Chapter 15

Ll Dr. John Lowell looked across his desk at the plump man. He tried to mask the naked hatred from his face, but he knew that it was pointless. Reverend Sanders could see his expression of loathing; it did not seem to bother him.

"Thank you for seeing me," Sanders began.

"I appreciate you finding the time in your busy schedule."

"We only have an hour," Lowell replied impatiently.

"What do you want?"

Sanders stood and strolled about the spacious study.

"This is really a beautiful room, John," he began, his smile locked on autopilot.

"Every time I'm in here, I feel so... so at home. It's a wonderful study."

"Never mind that. My daughter will be home in a little while."


"I don't want her to see you."

Sanders reached out and picked up the picture frame on John's desk.

"You have such lovely daughters, John. Gentle, beautiful Sara and the uh, sex " he stopped, looked up "the uh, sculpted Cassandra. You are a very fortunate man. You see, John, family is what it is all about. Our country was built on the principle of family values. Now that foundation is beginning to crack and crumble. It is our task, dear John, to repair the cracks and make the foundation as strong as ever."

"What do you want?"

"It's very simple. I want you to continue to help me in our crusade. I want you to stand up and do what is right."

"Will you please stop with the mumbo-jumbo and get to the point?"

Sanders' voice remained unruffled, placid.

"Tell me, John, why did you refuse to come to last night's emergency meeting?"

"Are you out of your mind?"

"No, John, I don't think so."

"You don't want this disease cured, do you?"

Sanders gave an amused smile.

"Tell me, John, would you have wanted to cure the plagues of Egypt?

Would you have tried to help Job, even though God did not want you to?

Would you have told Abraham that God did not really want him to sacrifice Isaac?"

"What the hell are you "

"Would you try to stop God's work, John? Would you try to join Lucifer in obstructing the Lord's plans?"

"Get the hell off your high horse "

"We know that AIDS can be transmitted through bodily fluids," Sanders interrupted, "yet if you dare suggest mandatory testing of your doctor or your dentist, the liberals go crazy. They scream about constitutional rights. Well, John, what about our constitutional rights? What about our rights to remain healthy?

They don't care about us. Why should we care about them?"

John Lowell just stared for a moment.

"You and Markey said they weren't making any progress."

"Yes, I know. It was a surprise to us as well, John. Dr. Riker's reports never showed any hints of what we all heard on your daughter's television show last night. We were as shocked as you were."

John rubbed his forehead. Sanders' calm voice was beginning to unnerve him.

"I would have never gone along with..."

"With what, John?"

"You know what."

Again, Sanders smiled.

"The fact remains, however, that we still have a job to complete. Now it will be tougher than ever.

We need your help, John."

"You're insane. My son-in-law is being treated in that clinic, for God's sake."

Sanders nodded his head solemnly, his expression suddenly grave.

"I'm so sorry for you and your daughter. What an awful way to find out the truth about Michael's, uh" again the dramatic pause "his sexual preference."

John struggled to keep his temper under wraps.

"You saw the report. Michael got the virus from a blood transfusion."

The smile came back.

"Perhaps you are right, John, but it seems awfully suspicious to me. A blood transfusion in the Bahamas? You will have to admit it's rather hard to swallow especially in light of the statements made by Michael's very own father."

"Stepfather," John corrected.

"An ignorant son of a bitch who Michael hasn't seen since his childhood."

"Is that so? How interesting. I wonder why he would lie then."

John said nothing for a moment, and then his eyes narrowed into thin slits.

"You," he whispered.

"Excuse me?"

"You put him up to it, didn't you? You paid Johnson off to say that garbage."

"Me? Why would I do such a thing?"

"To distract the media. To cast a shadow over the clinic's positive press."

"Now hold on a minute, John. It is not very nice to hurl unsubstantiated accusations around like that."

"Get the hell out of my house."

"But there is so much more to discuss, John..."

"Get out." "like your continued participation in our struggle."

He stood.

"Jesus, you are insane. This has gone too far. It has to be stopped now before anyone else gets hurt."

"Regrettably, John, I fear it will continue." He reached into his pocket and pulled out a cassette tape.

"This might help to steer you back on the road of the righteous."

The color drained from Lowell's face, turning his ruddy complexion into something near chalk. He sat back down.


"On the tape? A good question, John. You remember our first meeting in Raymond's office? The one where you said you would do anything to destroy Riker and Grey's clinic so that the Cancer Center could get the finances for its new wing? Do you remember that meeting?"

"You son of a bitch."

The smile grew broader, happier. Power always had that effect on him.

"I wonder what gentle, beautiful Sara would think of her sweet little of' daddy after hearing this tape? Or the press?"

"You'd be taking yourself down too."

