Hannibal by Thomas Harris


  Pazzi did not get close to Dr. Lecter, but as he approached the wall he smelled a chemical, and thought for an instant it was something the restorers used.

  “Can you make out the characters? It says ‘Pazzi’ along with a rude poem. This is your ancestor, Francesco, hanging outside the Palazzo Vecchio, beneath these windows,” Dr. Lecter said. He held Pazzi’s eyes across the beam of light between them.

  “On a related subject, Signore Pazzi, I must confess to you: I’m giving serious thought to eating your wife.”

  Dr. Lecter flipped the big drop cloth down over Pazzi, Pazzi flailing at the canvas, trying to uncover his head as his heart flailed in his chest, and Dr. Lecter behind him fast, seizing him around the neck with terrible strength and clapping an ether-soaked sponge over the canvas covering Pazzi’s face.

  Rinaldo Pazzi strong and thrashing, feet and arms tangled in the canvas, feet tangled in the cloth, he was still able to get his hand on his pistol as they fell to the floor together, tried to point the Beretta behind him under the smothering canvas, pulled the trigger and shot himself through the thigh as he sank into spinning black….

  The little .380 going off beneath the canvas did not make much more noise than the banging and grinding on the floors below. No one came up the staircase. Dr. Lecter swung the great doors to the Salon of Lilies closed and bolted them….

  A certain amount of nausea and gagging as Pazzi came back to consciousness, the taste of ether in his throat and a heaviness in his chest.

  He found that he was still in the Salon of Lilies and discovered that he could not move. Rinaldo Pazzi was bound upright with the drop cloth canvas and rope, stiff as a grandfather clock, strapped to the tall hand truck the workers had used to move the podium. His mouth was taped. A pressure bandage stopped the bleeding of the gunshot wound in his thigh.

  Watching him, leaning against the pulpit, Dr. Lecter was reminded of himself, similarly bound when they moved him around the asylum on a hand truck.

  “Can you hear me, Signore Pazzi? Take some deep breaths while you can, and clear your head.”

  Dr. Lecter’s hands were busy as he talked. He had rolled a big floor polisher into the room and he was working with its thick orange power cord, tying a hangman’s noose in the plug end of the cord. The rubber-covered cord squeaked as he made the traditional thirteen wraps.

  He completed the hangman’s noose with a tug and put it down on the pulpit. The plug protruded from the coils at the noose end.

  Pazzi’s gun, his plastic handcuff strips, the contents of his pockets and briefcase were on top of the podium.

  Dr. Lecter poked among the papers. He slipped into his shirtfront the Carabinieri’s file containing his permesso di soggiorno, his work permit, the photos and negatives of his new face.

  And here was the musical score Dr. Lecter loaned Signora Pazzi. He picked up the score now and tapped his teeth with it. His nostrils flared and he breathed in deeply, his face close to Pazzi’s. “Laura, if I may call her Laura, must use a wonderful hand cream at night, Signore. Slick. Cold at first and then warm,” he said. “The scent of orange blossoms. Laura, l’orange. Ummmm. I haven’t had a bite all day. Actually, the liver and kidneys would be suitable for dinner right away—tonight—but the rest of the meat should hang a week in the current cool conditions. I did not see the forecast, did you? I gather that means ‘no.’

  “If you tell me what I need to know, Commendatore, it would be convenient for me to leave without my meal; Signora Pazzi will remain unscathed. I’ll ask you the questions and then we’ll see. You can trust me, you know, though I expect you find trust difficult, knowing yourself.

  “I saw at the theater that you had identified me, Commendatore. Did you wet yourself when I bent over the Signora’s hand? When the police didn’t come, it was clear that you had sold me. Was it Mason Verger you sold me to? Blink twice for yes.

  “Thank you, I thought so. I called the number on his ubiquitous poster once, far from here, just for fun. Are his men waiting outside? Umm hmmm. And one of them smells like tainted boar sausage? I see. Have you told anyone in the Questura about me? Was that a single blink? I thought so. Now, I want you to think a minute, and tell me your access code for the VICAP computer at Quantico.”

  Dr. Lecter opened his Harpy knife. “I’m going to take your tape off and you can tell me.” Dr. Lecter held up his knife. “Don’t try to scream. Do you think you can keep from screaming?”

