Hannibal by Thomas Harris

  Dr. Lecter does not indulge much in regret, but he was sorry to be leaving Italy. There were things in the Palazzo Capponi that he would have liked to find and read. He would have liked to play the clavier and perhaps compose; he might have cooked for the Widow Pazzi, when she overcame her grief.



  WHILE BLOOD still fell from the hanging body of Rinaldo Pazzi to fry and smoke on the hot floodlights beneath Palazzo Vecchio, the police summoned the fire department to get him down.

  The pompieri used an extension on their ladder truck. Ever practical, and certain the hanged man was dead, they took their time retrieving Pazzi. It was a delicate process requiring them to boost the dangling viscera up to the body and wrap netting around the whole mass, before attaching a line to lower him to the ground.

  As the body reached the upstretched arms of those on the ground, La Nazione got an excellent picture that reminded many readers of the great Deposition paintings.

  The police left the noose in place until it could be fingerprinted, and then cut the stout electrical cord in the center of the noose to preserve the integrity of the knot.

  Many Florentines were determined that the death be a spectacular suicide, deciding that Rinaldo Pazzi bound his own hands in the manner of a jail suicide, and ignoring the fact that the feet were also bound. In the first hour, local radio reported Pazzi had committed hara-kiri with a knife in addition to hanging himself

  The police knew better at once—the severed bonds on the balcony and the hand truck, Pazzi’s missing gun, eyewitness accounts of Carlo running into the Palazzo and the bloody shrouded figure running blindly behind the Palazzo Vecchio told them Pazzi was murdered.

  Then the Italian public decided IIMostró had killed Pazzi.

  The Questura began with the wretched Girolamo Tocca, once convicted of being IIMostró. They seized him at home and drove away with his wife once again howling in the road. His alibi was solid. He was drinking a Ramazzotti at a café in sight of a priest at the time. Tocca was released in Florence and had to return to San Casciano by bus, paying his own fare.

  The staff at Palazzo Vecchio were questioned in the first hours, and the questioning spread through the membership of the Studiolo.

  The police could not locate Dr. Fell. By noon on Saturday close attention was brought to bear on him. The Questura recalled that Pazzi had been assigned to investigate the disappearance of Fell’s predecessor.

  A clerk at the Carabinieri reported Pazzi in recent days had examined a permesso di soggiorno. Fell’s records, including his photographs, attached negatives and fingerprints, were signed out to a false name in what appeared to be Pazzi’s handwriting. Italy has not yet computerized its records nationwide and the permessos are still held at the local level.

  Immigration records yielded Fell’s passport number, which rang the lemons in Brazil.

  Still, the police did not beep to Dr. Fell’s true identity. They took fingerprints from the coils of the hangman’s noose and fingerprints from the podium, the hand truck and from the kitchen at the Palazzo Capponi. With plenty of artists available, a sketch of Dr. Fell was prepared in minutes.

  By Sunday morning, Italian time, a fingerprint examiner in Florence had laboriously, point by point, determined that the same fingerprints were on the podium, the noose, and Dr. Fell’s kitchen utensils at the Palazzo Capponi.

  The thumbprint of Hannibal Lecter, on the poster hanging in Questura headquarters, was not examined.

  The fingerprints from the crime scene went to Interpol on Sunday night, and arrived as a matter of course at FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C., along with seven thousand other sets of crime scene prints. Submitted to the automated fingerprint classification system, the fingerprints from Florence registered a hit of such magnitude that an audible alarm sounded in the office of the assistant director in charge of the Identification section. The night duty officer watched the face and fingers of Hannibal Lecter crawl out of the printer, and called the assistant director at home, who called the director first, and then Krendler at Justice.

  Mason’s telephone rang at l:30 A.M. He acted surprised and interested.

  Jack Crawford’s telephone rang at l:35. He grunted several times and rolled over to the empty, haunted side of his marriage bed where his late wife, Bella, used to be. It was cool there and he seemed to think better.

