Ben stood silently at the great shoes of Abraham Lincoln, gazing solemnly into the President's stone eyes, as he recited the riddle repetitively in his mind. His train of thought pushing its limits, Ben delved deep into the words, carefully analyzing their meaning. There had to be something he was missing.
Frozen in marble, he gazes pensively.
Across the lawn where stands the key.
To seeing what cannot be seen.
Obviously, Ben reminded himself, the first verse referred to the Lincoln Memorial. President Lincoln was remembered as a truly pensive thinker, and was depicted by sculptor Daniel Chester French with a ponderous expression about his profile as he sat gallantly atop his throne. In addition, the statue was carved out of marble.
That much was clear.
What Ben had yet to ascertain was what he was meant to do next. Allowing a deep sigh, he slowly looked around the interior of the memorial, his eyes glowing with admiration as he examined the brilliant architecture and masterful sculpture work. He felt truly at home, there among some of the greatest minds the nation had ever known.
It was unlikely that anybody had such an appreciation to rival his own.
His eyes rolled over the dedication on the wall above the statue. It read: In this temple, As in the hearts of the people, For whom he saved the Union, The memory of Abraham Lincoln, Is enshrined forever.
Ben closed his eyes, reflecting on every aspect of the memorial in which he stood. The structure had seen such a share of history. From Nixon's meeting with Vietnam War protestors in 1970 to Reverend Martin Luther King Junior's famous "I Have a Dream" speech seven years earlier.
It didn't seem so long ago that Ben and Riley sat on the steps just outside the memorial debating Ben's drastic decision to steal the Declaration of Independence.
"Ben!" he heard Riley's voice call his name from behind him.
Ben slowly turned, his concentration suddenly lost and arousing him from his state of deep thought. He saw his friend hurrying towards him, making his way through the limestone pillars with Abigail following closely at his side.
"Hey," Ben said as they arrived. "Did you find anything?"
"No," Abigail told him, disappointment evident in her voice.
Despite the bad news, it was still a challenge for Ben to look at his girlfriend's face and not smile. Her own charming smile, her beautiful cerulean eyes, her smooth golden hair. Ben knew how fortunate he was to have her for his own.
"Well I hate to always be the one to deliver the bad news," Riley chimed in.
Ben glared at him.
"But look what we did find," Riley continued, gesturing to Constitution Gardens, where Ben spotted a group of men who seemed to be thoroughly searching for something, judging from their demeanor.
Ben cupped his forehead in his hand. "It can't be," he said, scowling. "How did they find us already?"
"I don't know," Riley replied with frustration. "But it means we don't have much time. Were you able to find anything here?"
"No, nothing," Ben admitted with a sigh, looking to Lincoln's sculpture, as if for help. It was men like Abraham Lincoln that inspired Ben to strive for success, that motivated him to excel. Lincoln had never given up on the nation, instead bringing light to the country during one of its darkest hours. He'd achieved some of the greatest victories America had ever seen and unified the nation like never before.
Gazing fondly into the statue, Ben gained an inexplicable reassurance. Lincoln had never given up. Neither would he.
"Hey Ben," Riley began, hoping to cheer his friend up with a bit of interesting knowledge and at the same time perhaps flaunt his own historical insight. "Did you know about the hidden signs supposedly built into Lincoln's sculpture?"
"Yeah," Ben replied. "Sign language."
Riley frowned. "Figures," he mumbled, adjusting his glasses. There was scarcely anything he knew about history that Ben did not. It was worth a try, he mused.
"What are the signs?" Abigail inquired, her curiosity piqued.
"His left hand is formed into a closed fist, signing the letter A," Ben explained, pointing it out to her on the sculpture. "His right hand is signing the letter L."
Abigail nodded with interest.
"Some speculate that the artist carved the signs into the sculpture to represent Lincoln's initials," Riley put in, parading a fact he gathered while researching for his book, The Templar Treasure and Other Myths that are True.
"After all, Abraham Lincoln was a proponent of American Sign Language," Abigail reminded them.
"Yes, and the sculptor Daniel French was familiar with it as well…" Ben abruptly paused momentary and then quickly spun around, his face suddenly lit up with joy. "Riley, that's it!"
