one took any notice.
None of the merchants, moneylenders or friars strolling by in the
twilight around San Francesco il Grande noticed the slovenly,
ill-dressed man who hurried into the Franciscan church. It was the
eve of a holiday, a market day, and the inhabitants of Milan were
busy gathering provisions for the coming days of official mourning.
Under such circumstances, it was only natural that the presence of
yet another beggar left them unconcerned.
But the fools were once again mistaken. The beggar who entered San
Francesco was not an ordinary man.
Without giving himself a moment's respite, the ragged man left
behind him the double row of benches that lined the nave and
hurried on toward the main altar. There was not a soul to be seen
inside the church. At last he had been permitted to see a painting,
The Virgin of the Rocks, that few in Milan knew by its real
name: the Maestà.
He approached the altar cautiously. His heart beat faster. There,
utterly alone in the church, the pilgrim warily stretched out his
hand, as if he might be forever united to the sacred scene. As he
cast his eyes on the celebrated painting, suddenly a detail caught
his attention. How strange! The pilgrim was overcome by a
vertiginous feeling of horror. Someone had meddled with the
The pilgrim did not dare move a muscle but remained frozen to the
spot at the sound of the dry, deep voice behind him. He hadn't
heard the door of the church creak open, so the intruder must have
been watching him for a fair while now.
"I can tell you're like all the others. For some dark reason you
heretics come in droves to this House of God. Its light attracts
you, but you are incapable of recognizing that."
The pilgrim's pulse was racing. His hour had come. He felt dazed
and angry, cheated in having risked his life to kneel before a
fraud. The painting he was looking at was not the Opus
"It can't be -- " he whispered. The intruder laughed out
"It is easy enough to understand. I'll grant you the mercy of
knowledge before sending you to burn in hell. Don't you realize
that Leonardo has betrayed you?"
Was it possible that Leonardo had actually betrayed his
The pilgrim realized that something was terribly wrong. He heard
behind him a metallic scraping, like that of a sword being
"Am I to die as well?"
"The Soothsayer will do away with all of the wicked."
Excerpted from THE SECRET SUPPER © Copyright 2011 by
Javier Sierra. Reprinted with permission by Atria Books, an imprint
of Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved.