It took an enormous amount of willpower to keep Graham from ordering one, two, three vodka shots from the flight attendant. He dry washed his hands, while Starling kept flipping through an airline magazine without actually reading the words. The nerves of both were frazzled. Fortunately the first class compartment was deserted, and it turned out to be even more fortunate really that those were the only seats available. There had been some hassle at the counter about the guns, but Clarice managed finally to quell the security people's fears by telling them that she and Graham were ex-FBI retainer agents, fully licensed to carry firearms in any part of the country, and that this was the matter of top secret internal affairs. Clarice tossed a few other important sounding phrases, flashed the badges and they managed to catch the plane five minutes before takeoff.
"They're probably already dead," Graham said in an undertone, his eyes wide and distressed. He continued to dry wash his hands.
"I don't think so. That isn't what he's after," Clarice said softly, taking Graham's hand and patting it gently.
"How do you know? Look at my face, Clarice. He did that!"
"Because," Clarice said, her hand shaking over his, but her voice rock-steady. "He wants to needle me more than he wants to kill you. Or your family."
"How can you possibly know that?" Graham asked weakly, falling back against the cushiony leather.
"Instinct," she replied. "Besides, do you think if I had it all wrong about him, I'd still be alive?"
"He tried to kill me."
"You put him in custody, of course he tried to kill you. It's all about quid pro quo with him."
"This for that. I'll give him fucking this for that," Graham growled, turning towards the window. He didn't speak another word until they had landed at SeaTac airport.
Molly's eyes rolled as she opened them. She felt disoriented and nauseous, and the ropes binding her to the chair were cutting off some of the circulation. A gel compress had been strapped to the back of her neck. She could not see Willy anywhere, but could hear rustling behind her and suspected that her son had arrived to a similar situation. Twisting her head as far as she could manage, Molly caught sight of the wires strapped to the floor with electrical tape that lead up to a small device with a metal antenna on it. Several LED lights embedded in its matte black face flickered on and off, but she couldn't make out the labels beneath them.
A cold wet towelette pressed against her forearm, and before she could even gather the presence of mind to look up, a needle slipped into her flesh and slowly injected its contents into her veins. Blue eyes, pupils illuminated by red pinpricks of light held her vision as it slowly returned to black.
Somewhere in the darkness, Molly could hear the smooth wood-like notes of Bach's Cello Suite no. 1. With the LED lights flashing just behind her closed eyelids, the music sang her back to sleep.
A few well chosen words had a far greater effect on the Enterprise car rental place than the Erie Airport officials. Graham seized the early morning ferry schedule, and grabbed a couple of bottled frappaccinos while Clarice handled the transaction. In no time at all, they were back on the road in a mid sized sedan, tearing along I-90 towards Seattle. Clarice drove while Graham slept, unable to maintain the adrenaline level that was consuming him. He woke briefly when they boarded the ferry to the peninsula, but then fell back to sleep. Clarice left him in the car and went up to the passenger deck to get some breakfast.
She wasn't hungry, but she knew she'd need the energy later. Her stalwart companion would need it, too. She promised herself she would deliver some sandwiches down to the car soon, but for now she needed to get some air.
The grip texture of the exterior ferry deck was painted a shade somewhere between green and blue, and yet managed to hold all the lustre of military gray. Clarice wove through a few Australian tourists and made her way to the bow, the wind whipping her hair. It had been two days since she had a shower, she reflected. She grasped the railing and looked out at the mist covered waves, feeling the spray as it rolled off them and clung to her pale skin. She closed her eyes and imagined that she was asleep and dreaming, flying along the waves while the wind wrapped its icy arms around her, pressing its fierce little kisses to her face.
In an instant, the memory returned. Though her skin was whipped numb by the cold northwest wind, she could feel those lips pressing softly against hers, his tongue flickering out to explore the tight crease her lips formed as they pressed together.
Clarice clapped a hand to her mouth, a great gasping sob rising up through her. She fought to stifle it, turning on her heel and ran back into the warmth of the ferry interior. The vibrating pulse of the engines tickled the soles of her feet through her shoes, and she was grateful, for the thrum of the machine was grounding. Pulling her shabby winter coat tighter around her shoulders, she made her way back to the pretentiously named 'bistro' to buy a sandwich for Graham, and another cup of coffee for herself.
Nursing her latte, Clarice huddled on one of the uncomfortable plastic benches and stared out the dirty window at the approaching storm. Ten minutes later, the announcement went out that they were nearing their destination and all drive-on passengers were to return to their cars. As she clicked down the narrow stairwell to the car deck with the rest of the mob, the feeling of paralysis was starting to evaporate. She made her way over to the sedan, unlocked the door and got behind the wheel. Graham blinked sleepily at her, stifling a yawn.
"Just about," she said quickly, handing him the sandwich. "Here, I picked this up at the deli."
