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minutes to get there. I suggest you wait for me as long as it takes.”
The line went dead.
Instantly, the room sprang to life. Sato began shouting orders. Several field agents grabbed their radios and headed for the door. “Move! Move!”
In the chaos, Langdon looked to Bellamy for some kind of explanation as to what was actually going on tonight, but the older man was already being hurried out the door.
“I need to see my brother!” Katherine shouted. “You have to let us go!”
Sato walked over to Katherine. “I don’t have to do anything, Ms. Solomon. Is that clear?”
Katherine stood her ground and looked desperately into Sato’s small eyes.
“Ms. Solomon, my top priority is apprehending the man at Franklin Square, and you will sit here with one of my men until I accomplish that task. Then, and only then, will we deal with your brother.”
“You’re missing the point,” Katherine said. “I know exactly where this man lives! It’s literally five minutes up the road in Kalorama Heights, and there will be evidence there that will help you! Besides, you said you want to keep this quiet. Who knows what Peter will start telling the authorities once he’s stabilized.”
Sato pursed her lips, apparently registering Katherine’s point. Outside, the chopper blades began winding up. Sato frowned and then turned to one of her men. “Hartmann, you take the Escalade. Transport Ms. Solomon and Mr. Langdon to Kalorama Heights. Peter Solomon is not to speak to anyone. Is that understood?”
“Yes, ma’am,” the agent said.
“Call me when you get there. Tell me what you find. And don’t let these two out of your sight.”
Agent Hartmann gave a quick nod, pulled out the Escalade keys, and headed for the door.
Katherine was right behind him.
Sato turned to Langdon. “I’ll see you shortly, Professor. I know you think I’m the enemy, but I can assure you that’s not the case. Get to Peter at once. This isn’t over yet.”
Off to one side of Langdon, Dean Galloway was sitting quietly at the coffee table. His hands had found the stone pyramid, which was still sitting in Langdon’s open leather bag on the table in front of him. The old man was running his hands over the stone’s warm surface.
Langdon said, “Father, are you coming to see Peter?”
“I’d just slow you down.” Galloway removed his hands from the bag and zipped it up around the pyramid. “I’ll stay right here and pray for Peter’s recovery. We can all speak later. But when you show Peter the pyramid, would you please tell him something for me?”
“Of course.” Langdon hoisted the bag onto his shoulder.
“Tell him this.” Galloway cleared his throat. “The Masonic Pyramid has always kept her secret… sincerely.”
“I don’t understand.”
The old man winked. “Just tell Peter that. He will understand.”
With that, Dean Galloway bowed his head and began praying.
Perplexed, Langdon left him there and hurried outside. Katherine was already in the front seat of the SUV giving the agent directions. Langdon climbed in back and had barely closed the door before the giant vehicle was rocketing across the lawn, racing northward to Kalorama Heights.
Franklin Square is located in the northwest quadrant of downtown Washington, bordered by K and Thirteenth streets. It is home to many historic buildings, most notably the Franklin School, from which Alexander Graham Bell sent the world’s first wireless message in 1880.
High above the square, a fast-moving UH-60 helicopter approached from the west, having completed its journey from the National Cathedral in a matter of minutes. Plenty of time, Sato thought, peering down at the square below. She knew it was critical that her men got into position undetected before their target arrived. He said he wouldn’t be here for at least twenty minutes.
On Sato’s command, the pilot performed a “touch-hover” on the roof of the tallest building around — the renowned One Franklin Square — a towering and prestigious office building with two gold spires on top. The maneuver was illegal, of course, but the chopper was there only a few seconds, and its skids barely touched the gravel rooftop. Once everyone had jumped out, the pilot immediately lifted off, banking to the east, where he would climb to “silent altitude” and provide invisible support from above.
Sato waited as her field team collected their things and prepared Bellamy for his task. The Architect was still looking dazed from having seen the file on Sato’s secure laptop. As I said… an issue of national security. Bellamy had quickly understood Sato’s meaning and was now fully cooperative.
“All set, ma’am,” Agent Simkins said.
On Sato’s command, the agents ushered Bellamy across the rooftop and disappeared down a stairwell, heading for ground level to take up their positions.
Sato walked to the edge of the building and gazed down. The rectangular wooded park below filled the entire block. Plenty of cover. Sato’s team fully understood the importance of making an undetected intercept. If their target sensed a presence here and decided just to slip away… the director didn’t even want to think about it.
