Hannibal by Thomas Harris

  Think, Margot. You don’t want any shit from the Sards. They know on their end that you handle the money. They’ll dime you out in a second.

  Tommaso’s eyes followed her hand as it went into her pocket.

  The cell phone. She punched up Sardinia, the Steuben banker at home at two-thirty in the morning. She spoke to him briefly and passed the telephone to Tommaso. He nodded, replied, nodded again and gave her back the phone. The money was his. He scrambled to the loft and got his satchel, along with Dr. Lecter’s overcoat and hat. While he was getting his things, Margot picked up the cattle prod, tested the current and slid it up her sleeve. She took the farrier’s hammer too.



  TOMMASO, DRIVING Cordell’s car, dropped Margot off at the house. He would leave the Honda in long-term parking at Dulles International Airport. Margot promised him she would bury what was left of Piero and Carlo as well as she could.

  There was something he felt he should say to her and he gathered himself and got his English together. “Signorina, the pigs, you must know, the pigs help the Dottore. They stand back from him, circle him. They kill my brother, kill Carlo, but they stand back from Dr. Lecter. I think they worship him.” Tommaso crossed himself. “You should not chase him anymore.”

  And throughout his long life in Sardinia, Tommaso would tell it that way. By the time Tommaso was in his sixties, he was saying that Dr. Lecter, carrying the woman, had left the barn borne on a drift of pigs.

  After the car was gone down the fire road, Margot stood for minutes looking up at Mason’s lighted windows. She saw the shadow of Cordell moving on the walls as he fussed around Mason, replacing the monitors on her brother’s breath and pulse.

  She slipped the handle of the farrier’s hammer down the back of her pants and settled the tail of her jacket over the head.

  Cordell was coming out of Mason’s room with some pillows when Margot got off the elevator.

  “Cordell, fix him a martini.”

  “I don’t know—”

  “I know. Fix him a martini.”

  Cordell put the pillows on the love seat and knelt in front of the bar refrigerator.

  “Is there any juice in there?” said Margot, coming close behind him. She swung the farrier’s hammer hard against the base of his skull and heard a popping sound. His head smashed into the refrigerator, rebounded, and he fell over backward off his haunches looking at the ceiling with his eyes open, one pupil dilating, the other not. She turned his head sideways against the floor and came down with the hammer, depressing his temple an inch, and thick blood came out his ears.

  She did not feel anything.

  Mason heard the door of his room open and he rolled his goggled eye. He had been asleep for a few moments, the lights soft. The eel was also asleep beneath its rock.

  Margot’s great frame filled the doorway. She closed the door behind her.

  “Hi, Mason.”

  “What happened down there? What took you so fucking long?”

  “They’re all dead down there, Mason.” Margot came to his bedside and unclipped the telephone line from Mason’s phone and dropped it on the floor.

  “Piero and Carlo and Johnny Mogli are all dead. Dr. Lecter got away and he carried the Starling woman with him.”

  Froth appeared between Mason’s teeth as he cursed.

  “I sent Tommaso home with his money.”

  “You what???? You fucking idiot bitch, now listen, we’re going to clean this up and start over. We’ve got the weekend. We don’t have to worry about what Starling saw. If Lecter’s got her, she’s good as dead.”

  Margot shrugged. “She never saw me.”

  “Get on the horn to Washington and get four of those bastards up here. Send the helicopter. Show them the backhoe—show them—Cordell! Get in here.” Mason whistled into his panpipes. Margot pushed the pipes aside and leaned over him, so that she could see his face.

  “Cordell’s not coming, Mason. Cordell’s dead.”


  “I killed him in the playroom. Now. Mason, you’re going to give me what you owe me.” She put up the side rails on his bed and, lifting the great coil of his plaited hair, she stripped the cover off his body. His little legs were no bigger around than rolls of cookie dough. His hand, the only extremity he could move, fluttered at the phone. His hard-shell respirator puffed up and down in its regular rhythm.

