West of Embassy Row, all was silent again inside the walled garden with its twelfth-century roses and Shadow House gazebo. On the other side of an entry road, the young man was helping his hunched superior walk across an expansive lawn.

He's letting me guide him?

Normally, the blind old man refused help, preferring to navigate by memory alone while on the grounds of his sanctuary. Tonight, however, he was apparently in a hurry to get inside and return Warren Bellamy's phone call.

"Thank you," the old man said as they entered the building that held his private study. "I can find my way from here."

"Sir, I would be happy to stay and help--" "That's all for tonight," he said, letting go of his helper's arm and shuffling hurriedly off into the darkness. "Good night."

The young man exited the building and walked back across the great lawn to his modest dwelling on the grounds. By the time he entered his flat, he could feel his curiosity gnawing at him. The old man clearly had been upset by the question posed by Mr. Bellamy . . . and yet the question had seemed strange, almost meaningless.

Is there no help for the widow's son?

In his wildest imagination, he could not guess what this could mean. Puzzled, he went to his computer and typed in a search for this precise phrase.

To his great surprise, page after page of references appeared, all citing this exact question. He read the information in wonderment. It seemed Warren Bellamy was not the first person in history to ask this strange question. These same words had been uttered centuries ago . . . by King Solomon as he mourned a murdered friend. The question was allegedly still spoken today by Masons, who used it as a kind of encoded cry for help. Warren Bellamy, it seemed, was sending a distress call to a fellow Mason.


Albrecht Durer?

Katherine was trying to put the pieces together as she hurried with Langdon through the basement of the Adams Building. A.D. stands for Albrecht Durer? The famous sixteenth-century German engraver and painter was one of her brother's favorite artists, and Katherine was vaguely familiar with his work. Even so, she could not imagine how Durer would be any help to them in this case. For one thing, he's been dead more than four hundred years.

"Durer is symbolically perfect," Langdon was saying as they followed the trail of illuminated EXIT signs. "He was the ultimate Renaissance mind--artist, philosopher, alchemist, and a lifelong student of the Ancient Mysteries. To this day, nobody fully understands the messages hidden in Durer's art."

"That may be true," she said. "But how does `1514 Albrecht Durer' explain how to decipher the pyramid?" They reached a locked door, and Langdon used Bellamy's key card to get through.

"The number 1514," Langdon said as they hurried up the stairs, "is pointing us to a very specific piece of Durer's work." They came into a huge corridor. Langdon glanced around and then pointed left. "This way." They moved quickly again. "Albrecht Durer actually hid the number 1514 in his most mysterious piece of art--Melencolia I--which he completed in the year 1514. It's considered the seminal work of the Northern European Renaissance."

Peter had once shown Katherine Melencolia I in an old book on ancient mysticism, but she didn't recall any hidden number 1514.

"As you may know," Langdon said, sounding excited, "Melencolia I depicts mankind's struggle to comprehend the Ancient Mysteries. The symbolism in Melencolia I is so complex it makes Leonardo da Vinci look overt."

Katherine stopped abruptly and looked at Langdon. "Robert, Melencolia I is here in Washington. It hangs in the National Gallery."

"Yes," he said with a smile, "and something tells me that's not a coincidence. The gallery is closed at this hour, but I know the curator and--"

"Forget it, Robert, I know what happens when you go to museums." Katherine headed off into a nearby alcove, where she saw a desk with a computer.

Langdon followed, looking unhappy.

"Let's do this the easier way." It seemed Professor Langdon, the art connoisseur, was having an ethical dilemma about using the Internet when an original was so nearby. Katherine stepped behind the desk and powered up the computer. When the machine finally came to life, she realized she had another problem. "There's no icon for a browser."

"It's an internal library network." Langdon pointed to an icon on the desktop. "Try that."

Katherine clicked on the icon marked DIGITAL COLLECTIONS. The computer accessed a new screen, and Langdon pointed again. Katherine clicked on his choice of icon: FINE PRINTS COLLECTION. The screen refreshed. FINE PRINTS: SEARCH.

"Type in `Albrecht Durer.' "

Katherine entered the name and then clicked the search key. Within seconds, the screen began displaying a series of thumbnail images. All of the images looked to be similar in style--intricate black-and-white engravings. Durer had apparently done dozens of similar engravings.

