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Love Me When I'm Gone

copyright 2003, by EvilKat

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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The hot, acrid August wind licks at my skin, blowing my auburn hair like flames that whip at my face and carries in the sooty grit from the pavement through the open window of my Mustang. Much the same grime that was thrown from my tires, as I spun them in an act of childish retaliation, at the duplex I once shared with Ardelia.

Much the same grime that coats my life. The life that I am speeding away from for the last time, the steering wheel in one hand and my sentence of exile in the other.

Judgment was rendered swiftly. Krendler's death was attributed to you, of course, Doctor. The punishment they devised for me was subtler than I would have expected from them. Instead of implicating me as your accomplice, crucifying me as no doubt, Paul would have demanded had he lived. They showed me mercy of a sort – fully expecting me to live with the consequences of my actions - my failure. The papers of my divorce decree from my abusive husband – as you Doctor would no doubt call it, my discharge papers from the Bureau feel dry and hot in my hand, like tinder ready to explode into flame at the least provocation. It crackles in my grasp as I crumple it in my hand, worrying the paper, trying to destroy it as they tried to destroy me.

At least this time I did what they accused me of. After all, if you're going to be condemned to Hell anyway, you might as well have committed the crime.

A slight smile of satisfaction comes to my lips despite my dark mood. It gives me a sort of perverse pleasure to know that they failed and that I managed to deceive them all. The FBI will congratulate themselves, excusing themselves of their crimes, telling themselves it was Doctor Lecter who crafted my fall, all the while taking silent glee in the fact that their boy's club has managed to purge an interloper from its midst. What they don't realize is that they didn't destroy me. In the end only one person had that power.

They'd blame Doctor Lecter.

Doctor Lecter would blame them.

They give me so little credit.

No, in the end I destroyed myself. I was the one who neatly executed Agent Clarice M. Starling, much more neatly than if I had pressed my .45's muzzle to my temple. I was the one who destroyed Clarice's guilty dreams of being with the man she loves.

Not Him.

Not them.

Me.

They say when you dance with the Devil, the Devil doesn't change – the Devil changes you. And I've been dancing with so many devils all of my life that most of the time I don't know which is Clarice and which is them. My own personal Devils. The FBI and Hannibal Lecter. And me, a rag doll caught between two squabbling children. A bone between two fighting dogs.

At least the Doctor's intentions were good, unlike the FBI's. Or at least I think they were as far as they pertained to me. Of course we all know what they say about good intentions don't we, Doctor?

And I had the very best of intentions when I betrayed them.

The very best of intentions when I betrayed you.

You'd be proud of me though Doctor. I did it with my eyes wide open. No delusions. No lies to myself. I knew exactly what I was doing when I did it.

The crumpled paper drops from my fingers onto the seat beside me as I reach for the dial of my stereo, needing the throb of the music to draw me out of thoughts I'd rather not think anymore. To prevent me from going down roads I'd rather not travel. At least not alone.

I press the volume button until the beat pulses through the entire car leaving me with the impression that I am imprisoned in a beating heart. The summer heat rolling through the oven of the solid steel frame of my overbearing American muscle car, making it burn. In my minds eye, I know the image I present and I can see your faintly disgusted and amused expression, Doctor. The car vibrating with the rhythm of its oversized engine and the uncouth tones of the metal music blasting from its speakers at a deafening volume through my wide open windows. My plain white cotton t-shirt drenched with sweat and faded blue jeans clinging to my body, hair whipping in the wind, dark black sunglasses shielding my eyes. All that is left of my worldly possessions, at least those few that I could not live without stored in the trunk including one half empty bottle of Jack Daniels.

I know what they see as I pass them on the freeway. How did you put it, Doctor? That's right. Trailer camp tornado bait white trash. At least that's better than what Krendler called me. At least my whiskey is in the trunk, along with Brigham's gun. You can rest assured, Doctor, I haven't sank quite that low yet.

