The sun always gave the water the most glorious affect as it kissed the surface of the waves upon its slow and steady climb to the top of the sky. Here, on Maui, it was one of the only simple pleasures Dr. Lecter was allowed, that fine moment of the day where the beach was not over-populated with tourists, at least not from his rented condo, and the only other people awake were those to truly appreciate the sunrise like himself. Otherwise, Dr. Lecter found himself in the midst of a horridly popular tourist attraction, and loathing the separation from Europe. Had he not spent so much time in Italy, this would have been more tolerable, perhaps even enjoyable. However, sacrificing location didn’t bother him, though his was widely known as a man who did not deny himself. The wisdom of his avoidance of Europe would show once the manhunt for the more tasteful territories was called off. Having spent the first week since the Muskrat Farm incident in a cheap motel in Bermuda, he reveled in the knowledge that his inconspicuous surroundings were doing more than simply keeping him guarded from identification, they were also liberating him to a point of higher taste and appreciation for things he was missing.
In Bermuda, he learned that the authorities were mostly concerned with the flights pertaining to Europe and a few places in South America. From there, Dr. Lecter made arrangements to fly to Maui, a lovely place, yes, but ruined for the incessant flow of tourists. Once there, he rented a condo on the beach before elevating to a residence on a secluded section of the island where he was given his much needed privacy. Still, the occasional glimpse from his elaborate porch deck confirmed that young lovers had discovered his property and enjoyed using it in the hours they assumed safety, where the master of the house was asleep.
No one considered that Dr. Lecter didn’t sleep much, if at all. Nights were almost as restless as the asylum days, perhaps to a greater extent since departing from Special Agent Clarice Starling nearly three years ago after Paul Krendler’s lobotomy, an incident that left the left side of his hand cleanly scraped. Almost a mistake there; through the cloudiness of the moment, perhaps the kiss stolen from her virgin lips that affected him more than he liked to admit, he had almost completely severed his hand. Now he hardly looked at it, finding no need to, and carried on with casual ignorance of the occasional strain that tickled his nerves when he tested the endurance of his hand. When he did look at it, however, he heard Starling’s scream as the cleaver came down, and saw the blood pouring from the side of his hand that she mistook for hers.
Dr. Lecter was carefully weighing his options. Three years had passed since he saw Starling in any form that did not include a newspaper or television interview. No contact, either, he was very careful about that. The letter sent to her betrayed him to the FBI, he learned, and despite the inconvenience and redundancy since Mason Verger’s detective had found him anyway, he congratulated Starling inwardly on her insight.
It seemed almost perverse to use the exercises previously reserved for passing the long days in the asylum at a place such as this. Dr. Lecter avoided the city unless it was absolutely essential and entertained himself periodically through the day with variations in musical instruments, perfecting those pieces by his most beloved composures to memory, and straightening the edges of several where a note or two might have been misplaced. There were the routine trips to the FBI’s website where he noted daily that not only was the photo in use outdated, the information remained relatively untouched, even with the death of Mason Verger.
However, Dr. Lecter’s intentions on the website were not solely to indulge his vanity. More or less, he knew no updates would be presented until he allowed himself to connect past a greeting and introduction with another being on this island, and he had no delusions that it was indeed time for that yet. He was extremely wealthy, and though he might have liked a curator job as the one he nearly acquired in Florence before the unfortunate leave, he was content to live off his savings. Logging onto the website ever day, he would satisfy his knowledge that he remained an enigma to the authorities before digging through for updates on his favorite FBI agent.
It was quite amusing in the days that immediately followed leaving her in the kitchen of Paul Krendler’s lake house. The collection of Tattler magazines as well as worldwide headlines concerning her and her possible relations with him over the years was something he never tired of studying. Peoples’ perception never ceased to amaze him for the outstanding ignorance displayed, and it was a terrific source of amusement.
Over the years, though, his visit to the site was more or less justified by his ever-growing concern for her welfare. It had been a great surprise, even to him, when he learned the FBI did not drop her, rather put her on six months probation. Apparently, Starling was less than enthused when she learned of her redemption, a very detailed letter of resignation having circulated on the Internets unreliable yet comically useful search engines that was supposedly written two days before her sentencing. If indeed it was authentic, Dr. Lecter couldn’t help but be pleased with her choice of words, the detailed, accurate depiction of her trials and tribulations throughout her employment in that destructive organization was most appeasing. However, he would have liked to believe that if the letter were real, she would not have accepted the granted redemption.
