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copyright 1999, by MsLecter

Disclaimer:    The characters Dr. Hannibal Lecter, Clarice Starling, Jack Crawford, Ardelia Mapp, and Noble Pilcher 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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PART 1 -

January 26

It was a relatively lovely, spring like Saturday in late January; at 60 degrees, it was a welcome break from the usual chill of a Washington winter.  Special Agent Clarice Starling was enjoying her weekend, looking forward to having lunch with her ex-roommate and friend from the Academy, Ardelia Mapp.  As she parked her ancient Pinto in the parking lot of the restaurant, she spotted her friend waiting on the sidewalk.  She picked up her pace, and soon the two young women were hugging.

"Long time, no see!" Ardelia greeted her.   " I see you haven't gotten rid of that old wreck yet."

Clarice laughed.   "Hey, as long as it keeps running, I don't plan to put it out to pasture.   "So, how's San Francisco been?"

"Just terrific.   I was really lucky to be assigned to our office there--not quite as high-pressure and political as here, which is fine with me."

"I don't know, I kind of like the excitement of being in the middle of things,"  Starling admitted as they entered the restaurant and were taken to their reserved table overlooking the Potomac.

"Crawford not working you too hard?"  Ardelia teased.

"It hasn't been too hectic lately.  No new serial killers, thank God. We helped out on a couple of kidnappings that turned out okay, that's all. What about you?"

"I was part of a team that just wrapped up a tri-state counterfeiting ring.   I actually got my hands on some of the money during the sting", she added with a grin.   "Sure was a temptation.   So, how's your social life, Clarice?   Anything develop with that entomologist with the Smithsonian?"

"Pilcher?"  Starling laughed out loud.   "Not really.  We went out a few times, but the chemistry just wasn't there.  All he wanted to talk about were great bugs he had known.   I got to the point where I was ready to stuff a death's head moth down his throat.  What about you?"

Ardelia developed a dreamy look in her eyes.  "I thought you'd never ask.   I'm in love, girl!   His name is George Howard, and he's a fellow agent.   He's a wonderful, caring man."

"Terrific!"  Clarice congratulated her.   "I'm happy for you.   So when's the wedding?" she joked.

"We're not pushing anything.  Right now we're just enjoying working together during the week and spending weekends together.  That's why it was such a drag to have to come here for this dumb weapons seminar."

"That's rough, scheduling it for the weekend,” Starling agreed. "Sometimes the government can be heartless.   So George didn't get to come with you?"

"No, he's been an agent for five years.   He's had the thing already."

"Since I was here already, I had it last summer,” Starling confessed. "But it didn't interrupt any romances, that's for sure."

"And that bothers you?"   Ardelia suggested.

"Yeah, maybe a little.  A lot of my coworkers are married or at least going with somebody.   It gets lonely, Ardelia.   And it's not that I haven't met guys, it's just that I'm picky, I guess.  They seem so boring. I mean, I'd rather have a date with Dr. Hannibal Lecter than with most of the guys I meet."

"Good Lord, Clarice!   You don't mean that!"   Ardelia was horrified.

Clarice laughed.   "Maybe not literally.   I'm not eager to get my face ripped off.   But at least he was brilliant and fascinating.   Never boring."

Ardelia decided to redirect the conversation, as it was getting too spooky.  “So, does the Bureau have any leads on Lecter?"

"Not a one.   Not since they found what was left of Dr. Chilton in the Bahamas.  The local authorities were completely frustrated--he got away without leaving a clue.   And the resort manager was furious.   The tourist business really dropped off after that happened, you know."

"I can imagine,"  her friend replied with a shiver.   "So he disappeared from the Bahamas without a trace?"

"Yep.   He could be anywhere.   Most likely he's in South America somewhere.   We can't track him there; they don't have the network like Interpol in Europe.   And Crawford thinks he managed to get his hands on his money somehow.   He supposedly has a repertoire of disguises and aliases that would make an actor proud."

"You'd love to catch him, wouldn't you, Clarice?"  Ardelia mused.

"Are you kidding?   Bringing him in would be the coup of a lifetime," Clarice replied with a gleam in her eye.   "But I can't go poking around South America without any leads.   And there's plenty of work to do here.   I just have to put him on the back burner for the time being."

