Silas lay prone on the canvas mat in his room, allowing the lash wounds on his back to clot in the air. Tonights second session with the Discipline had left him dizzy and weak. He had yet to remove the cilice belt, and he could feel the blood trickling down his inner thigh. Still, he could not justify removing the strap.
I have failed the Church.
Far worse, I have failed the bishop.
Tonight was supposed to be Bishop Aringarosas salvation. Five months ago, the bishop had returned from a meeting at the Vatican Observatory, where he had learned something that left him deeply changed. Depressed for weeks, Aringarosa had finally shared the news with Silas.
But this is impossible! Silas had cried out. I cannot accept it!
It is true, Aringarosa said. Unthinkable, but true. In only six months.
The bishops words terrified Silas. He prayed for deliverance, and even in those dark days, his trust in God and The Way never wavered. It was only a month later that the clouds parted miraculously and the light of possibility shone through.
Divine intervention, Aringarosa had called it.
The bishop had seemed hopeful for the first time. Silas, he whispered, God has bestowed upon us an opportunity to protect The Way. Our battle, like all battles, will take sacrifice. Will you be a soldier of God?
Silas fell to his knees before Bishop Aringarosathe man who had given him a new lifeand he said, I am a lamb of God. Shepherd me as your heart commands.
When Aringarosa described the opportunity that had presented itself, Silas knew it could only be the hand of God at work. Miraculous fate! Aringarosa put Silas in contact with the man who had proposed the plana man who called himself the Teacher. Although the Teacher and Silas never met face‑to‑face, each time they spoke by phone, Silas was awed, both by the profundity of the Teachers faith and by the scope of his power. The Teacher seemed to be a man who knew all, a man with eyes and ears in all places. How the Teacher gathered his information, Silas did not know, but Aringarosa had placed enormous trust in the Teacher, and he had told Silas to do the same. Do as the Teacher commands you, the bishop told Silas. And we will be victorious.
Victorious . Silas now gazed at the bare floor and feared victory had eluded them. The Teacher had been tricked. The keystone was a devious dead end. And with the deception, all hope had vanished.
Silas wished he could call Bishop Aringarosa and warn him, but the Teacher had removed all their lines of direct communication tonight. For our safety.
Finally, overcoming enormous trepidation, Silas crawled to his feet and found his robe, which lay on the floor. He dug his cell phone from the pocket. Hanging his head in shame, he dialed.
Teacher, he whispered, all is lost. Silas truthfully told the man how he had been tricked.
You lose your faith too quickly, the Teacher replied. I have just received news. Most unexpected and welcome. The secret lives. Jacques Sauniere transferred information before he died. I will call you soon. Our work tonight is not yet done.