Hannibal by Thomas Harris


  Cordell mopped the wound and put a tape butterfly on it that gave him a quizzical expression.

  He packed up his syringe. “All that relief, wasted,” he said. “You’ll look at it differently before daylight. You know I have stimulants to take you quite the other way. And I’ll make you wait.”

  He took the poker from the fire.

  “I’m going to hook you up now,” Cordell said. “Whenever you resist me I’ll burn you. This is what it feels like.”

  He touched the glowing end of the poker to Dr. Lecter’s chest and crisped his nipple through his shirt. He had to smother the widening circle of fire on the doctor’s shirtfront.

  Dr. Lecter did not make a sound.

  Carlo backed the forklift into the tack room. With Piero and Carlo lifting together, Tommaso ever ready with the tranquilizer rifle, they moved Dr. Lecter to the fork and shackled his singletree to the front of the machine. He was seated on the fork, his arms bound to the singletree, with his legs extended, each leg fastened to one tine of the fork.

  Cordell inserted an IV needle with a butterfly into the back of each of Dr. Lecter’s hands. He had to stand on a bale of hay to hang the plasma bottles on the machine on each side of him. Cordell stood back and admired his work. Odd to see the doctor splayed there with an IV in each hand, like a parody of something Cordell couldn’t quite remember. Cordell rigged slip-knot tourniquets just above each knee with cords that could be pulled behind the fence to keep the doctor from bleeding to death. They could not be tightened now. Mason would be furious if Lecter’s feet were numb.

  Time to get Mason downstairs and put him into the van. The vehicle, parked behind the barn, was cold. The Sards had left their lunch in it. Cordell cursed and threw their cooler out on the ground. He’d have to vacuum the fucking thing at the house. He’d have to air it out too. The fucking Sards had been smoking in here too, after he forbade it. They’d replaced the cigarette lighter and left the power cord of the car beacon monitor still swinging from the dash.

  CHAPTER

  86

  STARLING SWITCHED off the Mustang’s interior light and pulled the trunk release before she opened the door.

  If Dr. Lecter was here, if she could get him, maybe she could put him cuffed hand and foot into the trunk and get as far as the county jail. She had four sets of cuffs and enough line to hog-tie him and keep him from kicking. Better not to think about how strong he was.

  There was some frost on the gravel when she put her feet out. The old car groaned as her weight came off the springs.

  “Got to complain don’t you, you old son of a bitch,” she said to the car beneath her breath. Suddenly she remembered talking to Hannah, the horse she rode away into the night from the slaughter of the lambs. She did not close the car door all the way. The keys went into a tight trouser pocket so they would not tinkle.

  The night was clear under a quarter moon and she could walk without her flashlight as long as there was some open night sky. She tried the edge of the gravel and found it loose and uneven. Quieter to walk in a packed wheel track in the gravel, looking ahead to judge how the road lay with her peripheral vision, her head slightly turned to the side. It was like wading in soft darkness, she could hear her feet crunch the gravel but she couldn’t see the ground.

  The hard moment came when she was out of sight of the Mustang, but could still feel it loom behind her. She did not want to leave it.

  She was suddenly a thirty-three-year-old woman, alone, with a ruined civil service career and no shotgun, standing in a forest at night. She saw herself clearly, saw the crinkles of age beginning in the corners of her eyes. She wanted desperately to go back to her car. Her next step was slower, she stopped and she could hear herself breathing.

  The crow called, a breeze rattled the bare branches above her and then the scream split the night. A cry so horrible and hopeless, peaking, falling, ending in a plea for death in a voice so wracked it could have been anyone. “Uccidimi!” And the scream again.

  The first one froze Starling, the second one had her moving at a trot, wading fast through the dark, the .45 still holstered, one hand holding the darkened flashlight, the other extended into the night before her. No, you don’t, Mason. No, you don’t. Hurry. Hurry. She found she could stay in the packed track by listening to her footfalls, and feeling the loose gravel on either side. The road turned and ran along a fence. Good fence, pipe fence, six feet high.

