Hannibal by Thomas Harris


  CHAPTER

  54

  IT IS an axiom of behavioral science that vampires are territorial, while cannibals range widely across the country.

  The nomadic existence held little appeal for Dr. Lecter. His success in avoiding the authorities owed much to the quality of his long-term false identities and the care he took to maintain them, and his ready access to money. Random and frequent movement had nothing to do with it.

  With two alternate identities long established, each with excellent credit, plus a third for the management of vehicles, he had no trouble feathering for himself a comfortable nest in the United States within a week of his arrival.

  He had chosen Maryland, about an hour’s drive south from Mason Verger’s Muskrat Farm, and reasonably convenient to the music and theater in Washington and New York.

  Nothing about Dr. Lecter’s visible business attracted attention, and either of his principal identities would have had a good chance of surviving a standard audit. After visiting one of his lockboxes in Miami, he rented from a German lobbyist for one year a pleasant, isolated house on the Chesapeake shore.

  With distinct-ring call forwarding from two telephones in a cheap apartment in Philadelphia, he was able to provide himself with glowing references whenever they were required without leaving the comfort of his new home.

  Always paying cash, he quickly obtained from scalpers premium tickets for the symphony, and those ballet and opera performances that interested him.

  Among his new home’s desirable features was a generous double garage with a workshop, and good overhead doors. There Dr. Lecter parked his two vehicles, a six-year-old Chevrolet pickup truck with a pipe frame over the bed and a vise attached, which he bought from a plumber and a housepainter, and a supercharged Jaguar sedan leased through a holding company in Delaware. His truck offered a different appearance from day to day. The equipment he could put into the back or onto the pipe frame included a housepainter’s ladder, pipe, PVC, a barbecue kettle, and a butane tank.

  With his domestic arrangements well in hand, he treated himself to a week of music and museums in New York, and sent catalogs of the most interesting art shows to his cousin, the great painter Balthus, in France.

  At Sotheby’s in New York, he purchased two excellent musical instruments, rare finds both of them. The first was a late eighteenth-century Flemish harpsichord nearly identical to the Smithsonian’s 1745 Dulkin, with an upper manual to accommodate Bach—the instrument was a worthy successor to the gravicembalo he had in Florence. His other purchase was an early electronic instrument, a theremin, built in the l930s by Professor Theremin himself. The theremin had long fascinated Dr. Lecter. He had built one as a child. It is played with gestures of the empty hands in an electronic field. By gesture you evoke its voice.

  Now he was all settled in and he could entertain himself….

  Dr. Lecter drove home to this pleasant refuge on the Maryland shore after his morning in the woods. The sight of Clarice Starling running through the falling leaves on the forest path was well established now in the memory palace of his mind. It is a source of pleasure to him, reachable in less than a second starting from the foyer. He sees Starling run and, such is the quality of his visual memory, he can search the scene for new details, he can hear the big, healthy whitetails bounding past him up the slope, see the calluses on their elbows, a grass burr on the belly fur of the nearest. He has stored this memory in a sunny palace room as far as possible from the little wounded deer….

  Home again, home again, the garage door dropping with a quiet hum behind his pickup truck.

  When the door rose again at noon the black Jaguar came out, bearing the doctor dressed for the city.

  Dr. Lecter very much liked to shop. He drove directly to Hammacher Schlemmer, the purveyor of fine home and sporting accessories and culinary equipment, and there he took his time. Still in his woodsy mood, with a pocket tape measure he checked the dimensions of three major picnic hampers, all of them lacquered wicker with sewn leather straps and solid brass fittings. Finally, he settled on the medium-sized hamper, as it only had to accommodate a place setting for one.

  The wicker case had in it a thermos, serviceable tumblers, sturdy china, and stainless-steel cutlery. The case came only with the accessories. You were obliged to buy them.

