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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 9


        There is silence in the room for a few moments. Clarice Starling stares into her daughter’s eyes. Susana’s eyes are calm but concerned. Clarice’s eyes are wide with incomprehension. This can’t be happening. Has her own daughter sold her out to Hannibal Lecter? Will Susana really stand by while Dr. Lecter turns her back into the mindless slave doll she has been?

        “You…you…how did you…what did you do?” Clarice stutters.

        “Something woke me up,” Susana says. “I heard something go bang bang and it woke me up.” Her small face quivers. “I was scared, so I snuck downstairs quietly. Then I saw…,” she seems to gather her own courage. “I saw you dragging Papa into the freezer. And Papa was bleeding.” She stares at Clarice as if Clarice has wounded her to the core. “Why did you hurt Papa? How could you ever do that?”

        Clarice can only stare and gawp. Susana saw that? A wave of regret washes through her. She never wanted Susana to see that. She had tried to protect her from all this as much as she could.

        “So I opened the freezer door and I woke Papa up,” Susana continued. “He told me that you were sick. He said that you were sick and that you wouldn’t take the medicine. And he said you were mad at him because you were sick. So he said there was a syringe in the bathroom. It was already pre-measured and everything. All I had to do was give you the shot.” Amazingly, she preens. “He said the medicine would make you better,” she repeats, and looks sad.

        Weakness washes over Clarice like cold water. Sweat beads up on her brow. Her cheeks flush red.

        “Do you know what you’ve done?” Clarice rasps.

        Susana nods. “I helped you get better,” she says, and tears well up in her eyes at her mother’s distress. “You’re sick, mama. Papa said so. But it’s okay. Papa can make you better.” Even through the tears her eyes gleam at the mention of his name. “Papa can do anything. You have to trust him, mama, you just have to.”

        A final, horrible realization strikes Clarice. Although Susana is her daughter, bound to her by blood, there is a chasm between them. To Clarice, this life has been an unspeakable lie. Her very mind and soul had been warped and bent and molded into what Dr. Lecter wanted her to be.

        But to Susana, the lie is the truth. Clarice is her mother. Dr. Lecter is her father. She knows them, but by different names and as different people. She does not know that her mother is a missing FBI agent; nor does she know that her father spent eight years in an insane asylum for his crimes. She knows only that they are well-off Argentines, and the idea that they have ever been anything but that is not something she has considered.

        Clarice is a daddy’s girl. Susana is, too. Of course she would do what he asked. Clarice can see him now, even as she grows weak. Susana, your mother is sick. She’s not well at all. She won’t allow me to help her. So you must help her. You can do that, can’t you?

        How could she not trust her papa? The realization is distasteful. Dr. Lecter had used a small child’s unconditional love and trust to make her his pawn. Rather like Clarice, she doesn’t even know it.

        “Papa knew you might get sick,” Susana adds. “He had the medicine in the bathroom for a long time. There’s one in every bathroom of the house.”

        Another blast of horror strikes her. She’d done her morning ablutions every day for eleven years here, in this house. The image occurs to her: herself standing in the bathroom, brushing her teeth, combing her hair, all while the means to render her unconscious so that Dr. Lecter can retrieve his plaything lies a foot away in the medicine cabinet. Just in case it was ever necessary.

        “You….Susana, Jesus, you have no idea what you’ve done,” Clarice says. “Honey…I’m not sick. I’m fine.” A last, desperate hope strikes her. “I need you to pick up the phone,” she says, and her body trembles. She stumbles forward and catches herself on hands and knees. “I need you to pick up the phone and call Ardelia,” she says.

        Susana shakes her head and bites her lip. “Papa said you would say that,” she says pensively. “I can’t. Papa said not to.”

        Papa is going to brainwash me into being his full-size Barbie doll, Clarice thinks incoherently. Is that what you want? The worst part of it is that Susana does want that. She wants her mama to be back, just like it always was. Why wouldn’t she?

        “I’m your mother,” Clarice rasps. “I’m telling you.”

        “You’re sick,” Susana protests. Then she approaches her mother and puts her small hands on Clarice’s shoulders. Her eyes are pained and full of need. “Oh, mama, just let papa make you better. Please?”

        Dizziness swirls Clarice’s head. Her elbows weaken and she falls forward. It is all she can do to roll on her back so that she can look at her daughter. Dr. Lecter will not make her better. The resulting person may say she feels better, but it won’t be her. Dr. Lecter will know the difference and not care; Susana is too young to comprehend. She will do his bidding over Clarice’s. After all, she is daddy’s girl.

        “Honey…please…help me,” Clarice Starling says, her breath guttering in her lungs. Dark spots dance in front of her eyes.

        “Papa will help you,” Susana says resolutely. “He knows what he’s doing. He’s a doctor.”

