Chapter 19

Lieutenant Max Bernstein sat at his desk and pondered the latest developments in the Gay Slasher case. Of course, Max never actually sat. He stood, paced, squatted, juggled day-old doughnuts (he was trying to master four at the same time), and drove those around him nuts.

He kept replaying his conversation with Winston O'Connor, the first big break in days. Clearly the National Institutes of Health had a strong interest in Sidney Pavilion. The question was why.

O'Connor's explanation that the NIH wanted to keep an eye on its interests rang hollow. Why single out the Sidney Pavilion?

There had to be a reason.

But what?

Okay, forget that for a moment. Move onto the murder of Riccardo Martino. Winston O'Connor claimed that he had nothing to do with Martino's death, and Max believed him. In an odd way it solved something that had puzzled Max from the moment they found Martino's body.

The timing.

Okay, let's reconstruct. Harvey Riker had seen Riccardo Martino alive a few minutes before Winston O'Connor knocked him unconscious. Ergo, Martino was murdered after Riker was attacked. In order for that to be the case, the killer had to surprise Harvey, go downstairs, kill Martino, and then make his escape all of which seemed very unlikely. No matter how cool a customer the Gay Slasher was, chances are he would have taken off as soon as Harvey stumbled onto the scene, saving Martino for another day.

So what was the explanation?

Simple. The person who killed Martino was not the same person who attacked Dr. Riker.

Well, if Winston O'Connor did not kill Martino, who did?

The Gay Slasher.

Then why didn't the Slasher stab him like the others?

Hmmm. Good question.

Like that one, Max? I got a million more for you. Is the person who hired the Gay Slasher targeting the cured patients like Trian, Whitherson, and Martino? Or is he (or she let's not be sexist) after the secret patients like Jenkins and Michael? Or both? And what about the order of the deaths of the cured patients the three early patients dead, the three later patients alive? Is there any significance in that or is it just a faulty wire in the brain that keeps bringing you back to that seemingly irrelevant point?

And the bigger question, which Max doodled on the top of his desk repeatedly:

Who benefits from the murders?

Good question. Crucial.

The phone on his desk rang. Max dropped the doughnuts onto the floor.

He reached for the receiver without bothering to pick them up.

"Bernstein here."

"Good," Sergeant Willie Monticelli said, "you're still there.

You ain't gonna believe this." The tone of Willie's voice told Max that this was no routine call.

"Where are you?"

"Downstairs. I got a police station in Bangkok on the phone.

A guy named Colonel something. I can't pronounce it."

Bangkok! Max sat down.

"What does he want?"

"I still have him on the line, Twitch. I want you to hear this for yourself."

"What is it?"

"I'd rather let him tell you himself."

"Patch him through."

"Just hold on. Damn, which button do I push?"

"The yellow one."

"Oh, right. Here goes."

Click. Static. Then: "Hello."

"Hello, Colonel," Max said, speaking slowly.

"My name is Lieutenant Max Bernstein. I am with the New York Police Department. With whom am I speaking?"

"Colonel Thaakavechikan. Bangkok Special Forces."

"Colonel Thaka-"

"Colonel will suffice, Lieutenant. I went to school in California so I know that Thai names are difficult for Americans."

"Thank you, Colonel. You have some information for us?"

"I believe so. I understand that you are in charge of the Gay Slasher homicides and the disappearance of Michael Silverman."


"Well, something has come to our attention which might be of interest to you. Have you ever heard of George Camron?"


"He is a professional hit man who lives in Bangkok, though he travels frequently. He is quite good and very deadly. We estimate that he has killed over two hundred people in the past decade."


"When Camron is in Bangkok, he works out of a bar called the Eager Beaver on Patpong Street. He has been seen there quite frequently in recent days."

"Just recent days?"

"Yes. According to our sources, George Camron arrived in Bangkok within the week."

"Interesting," Max remarked.

"It gets more interesting, Lieutenant Bernstein."

"How so?"

"I have an American named Frank Reed sitting beside me.