"No, I don't think so, John. You see, this tape is edited. Only your voice is on it."

"I'd reveal everything."

"But you'd have no proof, John. And let's face facts. Your accusations would only strengthen my hand with the religious right.

They would see me as a leader who is willing to do more than just talk.

You, on the other hand, would be ruined along with the Cancer Center."

John opened his mouth but ended up saying nothing.

"Yes, John, the Lord cloth move in mysterious ways. Ah, but do not be upset with me. You are doing what is right. You are going to help destroy something that is evil, and in turn, you are going to benefit cancer research. You are truly helping mankind."

"Get out."

"I have a plan that I am sure you will find satisfactory one that will help us all, including your son-in-law. You can find out all about it at our next meeting. Raymond will call you. In the meantime I would advise you to keep all of this to yourself. Loose lips sink ships, you know."

He winked, flashed one last smile, and then headed for the door.

"After all, John, you are one of us."

After he was gone, Lowell just sat there alone in his study.

He stared unseeing at a bookshelf, weighing his options. After five minutes had passed, he stood and went out of the room, closing the door to his study behind him.

After the door closed, the door to a closet swung open.

Cassandra pushed away her father's Burberry coat and stepped out. She was still shuddering.

Lieutenant Max Bernstein headed down the Sidney Pavilion's third floor hallway. He was about to enter the laboratory when he heard Dr. Eric Blake's voice coming from just inside the door:

"Maybe what Markey is suggesting isn't so terrible," Eric said.

There was a small pause. Then Harvey replied, "Don't you see what he is trying to do?"

"Of course I do, but maybe we can twist it into our favor."


"If he keeps his word," Eric continued, "the government will have to finance the clinic for a few more years yet until Michael's prognosis is determined anyway plus we have the new donations coming in on the 800 line. That may give us the time to perfect SRI "

"And delay its implementation by two or three years," Harvey interrupted.

"Markey is trying to make us start all over again."

"Well, it could have been worse. He could have closed us down all together."

Max waited to hear Harvey's response, but when none was forthcoming, he stepped into view.

"Good morning, doctors."

They were both standing over a microscope. Their heads swiveled toward the doorway at the sound of Max's voice.

"Good morning, Lieutenant."

Max's eyes moved about the room.

"Where's your lab chief this morning?"

"Winston O'Connor? He's taken a few days off."

Max nodded vigorously, his fingers twirling a pencil as though it were a baton. He began to circle the lab, picking up and putting down items at random.

"You two look lousy," he said.

"Been a bad day," Harvey replied.

"How so?"

"I received a visit from Ray Markey this morning."

"The guy from Washington?"

"That's right."

"What did he have to say?"

Harvey recounted his conversation with Dr. Raymond Markey.

Max nodded, continuously moving about the lab, his eyes never swerving in the general direction of the speaker. To those who did not know him, he appeared not to be paying attention.

He did, however, stop and examine Eric Blake as though seeing him for the first time. Nice shoes, expensive suit, monogrammed dress shirt, power tie, matching suspenders.

Looked a little stiff. Acted more than a little stiff. Actually, Eric looked more like a Wall Street wheeler-dealer than an altruistic doctor.

When Harvey finished, Max picked up a test tube, examined it, and said, "Interesting."

Eric snatched the tube from the lieutenant's hand.

"Do you mind?" he asked irritably.

"These are important experiments."

"Sorry." Max paced off in another direction. Judging by the few sentences Max had overheard in the hallway, Eric Blake did not see Dr. Markey's visit as reason to panic. In fact, he did not seem concerned at all. Again, interesting.

You're missing something here, Max. Something big. Think, dammit.

But nothing came to him, just a steady, annoying nudge in his brain.

"So let me get this straight," he said.

"Markey wants to turn Michael into a guinea pig to see if SRI works?"

"Something like that, yes."

Once again Max nodded.

"Then we can't hide Michael with the other patients. But then again, there's no reason to hide him anyway, is there?"

Eric stepped forward.

"Hide him? What are you talking about?"

"Its okay, Eric," Harvey replied.

"The lieutenant and I have talked it over already. We've decided to placed the cured patients in a police safehouse to protect them from this Gay Slasher."

"Where?" Max smiled.

"Its a secret hence the word 'safehouse."

"From us?"


"But I don't see why," Eric continued.

"Can't we just improve security and leave them in here?" "We could," Harvey said, "but we both felt this was the better solution. It would be much too disruptive to have a ton of policemen all over the place and try to operate a first-class medical facility.

And another thing. Martino was killed in this very building while I was still here. It would be impossible to guarantee their safety."

"What about their medical treatment?" Eric asked.

"The lieutenant has assured me that he has a qualified man who will follow our very specific instructions, right, Lieutenant?"

