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“Zachary, it’s hard to explain without a lot of background. But this treasure… in essence… is something we call the Ancient Mysteries.”
Zachary laughed, apparently thinking his father was joking.
Bellamy could see the melancholy growing now in Peter’s eyes.
“This is very difficult for me to describe, Zach. Traditionally, by the time a Solomon is eighteen years of age, he is about to embark on his years of higher education in —”
“I told you!” Zachary fired back. “I’m not interested in college!”
“I don’t mean college,” his father said, his voice still calm and quiet. “I’m talking about the brotherhood of Freemasonry. I’m talking about an education in the enduring mysteries of human science. If you had plans to join me within their ranks, you would be on the verge of receiving the education necessary to understand the importance of your decision tonight.”
Zachary rolled his eyes. “Spare me the Masonic lecture again. I know I’m the first Solomon who doesn’t want to join. But so what? Don’t you get it? I have no interest in playing dress-up with a bunch of old men!”
His father was silent for a long time, and Bellamy noticed the fine age lines that had started to appear around Peter’s still-youthful eyes.
“Yes, I get it,” Peter finally said. “Times are different now. I understand that Masonry probably appears strange to you, or maybe even boring. But I want you to know, that doorway will always be open for you should you change your mind.”
“Don’t hold your breath,” Zach grumbled.
“That’s enough!” Peter snapped, standing up. “I realize life has been a struggle for you, Zachary, but I am not your only guidepost. There are good men waiting for you, men who will welcome you within the Masonic fold and show you your true potential.”
Zachary chuckled and glanced over at Bellamy. “Is that why you’re here, Mr. Bellamy? So you Masons can gang up on me?”
Bellamy said nothing, instead directing a respectful gaze back at Peter Solomon — a reminder to Zachary of who held the power in this room.
Zachary turned back to his father.
“Zach,” Peter said, “we’re getting nowhere… so let me just tell you this. Whether or not you comprehend the responsibility being offered to you tonight, it is my family obligation to present it.” He motioned to the pyramid. “It is a rare privilege to guard this pyramid. I urge you to consider this opportunity for a few days before making your decision.”
“Opportunity?” Zachary said. “Babysitting a rock?”
“There are great mysteries in this world, Zach,” Peter said with a sigh. “Secrets that transcend your wildest imagination. This pyramid protects those secrets. And even more important, there will come a time, probably within your lifetime, when this pyramid will at last be deciphered and its secrets unearthed. It will be a moment of great human transformation… and you have a chance to play a role in that moment. I want you to consider it very carefully. Wealth is commonplace, but wisdom is rare.” He motioned to the portfolio and then to the pyramid. “I beg you to remember that wealth without wisdom can often end in disaster.”
Zachary looked like he thought his father was insane. “Whatever you say, Dad, but there’s no way I’m giving up my inheritance for this.” He gestured to the pyramid.
Peter folded his hands before him. “If you choose to accept the responsibility, I will hold your money and the pyramid for you until you have successfully completed your education within the Masons. This will take years, but you will emerge with the maturity to receive both your money and this pyramid. Wealth and wisdom. A potent combination.”
Zachary shot up. “Jesus, Dad! You don’t give up, do you? Can’t you see that I don’t give a damn about the Masons or stone pyramids and ancient mysteries?” He reached down and scooped up the black portfolio, waving it in front of his father’s face. “This is my birthright! The same birthright of the Solomons who came before me! I can’t believe you’d try to trick me out of my inheritance with lame stories about ancient treasure maps!” He tucked the portfolio under his arm and marched past Bellamy to the study’s patio door.
“Zachary, wait!” His father rushed after him as Zachary stalked out into the night. “Whatever you do, you can never speak of the pyramid you have seen!” Peter Solomon’s voice cracked. “Not to anyone! Ever!”
But Zachary ignored him, disappearing into the night.
Peter Solomon’s gray eyes were filled with pain as he returned to his desk and sat heavily in his leather chair. After a long silence, he looked up at Bellamy and forced a sad smile. “That went well.”
Bellamy sighed, sharing in Solomon’s pain. “Peter, I don’t mean to sound insensitive… but… do you trust him?”
Solomon stared blankly into space.
“I mean…” Bellamy pressed, “not to say anything about the pyramid?”
Solomon’s face was blank. “I really don’t know what to say, Warren. I’m not sure I even know him anymore.”
