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Daddy's Girl

copyright 2003, by Kurt GW

Disclaimer:    Dr. Hannibal Lecter was 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 8


        Clarice Starling sprints from her office and heads for the top floor. Somewhere below her, Hannibal Lecter is locked away in a small room. Just as he was once before. He’ll get out; Clarice knows he will. She cannot stop him, but she can slow him down. For now, it will keep her safe.

        The upstairs hall is quiet and dark. For a moment, Clarice freezes, illogically convinced that he has already freed himself and is in the hallway waiting for her. He may be locked in the freezer, but he has also taken up residence in the back of her head. That is nothing new. He lived there after their first meeting until their second meeting.

        For now the focus is the child. Her daughter, the little girl she has borne and then can only remember in fractures and shards. For a moment she flashes back to Feliciana Fish Market. The child is safe.

        She enters Susana’s room to discover her daughter sleeping peacefully in her bed. Her face looks innocent and angelic as Clarice looks down on her. Clarice’s heart begins to slow down from its racing beat as she observes the sleeping child.

        There is little time to sit there and watch the kid sleep. She has to move. She has cash, papers, and the little girl. To shake Susana awake takes only a moment. Her little girl stares at her owlishly and blinks her eyes.

        “Hi, Mama,” she says blearily, and looks at her curiously.

        “Susana,” Clarice says urgently. “You need to come with me. Now.”

        “Okay,” Susana says, and gives her mother a blank look. “Is something wrong?”

        No, honey, actually, something is right. I am right. Now be a good girl and don’t argue with me.

        “Honey, you and I have to go,” Clarice says. “I need you to come with me, all right?”

        Susana eyes her mother suspiciously from those maroon eyes. “But it’s bedtime,” she says suspiciously.

        “Honey…,” Clarice says, and closes her eyes. She’s already seen what a daddy’s girl Susana is. Perhaps a white lie will speed things along. “Mama just got a phone call,” she says easily. “Your aunt Ardelia is very sick. You and I are going to go and see her.”

        Susana blinks and rubs at her eyes. “What about Papa?” she asks.

        Clarice swallows. You just had to ask. “Papa has some things he has to do. He’ll fly up after us in a couple days.” I have no doubt of it, but the thing is, he won’t catch us.        

       The sheets rasp as the little girl slides out of bed. “Okay,” she says. “Can I say goodbye to Papa?”

        No, you can’t. I locked him in the freezer, sweetheart.

        “Papa is busy,” Clarice says. “Susana, don’t argue with me. Just get some clothes on.”

        The little girl ponders that while she gets dressed. A dress again. Clarice lets out a sigh. She’d worn dresses as a little girl, but once she’d become an adult she dressed for comfort. How had she ended up with a daughter enamored of frills and lace and nail polish?

        You’re responsible too, a voice whispers. You liked dressing her up cute when she was a baby. You wanted her to have things you never had.

        Her own voice – no, Maria’s voice – echoes in her head. It is happy and sappy. To Clarice Starling’s ears it sounds moronic. I just bought the cutest little dress and shoes for the baby. Aren’t they darling, Alonso?

        Gaaaah, Clarice Starling thinks. Once all this is over, she will ensure Susana has some less girly clothing. For now, her daughter will get a little more of the frills and lace. The dress and shoes she wore at dinner serve for now, although she is fastidious and gets another pair of socks. Clarice glances into her drawer. Frilly anklets. More frilly anklets than she ever thought one little girl would need.        

       Then she amazes Clarice by walking into her closet and pulling out a suitcase. Expectantly, she looks at Clarice. “Okay,” she says.

       Clarice blinks. “You have a packed suitcase?” she asks dumbly.

       Susana gives her mother a judging look that suggests she believes Clarice to be perhaps growing senile.

       “Of course I do,” she says flatly, sounding bizarrely like Wednesday Addams. “We all do. Papa says it’s so we can go on vacation whenever we want. Aren’t you getting your suitcase, Mama?”

       How convenient, Clarice Starling thinks, but it does make sense. Dr. Lecter has been a fugitive for almost twenty years now. To have suitcases pre-packed, ready at a moment’s notice, is a logical step.

       She takes the little girl’s suitcase and takes her upstairs with her. One never knows. There is no sound from below. That’s all for the best, Clarice thinks.

       Her bedroom is majestic. A king-size bed rules over one corner of the room. The opposite side of the room offers several large windows opening onto the back yard. Back yard? That’s almost a misnomer: there is what seems like a square mile of green grass and a garden. An attractive wooden fence separates their land from their neighbors.

        Looking at the bed brings an unexpected wave of nausea. She thinks for a moment of the wicked serial killer above her, staring down at her with those maroon eyes. What he has done was no sort of love. That was rape. Of both her body and her mind. Clarice twists her face away from the bed as if it threatened to consume her. But there are two suitcases – both fine black leather – in the closet, and one has the name Maria Alvarez on it.

       It’s probably full of stuff like garter belts and stockings and silk dresses and black lacy crap, Clarice thinks. Just what the proper mindless trophy wife would wear on vacation with her husband. Still, it’s clothing.

       She heads back down to the second floor. There is the alarm panel, in the TV room. It consists of a keypad and several lights, all flashing red. It seems completely unfamiliar. How does she get out of the house? The code to the burglar alarm will not come. It is frustrating; she has to know the code. She lives here. Inspiration strikes.

       “Honey?” Clarice says. “Do you know the code for the burglar alarm?”

       Susana shakes her head wordlessly, observing her mother from those spooky maroon eyes.

