“Hands up and freeze. Turn off the motor.”
While there might be lovelier, more perfect sentiments
uttered in the English language, Lecter could not think of one in that long
He had been stretching time like a tightrope, as he was
wont to do whenever an occasion called for that certain bit of savoring. In what might possibly have been the last
minutes of his life, it had seemed particularly appropriate.
Not that the swine, Mason among them, were commanding
much of his attention. Except perhaps
peripherally, as he considered them amidst the context of one of his favorite
books, Emily Post’s classic 1922 Etiquette in Society, in Business, in
Politics, and at Home. The whole
setup frankly amused him. Trust Mason
to engineer the right imagery for all the wrong reasons.
He had been wondering what Miss Post’s reaction to this
most informal of dinners might have been when the one voice in all the world he
least expected and most wanted to hear had echoed in the barn like a crow
screeching “Agnus Dei.”
According to Post, a gentleman always rises when a lady
enters the room. The fact that this was
impossible was more uncomfortable than his bonds. Not to be daunted, he cast about for an equivalency of sorts.
“Fermate il motore,” Dr. Lecter said
helpfully. It was not quite enough, but
he did feel better. Perhaps another
opportunity to be of assistance would present itself.
Chapter One: Parole
“Two?” he said.
“Watch it, there ought to be three.”
As he spoke, the dart from Tommaso’s rifle flew, a silver
streak under the floodlights, and shivered past Starling’s ear to thud into the
wooden wall behind her.
But before that sound had time to travel to her brain,
her hands had defied gravity, inertia, and the laws of common sense. She pulled
up hard on the gun as she whirled around.
Her only target was a shadow’s motion in the blackness above her. She
heard John Brigham’s voice counting her shots.
“One, two, three, four.” Her
empty clip clattered to the ground, followed closely by a body tumbling out of
Breathe. Scan. Dr. Lecter had almost removed himself from
the slick ropes. Only the bindings on
his left leg still kept him captive.
“Is there anything else you think I should know, Doctor?”
“In Dante’s Inferno, those who betray their benefactors
are punished in the place called Judecca, in the Ninth Circle of Hell. Satan resides there.”
“I’ll be sure to keep that in mind, Dr. Lecter, but I was
thinking of more immediately useful information.”
He smiled at that, and her heart thrummed against the
wall of her chest. Keep the gun
up. Two hands. Steady.
“Just one more moment, Agent Starling…” He sliced through
the last coil, and was free. He turned
to her, hands extended, still holding the knife. “And now?”
She reached down to her pocket and pulled out a set of cuffs. She tossed them, underhand, in a shallow
arc. They skidded across the floor and
landed at Lecter’s feet. “Cuff those
two to the forklift.”
He picked up the cuffs and walked over to the men. Carlo shuddered and thrashed in his
bonds. Lecter squatted down beside him,
looking for all the world like a parent speaking to a child. “When you get to Hell, say hello to your
brother from me.”
Two flashes under the hot lights, and blood spurted from
carotids neatly severed. Clarice
watched, frozen, as their kicking stopped.
Swallow. Breathe. The pigs strained against the wooden fence,
and the creaking brought her back to her senses. “Due respect, Dr. Lecter, but I think it’s time we got out of
here. Drop the knife and cuff
yourself.” She trained her sight on the
center of his chest. For a variety of
He made no motion, but spoke instead. “Would you permit me a question, Clarice?”
“Drop it now, Doctor.”
Her voice sounded harsh and timid to her ears.
possessed you to come here this evening?”
“I wanted to thank you for the wine. Though I haven’t had the chance to enjoy it,
He looked at her, and dropped his hands to his sides,
palms facing back, fingers curled. All
at once, her mind jerked back to the asylum.
“Quid pro quo, Doctor.”
“I believe I’ve already done my part, Clarice.” He motioned to the knife at his feet.
She spared a quick glance over her shoulder. The fence was shaking now as the pigs hurled
their massive bodies against it. The
smell of their blood lust was overpowering even to her less discriminating
“And I believe I earned your full cooperation when I
saved your felonious ass from becoming hog swill, Dr. Lecter. Now put on the cuffs and let’s blow this pop
He grimaced slightly, and his nose wrinkled. It was oddly amusing. “If it makes you feel better, Agent
Starling.” He turned and made quite the
demonstration of joining his wrists behind his back.
“Thank you, Dr. Lecter.
I appreciate the courtesy. Now,
out. That way.” She jerked her head in the direction of the
“I don’t think so.”
“Suit yourself, Clarice.” He moved swiftly, even unshod, apparently unaffected by the
transition from the blinding lights of the barn to the cool, silky midnight
outside. Starling struggled to keep
up. Her efforts unfortunately spared
her little leisure to contemplate what in the hell she was going to do when
they reached her car.
They proceeded in near silence on the fire road; the only
sound the faint crunching of the gravel beneath their feet. She caught a flash of his white skin
treading the sharp pebbles, and winced.
“Are you okay, Doctor?”
“I’ll be fine.
And those were the only words they spoke. If it had seemed an eternity to Starling
before, it felt twice as long now. When
she finally saw her Mustang’s shape looming in the distance, she felt the urge
to kiss the hood. Breathe. Breathe.
Dr. Lecter walked straight up to the rear bumper and
turned around. One eyebrow eloquently
Her original plan of stuffing him in the trunk seemed
ludicrous now that she was face to face with him once more. It would be an unspeakable discourtesy. She hesitated, the uncertainty plain on her
“I give you my word, I’ll not harm you. Unless…”
She cut him off bitterly. “It’s the ‘unless’ that has me worried, Doctor.”
They stood there in silence again. Her arms ached from holding her gun up so
Finally, he spoke.
“You need to make a decision, Clarice.
But you don’t need to make it right now. Come with me, to my home.
Or someplace else, somewhere neutral, it doesn’t matter. Take the time to think this through. I would hate for you to rush into something
you’ll regret later.”
“Your concern is hardly altruistic, Dr. Lecter.”
“I never said it was.
But the offer stands, nonetheless.”
Her mind roiled.
Out of the tumult came one thought that made sense. She knew she was in no shape for a fight
with Lecter at the present moment.
There was nothing to be lost in putting it off. She hoped.
What the hell, she had nothing to lose to begin with.
Their eyes locked, and she lowered the gun. With a hand suddenly very heavy, she snapped
it into her holster. “Turn around,” she
said, and was gratified when he did.
She’d earned the trust of a killer.
She slipped her keys from her trouser pocket and clicked
the handcuffs free. He turned again,
fast, and faced her. Their bodies were
no more than a foot distant. Before she
had time to step away, he caught her hand in his.
Her intake of breath was sudden and audible. He smiled, and her whole spine tingled. He brought her hand up to his face and
brushed it lightly with his lips.
“Thank you, Clarice. I give you
Her extremities went numb, and her vision began to
tunnel. Don’t go there, Starling, she
admonished herself. Swallow. Now.
Breathe. Good. Very, very slowly, she pulled her hand
away. “I accept your parole, Doctor. Now get in the car, and tell me where we’re