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After Einstein had read Frog and Toad All Year, Nora closed the book and said, “All right. Now, answer yes or no to these questions.”

They were in the kitchen, where Travis was making a cheese-and-potato casserole for dinner. Nora and Einstein were sitting on chairs at the kitchen table. Travis paused in his cooking to watch the dog take the quiz.

Nora said, “First-when Frog came to see Toad on a winter's day, Toad was in bed and did not want to come outside. Is that right?”

Einstein had to sidle around on his chair to free his tail and wag it. Yes.

Nora said, “But finally Frog got Toad outside, and they went ice-skating.”

One bark. No.

“They went sledding,” she said.


“Very good. Later that same year, at Christmas, Frog gave Toad a gift. Was it a sweater?”


“A new sled?”


“A clock for his mantel?”

Yes, yes, yes.

“Excellent!” Nora said. “Now what shall we read next? How about this One. Fantastic Mr. Fox.”

Einstein wagged his tail vigorously.

Travis would have enjoyed taking a more active role in the dog's education, but he could see that working intensely with Einstein was having an enormously beneficial effect on Nora, and he did not want to interfere. Indeed, he sometimes played the curmudgeon, questioning the value of teaching the pooch to read, making wisecracks about the pace of the dog's progress or its taste in reading matter. This mild naysaying was just enough to redouble Nora's determination to stick with the lessons, to spend even more time with the dog, and to prove Travis wrong. Einstein never reacted to those negative remarks, and Travis suspected the dog exhibited forbearance because he understood the little game of reverse psychology in which Travis was engaged.

Exactly why Nora's teaching chores made her blossom was not clear. Perhaps it was because she had never interacted with anyone-not even with Travis or with her Aunt Violet-as intensely as she had with the dog, and the mere process of extensive communication encouraged her to come farther out of her shell. Or perhaps giving the gift of literacy to the dog was extremely satisfying to her. She was by nature a giving person who took pleasure in sharing with others, yet she had spent all of her life as a recluse without a single previous opportunity to express that side of her personality. Now she had a chance to give of herself, and she was generous with her time and energy, and in her own generosity she found joy.

Travis also suspected that, through her relationship with the retriever, she was expressing a natural talent for mothering. Her great patience was that of a good mother dealing with a child, and she often spoke to Einstein so tenderly and affectionately that she sounded as if she were addressing her own much-loved offspring.

Whatever the reason, Nora became more relaxed and outgoing as she worked with Einstein. Gradually forsaking her shapeless dark dresses for summery white cotton slacks, colorful blouses, jeans and T-shirts, she seemed to grow ten years younger. She had her glorious dark hair redone at the beauty salon and did not brush out all the styling this time. She laughed more often and more engagingly. In conversation, she met Travis's eyes and seldom looked shyly away from him, as she had done previously. She was quicker to touch him, too, and to put an arm around his waist. She liked to be hugged, and they kissed with ease now, although their kissing remained, for the most part, that of uncertain teenagers in the early stages of courting.

On July 14, Nora received news that lifted her spirits even higher. The Santa Barbara District Attorney's Office called to tell her that it was not going to be necessary for her to appear in court to testify against Arthur Streck. In light of his previous criminal record, Streck had changed his mind about pursuing a plea of innocence and waging a defense against charges of attempted rape, assault, and breaking and entering. He had instructed his attorney to plea-bargain with the D.A. As a result, they dropped all charges except assault, and Streck accepted a prison sentence of three years, with a provision that he serve at least two years before being eligible for parole. Nora had dreaded the trial. Suddenly she was free, and in celebration she got slightly tipsy for the first time in her life.

That same day, when Travis brought home a new stack of reading material, Einstein discovered there were Mickey Mouse picture books for children and comic books, and the dog was as jubilant about that discovery as Nora was about the resolution of the charges against Arthur Streck. His fascination with Mickey and Donald Duck and the rest of the Disney gang remained a mystery, but it was undeniable. Einstein couldn't stop wagging his tail, and he slobbered all over Travis in gratitude.

Everything would have been rosy if, in the middle of the night, Einstein had stopped going through the house from window to window, looking out at the darkness with obvious fear.


