Hannibal by Thomas Harris



  KRENDLER COULD not have asked for better coverage.

  The ninetieth birthday of the FBI was combined with a tour for newsmen of the new crisis management center. Television news took full advantage of this unaccustomed access to the J. Edgar Hoover Building, C-SPAN carrying former President Bush’s remarks in full, along with those of the director, in live programming. CNN excerpted the speeches in running coverage and the networks covered for the evening news. It was as the dignitaries filed off the dais that Krendler had his moment. Young Razor Cut, standing near the stage, posed the question: “Mr. Krendler is it true that Special Agent Clarice Starling has been suspended in the Hannibal Lecter investigation?”

  “I think it would be premature, and unfair to the agent, to comment on that, at the moment. I’ll just say that the Inspector General’s office is looking into the Lecter matter. No charges have been filed against anyone.”

  CNN caught a whiff too. “Mr. Krendler, Italian news sources are saying Dr. Lecter may have received information improperly from a government source warning him to flee. Is that the basis of Special Agent Starling’s suspension? Is that why the Inspector General’s office is involved rather than the internal Office of Professional Responsibility?”

  “I can’t comment on foreign news reports, Jeff. I can say the IG’s office is investigating allegations that so far have not been proven. We have as much responsibility toward our own officers as we do our friends overseas,” Krendler said, poking his finger into the air like a Kennedy. “The Hannibal Lecter matter is in good hands, not just the hands of Paul Krendler, but experts drawn from all the disciplines of the FBI and the Justice Department. We have a project under way that we can reveal in due time when it has borne fruit.”

  The German lobbyist who was Dr. Lecter’s landlord furnished his house with an enormous Grundig television set, and tried to blend it into the décor by putting one of his smaller bronzes of Leda and the Swan on top of the ultramodern cabinet.

  Dr. Lecter was watching a film called A Brief History of Time, about the great astrophysicist Stephen Hawking and his work. He had watched it many times before. This was his favorite part, where the teacup falls off the table and smashes on the floor.

  Hawking, twisted in his wheelchair, speaks in his computer-generated voice:

  “Where does the difference between the past and the future come from? The laws of science do not distinguish between the past and the future. Yet there is a big difference between the past and future in ordinary life.

  “You may see a cup of tea fall off of a table and break into pieces on the floor. But you will never see the cup gather itself back together and jump back on the table.”

  The film, run backward, shows the cup reassembling itself on the table. Hawking continues:

  “The increase of disorder or entropy is what distinguishes the past from the future, giving a direction to time.”

  Dr. Lecter admired Hawking’s work very much and followed it as closely as he could in the mathematical journals. He knew that Hawking had once believed the universe would stop expanding and would shrink again, and entropy might reverse itself. Later Hawking said he was mistaken.

  Lecter was quite capable in the area of higher mathematics, but Stephen Hawking is on another plane entirely from the rest of us. For years Lecter had teased the problem, wanting very much for Hawking to be right the first time, for the expanding universe to stop, for entropy to mend itself, for Mischa, eaten, to be whole again.

  Time. Dr. Lecter stopped his videotape and turned to the news.

  Television and news events involving the FBI are listed daily on the FBI’s public Web site. Dr. Lecter visited the Web site every day to make sure they were still using his old photograph among the Ten Most Wanted. So he learned of the FBI birthday in plenty of time to tune in. He sat in a great armchair in his smoking jacket and ascot and watched Krendler lie. He watched Krendler with his eyes half closed, holding his brandy snifter close under his nose and swirling the contents gently. He had not seen that pale face since Krendler stood outside his cage in Memphis seven years ago, just before his escape.

  On the local news from Washington, he saw Starling receive a traffic ticket with microphones stuck in the window of her Mustang. By now the television news had Starling “accused of breaching U.S. security” in the Lecter case.

  Dr. Lecter’s maroon eyes opened wide at the sight of her and in the depths of his pupils sparks flew around his image of her face. He held her countenance whole and perfect in his mind long after she was gone from the screen, and pressed her with another image, Mischa, pressed them together until, from the red plasma core of their fusion, the sparks flew upward, carrying their single image to the east, into the night sky to wheel with the stars above the sea.