"It… it is?" Riley stammered, unaware of what his friend had in mind.
"Yes! Remember the words to the riddle?" Ben said excitedly. "Across the lawn stands the key to seeing what cannot be seen," he repeated. "The letters A and L don't stand for his name; they're taken from the riddle! Across the lawn."
"Of course!" Abigail exclaimed. "Constitution Gardens!" She turned and looked between the pillars at the reflecting pool leading up to the World War II Memorial. There it stood, just beyond the memorial.
"The Washington Monument," Ben marveled favorably as he gazed into the blue sky where, surrounded by a sea of clouds, was the capstone to the incredible obelisk commemorating the first president of the United States.
"Why didn't I think of it before?" Ben said more to himself than to the others.
"Wait…" Riley said. "I don't get it."
"The lawn in the riddle is referring to Constitution Gardens, which separates the Lincoln Memorial from the Washington Monument."
"I get that part," Riley said slowly. "But what do we need to do?"
"We need to go to the top," Ben said with a smile. "Across the lawn stands the key… The Washington Monument is the key! From there we can see what can't be seen, which means-"
"The next clue is on top of the Lincoln Memorial!" Abigail cried eagerly. "We need to go to the top of the monument to see it!"
"Exactly," Ben said, grinning.
With that, together Ben and Abigail sprinted from the Lincoln Memorial, making their way along Constitution Gardens.
"Brilliant," Riley murmured, following after them.
The air outside was cool and refreshing, a gentle breeze blowing by every now and then, splashing against their faces as Ben, Abigail, and Riley walked briskly along the paved path that lined the side of the reflecting pool.
Surrounding them was an abounding sea of pink and white and Ben and Abigail admired the stunning Japanese cherry blossom trees and listened to the various bird chirps and calls as they walked together hand-in-hand.
"What are we going to do when we reach the top?" Riley asked, his eyes following a petal as it drifted away slowly from one of the trees and landed on the surface of the water.
"Do you still have the binoculars?" Ben said.
Riley nodded affirmatively.
"We're going to have to use them to see the roof of the Lincoln Memorial," Ben told him as they continued along the pathway. They were about halfway across Constitution Gardens, the Washington Monument seeming to grow larger and larger as they neared it.
"Ben, they saw us!" Abigail suddenly exclaimed, pointing to the opposite side of the reflecting pool, where Malcolm and his collaborators had been searching.
Sure enough, Malcolm was looking straight at them, a gleam in his eye and a sinister grin on his face. Pursuit was imminent.
"Go!" Ben yelled abruptly and at that, he, Abigail, and Riley immediately broke into a run, darting the rest of the way across Constitution Gardens, swiftly making their way toward the base of the monument.
On the other side of the reflecting pool, Malcolm and two of his accomplices broke into a run as well, dashing along the opposite path parallel to Ben and the others, precisely matching their speed and clearly planning to cut them off at the end.
The remaining two cohorts turned and leapt into the pool, procreating large ripples that destroyed the perfectly reflected image of the Washington Monument visible on the water's surface. The two men hurried across the pool, the water barely reaching above their knees.
Ben knew it would be foolish for them to draw their weapons in a place of public memorial, but he also knew they were still armed nonetheless; the threat was there.
The two accomplices reached the other side of the pool, climbed hastily out, and continued to pursue Ben and the others. Across the pool, Malcolm and the other two men continued sprinting, brazenly shoving tourists aside as they made their way to the end. Malcolm threw a quick glance in Ben's direction every few seconds, to make sure Ben hadn't gotten the lead.
Abigail looked over her shoulder and glimpsed a construction worker as he passed behind them, carrying with him two long beams. This obstacle momentarily delayed the two men who had crossed through the water. It was all the time Ben needed.
"We're almost there!" he called to Riley and Abigail. With an advantage over their two pursuers, the three of them raced to the end of the reflecting pool and past the World War II Memorial.
Arriving at the base of the Washington Monument, they came to an abrupt halt as Malcolm suddenly stepped in front of their path, flanked on either side by his two accomplices. "Good afternoon, Gates," he said evenly, looking Ben coldly in the eyes.
Riley quickly turned to run the other direction, but his path was promptly obstructed as the other two men approached from behind, soaking from the legs down.
