Chapter 20

Sara's mind churned in confusion and anger as her fingers dialed the 83rd Street Precinct.

"Police department."

"Lieutenant Max Bernstein, please?"

"Yeah, hold on a sec."

Her father. Stephen Jenkins. Raymond Markey. And Ernest Sanders. An unholy alliance who had done what exactly?

She could not say for sure. And what should she do now?

How should she follow it up? She was not sure. She knew that she needed to do something, anything, before she lost her mind completely.

Max would know. He would have a good idea what their next step should be.

Sara had considered confronting Sanders and Markey head on, but in the end she had decided against it. If the sons of bitches had denied any wrongdoing to their own co-conspirators, they were certainly not going to tell her anything new more likely, she would either warn them of impending danger, or worse, scare them into doing something catastrophic.

The sergeant manning the desk came back on the line.

"Sorry, lady," he said.

"Lieutenant Bernstein is not around." "Can you page him for me?" Sara asked.

"It's important."

"No can do. He is on official police business and cannot be reached."

Cannot be reached?

"Do you know where he is?"

"Can't say, ma'am. I'm not at liberty to discuss his whereabouts."

"But I need to reach him."

"That's just not possible right now. If you would like to leave a message, I am sure Lieutenant Bernstein will be calling in."

Sara scratched her head. Where could Max be that he could not be paged on his beeper?

"Please ask him to call Sara Lowell immediately. Tell him it's important. If I am not at home he can reach me at the clinic."

"At the clinic. Okay, Ms. Lowell, will do."

"Thank you." She replaced the receiver and considered her next move.

Narita Airport.

Max gladly disembarked the Japan Airlines' Boeing 747-300 that had carried him nonstop from New York to Tokyo for the past fourteen hours, checked the departure screens, discovered that his connecting flight was leaving from a nearby gate, and walked toward it. To be fair, the flight had been comfortable; in fact, the on-board service had been second to none. It was just that being trapped in any metallic tube 30,000 feet above the earth for fourteen hours had a way of wearing on a person even if they did show two movies and serve three meals.

As Max walked through the terminal, he glanced out the floor to-ceiling windows and saw a dozen or so JAL Boeing 747-300s lined up by their respective gates. Each plane had a boarding tunnel running from airport to aircraft like some gigantic umbilical chord that would have to be cut before the plane could be set free.

Max was not as tired as most of his fellow passengers. Though his mind had whirled with thoughts of how to free Michael, he had managed to sleep a good six hours. He checked his watch and realized that he still had about an hour before his connecting flight took off for Bangkok, the exotic capital of Thailand. Just as well. He had some important things to do in the meantime.

He followed the yellow sign that read

"Overseas Telephone," conversed with the operator for a moment, then went into a small booth and lifted the receiver. Within seconds the call was connected. One ring later the phone was picked up.


Sara's voice came in a nervous half-shout. It was late in New York, almost two in the morning, but Sara Lowell sounded very much awake.

That did not surprise him. He debated what he was going to say and decided to be as vague as humanly possible.


"Max? Where the hell are you? I've been trying to reach you all day."

"I'm sorry. I've been indisposed."

"Where are you?"

"In Tokyo."


"Well, technically speaking, I'm not in Tokyo. I'm at Narita Airport.

That's about an hour and a half from downtown Tokyo."

"I don't need a geography lesson," she interrupted.

"What are you doing in Tokyo?"

Max began to wrap the phone cord around his arm.

"I'm on my way to Bangkok."

A small pause.


"Something has come up."

"Involving Michael?"

Vague, Max. Don't want to get her hopes up.

"Maybe. Look, I don't know what it means. I'm just tracking down a lead."

"What kind of lead?"

"Stop playing reporter, I don't have the time. I'll call you if anything happens."

"How long will you be gone?"

A good question.

"I hope to be coming home right away.

Anything new?"

"A lot."

"I'm listening."

Sara recounted her conversation with her father and Senator Jenkins.

Max listened in silence. He wrapped the telephone cord around his mouth now and gnawed. Tasted rubbery. The Japanese woman in the next booth frowned at him. Max smiled apologetically and let the wire fall loose.

