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Corruption

copyright 2000, by DoktorFell

Disclaimer:    The characters Dr. Hannibal Lecter, Clarice Starling, Jack Crawford and Fredrick Chilton 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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PART 1

She grimaces as a reserved yet pleasant doctor at the local medical clinic cleans the gunshot wound before bandaging her arm and lets her mind travel back over the events of the past several days...

She had arrived on the island yesterday with little enthusiasm. The past 11 months had been spent tracking down dead-end leads on Hannibal Lecter,  and she was none too pleased when Jack Crawford told her that he was sending her to the Caribbean on what she had assumed would be yet another wild goose chase. This time she actually had to travel to check out a supposed sighting of the Doctor, and she resented wasting her energies on this occasion far more than she disliked doing it over the phone or on the computer. Of course, she had no choice but to do what the ‘Great Man’ wished, she had told herself as she packed for her trip.

Crawford had learned that Frederick Chilton was in hiding in one of the larger villages on the island, and though it was a long shot, he thought it might be reason enough to pay closer attention to this particular claim. Starling herself thought just the opposite. She was certain that Chilton’s paranoia regarding Hannibal Lecter was more than enough to inspire those in his orbit to see the Doctor around every corner, and she resented being sent off on any errand involving that self-important lech.

Crawford had been quick to point out that the setting for this particular errand was lovely and that she should consider it a sort of abbreviated vacation from the tedious work she had been subjected to for the bulk of the past year. Coming from someone else, this might have placated her a bit; but from Crawford, it sounded like just another of his not-so-subtle attempts at manipulation. This particular aspect of his managerial style had lost its charm for her quickly, and now she saw it as more and more of an annoyance. 

At any rate, the flight had been smooth and uneventful and she had settled into her room resignedly after a short but uncomfortable ride in what must have been the sole unairconditioned taxi on the entire island. She did have to admit that her accommodations were more than comfortable. She was in one of several tiny bungalows set off from the main building, and she liked the sense of privacy it provided. There was a small sitting room in addition to the bedroom and a large bath. Still, the setting didn’t make up for this ridiculous assignment, she thought resentfully. How long did Crawford expect her to keep pounding her head uselessly into the same brick wall?

“Watch the attitude, Starling,” she had admonished herself, as she unpacked and laid out new clothing to put on after her shower. “You wanted this assignment - God only knows why!”

It had been true once. After graduation from the Academy, she had been assigned to Behavioral Science and had been unreasonably pleased with Crawford’s decision to use her to run down leads regarding Dr. Lecter’s whereabouts – initially.  It didn’t take her very long to realize that this was a punishment of sorts. 

It seemed that her eagerness to pursue Dr. Lecter was a source of concern for Crawford. He found her reaction to the Doctor disturbing. Jack Crawford’s view was that Starling was far too comfortable with Hannibal Lecter. The prospect of dealing with him wasn’t at all frightening to her – in fact, it was something that Crawford believed her to be all too eager for.  To his mind, tracking down endless false leads was something akin to a child being made to smoke until he gets sick after sneaking one of  Dad’s cigarettes. This was Crawford’s misguided way of trying to insure that she was repulsed by even the slightest mention of Lecter’s name. In reality, it was only serving to make her sick and tired of the FBI – most particularly the Behavioral Sciences Unit.

Her flight had been late, and she hadn’t had time to do anything that evening other than shower and have a late dinner downstairs in her hotel. The next morning, she had called her local contact right after breakfast and discovered during a series of interviews set up for later that afternoon that the “sighting” was indeed a false alarm and this trip had been a waste of her time.

To make matters worse, Frederick Chilton presented himself in the lobby of the local precinct as she was leaving. He had ventured out of his make-shift fortress with two hulking bodyguards that both seemed - on first meeting - to be somewhat lacking in intelligence as well as rudimentary social skills. It occurred to Starling, unkindly, that these unimpressive minions were well-suited to their employer. The local authorities had informed him of Agent Starling’s visit, pointing out that she was in the process of confirming their belief that this latest claim had no basis in fact and suggesting that Dr. Chilton was perhaps overly focused on his former patient. 

Chilton went to some pains to voice his displeasure at this attitude before turning his attention to Starling. 

“Agent Starling,” he greeted her tersely. “Still running after Lecter? I would have thought that a promising young officer such as yourself might have moved on by this time.”

Starling held her temper in check and reassured herself that she had control of her tone before allowing herself a brief retort.

“That might have been the case if you hadn’t given him the opportunity to escape, Dr. Chilton.” She placed particular, sarcastic emphasis on the title. 

Chilton sputtered impotently and she pressed on.

“I’m afraid the FBI can’t come running down here every time you get spooked. You might have thought of that before you decided to take Dr. Lecter out on your little field trip.” She smiled sweetly, but her contempt for the man was evident in her eyes.

Noting the amusement of the local police, Chilton wisely moved on. “He is on this island, Agent Starling,” he insisted adamantly. “Hannibal Lecter won’t rest until he sees me dead.” 

Starling refrained from commenting that this didn’t seem like such a bad idea to her. She nodded in the direction of his bodyguards and pointed out that he appeared to be in capable hands without the aid of the FBI. Before he had an opportunity to respond in any meaningful way, she turned to thank her hosts for their assistance and their hospitality and headed toward the door.