       Balls. Wait a minute. I can call someone while I try to remember. But who?

       Clarice grabs the phone and listens to the dial tone. For a moment she waits, thinking. Then it comes. Clarice hits zero and waits for the operator to come on the line.

       “Hi,” she says, wondering how it is that English words form in her mind but Spanish comes out. “I want to place a call to the United States.”

       “Very well,” the operator says. “What is the number?”

       Clarice sighs and recites Ardelia Mapp’s home phone number and area code. Please, please, don’t let her have moved.

        The phone burrs once. Twice. Three times. But there is no message telling her ‘The number you have reached has been disconnected or is no longer in service.’ That’s something.
Susana gives her a pleading look. “Mama,” she stage whispers. “I need to go to the bathroom.”

       Clarice exhales in frustration. But it’s all right. There is a bathroom on this floor not far away. She can see it from here. Susana can go pee in relative safety. Dr. Lecter will have to get through her if he wants to get to Susana.

        While Susana goes to the bathroom to do her business, Clarice waits, gripping the phone with white knuckles. A fourth ring. Then a fifth.

       The phone picks up. Clarice’s heart leaps. Then Ardelia’s voice, for the first time in years.
“Hello, you have reached Ardelia Mapp. I’m not at home right now. If you leave me a message, I’ll call you back as soon as I can.”

       Tears blur at the edge of Clarice’s eyes. Her friend. Vaguely she remembers an emerald, and a note. After all these years, she finally gets to hear her friend’s voice.

       “Um,” she whispers into the phone, transmitting her voice thousands of miles away. “Ardelia, I think you know who this is. I just want you to know…I can explain everything. I’ll be getting ahold of you shortly. If there’s any kind of warrant out for me, then I can explain. Really.” Grief grips her throat and she trembles.

       “Christ, I’m sorry, ‘Delia,” she sobs. Is it Ardelia she is crying for, or herself? Mostly herself, she admits. She has been forced to betray everything she held dear. She hasn’t seen her best friend in eleven years. She has put down her sword and been Dr. Lecter’s little trophy wife.

       “I’ll call you soon,” she whispers. “I…I have a couple things to do, ‘Delia. Don’t hate me. Please.”

       Then she hangs up the phone and puts her face in her hands for a moment or two. Her shoulders quake with sobs. She can’t ever go back to what she used to be. Not…not with Susana. She’ll have to figure something out.

       She moves her hands to see her daughter, fresh from the bathroom trip, eying her with a look of concern. For her, Clarice forces herself to stop crying. She needs to be strong, get the hell out of Dodge, and get back to the US. Once she is there, then she can explain the truth to Susana. It will take time, she is sure. But for now her mission is clear: escape the mansion and get herself and her daughter to safety.

       “Don’t cry, Mama,” Susana says, and there is more genuine concern in her maroon eyes than Clarice has ever seen in her father’s.

       Daddy always said don’t cry. But of course Susana does not know that her grandfather had the same opinion. She has never met him. She doesn’t know who he was. The figure that has loomed so large in Clarice’s life has not had so much as a footprint in her daughter’s.

       “It’s all right,” she husks. “Mama’s just…mama’s just not feeling real good right now.”

       Susana holds out her small arms, wordlessly offering a hug. Clarice looks at her, and then squats down to accept his. Her daughter’s arms wrap around her. Her own make it all the way around Clarice’s body.

       Clarice inhales the clean scent of her daughter’s hair, and tears rise to her eyes again. Whether or not she works in the FBI again doesn’t matter, she realizes. What matters is herself and Susana. She’ll find a new career. For that matter she can always do an interview with the Tattler; they’d pay her millions to find out what Dr. Lecter was like in bed. Clarice doesn’t recall any of that and frankly doesn’t want to. But she can make something up.

       The child is safe. Those words mean a great deal to Clarice. One more obstacle to overcome. For that matter, it occurs to her, she can bust out a window and get out that way; what does she care if the alarm goes off? By the time the police get there she will be gone, and even if they do stop her, they can’t force her to go back to Dr. Lecter.
She will win. She must win. For the sake of herself and her daughter, she will win.

       Those thoughts course through Clarice’s mind as she holds Susana fiercely. She is imperially thin like her father; there seems to be almost nothing to her. Her hair smells like expensive shampoo. Her cheek is warm against Clarice’s.

       My little girl, Clarice thinks.

        Then there is a sudden thin sting at her throat. There is an odd feeling of liquid pressure. Her body tenses and she sucks in air sharply. Tears of stress and fear are temporarily blocked by tears of pain. What the hell?
       
       She pulls away from her daughter and holds her by the shoulders.

       “Susana?” she asks, although in her heart she knows what has happened.

       Susana withdraws the hypodermic needle from her mother’s throat and carefully puts it on a small table nearby. She looks at Clarice with concern and some fear, but also some hope.

       “I know you don’t feel good,” Susana says. “So I gave you medicine from the bathroom. It’ll make you feel better.”

       Horror washes over Clarice. “Medicine? Susana, what the hell did you do? Where did you find that?”

       Susana looks at her somberly. “It was in the bathroom,” she says, looking concerned.

       “But…but…where did you…how did you…,” Clarice rasps, and feels suddenly hot and flushed.

       Susana tilts her head. Now she looks more like her father than she has since Clarice has woken up. Somehow, before she speaks, Clarice knows what she will say.

       “Papa told me,” she says simply.

       

FIN

Part 8 of 10

copyright 2003, by Kurt GW

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