Chapter 2

Don't be nervous. Don't be nervous. Don't be nervous... "Five seconds."

The announcement tightened Sara's stomach. For a fleeting moment she almost started singing again. She forced her mouth to close, adjusted her spectacles, and waited.

I'm going to do fine. I'm going to kick some ass. I'm going to...

"Four, three, two..." The hand pointed toward the two people sitting at the desk.

"Good evening, I'm Donald Parker."

Please don't sing..."And I'm Sara Lowell. Welcome to News Flash

Dr. John Lowell's estate in the Hamptons was enormous. The Tudor mansion sat majestically atop ten handsomely landscaped acres. There was a grass tennis court as well as an indoor and outdoor swimming pool, three Jacuzzis, two hot tubs, a spacious cabana, a helicopter landing pad, and more rooms than Lowell knew what to do with. The house had been his grandfather's, a capitalist who had, according to liberal textbooks, raped and pillaged the land and its people for profits. John's father, however, chose to bypass the family business and become a surgeon. John had followed suit. He made a good living, though practicing medicine was not nearly as profitable as raping and pillaging.

In a few hours, the east wing would be packed to capacity with some of the wealthiest people in the world, all of whom had donated thousands to the Erin Lowell Cancer Center for the right to attend. John would have to smile a lot and be solicitous.

He hated doing that. During his controversial tenure as surgeon general in the early eighties, John Lowell had never learned much about diplomacy or political subtlety. He crusaded zealously to crush cancer, bulldozing whatever and whomever stood in his way. He declared war on cigarette smokers, claiming in an angry remark on national television, "Cigarettes are murder weapons, plain and simple. I feel no pity for smokers who give themselves lung cancer.

They don't care if they make other people sick with secondhand smoke or even if they give their own children a deadly disease. It boggles the mind how we put up with people who are so selfish and destructive."

The remark sent shock waves throughout the country. The tobacco industry lobbied to have John Lowell removed from office.

They failed, but not from lack of trying. Battle lines had been drawn on that day, and even though John was no longer surgeon general, he continued to fight.

"Hi, Dad."

John Lowell spun toward his elder daughter, Cassandra. She was wearing a bathrobe and sandals.

"Cassandra, where are you going?"

"Just taking a quick dip in the pool," she replied.

"But your sister is going to be on in a few minutes. All the house guests are coming inside to watch."

Cassandra's eyes clouded over, but John did not appear to notice.

"I'll only be a moment."

"You should come in with the rest of us and watch Sara."

Once again he failed to acknowledge the defiant glare in his daughter's eyes.

"You're going to tape the show, right?" she asked.


"So I'll be able to watch my sister over an dover again. Lucky me."


She ignored her father and strode away. Sara. Ibr Cassandra's whole life her younger sister's name surrounded her like thousands of tiny birds.

"Sara is sick."

"We have to take Sara to the hospital."

"Don't play so rough with Sara." To her father, Cassandra was never as pretty, never as kind, never as ambitious, never as smart as Sara.

Her mother had been different. Erin Lowell had loved Cassandra just as much as prettier, kinder, more ambitious, more hard-working, smarter Sara. God, how she missed her mom. It had been more than a decade now, but still the pain was fresh, constant, and occasionally all-consuming.

The heat was stifling again today and many of the guests had escaped the humidity with a dip in the pool. Most were beginning to head into the house to watch wonderful Sara's debut on News Flash But seeing Cassandra striding toward the pool, several of the men froze.

Cassandra was tall and wild-eyed, with wavy dark hair and olive skin.

She differed so from Sara that no one would ever suspect that they were sisters. To put it simply, Cassandra was hot. Burning hot.

Dangerously hot. Where Sara's eyes could best be described as gentle ponds, Cassandra's smoldered like coals.

Cassandra arrived at the pool and kicked off her sandals. With a slight smile she slipped her robe down off her shoulders. It fell to the floor, revealing a sleek one-piece bathing suit that struggled to contain her voluptuous curves. She stepped onto the diving board, knowing that all eyes were following her, and sauntered to the front.

Then, stretching her arms over her head, Cassandra dove in, the cool water tingling her skin all over. She began to swim the length of the pool, her long torso reaching forward with each stroke, her well-toned legs kicking ever so slightly. Her body sliced through the water effortlessly, leaving barely a ripple.

"It's almost eight o'clock," a voice from the house called.

News Flash is about to start."