By Thursday morning, July 15, almost six weeks after the murders at Bordeaux Ridge, two months after the dog and The Outsider had escaped from Banodyne, Lemuel Johnson sat alone in his office on an upper floor of the federal building in Santa Ana, the county seat of Orange County. He stared out the window at the pollutant-rich haze that was trapped under an inversion layer, blanketing the western half of the county and adding to the misery of hundred-degree heat. The bile-yellow day matched his sour mood.

His duties were not limited to the search for the lab escapees, but that case constantly worried him when he was doing other work. He was unable to put the Banodyne affair out of mind even to sleep, and lately he was averaging only four or five hours of rest a night. He could not tolerate failure.

No, in truth, his attitude was much stronger than that: he was obsessed with avoiding failure. His father, having started life dirt-poor and having built a successful business, had inculcated in Lem an almost religious belief in the need to achieve, to succeed, and to fulfill all of one's goals. No matter how much success you had, his dad often said, life could pull the rug right out from under you if you weren't diligent. “It's even worse for a black man, Lem. With a black man, success is like a tightrope over the Grand Canyon. He's up there real high, and it's sweet, but when he makes a mistake, when he fails, it's a mile-long drop into an abyss. An abyss. Because failure means being poor. And in a lot of people's eyes, even in this enlightened age, a poor miserable failed black man is no man at all, he's just a nigger.” That Was the only time his father ever used the hated word. Lem had grown up With the conviction that any success he achieved was merely a precarious toehold on the cliff of life, that he was always in danger of being blown off that cliff by the winds of adversity, and that he dared not relent in his determination to cling fast and to climb to a wider, safer ledge.

He wasn't sleeping well, and his appetite was no good. When he did eat, the meal was inevitably followed by severe acid indigestion. His bridge game had gone to hell because he could not concentrate on the cards; at their weekly get-togethers with Walt and Audrey Gaines, the Johnsons were taking a beating.

He knew why he was obsessed with closing every case successfully, but that knowledge was of no help in modifying his obsession.

We are what we are, he thought, and maybe the only time we can change what we are is when life throws us such a surprise that it's like hitting a plate-glass window with a baseball bat, shattering the grip of the past.

So he stared out at the blazing July day and brooded, worried.

Back in May, he had surmised that the retriever might have been picked up by someone and given a home. It was, after all, a handsome animal, and if it revealed even a small fraction of its intelligence to anyone, its appeal would be irresistible; it would find sanctuary. Therefore, Lem figured locating the dog would be harder than tracking down The Outsider. A week to locate The Outsider, he had thought, and perhaps a month to lay hands on the retriever.

He had issued bulletins to every animal pound and veterinarian in California, Nevada, and Arizona, urgently requesting assistance in locating the golden retriever. The flyer claimed that the animal had escaped from a medical research lab that was conducting an important cancer experiment. The loss of the dog, the bulletin claimed, would mean the loss of a million dollars of research money and countless hours of researchers' time-and might seriously impede the development of a cure for certain malignancies. The flyer included a photograph of the dog and the information that, on the inside of its left ear, it bore a lab tattoo: the number 33-9. The letter accompanying the flyer requested not only cooperation but confidentiality. The mailing had been repeated every seven days since the breakout at Banodyne, and a score of NSA agents had been doing nothing but phoning animal pounds and vets in the three states to be certain they remembered the flyer and continued to keep a lookout for a retriever with a tattoo.

Meanwhile, the urgent search for The Outsider could, with some confidence, be confined to undeveloped territories because it would be reluctant to show itself. And there was no chance that someone would think it was cute enough to take home. Besides, The Outsider had been leaving a trail of death that could be followed.

Subsequent to the murders at Bordeaux Ridge east of Yorba Linda, the creature had fled into the unpopulated Chino Hills. From there it had gone north, crossing into the eastern end of Los Angeles County, where its presence was next pinpointed, on June 9, on the outskirts of semirural Diamond Bar. The Los Angeles County Animal Control Authority had received numerous- and hysterical-reports from Diamond Bar residents regarding wild-animal attacks on domestic pets. Others called the police, believing the slaughter was the work of a deranged man. In two nights, more than a score of Diamond Bar's domestic animals had been torn to pieces, and the condition of the carcasses left no doubt in Lem's mind that the perpetrator was The Outsider.

