At his building, he smiles at the doorman, smiles at a tenant stepping off the elevator. A nod here, a smile there.

As the elevator wafts him upward, his fingers find their way to the cool pink stone he wears around his neck.

He sits at his desk, looks at the screen of his computer, where the endless evolution of the New York nightscape continues. But he doesn't have time to watch it now. He presses a key, and the screensaver vanishes.

He doesn't log on, but opens his word-processing program and selects New from the menu. A blank page fills the screen. He stares at it for a moment, remembering the feel of the girl's hands on him, remembering the feel of his hands on her.

His fingers move, and words begin to fill the screen:

In respect to that type of serial murderer whose actions are motivated by a desire for the thrill of the act itself, the presumption has long existed that a distortion of the sexual impulse is present, and probably causative. The person in question cannot perform normally, and the thrill he finds in the act is the thrill of sexual fulfillment.

My research would indicate that this is not necessarily the case.

Let us consider a young man whom we will call A. Just recently, A confided to me that…

He stops, frowns at the screen. Later, if he decides to publish, he can tart it up like that. For now a more straightforward approach will serve better to get the words and thoughts down. He deletes the paragraph that begins Let us consider and resumes:

Earlier today, I felt a need for sexual release and went to a professional establishment where what I sought was offered for sale in a carefree and presumably hygienic environment. In the guise of a masseuse, a girl-woman of Asian extraction gave me a commendably skillful hand job. I was rock-hard as soon as she touched me, and the orgasm I attained was powerful. My performance (if such a word is appropriate, considering that all I did was lie on the table with my eyes shut, not even bothering to look at the body I'd tipped her extra to unclothe, not troubling to reach out a hand to touch her ivory skin)- my performance, indeed, left nothing to be desired. I had arrived in that room with a fierce desire- a need- for sexual release, and I had achieved that release.

And it was satisfying. The sopping-wet Kleenex she so casually flipped into the bucket was mute testimony to my satisfaction.

Yet I was not satisfied. The orgasm might as well have happened to someone else. I might be sexually sated, but something else within me was entirely untouched.

I didn't even know what I was going to do until I did it. I had almost finished dressing when the impulse came, and I knew instantly that this was what I craved, what I required, what had brought me to this dingy little room in the first place. And so I put my hands around her neck and squeezed.

She never made a sound. I cut off her air before she realized what was happening, lifted her off the ground. Her little feet kicked in the air, and one of her slippers went flying. Her eyes stared into mine, and, even as I watched her die, I felt something- kundalini? the life force?- enter through my hands and race up my arms, filling my entire being.

I did not, while this was happening, experience any sort of feeling I can characterize as sexual, nor did my body respond sexually. I did not get an erection, did not feel a stirring in my loins.

On the other hand, I was left with a feeling of satisfaction, of fulfillment, infinitely greater and more abiding than my orgasm had provided. This, clearly, was what I had been seeking, although I had not known it consciously until I reached out and took the little darling by the throat. I was not depleted, as one sometimes is by sexual release, but rather reinvigorated, able to think clearly and act decisively. To wit: I not only tidied up, stuffing her body where it would not be quickly noticed, along with her dress and the slippers she'd kicked off in her struggles, I also had the presence of mind to use her dress to wipe away fingerprints, and to retrieve from her change purse the $100 I'd tipped her. (Indeed, there were three twenties and a ten along with my $100, and I took them as well. I'd paid $40 at the door, so I made a $30 profit on my visit, which, given the time involved, compares not unfavorably with my professional rates!)

He smiles at that last line. When it's time to publish his findings, and he knows he'll want to do so, considerable editing will be required. It will be some anonymous patient who's confiding all of this to him. And yet, isn't there some value in presenting the material directly and authentically? As it stands, his report provides first-person testimony by one who is himself a professional in the field. Aren't his perceptions all the more valuable because of his professional perspective? And won't they be undercut for being disguised as those of some unnamed analysand?

He needs to give this some thought. Perhaps there's a way to post it as written on some appropriate Internet site. Of course he can't e-mail it from this machine, or through an existing account. But what's to prevent him from dropping in at an Internet cafй, say, and logging on to AOL with a stolen password (not too hard to come by, certainly) and posting it that way? They can trace it, they have the technology to trace anything these days, but there'll be nothing to point them in his direction.

Meanwhile, he'll want to work on this, shape it, refine it. Maybe add a little more detail to the report, make the whole process of her dying a little more vivid. First, though, a word or two of summary:

There is a line to be drawn, it would seem, between Eros and Thanatos. The two can walk side by side, yoked in harness, plowing a double furrow. There is surely some overlap. Part of the pleasure of killing is sexual, just as part of the pleasure of the sex act lies in imposing one's will upon another. But when all is said and done…

His watch beeps.