Once again the women began to move toward the house, but the men could not free themselves so easily from Cassandra's spell. Oh, they strove to look casual, silently sucking in their paunches or putting shirts over all-too-obvious flaws. They walked by her slowly, trying desperately to sneak one last peek.

Cassandra stepped out of the pool and slowly made her way toward a chaise lounge. She did not bother to dry herself.

Reaching into the pocket of her robe, she withdrew a pair of sunglasses, put them on, and lay back, crossing her legs.

Cassandra appeared to be resting quietly, but behind her sunglasses her eyes were very much on the move.

She spotted chubby Stephen Jenkins, the sixty-two-year-old former senator from Arkansas. Stephen Uncle Stevie, she and Sara called him was an old family friend. He and John Lowell had gone to Amherst together, their wives had hosted parties together, their children had gone to summer camp together. It was all very sweet and nice. And let's be frank here having sex with the conservative minority leader of the United States Senate had been something of a challenge for thirty-something Cassandra. A sexual thrill, however, it was not.

"Hello, Cassandra," Jenkins called out.

"Hello, Uncle Stevie."

Cassandra had considered seducing the senator's handsome, single son as well, but Bradley was kind of a pain in the ass. And worse, he was Sara's friend. Every time they saw each other, the two of them gabbed for hours, ignoring Cassandra completely.

If Sara and Bradley had been lovers, Cassandra might have considered it. But they weren't. From the day of her marriage two years ago, Sara was dedicated to Michael to the point of absolute boredom.

Cassandra poured some suntan oil into her cupped hand and began to massage it onto her legs. From across the pool Senator Jenkins watched, his eyes wide and hungry.

"Stephenr Mrs. Jenkins called.


The senator looked away regretfully.

"One minute, dear."

"Hurry, everyone! Sara's on!"

The crowd moved quickly now. In a few minutes everyone was inside, watching the television. Cassandra lay back and closed her eyes. Sara was on national TV. Who gives a rat's ass?

Sara felt a knot form in her stomach. She knew that the Reverend Ernest Sanders was sitting in the next room, waiting to be interviewed.

He was good in an interview slick as a greased pig. If the Reverend Sanders did not like a question, he dodged it by an old, proven method: he ignored it. He could frustrate and fluster an interviewer with the best of them.

Most of Sara's report on Sanders and his Holy Crusade was taped, so she removed her glasses, took a deep breath, and willed herself to remain calm. She had gone over the report so many times that she knew every word by rote memory. She sung softly to herself and only listened to bits and pieces of the story.

Starting twelve years ago with only a few dozen members, the Reverend Ernest Sanders, former member of several white supremacy groups, built the Holy Crusade into a powerful movement encompassing thousands of members throughout the country. Combining what Sanders calls "deep, religious values" and "traditional American rights," the Holy Crusade has been blanketed in controversy from its inception... the IRS has confirmed that neither the Reverend Ernest Sanders nor his wife Dixie have filed income tax returns in twelve years... Reverend Sanders has spent as much as ten thousand dollars a day on himself and several young women during "missionary" trips to Caribbean islands without a single new member of the Holy Crusade to show for it... millions of dollars in Holy Crusade donations missing... the FBI is investigating corruption in the upper ranks of the Reverend Sanders... When the taped portion of the story was finished, the camera swung to pick up the familiar and comforting face of Donald Parker. Sara stopped singing all together.

"We have the Reverend Sanders here in our studio," Parker stated.

"Reverend Sanders, good evening."

Ernest Sanders appeared on a screen, rather than in person.

As on Ted Koppel's Nightline, guests rarely if ever sat in the same room as the interviewers. A toll-free number appeared below his image.

"Good evening, Donald." Sanders voice was pleasant, relaxed.

Sara felt the knot in her stomach tighten. The minister wore a light blue, three-piece suit, an obvious hairpiece, and a gold wedding band.

No watch. No other jewelry. Nothing ostentatious.

His face was gentle, trusting; the face of a dear uncle or friendly neighbor. His bright smile, one of his biggest assets, was firmly set.

"Thank you for joining us."

"Thank you, Mr. Parker." Donald Parker asked the first question.

"You saw the report, Reverend Sanders. Do you have any comments?"

Sanders' face was so damn calm that Sara wanted to scream.

"I am a man of the Lord," he said in a smooth, Southern drawl.

"I understand human desires."

"I'm not sure I follow you, sir."

"It's clear to me and the God-fearing people around the nation what is going on here. I do not think I need to lower myself to Miss. Lowell's level by answering her charges."

