Chapter 5

Sara limped along after him as Harvey sprinted toward the emergency ward. Ten yards in front of the entrance he almost slammed into Eric Blake, who was making a blind turn in the same direction.

"They paged you too?" Eric asked.

Harvey nodded. The two men barely broke stride as they I crashed through the door and into the waiting area. They immediately spotted Reece Porter.

It was Harvey who reached him first.

"What happened?"

"Don't know. Mikey just grabbed his stomach and collapsed.

He's in there."

"Come on, Eric."

The two doctors disappeared behind a guarded door reading No Admittance. A moment later Sara hobbled into the emergency ward.

Reece looked up, surprised to see her at the hospital already.

"What are you doing here?"

She ignored the question.

"Where is he? Is he all right?"

"The emergency room doctor is already with him. Harvey and Eric are in there too."

"What happened?"

"I don't know. We were scrimmaging like always, making jokes and all that stuff. We stopped for a break and a minute later..."

"A minute later what?"

"Mikey collapsed on the floor holding his stomach. We called an ambulance and I drove over with him. The pain seemed to let up a little on the way. When we got here, I told the nurse to page Eric and Harv."

"Is he conscious?"

"Yeah, he's awake. I bet it's just some food poisoning or something all that Chinese food he's eating all the time. Now answer my question: what are you doing here?"

"I had a doctor's appointment next door."

"Are you okay?"

His voice rang with the warmth of genuine concern. In the background Sara could hear children whisper, "Look, Mom, that's Reece Porter!"

Reece's six-eight frame was about average for the NBA, but it was semi-freak anywhere else. His height always drew fascinated glances.

"I'm fine," Sara said, hugging him tightly.

"Reece, thanks for going with him."

Reece shrugged.

"He's my friend," he said simply.

"And don't worry too much about Mikey. The man is blessed. Remember how scared we were the last time we met in a hospital? All that blood and everything?"

Sara did. Every year when basketball season ended, she and Michael had joined Reece and his Eurasian wife Kureen for a getaway-from-it-all vacation. Five years ago, when Michael and Sara were first getting serious, the four decided to charter a small cruise boat out of Florida and explore the Keys and the Bahamas. The past basketball season had been a particularly long one, ending when the Knicks bested the Seattle Supersonics in a grueling, bruising seven-game showdown. All four of them had been anxious to escape the world, the fans, and the press.

On the third day of the voyage Michael and Reece had gotten up early, hired a kid with a speed boat, and gone water-skiing.

The kid had gotten drunk and crashed the boat into a rock formation while Michael was on the water-skis. He had been rushed to a local Bahamian hospital, bleeding heavily, and spent the next three weeks in bed.

"I remember," Sara said softly.

"But Mikey is as one of the rookies would say a tough old dude. He'll be okay."

Sara tried to take solace in Recce's words, but something kept jabbing at the back of her mind, telling her that he was not going to be okay, that nothing was ever going to be okay again.

"what's going on?" Harvey asked.

The young resident with the name tag John Richardson looked up and spoke with quick precision.

"We're not sure yet. He's suffering severe abdominal pain. Physical examination is remarkable for the liver being palpable four centimeters below the right costal margin. It's extremely tender."

"Hurts like hell is more like it," Michael managed from his prone position on the table.

"Vital signs?"

"All stable."

Harvey moved toward the bed.

"Looking good, champ."

"Feel like shit, coach."

"I was only kidding. You look like shit too."

Michael managed a chuckle.

"I got the varsity in here now.

How's it going, Eric?"

"Fine. Should I page Dr. Sagarel, Harv?"

Harvey nodded.

"See you in a bit, Mike," Eric said.

"I'll wait here for you." Michael turned his attention back to Harvey.

"Who is Dr. Sagarel?"

"A gastroenterologist."

"Of course. I should have known."

"Jesus, Michael, look at your shorts. They're horrendous even by your standards."

"I ask for a doctor. I get a fashion critic."

Harvey probed the liver area.

"Does that hurt?"

"Like a son of a bitch."

Harvey straightened his back and turned toward the resident.

"Have you done the blood work yet?"


"Get him an abdominal flat plate done stat."

"I'll also need to get a better history," Richardson said.

"It could be something he consumed "

"Can't be. He's had this pain for weeks. And his skin is jaundiced."

