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The man driving the SUV replied with equal authority. “CIA investigation… national security…” Apparently the exchange of words and IDs was persuasive, because the tone shifted immediately.
“Yes, of course… service entrance…” There was the loud grinding of what sounded like a garage door, and as it opened, the voice added, “Shall I accompany you? Once you’re inside, you won’t be able to get through —”
“No. We have access already.”
If the guard was surprised, it was too late. The SUV was moving again. It advanced about fifty yards and then came to a stop. The heavy door rumbled closed again behind them.
Bellamy realized he was trembling.
With a bang, the SUV’s rear hatch flew open. Bellamy felt a sharp pain in his shoulders as someone dragged him out by his arms, then lifted him to his feet. Without a word, a powerful force led him across a wide expanse of pavement. There was a strange, earthy smell here that he could not place. There were footsteps of someone else walking with them, but whoever it was had yet to speak.
They stopped at a door, and Bellamy heard an electronic ping. The door clicked open. Bellamy was manhandled through several corridors and could not help but notice that the air was warmer and more humid.
An indoor pool, maybe? No. The smell in the air was not chlorine… it was far more earthy and primal.
Where the hell are we?! Bellamy knew he could not be more than a block or two from the Capitol Building. Again they stopped, and again he heard the electronic beep of a security door. This one slid open with a hiss. As they pushed him through, the smell that hit him was unmistakable.
Bellamy now realized where they were. My God! He came here often, although never through the service entrance. This magnificent glass building was only three hundred yards from the Capitol Building and was technically part of the Capitol Complex. I run this place! Bellamy now realized it was his own key fob that was giving them access.
Powerful arms pushed him through the doorway, leading him down a familiar, winding walkway. The heavy, damp warmth of this place usually felt comforting to him. Tonight, he was sweating.
What are we doing here?!
Bellamy was halted suddenly and seated on a bench. The man with the muscles unhooked his handcuffs only long enough to reaffix them to the bench behind his back.
“What do you want from me?” Bellamy demanded, heart pounding wildly.
The only response he received was the sound of boots walking off and the glass door sliding shut.
They’re just going to leave me here? Bellamy was sweating more heavily now as he struggled to release his hands. I can’t even take off my blindfold?
“Help!” he shouted. “Anybody!”
Even as he called out in panic, Bellamy knew nobody was going to hear him. This massive glass room — known as the Jungle — was entirely airtight when the doors were closed.
They left me in the Jungle, he thought. Nobody will find me until morning.
Then he heard it.
The sound was barely audible, but it terrified Bellamy like no sound he had ever heard in his life. Something breathing. Very close.
He was not alone on the bench.
The sudden hiss of a sulfur match sizzled so close to his face that he could feel the heat. Bellamy recoiled, instinctively yanking hard at his chains.
Then, without warning, a hand was on his face, removing his blindfold.
The flame before him reflected in the black eyes of Inoue Sato as she pressed the match against the cigarette dangling from her lips, only inches away from Bellamy’s face.
She glared at him in the moonlight that filtered down through the glass ceiling. She looked pleased to see his fear.
“So, Mr. Bellamy,” Sato said, shaking out the match. “Where shall we begin?”
A magic square. Katherine nodded as she eyed the numbered square in Dürer’s engraving. Most people would have thought Langdon had lost his mind, but Katherine had quickly realized he was right.
The term magic square referred not to something mystical but to something mathematical — it was the name given to a grid of consecutive numbers arranged in such a way that all the rows, columns, and diagonals added up to the same thing. Created some four thousand years ago by mathematicians in Egypt and India, magic squares were still believed by some to hold magical powers. Katherine had read that even nowadays devout Indians drew special three-by-three magic squares called the Kubera Kolam on their pooja altars. Primarily, though, modern man had relegated magic squares to the category of “recreational mathematics,” some people still deriving pleasure from the quest to discover new “magical” configurations. Sudoku for geniuses.
