Call for missing piece. Mal’akh now understood Bellamy’s meaning.
The Architect of the Capitol had been cooperative all night, but now he had chosen to play a very dangerous game.
Beneath thewatchful gaze of several armed CIA agents, Langdon, Katherine, and Bellamy waited with Sato in the Cathedral College sitting room. On the coffee table before them, Langdon’s leather bag was still open, the golden capstone peeking out the top. The words Eight Franklin Square had now faded away, leaving no evidence that they had ever existed.
Katherine had pleaded with Sato to let her go see her Within The Order ^■Franklin Square brother, but Sato had simply shaken her head, eyes fixed on Bellamy’s cell phone. It sat on the coffee table and had yet to ring.
Why didn’t Bellamy just tell me the truth? Langdon wondered. Apparently, the Architect had been in contact with Peter’s captor all night, reassuring him that Langdon was making progress deciphering the pyramid. It was a bluff, an attempt to buy time for Peter. In fact, Bellamy was doing all he could to interfere with anyone who threatened to unveil the pyramid’s secret. Now, however, it seemed that Bellamy had Within The Order ^■Franklin Square switched sides. He and Sato were now prepared to risk the pyramid’s secret in hopes of catching this man.
“Take your hands off me!” shouted an elderly voice in the hall. “I’m blind, not inept! I know my way through the college!” Dean Galloway was still protesting loudly as a CIA agent manhandled him into the sitting room and forced him into one of the chairs.
“Who’s here?” Galloway demanded, his blank eyes staring dead ahead. “It sounds like a lot of you. How many do you need to detain an old man? Really now Within The Order ^■Franklin Square!”
“There are seven of us,” Sato declared. “Including Robert Langdon, Katherine Solomon, and
your Masonic brother Warren Bellamy.”
Galloway slumped, all his bluster gone.
“We’re okay,” Langdon said. “And we just heard that Peter is safe. He’s in bad shape, but the police are with him.”
“Thank heavens,” Galloway said. “And the—”
A loud rattling caused everyone in the room to jump. It was Bellamy’s cell phone vibrating against the coffee table. Everyone fell silent.
“Okay, Mr. Bellamy,” Sato said. “Don’t blow it. You know the stakes.”
Bellamy took a deep breath and exhaled. Then he Within The Order ^■Franklin Square reached down and pressed the speakerphone button to connect the call.
“Bellamy here,” he said, speaking loudly toward the phone on the coffee table.
The voice that crackled back through the speaker was familiar, an airy whisper. It sounded like he was calling from a hands-free speakerphone inside a car. “It’s past midnight, Mr. Bellamy. I was about to put Peter out of his misery.”
There was an uneasy silence in the room. “Let me talk to him.”
“Impossible,” the man replied. “We’re driving. He’s tied up in the trunk.”
Langdon and Katherine exchanged looks Within The Order ^■Franklin Square and then began shaking their heads at everyone. He’s bluffing! He no longer has Peter!
Sato motioned for Bellamy to keep pressing.
“I want proof that Peter’s alive,” Bellamy said. “I’m not giving you the rest of—”
“Your Worshipful Master needs a doctor. Don’t waste time with negotiations. Tell me the street number on Franklin Square, and I’ll bring Peter to you there.”
“I told you, I want—”
“Now!” the man exploded. “Or I will pull over and Peter Solomon dies this instant!”
“You listen to me,” Bellamy said forcefully. “If you want the rest Within The Order ^■Franklin Square of the address, you’ll play by my rules. Meet me at Franklin Square. Once you deliver Peter alive, I’ll tell you the number of the building.”
“How do I know you won’t bring the authorities?”
“Because I can’t risk double-crossing you. Peter’s life is not the only card you hold. I know what’s really at stake tonight.”
“You do realize,” the man on the phone said, “that if I sense so much as a hint of anyone other than you at Franklin Square, I will keep driving, and you will never Within The Order ^■Franklin Square find even a trace of Peter Solomon. And of course . . . that will be the least of your worries.”
“I’ll come alone,” Bellamy replied somberly. “When you turn over Peter, I’ll give you everything you need.”
“Center of the square,” the man said. “It will take me at least twenty 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 Within The Order ^■Franklin Square 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 Within The Order ^■Franklin Square 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 Within The Order ^■Franklin Square 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 Within The Order ^■Franklin Square 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 Within The Order ^■Franklin Square 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 Within The Order ^■Franklin Square was rocketing across the lawn, racing northward to Kalorama Heights.
