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roared across the double yellow and skidded to a stop in front of her at their rendezvous point. A lone agent got out.
“Any word yet on Langdon?” Sato demanded.
“Confidence is high,” the man said, emotionless. “Backup just arrived. All library exits are surrounded. We even have air support coming in. We’ll flush him with tear gas, and he’ll have nowhere to run.”
“Tied up in the backseat.”
Good. Her shoulder was still smarting.
The agent handed Sato a plastic Ziploc bag containing cell phone, keys, and wallet. “Bellamy’s effects.”
“No, ma’am. The pyramid and package must still be with Langdon.”
“Okay,” Sato said. “Bellamy knows plenty he’s not telling. I’d like to question him personally.”
“Yes, ma’am. To Langley, then?”
Sato took a deep breath and paced a moment beside the SUV. Strict protocols governed the interrogation of U.S. civilians, and questioning Bellamy was highly illegal unless it was done at Langley on video with witnesses, attorneys, blah, blah, blah… “Not Langley,” she said, trying to think of somewhere closer. And more private.
The agent said nothing, standing at attention beside the idling SUV, waiting for orders.
Sato lit a cigarette, took a long drag, and gazed down at the Ziploc bag of Bellamy’s items. His key ring, she had noticed, included an electronic fob adorned with four letters — USBG. Sato knew, of course, which government building this fob accessed. The building was very close and, at this hour, very private.
She smiled and pocketed the fob. Perfect.
When she told the agent where she wanted to take Bellamy, she expected the man to look surprised, but he simply nodded and opened the passenger door for her, his cold stare revealing nothing.
Sato loved professionals.
Langdon stood in the basement of the Adams Building and stared in disbelief at the elegantly inscribed words on the face of the golden capstone.
That’s all it says?
Beside him, Katherine held the capstone under the light and shook her head. “There’s got to be more,” she insisted, sounding cheated. “This is what my brother has been protecting all these years?”
Langdon had to admit he was mystified. According to Peter and Bellamy, this capstone was supposed to help them decipher the stone pyramid. In light of those claims, Langdon had expected something illuminating and helpful. More like obvious and useless. Once again, he read the six words delicately inscribed on the face of the capstone.
within The Order
The secret hides within The Order?
At first glance, the inscription appeared to be stating the obvious — that the letters on the pyramid were out of “order” and that their secret lay in finding their proper sequence. This reading, however, in addition to being self-evident, seemed unlikely for another reason. “The words the and order are capitalized,” Langdon said.
Katherine nodded blankly. “I saw that.”
The secret hides within The Order. Langdon could think of only one logical implication. “ ‘The Order’ must be referencing the Masonic Order.”
“I agree,” Katherine said, “but it’s still no help. It tells us nothing.”
Langdon had to concur. After all, the entire story of the Masonic Pyramid revolved around a secret hidden within the Masonic Order.
“Robert, didn’t my brother tell you this capstone would give you power to see order where others saw only chaos?”
He nodded in frustration. For the second time tonight, Robert Langdon was feeling unworthy.
Once Mal’akh had finished dealing with his unexpected visitor — a female security guard from Preferred Security — he fixed the paint on the window through which she had glimpsed his sacred work space.
Now, ascending out of the soft blue haze of the basement, he emerged through a hidden doorway into his living room. Inside, he paused, admiring his spectacular painting of the Three Graces and savoring the familiar smells and sounds of his home.
Soon I will be leaving forever. Mal’akh knew that after tonight he would be unable to return to this place. After tonight, he thought, smiling, I will have no need for this place.
He wondered if Robert Langdon yet understood the true power of the pyramid… or the importance of the role for which fate had chosen him. Langdon has yet to call me, Mal’akh thought, after double-checking for messages on his disposable phone. It was now 10:02 P.M. He has less than two hours.
Mal’akh went upstairs to his Italian-marble bathroom and turned on the steam shower to let it heat up. Methodically, he stripped off his clothes, eager to begin his cleansing ritual.
He drank two glasses of water to calm his starving stomach. Then he walked to the full-length mirror and studied his naked body. His two days of fasting had accentuated his musculature, and he could not help but admire that which he had become. By dawn, I will be so much more.
“We should get out of here,” Langdon said to Katherine. “It’s only a matter of time before they figure out where we are.” He hoped Bellamy had managed to escape.
Katherine still seemed fixated on the gold capstone, looking incredulous that the inscription was so unhelpful. She had taken the capstone out of the box, examined every side, and was now carefully putting it back in the box.
The secret hides within The Order, Langdon thought. Big help.
Langdon found himself wondering now if perhaps Peter had been misinformed about the contents of the box. This pyramid and capstone had been created long before Peter was born, and Peter was simply doing as his forefathers had told him, keeping a secret that was probably as much a mystery to him as it was to Langdon and Katherine.