When Sara finished, Max told her about his conversation with Winston O'Connor.

"Now we know how they were getting all that inside information," Sara said.

"I guess so," he said.

"But there is still a lot that doesn't make sense."

"Like what?"

"Like why would Sanders do it? What does Sanders gain from the murders?"

"He wipes out the evidence," Sara replied.

"No cured patients, no cure."

Max shook his head.

"There have to be easier ways than going through all this Gay Slasher stuff. Like your father says, the press from the Gay Slasher has strengthened the clinic. More donations, more media support even Markey couldn't close them down anymore."

"So what do you make of it?" she asked.

He thought. He thought about the murder victims. He thought about the AIDS clinic. He thought about the Washington conspiracy and Winston O'Connor's connection to it. He thought about the Gay Slasher. He thought about George Camron holding Michael in some whorehouse.

"I don't know," he said, "but I better go now. I'll call you if anything comes up."

He replaced the receiver before Sara could protest, walked into the airport pharmacy, and purchased a can of shaving cream and a disposable razor. He headed into the bathroom and wetted his face. Ten minutes later his mustache was gone.

Bangkok's Don Muang Airport.

As Max headed down the steps and into the Thai night, the humidity hit him first sticky, like small droplets of syrup hanging in the air. It was late now, almost eleven p. m." and Max felt revved up. He wanted to act fast.

The plane from Tokyo to Bangkok had been a carbon copy of the one he had taken from New York to Tokyo. Same size, same seating configuration, same interior design, same distortion over the loudspeaker so that he could not tell when the captain was speaking Japanese and when he was speaking English. He had been a bit surprised to see how few passengers were seated in economy class. In fact, he had counted the seats: 100 in economy class, 128 in business class, 32 in first class. The first class area was incredible. The spacious recliners reminded Max of his father's favorite TV chair in the family den, complete with leg rests. Don Perignon and beluga caviar were being served. Each passenger wore a Japanese hoppy coat. Very nice.

Of course, when you are paying approximately $5000 for a round-trip flight from New York to Bangkok you better be getting very nice.

Max was traveling economy class, which cost nearly $1500, a sum total greater than Max's entire financial portfolio. Since there had been no time to appropriate the funds from the police department, Max had gone to Lenny. Lenny made pretty good money very good, in fact. He was, after all, one of New York's top criminal lawyers. Ironic really.

Max's mother had always wanted him to become a handsome lawyer; instead, he was living with one.

Not exactly what his mom had in mind.

Though seated in the back of the plane, Max had wandered around during the billion hours he was in the air. He always got a kick out of the curtains pulled between the classes, turning an airplane into a microcosm of modern society. I paid less than you, ergo I am pond scum, not fit to look at you or breathe your air.

And just for laughs, try to use the bathroom in the first-class section when you are traveling economy class. The stewardesses attack like Moslem extremists. The reading lights were another problem. How come they were never aimed right? The beam was always too far to the left or to the right or too far in front of you or too far back so that it worked like a spotlight aimed at the top of your head. And who invented that medieval torture device known as the movie headset? They felt like someone was jamming pointed ice-tongs through your eardrums.

Once inside the terminal Max spotted a sign with his name on it. He approached the man holding it. The man was tall for an Asian, over six feet, and very thin. He stood perfectly still, only his eyes moving, as if he wanted to conserve his strength.



"I'm Max Bernstein."

The Thai colonel looked at him.

"You are a police lieutenant?"

Max nodded.

"Pardon my surprise, but I was expecting someone older."

Max started to pull at his mustache. He stopped when he realized that he had shaved it off.

"That's why I normally have a mustache. Makes me look older."

"Pardon me?"

"Never mind. Where can we talk?"

"Come. I have a car waiting outside."

"Where is Frank Reed?"

"Mr. Reed is waiting for us in the car. We can talk on the ride."

The colonel led the way, walking effortlessly and without any wasted motion. He opened the car door and they both got in the back seat.

Like the police vehicles in New York, the air-conditioning was not working. Max wasted no time.