"Look Malcolm, the FBI headquarters is just down the street," Ben said squarely. "I'm sure they'd be interested to hear about your plans." He gasped as he immediately felt one of the men grab his wrists firmly from behind.
Riley squirmed uneasily and Abigail cried out as the men did the same to them.
"Let her go!" Ben demanded.
"I don't think so," Malcolm sneered, edging closer to Ben, an ominous glint in his eye. "I want to know what is it you think you're gonna find here in Washington D.C. And then you're gonna tell me this clue of yours. That treasure's mine, Gates."
Acting on the spur of the moment, Ben rapidly lashed his leg back at his captor, kicking him hard in the leg. A surprised yell escaped the man's mouth as he eased his grip of Ben's arms. Riley broke free from his captor as well and together, he and Ben lunged forward and freed Abigail.
One of the men tried to seize Ben by the neck, but his attempt was promptly foiled by a well-landed blow from Riley, who was grinning, seemingly shocked at his own feat. "Thanks," Ben managed to say as he narrowly evaded a strike from one of the other men.
"Get them!" Malcolm bellowed, watching the miserable struggle between his men and Gates and the others.
"Run!" Ben exclaimed and with that he and his friends took off and quickly disappeared into a nearby crowd or tourists that had gathered around the entrance to the monument.
"Find them!" Malcolm commanded. Obeying their employer's orders, the group of men violently forced their way into the crowd, shoving sightseers aside and mowing people over as they pursued Ben Gates and his companions.
Ben heard irate shouts and complaints called out from the furious crowd as the men pushed their way through. "This way," he whispered, leading Abigail and Riley quietly through the entrance. They made their way vigilantly past reception, easing slowly through the endless line of visitors and hoping a ticket collector wouldn't stop them. Ben peeked over the top of the crowd to make sure they weren't too close to Malcolm and his group.
His cohorts were raucously forcing their way through the horde of tourists, creating commotion and making their location obvious, telling Ben where to stay away from. He and his comrades, meanwhile, were smart enough to remain silent and keep a low profile as they made it through security without giving themselves away and crept astutely to the elevator.
Once safely inside and headed to the top floor, Riley exclaimed, "What is with that guy?" He brushed off his jacket, which had gotten disheveled during the scuffle. The three of them knew how fortunate they were to have held their own in the confrontation with Malcolm' group of thugs; they'd had professional training.
"He'll stop at nothing to get to the treasure," Ben said. "We can't let him." He turned to Abigail. "Are you all right?" he said, comforting her.
"Yes, I'm fine," she said.
The elevator came to halt a few minutes later and the doors opened. "Here we are," Ben said with a smile. He waited for Abigail and Riley to disembark before stepping off the elevator himself and onto the top floor of the Washington Monument.
Riley paced slowly toward a small window and carefully peered down at the bustling city hundreds of feet below him. "Oh God," he sputtered, taking a deep breath and stepping cautiously away from the window.
Ben approached the window, a wide grin making its way across his face as he gazed admiringly down at the remarkable city below, so active and full of life. The reflecting pool mirroring the sun's sparkling image on its clear surface. The cherry blossom trees flourishing in an eternal ocean of colored petals.
Never had he seen such a marvelous sight in all his life. Washington D.C., he marveled, was just about his favorite place in the world. And from there, at top of the Washington Monument, Benjamin Franklin Gates felt as if the world belonged to him, standing from such an incredible height and gazing down at such an elegant and beautiful city in total awe.
It was one of the greatest feelings he knew.
"Beautiful," he murmured, as he turned to Abigail.
She smiled at him.
"Binoculars," he said to Riley.
Without looking, Riley passed the set of binoculars to Ben. Holding them to his eyes, Ben peered through the window, adjusting the lenses and focusing the view to the rooftop of the Lincoln Memorial across Constitution Garden.
"Do you see anything?" Abigail inquired eagerly.
Ben squinted. "Yeah…" he said, fiddling with the dial on the side of the device. Just barely distinguishable in the distance was a glistening image inscribed onto the roof of the memorial. In fact, he would not have noticed it had it not been for a glint caused by the sunlight that caught his eye.
"I think there's something engraved on the roof," Ben told her, handing her the binoculars. "Here, take a look. What do you make of it?"