Franklin Squareis 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 Within The Order ^■Franklin Square 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 Within The Order ^■Franklin Square 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 Within The Order ^■Franklin Square 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 Within The Order ^■Franklin Square 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 Within The Order ^■Franklin Square. 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 Within The Order ^■Franklin Square 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 Within The Order ^■Franklin Square 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 Within The Order ^■Franklin Square 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 Within The Order ^■Franklin Square 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 Within The Order ^■Franklin Square 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 Within The Order ^■Franklin Square 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 Within The Order ^■Franklin Square 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 Solomonknew she was falling . . . but Within The Order ^■Franklin Square 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 Within The Order ^■Franklin Square 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 Within The Order ^■Franklin Square, 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 Within The Order ^■Franklin Square 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 Within The Order ^■Franklin Square. 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 Within The Order ^■Franklin Square 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 Within The Order ^■Franklin Square 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 Within The Order ^■Franklin Square 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 Within The Order ^■Franklin Square, 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 Within The Order ^■Franklin Square, 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 Within The Order ^■Franklin Square 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 Within The Order ^■Franklin Square 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 Within The Order ^■Franklin Square 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 Within The Order ^■Franklin Square 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 Within The Order ^■Franklin Square 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 Within The Order ^■Franklin Square 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 Within The Order ^■Franklin Square floor, and, with incredible force, smashed it back down onto the hardwood.
Everything went black.
Mal’akh stoodin 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 Within The Order ^■Franklin Square 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, Mal’akh was driving only between his garage and his front yard Within The Order ^■Franklin Square, where he had left several of his myriad cars parked askew with the headlights on and the engines running.
The deception had worked perfectly.
The only wrinkle was the bloody black-clad heap in the foyer with a screwdriver protruding from his neck. Mal’akh searched the corpse and had to chuckle when he found a high-tech transceiver and cell phone with a CIA logo. It seems even they are aware of my power. He removed the batteries and crushed both devices with a heavy bronze doorstop.
Mal’akh knew he had to move quickly now, especially Within The Order ^■Franklin Square if the CIA was involved. He strode back over to Langdon. The professor was out cold and would be for a while. Mal’akh’s eyes moved with trepidation now to the stone pyramid on the floor beside the professor’s open bag. His breath caught, and his heart pounded.
I have waited for years . . .
His hands trembled slightly as he reached down and picked up the Masonic Pyramid. As he ran his fingers slowly across the engravings, he felt awed by their promise. Before he became too entranced, he put the pyramid back in Langdon’s bag with Within The Order ^■Franklin Square the capstone and zipped it up.
I will assemble the pyramid soon . . . in a much safer location.
He threw Langdon’s bag over his shoulder and then tried to hoist Langdon himself, but the professor’s toned physique weighed much more than anticipated. Mal’akh settled on grabbing him beneath the armpits and dragging him across the floor. He’s not going to like where he ends up, Mal’akh thought.
As he dragged Langdon off, the television in the kitchen blared. The sound of voices from the TV had been part of the deception, and Within The Order ^■Franklin Square Mal’akh had yet to turn it off. The station was now broadcasting a televangelist leading his congregation in the Lord’s Prayer. Mal’akh wondered if any of his hypnotized viewers had any idea where this prayer really came from.
“ . . . On earth as it is in heaven . . .” the group intoned.
Yes, Mal’akh thought. As above, so below.
“ . . . And lead us not into temptation . . .”
Help us master the weakness of our flesh.
“ . . . Deliver us from evil . . .” they all beseeched.
Mal’akh smiled. That could be difficult. The darkness is growing. Even so, he had to give them credit Within The Order ^■Franklin Square for trying. Humans who spoke to invisible forces and requested help were a dying breed in this modern world.
Mal’akh was dragging Langdon across the living room when the congregation declared, “Amen!”
Amon, Mal’akh corrected. Egypt is the cradle of your religion. The god Amon was the prototype for Zeus . . . for Jupiter . . . and for every modern face of God. To this day, every religion on earth shouted out a variation of his name. Amen! Amin! Aum!
The televangelist began quoting verses from the Bible describing hierarchies of angels, demons, and spirits that ruled in heaven and hell. “Protect Within The Order ^■Franklin Square your souls from evil forces!” he warned them. “Lift your hearts in prayer! God and his angels will hear you!”
He’s right, Mal’akh knew. But so will the demons.
Mal’akh had learned long ago that through proper application of the Art, a practitioner could open a portal to the spiritual realm. The invisible forces that existed there, much like man himself, came in many forms, both good and evil. Those of Light healed, protected, and sought to bring order to the universe. Those of Dark functioned oppositely . . . bringing destruction and chaos.
If properly summoned, the invisible forces Within The Order ^■Franklin Square could be persuaded to do a practitioner’s bidding on earth . . . thus instilling him with seemingly supernatural power. In exchange for helping the summoner, these forces required offerings—prayers and praise for those of Light . . . and the spilling of blood for those of Dark.
The greater the sacrifice, the greater the power that is transferred. Mal’akh had begun his practice with the blood of inconsequential animals. Over time, however, his choices for sacrifice had become more bold. Tonight, I take the final step.
“Beware!” the preacher shouted, warning of the coming Apocalypse. “The final battle for the souls Within The Order ^■Franklin Square of man will soon be fought!”
Indeed, Mal’akh thought. And I shall become its greatest warrior.
