Hannibal by Thomas Harris


  “You want to take these arrows with you, Agent Starling? How would you like me to take ’em out?” Dr. Hollingsworth asked.

  “If you’d hold them with retractors and saw them in two at the skin line on the feather side and push the rest through, I’ll wire them to my board with some twist ties,” Starling said, opening her case.

  “I don’t think he was in a fight, but do you want fingernail scrapings?”

  “I’d rather clip them to do DNA. I don’t need them ID’d by finger, but separate them hand from hand, if you would, Doctor.”

  “Can you run PCR-STR?”

  “They can in the main lab. We’ll have something for you, Sheriff, in three to four days.”

  “Can you do that deer blood yourself?” Warden Moody asked.

  “No, we can just tell it’s animal blood,” Starling said.

  “What if you was to just find the deer meat in somebody’s Frigidaire,” Warden Moody offered. “You’d want to know whether it come out of that deer, wouldn’t you? Sometimes we have to be able to tell deer from deer by blood to make a poaching case. Ever individual deer is different. You wouldn’t think that, would you? We have to send blood off to Portland, Oregon, to the Oregon Game and Fish, they can tell you if you wait long enough. They come back with ‘This is Deer No. One,’ they’ll say, or just call it ‘Deer A,’ with a long case number since, you know, a deer don’t have any name. That we know of.”

  Starling liked Moody’s old weather-beaten face. “We’ll call this one ‘John Doe,’ Warden Moody. That’s useful to know about Oregon, we might have to do some business with them, thank you,” she said and smiled at him until he blushed and fumbled with his cap.

  As she bent her head to rummage in her bag, Dr. Hollingsworth considered her for the pleasure it gave him. Her face had lit up for a moment, talking with old Moody. That beauty spot in her cheek looked very much like burnt gunpowder. He wanted to ask, but thought better of it.

  “What did you put the papers in, not plastic?” she asked the sheriff.

  “Brown paper sacks. A brown paper sack never hurt much of anything.” The sheriff rubbed the back of his neck with his hand, and looked up at Starling. “You know why I called your outfit, why I wanted Jack Crawford over here. I’m glad you came, now that I recollect who you are. Nobody’s said ‘cannibal’ outside this room because the press will tromp the woods flat as soon as it’s out. All they know is it could be a hunting accident. They heard maybe a body was mutilated. They don’t know Donnie Barber was cut for meat. There’s not that many cannibals, Agent Starling.”

  “No, Sheriff. Not that many.”

  “It’s awful neat work.”

  “Yessir, it is.”

  “I may be thinking about him because he’s been in the paper so much—does this look like that Hannibal Lecter to you?”

  Starling watched a daddy longlegs hide in the drain of the vacant autopsy table. “Dr. Lecter’s sixth victim was a bow hunter,” Starling said.

  “Did he eat him?”

  “That one, no. He left him hanging from a peg board wall with all sorts of wounds in him. He left him looking like a medieval medical illustration called Wound Man. He’s interested in medieval things.”

  The pathologist pointed to the lungs spread across Donnie Barber’s back. “You were saying this was an old ritual.”

  “I think so,” Starling said. “I don’t know if Dr. Lecter did this. If he did it, the mutilation’s not a fetish—this arrangement’s not a compulsive thing with him.”

  “What is it then?”

  “It’s whimsy,” she said, looking to see if she put them off with the exact word. “It’s whimsy, and it’s what got him caught last time.”

  CHAPTER

  59

  THE DNA lab was new, smelled new, and the personnel were younger than Starling. It was something she’d have to get used to, she thought with a twinge—she’d be a year older very soon.

  A young woman with A. BENNING on her name tag signed for the two arrows Starling brought.

  A. Benning had had some bad experiences receiving evidence, judging from her evident relief when she saw the two missiles wired carefully to Starling’s evidence board with twist ties.

