Hannibal by Thomas Harris


  “Bless your heart,” he said.

  “I need it,” said Starling. “Every little bit helps.”

  Starling got a large coffee at Au Bon Pain on the Tenth Street side of the Hoover Building as she had done so many times over the years. She wanted the coffee after a ragged sleep, but she didn’t want to need to pee during the hearing. She decided to drink half of it.

  She spotted Crawford through the window and caught up with him on the sidewalk. “You want to split this big coffee, Mr. Crawford? They’ll give me another cup.”

  “Is it decaf?”

  “No.”

  “I better not, I’ll jump out of my skin.” He looked peaked and old. A clear drop hung at the end of his nose. They stood out of the foot traffic streaming toward the side entrance of the FBI headquarters.

  “I don’t know what this meeting is, Starling. Nobody else from the Feliciana shoot-out has been called, that I can find out. I’ll be with you.” Starling passed him a Kleenex and they entered the steady stream of the arriving day shift.

  Starling thought the clerical personnel looked unusually spiffy.

  “Ninetieth anniversary of the FBI. Bush is coming to speak today,” Crawford reminded her.

  There were four TV satellite uplink trucks on the side street.

  A camera crew from WFUL-TV was set up on the sidewalk filming a young man with a razor haircut talking into a hand microphone. A production assistant stationed on top of the van saw Starling and Crawford coming in the crowd.

  “That’s her, that’s her in the navy raincoat,” he called down.

  “Here we go,” said Razor Cut. “Rolling.”

  The crew made a swell in the stream of people to get the camera in Starling’s face.

  “Special Agent Starling, can you comment on the investigation of the Feliciana Fish Market Massacre? Has the report been submitted? Are you the subject of charges in killing the five—” Crawford took off his rain hat and, pretending to shield his eyes from the lights, managed to block the camera lens for a moment. Only the security door stopped the TV crew.

  Sumbitches were tipped.

  Once inside Security, they stopped in the hall. The mist outside had covered Starling and Crawford with tiny droplets. Crawford popped a Ginkgo Biloba tablet dry.

  “Starling, I think they may have picked today because there’s all the stir over the impeachment and the anniversary. Whatever they want to do could slide by in the rush.”

  “Why tip the press then?”

  “Because not everybody in this hearing is singing off the same page. You’ve got ten minutes, want to powder your nose?”

  CHAPTER

  72

  STARLING HAD rarely been up to seven, the executive floor of the J. Edgar Hoover Building. She and the other members of her graduating class gathered there seven years ago to see the director congratulate Ardelia Mapp as valedictorian, and once an assistant director had summoned her to accept her medal as Combat Pistol Champion.

  The carpet in Assistant Director Noonan’s office was deep beyond her experience. In the clubby atmosphere of leather chairs in his meeting room there was the distinct smell of cigarettes. She wondered if they had flushed the butts and fanned the air before she got there.

  Three men stood up when she and Crawford came into the room and one did not. The standees were Starling’s former boss, Clint Pearsall of the Washington Field Office, Buzzard’s Point; A/DIC Noonan of the FBI, and a tall red-haired man in a raw silk suit. Keeping his seat was Paul Krendler of the Inspector General’s Office. Krendler turned his head to her on his long neck as though he were locating her by scent. When he faced her she could see both his round ears at the same time. Oddly, a federal marshal she didn’t know stood in the corner of the room.

  FBI and Justice personnel customarily are neat in their appearance, but these men were groomed for TV Starling realized they must be appearing in the ceremonies downstairs with former President Bush later in the day. Otherwise she would have been summoned to the Justice Department rather than the Hoover Building.

  Krendler frowned at the sight of Jack Crawford at Starling’s side.

  “Mr. Crawford, I don’t think your attendance is required for this procedure.”

  “I’m Special Agent Starling’s immediate supervisor. My place is here.”

  “I don’t think so,” Krendler said. He turned to Noonan. “Clint Pearsall is her boss of record, she’s just TDY with Crawford. I think Agent Starling should be questioned privately,” he said. “If we need additional information, we can ask Section Chief Crawford to stand by where we can reach him.”

