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The energy was growing.

Mal’akh could feel it pulsing within him, moving up and down his body as he wheeled Peter Solomon toward the altar. I will exit this building infinitely more powerful than when I entered. All that remained now was to locate the final ingredient.

“Verbum significatium,” he whispered to himself. “Verbum omnificum.”

Mal’akh parked Peter’s wheelchair beside the altar and then circled around and unzipped the heavy daybag that sat on Peter’s lap. Reaching inside, he lifted out the stone pyramid and held it up in the moonlight, directly in front of Peter’s eyes, showing him the grid of symbols engraved on the bottom. “All these years,” he taunted, “and you never knew how the pyramid kept her secrets.” Mal’akh set the pyramid carefully on the corner of the altar and returned to the bag. “And this talisman,” he continued, extracting the golden capstone, “did indeed bring order from chaos, exactly as promised.” He placed the metal capstone carefully atop the stone pyramid, and then stepped back to give Peter a clear view. “Behold, your symbolon is complete.”

Peter’s face contorted, and he tried in vain to speak.

“Good. I can see you have something you’d like to tell me.” Mal’akh roughly yanked out the gag.

Peter Solomon coughed and gasped for several seconds before he finally managed to speak. “Katherine . . .”

“Katherine’s time is short. If you want to save her, I suggest you do exactly as I say.” Mal’akh suspected she was probably already dead, or if not, very close. It made no difference. She was lucky to have lived long enough to say good-bye to her brother.

“Please,” Peter begged, his voice ragged. “Send an ambulance for her . . .”

“I will do exactly that. But first you must tell me how to access the secret staircase.”

Peter’s expression turned to one of disbelief. “What?!”

“The staircase. Masonic legend speaks of stairs that descend hundreds of feet to the secret location where the Lost Word is buried.”

Peter now looked panicked.

“You know the legend,” Mal’akh baited. “A secret staircase hidden beneath a stone.” He pointed to the central altar—a huge block of granite with a gilded inscription in Hebrew: GOD SAID,

LET THERE BE LIGHTAND THERE WAS LIGHT. “Obviously, this is the right place. The entrance to the staircase must be hidden on one of the floors beneath us.”

“There is no secret staircase in this building!” Peter shouted.

Mal’akh smiled patiently and motioned upward. “This building is shaped like a pyramid.” He pointed to the four-sided vaulted ceiling that angled up to the square oculus in the center.

“Yes, the House of the Temple is a pyramid, but what does—”

“Peter, I have all night.” Mal’akh smoothed his white silk robe over his perfect body. “Katherine, however, does not. If you want her to live, you will tell me how to access the staircase.”

“I already told you,” he declared, “there is no secret staircase in this building!”

“No?” Mal’akh calmly produced the sheet of paper on which he had reorganized the grid of symbols from the base of the pyramid. “This is the Masonic Pyramid’s final message. Your friend Robert Langdon helped me decipher it.”

Mal’akh raised the paper and held it in front of Peter’s eyes. The Worshipful Master inhaled sharply when he saw it. Not only had the sixty-four symbols been organized into clearly meaningful groups . . . but an actual image had materialized out of the chaos.

An image of a staircase . . . beneath a pyramid.

Peter Solomon stared in disbelief at the grid of symbols before him. The Masonic Pyramid had kept its secret for generations. Now, suddenly, it was being unveiled, and he felt a cold sense of foreboding in the pit of his stomach.

The pyramid’s final code.

At a glance, the true meaning of these symbols remained a mystery to Peter, and yet he could immediately understand why the tattooed man believed what he believed.

He thinks there is a hidden staircase beneath the pyramid called Heredom. He misunderstands these symbols.

“Where is it?” the tattooed man demanded. “Tell me how to find the staircase, and I will save Katherine.”

I wish I could do that, Peter thought. But the staircase is not real. The myth of the staircase was purely symbolic . . . part of the great allegories of Masonry. The Winding Staircase, as it was known, appeared on the second-degree tracing boards. It represented man’s intellectual climb toward the Divine Truth. Like Jacob’s ladder, the Winding Staircase was a symbol of the pathway to heaven . . . the journey of man toward God . . . the connection between the earthly and spiritual realms. Its steps represented the many virtues of the mind.

