Chapter 25

Michael was still unconscious when they wheeled him into his room on the third floor. Dr. Sombat patiently filled Harvey in on everything that had happened.

"Your Lieutenant Bernstein is a brave man," the Thai doctor said.

"He saved Mr. Silverman's life."

"Did they capture the man who kidnapped Michael?" Harvey asked.

"Yes. He is in custody." "Has... has he said anything yet? Anything that might help solve this case?"

"I apologize, Dr. Riker, but I am not privy to that information."

Harvey nodded.

"Where is Lieutenant Bernstein now?"

"He had an emergency," Dr. Sombat replied.

"He drove off with Sergeant Monticelli. If there is nothing else, I have to get back to the airport."

"No, nothing else. Thank you for all your help."

"You are welcome. How can I get back to Kennedy Airport?"

"Ask the receptionist downstairs to call a taxi. Thanks again."

They shook hands and Dr. Sombat departed, leaving Harvey alone with Michael in the quiet, dark room.


No response. Harvey could see that Michael's nose was broken. He had lost a considerable amount of weight.

"I'm sorry, Michael."

Harvey stared down at his young friend lying helplessly in the bed. A tear ran down his cheek. He bent over and gently kissed Michael's forehead. Then he turned to leave.


He turned around. Michael looked up through the darkness with groggy eyes.

"I'm right here, Michael. You're back now."

His voice was barely a whisper.


"She left a few minutes before you got here," he replied.

"I left a message on the answering machine for her to call me."

'"Peel... feel weak."

"I know. Try to get some rest. I'll wake you when Sara gets here."

Michael tried to nod.

"Max got the Slasher."

"I know," Harvey replied, walking back toward the bed. He hugged his friend.

"Go to sleep now, Michael. Everything is going to be okay. You want me to give you something?"

Michael shook his head and closed his eyes. Harvey quietly crept out of the room. Then he headed down the hallway, unlocked the door, and entered the laboratory.

"I'm sorry, Michael," he said out loud. But there was no one to hear his words.

He took out the gun from his pocket and wrapped a towel around the barrel, using it as a makeshift silencer. No matter really. The refrigeration room was soundproof once the door was closed. He had shot Eric in there and no one had heard a sound.

He crossed the lab. How was he going to get the bodies out?

Harvey knew from first-hand experience how heavy dead weight could be.

He would have to place the corpses in a plastic bag.

Then he would instruct the nurses that he would take care of Michael for this ever ting on his own and that no one was to enter the third floor under any condition. That would give him the opportunity to drag the bodies to the elevator, head down to the basement, get them out through the tunnel George had used, and put them in the trunk of his car.

Then what?

He was not sure. Tie weights to their legs and dump them in the river.

Isn't that what they always did in the movies? He would have to be careful. Wear gloves. Clean the lab from top to bottom. Wouldn't want the police to find a few strands of long blonde hair in the refrigeration room now, would we?

He reached the door of the refrigeration room and leaned his ear against it. Cold. Well, what did he expect? And why did he put his ear against the door in the first place? What had he expected to hear through the thick door?


Stop putting it off, Harv. Stop stalling. Sara has to die. She'll never keep silent. Think of all the young men dying every day.

Think of the thousands, maybe millions, you can save from an awful death. Look toward your goal.

A world with no AIDS.

Harvey nodded to himself. He reached down and unlocked the padlock.

Then he opened the door and pointed the gun at Sara.

Two floors below Cassandra smiled at the security guard as she headed into the clinic. She tried to put a little bounce in her steps, tried to make her smile bigger, but it would not hold. In her right hand, she had a bag of take-out Chinese. Spare ribs, moo-shu pork, General Tsao's Chicken (Chinese generals cook?), and beef with broccoli, all packaged in those little white boxes Chinese restaurants use. The bottom of the bag no doubt had about 850 packets of duck sauce, soy sauce, and that mustard hot enough to remove paint. Then there were the usual fortune cookies and, for some reason which always escaped her, they always gave you an orange for dessert.

Cassandra strolled down the hall toward Harvey's office. She had not seen him very much in the past few days and missed him terribly.

Probably he had not been sleeping or eating properly.

Between Michael's mysterious kidnapping, the Gay Slasher, and now her father's Washington conspiracy it was enough to make any man begin to unravel.

So Cassandra had decided another little surprise was in order.

At the end of the hallway, she knocked on Harvey's door.


