Chapter 1: Will meets the Doctor
Chilton tapped his pencil. Before his arrest and subsequent transfer to Camp Müllerin, Will Graham had been offered a place at Oxford to study pattern recognition, and had scored unusually high on the MI-5 entrance exam. Smarter than your average boat mechanic. The question was, could Graham be reconditioned to serve the Reich's counter-intelligence interests?
The senior officers conversed among themselves and a deal was struck. A few days after Will Graham’s interment, 50 milligrams of lysergic acid was slipped into his gruel. Colors became too bright for him. Words hung in the air like pockets of smoke long after he’d spoken them. And so, Will was sent to bed early with the order to report to Doctor Lector's office the following morning for a psychiatric evaluation.
Will studied Lector from afar. He was young for a physician, and built like he was hewn from wood. His most recent patient had been a teenage girl in the bed across from Will's, whose last words "I'm not going to die here, I'm not going to die here" were muffled by the blood and foam pouring from between her clenched teeth.
The other prisoners were happy to supply Will with gossip. Hannibal's office wall was covered with broken clocks. He had other affects---filing cabinets, three unmatched chairs, several reel to reel films of past patients that he liked to watch alone---but every broken clock was a memento of someone Hannibal knew. A patient, or a victim, usually both. He called the clocks by their owner's names. He hid his heart in one of them.
That night, a butcher named Mason managed to brain one of the gate guards with a cinderblock, and got eight miles into the woods before he stepped on a bear trap and the soldiers had to carry him into Lector's office. Everyone could hear him screaming. He called Will's name. He called everyone's name. He screamed like a man trying to claw his way out of his own coffin.
Will watched the guards change shift at the gate thru his window. Mason kept screaming and Will ignored it until eventually there was silence.
When Lector started playing his theremin at two in the morning, Will lay awake and felt, well, not hate precisely. Curiosity, loneliness, frustration at anyone who indulged in sentiment during wartime, but nothing more. What might have been hate ten years ago was now an empty space next to his heart.
His finger unconsciously slipped into a hole in his slacks, drawing circles on his upper thigh, and after the song finished he pulled it away and went back to planning his escape.
On the way to his appointment with Lector, Will spotted a guard painting black lines across a pink mask, to signify the bandanna he'd been wearing two months ago when a hand grenade melted half his face. Camp Müllerin was a dumping ground for fascist soldiers too disfigured for combat but not damaged enough to be sent home, and all the military personnel at the camp wore masks.
Someone brewed coffee for a Cubist with three eyes. Lugs in pig masks paced the gun towers. It seemed a bit dramatic, but it wasn't for scaring prisoners. It was part of their therapy.
Mason had started screaming again when Will arrived at Lector's office. With an exasperated sigh, Chilton pushed Will thru the door and shut it with a click, sealing them in, alone.
"Hello Mister Graham. I don't believe we've ever met."
Will swallowed. "No, I don't believe we have."
Doctor Lector sat in an armchair. The screaming outside did not seem to bother him. He wore full uniform with a heavy coat draped over his shoulders. His mask had three squares in the place of eyes and a mouth. No one knew what he really looked like, before or after his disfigurement.
Lector said, "Can I interest you in a Chardonnay? I buried it in the snow last night." Perfectly still, his chest did not rise nor did his hands gesture when he spoke. He might just as well have been a voice recording inside a shop dummy, so microscopic were his movements. "I stopped drinking the water years ago. Chilton puts hallucinogens in that too."
The drugs burned a little ball of courage in Will's gut. "You knew he was lacing my food?" Will asked.
"Of course. He tells me everything. I'm his psychiatrist."
Will's eyes lit on a bottle of wine on Lector's desk beside two long-stemmed glasses. He filled them and set one by Lector's elbow and drank his own in one swallow so he wouldn't have to look at the doctor's eerie mask. It reminded him of an electrical outlet. Or a doll house. "Are you in therapy too, Doctor Lector? Is that why you're wearing a mask?"
"Secrecy works in my favor. For all my patients know I was drawn and quartered by Cossack stallions and yet lived to tell the tale. Limbless, helpless, squirming into my uniform each morning like a hermit crab. Soldiers are more forthcoming if they can assume the worst about you."
"I don't see any other prisoners in therapy."
"Your's is an atypical case. Chilton values your well-being."
"Or, Chilton hasn't had me shot because he needs code-breakers like me on the payroll and you're his Svengali."
Was there a hint of amusement in the way Lector cocked his head toward Will?
"I apologize Doctor Lector, that was very rude of me."
"Please, call me Hannibal."
As this was their first session, Hannibal began with a series of questions in order to establish a baseline from which he could monitor positive or negative progress in Will's cognitive ability. Questions such as:
1) What is your name?
2) What city were you born in?
3) Touch your left cheek. Now touch the other one.
4) Name three flavors of cake.
5) Is it better to fly via Mastodon or astral projection?
6) Do you peel a banana before you eat it?
7) Which burns faster, money or the creative process?
8) Which is more puzzling, that God created a world capable of evil, or that we are justified for cooperating with it?
9) How is a kite like a pair of pliers?
10) What is the moral of the story "Hickory Dickory Dock"?
11) Would you sit in a chair where someone has died?
12) Do my lips move when I speak?
13) How about now?
14) Are you a doctor?
Will considered the last question. Are you a doctor? he thought. What kind of doctor are you?
Lector hadn't moved. He hadn't written anything down in a notepad. He hadn't touched his wine. He'd simply sat in his armchair and committed all of Will's answers to memory as if his head were filled with magnetic tape.
"You appear to be experiencing the phenomenon of jamais-vu, Mister Graham." said Hannibal.
"I think you mean déjà vu." said Will. Will shielded himself as car headlights passed the window. His eyes were still dilated and gave everything a fuzzy halo. Will dropped his hand and then stiffened as he looked up and found Lector towering over him, the mask mere inches from his face.
"Déjà vu assumes you have already visited this room, have already had this conversation." said Hannibal. Will waited for the doctor to step back, but he didn't. "Jamais vu is the impression that you are seeing the world for what it truly is for the first time. Is this true?"
The doctor stared from out the dollhouse windows, waiting for an answer. Will's pulse remained steady. "Yes." said Will.
"We'll have to watch that in our intervening sessions. We don't want to precipitate an...event."
The squares in the mask filled Will's field of vision until he thought he saw...things inside, red-tinged shadows against a darker background. Will strained forward, his breath fogging up his glasses, so curious...
Then he thought better of it and lept out of his chair, shutting his eyes when he knew Lector wouldn't see it. "What's with the clocks?" Will asked.
Will took a clock at random and looked over his shoulder. Hannibal was seated once more in his chair as if he'd not budged. "Spoils of war." said Hannibal.
"I like them." said Will. He turned the clock in the light. It was dark red and shaped like a heart. Not a cartoon heart, a real heart with veins and a blue artery sticking out the top. "I used to take these things apart all the time when I was little. The hand-made ones I mean, not the cheap factory ones."
"That one hasn't worked in years."
Will found a pencil in Hannibal's desk and set to righting the gears inside. "I like the masks too." Will admitted.
"The mask functions as both a prosthetic and an expression of man's dissonance within himself. A man knows his own inner darkness, he traces and retraces it's paths a thousandfold like a hunter in his haunted forest, but it is only when we reveal that darkness to others that we may finally exorcise it."
