Hannibal by Thomas Harris

Tommaso sits in a cane chair, the tranquilizer rifle propped against the wall beside him. His dark priest’s eyes never leave Dr. Lecter’s face.

  Tommaso detects a change in the stillness of the bound man. It is a subtle change, from unconsciousness to unnatural self-control, perhaps no more than a difference in the sound of his breathing.

  Tommaso gets up from his chair and calls out into the barn.

  “Si sta svegliando.”

  Carlo returns to the tack room, the stag’s tooth flicking in and out of his mouth. He is carrying a pair of trouser legs stuffed with fruit and greens and chickens. He rubs the trousers against Dr. Lecter’s body and under his arms.

  Keeping his hand carefully away from the face, he seizes Lecter’s hair and raises his head.

  “Buona sera, Dottore.”

  A crackle from the speaker on the TV monitor. The monitor lights and Mason’s face appears….

  “Turn on the light over the camera,” Mason said. “Good evening, Dr. Lecter.”

  The doctor opened his eyes for the first time.

  Carlo thought sparks flew behind the fiend’s eyes, but it might have been a reflection of the fire. He crossed himself against the Evil Eye.

  “Mason,” the doctor said to the camera. Behind Mason, Lecter could see Margot’s silhouette, black against the aquarium. “Good evening, Margot,” his tone courteous now. “I’m glad to see you again.” From the clarity of his speech, Dr. Lecter may have been awake for some time.

  “Dr. Lecter,” came Margot’s hoarse voice.

  Tommaso found the sun gun over the camera and turned it on.

  The harsh light blinded them all for a second.

  Mason in his rich radio tones: “Doctor, in about twenty minutes we’re going to give the pigs their first course, which will be your feet. After that we’ll have a little pajama party, you and I. You can wear shorties by then. Cordell’s going to keep you alive for a long time—”

  Mason was saying something further, Margot leaning forward to see the scene in the barn.

  Dr. Lecter looked into the monitor to be sure Margot was watching him. Then he whispered to Carlo, his metallic voice urgent in the kidnapper’s ear:

  “Your brother, Matteo, must smell worse than you by now. He shit when I cut him.”

  Carlo reached to his back pocket and came out with the electric cattle prod. In the bright light of the TV camera, he whipped it across the side of Lecter’s head. Holding the doctor’s hair with one hand, he pressed the button on the handle, holding the prod close in front of Lecter’s face as the high-voltage current arced in a wicked line between the electrodes on the end.

  “Fuck your mother,” he said and plunged it arcing into Dr. Lecter’s eye.

  Dr. Lecter made no sound—the sound came from the speaker, Mason roaring as his breath permitted him, and Tommaso strained to pull Carlo away. Piero came down from the loft to help. They sat Carlo down in the cane chair. And held him.

  “Blind him and there’s no money!” they screamed in both his ears at once.

  Dr. Lecter adjusted the shades in his memory palace to relieve the terrible glare. Ahhhhh. He leaned his face against the cool marble flank of Venus.

  Dr. Lecter turned his face full to the camera and said clearly: “I’m not taking the chocolate, Mason.”

  “Sumbitch is crazy. Well, we knew he was crazy,” said Deputy Sheriff Mogli. “But Carlo is too.”

  “Go down there and get between them,” Mason said.

  “You sure they got no guns?” Mogli said.

  “You hired out to be tough, didn’t you? No. Just the tranquilizer gun.”

  “Let me do it,” Margot said. “Keep from starting some macho crap between them. The Italians respect their mamas. And Carlo knows I handle the money.”

  “Walk the camera out and show me the pigs,” Mason said. “Dinner’s at eight!”

  “I don’t have to stay for that,” Margot said.

  “Oh, yes you do,” Mason said.



  MARGOT TOOK a deep breath outside the barn. If she was willing to kill him, she ought to be willing to look at him. She could smell Carlo before she opened the door to the tack room. Piero and Tommaso stood on either side of Lecter. They faced Carlo, seated in the chair.

  “Buona sera, signori,” Margot said. “Your friends are right, Carlo. You ruin him now, no money. And you’ve come so far and done so well.”

