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Pyramid. Legend implies it is mythical.”
“Yes, legend.” Bellamy chuckled. “I’m afraid you’re suffering from the same problem Moses had.”
Bellamy looked almost amused as he turned in his seat, glancing up at the second-tier balcony, where sixteen bronze statues peered down at them. “Do you see Moses?”
Langdon gazed up at the library’s celebrated statue of Moses. “Yes.”
“He has horns.”
“I’m aware of that.”
“But do you know why he has horns?”
Like most teachers, Langdon did not enjoy being lectured to. The Moses above them had horns for the same reason thousands of Christian images of Moses had horns — a mistranslation of the book of Exodus. The original Hebrew text described Moses as having “karan ’ohr panav” — “facial skin that glowed with rays of light” — but when the Roman Catholic Church created the official Latin translation of the Bible, the translator bungled Moses’s description, rendering it as “cornuta esset facies sua,” meaning “his face was horned.” From that moment on, artists and sculptors, fearing reprisals if they were not true to the Gospels, began depicting Moses with horns.
“It was a simple mistake,” Langdon replied. “A mistranslation by Saint Jerome around four hundred A.D.” Bellamy looked impressed. “Exactly. A mistranslation. And the result is… poor Moses is now misshapen for all history.”
“Misshapen” was a nice way to put it. Langdon, as a child, had been terrified when he saw Michelangelo’s diabolical “horned Moses” — the centerpiece of Rome’s Basilica of St. Peter in Chains.
“I mention the horned Moses,” Bellamy now said, “to illustrate how a single word, misunderstood, can rewrite history.”
You’re preaching to the choir, Langdon thought, having learned the lesson firsthand in Paris a number of years back. SanGreal: Holy Grail. SangReal: Royal Blood.
“In the case of the Masonic Pyramid,” Bellamy continued, “people heard whispers about a ‘legend.’ And the idea stuck. The Legend of the Masonic Pyramid sounded like a myth. But the word legend was referring to something else. It had been misconstrued. Much like the word talisman.” He smiled. “Language can be very adept at hiding the truth.”
“That’s true, but you’re losing me here.”
“Robert, the Masonic Pyramid is a map. And like every map, it has a legend — a key that tells you how to read it.” Bellamy took the cube-shaped package and held it up. “Don’t you see? This capstone is the legend to the pyramid. It is the key that tells you how to read the most powerful artifact on earth… a map that unveils the hiding place of mankind’s greatest treasure — the lost wisdom of the ages.”
Langdon fell silent.
“I humbly submit,” Bellamy said, “that your towering Masonic Pyramid is only this… a modest stone whose golden capstone reaches high enough to be touched by God. High enough that an enlightened man can reach down and touch it.”
Silence hung between the two men for several seconds.
Langdon felt an unexpected pulse of excitement as he looked down at the pyramid, seeing it in a new light. His eyes moved again to the Masonic cipher. “But this code… it seems so…”
Langdon nodded. “Almost anyone could decipher this.”
Bellamy smiled and retrieved a pencil and paper for Langdon. “Then perhaps you should enlighten us?”
Langdon felt uneasy about reading the code, and yet considering the circumstances, it seemed a minor betrayal of Peter’s trust. Moreover, whatever the engraving said, he could not imagine that it unveiled a secret hiding place of anything at all… much less that of one of history’s greatest treasures.
Langdon accepted the pencil from Bellamy and tapped it on his chin as he studied the cipher. The code was so simple that he barely needed pencil and paper. Even so, he wanted to ensure he made no mistakes, and so he dutifully put pencil to paper and wrote down the most common decryption key for a Masonic cipher. The key consisted of four grids — two plain and two dotted — with the alphabet running through them in order. Each letter of the alphabet was now positioned inside a uniquely shaped “enclosure” or “pen.” The shape of each letter’s enclosure became the symbol for that letter.
The scheme was so simple, it was almost infantile.
Langdon double-checked his handiwork. Feeling confident the decryption key was correct, he now turned his attention back to the code inscribed on the pyramid. To decipher it, all he had to do was to find the matching shape on his decryption key and write down the letter inside it.
The first character on the pyramid looked like a down arrow or a chalice. Langdon quickly found the chalice-shaped segment on the decryption key. It was located in the lower left-hand corner and enclosed the letter S.
Langdon wrote down S.
