There was seven hundred million dollars' worth of oil in northern Egypt, and Nicholas Kiskalesi wanted it. Right now, at four-thirty on a September afternoon, he was seated behind the famous rosewood bureau plat with ormolu mounts that he had bought at Christie's the year before. He was in his office on board Lydia, holding the telephone in his left hand and listening with interest to what Princess Gail de Córdoba was telling him.
"Well," said the handsome, hawk-featured man reputed to be the world's richest, "you certainly sound better."
"You can't imagine how wonderful I feel," said Gail on the other end of the phone in Positano. "I've lost weight, I've regained my energy, I feel as if I'm eighteen again-"
"And you think it's all due to this doctor?" Nicky replied. "Jenkins, you said his name was?"
"Absolutely. I think he's a genius," Gail said. And then she explained in more detail what she knew about Gavin Jenkins' theories and revolutionary new treatments. "He's not like any other doctor I've ever known-"
"Where did you meet him?"
"Right here in Positano," she said. "He's a friend of Cleo Talbot's and he's staying with us. He's here right now-"
Originally Gail and Nicky had planned to meet in Istanbul and then cruise the stretch of coast called the Turkish Riviera, stopping at Marmaris, Antalya and Nicky's private island, Cilek. Other guests had already been invited but now Gail was asking Nicky if they couldn't begin the cruise a bit earlier than planned.
"I'm feeling so marvelous, Nicky," she said. "I can't wait another minute to see you. I'll get on a plane this afternoon, and we can have dinner tonight. You know, in that restaurant overlooking the Bosporus."
She was referring to a riotous evening she and Nicky had spent with a party of twelve that had ended at three A.M. with every dish and glass in the place smashed. Nicky had paid for the damage with a large check, leaving behind a pleased owner who could now afford to replace every piece of crockery and still have enough left over to begin to think of retiring.
"I'll tell you what," said Nicky, curious about this Dr. Jenkins. "I have an even better idea. We'll come to Positano and you can board Lydia there. You won't have to move an inch. I'll provide ship-to-door service."
"Nicky, you wouldn't!" she exclaimed, delighted. "I've already begun waiting for you-"
Gail hung up the phone. Nicky Kiskalesi was coming to her? Usually it was the other way around, her boarding one of his planes en route to some godforsaken place where he was buying or selling magnesium, tin alloy or copper or God-knows-what. But now, for the first time in their on-again, off-again affair, Nicky was coming to her!
For years Gail had taken it for granted that the most she could hope for was to be the number-two woman in Nicky's life after Adriana Partos. But now she wondered if a marriage to Nicky might not be such a farfetched idea after all. She was considered one of the world's most beautiful women, and he was considered one of the world's richest men. What better, more logical, combination could there be?
Across the Mediterranean, Nicholas Kiskalesi hung up the phone with an equal feeling of pleasure and anticipation. Perhaps Gail had, inadvertently, given him the key to eight hundred million dollars.
It was certainly worth a detour to Positano to find out.
In 1950, through a holding company incorporated in Liechtenstein, Nicholas Kiskalesi had secretly purchased fifty thousand acres of Egyptian desert four hundred miles south of Cairo near the Sudanese border. The land had been acquired anonymously because of the strident Egyptian nationalism that made it risky, not to say dangerous, for a foreigner to own large holdings.
However, under the corrupt rule of King Farouk, bribes to the king himself and to the minister of commerce had permitted Nicky to run test drillings on his acreage. The engineers had reported that laboratory analysis revealed that underneath the barren land was an ocean of oil. However, in 1952, before rigs could be erected and drilling could begin, Farouk had been expelled and under the new Nasser regime, Nicky had ceased development. If the Nasser government found out that there was a fortune of oil just waiting to gush forth, Nicky's acreage would have been confiscated and nationalized immediately.