Eric came back into the room.

"Dr. Sagarel will be here in about a half hour." "Michael," Harvey asked, "have you noticed anything unusual in your urine lately?"

"A Datson hatchback came out the other day."

"Hilarious. Now answer my question."

Harvey saw the fear gather around Michael's eyes.

"I don't know. The color's been darker maybe."

The doctor's exchanged knowing glances.

"What?" Michael asked.

"What have I got?"

"I don't know yet. Eric, make sure they do a Hep screen on the blood.

Also EBV and CMV titers. Then bring him down for an abdominal ultrasound."

"One step ahead of you."

"Now in English?" Michael asked.

"All the signs point to hepatitis," Harvey explained.

"Eric and Dr. Richardson are going to take you downstairs for x-rays now, I'll see you in a little while."

Dr. Raymond Markey, Assistant Secretary for Health of the Department of Health and Human Services, stared out the window at the lush green compound in Bethesda, Maryland. To him, the National Institutes of Health resembled a cross between a European spa and a military base.

From his corner office the wilderness seemed to stretch for miles. But Markey knew better.

He knew, for instance, that his big boss, the President of the United States, was about ten miles away, beginning his weekly brunch meeting with the Vice President. The two men met most Mondays for a light brunch and a heavy discussion. Raymond had attended a few of those brunches. He did not particularly care for the conversation or the food.

He sighed deeply, took off his glasses, and rubbed his eyes.

He was excruciatingly nearsighted. When he viewed the sprawling landscape without his glasses, the world turned into a large abstract painting. The bright colors bled into one another and seemed to move in a kaleidoscope pattern.

He put his glasses back on, turned away from the calming view, and glanced at the two reports on his desk. The first was marked "Confidential!" and there were numerous seal protectors on the envelope so that Markey could be sure that no one had opened it before him. The envelope was also specially treated so that its contents could not be read by holding it up to a light.

Any tampering left permanent scars. It was a lot of security, but ' sometimes every bit of it was needed. n The second envelope read "Sidney Pavilion, Columbia!

Presbyterian Medical Center, New York." The security surrounding this file, while significant, was somewhat more limited.

Assistant Secretary for Health of the Department of Health and Human Services a long and rather unimpressive title, Raymond Markey thought.

But he knew better. His office was in charge of the U.S. Public Health Service, controlling such agencies as the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control, and the National Institutes of Health hardly an unimportant or ceremonial post.

Markey reached for his letter opener and slit the confidential envelope. He then laid the reports side by side. The regular report had been filled out by Dr. Harvey Riker and for the first time Dr. Brace Grey's signature had been omitted. Too bad. As for the confidential report... well, safer not to think about the source.

Repeating the name of the author out loud could prove hazardous to one's health. Even fatal.

Markey skimmed the files for obvious discrepancies. One jumped out at him immediately.

The number of patients.

According to Hiker's report, they had been treating forty-one patients, two of whom had been murdered in recent weeks.

Riker's write-up was factual, not drawing any conclusions, but he did mention the strange coincidence that two patients had died of multiple stab wounds within a couple of weeks of one another. Markey also noticed that Riker never referred to Grey's death as a suicide but as a "shock" and "death that made no sense."

Curious description, Markey mused.

He examined the reports again. The report stamped "Confidential"

stated unequivocally that there had originally been forty-two patients, not forty-one. Why the discrepancy? Markey wondered. Raymond doubted very much it was a mistake. No one made mistakes in these situations.

There was a reason for the discrepancy. All he had to do was figure out what.

Markey thumbed back to the beginning of the confidential report. He was sure that Harvey Riker was behind the discrepancy. He knew Riker well and did not trust him. Many years earlier, when Raymond Markey had been chief of staff at St. Barnabas Hospital in New Jersey, he had first encountered a brash, young intern named Harvey Riker. Even back then Riker hated rules and regulations. And now that those rules and regulations came from the government, Markey knew Riker was even more apt to bend them. The man had tremendous talent but very little discipline. He needed to be watched. Closely.

Ah, here it was. On page two.

Page two of the confidential report listed all the staff members and patients at the Sidney Pavilion. Markey shifted through Rikef's report until he found the patient list. He counted them.

