Hannibal by Thomas Harris


  He removed the cork as carefully as he might trepan a skull, and placed the wine in his pouring device, which was driven by a crank and screw to tilt the bottle by minute increments. Let the salt air do a bit of work and then he would decide.

  He lit a fire of shaggy chunk charcoal and made himself a drink, Lillet and a slice of orange over ice, while he considered the fond he had been working on for days. Dr. Lecter followed the inspired lead of Alexandre Dumas in fashioning his stock. Only three days ago, upon his return from the deer-lease woods, he had added to the stockpot a fat crow which had been stuffing itself with juniper berries. Small black feathers swam on the calm waters of the bay. The primary feathers he saved to make plectra for his harpsichord.

  Now Dr. Lecter crushed juniper berries of his own and began to sweat shallots in a copper saucepan. With a neat surgical knot, he tied a piece of cotton string around a fresh bouquet garni and ladled stock over it in the saucepan.

  The tenderloin Dr. Lecter lifted from his ceramic crock was dark from the marinade, dripping. He patted it dry and turned the pointed end back on itself and tied it to make the diameter constant for the length of the meat.

  In time the fire was right, banked with one very hot area and a step in the coals. The tenderloin hissed on the iron and blue smoke whirled across the garden, moving as though to the music on Dr. Lecter’s speakers. He was playing Henry VIII’s moving composition “If True Love Reigned.”

  Late in the night, his lips stained by the red Château Pétrus, a small crystal glass of honey-colored Château d’Yquem on his candle stand, Dr. Lecter plays Bach. In his mind Starling runs through the leaves. The deer start ahead of her, and run up the slope past Dr. Lecter, sitting still on the hillside. Running, running, he is into “Variation Two” of the Goldberg Variations, the candlelight playing on his moving hands—a stitch in the music, a flash of bloody snow and dirty teeth, this time no more than a flash that disappears with a distinct sound, a solid thock, a crossbow bolt driving through a skull—and we have the pleasant woods again, and flowing music and Starling, limned in polleny light runs out of sight, her ponytail bobbing like the flag of a deer, and without further interruption, he plays the movement through to the end and the sweet silence after was as rich as Château d’Yquem.

  Dr. Lecter held his glass up to the candle. The candle flared behind it as the sun flared on water, and the wine itself was the color of the winter sun on Clarice Starling’s skin. Her birthday was coming soon, the doctor reflected. He wondered if there was extant a bottle of Château d’Yquem from her birth year. Perhaps a present was in order for Clarice Starling, who in three weeks would have lived as long as Christ.

  CHAPTER

  63

  AT THE moment Dr. Lecter raised his wine to the candle, A. Benning, staying late at the DNA lab, raised her latest gel to the light and looked at the electrophoresis lines dotted with red, blue, and yellow. The sample was epithelial cells from the toothbrush brought over from the Palazzo Capponi in the Italian diplomatic pouch.

  “Ummmm umm umm umm,” she said and called Starling’s number at Quantico. Eric Pickford answered. “Hi, may I speak to Clarice Starling please?” “She’s gone for the day and I’m in charge, how can I help you?”

  “Do you have a beeper number for her?” “She’s on the other phone. What have you got?” “Would you please tell her it’s Benning from the DNA lab. Please tell her the toothbrush and the eyelash off the arrow are a match. It’s Dr. Lecter. And ask her to call me.” “Give me your extension number. Sure, I’ll tell her right now. Thanks.”

  Starling was not on the other line. Pickford called Paul Krendler at home.

  When Starling did not call A. Benning at the lab, the technician was a little disappointed. A. Benning had put in a lot of extra time. She went home long before Pickford ever called Starling at home.

  Mason knew an hour before Starling.

  He talked briefly to Paul Krendler, taking his time, letting the breaths come. His mind was very clear.

  “It’s time to get Starling out, before they start thinking proactive and put her out for bait. It’s Friday, you’ve got the weekend. Get things started, Krendler. Tip the Wops about the ad and get her out of there, it’s time for her to go. And Krendler?”