This battle, of course, had begun long, long ago. In ancient Egypt, those who perfected the Art had become the great Adepts of history, evolving beyond the masses to become true practitioners of Light. They moved as gods on earth. They built great temples of initiation to which neophytes traveled from around the world to partake of the wisdom. There arose a race of golden men. For a brief span of time, mankind seemed poised to elevate himself and transcend his Within The Order ^■Franklin Square earthly bonds.
The golden age of the Ancient Mysteries.
And yet man, being of the flesh, was susceptible to the sins of hubris, hatred, impatience, and greed. Over time, there were those who corrupted the Art, perverting it and abusing its power for personal gain. They began using this perverted version to summon dark forces. A different Art evolved . . . a more potent, immediate, and intoxicating influence.
Such is my Art.
Such is my Great Work.
The illuminated Adepts and their esoteric fraternities witnessed the rising evil and saw that man was not using his newfound knowledge for the good of Within The Order ^■Franklin Square his species. And so they hid their wisdom to keep it from the eyes of the unworthy. Eventually, it was lost to history.
With this came the Great Fall of Man.
And a lasting darkness.
To this day, the noble descendants of the Adepts soldiered on, grasping blindly for the Light, trying to recapture the lost power of their past, trying to keep the darkness at bay. They were the priests and priestesses of the churches, temples, and shrines of all the religions on earth. Time had erased the memories . . . detached them from their past. They no longer Within The Order ^■Franklin Square knew the Source from which their potent wisdom had once flowed. When they were asked about the divine mysteries of their forebears, the new custodians of faith vociferously disowned them, condemning them as heresy.
Have they truly forgotten? Mal’akh wondered.
Echoes of the ancient Art still resonated in every corner of the globe, from the mystical Kabbalists of Judaism to the esoteric Sufis of Islam. Vestiges remained in the arcane rituals of Christianity, in its god-eating rites of Holy Communion, its hierarchies of saints, angels, and demons, its chanting and incantation, its holy calendar’s astrological underpinnings, its Within The Order ^■Franklin Square consecrated robes, and in its promise of everlasting life. Even now, its priests dispelled evil spirits by swinging smoke-filled censers, ringing sacred bells, and sprinkling holy water. Christians still practiced the supernatural craft of exorcism—an early practice of their faith that required the ability not only to cast out demons but to summon them.
And yet they cannot see their past?
Nowhere was the church’s mystical past more evident than at her epicenter. In Vatican City, at the heart of St. Peter’s Square, stood the great Egyptian obelisk. Carved thirteen hundred years before Jesus Within The Order ^■Franklin Square took his first breath—this numinous monolith had no relevance there, no link to modern Christianity. And yet there it was. At the core of Christ’s church. A stone beacon, screaming to be heard. A reminder to those few sages who remembered where it all began. This church, born of the womb of the Ancient Mysteries, still bore her rites and symbols.
One symbol above all.
Adorning her altars, vestments, spires, and Scripture was the singular image of Christianity—that of a precious, sacrificed human being. Christianity, more than any other faith, understood the transformative power of sacrifice Within The Order ^■Franklin Square. Even now, to honor the sacrifice made by Jesus, his followers proffered their own feeble gestures of personal sacrifice . . . fasting, Lenten renunciation, tithing.
All of those offerings are impotent, of course. Without blood . . . there is no true sacrifice.
The powers of darkness had long embraced blood sacrifice, and in doing so, they had grown so strong that the powers of goodness now struggled to keep them in check. Soon the Light would be entirely consumed, and the practitioners of darkness would move freely through the minds of men.
“Eight Franklin Squaremust exist,” Sato insisted. “Look it up Within The Order ^■Franklin Square again!”
Nola Kaye sat at her desk and adjusted her headset. “Ma’am, I’ve checked everywhere . . . that address doesn’t exist in D.C.”
“But I’m on the roof of One Franklin Square,” Sato said. “There has to be an Eight!”
Director Sato’s on a roof? “Hold on.” Nola began running a new search. She was considering telling the OS director about the hacker, but Sato seemed fixated on Eight Franklin Square at the moment. Besides, Nola still didn’t have all the information. Where’s that damned sys-sec, anyway?
“Okay,” Nola said, eyeing her screen, “I Within The Order ^■Franklin Square see the problem. One Franklin Square is the name of the building . . . not the address. The address is actually 1301 K Street.”
The news seemed to confound the director. “Nola, I don’t have time to explain—the pyramid clearly points to the address Eight Franklin Square.”
Nola sat bolt upright. The pyramid points to a specific location?
“The inscription,” Sato continued, “reads: ‘The secret hides within The Order—Eight Franklin Square.’”
Nola could scarcely imagine. “An order like . . . a Masonic or fraternal order?”
“I assume so,” Sato replied.
