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Tonight was not the first time Warren Bellamy had been blindfolded. Like all of his Masonic brothers, he had worn the ritual “hoodwink” during his ascent to the upper echelons of Masonry. That, however, had taken place among trusted friends. Tonight was different. These rough-handed men had bound him, placed a bag on his head, and were now marching him through the library stacks.

The agents had physically threatened Bellamy and demanded to know the whereabouts of Robert Langdon. Knowing his aging body couldn’t take much punishment, Bellamy had told his lie quickly.

“Langdon never came down here with me!” he had said, gasping for air. “I told him to go up to the balcony and hide behind the Moses statue, but I don’t know where he is now!” The story apparently had been convincing, because two of the agents had run off in pursuit. Now the remaining two agents were marching him in silence through the stacks.

Bellamy’s only solace was in knowing Langdon and Katherine were whisking the pyramid off to safety. Soon Langdon would be contacted by a man who could offer sanctuary. Trust him. The man Bellamy had called knew a great deal about the Masonic Pyramid and the secret it held—the location of a hidden spiral staircase that led down into the earth to the hiding place of potent ancient wisdom buried long ago. Bellamy had finally gotten through to the man as they were escaping the reading room, and he felt confident that his short message would be understood perfectly.

Now, as he moved in total darkness, Bellamy pictured the stone pyramid and golden capstone in Langdon’s bag. It has been many years since those two pieces were in the same room.

Bellamy would never forget that painful night. The first of many for Peter. Bellamy had been asked to come to the Solomon estate in Potomac for Zachary Solomon’s eighteenth birthday. Zachary, despite being a rebellious child, was a Solomon, which meant tonight, following family tradition, he would receive his inheritance. Bellamy was one of Peter’s dearest friends and a trusted Masonic brother, and therefore was asked to attend as a witness. But it was not only the transference of money that Bellamy had been asked to witness. There was far more than money at stake tonight.

Bellamy had arrived early and waited, as requested, in Peter’s private study. The wonderful old room smelled of leather, wood fires, and loose-leaf tea. Warren was seated when Peter led his son, Zachary, into the room. When the scrawny eighteen-year-old saw Bellamy, he frowned. “What are you doing here?”

“Bearing witness,” Bellamy offered. “Happy birthday, Zachary.”

The boy mumbled and looked away.

“Sit down, Zach,” Peter said.

Zachary sat in the solitary chair facing his father’s huge wooden desk. Solomon bolted the study door. Bellamy took a seat off to one side.

Solomon addressed Zachary in a serious tone. “Do you know why you’re here?”

“I think so,” Zachary said.

Solomon sighed deeply. “I know you and I have not seen eye to eye for quite some time, Zach. I’ve done my best to be a good father and to prepare you for this moment.”

Zachary said nothing.

“As you know, every Solomon child, upon reaching adulthood, is presented with his or her birthright—a share of the Solomon fortune—which is intended to be a seed . . . a seed for you to nurture, make grow, and use to help nourish mankind.”

Solomon walked to a vault in the wall, unlocked it, and removed a large black folder. “Son, this portfolio contains everything you need to legally transfer your financial inheritance into your own name.” He laid it on the desk. “The aim is that you use this money to build a life of productivity, prosperity, and philanthropy.”

Zachary reached for the folder. “Thanks.”

“Hold on,” his father said, putting his hand on the portfolio. “There’s something else I need to explain.”

Zachary shot his father a contemptuous look and slumped back down.

“There are aspects of the Solomon inheritance of which you are not yet aware.” His father was staring straight into Zachary’s eyes now. “You are my firstborn, Zachary, which means you are entitled to a choice.”

The teenager sat up, looking intrigued.

“It is a choice that may well determine the direction of your future, and so I urge you to ponder it carefully.”

“What choice?”

His father took a deep breath. “It is the choice . . . between wealth or wisdom.”

Zachary gave him a blank stare. “Wealth or wisdom? I don’t get it.”

Solomon stood, walking again to the vault, where he pulled out a heavy stone pyramid with Masonic symbols carved into it. Peter heaved the stone onto the desk beside the portfolio. “This pyramid was created long ago and has been entrusted to our family for generations.”

“A pyramid?” Zachary didn’t look very excited.

“Son, this pyramid is a map . . . a map that reveals the location of one of humankind’s greatest lost treasures. This map was created so that the treasure could one day be rediscovered.” Peter’s voice swelled now with pride. “And tonight, following tradition, I am able to offer it to you . . . under certain conditions.”

Zachary eyed the pyramid suspiciously. “What’s the treasure?”

Bellamy could tell that this coarse question was not what Peter had hoped for. Nonetheless, his demeanor remained steady.

“Zachary, it’s hard to explain without a lot of background. But this treasure . . . in essence . . . is something we call the Ancient Mysteries.”

Zachary laughed, apparently thinking his father was joking.

Bellamy could see the melancholy growing now in Peter’s eyes.

“This is very difficult for me to describe, Zach. Traditionally, by the time a Solomon is eighteen years of age, he is about to embark on his years of higher education in—”

“I told you!” Zachary fired back. “I’m not interested in college!”

“I don’t mean college,” his father said, his voice still calm and quiet. “I’m talking about the brotherhood of Freemasonry. I’m talking about an education in the enduring mysteries of human science. If you had plans to join me within their ranks, you would be on the verge of receiving the education necessary to understand the importance of your decision tonight.”

Zachary rolled his eyes. “Spare me the Masonic lecture again. I know I’m the first Solomon who doesn’t want to join. But so what? Don’t you get it? I have no interest in playing dress-up with a bunch of old men!”

