Hannibal by Thomas Harris


  Pazzi, with the freezing feeling he always had in action, got his arm around Gnocco and kept him turned away from the crowd, kept him spraying through the bars of the gate, eased him to the ground on his side.

  Pazzi took his cell phone from his pocket and spoke into it as though calling an ambulance, but did not turn the telephone on. He unbuttoned his coat and spread it like a hawk mantling its prey. The crowd was moving, incurious behind him. Pazzi got the bracelet off Gnocco and slipped it into the small box he carried. He put Gnocco’s cell phone in his pocket.

  Gnocco’s lips moved. “Madonna, che freddo.”

  With an effort of will, Pazzi moved Gnocco’s failing hand from the wound, held it as though to comfort him, and let him bleed out. When he was sure Gnocco was dead, Pazzi left him lying beside the gate, his head resting on his arm as though he slept, and stepped into the moving crowd.

  In the piazza, Pazzi stared at the empty parking place, the rain just beginning to wet the cobbles where Dr. Lecter’s Jaguar had stood.

  Dr. Lecter—Pazzi no longer thought of him as Dr. Fell. He was Dr. Hannibal Lecter.

  Proof enough for Mason could be in the pocket of Pazzi’s raincoat. Proof enough for Pazzi dripped off his raincoat onto his shoes.

  CHAPTER

  29

  THE MORNING star over Genoa was dimmed by the lightening east when Rinaldo Pazzi’s old Alfa purred down to the dock. A chilly wind riffled the harbor. On a freighter at an outer mooring someone was welding, orange sparks showering into the black water.

  Romula stayed in the car out of the wind with the baby in her lap. Esmeralda was scrunched in the small backseat of the berlinetta coupe with her legs sideways. She had not spoken again since she refused to touch Shaitan.

  They had thick black coffee in paper cups and pasticcini.

  Rinaldo Pazzi went into the shipping office. By the time he came out again the sun was well risen, glowing orange on the rust-streaked hull of the freighter Astra Philogenes, completing its loading at dockside. He beckoned to the women in the car.

  The Astra Philogenes, twenty-seven thousand tons, Greek registry, could legally carry twelve passengers without a ship’s doctor on its route to Rio. There, Pazzi explained to Romula, they would transship to Sydney, Australia, the transshipment supervised by the Astra purser. Passage was fully paid and emphatically nonrefundable. In Italy, Australia is considered an attractive alternative where jobs can be found, and it has a large Gypsy population.

  Pazzi had promised Romula two million lire, about twelve hundred and fifty dollars at the current rate of exchange, and he gave it to her in a fat envelope.

  The Gypsies’ baggage amounted to very little, a small valise and Romula’s wooden arm packed in a French horn case.

  The Gypsies would be at sea and incommunicado for most of the next month.

  Gnocco is coming, Pazzi told Romula for the tenth time, but he could not come today. Gnocco would leave word for them with general delivery at the Sydney main post office. “I’ll keep my promise to him, just as I did to you,” he told them as they stood together at the foot of the gangway, the early sun sending their long shadows down the rough surface of the dock.

  At the moment of parting, with Romula and the baby already climbing the gangway, the old woman spoke for the second and last time in Pazzi’s experience.

  With eyes as black as Kalamata olives she looked into his face. “You gave Gnocco to Shaitan,” she said quietly. “Gnocco is dead.” Bending stiffly, as she would bend to a chicken on the block, Esmeralda spit carefully on Pazzi’s shadow, and hurried up the gangway after Romula and the child.

  CHAPTER

  30

  THE DHL Express delivery box was well made. The fingerprint technician, sitting at a table under hot lights in the seating area of Mason’s room, carefully backed out the screws with an electric screwdriver.

  The broad silver bracelet was held on a velvet jeweler’s stand braced within the box so the outer surfaces of the bracelet touched nothing.

  “Bring it over here,” Mason said.

  Fingerprinting the bracelet would have been much easier at Baltimore Police Department’s Identification Section, where the technician worked during the day, but Mason was paying a very high and private fee in cash, and he insisted the work be done before his eyes. Or before his eye, the technician reflected sourly as he placed the bracelet, stand and all, on a china plate held by a male attendant.

