Katherine Solomon had stopped screaming. The drowning she had just witnessed had left her catatonic, virtually paralyzed with shock and despair.
Beneath the Plexiglas window, Langdons dead eyes stared past her into empty space. His frozen expression was one of pain and regret. The last tiny air bubbles trickled out of his lifeless mouth, and then, as if consenting to give up his ghost, the Harvard professor slowly began sinking to the bottom of the tank . . . where he disappeared into the shadows.
Hes gone. Katherine felt numb.
The tattooed man reached down, and with pitiless finality, he slid the small viewing window closed, sealing Langdons corpse inside.
Then he smiled at her. Shall we?
Before Katherine could respond, he hoisted her grief-stricken body onto his shoulder, turned out the light, and carried her out of the room. With a few powerful strides, he transported her to the end of the hall, into a large space that seemed to be bathed in a reddish-purple light. The room smelled like incense. He carried her to a square table in the center of the room and dropped her hard on her back, knocking the wind out of her. The surface felt rough and cold. Is this stone?
Katherine had hardly gotten her bearings before the man had removed the wire from her wrists and ankles. Instinctively, she attempted to fight him off, but her cramped arms and legs barely responded. He now began strapping her to the table with heavy leather bands, cinching one strap across her knees and then buckling a second across her hips, pinning her arms at her sides. Then he placed a final strap across her sternum, just above her breasts.
It had all taken only moments, and Katherine was again immobilized. Her wrists and ankles throbbed now as the circulation returned to her limbs.
Open your mouth, the man whispered, licking his own tattooed lips.
Katherine clenched her teeth in revulsion.
The man again reached out with his index finger and ran it slowly around her lips, making her skin crawl. She clenched her teeth tighter. The tattooed man chuckled and, using his other hand, found a pressure point on her neck and squeezed. Katherines jaw instantly dropped open. She could feel his finger entering her mouth and running along her tongue. She gagged and tried to bite it, but the finger was already gone. Still grinning, he raised his moist fingertip before her eyes. Then he closed his eyes and, once again, rubbed her saliva into the bare circle of flesh on his head.
The man sighed and slowly opened his eyes. Then, with an eerie calm, he turned and left the room.
In the sudden silence, Katherine could feel her heart pounding. Directly over her, an unusual series of lights seemed to be modulating from purple red to a deep crimson, illuminating the rooms low ceiling. When she saw the ceiling, all she could do was stare. Every inch was
covered with drawings. The mind-boggling collage above her appeared to depict the celestial sky. Stars, planets, and constellations mingled with astrological symbols, charts, and formulas. There were arrows predicting elliptical orbits, geometric symbols indicating angles of ascension, and zodiacal creatures peering down at her. It looked like a mad scientist had gotten loose in the Sistine Chapel.
Turning her head, Katherine looked away, but the wall to her left was no better. A series of candles on medieval floor stands shed a flickering glow on a wall that was completely hidden beneath pages of text, photos, and drawings. Some of the pages looked like papyrus or vellum torn from ancient books; others were obviously from newer texts; mixed in were photographs, drawings, maps, and schematics; all of them appeared to have been glued to the wall with meticulous care. A spiderweb of strings had been thumbtacked across them, interconnecting them in limitless chaotic possibilities.
Katherine again looked away, turning her head in the other direction.
Unfortunately, this provided the most terrifying view of all.
Adjacent to the stone slab on which she was strapped, there stood a small side counter that instantly reminded her of an instrument table from a hospital operating room. On the counter was arranged a series of objectsamong them a syringe, a vial of dark liquid . . . and a large knife with a bone handle and a blade hewn of iron burnished to an unusually high shine.
My God . . . what is he planning to do to me?