Killer Tim, part 31: Domino
Pilaster bulather, replendent inaconda mardor, artigulously extricalated two times.
One piece was all Tim needed. One data point. One loose thread. Like a key in a lock, the tumblers all line up. First tile tips second tile tips third tile tips fourth. Tim’s five-second network sniff revealed a front, a sham company, pretending to be developing a cloud-based marketing management service. Burning through some VC’s startup money. Elaborate hoax. The furniture gave them away - hand-me-downs from a firm owned by the real backers. Too cheap to buy new furniture for your side project, thinks Tim. Tug that thread, smack right into Billikin. Jill again. Filipa Kinnegan.
Alban Billikin parlayed two timely ideas into two internet fortunes. Then he adopted as low a profile as a young tech billionaire could. Now Billikin’s fingerprints are all over the phony business on Tennessee Street. Tim got only a slice of traffic inside Billikin’s network. That sliver was enough to glean plenty of unencrypted metadata. The connection to Billikin took just a few minutes. Now the puzzle presents.
Billikin is surveilling not the public, but the government. Not all the government. Select localities: big city neighborhoods, small towns. Not all government activity. Emergency responders primarily: police, fire, EMS. That was all Tim could detect from five seconds of traffic.
Tim scans the metadata. A pattern forms. Billikin’s looking for corruption. Not to blow the whistle on, but to recruit for his private army. Tim imagines the purposes Billikin finds for his army of crooked public officials. Part vigilante, part score settler, part security detail. How long has Blisflix been working for them?, Tim wonders. Since before Tim found Blisflix’s bad-guys list? Was it their list all along?
Tim considers the possibility they set him up, decides it’s 15 percent likely. They were on the network but weren’t aware Tim was there too. Just as Tim wasn’t aware he wasn’t the only snoop on the network. Not until their guy met Cece and Smith in the coffee shop on Divisadero. Where was Blisflix that night?, Tim wonders. Watching from the other side of the fence?
Tim creates a project he names, “retirement plan.” He feels the knock on the door before he hears it. Five minutes from his night-time walk. Karen knows his schedule. She will ask him again. Tim will tell her “no” again. One month, Tim thinks, six weeks at the most. Karen will give notice. He opens the door. Karen smiles wanly.
“You should know,” Karen says, “they’re snooping around again. Out back.”
“Hello,” Tim says. He motions Karen inside. “Nice to see you.”
Karen steps inside. Tim shuts the door and says, “These are different.” He leads Karen into his kitchen. “Not police,” he adds, “I think.”
“Not police,” Karen echoes, “you think?”
“If I’m right about who they are,” Tim says, “they pose no threat to you.”
“You sure?”, Karen asks.
“No,” Tim replies, “but the chances are remote.”
“They’re after you, not me. Why?”
“Because I’m getting closer,” Tim answers.
“Then what?”, Karen asks, “fireworks?”
“No,” says Tim, “I don’t know what then. It depends on them, partly.” He looks at her and says, “No. No walks. No more. Ever.”
Karen stares at him, then she looks back at the door. “Alright,” she says, “too dangerous, I guess. How about coffee? Or I drink coffee and you stare at the table?”
“No,” Tim replies.
“Too dangerous, I guess.” Karen laughs.
“Call the police,” Tim says. “If you see them again. In the backyard.”
“They know your secret path,” Karen says.
“Not secret,” Tim replies, "hidden."
"There’s a lot of hidden stuff around here,” Karen says, “a lot of secrets.”
“Not secret,” Tim repeats, “hidden. Need-to-know. Only those who need to know, know.”
“Is this one of your word streams?”, Karen asks. “I’d like to hear one.”
“No,” Tim replies. “They sound different voiced. I see the letters as they flow by. Feel the letters colliding into syllables, phonemes.” He looks Karen in the eye. “In my head,” he adds. “Like a massage.” He looks down again. “Sometimes a tickle. Maybe a scratch. Therapeutic rinse. Synaptic sorbet. Unclogging the old amygdala.”
Karen squints and says, “It’s a circus up there, isn’t it? What’s hiding up there I can only imagine. Enough secrets to choke an amygdala. Those prancing phonemes come in handy.”