"Correct. We won't touch them without your go-ahead."

"And for right now I have informed the lieutenant that the patients are not to be touched or handled in any manner." || Eric said nothing. | Max cleared his throat.

"Now that we have that settled, how many cured patients are still alive?"

"Three," Harvey answered.

"And to answer your other ' question, no, there would be no reason to hide Michael from the killer since he is not a cured patient. I might suggest, however, a few extra men at the entrances."

"Okay," Max agreed.

"Where are the three patients?"

"They're all here."

"Good. Did you have a chance to go through Dr. Grey's private files yet?"

Harvey nodded slowly.

"Do you have a list of Dr. Grey's missing files?"

"Here." Harvey handed Max a piece of paper and stepped back. Max glanced over the list of names. He shook his head, took the pencil out of his mouth, and scratched a line across three names:

Krutzer, Theodore Leander, Paul Martino, Riccardo Singer, Arnold Trian, Scott Whithoroon, William

"Let me guess," Max said wearily.

"The three surviving HFV negative patients are Krutzer, Leander, and Singer."

Harvey nodded.

Max pocketed the list and headed for the door.

"Then let's start preparing them for the move to the safehouse."

"Fine. Eric, I'll see you later."


After the two men left the room, Eric Blake walked toward his private file cabinet. He bent down, unlocked the bottom drawer, and reached way into the back. His fingers deftly lifted away loose papers, digging down to the bottom where they hit warm glass.

Eric quickly made sure that no one was looking before he pulled out a test tube filled with blood.

Police Sergeant Willie Monticelli was three years away from his pension. He was a twenty-seven-year veteran of the force, having worked homicide for over a decade. Sounded like glamorous work to many but usually the job was about as exciting as watching paint dry. It consisted of running down useless leads, interviewing hostile people who knew nothing, writing up painstaking progress reports which were never read, and worst of all, surveillance.

Right now Willie Monticelli was on his second day of surveillance. The first day had produced the usual nothing.

Zippo. Subject X had not done one thing that could be labeled even slightly suspicious. Day 2, however, was another matter.

On Day 2, Subject X had flown to Washington, DC.

Earlier in the morning Willie had followed Subject X to La Guardia Airport where he purchased a ticket for American Airlines flight 105 to Washington. Willie did likewise. When Subject X landed at Dulles International Airport, he rented a car from Hertz. Willie did likewise. Now they were both driving down Rockville Pike. Destination still unknown. Willie was not worred about losing the grey Chevy Camaro in front of him. He was the best tail-man in the business.

Willie could stick to a guy's tail like sweaty thighs to a car seat.

He shook his head. Twitch Bernstein had done it again. The kid was stranger than a duck on bad acid, no question about it, but Willie reviewed his nearly three decades on the force and could think of no better man to lead a homicide investigation.

The kid was more than just smart; hell, there were a lot of smart guys in homicide. No, Willie thought, it was Twitch's very weirdness that raised him above the others. Twisted and warped realities were no problem from Bernstein. The kid understood the loony mind.

Subject X's car turned, stopped in front of a guard's post, and then continued forward. Willie stopped his car and looked at the sign.


Sara undressed quickly, sat on the cold examining table and waited. She passed the time by reading Dr. Carol Simpson's medical diplomas twice and counting the tiles on the floor.

Ninety- four in all.

Carol Simpson arrived with an apologetic smile.

"Sorry," she said.

"It's been a busy week."

"I understand."

"How are you feeling?"


Carol took in a deep breath, held it, and then let it go.

"Look, Sara, there are two things I can do. I can dance around awkwardly and pretend I live in a vacuum and never heard about Michael's condition or I can just come out and say I'm sorry. If there is anything I can do..." "Just one thing," Sara said.

"Help me make Michael the father of a healthy baby."

"I'll do my best, but I have to be honest with you. This is not going to be an easy pregnancy. Normally, I would tell you to avoid stress, but I realize that would be impossible in your case. I can only urge you to minimize it as much as possible. Try to keep up with your regular routine."

"IT! be going back to work on the show tomorrow," Sara said.

"Now that the treatment is getting more intense, I won't be staying overnight at the hospital anymore."


"Doctor Simpson?"


"Carol, what are the chances that I'll carry to full term?"

Again, the doctor inhaled deeply, kept the air in her lungs and her puffed cheeks, and then released it slowly.

"I don't know," she said at last.

"The next month or two will be critical. If we can get past that, it should get easier. Now why don't you lie back and relax?"

Exhaustion emanated from every fiber of Harvey's being.

He wished he could find a way to unwind, to forget this place for just a few minutes, to re-juice his flagging battery. But there was no escape and in truth, it was because he accepted none.

