Hannibal by Thomas Harris


  He considered the way he wanted to appear in her eyes. Certainly not in his present role as butt of the press—Questura headquarters in Florence is located in a former mental hospital, and the cartoonists were taking full advantage of that fact.

  Pazzi imagined that success came as a result of inspiration. His visual memory was excellent and, like many people whose primary sense is sight, he thought of revelation as the development of an image, first blurred and then coming clear. He ruminated the way most of us look for a lost object: We review its image in our minds and compare that image to what we see, mentally refreshing the image many times a minute and turning it in space.

  Then a political bombing behind the Uffizi museum took the public’s attention, and Pazzi’s time, away from the case of Il Mostró for a short while.

  Even as he worked the important museum bomb case, Il Mostró’s created images stayed in Pazzi’s mind. He saw the Monster’s tableaux peripherally, as we look beside an object to see it in the dark. Particularly he dwelt on the couple found slain in the bed of a pickup truck in Impruneta, the bodies carefully arranged by the Monster, strewn and garlanded with flowers, the woman’s left breast exposed.

  Pazzi had left the Uffizi museum one early afternoon and was crossing the nearby Piazza Signoria, when an image jumped at him from the display of a postcard vendor.

  Not sure where the image came from, he stopped just at the spot where Savonarola was burned. He turned and looked around him. Tourists were thronging the piazza. Pazzi felt cold up his back. Maybe it was all in his head, the image, the pluck at his attention. He retraced his steps and came again.

  There it was: a small, fly-specked, rain-warped poster of Botticelli’s painting “Primavera.” The original painting was behind him in the Uffizi museum. “Primavera.” The garlanded nymph on the right, her left breast exposed, flowers streaming from her mouth as the pale Zephyrus reached for her from the forest.

  There. The image of the couple dead in the bed of the pickup, garlanded with flowers, flowers in the girl’s mouth. Match. Match.

  Here, where his ancestor spun choking against the wall, came the idea, the master image Pazzi sought, and it was an image created five hundred years ago by Sandro Botticelli—the same artist who had for forty florins painted the hanged Francesco de’ Pazzi’s image on the wall of the Bargello prison, noose and all. How could Pazzi resist this inspiration, with its origin so delicious?

  He had to sit down. All the benches were full. He was reduced to showing his badge and commandeering a place on a bench from an old man whose crutches he honestly did not see until the old veteran was up on his single foot and very loud and rude about it too.

  Pazzi was excited for two reasons. To find the image Il Mostro used was a triumph, but much more important, Pazzi had seen a copy of “Primavera” in his rounds of the criminal suspects.

  He knew better than to flog his memory; he leaned and loafed and invited it. He returned to the Uffizi and stood before the original “Primavera,” but not too long. He walked to the straw market and touched the snout of the bronze boar “Il Porcellino,” drove out to the Ippocampo and, leaning against the hood of his dusty car, the smell of hot oil in his nose, watched the children playing soccer….

  He saw the staircase first in his mind, and the landing above, the top of the “Primavera” poster appearing first as he climbed the stairs; he could go back and see the entrance doorframe for a second, but nothing of the street, and no faces.

  Wise in the ways of interrogation, he questioned himself, going to the secondary senses:

  When you saw the poster, what did you hear?… Pots rattling in a ground-floor kitchen. When you went up on the landing and stood before the poster, what did you hear? The television. A television in a sitting room. Robert Stack playing Eliot Ness in Gli intoccabili. Did you smell cooking? Yes, cooking. Did you smell anything else? I saw the poster—NO, not what you saw. Did you smell anything else? I could still smell the Alfa, hot inside, it was still in my nose, hot oil smell, hot from … the Raccordo, going fast on the Raccordo Autostrada to where? San Casciano. I heard a dog barking too, in San Casciano, a burglar and rapist named Girolamo something.

  In that moment when the connection is made, in that synaptic spasm of completion when the thought drives through the red fuse, is our keenest pleasure. Rinaldo Pazzi had had the best moment of his life.

  In an hour and a half, Pazzi had Girolamo Tocca in custody. Tocca’s wife threw rocks after the little convoy that took her husband away.

