I did not approve of the situation, not at all - at least, not at first. That is, until Dr. Lecter caused me to change my mind. He always was good at that sort of thing...
That damn Senator from Tennessee and her lackeys don't know what they're getting themselves into, I'd thought. Far be it from me to tell them.
I had finished getting Dr. Lecter settled into his restraints on the hand truck for his transfer to Memphis, Tennessee.
I brought the hockey mask down over his face and did up the buckles on the back of it. No problem. Standard operating procedure, as usual; works out well for everyone involved, except Dr. Lecter. He was accepting of it, although he had no real choice in the matter. I tried to always treat him respectfully, though; monster that he was, my own values would not permit me to do otherwise. He was, after all and at the same time, a human being; I was a nurse in every sense of the word, even if my own former misdeeds would not permit my licensure.
I went around to the front of him. I regarded him with an impassive eye. He was all ready to go.
"Barney." The Doctor beckoned to me, although it was little more than a whisper.
"This is no time for emotional goodbyes, Doctor. They'll be here for you any minute. We don't want to make a spectacle of ourselves." As I said it, I was more than half joking. The Doctor was machine-like in his composure, and was seldom given to outbursts of any kind. He was steely, frighteningly so; that is, until he met Her...
"No, we don't, which is why I hope you'll fulfill a last wish of mine, Barney." The voice was muffled behind the mask, but was nevertheless resonating now as clearly as it always did.
"What's that, Doctor?" Indeed, I'd never even thought of a last wish. Never thought of him getting out of here at all.
"I know that you've got me all buckled up in here, Barney, and you have already been inconvenienced enough by all the nonsense that has to do with me, but - please, get the case file and stick it inside the restraints against my chest. I want to take it with me to Memphis. My arms are folded, and there's enough bulk that they'll miss it."
The Doctor had an unusual amount of courtesy in his voice, even for him. It piqued the senses, and the caution.
"Doctor, I'd have to have you loose in here with me in order to do that. You know we can't do that. You could do some damage that way."
"Barney, I have the mask on - do you think that I could hold onto you with one hand, and unbuckle it with the other, and in enough time to get a bite of you? You weary me, Barney. It takes anyone two hands to put it on. Besides that, you would annihilate me before I could get to you, no matter how quick I could be. Just look at how much bigger you are." The eyes glittered behind the mask.
He did have a point. But I wasn't going to concede quite that easily. He was too much of a manipulator for that.
"And what? What are you going to do with the case file? You've already read it. Don't tell me that you've forgotten what's in it, Doctor; I know you haven't, and that would be a lie, which you've said you don't do. If Miss Starling comes back, IF, I'll see that she gets it."
"Barney, I've only had to beg for one thing my whole life long, and I really don't want to do it a second time; I didn't get what I asked for the first time. Now please, put the file in with me."
Well, that was a new one on me. Hannibal the Cannibal; the dominator, the punisher, the inflicter of pain on many had something that HE would beg for. It was worth examining closely.
"Why? Why should I? Why should I take that kind of chance with you, Dr. Lecter? What reason do I have to trust you like that? Hmm? Answer me that and I shall consider it. You don't have much time, though. They're on their way, I'm sure."
"I want Clarice Starling to come to me in Memphis to get her file back, Barney."
"You are as tedious as a small child, Barney. You had best believe me if I tell you this, because it gives me great anguish to say it, and I don't wish to repeat myself... I want her to catch Buffalo Bill. I want to give her the final clue, but I can't say it out loud to her because they'll overhear it somehow and run with it. They won't give her any glory, and you know that. She owes me some information in exchange from our last meeting together, and I - I love her, Barney. Even though I know she tricked me. There. I said it. Now give me the file."
I stared at him, my jaw slack, my eyes incredulous. The 'monster', the 'beast', whom many regarded as heartless and cruel, was proclaiming his love for another human being; proclaiming it to me, a mere orderly.
And also...I was his friend. His confidante. I'd known that for a long time and had never been able to admit it. The sensation and the truth threatened to overwhelm me. I steadied myself against the hand-truck.
Then, I came round and looked him in the face. I was not disappointed; I could see the truth radiating from behind the mask. The two maroon eyes that glittered there with their red sparks were glossed over by tears that I knew he could not let fall.
Dear God. Dear God, hear me. Have mercy on this forbidden, doomed love. Have pity on this damned soul, who you created in Your own image and who has fallen to the path of the Deceiver.
I broke my stare. I could look into those eyes no longer or I would cry myself, and then I would be unable to see what I was about to do. How could I refuse him; I, a mere man, who confessed to a priest before my God, and did not expect to be refused what I asked for in my own prayer. It was not my place to refuse. But, he would hear me, too; even as I granted his wish. I would make myself known to him even as my God makes himself known to me. I tried to follow good example.
I grabbed the file off the table and started undoing the webbing at the back of the hand-truck.
"You and I both know this is no good, Doctor. Nothing good can come of this. She is a damned FBI agent; you're a serial murderer, and you've been declared insane to boot! For the very first time, now, I believe you are! I knew she was trouble; you can't go getting yourself all addled over a female, Doctor, not while you're in The System! You've worked yourself into a regular state since she first came in that door! First Miggs; then you started getting more isolative than ever, with your lights on and off at all kinds of times that weren't your habit; then voila! She drops by and you go to jelly! You sing like a canary!
