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A Visit From an Old Friend

copyright 2001, by Diana Lecter

Disclaimer:    The characters Dr. Hannibal Lecter, Clarice Starling, and Jack Crawford 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 days were long and often very unproductive.  Lunch breaks, originally scheduled to last a full hour, exceeded in length for the subconscious purpose of avoiding the office.  Jack Crawford could smell mandatory retirement behind him, and had for some time now.  His superiors and partners within the Behavioral Science department had whispered about it for years, and he had often fought the battle for he knew no other life.  Without Bella at his side, there was no sense in returning home at night, though now with the disappearance and assumed death of his once student and evermore-increasing infatuation, Clarice Starling, the office was empty as well. 

When the day arrived that he would actually have to put his things in a box and leave, Crawford was at a loss for what he would do with the remainder of his life.  It burned him to think that he would leave without sealing Hannibal Lecter’s fate, for nothing in the world would please him more.  Every time the name was mentioned, to his face or within his very own subconscious, he would cringe and ball his fists together and fight the temptation to curse the being before him, more likely to avoid the loss of his own sanity, for that being was usually in the shape of a mirror.

You lost her, Jack.  You did it all.  You sent her to him, and he gobbled her up just like Will Graham.  There’s two added to your belt.  How many more before you know better than to mess with him?

There would be no more.  Jack Crawford lounged in his study, facing the open window that held a fantastic view of the city.  In his right hand was the morning paper, in his left, a cup of black coffee.  He felt professional sitting here, as though it were the only place in the world left where he could be himself by himself.  Leaving this place always had the same effect on him.  A vast wash of emptiness as he journeyed to face another day alone. 

On his way to work, walking today at a leisurely pace instead of driving, Crawford allowed his mind to explore on the region he liked to forget and pretend it didn’t happen.  A lifetime ago, it seemed, when Dr. Hannibal Lecter’s trail led them to a quaint cottage on the Chesapeake Bay.  Little was left of his whereabouts for them to pursue, although Paul Krendler’s body was located outside, buried in a manner that most would overlook, however, it was obvious Dr. Lecter intended for him to be found.

Several women’s products were found in a comfortable guest room.  None of them struck Crawford as something Starling would buy on a trip to the store, but it had Lecterism all over it.  He knew that Starling had gone after Lecter to the Muskrat Farm, and knew from there that either the pigs got her or the good doctor had found it within himself to take her in.  With evidence such as the perfumes and lotions typically worn by women, Crawford thought it ridiculous to question the issue, finding it very unlikely that Dr. Lecter had suddenly turned into a transvestite.

Images of her body being savaged over and over again by that madman came to him mercilessly.  Crawford promised himself that he would bring the monster in before the mandatory retirement was indeed enforced.  Now, looking at perhaps a few more precious months, maybe a year, he didn’t see it happening.

The worst thing about this was he knew that Starling was dead.  As much as Dr. Lecter might like her, he wasn’t a creature of compassion.  He most likely used her for those first few days to relinquish his own nasty desires, then got bored with her and disposed her the very same way he did Krendler.  Maybe he had her body with him as some sort of sick anecdote, or perhaps he had performed a more adequate hiding job of her remains and they hadn’t found them yet.  After all, Dr. Lecter does like his fun. 

It was raining as he walked home, something that would have bothered him on some other occasion, but today, he didn’t notice it.  The dangers of allowing his mind to wander to Starling often stole his day for he could think of nothing else.  Crawford made the empty promise to himself not to start any other mornings with such thoughts as he made the turn up his driveway. 

His house was small and dark; something that surprised him for he most always left a light on in the morning to avoid attracting burglars in the case that he would not be returning home at a decent hour.  Crawford stopped for a minute, the rain running off the rim of his hat and trailing down his coat.  Studying the house for a few minutes, he shrugged it off, passing it as a mental lapse of that morning.  After all, it was possible to forget the very routine in which you leave the house when your mind is occupied with something else, especially something of that vile nature.

Satisfied with this explanation, Crawford started walking again.  He fumbled his right coat pocket for keys and raised them to the handle, for the first time that evening becoming aware of the rain.  Muttering lightly to himself, he turned the knob and stepped in doors, relieving his head of his hat as he placed it and his coat on the stand next to the door.

It occurred to him then that the house was not dark.  Somewhere within the room, a small red light emitted, not enough to see at a great distance, and he wondered then if he was getting old, for he could not remember ever coming to the ownership of such a lamp.

