For an instant, Langdon felt as if time had stopped.
Dr. Marconi lay motionless on the floor, blood gushing from his chest. Fighting the sedatives in his system, Langdon raised his eyes to the spike-haired assassin, who was still striding down the hall, covering the last few yards toward his open door. As she neared the threshold, she looked toward Langdon and instantly swung her weapon in his direction ... aiming at his head.
I'm going to die, Langdon realized. Here and now.
The bang was deafening in the small hospital room.
Langdon recoiled, certain he had been shot, but the noise had not been the attacker's gun. Rather, the bang had been the slam of the room's heavy metal door as Dr. Brooks threw herself against it and turned the lock.
Eyes wild with fear, Dr. Brooks immediately spun and crouched beside her blood-soaked colleague, searching for a pulse. Dr. Marconi coughed up a mouthful of blood, which dribbled down his cheek across his thick beard. Then he fell limp.
"Enrico, no! Ti prego!" she screamed.
Outside, a barrage of bullets exploded against the metal exterior of the door. Shouts of alarm filled the hall.
Somehow, Langdon's body was in motion, panic and instinct now overruling his sedatives. As he clambered awkwardly out of bed, a searing hot pain tore into his right forearm.
For an instant, he thought a bullet had passed through the door and hit him, but when he looked down, he realized his IV had snapped off in his arm. The plastic catheter poked out of a jagged hole in his forearm, and warm blood was already flowing backward out of the tube.
Langdon was now fully awake. Crouched beside Marconi's body, Dr. Brooks kept searching for a pulse as tears welled in her eyes. Then, as if a switch had been flipped inside her, she stood and turned to Langdon. Her expression transformed before his eyes, her young features hardening with all the detached composure of a seasoned ER doctor dealing with a crisis.
"Follow me," she commanded. Dr. Brooks grabbed Langdon's arm and pulled him across the room. The sounds of gunfire and chaos continued in the hallway as Langdon lurched forward on unstable legs.
His mind felt alert but his heavily drugged body was slow to respond. Move! The tile floor felt cold beneath his feet, and his thin hospital Johnny was scarcely long enough to cover his six-foot frame. He could feel blood dripping down his forearm and pooling in his palm.
Bullets continued to slam against the heavy doorknob, and Dr. Brooks pushed Langdon roughly into a small bathroom. She was about to follow when she paused, turned around, and ran back toward the counter and grabbed his bloody Harris Tweed.
Forget my damned jacket! She returned clutching his jacket and quickly locked the bathroom door. Just then, the door in the outer room crashed open.
The young doctor took control. She strode through the tiny bathroom to a second door, yanked it open, and led Langdon into an adjoining recovery room. Gunfire echoed behind them as Dr. Brooks stuck her head out into the hallway and quickly grabbed Langdon's arm, pulling him across the corridor into a stairwell. The sudden motion made Langdon dizzy; he sensed that he could pass out at any moment.
The next fifteen seconds were a blur ... descending stairs ... stumbling ... falling. The pounding in Langdon's head was almost unbearable. His vision seemed even more blurry now, and his muscles were sluggish, each movement feeling like a delayed reaction. And then the air grew cold. I'm outside.
As Dr. Brooks hustled him along a dark alley away from the building, Langdon stepped on something sharp and fell, hitting the pavement hard. She struggled to get him back to his feet, cursing out loud the fact that he had been sedated.
As they neared the end of the alley, Langdon stumbled again. This time she left him on the ground, rushing into the street and yelling to someone in the distance.
Langdon could make out the faint green light of a taxi parked in front of the hospital. The car didn't move, its driver undoubtedly asleep. Dr. Brooks screamed and waved her arms wildly. Finally the taxi's headlights came on and it moved lazily toward them.
Behind Langdon in the alley, a door burst open, followed by the sound of rapidly approaching footsteps. He turned and saw the dark figure bounding toward him.
Langdon tried to get back to his feet, but the doctor was already grabbing him, forcing him into the backseat of an idling Fiat taxi. He landed half on the seat and half on the floor as Dr. Brooks dove on top of him, yanking the door shut.
The sleepy-eyed driver turned and stared at the bizarre duo that had just tumbled into his cab—a young, ponytailed woman in scrubs and a man in a half-torn Johnny with a bleeding arm. He clearly was about ready to tell them to get the hell out of his car, when the side mirror exploded.
The woman in black leather sprinted out of the alley, gun extended. Her pistol hissed again just as Dr. Brooks grabbed Langdon's head, pulling it down. The rear window exploded, showering them with glass.
The driver needed no further encouragement. He slammed his foot down on the gas, and the taxi peeled out.
Langdon teetered on the brink of consciousness. Someone is trying to kill me?
Once they had rounded a corner, Dr. Brooks sat up and grabbed Langdon's bloody arm. The catheter was protruding awkwardly from a hole in his flesh.
"Look out the window," she commanded.
Langdon obeyed. Outside, ghostly tombstones rushed by in the darkness. It seemed somehow fitting that they were passing a cemetery. Langdon felt the doctor's fingers probing gently for the catheter and then, without warning, she wrenched it out.
A searing bolt of pain traveled directly to Langdon's head. He felt his eyes rolling back, and then everything went black.