  In successive stops at Tiffany and Christofle, the doctor was able to replace the heavy picnic plates with Gien French china in one of the chasse patterns of leaves and upland birds. At Christofle he obtained a place setting of the nineteenth-century silverware he preferred, in a Cardinal pattern, the maker’s mark stamped in the bowl of the spoons, the Paris rat tail on the underside of the handles. The forks were deeply curved, the tines widely spaced, and the knives had a pleasing heft far back in the palm. The pieces hang in the hand like a good dueling pistol. In crystal, the doctor was torn between sizes in his aperitif glasses, and chose a chimney ballon for brandy, but in wineglasses there was no question. The doctor chose Riedel, which he bought in two sizes with plenty of room for the nose within the rim.

  At Christofle he also found place mats in creamy white linen, and some beautiful damask napkins with a tiny damask rose, like a drop of blood, embroidered in the corner. Dr. Lecter thought the play on damask droll and bought six napkins, so that he would always be equipped, allowing for laundry turnaround time.

  He bought two good 35,000 BTU portable gas burners, of the kind restaurants use to cook at tableside, and an exquisite copper sauté pan and a copper fait-tout to make sauces, both made for Dehillerin in Paris, and two whisks. He was not able to find carbon-steel kitchen knives, which he much preferred to stainless steel, nor could he find some of the special-purpose knives he had been forced to leave in Italy.

  His last stop was a medical supply company not far from Mercy General Hospital, where he found a bargain in a nearly brand-new Stryker autopsy saw, which strapped down neatly in his picnic hamper where the thermos used to go. It was still under warranty, and came with general-purpose and cranial blades, as well as a skull key, to nearly complete his batterie de cuisine.

  Dr. Lecter’s French doors are open to the crisp evening air. The bay lies soot-and-silver under the moon and moving shadows of the clouds. He has poured himself a glass of wine in his new crystal and set it on a candle stand beside the harpsichord. The wine’s bouquet mixes with the salt air and Dr. Lecter can enjoy it without ever taking his hands from the keyboard.

  He has in his time owned clavichords, virginals, and other early keyboard instruments. He prefers the sound and feel of the harpsichord; because it is not possible to control the volume of the quill-plucked strings, the music arrives like experience, sudden and entire.

  Dr. Lecter looks at the instrument, opening and closing his hands. He approaches his newly acquired harpsichord as he might approach an attractive stranger via an interesting light remark—he plays an air written by Henry VIII, “Green Grows the Holly.”

  Encouraged, he essays upon Mozart’s “Sonata in B Flat Major.” He and the harpsichord are not yet intimate, but its responses to his hands tell him they will come together soon. The breeze rises and the candles flare, but Dr. Lecter’s eyes are closed to the light, his face is lifted and he is playing. Bubbles fly from Mischa’s star-shaped hands as she waves them in the breeze above the tub and, as he attacks the third movement, through the forest lightly flying, Clarice Starling is running, running, rustle of the leaves beneath her feet, rustle of the wind high in the turning trees, and the deer start ahead of her, a spike buck and two does, leaping across the path like the heart leaps. The ground is suddenly colder and the ragged men lead the little deer out of the woods, an arrow in it, the deer pulling against the rope twisted around its neck, men pulling it wounded so they will not have to carry it to the axe, and the music clangs to a stop above the bloody snow, Dr. Lecter clutching the edges of the piano stool. He breathes deep, breathes deep, puts his hands on the keyboard, forces a phrase, then two that clang to silence.

/>   We hear from him a thin and rising scream that stops as abruptly as the music. He sits for a long time with his head bent above the keyboard. He rises without sound and leaves the room. It is not possible to tell where he is in the dark house. The wind off the Chesapeake gains strength, whips the candle flames until they gutter out, sings through the strings of the harpsichord in the dark— now an accidental tune, now a thin scream from long ago.

  CHAPTER

  55

  THE MID- ATLANTIC Regional Gun and Knife Show in War Memorial Auditorium. Acres of tables, a plain of guns, mostly pistols and assault-style shotguns. The red beams of laser sights flicker on the ceiling.

  Few genuine outdoorsmen come to gun shows, as a matter of taste. Guns are black now, and gun shows are bleak, colorless, as joyless as the inner landscape of many who attend them.

