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The Path of Certain Stars

copyright 2000, by bloodandivory

Disclaimer:    The characters Dr. Hannibal Lecter, Clarice Starling, Jack Crawford, Paul Krendler, Ardelia Mapp, Fredrick Chilton, Miggs, Officer Boyle, Officer Pemby and Senator Ruth Martin 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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There is no such thing as an omen.  Destiny does not send us heralds. She is too wise or too cruel for that.

                                                    Oscar Wilde

Jack Crawford grips the receiver even tighter.

“Look, Copley, I’ve already hand calls from that idiot Chilton and Paul Krendler from Justice.  I don’t need to hear it again.  No, of course she didn’t.  Yes, just now.  Absolutely.”

Clarice Starling sits in Jack Crawford’s cramped, and somehow dank, office in the basement of Quantico.  She sits in the same chair she’d sat in when Crawford had changed her life forever… when he had sent her to Dr. Hannibal Lecter.  

She tries to follow his end of the conversation with the AD, but her refuses to focus.  Her consciousness of the here and now keeps fading like a bad radio signal… keeps slipping away. 

Never mind… shock will do that.

“…just wants her head on a spike, and you know it.  That’s just what I’m saying, she didn’t…”

Crawford does not notice, though, and not only because he is concentrating on his call.  She can tell from his eyes that it doesn’t show.  She’s learned many things about herself today and one of them is that she can fool him.  She can fool Ardelia.  She can fool almost anyone.  Beneath her strange internal languor, Clarice Starling is proud of this.

“Engine trouble.  How should I know?  Yes, I checked!  ”  Hand whitening on the phone, he steals a look at her, maybe to see if she’s insulted at this.  Or maybe to flash her once of his “what-can-I-do-that’s-how-the-game-is-played” looks.

“The way he talks you’d think she sabotaged the goddamn plane herself!”  

But Clarice isn’t watching; she isn’t even really here.  She is in Memphis.  Remembering.


Even driving like the devil, she’d made it to Memphis International with less than three minutes to spare, barely catching the flight Krendler’d ordered her to make. She supposed she’d have been better of letting the bastards give her an escort.  Then they couldn’t have bitch if she had missed the damn thing.  She left the borrowed car in the A7 section of the massive underground garage beneath terminal B, where someone from the Memphis field office would pick it up tomorrow. 

She sank into her seat at the precise minute her flight should have taken off, but the delay didn’t concern her much.  She had too many other things to think about.  Rage, for one, boiled just beneath the power of a causal observer to see it.  Rage at Chilton, at that asshole Krendler, at herself for not getting more information from Doctor Lecter.  Before it was too late.  And…

Their chaotic farewell scene around Lecter’s cell returned to her, remembered almost as though she’d been an observer and not a participant.  She could still feel hands on her, pulling her away… then wrenching from that grip… Dr. Lecter held out the case file… no, don’t think about that.  Not now, not crammed into a coach seat with so many others presence intruding on her.  That had to wait until she was alone.  

Think about Bill and Catherine… think about First Principles… a copy of Marcus Aurelius Meditations was on her list of things to do tomorrow.  What needs does he serve… he covets… Funny, Clarice, speaking of good old Marcus, amazing, how all roads lead back to Rome.  

Clarice did not smoke often; bad for the wind, unhealthy.  But now she craved a cigarette madly.  When I get to Chicago I’ll by a pack.  I’ll throw it away before I leave for Dulles.  Yeah.  Let’s see how many I can kill in an hour and a half.  She thought these things idly, as she flipped through the case file.  It’s all in here, he said, and I’ll…

Hot damn!  There was a note on the map showing the sites of bodies recovered..  From Lecter, his elegant script running across the Great Lakes…

Clarice, does this random scattering of sites seem overdone to you?  Doesn’t it seem desperately random?  Random past all possible convenience?  Does it suggest to you the elaboration of a bad liar?


                                                            Hannibal Lecter

PS:  Don’t bother to flip through, there isn’t anything else.

Desperately random?  What did that mean?  He…

The pilot’s voice on the intercom cut in… “Ladies and Gentlemen, We are sorry to announce that American Airlines Flight 446 From Memphis to Chicago and Washington, CD is cancelled due to engine trouble.  We will be asking you to disembark momentarily.  Unfortunately, no other planes are available this evening.  You will be accommodated on Flight 917, departing Memphis International Airport at 8:47am Central Time, landing at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport at 10:18 am, and departing for Dulles International Airport at 11:01am, arriving at 1:40pm.  American Airlines apologizes for any inconvenience.  You will be given meal and lodging vouchers prior to deplaning.  Again, Flight 446…”

Despite the inconvenience that would surely follow, Clarice grinned.  Krendler was going to be furious.  


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