Will eyed the pig men in the gun towers. "How horrible."
"We're at war, Mister Graham. Horror is no longer a fixed tangible."
"I guess we all have our reasons for being here." said Will. He stretched his hand, studying the scars across the back of his knuckles. "I was smashing banks at a student protest when they arrested me. We had this idea of a new Berlin, where you went to work but you didn't get paid. But then you didn't pay rent either. And all our meals in the town square, together, as neighbors."
Will wound the clock. They listened to it tick, each man lost in his own thoughts, equally disillusioned by the ideologies that had spurred them to war in the first place.
Hannibal stared straight ahead at the office door. "Mister Graham....Will...you should know I've been intercepting Russian radio for the last few weeks. If you are going to attempt an escape, you should do it quickly."
Will stood perfectly still, watching the minute hand move within the heart. The Russians were infamous for leaving no survivors, soldier or civilian. "How much time do we have?"
"A week. Perhaps less."
"Then why don't you leave?"
"Because we're losing the war. And there's no jail cell waiting for men like me."
Will watched the courtyard darken outside, smoke from a dozen chimneys rising into the stars. He placed the clock back on the wall. "I'd like to repair more of these if that's alright," said Will, "Same time tomorrow?"
"If that is convenient for you, Mister Graham."
Hannibal listened to the heart tick. Chilton was already waiting outside. He walked Will Graham out of his office and shut the door and wrote down his notes for the day.
Hannibal listened to the heart tick. He tried composing on the theremin that night, but everything came out sounding tuneless and desperate.
Hannibal listened to the heart tick. He thought of Will's smile and pressed a hand to his chest to smother it's ache.
TO BE CONTINUED
Chapter 2: The First Dream
Will opened his eyes in the dream, although he was content to stay under the sheets resting his cheek on someone's shoulder. He studied the room disinterestedly. Wine glasses crowded a side table. The window was a black square looking down on nothing. Bomber planes sailed unseen overhead and dropped their load and edged the distant mountains in red light.
A stranger lay warm beneath him. Moonlight cut across his chest and obscured his face. He was tall and flat-muscled and completely naked. His eyes shone white in the dark like polished stones. Will couldn't tell if the man wore a mask or if the words simply issued from his open mouth without having to move. He said, “I have a few more questions if that's all right, Mister Graham.”
Low and secretive, Hannibal spoke in a hushed voice as though someone outside the door had their ear to the keyhole. His long fingers idly twisted a lock of Will's hair.
"When do I get to ask questions?" asked Will. He was scared to touch Hannibal's face. He knew it would wake him if he did. He pretended it was normal to have naked arguments with Nazi scientists. His dreams of late were populated with gunfire and hot pursuits through the forest, and he wanted this one to linger a little longer.
"When you're ready." Hannibal answered.
His fingers skated lightly over Will's arm, up and down, eliciting a little shiver as he asked the following questions:
"When is a sound not music?
Are people sounds?
What about the people very far away from me?
If I were on the opposite end of the world, would I still hear you?"
Hannibal's hand slid over the thin sheet covering Will.
"How many sounds would you make?
His mouth found Will's throat, words slurring against his skin.
"Sounds are just vibrations, yes?
Radio and x-ray and sunbeams reflected on distant satellites?
Are they music?"
Hannibal pulled back the sheet, cinders burning in the back of his eyes as the clouds parted outside and washed Will's naked body in radiant blue light.
"Is moonlight music?"
Will tipped up his face. Under the pillow, he gripped the pistol the police had confiscated before his arrest that, until now, he'd had every reason to use, and now he couldn't think of one. Mason's screams, the dead girl in the dormitory, faded under Hannibal's kiss. Will sank into it, and when he awoke his hand reached out to empty air.
Having received Doctor Lector's evaluation, Chilton moved Will Graham from the construction crew to a desk in a crackling radio lab. The two big receivers dated from the 1920's and threw off sparks when plugged in. Several ledgers monitoring Allied back channels were the product of the capable security officer Gideon and his even more formidable commander Hobbs, who had recently been called away for "re-education". Hobbs had been caught snooping in Lector's old office, according to Gideon.
"Did Lector work here before the war?" Will asked. He immediately regretted calling himself to Gideon's attention.
"They didn't tell you?" said Gideon. He was a big man who rarely bathed and always insisted on whispering directly into Will's ear for fear, rightly, that Chilton was recording their conversations. "Well yes, I suppose that makes sense, what with what happened to Lector's other patients."
Will pretended to tune him out, adjusting his headset and listening to the static between radio stations, though curiosity ate at him. "That a fact."
"Don't get me wrong, Lector is a man of distinction, and has sought the noble art of medicine in a dozen international theaters of war."
"Which is a fancy way of saying Lector's got a hard-on for mad science and not enough volunteers."
Gideon leered. "Now I get what he sees in you."
"You mean the doctor?"
"What could my therapist possibly see in me?"
"A total dish. Good looks and brains to match." Gideon turned quarterwise in his chair, studying Will. "Anyway there's more to him than that. Doctor, interrogator, art critic, black magician, wine expert, our Lector is a man of many hats."
"Didn't know he was into intelligence gathering as well." Will nodded to the equipment filling up one wall.
"Oh no, the radios are Chilton's idea, these rooms were all doctor's offices back when Camp Mullerin was a spa and Richie Riches came here to quietly die of tuberculosis."
"How convenient for the doctor."
Gideon made a dismissive hand gesture. "There's no record of any wrongdoing. Even if they'd found the bodies, the Reich needed every man on deck after the brain drain in '39."
"What did he do to his patients?"
Gideon wagged a finger. "Nice try kid, no cigar."
Will glanced at the door to the adjoining hallway, now a storage unit for antiquated medical paraphernalia. Bone saws and rib spreaders and whatnot. Lector's old office door loomed just beyond the edge of the lamplight. "What was Hobbs doing in there?" Will asked.
"Same thing as everyone else, trying to get over the fence." Gideon smiled and licked his pencil, sketching a crude map of the camp on a sheet of paper. "Wouldn't be the first time. The office window on that side of the building is only a few feet from the fence, and at sunrise the shadows from the north gun tower form a blind spot for about ten minutes every morning." He marked an X showing their location relative to the fence. "Toss a blanket over the barbed wire, tie a toaster to one end of a sheet rope for your grappling hook, a good climber could shimmy home free. He and his daughter planned it for months. The daughter's in the infirmary with a broken leg, lost her balance on the window ledge. Hobbs on the other hand..."
"What happened to him?"
"We know he picked the office lock, then went missing for three hours. Gunner spotted him rocking back and forth on the roof of the mess hall, ten stories up, on the farthest opposite corner of the camp. Won't come down, won't talk. Damnedest thing. Chilton's waiting him out, man's gotta get hungry eventually."
Another question formed on Will's mouth, when a secretary knocked on the door and called Gideon away for a debriefing with the top brass, locking Will in the room with a promise to return before dark.
Will ran a hand through his hair, bored. Russians encrypted their emergency band chatter with a combination of dates, names, Chinese slang, and bad French spelled phonetically by half-literate soldiers. Backlogs were stacked to the ceiling. Cracking the code would take him, at most, half an hour, and his thoughts quickly turned to Hannibal. Doctor Lector, he corrected himself.