And that's a good place to leave it, right in the middle of a sentence, so he'll be able to recapture the thought train when he returns to the work. Now, though, he has other duties calling him. He's canceled his afternoon appointment, but that doesn't mean he lacks for things to do.

He moves the cursor, clicks the mouse. Night falls in the form of his screensaver. Lights come on and lights go out.

He gets to his feet. Does he have time for a shower, a change of clothes? Surely he does. And, on his way out, might it not be a good idea to leave his suit at the dry cleaner?

He wears a camel's-hair blazer with leather buttons, dark brown flat-front trousers, a white shirt, a tie with half-inch stripes of tan and royal blue. On the way to her house, he stops at a florist, wonders what's appropriate. Surely not roses, but what?

He leaves empty-handed, deciding that the occasion does not call for flowers at all. But one wants to bring something. Candy? Does anyone come calling with a box of chocolates?

Inspired, he walks on down to Seventy-second Street, where there's a wonderful place for pastry. I passed this shop, he hears himself saying, and I couldn't help myself. He selects an йclair, a napoleon, and a couple of tartlets that look appealing. Does she even care for pastry, his future bride, chatelaine of his castle?

There is so much still to be learned about her…

The little white box tied up with string and tucked under his arm, he walks the two blocks to Seventy-fourth Street. He is within two houses of hers, striding merrily along, when her front door opens and a man emerges, turning for a last word, then turning again and pulling the door shut.

And it's that man again, the man whose card he took from Lia Parkman's room. Scudder, Matthew Scudder! It's him, coming down the steps, and what's he supposed to do now? Stop short and invite attention? Maintain his pace and walk right into the man?

He stops, turning his head, feigning a glance at his wristwatch. Scudder reaches the sidewalk, and he wills the man to turn to his right, away from him. But no, the son of a bitch turns left and walks right toward him, a look of grim determination on his face.

He maintains his own pace now, averts his eyes, but somehow can't resist a quick glance at Scudder as they come within a few feet of each other. And Scudder looks right at him!

And looks past him. Scudder doesn't know him at all. And they pass, and Scudder keeps heading west, and he himself walks on past the Hollander house and halfway to the corner before he dares to turn around.

Scudder's nowhere to be seen.

And, he realizes, no one to be feared. Oh, he's involved in this, the son of a bitch. And now he knows why he looked familiar, and where he saw him before. In Brooklyn, on Coney Island Avenue, when he drove past the house where it had all started. He'd been driving along, and he'd seen two men emerge from the house, two men who didn't look right for the neighborhood. The younger man wore a Hawaiian shirt and looked like a cop, and the older man, Scudder, looked like the landlord or someone who worked for the city.

Now he knows his name and where he lives, and that's all he knows about the man. But whenever you turned around, he turned up. Was it time to do something about him?

Just now, if he'd had a gun, he could have dropped him in his tracks and kept walking. Or a knife, a sharpened hunting knife in a leather sheath on his belt, and he'd draw it in a single motion and thrust forward in another, swift and silent.

Where could you buy a hunting knife? In the rest of the country, certainly, but in New York?

Well, it will wait. He has a castle's walls to breach, a maiden to rescue.

He mounts the steps, rings the bell. If she's not answering the door these days, well, he'll do as he told Peter to do. He'll keep ringing the bell, and he'll talk to her through the door, as if the door's not there.

And, whatever her intentions, she'll open it.

His finger moves to the bell, and he's just about to give it another poke when the door opens. And there's a giant of a man planted in the doorway, filling the doorway, glowering at him. Christ, will you look at him- unforgiving green eyes in a face like a chunk of granite. He looks as though bullets would bounce right off him.

"What do you want?"

A rough voice- no surprise there- with a trace of brogue.

He can't think what to say.

"What are ye, then, some fucking reporter?"

He hesitates, nods.

"Then you're not wanted here, so why don't you fuck off?"

The door closes in his face. He scampers down the stairs, turns right, heads toward the park. At the corner he drops his white string-wrapped pastry box in a trash can.

THIRTY-SIX

I said, "Here we are. Adam Breit," and spelled it. I'd been looking for Bright, as in bright as day, because no one had told me how he spelled it, and why would they? Neither Kristin nor Helen Watling had seen the name written down.

I was in T J's hotel room, where we were going through the phone books, I the White Pages and he the Yellow. I'd had no luck in the residential section, but I'd found a business listing for Breit, Adam, with a 255-number and no address.

I dialed the number, and a recorded voice told me it was no longer in service.

I called information, and did what you had to do to talk to a living human being. I'd have done as well with a recording. I identified myself as a police officer, invented a name and a shield number to go with it, and told her I needed an unpublished address. I gave her the name and phone number, and she put me briefly on hold and came back with the news that the number was no longer in service.

I said I knew that, but that I needed to know the address where it had been in service, once upon a time. She said she didn't have that information. I asked if there was a new listing for that name, Adam Breit, published or unpublished, and she checked and told me there wasn't.



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