“Because you had a watch.”

“It was the only timepiece in the room.”

“And you checked it?”

“The second I saw the man race down the corridor.”

Ben paused, drew a breath. “Mr. Taulbert, would you please explain how you could check your wristwatch when your hands were cuffed behind your back?”

All at once the agitated bobbing of his head ceased. His lips froze as if in mid-thought.

“As I recall, you said you couldn’t budge an inch. So how could you possibly look at your watch?”


“Excuse me?”


Ben turned toward the jury box and smiled. “Is the word you’re searching for by any chance oops?”

Ben had almost made it out of the courtroom and into the elevator when Bullock stopped him.

“Well, Kincaid, I guess you’re-”

“Stop right there. I know the drill. You complain because I had the audacity to defend the accused and actually win. I say that every man has a right to a zealous defense. You say that doesn’t mean I have to put crooks back on the street. I point out that my client was working for a good cause and should never have been charged, since the only real evidence against him was unreliable, as you probably knew from the start. Eventually we start shouting and calling each other names till the bailiffs drag one or both of us out of the courthouse. Neither of us convinces the other of anything. So why don’t we just skip it this time, okay?”

Bullock pursed his lips together. “Think you’re pretty smart, don’t you?”

Ben rolled his eyes. “Smart enough to avoid this conversation.” He stepped around Bullock and punched the Down button for the elevator.

Bullock didn’t disappear. “You made a mistake in there today, Kincaid. You set a dangerous man free.”

“Dangerous? He’s an animal lover, for Pete’s sake. He protects chimpanzees! He’s harmless.”

“You’re wrong. I looked deep into the man’s eyes. And I didn’t like what I saw.”

“That’s ridiculous.”

The bell rang and the elevator doors opened. Ben started to step inside, but Bullock grabbed his arm. “Remember this, Kincaid. If that man kills again-and I think he will-it’ll be on your head. It’ll be your fault.”

Ben brushed Bullock away. “Stop being so damn melodramatic. You’re just bitter because you can’t stand to lose a case.” He entered the elevator. “The truth is, we’ll probably never hear from the man again.”

The elevator doors closed and Bullock faded, first from Ben’s vision, then from his consciousness. Only years later would Ben learn that, of his last two statements, although the first was certainly true, the last was altogether, absolutely, wrong.

Present Day

Tess O’Connell pushed the thick foliage out of her path, but her hand snagged on a sharp thorn. She yelped, then let go. A tree branch came crashing back into her face, knocking her onto her backside.

Mumbling unrepeatable obscenities under her breath, Tess brushed the dark, dank loam off her pant legs and pushed herself back to her feet. She hated the Great Outdoors. Hated it with a passion. When she found out who volunteered her for this gig deep in the forests of northwest Washington, miles and miles from civilization as she knew it …

She detoured off the path, avoiding the unbreachable thicket of thorns and bramble. She knew there was a clearing somewhere-wasn’t there? It was so dark out here at night, even with a flashlight. Fear began to creep into her brain, making her breathing accelerate and her palms sweat. What if she never found the way out? What if something else found her? She had heard that grizzlies liked to roam at night.

She tried to put all those what-ifs out of her head. First things first: she needed to find the clearing. She couldn’t see where she was going and she was constantly bumping into things that were dirty, squishy, or alive. Her clothes were a mess, and her hair was a disaster. And she itched almost everywhere there was to itch. She had inadvertently stepped into a nest of seed ticks the day before, and she still hadn’t managed to scrape all those tiny black crawling dots off her skin. And trees were everywhere-densely packed huge trees, everywhere she looked. All day long she’d heard the sound of high-powered machinery clear-cutting trees at a breathtaking rate. So why was it she couldn’t see anything but trees?

She should’ve known better than to come out here at night. On a good day, she was-how to say it? — geographically challenged. And this wasn’t a good day. And she had no experience with woods or wildlife or whatever it was that kept making that creepy ooh-ooh noise. Even as a girl, she had never gone in for Girl Scouts or camp-outs or any of that living-off-the-land rot. So why was she stuck out here, lugging two cameras around the Crescent National Forest, all by herself?

Granted it had been a lousy year for the National Whisper. Their circulation figures had been dead last of all supermarket tabloids, and being the lowest of the tabloids was pretty low indeed. Tess had watched the rag sink lower and lower in its increasingly desperate attempts to pump up sales. The paper had gone from covers featuring movie stars and royalty to alien abductions and two-headed babies.

And as the paper goes, so go its reporters. Tess had sunk from stalking celebrities to unearthing freaks, misfits, and mutants.

And then there was Sasquatch. Honestly, did anyone still believe there was some big hairy ape wandering around the timberline? Surely that one had died out with the Loch Ness Monster and the human face on the moon. But there had been a flurry of Sasquatch spottings in this forest during the past month. And no story was too stupid for the National Whisper, right? So here she was-desperately seeking Sasquatch.

She’d been here for three days, and so far all shed managed to discover was sunburn, mosquito bites, and poison ivy. And seed ticks. She constantly wanted to scratch, including some places you couldn’t scratch in polite society. But she hadn’t given up. Every day at sunup, she had stumbled out of her motel room and plunged back into the forest, tracing and retracing the paths from which campers had made their sightings. It seemed like a futile, foolish quest, but by God, if there was a Sasquatch, Tess was going to be the one who found him.

After three days, she was about ready to give up. She had pored over her files, looking for something to give her an edge, something she had missed before. It was the third time through before she picked up on it-all the sightings had occurred at night. Could it be Sasquatch was a nocturnal beast? More related to the owl than the ape? Or could it be a survival instinct? She had read that grizzly bears now mostly traveled at night-to avoid humans. It was a classic example of natural selection; those that learned to move at night survived, while those that didn’t- didn’t. Could Bigfoot have evolved the same way? Even if it was a long shot, it merited a nighttime excursion. She just wished nighttime in the forest wasn’t so incredibly … dark.

Up ahead, she detected a break in the brush. A few steps closer and she could see moonlight streaming through the tree branches. A few more steps and she was out of the woods.

It was almost as if she had stepped onto a foreign planet. Where before the path had been so thick with green she could barely move, the tableau now before her was so barren a stranger might wonder if anything had ever grown here or ever could again. Only when Tess lowered her eyes did she see the telltale signs of former life- low-cut stumps dotting the ground, the last remnants of thousands and thousands of trees.

Her eyes were diverted by faint traces of life, down the slope about five hundred feet or so. She saw a large tree cutter, one just like the dozens she had seen since she came to the forest. And beside the tree cutter, she saw two silhouetted figures. One was much larger than the other. Both were moving slightly; one had his arms raised above his head.

Tess strained her eyes, trying to see more clearly. Were they talking or arguing or what?

She started moving down the steep incline. She had to move carefully, one cautious step at a time. The ground was covered with branches and debris, and there was nothing to hold for support.

The larger of the two figures turned sideways as she approached; its profile was backlit by the moon. The silhouette was massive and irregular, wild and hairy-


Tess moved faster down the incline, still watching the spectacle below. She could hear a voice now, loud and

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