In the dim light of the Cathedral College kitchen, Langdon and Katherine stood over the pot of water and stared at the transformed capstone beneath the surface. On the side of the golden capstone, an incandescent message was glowing.
Langdon read the shining text, scarcely able to believe his eyes. He knew the pyramid was rumored to reveal a specific location . . . but he had never imagined that the location would be quite this specific.
Eight Franklin Square
"A street address," he whispered, stunned.
Katherine looked equally amazed. "I don't know what's there, do you?"
Langdon shook his head. He knew Franklin Square was one of the older sections of Washington, but he wasn't familiar with the address. He looked at the tip of the capstone, and read downward, taking in the entire text.
within The Order
Eight Franklin Square
Is there some kind of Order on Franklin Square?
Is there a building that hides the opening to a deep spiral staircase?
Whether or not there was actually something buried at that address, Langdon had no idea. The important issue at this point was that he and Katherine had deciphered the pyramid and now possessed the information required to negotiate Peter's release.
And not a moment too soon.
The glowing arms on Langdon's Mickey Mouse watch indicated that they had less than ten minutes to spare.
"Make the call," Katherine said, motioning to a phone on the wall in the kitchen. "Now!"
The sudden arrival of this moment startled Langdon, and he found himself hesitating.
"Are we sure about this?"
"I most certainly am."
"I'm not telling him anything until we know Peter is safe."
"Of course not. You remember the number, right?"
Langdon nodded and made his way over to the kitchen phone. He lifted the receiver and dialed the man's cell-phone number. Katherine came over and placed her head next to his so she could listen in. As the line began to ring, Langdon prepared himself for the eerie whisper of the man who had tricked him earlier tonight.
Finally, the call connected.
There was no greeting, though. No voice. Only the sound of breathing at the other end.
Langdon waited and then finally spoke. "I have the information you want, but if you want it, you'll have to give us Peter."
"Who is this?" a woman's voice replied.
Langdon jumped. "Robert Langdon," he said reflexively. "Who are you?" For an instant he thought he must have dialed incorrectly.
"Your name is Langdon?" The woman sounded surprised. "There's someone here asking for you."
What? "I'm sorry, who is this?"
"Officer Paige Montgomery with Preferred Security." Her voice seemed shaky. "Maybe you can help us with this. About an hour ago, my partner responded to a 911 call in Kalorama Heights . . . a possible hostage situation. I lost all contact with her, and so I called backup and came to check the residence. We found my partner dead in the backyard. The home owner was gone, and so we broke in. A cell phone was ringing on the hall table, and I--" "You're inside?" Langdon demanded.
"Yes, and the 911 tip . . . was a good one," the woman stammered. "Sorry if I sound rattled, but my partner's dead, and we found a man being held here against his will. He's in bad shape, and we're working on him now. He's been asking for two people--one named Langdon and one named Katherine."
"That's my brother!" Katherine blurted into the receiver, pressing her head closer to Langdon's. "I made the 911 call! Is he okay?!"
"Actually, ma'am, he's . . ." The woman's voice cracked. "He's in bad shape. He's missing his right hand . . ."
"Please," Katherine urged. "I want to talk to him!"
"They're working on him at the moment. He's in and out of consciousness. If you're anywhere in the area, you should get over here. He obviously wants to see you."
"We're about six minutes away!" Katherine said.
"Then I suggest you hurry." There was a muffled noise in the background, and the woman then returned to the line. "Sorry, it looks like I'm needed. I'll speak to you when you arrive."
The line went dead.
Inside Cathedral College, Langdon and Katherine bounded up the basement stairs and hurried down a darkened hallway looking for a front exit. No longer did they hear the sounds of helicopter blades overhead, and Langdon felt hopeful they could slip out unseen and find their way up to Kalorama Heights to see Peter.
They found him. He's alive.
Thirty seconds earlier, when they'd hung up with the female security guard, Katherine had hurriedly hoisted the steaming pyramid and capstone out of the water. The pyramid was still dripping when she lowered it into Langdon's leather bag. Now he could feel the heat radiating through the leather. Excitement over Peter's discovery had temporarily trumped any further reflection on the capstone's glowing message--Eight Franklin Square-- but there would be time for that once they got to Peter.
As they rounded the corner at the top of the stairs, Katherine stopped short and pointed into a sitting room across the hall. Through the bay window, Langdon could see a sleek black helicopter sitting silent on the lawn. A lone pilot stood beside it, facing away from them and talking on his radio. There was also a black Escalade with tinted windows parked nearby.
