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"Right."

15.

Once upon a time, in the early days of the current administration of District Attorney Clarence Jackman, Gina Roake had been an original member of his "kitchen cabinet," advising him on munic.i.p.al and legal matters while he grew into the position to which-much to his surprise-he'd been appointed. The cabinet remained in its informal existence, meeting almost every Tuesday for lunch at Lou the Greek's for about a year, and during that time, its members found that they had formed strong bonds with one another. Defense attorneys like Roake, her partner Dismas Hardy, and her then-fiance David Freeman somehow managed to find common ground with the likes of Jackman, the city and county's chief prosecutor, and Abe Glitsky, then deputy chief of inspectors of the San Francisco Police Department.

Also among the members of the cabinet was Jeff Elliot, the writer of the Chronicle's popular CityTalk column. Elliot had contracted multiple sclerosis as a young man and over the years had gradually declined to the point where he now only rarely left his wheelchair or his desk in the bas.e.m.e.nt of the Chron's building at Fifth Street and Mission. Bearded, decidedly heavyset, and with thick graying hair grown well over his ears, he was nevertheless as sharp as ever, a repository of pretty much everything that could be known about the city, its residents, or its inst.i.tutions, public or not.

Now, unable to allay her concern about her boyfriend Wyatt Hunt's nonchalance in his att.i.tude toward both his investigation into Como's death and the presence of Len Turner in the mix, Gina Roake was sitting on a hard wooden chair catercorner to Elliot in his tiny cubbyhole of an office.

It was four-thirty on Tuesday afternoon.

"Actually," Elliot was telling her, "if I believed in coincidences, I'd say it was quite a coincidence you happening to come by here today with that question."

"Why is that?"

"Because just today, I . . ." Rummaging around on the surface of his desk, he extracted a sheet of paper from a small pile of them. "Well, here. Troglodyte that I am, I still ask for and get hard- copy galleys. They hate me for it, but what are they going to do? I'm a star. So, anyway, this is tomorrow's column. You might find it somewhat interesting."

CityTalk BY JEFF ELLIOT.

Everyone knows that the murder last Tuesday of community activist Dominic Como has left his flags.h.i.+p Sunset Youth Project ("SYP") in a precarious state. But CityTalk has learned from sources in the city's Health Services Department that its troubles may have begun before Mr. Como's death. The sources, who wished to remain anonymous because the reports they spoke about were not due to become public until later this week, portrayed an organization rife with political intrigue and corruption.

Roake looked up from the page. "Let me guess," she said. "Como and his pals were lining their pockets with grant money."

"d.a.m.n," Elliot said. "You s

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