In the morning, Marlene phoned the Gay Health Alliance and agreed to meet with someone that evening, at her office in their public headquarters and laboratory building on East 60th street. They said they would send a man, Jim Delaney, and scheduled the meeting for 8:00 P.M. Marlene spent the rest of the day outlining various options for dealing with the threats, all involving termination, if they turned out to be serious. She told Jacob to prepare an assault team that might be needed. She could tell he wagged happily at the possibility of action.
The security desk in the lobby called her at ten to eight and told her Jim Delaney was here to see her. After the usual security check they escorted him to her office, where Jacob introduced himself as her executive assistant and led him inside.
Jim Delaney was 30 years old, tall, with blonde hair, blue eyes and rugged-looking features that belonged on the deck of a sailing ship. He held out a strong, veined hand that she took.
He felt an immediate jolt of energy from the contact and tried to conceal it.
"It's nice to meet you, Ms. Dumont."
"Please, call me Marlene."
"Sure. Call me Jim. I hope you don't mind me saying this, but you people are awfully secretive."
"We're not that bad ..."
"I didn't mean anything insulting. It's just that we've been trying to get in touch with you for a while."
"We've been very busy concluding our grant cycle for this year and we've worked late into the night. I'm pleased to tell you that your organization is on our list again for a sizable donation. You'll get a letter of award next week."
"That's great," he enthused. "Why, thank you. You know how important that donation is for our work. But that's not why I'm here."
She gazed at him steadily and he began to lose himself in her eyes. She brought him back to attention when she said in her almost hypnotic voice, "Why don't you tell us why you're here."
He smiled, a little flustered at his unusual response to the woman elegantly seated there. He looked at Jacob in embarrassment and mumbled: "Once we learned about your global commitment to AIDS prevention, our executive council felt that we could be more effective if we formed a cooperative project with you."
"We work independently. Besides, our goals may not be identical," she replied airily.
The words spilled out urgently, in an effort to please. "They're close enough on the vital issue that most concerns us, AIDS."
"We'll discuss that later." She looked at him intently, assessing whether to include him and he sat up alertly.
She quickly made up her mind. "Last night our board authorized me to meet with you and discuss possible cooperation and even tell you about a threat we received yesterday."
"What kind of threat?" he asked, eager to demonstrate his interest.
"We got a letter bomb at our main research laboratory, along with a hate letter."
"You've got to be kidding."
"I wish I were. Read this."
She handed him the letter from 'The Righteous Avengers' and he read it, then shook his head in disgust.
"Gay bashers. Hate threats. This is wild stuff."
"We disarmed a letter bomb yesterday that was sent to our laboratory. You can see why we're taking this threat seriously."
"I sure can. How can I help?"
She nodded imperceptibly to Jacob, who nodded back, confirming that their visitor was ready to participate. She stared at him steadily, then said, "I'm heading an investigation for the Foundation. Would you like to assist us?"
He felt all kinds of undercurrents that he couldn't put his finger on, and asked to cover his confusion, "Why don't you turn it over to the police, or the FBI?"
"If we did that," she explained, "we'd be a major media story. We avoid all publicity, because of the large grants we give. That's why we decided to handle it ourselves."
"This investigation might be dangerous," Jacob said provocatively. "So if you would rather not ..."
It was obvious then that he wanted to prove his manhood to the woman he found incredibly alluring. "It sounds like fun. Count me in."
"You'd have to keep this completely secret," Marlene cautioned.
"I can do that."
"What will you tell your organization?" Jacob challenged.
"I'll tell them we're exploring possibilities for cooperative projects, which we'll also do, right?"
"Certainly." Marlene replied. "That's the main reason for our meeting. I wouldn't have considered you for the investigation, if I didn't think you were the adventurous type. I asked you on an impulse."
Jim flushed with pleasure and said awkwardly: "I don't know if that's how I'd describe me."
"I like modesty in a man."
She leaned closer to him, letting the force of her personality impact him. She knew the effect she was having on him and said admiringly, "It's a sign of strength ..."
