1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49
They arrived at the corner of Third Street and East Capitol. The traffic was sparse, and Langdon felt fading hope as he scanned for taxis. He and Katherine hurried northward on Third Street, putting distance between themselves and the Library of Congress. It was not until they had gone an entire block that Langdon finally spotted a cab rounding the corner. He flagged it down, and the cab pulled over.
Middle Eastern music played on his radio, and the young Arab driver gave them a friendly smile. “Where to?” the driver asked as they jumped into the car.
“We need to go to —”
“Northwest!” Katherine interjected, pointing up Third Street away from the Jefferson Building. “Drive toward Union Station, then left on Massachusetts Avenue. We’ll tell you when to stop.”
The driver shrugged, closed the Plexiglas divider, and turned his music back on.
Katherine shot Langdon an admonishing look as if to say: “Leave no trail.” She pointed out the window, directing Langdon’s attention to a black helicopter that was skimming in low, approaching the area. Shit. Sato was apparently dead serious about recovering Solomon’s pyramid.
As they watched the helicopter land between the Jefferson and Adams buildings, Katherine turned to him, looking increasingly worried. “Can I see your cell phone for a second?”
Langdon handed her his phone.
“Peter told me you have an eidetic memory?” she said, rolling down her window. “And that you remember every phone number you’ve ever dialed?”
“That’s true, but —”
Katherine hurled his phone out into the night. Langdon spun in his seat and watched as his cell phone cartwheeled and splintered into pieces on the pavement behind them. “Why did you do that!”
“Off the grid,” Katherine said, her eyes grave. “This pyramid is our only hope of finding my brother, and I have no intention of letting the CIA steal it from us.”
In the front seat, Omar Amirana bobbed his head and hummed along with his music. Tonight had been slow, and he felt blessed to finally have a fare. His cab was just passing Stanton Park, when the familiar voice of his company dispatcher crackled over the radio.
“This is Dispatch. All vehicles in the area of the National Mall. We have just received a bulletin from government authorities regarding two fugitives in the area of the Adams Building…”
Omar listened in amazement as Dispatch described the precise couple in his cab. He stole an uneasy glance in his rearview mirror. Omar had to admit, the tall guy did look familiar somehow. Did I see him on America’s Most Wanted?
Gingerly, Omar reached for his radio handset. “Dispatch?” he said, speaking quietly into the transceiver. “This is cab one-three-four. The two people you asked about — they are in my cab… right now.”
Dispatch immediately advised Omar what to do. Omar’s hands were trembling as he called the phone number Dispatch had given him. The voice that answered was tight and efficient, like that of a soldier.
“This is Agent Turner Simkins, CIA field ops. Who is this?”
“Um… I’m the taxi driver?” Omar said. “I was told to call about the two —”
“Are the fugitives currently in your vehicle? Answer only yes or no.”
“Can they hear this conversation? Yes or no?”
“No. The slider is —”
“Where are you taking them?”
“Northwest on Massachusetts.”
“They didn’t say.”
The agent hesitated. “Is the male passenger carrying a leather bag?”
Omar glanced in the rearview mirror, and his eyes went wide. “Yes! That bag doesn’t have explosives or anything in —”
“Listen carefully,” the agent said. “You are in no danger so long as you follow my directions exactly. Is that clear?”
“What is your name?”
“Omar,” he said, breaking a sweat.
“Listen, Omar,” the man said calmly. “You’re doing great. I want you to drive as slowly as possible while I get my team out in front of you. Do you understand?”
“Also, is your cab equipped with an intercom system so you can communicate with them in the backseat?”
“Good. Here’s what I want you to do.”
The Jungle, as it is known, is the centerpiece of the U.S. Botanic Garden (USBG) — America’s living museum — located adjacent to the U.S. Capitol Building. Technically a rain forest, the Jungle is housed in a towering greenhouse, complete with soaring rubber trees, strangler figs, and a canopy catwalk for more daring tourists.
Normally, Warren Bellamy felt nurtured by the Jungle’s earthy smells and the sunlight glinting through the mist that filtered down from the vapor nozzles in the glass ceiling. Tonight, however, lit only by moonlight, the Jungle terrified him. He was sweating profusely, writhing against the cramps that now stabbed at his arms, still pinned painfully behind him.