  Carlo’s eyes never left Dr. Lecter’s face.

  Margot took a cell phone from her pocket. She punched numbers on its lighted face and held it out to Carlo. “Take it.” She held it in his line of vision. “Read it.”

  The automatic dialer read BANCO STEUBEN.

  “That’s your bank in Cagliari, Signor Deogracias. Tomorrow morning, when this is done, when you’ve made him pay for your brave brother, then I’ll call this number and tell your banker my code and say, ‘Give Signor Deogracias the rest of the money you hold for him.’ Your banker will confirm it to you on the phone. Tomorrow evening you’ll be in the air, on your way home, a rich man. Matteo’s family will be rich too. You can take them the doctor’s cojones in a zip-lock bag to comfort them. But if Dr. Lecter can’t see his own death, if he can’t see the pigs coming to eat his face, you get nothing. Be a man, Carlo. Go get your pigs. I’ll sit with the son of a bitch. In half an hour you can hear him scream while they eat his feet.”

  Carlo threw his head back and took a deep breath. “Piero, andiamo! Tu, Tommaso, rimani.”

  Tommaso took his seat in the cane chair beside the door.

  “I’ve got it under control, Mason,” Margot said to the camera.

  “I’ll want to bring his nose with me back to the house. Tell Carlo,” Mason said. The screen went dark. Moving out of his room was a major effort for Mason and the people around him, requiring reconnection of his tubes to containers on his traveling gurney and switching over his hard-shell respirator to an AC power pack.

  Margot looked into Dr. Lecter’s face.

  His injured eye was swollen shut between the black burn marks the electrodes had left at each end of his eyebrow.

  Dr. Lecter opened his good eye. He was able to keep the cool feeling of Venus’ marble flank on his face.

  “I like the smell of that liniment, it smells cool and lemony,” Dr. Lecter said. “Thank you for coming, Margot.”

  “That’s exactly what you said to me when the matron brought me into your office the first day. When they were doing presentencing on Mason the first time.”

  “Is that what I said?” Having just returned from the memory palace where he read over his interviews with Margot, he knew it to be so.

  “Yes. I was crying, dreading to tell you about Mason and me. I was dreading having to sit down too. But you never asked me to sit—you knew I had stitches, didn’t you? We walked in the garden. Do you remember what you told me?”

  “You were no more at fault for what happened to you—”

  “‘;—than if I had been bitten on the behind by a mad dog’ was what you said. You made it easy for me then, and the other visits too, and I appreciated it for a while.”

  “What else did I tell you?”

  “You said you were much weirder than I would ever be,” she said. “You said it was all right to be weird.”

  “If you try, you can remember everything we ever said. Remember—”

  “Please don’t beg me now.” It jumped out of her, she didn’t mean to say it that way.

  Dr. Lecter shifted slightly and the ropes creaked.

  Tommaso got up and came to check his bonds. “Attenzione alia bocea, Signorina. Be careful of the mouth.”

  She didn’t know if Tommaso meant Dr. Lecter’s mouth or his words.

  “Margot, it’s been a long time since I treated you, but I want to talk to you about your medical history, just for a moment, privately.” He cut his good eye toward Tommaso.

  Margot thought for a moment. “Tommaso, could you leave us for a moment.”
  “No, I’m sorry, Signorina, but I stand outside with the door open.” Tommaso went with the rifle out into the barn and watched Dr. Lecter from a distance.

  “I’d never make you uncomfortable by begging, Margot. I would be interested to know why you’re doing this. Would you tell me that? Have you started taking the chocolate, as Mason likes to say, after you fought him so long? We don’t need to pretend you’re revenging Mason’s face.”

  She did tell him. About Judy, about wanting the baby. It took her less than three minutes; she was surprised at how easily her troubles summarized.

  A distant noise, a screech and half a scream. Outside in the barn, against the fence he had erected across the open end of the barn, Carlo was fiddling with his tape recorder, preparing to summon the pigs from the wooded pasture with recorded cries of anguish from victims long dead or ransomed.