  Came sobs of apprehension and pleas, the scream building, and ahead of Starling, beyond the fence, she heard movement through brush, the movement breaking into a trot, lighter than the hoofbeats of a horse, quicker in rhythm. She heard grunting she recognized.

  Closer the agonized sounds, clearly human, but distorted, with a single squeal over the cries for a second, and Starling knew she was hearing either a recording or a voice amplified with feedback in the microphone. Light through the trees and the barn looming. Starling pressed her head on the cold iron to look through the fence. Dark shapes rushing, long and hip-high. Across forty yards of clear ground the open end of a barn with the great doors open wide, a barrier across the end of the barn with a Dutch gate in it, and an ornate mirror suspended above the gate, the mirror reflecting the light of the barn in a bright patch on the ground. Standing in the clear pasture outside the barn, a stocky man in a hat with a boom box radio/tape player. He covered one ear with his hand as a series of howls and sobs came from the machine.

  Out of the brush now they came, the wild swine with their savage faces, wolflike in their speed, long-legged and deep-chested, shaggy, spiky gray bristles.

  Carlo dashed back through the Dutch gate and closed it when they were still thirty yards from him. They stopped in a semicircle waiting, their great curved tusks holding their lips in a permanent snarl. Like linemen anticipating the snap of the ball, they surged forward, stopped, jostled, grunting, clicking their teeth.

  Starling had seen livestock in her time, but nothing like these hogs. There was a terrible beauty in them, grace and speed. They watched the doorway, jostling and rushing forward, then backing, always facing the barrier across the open end of the barn.

  Carlo said something over his shoulder and disappeared back into the barn.

  The van backed into view inside the barn. Starling recognized the gray vehicle at once. It stopped at an angle near the barrier. Cordell got out and opened the sliding side door. Before he turned off the dome light, Starling could see Mason inside in his hard-shell respirator, propped on pillows, his hair coiled on his chest. A ringside seat. Floodlights came on over the doorway.

  From the ground beside him, Carlo picked up an object Starling did not recognize at first. It looked like someone’s legs, or the lower half of a body. If it was half a body, Carlo was very strong. For a second Starling feared it was the remains of Dr. Lecter, but the legs bent wrong, bent in ways the joints would not permit.

  They could only be Lecter’s legs if he had been wheeled and braided, she thought for a bad moment. Carlo called into the barn behind him. Starling heard a motor start.

  The forklift came into Starling’s view, Piero driving, Dr. Lecter raised high with the fork, his arms spread on the singletree and the IV bottles swaying above his hands with the movement of the vehicle. Held high so that he could see the ravening swine, could see what was coming.

  The forklift came at an awful processional speed, Carlo walking beside it and on the other side Johnny Mogli, armed.

  Starling fixed on Mogli’s deputy badge for an instant. A star, not like the locals’ badges. White hair, white shirt, like the driver of the kidnap van.

  From the van came Mason’s deep voice. He hummed “Pomp and Circumstance” and giggled.

  The pigs, raised with noise, were not afraid of the machine, they seemed to welcome it.

  The forklift stopped near the barrier. Mason said something to Dr. Lecter that Starling could not hear. Dr. Lecter did not move his head or give any sign that he had heard. He was higher even than Piero at the co
ntrols. Did he look in Starling’s direction? She never knew because she was moving fast along the fence line, along the side of the barn, finding the double doors where the van had backed in.

  Carlo sailed the stuffed trousers into the pigpen. The hogs leaped forward as one, room for two on each leg, shouldering the others aside. Tearing, snarling, pulling and ripping, dead chickens in the trouser legs coming to pieces, pigs shaking their heads from side to side with chicken guts flailing. A field of tossing bristled backs.

  Carlo had only provided the lightest of appetizers, just three chickens and a little salad. In moments the trousers were rags and the slavering pigs turned their avid little eyes back to the barrier.

  Piero lowered the fork to just the height above ground level. The upper part of the Dutch gate would keep the pigs away from Dr. Lecter’s vitals for the time being. Carlo removed the doctor’s shoes and socks.

  “This little piggy went EEE EEE EEE all the way home,” Mason called from the van.

