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Special Agent Bride

copyright 2001, by Glimmerdark

Disclaimer:    The Princess Bride was written by William Goldman. Many of the characters used here were created by were created by Thomas Harris.  They are used herein without permission, but in the spirit of admiration and respect.  No infringement of copyright is intended, and no profit, of any kind, is made by the creator, maintainer or contributors to this site.

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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.

Nothing 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 him back.

Hannibal 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?”

Hannibal 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.”

Five years 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.

Clarice’s 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.

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,” scorned Noonan.

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.

“Inconceivable,” scoffed Noonan. Yet the man in black continued to ascend.

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 Pearsall.

“He didn’t fall?” whined Noonan. “Inconceivable.”

“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 Graham.

“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 sword.”

“I’m going to do him left-handed,” stated Graham. “It’s the only way I can be satisfied.”

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 F.B.I. agent?”

“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 left hand?”

“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 her throat.

“So, it is down to you and it is down to me,” stated Noonan.

The man in black approached cautiously.

“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 rightfully stolen.”

“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 neck.

“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, Aristotle, Socrates?”



“Really,” said the man in black. “In that case, I challenge you to a battle of wits.”

“For the Special Agent?” inquired Noonan.

The man in black inclined his head, slowly.

“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.’”

He rose, 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.

“Who are you,” she asked wonderingly.

“I am no one to be trifled with, and that is all you ever need know.”

He loosed her bonds, took her by the hand, and led her off.

They ran 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.

“If you’ll release me, whatever you ask for ransom, you’ll get it, I promise you,” Clarice pleaded.

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.”

“I was 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.

“You think your dearest love will save you?”

“I never said he was my dearest love, and yes, he will save me, that I know.”

“You admit to me you do not love your fiancé.”

“He knows I do not love him.”

“Are not capable of love is what you mean.”

She rose 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.

“Let that be a warning, Special Agent. Next time my hand flies on its own. Where I come from, there are penalties when a woman lies.”

He grabbed 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 Agent.”

“I know who you are,” she cried. “Your cruelty reveals everything. You’re the Dread Terrorist Robards, admit it!”

“With pride,” he said, sweeping a mocking bow. “What can I do for you?”

“You can die slowly, cut into a thousand pieces,” she replied.

He shook his head and tsked. “Hardly complimentary, Special Agent. Why loose your venom on me?”

“You killed my love.”

“It’s possible… I kill a lot of people,” he admitted. “Who was this love of yours? Another bureaucrat like this one? Rich? Scabby?”

“No,” she 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.”

“Can’t 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.

“You mock my pain!” cried Clarice.

“Life is pain, Special Agent,” he hissed, suddenly deadly serious. “Anyone who says differently is selling something.”

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.

“Nothing you can say will upset me,” she defied him, refusing even to look in his direction.

“He died well, that should please you. No bribe attempts or blubbering. He simply said ‘Please… please, I need to live.’”

She cast her eyes down, remembering her love’s exquisite courtesy.

“’Twas the 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.”

“And what am I?” she asked, color rising in her face.

“Virtue, he 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?”

Clarice’s rage controlled her. “You mocked me once, never do it again,” she shouted. “I died that day.”

The sound 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.

As he 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 heart melted.

“Oh, my sweet Hannibal,” she breathed. “What have I done?”

She threw 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 Muskrat Farm.”

Hannibal 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?”

“You’re alive! If you want, I could fly.”

He wrapped her up in his powerful arms. “You knew I would always come for you. Why didn’t you wait for me?”

“You were dead,” said Clarice with her trademark honesty.

“But death cannot stop true love… all it can do is delay it for a while.”

“I will never doubt again,” vowed Clarice.

“There will 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.

“Aha!” exclaimed Hannibal. “Your rat fiancé is too late! A few more steps and we’ll be safely inside Muskrat Farm!”

“We’ll never survive,” moaned Clarice, who knew something about the place.

“Nonsense,” scoffed Hannibal. “You only say that because no one ever has.”

They 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.

Clarice shot him a look that said clearly she thought he was insane.

“Well,” he replied, “I’m not saying I’d like to build a summer home here but the trees are actually quite lovely.”

They 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.

“Well, now, 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.

“No, not this time. You?” she asked, trying to appear nonchalant.

Hannibal 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?”

“I myself 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?”

Clarice was 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.”

“No, no,” 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 that too.”

