Tim fidgets in the dark. He has walked past the cafe window twice. Cece is there. She saw him. Five more minutes pass. Tim watches the traffic pass on Divisadero in clumps of three, four, five -- each pack separated by ninety seconds.
Between car clusters, Tim steps out of the darkness and quickly enters the coffee shop. He walks to Cece’s table and takes the empty seat.
“No walking tonight,” Cece says. “You wore out my best pair of shoes.” Tim doesn’t reply. “You can talk,” Cece says. “No one is listening.”
“When did they contact you?”, Tim asks.
“Coffee?”, Cece asks back. Tim shakes his head. “Yesterday morning,” she says. “At school, again. A woman, thirty-ish. She gave me a message for Detective Smith.” She keeps her eyes on Tim. Tim is looking at the table.
“Ten forty-five?”, Tim asks. “Outside the library?”
“Closer to 11,” Cece replies. “In the library lobby.”
“Which way did she go?”, Tim asks.
Cece thinks for a second. “Into the library,” she says, “as I was leaving to meet with a student I’m tutoring.”
“That’s too bad,” Tim says.
Cece asks, “What’s too bad, her going into the library or me tutoring?”
“No high-res video in the library,” Tim replies. “Muni’s better.”
“She’ll be back,” Cece says. “Or someone else will contact me to get Smith’s answer.”
“Her answer to their offer,” Tim says. “To nail me.”
“More or less,” Cece says, “but I don’t believe them.” She looks out the coffee-shop window. “Getting played all the time is getting old. Smith’s got me doing her dirty work, you’re using me as bait, and now I’m a messenger for the people I’m trying to stop.”
“You and I want the same thing,” Tim says. “When we find out who they are, what they’re doing, and why they’re doing it, we’ll make a plan.”
Cece looks at Tim, then back at the traffic on Divisadero. “I want to know I can get out,” she says, “if we can’t agree on a plan, I mean.”
“Get out of what?”, Tim asks. Before Cece can answer, he says, “Who would prevent you from walking away whenever you wanted to? I wouldn’t. But I don’t think you want to walk away.” Tim hesitates. “I find and fix mistakes,” he says. “These people are mistakes, and they need to be fixed.”
“People aren’t mistakes,” Cece replies, “and you aren’t fixing them, you’re eliminating them.”
Tim says softly, “They are indeed mistakes.” Then he says even softer, “And I am fixing problems no one else will. No one else can, maybe. I suspect--”, Tim hesitates.
“What?”, Cece asks.
“Best not to say until I know,” Tim says. “I won’t know until I get an ID. One ID will lead to others. Then I’ll know. Then I’ll tell you. Forty-eight hours. Don’t walk away until then.”
“If you’re wrong,” Cece replies, “you have to walk away with me, okay?”
“No,” Tim replies. “Can’t make a quality decision based on the current set. Forty-eight hours will fill out the data. Then we may proceed.”
Cece remains silent, motionless. “I can’t,” she says finally. “There’s violence at the end of this, one way or the other. I want no part of that. I got into this to stop violence. Your violence.” Tim keeps his gaze on the table. “You’ve stopped,” Cece says, “for now.”
“Okay,” Tim says. He stands up and takes a quick look around the coffee shop. Then he looks at Cece. “Thank you for your help,” he says.
Cece watches Tim walk out the coffee shop door and turn left up Divisadero. Five minutes later, she leaves, going in the opposite direction.
I won’t miss the rancid coffee, Cece thinks as she walks. A block later, she adds, I won’t miss walking all over town all night, either.
Two blocks from her home, Cece hears someone say, “Wise choice.”
Cece looks around, sees no one. “Whoever you are,” she says, “not tonight.” She waits for a response, hears nothing. She turns and heads for home.
A mile to the north, Tim recalculates, minus Cece as his go-between.
Part 24: Villa Lobos
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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