Hannibal by Thomas Harris


  “Mr. Crawford and I went over the receipts and papers left from Dr. Lecter’s life in Baltimore before he was first arrested, and what receipts the Italian police were able to furnish, lawsuits from creditors after his arrest. We made a list of some things he likes. You can see here: In the month that Dr. Lecter served the flautist Benjamin Raspail’s sweetbreads to other members of the Baltimore Philharmonic Orchestra board, he bought two cases of Château Pétrus bordeaux at thirty-six hundred dollars a case. He bought five cases of Bâtard-Montrachet at eleven hundred dollars a case, and a variety of lesser wines.

  “He ordered the same wine from room service in St. Louis after he escaped, and he ordered it from Vera dal 1926 in Florence. This stuff is pretty rarefied. We’re checking importers and dealers for case sales.

  “From the Iron Gate in New York, he ordered Grade A foie gras at two hundred dollars a kilo, and through the Grand Central Oyster Bar he got green oysters from the Gironde. The meal for the Philharmonic board began with these oysters, followed by sweetbreads, a sorbet, and then, you can read here in Town & Country what they had”—she read aloud quickly—“a notable dark and glossy ragout, the constituents never determined, on saffron rice. Its taste was darkly thrilling with great bass tones that only the vast and careful reduction of the fond can give. No victim’s ever been identified as being in the ragout. Da da, it goes on—here it describes his distinctive tableware and stuff in detail. We’re cross-checking credit card purchases at the china and crystal suppliers.”

  Krendler snorted through his nose.

  “See, here in this civil suit, he still owes for a Steuben chandelier, and Galeazzo Motor Company of Baltimore sued to get back his Bentley We’re tracking sales of Bentleys, new and used. There aren’t that many. And the sales of supercharged Jaguars. We’ve faxed the restaurant game suppliers asking about purchases of wild boar and we’ll do a bulletin the week before the red-legged partridges come in from Scotland.” She pecked at her keyboard and consulted a list, then stepped away from the machine when she felt Krendler’s breath too close behind her.

  “I’ve put in for funds to buy cooperation from some of the premier scalpers of cultural tickets, the culture vultures, in New York and San Francisco—there are a couple of orchestras and string quartets he particularly likes, he favors the six or seventh row and always sits on the aisle. I’ve distributed the best likenesses we have to Lincoln Center and Kennedy Center, and most of the philharmonic halls. Maybe you could help us with that out of the DOJ budget, Mr. Krendler.” When he didn’t reply, she went on. “We’re cross-checking new subscriptions to some cultural journals he’s subscribed to in the past—anthropology, linguistics, Physical Review, mathematics, music.”

  “Does he hire S and M whores, that kind of thing? Male prostitutes?”

  Starling could feel Krendler’s relish in the question. “Not to our knowledge, Mr. Krendler. He was seen at concerts in Baltimore years ago with several attractive women, a couple of them were prominent in Baltimore charity work and stuff. We have their birthdays flagged for gift purchases. None of them was ever harmed to our knowledge, and none has ever agreed to speak about him. We don’t know anything about his sexual preferences.”

  “I’ve always figured he was a homosexual.”

  “Why would you say that, Mr. Krendler?”

  “All this artsy-fartsy stuff. Chamber music and tea-party food. I don’t mean anything personal, if you’ve got a lot of sympathy for those people, or friends like that. The main thing, what I’m impressing on you, Starling: I better see cooperation here. There are no little fiefdoms. I want to be copied on every 302, I want every time card, I want every lead. Do you understand me, Starling?”

  “Yes, sir.”

  At the door he said, “Be sure you do. You might have a chance to improve your situation here. Your so-called career could use all the help it can get.”

  The future darkroom was already equipped with vent fans. Looking him in the face, Starling flipped them on, sucking out the smell of his aftershave and his shoe polish. Krendler pushed through the blackout curtains without saying good-bye.

  The air danced in front of Starling like heat shimmer on the gunnery range.

  In the hall Krendler heard Starling’s voice behind him.

  “I’ll walk outside with you, Mr. Krendler.”