Staying in the shadows, Langdon and Katherine moved into the sitting room, and peered out the window to see if they could see the rest of the field team. Thankfully, the huge lawn outside the National Cathedral was empty.
"They must be inside the cathedral," Langdon said.
"They're not," a deep voice said behind them.
Langdon and Katherine wheeled around to see who had spoken. In the doorway of the sitting room, two black-clad figures aimed laser-sighted rifles at them. Langdon could see a glowing red dot dancing on his chest.
"Nice to see you again, Professor," said a familiar raspy voice. The agents parted, and the tiny form of Director Sato sliced effortlessly through, crossing the sitting room and stopping directly in front of Langdon. "You've made some exceedingly poor choices tonight."
"The police found Peter Solomon," Langdon declared forcefully. "He's in bad shape, but he'll live. It's over."
If Sato was surprised Peter had been found, she did not show it. Her eyes were unflinching as she walked to Langdon and stopped only inches away. "Professor, I can assure you, this is nowhere near over. And if the police are now involved, it has only become more serious. As I told you earlier this evening, this is an extremely delicate situation. You never should have run away with that pyramid."
"Ma'am," Katherine blurted, "I need to see my brother. You can have the pyramid, but you must let--"
"I must?" Sato demanded, spinning to Katherine. "Ms. Solomon, I assume?" She stared at Katherine with fire in her eyes and then turned back to Langdon. "Put the leather bag on the table."
Langdon glanced down at the pair of laser sights on his chest. He set the leather bag on the coffee table. An agent approached cautiously, unzipped the bag, and pulled the two sides apart. A little puff of trapped steam billowed up out of the bag. He aimed his light inside, stared for a long, puzzled moment, and then nodded to Sato. Sato walked over and peered into the bag. The wet pyramid and capstone glistened in the beam of the flashlight. Sato crouched down, looking very closely at the golden capstone, which Langdon realized she had only seen in X-ray.
"The inscription," Sato demanded. "Does it mean anything to you? `The secret hides within The Order'?"
"We're not sure, ma'am."
"Why is the pyramid steaming hot?"
"We submerged it in boiling water," Katherine said without hesitation. "It was part of the process of deciphering the code. We'll tell you everything, but please let us go see my brother. He's been through--"
"You boiled the pyramid?" Sato demanded.
"Turn off the flashlight," Katherine said. "Look at the capstone. You can probably still see."
The agent flicked off his light, and Sato knelt down before the capstone. Even from where Langdon was standing, he could see that the text on the capstone was still glowing slightly.
"Eight Franklin Square?" Sato said, sounding amazed.
"Yes, ma'am. That text was written with an incandescent lacquer or something. The thirty-third degree was actually--"
"And the address?" Sato demanded. "Is this what this guy wants?"
"Yes," Langdon said. "He believes the pyramid is a map that will tell him the location of a great treasure--the key to unlocking the Ancient Mysteries."
Sato looked again at the capstone, her expression one of disbelief. "Tell me," she said, fear creeping into her voice, "have you contacted this man yet? Have you already given him this address?"
"We tried." Langdon explained what had happened when they called the man's cell phone.
Sato listened, running her tongue over her yellow teeth as he spoke. Despite looking ready to erupt with anger over the situation, she turned to one of her agents and spoke in a restrained whisper. "Send him in. He's in the SUV."
The agent nodded and spoke into his transceiver.
"Send who in?" Langdon said. "The only person who has any hope of fixing the goddamn mess you made!"
"What mess?" Langdon fired back. "Now that Peter is safe, everything is--"
"For Christ's sake!" Sato exploded. "This is not about Peter! I tried to tell you that at the Capitol Building, Professor, but you chose to work against me rather than with me! Now you've made an ungodly mess! When you destroyed your cell phone, which, by the way, we were tracking, you cut off your communication with this man. And this address you uncovered--whatever the hell it is--this address was our one chance to catch this lunatic. I needed you to play his game, to provide him with this address so we would know where the hell to catch him!"
Before Langdon could reply, Sato directed the remainder of her wrath at Katherine.
"And you, Ms. Solomon! You knew where this maniac lived? Why didn't you tell me? You sent a rent-a-cop to this man's house? Don't you see you've ruined any chance we had of catching him there? I'm glad your brother is safe, but let me tell you this, we are facing a crisis tonight whose ramifications far outreach your family. They will be felt all around the world. The man who took your brother has enormous power, and we need to catch him immediately."
As she finished her tirade, the tall, elegant silhouette of Warren Bellamy emerged from the shadows and stepped into the sitting room. He looked rumpled, bruised, and shaken . . . like he'd been through hell.
"Warren!" Langdon stood up. "Are you okay?"