By Adrian Tullberg.
The young man walked down the dank basement passage.
The inhabitants of the barred cells stared at him, or hissed their rantings.
He honestly didn't hear them. All his attention was focussed on the cell at the end of the hall, distinctive due to shatterproof Plexiglas installed in lieu of metal.
The inhabitant was standing, serenely smiling. However, the eyes framing that smile studied the man like a specimen on a slide.
"Bruce. How nice to see you again."
"Please sit down."
Bruce sat on the cold plastic chair, expertly pulling up the pants of his bespoke Italian suit, his eyes not leaving Lecter's for an instant.
Lecter didn't sit. Apart from the slight incline of his head to meet Bruce's expression, he didn't even move.
"It's been a long time Bruce. How are you?"
"I don't know Lecter. Why don't you tell me?"
A subtle shake, tsk-tsking under his breath. "Dear me, Bruce. So quick to draw the line in the sand. So eager to start battle." Lecter took one measured step closer to the glass. "I still get the newspapers. You've traveled so far, for so long. And you've learned so much since we last met."
"Yes. Your name crops up now and again - a trashed hotel suite here, a drunken outburst there. Rather calculated, don't you think? Each event precisely timed for a social season, or just before and after a long absence from the spotlight." His smile flicked downwards for a split second. "The Berlin Philharmonic was in Paris, playing one of the definitive works of Wagner with some of the most celebrated violinists in our time, and you weren't even there, were you? Busy studying some of the more distinctive class of people instead. How they looked, how they acted, how they thought."
"Wagner can get a bit pretentious, Doctor."
"No, that's not what gets the blood going, does it, Bruce. It's the hunt. It's finding those who offend that sensibility of his, and making sure that they suffer the consequences. I can appreciate that sentiment Bruce. After all - I shared that with your father."
Bruce swallowed. He wouldn't give him the satisfaction. "He ... he wanted to fund the clinic."
"A little hospice for the downtrodden, the low income bracket. He could have given that grant to artists, musicians, people of breadth and scope and vision..." Lecter's voice hardened "... instead, he gave the masses even further ability to grow, to fuck, to shit, and to die, and allow their waste of children to do more of the same."
Bruce willed his fist to open. It was more difficult than he thought.
"Your father never appreciated that it's not the quantity of lives, but the quality of lives saved." The smile perked up. "When I fried his liver and served it to his closest friends, I hope that crossed his mind at least once."
"I promise you Lecter, you're going to rot in that little box."
The eyes moved for the first time, into a gaze of amusement.
"I expected more gratitude from you Bruce."
He was at the glass before he knew his body was moving. "And what the hell do you mean by that?"
"I made you what you are, Bruce. I expected a 'thank you' at the very least."
"You ... you ate my parents right in front of me."
"I knew you had potential Bruce." Lecter moved away from the glass, and faced the stone wall covered in charcoal drawings. "Even at that age, we could all see it."
"Wha ... I don't ..."
"And strength as well. I thought starving you for a few days would have made you take a bite out of dear Martha, but you didn't crack. Not a cry, not a whimper. Not all of that could have been trying to please daddy."
"And you're more now than you could have ever hoped to be." Lecter turned, his triumphant gaze meeting Bruce's. "Tell me, could you be as strong, as intelligent, as focussed as you are now without that little tragedy? Would you have otherwise found the drive to leave your comfortable little nest at the mansion and your free ticket to the world's top universities to seek out the means and methods to hunt down some of the most dangerous men in existence?"
"I'll remember to put you on the Christmas card list."
"You're more than a match for them Bruce. Even now. Young, callow, inexperienced. You can still scare them into submission like you've always dreamed of, alone in the dark."
Bruce stepped away from the glass.
"How is Doctor Thompkins by the way? Still throwing up?"
"Still working at the clinic."
"Must remember to put her on the Christmas card list. Lovely woman. Of course you don't agree with her."
"I don't ..."
"Pacifism. Violence never solves anything. How many times have you heard that and wanted to cram her tongue back down her throat?" Lecter walked - stalked - towards the glass. "You're never going to reach your full potential trying to please her - and him."
"Daddy dearest. You're trying to restrain that urge to rend, to tear your enemies apart and keeping your father's ghost happy, making daddy proud."
"I'm not going to be like you."
Lecter was now virtually pressed against the glass. "I didn't spare you because I liked your cute little dimples, Brucie. I gave you your first lesson in life because I saw what you're capable of, deep down, hidden behind that thin veneer of respectability that everyone else holds around them like Siegfried's cloak."
"I'm not going to be like you Lecter."
"Find it. Find your aspect. That form what shows the world what you really are, deep down inside. And let it loose."
Bruce turned, and walked away.
He would be fine. He would continue his mission.
As soon as he left this place he would be fine.