World's a Stage
copyright 2001, by
The characters Dr. Hannibal Lecter, Clarice Starling and Jack Crawford
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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is in the darkest hour of night, at three of the clock, when those souls
who long for sleep and are denied wrestle with the demons of their
conscience. Jack Crawford is no stranger to this hour. The streetlight
outside his house casts familiar shadows on the pall of his bedroom.
Bella’s chenille robe still hangs from the back of the door.
of the past perform behind his lidded eyes, engaged in a black comedy
that only he, the author, fully understands. Will Graham’s screams
echo from the bottom of a pit. The ragged sockets where his eyes used to
be drip tears of ichor. Francis Dolarhyde parades about in the costume
of a Chinese dragon, unaware his tail is gone. Dr. Frederick Chilton,
wearing rags of tattered finery sits alone at a marble table, eating
slime and begging for more. Jame Gumb hangs above, suspended from a
wire, his gossamer wings on fire. And Clarice Starling stands stage
center, dressed in garments of black and white, lost in the middle of a
chessboard. Her face is a ghastly gray. A troupe of archers surrounds
the board, arrows trained on her heart.
the stage in a well-appointed box sits a figure. The gentleman’s face
glows from the eerie lights illuminating the proscenium. Slowly, his
hands move in faint, staccato applause. He leans over the edge of the
box and says in his perfect diction, “Well done, Jackie Boy. But
we’ll have to wait and see what the final act will bring.”
looks up at the figure from his spot in the orchestra pit. Hannibal
Lecter smiles down upon him. The Doctor holds up a manila file. “You
see, so much depends upon the ending. And these actors have been known
licks dry lips. His voice will barely pass through a throat closed with
tension. “You’re on, Doctor,” he whispers. The sound carries in
the perfect acoustics of the theatre of his mind.
shrill of a telephone jerks him out of his reverie. His hand, slick with
sweat, fumbles for the receiver. Lifting it to his ear, he hears the
story of the discovery of Krendler’s body. A sheaf of hair,
tentatively assumed to be Starling’s, was found in the refrigerator
door. Signs of a struggle are evident in the kitchen. As of yet, they
have found no trace of Lecter’s whereabouts, or of his presumed
victim. His presence is required in the office immediately. Assistant
Director Noonan wishes to speak with him at once. “Aw, hell, Jack,”
says the caller. “This has got to be a bitch for you. I know this
isn’t exactly the best time. If I can do anything to help……” The
voice trails away.
no, I’ll be okay,” grates Crawford. “Gimme a few minutes to get
dressed and I’ll be right there.”
is little traffic at 3 a.m., and Crawford is unfortunately free to
design scenarios in his mind. He wonders about the dénouement of this
evening, sick and desperate to know what ending his protégée has
wrought. Mostly, though, he ponders what it must be like to be free. It
has been so long…… even Lecter has tasted more freedom, he thinks.
Lecter has no dark secrets, no hidden flaws. He is unafraid to face the
world exactly as he is. Maybe that is why I hate him so much.
at Quantico, Crawford is quickly briefed and taken to Noonan’s office.
The Assistant Director looks at him sadly. “I’m sorry, Jack. But you
and I both know what a strain you’ve been under. It wouldn’t look
bad to anyone if you quietly backed out of this and took your retirement
a little early. You could do some consulting work…… with Starling
gone and Graham back in the hospital, you are our primary resident
expert on Lecter, and that won’t change. Whaddaya say, Jack?”
kind look on Noonan’s face starts a fire of anger burning in
Crawford’s belly. “Give me three days, and if there haven’t been
any breaks in the case yet, well, I guess I’ll take your advice.”
Crawford allows his voice to sound a little as if he is begging.
“I’ve just got to give it one more shot, Peter.”
sighs, and spreads his hands over the desk. “Okay, Jack. But you’ve
got three days. After that, I want to have your resignation in my
suppresses a surge of excitement. “Whatever you say. Thanks.” He
gives Noonan a tight good ol’ boy handshake and quickly exits the
room. He is almost jogging on his way through the corridors and stairs
back to the basement of Behavioral Science. On the way, he cannot help
but to remember Lecter as he first had seen him. A respected
psychiatrist, a leader in his field, a dark and elegant figure who was
charming and personable. Up to a point, anyway. Not for the first time,
Jack curses the day he met him.
in his own office, he drops himself into the old familiar chair and puts
on a cardigan to ward of the chill of early morning. The years have not
been kind to his joints, and they often ache in the cool damp of the
underground facility. Taking a small key from his wallet, he opens the
right hand drawer in his desk. From it he pulls a small envelope. The
linen-fiber paper inside reads,
all has gone well you’ll know it by our conspicuous absence, and the
even more conspicuous presence of a colleague. No, I won’t tell you
I ask of you only one more thing. Route the search away from my
Firenze. I’ve made it easy for you by planting a few clues in
different directions. They should not be hard to find. But you’ve a
talent for creating clever young pups, and I don’t want their noses
on my trail before I’ve had a chance to wash off the dirt of the
States. Use your acumen to persuade them away. I’ll only need a few
days. Think you can handle that, Jack?
find I must thank you again for this gift, by far the best yet. I
didn’t know you had it in you, Jack. But weren’t you tempted? No,
of course not. I’d almost forgotten. But I’m sure you haven’t.
