Mercy, Mercy, Mercy
copyright 2002, by
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
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Since Clarice Starling hit the trail that morning, an eerie feeling had been with her. A sensation of closeness lingering over her like a buzzing in her ear. In her hands and arms, her chest and her head, and in her legs and feet—she felt it. Every footfall was being matched, every move and turn anticipated so that when she looked back, she would never quite see the shadowy figure that loomed under the canopy of trees behind her. Just as instinctively, she knew who was following her. Every path she had taken since that first into the bowels of the dungeon had led her to him and this trail she ran now would circle back to her pursuer until she stood with him face to face where time would never be the same.
He was with her through the first leg of her route. Always just out of reach so as she heard each rustle of leaves under her own feet, unable to discern any others, she began to doubt whether he was there at all. As she completed a lap, passing the short path leading to the parking lot and her car, she felt the pinprick of his voice on the back of her neck, as if he had been standing next to her all along. She heard her name, every letter drawn out across his velvet tongue, “Clariiice….” Then the feeling was gone and she knew he had turned off the trail. It would be easy for her to keep running, for she knew no good could come of meeting him, yet it was her job – her only job to find and apprehend Hannibal Lecter and that is just what she intended to do.
In the bushes skirting the parking lot, she crouched low and waited, scanning the area for movement. The only other vehicle was an old pickup parked not so innocently next to her black Mustang. Clarice could almost hear her car growl at the truck, as if it knew the owner’s intentions. In her role as huntress, she was perilously unequipped. Her .45 was under the driver’s seat of her car and her cell phone in the drink holder. Somehow though, she knew she would need neither one. This was a game to him. Always a game and she had been a participant all along, though she tried to convince herself she wasn’t. She could not help but play. He was her only worth adversary.
Holding her breath, Clarice kept low and stole across the pavement to the back of her car, seeing his silhouette in the Mustang’s driver’s seat before she settled. With her face next to the taillight, she peered along the length of the car and saw him staring back at her from the side mirror.
They watched each other like that for several moments, his eyes and her eyes, the same way they looked at each other so long ago as she was dragged from his cell in Memphis, like no time had passed since their last meeting. Finally, Clarice stood up and rounded the rear end of the car, resting her hip on the back fender. Likewise, he got out and turned to face her, leaving the door open.
He wore a dark tank top and jogging pants, his naked arms still lean and muscled, even though he was ten years older than the pictures covering the walls of her basement office in Quantico. Older than the picture in her mind, yet with the same presence about him. Electricity that if tapped, might well power several city blocks. How many people had he killed since she last saw him? Were there still traces of blood from a recent meal in the smug smile that curled his lips?
Clarice had spent countless hours studying everything the FBI knew about Hannibal Lecter. Better than anyone, she knew his habits, his preferences and nuances. And better than anyone, she knew his only weakness. Without invitation, he had become a part of her. He was with her every day, his voice in her head, the tingle of his only touch still coursing through her arm.
When she finally spoke, her voice surprised her. Still strong and clear, not betraying the thundering hum in her ears of every fiber in her body vibrating like a taut string ready to break. “Hello, Dr. Lecter,” she said.
Her heart raced at the spoken words that rang in her head so often, but stronger now than ever was the indoctrinated voice of authority repeating over and over the oath she had taken. “What were you doing in my car, Doctor?” she asked, stalling, trying to get her thoughts straight.
“Mmmm…” he purred, grinning at her. “Tasting you, Clarice.”
She felt her cheeks flush hot and forcibly told herself to stay focused. They were not far from each other, yet the ground she would have to cover in order to compel him into compliance and bring him into custody without a weapon was vast. Perhaps she could talk him into it.
“You understand you’ll need to come with me now,” she said her hands at her sides, a stern look on her face, trying to remain calm and imposing.
“Oh? To jail? I don’t think so, dear. Not today.”
“Well I certainly don’t intend to let you go.”
“One day, Clarice, I hope you’ll say that to me in a different context, but at this juncture, I’m not sure how you propose to stop me. You don’t have much to threaten me with, do you?” He took a step toward her, motioning with his head to the interior of her car, where her gun and phone were stored.
She stood her ground, hoping to bluff him into thinking she had a backup weapon. “I don’t plan to threaten you, Doctor. Being the gentleman you are, I expect you to come with me quietly. There’s no need for this to get ugly.” She kept her jaw set as his rich laughter filled the air. Even she knew it sounded ridiculous. Asking a man who had peeled off a guard’s face in order to procure his freedom to simply turn himself over to her. If ever he were to go back to prison, Clarice Starling would not take him. She knew that as well as he.
The corner of her eye twitched as she saw him take another step closer. He was within inches of her. Why was her heart pounding so? She kept her fists balled and her arms stiff, knowing if she tried to use them all they would do was shake.
