"...watercourse through Eden for all I know or care or wander circuitous, acrimonious, obstreperious, apollonian, abalonean, abstetricean, owe-inspiring, oblifting, overcoasting..."
As Timothy Rist steps out of apartment 2A at 2402 Steiner Street, San Francisco, nonsense and semi-sense stream through his head--as they do whenever he isn't reading or debugging.
"...Astral afformelody derisively, sublevity, instrictably colevitated and dispeptible, repulition invalident..."
In dark-but-not-black coat, pants, shoes, and logo-less baseball cap, Tim walks down the hallway to apartment 2D.
"...deep through pockets, slow through traffic, cul-de-sacrificing, out with an inrush, obliviant, observient, intestitute, irresolute...."
He knocks quietly. A woman says through the door, "Who is there?"
"Mrs. Kahn, it's Tim. I'm going shopping." Mrs. Kahn opens the door.
"Come in, Mr. Tim," Mrs. Kahn smiles broadly and motions Tim into the apartment. He takes three steps and stops, leaving the door open behind him. "Do you have a grocery list, Mrs. Kahn?"
"Yes Mr., I have it here." Mrs. Kahn dashes inside the apartment and runs back clutching a piece of paper that she holds out to Tim, who takes it, scans it quickly, and puts it into his coat pocket.
"I'll be back in 35 minutes. Good bye." Tim nods to Mrs. Kahn and walks out.
"Okay, good bye, Mr." Mrs. Kahn shuts the door.
“...medieval collateral ligaslatures straining limb from limb and frame by framulation of the most deframable order--defluorable conduct--repudient and reprobatable as you wish, azure wisp, a sure whiz, a Q test, acutest, ablutist, agronomist aglomin' in the gnominest...”
Hiding his head in his shoulders and his chin in his chest, Tim walks the carpeted hallway to the stairs and descends into a narrow, sun-lit lobby. Twelve dull-metal mailboxes glisten along the right wall. Tim pauses a second before walking out the iron-grated front door and down 10 pock-marked cement stairs to the sidewalk. He heads south down Steiner.
"...gad about, cast about, eyefully, wherily, oh, merrily a month of mays, a mickle a month, a nickel a night, a pickle a pop, propensity, Penn City, pencil appended and misapprehended, offended, upended, resplendent, defendant, suspendant, distendent, obdurant, mode-errant, I see how they parent, unbleached and abraded, easily sated, tire deflated, uneliminated..."
Each Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday Tim walks the two-and-a-three-quarter blocks south and three-and-one-fifth blocks east to Andy's Supermarket on Bush near Octavia. He marches to the beat of his mind's phonemic creations.
"...Federico federation, fine-feathered fricassee. Cybersonic inorgonic disrephonic catatonic. Austin Tayshawn, Erie Geishan, Rusty Tucson, Preppy Sision, Darryl Hixon, Fussy Nation..."
Tim traverses the supermarket aisles purposefully, loading items from Mrs. Kahn's list into the shopping basket.
"...Stetson Jetson, everyone gets one, purse on a vacation, barbarian equation, quoridification, aspartomy, exhortomy, ozidate, respectorate, ostensify, prefericate, obliquorate, aliterate, a hypocrite..."
Tim goes to the only open checkout line, and when it's his turn he places Mrs. Kahn's items on the moving counter. He pauses the text string running through his noggin and makes effortful eye contact with the clerk, whose name is Brian. Tim smiles, nods, and says "Hello, how are you?"
Tim knows Brian is related somewhat distantly to the owner, whose name is Woo, not Andy. Tim has seen Woo five times: on three occasions in the store and twice at night on the street, far from the store. This is the twelfth time Tim has watched Brian ring up Mrs. Kahn’s groceries. Tim sums and averages his ten most-recent grocery tabs, adds one-half of a percent for price increases, and estimates today’s total at $68.15.
"Find everything okay?" the clerk asks without looking up as he scans Mrs. Kahn's items.
"Yes, thanks." Easy. Whew. Focus.
“$68.25,” Brian says, glancing quickly at Tim’s face.
Pay. Smile. Change. Receipt. Eye contact. Nod. Yes sir, yes sir, four bags full--two per hand. Tim walks head down, hands full, out the store's front door. The stream recommences.
