Hannibal by Thomas Harris


  Carlo would let the great rough swine recover from their sedation in the semidarkness, not letting them out of the cages until they were on their feet and alert. He was afraid that those awakening first might take a bite out of a drugged sleeper. Any prone figure attracted them when the herd was not napping together.

  Piero and Tommaso had to be doubly careful since the herd ate the filmmaker, Oreste, and later his frozen assistant. The men could not be in the pen or the pasture with the pigs. The swine did not threaten, they did not gnash their teeth as wild pigs will, they simply kept watching the men with the terrible single-mindedness of a swine and sidled nearer until they were close enough to charge.

  Carlo, equally single-minded, did not rest until he had walked by flashlight the fence enclosing Mason’s wooded pasture which adjoined the great national forest.

  Carlo dug in the ground with his pocketknife and examined the forest mast under the pasture trees and found acorns. He had heard jays in the last light driving in and thought it likely there would be acorns. Sure enough, white oaks grew here in the enclosed field, but not too many of them. He did not want the pigs to find their meals on the ground, as they could easily do in the great forest.

  Mason had built across the open end of the barn a stout barrier with a Dutch gate in it, like Carlo’s own gate in Sardinia.

  From behind the safety of this barrier, Carlo could feed them, sailing clothing stuffed with dead chickens, legs of lamb and vegetables, over the fence into their midst.

  They were not tame, but they were not afraid of men or noise. Even Carlo could not go into the pen with them. A pig is not like other animals. There is a spark of intelligence and a terrible practicality in pigs. These were not at all hostile. They just liked to eat men. They were light of foot like a Miura bull and could cut like a sheepdog, and their movements around their keepers had the sinister quality of premeditation. Piero had a near moment retrieving a feeding a shirt that they thought they could use again.

  There had never been such pigs before, bigger than the European wild boar and just as savage. Carlo felt he had created them. He knew that the thing they would do, the evil they would destroy, would be all the credit he would ever need in the hereafter.

  By midnight, all were asleep in the barn: Carlo, Piero and Tommaso slept without dreaming in the tack room loft, the swine snored in their cages where their elegant little feet were beginning to trot in their dreams and one or two stirred on the clean canvas. The skull of the trotting horse, Fleet Shadow, faintly lit by the coal fire in the farrier’s furnace, watched over all.

  CHAPTER

  67

  TO ATTACK an agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation with Mason’s false evidence was a big leap for Krendler. It left him a little breathless. If the Attorney General caught him, she would crush him like a roach.

  Except for his own personal risk, the matter of ruining Clarice Starling did not weigh with Krendler as would breaking a man. A man had a family to support— Krendler supported his own family, as greedy and ungrateful as they were.

  And Starling definitely had to go. Left alone, following the threads with the picky, petty homemaking skills of a woman, Clarice Starling would find Hannibal Lecter. If that happened, Mason Verger would not give Krendler anything.

  The sooner she was stripped of her resources and put out there as bait, the better.

  Krendler had broken careers before, in his own rise to power, first as a state prosecuting attorney active in politics, and later at Justice. He knew from experience that crippling a woman’s career is easier than damaging a man’s. If a woman gets a promotion that women shouldn’t have, the most efficient way is to say she won it on her back.

  It would be impossible to make that charge stick to Clarice Starling, Krendler thought. In fact, he couldn’t think of anyone more in need of a grudge-fucking up the dirt road. He sometimes thought of that abrasive act as he twisted his finger in his nose.

  Krendler could not have explained his animosity to Starling. It was visceral and it belonged to a place in himself where he could not go. A place with seat covers and a dome light, door handles and window cranks and a girl with Starling’s coloring but not her sense and her pants around one ankle asking him what in the hell was the matter with him, and why didn’t he come on and do it, was he some kind of queer? some kind of queer? some kind of queer?

  If you didn’t know what a cunt Starling was, Krendler reflected, her performance in black and white was much better than her few promotions would indicate—he had to admit that. Her rewards had been satisfyingly few: By adding the odd drop of poison to her record over the years, Krendler had been able to influence the FBI career board enough to block a number of plum assignments she should have gotten, and her independent attitude and smart mouth had helped his cause.

