The Lost Symbol

Chapter 58-61



The coyly nicknamed explosive Key4 had been developed by Special Forces specifically for opening locked doors with minimal collateral damage. Consisting primarily of cyclotrimethylenetrinitramine with a diethylhexyl plasticizer, it was essentially a piece of C-4 rolled into paper-thin sheets for insertion into doorjambs. In the case of the library's reading room, the explosive had worked perfectly.

Operation leader Agent Turner Simkins stepped over the wreckage of the doors and scanned the massive octagonal room for any signs of movement. Nothing.

"Kill the lights," Simkins said.

A second agent found the wall panel, threw the switches, and plunged the room into darkness. In unison, all four men reached up and yanked down their night-vision headgear, adjusting the goggles over their eyes. They stood motionless, surveying the reading room, which now materialized in shades of luminescent green inside their goggles.

The scene remained unchanged.

Nobody made a dash for it in the dark. The fugitives were probably unarmed, and yet the field team entered the room with weapons raised. In the darkness, their firearms projected four menacing rods of laser light. The men washed the beams in all directions, across the floor, up the far walls, into the balconies, probing the darkness. Oftentimes, a mere glimpse of a laser-sighted weapon in a darkened room was enough to induce instant surrender.

Apparently not tonight.

Still no movement.

Agent Simkins raised his hand, motioning his team into the space. Silently, the men fanned out. Moving cautiously up the center aisle, Simkins reached up and flipped a switch on his goggles, activating the newest addition to the CIA's arsenal. Thermal imaging had been around for years, but recent advances in miniaturization, differential sensitivity, and dual-source integration had facilitated a new generation of vision enhancing equipment that gave field agents eyesight that bordered on superhuman.

We see in the dark. We see through walls. And now . . . we see back in time.

Thermal-imaging equipment had become so sensitive to heat differentials that it could detect not only a person's location . . . but their previous locations. The ability to see into the past often proved the most valuable asset of all. And tonight, once again, it proved its worth. Agent Simkins now spied a thermal signature at one of the reading desks. The two wooden chairs luminesced in his goggles, registering a reddish-purple color, indicating those chairs were warmer than the other chairs in the room. The desk lamp's bulb glowed orange. Obviously the two men had been sitting at the desk, but the question now was in which direction they had gone.

He found his answer on the central counter that surrounded the large wooden console in the middle of the room. A ghostly handprint, glowing crimson.

Weapon raised, Simkins moved toward the octagonal cabinet, training his laser sight across the surface. He circled until he saw an opening in the side of the console. Did they really corner themselves in a cabinet? The agent scanned the trim around the opening and saw another glowing handprint on it. Clearly someone had grabbed the doorjamb as he ducked inside the console.

The time for silence was over.

"Thermal signature!" Simkins shouted, pointing at the opening. "Flanks converge!"

His two flanks moved in from opposite sides, effectively surrounding the octagonal console.

Simkins moved toward the opening. Still ten feet away, he could see a light source within. "Light inside the console!" he shouted, hoping the sound of his voice might convince Mr. Bellamy and Mr. Langdon to exit the cabinet with their hands up. Nothing happened.

Fine, we'll do this the other way.

As Simkins drew closer to the opening, he could hear an unexpected hum rumbling from within. It sounded like machinery. He paused, trying to imagine what could be making such a noise in such a small space. He inched closer, now hearing voices over the sound of machinery. Then, just as he arrived at the opening, the lights inside went out.

Thank you, he thought, adjusting his night vision. Advantage, us.

Standing at the threshold, he peered through the opening. What lay beyond was unexpected. The console was less of a cabinet than a raised ceiling over a steep set of stairs that descended into a room below. The agent aimed his weapon down the stairs and began descending. The hum of machinery grew louder with every step.

What the hell is this place?

The room beneath the reading room was a small, industrial-looking space. The hum he heard was indeed machinery, although he was not sure whether it was running because Bellamy and Langdon had activated it, or because it ran around the clock. Either way, it clearly made no difference. The fugitives had left their telltale heat signatures on the room's lone exit--a heavy steel door whose keypad showed four clear fingerprints glowing on the numbers. Around the door, slivers of glowing orange shone beneath the doorjamb, indicating that lights were illuminated on the other side.

