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The immortality of the Chesapeake Ripper is in the ageless horror of his work: two dozen murders officially of his provenance, at least two dozen more with suspicious signatures. The killer showed no preference for sex, age, ethnicity, background or geography, and betrayed no petty, ordinary pathologies, either. The Ripper did not sexually assault his victims, did not give in to the all-to-common urge to bite. The Ripper collected surgical trophies with surgical precision, and displayed his victims with operatic melodrama: in profusions of flowers, the body spliced into a tree trunk; in a tornado of overkill, recreating the Wound Man of medieval European surgical texts; in the brush strokes of arterial spray in Hannibal Lecter's kitchen — no body remaining.

— Ravenous, by Freddie Lounds

Paul Krendler is in Browning's office when Clarice shores up.

She'd gotten the summons on her 15th lap. She's drenched in sweat, half-frozen from the Virginia February wind, and she's (barely) dressed in gray sweats. Standing straight, her feet slide outward, the thick soles of her sneakers worn thinner on the edges. Clarice had managed to retie her hair into some semblance of order, but she knows how small she looks, hands clasped behind her back in a mimic of parade rest.

"Sir," she says to Browning.

"Starling," he says, and doesn't wave her into a seat.

Judge Browning is a man almost comically suited to run the Behavioral Analysis Unit. Nebulously middle-aged and stern, all his hard edges are disguised by bad jokes and ugly ties. Nobody calls him Judge, even his wife calls him Browning, according to Clarice's roommate. More importantly, he'd come up in the BAU without the scarlet letter of Jack Crawford, had been well-regarded by the teaching staff, has a monograph published that received a peer review by Will Graham himself. "Insightful and thorough," Graham had written, some months in between one of the Ripper's sounders of three. Browning had been a natural fit to head the unit — after.

"This is Paul Krendler," he tells her.

Paul Krendler is famous in the bureau, at Quantico. He'd led the crucifixion of Jack Crawford.

Clarice doesn't say, I know. She just nods at Krendler. "Sir."

"Browning thinks highly of you," Krendler says, instead of any pleasantries.

Clarice doubts Browning knows her from a hole in the ground. She finds that with comments like this, there are rarely any correct answers, so she doesn't try to offer one. 

"You're top of your class," Browning says.

"Yes, sir," Clarice replies to that, because it's the truth and she's proud to own it.

"Double major in psychology and criminology, you wrote, in your application documents to Quantico, that you were inspired to pursue a career with the Bureau by a series of lectures given by Jack Crawford," Browning recites from a folder on his desk.

She hadn't known, when she was applying, that Crawford's name was verboten at the FBI these days.

"He spoke at UVA when I was a student," she answers. "He made the work sound fascinating, a challenge." She hesitates, but in the end, she confesses: "Vital."

Krendler, where he's lurking, pulls a face, but Browning just levels her a placid expression over the top frame of his glasses. She's still learning how to read people, the way that Browning — and Crawford — can read people. She wants to know what he sees, how her hair and her cheeks, blistered red by cold wind, read to him.

"He made the work sound," Browning repeats. "And how do you find it in actuality, Starling?"

"I haven't done much of it yet, sir," she says honestly. She takes classes. She looks at gruesome photos. She reads the assigned books and monographs. She's hopscotching along the footprints of other people so far, and this way, the paths all look clear. She doesn't know yet how it will look when the path is unmarked. 

"Browning," Krendler complains, impatience unconcealed.

"We have an assignment for you," Browning tells her, not looking at Krendler. "I stress to you now that it's entirely optional, and your answer to the affirmative or negative will have no bearing upon your status, marks, or future with either the academy or the FBI."

Something goes swollen with worry in Clarice's throat. Nothing that comes with a disclaimer that comprehensive ever vanished without leaving a mark.

Then Krendler says, "We'd like for you to speak with Hannibal Lecter."

It was not simply that Lecter seemed an unlikely suspect. 

He was a hugely respected psychiatrist, a gifted former surgeon, a generous and passionate patron of the arts. His acquaintances were the upper crust of Baltimore society, and his friendship was coveted and dear. Lecter was friendly with everyone, but intimate rarely. He had affairs. He collected antiques. He wore provokingly eccentric bespoke suits and had the sleek attraction of certain middle-aged men, European and striking and singular. There were rumors that in his home country of Lithuania, he was a count. (This turned out to both true and not; evidence presented at court indicates Lecter is in line to inherit as such, but for now the castle and title are in waiting.) 

