting isn’t always what it seems on the surface. Sometimes the picture you see can have a hidden meaning.”

“You mean like those Georgia O’Keeffe paintings, where you think it’s just a flower but it really turns out to be a —”

“No, those really are just flowers,” he said hurriedly. “But look at this. Tell me what you see here.”

Langdon unrolled the painting, and Edith looked at it closely. Self-Portrait by Norman Rockwell. She hadn’t seen it in nearly two hours—not since Langdon had wadded it up and stuffed it into his pocket at the Midwestern Museum of 100% American Art Not Drawn by Foreigners.

“I see Norman Rockwell looking in the mirror.”

“Look closer. How many Norman Rockwells do you actually see?”

“Well, two, counting the . . .”

Suddenly, Edith’s jaw fell.

Mon Dieu!” she exclaimed, lapsing for a moment into her native German.

Langdon smiled. She understands.


The Selectric Gospel

by Diogenes

Newark, April 8 (CWNews.com)—Archeological researchers in Ridgewood, New Jersey, have discovered an ancient Christian document that offers a radically new account of the founding of the Catholic Church.

The newly discovered document, which scholars have named “The Gospel of Skip and Muffy,” was found in an abandoned row house in New Brunswick, New Jersey, which had formerly housed a Rutgers sorority.

Startling Approach

Theologians and anthropologists agree that “The Gospel of Skip and Muffy” is likely to cause intense debate among Christians, forcing a complete re-examination of all Catholic teachings.

There is no possible debate, however, about the authenticity of the document. “It was typed on an IBM Selectric II,” reported Dr. Ernest Litewaite, an associate professor of Contemporary Archeology at Kutztown State. “Using a Courier 72 10-pitch element.” The document is believed to be a copy of an earlier statement, crafted by students at an East Coast private college sometime around 1970.

“The Gospel of Skip and Muffy” is an extended dialogue between two young theologians who take a startling new approach to the faith. The document suggests that young Christians of the 1970s generation did not accept church teachings on some con-troversial moral issues.

B. F. D. Zeitgeist, a Professor of Serious Christianity at Dupont University, said that the Gospel of Skip and Muffy will force Christians to re-examine the nature of church authority. He pointed to one key passage in the manuscript:

“The Church is—I mean—it’s just a bunch of, like, rules and stuff,” said Muffy.

“Yeah,” Skip replied. “I mean, really. Hey, don’t let that thing go out.”

Ultraconservative Catholic officials may not accept the validity of the new Gospel. Spokespersons for the Newark archdiocese did not immediately return a reporter’s phone call. But Msgr. Pius Grümbling, a pastor in Hoboken, replied to queries by saying: “OK, that’s right. We do not accept the validity of this document.”

But Professor Zeitgeist doubts that church officials will be able to stop parishioners from raising questions about the new document. He cites “astonishing new insights” such as the one contained in this passage:

“Have you ever thought,” said Skip, “that the solar system is just like an atom in this really gigantic alternate universe, and the planets are just, like, electrons spinning around, and the sun is, like, the nucleus?”

“Wow,” said Muffy. “Heavy. And then we’d be, like, just tiny little, like, specks that you can’t even see.”

“Ri-i-ight,” said Skip, exhaling slowly. “Far out, huh?”

“This document will force Christians to re-examine all of their basic moral principles,” said Professor Zeitgeist, “starting with the outmoded and inhumane taboo that prevents teachers from having love affairs with their students.”

“Or with reporters,” the professor added, smiling. “Would you care for a daiquiri?”

Professor Litewaite said that he had found the manuscript of the “Gospel of Skip and Muffy” several months ago. “The significance of the discovery was immediately obvious,” he said. “But my publicist suggested that I should wait until Holy Week to make it public.”

Diogenes is a regular contributor to “Off the Record,” the weblog of Catholic World News (www.cwnews.com/offtherecord), from which this item is taken with permission.
The authors of “The Gospel of Skip and Muffy” seem to have included a scene from Animal House.

 


Christopher Bailey , a Lutheran, writes about everything from Arthurian mythology to wireless networking. He spent a decade on the Upward Path in corporate America, but now must be counted among the backsliders.

Letters Welcome: One of the reasons Touchstone exists is to encourage conversation among Christians, so we welcome letters responding to articles or raising matters of interest to our readers. However, because the space is limited, please keep your letters under 400 words. All letters may be edited for space and clarity when necessary. letters@touchstonemag.com

 

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