Director Sato paced before him, puffing calmly on her cigarette — the equivalent of ecoterrorism in this carefully calibrated environment. Her face looked almost demonic in the smoke-filled moonlight that streamed down through the glass ceiling overhead.
“So then,” Sato continued, “when you arrived at the Capitol tonight, and you discovered that I was already there… you made a decision. Rather than making your presence known to me, you descended quietly into the SBB, where, at great risk to yourself, you attacked Chief Anderson and myself, and you helped Langdon escape with the pyramid and capstone.” She rubbed her shoulder. “An interesting choice.”
A choice I would make again, Bellamy thought. “Where is Peter?” he demanded angrily.
“How would I know?” Sato said.
“You seem to know everything else!” Bellamy fired back at her, making no attempt to hide his suspicion that she was somehow behind all this. “You knew to go to the Capitol Building. You knew to find Robert Langdon. And you even knew to X-ray Langdon’s bag to find the capstone. Obviously, someone is giving you a lot of inside information.”
Sato laughed coldly and stepped closer to him. “Mr. Bellamy, is that why you attacked me? Do you think I’m the enemy? Do you think I’m trying to steal your little pyramid?” Sato took a drag on her cigarette and blew the smoke out of her nostrils. “Listen carefully. No one understands better than I do the importance of keeping secrets. I believe, as you do, that there is certain information to which the masses should not be privy. Tonight, however, there are forces at work that I fear you have not yet grasped. The man who kidnapped Peter Solomon holds enormous power… a power that you apparently have yet to realize. Believe me, he is a walking time bomb… capable of initiating a series of events that will profoundly change the world as you know it.”
“I don’t understand.” Bellamy shifted on the bench, his arms aching in his handcuffs.
“You don’t need to understand. You need to obey. Right now, my only hope of averting a major disaster is to cooperate with this man… and to give him exactly what he wants. Which means, you are going to call Mr. Langdon and tell him to turn himself in, along with the pyramid and capstone. Once Langdon is in my custody, he will decrypt the pyramid’s inscription, obtain whatever information this man is demanding, and provide him with exactly what he wants.”
The location of the spiral staircase that leads to the Ancient Mysteries? “I can’t do that. I’ve taken vows of secrecy.”
Sato erupted. “I don’t give a damn what you’ve vowed, I will throw you in prison so fast —”
“Threaten me all you like,” Bellamy said defiantly. “I will not help you.”
Sato took a deep breath and spoke now in a fearsome whisper. “Mr. Bellamy, you have no idea what’s really going on tonight, do you?”
The tense silence hung for several seconds, finally broken by the sound of Sato’s phone. She plunged her hand into her pocket and eagerly snatched it out. “Talk to me,” she answered, listening carefully to the reply. “Where is their taxi now? How long? Okay, good. Bring them to the U.S. Botanic Garden. Service entrance. And make sure you get me that god-damn pyramid and capstone.”
Sato hung up and turned back to Bellamy with a smug smile. “Well then… it seems you’re fast outliving your usefulness.”
Robert Langdon stared blankly into space, feeling too tired to urge the slow-moving taxi driver to pick up the pace. Beside him, Katherine had fallen silent, too, looking frustrated by their lack of understanding of what made the pyramid so special. They had again been through everything they knew about the pyramid, the capstone, and the evening’s strange events; they still had no ideas as to how this pyramid could possibly be considered a map to anything at all.
Jeova Sanctus Unus? The secret hides within The Order?
Their mysterious contact had promised them answers if they could meet him at a specific place. A refuge in Rome, north of the Tiber. Langdon knew the forefathers’ “new Rome” had been renamed Washington early in her history, and yet vestiges of their original dream remained: the Tiber’s waters still flowed into the Potomac; senators still convened beneath a replica of St. Peter’s dome; and Vulcan and Minerva still watched over the Rotunda’s long-extinguished flame.
The answers sought by Langdon and Katherine were apparently waiting for them just a few miles ahead. Northwest on Massachusetts Avenue. Their destination was indeed a refuge… north of Washington’s Tiber Creek. Langdon wished the driver would speed up.
