Chapter 9

Harvey buttoned his shirt and smiled toward the rumpled bed. If Jennifer could see him now..."I still can't believe you're here," he said.

Cassandra leaned back on the bed and stretched. A thin, white sheet was all that covered her body.

"Why not? This is Day Number Four already, Harv."


"Blissful," she replied. And it was true. From their first kiss she had felt intoxicated. It was strange, but even now she could feel her heart swell in her chest just thinking about him.

"No complaints?" he asked.

"Just one," she said.

"I don't care much for your hours." "I warned you."

"Yeah, but two hours a night?"

"Sorry." "Not your fault, I guess," she said.

"Anyway, it makes me appreciate my nine to seven at the agency more."

Harvey searched the clothes-cluttered floor, found a pair of pants crumpled in a corner, and put them on.

"When are you making your presentation to the airline?"

"Tomorrow. Northeastern Air. I have a meeting with their handsome marketing director. Jealous?"

"Should I be?"

She looked at him.


"Good," Harvey said with a goofy grin.

"Because I really like you."

She laughed.

"God, you're corny."

He shrugged.

"Just out of practice," he said.

"So what ad slogan did you come up with?" She thought a moment.

"Fly the friendly skies of Northeastern?"

"It's been used."

"How about

"We're Northeastern Airlines, doing what we do best'?"


"I'm Candy, fly me'?"

"Might work if you show some cleavage." "No problem," Cassandra said.

"I majored in cleavage in college."

"I bet." He found a red tie crumpled into his loafer.

"I probably won't be back here until the day after tomorrow."

"I have to go home anyway. I'm running out of clothes."

"And leave my palatial penthouse?"

Cassandra glanced around Harvey's sloppy, one bedroom dump on 158th Street. She looked at him skeptically.

"Okay," he admitted, "Versailles it's not."

"A human dwelling it's not."

"Granted, it might need a little work."

"It might need a bulldozer."

"You are spoiled rotten." Cassandra smiled.

"Bet your ass." She sat up and put the pillow behind her head.

"Harv, is it true? Do you really have a cure for AIDS?" "Not a cure exactly," he said, tying his tie and then loosening it.

"More like a treatment."

"I had a good friend die of AIDS," she said slowly.

"He was my ad partner at Dunbar Strauss. God, he was so creative, so alive. I remember visiting him at the hospital until he was in so much pain he wouldn't let anyone see him."

Harvey nodded.

"It's an ugly disease, Cassandra."

"How does your treatment work?"

He stopped.

"You really want to know?"


Harvey sat on the edge of the bed and held her hands.

"AIDS," he began, "or Acquired Immuno-Deficiency Syndrome, does not, in and of itself, kill people. You see, the AIDS virus, known as HIV, attacks the immune system. It causes the immune system to break down to the point where the patient is readily susceptible to illness and infection. Eventually these illnesses or infections become fatal. With me so far?"

"I think so," she said.

"You're saying that the AIDS virus tears down the wall that protects you from disease."

"Exactly. How the HIV destroys the immune system is a bit complicated so I'll try to be as nontechnical as possible."

"I'm listening."

"Okay. The HIV attaches itself onto what are called T cells.

It then crawls inside the cells and destroys them. Still with me?"

Cassandra nodded.

"The part of the cell where the HIV first attaches itself is called the T receptor. In other words, the HIV searches around and is attracted to T receptors. Then it latches onto the receptors and moves in for the kill."

"Got it," Cassandra said.

"What we do at the clinic is inject our patients with a powerful, addictive drug we've created called SRI S and R stand for Sidney Riker, my brother. The negative side effects with SRI are many and unfortunately the patient needs to take larger and larger doses over a long period of time." "What does SRI do?" she asked.

Harvey squeezed her hand.

"Again, it's complicated, so let me try to cut through all the medical jargon. In the human body SRI greatly resembles T receptors, so the AIDS virus is drawn to the phony T receptors." "So," Cassandra said, "the HIV attaches itself onto the SRI T receptors rather than the real T receptors."

"Something like that, yes. It's almost like SRI is wearing a mask and disguising itself as a T receptor. The HIV is drawn to it, latches itself onto it "

"And then the SRI kills the HIV."

Harvey shook his head.

"I wish. One day it might happen that fast, but we're still years away from anything like that."

"So what happens?"

