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Raising its head again, speaking in that same scratchy voice but with cold, insane glee, it said, “Kill dog, kill dog, kill dog,” and it made a sound that might have been laughter.

He almost shot it to pieces. But before he could pull the trigger, The Outsider's laughter gave way to what seemed to be sobbing. Travis watched,' mesmerized.

Fixing Travis with its lantern eyes, it again said, “Kill dog, kill dog, kill dog,” but this time it seemed racked with grief, as if it grasped the magnitude of the crime that it had been genetically compelled to commit.

It looked at the cartoon of Mickey Mouse on the cassette holder.

Finally, pleadingly, it said, “Kill me.”

Travis did not know if he was acting more out of rage or out of pity when he squeezed the trigger and emptied the Uzi's magazine into The Outsider. What man had begun, man now ended.

When he was done, he felt drained.

He dropped the carbine and walked outside. He could not find the strength to return to the house. He sat down on the lawn, huddled in the rain, and wept.

He was still weeping when Jim Keene drove up the muddy lane from the Coast Highway.



On Thursday afternoon, January 13, Lem Johnson left Cliff Soames and three other men at the foot of the dirt lane, where it met the Pacific Coast Highway. Their instructions were to allow no one past them but to remain on station until-and if-Lem called for them.

Cliff Soames seemed to think this was a strange way to handle things, but he did not voice his objections.

Lem explained that, since Travis Cornell was an ex-Delta man with considerable combat skills, he ought to be handled with care. “If we go storming in there, he'll know who we are as soon as he sees us coming, and he might react violently. If I go in alone, I'll be able to get him to talk to me, and maybe I can persuade him to just give it up.”

That was a flimsy explanation for his unorthodox procedure, and it did not wipe the frown off Cliff's face.

Lem didn't care about Cliff's frown. He went in alone, driving one of the sedans, and parked in front of the bleached-wood house.

Birds were singing in the trees. Winter had temporarily relaxed its hold on the northern California coast, and the day was warm.

Lem climbed the steps and knocked on the front door.

Travis Cornell answered the knock and stared at him through the screen door before saying, “Mr. Johnson, I suppose.”

“How did you. . . oh yes, of course, Garrison Dilworth would have told you about me that night he got his call through.”

To Lem's surprise, Cornell opened the screen door. “You might as well come in.”

Cornell was wearing a sleeveless T-shirt, apparently because of a sizable bandage encasing most of his right shoulder. He led Lem through the front room and into a kitchen, where his wife sat at the table, peeling apples for a pie.

“Mr. Johnson,” she said.

Lem smiled and said, “I'm widely known, I see.”

Cornell sat at the table and lifted a cup of coffee. He offered no coffee to Lem.

Standing awkwardly for a moment, Lem eventually sat with them. He said, “Welt, it was inevitable, you know. We had to catch up with you sooner or later.”

She peeled apples and said nothing. Her husband stared into his coffee.

What's wrong with them? Lem wondered.

This was not remotely like any scenario he had imagined. He was prepared for panic, anger, despondency, and many other things, but not for this strange apathy. They did not seem to care that he had at last tracked them down.

He said, “Aren't you interested in how we located you?”

The woman shook her head.

Cornell said, “If you really want to tell us, go ahead and have your fun.”

Frowning, puzzled, Lem said, "Well, it was simple. We knew that Mr. Dilworth had to've called you from some house or business within a few blocks of that park north of the harbor. So we tied our own computers into the telephone company's records-with their permission, of course-and put men to work examining all the long-distance calls charged to all the numbers within three blocks of that park, on that one night. Nothing led us to you. But then we realized that, when charges are reversed, the call isn't billed to the number from which the call is placed; it appears on the records of the person who accepts the reversed charges-which was you. But it also appears in a special phone-company file so they'll be able to document the call if the person who accepted the charges later refuses to pay.

We went through that special file, which is very small, and quickly found a call placed from a house along the coast, just north of the beach park, to your number here. When we went around to talk to the people there-the Essenby family-we focused on their son, a teenager named Tommy, and although it took some time, we ascertained that it had, indeed, been Dilworth who used their phone. The first part was terribly time-consuming, weeks and weeks, but after that . . . child's play."