Between 1991 and 2013, he appeared in Baltimore Sun two dozen times for various reasons: penning a letter in support of historical preservation in the city, listed among the major patrons for the symphony, in a ravishing tuxedo at the ballet. He drove a Bentley and visited the local farmer's markets in Italian leather shoes. Baltimore adored him. 

His wake was cataclysmic, as if the city had awakened to a headline in the Sun saying that it turned out the Earth was flat after all.

— Ravenous, by Freddie Lounds

Lecter's cell isn't a cell exactly, Dr. Alana Bloom explains.

"We tried putting him in with the rest of the inmates but had to move him for safety reasons," she says, indicating Clarice should take a seat at a couch upholstered in finer material than Clarice has ever worn. 

"Were they trying to attack Lecter?" Clarice asks. 

Dr. Bloom smiles, too genuinely amused for the likes of this moment, but like she can't help herself. "How much do you know about Hannibal?" she asks.

Hannibal, Clarice thinks. She knows Dr. Bloom, too, from Lecter's trial and from the official FBI file. Formerly of Georgetown, once one of Dr. Lecter's proteges at Johns Hopkins. There'd been rumors she had been his lover, but she'd denied it on the stand.

"I read his files, a lot of the press coverage," Clarice says, feeling unequal to the task set before her, the way she's felt nonstop since that meeting in Browning's office, since getting the read-in from Krendler. 

"Hannibal's difficult to capture in prose," Dr. Bloom allows, and settles into a chair opposite Clarice. She moves with a hitch and slower than her age, all the damage from her injuries leaving permanent marks. "We had to move him for the other inmates' safety — he was driving them crazy."

Clarice must arch a brow, though she's trying to keep her face as still as possible.

"I mean that literally," Dr. Bloom goes on. "One chewed out his tongue. The other, who'd never showed any signs of suicidal ideation, hanged himself with his jumpsuit."

"Okay," Clarice says. 

Dr. Bloom leans back in her seat, staring.

Clarice knows that before Dr. Bloom had taken over the Baltimore Hospital for the Criminally Insane, she'd been a professor at Georgetown, a consultant with the BAU and a friend of Will Graham. There's a note in Graham's file that his possessions, those that were not considered relevant for ongoing investigations, had gone to A. BLOOM, as had at least three of his dogs. The remainder had gone into no kill shelters. 

"Did they say why you were chosen for this task, Agent Starling?" Dr. Bloom asks. 

Browning had doubled down on her grades. Krendler had hemmed and hawed around it, passive in his agreement with Browning. Part of the reason for her good marks is being able to read a room, and she'd known that was a pack of lies. She'd come anyway because she'd been so curious, because when she'd gotten back to her dorm and she'd spilled the whole thing to her roommate, Ardelia said she had to go, regardless of reason.

"They weren't specific," Clarice admits. 

Dr. Bloom's smile, this time, is not friendly. "You grew up poor in the south somewhere, I'm not good enough with accents to pin down where. You know how to compose yourself for good company, but your social graces don't come to you instinctively," she says. "You're smart as hell and impossible to charm. You like animals. You're wary of most people." There's a long pause. "I don't suppose you like fishing?"

Clarice hasn't been fishing in years, but her throat hurts so badly she can't say it. 

"Do you know who I'm describing, Agent Starling?" Dr. Bloom asks, and this time, her voice is terribly, horribly kind — the soothe after the sting. 

It takes Clarice a while to work up to an answer. "I'm not Will Graham." 

"No, but you bear some artificial similarities," Dr. Bloom returns. "They must be desperate." 

Clarice has arrived with a carefully prepared file on Buffalo Bill's crimes. Desperate is an accurate description of the situation as it was impressed upon her. 

"I'm just here to show him the file, ma'am," Clarice says, feeling keenly her poor social graces, how they don't come instinctively, how particularly southern it sounds in her mouth to call anybody 'ma'am' in the godless cold of the north. 

"He'll see right through this," Dr. Bloom says. "I know that. What I don't know is how he'll react. So I'm asking you here and now, Agent Starling: are you certain you would like to proceed?" 

Clarice says, "Yes," without thinking about it.  

If being shit scared was enough to stop her from doing something, Clarice would have sputtered out decades ago. 

Will Graham started his life in the boat yards of Louisiana, the son of a single father. His childhood was one of deprivation and instability; he was registered at four separate middle schools during his seventh grade year. A guidance counselor who met with him in high school noted that Graham was "unquestionably gifted, but very eccentric, and has difficulty developing lasting friendships." He carried on that legacy as an undergraduate at Tulane, where he received a partial academic scholarship and significant financial aid; he worked 20 hours a week at a work-study job at the library, where he's remembered as quiet, diligent, shy. 