And so, for the past six years, Nicky had had a king's ransom of oil lying just beyond his reach. He had, of course, considered and rejected, several possible solutions to his problem - all of them too risky, considering the stakes involved. But it was still eight hundred million dollars and Nicholas Kiskalesi hadn't gotten rich by giving up or giving in.
"In my vocabulary," Gail had once heard him say, "there is no such word as 'enough.'"
As the captain of Lydia changed course toward Positano, Nicky allowed himself a smile. If Gail had been right about Gavin Jenkins, this was the closest he had been in six years to the eight hundred million dollars lying under the sands of southern Egypt. Just thinking about it, he felt the rush of blood to his groin that the prospect of large sums of money invariably produced.
Then he picked up the gold receiver of his antique telephone and called his secretary in Athens with instructions to compile a background dossier on Gavin Jenkins, M.D.
Immediately after, he pushed the onyx button on the intercom and summoned his assistant, X. He instructed her to proceed immediately to the island of Cilek in the Aegean and report back, firsthand, on the current condition of the Prince.
As the world's richest man, Nicholas Kiskalesi owned not only places and things; he also owned people. One of them was X.
Her real name was Zara Xenidis and ten years ago she had been the most popular belly dancer in Istanbul. She was working at the Cinar in Yesilkoy, and Nicky had stopped in late one evening for a nightcap, when a customer, drunk and belligerent, had made an obscene lunge for the G-string that held up X's transparent skirt. When she pushed his hands away, he reached into his waistband and pulled out a curved Turkish dagger and started toward X.
The crowd in the nightclub screamed and scattered as X, with a swift movement, pulled a knife out of the black beribboned garter that held up her long net stockings. With a single twisting thrust up and back into the customer's heart, she killed him on the spot.
The owner called the police but in the panic and confusion that ensued before they arrived, Nicky grabbed X by the hand. He pulled her out the side entrance, hid her in his long American Cadillac, and under cover of night smuggled her onto Lydia, which was tied up at its usual berth on the Bosporus.
Under the unspoken code of the East, both Nicky and X understood the terms of their bargain. His silence in return for her obedience. It was, like all good bargains, of equal value to both parties. Nicky's silence had saved X's life, and X, with the shrewdness born of slums, pimps, and shark-like nightclub owners, was an invaluable assistant. They needed each other and recognized the need. Nothing more had to be said.
Another person owned by Nicky was his Royal Highness Prince Abd-el Sadun, all five-feet-six, two hundred and sixty-five pounds of him. Sadun was the cousin of Farouk, grosser, more depraved and more degenerate, according to those who knew them both.
Nicky had purchased the Prince for the price of his flight out of Egypt when Farouk's entire family was expelled. Additionally, Nicky had borne the cost of Sadun's gambling debts and paid out hush money to the young boys and girls who were his favorite sexual playthings.
Over the years, Sadun had cost Nicky a million and a half dollars, an investment that Nicky fully expected would one day repay him handsomely. The question was where and under what circumstances. Now, Nicky thought, perhaps, the time had come.
"What's Nicky like?" Gavin asked Gail as they sat on the terrace in Positano.
"Thoughtful, selfish, hard, soft, cruel, calculating, generous," she said. "Dangerous-"
"Are you serious about him?"
Gail nodded. "More than ever-"
"Is he serious about you?"
"I hope," said Gail. "I wish. Would you like to meet him?"
Gavin nodded. "Yes," he said. Nicholas Kiskalesi. A man who controlled fortunes, who bought and sold governments, a man who knew who had done what to whom and why - and where - the bodies were buried. "I'd like very much to meet him."
"Hos geldiniz!" Nicky Kiskalesi stood on the bow of the gleaming white Lydia as she dropped anchor in the sapphire-blue waters in the yacht basin of Positano. He had thick platinum white hair, a swarthy tan and wore large, dark sunglasses. Stocky of build, he wore white trousers tailored in Saville Row and a blue Sea Island cotton T-shirt made by his shirtmaker on Via Condotti that made him look taller and thinner. He was casual, commanding and impeccable.
