Freedom Plaza is a map.
Located at the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and Thirteenth Street, the plaza's vast surface of inlaid stone depicts the streets of Washington as they were originally envisioned by Pierre L'Enfant. The plaza is a popular tourist destination not only because the giant map is fun to walk on, but also because Martin Luther King Jr., for whom Freedom Plaza is named, wrote much of his "I Have a Dream" speech in the nearby Willard Hotel.
D.C. cabdriver Omar Amirana brought tourists to Freedom Plaza all the time, but tonight, his two passengers were obviously no ordinary sightseers. The CIA is chasing them? Omar had barely come to a stop at the curb before the man and woman had jumped out.
"Stay right here!" the man in the tweed coat told Omar. "We'll be right back!"
Omar watched the two people dash out onto the wide-open spaces of the enormous map, pointing and shouting as they scanned the geometry of intersecting streets. Omar grabbed his cell phone off the dashboard. "Sir, are you still there?"
"Yes, Omar!" a voice shouted, barely audible over a thundering noise on his end of the line. "Where are they now?"
"Out on the map. It seems like they're looking for something."
"Do not let them out of your sight," the agent shouted. "I'm almost there!"
Omar watched as the two fugitives quickly found the plaza's famous Great Seal--one of the largest bronze medallions ever cast. They stood over it a moment and quickly began pointing to the southwest. Then the man in tweed came racing back toward the cab. Omar quickly set his phone down on the dashboard as the man arrived, breathless.
"Which direction is Alexandria, Virginia?" he demanded.
"Alexandria?" Omar pointed southwest, the exact same direction the man and woman had just pointed toward.
"I knew it!" the man whispered beneath his breath. He spun and shouted back to the woman. "You're right! Alexandria!"
The woman now pointed across the plaza to an illuminated "Metro" sign nearby. "The Blue Line goes directly there. We want King Street Station!"
Omar felt a surge of panic. Oh no.
The man turned back to Omar and handed him entirely too many bills for the fare. "Thanks. We're all set." He hoisted his leather bag and ran off.
"Wait! I can drive you! I go there all the time!"
But it was too late. The man and woman were already dashing across the plaza. They disappeared down the stairs into the Metro Center subway station.
Omar grabbed his cell phone. "Sir! They ran down into the subway! I couldn't stop them! They're taking the Blue Line to Alexandria!"
"Stay right there!" the agent shouted. "I'll be there in fifteen seconds!"
Omar looked down at the wad of bills the man had given him. The bill on top was apparently the one they had been writing on. It had a Jewish star on top of the Great Seal of the United States. Sure enough, the star's points fell on letters that spelled MASON.
Without warning, Omar felt a deafening vibration all around him, as if a tractor trailer were about to collide with his cab. He looked up, but the street was deserted. The noise increased, and suddenly a sleek black helicopter dropped down out of the night and landed hard in the middle of the plaza map.
A group of black-clad men jumped out. Most ran toward the subway station, but one came dashing toward Omar's cab. He yanked open the passenger door. "Omar? Is that you?"
Omar nodded, speechless.
"Did they say where they were headed?" the agent demanded.
"Alexandria! King Street Station," Omar blurted. "I offered to drive, but--"
"Did they say where in Alexandria they were going?"
"No! They looked at the medallion of the Great Seal on the plaza, then they asked about Alexandria, and they paid me with this." He handed the agent the dollar bill with the bizarre diagram. As the agent studied the bill, Omar suddenly put it all together. The Masons! Alexandria! One of the most famous Masonic buildings in America was in Alexandria. "That's it!" he blurted. "The George Washington Masonic Memorial! It's directly across from King Street Station!"
"That it is," the agent said, apparently having just come to the same realization as the rest of the agents came sprinting back from the station.
"We missed them!" one of the men yelled. "Blue Line just left! They're not down there!"
Agent Simkins checked his watch and turned back to Omar. "How long does the subway take to Alexandria?" "Ten minutes at least. Probably more."
"Omar, you've done an excellent job. Thank you."
"Sure. What's this all about?!"
But Agent Simkins was already running back to the chopper, shouting as he went. "King Street Station! We'll get there before they do!"