Mr. Reed is a patron of the Eager Beaver Bar."


"Let me preface this by mentioning that Mr. Reed admits to being drunk at the time he was in the bar."

"Go on."

"It seems that Mr. Reed was engaging in sexual activities with a prostitute in the upstairs section of the Eager Beaver. He accidentally opened the wrong door and saw a man chained at the ankle." "I see," Max said. His fingers plucked at his hair and mustache.

"Isn't that fairly normal? Whips and chains at a whorehouse?"

"Oh, yes, quite normal," the colonel agreed.

"Mr. Reed, however, swears that the man he saw was Michael Silverman."

The words slammed into Max's solar plexus.


"He claims Michael Silverman is being held captive at the Eager Beaver Bar."

"Have you checked out his story?"

"That might not be as easy as you might think," the colonel explained.

"George Camron is more than a dangerous hit man, Lieutenant Bernstein he is very clever and careful. If Michael Silverman is being held in the Eager Beaver and it would not be the first time Camron has kept someone there it will be nearly impossible to get him out. Camron probably has the place wired with explosives and if he gets even slightly suspicious, he will blow the place up."

"Can't you take him out by surprise?"

"It is too risky, Lieutenant Bernstein. If we failed to kill Camron immediately or if he is working with an accomplice, I assure you that Mr. Silverman's life would be forfeited. Because Mr. Silverman is something of an international celebrity, our government would frown upon such actions. That is why I am calling you. I am not saying that the place is definitely wired.

I am just giving you Camron's past history."

"I appreciate it. Willie, are you listening in?"

"Yeah, Twitch, I'm here."

"Get me booked on the next plane to Bangkok."

"Already did it. I have you booked on Japan Airlines flight 006 which leaves Kennedy in about two hours. You connect in Tokyo with JAL flight 491 that'll bring you into Bangkok in the evening. Problem is, I don't think the department will pay for it."

"I'll worry about that when I get back. Colonel, do you mind my coming over?"

"Not at all, Lieutenant, as long as you understand that we are in charge of the situation."


"Then we have no problem. In the meantime we will do our best to monitor the Eager Beaver as inconspicuously as possible."

Max rifled through his drawers until he found his passport underneath a jar of mayonnaise. He wiped it clean with an old napkin.

"Then I'm on my way."

They were all seated in the study.

John Lowell sat behind his large oak desk with Senator Jenkins on his right and a few feet behind him. Facing them on the other side of the desk were Sara and Cassandra. For a moment they all just studied one another. Then Sara broke the silence:

"Is Michael still alive?"

John glanced at the senator and then back toward his daughter.

"We don't know, honey."

"But you know something about his kidnapping?"

"We may know something about it," Senator Jenkins corrected.

"We can't say for sure."

Sara shook her head.

"Dad, what's going on?"

"I'm not sure where to begin actually." Dr. John Lowell rose and moved toward a bookshelf filled with large medical volumes.

His eyes passed over the titles, but they read nothing.

"You know how I feel about the Cancer Center, don't you?"

"Of course we do," Sara replied, "but what does that have to do with "

"Everything, Sara," John said simply. He pulled out a book, glanced at the binding, and put it back in the shelf.

"You see, focus can be a dangerous thing. Your view of the world narrows.

You grow obsessed. Blinded. You see everything in terms of your obsession and nothing else. You cannot accept defeat. You cannot understand why everyone else does not share your passion. Don't get me wrong. Concentration and focus are good and necessary.

But when they slide unchecked, they can distort your perspective.

In the ultimate pursuit of knowledge, you can easily become ignorant."

Sara and Cassandra shared a confused glance.

"I still don't understand." John smiled sadly.

"You will. This is not easy for me to say, so just give me a little time. I'll get to the heart of the matter eventually."

The sisters nodded.

"I wanted that new wing at the Cancer Center so badly I ached physically," he continued.