  Krendler had a car and driver waiting. He was still at the level of executive transport where he made do with a Mercury Grand Marquis sedan.

  Before he could get to his car, out in the clear air, she said, “Hold it, Mr. Krendler.”

  Krendler turned to her, wondering. Might be a glimmer of something here. Angry surrender? His antennae went up.

  “We’re here in the great out-of-doors,” Starling said. “No listening devices around, unless you’re wearing one.” An urge hit her that she could not resist. To work with the dusty books she was wearing a loose denim shirt over a snug tank top.

  Shouldn’t do this. Fuck it.

  She popped the snaps on her shirt and pulled it open. “See, I’m not wearing a wire.” She wasn’t wearing a bra either. “This is maybe the only time we’ll ever talk in private, and I want to ask you. For years I’ve been doing the job and every time you could you’ve stuck the knife in me. What is it with you, Mr. Krendler?”

  “You’re welcome to come talk about it … I’ll make time for you, if you want to review …”

  “We’re talking about it now.”

  “You figure it out, Starling.”

  “Is it because I wouldn’t see you on the side? Was it when I told you to go home to your wife?”

  He looked at her again. She really wasn’t wearing a wire.

  “Don’t flatter yourself, Starling … this town is full of cornpone country pussy.”

  He got in beside his driver and tapped on the dash, and the big car moved away. His lips moved, as he wished he had framed it: “Cornpone cunts like you.” There was a lot of political speaking in Krendler’s future, he believed, and he wanted to sharpen his verbal karate, and get the knack of the sound bite.

  CHAPTER

  50

  “IT COULD work, I’m telling you,” Krendler said into the wheezing dark where Mason lay. “Ten years ago, you couldn’t have done it, but she can move customer lists through that computer like shit through a goose.” He shifted on the couch under the bright lights of the seating area.

  Krendler could see Margot silhouetted against the aquarium. He was used to cursing in front of her now, and rather enjoyed it. He bet Margot wished she had a dick. He felt like saying dick in front of Margot, and thought of a way: “It’s how she’s got the fields set up, and paired Lecter’s preferences. She could probably tell you which way he carries his dick.”

  “On that note, Margot, bring in Dr. Doemling,” Mason said.

  Dr. Doemling had been waiting out in the playroom among the giant stuffed animals. Mason could see him on video examining the plush scrotum of the big giraffe, much as the Viggerts had orbited the David. On the screen he looked much smaller than the toys, as though he had compressed himself, the better to worm his way into some childhood other than his own.

  Seen under the lights of Mason’s seating area, the psychologist was a dry person, extremely clean but flaking, with a dry comb-over on his spotted scalp and a Phi Beta Kappa key on his watch chain. He sat down on the opposite side of the coffee table from Krendler and seemed familiar with the room.

  There was a worm hole in the apple on his side of the bowl of fruits and nuts. Dr. Doemling turned the hole to face the other way. Behind his glasses, his eyes followed Margot with a degree of wonderment bordering on the oafish as she got another pair of walnuts and returned to her place by the aquarium.

  “Dr. Doemling’s head of the psychology department at Baylor University. He holds the Verger Chair,” Mason told Krendler. “I’ve asked him what kind of bond there might be between Dr. Lecter and the FBI agent Clarice Starling. Doctor …”

  Doemling faced forwa
rd in his seat as though it were a witness stand and turned his head to Mason as he would to a jury. Krendler could see in him the practiced manner, the careful partisanship of the two-thousand-dollar-a-day expert witness.

  “Mr. Verger obviously knows my qualifications, would you like to hear them?” Doemling asked.

  “No,” Krendler said.

  “I’ve reviewed the Starling woman’s notes on her interviews with Hannibal Lecter, his letters to her, and the material you provided me on their backgrounds,” Doemling began.

  Krendler winced at this, and Mason said, “Dr. Doemling has signed a confidentiality agreement.”

  “Cordell will put your slides up on the elmo when you want them, Doctor,” Margot said.