Katherine quickly analyzed Dürer’s square, adding up the numbers in several rows and columns.
“Thirty-four,” she said. “Every direction adds up to thirty-four.”
“Exactly,” Langdon said. “But did you know that this magic square is famous because Dürer accomplished the seemingly impossible?” He quickly showed Katherine that in addition to making the rows, columns, and diagonals add up to thirty-four, Dürer had also found a way to make the four quadrants, the four center squares, and even the four corner squares add up to that number. “Most amazing, though, was Dürer’s ability to position the numbers 15 and 14 together in the bottom row as an indication of the year in which he accomplished this incredible feat!”
Katherine scanned the numbers, amazed by all the combinations.
Langdon’s tone grew more excited now. “Extraordinarily, Melencolia I represents the very first time in history that a magic square appeared in European art. Some historians believe this was Dürer’s encoded way of indicating that the Ancient Mysteries had traveled outside the Egyptian Mystery Schools and were now held by the European secret societies.” Langdon paused. “Which brings us back to… this.”
He motioned to the slip of paper bearing the grid of letters from the stone pyramid.
“I assume the layout looks familiar now?” Langdon asked.
Langdon picked up the pencil and carefully transcribed Dürer’s numbered magic square onto the slip of paper, directly beside the lettered square. Katherine was now seeing just how easy this was going to be. He stood poised, pencil in hand, and yet… strangely, after all this enthusiasm, he seemed to hesitate.
He turned to her, his expression one of trepidation. “Are you sure we want to do this? Peter expressly —”
“Robert, if you don’t want to decipher this engraving, then I will.” She held out her hand for the pencil.
Langdon could tell there would be no deterring her and so he acquiesced, turning his attention back to the pyramid. Carefully, he superimposed the magic square over the pyramid’s grid of letters and assigned each letter a number. Then he created a new grid, placing the Masonic cipher’s letters in the new order as defined by the sequence in Dürer’s magic square.
When Langdon was finished, they both examined the result.
Katherine immediately felt confused. “It’s still gibberish.”
Langdon remained silent a long moment. “Actually, Katherine, it’s not gibberish.” His eyes brightened again with the thrill of discovery. “It’s… Latin.”
In a long, dark corridor, an old blind man shuffled as quickly as he could toward his office. When he finally arrived, he collapsed in his desk chair, his old bones grateful for the reprieve. His answering machine was beeping. He pressed the button and listened.
“It’s Warren Bellamy,” said the hushed whisper of his friend and Masonic brother. “I’m afraid I have alarming news…”
Katherine Solomon’s eyes shot back to the grid of letters, reexamining the text. Sure enough, a Latin word now materialized before her eyes. Jeova.
Katherine had not studied Latin, but this word was familiar from her reading of ancient Hebrew texts. Jeova. Jehovah. As her eyes continued to trace downward, reading the grid like a book, she was surprised to realize she could read the entire text of the pyramid.
Jeova Sanctus Unus.
She knew its meaning at once. This phrase was ubiquitous in modern translations of Hebrew scripture. In the Torah, the God of the Hebrews was known by many names — Jeova, Jehovah, Jeshua, Yahweh, the Source, the Elohim — but many Roman translations had consolidated the confusing nomenclature into a single Latin phrase: Jeova Sanctus Unus.
“One true God?” she whispered to herself. The phrase certainly did not seem like something that would help them find her brother. “That’s this pyramid’s secret message? One true God? I thought this was a map.”
Langdon looked equally perplexed, the excitement in his eyes evaporating. “This decryption obviously is correct, but…”
“The man who has my brother wants to know a location.” She tucked her hair behind her ear. “This is not going to make him very happy.”
“Katherine,” Langdon said, heaving a sigh. “I’ve been afraid of this. All night, I’ve had a feeling we’re treating as reality a collection of myths and allegories. Maybe this inscription is pointing to a metaphorical location — telling us that the true potential of man can be accessed only through the one true God.”