He went on to become a beat cop and eventually a homicide detective in New Orleans before earning a masters in forensic science at George Washington University and applying to the FBI. He would fail the psychology evaluation twice before being accepted to the crime lab, his talents so extraordinary that even if they couldn't trust him in the field, they trusted him to find their killers. 

In court, Bloom would testify that she had been Graham's friend and colleague, that she'd argued for Crawford not to bring him into the field at all. 

"When we see other people touching, though we're not directly involved or being touched, there's a corresponding reaction in our own brain, in the same area that would be affected if we were," Bloom told the jury. "Those are our mirror neurons, or mirror systems. We each have them. From an evolutionary point of view, they're responsible for our empathy, for helping us make sense of the dizzying array of interactions we face each day.

"Will's mirror systems were overactive, to the point where we speculated that he might have less gray matter in his temporoparietal junction, the area of the brain that helps us separate our self from others," she'd said. "He could see everyone, know them with an uncanny — well, not accuracy. That's the wrong word. With an uncanny intimacy. It wasn't a guess. To him, we were all open books."

She'd been wearing a black wrap dress sprigged with white dots and the veil of her grief, her hair pulled away from her face into a severe ponytail at the base of her neck.

— Ravenous, by Freddie Lounds

After Dr. Bloom's secured her verbal waiver of responsibility, the remaining paperwork is mostly an afterthought. Clarice plows through it with bullheaded determination and shaking hands; Dr. Bloom kindly doesn't comment except to make idle small talk about Clarice's educational and work background, was her counselor's license still valid, has she administered the Minnesota Multiphasic test before? 

"Yes," Clarice says, feeling all of her usual brisk but detailed replies compressing to near one-word answers now under the pressure of where she is.  

The Baltimore Hospital for the Criminally Insane is a relatively small-footprint building, banked by about 5 acres of government land and fringed with electrified fences. There are probably less than ten doors between where she's sitting and Hannibal Lecter, who left such a mark on the city that jails him that the Blue Book had ceased publication.

"All done?" Dr. Bloom asks, and Clarice dots her last I and hands over the papers. "Good — now, Agent Starling, I want your full attention." 

Clarice complies. Dr. Bloom is as beautiful today as she was in the papers, but she's sharper. Her lipstick is red like the kind of actress who would get called a film starlet, and her hair is pinned into dark curls. She is wearing a gray tweed suit and a blood red silk shirt underneath, and Clarice feels plain and small in her presence. 

"Be careful with Hannibal," Dr. Bloom instructs. "We will review the physical procedures we use to deal with him — do not deviate from it. Do not deviate from it one iota for any reason. If Hannibal talks to you at all, it's because he's experiencing the kind of curiosity that makes a snake look into a bird's nest, and — " Dr. Bloom stops here, a deliberate, significant pause " — and you know what he did to Will Graham."

"I read about it," Clarice says. 

Everyone in the world had read about it. There's a movie in the works and on the drive to Baltimore from Quantico there'd been jabber on the radio about casting for a film, based on Freddie Lounds' terrible, compulsively readable dumpster fire of a book. 

"Do your job — just don't ever forget what he is," Dr. Bloom counseled. 

The door to the office opened, and an orderly in pale scrubs said, "We're ready."  

Dr. Bloom's response is to turn to Clarice as she pushes herself to her feet, shifting her weight from one leg to the next with a speed that betrayed pain. "Are you?" she asks.

"Yes," Clarice lies, getting up, too, faster and less gracefully.

"Leave your coat and bag, take only the file," Dr. Bloom instructs, and nods to the orderly in the door. "Barney — let's go."

Dr. Bloom only walks her to the first set of doors before wishing her well in a way that telegraphs — loudly — that she thinks this is a bad idea and that Clarice will get nowhere. Barney, who takes over tourguide duties from there, assures her that this is standard operating procedure for all people who seek out Dr. Lecter, because Dr. Lecter never lets anybody get anywhere.

"But he does talk," Clarice can't help but argue. "He submits regular pieces to psychology and psychiatry journals, and corresponds with students and researchers." 

"Only the ones who don't ask about his other work," Barney says, shrugging as they reach the second set of doors. These are heavier than the first, which led into the wards: steel and concrete, there's a biometric scanner to trigger the locks. 

