Authors: Vincent Zandri
I hear the French window directly
above me being opened, its old hinges squeaking.
“Who’s there?” she taunts, sticking
her head and shoulders out.
She wearing a ginormous smile on
her beautiful face.
“Yes,” she says like a question. “What
is it? Can I help you with something?”
“Open the door please?” I say,
crossing my arms over my chest, “or no
Book of Truths
, no goddamned cave.”
“Hmmm,” she says. “Let me think
about that for a moment.”
Just then, I make out the sound of
another set of windows opening on the six-story residential building behind me.
And laughter. And then another set of windows flying open … and another . .
. and more laughter. Lot’s more laughter. Someone shouts to someone else in
Italian. Someone whistles. The entire street is watching my pale, naked butt
“Do you promise to make love to me
once more, Chase Baker?”
“I promise,” I say. “Now, please,
before I get arrested.”
She turns away and two seconds
later, the buzzer sounds and the door lock releases. I go for the door, but not
without making a theatrical bow for my audience of neighbors.
I reenter my building to a raucous
round of applause.
Prior to reentering my apartment, I retrieve the note and carry
it with me back into the bedroom and onto the bed with Andrea. Leaning my back
against the headboard, I unfold the almost ancient, dry, papyrus-like paper to
discover a new note and a new sketch. A sketch and a note that looks as if it
were created by Leonardo da Vinci himself … if he wrote in English. Like
the first note I received, the writing is backward. Something I immediately
relay to Andrea since, judging from her scrunched eyebrows, she’s entirely
confused over how to read the note.
“It’s not in Italian either,” she
“Whoever is placing these notes
under my door knows better,” I say.
We both look at the sketch. It’s of
Jesus. The same Jesus who appears in the master’s painting,
The Last Supper
Like all da Vinci paintings, the hand gestures in
The Last Supper
super dramatic and add a significant amount of tension to the scene being depicted.
“Jesus’ left hand,” she says. “There’s
a symbol super-imposed over it.”
The symbol isn’t anything
immediately discernable. More like a vertical rectangle with a circle or a
globe on top of it. Otherwise, there’s not much else that looks out of place in
“We need to read the note,” I say. “Got
a mirror on you?”
Andrea leans down, reaches for her
utility belt, rummages around one of the nylon pouches, comes back with a tactical
mirror for use on the laser sight that goes with her HK33 automatic assault
“You’re just full of surprises,” I
say. “How did a sweet girl like you get to become a trained killer?”
She smiles. “I hated playing with
dolls when I was growing up. Tore my mum to pieces.”
I peer down at the message scrawled
by our secret messenger.
yek eht sdloh naM naivurtiV .ytinivid eht laever lliw rood nepo
Then, I apply the mirror to it at
an angle that catches the entire two sentences.
the open door will reveal the divinity. Vitruvian Man holds the
Andrea reads the words while I, too,
read them. In my head.
“What’s it mean?” she says.
My eyes shift back to the hand of
“That symbol on the hand of the
Lord,” I begin, the circle-topped rectangle suddenly making total sense to me. “It’s
not a symbol so much as it’s a drawing of an everyday household item.”
“I’m not following,” she says.
Using extended index finger like a
pointer, I press it down on the word “key.”
“It’s a lockset,” I say. “All we
need is the key.”
She stares at it for a moment more.
“A key,” she says. “What key where?”
“Good question,” I say. Slipping
out of bed, my feet back on the floor. “There’s only one way to find out. We
need to head back to the museum.”
“It will be closed by now. Plus, it’s
getting dark.” She presses herself against my backside. “Besides, we have an
“What agreement?” I tease, looking
at her over my shoulder.
“You promised to make love to me
one more time.”
I see myself standing naked outside
the door only a few embarrassing moments ago.
“I did say that, didn’t I?” Lifting
my legs back up onto the bed. “Well, I’m not one to renege on a promise.
“Besides what, boyfriend?”
“You are my divine inspiration,
I kiss Andrea on the mouth and
proceed to keep my promise.
A half-hour later it’s dark out, the light from the old brass street
lamps leaking through the windows. Andrea and I are dressed and checking our sidearms,
making sure they are locked, loaded, and ready for use should any one of our
enemies—known or unknown—rear their ugly heads. While she’s once more dressed
in her black tactical gear, minus the radio, I’m wearing dark jeans, boots,
dark blue work shirt, and an old Tough Traveler satchel over my black leather
coat. We’re not invisible against the darkness, but we’re not sticking out like
sore thumbs either.
We leave the apartment, head into
the dark of night, taking a more circuitous route through narrow back alleys. The
happiness of our time in the bedroom is now replaced with a sense of urgency. A
sense that, if we don’t find the key to the lock in the museum wall, someone
else will. Someone whose intentions are evil.
From the cobbled street, the
interior of the da Vinci Museum is dark and empty. But that doesn’t mean closed
circuit surveillance cameras aren’t watching our every move. Or so Andrea
As if on cue, we both peer at the
stone exterior wall above the door and the façade’s wide picture windows.