"Blow the door," Simkins said. "This was their escape route."

It took eight seconds to insert and detonate a sheet of Key4. When the smoke cleared, the field- team agents found themselves peering into a strange underground world known here as "the stacks."

The Library of Congress had miles and miles of bookshelves, most of them underground. The endless rows of shelves looked like some kind of "infinity" optical illusion created with mirrors.

A sign announced


Keep this door closed at all times.

Simkins pushed through the mangled doors and felt cool air beyond. He couldn't help but smile. Could this get any easier? Heat signatures in controlled environments showed up like solar flares, and already his goggles revealed a glowing red smear on a banister up ahead, which Bellamy or Langdon had grabbed on to while running past. "You can run," he whispered to himself, "but you can't hide."

As Simkins and his team advanced into the maze of stacks, he realized the playing field was tipped so heavily in his favor that he would not even need his goggles to track his prey. Under normal circumstances, this maze of stacks would have been a respectable hiding place, but the Library of Congress used motion-activated lights to save energy, and the fugitives' escape route was now lit up like a runway. A narrow strip of illumination stretched into the distance, dodging and weaving as it went.

All the men ripped off their goggles. Surging ahead on well-trained legs, the field team followed the trail of lights, zigging and zagging through a seemingly endless labyrinth of books. Soon Simkins began seeing lights flickering on in the darkness up ahead. We're gaining. He pushed harder, faster, until he heard footsteps and labored breathing ahead. Then he saw a target.

"I've got visual!" he yelled.

The lanky form of Warren Bellamy was apparently bringing up the rear. The primly dressed African American staggered through the stacks, obviously out of breath. It's no use, old man.

"Stop right there, Mr. Bellamy!" Simkins yelled.

Bellamy kept running, turning sharp corners, weaving through the rows of books. At every turn, the lights kept coming on over his head.

As the team drew within twenty yards, they shouted again to stop, but Bellamy ran on.

"Take him down!" Simkins commanded.

The agent carrying the team's nonlethal rifle raised it and fired. The projectile that launched down the aisle and wrapped itself around Bellamy's legs was nicknamed Silly String, but there was nothing silly about it. A military technology invented at Sandia National Laboratories, this nonlethal "incapacitant" was a thread of gooey polyurethane that turned rock hard on contact, creating a rigid web of plastic across the back of the fugitive's knees. The effect on a running target was that of jamming a stick into the spokes of a moving bike. The man's legs seized midstride, and he pitched forward, crashing to the floor. Bellamy slid another ten feet down a darkened aisle before coming to a stop, the lights above him flickering unceremoniously to life.

"I'll deal with Bellamy," Simkins shouted. "You keep going after Langdon! He must be up ahead some--" The team leader stopped, now seeing that the library stacks ahead of Bellamy were all pitch-black. Obviously, there was no one else running in front of Bellamy. He's alone?

Bellamy was still on his chest, breathing heavily, his legs and ankles all tangled with hardened plastic. The agent walked over and used his foot to roll the old man over onto his back.

"Where is he?!" the agent demanded. Bellamy's lip was bleeding from the fall. "Where is who?"

Agent Simkins lifted his foot and placed his boot squarely on Bellamy's pristine silk tie. Then he leaned in, applying some pressure. "Believe me, Mr. Bellamy, you do not want to play this game with me."


Robert Langdon felt like a corpse.

He lay supine, hands folded on his chest, in total darkness, trapped in the most confined of spaces. Although Katherine lay nearby in a similar position near his head, Langdon could not see her. He had his eyes closed to prevent himself from catching even a fleeting glimpse of his frightening predicament.

The space around him was small.

Very small.

Sixty seconds ago, with the double doors of the reading room crashing down, he and Katherine had followed Bellamy into the octagonal console, down a steep set of stairs, and into the unexpected space below.

Langdon had realized at once where they were. The heart of the library's circulation system. Resembling a small airport baggage distribution center, the circulation room had numerous conveyor belts that angled off in different directions. Because the Library of Congress was housed in three separate buildings, books requested in the reading room often had to be transported great distances by a system of conveyors through a web of underground tunnels.

