Vitamins, Supplements, Sport Nutrition

CHAPTER 95

Katherine Solomon knew she was falling . . . but she couldn’t figure out why.

She had been running down the hall toward the security guard in the dining room when suddenly her feet had become entangled in an invisible obstacle, and her entire body had lurched forward, sailing through the air.

Now she was returning to earth . . . in this case, a hardwood floor.

Katherine crashed down on her stomach, the wind driven violently from her lungs. Above her, a heavy coat tree teetered precariously and then toppled over, barely missing her on the floor. She raised her head, still gasping for breath, puzzled to see that the female security guard in the chair had not moved a muscle. Stranger still, the toppled coat tree appeared to have a thin wire attached to the bottom, which had been stretched across the hallway.

Why in the world would someone . . . ?

“Katherine!” Langdon was shouting to her, and as Katherine rolled onto her side and looked back at him, she felt her blood turn to ice. Robert! Behind you! She tried to scream, but she was still gasping for breath. All she could do was watch in terrifying slow motion as Langdon rushed down the hall to help her, completely unaware that behind him, Agent Hartmann was staggering across the threshold and clutching his throat. Blood sprayed through Hartmann’s hands as he groped at the handle of a long screwdriver that protruded from his neck.

As the agent pitched forward, his attacker came into full view.

My God . . . no!

Naked except for a strange undergarment that looked like a loincloth, the massive man had apparently been hiding in the foyer. His muscular body was covered from head to toe with strange tattoos. The front door was swinging closed, and he was rushing down the hall after Langdon.

Agent Hartmann hit the floor just as the front door slammed shut. Langdon looked startled and whirled around, but the tattooed man was already on him, thrusting some kind of device into his back. There was a flash of light and a sharp electrical sizzle, and Katherine saw Langdon go rigid. Eyes frozen wide, Langdon lurched forward, collapsing down in a paralyzed heap. He fell hard on top of his leather bag, the pyramid tumbling out onto the floor.

Without so much as a glance down at his victim, the tattooed man stepped over Langdon and headed directly for Katherine. She was already crawling backward into the dining room, where she collided with a chair. The female security guard, who had been propped in that chair, now wobbled and dropped to the floor in a heap beside her. The woman’s lifeless expression was one of terror. Her mouth was stuffed with a rag.

The enormous man had reached her before Katherine had time to react. He seized her by the shoulders with impossible strength. His face, no longer covered by makeup, was an utterly terrifying sight. His muscles flexed, and she felt herself being flipped over onto her stomach like a rag doll. A heavy knee ground into her back, and for a moment, she thought she would break in two. He grabbed her arms and pulled them backward.

With her head now turned to one side and her cheek pressed into the carpet, Katherine could see Langdon, his body still jerking, facing away from her. Beyond that, Agent Hartmann lay motionless in the foyer.

Cold metal pinched Katherine’s wrists, and she realized she was being bound with wire. In terror, she tried to pull away, but doing so sent searing pain into her hands.

“This wire will cut you if you move,” the man said, finishing with her wrists and moving down to her ankles with frightening efficiency.

Katherine kicked at him, and he threw a powerful fist into the back of her right thigh, crippling her leg. Within seconds, her ankles were bound.

“Robert!” she now managed to call out.

Langdon was groaning on the floor in the hallway. He lay crumpled on his leather bag with the stone pyramid lying on its side near his head. Katherine realized the pyramid was her last hope.

“We deciphered the pyramid!” she told her attacker. “I’ll tell you everything!”

“Yes, you will.” With that, he pulled the cloth from the dead woman’s mouth and firmly stuffed it into Katherine’s.

It tasted like death.

Robert Langdon’s body was not his own. He lay, numb and immobile, his cheek pressed against the hardwood floor. He had heard enough about stun guns to know they crippled their victims by temporarily overloading the nervous system. Their action—something called electromuscular disruption—might as well have been a bolt of lightning. The excruciating jolt of pain seemed to penetrate every molecule of his body. Now, despite his mind’s focused intention, his muscles refused to obey the command he was sending them.

