Hannibal by Thomas Harris


  With a notary present, Pazzi granted alternate signature power over the account to his wife in the event of his death. The business concluded, only the Swiss bank official offered to shake hands. Pazzi and Mr. Konie did not look at each other directly, though Mr. Konie offered a good-bye from the door.

  The last leg home, the commuter plane from Milan dodging through a thunderstorm, the propeller on Pazzi’s side of the aircraft a dark circle against the dark gray sky. Lightning and thunder as they swung over the old city, the campanile and dome of the cathedral beneath them now, lights coming on in the early dusk, a flash and boom like the ones Pazzi remembered from his childhood when the Germans blew up the bridges over the Arno, sparing only the Ponte Vecchio. And for a flash as short as lightning he remembered seeing as a little boy a captured sniper chained to the Madonna of Chains to pray before he was shot.

  Descending through the ozone smell of lightning, feeling the booms of thunder in the fabric of the plane, Pazzi of the ancient Pazzi returned to his ancient city with his aims as old as time.

  CHAPTER

  33

  RINALDO PAZZI would have preferred to maintain constant surveillance on his prize in the Palazzo Capponi, but he could not.

  Instead Pazzi, still rapt from the sight of the money, had to leap into his dinner clothes and meet his wife at a long-anticipated concert of the Florence Chamber Orchestra.

  The Teatro Piccolomini, a nineteenth-century half-scale copy of Venice’s glorious Teatro La Fenice, is a baroque jewel box of gilt and plush, with cherubs flouting the laws of aerodynamics across its splendid ceiling.

  A good thing, too, that the theater is beautiful because the performers often need all the help they can get.

  It is unfair but inevitable that music in Florence should be judged by the hopelessly high standards of the city’s art. The Florentines are a large and knowledgeable group of music lovers, typical of Italy, but they are sometimes starved for musical artists.

  Pazzi slipped into the seat beside his wife in the applause following the overture.

  She gave him her fragrant cheek. He felt his heart grow big inside him looking at her in her evening gown, sufficiently décolleté to emit a warm fragrance from her cleavage, her musical score in the chic Gucci cover Pazzi had given her.

  “They sound a hundred percent better with the new viola player,” she breathed into Pazzi’s ear. This excellent viola da gamba player had been brought in to replace an infuriatingly inept one, a cousin of Sogliato’s, who had gone oddly missing some weeks before.

  Dr. Hannibal Lecter looked down from a high box, alone, immaculate in white tie, his face and shirtfront seeming to float in the dark box framed by gilt baroque carving.

  Pazzi spotted him when the lights went up briefly after the first movement, and in the moment before Pazzi could look away, the doctor’s head came round like that of an owl and their eyes met. Pazzi involuntarily squeezed his wife’s hand hard enough for her to look round at him. After that Pazzi kept his eyes resolutely on the stage, the back of his hand warm against his wife’s thigh as she held his hand in hers.

  At intermission, when Pazzi turned from the bar to hand her a drink, Dr. Lecter was standing beside her.

  “Good evening, Dr. Fell,” Pazzi said.

  “Good evening, Commendatore,” the doctor said. He waited with a slight inclination of the head, until Pazzi had to make the introduction.

  “Laura, allow me to present Dr. Fell. Doctor, this is Signora Pazzi, my wife.”

  Signora Pazzi, accustomed to being praised for her beauty, found what followed curiously charming, though her husband did not.

  “Thank you for this privilege, Commendatore,” the doctor said. His red and pointed tongue appeared for an instant before he bent over Signora Pazzi’s hand, his lips perhaps closer to the skin than is customary in Florence, certainly close enough for her to feel his breath on her skin.

  His eyes rose to her before his sleek head lifted.

  “I think you particularly enjoy Scarlatti, Signora Pazzi.”

  “Yes, I do.”

  “It was pleasant to see you following the score. Hardly anyone does it anymore. I hoped that this might interest you.” He took a portfolio from under his arm. It was an antique score on parchment, hand-copied. “This is from the Teatro Capranica in Rome, from 1688, the year the piece was written.”

  “Meraviglioso! Look at this, Rinaldo!”