Then the trail went ice-cold for more than a week, until the morning of June 18, when two young campers at the foot of Johnstone Peak, on the southern flank of the vast Angeles National Forest, reported seeing something they insisted was “from another world.” They had locked themselves in their van, but the creature had tried repeatedly to get in at them, going so far as to smash a side window with a rock. Fortunately, the pair kept a .32 pistol in the van, and one of them opened fire on their assailant, driving it off. The press treated the campers as a couple of kooks, and on the evening news the happy-talk anchorpersons got a lot of mileage out of the story.

Lem believed the young couple. On a map, he traced the thinly populated corridor of land by which The Outsider could have gone from Diamond Bar to the area below Johnstone Peak: over the San Jose Hills, through Bonelli Regional Park, between San Dimas and Glendora, then into the wilds. It would have had to cross or go under three freeways that cut through the area, but if it had traveled in the deep of night, when there was little or no traffic, it could have passed unseen. He shifted the hundred men from Marine Intelligence into that portion of the forest, where they continued their search in civilian dress, in groups of three and four.

He hoped the campers had hit The Outsider with at least one shot. But no blood was found at their campsite.

He was beginning to worry that The Outsider might evade capture for a long time. Lying north of the city of Los Angeles, the Angeles National Forest was discouragingly immense.

“Nearly as large as the entire state of Delaware,” Cliff Soames said after he had measured the area on the wall map pinned to the bulletin board in Lem's office and had calculated the square miles. Cliff had come from Delaware. He was relatively new to the West and still had a newcomer's amazement at the gigantic scale of everything at this end of the continent. He was also young, with the enthusiasm of youth, and he was almost dangerously optimistic. Cliff's upbringing had been radically different from Lem's, and he did not feel himself to be on a tightrope or at risk of having his life destroyed by just one error, by a single failure. Sometimes Lem envied him.

Lem stared at Cliff's scribbled calculations. “If it takes refuge in the San Gabriel Mountains, feeding on wildlife and content with solitude, venturing out only rarely to vent its rage on the people living along the periphery of the preserve . . . it might never be found.”

“But remember,” Cliff said, “it hates the dog more than it hates men. It wants the dog and has the ability to find it.”

“So we think.”

“And could it really tolerate a wild existence? I mean, yeah, it's part savage, but it's also smart. Maybe too smart to be content with a hardscrabble life in that rugged country.”

“Maybe,” Lem said.

“They'll spot it soon, or it'll do something to give us another fix on it,” Cliff predicted.

That was June 18.

When they found no trace of The Outsider during the next ten days, the expense of keeping a hundred men in the field grew insupportable. On June 29, Lem finally had to relinquish the Marines that had been put at his disposal and send them back to their bases.

Day by day, Cliff was heartened by the lack of developments and was willing to believe that The Outsider had suffered a mishap, that it was dead, that they would never hear of it again.

Day by day, Lem sank deeper into gloom, certain that he had lost control of the situation and that The Outsider would reappear in a most dramatic fashion, making its existence known to the public. Failure.

The only bright spot was that the beast was now in Los Angeles County, out of Walt Gaines's jurisdiction. If there were additional victims, Walt might not even learn of them and would not have to be persuaded, all over again, to remain out of the case.

By Thursday, July 15, exactly two months after the breakout at Banodyne, almost one month after the campers had been terrorized by a supposed extraterrestrial or smaller cousin of Bigfoot, Lem was convinced he would soon have to consider alternate careers. No one had blamed him for the way things had gone. The heat was on him to deliver, but it was no worse than the heat he had felt on other big investigations. Actually, some of his superiors viewed the lack of developments in the same favorable light as did Cliff Soames. But in his most pessimistic moments, Lem envisioned himself employed as a uniformed security guard working the night shift in a warehouse, demoted to the status of a make-believe cop with a rinky-dink badge.

Sitting in his office chair, facing the window, staring grimly at the hazy yellow air of the blazing summer day, he said aloud, “Damn it, I've been trained to deal with human criminals. How the hell can I be expected to outthink a fugitive from a nightmare?”

A knock sounded at his door, and as he swiveled around in his chair, the door opened. Cliff Soames entered in a rush, looking both excited and distraught. “The Outsider,” he said. “We've got a new fix on it . . . but two people are dead.”

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