Chapter 14

Early the next morning, Sara hobbled down the CBS corridor and pushed open the door to Donald Parker's office without knocking.

"You bastard."

Donald looked up from his desk. If he had been surprised by her outburst, his face did not show it.

"I've been expecting you."

"You lied to me."

"Sara- " "You said you would leave Bradley Jenkinsout of your report."

"Sara, I'm sorry but I just couldn't do it."

"Why not?" "Because I'm a reporter," Parker said.

"I was assigned to cover the story, the full story "

"Spare me the speech."

"Hold on a minute, Sara. You were biased on this one. Your judgment was clouded."

"What are you talking about?"

Parker adjusted his tie.

"It's simple. You don't leave out a vital aspect of a story to protect a friend."

"But I explained " "You explained what? That your friend, this Harvey Riker, lied to government officials? That he falsified reports?"

"He didn't falsify anything. He allowed Bradley Jenkins the right to confidentiality."

"Oh come, Sara, you didn't really expect me to give up the Gay Slasher story, did you? If I left Jenkins out of the report, what was the connection between the Gay Slasher's victims? The whole idea was that they all came from Hiker's clinic. I couldn't just skip over Bradley Jenkins, now could I?"

Sara leaned against her cane.

"You don't realize the consequences."

"Worrying about the consequences is not our job. You know that. We report the news and let the pieces fall where they may.

We cannot choose to suppress important facts in order to achieve our personal goals. Reverse our roles for a minute. If you were doing a story and I came to you and asked you to leave out a vital part of the story in order to protect a friend of mine a friend who tampered with government documents would you?"

"I didn't ask you to protect a friend. I asked you to protect the clinic. Don't you see? Your report could close them down."

He shook his head.

"No way. After the show last night, the public would never allow it.

The researchers at the clinic are overnight heroes. All of America is talking about them." "You still should have told me."

"Maybe I should have," he allowed, "but I didn't think there was time."

He crossed the room and stood in front of her.

"I'm sorry about your husband. He must be a very brave man to go public with something like this."

She nodded and turned to go.

"Thank you, Donald," she said curtly.

"I apologize for barging in."

Dr. Harvey Riker tried to read the report at his desk, but it was pointless. After watching the Newsflash report last night, i Si sleep had kept a safe distance away from him. Now that the evening had given way to sunrise, his mind still churned with the same questions and doubts. Had he made a grave mistake in allowing the report to be aired? It had seemed like the perfect idea, the perfect way to keep the clinic going strong, but he had forgotten to add in the Bradley Jenkins factor, a factor which could very well destroy the clinic.

What was going to happen now?

The intercom on his desk buzzed.


"Dr. Raymond Markey is here to see you."

Harvey felt something twist in his abdomen.

"He's here? In the clinic?"

"Yes, Doctor."

Oh God, oh God..."Show him in."

Harvey sat back and began to gulp down large quantities of air. He waited, staring at the second hand of the clock above his door. It moved like it was being weighed down no sweep, just a grudging crawl.

Markey already knew. The son of a bitch knew about Jenkins before the show. But how?

"Dr. Riker?"

Harvey put on a smile that was way too broad.

"Dr. Markey, come in. What brings you here?"

"You don't know?" Harvey continued to smile, unfazed.

"Should I?"

"We need to talk."

Harvey was a touch confused by Markey's tone. He had expected the man to be cool, calm, sure; instead, there was an undeniable strain in his voice. The Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services was dressed in a blue pin-striped suit, black shoes that desperately needed a shine, and a solid red tie.

"Have a seat."

"Thank you." Markey fell heavily into the chair as though overcome by exhaustion.

"Some coffee?"

"No." He leaned back and crossed his legs.

"Dr. Riker, let me get to the point. I saw the television report on your clinic last night. I found it very informative... and disturbing."

"Disturbing?" Harvey repeated with the same stupid smile glued to his face. He wondered how much longer he would get away with the dumb act.

Not very, he surmised.

"I reread your findings and confidential reports last night," Markey continued.

"While they are not exactly contradictory to what the show said, they were, shall we say, vague."

"It was not intentional," Harvey tried, his brain scanning fiercely for escape avenues.

"You see, Dr. Markey, I did not want to make any wild claims before I had full documentation to back them up." "But the show said "

"Exactly. The show said I didn't. You know how the press operates. They exaggerate everything out of all proportion."

"Then the TV coverage was not your idea?"