  “I wish we could just—”

  “Just do it, and when you get that next picture postcard from the Caymans, it’ll have a whole new number written under the stamp.”

  “All right, I’ll—” Krendler said, and heard the dial tone.

  The short talk was uncommonly tiring for Mason.

  Last, before sinking into a broken sleep, he summoned Cordell and said to him, “Send for the pigs.”

  CHAPTER

  64

  IT IS more trouble physically to move a semiwild pig against its will than to kidnap a man. Pigs are harder to get hold of than men and big ones are stronger than a man and they cannot be intimidated with a gun. There are the tusks to consider if you want to maintain the integrity of your abdomen and legs.

  Tusked pigs instinctively disembowel when fighting the upright species, men and bears. They do not naturally hamstring, but can quickly learn the behavior.

  If you need to maintain the animal alive, you cannot haze it with electrical shock, as pigs are prone to fatal coronary fibrillation.

  Carlo Deogracias, master of the pigs, had the patience of a crocodile. He had experimented with animal sedation, using the same acepromazine he planned to use on Dr. Lecter. Now he knew exactly how much was required to quiet a hundred-kilo wild boar and the intervals of dosage that would keep him quiet for as long as fourteen hours without any lasting aftereffects.

  Since the Verger firm was a large-scale importer and exporter of animals and an established partner of the Department of Agriculture in experimental breeding programs, the way was made smooth for Mason’s pigs. The Veterinary Service Form 17-129 was faxed to the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service at Riverdale, Maryland, as required, along with veterinary affidavits from Sardinia and a $39.50 user’s fee for fifty straws of frozen semen Carlo wanted to bring.

  The permits for swine and semen came by return fax, along with a waiver of the usual Key West quarantine for swine, and a confirmation that an on-board inspector would clear the animals at Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

  Carlo and his helpers, the brothers Piero and Tommaso Falcione, put the crates together. They were excellent crates with sliding doors at each end, sanded inside and padded. At the last minute, they remembered to crate the bordello mirror too. Something about its rococo frame around reflected pigs delighted Mason in photographs.

  Carefully, Carlo doped sixteen swine—five boars raised in the same pen and eleven sows, one of them pregnant, none in estrus. When they were unconscious he gave them a close physical examination. He tested their sharp teeth and the tips of their great tusks with his fingers. He held their terrible faces in his hands, looked into the tiny glazed eyes and listened to make sure their airways were clear, and he hobbled their elegant little ankles. Then he dragged them on canvas into the crates and slid the end doors in place.

  The trucks groaned down from the Gennargentu Mountains into Cagliari. At the airport waited an airbus jet freighter operated by Count Fleet Airlines, specialists in transporting racehorses. This airplane usually carried American horses back and forth to race meets in Dubai. It carried one horse now, picked up in Rome. The horse would not be still when it scented the wild-smelling pigs, and whinnied and kicked in its close padded stall until the crew had to unload it and leave it behind, causing much expense later for Mason, who had to ship the horse home to its owner and pay compensation to avoid a lawsuit.

  Carlo and his helpers rode with the hogs in the pressurized cargo hold. Every half-hour out over the heaving sea, Carlo visited each pig individually, put his hand on its bristled side and felt the thump of its wild heart.

  Even if they were good and hungry, sixteen pigs could not be expected to consume Dr. Lecter in hi
s entirety at one seating. It had taken them a day to completely consume the filmmaker.

  The first day, Mason wanted Dr. Lecter to watch them eat his feet. Lecter would be sustained on a saline drip overnight, awaiting the next course.

  Mason had promised Carlo an hour with him in the interval.

  In the second course, the pigs could eat him all hollow and consume the ventral-side flesh and the face within an hour, as the first shift of the biggest pigs and the pregnant female fell back sated and the second wave came on. By then the fun would be over anyway.

  CHAPTER

  65

  BARNEY HAD never been in the barn before. He came in a side door under the tiers of seats that surrounded an old showring on three sides. Empty and silent except for the muttering of the pigeons in the rafters, the showring still held an air of expectation. Behind the auctioneer’s stand stretched the open barn. Big double doors opened into the stable wing and the tack room.

