“I don’t like these new police,” Mrs. Pellegrini says. “They’re not like we had before.” She follows Tim inside.
“Have a seat, Mrs. Pellegrini,” Tim says as he offers her one of the two kitchen chairs. He fills a glass with water, sets it on the table. Mrs. Pellegrini ambles into the kitchen and sits down. “What did the police want?”, Tim asks.
Mrs. Pellegrini shakes her head and reaches for the glass. “The same ones,” she replies. She holds the glass but doesn’t drink. “Who comes, who goes, you, the girl in 2D.”
“Karen,” Tim says.
“Her,” Mrs. Pellegrini says. “Same same same.”
“Tell them what they want to know,” Tim says. “They’ll get tired of asking and move along.”
“I don’t like that one,” Mrs. Pellegrini says.
“Which one? Smith?”
“The woman’s ok,” the old lady replies.
“Blisflix?”, Tim asks.
“Her,” Mrs. Pellegrini says emphatically. “The girl.”
“Karen?”, Tim asks. “Why don’t you like Karen?”
Mrs. Pellegrini motions Tim closer. “She’s why the police are here, I know,” she whispers. “They can’t find that boyfriend she had.” Mrs. Pellegrini’s leans back slowly.
“Do the police think she’s hiding him?”, Tim asks.
“Worse,” Mrs. Pellegrini replies.
“She was in the hospital when he vanished,” Tim says.
“Maybe....” Mrs. Pellegrini lets the word linger.
“If we answer all their questions,” Tim says, “the detectives will turn to other matters. Karen’s shoulder will heal, she will return to work, she will fall in love with a much nicer fellow, and she will move.” Anticipating Mrs. Pellegrini’s question, Tim adds, “Two months, maybe three.”
The old woman considers this, still holding the water glass. “We’ll find a nice older couple,” Mrs. Pellegrini says, staring off. “2D is just right for two. Maybe they’ll garden like Mrs. Prushnik.”
“Be nice to the detectives,” Tim tells Mrs. Pellegrini as he motions toward the door. “Answer all their questions. They’ll move on soon.”
Mrs. Pellegrini struggles to her feet and wobbles out of the kitchen. “Nice to have fresh tomatoes again,” she says. “After the girl’s gone.”
Tim closes the apartment door behind Mrs. Pellegrini, letting her parting words echo in his head. After the girl’s gone, gone the girl’s after. Graph the whirr longer. Furl the wrong rafter. Grew in coral laughter. Sifter the burly corn. Drift o’er the pearls again. Karen is waiting.
What is Karen waiting for? Tim sits at his desk, poised to open his laptop. He thinks about walking to the fog, where things are clearer. Tim lifts his hand off the laptop. Work can wait, he thinks. Workin’ late. Warden eight. Morgan Tate. For tune ate. Dixie plate. Pixidate.
Tim chooses his coat and hat for the rare daytime stroll. Out the apartment door, he finds himself heading for the basement. Heavy today. He slips through the sub-basement trapdoor, pulls the light cord, and heads for Mr. Pellegrini’s gun closet. He chooses a dull .25 caliber.
Into Tim’s inside coat pocket goes the gun, out the apartment building’s back door goes Tim, in search of daytime fog. Presidio, he decides. He plots his route: Pacific to Mountain Lake, Lake to 15th Avenue, then either North 15th into the Presidio, or straight on to Sea Cliff. Skirt Land’s End to the bluffs above Ocean Beach’s northern terminus. Skirt the out-of-towners shivering in tees, shorts, and flip-flops. Then south, paralleling the coastline, to the serious fog. Tim is ready to walk as far as Pacifica if he has to. The fog won’t hide today.
Through the park, across Lincoln, Tim heads south on 45th Avenue, waiting for the overcast to drop. Past Noriega, the first hints of fog. By the time he reaches Taraval, visibility is down to a half block. Tim bends his path around the east side of the zoo, heads for the lake.
The dunes at the north end of Fort Funston are deserted, although Tim can’t really tell in the engulfing mist. A pale unease is fomenting. Fifteen feet ahead and fifteen feet behind, the sandy trail vanishes into gray. Tim picks up a signal - by hearing, touch, smell - some way.
At a break in the bushes lining the trail Tim ducks in and finds cover 25 feet off the path. Fifteen seconds later, a figure passes slowly. The man wears a dark, wide-brimmed hat, dark coat, dark slacks, and sturdy boots - almost identical to Tim’s clothes. He passes by silently. Tim waits in the brush, watching the trail, motionless. Not all, he thinks.
Another fifteen seconds tick off before a second figure appears. The second man moves more deliberately. His designer jogging suit and shiny-new running shoes look out of place on the sodden beach trail. The walking jogger disappears into the fog. Tim waits. A half-minute later, he retraces his steps, walks past again. Another minute passes.
Here he is, thinks Tim as the man in the jogging outfit reappears. He wonders where the man’s gun is. Right pocket or waistband most likely. The other’s the bait, Tim thinks, and jogger’s the trigger. The man continues down the path, glancing side to side. Tim thinks, both next.
Less than a minute later, the jogger and his companion return, now scanning either side of the trail more carefully. Tim aims the pistol.
“He’s a helluva shot,” says Blisflix. “Give him that.” He considers the distance from the shooter’s footprints to the blood on the trail. Smith ignores Blisflix as she scans the area around the sandy trail. So much for patterns, she thinks. Charlie’s just blasting away now.
“The two victims are following him,” Smith says, looking up and down the trail. “He ducks down there, watches them walk by, then come back.” Smith stands at the spot on the trail where the bodies were found. “Bang-bang, bang-bang,” she says, regarding the dark splotches of sand.
Blisflix is right, Smith thinks. The guy’s got a dead aim. The pace of activity around the crime scene picks up. “Thirty feet?”, she asks.
“Huh?”, Blisflix replies. “Oh. Yeah, 30 feet, I guess.” He goes back to scanning the ground on either side of the trail. Smith looks around. “Found it!”, Blisflix says suddenly.
“The gun?”, Smith asks.
“Nuh-uh,” he replies. “Where the shooter came back to the trail.” He points south. “Thataway,” Blisflix says as he walks the trail slowly, scanning the ground.
Like he picked up the scent, Smith thinks. She follows him. “You hoping to head him off at the pass?”, Smith shouts ahead.
Blisflix stops. “Did they find the weapon?”, he asks without turning around.
“No,” Smith replies when she catches up with Blisflix. “Do you really think Charlie just tossed it? That doesn’t sound like our Charlie.”
“Do you really think Charlie did this?”, Blisflix replies. “Doesn’t look like our Charlie to me.”
Smith sighs. “Wishful thinking,” she says. “It’s Charlie. You know it. You’re just hoping it’s someone we can catch. Hell, we don’t even have IDs on his victims.”
“No need for this,” Blisflix says after a pause. He looks down the empty trail. “We know where to find him.”
“Working,” Smith adds. “Logs.” She looks around again. “How do you nab a ghost who manufactures his own alibi?”, she asks.
“It’s not the alibi,” Blisflix replies. “We can’t even tail this guy.”
“Like I said,” Smith says, “a ghost.” She turns and heads back up the trail. After a dozen paces, she stops. Her shoulders start to heave. Blisflix thinks Smith is crying, but when he catches up to her on the trail, he sees she’s laughing. “A seance,” she says between chortles.
Part 30: Drafted, coming soon
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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