“I’ve got chicken and steak next, so don’t fill up.” Comma announces. He places the chicken quarters on the center of the grill; they will take the longest.
Phoebe sets two wine coolers down on the spool table for Tracy and Joel when the klaxon sounds again. Phoebe hurries back to answer it, but cannot see anyone on the monitor. She presses the intercom button next to it and says, “hello?” The klaxon goes off again, and a small red Italian automobile pulls up on the curb. The door opens and a tall person stands up out of the seat, Reginald. A 2nd person rolls out of the car, then another, another, another, and another; it is the Biscuits. The other door opens and a short woman exists, Sally, then two other women stand up out of the car, one is wrapped around the others waist; they are the Pretzels. It’s Reginald’s clown troupe and Sally’s gymnastic troupe.
Phoebe laughs out loud, and yells through the house, “the circus is definitely in the hood.” The klaxon goes off again, but neither troupe is at the door. A face slowly emerges from the left of the screen. Phoebe jumps. It’s Tyler; he’s up to usually creepy clown tricks. She opens the door, red faced and laughing, “Welcome, welcome, all and clowns, except you, Tyler.” He hugs her. “The keg is in the back, and I’ll bring the wine out in a moment.” She says as the group passes her. “Comma’s got burgers and dogs on the table, chicken and steaks are next. Through there and there,” she points to the back door. It is still open. Laughs and cheers fill the kitchen as the two troupes enter the backyard with leaps, tumbles, and bows.
“Come one, come all.” Bixxter booms in his basso orotund. “Send forth, the clowns.”
“Don’t you mean, send in the clowns?” Comma calls out. “You know, from the song?” He flips the chicken, and turns his head sideways to cough. The chili-lime rub works it’s magic.
“Lieutenant, look at this.” Simon taps her on the arm, as he reverses his video. “This man seems to be having a fit.” She watches his monitor and they share one cup of the earphones. A man in dirty jeans, greasy army coat, and split boat shoes, carries several gratis, plastic shopping bags, probably homeless, pushes through one of the doors on his way to the platform when one of the bags sticks in the doorway and is crushed in half. The man curses wildly, incoherently except for “FUCK YOU, fuck me, fucking door, fuck.” He kicks the door repeatedly to release the bag.
“Hum, make a note on your form.” Cochran answers. She turns to Seven and touches him on the shoulder, “have you seen a homeless man cursing on the stairway?”
“Dirty white, split shoes?” He asks.
“I made a note at camera/counter, 5/111/10:55.” He answers, “Do you want to see it?” He stops his recording.
“No. I’ll look for him on the platform, 111/10:55?” She makes a note on her pad of the time from Seven’s note. She forwards her recording to just after the stamp. All three stop to watch. The man is muttering to himself as he steps onto the platform, and the only word they understand is “fuck,” every fourth word or so, he loudly says, “FUCK.” The bagman makes his way to the one of the round concrete benches, and sits next to two women, holding each other’s arms. They look at him, and like a synchronized swim team; the women raise their hands to their mouths and pull each other up off the bench.
“I think he forgot his Old Spice.” Seven chuckles.
Cochran shakes her head, and Simon stops himself from laughing along. He returns to his recording. An outbound L-train enters the station, and the man stands up and boards it. Before the doors closes, you can see other passengers moving away from him.
“He’s probably headed home to his cage at the Zoo.” Seven snickers. The L terminates at the San Francisco Zoo.
Lieutenant Inspector Cochran doe not acknowledge the barb, but stares at her screen.
Seven sighs loudly. “Folks, this room is cold as a polar bears nuts.” He returns to his monitor.
Ethan returns to the keg and refills his and Bridget’s glass with Trumer.
“The steaks are medium-rare. If any of you carnivores want it cooked longer, let me know. The chicken’ll be ready in a few.” Comma calls out.
The two stop at the grill. Bridget fixes a burger. Ethan takes a hot dog and the corner off one of the steaks. He slathers both in A1 sauce, piles the hot dog and bun high with green salad and tomatoes. Bridget has a helping of shell pasta salad, and green salad. They are surround by the clowns and acrobats. They dart to and fro from the table filling their plates in a waltz repast. One of the acrobats spins his plate on his finger, chooses a veggie burger, pasta salad, and then balances the plate on this finger. One of the clowns drops his empty plate and frowns as he picks up invisible foo. He proceeds to eat it anyway. One of the acrobats chooses steak, corn, and salad and balances her plate on her pointy noses. She struts off, high stepping, to one of the spool tables. Between giggles and mimes, Ethan stumbles, his plate flies forward and the crowd gasps; but a clown catches it face-up, just shy of the ground. He mimes licking, eating each item before returning it.