He walked past the shelves of old medical equipment to Lector's old office door. New lock, three deadbolts, with an oak bar nailed across it as thick as his calf. He gave the bar a good tug. Nobody was getting past that.
Will put his ear to the door. Nothing, not even the ambient noise of the pipes upstairs. He had the unsettling impression of someone listening in from the other side.
"Graham!" Chilton barked.
"Present." Will replied, sliding back behind his work station. "I've got the first backlog analyzed."
"Were you analyzing from the storage room? It had better be A fucking plus material Mister Graham. Don't let me catch you missing a second time or it's no food and two weeks grave digging in the rain."
Will eyed his work, mind still whirring about Hannibal's office door and how...familiar it felt to him. "I'll take that recommendation under advisement."
TO BE CONTINUED
Chapter 3: Duck in Blood Sauce
Will awoke from a dreamless sleep in his chair in Lecter's office, listening to Mason scream. A note sat on the little side table. "Please accept my apologies Mister Graham, our appointment will be delayed thirty minutes. Dinner is roast duck in blood sauce. Don't let it get cold. ---H"
Darkness pressed against the window. Will took off his glasses and rubbed his face wearily. He lifted the silver lid of a serving dish, sniffed it for psychedelics, then sat down again and wondered how you got blood from a duck. Then he was asleep again, dreaming of Hannibal.
Will was naked and kneeling on the same bed as the last dream. Pale, powerful hands encircled him from behind, seizing his hips and drawing him against Hannibal's body. Candle flames gave the door jagged shadows. Hannibal pointed toward the door and then slid two fingers inside Will's mouth. "You have to eat, Will. It keeps your teeth sharp."
The door opened and Mason hung on a deerfold, bled out and field dressed, while a Nazi officer sat by the fire roasting his guts. Red fog coiled behind him. He took off his mask and Will recognized a nightmare mirror version of himself. The doppelganger unfolded, doubling, tripling in height. Then he lifted Will by the collar, opening a mouth full of needle teeth that spiraled down his throat, and crunched off his head.
Will awoke in a sweaty panic to find Hannibal in the chair across from him. "Welcome back, Mister Graham."
Lecter sat with his legs crossed, watching Will. Cutting a debonair figure in his starched uniform and fur-trimmed coat, he radiated strength like a young wolf. Will could still feel those dream hands on his body, his waist, his chest, fingertips daring to explore the wiry hairs above his cock. His fevered brain managed a "Hello Doctor."
"How are you today?"
Will cleaned his glasses on his shirt, avoiding the question. He tried not to stare at Hannibal's mask and instead studied his hands, which was worse because he couldn't stop imagining those phantom hands clutching him, wanting him.
"You have a thought in your head, Will."
Will squared his glasses. Any man deformed enough to wear a mask meant a life of fear, isolation, and paid sex. Enjoyed attention. And was easily manipulated. "May I have some wine?"
Hannibal made a passing remark in French and stood up to pour drinks. His accent wasn't like the other Germans, there was a cosmopolitan hint of Old World and Older Money, possibly dating back to Roman times.
"I know how I'm going to escape, Doctor."
"How is that?"
"I'm going to walk out that front gate in Chilton's uniform," said Will, staring at Hannibal's back as he uncorked a bottle, "And you're going to get it for me."
"It won't work. The guards would notice."
"You have any suggestions?"
Hannibal did not turn around but spoke slowly, which in time Will would recognize as a sign of giddy excitement. "Are you a superstitious man, Will?"
"How important is it that I be, if I want to escape?"
"It is of utmost importance."
"I am the soul of superstition."
Hannibal turned, drinks in hand. "Then there may be a way out for you."
"Why, have you got a coffin with a false bottom or a tunnel through the graveyard?"
"No, just...a way." Hannibal pressed a glass into Will's fingers and held it there. His leather glove was warm to the touch. Up close he smelled of aftershave and sulfur. His shoulders filled his uniform and his belt buckle glittered inches from Will's mouth. "A path dark and cold, though I have trafficked in places darker and colder, past the lee shore of Heaven where good men dare not trespass. If you'll let me, I can prepare you safe passage."
Will sipped his wine. "A door?"
Hannibal's words seemed to issue from a spot directly behind Will's head, as it had in the dream; the burr in his voice hit Will like a soft punch in the gut. He wondered what was in that wine. "What would I have to do?"
"What men have sought to do for millennia, to perceive the music in the silence between the stars. In such cases we feel that the music may have been going on for some time, below the threshold of hearing, before it becomes loud enough for us to hear it. Some day you will hear it too. I will help you." said Hannibal, fingers grazing Will's cheek, "I'm an excellent therapist."
"I don't hear music. All I hear are screams."
Hannibal cocked his dollhouse head, coy and full of secrets. "Not every instrument was made to sing."
His gloved thumb ran over Will's lower lip, his voice dropping almost too low to hear. "Some day I shall make an instrument of you."
"I'll think you'll find I'm not so easily played." said Will, shaking with need this close to him, dizzy from the smell of aftershave and whatever had been slipped in his drink.
"I don't doubt it."
Mason's screams pierced the night air and the room grew suddenly chill and Will flinched. Hannibal did not move away.
"Where do I begin?" asked Will.
"Wouldn't be my first prison break."
"Knocked a few heads in your day?"
"I'm stronger than I look."
"But not as strong as you think," said Hannibal, gesturing to his broken clocks, "The mind is like a Christmas tree. One bulb blows, and the whole strand goes dark. Why do you want to escape?"
"I seek a better Europe."
"All you'll find are graves."
Mason screamed again, clearing two octaves and hitting a series of overtones that made the windows shake and the wine glasses vibrate as though touched with a wet fingertip. Hannibal tensed with expectation.
Will opened wide and took two of Hannibal's gloved fingers in his mouth. He didn't know why he did it, it seemed the right thing at the time. He bit down until he felt something crack. Hannibal effortlessly pulled him up and on top of him in his own chair without disconnecting.
"You have to eat, Will." He pulled his fingers out and removed the glove. Time felt elastic and Will watched Hannibal lift the silver lid thru a fog of lust. "There are frightful things behind that door. War did not prepare you for it. You must build up your strength."
Will's mouth hung slack, hot and bloody as Hannibal fed him meat straight from his open palm. Will had avoided the canteen ever since Chilton candy-flipped his breakfast, afraid to touch the water, to even drink the rain out of a tire track. He hated losing control.
Yet it didn't feel like a loss of control after he finished the meal and tipped up the dish and slapped the back to get every last dram of blood. His free hand slid inside the swell of Hannibal's thigh and found him hard. He didn't recall how long it stayed there. That frightened him.
One dead duck made no difference, so long as he could walk out alive. As for Hannibal's reference to the door, Will could only hope he figured out how to unlock the one near the radio lab before Hannibal's therapy became more...demanding. Clearly he needed to interview Hobbs.
War did not prepare you for it.
The clock chimed. Will walked back to the dormitory tasting Hannibal's blood the entire way.
Chapter 4: Nightmare Factory
The first time Will slept outside he'd nearly been eaten by two guards, who chased him from rooftop to rooftop trying to behead him with a fireman's axe, though that memory would later pale in comparison to the conversation he'd had with Hobbs. The thing that had been Hobbs.
