Chapter 21

Dr. Eric Blake looked up at the clock.

It was time.

Something nestled in Eric's throat, but he managed to swallow it away.

He straightened the papers on his desk, lined up the pencils neatly, and stood. He checked his appearance in the mirror, tightened the Windsor knot in his tie, and gently patted his hair with both hands.

Then he studied his face for a long time. Something about it was different today. It was as if his thoughts had surfaced, altering his appearance.

Everything I have worked for, everything I wanted to achieve...

Could it all be gone?

He took out a neatly folded handkerchief, dabbed his forehead, and then headed for the lab.

"Good morning, Dr. Blake."

"Good morning."

Eric tried to remember the nurse's name but could not. He recalled that she was the youngest and least experienced member of the staff.

Her access to patients was strictly limited to the most recent arrivals, and her chores were usually the most mundane.

Only one nurse had had access to all the patients and all the floors.

Janice Matley.

As quickly as the name had formed in his mind, Eric pushed it away. No use thinking about that now. Dead was dead. No comeback. No reprieve.


Eric entered the elevator and pushed the button. His eyes swerved about, trying to find something that might distract him.

He settled on the signature of the elevator inspector. He tried to make out the name but the penmanship was too sloppy looked more like an EKG reading than an actual signature. The inspector, Eric decided, should have been a doctor.

A minute later he arrived at the lab door. Part of him wanted to stall now that the moment had arrived, but the rest of his body propelled him into the room an dover toward his file cabinet. He took out his key, unlocked the drawers, opened one, and reached back. His hand gripped the item. He took a deep breath, pulled it out and looked.


Eric's face registered no emotion. He returned the glass dish to the back of the drawer and carefully closed it. He locked the cabinet, picked up the telephone and dialed a number in Bethesda, Maryland.

After three rings, the phone on the other end was picked up.

Eric cleared his throat.

"Dr. Raymond Markey, please."

I fucked up. Me. George Camron... He could not believe it and yet he was holding the evidence against his chest. They had found Silverman. Shit, they had found him. Not even George's employer knew where he had hidden Silverman.

George held the point of the blade in place. When the man swallowed, George felt the stiletto vibrate in his hand. His mind raced for answers, but none came to him. He had fucked up.

Badly. But how? When?

Get control of yourself, George. Show you're still in control.

Listening to the voice in his head, George forced himself to smile. It gave the appearance, he was sure, of being in complete control.

"So, gentlemen," he began, both his grip and grin strong and steady, "how are we today? Lovely weather, don't you think?"

Max managed a shrug.

"Tad warm for my taste, George."

The man knew his name!

"Sorry about that," George replied. He wrestled with his tone in order to keep out any hint of panic. A droplet of sweat trickled down his neck and into the collar of his shirt.

"Mind identifying yourself before I slice your goddamn head off?"

"Lieutenant Max Bernstein. NYPD. You are under arrest for the-"

"Spare me, Lieutenant." A cop! He looked like some goddamn college kid. George could not believe it. They had sent a snot nosed kid after George Camron. Incredible.

"I have to read you your rights," Max continued.

"Try to move, and you're dead." With the point of the blade still against Max's throat, George released his powerful grip and reached into his pocket. He took out something resembling a small television remote. He held it in front of Max's face.

"Do you know what this is?" George asked.

Max looked at the device.

"Are we going to watch TV?" "You're very funny, Lieutenant," George said, but he did not like Bernstein's attitude. Here he was, holding a knife against the kid's throat, and this asshole is making jokes.

He knows something, George. You missed something else... "This button right here" George placed his thumb on it for emphasis "sets off that little explosive up there, very noisy stuff, I'm afraid. Ka-boom."

That seemed to shake up the cop. He suddenly looked pale.


George gestured with the remote.

"Right up there, my friend."

Max's eyes followed the gesture.


George was feeling better now. Not so confident now, are you, kid?

"Yes. Powerful stuff. Bits and pieces of us will end up in Singapore.

If I see even a hint of trouble, it's ka-boom time."

Max's eyes darted in every direction as if searching for a quick exit.

"Forget it, Camron," the young cop said, but his tone no longer held the same bluster as before.

"It's over. The place is surrounded."

"Guess I have no choice," George said with fake regret.

"Looks like I'll have to blow the place up."

"You'd kill yourself too."

"No big deal." "Wait!" Max shouted. When he did, the point of the blade broke the skin. A small cut opened up. Blood began to trickle down Max's neck.

"What?" George asked.

Max closed his eyes. He did not like blood-letting, especially his own.

"I have an idea," he said.


"An exchange, actually."

"What kind of exchange?" Max thought a moment.

"Information for freedom.

"I'll have the charges dropped in exchange for your testimony against the guy who hired you."

Panic again seized George. He knew almost nothing about his employer no name, no address, nothing. Damn it! He knew he should have investigated this new employer more thoroughly.

Why had he failed to follow his standard background check?

Stupid! And another goddamn mistake.

What the hell was wrong with him?

He could fake it, of course. Stall. Make up a name. Lie. But George was realistic. There was no way the Thais were going to let him walk not after an incident like this. The Thais were not like the Americans. They did not work that way.

"No dice," George answered slowly. Like a well-trained surgeon, George scraped at Max's wound with the point of the blade. More blood flowed.

A plan a brilliant, sure-fire plan began to take shape in his mind. His smile returned, radiant.

"But I have another idea," George ventured.


"I am going to walk out of here. In exchange, I guarantee that no one will get hurt."