"No charges were leveled, Reverend Sanders," Sara broke in, putting her wire-rimmed glasses back on her face.

"Are there facts in the report you would care to dispute?"

"Do not be so sly, Miss. Lowell. I know what you are really after."

"What is that, Reverend Sanders?" He smiled.

"A name for yourself. A quick reputation. What better way than to try to drag the good name of a simple preacher through the mud? A man who preaches the Bible in all its glory, who helps those less fortunate "

"Reverend Sanders," Sara interrupted, "your personal income last year is estimated at over thirteen million dollars, yet you paid no income taxes. Can you explain this?"

The remark did not faze him.

"Unless I'm mistaken, Miss. Lowell, your family is not exactly economically strapped. I seem to recall that your father has a rather spacious mansion of his own. Should his finances be questioned, too?"

"My father declares his income every year," she replied.

"My father can explain where every penny comes from. Can you do the same?"

"Of course," he stated emphatically.

"Your lies and innuendos do not fool God's chosen people. Many have tried to distract the righteous from the path of the Lord, but the Holy Crusade will march on. The Holy Crusade will not allow Satan to succeed."

"Can you address these supposed lies?" Sara asked.

"Can you be more specific?"

Sanders looked up and shook his head.

"Satan uses words to twist goodness and righteousness and make it appear evil," he explained like a school teacher lecturing an insubordinate student, "but we will not be fooled. We live in a society today that is overrun with immorality, but we stand firm.

What has happened to family values and ethics in this country, Miss. Lowell?

God- fearing people like my wife Dixie and I can't raise our children in this society anymore. Children are forced to attend public schools where God has been expelled but homosexuals are welcome. Does the Lord not tell us "

"Excuse me, sir, but you were about to address the issues raised in our report."

"What issues? "tour show does not address the real issue in America.

I'm talking about Armageddon, Miss. Lowell. The members of the Holy Crusade understand what is happening.

They understand that we are living in an era of Sodom and Gomorrah, that heretics and infidels are attacking God. Dixie and I are doing the Lord's work, but He helps us along. He gives us signs which you choose to ignore."

"The report spoke of your financial "

"Take what you call the AIDS virus, for example," Sanders interrupted, his voice rising to a fever pitch.

"What you call the new phenomenon of AIDS is just the final chapter of Sodom and Gomorrah. God is clearly striking down the wicked, immoral homosexuals and perverts with His plague."

"Reverend Sanders "

"Why is that so hard for you to believe?" he asked quietly, his smile brighter now, his eyes twinkling.

"Most Americans believe in the Lord's work as transcribed in the Bible.

Why then is it hard to believe He can still act in our present age? We have no trouble accepting the plagues of ancient Egypt. So why is it so hard to accept the plague of modern America? And woe to him who does not take heed. The sinners, Miss. Lowell, there is no place left for them to hide. If AIDS is not a sign of what is to come, if AIDS does not make you accept the Lord as you only salvation and repent, then nothing will show you the light. You are doomed."

Sara closed her eyes and tried to keep her temper in check.

She knew that she should keep to her line of questioning, that it would be a mistake to get off the subject of his financial improprieties. But her temper had other ideas.

"And what about the other victims, Reverend Sanders?" she asked, struggling to maintain an even tone.

"The other victims?"

"Yes, what about the so-called innocent victims of AIDS, the newborn babies born with the deadly disease or the people who contract the virus through blood transfusions? How do you explain the fact that AIDS is now the leading cause of death among hemophiliacs?"

Again that damn smirk of a smile.

"I do not explain it, Miss. Lowell. I explain nothing. The Bible does it for me. Read the Lord's words and you will see for yourself. The Bible tells us that not all living creatures in Noah's time were cruel and heartless, yet the Lord chose to save only the creatures upon Noah's ark. And in the story of Moses, why were the innocent forced to suffer through the hosts of plagues that besieged Egypt? The Bible gives us a simple answer, Miss. Lowell. The Lord moves in mysterious ways. Who are we to question His ultimate plan? I know, I know, it's an old cliche, but it happens to be true. You cannot deny that the vast majority of those stricken with God's plague are abnormal people with perverse lifestyles, but yes, the innocent must on occasion pay for the sins of their brethren. That is why I ask all of you to return to God now, repent before it's too late. God will not allow a cure to be found until he rids the planet of the immoral " Nice move, Sam. She had played right into his hands, allowing the butt head to get on his soapbox and preach. It was time to knock him off.

