Wilfred's date had stood him up four times out of four. Wilfred opened his notebook even though he never actually got any work done. He didn't know why he kept coming back to Nostalgia Cafe.
The entry bell jingled. Susan's suit was rumpled. She seemed tense, like a tiger with poachers encroaching on its habitat. Wilfred caught her eye. She sat down opposite him, right in front of the big window.
"Can I buy you a coffee?" said Wilfred.
"I should get you one. I'm sorry for being late. Something unexpected came up at work," said Susan.
"I don't mind. This cafe always gives me a sense of wabi sabi," said Wilfred.
"Does it? Sōdesu ka?" said Susan. She narrowed her eyes. "That's a strange word to hear from a scholar of Zoroastrian fire temples."
"Sōdesu ka. It does/is. You're an archaeology afficionado? I thought you just liked me for my rugged good looks," said Wilfred.
"Don't change the subject. What makes you interested in the atashkada?" said Susan.
"Eternal fires are expensive, even in the best of times, which antiquity was not. Legends say the early fire temples were gigantic bonfires. I want to know why," said Wilfred.
"Tradition," said Susan.
"A tradition has to start somewhere," said Wilfred.
"With the Scythians, obviously," said Susan.
"I always thought of the Zoroastrians as having exterminated the Scythians," said Wilfred.
"History is never that simple," said Susan.
"Then what do you think happened?" said Wilfred.
"I'm going to get a coffee. Do you want a coffee?" said Susan.
"Let me get you one," said Wilfred.
"Nonsense. Sit tight and try to figure out what happened to the Scythians," said Susan. She got up.
Wilfred forced himself to look out the window instead of following Susan. The Scythians didn't burn eternal fires—at least not with the seriousness of the early Zoroastrians. Wilfred could understand the purpose of burning ritual fires. The question is, why would you have to burn one forever?
"Speaking of which, one of the fire temples went out a couple weeks ago," said Wilfred.
"Sōdesu ka?" said Susan.
"Sōdesu," said Wilfred, "Tuesday, actually."
"I'm sorry about that," said Susan.
Wilfred knew she means "I'm sorry for missing our date," but his brain pieced together something else entirely.
"What did you say you did for a living again?" said Wilfred.
"I didn't," said Susan. She carefully drew a purple lipstick across her lips, "I'm a federal agent."
"No you're not," said Wilfred.
Susan relaxed down her shoulders. "The Scythians believed in an evil daeva which would disappear when you shined light on it. They kept it at bay by lighting fires at night. The atashkada were built by the sedentary Zoroastrians to contain it forever." she said.
"You know this from the historical record?" said Wilfred.
"Nope," said Susan. She slid her badge over to Wilfred. It had three arrows pointing toward each other.
"What are the colored stripes?" said Wilfred.
"Red is license to kill. Blue is deep cover," said Susan.
"And purple?" said Wilfred.
"Mnestics," said Susan. She kissed him.