Bellamy immediately crossed the room to a steel door, where he inserted his key card, typed a sequence of buttons, and pushed open the door. The space beyond was dark, but as the door opened, a span of motion-sensor lights flickered to life.

When Langdon saw what lay beyond, he realized he was looking at something few people ever saw. The Library of Congress stacks. He felt encouraged by Bellamy's plan. What better place to hide than in a giant labyrinth?

Bellamy did not guide them into the stacks, however. Instead, he propped the door open with a book and turned back to face them. "I had hoped to be able to explain a lot more to you, but we have no time." He gave Langdon his key card. "You'll need this."

"You're not coming with us?" Langdon asked.

Bellamy shook his head. "You'll never make it unless we split up. The most important thing is to keep that pyramid and capstone in safe hands."

Langdon saw no other way out except the stairs back up to the reading room. "And where are you going?"

"I'll coax them into the stacks away from you," Bellamy said. "It's all I can do to help you escape."

Before Langdon could ask where he and Katherine were supposed to go, Bellamy was heaving a large crate of books off one of the conveyors. "Lie on the belt," Bellamy said. "Keep your hands in."

Langdon stared. You cannot be serious! The conveyor belt extended a short distance then disappeared into a dark hole in the wall. The opening looked large enough to permit passage of a crate of books, but not much more. Langdon glanced back longingly at the stacks.

"Forget it," Bellamy said. "The motion-sensor lights will make it impossible to hide."

"Thermal signature!" a voice upstairs shouted. "Flanks converge!"

Katherine apparently had heard all she needed to hear. She climbed onto the conveyor belt with her head only a few feet from the opening in the wall. She crossed her hands over her chest like a mummy in a sarcophagus.

Langdon stood frozen.

"Robert," Bellamy urged, "if you won't do this for me, do it for Peter."

The voices upstairs sounded closer now.

As if in a dream, Langdon moved to the conveyor. He slung his daybag onto the belt and then climbed on, placing his head at Katherine's feet. The hard rubber conveyor felt cold against his back. He stared at the ceiling and felt like a hospital patient preparing for insertion headfirst into an MRI machine.

"Keep your phone on," Bellamy said. "Someone will call soon . . . and offer help. Trust him."

Someone will call? Langdon knew that Bellamy had been trying to reach someone with no luck and had left a message earlier. And only moments ago, as they hurried down the spiral staircase, Bellamy had tried one last time and gotten through, speaking very briefly in hushed tones and then hanging up. "Follow the conveyor to the end," Bellamy said. "And jump off quickly before you circle back. Use my key card to get out."

"Get out of where?!" Langdon demanded.

But Bellamy was already pulling levers. All the different conveyors in the room hummed to life. Langdon felt himself jolt into motion, and the ceiling began moving overhead.

God save me.

As Langdon approached the opening in the wall, he looked back and saw Warren Bellamy race through the doorway into the stacks, closing the door behind him. An instant later, Langdon slid into the darkness, swallowed up by the library . . . just as a glowing red laser dot came dancing down the stairs.


The underpaid female security guard from Preferred Security double-checked the Kalorama Heights address on her call sheet. This is it? The gated driveway before her belonged to one of the neighborhood's largest and quietest estates, and so it seemed odd that 911 had just received an urgent call about it.

As usual with unconfirmed call-ins, 911 had contacted the local alarm company before bothering the police. The guard often thought the alarm company's motto--"Your first line of defense"-- could just as easily have been "False alarms, pranks, lost pets, and complaints from wacky neighbors."

Tonight, as usual, the guard had arrived with no details about the specific concern. Above my pay grade. Her job was simply to show up with her yellow bubble light spinning, assess the property, and report anything unusual. Normally, something innocuous had tripped the house alarm, and she would use her override keys to reset it. This house, however, was silent. No alarm. From the road, everything looked dark and peaceful.

The guard buzzed the intercom at the gate, but got no answer. She typed her override code to open the gate and pulled into the driveway. Leaving her engine running and her bubble light spinning, she walked up to the front door and rang the bell. No answer. She saw no lights and no movement.

Reluctantly following procedure, she flicked on her flashlight to begin her trek around the house to check the doors and windows for signs of break-in. As she rounded the corner, a black stretch limousine drove past the house, slowing for a moment before continuing on. Rubbernecking neighbors.

