The book feels heavy in his hands; weighted with old (mostly outdated) medical facts and other windows to the past. Will opens it to a random page, lifts the book to his face and inhales. He read once that old books retained odors of their environments and he can’t help but envision that this book reeked of dirt and old coffee. He turns to another page and is met with an image he recognizes from his college years: the Wound Man. He scoffs at the vintage drawing, finding something amusing about the old letterings surrounding it. He flips to the end and frowns as a slip of paper falls out. Without a second thought Will picks it up and shoves it into his coat pocket. He closes the book and turns it over to look at the cover. Fasiculo de Medicina. With a shrug he places it back on the shelf and makes a mental note of it.
He doesn’t think about the slip of paper once, forgetting it even existed, until he goes to hang up his coat when he gets home. Will looks at it, sees a name, address, and phone number written down in sloppy handwriting:
687 Bayshore Ave.
He frowns again, recognizing it as a business number of some kind. Something in him makes him keep the slip regardless and he ends up placing it on his kitchen counter for the time being.
Will stares at the sight before him, already feeling the killer’s thoughts poking at his brain. The skin from the back has been removed and sewn to the front in a way that represents sleeves and skirt folds. There are carvings to the torso, no doubt meant to resemble details, embroidery. Every detail is precise and exact and Will knows that the killer “dressed” this victim in a piece that would bring out their beauty, enhance their figure.
“This one is different than the last,” Crawford says as he moves to stand beside Will.
“Yeah, same killer though.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“Same steps taken to completing their work, just a different end product,” Will states as he takes a step to his left, uncomfortable with the alpha’s proximity. He walks forward, approaching the victim, and takes in the stitching, the careful execution the killer took in this.
“We’re looking for someone with a love for fashion. Maybe someone who is disgruntled by those who claim fashion isn’t an art form…This person is proud of the pieces created by famous designers, by the details within each article. They are obsessed and do not take kindly to others insulting the one thing they are so passionate about,” Will says, his voice low as he closes his eyes.
The victim, 36 year old beta Vanessa Brudger, was an art critique. She was known for knocking down various forms of art as well as specific pieces. None of her critiques, however, mention anything about fashion. Will ignores this oddity for a moment and instead runs a shaky hand through his unruly curls. She still smells strongly of beta and Will wonders how long that scent will linger on her.
“The first victim was an omega,” Jack states, “So we know this killer isn’t strictly after a particular gender.”
“Definitely not a strictly omega or strictly beta hunter,” Will says in a way that almost sounds as if he is attempting a joke. That earns him a few unsure looks but he ignores them. As a male omega, something incredibly rare, he has had his fair share of odd looks.
“Jack,” Will says, causing the alpha to step closer to him again, “This killer is going to be hard to catch. The only clue we have to this person is that they are obsessed with fashion. That’s it.”
“That’s not entirely true,” Jack states almost defensively, “We know it’s a woman.”
“Jack if you say it’s a woman because they are into fashion I may just smack you,” Miriam pipes up from the corner. Miriam, who shouldn’t even be alive all things considered, is a quirky beta. Will finds he rather likes her, she’s a good replacement for Beverly. Though, Will suspects no one will ever be able to completely replace Bev; she was a one of a kind omega. Will wishes that he had the same fire, same strong spirit that Beverly had.
“Jack, I’m gonna need to see that first victim again,” Will says to which Jack simply nods and motions for Will to follow him to his overly large black SUV.
The drive to Quantico is silent and Will is glad that Jack is a mated alpha otherwise the silence would be uncomfortable and nerve-wracking. Will isn’t one for small talk, for forcing conversations when there is none to be had. And he’s thankful Jack seems to be feeling the same way.
“You sure you’ll be okay with this?” Jack asks as they get out of the vehicle.
“Jack, you already showed me the body once. I just need to see it again.”
“Seeing it the second time is worse, Will. Much worse.”
“It’s the same dead body as it was before, Jack,” Will says as they enter the building, “I don’t think much has changed since seeing it the first time.”
Will realizes very quickly exactly how wrong he is. The room is filled with the scent typically associated with death, but overpowering that is the scent of omega. It smells stale and bitter and Will gags as he inhales another whiff of it. The body looks paler and Will turns away, unable to look at it. It’s far too easy, with the smell in the room and the body spread on the table before him, to imagine himself in the victim’s place. He sees himself cut up, his skin arranged in a way that resembles a well-tailored suit. And that ghastly odor, a mixture of death and ripeness gone to waste, is coming from his lifeless body.
Will fumbles back, a hand pressed against his mouth, as he attempts to blink away the image. He retreats before he even realizes his feet are moving and finds himself leaning against Jack’s SUV, gasping for air. He can still smell it, still taste it. It’s sour and lingering and he just wants it to go away. Jack meets up with him a few moments later and says he’ll take Will home. Will can only nod weakly, shaking slightly.
He stumbles into his house, ignoring his yipping dogs as he staggers to the kitchen. He debates rather quickly whether coffee would help or make the matter worse. He decides to start brewing some regardless. He takes a seat on the other side of his counter and leans against the hard makeshift marble as he tries to steady himself and will away the image of the omega sprawled out, no light in her eyes.
His gaze flickers up to check the progress of the coffee but end up landing on the crumbled slip of paper he had discarded earlier in the week. With an unsteady hand he grabs it and examines it once more. Before he can think about what he’s doing, he’s grabbing his cell out of his pant pocket and calling the number sloppily scribbled down.
A smooth accented voice, definitely European Will notes, answers with a crisp but polite, “This is Hannibal Lecter. To whom am I speaking?” Will takes a breath and opens his mouth to respond, but instead hangs up. He feels embarrassed and uncomfortable and is about to put his cell back in his pocket when it rings. The ringing sounds deafening in the silence of his house and he lets out a sigh. He doesn’t need to look at the caller ID to know that it’s Hannibal Lecter. With a gulp and a shaky voice he answers, “Hello?”