The wind up here was gusty and cold. Sato wrapped her arms around herself, and planted her feet firmly to avoid getting blown over the edge. From this high vantage point, Franklin Square looked smaller than she recalled, with fewer buildings. She wondered which building was Eight Franklin Square. This was information she had requested from her analyst Nola, from whom she expected word at any moment.
Bellamy and the agents now appeared, looking like ants fanning out into the darkness of the wooded area. Simkins positioned Bellamy in a clearing near the center of the deserted park. Then Simkins and his team melted into the natural cover, disappearing from view. Within seconds, Bellamy was alone, pacing and shivering in the light of a streetlamp near the center of the park.
Sato felt no pity.
She lit a cigarette and took a long drag, savoring the warmth as it permeated her lungs. Satisfied that everything below was in order, she stepped back from the edge to await her two phone calls — one from her analyst Nola and one from Agent Hartmann, whom she had sent to Kalorama Heights.
Slow down! Langdon gripped the backseat of the Escalade as it flew around a corner, threatening to tip up on two tires. CIA agent Hartmann was either eager to show off his driving skills to Katherine, or he had orders to get to Peter Solomon before Solomon recuperated enough to say anything he shouldn’t say to the local authorities.
The high-speed game of beat-the-red-light on Embassy Row had been worrisome enough, but now they were racing through the winding residential neighborhood of Kalorama Heights. Katherine shouted directions as they went, having been to this man’s house earlier that afternoon.
With every turn, the leather bag at Langdon’s feet rocked back and forth, and Langdon could hear the clank of the capstone, which had clearly been jarred from the top of the pyramid and was now bouncing around in the bottom of his bag. Fearing it might get damaged, he fished around inside until he found it. It was still warm, but the glowing text had now faded and disappeared, returning to its original engraving:
The secret hides within The Order.
As Langdon was about to place the capstone in a side pocket, he noticed its elegant surface was covered with tiny white gobs of something. Puzzled, he tried to wipe them off, but they were stuck on and hard to the touch… like plastic. What in the world? He could now see that the surface of the stone pyramid itself was also covered with the little white dots. Langdon used his fingernail and picked one off, rolling it between his fingers.
“Wax?” he blurted.
Katherine glanced over her shoulder. “What?”
“There are bits of wax all over the pyramid and capstone. I don’t understand it. Where could that possibly have come from?”
“Something in your bag, maybe?”
“I don’t think so.”
As they rounded a corner, Katherine pointed through the windshield and turned to Agent Hartmann. “That’s it! We’re here.”
Langdon glanced up and saw the spinning lights of a security vehicle parked in a driveway up ahead. The driveway gate was pulled aside and the agent gunned the SUV inside the compound.
The house was a spectacular mansion. Every light inside was ablaze, and the front door was wide open. A half-dozen vehicles were parked haphazardly in the driveway and on the lawn, apparently having arrived in a hurry. Some of the cars were still running and had their headlights shining, most on the house, but one askew, practically blinding them as they drove in.
Agent Hartmann skidded to a stop on the lawn beside a white sedan with a brightly colored decal: PREFERRED SECURITY. The spinning lights and the high beams in their face made it hard to see.
Katherine immediately jumped out and raced for the house. Langdon heaved his bag onto his shoulder without taking the time to zip it up. He followed Katherine at a jog across the lawn toward the open front door. The sounds of voices echoed within. Behind Langdon, the SUV chirped as Agent Hartmann locked the vehicle and hurried after them.
Katherine bounded up the porch stairs, through the main door, and disappeared into the entryway. Langdon crossed the threshold behind her and could see Katherine was already moving across the foyer and down the main hallway toward the sound of voices. Beyond her, visible at the end of the hall, was a dining-room table where a woman in a security uniform was sitting with her back to them.
“Officer!” Katherine shouted as she ran. “Where is Peter Solomon?”
Langdon rushed after her, but as he did so, an unexpected movement caught his eye. To his left, through the living-room window, he could see the driveway gate was now swinging shut. Odd. Something else caught his eye… something that had been hidden from him by the glare of the spinning lights and the blinding high beams when they drove in. The half-dozen cars parked haphazardly in the driveway looked nothing like the police cars and emergency vehicles Langdon had imagined they were.
A Mercedes?… a Hummer?… a Tesla Roadster?
In that instant, Langdon also realized the voices he heard in the house were nothing but a television blaring in the direction of the dining room.