“But Hannibal, what about the P.O.U.S.’s?” asked Clarice, worried.

“Pigs of 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.

She screamed, “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 complained.

He took 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!”

“Now, was that so terrible,” asked Hannibal, teasingly.

Out of nowhere, the familiar sound of galloping horses approached. Section Chief Crawford rode into view accompanied by his men. “Surrender!” he commanded.

“You mean 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.”

“Ah, but 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 to visit.”

Clarice 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.

“It will not happen!” vowed Hannibal, drawing his sword.

“For the last time, surrender!” shouted Crawford.

“Death first!” yelled Hannibal, but at the same time, Clarice cried, “Will you promise not to hurt him?”

Both men looked at her in surprise. “What was that?” they asked as one.

“If we 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.

Once she was gone, Crawford approached Hannibal, by now bound. “Come sir,” he said mockingly, “we must get you to your ship.”

Head unbowed, Hannibal met his gaze evenly. “We are men of action,” he said simply. “Lies do not become us.”

“Well 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.

“Where am 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.”

“Then I’m here ‘til I die?”

“’Til they kill you, yeah.”

“Then why bother curing me?”

“The Section Chief and the Congressman always insist on everyone being healthy before they’re broken.”

“So it’s to be torture.”

Cordell 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.

“You survived Muskrat Farm, you must be very brave. But nobody withstands the Machine.”

Meanwhile, 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.

“Because you had love in your hands and you gave it up!”

“But they would have killed Hannibal if I hadn’t done it.”

“Your true 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 Putrescence! Boo!”

Clarice 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.

“It comes 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.”

Crawford 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 ship?”

Verger said, as well as he could speak, “Yes.”

“My Hannibal will always come for me,” said Clarice.

“I suggest 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?”

Clarice, her heart leaping for joy, nodded.

Later that 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.”

“I know, 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.”

Verger 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.”

Sincerely, 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 swamped.”

“Get some rest,” replied Congressman Verger. “If you haven’t got your health, you haven’t got anything.” He smiled.

Crawford left then, and Verger descended in the secret elevator down to the Pit.

He looked 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 Pit.

“Beautiful, 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 lowest setting.”

Cordell 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.

When it 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?”

Hannibal blubbered.

“Interesting,” noted Verger.

Up in 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.”

Margot gasped. “My spy network has heard no such news!”

At that moment, Clarice entered. “Any word from Hannibal?”

“Too soon, my angel,” cooed Crawford. “Patience.”

“He will come for me,” stated Clarice, and walked out of the room.

“Of 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!”

Margot 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!”

“It won’t be easy, sir.”

“Try 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.”

“Well, you give him some trouble!” she barked.

Will Graham 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.’”

“But the section chief gave orders!”

Graham 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.”

The law enforcement officer looked around, then called “Hey you there! Muscles!”

Graham mumbled, “I am waiting for Noonan.”

A strong 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.

“Hello,” said Pearsall calmly.

“It’s you!” cried Graham. The officer attempted to intervene in this joyous reunion, but Pearsall laid him out cold with a single casual blow.

“You don’t look so good,” observed Pearsall. “You don’t smell so good, either.”

“Perhaps no,” muttered Graham. “I feel fine,” he said, and Pearsall let him go. He promptly collapsed into a heap on the ground.

As Pearsall 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 rationality returned.

“That’s enough, that’s enough,” cried Graham impatiently, shaking his head like a wet dog. “Where is this Verger now, so I might kill him?”

“He’s with the Section Chief inside Quantico. But the gate is guarded by thirty men.”

“How many could you handle?” asked Graham.

“I don’t think more than ten,” said Pearsall.

“Leaving twenty for me. At my best I could never defeat that many. I need Noonan to plan. I have no gift for strategy.”

“But Noonan is dead.”

A light bulb almost visibly went on above Graham’s head. “No… not Noonan. I need the man in black.”


“He bested 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!”

“Where?” asked Pearsall, confused.

“To find the man in black, obviously,” said Graham impatiently.

“But you don’t know where he is.”

“Don’t bother me with trifles, after twenty years at last my soul will be at peace. There will be blood tonight!”

Crawford was sharpening a dagger in his office when Margot returned. “Rise and report!” he commanded.

“Washington, D.C. is emptied. Thirty men guard Quantico’s fortress gate.”

“Double it. My Special Agent must be safe.”

