Tim is not being seen. He has spent the past 55 minutes studying the north side of the building on Tennessee St. Not being seen isn’t a challenge this night on Mariposa. Even the hospital across the street is quiet. Plenty of shadows to disappear into.
Tim focuses on the puzzle before him. Somehow, people and vehicles enter and exit through the back of this building. Yet there’s no space. Barely a gap between the building that faces Tennessee and the one directly behind it facing Minnesota St.
There was an alley. He walks west on Mariposa and turns left at Minnesota. He scans the buildings on the left side of the street. Somewhere there’s a driveway.
The neighborhood is light industrial with a smattering of residential. Tim reaches Eighteenth without finding any inconspicuous entryways. He stops at Eighteenth, pans right and left, looking for movement. Seeing none, he turns left and continues to study the building edifices. A gap wide enough for a car, thinks Tim as he walks. At midblock, he stops. A two-story cinder block structure gives way to a wooden shack.
Tim keeps a steady pace as he continues down Eighteenth, searching for a hidden driveway. On the corner is another two-story industrial building. A left on Tennessee sends him heading back toward Mariposa. After the warehouse at the corner of Eighteenth are three large houses in a row.
Tim sees it from a lot away: The third house has a short driveway leading to a one-car garage. The garage door is so recessed it’s out of view. The garage’s north wall abuts the building with the flag pole antenna, Tim’s target. He slows a bit and gauges the width of the garage door, estimating nothing bigger than a mid sized SUV will fit through the opening tucked into the corner of the house. He walks past quickly.
Tim keeps his eyes on the sidewalk as he passes the antenna-flag pole building. When he reaches Mariposa, he turns right without thinking. Across Third to Illinois, thinks Tim, then left to Sixteenth, left again to Sanchez, turn right, across Market, to Steiner, and home again.
Pomekin, pemmican, tippity-tap. Bump a shin, thumper din, slip o’ the hat. Trope of the whorl, scripple and strophe, dainty-lines agloomin’.
Tim opens his apartment door to find a note pushed under it: “Breakfast at my place.” Tim hasn’t seen Karen in two days. He smells biscuits.
“I miss them,” Karen says. She and Tim are sitting at her small kitchen table. Tim is working on his second biscuit. “The walks,” she adds. Tim takes a small bite of the biscuit. “I’m well,” Karen tells him. “All better.”
“Not your neck,” Tim replies.
“My neck’s fine,” she says. “Besides, you don’t need your neck to walk.”
“You’re still not back to work,” Tim says.
“They want him found first.”
“That’s not so,” Tim replies. “You rarely leave the building since the attack.”
Karen flinches. “I forgot,” she says. “You don’t do subtle.”
“You’re still injured,” he tells her. “You shouldn’t work until you’re well again.” He pauses. “And you’re right. I don’t, um, do subtle.”
Karen regards Tim across her small kitchen table. Tim regards the tabletop. “He’s dead,” Tim says. “You’re ex, l mean. That’s what they do.”
“You’d know, eh?”, Karen says.
“Subtle,” Tim replies, eyes still on the tabletop.
“Sorry,” Karen says. “You wouldn’t,” she adds, “kill him.”
“I wouldn’t,” Tim repeats.
“They would. Why?”
“They did,” Tim corrects her. “I don’t know why. I may know who by Saturday.”
Tim hesitates. “Watch and wait,” he replies finally.
“Wait for what?”
Tim looks sideways, as if he heard a noise. “Wait for what?”, Karen repeats.
“What do you want?”, Tim asks, “when we find them, I mean.”
“It depends,” she replies, “on who they are.”
“What difference does that make?”
Karen sighs. “Jeez, I don’t know. None, I guess. Just stop them. They’re the bad guys, right?”
“We’re all bad guys,” Tim says flatly. “We’re all good guys. Depends on who you ask. And when. Right now, you ask me, they’re bad guys. No matter who they are, or why they do it.” He pauses, his eyes still on the table top. “So I find them, then I watch them.” He looks up. “Then I figure out what to do.”
Karen adds, “By the next new moon.” She laughs. Tim looks back at the table quickly.
“That was almost a smile,” Karen laughs again. “You like this, don’t you? Being on the hunt.”
“Some of it,” Tim says. “Not the last part. That’s just--,” he hesitates, “necessary.”
Karen considers the disheveled young man before her. Absolutely average-looking in every way. “Necessary why?”, she asks.
“Error correcting,” Tim replies quietly. “That’s what I do. Identify errors, correct them. They are errors. Harmless errors simply clutter the code. These are errors that will cause problems. Propensity to commit further violence. That is the sole criterion.”
“Weren’t they big in the Sixties?”, Karen asks, “Soul Criterion? Doo-wop band out of Philadelphia?”
“‘Doo-wop,’” Tim says with no expression, “That’s funny.” He’s wondering whether there were other reasons why they disappeared Karen’s ex.
Karen waits. “You’re coding, aren’t you?”, she asks. “In your head.” She stands up. “Go do your error collecting.” She points to the door.
“Correcting,” Tim corrects. He stands up in a rush and faces Karen. “Thank you for breakfast,” he says, straining to maintain eye contact.
“So polite,” Karen replies with a laugh. “You’re welcome,” she adds. Tim heads for the door. “Walk tonight?”, she asks. Tim shakes his head. “Don’t do anything rash,” Karen says, “without me.”
Tim half-turns toward her. “That’s not funny,” he says. “Doo-wop was funny. This, no.”
“You almost made a joke,” Karen says. “Next thing you know, you’ll be smiling.”
Tim walks out of her apartment without saying another word.
Part 26: Cloak
Part 1: Tim
Part 2: Three's a Problem
Part 3: Ninth Avenue
Part 4: Peru Avenue
Part 5: Toast
Part 6: Mrs. Pellegrini
Part 7: Charlie
Part 8: 2D
Part 9: Smith
Part 10: Cece
Part 11: Quarter Moon
Part 12: Interview
Part 13: Mieke
Part 14: 2D Ex
Part 15: Logs
Part 16: Steiner
Part 17: Number Five
Part 18: Cold
Part 19: Intern
Part 20: Coffee
Part 21: Sloth
Part 22: Tennessee Street
Part 23: Error-correcting Code
Part 24: Villa Lobos
Part 25: Entrance
Part 26: Cloak
Part 27: Meeting
Part 28: Fog
Part 29: Bootle
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