Robert Langdon stood frozen in the doorway of the National Statuary Hall and studied the startling scene before him. The room was precisely as he remembered ita balanced semicircle built in the style of a Greek amphitheater. The graceful arched walls of sandstone and Italian plaster were punctuated by columns of variegated breccia, interspersed with the nations statuary collectionlife-size statues of thirty-eight great Americans standing in a semicircle on a stark expanse of black-and-white marble tile.
It was exactly as Langdon had recalled from the lecture he had once attended here.
Except for one thing.
Tonight, the room was empty.
No chairs. No audience. No Peter Solomon. Just a handful of tourists milling around aimlessly, oblivious to Langdons grand entrance. Did Peter mean the Rotunda? He peered down the south corridor toward the Rotunda and could see tourists milling around in there, too.
The echoes of the clock chime had faded. Langdon was now officially late.
He hurried back into the hallway and found a docent. Excuse me, the lecture for the Smithsonian event tonight? Where is that being held?
The docent hesitated. Im not sure, sir. When does it start?
The man shook his head. I dont know about any Smithsonian event this eveningnot here, at least.
Bewildered, Langdon hurried back toward the center of the room, scanning the entire space. IsSolomon playing some kind of joke? Langdon couldnt imagine it. He pulled out his cell phone and the fax page from this morning and dialed Peters number.
His phone took a moment to locate a signal inside the enormous building. Finally, it began to ring.
The familiar southern accent answered. Peter Solomons office, this is Anthony. May I help
Anthony! Langdon said with relief. Im glad youre still there. This is Robert Langdon. There seems to be some confusion about the lecture. Im standing in the Statuary Hall, but theres nobody here. Has the lecture been moved to a different room?
I dont believe so, sir. Let me check. His assistant paused a moment. Did you confirm with Mr. Solomon directly?
Langdon was confused. No, I confirmed with you, Anthony. This morning!
Yes, I recall that. There was a silence on the line. That was a bit careless of you, dont you think, Professor?
Langdon was now fully alert. I beg your pardon?
Consider this . . . the man said. You received a fax asking you to call a number, which you did. You spoke to a total stranger who said he was Peter Solomons assistant. Then you willingly boarded a private plane to Washington and climbed into a waiting car. Is that right?
Langdon felt a chill race through his body. Who the hell is this? Where is Peter?
Im afraid Peter Solomon has no idea youre in Washington today. The mans southern accent disappeared, and his voice morphed into a deeper, mellifluous whisper. You are here, Mr. Langdon, because I want you here.