  Clarice Starling was the last to know that Dr. Lecter had killed again. After she hung up the phone, she lay still for many minutes in the dark and her eyes stung for some reason she did not understand, but she did not cry From her pillow looking up, she could see his face on the swarming dark. It was Dr. Lecter’s old face, of course.



  THE PILOT of the air ambulance would not go into the short, uncontrolled airfield at Arbatax in darkness. They landed at Cagliari, refueled and waited until daylight, and flew up the coast in a spectacular sunrise that gave a false pink cast to Matteo’s dead face.

  A truck with a coffin was waiting at the Arbatax airstrip. The pilot argued about money and Tommaso stepped in before Carlo slapped his face.

  Three hours into the mountains and they were home.

  Carlo wandered alone to the rough timber shed he had built with Matteo. All was ready there, the cameras in place to film Lecter’s death. Carlo stood beneath the work of Matteo’s hands and looked at himself in the great rococo mirror above the animal pen. He looked around at the timbers they had sawn together, he thought of Matteo’s great square hands on the saw and a great cry escaped him, a cry from his anguished heart loud enough to ring off the trees. Tusked faces appeared from the brush of the mountain pasture.

  Piero and Tommaso, brothers themselves, left him alone.

  Birds sang in the mountain pasture.

  Came Oreste Pini from the house buttoning his fly with one hand and waving his cell phone with the other. “So you missed Lecter. Bad luck.”

  Carlo appeared not to hear him.

  “Listen, everything is not lost. This can still work out,” Oreste Pini said. “I have Mason here. He’ll take a simulado. Something he can show Lecter when he does catch him. Since we’re all set up. We’ve got a body—Mason says it was just a thug you hired. Mason says we could just, ah, just jerk it around under the fence when the pigs come and just play the canned sound. Here, talk to Mason.”

  Carlo turned and looked at Oreste as though he had arrived from the moon. Finally he took the cell phone. As he spoke with Mason, his face cleared and a certain peace seemed to settle on him.

  Carlo snapped the cell phone shut. “Get ready,” he said.

  Carlo spoke with Piero and Tommaso, and with the cameraman’s help they carried the coffin to the shed.

  “You don’t want that close enough to get in the frame,” Oreste said. “Let’s get some footage of the animals milling and then we’ll go from there.”

  Seeing the activity in the shed, the first pigs broke cover.

  “Giriamo!” Oreste called.

  They came running, the wild swine, brown and silver, tall, hip-high to a man, deep in the chest, long-bristled, moving with the speed of a wolf on their little hooves, intelligent little eyes in their hellish faces, massive neck muscles beneath the ridge of standing bristles on their backs capable of lifting a man on their great ripping tusks.

  “Pronti!” the cameraman called.

  They had not eaten in three days, others coming now in an advancing line unfazed by the men behind the fence.

  “Motore!” Oreste called.

  “Partito.’” the cameraman yelled.

  The pigs stopped ten yards short of the shed in a milling, pawing line, a thicket of hooves and tusks, the pregnant sow in the the center. They surged forward and back like linemen, and Oreste framed them with his hands.

  “Azione!” he yelled at the Sards, and Carlo coming up behind him cut him up the crease of his buttocks and made him scream, gripped him around the hips and hoisted him headfirst into the pen
, and the pigs charged. Oreste tried to get to his feet, got to one knee and the sow hit him in the ribs and knocked him sprawling. And they were on him, snarling and squealing, two boars pulling at his face got his jaw off and divided it like a wishbone. And still Oreste nearly made his feet and then he was on his back again with his belly exposed and open, his arms and legs waving above the milling backs, Oreste screaming with his jaw gone, not able to make any words.

  Carlo heard a shot and turned. The cameraman had deserted his running camera and tried to flee, but not fast enough to escape Piero’s shotgun.

  The pigs were settling in now, dragging things away.

  “Azione my ass,” Carlo said, and spit on the ground.






  A CAREFUL SILENCE surrounded Mason Verger. His staff treated him as though he had lost a baby. Asked how he was feeling, he said, “I feel like I just paid a lot of money for a dead dago.”