Chilton was in a foul mood, and so idled outside the showers that night so he could use Will for target practice. Chilton liked dangling Will's clothes in front of him. He made sure to miss and shoot out the windows instead, until Will sat crouched and naked in a corner surrounded by broken glass.
"Been listening to the emergency band much, Mister Graham? The Russians hijacked our weapons research. Big big BIG rockets. V-2s on mobile platforms. Could split us open like a meringue," said Chilton, "I would appreciate your cooperation in helping us confirm such a wild-eyed scheme. Wake-up call is at 5:00am, I expect a good twelve hours out of you from now on."
Chilton sniffed Will's clothes. A thin man about Will's size, his mask resembled an eggshell with a single hairline crack splitting the center. "Duck sauce. You've been eating in Lecter's office."
"Camp food doesn't agree with me."
"Oo aren't you the little hunger artist." Chilton held up a broken shard of glass, magnifying a spot of light on Will's forehead. "Tell me Mister Graham, when was the last time you saw a duck this late in the season?"
Will pondered the question that evening, bundled in a blanket on the dormitory roof. Gasoline lamps burned in the gun towers. Hobbs was nowhere to be found. His eyelids grew heavy.
In his dream, Will stood by a partly open window, staring at a factory floor where thousands of prisoners stood chained in a labyrinth of conveyor belts. Berlin rose up behind them. A theremin played from the center of the city, conjuring hellish images in Will's mind, the music probing the dark like sonar. A voice from below hissed, "Did he tell you it was roast duck?" and then laughed and moved away.
Someone took a step behind him. Hannibal's hand ran softly up Will's throat and placed a lit cigarette between his lips. Will took it between two fingers and inhaled and watched smoke break apart in the chill winter wind outside.
"I don't know why I behaved like that in your office, Doctor. I really like you."
"I like you too, Will. I'm glad you came here tonight."
Hannibal's body pressed warm against Will's back, one arm lightly circling Will's waist. It felt very innocent. Will took another drag, not looking at him. "Sometimes I'm afraid to try and escape. That if I leave I'll never see you again."
"That's kind of you to say so."
Hannibal held up a glass of red wine and Will flicked his cigarette out the window. "I found a door near the radio lab, Doctor Lecter."
"Did you open it?"
"Not yet. I could have picked the lock, but---"
"Did anyone else see it?"
"I was alone."
"Is the door important to you?"
"I think I dreamed of it earlier. I see it every night. And when I put my ear against it in the real world I can hear..." Will glanced about the corners of the room and leaned in very close. "I can hear someone on the other side, listening."
"You think someone is listening to our conversations?"
"I know someone is."
"Hmm..." said Hannibal, pushing the glass to Will's lips.
"This wine is excellent." said Will, wiping his mouth and studying the red stain on his hand.
Hannibal nodded outside to the wintry scene. "Wine is only as good as it's terroir, the land, the minerals, the native rains that yield it's harvest. Look Will," he said, gesturing toward the fog-shrouded Berlin, "Do you see it?"
Will looked. Hannibal's left eye reflected in the window, the same gray as the nightmare city outside. Cold and hard and very much alive.
"See what?" asked Will.
Hannibal bent close to Will's ear. "The terror."
TO BE CONTINUED
Chapter 5: Mister Hobbs
When Will opened his eyes he found a stranger beside him on the roof. The officer stood long and bony and pale as a deep-sea fish. His uniform was dark with patches of frozen blood.
"Thank you for coming to my office on such short notice, Mister Graham."
"Who are you?"
"I am Mister Hobbs. I am in charge of the Reich's subterranean penal colony. You wished to speak with me?"
"Rocket factories powered by slave labor at the bottom of old gypsum mines. Don't bother looking. You won't find us. What was your real question?"
"Yes I already know. You want to escape? How boring. Tell me, how do you plan to get out?"
"Someone is going to steal Officer Chilton's mask and uniform for me, and with it I'll walk out the front gate."
"What a terrible idea."
Will turned away, gazing out at the forest all frosted with snow. Hobbs kept his face in shadow, suggesting he too was deformed like the other men at Camp Mullerin.
"Are you in a big hurry to get home, Mister Graham?"
"I've been de-coding radio relays out of Moscow, the Russians are coming in..." Will tapped his fingertips, unsure of what day of the week it was, "Four days."
"And perhaps you'd like to elope with your therapist?"
"So you are Lecter's new patient. Not very smart of you. He's very handsome, yes? He seduced four of my best scientists, I'm thinking of forming a string quartet."
Will rubbed his face, not sure if Hobbs were part of another dream or not. He waited for someone to flip on a light to wake him. "Can Lecter help me escape?"
"No one's escaped this place."
"Nothing is free, Mister Graham."
"What does that mean?"
The moon came out from behind a cloud and Will saw Hobbs clearly for the first time, his uniform decorated with medals, his eyes filmed over like a snake. "I've known Lecter a long time, Mister Graham. He used to work with Spetsnaz. Russian special forces. A greater assembly of daredevils you will never meet, plucked from the northern wastes whenever the Reich has need of godly muscle and ungodly intelligence. The commander sends me a bottle of Glenrothes 18 every Christmas. You know what Spetsnaz do with their lovers?" said Hobbs, not blinking those dead eyes, "They eat them."
Will was about to ask what the hell that meant when two pig masks appeared over the edge of the roof and buried an axe in the shingles between Will's feet. He lept up and hove toward higher ground. The guards squealed with bloodlust, swinging the blade and carving out chunks of chimneys in their path as Will navigated the maze of rooftops and hid behind a grate.
The piggy guards lost interest and took to taking potshots at deer in the courtyard instead. They had terrible aim. The local wildlife was so used to gunfire that the deer did not once raise their heads.
Will snuck back into the dormitory in time for his wake-up call. When last he looked in Hobbs' direction all he saw was a pair of eyes atop a column of smoke, quickly dissipating in the soft purple twilight of dawn.
TO BE CONTINUED
Chapter 6: Chain Me
Will spent the night with Lecter after their next therapy session, in a back bedroom crammed with boxes of documents the doctor intended to burn in case the Allies ever put him on trial. Will nearly skipped his appointment altogether, so fixated was he on getting through the door near the radio lab, which now mysteriously lacked the oaken barricade and two of the sliding locks.
"...and when I looked again the door was gone." said Will, expertly flipping open the back of another clock and squinting at the mechanism within.
"I see," said Hannibal, though it was plain by the tone in his voice that he did not see. He poured wine and turned his chair so as to watch Will and drummed his fingers on a nearby surgical tray concealed by a linen napkin. The mask along with the sound of his tapping on steel, tick tick tick, lent him an aspect of the room-sized computers Will had come across at Oxford. A calculator with an agenda. Half man, half machine, with the requisite patience and inaccessibility of both.
"Do you have a history of seizures, Mister Graham?"
"Why do you ask?" Will licked the end of a pencil and prodded a wire.
"Paranoid ideation is not an uncommon sign of post-ictal psychosis."
"Meaning, after a seizure."
Will used his thumbnail to pry the insulation from the loose wire and twisted two copper ends together, his hair falling over his eyes. He smiled without looking up. "You think I'm psychotic?"
"I think you're operating on a different ontological model."
Will wound the hour hand of the clock with his finger. "I didn't cause the door to appear in the real world."
"Perhaps the door was always in you. Perhaps there is a space, an emptiness, in you that you formerly lacked."