No response.


Still no response.

She peeked in the doorway and saw that the room was empty.

Maybe the receptionist would know where he went. She went back down the hall to the receptionist's desk. Cassandra smiled, and the receptionist smiled back, putting up one finger to signal her to wait.

"I'm sorry," the receptionist said into the phone, "but I can't locate Sara Lowell. She may have already left, Mrs. Riker, I know you said it's an emergency, but... yes, I understand the importance. Would you like me to page Dr. Riker? No? Okay, okay, I won't, calm down."

Cassandra leaned over.

"A call for Sara?"

The receptionist put her hand over the mouthpiece.

"It's Jennifer Riker, Dr. Riker's ex. She keeps ranting about an emergency."

"I'll talk to her."

Cassandra took the phone.


Jennifer's voice came fast.

"Who is this?"

"Cassandra Lowell, Jennifer. I'm Sara's sister. We met a few years back at a party " "I remember," Jennifer.

"Where's Sara?"

"I don't know. I just got here myself."

"Find her, Cassandra. She's in grave danger."

Cassandra held the phone close to her ear.

"What are you talking about?"

"I'm talking about the letter," Jennifer explained.

"What letter?"

"The letter Bruce wrote."

Sergeant Willie Monticelli veered right and exited off the Henry Hudson Parkway at 178th Street. He sped down Fort Washington Avenue, passed Hood Park, and turned left at 167th Street. He made a hard right on Broadway, accelerated past the main hospital building and Babies Hospital, and took a sharp left.

Ten seconds later the squad car arrived at the Sidney Pavilion entrance. Willie pulled the car up on the sidewalk, braking with a horrid screech, inches before hitting the cement stairs at the entrance. Max was out of the car before it came to a complete stop, Willie not far behind. The two sprinted up the stairs, badges out. The security guards, spotting the police IDs, stepped back to avoid being the victims of a two-man stampede.

"Any other police arrive yet?" Max asked without breaking stride.

"None," the guard yelled back.

Max continued to run, busting through doors like an Old West gunslinger in a saloon. He reached the reception desk.

"Where's Sara Lowell?" he asked.

The receptionist looked up quizically.

"And who might you Max tossed his badge on her desk.

"Lieutenant Bernstein, NYPD. Where is Sara Lowell?"

"She is a very popular young lady today."

"What does that mean?"

"It means, Lieutenant, that you are not the first person in a rush to speak to her."

"Who else?"

"Jennifer Riker just called looking for Ms. Lowell. She said it was very urgent."

"Dr. Riker's wife?"

"Ex- wife," the receptionist corrected.

"Anyhow, I couldn't find Ms. Lowell anywhere so Mrs. Riker spoke to her sister instead."

"Cassandra? Where is she?"

The receptionist shrugged.

"I couldn't tell you for sure. She spoke to Mrs. Riker, turned all white and funny, and then ran off without a word. Didn't even have the courtesy to hang up the phone."

"Where did she go?"

"She got in the elevator and went up. It stopped at the third floor."

Max turned toward the elevator.


The sergeant stood at the elevator, holding the door open.

"One step ahead of you, Twitch."

"Then let's move."

Harvey cradled the gun close to him as he swung open the door slowly.

He had considered the possibility that Sara Lowell might launch some sort of futile attack when he first opened the door.

But when he looked in the cold room, he knew that he had worried needlessly.

Sara was slumped in the corner. Her eyes were closed, her head tilted back at a strange angle. Her normally pale complexion was frighteningly white, colorless. Her trembling lips were thin and blue.

She looked so pitifully small and helpless, huddled in the corner like a wounded animal trapped in a cage.

"Sarar No response. Her breathing was labored and uneven. Her shoulder drooped into her chest, her arms hung limply at her sides.

"Sarar Still nothing. Her eyes remained closed. A choking noise, like something was stuck in her air passage, came from her throat.

Part of him wanted Sara to stay unconscious, but most of him wanted her to be awake. He wanted her to be conscious when he killed her, to have the right to stare at him with accusing, hateful eyes as he pulled the trigger. The haunting image would never leave him, he knew. It would be his own way of serving penance.

He kept his distance on the off chance that she would regain consciousness and try to surprise him. From where he stood near the doorway, he would have plenty of time to raise his gun and fire should she try to cross the room. Not even someone with Michael's quickness would be able to cross a room that fast.