When he turned around, he understood all too much.

That voice, that horrible voice that haunted him for years with its cool, controlled elegance, hiding the very nature of its calamity.  Crawford felt his cold skin heat with sudden hatred as his eyes fell to a being reclining comfortably in a small chair next to the door that led into the kitchen. 

The words were harmless though they froze his heart.  “Good evening, Jack.”

Crawford opened his mouth to say something but was silenced by the sight of a Harpy.  Dr. Hannibal Lecter’s maroon eyes danced as he raised the blade to his mouth, the corners of his most prized weapon peaking at his surprise.  He was dressed nicely, casual but classy.  Dark slacks and a deep navy blue long-sleeved shirt that buttoned down the middle. Somewhere, Crawford’s voice came to him, and he said the first thing that came to mind.

“Hannibal.”

Making no motion to acknowledge himself, Dr. Lecter politely nodded to a chair beside the stand that now harbored his coat and hat.  “Sit please.”  It was not a request.  Crawford did so, listening wryly to the sound of his pounding heart, hard rage filling him now instead of fear.  He recognized this chance as an opportunity to find out what happened to Starling, and knew to make no assumption that his motive was just that.

Dr. Lecter sensed his tension and chuckled softly.  “My, my, Jack, has it been as long as it seems?”

Crawford could not bring himself to answer.

“Find your breath, Jack, I know you have a sermon or two locked in that hollow cavity of yours.  You were never one to keep from preaching.”

The words tumbled out of his mouth with fluent carelessness, and he knew immediately the answer to his question would never be granted.  If Dr. Lecter saw an agenda, he would toy with it to his black heart’s content and reap all the benefits.  However, he could not stop himself as he demanded in a voiceless whisper:  “Where is she?”

That provoked a mocking laugh from Dr. Lecter as he tapped the Harpy blade at his teeth.  “My, my, Jack, right to the point, I see.  So quick to dispense of pleasantries and not even offer an old friend a likewise salutation.  To be honest, Jack, I don’t believe I’ve seen you this rude.”

Crawford stopped himself and considered.  Whenever feasible, Dr. Lecter prefers to eat the rude.  Free-range rude, he called them.

“All right, Hannibal.  Why are you here?”

“Simple enough, Jack.  I merely wanted to see an old friend.”

“I know you well enough to know nothing ever comes by simply, Hannibal.  If you’re here, it has a deeper agenda than wanting to catch up on old times.”

Those maroon eyes bore into his, and he knew better than to look away, even if he was being read.  Crawford knew his vulnerability, that at that moment he was as open as a book.  His weakness was showing through, and Dr. Lecter knew for the way he smiled.

“You are quite persistent.  You must have wanted her very much.”

Crawford stared at him blankly, but Dr. Lecter’s face did not change.

“I asked her once, long ago in the days of the dungeon, if she thought you imagined her scenarios, exchanges, fucking her.  In truth, she replied that it didn’t interest her.  Imagine that, Jacky, you didn’t hold her interest.  What a shame.”

He felt himself turning red again, but still could not bring himself to reply.

Dr. Lecter smiled, knowing he was pouring salt on the wound.  “You do realize, Jack, that you were no different than any of the other trailer-camp trash that mentally undressed her.  Nor were you different than Dr. Chilton, who thought it best to toy with me.  His description of her was a misled: ‘Remote and glorious.’  He went on to describe her ankles and her hair and even brought it to himself to call her a winter sunset.  Poor Dr. Chilton.  He was only half right, you know.  I suppose I’m the only one who knows not to call her remote, but I can accurately testify that she is glorious.  Take it from me, Jack, after tasting those ankles, you would reconsider your opinion of her, too.”

Crawford felt his twisted hatred for this man rising, and knew it reflected in his eyes.  In reply, Dr. Lecter flashed another smile.  In the near darkness, Crawford could still see his small white teeth. 

Dribble, shoot, miss.  Take your time, Jacky, he’s going to be here for a while.  The ball’s in your court now. You know he’s not going to leave here without burning you a little deeper.  Might as well give him what he loves best.  Quid pro quo, and perhaps he’ll tell me what the fuck he did with her.

“So, this is the extent of your visit.  You came here to taunt and kill me.  I can imagine your hunger, Hannibal.  I haven’t heard of any findings of dead hunters trimmed for meat.  You’re not a man who denies yourself.  You’ve always hated me, almost as much as I hated you.  I suppose at this point I look like a Salisbury steak.”

