Special Agent Bride
copyright 2001, by
The Princess Bride was written by William Goldman. Many of the characters used here were created by
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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Clarice was raised on the firing
range in the headquarters at Quantico.
Her favorite pastimes were driving her Mustang and being tormented by a
serial killer. His name was Hannibal,
but she never called him that.
gave Clarice as much pleasure as when the serial killer ordered her
around. She was amazed when, one day,
she discovered that when he was saying, “Would you ever say to me, stop? If you loved me, you’d stop?” what he really
meant was “I love you.” Even more
amazing was when she realized that when she said, “Not in a thousand years,”
and put the handcuffs on his wrist, what she really meant was that she loved
heard the police coming, so he packed his few belongings and left to seek his
fortune across the sea. It was a
difficult time for Clarice. She feared
she’d never see him again. As he
brought the knife down toward her wrist, she opened her mouth to scream, then
heard him say, very softly, “As you wish,” as he deflected the blade so it cut
through the chain instead. As she
watched him leave, thoughts raced through her mind. What if something happens to him? His voice spoke in her head, saying “Hear this now. I will always come for you. This is true love. Do you think this happens every day?”
never reached his destination. His ship
was attacked by the dread terrorist Robards, who never left captives
alive. When Clarice heard the news that
Hannibal was murdered, she went to her room and shut the door. For days she neither slept nor ate. “I will never love again.”
later, she was selected by Section Chief Jack Crawford to be his new bride, and
he forced her to return to the Bureau.
Five months from now, the FBI would celebrate its fiftieth anniversary,
and on that eve he would marry her.
emptiness consumed her. For though the
law (with the help of some friends in high places) gave Crawford the right to
choose his bride, she did not love him.
Despite Crawford’s reassurance that she would grow to love him, the only
joy she found was in her daily drive.
One day she
was far from Washington, near the Appalachian Sea, when she was flagged down by
three ragged looking men. She stopped
the Mustang and got out.
“A word, my lady? We are but poor lost circus performers. Is there a village nearby?” said the small
one, whose name was Noonan.
“No, there is nothing nearby, not
for miles,” she replied politely.
“Then there will be no one to hear
you scream.” While he spoke, his giant
companion, Pearsall, had circled around Clarice and put her out with a nerve
pinch to the neck.
“What is that you’re ripping?”
asked Graham, a lean and wiry man with a scarred face.
“Fabric from the uniform of an
officer of Canada, the country across the border. The sworn enemy of the United States,” replied Noonan. “This will make the Section Chief suspect
that the Canadians have abducted his love.
When he finds her body on the border, his suspicions will be confirmed.”
“You never said anything about
killing anyone,” complained Pearsall.
“I’ve hired you to help me start a
war,” replied Noonan. “It’s a
prestigious line of work with a long and glorious tradition.”
“I just don’t think it’s right,
killing an innocent girl.”
“Am I going mad, or did the word
‘think’ escape your lips,” cried Noonan angrily. “You were not hired for your brain!”
Graham chimed in. “I agree with Pearsall.”
“Oh, the sot has spoken! Well, never forget this. When I found you, you were so slobbering
drunk you couldn’t buy brandy,” sneered Noonan.
The sorry little band continued
their bickering as they loaded Clarice into a waiting boat. Pearsall and Graham played their rhyming
game into the long, dark night.
“We’ll reach the cliffs by dawn,”
said Noonan. “Why are you doing that?”
he asked Graham, irritated.
“Making sure nobody’s following
us,” explained Graham.
“That would be inconceivable,”
replied Noonan haughtily.
“Despite what you think, you will
be caught,” piped up Clarice. “And when
you are, the Section Chief will see you all hanged.”
“Of all the necks on this boat,
Special Agent, the one you should be worrying about is your own,” cautioned
Noonan and Graham argued more about
the plausibility of someone following them, deciding that the small craft in
their wake was likely a fisherman, working at night in the eel-infested
waters. Clarice took the opportunity to
hurl herself off the edge of the boat.
She did not blink as the screaming eels charged her. She felt as if she would almost welcome
their deadly mouths, and was slightly disappointed when Pearsall dragged her
back into the boat.
“I suppose you think you’re brave,”
Clarice lifted her chin. “Only compared to some,” she said quietly.
By the time they reached the shore
of the Cliffs of Insanity, it had been established that they were, indeed, being
followed, however inconceivable the occurrence might be. It was a moot point, however, as only
Pearsall had the strength to drag them up the Cliffs his way. His way being harnessed together and going
up a stout rope hand over hand.
As Pearsall made his slow way up
the rope, carrying his heavy burden, a masked man in black leapt from the
following vessel and began to climb up after them.
Noonan. Yet the man in black continued
He was not fast enough,
however. When the ragged band reached
the top, Noonan sawed through the rope with his dagger. It slithered over the edge of the precipice
and disappeared. Pearsall and Graham
looked over the cliffs. The man in
black was hanging from the rocks.
“He’s got very good arms,” remarked
“He didn’t fall?” whined
“You keep using that word,”
commented Graham. “I do not think it
means what you think it means.”
They all looked down to see the man
in black begin to scrabble his way toward the top.
“My God, he’s climbing!” exclaimed
“He’s seen us with the Special
Agent and must therefore die,” proclaimed Noonan. “You, carry her,” he said to Pearsall. “We’ll head straight for the frontier. Catch up when he’s dead.
If he falls, fine. If not, the
“I’m going to do him left-handed,”
stated Graham. “It’s the only way I can
Noonan reluctantly assented and he,
Pearsall, and the Special Agent made their way off. Graham waited impatiently atop the cliff, limbering himself up
for the duel.
“I do not suppose you could speed
things up?” he called down hopefully.
“If you’re in such a hurry, you
could lower a rope or a tree branch, or find something useful to do,” replied
the man in black in a pained voice.
“I could do that,” said Graham
thoughtfully. “I’ve got some rope up
here. But I do not think you would
accept my help, since I’m only waiting around here to kill you.”
“That does put a damper on our
relationship,” agreed the man in black.
“I promise I will not kill you
until you reach the top.”
“That’s very comforting, but I’m
afraid you’ll just have to wait.”
“I hate waiting,” moaned
Graham. “I could give you my word as an
“No good. I’ve known too many F.B.I. agents.”
Graham pondered, then shot the last
arrow from his quiver. His voice
ringing with sincerity, he announced, “I swear to you by the scars on my face,
you will reach the top alive.”
An unreadable look in the man in
black’s eyes. “Throw me the rope.”
While he rested at the top of the
cliffs, Graham asked a strange question.
“I do not mean to pry, but do you happen to have six fingers on your
“Do you always begin conversations
this way?” asked the man in black, suddenly very thankful for a job Miracle Max
had done for him recently. He held out
his gloved left hand, unmistakably spreading the five fingers.
“These scars were given to me by a
six-fingered man,” explained Graham.
“When I was strong enough, I dedicated my life to the study of
fencing. When we next meet, I will not fail. I will go up to the six-fingered man and say
to him ‘Hello. My name is Will
Graham. You ruined my life. Prepare to die.”