  Noonan nodded. “We certainly would welcome your input, Jack, after we’ve heard independent testimony by the—by Special Agent Starling. Jack, I want you to stand by. If you want to make it the reading room of the library, make yourself comfortable, I’ll call you.”

  Crawford got to his feet. “Director Noonan, may I say—”

  “You may leave, is what you may do,” Krendler said.

  Noonan got to his feet. “Hold it please, it’s my meeting, Mr. Krendler, until I turn it over to you. Jack, you and I go way back. The gentleman from Justice is too recently appointed to understand that. You’ll get to say your piece. Now leave us and let Starling talk for herself,” Noonan said. He leaned to Krendler and said something in his ear that made his face turn red.

  Crawford looked at Starling. All he could do was bitch himself up.

  “Thank you for coming, sir,” she said.

  The marshal let Crawford out.

  Hearing the door click shut behind her, Starling straightened her spine and faced the men alone.

  From there the proceeding went forward with the dispatch of an eighteenth-century amputation.

  Noonan was the highest FBI authority in the room, but the Inspector General could overrule him, and the inspector apparently had sent Krendler as his plenipotentiary.

  Noonan picked up the file before him. “Would you identify yourself, please, for the record?”

  “Special Agent Clarice Starling. Is there a record, Director Noonan? I’d be glad if there was.”

  When he did not answer, she said, “Do you mind if I tape the proceedings?” She took a tough little Nagra tape recorder from her purse.

  Krendler spoke up. “Ordinarily this sort of preliminary meeting would be in the Inspector General’s office at Justice. We’re doing it here because it’s to everybody’s convenience with the ceremony today, but the IG rules apply. This is a matter of some diplomatic sensitivity. No tape.”

  “Tell her the charges, Mr. Krendler,” Noonan said.

  “Agent Starling, you stand accused of unlawful disclosure of sensitive material to a fugitive felon,” Krendler said, his face under careful control. “Specifically you are accused of placing this advertisement in two Italian newspapers warning the fugitive Hannibal Lecter that he was in danger of being captured.”

  The marshal brought Starling a page of smudged newsprint from La Nazione. She turned it to the window to read the circled material:

  A. A. Aaron—Turn yourself in to the nearest authorities, enemies are close. Hannah.

  “How do you respond?”

  “I didn’t do it. I never saw this before.”

  “How do you account for the fact that the letter uses a code name ‘Hannah’ known only to Dr. Hannibal Lecter and this Bureau? The code name Lecter asked you to use?”

  “I don’t know. Who found this?”

  “The Document Service at Langley happened to see it in the course of translating La Nazione’s coverage on Lecter.”

  “If the code is a secret within the Bureau, how did Document Service at Langley recognize it in the paper? CIA runs Document Service. Let’s ask them who brought ‘Hannah’ to their attention.”

  “I’m sure the translator was familiar with the case file.”

  “That familiar? I doubt it. Let’s ask him who suggested he watch out for it. How would I have known Dr. Lecter was in Florence?”


  “You’re the one who found the computer query from the Questura in Florence to the Lecter VICAP file,” Krendler said. “The query came several days prior to the Pazzi murder. We don’t know when you discovered it. Why else would the Questura in Florence be asking about Lecter?”

  “What possible reason would I have to warn him? Director Noonan, why is this a matter for the IG? I’m prepared to take a polygraph examination anytime. Wheel it in here.”

  “The Italians registered a diplomatic protest over the attempted warning of a known felon in their country,” Noonan said. He indicated the red-haired man beside him. “This is Mr. Montenegro from the Italian Embassy.”

  “Good morning, sir. And the Italians found out how?” Starling said. “Not from Langley.”

  “The diplomatic beef puts the ball in our court,” Krendler said before Montenegro could open his mouth. “We want this cleaned up to the satisfaction of the Italian authorities, and to my satisfaction and that of the IG, and we want it PDQ. It’s better for everybody if we look at all the facts together. What is it with you and Dr. Lecter, Ms. Starling?”