For a moment he considered using the knife in his pocket on her. It would, no doubt, be quieter. But no, he would stick to the gun. The gun was more impersonal. It could kill from a distance. Stabbing someone, slicing their throat from ear to ear or jutting the long blade into the heart... only a certain sort of man could do such a thing.

Harvey found it too painful to stare at Sara's pathetic form crouched in the corner. He swerved his eyes toward the neat row of test tubes on the top shelf. He read the labels. So close was he to his project that he had each patient's code and every chemical in this room memorized.

87m332 was Ezra Platt. 98k003 was Kiel Davis. The next one should be, yes it was, 39k10, Kevin Fraine..."Sarar Still nothing. Her troubled breathing had deteriorated into struggled gasps and arduous intakes.

Harvey felt tears push into his eyes, but as he had done when he ordered Bruce's death, he forced them back down. His eyes moved down the row of beakers.

Naoh, S02, H2So4, next should be H3PO4, and then. where was the HC1?... Sara's slumped arm moved like it had been spring-released.

The arm shot toward him as he raised his gun. In her hand Sara held a large glass beaker filled with HC1. Harvey's eyes widened.

HCl. Hydrochloric acid."

There was no time to react. The liquid flew across the room and splashed onto Harvey's face.

He screamed.

The acid ripped at him. It burrowed into his face, eating away at his flesh, shredding his corneas and pupils, tearing apart the milky white of his eyes. Pain engulfed him, but the pain in his skin was nothing compared to what was happening in his eyes.

Thousands of sharp flaming darts punctured the soft gel of his eyeballs.

His hands flew to his face, his fingers pulled at his eyes in a futile attempt to lessen the pain. He could hear his skin and eyes sizzle, smell the burning flesh on his own face.

As Sara struggled to her feet, she saw the gun fall from his hand and bounce underneath a shelf. She thought groggily of trying to get it but decided against it. It would probably take too long and give Harvey the time he needed to recuperate. Better to make a run for it.

Before she took a step, Sara heard Harvey manage his first words since the acid had landed on his face. They started low, almost inaudible, but they grew louder with each syllable. He repeated the same words over an dover as though they were some sort of ritual chant:

"You must die, Sara. You must."

The elevator moved so damn slowly. After thirty seconds of pushing the close-door button, the door grudgingly obeyed by sliding shut. With a grunt it began to ascend.

"You check the second floor," Max said to Willie. "I'll go up to the third. Yell if you see anything."


The elevator stopped on the second floor. The door had not yet opened when Max and Willie heard what sounded like a long, primal scream.

"Third floor," Max shouted.

Willie repeatedly pressed the third floor button, but the elevator's course had already been set and it was not about to be rushed by a human scream. The door opened slowly on the second floor and then paused.

Impatience overcame Max. He sprinted across the portal. "I'll take the stairway. Meet me up there."

Willie withdrew his revolver from its holster.

"Got ya."

"You must die, Sara..."

Sara wasted little time. Summoning up strength she did not have, she maneuvered past Eric's body, shoved Harvey aside, and hobbled toward the door. Even with the adrenalin flow, her movements were slow. The cold had stiffened her limbs and constricted her lungs. She had spent so much energy on the quick swing of her arm and pushing Harvey that she feared she might not be able to make it.

Have to. The baby... A few minutes earlier Sara had been ready to give up. Trapped in the cold room, no way of escape, no hope of a last minute rescue... no Michael in truth, she had almost welcomed defeat.

There was nothing left. Her spirit had been crushed. Michael dead.

What difference could survival make when there was no Michael?

She had begun to drift away. Delirium took control, and it too was welcome. Anything was better than reality. She would just drift and drift, not think about Michael, just drift, look around, let her mind replay TDon't Fear The Reaper." She could almost hear Buck Dharma singing about the Grim Reaper's visit. It was clear she couldn't go on, The door was opened and the wind appeared, The candles blew and then disappeared..."

She was looking around, looking at all the test tubes and fancy equipment on the shelves, looking until too exhausted to look anymore, eyes beginning to close. the curtains flew and then He appeared..."

yes there were all the various test tubes and glass dishes and beakers.


"Don't be afraid, come on, Mary'..." lots of beakers, so many sizes with all the fancy codes labeled on the front. "and she had no fear..."

Sara had not held a beaker or test tube since tenth-grade chemistry.