“The gate has but one key, and I carry that,” argued Margot, only to be forestalled by the entrance of Clarice.

“Ah, my 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.”

“Every ship but your four fastest, you mean,” interrupted Clarice suspiciously. “Every ship but the four you sent.”

Crawford looked flustered. “Yes, yes, of course. Naturally not those four.”

Margot took one look at Clarice and, not being a total fool, left immediately.

“You never 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.”

“You’re a 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.

“I would not say such things if I were you,” warned Crawford.

“Why 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!”

“I would 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.

“You truly 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 to fifty.

“No, not to fifty!” screamed Congressman Verger, but it was too late.

Hannibal 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.

Hannibal was dying. His screams echoed throughout the land, and no one heard them but wondered what that terrible sound might be. One person knew.

Graham sat 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.

“His true love is marrying another tonight. So who else has the cause for ultimate suffering?”

Graham 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.

They approached. “Where is the man in black?” Graham cried.

The albino did not respond.

“Pearsall, jog his memory,” Graham requested.

Pearsall casually swung his fist, connecting with the albino’s head. The strange looking man fell like a stone, totally unconscious.

Graham howled in frustration. He banged his forehead against a tree. “I have failed again,” he lamented, and sank to the ground.

In a 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.

“He’s dead, Graham,” said Pearsall gently.

“This is not fair,” complained Graham. “But the Grahams have never taken defeat easily. Come, Pearsall, bring the body.”

“The body?”

“Have you any money?”

“I have a little.”

“I just hope it’s enough to buy a miracle, that’s all.”

Graham and 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.

They parked in the driveway and knocked on the garage door. “Go away,” said the voice of an old man from inside.

Graham 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.

“Are you 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.

“The new 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!”

Graham 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.

“You are 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.

“Look, I’m retired. Besides, why would you want someone the stinking Section Chief fired? I might kill whoever you want to make the miracle.”

“He’s already dead,” reassured Graham.

“He is, 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.

“I’ve seen worse,” grunted Max. He puttered around to the table.

“Sir, sir, we’re in a terrible rush,” begged Graham.

“Don’t rush me, sonny. You rush a miracle man, you get rotten miracles. You got money?”


“Sheesh, I never worked for so little; except once and that was a very noble cause.”

“This is 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.”

“Your first story was better. Ach! Where’s that oral probe? He probably owes you money, huh? Well, I’ll ask him.”

“He’s dead. He can’t talk.”

“Whooo, 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.”

“What’s that?” asked Graham, curious.

“Go through 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.

Barely audibly, breath hissed out of Hannibal’s mouth. “True… love…” came the almost unintelligible words.

“True love! True love!” cried Graham. “You heard him! You could hardly ask for a more noble cause than that!”

“Sonny, 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…”

A whirlwind 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.

“Get back, 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.

“You never had it so good,” retorted Max, smiling.

“True love, he said ‘true love,’ Max!” said the old woman.

“Don’t say another word, Dana…” Max warned.

“You’re afraid! Ever since Section Chief Crawford fired us, his confidence has been shattered.”

Max ratcheted up the volume another notch. “Why’d you say that name!? You promised me you would never say that name!”

“What, Crawford?”

Max flinched.

“Crawford!” yelled Dana again.

Max covered his ears and ran, but Dana chased him around the room. “Crawford! Crawford! Crawford! Crawford!!!”

“I’m not listening!” proclaimed Max like a child.

Graham 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!”

“Shut up!” Max hissed to Dana suddenly.

“Thank you, thank you,” said Graham with heartfelt gratitude.

“Wait, wait. I make him better, Crawford suffers?”

“Humiliations galore,” replied Graham.

“Ha-ha!” 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 thoroughly.

“That’s a miracle pill?” asked Graham a little skeptically.

“Chocolate 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…”

Max chimed in. “An hour!”

“A good hour,” agreed Dana, and handed the pill carefully to Graham, who took it gingerly.

“Thank you for everything,” effused Graham.

“Okay,” said Max. The couple escorted the adventurers out the door.

“Bye-bye, boys,” called Dana.

“Have fun storming Quantico,” hollered Max.

When Graham, Pearsall, and Hannibal were out of earshot, the woman turned to the man and said, “Think it will work, Mulder?”

“It would take a miracle, Scully.”

They waved furiously until the strange little band could no longer be seen.

Graham and 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.

“Graham, there’s more than thirty!” whispered Pearsall nervously.