Giggling, Bridget sits at one of the spools further off from the mayhem. Ethan sits with her on the same side of the spool, as if watching the stage at dinner theater. The cacophony at the food table settles down as the first round of eaters sit around the yard munching. Some are emphatically loud, some eat in slow motion, and others fly fast, humming birds on the nectar. Everybody’s got a thing. The doorbell goes off and Phoebe sets her plate down next to the grill.
“What mayhem next?” Phoebe chortles and heads to answer it.
“Hello Phoebe,” a deep voice booms out at she opens the front door. It is Sir Cederic of steel and fire. He sets a bag down next to the entry and hugs Phoebe.
“I didn’t know you were in town?” She says.
“Yes. I am teaching a class at the Vulcan in Oakland, the Dragon’s Breath.” He answers and exhales strongly enough to be heard 25-yards away. His breath smells of mint and gasoline. Phoebe steps back a foot. “This is my new assistant, Miss Spark, aka Debra Von Saunders.”
“Charmed.” Debra says and curtsies. She bows her head and Phoebe can see down through her cleavage, passed tight abs and through the front of her leather-skirt or kilt to cloud blue knee high sneakers.
“Likewise,” Phoebe bows, “didn’t you use to dance with the Thrillpeddlers?”
An hour into the camera review, Seven stretches his arms behind his head and interrupts the silence with a yawn, “I need some coffee.” He rubs his eyes and yawns a second time.
Sargent Rice enters the room, “I’m going to make a Starbucks run, anybody want anything?”
“I’ll take a hammerhead,” Seven blurts out.
“What is that?” Rice asks.
“We’ll take three large cups-of-the-day with sugar and milk on the side.” Cochran interrupts the answer. She pulls out a gift card from her purse and hands it to Simon, “and put what ever you want on this.”
“Thank you, Inspector.” He says.
“A hammerhead is a frozen latte with two shots of espresso and coffee beans ground up on the whip cream topping.” Seven describes.
“Whoa, it’s a little late for that kind of potency, “Rice answers and turns to leave.
“It’s not a kid’s drink,” Seven replies to his back and yawns again.
Officer Simon’s shakes his head. Inspector Cochran returns to her work. Seven stands up form his chair and paces around the small room.
In half an hour, Sargent Rice returns with a cardboard tray and four coffees. He sets the tray on a table on the opposite side of the room and takes one of the cups. In the middle of the tray are a stack of sugar and several servings of cream in plastic, capped condiment containers. Simon and Seven stand up and join him, each taking a cup. Rice opens his and pours in one than another creamer. He doesn’t use sugar. Seven pours in a creamer and four sugars. He stirs rapidly. Cochran continues to work.
“How would you like your coffee, Inspector?” Simon asks.
She looks up for a moment, “black.” She replies, then, “what the hell,” she exclaims. Lieutenant Inspector Emily Cochran pushes the rewind button, then the play button. “What is going on?” She says out loud. She pushes the rewind again with more force and Sargent Rice walks over to here screen.
“Is there a problem?” Sargent Rice asks and sips from his coffee. He swallows and sips again as he looks over her shoulder.
“I don’t know?” She says. “How good is the resolution on these cameras?”
“The cameras are pretty new, and the resolution is a step down from HD. Why?” Rice asks.
“I found our killer, but look at this,” she fast reverses the recording. The two stare as a young man in a letterman’s jacket and Suzy Fitzgerald leave the BART train and walk toward the stairway. They pause at a couple of feet off the edge of the platform. “Can you turn up the sound?” Cochran asks.
“Yes, but it’s becomes less audible. Rice reaches down to the control panel and hits a switch that he didn’t explain earlier. The sound reverbs and distorts on itself. They can distinguish is the whoosh of an approaching train and raspy steel on steel of trains wheels on tracks. “Too many hard surfaces and too much noise from the tracks.” Rice explains, “We’re working on it.”
Hearing the noise through their headphones, Seven and Simmons stop their recordings and lean over to stare at Cochran’s display. “Is that her?” Seven asks. “Can you magnify her face?”
“Just a minute,” Rice presses the pause and taps the zoom button. He repositions the center point of view (POV) to her face. He taps the zoom key a couple more times.
“I know her.” Seven says.
Everyone turns and looks at him. The Sargent hits the pause and print button to output Fitzgerald’s face.
“What?” Lieutenant Inspector Emily Cochran asks. There is a silent pause. Seven can feel sweat forming on his forehead.
“Well, I ddin’t know her; I just met her at Pompeii’s last night. Suzy, I think.” Seven says. “You can ask Jules; he was working the bar, but would not serve her from some reason.”
“Did you give her a card?” Cochran asks. She opens her work notebook and scribbles in it.
“Should he be in here?” Simon and Rice ask, almost in unison.
“Is he a POI (person of interest)?” Sargent Rice asks and reaches over to Seven’s display and turns it off. Before Cochran can answer, he grabs Seven by the forearm and lifts him of his seat. “We have a wired interview room down the hall,” he adds.
