The days following the events at Chesapeake were a blur, and Clarice
Starling did her best to block them out. Within a week, her gun and
badge were taken away, as well as her back-up firearms. The Bureau was
pleasant about it on the surface, smiling through their teeth as they
gave her false praise for the good work she had done and expressing
their grief that she would no longer be working with them. Likewise,
Starling felt compelled to return the same false sympathy, denying the
large part of herself that was relieved.
Ardelia Mapp was astonished, in the very sense of the word, after
learning of her roommate’s actions at the Muskrat Farm. At first, she
gave Starling a cold stare, wondering how anyone could be so utterly
foolish in thinking that some blade-welding cannibal was worth her
career and self-value. After a while, she began to sympathize with
Starling, and even brought it upon herself to take her breakfast in bed.
It wasn’t until the second week that she received the notice to
move off government property. Mapp offered to help her look for an
apartment but Starling declined, saying this was something she wanted to
do for herself. After all, Mapp would want her to live close, and she
wasn’t sure if that was something she wanted. All that concerned
Starling was starting over in a new house, with a new wardrobe, a new
job, something that would completely disassociate herself from the FBI.
She wanted to forget everything, EVERYTHING that ever marked her as an
Most of all, Starling wanted to forget Dr. Hannibal Lecter, but knew
better than that. In ten years, she hadn’t forgotten him, and now she
had much more to remember him by. She supposed she would never be able
to look for dresses without thinking of him, buy shoes, or even
experience the first kiss with a prospective lover without remembering
his lips on hers. Every time she allowed her mind to wander in that
direction, she would curl up and feel herself shudder.
What was that, Former Special Agent Starling? A shudder of disgust or
pleasure? Does he make your skin crawl, or do you simply want to crawl
all over his skin?
Starling batted away these uncomfortable thoughts, knowing they would
lead her to an awkward place. She knew better than to imagine herself in
some fairy tale where love - unabridged - was unquestioned, and you were
no less degraded if you allowed yourself to fall for someone as
unspeakably vile as a smooth-talking cannibal.
You wish he was here right now, don’t you? There are some faces in
the Bureau you would like to see gone. He took care of that nasty
Krendler for you. You just know he’d love the quid pro quo his
services would demand in getting rid of more. Do you want that, Clarice?
Do you want him to demand compensation to all the things he’s done for
But he would never do that, Starling knew. Dr. Lecter, first and
foremost, was a gentlemen, something no other living being would ever
understand. He would never take it upon himself to demand anything from
her. That would be devilishly rude.
You wish he would, though, don’t you? Come back and demand it all.
Starling grew frustrated and wondered exactly where that voice had
come from, anyway.
In frustration one evening, Starling logged on to a travel site that
listed the most popular places to visit, determined to get her mind off
things. She cursed herself the day she let Hannibal Lecter inside her
head, knowing now it would take a twenty year comma for the image of his
face to even fade away. Sometimes she awoke in the middle of the
evening, sure he was with her, watching her. The darkest part of herself
refused to acknowledge the disappointment she felt when she realized he
What am I thinking? What could I possibly be thinking? That he doesn’t
scare me, that he makes me yearn in a way I didn’t I was capable of
yearning? Good Lord, what would I be admitting if I admitted I want him,
Starling would stop herself there, refusing the knowledge that even
having that discussion with herself confirmed her desire. Hoping that
some time out of the states would give her the courage to see things in
a different light, she booked a flight for Marseilles, France that was
scheduled for the end of the week. Without bothering to let anyone know
she was planning such a leave, she bought a few outfits, none too
revealing as she felt people looked at her enough without given a
reason. Starling wasn’t going to flaunt herself or attract attention;
she was going to clear her head and enjoy time away from everyone that
had caused her grief in the passed ten years.
The relief she felt as the plane lifted from the ground rivaled the
pleasure of an orgasm. Starling didn’t realize she had gasped until
noticing the stares from the elderly couple sitting to her left. Smiling
pleasantly, she declined an explanation and turned to order a soda from
the flight attendant.