Wheeling in slow motion, Langdon shouted down the hallway. “Katherine, wait!”
But as he turned, he could see that Katherine Solomon was no longer running.
She was airborne.
Katherine Solomon knew she was falling… but she couldn’t figure out why.
She had been running down the hall toward the security guard in the dining room when suddenly her feet had become entangled in an invisible obstacle, and her entire body had lurched forward, sailing through the air.
Now she was returning to earth… in this case, a hardwood floor.
Katherine crashed down on her stomach, the wind driven violently from her lungs. Above her, a heavy coat tree teetered precariously and then toppled over, barely missing her on the floor. She raised her head, still gasping for breath, puzzled to see that the female security guard in the chair had not moved a muscle. Stranger still, the toppled coat tree appeared to have a thin wire attached to the bottom, which had been stretched across the hallway.
Why in the world would someone…?
“Katherine!” Langdon was shouting to her, and as Katherine rolled onto her side and looked back at him, she felt her blood turn to ice. Robert! Behind you! She tried to scream, but she was still gasping for breath. All she could do was watch in terrifying slow motion as Langdon rushed down the hall to help her, completely unaware that behind him, Agent Hartmann was staggering across the threshold and clutching his throat. Blood sprayed through Hartmann’s hands as he groped at the handle of a long screwdriver that protruded from his neck.
As the agent pitched forward, his attacker came into full view.
My God… no!
Naked except for a strange undergarment that looked like a loincloth, the massive man had apparently been hiding in the foyer. His muscular body was covered from head to toe with strange tattoos. The front door was swinging closed, and he was rushing down the hall after Langdon.
Agent Hartmann hit the floor just as the front door slammed shut. Langdon looked startled and whirled around, but the tattooed man was already on him, thrusting some kind of device into his back. There was a flash of light and a sharp electrical sizzle, and Katherine saw Langdon go rigid. Eyes frozen wide, Langdon lurched forward, collapsing down in a paralyzed heap. He fell hard on top of his leather bag, the pyramid tumbling out onto the floor.
Without so much as a glance down at his victim, the tattooed man stepped over Langdon and headed directly for Katherine. She was already crawling backward into the dining room, where she collided with a chair. The female security guard, who had been propped in that chair, now wobbled and dropped to the floor in a heap beside her. The woman’s lifeless expression was one of terror. Her mouth was stuffed with a rag.
The enormous man had reached her before Katherine had time to react. He seized her by the shoulders with impossible strength. His face, no longer covered by makeup, was an utterly terrifying sight. His muscles flexed, and she felt herself being flipped over onto her stomach like a rag doll. A heavy knee ground into her back, and for a moment, she thought she would break in two. He grabbed her arms and pulled them backward.
With her head now turned to one side and her cheek pressed into the carpet, Katherine could see Langdon, his body still jerking, facing away from her. Beyond that, Agent Hartmann lay motionless in the foyer.
Cold metal pinched Katherine’s wrists, and she realized she was being bound with wire. In terror, she tried to pull away, but doing so sent searing pain into her hands.
“This wire will cut you if you move,” the man said, finishing with her wrists and moving down to her ankles with frightening efficiency.
Katherine kicked at him, and he threw a powerful fist into the back of her right thigh, crippling her leg. Within seconds, her ankles were bound.
“Robert!” she now managed to call out.
Langdon was groaning on the floor in the hallway. He lay crumpled on his leather bag with the stone pyramid lying on its side near his head. Katherine realized the pyramid was her last hope.
“We deciphered the pyramid!” she told her attacker. “I’ll tell you everything!”
“Yes, you will.” With that, he pulled the cloth from the dead woman’s mouth and firmly stuffed it into Katherine’s.
It tasted like death.
Robert Langdon’s body was not his own. He lay, numb and immobile, his cheek pressed against the hardwood floor. He had heard enough about stun guns to know they crippled their victims by temporarily overloading the nervous system. Their action — something called electromuscular disruption — might as well have been a bolt of lightning. The excruciating jolt of pain seemed to penetrate every molecule of his body. Now, despite his mind’s focused intention, his muscles refused to obey the command he was sending them.
Facedown, paralyzed on the floor, Langdon was gulping shallow breaths, scarcely able to inhale. He had yet to lay eyes on the man who had attacked him, but he could see Agent Hartmann lying in an expanding pool of blood. Langdon had heard Katherine struggling and arguing, but moments ago her voice had become muffled, as if the man had stuffed something in her mouth.