"Merhaba! Merhaba! Nasilsiniz?" Gail shouted back across the water. Nicky had taught her several phrases in Turkish, some for use in polite conversation and others for use in bed.
"Cok iyiyim. Tesekur!" Nicky yelled back in answer.
Gail looked better than he had ever seen her, thinner, sleeker, more confident. Nicky studied the man standing next to her. Gavin Jenkins was younger than Nicky had imagined, in his late twenties, but the strength in his sculpted jaw line was apparent even from a distance.
The first mate lowered the launch and it sped toward the dock where Gail and Gavin waited. When it made the return trip to Lydia, two mates held the polished chrome gangway and Gail and Gavin boarded Lydia. Nicky's welcoming kiss left no doubt whatsoever as to the nature of his relationship with Gail. When they pulled apart, Gail introduced Gavin.
"Gail says that you have performed a miracle," Kiskalesi said, extending his hand. He looked straight into Gavin's eyes. Steel gray into black.
"I don't believe in miracles," said Gavin, shaking hands with the man sometimes referred to as the rogue pirate of the Mediterranean. "There is only medicine."
Their first encounter: it had been a draw.
While Gail went to the stateroom to oversee the unpacking of her luggage, Nicky gave Gavin a tour of the yacht. Lydia had been commissioned by Kiskalesi just after the end of World War II and was one of the first vessels to come out of the reconstructed Japanese shipyards.
Three hundred and thirty feet long, Lydia was capable of twenty-three knots. It had Denny stabilizers, its own Alouette Magister helicopter, and a twin-turbo-engine Beechcraft amphibian. The art collection included a Rembrandt, two Picassos, and a Van Gogh; a collection of Georgian silver that was insured by Lloyd's for three and a quarter million dollars, and a Coromandel screen, eighteen panels wide, that had once ornamented the royal palace of Peking.
Gavin's host showed him the Steinway grand piano bolted to the floor, the kitchens designed by the owner of New York's Le Pavilion restaurant, the marble dance floor which, with the push of a button, could be rolled back to reveal an Olympic-size swimming pool. He ended the tour with an inspection of the ship's clinic, complete with a fully equipped operating room including an X-ray machine and an iron lung.
He gave a running commentary as he showed off his toys and Gavin wondered why he was being given the grand tour.
"It's not because of my pretty eyes, is it?" he said as Kiskalesi led him back up to the forward deck.
"Nor for your sun-bleached hair," said the billionaire as they rejoined Gail in the lounge.
The second encounter had also been a draw.
So far, Nicholas Kiskalesi had liked what he had seen of Gavin Jenkins. Unlike most people, he neither flattered Kiskalesi nor tried to compete with him. He was detached, polite and handled himself well. But those were only superficial traits. What Nicky was interested in was, how good was he? Or, to be precise, how good a physician was he?
Gail had told Nicky that she felt better than she had ever felt before in her entire life. And her looks gave proof to her words. But the real test would come tonight, in bed.
Nicky was attracted to Gail but wondered whether his attraction was to the idea of Gail - a seemingly aloof American beauty who had married into one of the most prominent families of the Spanish aristocracy. He, Nicky, had been one of eight children born to a poor Turkish peasant who harvested fruit on apricot farms in the rich agricultural valley between Izmir and Aydin. Despairing of ever being able to support his family, Nicky's father had moved with his two youngest sons to Izmir, the big city, whose streets, he had heard, were paved with gold.
Nicky's father, it turned out, had heard wrong, and he had ended his life as a porter in a commercial rug-weaving factory and died leaving nothing but debts. Nicky and his younger brother, now orphaned, began to earn their own living at the ages of nine and eight, guarding the tobacco warehouses that rimmed the port of Izmir.