"You're Frank Reed?"

"Yep." The man stuck out his hand.

"Call me Frankie."

Max shook the hand as briefly as possible and continued.

"Mr. Reed, I need you to give me an exact layout of the area where Michael Silverman is being held."

"Nothing to it. You really a New York cop?"


"You look like a school kid."

"I joined the force when I was four. Tell me about the upstairs area."

"Well, Silverman is being kept on the second floor," Frankie began.

"There must be about a dozen rooms up there. Looks like a sleazy motel or something. He was in a room in the left hand corner at the end of the hall. There was a Do Not Enter sign on the door. I couldn't believe my fuckin' eyes. I opened the door and wham! there he was.

Super strange, you know? I saw Silverman play at the Garden last year against the Bulls.

Fantastic "

"Can you draw it for me?"

"A Do Not Enter sign? Sure thing."

"No, a map of the floor."

"Oh, yeah, sure." "And you said he was chained to the floor?"

"Looked that way," he replied.

"I only got a brief look."

"Lieutenant," Colonel Thaakavechikan interrupted, "do you have something in mind?"

Max nodded, his fingers twisting braids in his hair.

"George Camron is familiar with most of your good people, correct?"


"I don't think he is familiar with me. Just in case, I shaved off my mustache on the plane."

"I see."

"I want to go in myself."


"As soon as Camron leaves the bar. Michael is very ill. We have to get him out right away."

The colonel nodded.

"Tell me what you have in mind."

Dr. Eric Blake checked his appearance in the mirror. As always, everything was in place. When people were asked to describe him, they rarely used terms like handsome or ugly or even nondescript. They usually said neat. Tidy. Immaculate. Every hair in place, shoelaces tied, every button buttoned. Eric's shirttail never hung out, his socks always matched, his face was always clean shaven. Even now Eric looked cool, unemotional, detached.

But inside, under the fastidious grooming well, that was another matter.

His head ached horribly. The pressure mounted until he was sure something was going to burst through his forehead.

Suddenly, everything was falling apart and Eric was not sure what to do.

Do whatever is necessary... He walked purposefully toward the lab room.

Harvey, he knew, was downstairs, injecting Kiel Davis with SRI. Then Harv had rounds. He would not be on the third floor for some time now.

It was safe.

Eric crossed the room and unlocked his private file. Once again he slipped open the bottom drawer and withdrew the blood samples. He carefully lifted them free and placed them on the table. Then he examined them.

Nothing yet.

He sighed. Well, that was to be expected. The results would not be in for a little while yet. Thinking he could see something now had been little more than wishful thinking on his part. He would just have to be patient.

With not- so-steady hands, Eric returned the samples to the drawer, locked it, and went back to work.

Max and Colonel T (as he liked to be called) sat in a taxi on Rama IV Street not too far from Patpong. Through the static of the car radio, a voice blurted out something unintelligible to Max.

Colonel T picked up the receiver and blurted back something equally unintelligible.

"Camron has left the bar," the colonel explained.

"He hired one of our tuk-tuks."

"Tuk- tuks?"

"Think of it as a taxi."

Max nodded.

"Then I guess it's showtime."

"I will set up tuk-tuks wherever he is dropped off. We will try to stall him if he returns before you have a chance to free Mr. Stiverman, but there is no guarantee."

"I understand."

"You will signal us if the room has an explosive device?" "I'll raise and lower the shade," Max said.

"If I give you the signal, don't try to stop him. He might blow the place sky-high."

The colonel nodded.

"And you have the layout memorized?"


"Then good luck."

"Thanks." Knots began to form in Max's stomach.

"One last question."


"How do I go about hiring a prostitute?"

The colonel smiled.

"Sit at the bar and hold up a ten dollar bill, Lieutenant. The rest will take care of itself."

Sara woke up late. For a brief moment she blindly reached out for Michael and clawed at the pillow before she remembered that he would not be there. Then she withdrew her hand and began to get ready to visit Harvey.

An hour later she knocked lightly on the door to Harvey's if fice and peeked in.