The men looked at each other then,
and the duel commenced. It ranged all
around, and they were both masters. The
man in black finally had Graham cornered, but Graham had a surprise in
store. “You see, I am not left-handed,”
he cried, and switched his sword to his right hand. The tide of the battle turned until it was the man in black’s
turn to be pressed to the wall, but then he spoke. “I am not left-handed either,” he said, and quickly became the
master of the duel. Many stokes were
exchanged, but in the end, Graham was kneeling. “Kill me quickly,” he asked with honor.
“I would as soon destroy a stained
glass window as an artist such as yourself,” said the man in black. “However, since I can’t have you following
me either…” He bashed Graham over the
head with the hilt of his sword.
Noonan was enraged when he noticed
the man in black following again. He
left Pearsall to deal with him, once again, in “his way.” Pearsall decided that “his way” was to hide
behind a rock and pray that the man in black did not notice his presence. He was not so fortunate. The man in black bashed him over the head
with a large rock, then bent his head to Pearsall’s chest to ensure that he was
still breathing. “Sleep well,” he said,
“and dream of large women.” It was hard
to know how he meant it.
Meanwhile, Section Chief Crawford
had tracked them to the point of the duel.
He walked his way through the battle, realizing that the trail led
toward the frontier. “Clearly this was
planned by warriors from Canada,” he stated.
“We must all be ready for whatever lies ahead.”
“Could this be a trap?” asked one
of his men.
“I always think everything could be
a trap… which is why I am still alive,” answered the Section Chief, and they
rode off, following the trail.
The man in black ran until he
reached a clearing, where he saw Noonan and the Special Agent seated at a large
rock. Fabric was spread out on the rock
like a tablecloth, and a banquet of wine and bread was laid. The Special Agent was bound and
blindfolded. Noonan held a dagger to
“So, it is down to you and it is
down to me,” stated Noonan.
The man in black approached
“If you wish her dead, by all means
keep moving forward,” threatened Noonan.
“Let me explain,” said the man in
black with an ingratiating smile on his face.
“There’s nothing to explain. You are trying to kidnap what I have
“Perhaps an arrangement could be
made?” asked the man in black hopefully.
“There will be no arrangement, and
you’re killing her,” said Noonan as he pressed the dagger against Clarice’s
“Well, if there can be no
arrangement, then we are at an impasse.”
“I’m afraid so. I’m no match for you physically, and you’re
no match for my brain,” stated Noonan.
“You’re that smart?” scoffed the
man in black.
“Have you ever heard of Plato,
“Really,” said the man in
black. “In that case, I challenge you
to a battle of wits.”
“For the Special Agent?” inquired
The man in black inclined his head,
“To the death?”
The man in black nodded again.
“I accept,” said Noonan.
“Good,” purred the man in
black. “Then pour the wine.”
Noonan removed his dagger from
Clarice’s throat and returned it to its sheath. He reached for the bottle of wine. He never made it.
The man in black had tired of these
silly games. The moment Noonan’s weapon
was sheathed, he leapt, quick as a cat over the table, and bit off Noonan’s
nose. He then flicked a small silver
knife out of his sleeve and slashed Noonan’s throat.
As Noonan lay there, gurgling his
last breaths, the man in black bent down and whispered in his ear. “You fool, you fell victim to one of the classic
blunders. The most famous is ‘Never get
involved in a land war in Asia,’ but only slightly less famous is this: ‘Never go in against a Lithuanian when death
is on the line.’”
cleaned his bloody face, and went to the Special Agent. Removing her blindfold, he gazed into the
perfection of her ice-blue eyes. Her
face was shocked and confused.
you,” she asked wonderingly.
“I am no
one to be trifled with, and that is all you ever need know.”
her bonds, took her by the hand, and led her off.
for a long distance over hard terrain, and he could see she was becoming
winded. Roughly he cast her down onto a
rock. “Catch your breath,” he
commanded, and his voice was cold.
release me, whatever you ask for ransom, you’ll get it, I promise you,” Clarice
The man in
black laughed, and the sound had a vicious edge. “And what is that worth, the promise of a woman. You’re very funny, Special Agent.”
giving you a chance. It doesn’t matter
where you take me. There is no greater
hunter than Section Chief Crawford. He
can track a falcon on a cloudy day; he can find you.” She spit the last word out.
your dearest love will save you?”
said he was my dearest love, and yes, he will save me, that I know.”
to me you do not love your fiancé.”
“He knows I
do not love him.”
capable of love is what you mean.”
with anger. “I have loved more deeply
than a killer like yourself could ever dream!”
He raised his
arm as if to strike her; she flinched.
be a warning, Special Agent. Next time
my hand flies on its own. Where I come
from, there are penalties when a woman lies.”
her hand again and they went racing across the plain once more. When she grew tired again, he threw her down
onto a fallen log. “Rest, Special
“I know who
you are,” she cried. “Your cruelty
reveals everything. You’re the Dread
Terrorist Robards, admit it!”
pride,” he said, sweeping a mocking bow.
“What can I do for you?”
die slowly, cut into a thousand pieces,” she replied.
his head and tsked. “Hardly
complimentary, Special Agent. Why loose
your venom on me?”
possible… I kill a lot of people,” he admitted. “Who was this love of yours?
Another bureaucrat like this one?
denied. Her eyes grew thoughtful. “He was a serial killer, dark. Dark and perfect. With eyes like the sea after a storm. On the high seas your ship attacked, and the Dread Terrorist
Robards never takes prisoners.”
afford to make exceptions,” he explained sarcastically. “I mean, once word leaks out that a
terrorist’s gone soft, people begin to disobey you and then it’s nothing but
work, work, work.” There was a wicked
smile on his face.
my pain!” cried Clarice.
pain, Special Agent,” he hissed, suddenly deadly serious. “Anyone who says differently is selling
He got up
and began to walk around. “I remember
this serial killer of yours, I think.
This would be what, five years ago?
Does it bother you to hear?” he asked in poisoned tones.
you can say will upset me,” she defied him, refusing even to look in his
well, that should please you. No bribe
attempts or blubbering. He simply said
‘Please… please, I need to live.’”
her eyes down, remembering her love’s exquisite courtesy.
please that caught my memory. I asked
him what was so important to him. ‘True
love,’ he replied. And then he spoke of
a girl of surpassing beauty and virtue.”
He looked at her scornfully. “I
can only assume he meant you. You
should bless me for destroying him before he found out what you really are.”
am I?” she asked, color rising in her face.
talked of, madam. Your enduring
virtue. Now tell me truly, when you
found out he was gone did you get engaged to your Section Chief that same hour
or did you wait a whole week out of respect for the dead?”
controlled her. “You mocked me once,
never do it again,” she shouted. “I
died that day.”
of hoof beats filled their ears, and the man in black turned to find the source
of the sound. They were standing on the
edge of a deep grassy canyon, and Clarice took her opportunity. “You can die too for all I care,” she hissed
as she pushed him down the slope.
tumbled, she saw his mask fly off and heard his voice echo up to her. “As you wish,” he cried, and the lock on her
sweet Hannibal,” she breathed. “What
have I done?”
herself down the ravine after him.