  Now, should the universe contract, should time reverse and teacups come together, a place could be made for Mischa in the world. The worthiest place that Dr. Lecter knew: Starling’s place. Mischa could have Starling’s place in the world. If it came to that, if that time came round again, Starling’s demise would leave a place for Mischa as sparkling and clean as the copper bathtub in the garden.



  DR. LECTER parked his pickup a block from Maryland-Misericordia Hospital and wiped his quarters before he put them in the meter. Wearing the quilted jumpsuit workmen wear against the cold, and a long-billed cap against the security cameras, he went in the main entrance.

  It had been more than fifteen years since Dr. Lecter was in Maryland-Misericordia Hospital, but the basic layout appeared unchanged. Seeing this place where he began his medical practice meant nothing to him. The secure areas upstairs had undergone cosmetic renovation, but should be almost the same as when he practiced here, according to the blueprints at the Department of Buildings.

  A visitor’s pass from the front desk got him onto the patient floors. He walked along the hall reading the names of patients and doctors on the doors of the rooms. This was the postoperative convalescent unit, where patients came when released from Intensive Care after cardiac or cranial surgery.

  Watching Dr. Lecter proceed down the hall, you might have thought he read very slowly, as his lips moved soundlessly, and he scratched his head from time to time like a bumpkin. Then he took a seat in the waiting room where he could see the hallway. He waited an hour and half among old women recounting family tragedies, and endured The Price Is Right on television. At last he saw what he was waiting for, a surgeon still in surgical greens making rounds alone. This would be … the surgeon was going in to see a patient of … Dr. Silverman. Dr. Lecter rose and scratched. He picked up a blowzy newspaper from an end table and walked out of the waiting room. Another room with a Silverman patient was two doors down. Dr. Lecter slipped inside. The room was semidark, the patient satisfactorily asleep, his head and the side of his face heavily bandaged. On the monitor screen, a worm of light humped steadily.

  Dr. Lecter quickly stripped off his insulated coveralls to reveal surgical greens. He pulled on shoe covers and a cap and mask and gloves. He took out of his pocket a white trash bag and unfolded it.

  Dr. Silverman came in speaking over his shoulder to someone in the hall. Was a nurse coming with him? No.

  Dr. Lecter picked up the wastebasket and began to tip the contents into his trash bag, his back to the door.

  “Excuse me, Doctor, I’ll get out of your way,” Dr. Lecter said.

  “That’s all right,” Dr. Silverman said, picking up the clipboard at the end of the bed. “Do what you need to do.”

  “Thank you,” Dr. Lecter said, and swung the leather sap against the base of the surgeon’s skull, just a flip of the wrist, really, and caught him around the chest as he sagged. It is always surprising to watch Dr. Lecter lift a body; size for size he is as strong as an ant. Dr. Lecter carried Dr. Silverman into the patient’s bathroom and pulled down his pants. He set Dr. Silverman on the toilet.

  The surgeon rested
there with his head hanging forward over his knees. Dr. Lecter raised him up long enough to peer into his pupils and remove the several ID tags clipped to the front of his surgical greens.

  He replaced the doctor’s credentials with his own visitor’s pass, inverted. He put the surgeon’s stethoscope around his own neck in the fashionable boa drape and the doctor’s elaborate magnifying surgical glasses went on top of his head. The leather sap went up his sleeve.

  Now he was ready to penetrate to the heart of Maryland-Misericordia.

  The hospital adheres to strict federal guidelines in handling narcotic drugs. On the patient floors, the drug cabinets on each nurse’s station are locked. Two keys, held by the duty nurse and her first assistant, are required to get in. A strict log is kept.

  In the operating suites, the most secure area of the hospital, each suite is furnished with drugs for the next procedure a few minutes before the patient is brought in. The drugs for the anesthesiologist are placed near the operating table in a cabinet that has one area refrigerated and one at room temperature.

