Hannibal by Thomas Harris


  The policemen stood rapt in the bedroom, staring at the bed she shared with Judy and listening to the voice of the fiend. Dr. Lecter gloated over the death of Mason and assured Margot that it was extremely painful and prolonged. She sobbed into her hand, and Judy held her. Finally Franks led her from the room, saying “No need for you to hear it again.”

  With the prodding of Krendler, the answering machine tape was brought to Washington and a voiceprint confirmed the caller was Dr. Lecter.

  But the greatest relief for Krendler came in a telephone call on the evening of the fourth day.

  The caller was none other than U.S. Representative Parton Vellmore of Illinois.

  Krendler had only spoken to the congressman on a few occasions, but his voice was familiar from television. Just the fact of the call was a reassurance; Vellmore was on the House Judiciary Subcommittee and a notable shitepoke; he would fly from Krendler in an instant if Krendler was hot.

  “Mr. Krendler, I know you were well acquainted with Mason Verger.”

  “Yes, sir.”

  “Well, it’s just a goddamned shame. That sadistic son of a bitch ruined Mason’s life, mutilated him and then came back and killed him. I don’t know if you’re aware of it, but one of my constituents also died in that tragedy. Johnny Mogli, served the people of Illinois for years in law enforcement.”

  “No, sir, I wasn’t aware of that. I’m sorry.”

  “The point is, Krendler, we have to go on. The Vergers’ legacy of philanthropy and their keen interest in public policy will continue. It’s bigger than the death of one man. I’ve been talking to several people in the twenty-seventh district and to the Verger people. Margot Verger has made me aware of your interest in public service. Extraordinary woman. Has a real practical side. We’re getting together very soon, real informal and quiet, and talk about what we can do next November. We want you on board. Think you could make the meeting?”

  “Yes, Congressman. Definitely.”

  “Margot will call you with the details, it’ll be in the next few days.”

  Krendler put the phone down, relief washing over him.

  The discovery in the barn of the .45 Colt registered to the late John Brigham, now known to be the property of Clarice Starling, was a considerable embarrassment to the Bureau.

  Starling was listed as missing, but the case was not carried as a kidnapping, as no living person saw her abducted. She was not even an agent missing from active duty. Starling was an agent on suspension, whose whereabouts were unknown. A bulletin was issued for her vehicle with the VIN and the license plate, but with no special emphasis on the owner’s identity.

  Kidnapping commands much more effort from law enforcement than a missing persons case. The classification made Ardelia Mapp so angry she wrote her letter of resignation to the Bureau, then thought it better to wait and work from within. Again and again Mapp found herself going to Starling’s side of the duplex to look for her.

  Mapp found the Lecter VICAP file and National Crime Information Center files maddeningly static, with only trivial additions: The Italian police had managed to find Dr. Lecter’s computer at last—the Carabinieri were playing Super Mario on it in their recreation room. The machine had purged itself the moment investigators hit the first key.

  Mapp badgered everyone of influence she could reach in the Bureau since Starling disappeared.

  Her repeated calls to Jack Crawford’s home were unanswered.

  She called Behavioral Science and was told Crawford remained in Jefferson Memorial Hospital with chest pains.

  She did not call him there. In the Bureau, he was Starling’s last angel.

  CHAPTER

  94

  STARLING HAD no sense of time. Over the days and nights there were the conversations. She heard herself speaking for minutes on end, and she listened.

  Sometimes she laughed at herself, hearing artless revelations that normally would have mortified her. The things she told Dr. Lecter were often surprising to her, sometimes distasteful to a normal sensibility, but what she said was always true. And Dr. Lecter spoke as well. In a low, even voice. He expressed interest and encouragement, but never surprise or censure.

  He told her about his childhood, about Mischa.

  Sometimes they looked at a single bright object together to begin their talks, almost always there was but a single light source in the room. From day to day the bright object changed.

