Ronald Groat is riding a big dog like a horse, saddle and all, but this dog-horse has steer horns. Long, pointy ones. He tries to keep his feet from dragging as the dog-horse ambles down a steep canyon. Then someone is throwing rocks at him. Ronald can't see the rocks, but he can hear them bouncing off his upstairs bedroom window.
He wakes up and checks the clock on the bedside table. 3:10 a.m. Ron gets out of bed and looks out the window into the back yard. A light is on the ground, emanating from a phone screen. Everything else is dark.
Ron struggles to get his legs in a pair of gray sweatpants as he makes his way down the stairs and into the kitchen. He slips on a pair of sandals at the back door. He pulls the shade on the door's window back a half inch. The light is gone. In fact, it's pitch black. He hesitates two seconds, then he turns the door handle slowly.
Ron stands in the doorway, peering into the darkness. Almost a half minute passes before he steps onto the open back porch. He stands still for another half minute. A few lights shine in the distance. He makes out the outline of garages and houses. He walks quietly down the steps to the spot where he saw the phone on the ground.
He doesn't hear either of the shots, nor does he feel either of the .22 caliber bullets that enter the back of his skull and rattle around his brain. He's dead before his face hits the lawn.
Tim picks up the two spent shells without having to step off the cement walkway. He walks past Groat's body, putting the gun and shells in his coat pocket as he does. He jumps the back fence into the neighbor's yard. Only his gloves touch the top of the fence as he lands on patio blocks beside the neighbor's garage.
He reminds himself: One old, half-deaf dog in the house on the right, two little yapping dogs across the street to the left. He walks down the neighbor's drive, jumps the chain-link gate -- again, only his gloved hands make contact with the top.
Tim's gaze stays steady on the spot ten feet ahead of him as he turns right at the sidewalk. He passes the house with the half-deaf dog. Total silence. No lights. No vehicles.
Four potential routes back to the Steiner Street apartment run through his mind. Simultaneously, he replays the particulars of killing number four.
First, drop the gun and shells in the dumpsters behind the butchershop on San Bruno Avenue. The bins are scheduled to be picked up in two-and-a-half hours -- probably before Ronald Groat's body is discovered.
Ron Groat: sex crimes, repeat offender. Likelihood of committing another sexual assault: 80+ percent, according to the San Francisco Police Department Detectives Bureau. Likelihood of committing another sexual assault as of 3:15 a.m.: 0 percent.
The dumpsters are one-and-a-quarter miles from Groat's Peru Avenue house, a 22-minute walk, down Felton Street to avoid the patrols and camera-equipped Muni buses on Silver.
Unlike Tim's first three targets, Groat rarely left his house at night. It took only three tosses of the rock onto the window to wake him up, and the flashlight app on Tim's SIM-less phone piqued Groat's curiosity sufficiently to get him out of the house.
Then under the 280/101 bridge, up the south flank of Bernal Heights -- avoiding the early deliveries to fruit markets on Cortland. Careful across Mission Street, extra-careful across Market, then meander through the Western Addition to Upper Fillmore. In the apartment building's back door by 4:35 a.m., just as the new day stirs.
Tim was able to place the phone on the grass and retrieve it without leaving a footprint. Groat walked right past him as he stepped off the back porch in search of the light. He stood stock still, with his back to Tim, not three feet away. Perfect.
Satisfied with the evening's events and the route home, Tim allows the word stream to recommence.
Ella wet a gentle elephanta. Al awaits a jaunty plume array. Glinty plumber ain't like that, Jan's in bloomin' whaler's fat. Ain't like that, whaler's fat. Rheostat, copycat. Oh, ho. Rucksack, party pack. Give a duck a boom.
Flats in jammer kits, rat's in the credo, borne by a sulfur schooner. Restitute by the slide of the rivet. Shunny-side out, she-sore retort.
Retrodulent, spruckulative, diamedicant, insubstatristic, overintruculated, posticulineated, abstrudentical to the foreplanterpiece sitiulated amidrifting clockways, crock-eyed -- counterpostalabricastigravelly, portendiversably begloved. Oh, shine of the moss, fill-o'-the-grist, etym of my ology....
Part 5: Toast
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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