“Are you afraid of me, Clarice?” he asked, moving closer.
“No.” It was the truth. She had never been afraid of him.
“Then what is this fear I smell, hmm?” He inclined his head toward her and she could feel his breath on her neck
She pressed her hip into the side of the car, glad for its cold steel holding her up. “I’m not afraid of anything.”
Dr. Lecter raised an eyebrow and glared at her. “I thought you knew better than to lie to me, Agent Starling.”
Her teeth scraped against her bottom lip as she remained silent, knowing he was right. She had never been able to get anything past him.
“Please see that it does not happen again.” He closed his eyes and lifted his chin in the air, breathing deeply, then met her gaze, smiling. As if they were having a casual conversation, he propped his elbow against the roof of the car. “Tell me, Clarice, how did you feel during our last meeting? When we saw each other in Memphis.”
”You mean right before you slaughtered five men while escaping?”
He chuckled softly. “Still slippery, I see. But you know that’s not what I’m talking about. How did you feel the last moment we were together? When I…” his tongue darted out, running over his lips, “touched you?”
Butterflies rose in her chest and before she realized what she was saying, she answered. “Exhilarated.”
“Exhilarated like you were when you saw Mr. Raspail’s head in the jar?” He smiled.
“No. Different than that.” Clarice felt her breathing increase as she scrambled to think of a way to reverse the direction he was leading the conversation. With Dr. Lecter standing in front of her, no bars between them now, she could not afford to let herself slip. She forced herself to do what she always did in similar situations. Instead of thinking of him, she thought of the intricate patterns of cracks found in a cinder block wall.
“What did you feel after that, hmm? After you were dragged away with my touch still burning your skin?
Regaining control, she took a deep breath and told the truth. “I didn’t feel anything.”
Dr. Lecter drew himself back, looking intently into her eyes as if he were searching for a lie. “And why is that?” he asked, pursing his lips.
Clarice squinted. “I’m not paid to feel, Doctor. I’m paid to do a job and my job at that time was to ascertain from you the most likely location of Catherine Martin.”
A chuckle bellowed from Dr. Lecter. “You weren’t so business-like that evening when you were telling me about those poor lambs of yours.”
His words stung. She had told him the most intimate secrets of her childhood standing outside of his cell. As her facial expression remained stoic, tears came tumbling forth. Rather than wipe them, she let them fall. She had earned every one.
With lizard like speed, Dr. Lecter’s tongue was on her cheek, licking the salty drops.
“What are you doing?” she asked, her voice quivering.
“Tasting you.” His tongue drew circles on her cheek.
“Stop it!” she yelled, pushing him away and stepping back. “Just stop it. You do this all the time. You make fun of me, and then you try to soothe me like I’m some sort of plaything of yours. I’m tired of it, okay?” Her face was red and her body shuddered with anger as she pointed at him. “I never felt anything for you because I never knew what to feel. You always make it such a goddamn chore.”
His eyes flashed again as he closed the distance she had put between them, wrapping one arm around her waist, drawing her close, and grasping the back of her neck with his other hand. “Is that what you think?” He grimaced. “That you’re just a toy to me, Clarice? Hmm?”
Their anger matched, her heart pounded as she looked into his glowing eyes.
His fingers wrapped tightly into her hair. “You denied what you felt for me because you were afraid. You were afraid of what kind of person that would make you.”
“You’re awful presumptuous, Doctor. I’m a Federal Law Enforcement Officer. Since I was a little girl on my Daddy’s knee, that’s all I ever wanted to do. You think I would risk losing that to fall in love with a psychopathic serial killer? What kind of sense does that make?” She drew in a sharp, quick breath as she felt him press himself into her leg.
“You can’t refute that which is inexorable, Clarice.”
Until then, she had kept her arms at her sides, clenching and unclenching her fists. Now she grabbed at his waist, meaning to push him away, but when she saw the look in his eyes, she could not. It was a look she had glimpsed too many times in the fragments of her dreams.
As she seized the cloth of his shirt, he lowered his head and kissed her.
He smelled of sweat and cologne, earth and pine needles, and lust. And another smell underlying the rest – the scent that was purely his. Purely Hannibal Lecter. The same essence she had gathered into her nostrils the first time they met. A sweet, fiery aroma that stood out from all the others of the dank recess where he was kept. It was a smell she recalled every night before falling asleep and one she unconsciously sought each time she turned a corner or walked through a crowd. Now, with him surrounding her, his scent mixing with hers, becoming part of her, she raked her fingers down his back, cupped his buttocks and pulled him closer.
Dr. Lecter pushed her up against the car, nearly bending her over backwards on the trunk. Against her skin, she felt his warm hands as he worked them inside her shirt and tugged at the fabric of her sports bra.
“Not here,” she gasped. “Not outside.”
“I’ve waited for you for ten years, Clarice,” he growled. “Don’t make me wait any longer.”
