Cece is 100 yards from the Muni stop on 19th Avenue when a tall young man with a ragged backpack approaches her. Tim watches their exchange from his vantage behind a coffee cart surrounded by students. They speak for a minute, then the man walks off.
Cece walks the opposite way, frowning. Tim follows the man who she spoke with her north on 19th toward the shopping mall. Tim goes on alert. Indoor shopping malls are among Tim’s least-favorite destinations. Their rattle hum is like a grinding machine. They reek of astringents. Lighting harsh enough to scrape the skin off your eyeballs. All that mall blandness. Sterile commerce. Regimented storefronts. Prosperity.
Tim’s target heads for the mall’s upper-level food court. Tim goes the other way. He intends to circle back once the man gets situated. He finds a quiet shadow across from the mall diners. At the back of the calorie cavern Tim spots the man who spoke to Cece outside the school. The man is facing the far wall, so Tim can’t see what he’s doing. He barely moves for 10 minutes. Tim considers: Is he sleeping or texting?
Two women join the man at the table, one a half-foot taller than the other. The man snaps to attention. He half-bows to the shorter woman. Tim watches for the man to pass something to the women, but he’s too far away. The three barely move as they talk. The man leaves suddenly.
The two women sit motionless for another two minutes, then the short woman leads her tall companion out the way they came. Tim follows them. When the women exit the mall, a dark sedan is parked at the curb waiting for them. Tim reads the car’s license plate number as it pulls out. He starts walking in the opposite direction, plotting his route home in his head. “7FCT604,” a soft voice behind him says. “Acura Integra.”
Tim stops walking, stares down. “I can tell you who it’s registered to and their address, but you’ll find that on your own,” the voice says. Tim stops to let the speaker catch up with him. The man stops next to him and says, “Nice day for a walk. Would you mind a little company?”
Tim stands still, gazing down the sidewalk. The man continues: “Have you a destination in mind?” Tim starts walking. The man follows him. The two walk north on 19th Avenue with their backs to the heavy traffic. Occasionally, the man attempts conversation. Tim walks on silently. He times their pace so they rarely wait long at red lights. When they reach Judah, the man says, “Ah! I haven’t been to the park in years.”
Instead of continuing into the park, Tim turns right on Lincoln and walks east. The man follows along. When they reach Ninth, the man stops. “Helluva meeting,” the man says. Tim keeps walking. The man sighs, then he rushes to catch up with Tim as he crosses Ninth. “Who,” Tim says.
The man waits for Tim to continue. Tim doesn’t. “Am I?”, the man offers.
“Pays you,” Tim replies.
“That’s not how it works,” says the man.
“Of course that’s how it works,” Tim says. “Someone pays. It isn’t you, so who?” This time the man stays silent. “End of meeting,” Tim says.
When they reach Kezar, Tim stays to the right onto Frederick. At Cole he turns right. The man stays a half-step behind him, to his right. At Carl, Tim turns left and follows the Muni tracks into a small park. The man follows along. They cross an open space ringed with trees. Once they’re in the shade of the trees, Tim pulls a silver .38 revolver from his coat, turns toward the man, and puts two slugs in his face.
As the man falls to the ground, Tim puts the .38 back in his coat and walks east out of the park. He turns left on Clayton. No one notices. Tim’s route home takes him across the Panhandle at Masonic, Grove to Broderick, dump the .38 in the new sewer at Eddy, over to Divisadero. Post to Scott to Bush to Steiner to home. Tim calculates he will have walked past between 70 and 95 surveillance cameras on this four-hour stroll.
More than half of those cameras will have captured Tim with the idiot who tried to set him up. Not one of those grainy images will ID him. That won’t matter to Smith, thinks Tim. She’ll know. She may know already, just as she knows about the other four. She still can’t get him.
Tim takes a back entrance into the apartment building, goes to the sub basement, and disposes of his hat and coat. Then he heads upstairs. The first thing Tim does after entering his apartment is hit the keyboard to check on his work alibi. The script is running right on cue.
It’s midafternoon. Tim has several hours until the real work begins. He considers dropping in on Karen. Then he thinks about Cece and Smith. Smith and I are both trying to get Cece on our side, thinks Tim. But Cece has a side of her own. And she doesn’t much like either one of us.
Part 28: Fog
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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