Hannibal by Thomas Harris

“Just sit still there until I’m gone.”

  _______

  It took Barney an hour and a half to go to sleep. He lay in his bed looking at the ceiling, his brow, broad as a dolphin’s, now sweaty, now dry Barney thought about callers to come. Just before he turned out his light, he went into his bathroom and took from his DOP kit a stainless-steel shaving mirror, Marine Corps issue.

  He padded into the kitchen, opened an electrical switch box in the wall and taped the mirror inside the switch box door.

  It was all he could do. He twitched in his sleep like a dog.

  After his next shift, he brought a rape kit home from the hospital.

  CHAPTER

  97

  THERE WAS only so much Dr. Lecter could do to the German’s house while retaining the furnishings. Flowers and screens helped. Color was interesting to see against the massive furniture and high darkness; it was an ancient, compelling contrast, like a butterfly lit on an armored fist.

  His absentee landlord apparently had a fixation on Leda and the Swan. The interspecies coupling was represented in no less than four bronzes of varying quality, the best a reproduction of Donatello, and eight paintings. One painting delighted Dr. Lecter, an Anne Shingleton with its genius anatomical articulation and some real heat in the fucking. The others he draped. The landlord’s ghastly collection of hunting bronzes was draped as well.

  Early in the morning the doctor laid his table carefully for three, studying it from different angles with the tip of his finger beside his nose, changed candlesticks twice and went from his damask place mats to a gathered tablecloth to reduce to more manageable size the oval dining table.

  The dark and forbidding sideboard looked less like an aircraft carrier when high service pieces and bright copper warmers stood on it. In fact, Dr. Lecter pulled out several of the drawers and put flowers in them, in a kind of hanging gardens effect.

  He could see that he had too many flowers in the room, and must add more to make it come back right again. Too many was too many, but way too many was just right. He settled on two flower arrangements for the table: a low mound of peonies in a silver dish, white as SNO BALLS, and a large, high arrangement of massed Bells of Ireland, Dutch iris, orchids and parrot tulips that screened away much of the table’s expanse and created an intimate space.

  A small ice storm of crystal stood before the service plates, but the flat silver was in a warmer to be laid at the last moment.

  The first course would be prepared at table, and accordingly he organized his alcohol burners, with his copper fait-tout and sauté pan, his condiments and his autopsy saw.

  He could get more flowers when he went out. Clarice Starling was not disturbed when he told her he was going. He suggested she might like to sleep.

  CHAPTER

  98

  IN THE afternoon of the fifth day after the murders, Barney had finished shaving and was patting alcohol on his cheeks when he heard the footsteps on the stairs. It was almost time for him to go to work.

  A firm knock. Margot Verger stood at his door. She carried a big purse and a small satchel.

  “Hi, Barney.” She looked tired.

  “Hi, Margot. Come in.”

  He offered her a seat at the kitchen table. “Want a Coke?” Then he remembered that Cordell’s head was driven into a refrigerator and he regretted the offer.

  “No thanks,” she said.

  He sat down across the table from her. She looked over his arms as a rival bodybuilder, then back to his face.

  “You okay, Margot?”

  “I think so,” she said.

  “Looks like you don’t have any worries, I mean from what I read.”

  “Sometimes I think about the talks we had, Barney. I kind of thought I might hear from you sometime.”

  He wondered if she had the hammer in the purse or the satchel.

  “Only way you hear from me, maybe I’d like to see how you’re doing sometime, if that was okay. Never asking for anything. Margot, you’re cool with me.”

  “It’s just, you know, you worry about loose ends. Not that I’ve got anything to hide.”

  He knew then she had the semen. It was when the pregnancy was announced, if they managed one, that she’d be worried about Barney.

  “I mean, it was a godsend, his death, I’m not going to lie about that.”

  The speed of her talk told Barney she was building momentum.

  “Maybe I would like a Coke,” she said.

  “Before I get it for you, let me show you something I’ve got for you. Believe me, I can put your mind at rest and it’ll cost you nothing. Take a second. Hold on.”

  He picked a screwdriver out of a canister of tools on the counter. He could do that with his side to Margot.

  In the kitchen wall were what appeared to be two circuit breaker boxes. Actually one box had replaced the other in the old building, and only the one on the right was in service.

  At the electrical boxes, Barney had to turn his back to Margot. Quickly he opened the one on the left. Now he could watch her in the mirror taped inside the switch box door. She put her hand inside the big purse. Put it in, didn’t take it out.

  By removing four screws, he was able to lift out of the box the disconnected panel of circuit breakers. Behind the panel was the space within the hollow wall.

  Reaching carefully inside, Barney removed a plastic bag.

  He heard a hitch in Margot’s breathing when he took out the object the bag contained. It was a famous brutish visage—the mask Dr. Lecter had been forced to wear in the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane to prevent him from biting. This was the last and most valuable item in Barney’s cache of Lecter memorabilia.

  “Whoa!” Margot said.

  Barney placed the mask facedown on the table on a piece of waxed paper under the bright kitchen light. He knew Dr. Lecter had never been allowed to clean his mask. Dried saliva was crusted inside the mouth opening. Where the straps attached to the mask were three hairs, caught in the fastenings and pulled out by their roots.

  A glance at Margot told him she was okay for the moment.

  Barney took from his kitchen cabinet the rape kit. The small plastic box contained Q-tips, sterile water, swatches and clean pill bottles.

  With infinite care he swabbed up the saliva flakes with a moistened Q-tip. He put the Q-tip into a pill bottle. The hairs he pulled loose from the mask and put them into a second bottle.

  He touched his thumb to the sticky sides of two pieces of scotch tape, leaving a clear fingerprint each time, and taped the lids on the bottles. He gave the two containers to Margot in a baggie.

  “Let’s say I got in some trouble and I lost my mind and I tried to roll over on you—say I tried to tell the police some story on you to beat some charges of my own. You have proof there that I was at least an accomplice in the death of Mason Verger and maybe did the whole thing myself At the least I supplied you with the DNA.”

  “You’d get immunity before you ratted.”

  “For conspiring maybe, but not for physically taking part in a big-publicity murder. They’d promise me use-immunity on conspiracy and then fuck me when they figured I helped. I’d be screwed forever. It’s right there in your hands.”

  Barney was not positive of this, but he thought it sounded pretty good.

  She could also plant the Lecter DNA on Barney’s still form anytime she needed to, and they both knew it.

  She looked at him for what seemed like a very long time with her bright blue butcher’s eyes.

  She put the satchel on the table. “Lot of money in there,” she said. “Enough to see every Vermeer in the world. Once.” She seemed a little giddy, and oddly happy. “I’ve got Franklin’s cat in the car, I’ve got to go. Franklin and his stepmother and his sister Shirley and some guy named Stringbean and God knows who else are coming out to Muskrat when Franklin gets out of the hospital. Cost me fifty dollars to get that fucking cat. It was living next door to Franklin’s old house under an alias.??
?

  She did not put the plastic bag into her purse. She carried it in her free hand. Barney guessed she didn’t want him to see her other option in the purse.

  At the door he said, “Think I could have a kiss?”

  She stood on tiptoe and gave him a quick kiss on the lips.

  “That will have to do,” she said primly. The stairs creaked under her weight going down.

  Barney locked his door and stood for minutes with his forehead against the cool refrigerator.

  CHAPTER

  99

  STARLING WOKE to distant chamber music, and the tangy aromas of cooking. She felt wonderfully refreshed and very hungry A tap at her door and Dr. Lecter came in wearing dark trousers, a white shirt and an ascot. He carried a long suit bag and a hot cappuccino for her.

  “Did you sleep well?”

  “Great, thank you.”

  “The chef tells me we’ll dine in an hour and a half. Cocktails in an hour, is that all right? I thought you might like this—see if it suits you.” He hung the bag in the closet and left without another sound.

  She did not look in her closet until after a long bath, and when she did look she was pleased. She found a long dinner gown in cream silk, narrowly but deeply décolleté beneath an exquisite beaded jacket.