"It could help so many people people suffering the worst medical curse known to mankind. Diseases and plagues come and go, but cancer is a constant. I thought the new wing and the additional finances would be a gigantic step toward unlocking the secrets of cancer and, ultimately, to curing it. I would have done anything to get that new wing.

Anything." He paused here, letting his meaning sink into the still surroundings.

"When the additional finances for the new wing were rejected, it was like a spear through my heart. Those damn fools, I raged. How could they be so stupid? I tried to save the idea. I threw all the money I could into it, and tried to raise more privately. But it was not enough. We had needed the grant, and now that was gone. The new wing was dead. And why? Where had the money gone? To AIDS. To Harvey and Bruce's clinic. To a gay disease. To a drug addict's disease. To a disease I still believe will never run rampant in the normal heterosexual community."

Sara opened her mouth, but John stopped her by raising his hand.

"I don't want to argue with you, Sara. I know you feel differently.

Suffice to say that this is how I see it. Yes, some non intravenous-drug-abusing heterosexuals have come down with

AIDS, but the number is small, especially relative to the number of people who die from cancer. This is how I see it right or wrong it doesn't matter anymore."

He caught Sara's eyes then. A small smile appeared on his face.

"You remember when we watched Damn Yankees on the video? Remember how the guy sells his soul to the devil in order to get what he wants?

That's what I did. I didn't realize it at the time or maybe I did but I didn't care. Who knows anymore? I only know that I signed on with the devil and there was no looking back."

"What did you do?" Sara asked, her tone distant.

"My rage consumed me. I started to look for any way, legal or not, to get the money away from the clinic and into the Cancer Center. Raymond Markey he's the Assistant Secretary "

"I know who he is," Sara interrupted. Her voice was cold.

"Go on."

John cleared his throat.

"Anyway, Dr. Markey contacted me.

He said that there were other people who felt the way I did, people who felt too much emphasis was being placed on AIDS, people who wanted to bring down the Sidney Pavilion."

"What other people?"

John took a deep breath.

"Reverend Sanders, to name one."

Sara glared at her father.

"You signed on with that con man?"

"Listen to me, Sara. We both knew that we did not share the same ideology just the same enemy. Sanders had his reasons for wanting to destroy the clinic, and I had mine. His reasons did not matter to me.

The only important thing was getting the money for the new wing even if that meant working with Sanders."

"And who else joined you?"

"Me," Senator Jenkins replied from behind John.

"I was the fourth member of the conspiracy."

She turned her glare toward his.

"And what was your reason, Senator?"

"A strange one," he replied in an oddly calm voice.



"Let me explain," Senator Jenkins began, his voice hollow as though he were speaking through a long tube.

"I was readily accepted by Sanders because of my right-wing affiliations, but politics had nothing to do with why I joined."

"Then why?"

"Sara, you've covered political campaigns before, am I correct?"


"So I don't have to tell you that politics is a strange game.

The strangest. Like it or not, a candidate must compromise to win elections. I am the leading senator in the Republican Party.

I agree with most of the Party's platforms, but lets say, for example, that I came out against the death penalty. Do you know what would happen?"

Sara folded her arms across her chest.

"Why don't you tell me?"

"I'd be finished. Wiped out. All my years of service would go right down the drain. I wouldn't get elected dog-catcher. Let me give you a better example: our current President's position on abortion. He used to be pro-choice. Now, he has magically shifted to pro-life. Do you honestly believe he had a change of heart? Of course not. He just accepted reality. He knew that if he ran as a pro-choice candidate, he would have never won the Republican nomination. And it's not just Republicans. The Democrats do it too. Do you really believe that every liberal senator is for abortion or against tax cuts? Of course not. They are just trying to get elected. Like I said before, you have to compromise.

You have to compromise your very values and beliefs. It is not necessarily the politician's fault. It's just the system. Play the game or don't get elected."

"I don't see the point in any of this," Sara said.

"I am just saying that a man cannot be so neatly labeled as right or left wing. At times we are all hypocrites. At times we all do things that others would consider sinful." He glanced at Cassandra quickly and then continued.

