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Where are they taking me?

As Langdon hurried with Anderson and Sato into the depths of the Capitol, he felt his heart rate increasing with each downward step. They had begun their journey through the west portico of the Rotunda, descending a marble staircase and then doubling back through a wide doorway into the famous chamber directly beneath the Rotunda floor.

The Capitol Crypt.

The air was heavier here, and Langdon was already feeling claustrophobic. The crypt’s low ceiling and soft uplighting accentuated the robust girth of the forty Doric columns required to support the vast stone floor directly overhead. Relax, Robert.

“This way,” Anderson said, moving quickly as he angled to the left across the wide circular space.

Thankfully, this particular crypt contained no bodies. Instead it contained several statues, a model of the Capitol, and a low storage area for the wooden catafalque on which coffins were laid for state funerals. The entourage hurried through, without even a glance at the four-pointed marble compass in the center of the floor where the Eternal Flame had once burned.

Anderson seemed to be in a hurry, and Sato once again had her head buried in her BlackBerry. Cellular service, Langdon had heard, was boosted and broadcast to all corners of the Capitol Building to support the hundreds of government phone calls that took place here every day.

After diagonally crossing the crypt, the group entered a dimly lit foyer and began winding through a convoluted series of hallways and dead ends. The warren of passages contained numbered doorways, each of which bore an identification number. Langdon read the doors as they snaked their way around.

S154 . . . S153 . . . S152 . . .

He had no idea what lay behind these doors, but at least one thing now seemed clear—the meaning of the tattoo on Peter Solomon’s palm.

SBB13 appeared to be a numbered doorway somewhere in the bowels of the U.S. Capitol Building.

“What are all these doorways?” Langdon asked, clutching his daybag tightly to his ribs and wondering what Solomon’s tiny package could possibly have to do with a door marked SBB13.

“Offices and storage,” Anderson said. “Private offices and storage,” he added, glancing back at Sato.

Sato did not even glance up from her BlackBerry.

“They look tiny,” Langdon said.

“Glorified closets, most of them, but they’re still some of the most sought-after real estate in D.C. This is the heart of the original Capitol, and the old Senate chamber is two stories above us.”

“And SBB Thirteen?” Langdon asked. “Whose office is that?”

“Nobody’s. The SBB is a private storage area, and I must say, I’m puzzled how—”

“Chief Anderson,” Sato interrupted without looking up from her BlackBerry. “Just take us there, please.”

Anderson clenched his jaw and guided them on in silence through what was now feeling like a hybrid self-storage facility and epic labyrinth. On almost every wall, directional signs pointed

back and forth, apparently attempting to locate specific office blocks in this network of hallways.

S142 to S152 . . .

ST1 to ST70 . . .

H1 to H166 & HT1 to HT67 . . .

Langdon doubted he could ever find his way out of here alone. This place is a maze. From all he could gather, office numbers began with either an S or an H depending on whether they were on the Senate side of the building or the House side. Areas designated ST and HT were apparently on a level that Anderson called Terrace Level.

Still no signs for SBB.

Finally they arrived at a heavy steel security door with a key-card entry box.

SB Level

Langdon sensed they were getting closer.

Anderson reached for his key card but hesitated, looking uncomfortable with Sato’s demands.

“Chief,” Sato prompted. “We don’t have all night.”

Anderson reluctantly inserted his key card. The steel door released. He pushed it open, and they stepped through into the foyer beyond. The heavy door clicked shut behind them.

Langdon wasn’t sure what he had hoped to see in this foyer, but the sight in front of him was definitely not it. He was staring at a descending stairway. “Down again?” he said, stopping short. “There’s a level under the crypt?”

“Yes,” Anderson said. “SB stands for ‘Senate Basement.’ ”

Langdon groaned. Terrific.