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copyright 1999, by Hannah

Disclaimer:    The characters Dr. Hannibal Lecter, Clarice Starling, and Ardelia Mapp 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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Ardelia Mapp sat at her desk typing up her report for a current case file. As her fingers skimmed across the keyboard, a glint from the ring on her right hand caught her eye. She stopped her work, distracted once again by thoughts of her former roommate. It had been several weeks since she had received her only communication from Clarice Starling in almost two years. On some level, she had known long ago what this unexpected missive told her; but she had successfully managed to avoid acknowledging it until she received the ring.

Ardelia knew that there were only a limited number of things that would have kept Starling from contacting her before now. As far as Mapp knew, she was closer to Starling than anyone as close as she was willing to let anyone get, anyway. So why would Starling have kept so quiet for so long? Mapp once again ran through the list of possibilities in her head: she was dead (which obviously wasn't the case); she had been unable to communicate in some way (possible, but unlikely); or ( this was the most plausible explanation) she didn't want Ardelia to find her or perhaps someone she was with. She had heard the rumors, of course. There was a great deal of speculation as to whether or not Starling had left Mason Verger's farm with Hannibal Lecter on the night of her disappearance.

The National Tattler had made quite a stir at the time with speculation that Starling's disappearance on the very night of Lecter's escape from Muskrat Farm was much too coincidental. She had been helping Lecter for some months, the tabloid maintained, and saw this as her opportunity to join him. There were weeks of speculation as to the exact nature of the relationship between the two, with the likes of Paul Krendler and a psychiatrist named Doemling from Baylor University weighing in with their opinions. Both believed that Starling was indeed with Hannibal Lecter but had very different theories as to why. Doemling asserted that Lecter had taken her and would certainly kill her after he had toyed with her for a time, if indeed he hadn't done so already.  Krendler, up until his own disappearance, maintained that Starling had chosen to go with Lecter, opining that it must have been "a sex thing".

Ardelia had come to believe that Lecter had kidnapped and eventually killed her at least that was what she told herself. If she were honest, though, she would have to admit that she had wondered if perhaps Starling hadn't gone with him willingly. She had always been a bit concerned by Starling's reaction to her exchanges with Hannibal Lecter. She wasn't afraid of him or disturbed by his observations in the way that most were. In fact, she seemed to have a great deal of respect for him. If Ardelia was pressed, she would have to admit that Starling even seemed to like him. She had never completely understood this, but she hadn't pressed for enlightenment. Starling wasn't overly forthcoming with details of her internal musings, and Ardelia had always respected that. Looking back, she thought that perhaps in this case she simply might not have wanted to know.

There were signs, of course. Often in those first few weeks after Starling's rescue of Catherine Martin, Ardelia had been awakened by her roommate in the early morning hours. It was obvious that the dreams were intense... crying out, writhing in her bed all the obvious signs of nightmares. But somehow on those occasions when she had awakened Starling her manner was not that of someone happy to be rescued from dreaming. She always professed gratitude for Ardelia's concern, but it seemed vaguely perfunctory.

            What were you really dreaming about,

For many months, Starling withdrew into herself even more completely than she normally did when there was something bothering her. Mapp had assumed that she was just trying to come to terms with that final confrontation in Gumb's basement. It didn't occur to her at the time that it was another encounter entirely, in another basement, that had her friend so out of sorts.

When the ring had arrived last month, she'd known immediately what it meant. Even though she had suspected that this might be the case, Ardelia couldn't help but be more than a little disappointed in Starling. Where was that girl's head?!

Where was her own head, for that matter? Upon receipt of Starling's package, Ardelia had complied with her request to burn the letter. She had burned the packing materials and mailing wrapper as well, and with that simple action had made the decision not to inform the Bureau that Clarice Starling was alive and well and almost certainly with Hannibal Lecter.

If Jack Crawford were still alive, perhaps she would have gone to him to seek his counsel. As it was, Ardelia had no one to confide in, and the knowledge of Starling's fate weighed heavily upon her. She neither needed nor wanted to share this unwelcome secret. In fact, she wasn't so sure that this was a confidence she should keep. Lecter was a dangerous man, and the knowledge that Starling was with him might make him easier to find. The chances that someone might spot at least one of them certainly increased the odds of catching him.

Ardelia silently cursed herself for burning that damn letter. Just because Starling had gone off the proverbial deep end was no reason she had to jump in after her.

            Ardelia, girl, what were you

She was thinking of her friend, of course, but that no longer seemed enough to justify her involvement in this. She was a federal agent!

She felt - not for the first time - a sharp flash of anger toward Starling for putting her in this position to begin with. What had Starling expected? Had she honestly thought that Ardelia would find her communication reassuring? Didn't she know it would be obvious that she was with Lecter? Did she somehow think that Ardelia could honestly be happy for her? There was NO WAY that was going to happen. That girl should know better!

After several more moments of brooding along these lines, Ardelia turned her mind back to her report. As much as she hated to let this go, she decided that she really had no choice. Ultimately, her decision had little to do with Starling's wishes and much to do with the fact that she had backed herself into a corner and would have way too much explaining to do if she decided to try and get herself out.

Many times over the next several months, she would look down at the ring on her hand and spend hours contemplating this unfortunate turn of events, eventually having to force herself to think of something - anything else. Finally, she took the thing off and tucked it away in the back of a drawer. It didn't allow her to forget completely, but it did help to keep her doubts and her resentment at bay for longer periods of time.


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