When the elevator door opened, the lights in the Temple Room were all ablaze.
Katherine Solomons legs still felt rubbery as she hurried in to find her brother. The air in this enormous chamber was cold and smelled of incense. The scene that greeted her stopped her in her tracks.
In the center of this magnificent room, on a low stone altar, lay a bloody, tattooed corpse, a body perforated by spears of broken glass. High above, a gaping hole in the ceiling opened to the heavens.
My God. Katherine immediately looked away, her eyes scanning for Peter. She found her brother sitting on the other side of the room, being tended to by a medic while talking with Langdon and Director Sato.
Peter! Katherine called, running over. Peter!
Her brother glanced up, his expression filling with relief. He was on his feet at once, moving toward her. He was wearing a simple white shirt and dark slacks, which someone had probably gotten for him from his office downstairs. His right arm was in a sling, and their gentle embrace was awkward, but Katherine barely noticed. A familiar comfort surrounded her like a cocoon, as it always had, even in childhood, when her protective older brother embraced her.
They held each other in silence.
Finally Katherine whispered, Are you okay? I mean . . . really? She released him, looking down at the sling and bandage where his right hand used to be. Tears welled again in her eyes. Im so . . . so sorry.
Peter shrugged as if it were nothing of consequence. Mortal flesh. Bodies dont last forever. The important thing is that youre okay.
Peters lighthearted response tore at her emotions, reminding her of all the reasons she loved him. She stroked his head, feeling the unbreakable bonds of family . . . the shared blood that flowed in their veins.
Tragically, she knew there was a third Solomon in the room tonight. The corpse on the altar drew her gaze, and Katherine shuddered deeply, trying to block out the photos she had seen.
She looked away, her eyes now finding Robert Langdons. There was compassion there, deep and perceptive, as if Langdon somehow knew exactly what she was thinking. Peter knows. Raw emotion gripped Katherinerelief, sympathy, despair. She felt her brothers body begin trembling like a childs. It was something she had never witnessed in her entire life.
Just let it go, she whispered. Its okay. Just let it go.
Peters trembling grew deeper.
She held him again, stroking the back of his head. Peter, youve always been the strong one . . . youve always been there for me. But Im here for you now. Its okay. Im right here.
Katherine eased his head gently onto her shoulder . . . and the great Peter Solomon collapsed
sobbing in her arms.
Director Sato stepped away to take an incoming call.
It was Nola Kaye. Her news, for a change, was good.
Still no signs of distribution, maam. She sounded hopeful. Im confident we would have seen something by now. It looks like you contained it.
Thanks to you, Nola, Sato thought, glancing down at the laptop, which Langdon had seen complete its transmission. A very close call.
At Nolas suggestion, the agent searching the mansion had checked the garbage cans, discovering packaging for a newly purchased cellular modem. With the exact model number, Nola had been able to cross-reference compatible carriers, bandwidths, and service grids, isolating the laptops most likely access nodea small transmitter on the corner of Sixteenth and Corcoranthree blocks from the Temple.
Nola quickly relayed the information to Sato in the helicopter. On approach toward the House of the Temple, the pilot had performed a low-altitude flyover and pulsed the relay node with a blast of electromagnetic radiation, knocking it off-line only seconds before the laptop completed its transfer.
Great work tonight, Sato said. Now get some sleep. Youve earned it.
Thank you, maam. Nola hesitated.
Was there something else?
Nola was silent a long moment, apparently considering whether or not to speak. Nothing that cant wait till morning, maam. Have a good night.