  Pazzi was hoarse from the ether. “I swear to God I don’t know the code. I can’t think of the whole thing. We can go to my car, I have papers—”

  Dr. Lecter wheeled Pazzi around to face the screen and flipped back and forth between his images of Pier della Vigna hanging, and Judas hanging with his bowels out.

  “Which do you think, Commendatore? Bowels in or out?”

  “The code’s in my notebook.”

  Dr. Lecter held the book in front of Pazzi’s face until he found the notation, listed among telephone numbers.

  “And you can log on remotely, as a guest?”

  “Yes,” Pazzi croaked.

  “Thank you, Commendatore.” Dr. Lecter tilted back the hand truck and rolled Pazzi to the great windows.

  “Listen to me! I have money, man! You’ll have to have money to run. Mason Verger will never quit. He’ll never quit. You can’t go home for money, they’re watching your house.”

  Dr. Lecter put two boards from the scaffolding as a ramp over the low windowsill and rolled Pazzi on the hand truck out onto the balcony outside.

  The breeze was cold on Pazzi’s wet face. Talking quickly now, “You’ll never get away from this building alive. I have money. I have one hundred and sixty million lire in cash, U.S. dollars one hundred thousand! Let me telephone my wife. I’ll tell her to get the money and put it in my car, and leave the car right in front of the Palazzo.”

  Dr. Lecter retrieved his noose from the pulpit and carried it outside, trailing the orange cord behind him. The other end was tight in a series of hitches around the heavy floor polisher.

  Pazzi was still talking. “She’ll call me on the cell phone when she’s outside, and then she’ll leave it for you. I have the police pass, she can drive right across the piazza to the entrance. She’ll do what I tell her. The car smokes, man, you can look down and see it’s running, the keys will be in it.”

  Dr. Lecter tilted Pazzi forward against the balcony railing. The railing came to his thighs.

  Pazzi could look down at the piazza and make out through the floodlights the spot where Savonarola was burned, where he had sworn to sell Dr. Lecter to Mason Verger. He looked up at the clouds scudding low, colored by the floodlights, and hoped, so much, that God could see.

  Down is the awful direction and he could not help staring there, toward death, hoping against reason that the beams of the floodlights gave some substance to the air, that they would somehow press on him, that he might snag on the light beams.

  The orange rubber cover of the wire noose cold around his neck, Dr. Lecter standing so close to him.

  “Arrivederci, Commendatore.”

  Flash of the Harpy up Pazzi’s front, another swipe severed his attachment to the dolly and he was tilting, tipped over the railing trailing the orange cord, ground coming up in a rush, mouth free to scream, and inside the salon, the floor polisher rushed across the floor and slammed to a stop against the railing, Pazzi jerked head-up, his neck broke and his bowels fell out.

  Pazzi and his appendage swinging and spinning before the rough wall of the floodlit palace, jerking in posthumous spasms but not choking, dead, his shadow thrown huge on the wall by the floodlights, swinging with his bowels swinging below him in a shorter, quicker arc, his manhood pointing out of his rent trousers in a death erection.

  Carlo charging out of a doorway, Matteo beside him, across the piazza toward the entrance to the Palazzo, knocking tourists aside, two of whom had video cameras trained on the castle.

  “It’s a trick,” someone said in Engli
sh as he ran by.

  “Matteo, cover the back door. If he comes out just kill him and cut him,” Carlo said, fumbling with his cell phone as he ran. Into the palazzo now, up the stairs to the first level, then the second.

  The great doors of the salon stood ajar. Inside, Carlo swung his gun on the projected figure on the wall, ran out onto the balcony, searched Machiavelli’s office in seconds.

  With his cell phone he reached Piero and Tommaso, waiting with the van in front of the museum. “Get to his house, cover it front and back. Just kill him and cut him.”

  Carlo dialed again. “Matteo?”

  Matteo’s phone buzzed in his breast pocket as he stood, breathing hard, in front of the locked rear exit of the Palazzo. He had scanned the roof, and the dark windows, tested the door, his hand under his coat, on the pistol in his waistband.

  He flipped open the phone. “Pronto!”