"And you can't do that, can you?"  Ardelia was perceptive.

"No, I can't.   He's my own personal demon, Ardelia.   I feel to blame he escaped."

"That's crazy!   You can't blame yourself for that, Clarice.   If anyone was to blame, it was that idiotic, pompous ass Chilton!"

"And he sure paid for h is mistake, didn't he?"   Starling shivered.

 A couple of hours later, after a relaxing lunch and conversation, Starling said goodbye to Ardelia, who returned to the afternoon session of her seminar.   She stopped at the store for some groceries, checked her post-office box for mail, and eventually opened the door to her apartment. She was greeted by a loud meow and the velvety feel of fur against her ankles.   She smiled.

"Moxie," she said.   The half-grown gray tabby cat was one of the fringe benefits from her brief relationship with Pilcher.   He had been concerned about her living alone, with no companionship; and when a friend's cat had kittens, Pilcher insisted Clarice take one.   The one she chose was a spirited female, whom Pilcher immediately named "Moxie."

"Because she has moxie, just like you, Clarice,” he had explained.  And the name stuck.

As she stroked the kitten and put her groceries away, Starling felt a little guilty about Pilcher.   His heart had been in the right place, even if he was a nerd and an insectophile.  If only they had had more in common. . .

 That evening she watched the news--a morbid fascination, she decided; for her main interest was seeing if there were any stories in which the FBI might take an interest.  Does that make me an ambulance-chaser?  she wondered.   One report out of New York did catch her eye. . . psychiatrist Dr. Howard Levine had been murdered in his Manhattan office late Friday night as he was dictating charts at his desk.   The doctor had been killed by a rifle-shot between his eyes, and there had been no sign of a struggle. His wallet was intact, so burglary was not a motive.  There was no evidence of the murder weapon, so it could not have been suicide.   His family was on vacation in Florida; his wife tearfully reported to police that he was supposed to join them the next day.   Some psychotic patient, dissatisfied with his treatment, must have pulled the trigger, Starling guessed.   As usual, anything related to psychiatrists and crazies made her think of Dr. Lecter.   Interesting, but the murder victim had the same initials.  Surely that was just a coincidence.

But that night, Starling had a bizarre dream about Dr. Lecter.  She was back in the asylum in Baltimore, attempting to interview Lecter again about the Buffalo Bill murders.  Suddenly the normally low lights in the dungeon like prison dimmed even further.

"Looks like another brownout,” Lecter said calmly.   "Dr. Chilton does this periodically, to keep me from reading."

"I thought you killed Dr. Chilton."

"Oh, no, Clarice.   That was in another reality."

She could barely see him inside his cell.   In the dream, she could not quite hear him unless she read his lips and looked into his eyes.

"I can't hear you, Dr. Lecter,” she told him.

"Come closer,"  he replied.

She could barely hear those words.  She approached the cell.

"Closer!"

Starling was practically pressing her nose against the glass, but she could not see Lecter.  Suddenly the door to the cell clanged open, and a hand grabbed hers and pulled her inside.   No orderlies were around to see what happened, and Lecter slammed the door closed behind her.

"How did you unlock the door, Dr. Lecter?"  She heard herself asking.

"Chilton's pen.   Just like in Memphis."

She wasn't aware she ever knew that fact before, that he had used the pen to pick the locks in Memphis.   But he gave her no time for reflection. She was in his arms now, her face close to his; she could see his eyes glowing demonically.   He gripped her tightly and drew her into a kiss, pulling her to the floor even as his tongue caressed hers.   He tore her clothes off, wriggled out of his hospital garb, and took her, right there on the floor.    The floor felt wet and sticky, like fresh blood.   In the dream, she was terrified; but Lecter was not rough or brutal.  Instead, he turned her on.   She grew hotter and hotter, moved under him faster and faster, until suddenly---she woke up, dripping with sweat, and straight up in bed with a gasp.   A soft lump pressed against her leg, but it was only Moxie, shifting in her own sleep.   Starling glanced at her digital clock radio.   Four-fifteen, it flashed brightly in the dark.   She shook from head to toe, knowing she would sleep no more that night.

FIN

Part 1 of 10

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