Adjusting the focus, Abigail examined the vague marking on the rooftop. "It appears to be a depiction of some sort of gate or doorway," she said, raising an eyebrow.
"That was my impression as well," Ben said.
"Oh wonderful," Riley chimed in from the side. "A door. That's helpful."
"But why was it gleaming in the light like that?" Ben wondered aloud.
"Wait…" Abigail said, concentrating on the image. "Oh my God," she said after a moment. "Ben, look. It's engraved in gold."
"Gold?" Riley exclaimed.
Ben took the binoculars back and took one more look. Sure enough, the shimmering image of a gate was depicted in gold atop the Lincoln Memorial. "Amazing," he whispered, examining the design.
Ever since he first visited the Washington Monument as a young boy with his grandfather, Ben had always loved ascending to the peak of the remarkable obelisk. As he stood, peering down at his discovery, he felt a pride unlike any other and wished more than anything that his grandfather was alive to see it.
"But what does it mean?" Riley asked.
"A golden gate…" Abigail murmured. "The Golden Gate Bridge!"
Grinning widely with delight, Ben said, "Extraordinary. I don't believe it."
"The Golden Gate Bridge?" Riley cried. "You can't be serious."
"You're right…" Ben contemplated, noticing that things didn't add up correctly. "The Lincoln Memorial was dedicated by President Taft in 1922, years before the Golden Gate Bridge was erected."
"But," Abigail added thoughtfully, "care of the Lincoln Memorial was transferred to the National Park Service in 1933. The same-"
"The same year that construction of the bridge began!" Ben exclaimed joyously. "The inscription must have been added during that year, when it was turned over to the park service."
"Does this mean we're going to San Francisco?" Riley said.
Before he could speak another word, a bullet suddenly blazed past, narrowly missing his head, only to strike a commemorative plaque on the stone wall. Riley immediately dropped flat on the ground, yelling at the top of his lungs.
"It's Malcolm!" Ben said. "We have to get out of here." He took Abigail by the hand and the two of them rushed off, Riley scampering frantically along behind them. He glanced back to see Malcolm and two of his cohorts turn the corner, their arms drawn and aimed.
Riley was the first to arrive at the elevator, slamming his finger onto the button. He looked above the closed doors and an array of lit circles indicated that the elevator was several stories below them, slowly making its way back to the top. "Come on!" he said, pressing the button several more times.
"There's no time!" Ben said. "We'll have to take the stairs!"
"The stairs?" Riley exclaimed.
"Riley!" Abigail reprimanded, following Ben into the stairwell. The three of them raced down the stairs, their feet moving as fast as their bodies would allow as they descended each step.
"Hurry!" Ben called as he heard the door open a few flights above them and Malcolm and the other two men enter the stairwell. Another bullet sped past, striking a spot on the wall where he'd been standing just moments before.
"Holy lord," Riley muttered, running fast as his legs would take him.
"Give it up, Gates!" they heard Malcolm shout from above as he pursued.
Abigail heard the terrified shouts of tourists diving out of the line of fire as the sound of more gunshots rang through their ears. Dodging another bullet, she looked down and saw that there were several flights yet to go.
"This is insane," Riley screamed as he flew down the staircase.
Ben heard the vigorously pounding footsteps of Malcolm and his accomplices not far behind them. "It's over!" he heard Malcolm call.
"Quick!" Ben said, urging Riley and Abigail through the door as they arrived at the ground floor, fortunate that Malcolm had not caught up to them. They raced past the reception and through the exit. Riley let out a cry of relief when he saw Ben's father waiting for them in his car just outside the entrance.
"Go! Go! Go!" Riley exclaimed, dramatically throwing himself into the vehicle.
"What's going on?" Patrick said. "Did you find something?"
"I'll explain later," Ben said, climbing into the passenger seat. He glanced over his shoulder to check that Riley and Abigail were safely inside. "Get us out of here," he told his father.
Patrick pressed the gas pedal to the floor, sending them skidding away from the monument just as Malcolm reached the exit. He swore as his quarry made their escape, watching Gates's car disappear into the distance.
His two accomplices joined him at his side. Malcolm looked at them and chuckled, a twisted grin forming on his face. "San Francisco, eh?"