Stepping off the plane, Starling enjoyed the rush she experienced
with the unknown sense. She hadn’t made hotel reservations, or even
packed that many outfits. No one in the States knew where she was, or
even that she had left. She had money, nothing she should be wasting
given her recent unemployment, but something compelled her to do this
wild thing, completely out of character.
Not giving a damn about money, she ended up staying in a masterfully
comfortable hotel that commanded a marvelous view of the city. It was a
suite, and it wasn’t cheap either. She didn’t know how long she
hoped to stay, but knew her credit card would receive more attention
here than it had in ten years back home. Having a bit more than fifteen
hundred in cash, Starling was determined to enjoy herself, even if it
ruined her financially.
Such careless spending would have issued severe punishment from her
father, and for once, that didn’t bother her. She supposed not caring
should bother her as well, and once more, it didn’t. Here, nothing
that was once herself seemed to matter, and she absently marked her
behavior under the stereotype that everyone acts differently in foreign
Even Hannibal Lecter found a no-vacancy sign when it came to her
daily thoughts, and she was glad for that.
It was the second day of her arrival, the first true day of vacation.
Starling found herself exhausted when she made it to the hotel the night
before and was incapable of any action that led her outdoors. Ordering
in a meal by courtesy of the hotel staff, she rented a Pay-Per-View
movie on the television and enjoyed the art of doing nothing. It had
been so long since her agenda book was free; so long that she could
remember the date; the day after graduation when there were no classes,
no homework, and no studying. The distant memory of Mapp taking her out
for drinks lingered in mind, and she smiled to herself at recalling her
friend’s drastic attempts to get her on the dance floor with the
bartender of this place called Duke’s. The bartender was twice her
age, large with a long beard and a thinning hairline at the peak of his
head. Starling eventually did so and made a profit of three hundred
There was no Mapp here, and she hated to acknowledge her relief. Best
friends were great companions, however sometimes it is essential to get
away from everyone, even those you love the most.
Now, walking out of her hotel down toward a café, Starling
considered her life back home rather grimly. The absence of a firearm
would need to be taken care of. In her years at the Bureau, she had
always slept better knowing she could take care of the situation if a
robber or worse decided to break into her home. Starling carefully noted
to write down an agenda for when she returned, that being the first
The first café she came across was quaint and charming. College
French tugged at her ear, and she found that she remembered more than
she credited herself. Stepping inside, she was immediately approached by
a young woman who greeted her with a terrific smile and exclaimed: “Bonjour!
Comment allez-vous ce matin?”
It was a greeting that took Starling a few seconds to process, but in
time she found her French ear and replied smoothly. “Je suis très
bien, merci. Specials pour le jour?” She knew her accent betrayed
her as American, for she was never very talented at pulling off a
foreign tone, but the woman seemed genuinely impressed that any American
would know the language well enough not to ask for a translation.
“Nous prenons le café français de vanille aussi bien que la
noisette. Vous aiment un menu?”
Starling nodded. “Oui, merci.”
The waitress drew two menus by the stand at which she would later pay
and motioned for her to follow. “De cette façon, s'il vous plaît.”
As Starling sat, the woman placed a napkin and spoon at her disposal
and smiled, this time speaking in English, her voice doused with a
French accent as she said, “You speak French very well, mademoiselle.”
“Thank you,” Starling replied with a smile. “I took several
classes in college.”
“Decided on anything to drink?”
“That Hazel Nut coffee you mentioned sounds divine.”
The woman nodded and was off within a second. Starling considered
inquiring about a paper for a minute, then realized it would be in
French and knew she couldn’t read the language as well as she could
speak it. Chuckling to herself, she sat back, blinking at her
surroundings for the first time in disbelief.
“How did I get here?” she said aloud, not registering the idea
that she was speaking to herself.
Easy, Starling, you had a moment of temporary insanity. But who’s
complaining? You’d much rather be here than at some job interview in
the States, now wouldn’t you?
The answer to that question seemed more than obvious, and Starling
felt no need to answer herself. Her coffee came shortly and she was left
to examine the menu for possible breakfast items. She was grateful for
the English translation to the side. She found she wasn’t terribly
hungry and ordered a simple bagel. Simplicity was blissful at times.