  Mason wouldn’t wait for the disposition of Feliciana Fish Market. And there was no guarantee any shit would stick to Starling in a hearing. The shooting of Evelda Drumgo and the others was the result of a security failure, obviously. It was a miracle Starling was able to save that little bastard of a baby. One more for the public to have to feed. Tearing the scab off that ugly event would be easy, but it was an unwieldy way to get at Starling.

  Better Mason’s way. It would be quick and she would be out of there. The timing was propitious:

  One Washington axiom, proved more times than the Pythagorean theorem, states that in the presence of oxygen, one loud fart with an obvious culprit will cover many small emissions in the same room, provided they are nearly simultaneous.

  Ergo, the impeachment trial was distracting the Justice Department enough for him to railroad Starling.

  Mason wanted some press coverage for Dr. Lecter to see. But Krendler must make the coverage seem an unhappy accident. Fortunately an occasion was coming that would serve him well: the very birthday of the FBI.

  Krendler maintained a tame conscience with which to shrive himself.

  It consoled him now: If Starling lost her job, at worst some goddamned dyke den where Starling lived would have to do without the big TV dish for sports. At worst he was giving a loose cannon a way to roll over the side and threaten nobody anymore.

  A “loose cannon” over the side would “stop rocking the boat,” he thought, pleased and comforted as though two naval metaphors made a logical equation. That the rocking boat moves the cannon bothered him not at all.

  Krendler had the most active fantasy life his imagination would permit. Now, for his pleasure, he pictured Starling as old, tripping over those tits, those trim legs turned blue-veined and lumpy, trudging up and down the stairs carrying laundry, turning her face away from the stains on the sheets, working for her board at a bed-and-breakfast owned by a couple of goddamned hairy old dykes.

  He imagined the next thing he would say to her, coming on the heels of his triumph with “cornpone country pussy.”

  Armed with Dr. Doemling’s insights, he wanted to stand close to her after she was disarmed and say without moving his mouth, “You’re old to still be fucking your daddy, even for Southern white trash.” He repeated the line in his mind, and considered putting it in his notebook.

  Krendler had the tool and the time and the venom he needed to smash Starling’s career, and as he set about it, he was vastly aided by chance and the Italian mail.

  CHAPTER

  68

  THE BATTLE Creek Cemetery outside Hubbard, Texas, is a small scar on the lion-colored hide of central Texas in December. The wind is whistling there at this moment, and it will always whistle there. You cannot wait it out.

  The new section of the cemetery has flat markers so it’s easy to mow the grass. Today a silver heart balloon dances there over the grave of a birthday girl. In the older part of the cemetery they mow along the paths every time and get between the tombstones with a mower as often as they can. Bits of ribbon, the stalks of dried flowers, are mixed in the soil. At the very back of the cemetery is a compost heap where the old flowers go. Between the
dancing heart balloon and the compost heap, a backhoe is idling, a young black man at the controls, another on the ground, cupping a match against the wind as he lights a cigarette …

  “Mr. Closter, I wanted you to be here when we did this so you could see what we’re up against. I’m sure you will discourage the loved ones from any viewing,” said Mr. Greenlea, director of the Hubbard Funeral Home. “That casket—and I want to compliment you again on your taste—that casket will make a proud presentation, and that’s as far as they need to see. I’m happy to give you the professional discount on it. My own father, who is dead at the present time, rests in one just like it.”

  He nodded to the backhoe operator and the machine’s claw took a bite out of the weedy, sunken grave.

  “You’re positive about the stone, Mr. Closter?”

  “Yes,” Dr. Lecter said. “The children are having one stone made for both the mother and the father.”

  They stood without talking, the wind snapping their trouser cuffs, until the backhoe stopped about two feet down.

  “We’d better go with shovels from here,” Mr. Greenlea said. The two workers dropped into the hole and started moving dirt with an easy, practiced swing.

