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copyright 2000, by Hannah

Disclaimer:    The characters Dr. Hannibal Lecter, Clarice Starling, Ardelia Mapp, Jack Crawford and Paul Krendler were created by Thomas Harris.  They are used herein without permission, but in the spirit of admiration and respect.  No infringement of copyright is intended, and no profit, of any kind, is made by the creator, maintainer or contributors to this site.

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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 one. 

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 and unsettling. 

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 waist.”

“Not with a look like that, girl!”

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 be redirected. 

“Yes, I have. Mardi Gras balls are taken seriously around here and I want some time to get it right.”

“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.


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