Graham contemplated the sandwich for a moment, not quite remembering to do with it, before tearing into the saran wrap with his fingers, and taking a bite.
"Thanks," he muttered after swallowing.
"Don't mention it," Clarice said, starting the engine as the ferry neared the dock.
Time was beginning to catch up to them. The mist that had begun to accumulate over Puget Sound had moved in, spreading through the Strait of Juan de Fuca. It being a winter's day and already substantially dark, the fog crawling over the highway blocked out everything a few feet away from the hood of the car. Clarice flicked on the hi-beams while Graham returned to the distracting task of cleaning the firearms. Despite this, he knew that his tongue would probably be the best weapon for dealing with Lecter. If he lived long enough.
As they rounded a bend, Dungeness spit loomed into view, spanning over the water like some malformed arm reaching through the clouds. Sea birds wheeled and called, their voices tolling back like seashore bells.
Graham heaved a sigh, breathing in the thick cold air.
"Ah, to feel fog on my face, and death in my throat."
Clarice gently pressed her foot against the break, and slowed the car to a noiseless stop. The fatigue donning ritual was repeated, neither she nor Graham bothering to make comment on the feeling of deja vu. It was soon overtaken with dread and excitement as they marched the hundred yards through the narrow band of woods. Before stepping out from under the cover of the trees, Clarice muttered to Graham.
"Let me go through the door first. If he sees me first..." she trailed off. Biting his lip, Graham nodded, remembering what Lecter had said over the phone.
Standing upright and leading the way, Clarice hurried across the patio to the unlocked screen door. Graham set his foot on the spring to keep it from creaking, shutting it silently behind them. Unlike Murdock, Willy's bungalow was kept in fine polished order. Low lighting flattered the cedar trimmed kitchen, giving everything a comfortable glow. Passing by the counter, they crept into the dining room, upon whence Molly and Willy's unconscious and bound forms, tied back to back to chairs, became visible. Graham opened his mouth to call their names, but Clarice grasped his arm and he quickly fell silent. "Molly," Clarice hissed. "Molly, can you hear me?"
Molly stirred, but gave no other indication of consciousness. Her head lolled back against her son's. A thick pack was slung around her neck, full of what looked horribly like plastic explosive. Graham jerked suddenly behind her, and she heard the sound of his revolver skidding across the floor. Behind him, dressed quite casually in a steel grey cable knit sweater, was Dr. Hannibal Lecter, holding a low voltage tazer in one hand, and a chunky black cell phone in the other.
"How kind of you to drop in, Clarice," he said softly, in a confiding voice. Eyes widening with horror, Clarice took a step back, raising her gun and aiming it squarely at Lecter's heart.
"Don't a fool. He's in no danger," he chided, tilting his head with an amiable smile.
"Put down the weapons, Dr. Lecter, or so help me God, I will shoot you," Clarice ordered, voice quavering with shock. Lecter chuckled softly, and took a step forward, to which Clarice automatically took a step back.
"Clarice, surely you're not still labouring under the delusion that He will help you."
"I'll shoot you just the same."
"Will is in no danger," Lecter repeated, and then held up the little black detonator and nodded towards his captives. "But they are."
A click. Graham had gotten hold of his revolver. Coughing, he lifted it, aiming it at Lecter from the floor.
"Let them go, you son of a bitch." He growled, trying in vain to lift himself to his feet. Lecter smiled infuriatingly, stepping past Clarice and Graham, completely unmindful of the handguns trained on him.
"No," he said calmly, leaning against the dining room table. "Quid pro quo, Will. I think you know what I want."
"No," he choked, voice full of protest.
"Will, what the hell is he talking about?"
"Allow me to bring you up to speed, Ex-Agent Starling," Lecter drawled, flipping the small detonator in his hand. On the table, LED lights flickered threateningly the router wired to the packs of explosives affixed to Molly and Willy's neck.
"I have here two individuals for whom Will Graham values very highly," Lecter continued, licking his lips. "Both of whom have liberal amounts of commercial Semtex slung around their necks, assuredly enough to take their heads right off. I believe Will understood my indication that an equally gruesome fate awaited his wife and step child had he failed to bring you along, Clarice."
"Oh my God," Clarice whispered. "All this just to get to me?"
"I rather think anything less wouldn't have been quite effective. Now," Lecter said briskly. "As enjoyable as this whole experience has been, I would rather like to get moving along, Will."
"I..." Graham looked at his sleeping wife, and then back at Clarice, completely bemused.
Clarice glanced around at the windows and doors, and felt her shoulders sag. Lecter watched her, a soft hiss of exhaled breath issuing from his lips.
"That's right, Clarice. You know the only possible course of action, don't you," he purred.
Yes, I do.
Slowly, Clarice bent down and placed her weapon on the glossy hardwood floor.
