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He Could If He Wanted To

copyright 2003, by SilenceDoEvil

Disclaimer:    These characters 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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Margot Verger walked out of his life with the sound of her heavy footsteps on his rickety apartment stairs. He faintly heard the sound of a car door slamming, and the waning drone of the motor.

Then nothing.

Barney sat down again at his kitchen table and pondered the black medical satchel that squatted there. Enough to see every Vermeer in the world. He thought about that old saying, Be careful what you wish for…

He lived a comfortable life, despite the outward appearance of his surroundings, and this was largely due to friends in low places. Hannibal Lecter and Margot Verger somehow represented the male and female, animus and anima, halves of this odd blessing.

Eventually, he counted the money. She hadn’t been kidding. His only worry now would be where to stash it.

By the time he lay down to sleep that night, he had solved that problem. He wondered if he’d lie awake again for hours this time, as he had following the visit from Clarice Starling’s FBI comrade. But his bodily needs asserted themselves and he welcomed the drift of his thoughts with relief.

Dr. Lecter’s voice was in his head, and Barney often used those hushed metallic tones to quiet his own thoughts for sleep. Here, on the narrow edge of slumber, he once again felt the stone chill of the hospital sub-basement, heard the forsaken laughter from the cells, felt murder on the exhaled air. He craned his neck to see the grainy black and white images in the monitors, and there was Hannibal Lecter, lying unblanketed on his cot with only bare walls and a televangelist for entertainment.

Barney slept. He dreamed of Hannibal Lecter in a parallel universe. This Lecter smiled freely and submitted to Chilton’s bumbling attempts at analysis. Like any other inmate, he made periodic attempts at escape or mischief, but was easily anticipated and quickly foiled. When wrapped in the straitjacket, he trembled, pleading and cajoling for his freedom.

Barney saw a stooped, gray-haired Lecter smiling shyly as he was led down the corridor by State troopers, nodding goodbye to his keepers, glad to be going, moving to a friendlier environment. Upstate New York it would be, now that he had completed that 100-page FBI questionnaire, and volunteered the true name and address of Buffalo Bill. It was that pretty FBI agent who’d done it, charmed him right out of his paper slippers. Barney could tell that Lecter finally felt remorse for all the killings. Looking at Agent Starling, Lecter absorbed the true impact of the consequences: No life, no career, no marriage, no children, no grandchildren. Ever. End of the road. Well, at least in Oneida Park, he’d be able to look out the window and dream…

Barney snapped awake to the sound of a fire truck rushing past the building, blowing its horn. The urban cacophony comforted him. Looking across the pathetic expanse of his apartment, he saw the satchel, now empty, sitting in the corner. Margot, Mason, Mapp, Chilton…the bag was a soothing reminder of reality, in all its jagged loveliness.

He was too tired to stay conscious for very long, and he used the intervening moments to review his odd little dream. The smiling, obsequious Lecter burned like acid. To erase it, he conjured the familiar image of the nurse, from Chilton’s ragged Polaroid. Barney knew how much better Lecter might have fared, had he chosen a route that was more conventional, less contentious.

Again, he heard Lecter’s voice, this time distilled from a letter that Mason Verger had once shared with him. Written to Clarice Starling just after the Feliciana Fish Market disaster.

How much would your father bend to get along in a stale bureaucracy? How many buttocks would he kiss? Did you ever in your life see him toady or fawn?

Never, thought Barney, as sleep came stealing again. He passed the night restfully, smiling.


copyright 2003, by SilenceDoEvil

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