At the age of ten Nicky made his first thousand dollars, when a tobacco agent who liked him tipped him off to a naive Chinese buyer who could be persuaded to overpay for inferior leaf to go into counterfeit Cuban cigars. When the buyer found out that he had over paid and demanded repayment, Nicky refused. His brother repaid the buyer with an icepick through his left eye into the brain.
After that, Nicky and his brother supported themselves by dealing in tobacco, both legal and contraband, until, seven months later, they had earned ten thousand dollars. Since then, the dollars had never stopped rolling in.
Nicky had noticed that Gail's breasts were larger but had no way of knowing that her breasts were responding to the hormones with which Gavin had been treating her excessive menstrual bleeding. All he knew was that there was something tantalizingly different about Gail de Córdoba. Something that appealed to the peasant in him.
"He made you feel good, didn't he?" asked Nicky. He and Gail were lying on the enormous king-size bed in Nicky's suite.
"And I made you feel good, didn't I?" asked Gail. There had been a difference in the quality of their lovemaking. An abandon and a tactile intensity that hadn't existed before.
"Was it different for you, too?" asked the billionaire.
Gail nodded. "I always thought our lovemaking was wonderful. But this was better than wonderful-"
She wondered about the future. Could it be that the key to marrying Nicky was as simple as giving him the best orgasms he had ever had? Rich men, poor men, Gail thought, maybe they were all the same. Maybe sex was the secret of possession.
"Much better than wonderful," said Nicky. "The best-"
"Is he the reason?" Nicky asked. "The doctor?"
"I'm not sleeping with him if that's what you want to know-"
"I don't mean that," said Nicky. "I mean his treatments. His cure. Whatever you call it. You're different and I want to know why-"
"Yes. I think it is his treatment," Gail said and caressed her own breasts in a lascivious way which appealed to Nicky and which he had never before seen her do. "My breasts are bigger, more sensitive. I feel sexier. I want it more. I want you more."
As Nicky pulled her down on top of him, Gail wondered if she could lure Nicky away from Adriana Partos. Her sold-out concerts were winning rave reviews and wild ovations but rumor had it that Nicky was tired of coming in second to the diva's career. The world was at Adriana's feet, but perhaps, Gail thought, maybe Nicky wasn't.
At the same time, Nicky's thoughts went in a different direction. He had almost but not quite made up his mind about Dr. Jenkins. He would invite him to a dinner party the next evening and make his final decision. A decision on which could rest the fate of eight hundred million dollars.
"He's as repulsive as ever," X told Nicky. She was calling ship-to-shore to Lydia from Abd-el Sadun's villa on the island of Cilek. Cilek was the property of Nicholas Kiskalesi, who had bought it for eighteen million dollars fifteen years before as a favor to the Turkish government. The Turkish pound was in perilous condition in the world's money markets and Nicky's eighteen million dollars in hard U.S. currency had saved Turkey from a major financial crisis. Nicky ran Cilek as a personal kingdom and favored Sadun with the use of a villa and staff, rent-free.
"He's eating like a pig," continued X. "He has a boy and girl here. They can't be much over thirteen-"
"Is he still taking hashish?" asked Nicky.
"He mixes it with honey," replied X. "And there's been a new development. He's been eating rams' testicles before lunch and dinner. He complains he's impotent."
Very interesting, thought Nicky, recalling vividly Gail de Córdoba's confident new energy and enhanced eroticism. "Is Rudy still there?"
"Yes, he is," said X. Rudy Sarvo was Sadun's bodyguard, drug connection and procurer of pornography, adolescent boys and girls and any other perverted whims of his master.
"Tell Rudy no more drugs," said Nicky. "And no more children-"
"Sadun won't like it," said X.
"I don't give a damn what Sadun likes-"
The dining salon of Lydia glowed with the reflection of dozens of candles in crystal holders set against the mirrored panels that lined the octagonally shaped room. The polished mahogany table was set with translucent white china and vermeil flatware. Red anemones and white orchids and pink roses filled gleaming silver vases.
