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Silence and Survival

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The applesauce he hadn’t eaten at breakfast was beginning to stale. It had a powerful, fermented scent, offset by the high amount of granulated sugar it contained. The rest of the food: A bowl of congealed oatmeal, a packet of brown sugar, and a bowl of canned peaches sat untouched but unscented. It was a carbohydrate-heavy breakfast which meant that the man in the stall next to him would be hungry again before they brought lunch and screaming, pulling banging whatever loose bits and baubles he could find against the brick. The water was the only thing he had taken from the tray. Enough to brush his teeth and rinse them again without touching the water pulled from a thick layer of grime on the sink. It sat, half-full, next to his bed.

He wished they would come and take away the applesauce.

 

 

“I know that you are grieving, Dr. Lecter, but participation in psychotherapy is a mandatory part of the program here.”

The man speaking, the new director of Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, was spitting as he spoke. The bits flew out of his mouth in a wide spray, landing on the floor between them, on the top of soft white slippers. It made him wish for a moment for a moment carried from another life, where Alana Bloom would have been in front of him, attempting to goad him unsuccessfully into a response, rather than this man who was, at best, a poor imitation of Frederick Chilton in the height of his self-important lauding over this place.

“I can talk, then, and you can tell me what you think.” He spoke again, his voice wavering only in the slightest. It was a lilt, the same one that had happened when he used to speak with the orderlies. He was unnerved at his most basic level, his instincts able to sense the predator that sat in front of him, long unearthed from the mask he had hidden behind for so many years. Even the way he held himself had changed, no more attempts at open humanity, he stayed poised for action.

“I won’t insult your intelligence, Dr. Lecter. You know the benefits of this type of therapy already. And you have given no statement to the court. Self-imposed mutism from a man with your…proclivities…will not be looked at kindly in any evaluation. I suggest that you at least attempt to communicate or many of the comforts you have been afforded here can and will be taken away.” He paused, maintaining their eye contact for only a fleeting second before he saw the malice that lingered there and blinked away. “I don’t think that is in either of our best interest.”

He said nothing.

 

 

Former FBI Agent Jack Crawford Provides Closure to Families of CHESAPEAKE RIPPER Victims

Hundreds gathered to hear the words of Jack Crawford, retired Head of the Behavioral Science Unit at the Federal Bureau of Investigation as he spoke words confirming the capture and permanent detainment of Dr. Hannibal Lecter, better known as the Chesapeake Ripper. Though the crime spree accredited to Dr. Lecter during his many years in Baltimore ended nearly twenty years ago, his legacy lives on in the impact it has had on the city and the loved ones of those he killed.

People of all ages, many of them now-grown children and aging siblings of Ripper victims gathered to listen to the official statement given by the Bureau, following the official designation of Dr. Lecter as legally insane and unfit to stand trial. One notable attendee was Mrs. Rosalyn Cecchinni, who son’s brought her to the event. Now nearly 90 years old, her husband was an early victim of the Ripper during his stay in Italy where he was known at the time as Il Monstro. Her interview is listed below.

He was spared at least, from the familiar journalism of Freddie Lounds, who at his last check, had left Baltimore for a place where she was bit more well-liked. The book she had written on the pair of them had found her more than comfortable in middle age, he was sure. He had received several copies of it, actually, dotted with notes that he hadn’t read simply for the certainty that they contained marriage proposals. And marriage was the last thing that he wished to think about at the moment.

 

 

He smeared a bit of charcoal with his finger, blurring the sharp line he had made with the soft instrument. This drawing was a bit different than the others. It was less clear, not as sharp. Rather than the vast pinnings of their travels that he had created, this was a portraiture, and while he could make it as accurate as he pleased, he instead wanted to draw this ideal.

The soft curls were too dark from this pencil. They had been far more streaked with gray and white in recent memory, and so he had to smear them.

The bullet holes he colored into the torso were just dark enough.

 

 

“Bethany tells me that you aren’t eating your food, Dr. Lecter. Or, at least, not all of it.”