Yes, forty-two in the confidential report. Forty-one in the doctor's report. Which name was missing from Dr. Riker's file?

It did not take long to find. The name might as well have been underlined.

His hand shaking, Raymond picked up the phone behind his desk. The office phone was probably bugged, but he carefully screened his private line on a daily basis. Can't be too careful.

He dialed. The receiver on the other end was picked up after three rings.


"I have the confidential report. It arrived this morning."


Markey swallowed.

"I haven't had a chance to go through it completely yet, but I think we better move fast. They're getting close."

"Then we might have to send someone to Bangkok. When can I get a copy?"

"I'll mail it out today."


"There's something else."


"Dr. Riker is secretly working on an important patient," Markey said.

"He left the name out of his report."

"Who is it?"

"Bradley Jenkins. The senator's "

"I know who he is." There was a brief silence.

"That explains a lot of things, Raymond." "I know," Markey said.

"Get me that report right away."

"I'll send it out immediately. It'll be on your desk tomorrow morning."

"Thank you, Raymond. Good-bye."

"Good- bye, Reverend Sanders."

Still leaning heavily on her cane, Sara hobbled toward Michael's room.

So much was going on, so much happening at one time. Michael's illness, the possibility of being pregnant, and this weird mystery surrounding Harvey's clinic. Two patients murdered. Coincidence?

Maybe, but Sara did not think so. She made a mental note to call Max Bernstein when the opportunity arose. He might know something.

She turned the corner and pushed open the door to Michael's room. Her foot felt stiff today, more like an attached club than flesh and bones.

Michael looked up from the bed. His face brightened when he saw her.

She moved over to the bed and kissed him lightly.

"Feeling better?" she asked.

"Much," he replied.

"You scared me half to death, you know. I called my father.

He should be here soon." "Sara," he said, "what were you doing at the hospital today?"

She hesitated.

"I didn't want to say anything to you until I was sure."

Michael sat up, his voice unsettled.

"Sure about what? Are you okay?"

She nodded. His concerned, tender gaze plucked at her heart.

"You know about my time of the month?"

"I guess so," he replied.

"It was pretty well covered in seventh grade health class."

She chuckled but the anxiety still would not leave Michael's face.

"Well, mine is six weeks late."

His eyes widened.

"You're pregnant?"

"I don't know yet. The test results should be back in a few hours."

"Jesus, Sara, why didn't you tell me?"

She sat next to him on the bed and took his hand in hers.

"I didn't want to get either of our hopes up if it was just another false alarm. I hate to see the disappointment in your face..."

She turned away, but Michael gently tilted her face back toward him.

"Sara, I love you. Not being able to have kids is not going to change that."

She nestled her face into his chest.

"Mean it?"

He chuckled.

"Yeah, mean it."

"You got a lemon when you married me."

"Yeah, but a pretty foxy lemon. Great in the sack too."

"Fresh. You're supposed to be sick."

"I can still have a lewd thought now and again. Doctor said it's good for me."

"Tunny, I didn't hear him say that."

"What did you hear him say?"

"Something about the fact that your skin was jaundiced and you may have hepatitis."

"Well, is it true? Does my skin look jaundiced?"

She examined him.

"You look like a Ticonderoga pencil."


"But a cute pencil."

There was a sharp knock on the door and then Sara's father peeked his head through the opening.

"Am I interrupting something?"

"Come in," Michael called out.

"I could use all the doctors I can get a hold of."

John Lowell entered the room. He was of average height and extraordinarily good looking. His neatly parted, full head of gray hair was the very definition of distinguished. His face boasted cheeks that dimpled when he smiled and a cleft chin, but one's gaze was immediately drawn to his eyes eyes as bright green I as Sara's. He crossed the room, kissed Sara, and shook Michael's hand.

"I think I'm a little out of my field of expertise here. Who I examined you?"

"Harvey and Eric you remember my friend Eric Blake?"

"Of course. I hear he is working with Dr. Riker at... at the | clinic."

John Lowell's face shadowed at the mention of the clinic. Sara and Michael both noticed it. Michael decided to let it slide; Sara did not.

"Yes, he is," Sara said.

"The clinic is making marvelous progress." "Good," her father said, his tone clearly ending any discussion of the clinic.

"Now then, Michael, what seems to be the problem with you?"

"They're running some test, but they think it's hepatitis."