Nola thought a moment, and then began typing again. “Ma Within The Order ^■Franklin Square’am, maybe the street numbers on the square changed over the years? I mean, if this pyramid is as old as legend claims, maybe the numbers on Franklin Square were different when the pyramid was built? I’m now running a search without the number eight . . . for . . . ‘the order’ . . . ‘Franklin Square’ . . . and ‘Washington, D.C.’ . . . and this way, we might get some idea if there’s—” She stalled midsentence as the search results appeared.
“What have you got?” Sato demanded.
Nola stared at the first result on the list—a spectacular image of the Great Pyramid of Egypt— which Within The Order ^■Franklin Square served as the thematic backdrop for the home page dedicated to a building on Franklin Square. The building was unlike any other building on the square.
Or in the entire city, for that matter.
What stopped Nola cold was not the building’s bizarre architecture, but rather the description of its purpose. According to the Web site, this unusual edifice was built as a sacred mystical shrine, designed by . . . and designed for . . . an ancient secret order.
Robert Langdonregained consciousness with a crippling headache.
Where am I?
Wherever he was, it was dark. Deep-cave dark, and deathly silent.
He was Within The Order ^■Franklin Square lying on his back with his arms at his side. Confused, he tried moving his fingers and toes, relieved to find they moved freely with no pain. What happened? With the exception of his headache and the profound darkness, everything seemed more or less normal.
Langdon realized he was lying on a hard floor that felt unusually smooth, like a sheet of glass. Stranger still, he could feel that the slick surface was in direct contact with his bare flesh . . . shoulders, back, buttocks, thighs, calves. Am I naked? Puzzled, he ran his hands over his Within The Order ^■Franklin Square body.
Jesus! Where the hell are my clothes?
In the darkness, the cobwebs began to lift, and Langdon saw flashes of memory . . . frightening snapshots . . . a dead CIA agent . . . the face of a tattooed beast . . . Langdon’s head smashing into the floor. The images came faster . . . and now he recalled the sickening image of Katherine Solomon bound and gagged on the dining-room floor.
Langdon sat bolt upright, and as he did, his forehead smashed into something suspended only inches above him. Pain exploded through his skull and he fell back, teetering near unconsciousness. Groggy, he reached up with Within The Order ^■Franklin Square his hands, groping in the darkness to find the obstacle. What he found made no sense to him. It seemed this room’s ceiling was less than a foot above him. What in the world? As he spread his arms to his sides in an attempt to roll over, both of his hands hit sidewalls.
The truth now dawned on him. Robert Langdon was not in a room at all.
I’m in a box!
In the darkness of his small, coffinlike container, Langdon began pounding wildly with his fist. He shouted over and over for help Within The Order ^■Franklin Square. The terror that gripped him deepened with each passing instant until it was intolerable.
I have been buried alive.
The lid of Langdon’s strange coffin refused to budge, even with the full force of his arms and legs pushing upward in wild panic. The box, from all he could tell, was made of heavy fiberglass. Airtight. Soundproof. Lightproof. Escape-proof.
I am going to suffocate alone in this box.
He thought of the deep well into which he had fallen as a young boy, and of the terrifying night he spent treading water alone in the darkness of a bottomless pit Within The Order ^■Franklin Square. That trauma had scarred Langdon’s psyche, burdening him with an overwhelming phobia of enclosed spaces.
Tonight, buried alive, Robert Langdon was living his ultimate nightmare.
Katherine Solomon trembled in silence on the floor of Mal’akh’s dining room. The sharp wire around her wrists and ankles had already cut into her, and the slightest movements seemed only to tighten her bonds.
The tattooed man had brutally knocked Langdon unconscious and dragged his limp body across the floor along with his leather bag and the stone pyramid. Where they had gone, Katherine had no idea. The Within The Order ^■Franklin Square agent who had accompanied them was dead. She had not heard a sound in many
minutes, and she wondered if the tattooed man and Langdon were still inside the house. She had been trying to scream for help, but with each attempt, the rag in her mouth crept back dangerously closer to her windpipe.
Now she felt approaching footsteps on the floor, and she turned her head, hoping against hope that someone was coming to help. The massive silhouette of her captor materialized in the hallway. Katherine recoiled as she flashed on the image of him standing in her Within The Order ^■Franklin Square family home ten years earlier.
He killed my family.
Now he strode toward her. Langdon was nowhere to be seen. The man crouched down and gripped her around the waist, hoisting her roughly onto his shoulder. The wire sliced into her wrists, and the rag muffled her muted cries of pain. He carried her down the hallway toward the living room, where, earlier today, the two of them had calmly sipped tea together.
Where is he taking me?!
He carried Katherine across the living room and stopped directly in front of the large oil painting of the Three Graces that Within The Order ^■Franklin Square she had admired this afternoon.
“You mentioned you liked this painting,” the man whispered, his lips practically touching her ear. “I’m glad. It may be the last thing of beauty you see.”
With that, he reached out and pressed his palm into the right side of the enormous frame. To Katherine’s shock, the painting rotated into the wall, turning on a central pivot like a revolving door. A hidden doorway.