  “Careful,” Mr. Greenlea said. “That wasn’t much of a coffin to start with. Nothing like what he’s getting now.”

  The cheap pressboard coffin had indeed collapsed on its occupant. Greenlea had his diggers clear the dirt around it and slide a canvas under the bottom of the box, which was still intact. The coffin was raised in this canvas sling and swung into the back of a truck.

  On a trestle table in the Hubbard Funeral Home garage, the pieces of the sunken lid were lifted away to reveal a sizeable skeleton.

  Dr. Lecter examined it quickly. A bullet had notched the short rib over the liver and there was a depressed fracture and bullet hole high on the left forehead. The skull, mossy and clogged and only partly exposed, had good, high cheekbones he had seen before.

  “The ground don’t leave much,” Mr. Greenlea said.

  The rotted remains of trousers and the rags of a cowboy shirt draped the bones. The pearl snaps from the shirt had fallen through the ribs. A cowboy hat, a triple-X beaver with a Fort Worth crease, rested over the chest. There was a notch in the brim and a hole in the crown.

  “Did you know the deceased?” Dr. Lecter asked.

  “We just bought this mortuary and took over this cemetery as an addition to our group in l989,” Mr. Greenlea said. “I live locally now, but our firm’s headquarters is in St. Louis. Do you want to try to preserve the clothing? Or I could let you have a suit, but I don’t think—”

  “No,” Dr. Lecter said. “Brush the bones, no clothing except the hat and the buckle and the boots, bag the small bones of the hands and feet, and bundle them in your best silk shroud with the skull and the long bones. You don’t have to lay them out, just get them all. Will keeping the stone compensate you for reclosing?”

  “Yes, if you’ll just sign here, and I’ll give you copies of those others,” Mr. Greenlea said, vastly pleased at the coffin he had sold. Most funeral directors coming for a body would have shipped the bones in a carton and sold the family a coffin of his own.

  Dr. Lecter’s disinterment papers were in perfect accord with the Texas Health and Safety Code Sec. 711.004, as he knew they would be, having made them himself, downloading the requirements and facsimile forms from the Texas Association of Counties Quick Reference Law Library.

  The two workmen, grateful for the power tailgate on Dr. Lecter’s rental truck, rolled the new coffin into place and lashed it down on its dolly beside the only other item in the truck, a cardboard hanging wardrobe.

  “That’s such a good idea, carrying your own closet. Saves wrinkling your ceremonial attire in a suitcase, doesn’t it?” Mr. Greenlea said.

  In Dallas, the doctor removed from the wardrobe a viola case and put in it his silk-bound bundle of bones, the hat fitting nicely into the lower section, the skull cushioned in it.

  He shoved the coffin out the back at the Fish Trap Cemetery and turned in his rental at Dallas–Fort Worth Airport, where he checked the viola case straight through to Philadelphia.

  IV

  NOTABLE

  OCCASIONS

  ON THE

  CALENDAR OF

  DREAD

  CHAPTER

  69

  ON MONDAY, Clarice Starling had the weekend exotic purchases to check, and there were glitches in her system that required the help of her computer technician from Engineering. Even with severely pruned lists of two or three of the most special vintages from five vintners, the reduction to two sources for American foie gras, and five specialty grocers, the numbers of purchases were formidable. Call-ins from individual liquor stores using the telephone number on the bulletin had to be entered by hand.

  Based on the identification of Dr. Lecter in the murder of the deer hunter in Virginia, Starling cut the list to East Coast purchases except for Sonoma foie gras. Fauchon in Paris refused to cooperate. Starling could make no sense of what Vera dal l926 in Florence said on the telephone, and faxed the Questura for help in case Dr. Lecter ordered white truffles.

  At the end of the workday on Monday, December l7, Starling had twelve possibilities to follow up. They were combinations of purchases on credit cards. One man had bought a case of Pétrus and a supercharged Jaguar, both on the same American Express.

  Another placed an order for a case of Bâtard-Montrachet and a case of green Gironde oysters.

