The headlights winding up the SMSCs wooded access road were the first the guard had seen in
the last hour. Dutifully, he turned down the volume on his portable TV set and stashed his snacks beneath the counter. Lousy timing. The Redskins were completing their opening drive, and he didnt want to miss it.
As the car drew closer, the guard checked the name on the notepad in front of him.
Dr. Christopher Abaddon.
Katherine Solomon had just called to alert Security of this guests imminent arrival. The guard had no idea who this doctor might be, but he was apparently very good at doctoring; he was arriving in a black stretch limousine. The long, sleek vehicle rolled to a stop beside the guardhouse, and the drivers tinted window lowered silently.
Good evening, the chauffeur said, doffing his cap. He was a powerfully built man with a shaved head. He was listening to the football game on his radio. I have Dr. Christopher Abaddon for Ms. Katherine Solomon?
The guard nodded. Identification, please.
The chauffeur looked surprised. Im sorry, didnt Ms. Solomon call ahead?
The guard nodded, stealing a glance at the television. Im still required to scan and log visitor identification. Sorry, regulations. Ill need to see the doctors ID.
Not a problem. The chauffeur turned backward in his seat and spoke in hushed tones through the privacy screen. As he did, the guard stole another peek at the game. The Redskins were breaking from the huddle now, and he hoped to get this limo through before the next play.
The chauffeur turned forward again and held out the ID that hed apparently just received through the privacy screen.
The guard took the card and quickly scanned it into his system. The D.C. drivers license showed one Christopher Abaddon from Kalorama Heights. The photo depicted a handsome blond gentleman wearing a blue blazer, a necktie, and a satin pocket square. Who the hell wears a pocket square to the DMV?
A muffled cheer went up from the television set, and the guard wheeled just in time to see a Redskins player dancing in the end zone, his finger pointed skyward. I missed it, the guard grumbled, returning to the window.
Okay, he said, returning the license to the chauffeur. Youre all set.
As the limo pulled through, the guard returned to his TV, hoping for a replay.
As Malakh drove his limo up the winding access road, he couldnt help but smile. Peter Solomons secret museum had been simple to breach. Sweeter still, tonight was the second time
in twenty-four hours that Malakh had broken into one of Solomons private spaces. Last night, a similar visit had been made to Solomons home.
Although Peter Solomon had a magnificent country estate in Potomac, he spent much of his time in the city at his penthouse apartment at the exclusive Dorchester Arms. His building, like most that catered to the super-rich, was a veritable fortress. High walls. Guard gates. Guest lists. Secured underground parking.
Malakh had driven this very limousine up to the buildings guardhouse, doffed his chauffeurs cap from his shaved head, and proclaimed, I have Dr. Christopher Abaddon. He is an invited guest of Mr. Peter Solomon. Malakh spoke the words as if he were announcing the Duke of York.
The guard checked a log and then Abaddons ID. Yes, I see Mr. Solomon is expecting Dr. Abaddon. He pressed a button and the gate opened. Mr. Solomon is in the penthouse apartment. Have your guest use the last elevator on the right. It goes all the way up.
Thank you. Malakh tipped his hat and drove through.
As he wound deep into the garage, he scanned for security cameras. Nothing. Apparently, those who lived here were neither the kind of people who broke into cars nor the kind of people who appreciated being watched.
Malakh parked in a dark corner near the elevators, lowered the divider between the drivers compartment and the passenger compartment, and slithered through the opening into the back of the limo. Once in back, he got rid of his chauffeurs cap and donned his blond wig. Straightening his jacket and tie, he checked the mirror to make sure he had not smeared his makeup. Malakh was not about to take any chances. Not tonight.
I have waited too long for this.
Seconds later, Malakh was stepping into the private elevator. The ride to the top was silent and smooth. When the door opened, he found himself in an elegant, private foyer. His host was already waiting.
Dr. Abaddon, welcome.
Malakh looked into the mans famous gray eyes and felt his heart begin to race. Mr. Solomon, I appreciate your seeing me.
Please, call me Peter. The two men shook hands. As Malakh gripped the older mans palm, he saw the gold Masonic ring on Solomons hand . . . the same hand that had once aimed a gun at Malakh. A voice whispered from Malakhs distant past. If you pull that trigger, I will haunt you forever.
Please come in, Solomon said, ushering Malakh into an elegant living room whose expansive
windows offered an astonishing view of the Washington skyline.