  CHAPTER

  18

  TOCCA WAS a dream suspect. As a young man, he had served nine years in prison for the murder of a man he caught embracing his fiancée in a lovers’ lane. He had also faced charges of sexually molesting his daughters and other domestic abuse, and had served a prison sentence for rape.

  The Questura nearly destroyed Tocca’s house trying to find evidence. In the end Pazzi himself, searching Tocca’s grounds, came up with a cartridge case that was one of the few pieces of physical evidence the prosecution submitted.

  The trial was a sensation. It was held in a high-security building called the Bunker where terrorist trials were held in the seventies, across from the Florence offices of the newspaper La Nazione. The sworn and besashed jurors, five men and five women, convicted Tocca on almost no evidence except his character. Most of the public believed him innocent, but many said Tocca was a jerk and well jailed. At the age of sixty-five, he received a sentence of forty years at Volterra.

  The next months were golden. A Pazzi had not been so celebrated in Florence for the last five hundred years, since Pazzo de’ Pazzi returned from the First Crusade with flints from the Holy Sepulchre.

  Rinaldo Pazzi and his beautiful wife stood beside the archbishop in the Duomo when, at the traditional Easter rite, these same holy flints were used to ignite the rocket-powered model dove, which flew out of the church along its wire to explode a cart of fireworks for a cheering crowd.

  The papers hung on every word Pazzi said as he dispensed credit, within reason, to his subordinates for the drudgery they had performed. Signora Pazzi was sought for fashion advice, and she did look wonderful in the garments designers encouraged her to wear. They were invited to stuffy teas in the homes of the powerful, and had dinner with a count in his castle with suits of armor standing all around.

  Pazzi was mentioned for political office, praised over the general noise in the Italian parliament and given the brief to head Italy’s cooperative effort with the American FBI against the Mafia.

  That brief, and a fellowship to study and take part in criminology seminars at Georgetown University, brought the Pazzis to Washington, D.C. The chief inspector spent much time at Behavioral Science in Quantico and dreamed of creating a Behavioral Science division in Rome.

  Then, after two years, disaster: In a calmer atmosphere, an appellate court not under public pressure agreed to review Tocca’s conviction. Pazzi was brought home to face the investigation. Among the former colleagues he had left behind, the knives were out for Pazzi.

  An appellate panel overthrew Tocca’s conviction and reprimanded Pazzi, saying the court believed he had planted evidence.

  His former supporters in high places fled him as they would a bad smell. He was still an important official of the Questura, but he was a lame duck and everyone knew it. The Italian government moves slowly, but soon the axe would fall.

  CHAPTER

  19

  IT WAS in the awful searing time while Pazzi waited for the axe that he first saw the man known among scholars in Florence as Dr. Fell….

  Rinaldo Pazzi, climbing the stairs in the Palazzo Vecchio on a menial errand, one of many found for him by his former subordinates at the Questura as they enjoyed his fall from grace. Pazzi saw only the toes of his own shoes on the cupped stone and not the wonders of art around him as he climbed beside the frescoed wall. Five hundred years ago, his forebear had been dragged bleeding up these stairs.

  At a landing,
he squared his shoulders like the man he was, and forced himself to meet the eyes of the people in the frescoes, some of them kin to him. He could already hear the wrangling from the Salon of Lilies above him where the directors of the Uffizi Museum and the Belle Arti Commission were meeting in joint session.

  Pazzi’s business today was this: The longtime curator of the Palazzo Capponi was missing. It was widely believed the old fellow had eloped with a woman or someone’s money or both. He had failed to meet with his governing body here in the Palazzo Vecchio for the last four monthly meetings.

  Pazzi was sent to continue the investigation. Chief Inspector Pazzi, who had sternly lectured these same gray-faced directors of the Uffizi and members of the rival Belle Arti Commission on security following the museum bombing, must now appear before them in reduced circumstances to ask questions about a curator’s love life. He did not look forward to it.