Bellamy rose and walked slowly back and forth before the large desk. “Peter, you have followed your family duty, but now, considering what just happened, I think we need to take precautions. I should return the capstone to you so you can find a new home for it. Someone else should watch over it.”
“Why?” Solomon asked.
“If Zachary tells anyone about the pyramid… and mentions my being present tonight…”
“He knows nothing of the capstone, and he’s too immature to know the pyramid has any significance. We don’t need a new home for it. I’ll keep the pyramid in my vault. And you will keep the capstone wherever you keep it. As we always have.”
It was six years later, on Christmas Day, with the family still healing from Zachary’s death, that the enormous man claiming to have killed him in prison broke into the Solomon estate. The intruder had come for the pyramid, but he had taken with him only Isabel Solomon’s life.
Days later, Peter summoned Bellamy to his office. He locked the door and took the pyramid out of his vault, setting it on the desk between them. “I should have listened to you.”
Bellamy knew Peter was racked with guilt over this. “It wouldn’t have mattered.”
Solomon drew a tired breath. “Did you bring the capstone?”
Bellamy pulled a small cube-shaped package from his pocket. The faded brown paper was tied with twine and bore a wax seal of Solomon’s ring. Bellamy laid the package on the desk, knowing the two halves of the Masonic Pyramid were closer together tonight than they should be. “Find someone else to watch this. Don’t tell me who it is.”
“And I know where you can hide the pyramid,” Bellamy said. He told Solomon about the Capitol Building subbasement. “There’s no place in Washington more secure.”
Bellamy recalled Solomon liking the idea right away because it felt symbolically apt to hide the pyramid in the symbolic heart of our nation. Typical Solomon, Bellamy had thought. The idealist even in a crisis.
Now, ten years later, as Bellamy was being shoved blindly through the Library of Congress, he knew the crisis tonight was far from over. He also now knew whom Solomon had chosen to guard the capstone… and he prayed to God that Robert Langdon was up to the job.
I’m under Second Street.
Langdon’s eyes remained tightly shut as the conveyor rumbled through the darkness toward the Adams Building. He did his best not to picture the tons of earth overhead and the narrow tube through which he was now traveling. He could hear Katherine breathing several yards ahead of him, but so far, she had not uttered a word.
She’s in shock. Langdon was not looking forward to telling her about her brother’s severed hand. You have to, Robert. She needs to know.
“Katherine?” Langdon finally said, without opening his eyes. “Are you okay?”
A tremulous, disembodied voice replied somewhere up ahead. “Robert, the pyramid you’re carrying. It’s Peter’s, isn’t it?”
“Yes,” Langdon replied.
A long silence followed. “I think… that pyramid is why my mother was murdered.”
Langdon was well aware that Isabel Solomon had been murdered ten years ago, but he didn’t know the details, and Peter had never mentioned anything about a pyramid. “What are you talking about?”
Katherine’s voice filled with emotion as she recounted the harrowing events of that night, how the tattooed man had broken into their estate. “It was a long time ago, but I’ll never forget that he demanded a pyramid. He said he heard about the pyramid in prison, from my nephew, Zachary… right before he killed him.”
Langdon listened in amazement. The tragedy within the Solomon family was almost beyond belief. Katherine continued, telling Langdon that she had always believed the intruder was killed that night… that is, until this same man had resurfaced today, posing as Peter’s psychiatrist and luring Katherine to his home. “He knew private things about my brother, my mother’s death, and even my work,” she said anxiously, “things he could only have learned from my brother. And so I trusted him… and that’s how he got inside the Smithsonian Museum Support Center.” Katherine took a deep breath and told Langdon she was nearly certain the man had destroyed her lab tonight.
Langdon listened in utter shock. For several moments, the two of them lay together in silence on the moving conveyor. Langdon knew he had an obligation to share with Katherine the rest of tonight’s terrible news. He began slowly, and as gently as he possibly could he told her how her brother had entrusted him with a small package years earlier, how Langdon had been tricked into bringing this package to Washington tonight, and finally, about her brother’s hand having been found in the Rotunda of the Capitol Building.
Katherine’s reaction was deafening silence.
Langdon could tell she was reeling, and he wished he could reach out and comfort her, but lying end to end in the narrow blackness made it impossible. “Peter’s okay,” he whispered. “He’s alive, and we’ll get him back.” Langdon tried to give her hope. “Katherine, his captor promised me your brother would be returned alive… as long as I decipher the pyramid for him.”
