Chapter 11.3

05:15 – Just before bed, Jackie was lounging in the stateroom, casually perusing her email, when up popped a new message from Chen Kaiying, an old teammate and good friend from the ’08 Olympics. This was odd, as Jackie had not heard a peep from Kaiying in more than five years. That was about two years after she moved back to the U.S. from China.

While in their late teens, Jackie and Kaiying were an inseparable and mischievous pair. Their gymnastics trainer would often scold them for acting up, especially when there were young men about. In school, Jackie and Kaiying would pass notes back and forth chatting about the boys in their classes. The two weren’t worried about the messages being intercepted and examined by their teachers. No one would know what was really being communicated as the notes were in a secret code devised by the two of them.

It was a pretty simple cipher in which a number at the bottom of the page would be the ‘key’. For example, if there was a number 4, one would read the first word of the first sentence, the second word of the second sentence, and so on, through the fourth sentence, then start once more with the first word of the fifth sentence.

Jackie wistfully recalled how the two of them had been devoted friends, while training together during the years between the ’04 and ’08 Olympics. Throughout these years, Jackie had lived with the Chen family in Shunyi, located northeast of the Capital International Airport, about 20 km outside of Beijing. Jackie and Kaiying had spent many a night together in each other’s rooms, doing whatever young girls do at that age.

Although Jackie had made several attempts to contact her over the years, she had not received a response from Kaiying, so this communication was very unexpected and somewhat startling. She swiftly glanced toward the bottom of the email and her eyes widened when she saw what, at first, appeared to be a jagged line, but was actually a row of number eights, inscribed in flowing Chinese characters. Jackie didn’t bother reading the entire email message, but instead started counting words and silently translating the message.

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