Caviar was served in the original blue tins marked with the port of origin on the north shore of the Caspian Sea. Champagne, Roederer's Cristal, flowed as if from a bottomless well and waiters wearing white gloves served lobsters fresh from the sea, buttery fillets of beef, Bibb lettuce grown in greenhouses owned by the host and dressed with olive oil from groves also owned by the host.
The company was as glittering as the setting. Roz Symonds was unforgettable in violet silk with enormous sapphires dangling from her ears. Her flawless skin, perfect features, and velvety voice made it obvious why she was the world's most glamorous film star.
Her lover, Sean Kavanagh, was not known, as Roz was, for his physical attributes, but rather for his rare talent. His definitive portrayals of classical Shakespearean roles, his sharp intelligence and scorching wit, revealed a man of enormous magnetism.
Willy Cranford, who had led Great Britain through World War II, wore a dinner jacket that displayed ribbons and rosettes from virtually every major power on earth. At the age of eighty-six, Willy Cranford still showed the strength that had made him one of the most influential leaders of the free world.
Gail de Córdoba's white dinner dress was set off with an emerald-and-diamond necklace, a gift from the host, Nicholas Kiskalesi, who was charming, interested, gossipy, and, apparently, relaxed.
"I've been reelected," said Roz Symonds with a naughty giggle. She and Sean had been holding hands through the dinner.
"Reelected?" asked Nicky. "What office were you running for?"
"Scarlet Woman," said Roz, and everyone laughed. "When I broke up the Senator's marriage I was Scarlet Woman of 1953. Then, when my second husband died, I was the Grieving Widow of 1955. Now that Sean has left his wife for me, I'm back where I started - Scarlet Woman of the Year!"
When the laughing died down, Sean commented, "And who ever thought that I'd end up as Adulterer of the Century?"
"There are far worse things," said Willy Cranford. "Far worse."
"Such as?" asked Nicky.
"Such as old age," said Willy. The party suddenly became silent as tears began to flow down the parchment-like skin of his face. The male nurse who attended him carefully wiped the tears away.
"Old age," Gavin said. "I'm afraid it's an inevitability of the human condition-"
"Not according to your friend Lars Mendl," said Willy, suddenly sounding ferocious. He pronounced the word "friend" with acid sarcasm. "Do you want to know something about your precious Lars Mendl? He's a fake. A fraud. An out-and-out charlatan. His famous treatment is a waste of time and money. It's exploitation."
Gavin was shocked at how frail Willy had become since the time he had last seen him at his easel in Seengen.
"I'm a dying man," said Willy. No one contradicted him. It would have been rude and patronizing.
"Lars never said that he could prevent anyone from dying," Gavin said. "He simply maintained that he could prolong life and the quality of life. I think, Willy, that you're a testimonial to Lars's ability-"
"Do you think so?" The old Prime Minister asked.
"Certainly," said Gavin.
"We all do, Willy," said Nicky with infinite kindness. "You are of immeasurable value to us. To the world. To generations that haven't even been born yet."
There was silence as Willy thought over Nicky's words. Then he turned to Gavin. "You're right, young man," he said. "And I was wrong. I was asking for the impossible: I wanted Lars to give me a medicine against death."
Gavin nodded. "Unfortunately, there is none. Not yet-"
"'Not yet,'" repeated Willy sadly. He turned to Nicky and raised his champagne glass, "But thank you, you have pointed out my immortality-"
"To the generations in your debt still to be born," said Sean in his resonant actor's voice. He stood up, and the rest of the party followed, all except Willy, and they drank a toast to Willy Cranford's immortality.
"You handle yourself well," Nicky told Gavin. The two men were sitting in the paneled lounge slightly apart from the rest of the guests, sipping cognac from balloon-shaped snifters. "You were kind to Willy, and yet you didn't lie to him-"
"Lies disgust me," replied Gavin. "They're a sign of weakness-"
Nicky nodded. "I fear weakness-"
The two men fell silent, sipping their cognac. Finally Nicky spoke again. "Tell me, Dr. Jenkins, what do you fear?"