Abruptly, Katherine jolted upright in her seat, as if she had made a sudden realization. “Oh my God, Robert!” She turned to him, her face going white. She hesitated a moment and then spoke emphatically. “We’re going the wrong way!”
“No, this is right,” Langdon countered. “It’s northwest on Massachu —”
“No! I mean we’re going to the wrong place!”
Langdon was mystified. He had already told Katherine how he knew what location was being described by the mysterious caller. It contains ten stones from Mount Sinai, one from heaven itself, and one with the visage of Luke’s dark father. Only one building on earth could make those claims. And that was exactly where this taxi was headed.
“Katherine, I’m certain the location is correct.”
“No!” she shouted. “We don’t need to go there anymore. I figured out the pyramid and capstone! I know what this is all about!”
Langdon was amazed. “You understand it?”
“Yes! We have to go to Freedom Plaza instead!”
Now Langdon was lost. Freedom Plaza, although nearby, seemed totally irrelevant.
“Jeova Sanctus Unus!” Katherine said. “The One True God of the Hebrews. The sacred symbol of the Hebrews is the Jewish star — the Seal of Solomon — an important symbol to the Masons!” She fished a dollar bill out of her pocket. “Give me your pen.”
Bewildered, Langdon pulled a pen from his jacket.
“Look.” She spread the bill out on her thigh and took his pen, pointing to the Great Seal on the back. “If you superimpose Solomon’s seal on the Great Seal of the United States…” She drew the symbol of a Jewish star precisely over the pyramid. “Look what you get!”
Langdon looked down at the bill and then back at Katherine as if she were mad.
“Robert, look more closely! Don’t you see what I’m pointing at?”
He glanced back at the drawing.
What in the world is she getting at? Langdon had seen this image before. It was popular among conspiracy theorists as “proof” that the Masons held secret influence over our early nation. When the six-pointed star was laid perfectly over the Great Seal of the United States, the star’s top vertex fit perfectly over the Masonic all-seeing eye… and, quite eerily, the other five vertices clearly pointed to the letters M-A-S-O-N.
“Katherine, that’s just a coincidence, and I still don’t see how it has anything to do with Freedom Plaza.”
“Look again!” she said, sounding almost angry now. “You’re not looking where I am pointing! Right there. Don’t you see it?”
An instant later, Langdon saw it.
CIA field-operations leader Turner Simkins stood outside the Adams Building and pressed his cell phone tightly to his ear, straining to hear the conversation now taking place in the back of the taxi. Something just happened. His team was about to board the modified Sikorsky UH-60 helicopter to head northwest and set up a roadblock, but now it seemed the situation had suddenly changed.
Seconds ago, Katherine Solomon had begun insisting they were going to the wrong destination. Her explanation — something about the dollar bill and Jewish stars — made no sense to the team leader, nor, apparently, to Robert Langdon. At least at first. Now, however, Langdon seemed to have grasped her meaning.
“My God, you’re right!” Langdon blurted. “I didn’t see it earlier!”
Suddenly Simkins could hear someone banging on the driver’s divider, and then it slid open. “Change of plans,” Katherine shouted to the driver. “Take us to Freedom Plaza!”
“Freedom Plaza?” the cabbie said, sounding nervous. “Not northwest on Massachusetts?”
“Forget that!” Katherine shouted. “Freedom Plaza! Go left here! Here! HERE!”
Agent Simkins heard the cab screeching around a corner. Katherine was talking excitedly again to Langdon, saying something about the famous bronze cast of the Great Seal embedded in the plaza.
“Ma’am, just to confirm,” the cabbie’s voice interjected, sounding tense. “We’re going to Freedom Plaza — on the corner of Pennsylvania and Thirteenth?”
“Yes!” Katherine said. “Hurry!”
“It’s very close. Two minutes.”
Simkins smiled. Nicely done, Omar. As he dashed toward the idling helicopter, he shouted to his team. “We’ve got them! Freedom Plaza! Move!”
Freedom Plaza is a map.
Located at the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and Thirteenth Street, the plaza’s vast surface of inlaid stone depicts the streets of Washington as they were originally envisioned by Pierre L’Enfant. The plaza is a popular tourist destination not only because the giant map is fun to walk on, but also because Martin Luther King Jr., for whom Freedom Plaza is named, wrote much of his “I Have a Dream” speech in the nearby Willard Hotel.