Still Katherine said nothing.
Langdon kept talking. He told her about the stone pyramid, its Masonic cipher, the sealed capstone, and, of course, about Bellamy’s claims that this pyramid was in fact the Masonic Pyramid of legend… a map that revealed the hiding place of a long spiral staircase that led deep into the earth… down hundreds of feet to a mystical ancient treasure that had been buried in Washington long ago.
Katherine finally spoke, but her voice was flat and emotionless. “Robert, open your eyes.”
Open my eyes? Langdon had no desire to have even the slightest glimpse of how cramped this space really was.
“Robert!” Katherine demanded, urgently now. “Open your eyes! We’re here!”
Langdon’s eyes flew open as his body emerged through an opening similar to the one it had entered at the other end. Katherine was already climbing off the conveyor belt. She lifted his daybag off the belt as Langdon swung his legs over the edge and jumped down onto the tile floor just in time, before the conveyor turned the corner and headed back the way it came. The space around them was a circulation room much like the one they had come from in the other building. A small sign read ADAMS BUILDING: CIRCULATION ROOM 3.
Langdon felt like he had just emerged from some kind of subterranean birth canal. Born again. He turned immediately to Katherine. “Are you okay?”
Her eyes were red, and she had obviously been crying, but she nodded with a resolute stoicism. She picked up Langdon’s daybag and carried it across the room without a word, setting it on a cluttered desk. She lit the desk’s halogen clamp lamp, unzipped the bag, folded down the sides, and peered inside.
The granite pyramid looked almost austere in the clean halogen light. Katherine ran her fingers over the engraved Masonic cipher, and Langdon sensed deep emotion churning within her. Slowly, she reached into the daybag and pulled out the cube-shaped package. She held it under the light, examining it closely.
“As you can see,” Langdon quietly said, “the wax seal is embossed with Peter’s Masonic ring. He said this ring was used to seal the package more than a century ago.”
Katherine said nothing.
“When your brother entrusted the package to me,” Langdon told her, “he said it would give me the power to create order out of chaos. I’m not entirely sure what that means, but I’ve got to assume the capstone reveals something important, because Peter was insistent that it not fall into the wrong hands. Mr. Bellamy just told me the same thing, urging me to hide the pyramid and not let anyone open the package.”
Katherine turned now, looking angry. “Bellamy told you not to open the package?”
“Yes. He was adamant.”
Katherine looked incredulous. “But you said this capstone is the only way we can decipher the pyramid, right?”
Katherine’s voice was rising now. “And you said deciphering the pyramid is what you were told to do. It’s the only way we can get Peter back, right?”
“Then, Robert, why wouldn’t we open the package and decipher this thing right now?!”
Langdon didn’t know how to respond. “Katherine, I had the same exact reaction, and yet Bellamy told me that keeping this pyramid’s secret intact was more important than anything… including your brother’s life.”
Katherine’s pretty features hardened, and she tucked a wisp of hair behind her ears. When she spoke, her voice was resolved. “This stone pyramid, whatever it is, has cost me my entire family. First my nephew, Zachary, then my mother, and now my brother. And let’s face it, Robert, if you hadn’t called tonight to warn me…”
Langdon could feel himself trapped between Katherine’s logic and Bellamy’s steadfast urging.
“I may be a scientist,” she said, “but I also come from a family of well-known Masons. Believe me, I’ve heard all the stories about the Masonic Pyramid and its promise of some great treasure that will enlighten mankind. Honestly, I find it hard to imagine such a thing exists. However, if it does exist… perhaps it’s time to unveil it.” Katherine slid a finger beneath the old twine on the package.
Langdon jumped. “Katherine, no! Wait!”
She paused, but her finger remained beneath the string. “Robert, I’m not going to let my brother die for this. Whatever this capstone says… whatever lost treasures this engraving might reveal… those secrets end tonight.”
With that, Katherine yanked defiantly on the twine, and the brittle wax seal exploded.
In a quiet neighborhood just west of Embassy Row in Washington, there exists a medieval-style walled garden whose roses, it is said, spring from twelfth-century plants. The garden’s Carderock gazebo — known as Shadow House — sits elegantly amid meandering pathways of stones dug from George Washington’s private quarry.
Tonight the silence of the gardens was broken by a young man who rushed through the wooden gate, shouting as he came.