“I’m not seeing any cameras,” I
“Doesn’t mean they’re not there,”
I look at my watch. We’ve been
standing in the road for more than a minute.
“I say we just go in through the
front door. The faster we get in and get out, the better.”
“There’s still the question of the
key,” she reminds me.
“Could be we’ll find it in Dr.
“Or could be he keeps it on his
person, like I would do. Like you would do.”
“You got any C4 in that utility
“Got plenty of rounds, boyfriend.”
“How’s about a device to pick a
“Now you’re talking.” Reaching into
one of the pockets on her belt, she produces a lock pick. She approaches the
front door, thrusts the small, metal, pin-like device into the lockset twisting
and turning it. “Observe,” she says. Then, in a soft singing voice, “I can
bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and never ever let a locked door get
in the way of me and my man, ‘cause I’m a woman … “
The quiet of the night is broken by
the distinct click of lock tumblers being released.
“Let’s hope they don’t believe in
alarms,” I say.
“Only one way to find out,” she challenges.
She opens the door.
Stepping inside, I find the
darkness of the interior to be more intense than the exterior. Closing the door
behind us, I make sure to re-engage the lockset. Andrea pulls a mini-Maglite
from her belt, flicks it on, illuminating the ticket counter in a bright white
“Belli’s office will be behind it,”
I say. “But first, let’s check the mural. Maybe the lock is something that can
be easily picked like the front door.”
“No arguments from me,” she says.
We head down the short flight of
steps into the main display room, the many life-sized inventions appearing
ready for action. Making our way across the floor, we then descend the second,
shorter flight of steps into the room that houses the multi-media copies of the
more famous da Vinci paintings as well as that massive mural that takes up the
“Light up Jesus,” I say.
She does, shining the beam brightly
on the divine son of man, his eyes looking so bright and alive in the otherwise
pitch darkness, I half expect them to blink. I go to the wall, hold out both my
hands, feeling for the thin seams formed by the inlaid door inside the concrete
wall. When I locate them, I ask Andrea to shift the light so that it
illuminates Jesus’ left hand.
She repositions the light.
I gaze upon the hand, looking for
anything resembling a keyhole.
“See anything?” Andrea says.
“Not at first glance,” I say. “But
that doesn’t mean much.”
I feel Christ’s hand with my hand.
Rather, the pads of my fingertips, pressing them into the life-sized hand as if
it were not made of paint on plaster-covered concrete but, instead, human skin
and flesh. Then, suddenly, an area of the mural feels soft. An area no longer
than my thumb nail and no thicker than a matchstick. Reaching into my pocket, I
retrieve my switchblade, trigger it open. Sticking the soft area with the blade,
it punctures the mural, making a small rectangular incision in Christ’s hand.
“You’re crucifying him,” Andrea
“It’s what I must do in the name of
saving humanity. Something tells me he won’t mind.”
“So what is it? A keyhole?”
I play with the blade inside the
opening for a bit.
“It’s definitely some sort of
opener. But, I’m not feeling any tumblers like I would on a lockset.”
“You want me to try and pick it?”
“By all means.”
She approaches me, her pick already
in hand. Handing me the Maglite, I now assume the job of shining the light on
the tiny wall slit. Andrea pokes and prods the opening, but nothing seems to be
happening. She pulls the pick out.
“You’re right,” she says. “No
tumblers. The lock, if it is even a lock in the traditional sense of the word,
requires a special key. I suppose we should check out Dr. Belli’s office.”
“Hang on a minute,” I say, digging
in my pocket for the note.
Retrieving it, I shine the light
down on the ornate handwriting and read it aloud once again, more for my own
benefit than Andrea’s.
“The open door will reveal the
divinity. Vitruvian Man holds the key.” Pausing for a minute to mull it over
inside my brain, I then shoot a look at Andrea. “Why bring up Vitruvian Man?
How could da Vinci’s artistic rendering of one particular man hold the key to
“You’re right,” she says. “Doesn’t
I fold the note, shove it back in
my pocket, and finger the change inside it. That’s when the realization comes
to me like a divine bolt of electricity. I pull out a coin. A one euro coin.
Holding it between my forefinger and thumb, I shine the Maglite on the front.
The light bounces off it like a mirror.
“What are you doing?” she asks.
“What do you see here?”
“I see a common coin. One euro. So
“But what do you see now,
Flipping the coin around, shining
the light on the human image stamped on it. Andrea’s face lights up brighter
than the Maglite.
“Vitruvian Man,” she says. “Da
Vinci’s Vitruvian Man occupies the entire backside of the coin.”
“Let’s try it,” I say, placing the
coin in the slot as if it were a slot machine in a gaming parlor. Pushing the
coin in with my thumb, it disappears. At first, nothing happens, until the
floor beneath us begins to vibrate and the sounds of heavy concrete separating
from heavy concrete fills the empty museum. The stone door covered in the image
of da Vinci’s Jesus opens up onto another room.
A room that may very well hold The