My foot presses down against the accelerator, carrying me forward faster. Faster towards nothing. Faster towards a goal that doesn't exist. I find myself going south and decide it's as good a direction as any. The noise from the speakers that my body is moving in time to, pierces through the haze I seem to exist in now.

There's another world inside of me that you may never see
There's secrets in this life that I can't hide
Well somewhere in this darkness there's a light that I can't find
Well maybe it's too far away
Or maybe I'm just blind
Maybe I'm just blind


Against my will I find myself back in the dining room, in Krendler's house on the Chesapeake. My stomach twists at the memory of the sight of Paul Krendler – the top of his skull removed, yet the scent of the slice of his brain that you had cooked, is tantalizing. Your soothing voice that I so ache to hear, yet I know I will never again rings in my mind.

"Given the chance you would deny me my life, wouldn't you?"

My own voice follows. The words I spoke never truer. The last words I spoke to you, Doctor, that were wholly true.

"Not your life…"

No, never your life, Doctor. As alone as I am now, I couldn't exist in a world where I didn't know you were somewhere out there. It was your life I needed to protect. Saving you from Mason, from the FBI's indifference. Even from yourself.

"My freedom, just that. You would take that from me."

No, not your freedom either. In order to protect your freedom, Doctor, I gave everything. My career, my life, my future. I need you to have your view, Doctor. I need you to have your Chateau d'Yquem, your opera, and your books… Your freedom. I need you to have everything you have ever wanted – everything except one.

Me.

And I can only deny you that because to give it to you would eventually take everything else you hold dear from you. Including your life.

"And if you did would they take you back, do you think? The F. B. I. Those people you despise almost as much as they despise you."

The better question, Doctor, is whether I would take them back. That life is over. If they hadn't ended it, I would have. The life of Agent Clarice Starling was over the minute I set out for Mason Verger's estate and I knew it. I needed to set this right, to finish what I had started.

"Would they give you a medal, do you think? Would you have it professionally framed and hang it on the wall to remind you of your courage and incorruptibility? All you would need for that, Clarice, is a mirror."

No, Doctor, no medals. The only courageous thing I have done in my life is to let you run. The only time I have been true to myself, when I listened to my heart.

The next images are inconsequential. Paul's outburst. Your response.

"Just think about what I said, Clarice."

I did, Doctor, I did. I thought about what you didn't say either but that hung in the air between us. I wanted to give you the answer you wanted. I would give you everything if I could.

Yet I couldn't.

When your education x-ray cannot see under my skin
I won't tell you a damn thing that I could not tell my friends
Roaming through this darkness, I'm alive but I'm alone
And part of me is fighting this
But part of me is gone


My hand reaches out to the tuner intent on stopping this music that drives me into the depths of my mind I don't want to plumb. So much like you, Doctor, yet so much more brutal. It drives me down the path unwilling, where as you would have coaxed me along it. I shake my head as though to clear my mind of the memories too raw to deal with. Yet I have no choice either.

"I came half way around the world to watch you run, Clarice. Let me run, eh…"

You will never know, Doctor, how frightened I was that you would see through me as you had so many times before. I couldn't let you know.

I needed you to believe that I was still devoted to the FBI. That I had every intention of taking you back. Turning you in. When you spoke those words, asking me to let you run, I knew I'd succeeded in the one thing I never had before.

Lying to you. Making you believe that you were nothing to me but a criminal.

Never before, and I hope to god, never again, will I feel such relief and such sorrow. You would believe the show I would give you next. The lies I would speak. You would believe everything I did. My heart shattered when I realized you would believe that I would betray you.

"Tell me Clarice, would you ever say to me, 'Stop. If you loved me, you'd stop.'"

I answered you with both the truth and a lie. The truth was, and still is, that I would never use your emotions against you in that way.

But I couldn't let you see the truth…

"Not in a thousand years…"

Instead I lead you to believe the lie. I wouldn't say those words because I felt nothing for you.

"Not in a thousand years…"

I was ready for what came next. In truth, I knew you wouldn't harm me. Not yet anyway.