Bewildered, Omar watched the great black bird lift off. It banked hard to the south across Pennsylvania Avenue, and then thundered off into the night.
Underneath the cabbie's feet, a subway train was picking up speed as it headed away from Freedom Plaza. On board, Robert Langdon and Katherine Solomon sat breathless, neither one saying a word as the train whisked them toward their destination.
The memory always began the same way.
He was falling . . . plummeting backward toward an ice-covered river at the bottom of a deep ravine. Above him, the merciless gray eyes of Peter Solomon stared down over the barrel of Andros's handgun. As he fell, the world above him receded, everything disappearing as he was enveloped by the cloud of billowing mist from the waterfall upstream.
For an instant, everything was white, like heaven.
Then he hit the ice.
Cold. Black. Pain.
He was tumbling . . . being dragged by a powerful force that pounded him relentlessly across rocks in an impossibly cold void. His lungs ached for air, and yet his chest muscles had contracted so violently in the cold that he was unable even to inhale.
I'm under the ice.
The ice near the waterfall was apparently thin on account of the turbulent water, and Andros had broken directly through it. Now he was being washed downstream, trapped beneath a transparent ceiling. He clawed at the underside of the ice, trying to break out, but he had no leverage. The searing pain from the bullet hole in his shoulder was evaporating, as was the sting of the bird shot; both were blotted out now by the crippling throb of his body going numb.
The current was accelerating, slingshotting him around a bend in the river. His body screamed for oxygen. Suddenly he was tangled in branches, lodged against a tree that had fallen into the water. Think! He groped wildly at the branch, working his way toward the surface, finding the spot where the branch pierced up through the ice. His fingertips found the tiny space of open water surrounding the branch, and he pulled at the edges, trying to break the hole wider; once, twice, the opening was growing, now several inches across.
Propping himself against the branch, he tipped his head back and pressed his mouth against the small opening. The winter air that poured into his lungs felt warm. The sudden burst of oxygen fueled his hope. He planted his feet on the tree trunk and pressed his back and shoulders forcefully upward. The ice around the fallen tree, perforated by branches and debris, was weakened already, and as he drove his powerful legs into the trunk, his head and shoulders broke through the ice, crashing up into the winter night. Air poured into his lungs. Still mostly submerged, he wriggled desperately upward, pushing with his legs, pulling with his arms, until finally he was out of the water, lying breathless on the bare ice.
Andros tore off his soaked ski mask and pocketed it, glancing back upstream for Peter Solomon. The bend in the river obscured his view. His chest was burning again. Quietly, he dragged a small branch over the hole in the ice in order to hide it. The hole would be frozen again by morning.
As Andros staggered into the woods, it began to snow. He had no idea how far he had run when he stumbled out of the woods onto an embankment beside a small highway. He was delirious and hypothermic. The snow was falling harder now, and a single set of headlights approached in the distance. Andros waved wildly, and the lone pickup truck immediately pulled over. It had Vermont plates. An old man in a red plaid shirt jumped out.
Andros staggered toward him, holding his bleeding chest. "A hunter . . . shot me! I need a . . . hospital!"
Without hesitation, the old man helped Andros up into the passenger seat of the truck and turned up the heater. "Where's the nearest hospital?!"
Andros had no idea, but he pointed south. "Next exit." We're not going to a hospital.
The old man from Vermont was reported missing the next day, but nobody had any idea where on his journey from Vermont he might have disappeared in the blinding snowstorm. Nor did anyone link his disappearance to the other news story that dominated the headlines the next day--the shocking murder of Isabel Solomon.
When Andros awoke, he was lying in a desolate bedroom of a cheap motel that had been boarded up for the season. He recalled breaking in and binding his wounds with torn bedsheets, and then burrowing into a flimsy bed beneath a pile of musty blankets. He was famished.
He limped to the bathroom and saw the pile of bloody bird-shot pellets in the sink. He vaguely recalled prying them out of his chest. Raising his eyes to the dirty mirror, he reluctantly unwrapped his bloody bandages to survey the damage. The hard muscles of his chest and abdomen had stopped the bird shot from penetrating too deep, and yet his body, once perfect, was now ruined with wounds. The single bullet fired by Peter Solomon had apparently gone cleanly through his shoulder, leaving a bloody crater.