  “You don’t want to know what I see sometimes when I open these things,” A. Benning said. “You have to understand that I can’t tell you anything, like in five minutes—”

  “No,” Starling said. “There’s no reference RFLP on Dr. Lecter, he escaped too long ago and the artifacts have been polluted, handled by a hundred people.”

  “Lab time is too valuable to run every sample, like fourteen hairs say from a motel room. If you bring me—”

  “Listen to me,” Starling said, “then you talk. I’ve asked the Questura in Italy to send me the toothbrush they think belonged to Dr. Lecter. You can get some epithelial cheek cells off it. Do both RFLP and short tandem repeats on them. This crossbow quarrel has been in the rain, I doubt you’ll get much off it, but look here—”

  “I’m sorry, I didn’t think you’d understand—”

  Starling managed a smile. “Don’t worry, A. Benning, we’ll get along fine. See, the arrows are both yellow. The crossbow quarrel is yellow because it’s been painted by hand, not a bad job, but a little streaky. Look here, what does that look like under the paint?”

  “Maybe a hair off the brush?”

  “Maybe. But look how it’s curved toward one end and has a little bulb at the end. What if it’s an eyelash?”

  “If it’s got the follicle—”

  “Right.”

  “Look, I can run PCR-STR—three colors at once— in the same line in the gel and get you three DNA sites at a time. It’ll take thirteen sites for court, but a couple of days will be enough to know pretty well if it’s him.”

  “A. Benning, I knew you could help me.”

  “You’re Starling. I mean Special Agent Starling. I didn’t mean to get off on the wrong foot—I see a lot of real bad evidence the cops send in—it has nothing to do with you.”

  “I know.”

  “I thought you’d be older. All the girls—the women know about you, I mean everybody does, but you’re kind of” —A. Benning looked away— “kind of special to us.” A. Benning held up her chubby little thumb. “Good luck with the Other. If you don’t mind my saying so.”

  CHAPTER

  60

  MASON VERGER’S majordomo, Cordell, was a large man with exaggerated features who might have been handsome with more animation in his face. He was thirty-seven years old and he could never work in the health industry in Switzerland again, or have any employment there that put him in close contact with children.

  Mason paid him a large salary to be in charge of his wing, with responsibility for his care and feeding. He had found Cordell to be absolutely reliable and capable of anything. Cordell had witnessed acts of cruelty on video as Mason interviewed little children that would have moved anyone else to rage or tears.

  Today Cordell was a little concerned about the only matter holy to him, money.

  He gave his familiar double knock on the door and went into Mason’s room. It was completely dark except for the glowing aquarium. The eel knew he was there and rose from his hole, hoping.

  “Mr. Verger?”

  A moment while Mason came awake.

  “I need to mention something to you, I have to make an extra payment in Baltimore this week to the same person we spoke about before. It’s not any kind of emergency basis, but it would be prudent. That Negro child Franklin ate some rat poison and was in cridical condition earlier this week. He’s telling his foster mother it was your suggestion he should poison his cat to keep the police from torturing it. So, he gave the cat to a neighbor and took the rat poison himself.”

  “That’s absurd,” Mason said. “I had nothing to do with it.”

  “Of course it’s absurd, Mr. Verger.”

  “Who’s complaining, the woman you get the kids from?”

  “She??
?s the one that has to be paid at once.”

  “Cordell, you didn’t interfere with the little bastard? They didn’t find anything in him at the hospital, did they? I’ll find out, you know.”

  “No, sir. In your home? Never, I swear it. You know I’m not a fool. I love my job.”

  “Where is Franklin?”

  “Maryland-Misericordia Hospital. When he gets out he’ll go to a group home. You know the woman he lived with got kicked off the foster home list for smoking marijuana. She’s the one complaining about you. We may have to deal with her.”

  “Coon doper, shouldn’t be much problem.”

  “She doesn’t know anybody to go to with it. I think she needs some careful handling. Kit gloves. The welfare worker wants her to shut up.”

  “I’ll think about that. Go ahead and pay the welfare clerk.”

  “A thousand dollars?”

  “Just make sure she knows that’s all she gets.”