The next symbol on the pyramid was a dotted square missing its right side. That shape on the decryption grid enclosed the letter O.
He wrote down O.
The third symbol was a simple square, which enclosed the letter E.
Langdon wrote down E.
S O E…
He continued, picking up speed until he had completed the entire grid.
Now, as he gazed down at his finished translation, Langdon let out a puzzled sigh. Hardly what I’d call a eureka moment.
Bellamy’s face showed the hint of a smile. “As you know, Professor, the Ancient Mysteries are reserved only for the truly enlightened.”
“Right,” Langdon said, frowning. Apparently, I don’t qualify.
In a basement office deep inside CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, the same sixteen-character Masonic cipher glowed brightly on a high-definition computer monitor. Senior OS analyst Nola Kaye sat alone and studied the image that had been e-mailed to her ten minutes ago by her boss, Director Inoue Sato.
Is this some kind of joke? Nola knew it was not, of course; Director Sato had no sense of humor, and the events of tonight were anything but a joking matter. Nola’s high-level clearance within the CIA’s all-seeing Office of Security had opened her eyes to the shadow worlds of power. But what Nola had witnessed in the last twenty-four hours had changed her impressions forever of the secrets that powerful men kept.
“Yes, Director,” Nola now said, cradling the phone on her shoulder as she talked to Sato. “The engraving is indeed the Masonic cipher. However, the cleartext is meaningless. It appears to be a grid of random letters.” She gazed down at her decryption.
“It must say something,” Sato insisted.
“Not unless it has a second layer of encryption that I’m not aware of.”
“Any guesses?” Sato asked.
“It’s a grid-based matrix, so I could run the usual — Vigenère, grilles, trellises, and so forth — but no promises, especially if it’s a onetime pad.”
“Do what you can. And do it fast. How about the X-ray?”
Nola swiveled her chair to a second system, which displayed a standard security X-ray of someone’s bag. Sato had requested information on what appeared to be a small pyramid inside a cube-shaped box. Normally, a two-inch-tall object would not be an issue of national security unless it was made of enriched plutonium. This one was not. It was made of something almost equally startling.
“Image-density analysis was conclusive,” Nola said. “Nineteen-point-three grams per cubic centimeter. It’s pure gold. Very, very valuable.”
“Actually, yes. The density scan picked up minor irregularities on the surface of the gold pyramid. It turns out the gold is engraved with text.”
“Really?” Sato sounded hopeful. “What does it say?”
“I can’t tell yet. The inscription is extremely faint. I’m trying to enhance with filters, but the resolution on the X-ray is not great.”
“Okay, keep trying. Call me when you have something.”
“And, Nola?” Sato’s tone turned ominous. “As with everything you have learned in the last twenty-four hours, the images of the stone pyramid and gold capstone are classified at the highest levels of security. You are to consult no one. You report to me directly. I want to make sure that is clear.”
“Of course, ma’am.”
“Good. Keep me posted.” Sato hung up.
Nola rubbed her eyes and looked blearily back at her computer screens. She had not slept in over thirty-six hours, and she knew damn well she would not sleep again until this crisis had reached its conclusion.
Whatever that may be.
Back at the Capitol Visitor Center, four black-clad CIA field-op specialists stood at the entrance to the tunnel, peering hungrily down the dimly lit shaft like a pack of dogs eager for the hunt.
Sato approached, having just hung up from a call. “Gentlemen,” she said, still holding the Architect’s key, “are your mission parameters clear?”
“Affirmative,” the lead agent replied. “We have two targets. The first is an engraved stone pyramid, approximately one foot tall. The second is a smaller, cube-shaped package, approximately two inches tall. Both were last seen in Robert Langdon’s shoulder bag.”
“Correct,” Sato said. “These two items must be retrieved quickly and intact. Do you have any questions?”
“Parameters for use of force?”
Sato’s shoulder was still throbbing from where Bellamy had struck her with a bone. “As I said, it is of critical importance that these items be retrieved.”
“Understood.” The four men turned and headed into the darkness of the tunnel.
Sato lit a cigarette and watched them disappear.
Katherine Solomon had always been a prudent driver, but now she was pushing her Volvo at over ninety as she fled blindly up the Suitland Parkway. Her trembling foot had been lodged on the accelerator for a full mile before her panic began to lift. She now realized her uncontrollable shivering was no longer solely from fear.