“Hello?” he called out, straining to see in the moonlight. “Are you in here?”
The voice that replied was frail, barely audible. “In the gazebo… just taking some air.”
The young man found his withered superior seated on the stone bench beneath a blanket. The hunched old man was tiny, with elfin features. The years had bent him in two and stolen his eyesight, but his soul remained a force to be reckoned with.
Catching his breath, the young man told him, “I just… took a call… from your friend… Warren Bellamy.”
“Oh?” The old man perked up. “About what?”
“He didn’t say, but he sounded like he was in a big hurry. He told me he left you a message on your voice mail, which you need to listen to right away.”
“That’s all he said?”
“Not quite.” The young man paused. “He told me to ask you a question.” A very strange question. “He said he needed your response right away.”
The old man leaned closer. “What question?”
As the young man spoke Mr. Bellamy’s question, the pall that crossed the old man’s face was visible even in the moonlight. Immediately, he threw off his blanket and began struggling to his feet.
“Please help me inside. Right away.”
No more secrets, thought Katherine Solomon.
On the table in front of her, the wax seal that had been intact for generations now lay in pieces. She finished removing the faded brown paper from her brother’s precious package. Beside her, Langdon looked decidedly uneasy.
From within the paper, Katherine extracted a small box made of gray stone. Resembling a polished granite cube, the box had no hinges, no latch, and no apparent way inside. It reminded Katherine of a Chinese puzzle box.
“It looks like a solid block,” she said, running her fingers over the edges. “Are you sure the X-ray showed it was hollow? With a capstone inside?”
“It did,” Langdon said, moving next to Katherine and scrutinizing the mysterious box. He and Katherine peered at the box from different angles, attempting to find a way in.
“Got it,” Katherine said as her fingernail located the hidden slit along one of the box’s top edges. She set the box down on the desk and then carefully pried open the lid, which rose smoothly, like the top of a fine jewelry box.
When the lid fell back, Langdon and Katherine both drew audible breaths. The interior of the box seemed to be glowing. The inside was shining with an almost supernatural effulgence. Katherine had never seen a piece of gold this large, and it took her an instant to realize that the precious metal was simply reflecting the radiance of the desk lamp.
“It’s spectacular,” she whispered. Despite being sealed in a dark stone cube for over a century, the capstone had not faded or tarnished in any way. Gold resists the entropic laws of decay; that’s one of the reasons the ancients considered it magical. Katherine felt her pulse quicken as she leaned forward, peering down over the small golden point. “There’s an inscription.”
Langdon moved closer, their shoulders now touching. His blue eyes flashed with curiosity. He had told Katherine about the ancient Greek practice of creating a symbolon — a code broken into parts — and how this capstone, long separated from the pyramid itself, would hold the key to deciphering the pyramid. Allegedly, this inscription, whatever it said, would bring order from this chaos.
Katherine held the little box up to the light and peered straight down over the capstone.
Though small, the inscription was perfectly visible — a small bit of elegantly engraved text on the face of one side. Katherine read the six simple words.
Then she read them again.
“No!” she declared. “That can’t be what it says!”
Across the street, Director Sato hurried up the long walkway outside the Capitol Building toward her rendezvous point on First Street. The update from her field team had been unacceptable. No Langdon. No pyramid. No capstone. Bellamy was in custody, but he was not telling them the truth. At least not yet.
I’ll make him talk.
She glanced back over her shoulder at one of Washington’s newest vistas — the Capitol Dome framed above the new visitor center. The illuminated dome only accentuated the significance of what was truly at stake tonight. Dangerous times.
Sato was relieved to hear her cell phone ring and see her analyst’s ID on the screen.
“Nola,” Sato answered. “What have you got?”
Nola Kaye gave her the bad news. The X-ray of the capstone’s inscription was too faint to read, and the image-enhancing filters had not helped. Shit. Sato chewed at her lip. “How about the sixteen-letter grid?”
“I’m still trying,” Nola said, “but so far I’ve found no secondary encryption scheme that’s applicable. I’ve got a computer reshuffling the letters in the grid and looking for anything identifiable, but there are over twenty trillion possibilities.”
“Stay on it. Let me know.” Sato hung up, scowling. Her hopes of deciphering the pyramid using only a photograph and X-ray were fading fast. I need that pyramid and capstone… and I’m running out of time.
Sato arrived at First Street just as a black Escalade SUV with dark windows