God, she hated that class. Seemed like all they did was the damn periodic table. She remembered very little of it now, like the Spanish she took for four years and never used again. A few words she remembered. Hola was hello. as she ran to him..." adios was good-bye. Buenos dias was good morning. The same with chemistry. H2O was water. CO2 was carbon dioxide andhcl..."and they started to fly..." HC1 was hydrochloric acid.


Harvey's tortured voice pursued after her.

"You have to die, Sara. You have to..."

Sara glanced behind her. Harvey had scrambled to his feet.

He pried his hands off his face and took a knife from his pocket.

His face was red and blotchy.

Sara turned back around and moved forward. Behind her Harvey began to lunge toward the lab door. He moved like a maniac without reason, without concern for what might be in his way. And like a maniac, he moved fast.

"You have to die. You have to..."

She tried to hobble faster. Her eyes fixed on the doorknob.

Just a few more seconds, just a few more steps, almost there, almost... She reached out. Her hand touched the doorknob and then closed around it. Harvey was right behind her now, just a few yards back. He stumbled and dove forward, landing inches away from her. Sara turned the knob.

The door was locked.

Her heart sank. Her fingers quickly moved to the deadbolt..."You have to die, Sara..." and twisted it clockwise. She heard the bolt slide back.

Her hand moved back to the knob again.

That was when she felt cold fingers wrap around her ankle.

From the floor below her.

"You have to die, Sara. You have to."

She screamed, trying to pull her bad foot free, but he held on. He suddenly tugged hard and Sara toppled to the floor beside him. Pain rushed up her leg. She kicked at him, but the blows did not seem to bother him. He was beyond pain now, beyond any form of rationality. He was like some robot set on destroy and nothing she could do would de-program him. He had to silence her. He had to save his clinic.

There was nothing else.

He pulled her ankle and her body slid toward him. Her fingers reached out, trying to grasp anything that might slow him down, but there was nothing but the slick tile.

"have to die..."

He grabbed her hair and tugged harshly. Holding her in place, Harvey raised himself up. He lifted the knife above his head. Sara made a fist and swung. It landed in Harvey's groin. He made an oofing noise and fell off her.

Sara scrambled to her feet. She twisted the knob. The door opened.

She heard Harvey scream.


She fell out into the hallway as Harvey stumbled to his feet after her.

Then Sara heard somebody say, "It's over, Harv. Drop it."

They both froze.

The voice, Sara thought... but it can't be.

Her line of vision traveled past Harvey. It traveled down to the corridor until it reached the spot where the voice had come from.


Still holding the knife, Harvey spun toward the voice. The acid had rendered his right eye useless, but his left could still make out shapes. A man was standing about ten feet away from him. It was Michael. And the figure behind him... he squinted, trying to make out' the face... His tormented voice said her name.


With tears running down her face, Cassandra turned away.

"Let go of the knife," Michael said.

"It's over."

Lieutenant Bernstein came flying around the corner. Sergeant Monticelli followed with his gun drawn. He aimed at Harvey's head.

But Harvey had already dropped the knife. There was no point in continuing. Killing Sara would no longer benefit AIDS because Michael knew the truth. So did Cassandra and Lieutenant Bernstein and that other police officer. He could not kill them all. He could not hide the truth any longer.

So what should he do now?

His whole body went limp. The officer with the gun tackled him and flipped him roughly onto his stomach. There was no need. Harvey offered no resistance. Through his one good eye, he saw Michael pick up Sara. They embraced for a very long time.

He was cuffed and dragged to his feet. Cassandra could still not face him. A pity. He had really cared for her. He might even have loved her. But how could he make her understand that his happiness was irrelevant? How could he make her understand that he had become merely a shell, a tool, a valuable asset in the war against AIDS? His personal life was immaterial. It was Harvey the doctor and researcher that mattered; Harvey the man had always been superfluous.

His eyes still burned from the acid, but he was not thinking about that anymore. He was mulling over his options. He would get a lawyer, a lawyer who could stall for as long as possible. Just a few months of freedom was all it would take to perfect SRI..."You have the right to remain silent," the police officer was saying.

"Anything you say..." and even if he had to spend time in jail, so what? He might be able to work on the formula in prison and correspond with researchers in the outside world. He had read about a doctor doing that somewhere. He could still make a contribution, still give the world his expertise.

But first, he would call a lawyer. A good, smart lawyer.

Yeah, that was it. That's what he'd do. That's exactly what he would do.