The wintry night air was gushing through her shattered window, buffeting her body like an arctic wind. Her stockinged feet were numb, and she reached down for her spare pair of shoes, which she kept beneath the passenger seat. As she did, she felt a stab of pain from the bruise on her throat, where the powerful hand had latched on to her neck.
The man who had smashed through her window bore no resemblance to the blond-haired gentleman whom Katherine knew as Dr. Christopher Abaddon. His thick hair and smooth, tanned complexion had disappeared. His shaved head, bare chest, and makeup-smeared face had been unveiled as a terrifying tapestry of tattoos.
She heard his voice again, whispering to her in the howl of wind outside her broken window. Katherine, I should have killed you years ago… the night I killed your mother.
Katherine shivered, feeling no doubt. That was him. She had never forgotten the look of fiendish violence in his eyes. Nor had she ever forgotten the sound of her brother’s single gunshot, which had killed this man, propelling him off a high ledge into the frozen river below, where he plummeted through the ice and never resurfaced. Investigators had searched for weeks, never finding his body, and finally decided it had been washed away by the current out to the Chesapeake Bay.
They were wrong, she now knew. He is still alive.
And he’s back.
Katherine felt angst-ridden as the memories flooded back. It was almost exactly ten years ago. Christmas Day. Katherine, Peter, and their mother — her entire family — were gathered at their sprawling stone mansion in Potomac, nestled on a two-hundred-acre wooded estate with its own river running through it.
As was tradition, their mother worked diligently in the kitchen, rejoicing in the holiday custom of cooking for her two children. Even at seventy-five years of age, Isabel Solomon was an exuberant cook, and tonight the mouthwatering smells of roast venison, parsnip gravy, and garlic mashed potatoes wafted through the house. While Mother prepared the feast, Katherine and her brother relaxed in the conservatory, discussing Katherine’s latest fascination — a new field called Noetic Science. An unlikely fusion of modern particle physics and ancient mysticism, Noetics had absolutely captivated Katherine’s imagination.
Physics meets philosophy.
Katherine told Peter about some of the experiments she was dreaming up, and she could see in his eyes that he was intrigued. Katherine felt particularly pleased to give her brother something positive to think about this Christmas, since the holiday had also become a painful reminder of a terrible tragedy.
Peter’s son, Zachary.
Katherine’s nephew’s twenty-first birthday had been his last. The family had been through a nightmare, and it seemed that her brother was only now finally learning how to laugh again.
Zachary had been a late bloomer, frail and awkward, a rebellious and angry teenager. Despite his deeply loving and privileged upbringing, the boy seemed determined to detach himself from the Solomon “establishment.” He was kicked out of prep school, partied hard with the “celebrati,” and shunned his parents’ exhaustive attempts to provide him firm and loving guidance.
He broke Peter’s heart.
Shortly before Zachary’s eighteenth birthday, Katherine had sat down with her mother and brother and listened to them debating whether or not to withhold Zachary’s inheritance until he was more mature. The Solomon inheritance — a centuries-old tradition in the family — bequeathed a staggeringly generous piece of the Solomon wealth to every Solomon child on his or her eighteenth birthday. The Solomons believed that an inheritance was more helpful at the beginning of someone’s life than at the end. Moreover, placing large pieces of the Solomon fortune in the hands of eager young descendants had been the key to growing the family’s dynastic wealth.
In this case, however, Katherine’s mother argued that it was dangerous to give Peter’s troubled son such a large sum of money. Peter disagreed.
“The Solomon inheritance,” her brother had said, “is a family tradition that should not be broken. This money may well force Zachary to be more responsible.”
Sadly, her brother had been wrong.
The moment Zachary received the money, he broke from the family, disappearing from the house without taking any of his belongings. He surfaced a few months later in the tabloids: TRUST FUND PLAYBOY LIVING EUROPEAN HIGH LIFE.
The tabloids took joy in documenting Zachary’s spoiled life of debauchery. The photos of wild parties on yachts and drunken disco stupors were hard for the Solomons to take, but the photos of their wayward teen turned from tragic to frightening when the papers reported Zachary had been caught carrying cocaine across a border in Eastern Europe: SOLOMON MILLIONAIRE IN TURKISH PRISON.