  “A little background first.” Doemling consulted his notes. “We knooowww Hannibal Lecter was born in Lithuania. His father was a count, title dating from the tenth century, his mother high-born Italian, a Visconti. During the German retreat from Russia some passing Nazi panzers shelled their estate near Vilnius from the high road and killed both parents and most of the servants. The children disappeared after that. There were two of them, Hannibal and his sister. We don’t know what happened to the sister. The point is, Lecter was an orphan, like Clarice Starling.”

  “Which I told you,” Mason said impatiently.

  “But what did you conclude from it?” Dr. Doemling asked. “I’m not proposing a kind of sympathy between two orphans, Mr. Verger. This is not about sympathy. Sympathy does not enter here. And mercy is left bleeding in the dust. Listen to me. What a common experience of being an orphan gives Dr. Lecter is simply a better ability to understand her, and ultimately control her. This is all about control.

  “The Starling woman spent her childhood in institutions, and from what you tell me she does not evidence any stable personal relationship with a man. She lives with a former classmate, a young African-American woman.”

  “That’s very likely a sex thing,” Krendler said.

  The psychiatrist did not even spare Krendler a look— Krendler was automatically overruled. “You can never say to a certainty why someone lives with someone else.”

  “It is one of the things that is hid, as the Bible says,” Mason said.

  “Starling looks pretty tasty, if you like whole wheat,” Margot offered.

  “I think the attraction’s from Lecter’s end, not hers,” Krendler said. “You’ve seen her—she’s a pretty cold fish.”

  “Is she a cold fish, Mr. Krendler?” Margot sounded amused.

  “You think she’s queer, Margot?” Mason asked.

  “How the hell would I know? Whatever she is, she treats it as her own damn business—that was my impression. I think she’s tough, and she had on her game face, but I wouldn’t say she’s a cold fish. We didn’t talk much, but that’s what I took from it. That was before you needed me to help you, Mason—you ran me out, remember? I’m not going to say she’s a cold fish. Girl who looks like Starling has to keep a certain distance in her face because assholes are hitting on her all the time.”

  Here Krendler felt that Margot looked at him a beat too long, though he could only see her in outline.

  How curious, the voices in this room. Krendler’s careful bureauese, Doemling’s pedantic bray, Mason’s deep and resonant tones with his badly pruned plosives and leaking sibilants and Margot, her voice rough and low, tough-mouthed as a livery pony and resentful of the bit. Under it all, the gasping machinery that finds Mason breath.

  “I have an idea about her private life, regarding her apparent father fixation,” Doemling went on. “I’ll get into it shortly. Now, we have three documents of Dr. Lecter’s concerning Clarice Starling. Two letters and a drawing. The drawing is of the Crucifixion Clock he designed while he was in the asylum.” Dr. Doemling looked up at the screen. “The slide, please.”

  From somewhere outside the room, Cordell put up the extraordinary sketch on the elevated monitor. The original is charcoal on butcher paper. Mason’s copy was made on a blueprint copier and the lines are the blue of a bruise.

  “He tried to patent this,” Dr. Doemling said. “As you can see, here is Christ crucified on a clock face and His arms revolve to tell the time, just like the Mickey Mouse watches. It’s interesting because the face, the head hanging forward, is that of Clarice Starling. He drew it at the time of their interviews. Here’s a photograph of the woman, you can see. Cordell, is it? Cordell, put up the photo please.”

  There was no question, the Jesus head was Starling.

  “Another anomaly is that the figure is nailed to the cross through the wrists rather than the palms.”

  “That’s accurate,” Mason said. “You’ve got to nail them through the wrists and use big wooden washers, otherwise they get loose and start flapping. Idi Amin and I found that out the hard way when we reenacted the whole thing in Uganda at Easter. Our Savior was actually nailed through the wrists. All the Crucifixion paintings are wrong. It’s a mistranslation between the Hebrew and Latin Bibles.”

  “Thank you,” Dr. Doemling said without sincerity. “The Crucifixion clearly represents a destroyed object of veneration. Note that the arm that forms the minute hand is at six, modestly covering the pudenda. The hour hand is at nine, or slightly past. Nine is a clear reference to the traditional hour when Jesus was crucified.”