“Do you want a medal or what?” Cornell asked.

The woman picked up another apple, quartered it, and began to strip off the peel.

They were not making this easy for him-but then his intentions were much different from what they would be expecting. They could not be criticized for being cool toward him when they did not yet know that he had come as a friend.

He said, “Listen, I've left my men at the end of the lane. Told them you might panic, do something stupid, if you saw us coming in a group. But why I really came alone was . . . to make you an offer.”

They both met his eyes at last, with interest.

He said, “I'm getting out of this goddamn job by spring. Why I'm getting Out . . . you don't have to know or care. Just say that I've gone through a sea change. Learned to deal with failure, and now it doesn't scare me any more.” He sighed and shrugged. “Anyway, the dog doesn't belong in a cage. I don't give a good goddamn what they say, what they want-I know what's right. I know what it's like being in a cage. I've been in one most of my life, Until recently. The dog shouldn't have to go back to that. What I'm going to Suggest is that you get him out of here now, Mr. Cornell, take him off through the woods, let him somewhere that he'll be safe, then come back and face the music. Say that the dog ran off a couple of months ago, in some other place, and you think he must be dead by now, or in the hands of people who're taking good care of him. There'll still be the problem of The Outsider, which you must know about, but you and I can work up a way to deal with that when it comes. I'll put men on a surveillance of you, but after a few weeks I'll pull them, say it's a lost cause-”

Cornell stood up and stepped to Lem's chair. With his left hand he grabbed hold of Lem's shirt and hauled him to his feet. “You're sixteen days too late, you son of a bitch.”

“What do you mean?”

“The dog is dead. The Outsider killed him, and I killed The Outsider.”

The woman laid down her paring knife and a piece of apple. She put her face in her hands and sat forward in her chair, shoulders hunched, making soft, sad sounds.

“Ah, Jesus,” Lem said.

Cornell let go of him. Embarrassed, depressed, Lem straightened his tie, smoothed the wrinkles out of his shirt. He looked down at his pants-brushed them off.

“Ah, Jesus,” he repeated.

Cornell was willing to lead them to the place in the forest where he had buried The Outsider.

Lem's men dug it up. The monstrosity was wrapped in plastic, but they didn't have to unwrap it to know that it was Yarbeck's creation.

The weather had been cool since the thing had been killed, but it was getting rank.

Cornell would not tell them where the dog was buried. “He never had much of a chance to live in peace,” Cornell said sullenly. “But, by God, he's going to rest in peace now. No one's going to put him on an autopsy table and hack him up. No way.”

“In a case where the national security is at stake, you can be forced-”

“Let them,” Cornell said. “If they haul me up before a judge and try to make me tell them where I buried Einstein, I'll spill the whole story to the press. But if they leave Einstein alone, if they leave me and mine alone, I'll keep my mouth shut. I don't intend to go back to Santa Barbara, to pick up as Travis Cornell. I'm Hyatt now, and that's what I'm going to stay. My old life's gone forever. There's no reason to go back. And if the government's smart, it'll let me be Hyatt and stay out of my way.”

Lem stared at him a long time. Then: “Yeah, if they're smart, I think they'll do just that.”

Later that same day, as Jim Keene was cooking dinner, his phone rang. It was Garrison Dilworth, whom he had never met but had gotten to know during the past week by acting as liaison between the attorney and Travis and Nora. Garrison was calling from a pay phone in Santa Barbara.

“They show up yet?” the attorney asked.

“Early this afternoon,” Jim said. “That Tommy Essenby must be a good kid.”

“Not bad, really. But he didn't come to see me and warn me out of the goodness of his heart. He's in rebellion against authority. When they pressured him into admitting that I made the call from his house that night, he resented them. As inevitably as billy goats ram their heads into board fences, Tommy came straight to me.”

“They took away The Outsider.”

“What about the dog?”

“Travis said he wouldn't show them where the grave was. Made them believe that he'd kick a lot of ass and pull down the whole temple on everyone's heads if they pushed him.”

“How's Nora?” Dilworth asked.

“She won't lose the baby.”

“Thank God. That must be a great comfort.”


