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Simkins and his men now began their sweep, pushing toward the back of the sealed train one car at a time — “squeezing toothpaste,” as it was called during his training at the Farm. Very few passengers were on this train, and halfway to the back, the agents still had seen nobody even remotely resembling the description of Robert Langdon and Katherine Solomon. Nonetheless, Simkins remained confident. There was absolutely no place to hide on a subway car. No bathrooms, no storage, and no alternative exits. Even if the targets had seen them board the train and fled to the back, there was no way out. Prying open a door was almost impossible, and Simkins had men watching the platform and both sides of the train anyway.
By the time Simkins reached the second-to-last car, however, he was feeling edgy. This penultimate car had only one passenger — a Chinese man. Simkins and his agents moved through, scanning for any place to hide. There was none.
“Last car,” Simkins said, raising his weapon as the threesome moved toward the threshold of the train’s final section. As they stepped into the last car, all three of them immediately stopped and stared.
What the…?! Simkins raced to the rear of the deserted cabin, searching behind all the seats. He spun back to his men, blood boiling. “Where the hell did they go?!”
Eight miles due north of Alexandria, Virginia, Robert Langdon and Katherine Solomon strode calmly across a wide expanse of frost-covered lawn.
“You should be an actress,” Langdon said, still impressed by Katherine’s quick thinking and improvisational skills.
“You weren’t half bad yourself.” She gave him a smile.
At first, Langdon had been mystified by Katherine’s abrupt antics in the taxi. Without warning, she had suddenly demanded they go to Freedom Plaza based on some revelation about a Jewish star and the Great Seal of the United States. She drew a well-known conspiracy-theory image on a dollar bill and then insisted Langdon look closely where she was pointing.
Finally, Langdon realized that Katherine was pointing not at the dollar bill but at a tiny indicator bulb on the back of the driver’s seat. The bulb was so covered with grime that he had not even noticed it. As he leaned forward, however, he could see that the bulb was illuminated, emitting a dull red glow. He could also see the two faint words directly beneath the lit bulb.
— INTERCOM ON —
Startled, Langdon glanced back at Katherine, whose frantic eyes were urging him to look into the front seat. He obeyed, stealing a discreet glance through the divider. The cabby’s cell phone was on the dash, wide open, illuminated, facing the intercom speaker. An instant later, Langdon understood Katherine’s actions.
They know we’re in this cab… they’ve been listening to us.
Langdon had no idea how much time he and Katherine had until their taxi was stopped and surrounded, but he knew they had to act fast. Instantly, he’d begun playing along, realizing that Katherine’s desire to go to Freedom Plaza had nothing to do with the pyramid but rather with its being a large subway station — Metro Center — from which they could take the Red, Blue, or Orange lines in any of six different directions.
They jumped out of the taxi at Freedom Plaza, and Langdon took over, doing some improvising of his own, leaving a trail to the Masonic Memorial in Alexandria before he and Katherine ran down into the subway station, dashing past the Blue Line platforms and continuing on to the Red Line, where they caught a train in the opposite direction.
Traveling six stops northbound to Tenleytown, they emerged all alone into a quiet, upscale neighborhood. Their destination, the tallest structure for miles, was immediately visible on the horizon, just off Massachusetts Avenue on a vast expanse of manicured lawn.
Now “off the grid,” as Katherine called it, the two of them walked across the damp grass. On their right was a medieval-style garden, famous for its ancient rosebushes and Shadow House gazebo. They moved past the garden, directly toward the magnificent building to which they had been summoned. A refuge containing ten stones from Mount Sinai, one from heaven itself, and one with the visage of Luke’s dark father.
“I’ve never been here at night,” Katherine said, gazing up at the brightly lit towers. “It’s spectacular.”
Langdon agreed, having forgotten how impressive this place truly was. This neo-Gothic masterpiece stood at the north end of Embassy Row. He hadn’t been here for years, not since writing a piece about it for a kids’ magazine in hopes of generating some excitement among young Americans to come see this amazing landmark. His article — “Moses, Moon Rocks, and Star Wars” — had been part of the tourist literature for years.
Washington National Cathedral, Langdon thought, feeling an unexpected anticipation at being back after all these years. Where better to ask about One True God?
“This cathedral really has ten stones from Mount Sinai?” Katherine asked, gazing up at the twin bell towers.
Langdon nodded. “Near the main altar. They symbolize the Ten Commandments given to Moses on Mount Sinai.”
“And there’s a lunar rock?”