"Reverend Sanders, why have you not filled out an income tax form in twelve years? Why have you and your wife Dixie not paid a penny of income tax in all that time?"

Donald Parker sat back and watched. He did not want to interrupt. The show's director signaled for a commercial break, but Donald waved him off.

"Miss. Lowell, you know the law as well as I do. This great country of ours works to protect religious freedom, despite what some communists and atheists try to do. You may have temporarily succeeded in throwing God out of school and murdering unborn children, but the tide is changing "

"Thank you, Reverend Sanders, but we were talking about your taxes. Please try to answer the question."

"I am answering your question, Miss. Lowell. Dixie and I are law-abiding citizens. We pay our fair share of taxes."

"How much income tax did you pay last year, Reverend Sanders?"

"Churches do not have to pay taxes. It's called separation of church and state. You can read all about it in the Constitution."

Sara readjusted her spectacles.

"I've read the Constitution, Reverend Sanders, but with all due respect, sir, you are not a church. You would certainly not suggest that people who work in the church should slide by without paying taxes, forcing hardworking Americans to carry the load for them, would you?"

His smile wavered, and for a brief moment there was a crack in the facade, allowing a quick peek at the cold soul beyond the smile.

"Of course not," he said.

"You twist everything around to suit your purposes, and the righteous know that. The righteous will not be swayed off the path of the Lord by your lies. I repeat what I have said all along. I have paid my fair share of taxes. This whole issue is nothing but a play by secularists to ruin my good name."

Donald Parker finally broke in.

"Thank you, Reverend Sanders. Well take a break and be back after this message. Don't go away."

"Dr. Lowell? May I speak with you for a moment?"

John Lowell looked up, obviously annoyed.

"Can't it wait until after the show, Ray?" "There's a commercial on now," Raymond said. Dr. Raymond Markey worked for the Department of Health and Human Services in Washington. A small man, his arms and legs looked too short for his body. Thick glasses magnified his small dark eyes fivefold, making him look more like a classic movie nerd than a medical doctor. In truth, Markey rarely practiced medicine anymore. His job as assistant secretary of the department threw him more into the political realm than he cared to admit.

With a deep sigh, John Lowell stood and walked out of the room. The two headed down the hallway together. When they were alone, Lowell said, "Okay, what is it?"

Raymond Markey's giant eyes scanned the hallway like two searchlights across a prison courtyard.

"He's coming to your party tonight."

Lowell's face turned red.

"What? I don't want that man in my house, I thought I made that clear."

"You did."

"It's too dangerous," he whispered.

"The timing of this party, everything."

"It doesn't matter," Markey said.

"He'll be here. I thought you should know."

Lowell cursed silently, his hands clenching into fists.

"That son of a bitch is going to destroy us all."

As the party got into full swing, the group of men surrounding Cassandra fought for center stage like vain actors. But Cassandra, used to such scenes, couldn't have cared less. She merely smiled brightly, seductively, nodding now and again but never really listening. they were all important men. Randall Crane owned a large chunk of several conglomerates. He had been featured on the cover of Fortune magazine looking very distinguished and serious. But he was boring. They were all deadly boring. If these men had not possessed staggering amounts of money, nobody would even pretend to listen to their self-indulgent horse manure.

The crowd of well-dressed patrons buzzed about Sara's debut on Newsflash. Cassandra's eyes swept over the mansion's large ballroom, recognizing most of the nearly three hundred guests.

Hypocrites, she thought. Like they really gave a flying shit about fighting cancer. They were here to be seen, to mingle and impress.

If that meant coughing up some money for charity, well, that was the price of admission. Being seen was the thing.

Randall Crane interrupted her thoughts.

"Do you know how I arrived here tonight, Cassandra?"

She barely glanced in his direction.

"No, Randall. Why don't you tell me?"

"By private helicopter," he said proudly.

"I just bought the bird. Seats eight. I have my own full-time pilot, co-pilot, and stewardess."

"Stewardess?" Cassandra repeated.

"On a helicopter?"

Randall Crane nodded.

"We traveled from the roof of my highrise on 47th Street to here in under an hour." "I'm very im, Randall."

The older man beamed.

"Do you want to take a ride in it" You won't believe how fast it goes."

She had bedded Randall Crane more than three years ago, and he lasted about as long as a fifteen-year-old boy on his first time out. The man had barely got his pants off.

"You should learn to slow down, Randall," she said with a wicked smile.

"Speed is not always a good thing, you know."

