Remember the Alamo
copyright 2003, by
The characters Dr. Hannibal Lecter and Mischa 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
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“I’ll be meeting with the Prosecutor in about an hour,” said Clarice’s attorney, Arthur Welles. I’ll see then what kind of deal they’ll be putting on the table. I think the best we can hope for is Man-three on all deaths, sentences running concurrently. I know that the FBI is finding the case exceedingly embarrassing and would like to see the whole thing just go away. This gives us some leverage.” Welles loosened his tie and unbuttoned his collar. “Damn, they keep it hot in here. Air conditioner must be on the blink again.”
Clarice was wearing the standard issue shapeless orange prisoner’s outfit. The heat did not bother her. She was acclimated to the gamut of weather conditions in her many stakeouts and other menial tasks during her years as an FBI Special Agent.
She looked at her lawyer and thought how much he looked like the stereotypical southern senator with his bushy white mane and wrinkled lightweight suit. She also recalled seeing him perform in court once and being impressed by the sharpness of his mind.
“How are our chances for an acquittal if we take it to trial?” Her voice was emotionless. Only the slight increase in her trace West Virginia accent betrayed that the discussion had any significance for her.
“Not good, I’m afraid. I wouldn’t care to have to try it. The prosecution could win just going by your own statements. But let’s not worry about hypothetical situations just yet. We’ll know soon enough how we stand.” Welles straightened his tie and rang for the guard. “I’ll be back as soon as I know anything.” The cell door clanged shut behind him as he left.
Welles was back two hours later. He waited impatiently for the guard to leave the cell, and then stated without preamble, “They won’t deal. They’re going for Murder-one.”
Somehow, Clarice felt no surprise. She sat down on her cot while Welles remained standing near the door. “Tell me what happened,” she said calmly.
“They blindsided me,” Welles admitted. “I was prepared for some heavy duty negotiations and they cut me off, told me no deals. I asked them why they had called the bloody meeting and they claimed it was a courtesy meeting to give me advance notice on what they would be charging you with. But that was a load of crap. They had an informal press conference set up and were getting full publicity on the Murder-one charge decision.
“Whew, it’s still damned hot here.” Welles removed his jacket and folded it over his left arm. “I was able to get some advance warning of the prosecution strategy from a buddy of mine. They’re going to try you on one of the deaths to start with. It will be a Murder-one charge with a range of lesser charges. Future charges on the remaining deaths will depend on how the first trial goes. That will give the D.A. several shots at getting you a stiff sentence. There’s no issue of double jeopardy involved.
“Assistant D. A. Lazarus Gropo has his own agenda. He’s the one trying this case and he fancies it as the chance of a lifetime, a shortcut to the Governor’s mansion. He wants it to be as dramatic as possible. The publicity of this case, a young attractive woman fighting in a life-or-death struggle, will be worth more than any war chest another candidate can muster.”
“He really must hate me,” said Clarice. “Is there something personal here; something I’m not aware of?”
“Not really,” said Welles. “My sources and my own experience tell me that he dislikes career women in general. The women in the D. A.’s office are barely on speaking terms with him.”
“He doesn’t sound very sympathetic. Do you think the public would really accept his personal attacks? I would think that there would be a backlash that could hurt him politically, and political advantage seems to be what he’s after.”
Welles paused a moment to blot the perspiration on his forehead with his handkerchief. “The trouble is, you’ve been demonized by the press. According to the Tattler you’re the FBI’s killing machine and Hannibal Lecter’s accomplice. The public knows only what it reads. They’ve been conditioned to think of you as the enemy. And as such, you’ve become fair game. They revel in your misfortune.
“The veneer of civilization is thin. If there is no personal risk, the human species appears to be able to supply as many participants and observers as are needed for any atrocity. If the victim is a young and comely female there is added stimulation for the mob.
“Well! I didn’t intend to make a speech,” continued Welles. “There are a few possible roads for us to travel. Let me look into which is most likely to lead to the desired outcome.”
Welles left. Clarice remained seated, staring at the wall.
Clarice Starling was brought to trial, charged with first degree murder of Illinois Deputy Sheriff John Mogli. The case was strong. By Starling’s own admission, Mogli had identified himself as a police officer and had not fired a shot when she shot him twice. At the time she was a trespasser with no legal authority, carrying an illegal weapon, and was committing several other wrongful deaths (The defense objected to the last item, the judge sustained the objection, and the jury was instructed to ignore that item). The prosecution made much of the fact that Starling was a three time inter-agency combat pistol champion. “Against Ms. Starling he was a sitting duck,” was the way the Prosecutor put it in his summation.
