No more secrets, thought Katherine Solomon.
On the table in front of her, the wax seal that had been intact for generations now lay in pieces. She finished removing the faded brown paper from her brothers precious package. Beside her, Langdon looked decidedly uneasy.
From within the paper, Katherine extracted a small box made of gray stone. Resembling a polished granite cube, the box had no hinges, no latch, and no apparent way inside. It reminded Katherine of a Chinese puzzle box.
It looks like a solid block, she said, running her fingers over the edges. Are you sure the X-ray showed it was hollow? With a capstone inside?
It did, Langdon said, moving next to Katherine and scrutinizing the mysterious box. He and Katherine peered at the box from different angles, attempting to find a way in.
Got it, Katherine said as her fingernail located the hidden slit along one of the boxs top edges. She set the box down on the desk and then carefully pried open the lid, which rose smoothly, like
the top of a fine jewelry box.
When the lid fell back, Langdon and Katherine both drew audible breaths. The interior of the box seemed to be glowing. The inside was shining with an almost supernatural effulgence. Katherine had never seen a piece of gold this large, and it took her an instant to realize that the precious metal was simply reflecting the radiance of the desk lamp.
Its spectacular, she whispered. Despite being sealed in a dark stone cube for over a century, the capstone had not faded or tarnished in any way. Gold resists the entropic laws of decay; thats one of the reasons the ancients considered it magical. Katherine felt her pulse quicken as she leaned forward, peering down over the small golden point. Theres an inscription.
Langdon moved closer, their shoulders now touching. His blue eyes flashed with curiosity. He had told Katherine about the ancient Greek practice of creating a symbolona code broken into partsand how this capstone, long separated from the pyramid itself, would hold the key to deciphering the pyramid. Allegedly, this inscription, whatever it said, would bring order from this chaos.
Katherine held the little box up to the light and peered straight down over the capstone.
Though small, the inscription was perfectly visiblea small bit of elegantly engraved text on the face of one side. Katherine read the six simple words.
Then she read them again.
No! she declared. That cant be what it says!
Across the street, Director Sato hurried up the long walkway outside the Capitol Building toward her rendezvous point on First Street. The update from her field team had been unacceptable. No Langdon. No pyramid. No capstone. Bellamy was in custody, but he was not telling them the truth. At least not yet.
Ill make him talk.
She glanced back over her shoulder at one of Washingtons newest vistasthe Capitol Dome framed above the new visitor center. The illuminated dome only accentuated the significance of what was truly at stake tonight. Dangerous times.
Sato was relieved to hear her cell phone ring and see her analysts ID on the screen.
Nola, Sato answered. What have you got?
Nola Kaye gave her the bad news. The X-ray of the capstones inscription was too faint to read, and the image-enhancing filters had not helped. Shit. Sato chewed at her lip. How about the sixteen-letter grid?
Im still trying, Nola said, but so far Ive found no secondary encryption scheme thats applicable. Ive got a computer reshuffling the letters in the grid and looking for anything identifiable, but there are over twenty trillion possibilities.
Stay on it. Let me know. Sato hung up, scowling. Her hopes of deciphering the pyramid using only a photograph and X-ray were fading fast. I need that pyramid and capstone . . . and Im running out of time.
Sato arrived at First Street just as a black Escalade SUV with dark windows roared across the double yellow and skidded to a stop in front of her at their rendezvous point. A lone agent got out.
Any word yet on Langdon? Sato demanded.
Confidence is high, the man said, emotionless. Backup just arrived. All library exits are surrounded. We even have air support coming in. Well flush him with tear gas, and hell have nowhere to run.
Tied up in the backseat.
Good. Her shoulder was still smarting.
The agent handed Sato a plastic Ziploc bag containing cell phone, keys, and wallet. Bellamys effects.
No, maam. The pyramid and package must still be with Langdon.
Okay, Sato said. Bellamy knows plenty hes not telling. Id like to question him personally.
Yes, maam. To Langley, then?
Sato took a deep breath and paced a moment beside the SUV. Strict protocols governed the interrogation of U.S. civilians, and questioning Bellamy was highly illegal unless it was done at Langley on video with witnesses, attorneys, blah, blah, blah . . . Not Langley, she said, trying to think of somewhere closer. And more private.
The agent said nothing, standing at attention beside the idling SUV, waiting for orders.
Sato lit a cigarette, took a long drag, and gazed down at the Ziploc bag of Bellamys items. His key ring, she had noticed, included an electronic fob adorned with four lettersUSBG. Sato knew, of course, which government building this fob accessed. The building was very close and, at this hour, very private.
She smiled and pocketed the fob. Perfect.
When she told the agent where she wanted to take Bellamy, she expected the man to look surprised, but he simply nodded and opened the passenger door for her, his cold stare revealing nothing.
Sato loved professionals.
Langdon stood in the basement of the Adams Building and stared in disbelief at the elegantly inscribed words on the face of the golden capstone.
Thats all it says?
Beside him, Katherine held the capstone under the light and shook her head. Theres got to be more, she insisted, sounding cheated. This is what my brother has been protecting all these years?
Langdon had to admit he was mystified. According to Peter and Bellamy, this capstone was supposed to help them decipher the stone pyramid. In light of those claims, Langdon had expected something illuminating and helpful. More like obvious and useless. Once again, he read the six words delicately inscribed on the face of the capstone.
within The Order
The secret hides within The Order?
At first glance, the inscription appeared to be stating the obviousthat the letters on the pyramid were out of order and that their secret lay in finding their proper sequence. This reading, however, in addition to being self-evident, seemed unlikely for another reason. The words the and order are capitalized, Langdon said.
Katherine nodded blankly. I saw that.
The secret hides within The Order. Langdon could think of only one logical implication. The Order must be referencing the Masonic Order.
I agree, Katherine said, but its still no help. It tells us nothing.
Langdon had to concur. After all, the entire story of the Masonic Pyramid revolved around a
secret hidden within the Masonic Order.
Robert, didnt my brother tell you this capstone would give you power to see order where others saw only chaos?
He nodded in frustration. For the second time tonight, Robert Langdon was feeling unworthy.