Wrapped in wool blankets, Langdon stood on wobbly legs and stared down at the open tank of liquid. His body had returned to him, although he wished it had not. His throat and lungs burned. This world felt hard and cruel.
Sato had just explained the sensory-deprivation tank . . . adding that if she had not pulled him out, he would have died of starvation, or worse. Langdon had little doubt that Peter had endured a similar experience. Peter is in the in-between, the tattooed man had told him earlier tonight. He is in purgatory . . . Hamistagan. If Peter had endured more than one of those birthing processes, Langdon would not have been surprised if Peter had told his captor anything he had wanted to know.
Sato motioned for Langdon to follow her, and he did, trudging slowly down a narrow hall, deeper into this bizarre lair that he was now seeing for the first time. They entered a square room with a stone table and eerie-colored lighting. Katherine was here, and Langdon heaved a sigh of
relief. Even so, the scene was worrisome.
Katherine was lying on her back on a stone table. Blood-soaked towels lay on the floor. A CIA agent was holding an IV bag above her, the tube connected to her arm.
She was sobbing quietly.
Katherine? Langdon croaked, barely able to speak.
She turned her head, looking disorientated and confused. Robert?! Her eyes widened with disbelief and then joy. But I . . . saw you drown!
He moved toward the stone table.
Katherine pulled herself to a seated position, ignoring her IV tube and the medical objections of the agent. Langdon reached the table, and Katherine reached out, wrapping her arms around his blanket-clad body, holding him close. Thank God, she whispered, kissing his cheek. Then she kissed him again, squeezing him as though she didnt believe he was real. I dont understand . . . how . . .
Sato began saying something about sensory-deprivation tanks and oxygenated perfluorocarbons, but Katherine clearly wasnt listening. She just held Langdon close.
Robert, she said, Peters alive. Her voice wavered as she recounted her horrifying reunion with Peter. She described his physical conditionthe wheelchair, the strange knife, the allusions to some kind of sacrifice, and how she had been left bleeding as a human hourglass to persuade Peter to cooperate quickly.
Langdon could barely speak. Do you . . . have any idea where . . . they went?!
He said he was taking Peter to the sacred mountain.
Langdon pulled away and stared at her.
Katherine had tears in her eyes. He said he had deciphered the grid on the bottom of the pyramid, and that the pyramid told him to go to the sacred mountain.
Professor, Sato pressed, does that mean anything to you?
Langdon shook his head. Not at all. Still, he felt a surge of hope. But if he got the information off the bottom of the pyramid, we can get it, too. I told him how to solve it.
Sato shook her head. The pyramids gone. Weve looked. He took it with him.
Langdon remained silent a moment, closing his eyes and trying to recall what he had seen on the base of the pyramid. The grid of symbols had been one of the last images he had seen before
drowning, and trauma had a way of burning memories deeper into the mind. He could recall some of the grid, definitely not all of it, but maybe enough?
He turned to Sato and said hurriedly, I may be able to remember enough, but I need you to look up something on the Internet.
She pulled out her BlackBerry.
Run a search for The Order Eight Franklin Square.
Sato gave him a startled look but began typing without questions.
Langdons vision was still blurry, and he was only now starting to process his strange surroundings. He realized that the stone table on which they were leaning was covered with old bloodstains, and the wall to his right was entirely plastered with pages of text, photos, drawings, maps, and a giant web of strings interconnecting them.
Langdon moved toward the strange collage, still clutching the blankets around his body. Tacked on the wall was an utterly bizarre collection of informationpages from ancient texts ranging from black magic to Christian Scripture, drawings of symbols and sigils, pages of conspiracy-theory Web sites, and satellite photos of Washington, D.C., scrawled with notes and question marks. One of the sheets was a long list of words in many languages. He recognized some of them as sacred Masonic words, others as ancient magic words, and others from ceremonial incantations.
Is that what hes looking for?
Is it that simple?
Langdons long-standing skepticism about the Masonic Pyramid was based largely on what it allegedly revealedthe location of the Ancient Mysteries. This discovery would have to involve an enormous vault filled with thousands upon thousands of volumes that had somehow survived the long-lost ancient libraries in which they had once been stored. It all seemed impossible. A vault that big? Beneath D.C.? Now, however, his recollection of Peters lecture at Phillips Exeter, combined with these lists of magic words, had opened another startling possibility.
Langdon most definitely did not believe in the power of magic words . . . and yet it seemed pretty clear that the tattooed man did. His pulse quickened as he again scanned the scrawled notes, the maps, the texts, the printouts, and all the interconnected strings and sticky notes.
Sure enough, there was one recurring theme.
My God, hes looking for the verbum significatium . . . the Lost Word. Langdon let the thought take shape, recalling fragments of Peters lecture. The Lost Word is what hes looking for! Thats what he believes is buried here in Washington.
Sato arrived beside him. Is this what you asked for? She handed him her BlackBerry.
Langdon looked at the eight-by-eight grid of numbers on the screen. Exactly. He grabbed a piece of scrap paper. Ill need a pen.
Sato handed him one from her pocket. Please hurry.
Inside the basement office of the Directorate of Science and Technology, Nola Kaye was once again studying the redacted document brought to her by sys-sec Rick Parrish. What the hell is the CIA director doing with a file about ancient pyramids and secret underground locations?
She grabbed the phone and dialed.
Sato answered instantly, sounding tense. Nola, I was just about to call you.
I have new information, Nola said. Im not sure how this fits, but Ive discovered theres a redacted
Forget it, whatever it is, Sato interrupted. Were out of time. We failed to apprehend the target, and I have every reason to believe hes about to carry out his threat.
Nola felt a chill.
The good news is we know exactly where hes going. Sato took a deep breath. The bad news is that hes carrying a laptop with him.