  Starling passed each possibility along to the local line bureau for follow-up.

  Starling and Eric Pickford worked separate but overlapping shifts in order to have the office manned during store retail hours.

  It was Pickford’s fourth day on the job and he spent part of it programming his auto-dial telephone. He did not label the buttons.

  When Eric went out for coffee, Starling pushed the top button on his telephone. Paul Krendler himself answered.

  She hung up and sat in silence. It was time to go home. Swiveling her chair slowly around and around, she regarded all the objects in Hannibal’s House. The X rays, the books, the table set for one. Then she pushed out through the curtains.

  Crawford’s office was open and empty. The sweater his late wife knitted for him hung on a coat tree in the corner. Starling put her hand out to the sweater, did not quite touch it, slung her coat over her shoulder and started the long walk to her car.

  She would never see Quantico again.

  CHAPTER

  70

  ON THE evening of December l7, Clarice Starling’s doorbell rang. She could see a federal marshal’s car behind the Mustang in her driveway.

  The marshal was Bobby, who drove her home from the hospital after the Feliciana shoot-out.

  “Hi, Starling.”

  “Hi, Bobby. Come in.”

  “I’d like to, but I oughta tell you first. I’ve got a notice here I’ve got to serve you.”

  “Well, hell. Serve me in the house where it’s warm,” Starling said, numb in the middle.

  The notice, on the letterhead of the Inspector General of the Department of Justice, required her to appear at a hearing the next morning, December 18, at nine A.M. in the J. Edgar Hoover Building.

  “You want a ride tomorrow?” the marshal asked.

  Starling shook her head. “Thanks, Bobby, I’ll take my car. Want some coffee?”

  “No, thanks. I’m sorry, Starling.” The marshal clearly wanted to go. There was an awkward silence. “Your ear’s looking good,” he said at last.

  She waved to him as he backed out of the drive.

  The letter simply told her to report. No reason was given.

  Ardelia Mapp, veteran of the Bureau’s internecine wars and thorn in the side of the good-old-boy network, immediately brewed her grandmother’s strongest medicinal tea, renowned for enhancing the mentality. Starling always dreaded the tea, but there was no way around it.

  Mapp tapped the letterhead wi
th her finger. “The Inspector General doesn’t have to tell you a damn thing,” Mapp said between sips. “If our Office of Professional Responsibility had charges, or the OPR-DOJ had something on you, they’d have to tell you, they’d have to serve you with papers. They’d have to give you a damn 645 or a 644 with the charges right there on it, and if it was criminal you’d have a lawyer, full disclosure, everything the crooks get, right?”

  “Damn straight.”

  “Well, this way you get diddly-squat in advance. Inspector General’s political, he can take over any case.”

  “He took over this one?”

  “With Krendler blowing smoke up his butt. Whatever it is, if you decide you want to go with an Equal Opportunity case, I’ve got all the numbers. Now, listen to me, Starling, you’ve got to tell them you want to tape. IG doesn’t use signed depositions. Lonnie Gains got into that mess with them over that. They keep a record of what you say, and sometimes it changes after you say it. You don’t ever see a transcript.”

  When Starling called Jack Crawford, he sounded as though he’d been asleep.

  “I don’t know what it is, Starling,” he said. “I’ll call around. One thing I do know, I’ll be there tomorrow.”

  CHAPTER

  71

  MORNING, AND the armored concrete cage of the Hoover Building brooding under a milky overcast.

  In this era of the car bomb, the front entrance and the courtyard are closed most days, and the building is ringed by old Bureau automobiles as an improvised crash barrier.

  The D.C. police follow a mindless policy, writing tickets on some of the barrier cars day after day, the sheaf building up under the wipers and tearing off in the wind to blow down the street.

  A derelict warming himself over a grate in the sidewalk called to Starling and raised his hand as she passed. One side of his face was orange from some emergency room’s Betadine. He held out a Styrofoam cup, worn down at the edges. Starling fished in her purse for a dollar, gave him two, leaning in to the warm stale air and the steam.

 
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