  The attendant held the plate in front of Mason’s goggle. He could not set it down on the coil of hair over Mason’s heart, because the respirator moved his chest constantly, up and down.

  The heavy bracelet was streaked and crusted with blood, and flecks of dried blood fell from it onto the china plate. Mason regarded it with his goggled eye. Lacking any facial flesh, he had no expression, but his eye was bright.

  “Dust it,” he said.

  The technician had a copy of the prints off the front of Dr. Lecter’s FBI fingerprint card. The sixth print on the back and the identification were not reproduced.

  He dusted between the crusts of blood. The Dragon’s Blood fingerprint powder he preferred was too close in color to the dried blood on the bracelet, so he went to black, dusting carefully.

  “We got prints,” he said, stopping to mop his head under the hot lights of the seating area. The light was good for photography and he took pictures of the prints in situ before he lifted them for microscopic comparison. “Middle finger and thumb of the left hand, sixteen-point match—it would hold up in court,” he said at last. “No question, it’s the same guy.”

  Mason was not interested in court. His pale hand was already crawling across the counterpane to the telephone.

  CHAPTER

  31

  SUNNY MORNING in a mountain pasture deep in the Gennargentu Mountains of central Sardinia.

  Six men, four Sardinians and two Romans, work beneath an airy shed built of timbers cut from the surrounding forest. Small sounds they make seem magnified in the vast silence of the mountains.

  Beneath the shed, hanging from rafters with their bark still peeling, is a huge mirror in a gilt rococo frame. The mirror is suspended over a sturdy livestock pen with two gates, one opening into the pasture. The other gate is built like a Dutch door, so the top and bottom halves can be opened separately. The area beneath the Dutch gate is paved with cement, but the rest of the pen is strewn with clean straw in the manner of an executioner’s scaffold.

  The mirror, its frame carved with cherubs, can be tilted to provide an overhead view of the pen, as a cooking-school mirror provides the pupils with an overhead view of the stove.

  The filmmaker, Oreste Pini, and Mason’s Sardinian foreman, a professional kidnapper named Carlo, disliked each other from the beginning.

  Carlo Deogracias was a stocky, florid man in an alpine hat with a boar bristle in the band. He had the habit of chewing the gristle off a pair of stag’s teeth he kept in the pocket of his vest.

  Carlo was a leading practitioner of the ancient Sardinian profession of kidnapping, and a professional revenger as well.

  If you have to be kidnapped for ransom, wealthy Italians will tell you, it’s better to fall into the hands of the Sards. At least they are professional and won’t kill you by accident or in a panic. If your relatives pay, you might be returned unharmed, unraped and unmutilated. If they don’t pay, your relatives can expect to receive you piecemeal in the mail.

  Carlo was not pleased with Mason’s elaborate arrangements. He was experienced in this field and had actually fed a man to the pigs in Tuscany twenty years before—a retired Nazi and bogus count who imposed sexual relations on Tuscan village children, girls and boys alike. Carlo was engaged for the job and took the man out of his own garden within three miles of the Badia di Passignano and fed him to five large domestic swine on a farm below the Poggio alle Corti, though he had to withhold rations from the pigs for three days, the Nazi struggling against his bonds, pleading and sweating with his feet in the pen
, and still the swine were shy about starting on his writhing toes until Carlo, with a guilty twinge at violating the letter of his agreement, fed the Nazi a tasty salad of the pigs’ favorite greens and then cut his throat to accommodate them.

  Carlo was cheerful and energetic in nature, but the presence of the filmmaker annoyed him—Carlo had taken the mirror from a brothel he owned in Cagliari, on Mason Verger’s orders, just to accommodate this pornographer, Oreste Pini.

  The mirror was a boon to Oreste, who had used mirrors as a favorite device in his pornographic films and in the single genuine snuff movie he made in Mauritania. Inspired by the admonition printed on his auto mirror, he pioneered the use of warped reflections to make some objects seem larger than they appear to the unaided eye.

  Oreste must use a two-camera setup with good sound, as Mason dictated, and he must get it right the first time. Mason wanted a running, uninterrupted close-up of the face, aside from everything else.

