Hannibal by Thomas Harris


  The ears looked promising. Like Alphonse Bertillon a hundred years before, Pazzi pored over the ears with his magnifying glass. They seemed to be the same.

  On the Questura’s outdated computer, he punched in his Interpol access code to the American FBI’s Violent Criminal Apprehension Program and called up the voluminous Lecter file. He cursed his slow modem and tried to read the fuzzy text off the screen until the letters jumped in his vision. He knew most of the case. Two things made him catch his breath. One old and one new. The most recent update cited an X ray indicating Lecter probably had had surgery on his hand. The old item, a scan of a hand-printed Tennessee police report, noted that while he killed his guards in Memphis, Hannibal Lecter played a tape of the Goldberg Variations.

  The poster circulated by the rich American victim, Mason Verger, dutifully encouraged an informant to call the FBI number provided. It gave the standard warning about Dr. Lecter being armed and dangerous. A private telephone number was provided as well—-just below the paragraph about the huge reward.

  Airfare from Florence to Paris is ridiculously expensive and Pazzi had to pay it out of his own pocket. He did not trust the French police to give him a phone patch without meddling, and he knew no other way to get one. From an American Express phone cabin near the Opera, he telephoned the private number on Mason’s poster. He assumed the call would be traced. Pazzi spoke English well enough, but he knew his accent would betray him as Italian.

  The voice was male, American, very calm.

  “Would you state your business please?”

  “I may have information about Hannibal Lecter.”

  “Yes, well, thank you for calling. Do you know where he is now?”

  “I believe so. Is the reward in effect?”

  “Yes, it is. What hard evidence do you have that it’s him? You have to understand we get a lot of crank calls.”

  “I’ll tell you he’s undergone plastic surgery on his face and had an operation on his left hand. He can still play the Goldberg Variations. He has Brazilian papers.”

  A pause. Then, “Why haven’t you called the police? I’m required to encourage you to do that.”

  “Is the reward in effect in all circumstances?”

  “The reward is for information leading to the arrest and conviction.”

  “Would the reward be payable in … special circumstances?”

  “Do you mean a bounty on Dr. Lecter? Say, in the case of someone who might not ordinarily be eligible to accept a reward?”

  “Yes.”

  “We are both working toward the same goal. So stay on the telephone please, while I make a suggestion. It is against international convention and U.S. law to offer a bounty for someone’s death, sir. Stay on the telephone please. May I ask if you’re calling from Europe?”

  “Yes, I am, and that’s all I’m telling you.”

  “Good, hear me out—I suggest you contact an attorney to discuss legality of bounties and not to undertake any illegal action against Dr. Lecter. May I recommend an attorney? There’s one in Geneva who is excellent in these matters. May I give you the toll-free number? I encourage you strongly to call him and to be frank with him.”

  Pazzi bought a prepaid telephone card and made his next call from a booth in the Bon Marché department store. He spoke to a person with a dry Swiss voice. It took less than five minutes.

  Mason would pay one million United States dollars for Dr. Hannibal Lecter’s head and hands. He would pay the same amount for information leading to arrest and conviction. He would privately pay three million dollars for the doctor alive, no questions asked, discretion guaranteed. The terms included one hundred thousand dollars in advance. To qualify for the advance, Pazzi would have to provide a positively identifiable fingerprint from Dr. Lecter, the print in situ on an object. If he did that, he could see the rest of the cash in an escrowed safe deposit locker in Switzerland at his convenience.

  Before he left Bon Marché for the airport, Pazzi bought a peignoir for his wife in peach silk moiré.

  CHAPTER

  23

  HOW DO you behave when you know the conventional honors are dross? When you have come to believe with Marcus Aurelius that the opinion of future generations will be worth no more than the opinion of the current one? Is it possible to behave well then? Desirable to behave well then?

  Now Rinaldo Pazzi, a Pazzi of the Pazzi, chief inspector of the Florentine Questura, had to decide what his honor was worth, or if there is a wisdom longer than considerations of honor.

  He returned from Paris by dinnertime, and slept a little while. He wanted to ask his wife, but he could not, though he did take comfort in her. He lay awake for a long time afterward, after her breathing was quiet. Late in the night he gave up on sleep and went out to walk and think.