  Starling was coming up behind them. All were facing the other way, facing the pigs. She passed the tack room door, moved out into the center of the barn.

  “Now, don’t let him bleed out,” Cordell said from the van. “Be ready when I tell you to tighten the tourniquets.” He was clearing Mason’s goggle with a cloth.

  “Anything to say, Dr. Lecter?” came Mason’s deep voice.

  The .45 boomed in the enclosure of the barn and Starling’s voice: “Hands up and freeze. Turn off the motor.”

  Piero seemed not to understand.

  “Fermate il motore,” Dr. Lecter said helpfully.

  Only the impatient squealing of the pigs now.

  She could see one gun, on the hip of the white-haired man wearing the star. Holster with a thumb break. Put the men on the ground first.

  Cordell slid behind the wheel fast, the van moving, Mason yelling at him. Starling swung with the van, caught the white-haired man’s movement in the corner of her eye, swung back to him as he pulled his gun to kill her, him yelling “Police,” and she shot him twice in the chest, a fast double tap.

  His .357 shot two feet of fire toward the ground, he went back a half step and to his knees, looking down at himself, his badge tuliped by the fat .45 slug that had passed through it and tumbled sideways through his heart.

  Mogli went over backward and lay still.

  In the tack room, Tommaso heard the shots. He grabbed the air rifle and climbed to the hayloft, dropped to his knees in the loose hay and crawled toward the side of the hayloft that overlooked the barn.

  “Next,” Starling said in a voice she did not know. Do this fast while Mogli’s death still had them. “On the ground, you head toward the wall. You on the ground, head this way. This way.”

  “Girati dall’ altra parte,” Dr. Lecter explained from the forklift.

  Carlo looked up at Starling, saw that she would kill him, and lay still. She cuffed them fast with one hand, their heads in opposite directions, Carlo’s wrist to Piero’s ankle and Piero’s ankle to Carlo’s wrist. All the time the cocked .45 behind one of their ears.

  She pulled her boot knife and went around the forklift to the doctor.

  “Good evening, Clarice,” he said when he could see her.

  “Can you walk, are your legs working?”

  “Yes.”

  “Can you see all right?”

  “Yes.”

  “I’m going to cut you loose. With all due respect, Doctor, if you fuck with me I’ll shoot you dead, here and now. Do you understand that?”

  “Perfectly.”

  “Do right and you’ll live through this.”

  “Spoken like a Protestant.”

  She was working all the time. The boot knife was sharp. She found the serrated edge worked fastest on the slick new rope.

  His right arm was free.

  “I can do the rest if you give me the knife.”

  She hesitated. Backed to the length of his arm and gave him the short dagger. “My car’s a couple of hundred yards down the fire road.” She had to watch him and the men on the ground.

  He had a leg free. He was working on the other, having to cut each coil separately. Dr. Lecter could not see behind him where Carlo and Piero were lying facedown.

  “When you’re loose, don’t try to run. You’ll never make the door. I’ll give you two pairs of cuffs,” Starling said. “There’s two guys cuffed on the ground behind you. Make ’em crawl to the forklift and cuff them to it so they can’t get a phone. Then cuff yourself.”

  “Two?” he said. “Watch it, there ought to be three.”

  As he spoke the dart from Tommaso’s rifle flew, a silver streak under the floodlights, and quivered in the center of Starling’s back. She spun, instantly dizzy, vision going dark, trying to spot a target, saw the barrel at the edge of the loft and fired, fired, fired, fired. Tommaso rolling back from the edge, splinters stinging him, blue gun smoke rolling up into the lights. She fired once more as her vision failed, reached behind her hip for a magazine even as her knees gave way.

  The noise seemed to further animate the pigs and seeing the men in their inviting position on the ground, they squealed and grunted, pressing against the barrier.

  Starling pitched forward on her face, the empty pistol bouncing away the breech locked open. Carlo and Piero raised their heads to look and they were scrambling, crawling awkwardly together as a bat crawls, toward Mogli’s body and his pistol and handcuff keys. Sound of Tommaso pumping the tranquilizer rifle in the loft. He had a dart left. He rose now and came to the edge, looking over the barrel, seeking Dr. Lecter on the other side of the forklift.