  Look at this crowd: scruffy, squinty, angry, egg-bound, truly of the resinous heart. They are the main danger to the right of a private citizen to own a firearm.

  The guns they fancy are assault weapons designed for mass production, cheaply made of stampings to provide high firepower to ignorant and untrained troops.

  Among the beer bellies, the flab and pasty white of the indoor gunmen moved Dr. Hannibal Lecter, imperially slim. The guns did not interest him. He went directly to the display of the foremost knife merchant of the show circuit.

  The merchant’s name is Buck and he weighs three hundred twenty-five pounds. Buck has a lot of fantasy swords, and copies of medieval and barbarian items, but he has the best real knives and blackjacks too, and Dr. Lecter quickly spotted most of the items on his list, things he’d had to leave in Italy.

  “Can I hep you?” Buck has friendly cheeks and a friendly mouth, and baleful eyes.

  “Yes. I’ll have that Harpy, please, and a straight, serrated Spyderco with a four-inch blade, and that drop-point skinner at the back.”

  Buck gathered the items.

  “I want the good game saw. Not that one, the good one. Let me feel that flat leather sap, the black one….” Dr. Lecter considered the spring in the handle. “I’ll take it.”

  “Anything else?”

  “Yes. I’d like a Spyderco Civilian, I don’t see it.”

  “Not a whole lot of folks know about that. I never stock but one.”

  “I only require one.”

  “It’s regular two hundred and twenty dollars, I could let you have it for one ninety with the case.”

  “Fine. Do you have carbon-steel kitchen knives?”

  Buck shook his massive head. “You’ll have to find old ones at a flea market. That’s where I get mine at. You can put an edge on one with the bottom of a saucer.”

  “Make a parcel and I’ll be back for it in a few minutes.”

  Buck had not often been told to make a parcel, and he did it with his eyebrows raised.

  Typically, this gun show was not a show at all, it was a bazaar. There were a few tables of dusty World War Two memorabilia, beginning to look ancient. You could buy M-l rifles, gas masks with the glass crazing in the goggles, canteens. There were the usual Nazi memorabilia booths. You could buy an actual Zyklon B gas canister, if that is to your taste.

  There was almost nothing from the Korean or Vietnam wars and nothing at all from Desert Storm.

  Many of the shoppers wore camouflage as if they were only briefly back from the front lines to attend the gun show, and more camouflage clothing was for sale, including the complete ghillie suit for total concealment of a sniper or a bow hunter—a major subdivision of the show was archery equipment for bow hunting.

  Dr. Lecter was examining the ghillie suit when he became aware of uniforms close beside him. He picked up an archery glove. Turning to hold the maker’s mark to the light, he could see that the two officers beside him were from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, which maintained a conservation booth at the show.

  “Donnie Barber,” said the older of the two wardens, pointing with his chin. “If you ever git him in court, let me know. I’d love to git that son of a bitch out of the woods for good.” They were watching a man of about thirty at the other end of the archery exhibit. He was facing them, watching a video. Donnie Barber wore camouflage, his blouse tied around his waist by the sleeves. He had on a khaki-colored sleeveless T-shirt to show off his tattoos and a baseball cap reversed on his head.

  Dr. Lecter moved slowly away from the officers, looking at various items as he went. He paused at a display of laser pistol sights an aisle away and, through a trellis hung with holsters, the doctor watched the flickering video that held Donnie Barber’s attention.

  It was a video about hunting mule deer with bow and arrow.

  Apparently someone off camera was hazing a deer along a fence through a wooded lot, while the hunter drew his bow. The hunter was wired for sound. His breathing grew faster. He whispered into the microphone, “It don’t git any better than this.”

  The deer humped when the arrow hit it and ran into the fence twice before leaping the wire and running away.

  Watching, Donnie Barber jerked and grunted at the arrow strike.

  Now the video huntsman was about to field-dress the deer. He began at what he called the ANN-us.

  Donnie Barber stopped the video and ran it back to the arrow strike again and again, until the concessionaire spoke to him.

  “Fuck yourself, asshole,” Donnie Barber said. “I wouldn’t buy shit from you.”