Section Chief Crawford, who had
been following the couple, reined in his horse at the top of the ravine and
chuckled. “They disappeared. The must have seen us closing in, which
might account for his panicking into error.
Unless I’m wrong, and I’m never wrong, they are headed straight toward
and Clarice’s tumbling bodies finally halted near the bottom of the gorge. Hannibal got up slowly and moved to help
Clarice. “Can you move at all?”
alive! If you want, I could fly.”
her up in his powerful arms. “You knew
I would always come for you. Why didn’t
you wait for me?”
dead,” said Clarice with her trademark honesty.
cannot stop true love… all it can do is delay it for a while.”
never doubt again,” vowed Clarice.
never be a need,” assured Hannibal, and kissed her tenderly. Both felt the ground sway beneath them. But then the sound of hoof beats grew
closer, and Hannibal knew it was time to go.
Taking Clarice by the hand, gently this time, he pulled her to her feet
and they began to run along the ravine floor.
exclaimed Hannibal. “Your rat fiancé is
too late! A few more steps and we’ll be
safely inside Muskrat Farm!”
never survive,” moaned Clarice, who knew something about the place.
scoffed Hannibal. “You only say that
because no one ever has.”
proceeded along a faded track into the dim, gloomy forests. Sounds of strange creatures surrounded them,
yet they did not see one. “It’s not
that bad,” said Hannibal, a little surprised.
shot him a look that said clearly she thought he was insane.
replied, “I’m not saying I’d like to build a summer home here but the trees are
actually quite lovely.”
continued walking in the murky darkness amongst the trees. Suddenly, they heard a popping sound and a
volley of gunfire erupted from the ground next to Clarice. Hannibal calmly lifted her frozen body out
of the way.
that was an adventure. Singed a bit,
were you?” he asked her, lifting her hair to reveal a small bit of gunpowder
embedded into her skin.
this time. You?” she asked, trying to
shook his head no, and confidently took her hand to propel her onwards. Another popping sound broke the grim
silence. He took Clarice by the waist
and swung her to the side, neatly avoiding the bullets that followed. “Well, one thing I will say: Muskrat Farm certainly does keep you on your
toes. This will all soon be but a happy
memory.” They continued walking. “Robard’s ship Revenge is banked at the far
end. And, as you know, I am Robards.”
“But how is
that possible,” inquired Clarice, “since he’s been marauding 20 years and you
only left me five years ago?”
am often surprised at life’s little quirks.
See, what I told you before about saying please was true… it intrigued
Robards, as did my descriptions of your beauty. Finally, Robards decided something. He said, ‘All right, Hannibal, never had a valet; you can try it
if you’d like. I’ll most likely kill
you in the morning.’ After that, it was
a simple matter to discover that he had a pretty wife named Allegra hidden in
his cabin. So I trussed him up and
informed him that she would make an excellent supper unless he handed the title
over to me. Once he realized that I was
indeed THE Hannibal, he agreed and we got along quite nicely, actually. Best valet I’ve ever had. I spent the rest of the time working my way
across the high seas, evading the Coast Guard and the like, and trying to get
back here. Is everything clear to you?”
unable to answer, as she had been sucked down into a pit of sand and had
vanished. Thinking quickly, Hannibal
slashed through a vine, tied it about his waist, and dived headlong into the
pit, searching for her. A long breath
later, they emerged, gasping and coughing.
As Clarice lay on the ground, covered in grit, she moaned, “We’ll never
succeed; we may as well die here.”
replied Hannibal, still coughing. We
have already succeeded. I mean, what
are the three terrors of Muskrat Farm?
One, the bullet spurt - no problem, there’s a popping sound preceding
each. We can avoid that. Two, the tranquilizer sand, which you were
clever enough to discover what that looks like, so in the future we can avoid
Hannibal, what about the P.O.U.S.’s?” asked Clarice, worried.
Unusual Size? I don’t think they
exist,” he said just as a giant pig erupted from the underbrush, sinking its
teeth into his shoulder. Hannibal
managed to shake the creature off, and it went after Clarice.
“Hannibal!” and backed away. Hannibal
leaped onto the beast’s back, thrashing around. Clarice picked up a large branch and brandished it in front of
her. Just then, they heard an
unmistakable popping sound. Bullets
flew from the ground, and Hannibal rolled the pig into their path. Shrieking and bleeding, the pigs hobbled
away, but Hannibal took his sword and pierced it several times until it was
completely dead. He carved a small
piece out of the animal’s flesh, looked around, then sighed and cast it down to
the ground. “Damned trichinosis,” he
Clarice’s hand again, and led them out of Muskrat Farm. When they at last reached the edge of the
forest, Clarice exclaimed, “We did it!”
that so terrible,” asked Hannibal, teasingly.
nowhere, the familiar sound of galloping horses approached. Section Chief Crawford rode into view
accompanied by his men. “Surrender!” he
you wish to surrender to me? Very well
then, I accept,” stated Hannibal.
“I give you
full marks for bravery,” said Crawford.
“Don’t make yourself a fool.”
how will you capture us? We know the
secrets of Muskrat Farm. We can live
there happily for quite some time, so whenever you feel like dying, feel free
watched anxiously and she spotted men with crossbows moving into position to
surround them. She scanned Hannibal’s
face, but he gave no sign that he had seen them.
“I tell you
once again, surrender!” commanded Crawford.
not happen!” vowed Hannibal, drawing his sword.
last time, surrender!” shouted Crawford.
first!” yelled Hannibal, but at the same time, Clarice cried, “Will you promise
not to hurt him?”
looked at her in surprise. “What was
that?” they asked as one.
surrender, and I return with you, will you promise not to hurt this man?”
“May I live
a thousand years and never hunt again,” swore Crawford.
“He is a
sailor on the terrorist ship Revenge.
Promise to return him to his ship.”
“I swear it
will be done,” said Crawford, and gestured for his men to take Clarice and
sling her over a saddle. To one of
them, he whispered, “Once we’re out of sight, take him back to Quantico and
throw him in the Pit of Despair.”
As she was
being carried off, Clarice fixed Hannibal with her blue eyes. “I thought you were dead once and it almost
destroyed me. I could not bear it if
you died again, not when I could save you.”
He did not reply, and she was taken away.
was gone, Crawford approached Hannibal, by now bound. “Come sir,” he said mockingly, “we must get you to your ship.”
unbowed, Hannibal met his gaze evenly.
“We are men of action,” he said simply.
“Lies do not become us.”
spoken, sir,” conceded Crawford as he bashed Hannibal over the head.
Hannibal awoke to find himself
strapped to something hard. He opened
his eyes to find himself face to face with… something that couldn’t quite be
called a face. This man looked as if he
had been peeled like an orange. Which,
Hannibal reflected, was just about correct.
Mason Verger did not speak, but wheeled his chair away as soon as
Hannibal’s maroon irises were visible.
An albino assumed his place at the table.
I?” asked Hannibal groggily.
“The Pit of
Despair,” rasped the albino, whose name was Cordell. He cleared his throat, then began attending to the wound on
Hannibal’s shoulder. Without the rasp,
he said, “Don’t even think about trying to escape. The chains are far too thick.
