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Cutting Old Strings

copyright 2001, by DianaLecter

Disclaimer:    The characters Dr. Hannibal Lecter, Clarice Starling 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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Part 1

Paul Krendler was rushed to the hospital and pronounced dead an hour and six minutes after Dr. Lecter again escaped her custody.  Clarice Starling did not know how to react, and made the simple decision not to.  While she would always feel a sense of obligation to what happened to her former nemesis, she would not regret losing his sneering eyes over her shoulder.

As for allowing Dr. Lecter to escape, in a matter of speaking, Starling did not know how to react to that.  Apart of her would always be glad he was spared his life and that he would not have to return to the clutches of any ‘specialist’ in such a ‘sociopath,’ yet with what she had done in aiding his rescue, her career was on the verge of falling over the edge.  Jack Crawford, returning from a luxurious vacation in Cancun, was astonished at her actions, though that did not stop him from pulling every string he had access to in order to save her place in the FBI.

Starling’s thoughts on Dr. Lecter himself were distant.  What she had always wondered about his vague feelings for her had come out in their last minutes together, and it would burn her until the day she died. 

“Clarice, could you ever say to me, stop?  If you loved me, you’d stop?”   

Of all the things she was hoping he would do in that minute, stopping was certainly not one of them.  Out of confusion and a short crinkle of memory of who she was, what she stood for, her reply came out in a hazy, cold tone that told him he would never get what he wanted.

Is that why she said it like that?  To make him aware that she would never submit, yet again never ask him to stop submitting?  That somewhere beneath every moral she learned, every ethic she built herself to live up to, she secretly yearned to banish all those things from herself and give in to what she truly wanted?  That she was still that little girl who answered the plight of the lambs, and was too afraid to let go of any identity she thought she had?

Where are you, Dr. Lecter?  Will you let me see you again?

There were so many years between the lines of communication.  The phone call following her graduation - a good decade, or close to it, then the letter after killing Evelda Drumgo.  Would she need to get herself into further trouble to attract his attention again?  Did she want to?

The entire ordeal at the lake house left her very alone and very confused.  Her enemies in the Bureau, the ones she had known about and even those who remained in the shadows, stepped together with her return and demanded releasing her, possibly holding her on criminal charges.  Crawford intervened then, managed to get her off the hook of a felony offense, and was currently working on saving what name she had earned in the Bureau.

If he succeeded in saving her career, then what?  Did really want to go back?  Could she avoid what she felt - or didn’t feel - for Dr. Lecter all her life?

Two months since the lake house incident, and Starling was sure that she would never hear from Dr. Lecter again, and that thought made her quiver in an emotion she could only identify as grief.  She cursed herself for feeling this way, this way about a murderer, a CANNIBAL, one that ate other human flesh and enjoyed it with no regrets.  However monstrous the media and FBI attempted to make him, Starling could see no monstrosity in him, and it only made her yearn to speak with him again, if just once.

Career dangling above the gutter with only Jack Crawford to save it, Starling found herself focusing more on her longing to see Dr. Lecter than saving her place in FBI, and sank into a depression that he would not only forget her, but with good riddance.

Then, two weeks into the second month of recuperation, a package arrived.  Breaths of hungry anticipation escaping her, Starling very delicately opened the package with every intention of turning it into the FBI, hoping to save her career.  All feelings of relief that she was still on his mind washed away with the unspoken hope that her career might be saved.

Dear Clarice,

Well, Clarice, I, first of all, am compelled to dispense of the common pleasantries and go directly to the point.  Please forgive me.

As I am sure you will see this letter as the silver lining to save your so-called career, I will be sure to add much to your liking.

First off, I am rather inclined to mention my disappointment with the quality of your friend, Mr. Krendler’s, frontal lobes.  Not at all up to standard.  Be glad you avoided the great temptation, I’m sure, to try it.  My future cooking, I assure you, will be much more adequate.  As it is, I was slightly rushed.

Tell me, did he last long after our unfortunate parting?  For your sake, I hope not.  Your plight in saving others, even those who craft your doom, from torment is quite appealing, not to mention heroic.  However, Mr. Krendler held a rather low place in my book, and in attribute to him, I do also hope it was agonizing and very prolonged.

Pardon if the writing is a bit rough.  As it is, my left hand has suffered the loss of a thumb, and occasionally it reflects to my right.

Starling had hardly noticed.  Dr. Lecter’s handwriting was exquisite, under any circumstance.

Now, to better things, so to speak.  However much easier your career might be to discuss, I’m sure it burns you more than Krendler’s fate ever could.

Have the rumors started yet, Clarice?  Be assured, however, that they will soon in any circumstance. 

Are you hoping for me to shed some light?  Eventually, people will begin to overlook your current disgrace and turn to the more interesting topic of why I neglected to make you my next meal.  Don’t worry; you will not need to share anything, for they will come to their own conclusions.  And sorry to say, Clarice, they will believe what they want to believe no matter what your rationalizing consists of.