"Now you're going to put both of us in jeopardy by smuggling THIS along! Why don't you take your Duomo picture, or your cookbook, or something that can't get you into nearly as much grief - I'll fold them all up nice and neat and stick them in. Huh? What do you say?"
"I love her, Barney." That voice was commanding and not willing to take no for an answer.
I closed my eyes momentarily and sighed, placing my forehead up against the back of the hand-truck. Why? Why does the world always have to have such strife in it?
I continued my ministrations on him.
"You're a deep roller, Dr. Lecter. You're going damn far down this time. Let's hope one of your parents was not. Because, right now it looks like you're gonna crash. And with your past actions taken into consideration, you're gonna burn. May God have mercy on your soul."
I knew how he loathed it when I brought my deity and his adversary into the conversation, but I didn't care this time. He was in no position to make scathing remarks this now. He remained silent.
He was loose. I held the canvas webbing tight in my fists.
"You'd better swear to me, Doctor- "
I loosed the webbing and reached around in front of him, pulling the neck line of the restraints outward from his body. He stretched his still-encased arms slowly out to their fullest extension. My hand was just in front of the mouth in the mask.
I came around him with my right hand and jammed the file down his front, up against the flatness of his chest. I let go.
"Pat it as flat as you can, Doctor, and then reassume the position," I whispered in his ear.
His wrapped arms smashed the file flat, and then he crisscrossed his arms in front of himself again; lovingly, I couldn't help but think.
As I started to retie him, he slumped his head forward and I could hear him inhaling deeply. I peeped around to the front of him, and I could see that he'd rolled his eyes back in his head as he tried to catch what scent he could; the file was so close to him down his front, and he wanted to concentrate on the scent that was Her on the folder.
Suddenly, as I strapped him, he threw back his head and shouted in a booming voice:
"Out of the Pit that covers me...
Black as the Pit, from pole to pole.
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul!
In the Fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced, nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed!
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the Shade...
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me, unafraid!
It matters not how strait the gate
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I AM the master of my fate:
I AM the captain of my soul!"
...The knot on his back was complete...
"Fell cricumstance!" he barked at the top of his lungs...
...And with this last, the others in the cells went wild, and bedlam ensued.
Sammie was wailing about wanting to go to Jesus, and the others were chanting "Hannibal the Cannibal! Hannibal the Cannibal!" like they were waiting for the last free-throw to be made for game point at a basketball game. They kept time by banging whatever implements they had against the steel bars; my head was ringing.
"Thanks, Doc," I muttered under my breath.
He had turned his head up and was gazing into my eyes, those maroon brands burning like I'd never seen them burn before. Blazing...and questioning...
...I knew that he was waiting for something from me, but what?
I thought for a moment, and then I knew.
"Invictus," I said. "A poem by William Ernest Henley." I could barely hear myself say it. Maybe I should have shouted it...
His eyes blinked their pleasure at my acumen, and I could see his savage glee despite the mask. He winked at me.
"I see the fathers of our great country have not been sinking their grant money into a bottomless pit
for once. You remember your college literature, Barney."
Anyone who really knew Dr. Lecter would know this to be highest praise, and I blushed accordingly.
"Thank you, Dr. Lecter," I whispered.
"No, thank you, Barney. You know what this meant to me."
I was awe-struck that he had heard me. Yes, I knew what it had meant...
...and it was safely hidden. I studied him, and could not see it through the thick material.
Which was just as well. I saw the moving shadows coming down the hallway, and could sense the footfalls that I could not hear due to the deafening noise.
"Barney, just what the hell is going on down here?" Chilton demanded, straining to be heard.
I opened my eyes wide at him and gave him that look.
"I don't know, Dr. Chilton. They're your patients. You tell me. I have been readying Dr. Lecter for you, as you can plainly see."
" WHAT?! SHUT UP, ALL OF YOU!!! ALONZO, BRING THAT ACEPROMAZINE AND PUT A NEEDLE IN WHOSEVER ASS ISN"T QUIET RIGHT NOW!!!
When Alonzo appeared with the air rifle, the ward fell silent. They knew he meant business.
I thought I saw Dr. Lecter shift uncomfortably. It could have been my imagination, but possibly
not. I knew that they used unnecessary force with Dr. Lecter as often as possible when I wasn't here. Since I was already on such an emotional roller-coaster, I allowed myself to sip of the pity that I felt for my unusual friend...at least he was getting out of here, I thought.
But I could not experience the feeling for long. Chilton was ready to move, so I took the handles of the hand-truck myself and rolled Dr. Lecter, with as little abuse as possible, out the door...
Later saw me back at the hospital. I'd said my final goodbyes to Dr. Lecter, and had even been gracious enough to give Chilton a few words of warning as to how Dr. Lecter should be handled. He'd scoffed and given me the brush-off like I knew he would. What did I know? I'm just a big, dumb orderly...then he'd left, with Dr. Lecter laid out on his hand-truck on the floor of the plane.