  If Dr. Lecter heard, he did not show it. “Margot, do you think Mason will just give you what he promised? You’re begging Mason. Did begging help you when he tore you? It’s the same thing as taking his chocolate and letting him have his way. But he’ll make Judy eat the cheese. And she’s not used to it.”

  She did not answer, but her jaw set.

  “Do you know what would happen if, instead of crawling to Mason, you just stimulated his prostate gland with Carlo’s cattle prod? See it there by the workbench?”

  Margot started to get up.

  “Listen to me,” the doctor hissed. “Mason will deny you. You know you’ll have to kill him, you’ve known it for twenty years. You’ve known it since he told you to bite the pillow and not make so much noise.”

  “Are you saying you’d do it for me? I could never trust you.”

  “No, of course not. But you could trust me never to deny that I did it. It would actually be more therapeutic for you to kill him yourself. You’ll remember I recommended that when you were a child.”

  “‘Wait until you can get away with it,’ you said. I took some comfort from that.”

  “Professionally, that’s the sort of catharsis I had to recommend. You’re old enough now. And what difference would one more murder charge make to me? You know you’ll have to kill him. And when you do, the law will follow the money—right to you and the new baby. Margot, I’m the only other suspect you’ve got. If I’m dead before Mason, who would the suspect be? You can do it when it suits you and I’ll write you a letter gloating about how I enjoyed killing him myself.”

  “No, Dr. Lecter, I’m sorry. It’s too late. I’ve got my arrangements made.” She looked into his face with her bright butcher’s blue eyes. “I can do this and sleep afterward, and you know I can.”

  “Yes, I know you can. I always liked that in you. You are much more interesting, more … capable than your brother.”

  She got up to go. “I’m sorry, Dr. Lecter, for what that’s worth.”

  Before she reached the door, he said. “Margot, when does Judy ovulate again?”

  “What? In two days, I think.”

  “Do you have everything else you need? Extenders, equipment to fast-freeze?”

  “I’ve got all the facilities of a fertilization clinic.”

  “Do one thing for me.”


  “Curse at me and snatch out a piece of my hair, back from the hairline if you don’t mind. Get a little skin. Hold it in your hand walking back to the house. Think about putting it in Mason’s hand. After he’s dead.

  “When you get to the house, ask Mason for what you want. See what he says. You’ve delivered me, your part of the bargain is complete. Hold the hair in your hand and ask him for what you want. See what he says. When he laughs in your face, come back here. All you have to do is take the tranquilizer rifle and shoot the one behind you. Or hit him with the hammer. He has a pocketknife. Just cut the ropes on one arm and give me the knife. And leave. I can do the rest.”



  She put her hand on the door, braced against a plea.

  “Can you still crack a walnut?”

  She reached in her pocket and brought out two. The muscles of her forearm bunched and the nuts cracked.

  The doctor chuckled. “Excellent. With all that strength, walnuts. You can offer Judy walnuts to help her get past the taste of Mason.”

  Margot walked back to him, her face set. She spat in his face and jerked out a lock of his hair near the top of his head. It was hard to know how she meant it.

  She heard him humming as she left the room.

  As Margot walked toward the lighted house, the little divot of scalp stuck to the palm of her hand with blood, the hair hanging from her hand and she did not even need to close her fingers around it.

  Cordell passed her in a golf cart loaded with medical equipment to prepare the patient.



  FROM THE expressway overpass northbound at Exit 30, Starling could see a half-mile away the lighted gatehouse, far outpost of Muskrat Farm. Starling had made up her mind on the drive to Maryland: she would go in the back way If she went to the front gate with no credentials and no warrant she’d get a sheriff’s escort out of the county, or to the county jail. By the time she was free again, it would all be done.

  Never mind permission. She drove up to Exit 29, well beyond Muskrat Farm, and came back along the service road. The blacktop road seemed very dark after the expressway lights. It was bounded by the expressway on her right, on the left a ditch and a high chain-link fence separated the roadway from the looming black of the national forest. Starling’s map showed a gravel fire road intersecting this blacktop a mile farther along and well out of sight of the gatehouse. It was where she had mistakenly stopped on her first visit. According to her map, the fire road ran through the national forest to Muskrat Farm. She was measuring by her odometer. The Mustang seemed louder than usual, running just above idle, booming off the trees.

