Item 6: KKS 666
Jade stepped out of the train station into a chilly twilight and spotted Kir waiting by his car.
"You really didn't need to pick me up," she said as she put her luggage in his back seat.
"What, and miss my chance to be first to listen to your vacation?"
"There's not much to listen to. I sat on a beach and drank beer for a week."
"How are you feeling?"
"Great. A vacation was just what I needed."
He glanced at her as he drove out of the parking lot. She sounded upbeat, but he could still see the shadows around her eyes.
"Jade, it's me. I'm your best friend; you can tell me the truth."
After a moment, she shook her head. "If I told you how I'm really doing, you'd think I was crazy."
"I saw you and Inspector Coffey walk out of nowhere. Whatever you have to say won't sound more crazy than what I saw."
"That was nothing."
"So tell me. How are you really doing?"
She bit her lip, looked away. "I've been thinking a lot about what happened to me, wondering what was real and what wasn't. But I still can't make sense of it. And the thing is...in some ways, I don't feel like I really left. I keep thinking there are things here, in this universe, that aren't...solid or...physical, but are still real."
"Isn't that what everyone thinks who believes in religion?"
She smiled. "Yeah. Maybe."
They drove in silence for a moment, then Kir said hesitantly, "You know how I told you about the woman at the hospital being IDed as the missing Beryl McKelly?"
"Yeah. What about it? Any new developments?"
"Sort of. I was asking around about her at a bar over the border, and I came across a woman who seemed to know of her, but she wouldn't tell me anything, and she had a gun. It was very strange."
"That is strange. What did she look like?"
"I'd never seen her before. Dark hair, tall, skinny. She was wearing very old-fashioned high-heeled shoes."
"High-heel shoes? Are you sure?"
"Yeah. Does that mean anything?"
"I don't know." Jade frowned, crinkling her brow. Why did something in her head think that was interesting? It seemed to be almost triggering a memory.
They arrived at Jade's apartment. Kir got out and helped Jade with her luggage without a word.
They were walking toward the building when, from out of the shadows of trees, they heard, "Hey."
Jade jolted. "God, Declan, what the hell are you doing here?"
"I heard you were coming back today. I wanted to see how you're doing."
"You should know better than to startle an armed cop, Inspector," Kir said.
"I know. Sorry. I couldn't resist."
"And you hanging outside my apartment like a stalker," Jade added.
"I was actually just heading out. I was expecting you to be home earlier. Or at least that Benjamin would be here."
"Anyway, Inspector, I am glad you are here. I have something to tell you about the investigation," Kir said.
Before he could answer, Jade said, "Let's go inside. It's freezing out here."
In her apartment, Jade put on some coffee while Kir found a seat on her living room couch. Declan drifted into her kitchenette, looking around the apartment, taking note of the oddly positioned mirrors.
"How are you really doing?" he asked her solemnly.
"Really? Because that's not what your apartment tells me."
She scowled at him. "Pragmatic precautions, under the circumstances."
"I can arrange for you to see a therapist, a Central therapist, someone with sufficient clearance."
"Honestly, talking about what happened is the last thing I want to do right now," she said, pointedly.
He nodded. "How was your vacation?"
"Great. Diamond Island is great. You should go."
He pressed his knuckles between his eyebrows. "Look, let's just stop…"
"What? Pretending we get along?" she supplied.
"Yeh. Seriously, we need to talk."
"Your flint knife, to start with. You never did tell me where you got it."
"I told you it was none of your business."
"Was it a family heirloom?"
"What would make you think that?"
"The things you saw in that place, the grendel...most people...wouldn't even be able to think about that, and you killed it. So that got me to wondering, where are you coming from that a New York cop in 2069 would have the first idea how to deal with a demon?"
She looked at him for a moment, and then smirked.
"What's so funny?"
"That you of all people, former spy CIA Inspector Declan 'That's Not My Real Name' Coffey...that you're asking me how I know what I know." She grabbed three mugs and the carafe and headed toward the living room.
Declan rolled his eyes, then followed her to join Kir on the couch. "I'm sure your partner has told you he's been helping pursue the investigation. When you get off leave, you'll notice you're still inter-agency authorized, too. Not many people can deal with the kinds of things you've dealt with, and I'd like to think I can rely on you if I need you, Detective."
She glanced at him askance as she poured the coffee. "Seriously? You want me to work for you? A few weeks ago, you were trying to get me fired."
"Obviously things have changed. Look, it's a yes-or-no question, Marquez. I'm asking for your help, and offering you access to top secret information."
"And you think that would be enough?"
"Honestly, yes. Unless you're a coward, and don't think you are."
"Are you trying to taunt me or compliment me, because either way you're not very good at it."