  The stock of drugs is kept in a separate surgical dispensary near the scrub room. It contains a number of preparations that would not be found in the general dispensary downstairs, the powerful sedatives and exotic sedative-hypnotics that make possible open-heart surgery and brain surgery on an aware and responsive patient.

  The dispensary is always manned during the working day, and the cabinets are not locked while the pharmacist is in the room. In a heart surgery emergency there is no time to fumble for a key. Dr. Lecter, wearing his mask, pushed through the swinging doors to the surgical suites.

  In an effort at cheer, the surgery had been painted in several bright color combinations even the dying would find aggravating. Several doctors ahead of Dr. Lecter signed in at the desk and proceeded to the scrub room. Dr. Lecter picked up the sign-in clipboard and moved a pen over it, signing nothing.

  The posted schedule showed a brain tumor removal in Suite B scheduled to start in twenty minutes, the first of the day. In the scrub room, he pulled off his gloves and put them into his pockets, washed up thoroughly, working up to his elbows, dried his hands and powdered them and regloved. Out into the hall now. The dispensary should be the next door on the right. No. A door painted apricot with the sign EMERGENCY GENERATORS and ahead the double doors of Suite B. A nurse paused at his elbow.

  “Good morning, Doctor.”

  Dr. Lecter coughed behind his mask and muttered good morning. He turned back toward the scrub room with a mutter as though he had forgotten something. The nurse looked after him for a moment and went on into the operating theater. Dr. Lecter stripped off his gloves and shot them into the waste bin. Nobody was paying attention. He got another pair. His body was in the scrub room, but in fact he raced through the foyer of his memory palace, past the bust of Pliny and up the stairs to the Hall of Architecture. In a well-lit area dominated by Christopher Wren’s model of St. Paul’s, the hospital blueprints were waiting on a drawing table. The Maryland-Misericordia surgical suites blueprints line for line from the Baltimore Department of Buildings. He was here. The dispensary was there. No. The drawings were wrong. Plans must have been changed after the blueprints were filed. The generators were shown on the other side in mirror-image space off the corridor to Suite A. Perhaps the labels were reversed. Had to be. He could not afford to poke around.

  Dr. Lecter came out of the scrub room and started down the corridor to Suite A. Door on the left. The sign said MRI. Keep going. The next door was Dispensary. They had split the space on the plan into a lab for magnetic resonance imaging and a separate drug storage area.

  The heavy dispensary door was open, wedged with a doorstop. Dr. Lecter ducked quickly into the room and pulled the door closed behind him.

  A pudgy male pharmacist was squatting, putting something on a low shelf.

  “Can I help you, Doctor?”

  “Yes, please.”

  The young man started to stand, but never made it. Thump of the sap, and the pharmacist broke wind as he folded on the floor.

  Dr. Lecter raised the tail of his surgical blouse and tucked the sap behind the gardener’s apron he wore beneath.

  Up and down the shelves fast, reading labels at lightning speed; Ambien, amobarbital, Amytal, chloral hydrate, Dalmane, flurazepam, Halcion, and raking dozens of vials into his pockets. Then he was in the refrigerator, reading and raking, midazolam, Noctec, scopolamine, Pentothal, quazepam, solzidem. In less than forty seconds, Dr. Lecter was back in the hall, closing the dispensary door behind him.

  He passed back through the scrub room and checked himself for lumps in the mirrors. Without haste, back through the swinging doors, his ID tag deliberately twisted upside down, mask on and the glasses down over his eyes, binocular lenses raised, pulse seventy-two, exchanging gruff greetings with other doctors. Down in the elevator, down and down, mask still on, looking at a clipboard he had picked up at random.

  Visitors coming in might have thought it odd that he wore his surgical mask until he was well down the steps and away from the security cameras. Idlers on the street might have wondered why a doctor would drive such a ratty old truck.

  Back in the surgical suite an anesthesiologist, after pecking impatiently on the door of the dispensary, found the pharmacist still unconscious and it was another fifteen minutes before the drugs were missed.