Gavin thought for a moment. "Failure," he said. "I fear failure-"
Nicholas Kiskalesi framed his next question carefully.
"Tell me, Dr. Jenkins, would you be interested in treating a patient every other physician has given up on as impossible?"
"Who is this patient?"
"A cousin?" Gavin mocked. "You just told me lies disgust you-"
Nicky leaned back in his chair and smiled. "All right, he's not a cousin."
Nicky looked at Gavin closely before replying. "His Royal Highness Mohammed Abd-el Sadun."
"'Whore-monger, glutton, sexual degenerate,'" said Gavin, quoting a recent article in Time magazine.
Nicky smiled wryly. "I see you've heard of him."
"Not in the usual sense-"
"What do you want me to accomplish?" asked Gavin.
"Dr. Jenkins," Nicky said, turning to face Gavin. "I want you to make a man of him."
His Royal Highness, the Prince Mohammed Abd-el Sadun, was repulsive. His brown eyes were sunk in fatty, bruised pouches that protruded like sores over flaccid, puffy cheeks. His lips were red and gleamed wetly under a pencil-thin mustache. A hanging garden of chins fell unchecked into the open neck of his gaudy silk shirt, a flower-splashed, short-sleeve style. Half-moons of sweat stained his armpits and a nauseating odor of perspiration and sweet toilet water emanated from him.
His Highness sprawled in a cushioned chair nibbling honey-drenched baklava while Gavin conducted the interview.
They were sitting on the terrace of the whitewashed villa on Cilek, an island as ravishing as Sadun was repellent. The view over the harbor framed the amphibian Beechcraft bobbing in the harbor at its temporary mooring. The sun was shining, the air was soft, and in a wrought-iron chair pulled slightly to one side, Nicholas Kiskalesi, silent, ominous, powerful, listened.
"Age?" asked Gavin.
"Thirty-seven," said Sadun, reaching for another piece of pastry. Bits of pastry spilled down the front of the prince's shirt. Rudy Sarvo, Sadun's personal body servant, darted forward and brushed the crumbs off his master.
"Six feet." Sadun's voice was high-pitched and whiny. "Why do you want to know?"
Gavin ignored the question. "Weight?"
A pause. "Two hundred and twenty pounds-"
"When was the last time you saw a doctor?"
"Oh, I never go to doctors," said the Prince with a petulant smile. "I don't need them. I'm in perfect health-"
"Really?" asked Gavin. "X tells me you snack on ram's testicles before lunch and dinner."
Sadun's eyes darted from Gavin to Kiskalesi and back to Gavin.
"Vladimir Orloff prescribes that diet to cure impotence," said Gavin, referring to the Russian physician whose treatments claimed to cure impotence, sterility, frigidity and other sexual dysfunctions. "Isn't that true?"
"So what of it?" Sadun shifted restlessly in his chair.
"Nothing, except that you've been lying to me from the beginning," said Gavin. "The fact is you are forty-two, five feet six inches tall and that you weigh two hundred seventy pounds-"
The information was in a dossier that Kiskalesi had handed Gavin when he agreed to treat Sadun for a fee of one hundred thousand dollars. Plus a bonus of one percent of eight hundred million dollars if the treatment was successful.
The goal, Nicky had explained to Gavin, was to get Sadun into physical and mental condition that would permit him to figurehead an Egyptian oil company whose financing would be secretly underwritten by Nicky. Sadun, Nicky had explained, would be acceptable to Nasser, because, despite his excesses, he was still a popular figure among the Egyptian masses.
As long as Kiskalesi was discreet and the fiction was maintained that Sadun was returning to Egypt as a legitimate businessman, Kiskalesi would be assured of his oil, Nasser's treasury would get the tax revenues, and Sadun would have a position of respect and authority. Everyone - including Gavin - would gain.