A rock from heaven itself. “Yes. One of the stained-glass windows is called the Space Window and has a fragment of moon rock embedded in it.”
“Okay, but you can’t be serious about the last thing.” Katherine glanced over, her pretty eyes flashing skepticism. “A statue of… Darth Vader?”
Langdon chuckled. “Luke Skywalker’s dark father? Absolutely. Vader is one of the National Cathedral’s most popular grotesques.” He pointed high into the west towers. “Tough to see him at night, but he’s there.”
“What in the world is Darth Vader doing on Washington National Cathedral?”
“A contest for kids to carve a gargoyle that depicted the face of evil. Darth won.”
They reached the grand staircase to the main entrance, which was set back in an eighty-foot archway beneath a breathtaking rose window. As they began climbing, Langdon’s mind shifted to the mysterious stranger who had called him. No names, please… Tell me, have you successfully protected the map that was entrusted to you? Langdon’s shoulder ached from carrying the heavy stone pyramid, and he was looking forward to setting it down. Sanctuary and answers.
As they approached the top of the stairs, they were met with an imposing pair of wooden doors. “Do we just knock?” Katherine asked.
Langdon had been wondering the same thing, except that now one of the doors was creaking open.
“Who’s there?” a frail voice said. The face of a withered old man appeared in the doorway. He wore priest’s robes and a blank stare. His eyes were opaque and white, clouded with cataracts.
“My name is Robert Langdon,” he replied. “Katherine Solomon and I are seeking sanctuary.”
The blind man exhaled in relief. “Thank God. I’ve been expecting you.”
Warren Bellamy felt a sudden ray of hope.
Inside the Jungle, Director Sato had just received a phone call from a field agent and had immediately flown into a tirade. “Well, you damn well better find them!” she shouted into her phone. “We’re running out of time!” She had hung up and was now stalking back and forth in front of Bellamy as if trying to decide what to do next.
Finally, she stopped directly in front of him and turned. “Mr. Bellamy, I’m going to ask you this once, and only once.” She stared deep into his eyes. “Yes or no — do you have any idea where Robert Langdon might have gone?”
Bellamy had more than a good idea, but he shook his head. “No.”
Sato’s piercing gaze had never left his eyes. “Unfortunately, part of my job is to know when people are lying.”
Bellamy averted his eyes. “Sorry, I can’t help you.”
“Architect Bellamy,” Sato said, “tonight just after seven P.M., you were having dinner in a restaurant outside the city when you received a phone call from a man who told you he had kidnapped Peter Solomon.”
Bellamy felt an instant chill and returned his eyes to hers. How could you possibly know that?!
“The man,” Sato continued, “told you that he had sent Robert Langdon to the Capitol Building and given Langdon a task to complete… a task that required your help. He warned that if Langdon failed in this task, your friend Peter Solomon would die. Panicked, you called all of Peter’s numbers but failed to reach him. Understandably, you then raced to the Capitol.”
Bellamy could not imagine how Sato knew about this phone call.
“As you fled the Capitol,” Sato said behind the smoldering tip of her cigarette, “you sent a text message to Solomon’s kidnapper, assuring him that you and Langdon had been successful in obtaining the Masonic Pyramid.”
Where is she getting her information? Bellamy wondered. Not even Langdon knows I sent that text message. Immediately after entering the tunnel to the Library of Congress, Bellamy had stepped into the electrical room to plug in the construction lighting. In the privacy of that moment, he had decided to send a quick text message to Solomon’s captor, telling him about Sato’s involvement, but reassuring him that he — Bellamy — and Langdon had obtained the Masonic Pyramid and would indeed cooperate with his demands. It was a lie, of course, but Bellamy hoped the reassurance might buy time, both for Peter Solomon and also to hide the pyramid.
“Who told you I sent a text?” Bellamy demanded.
Sato tossed Bellamy’s cell phone on the bench next to him. “Hardly rocket science.”
Bellamy now remembered his phone and keys had been taken from him by the agents who captured him.
“As for the rest of my inside information,” Sato said, “the Patriot Act gives me the right to place a wiretap on the phone of anyone I consider a viable threat to national security. I consider Peter Solomon to be such a threat, and last night I took action.”
Bellamy could barely get his mind around what she was telling him. “You’re tapping Peter Solomon’s phone?”
“Yes. This is how I knew the kidnapper called you at the restaurant. You called Peter’s cell phone and left an anxious message explaining what had just happened.”
Bellamy realized she was right.