Katherine scanned the alphabetical list of his artwork.

Adam and Eve

Betrayal of Christ Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

Great Passion

Last Supper

Seeing all the biblical titles, Katherine recalled that Durer practiced something called Mystic Christianity--a fusion of early Christianity, alchemy, astrology, and science.

Science . . .

The image of her lab in flames rushed through her mind. She could barely process the long-term ramifications, but for the moment, her thoughts turned to her assistant, Trish. I hope she made it out.

Langdon was saying something about Durer's version of the Last Supper, but Katherine was barely listening. She had just seen the link for Melencolia I.

She clicked the mouse, and the page refreshed with general information.

Melencolia I, 1514

Albrecht Durer

(engraving on laid paper)

Rosenwald Collection

National Gallery of Art

Washington, D.C.

When she scrolled down, a high-res digital image of Durer's masterpiece appeared in all its glory.

Katherine stared in bewilderment, having forgotten just how strange it was.

Langdon gave an understanding chuckle. "As I said, it's cryptic."

Melencolia I consisted of a brooding figure with giant wings, seated in front of a stone building, surrounded by the most disparate and bizarre collection of objects imaginable--measuring scales, an emaciated dog, carpenter's tools, an hourglass, various geometric solids, a hanging bell, a putto, a blade, a ladder.

Katherine vaguely recalled her brother telling her that the winged figure was a representation of "human genius"--a great thinker with chin in hand, looking depressed, still unable to achieve enlightenment. The genius is surrounded with all of the symbols of his human intellect--objects of science, math, philosophy, nature, geometry, even carpentry--and yet is still unable to climb the ladder to true enlightenment. Even the human genius has difficulty comprehending the Ancient Mysteries.

"Symbolically," Langdon said, "this represents mankind's failed attempt to transform human intellect into godlike power. In alchemical terms, it represents our inability to turn lead into gold."

"Not a particularly encouraging message," Katherine agreed. "So how does it help us?" She did not see the hidden number 1514 that Langdon was talking about.

"Order from chaos," Langdon said, flashing a lopsided grin. "Just as your brother promised." He reached in his pocket and pulled out the grid of letters he had written earlier from the Masonic cipher. "Right now, this grid is meaningless." He spread the paper out on the desk.

Katherine eyed the grid. Definitely meaningless.

"But Durer will transform it."

"And how might he do that?"

"Linguistic alchemy." Langdon motioned to the computer screen. "Look carefully. Hidden in this masterpiece is something that will make sense of our sixteen letters." He waited. "Do you see it yet? Look for the number 1514."

Katherine was in no mood to play classroom. "Robert, I see nothing--an orb, a ladder, a knife, a polyhedron, a scale? I give up." "Look! There in the background. Carved into that building behind the angel? Beneath the bell? Durer engraved a square that is full of numbers."

Katherine now saw the square that contained numbers, among them 1514.

"Katherine, that square is the key to deciphering the pyramid!"

She shot him a surprised look. "That's not just any square," Langdon said, grinning.

"That, Ms. Solomon, is a magic square."


Where the hell are they taking me?

Bellamy was still blindfolded in the back of an SUV. After a short stop somewhere close to the Library of Congress, the vehicle had continued on . . . but only for a minute. Now the SUV had stopped again, having again traveled only about a block.

Bellamy heard muffled voices talking.

"Sorry . . . impossible . . ." an authoritative voice was saying. " . . . closed at this hour . . ."

The man driving the SUV replied with equal authority. "CIA investigation . . . national security . . ." Apparently the exchange of words and IDs was persuasive, because the tone shifted immediately.

"Yes, of course . . . service entrance . . ." There was the loud grinding of what sounded like a garage door, and as it opened, the voice added, "Shall I accompany you? Once you're inside, you won't be able to get through--"

"No. We have access already."

If the guard was surprised, it was too late. The SUV was moving again. It advanced about fifty yards and then came to a stop. The heavy door rumbled closed again behind them.


Bellamy realized he was trembling. With a bang, the SUV's rear hatch flew open. Bellamy felt a sharp pain in his shoulders as someone dragged him out by his arms, then lifted him to his feet. Without a word, a powerful force led him across a wide expanse of pavement. There was a strange, earthy smell here that he could not place. There were footsteps of someone else walking with them, but whoever it was had yet to speak.