"Absolutely not. The media came to me. They told me they heard about the clinic through a leak." An idea finally broke into view. Harvey seized it.

"They implied, Dr. Markey, that the leak came from Washington. Your offices, in fact."

That's it, Harp, lie like a cheap toupee. Put him on the defensive.

Markey tilted his head toward the ceiling, considering Harvey's accusation. Then he said, "Maybe the leak came from Michael Silverman or Sara Lowell? I understand that they are both good friends of yours."

Harvey shook his head.

"They knew nothing about the clinic until the day before yesterday when we diagnosed Michael as being HIV positive. That reporter from Newsflash Donald Parker knew about it over a week ago."

Markey looked at him doubtfully. He leaned forward.

"Forget that matter for a moment," he said.

"I think it's time we stopped dancing around and got to the heart of the matter."

"You're mixing your metaphors, Harvey wanted to scream. Panic and desperation coursed through him like tiny shards of glass.

"You lied to us, Dr. Riker. Your reports were falsified."


"You know what I'm talking about. You experimented on Bradley Jenkins.

There was no mention of him in any of your reports."

Harvey cleared his throat.

"A patient has a right to confidentiality, Doctor."

"Not in this case he doesn't. There were no studies on him, no lab test results, nothing."

"But- "

"You haven't changed, Riker. You still don't understand that there are rules that must be followed."

"I know all about rules."

"No, I don't think you do. You've always been the same, always looking for the easy way."

"Not the easy way," Harvey corrected, fighting to hold back his growing fear and rage.

"I look for the way with the least amount of bureaucratic bullshit to wade through. I look for the way that will save the most lives quickest." He stopped, not wanting to continue but knowing he was powerless to stop.

"You'd understand that if you were more of a doctor than a pencil pusher

Markey's eyes widened behind his thick spectacles. His whole face became two angry eyes.

"Who do you think you're talking to?"

"Dr. Markey, if you'd just listen "

"Do you understand the seriousness of your actions?" Markey interrupted.

"You could have your grant revoked. The clinic could be shut down and all your findings labeled invalid."

Harvey stared at him, frozen, afraid for a moment to speak or even move. Finally, his lips parted.

"Senator Jenkins forced me to keep Bradley's name out of the reports," Harvey said, grasping at anything to stay afloat.

"If you try to close us down, there will be a scandal like you've never seen before."

"The senator's good name has already been dragged through the mud," Markey replied.

"A little more isn't going to hurt."

"So what are you saying?"

"Simply this. I have a proposal for you."

Harvey looked at him, confused.


"What I am about to offer you is not negotiable. You either take it or we close the clinic. It's your choice."

"I'm listening."

"You have falsified reports which we both know is a very serious issue.

All your findings are tainted. We could disregard them all together... or we could allow you to build upon them."

"I don't understand."

"Michael Silverman is your most recently admitted patient.



"Not much work has been done on him yet?"

"Very little. He's been on SRI for less than 24 hours."

"Good. We are going to watch his progress. I am bringing in my own men to monitor everything that happens with Silverman. They will chart every detail of his treatment. When and if he becomes HIV negative, we'll be able to reexamine your other findings and begin testing "

"It could take years!" "You should have thought of that before you tampered with NIH reports," Markey snapped.

Oh God, oh God, what do I do now? I'm trapped..."I didn't tamper with evidence," Harvey half-shouted.

"I tampered with a goddamn patient list, that's all. One goddamn name."

"The point remains. If you could falsify reports on one thing, you could do it for others."

"But we've already cured six patients."

"Only three of whom are still alive. And how do we know' that your findings on them are not distorted?"

"Test them, for chrissake!" Harvey shouted.

"I'm not going to let you get away with this. I'll do whatever it takes ".

"Simmer down."

"I'll go to the press."

Harvey was sure he saw fear in the man's face, but Markey just smiled at him.

"An unwise move, Dr. Riker. First off, I'll immediately cut off your grant. Then I'll reveal to the world that you falsified reports, that you would not allow us access to your patients, that you have never cured anybody, and anything else I can make up. Our PR men will make you look like some charlatan selling snake oil. You won't be able to get a job cleaning bedpans by the time they're finished with you."

Harvey's mind battled back his mounting panic.

"The facts will prove you're lying," he said.

"Eventually, perhaps if you haven't falsified them. But by the time they do, I'll already have stalled you into the next century."

Harvey stared at him in horror. He knew Markey was semi bluffing that he did not want to be forced into a confrontation, but what he was saying was also true. He could destroy everything. Even if Harvey cleared his name and proved that Markey was lying, it would take months. Years maybe. And in the meantime the money would stop. A cure would be delayed indefinitely.