The clinic was just too important to diddle in the mundane or trivial.

He opened the door to his office. The room was dark. No lights on. No windows to offer illumination. He flicked the switch.

"Close the door," a husky voice commanded.

Harvey's stomach dropped to his knees as he stared at Cassandra. She was standing in front of his desk wearing a short white robe whose brightness contrasted beautifully with the dark Mediterranean tone of her upper thigh. Her long, black hair was slightly mussed, with a couple of tight curls reaching down and covering one eye. She smiled a wild, seductive, tantalizing smile that he could feel in his toes.

"I said, close the door."

Swallowing, Harvey obeyed.

She loosened the robe and let it open slightly, hinting at the delights that lay beneath.

Harvey swallowed again.

The robe slid off her shoulders and onto the floor.

Underneath, she wore only a black garter belt and lace brassiere.

"I've been waiting for you," she purred.

With her torrid gaze never leaving his, Cassandra sat on his desk and slowly lowered herself into a prone position. She rolled back, stretching her hands above her head and arching her back.

Then she turned her body to the side, her head leaning against her hand.

She renewed her smile.

Harvey's eyes crawled over every inch of her, over every luscious curve. Her body was utterly fantastic. Mile-long legs to a flat stomach, hourglass hips and waist, and then her bountiful, round breasts and smooth shoulders. Incredible. She was almost impossibly voluptuous.

He felt the familiar, unsettling stir building up inside of him.

He tried to swallow yet again, but his mouth had gone completely dry.

"I thought we agreed to take this slow," he managed.

She laughed, threw her head back, and beckoned him forward with both a look and a demanding finger.

"The slower, the better."

Max drove the rented station wagon across the George Washington Bridge and into New Jersey. In the back seat Theodore Krutzer, Paul Leander, and Arnold Singer sat quietly. They looked, Max thought, amazingly healthy and calm. All three men had been diagnosed with the AIDS virus two years ago, but Max would never have guessed it. He kept turning around and snatching glances at them. Their good health and spirits, in shocking contrast to the many friends and lovers Max had seen ravaged by the virus, were a fresh and constant reminder to him of the importance of solving this case.

As they reached New Jersey, Max's beeper went off. He pulled into a Gulf station on Route 4 and parked next to a payphone.

"I have to make a call," he said to the three men in the back seat.

He got out of the car and dialed the precinct.

"Max Bernstein," he said.

"Yeah, Lieutenant, we have a call from Sergeant Monticelli. I'll connect you."

There was a clicking noise.


"Yeah, Willie, it's me. Where are you?" "Bethesda, Maryland," he said.

"Guess what Southern-fried lab technician is visiting the National Institutes of Health?"

Max felt a strange fluttering in the pit of his stomach.

"Winston O'Connor."

"Bingo. So I checked his file real good. About his childhood in Alabama and all that crap. Everything is in order. No holes at all.

Nothing suspicious. Absolutely clean. Perfect."

"Too perfect?"

"Yup. The guy's gotta be a plant."

Max nodded to no one in particular.

"Thanks, Willie. Come on home. No reason to follow him anymore."

"Will do, Twitch."

When Max reached the safehouse, he took Dr. Zry, his best (and quietest) medical man, aside.

"I have some very specific instructions for you."

Dr. Zry prompted.

"I want you to take some blood samples from the three patients," Max said.

"But I thought the guys at the clinic said not to touch " "I know what they said," Max interrupted.

"That's why I want it to remain our little secret."

George entered the clinic's basement at five o'clock in the afternoon.

Despite the cops crawling all over the obvious entrances, George had had no problem getting into the building through a tunnel entrance in the basement. Getting out the same way would be no problem either. He had spent most of the day studying a blueprint of the building and had come up with a plan he was sure would not fail.

Michael Silverman was in a private room on the third floor, no more than ten yards from the stairwell and the elevator. George was not yet sure which he was going to use to make his escape, but he was leaning toward the elevator. No other patients were housed on the third floor, and after 8:00 p. m." the floor should be abandoned unless someone was still in the lab down the other end of the hallway.

Time to recheck the plan.

He took the blueprint out of his pocket and quietly unfolded it. His finger traced along the paper until it arrived at the third floor. He squinted. Michael's room was over here, the lab was way down there, two empty rooms right there, the storage closet on the right, medical supplies locked over on the left. That was it. Nothing had been overlooked. He would just have to watch the nurse, wait until she left Michael's room.

George refolded the blueprint and jammed it into his front pants pocket. He wondered if Michael Silverman was another faggot or if he had really gotten the disease from a blood transfusion. Probably another fruitcake. His marriage to Sara Lowell was for show.

He settled back against the brick wall and waited.