  “What do you see.”

  “Door’s locked.”

  “The roof?”

  Matteo looked up again, but not in time to see the shutters open on the window above him.

  Carlo heard a rustle and a cry in his telephone, and Carlo was running, down the stairs, falling on a landing, up again and running, past the guard before the palace entrance, who now stood outside, past the statues flanking the entrance, around the corner and pounding now toward the rear of the palace, scattering a few couples. Dark back here now, running, the cell phone squeaking like a small creature in his hand as he ran. A figure ran across the street in front of him shrouded in white, ran blindly in the path of a motorino, and the scooter knocked it down, the figure up again and crashing into the front of a shop across the narrow street of the palace, ran into the plate glass, turned and ran blindly, an apparition in white, screaming, “Carlo! Carlo,” great stains spreading on the ripped canvas covering him, and Carlo caught his brother in his arms, cut the plastic handcuff strip around his neck binding the canvas tight over his head, the canvas a mask of blood. Uncovered Matteo and found him ripped badly, across the face, across the abdomen, deeply enough across the chest for the wound to suck. Carlo left him long enough to run to the corner and look both ways, then he came back to his brother.

  With sirens approaching, flashing lights filling the Piazza Signoria, Dr. Hannibal Lecter shot his cuffs and strolled up to a gelateria in the nearby Piazza de Giudici. Motorcycles and motorinos were lined up at the curb.

  He approached a young man in racing leathers starting a big Ducati.

  “Young man, I am desperate,” he said with a rueful smile. “If I am not at the Piazza Bellosguardo in ten minutes, my wife will kill me,” he said, showing the young man a fifty-thousand-lire note. “This is what my life is worth to me.”

  “That’s all you want? A ride?” the young man said.

  Dr. Lecter showed him his open hands. “A ride.”

  The fast motorcycle split the lines of traffic on the Lungarno, Dr. Lecter hunched behind the young rider, a spare helmet that smelled like hairspray and perfume on his head. The rider knew where he was going, peeling off the Via de’ Serragli toward the Piazza Tasso, and out the Via Villani, hitting the tiny gap beside the Church of San Francesco di Paola that leads into the winding road up to Bellosguardo, the fine residential district on the hill overlooking Florence from the south. The big Ducati engine echoed off the stone walls lining the road with a sound like ripping canvas, pleasing to Dr. Lecter as he leaned into the curves and coped with the smell of hairspray and inexpensive perfume in his helmet. He had the young man drop him off at the entrance to the Piazza Bellosguardo, not far from the home of Count Montauto, where Nathaniel Hawthorne had lived. The rider tucked his wages in the breast pocket of his leathers and the taillight of the motorcycle receded fast down the winding road.

  Dr. Lecter, exhilarated by his ride, walked another forty meters to the black Jaguar, retrieved the keys from behind the bumper and started the engine. He had a slight fabric burn on the heel of his hand where his glove had ridden up as he flung the canvas drop cloth over Matteo and leaped down on him from the first-floor Palazzo window. He put a dab of the Italian antibacterial unguent Cicatrine on it and it felt better at once.

  Dr. Lecter searched among his music tapes as the engine warmed. He decided on Scarlatti.

  CHAPTER

  37

  THE TURBOPROP air ambulance lifted over the red tile roofs and banked southwest toward Sardinia, the Leaning Tower of Pisa poking above the wing in a turn steeper than the pilot would have made if he carried a living patient.

  The stretcher intended for Dr. Hannibal Lecter held instead the cooling body of Matteo Deogracias. Older brother Carlo sat beside the corpse, his clothing stiff with blood.

  Carlo Deogracias made the medical attendant put on earphones and turn up the music while he spoke on his cell phone to Las Vegas, where a blind encryption repeater relayed his call to the Maryland shore….

  For Mason Verger, night and day are much the same. He happened to be sleeping. Even the aquarium lights were off. Mason’s head was turned on the pillow, his single eye ever open like the eyes of the great eel, which was sleeping too. The only sounds were the regular hiss and sigh of the respirator, the soft bubbling of the aerator in the aquarium.

  Above these constant noises came another sound, soft and urgent. The buzzing of Mason’s most private telephone. His pale hand walked on its fingers like a crab to push the telephone button. The speaker was under his pillow, the microphone near the ruin of his face.

