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Ardelia's Lament

copyright 2001, by indreams

Disclaimer:    The characters Dr. Hannibal Lecter, Clarice Starling and Ardelia Mapp 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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It had been several years since Ardelia Mapp had been to the Word Pan Competition with her family. When she was a child, she made every one of them, tagging along to Trinidad with her uncle’s band, taking lessons on the steel drums right along side her cousins. Those days were a relic of her childhood now, the easy carefree days before the FBI, but last summer when her aunt had called her, reminding her of the upcoming competition in October, the music, dance and spicy food had been too much for Ardelia to resist. She was in need of a vacation anyway. Life at the FBI field office had grown mundane, and although she rarely admitted it, she missed vicariously living the roller coaster life of her friend Clarice Starling. The stability and order in her own life, that was once a lighthouse in a storm for Clarice, had frankly become a bore to Ardelia. She was ready to cut loose. 

The weather in Virginia had begun to harbor an early chill when she boarded the plane. Now in Trinidad, the Caribbean heat was thick and syrupy and the air carried the scents of outdoor barbecue and the light tinkling sounds of steel drums. Bands from the West Indies, the Americas, Europe and Africa came to the World Pan Competition, and Ardelia’s uncle’s band was among the best. 

It was early evening and the daytime competitions were winding down. The mornings and afternoons were reserved for the classical categories. Bach, Tchaikovsky, Handel, and Scarlatti had all been played expertly by orchestras of steel drums. Now the rhythmic notes of Calypso and Soca filled the air, signaling the time to party. At last, Ardelia began to relax as she chatted with her relatives, her uncle handing her a drink. She was laughing at her cousin’s jokes when something caught her attention out of the corner of her eye, a platinum blonde head and light skin in the sea of brown faces. Ardelia sipped her drink and turned to get a better look at the woman. Her face was familiar, but the hair didn’t seem to match and Ardelia, usually very good with faces and names, couldn’t place her. Must be an actress or model I’ve seen on TV before, she thought to herself. Ardelia tried to focus on her family and brush off the sight of the woman, but she couldn’t take her eyes away. The woman moved through the crowd and appeared to be alone. Ardelia was racking her brain trying to place the face when the woman turned, showing her left cheek. Even from a distance, she could see the black blush, embedded just below the skin. The face found it’s place in the catalogue in Ardelia’s mind, albeit slightly altered from the picture already there, and Ardelia’s stomach knotted and she felt for the emerald ring on her finger, knowing the woman she was looking at was Clarice Starling. 

She handed her drink to her uncle, “I have to go see something, I’ll be right back”  

“Where are you going child, the party’s right here.” 

“I’ll be back, I just think I saw somebody I know up there.” She felt for the .45 under her shorts, her best friend and companion since Starling had disappeared, even on vacation. Why am I worried about that, she thought to herself as she pushed her way through the crowd, trying not to loose sight of the blond head. I’m going to see a friend. But she could be with HIM, the other side of her brain said. She scanned the faces in front of her and near Starling, but didn’t see anyone that could be Hannibal Lecter. 

It had been relatively easy to navigate through the crowd until the Soca beat started in earnest from the stage. People began to dance and wave hankies in the tradition of carnival in Trinidad. For a moment, Ardelia lost her bearings, then she saw the platinum head duck into a ramshackle bar up the street. She entered the dark, smoky building and stopped for a moment while her eyes adjusted to the light. She scanned the interior and saw the blonde hair pass through a doorway in the back of the bar. Well girl, now this is definitely against your better judgment, she said to herself. She checked her pistol once more and began to make her way to the back. I’m doing this for Clarice. She needs my help. 

She pushed past the door and felt the pressure of the hand against her mouth and the arm around her middle before she realized someone had grabbed her, someone very strong. She felt his breath on her ear then and fear choked her throat, as she knew all too well who had a hold of her. She forced the fear back down and struggled to regain control of her senses. Jesus girl, how could you be so stupid? What were you thinking, you’d just yell out, ‘hey Clarice,’ and it would be old home week? 