He blinked through the small bars of the cage they had him in. Bethany…the red-haired one. The one that snuck him fresh fruit which was the only thing he had been eating, more as a courtesy to her effort. He could respect that she cared for the patients, far more than many of the others who looked at him either with self-important sneers, flashes of terror, or consuming looks of pity that were hastily erased when they realized who he was.

“All patients have a strict nutrition program they must adhere to.” The Doctor started rambling about calorie intake and the gauntness that his features had taken on since the trial. He hadn’t eaten a square meal since the last day of his sentencing. Then, when he was in court and when he was giving testimony and convincing a group of people that he was unawares of their staunch definition of morality, the food had been fuel. He thought it hardly worth the bother now.

He looked in front of him, where a plastic tray contained what he suspected was the most appetizing meal they could conjure for him. Meatloaf with some sort of gravy. Mashed potatoes. Green beans. Cold water with ice. He blinked at it.

“Would you mind eating for me, Dr. Lecter?” the man leaned forward. “I would appreciate your cooperation.”

He picked up the plastic fork and knife, cutting the edge off of the meatloaf. It was nearly gray on the inside, completely devoid of any true flavor. He considered it for a long moment, wondering if he should eat it or continue to push on this man’s very obvious limitations. But he had awoken the night before, as they tightened restraints fastening him to the bed. He had watched, unblinking, as they took away his drawings.

He took a bite. He wanted them back.

 

 

He was standing almost completely still, watching a man pick at the paint on the corner of an end table, smearing blood from his own fingertips against the cheap wood. The man’s eyes were beady, his hair unkempt and uncut, his white jumpsuit stained with old smears of blood. He wondered how many times he had pierced the skin of his fingers, playing a game that only he understood the rules to.

They were the only two in the community room. It was a ploy, he knew, by his doctor. This man was bait, one of the cases that he would have been tempted to speak with when he had first arrived here. Like Miggs, buried in the yard out back. Or the former anchorwoman, a former occupant of his initial therapy group under Chilton who’s tongue had ended up removed from her own efforts. This was intended to be a trick, but a trick with a bit of give for him. He could at least enjoy himself if he gave in here.

But the temptation behind his previous actions had receded. They felt hollow now, at least for the time being. It was too soon. He looked down at his own hands, imagining his own blood running from his own fingertips, but instead ran a hand through his hair. A habit, not his own, that he had picked up before his hair had faded to such a complete shade of white.

But he still said nothing, letting this man continue to piece the thin cover of his own skin, even as he started to grate on his nerves with an almost mewling sound.

 

 

“You didn’t sleep well last night, Dr. Lecter.” The man was back again, watching him through the thick plated glass, his mounting frustrations clearer and clearer in the wrinkles around his eyes. “But, according to several nighttime orderlies, you haven’t slept well since your arrival.”

He said nothing, standing with his hands behind his back.

“What were you dreaming about, Dr. Lecter?”

Despite his ability to maintain his demeanor around this man, he was not immune to the question. His mind filled with own lurid, colorful dreams. They were always the same, and they came every evening. He woke himself after maybe half an hour of sleep each night, gunshots resounding his head, the grit of mud trapped in his teeth as he watched, held tight to the ground. The spray of blood that followed each shot, the heavy thud of a body falling to the ground only feet away. The soft, familiar green fabric stained with pooling blood as he was shoved into the backseat of a car.

But he kept his eyes open, letting the scene flash behind them as he held his silence.

“I’m not afraid of you, Dr. Lecter.” His doctor stood, standing much closer to his glass than he had dared previously. “These other doctors and nurses and even the patients may be, but I know you better than that.”

And, in spite of himself, in spite of the hollowness  in his chest and the images lingering in his brain, he smiled at the man in front of him. A fool at best, to think that he could understand any part of him.

