Robert Langdon had entered the Capitol Rotunda many times in his life, but never at a full sprint. As he ran through the north entrance, he spotted a group of tourists clustered in the center of the room. A small boy was screaming, and his parents were trying to console him. Others were crowding around, and several security guards were doing their best to restore order.
He pulled it out of his sling, someone said frantically, and just left it there!
As Langdon drew nearer, he got his first glimpse of what was causing all the commotion. Admittedly, the object on the Capitol floor was odd, but its presence hardly warranted screaming.
The device on the floor was one Langdon had seen many times. The Harvard art department had dozens of theselife-size plastic models used by sculptors and painters to help them render the human bodys most complex feature, which, surprisingly, was not the human face but rather the human hand. Someone left a mannequin hand in the Rotunda?
Mannequin hands, or handequins as some called them, had articulated fingers enabling an artist to pose the hand in whatever position he wanted, which for sophomoric college students was often with the middle finger extended straight up in the air. This handequin, however, had been positioned with its index finger and thumb pointing up toward the ceiling.
As Langdon drew nearer, though, he realized this handequin was unusual. Its plastic surface was not smooth like most. Instead, the surface was mottled and slightly wrinkled, and appeared almost . . .
Like real skin.
Langdon stopped abruptly.
Now he saw the blood. My God!
The severed wrist appeared to have been skewered onto a spiked wooden base so that it would stand up. A wave of nausea rushed over him. Langdon inched closer, unable to breathe, seeing now that the tips of the index finger and thumb had been decorated with tiny tattoos. The tattoos, however, were not what held Langdons attention. His gaze moved instantly to the familiar golden ring on the fourth finger.
Langdon recoiled. His world began to spin as he realized he was looking at the severed right hand of Peter Solomon.