Quo Ma Bell
copyright 2001, by Nix
The characters Dr. Hannibal Lecter, Clarice Starling, Margot Verger and Mason
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
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Margot Verger sat in
the bedroom she shared with her long term companion and regarded her
phone with the intentness of a hungry hyena watching a bone. She was
expecting an important call; she knew it must come soon, tonight. She
wanted to pick it up, when it came, before Judy might have a chance to
For now, Judy was
safely in the shower, unable to hear either a ring, or the conversation
that would follow. Margot was pleased with this circumstance. There were
some things she never wanted Judy to hear her saying. And there were
some callers who should never be spoken to at all, at least, not without
a bad connection and a really good set of earplugs. She would have to
take this call, but Judy could be spared. That was perfectly all right
with Margot Verger.
The phone rang. Margot
snatched the receiver off the hook in mid-ring, with a quick glance at
the bathroom door. All clear.
she answered, dryly.
Lecter. I thought you'd call. Um . . . so how are you?"
"Well, it has been
a trying evening, Margot. Perhaps I'm slightly the worse for wear, but
on the whole, I suppose I shouldn't complain. Both feet still in their
proper place. And they're perfectly good feet, too, I should have been
sorry to lose them. And how are you?"
"Actually, not too
bad. Dr. Lecter, guess what? You'll never guess."
"No, I never
guess. Mason is dead, I take it?"
wondering if we can still come to some agreement."
"Why would you
suppose we couldn't, Margot? "
"Well, I'm just
wondering if we have a problem now. Because I didn't help you when I
"Hmm. Perhaps I
was a tiny bit . . . irked . . . with you on that account, to be quite
honest. As I mentioned, they are perfectly good feet. I'm rather
attached to my face as well, as I'm sure you'll understand . . ."
"So . . . on a
scale of one to ten, how irked is irked?"
"Oh, just a bit.
Not a matter for concern. After all, I wouldn't have helped you, had our
positions been reversed. And I do like you, Margot, there's that."
"Can I ask you
something? Why did you fuck Mason up the way you did in the first place?
I always wondered about that."
"I didn't like
Mason. And I might have been irked with him . . ."
"You know he was
crazy about you? Back then? He talked about you all the time - like a
flattering. Yes, I had some idea. When my host for the evening greets me
at the door in full S&M regalia, I have no choice but to conclude
something is up. Clearly he expected a memorable evening. I felt honor
bound to oblige him. I hate to be a disappointing guest. But enough
about old times. Our business tonight is the near future, isn't that
"You said you'd
take the rap for Mason - would you still do that?"
"Oh, Margot! 'Take
the rap', is it? ! I love it! Tell me the truth, now, have you been
watching those ghastly women-in-prison movies again?"
"Would you still
claim to have done Mason?"
"Hmm. You're very
direct, aren't you? Very well, let me ask you a question. Why would I do
anything for you? My original offer was based on a contingency. The
situation has changed. Furthermore, why ask me? You have the hair and
tissue. What more do you need?"
"A letter. A phone
call. Your authentic voice. That would clinch it. Everybody goes apeshit
when they hear from you."
idiom, Margot. I wonder why? It's a bit like whistling in the dark,
isn't it? Who would ever wish to violate such a dirty mouth? Again? Is
that it? But Mason is dead, isn't he? . . . no answer? . . . well then,
I must ask you once more, why would I feel inclined to do you a favor?
Out of the goodness of my heart?"
"You don't have a
heart. Just a lump of pitch and a really bad attitude. All right. What
do you want? You want to trade for something, or you wouldn't have
There is something you could do for me."
"What will you do
"What a pleasure
to do business with you, Margot. You haven't even heard my request yet,
and still you've moved directly to the counter-offer! No
shilly-shallying for you, is there? As you wish, then. I'll leave a very
ugly message on your answer machine in a day or two, and down the line
I'll back it with some handwritten vitriol. Of course, you'll need to
fill me in on the details, so that I can be convincing. Will that be
"What will you
want in return?"
I'm interested in Paul Krendler."
"Good God, why?
That guy's an idiot!"
"So I understand.
Nevertheless, I have an occasion planned for the near future, and Mr.
Krendler . . . well, you know how it is, Margot, don't you? When you
want to impress someone special? The details are everything. "
woman? You have her? The pigs didn't get her?"
"The topic at hand
just now, Margot, is Mr. Krendler. Clarice Starling is not your concern.
Ever. I cannot impress this on you enough. Is that clear? Margot?"
sound a little heated, doctor, if you don't mind my saying..."
"You know, I think
I hear an odd background noise on your end, Margot. Difficult to
identify . . . but . . . could it be a shower running? Is that Judy? How
is Judy? Have you told her about Mason yet? Will you tell her, I wonder?
Tell her everything?"
"Goddamnit - if
you think - "
"Margot, let me
ask you, who sounds a bit heated now? Let us get back to the point. I
want Krendler, out in the open, where I can get at him. No doubt he'll
think it prudent to stay inconspicuous for the next few days, and that
would prove inconvenient to my purposes. Can you do something to draw
him out for me?"
"Um. When do you
"Done. Look for
him at the heliopad out at Rock Creek Park, about eight AM, five days
from tonight. Now . . . about Mason . . ."
"You don't much
care for him, do you, Margot? Mr. Krendler?"
"He's a terminal
asshole. You're welcome to him. Though what possible use he could be to
anyone . . . "
"Oh, well, that's
as may be. The lowliest may also serve. Margot, indulge me a moment -
did you use the cattle prod on Mason? As I suggested?"
"Yes. It worked
" . . . oh, my. .
. really, you must forgive me . . . "
"Are you done
second coming? I'm so pleased for you."
first was sufficient. Did anyone ever tell you how crazy you sound when
"Do I? How
strange. What happened then? What about . . . Cordell, was it? Tell
"I killed him with
a farrier's hammer. Near the bar fridge. Two blows."
"Only two? What a
pity. Allow me to make a suggestion. There's a butterfly bandage on his
right eyebrow. Remove it."
epithelial cell samples. Consider it value added."
"Yes indeed. Not a
major injury, he was much faster than he looked, unfortunately. However,
the police will wonder when he would have had time to dress the wound,
so I'd lose that bandage, if I were you. What's next? What about
"Well, after the
cattle prod business - hang on, don't start laughing again yet - see,
Mason had this . . . pet."
"A Muraena Kidako.
The second largest in captivity, he used to like to say."
"No! Truly? A
Brutal Moray? How charming. Did he keep it because of the resemblance,
do you think? They do say people choose pets that reflect their own
appearance. Do go on, Margot. What about the eel?"
"Well, the thing
was huge. I mean, just huge. So I had to use these fish-handling gloves,
you know . . . to . . . "
"Pray don't keep
me in suspense, Margot. You took the eel out of its tank . . . and then
. . . what? Tell me."
"I carried it over
to Mason's bed. It almost got away from me, too. It was fantastically
strong. And slimy? No shit, it's like trying to hang on to an armful of
"Why, I stuffed it
right down that prick's throat, that's what. He was dead in less than
" . . . oh, . . .
Margot, . . . uh, a moment . . ."
"Take your time. I
know you're laughing with me, not at me. But would you mind holding the
phone away from your face a little?"
"Ah, Margot, allow
me to congratulate you! Genius, absolute genius. I'll be absolutely
delighted to take the credit for such a striking conceit, truly I
"Actually, I was
kind of thinking of that. It seemed like something you might do."
have quite surpassed me, I assure you. My! Tell me, did he see it
coming? How did he look? Did he plead with you?"
"Yes, he saw; he
looked pretty much the same as he always did; and yes, he did. Let me
tell you where I put your evidence, now, okay?"
"Ah. Back to
business. Forgive me."
"I guess it's
understandable, considering. Okay, one hair in the fish glove, got
"Yes. Go on."
"Hair and scalp in
the palm of the right hand, the one he could move a little."
"Hmmm. A very
little, I would estimate. Could he have had the strength to attack me
"Yes, if you'd
leaned very close. To talk to him, maybe."
cripple, in his extremity, manages to get in one last futile blow
against his fiendish attacker before he dies. I suppose it has a certain
mawkish appeal. "The Tattler" ought to love it, anyway. I do
have another concern, Margot."
"The autopsy will
reveal the ante-mortem ejaculation. It'll appear to be sexual assault.
The tabloids, of course, would put no manner of depravity past me, but
the FBI is harder to fool. They have extensive profiling materials on my
methods and I must confess, I'm not really known for that sort of thing.
Perhaps I'm a bit naive. It's likely to seem a radical departure, I
"I thought of
that. I took care of it."
"I used a smidge
of the semen."
"I planted it . .
. look, before I go on, could you hold the phone away from you
"Margot - "
"I planted a bit
in Cordell's mouth . . . um, Dr. Lecter? . . . Are you okay? . . . You
sound like you're choking."
"Ah, Margot, you
really are an interesting woman. You'll make an excellent heir to the
Verger fortune, I'm sure of it. I had no idea you could be so inventive.
Or vindictive. You must always nurture that quality in yourself, you
know. It will serve you well, I promise you."
"Thank you. Is
there anything else we need to go over?"
"Judy's shower has
gone on past the critical point, hasn't it? You'd like to finish this
little talk, I suppose. Just when I was enjoying it so much! Ah, well,
you must be busy."
"Yes. And I need
some rest. You must too."
"No rest for the
wicked, Margot. I'm satisfied with the terms if you are."
"Then we're even,
is that right? You won't be coming to call some fine night down the
"Margot, you wound
me, you really do. Only as a purely social call, and never uninvited.
I'd like to see the baby, though, if there is one. Could I do that? Will
you invite me to the christening?"
"Who knows. I
guess I'll have to - if it's a boy, I'm thinking of naming it after you.
If it's okay with Judy, that is."
"Margot, dear! I
am truly, truly touched. I'll be sure and bring a particularly nice
present should my little namesake ever arrive. You do know, I hope, that
I genuinely wish you well?"
"I hope you do. I
wish you well, too, weird as it is. And . . . uh, I hope you won't take
this the wrong way, but I hope things work out with . . . well, you know
who I mean."
"You know, it's
really strange. Mason did us all a big favor in the long run, sending
his goons after you, didn't he? Do you think he can see? Wherever he is
"Margot, God, if
He is out there, will make certain of it. It's just the sort of thing He
most delights in. Let me hear from you in a few months, will you do
that? An ad in the personals, in the 'Tattler'?"
"Yeah, I'll do
that. I really will. Good night, Dr. Lecter. Good luck."
"And to you. Good
The line went dead in
Margot Verger's hand. Judy emerged from the bathroom, rosy and damp,
borne on a puff of warm soapy steam.
"I thought I heard
the phone ringing, Margot," she said. "Who was it?"
number," she said.
copyright 2001, by Nix
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