The trial lasted two weeks and received national coverage. Starling’s defense was that she had seen Lecter being kidnapped, had reported it to the FBI who were not doing anything about it, and had then tried to rescue Lecter and capture him herself. Assistant D.A. Gropo addressed each of these items and made a powerful rebuttal. Clarice was struck by Gropo’s remarkable resemblance to the late Paul Krendler.
In the end, the case went to the jury. Clarice was in her prisoner’s garb waiting with her lawyer and his associate in a drab cubical room with a guard stationed outside the door. The jury returned with their verdict after twelve hours deliberation. The guard was courteous as he escorted Clarice and her lawyers back to the courtroom, They stood as the verdict was read: “On the charge of Murder in the First Degree we find the defendant, Clarice M Starling, guilty.”
Judge Fermat thanked the jury and ordered the bailiff to remove the prisoner. The bailiff pulled Clarice’s hands behind her back and handcuffed her tightly; then used a pinch grip on her elbow to move her along at his pace. She was no longer a citizen on trial but a prisoner.
The reporters with their cell phones ready, called in the news, and TV cameras caught the Assistant D.A.’s comments as he exited the courtroom.
Later, Clarice was back in court for the sentencing phase of the trial. Unbidden thoughts kept churning in her mind.
‘If it’s thirty years to life, I can probably get out in fifteen. I’ll be forty-eight then. That’s not too old.’
A voice inside her jeered, “Not too old to be cleaning motel toilets like dear old mom?”
Other thoughts broke in: ‘It all depends on the other sentences running concurrently. If they’re consecutive It might as well be life’ and a quickly suppressed ‘I wonder if I’ll ever see Dr. Lecter again?’ She felt a tear forming and fought to suppress it.
The judge was speaking again. Clarice was impatiently waiting for him to reach the punchline.
“…I can understand your reasons for your actions. That being said, I find those actions deplorable, especially by one who has sworn to defend the Constitution. You must be made an example of. I therefore sentence you to be hanged by the neck until dead.” He rapped his gavel several times to still the spectators and announced, “Court is adjourned/”
“I didn’t realize that execution was a possibility,” said Clarice. “Haven’t most states dropped it?” Her voice was steady, not reflecting any of her inner turmoil. She was sitting with her lawyer in the holding cell for the last time, waiting to be transferred to death row.
“It’s a tricky business,” said Welles, his voice a bit hushed. “They were able to justify trying you in Federal Court because you were a Federal Agent. The death by hanging penalty was allowed by a recent Supreme Court decision reinterpreting the meaning of ‘cruel and unusual punishment.’ The interpretation was (a) hanging was not unusual, and therefore (b) even if hanging were performed cruelly it would not be both cruel and unusual. I’m sorry; I know this is hard for you to talk about. May I get you some water?”
“No, thank you. I’m okay,” Clarice said quietly.
“I’ll appeal, of course, but I don’t expect much to come of it. Well, we mustn’t give up hope, Clarice. Remember the Alamo!”
He waved vaguely in her direction as he left the cell. She smiled sadly, and wondered what the Alamo had to do with anything.
Several days passed bringing her that much closer to the execution date. Her lawyer, Welles, came by to tell her that her appeal had been denied. He was awkwardly apologetic about it and Starling had to comfort him.
Two days later Clarice was told she had a visitor. She wondered idly who it might be. She hadn’t seen Ardelia since the trial and suspected it might be she. At one time they had been extremely close, but Ardelia could never accept how Clarice had thrown everything away for the sake of rescuing Dr. Lecter. Sometimes Clarice wondered about that herself. Her musings were interrupted by the guard who ushered in her visitor and withdrew to the outside corridor.
Clarice stared incredulously at her visitor. “Dr. Lecter! What are you doing here? You must be insane. Get away while you can!”
Dr. Lecter smiled sardonically. “Nice to see you too, Clarice.”
She shook her head. “They must be using me as bait to trap you. What persuaded you to come here?”
“Really, my dear. As much as I am willing to sacrifice for you, do you believe I would ever trade my freedom for your life?” His voice lost its mocking overtones as he continued, “I realize how strange this must appear to you, but I assure you that I am in no real danger here.”