“Do I look like that guy in the recording, Sarge?” Seven looks at Sargent Rice and tugs his arm. Rice exerts more pressure, pushing his arm behind his back to take Seven to the ground, if necessary.
“NO. STOP” Inspector Cochran yells. “He’s not, NOT A POI. He was with me at the time of the murder.” She finishes, “he’s working with me as a consultant.”
Sargent Rice releases his grip and exhales loudly. “Could you please make a note of his presence in your log at this counter space?” Sargent Rice asks. “And, sign you name next to it?”
Cochran obliges the request, and next to her notes about the killing in her journal, she writes Seven’s name and notes him as a consultant to the SFPD working with her on this case, and then signs it.
“He’ll need to fill out one of our consultant forms too.” Rice says.
“No problem,” Seven answers for her, rubbing his arm and rotating his shoulder. He glares at Sargent Rice, “I’m on file in Oakland. Talk to officer, Craig Williams. I helped him with a hit and run.” Seven adds. Cochran adds the name to her note in the log.
Simon realizes why Seven is here, ” this seems highly irregular, Lieutenant.” He exclaims. “Perhaps, he shouldn’t be seeing what we are…?”
Cochran interrupts him, “He’s my responsibility. I’ll take full responsibility for his presence. You will not get into trouble.”
“Okay,” Sargent Rice restarts the recording.
“I wonder what she is saying to him?” Cochran and the others can see the victims face as she pats a young man’s front, and then back pockets. “What is she doing?”
“Looking for his wallet?” the Oakland Sargent suggests.
“No, he doesn’t stop her. Maybe he is a boyfriend.” Simon says.
“He seems distressed.” Seven adds. “See how he is wobbling ever so slightly. Maybe his is on something?”
“THERE, stop it.” Cochran orders.
The young man in the tape turns and looks at the camera. Rice reaches over and stops the tape. “I can’t make him out,” he says.
“Zoom it,” Seven exclaims, excitedly.
“Here, sit down, Sargent Rice.” Cochran stands up and turns the chair and station over to him.
Rice sits down and does the same thing he did a moment ago to get Fitzgerald’s picture. “I don’t understand.” He is befuddled. The image of the suspects face is blurred. “Let me see if I can build it from the frames before and after.” Rice selects the blurred face and, right clicks and selects a filter function to run on the selection. “This will take a few minutes.”
“Can we watch the rest of the video on one of the other two monitors?” Cochran inquires.
Officer Simon stands half way up and scoots over to Seven’s chair. Rice enters a search query in a command-line shell on the display. He then forwards to the counter that Inspector Cochran referenced in her notes. He turns the sound on. The scene begins again on Simon”s display, and the three huddle around him to watch it.
“Slow it down some,” Seven suggests to the Sargent. He reaches down and clicks several times on the control panel.
Fitzgerald smiles and says something. She pats the young man’s pockets like she is searching for something. The POI turns towards the camera and back, and then he places his hands on her chest and stomach. Just as the train enters the station, he pushes with all of his might. They can see him exhale with the exertion. Fitzgerald flies onto the track. Her face contorts from an inquisitive smile to shock. She screams low and slow for a few seconds. She disappears under the train. The suspect turns to his head to the camera again, only slower.
Shock; silence then a gasp, as the suspect turns his head slowly towards the camera.
“STOP it.” Lieutenant Cochran commands.
Rice stops the recording and zooms in on the face. He sharpens the contrast, and the face is still a blur. “I don’t understand he says.” He moves the sequence forward and backward to see if one of the other frames is clearer. “It doesn’t make sense.” He shakes his head and looks up at the three.
“Can you clear it?” Seven asks.
“I don’t understand,” Rice reiterates. “There must be something wrong with the recording or the equipment?”
“So, no.” Inspector Cochran says.
Rice runs it backwards than forwards and back again. He quick-sharpens the image. He adjusts it every way he can to clear the face. “I just don’t understand,” he reiterates. He reaches over to Cochran’s monitor. The filter is done no effect.
“What, what is going on, Sargent?” She asks, puzzled at his responses.
“Look,” he answers, “no matter how I adjust the image, you can see his hair is in perfect focus, but his face is a total blur.”
“I still don’t understand?” Cochran says.
“The only way for only his face to be blurry as if there was a fingerprint on the lens.” Rice explains. “But, if you run the recording back or forward,” he does so for proof, “anytime where his face is not in the image, the area on the recording is in perfect focus.”
Simon is quiet; he furls his brow. Seven asks the same question, “how is that possible?”
“It shouldn’t be.” Sargent Rice answers. I can run the filter again with the most stringent parameters, but it will take all night. He shrugs; his mouth hangs open. “It’s as if, just as the POI turns his face to the camera, someone or something or the computer blocks it out.”