She had to admit that Ardelia
was right. She was enjoying herself.
Clarice had been reluctant to
accept Ardelia’s invitation to come with her to visit her family for
Mardi Gras, but her roommate had insisted that she needed a vacation. The
past 18 months had been exhausting for Starling in more ways than
After graduation she had
discovered that it would be far more difficult to find a place for herself
in the Bureau than she had expected. Thanks in large part to Paul
Krendler, the son-of-a-bitch, she was constantly battling bureaucracy and
was quickly coming to the end of her proverbial rope.
As far as Ardelia knew this
was all there was, but she was fighting another battle as well.
Don’t let Lecter inside your
head, Crawford had told her. Didn’t he realize how impossible that was
to avoid? Hannibal Lecter was firmly entrenched and showed no signs of
leaving. Much as she hated to admit it, she had no real desire to be rid
of him, though she tried her best to force him from her thoughts. Her
dreams were another matter entirely – and those she found both delicious
At any rate, the break from
routine was a lovely and much-needed indulgence. The absence of Krendler
alone was enough to leave her reeling with pleasure!
And as to Hannibal Lecter...
She couldn’t really say that she had thought of him any less over the
past several days, but the atmosphere here in New Orleans – particularly
at Mardi Gras – was not conducive to guilt over such things. The most
she’d felt, when she bothered to analyze it at all, had been wickedly
self-indulgent. Given her upbringing, she didn’t often allow herself
such liberties. She had to admit that she liked it... perhaps she should
yield to temptation more often.
Dr. Lecter would be pleased.
Hadn’t he told her that she needed to have more fun? It seemed that the
past several days had been just what the doctor ordered. She smiled to
herself at the turn of phrase and felt a pleasant heat rise in her cheeks
as she allowed herself to wonder just what other orders Dr. Lecter might
give her if the opportunity presented itself.
“Girlfriend! I know that
look!” It was Mapp. She had just taken a seat next to her in the crowded
café. “Who is he Starling? You holding out on me?”
Clarice shook her head, trying
not to laugh and not quite succeeding.
“It might surprise you to
know that I have many pleasant thoughts that do not start below the
“Not with a look like that,
Starling felt herself flush
even more thoroughly and quickly changed the subject.
“So, I’m guessing it’s
time to go home and get ready for tonight. Have you come to collect me?”
Mapp eyed her suspiciously for
another moment before releasing a theatrical sigh and allowing herself to
“Yes, I have. Mardi Gras
balls are taken seriously around here and I want some time to get it
“Well then, by all
means...” She dropped several bills on the table and stood up, motioning
for her friend to precede her out into the busy street.