He should know that, Peter thought. He endured all the initiations.

Every Masonic initiate learned of the symbolic staircase that he could ascend, enabling him “to participate in the mysteries of human science.” Freemasonry, like Noetic Science and the Ancient Mysteries, revered the untapped potential of the human mind, and many of Masonry’s symbols related to human physiology.

The mind sits like a golden capstone atop the physical body. The Philosopher’s Stone. Through the staircase of the spine, energy ascends and descends, circulating, connecting the heavenly mind to the physical body.

Peter knew it was no coincidence that the spine was made up of exactly thirty-three vertebrae. Thirty-three are the degrees of Masonry. The base of the spine, or sacrum, literally meant

“sacred bone.” The body is indeed a temple. The human science that Masons revered was the ancient understanding of how to use that temple for its most potent and noble purpose.

Unfortunately, explaining the truth to this man was not going to help Katherine at all. Peter gazed down at the grid of symbols and gave a defeated sigh. “You’re right,” he lied. “There is indeed a secret staircase beneath this building. And as soon as you send help to Katherine, I’ll take you to it.”

The man with the tattoos simply stared at him.

Solomon glared back, eyes defiant. “Either save my sister and learn the truth . . . or kill us both and remain ignorant forever!”

The man quietly lowered the paper and shook his head. “I’m not happy with you, Peter. You failed your test. You still take me for a fool. Do you truly believe I don’t understand what it is I seek? Do you think I have not yet grasped my true potential?”

With that, the man turned his back and slipped off his robe. As the white silk fluttered to the floor, Peter saw for the first time the long tattoo running up the man’s spine.

Dear God . . .

Winding up from the man’s white loincloth, an elegant spiral staircase ascended the middle of his muscular back. Each stair was positioned on a different vertebra. Speechless, Peter let his eyes ascend the staircase, all the way up to the base of the man’s skull.

Peter could only stare.

The tattooed man now tipped his shaved head backward, revealing the circle of bare flesh on the pinnacle of his skull. The virgin skin was bordered by a single snake, looped in a circle, consuming itself.


Slowly now, the man lowered his head and turned to face Peter. The massive double-headed phoenix on his chest stared out through dead eyes.

“I am looking for the Lost Word,” the man said. “Are you going to help me . . . or are you and your sister going to die?”

You know how to find it, Mal’akh thought. You know something you’re not telling me.

Peter Solomon had revealed things under interrogation that he probably didn’t even recall now. The repeated sessions in and out of the deprivation tank had left him delirious and compliant. Incredibly, when he spilled his guts, everything he told Mal’akh had been consistent with the legend of the Lost Word.

The Lost Word is not a metaphor . . . it is real. The Word is written in an ancient language . . . and has been hidden for ages. The Word is capable of bringing unfathomable power to anyone who grasps its true meaning. The Word remains hidden to this day . . . and the Masonic Pyramid has the power to unveil it.

“Peter,” Mal’akh now said, staring into his captive’s eyes, “when you looked at that grid of symbols . . . you saw something. You had a revelation. This grid means something to you. Tell me.”

“I will tell you nothing until you send help to Katherine!”

Mal’akh smiled at him. “Believe me, the prospect of losing your sister is the least of your worries right now.” Without another word, he turned to Langdon’s daybag and started removing the items he had packed in his basement. Then he began meticulously arranging them on the sacrificial altar.

A folded silk cloth. Pure white.

A silver censer. Egyptian myrrh.

A vial of Peter’s blood. Mixed with ash.

A black crow’s feather. His sacred stylus.

The sacrificial knife. Forged of iron from a meteorite in the desert of Canaan.

“You think I am afraid to die?” Peter shouted, his voice racked with anguish. “If Katherine is gone, I have nothing left! You’ve murdered my entire family! You’ve taken everything from me!”

“Not everything,” Mal’akh replied. “Not yet.” He reached into the day-bag and pulled out the laptop from his study. He turned it on and looked over at his captive. “I’m afraid you have not yet grasped the true nature of your predicament.”