"What specialist is Harvey recommending?"

"Doctor Sagarel."

John nodded his approval.

"Good man. Listen to what Sagarel says, Michael, not those two epidemiologist friends of yours." Sara said, "You know Harvey Riker is an exceptional physician, one of the top men in his field."

"I'm sure that is so "

"And the clinic is on the threshold of a major breakthrough in the war against AIDS."

"I'm happy to hear that," John replied without enthusiasm.

"The sooner, the better. We need those funds elsewhere."

"How can you say that?"

"Let's not start this again, okay?" he said.

"It is a simple question of economics."

"Economics?" Sara repeated.

"Economics is more important than saving lives?"

"Please do not use that preachy, simplistic argument on me," her father replied evenly.

"I've used it too often myself in front of Senate subcommittees to fall for it now. The truth of the matter is that only X amount of dollars goes into health care and medical research. X amount. Period. Some goes to the Heart Association, some to my own Cancer Center, and then there is muscular dystrophy, rheumatism arthritis, senior citizens, whatever. We all compete for funds. Now AIDS comes along and gets an astronomical not to mention disproportional slice of that pie."

"You make it sound like some sort of contest," Sara said.

"Doesn't compassion "

"This is the real world," her father interrupted.

"In the real world you have to deal with economic realities. Fact is, every dollar spent on AIDS is taken away from those other organizations."

"Wrong," a voice pronounced. John Lowell turned. Harvey Riker stood in the doorway.

"Donations toward AIDS research are often raised separately," Harvey continued.

"Some perhaps," Lowell replied, "but Liz Taylor and her friends can just as easily hold garage sales for the Heart Association or the Cancer Center. And let me ask you, Dr. Riker, who is the major contributor toward your clinic here at the hospital?" Harvey paused.

"The federal government and the hospital board."

"And where would that money go if not to your clinic? Toward the cure of cancer or arthritis or heart disease, that's where. Many people will die of AIDS this year, but how many thousands more will die from either cancer or heart disease? Innocent victims who do not indulge in self-destructive and immoral activities "

"Listen to yourself," Harvey interrupted.

"You sound like Reverend Sanders."

Lowell stepped toward Harvey, his eyes blazing. '1 don't know Sanders personally, but don't you ever compare me to that money hungry pig, do you understand? And stop playing the naive academic. You know that there have to be priorities in medical research to deny that is to deny reality. Some illnesses have to take precedence over others."

"And you don't think AIDS should be a priority case?"

"The disease is almost one hundred percent preventable, Dr. Riker. Can you say the same about cancer? About heart disease?

About arthritis? That's why I voted against funding your clinic at the board meeting. Innocent people, people who weren't screwing strange men behind sleazy bars or jamming needles filled with poison into their veins are killed in horrifying ways.

People who weren't engaging in sexual acts that boggle the mind you're not stupid, Dr. Riker. You know that the gay community ignored all the warning signs. Epstein-Barr ran rampant through them, but they ignored it. Cytomegalovirus and a host of other viruses infected a frighteningly high percentage of the gay community, but they chose to maintain their wanton lifestyles."

"So promiscuity should be punished with death?" Harvey shot back.

"Is that what you're saying? Then a lot of heterosexuals better beware too."

"I'm saying simply this: they were warned. Anyone who spoke out against their wild sexual behavior anyone who tried to tell them to slow down was labeled a bigot and homophobic.

With viral infections plaguing the entire gay community for years, what did they expect to happen?"

"That's ridiculous."

"Is it? Weren't these men responsible for their narcissistic and dangerous activities? Weren't they in some way asking for this?"


Harvey's voice was cool.

"They never asked to die, Dr. Lowell.

Try as you might, you cannot get rid of this disease by denying its existence. We're not talking about something that affects animals or strange creatures or some sort of subhumans.

Thousands of living, breathing human beings are dying horrible deaths from AIDS." "I know that," Lowell said, "and Lord knows, I hope those boys are cured. But the money being spent on AIDS is outrageous when self-control will stop its spread."

Harvey shook his head. "You're just plain wrong, Dr. Lowell even economically speaking. Do you know how much AIDS is ultimately going to cost us if we don't find a cure for it? Do you have any notion of the enormous expense in treating AIDS patients?

