The Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane
Even in hospital blues, Dr. Lecter stood with the erect carriage of a dancer, as elegant as a pheasant in a butcher’s case behind the glass wall of his cell. Though he hadn’t been announced, Hannibal had clearly been expecting his visitor, no doubt scenting his approach with the unnaturally keen senses of an apex predator. His hooded gaze drifted unhurriedly over Will’s travel-rumpled form; the FBI profiler fought the urge to squirm under its weight. Gathering himself, he met Dr. Lecter’s oddly maroon colored eyes and replied,
“Hello Dr. Lecter.”
“I’d ask to see your credentials,” commented the former psychiatrist, his voice slightly husky with disuse, “but we know each other rather too well for that. Did Jack send you?”
The sibilant Lithuanian rasp of his voice brought unbidden memories with it; it had been Will at the end, who had betrayed him; the duplicitous game he’d played, never truly knowing which side of it he’d be on when the hammer fell, and at the end of it all, when he’d called Hannibal to warn him – he hadn’t known he was going to until he heard the doctor’s voice – his cell phone had died without ceremony, thanks to the capricious service in Wolftrap. The convoy arriving at his house moments later found him arrested, though briefly, for the murder of Randall Tier. In the meantime, Jack Crawford and Alana Bloom were fighting for their lives, and Hannibal had waited for the police to arrive and politely surrendered. Will, with his preternatural curse of empathy, was profoundly unsettled by this development. Three years had passed, and gradually, the mixture of guilt and self-doubt had begun to fade, largely thanks to Molly Foster, who soothed his stormy soul with warmth and quiet acceptance. She did not know that he had once killed a man with his bare hands and presented him to Hannibal Lecter like a bloody bouquet on his dining room table. Or that he had enjoyed it – found it intimate. Powerful.
“No,” said Will, looking away toward the drawings on the walls; exquisite charcoal on butcher’s paper. Jack Crawford had, in fact, wholeheartedly disapproved of this idea.
“Did you draw all of these from memory?” he asked, apropos of nothing. Hannibal hummed in approval.
“Memory, Will, is what I have instead of a view,” he said, “that is the Duomo, seen from the Belvedere. Do you know Florence?”
“No,” said Will again, stuffing his hands into the pockets of his coat. It was too big for him. He’d lost weight recently.
“I haven’t had a lot of time for vacations in Europe.“
“No doubt Agent Crawford has kept you busy, especially with this new boy,” said Hannibal, low pitched and curious.
“Do you know something about him?” inquired Will, perhaps a little too sharply.
“I might, if I saw the case file,” replied Hannibal, “tell me, why do they call him the Tooth Fairy? The newspapers won’t say.”
“You can thank Freddy Lounds for that charming appellation,” said Will, “Tattlecrime coined the phrase because he’s a biter ... among other oral fixations.”
They regarded each other silently for a long moment. There was a chasm of unspoken words between them, and yet nothing need be said. Will felt an unbidden thrill of recognition. Hannibal smiled faintly, the slight curl of his lips as familiar as Will’s own face in the mirror. The profiler forgot to breathe for a moment. There had been a time when the two of them had been so close that Will had felt they were two halves of the same dark whole; there was a level of terrifying intimacy he’d never known before – not physical intimacy, but hadn’t there been times when he’d felt a visceral excitement at Hannibal Lecter’s close proximity that left him hot and tingling and confused? There had. The moment was broken only when the monster looked away toward the television screen outside the cells.
“A gospel program?” said Will, his tone laced with bitter amusement.
“Doctor Chilton does enjoy his petty torments,” replied Hannibal, with apparent equanimity.
“Perhaps he’s earned them,” replied Will levelly, “I’d say the scale is still tipped drastically in your favor.”
“He loved to see you behind the glass just as much as me,” pointed out Hannibal, “an unqualified zookeeper, with a taste for dangerous pets.”
“Yet you chose to be here,” said Will, hazardously close to bringing up the past despite his resolution not to. He did not argue with the categorization that placed him alongside Hannibal; it would have tasted like a lie in his mouth. Hannibal said nothing, merely regarded the profiler with his faint, enigmatic half smile.
After a long, not precisely awkward pause, Will reached into his bag and brought out a thick, rather dog eared case file, secured with an elastic band to prevent any gory photographs from escaping to be gawked at. Not that he could give those to Hannibal, of course; he had removed them in the car before coming inside. He deposited the file in the sliding food carrier and pushed it through with a rattling thump.
“We think he’s killing on a lunar cycle,” said Will, “which means there’s only a week until he does it again.”
“Why do you suppose I’d want to help the FBI catch this ambitious boy of yours?” inquired Hannibal, plucking the case file out of the drawer and placing it on the metal table.
“There are things I could get for you, to make you more comfortable in here,” said Will, “your books – “
“I won’t bargain for petty privileges, Will. What I want is a view. I want a window where I can see a tree, or even water. I want to be in a federal institution, far away from Dr. Chilton.”
“You know I can’t do that.”
“You underestimate yourself, Will. I imagine there is a great deal of pressure being brought to bear upon men and women regarding this case who wield far greater influence than yourself. They would surely be receptive to such a reasonable proposal.”
“Are you saying you know who he is?”
“I’m saying I’ll help you catch him.”
“What makes you think I need your help?” snapped Will, perhaps more sharply than he had intended.
Hannibal was silent for a moment, the corners of his eyes crinkling slightly with vague amusement. He did not need to point out the obvious – Will’s presence here was certainly not a casual visit.
“Did you simply come to get the old scent, Will?” he inquired softly, the silence roughened rasp of his accented Lithuanian. He met the profiler’s gaze and held it.
“Why not just smell yourself?”
“Even if I could somehow make this happen, there’s no way for it to be done before the next full moon,” said Will, trying to mask his frustration and not succeeding very well, “tell me what you know and I promise to do what I can to get you transferred.”
“I’m afraid that your track record speaks for itself, Will. All good things to those who wait.”