Dr Hannibal Lecter sat in his office grading papers for the Literature class which he had fourth period. It was three years since he had left America and he was quite comfortable in his position as Head of Literature at a public school in Lourdes, south-western France.
Though the religious aspects of the place were of no value to Dr Lecter, he did enjoy the history of it and the traditional architecture that stood there. In Lourdes, he was not Dr Hannibal Lecter, he was Dr Paulius Slauta, or 'Sir' to most of his students, his co-workers often called him 'Paul'. His name was typical of his Lithuanian heritage and to Dr Lecter, quite ironic. If only the ones around him knew why.
He maintained healthy relationships with his colleagues, often arranging dinners, sophisticated get-togethers and even the occasional party, and no, he did not eat any of them. To his students, he was mysterious, intimidating and sometimes even desirable, to his co-workers he was polite, reserved and rather quiet, but to the one who he thought of most, he was gone. He had received attention and admiration from women frequently, often visiting the opera or theatre with them and offering up expensive gifts, but none did he ever settle with.
His mind often wandered to a particular person who he had once spent a considerable amount of time with, but he almost always shook the thought quickly.
When it was time to see to his class, he collected his papers and belongings and made the familiar journey up to room 209, his classroom. This class was currently in the highest form of education that the school offered, and they were tolerable, unlike many of his other classes. Although Dr Slauta was fluent in French, he preferred to speak in English and luckily for him, his students felt the same way when in his classroom.
"Good afternoon." he greeted them as sat at his desk. They replied in murmurs and grunts, by fourth period they were practically zombies. "Open your books to one-hundred and ninety-four." He rose to lean at the front of his desk and face his class. They were studying Pride and Prejudice, not Dr Slauta's preferred choice but an acceptable one. Straight away, a young girl's hand shot up into the air, desperate for Dr Slauta's attention.
"Yes, Océane?" Dr Slauta asked.
She was petite, with light brown skin and bright blue eyes, today, she wore her hair curly.
"Sir, would you like me to read the first few pages?" she asked, eyelashes fluttering and cheeks flushing, her French accent prominent. Some of the other students laughed quietly, others sighed impatiently and looked away.
"That's very kind of you to offer, but I'm all right to read the first few myself, thank you Océane."
She leaned back into her seat, trying to accept the rejection gracefully.
"Okay. Now, to those of you who read the pages which I asked you to, you will follow the next pages perfectly. To those of you who didn't, good luck." he said, raising his eyes to a particular few in the class. There was laughter from the students but also the presence of Dr Slauta's unusual accuracy.
The Doctor read a few pages, then asked Océane to read a few, then another student, and another. He struggled to listen to their droning voices patiently, but he managed it by lingering on the thought of opening a nice Chianti when he got home.
His home was on the edge of Lourdes, it only took ten minutes to reach it in his Jaguar. It was a handsome house, authentic, four bedrooms, one with a balcony and a view of the mountains, one bathroom, a basement renovated into a wine cellar, and a generous back garden. There was more than enough room for him there, if not, a little too much room. The empty space and quiet evenings often blew a light wave of sadness over the house, but his pastimes distracted him. He often took a railway car to the summit of Pic du Jer to see Lourdes from a thousand metres above, sometimes he would go multiple times in one day just to bask in its glory. He also visited the opera, as he always had.
Dr Slauta never wasted time. He was always taking advantage of his freedom.
In Arlington, Virginia, FBI Special agent, Clarice Starling, picked up the phone in her apartment, in her other hand she held a glass of wine. "Starling."
"Starling, it's Pearsall. Jack Crawford wants you down at Quantico in a couple of days."
"Quantico? What for?"
"A seminar, something about speaking to the young minds, apparently there's a lack of ambition down there and when asked who he thought should speak he said you were the only one."
"Should I prepare a speech or-"
"Yeah, a short speech, you don't want to go in there with nothing prepared. You know students."
"Hmm. I'll get right on it, sir"
"Good. Oh, and Starling, if you do a good job on this, there might be some more, I hear that they're planning on taking this seminar stuff worldwide, you might get to travel around a bit."
"Okay, thank you Sir, thank you for this opportunity."
"Don't thank me, thank Jack Crawford. He's expecting your call." The line went dead.
Clarice had come to appreciate any work that she could get, even three years on from the encounter at the lake hose with Dr Lecter, there was still hesitation when it came to working with her. The press at the time hadn't made it any better either, she remembered a particular newspaper who decided to print that Clarice was apparently pregnant with Hannibal the Cannibal's baby, which was untrue of course, but it did result in Clarice being forced to take numerous pregnancy and swab tests. It had been months since she had spoken to Jack Crawford and she dug his home number up with anticipation, dialling the buttons with excitement. It rang, and rang, and rang, until a familiar voice greeted hers.
"Jack," she said in a relieved whisper. She had addressed him by his first name only once before.
"Starling, is that you? How the hell are you Starling?"
"I'm fine thank you, Sir, how are you?" she asked, smiling.
"Fine, fine. Did Pearsall tell you about the job?"
"Yes, yes he did, Sir. I'd love to help in any way that I can"
"Well I'm glad to hear it Starling, there's no one else I would like to help me on this," There was a kind little silence. "So, here's the thing. Students, they're not what they used to be, you know, it's changed a lot since you were here, unfortunately. They just lack ambition, dedication, drive, and that's no good for FBI agents Starling, as you know."
"Yes, I know."
"I'd like you to talk to them, give a little speech, we can help you on that if you're not confident with it, but the speech isn't that important. It's you, Starling. Now, they'll want to ask questions, and you be true, don't answer cause you think it's right, answer as you would yourself. You were a model student, Starling, one of the best." Clarice was filled with a warm happiness; she hadn't been appreciated or trusted in a long time. "You there, Starling?"
"Yes, yes I am sir. I really appreciate this."
"Look, I know that things have been a little dry with you lately, but that's all going to change. We are going to get you back on top, we're going to get you the reputation that you deserve." His words were reassuring and safe. "Okay, so… get that speech prepared, you need any help?"
"No thank you, I think I can manage."
"Okay. So, how's Wednesday for you?"
"Meet me in my office, you remember where it is?"
"Yes, I do. Will there be any of the press there?"
"Nine sharp, Starling. And yeah I imagine so, but don't let them get to you Starling."
"Yes, Sir." She was suddenly reminded of her student days at Quantico and felt safe again.
"Good, I'll see you then." She thought that he had hung up. "It's really good to hear from you, Starling".
"You too." she said before the line went dead.
Clarice placed the phone down and sat in her arm chair. She hadn't felt noticed and needed for three years, and she wandered if this was the job that would save her reputation. It only emphasised how lonely and hurt she had been since the lake house, she had spent the three years begging for bigger cases and more recognition, but she had not been given either. She was forgotten, recycled. Her mind wandered to the one person who would have never recycled her, that was probably the only thing that she liked about Hannibal, how he would never ignore her. If only he wasn't a wanted man. She was quite surprised that he hadn't tried to contact her yet, she could imagine him enjoying one last dig at her career, but there was nothing. She tried to feel glad of it, but there was nothing but a cold pity hanging in the pit of her stomach.
It defined her, the cold that would raise the bumps on her skin and the shivers from her body, it was the cold pity that defined her. She never would have imagined herself in this situation, this sad, dead, lonely life.