  “I marked in overlay some of the differences from the modern score as the first movement went along,” Dr. Lecter said. “It might amuse you to follow along in the second. Please, take it. I can always retrieve it from Signor Pazzi—is that permissible, Commendatore?”

  The doctor looking deeply, deeply as Pazzi replied.

  “If it would please you, Laura,” Pazzi said. A beat of thought. “Will you be addressing the Studiolo, Doctor?”

  “Yes, Friday night in fact. Sogliato can’t wait to see me discredited.”

  “I have to be in the old city,” Pazzi said. “I’ll return the score then. Laura, Dr. Fell has to sing for his supper before the dragons at the Studiolo.”

  “I’m sure you’ll sing very well, Doctor,” she said, giving him her great dark eyes—within the bounds of propriety, but just.

  Dr. Lecter smiled, with his small white teeth. “Madame, if I manufactured Fleur du Ciel, I would offer you the Cape Diamond to wear it. Until Friday night, Commendatore.”

  Pazzi made sure the doctor returned to his box, and did not look at him again until they waved good night at a distance on the theater steps.

  “I gave you that Fleur du Ciel for your birthday,” Pazzi said.

  “Yes, and I love it, Rinaldo,” Signora Pazzi said. “You have the most marvellous taste.”

  CHAPTER

  34

  IMPRUNETA IS an ancient Tuscan town where the roof tiles of the Duomo were made. Its cemetery is visible at night from the hilltop villas for miles around because of the lamps forever burning at the graves. The ambient light is low, but enough for visitors to make their way among the dead, though a flashlight is needed to read the epitaphs.

  Rinaldo Pazzi arrived at five minutes to nine with a small bouquet of flowers he planned to place on a grave at random. He walked slowly along a gravel path between the tombs.

  He felt Carlo’s presence, though he did not see him.

  Carlo spoke from the other side of a mausoleum more than head high. “Do you know a good florist in the town?”

  The man sounded like a Sard. Good, maybe he knew what he was doing.

  “Florists are all thieves,” Pazzi replied.

  Carlo came briskly around the marble structure without peeking.

  He looked feral to Pazzi, short and round and powerful, nimble in his extremities. His vest was leather and he had a boar bristle in his hat. Pazzi guessed he had three inches reach advantage on Carlo and four inches of height. They weighed about the same, he guessed. Carlo was missing a thumb. Pazzi figured he could find him in the Questura’s records with about five minutes’ work. Both men were lit from beneath by the grave lamps.

  “His house has good alarms,” Pazzi said.

  “I looked at it. You have to point him out to me.”

  “He has to speak at a meeting tomorrow night, Friday night. Can you do it that soon?”

  “It’s good.” Carlo wanted to bully the policeman a little, establish his control. “Will you walk with him, or are you afraid of him? You’ll do what you’re paid to do. You’ll point him out to me.”

  “Watch your mouth. I’ll do what I’m paid to do and so will you. Or you can pass your retirement as a fuckboy at Volterra, suit yourself.”

  Carlo at work was as impervious to insult as he was to cries of pain. He saw that he had misjudged the policeman. He spread his hands. “Tell me what I need to know.” Carlo moved to stand beside Pazzi as though they mourned together at the small mausoleum. A couple passed on the path holding hands. Carlo removed his hat and the two men stood with bowed heads.
Pazzi put his flowers at the door of the tomb. A smell came from Carlo’s warm hat, a rank smell, like sausage from an animal improperly gelded.

  Pazzi raised his face from the odor. “He’s fast with his knife. Goes low with it.”

  “Has he got a gun?”

  “I don’t know. He’s never used one, that I know of.”

  “I don’t want to have to take him out of a car. I want him on the open street with not many people around.”

  “How will you take him down?”

  “That’s my business.” Carlo put a stag’s tooth into his mouth and chewed at the gristle, protruding the tooth between his lips from time to time.

  “It’s my business too,” Pazzi said. “How will you do it?”

  “Stun him with a beanbag gun, net him, then I can give him a shot. I need to check his teeth fast in case he’s got poison under a tooth cap.”

  “He has to lecture at a meeting. It starts at seven in the Palazzo Vecchio. If he works in the Capponi Chapel at Santa Croce on Friday, he’ll walk from there to the Palazzo Vecchio. Do you know Florence?”