Every social and medical program will be drained.

Whole cities will go bankrupt from the medical bills."

"The patients should foot the bill themselves," Lowell replied.

"There are other priorities, other ways the board could have spent that money." His voice began to crack and Sara knew what was coming next.

She closed her eyes and waited.

"I watched cancer kill my wife," he continued.

"I watched it eat away at my Erin until..." He stopped then, his head lowered, his face anguished.

"And your commitment is admirable," Harvey replied. "I however, never got the chance to see my brother die. Sidney suffered alone while lesions and infections engulfed and destroyed his body. He was shunned, made an outcast by his own family including me. Most of these young men boys in their twenties and thirties, for chrissake die the death of a leper.

If this disease had hit any other segment of the population, the government would have reacted quickly and with lots of money.

But everyone thought it was merely a 'fag' disease, and who cares about a bunch of fags anyway?"

"They should have shown some self-control."

Harvey shook his head.

"You can't play God, Dr. Lowell.

While part of me agrees with your harsh statements on cigarette smoking, I have to ask you, sir, where do you draw the line?

Should thin people get priority over obese? Should people who ignore their doctor's warning about high cholesterol be told that they asked for their heart attack? Where do you draw the line, Dr. Lowell? And who gets to play God?"

John Lowell opened his mouth to continue the argument, then closed it.

His face was etched in exhaustion.

"The sad fact is that resources are limited. That means that tough choices have to be made."

"And who is going to make those choices, Dr. Lowell?"

John waved his hand as though dismissing the question. His voice took on a nervous, shaky edge.

"Enough of this now," he said.

"I want to hear about Michael's condition."

Police Lieutenant Max

"Twitch" Bernstein hated New York in the summer.

Too damn hot for a human to be in the city this time of the year. Not that Max knew anything else. He had been born and raised in Manhattan, went to college at New York University in Manhattan, lived with Lenny in Manhattan, worked as a cop in Manhattan. Homicide. Business was always good when you worked homicides in a place like Manhattan, but in the summer the whackos really came out of the woodwork.

Max parked his unmarked Chevy Caprice squad car (unmarked, his ass like a criminal wouldn't know it was a cop's car in a glance) and moved toward the police barriers. He did not look like a homicide detective.

He was too young, his hair too long and curly, his mustache too bushy, his nose and face just a little too long and thin. Actually, he looked more like he should be delivering pizzas than chasing killers.

He walked to the side of the building with a sign above the door that read

"Black Magic Bar and Grill." Max had visited the Black Magic in more liberated, fun-loving days when it was called the Butt Seriously.

More than once, actually. Always in disguise.

Used an alias too.

He flashed his badge at a couple of uniforms and proceeded down the alleyway. Sergeant WUlie Monticelli greeted him.

"How's it going, Twitch?" Willie asked.

Bernstein did not care much for his nickname. First of all he did not have a twitch. Yes, he fidgeted a lot, gestured wildly, bit his fingernails past the cuticles, played with anything he could get his hands on, blinked too much, never sat or stood still. Sure, everybody was always asking him when he had quit chain smoking.

But there was definitely no twitch.

"Better before I got this call," he replied.

"Looks like you put on a little weight, Willie."

Monticelli patted his stomach.

"Nice to meet someone who's not all caught up in the diet craze, huh?"

"Great." Bernstein took out his pencil, put it in his mouth, and chewed. It already looked like a much-used dog toy.

"What's the story here?"

"A garbage man found him half an hour ago. Wanna take a look?"

Already feeling his stomach churn, Max nodded and bit down harder on the pencil. He hated this part.

"Have to. It's why I'm paid the big bucks."

"Yeah, I can tell by your fancy set of wheels."

Willie walked over to the still form sprawled in the garbage.

He pulled the sheet back. Max swallowed away his nausea. Then he bent down and examined the mess that was once a living man.


"Looks like the Gay Slasher is back," Willie said.

"Same M.O.

as the other two." "With one noticeable difference," Max said almost under his breath.

"And don't call him that, Willie. The press will dive all over it."

"They're gonna dive anyway."

"They ignored the first two victims," Max noted.

"They won't ignore this one."

"What makes you say that?"

"Do you know who this is?"

Bernstein looked down at the disfigured face and then up at Willie.

"His mother wouldn't recognize him."