  “I interrogated Dr. Lecter several times on the orders of Section Chief Crawford. Since Dr. Lecter’s escape I’ve had two letters from him in seven years. You have both of them,” Starling said.

  “Actually, we have more,” Krendler said. “We got this yesterday. What else you might have received, we don’t know.” He reached behind him to get a cardboard box, much stamped and much battered by the mails.

  Krendler pretended to enjoy the fragrances coming from the box. He indicated the shipping label with his finger, not bothering to show Starling. “Addressed to you at your home in Arlington, Special Agent Starling. Mr. Montenegro, would you tell us what these items are?”

  The Italian diplomat poked through the tissue-wrapped items, his cufflinks winking.

  “Yes, this are lotions, sapone di mandorle, the famous almond soap of Santa Maria Novella in Florence, from the Farmacia there, and some perfumes. The sort of thing people are giving when they felt in love.”

  “These have been scanned for toxins and irritants, right, Clint?” Noonan asked Starling’s former supervisor.

  Pearsall looked ashamed. “Yes,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with them.”

  “A gift of love,” Krendler said with some satisfaction. “Now we have the mash note.” He unfolded the sheet of parchment from the box and held it up, revealing the tabloid picture of Starling’s face with the winged body of a lioness. He turned the sheet to read Dr. Lecter’s copperplate script: “Did you ever think, Clarice, why the Philistines don’t understand you? It’s because you’re the answer to Samson’s riddle: You are the honey in the lion.”

  “Il miele dentro la leonessa, that’s nice,” Montenegro said, filing it away for his own use at a later time.

  “It’s what?” Krendler said.

  The Italian waved the question away, seeing that Krendler would never hear the music in Dr. Lecter’s metaphor, nor feel its tactile evocations anywhere else.

  “The Inspector General wants to take it from here, because of the international ramifications,” Krendler said. “Which way it will go, administrative charges or criminal, depends on what we find out in our ongoing probe. If it goes criminal, Special Agent Starling, it’ll be turned over to the Public Integrity Section of the Justice Department, and PIS will take it to trial. You’ll be informed in plenty of time to prepare. Director Noonan …”

  Noonan took a deep breath and swung the axe. “Clarice Starling, I’m placing you on administrative leave until such time as this matter is adjudicated. You will surrender weapons and FBI identification. Your access is revoked to all but public federal facilities. You will be escorted from the building. Please surrender your sidearms and ID now to Special Agent Pearsall. Come.”

  Walking to the table, Starling saw the men for a second as bowling pins at a shooting contest. She could kill the four of them before one could clear his weapon. The moment passed. She took out her .45, looked steadily at Krendler as she dropped the clip into her hand, put the clip on the table and shucked the round out of the pistol’s chamber. Krendler caught it in the air and squeezed it until his knuckles turned white.

  Badge and ID went next.

  “You have a backup sidearm?” Krendler said. “And a shotgun?”

  “Starling?” Noonan prompted.

  “Locked in my car.”

  “Other tactical equipment?”

  “A helmet and a vest.”

  “Mr. Marshal, you will retrieve those when you escort Miss Starling to her vehicle,” Krendler said. “Do you have an encryption cell phone?”

  “Yes.”

  Krendler raised his eyebrows to Noonan.

  “Turn it in,” Noonan said.

  “I want to say something, I think I’m entitled to that.”

  Noonan looked at his watch. “Go ahead.”

  “This is a frame. I think Mason Verger is trying to capture Dr. Lecter himself for purposes of personal revenge. I think he just missed him in Florence. I think Mr. Krendler may be in collusion with Verger and wants the FBI’s effort against Dr. Lecter to work for Verger. I think Paul Krendler of the Department of Justice is making money out of this and I think he is willing to destroy me to do it. Mr. Krendler has behaved toward me before in an inappropriate manner and is acting now out of spite as well as financial self-interest. Only this week he called me a ‘cornpone country pussy.’ I would challenge Mr. Krendler before this body to take a lie detector test with me on these matters. I’m at your convenience. We could do it now.”