  Avarice is not unknown in Italy, and Rinaldo Pazzi had imbibed plenty with his native air. But his natural acquisitiveness and ambition had been whetted in America, where every influence is felt more quickly, including the death of Jehovah and the incumbency of Mammon.

  When Pazzi came out of the shadows of the Loggia and stood in the spot where Savonarola was burned in the Piazza Signoria, when he looked up at the window in the floodlit Palazzo Vecchio where his ancestor died, he believed that he was deliberating. He was not. He had already decided piecemeal.

  We assign a moment to decision, to dignify the process as a timely result of rational and conscious thought. But decisions are made of kneaded feelings; they are more often a lump than a sum.

  Pazzi had decided when he got on the plane to Paris. And he had decided an hour ago, after his wife in her new peignoir had been only dutifully receptive. And minutes later when, lying in the dark, he reached over to cup her cheek and give her a tender good night kiss, and he felt a tear beneath his palm. Then, unaware, she ate his heart.

  Honors again? Another chance to endure the archbishop’s breath while the holy flints were struck to the rocket in the cloth dove’s ass? More praise from the politicians whose private lives he knew too well? What was it worth to be known as the policeman who caught Dr. Hannibal Lecter? For a policeman, credit has a short half-life. Better to SELL HIM.

  The thought pierced and pounded Rinaldo, left him pale and determined, and when the visual Rinaldo cast his lot he had two scents mixed in his mind, his wife and the Chesapeake shore.

  SELL HIM. SELL HIM. SELL HIM. SELL HIM. SELL HIM. SELL HIM.

  Francesco de’ Pazzi did not stab harder in 1478 when he had Giuliano on the cathedral floor, when in his frenzy he stabbed himself through the thigh.

  CHAPTER

  24

  DR. HANNIBAL Lecter’s fingerprint card is a curiosity and something of a cult object. The original is framed on the wall of the FBI’s Identification Section. Following the FBI custom in printing people with more than five fingers, it has the thumb and four adjacent fingers on the front side of the card, and the sixth finger on the reverse.

  Copies of the fingerprint card went around the earth when the doctor first escaped, and his thumbprint appears enlarged on Mason Verger’s Wanted poster with enough points marked on it for a minimally trained examiner to make a hit.

  Simple fingerprinting is not a difficult skill and Pazzi could do a workmanlike job of lifting prints, and could make a coarse comparison to reassure himself. But Mason Verger required a fresh fingerprint, in situ and un-lifted, for his experts to examine independently; Mason had been cheated before with old fingerprints lifted years ago at the scenes of Dr. Lecter’s early crimes.

  But how to get Dr. Fell’s fingerprints without alerting him? Above all, he must not alarm the doctor. The man could disappear too well, and Pazzi would be left with nothing.

  The doctor did not often leave the Palazzo Capponi, and it would be a month before the next meeting of the Belle Arti. Too long to wait to plant a water glass at his place, at all the places, as the committee never furnished such amenities.

  Once he had decided to sell Hannibal Lecter to Mason Ve
rger, Pazzi had to work alone. He could not afford to bring the attention of the Questura to Dr. Fell by getting a warrant to enter the Palazzo, and the building was too well defended with alarms for him to break in and take fingerprints.

  Dr. Fell’s refuse can was much cleaner and newer than the others on the block. Pazzi bought a new can and in the dead of night switched lids with the Palazzo Capponi can. The galvanized surface was not ideal and, in an all-night effort, Pazzi came out with a pointillist’s nightmare of prints that he could never decipher.

  The next morning he appeared red-eyed at the Ponte Vecchio. In a jewelry shop on the old bridge he bought a wide, highly polished silver bracelet and the velvet-covered stand that held it for display. In the artisan sector south of the Arno, in the narrow streets across from the Pitti Palace, he had another jeweler grind the maker’s name off the bracelet. The jeweler offered to apply an antitarnish coating to the silver, but Pazzi said no.

  Dread Sollicciano, the Florentine jail on the road to Prato.