Bit by bit, she made her way around the house, but saw nothing out of place. The house was bigger than she had imagined, and by the time she reached the backyard, she was shivering from the cold. Obviously there was nobody home.

"Dispatch?" she called in on her radio. "I'm on the Kalorama Heights call? Owners aren't home. No signs of trouble. Finished the perimeter check. No indication of an intruder. False alarm."

"Roger that," the dispatcher replied. "Have a good night."

The guard put her radio back on her belt and began retracing her steps, eager to get back to the warmth of her vehicle. As she did so, however, she spotted something she had missed earlier--a tiny speck of bluish light on the back of the house.

Puzzled, she walked over to it, now seeing the source--a low transom window, apparently to the home's basement. The glass of the window had been blacked out, coated on the inside with an opaque paint. Some kind of darkroom maybe? The bluish glow she had seen was emanating through a tiny spot on the window where the black paint had started to peel.

She crouched down, trying to peer through, but she couldn't see much through the tiny opening. She tapped on the glass, wondering if maybe someone was working down there.

"Hello?" she shouted.

There was no answer, but as she knocked on the window, the paint chip suddenly detached and fell off, affording her a more complete view. She leaned in, nearly pressing her face to the window as she scanned the basement. Instantly, she wished she hadn't.

What in the name of God?!

Transfixed, she remained crouched there for a moment, staring in abject horror at the scene before her. Finally, trembling, the guard groped for the radio on her belt.

She never found it.

A sizzling pair of Taser prongs slammed into the back of her neck, and a searing pain shot through her body. Her muscles seized, and she pitched forward, unable even to close her eyes before her face hit the cold ground.


Tonight was not the first time Warren Bellamy had been blindfolded. Like all of his Masonic brothers, he had worn the ritual "hoodwink" during his ascent to the upper echelons of Masonry. That, however, had taken place among trusted friends. Tonight was different. These rough- handed men had bound him, placed a bag on his head, and were now marching him through the library stacks.

The agents had physically threatened Bellamy and demanded to know the whereabouts of Robert Langdon. Knowing his aging body couldn't take much punishment, Bellamy had told his lie quickly.

"Langdon never came down here with me!" he had said, gasping for air. "I told him to go up to the balcony and hide behind the Moses statue, but I don't know where he is now!" The story apparently had been convincing, because two of the agents had run off in pursuit. Now the remaining two agents were marching him in silence through the stacks.

Bellamy's only solace was in knowing Langdon and Katherine were whisking the pyramid off to safety. Soon Langdon would be contacted by a man who could offer sanctuary. Trust him. The man Bellamy had called knew a great deal about the Masonic Pyramid and the secret it held--the location of a hidden spiral staircase that led down into the earth to the hiding place of potent ancient wisdom buried long ago. Bellamy had finally gotten through to the man as they were escaping the reading room, and he felt confident that his short message would be understood perfectly.

Now, as he moved in total darkness, Bellamy pictured the stone pyramid and golden capstone in Langdon's bag. It has been many years since those two pieces were in the same room.

Bellamy would never forget that painful night. The first of many for Peter. Bellamy had been asked to come to the Solomon estate in Potomac for Zachary Solomon's eighteenth birthday. Zachary, despite being a rebellious child, was a Solomon, which meant tonight, following family tradition, he would receive his inheritance. Bellamy was one of Peter's dearest friends and a trusted Masonic brother, and therefore was asked to attend as a witness. But it was not only the transference of money that Bellamy had been asked to witness. There was far more than money at stake tonight.

Bellamy had arrived early and waited, as requested, in Peter's private study. The wonderful old room smelled of leather, wood fires, and loose-leaf tea. Warren was seated when Peter led his son, Zachary, into the room. When the scrawny eighteen-year-old saw Bellamy, he frowned. "What are you doing here?"

"Bearing witness," Bellamy offered. "Happy birthday, Zachary."

The boy mumbled and looked away. "Sit down, Zach," Peter said.

Zachary sat in the solitary chair facing his father's huge wooden desk. Solomon bolted the study door. Bellamy took a seat off to one side.