Will hung up the clock. He wiped the pencil against his slacks and replaced it in a silver quill jar that probably originated from the 13th century and walked toward Hannibal with a slow fearful tread. "Something grew in my heart the day I came here." His voice sounded strange to him. "Every night I dream and I forget it's there, and then every morning I wake up alone with this hole in my chest, with this...terrible silence."
"There's no such thing as silence." Hannibal offered him wine, and Will drank it down until the lines of the room blurred. "Even if you were to lock yourself at the bottom of the ocean, you would still hear the high tone of your own nervous system, the low buzz of blood pumping through your veins." Hannibal refilled his glass and Will drank that too. "So you need not worry about silence. You will make music until the day you die, Will." Will's eyes watered and yet Hannibal was very sharply in focus. "You will never be free of it."
A certain something, not charm but just as magnetic, reeled Will in. He couldn't recall ever attributing the word 'elegance' to another man, but it fit Hannibal. It was elegance that informed their conversations together, the doctor's taste in all things, the casual cruelty with which he waved away other people's suffering. As Mason began screaming again outside, it sank in how far removed this office was from the rest of the camp.
Hannibal leaned over the side table and produced a notepad with pen. "I'd like you to draw the door in your dream for me. Just as a visualization exercise. Was it locked?"
Will regarded the blank paper warily. "No. It's only locked in the real world."
"Why do you think that is?"
"To keep me from escaping."
"Or to keep something from getting in."
Will sketched out the door, trying to recall the architecture in his dream without resting too long on the more illicit details. Hannibal watched wordlessly. Aftershave wafted toward Will and he felt like water being pulled down the drain of Hannibal's mask. It's the wine, he told himself. "Why can't I go thru the door?"
"You will in time. It's like boiling a frog. Some things must be done by degrees." Hannibal took the completed sketch and held it up to the light and then hid the notepad. "You have a keen eye."
"Thank you doctor."
Hannibal fiddled with the linen napkin beside him. The sun had fallen behind the trees outside and sent red bars of light through the window slats. "In your dreams, do you think about killing me?"
It must have been something in the wine. Will began to sweat. He only stood a few feet from Hannibal yet he couldn't quite get a fix on where he stood in relationship to anything else in the room. "Yes."
"Tell me," said Hannibal, pulling the napkin from off the surgical tray, "How would you do it?"
Hannibal rolled up his sleeve, revealing a priceless six-pound watch, and lifted a scalpel from his tray. Everything on the tray glittered in the hazy twilight, ten or twelve objects, Will couldn't keep count with so much alcohol on an empty stomach---a knife, a straight razor, piano wire, a loaded gun. Something that might have been a bone polished to a mirror sheen.
"Why are you...?" Will began. He couldn't get enough air to complete the question.
Hannibal waited. He sat straight, wrapped in his fur coat like a Cro-Magnon hunter, scalpel extended in one hand as if asking Will to be his sous chef at a dinner party. If Will could have removed the glove and taken the doctor's pulse he would have found it racing.
"There must be some mistake."
"It's alright to be scared Will."
There was no doubt in Will's mind that he'd fucked up by coming here. Sunset turned the office into a den of red shadows. Will had escaped Chilton's frying pan and walked right into Lecter's oven instead.
"You suffer from paranoia and tangential delusions, events in time occurring without clear transitions. We can not have this. You must regain your sense of personal autonomy if you are to function in your capacity as a codebreaker. Role reversal is the best course of therapy."
"Like Spartans eating dead enemy soldiers to gain strength."
"I'm fond of the old ways of medicine."
Will took the scalpel in his sweaty hand. He turned it in the light and prayed someone would break down the door behind him, would drop a bomb and turn Hannibal's chair into a smoking crater. "I've never murdered anyone."
"This isn't murder. This...is a performance. Everything in life is. Even the silent reading of a music score is a performance."
"I'm reading you."
A gloved hand cupped Will's face. Gentle and appraising, as though Will were a prize stallion, it curved up the side of his cheek and under his bangs and it took all of Will's self-control not to lean into it. Hannibal's mask was a deep red. Flustered by the nearness of his nightmare, Will kept very still though his body strained forward.
Several seconds passed in this reverie and Hannibal slapped him none too gently.
"Do you want to escape, Will?"
Will stared at a line of blood, his blood, on the floor. He touched his mouth. "Yes."
"Then you must clearly distinguish the line between being in the audience and being a participant. You must evolve."
"Into the kind of man who can walk through that door."
Will tested the scalpel's edge against his thumb. He could have shaved with it. Hannibal drew little circles on Will's bloody cheek with his thumb, waiting. Will's gaze slid to the gun. "I used a gun in my dream."
"But that's not your gun."
"No. I stole it from the Contessa de Rimini, who slipped past the Spetsnaz long enough to break into the dungeon and murder all her children before I could. Brave woman. Could you do that when the time came?"
Hannibal was not looking at him. He removed his winter coat and jacket so as not to get blood on them. Something in his tone softened. "A mercy killing."
Hannibal's back was turned and the uniform lay over the desk. A bit big on Will, true. Will pictured himself jamming the blade into Hannibal's neck and stealing the mask for himself. It was dark enough outside.
Instead, the rage he'd held onto the last few days smoldered at Hannibal's last answer. Hannibal's last request.
"Do all your patients undertake such rites of passage?"
"You were never a patient Will."
"You don't even know me."
"Of course I do. I read people very well. You're intelligent, an excellent mechanic, living by a loose definition of time brought on by trauma and sleep deprivation. And I..." Hannibal sat down and crossed his legs invitingly. "I'm just another broken clock."
Will surveyed the surgical instruments. "I wouldn't know where to begin."
"I trust your instinct."
Will put the scalpel back on the tray and read the label on a syringe beside it. He'd come across all kinds of self-medication in the field, when he could get it, when raiding armies hadn't already looted the pharmacies, and Hannibal had the fancy-pants stuff. The kind of stuff that could tranquilize a horse if diluted with enough saline. Undiluted, it gave a wicked kick.
Will rolled back Hannibal's left sleeve. "So what was in the wine?"
"I wouldn't drug you without your consent, Will. Any episodes of ecstasy or terror you undergo in my office are purely psychosomatic. You are your own pharmacist."
Hannibal touched Will's face. A gentle touch, yet Will's chest felt strange, as though someone had punched him in the heart. He took the syringe full of pearly gray narcotics and pushed the needle into Hannibal's vein, eyeing it intently, watching the plunger go past each little black line. He felt Hannibal's arm relax beneath him. He put the needle aside and took the gun and checked for a round in the chamber.
Hannibal casually flicked a drop of blood from his arm. "Is this what you dream?" He tilted his head mockingly.
Will pressed the barrel of the gun under Hannibal's chin and tried to guard his memories. Even now he felt those phantom hands on his body. Will thumbed back the hammer. The stubble of Hannibal's face scraping his cheek. Will's finger touched the trigger but lightly. Hannibal's knowing hands unbuckling his belt and sliding down inside.
"I have a question for you Doctor."
"What happened to your other patients?"
Neither of them breathed. Not a bird, not a dog, not a single living creature moved outside to indicate there was a world beyond that room. Except for the clock ticking they were both framed in silence.
"Did you kill them?"
"They didn't matter, Will."
"They were people."