  Barney heard voices and called, “Hello.”

  “In the tack room, Barney, come on in.” Margot’s deep voice.

  The tack room was a cheerful place, hung with harnesses and the graceful shapes of saddlery. Smell of leather. Warm sunlight streaming in through dusty windows just beneath the eaves raised the smell of leather and hay. An open loft along one side opened into the hayloft of the barn.

  Margot was putting up the currycombs and some hackamores. Her hair was paler than the hay, her eyes as blue as the inspection stamp on meat.

  “Hi,” Barney said from the door. He thought the room was a little stagy, set up for the sake of visiting children. In its height and the slant of light from the high windows it was like a church.

  “Hi, Barney. Hang on and we’ll eat in about twenty minutes.”

  Judy Ingram’s voice came from the loft above. “Barneeeeeey. Good morning. Wait till you see what we’ve got for lunch! Margot, you want to try to eat outside?”

  Each Saturday it was Margot and Judy’s habit to curry the motley assortment of fat Shetlands kept for the visiting children to ride. They always brought a picnic lunch.

  “Let’s try on the south side of the barn, in the sun,” Margot said.

  Everyone seemed a little too chirpy. A person with Barney’s hospital experience knows excessive chirpiness does not bode well for the chirpee.

  The tack room was dominated by a horse’s skull, mounted a little above head height on the wall, with its bridle and blinkers on, and draped with the racing colors of the Vergers.

  “That’s Fleet Shadow, won the Lodgepole Stakes in ’52, the only winner my father ever had,” Margot said. “He was too cheap to get him stuffed.” She looked up at the skull. “Bears a strong resemblance to Mason, doesn’t it?”

  There was a forced-draft furnace and bellows in the corner. Margot had built a small coal fire there against the chill. On the fire was a pot of something that smelled like soup.

  A complete set of farrier’s tools was on a workbench. She picked up a farrier’s hammer, this one with a short handle and a heavy head. With her great arms and chest, Margot might have been a farrier herself, or a blacksmith with particularly pointed pectorals.

  “You want to throw me the blankets?” Judy called down.

  Margot picked up a bundle of freshly washed saddle blankets and with one scooping move of her great arm, sent it arching up to the loft.

  “Okay, I’m gonna wash up and get the stuff out of the Jeep. We’ll eat in fifteen, okay?” Judy said, coming down the ladder.

  Barney, feeling Margot’s scrutiny, did not check out Judy’s behind. There were some bales of hay with horse blankets folded on them for seats. Margot and Barney sat.

  “You missed the ponies. They’re gone to the stable in Lester,” Margot said.

  “I heard the trucks this morning. How come?”

  “Mason’s business.” A little silence. They had always been easy with silence, but not this one. “Well, Barney. You get to a point where you can’t talk anymore, unless you’re going to do something. Is that where we are?”

  “Like an affair or something,” Barney said. The unhappy analogy hung in the air.

  “Affair,” Margot said, “I’ve got something for you a hell of a lot better than that. You know what we’re talking about.”

  “Pretty much,” Barney said.

  “But if you decided you didn’t want to do something, and later it happened anyway, do you understand you could never come back on me about it?” She tapped her palm with the farrier’s hammer, absently perhaps, watching him with her blue butcher’s eyes.

  Barney had seen some countenances in his time and stayed alive by reading them. He saw she was telling the truth.

  “I know that.”

  “Same if we did something. I’ll be extremely generous one time, and one time only. But it would be enough. You want to know how much?”

  “Margot, nothing’s gonna happen on my watch. Not while I’m taking his money to take care of him.”

  “Why, Barney?”

  Sitting on the bale, he shrugged his big shoulders. “Deal’s a deal.”

  “You call that a deal? This is a deal,” Margot said. “Five million dollars, Barney. The same five Krendler’s supposed to get for selling out the FBI, if you want to know.”