“We had also intercepted a call from Robert Langdon, who was in the Capitol Building, deeply confused to learn he had been tricked into coming there. I went to the Capitol at once, arriving before you because I was closer. As for how I knew to check the X-ray of Langdon’s bag… in light of my realization that Langdon was involved in all of this, I had my staff reexamine a seemingly innocuous early-morning call between Langdon and Peter Solomon’s cell phone, in which the kidnapper, posing as Solomon’s assistant, persuaded Langdon to come for a lecture and also to bring a small package that Peter had entrusted to him. When Langdon was not forthcoming with me about the package he was carrying, I requested the X-ray of his bag.”
Bellamy could barely think. Admittedly, everything Sato was saying was feasible, and yet something was not adding up. “But… how could you possibly think Peter Solomon is a threat to national security?”
“Believe me, Peter Solomon is a serious national-security threat,” she snapped. “And frankly, Mr. Bellamy, so are you.”
Bellamy sat bolt upright, the handcuffs chafing against his wrists. “I beg your pardon?!”
She forced a smile. “You Masons play a risky game. You keep a very, very dangerous secret.”
Is she talking about the Ancient Mysteries?
“Thankfully, you’ve always done a good job of keeping your secrets hidden. Unfortunately, recently you’ve been careless, and tonight, your most dangerous secret is about to be unveiled to the world. And unless we can stop that from happening, I assure you the results will be catastrophic.”
Bellamy stared in bewilderment.
“If you had not attacked me,” Sato said, “you would have realized that you and I are on the same team.”
The same team. The words sparked in Bellamy an idea that seemed almost impossible to fathom. Is Sato a member of Eastern Star? The Order of the Eastern Star — often considered a sister organization to the Masons — embraced a similar mystical philosophy of benevolence, secret wisdom, and spiritual open-mindedness. The same team? I’m in handcuffs! She’s tapping Peter’s phone!
“You will help me stop this man,” Sato said. “He has the potential to bring about a cataclysm from which this country might not recover.” Her face was like stone.
“Then why aren’t you tracking him?”
Sato looked incredulous. “Do you think I’m not trying? My trace on Solomon’s cell phone went dead before we got a location. His other number appears to be a disposable phone — which is almost impossible to track. The private-jet company told us that Langdon’s flight was booked by Solomon’s assistant, on Solomon’s cell phone, with Solomon’s Marquis Jet card. There is no trail. Not that it matters anyway. Even if we find out exactly where he is, I can’t possibly risk moving in and trying to grab him.”
“I’d prefer not to share that, as the information is classified,” Sato said, patience clearly waning. “I am asking you to trust me on this.”
“Well, I don’t!”
Sato’s eyes were like ice. She turned suddenly and shouted across the Jungle. “Agent Hartmann! The briefcase, please.”
Bellamy heard the hiss of the electronic door, and an agent strode into the Jungle. He was carrying a sleek titanium briefcase, which he set on the ground beside the OS director.
“Leave us,” Sato said.
As the agent departed, the door hissed again, and then everything fell silent.
Sato picked up the metal case, laid it across her lap, and popped the clasps. Then she raised her eyes slowly to Bellamy. “I did not want to do this, but our time is running out, and you’ve left me no choice.”
Bellamy eyed the strange briefcase and felt a swell of fear. Is she going to torture me? He strained at his cuffs again. “What’s in that case?!”
Sato smiled grimly. “Something that will persuade you to see things my way. I guarantee it.”
The subterranean space in which Mal’akh performed the Art was ingeniously hidden. His home’s basement, to those who entered, appeared quite normal — a typical cellar with boiler, fuse box, woodpile, and a hodgepodge of storage. This visible cellar, however, was only a portion of Mal’akh’s underground space. A sizable area had been walled off for his clandestine practices.
Mal’akh’s private work space was a suite of small rooms, each with a specialized purpose. The area’s sole entrance was a steep ramp secretly accessible through his living room, making the area’s discovery virtually impossible.
Tonight, as Mal’akh descended the ramp, the tattooed sigils and signs on his flesh seemed to come alive in the cerulean glow of his basement’s specialized lighting. Moving into the bluish haze, he walked past several closed doors and headed directly for the largest room at the end of the corridor.
The “sanctum sanctorum,” as Mal’akh liked to call it, was a perfect twelve-foot square. Twelve are the signs of the zodiac. Twelve are the hours of the day. Twelve are the gates of heaven. In the center of the chamber was a stone table, a seven-by-seven square. Seven are the seals of Revelation. Seven are the steps of the Temple. Centered over the table hung a carefully calibrated light source that cycled through a spectrum of preordained colors, completing its cycle every six hours in accordance with the sacred Table of Planetary Hours. The hour of Yanor is blue. The hour of Nasnia is red. The hour of Salam is white.