“What’s the difference? We’ve got him!” Graham propped the man in black against the wall. “Help me here. We have to force feed him.”

“Has it been fifteen minutes?”

“We can’t wait. The wedding is in half and hour. We must strike in the hustle and bustle beforehand. Tilt his head back. Open his mouth.”

“How long do we have to wait before we know if the miracle works?”

“Your guess 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.

“I’ll beat you both apart! I’ll take you both together!” threatened Hannibal, disoriented.

“I guess not very long,” observed Pearsall.

“Why won’t my arms move?” asked Hannibal.

“You’ve been mostly dead all day,” explained Pearsall.

“Who are you? Are we enemies? Why am I on this wall? Where’s Clarice?” demanded Hannibal.

“Let me 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.”

“That doesn’t leave much time for dilly-dallying,” considered Hannibal, idly moving his hands.

“You just wiggled your finger!” said Pearsall. “That’s wonderful!”

“I’ve always been a quick healer. What are our liabilities?”

Graham thought for a moment. “There is but one working castle gate, and it is guarded by sixty men.”

“And our assets?”

“Your brains, Pearsall’s strength, my steel.”

“That’s it? Impossible! If I had a month to plan, maybe I could come up with something. But this…” Hannibal shook his head sadly.

“You just shook your head! That doesn’t make you happy?” asked Pearsall.

“My brains, 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.”

“What did we do with that singletree?” asked Graham.

“It’s back in the woods with the forklift,” replied Pearsall.

“Why didn’t you list that among our assets in the first place?” complained Hannibal. He sighed. “What I wouldn’t give for a mask…”

“There we cannot help you,” said Graham regretfully, but Pearsall was pulling something out from under his tunic.

“Would this 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.

Graham gasped, aghast. “Where did you get that?”

“It was in the sack the albino was carrying. I couldn’t just throw it away!”

“All right, all right,” said Hannibal. “Help me up. Now, I’ll need a sword eventually.”

“Why? You can’t even lift one?” asked Graham, perplexed.

“True, but 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 we’re inside.”

“I’ll say,” 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?”

“Don’t pester him, he’s had a hard day,” chided Pearsall.

“Right, right, sorry,” mumbled Graham. Pearsall, carrying Hannibal, moved slowly off the wall.

“Will?” he asked.


“I hope we win.”


At that same moment, inside Quantico, Section Chief Crawford was in his betrothed’s quarters. “You don’t seem excited, my little muffin,” he purred.

“Should I be?” asked Clarice with a haughty expression.

“Brides 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.

Quantico’s 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…”

Clarice 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 your ground!”


Outside the 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 Hannibal’s face.

“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.

The men 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 left.

Inside the chapel, Sammy the clergyman was droning on about “Wove, twue wove, will follow you fowevew…”

Outside, 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.


The sounds of commotion grew ever louder in the chapel. “So tweasure youw wove…” the clergyman was saying.

“Skip to the end!” hissed Crawford, clearly worried.

“Have you… the wing?” asked Sammy.

Clarice had a serene smile on her face. “Here comes my Hannibal now,” she stated.


By the gate, Graham approached Margot. “Give us the gate key,” he said reasonably.

“I have no gate key,” responded Margot.

“Hannibal, eat her heart out,” said Graham grimly. Hannibal bared his teeth again with a sinister grin.

“Oh, you mean this gate key,” gushed Margot, pulling said key out from her pocket.


The chapel was hushed, and everyone heard Crawford’s next words. “Your Hannibal is dead. I killed him myself!” he taunted Clarice.

Her expression did not change. “Then why is there fear behind your eyes?” she asked.

Sammy went on. “Do you, Special Agent Clawice Stawing…”

Crawford had reached the limits of his patience with the whole charade. “Say man and wife! Man and wife!” he commanded.

The clergyman was petrified. “Man and wife,” he finished lamely.

“Escort the bride to the honeymoon suite,” Crawford told Sammy. “I’ll be there shortly.” He left the chapel in a frantic run.

“He didn’t come,” said Clarice in a dead voice. Her eyes were vacant as Sammy took her arm and began walking her down the hall.


Pearsall 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 voice.

The guards, 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.”

But while 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.

“I can’t leave Hannibal alone!” called Pearsall in reply.

“He’s getting away from me, Pearsall. Please! Pearsall!!”

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.


