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The Jungle, as it is known, is the centerpiece of the U.S. Botanic Garden (USBG)—America’s living museum—located adjacent to the U.S. Capitol Building. Technically a rain forest, the Jungle is housed in a towering greenhouse, complete with soaring rubber trees, strangler figs, and a canopy catwalk for more daring tourists.

Normally, Warren Bellamy felt nurtured by the Jungle’s earthy smells and the sunlight glinting through the mist that filtered down from the vapor nozzles in the glass ceiling. Tonight, however, lit only by moonlight, the Jungle terrified him. He was sweating profusely, writhing against the cramps that now stabbed at his arms, still pinned painfully behind him.

Director Sato paced before him, puffing calmly on her cigarette—the equivalent of ecoterrorism in this carefully calibrated environment. Her face looked almost demonic in the smoke-filled moonlight that streamed down through the glass ceiling overhead.

“So then,” Sato continued, “when you arrived at the Capitol tonight, and you discovered that I was already there . . . you made a decision. Rather than making your presence known to me, you descended quietly into the SBB, where, at great risk to yourself, you attacked Chief Anderson and myself, and you helped Langdon escape with the pyramid and capstone.” She rubbed her shoulder. “An interesting choice.”

A choice I would make again, Bellamy thought. “Where is Peter?” he demanded angrily.

“How would I know?” Sato said.

“You seem to know everything else!” Bellamy fired back at her, making no attempt to hide his suspicion that she was somehow behind all this. “You knew to go to the Capitol Building. You knew to find Robert Langdon. And you even knew to X-ray Langdon’s bag to find the capstone. Obviously, someone is giving you a lot of inside information.”

Sato laughed coldly and stepped closer to him. “Mr. Bellamy, is that why you attacked me? Do you think I’m the enemy? Do you think I’m trying to steal your little pyramid?” Sato took a drag on her cigarette and blew the smoke out of her nostrils. “Listen carefully. No one understands better than I do the importance of keeping secrets. I believe, as you do, that there is certain information to which the masses should not be privy. Tonight, however, there are forces at work that I fear you have not yet grasped. The man who kidnapped Peter Solomon holds enormous power . . . a power that you apparently have yet to realize. Believe me, he is a walking time bomb . . . capable of initiating a series of events that will profoundly change the world as you know it.”

“I don’t understand.” Bellamy shifted on the bench, his arms aching in his handcuffs.

“You don’t need to understand. You need to obey. Right now, my only hope of averting a major disaster is to cooperate with this man . . . and to give him exactly what he wants. Which means, you are going to call Mr. Langdon and tell him to turn himself in, along with the pyramid and capstone. Once Langdon is in my custody, he will decrypt the pyramid’s inscription, obtain whatever information this man is demanding, and provide him with exactly what he wants.”

The location of the spiral staircase that leads to the Ancient Mysteries? “I can’t do that. I’ve taken vows of secrecy.”

Sato erupted. “I don’t give a damn what you’ve vowed, I will throw you in prison so fast—”

“Threaten me all you like,” Bellamy said defiantly. “I will not help you.”

Sato took a deep breath and spoke now in a fearsome whisper. “Mr. Bellamy, you have no idea what’s really going on tonight, do you?”

The tense silence hung for several seconds, finally broken by the sound of Sato’s phone. She plunged her hand into her pocket and eagerly snatched it out. “Talk to me,” she answered, listening carefully to the reply. “Where is their taxi now? How long? Okay, good. Bring them to the U.S. Botanic Garden. Service entrance. And make sure you get me that god-damn pyramid and capstone.”

Sato hung up and turned back to Bellamy with a smug smile. “Well then . . . it seems you’re fast outliving your usefulness.”