“But that makes no sense!” Katherine replied, her jaw now clenched in frustration. “My family protected this pyramid for generations! One true God? That’s the secret? And the CIA considers this an issue of national security? Either they’re lying or we’re missing something!”
Langdon shrugged in accord.
Just then, his phone began to ring.
In a cluttered office lined with old books, the old man hunched over his desk, clutching a phone receiver in his arthritic hand.
The line rang and rang.
At last, a tentative voice answered. “Hello?” The voice was deep but uncertain.
The old man whispered, “I was told you require sanctuary.”
The man on the line seemed startled. “Who is this? Did Warren Bell —”
“No names, please,” the old man said. “Tell me, have you successfully protected the map that was entrusted to you?”
A startled pause. “Yes… but I don’t think it matters. It doesn’t say much. If it is a map, it seems to be more metaphorical than —”
“No, the map is quite real, I assure you. And it points to a very real location. You must keep it safe. I cannot impress upon you enough how important this is. You are being pursued, but if you can travel unseen to my location, I will provide sanctuary… and answers.”
The man hesitated, apparently uncertain.
“My friend,” the old man began, choosing his words carefully. “There is a refuge in Rome, north of the Tiber, which contains ten stones from Mount Sinai, one from heaven itself, and one with the visage of Luke’s dark father. Do you know my location?”
There was a long pause on the line, and then the man replied, “Yes, I do.”
The old man smiled. I thought you might, Professor. “Come at once. Make sure you’re not followed.”
Mal’akh stood naked in the billowing warmth of his steam shower. He felt pure again, having washed off the last remaining scent of ethanol. As the eucalyptus-infused vapors permeated his skin, he could feel his pores opening to the heat. Then he began his ritual.
First, he rubbed depilatory chemicals across his tattooed body and scalp, removing any traces of body hair. Hairless were the gods of the seven islands of Heliades. Then he massaged Abramelin oil into his softened and receptive flesh. Abramelin is the sacred oil of the great Magi. Then he turned his shower lever hard to the left, and the water turned ice cold. He stood beneath the frigid water for a full minute to close his pores and trap the heat and energy within his core. The cold served as a reminder of the icy river in which this transformation had begun.
When he stepped from the shower, he was shivering, but within seconds, his core heat emanated up through his layers of flesh and warmed him. Mal’akh’s insides felt like a furnace. He stood naked before the mirror and admired his form… perhaps the last time he would see himself as a mere mortal.
His feet were the talons of a hawk. His legs — Boaz and Jachin — were the ancient pillars of wisdom. His hips and abdomen were the archways of mystical power. Hanging beneath the archway, his massive sex organ bore the tattooed symbols of his destiny. In another life, this heavy shaft of flesh had been his source of carnal pleasure. But no longer.
I have been purified.
Like the mystical eunuch monks of Katharoi, Mal’akh had removed his testicles. He had sacrificed his physical potency for a more worthy one. Gods have no gender. Having shed the human imperfection of gender along with the earthly pull of sexual temptation, Mal’akh had become like Ouranos, Attis, Sporus, and the great castrati magicians of Arthurian legend. Every spiritual metamorphosis is preceded by a physical one. Such was the lesson of all the great gods… from Osiris, to Tammuz, to Jesus, to Shiva, to the Buddha himself.
I must shed the man who clothes me.
Abruptly, Mal’akh drew his gaze upward, past the double-headed phoenix on his chest, past the collage of ancient sigils adorning his face, and directly to the top of his head. He tipped his head toward the mirror, barely able to see the circle of bare flesh that waited there. This location on the body was sacred. Known as the fontanel, it was the one area of the human skull that remained open at birth. An oculus to the brain. Although this physiological portal closes within a matter of months, it remains a symbolic vestige of the lost connection between the outer and inner worlds.