I studied the empty cage before me, and felt a lonesome hollow in my chest. No more midnight conversations. I'd never realized until today, never admitted anyway, that we were friends. And I had placed trust in him, if only momentarily, and he had not let me down. Now he was gone, and the emptiness of that cell threatened to yawn and swallow me whole...I turned briskly and fled down the hall.
It was time to go home.
I was unlocking my old Studebaker when I felt the hand on my arm. Somehow, I just knew, before I even heard the voice...
...I turned to face Her. There She was. Fate had answered.
"Did Dr. Chilton tell you you'd be all right from this?"
Leave me alone, please, I thought. I don't want to discuss that wire bullshit now, or anything else, either. I played 'careful and quiet' with her.
"What else would he tell me?" It was his fault, not mine...I'm just the gopher around here.
"You believe it?"
I frowned at her.
"I want you to do something for me. I want you to do it now, with no questions. I'll ask you nicely - we'll start with that. What's left in Lecter's cell?"
Ah, yes. Fate, indeed. Dr. Lecter, wherever you are now, guess what? I think your feeling is mutual...in fact, I know it is. She knows how precious those things are to you, and she's come for them. Your few meager possessions in the world. You'll get that visit, Doctor. Maybe not a 'conjugal' visit, but I'm sure you won't mind. You fell in love with her mind, too, and that's readily accessible for you.
"A couple of books," I answered her. "'The Joy of Cooking', medical journals. They took his court papers."
"The stuff on the walls, the drawings?"
"It's still there." Surprisingly. He hadn't even taken his picture of the Duomo, his favorite.
Chilton had tried to throw it away many times in his ceaseless efforts to torment Dr. Lecter, and I'd retrieved it from the garbage every time. Boy, was Chilton pissed when he'd see that thing on the wall again. It must have seemed creepy, a bad omen, the way it kept turning up. Hannibal the Cannibal meets the Canterville Ghost, and they team up against Chilton, heh-heh. Luckily, he'd lacked the wattage upstairs to just tear it up. I wondered why the Doctor hadn't taken that; it would easily have folded up. Perhaps he'd had an ulterior motive for it...the one in front of me right now...
"I want it all and I'm in a hell of a hurry."
I looked at her just long enough to make her shift a little. I couldn't give in that easily, or she'd know something was up.
"Hold on." I ran back in to get the stuff.
Once inside, I ran all the way back to the cell.
Doc, she's a'comin' to ya. Don't make a fool of yourself and drool all over her now, hear? I know you won't; that's not your style, at least I hope not. Drool is probably a bad choice of words, considering your past. But I think that eating her is the furthest thing from your mind; at least, in the way the public would think...
I put everything into a shopping bag and brought it out to her. I handed it to her and cast her a wary eye.
"You sure I know the bug was in the desk that I brought you?"
Of course, right then I could not have cared less about that matter. I had been at the crux of these star-crossed lovers' paths twice now, and all in the same day. But I had to put up some kind of front. I didn't want to seem too eager, because I was afraid she would see that I knew.
"I have to give that some thought."
Ah, thought, yes; you know he loves that in you.
"Here's a pen, write your phone numbers on the bag. Barney, you think they can handle Dr. Lecter?"
No, but you can. And boy, would he love for you to. Handle all of him.
"I got my doubts and I said so to Dr. Chilton. Remember I told you that, in case it slips his mind. You're all right, Officer Starling. Listen, when you get Buffalo Bill?"
I knew she would...
"Don't bring him to me just because I got a vacancy, all right?"
I gave her my most winning smile, my blessing to Lady Lecter. And I liked that cell empty, just in case...
She smiled at me back, even though I could see that she didn't really want to. Steely of her. She waved to me then and ran back to the van.
I saw her boss there, looking at me. I don't know if he saw me or was just staring right through me, but I gave him my best bouncer's death-look.
Don't you dare get in their way, you sonofabitch 'G'-man. They got enough obstacles without your putting your two-cents' worth in.
The car pulled away with them.
I would be watching from behind the scenes. If Dr. Lecter needed a little push from a proper direction, or for someone to provide a little misdirection - why, I might just be happy to oblige...
I sat on my balcony and considered the day's events.
No wonder Dr. Lecter loved her. She was made of steel, just like he was. They were just alike, a perfect match. Too bad they weren't just regular people; they could be on a lovers' lane right now, making out. But of course, neither of them would fall for a plain old person. Ever.
I couldn't help but wonder how their discourse would go this time. Would he tell her he loved her, somehow? Or would they engage in that verbal venom that they tossed back and forth so casually, that had reverberated off the stone walls, their words crossing the five or so paces between them like crossbow quarrels?
Doctor, I hope that somewhere in your social training, your good manners notes, that someone told you that sometimes words are unnecessary; that there comes a time when you should just shut up and kiss the girl. I'm sure you can find some way to get her close to the bars, as persuasive as you can be.
But that's out of my hands now.
Stevenson might have said:
"Happy the man that, when his day is done, lies down to sleep with nothing to regret."
And so it was for me.