And don’t dream about being rescued, either, the only way in is
secret. Only the Section Chief,
Congressman Verger, and I know how to get in and out.”
here ‘til I die?”
kill you, yeah.”
bother curing me?”
Section Chief and the Congressman always insist on everyone being healthy
before they’re broken.”
“So it’s to
nodded in agreement.
“I can cope
with torture,” said Hannibal confidently.
The albino shook his head in negation.
“You don’t believe me?” asked Hannibal.
survived Muskrat Farm, you must be very brave.
But nobody withstands the Machine.”
Clarice moped around Quantico. That
night, she and Section Chief Crawford were married. At noon she walked into the press briefing, this time as
Assistant Section Chief of Behavioral Science.
A hideous old female reporter booed loudly. Clarice turned to her, visibly upset. “Why do you do this?” she asked in a tremulous voice.
you had love in your hands and you gave it up!”
would have killed Hannibal if I hadn’t done it.”
love lives, and you marry another! True
love saved her at Muskrat Farm, and she treated it like garbage. And that’s what she is… the Assistant
Section Chief of Garbage. So clap for
her if you want. Clap for her. Clap for the Assistant Section Chief of
Slime, the Assistant Section Chief of Filth, the Assistant Section Chief of
woke from the horrible dream with a start.
There were still ten days until the wedding was to take place, and her
nightmares were becoming steadily worse.
She went to Crawford’s office and confronted him.
to this. I love Hannibal, I always have
- I know now I always will. If you tell
me I must marry you in ten days, please believe I will be dead by morning.”
looked sad, then said, “I could never cause you grief.” He glanced over at Congressman Verger, who
was sitting in his wheelchair in a dim corner of the office. “You, um… had this Hannibal returned to his
said, as well as he could speak, “Yes.”
Hannibal will always come for me,” said Clarice.
a deal,” stated Crawford in a reasonable tone.
“You write four copies of a letter.
I’ll send my four fastest ships, one in each direction. The Dread Terrorist Robards is always close
to Washington this time of year. We’ll
run up the white flag and deliver your message. If Hannibal wants you, bless you both. If not, please consider me as an alternative to suicide. Are we agreed?”
her heart leaping for joy, nodded.
day, Section Chief Crawford and Congressman Verger were out in the woods around
the training grounds at Quantico.
Verger remarked, minus the plosives, “Your Special Agent is quite a
winning creature. A trifle virtuous,
perhaps. Her appeal is undeniable.”
the media are quite taken with her.
It’s odd, but when I hired Noonan to have her murdered on our engagement
day, I thought that was clever. But
it’s going to be so much more moving when I strangle her on our wedding
night. Once Canada is blamed, the
nation will truly be outraged - they’ll demand we go to war.”
laughed, then took a stick from the side of his wheelchair and began poking at
a tree. “Now, where is that secret
knot? It’s impossible to find…” Eventually, he poked the right one and the
tree slid open to reveal an elevator big enough for his wheelchair and then
some. “Ah, are you coming down into the
Pit? Hannibal’s got his strength back. I’m starting him on the Machine tonight.”
Crawford replied, “Mason, you know how much I love watching you work, but I’ve
got the F.B.I.’s fiftieth anniversary to plan, my wedding to arrange, my wife
to murder and Canada to frame for it. I’m
rest,” replied Congressman Verger. “If
you haven’t got your health, you haven’t got anything.” He smiled.
left then, and Verger descended in the secret elevator down to the Pit.
at the Machine he had dedicated his life to building ever since the day he got
out of the hospital after his unfortunate disfigurement. The Machine had been used on many, in order
to refine it completely, but its ultimate purpose lay now on the table in the
isn’t it. It took me half a lifetime to
invent it. I’m sure you discovered my
deep and abiding interest in pain.
Presently, I’m writing the definitive work on the subject, so I want you
to be totally honest with me on how the Machine makes you feel. This being our first try, I’ll use the
moved about, placing headphones on Hannibal’s ears, a tube in his nose and in
his mouth, and an odd little contraption across his eyes so that the captive
was unable to shut them. As the albino
worked, Hannibal noticed with interest that Verger had had a sixth finger
surgically grafted onto his hand. A
fairly routine case of hero worship, he thought, and settled back patiently to
await Verger’s attempts at torture.
came, even Hannibal’s legendary self-control was unable to prevent him from
writhing in pain. Though, at the lowest
setting, this was hardly awful. The
sounds of a high school orchestra struggling its way through Beethoven’s Fifth
filled his ears. The pungent aroma of
burned caper berries wafted up into his nostrils, and the taste of a distinctly
inferior Chianti dripped onto his tongue.
Before his eyes he saw a painting obviously perpetrated by a third-rate
would-be devotee of Picasso. The total
effect was mind-blowingly agonizing.
As he shook
with pain, Verger continued speaking.
“As you know, the concept of bad taste has been around for
centuries. Really, that’s all this is
except, distilled into this unique and unavoidable form, it sucks the life
right out of you.” The Machine shut
off, and Hannibal wept as the stimuli stopped.
“I just sucked one year of your life away. One day, I might go as high as five, but I really don’t know what
that would do to you. So, let’s just
start with what we have. What did this
do to you? Tell me. And, remember, this is for posterity, so be
honest. How do you feel?”
Crawford’s office, the Section Chief was discussing wedding arrangements with
Margot Verger, his woman-at-arms. “As
chief security officer of the F.B.I., I trust you with this secret: Killers from Canada are infiltrating
Washington, D.C., and plan to murder my bride on our wedding night.”
gasped. “My spy network has heard no
moment, Clarice entered. “Any word from
my angel,” cooed Crawford. “Patience.”
come for me,” stated Clarice, and walked out of the room.
course,” muttered Crawford. He turned
his attention back to Margot. “She will
not be murdered! On the day of the
wedding, I want Washington D.C. emptied and every homeless person arrested!”
wrung her hands, thinking of the difficulty of the task. “Many of the homeless will resist. My regular enforcers will be inadequate.”
“Form a S.W.A.T.
team, then!” cried Crawford. “I want
Washington emptied before I wed!”
be easy, sir.”
leading the F.B.I. sometime,” scowled Crawford.
The day of
the wedding finally arrived. The
S.W.A.T. team had their hands full carrying out Crawford’s orders. Margot strolled around, surveying the
scene. “Is everybody out?” she called.
One of the
men answered. “There’s a former agent
giving us some trouble.”
give him some trouble!” she barked.
brandished his sword in front of him.
Drunk as a lord, he cried out, “I am waiting for you, Noonan! You told me to go back to the beginning, so
I have. This is where I am, and this is
where I’ll stay. I will not be moved.”
A member of
the S.W.A.T. team approached. “Ho there!”
“I do not
budge,” said Graham as he stumbled in a inebriated state. “Keep your ‘ho there.’”
section chief gave orders!”
jumped up and, still fast as lighting even after a quart of brandy, slashed at
the man. “I know you Noonan! When the job went wrong you went back to the
beginning. And this is where we got the
job, so this is the beginning. And I’m
staying ‘til Noonan comes.”
enforcement officer looked around, then called “Hey you there! Muscles!”
mumbled, “I am waiting for Noonan.”
hand picked him up from behind. “Of you
there is no foolin’,” said a voice.