Watching Randall's face turn red, Cassandra spotted Michael in the back corner, standing in a corner with that nothing doctor friend of his.

Michael looked so damn handsome in his tux, the only man at the party who would dare to wear a purple flowered bowtie and matching cumber bund rather than the standard black. But that was Michael. He was always a little off center. Cassandra had not seen him for nearly six months, but he still looked fantastic.

It was strange really. Over the years Cassandra had stole nj all of Sara's boyfriends, starting with her first high school beau, Eddie Myles. Cassandra had orchestrated the seduction so that Sara would be sure to walk in on them.

Which she did.

Sara's eyes widened when she saw her boyfriend's pants lowered to his ankles, Cassandra kneeling in front of him. Her face had crumbled into anguish. But Eddie was only the first.

It became a game to Cassandra. A new challenge. Every time Sara risked trusting someone, her sister would pounce on him. With each seduction Sara's wounds bled anew. Insecurity began to nestle into her psyche. Sara became more self-conscious about her health problems. Her confidence withered away. Sarcasm became her defense. Cassandra watched her sister distance herself from the outside world. She dedicated herself to her studies, staying alone in her room, blasting that awful heavy metal music.

Eventually, there were no boys left for Cassandra to chase away.

But Sara had been playing possum. Somehow the sly bitch had landed the best of men.

Michael, the bastard. The gorgeous, wonderful bastard.

Cassandra stepped forward.

"Excuse me a moment, gentlemen."

The men parted to allow her to pass. Cassandra could not take her eyes off Michael. Six months had passed since they had last saw each other.

And a lot of things might have changed in six months.

Cassandra moved toward Michael.

Sitting in the back of a studio limousine, Sara could not keep still.

She tried to unwind from the excitement of the show, but the constant flow of adrenalin would not allow it. She rocked back and forth in the plush leather seat, her mind whirling with anticipation. She had moved from Blue Oyster Cult into the more contemporary sounds of Depeche Mode, but she still wasn't slowing down. Midway through

"Blasphemous Rumors," the limousine driver raised the soundproof window between them.


Soon she would see Michael. Corny to say, but the best part of days like these was reliving each detail with her husband.

Wincing, Sara snapped off her brace and rubbed her foot. Leg | braces had improved dramatically over the years, from the days | when she wore a heavy metal one that gripped like a power-vise to the modern fiberglass kind that felt more snug than compressing. Still, the brace was cumbersome and her leg throbbed painfully when she wore it a long time. She massaged her foot and lower leg with knowing hands. The blood began to circulate again.

Born two months premature, Sara had been a sickly child from the start.

Infections settled into her lungs, causing pneumonia and a childhood of health complications. The difficult birth had also permanently damaged a nerve in Sara's left foot.

As a child Sara had needed a brace and metal crutches to walk.

Now the crutches were gone, but the brace and occasionally a cane were still evident.

Her youth was filled with constant hospital visits and trips to medical specialists and therapists. During endless sunny summer days Sara was forced to stay shut up in her bedroom rather than play outside with other children. Tutors visited the house or the hospital because of all the school she missed. She had few friends. Schoolmates never teased or taunted her, but they shunned the strange child and treated her like some sort of outsider. Sara was not allowed to take gym class. She had to sit on the steps during recess. Other children eyed her warily, almost frightened by the fragile, pale girl as though she represented death in a place that only understood immortality.

No matter how hard she tried not to be, Sara was always different, always coddled, always behind. She hated it. As she got older, Sara learned that the limp and brace were not as difficult to overcome as people's perceptions. Whenever she suffered a setback, teachers were quick to offer her health as an excuse.

"It's not your fault, Sara. If you were in perfect health..."

But Sara wanted to scream every time they said that. She did not want to hear excuses or use them to justify her shortcomings she wanted to overcome them. Check that. She wanted to blow them away.

The chauffeur turned off the road and headed up the driveway. There were cars parked everywhere Rolls Royces, Mercedes, stretch limos of all varieties, cars with special government license plates. Some chauffeurs stood around the driveway, smoking cigarettes and chatting with one another.

Others stayed in the car and read newspapers.

When the limo reached the house, Sara snapped her brace back on, grabbed her cane, and proceeded as gracefully as she could toward the front door.

Michael took another sip of Perrier. There was a steady ripping pain in his abdomen, but he did not mention it to Harvey. He had planned to say something, but Harvey was so distracted tonight that Michael decided to wait. He watched Harvey's eyes shift nervously over the guests in the large ballroom. His overall appearance, always a touch disheveled, was a complete mess.