  To Carlo, he seemed to fiddle endlessly.

  “You can stand there jabbering at me like a woman, or you can watch the practice and ask me whatever you can’t understand,” Carlo told him.

  “I want to film the practice.”

  “Va bene. Get your shit set up and let’s get on with it.”

  While Oreste placed his cameras, Carlo and the three silent Sardinians with him made their preparations.

  Oreste, who loved money, was ever amazed at what money will buy.

  At a long trestle table at one side of the shed, Carlo’s brother, Matteo, unpacked a bundle of used clothing. He selected from the pile a shirt and trousers, while the other two Sardinians, the brothers Piero and Tommaso Falcione, rolled an ambulance gurney into the shed, pushing it slowly over the grass. The gurney was stained and battered.

  Matteo had ready several buckets of ground meat, a number of dead chickens still in their feathers and some spoiled fruit, already attracting flies, and a bucket of beef tripe and intestines.

  Matteo laid out a pair of worn khaki trousers on the gurney and began to stuff them with a couple of chickens and some meat and fruit. Then he took a pair of cotton gloves and filled them with ground meat and acorns, stuffing each finger carefully, and placed them at the ends of the trouser legs. He selected a shirt for his ensemble and spread it on the gurney, filling it with tripe and intestines, and improving the contours with bread, before he buttoned the shirt and tucked the tail neatly into the trousers. A pair of stuffed gloves went at the ends of the sleeves. The melon he used for a head was covered with a hairnet, stuffed with ground meat where the face would be along with two boiled eggs for eyes. When he had finished, the result looked like a lumpy mannequin, looked better on the gurney than some jumpers look when they are rolled away. As a final touch, Matteo sprayed some extremely expensive aftershave on the front of the melon and on the gloves at the ends of the sleeves.

  Carlo pointed with his chin at Oreste’s slender assistant leaning over the fence, extending the boom mike over the pen, measuring its reach.

  “Tell your fuckboy, if he falls in, I’m not going in after him.”

  At last all was ready. Piero and Tommaso dropped the gurney to its low position with the legs folded and rolled it to the gate of the pen.

  Carlo brought a tape recorder from the house and a separate amplifier. He had a number of tapes, some of which he had made himself while cutting the ears off kidnap victims to mail to the relatives. Carlo always played the tapes for the animals while they ate. He would not need the tapes when he had an actual victim to provide the screams.

  Two weathered outdoor speakers were nailed to the posts beneath the shed. The sun was bright on the pleasant meadow sloping down to the woods. The sturdy fence around the meadow continued into the forest. In the midday hush Oreste could hear a carpenter bee buzzing under the shed roof.

  “Are you ready?” Carlo said.

  Oreste turned on the fixed camera himself. “Giriamo” he called to his cameraman.

  “Pronti!” came the reply.

  “Motore!” The cameras were rolling.

  “Partito!” Sound was rolling with the film.

  “Azione!” Oreste poked Carlo.

  The Sard pushed the play button on his tape machine and a hellish screaming started, sobbing, pleading. The cameraman jerked at the sound, then steadied himself. The screaming was awful to hear, but a fitting overture for the faces that came out of the woods, drawn to the screams announcing dinner.

  CHAPTER

  32

  ROUND-TRIP to Geneva in a day, to see the money.

  The commuter plane to Milan, a whistling Aerospatiale prop jet, climbed out of Florence in the early morning, swinging over the vineyards with their rows wide apart like a developer’s coarse model of Tuscany Something was wrong in the colors of the landscape— the new swimming pools beside the villas of the wealthy foreigners were the wrong blue. To Pazzi, looking out the window of the airplane, the pools were the milky blue of an aged English eye, a blue out of place among the dark cypresses and the silver olive trees.

  Rinaldo Pazzi’s spirits climbed with the airplane, knowing in his heart that he would not grow old here, dependent on the whim of his police superiors, trying to last in order to get his pension.

  He had been terribly afraid that Dr. Lecter would disappear after killing Gnocco. When Pazzi spotted Lecter’s work lamp again in Santa Croce, he felt something like salvation; the doctor believed that he was safe.

