Physicist Leonardo Vetra smelled burning flesh, and he knew it was his own. He stared up in terror at the dark figure looming over him. "What do you want!"
"La chiave," the raspy voice replied. "The password."
"But I don't... "
The intruder pressed down again, grinding the white hot object deeper into Vetra's chest. There was the hiss of broiling flesh.
Vetra cried out in agony. "There is no password!" He felt himself drifting toward unconsciousness.
The figure glared. "Ne avevo paura. I was afraid of that."
Vetra fought to keep his senses, but the darkness was closing in. His only solace was in knowing his attacker would never obtain what he had come for. A moment later, however, the figure produced a blade and brought it to Vetra's face. The blade hovered. Carefully. Surgically.
"For the love of God!" Vetra screamed. But it was too late.
High atop the steps of the Pyramid of Giza a young woman laughed and called down to him. "Robert, hurry up! I knew I should have married a younger man!" Her smile 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, curling his lips into a lonely grimace. Then he let out a scream of anguish that resounded across the desert.
Robert Langdon awoke with a start from his nightmare. The phone beside his bed was 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 Robert Langdon." 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 right Langdon?"
"You're a Professor of Religious Iconology at Harvard University. You've written three 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 the phone."
A knowing groan escaped Langdon's lips. This had happened before. One of the perils of writing books about religious symbology was the calls from religious zealots who wanted him to confirm their latest sign from God. Last month a stripper from Oklahoma had promised Langdon the best sex of his life if he would fly down and verify the authenticity of a cruciform that had magically appeared on 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 World-Wide-Web. The site for your book."
Langdon frowned. He was damn sure his book's site did not include his home phone number. 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 and collapsed back in bed. He closed his eyes and tried to fall back asleep. It was no use. The dream was emblazoned in his mind. Reluctantly, he put on his robe and went downstairs.
Copyright Dan Brown. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever.
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