"They were oysters to be shucked." Hannibal uncrossed his legs and planted his hands on Will's hips to bring him closer. "You are not so expendable."
Will's gun hand trembled as Hannibal's fingers ran up his arm and caressed him. Will bared his teeth. "I hate you."
He leaned towards Hannibal, pressing the gun hard enough to mark the skin. Will's rage was a weight around his neck, and it pulled him down into Hannibal's arms.
"I hate you so much."
Will whipped his hand away at the last second. The bullet tore through the chair and bounced off the table and splashed wine up the side. A small part of Will curled away in disgust that he should be so complicit with the enemy, but only a small part as he fastened his teeth around Hannibal's collar and tore his shirt open.
He hadn't eaten a thing that day. Down went Will's mouth, inhaling old sweat and new aftershave and warm skin, dragging his teeth over a nipple. He hadn't meant to bite so hard. Hannibal clutched the chair arms until his knuckles whitened. Will looked up.
"I'm sorry." Will tasted blood and not his own.
Hannibal's hand came down on the top of Will's head. "You didn't hurt me."
He curled a lock of hair behind Will's ear. "Is this how you see me in your dream Will?"
"I never see you at all."
"That may change."
Blood soaked through Hannibal's shirt as Will unbuttoned it the rest of the way. Hannibal leaned over to retrieve his wine. With the chalice in his hand and his muscled chest smeared with blood he resembled an Ostrogoth refreshing himself after a field battle. He poured wine into Will's lips.
"Do it again Will."
Will breathed hard, shaking with adrenaline, kneeling with one hand on top of Hannibal's knee. He drifted in and out of reality, wondering when this dream would end. The door behind the radio lab loomed large in his mind, less a door than lightning flashes at right angles. It whispered his name. He went for the scalpel.
Hobbs' words swam to the fore of Will's brain. Do you know what Spetsnaz do to their lovers?
The scalpel sank into Hannibal's shoulder as the sun vanished behind the mountains and their bodies molded together in the therapy chair. Blood bloomed around Will's fist. He panted into Hannibal's ear, heart pounding as power vibrated through him like a gong sounding through a darkened temple.
"Do it again Will. Go for the heart."
Hannibal laughed. Will yanked out the blade in a spray of blood.
"You could have killed me."
"I won't." Will slurred his words. Hannibal's thumb traced Will's lower lip and Will opened his mouth to take it, teeth chattering with fear and lust. "I'm not a murderer."
Hannibal's nails dug grooves inside Will's shirt, eliciting another shiver. "You're making me work hard."
Will tried to pull away but Hannibal was stronger. He held Will as skillfully as a coachman training a particularly vicious horse. Will tried tossing the scalpel back and accidentally knocked all the tools to the floor. When Hannibal pushed his head to the new wound Will's tongue curled over it eagerly, sucking hot blood as though his insides were on fire. He was a stray kitten in a bowl of cream. He was wild.
Hannibal's hands grew more insistent, powerful fingers working their way inside Will's clothes down to the small of his back. "Tell me what to do." Hannibal's cock was a hard line against Will's hipbone. His voice was raw. "You have to tell me what to do."
Will looked up through his lashes, the bottom half of his face bright red, and had a moment of sanity. Was the door worth it? Was this what Hannibal meant by engineering your own evolution?
Then desire snapped him back like a rubber band and he saw himself, clearly now, walking through that door to join his husband in evil splendor. For the first time since Will had arrived, he didn't want to escape. He belonged here.
TO BE CONTINUED
Chapter 7: Hannibal's Bedroom
Camp Mullerin had many prisoners, but the hallway connecting Hannibal's office to his bedroom housed the undocumented human experiments. Clipboards hung from nails. Jarred samples filled a cabinet. Fans of light spilled from sliding hatches at the bottom of the cell doors, and Hannibal stepped over these from shadow to shadow like a vampire.
Hannibal never kept more than five patients at a time. The doors were six-inch steel and each one equipped with a five hundred gallon salt-water tank in case the cell needed to be flooded. The sigils on the locks suggested even less orthodox security measures. Hannibal wrapped his fist in one end of Will's leash and rushed him down this darkened passage, with a gallery of dead clocks on one side and screams coming from the other.
"Hush Will. We need to move before they know you're here."
Who's they? Will thought. Though Will could see himself quite clearly in the clock faces, Hannibal's reflection appeared strangely distorted as though seen through smoke, or from very far away, or often not at all. It was difficult to tell in the moonlight.
An oil lamp lit the room as Hannibal fastened the chain around the foot of a steel bedframe. It was a sturdy lock but still gave Will a good six feet of slack to move around. "I have to take measurements. I won't be long."
"I'm not going anywhere."
"This is so they don't take you from me."
"Who would come back here?" Will's eyes lit on a heavy curtain covering one wall. "Is this a dangerous place?"
Hannibal took Will's face in his gloved hands. His voice was low, his cologne was sharp, and Will thought he might faint from all the blood rushing to his head. "I'll be back. Lie down. Touch nothing." Hannibal emphasized the last two words with a raised finger and walked out the door.
Will waited for his footsteps to fade then looked around. Files filled a claw tub. Pipes snaked across the uneven ceiling. A few white tiles survived, but otherwise the walls were three different colors of cracked paint fighting to win the room.
He bent his ear to the near inaudible sound originating from the corner. An insectoid chirping but with greater regularity. He imagined an atomic typewriter that had sprouted feelers, climbing the glass of a terrarium in the glow of it's own background radiation.
Pulling back the curtain, Will started at what he thought was a cluster of officers with their heads nodded, only to watch them flatten into a smooth plane beneath a row of clocks in a nightmare portrait he would pass only once more in the coming days.
He could smell the paint. Fresh paint. The fancy-pants kind, not the prison slop home-brewed from beets and coffee grounds. Even if Hannibal had purchased the art supplies locally, acrylic was heavily rationed, and not the sort of expense one could bury in a line item when every cent went toward pumping out V-2 rockets like sausages. The higher-ups had to know this was here. Will shuddered to think what other masterworks of Hannibal's might have been blessed by the administration.
Survivors who later testified at the Nuremburg trials whispered about such unholy art collections, though most of Hannibal's work would be shelved by Soviet bureaucrats and classified into obscurity. This particular mural was Hannibal's darling. And Will was to be it's last audience.
He traced the brushstrokes. It was an exceptional copy of da Vinci's "Last Supper", except that the apostles had clocks for heads, the sacrament was a human ribcage, and Christ wore a mask, his head tilted in silent conference with the blank space beside him. Judas had yet to be drawn in.
Hannibal returned to find Will seated, staring at his reflection in a vanity table. "What is it?"
"You were having a conversation with the mirror."
The bed sank behind Will. Hannibal's uniform hung in the closet, having changed into a crisp white shirt that set off skin two shades darker than Will's. Will cleared his throat. "You're dressed sharp, Doctor Lecter."
"It's a happy day."
Hannibal stood up, his shadow a spindly monstrous thing that smoldered green in the lamp light. Unbuttoning his shirt sleeves he stripped to the waist, still spattered in blood, a mannequin face atop a body honed by discipline and demons and a life of daring-do. Will feigned disinterest.
"It's like watching a Greek tragedy." Will kept his voice steady. "Your mask I mean."
"I didn't know you enjoyed the classics."