        The door swings open and Dr. Hannibal Lecter enters the room. He has a towel pressed to his forehead with one hand. With a sick sense of doomed pleasure, Clarice notes that the towel is crimson. She scowls at him and her eyes narrow in helpless anger. His expression is quizzical and amused, as if this has all been very entertaining.

        Susana looks sick upon seeing him. All the same, she runs to him, her young face troubled and needy. Clarice watches him with distaste. He smiles down at his small daughter.

        “Papa,” she says, her voice high-pitched and sad and hopeful. “Are you all right?”

        “I’m fine, Susana,” Dr. Lecter says gently. “I fell, that’s all. It’ll be all right.”

        “Mama is sick,” she informs him.

        “Yes, your mama is sick. Don’t worry. Papa can make her better.” His voice strikes Clarice as a sarcastic version of a loving father’s. From her position on the floor she can barely see tears tracking her young daughter’s cheeks. Dr. Lecter pats his daughter on the head with his non-bloody hand.

        “Now, Susana, I need to take care of your mother. I’ll also need to see to this head wound. For now, Papa needs you to go to your room and read quietly, or go to bed. There are…things I need to do for her.” Is that smile increasing a notch? It is hard for Clarice to tell. Her vision is beginning to blur and dance. “Things that a little girl should not see.”

        Susana’s chin trembles, but she complies with her father’s wishes. Clarice can hear her swishing out into the hallway. Then her small feet sound on the stairs, and she is gone. Only Dr. Lecter and she remain in the room. Just as it was before.

        Dr. Lecter rises to his feet with a grunt and walks over to where she lies. He grins down at her with an easy grin.

        “Don’t fight it, Clarice,” he advises. “You’ll be going to sleep shortly. Then…well, then, we’ll simply fix whatever went wrong.”

        You bastard, is what she means to say. She can only shape the words with her lips.

        “Oh, come now, Clarice. You were happy. Very, very happy. You had everything you could want. Health, wealth, a happy marriage, and a beautiful daughter. Do you really want to give those things up?” He chuckles and shakes his head.

        Her arms and legs are limp and leaden, tingling in their centers. She cannot stand, cannot fight. She can only stare up at him with helpless anger.

        “Clarice, darling, do not look at it as such a negative thing. I did not wave a wand and create a new person. I simply reshaped aspects of your personality, bringing hidden desires to the forefront and allowing you to…part with other aspects that so troubled you.” He flashes small teeth at her in a knowing grin that reminds her of a skull.

        To speak requires superhuman effort. “You bastard…you brainwashed me…”

        “Your therapy resulted in differences, that is true,” Dr. Lecter admits, “but that is the hallmark of successful therapy. I’m not angry with you, Clarice. It’s not your fault. We’ll just call this…a relapse. And besides…today was a lot of fun.”

        “Your daughter,” Clarice gasps, knowing that she does not have much more time.

        Dr. Lecter tilts his head and looks interested. “Susana? Why blame her, Clarice?” His voice is mocking. Clarice blinks her eyes and thinks briefly of the records she has seen of Will Graham’s conversations with Dr. Lecter, long before she came around. “She did what she did out of love. Her mama was sick. Of course she would seek to help her mother. Haven’t you seen how troubled she was? She cried when she let me out of the freezer. It was most pathetic. She did not understand why her mother was behaving so oddly.”

        He is right, after a fashion. Even dizzy and nearing unconsciousness, Clarice knows that. Susana thought she was doing the right thing. But Susana is only five, and she doesn’t have the critical piece of the puzzle that Clarice does. She does not know that the mother she had was the falsehood. She does not know her father is a monster.

        “And you used her like you used me,” Clarice wheezes. Dark fingers reach across her vision.

        “Used? Please, Clarice. You locked me in the freezer. What was I to do? Freeze to death? No, no. I knew you would not allow me to approach you. Susana was very worried about you. Enlisting her aid only made sense. She loves her mama, but she is her daddy’s girl.” His eyes flashed. “Don’t fight it, Clarice. Fighting simply makes it hurt. Just let go, and you’ll float away…and when you wake up, all this will be a hazy memory.”

        If I let go, Clarice Starling thinks, I’ll float away, but it won’t be me who wakes up. She grits her teeth, focusing every iota of her will and determination on holding onto consciousness.

        But all the will and all the determination in the world can only do so much against raw pharmacology. Clarice fights as hard as she can, but the creeping numbness and exhaustion continue. Dark vortexes whirl over her vision. Sounds begin to fade. Dr. Lecter’s face seems impossibly far away from her, as if he is a pallbearer staring down into her grave. Then the sight of his visage fades entirely away into black.

        And finally, Clarice Starling falls asleep.

FIN

Part 9 of 10

copyright 2003, by Kurt GW

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