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
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.
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
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
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.