"What I am trying to say is this: despite popular belief, I do not agree with a good many of Reverend Sanders' views."

"Then why did you join him?"

"For my son," he replied.

"You joined up with Sanders for Bradley?"

The senator nodded. His eyes were moist, but his voice did not waver.

"I was just trying to save my boy. When I found out that Sanders wanted to destroy an AIDS clinic, I figured that it must be making strides in discovering a cure. So I contacted Sanders and told him I was interested in enlisting in his

"Holy Crusade' against the unnamed clinic. Sanders welcomed me aboard. Truth was, I just wanted to find out more about it so I could enroll Bradley there."

"Which you did."

"Yes. Dr. Riker and Dr. Grey promised to keep it a secret." "So," Sara said, "you joined this crazy conspiracy to help your son, my father wanted to help the Cancer Center, and Reverend Sanders so he wouldn't have to explain a cure for

"God's Plague' to his parishioners.

Does that cover it, gentlemen?"

Both men nodded.

"So where does Assistant Secretary Markey fit into all of this?"

"I can't say for sure," John began.

"Markey has known Harvey for a long time. He claims he doesn't trust him. He says Harvey cuts too many corners, but I think there's more to it than that.

I think Sanders is blackmailing him with something."

"And on top of that," Jenkins added, "Sanders' influence got Markey his job with the government and his office on the NIH campus. It's nice and quiet there. Markey likes it."

"A political payback?"

Her father cleared his throat.

"I guess you could say that, yes."

Sara felt her head spinning. She focused on the faces in front of her.

Her father and Senator Jenkins looked a mix of embarrassment, fear, and anxiety, like children waiting outside a principal's office. Cassandra remained silent, her eyes watching her sister with uncommon concern.

"Do you know what is so odd about all this?" John asked, his voice near a plea.

"I think Harvey Riker and Bruce Grey would understand what I did." Sara continued to glare.

"I doubt it."

"No, Sara, I think you're missing my point. Harvey and Bruce felt the same way about their clinic as I feel about the Cancer

Center. But I let it get out of hand. I let it consume me. And I was lied to. Sanders and Markey tricked me. They led me to believe that Riker and Grey were not even close to finding a cure."

Sara's voice was unforgiving.

"I think we've wasted enough time listening to your self-justification, Father. Just tell us what you did."

Again John looked over to Stephen Jenkins before speaking.

Then he said, "Very little."

"Very little?" Sara shouted.

"You call the murder "

"We never killed anyone," John interrupted.

"At least, we never sanctioned any deaths."

Sara looked at him in disbelief.

"Am I hearing you right? You never 'sanctioned' any deaths? What the hell are you talking about? Patients were murdered. The senator's own son was murdered. Are you trying to tell me that your little conspiracy had nothing to do with any of that?" "No," John said, "we are trying to tell you that we didn't know anything about it. We learned about the murders for the first time on Newsflash the other day."

"And you never knew about them beforehand?"

"That's right."

Sara shook her head.

"Then tell me, Senator, what did you make of Bradley's murder?"

"The same as everyone else," Jenkins said slowly.

"I thought Bradley was the random victim of some homophobic psychopath.

I had no idea that his murder was connected to the Sidney Pavilion until the newscast."

John nodded his agreement.

"All we did was try to pressure the people in Washington to take back the grant. We went so far as to falsify reports to make it look like the Sidney Pavilion was illegally usurping funds." Sara almost smiled.

"So while Raymond Markey accused Harvey of falsifying reports, you four were the ones who were really tampering with the evidence." "Yes," her father said.

"In many ways the Newsflash report almost buried the clinic. By revealing that Bradley was a patient at the clinic, you left Harvey wide open to charges of purposely misrepresenting the facts.

Theoretically, Markey could have taken away the clinic's grant."

"So why didn't he?"

