After dropping their bags off at the Hotel Saint Germain, Amanda and Coop walk toward the Musée Rodin, about a half mile away. Both have their hands deep into their coat pockets as they walk into cold wind coming off the Seine.
Continuing their conversation of the past several hours, Cooper says through chattering teeth, “Damn, it’s cold. OK, about Rodin… I don’t know if you are on the right track or not. Sure, it’s possible that the priest might have confided in Rodin. A lot of what you told me seems to point to it. But I just can’t buy the part about a document.”
“Why not?” Amanda asks. “According to the Vatican, the priest left behind some sort of documentation about his ‘visitation.’ I mean, that’s what the Pope is so anxious to get a hold of, and I’d bet is paying a pretty penny to find. Brother ‘Knights of the Whatever’ or not, the US is not going to commits these kinds of resources for free, you know?”
Coop rolls his eyes. “I hope the price is high. The Vatican can certainly afford it.”
Amanda continues, “I still think it has to be a document of some sort. What else could it be? I checked every artifact attributed to the priest, and he didn’t leave behind anything but written stuff. Vow of poverty, and all that, you know. All there was to leave behind was his writings.”
“Think about it, Minnie. We’re talking over one hundred years here. How likely is it that some piece of paper survived that long, and all without anyone knowing about it? You think Rodin took this document from the priest, hid it among his things, and no one found it in all these years? Come on.” Coop huffs on his cold hands and rubs them together before shoving them back into his pockets.
Amanda looks over at him. “You should have brought gloves. I warned you,” she comments, and goes on. “Well, when you say it like that, it does sound kind of unlikely. Maybe he hid it in a sculpture…”
“You’d better hope not, because if he did, we are shit out of luck.”
Amanda touches the wall of the large gray stone building to her left. “This is it. The entrance is around the corner.”
After paying for their tickets and attaching the round orange sticker allowing access to the museum on their coats, Amanda and Cooper open the map handed to them by the ticket agent and begin their tour.
“The museum closes at 4:45PM. There’s no way we’ll manage to see the gardens today, so I only bought tickets to the house,” Amanda says as they head into the exhibits. “We’ll come back tomorrow for that."
For the rest of the afternoon, they walk though many rooms of the museum, marveling at the sculptures, and speculating. At the end of the day, they are awe-struck, exhausted and no closer to an answer than the day before.
“Come on, Minnie. Let’s get some dinner and a bottle of wine. This is France, after all. I’m on information overload. I need some time to let all this percolate.”
The next day, after a croissant and café, Coop and Amanda are at the Musée Rodin when it opened. Adding the green Jardin sticker to the orange one already on their coats, they walk around the around the mansion through the rose garden, its bushes covered for the winter. Coop is grateful that he stopped to by some boots and glove on the way to the museum. A light snow has fallen during the night and the snow crunches beneath their feet as they walk.
The two take their time, looking carefully at statue in the garden. As they stand at the base of The Thinker, Coop says, “Damn. I’ve got to admit; just standing in front of this gives me the chills.”
“It’s magnificent. In fact, it all is,” Amanda replies. “But I’m coming to the conclusion that you were right. I haven’t seen anything that supports my theory. This is just a collection of wonderful sculptures.”
As they turn to go back, Coop spots a large sculpture along the outer wall, and heads that way. As they walk, he flips through the pages of the Musée Rodin: Guide to the Gardens they’d picked up earlier.
"It’s called La Porte de l'Enfer, the Gates of Hell,” he says.
The piece is enormous, and extremely detailed. As they look closely, Amanda says, “Wow, a lot of the statues we’ve seen here are worked into this piece. There’s The Kiss and on top, The Three Shades. And, look,” there’s The Thinker.”
“The guide says that when Rodin carved this, The Thinker was also called The Poet, and that many believe the figure is supposed to be Dante Alighieri,” Coop reads.
He looks up at the figure high above his head, and then suddenly grabs Amanda’s arm. “Minnie, look. See that inscription carved at the top?”
Amanda looks up at sees the words “LASCIATE OGNE SPERANZA, VOI CH’INTRATE.”
“I think you might on the right track after all,” Coop says with a tinge of excitement in his voice.
For the next hour, Coop and Amanda examine the large sculpture. They run their fingers into its many crevices, stopping whenever one of the few visitors to the garden in the cold afternoon air comes their way.
Stepping back with a sigh, “I don’t know, Coop. There just nothing here.”
“Doesn’t seem to be,” Cooper concedes. “But, geez, there are just too many clues here to be a coincidence. I think we missed something.”
“How could we? We’ve probed every inch of this thing that we could reach. You think there’s something up at the top?” Amanda is feeling incredibly frustrated, and can tell she’s getting testy.
“Hey, relax, Minnie.” Coop brushes the snow off a nearby bench and the two of them sit down.
“No, probably not. I keep coming back to the fact that nothing could be hidden on one of the statues and not be found long before now.” He scratches pulls off his hat and scratches his head, leaving his curls in a tangles mess.
“But,” he stands and pulls the hat back on, “there’s something here. I smell it.”
Amanda looks up at him with an oh, puh-lease look on her face.
“Hey, I am Hall Cooper, am I not?” Coop grabs her hand and pulls her to her feet. “Come on, I want to look inside again.”
“There.” Cooper leads Amanda to a bust they’d passed by quickly yesterday, since they could see no openings or crevices where anything could be hidden. “I thought I remembered seeing this. Do you have the Guide for the exhibits in here?”
Amanda digs into her pocket, pulls out the booklet, and hands it to him. He finds the page describing the bust in front of them and reads the blurb. Before finishing, he holds the page in front of her, and pointing with his finger, says, “Read this.”
She takes the booklet from him and reads, “The priest…
“Yeah, so? This is important how?”
“Minnie, think. Isn’t this our guy? The one who supposedly saw the light?”
Amanda looks at the top of the page to find the name of the piece. “Yes! How did we miss that yesterday?” She looks at Coop, completely forgetting her fatigue and frustration of a few minutes ago.
“But I still don’t see how this helps us,” she says leaning around to look at the back of the sculpture. “We can’t pick the thing up and look under it or anything. Even if we could heft it – it’s solid bronze and probably heavy as hell – moving it would no doubt sound alarms and bring the guards running.”
Cooper nods. “Right. But remember what I said about the ‘documentation’ not being a hidden document? Well, maybe I was wrong. Maybe it is hidden… hidden in plain sight.”
As Amanda’s brow furrows, Coop gestures toward the bust again. “Look.”
She looks again, and realizes that the priest is holding a scroll in his arms. Carved on the scroll are several words. “Latin.”
“The guide says that some of the words are misspelled. How likely is that, Minnie?” Cooper’s eyes gleam as he looks at Amanda.
A small smile creeps onto to her lovely face, and she leans over and plants a big kiss on his cheek.
“How likely, indeed. And don’t call me Minnie.”
Continued in Part 5
Continued in Part 5