Dr. Lecter knew that Starling hated the idea of being labeled ordinary, and it took something with charisma to get into the FBI. Her hard-as-nails personality didn’t exactly support her plight; more or less damaged what name she had acquired as well as her radical behavior. The FBI saw her as a loose nail, a rough edge they had to watch unless wanting to suffer an infectious cut. As easy as it was to believe, the people in the front office were not completely ignorant; she was a good agent and a powerful asset to them. Dropping her would have arisen public sympathy, not something to be particularly concerned with, but it would have also made her an enemy, perhaps not with so many words, but the implication would always be there. It already was.
One interview with Starling survived over the years of rumor and accusation, one interview taken directly after her actions at the Muskrat Farm. It remained forever captured on a video cassette, the image of her alongside Jack Crawford, burnt red from a trip to Cancun, as she described without shame what she went through, and humored him with her commentary on Krendler. Jack Crawford looked less than amused, and was rather there for moral support. Dr. Lecter very much enjoyed the idea that Starling’s actions in saving him had jeopardized whatever Crawford felt for her, and chuckled at the lack of insight his former nemesis exhibited. Despite the existence of tapes of his conversations with Starling in the days of the dungeon, Crawford failed to place together the outer reasoning of her rescuing him. The thought of any living creature in a place where they are subjected to torture burned her, and though he would have liked to think that something more than sheer sympathy lured her to him that night, he was far from ungrateful.
Ever, with the existence of visuals of the interview, Dr. Lecter much preferred to listen to it and map her actions in his mind, every motion of her body, every strand of her hair committed to memory.
Now, Dr. Lecter reclined in the privacy of his elegant estate, a glass of Batard-Montrachet resting comfortably in his hand. On the television before him, the image of Clarice Starling flickered a bit in ordinance with the cameraman’s poor representation of her features, but despite the disappointing quality, Dr. Lecter was not paying attention to the screen. His eyes were closed and his head rested on the back of the chair, a look of immense satisfaction overpowering him, as though indulging himself in a lovely orchestral piece by the finest symphony, drinking in every sound and finding the taste most exquisite.
“Agent Starling, exactly what words would you use to describe your actions? What would you say possessed you to rescue Hannibal Lecter, renowned serial killer and labeled madman?”
Dr. Lecter smiled, his eyes remaining closed, as he saw the look of utter distaste Starling displayed at the careless name-calling gesture the anchor issued to him. It was hard to diagnose what she was feeling, what she meant and how much she was hurt, judging solely by eyes and voice, and he knew apart of her was glad he escaped. Another part was perhaps grieved; after all, she had just lost him whether or not she realized the depth of that loss at the time.
“First of all, you assume that just because he…was labeled by society as a monster that he is not a human being. To dehumanize him and suggest that he deserves torture is no better than what he’s done to people,” Starling replied bitterly. On the screen and in Dr. Lecter’s mind, a sharp cold wind pierced them, and Starling wrapped her arms around her torso as if to protect herself. “I…I don’t know all the reasons I went there…but I knew I couldn’t allow him to die like that.”
“Agent Starling, there are many who disagree with you. By all consensus standards, the man you rescued was a monster.”
Dr. Lecter snickered at that, marveling at the lack of experience the anchor was demonstrating. Opinions should never make their way into the news, and while many experts would agree and the mistake most likely went unnoticed, even applauded, he was quite irritated that such rules of media were discarded for the sake of publicity.
“Your consensus standards, Mr. Peterson,” Starling replied, a winter storm supporting her voice. “Mine are slightly different. With all due respect, you’ve never met him, never even seen him outside the pressroom. Maybe someday when he dissects your personality and tells you things so horribly true about yourself…you’ll understand why I couldn’t let him be eaten alive.”
“People are accusing you in aiding the death of the late Special Agent Krendler. Any comment?”
“Just because I didn’t want him dead does not mean his behavior should have expected to change. I can’t control him.” She laughed shortly at that. “And as much as he would like to, he can’t control me.”
