Numb. It took him a moment to realize he had frozen, remote dangling in his hand, staring blankly at the screen as the voice droned on, onto another story already. But when Will Graham noticed what he was doing, he snapped out of it, and muted the TV. Too late. The damage had been done. He put his head in his hands, and felt very, very tired.
He'd taken to obsessively watching the news this past month. He thought it would be cathartic, or maybe it was just voyeurism. He didn't really want to think about why. He picked up his glass next to the discarded remote on the small coffee table strewn with newspapers he'd read and re-read. He took a gulp and went into the kitchen, where his wife was washing up the dinner dishes, and sat down at the table. "Bad news," he said morosely.
"What is it?" she asked, unconcerned. But when she turned from the sink and saw his face, she put down the dishtowel, and turned to face him fully. "What's happened?" she asked again, dread creeping into her voice this time.
"We'll have to move. Leave Florida."
"Why?" She brushed her dark hair out of her face. Still, she did not make any move to step closer to him, cautious of his mental state.
He stared at the glass on the table in front of him, not looking at her. "Lecter. He's escaped. The bastards let him get away. I just saw it on the news."
Now she came over and sat down across from him. "Will…"
"He was in...Memphis. He practically just walked out of the courthouse where they were holding him." He shook his head. "This wasn't supposed to happen." He thought…he thought he'd finally escaped it all. Not a peep from Crawford, even when the Buffalo Bill story filled the news. He knew it was only a matter of time before someone realized Lecter would have the key to this guy – but he was not given the task of unlocking the good doctor this time. No, Crawford had a new and lovelier young recruit for that. All power to him. To her. He had just stayed on the sidelines and...watched. It should have been a relief, but...it was oddly deflating. As the body count climbed, and still he did not pick up the phone, he wondered who he was.
Molly took his hand in both of hers, breaking off his reverie. "You'll make it through this."
He met her eyes. "I'm not so sure this time. I've been falling apart for years. This may be the last piece to unhinge me." He knew there was some hope in recognizing the symptoms, but he took small comfort in it. Those who thought that the truly insane couldn't see it happening had never met Dr. Lecter.
She shook her head. "No, don't say that. You are stronger than that. This doesn't have to... We can go wherever you like –" But her voice sounded placating. She was not speaking truth, but speaking out of the concern that had haunted all of their interactions recently, the concern that had driven Josh away. Will had spent more and more time alone with his boats the past few years…and now this.
He pulled his hand away. "There is no hiding from this kind of fear, this uncertainty. We can move to a different state, change our names, and live peacefully for the next ten years. But I'll always know that one night I could wake up to him standing there, watching me…before he butchers both of us. There is no defense against that type of fear, no way to be safe from it."
She started crying, and he pounded the table. "Those bastards, those fucking bastards – what the hell were they thinking? He was supposed to stay locked in that cell for nine God-damned life sentences." He stood up, energized by his impotent rage. There was little he could do to protect his family from this danger. Simply not knowing if they would be safe.... 'No one's safe around you, Will....'
"Will –" she started, but he cut her off. "Where's Josh?"
"He's over at Tony's, he should be back in a couple of hours."
"Bullshit. He's at Marisa's again, and we'll be lucky to see him before two. When are you going to get it through your head that he lies to us?" He ran his hand through his hair. "What the hell is wrong with me, I can't even keep track of my own son, let alone…." He sat down again, defeated.
"Will, you're upset, and that's fine, but we can do something about this. We…we don't have to give up yet." He realized that the danger they were in had not really sunk in for her yet. She was still trying to be strong for him, not worrying about herself or even her son…yet. She would, soon enough. But she had never met Lecter - how could she know he would never ever forget him? He had burned another Christmas card not too long ago. Now he wished he'd read it first.
"He's already won. We can't stay here; he's known that we lived in Marathon for the past…" he made an unconscious gesture towards the scars on his face, only partially covered by a scant beard. "We can't tell anyone here where we go, or else he can track us too easily. Don't you see? Just like that, without doing anything at all, he's stolen my life from me."
"From all of us," he corrected himself, wincing slightly. "I've loved it here – this place, the beach, the water…"
"The hurricanes," she joked, though her laugh was more of a sniffle.
He nodded. "Yeah, okay, so maybe we can go someplace without hurricanes. "
"I have family in California…" she suggested tentatively.
"That cousin you haven't seen for ages?"
"Yeah…Tom and his wife have a kid about Josh's age. We could maybe stay with them while we look for a place…" She was really trying.
"Molly, think what you're saying. You only know that because they send you a Christmas card with a family picture in it every year. You don't know that they'd want to put us up…."
Her patience snapped. "Well, it's kinda short notice – it's not like I knew we were even thinking about moving this morning!"
"I know, I know. Hey, look, I'm sorry. I hate this. I hate what it's doing to me, to us…turning us into some sort of refugees." He made to pull her into his lap. She resisted at first, but then let him. "It'll be okay. Somehow. I'll call Crawford in the morning, and see if there's anything he can tell me. Maybe…maybe this won't be as bad as I'm thinking…." He stroked her back.
She turned his face to hers, cupping it in both hands. "Will…it is as bad as you are thinking. That man hates you, and unless he's not as bad as you've said…"
"Trust me, he's much worse than I've said."
"Then you're being reasonable. But we'll get through this. We'll make it work out. I…I promise. I'm not giving up on you yet." She was trying so hard not to be afraid, but she trembled in his arms.
He closed his eyes so he would not have to see the lie behind that promise, and rested his forehead against hers. He held her close, willing her not to be afraid. He did not want to think about the price that was about to be exacted from him. Years ago, he had stolen Dr. Lecter's freedom, while leaving him his life. One way or another, that favor was about to be returned. But there was more than one way to rob him of his family, and he was doing a pretty good job of driving them away all by himself. There was one way of making sure Lecter could not kill them, but...that came from the part of him he used the drink to drown out. His 'imagination' they called it. Lecter could not murder or eat people who were already dead. Not that he should even entertain the thought.
He most especially never wanted to sleep again, because now there would be no stopping the nightmares.
My tribute to Red Dragon; I know it's rather dark, but I am fascinated by Will's character. I wanted to capture this moment in time for him and his family; Lecter leaves the country almost immediately, apparently more interested in Chilton than Graham. But...the uncertainty and fear would be pretty overwhelming, I think.
If the movie timeline is followed, this occurs in ~ 1989, about two years after Hurrican Floyd struck the Florida Keys. If the book timeline is used, this should occur in 1983, I think (and the reference to his scars would be more accurate). Will and Molly's son is named Josh in the movie; in the book, he is Will's stepson and his name is Willy. I favored the movie scenario, because it would be more likely that all three of them would still be in Marathon, the way that ended.
Silence of the Lambs appears in one other of my stories, the much more light-hearted 'Courtesy Calls' in the Hellsing universe.