  The two committees were a contentious and prickly assembly—for years they could not even agree on a venue, neither side willing to meet in the other’s offices. They met instead in the magnificent Salon of Lilies in the Palazzo Vecchio, each member believing the beautiful room suitable to his own eminence and distinction. Once established there, they refused to meet anywhere else, even though the Palazzo Vecchio was undergoing one of its thousand restorations, with scaffolding and drop cloths and machinery underfoot.

  Professor Ricci, an old schoolmate of Rinaldo Pazzi, was in the hall outside the salon with a sneezing fit from the plaster dust. When he had recovered sufficiently, he rolled his streaming eyes at Pazzi.

  “La sólita arringa,” Ricci said, “they are arguing as usual. You’ve come about the missing Capponi curator? They’re fighting over his job right now. Sogliato wants the job for his nephew. The scholars are impressed with the temporary one they appointed months ago, Dr. Fell. They want to keep him.”

  Pazzi left his friend patting his pockets for tissues, and went into the historic chamber with its ceiling of gold lilies. Hanging drop cloths on two of the walls helped to soften the din.

  The nepotist, Sogliato, had the floor, and was holding it by dint of volume:

  “The Capponi correspondence goes back to the thirteenth century. Dr. Fell might hold in his hand, in his non-Italian hand, a note from Dante Alighieri himself. Would he recognize it? I think not. You have examined him in medieval Italian, and I will not deny his language is admirable. For a straniero. But is he familiar with the personalities of pre-Renaissance Florence? I think not. What if he came upon a note in the Capponi library from—from Guido de’Cavalcanti, for instance? Would he recognize it? I think not. Would you care to address that, Dr. Fell?”

  Rinaldo Pazzi scanned the room and did not see anyone he recognized as Dr. Fell, even though he had examined a photograph of the man not an hour before. He did not see Dr. Fell because the doctor was not seated with the others. Pazzi heard his voice first, then located him.

  Dr. Fell stood very still beside the great bronze statue of Judith and Holofernes, giving his back to the speaker and the crowd. He spoke without turning around and it was hard to know which figure the voice came from— Judith, her sword forever raised to strike the drunken king, or Holofernes, gripped by the hair, or Dr. Fell, slender and still beside Donatello’s bronze figures. His voice cut through the din like a laser through smoke and the squabbling men fell silent.

  “Cavalcanti replied publicly to Dante’s first sonnet in La Vita Nuova, where Dante describes his strange dream of Beatrice Portinari,” Dr. Fell said. “Perhaps Cavalcanti commented privately as well. If he wrote to a Capponi, it would be to Andrea, he was more literary than his brothers.” Dr. Fell turned to face the group in his own time, after an interval uncomfortable to everyone but him. “Do you know Dante’s first sonnet, Professor Sogliato? Do you? It fascinated Cavalcanti and it’s worth your time. In part it says:

  “The first three hours of night were almost spent

  The time that every star shines down on us

  When Love appeared to me so suddenly

  That I still shudder at the memory.

  Joyous Love seemed to me, the while he held

  My heart within his hands, and in his arms

  My lady lay asleep wrapped in a veil.

  He woke her then and trembling and obedient

  She ate that burning heart out of his hand;

  Weeping I saw him then depart from me.

  “Listen to the way he makes an instrument of the Italian vernacular, what he called the vulgari eloquentia of the people:

  “Allegro mi sembrava Amor tenendo

  Meo core in mano, e ne le braccia avea

  Madonna involta in un drappo dormendo.

  Poi la svegliava, e d’esto core ardendo

  Lei paventosa umilmente pascea

  Appreso gir lo ne vedea piangendo.”

  Even the most contentious Florentines could not resist the verse of Dante ringing off these frescoed walls in Dr. Fell’s clear Tuscan. First applause, and then by wet-eyed acclamation, the memberships affirmed Dr. Fell as master of the Palazzo Capponi, leaving Sogliato to fume. If the victory pleased the doctor, Pazzi could not tell, for he turned his back again. But Sogliato was not quite through.