Solomon addressed Zachary in a serious tone. "Do you know why you're here?"

"I think so," Zachary said.

Solomon sighed deeply. "I know you and I have not seen eye to eye for quite some time, Zach. I've done my best to be a good father and to prepare you for this moment."

Zachary said nothing.

"As you know, every Solomon child, upon reaching adulthood, is presented with his or her birthright--a share of the Solomon fortune--which is intended to be a seed . . . a seed for you to nurture, make grow, and use to help nourish mankind."

Solomon walked to a vault in the wall, unlocked it, and removed a large black folder. "Son, this portfolio contains everything you need to legally transfer your financial inheritance into your own name." He laid it on the desk. "The aim is that you use this money to build a life of productivity, prosperity, and philanthropy."

Zachary reached for the folder. "Thanks."

"Hold on," his father said, putting his hand on the portfolio. "There's something else I need to explain."

Zachary shot his father a contemptuous look and slumped back down.

"There are aspects of the Solomon inheritance of which you are not yet aware." His father was staring straight into Zachary's eyes now. "You are my firstborn, Zachary, which means you are entitled to a choice."

The teenager sat up, looking intrigued.

"It is a choice that may well determine the direction of your future, and so I urge you to ponder it carefully."

"What choice?"

His father took a deep breath. "It is the choice . . . between wealth or wisdom."

Zachary gave him a blank stare. "Wealth or wisdom? I don't get it." Solomon stood, walking again to the vault, where he pulled out a heavy stone pyramid with Masonic symbols carved into it. Peter heaved the stone onto the desk beside the portfolio. "This pyramid was created long ago and has been entrusted to our family for generations."

"A pyramid?" Zachary didn't look very excited.

"Son, this pyramid is a map . . . a map that reveals the location of one of humankind's greatest lost treasures. This map was created so that the treasure could one day be rediscovered." Peter's voice swelled now with pride. "And tonight, following tradition, I am able to offer it to you . . . under certain conditions."

Zachary eyed the pyramid suspiciously. "What's the treasure?"

Bellamy could tell that this coarse question was not what Peter had hoped for. Nonetheless, his demeanor remained steady.

"Zachary, it's hard to explain without a lot of background. But this treasure . . . in essence . . . is something we call the Ancient Mysteries."

Zachary laughed, apparently thinking his father was joking.

Bellamy could see the melancholy growing now in Peter's eyes.

"This is very difficult for me to describe, Zach. Traditionally, by the time a Solomon is eighteen years of age, he is about to embark on his years of higher education in--"

"I told you!" Zachary fired back. "I'm not interested in college!"

"I don't mean college," his father said, his voice still calm and quiet. "I'm talking about the brotherhood of Freemasonry. I'm talking about an education in the enduring mysteries of human science. If you had plans to join me within their ranks, you would be on the verge of receiving the education necessary to understand the importance of your decision tonight."

Zachary rolled his eyes. "Spare me the Masonic lecture again. I know I'm the first Solomon who doesn't want to join. But so what? Don't you get it? I have no interest in playing dress-up with a bunch of old men!"

His father was silent for a long time, and Bellamy noticed the fine age lines that had started to appear around Peter's still-youthful eyes.

"Yes, I get it," Peter finally said. "Times are different now. I understand that Masonry probably appears strange to you, or maybe even boring. But I want you to know, that doorway will always be open for you should you change your mind."

"Don't hold your breath," Zach grumbled. "That's enough!" Peter snapped, standing up. "I realize life has been a struggle for you, Zachary, but I am not your only guidepost. There are good men waiting for you, men who will welcome you within the Masonic fold and show you your true potential."

Zachary chuckled and glanced over at Bellamy. "Is that why you're here, Mr. Bellamy? So you Masons can gang up on me?"

Bellamy said nothing, instead directing a respectful gaze back at Peter Solomon--a reminder to Zachary of who held the power in this room.

Zachary turned back to his father.

"Zach," Peter said, "we're getting nowhere . . . so let me just tell you this. Whether or not you comprehend the responsibility being offered to you tonight, it is my family obligation to present it." He motioned to the pyramid. "It is a rare privilege to guard this pyramid. I urge you to consider this opportunity for a few days before making your decision."