  When Dr. Silverman came to, he had slumped to the floor beside the toilet with his pants down. He had no memory of coming into the room and had no idea where he was. He thought he might have had a cerebral event, possibly a strokelet occasioned by the strain of a bowel movement. He was very leery of moving for fear of dislodging a clot. He eased himself along the floor until he could put his hand out into the hall. Examination revealed a mild concussion.

  Dr. Lecter made two more stops before he went home. He paused at a mail drop in suburban Baltimore long enough to pick up a package he had ordered on the Internet from a funeral supply company. It was a tuxedo with the shirt and tie already installed, and the whole split up the back.

  All he needed now was the wine, something truly, truly festive. For that he had to go to Annapolis. It would have been nice to have had the Jaguar for the drive.



  KRENDLER WAS dressed for jogging in the cold and had to unzip his running suit to keep from overheating when Eric Pickford called him at his Georgetown home.

  “Eric, go to the cafeteria and call me on a pay phone.”

  “Excuse me, Mr. Krendler?”

  “Just do what I tell you.”

  Krendler pulled off his headband and gloves and dropped them on the piano in his living room. With one finger he pecked out the theme from Dragnet until the conversation resumed: “Starling was a techie, Eric. We don’t know how she might have rigged her phones. We’ll keep the government’s business secure.”

  “Yes, sir.”

  “Starling called me, Mr. Krendler. She wanted her plant and stuff—that stupid weather bird that drinks out of the glass. But she told me something that worked. She said to discount the last digit on the zip codes for the suspect magazine subscriptions if the difference is three or less. She said Dr. Lecter might use several mail drops that were conveniently close to each other.”


  “I got a hit that way. The Journal of Neurophysiology’s going to one zip code and Physica Scripta and ICARUS are going to another. They’re about ten miles apart. The subscriptions are in different names, paid with money orders.”

  “What’s ICARUS?”

  “It’s the international journal of solar system studies. He was a charter subscriber twenty years ago. The mail drops are in Baltimore. They usually deliver the journals about the tenth of the month. Got one more thing, a minute ago, a sale on a bottle of Château, what is it, Yuckum?”

  “Yeah, it’s pronounced like EEE-Kim. What about it?”

  “High-end wine store in Annapolis. I entered the purchase and it hi
t on the sensitive dates list Starling put in. The program hit on Starling’s birth year. That’s the year they made this wine, her birth year. Subject paid three hundred twenty-five dollars cash for it and—”

  “This was before or after you talked with Starling?”

  “Just after, just a minute ago—”

  “So she doesn’t know it.”

  “No. I should call—”

  “Are you saying the merchant called you on a single-bottle purchase?”

  “Yes, sir. She’s got notes here, there are only three bottles like that on the East Coast. She’d notified all three. You’ve got to admire it.”

  “Who bought it—what did he look like?”

  “White male, medium height with a beard. He was bundled up.”

  “Has the wine store got a security camera?”

  “Yes, sir, that’s the first thing I asked. I said we’d send somebody for the tape. I haven’t done it yet. The wine store clerk hadn’t read the bulletin, but he told the owner because it was such an unusual purchase. Owner ran outside in time to see the subject—he thinks it was the subject—driving away in an old pickup truck. Gray with a vise on the back. If it’s Lecter, you think he’ll try to deliver it to Starling? We better alert her.”

  “No,” Krendler said. “Don’t tell her.”

  “Can I post the VICAP bulletin board and the Lecter file?”

  “No,” Krendler said, thinking fast. “Have you got a reply from the Questura about Lecter’s computer?”

  “No, sir.”

  “Then you can’t post VICAP until we can be sure Lecter’s not reading it himself. He could have Pazzi’s access code. Or Starling could be reading it and tipping him some way like she did in Florence.”

  “Oh, right, I see. Annapolis FO can get the tape.”

  “Leave it all strictly to me.”

  Pickford dictated the address of the wine store.

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