 

 

He turned onto his side in the cot and watched as a new orderly, young and still jumpy, install an ancient looking television set, strapped to a rolling cart. It sat facing him, off, for hours until after his dinner tray had arrived and been taken away again, only the mashed potatoes gone. He had taken to selecting a single dish from each meal to eat, and in kind, one of his pieces of artwork was returned to him each week. The landscapes so far, speared across his desk. The view from the train window outside of Florence, a Cuban sunset, all done in black and white.

The same orderly, at the end of what he assumed was a twelve hour shift, had come back in and turned the television on. He had moved by then to his desk, hands folded over the wood. His shift in motion had clearly unnerved them, and they tried and failed to hide a startled jump when they came into the room. They shuffled out quickly, leaving him facing the same station that he had sometimes turned n to soothe patients in his office. A different meteorologist now, of course, one of the same anchors, but the same basic station that had the same low-quality of every local news station.

He wondered for a moment if this was put here in an attempt to torment him with an endless droning. Or perhaps a wayward attempt to aid in his poor sleep. Or another point of battle to use when he would not eat his food. In their defense, the latter could be seen as a gross negligence of patient care she he was shedding pounds quickly now, thinner than he could remember being since his adolescence.

But it was moments later that  instead his own face flashed across the screen. A still from his courtroom trial as he was escorted out following his sentencing to the BSHCI for the remainder of his life.

“The story of Hannibal Lecter is well-known not only here in Baltimore, but across the world as the case of one of the most infamous serial killers and cannibals in recent history.” He was slightly confused. It was rarely an effective therapeutic technique to appeal to the narcissism that he and many other serial killers had been diagnosed with. “But less known is the story of his partner in crime, former FBI Agent Will Graham.”

The picture changed and his blood froze in its place, the mashed potatoes rolling in his stomach. “From patient to co-parent to accuser to criminal associate to lover, until tonight the role of Will Graham in the infamous Lecter murders has remained largely unclear. The program we’re offering tonight is the most in-depth production on the life of Will Graham that follows his beginnings as a star detective in the New Orleans Police Department to his death in last year’s shoot out with police that led to the final apprehension of Hannibal Lecter.”

But Hannibal had stopped listening, and instead was soaking up the pictures they showed on the screen. Beautiful pictures of Will in his time before Hannibal had known him. His hair still black, wearing his fishing outfit at what seemed to be a tournament of some kind. A picture of him standing with his arm around Abigail Hobbs, a picture that Freddie Lounds had deemed too friendly to use in her articles on him. He watched, he drank them in. Filling the fading pieces of his memory palace with them. He felt alive for the first time in months.

He felt the tears burn at the edges of his eyes, run down his face in uncut rivulets. And he realized the cruelty of this. And the tears hardened on his cheeks, and the urges that had been sapped from him for so long bubbled hot inside him again. He stood, reached out a hand, letting it linger on the glass as the final picture of Will, the picture of his body from the crime scene gave way to a final narration.

Then it fell to his side again and curled into a fist so hard that his uncut nails sliced into the soft skin of his hands, spilling blood over his fingertips.

 

 

“I’m sorry if last nights programming was shocking to you, Dr. Lecter. I thought it might offer some closure.” The television was gone, replaced again by the chair his doctor used to patronize him. He was ready for him and his hollow apology today though. He had no interest in his words. Now, if they were to play a game, he was finally interested in the outcome of it. And this man was little more than a piece.

But that opening remark was hardly worth a comment. It was rude, and tawdry. An psychology trainee would know that what this man had done was a far cry from reasonable therapy, that this not only defied convention, but was a direct attack on his patient. And so he stayed silent for another moment, feeling words come to his lips that he instead chose to keep bottled there.

“I was told you ate your entire breakfast this morning. I’ve arranged for some of your drawing materials to be returned to you in addition to some of the portraits you’ve done.”

He had eaten his breakfast, every cold, tasteless bite. The food was fuel for his now burning spirit. The same way the exercises he had done afterwards were. He needed his strength. “I look forward to their return.”