"Opportunity?" Zachary said. "Babysitting a rock?"

"There are great mysteries in this world, Zach," Peter said with a sigh. "Secrets that transcend your wildest imagination. This pyramid protects those secrets. And even more important, there will come a time, probably within your lifetime, when this pyramid will at last be deciphered and its secrets unearthed. It will be a moment of great human transformation . . . and you have a chance to play a role in that moment. I want you to consider it very carefully. Wealth is commonplace, but wisdom is rare." He motioned to the portfolio and then to the pyramid. "I beg you to remember that wealth without wisdom can often end in disaster."

Zachary looked like he thought his father was insane. "Whatever you say, Dad, but there's no way I'm giving up my inheritance for this." He gestured to the pyramid.

Peter folded his hands before him. "If you choose to accept the responsibility, I will hold your money and the pyramid for you until you have successfully completed your education within the Masons. This will take years, but you will emerge with the maturity to receive both your money and this pyramid. Wealth and wisdom. A potent combination."

Zachary shot up. "Jesus, Dad! You don't give up, do you? Can't you see that I don't give a damn about the Masons or stone pyramids and ancient mysteries?" He reached down and scooped up the black portfolio, waving it in front of his father's face. "This is my birthright! The same birthright of the Solomons who came before me! I can't believe you'd try to trick me out of my inheritance with lame stories about ancient treasure maps!" He tucked the portfolio under his arm and marched past Bellamy to the study's patio door.

"Zachary, wait!" His father rushed after him as Zachary stalked out into the night. "Whatever you do, you can never speak of the pyramid you have seen!" Peter Solomon's voice cracked. "Not to anyone! Ever!" But Zachary ignored him, disappearing into the night.

Peter Solomon's gray eyes were filled with pain as he returned to his desk and sat heavily in his leather chair. After a long silence, he looked up at Bellamy and forced a sad smile. "That went well."

Bellamy sighed, sharing in Solomon's pain. "Peter, I don't mean to sound insensitive . . . but . . . do you trust him?"

Solomon stared blankly into space.

"I mean . . ." Bellamy pressed, "not to say anything about the pyramid?"

Solomon's face was blank. "I really don't know what to say, Warren. I'm not sure I even know him anymore."

Bellamy rose and walked slowly back and forth before the large desk. "Peter, you have followed your family duty, but now, considering what just happened, I think we need to take precautions. I should return the capstone to you so you can find a new home for it. Someone else should watch over it."

"Why?" Solomon asked.

"If Zachary tells anyone about the pyramid . . . and mentions my being present tonight . . ."

"He knows nothing of the capstone, and he's too immature to know the pyramid has any significance. We don't need a new home for it. I'll keep the pyramid in my vault. And you will keep the capstone wherever you keep it. As we always have."

It was six years later, on Christmas Day, with the family still healing from Zachary's death, that the enormous man claiming to have killed him in prison broke into the Solomon estate. The intruder had come for the pyramid, but he had taken with him only Isabel Solomon's life.

Days later, Peter summoned Bellamy to his office. He locked the door and took the pyramid out of his vault, setting it on the desk between them. "I should have listened to you."

Bellamy knew Peter was racked with guilt over this. "It wouldn't have mattered."

Solomon drew a tired breath. "Did you bring the capstone?"

Bellamy pulled a small cube-shaped package from his pocket. The faded brown paper was tied with twine and bore a wax seal of Solomon's ring. Bellamy laid the package on the desk, knowing the two halves of the Masonic Pyramid were closer together tonight than they should be. "Find someone else to watch this. Don't tell me who it is."

Solomon nodded. "And I know where you can hide the pyramid," Bellamy said. He told Solomon about the Capitol Building subbasement. "There's no place in Washington more secure."

Bellamy recalled Solomon liking the idea right away because it felt symbolically apt to hide the pyramid in the symbolic heart of our nation. Typical Solomon, Bellamy had thought. The idealist even in a crisis.

Now, ten years later, as Bellamy was being shoved blindly through the Library of Congress, he knew the crisis tonight was far from over. He also now knew whom Solomon had chosen to guard the capstone . . . and he prayed to God that Robert Langdon was up to the job.

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