  There it was in her headlights, a heavy gate welded of metal pipe and topped with barbed wire. The SERVICE ENTRANCE sign she had seen on her first visit was gone now. Weeds had grown up in front of the gate and over the ditch-crossing with its culvert.

  She could see in her headlights that the weeds had recently been pressed down. Where the fine grit and sand had washed off the pavement and made a little sandbar, she could see the tracks of mud-and-snow tires. Were they the same as the van tracks she saw in the parking median at Safeway? She didn’t know if they were exactly the same, but they could have been.

  A chrome padlock and chain secured the gate. No sweat there. Starling looked up and down the road. Nobody coming. A little illegal entry here. It felt like a crime. She checked the gateposts for sensor wires. None. Working with two picks and holding her little flashlight in her teeth, it took her less than fifteen seconds to open the padlock. She drove through the entrance and continued well into the trees before she walked back to close the gate. She draped the chain back on the gate with the padlock on the outside. From a little distance it looked normal. She left the loose ends inside so she could butt it open more easily with the car if she had to.

  Measuring on the map with her thumb, it was about two miles through the forest to the farm. She drove through the dark tunnel of the fire road, the night sky sometimes visible overhead, sometimes not, as the branches closed overhead. She eased along in second gear at little over an idle, with just the parking lights, trying to keep the Mustang as quiet as possible, dead weeds brushing the undercarriage. When the odometer said a mile and eight-tenths, she stopped. With the engine off, she could hear a crow calling in the dark. The crow was pissed at something. She hoped to God it was a crow.



  CORDELL CAME into the tack room brisk as a hangman, intravenous bottles under his arms, tubes dangling from them. “The Dr. Hannibal Lecter!” he said. “I wanted that mask of yours so badly for our club in Baltimore. My girlfriend and I have a dungeony sort of thing, sort of Jay-O and leather.”

put his things down on the anvil stand and put a poker in the fire to heat.

  “Good news and bad news,” Cordell said in his cheerful nursey voice and faint Swiss accent. “Did Mason tell you the drill? The drill is, in a little while I’ll bring Mason down here and the pigs will get to eat your feet. Then you’ll wait overnight and tomorrow Carlo and his brothers will feed you through the bars head first, so the pigs can eat your face, just like the dogs ate Mason’s. I’ll keep you going with IVs and tourniquets until the last. You really are done, you know. That’s the bad news.”

  Cordell glanced at the TV camera to be sure it was off. “The good news is, it doesn’t have to be much worse than a trip to the dentist. Check this out, Doctor.” Cordell held a hypodermic syringe with a long needle in front of Dr. Lecter’s face. “Let’s talk like two medical people. I could get behind you and give you a spinal that would keep you from feeling anything down there. You could just close your eyes and try not to listen. You’d just feel some jerking and pulling. And once Mason’s got his jollies for the evening and gone to the house I could give you something that would just stop your heart. Want to see it?” Cordell palmed a vial of Pavulon and held it close enough to Dr. Lecter’s open eye, but not close enough to get bitten.

  The firelight played on the side of Cordell’s avid face, his eyes were hot and happy. “You’ve got lots of money, Dr. Lecter. Everybody says so. I know how this stuff works—I put money around in places too. Take it out, move it, fuss with it. I can move mine on the phone and I bet you can too.”

  Cordell took a cell phone from his pocket. “We’ll call your banker, you tell him a code, he’ll confirm to me and I’ll fix you right up.” He held up the spinal syringe. “Squirt, squirt. Talk to me.”

  Dr. Lecter mumbled, his head down. “Suitcase” and “locker” were all Cordell could hear.

  “Come on, Doctor, and then you can just sleep. Come on.”

  “Unmarked hundreds,” Dr. Lecter said, and his voice trailed away.

  Cordell leaned closer and Dr. Lecter struck to the length of his neck, caught Cordell’s eyebrow in his small sharp teeth and ripped a sizeable piece of it out as Cordell leaped backward. Dr. Lecter spit the eyebrow like a grape skin into Cordell’s face.

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