  The death of the Gypsy caused no ripple at all in the calm of the Questura and was believed drug-related— fortunately there were discarded syringes on the ground around him, a common sight in Florence, where syringes were available for free.

  Going to see the money Pazzi had insisted on it.

  The visual Rinaldo Pazzi remembered sights completely: the first time he ever saw his penis erect, the first time he saw his own blood, the first woman he ever saw naked, the blur of the first fist coming to strike him. He remembered wandering casually into a side chapel of a Sienese church and looking into the face of St. Catherine of Siena unexpectedly, her mummified head in its immaculate white wimple resting in a reliquary shaped like a church.

  Seeing three million U.S. dollars had the same impact on him.

  Three hundred banded blocks of hundred-dollar bills in nonsequential serial numbers.

  In a severe little room, like a chapel, in the Geneva Crédit Suisse, Mason Verger’s lawyer showed Rinaldo Pazzi the money. It was wheeled in from the vault in four deep lock boxes with brass number plates. The Crédit Suisse also provided a counting machine, a scale and a clerk to operate them. Pazzi dismissed the clerk. He put his hands on top of the money once.

  Rinaldo Pazzi was a very competent investigator. He had spotted and arrested scam artists for twenty years. Standing in the presence of this money, listening to the arrangements, he detected no false note; if he gave them Hannibal Lecter, Mason would give him the money.

  In a hot sweet rush Pazzi realized that these people were not fooling around—Mason Verger would actually pay him. And he had no illusions about Lecter’s fate. He was selling the man into torture and death. To Pazzi’s credit, he acknowledged to himself what he was doing.

  Our freedom is worth more than the monster’s life. Our happiness is more important than his suffering, he thought with the cold egoism of the damned. Whether the “our” was magisterial or stood for Rinaldo and his wife is a difficult question, and there may not be a single answer.

  In this room, scrubbed and Swiss, neat as a wimple, Pazzi took the final vow. He turned from the money and nodded to the lawyer, Mr. Konie. From the first box, the lawyer counted out one hundred thousand dollars and handed it to Pazzi.

  Mr. Konie spoke briefly into a telephone and handed the receiver to Pazzi. “This is a land line, encrypted,” he said.

  The American voice Pazzi heard had a peculiar rhythm, words rushed into a single breath with a pause between, and the plosives were lost. The sound of it made Pazzi slightly dizzy, as th
ough he were straining for breath along with the speaker.

  Without preamble, the question: “Where is Dr. Lecter?”

  Pazzi, the money in one hand and the phone in the other, did not hesitate. “He is the one who studies the Palazzo Capponi in Florence. He is the … curator.”

  “Would you please show your identification to Mr. Konie and hand him the telephone. He won’t say your name into the telephone.”

  Mr. Konie consulted a list from his pocket and said some prearranged code words to Mason, then he handed the phone back to Pazzi.

  “You get the rest of the money when he is alive in our hands,” Mason said. “You don’t have to seize the doctor yourself, but you’ve got to identify him to us and put him in our hands. I want your documentation as well, everything you’ve got on him. You’ll be back in Florence tonight? You’ll get instructions tonight for a meeting near Florence. The meeting will be no later than tomorrow night. There you’ll get instructions from the man who will take Dr. Lecter. He’ll ask you if you know a florist. Tell him all florists are thieves. Do you understand me? I want you to cooperate with him.”

  “I don’t want Dr. Lecter in my … I don’t want him near Florence when …”

  “I understand your concern. Don’t worry, he won’t be.”

  The line went dead.

  In a few minutes’ paperwork, two million dollars was placed in escrow. Mason Verger could not get it back, but he could release it for Pazzi to claim. A Crédit Suisse official summoned to the meeting room informed Pazzi the bank would charge him a negative interest to facilitate a deposit there if he converted to Swiss francs, and pay three percent compound interest only on the first hundred thousand francs. The official presented Pazzi with a copy of Article 47 of the Bundesgesetz über Banken und Sparkassen governing bank secrecy and agreed to perform a wire transfer to the Royal Bank of Nova Scotia or to the Cayman Islands immediately after the release of the funds, if that was Pazzi’s wish.

 
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