In a Sentinel exclusive, Violet finally reveals that it was she who stole the Cube. With a little help from Kurt. It all started with a poker game at the Five of Cups, when the landlord (Bernardo Holyoke) mistook her for another member of the crew hired to steal the Cube for the Third Power.
This is just part one of a three-part interview. More will be revealed...
By IONA RODIE
It may be the story of the century, but Violet Kiteway looks remarkably cool as she confirms the rumour that has been circulating in the Sentinel offices, and around the city, for the past 24 hours.
"Yes," she says, "I stole the Cube."
I'd been prepared for her to say this, and had written a list of questions to ask her. But, in the face of this bald statement I am momentarily silenced. Kiteway smirks, stands up and offers me a coffee, "as I'm making."
But why did she steal it?
"Thereby," she replies, "hangs a tale."
Violet Kiteway greets me at the door of her Mobius Strip apartment in grey sweatpants and an oversized T-shirt. Her hair pulled back into a ponytail, she empties a handful of popcorn into her mouth and conducts a loud and apparently angry conversation on her key while motioning me to follow her into the spacious living room. She wanders into the bedroom, still irritably informing the person on the other end that she "won't come, no matter how much they beg, and don't even think about trying to contact Scarlett," giving me the opportunity to examine her home more thoroughly.
The living room looks out over the Strip itself, with views of the coast road and the ocean -- it's one of the most prestigious addresses in the most stylish part of town. The room itself is furnished boldly: two large purple sofas, bookcases on three walls, a Hutchins print, Warren's iconic projection map of the City, a turquoise Lara Braebun rug. The room is also scattered with an apparent miscellany of objects: empty takeaway food containers, papers, scarves and gloves, a leather-bound edition of Varkin's "Wanion: the tale of a saucy butcher boy" with a playing card serving as a bookmark, stained coffee cups and a heap of Ceretin and Saptivan on the coffee table.
One absence strikes me immediately, and I ask about it as soon as she returns, having abruptly hung up on her caller. No pictures on display?
"Ah," she says, and beckons me into the bedroom -- a scene of even greater domestic chaos than the public rooms -- "I have a bunch on my key, obviously. And this." Next to her bed is a tiny photo frame with a group picture at least 20 years old: her father, Sente Kiteway, Master of the Academy; next to him the red-headed Lily, her mother, holding the infant Scarlett; and between them, the young Violet. Is that all the reminder she wants around her of her family and friends?
"Hey, I get reminders of my family and friends in the daily newspapers, OK? It's not like we're in any danger of disappearing from the headlines."
That's certainly no overstatement. Sente Kiteway has never been far from the headlines since he took office, while Scarlett's kidnapping by agents of the shadowy Third Power and her subsequent rescue made the news only last week. And Violet Kiteway herself? Since yesterday, when the safe return of the Cube to Mind Candy was confirmed, she's been deep in discussion with Michiko Clark and the publishers of the Sentinel. My visit here is the end result of those discussions. Violet Kiteway has something to tell us.
"Yes," she says, "I stole the Cube."
When she's settled herself back on one of the sofas with another cup of strong black coffee, she begins to tell her tale. "It started with a coincidence, really." She smiles. "Is there ever really such a thing as a coincidence? After everything that's happened with the Cube, I start to suspect there isn't. But it felt like a coincidence at the time. A coincidence of three things: I like bars, I like history, and I like taking risks.
"So, like all the best things, it started in a bar. Not the best bar, though. The Five of Cups, in the Old Town, a bit of a dive. Hadn't been there before, but one of my friends had mentioned that they have a good game some nights and I thought I'd turn up, on the off chance. And it was while I was waiting that the first thing happened, the thing that started everything else."
She pauses, clearly for dramatic effect.
"I arrived too early -- kind of a first for me, right? So I sat down at the bar, ordered a drink. And the barman sidled over to me and said: 'Are you... K?' Which I had no idea how to respond to, so I said nothing. He looked at me in a meaningful way, and drew a symbol on the bar in spilled beer. Two interlocking squares. And... well, I recognised it."
I interrupt her. How did she know what it was?
She sighs, picks up a pencil from the detritus on the coffee table and starts playing with it. "I've done a lot of research into the history of the city. For my own reasons. I didn't know the full meaning of the symbol then, or the history of the Third Power, of course. But I'd seen it before -- in my Uncle's house for one thing -- and I knew enough to know that what he'd drawn was incomplete. I looked at it for a moment. The guy behind the bar was staring at me expectantly. I dipped my finger in the wet beer and completed the mark, with a third square overlaid on top of the other two. And that was when he started talking.
"He leaned over, kept his voice low, and said, 'Everything is arranged for the party on the fifteenth. The hardware is all prepared. All I need is your retinal print to key the systems to you.'
"Now, it was pretty clear I'd stumbled onto something both exciting and interesting. And I knew enough to keep quiet and let him talk himself out. I said, 'Yes, the party on the fifteenth. I'm looking forward to it.' He looked at me slightly oddly and said, 'Looking forward? It could be dangerous. I thought you were experienced at this sort of thing.'
"'Yes,' I said, 'that's why I'm not afraid.' He nodded and seemed satisfied. He said, 'I can't believe we're finally going to touch it. I mean, I'm not into all that mystical stuff like my wife is, but still... what do you think it'll feel like?'
"And this was where I made a mistake, right, because I finally worked out what he was talking about and I said, 'The Cube?' He startled like a spooked rabbit, stared at me and said, 'Wait. If you're K, who am I?' I thought for a minute and said, 'J?'
"Which, clearly the wrong answer, and I'd been thrown out of the bar faster than I could think."
Violet is edgy now, tapping the pencil on the table, fidgeting and leaning forward. Why, I ask, didn't she just go to the police with the information she'd discovered?
"I was an idiot," she replies candidly. "But hindsight's 20/20, right? I was an idiot, I didn't understand how serious what I'd stumbled on was, I thought it was a sort of joke. I made a very minor attempt to raise the issue with my father -- along the lines of 'So, dad, how good is the security for the Cube?' and didn't take it any further. I wish I had. Maybe, probably," she sighs, "I tell myself that even if I'd said anything, no one would have believed me. And that's probably true. I have to keep telling myself that, for my own sanity. Too many people have died for me to believe anything else now.
"In any case, that was what I decided. I thought the police wouldn't believe me. I didn't even know if I could trust them -- and that doubt's proved to be not too inaccurate. And, to be honest, I was excited then. Gyvann, I was so naive. I wanted an adventure, that's the truth. I didn't know how serious everything could get."
She runs her hand across her forehead, then gets up to make another cup of coffee. When she returns, she seems calmer. I pose my next question. So, if she didn't talk to the police, what did she do?
"I did," she says, "what I always do at times like this. I talked to Kurt."
This is Part I of a three-part interview. In Part III, the Sentinel will publish the answers to reader-submitted questions for Violet Kiteway. To send a question for Miss Kiteway to answer, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.