  Lying on Mason’s couch in the dark, her cheeks stiff with dried tears, Margot Verger listened to Cordell and Mason talking. She had been trying to reason with Mason when he fell asleep. Obviously Mason thought she had left. She opened her mouth to breathe quietly, trying to time her breaths to the hiss of his respirator. A pulse of gray light in the room as Cordell left. Margot lay flat on the couch. She waited almost twenty minutes, until the pump settled into Mason’s sleep rhythm, before she left the room. The eel saw her go, but Mason did not.

  CHAPTER

  61

  MARGOT VERGER and Barney had been hanging out together. They did not talk a great deal, but they watched football in the recreation room, and The Simpsons, and concerts sometimes on educational TV, and together they followed I, Claudius. When Barney’s shift made him miss some episodes, they ordered the tape.

  Margot liked Barney, she liked the way she was one of the guys with him. He was the only person she’d known who was cool like that. Barney was very smart, and there was something a little otherworldly about him. She liked that too.

  Margot had a good liberal arts education as well as her computer science. Barney, self-taught, had opinions that ranged from childish to penetrating. She could provide context for him. Margot’s education was a broad and open plain defined by reason. But the plain rested on top of her mentality like the Flat Earther’s world rests on a turtle.

  Margot Verger made Barney pay for his joke about squatting to pee. She believed that her legs were stronger than his, and time proved her right. By feigning difficulty at lower weights she lured him into a bet on leg presses and won back her hundred dollars. In addition, using the advantage of her lighter weight, she beat him in one-armed pull-ups, but she would only bet on the right arm, her left being weaker from a childhood injury sustained in a struggle with Mason.

  Sometimes at night, after Barney’s shift with Mason was over, they worked out together, spotting one another on the bench. It was a serious workout, largely silent except for their breathing. Sometimes they only said good night as she packed her gym bag and disappeared toward the family quarters, off-limits to the staff.

  This night she came into the black and chrome gymnasium directly from Mason’s room with tears in her eyes.

  “Hey, hey,” Barney said. “You all right?”

  “Just family crap, what can I tell you? I’m all right,” Margot said.

  She worked out like a fiend, too much weight, too many reps.

  Once Barney came and took a barbell from her and shook his head. “You’re gonna tear something,” he said.

  She was still grinding on an exercise bike when he called it quits, and stood under the gym’s steaming shower, letting the hot water take the long day down the drain. It was a communal gym shower with four overhead nozzles and some extra nozzles at waist and thigh level. Barney liked to turn on two showers and converge their streams on his big body.

  Soon Barney was enveloped in a thick fog that shut out everything but the pounding of the water on his head. Barney liked to reflect in the shower: Clouds of steam. The Clouds. Aristophanes. Dr. Lecter explaining about the lizard pissing on Socrates. It occurred to him that, before he was peened under the relentless hammer of Dr. Lecter’s logic, somebody like Doemling could have pushed him around.

  When he heard another shower go on, he paid little attention and continued scrubbing himself. Other personnel used the gym, but mostly in the early morning and late afternoon. It is male etiquette to pay little attention to other bathers in a communal athletic shower, but Barney wondered who it was. He hoped it wasn’t Cordell, who gave him the creeps. It was rare for anyone else to use this facility at night. Who in the hell was that? Barney turned to let the water pound on the back of his neck. Clouds of steam, fragments of the person next to him appear between the billows like fragments of fresco on a plastered wall. Here a massive shoulder, there a leg. A shapely hand scrubbing a muscular neck and shoulder, coral fingernails, that was Margot’s hand. Those were painted toes. That was Margot’s leg.

  Barney put his head back against the pulsing shower stream and took a deep breath. Next door the figure turning, scrubbing in a businesslike way. Washing her hair now. That was Margot’s flat ribbed belly, her small breasts standing up on her big pecs, nipples raised to the jetting water, that was Margot’s groin, knurled at the juncture of body and thigh, and that’s got to be Margot’s pussy, framed in a blond trimmed Mohawk.