As I said to once, before I forced a release of my confinement, people will say we’re in love.  More over, your determination to rescue me from Mason’s twisted plans will cloud what they believe you feel for me.

No, Clarice, I’m afraid the obvious answer that you have a fetish of saving any creature from torture will not occur to them.  If it does, it will be dismissed.  They will not research your will to save the lambs or poor Catherine Martin.  No.  They will only see a federal officer who risked her morals, career, and life to rescue a monster.  You will never remove that reputation, no matter what you further accomplish in the FBI...

Starling smiled vaguely, though the words stung.  Somewhere in the subconscious of her mind, she heard his voice, saying the Bureaus’ name the way he intended for it to sound.  “F…B…I.”

…An irreplaceable imprint has marked you forever as the good cop gone bad, and they will always see me as ‘your man.’  The monster label will dwindle, and yes, remain, however I have a new mark to add to my belt.  You, Clarice.  Though I have not injured you, what you have done has embedded a further reputation to my name, and forever blackened yours.

Does that burn you, Clarice?  To know you’ve sacrificed everything only to lose it anyway?  Now what are you left with?  A bad name, a tarnished career, a stolen kiss from lips you will never feel again?

I can still taste you on me, Clarice.  Every emotion you felt in that moment will forever tingle on my mouth, an unfortunate yet constant reminder of you.  Mmm, confusion, sadness, loss.  Yes.  The bittersweet taste of tears as well.  What were you crying for, Clarice?  Certainly not for me, or your career.  Perhaps one day you’ll tell me.  Perhaps.

Do you still entertain the idea that the FBI will doctor your career?  Answer yourself truthfully, Clarice.  Is your knight in the form of this letter, or your old pal, Jack Crawford?  Surely, together old Jacky-boy and I can save you a place in the Bureau…perhaps as a receptionist.  Of course, I would like to think you would break out of that damaging web before it finally cripples you.  Enemies will always threaten you, Clarice.  As by evidence already stated in this letter, I should hope that you would exercise the intelligence you have mustered under that hard head of yours to realize that.

Tell me, did you keep the dress?  I certainly hope so.  It was very appealing to the eye, though I doubt you would allow many to see you dressed formally.  Of course, that acknowledges your sexuality, and then they would see you as common.  Like your mother.  What you neglect to realize, Clarice, is that they do already.

I’m afraid very few will ever allow themselves to see the butterfly you are, or appreciate you for what you HAVE accomplished, rather outline your flaws.  You need to nourish yourself, Clarice, for no one else will.  As my assumed love letter stated, you are indeed the honey in the lion.  I beg you not to allow the bees that swarm around you to harvest.  If they do, you’ll never be free.  They don’t see you for potential or a promising career turned sour.  They will never see what I see.  Does that burn you as well, Clarice?  The only one who will ever see you for who you are is a monster.  Though you will never allow yourself to admit the nasty truth, you know that I know you more than anyone in this world can ever dream of.  The thought that truly frightens you, though, is that you know ME better than anyone ever will.  You were spared, marking you to the world as my weakness.  You will never know if it’s true.

Tell me, Miss Starling (I see I am no longer compelled to address you as ‘Agent,’ now am I?) will you continue to pursue my trail without the support of the Bureau?  If so, will it mend your career for petty personal gain, or something else?  Either way, we could have some fun.

In this light that I send you further packages, I recommend a P.O. box at the post office.  What I send you is for your eyes only, and though I know my letters and what have you will eventually reach the Bureau, I would hate to think that they never met your eyes.  

Enclosed is a bottle of Châteaux D’Yquem.  The year is your birth year, you will notice.  My apologies for missing your birthday.

Where are you, Clarice?  More importantly, where am I within you?

Ta,

Hannibal Lecter, MD

After completing the letter, Starling drew in a deep breath and sat back, unsure of what to think.  It was a few minutes before she explored the rest of the package, finding a bottle of the promised wine in prime condition.  With an aggravated sigh, she set it aside and sat back again.  The temptation to turn her mail in had come and gone in the course of reading, and it frightened her that she felt that way in such a short time period.

The return address read that Dr. Lecter was located in New Orleans.  While she wanted to believe that, she sensed he was far from the United States.

Or was he?  Had he deliberately not ordered a remailing address in the hopes that she would follow him?  To see what she would do?  Jack Crawford would be furious if he knew her thoughts, furious and hurt.  In the years since Bella died, he found her as sort of a fallback, someone he probably thought he could have at any time.  If he knew her thoughts about Dr. Lecter were leaning more toward the intimate, it would eat him from the inside.

“Do you think he imagines scenarios, exchanges, fucking you?”

I don't know, she answered the doctor now.  Do you?

