“Bart, he took my new silver cane. It was a beauty. Expensive, too. I came down to San Francisco to buy a replacement for my old cane, the Manila folder — always folding at the wrong time. Jesus, what’s happened to this town? I was standing on the sidewalk with a bunch of tourists when someone pushed me into the street right in front of a bus. The bus bumper hit my head, and a tire ran over my leg. Before I passed out, I saw this shirtless dirtbag taking my cane. A big ugly snake tattoo ran from his pants up onto his face.”
Bart watched the poor soul stretched out in a San Francisco General Hospital bed, Fred’s ever-present smile obscured by bandages, as was his right leg from ankle to hip. Fred was Bart’s former Berkeley PD training officer, friend, and current Sacramento landlord. A mixture of emotions — pity, concern, and a sudden urge for revenge — troubled Bart.
Revenge? Bart had always tried to be a straight arrow. “Is there someone to talk to about this?”
“Oh, yeah.” Fred pointed. “His card is on the table there. You’ll enjoy talking to him.”
“Okay. I’ll talk to him. When is your surgery?”
“Surgeries. They say soon, after they put screws in the broken bones. They haven’t decided, knee or hip first.”
“Yikes. If they tell me when, I’ll come and take you back to Sacramento. You know there’s plenty of room in the backseat of my limo.”
“Thanks. But Isabel will take care of me.”
“Officer Hartwell, I’m Bart Lasiter, a private investigator, and Fred Clifford’s friend.
You’re handling his case?”
“Yes, he said you’d call.”
“Wait. Hartwell? We worked with a Hartwell in Berkeley.”
“My father. Like you and Fred, he’s left Berkeley, retired now. But I remember stories he told me about you two. Sounded like you all had some fun.”
“That we did. Tell me about Fred’s assault.”
“We know the perp, Snake. A frequent flyer. His real name is Jeremy Kriptoff. Busted many times for drug-related, theft, and assault.”
“Why was he still on the street?”
“Is. Still is. It’s San Francisco. ‘We have to appreciate and ameliorate the struggles of our citizens experiencing homelessness.’ Without three angles of video of him doing the mayor’s dog, they’ll never prosecute. Four solid witnesses saw Snake push Fred into the street in front of the bus. Snake denied it — ‘Geezer slipped’ — and they cut him loose. No prosecution. Nothing for you to investigate.”
“Yikes. Well, thanks anyway.” Bart felt he should do something. Bogie’s Sam Spade said when someone kills your partner, even if . . . Fred wasn’t Bart’s partner, but this was all wrong. He’d think about what to do on the drive back north.
SF Chronicle, July 22, 2021, page C7:
2nd Street Assault
City Outreach Worker Kennedy Banister said she was approaching one of her regular clients, Snake.
“I never knew his real name. They called him Snake because of his tattoo. I’ve been trying to get him off the street and into Project Roomkey, but he’s resisting.”
That’s when she saw a man jump out of an old limo stopped in the middle of the street.
“This man ran up to Snake, kicked him real hard from behind, like he was punting for the 49ers, and took Snake’s silver cane. Then the man drove the limo up the Bay Bridge on-ramp. Snake was on the paramedics’ stretcher moaning when they took him away, I think to SF General. How cruel, taking a man’s cane.”
SFPD had no further information.