"Excuse me," Kir interrupted. "It seems to me Jade can let you know her decision later. Inspector, there is something about the case I wanted to tell you about."
"Of course," Declan said, happily putting aside the impending pointless argument. "What have you found?"
"I was asking around about Beryl McKelly. I found a black-market bar where she has been seen, and learned that she uses Canadian currency."
"That's another connection to Hektor Khan."
"Yes. But what I was wanting to tell you about was a woman who approached me while I was there. She said Beryl McKelly lives in Toronto, but we won't find her unless she wants to be found. And then she pulled a gun on me, and gave me a message for you."
"A message for...me?" Declan asked, confused.
"Do you know anyone around here? American, tall, skinny, dark hair?"
He shook his head, brows scrunched. "No. I haven't been in the city long. She doesn't sound familiar."
"She was wearing high heels," Jade added.
A slosh of coffee spilled to the table from Declan's cup. He stared at them both, suddenly frozen.
It couldn't be her. It couldn't possibly be her.
Kir and Jade were both staring at him curiously.
"What was her message?" he asked tightly. "What were the exact words?"
"It didn't make much sense. It was something like, 'The dawn is new to me'."
"'The dawn is new to me'," he muttered. He stood, paced for moment. "KKS 666." He took out his phone and started typing. "KKS 666."
Jade and Kir glanced at each other.
"What? Who was she?" Jade asked.
Declan shook his head. "It can't be her. Impossible," he muttered.
"What does it mean?" Kir asked. "The message, 'the dawn is new to me,' what does it mean?"
"Nothing. It's a quote from an old book, a Japanese novel. It's a…a pointer. A signpost." He found what he was looking for, and for a moment was struck silent, and just stared at his phone screen, rereading the words again and again. "Oh my God."
"What is it? What's going on?" Jade asked.
"The graffiti...KKS 666: I know what it means. It's not a religious reference, and it's not initials. It's a poem."
"A poem?" Jade repeated half incredulously.
"'KKS' stands for Kokinshu. It's a famous anthology of Japanese poetry from a thousand years ago. Poetry was an obsession for her. It's poem number six-hundred and sixty-six."
"What is it?" asked Kir.
Declan read out loud the words on his screen. "'I shall not say I do not know you, for I wish to remain in your embrace as long as the depths of the White River flow clear.'"
"What the heck is that supposed to mean?"
"It's a message," Declan answered. "To me. My codename was Albion when we first met. It comes from the Latin word for 'white'. She knew I'd remember."
"Who is this woman?" Kir asked.
"Who?" Jade asked when it seemed he wouldn't elaborate.
"She was...my partner. Years ago, when I first started at the CIA."
"A spy like you?" asked Kir.
"Yes. My specialty was finding people; her specialty was hiding. We were a team. When we weren't on assignment, we'd play this game where she would hide and I'd look for her. We'd set the boundaries: a building, or a city, or a country. She'd leave me clues in a book, or some random objects, or graffiti. Her clues were usually poetic references."
"So if she left messages like this for you all the time," Jade asked, "why didn't you realize what the graffiti meant before?"
Declan finally looked away from his phone to meet her eyes. "Because until just now, I thought she was dead."
He sat back at the table, a dazed look on his face.
"What happened?" Kir asked.
"Eleven years ago, we were on an assignment in the Philippines...and she disappeared. Overnight. No message, no plan in place, no reason. I searched for her for weeks. There was nothing. The CIA searched for her globally. And then HEI happened, and...everyone left had too much to deal with to worry about one missing spy."
"But why would she show up now to write a coded message on the wall at a crime scene?" Jade wondered. "And if it was a message for you, how could she even know you'd see it? That was weeks before you were even assigned to the investigation."
Declan closed his eyes. "One of our assignments was...a meteorologist suspected of secretly doing weapons development for the Antarcticans in a town in Chile, in Tierra del Fuego. It was a machine, bigger and more powerful than the ones Pryce Bennett built. That's when we...when the CIA learned about the other world. If Canaveral knew about the grendel, she would have known Central would put me on the investigation eventually. We were the only agents with direct experience."
He picked up his cup of coffee. His hands were trembling.
"How close were you to this woman?" Kir asked.
He took a deep breath. "We were partners for two years. In some ways, I knew her better than I've ever known anyone. In other ways… She never even told me her real name, or where she was from. After a while, things like that just don't seem important. Until she disappeared, and those details would have helped me look for her." He stared at his coffee and tried to wrap his mind around Canaveral being alive. If she was alive, what happened to her? Where had she been? Why hadn't she come forward and contacted the CIA? It made no sense.
He stood abruptly, leaving his cup on the table. "I have to go. Kir, send me the coordinates of that bar."
"Okay, but she won't be back there."
"I know, but it's a place to start."