The prison, they learned, was called Soganlik — a brutal F-class detention center located in the Kartal district outside of Istanbul. Peter Solomon, fearing for his son’s safety, flew to Turkey to retrieve him. Katherine’s distraught brother returned empty-handed, having been forbidden even to visit with Zachary. The only promising news was that Solomon’s influential contacts at the U.S. State Department were working on getting him extradited as quickly as possible.
Two days later, however, Peter received a horrifying international phone call. The next morning, headlines blared: SOLOMON HEIR MURDERED IN PRISON.
The prison photos were horrific, and the media callously aired them all, even long after the Solomons’ private burial ceremony. Peter’s wife never forgave him for failing to free Zachary, and their marriage came to an end six months later. Peter had been alone ever since.
It was years later that Katherine, Peter, and their mother, Isabel, were gathered quietly for Christmas. The pain was still a presence in their family, but mercifully it was fading with each passing year. The pleasant rattle of pots and pans now echoed from the kitchen as their mother prepared the traditional feast. Out in the conservatory, Peter and Katherine were enjoying a baked Brie and relaxed holiday conversation.
Then came an utterly unexpected sound.
“Hello, Solomons,” an airy voice said behind them.
Startled, Katherine and her brother spun to see an enormous muscular figure stepping into the conservatory. He wore a black ski mask that covered all of his face except his eyes, which shone with feral ferocity.
Peter was on his feet in an instant. “Who are you?! How did you get in here?!”
“I knew your little boy, Zachary, in prison. He told me where this key was hidden.” The stranger held up an old key and grinned like a beast. “Right before I bludgeoned him to death.”
Peter’s mouth fell open.
A pistol appeared, aimed directly at Peter’s chest. “Sit.”
Peter fell back into his chair.
As the man moved into the room, Katherine was frozen in place. Behind his mask, the man’s eyes were wild like those of a rabid animal.
“Hey!” Peter yelled, as if trying to warn their mother in the kitchen. “Whoever you are, take what you want, and get out!”
The man leveled his gun at Peter’s chest. “And what is it you think I want?”
“Just tell me how much,” Solomon said. “We don’t have money in the house, but I can —”
The monster laughed. “Do not insult me. I have not come for money. I have come tonight for Zachary’s other birthright.” He grinned. “He told me about the pyramid.”
Pyramid? Katherine thought in bewildered terror. What pyramid?
Her brother was defiant. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Don’t play dumb with me! Zachary told me what you keep in your study vault. I want it. Now.”
“Whatever Zachary told you, he was confused,” Peter said. “I don’t know what you’re talking about!”
“No?” The intruder turned and aimed the gun at Katherine’s face. “How about now?”
Peter’s eyes filled with terror. “You must believe me! I don’t know what it is you want!”
“Lie to me one more time,” he said, still aiming at Katherine, “and I swear I will take her from you.” He smiled. “And from what Zachary said, your little sister is more precious to you than all your —”
“What’s going on?!” Katherine’s mother shouted, marching into the room with Peter’s Browning Citori shotgun — which she aimed directly at the man’s chest. The intruder spun toward her, and the feisty seventy-five-year-old woman wasted no time. She fired a deafening blast of pellets. The intruder staggered backward, firing his handgun wildly in all directions, shattering windows as he fell and crashed through the glass doorway, dropping the pistol as he fell.
Peter was instantly in motion, diving on the loose handgun. Katherine had fallen, and Mrs. Solomon hurried to her side, kneeling beside her. “My God, are you hurt?!”
Katherine shook her head, mute with shock. Outside the shattered glass door, the masked man had clambered to his feet and was running into the woods, clutching his side as he ran. Peter Solomon glanced back to make sure his mother and sister were safe, and seeing they were fine, he held the pistol and raced out the door after the intruder.
Katherine’s mother held her hand, trembling. “Thank heavens you’re okay.” Then suddenly her mother pulled away. “Katherine? You’re bleeding! There’s blood! You’re hurt!”
Katherine saw the blood. A lot of blood. It was all over her. But she felt no pain.
Her mother frantically searched Katherine’s body for a wound. “Where does it hurt!”
“Mom, I don’t know, I don’t feel anything!”
Then Katherine saw the source of the blood, and she went cold. “Mom, it’s not me…” She pointed to the side of her mother’s white satin blouse, where blood was running freely, and a small tattered hole was visible. Her mother glanced down, looking more confused than anything else. She winced and shrank back, as if the pain had just hit her.
“Katherine?” Her voice was calm, but suddenly it carried the weight of her