  On the second floor of the women’s division, Romula Cjesku, leaning over a deep laundry sink, soaped her breasts, washing and drying carefully before she put on a clean, loose cotton shirt. Another Gypsy, returning from the visiting room, spoke in the Romany language to Romula in passing. A tiny line appeared between Romula’s eyes. Her handsome face kept its usual solemn set.

  She was allowed off the tier at the customary 8:30 A.M., but when she approached the visitor’s room, a turnkey intercepted her and steered her aside to a private interview room on the prison’s ground floor. Inside, instead of the usual nurse, Rinaldo Pazzi was holding her infant boy.

  “Hello, Romula,” he said.

  She went straight up to the tall policeman and there was no question that he would hand over the child at once. The baby wanted to nurse and began to nuzzle at her.

  Pazzi pointed with his chin at a screen in the corner of the room. “There’s a chair back there. We can talk while you feed him.”

  “Talk about what, Dottore?” Romula’s Italian was passable, as was her French, English, Spanish, and Romany. She spoke without affect—her best theatrics had not prevented this three-month term for picking pockets.

  She went behind the screen. In a plastic bag concealed in the baby’s swaddling clothes were forty cigarettes and sixty-five thousand lire, a little more than forty-one dollars, in ragged notes. She had a choice to make here. If the policeman had frisked the baby, he could charge her when she took out the contraband and have all her privileges revoked. She deliberated a moment, looking up at the ceiling while the baby suckled. Why would he bother? He had the advantage anyway. She took out the bag and concealed it in her underwear. His voice came over the screen.

  “You are a nuisance in here, Romula. Nursing mothers in jail are a waste of time. There are legitimately sick people in here for the nurses to take care of. Don’t you hate to hand over your baby when the visiting time is up?”

  What could he want? She knew who he was, all right—a chief, a Pezzo da novanta, bastard .90 caliber.

  Romula’s business was reading the street for a living, and pickpocketing was a subset of that. She was a weathered thirty-five and she had antennae like the great luna moth. This policeman—she studied him over the screen— look how neat, the wedding ring, the shined shoes, lived with his wife but had a good maid—his collar stays were put in after the collar was ironed. Wallet in the jacket pocket, keys in the right front trouser, money in the left front trouser folded flat probably with a rubber band around. His dick between. He was flat and masculine, a little cauliflower in the ear and a scar at the hairline from a blow. He wasn’t going to ask her for sex—if that was the idea, he wouldn’t have brought the baby. He was no prize, but she didn’t think he would have to take sex from women in jail. Better not to look into his bitter black eyes while the baby was suckling. Why did he bring the baby? Because he wants her to see his power, suggest he could have it taken from her. What does he want? Information? She would tell him anything he wants to hear about fifteen Gypsies who never existed. All right, what can I get out of this? We’ll see. Let’s show him a bit of the brown.

  She watched his face as she came out from behind the screen, a crescent of aureole showing beside the baby’s face.

  “It’s hot back there,” she said. “Could you open a window?”

  “I could do better than that, Romula. I could open the door, and you know it.”

  Quiet in the room. Outside the noise of Sollicciano like a constant, dull headache.

  “Tell me what you want. I would do something gladly, but not anything.” Her instinct told her, correctly, he would respect her for the caveat.

  “It’s only la tua solita còsa, the usual thing you do,” Pazzi said, “but I want you to botch it.”

  CHAPTER

  25

  DURING THE day, they watched the front of the Palazzo Capponi from the high shuttered window of an apartment across the street— Romula, and an older Gypsy woman who helped with the baby and may have been Romula’s cousin, and Pazzi, who stole as much time as possible from his office.

  The wooden arm that Romula used in her trade waited on a chair in the bedroom.

  Pazzi had obtained the daytime use of the apartment from a teacher at the nearby Dante Alighieri School. Romula insisted on a shelf in the small refrigerator for herself and the baby.

  They did not have to wait long.

  At 9:30 A.M. on the second day, Romula’s helper hissed from the window seat. A black void appeared across the street as one of the massive palazzo doors swung inward.

