copyright 2000, by
The characters Dr. Hannibal Lecter, Clarice Starling, Ardelia Mapp, Jack
Crawford and Jame Gumb 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
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Ardelia Mapp was looking forward to spending an
evening with her roommate. Though they’d shared a two-bedroom apartment
since graduation, they rarely got to hang out these days. Their respective
schedules kept them pretty busy.
After Quantico, Ardelia had gotten pegged for a
prestigious assignment to the DC Field Office, whereas Clarice, whose meteoric
rise had completely fizzled, seemed doomed to be Jack Crawford’s personal
yo-yo. Anytime a department needed a peon for some crummy detail, off
Clarice would go. When they didn’t need her any more, back she went to the
Guru’s basement for another stretch in Lecter-land.
In Ardelia’s opinion the quasi assignment was
very unhealthy. Didn’t Crawford see how all that stuff with Lecter had
affected her? Keeping her there, month after month, prevented her from
Ardelia pulled into her parking spot a few
minutes late, having agreed to pick
up some empty calories for their “bourbon and bullshit” party. Clarice
had offered to spring for the liquor, and Ardelia knew that the generosity
masked mistrust for her own thrifty habits. Clarice had become a little
high maintenance since graduation and had certain brand loyalties.
It had definitely been too long since they’d
really had a chance to kick back and catch up, but here it was, Saturday night
and neither of them had anything on for Sunday. They’d agreed to make a
night of it, sleep late in the morning, and have a big brunch in the lazy
afternoon. More than just an opportunity to relax, Ardelia felt a real
need to connect with Clarice again and see what was up with her. She was
worried, and it wasn’t just the poor work. Clarice was getting strange again.
After the whole Gumb incident, well, before that,
really, Clarice changed. The odd... depression had
lasted for months, then seemed to level off. Yes, she still lived like a
nun, and worked like a horse. She’d still seemed remote… but now…
She kept thinking of the heroines in those old
vampire movies… they drifted around all day, pale and listless, but still
infused with an unwholesome inner fire… that described Clarice all right.
And those chicks walked around that way until the vampire closed in and…
Ardelia dismissed the thought from her mind, as
she hefted two shopping bags from the back seat and started in. She determined that she was going to
find out what was up with Clarice tonight, even if she had to lie, cheat and get
her drunk to do it.
To start off, the evening was fun and low key.
After they’d eaten and watched the news, Ardelia put on a CD and Clarice got
out the glasses and the bull session began. For a while Ardelia forgot her
scheme and just enjoyed her friend’s company. They traded old Quantico
stories and caught up on who’d been transferred where and why. Clarice
remembered to ask about Special Agent Marcos, hadn't Ardelia once spoken of him with some
interest? Yes, but by now, she’d learned enough, both of his politics
and his tomcat reputation, and didn’t care for either.
“You got your eye on anyone, Clare?”
Clarice rolled her eyes.
“Believe me, if I meet anyone I’m
interested in, you’ll be the first to know!”
“Hey, I’m just concerned! You work like
crazy and you never go out!”
Clarice said the last four words along with her,
mimicking her tone.
“Okay, okay. I know I bug you
about it a little.”
"A little? I’ve considered hiring an out
of work actor to come over and make noises in my bedroom, just to get you off my
back!” Beneath the humor, Ardelia could hear the genuine annoyance.
"I just want you to be happy, you
“I know,” she said, taking a large sip from
her glass. “Now… get it over with.”
Clarice tossed her head.
“Whatever it is you’re waiting to ambush me
about.” Ardelia marveled at how well Clarice could read her. She
wondered if the reverse was true.
“And hurry up… I wanna get drunk.”
Ardelia decided to back off for the moment. Giving Clarice time to get drunk was an excellent
“Nothing, Girl. Just worried about
“I’m fine, Ardelia. I’m happy in my
own way. So… tell me all about your new Deputy SAC. I’ve been
waiting for the damn GJ for so long now and I’m all out of touch.”
Ardelia would have loved to tell her that Jasper
Wells was thirty, handsome and single, but he was 48, married and somewhere to
the right of J. Edgar Hoover.
After trashing the new D-SAC they moved to
Clarice’s adventures with the ATF and her frustrations in waiting to give a
small but important bit of testimony before a sluggish Grand Jury proceeding.
Though she told it all in an entertaining way, Ardelia silently
cursed Crawford for making her deal with all this crap by not officially putting
her on his staff. It was as if he was ashamed of her.
