“I’m not cut out for this,” Cece says as Tim joins her outside the coffee shop. “I’m supposed to be a grad student.”
“Hello,” Tim says. “Why are you out here? Why aren’t you a grad student?”
Cece starts walking and motions for Tim to follow her, so he does. “I’ve got two papers to write,” she says over her shoulder as Tim catches up with her. “Research to do. Instead I’m a Muslim Mata Hari.”
Cece and Tim reach the corner of California and Broderick. “Where to?”, Cece asks. Tim points west down California and follows his finger.
“You’re not a spy,” Tim tells Cece as they walk. “You’re an investigator.”
“The people who snatched the ex don’t think so,” Cece replies. “Smith doesn’t think so, and you don’t think so. Not really. I’m wasting my time on the police network. You know that.”
“No,” Tim replies, “you are essential. You have their attention.” He slows his pace to prevent Cece from falling behind. “I don’t,” he adds. He wants to tell Cece that they trust her, and may be recruiting her, but he decides to wait.
“What does Smith think she’s doing?”, Cece asks.
“Smith thinks you’re helping her nab me,” Tim replies. “You may be.” Cece doesn’t answer. When they reach Children’s Hospital, Tim stops. “Time,” he says, then he turns and walks back down California, the way they came. Cece follows, adjusting her hijab against the wind.
“What’s with you and walking?”, Cece asks Tim when she catches up with him.
Tim mulls this, then asks back, “Why do I walk around at night?”
“It’s a way to let the words escape.” Tim keeps his walking pace steady. “They build up as I work.”
“Don’t you work with words?”
“I work with code. That’s the opposite of words. One’s math, the other’s music.”
“I never thought of words as music. Poetry, maybe, but just words?”
“Of course they’re music,” Tim says, his voice paper-flat. He takes off his coat and holds it out to Cece. “You’re shivering,” he says.
“I hadn’t realized,” she replies, taking the coat from him. “So, you said the words back up when you work.” Cece wraps Tim’s coat around her shoulders.
“They pause,” Tim replies. “They wait. It’s like a tap. Letting it run is... relaxing. Better while I’m walking.”
“You turn the words on and off?” Tim nods. “On-demand word music in your head,” Cece says. “Pretty cool.” They walk in silence. “Can I hear some of your word stream, Tim?”
Tim hesitates before answering. “Not the same,” he says finally. “It’s not just the sound of the words, it’s their feel, their phonetics. They nudge and massage as they pass along. Kneading, trickling, crundling, blundring. Oberlindy sea byshore nearlinering.”
Cece has to lean in to hear Tim recite: “Approximadox adrenarondacks obrigated to awhizen one runny day, said eyes umbradery crochetteral.”
Tim goes quiet as they near Divisadero. “That’s it?”, Cece asks. Tim doesn’t answer. When they reach the corner, he looks left and right.
“Police,” Tim says. He stops short of the corner. Cece stops next to him. The light changes to red. Ten seconds later, a police car passes. Cece and Tim watch the car head south on Divisidero. Two seconds later, the light turns green. They cross and continue east on California.
“How did you manage that trick?”, Cece asks.
“Lucky guess,” Tim replies.
“No it wasn’t,” Cece says. “You’ve got police radar in your head.”
“No. I pick up patterns. From the traffic. While I walk. Background. That’s all.”
“Are they that predictable?”
“Predictably random,” Tim replies. “Their sound stands out from the noise, the hum. A tone, a minor dissonance. Slightly elevated, brash.”
Cece wonders whether the word stream is back. Tim continues as they walk: “Not echolocation. A sound map. Four-D audiometry. City singing.”
“City singing,” Cece repeats. “Words are music. Your head’s a symphony hall. How do you work?”
“It stops when I’m on a scent,” Tim replies.
“A scent?”, Cece asks.
“Bugs. Coding errors.”
“You can smell them?”
“I can sense them, as if they leave a scent in the code.”
“I think maybe your senses got mixed up,” Cece says. They turn right on Steiner. Cece knows the route by now. “That was a joke,” she adds.
“I know,” Tim says. They walk past St. Dominic’s in silence. “Smith,” Tim says a block later.
“Don’t ask,” Cece replies. “Chinese Wall. I tell her nothing about you, and I tell you nothing about her.”
Tim nods. “We’ll ID the snoops on Tuesday,” he says. “When they contact you, please check your phone’s reception,” Tim says as they reach Geary. “I believe they may be using portable Faradays.”
“There’s no such thing as a Faraday,” Cece replies.
“I’m sure you’re right,” Tim replies. “No such thing.”
“Where’s your phone?”, she asks.
“On my wall,” Tim replies.
“Of course,” Cece says. “Where else would it be? With a dial, right?” They walk in silence down Steiner Street.
Part 27: Meeting
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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