Katherine tried to wriggle free, but the man held her firmly, carrying her through the opening behind the canvas. As the Three Graces pivoted shut behind them Within The Order ^■Franklin Square, she could see heavy insulation on the back of the canvas. Whatever sounds were made back here were apparently not meant to be heard by the outside world.
The space behind the painting was cramped, more like a hallway than a room. The man carried her to the far side and opened a heavy door, carrying her through it onto a small landing. Katherine found herself looking down a narrow ramp into a deep basement. She drew a breath to scream, but the rag was choking her.
The incline was steep and narrow. The walls on either side were made of Within The Order ^■Franklin Square cement, awash in a bluish light that seemed to emanate from below. The air that wafted up was warm and pungent, laden with an eerie blend of smells . . . the sharp bite of chemicals, the smooth calm of incense, the earthy musk of human sweat, and, pervading it all, a distinct aura of visceral, animal fear.
“Your science impressed me,” the man whispered as they reached the bottom of the ramp. “I hope mine impresses you.”
CIA field agentTurner Simkins crouched in the darkness of Franklin Park and kept his steady gaze on Warren Bellamy. Nobody had Within The Order ^■Franklin Square taken the bait yet, but it was still early.
Simkins’s transceiver beeped, and he activated it, hoping one of his men had spotted something. But it was Sato. She had new information.
Simkins listened and agreed with her concern. “Hold on,” he said. “I’ll see if I can get a visual.” He crawled through the bushes in which he was hiding and peered back in the direction from which he had entered the square. After some maneuvering, he finally opened a sight line.
He was staring at a building that looked like an Old Within The Order ^■Franklin Square World mosque. Nestled between two much larger buildings, the Moorish facade was made of gleaming terra-cotta tile laid in intricate multicolored designs. Above the three massive doors, two tiers of lancet windows looked as if Arabian archers might appear and open fire if anyone approached uninvited.
“I see it,” Simkins said.
“Good. I need you to reposition and watch it very carefully. It’s called the Almas Shrine Temple, and it’s the headquarters of a mystical order.”
Simkins had worked in the D.C. area for a long time but was not familiar with this Within The Order ^■Franklin Square temple or any ancient mystical order headquartered on Franklin Square.
“This building,” Sato said, “belongs to a group called the Ancient Arabic Order of Nobles of the Mystic Shrine.”
“Never heard of them.”
“I think you have,” Sato said. “They’re an appendant body of the Masons, more commonly known as the Shriners.”
Simkins shot a dubious glance at the ornate building. The Shriners? The guys who build hospitals
for kids? He could imagine no “order” less ominous sounding than a fraternity of philanthropists who wore little red fezzes and marched in parades.
Even so, Sato’s concerns were valid Within The Order ^■Franklin Square. “Ma’am, if our target realizes that this building is in fact ‘The Order’ on Franklin Square, he won’t need the address. He’ll simply bypass the rendezvous and go directly to the correct location.”
“My thoughts exactly. Keep an eye on the entrance.”
“Any word from Agent Hartmann in Kalorama Heights?”
“No, ma’am. You asked him to phone you directly.”
“Well, he hasn’t.”
Odd, Simkins thought, checking his watch. He’s overdue.
Robert Langdonlay shivering, naked and alone in total blackness. Paralyzed by fear, he was no longer pounding or shouting. Instead Within The Order ^■Franklin Square, he had closed his eyes and was doing his best to control his hammering heart and his panicked breathing.
You are lying beneath a vast, nighttime sky, he tried to convince himself. There is nothing above you but miles of wide-open space.
This calming visualization had been the only way he had managed to survive a recent stint in an enclosed MRI machine . . . that and a triple dose of Valium. Tonight, however, the visualization was having no effect whatsoever.
The rag in Katherine Solomon’s mouth had shifted backward and was all but choking her. Her Within The Order ^■Franklin Square captor had carried her down a narrow ramp and into a dark basement corridor. At the far end of the hall, she had glimpsed a room lit with an eerie reddish-purple light, but they’d never made it that far. The man had stopped instead at a small side room, carried her inside, and placed her on a wooden chair. He had set her down with her bound wrists behind the chair back so she could not move.
Now Katherine could feel the wire on her wrists slicing deeper into her flesh. The pain barely
registered next to the Within The Order ^■Franklin Square rising panic she was feeling over being unable to breathe. The cloth in her mouth was slipping deeper into her throat, and she felt herself gagging reflexively. Her vision started to tunnel.
Behind her, the tattooed man closed the room’s lone door and flipped on the light. Katherine’s eyes were watering profusely now, and she could no longer differentiate objects in her immediate surroundings. Everything had become a blur.
A distorted vision of colorful flesh appeared before her, and Katherine felt her eyes starting to flutter as she teetered on the brink of unconsciousness. A scale-covered arm reached out Within The Order ^■Franklin Square and yanked the rag from her mouth.