“That’s a girl now. Don’t struggle my dear, I have no intent to hurt you.” His voice was as steely as Starling had described it. “I’m going to take my hand from your mouth now. Keep your head and don’t scream.” The hand came away and Ardelia took a deep breath as she heard the familiar clicking of handcuffs around her wrists. He led her to a wooden chair in the middle of the floor in the dimly lit room. “I think you’ll be more comfortable here. Be a dear and stay where I put you.”  

The monster came around in front of her then and she matched the slightly altered face with the old case file pictures in the catalogue in her head. A fire burned in her eyes at the sight of him and bile rose in her throat. 

“Where is she,” she spat. 

“Now now dear, no need to get nasty. It really doesn’t suit you.” 

“What have you done to her. She can’t be…….with you of her own free will.”  

“Miss Mapp, you really shouldn’t be so quick to judge. I’m sure you think you know your friend well, but I assure you she is as enamored with me as I with her, and you can be certain that it is her choice to be with me.”  

Ardelia looked at the board floor and took a moment to contemplate her situation. Her gun was still at her waist. 

He came at her with the shiny tip of knife in his hand that she hadn’t seen before, and she caught her breath in her throat. 

“Now, let’s just remove that little temptation before you make a silly mistake.” He took the gun from her as she watched, removed the bullets, made sure the chamber was clear, put the bullets in his pocket and laid the gun on the floor in front of her. 

Ardelia looked around the small room. The door she had followed Clarice through was between her and Lecter. Along the other wall hung a black velvety curtain, looking out of place in the broken down bar. She looked back up at Lecter, his maroon eyes seemed to give off a light of their own. Keep your cool, girl. Keep your cool. 

“Why should I believe you. I want to see her.”  

Dr. Lecter sighed. “I suppose I could grant you that wish. This little game of ours is getting rather dull.” He moved towards the curtain, keeping his eyes on Ardelia. “Darling, would you come here please. Someone wants to see you.”  

From behind the curtain, stepped Clarice Starling, a little different in the face, but with the same eyes and of course the mark on her cheek. 

“Hey girlfriend,” she said. “I see you found me.”  

“Good God girl, what are you doing? Are you crazy? Has he hurt you? Are you drugged?” The questions came tumbling out of Ardelia as she leaned forward in her seat, resisting the temptation to stand up and go to her friend, seeing the shining blade of Dr. Lecter’s knife by his side. 

“I’m fine Ardelia. Better than fine. I told you that when I sent you the ring, remember?” She moved close to Dr. Lecter and he put his arm around her, she placed her hand on his chest. He smiled, but never moved his eyes from the woman in the chair. “Ardelia, I love you, you’ve been like a sister to me, but I am happier now than I ever was, and I intend to stay that way.”  

Well fuck me and lay me out to dry. “Clarice…….I just can’t believe that you would…….that you would do this…….with him.” Her brain could hardly register the sight in front of her, but the faint sound of the Soca music outside told her that this was not a dream and what she was seeing was true. “I guess you’re not who I thought you were.”  

“No honey, I’m not.” She leaned into Lecter and kissed him deeply on the lips. Lecter seemed to relish it, but Ardelia noticed he left one eye on her, making sure she didn’t run for it. 

The couple parted and Lecter walked towards her, knife in hand. “Be happy for me, friend,” she heard Clarice say, and then everything went black.     

Ardelia woke up with the worst hangover she’d ever had. Her head swam with music, the smell of spicy food, and something else. Platinum blonde hair, maroon eyes, oh God, was it true? Had she really seen them…….together? Her stomach churned and she quickly surveyed her surroundings, recognized the hotel suite her family was sharing, and found the quickest route to the bathroom. 

“Hey there’s the girl,” her aunt called to her as she walked out of the bathroom, her legs still shaky. 

“What happened?” Ardelia tried to hold steady. 

“Whooo girl, you was drunk as a skunk last night. Baby, we had to pick you up off of that floor in the bar and bring your sorry ass home. You went all out, child.” 

Ardelia could remember only the drink her uncle had given her and wondered how powerful it could have been. Could it have caused hallucinations? She sipped the hot sweet coffee from the cup her aunt handed her and pushed the thoughts of the previous night from her head. Be happy for her. Be happy you’re alive. 

FIN

copyright 2001, by indreams

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