The Harpy flashed and he thought perhaps it was the end already.  However, this was the result of Dr. Lecter’s careless yet stylish twirling of the handle with masterful ease.  No, no, he was still amused.  He wouldn’t end it until the conversation bore him.

“Calm yourself, Jack.  First off all, you assume incorrectly that simply because I have a taste for alternative means of quenching hunger that I cannot live without such divine meals at my disposal.  Perhaps you’ll be pleased to know that I have not indulged myself since ridding the world of that awful Paul Krendler.  Honestly, Jack, you should thank me.  After all, he did nothing but bring harm to your precious Clarice.” 

Anger rising again.  Crawford felt dizzy yet couldn’t help himself.

“And what of Clarice?  Was she tasty as well?”  he heard himself asking as though it were some alternative force beyond his control.

Dr. Lecter’s eyes twinkled like a child who stole a cookie as he brought the blade to his mouth again.  He seemed to like it there for some reason, and Crawford briefly wondered if it was tampered with the taste of blood.

“Mmm, she was good, of course, I didn’t expect her not to be.”

That was the breaking point.  Crawford felt himself slipping away from the boundaries of control.  His hands clutched the side of the chair as his brow furrowed into a state of irrepressible rage.    “What did you do to her?!” he screamed.  “Where is she?!”

The only thing he provoked from Dr. Lecter was the release of more amusement.  Crawford felt sick at the stomach as his temper slowly declined back to a state of immobility. 

“You know as well as anyone that I am a man of my word, Jack.  Surely you were aware that I gave her my astute promise not to bring harm to a single hair on her lovely head.”

“You’re not one to tamper with loyalties, but you have lied to us before.  You told us that Jame Gumb’s name was Billy Rubin-”

At that, Dr. Lecter let out a snuff quip of laughter, one that sounded as though he had been storing it up for such a remarkable accusation.  “Pish posh, Jack.  I am disappointed with you.  How easily you mistake the institution of lying with having a little bit of fun.  After all, when your books are taken from you as well as your drawings, you must find alternative sources of amusement.  I’m sure an honest man such as yourself would have resorted to the very same if you faced a lifetime of solitary confinement.  Hmm.  Perhaps eight years in a cell would do you good, Jack.  I could arrange it, if you like.”

Control was broken again.  This time, he released himself from the chair and bolted absurdly to his feet.  His voice could be heard down the block, he imagined, as he screamed:  “GODDAMN YOU TO HELL, HANNIBAL LECTER!  WHERE IS SHE?!?!?!”

Still unaffected, Dr. Lecter’s eyes did little more than follow him as he rose, and his face remained intact and amused.  As the last of his echoes died throughout the halls, the monster reclined comfortably and said, “Sit down, Jack, you’ll give yourself a stroke.  Do not think I would enforce my presence here without offering the courtesy of seeing the one you love best.  I expect her shortly.”  

His words made no sense and caused Crawford to blink a few times as though he had heard wrong.  Finally, lowering himself to the seat once more, he said, “What?”

“Surely I knew that you wouldn’t be satisfied unless you saw her,” he repeated.  “I would hate to have you think yourself cheated, Jack.”  With that, he drew the Harpy blade behind him casually, as though bothered by an uncomfortable itch.  This only lasted a minute as it found something and dragged it out into plain view.  Crawford strained to see but couldn’t for the darkness.  Sensing his discomfort, Dr. Lecter tossed it whimsically to the floor. 

For a moment, Crawford feared it was her heart.  But as he leaned closer for better inspection, he saw it was nothing of the sort.  Instead, a pair of panties, recently used, by the looks of it.  They were slashed through the middle, leaving very little to the imagination.

Crawford felt himself turn scarlet, not from anger this time.

“Like I said, she was good,” Dr. Lecter was saying, seeming so distant Crawford had to force himself to process the words a few times before they made sense.  “Although, I admit the word ‘was’ is misleading.  I meant to say, ‘is.’  She is quite good.  Again, pardon the inconvenience.”

Crawford was nauseated.  His stomach began to rumble and he was suddenly glad that he skipped lunch.

From the room in the back, there was a rustling.  Shooting a glance to Dr. Lecter, his heart froze in the prospect of who could be causing such a racket.

“Ah,” breathed the monster.  “That must be our surprise guest, now.”