Raymond Markey stood and moved toward the door.

"My people will be here tomorrow afternoon. Please inform your staff."

Michael came to consciousness slowly. He heard the TV. A man talking.

Sounded like the news. His eyes blinked open.

"Good morning, handsome," Sara said.

He felt groggy. His vision was blurred. He rolled over and kissed Sara, who was lying next to him. There was a book in her hand.

"Good morning, nurse. You better get out of here before my wife gets here."


"What time is it?"

"Almost noon. How do you feel?"

He tried to sit up.

"Like a small animal died in my stomach."

"Yuck. Guess what I have here."


She held the book closer to his face. Michael squinted and read the title out loud. "1000 Names For Your Baby? I already thought of a name."



"And if it's a girl?"

"That is for a girl. So what's happening?"

"Let's see. What do you remember last?"

He thought.

"Eric taking my blood, the little vampire."

"Well, nothing much has happened since then."

Their conversation was interrupted by the television.

"CNN Headline News. Today's major story surrounds the still unnamed AIDS clinic that is treating basketball star Michael Silverman.

Thousands of gay activists marched upon Washington today, demanding that the PDA approve nationwide testing of the little-known drug called SRI. Donations to the financially troubled institution have been pouring in from all over since the Neivsflash story aired last evening.

According to reports, the anonymous AIDS clinic has made amazing strides in its fight to cure the AIDS virus with injections of a new drug called SRI.

With us now is Dr. Eli Samuels from the Mallacy AIDS Center in San Francisco."

The doctor appeared on the screen, his left hand holding an earplug in place. On the bottom of the screen the words

"San Francisco, California" appeared in white.

"Dr. Samuels, what is the reaction of the medical community to last night's Newsflash story?"

"Cautiously intrigued," the doctor replied.

"Could you elaborate for us?"

"Certainly. While the press may want to have a field day by celebrating the discovery of this supposed cure, the medical community has to question the authenticity of the report. This unnamed clinic has released no results yet, no firm findings, has not written a paper for The New England Journal of Medicine or a similar periodical. It's all highly unusual."

"Are you suggesting fraud?"

"I'm not suggesting anything, but I do believe that the media and the medical community would be acting irresponsibly if we accepted these claims as fact without further evidence."

"Thank you, Doctor."

The anchorman spun his chair in order to face forward.

"In a related story, New York Knick basketball superstar Michael Silverman shocked the sports world last night with his announcement that he had contracted the AIDS virus. According to clinic doctors and last night's report on Newsflash, Michael Silverman contracted the virus during a blood transfusion in the Bahamas several years ago after a serious boating accident. There are those, however, who doubt the story and believe that the clinic is trying to cover up Mr. Silverman's true sexual orientation."

Another face came on the screen. Michael's body stiffened.

"It can't be," he uttered.

"Michael, what is it? What's the matter?"

Michael continued to stare at the image on the screen. The face had changed very little in the past twenty years. A little grey around the temples. A little more sag on the jawline and neck.

The overall appearance, however, was radically different. A tailored sports coat. Nice tie. Nice neat haircut. Just your typical, friendly Joe.

The anchorman continued.

"With us now from Lincoln, Nebraska, is Mr. Martin Johnson, the stepfather who raised Michael Silverman. Mr. Johnson, thank you for joining us."

"My pleasure, Chuck."

"Mr. Johnson, what do you think about the reports that your stepson contracted AIDS through a blood transfusion?"

Martin Johnson shrugged.

"Might be. I would never want to speak ill of the boy, but..."


"Well, it seems to me that there is a far greater likelihood that he got it from one of his boyfriends."

The anchorman was nearly salivating.

"Then Mr. Silverman is gay?"

"Well, I wouldn't want to say that. I'd say he's more like one of those bisexuals. He's had plenty of sex with both men and women.

Started at a young age. But he prefers men, I'm almost sure."

Michael flew up from the bed.

"Turn it off!"

Sara grabbed the remote control and snapped the off button.

The picture turned into a bright dot before fading away.

"You okay?"

He nodded.

"Lying son of a bitch. I haven't seen him since I was ten years old."

Sara flicked the switch on Michael's portable tape deck. Bach gently blew into the room, but it did little to assuage him.

"It's strange," she said.

"Why do you think he'd lie like that?"

"Because he's a psychopath, that's why."