"Can I come in?"

He looked up from his desk. He smiled at her in a tired way and took off his reading glasses.

"Of course."

"I don't want to interrupt." "No," he said, "you're not interrupting. I need a break anyway."

"When was the last time you got some sleep?" she asked.

"Oh, let's see. What year is it?"

"You look awful."

He nodded, still smiling.

"I've seen you look better too."

She limped toward the wooden chair in front of his desk and sat down.

Her eyes were immediately drawn to the poster of

Michael that Harvey had plastered on the wall behind him. Seeing his image soaring to the basket was oddly comforting. She adjusted her spectacles and stared for a few more moments, watching him glide in mid-air, seeing the mask of concentration that covered his face. Then she said, "I have something to tell you. Something involving my father and Reverend Sanders."

He leaned back in his chair.


"You are not going to like it."

"When something involves your father and Sanders, I rarely do. What is it, Sara?" She told him everything. Harvey's mouth remained still while she spoke but his body language was another matter. It altered completely. His fists slowly closed and then tightened to the point where the knuckles turned white. His face grew scarlet, his features twisting in smoldering anger.

"Sons of bitches!" Harvey shouted at long last.

"Those ignorant, bigoted bastards!" Sara said nothing.

Harvey stood up, his rage mounting with each passing second.

"How could I have been so stupid? I knew it and I didn't do a goddamn thing. Of course Markey was working for them, the callous son of a bitch." He shook his head.

"Sanders and Jenkins I expected it from but your father, Sara he calls himself a man of medicine. A healer. Yet he joined forces with them.

What kind of man is he?"

Her voice was soft.

"I don't know."

"They're going to pay. The world is going to know what they did." His shoulders slumped, and the tired aura surrounded him again.

"It's a constant battle, Sara. It never ends. Bigots, homophobes, naive people. AIDS has so many strikes against it, I sometimes wonder if we will ever be able to rid the world of it."

He moved back to his chair and sat down heavily. He spun the chair one hundred eighty degrees and stared at the photograph of his brother.

"Do you remember when the AIDS scare first began?" he asked.


"There was talk of locking the carriers in concentration camps, remember? There was even talk of quarantining all known homosexuals.

Nazi tactics, Sara. That's what it started with. You don't hear much talk about that now, but in a way the threat to gays is greater now than ever."

"What makes you say that?"

"Guys like Jerry Falwell and Ernest Sanders have become more subtle now. They have the same bigoted aim, but they take a different approach. And it works. People fall for it. We are bombarded by arguments that say AIDS will never become epidemic in the heterosexual community. Respected doctors like your father say it every day. But the larger question is not the severity with which AIDS will strike the heterosexual community, but why we feel it is necessary to argue the point so vehemently."

"I don't understand."

Harvey's voice was both passionate and pained.

"Okay, let's assume for a moment it is true. It's not. But for the sake of argument, let's assume your father is right and that AIDS will be a true epidemic only amongst homosexuals and intravenous drug abusers. So what? If your father and his cohorts are not being discriminatory, as they claim, why should it matter what segment of the population is being killed by the virus? If we found out that AIDS was only killing little girls between the ages of five and twelve, would someone dare come out and say, Don't worry, it won't affect you." Of course not. Homophobia fuels these people, Sara. It's a battle we constantly wage. The tune has changed but the song is still the same."

"So what do we do?"

"We scrape and claw and battle back. We do everything we can to fight them. We go to the media and destroy them."

"But it might make them panic. If they are holding Michael..."

He nodded, stepped back.

"I see what you are saying. Have you told Lieutenant Bernstein?"


"What did he say?"

"Not to do anything until he gets back."

"Where is he?"

"In Bangkok."

"What is he doing there?" "He said he might have a lead on something."

"Christ, I hope so. We could use a break." Harvey leaned forward.

"So what are we supposed to do in the meantime? Sit around and let the murderers stay free?"

"Max isn't so sure that Sanders is behind the murders or the kidnapping."

"Then who?"

"He doesn't know. He just said he has his doubts."

"And what about you, Sara? Do you have your doubts?"