D.C. cabdriver Omar Amirana brought tourists to Freedom Plaza all the time, but tonight, his two passengers were obviously no ordinary sightseers. The CIA is chasing them? Omar had barely come to a stop at the curb before the man and woman had jumped out.
“Stay right here!” the man in the tweed coat told Omar. “We’ll be right back!”
Omar watched the two people dash out onto the wide-open spaces of the enormous map, pointing and shouting as they scanned the geometry of intersecting streets. Omar grabbed his cell phone off the dashboard. “Sir, are you still there?”
“Yes, Omar!” a voice shouted, barely audible over a thundering noise on his end of the line. “Where are they now?”
“Out on the map. It seems like they’re looking for something.”
“Do not let them out of your sight,” the agent shouted. “I’m almost there!”
Omar watched as the two fugitives quickly found the plaza’s famous Great Seal — one of the largest bronze medallions ever cast. They stood over it a moment and quickly began pointing to the southwest. Then the man in tweed came racing back toward the cab. Omar quickly set his phone down on the dashboard as the man arrived, breathless.
“Which direction is Alexandria, Virginia?” he demanded.
“Alexandria?” Omar pointed southwest, the exact same direction the man and woman had just pointed toward.
“I knew it!” the man whispered beneath his breath. He spun and shouted back to the woman. “You’re right! Alexandria!”
The woman now pointed across the plaza to an illuminated “Metro” sign nearby. “The Blue Line goes directly there. We want King Street Station!”
Omar felt a surge of panic. Oh no.
The man turned back to Omar and handed him entirely too many bills for the fare. “Thanks. We’re all set.” He hoisted his leather bag and ran off.
“Wait! I can drive you! I go there all the time!”
But it was too late. The man and woman were already dashing across the plaza. They disappeared down the stairs into the Metro Center subway station.
Omar grabbed his cell phone. “Sir! They ran down into the subway! I couldn’t stop them! They’re taking the Blue Line to Alexandria!”
“Stay right there!” the agent shouted. “I’ll be there in fifteen seconds!”
Omar looked down at the wad of bills the man had given him. The bill on top was apparently the one they had been writing on. It had a Jewish star on top of the Great Seal of the United States. Sure enough, the star’s points fell on letters that spelled MASON.
Without warning, Omar felt a deafening vibration all around him, as if a tractor trailer were about to collide with his cab. He looked up, but the street was deserted. The noise increased, and suddenly a sleek black helicopter dropped down out of the night and landed hard in the middle of the plaza map.
A group of black-clad men jumped out. Most ran toward the subway station, but one came dashing toward Omar’s cab. He yanked open the passenger door. “Omar? Is that you?”
Omar nodded, speechless.
“Did they say where they were headed?” the agent demanded.
“Alexandria! King Street Station,” Omar blurted. “I offered to drive, but —”
“Did they say where in Alexandria they were going?”
“No! They looked at the medallion of the Great Seal on the plaza, then they asked about Alexandria, and they paid me with this.” He handed the agent the dollar bill with the bizarre diagram. As the agent studied the bill, Omar suddenly put it all together. The Masons! Alexandria! One of the most famous Masonic buildings in America was in Alexandria. “That’s it!” he blurted. “The George Washington Masonic Memorial! It’s directly across from King Street Station!”
“That it is,” the agent said, apparently having just come to the same realization as the rest of the agents came sprinting back from the station.
“We missed them!” one of the men yelled. “Blue Line just left! They’re not down there!”
Agent Simkins checked his watch and turned back to Omar. “How long does the subway take to Alexandria?”
“Ten minutes at least. Probably more.”
“Omar, you’ve done an excellent job. Thank you.”
“Sure. What’s this all about?!”
But Agent Simkins was already running back to the chopper, shouting as he went. “King Street Station! We’ll get there before they do!”
Bewildered, Omar watched the great black bird lift off. It banked hard to the south across Pennsylvania Avenue, and then thundered off into the night.
Underneath the cabbie’s feet, a subway train was picking up speed as it headed away from Freedom Plaza. On board, Robert Langdon and Katherine Solomon sat breathless, neither one saying a word as the train whisked them toward their destination.