  On the dresser were a pair of earrings with pendant cabochon emeralds. The stones had a lot of fire for an unfaceted cut.

  Her hair was always easy for her. Physically, she felt very comfortable in the clothes. Even unaccustomed as she was to this level of dress, she did not examine herself long in the mirror, only looking to see if everything was in place.

  The German landlord built his fireplaces oversized. In the drawing room, Starling found a good-sized log blazing. She approached the warm hearth in a whisper of silk.

  Music from the harpsichord in the corner. Seated at the instrument, Dr. Lecter in white tie.

  He looked up and saw her and his breath stopped in his throat. His hands stopped too, still spread above the keyboard. Harpsichord notes do not carry, and in the sudden quiet of the drawing room, they both heard him take his next breath.

  Two drinks waited before the fire. He occupied himself with them. Lillet with a slice of orange. Dr. Lecter handed one to Clarice Starling.

  “If I saw you every day, forever, I’d remember this time.” His dark eyes held her whole.

  “How many times have you seen me? That I don’t know about?”

  “Only three.”

  “But here—”

  “Is outside of time, and what I may see taking care of you does not compromise your privacy. That’s kept in its own place with your medical records. I’ll confess it is pleasant to look at you asleep. You’re quite beautiful, Clarice.”

  “Looks are an accident, Dr. Lecter.”

  “If comeliness were earned, you’d still be beautiful.”

  “Thanks.”

  “Do not say ‘Thanks.’” A fractional turn of his head was enough to dash his annoyance like a glass thrown into the fireplace.

  “I say what I mean,” Starling said. “Would you like it better if I said ‘I’m glad you find me so.’ That would be a little fancier, and equally true.”

  She raised her glass beneath her level prairie gaze, taking back nothing.

  It occurred to Dr. Lecter in the moment that with all his knowledge and intrusion, he could never entirely predict her, or own her at all. He could feed the caterpillar, he could whisper through the chrysalis; what hatched out followed its own nature and was beyond him. He wondered if she had the .45 on her leg beneath the gown.

  Clarice Starling smiled at him then, the cabochons caught the firelight and the monster was lost in self-congratulation at his own exquisite taste and cunning.

  “Clarice, dinner appeals to taste and smell, the oldest senses and the closest to the center of the mind. Taste and smell are housed in parts of the mind that precede pity, and pity has no place at my table. At the same time, playing in the dome of the cortex like miracles illumined on the ceiling of a church are the ceremonies and sights and exchanges of dinner. It can be far more engaging than theater.” He brought his face close to hers, taking some reading in her eyes. “I want you to understand what riches you bring to it, Clarice, and what your entitlements are. Clarice, have you studied your reflection lately? I think not. I doubt that you ever do. Come into the hall, stand in front of the pier glass.”

  Dr. Lecter brought a candelabrum from the mantel.

  The tall mirror was one of the good eighteenth-century antiques, but slightly smoky and crazed. It was out of Château Vaux-le-Vicomte and God knows what it has seen.

  “Look, Clarice. That delicious vision is what you are. This evening you will see yourself from a distance for a while. You will see what is just, you will say what is true. You’ve never lacked the courage to say what you think, but you’ve been hampered by constraints. I will tell you again, pity has no place at this table.

  “If remarks are passed that are unpleasant in the instant, you will see that context can make them something between droll and riotously funny. If things are said that are painfully true, then it is only passing truth and will change.” He took a sip of his drink. “If you feel pain bloom inside you, it will soon blossom into relief. Do you understand me?”

  “No, Dr. Lecter, but I remember what you said. Damn a bunch of self-improvement. I want a pleasant dinner.”

  “That I promise you.” He smiled, a sight that frightens some.

  Neither looked at her reflection now in the clouded glass; they watched each other through the burning tapers of the candelabrum and the mirror watched them both.

  “Look, Clarice.”

  She watched the red sparks pinwheel deep in his eyes and felt the excitement of a child approaching a distant fair.