“Brainy,” Tim says, “more correctly. My hands are fine.”
“Phonemes come in brainy,” Karen says. “Cute.”
“They come in feety too,” Tim says.
“Fifty-two what?”, Karen asks.
“Lower-appendagy,” Tim says, “not numeralogically.”
“Lower Appendagy?”, Karen asks. “Is that near Big Sur?”
Tim wishes his lower appendages were currently in motion. Karen says, “One of us is enjoying this, and it isn’t you.”
“Enjoy,” Tim repeats. “You enjoy my company. This makes no sense to me.”
“You can be a fun date,” Karen says, “when you’re not full-on Asperger’s.”
“I don’t have Asperger syndrome.”
“Well, you got something,” Karen says, “because you can’t even see normal from where you’re at.”
“It’s normal to me,” Tim says. “Thank you for saying I’m a fun date. I have fun with you, too.”
“Aw, that’s almost romantic,” Karen replies.
“Walking is normal for me,” Tim says, “or would be. Now. If I was.”
Karen nods. “So much for romance,” she says as she heads for the door.
Tim follows Karen out the apartment door. She stops before opening it and kisses Tim long and soft. Then she says, “Have fun,” and leaves.
The moment the door clicks shut behind Karen, Tim recalculates his walk to compensate for the time spent conversing. He’ll miss Billikin. Tim will go light tonight. Two more nights before Billikin leaves town, according to the iCloud schedule of the billionaire’s private pilot.
Tim considers leaving by the front door. He decides to give the detectives tailing him a break and heads for the basement back door instead. They found the Clay Street gate easily, Tim thinks. They’re close to the faux fence on Sacramento. Not Fillmore though, and not the other. Fillmore it is, thinks Tim as he tugs the brim of his hat lower and steps out the back door. From her window, Karen watches him disappear.
Bitteral glitteral bioderisable. Boney-side up, loamy-sidal phreniac.
Tim relaxes in his shadow the best he can in lit-up South of Market. Noisy and bright: South of Market’s defining characteristics, and two reason’s why it is the neighborhood in the City Tim likes the least. It’s where techies like to meet, and the techie holding Tim’s interest this night is currently in full meet hundreds of feet above him.
Soon, a nondescript SUV will exit the underground parking and head for a boutique hotel three blocks south. Tim wonders, when will he walk?
Win Willie a wok. Wan wooly woke. Woe nearly worked. Werner Lebrock.
And there appears Billikin’s ride. Tim prepares to follow it on foot. The SUV soon fuzzes into the brittle-lit background. Tim plots the shadows and gaps, now refuge from the nosy glare. Billikin has to walk. Tim counts off the reqs: Alone, outside, secluded, dark. He runs through Billikin’s schedule for the next 48 hours. Only one public place.
All is calm at Billikin’s nondescript luxury hotel. Tim treats himself to a walk along the Embarcadero, a street he avoids on most nights. More light than he likes, more nighttime bustle, too many cameras, but the bayshore at night sends Tim’s soothing nonsense into high gear. Where two worlds meet, each hidden from the other in plain sight. Dark water lurking at arm’s length all the way ‘round the tunnytun town.
Wussindy wudder? We woe winwiwander. Dry-dunder dourfeet drests diwhorl duhdy dudders. Drown down dare. Droozen dreary fear drupere, m’dear. Disintegrate biondiblu deligaslitures auf die nuen welterintermitty. Gromiumptee nintinibulutions have I whorled in this our warn and omni. Whittle awhy diors intel I’m whence eglin whitsoo, soo-iver sorolly, sorel, sosopra labortta, pour miso cone weavos wrencheerioso morosso.
Tim wades in the stream as his steady lope describes the shoreline, north, west, bright, dark, buzzing, humming, stillness past the wharf. Then through Cow Hollow, quick across Lombard, easy up Steiner. At Pacific, a figure appears ahead. Tim knows immediately that it’s Cece.
“There’s someone you need to meet,” Cece says when Tim reaches her. “Before your next walk.”
“Who?”, Tim asks.
“I don’t know,” Cece replies. Tim waits for Cece to explain. “Someone I never met,” Cece adds.