  From her pocket Margot took a nonspermicidal condom and held it up for him to see. From her sleeve she took the cattle prod.

  “Remember, Mason, how you used to spit on your cock for lubrication? Think you could work up some spit? No? Maybe I can.”

  Mason bellowed when his breath permitted, a series of donkey like brays, but it was over in half a minute, and very successfully too.

  “You’re dead, Margot.” It sounded more like “Nargot.”

  “Oh, Mason, we all are. Didn’t you know? But these aren’t,” she said, securing her blouse over her warm container. “They’re wiggling. I’ll show you how. I’ll show you how they wiggle—show-and-tell.”

  Margot picked up the spiky fish-handling gloves beside the aquarium.

  “I could adopt Judy,” Mason said. “She could be my heir, and we could do a trust.”

  “We certainly could,” Margot said, lifting a carp out of the holding tank. She brought a chair from the seating area, and standing on it, took the lid off the big aquarium. “But we won’t.”

  She bent over the aquarium with her great arms down in the water. She held the carp by the tail down close to the grotto and when the eel came out she grabbed it behind the head with her powerful hand and lifted it clear out of the water, over her head. The mighty eel thrashing, as long as Margot and thick, its festive skin flashing. She gripped the eel with the other hand too and when it flexed it was all she could do to hold on with the spiky gloves imbedded in its hide.

  Careful down off the chair and she came to Mason carrying the flexing eel, its head shaped like a bolt cutter, teeth clicking together with a sound like a telegraph key, the back-curved teeth no fish ever escaped. She flopped the eel on top of his chest, on the respirator, and holding it with one hand, she lashed his pigtail around and around and around it.

  “Wiggle, wiggle, Mason,” she said.

  She held the eel behind the head with one hand and with the other she forced down Mason’s jaw, forced it down, putting her weight on his chin, him straining with what strength he had, and with a creaking, cracking sound his mouth opened.

  “You should have taken the chocolate,” Margot said, and stuffed the eel’s maw into Mason’s mouth, it seizing his tongue with its razor-sharp teeth as it would a fish and not letting go, never letting go, its body thrashing tangled in Mason’s pigtail. Blood blew out Mason’s nose hole and he was drowning.

  Margot left them together, Mason and the eel, the carp circling alone in the aquarium. She composed herself at Cordell’s desk and watched the monitors until Mason flat-lined.

  The eel was still moving when she went back into Mason’s room. The respirator went up and down, inflating the eel’s air bladder as it pumped bloody froth out of Mason’s lungs. Margot rinsed the cattle prod in the aquarium and put it in her pocket.

  Margot took from a baggie in her pocket the bit of Dr. Lecter’s scalp and the lock of his hair. She scraped blood from the scalp with Mason’s fingernails, unsteady work with the eel still moving, and entwined the hair in his fingers. Last, she stuffed a single hair into one of the fish gloves.

  Margot walked out without looking at the dead Cordell and went home to Judy with her warm prize, tucked where it would stay warm.



  Therfore bihoveth hire a ful long spoon

  That shal ete with a feend.

  —Geoffrey Chaucer,





  CLARICE STARLING lies unconsciou
s in a large bed beneath a linen sheet and a comforter. Her arms, covered by the sleeves of silk pajamas, are on top of the covers and they are restrained with silk scarves, only enough to keep her hands away from her face and to protect the IV butterfly in the back of her hand.

  There are three points of light in the room, the low shaded lamp and the red pinpoints in the center of Dr. Lecter’s pupils as he watches her.

  He is sitting in an armchair, his fingers steepled under his chin. After a time he rises and takes her blood pressure. With a small flashlight he examines her pupils. He reaches beneath the covers and finds her foot, brings it out from under the covers and, watching her closely, stimulates the sole with the tip of a key. He stands for a moment, apparently lost in thought, holding her foot gently as though it were a small animal in his hand.