  From his jacket pocket Dr. Lecter took a syringe, the needle fine as a hair and, never looking, only feeling, he slipped the needle into her arm. When he withdrew it, the tiny wound did not even bleed.

  “What were you playing when I came in?” she asked.

  If True Love Reigned. “It’s very old?”

  “Henry the Eighth composed it about 1510.” “Would you play for me?” she said. “Would you finish it now?”

  CHAPTER

  100

  THE BREEZE of their entry into the dining room stirred the flames of the candles and the warmers. Starling had only seen the dining room in passage and it was wonderful to see the room transformed. Bright, inviting. Tall crystal repeating the candle flames above the creamy napery at their places and the space reduced to intimate size with a screen of flowers shutting off the rest of the table.

  Dr. Lecter had brought his flat silver from the warmer at the last minute and when Starling explored her place setting, she felt in the handle of her knife an almost feverish heat.

  Dr. Lecter poured wine and gave her only a tiny amuse-gueule to eat for starters, a single Belon oyster and a morsel of sausage, as he had to sit over half a glass of wine and admire her in the context of his table.

  The height of his candlesticks was exactly right. The flames lit the deeps of her décolleté and he did not have to be vigilant about her sleeves.

  “What are we having?”

  He raised his finger to his lips. “You never ask, it spoils the surprise.”

  They talked about the trimming of crow quills and their effect on the voice of a harpsichord, and only for a moment did she recall a crow robbing her mother’s service cart on a motel balcony long ago. From a distance she judged the memory irrelevant to this pleasant time and she deliberately set it aside.

  “Hungry?”

  “Yes!”

  “Then we’ll have our first course.”

  Dr. Lecter moved a single tray from the sideboard to a space beside his place at the table and rolled a service cart to tableside. Here were his pans, his burners, and his condiments in little crystal bowls.

  He fired up his burners and began with a goodly knob of Charante butter i
n his copper fait-tout, swirling the melting butter and browning the butterfat to make beurrenoisette. When it was the brown of a hazelnut, he set the butter aside on a trivet.

  He smiled at Starling, his teeth very white.

  “Clarice, do you recall what we said about pleasant and unpleasant remarks, and things being very funny in context?”

  “That butter smells wonderful. Yes, I remember.”

  “And do you remember who you saw in the mirror, how splendid she was?”

  “Dr. Lecter, if you don’t mind my saying so this is getting a little Dick and Jane. I remember perfectly.”

  “Good. Mr. Krendler is joining us for our first course.”

  Dr. Lecter moved the large flower arrangement from the table to the sideboard.

  Deputy Assistant Inspector General Paul Krendler, in the flesh, sat at the table in a stout oak armchair. Krendler opened his eyes wide and looked about. He wore his runner’s headband and a very nice funeral tuxedo, with integral shirt and tie. The garment being split up the back, Dr. Lecter had been able to sort of tuck it around him, covering the yards of duct tape that held him to the chair.

  Starling’s eyelids might have lowered a fraction and her lips slightly pursed as they sometimes did on the firing range.

  Now Dr. Lecter took a pair of silver tongs from the sideboard and peeled off the tape covering Krendler’s mouth.

  “Good evening, again, Mr. Krendler.”

  “Good evening.” Krendler did not seem to be quite himself. His place was set with a small tureen.

  “Would you like to say good evening to Ms. Starling?”

  “Hello, Starling.” He seemed to brighten. “I always wanted to watch you eat.”

  Starling took him in from a distance, as though she were the wise old pier glass watching. “Hello, Mr. Krendler.” She raised her face to Dr. Lecter, busy with his pans. “How did you ever catch him?”

  “Mr. Krendler is on his way to an important conference about his future in politics,” Dr. Lecter said. “Margot Verger invited him as a favor to me. Sort of a quid pro quo. Mr. Krendler jogged up to the pad in Rock Creek Park to meet the Verger helicopter. But he caught a ride with me instead. Would you like to say grace before our meal, Mr. Krendler. Mr. Krendler?”

 
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