She saw he was very aware of her body and felt his response to her, then said in an intimate voice, "May I ask you a personal question?"
He was ready to answer anything. Ready to prove himself for her. "Sure. Shoot."
"Do you have AIDS?" she asked abruptly.
"No. Absolutely not."
"How do you know?" Jacob demanded.
"I've been tested and I always take precautions." he replied fervently.
"What kind? Do you practice safe sex?" Jacob snapped.
"I practice antiseptic, hygienic, and ultra-pasteurized sex."
Jacob nodded approvingly and Marlene laughed. "You have a sense of humor."
He nodded, then asked her:
"Do you remember what Neil Armstrong said when he stepped on the moon?"
"Of course. Who doesn't? 'One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.'"
"Right. Well, after he said that he switched off his mike, and said: 'Good luck, Mr. Goldwaite,' but only the mission controller heard him. After Armstrong got back from the moon, the mission controller took him aside and asked what he meant by 'Good luck, Mr. Goldwaite.' Armstrong told him that when he was a kid he was playing ball in his backyard one day. The ball bounced over the fence and stopped under his neighbor's window. He hopped over the fence, picked up the ball and heard Mr. and Mrs. Goldwaite talking inside. He leaned over and eavesdropped and Mrs. Goldwaite said: 'I'll give you a blow job when that crazy kid next door walks on the moon.'"
This time Jacob laughed along with Marlene and she said, "You're a character. I think you'll get along well with us."
"I'd like that."
"Jacob and I have some Foundation business that will take a few minutes. If you can wait, I'll give you a tour of the laboratory."
"Sure. Do you always work at night?"
"It's generally less busy, so I get more work done. Jacob. See that Jim is comfortable, then come back."
Jacob led Jim out, showed him where to wait and had an assistant bring him coffee. When Jacob rejoined Marlene she asked his opinion of Jim. He thought for a moment, then said he liked his attitude, he seemed fit, was bright, and certainly eager to be involved. Marlene nodded in agreement, then Jacob added, "We'll have to be careful that he doesn't learn too much."
"That should be easy. He's wagging happily."
"I saw that, Marlene. He'd do almost anything to please you."
She smiled confidently. "Some humans are sensitive."
Arnold Denker turned the corner on Avenue C and walked down East 6th Street. It was a warm, pleasant spring evening only punctuated by the occasional siren, or loud voices. The trees were budding and daffodils were brightly blooming in front of one renovated building. He reached an ungentrified tenement and looked for the address. Several lowlifes lurked in the doorway, possibly hoping to pounce on some middle class yuppies who were taking over the neighborhood. They quickly scanned Arnold, then turned away as he went down the steps to the basement. They had had several run-ins with the occupants of the basement and had learned the painful way not to mess with them.
Arnold was 5'8", 150 pounds, with a wiry body, except for a small pot belly. He had thinning brown hair pasted on the left side of his head, a high forehead, dull brown eyes and a compressed mouth with almost no lips. He wore dirty Nike sneakers, faded jeans, a Miami Dolphins t-shirt and a denim jacket. Arnold was a merchant seaman who hadn't gotten a ship for three years. He had been drifting in and out of low-paying service jobs, when he met a guy who told him about a group that might interest him. The group supposedly was fighting for jobs for honest workers who couldn't compete with the gay power structure monopolizing all the jobs. He had nothing better to do, so he attended a meeting. The friendly welcome they gave him encouraged him to go back.
Arnold entered a dingy room with cracked and faded green walls, covered with anti-gay posters and nazi flags. There were about twenty battered old wooden folding chairs, with a dozen or so seedy looking men sprawled casually. German marching music played loudly in the background, but no one seemed to be paying attention to it.
Arnold nodded hello to some of the faces he recognized from his first visit, and a few men nodded to him as he made his way to a chair in the back of the room. He wasn't sure why he was here, because part of him suspected that the 'Righteous Avengers' were kooks, but something about the interracial, homophobic hate group appealed to him. He didn't know what to do with his life and these guys seemed to have a plan.