What did I expect? Langdon wondered. The more he learned tonight about the Legend of the Masonic Pyramid, the less plausible it all seemed. I’m searching for a hidden spiral staircase covered by a huge stone? Something told Langdon he was chasing shadows. Nonetheless, deciphering this pyramid seemed his best chance at saving Peter.
“Robert, does the year 1514 mean anything to you?”
Fifteen-fourteen? The question seemed apropos of nothing. Langdon shrugged. “No. Why?”
Katherine handed him the stone box. “Look. The box is dated. Have a look under the light.”
Langdon took a seat at the desk and studied the cube-shaped box beneath the light. Katherine put a soft hand on his shoulder, leaning in to point out the tiny text she had found carved on the exterior of the box, near the bottom corner of one side.
“Fifteen-fourteen A.D.,” she said, pointing into the box.
Sure enough, the carving depicted the number 1514, followed by an unusual stylization of the letters A and D.
“This date,” Katherine was saying, sounding suddenly hopeful, “maybe it’s the link we’re missing? This dated cube looks a lot like a Masonic cornerstone, so maybe it’s pointing to a real cornerstone? Maybe to a building built in 1514 A.D.?”
Langdon barely heard her.
Fifteen-fourteen A.D. is not a date.
The symbol , as any scholar of medieval art would recognize, was a well-known symbature — a symbol used in place of a signature. Many of the early philosophers, artists, and authors signed their work with their own unique symbol or monogram rather than their name. This practice added a mysterious allure to their work and also protected them from persecution should their writings or artwork be deemed counterestablishment.
In the case of this symbature, the letters A.D. did not stand for Anno Domini… they were German for something else entirely.
Langdon instantly saw all the pieces fall into place. Within seconds, he was certain he knew exactly how to decipher the pyramid. “Katherine, you did it,” he said, packing up. “That’s all we needed. Let’s go. I’ll explain on the way.”
Katherine looked amazed. “The date 1514 A.D. actually means something to you?”
Langdon winked at her and headed for the door. “A.D. isn’t a date, Katherine. It’s a person.”
West of Embassy Row, all was silent again inside the walled garden with its twelfth-century roses and Shadow House gazebo. On the other side of an entry road, the young man was helping his hunched superior walk across an expansive lawn.
He’s letting me guide him?
Normally, the blind old man refused help, preferring to navigate by memory alone while on the grounds of his sanctuary. Tonight, however, he was apparently in a hurry to get inside and return Warren Bellamy’s phone call.
“Thank you,” the old man said as they entered the building that held his private study. “I can find my way from here.”
“Sir, I would be happy to stay and help —”
“That’s all for tonight,” he said, letting go of his helper’s arm and shuffling hurriedly off into the darkness. “Good night.”
The young man exited the building and walked back across the great lawn to his modest dwelling on the grounds. By the time he entered his flat, he could feel his curiosity gnawing at him. The old man clearly had been upset by the question posed by Mr. Bellamy… and yet the question had seemed strange, almost meaningless.
Is there no help for the widow’s son?
In his wildest imagination, he could not guess what this could mean. Puzzled, he went to his computer and typed in a search for this precise phrase.
To his great surprise, page after page of references appeared, all citing this exact question. He read the information in wonderment. It seemed Warren Bellamy was not the first person in history to ask this strange question. These same words had been uttered centuries ago… by King Solomon as he mourned a murdered friend. The question was allegedly still spoken today by Masons, who used it as a kind of encoded cry for help. Warren Bellamy, it seemed, was sending a distress call to a fellow Mason.
Katherine was trying to put the pieces together as she hurried with Langdon through the basement of the Adams Building. A.D. stands for Albrecht Dürer? The famous sixteenth-century German engraver and painter was one of her brother’s favorite artists, and Katherine was vaguely familiar with his work. Even so, she could not imagine how Dürer would be any help to them in this case. For one thing, he’s been dead more than four hundred years.
“Dürer is symbolically perfect,” Langdon was saying as they followed the trail of illuminated EXIT signs. “He was the ultimate Renaissance mind — artist, philosopher, alchemist, and a lifelong student of the Ancient Mysteries. To this day, nobody fully understands the messages hidden in Dürer’s art.”
“That may be true,” she said. “But how does ‘1514 Albrecht Dürer’ explain how to decipher the pyramid?” They reached a locked door, and Langdon used Bellamy’s key card to get through.
“The number 1514,” Langdon said as they hurried up the stairs, “is pointing us to a very specific piece of Dürer’s work.” They came into a huge corridor. Langdon glanced around and then pointed left. “This way.” They moved quickly again. “Albrecht Dürer actually hid the number 1514 in his most mysterious piece of art — Melencolia I — which he completed in the year 1514. It’s considered the seminal work of the Northern European Renaissance.”
Peter had once shown Katherine Melencolia I in an old book on ancient mysticism, but she didn’t recall any hidden number 1514.