As they chatted, Ardelia kept an eye on both the
level in Clarice’s glass and the set of her shoulders, both excellent 'tells' to
monitor her tension level. After an hour or so, she decided it was safe
to proceed with her agenda.
“So, what’s next? Back to BSing with
“Ardelia!” she exclaimed, with laughing
reproach. “You know perfectly well that they changed
the name from Behavioral Sciences to Investigative Support! But, yeah, I
She phrased the next question carefully.
Dr. Lecter would always be a touchy subject between them.
“Don’t tell me he’s gonna put you back on
the cold file?”
“C’mon, 'Delia. I like it down
“In the basement.”
“Yeah,” Clarice said musingly. “In
the basement. Story of my life.”
A new tack occurred to Ardelia, and good thing,
too. Relaxed she was, but Clarice was still sharp as a razor. Maybe
if she could get her to bring up the subject things would go smoother.
“Um, Clare?” she said, filling their glasses.
“Yeeesss?” she asked, the word dipping with exaggerated
“I know I promised to lay off the whole love interest
thing… but I was wondering… does Jack ever… you know… come on to you?”
“Christ, you have way too much time on your hands,
“Oh, come on… you two spend all that time
down there and I know you had a crush on him in school. He’s a widower
now and he obviously likes you. You think he thinks about it?”
“Okay,” Clarice said, after a pause. “Yes, he does.”
“Yes?” Ardelia asked excitedly. “Has
anything ever happened?”
“Oh, get serious! What do you think we
do down there, act out 'scripts from 'Young and the Restless'"?
“Well," she paused. "Do you think about it?”
“You sound just like Dr. Lecter.”
Well, Ardelia thought, that didn’t take too
long. An uncomfortable silence followed, and Ardelia pondered on how to
proceed. Clarice seemed suddenly subdued and introspective. She started gently.
“You still think about all that a lot, don’t
“Having those nightmares again?”
Clarice turned sharply.
“They’re not… nearly as bad as they used to be. Don’t start Ardelia,
okay?” She took a large sip. “Let’s just forget it and have a
“I just… look, did something
happened to start all that up again?”
Clarice said nothing.
“Well... the dreams... you being so damned
solitary… it isn’t good for you!”
“Thank you, Mama,” she said curtly.
“Hey, don’t be that way.”
Clarice crossed her arms truculently over her chest.
“I’m exercising my constitutional right to
Ardelia decided on a strategic retreat to the
bathroom… maybe a minute alone would help. She got up.
“Okay… I… I’ll be right back.”
Ardelia spent own her moment of privacy
marshalling her faculties. No one was more stubborn than Clarice.
Whatever she said next, she’d have to be careful.
Back in the living room, she found that Clarice
hadn’t thawed. She sat, knees tucked under her, watching CNN and
didn’t look up when Ardelia entered.
She picked up the remote and pressed “Mute”.
“Do you mind?”
“Clare, come on! Talk to me!
Something has happened, hasn’t it? Tell me! Has Lecter…?”
Clarice up sharply, and guilt flashed in her
eyes. Ardelia didn’t need
“Oh, shit, Clarice! When? What did
he say, what did Crawford say, why didn’t you tell me?”
“Ardelia,” she warned, taking the remote from her, but Ardelia stepped into the path of its beam.
“Was it bad?” She waited. “Clare?”
When Ardelia didn’t give ground Clarice put the remote
down and sat back, mute herself, and sipped calmly. Ardelia suddenly realized the import of
what she wasn’t saying.
“He sent something and you didn’t turn it
You’ve gotta be kidding me! When did you get it? Where is it?
What’d it say?”
The defiant mask gave nothing.
didn’t show it to Crawford? What are you thinking, Clarice?”
“It wasn’t for Mr. Crawford.”
Ardelia felt nausea crawl in her belly and it
wasn’t related to alcohol consumption.
“Please, Clarice… “ Her voice sounded small.
“Tell me you’re just getting back at me for nagging you. Please! Tell me you’re
Clarice raised her chin, and appraised her, impassively.
“I’m joking,” she said flatly and without
a trace of candor. “Now let’s leave it at that.”
She rose and gestured to the hallway.
Ardelia reeled. She knew more about her
friend’s true feelings than she let on… like the dreams that weren’t
always nightmares… but the fact that Clarice could actually enjoy dreaming
about him was even more unhealthy than the worst night terrors could
be. Clarice was attracted, fatally so, in Ardelia’s mind, to Hannibal
Lecter. Their encounters had fascinated her on some primal level that
Ardelia was unable to comprehend. And it wasn’t just attraction.