Making matters worse, Andros had failed to obtain that for which he had traveled all this distance. The pyramid. His stomach growled, and he limped outside to the man's truck, hoping maybe to find food. The pickup was now covered with heavy snow, and Andros wondered how long he had been sleeping in this old motel. Thank God I woke up. Andros found no food anywhere in the front seat, but he did find some arthritis painkillers in the glove compartment. He took a handful, washing them down with several mouthfuls of snow.
I need food.
A few hours later, the pickup that pulled out from behind the old motel looked nothing like the truck that had pulled in two days earlier. The cab cap was missing, as were the hubcaps, bumper stickers, and all of the trim. The Vermont plates were gone, replaced by those from an old maintenance truck Andros had found parked by the motel Dumpster, into which he had thrown all the bloody sheets, bird shot, and other evidence that he had ever been at the motel.
Andros had not given up on the pyramid, but for the moment it would have to wait. He needed to hide, heal, and above all, eat. He found a roadside diner where he gorged himself on eggs, bacon, hash browns, and three glasses of orange juice. When he was done, he ordered more food to go. Back on the road, Andros listened to the truck's old radio. He had not seen a television or newspaper since his ordeal, and when he finally heard a local news station, the report stunned him.
"FBI investigators," a news announcer said, "continue their search for the armed intruder who murdered Isabel Solomon in her Potomac home two days ago. The murderer is believed to have fallen through the ice and been washed out to sea."
Andros froze. Murdered Isabel Solomon? He drove on in bewildered silence, listening to the full report.
It was time to get far, far away from this place.
The Upper West Side apartment offered breathtaking views of Central Park. Andros had chosen it because the sea of green outside his window reminded him of his lost view of the Adriatic. Although he knew he should be happy to be alive, he was not. The emptiness had never left him, and he found himself fixated on his failed attempt to steal Peter Solomon's pyramid.
Andros had spent long hours researching the Legend of the Masonic Pyramid, and although nobody seemed to agree on whether or not the pyramid was real, they all concurred on its famous promise of vast wisdom and power. The Masonic Pyramid is real, Andros told himself. My inside information is irrefutable.
Fate had placed the pyramid within Andros's reach, and he knew that ignoring it was like holding a winning lottery ticket and never cashing it in. I am the only non-Mason alive who knows the pyramid is real . . . as well as the identity of the man who guards it.
Months had passed, and although his body had healed, Andros was no longer the cocky specimen he had been in Greece. He had stopped working out, and he had stopped admiring himself naked in the mirror. He felt as if his body were beginning to show signs of age. His once-perfect skin was a patchwork of scars, and this only depressed him further. He still relied on the painkillers that had nursed him through his recovery, and he felt himself slipping back to the lifestyle that had put him in Soganlik Prison. He didn't care. The body craves what the body craves.
One night, he was in Greenwich Village buying drugs from a man whose forearm had been tattooed with a long, jagged lightning bolt. Andros asked him about it, and the man told him the tattoo was covering a long scar he had gotten in a car accident. "Seeing the scar every day reminded me of the accident," the dealer said, "and so I tattooed over it with a symbol of personal power. I took back control."
That night, high on his new stash of drugs, Andros staggered into a local tattoo parlor and took off his shirt. "I want to hide these scars," he announced. I want to take back control.
"Hide them?" The tattoo artist eyed his chest. "With what?"
"Yes . . . I mean tattoos of what?"
Andros shrugged, wanting nothing more than to hide the ugly reminders of his past. "I don't know. You choose."
The artist shook his head and handed Andros a pamphlet on the ancient and sacred tradition of tattooing. "Come back when you're ready."
Andros discovered that the New York Public Library had in its collection fifty-three books on tattooing, and within a few weeks, he had read them all. Having rediscovered his passion for reading, he began carrying entire backpacks of books back and forth between the library and his apartment, where he voraciously devoured them while overlooking Central Park.
These books on tattoos had opened a door to a strange world Andros had never known existed--a world of symbols, mysticism, mythology, and the magical arts. The more he read, the more he realized how blind he had been. He began keeping notebooks of his ideas, his sketches, and his strange dreams. When he could no longer find what he wanted at the library, he paid rare-book dealers to purchase for him some of the most esoteric texts on earth.