The answer to that seemed simple enough, but the letter left her confused and even more alone than before.  Okay, so she had a lead.  What now?

This ain't no Shakespeare play, Starling told herself, her mind outlining the accent that resembled her father in more ways than she would like to admit.  To be or not to be is not a question this time.

Again, almost reluctantly, her eyes fell to the return address on the envelope.  New Orleans.  If there was one place she could imagine Dr. Lecter in the United States, it was most certainly there.  It had all the luxuries of his European life right here where he could keep a close watch on her.

Was it worth pursuing?  Had he written it because he thought she would follow?

He said you know him better than anyone does, she reminded herself.  Does that mean you know him well enough to judge whether or not her ordered a remailing service?  Does he want you to follow him?  Does he trust that you won't bring backup?

Backup.  Starling nearly laughed at that thought.  Why on Earth would the Bureau believe her, much less support such a crazy expedition?  It would only confirm her feelings for him, that she had them, whatever they were.  Now, it was clear there was a healthy obsession on his end.  Her obsession was vast as well, but was it healthy or getting to the point of breaking her?  What exactly were her feelings for him?  Certainly not the determination of an FBI agent who wants desperately to get the guy, more now like a dark attraction that she shuddered even to acknowledge. 

Well which is it, Clarice?  Go or stay, stay or go?  Go ruin yourself so the Bureau doesn’t have to and save Crawford all that time?  Stay or go, go or stay?  Make up your mind fast, girl, because Dr. Lecter certainly isn’t staying in the same place for long.  If he is in New Orleans, he will stay just as long as it takes to confirm my decision before leaving.  He isn’t going to be generous for long.

At that, another memory.  “I think I’ve been generous enough with you, and the clues.  Ta ta.” 

Tick tock tick tock tick tock…

Yes or no Clarice? 

Who was that?  Dr. Lecter?  No.  Those words that he had uttered so many years ago were no longer his, but her own.  Yes or no, Clarice?

Starling closed her eyes and moaned, slouching in her seat uncomfortably.  Oh God, what did she want?  Why was it so hard?  The impulse to cry came and went and came again.  The answer seemed so simple yet she couldn’t bring herself to recognize it.

Then, a horrible thought struck her.  What if it was a trap?  What if Dr. Lecter wanted to lure her to meet him simply to bring about her end out of resentment?

That thought, as terrifying as it was, came and went.  Whatever Dr. Lecter felt for her, it was strong enough to refrain from bringing her harm.  If anything, he admired her, and respected the way she was able to respect him.  He knew how difficult this was for her…didn’t he?

Starling sat up at that, wide-eyed and prying with eager fingers at the letter.  The passage she saw immediately was the one she was searching for. 

A bad name, a tarnished career, a stolen kiss from lips you will never feel again?

Never again?  That didn’t sound too promising.

Dismayed, Starling sighed and let the papers fall onto her desk again as she sat back.  She couldn’t go, she couldn’t.  It would ruin everything.  Any chance she had at ever regaining her dignity and place in the FBI.

The F…B…I…

Then, with a painfully sharp truth that made her catch her breath, Starling lurched forward.  She knew it then, she knew she had to pursue, she had to take this lead and use it as best she knew how.  If she didn’t, she would regret it the rest of her life.

Something was started back at the lake house, and it was up to her to finish it. 

Before she would allow herself to back out, Starling grasped the phone and quickly dialed Crawford’s home number.  After six rings, he answered.

“Crawford.”  His voice was masked with sleepiness, and the vague sensation of aging.

Starling glanced to the clock.  She hadn’t realized how late it was.  Oh well.  Too late to back out now.

“Mr. Crawford, I’m sorry for the hour, but I won’t be here tomorrow to tell you this.  In light of everything that’s going on right now, I’m going to disappear for a while and let the Bureau cool off.  I’ll call you in two weeks.”

Her words had obviously awaken him.  As soon as she stopped speaking, she heard him sit up with sudden sharpness and could almost see the alarm in his eyes.

“Starling, now is certainly not the time to be running from this.  You’ll only set yourself back.  Please, I beg you, don’t do this.”

The urgency in his voice almost caused her to decline and accept the request, but one glance at the letter dragged her back to the voice that continuously haunted her.  Baiting it away to allow herself to vocalize her decision, Starling said clearly, “I’m sorry, Mr. Crawford.  This is something I have to do.”  Without waiting for reply, Starling cut him off, something she would normally never do, and jumped to her feet.  Within twenty minutes, she had plane reservations for that evening, and was packed with everything she could find that was clean.  In ten, she was out the door and on her way to the airport. 

Two hours later, she changed planes in Memphis -

Love your suit.

and was on her way to New Orleans.

FIN

Part 1 of 2

1 of 2 | 2 of 2

copyright 2001, by DianaLecter

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