his lab assistant didn’t prove he was lying about seeing Zakin.

“Mr. Taulbert, do you know what I find most unusual about your testimony?”

“I’m sure I don’t know,” he answered, folding his arms across his chest.

“What I find most unusual is your behavior.”

“My behavior? I was exactly where I was supposed to be. Your man was the one who trespassed and killed-”

Ben cut him off at the pass. “Imagine this situation with me. It’s late at night. You and your female assistant are … relieving one another’s stress. Suddenly a man you don’t know races by your office window-and you don’t do anything.”

“I reported the incident to the police-”

“By phone, yes, about five minutes later, when it was far too late to do Dr. Dodd any good.”

“I moved as quickly as I could.”

“Five minutes later? Why didn’t you chase after the intruder immediately?”

Taulbert’s left eye twitched. “What?”

“The man you saw in the window was an intruder, right?”


“He wasn’t supposed to be there.”


“You had tons of valuable equipment on the premises.”

“That’s true.”

“You had ongoing experiments that could easily be ruined.”

“And they were. Your client-”

“So why didn’t you run after him?”

“I–I don’t see-”

“Well, if I saw an intruder in my lab late at night, and I knew he could destroy months of work without even trying hard, I’d run after him. I think most people would.” Ben was relieved to see several heads in the jury box nodding in agreement. “So why didn’t you?”

“I–I guess I didn’t think of it.”

“Didn’t think of it?” Ben couldn’t have shown much more disbelief if the man had claimed he’d been beamed up to Saturn. “Are you the absentminded professor or the nutty professor?”

Prosecutor Bullock jumped to his feet. “Your honor-”

“I’m sorry,” Ben said quickly. “I’ll withdraw that. Mr. Taulbert, why didn’t you run after this alleged intruder?”

“It-it could have been dangerous.”

“So you’re saying you were too scared to step out into the hallway?”

Taulbert pressed a hand against his forehead. “All right, to tell you the truth-I couldn’t move.”

Ben tucked in his chin. “You were paralyzed with fear?”

“No.” Taulbert’s eyes drifted downward. “I was handcuffed.”

Ben closed his eyes with sweet, sweet joy. Some days you get the bear …

“Excuse me, sir. Did you say handcuffed?”

“Oh, you know perfectly well I did.” Taulbert’s head twitched, rather like a dead frog receiving electroshock therapy. “There’s nothing wrong with it. We’re both consenting adults.”

Ben spoke slowly, making sure everyone absorbed all the details. “We being-you and your assistant. Ms. Prescott.”

“That’s correct.”

“The handcuffs were part of your … stress-reduction technique?”

“That’s one way of putting it.”

“Could you perhaps describe …”

“She cuffed my hands behind my back. I couldn’t budge.”

“And she was facing the opposite direction.”

“We were making love, you pious twit, and she was on top. It’s not against the law, you know.”

“No, of course not.”

“But I couldn’t move. As soon as I saw your client race down the corridor, I told Kelly to uncuff me, but it took her a while to, um, stop what she was doing and find the key. By the time I was free, your client was gone.”

“I see. Thank you for clearing that up.” Ben eagerly turned another page in his trial notebook. It was all downhill from here.

Bullock rose to his feet. “Your honor, are we going to continue prying into this man’s personal life? This is of no interest whatsoever.”

The judge smiled. “If it was of no interest, you wouldn’t be trying to shut it down.”

“It’s all right, your honor,” Ben said. “I’m moving on.” He returned his attention to the witness. “You know, Mr. Taulbert, there’s one detail I haven’t been able to clarify. The local Chesterson police received two 911 phone calls that night, one around two A.M., the other just after three. Unfortunately, they did not yet have Caller ID trace capability, so the operator did not get an automatic record of the calls’ places of origin. The first call was so garbled and incoherent they couldn’t understand it. The second was the one that brought them to your lab.”

“My call would have been the second.”

“I can see where you would want us to think that. The 911 operator reported that the first call was an ‘incoherent blast from a man either frightened out of his wits or totally insane who wasn’t even able to tell us where he was.’ ”

“Clearly that wasn’t me.”

“Ah, but here’s the rub, Mr. Taulbert. I think it was. I think you saw my client around two, when he was still there and Dr. Dodd was still very much alive. I think later, when you read the police report, you changed your testimony so your call would be thought to be the one that brought the police to the scene, not the one from the man ‘either frightened out of his wits or totally insane.’ ”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“I think I do.”

“I have never been incoherent in my entire life, much less totally insane.”

“Well, sometimes in a difficult situation-”

“I am perfectly capable of handling a difficult situation!”

“Mr. Taulbert, the way I see it, you saw the intruder or intruders and panicked.”

“I most certainly did not. You should be careful what you say, young man. There are laws against libel.”

“Uh-huh. Against perjury, too.”

“I have given you my testimony, and I’m sticking by it.”

“But I still think you made the two o’clock call.”

“Don’t you think I know what time it was when I called?”

“How could you?”

“How could I? I made a note the moment I saw the man in the corridor.”

“Made a note of what?”

“Of the time, of course.”

“But how? I’ve seen pictures of your office. There are no clocks.”

“I didn’t need a clock, you fool. I had a wristwatch.”

“You did?”

“Of course I did. Every lab clinician does.”

“Where was it?”

“On my wrist, you nincompoop. Hence the name.”

“You’re sure about this?”

“Absolutely positive.”

“And that’s how you know when you saw my client.”

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