Vitamins, Supplements, Sport Nutrition

CHAPTER 115

The House of the Temple—known among its brethren as Heredom—had always been the crown jewel of the Masonic Scottish Rite in America. With its steeply sloped, pyramidical roof, the building was named for an imaginary Scottish mountain. Mal’akh knew, however, there was nothing imaginary about the treasure hidden here.

This is the place, he knew. The Masonic Pyramid has shown the way.

As the old elevator slowly made its way to the third floor, Mal’akh took out the piece of paper on which he had reorganized the grid of symbols using the Franklin Square. All the Greek letters had now shifted to the first row . . . along with one simple symbol.

The message could not have been more clear.

Beneath the House of the Temple.

Heredom

The Lost Word is here . . . somewhere.

Although Mal’akh did not know precisely how to locate it, he was confident that the answer lay in the remaining symbols on the grid. Conveniently, when it came to unlocking the secrets of the

Masonic Pyramid and of this building, no one was more qualified to help than Peter Solomon. The Worshipful Master himself.

Peter continued to struggle in the wheelchair, making muffled sounds through his gag.

“I know you’re worried about Katherine,” Mal’akh said. “But it’s almost over.”

For Mal’akh, the end felt like it had arrived very suddenly. After all the years of pain and planning, waiting and searching . . . the moment had now arrived.

The elevator began to slow, and he felt a rush of excitement.

The carriage jolted to a stop.

The bronze doors slid open, and Mal’akh gazed out at the glorious chamber before them. The massive square room was adorned with symbols and bathed in moonlight, which shone down through the oculus at the pinnacle of the ceiling high above.

I have come full circle, Mal’akh thought.

The Temple Room was the same place in which Peter Solomon and his brethren had so foolishly initiated Mal’akh as one of their own. Now the Masons’ most sublime secret—something that most of the brethren did not even believe existed—was about to be unearthed.

“He won’t find anything,” Langdon said, still feeling groggy and disorientated as he followed Sato and the others up the wooden ramp out of the basement. “There is no actual Word. It’s all a metaphor—a symbol of the Ancient Mysteries.”

Katherine followed, with two agents assisting her weakened body up the ramp.

As the group moved gingerly through the wreckage of the steel door, through the rotating painting, and into the living room, Langdon explained to Sato that the Lost Word was one of Freemasonry’s most enduring symbols—a single word, written in an arcane language that man could no longer decipher. The Word, like the Mysteries themselves, promised to unveil its hidden power only to those enlightened enough to decrypt it. “It is said,” Langdon concluded, “that if you can possess and understand the Lost Word . . . then the Ancient Mysteries will become clear to you.”

Sato glanced over. “So you believe this man is looking for a word?”

Langdon had to admit it sounded absurd at face value, and yet it answered a lot of questions. “Look, I’m no specialist in ceremonial magic,” he said, “but from the documents on his basement walls . . . and from Katherine’s description of the untattooed flesh on his head . . . I’d say he’s hoping to find the Lost Word and inscribe it on his body.”

Sato moved the group toward the dining room. Outside, the helicopter was warming up, its

blades thundering louder and louder.

Langdon kept talking, thinking aloud. “If this guy truly believes he is about to unlock the power of the Ancient Mysteries, no symbol would be more potent in his mind than the Lost Word. If he could find it and inscribe it on the top of his head—a sacred location in itself—then he would no doubt consider himself perfectly adorned and ritualistically prepared to . . .” He paused, seeing Katherine blanch at the thought of Peter’s impending fate.

“But, Robert,” she said weakly, her voice barely audible over the helicopter blades. “This is good news, right? If he wants to inscribe the Lost Word on the top of his head before he sacrifices Peter, then we have time. He won’t kill Peter until he finds the Word. And, if there is no Word . . .”

Langdon tried to look hopeful as the agents helped Katherine into a chair. “Unfortunately, Peter still thinks you’re bleeding to death. He thinks the only way to save you is to cooperate with this lunatic . . .probably to help him find the Lost Word.”

“So what?” she insisted. “If the Word doesn’t exist—”

“Katherine,” Langdon said, staring deeply into her eyes. “If I believed you were dying, and if someone promised me I could save you by finding the Lost Word, then I would find this man a word—any word—and then I’d pray to God he kept his promise.”

“Director Sato!” an agent shouted from the next room. “You’d better see this!”

Sato hurried out of the dining room and saw one of her agents coming down the stairs from the bedroom. He was carrying a blond wig. What the hell?

“Man’s hairpiece,” he said, handing it to her. “Found it in the dressing room. Have a close look.”

The blond wig was much heavier than Sato expected. The skullcap seemed to be molded of a thick gel. Strangely, the underside of the wig had a wire protruding from it.

“Gel-pack battery that molds to your scalp,” the agent said. “Powers a fiber-optic pinpoint camera hidden in the hair.”

“What?” Sato felt around with her fingers until she found the tiny camera lens nestled invisibly within the blond bangs. “This thing’s a hidden camera?”

Video camera,” the agent said. “Stores footage on this tiny solid-state card.” He pointed to a stamp-size square of silicon embedded in the skullcap. “Probably motion activated.”

Jesus, she thought. So that’s how he did it.

This sleek version of the “flower in the lapel” secret camera had played a key role in the crisis the OS director was facing tonight. She glared at it a moment longer and then handed it back to

the agent.

“Keep searching the house,” she said. “I want every bit of information you can find on this guy. We know his laptop is missing, and I want to know exactly how he plans to connect it to the outside world while he’s on the move. Search his study for manuals, cables, anything at all that might give us a clue about his hardware.”

“Yes, ma’am.” The agent hurried off.

Time to move out. Sato could hear the whine of the helicopter blades at full pitch. She hurried back to the dining room, where Simkins had now ushered Warren Bellamy in from the helicopter and was gathering intel from him about the building to which they believed their target had gone.

House of the Temple.

“The front doors are sealed from within,” Bellamy was saying, still wrapped in a foil blanket and shivering visibly from his time outside in Franklin Square. “The building’s rear entrance is your only way in. It’s got a keypad with an access PIN known only to the brothers.”

“What’s the PIN?” Simkins demanded, taking notes.

Bellamy sat down, looking too feeble to stand. Through chattering teeth, he recited his access code and then added, “The address is 1733 Sixteenth, but you’ll want the access drive and parking area, behind the building. Kind of tricky to find, but—”

“I know exactly where it is,” Langdon said. “I’ll show you when we get there.”

Simkins shook his head. “You’re not coming, Professor. This is a military—”

“The hell I’m not!” Langdon fired back. “Peter’s in there! And that building’s a labyrinth! Without someone to lead you in, you’ll take ten minutes to find your way up to the Temple Room!”

“He’s right,” Bellamy said. “It’s a maze. There is an elevator, but it’s old and loud and opens in full view of the Temple Room. If you hope to move in quietly, you’ll need to ascend on foot.”

“You’ll never find your way,” Langdon warned. “From that rear entrance, you’re navigating through the Hall of Regalia, the Hall of Honor, the middle landing, the Atrium, the Grand Stair— ”

“Enough,” Sato said. “Langdon’s coming.”