Max shook his head.

"The place is surrounded "

"Don't worry about that," George interjected.

"I have a way out. You are going to wait five minutes. If you leave this room before then, I'll detonate the bomb. After five minutes you are free to go."

"Max," Michael interrupted. It was the first time he had spoken since George had entered the room.

"Don't listen to him.

He's lying."

Max nodded, but he seemed unsure.

"How can we trust you?" "You have my word," George said.

"Max- "

"Then it's a deal," Max said, "under one condition."

"Max, listen to me. You can't "

"You have a better idea, Michael? He's got a blade on my throat."

Michael just stared at him.

"You can't trust him."

"What choice do we have? Huh?"

George liked what he was hearing.

"We are wasting time.

What is your condition?"

"You give us some information before you leave."

"No." "Then no deal," Max said.

"I am the one holding the stiletto and the detonator "

"No deal unless you talk. I just want information, George.

I'm not interested in capturing you."

George considered his options. His employer had, after all, screwed things totally. George no longer owed him any loyalty.

Why not talk? The cop would be less likely to try anything if he had information he thought was useful.

Besides, Lieutenant Max Bernstein was not going to live long.

Neither was Michael Silverman.

"Ask your question."

"Who hired you?"

"I don't know. I got anonymous calls."

"What was the purpose of the murders?"


"Why did you target people at an AIDS clinic?"

"I don't know that either."

"Come on, George, you're going to have to do better than that."

"I kill for hire," George explained.

"The less I know, the better."

"You must have heard something."


"Then why did you make the murders look like the work of a serial killer?" "Those were my instructions," George said.

"I was told to slash them all up in an unmistakably similar fashion make it as bloody as possible."

"Why did you dump Bradley Jenkins behind a gay bar?"

George shrugged.

"I just did what I was told." As George spoke, his plan crystallized.

As soon as he hit the street, he would set off the explosives, killing Silverman and the cop while providing him with the ideal diversion for his escape.

"That's what I get paid for, Lieutenant even if the payments did come a little late. I thought I was being stiffed until yesterday "

"Did you kill Dr. Bruce Grey and make it look like a suicide?"




"Were all the other victims mutilated?" Max asked.


"Stabbed repeatedly?"


"None killed any other way?"

George sighed impatiently.

"All were stabbed except Dr. Grey."

"And Riccardo Martino?"

"Never heard of him."

For the first time since the questioning began, Max paused.

Then: "Why was Michael kidnapped?"

George rolled his eyes.

"How the hell am I supposed to know?

I got a call in the morning telling me to nab Michael Silverman before the day was over. That's what I did. I paid off a friend in customs, loaded him on a cargo jet, and we flew over here.

I do not like to repeat myself, Lieutenant, so I will say this for the last time I do not know, nor do I care, why my employer ordered any of these jobs."

"What were your last orders?"

"Blow up a building and let Michael go."

"What building?"

"A storage house."

It was Michael who spoke.

"The clinic's storage house," he said.

"All Harv's lab work would have been destroyed."

"I am leaving now," George said, "but before I do, let me remind you that I have my thumb resting on a detonator. If you try any heroics, I'll push the button. If you plan on having a sniper take me out, he better make sure I die instantly. Otherwise my thumb presses down. Do you understand?"

Max nodded.

"Good. I'm going to let you go now. Don't move for five minutes."

George shoved Max across the room. Max stumbled and fell.

He turned around, still on his knees.

"One last question," Max said.

"No more questions, Lieutenant. Good-bye. And remember " he held up the detonator "ka-boom."

"Just one more."

George stepped toward the door.

"Good- bye."

Max reached into his boot and took out his gun. It was the first time he had ever done that in the line of duty and was surprised at how smooth his movements had been.

"Would you please put your hands up?"

George looked amused.

"Are you joking, Lieutenant?"

"Put your hands above your head now."

George laughed.

"Go ahead. Fire.

"I'll blow this whole fucking block to kingdom come."

"No, you won't."

"And why not?" Max smiled.

"Because you fucked up, George. Again."

George's smile disappeared.

"What are you talking about?"

"I disconnected the explosives before you got here."

George's mouth dropped open.

"You do terribly crude work, George. No trip wire, no nothing. Any idiot could have disengaged it in two seconds. Very sloppy work."

George shook his head.

"The Thais would have busted in if that were true."

"The Thais think the explosives are still intact," Max said.

"I wanted them to."


"If they stormed us," Max continued, "somebody might have gotten killed. And you were the most likely candidate. I needed your information first."

"You're lying."

"Then go ahead. Push the button. As soon as you do I have my reason to waste you. Either way you are a dead man." Max steadied his aim.

"So go ahead. You already told me everything you know. You're worthless to me now. Push the button."

It's over. I fucked up. I really fucked up... George's mind flailed wildly, grasping for any rescue float.

"If I surrender," he began tentatively, "will I be extradited to the United States?"


Maybe I can still swing a deal. The Americans will want someone to testify against my employer. I still have valuable information.

Wouldn't be the first time they let the hit man go to catch the big fish... "Okay then," George said, "here." He held out the detonator.

"That's worthless now, George. Take out your knife and put it on the ground. Then put your hands above your head."

Max opened the window shade. Within seconds the cops were in the room.

They cuffed George and dragged him downstairs. Max immediately ran for the detonator. He picked it up gently as if it were made of expensive crystal.

"Max?" Michael called.


"You don't know anything about explosives, do you?"

Max did not look up.

"Not a damn thing."