  First Mason heard the airplane in the background and then a cloying tune, “Gli Innamorati.”

  “I’m here. Tell me.”

  “It’s a bloody casino,” Carlo said.

  “Tell me.”

  “My brother Matteo is dead. I have my hand on him now. Pazzi’s dead too. Dr. Fell killed them and got away.”

  Mason did not reply at once.

  “You owe two hundred thousand dollars for Matteo,” Carlo said. “For his family.” Sardinian contracts always call for death benefits.

  “I understand that.”

  “The shit will fly about Pazzi.”

  “Better to get it out that Pazzi was dirty,” Mason said. “They’ll take it better if he’s dirty. Was he dirty?”

  “Except for this, I don’t know. What if they trace from Pazzi back to you?”

  “I can take care of that.”

  “I have to take care of myself,” Carlo said. “This is too much. A chief inspector of the Questura dead, I can’t buy out of that.”

  “You didn’t do anything, did you?”

  “We did nothing, but if the Questura put my name in this—dirty Madonna! They’ll watch me for the rest of my life. Nobody will take fees from me, I won’t be able to break wind on the street. What about Oreste? Did he know who he was supposed to film?”

  “I don’t think so.”

  “The Questura will have Dr. Fell identified by tomorrow or the next day. Oreste will put it together as soon as he sees the news, just from the timing.”

  “Oreste is well paid. Oreste is harmless to us.”

  “Maybe to you, but Oreste is facing a judge in a pornography case in Rome next month. Now he has a thing to trade. If you don’t know that already you should kick some ass. You got to have Oreste?”

  “I’ll talk with Oreste,” Mason said carefully, the rich tones of a radio announcer coming from his ravaged face. “Carlo, are you still game? You want to find Dr. Fell now, don’t you? You have to find him for Matteo.”

  “Yes, but at your expense.”

  “Then keep the farm going. Get certified swine flu and cholera inoculations for the pigs. Get shipping crates for them. You have a good passport?”

  “Yes.”

  “I mean a good one, Carlo, not some upstairs Trastevere crap.”

  “I have a good one.”

  “You’ll hear from me.”

  Ending his connection in the droning airplane, Carlo inadvertently pushed the auto dial on his cell phone. Matteo’s telepho
ne beeped loudly in his dead hand, still held in the steely grip of cadaveric spasm. For an instant Carlo thought his brother would raise the telephone to his ear. Dully, seeing that Matteo could not answer, Carlo pushed his hang-up button. His face contorted and the medical attendant could not look at him.

  CHAPTER

  38

  THE DEVIL’S Armor with its horned helmet is a splendid suit of fifteenth-century Italian armor that has hung high on the wall in the village church of Santa Reparata south of Florence since 1501. In addition to the graceful horns, shaped like those of the chamois, the pointed gauntlet cuffs are stuck where shoes should be, at the ends of the greaves, suggesting the cloven hooves of Satan.

  According to the local legend, a young man wearing the armor took the name of the Virgin in vain as he passed the church, and found that afterward he could not take his armor off until he beseeched the Virgin for forgiveness. He gave the armor to the church as a gift of thanksgiving. It is an impressive presence and it honored its proof marks when an artillery shell burst in the church in 1942.

  The armor, its upper surfaces covered with a feltlike coating of dust, looks down on the small sanctuary now as Mass is being completed. Incense rises, passes through the empty visor.

  Only three people are in attendance, two elderly women, both dressed in black, and Dr. Hannibal Lecter. All three take Communion, though Dr. Lecter touches his lips to the cup with some reluctance.

  The priest completes the benediction and withdraws. The women depart. Dr. Lecter continues his devotions until he is alone in the sanctuary.

  From the organ loft, Dr. Lecter can just reach over the railing and, leaning between the horns, raise the dusty visor on the helmet of the Devil’s Armor. Inside, a fishhook over the lip of the gorget suspends a string and a package hanging inside the cuirass where the heart would be. Carefully, Dr. Lecter draws it out.

  A package: passports of the best Brazilian manufacture, identification, cash, bankbooks, keys. He puts it under his arm beneath his coat.

 
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