Rachel, an 18-year-old Columbia University student descends into the netherworld of runaways and predators to find her sister, Olivia, who has suddenly disappeared. After getting a job in a strip joint where Olivia worked, then doing private shows in the homes of rich clients, Rachel discovers that Olivia has been abducted by a killer who auctions the deaths of young girls in an eBay of agony. As she closes in on the killer who has taken Olivia, Rachel becomes his next target.
The Webmaster activated the camera, and Olivia Wallen’s image traveled across four continents. Her jet-black hair was cut in bangs across the forehead in the classic China-doll style. Her voluptuous American figure was incongruent with her Thai features and was accented by the red Brazilian bikini which offered a triangle of coverage in the crotch.
“Turn around,” said the voice. She did so, revealing the flawlessness of her back and legs.
“The skin is like pearl,” said the Webmaster, now addressing the others via web cam. “As you like it in the East. She is five-feet six inches tall. Her measurements are 32-24-33.”
The clients on the other side of the world were impressed. Men like Masutatsu Nakayama, Vladimir Zeitkin, and Mohammad Qasim.
Vladimir Zeitkin’s loyalty to Putin had won him his own oil company and now he spent his time competing with Paul Allen of Microsoft fame by building the biggest yacht in the world. He collected Greek and Roman statuary and Nazi art looted during World War II. But it took time to build mega-yachts, and while the static images of paintings were sublime, the living, breathing art of torture, suffering, and death redefined beauty.
And there was Mohammad Qasim. There was little entertainment in Saudi Arabia despite his oil billions. He had taken pleasure for a while in abusing the Filipina housemaids he brought in for his entertainment and that of his friends, but that grew dull. He sponsored a small jihad organization and followed their exploits as he followed Manchester United, but blowing up anonymous infidels got repetitive.
Now, without leaving his office, he could witness what surpassed even the public beheadings and honor killings he’d seen.
Masutatsu Nakayama was a man for whom all things had become tiresome. Now retired from industry with an estimated fortune of two billion dollars, he was on a quest for the few experiences he had left unvisited. And this site gave it to him.
While other sex sites featured photos and videos, the Webmaster’s had live captives. He performed whatever the clients requested. And in the end, they always requested death. This left no doubt that the girls weren’t actors. The manner of death came from the depths of the subconscious. He had performed hangings, beheadings, electrocutions, tooth extractions, dismemberments. Occasionally they requested a boy, but usually it was a young girl. The clients voted on the type of victim, the race, age, even social standing. For some of these men, it was their first experience in democracy. Payment consisted of a wire transfer to a Cayman Islands bank account. Half due on winning the auction; half after delivery of the product. The clients paid an initial membership fee, then bid on what they wanted done to the victim. The abuse lasted until the clients agreed it was time for execution. This, too, was put up for auction and only the winner received the final product. The winning bidder received the exclusive live stream and download of his request. It was the eBay of agony.
Each girl could produce bids in excess of two-hundred thousand dollars. The longer the pain was drawn out, the more profit was made. The key was to keep replenishing the supply of victims. And the Webmaster had an endless supply.
“Take off your clothes and turn around. Again. Stand against the wall,” he instructed. The terrified girl complied and the contrast of her body against the gray of the concrete produced gasps of pleasure from the audience.
“What is your name?”
“Olivia. Olivia Wallen.”
“Please let me go.”
She was hyperventilating, and this made her lovely chest heave up and down.
“Where are you from originally?”
“How did you come here?”
Olivia went into her past as far as she could remember.
“Your grades are exceptional. What university did you plan to attend? I said what university?”
“A Harvard girl, gentlemen. This should appeal to you. What were you going to study at Harvard?”
The tears streamed down her cheeks as the interrogation had its intended effect.
“You planned to help humanity?”
“You must answer the questions. I explained that to you. You planned to help humanity?”
“And what do you do in your spare time? Answer the question. Answer the question.”
“Reading. What do you read? Who are you favorite authors?”
“Good, good. So you’re well-read. But let’s be honest with these gentlemen, there’s also another side to you isn’t there?”
She said nothing.
“Yes,” she said, finally.
“We’ll explore that in due course. Well, there you have it, gentlemen.
This concludes the introduction. A mysterious and beautiful girl. And we’ll find out more about her in each encounter. Bidding for the first torment starts at fifty thousand dollars with increments of five thousand. Gentlemen, what is your pleasure?”
GF:I had to research computer hacking and sex workers in Chiang Mai as these were essential to the plot of the book. I’m an electrical engineer but I didn’t know anything about hacking into anyone’s PC, much less about brothels in Thailand. All this was done by Googling, not field research.
Q: “The Schwarzschild Radius” has some intense content. What did you do to keep yourself emotionally healthy during writing?
GF: For one thing, I believe less is more, so I was not graphic or gory. I don’t care for horror movies or zombie books. So 95% of the violence was implied or related second-hand or took place off-stage. This is far more effective than putting a camera in front of a serial killer and watching him work. I think it’s always uncomfortable to put yourself in the skin of a murderer and listen to how he reasons and it came as a relief to write from the point of view of the more noble characters such as Rachel or Detective McKenna.
Q: What do you like about the indie book industry and what is difficult?
GF: What is good is that anyone can self-publish. The bad is the intense competition. The difficult part of publishing used to be getting a publisher. Now, a book release is just the beginning. Then you have to market your work among tens of thousands of others.
Q: Besides being an author, you have worked in the defense industry and the financial sector. Quite a contrast. If you were to pick an entirely new career what would it be?
GF: If what I picked also came with talent, I would love to be a theoretical physicist, like Einstein or Schrödinger. They deal with the fundamentals of existence.
Q: I see that you enjoy violin. This can be a very difficult instrument. What are your favorite pieces of violin music? What advice would you give young violin students?
GF: Ah, the violin, Yes, is difficult and unforgiving. I love Bach, in particular, his unaccompanied suites for violin. A great Belgian violinist, Arthur Grumiaux, set the gold standard with his recordings of the unaccompanied suites. I would advise young violin students to stick with it. I started at the age of six, quit, then took it up again at 13, quit again at twenty and took it up again as an adult. It gets harder, the older you are, so stay with it and by the time you’re twelve or thirteen, you will have a companion for life.
Q: Please tell us about your last book “In the Talons of the Condor.”
GF: This book deals with the so called “dirty war” in Argentina in the 1970’s and eighties. Over 30,000 citizens disappeared, mostly at the hands of a fascist military government. My hero was arrested with his family at the age of fourteen. He alone survives and vows revenge. He joins the military and becomes a brutal special forces commando, always training for one mission—to bring justice to three men who were responsible for wiping out his family.
Q: What will your next novel be about?
GF: My next book is a political thriller which starts out as a murder mystery then expands from there to expose larger and larger conspiracies. My protagonist is John McKenna, the detective in The Schwarzschild Radius. He’s now retired from the New York Police Department and trying to get married again. But trouble finds him and sweeps him into an international manhunt full of betrayal, sex and corruption at the highest levels of government.