They stopped at a door, and Bellamy heard an electronic ping. The door clicked open. Bellamy was manhandled through several corridors and could not help but notice that the air was warmer and more humid. An indoor pool, maybe? No. The smell in the air was not chlorine . . . it was far more earthy and primal.

Where the hell are we?! Bellamy knew he could not be more than a block or two from the Capitol Building. Again they stopped, and again he heard the electronic beep of a security door. This one slid open with a hiss. As they pushed him through, the smell that hit him was unmistakable.

Bellamy now realized where they were. My God! He came here often, although never through the service entrance. This magnificent glass building was only three hundred yards from the Capitol Building and was technically part of the Capitol Complex. I run this place! Bellamy now realized it was his own key fob that was giving them access.

Powerful arms pushed him through the doorway, leading him down a familiar, winding walkway. The heavy, damp warmth of this place usually felt comforting to him. Tonight, he was sweating.

What are we doing here?!

Bellamy was halted suddenly and seated on a bench. The man with the muscles unhooked his handcuffs only long enough to reaffix them to the bench behind his back.

"What do you want from me?" Bellamy demanded, heart pounding wildly.

The only response he received was the sound of boots walking off and the glass door sliding shut.

Then silence.

Dead silence.

They're just going to leave me here? Bellamy was sweating more heavily now as he struggled to release his hands. I can't even take off my blindfold?

"Help!" he shouted. "Anybody!"

Even as he called out in panic, Bellamy knew nobody was going to hear him. This massive glass room--known as the Jungle--was entirely airtight when the doors were closed. They left me in the Jungle, he thought. Nobody will find me until morning.

Then he heard it.

The sound was barely audible, but it terrified Bellamy like no sound he had ever heard in his life. Something breathing. Very close.

He was not alone on the bench.

The sudden hiss of a sulfur match sizzled so close to his face that he could feel the heat. Bellamy recoiled, instinctively yanking hard at his chains.

Then, without warning, a hand was on his face, removing his blindfold.

The flame before him reflected in the black eyes of Inoue Sato as she pressed the match against the cigarette dangling from her lips, only inches away from Bellamy's face.

She glared at him in the moonlight that filtered down through the glass ceiling. She looked pleased to see his fear.

"So, Mr. Bellamy," Sato said, shaking out the match. "Where shall we begin?"


A magic square. Katherine nodded as she eyed the numbered square in Durer's engraving. Most people would have thought Langdon had lost his mind, but Katherine had quickly realized he was right.

The term magic square referred not to something mystical but to something mathematical--it was the name given to a grid of consecutive numbers arranged in such a way that all the rows, columns, and diagonals added up to the same thing. Created some four thousand years ago by mathematicians in Egypt and India, magic squares were still believed by some to hold magical powers. Katherine had read that even nowadays devout Indians drew special three-by-three magic squares called the Kubera Kolam on their pooja altars. Primarily, though, modern man had relegated magic squares to the category of "recreational mathematics," some people still deriving pleasure from the quest to discover new "magical" configurations. Sudoku for geniuses.

Katherine quickly analyzed Durer's square, adding up the numbers in several rows and columns. "Thirty-four," she said. "Every direction adds up to thirty-four."

"Exactly," Langdon said. "But did you know that this magic square is famous because Durer accomplished the seemingly impossible?" He quickly showed Katherine that in addition to making the rows, columns, and diagonals add up to thirty-four, Durer had also found a way to make the four quadrants, the four center squares, and even the four corner squares add up to that number. "Most amazing, though, was Durer's ability to position the numbers 15 and 14 together in the bottom row as an indication of the year in which he accomplished this incredible feat!"

Katherine scanned the numbers, amazed by all the combinations.

Langdon's tone grew more excited now. "Extraordinarily, Melencolia I represents the very first time in history that a magic square appeared in European art. Some historians believe this was Durer's encoded way of indicating that the Ancient Mysteries had traveled outside the Egyptian Mystery Schools and were now held by the European secret societies." Langdon paused. "Which brings us back to . . . this."

He motioned to the slip of paper bearing the grid of letters from the stone pyramid. "I assume the layout looks familiar now?" Langdon asked.