“What is your comment to the accusations being made over your alleged relationship with Dr. Lecter, Agent Starling?”
Starling snickered. “People will believe what they want to believe. Whatever I say doesn’t make any difference.”
“Agent Starling, has Dr. Lecter ever tried to sexually assault you in any way?”
Another quip of laughter, and Dr. Lecter, reclined and perfectly comfortable, smiled.
“Dr. Lecter would never do anything like that…assault…far too rude.”
“Do you presume to know everything about Dr. Lecter?”
“I can’t presume anything. All I know is I’m standing here today. If he wanted me dead, he would’ve killed me a long time ago. He had the opportunity. He’s had plenty.”
“Did Dr. Lecter tend to the injuries you suffered after taking you from the Muskrat Farm?”
She nodded. “Yes.”
“Where do you think he is, Agent Starling?”
“Watching me,” she replied, and his smile grew. “Whether he’s close or not, he’s watching me.”
“Does that frighten you?”
“Not as much as it should.”
“Thank you very much for your time, Agent Starling. One last question before we go. Do you think, as an FBI agent, that you could ever be in the position to kill Dr. Lecter if he refused arrest or was a threat to another citizen.”
A significant pause.
“To judge things on a ‘what-if’ basis is dangerous,” she said after a minute. “We never know until it’s in front of us. I don’t know the answer.”
“Thank you Agent Starling. And now, back to you—”
The tape ended there, but Dr. Lecter remained at peace long after it was simply static flickering on the screen. No sound permeated the air, and for a prolonged minute, there was no movement in the residence. Finally, Dr. Lecter raised his glass to drink the rest of his wine and stood, moving with graceful elegance most can only envy. He switched the television off and walked to the terrace of his dwelling. There, he looked out over the ocean, his mind traveling back three years and before that.
In the fine halls of his memory palace, he saw Signora Pazzi standing before him as he handed her the timeless writing at the opera. His words to her then reflected now, and he paused for a moment of recollection. The world questioned his feelings for Starling, dangerous considering now she was bait as a weakness. In the privacy of his home, he allowed himself to admit it wasn’t entirely false. Her morals were incorruptible, her mind as stubborn as his if not more so, her brilliant sense of right and wrong almost admirable. But there was something there, a crack in the window he wished to dispense of completely. Was she a weakness to him? In all honesty, he didn’t know himself. How much would he risk for her? Enough had been risked already, only to face rejection…but with some hope.
She told him never in a thousand years would she ask him to stop. It seemed logical that all he could do was abide that wish. Stop rescuing her? Never in a thousand years. Stop thinking of her? Never in a thousand years. Stop obsessing, wheedling, sending packages, doting, practically wasting himself over her in the discreet yet obscure manner in which he executed things? Never in a thousand years.
This realization didn’t bother him, and was rather pleasing when he forced himself to think of it. In the seclusion of his residence, he had come to this conclusion time and time again, but patience was pushing and after their last visit, he was becoming persistent.
The words said to Signora Pazzi. “Could he daily feel a stab of hunger for her, and find nourishment in the very sight of her? I think so. Would she seek through the bars of his plight and ache for him?”
The very sight of her now was doing little to provide the much needed nourishment. That thought alone should bother him slightly, yet still he remained unaffected. Again, he wondered the nature, the true nature, of her persistence to keep him alive. Despite the three-year old interview he had committed to memory, he believed that she would never bring it upon herself to end his life, agent or no agent. He also believed there was another reason she came to him that night and rescued him from the pigs. In order to get to that divine level of discovery, a little needling would need to be done.
Clarice Starling, FBI agent. He mused this thoughtfully, his eyes traveling to Orion in the sky and staying there for a few minutes. Much of him believed the agent within Starling to be deceased.
However much he would like to, there was no acting upon intuition yet. Perhaps a letter would serve. Yes, a letter to test her will, to see if she was indeed the same person he left three years ago. The smile born in the parlor broadened once more. Dr. Lecter was confident the Bureau had killed the agent within her, whether or not it was a new occupation she sought. However, dissecting those two-cent morals, agent or no agent, would be a task. He felt confident that it could be done.
If there was anyone in the world to know her well enough, it most certainly was him. He could never entirely predict her, but he knew her well enough. Time had passed, time enough, and it was time now to act.