copyright 2002, by
The characters Dr. Hannibal Lecter, Clarice Starling, Ardelia
Mapp, Jack Crawford, Clint Persall, Mason Verger, and Paul Krendler 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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FBI Special Agent Clint Pearsall frowned from behind the steering wheel of his government-issue sedan when he spotted the three patrol units marking his destination.
Under any other circumstances, their red, white and blue strobes flashing in the night might have been thought festive, considering the holiday, but not today.
Any good feelings he had about his country’s birthday had fizzled the instant Assistant Director Noonan had called and told him to go to the Chesapeake Beach, Virginia, vacation home of Paul Krendler.
Pearsall mentally winced at the thought of the man, or more accurately what was left of him. He had never liked the Justice Department bootlicker, but he could honestly say that he had never wished him ill. And he certainly wouldn’t have wished the fate that apparently had befell the aspiring politico.
Pearsall could not help but wonder how Clarice Starling felt about it.
He had seen the way the Krendler looked at her ... as though she was just a set of tits with a badge. Cornpone country pussy was what Krendler had said under his breath when Starling had left the room after taking on the Hannibal Lecter assignment.
Pearsall flashed hot at the memory. He could have punched the chauvinist bastard then.
Pearsall knew that Starling was a first-rate investigator and he’d heard enough from his fellow agents and those from other departments to know that she was a trooper in the trenches ... a bastion in pressure situations.
Despite this, though, Krendler had been out to get her. That fact would have been obvious to Pearsall even if he hadn’t been a trained detective.
When Starling had implied in Director Noonan’s office that Krendler was involved in the Verger-Lecter situation, Pearsall had believed her, but he hadn’t known what to do about the situation. He’d had no evidence and she obviously hadn’t had any either or she would have waved it in his face. All he could do was sit and watch Krendler crucify her.
"What a prick," Pearsall muttered under his breath then quickly inhaled when a thought occurred to him.
Had Krendler signed his own death warrant with his behavior toward Starling?
If what Starling’s reports said about Lecter’s affinity for courtesy and civility were true, then it was certainly possible.
Krendler had never slandered her while preening before the cameras, but his contempt of her had been thinly veiled at best. Pearsall considered that to a psychiatrist of Lecter’s caliber, Krendler would have been as transparent as the day is long.
Still, Pearsall had to wonder if there more to it than a breach of manners.
The contents of the postcard Krendler had produced at Starling’s brief interrogation in Noonan’s office had certainly sounded like a love letter to Pearsall. He had to confess he did not exactly understand what the words meant, but he could see and hear the implied sentiment in them.
Starling had said that she’d never seen the note and even indirectly questioned the authorship. The latter had puzzled Pearsall, heaping another query upon a mound that had been building since putting Starling on the case.
Why would she question the veracity of the note?
He had seen the doctor’s previous letter to her and it had held the same affectionately mocking tone as the note, yet her reaction to each had been markedly different. The letter had disturbed her while she had greeted the note with almost casual indifference.
He wondered why the change then mentally spanked himself at the obvious answer.
The letter had unsettled her because it was from Lecter, while the note held no significant meaning to her because she did not believe Lecter wrote it.
It was an interesting hypothesis, but it still did not answer his initial question concerning the note: Why didn’t she believe it was from Lecter?
Nearing the driveway entrance to Krendler’s home, Pearsall made a mental note to ask Starling about it as he fished his badge out of his inside coat pocket. He rolled down the window when he saw a pack of deputies silhouetted against the patriotic light display.
“You FBI?" a burly deputy asked him as he stopped the car.
"Yeah," Pearsall answered, holding up his badge and ID for the officer to see.
The deputy leaned down to take a closer look. He’d eaten seafood for dinner.
Pearsall turned his head away to avoid a prolonged whiff and focused on the flashing orange lights atop the traffic barricades that blocked the driveway entrance.
The deputy grunted after a second and backed away.
"Let ‘im through."
Pearsall quickly rolled up the window as the other officers moved the barricades. He gave them a polite wave of acknowledgement as he drove through, toward the house.
He proceeded slowly between the law enforcement and emergency vehicles that lined both sides of the narrow driveway. He thought they looked like pallbearers carrying a casket.
"Speaking of caskets," he whispered as he caught sight of a hearse near the front of the house. He knew for whom that was meant.
Pearsall pulled as close to the dwelling as possible then cut the engine. He inverted his ID wallet and affixed it in the pocket over his heart so that the badge was easily seen by anyone who might approach him. He got out of the car.
Closing the door, Pearsall turned to see a short, balding man in a sheriff’s uniform approaching him. He had a moustache that looked like it needed a trim.
"Captain Johnson," Pearsall responded after a quick glance at the nameplate on the officer’s chest.
"I’m sure glad to see you," Johnson said then added with obvious hesitation.
"You know why we called you, right?"
Pearsall nodded then looked at the house.
"Has anything been moved from or around the scene?"
"No, sir," the captain said quickly. "I can guarantee you that."
Pearsall cast a glance over his shoulder at the officer. Never in a million years had he been to a crime scene where nothing had been moved. Something was always moved. Johnson saw his skepticism.
"I know it’s hard to believe, Agent Pearsall, but trust me. None of my people even want to go in the house," he said, gesturing toward the building. "Some of the first officers on scene had to be taken to the hospital and every one of them puked as soon as they came out."
Pearsall eyed the groups of officers from various agencies loitering outside the house. They all looked a little green around the gills. He could sympathize. Just the brief description he’d gotten over the phone had been enough to make him take a handful of antacids.
A flashbulb went off inside the house and Pearsall flinched at the visual disturbance. To disguise the involuntary reaction, he quickly started walking toward the structure. The captain followed him.
"The crime scene unit already at work?"
"Yes, sir," the captain answered. "Your people, too."
Pearsall nodded as his eyes fell on the dark blue van with "FBI-Crime Scene Unit" stenciled on the side. He altered his course for it, knowing whom he’d find inside.
"Your men put her in there," the captain volunteered evidently unaware that Pearsall was who had ordered them to sequester her there.
Pearsall did not enlighten him as he strode purposefully toward the vehicle’s rear doors, which were open. He peered inside. It was dark.
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