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Home > The Lost Symbol (Robert Langdon #3)(16)

The Lost Symbol (Robert Langdon #3)(16)
Author: Dan Brown

The overlord of the Office of Security--Director Inoue Sato--was a legend in the intelligence community. Born inside the fences of a Japanese internment camp in Manzanar, California, in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, Sato was a toughened survivor who had never forgotten the horrors of war, or the perils of insufficient military intelligence. Now, having risen to one of the most secretive and potent posts in U.S. intelligence work, Sato had proven an uncompromising patriot as well as a terrifying enemy to any who stood in opposition. Seldom seen but universally feared, the OS director cruised the deep waters of the CIA like a leviathan who surfaced only to devour its prey.

Anderson had met Sato face-to-face only once, and the memory of looking into those cold black eyes was enough to make him count his blessings that he would be having this conversation by telephone.

Anderson took the phone and brought it to his lips. "Director Sato," he said in as friendly a voice as possible. "This is Chief Anderson. How may I--"

"There is a man in your building to whom I need to speak immediately." The OS director's voice was unmistakable--like gravel grating on a chalkboard. Throat cancer surgery had left Sato with a profoundly unnerving intonation and a repulsive neck scar to match. "I want you to find him for me immediately."

That's all? You want me to page someone? Anderson felt suddenly hopeful that maybe the timing of this call was pure coincidence. "Who are you looking for?"

"His name is Robert Langdon. I believe he is inside your building right now."

Langdon? The name sounded vaguely familiar, but Anderson couldn't quite place it. He was now wondering if Sato knew about the hand. "I'm in the Rotunda at the moment," Anderson said, "but we've got some tourists here . . . hold on." He lowered his phone and called out to the group, "Folks, is there anyone here by the name of Langdon?"

After a short silence, a deep voice replied from the crowd of tourists. "Yes. I'm Robert Langdon."

Sato knows all. Anderson craned his neck, trying to see who had spoken up.

The same man who had been trying to get to him earlier stepped away from the others. He looked distraught . . . but familiar somehow.

Anderson raised the phone to his lips. "Yes, Mr. Langdon is here."

"Put him on," Sato said coarsely. Anderson exhaled. Better him than me. "Hold on." He waved Langdon over. As Langdon approached, Anderson suddenly realized why the name sounded familiar. I just read an article about this guy. What the hell is he doing here?

Despite Langdon's six-foot frame and athletic build, Anderson saw none of the cold, hardened edge he expected from a man famous for surviving an explosion at the Vatican and a manhunt in Paris. This guy eluded the French police . . . in loafers? He looked more like someone Anderson would expect to find hearthside in some Ivy League library reading Dostoyevsky.

"Mr. Langdon?"Anderson said, walking halfway to meet him. "I'm Chief Anderson. I handle security here. You have a phone call."

"For me?" Langdon's blue eyes looked anxious and uncertain.

Anderson held out the phone. "It's the CIA's Office of Security."

"I've never heard of it."

Anderson smiled ominously. "Well, sir, it's heard of you."

Langdon put the phone to his ear. "Yes?"

"Robert Langdon?" Director Sato's harsh voice blared in the tiny speaker, loud enough that Anderson could hear.

"Yes?" Langdon replied.

Anderson stepped closer to hear what Sato was saying.

"This is Director Inoue Sato, Mr. Langdon. I am handling a crisis at the moment, and I believe you have information that can help me."

Langdon looked hopeful. "Is this about Peter Solomon? Do you know where he is?!"

Peter Solomon? Anderson felt entirely out of the loop.

"Professor," Sato replied. "I am asking the questions at the moment."

"Peter Solomon is in very serious trouble," Langdon exclaimed. "Some madman just--"

"Excuse me," Sato said, cutting him off.

Anderson cringed. Bad move. Interrupting a top CIA official's line of questioning was a mistake only a civilian would make. I thought Langdon was supposed to be smart. "Listen carefully," Sato said. "As we speak, this nation is facing a crisis. I have been advised that you have information that can help me avert it. Now, I am going to ask you again. What information do you possess?"

Langdon looked lost. "Director, I have no idea what you're talking about. All I'm concerned with is finding Peter and--"

"No idea?" Sato challenged.

Anderson saw Langdon bristle. The professor now took a more aggressive tone. "No, sir. No damned idea at all." Anderson winced. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Robert Langdon had just made a very costly mistake in dealing with Director Sato.

Incredibly, Anderson now realized it was too late. To his astonishment, Director Sato had just appeared on the far side of the Rotunda, and was approaching fast behind Langdon. Sato is in the building! Anderson held his breath and braced for impact. Langdon has no idea.

The director's dark form drew closer, phone held to ear, black eyes locked like two lasers on Langdon's back.

Langdon clutched the police chief's phone and felt a rising frustration as the OS director pressed him. "I'm sorry, sir," Langdon said tersely, "but I can't read your mind. What do you want from me?"

"What do I want from you?" The OS director's grating voice crackled through Langdon's phone, scraping and hollow, like that of a dying man with strep throat.

As the man spoke, Langdon felt a tap on his shoulder. He turned and his eyes were drawn down . . . directly into the face of a tiny Japanese woman. She had a fierce expression, a mottled complexion, thinning hair, tobacco-stained teeth, and an unsettling white scar that sliced horizontally across her neck. The woman's gnarled hand held a cell phone to her ear, and when her lips moved, Langdon heard the familiar raspy voice through his cell phone.

"What do I want from you, Professor?" She calmly closed her phone and glared at him. "For starters, you can stop calling me `sir.' "

Langdon stared, mortified. "Ma'am, I . . . apologize. Our connection was poor and--"

"Our connection was fine, Professor," she said. "And I have an extremely low tolerance for bullshit."

CHAPTER 17

Director Inoue Sato was a fearsome specimen--a bristly tempest of a woman who stood a mere four feet ten inches. She was bone thin, with jagged features and a dermatological condition known as vitiligo, which gave her complexion the mottled look of coarse granite blotched with lichen. Her rumpled blue pantsuit hung on her emaciated frame like a loose sack, the open- necked blouse doing nothing to hide the scar across her neck. It had been noted by her coworkers that Sato's only acquiescence to physical vanity appeared to be that of plucking her substantial mustache.

For over a decade, Inoue Sato had overseen the CIA's Office of Security. She possessed an off- the-chart IQ and chillingly accurate instincts, a combination which girded her with a self- confidence that made her terrifying to anyone who could not perform the impossible. Not even a terminal diagnosis of aggressive throat cancer had knocked her from her perch. The battle had cost her one month of work, half her voice box, and a third of her body weight, but she returned to the office as if nothing had happened. Inoue Sato appeared to be indestructible.

Robert Langdon suspected he was probably not the first to mistake Sato for a man on the phone, but the director was still glaring at him with simmering black eyes.

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