Katherine Solomon did a double take when she saw the name on her caller ID. She had imagined the incoming call was from Trish, checking in to explain why she and Christopher
Abaddon were taking so long. But the caller was not Trish.
Far from it.
Katherine felt a blushing smile cross her lips. Could tonight get any stranger? She flipped open her phone.
Dont tell me, she said playfully. Bookish bachelor seeking single Noetic Scientist?
Katherine! The deep voice belonged to Robert Langdon. Thank God youre okay.
Of course Im okay, she replied, puzzled. Other than the fact that you never called me after that party at Peters house last summer.
Something has happened tonight. Please listen. His normally smooth voice sounded ragged. Im so sorry to have to tell you this . . . but Peter is in serious trouble.
Katherines smile disappeared. What are you talking about?
Peter . . . Langdon hesitated as if searching for words. I dont know how to say it, but hes been . . . taken. Im not sure how or by whom, but
Taken? Katherine demanded. Robert, youre scaring me. Taken . . . where?
Taken captive. Langdons voice cracked as if he were overwhelmed. It must have happened earlier today or maybe yesterday.
This isnt funny, she said angrily. My brother is fine. I just spoke to him fifteen minutes ago!
You did?! Langdon sounded stunned.
Yes! He just texted me to say he was coming to the lab.
He texted you . . . Langdon thought out loud. But you didnt actually hear his voice?
Listen to me. The text you received was not from your brother. Someone has Peters phone. Hes dangerous. Whoever it is tricked me into coming to Washington tonight.
Tricked you? Youre not making any sense!
I know, Im so sorry. Langdon seemed uncharacteristically disorientated. Katherine, I think you could be in danger.
Katherine Solomon was sure that Langdon would never joke about something like this, and yet
he sounded like he had lost his mind. Im fine, she said. Im locked inside a secure building!
Read me the message you got from Peters phone. Please.
Bewildered, Katherine pulled up the text message and read it to Langdon, feeling a chill as she came to the final part referencing Dr. Abaddon. If available, have Dr. Abaddon join us inside. I trust him fully . . .
Oh God . . . Langdons voice was laced with fear. Did you invite this man inside?
Yes! My assistant just went out to the lobby to get him. I expect them back any
Katherine, get out! Langdon yelled. Now!
At the other side of the SMSC, inside the security room, a phone began ringing, drowning out the Redskins game. The guard reluctantly pulled out his earbuds one more time.
Lobby, he answered. This is Kyle.
Kyle, its Katherine Solomon! Her voice sounded anxious, out of breath.
Maam, your brother has not yet
Wheres Trish?! she demanded. Can you see her on the monitors?
The guard rolled his chair over to look at the screens. She hasnt gotten back to the Cube yet?
No! Katherine shouted, sounding alarmed.
The guard now realized that Katherine Solomon was out of breath, as if she were running. Whats going on back there?
The guard quickly worked the video joystick, skimming through frames of digital video at rapid speed. Okay, hold on, scrolling through playback . . . Ive got Trish with your guest leaving the lobby . . . they move down the Street . . . fast-forwarding . . . okay, theyre going into Wet Pod . . . Trish uses her key card to unlock the door . . . both of them step into Wet Pod . . . fast-forwarding . . . okay, here they are coming out of Wet Pod just a minute ago . . . heading down . . . He cocked his head, slowing the playback. Wait a minute. Thats odd.
The gentleman came out of Wet Pod alone.
Trish stayed inside?
Yes, it looks that way. Im watching your guest now . . . hes in the hall on his own.
Where is Trish? Katherine asked more frantically.
I dont see her on the video feed, he replied, an edge of anxiety creeping into his voice. He looked back at the screen and noticed that the mans jacket sleeves appeared to be wet . . . all the way up to his elbows. What in the world did he do in Wet Pod? The guard watched as the man began to move purposefully down the main hallway toward Pod 5, clutching in his hand what looked like . . . a key card.
The guard felt the hair on the back of his neck stand on end. Ms. Solomon, weve got a serious problem.
Tonight was a night of firsts for Katherine Solomon.
In two years, she had never used her cell phone inside the void. Nor had she ever crossed the void at a dead run. At the moment, however, Katherine had a cell phone pressed to her ear while she was dashing blindly along the endless length of carpet. Each time she felt a foot stray from the carpet, she corrected back to center, racing on through the sheer darkness.
Where is he now? Katherine asked the guard, breathless.
Checking now, the guard replied. Fast-forwarding . . . okay, here he is walking down the hall . . . moving toward Pod Five . . .
Katherine ran harder, hoping to reach the exit before she got trapped back here. How long until he gets to the Pod Five entrance?
The guard paused. Maam, you dont understand. Im still fast-forwarding. This is recorded playback. This already happened. He paused. Hold on, let me check the entry event monitor. He paused and then said, Maam, Ms. Dunnes key card shows a Pod Five entry event about a minute ago.
Katherine slammed on the brakes, sliding to a halt in the middle of the abyss. He already unlocked Pod Five? she whispered into the phone.
The guard was typing frantically. Yes, it looks like he entered . . . ninety seconds ago.
Katherines body went rigid. She stopped breathing. The darkness felt suddenly alive all around her.
Hes in here with me.
In an instant, Katherine realized that the only light in the entire space was coming from her cell phone, illuminating the side of her face. Send help, she whispered to the guard. And get to Wet Pod to help Trish. Then she quietly closed her phone, extinguishing the light.
Absolute darkness settled around her.
She stood stock-still and breathed as quietly as possible. After a few seconds, the pungent scent of ethanol wafted out of the darkness in front of her. The smell got stronger. She could sense a presence, only a few feet in front of her on the carpet. In the silence, the pounding of Katherines heart seemed loud enough to give her away. Silently, she stepped out of her shoes and inched to her left, sidestepping off the carpet. The cement felt cold under her feet. She took one more step to clear the carpet.
One of her toes cracked.
It sounded like a gunshot in the stillness.
Only a few yards away, a rustle of clothing suddenly came at her out of the darkness. Katherine bolted an instant too late and a powerful arm snagged her, groping in the darkness, hands violently attempting to gain purchase. She spun away as a viselike grip caught her lab coat, yanking her backward, reeling her in.
Katherine threw her arms backward, slithering out of her lab coat and slipping free. Suddenly, with no idea anymore which way was out, Katherine Solomon found herself dashing, dead blind, across an endless black abyss.