The shock was evident in the man’s features. But it was replaced with a smug look of self-congratulations that would someday, undoubtedly, be smeared with blood over his distended corpse. He was a toy, and a toy that saw itself as something important. He would be easy to use, and even easier to discard. All that he needed now was an opportunity.

“Well, Dr. Lecter, I must say I’ve very happy to hear you speak. Maybe we can get somewhere in your therapy.”

He smiled, and noticed the flit of unease across his doctors features that the man hid behind his arrogance. “I look forward to our conversations.”

It was easy to lie.

 

 

His name faded from the papers. He supposed that the press interviews he had refused to give and the ones his doctor had certainly provided would be used at his death for an anniversary television special. The pictures he knew had been taken of him during both his first and second stay here, the protesters who had stood outside demanding his death, his former associates who he had turned into unwilling cannibals for the better part of three decades.

He was replaced with things that seemed more sensational. It was better for him, truly. The new orderlies, the younger ones with hands yet to callous ceased to be afraid of him. He had more freedom to move. His mandatory therapy became shorter and shorter as the hours that he and his doctor had spent together continued to be diverted to other things. He was disappearing from the public view.

It was only the demands of Jack Crawford, who held an advisory position in the FBI now despite his formal retirement at the end of the trial, that kept him in this glass cell. He knew the whispers going around that his strength was gone from him. Buried in the ground with Will Graham. But he was simply biding his time, the strength returning to his body, even as it aged.

The papers had turned to a new killer, as far as Kansas, his murders tracked across the country in bodies of water and women, landing under the microscope of the FBI. One Buffalo Bill, He had been waiting on an opportunity, and now, it seemed that one might have finally arrived.

 

 

The woman standing outside of his cell was slight. She was nervous, but not afraid. She reminded him strongly of Miriam Lass, whom he learned had essentially taken Will’s place in teaching at the academy on the nature of serial killers. He supposed that experience, in this case, was in fact the best teacher.

“Good morning.” He said to her, standing with her hands behind her back. They had come at last for him. They needed him. Truly, they needed Will Graham, but he would do for them in this case.

“Hello, Dr. Lecter, my name is Clarice Starling.” Her voice was thick with an Appalachian accent, but stronger than most of the sniveling reporters who had come to see him. “May I speak with you?”

“You’re with the FBI. Jack Crawford.”

“Yes, sir.”

Her voice spoke of an old-world politeness. He appreciated it, and her demeanor.

“May I see your credentials, please?”

“Certainly, sir.” She fumbled in the pocket of his jacket for them, holding out a check-book sized page of information.

“Closer,” He said, and watched her eyes widen slightly as she raised her arm. He could read the words clearly. But that wasn’t enough.

“Closer,” He said again, and she stepped forward, swallowing back her nerves.

“That expires in one week. You’re not really FBI, are you?”

“I’m in training at the academy, Sir.”

“Jack Crawford sent another of his trainees to me.” She hesitated for only a moment. He could admire her courage, the gumption that she clearly held. But beyond her, in her hand where the questionnaire they had sent as a guise to solicit his help on the Buffalo Bill case, she held his opportunity. He closed his eyes for a moment before she started to speak again, his eyes filled with a mix of reactions. His lungs ached for fresher air, his hands to feel the dirt of a certain plot of land beneath them, of proper grief and improper vengeance.

Beyond her, though she was interesting in her own right, he felt his opportunity creeping towards him.  Keeping her close to him and blissfully unaware would be his new task.

“Yes, sir, I’m a student. I’m here to learn from you. Maybe you can decide for yourself whether I’m qualified enough to do that.”

He let out a sort of laugh. This would be the opportunity for certain, either one that would get him finally killed or see him free. For this woman, it would mean a promotion to full agent or a disgrace before her career was ever off the ground. She was smart, her words meant to flatter him which they did effectively, to disarm him into thinking that she had no agenda beyond the lie she was about to tell him about the questions she had brought. This would be fun.

“That was rather slippery of you, Agent Starling.”