Mal’akh studied the sacred patch of virginal skin, which was enclosed by the crownlike circle of an ouroboros — a mystical snake devouring its own tail. The bare flesh seemed to stare back at him… bright with promise.
Robert Langdon soon would uncover the great treasure that Mal’akh required. Once Mal’akh possessed it, the void on top of his head would be filled, and he would at last be prepared for his final transformation.
Mal’akh padded across his bedroom and took from his bottom drawer a long strip of white silk. As he had done many times before, he wrapped it around his groin and buttocks. Then he went downstairs.
In his office, his computer had received an e-mail message.
It was from his contact:
WHAT YOU REQUIRE IS NOW WITHIN REACH. I WILL CONTACT YOU WITHIN THE HOUR. PATIENCE.
Mal’akh smiled. It was time to make final preparations.
The CIA field agent was in a foul mood as he descended from the reading-room balcony. Bellamy lied to us. The agent had seen no heat signatures whatsoever upstairs near the Moses statue, nor anywhere else upstairs for that matter.
So where the hell did Langdon go?
The agent retraced his steps now to the only place they’d spotted any heat signatures at all — the library’s distribution hub. He descended the stairs again, moving beneath the octagonal console. The noise of the rumbling conveyors was grating. Advancing into the space, he flipped down his thermal goggles and scanned the room. Nothing. He looked toward the stacks, where the mangled door still showed hot from the explosion. Other than that, he saw no —
The agent jumped back as an unexpected luminescence drifted into his field of vision. Like a pair of ghosts, the dimly glowing imprints of two humanoids had just emerged from the wall on a conveyor belt. Heat signatures.
Stunned, the agent watched as the two apparitions circled the room on the conveyor loop and then disappeared headfirst into a narrow hole in the wall. They rode the conveyor out? That’s insanity.
In addition to realizing they had just lost Robert Langdon through a hole in the wall, the field agent was now aware that he had another problem. Langdon’s not alone?
He was just about to switch on his transceiver and call the team leader, but the team leader beat him to it.
“All points, we’ve got an abandoned Volvo on the plaza in front of the library. Registered to one Katherine Solomon. Eyewitness says she entered the library not long ago. We suspect she’s with Robert Langdon. Director Sato has ordered that we find them both immediately.”
“I’ve got heat signatures for both of them!” shouted the field agent in the distribution room. He explained the situation.
“For Christ’s sake!” the team leader replied. “Where the hell does the conveyor go?”
The field agent was already consulting the employee reference schematic on the bulletin board. “Adams Building,” he replied. “One block from here.”
“All points. Redirect to the Adams Building! NOW!”
The words echoed in Langdon’s mind as he and Katherine burst through a side door of the Adams Building and out into the cold winter night. The mysterious caller had conveyed his location cryptically, but Langdon had understood. Katherine’s reaction to their destination had been surprisingly sanguine: Where better to find One True God?
Now the question was how to get there.
Langdon spun in place, trying to get his bearings. It was dark, but thankfully the weather had cleared. They were standing in a small courtyard. In the distance, the Capitol Dome looked startlingly far away, and Langdon realized this was the first moment he had stepped outside since arriving at the Capitol several hours ago.
So much for my lecture.
“Robert, look.” Katherine pointed toward the silhouette of the Jefferson Building.
Langdon’s first reaction on seeing the building was astonishment that they had traveled so far underground on a conveyor belt. His second reaction, however, was alarm. The Jefferson Building was now abuzz with activity — trucks and cars pulling in, men shouting. Is that a searchlight?
Langdon grabbed Katherine’s hand. “Come on.”
They ran northeast across the courtyard, quickly disappearing from view behind an elegant U-shaped building, which Langdon realized was the Folger Shakespeare Library. This particular building seemed appropriate camouflage for them tonight, as it housed the original Latin manuscript of Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis, the utopian vision on which the American forefathers had allegedly modeled a new world based on ancient knowledge. Even so, Langdon would not be stopping.
We need a cab.