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THE BEAST IN THE MACHINE


It occurs to Claire Denali that you meet a lot of different kinds of people in the security business. A few of them are saints; more than a few of them are some species of sinner. Most lie somewhere in between those two descriptions, and a ragged handful on the edges are genuinely nuts. But she’s pretty sure that none of her colleagues has ever met Bigfoot.

So Claire thinks as she opens the door to the inner office of the Chief Executive’s suite at Coerdian West, the world-famous high-security hotel. She glances at her boss, Elwood Miyamoto, and introduces him to a pasty-faced man with chipmunk cheeks and chubby knees, who is wearing cargo pants that fit him too tightly around the thighs and an olive drab all-weather microfiber shirt with pockets all over the front.

He’s not Bigfoot, but he claims to know it personally. His name is Simon Larch, and he calls himself a cryptozoologist. Claire recognizes him from various video programs that feature him going to different corners of the world searching for legendary fauna. To be honest, Claire never remembers very much about what he says in his shows because she’s always distracted by the basilisk gaze that comes over him when he talks about these supposedly real creatures, and by his tight, reedy voice, which makes him sound like a British public school boy laced with amphetamine.

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