“As you may know,” Langdon said, sounding excited, “Melencolia I depicts mankind’s struggle to comprehend the Ancient Mysteries. The symbolism in Melencolia I is so complex it makes Leonardo da Vinci look overt.”
Katherine stopped abruptly and looked at Langdon. “Robert, Melencolia I is here in Washington. It hangs in the National Gallery.”
“Yes,” he said with a smile, “and something tells me that’s not a coincidence. The gallery is closed at this hour, but I know the curator and —”
“Forget it, Robert, I know what happens when you go to museums.” Katherine headed off into a nearby alcove, where she saw a desk with a computer.
Langdon followed, looking unhappy.
“Let’s do this the easier way.” It seemed Professor Langdon, the art connoisseur, was having an ethical dilemma about using the Internet when an original was so nearby. Katherine stepped behind the desk and powered up the computer. When the machine finally came to life, she realized she had another problem. “There’s no icon for a browser.”
“It’s an internal library network.” Langdon pointed to an icon on the desktop. “Try that.”
Katherine clicked on the icon marked DIGITAL COLLECTIONS. The computer accessed a new screen, and Langdon pointed again. Katherine clicked on his choice of icon: FINE PRINTS COLLECTION. The screen refreshed. FINE PRINTS: SEARCH.
“Type in ‘Albrecht Dürer.’ ”
Katherine entered the name and then clicked the search key. Within seconds, the screen began displaying a series of thumbnail images. All of the images looked to be similar in style — intricate black-and-white engravings. Dürer had apparently done dozens of similar engravings.
Katherine scanned the alphabetical list of his artwork.
Adam and Eve
Betrayal of Christ
Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
Seeing all the biblical titles, Katherine recalled that Dürer practiced something called Mystic Christianity — a fusion of early Christianity, alchemy, astrology, and science.
The image of her lab in flames rushed through her mind. She could barely process the long-term ramifications, but for the moment, her thoughts turned to her assistant, Trish. I hope she made it out.
Langdon was saying something about Dürer’s version of the Last Supper, but Katherine was barely listening. She had just seen the link for Melencolia I.
She clicked the mouse, and the page refreshed with general information.
Melencolia I, 1514
(engraving on laid paper)
National Gallery of Art
When she scrolled down, a high-res digital image of Dürer’s masterpiece appeared in all its glory.
Katherine stared in bewilderment, having forgotten just how strange it was.
Langdon gave an understanding chuckle. “As I said, it’s cryptic.”
Melencolia I consisted of a brooding figure with giant wings, seated in front of a stone building, surrounded by the most disparate and bizarre collection of objects imaginable — measuring scales, an emaciated dog, carpenter’s tools, an hourglass, various geometric solids, a hanging bell, a putto, a blade, a ladder.
Katherine vaguely recalled her brother telling her that the winged figure was a representation of “human genius” — a great thinker with chin in hand, looking depressed, still unable to achieve enlightenment. The genius is surrounded with all of the symbols of his human intellect — objects of science, math, philosophy, nature, geometry, even carpentry — and yet is still unable to climb the ladder to true enlightenment. Even the human genius has difficulty comprehending the Ancient Mysteries.
“Symbolically,” Langdon said, “this represents mankind’s failed attempt to transform human intellect into godlike power. In alchemical terms, it represents our inability to turn lead into gold.”
“Not a particularly encouraging message,” Katherine agreed. “So how does it help us?” She did not see the hidden number 1514 that Langdon was talking about.
“Order from chaos,” Langdon said, flashing a lopsided grin. “Just as your brother promised.” He reached in his pocket and pulled out the grid of letters he had written earlier from the Masonic cipher. “Right now, this grid is meaningless.” He spread the paper out on the desk.
Katherine eyed the grid. Definitely meaningless.
“But Dürer will transform it.”
“And how might he do that?”
“Linguistic alchemy.” Langdon motioned to the computer screen. “Look carefully. Hidden in this masterpiece is something that will make sense of our sixteen letters.” He waited. “Do you see it yet? Look for the number 1514.”
Katherine was in no mood to play classroom. “Robert, I see nothing — an orb, a ladder, a knife, a polyhedron, a scale? I give up.”
“Look! There in the background. Carved into that building behind the angel? Beneath the bell? Dürer engraved a square that is full of numbers.”
Katherine now saw the square that contained numbers, among them 1514.
“Katherine, that square is the key to deciphering the pyramid!”
She shot him a surprised look. “That’s not just any square,” Langdon said, grinning. “That, Ms. Solomon, is a magic square.”
Where the hell are they taking me?
Bellamy was still blindfolded in the back of an SUV. After a short stop somewhere close to the Library of Congress, the vehicle had continued on… but only for a minute. Now the SUV had stopped again, having again traveled only about a block.
Bellamy heard muffled voices talking.
“Sorry… impossible…” an authoritative voice was saying. “… closed at this hour…”