At that moment, the cell door clanged open and men in guards’ uniforms came charging in, barking unarmed combat commands. There were about a dozen of them. Dr. Lecter murmured to Clarice,“Please excuse me; and remember the Alamo!” He leaped to a martial arts pose and the intruders responded in standard fashion. Lecter moved with blurring speed to the nearest guard. There was a flashing glimpse of a blade and the guard was down, gargling blood through his slit throat. Dr. Lecter plunged a convenient pen through a second guard’s eye, aid bit off most of a third guard’s face. The Good Doctor was chewing contentedly on the third guard’s tongue when the remaining guards overwhelmed him by sheer weight of numbers and dragged him off. Dr. Lecter winked as he passed Clarice and murmured to her, “Don’t you forget now. Remember the Alamo.”
Clarice sat motionless as a gargoyle as this charade played itself out. She felt as though she had just received an urgent telegram in some incomprehensible language. ‘I’m going to die in three days’ she thought. She found the concept almost beyond her grasp. Clarice had faced death innumerable times in the past; She searched her inner self to ascertain how the present situation was different.
‘I guess it’s a matter of control. Looking back to when I rescued Catherine Martin from Jame Gumb, I was in charge of my own destiny. As dangerous as my actions were, they were my choices. If I had gone down, it still would have been a fitting outcome.’
It was the morning of Clarice Starling’s scheduled execution. She was just finishing a light breakfast when four visitors arrived: her lawyer, Arthur Welles; Assistant District Attorney Gropo, Judge Fermat, and the bailiff whose name she never caught. The Judge said, “Miss Starling, we’re here to inform you of today’s agenda.” He turned toward the Assistant D. A. “Mr. Gropo, if you please?”
Wilbur Gropo cleared his throat. His manner was subdued as he spoke, but there was a hidden glint in his eye.
“First, I must tell you that your latest appeal was also denied. There will be no last minute reprieve.
“Next, the broadcast rights to your execution, in accordance with the law, have been have been purchased by a pay-per-view cable channel. The profits will go to the victims of your crimes.
“Next, in accordance with the Supreme Court’s recent reinterpretation of the ‘cruel and unusual punishment’ clause in the Constitution, the cable channel has elected to go with hanging as a ‘not unusual’ punishment, allowing them to go full rein on the ‘cruel’ part. Thus they decided to have the hanging done with a minimal drop distance. This will assure that death will not be instantaneous from a broken neck but will take as long as fifteen or twenty minutes from strangulation. The court allowed this in a pre-contract ruling for commercial reasons; the longer time period will result in more viewers
“Finally, you will be nude during the execution, also for commercial reasons.
“Let’s see, is that it?” he muttered to himself. He ticked off on his fingers, “No reprieve … broadcast rights … strangled … nude … yes, I believe that covers it.”
Clarice stared at him impassively; then turned to her attorney. “Is all of this legal, Mr. Welles?”
“I’m afraid so. There are legal precedents cited to cover every issue. I can’t understand how we missed all of them,” he said, plaintively.
“Well, those are the breaks,” she said. “Remember the Alamo.”
“… and those who gave their lives,” said Judge Fermat, looking at her, expectantly. He seemed disappointed when she didn’t respond.
“Well, we’ll just leave you to your meditations,” he said, as he and the other visitors departed.
It was about an hour before show time. Early morning weather forecasts indicated a strong probability of scattered showers, but as show time neared the skies over the Rose Bowl cleared and the temperature crept up to the upper seventies. It was a lovely spring-like day that made one glad to be alive.
Clarice had not seen or spoken with her former boss, FBI Special Agent Clint Pearsall, since her trial, but here he was, in the Rose Bowl visitors’ locker room, evidently in charge of the physical arrangements for her execution. He seemed perpetually angered as he spoke with her.
“Are you happy now, Starling? Is this what you gave it all up for? Your career, your sworn duty, your life. And where has he been while you’ve been letting yourself be destroyed? Enjoying his freedom? … Oops. Did I hurt you there.” He had been fitting the noose loosely about her neck, but in his agitation had allowed it to tighten slightly, causing her to twitch involuntarily.
“No, I’m Okay. But could I ask you a favor?”
“Sure. What is it?”
“Could you scratch my nose? It’s itching like crazy and I can’t do much about it with my hands handcuffed behind my back.”