“Stwange wedding. Vewy stwange wedding,” said Sammy as he took Clarice to her rooms.

She smiled sadly and kissed him on the forehead.

“What was that fow?” he asked, surprised.

“Because 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.”

“Won’t that be nice,” giggled Sammy. “She kissed me!”


Graham 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.

“I have 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?”


Clarice 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.

“There’s a shortage of perfect breasts in this world. It would be a pity to damage yours,” said a velvet voice in honeyed tones.

“Hannibal,” 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 hold me?”

“Gently…” he groaned.

“At a time like this, that’s all you can think of to say? Gently?” said Clarice in disbelief.

“Gently,” moaned Hannibal again as she let his head fall. It cracked against the headboard.


Graham kneeled on the faded carpet of the conference room. He drove a fist into the wound in his stomach and tried to stand.

Verger 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.”

Graham at last made it to his feet. “Hello,” he whispered. “My name is Will Graham. You ruined my life. Prepare to die.”

Verger laughed, a sickly, anemic sound.

Graham lurched forward. A little stronger, he said again, “Hello, my name is Will Graham. You ruined my life. Prepare to die.”

Verger 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, shit.

“Hello! My name is Will Graham. You ruined my life. Prepare to die!” shouted Graham, stronger with every step.

Verger tried to move, but his chair was backed into the corner. There was nowhere for him to go.

Raising the 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.”

“Stop saying that,” whined Verger.

“Offer me money!” commanded Graham, piercing Verger’s shoulder.

The pain flooded Mason, hot and heavy. “All that I have and more. Please…” he begged.

Graham pierced the other shoulder. Blood flowed freely down the front of Verger’s shirt. “Offer me anything I ask for.”

“Anything you want,” blubbered Verger.

Graham took 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.


“Oh, Hannibal, will you ever forgive me,” sobbed Clarice.

He smiled. “What hideous sin have you committed lately?”

“I got married. I didn’t want to. It all happened so fast.” She looked at him with eyes brimming with tears.

“It never happened,” stated Hannibal plainly.


“It never happened,” he repeated.

“But it did!” Clarice insisted. “I was there… the old man said ‘man and wife.’”

“Did you say I do?” Hannibal asked.

“Uh… no,” said Clarice in wonderment. “We sort of skipped that part.”

“Then 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?”

“A technicality that will shortly be remedied… but first things first,” said Crawford from the doorway, drawing his sword. “To the death!” he challenged.

Hannibal sat up lazily. “No!” he cried, his harsh tone at odds with his languid movements. “To the pain!”

Crawford stopped short in his tracks. “I don’t think I’m quite familiar with that phrase?” he questioned.

“I’ll explain,” sneered Hannibal, “and I’ll use small words so that you’ll be sure to understand, you warthog-faced buffoon!”

Crawford’s face grew dark. “That may be the first tie in my life a man has dared insult me.”

“It won’t 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…”

“Then my tongue, I suppose,” interrupted Crawford, impatient. “I killed you too quickly the last time, a mistake I don’t mean to duplicate tonight.”

“I wasn’t finished,” Hannibal said. “The next thing you lose will be your left eye, followed by your right…”

“And then my ears, I understand, let’s get on with it!” interrupted Crawford again.

“Wrong!” 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.”

“I think your bluffing,” scoffed Crawford.

“It’s 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.”

Slowly, 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… sword.”

The clatter 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.

Just then, Graham came hurtling into the room. “Where’s Pearsall?” he asked, out of breath and confused.

“I thought 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.

“Help him,” Graham told Clarice.

“Why does Hannibal need helping?” she asked, surprised.

“Because he has no strength,” replied Graham.

“I knew 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.

“Shall I dispatch him for you?” offered Graham, and his eyes were gleaming.

“Thank you, but no,” declined Hannibal. “Whatever happens to us, I want him to live a long life alone with his cowardice.”

A booming 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.”

Clarice 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.”

“Pearsall, you did something right!” marveled Graham.

“Don’t worry, I won’t let it go to my head,” laughed Pearsall.

Clarice 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.

Graham 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 my life!”

Hannibal 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…

Since the 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.

He looked 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.

The child 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.

Clarice 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.

Her voice was slightly slurred with a delicious drowsiness as she said, “I loved that book, Daddy. But it’s not real, right?”

For a 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.”

He could 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 smooth forehead.


copyright 2001, by Glimmerdark

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