"But I didn't really lie," wheedled Sadun with a slimy smile. "Just exaggerated a little. It really isn't so terrible, is it?"
"The first thing we are going to do," said Gavin, "is test you for heart and circulatory problems. We will take cholesterol counts and examine you for kidney or diabetic dysfunctions-"
"And then what?"
"And then you are going to lose one hundred pounds-"
"But I have no willpower," wailed the prince. "Absolutely none."
"Well, then, I'll have to create some for you, won't I?"
Sadun glanced at Nicky. "Nicky, you wouldn't let him use me for a guinea pig, will you?"
"Of course not," Nicky assured him in a silky tone. "You'll be perfectly safe in Dr. Jenkins' hands-"
Sadun's brows knotted in suspicion. "I don't believe you," he whined, heaving himself out of the chair. "You're lying to me-"
Wearing satin slippers embroidered with gold thread, Sadun waddled across the terrace toward the French doors that led into the villa.
"I refuse," he said, panting with the effort of walking. "I won't permit him to touch me-"
"You can protest all you want," said Nicky. "But the fact is, my dear boy, you have no choice in the matter."
The tests, which took three days, were run in the hospital in Izmir. Except for an elevated cholesterol count, there was nothing seriously wrong with Sadun and when Gavin informed Nicky of the results, he asked when treatments would begin.
"Tomorrow," said Gavin.
"And when will you be finished?"
"In eight weeks-"
"Is there anything I can do to help?" asked Nicky.
"Nothing," said Gavin. "Just leave me alone with my patient-"
Sadun's darkened bedroom was as grotesque as its inhabitant. Floor-length crimson satin curtains hung at the windows. They were trimmed with gold tassels and tied back with gold braid, under which another dense quantity of curtain, this time sheer cream-colored silk, obliterated the windows. No ray of sunlight entered the room.
A gilt Empire-style dressing table was strewn with combs, brushes, bottles of tonics and lotions, and vials of perfume. A huge bed was made with crimson sheets and matching satin-tufted pillows. Ermine throws half-hid a satin bedspread of the same crimson. Four black-and-white zebra skin rugs decorated the polished parquet floor.
In spotlighted wall niches stood statuettes of men and women and children and animals in every sexual combination conceivable. The furnishings were completed by a mirror, ten feet square, angled across from the bed to reflect every activity that occurred on its crimson and ermine expanse.
Gavin entered Sadun's room at eight the next morning. Sadun's bloated shape, clothed in silk leopard-patterned pajamas, was partially covered by a silk sheet. A cone of musky incense smoldered on the bedside table.
Sadun watched as Gavin opened his black bag and drew various liquids into a hypodermic needle.
"Your arm," instructed Gavin.
Sadun meekly rolled up the leopard-patterned pajama sleeve and submitted.
Gavin administered the injection and noted that Sadun's reactions were the same as Gail's and almost every other patient. The gooseflesh, the sharp inhalation followed by the complete exhalation, the spasmodic jerk of the spine, the subsequent relaxation and the look of satiated lust
"What was that?" asked Sadun from his euphoric haze.
"Willpower," said Gavin.
Every afternoon X placed a call to Lydia with a summary of the day's events. At first Gavin thought it was her voluptuousness that appealed to Nicky. She had heavy, round breasts and an animal way of moving the lower part of her body when she walked.
He soon realized, though, that Kiskalesi's interest was in quite another area. X was his watchdog, efficient, discreet, and omnipresent. She was Nicky's spy, Sadun's jailer and Gavin's supervisor and she made no secret of her role.
"You know everything, don't you?" Gavin asked.
X smiled unpleasantly. "The spies to guard against," she said, "are the ones who make a secret of what they do."
A few nights later, just after midnight, there was a knock on Gavin's door. He was staying in the room next to X's, which, in turn, was adjacent to Sadun's own grotesque room.