"Ben Begrudgeon, blistic sudgin. Retrobation, dispendension, not to mention, irregression. Re-arraigning, Riva rollin', preterminus, deferminous, boracious, displacious, reputacious, spontificacious...."
Tim blends discretely into the background of the urban afternoon, recognizing no one and everyone, nothing and everything. Everyone, everything, no one, and nothing repay the favor.
"...Winnie was a little brittle, fit-n-fiddle, front back and middle. Sad-eyed SId said it oh, so subjectably. Sioux City see-saucer. Seuss Alley Sue. Sally saucily soused. Imprimatically paucilated. There and then arose such a ruse, as he dosed so he boozed, as he sewed so he sued, adding shoals to old shrews. Said he did, did he? Oh, dilly. And Elly O'Daly, she was eerily addled. Ederle oddily. Adlai utterly..."
Eight minutes later, Tim knocks again on the apartment 2D door. "It's me, Mrs. Kahn." The door opens. Mrs. Kahn follows Tim into her kitchen. Tim places the bags on Mrs. Kahn's kitchen table. Mrs. Kahn follows Tim out of the kitchen toward the front door. "A very nice casserole for you today, Mr. Tim."
When he reaches the door, Tim turns, nods to Mrs. Kahn, and says "Good day."
"...As two swans of two minds swim by ear by heart by rote to rune, by step to m'lou, m'darlin deary derries. Sank two by aries, binaries, by plenopotentiaries. Able bailees bade by baleful breezes, borne to bewail by, will by their will be ill at their ease be..."
Twenty seconds later, Tim is sitting in front of the computer monitor in his apartment. The word stream pauses as soon as he sees the blinking cursor. His fingertips resting lightly on the keyboard, Tim reopens his debugger and begins doing what he does second-best: hunting for errors in code.
After 25 years, San Francisco Detective Joe Blisflix rarely got that stomach-dropping feeling anymore. But it almost knocked the wind out of him when he saw the name Ajax Rhodes under Victim in the homicide report on his computer screen. That made three of the ten people on the detective's personal Most Dangerous list gone--murdered. And not just any three, but numbers one, two, and three--in order. About a month apart.
He had just settled into his chair and opened the daily arrest log in his browser. The top entry was a homicide on Moscow Street in the Excelsior. He clicked the link and scanned the report. Two shots to the back of the head, just like number one Raymond David Evans and number two Jericho Lewis, both leaders of rival neighborhood gangs involved in just about every street crime imaginable. But Rhodes was nothing but drugs--mainly meth, though he was diversifying lately. And lots of ties to the Central Valley.
Bet it's a different gun, Blisflix thought--maybe a.38--not the .22 used first or the 9mm used next.
Used by who?
There was no other way to see it. The first two you could've chalked up to eerie coincidence. Or maybe not such a coincidence. After all, Blisflix thought, those were two violent people--and their murders were easy to write off as scores evening up.
But Rhodes changes everything. Somebody must've seen the list and done something stupid--three times.
It was supposed to be just a way to pass some slow time at the office. Nothing but a simple list comprised of ten names: the people in the City Blisflix considered the ones most likely to do serious bodily harm. He would just as soon have had all ten of the miscreants permanently removed from society, politely or otherwise. But not like this.
As far as Blisflix knew, the file with the ten names never left the hard drive of the PC on his desk in the middle of the Fifth Floor of the Hall of Justice on friggin' Bryant Street surrounded by half the cops in the City, for Christ sake. He never even e-mailed the list to himself. But somebody must've seen it and gone all Charlie Bronson.
Blisflix didn't have to open the file to know who was fourth on the list: Clay Parlaman, a denizen of the Tenderloin, a sexual predator and creep of the first order. The detective hesitated just a moment before opening the incriminating file anyway. His eyes ran down the other six names on the list. All full- or part-time residents of San Francisco--when not serving a stretch at one of the area's penal institutions.
How was he going to spin this to the Commander? He better have some plan to offer when he fessed up to his boss Villa-Lobos. Jaime would be cool, but the Commander was going to jump all over this.
Three minutes later--the framework of a strategy in mind--Blisflix poked his head into Jaime Villa-Lobos's postage-stamp office. "Got a second?"