The familiar wheezing of the hinges left Crawford to know that someone was entering from the back door.  Within a few seconds, Clarice Starling entered the room through the kitchen.  Thence, it took a surreal motif, and Crawford sat there in disbelief.

She was dressed wonderfully in a navy suit jacket that fell over the casual attire of blue jeans.  He couldn’t see anything under the jacket and felt some uncomfortable movement in his trousers.

Apparently, she was surprised to see him, even though she had acted as co-hostess at several holiday parties.  In her right hand was a note, small from the looks of it.  She rested her left arm comfortably against the chair that harbored Dr. Lecter and planted the other on her hip, looking to the doctor inquisitively.  “What’s going on here, Hannibal?”

Ah.  So the formalities have been dropped.  Find yourself wondering what else has been dropped, Jacky?

“Pardon the surprise, my dear,” Dr. Lecter said, rising to his feet for the first time.  He made no attempt to hide the Harpy blade.  “And forgive my rudeness for the letter; I couldn’t reach you by phone.  I was inspired to pay a visit to our old friend and thought perhaps you might like to see him as well.”

Oh, God, I’m going to be sick.

Starling’s eyes traveled to the floor where she saw her slashed panties.  She thought for a minute, giving Crawford the impression that she was angered.  Instead, she glanced back to Dr. Lecter and chuckled. 

For the first time that evening, she looked to him, a gaze of distant disinterest behind her eyes.  “Hello, Mr. Crawford.”

So it’s still Mr. Crawford, eh?  She’s comfortable to call him by his first name, and still you’re Mr. Crawford. 

“Clarice,” he breathed, unable to say more.  He could tell Dr. Lecter was pleased without having to look at him.

“As I said, Jack, I would not harm a hair on her head.  However, I thought perhaps the days of torturing yourself over her death should come to an end.  That is what provoked this little trip.  My apologies if we have…interfered with any arrangements.”  Then, for the sole purpose of twisting the knife in his chest, Dr. Lecter reached out and caressed Starling’s cheek –

Why the hell do you let him do that?!  God, Starling!  I thought you had some ground!  Some decency!

– before pulling her into a nice long kiss.  Their mouths were very animated and she seemed drawn.  The note fell from her hands, landing softly on the floor as they became more involved with each other.  It was clear that she wanted him every bit as he wanted her, perhaps more at the urgency of her mouth against his.  She didn’t like it when he pulled away, apparently wanting more, not caring where she was or whose company she was in.

“Not now, Clarice, it would be rude to our host.  He has been very gracious with his time this evening.”  With that, Dr. Lecter turned to Crawford and smiled, the Harpy appearing again in his hand.  “Thank you very much for having us over, Jack.  Please, allow us to show ourselves out.”

Before he could do anything, Dr. Lecter was above him.  The handle of the blade came swiftly down over his head, and he slumped over in the seat as all went black.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

When Crawford awoke the next morning, both Dr. Lecter and Clarice Starling were gone.  The panties left on the floor were gone as well.  Suffering a mild headache, Crawford wondered briefly if the entire ordeal had been a dream, for nothing seemed real in the light.

That thought eased his soul.  He would much prefer the image of Starling dead than with that monster, so obviously hungry for his touch.

However, the notion didn’t last long.  Beside the chair that Dr. Lecter had sat in the night before was a small sheet of paper.  His heart pounding within his chest, Crawford stood wryly from his seat and walked over to it.  Grasping it tightly, he held his breath and raised it to eye level.  He thought he heard gunshots go off but realized it was merely the effect of knowledge. 

The note read:

My dearest Clarice,

Apologies for the abrupt change in plans, but I feel inclined to visit an old friend before our stay in the States comes to an end.  Please, feel free to join us, if you like.  I’m sure you know where to find me. I’m also sure he would hate the aspect of myself denying him the pleasure of your company. 

                                                                        Ta,

                                                                                    Hannibal

 The formalities were absent from the note as well.  Crawford felt the need to vomit return.  He raced into the bathroom and released meals he thought were long gone and digested.  In a fleeting moment of anger and insanity, he burned the note in his very own fireplace. 

He never heard from or saw Hannibal Lecter or Clarice Starling again.  Mandatory retirement knocked him out shortly afterward, and he supposed he died of the impact of the blow. 

A bottle of Chateau d’Yquem was sent to the funeral, the card signed:  A friend.

FIN

copyright 2001, by Diana Lecter

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