Graham looked up to find himself being held by Pearsall.
said Pearsall calmly.
cried Graham. The officer attempted to
intervene in this joyous reunion, but Pearsall laid him out cold with a single
look so good,” observed Pearsall. “You
don’t smell so good, either.”
no,” muttered Graham. “I feel fine,” he
said, and Pearsall let him go. He promptly
collapsed into a heap on the ground.
nursed Graham back to sobriety, he related all the things he had learned during
his stint in the S.W.A.T. team, including the existence of Congressman Verger
and his sixth finger. Pearsall alternately
dunked Graham into a sink full of hot then cold water until some semblance of
enough, that’s enough,” cried Graham impatiently, shaking his head like a wet
dog. “Where is this Verger now, so I
might kill him?”
the Section Chief inside Quantico. But
the gate is guarded by thirty men.”
could you handle?” asked Graham.
think more than ten,” said Pearsall.
twenty for me. At my best I could never
defeat that many. I need Noonan to
plan. I have no gift for strategy.”
bulb almost visibly went on above Graham’s head. “No… not Noonan. I need
the man in black.”
you at whatever your greatness is. He
bested me with steel. He must have
out-thought Noonan, and a man who can do that can plan my fortress onslaught
any day. Let’s go!”
asked Pearsall, confused.
the man in black, obviously,” said Graham impatiently.
don’t know where he is.”
bother me with trifles, after twenty years at last my soul will be at
peace. There will be blood tonight!”
was sharpening a dagger in his office when Margot returned. “Rise and report!” he commanded.
D.C. is emptied. Thirty men guard Quantico’s
it. My Special Agent must be safe.”
has but one key, and I carry that,” argued Margot, only to be forestalled by
the entrance of Clarice.
dulcet darling,” swooned Crawford.
“Tonight, we marry.” He looked
at Margot. “Tomorrow morning your men
will escort us to Chesapeake Bay, where every ship in my armada will accompany
us on our honeymoon.”
but your four fastest, you mean,” interrupted Clarice suspiciously. “Every ship but the four you sent.”
looked flustered. “Yes, yes, of
course. Naturally not those four.”
one look at Clarice and, not being a total fool, left immediately.
sent the ships.” It was a bare
statement of fact with no room for denial.
“Doesn’t matter,” she said, trying to muster up some confidence. “Hannibal will come for me anyway.”
silly girl,” scorned Crawford.
“Yes, I am
a silly girl for not having seen sooner that you were nothing but a coward with
a heart full of fear,” retorted Clarice.
not say such things if I were you,” warned Crawford.
not? You can’t hurt me. Hannibal and I are joined by the bonds of
love, and you cannot track that, not with a thousand bloodhounds. And you cannot break it, not with a thousand
swords. And when I say you are a coward
it is only because you are the slimiest weakling ever to crawl the earth!”
not say such things if I were you!” roared Crawford, and he grabbed her roughly
by the arm and returned her to her chambers.
He flew to
the Pit of Despair then, and glared wildly at Hannibal, who was still hooked up
to the Machine.
love each other, so you might have been truly happy. Not one couple in a century has that chance, no matter what the
storybooks say. And so I think no man
in a century will suffer as greatly as you will.” Crawford raced to the Machine and slammed the lever all the way
“No, not to
fifty!” screamed Congressman Verger, but it was too late.
was dying. The Backstreet Boys sang in
his ears with infinite decibels of pain.
The smell of cheap dime store cologne overran his nose, mixed with the
odor of rancid sweat. The taste of a
hot dog, of all things, swarmed over his taste buds like a gang of army
ants. And, worst of all, he could not
close his eyes to shut out the image of the velvet Elvis, garish and life size
that burned his retinas.
was dying. His screams echoed
throughout the land, and no one heard them but wondered what that terrible
sound might be. One person knew.
up suddenly. “Pearsall! Pearsall!
Listen. Do you hear? That is the sound of ultimate
suffering. My heart made that sound
when Congressman Verger slashed my face.
The man in black makes it now.”
“The man in
black?” asked Pearsall, puzzled.
love is marrying another tonight. So
who else has the cause for ultimate suffering?”
followed the noise like a bloodhound following a scent trail. Pearsall followed, keeping people out of
Graham’s way. They managed to get to a
forest outside of Quantico when the screams died away. Through the trees, they spied an odd looking
albino driving a forklift with a singletree on it through the woods. He carried a bag on his shoulder.
approached. “Where is the man in
black?” Graham cried.
did not respond.
jog his memory,” Graham requested.
casually swung his fist, connecting with the albino’s head. The strange looking man fell like a stone,
howled in frustration. He banged his
forehead against a tree. “I have failed
again,” he lamented, and sank to the ground.
bizarre echo of his motion, the side of the tree slipped down into the ground,
exposing an elevator. Graham looked at
it in wonder. He and Pearsall got
inside and pushed the single button.
When they emerged at the bottom, however, they were too late. Lying lifeless on the table, Hannibal’s
chest did not move.
Graham,” said Pearsall gently.
not fair,” complained Graham. “But the
Grahams have never taken defeat easily.
Come, Pearsall, bring the body.”
“I have a
hope it’s enough to buy a miracle, that’s all.”
Pearsall loaded Hannibal’s limp body onto the forklift and drove all the way
from the forest into the city. They
pulled up outside Miracle Max’s, a dilapidated old house. Graham had had some experience with the enigma
who was now known as Max while they both worked at the F.B.I. He knew that only this man, who had once
used another name, could help the man in black now. It would be difficult, though, as the years had soured the
already unstable man, and he was rumored to trust no one.
in the driveway and knocked on the garage door. “Go away,” said the voice of an old man from inside.
would not be denied. He pounded harder
and harder until a white haired gentleman stuck his head through one of the
shot out windowpanes. “What? What???” asked the old man, crossly.
the Miracle Max who worked for the F.B.I. for all those years?” asked Graham,
hardly able to believe it was the same person.
Section Chief fired me. And thank you
so much for brining up such a painful subject.
While you’re at it, why don’t you give me a nice paper cut and pour
lemon juice on it. We’re closed!”
continued his loud knocking. “Beat it,
or I’ll call a S.W.A.T. team,” yelled Max.
“I’m on the
S.W.A.T. team,” said Pearsall mildly.
the S.W.A.T. team,” responded Max, looking the giant Pearsall up and down.
“We need a
miracle, it’s very important,” implored Graham.
retired. Besides, why would you want
someone the stinking Section Chief fired?
I might kill whoever you want to make the miracle.”
dead,” reassured Graham.
eh? I’ll have a look. Bring him in.” Graham and Pearsall shouldered the awkward burden as Max lifted
the garage door to reveal an odd workshop, cluttered with all sorts of odds and
ends. Strange pictures papered the
walls, most of them amateur works, blurry and with bad lighting. It was hard to know exactly what the
subjects were supposed to be. They
deposited Hannibal on a curious looking table in the middle of the room.
worse,” grunted Max. He puttered around
to the table.
we’re in a terrible rush,” begged Graham.
me, sonny. You rush a miracle man, you
get rotten miracles. You got money?”
never worked for so little; except once and that was a very noble cause.”
noble, sir. His wife is… crippled, his
children… on the brink of starvation,” Graham prevaricated spontaneously.