Now was the hour of Caerra, meaning the light in the room had modulated to a soft purplish hue. Wearing only a silken loincloth wrapped around his buttocks and neutered sex organ, Mal’akh began his preparations.
He carefully combined the suffumigation chemicals that he would later ignite to sanctify the air. Then he folded the virgin silk robe that he would eventually don in place of his loincloth. And finally, he purified a flask of water for the anointing of his offering. When he was done, he placed all of these prepared ingredients on a side table.
Next he went to a shelf and retrieved a small ivory box, which he carried to the side table and placed with the other items. Although he was not yet ready to use it, he could not resist opening the lid and admiring this treasure.
Inside the ivory box, nestled in a cradle of black velvet, shone the sacrificial knife that Mal’akh had been saving for tonight. He had purchased it for $1.6 million on the Middle Eastern antiquities black market last year.
The most famous knife in history.
Unimaginably old and believed lost, this precious blade was made of iron, attached to a bone handle. Over the ages, it had been in the possession of countless powerful individuals. In recent decades, however, it had disappeared, languishing in a secret private collection. Mal’akh had gone to enormous lengths to obtain it. The knife, he suspected, had not drawn blood for decades… possibly centuries. Tonight, this blade would again taste the power of the sacrifice for which it was honed.
Mal’akh gently lifted the knife from its cushioned compartment and reverently polished the blade with a silk cloth soaked in purified water. His skills had progressed greatly since his first rudimentary experiments in New York. The dark Art that Mal’akh practiced had been known by many names in many languages, but by any name, it was a precise science. This primeval technology had once held the key to the portals of power, but it had been banished long ago, relegated to the shadows of occultism and magic. Those few who still practiced this Art were considered madmen, but Mal’akh knew better. This is not work for those with dull faculties. The ancient dark Art, like modern science, was a discipline involving precise formulas, specific ingredients, and meticulous timing.
This Art was not the impotent black magic of today, often practiced halfheartedly by curious souls. This Art, like nuclear physics, had the potential to unleash enormous power. The warnings were dire: The unskilled practitioner runs the risk of being struck by a reflux current and destroyed.
Mal’akh finished admiring the sacred blade and turned his attention to a lone sheet of thick vellum lying on the table before him. He had made this vellum himself from the skin of a baby lamb. As was the protocol, the lamb was pure, having not yet reached sexual maturity. Beside the vellum was a quill pen he had made from the feather of a crow, a silver saucer, and three glimmering candles arranged around a solid-brass bowl. The bowl contained one inch of thick crimson liquid.
The liquid was Peter Solomon’s blood.
Blood is the tincture of eternity.
Mal’akh picked up the quill pen, placed his left hand on the vellum, and dipping the quill tip in the blood, he carefully traced the outline of his open palm. When he was done, he added the five symbols of the Ancient Mysteries, one on each fingertip of the drawing.
The crown… to represent the king I shall become.
The star… to represent the heavens which have ordained my destiny.
The sun… to represent the illumination of my soul.
The lantern… to represent the feeble light of human understanding.
And the key… to represent the missing piece, that which tonight I shall at last possess.
Mal’akh completed his blood tracing and held up the vellum, admiring his work in the light of the three candles. He waited until the blood was dry and then folded the thick vellum three times. While chanting an ethereal ancient incantation, Mal’akh touched the vellum to the third candle, and it burst into flames. He set the flaming vellum on the silver saucer and let it burn. As it did, the carbon in the animal skin dissolved to a powdery black char. When the flame went out, Mal’akh carefully tapped the ashes into the brass bowl of blood. Then he stirred the mixture with the crow’s feather.
The liquid turned a deeper crimson, nearly black.
Holding the bowl in both palms, Mal’akh raised it over his head and gave thanks, intoning the blood eukharistos of the ancients. Then he carefully poured the blackened mixture into a glass vial and corked it. This would be the ink with which Mal’akh would inscribe the untattooed flesh atop his head and complete his masterpiece.
Washington National Cathedral is the sixth-largest cathedral in the world and soars higher than a thirty-story skyscraper. Embellished with over two hundred stained-glass windows, a fifty-three-bell carillon, and a 10,647-pipe organ, this Gothic masterpiece can accommodate more than three thousand worshippers.