His father was silent for a long time, and Bellamy noticed the fine age lines that had started to appear around Peter’s still-youthful eyes.

“Yes, I get it,” Peter finally said. “Times are different now. I understand that Masonry probably appears strange to you, or maybe even boring. But I want you to know, that doorway will always be open for you should you change your mind.”

“Don’t hold your breath,” Zach grumbled.

“That’s enough!” Peter snapped, standing up. “I realize life has been a struggle for you, Zachary, but I am not your only guidepost. There are good men waiting for you, men who will welcome you within the Masonic fold and show you your true potential.”

Zachary chuckled and glanced over at Bellamy. “Is that why you’re here, Mr. Bellamy? So you Masons can gang up on me?”

Bellamy said nothing, instead directing a respectful gaze back at Peter Solomon—a reminder to Zachary of who held the power in this room.

Zachary turned back to his father.

“Zach,” Peter said, “we’re getting nowhere . . . so let me just tell you this. Whether or not you comprehend the responsibility being offered to you tonight, it is my family obligation to present it.” He motioned to the pyramid. “It is a rare privilege to guard this pyramid. I urge you to consider this opportunity for a few days before making your decision.”

“Opportunity?” Zachary said. “Babysitting a rock?”

“There are great mysteries in this world, Zach,” Peter said with a sigh. “Secrets that transcend your wildest imagination. This pyramid protects those secrets. And even more important, there will come a time, probably within your lifetime, when this pyramid will at last be deciphered and its secrets unearthed. It will be a moment of great human transformation . . . and you have a chance to play a role in that moment. I want you to consider it very carefully. Wealth is commonplace, but wisdom is rare.” He motioned to the portfolio and then to the pyramid. “I beg you to remember that wealth without wisdom can often end in disaster.”

Zachary looked like he thought his father was insane. “Whatever you say, Dad, but there’s no way I’m giving up my inheritance for this.” He gestured to the pyramid.

Peter folded his hands before him. “If you choose to accept the responsibility, I will hold your money and the pyramid for you until you have successfully completed your education within the Masons. This will take years, but you will emerge with the maturity to receive both your money and this pyramid. Wealth and wisdom. A potent combination.”

Zachary shot up. “Jesus, Dad! You don’t give up, do you? Can’t you see that I don’t give a damn about the Masons or stone pyramids and ancient mysteries?” He reached down and scooped up the black portfolio, waving it in front of his father’s face. “This is my birthright! The same birthright of the Solomons who came before me! I can’t believe you’d try to trick me out of my inheritance with lame stories about ancient treasure maps!” He tucked the portfolio under his arm and marched past Bellamy to the study’s patio door.

“Zachary, wait!” His father rushed after him as Zachary stalked out into the night. “Whatever you do, you can never speak of the pyramid you have seen!” Peter Solomon’s voice cracked. “Not to anyone! Ever!”

But Zachary ignored him, disappearing into the night.

Peter Solomon’s gray eyes were filled with pain as he returned to his desk and sat heavily in his leather chair. After a long silence, he looked up at Bellamy and forced a sad smile. “That went well.”

Bellamy sighed, sharing in Solomon’s pain. “Peter, I don’t mean to sound insensitive . . . but . . . do you trust him?”

Solomon stared blankly into space.

“I mean . . .” Bellamy pressed, “not to say anything about the pyramid?”

Solomon’s face was blank. “I really don’t know what to say, Warren. I’m not sure I even know him anymore.”

Bellamy rose and walked slowly back and forth before the large desk. “Peter, you have followed your family duty, but now, considering what just happened, I think we need to take precautions. I should return the capstone to you so you can find a new home for it. Someone else should watch over it.”

“Why?” Solomon asked.

“If Zachary tells anyone about the pyramid . . . and mentions my being present tonight . . .”

“He knows nothing of the capstone, and he’s too immature to know the pyramid has any significance. We don’t need a new home for it. I’ll keep the pyramid in my vault. And you will keep the capstone wherever you keep it. As we always have.”

It was six years later, on Christmas Day, with the family still healing from Zachary’s death, that the enormous man claiming to have killed him in prison broke into the Solomon estate. The intruder had come for the pyramid, but he had taken with him only Isabel Solomon’s life.

Days later, Peter summoned Bellamy to his office. He locked the door and took the pyramid out of his vault, setting it on the desk between them. “I should have listened to you.”

Bellamy knew Peter was racked with guilt over this. “It wouldn’t have mattered.”

Solomon drew a tired breath. “Did you bring the capstone?”

Bellamy pulled a small cube-shaped package from his pocket. The faded brown paper was tied with twine and bore a wax seal of Solomon’s ring. Bellamy laid the package on the desk, knowing the two halves of the Masonic Pyramid were closer together tonight than they should be. “Find someone else to watch this. Don’t tell me who it is.”

Solomon nodded.

“And I know where you can hide the pyramid,” Bellamy said. He told Solomon about the Capitol Building subbasement. “There’s no place in Washington more secure.”

Bellamy recalled Solomon liking the idea right away because it felt symbolically apt to hide the pyramid in the symbolic heart of our nation. Typical Solomon, Bellamy had thought. The idealist even in a crisis.

Now, ten years later, as Bellamy was being shoved blindly through the Library of Congress, he knew the crisis tonight was far from over. He also now knew whom Solomon had chosen to guard the capstone . . . and he prayed to God that Robert Langdon was up to the job.