“Are you a
rotten liar!” scoffed the old man.
“I need him
to help avenge my scars, gotten these twenty years ago.”
story was better. Ach! Where’s that oral probe? He probably owes you money, huh? Well, I’ll ask him.”
dead. He can’t talk.”
look who knows so much, eh? It just so
happens that your friend here is only mostly dead. There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Please open his mouth.” Pearsall did the honors, and Max inserted
the probe. “Now, mostly dead is
slightly alive. Now, all dead, well,
with all dead there’s usually only one thing you can do.”
that?” asked Graham, curious.
his clothes and look for loose change.”
Max pushed a button on the odd looking instrument. “Hey!
Hello in there!! Hey! What’s so important? Whatcha got here that’s worth living
for?” He pushed another button.
audibly, breath hissed out of Hannibal’s mouth. “True… love…” came the almost unintelligible words.
love! True love!” cried Graham. “You heard him! You could hardly ask for a more noble cause than that!”
true love is the greatest thing in the world, except for a nice M.L.T. -
mutton, lettuce and tomato sandwich, where the mutton is nice and lean, and the
tomato’s ripe. There’s so perky, I love
that. But that’s not what he said! He distinctly said ‘to blaithe,’ and as we
all know, to blaithe means to bluff. So
you were probably playing cards and he cheated…”
burst into the room, shrieking, “Liar!
Liar! Liaaaaaarrr!” Graham could barely make out her features,
so contorted was her face with screaming, but he noted she did still possess
her flame-red hair, only softly touched with white.
wench!” howled Max.
“I’m not a
wench, I’m your wife! But after what
you just said, I’m not even sure I want to be that anymore!!” Graham suppressed a grin of amusement… so
they had finally gotten married.
had it so good,” retorted Max, smiling.
he said ‘true love,’ Max!” said the old woman.
another word, Dana…” Max warned.
afraid! Ever since Section Chief
Crawford fired us, his confidence has been shattered.”
ratcheted up the volume another notch.
“Why’d you say that name!? You
promised me you would never say that name!”
yelled Dana again.
his ears and ran, but Dana chased him around the room. “Crawford!
Crawford! Crawford! Crawford!!!”
listening!” proclaimed Max like a child.
could take no more. Loudly he shouted
above the din, “This is Clarice’s true love.
If you heal him, he will stop Crawford’s wedding!”
Max hissed to Dana suddenly.
thank you,” said Graham with heartfelt gratitude.
wait. I make him better, Crawford
galore,” replied Graham.
cackled Max. “That is a noble
cause! Give me the sixty-five, I’m on
the job!” Dana hooted in glee. The couple scurried to a small workbench and
busied themselves, frantically pulling out vials and files, consulting small
leather-bound notebooks and whispering.
Graham had to admit it, the lady still knew her stuff, and the man was
as bright as he had ever been. Finally,
the old woman put a dish of what looked like chocolate over a Bunsen burner and
heated it. When the substance had
melted, she dipped the product of their labors into it, coating the pill
miracle pill?” asked Graham a little skeptically.
coating makes it go down easier,” said Dana knowingly. “But you have to wait fifteen minutes for
full potency. And he shouldn’t go in
swimming after for at least…”
in. “An hour!”
hour,” agreed Dana, and handed the pill carefully to Graham, who took it
for everything,” effused Graham.
said Max. The couple escorted the
adventurers out the door.
boys,” called Dana.
storming Quantico,” hollered Max.
Graham, Pearsall, and Hannibal were out of earshot, the woman turned to the man
and said, “Think it will work, Mulder?”
take a miracle, Scully.”
furiously until the strange little band could no longer be seen.
Pearsall drove the forklift into the woods just outside Quantico’s main
gate. There they ditched the vehicle
and, carrying Hannibal, crept up onto the high wall surrounding the compound.
there’s more than thirty!” whispered Pearsall nervously.
difference? We’ve got him!” Graham propped the man in black against the
wall. “Help me here. We have to force feed him.”
been fifteen minutes?”
wait. The wedding is in half and
hour. We must strike in the hustle and
bustle beforehand. Tilt his head back. Open his mouth.”
do we have to wait before we know if the miracle works?”
is as good as mine,” said Graham, and put the pill in Hannibal’s mouth. As soon as it touched his tongue, Hannibal’s
teeth snapped together. Only lightning
fast reflexes saved Graham from losing a finger or two.
you both apart! I’ll take you both
together!” threatened Hannibal, disoriented.
not very long,” observed Pearsall.
my arms move?” asked Hannibal.
been mostly dead all day,” explained Pearsall.
you? Are we enemies? Why am I on this wall? Where’s Clarice?” demanded Hannibal.
explain,” started Graham, but then he shook his head. “No, there is too much.
Let me sum up. Clarice is
marrying Crawford in a little less than half an hour. So, all we have to do is get in, break up the wedding, steal the
Special Agent, and make our escape - after I kill Congressman Verger.”
doesn’t leave much time for dilly-dallying,” considered Hannibal, idly moving
wiggled your finger!” said Pearsall.
always been a quick healer. What are
thought for a moment. “There is but one
working castle gate, and it is guarded by sixty men.”
brains, Pearsall’s strength, my steel.”
it? Impossible! If I had a month to plan, maybe I could come
up with something. But this…” Hannibal shook his head sadly.
shook your head! That doesn’t make you
happy?” asked Pearsall.
his steel, and your strength against sixty men and you think a little head
jiggle is supposed to make me happy, hmmm?
I mean, if we only had a singletree, that would be something.”
we do with that singletree?” asked Graham.
in the woods with the forklift,” replied Pearsall.
you list that among our assets in the first place?” complained Hannibal. He sighed.
“What I wouldn’t give for a mask…”
cannot help you,” said Graham regretfully, but Pearsall was pulling something
out from under his tunic.
do?” asked Pearsall, holding up a very, very familiar looking mask that would
cover a face from cheekbones to chin, with a slit for the nose and bars
covering the mouth hole.
gasped, aghast. “Where did you get
“It was in
the sack the albino was carrying. I
couldn’t just throw it away!”
all right,” said Hannibal. “Help me
up. Now, I’ll need a sword eventually.”
“Why? You can’t even lift one?” asked Graham,
that’s hardly common knowledge, is it?
Thank you,” he said, after Graham strapped a swordbelt around his
waist. “Now, there may be problems once
agreed Graham. “How do I find the
Congressman? Once I do, how do I find
you again? Once I find you again, how
do we escape?”
pester him, he’s had a hard day,” chided Pearsall.
right, sorry,” mumbled Graham.
Pearsall, carrying Hannibal, moved slowly off the wall.