"I guess I do."

"Well, it makes sense to me," Harvey said.

"Sanders kidnapped Michael to stall the clinic, plain and simple.

Markey knew that I was the only person who had worked on Michael "

"And Eric."

Confusion crossed Harvey's face for a brief moment.

"No, Sara, I mean as far as having physical contact with the patient.

I gave Michael all his SRI injections. I always drew his blood. I "

"Eric took his blood too."

Harvey stopped.


"I don't know. A day or two before he was kidnapped."

"Are you sure?"

"Of course. I was right there. Is that a problem?"

He shook his head.

"It's just weird," he said slowly.

"I left strict instructions for no one to do any lab work or give any medication to Michael except me."

"Maybe he didn't see them," Sara said.

"Or maybe he forgot."

"Maybe," Harvey agreed, but he did not sound convinced.

"Why don't you ask him?" "I will," he said, "as soon as he gets back." Harvey looked up and tried to smile reassuringly. He failed.

"Don't look at me like that, Sara. I'm sure it's nothing."

"Hey, Joe, you want live sex show? Pea shooting contest, huh?

Sound good, Joe. Pea shooting contest?"

"Pea shooting contest?" Max repeated.

"Yeah, sure, Joe. You like pea shooting contest. She aim straw and bust balloon. Guess what she blows with, huh, Joe?"

Max, no stranger to quirky sexual situations, was not sure he understood what the Thai teenager was talking about. He also wasn't sure he wanted to know, years ago, before he had met Lenny, Max and a couple of friends spent a week in Amsterdam's red light district. They had seen a show where a woman projected various objects across a room using a certain part of her anatomy.

Admittedly, most people would consider Max's sexual orientation bizarre, but he failed to see the show's eroticism no matter which particular sexual persuasion you happened to follow. More like watching an amazing pet trick or a strange magic show.

"What you say, Joe? You want nice woman. Make your head spin all the way around."

An interesting image.

"Which head?"

"Huh, Joe?"

"Never mind. No, thanks."

He forced his way through the clusters of sex merchants, keeping his eye on the pink neon sign that read Eager Beaver.

Two men stood at the door. The smaller man greeted Max with a wide smile and a firm handshake; the larger greeted him with a menacing glare. Mutt and Jeff.

"Welcome," the little one shouted above the loud disco music.

"Please come in. You find everything you want here. No cover charge."


Max ducked past the sumo-sized doorman and entered the Eager Beaver.

The interior decorator must have worked on the original Dating Game.

Very sixties. Very go-go bar-like. Mod Squad decor. Psychedelic, multicolored lights.

The music was strictly Saturday Night Fever. The singer screamed about a burning, burning, disco inferno. Despite the fast beat, the topless women (a string bikini bottom made then?

topless rather than fully naked) danced slowly on the bar, the same steps over an dover again. Max stared at their faces, but none looked back. Each wore a bored expression dead, unseeing eyes which lit up only when money was jammed into their crotches.

Michael is in here somewhere..."Swing it, baby!" a man yelled.

The girl smiled and obliged. She got 100 Thai baht (four dollars) for her trouble. She lowered herself toward the man, enticing him to add to her booty, but he waved her off.

The crowd was a mix. Hard-core hard-ups. Curious tourists.

Married couples. Thais, Japanese, Americans, Italians, Germans, Australians a horny United Nations. In a corner, people cheered a sexual act that defied both belief and biological realities. Ripley's, Max thought. Or even Guiness. Two naked women were on their hands and knees, one Asian, one black. They were Jesus, he couldn't believe it shooting bananas across the room with their vaginas. Bananas, for chrissake. A man marked the spot where they landed, measuring the distance traveled like he was working the discus toss at the Olympics.

Another man kept loading their vaginas with bananas, as though the two women were human grenade launchers. Banana after banana rocketed across the room to the roar of the crowd.

Max turned away.

Michael is close by... He sat at the bar in a seat that spun all the way around. Max liked it and began to twirl himself like a kid at a diner. Nearly two seconds passed before a Thai girl approached him, dressed in Classical American Hooker Drag. Tank top with satin shorts that not only rode up the crotch but actually dug a deeper crevasse.