  At the next booth, he bought some yellow arrows, broad-heads with a razor fin crosswise in the head. There was a box for a prize drawing and, with his purchase, Donnie Barber received an entry slip. The prize was a two-day deer lease.

  Donnie Barber filled out his entry and dropped it through the slot, and kept the merchant’s pen as he disappeared with his long parcel into the crowd of young men in camouflage.

  As a frog’s eyes pick up movement, so the merchant’s eyes noted any pause in the passing crowd. The man before him now was utterly still.

  “Is that your best crossbow?” Dr. Lecter asked the merchant.

  “No.” The man took a case from under the counter. “This is the best one. I like the recurve better than the compound if you got to tote it. It’s got the windlass you can drive off a ’lectric drill or use it manual. You know you can’t use a crossbow on deer in Virginia unless you’re handicapped?” the man said.

  “My brother’s lost one arm and he’s anxious to kill something with the other one,” Dr. Lecter said.

  “Oh, I gotcha.”

  In the course of five minutes, the doctor purchased an excellent crossbow and two dozen quarrels, the short, thick arrows used with a crossbow.

  “Tie up a parcel,” Dr. Lecter said.

  “Fill out this slip and you might win you a deer hunt. Two days on a good lease,” the merchant said.

  Dr. Lecter filled out his slip for the drawing and dropped it through the slot in the box.

  As soon as the merchant was engaged with another customer, Dr. Lecter turned back to him.

  “Bother!” he said. “I forgot to put my telephone number on my drawing slip. May I?”

  “Sure, go ahead.”

  Dr. Lecter took the top off the box and took out the top two slips. He added to the false information on his own, and took a long look at the slip beneath, blinking once, like a camera clicking.

  CHAPTER

  56

  THE GYM at Muskrat Farm is high-tech black and chrome, with the complete Nautilus cycle of machines, free weights, aerobic equipment and a juice bar.

  Barney was nearly through with his workout, cooling down on a bike, when he realized he was not alone in the room. Margot Verger was taking off her warm-ups in the corner. She wore elastic shorts and a tank top over a sports bra and now she added a weight-lifting belt. Barney heard weights clank in the corner. He heard her breathing as she did a warm-up set.

  Barney was pedaling the bicycle against no resistance, toweling his head, when she came over to him between sets.

/>   She looked at his arms, looked at hers. They were about the same. “How much can you bench-press?” she said.

  “I don’t know.”

  “I expect you know, all right.”

  “Maybe three eighty-five, like that.”

  “Three eighty-five? I don’t think so, big boy. I don’t think you can press three eighty-five.”

  “Maybe you’re right.”

  “I got a hundred dollars that says you can’t bench-press three eighty-five.”

  “Against?”

  “Against a hundred dollars, the hell you think? And I’ll spot you.”

  Barney looked at her and wrinkled his rubbery forehead. “Okay.”

  They loaded on the plates. Margot counted the ones on the end of the bar Barney had loaded as though he might cheat her. He responded by counting with elaborate care the ones on Margot’s end.

  Flat on the bench now, Margot standing above him at his head in her spandex shorts. The juncture of her thighs and abdomen was knurled like a baroque frame and her massive torso seemed to reach almost to the ceiling.

  Barney settled himself, feeling the bench against his back. Margot’s legs smelled like cool liniment. Her hands were lightly on the bar, nails painted coral, shapely hands to be so strong.

  “Ready?”

  “Yes.” He pushed the weight up toward her face, bent over him.

  It wasn’t much trouble for Barney. He set the weight back on its bracket ahead of Margot’s spot. She got the money from her gym bag.

  “Thank you,” Barney said.

  “I do more squats than you” is all she said.

  “I know.”

  “How do you know that?”

  “I can pee standing up.”

  Her massive neck flushed. “So can I.”

  “Hundred bucks?” Barney said.

  “Make me a smoothie,” she said.

  There was a bowl of fruit and nuts on the juice bar. While Barney made fruit smoothies in the blender, Margot took two walnuts in her fist and cracked them.

 
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