“I hope we
same moment, inside Quantico, Section Chief Crawford was in his betrothed’s
quarters. “You don’t seem excited, my
little muffin,” he purred.
be?” asked Clarice with a haughty expression.
often are, I’m told,” replied Crawford venomously.
“I do not
marry tonight. My Hannibal will come
for me,” she pronounced, and walked calmly from the room. Once she had left, Crawford looked into her
glass at his own reflection and smiled.
chapel was filled to overflowing with the various dignitaries, bureaucrats and
press who had come to witness the wedding of the year. The clergyman, a very devout fellow named
Sammy, began to speak to the multitude, and to the less than thrilled appearing
couple standing before him.
“Mawwiage. Mawwiage is what bwings us togethaw
today. Mawwiage, that bwessed awwangement,
that dweam within a dweam…”
heard his lisping words as if she was in a dream, but then the sound of a
conflict from outside reached her eager ears.
She heard Margot yelling, “Stand your ground! Stand your ground, men! Stand
building, Pearsall and Graham, dressed in their uniforms of yore, drove the
forklift up to the gate. Strung up on
the singletree was Hannibal, his maroon eyes blazing over the legendary mask. While the men on guard were frozen in shock,
Graham leaped up onto the forklift.
Slowly and deliberately, he undid the leather straps binding the mask to
“I am Dr.
Hannibal Lecter,” the man in black announced in his chilling rasp of a voice. “You may know me as Hannibal the
Cannibal. There will be no
survivors. What a feast I will have
tonight!” he shouted with intentionally insane glee, baring his famous teeth.
broke their line, scurrying in every direction. “All your worst nightmares have come true!” The voice lent fervor to the panicked flight
of the guards. Soon, only Margot was
chapel, Sammy the clergyman was droning on about “Wove, twue wove, will follow
Hannibal removed his loose bonds and stepped off the singletree. “What is that aroma?” he asked
thoughtfully. “It smells cool and
lemony.” He shook his dark head. “No matter.
Hannibal the Cannibal is here for your meat,” he intoned, looking
directly into Margot’s eyes.
of commotion grew ever louder in the chapel.
“So tweasure youw wove…” the clergyman was saying.
the end!” hissed Crawford, clearly worried.
the wing?” asked Sammy.
a serene smile on her face. “Here comes
my Hannibal now,” she stated.
gate, Graham approached Margot. “Give
us the gate key,” he said reasonably.
“I have no
gate key,” responded Margot.
eat her heart out,” said Graham grimly.
Hannibal bared his teeth again with a sinister grin.
mean this gate key,” gushed Margot, pulling said key out from her pocket.
was hushed, and everyone heard Crawford’s next words. “Your Hannibal is dead. I
killed him myself!” he taunted Clarice.
expression did not change. “Then why is
there fear behind your eyes?” she asked.
on. “Do you, Special Agent Clawice
had reached the limits of his patience with the whole charade. “Say man and wife! Man and wife!” he commanded.
clergyman was petrified. “Man and
wife,” he finished lamely.
bride to the honeymoon suite,” Crawford told Sammy. “I’ll be there shortly.”
He left the chapel in a frantic run.
come,” said Clarice in a dead voice.
Her eyes were vacant as Sammy took her arm and began walking her down
supported Hannibal and Graham danced ahead, blade flashing, as they made their
way through the hallowed halls of Quantico.
Suddenly at an intersection of passages, they crashed into Congressman
Verger in his electric wheelchair and his four guards. “Kill the scarred one and the giant but
leave the third for questioning,” said Verger in his pitiful excuse for a
as one, rushed Graham, but Will was in his element. He called on every bit of training her had ever known, and
dispatched the four men easily. It was
down to him and Verger now. His eyes
narrowed as he looked at the six fingers on the man’s left hand. Some niggling suspicion that this was not
the person who had scarred him jiggled the back of Will’s mind, but he chose to
ignore it. “Six fingers. Good enough for me. Hello.
My name is Will Graham. You
ruined my life. Prepare to die.”
Graham was thinking, Verger had slammed his wheelchair into overdrive and was
racing down the halls, nearly flying.
Will ran to catch up, just in time to see Verger enter a conference room
and close the thick wooden door. He
crashed into the door at full speed, but did not have the strength to break it
open. “Pearsall, I need you!” he
screamed in a voice laden with desperation.
leave Hannibal alone!” called Pearsall in reply.
getting away from me, Pearsall.
could not ignore that cry. Regretfully,
he leaned Hannibal against the only means of support nearby - a bust of J.
Edgar Hoover. He trotted to the sound
of Graham’s voice and easily bashed the door down. A grateful Graham said, “Thank you,” and rushed inside. When Pearsall returned to the bust, however,
Hannibal was gone.
wedding. Vewy stwange wedding,” said
Sammy as he took Clarice to her rooms.
sadly and kissed him on the forehead.
“What was that
fow?” he asked, surprised.
you’ve always been so kind to me, and I won’t be seeing you again since I’m
killing myself once we reach the honeymoon suite.”
be nice,” giggled Sammy. “She kissed
entered the conference room to find himself in pitch-blackness. He fumbled for the light switch. At the moment he flicked the switch, he felt
a sharp, stinging pain in is abdomen.
He looked down to see blood oozing from the wound made when Congressman
Verger’s automatic wheelchair defense system kicked in. He looked up to meet Verger’s eyes.
failed,” breathed Graham, in total shock.
“I have no
idea who you are,” said Verger, “but I think it’s absolutely splendid that
you’ve chosen to die here. Would you
care for a candy bar?”
entered the honeymoon suite and went directly to her vanity table. She opened an ornately carved box and
withdrew a gorgeous dagger of Damascus steel.
Her eyes were hard and her lips pressed tightly together as she placed
the tip of the dagger on her chest, in the expanse of white décolleté revealed
by her low cut wedding gown. She took a
deep breath and felt the point bite her skin.
shortage of perfect breasts in this world.
It would be a pity to damage yours,” said a velvet voice in honeyed
breathed Clarice as she turned to see him lying casually on the canopied
four-poster bed. “Oh, Hannibal
darling,” she gushed with excitement and she ran over and threw herself onto
the bed next to him, hands and lips covering him with love. She stopped, puzzled, holding his head in
her hands. “Hannibal, why won’t you
“At a time
like this, that’s all you can think of to say?
Gently?” said Clarice in disbelief.
moaned Hannibal again as she let his head fall. It cracked against the headboard.
kneeled on the faded carpet of the conference room. He drove a fist into the wound in his stomach and tried to stand.
found this incredibly hysterical. “Good
heavens. Are you still trying to
win? You’ve got an overdeveloped sense
of vengeance. It’s going to get you
into trouble someday.”
last made it to his feet. “Hello,” he
whispered. “My name is Will
Graham. You ruined my life. Prepare to die.”
a sickly, anemic sound.
lurched forward. A little stronger, he
said again, “Hello, my name is Will Graham.
