Killer Tim, part 37: Sutro Heights
Twenty-four hours, Tim thinks. Billikin will decipher the message by this time tomorrow. Then 24 more. One a.m. Tim isn’t walking tonight. He covered half the city this afternoon. Tim’s not sleeping, either. That leaves working or nothing.
Tim chooses nothing. He stands, turns off his monitor, walks to the kitchen, pours a glass of water from the pitcher in the refrigerator. He downs half the glass, sets it on the kitchen table, sits. He regards the tabletop through the water in the glass. He thinks about fog. How much clearer the fog can make things. Shorter field, force of focus. Sutterfield, four-step forklift. Bitter brill to furrow, tofu row.
Battle up to the brow, bloys! Pit chirdrinks corrupt to the point tether pint t’other boinkle rad, con elrodron, rall t’way roan, arrayrum.
Not for the first time, Tim wonders where the nonsense stream originates. What it means, what it masks. Why he finds it so entertaining. Tim feels the sun rise from his seat at the kitchen table. The glass half full of water rests on the table, untouched since he set it down.
The sun is up. He can sleep. Tim drinks the half glass of water, washes and dries the glass, returns it to the shelf. He exits the kitchen.
Tim’s instinct is to ignore the note pushed under the door until after he has slept. The chances it is from Cece are less than one percent. No one else has anything to tell Tim that could be more important than sleep. Except Billikin. Chances the note is from him, incalculable. Tim walks to the door and picks up the note. It contains one word in nearly mechanical print: “No.” Tim turns the note over, feels the edge
Tim brings the note into his front room/office and holds it under the desk lamp. Tim is relieved. One less person to talk to. Time to act. The next 36 hours play out in Tim’s head, starting with six hours of sleep. Then six hours of work. Then six hours of walking. One down.
Tim keeps the fourth six-hour segment open, depending. Then six more hours of working. Then six more hours of walking. Two down. And done.
It will go on -- the sub rosa justice -- but without two major contributors. Tim stands slowly, weariness overcoming him, stumbles to bed.
One hour of walking back roads and back alleys loses the trackers. Tim is enjoying his evening strolls through the city, despite the light. He is heading west on Turk, crossing Masonic, thinking about the steps leading to Lone Mountain College. He has 30 minutes more to wait. Thirty minutes for the game to break up, the players to clean up, and Villa Lobos to exit the USF Koret Center. Tim calculates the light. Half dusk by the time Villa Lobos trudges back to his car after an hour of post-work basketball. Tim considers potential angles of approach.
Halfway up the Lone Mountain steps, Tim finds a convenient shadow. A dance with time and light and circumstance, converging and diverging. Angles form and deform, in Tim’s imagination, in the detective’s future.
Villa Lobos planted the list. Blisflix was roped in way back when. Smith was a smokescreen, a distraction. She knew right away nobody at the SFPD wanted to stop Tim, except her. And Cece. At first, anyway. After Cece figured out some of what was going on, she stopped trying to nab Tim. She never stopped trying to keep Tim from killing people. Cece can’t care much about Tim’s victims, none of whom were capable of making a positive contribution to the world, except by leaving it.
The clock in Tim’s head tells him it’s time to descend the steps and head west. How noble of Cece, thinks Tim, attempting to save somebody. Thirty yards from Parker, Tim spots a figure approaching the intersection from the south. Even in the twilight, Tim knows it’s Villa Lobos. Tim shrinks into a shadow, anticipating the moment Villa Lobos peeks over his shoulder just before he jay walks across Turk. Then Beaumont.
Tim quickens his pace after Villa Lobos turns right on Beaumont. When he’s 20 steps behind the detective, he reaches into his coat pocket. Tim waits to approach until Villa Lobos has put his duffel in the back seat of his car and closed the door. The detective just stands there. Like he’s waiting, Tim thinks. Villa Lobos is gazing west across Beaumont when the first bullet enters his skull just behind his left ear.
The second shot enters the detective’s noggin very near the first. Villa Lobos slumps to the ground, half on the curb, half in the street. Tim walks past what was Villa Lobos without a glance down. Gun back in coat pocket, he keeps a steady pace down Beaumont, counting seconds.
Right on Anza, left on Spruce. Tim listens for speeding cars as he approaches Geary. Twilight has almost become night. Tim slows, waits. He wants to cross Geary between the first and second responders. He’s 20 steps from the corner when he hears the high-pitched engine rev. Ten steps from the corner, Tim sees a dark sedan flash by on Geary. He watches the car turn left one block down, heading south on Parker.
Tim hurries across Geary at a gap in traffic and continues north on Spruce. Ten seconds later, he hears behind him a second speeding car. North on Spruce at a steady pace. Tim listens to the traffic hum, awaiting the first siren. Past Euclid, almost to Mayfair, the air cracks. A pained sound, as if already mourning. Down Mayfair to Laurel. Gingerly across lively California. Soon Tim will be outside the perimeter.
At Washington, Tim takes the gun out of his pocket and drops it into a sewer he knows was serviced recently. Then he plots his route home. Smith is getting the call that Villa Lobos is dead just about now, Tim thinks as he walks east on Washington. Then 15 minutes to Steiner. Tim will be back in his apartment in 17 minutes. He’ll use the gate on Clay. Smith is more likely to be watching Sacramento. And no Iwata.
Iwata is occupied with Karen tonight. Smith prefers to work alone anyway. Tonight, Smith’s work will be stationary, if Tim’s plan holds.