  “If he is such an expert on Dante, let him lecture on Dante, to the Studiolo.” Sogliato hissed the name as though it were the Inquisition. “Let him face them extempore, next Friday if he can.” The Studiolo, named for an ornate private study, was a small, fierce group of scholars who had ruined a number of academic reputations and met often in the Palazzo Vecchio. Preparing for them was regarded as a considerable chore, appearing before them a peril. Sogliato’s uncle seconded his motion and Sogliato’s brother-in-law called for a vote, which his sister recorded in the minutes. It passed. The appointment stood, but Dr. Fell must satisfy the Studiolo to keep it.

  The committees had a new curator for the Palazzo Capponi, they did not miss the old curator, and they gave the disgraced Pazzi’s questions about the missing man short shrift. Pazzi held up admirably.

  Like any good investigator, he had sifted the circumstances for profit. Who would benefit from the old curator’s disappearance? The missing curator was a bachelor, a well-respected quiet scholar with an orderly life. He had some savings, nothing much. All he had was his job and with it the privilege of living in the attic of the Palazzo Capponi.

  Here was the new appointee, confirmed by the board after close questioning on Florentine history and archaic Italian. Pazzi had examined Dr. Fell’s application forms and his National Health affidavits.

  Pazzi approached him as the board members were packing their briefcases to go home.

  “Dr. Fell.”

  “Yes, Commendatore?”

  The new curator was small and sleek. His glasses were smoked in the top half of the lenses and his dark clothing beautifully cut, even for Italy.

  “I was wondering if you ever met your predecessor?” An experienced policeman’s antennae are tuned to the bandwidth of fear. Watching Dr. Fell carefully, Pazzi registered absolute calm.

  “I never met him. I read several of his monographs in the Nuova Antologia.” The doctor’s conversational Tuscan was as clear as his recitation. If there was a trace of an accent, Pazzi could not place it.

  “I know that the officers who first investigated checked the Palazzo Capponi for any sort of note, a farewell note, a suicide note, and found nothing. If you come upon anything in the papers, anything personal, even if it’s trivial, would you call me?”

  “Of course, Commendator Pazzi.”

  “Are his personal effects still at the Palazzo?”

  “Packed in two suitcases, with an inventory.”

  “I’ll send—I’ll come by and pick them up.”

  “Would you call me first, Commendatore? I can disarm the security system before you arrive, and save you time.”

  The man is too calm. Properly, he should fear me a little. He asks me to call him before coming by.

  The committee had ru
ffled Pazzi’s feathers. He could do nothing about that. Now he was piqued by this man’s presumption. He piqued back.

  “Dr. Fell, may I ask you a personal question?”

  “If your duty requires it, Commendatore.”

  “You have a relatively new scar on the back of your left hand.”

  “And you have a new wedding ring on yours: La Vita Nuova?” Dr. Fell smiled. He has small teeth, very white. In Pazzi’s instant of surprise, before he could decide to be offended, Dr. Fell held up his scarred hand and went on: “Carpal tunnel syndrome, Commendatore. History is a hazardous profession.”

  “Why didn’t you declare carpal tunnel syndrome on your National Health forms when you came to work here?”

  “My impression was, Commendatore, that injuries are relevant only if one is receiving disability payments; I am not. Nor am I disabled.”

  “The surgery was in Brazil, then, your country of origin.”

  “It was not in Italy, I received nothing from the Italian government,” Dr. Fell said, as though he believed he had answered completely.

  They were the last to leave the council room. Pazzi had reached the door when Dr. Fell called to him.

  “Commendator Pazzi?”

  Dr. Fell was a black silhouette against the tall windows. Behind him in the distance rose the Duomo.

  “Yes?”

  “I think you are a Pazzi of the Pazzi, am I correct?”

  “Yes. How did you know that?” Pazzi would consider a reference to recent newspaper coverage rude in the extreme.

  “You resemble a figure from the Della Robbia rondels in your family’s chapel at Santa Croce.”

  “Ah, that was Andrea de’ Pazzi depicted as John the Baptist,” Pazzi said, a small slick of pleasure on his acid heart.

  When Rinaldo Pazzi left the slender figure standing in the council room, his lasting impression was of Dr. Fell’s extraordinary stillness.

 
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