You ruined my life. Prepare to
began to get a little worried. He
pressed the button on the arm of his wheelchair, but only a sad little whine
greeted his ears. Something must have
gotten stuck in there, he thought. Oh,
“Hello! My name is Will Graham. You ruined my life. Prepare to die!” shouted Graham, stronger
with every step.
tried to move, but his chair was backed into the corner. There was nowhere for him to go.
point of his sword to Verger’s almost nonexistent chin, Graham screamed,
“Hello! My name is Will Graham. You ruined my life. Prepare to die.”
saying that,” whined Verger.
money!” commanded Graham, piercing Verger’s shoulder.
flooded Mason, hot and heavy. “All that
I have and more. Please…” he begged.
pierced the other shoulder. Blood
flowed freely down the front of Verger’s shirt. “Offer me anything I ask for.”
you want,” blubbered Verger.
one more look at the disgusting piece of human slime before him and plunged his
sword into Verger’s heart. “I want my
face back you son of a bitch.” He
jerked the sword out, and Verger’s body toppled from the chair. A slow smirk of satisfaction crossed
Graham’s face, then he ran to find Hannibal.
Or Pearsall. Or anyone.
Hannibal, will you ever forgive me,” sobbed Clarice.
smiled. “What hideous sin have you
married. I didn’t want to. It all happened so fast.” She looked at him with eyes brimming with
happened,” stated Hannibal plainly.
happened,” he repeated.
did!” Clarice insisted. “I was there…
the old man said ‘man and wife.’”
say I do?” Hannibal asked.
said Clarice in wonderment. “We sort of
skipped that part.”
you’re not married. You didn’t say it,
so you didn’t do it.” His eyes left her
face and glanced over her shoulder.
“Wouldn’t you agree, Section Chief?”
technicality that will shortly be remedied… but first things first,” said
Crawford from the doorway, drawing his sword. “To the death!” he challenged.
sat up lazily. “No!” he cried, his
harsh tone at odds with his languid movements.
“To the pain!”
stopped short in his tracks. “I don’t
think I’m quite familiar with that phrase?” he questioned.
explain,” sneered Hannibal, “and I’ll use small words so that you’ll be sure to
understand, you warthog-faced buffoon!”
face grew dark. “That may be the first
tie in my life a man has dared insult me.”
be the last,” said Hannibal vehemently.
“To the pain means the first thing you lose will be your feet below the
ankles, then your hands at your wrists.
Next, your nose…”
tongue, I suppose,” interrupted Crawford, impatient. “I killed you too quickly the last time, a mistake I don’t mean
to duplicate tonight.”
finished,” Hannibal said. “The next
thing you lose will be your left eye, followed by your right…”
my ears, I understand, let’s get on with it!” interrupted Crawford again.
shouted Hannibal. More quietly, he
continued. “Your ears you keep, and
I’ll tell you why: so that every shriek
of every child at seeing your hideousness is yours to cherish. Every babe that weeps at your approach,
every woman that cries out ‘Dear God, what is that thing?’ will echo in your
perfect ears. That is what to the pain
means. It means I leave you in anguish,
wallowing in freakish misery forever.”
your bluffing,” scoffed Crawford.
possible, pig,” said Hannibal, slowly.
“I might be bluffing. It’s
conceivable, you miserable vomitous mass, I’m only lying here because I lack
the strength to stand. Then again,” and
sparks swirled in his eyes, “perhaps I have the strength to stand after all.”
carefully, delicately, Hannibal rose from the bed and stood straight. He lifted his sword and extended it directly
towards Crawford’s chest. He did not
falter, did not waver an inch. In the
voice that had made men weep with fear, he commanded softly, “Drop… your…
as Crawford’s sword hit the floor was well-nigh deafening. “Now, have a seat,” Hannibal continued. Crawford flopped, listless, into the nearest
chair. “Tie him up,” Hannibal told
Clarice, how hurried to do as she was bid.
“Make it as tight as you like.”
Clarice grinned and pulled her knots a little harder.
Graham came hurtling into the room.
“Where’s Pearsall?” he asked, out of breath and confused.
he was with you,” said Hannibal, and he moved to greet his companion. His knees betrayed him as he took the first
step, though, and he had to catch the bedpost to keep himself from falling.
Graham told Clarice.
Hannibal need helping?” she asked, surprised.
has no strength,” replied Graham.
it!” said Crawford triumphantly. “I
knew you were bluffing!” He turned to
Graham. “I knew he was bluffing…” The words trailed away as the tip of
Graham’s sword grew closer.
dispatch him for you?” offered Graham, and his eyes were gleaming.
but no,” declined Hannibal. “Whatever
happens to us, I want him to live a long life alone with his cowardice.”
voice echoed from the window.
“Will! Will! Where are you?” Graham rushed to the casement.
“Oh, there you are,” said Pearsall.
“Will, I saw the Section Chief’s garage, and there were two white
Mustangs. And I thought, there are four
of us, if we ever find the lady.”
helped Hannibal over to the window.
“Hello, lady,” called Pearsall.
“So I drove them up here in case we ever bumped into each other. And I guess we just did.”
you did something right!” marveled Graham.
worry, I won’t let it go to my head,” laughed Pearsall.
stepped up onto the ledge and leaped.
She reveled in the sense of falling that was over all too soon as Pearsall’s
hands caught her safely.
looked thoughtful, and he turned to Hannibal and said, “You know, it’s very
strange. I have been in the revenge
business so long, now that it’s over, I don’t know what to do with the rest of
grinned. “Have you ever thought of
terrorism? You’d make a great Dread
Terrorist Robards.” They followed each
other out the window.
Two by two,
they drove to freedom. As dawn arose,
Hannibal and Clarice knew they were safe.
A wave of love swept over them.
And as they reached for each other…
invention of the kiss, there have been five kisses that were rated the most
passionate, the most pure. This one
left them all behind.
There was a rare tear in Lecter’s
eye as he closed the leather-bound volume.
Clarice had done her usual makeover job on the story, switching names
and places to make it more immediate.
It was her way of trying to gently break the truth of things.
at the figure under the thick down comforter.
Her eyes were closed and her breathing was regular, but he knew she was
not asleep. She couldn’t fool him. He reached out a hand to stroke her red-brown
hair, so like her mother’s.
opened her eyes then, and the usual spark of recognition flared in him as he
observed the irises that matched her hair exactly… eyes so red-brown they could
almost be called maroon. His own eyes,
looking out at him from another’s face.
needn’t have wasted her time, he thought, though the end result was quite
funny. He looked at his sweetly feral
daughter as if seeing her for the first time.
Isolated from other children, she was growing to be a unique individual,
loving, imperious, coldly logical, tenderly kind, and just a little
spoiled. Like a wild rose, brambles and
softness mixed in an irresistible concoction.
She would have no trouble dealing with the truth when it came time for
her to know it. He would guarantee that
with his life if need be.
was slightly slurred with a delicious drowsiness as she said, “I loved that
book, Daddy. But it’s not real, right?”
moment, he wasn’t quite certain how to answer.
His fingers caressed her soft blushing cheek and he said, “No, Mischa. It’s only a fairy tale.”
feel her relax, on the verge of drifting off.
“Will you read it to me again tomorrow, Daddy?”
The love he
had never imagined he could feel swelled in his heart like a rising loaf of
bread, warm and comforting. “As you
wish,” he replied softly, and bent forward to press his mouth against her
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