A variety of conversations surrounded her, most all in French. She
supposed she would run into fewer tourists here than if she were in
Paris, and was glad for that distinction. Tourists were often obnoxious,
and she didn’t want anything here to spoil her fun.
After finishing her second cup of coffee, Starling’s eyes wandered
upward, toward the door. Her tongue trailed over her upper lip to wipe
the residue of Hazel Nut away, and froze there for a number of seconds.
When it came to her attention that her tongue was hanging out her mouth,
she drew it back in with subconscious slowness. Her heart likewise
stopped, and she let out a breath as it started again.
Sitting perhaps five tables away, in the company of a man and woman
approximately his age was Dr. Hannibal Lecter himself. He wasn’t
looking at her, nor was his face alert to her presence. Starling stopped
and considered. Was it possible he hadn’t seen her? Certainly not; the
doctor did not miss anything. However, she was sure he would meander
over here in his own good time and make the formal greeting as was
customary. Her morning was stolen like a rug under feet, and she found
herself incapable of enjoying her coffee or even the manners of the
Within an hour, the man in his company stood. Dr. Lecter likewise
rose to his feet and shook his hand. He then turned to woman, not as old
as Starling thought, and kissed her hand. In reply, the woman batted her
eyes shamelessly, stumbling over herself to flirt with the doctor.
Starling felt something rise within her and regrettably acknowledged it
as jealousy. She thought such obvious attempts to get into his pants
would offend Dr. Lecter, but he seemed to reciprocate and even enjoy it.
Then, he was gone. All three of them left, the doctor still failing
to make eye contact or even register that he was aware of her presence.
Starling suddenly felt empty inside. Had she really been such a small
addition to his life? After their last meeting, she hardly thought so.
Now, seeing him speaking civilly with people, people so very oblivious
to his past history, Starling could hardly understand how she would mean
anything in this man’s life. That thought drained even more emotion
from inside her, and she felt the distant need to cry.
This is stupid! She scolded herself, standing to pay for her
coffee. You made the decision back at the lake house, you made him
very aware that you would never want him. So why are you upset now? Just
because he smiled at another woman instead of eating her tongue doesn’t
mean it will go anywhere. Hell, he’ll probably lose them the first
chance he gets.
But she had to be sure. Grasping her purse, Starling jumped to her
feet and rushed out, placing her sunglasses over her eyes as she caught
sight of them down the sidewalk. Determined to maintain a casual air,
Starling started walking at a good pace, though it hardly looked rushed.
Locals might pass it off as a common American and how they were always
in a hurry. No time to act leisurely now. If she didn’t put her mind
to ease now, her entire vacation would be ruined.
It’s a bit late for that, girl, the voice told her knowingly.
if he isn’t another woman, what do you plan to do after that? Stalking
him down the sidewalks doesn’t really scream that you’re over it. In
fact, I’d say you’re pretty much under it. If he is with another
woman, what then? Will you go home and cry your eyes out? Will you make
petty suicide threats to your reflection? Denying that you feel nothing
toward this man is utterly in vain, and this only proves it. Why did you
even come here? To get over things. This is hardly getting over
Starling screamed inwardly for the voice to shut up, and that seemed
to silence it for a few minutes. She felt her hair tumbling from its
clip and slowed her pace, knowing if she was going quick enough for her
hair to catch the wind, that she was losing her control. Her thoughts
traveled to scenarios. Perhaps he had seen her. Would he be amused that
she was following him? What would he think of her attire? It was classy;
a much improved selection of her prior wardrobe. Today she was dressed
in a gray blouse and black dress pants. Her shoes were only slightly
improved over the ones he had insulted ten years before; black and
clunky. It occurred to her how much she had grown to value his opinion,
and cursed at herself again.
His breakfast companions were getting into a cab now, and Starling
forced herself to stop, turning to her right abruptly to look as though
she was window shopping. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw with
relief that Dr. Lecter wasn’t going with them, instead turning and
continuing in the opposite direction. Starling wasn’t aware she was
moving again until she nearly stepped in front of a car. She was
relieved when it declined to honk and waited until the road was clear
Okay, so he’s alone now. Why the hell are you still following? Turn
around, Starling, turn around now and go back to your hotel. Better yet,
go shopping. Yes. That’ll take your mind off things.