The founder of the group, Earl Cleaver, was a middle-aged, angry white man with a drinker's red nose, the main feature of his coarse face; thinning, stringy brown hair covered most of his large head. Brown watery eyes gleamed with malevolence and his almost lipless mouth had a permanent sneer etched on it. He had a raw, strong body, with a beer belly. The co-founder, Jamel Johnson, was a middle-aged, angry black man, with a mini-afro, a broad, dull face that concealed a sly intelligence, mottled dark skin and an expression of simmering rage that was barely contained.
Earl stood up slowly, looked at the men one at a time, then said softly:
"Well, my fellow warriors ..."
The men stirred with approval at his calling them warriors and applauded vigorously. When the clapping stopped, he continued, "Those homo lovers must have found the bomb we sent them and disarmed it, or we would have heard about the explosion ... Unless the bomb was defective."
He looked pointedly at Jamel, who stood up and confronted him aggressively.
"I know my stuff, Earl. They must have better security than we thought. The next one'll be better."
"When will it be ready?"
"A few days. Be cool, man. Don't worry all the time."
"You and I have a grave responsibility as the leaders of this group."
"Yeah. But don't be so uptight. We'll take care of that gay foundation good."
They smiled at each other, immediately sharing the pleasure of anticipating the destruction of their target.
A short, chubby, black man with a worried look on his face stood up and got Jamel's attention.
"Yes, my brother?"
"Don't this foundation help other folk, besides them gays?"
"Yeah. They do."
"Then maybe we should pick another target that's not so ..."
"Maybe you should button your thick lips." Jamel snarled.
"Let him speak, Jamel," Earl said. "He has a right to be heard."
"Thanks, brother Earl," Dexter said. "I was thinking, there's plenty of gay groups that we could bomb."
"If we bomb the foundation," Earl replied, barely concealing his annoyance. "It'll make the news. Everyone'll know about us. We'll be famous. New recruits will join us. We'll raise money to fund our projects."
Jamel looked at Dexter menacingly. "You be doing a lot of thinking, ain't you, Dexter?"
"Let's hear what the man has to say," Earl said with a forced smile. "Anything else, Dexter?"
"Yeah. I don't like them nazi flags. Seems to me they always have them around when black folks is getting hurt."
"I think we heard enough," Jamel yelled. He pulled out a pistol and shot Dexter in the head. Blood splattered everywhere and Earl just stood there impassively, as Dexter fell to the floor, dead.
"Too bad brother Dexter's membership was cancelled," Earl cackled. "A couple of you fellas put him in a car and dump him in front of this gay bar in the West Village," and he told them the address. "Stan, you go with them as a driver."
Stan, a red-faced, sullen alcoholic, nodded yes. Two of the men picked up Dexter and started for the door. Stan followed them.
"Wait a minute," Jamel called.
The men stopped. Jamel wrote a note and pinned it on the body.
"What's that?" Earl asked.
"A note from the 'Righteous Avengers', telling the world that we killed another dirty homo."
Arnold stood up, cleared his throat to get their attention, then said, "But he wasn't gay!"
"Who's to know?" Jamel answered flippantly, then gestured to the men holding the body. Everyone watched as they carried Dexter out. Stan was close behind them, obviously eager to get away from the bloody scene of the shooting.
"Now," Earl said harshly, "if there are no further questions, we can get on with the meeting!"
The remaining men, intimidated, nodded yes and sat up more attentively. Earl rambled on for a while about the need to combat the gay plague and Jamel tossed in violent threats to any organized gay groups. Arnold sat there looking attentive, trying to conceal how disturbed he was at the shooting. After witnessing the sudden horrible shooting of Dexter for daring to express an opinion, Arnold began to wonder what he had gotten into. He thought about leaving, but he knew they had his address and could find him, unless he left the city. As a witness to murder, he was pretty sure they wouldn't hesitate to kill him, if they suspected he might talk.