"Are you all right, Harv?"

"Fine," he replied quickly.

"Something on your mind?"

"I... what time is Sara supposed to show up?"

It was the third time he had asked.

"Any minute now," Michael said.

"What the hell is the big deal?"

"Nothing," Harvey answered with a tight smile.

"Your wife and I are having a torrid affair behind your back, that's all."

"Again? I hate it when you steal my women, Harv."

Harvey patted his paunch and tried to arrange his wild hair.

"What can I say? I'm a stud."

Michael took another sip of his water.

"What do you have planned for next week?" he asked.

"Next week?"

"Your birthday, Harv." "Oh," Harvey said, "that."

"You only turn fifty once, big fella."

Harvey sloshed down the rest of his martini.

"Don't remind me." "Fifty years old," Michael said with a whistle.

"Five big decades."

"Shut up, Michael."

"Half a century. The golden anniversary. Hard to believe."

"You're a pal, Mike. Thanks."

Michael grinned.

"Come on, Harv. You've never looked better."

"Yeah, well, I do get tired of beating off the women with a stick."

Harvey glanced over Michael's shoulder and spotted Cassandra walking toward them.

"Speaking of beating them off with a stick."


"Sister- in-law alert."


Cassandra tapped his shoulder.

"Hello, Michael."

"Right behind you."

"Thanks." Reluctantly, Michael turned toward Cassandra.

"Good evening, Cassandra." "Long time, no see, Michael," she said, "Very long. Six months, I think."

"About that. You remember my friend Harvey Riker?"

"Ah, yes. The doctor."

Harvey stepped forward.

"Nice to see you again, Cassandra."

She nodded slightly, ignoring him, her eyes never leaving Michael's face.

"So how do I look this evening, Michael?"


"Nice?" she repeated.

Michael shrugged.

"Kind of noncommittal," Cassandra noted.

He shrugged again.

Cassandra turned her attention to Harvey for the briefest of moments.

"Dr. Riker, do you agree with Michael's assessment?"

Harvey cleared his throat.

"Uh, a lot of words come to mind, Cassandra. Nice is not one of them." She smiled briefly, her gaze back upon Michael.

"Michael, can we talk for a moment?"

"Look, Cassandra "

"It's okay," Harvey interrupted.

"I need to freshen my drink anyway."

They both watched him walk away. In front of the ballroom the band Dr. Lowell had hired finished their rendition of Tie A Yellow Ribbon and moved on to Feelings. The lead singer sounded like a cat caught in a cuisinart.

"Care to dance?" Cassandra asked.

"No, thanks."

"Why not?".

"I'm not in the mood. What did you want to talk to me about?"

"Stop being rude, Michael. I'll get to it in a minute. Pretend this is foreplay. You've heard of foreplay, haven't you?"

"I think I read something about it in Cosmo."

"Good. How do you like my dress?"

"Divine. What do you want?"

"Michael- "

"You're not really going to start this shit again, are you?"

"What shit?"

"You know what shit, Cassandra."

"I do?"

"I'm married to Sara, for chrissake. You remember Sara blonde, petite, gorgeous, lousy taste in music, your sister."


Michael rolled his eyes.

"So why do you keep bothering me?

Why do you always come on like some soap opera harlot?"

She looked at him.

"You don't approve of me, do you, Michael?"

"It's not my place to approve or disapprove."

"So what do you think of me then?" she asked, sipping her drink.


"I think you're great," he said.

"You're beautiful and funny and smart, but when you act like this" he shrugged "you kind of make me sick."

"You're so sweet." Her hand reached out and rested on Michael's chest.

Then she winked at him, leaned forward, and kissed his cheek.

"What was that for?" he asked.

She winked and pointed behind him.


Michael turned around. From the entrance way Sara stood watching them.

A few hours ago George had successfully stolen a car and changed its license plate. He circled the area near the Lowell estate for a little while, making sure he knew every possible escape route before parking in an abandoned lot several miles away. He spread goose-liver pate on a piece of toast and poured himself a red wine. Very young.


A perfect picnic.

When George had finished, he tidied the car, checked his watch, and drove back toward Dr. Lowell's mansion. He reached into the pocket of his Banana Republic khakis and took out his stiletto. He pressed the spring-release button with his thumb.

The long, thin blade shot out with a sleek pop.

Very nice.

He closed the blade and put it back in his pocket. Enough games.

Enough wine and song.

It was time to go to work.