"Not really. Though I was a fan of Virgil in my youth."
"That is more appropriate than you know."
"You think I need a poet?"
"I think you need a guide through Hell."
Hannibal braced a foot against the bedframe to unlace his boot. The sheets reflected white in the wells of his eyes. "Do you speak any other languages Will?"
"Molto buono, signore."
"Perché così segreto?" (Why so secret?)
Emptying his pockets, Hannibal opened a wall safe and tossed in money, passports, a Luger automatic, and Heinrich Himmler's unpublished volume of erotic poetry, then twirled the combination lock with a flick of his fingers. "I muri hanno orecchie." (The walls have ears.)
He sat back down and his hands ran slowly up and down Will's chest, touching his jaw, his mouth, contemplating where to begin. "Tell me what to do. You have to tell me what to do."
Will's wrists pulled against the chain, into Hannibal's arms, and for a moment he forgot about his own imminent peril, that the doctor was anything more than a means of escape. Will had only been with a couple of men, hooligans who never lasted more than five minutes and hadn't a fraction of Lecter's satanic majesty when it came to seduction. The doctor's hands were patient, flat palms slowly warming Will's goosefleshed skin, up and down until Will lifted off the bed with him.
He had to let Hannibal believe he was in control. Surgical instruments lay beneath the oil lamp. Will twisted around to whisper, Hannibal's mask cool against his cheek. "Cut away my shirt."
"What a thing to ask for."
"Am I the first?"
"Those knives and I have a history."
Will showed his teeth, less a smile and more Will exposing a piece of his skull, that made Hannibal go hard as a table leg. "Do I look easily frightened?"
Hannibal did not have to get up, so long was his reach. He bent across the table without releasing Will from his left arm. The scissors opened with a flash of moonlight. The cold metal barely nipped Will with it's edge, then slid cleanly up his spine until his shirt fell to either side. Will looked at him over his shoulder. Hannibal stared at those dark eyes, breathing raggedly thru his mouth, blades poised over the pale blue veins of Will's throat. They closed harmlessly.
Hannibal's hands brushed Will's belt buckle, and Will squirmed away. "No don't."
Knowing fingers slid inside Will's slacks, toying with the tender corner of his thigh. "Why can't I?" Will's chest rose and fell, desperate to get air in his lungs. "Why are you so protective?"
Will panted, his eyes unfocused, the seed of desire from a few days ago threatening to bloom. "Isn't it enough to know that I want it, but I can't?" Hannibal's hand crept closer. "That I would do...everything if I could?"
Hannibal pushed a black gloved hand down Will's pale skin. "Lie down. I want to look at you." Will rallied for a few seconds and then let himself slide beneath Hannibal's fingers until he sank into the pillow. A moth sizzled in the flame of the oil lamp
Will took a shaky breath. "I don't...need...anything." Each word cost him, his traitor body lifting to meet Hannibal's touch.
"I always take care of my friends."
"No one's ever been...able to."
"You won't even let me try."
Hannibal climbed in naked with one hip planted suggestively between Will's legs and waited. Will's eyes traveled to the shadowy sink of Hannibal's navel. He had the most beautiful mouth-filling cock, long, thick at the base, the kind that slides right down into your face. "Do you want to stop, Will?"
Will breathed in slowly. The room spun like a needle with no North. The echo of Hannibal’s words in that enormous room seemed to lag, or perhaps Will just imagined it.
"We can stop Will. Right now."
Will lay helpless beneath Hannibal's weight. The screaming had stopped. The pipes hummed. The camp slept on without him. He tried to speak, but Hannibal had already unbuttoned Will's slacks, his full rounded arms already sheened with sweat as he levered out Will's cock.
"May I kiss you?"
Hannibal pulled a length of dark silk from under the pillow. "You will have to wear this. At least until we are away from here. It's not safe otherwise."
Will nodded, unable to tear himself from the mask's gaze as the scarf wrapped around and the room became one big bruise, and considered Hobbs' remark about Hannibal's previous conquests. Murder-minded madames, femme fatales of science mystery who would sooner loot his corpse and pack his head in ice. Hannibal was no Don Quixote, that was for sure. Will wondered what Hannibal did for kicks when nobody was around.
He listened to breathing above him, then there was a moment of cool air skating over his skin as Hannibal sat up to unbuckle the mask. It clinked on the surgical tray with a ting like a switchblade inside a teacup. Then a faint rattling as Will shivered in his chains when Hannibal's mouth opened against his throat and began sucking on him hungrily. His tongue was hot against Will's wet skin and kissed a slow wet line up to his ear.
Hannibal mouth drifted into Will's hair, fingers tenting on the bed to keep his balance. "I russi arriveranno in due giorni." (The Russians will arrive in two days)
"Perché non fuggire?" (Why don't you escape?)
"Hobbs ha pianificato un attacco contro i belgi. I razzi lanciano da un castello nelle vicinanze. Devo partecipare." (Hobbs has planned an attack against the Belgians. The rockets launch from a nearby castle. I must attend.)
"Si potrebbe fare una scusa." (You could make an excuse.)
"La mia assenza sarebbe sospetto." (My absence would be suspicious.)
"Invia un proxy. Qualcun altro potrebbe indossare la maschera." (Send a proxy. Someone else could wear your mask.)
Hannibal drew in his tongue. "Maschera non di tutti si stacca." (Not everyone's mask comes off.)
Will switched back to English. "I have a question."
"I have an answer."
"Did you kill your other lovers?"
"No. On the contrary, they themselves are now lovers. For good or ill, women connect at some unseen frequency after they've shared a man."
"Did you love them?"
"I love all women. They are soft and taste like fish."
Hannibal kissed deep, forcing Will's mouth open so that he might gain some understanding of the history of that tongue. "You on the other hand Mister Graham..."
Hannibal's fingers laced through Will's hair and wrenched him to one side, nails digging into the soft flesh of his neck, and bit down until he got a noise he liked. Will bit back. They both slammed backwards and the headboard bounced off the wall in a cloud of plaster dust. Hannibal smiled, pushing down Will's slacks with his free hand and sliding them onto the floor, fingers drawing a circuit around Will's cock, back up his waist, down again for a second round.
"Let me touch the top." Will's swollen cock leaked a medallion on his belly. Hannibal hovered between his legs. "I won't go inside. I know what I'm doing."
Will's tongue pressed to the roof of his mouth about to say ‘No’. But he lay immobilized. As conscious as he was of Hannibal's manipulation, Will had a prescient intuition that he would live well beyond this night, and craved a single happy memory to counter-balance the starvation, deprivation, and chambers of horror that would inform his undiagnosed psychotic episodes until his mysterious death ten years from now. 'No' never surfaced.
What began as a sly thumb over the head of Will's cock quickly moved further down and took the entire length in a hot wet squeeze until Will was hallucinating in some combination of fear and exultation, he wasn't sure which.
"Posso rallentare." (I can slow down.)
"Non si ha un tocco molto ... gentile." (No you have a very...gentle touch.)
"Ti piace quello?" (You like that?)
Will shuddered. "Si signore."
Will peeked through the bottom of the blindfold. The room closed in in tandem with his rushing orgasm, the curtained wall sliding toward him like black water filling a pipe as Hannibal's worked him into a boneless heap.