  Today, they began with the single highlight on the side of a teapot, but as their talk progressed, Dr. Lecter seemed to sense their arrival at an unexplored gallery in her mind. Perhaps he heard trolls fighting on the other side of a wall. He replaced the teapot with a silver belt buckle.

  “That’s my daddy’s,” Starling said. She clapped her hands together like a child.

  “Yes,” Dr. Lecter said. “Clarice, would you like to talk with your father? Your father is here. Would you like to talk with him?”

  “My daddy’s here! Hey! All right!”

  Dr. Lecter put his hands on the sides of Starling’s head, over her temporal lobes, which could supply her with all of her father she would ever need. He looked deep, deep into her eyes.

  “I know you’ll want to talk privately. I’ll go now. You can watch the buckle, and in a few minutes, you’ll hear him knock. All right?”

  “Yes! Super!”

  “Good. You’ll just have to wait a few minutes.”

  Tiny sting of the finest needle—Starling did not even look down—and Dr. Lecter left the room.

  She watched the buckle until the knock came, two firm knocks, and her father came in as she remembered him, tall in the doorway, carrying his hat, his hair slicked down with water the way he came to the supper table.

  “Hey, Baby! What time do you eat around here?”

  He had not held her in the twenty-five years since his death, but when he gathered her to him, the western snaps on his shirtfront felt the very same, he smelled of strong soap and tobacco, and she sensed against her the great volume of his heart.

  “Hey, Baby. Hey, Baby. Did you fall down?” It was the same as when he gathered her up in the yard after she tried to ride a big goat on a dare. “You was doing pretty good ’til she swapped ends so fast. Come on in the kitchen and let’s see what we can find.”

  Two things on the table in the spare kitchen of her childhood home, a cellophane package of SNO BALLS, and a bag of oranges.

  Starling’s father opened his Barlow knife with the blade broken off square and peeled a couple of oranges, the peelings curling on the oilcloth. They sat in ladder-back kitchen chairs and he freed the sections by quarters and alternately he ate one, and he gave one to Starling. She spit the seeds in her hand and held them in her lap. He was long in a chair, like John Brigham.

  Her father chewed more on one side than the other and one of his lateral incisors was capped with white metal in the fashion of forties army dentistry. It gleamed when he laughed. They ate two oranges and a SNO BALL apiece and told a few knock-knock jokes. Starling had forgotten that wonderful squirmy feeling of springy icing under the coconut. The kitchen dissolved and they were talking as grown people.

  “How you doin’, Baby?” It was a serious question.

  “They’re pretty down on me at work.”

  “I know about that. That’s that courthouse crowd, Sugar. Sorrier bunch never—never drew breath. You never shot nobody you didn’t have to.”

  “I believe that. There’s other stuff.”

  “You never told a lie about it?”

  “No, sir.”

  “You saved that little baby.”

  “He came out all right.”

  “I was real proud of that.”

  “Thank you, sir.”

  “Sugar, I got to take off. We’ll talk.”

  “You can’t stay?”

  He put his hand on her head. “We can’t never stay, Baby. Can’t nobody stay like they want to.”

  He kissed her forehead and walked out of the room. She co
uld see the bullet hole in his hat as he waved to her, tall in the doorway.

  CHAPTER

  95

  CLEARLY STARLING loved her father as much as we love anybody, and she would have fought in an instant over a slur on his memory. Yet, in conversation with Dr. Lecter, under the influence of a major hypnotic drug and deep hypnosis, this is what she said:

  “I’m really mad at him, though. I mean, come on, how come he had to be behind a goddamned drugstore in the middle of the night going up against those two pissants that killed him? He short-shucked that old pump shotgun and they had him. They were nothing and they had him. He didn’t know what he was doing. He never learned anything.”

  She would have slapped the face of anybody else saying that.

  The monster settled back a micron in his chair. Ahh, at last we’ve come to it. These schoolgirl recollections were becoming tedious.