  Barney took as deep a breath as he could and held it … he could feel himself developing a problem. She was shining like a horse, pumped to the limit from the hard workout. As Barney’s interest grew more apparent, he turned his back to her. Maybe he could just ignore her until she left.

  The water went off next door. But now her voice came. “Hey, Barney, what’s the spread on the Patriots?”

  “With … with my guy, you can get Miami and five and a half.” He looked over his shoulder.

  She was drying herself just beyond the range of Barney’s spray. Her hair was plastered down. Her face looked fresh now and the tears were gone. Margot had excellent skin.

  “So you gonna take the points?” she said. “The pick ’em pool at Judy’s office has got …”

  Barney couldn’t pay attention to the rest. Margot’s mohawk, jeweled with droplets, framed pink. Barney’s face felt hot and he had a major cockstand. He was puzzled and disturbed. That freezing feeling came over him. He had never felt any attraction to men. But Margot for all her muscles was clearly not a man, and he liked her.

  What is this shit of coming in the shower with him anyway?

  He turned off his water and faced her wet. Without thinking about it, he put his big hand on her cheek. “For God’s sake, Margot,” he said, his breath thick in his throat.

  She looked down at him. “Goddammit, Barney. Don’t…”

  Barney stretched his neck and leaned forward, trying to kiss her gently anywhere on her face without touching her with his member, but touched her anyway, she pulling away, looked down at the catenary strand of crystal fluid that stretched between him and her flat stomach, and she caught him across his broad chest with a forearm worthy of a middle guard, his feet went out from under him and he sat hard on the shower floor.

  “You fucking bastard,” she hissed, “I might have known it. Faggot! Take that thing and stick it up …”

  Barney rolled to his feet and was out of the shower, pulling on his clothes wet, and he left the gym without a word.

  Barney’s quarters were in a building separate from the house, slate-roofed former stables that were garages now with apartments in the gables. Late at night he sat pecking on his laptop, working on a correspondence course on the Internet. He felt the floor tremble as someone solid came up the stairs.

  A light knock at the door. When he opened it, Margot stood there, muffled in heavy sweats and a stocking cap.

  “Can I come in a minute?”

  Barney looked at his feet for a few seconds before he stood back from the door.

  “Barney. Hey, I’m sorry a
bout in there,” she said. “I kind of panicked. I mean, I screwed up and then I panicked. I liked being friends.”

  “Me too.”

  “I thought we could be like, you know, regular buddies.”

  “Margot, come on. I said we’d be friends but I’m not a damn eunuch. You came in the fucking shower with me. You looked good to me, I can’t help that. You come in the shower naked and I see two things together I really like.”

  “Me and a pussy,” Margot said.

  They were surprised to laugh together.

  She came and grabbed him in a hug that might have injured a less powerful man. “Listen, if it was gonna be a guy it would have to be you. But that’s not my thing. It really is not. Not now, never will be.”

  Barney nodded. “I know that. It just got away from me.”

  They stood quiet a minute with their arms around each other.

  “You want to try to be friends?” she said.

  He thought about it a minute. “Yeah. But you’ve got to help me a little bit. Here’s the deal: I’m going to make this major effort to forget what I saw in the shower, and you don’t show it to me anymore. And don’t show me any boobs either, while you’re at it. How’s that?”

  “I can be a good friend, Barney. Come to the house tomorrow. Judy cooks, I cook.”

  “Yeah, but you may not cook any better than I do.”

  “Try me,” Margot said.

  CHAPTER

  62

  DR. LECTER held a bottle of Château Pétrus up to the light. He had raised it to the upright position and set it on its bottom a day ago, in case it might have sediment. He looked at his watch and decided it was time to open the wine.

  This was what Dr. Lecter considered a serious risk, more of a chance than he liked to take. He did not want to be rash. He wanted to enjoy the wine’s color in a crystal decanter. What if, after drawing the cork too early, he decided there was none of its holy breath to be lost in decanting? The light revealed a bit of sediment.

 
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