“Name?”, Tim asks.
“I don’t know,” Cece says, “Wouldn’t be real anyway.”
“I have to meet someone you’ve never met whose name wouldn’t be real,” Tim echoes.
“J,” Cece replies. “My friend said J needs to see you.”
“Acquaintance, really,” Cece says. “He’s, um, connected.” She looks over her shoulder. “Are they watching?”, she asks.
“Thirty-percent chance,” says Tim. “J.”
“One of those people who lives way off the radar,” says Cece. “If J surfaces, it’s for a reason.”
“Your friend,” Tim says.
“Asked me not to tell you his name,” Cece replies.
“Some of his work is illegal,” says Tim.
Cece nods. “Not much.”
“Foreign-born, naturalized citizen, slight accent,” Tim says in a monotone. “BART rider from Hayward, wears hiking boots, but doesn’t hike. You call him Roddy. He was born Pooli Petzolt. He has some other names. How does he know J?”
“How do you know him?”, Cece asks.
“I pay attention,” Tim replies. “J?”
“I don’t know how he knows J,” Cece replies. “I’m just a messenger, again.” She starts walking west.
Tim waits a beat, then he follows Cece up Pacific. “What’s the message?”, he asks when he catches up with her.
“Don’t do it,” Cece replies. They walk a half block in silence. Then Cece continues, “Whatever it is you’re planning, don’t. Not until you talk to J.”
“When?”, Tim asks.
“Not when,” Cece answers, “where.” They walk on. “The bus stop on Polk at Bush, northeast corner. J will meet you there within 10 minutes.”
“Within 10 minutes of when?”
“Whenever you get there,” Cece replies. “There may be more than one.”
The two walkers turn south on Scott. “I go to the bus stop anytime,” says Tim. “Within 10 minutes, at least one person named J will arrive.” Cece nods. Tim continues: “J will dissuade me from doing what I plan to do.”
“That’s about it,” says Cece. She looks up. “Getting light.” They stop at Clay. “I’ll take the 24 Divis home,” Cece says. “Class in four hours.”
“Are you safe?”, Tim asks.
“You tell me,” she replies.
“You are a four-way nexus,” Tim explains. “SFPD, the network snoops, J, me. That’s dangerous.”
Cece looks west down Clay. “Okay,” she says.
“I’ll wait with you,” Tim says. Cece looks at him, shrugs. “The 24 Divis arrives in 15 minutes.”
Cece frowns. “Why do you do it?”, she asks.
“Mathematics,” Tim replies. “It has to get done, I can do it, no one else will.” He starts walking up Clay toward Divis.
“Stop,” Cece says. “How is that mathematics? Who says it has to be done?”
“Eighty percent,” Tim says. “According to my prediction algorithm.”
“Eighty percent of what?”, Cece asks.
“That was the threshold,” says Tim. “Likelihood of committing a violent felony, 80 percent at least. Each target represents three point three violent crimes prevented,” Tim says.
“According to your algorithm,” Cece says.
“Plural,” Tim says. Cece waits. “Algorithms,” Tim explains, “more than one.” Cece keeps waiting. “All dangerous,” Tim says. “All bad, won’t be missed at all.”
“What about your risk?”, Cece asks.
“Negligible,” Tim says. “I’m careful. The cops have higher priorities.”
Cece thinks of Detective Smith. “At least one cop wants you,” she says.
“She needs a witness she’ll never find,” Tim replies. “No evidence, no worries.” He points up Clay and says, “Three minutes.”
Cece looks where Tim is pointing. “The bus,” she says. When she turns back, Tim has already started walking away.
With the first step Tim has put Cece out of his mind. He muses on J as he walks east on Clay, now halfway to daylight. J and Billikin. How?
As she walks west on Clay, Cece wonders how she’ll stay awake on the bus. Smith never had a chance, she thinks. Patsies, her and Smith both.
Part 32: Quartet
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
Part 30: Drafted
Part 31: Domino
Part 32: Quartet
Part 33: Skippy
Part 34: Blisflix
Part 35: Billikin
Part 36: Chronicle
Part 37: Sutro Heights
Part 38: Conference
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