  “I know it well. Can you get me a vehicle pass for the old city?”

  “Yes.”

  “I won’t take him out of the church,” Carlo said.

  Pazzi nodded. “Better he shows up for the meeting, then he probably won’t be missed for two weeks. I have a reason to walk with him to the Palazzo Capponi after the meeting—”

  “I don’t want to take him in his house. That’s his ground. He knows it and I don’t. He’ll be alert, he’ll look around him at the door. I want him on the open sidewalk.”

  “Listen to me then—we’ll come out the front entrance of the Palazzo Vecchio, the Via dei Leone side will be closed. We’ll go along the Via Neri and come across the river on the Ponte alle Grazie. There are trees in front of the Museo Bardini on the other side that block the streetlights. It’s quiet at that hour when school is out.”

  “We’ll say in front of the Museo Bardini then, but I may do it sooner if I see a chance, closer to the Palazzo, or earlier in the day if he spooks and tries to run. We may be in an ambulance. Stay with him until the beanbag hits him and then get away from him fast.”

  “I want him out of Tuscany before anything happens to him.”

  “Believe me, he’ll be gone from the face of the earth, feet first,” Carlo said, smiling at his private joke, sticking the stag’s tooth out through the smile.

  CHAPTER

  35

  FRIDAY MORNING. A small room in the attic of the Palazzo Capponi. Three of the whitewashed walls are bare. On the fourth wall hangs a large thirteenth-century Madonna of the Cimabue school, enormous in the little room, her head bent at the signature angle like that of a curious bird, and her almond eyes regarding a small figure asleep beneath the painting.

  Dr. Hannibal Lecter, veteran of prison and asylum cots, lies still on this narrow bed, his hands on his chest.

  His eyes open and he is suddenly, completely awake, his dream of his sister Mischa, long dead and digested, running seamlessly into this present waking: danger then, danger now.

  Knowing he is in danger did not disturb his sleep any more than killing the pickpocket did.

  Dressed for his day now, lean and perfectly groomed in his dark silk suit, he turns off the motion sensors at the top of the servants’ stairs and comes down into the great spaces of the Palazzo.

  Now he is free to move through the vast silence of the palace’s many rooms, always a heady freedom to him after so many years of confinement in a basement cell.

  Just as the frescoed walls of Santa Croce or the Palazzo Vecchio are suffused with mind, so the air of the Capponi Library thrums with presence for Dr. Lecter as he works at the great wall of pigeonholed manuscripts. He selects rolled parchments, blows dust away, the motes of dust swarming in a ray of sun as though the dead, who now are dust, vie to tell him their fate and his. He works efficiently, but without undue haste, putting a few things in his own portfolio, gathering books and illustrations for his lecture tonight to the Studiolo. There are so many things he would have liked to read.

  Dr. Lecter opens his laptop computer and, dialing through the University of Milan’s criminology department, checks the FBI’s home page on the World Wide Web at www.fbi.gov, as any private citizen can do. The Judiciary Subcommitee hearing on Clarice Starling’s abortive drug raid has not been scheduled, he learns. He does not have the access codes he would need to look into his own case file at the FBI. On the Most Wanted page, his own former countenance looks at him, flanked by a bomber and an arsonist.

  Dr. Lecter takes up the bright tabloid from a pile of parchment and looks at the picture of Clarice Starling on the cover, touches her face with his finger. The bright blade appears in his hand as though he had sprouted it to replace his sixth finger. The knife is called a Harpy and it has a serrated blade shaped like a talon. It slices as easily through the National Tattler as it sliced through the Gypsy’s femoral artery—the blade was in the Gypsy and gone so quickly Dr. Lecter did not even need to wipe it.

  Dr. Lecter cuts out the image of Clarice Starling’s face and glues it on a piece of blank parchment.

  He picks up a pen and, with a fluid ease, draws on the parchment the body of a winged lioness, a griffon with Starling’s face. Beneath it, he writes in his distinctive copperplate, Did you ever think, Clarice, why the Philistines don’t understand you? It’s because you’re the answer to Samson’s riddle: You are the honey in the lion.

