In Competition No. 3024 you were invited to submit a short story in the style of Dan Brown. This comp, a nod to the glorious awfulness of the wildly rich, bestselling author Dan Brown’s much-mocked prose, drew a nicely calibrated entry. In the interests of allowing space for six winners (who are rewarded with £25 apiece), I’ll step aside without further ado. Over to you.
Langdon stared steadily with his questing blue eyes at the poem the balding gigolo penned. What was it about the scansion? His heart pounded like a lineman’s hammer. A sonnet! An old form, invented by Giacomo da Lentini. 1230.
‘The Magna Curia!’ said Langdon out loud.
A voice came from the night-coloured darkness, interrupting his thought with a curdling scream. ‘Mind the volta!’ it screeched…
A sonnet! ‘I was here like a psalm,’ it began effortlessly. A psalm! As in church, as in Holy Roman Empire! Langdon felt a hot shock of recognition, almost passing out. Still conscious, he saw a hand come at him, with a poison quill, followed by a velvet-clad arm…
Suddenly, Langdon realised the truth.
It was no Holy Roman. That was a trick. He seized the advancing shoulder, thrusting his assailant to the frigid ground. I was here like a psalm!
Ad maiorem Dei gloriam.
Even Robert Langdon, highly educated sophisticate and intimate of world authorities that he was, held his breath in suspension, recalling the historic words of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, a small location in the Basque country of Spain, as he marvelled at the wondrous sight before him.
The Cathedral Basilica of Saint Cecilia, familiarly known to the lay world as Albi Cathedral. A brick-built testament to the Wars of religion that could withstand an army. A very large, aggressive army, he reasoned.
The poor Cathars.
Inside were the famous interior wall paintings, or peintures murales, a legendary theological record he was sworn to decode using incredible 21st-century algorithms.