The whores varied in age, but this one looked like she had just gotten a hold of Mommy's make-up case.

"Hi," she said.

She was no more than fifteen and had smooth, beautiful skin.

Her looks were startling fresh and engaging, in the baby-doll mode so many men found attractive.


Her smile was wide, bright, and somehow cunning.

"You buy me drinkr

"Why not? What would you like?"

"What you having?"

"Vodka on the rocks."

"I have same please."

Max signaled the bartender and gave him the order. The bill came to twelve dollars five dollars for his drink, seven for the girl's. Before Max could protest, the bartender pointed to the sign.

"Beer $3 Liquor $5 Hostess Drinks $7."


"What your name?" she asked.


"Nice name. You live in America, Max?"

He began to twist his hair around his finger.


"Nice place, no?"

"I like it."

"How come you always moving, Max?"

"We call it fidgeting."

"How come you always fidgeting, Max?"

"Don't know."

"You in Bangkok on business or pleasure?"

Max tried to smile, tried to get into the role of adventurous womanizer. It wasn't him.

"A little of both, if you get my meaning."

He winked pitifully.


Her tiny hand found its way to his leg.

"You like me, Max?"

She licked the air as though it were an ice cream cone and leaned forward. Her eyes burrowed into his until he had to turn away.

"Very much."

"How much pleasure you want, Max?"

"A hundred dollars' worth," he said, "to start."

She nodded.

"What you like?"

Max cleared his throat.

"The Kink Room."

She froze.

"You been here before, Max?"

"No. A friend told me about it."

She nodded again, more professional now.

"Kink Room expensive."

"I can pay."

Yet another nod. Her hand was about a millimeter away from his groin now. Her very long, red-painted fingernails skimmed the surface of his pants with a feathery stroke. Surprisingly, something close to arousal crept in. Her touch was soothing, relaxing. It felt frighteningly good sort of strange for a man who usually got excited by male body builders Not that Max had never been with women. He had. He just preferred men, that's all.

She moved her hand away.

"Pay man over there, Max, and then we go upstairs. We have much fun together. I tear you whole world apart."

He nodded, wondering if that was better than having his head spin all the way around. Tough choice.

He bit down on a little piece of skin hanging off his fingertip and did as he was instructed. The young pimp looked like a welterweight contender small, muscular, without an ounce of body fat.

"How kinky you want it?"

"Very." "You sure you want Kink Room?" the pimp asked.

"Very expensive. Very dangerous."

"I'm sure. How much?"

"$200 for entrance. But if you want to use red wall, extra.

Much extra. You let me know, okay?"

The red wall?

After a few moments of negotiating, they settled on a price tag of $175.

Max paid the money. Immediately, the Thai girl appeared at his side and led him up the stairs, whispering the usual whore expressions about what fun they were going to have and what a hunk he was.

"What is your name?" he interrupted her.


A traditional Thai name.

"How old are you?"

"Old enough."

"For what?"

Again, the ice-cream-cone lick.

"To make you happy."

"Why do you do this, Bambi?"

"Do what?"

The oppressive heat was even worse here than downstairs.

They were in the darkened hallway now, the painting chipped, the lighting nearly nonexistent. Max shuddered as they passed the door in the corner with a Do Not Enter sign stapled to it.

He managed not to hesitate.

"Prostitute yourself."

She looked at him.


"Just asking. You seem like an intelligent " For a brief moment the smile disappeared and he could see the naked hatred underneath it. "You going to take me away from all this, Max?" A touch of scorn had slipped into her voice. But then the moment was over. Like a candle that had flickered, the smile came back and seemed to brighten.

"Come," she said.

"I will be your fantasy. Then you go home happy, okay?"

She opened the door. The first thing that hit him was the odor.

Some sort of cherry room freshener had been sprayed in heavy doses, trying to conceal the still unmistakably foul smell of... of sleaze.

Sleaze permeated every part of the room, as if the very acts had nestled into the walls like thousands of tiny cockroaches, rotting the foundations. Max shivered.