Do I smell tea steeping? Malakh asked as he entered.
Solomon looked impressed. My parents always greeted guests with tea. Ive carried on that tradition. He led Malakh into the living room, where a tea service was waiting in front of the fire. Cream and sugar?
Black, thank you.
Again Solomon looked impressed. A purist. He poured them both a cup of black tea. You said you needed to discuss something with me that was sensitive in nature and could be discussed only in private.
Thank you. I appreciate your time.
You and I are Masonic brothers now. We have a bond. Tell me how I can help you.
First, I would like to thank you for the honor of the thirty-third degree a few months ago. This is deeply meaningful to me.
Im glad, but please know that those decisions are not mine alone. They are by vote of the Supreme Council.
Of course. Malakh suspected Peter Solomon had probably voted against him, but within the Masons, as with all things, money was power. Malakh, after achieving the thirty-second degree in his own lodge, had waited only a month before making a multimillion-dollar donation to charity in the name of the Masonic Grand Lodge. The unsolicited act of selflessness, as Malakh anticipated, was enough to earn him a quick invitation into the elite thirty-third degree. And yet I have learned no secrets.
Despite the age-old whispersAll is revealed at the thirty-third degreeMalakh had been told nothing new, nothing of relevance to his quest. But he had never expected to be told. The inner circle of Freemasonry contained smaller circles still . . . circles Malakh would not see for years, if ever. He didnt care. His initiation had served its purpose. Something unique had happened within that Temple Room, and it had given Malakh power over all of them. I no longer play by your rules.
You do realize, Malakh said, sipping his tea, that you and I met many years ago.
Solomon looked surprised. Really? I dont recall.
It was quite a long time ago. And Christopher Abaddon is not my real name.
Im so sorry. My mind must be getting old. Remind me how I know you?
Malakh smiled one last time at the man he hated more than any other man on earth. Its unfortunate that you dont recall.
In one fluid motion, Malakh pulled a small device from his pocket and extended it outward, driving it hard into the mans chest. There was a flash of blue light, the sharp sizzle of the stun-gun discharge, and a gasp of pain as one million volts of electricity coursed through Peter Solomons body. His eyes went wide, and he slumped motionless in his chair. Malakh stood up now, towering over the man, salivating like a lion about to consume his injured prey.
Solomon was gasping, straining to breathe.
Malakh saw fear in his victims eyes and wondered how many people had ever seen the great Peter Solomon cower. Malakh savored the scene for several long seconds. He took a sip of tea, waiting for the man to catch his breath.
Solomon was twitching, attempting to speak. Wh-why? he finally managed.
Why do you think? Malakh demanded.
Solomon looked truly bewildered. You want . . . money?
Money? Malakh laughed and took another sip of tea. I gave the Masons millions of dollars; I have no need of wealth. I come for wisdom, and he offers me wealth.
Then what . . . do you want?
You possess a secret. You will share it with me tonight.
Solomon struggled to lift his chin so he could look Malakh in the eye. I dont . . . understand.
No more lies! Malakh shouted, advancing to within inches of the paralyzed man. I know what is hidden here in Washington.
Solomons gray eyes were defiant. I have no idea what youre talking about!
Malakh took another sip of tea and set the cup on a coaster. You spoke those same words to me ten years ago, on the night of your mothers death.
Solomons eyes shot wide open. You . . . ?
She didnt have to die. If you had given me what I demanded . . .
The older mans face contorted in a mask of horrified recognition . . . and disbelief.
I warned you, Malakh said, if you pulled the trigger, I would haunt you forever.
Malakh lunged, driving the Taser hard into Solomons chest again. There was another flash of blue light, and Solomon went completely limp.
Malakh put the Taser back in his pocket and calmly finished his tea. When he was done, he dabbed his lips with a monogrammed linen napkin and peered down at his victim. Shall we go?
Solomons body was motionless, but his eyes were wide and engaged.
Malakh got down close and whispered in the mans ear. Im taking you to a place where only truth remains.
Without another word, Malakh wadded up the monogrammed napkin and stuffed it into Solomons mouth. Then he hoisted the limp man onto his broad shoulders and headed for the private elevator. On his way out, he picked up Solomons iPhone and keys from the hall table.
Tonight you will tell me all your secrets, Malakh thought. Including why you left me for dead all those years ago.