Katherine gasped, inhaling deep breaths, coughing and choking as her lungs flooded with precious air. Slowly, her vision began to clear, and she found herself looking into the demon’s face. The visage was barely human. Blanketing his neck, face, and shaved head was an astounding pattern of bizarre tattooed symbols. With the exception of a small circle on top of his head, every inch of his body appeared to be decorated. A massive double-headed phoenix on his chest glared at her through nipple eyes like some kind of ravenous vulture Within The Order ^■Franklin Square, patiently waiting for her death.
“Open your mouth,” the man whispered.
Katherine stared at the monster with total revulsion. What?
“Open your mouth,” the man repeated. “Or the cloth goes back in.”
Trembling, Katherine opened her mouth. The man extended his thick, tattooed index finger, inserting it between her lips. When he touched her tongue, Katherine thought she would vomit. He extracted his wet finger and raised it to the top of his shaved head. Closing his eyes, he massaged her saliva into his small circular patch of untattooed flesh.
Repulsed, Katherine looked away.
The room in Within The Order ^■Franklin Square which she was sitting appeared to be a boiler room of some sort—pipes on the walls, gurgling sounds, fluorescent lights. Before she could take in her surroundings, though, her gaze stopped dead on something beside her on the floor. A pile of clothing—turtleneck, tweed sport coat, loafers, Mickey Mouse watch.
“My God!” She wheeled back to the tattooed animal before her. “What have you done with Robert?!”
“Shh,” the man whispered. “Or he’ll hear you.” He stepped to one side and motioned behind him.
Langdon was not there. All Katherine saw was a huge black fiberglass box. Its Within The Order ^■Franklin Square shape bore an unsettling resemblance to the heavy crates in which corpses were shipped back from war. Two
massive clasps firmly locked the box shut.
“He’s inside?!” Katherine blurted. “But . . . he’ll suffocate!”
“No, he won’t,” the man said, pointing to a series of transparent pipes that ran along the wall into the bottom of the crate. “He’ll only wish he could.”
In total darkness, Langdon listened intently to the muffled vibrations he now heard from the outside world. Voices? He began pounding on the box and shouting at the top of his lungs. “Help! Can Within The Order ^■Franklin Square anyone hear me?!”
Far off, a muted voice called out. “Robert! My God, no! NO!”
He knew the voice. It was Katherine, and she sounded terrified. Even so, it was a welcome sound. Langdon drew a breath to call out to her, but he stopped short, feeling an unexpected sensation at the back of his neck. A faint breeze seemed to be emanating from the bottom of the box. How is that possible? He lay very still, taking stock. Yes, definitely. He could feel the tiny hairs on the back of his neck being tickled by air movement.
Instinctively Within The Order ^■Franklin Square, Langdon began feeling along the floor of the box, searching for the source of the air. It took only a moment to locate. There’s a tiny vent! The small perforated opening felt similar to a drain plate on a sink or tub, except that a soft, steady breeze was now coming up through it.
He’s pumping air in for me. He doesn’t want me to suffocate.
Langdon’s relief was short-lived. A terrifying sound was now emanating up through the holes in the vent. It was the unmistakable gurgle of flowing liquid . . . coming his way.
Katherine Within The Order ^■Franklin Square stared in disbelief at the clear shaft of liquid that was progressing down one of the pipes toward Langdon’s crate. The scene looked like some kind of twisted stage magician’s act.
He’s pumping water into the crate?!
Katherine strained at her bonds, ignoring the deep bite of the wires around her wrists. All she could do was look on in panic. She could hear Langdon pounding in desperation, but as the water reached the underside of the container, the pounding stopped. There was a moment of terrified silence. Then the pounding started again with Within The Order ^■Franklin Square renewed desperation.
“Let him out!” Katherine begged. “Please! You can’t do this!”
“Drowning is a terrible death, you know.” The man spoke calmly as he paced around her in circles. “Your assistant, Trish, could tell you that.”
Katherine heard his words, but she could barely process them.
“You may remember that I almost drowned once,” the man whispered. “It was on your family’s estate in Potomac. Your brother shot me, and I fell through the ice, out at Zach’s bridge.”
Katherine glared at him, filled with loathing. The night you killed my mother.
“The gods Within The Order ^■Franklin Square protected me that night,” he said. “And they showed me the way . . . to become one of them.”
The water gurgling into the box behind Langdon’s head felt warm . . . body temperature. The fluid was already several inches deep and had
completely swallowed the back of his naked body. As it began creeping up his rib cage, Langdon felt a stark reality closing in fast.
I’m going to die.
With renewed panic, he raised his arms and began pounding wildly again.
“You’ve got tolet him out!” Katherine begged, crying now. “We’ll do whatever you want!” She could hear Within The Order ^■Franklin Square Langdon pounding more frantically as the water flowed into his container.
The tattooed man just smiled. “You’re easier than your brother. The things I had to do to get Peter to tell me his secrets . . .”
