Robert Langdon felt like a corpse.
He lay supine, hands folded on his chest, in total darkness, trapped in the most confined of spaces. Although Katherine lay nearby in a similar position near his head, Langdon could not see her. He had his eyes closed to prevent himself from catching even a fleeting glimpse of his frightening predicament.
The space around him was small.
Sixty seconds ago, with the double doors of the reading room crashing down, he and Katherine had followed Bellamy into the octagonal console, down a steep set of stairs, and into the unexpected space below.
Langdon had realized at once where they were. The heart of the librarys circulation system. Resembling a small airport baggage distribution center, the circulation room had numerous conveyor belts that angled off in different directions. Because the Library of Congress was housed in three separate buildings, books requested in the reading room often had to be transported great distances by a system of conveyors through a web of underground tunnels.
Bellamy immediately crossed the room to a steel door, where he inserted his key card, typed a sequence of buttons, and pushed open the door. The space beyond was dark, but as the door opened, a span of motion-sensor lights flickered to life.
When Langdon saw what lay beyond, he realized he was looking at something few people ever saw. The Library of Congress stacks. He felt encouraged by Bellamys plan. What better place to hide than in a giant labyrinth?
Bellamy did not guide them into the stacks, however. Instead, he propped the door open with a book and turned back to face them. I had hoped to be able to explain a lot more to you, but we
have no time. He gave Langdon his key card. Youll need this.
Youre not coming with us? Langdon asked.
Bellamy shook his head. Youll never make it unless we split up. The most important thing is to keep that pyramid and capstone in safe hands.
Langdon saw no other way out except the stairs back up to the reading room. And where are you going?
Ill coax them into the stacks away from you, Bellamy said. Its all I can do to help you escape.
Before Langdon could ask where he and Katherine were supposed to go, Bellamy was heaving a large crate of books off one of the conveyors. Lie on the belt, Bellamy said. Keep your hands in.
Langdon stared. You cannot be serious! The conveyor belt extended a short distance then disappeared into a dark hole in the wall. The opening looked large enough to permit passage of a crate of books, but not much more. Langdon glanced back longingly at the stacks.
Forget it, Bellamy said. The motion-sensor lights will make it impossible to hide.
Thermal signature! a voice upstairs shouted. Flanks converge!
Katherine apparently had heard all she needed to hear. She climbed onto the conveyor belt with her head only a few feet from the opening in the wall. She crossed her hands over her chest like a mummy in a sarcophagus.
Langdon stood frozen.
Robert, Bellamy urged, if you wont do this for me, do it for Peter.
The voices upstairs sounded closer now.
As if in a dream, Langdon moved to the conveyor. He slung his daybag onto the belt and then climbed on, placing his head at Katherines feet. The hard rubber conveyor felt cold against his back. He stared at the ceiling and felt like a hospital patient preparing for insertion headfirst into an MRI machine.
Keep your phone on, Bellamy said. Someone will call soon . . . and offer help. Trust him.
Someone will call? Langdon knew that Bellamy had been trying to reach someone with no luck and had left a message earlier. And only moments ago, as they hurried down the spiral staircase, Bellamy had tried one last time and gotten through, speaking very briefly in hushed tones and then hanging up.
Follow the conveyor to the end, Bellamy said. And jump off quickly before you circle back. Use my key card to get out.
Get out of where?! Langdon demanded.
But Bellamy was already pulling levers. All the different conveyors in the room hummed to life. Langdon felt himself jolt into motion, and the ceiling began moving overhead.
God save me.
As Langdon approached the opening in the wall, he looked back and saw Warren Bellamy race through the doorway into the stacks, closing the door behind him. An instant later, Langdon slid into the darkness, swallowed up by the library . . . just as a glowing red laser dot came dancing down the stairs.