Sara shook her head.

"There has to be more to it."

"What do you mean?"

"I'm not sure exactly. I just have a feeling he wasn't acting on his own." "Could be," Michael said.

"So what do we do now?"

"Well have to work some damage control, come up with a counteroffensive, prove the slimeball was lying." "No matter what we do," Michael said, "some people are going to believe him."

"Yes, some people are going to believe him."

Michael shook his head.

"After all these years, after all this time, seeing his face again..."

On the other side of the country Jennifer Riker began to shake.

She could not believe what she was seeing on the television screen.

Like something out of a cheap horror movie, Marty Johnson had risen again. She had hoped to shut away the memory of his evil smirk forever, but now it was back, dragging painful images that would not go away into plain sight the bruises on little Michael's body, the black eyes, the concussions, the hospital stays, the absolute terror on the boy's face.

The sick bastard was back.

Jennifer let her anger fester, mount, become obsessive. She concentrated on it, encouraged it, and hoped that it would block out the more painful fact.

Michael has AIDS.

She shook her head. That poor kid. How many times had she said that about Michael? Thousands. Despite being born with looks, intelligence, and enough talent for ten people, bad luck had still tagged along after Michael like a faithful dog.

Jennifer glanced down at the coffee table. For the millionth time she read the name Susan on the envelope and wondered what to do. Last night she had considered trying to reach Susan but had decided it was foolish. Bruce was dead. Whatever he had written in the note would not change that fact. What was the rush? When Susan came back the note would still be here.

But now Jennifer was not so sure about her decision.

Something bothersome gnawed at the back of her brain. Brace's suicide, the mysterious package mailed to an unused California post office box, the murders, the SRI cure, the cryptic writing on the envelope:


And now Michael.

Her sadness at all this bad news had now transformed itself into something more, something deeper. Though she could not say specifically why, she felt frightened. No, more than that.

Petrified. She chastised herself for being paranoid, for seeing conspiracy in everything. But she could not shake the feeling.

Something was very wrong here, and it had something to do with Brace's medical files and that note to Susan.

Jennifer sat back, her head reeling in a rising spiral of uncertainty.

Harvey picked up his private line.


"Please forgive me, you great big hunk. I want to be your love slave."

He closed his eyes and rubbed them.

"Cassandra, this really isn't the time."

Nervous pause.

"I'm... I'm sorry. I'll call back later."

"Please don't."

"I said I'm sorry. I can't take back "

"It's not that," he interrupted.

"I just don't have the time to get involved with someone right now."

"I blew it, huh?"

"No. It should have never happened in the first place." "But it felt so right. You said so yourself."


"I was scared, Harv. And when I'm scared, I get stupid. I do dumb things. I... I have a tendency to destroy whatever I care about before it dies on me, you know?" "I understand," he said. He stopped, took a deep breath, and then continued.

"Why don't we just take it slow, okay? Go one step at a time."

"You mean it?" He half-smiled.


"Why the change of heart?"

"I remembered something Sara once said about you."

"My sister?" "She said you had a heart as big as all outdoors despite what you think of yourself."


"Sara said that?" she asked incredulously.

"About me?"

"Yes. I think she wishes you two were closer."

"I think I'm falling in love with you, Harvey."

He let a small chuckle pass his lips.

"Like we just agreed, let's take it slow."

"I'd like that."

"Good- bye, Cassandra."

"Good- bye, Harvey."

George picked up the telephone.

"Good afternoon," he said.

"Good afternoon."

! i

"I've been waiting for your call," George said.

"I know. I'm sorry."

"And I've been waiting for the rest of the money you owe me."


"I know that, George. I'll have it for you soon. I promise."

"Plus ten grand."

"For what?"

"Late fee. An extra ten grand a week."

His employer let loose a long sigh.

"Okay. An extra ten thousand dollars." "Tine then," George said.

"Do you have another job for me?"

"Yes. But this one is going to be very different and more than a little tricky."

"Go on."

"Did you see Newsflash last night by any chance?" the voice asked.

"Of course."

"Then you'll appreciate how difficult this job is going to be."

"That's my problem," George said.

"You just worry about paying me."


"When do you want the job done?" George asked.


"That doesn't give me much time."

"This situation has changed now," his employer said.

"It has to be tonight."

"Okay, but it'll cost you."

"101 pay it. I swear." George sighed.

"So who is tonight's lucky faggot?"

From the other end of the phone, George heard a throat being cleared.

"Michael Silverman."