  After a sleep of several hours, Mason wanted children brought into the playroom outside his chamber, and to have a talk with one or two of the most troubled ones, but there were no troubled children to be had immediately, and no time for his supplier in the Baltimore slums to trouble some for him.

  That failing, he had his attendant Cordell cripple ornamental carp and drop them to the eel until the eel could eat no more and retreated into its rock, the water clouded pink and gray and full of iridescent golden shreds.

  He tried to torment his sister, Margot, but she retired to the workout room and for hours ignored his pages. She was the only person at Muskrat Farm who dared to ignore Mason.

  A short, much-edited piece of tourist’s videotape showing the death of Rinaldo Pazzi was on the television evening news Saturday night, before Dr. Lecter was identified as the killer. Blurred areas of the image spared viewers the anatomical details.

  Mason’s secretary was on the telephone immediately to get the unedited tape. It arrived by helicopter four hours later.

  The videotape had a curious provenance:

  Of the two tourists who were videotaping the Palazzo Vecchio at the moment of Rinaldo Pazzi’s death, one panicked and the camera swung away at the moment of the fall. The other tourist was Swiss and held steady through the entire episode, even panning back up the jerking, swinging cord.

  The amateur cameraman, a patent clerk named Viggert, was fearful that the police would seize the videotape and the RAI Italian television would get it free. He called his lawyer in Lausanne at once, made arrangements to copyright the images and sold the rights on a per-broadcast basis to ABC television news after a bidding war. First North American serial rights for print went to the New York Post, followed by the National Tattler.

  The tape instantly took its place among the classic horrific spectacles—Zapruder, the assassination of Lee Harvey Oswald and the suicide of Edgar Bolger—but Viggert would bitterly regret selling so soon, before Dr. Lecter was accused of the crime.

  This copy of the Viggerts’ vacation videotape was complete. We see Swiss family Viggert dutifully orbiting the balls of the David at the Accademia hours before the events at Palazzo Vecchio.

  Mason, watching the video with his single goggled eye, had little interest in the expensive piece of meat twitching at the end of the electrical cord. The little history lesson La Nazione and Corriere della Sera provided on the two Pazzis hanged from the same window five hundred twenty years apart did not interest him either. What held him, what he ran over and over and over, was the pan up the jerking cord to the balcony where a slender figure stood in fuzzy silhouette against the dim light within, waving. Waving to Mason. Dr. Lecter waved to Mason from the wrist the way you would wave bye-bye to a child.

  “Bye-bye,” Mason replied from his darkness. “Bye-bye,” the deep radio voice shaking with rage.



  THE IDENTIFICATION of Dr. Hannibal Lecter as the murderer of Rinaldo Pazzi gave Clarice Starling something serious to do, thank God. She became the de facto low-level liaison between the FBI and the Italian authorities. It was good to make a sustained effort at one task.

  Starling’s world had changed since the drug raid shoot-out. She and the other survivors of the Feliciana Fish Market were kept in a kind of administrative purgatory pending a Department of Justice report to a minor House Judiciary Subcommittee.

  After finding the Lecter X ray, Starling had marked time as a highly qualified temporary, filling in at the National Police Academy, Quantico, for instructors who were ill or on vacation.

  Through the fall and winter, Washington was obsessed with a scandal in the White House. The frothing reformers used more saliva than did the sad little sin, and the President of the United States publicly ate more than his portion of ordure trying to avoid impeachment.

  In this circus, the small matter of the Feliciana Fish Market Massacre was pushed aside.

  Each day, inside Starling a grim knowledge grew: The federal service would never be the same for her again. She was marked. Her coworkers had caution in their faces when they dealt with her, as though she had something contagious. Starling was young enough for this behavior to surprise and disappoint her.