"Because we live in the real world, not a theoretical one. Can you imagine the outcry if Markey had tried to close the clinic after the show? The media would have had him for lunch. A full investigation would have ensued, and none of us wanted that." "So," Sara, "all of you decided to stall the clinic for a couple of years by using Michael as a guinea pig."

"It was Sanders' plan," John corrected, "and frankly speaking, it was a damn good one. Michael would be able to receive treatment, and the cure would be delayed until Sanders could think of another way of destroying them."

"Then what went wrong?" Sara asked.

"Since Sanders got his way, why did he have Michael kidnapped?"

"That's just it, honey, we don't know. Markey and Sanders both swear they have nothing to do with the Gay Slasher or Michael's kidnapping.

Sanders says he's as unhappy with the development as we are."

"And you believe him?"

"I don't know what to believe. I was just in Washington, screaming at him like crazy. He continues to swear he had nothing to do with it. In fact he says that the Gay Slasher and all the publicity has actually strengthened the clinic, not hurt it."

Sara shook her head.

"But don't you see? Without the cured patients, there is no proof that SRI works. By killing the cured patients, the Gay Slasher is doing your work for you."

Neither man responded.

"Are you going to expose the conspiracy?" Sara asked.

"If only it were that simple," John replied.

"It is that simple," Sara said coldly.

"All you have to do is stop worrying about yourselves." "Sara," John continued, "I know you are angry with me. I know that a part of you even hates me right now. I would feel the same way if the situation was reversed. Believe me, I have learned my lesson. I don't care any more about my personal reputation, you have to believe that.

But if I go out now and tell the world what I have done, it could destroy the Cancer Center.

Charities cannot survive scandals nowadays, you know that. You did a story on that house for teenage runaways a fine institution destroyed by one man's indiscretions. I'm sorry, Sara. I cannot risk the Cancer Center. It's too important."

Sara just stared.

"Then you are not going to do anything, are you, Father?"

"I didn't say that."

"You didn't have to." Sara grabbed her cane and stood. The silent Cassandra stood with her.

"I'm going to do whatever it takes to find the truth behind this whole mess. And I don't give a shit if I have to drag down my own father, half of Washington, and the damn Cancer Center to do it."

She stormed out of the room.

Jennifer picked up the phone on the third ring.


"Hello, Jen."

She recognized Harvey's voice instantly.

"Hello, Harvey. How are you?"

"Been better."

"I can imagine. How is Sara holding up?"

"As well as can be expected, I guess."

"Give her my love, will you?"

"Sure. How is everything out in Los Angeles?"


"You're doing okay?" he asked.



Harvey cleared his throat.

"Listen, Jen, I hate to rush you off the line "

"I have a package from Bruce," she interrupted.


"On the day he died," she continued slowly, "Bruce sent himself a package to his post office box at the main branch of Los Angeles' post office."

"Did you open it?"

"Yes. There were medical files in it."

"How many?"


"Do you have them right there?"


"Can you read me the names?"

She picked up the files.

"Krutzer, Leander, Martino, Singer, Trian, and Whitherson."

Another pause. Then a whisper: "Jesus."

"Harvey, are you all right?" "I'm fine," he said, but his voice still sounded dazed.

"Was there anything else in the package?"

"Blood samples. Two vials for each patient, labeled A and B."

Harvey thought for a moment.

"Listen to me very carefully, Jen, okay? I need you to send me the entire package here by overnight mail."

"Does this have something to do with Michael's kidnapping?"

"I can't say for sure until I see the entire package. Jen, you have to send me that package right away, okay?"

"It's after six. The post office is closed."

Harvey looked at the clock, realized the hour, and cursed himself out loud.

"I tried to reach you earlier," Jennifer added.

"I know, it's my fault."

"I can send it to you special delivery first thing tomorrow morning."

"Thanks, Jen."

"Will you let me know what happens?" "Sure." He paused.

"I hope you're happy, Jen. I still care about you, you know."

"I care about you too."

Jennifer hung up the phone, afraid of what more might be said. Then she picked up the white envelope marked

"Susan" and stared at it for a very long time.