“Where is he?!” she demanded. “Where is Peter?! Tell me! We did exactly what you wanted! We solved the pyramid and—”
“No, you did not solve the pyramid. You played a game. You withheld information and brought a government agent to my home. Hardly behavior I intend to reward.”
“We didn’t have a choice,” she replied, choking back the tears. “The CIA is Within The Order ^■Franklin Square looking for you. They made us travel with an agent. I’ll tell you everything. Just let Robert out!” Katherine could hear Langdon shouting and pounding in the crate, and she could see the water flowing through the pipe. She knew he didn’t have a lot of time.
In front of her, the tattooed man spoke calmly, stroking his chin. “I assume there are agents waiting for me at Franklin Square?”
Katherine said nothing, and the man placed his massive palms on her shoulders, slowly pulling
her forward. With her arms still wire-bound be hind the chair back Within The Order ^■Franklin Square, her shoulders strained, burning with pain, threatening to dislocate.
“Yes!” Katherine said. “There are agents at Franklin Square!”
He pulled harder. “What is the address on the capstone?”
The pain in her wrists and shoulders grew unbearable, but Katherine said nothing.
“You can tell me now, Katherine, or I’ll break your arms and ask you again.”
“Eight!” she gasped in pain. “The missing number is eight! The capstone says: ‘The secret hides within The Order—Eight Franklin Square!’ I swear it. I don’t know what else to tell you! It’s Eight Franklin Square!”
The Within The Order ^■Franklin Square man still did not release her shoulders.
“That’s all I know!” Katherine said. “That’s the address! Let go of me! Let Robert out of that tank!”
“I would . . .” the man said, “but there’s one problem. I can’t go to Eight Franklin Square without being caught. Tell me, what’s at that address?”
“I don’t know!”
“And the symbols on the base of the pyramid? On the underside? Do you know their meaning?”
“What symbols on the base?” Katherine had no idea what he was talking about. “The bottom has no symbols. It’s smooth, blank stone!”
Apparently Within The Order ^■Franklin Square immune to the muffled cries for help emanating from the coffinlike crate, the tattooed man calmly padded over to Langdon’s day-bag and retrieved the stone pyramid. Then he returned to Katherine and held it up before her eyes so she could see the base.
When Katherine saw the engraved symbols, she gasped in bewilderment.
But . . . that’s impossible!
The bottom of the pyramid was entirely covered with intricate carvings. There was nothing there before! I’m sure of it! She had no idea what these symbols could possibly mean. They seemed to span every mystical tradition Within The Order ^■Franklin Square, including many she could not even place.
“I . . . have no idea what this means,” she said.
“Nor do I,” her captor said. “Fortunately, we have a specialist at our disposal.” He glanced at the crate. “Let’s ask him, shall we?” He carried the pyramid toward the crate.
For a brief instant of hope, Katherine thought he was going to unclasp the lid. Instead, he sat calmly on top of the box, reached down, and slid a small panel to one side, revealing a Plexiglas window in the top of the tank.
Langdon covered his eyes Within The Order ^■Franklin Square, squinting into the ray of light that now streamed in from above. As his eyes adjusted, hope turned to confusion. He was looking up through what appeared to be a window in the top of his crate. Through the window, he saw a white ceiling and a fluorescent light.
Without warning, the tattooed face appeared above him, peering down.
“Where is Katherine?!” Langdon shouted. “Let me out!”
The man smiled. “Your friend Katherine is here with me,” the man said. “I have the power to spare her life. Your life as well. But your time is short, so I Within The Order ^■Franklin Square suggest you listen carefully.”
Langdon could barely hear him through the glass, and the water had risen higher, creeping across his chest.
“Are you aware,” the man asked, “that there are symbols on the base of the pyramid?”
“Yes!” Langdon shouted, having seen the extensive array of symbols when the pyramid had lain on the floor upstairs. “But I have no idea what they mean! You need to go to Eight Franklin Square! The answer is there! That’s what the capstone—”
“Professor, you and I both know the CIA is waiting for me there. I have no intention of Within The Order ^■Franklin Square walking into a trap. Besides, I didn’t need the street number. There is only one building on that square that could possibly be relevant—the Almas Shrine Temple.” He paused, staring down at Langdon. “The Ancient Arabic Order of Nobles of the Mystic Shrine.”
Langdon was confused. He was familiar with the Almas Temple, but he had forgotten it was on Franklin Square. The Shriners are . . . “The Order”? Their temple sits atop a secret staircase? It made no historical sense whatsoever, but Langdon was in no position at the moment to debate history. “Yes!” he shouted. “That must Within The Order ^■Franklin Square be it! The secret hides within The Order!”
“You’re familiar with the building?”
“Absolutely!” Langdon raised his throbbing head to keep his ears above the quickly rising liquid. “I can help you! Let me out!”
“So you believe you can tell me what this temple has to do with the symbols on the base of the pyramid?”