“Sure thing, Starling.” He scratched and she exhaled luxuriously, “Ahhhh.”
There was a pause in the conversation as he started to remove her prisoner’s outer garb.
“Tell me, Mr. Pearsall, does ‘Remember the Alamo’ mean anything to you?”
“Wasn’t that when a few Texans fought off Santa Anna’s forces?” He did not appear to be particularly interested.
Pearsall finished the preliminary preparations and signaled that he was ready. The director cued the band and the opening music rang out. On the second bar, Starling was escorted by Pearsall and four guards toward the gallows that had been erected in the center of the playing field. As they started, Pearsall called out to Starling the traditional show business good luck wish, “Break a leg!”
Starling was standing on the trap door of the gallows now, wearing plain white panties, bra, and Gucci shoes; hands still handcuffed behind her back. Judge Fermat stood at a dais beside the gallows, reading into a microphone the charges against Clarice, the verdict and the sentence. Clint Pearsall meanwhile was standing next to the trap door, removing Clarice’s remaining undergarments. Judge Fermat completed reciting the legalities pertaining to the execution and called out. “Does the accused have anything to say before sentence is carried out?”
Clarice called out in a steady voice, “Remember the Alamo!”
Pearsall tied the opposite end of the noose rope to a hook at the top of the gallows. He had adjusted the noose earlier. He now lowered the noose over Clarice’s head and tightened it slightly around her neck. It was still loose enough not to interfere with her breathing. He took a step back and said,
“Last chance if there’s anything more you’d like to say.”
She thought for a moment and then called out in the same steady voice, “Davy Crockett!”
Pearsall signaled to the band and they began a drum roll. He reached out to the trip switch, waited a moment for dramatic impact and then threw the switch. The trap door dropped a pre-set four inches.
Clarice’s feet initially were firmly against the trap door; now she could barely reach it with the toes of her shoes. Also, the noose had tightened around her throat so that she could hardly breathe. She found she could manage gasping breaths if she stood on tiptoe. The position was extremely exhausting; after a few minutes her feet relaxed and her breathing was cut off again. Clarice fell into a rhythm of alternating a few strained breaths with choking. After about what seemed like hours, Pearsall threw the control to the full position and the trap door opened completely.
Clarice gazed at the audience as she hanged helplessly by her neck. She was able to recognize a few of the faces in the nearer rows, and even make out their hushed voices.
‘There is Jack Crawford wearing a saddened expression. He is speaking with Ardelia Mapp who is asking if he would like some of her grandmother’s tea. And there is Mason Verger wearing one of those comic hats with the beer bottles. He is offering a beer to Jame Gumb. Barney is sitting one row back with a bunch of guys in hockey masks. One of them is calling to me: “You are a warrior, Clarice! Don’t ever give up. Remember the Alamo. Remember who was there. Who else was there?” It is he calling to me, the one who always gave me his support; the one who never let me down.
Clarice was losing control of her body. Against her will it was kicking as it tried climbing the air. She was able to utter only feeble croaks. With a tremendous effort, she choked out the name, “Kit Carson!” Then the pain stopped and she lost awareness.
She awoke to the sound of a harpsichord playing a familiar melody. She did a mental survey of her physical state and decided that she felt fine – healthy and in good humor. Dr. Lecter entered the bedroom.
“Are you feeling well, Clarice? I thought it well to let you sleep after that experience.”
“Thank you, doctor. I feel quite rested. I am curious as to how you managed to effect my rescue. The last thing I remember is being hanged as a murderess.”
Dr. Lecter became agitated. “My dear Clarice. I had no inkling that the session had played itself out that far. Did you not use the release key?"
“What’s a release key?”
“Hmmm, I see. Perhaps we need to investigate just what you do remember; that is, if you feel up to it.”
“I feel fine, Dr, Lecter. Will you be giving me another morphine shot?”
“I think we’ve passed the point of using narcotics or hypnosis to accelerate your therapy, Clarice. There should be no question of whether your judgment is unclouded when you are making life-altering decisions. Why don’t we start by having you tell me what you remember, starting with your opportune appearance as my rescuer from dear Mason’s clutches.”
Clarice smiled at his choice of expression. “I was planning to take you into custody after rescuing you, but during the shoot-out I was shot in the shoulder and lost consciousness. When I came to I found myself sedated with morphine. Paul Krendler and I were your dinner guests. You lifted off the top of Paul’s skull and fed him his own brain.” Clarice broke off her narrative. “Did that part really happen?’