Barney tells her the rules. No reaching through the glass, no touching the glass. Pass him nothing but soft paper. No pens, no pencils. Dr. Lecter gets charcoal for drawing. Any paper you pass to him must be free of staples, paper clips or pins, and items are only passed through the sliding drawer and come out through it, too. No exceptions. Don't take anything he tries to hold out to you through the barrier.

"Dr. Lecter is never outside without full restraints and a mouthpiece," Barney tells her at the third set of doors, and Clarice thinks this feels like descending into ever-deeper levels of hell, though they've only gone down one flight of stairs. There are no more windows here, in this section of the hospital. 

"How is he? As a patient?" Clarice asks.

"He's a model patient," Barney answers honestly, but caveats, "But we don't talk about anything personal." 

They're standing now in front of the four door, the last one. There are no other patients in this section, just a round-the-clock duty of orderlies and Hannibal Lecter.

"Nothing personal," Clarice repeats, aware of the note of hysteria in her tone.

Barney favors her with a Look and hands her a stack of mail — magazines with the staples pulled out so they're long, loose pages smudging color onto Clarice's fingers, opened letters, medical journals with glue bindings. 

"You can take him his mail, get off on the right foot," he offers. "Be polite, don't talk about Will Graham. You'll be just fine."

He opens the door into darkness — the only light the fluorescent blue haze in Lecter's container unit, beyond the glass. 

Graham's notoriety and singularity within in the small community of mindhunters specializing in the worst of humanity made him fairly famous. Among Lecter's possessions when he'd fled was a copy of Graham's monograph on time of death based on insect activity, though there was no way to confirm when it had been acquired — before or after Garrett Jacob Hobbs had played unintentional matchmaker.

At Lecter's trial, Crawford would testify that under the advisement of Bloom, he'd brought Lecter in review Graham's field-readiness. Hobbs had just taken his eighth victim and the situation was dire enough that Crawford was willing to overlook Graham's fragility and unsuitability for the fieldwork, so long as he could find a psychiatrist to sign off. 

"They did not get along. At all," Crawford said at trial.  

People laughed. Even Lecter, in a so-awful-it-was-amazing green plaid suit and an enthusiastic collection of restraints, cracked a smile. 

— Ravenous, by Freddie Lounds

Clarice has seen perhaps 1 million photographs of Hannibal Lecter. 

In Lounds' book, there's a 30 page glossy insert of color pictures: Lecter in white tie formal, in spectacular suits, in beautiful cashmere coats standing around in the background of FBI photos talking to Will Graham, whose dark curls were being tossed provokingly by the wind.  

She'd looked him up again last night in the dorms with Ardelia. Lecter has cheekbones for days, burgundy brown eyes, an angular, interesting handsomeness. In photographs prior to the revelation of his leisure activities, Lecter was described as Dr. Lecter of Baltimore and his dates delicately described as and his companion. There is a five-page section in the photographs specifically dedicated to a well-curated sampling of images captioned Dr. Hannibal Lecter, of Baltimore, and his companion, Will Graham.

Post-arrest and incarceration, the photographs have a different story and darkness, all of Lecter's sharpness brought to fore. He was still handsome and still striking, but in a certain light, the shape of his face and the spark of the flash made him look like a skeleton, a harbinger.  

Lounds, of course, had selected that image for the cover of her book.

Standing in the consuming shadows of the chamber, looking through the glass, Clarice sees his shoulders, first.

Hannibal Lecter has the type of impeccable posture that makes Clarice feel like she's forever slouching. The lines of his body taper to a trim waist and his hands are clasped together behind his back; the jumpsuit is almost comically awful. When she looks, finally, to his neck and his chin and his face, she finds Lecter looking at her already, head tilted with the curiosity of an apex predator and the placid indifference of someone Frederick Chilton believes is "an example of pure sociopathy." 

"Dr. Lecter," she says, and thinks she doesn't sound so bad.

He doesn't say anything, but he continues his study of her. It's not the way men usually look at women, but it's unsettling in a different way. He cooked livers; Clarice supposes it's not strange she feels as if she should take an instinctive step away. 

"My name is Clarice Starling," she tries again. "May I talk with you?"

Lecter looks and looks some more, for a long time, before he squares his feet into the vee of a ballet dancer, preparing, and nods at her solicitously.

He says, "Good morning," and even knowing all she knows, he sounds charming and cultured and interesting. 

Clarice maintains her distance from the wall of glass and decides further pleasantries would would pointless. She clears her throat and holds up the folder instead. 

