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copyright 2001, by Running With Deer

Disclaimer:    The characters Dr. Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling 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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Clarice opened her eyes momentarily, but squeezed them shut against the swimming light. He’d drugged her—she knew it from the nausea, and the throbbing at the injection site. What was it? Morphine, she guessed, or some derivative. She took a deep breath and gave her vision another try. She was on her back. Looking down over herself, she observed the dress-—black, incredibly low-cut. Her feet—-shapely, he’d termed them—-bare. The bed—-large and comfortable. No cover. She didn’t need one, really. This was July 4th.

A little more time… Cautiously, she turned her head to the right. Ah, the light wasn’t really swimming. It was a candle. Several candles, all over the room. It was night. She drew another long breath and turned to look the other way. On a chair against the wall, she recognized her clothes, as well as her bag and gun, all neatly arranged.

Could she? More oxygen, and then she sat up slowly. Her hand brushed the silk that covered her thigh. She was faintly aware of a tightness, a stinging sensation in her left arm. Looking down, she saw the neat line of stitches. Yes. The barn. The pigs.

Dr. Lecter.

Where was he? She closed her eyes again; it was easier than keeping them open. It made listening easier, too. There was no sound. Was she really alone in this place?

Finally, she heard something. A whine, much like that of a drill or some other power tool. Far enough off to be outdoors, or perhaps in a garage workshop.

She couldn’t stay here. She had to do something, find out what was going on.

The sound stopped. Did she hear a murmuring voice?

No, nothing. Suddenly, her body commanded her to lie back down. She did, feeling the welcome support of the mattress and pillow. Eyes closed, she floated awhile. Images danced in slow motion. Huge, snorting pigs. The whirling carousel at Union Station. She recalled the odd game of cat and mouse Lecter had played with her…could that really have been less than 24 hours ago?

“It’s you I’m worried about, Clarice…”

Her eyes snapped open and she went through the whole uncomfortable process of sitting up. She heard the murmuring voice, this time more distinct, now joined by a second. Lecter, she recognized. Who was he talking to?

She listened again. “Hey!” the other voice said. “We’re gonna miss the fireworks!” The tone adolescent, combative.

Paul Krendler??

The answering murmur was parental, placating. Patronizing.

The thought of Krendler sent a wave of sourness through her stomach and at the same moment, savory aromas touched her nostrils. She felt sick, but at the same time, hungry. She realized she hadn’t really eaten anything since early that morning.

Next thing she knew, she was tottering toward the doorway. To her left she saw a carpeted stairway. To her right, a small table with a telephone. She held onto the wall and stood looking at that phone for a long time.

Nine-one-one. Anywhere in this state, she knew the number would enable the police to automatically trace the origin of the call. She didn’t have to know her location to summon help.

She took a half-step toward the phone.

“So you’ve been living in Italy. Is it true the broads don’t shave their armpits over there?” Krendler’s chirpy voice shot out.

Starling stopped again. She envisioned Hannibal Lecter cuffed, on the floor, immobilized, as Krendler looked on, smirking, then took credit for the capture. Whatever was going on down there, she was quite sure she knew who was in the custody of whom.

She thought of good cops…her father. John Brigham. Bad cops. Too many to count. She dropped to her knees, hung her head.

If she went downstairs now, what could she do? She wasn’t sure what she’d see, but had a feeling it would haunt her for life. She thought about that sound she’d heard earlier. A drill, or a saw. She thought about basement workshops, pierced victims impaled on pegboard. Whatever Lecter had in mind, he was already underway.

Mason Verger had been almost underway when she’d intervened and rescued Lecter. Was she going to show favoritism here? No. That was crazy. She had to do something.

“Hey, did you really send Starling that letter with the hand lotion? Now, I could think of someplace a lot better to put it than on her hands. All we’d have to do is get her pinned down between us—I’m a nice guy. I’ll share…”

“Quiet!” Lecter commanded, his voice steel. “or I’ll make you go without supper. And you don’t want to miss this. It’s to die for.”

Starling’s hair was now grazing the carpet, but there was no relief from the nausea and faintness. It was getting worse. If she tried the stairs, she’d tumble and break something. She didn’t want to be found here, like this. With the last remnant of her strength, she made her way slowly, with knees and elbows, back into the room, climbed awkwardly onto the bed, and collapsed as everything went decisively black.


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