  From the manufacturer of the tranquilizer dart, he has learned its content. Because the second dart that struck Starling hit bone in her shin, he believes she did not get a full double dose. He is administering stimulant counter-measures with infinite care.

  Between ministrations to Starling, he sits in his armchair with a big pad of butcher paper doing calculations. The pages are filled with the symbols both of astrophysics and particle physics. There are repeated efforts with the symbols of string theory. The few mathematicians who could follow him might say his equations begin brilliantly and then decline, doomed by wishful thinking: Dr. Lecter wants time to reverse—no longer should increasing entropy mark the direction of time. He wants increasing order to point the way. He wants Mischa’s baby teeth back out of the stool pit. Behind his fevered calculations is the desperate wish to make a place for Mischa in the world, perhaps the place now occupied by Clarice Starling.



  MORNING AND yellow sunlight in the playroom at Muskrat Farm. The great stuffed animals with their button eyes regard the body of Cordell, covered now.

  Even in the middle of winter, a bluebottle fly has found the body and is walking over the covering sheet where blood has soaked through.

  Had Margot Verger known the raw ablative tension suffered by the principals in a media-ridden homicide, she might never have stuffed the eel down her brother’s throat.

  Her decision not to try to clean up the mess at Muskrat Farm and to simply duck until the storm was over was a wise one. No one living saw her at Muskrat when Mason and the others were killed.

  Her story was that the first frantic call from the midnight relief nurse wakened her in the house she shared with Judy. She came to the scene and arrived shortly after the first sheriff’s officers.

  The lead investigator for the sheriff’s department, Detective Clarence Franks, was a youngish man with eyes a bit too close together, but he was not stupid as Margot had hoped he would be.

  “Can’t just anybody come up here in that elevator, it takes a key to get in, right?” Franks asked her. The detective and Margot sat awkwardly side by side on the love seat.

  “I suppose so, if that’s the way they came.”

  “‘They,’ Ms. Verger? Do you think there might be more than one?”

  “I have no idea, Mr. Franks.”

  She had seen her brother’s body still joined to the eel and covered by a sheet. Someone had unplugged the respirator. The criminalists were taking samples of aquarium water and taking swipes of blood from the floor. She could see in Mason’s hand the piece of Dr. Lecter’s scalp. They hadn’t found it yet. The criminologists looked to Margot like Tweedledum and Tweedledee.

  Detective Franks was busy scribbling in his notebook.

  “Do they know who those other poor people are?” Margot said. “Did they have families?”

  “We’re working it out,” Franks said. “There were three weapons we can trace.”

  In fact, the sheriff’s department was not sure how many persons had died in the barn, as the pigs had disappeared into the deep woods dragging with them the depleted remains for later.

  “In the course of this investigation, we might have to ask you and your—your longtime companion—to undergo a polygraph examination, that’s a lie detector, would you consent to that, Ms. Verger?”

  “Mr. Franks, I’ll do anything to catch these people. To specifically answer your question, ask me and Judy when you need us. Should I talk to the family lawyer?”

  “Not if you don’t have anything to hide, Ms. Verger.”

  “Hide?” Margot managed tears.

  “Please, I have to do this, Ms. Verger.” Franks started to put his hand on her massive shoulder and thought better of it.



  STARLING WOKE in the fresh-smelling semidark, knowing in some primal way that she was near the sea. She moved slightly on the bed. She felt a deep soreness all over, and then she fell away from consciousness again. When next she woke, a voice was talking quietly to her, offering a warm cup. She drank from it, and the taste was similar to the herbal tea Mapp’s grandmother sent her.

  Day and evening again, the smell of fresh flowers in the house, and once the faint sting of a needle. Like the thud and crackle of distant fireworks, the remnants of fear and pain popped on the horizon, but not close, never close. She was in the garden of the hurricane’s eye.

  “Waking. Waking, calm. Waking in a pleasant room,” a voice said. She heard faint chamber music.