“Oddly enough, it did. Please continue with your recollections.”
“I made several half-assed attempts to knock you out, which you easily avoided. Then you trapped my hair in the refrigerator door and as I stood there helpless you kissed me, you naughty boy. My memory is a little confused after that. I guess the morphine was having an effect. Anyway, I think I handcuffed us together and refused to give up the key. You responded by chopping off your hand and escaping. I can see that you now have both hands, so I think I may safely conclude that the chopping off the hand part didn’t really happen. It would have been so romantic, though.”
“’Romantic’ would be one way of putting it; ‘stupid’ would be another. What happened next?”
“The police and the FBI arrived. After hearing my story they arrested me and charged me with Murder-one in the death of one of Verger’s goons during the shoot-out at Muskrat Farms. I was tried, convicted and sentenced to death by hanging with some special features: It was to be carried out publicly in a circus-like atmosphere; it was to be slow – by strangulation, not a broken neck; and I was to be naked. While I was awaiting execution there were some mysterious references to ‘Remembering the Alamo.’ The time for the execution arrived and I was duly executed. That’s all I remember before waking up here. I presume this is neither heaven nor hell so I guess I survived.”
Dr. Lecter sat lost in thought, his chin resting on his fingertips. After about ten minutes he spoke. “As you’ve evidently gathered, most of what you’ve told me never happened. However, it still provides us with information that can be used to attack your problems.
“The actual events took place in December, not July. I have not determined the significance, if any, of this.
“During the shoot-out you were hit not by a bullet but by an overdose of tranquilizer. It did not kill you but came close to doing so. The treatment required a very delicate touch and high accuracy. You also required psychological support that normally might require years of therapy. I used an intensive technique involving hypnosis and hypnotic drugs to achieve significant results in a matter of days. The issues considered were such items as your idolization of your father’s memory and your desire to please him; and your deference to authority that you were well under way to overcoming on your own.
“A related area was your self-doubt – your feelings that you may somehow be really responsible for the lies that Krendler spewed into your files – your self-examination as to whether anything you said to the task force unfairly depicted Evelda Drumgo in such a way as to cause her death in the fish market shoot-out.
“I decided that this issue could be addressed by setting up a hypnotically-induced situation that showed you doing the right thing according to your value system; yet being subjected to extreme punishment by the authorities, your presumed comrades. The timeline I selected for this purpose was after the Muskrat Farms shoot-out and Krendler’s demise. For dramatic purposes these events were considered to coincide although they were actually some days apart.
“What had actually occurred after the Muskrat Farms debacle was that I took you with me to heal you. The FBI was too embarrassed to consider you a kidnap victim. Instead they filed you as a ‘Missing Person.’ For the hypnotic state I was creating, I postulated that you had refused to come with me and I had left you behind. You were being arrested as my accomplice.
“All I was able to do as the therapist was to set things in motion and let them work themselves out in accordance with your understanding of the characters of the players. You would be vulnerable in this hypnotic state: if you thought you had died you would probably have actually died. To provide some measure of protection, you were provided with a ‘release key.’ This is a short phrase that when spoken by you, ends the episode. I selected the phrase ‘Kit Carson’ as the release key. It is easily remembered from its association with the battle of the Alamo, and has long been associated with courage. It is unfortunate that I had not given sufficient consideration to the possibility that the individual trying to use the release key may be strangling. Fortunately it all worked out satisfactorily.”
Clarice gazed thoughtfully at Dr. Lecter. “Things were getting a bit frisky toward the end. Was the ‘naked with slow hanging’ your idea?”
He bristled, “It was an entirely unnecessary embellishment and was extremely rude. I honestly don’t know where it came from.”
“I have an idea about that,” said Clarice. “You may be a little too close to it to see it. In your recent adventures in Florence you were immersed in the artistic and literary depiction of Judas Iscariot slow hanging and naked, as punishment for his sin. Most of the audience for the execution would consider me to be the sinner and therefore subject to a sinner’s punishment.”
‘That may be true,’ thought Hannibal, ‘or it may be that they just couldn’t get tickets to the Atrocious Torture Instruments exhibit’. Whatever the explanation, Hannibal and Clarice must have resolved it satisfactorily, as they appeared to be enthralled with each others company at the Buenos Aires Opera House three years later.
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