Why does it matter so much to you? Ah, well, if you’d felt like
telling me you would have done so long ago.
you are successful, you will receive that which you seek in one
feels the pangs of guilt stab his stomach. Reaching for his ever-present
Rolaids, he replaces the letter and locks the drawer. Wearily, he bends
over his desk, starting the paperwork and crafting the vision that will
lead the brightest young minds in the F.B.I. on a wild goose chase to
Paris. It is not difficult. Crawford laughs bitterly. It has not been
for nothing that he has been section chief all these years. He was the
best of them all once, better than Clarice, certainly. Even better than
Will Graham. Before Lecter……
shakes his head sourly. A lot of things were different before Lecter.
Dwelling on the past would not help him now. Not that it mattered……
He thought about Lecter’s question. Why does this secret still haunt
me? Bella is gone; I’ll be out of the Bureau soon. There is no one
left to care. No one but me.
is the foundation of all sin, Jack.” He hears the Doctor’s voice
inside his mind. He was younger then, the timbre less rich, but the
razor sharpness was still present under the velvet vowels.
late for choices now, Crawford tells himself. This is life, not dress
rehearsal. The players are already in their places. Hell, the curtain is
about to fall. All I can do now is watch.
folds his arms on the desk and drifts into a troubled sleep.
Crawford is still in his pajamas, though the clock reads three in the
afternoon. There is no reason to dress, no stimulus to jerk him out of
his sloth. He sits at the kitchen table, holding the newspaper. The
headline reads “LECTER STILL AT LARGE.” A large photo of the Doctor
from his prison days graces the front page. A smaller picture of
Starling lies below the fold.
sound of a truck pulling up causes Crawford’s heart to skip a beat. As
he races to the door, he sees the FedEx driver through the window. Acid
pours into his stomach. He greets the man, signs for the medium-size
package, and resists the urge to slam the door shut. He closes it
calmly, unworriedly, then shoots the bolt and hurries back to the
kitchen. Placing the package on the counter, he grabs a knife and slices
through the tape. Packing peanuts fountain onto the floor as he lifts a
bulky manila file out of the box.
through the peanuts, he takes the file to the table, sits down, and
breathes heavily for a moment. A shiver goes up his spine as he opens
the cover. Atop a stack of yellowing papers is an envelope of fine
parchment. A warm, familiar scent rises to his nose. He takes the
envelope into his hand, rips it open with callous disregard for the
quality of the presentation, and begins to read.
myself would have considered this payment in full. But when I asked
Clarice for her opinion –– oh, dear, I do hope you understand that
I had to tell her –– she felt that a small stipend should be paid
on her behalf as well. So I hope you enjoy the photo she insisted I
enclose. I know you will keep it to yourself.
trust all is in order between us now. Thank you again for your many
years of service. I remain,
most amused admirer,
dares not even glance at the photo that had fallen into his lap. He
shuffles quickly through the papers, ensuring that everything is there.
And it is. Every piece of correspondence over the last twenty-five years
is neatly stacked. At the bottom of the pile are the records from when a
young Crawford, desperate to solve his problem yet afraid that the
Bureau would discover it, sought treatment from an as-yet-unknown
psychiatrist in Baltimore. Close enough to be reasonably convenient, and
far enough away that no one who knew him could possibly walk into the
waiting room of the small clinic where Lecter had treated him for the
impotence that had nearly shattered his marriage.
long sigh of delayed relief issues from Crawford’s mouth. Lecter had
been unsuccessful in his attempts to solve the problem, and Crawford had
lived in fear that someday, someone from the Bureau would discover that
he was less than a man. A slippery slope that became deadly when Lecter
began blackmailing Crawford with the information. Only a section chief,
Crawford had had limited power to aid Lecter during his incarceration,
but he had managed to slip the Doctor a few tidbits here and there. Some
good books, better music, an occasional gourmet meal, the chance to
revenge himself on Graham, the sterling young mind of an innocent girl.
Never enough, though, to fully satisfy Lecter’s taste. Not until the
fiasco in Memphis. Crawford almost smiled at the recollection. That had
been a delicate piece of work, to engineer the circumstances that made
possible Lecter’s escape while all the time seeming to fight it madly.
Crawford had thought that would be the end. He had not foreseen that
Lecter would become quite so taken with Starling.
yes, Starling. Crawford had known at once that she would make an
excellent installment payment on his debt of shame, once he had
convinced himself that he could not rise to the occasion himself. Even
Clarice, he thought, no matter how much he lusted for her in his heart,
could make his renegade body perform.
remembers the photo then, and his cheeks burn. How like Lecter to tell
Starling the whole story, to disgrace him in front of the one person who
still cared for him. She would hate him now, that’s certain.
picks up the picture from his lap. Gazing upon the lurid depiction, he
feels the breath stop in his chest. Clarice, naked, flushed with sex,
looks directly into the camera lens. Her auburn hair is disheveled in
the throes of passion, falling like a veil over her peaky breasts.
Between her legs a dark head rests, his face shiny with her wetness.
Hannibal Lecter is smiling, and it is not a nice smile.
the first time in more than thirty years, Jack Crawford feels the
insistent surge of an erection press against his pajamas. Furtively, he
looks around, as if there could be anyone there to see him. Sliding a
hand under his waistband, he begins to stroke himself, slowly at first,
then faster and harder as the excitement builds. In barely longer than a
moment, he is done, the semen dampening the crotch of his pajama
bottoms. He turns the picture over then, not surprised to see an
inscription in Clarice’s hand.
“Poor Jack,” it
reads. “At least when Hannibal fucks me, I know I’m being
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