Eight miles due north of Alexandria, Virginia, Robert Langdon and Katherine Solomon strode calmly across a wide expanse of frost-covered lawn.
You should be an actress, Langdon said, still impressed by Katherines quick thinking and improvisational skills.
You werent half bad yourself. She gave him a smile.
At first, Langdon had been mystified by Katherines abrupt antics in the taxi. Without warning, she had suddenly demanded they go to Freedom Plaza based on some revelation about a Jewish star and the Great Seal of the United States. She drew a well-known conspiracy-theory image on a dollar bill and then insisted Langdon look closely where she was pointing.
Finally, Langdon realized that Katherine was pointing not at the dollar bill but at a tiny indicator bulb on the back of the drivers seat. The bulb was so covered with grime that he had not even noticed it. As he leaned forward, however, he could see that the bulb was illuminated, emitting a dull red glow. He could also see the two faint words directly beneath the lit bulb.
Startled, Langdon glanced back at Katherine, whose frantic eyes were urging him to look into the front seat. He obeyed, stealing a discreet glance through the divider. The cabbys cell phone was on the dash, wide open, illuminated, facing the intercom speaker. An instant later, Langdon understood Katherines actions.
They know were in this cab . . . theyve been listening to us.
Langdon had no idea how much time he and Katherine had until their taxi was stopped and surrounded, but he knew they had to act fast. Instantly, hed begun playing along, realizing that Katherines desire to go to Freedom Plaza had nothing to do with the pyramid but rather with its being a large subway stationMetro Centerfrom which they could take the Red, Blue, or Orange lines in any of six different directions.
They jumped out of the taxi at Freedom Plaza, and Langdon took over, doing some improvising of his own, leaving a trail to the Masonic Memorial in Alexandria before he and Katherine ran down into the subway station, dashing past the Blue Line platforms and continuing on to the Red Line, where they caught a train in the opposite direction.
Traveling six stops northbound to Tenleytown, they emerged all alone into a quiet, upscale neighborhood. Their destination, the tallest structure for miles, was immediately visible on the horizon, just off Massachusetts Avenue on a vast expanse of manicured lawn.
Now off the grid, as Katherine called it, the two of them walked across the damp grass. On their right was a medieval-style garden, famous for its ancient rosebushes and Shadow House gazebo. They moved past the garden, directly toward the magnificent building to which they had been summoned. A refuge containing ten stones from Mount Sinai, one from heaven itself, and one with the visage of Lukes dark father.
Ive never been here at night, Katherine said, gazing up at the brightly lit towers. Its spectacular.
Langdon agreed, having forgotten how impressive this place truly was. This neo-Gothic masterpiece stood at the north end of Embassy Row. He hadnt been here for years, not since writing a piece about it for a kids magazine in hopes of generating some excitement among young Americans to come see this amazing landmark. His articleMoses, Moon Rocks, and Star Warshad been part of the tourist literature for years.
Washington National Cathedral, Langdon thought, feeling an unexpected anticipation at being back after all these years. Where better to ask about One True God?
This cathedral really has ten stones from Mount Sinai? Katherine asked, gazing up at the twin bell towers.
Langdon nodded. Near the main altar. They symbolize the Ten Commandments given to Moses on Mount Sinai.
And theres a lunar rock?
A rock from heaven itself. Yes. One of the stained-glass windows is called the Space Window and has a fragment of moon rock embedded in it.
Okay, but you cant be serious about the last thing. Katherine glanced over, her pretty eyes flashing skepticism. A statue of . . . Darth Vader?
Langdon chuckled. Luke Skywalkers dark father? Absolutely. Vader is one of the National Cathedrals most popular grotesques. He pointed high into the west towers. Tough to see him at night, but hes there.
What in the world is Darth Vader doing on Washington National Cathedral?
A contest for kids to carve a gargoyle that depicted the face of evil. Darth won.
They reached the grand staircase to the main entrance, which was set back in an eighty-foot archway beneath a breathtaking rose window. As they began climbing, Langdons mind shifted to the mysterious stranger who had called him. No names, please . . . Tell me, have you successfully protected the map that was entrusted to you? Langdons shoulder ached from carrying the heavy stone pyramid, and he was looking forward to setting it down. Sanctuary and answers.
As they approached the top of the stairs, they were met with an imposing pair of wooden doors. Do we just knock? Katherine asked.
Langdon had been wondering the same thing, except that now one of the doors was creaking open.
Whos there? a frail voice said. The face of a withered old man appeared in the doorway. He wore priests robes and a blank stare. His eyes were opaque and white, clouded with cataracts.
My name is Robert Langdon, he replied. Katherine Solomon and I are seeking sanctuary.
The blind man exhaled in relief. Thank God. Ive been expecting you.