Eight months later, on the big Labor Day weekend in September, the Johnson and Gaines families got together for a barbecue at the sheriffs house. They played bridge most of the afternoon. Lem and Karen won more often than they lost, which was unusual these days, because Lem no longer approached the game with the fanatical need to win that had once been his Style.

He had left the NSA in June. Since then, he had been living on the income from the money he had long ago inherited from his father. By next spring, he expected to settle on a new line of work, a small business of some kind, in which he would be his own boss, able to set his own hours.

Late in the afternoon, while their wives made salads in the kitchen, Lem and Walt stood out on the patio, tending to the steaks on the barbecue.

“So you're still known at the Agency as the man who screwed up the Banodyne crisis?”

“That's how I'll be known until time immemorial.”

“Still get a pension though,” Walt said.

“Well, I did put in twenty-three years.”

“Doesn't seem right, though, that a man could screw up the biggest case Of the century and stilt walk away, at forty-six, with a full pension.”

“Three-quarter pension.”

Walt breathed deeply of the fragrant smoke rising off the charring steaks. Still. What is our country coming to? In less liberal times, screwups like you Would have been flogged and put in the stocks, at least." He took another

deep whiff of the steaks and said, “Tell me again about that moment in their kitchen.”

Lem had told it a hundred times, but Walt never got tired of hearing it again. “Well, the place was neat as a pin. Everything gleamed. And both Cornell and his wife are neat about themselves, too. They're well-groomed, well-scrubbed people. So they tell me the dog's been dead two weeks, dead and buried. Cornell throws this angry fit, hauls me out of my chair by my shirt, and glares at me like maybe he's going to rip my head off. When he lets go of me, I straighten my tie, smooth my shirt . . . and I look down at my pants, sort of out of habit, and I notice these golden hairs. Dog hairs. Retriever hairs, sure as hell. Now could it have been that these neat people, especially trying to fill their empty days and take their minds off their tragedy, didn't find the time to clean the house in more than two weeks?”

“Hairs were just all over your pants,” Walt said.

“A hundred hairs.”

“Like the dog had just been sitting there minutes before you came in.”

“Like, if I'd been two minutes sooner, I'd have set right down on the dog himself.”

Walt turned the steaks on the barbecue. “You're a pretty observant man, Lem, which ought to've taken you far in the line of work you were in. I just don't understand how, with all your talents, you managed to screw up the Banodyne case so thoroughly.”

They both laughed, as they always did.

“Just luck, I guess,” Lem said, which was what he always said, and he laughed again.


When James Garrison Hyatt celebrated his third birthday on June 28, his mother was pregnant with his first sibling, who eventually became his sister.

They threw a party at the bleached-wood house on the forested slopes above the Pacific. Because the Hyatts would soon be moving to a new and larger house a bit farther up the coast, they made it a party to remember, not merely a birthday bash but a goodbye to the house that had first sheltered them as a family.

Jim Keene drove in from Carmel with Pooka and Sadie, his two black labs, and his young golden retriever, Leonardo, who was usually called Leo. A few close friends came in from the real-estate office where Sam-“Travis” to everyone-worked in Carmel Highlands, and from the gallery in Cannel where Nora's paintings were exhibited and sold. These friends brought their retrievers, too, all of them second-litter offspring of Einstein and his mate, Minnie.

Only Garrison Dilworth was missing. He had died in his sleep the previous year.

They had a fine day, a grand time, not merely because they were friends and happy to be with one another, but because they shared a secret wonder and joy that would forever bind them into one enormous extended family.

All members of the first litter, which Travis and Nora could not have borne adopting out, and which lived at the bleached-wood house, were also present:

Mickey, Donald, Daisy, Huey, Dewey, Louie.

The dogs had an even better time than the people, frolicking on the lawn, playing hide-and-seek in the woods, and watching videotapes on the TV in the living room.

The canine patriarch participated in some of the games, but he spent much of his time with Travis and Nora and, as usual, stayed close to Minnie. He limped-as he would for the rest of his life-because his right hind leg had been cruelly mangled by The Outsider and would not have been usable at all if his vet had not been so dedicated to the restoration of the limb's function.

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