Slow down! Langdon gripped the backseat of the Escalade as it flew around a corner, threatening to tip up on two tires. CIA agent Hartmann was either eager to show off his driving skills to Katherine, or he had orders to get to Peter Solomon before Solomon recuperated enough to say anything he shouldnt say to the local authorities.
The high-speed game of beat-the-red-light on Embassy Row had been worrisome enough, but now they were racing through the winding residential neighborhood of Kalorama Heights. Katherine shouted directions as they went, having been to this mans house earlier that afternoon.
With every turn, the leather bag at Langdons feet rocked back and forth, and Langdon could hear the clank of the capstone, which had clearly been jarred from the top of the pyramid and was now bouncing around in the bottom of his bag. Fearing it might get damaged, he fished around inside until he found it. It was still warm, but the glowing text had now faded and disappeared, returning to its original engraving:
The secret hides within The Order.
As Langdon was about to place the capstone in a side pocket, he noticed its elegant surface was covered with tiny white gobs of something. Puzzled, he tried to wipe them off, but they were stuck on and hard to the touch . . . like plastic. What in the world? He could now see that the surface of the stone pyramid itself was also covered with the little white dots. Langdon used his fingernail and picked one off, rolling it between his fingers.
Wax? he blurted.
Katherine glanced over her shoulder. What?
There are bits of wax all over the pyramid and capstone. I dont understand it. Where could that possibly have come from?
Something in your bag, maybe?
I dont think so.
As they rounded a corner, Katherine pointed through the windshield and turned to Agent Hartmann. Thats it! Were here.
Langdon glanced up and saw the spinning lights of a security vehicle parked in a driveway up ahead. The driveway gate was pulled aside and the agent gunned the SUV inside the compound.
The house was a spectacular mansion. Every light inside was ablaze, and the front door was wide open. A half-dozen vehicles were parked haphazardly in the driveway and on the lawn, apparently having arrived in a hurry. Some of the cars were still running and had their headlights shining, most on the house, but one askew, practically blinding them as they drove in.
Agent Hartmann skidded to a stop on the lawn beside a white sedan with a brightly colored decal: PREFERRED SECURITY. The spinning lights and the high beams in their face made it hard to see.
Katherine immediately jumped out and raced for the house. Langdon heaved his bag onto hisshoulder without taking the time to zip it up. He followed Katherine at a jog across the lawn toward the open front door. The sounds of voices echoed within. Behind Langdon, the SUV chirped as Agent Hartmann locked the vehicle and hurried after them.
Katherine bounded up the porch stairs, through the main door, and disappeared into the entryway. Langdon crossed the threshold behind her and could see Katherine was already moving across the foyer and down the main hallway toward the sound of voices. Beyond her, visible at the end of the hall, was a dining-room table where a woman in a security uniform was sitting with her back to them.
Officer! Katherine shouted as she ran. Where is Peter Solomon?
Langdon rushed after her, but as he did so, an unexpected movement caught his eye. To his left, through the living-room window, he could see the driveway gate was now swinging shut. Odd.Something else caught his eye . . . something that had been hidden from him by the glare of the spinning lights and the blinding high beams when they drove in. The half-dozen cars parked haphazardly in the driveway looked nothing like the police cars and emergency vehicles Langdon had imagined they were.
A Mercedes? . . . a Hummer? . . . a Tesla Roadster?
In that instant, Langdon also realized the voices he heard in the house were nothing but a television blaring in the direction of the dining room.
Wheeling in slow motion, Langdon shouted down the hallway. Katherine, wait!
But as he turned, he could see that Katherine Solomon was no longer running.
She was airborne.