High atop the steps of the Pyramid of Giza a young woman laughed and called downto him. "Robert, hurry up! I knew I should have married a younger man!" Hersmile was magic.
He struggled to keep up, but his legs felt like stone. "Wait," he begged."Please..."
As he climbed, his vision began to blur. There was a thundering in his ears.I must reach her! But when he looked up again, the woman had disappeared.In her place stood an old man with rotting teeth. The man stared down, curlinghis lips into a lonely grimace. Then he let out a scream of anguish thatresounded across the desert.
Robert Langdon awoke with a start from his nightmare. The phone beside his bedwas ringing. Dazed, he picked up the receiver.
"I'm looking for Robert Langdon," a man's voice said.
Langdon sat up in his empty bed and tried to clear his mind. "This...is RobertLangdon." He squinted at his digital clock. It was 5:18 A.M.
"I must see you immediately."
"Who is this?"
"My name is Maximilian Kohler. I'm a discrete particle physicist."
"A what?" Langdon could barely focus. "Are you sure you've got the rightLangdon?"
"You're a professor of religious iconology at Harvard University. You've writtenthree books on symbology and "
"Do you know what time it is?"
"I apologize. I have something you need to see. I can't discuss it on thephone."
A knowing groan escaped Langdon's lips. This had happened before. One of theperils of writing books about religious symbology was the calls from religiouszealots who wanted him to confirm their latest sign from God. Last month astripper from Oklahoma had promised Langdon the best sex of his life if he wouldfly down and verify the authenticity of a cruciform that had magically appearedon her bed sheets. The Shroud of Tulsa, Langdon had called it.
"How did you get my number?" Langdon tried to be polite, despite the hour.
"On the Worldwide Web. The site for your book."
Langdon frowned. He was damn sure his book's site did not include his home phonenumber. The man was obviously lying.
"I need to see you," the caller insisted. "I'll pay you well."
Now Langdon was getting mad. "I'm sorry, but I really "
"If you leave immediately, you can be here by "
"I'm not going anywhere! It's five o'clock in the morning!" Langdon hung up andcollapsed back in bed. He closed his eyes and tried to fall back asleep. It wasno use. The dream was emblazoned in his mind. Reluctantly, he put on his robeand went downstairs.
Robert Langdon wandered barefoot through his deserted Massachusetts Victorianhome and nursed his ritual insomnia remedy a mug of steaming Nestlé'sQuik. The April moon filtered through the bay windows and played on the orientalcarpets. Langdon's colleagues often joked that his place looked more like ananthropology museum than a home. His shelves were packed with religiousartifacts from around the world an ekuaba from Ghana, a gold crossfrom Spain, a cycladic idol from the Aegean, and even a rare woven boccusfrom Borneo, a young warrior's symbol of perpetual youth.
As Langdon sat on his brass Maharishi's chest and savored the warmth of thechocolate, the bay window caught his reflection. The image was distorted andpale...like a ghost. An aging ghost, he thought, cruelly reminded thathis youthful spirit was living in a mortal shell.
Although not overly handsome in a classical sense, the forty-five-year-oldLangdon had what his female colleagues referred to as an "erudite" appeal wisps of gray in his thick brown hair, probing blue eyes, an arrestingly deepvoice, and the strong, carefree smile of a collegiate athlete. A varsity diverin prep school and college, Langdon still had the body of a swimmer, a toned,six-foot physique that he vigilantly maintained with fifty laps a day in theuniversity pool.
Langdon's friends had always viewed him as a bit of an enigma a man caughtbetween centuries. On weekends he could be seen lounging on the quad in bluejeans, discussing computer graphics or religious history with students; othertimes he could be spotted in his Harris tweed and paisley vest, photographed inthe pages of upscale art magazines at museum openings where he had been asked tolecture.
Although a tough teacher and strict disciplinarian, Langdon was the first toembrace what he hailed as the "lost art of good clean fun." He relishedrecreation with an infectious fanaticism that had earned him a fraternalacceptance among his students. His campus nickname "The Dolphin" was areference both to his affable nature and his legendary ability to dive into apool and outmaneuver the entire opposing squad in a water polo match.
As Langdon sat alone, absently gazing into the darkness, the silence of his homewas shattered again, this time by the ring of his fax machine. Too exhausted tobe annoyed, Langdon forced a tired chuckle.
God's people, he thought. Two thousand years of waiting for theirMessiah, and they're still persistent as hell.
Wearily, he returned his empty mug to the kitchen and walked slowly to hisoak-paneled study. The incoming fax lay in the tray. Sighing, he scooped up thepaper and looked at it.
Instantly, a wave of nausea hit him.
The image on the page was that of a human corpse. The body had been strippednaked, and its head had been twisted, facing completely backward. On thevictim's chest was a terrible burn. The man had been branded...imprinted with asingle word. It was a word Langdon knew well. Very well. He stared at the ornatelettering in disbelief.
"Illuminati," he stammered, his heart pounding. It can't be...
In slow motion, afraid of what he was about to witness, Langdon rotated thefax 180 degrees. He looked at the word upside down.
Instantly, the breath went out of him. It was like he had been hit by a truck.Barely able to believe his eyes, he rotated the fax again, reading the brandright-side up and then upside down.
"Illuminati," he whispered.
Stunned, Langdon collapsed in a chair. He sat a moment in utter bewilderment.Gradually, his eyes were drawn to the blinking red light on his fax machine.Whoever had sent this fax was still on the line...waiting to talk. Langdon gazedat the blinking light a long time.
Then, trembling, he picked up the receiver.
Copyright © 2000 Dan Brown. All rights reserved.