  She felt very clean and her skin was scented with mint, some ointment that gave a deep comforting warmth.

  Starling opened her eyes wide.

  Dr. Lecter stood at a distance from her, very still, as he had stood in his cell when she first saw him. We are accustomed to seeing him unfettered now. It is not shocking to see him in open space with another mortal creature.

  “Good evening, Clarice.”

  “Good evening, Dr. Lecter,” she said, responding in kind with no real idea of the time.

  “If you feel uncomfortable, it’s just bruises you suffered in a fall. You’ll be all right. I’d just like to be positive about something though, could you please look into this light?” He approached her with a small flashlight. Dr. Lecter smelled like fresh broadcloth.

  She forced herself to keep her eyes open as he examined her pupils, then he stepped away again.

  “Thank you. There’s a very comfortable bathroom, just in there. Want to try your feet? Slippers are beside your bed, I’m afraid I had to borrow your boots.”

  She was awake and not awake. The bathroom was indeed comfortable and furnished with every amenity. In the following days she enjoyed long baths there, but she did not bother with her reflection in the mirror, so far was she from herself.



  DAYS OF talk, sometimes hearing herself and wondering who was speaking with such intimate knowledge of her thoughts. Days of sleep and strong broth and omelettes.

  And one day Dr. Lecter said, “Clarice, you must be tired of your robes and pajamas. There are some things in the closet you might like—only if you want to wear them.” And in the same tone, “I put your personal things, your purse and your gun and your wallet, in the top drawer of the chest, if you want any of that.”

  “Thank you, Dr. Lecter.”

  In the closet were a variety of clothes, dresses, pants suits, a shimmery long gown with a beaded top. There were cashmere pants and pullovers that appealed to her. She chose tan cashmere, and moccasins.

  In the drawer was her belt and Yaqui slide, empty of the lost .45, but her ankle holster was there beside her purse, and in it was the cut-down .45 automatic. The clip was full of fat cartridges, nothing in the chamber, the way she wore it on her leg. And her boot knife was there, in its scabbard. Her car keys were in her purse.

  Starling was herself and not herself. When she wondered about events it was as though she saw them from the side, saw herself from a distance.

  She was happy to see her car in the garage when Dr. Lecter took her out to it. She looked at the wipers and decided to replace them.

  “Clarice, how do y
ou think Mason’s men followed us to the grocery store?”

  She looked up at the garage ceiling for a moment, thinking.

  It took her less than two minutes to find the antenna running crosswise between the backseat and the package shelf, and she followed the antenna wire to the hidden beacon.

  She turned it off and carried it into the house by the antenna as she might carry a rat by the tail.

  “Very nice,” she said. “Very new. Decent installation too. I’m sure it’s got Mr. Krendler’s prints on it. May I have a plastic bag?”

  “Could they search for it with aircraft?”

  “It’s off now. They couldn’t search with aircraft unless Krendler admitted he used it. You know he didn’t do that. Mason could sweep with his helicopter.”

  “Mason is dead.”

  “Ummmm,” Starling said. “Would you play for me?”



  PAUL KRENDLER swung between tedium and rising fear in the first days after the murders. He arranged for direct reports from the FBI local field office in Maryland.

  He felt reasonably safe from any audit of Mason’s books because the passage of money from Mason to his own numbered account had a fairly foolproof cutout in the Cayman Islands. But with Mason gone, he had big plans and no patron. Margot Verger knew about his money, and she knew he had compromised the security of the FBI files on Lecter. Margot had to keep her mouth shut.

  The monitor for the auto beacon worried him. He had taken it from the Engineering building at Quantico without signing it out, but he was on the entry log at Engineering for that day.

  Dr. Doemling and the big nurse, Barney, had seen him at Muskrat, but only in a legitimate role, talking with Mason Verger about how to catch Hannibal Lecter.

  General relief came to everyone on the fourth afternoon after the murders when Margot Verger was able to play for the sheriff’s investigators a newly taped message on her answering machine.

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