De Praestigiis Daemonum . . . Lemegeton . . . Ars Almadel . . . Grimorium Verum . . . Ars Notoria . . . and on and on. He read them all, becoming more and more certain that the world still had many treasures yet to offer him. There are secrets out there that transcend human understanding.
Then he discovered the writings of Aleister Crowley--a visionary mystic from the early 1900s-- whom the church had deemed "the most evil man who ever lived." Great minds are always feared by lesser minds. Andros learned about the power of ritual and incantation. He learned that sacred words, if properly spoken, functioned like keys that opened gateways to other worlds. There is a shadow universe beyond this one . . . a world from which I can draw power. And although Andros longed to harness that power, he knew there were rules and tasks to be completed beforehand.
Become something holy, Crowley wrote. Make yourself sacred.
The ancient rite of "sacred making" had once been the law of the land. From the early Hebrews who made burnt offerings at the Temple, to the Mayans who beheaded humans atop the pyramids of Chichen Itza, to Jesus Christ, who offered his body on the cross, the ancients understood God's requirement for sacrifice. Sacrifice was the original ritual by which humans drew favor from the gods and made themselves holy.
Even though the rite of sacrifice had been abandoned eons ago, its power remained. There had been a handful of modern mystics, including Aleister Crowley, who practiced the Art, perfecting it over time, and transforming themselves gradually into something more. Andros craved to transform himself as they had. And yet he knew he would have to cross a dangerous bridge to do so.
Blood is all that separates the light from the dark.
One night, a crow flew through Andros's open bathroom window and got trapped in his apartment. Andros watched the bird flutter around for a while and then finally stop, apparently accepting its inability to escape. Andros had learned enough to recognize a sign. I am being urged onward.
Clutching the bird in one hand, he stood at the makeshift altar in his kitchen and raised a sharp knife, speaking aloud the incantation he had memorized.
"Camiach, Eomiahe, Emial, Macbal, Emoii, Zazean . . . by the most holy names of the angels in the Book of Assamaian, I conjure thee that thou assist me in this operation by the power of the One True God." Andros now lowered the knife and carefully pierced the large vein on the right wing of the panicked bird. The crow began to bleed. As he watched the stream of red liquid flowing down into the metal cup he had placed as a receptacle, he felt an unexpected chill in the air. Nonetheless, he continued.
"Almighty Adonai, Arathron, Ashai, Elohim, Elohi, Elion, Asher Eheieh, Shaddai . . . be my aid, so that this blood may have power and efficacy in all wherein I shall wish, and in all that I shall demand."
That night, he dreamed of birds . . . of a giant phoenix rising from a billowing fire. The next morning, he awoke with an energy he had not felt since childhood. He went running in the park, faster and farther than he'd imagined possible. When he could run no longer, he stopped to do pushups and sit-ups. Countless repetitions. Still he had energy.
That night, again, he dreamed of the phoenix.
Autumn had fallen again on Central Park, and the wildlife were scurrying about searching for food for winter. Andros despised the cold, and yet his carefully hidden traps were now overflowing with live rats and squirrels. He took them home in his backpack, performing rituals of increasing complexity.
Emanual, Massiach, Yod, He, Vaud . . . please find me worthy.
The blood rituals fueled his vitality. Andros felt younger every day. He continued to read day and night--ancient mystical texts, epic medieval poems, the early philosophers--and the more he learned about the true nature of things, the more he realized that all hope for mankind was lost. They are blind . . . wandering aimlessly in a world they will never understand.
Andros was still a man, but he sensed he was evolving into something else. Something greater. Something sacred. His massive physique had emerged from dormancy, more powerful now than ever before. He finally understood its true purpose. My body is but a vessel for my most potent treasure . . . my mind.
Andros knew his true potential had not yet been realized, and he delved deeper. What is my destiny? All the ancient texts spoke of good and evil . . . and of man's need to choose between them. I made my choice long ago, he knew, and yet he felt no remorse. What is evil, if not a natural law? Darkness followed light. Chaos followed order. Entropy was fundamental. Everything decayed. The perfectly ordered crystal eventually turned into random particles of dust.