Not even if I wanted it.

"That's my girl."

The only kiss I would ever receive from the only man I would ever love and I couldn't let myself respond to you. I couldn't give into what I wanted. I couldn't destroy the lie I needed you to believe.

Instead, I sealed my fate. Betrayed you finally and completely. Handcuffing you to me. Making you believe that I would never willingly be yours. The metallic click of the cuff sounded the end of my life.

I expected to die. I couldn't conceive that you would allow that final betrayal to pass unpunished.

All that I could allow myself was a single tear to mourn what I had thrown away.

"Now that's really interesting, Clarice, but I'm really pressed for time. So where's the key?"

There was nothing more I could say. The lie was complete and you believed. Anything else and I'd have risked giving myself away.

The next memories spill into my mind rapidly. The scene unstoppable. I have to watch. I can't stop myself. If Agent Starling was destroyed when I decided to rescue you from Verger in spite of what my superiors wanted me to do, then Clarice died here.

"Where's the key? … Okay."

"Above or below the wrist, Clarice…"

"This is really going to hurt…"


Its all I can do not to scream along with the echo of the scream in my head. It wasn't supposed to go that far. The retaliation for my betrayal never came. You would do anything, including harming yourself, to save me.

Proving to me that I'd done exactly the right thing.

You see Doctor, I am your one weakness. Your fatal flaw. They know that now. On an instinctive level or maybe they learned it from Mason Verger. However they found out, they would use me against you. To draw you out into the open.

That's why I couldn't stay with them.

That's why I couldn't be with you.

I wanted to run with you, but you are more important to me than I am to myself. They would have never stopped hunting you if I would have come with you. You would remain on their ten most wanted list. The FBI may not have wanted me, but there would be no way in hell that they would have tolerated you having me. Their wounded pride would demand that the renegade agent and the cannibalistic serial killer she betrayed them for be brought down. We'd have been hunted down like dogs and shot where we stood. We'd have come to a bad end.

As clear minded as you are, Doctor, your judgment where I am involved is flawed. To keep you safe, I can't be with you, be near you, or even allow you to know where I am.

So I'm running… Alone.

Everything I own is in the trunk of my car. John Brigham's gun and all the cash that I was able to pull from my retirement funds, savings, and from selling everything I could bare to part with, is in a concealed compartment in that trunk. The only parts of you, other than my memories, I have left – a few things Barney gave me and the black dress are in that trunk.

I'm certain that the FBI has an all points bulletin out on me by now. They probably think I am running to you. I won't avoid them. I may even let them haul me in once or twice until they get bored of doing it. Until they realize I won't lead them to you.

All traces of Clarice Starling will disappear. Eventually, I'll stop running and then somehow I'll survive. Without them and without you. Though I know you'll still be with me in my mind. At least I won't need to worry about you.

I have faith, Doctor. Not faith in God, but faith in you. They will not catch you, not without me as bait. You will enjoy your opera, your wine, your food, and your view. You might think of me on occasion but you won't let it consume you. You will live well where ever you have run to now.

But there are no happy endings for us.

Maybe I'm just blind

So hold me when I'm here
Right me when I'm wrong
Hold me when I'm scared
And love me when I'm gone
Everything I am
And everything in me
Wants to be the one you wanted me to be
I'll never let you down
Even if I could
I'd give up everything
If only for your good
So hold me when I'm here
Right me when I'm wrong
Hold me when I'm scared
You won't always be there
So love me when I'm gone
Love me when I'm gone,
Love me when I'm gone,
When I'm gone
When I'm gone
When I'm gone


The final lyrics of the song spill from the speakers and I feel a tear running down my cheek. I can hear myself whisper, "I'm gone." Then without knowing why, I lift the crumpled termination notice from the seat beside me and hold it out the window, feeling the wind trying to tear it from my grasp.

"I'm gone." My voice is louder and stronger this time as I let go. The paper joining the dust plumes behind my car before I loose sight of it and the next song begins.



FIN

copyright 2003, by EvilKat

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