  “Special Agent Starling, it’s a good thing you’re not sworn here today—” Krendler began.

  “Swear me. You swear too.”

  “I want to assure you, if the evidence is lacking you’re entitled to full reinstatement without prejudice,” Krendler said in his kindliest voice. “In the meantime you’ll receive pay and remain eligible for insurance and medical benefits. The administrative leave is not itself punitive, Agent Starling, use it to your advantage,” Krendler said, adopting a confidential tone. “In fact, if you wanted to take this hiatus to have that dirt taken out of your cheek, I’m sure the medical—”

  “It’s not dirt,” Starling said. “It’s gunpowder. No wonder you didn’t recognize it.”

  The marshal was waiting, his hand outstretched to her.

  “I’m sorry, Starling,” Clint Pearsall said, his hands full of her equipment.

  She looked at him and looked away. Paul Krendler drifted toward her as the other men waited to let the diplomat, Montenegro, leave the room first. Krendler started to say something between his teeth, he had it ready: “Starling, you’re old to still be—”

  “Excuse me.” It was Montenegro. The tall diplomat had turned away from the door and come to her.

  “Excuse me,” Montenegro said again, looking into Krendler’s face until he went away, his face twisted.

  “I am sorry this has happen to you,” he said. “I hope you are innocent. I promise I will press the Questura in Florence to find out how the inserzione, the ad, was paid for at La Nazione. If you think of something in … in my sphere of Italy to follow up, please tell me and I will insist on it.” Montenegro handed her a card, small and stiff and bumpy with engraving and seemed not to notice Krendler’s outstretched hand as he left the room.

  Reporters, cleared through the main entrance for the coming anniversary ceremony, thronged in the courtyard. A few seemed to know whom to watch for.

  “Do you have to hold my elbow?” Starling asked the marshal.

  “No ma’am, I don’t,” he said, and made a way for her through the boom microphones and the shouted questions.

  This time Razor Cut seemed to know the issue. The questions he shouted were “Is it true that you’ve been suspended from the Hannibal Lecter case? Do you anticipate criminal charges being brought against you? What do you say to the Italian charges?”

  In the garage, Starling handed over h
er protective vest, her helmet, her shotgun and her backup revolver. The marshal waited while she unloaded the little pistol and wiped it down with an oily cloth.

  “I saw you shoot at Quantico, Agent Starling,” he said. “I got to the quarterfinals myself for the marshal’s service. I’ll wipe down your .45 before we put it up.”

  “Thank you, Marshal.”

  He lingered after she was in the car. He said something over the boom of the Mustang. She rolled down the window and he said it again.

  “I hate this happening to you.”

  “Thank you, sir. I appreciate you saying it.”

  A press chase car was waiting outside the garage exit. Starling pushed the Mustang to lose him and got a speeding ticket three blocks from the J. Edgar Hoover Building. Photographers took pictures while the D.C. patrolman wrote it out.

  Assistant Director Noonan sat at his desk after the meeting was over, rubbing the spots his glasses left on the sides of his nose.

  Getting rid of Starling didn’t bother him so much— he believed there was an emotional element in women that often didn’t fit in with the Bureau. But it hurt him to see Jack Crawford cut down. Jack had been very much one of the boys. Maybe Jack had a blind spot for the Starling girl, but that happens—Jack’s wife was dead and all. Noonan had a week once when he couldn’t keep from looking at an attractive stenographer and he had to get rid of her before she caused some trouble.

  Noonan put on his glasses and took the elevator down to the library. He found Jack Crawford in the reading area, in a chair, with his head back against the wall. Noonan thought he was asleep. Crawford’s face was gray and he was sweating. He opened his eyes and gasped.

  “Jack?” Noonan patted his shoulder, then touched his clammy face. Noonan’s voice then, loud in the library. “You, Librarian, call the medics!”

  Crawford went to the FBI infirmary, and then to the Jefferson Memorial Intensive Care Cardiac Unit.

 
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