As Tim nears the gate on Steiner, he notices a figure standing next to the bus stop at Fillmore. The man is looking right at him. Tim slows. He walks past the gate toward Fillmore. The man approaches him and holds out his hand. “Roy Meneses,” he says, “San Francisco Chronicle.”
“Yes,” Tim repeats.
“Probably in a hurry to get home,” Meneses says.
“Yes,” Tim replies. He starts down Clay.
“Do you live around here?”, Meneses asks, his hand still offered.
“Yes,” Tim replies, shaking the hand.
“Long work day?”, Meneses asks him.
“No,” Tim answers, now nearly to the corner. He turns right on Fillmore and thinks, front door. Fifty percent chance Smith will be there. Fifty-fifty that Smith is standing across the street from the Sacramento gate, waiting to tell Tim about Villa Lobos, ask where he’s been. Tim considers the Fillmore entrance, decides there’s too much traffic. Front steps then, no matter who’s watching, no matter what’s waiting.
As he turns right on Sacramento, Tim scans the far side of the street. No sign of Smith. His pace picks up a notch. The street is empty. Tim reaches Steiner without encountering a soul, and no suspicious parked cars. Twenty steps from his building, Tim notices a figure ahead. The figure approaches on the sidewalk. Five paces from the stairs to his building, Tim recognizes Meneses. “Well well,” the reporter says. “Do you live here?”, Meneses asks, pointing at the building.
“Yes,” Tim replies. He stands on the bottom step, left shoulder facing Meneses.
“Do you often work late?”, Meneses asks. “I was hoping to talk with someone who frequents this neighborhood at night.”
Tim looks up Steiner. “No,” Tim says. He walks up the stairs, unlocks the door, and enters the narrow lobby. Meneses regards the empty stairs, tapping his chin.
Smith stands in a shadow near the corner across Sacramento. She regards Meneses as he regards the front stairs of Tim’s apartment building. Further down Steiner, parked blocking two driveways, two figures in a dark SUV regard Smith regarding Meneses regarding Tim’s front steps.
Tim stands in the lobby. He hears footsteps descending the stairway from the second floor. Karen appears, looks at him, and says, “Uh-oh.”
“Don’t leave just yet,” Tim says quietly.
Karen points to her bare feet. “I’m not leaving,” she says. “Come to my place. I’ll make tea.”
“Thirty-five minutes,” Tim says, not budging from his spot near the front door. “Please go back upstairs. And thank you for the invitation.”
“You’re a trip,” Karen says and laughs. She goes back up the stairway. Tim stands still, listening for the sound of Karen’s door closing. He is in motion the moment the latch clicks. To the basement, through the sub-basement door, change clothes, back out of the sub-basement. Upstairs to the lobby, upstairs to his apartment, out of the clothes, into the shower, out of the shower, into the clothes, out the door.
Karen opens her apartment door before Tim knocks. “Thirty-six minutes,” she says, smiling. “You’re late.”
“Your clock is fast,” Tim replies.
“I’m gonna pretend that’s a joke,” Karen says. She leads Tim into her kitchen. On the table are a teapot, two teacups, and a glass of water. Tim drinks half the glass of water and sits down, still holding the glass. Karen leans against the sink. “Long walk,” she says. Tim nods. Karen asks, “Am I gonna read about it in the paper tomorrow?”
Tim shrugs. “One more,” he says, “then a break.”
“One more what?”, Karen asks.
“Walk,” Tim replies. He drinks the rest of the water and sets the glass on the table. Karen refills it from a pitcher in the refrigerator. “Thank you,” Tim says as he takes the glass from Karen.
“I knew as soon as I saw you in the lobby,” she says. “How many does that make?”
Nine, thinks Tim as he drinks from the glass. He reconsiders his plan for number 10, the trickiest of the lot. “Detective Iwata,” he says.
“What about him?”, Karen asks. She pours tea into the two cups.
“Have you accepted his offer?”, Tim asks.
“His offer for what?”, Karen asks. After seconds of silence, Karen says, “’Offer’ makes it sound like a business deal.”
Tim picks up a teacup, smells the tea, feels the sides. “Trust him,” Tim says before sipping the tea.
Karen sits at the table and takes the other teacup in both hands. “What about you?”, she asks. “You can trust him too,” Karen adds.
“Not the same,” Tim replies. “Not until he’s off the case for good. Iwata takes his work seriously.”
“When will that be?”, Karen asks.
Tim waits almost a minute before he replies, “Seven-fifteen a.m. Friday.”
Karen half laughs, half gasps. “What happens at 7:16 a.m. on Friday?”, Karen asks.
Tim looks her in the eye and says, “I have no idea.”
“Your first lie,” Karen smiles.
Tim looks at the teacup he’s holding. “Not a lie,” he says softly, “not completely. I have some ideas. More accurately, it doesn’t matter. Not to me. The job will be over. The consequences are beyond my control. Mostly.”
“What kind of consequences?”, Karen asks.
“Things change,” Tim replies. “People benefit, people suffer, zero sum.” He leans in and says, “So long as the suffering is spread around.”
“You’re just doing a little redistribution of the pain,” Karen says.
Tim drains the teacup in one swallow and says, “Yes, that’s accurate.” Tim looks at the bottom of his cup and says, “Tea isn’t any better than coffee.”
Karen laughs and says, “Water next time.” Tim nods slowly.
Part 38: Conference
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
Copyright 2020 by Dennis Richard O'Reilly -- all rights reserved