  Fifteen kilometers away, parked for privacy behind a high stone wall in Impruneta, Carlo Deogracias went over his equipment, while his brother Matteo practiced a series of judo takedowns on the soft grass with the other two Sardinians, Piero and Tommaso Falcione. Both Falciones were quick and very strong—Piero played briefly with the Cagliari professional soccer team. Tommaso had once studied to be a priest, and he spoke fair English. He prayed with their victims, sometimes.

  Carlo’s white Fiat van with Roman license plates was legally rented. Ready to attach to its sides were signs reading OSPEDALE DELLA MISERICORDIA. The walls and floor were covered with mover’s pads in case the subject struggled inside the van.

  Carlo intended to carry out this project exactly as Mason wished, but if the plan went wrong and he had to kill Dr. Lecter in Italy and abort the filming in Sardinia, all was not lost. Carlo knew he could butcher Dr. Lecter and have his head and hands off in less than a minute.

  If he didn’t have that much time, he could take the penis and a finger, which with DNA testing would do for proof. Sealed in plastic and packed in ice, they would be in Mason’s hands in less than twenty-four hours, entitling Carlo to a reward in addition to his fees.

  Neatly stored behind the seats were a small chain saw, long-handled metal shears, a surgical saw, sharp knives, plastic zip-lock bags, a Black & Decker Work Buddy to hold the doctor’s arms still, and a DHL Air Express crate with prepaid delivery fee, estimating the weight of Dr. Lecter’s head at six kilos and his hands at a kilo apiece.

  If Carlo had a chance to record an emergency butchery on videotape, he felt confident Mason would pay extra to see Dr. Lecter butchered alive, even after he had coughed up the one million dollars for the doctor’s head and hands. For that purpose Carlo had provided himself with a good video camera, light source and tripod, and taught Matteo the rudiments of operating it.

  His capture equipment got just as much attention. Piero and Tommaso were expert with the net, now folded as carefully as a parachute. Carlo had both a hypodermic and a dart gun loaded with enough of the animal tranquilizer acepromazine to drop an animal of Dr. Lecter’s size in seconds. Carlo had told Rinaldo Pazzi he would commence with the beanbag gun, which was charged and ready, but if he got a chance to put the hypodermic anywhere in Dr. Lecter’s buttocks or legs, the beanbag would not be needed.

  The abductors only had to be on the Italian mainland with their captive for about forty minutes, the length of time it took to drive to the jetport at Pisa whe
re an ambulance plane would be waiting. The Florence airstrip was closer, but the air traffic there was light, and a private flight more noticeable.

  In less than an hour and a half, they would be in Sardinia, where the doctor’s reception committee was growing ravenous.

  Carlo had weighed it all in his intelligent, malodorous head. Mason was no fool. The payments were weighted so no harm must come to Rinaldo Pazzi—it would cost Carlo money to kill Pazzi and try to claim all the reward. Mason did not want the heat from a dead policeman. Better to do it Mason’s way. But it made Carlo itch all over to think what he might have accomplished with a few strokes of the saw if he had found Dr. Lecter himself.

  He tried his chain saw. It started on the first pull.

  Carlo conferred briefly with the others, and left on a small motorino for town, armed only with a knife and a gun and a hypodermic.

  Dr. Hannibal Lecter came in early from the noisome street to the Farmacia di Santa Maria Novella, one of the best-smelling places on Earth. He stood for some minutes with his head back and eyes closed, taking in the aromas of the great soaps and lotions and creams, and of the ingredients in the workrooms. The porter was accustomed to him, and the clerks, normally given to a certain amount of hauteur, had great respect for him. The purchases of the courteous Dr. Fell over his months in Florence would not have totaled more than one hundred thousand lire, but the fragrances and essences were chosen and combined with a sensibility startling and gratifying to these scent merchants, who live by the nose.

  It was to preserve this pleasure that Dr. Lecter had not altered his own nose with any rhinoplasty other than external collagen injections. For him the air was painted with scents as distinct and vivid as colors, and he could layer and feather them as though painting wet-on-wet. Here there was nothing of jail. Here the air was music. Here were pale tears of frankincense awaiting extraction, yellow bergamot, sandalwood, cinnamon and mimosa in concert, over the sustaining ground notes of genuine ambergris, civet, castor from the beaver, and essence of the musk deer.

 
Previous Page Next Page
Should you have any enquiry, please contact us via [email protected]