Get up, Robert! You’ve got to help her!
Langdon’s legs were tingling now, a fiery and painful recovery of feeling, but still they refused to cooperate. Move! His arms twitched as sensation started to come back, along with feeling in his face and neck. With great effort, he managed to rotate his head, dragging his cheek roughly across the hardwood floor as he turned his head to look down into the dining room.
Langdon’s sight line was impeded — by the stone pyramid, which had toppled out of his bag and was lying sideways on the floor, its base inches from his face.
For an instant, Langdon didn’t understand what he was looking at. The square of stone before him was obviously the base of the pyramid, and yet it looked somehow different. Very different. It was still square, and still stone… but it was no longer flat and smooth. The base of the pyramid was covered with engraved markings. How is this possible? He stared for several seconds, wondering if he was hallucinating. I looked at the base of this pyramid a dozen times… and there were no markings!
Langdon now realized why.
His breathing reflex kick-started, and he drew a sudden gasp of air, realizing that the Masonic Pyramid had secrets yet to share. I have witnessed another transformation.
In a flash, Langdon understood the meaning of Galloway’s last request. Tell Peter this: The Masonic Pyramid has always kept her secret… sincerely. The words had seemed strange at the time, but now Langdon understood that Dean Galloway was sending Peter a code. Ironically, this same code had been a plot twist in a mediocre thriller Langdon had read years ago.
Since the days of Michelangelo, sculptors had been hiding the flaws in their work by smearing hot wax into the cracks and then dabbing the wax with stone dust. The method was considered cheating, and therefore, any sculpture “without wax” — literally sine cera — was considered a “sincere” piece of art. The phrase stuck. To this day we still sign our letters “sincerely” as a promise that we have written “without wax” and that our words are true.
The engravings on the base of this pyramid had been concealed by the same method. When Katherine followed the capstone’s directions and boiled the pyramid, the wax melted away, revealing the writing on the base. Galloway had run his hands over the pyramid in the sitting room, apparently feeling the markings exposed on the bottom.
Now, if only for an instant, Langdon had forgotten all the danger he and Katherine faced. He stared at the incredible array of symbols on the base of the pyramid. He had no idea what they meant… or what they would ultimately reveal, but one thing was for certain. The Masonic Pyramid has secrets left to tell. Eight Franklin Square is not the final answer.
Whether it was this adrenaline-filled revelation or simply the extra few seconds lying there, Langdon did not know, but he suddenly felt control returning to his body.
Painfully, he swept an arm to one side, pushing the leather bag out of the way to clear his sight line into the dining room.
To his horror, he saw that Katherine had been tied up, and a large rag had been stuffed deep into her mouth. Langdon flexed his muscles, trying to climb to his knees, but a moment later, he froze in utter disbelief. The dining-room doorway had just filled with a chilling sight — a human form unlike anything Langdon had ever seen.
What in the name of God…?!
Langdon rolled, kicking with his legs, trying to back away, but the huge tattooed man grabbed him, flipping him onto his back and straddling his chest. He placed his knees on Langdon’s biceps, pinning Langdon pain fully to the floor. The man’s chest bore a rippling double-headed phoenix. His neck, face, and shaved head were covered with a dazzling array of unusually intricate symbols — sigils, Langdon knew — which were used in the rituals of dark ceremonial magic.
Before Langdon could process anything more, the huge man clasped Langdon’s ears between his palms, lifted his head up off the floor, and, with incredible force, smashed it back down onto the hardwood.
Everything went black.
Mal’akh stood in his hallway and surveyed the carnage around him. His home looked like a battlefield.
Robert Langdon lay unconscious at his feet.
Katherine Solomon was bound and gagged on the dining-room floor.
The corpse of a female security guard lay crumpled nearby, having toppled off the chair where she was propped. This female guard, eager to save her own life, had done exactly as Mal’akh commanded. With a knife to her throat, she had answered Mal’akh’s cell phone and told the lie that had coaxed Langdon and Katherine to come racing out here. She had no partner, and Peter Solomon was certainly not okay. As soon as the woman had given her performance, Mal’akh had quietly strangled her.
To complete the illusion that Mal’akh was not home, he had phoned Bellamy using the hands-free speaker in one of his cars. I’m on the road, he had told Bellamy and whoever else had been listening. Peter is in my trunk. In fact,