Where did his unease come from? he wondered. He had been in bathhouses, even heavy-duty mass orgies and yet something about this room intimidated him. There was just something so... so blatantly dehumanizing.

As far as the physical lay-out, well, suffice to say that room was aptly named the Kink Room. On one wall hung dildoes, lots of them, of shapes and sizes that boggled the imagination. Some were barely phallic. Whips, chains, handcuffs, ropes, straitjackets, leather masks, bondage and submission devices of all sorts covered shelves on his left. And then straight ahead, on a red colored wall... he walked over to get a closer look.


The red wall.

He spun back toward Bambi who was huddled in a corner now. The smile was still there, but her eyes had suddenly filled with pure terror.

"Red wall extra, Max." Pause.

"You want?"

He looked again, not believing what he was seeing. A stun gun A goddamn police stun-gun. Enough volts of electricity to make a body spasm like an epileptic's during a seizure.

"People use this on you?" he asked.

She did not respond for a few seconds, only smiling.

"Not on me. Other girls."

He put the stun-gun back and picked up a... Jesus Christ... an electric cattle prod. Kinky was one thing, but this went beyond simple sadism.

He had heard about such things, men who enjoyed zapping nipples or even a clitoris, but his mind had dismissed it as mind-boggling fiction.

"Sometimes," Bambi said, "they want me to use."


"On them," she continued.

Max looked at the prod and tried to imagine it pressed against his balls and prick. His muscles stiffened and something flipped over in his stomach. He continued to look at the shelves in disbelief. Nipple clamps. Sharp, pointed studs. Torture devices that looked like something from the Middle Ages. Nausea swept over him.

The Kink Room? Chamber of Horrors is more like it.

"What you want, Max?"

"I want to tie you up."

"You going to use... the red wall?"


Her relief was palpable. She started to undress, but Max stopped her.

"Don't strip."

"You don't want me naked?"

He shook his head.

"Lie on the bed," he said, trying to make it sound like a lustful command.

The girl eyed him strangely but obeyed. Max knew plenty about knots and tying people up. He bound her arms and legs three different ways, making sure they were secure but not cutting into her flesh. There was no reason to hurt her.

"Open your mouth," he said.

The young prostitute did as he asked. She was surprised when he stuffed only a cloth into her mouth. He wrapped a rope around her mouth and the back of her head repeatedly, effectively gagging her.

"Can you breathe okay?" he asked.

She nodded.

He wanted to leave with some words of everlasting kindness and wisdom, but he knew it would sound hollow. Instead, he leaned forward and gently kissed her forehead.

"Good- bye."

He stepped back toward the door. Bambi's eyes followed him.

He opened the door slightly and glimpsed through the crack.

The corridor was empty. He slipped out and headed toward the room where Frank Reed said Michael was being held. When he reached Michael's door, he grabbed hold of the knob. He turned it and pushed hard.

The door gave way and Max entered.

George held the phone close to his ear.

"Then I'm going to kill Michael Silverman right now," he said.

"Wait!" the voice cried.

"I am paying you to destroy the Bangkok supply building and " "And I'll do that," George, "but first Silverman must die. He is a loose end now, and I cannot let him go. He knows too much."

"Now just a second. I made it clear " George hung up the phone. The sampan coasted through the still waters of the Chao Phraya River, but George did not really feel its calming effects. For the first time since the Gay Slasher killings, George was seriously worried. His employer was unraveling and worse, holding out on him. To want him to close up shop all of a sudden, to destroy the clinic's storage house and to return Michael Silverman made no sense unless. unless something had gone wrong. Very wrong.

Had he, George Camron, made a mistake?


"Thank you, Surakarn. I appreciate your service."

"Not at all, old friend."

George rolled out of the boat and back to dry land. In front of him the silhouette of the Grand Palace sat in monumental silence. George moved toward the tuk-tuks.

"Need ride, sir?" the bald driver asked him.

George strolled toward the driver and suddenly veered in the other direction. Better safe than sorry. He jogged a few long blocks, hailed a taxi on Lak Muang Street and climbed in the back seat.