  It was good to be busy—requests from the Italians for information about Hannibal Lecter were pouring into Behavioral Science, usually in duplicate—one copy being forwarded by the State Department. And Starling replied with a will, stoking the fax lines and E-mailing Lecter files. She was surprised at how much the peripheral material had scattered over the seven years since the doctor’s escape.

  Her small cubicle in the basement at Behavioral Science was overflowing with paper, inky faxes from Italy, copies of the Italian papers.

  What could she send the Italians that would be of value? The item they seized on was the single Questura computer query to the Lecter VICAP file at Quantico a few days before Pazzi’s death. The Italian press resurrected Pazzi’s reputation with it, claiming he was working in secret to capture Dr. Lecter and reclaim his honor.

  On the other hand, Starling wondered, what information from the Pazzi crime could be useful here, in case the doctor returned to the United States?

  Jack Crawford was not in the office much to advise her. He was in court a lot, and as his retirement approached he was deposed in a lot of open cases. He took more and more sick days, and when he was in the office he seemed increasingly distant.

  The thought of not having his counsel gave Starling flashes of panic.

  In her years at the FBI, Starling had seen a great deal. She knew that if Dr. Lecter killed again in the United States, the trumpets of flatulence would sound in Congress, an enormous roar of second-guessing would go up from Justice, and the Catch-Me-Fuck-Me would begin in earnest. Customs and Border Patrol would catch it first for letting him in.

  The local jurisdiction where the crime occurred would demand everything relating to Lecter and the FBI effort would center around the local line bureau. Then, when the doctor did it again someplace else, everything would move.

  If he were caught, the authorities would fight for credit like bears around a bloody seal.

  Starling’s business was to prepare for the eventuality of his coming, whether he ever came or not, putting aside all the weary knowledge of what would happen around the investigation.

  She asked herself a simple question that would have sounded corny to the career climbers inside the Beltway: How could she do exactly what she was sworn to do? How could she protect the citizens and catch him if he came?

  Dr. Lecter obviously had good papers and money. He was brilliant at concealing himself. Take the elegant simplicity of his first hideout after his escape from Memphis—he checked into a four-star hotel next door to a great plastic surgery facility in St. Louis. Half the guests had their faces bandaged. He bandaged his own face and lived high on a dead man’s money.

  Among her hundreds of scraps of paper, she had his room service receipts from St. Lo
uis. Astronomical. A bottle of Bâtard-Montrachet one hundred twenty-five dollars. How good it must have tasted after all those years of jail food.

  She had asked for copies of everything from Florence and the Italians obliged. From the quality of the print, she thought they must copy with some kind of soot blower.

  There was no order anywhere. Here were Dr. Lecter’s personal papers from the Palazzo Capponi. A few notes on Dante in his familiar handwriting, a note to the cleaning lady, a receipt from the Florentine fine grocer Vera dal l926 for two bottles of Bâtard-Montrachet and some tartufi bianchi. Same wine again, and what was the other thing?

  Starling’s Bantam New College Italian & English Dictionary told her tartufi bianchi were white truffles. She called the chef at a good Washington Italian restaurant and asked him about them. She had to beg off the phone after five minutes as he raved about their taste.

  Taste. The wine, the truffles. Taste in all things was a constant between Dr. Lecter’s lives in America and Europe, between his life as a successful medical practitioner and fugitive monster. His face may have changed but his tastes did not, and he was not a man who denied himself.

  Taste was a sensitive area to Starling, because it was in the area of taste that Dr. Lecter first touched her in the quick, complimenting her on her pocketbook and making fun of her cheap shoes. What had he called her? A well-scrubbed hustling rube with a little taste.

  It was taste that itched at her in the daily round of her institutional life with its purely functional equipment in utilitarian settings.

  At the same time her faith in technique was dying and leaving room for something else.

  Starling was weary of technique. Faith in technique is the religion of the dangerous trades. To go up against an armed felon in a gunfight or to fight him in the dirt you have to believe perfect technique, hard training, will guarantee that you are invincible. This is not true, particularly in firefights. You can stack the odds in your favor, but if you get into enough gunfights, you will be killed in one.

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