  “And when you put six and nine together, note that you get sixty-nine, a figure popular in social intercourse,” Margot could not help saying. In response to Doemling’s sharp glance, she cracked her walnuts and shells rattled to the floor.

  “Now let’s take up Dr. Lecter’s letters to Clarice Starling. Cordell, if you’d put them up.” Dr. Doemling took a laser pointer from his pocket. “You can see that the writing, a fluent copperplate executed with a square-nibbed fountain pen, is machinelike in its regularity. You see that sort of handwriting in medieval papal bulls. It’s quite beautiful, but freakishly regular. There is nothing spontaneous here. He’s planning. He wrote this first one soon after he had escaped, killing five people in the process. Let’s read from the text:

  Well, Clarice, have the lambs stopped screaming?

  You owe me a piece of information, you know, and that’s what I’d like.

  An ad in the national edition of the Times and in the International Herald-Tribune on the first of any month will be fine. Better put it in the China Mail as well.

  I won’t be surprised if the answer is yes and no. The lambs will stop for now. But, Clarice, you judge yourself with all the mercy of the dungeon scales at Threave; you’ll have to earn it again and again, the blessed silence. Because it’s the plight that drives you, seeing the plight, and the plight will not end, ever.

  I have no plans to call on you, Clarice, the world being more interesting with you in it. Be sure you extend me the same courtesy….

  _______

  Dr. Doemling pushed his rimless glasses up on his nose and cleared his throat. “This is a classic example of what I have termed in my published work avunculism—it’s beginning to be referred to broadly in the professional literature as Doemling’s avunculism. Possibly it will be included in the next Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. It may be defined for laymen as the act of posturing as a wise and caring patron to further a private agenda.

  “I gather from the case notes that the question about the lambs screaming refers to a childhood experience of Clarice Starling’s, the slaughter of the lambs on the ranch in Montana, her foster home,” Dr. Doemling went on in his dry voice.

  “She was trading information with Lecter,” Krendler said. “He knew something about the serial killer Buffalo Bill.”

  “The second letter, seven years later, is on the face of it a letter of condolence and support,” Doemling said. “He taunts her with references to her parents, whom she apparently venerates. He calls her father ’the dead night watchman’ and her mother ‘the chambermaid.’ And then he invests them with excellent qualities she can imagine that they had, and further enlists these qualities to
excuse her own failings in her career. This is about ingratiation, this is about control.

  “I think the woman Starling may have a lasting attachment to her father, an imago, that prevents her from easily forming sexual relationships and may incline her to Dr. Lecter in some kind of transference, which in his perversity he would seize on at once. In this second letter he again encourages her to contact him with a personal ad, and he provides a code name.”

  My Christ, the man went on! Restlessness and boredom were torture for Mason because he couldn’t fidget. “Right, fine, good, Doctor,” Mason interrupted. “Margot, open the window a little. I’ve got a new source on Lecter, Dr. Doemling. Someone who knows both Starling and Lecter and saw them together, and he’s been around Lecter more than anyone. I want you to talk to him.”

  Krendler squirmed on the couch, his bowels beginning to stir as he saw where this was going.

  CHAPTER

  51

  MASON SPOKE into his intercom and a tall figure came into the room. He was as muscular as Margot and dressed in whites.

  “This is Barney,” Mason said. “He was in charge of the violent ward at the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane for six years when Lecter was there. Now he works for me.”

  Barney preferred to stand in front of the aquarium with Margot, but Dr. Doemling wanted him in the light. He took a place beside Krendler.

  “Barney is it? Now, Barney, what is your professional training?”

  “I have an LPN.”

  “You’re a licensed practical nurse? Good for you. Is that all?”

  “I have a bachelor’s degree in the humanities from the United States Correspondence College,” Barney said, expressionless. “And a certificate of attendance from the Cummins School of Mortuary Science. I’m qualified as a diener. I did that at night during nursing school.”

  “You worked your way through LPN school as a morgue attendant?”

  “Yes, removing bodies from crime scenes and assisting at autopsies.”

 
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