“Do give the Doctor my regards when you see him, won’t you?” she shot back at Chilton as she stepped through the door and into the brilliant Caribbean sunshine. Rather than pause to enjoy the scene, she hurried along the street. She was aware that Chilton would eventually overcome his indignation and attempt to follow her, and her goal was to put as much distance as possible between them before he thought to do so.

She had gotten about a block away and paused to decide which direction she would turn in when she saw him. He was at the edge of a sizeable crowd of tourists on the opposite street corner. He had seen her as well. Their eyes met for the briefest of seconds before she turned at the sound of Frederick Chilton calling her name as he hurried toward her along the busy street.

From there it happened far too quickly to sort it out completely. She had turned her head back to find Dr. Lecter once again and Chilton’s glare followed her line of vision. He spotted Lecter headed off through the crowd just as she did and said something to one of his men. She wasn’t quite certain what was said, but the fellow pulled out a gun and pointed it into the crowd. She drew her own weapon and trained it on him, calling to him to drop his gun. His partner produced a gun as well and aimed for Starling. She dropped her weapon as the bullet went into her arm. By the time the local police arrived to sort things out, Lecter was nowhere to be seen.

Up to that point she could have told herself that she drew on Chilton’s bodyguard to protect innocent bystanders in the crowd; but as she found herself assuring local officials that this was merely the result of another flight of fancy on Chilton’s part, she was forced to admit to herself that it was Lecter she had been protecting. The official report would read that Chilton had mistakenly believed that he had seen Hannibal Lecter in a crowd of tourists. Subsequently, in response to Chilton’s request, his bodyguard drew his weapon and trained it on the crowd. Agent Starling had been shot by his partner while trying to diffuse the situation. Starling maintained that she had not seen Dr. Lecter at all and that there was no way that Chilton could have recognized him at that distance even if he had been there.

Chilton had done little to endear himself to local authorities and it was widely believed that he was over-reacting to Lecter’s escape - particularly after all this time had passed. He had no way of knowing that Starling had recognized the Doctor, and so maintained simply that she had not been as observant as one might hope to expect from an agent of the FBI. Regardless of these protestations –  delivered in a progressively more agitated tone –  this incident did nothing to change the view that Lecter was nowhere near the island and Chilton was the one who should be locked up somewhere. His bodyguards had been taken into custody and Starling had been taken to the medical clinic.

And here she is... frankly far more concerned about her behavior during the past couple of hours than she is about the gunshot wound. As it happens, the wound itself is relatively minor, and they will be sending her back to her hotel as soon as the doctor is finished with her. What is truly disturbing to her is the extent to which she seems willing to go to protect Hannibal Lecter. Had that really even been him back there or had Chilton gotten to her more than she’d thought? It is comforting to consider, but there is no doubt – it was Dr. Lecter. She had looked into his eyes.

What in God’s name had possessed her? She is comfortable with the notion that she would have drawn on Chilton’s bodyguard to keep him from shooting Lecter, but what had she been thinking when she calmly denied having seen him at all? Maybe the truth of the matter is that she doesn’t really want to take Lecter into custody. She suspects that after what he did in Memphis, the Doctor will surely be executed if he is apprehended again. Perhaps she simply doesn’t want to take him back to be killed. She knows that it isn’t that uncomplicated; but she just doesn’t have the energy to consider it any further at the moment, so it will have to suffice for now.

When she gets back to the hotel, she calls in to tell Jack Crawford that she has been shot by one of Chilton’s over-zealous bodyguards and that she would like to take a couple of days to recover and perhaps look into Chilton’s claim that he saw Dr. Lecter. She plans to cancel her plane reservation for the morning and stick around for a couple of days to give herself a chance to recuperate a bit and to check around just enough to put her mind at ease. She reassures Crawford that she is fine - the bullet had passed through her arm very close to the surface and there was no nerve or muscle damage to speak of. 

She also assures him that she has not seen Hannibal Lecter. As far as she is concerned, she lies, Chilton has gone a bit over the deep end and is seeing the Doctor in every shadow. She justifies this to herself by reasoning that it is too late to change her story without creating serious doubts as to her fitness to carry out her job –  and in regards to her loyalties, for that matter. She tells herself that she can always report to Crawford later that, after looking into the matter, she has become convinced that Chilton did see Hannibal Lecter this afternoon even though she failed to spot him. She knows even as she constructs this rationalization that she will do no such thing.

Crawford seems content with her reassurances and insists that she is to consider herself on sick leave until the following Monday.

This will give her several days to relax wherever she chooses. She need not pursue the matter of Chilton’s claim any further, he adds. As far as he is concerned, the matter is closed. He should have known that Chilton would prove to be an unreliable lead.  She hangs up and makes the call to cancel her airline reservation. 

The doctor at the clinic sent her home with a supply of painkillers which she had no intention of using, but she decides that she has no chance of sleeping without the drugs and sleep is something that she desperately wants. She goes into the bathroom for a glass of water and stares at her reflection in the mirror.

“Who in hell are you?” she asks.

FIN

Part 1 of 5

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