“My car’s too small.”
He separated himself from her, slammed her car door and pulled her the short distance to his neighboring pickup. With strength she only imagined he had, he lifted her off her feet and into the cab, following close behind as she slid across the bench seat. Closing the door, he was on her again. In that cramped space, they tore at each other’s clothes, kissing each other fiercely.
They had recovered their clothes from the floor and from where they lay, draped across the steering wheel. Clarice leaned against the driver’s side door and Dr. Lecter against the passenger side. They had not spoken since staring into each other’s eyes and grunting each other’s name as they climaxed together. Clarice had reveled in his touch and his heat. In fact, she wanted to be in his arms again. Somewhere more appropriate where they could linger in their nakedness and she could explore him, forgetting about who she was.
“Clarice,” he finally said, his voice smooth and unhurried. “I would like for you to come with me.”
She let out a sound that was halfway between a sob and a laugh. Covering her mouth with her hand, she felt painful sobs working their way into her chest. She shook her head and barely whispered. “I can’t.”
She thought he might come to her and kiss her, stroke her hair and tell her everything was going to be all right, but he didn’t. He stayed in his position leaning against the window, watching her cry.
“I can’t,” she repeated, trying to control her shaking shoulders and regain composure. “My job…the Bureau…”
Dr. Lecter watched, his face showing no emotion.
Finally she took a deep breath and wiped her tears, though her eyes nearly filled again when she looked at him. “It’s not you,” she said. “Well, it is you, but not like that. It’s not because I don’t want to. I just…” She could think of nothing more to say. She just wanted him to go away and not be angry, so she could go back to the office, tell Krendler to put her on another case and live with his memory.
It was a long time that they sat without speaking and for a fleeting moment, she thought she might be in danger, until he finally sighed.
“Clarice,” his voice was stern. “You should know better than anyone that the FBI handbook does not apply to real life. The lines are not always drawn as clearly as you would like them to be. If they were, you wouldn’t be here now. Groveling doesn’t suit you my dear. Nor does toiling away at endless menial tasks, pounding at a glass ceiling that will never break for you.”
She wasn’t sure whether to feel angry or insulted. Deep down, she knew that for her, the only road to advancement ran directly through Paul Krendler’s bed, and still, it was an uncertain path at best. Yet, her job meant everything to her. In many ways it was her life, and regardless of the assignments she was given, she had always taken pride in her work ethic. She never kissed ass.
Dr. Lecter leaned forward and whispered to her. “We’re a lot alike, you know. You just never wanted to admit it. You are my counterpart. My completion.”
“See? There you go again.” Her voice rose. “Cut and mend. Bleed and stitch. Why is it that you feel you have to dissect my life and put it back together the way you see fit?”
“Would you rather I be a bumbling imbecile who doesn’t know you well enough to make suggestions that would help you?”
“You’re trying to help me? All you’re doing is confusing me. I had it all worked out in my head the way things were. Then you come along and tell me that none of it was worth it.” She turned her head and stared out the windshield, grinding her teeth.
“I didn’t say that. If it weren’t for your job, we would have never met.”
“That’s right,” she said, looking back at him. “And these last ten years, my job is all I had. Now you want me to throw all logic out the window and renounce all that was ever important to me so I can run off with you into exile and live as a criminal away from my friends? Isn’t it just so convenient that everything in your book makes sense.”
Dr. Lecter lowered his eyes for a moment then looked up again, matching her gaze intently. “I keep telling myself that if I love you enough, it will.” His voice was nearly a whisper.
Clarice thunked her head against the window, the color draining from her face.
“Do you still think you’re nothing more to me than a toy, Clarice? That I came all this way to watch you run because I wanted to torment you?” He cocked his head.
From the moment they met, he had taunted her and mocked her, respected her and valued her. He had killed for her. And now he loved her. Looking at him, she realized she had known it all along. She realized too that she had loved him as well. The feelings she had consistently told herself didn’t exist were now undeniable. Inevitable. It was as if her whole life she had lived in a crawl space under a burgeoning house and now that he had opened the cellar door, she could finally stand up and for the first time, breathe fresh air.
Clarice smiled at Dr. Lecter, tears again welling in her eyes. Happy ones this time. “Why didn’t you tell me all this before?”
“I hadn’t planned on telling you now. There were some other things I had to show you before I thought you would be ready to listen. Even then, I wasn’t certain you would. You are quite unpredictable, Clarice.”
“As are you.”
“Otherwise you would find me a bore.”
Now it was her turn to laugh. “I don’t think that will ever happen,” she said.
“Never?” He raised an eyebrow.
Clarice leaned forward and scooted toward him. She held his face in her hands and kissed him as he wrapped his arms around her. His touch was something she knew she would never grow tired of. “Never.”
copyright 2002, by
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