She acted like the whole thing was some mystical experience. All that was frightening
enough, but this…
She heard water running and tried to gather her
wits, which were blurred with sudden fear.
If she’s concealing a letter she’s way more far-gone than you thought. She could
She tried to shed the disloyal thought as she
heard Clarice leave the bathroom. Maybe there was still something she
A moment later, Ardelia heard her rummaging
through the cluttered desk in her bedroom.
Thank God! She’s going to get it and show
it to me. Alright, Girl! Maybe it’s not too late.
But when Clarice returned she held, not a letter,
but a crumpled pack of cigarettes. She plucked a saucer from the drainer on her way
through the kitchen. Ardelia had quietly disposed of all the ashtrays
when, two months ago, Clarice had promised to quit smoking in the house.
“Oh,” Clarice exclaimed, dropping to the
couch. She spoke as if picking up the former thread. As if
nothing had happened. “You won’t believe
what that idiot from DEA said the other day! Get this!”
“Now you know this guy’s number two on
NOW’s Male Chauvinist Pig Hit Parade, right behind Paul Krendler, right?
So he comes up behind me and…”
“Damn it! You cannot be thinking I’m gonna
pretend this conversation never happened!”
The animation drained from Clarice’s face; she
looked tired, and a little sad.
“It’s not a good idea,
Ardelia,” she said, reasonably. “and it won’t change
anything. You’re my friend and I don’t want
this to come between us. Just leave it alone.”
“Clarice!” Ardelia shouted. “You’re
a Federal Agent carrying on a correspondence with an escaped serial killer!
Are you crazy?”
“I suppose I’m splitting hairs, but I’m not
carrying on a correspondence. I haven’t answered them.”
“Them!” she exploded! “Jesus!
“Does it matter?”
“Where are they?”
“They’re safe. They’re not here.
“Don’t worry? That’s it?”
“Stop, Ardelia. There’s nothing here
that’s traceable to him. No handwriting, no postmarks, no
“In other words you’ve destroyed everything
that could have helped trace him!”
“He’s not stupid, Ardelia. And neither
“No? You could ‘a fooled me!
Clarice… what the hell could he say to make you turn your back on everything
you’ve ever cared about, ‘cause I’d like to know!”
“It’s private, Ardelia. Meant only for
“That’s it? That’s all you’ve got
“If you want it clearer than that, you force me
to be rude.” She filled her glass. “It’s none of your fucking
business. Happy now?” She tilted the bottle in her
direction. “Would you like…?
Ardelia pushed her hand hard and would have knocked
the bottle to the floor if Clarice had not reacted quickly.
“Look! You’ve got a cannibal serial
killer who’s apparently as obsessed with you as you are with him. Tell
me that doesn’t fucking terrify you?”
“No, it doesn’t.”
“Then you must be as insane as he is!”
“Just stop it!” Ardelia screamed, grabbing
Clarice’s shoulders roughly, ignoring a splash of whiskey spreading
on her thigh. “Stop this fucking, coy,
I’ve-got-a-secret shit! This isn’t a note from the
quarterback in your goddamned locker! You’re telling me you’re in love
with a serial killer!”
“No…” she said, removing Ardelia’s hands
from her firmly. “That's what you're telling me.” She leaned
forward and crushed out a partially drenched cigarette. The acrid smell
pinched Ardelia's nose as Clarice calmly dried her hand with a napkin from
dinner. “In fact, you’ve been yelling about it for the last ten minutes.”
She turned the napkin over, refolded it, and dabbed at the spreading stain on
the couch beside her. “I really think you out to get out
"Now," she lit another cigarette,
inhaling deeply, "do you want to get back to a pleasant conversation?”
“Why not?” she said, tersely, staring at
Clarice through a veil of smoke. “I’ve
got one hell of a topic for you…”
“Ardelia… ” Now there was genuine warning
in her tone.
“All right. Look…” she said,
desperate to stay calm and keep Clarice talking. “You've gotta see that he’s manipulating you. I’ll tell you why you
haven’t answered his letters! You’re protecting him! God, Clare!
I know all that shit traumatized you but I never took you for a fool!”
“I’m not a fool, Ardelia.”
“Then why can’t you see there’s something wrong
with you? You’re obsessed with a twisted piece of human garbage! He’s
just like every other serial killer, no matter how fucking polite he is!
And you’re playing the victim! Playing right into his hands!