  “We’re talking about getting enough semen from Mason to get Judy pregnant.”

  “We’re talking about something else too. You know if you take Mason’s jism from him and leave him alive, he’d get you, Barney. You couldn’t run far enough. You’d go to the fucking pigs.”

  “I’d do what?”

  “What is it, Barney, Semper Fi, like it says on your arm?”

  “When I took his money I said I’d take care of him. While I work for him, I won’t do him any harm.”

  “You don’t have to … do anything to him except the medical, after he’s dead. I can’t touch him there. Not one more time. You might have to help me with Cordell.”

  “You kill Mason, you only get one batch,” Barney said.

  “We get five cc’s, even a low-normal sperm count, put extenders in it, we could try five times with insemination, we could do it in vitro—Judy’s family’s real fertile.”

  “Did you think about buying Cordell?”

  “No. He’d never keep the deal. His word would be crap. Sooner or later he’d come back on me. He’d have to go.”

  “You’ve thought about it a lot.”

  “Yes. Barney, you have to control the nurse station. There’s tape backup on the monitors, there’s a record of every second. There’s live TV, but no videotape running. We—I put my hand down inside the shell of the respirator and immobilize his chest. Monitor shows the respirator still working. By the time his heart rate and blood pressure show a change, you rush in and he’s unconscious, you can try to revive him all you want. The only thing is, you don’t happen to notice me. I just press on his chest until he’s dead. You’ve worked enough autopsies, Barney. What do they look for when they suspect smothering?”

  “Hemorrhages behind the eyelids.”

  “Mason doesn’t have any eyelids.”

  She had read up, and she was used to buying anything, anybody.

  Barney looked her in the face but he fixed the hammer in his peripheral vision as he gave his answer: “No, Margot.”

  “If I had let you fuck me would you do it?”

  “No.”

  “If I had fucked you would you do it?”

  “No.”

  “If you didn’t work here, if you didn’t have any medical responsibility to him would you do it?”

  “Probably not.”

  “Is it ethics or chickenshit?”

  “I don’t know.”

  “Let’s find out. You’re fired, Barney.”

  He nodded, not particularly surprised.

  “And, Barney?” She raised a finger to her lips. “Shhhh. Give me your word? Do I have to say I could kill you with that prior in California? I don’t need to say that do I?”
r />   “You don’t have to worry,” Barney said. “I’ve got to worry. I don’t know how Mason lets people go. Maybe they just disappear.”

  “You don’t have to worry either. I’ll tell Mason you’ve had hepatitis. You don’t know a lot about his business except that he’s trying to help the law—and he knows we got the prior on you, he’ll let you go.”

  Barney wondered which Dr. Lecter had found more interesting in therapy, Mason Verger or his sister.

  CHAPTER

  66

  IT WAS night when the long silver transport pulled up to the barn at Muskrat Farm. They were late and tempers were short.

  The arrangements at Baltimore-Washington International Airport had gone well at first, the on-board inspector from the Department of Agriculture rubber-stamped the shipment of sixteen swine. The inspector had an expert’s knowledge of swine and he had never seen anything like them.

  Then Carlo Deogracias looked inside the truck. It was a livestock transporter and smelled like one, with traces in the cracks of many former occupants. Carlo would not let his pigs be unloaded. The airplane waited while the angry driver, Carlo, and Piero Falcione found another livestock truck more suitable to moving crates, located a truck wash with a steam hose, and steam-cleaned the cargo area.

  Once at the main gate of Muskrat Farm, a last annoyance. The guard checked the tonnage of the truck and refused them entrance, citing a load limit on an ornamental bridge. He redirected them to the service road through the national forest. Tree branches scraped the tall truck as it crept the last two miles.

  Carlo liked the big clean barn at Muskrat Farm. He liked the little forklift that gently carried the cages into the pony stalls.

  When the driver of the livestock truck brought an electric cattle prod to the cages and offered to zap a pig to see how deeply drugged it was, Carlo snatched the instrument away from him and frightened him so badly he was afraid to ask for it back.

 
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