"Doctor, we have a hard problem in psychological profiling. We'd like to get your help."

Something flashes across Lecter's face, too quickly for identification.

"'We' being the the Behavior Analysis Unit at Quantico," he begins. "I read that Jack Crawford is no longer in charge there."  

"Yes," she answers, too wary to be glib.

"May I see your credentials?" Lecter asks. 

It requires the involvement of Barney, who makes a number of achingly polite threats — including of something called "dignity pants" — before Clarice is able to provide her laminated identification to Lecter. He runs his thumb over her photograph and says, "I see though Jack has departed, the legacy of his tactics has not, Trainee Starling." 

Clarice would prefer not to react at all, but the way she stands straighter and flexes her jaw is reactive and instantaneous. "I'm still in training at the academy, but we're not here to discuss the FBI, Dr. Lecter. I'd like to talk to you about psychology — can you determine yourself if I'm qualified?"

He looks away from her, to the tips of his cloth shoes and then to the corners of his cell. 

"How is he, do you know?" Lecter asks, ignoring her question, removed and polite. If she didn't keep looking at his mouth and thinking of what he liked to do with it, she could almost imagine him interested and genial. "Sad business, the passing of his wife. I sent a note — he did not respond." 

Clarice knows the official record and what the rumor mill churns out. Crawford had left the FBI after a distinguished career with the agency to care for his wife, who was extremely ill. Unofficially, he'd been told to resign. The reasons why had been hush hush five years ago and were more or less flagrant rumor and innuendo now. 

"I don't have any information on him," Clarice admits. "Dr. Lecter — the profile?"

He favors her with a mild look. "This is called 'cutting up a few old touches,' Officer Starling — you don't mind, do you?" 

She tries again. "Better than that, we could touch up a few old cuts here. This file — "

"Dreadful," Lecter pronounces, looking impatient and distressed in equal measure. "Never use wit in a segue, it ruins the mood. You had been doing very well: courteous and receptive to courtesy — and now are ham-handed in your segue. It will not do."

Wildly, Clarice wonders if Will Graham had been better for this, at cultivating Lecter's moods all those times they were photographed together. For a crazy second, she considers talking about how much she likes dogs. 

"Dr. Lecter, you're an experienced clinical psychiatrist, I'm not trying to scam you. I want you to take a look at this file, and you either will or you won't," she says, in her plain, forthright way; she hasn't got any other. "Would it hurt to look at the thing?"

Lecter's all microexpressions, Clarice decides. His face barely moves, but it's a universe conveyed in the corners of his mouth, the way he blinks. 

"Is it the Buffalo Bill case, then?" he asks, and sounds nearly amused. 

It's part of the Buffalo Bill case, anyway. The actual file has sprawled out to no fewer than a dozen boxes at headquarters, and that excludes the digital paper trail.  

"We would appreciate your opinion," Clarice tells him. 

He looks at the manila folder where she's holding it, follows the line of her fingers to her wrist and then up her arm. It's long seconds before he meets her gaze again, and when he does he looks thoughtful, interested, and it Clarice feels her knees lock, her bites down on her tongue, her breath stutter to be so observed. 

"Barney," Lecter calls out, a smile beginning to creep across his face, "could you please bring Agent Starling a chair?"  

Graham's life was extremely isolated. He had no living family and very few friends. There was his old partner from his years as detective in New Orleans, there was Dr. Bloom. There was also Hannibal Lecter, with whom Graham had 'conversations.' Though scheduled among Lecter's other appointments, following his initial psychological review, Graham was never officially a patient. 

By all accounts, their initial antipathy was short-lived. 

After the Hobbs case, hospital visitor logs show that they haunted Abigail Hobbs' room together. And employees of the group home where Hobbs was moved for further treatment remember that they usually visited her in a pair. Graham's standing weekly appointment more often than not turned into dinner, based on email and text records, and Lecter would make the long drive from Baltimore to Wolf Trap to check on Graham's pack of mutts while he was out of town.  

It was not only that they became friends, but it was the intimacy and speed of the relationship that made it so singular. These were two men who cultivated relatively isolating lives who suddenly, seemingly instinctively made room for one another. Lecter destroyed his notes from Graham's sessions, but he missed some of his sketches, including a sketch of Russian painter Nikolai Ge's "Achilles Lamenting the Death of Patroclus" — Graham's face grafted onto Patroclus.

"Those guys were fucking weird about each other from the beginning," said one law enforcement source who requested anonymity. 

Ravenous, by Freddie Lounds