"You're not going to like it."

"I never do."

"According to his wallet, his name is Bradley Jenkins. I checked him out. His father is "

"A U.S. Senator, I know." Max closed his eyes and turned away. He stroked his mustache.

"Right. Bradley lives on 12th Street. His father and mother have a house in the Hamptons. Weird, huh? Senator from Arkansas who vacations on Long Island?"

"Senator Jenkins has been living in the Northeast since he began going to school here as a boy," Max explained.

"I doubt the guy has spent five straight days in Arkansas, except during election campaigns."

"How do you know so much about it?"

Max's hand ran through his thick, dark curly hair several times.

"First of all, he's the Senate Minority Leader. Second, I read a newspaper now and again."

"And third?"

"Bradley is a good friend of Sara Lowell's. I met him once."

"Oh," Willie said.

"That's too bad. Think Sara will handle the story? It'd be nice to have a member of the press on our side for this one."

"I doubt it."

"Yeah, she won't waste her time with us anymore. She's big time now.

You see her on TV last night?"

Max nodded, pacing rapidly back and forth but traveling no more than five feet in any direction.

"You got today's Herald in your car?"

"Sure. Why?"

"Get it. I want to show you something."

Willie fetched the paper and handed it to Bernstein. Bernstein grabbed it and thumbed through the pages quickly, ripping several as he went along.

"Whoa, Twitch, slow down a minute."

"It's right here..."

"what's right here?" Willie asked.

Bernstein continued to rifle through the paper, the pencil still in his mouth.

"Did you read the society pages today?"

"Shit, no, I don't read that crap. But I did check out the box scores

"That should be a big help," Max said. He turned a few more pages, his right foot tapping the pavement impatiently.

"Bingo," he said at last.

"Take a look at this."

Willie looked over Max's shoulder. A page of photographs showed the well-dressed people who had attended Dr. John Lowell's charity ball the previous evening. Max pointed to the picture in the upper right-hand corner.


"Shit on a stick," Willie whispered.

The caption read: The luminous Sara Lowell enjoys the festivities after her triumphant News Flash debut with (right) her handsome hubby and Knick superstar Michael Silverman and (left) Senator Stephen Jenkins' dashing son, Bradley.

"It's him," Willie exclaimed, pointing to the photograph.

"It's Bradley Jenkins."


"Not much resemblance now. Maybe a little around the ears."

"Very funny."

"God, I hate these big cases," Willie said.

"Mayor'll be calling all the time. Everybody wanting answers."

"We might as well get started then. I want you to check the neighborhood. See if anybody saw anything."

"Sure thing. Someone must have heard something screams or a struggle or something."

Bernstein shook his head.

"I don't think the murder took place here."

"What do you mean?" "Take a look at the corpse," he continued.

"Bradley Jenkins has been dead since last night, right?"

"Looks like it."

"But at night this alley is packed with patrons of the Black Magic."

"Patrons. Is that what they call them now?"

Bernstein greeted the remark with a hint of a smile, oh, Willie, if you only knew... "Someone would have seen the murder if it happened back here last night. And there's blood only on the body none in the area.

If he had been stabbed a zillion times back here, the alley would have been sprayed with blood. No, I think Jenkins was killed somewhere else and his body was dumped here. That's where the M.O. is different. The body was moved this time."

Willie followed his young lieutenant's pacing, his head shifting back and forth as if he were watching a tennis match.

"Makes no sense, Twitch. There's a lot of places less risky to get rid of a body. Why here?"

"Don't know."

"You want me to find out if Bradley was gay?"

Max felt a powerful headache coming on and began to massage his temples with his fingertips. The son of a prominent, conservative senator found with multiple knife wounds behind a gay bar Tylenol wouldn't put a dent in this one.

"No need," Bernstein said. "I'll get the personal info from Sara."

"Send my condolences."

"Will do. I want the lab over every inch of this alley and I want this neighborhood canvassed. Ask if they saw anything out of the ordinary last night or this morning."

"Gotcha. Oh, one more thing."


"Good luck with the press, those bastards. Next thing you know well have every loony in the area confessing or copy catting the son of a bitch."

Max nodded and clenched his teeth. The pencil in his mouth snapped into two jagged pieces, nearly cutting his gums.

It was going to be a bad week.