There are those who create . . . and those who destroy.
It was not until Andros read John Milton's Paradise Lost that he saw his destiny materialize before him. He read of the great fallen angel . . . the warrior demon who fought against the light . . . the valiant one . . . the angel called Moloch. Moloch walked the earth as a god. The angel's name, Andros later learned, when translated to the ancient tongue, became Mal'akh.
And so shall I.
Like all great transformations, this one had to begin with a sacrifice . . . but not of rats, nor birds. No, this transformation required a true sacrifice.
There is but one worthy sacrifice.
Suddenly he had a sense of clarity unlike anything he had ever experienced in his life. His entire destiny had materialized. For three straight days he sketched on an enormous sheet of paper. When he was done, he had created a blueprint of what he would become.
He hung the life-size sketch on his wall and gazed into it as if into a mirror.
I am a masterpiece.
The next day, he took his drawing to the tattoo parlor.
He was ready.
The George Washington Masonic Memorial stands atop Shuter's Hill in Alexandria, Virginia. Built in three distinct tiers of increasing architectural complexity from bottom to top--Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian--the structure stands as a physical symbol of man's intellectual ascent. Inspired by the ancient Pharos lighthouse of Alexandria, Egypt, this soaring tower is capped by an Egyptian pyramid with a flamelike finial.
Inside the spectacular marble foyer sits a massive bronze of George Washington in full Masonic regalia, along with the actual trowel he used to lay the cornerstone of the Capitol Building. Above the foyer, nine different levels bear names like the Grotto, the Crypt Room, and the Knights Templar Chapel. Among the treasures housed within these spaces are over twenty thousand volumes of Masonic writings, a dazzling replica of the Ark of the Covenant, and even a scale model of the throne room in King Solomon's Temple.
CIA agent Simkins checked his watch as the modified UH-60 chopper skimmed in low over the Potomac. Six minutes until their train arrives. He exhaled and gazed out the window at the shining Masonic Memorial on the horizon. He had to admit, the brilliantly shining tower was as impressive as any building on the National Mall. Simkins had never been inside the memorial, and tonight would be no different. If all went according to plan, Robert Langdon and Katherine Solomon would never make it out of the subway station.
"Over there!" Simkins shouted to the pilot, pointing down at the King Street subway station across from the memorial. The pilot banked the helicopter and set it down on a grassy area at the foot of Shuter's Hill.
Pedestrians looked up in surprise as Simkins and his team piled out, dashed across the street, and ran down into King Street Station. In the stairwell, several departing passengers leaped out of the way, plastering themselves to the walls as the phalanx of armed men in black thundered past them.
The King Street Station was larger than Simkins had anticipated, apparently serving several different lines--Blue, Yellow, and Amtrak. He raced over to the Metro map on the wall, found Freedom Plaza and the direct line to this location.
"Blue Line, southbound platform!" Simkins shouted. "Get down there and clear everyone out!" His team dashed off.
Simkins rushed over to the ticket booth, flashed his identification, and shouted to the woman inside. "The next train from Metro Center--what time is it due?!"
The woman inside looked frightened. "I'm not sure. Blue Line arrives every eleven minutes. There's no set schedule."
"How long since the last train?"
"Five . . . six minutes, maybe? No more than that."
Turner did the math. Perfect. The next train had to be Langdon's.
Inside a fast-moving subway car, Katherine Solomon shifted uncomfortably on the hard plastic seat. The bright fluorescent lights overhead hurt her eyes, and she fought the impulse to let her eyelids close, even for a second. Langdon sat beside her in the empty car, staring blankly down at the leather bag at his feet. His eyelids looked heavy, too, as if the rhythmic sway of the moving car were lulling him into a trance.
Katherine pictured the strange contents of Langdon's bag. Why does the CIA want this pyramid? Bellamy had said that Sato might be pursuing the pyramid because she knew its true potential. But even if this pyramid somehow did reveal the hiding place of ancient secrets, Katherine found it hard to believe that its promise of primeval mystical wisdom would interest the CIA.