"Well, after the HIV latches itself onto the SRl's T receptors, they struggle. It's almost like a tug of war inside the immune system. At first, the HIV is really pissed off by all this. The SRI is actually activating the virus, stirring it up. We give additional and escalating dosages of SRI until the drug begins to wear down the virus.

For a while the effects of AIDS are put into a holding pattern.

Eventually, after a long, hard struggle, the HIV dies."

"SRI wins the tug of war."

He nodded.

"We believe so, yes. Several long-term patients have actually changed from HIV positive to HIV negative."


"The problems are obvious. Aside from the dangers and addictive factors in SRI, we can save only the immune system.

If a person is in the latter stages of AIDS if a patient is already seriously ill with some AIDS-induced infection our cure will do little if any good. SRI can stop only HIV. It doesn't cure Kaposi's sarcoma, for example, or any of the other diseases AIDS may eventually give you.

As a result, we have to catch the virus early, before infections and disease settle in. And of course, more research is needed. We've only scratched the surface." Cassandra said, "You're sure to get the funds you need once Sara does her report."

"I hope so."

"What do you mean, hope so? Once everyone sees the evidence they'll support the clinic even my father."

Harvey slipped on his shoes and stood.

"That'll be the day."

"You'll see. He'll back you." "Maybe," Harvey said, more to keep the peace than anything else.

"But he's not the one I'm afraid of."

"Then who?"

"Dangerous whackos who are making a name for themselves off the deaths of young people. People like that Reverend Sanders "

"You think he's out to sabotage the clinic?"

"It wouldn't surprise me."

Cassandra rolled over, exposing the long smooth curve of her hip.

"He was in my father's study the other day."

Harvey spun back toward Cassandra.

"Reverend Sanders?"

"Yup." "But your father told me he didn't know Sanders personally."

"I heard him in my father's study the morning after the party.

They were arguing."

"Arguing about what?"

"I'm not sure."

"Cassandra, it's important."

She tried to collect her thoughts.

"I remember my father telling Sanders that he should never come to the house."

"What did Sanders say?" "He just told my dad to relax. I remember that Sanders sounded so cool. His tone was such a contrast to my father's angry one. Then Sanders said something like 'there's still work to be done." Harvey's body went rigid.


"That's all I heard. I left after that."

"Are you sure " The phone rang. For a moment neither of them moved, their eyes locked onto one another's. Then Harvey lowered his gaze and moved toward the phone.


Eric's voice came in a rush.

"Get down to the lab, Harv. Hurry."

"What's the matter?"

"It's Michael, Harvey. Oh God, it's Michael." Michael the button and held it down. Slowly and with a whir, the bed began to move, curling his frame into a sitting position. He coughed twice into his fist and then smiled at Sara.

"Go ahead," she said.

"Take a sip."

Michael brought the plastic cup to his lips and drank.

"How's the orange juice?" Sara asked.

"Tastes like paint thinner," he replied.

"What time is it?"

"Seven a.m. Did you sleep well?" "Not really," he said.

"I don't like sleeping in separate beds." "Neither do I," Sara said, "but my bed is only a yard away."

"Makes it worse. Sort of like being able to see the Holy Grail and not grasp it."

"How poetic."

"To put it somewhat less poetically, I want your bod."

"And I yours," Sara said.

"Every time you stand up I see your cute little ass hanging out the back of your hospital gown. It drives me crazy."

"I know. I'm such a tease." He pushed the orange juice away and glanced up.

"So tell me, how's the story on Harv's clinic going?"

"We start shooting the interviews later today. It'll be hectic as all hell so I may not be able to stop in as much."

"Good. I'll be able to get a little peace and quiet."

"Not so fast, handsome. I'll still be able to come by around lunch and dinner. And I'll still be sleeping in that bed come this evening."

He grabbed her and they kissed.

"Can't get rid of you, huh?"


They kissed again.

Behind them, the door opened. Sara turned and watched Harvey and Eric enter. Their grim expressions seemed to magnify into looks of tremendous pain when they saw Michael and Sara embracing. Sara took a second look at their faces, at the way they held their heads, at the way their hands stayed still in their pockets. And she knew. She knew without question or hesitation.

It was over. Everything was over. She held Michael closely, feeling his muscles stiffen. She wanted very much to scream.

Harvey stepped forward and closed the door.

"We need to talk."