  Here came Tommaso walking along the edge of the loft, there would be no place to hide.

  Dr. Lecter lifted Starling in his arms and backed fast toward the Dutch gate, trying to keep the forklift between him and Tommaso, advancing carefully, watching his footing at the edge of the loft. Tommaso fired and the dart, aimed at Lecter’s chest, hit bone in Starling’s shin. Dr. Lecter pulled the bolts on the Dutch gate.

  Piero snatched Mogli’s key chain, frantic, Carlo scrambling for the gun, and in came the pigs in a rush to the meal that was struggling to get up. Carlo managed to fire the .357 once, and a pig collapsed, the others climbing over the dead pig and onto Carlo and Piero, and the body of Mogli. More rushed on through the barn and into the night.

  Dr. Lecter, holding Starling, was behind the gate when the pigs rushed through.

  Tommaso from the loft could see his brother’s face down in the pack and then it was only a bloody dish. He dropped the rifle in the hay. Dr. Lecter, erect as a dancer and carrying Starling in his arms, came out from behind the gate, walked barefoot out of the barn, through the pigs. Dr. Lecter walked through the sea of tossing backs and blood spray in the barn. A couple of the great swine, one of them the pregnant sow, squared their feet to him, lowered their heads to charge.

  When he faced them and they smelled no fear, they trotted back to the easy pickings on the ground.

  Dr. Lecter saw no reinforcements coming from the house. Once under the trees of the fire road, he stopped to pull the darts out of Starling and suck the wounds. The needle in her shin had bent on the bone.

  Pigs crashed through the brush nearby.

  He pulled off Starling’s boots and put them on his own bare feet. They were a little tight. He left the .45 on her ankle so that, carrying her, he could reach it.

  Ten minutes later, the guard at the main gatehouse looked up from his newspaper toward a distant sound, a ripping noise like a piston-engined fighter on a strafing run. It was a 5.0-liter Mustang turning 5800 rpm across the interstate overpass.

  CHAPTER

  87

  MASON WHINING and crying to get back in his room, crying as he had when some of the smaller boys and girls fought him at camp and managed to get in a few licks before he could crush them under his weight.

  Margot and Cordell took him up in the elevator on his wing and secured him in his bed, hooked up to his per
manent sources of power.

  Mason was as angry as Margot had ever seen him, the blood vessels pulsing over the exposed bones of his face.

  “I better give him something,” Cordell said when they were out in the playroom.

  “Not yet. He’s got to think for a little while. Give me the keys to your Honda.”

  “Why?”

  “Somebody’s got to go down there and see if anybody’s alive. Do you want to go?”

  “No, but—”

  “I can drive your car into the tack room, the van won’t go through the door, now give me the fucking keys.”

  Downstairs now, out in the drive. Tommaso coming across the field from the woods, trotting, looking behind him. Think, Margot. She looked at her watch. 8:20. At midnight, Cordell’s relief would come. There was time to bring men from Washington in the helicopter to clean up. She drove to Tommaso across the grass.

  “I try to catch up them, a pig knock me. He”—Tommaso pantomimed Dr. Lecter carrying Starling—“the woman. They go in the loud car. She have due”— he held up two fingers —“freccette.” He pointed to his back and leg. Freccette. Dardi. Stick ’em. Bam. “Due freccette” He pantomimed shooting.

  “Darts,” Margot said.

  “Darts, maybe too much narcotico. She’s maybe dead.”

  “Get in,” Margot said. “We’ve got to go see.”

  Margot drove into the double side doors, where Starling had entered the barn. Squeals and grunts and tossing bristled backs. Margot drove forward honking and drove the pigs back enough to see there were three human remains, none recognizable anymore.

  They drove into the tack room and closed the doors behind them.

  Margot considered that Tommaso was the only one left alive who had ever seen her at the barn, not counting Cordell.

  This may have occurred to Tommaso too. He stood a cautious distance from her, his dark intelligent eyes on her face. There were tears on his cheeks.

 
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