“Yes! Let me just look at the symbols!”
“Very well, then. Let’s see what you come up with.”
Hurry! With the warm liquid rising around him, Langdon pushed up on the lid, willing the man to unclasp Within The Order ^■Franklin Square it. Please! Hurry! But the lid never opened. Instead, the base of the pyramid suddenly appeared, hovering above the Plexiglas window.
Langdon stared up in panic.
“I trust this view is close enough for you?”The man held the pyramid in his tattooed hands. “Think fast, Professor. I’m guessing you have less than sixty seconds.”
Robert Langdonhad often heard it said that an animal, when cornered, was capable of miraculous feats of strength. Nonetheless, when he threw his full force into the underside of his crate, nothing budged at all. Around him, the liquid continued rising steadily. With no more Within The Order ^■Franklin Square than six inches of breathing room left, Langdon had lifted his head into the pocket of air that remained. He was now face-to-face with the Plexiglas window, his eyes only inches away from the underside of the stone pyramid whose baffling engraving hovered above him.
I have no idea what this means.
Concealed for over a century beneath a hardened mixture of wax and stone dust, the Masonic Pyramid’s final inscription was now laid bare. The engraving was a perfectly square grid of symbols from every tradition imaginable—alchemical, astrological, heraldic, angelic, magical Within The Order ^■Franklin Square, numeric, sigilic, Greek, Latin. As a totality, this was symbolic anarchy—a bowl of alphabet soup whose letters came from dozens of different languages, cultures, and time periods.
Symbologist Robert Langdon, in his wildest academic interpretations, could not fathom how this grid of symbols could be deciphered to mean anything at all. Order from this chaos? Impossible.
The liquid was now creeping over his Adam’s apple, and Langdon could feel his level of terror rising along with it. He continued banging on the tank. The pyramid stared back at him tauntingly.
In frantic desperation, Langdon focused every bit Within The Order ^■Franklin Square of his mental energy on the chessboard of symbols. What could they possibly mean? Unfortunately, the assortment seemed so disparate that he could not even imagine where to begin. They’re not even from the same eras in history!
Outside the tank, her voice muffled but audible, Katherine could be heard tearfully begging for Langdon’s release. Despite his failure to see a solution, the prospect of death seemed to motivate every cell in his body to find one. He felt a strange clarity of mind, unlike anything he had ever experienced. Think! He scanned the grid intensely Within The Order ^■Franklin Square, searching for some clue—a pattern, a hidden word, a special icon, anything at all—but he saw only a grid of unrelated symbols. Chaos.
With each passing second, Langdon had begun to feel an eerie numbness overtaking his body. It was as if his very flesh were preparing to shield his mind from the pain of death. The water was now threatening to pour into his ears, and he lifted his head as far as he could, pushing it against the top of the crate. Frightening images began flashing before his eyes. A boy in New England treading water Within The Order ^■Franklin Square at the bottom of a dark well. A man in Rome trapped beneath a skeleton in an overturned coffin.
Katherine’s shouts were growing more frantic. From all Langdon could hear, she was trying to reason with a madman—insisting that Langdon could not be expected to decipher the pyramid without going to visit the Almas Temple. “That building obviously holds the missing piece to this puzzle! How can Robert decipher the pyramid without all the information?!”
Langdon appreciated her efforts, and yet he felt certain that “Eight Franklin Square” was not pointing to the Almas Temple. The time Within The Order ^■Franklin Square line is all wrong! According to legend, the Masonic Pyramid was created in the mid-1800s, decades before the Shriners even existed. In fact, Langdon realized, it was probably before the square was even called Franklin Square. The capstone could not possibly have been pointing to an unbuilt building at a nonexistent address. Whatever “Eight Franklin Square” was pointing to . . . it had to exist in 1850.
Unfortunately, Langdon was drawing a total blank.
He probed his memory banks for anything that could possibly fit the time line. Eight Franklin Square? Something that was in existence in 1850? Langdon came up Within The Order ^■Franklin Square with nothing. The liquid was trickling into his ears now. Fighting his terror, he stared up at the grid of symbols on the glass. I don’t understand the connection! In a petrified frenzy, his mind began spewing all the far-flung parallels it could generate.
Eight Franklin Square . . . squares . . . this grid of symbols is a square . . . the square and the compass are Masonic symbols . . . Masonic altars are square . . . squares have ninety-degree angles. The water kept rising, but Langdon blocked it out. Eight Franklin . . . eight . . . this grid is eight-by-eight . . . Franklin has eight letters . . . “The Order” has Within The Order ^■Franklin Square eight letters . . . 8 is the rotated symbol for infinity . . . eight is the number of destruction in numerology . . .
Langdon had no idea.
Outside the tank, Katherine was still pleading, but Langdon’s hearing was now intermittent as the water was sloshing around his head.
“ . . . impossible without knowing . . . capstone’s message clearly . . . the secret hides within—”
Then she was gone.