  Starling tried to swing her legs beneath the chair like a child, but her legs were too long. “See, he had that job, he went and did what they told him, went around with that damned watchman’s clock and then he was dead. And Mama was washing the blood out of his hat to bury it with him. Who came home to us? Nobody. Damn few SNO BALLS after that, I can tell you. Mama and me, cleaning up motel rooms. People leaving wet Trojans on the nightstand. He got killed and left us because he was too goddamned stupid. He should have told those town jackasses to stuff the job.”

  Things she would never have said, things banned from her higher brain.

  From the beginning of their acquaintance, Dr. Lecter had needled her about her father, calling him a night watchman. Now he became Lecter the Protector of her father’s memory.

  “Clarice, he never wished for anything but your happiness and well-being.”

  “Wish in one hand and shit in the other one and see which one gets full the first,” said Starling. This adage of the orphans’ home should have been particularly distasteful coming from that attractive face, but Dr. Lecter seemed pleased, even encouraged.

  “Clarice, I’m going to ask you to come with me to another room,” Dr. Lecter said. “Your father visited you, as best you could manage. You saw that, despite your intense wish to keep him with you, he couldn’t stay. He visited you. Now it’s time for you to visit him.”

  Down a hall to a guest bedroom. The door was closed.

  “Wait a moment, Clarice.” He went inside.

  She stood in the hall with her hand on the knob and heard a match struck.

  Dr. Lecter opened the door.

  “Clarice, you know your father is dead. You know that better than anyone.”

  “Yes.”

  “Come in and see him.”

  Her father’s bones were composed on a twin bed, the long bones and rib cage covered by a sheet. The remains were in low relief beneath the white cover, like a child’s snow angel.

  Her father’s skull, cleaned by the tiny ocean scavengers off Dr. Lecter’s beach, dried and bleached, rested on the pillow.

  “Where was his star, Clarice?”

  “The village took it back. They said it cost seven dollars.”

  “This is what he is, this is all of him now. This is what time has reduced him to.”

  Starling looked at the bones. She turned and quickly left the room. It was not a retreat and Lecter did not follow her. He waited in the semidark. He was not afraid, but he heard her coming back, with ears as keen as those of a staked-out goat. Something bright metal in her hand. A badge, John Brigham’s shield. She put it on the sheet.

  “What could a badge mean to you, Clarice? You shot a hole through one in the barn.”

  “It meant everything to him. That’s how much he knewww.” The last word distorted and her mouth turned down. She picked up her father’s skull and sat on the other bed, hot tears springing in her eyes and pouring down her cheeks.

  Like a toddler she caught up the tail of her pullover and held it to her cheek and sobbed, bitter tears falling with a hollow tap tap on the dome of her father’s skull resting in her lap, its capped tooth gleaming. “I love my daddy, he was as good to me as he knew how to be. It was the best time I ever had.” And it was true, and no less true than before she let the anger out.

  When Dr. Lecter gave her a tissue she simply gripped it in her fist and he cleaned her face himself.

  “Clarice, I’m going to leave you here with these remains. Remains, Clarice. Scream your plight into his eyeholes and no reply will come.” He put his hands on the sides of her head. “What you need of your father is here, in your head, and subject to your judgment, not his. I’ll leave you now. Do you want the candles?”

  “Yes, please.”

  “When you come out, bring only what you need.”

  He waited in the drawing room, before the fire. He passed the time playing his theremin, moving his empty hands in its electronic field to create the music, moving the hands he had placed on Clarice Starling’s head as though he now directed the music. He was aware of Starling standing behind him for some time before he finished his piece.

  When he turned to her, her smile was soft and sad and her hands were empty.

  Ever, Dr. Lecter sought pattern.

  He knew that, like every sentient being, Starling formed from her early experience matrices, frameworks by which later perceptions were understood.

  Speaking to her through the asylum bars so many years ago, he had found an important one for Starling, the slaughter of lambs and horses on the ranch that was her foster home. She was imprinted by their plight.

  Her obsessive and successful hunt for Jame Gumb was driven by the plight of his captive.