“Hello. My name is Hannibal Lecter. I believe you just called me,” the accented voice says. The voice sounds steady and feels like an anchor. Will, without thinking, finds himself clinging to it.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t…” He’s not sure what to say. He didn’t mean to? He didn’t think anyone would answer? Instead he lets the sentence end there, implying that he didn’t call at all with his silence.
“Was there something I could help you with?”
“Nothing. I’m sorry.” Will isn’t sure exactly what he’s apologizing for. His voice is beginning to sound weak and he feels idiotic for calling the number.
“Are you all right?” Hannibal asks and Will takes in a breath. Was he all right? No. Even with the fresh coffee smell Will still has that dead omega’s scent etched into his nostrils.
“I’m not sure. I’m sorry,” He says again, “I shouldn’t have called.”
“It’s quite all right Mr.?”
“Graham. Will Graham.” Will replies without question. He thinks, as he listens to the man’s voice, that he must be an alpha. He envisions a large man, muscular, pale with light hair. A true alpha.
“Will, is there something I can help you with?” Hannibal asks, keeping the question in the present this time. Will’s voice cracks and before he can stop himself he finds himself admitting that he feels as if he’s breaking. Hannibal is silent, allowing Will to continue.
“My job, I can’t talk to you about it, but today I saw something…and normally I can just shake it off, tune it out. But this,” Will pauses, realizes his voice is tainted with the sound of crying, and then continues, “This is different. And it’s not going away.”
“Describe it to me. Why is it difference?” Hannibal says, his voice calm.
“This one smelt different.”
“And the smell was unappealing?”
“Yes. It was disgusting.”
“Describe it to me.” Will knows he means the smell, but hesitates. A part of him worries that by describing the smell to Hannibal the man will be able to smell it too. It’s ridiculous, but it still bothers Will. After a moment, he responds.
“Bitter, sour, stale. It’s the scent of a wasted omega, one that was newly ripe, mixed with death and earth, and shadow.”
“It sounds horrific and unpleasant.” Will almost laughs at the use of unpleasant because it’s such a boring way to describe the scent, yet so accurate.
“May I ask what this smell came from?” Hannibal asks.
“I can only assume that made the smell worse. To experience that scent alone is a challenge, but to see the body producing that odor is truly brutal.” Hannibal’s voice sounds conversational and Will is thankful for it. It’s not patronizing or judgmental, sounds nothing like a therapist or a person trying to be helpful but failing. It sounds ordinary and even and Will finds himself wanting to revel in it. Though the fact that Hannibal talks about this dead omega like he too had been there to see it unnerves Will.
“Yes.” Will hopes it’s answer enough.
“You said you cannot discuss your job, but I must admit that I am curious as to how your job led you to such a terrible experience.” Of course he’d be curious, Will thinks. Normally Will hates curiosity. It leads to messes that are often times nearly impossible to clean up. It leads to him being observed, studied; to people staring at him wondering what makes him tick. However Hannibal’s curiosity seems different, more genuine.
“I’m in law enforcement,” He manages.
“That would explain how you came across a deceased omega,” Hannibal says, pausing when Winston barks.
“You have a dog?” Hannibal asks. It’s conversational again, small talk, but Will finds it refreshing and needed.
“I have seven actually. All rescues.” The subject of his dogs feels comforting and Will blabs on about them after Hannibal asks about their breeds. Will glances at his clock and sees that somehow two hours have gone by. He immediately feels guilty and falls silent.
“Something wrong, Will?” Hannibal asks.
“I’ve just wasted two hours of your time.”
“I would hardly call having a pleasant conversation a waste of time.”
“But you must’ve had plans or something. God I’m so sorry.” Will apologizes.
“It is perfectly all right. I had no plans for this evening other than returning home followed by cooking and enjoying a well-balanced meal. Talking to you was an unexpected, but in the end most welcome, addition to my night.” Hannibal says with the implication that it is an honest confession, and Will wants desperately to believe it.
“Will, if ever you find yourself in need of assistance again, please come to see me at my office. I would be delighted to talk with you.”
“Thank you. But I don’t see how going to your office would help. Wouldn’t I just be bothering your coworkers?”
“I am a psychiatrist, Will, I do not have coworkers, merely colleagues.”
“I don’t think meeting would be a good idea, Doctor.” Will says the word with a hint of venom which he realizes is unfair given that this man has been nothing but courteous to Will. However, Will feels used, manipulated. No wonder he had stayed so calm, he dealt with shit like that for a living.
“I respectfully disagree.”
“How much do I owe you, Doctor for giving me a two hour session as opposed to the typical one?” Will asks.
“Will,” Hannibal sounds like an irritated parent when he says Will’s name like that and Will can’t stand it, “You owe me nothing. I was merely aiding someone who appeared to be rather distraught.”
“Well thank you,” Will says with a sigh, “I’m sorry again for wasting your time. Good night, Dr. Lecter.”
“Good evening, Will.” Will hangs up before Hannibal has the chance to. He runs a hand through his hair and notes that he is calm, relaxed. The coffee is, no doubt, cold by now but Will pours himself a mug regardless. His dogs run over to his side and he pets them all gently as he takes a swig of cold coffee. The caffeine feels refreshing and Will lets out a contented sound as it courses through him.
His gaze focuses on the slip of paper that had led him to call Hannibal Lecter and for a moment he debates tossing it. In the end he leaves it where it is and places his mug down next to it before getting up and turning in for the night. His dogs make themselves comfortable in their respective spots and Will is relieved to find that his sleep, for the first time in ages, is dream free and peaceful.