“How long has it been idle?”, Detective Smith asks.
“A year at least,” Blisflix replies. “She's an old widow lady."
“How did she get access to the police network?”, Smith asks. She shifts in the spare chair in Blisflix’s cubicle.
“Her husband,” he replies. “He was a cop.” Blisflix tries not to sound irritated. “Like it says in the report.”
Smith continues reading, shakes her head. “A beat cop,” Smith says.
“A long time ago,” Blisflix adds.
“Our boy’s arsenal is pretty old,” Smith answers. “And she‘s in the right spot.” She stands up. “You coming?”, she asks Blisflix. “If you are, I‘m telling you right now, I’m driving.”
“I won’t stop you,” says Blisflix.
“Nobody’s home,” says Blisflix. He and Smith are standing outside the front door of 2402 Steiner.
“She’s old,” Smith replies. “She’s home. Old people are always home.”
“She’s ignoring us.” Blisflix says. He taps on the window. “Mrs. Pellegrini? It’s me, Joe Blisflix.”
Smith examines the vertical row of doorbells. “None of these buzzers have names,” she says. “Just apartment numbers, and ‘Manager’ for 1A.” Smith looks down the front steps. “I’m going to take a walk around the block,” she tells Blisflix.
“I’ll wait here,” he replies. “In case.”
Smith nods and heads down the stairs. She walks north along the sidewalk, scanning the wall of house fronts. Not one damn gate, she thinks. At Clay, Smith turns right and walks toward Fillmore. Near the middle of the block, she spots it: a small gate between a house and garage.
Smith stands in front of the tall, thin gate, trying to see through it. She imagines a path from it to Mrs. Pellegrini’s apartment building. After 30 seconds of gate-staring, Smith continues her circumambulation: Down Clay to Fillmore, down Fillmore to Sacramento, then back to Steiner, where Blisflix sits on the steps of 2402.
“Go take a nap,” Smith says to Blisflix. “We’re back on nights.”
Blisflix stands up. “What do you got?”
“Back door,” she replies.
Smith breaks the silence. “Okay, what’s with the boots?”
It’s midnight. Blisflix and Smith have been sitting in a lumpy unmarked car parked on Clay for 30 minutes.
“If we do any more hoofing,” Blisflix replies, “I’ll be prepared.”
“Hoofing,” Smith laughs. “You got hooves? Well, that explains a lot.”
Blisflix ignores Smith’s comment about his hiking boots. “So that’s the magic gate,” he says. “When do you think Mr. Computer will show?"
“If I knew when he leaves,” Smith replies, a little ticked, “We wouldn’t be here waiting.”
“Hey, just askin’,” Blisflix laughs.
"From here, he can walk anywhere in the city in two hours,” Smith says. “That’s at least four hours of darkness round trip. His prime time is three to four a.m. He’s home by dawn. Depending on where his target lives, I say he shows by one.”
“One-oh-five,” says Blisflix, breaking the long silence in the car. Smith keeps her gaze on the little gate.
"Watch the gate,” Smith says as she opens the passenger door. “Call me if he shows.” She gets out of the car and walks quickly up Clay. She rounds the corner at Steiner and spots a dark figure at the far end of the block. It disappears almost as quickly as she sees it.
Smith hurries to catch up with the figure, but in just a few seconds, it disappears. She curses herself for not watching Mrs. Pellegrini’s apartment building. Stupid gate, she thinks. She turns and walks back toward Clay.
“Let’s go,” Smith says as she gets into the passenger seat, a little out of breath. “East,” she adds before Blisflix can ask. “No rush. Right on Fillmore,” Smith directs Blisflix, “slowly.” As the car approaches Pine, she points to a bus stop. “There,” she says, “wait.”
Smith jumps out of the car and walks to Pine. She looks right, left, and right again. “Okay,” she says to nobody. She walks back to the car. She motions for Blisflix to lower the passenger window. “Why don’t you go back to watching the gate,” she says. “I’ll be back by three. Leave Happy Donuts by 2:30. Bring me a bear claw.”
Blisflix frowns. “Please?”, Smith adds. Blisflix drives off.
Polk Street first, thinks Smith. Then the Tenderloin. A needle in a haystack of haystacks, she thinks as she walks.
A half-mile ahead of Smith, Tim regards the facade of an apartment building, searching the dark windows for signs of life. He stands stock still.
Tim senses a hitch in the word stream. An asyncopation that makes him smile for its assimilitude. Azimalitude. As you may-litude, mullitude….
Tim leans to stay out of sight as a car passes -- a Volkswagen microbus, Tim notes. No light or movement in the windows facing the street.
…Broddy like a roque, you dare, yuh-you. Wuddeye say? Piccarini postulence esperating indie lone-chairs, tuned to the nation of the stations. Sedge-ual sedge-uary sedge-nteenth forty free-unificazation of demelly-melly melly-menthe o’may we may my dorlin dairy-do my life so long!
Twenty more minutes, thinks Tim as the nonsense streams in his back track.
…He shows or I go. Matrichka doles in raglan splendure what must….
The front door opens and out walks nine, a serial stalker, prone to violence. Now prowling a previous victim, thinks Tim.
Nine stops when he reaches the sidewalk, looks both ways, and heads west. Tim watches from the darkness across the street, ready to follow. Then he stops. A glint in the darkness ahead, to the right, catches Tim’s eye. Someone else is watching nine walk down the sidewalk. Smith.
Tim marvels: Smith found her way to Ellis Street, within 100 yards of him, at 3:15 on a Tuesday morning. He feels no danger, only surprise. Tim expects Smith to follow nine down Ellis Street, but she barely acknowledges him as he passes. Instead, she heads straight toward Tim.
Tim crouches slowly, sinking deeper into the dark patch between street lights. He hears the soft tap of Smith’s steps as she approaches. Smith passes just a few yards from Tim, her pace steady. She’s out of view in a few seconds. Her footfalls grow fainter. Tim doesn’t budge. Tim stands in the dark, listening to the pre-dawn traffic. He calculates Smith’s path. In 10 minutes, he’ll head for the gate on Sacramento.
The detectives were easy to spot camped outside the Clay Street gate, but Tim never expected Smith to figure out where he was heading. If she actually figured it out. As he walks, Tim considers the chances of Smith stumbling onto his surveillance of nine. Not very likely.
Nine gets a pass, thinks Tim as he walks west on Post toward Webster. Another new moon wasted. Tim wishes 2D boyfriend did worse than steal. He turns right on Webster and heads up the hill.
Tim turns left at Sacramento and watches carefully as he nears Fillmore. He paces himself to reach the corner just as the light changes. Before he reaches the corner, Tim stops and turns around. He hears someone walking far up the Sacramento hill. He hurries across Fillmore.
Far down Sacramento, Smith glimpses a figure cross Fillmore. Dark coat, dark hat -- her adrenals kick. She runs, but the figure fades into dark. By the time Smith crosses Fillmore, the sidewalk ahead is empty. She walks slowly, peering right, looking for any gap between buildings.
When she reaches Steiner, Smith turns around and retraces her steps half-way up the block. Damn ghost, she thinks as she heads for the car.
Part 12: Interview
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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