"Clarice, what are you doing..." Graham murmured disbelievingly. She cast him a look of regret, and then slowly crossed the threshold, lips tight and chin thrust forward as she stared defiantly up at Lecter. His lips parted for a moment, and he reached out to brush a loose strand of hair from her sweaty face. She looked away. Graham watched in morbid fascination, his hands shaking as he lowered the gun.
"What do you want me to do?" he asked weakly, defeated.
"Nothing too taxing, I shouldn't think. I'll be bringing this little detonator along with me to ensure our Clarice's good behaviour. It has a range of ten miles, so let's say in three hours I will disarm it."
"How do I know you're telling the truth?"Graham asked, searching Lecter's inscrutable expression.
"You don't," Lecter said, unconcerned, and then glanced his Rolex. "Shall we synchronize our watches? I make it two hours, fifty seven minutes and twenty seven seconds..."
Graham gently dropped the gun on the floor before Lecter could finish his sentence, and backed away, holding his hands in the air.
"Very good," Lecter said, his voice full of condescension. He turned to Clarice. "Shall we?"
Lips tight, Clarice walked directly through the front door, head held high. Lacing her fingers behind her head, she stepped out onto the front porch with her arms raised like an arrestee. She didn't need to look to know Lecter was following her.
"Put your hands down, Clarice, I don't need you drawing attention to yourself by acting like I'm marching you off the plank at gun point," he hissed into her ear. Eyes full of resentment, she lowered her arms.
"Get rid of the fatigue jacket, and take my arm, Clarice," he continued as they made their way down the gravel driveway, closer and closer to the road. Burning with frustration, she took his arm loosely, trying not to touch him. As they got to the gravel shoulder, Lecter snaked an arm around her waist and pulled her close, smiling brightly to a truck driver as he pulled to a stop so they could cross the highway.
"Where are we going?" Clarice asked as Lecter calmly led her down a steep path.
"Nowhere in particular."
Clarice felt a sharp sting, and went to slap her arm, thinking it was a bee.
Bemused, she watched Lecter, who looked at her sympathetically.
"I do apologize, Clarice, but I really can't have you attempting anything heroic."
Clarice frowned, feeling the world before her start to spin. She looked down at her arm, and saw the slim hypodermic needle quivering as it stood out from her arm. Lecter carefully withdrew it, and gently caressed her cheek with the cold edge of the metal plunger. After she was completely unconscious, he hefted her prone from in his arms and carried her the rest of the way down the path.
After two hours had passed, Will Graham finally ventured to call the bomb squad, the FBI, the Seattle Police, the state troopers, the national guard and anyone else he could get hold of. Willy and Molly were freed in short order, sedated and airlifted to Harborview Medical Center to be thoroughly examined by the staff there. Graham followed shortly after joining in the search for Hannibal Lecter, but it seemed like he had disappeared off the face of the earth, and taken Clarice Starling with him.
After a bit of bureaucratic fuss, and then some absolutely enraged screaming from ex-Agent Graham, and Dr. Lecter was elevated to the top of the Ten Most Wanted List for the second time in two years. Failure to recapture him brought pressure down on the Bureau and the
federal government right along with it.
Tabloids began screaming that Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling had eloped together. Conspiracy theorists railed that he had escaped to Russia to help rebuild the soviet empire. Some unbalanced individuals called into local police stations claiming that they were the doctor himself.
Once the manhunt for Dr. Lecter had officially begun, Graham was cordially invited to lead. For once he put aside his qualms about the FBI, feeling he owed no less to the woman who had given herself over to the devil for his family. A month after the search had started, Graham received a letter, postmarked Denver by a re-mailing service. A few fingerprints were found on the letter itself (it wasn't opened until a thorough x-ray scan had been conducted) and the handwriting analysis test came back positive on former Special Agent Starling.
I can't say all that I would like to here, but I want to confirm that I am in good health. I know it's pointless to tell you not to worry, but there are things I must tell you: I must now resume the hunt and I can't share it with you, the FBI or anyone else for reasons I can't entirely explain. I can't take the risk that something will happen to you or your family again, or someone else's family. Trust that I am doing all I can to finish what we set out to do. Hopefully I will be able to put this all to rest as soon as possible, but in the mean time, here's some advice that the guru once gave me, and probably gave you too at one point: sometimes you have to play it their way. Whether it's the criminals in striped jumpsuits or the criminals in pinstriped Armani suits, in order to stay true to the goal, you must sacrifice some of your soul.
No one comes out of our line of business and remains pure, Will, me least of all. Though I am ashamed, I know what I have to do in order to stay true to my goal. Thank you for all the help that you've given me.
Clarice M. Starling
Graham stared at the letter for long moments. He brought it up to his mouth, and inhaled the scent of the featureless paper. It smelled...very faintly...of French cologne.