Then again, she reminded herself, the CIA had been caught several times running parapsychological or psi programs that bordered on ancient magic and mysticism. In 1995, the "Stargate/Scannate" scandal had exposed a classified CIA technology called remote viewing--a kind of telepathic mind travel that enabled a "viewer" to transport his mind's eye to any location on earth and spy there, without being physically present. Of course, the technology was nothing new. Mystics called it astral projection, and yogis called it out-of-body experience. Unfortunately, horrified American taxpayers called it absurd, and the program had been scuttled. At least publicly.
Ironically, Katherine saw remarkable connections between the CIA's failed programs and her own breakthroughs in Noetic Science.
Katherine felt eager to call the police and find out if they had discovered anything in Kalorama Heights, but she and Langdon were phoneless now, and making contact with the authorities would probably be a mistake anyway; there was no telling how far Sato's reach extended.
Patience, Katherine. Within minutes, they would be in a safe hiding place, guests of a man who had assured them he could provide answers. Katherine hoped his answers, whatever they might be, would help her save her brother.
"Robert?" she whispered, glancing up at the subway map. "Next stop is ours."
Langdon emerged slowly from his daydream. "Right, thanks." As the train rumbled toward the station, he collected his daybag and gave Katherine an uncertain glance. "Let's just hope our arrival is uneventful."
By the time Turner Simkins dashed down to join his men, the subway platform had been entirely cleared, and his team was fanning out, taking up positions behind the support pillars that ran the length of the platform. A distant rumble echoed in the tunnel at the other end of the platform, and as it grew louder, Simkins felt the push of stale warm air billowing around him.
No escape, Mr. Langdon.
Simkins turned to the two agents he had told to join him on the platform. "Identification and weapons out. These trains are automated, but they all have a conductor who opens the doors. Find him."
The train's headlamp now appeared down the tunnel, and the sound of squealing brakes pierced the air. As the train burst into the station and began slowing down, Simkins and his two agents leaned out over the track, waving CIA identification badges and straining to make eye contact with the conductor before he could open the doors.
The train was closing fast. In the third car, Simkins finally saw the startled face of the conductor, who was apparently trying to figure out why three men in black were all waving identification badges at him. Simkins jogged toward the train, which was now nearing a full stop.
"CIA!" Simkins shouted, holding up his ID. "Do NOT open the doors!" As the train glided slowly past him, he went toward the conductor's car, shouting in at him. "Do not open your doors! Do you understand?! Do NOT open your doors!"
The train came to a full stop, its wide-eyed conductor nodding repeatedly. "What's wrong?!" the man demanded through his side window.
"Don't let this train move," Simkins said. "And don't open the doors."
"Can you let us into the first car?"
The conductor nodded. Looking fearful, he stepped out of the train, closing the door behind him. He escorted Simkins and his men to the first car, where he manually opened the door.
"Lock it behind us," Simkins said, pulling his weapon. Simkins and his men stepped quickly into the stark light of the first car. The conductor locked the door behind them.
The first car contained only four passengers--three teenage boys and an old woman--all of whom looked understandably startled to see three armed men entering. Simkins held up his ID. "Everything's fine. Just stay seated."
Simkins and his men now began their sweep, pushing toward the back of the sealed train one car at a time--"squeezing toothpaste," as it was called during his training at the Farm. Very few passengers were on this train, and halfway to the back, the agents still had seen nobody even remotely resembling the description of Robert Langdon and Katherine Solomon. Nonetheless, Simkins remained confident. There was absolutely no place to hide on a subway car. No bathrooms, no storage, and no alternative exits. Even if the targets had seen them board the train and fled to the back, there was no way out. Prying open a door was almost impossible, and Simkins had men watching the platform and both sides of the train anyway.
By the time Simkins reached the second-to-last car, however, he was feeling edgy. This penultimate car had only one passenger--a Chinese man. Simkins and his agents moved through, scanning for any place to hide. There was none.
"Last car," Simkins said, raising his weapon as the threesome moved toward the threshold of the train's final section. As they stepped into the last car, all three of them immediately stopped and stared.
What the . . . ?! Simkins raced to the rear of the deserted cabin, searching behind all the seats. He spun back to his men, blood boiling. "Where the hell did they go?!"