The engines roared to life beneath him, sending a deep shudder through the hull. Langdon swallowed hard and waited. He felt the plane start taxiing. Piped-in country music began playing quietly overhead.
A phone on the wall beside him beeped twice. Langdon lifted the receiver.
"Comfortable, Mr. Langdon?"
"Not at all."
"Just relax. We'll be there in an hour."
"And where exactly is there?" Langdon asked, realizing he had no idea where he was headed.
"Geneva," the pilot replied, revving the engines. "The lab's in Geneva."
"Geneva," Langdon repeated, feeling a little better. "Upstate New York. I've actually got family near Seneca Lake. I wasn't aware Geneva had a physics lab."
The pilot laughed. "Not Geneva, New York, Mr. Langdon. Geneva, Switzerland."
The word took a long moment to register. "Switzerland?" Langdon felt his pulse surge. "I thought you said the lab was only an hour away!"
"It is, Mr. Langdon." The pilot chuckled. "This plane goes Mach 25."
On a busy European street, the killer serpentined through a crowd. He was a powerful man. Dark and potent. Deceptively agile. His muscles still felt hard from the thrill of his meeting.
It went well, he told himself. Although his employer had never revealed his face, the killer felt honored to be in his presence. Had it really been only fifteen days since his employer had first made contact? The killer still remembered every word of that call
"My name is Janus," the caller had said. "We are kinsmen of a sort. We share an enemy. I hear your skills are for hire."
"It depends whom you represent," the killer replied.
The caller told him.
"Is this your idea of a joke?"
"You have heard our name, I see," the caller replied.
"Of course. The brotherhood is legendary."
"And yet you find yourself doubting I am genuine."
"Everyone knows the brothers have faded to dust."
"A devious ploy. The most dangerous enemy is that which no one fears."
The killer was skeptical. "The brotherhood endures?"
"Deeper underground than ever before. Our roots infiltrate everything you see even the sacred fortress of our most sworn enemy."
"Impossible. They are invulnerable."
"Our reach is far."
"No one's reach is that far."
"Very soon, you will believe. An irrefutable demonstration of the brotherhood's power has already transpired. A single act of treachery and proof."
"What have you done?"
The caller told him.
The killer's eyes went wide. "An impossible task."
The next day, newspapers around the globe carried the same headline. The killer became a believer.
Now, fifteen days later, the killer's faith had solidified beyond the shadow of a doubt. The brotherhood endures, he thought. Tonight they will surface to reveal their power.
As he made his way through the streets, his black eyes gleamed with foreboding. One of the most covert and feared fraternities ever to walk the earth had called on him for service. They have chosen wisely, he thought. His reputation for secrecy was exceeded only by that of his deadliness.
So far, he had served them nobly. He had made his kill and delivered the item to Janus as requested. Now, it was up to Janus to use his power to ensure the item's placement.
The killer wondered how Janus could possibly handle such a staggering task. The man obviously had connections on the inside. The brotherhood's dominion seemed limitless.
Copyright Dan Brown. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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