St. Paul’s Cathedral, London

Tom, Sarah

and Hainsworth quickly took off down Temple Place Road. Watching the figures swiftly vanish, Coldwell pulled out his gun and aimed from the window.

          A bullet whizzed by Hainsworth, causing a nearby car window to shatter.

          “He’s shooting at us!” exclaimed Tom.

          “Keep your heads down and run for the embankment!” yelled Hainsworth, glancing back toward the campus.

          Another bullet flew by.

          Ducking their heads, they made their way to Victoria Embankment, a main road paralleling the River Thames.

Approaching

police cars were visible in the distance, lights flashing. Not knowing which was worse, Coldwell or getting arrested, they decided to avoid both.

          A bullet flew by, ricocheting off a wall.

          Tom, Sarah and the professor hastily scurried up Black Fairs Lane, a dodgy maze of interconnecting alleys. They hit two dead-ends and quickly backtracked, finally crossing Fleet Street, a busy avenue through the City of London. Lit by towering skyscrapers, the atmosphere was alive with activity: vehicles zipped back and forth; colorful lights flashed in storefronts; Christmas music blared from cafés; and people hustled about shopping for gifts and presents.

Police cars

soon raced from every direction.

          “Where should we hide?” asked Tom frantically.

          “What about in there?” suggested Sarah, indicating St. Paul’s Cathedral, its 365-foot dome dominating the urban skyline.

          “Good idea, but it might be closing,” acknowledged Hainsworth, glancing at his watch. “Let’s make haste.”

          As they sprinted toward the colossal structure, tourists filed out of the front entrance.

St Paul’s Cathedral

is an Anglican cathedral that sits on Ludgate Hill, the highest point in the City of London. Originally founded in AD 604, it is dedicated to Paul the Apostle. The current cathedral dates from the late 17th century and was designed in the English Baroque style by Sir Christopher Wren. It was part of a major rebuilding program in the City after the Great Fire of London (1666). Its dome, framed by the spires of Wren’s City churches, dominated the skyline for 300 years. At 365 feet (111 m) high, it was the tallest building in London from 1710 to 1967. The dome is among the highest in the world. The cathedral was declared officially complete by Parliament on 25 December 1711 (Christmas Day).

          Avoiding the front, Tom checked one of the side doors. It opened. He motioned Sarah and Hainsworth in, while attendants cleared the remaining visitors.

          Tilting their heads back, Tom and Sarah stood in awe. The dome soared overhead, shimmering in splendor. Biblical frescos exploded with vibrant colors: cobalt, crimson, indigo and gold.

          “We can admire it later,” said Hainsworth bluntly. “Let’s find somewhere to hide.”
Snapping out of his trance, Tom quickly surveyed their options.

          “Through here,” he said quietly.

          They followed his lead up a staircase and into the Whispering Gallery, an enormous circular terrace overlooking the marble floor below. The dome was suspended above, magnifying every sound and projecting their voices throughout the church.

* * * *

Not knowing

what else to do, Tom, Sarah and Hainsworth ran to the stairs and climbed up into the mighty dome. Floor by floor they mounted the steps, each one getting steeper and narrower, the walls curving inward. The interior cavern became damp and dark. A cold breeze rushed through, chilling their bodies.

          After tremendous effort, they emerged on top of The Golden Gallery, an outside platform offering a panoramic vista of the entire city: London was blazing with lights. The brisk night air whipped around, almost knocking them off balance.

         After a few moments, Tom, Sarah and Hainsworth carefully descended the stairs, vigilantly watching for Coldwell. They could hear the police below shouting and running in different directions.

“How are we

going to get out of here, Professor?” inquired Tom, discouraged by the seemingly hopeless situation.

          “Through the Crypt,” replied Hainsworth, undaunted.

          “The Crypt?”

          “Trust me.”

          They made it to the main floor level and ducked into a hidden alcove as officers walked by, then continued their descent into the belly of the church.

The Crypt,

or burial chamber, was a catacomb of marble caskets, low arched ceilings and rows of slender alabaster columns.

          All three cautiously entered.

          The air was frosty and stale, the lighting faint and sporadic, the stone floor pitted and uneven. Policemen’s footsteps shuffled overhead, their voices echoing.

          “W-what’s that, Professor?” she stuttered, now standing in front of a large black sarcophagus six feet off the ground.

          “Lord Nelson’s tomb,” he answered reverently in a soft whisper. “One of history’s finest admirals.”

          “Is he . . . is he still in there?”

          “I hope so,” he replied offhandedly, then proceeded onward.

          Moving her head back and forth, Sarah was now aware of being surrounded by coffins of famous artists, scientists and noblemen. The Duke of Wellington was on one side, and the poet William Blake on the other. This revelation only added to her uneasiness.

          “So there are b-bodies in all these coffins?”

          “Most of them,” answered the professor evenly. “Some are buried elsewhere.”

          Sarah squeezed Tom’s hand tighter.

          “Ouch,” he mumbled, relinquishing her hold.

          “Sorry . . . a bit nervous.”

          Quietly moving through the unsettling darkness, they reached a set of stairs leading up to an exit.

* * * *

          “Stop right there!” an officer yelled as he and his partner sprinted over.

          Hainsworth turned to Tom. “Get Sarah out of here and keep her safe.”

          “But what about you —”

          “Run, Tom! Run!”

          With that, Hainsworth intercepted the officers, grappling with them for a brief second and making the greatest sacrifice he could, himself.

          Stunned, Tom and Sarah bolted across the street, looking back as the professor was wrestled to the ground and handcuffed.

          Tom stopped. “We’ve got to help him!”

          “It’s too late!” Sarah pulled him forward as they hurried toward the buildings.

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