The taxi driver nodded and started off.

Back by the tuk-tuks the bald driver picked up a radio.


"Go ahead."

"George Camron bypassed us and took a taxi. He could be there in a matter of minutes."

The colonel put down the radio microphone and waited for Bernstein's signal.

Michael looked up through bleary eyes.


Max signaled Michael to keep quiet while his eyes traveled about the room, probing, searching.

"Did Camron mention anything about an explosive?" he asked.

Michael's voice was weak, barely audible.

"Behind you.


Max turned, looked up, and saw the sticks of dynamite tied together.

"Damn," he said out loud.

His hand opened and closed the window shade, signaling the colonel and his men to stay away.

"We have to get you out of here."

Michael tried to focus on Max's face, but his eyes would not obey him.

Sweat pasted his hair against his forehead. His lower lip quivered as though from a fever.

"It's okay, Michael. You're as good as home."


Max stood on a chair and examined the explosives. Then he jumped off and knelt in front of Michael. From the inside of his boot Max pulled out a long-toothed hacksaw and began to work on the chain around Michael's ankle. The steel was thick and strong, making progress dangerously slow. The heat in the room was sweltering, like a sauna on overdrive. Max had trouble breathing.

"You been in here this whole time?"

Michael nodded.

Max continued to saw away. One floor below him George Camron entered the Eager Beaver.

Colonel T saw two things at almost the exact same time. He saw Lieutenant Bernstein's signal telling him that there was indeed an explosive device in Michael Silverman's room, and he saw George pay the taxi driver.

"Shall we detain him, Colonel?"

"You saw the lieutenant's signal. It is too risky."

"Then what shall we do?"

"Do?" the colonel repeated.

"We are waiting for your orders."

But the colonel knew there was nothing he could do. If they tried to stop him, George Camron might blow up the building.

Lieutenant Bernstein was on his own. All the colonel and his men could do was watch helplessly while George disappeared into the Eager Beaver.

Michael had never known such complete exhaustion. It was as if some sci-fi villain had drained all his life energy, leaving behind nothing but an empty carcass. His limbs were like blocks of lead, impossible to move. The pain that had engulfed his nose was gone now, replaced by a tingling numbness that was equally uncomfortable. The swelling had dogged his nasal passages, each drawn breath like inhaling flames.

George had fed him only a chunk of bread once a day. He had given him a bit more water, enough to prevent complete dehydration. The ceiling seemed lower now, the walls closer together. Delirium had begun to settle in. Michael wanted very much to scream, to scream until everything snapped and he could scream no more.

And then Max opened the door.

At first Michael had been sure it was an hallucination. Even now the room's dreamlike quality remained fixed. Strange sounds seemed to come from inside Michael's head Max's saw munching through the chain, the bomb going tick, tick, tick, though he knew that the ticking was only in his head. No timer on the bomb. Still, tick, tick, tick, tick... Ka-boom.


"Almost got it, Michael. Hang in there."


"She's fine."

"Our child."

"Safe in the womb. You'll be with her soon."

Michael tried again to focus on Max's face. Skinny face. Long nose.

Clean shaven.

"No mustache."

A tight smile from Max.

"I shaved it. Almost there, Michael.


"Almost," Michael repeated.

"Got it!" The chain fell apart.

"Michael, can you walk?"


Michael made it to his knees before his head began to spin like a plane taking a nose-dive.

"Lean on my shoulder," Max urged.

"We have to hurry."

With a lot of help from Max, Michael managed to stand. His legs were wobbly, but he was able to take a step forward.

"That's it. You're as good as home."

Michael nodded.

Max moved another step. He stopped suddenly when he felt something cold touch his neck. He looked down.

A stiletto blade rested against his throat.

Before Max could react, a giant bicep wrapped itself around his forehead. The arm gripped his skull and pressed it against a chest as solid as asphalt. Max could not move. George adjusted the blade. The sharp point now touched down on the voice box, nearly piercing the skin.

"Hello, boys!" George said.

"How's it goingr