“You’ve said enough. You have no idea
what you’re talking about.”
“Oh, and you do? You’re risking your
life, you know that?”
“Dr. Lecter doesn’t want to hurt me. I’ve
told you that.”
“Yeah, right! Look, listen to me… even
if that’s true, and I’m not saying it is… but just to play devil’s
advocate… Dr. Lecter will never do anything worse than send you roses…”
Contempt showed on her face, and she braced
against Clarice’s strange eyes… hurt and hard at the same time.
“So what? He’s on the goddamned Ten
Most Wanted! You’re in danger of losing everything you’ve worked for,
all your life!"
“Don’t you think I know that?” she asked,
“Then why don’t you stop? Turn them in
tomorrow, we’ll think of something…”
“You can’t understand, Ardelia,” she said,
seeming terribly sober. “I won’t even try to explain it, I can't.”
“Clarice, you have to… ”
“It isn’t your decision.”
Ardelia felt fury heat her face.
Clarice’s lack of shame, of… self-defense… was a complete affront to her.
“That it? You’re just going to keep
corresponding with him?”
“I told you, I’m...”
“Yeah,” she said, with all the considerable
sarcasm at her command. “You also told me you weren’t obsessed with
him, that you weren’t in love with him!”
Clarice didn’t look up, nor did she look away,
and Ardelia dropped to a crouch to meet her eyes… she didn’t like what she
saw one bit.
She thought Clarice might actually be relieved to
have it out.
“My God. You don't even deny it anymore."
“What would be the point?”
“You’re in love with Hannibal Lecter?”
“I suppose that’s what you’d call it.”
“What’s happened to you?
You’re sick, Clarice. Mentally ill.”
“So,” her eyes glittered with amusement, “you’re saying I need a good psychiatrist?”
“Clarice I am deadly fucking serious here!”
“So am I. Shut up, Ardelia.
You’re boring me.”
As upset as she was, these words shocked her.
She’d expected Clarice to get angry, but this was so damned… creepy.
“Look, if you don’t care about
yourself, at least care about me! You’re just going to drag me right
down with you? I know about this… I’m a party to it!”
Clarice gave her a small, unsettling smile.
“Forgive me… I won’t force my confidence on
“My God, you’re even beginning to sound like
“I’m tired… "
She rose, and despite Ardelia's proximity, she
did not touch her. She picked up the bottle of Jack Daniels.
"I’m going to bed.”
“Clarice, you can’t do this!”
“Goodnight, Ardelia.” She turned to go.
Ardelia was close to panic. Her best friend
was going down for the third time and she had to try something. She was fully
aware that she was about to play a dangerous card now. Not dangerous because of
Clarice’s reaction, but because she might learn something she really didn’t
want to know.
“Please, wait. Don’t you realize
you’re putting me in danger?”
Clarice stopped, but didn’t turn around.
“What if he just happens to drop by here one
night, huh? Maybe he won’t be coming to hurt you, but what about me?
You think he’d let me live, Clare?
Ardelia clamped down on a chill as Clarice turned
to her. Her eyes were ice, and the fingers holding the glass were white
“You know I'd have to try to apprehend
him. You don’t think you can control him, do you?”
She watched her friend’s hand tighten on the
glass still more, until she was certain it would shatter.
“Or don’t you even care?” Ardelia was
crying now. “Maybe I'll make a nice romantic dinner for the two of you.”
She imagined shards of glass bursting in
“Clarice, do you realize if he tells you about
some murder, that makes you an accessory after the fact?”
She could almost see the blood soaking into the
carpet, but something compelled her to continue, even though, mentally, she was
already dialing 911. Maybe if she could drive the madness home to Clarice
it might just save her and a badly cut hand was a small price to pay.
“You’d be like his accomplice, do you
The glass didn’t break, but suddenly Ardelia
was certain she was going to throw it at her… and she wouldn’t have
missed… there was deadly accuracy in her eyes.
“Clarice! It’d be just a bad as if you
were actually with him!”
Later, she realized that it would have been
better if Clarice had thrown the glass. But she only set it gently on the
coffee table, with nothing but a kiss of glass on glass to punctuate her last
word. Then she was gone, and the quiet, controlled sound of her door
closing seemed loud and final in her ears.
Ardelia sat where she was for a long time.
She was thinking about those last sounds, and more, about her friend's final words.
She replayed them in her head, over and over, trying, and failing, to hear
something in them other than that simple, terrible message.
“Well, then. Maybe I should be.”
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