"Come in," said Gavin.
The paneled door opened, and a girl, perhaps thirteen, entered the room and closed the door behind her. She had clear olive skin and her brown eyes were outlined with kohl. As she moved wordlessly to Gavin's bed, she pulled up the skirt of her gauzy caftan to expose a shaved pudenda.
"Excellency," she said. "You command-"
"Who are you?" Gavin looked past the girl toward the closed door.
"Seema," she said. "Rudy send me-"
She moved to get into the bed with Gavin but he stopped her with a gesture. He got out of bed and crossed the room, his footsteps silenced by the thick pile of the lush carpeting. He took the gilded doorknob in both hands, ripped the door open and found himself face to face with Rudy Sarvo.
"Never again," he warned. "Do you understand me?"
"Next time I send perhaps a boy?" Rudy asked
Gavin shook his head. "There will be no 'next time,'" he said and told the girl to return to her room.
Rudy shrugged and fished a piece of food from between his teeth with his tongue, extracted it with the two first fingers of his right hand, put it back into his mouth, and swallowed.
"There is always a next time," Rudy Sarvo said as he turned to leave. "Always."
"You American puritans," Sadun sneered the next morning.
He was in the enormous sunken white-marble bathtub and Seema, the girl who had been sent to Gavin's room the previous evening, was bathing him with jasmine soap and a large sponge.
"I'm surprised any American babies ever get born, you're such a nation of prudes," he continued. "Ouch!" he bellowed, interrupting himself. "You got soap in my eye."
He struck the girl in the face, so hard a red welt appeared on her cheek.
"Clumsy ox!" he said and slapped her again.
Gavin stepped forward and pushed the girl back from the edge of the tub. Then he slapped Sadun and, using both hands, held his head under water until Sadun stopped struggling.
He came up, gasping for air.
"You're too old to be washed. You can wash yourself," said Gavin. He dismissed the girl and flipped the wet sponge at Sadun.
"But I've never washed myself," Sadun whined.
"You've never done a goddamn thing for yourself," Gavin said.
Sadun didn't read for himself. He had an enormous morocco-bound library of pornography that he had read to him. Sadun didn't bathe himself, he didn't dry himself, he didn't dress himself. Gavin was amazed that he even bothered to put a spoon to his mouth to feed himself.
"I'm a royal prince," said Sadun. "You can't talk to me like that."
"I can and I will," Gavin said and threw the bar of soap into the huge tub where it promptly sank to the bottom.
"You lost my soap."
"Rudy!" shrieked Sadun. "Rudy!"
In an instant, Rudy Sarvo was at the door.
"Excellency?" asked the pimp.
"Make him go away," pouted Sadun. "He won't let Seema give me my bath-"
Rudy headed toward Gavin but as he approached, Gavin grabbed him by both arms, spun him around, and propelled him out the room. Then he shut the door and locked it.
Without a word, Gavin let himself out the other door of the bathroom and locked it from the outside, leaving the man who could claim the throne of Egypt alone in his bath, unable even to find the soap for himself.
As Gavin headed down the corridor to the curved stairs that led to the ground floor, he heard his Royal Highness.
"What about my shot?" he shouted. "Where's my shot?"
"Nicky said to tell you that he's very pleased," X told Gavin three weeks later. Subsisting on Gavin's shots and beef bouillon, Sadun had lost thirty-five pounds. "He's particularly pleased with Sadun's mental attitude-"
"As he loses more weight, he'll improve even more," said Gavin.
"He's becoming a different man-"
"He's improving in spite of Rudy Sarvo," Gavin said. "He smuggles pastry in to Sadun."
"I've told Nicky you've had trouble with Rudy-"
"It would be better for Sadun if Rudy weren't around-"
"The less you interfere with Rudy Sarvo, the safer you'll be," warned X. "Things are not necessarily what they seem."
... continued ...
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