"Four-by-four square."

Langdon picked up the pencil and carefully transcribed Durer's numbered magic square onto the slip of paper, directly beside the lettered square. Katherine was now seeing just how easy this was going to be. He stood poised, pencil in hand, and yet . . . strangely, after all this enthusiasm, he seemed to hesitate.


He turned to her, his expression one of trepidation. "Are you sure we want to do this? Peter expressly--"

"Robert, if you don't want to decipher this engraving, then I will." She held out her hand for the pencil.

Langdon could tell there would be no deterring her and so he acquiesced, turning his attention back to the pyramid. Carefully, he superimposed the magic square over the pyramid's grid of letters and assigned each letter a number. Then he created a new grid, placing the Masonic cipher's letters in the new order as defined by the sequence in Durer's magic square.

When Langdon was finished, they both examined the result. Katherine immediately felt confused. "It's still gibberish."

Langdon remained silent a long moment. "Actually, Katherine, it's not gibberish." His eyes brightened again with the thrill of discovery. "It's . . . Latin."

In a long, dark corridor, an old blind man shuffled as quickly as he could toward his office. When he finally arrived, he collapsed in his desk chair, his old bones grateful for the reprieve. His answering machine was beeping. He pressed the button and listened.

"It's Warren Bellamy," said the hushed whisper of his friend and Masonic brother. "I'm afraid I have alarming news . . ."

Katherine Solomon's eyes shot back to the grid of letters, reexamining the text. Sure enough, a Latin word now materialized before her eyes. Jeova. Katherine had not studied Latin, but this word was familiar from her reading of ancient Hebrew texts. Jeova. Jehovah. As her eyes continued to trace downward, reading the grid like a book, she was surprised to realize she could read the entire text of the pyramid.

Jeova Sanctus Unus.

She knew its meaning at once. This phrase was ubiquitous in modern translations of Hebrew scripture. In the Torah, the God of the Hebrews was known by many names--Jeova, Jehovah, Jeshua, Yahweh, the Source, the Elohim--but many Roman translations had consolidated the confusing nomenclature into a single Latin phrase: Jeova Sanctus Unus.

"One true God?" she whispered to herself. The phrase certainly did not seem like something that would help them find her brother. "That's this pyramid's secret message? One true God? I thought this was a map."

Langdon looked equally perplexed, the excitement in his eyes evaporating. "This decryption obviously is correct, but . . ."

"The man who has my brother wants to know a location." She tucked her hair behind her ear. "This is not going to make him very happy."

"Katherine," Langdon said, heaving a sigh. "I've been afraid of this. All night, I've had a feeling we're treating as reality a collection of myths and allegories. Maybe this inscription is pointing to a metaphorical location--telling us that the true potential of man can be accessed only through the one true God."

"But that makes no sense!" Katherine replied, her jaw now clenched in frustration. "My family protected this pyramid for generations! One true God? That's the secret? And the CIA considers this an issue of national security? Either they're lying or we're missing something!"

Langdon shrugged in accord.

Just then, his phone began to ring.

In a cluttered office lined with old books, the old man hunched over his desk, clutching a phone receiver in his arthritic hand.

The line rang and rang.

At last, a tentative voice answered. "Hello?" The voice was deep but uncertain.

The old man whispered, "I was told you require sanctuary."

The man on the line seemed startled. "Who is this? Did Warren Bell--" "No names, please," the old man said. "Tell me, have you successfully protected the map that was entrusted to you?"

A startled pause. "Yes . . . but I don't think it matters. It doesn't say much. If it is a map, it seems to be more metaphorical than--"

"No, the map is quite real, I assure you. And it points to a very real location. You must keep it safe. I cannot impress upon you enough how important this is. You are being pursued, but if you can travel unseen to my location, I will provide sanctuary . . . and answers."

The man hesitated, apparently uncertain.

"My friend," the old man began, choosing his words carefully. "There is a refuge in Rome, north of the Tiber, which contains ten stones from Mount Sinai, one from heaven itself, and one with the visage of Luke's dark father. Do you know my location?"

There was a long pause on the line, and then the man replied, "Yes, I do."

The old man smiled. I thought you might, Professor. "Come at once. Make sure you're not followed." Copyright 2016 - 2023