  She had saved him from torture for the same reason.

  Fine. Patterned behavior.

  Ever looking for situational sets, Dr. Lecter believed that Starling saw in John Brigham her father’s good qualities—and with her father’s virtues the unfortunate Brigham was also assigned the incestual taboo. Brigham, and probably Crawford, had her father’s good qualities. Where were the bad?

  Dr. Lecter searched for the rest of this split matrix. Using hypnotic drugs and hypnotic techniques much modified from cameral therapy, he was finding in Clarice Starling’s personality hard and stubborn nodes, like knots in wood, and old resentments still flammable as resin.

  He came upon tableaux of pitiless brightness, years old but well tended and detailed, that sent limbic anger flashing through Starling’s brain like lightning in a thunder-head.

  Most of them involved Paul Krendler. Her resentment of the very real injustices she had suffered at Krendler’s hands was charged with the anger at her father that she could never, never acknowledge. She could not forgive her father for dying. He had left the family, he had stopped peeling oranges in the kitchen. He had doomed her mother to the commode brush and the pail. He had stopped holding Starling close, his great heart booming like Hannah’s heart as they rode into the night.

  Krendler was the icon of failure and frustration. He could be blamed. But could he be defied? Or was Krendler, and every other authority and taboo, empowered to box Starling into what was, in Dr. Lecter’s view, her little low-ceiling life?

  To him one hopeful sign: Though she was imprinted with the badge, she could still shoot a hole through one and kill the wearer. Why? Because she had committed to action, identified the wearer as a criminal and made the judgment ahead of time, overruling the imprinted icon of the star. Potential flexibility. The cerebral cortex rules. Did that mean room for Mischa within Starling? Or was it simply another good quality of the place Starling must vacate?

  CHAPTER

  96

  BARNEY, BACK in his apartment in Baltimore, back in the round of working at Misericordia, had the three to eleven shift. He stopped for a bowl of soup at the coffee shop on his way home and it was nearly midnight when he let himself into his apartment and turned on the light.

  Ardelia Mapp sat at his kitchen table. She was pointing a black semiautomatic pistol at the center of his face. From the size of the hole in th
e muzzle, Barney judged it was a .40 caliber.

  “Sit down, Nursey,” Mapp said. Her voice was hoarse and around her dark pupils her eyes were orange. “Pull your chair over there and tip back against the wall.”

  What scared him more than the big stopper in her hand was the other pistol on the place mat before her. It was a Colt Woodsman .22 with a plastic pop bottle taped to the muzzle as a silencer.

  The chair groaned under Barney’s weight. “If the chair legs break don’t shoot me, I can’t help it,” he said.

  “Do you know anything about Clarice Starling?”

  “No.”

  Mapp picked up the small-caliber gun. “I’m not fucking around with you, Barney. The second I think you’re lying, Nursey, I’m gonna darken your stool, do you believe me?”

  “Yes.” Barney knew it was true.

  “I’m going to ask you again. Do you know anything that would help me find Clarice Starling? The post office says you had your mail forwarded to Mason Verger’s place for a month. What the fuck, Barney?”

  “I worked up there. I was taking care of Mason Verger, and he asked me all about Lecter. I didn’t like it up there and I quit. Mason was pretty much of a bastard.”

  “Starling’s gone away.”

  “I know.”

  “Maybe Lecter took her, maybe the pigs got her. If he took her what would he do with her?”

  “I’m being honest with you—I don’t know. I’d help Starling if I could. Why wouldn’t I? I kind of liked her and she was getting me expunged. Look in her reports or notes or—”

  “I have. I want you to understand something, Barney. This is a one-time-only offer. If you know anything you better tell me now. If I ever find out, no matter how long from now, that you held out something that might have helped, I will come back here and this gun will be the last thing you ever see. I will kill your big ugly ass. Do you believe me?”

  “Yes.”

  “Do you know anything?”

  “No.” The longest silence he could ever remember.

 
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