  There he was, the man known in Florence as Dr. Fell, small and slender in his dark clothing, sleek as a mink as he tested the air on the stoop and regarded the street in both directions. He clicked a remote control to set the alarms and pulled the door shut with its great wrought-iron handle, pitted with rust and impossible to fingerprint. He carried a shopping bag.

  Seeing Dr. Fell for the first time through the crack in the shutters, the older Gypsy gripped Romula’s hand as though to stop her, looked Romula in the face and gave her head a quick sharp shake while the policeman was not looking.

  Pazzi knew at once where he was going.

  In Dr. Fell’s garbage, Pazzi had seen the distinctive wrapping papers from the fine food store, Vera dal 1926, on the Via San Jacopo near the Santa Trìnita Bridge. The doctor headed in that direction now as Romula shrugged into her costume and Pazzi watched out the window.

  “Dunque, it’s groceries,” Pazzi said. He could not help repeating Romula’s instructions for the fifth time. “Follow along, Romula. Wait this side of the Ponte Vecchio. You’ll catch him coming back, carrying the full bag in his hand. I’ll be half a block ahead of him, you’ll see me first. I’ll stay close by. If there’s a problem, if you get arrested, I’ll take care of it. If he goes someplace else, come back to the apartment. I’ll call you. Put this pass in a taxi windshield and come to me.”

  “Eminenza,” Romula said, elevating the honorifics in the Italian ironic style, “if there is a problem and someone else helps me, don’t hurt him, my friend won’t take anything, let him run.”

  Pazzi did not wait for the elevator, he raced down the stairs in a greasy boilersuit, wearing a cap. It is hard to tail somebody in Florence because the sidewalks are narrow and your life is worth nothing in the street. Pazzi had a battered motorino at the curb with a bundle of a dozen brooms tied to it. The scooter started on the first kick and in a puff of blue smoke the chief investigator started down the cobbles, the little motorbike bouncing over the cobbles like a small burro trotting beneath him.

  Pazzi dawdled, was honked at by the ferocious traffic, bought cigarettes, killed time to stay behind, until he was sure where Dr. Fell was going. At the end of the Via de’ Bardi, the Borgo San Jacopo was one-way coming toward him. Pazzi abandoned the bike on the sidewalk and followed on foot, turning his flat body sideways to slide through the crowd of tourists at the south end of the Ponte Vecchio.


  Florentines say Vera dal 1926, with its wealth of cheeses and truffles, smells like the feet of God.

  The doctor certainly took his time in there. He was making a selection from the first white truffles of the season. Pazzi could see his back through the windows, past the marvelous display of hams and pastas.

  Pazzi went around the corner and came back, he washed his face in the fountain spewing water from its own mustachioed, lion-eared face. “You’d have to shave that to work for me,” he said to the fountain over the cold ball of his stomach.

  The doctor coming out now, a few light parcels in his bag. He started back down the Borgo San Jacopo toward home. Pazzi moved ahead on the other side of the street. The crowds on the narrow sidewalk forced Pazzi into the street, and the mirror of a passing Carabinieri patrol car banged painfully against his wristwatch. “Stronzo! Analfabèta!” the driver yelled out the window, and Pazzi vowed revenge. By the time he reached the Ponte Vecchio he had a forty-meter lead.

  Romula was in a doorway, the baby cradled in her wooden arm, her other hand extended to the crowds, her free arm ready beneath her loose clothing to lift another wallet to add to the more than two hundred she had taken in her lifetime. On her concealed arm was the wide and well-polished silver bracelet.

  In a moment the victim would pass through the throng coming off the old bridge. Just as he came out of the crowd onto the Via de’ Bardi, Romula would meet him, do her business and slip into the stream of tourists crossing the bridge.

  In the crowd, Romula had a friend she could depend on. She knew nothing of the victim and she did not trust the policeman to protect her. Giles Prevert, known on some police dossiers as Giles Dumain, or Roger LeDuc, but locally known as Gnocco, waited in the crowd at the south end of the Ponte Vecchio for Romula to make the dip. Gnocco was diminished by his habits and his face beginning to show the skull beneath, but he was still wiry and strong and well able to help Romula if the dip went sour.

 
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