Get up!

Facedown, paralyzed on the floor, Langdon was gulping shallow breaths, scarcely able to inhale. He had yet to lay eyes on the man who had attacked him, but he could see Agent Hartmann lying in an expanding pool of blood. Langdon had heard Katherine struggling and arguing, but moments ago her voice had become muffled, as if the man had stuffed something in her mouth.

Get up, Robert! You’ve got to help her!

Langdon’s legs were tingling now, a fiery and painful recovery of feeling, but still they refused to cooperate. Move! His arms twitched as sensation started to come back, along with feeling in his face and neck. With great effort, he managed to rotate his head, dragging his cheek roughly across the hardwood floor as he turned his head to look down into the dining room.

Langdon’s sight line was impeded—by the stone pyramid, which had toppled out of his bag and was lying sideways on the floor, its base inches from his face.

For an instant, Langdon didn’t understand what he was looking at. The square of stone before him was obviously the base of the pyramid, and yet it looked somehow different. Very different. It was still square, and still stone . . . but it was no longer flat and smooth. The base of the pyramid was covered with engraved markings. How is this possible? He stared for several seconds, wondering if he was hallucinating. I looked at the base of this pyramid a dozen times . . . and there were no markings!

Langdon now realized why.

His breathing reflex kick-started, and he drew a sudden gasp of air, realizing that the Masonic Pyramid had secrets yet to share. I have witnessed another transformation.

In a flash, Langdon understood the meaning of Galloway’s last request. Tell Peter this: The Masonic Pyramid has always kept her secret . . . sincerely. The words had seemed strange at the time, but now Langdon understood that Dean Galloway was sending Peter a code. Ironically, this same code had been a plot twist in a mediocre thriller Langdon had read years ago.

Sin-cere.

Since the days of Michelangelo, sculptors had been hiding the flaws in their work by smearing hot wax into the cracks and then dabbing the wax with stone dust. The method was considered cheating, and therefore, any sculpture “without wax”—literally sine cera—was considered a “sincere” piece of art. The phrase stuck. To this day we still sign our letters “sincerely” as a promise that we have written “without wax” and that our words are true.

The engravings on the base of this pyramid had been concealed by the same method. When Katherine followed the capstone’s directions and boiled the pyramid, the wax melted away, revealing the writing on the base. Galloway had run his hands over the pyramid in the sitting room, apparently feeling the markings exposed on the bottom.

Now, if only for an instant, Langdon had forgotten all the danger he and Katherine faced. He stared at the incredible array of symbols on the base of the pyramid. He had no idea what they meant . . . or what they would ultimately reveal, but one thing was for certain. The Masonic Pyramid has secrets left to tell. Eight Franklin Square is not the final answer.

Whether it was this adrenaline-filled revelation or simply the extra few seconds lying there, Langdon did not know, but he suddenly felt control returning to his body.

Painfully, he swept an arm to one side, pushing the leather bag out of the way to clear his sight line into the dining room.

To his horror, he saw that Katherine had been tied up, and a large rag had been stuffed deep into her mouth. Langdon flexed his muscles, trying to climb to his knees, but a moment later, he froze in utter disbelief. The dining-room doorway had just filled with a chilling sight—a human form unlike anything Langdon had ever seen.

What in the name of God . . . ?!

Langdon rolled, kicking with his legs, trying to back away, but the huge tattooed man grabbed him, flipping him onto his back and straddling his chest. He placed his knees on Langdon’s biceps, pinning Langdon pain fully to the floor. The man’s chest bore a rippling double-headed phoenix. His neck, face, and shaved head were covered with a dazzling array of unusually intricate symbols—sigils, Langdon knew—which were used in the rituals of dark ceremonial magic.

Before Langdon could process anything more, the huge man clasped Langdon’s ears between his palms, lifted his head up off the floor, and, with incredible force, smashed it back down onto the hardwood.

Everything went black.