But her feet were not obeying her mind. She felt herself shoot
forward, despite her attempts to stop. At some point, Dr. Lecter stopped
and turned into a shop, disappearing with fluent ease. Starling’s
heart skipped a beat as she hoped against hope that it wasn’t a men’s
store. To her relief, it wasn’t; rather a lotion shop. Carefully
staying out of the vision of the front windows, Starling decided against
entering and instead turned to the shop beside it. Perfect; a women’s
clothing store. Not believing her good fortune, Starling trailed inside,
staying near the window so she could see when he left.
This break from her walk gave her time to consider. How likely was it
that she had chosen the exact city Dr. Lecter had fled to for her
vacation? Of every place in Europe, of every place in the whole goddamn
world, they both ended up here. Starling had never toyed with the idea
of fate, her devotion to any deity not as remarkable as it had once
been. If there was a God, she didn’t him setting her up with a
cannibal twice her age. However, she was here, and no more than ten
yards away was Dr. Lecter. Three encounters in ten years, all tampering
with her emotions in a way that was unhealthy for any woman in her
People will say we’re in love.
Yeah, people have been saying it, Starling thought grimly,
brushing through a selection of sweaters, her eyes elevating to the
windows every few seconds. Now the big debate is…are they right?
Of course they’re not! She screamed at herself a second later.
The voice returned then, as loud and insulting as ever.
Of course not, Starling, of course not. That’s why you’re here,
waiting for the chance to follow him again, hoping he isn’t attached
to anyone. Why you’re on the verge of tears when you think of him even
looking at another woman. No, no, little Starling, you’re perfectly
healthy. Every FBI agent has nasty thoughts about the centerpiece of the
Ten Most Wanted. That’s right. Every damn one of them.
Starling shook her head, distantly hearing the jingling of the bell
above the entrance door. Her eyes were embedded on the ground, her mind
doing somersaults as she continued to scream at the voice, whosever it
was. Her fingers brushed over a nice-feeling sweater and she checked for
one in her size. Forcing her thoughts away from Hannibal Lecter, she
took it off the hanger and she headed for the register.
That’s when she heard the voice and stopped her in tracks. She
couldn’t see far in the direction it was coming from for a display of
pants between here and the register. Her breath stilled and she
stretched herself to hear, sure that the pounding of her heart could be
heard all through France.
“I am looking for a scarf,” Dr. Lecter was saying.
“Oh, good, we have lots of scarves,” replied the saleslady. It
was almost difficult to understand her for the accent. “What color do
you have in mind?”
“Violet,” Dr. Lecter replied, his voice flowing beautifully,
something she had always admired.
Why the hell is he buying a scarf? For a lady friend? Oh, God, I’d
“Allow me to go check, monsieur.” The click of the
saleslady’s heels could be heard long after she exited the room.
Starling thought it best to make a bolt for the door. She crept back to
the place she acquired the sweater and placed it delicately on the
hanger, eying the door now with a sort of grim knowledge that speaking
with him would be inevitable if she left. She wasn’t sure she could go
through with it; the idea of meeting him in a store where he is buying a
gift for a lady friend especially unattractive.
I should just tough it out, she thought.
He’ll leave in a
few minutes, and then I can buy my sweater and leave. Then I’ll stop
thinking about him and try to enjoy my vacation.
She took the sweater back off the hanger and held it indecisively.
The voice returned then with a mocking tone. Yeah right. That’ll
happen. Uh huh. Brilliant plan, Ex Special Agent Starling. Brilliant.
Starling forced the thought away as she settled down, thinking it was
possible, that she had lived ten years without giving him a thought of
this nature and now shouldn’t be any different. Hell, she hadn’t
even felt this way until seeing him kiss that other woman’s hand. How
was she to know it wasn’t that bizarre behavior that people undergo
when in foreign countries thing again?
Because it ain’t, hunny, said the voice.
It ain’t and you
Shut up, shut up! For God’s sakes, SHUT UP!!!
For a minute, Starling feared she had shouted that vocally, but
realized with relief that the echoes were still only in her mind.
Then, a voice that was most definitely not in her mind, said
delicately from behind her. “Good morning, Clarice.”