"I want to watch you." Hannibal slid a finger under the blindfold, pressing his own painful erection against Will's hip with a sharp, deep inhalation before sealing his mouth over Will's. "Close your eyes. You must not see me. Hide your eyes. Nascondere i tuoi occhi."
Will tried to move but Hannibal's fingers bound his thigh and damn he was so strong, grip tight with bone and desperation as Hannibal slid wet against his skin and Will wanted to feel his mouth stretch on that wide hooded cock, feel it scrape the back of his throat...
Hannibal's dropped an octave. "Vi sono vicino ora." (You are close now.)
Helped on by rough hands and his own vivid imagination, Will twisted in the chains until all the pink went from his knuckles. As he shot into Hannibal's hand the curtain filled his vision and became a living thing of black scales coiled over muscle. It had knowledge to impart. It loved Hannibal. And it would learn to love Will too. It opened it's maw and swallowed him.
The last thing Will remembered between waking the next day and his mercifully forgotten nightmares was Hannibal bending down to whisper:
TO BE CONTINUED
Chapter 8: Unmasked
Will awoke to the bitter tang of pre-dawn air and stared at the officer's uniform hanging in the wardrobe beside a clean shirt. He lit a candle and got up to put it on. Quality stuff. Never been worn. The buttons twinkled in the light.
Will lifted the candle. Light splashed across the bed and Hannibal's sleeping form emerged from the darkness like a developing photograph. Rugged features, not much older than Will, crow's feet prematurely setting around the eyes.
He's beautiful. Will brushed a finger across Hannibal's forehead. He lay in repose, the high cheekbones and somber mein of a Roman potentate, lacking only a laurel wreath to complete the picture. Will kissed his hair. It smelled like good whiskey and burning leaves.
Why does he wear the mask? Will thought.
His heart nearly stopped when Hannibal knocked the candle to the floor and the flame guttered.
"What are you doing?"
His hand was cold. Like he'd just come from an Arctic expedition. How strange the pale shape of Hannibal's face floating in the shadows like an after-image. His hair glinted silver in the moonlight and his nails bit into Will's arm until the bones slid together. Will would have to keep his sleeve down for weeks to hide the bruises.
Hannibal towered over him, cinders for irises. "I was hoping to take you with me. The Russians have plans for you, in the basement of Moscow. Why did you disobey?"
Will saw himself mirrored in Hannibal's eyes. There was no safe answer. "I didn't mean---"
"Get out." said Hannibal in a dull, toneless voice, shoving Will across the room. "Don't come to my office. I will not see you."
Hannibal's whole body was frozen, radiating cold like a meat locker as he grasped Will and frog-marched down the hall, while Will was flush with panic.
"Chilton is expecting you. We mustn't keep him waiting."
Will breathed hard to keep up with Hannibal's long-legged near-running pace, sweat rolling down the inside of his shirt. "I'm sorry."
They were back in the radio lab. Will was fogged with exhaustion and upset a drinking glass when Hannibal gave him one last perfunctory shove before slamming the door in his face. Water dripped off the table.
Had Hannibal said something in reply to Will's apology? Will thought not. But someone had spoken to him in that bedroom. He clung to his dream before it faded, the image of a dark curtain unfolding like an accordion, something metal scraping on the floor as it approached the bed, gouging furrows in the wood...he forgot the details over the course of the day, only recalling them in the midnight hours of many a sleepless night to come.
TO BE CONTINUED
Chapter 9: Bluebeard's Boyfriend
Officer Gideon sipped his coffee. "You getting somewhere?"
Will pondered the question, sweating beneath a busted diesel generator with a hand-drill. "Hand me a cross-head screwdriver."
Gideon did so, surveying the impressive pile of classified documents Will had managed to decode in the past fifteen hours. "You're a busy beaver. At this rate we'll have the Russians buttoned up by Christmas."
"I finished those before breakfast. Killed the rest of the afternoon drafting schematics for anything that needed repairs, which is everything in this lab."
"You must love radios."
Will rolled his shoulders. A knot had formed in his back right in that spot where he couldn't reach after so many hours bent over his desk. He didn't mind. Radio schematics were tedious and mind-numbing and took the edge off sexual frustration. "Yeah I really must."
Before Gideon bid him good night, Will did one last round and checked all the equipment for glitches. Oftentimes two signal frequencies would overlap to amplify a third, much lower frequency, causing two radio channels to play at once. It always gave Will headaches. Listening to the ingredients of nerve gas set to polka is only funny the first eight times you hear it. He fell asleep with his headset still on, the switchboard lights blinking like distant stars.
The squeak of a door and the subsequent gust of cold air brought him back to the waking world. Gideon must have turned off the radios while he was sleeping, it was so dark, though Will could hear something far off down the hall. He reached for a light switch, knocking some papers to the floor. The lightbulb flickered once and died while strange sad music unspooled from the storage room. Will shivered. He had the inexplicable image of a vampire inviting his guest to dinner.
A line of light shone at the bottom of Lecter's old office door. The chain was gone. The locks were gone. Will knew the song playing on the other side, the title was on the tip of his tongue. He lay his hand on the knob and turned...
His hand flew up as if burned when the bell rang. He looked around for the source of the noise and saw an ancient wooden phone box propped against the wall. He picked it up on the sixth ring.
Hannibal said, "Hello Mister Graham. You missed your appointment today. Chilton wanted to know if everything was all right." The connection was bad. His voice sizzled, popping like an old vinyl record.
"Yeah, um, I got the generator going again, no problem. How are you?"
"I'm sorry I can't hear you." Sounds of distant screaming suddenly muted by a closed door. "That's better, could you please repeat that?"
"How are you?"
"I am well. Where are you Will?"
Will blushed. "I'm in the radio lab. Working."
There was a tense silence. Hannibal said, "What are you working on? Chilton has you at all hours, it must be very important. Has he asked you to kill anyone?"
"What? No, nothing like that, I'm decrypting these letters---"
"Decryption! How marvelous. Any good secrets?"
Will wiped his sweaty hand on his slacks. His heart thumped. Hannibal's office was on the other side of the camp yet Will lowered his eyes as though the doctor were accusing him right there in the room. "Nothing exciting. Troop movements. Racist jokes. Racist troop movements." Will laughed at his own feeble joke. "My job's pretty boring."
More sizzle, then, "I imagine so." Hannibal's voice faded in and out. "The other patients are ahead of schedule. Salt water revivication, et cetera. Very difficult procedure, easy to overcook. Most of them come back a little curdled. Anyway, my calendar has opened up. I've asked Chilton to release you at 5:00 tomorrow evening."
"It'll be good to see you again."
"What?" A loud splashing noise like someone being forcibly held underwater.
"I said it'll be good to see you."
"Are you where you ought to be?"
"Where else would I go?"
"Just asking. Nothing I need to worry about?"
"What? No, I'm not doing anything."
Another scream, followed by breaking glass. "I have to go. Ask Gideon about the Belgian whorehouse. We'll talk later."
"The Belgian what?" Will muttered as the line disconnected. He returned to his desk, papers spinning motes of dust in the lamp light when he moved them. The clock read 2:12 in the morning. He found himself humming the music from earlier, though really it wasn't written to be sad. Funny how you hear a song all your life and it means nothing, until you pair it with another person and turn a happy song into a painful reminder.
Later, he stopped to wonder how Hannibal could have known Will was working at such a late hour.
TO BE CONTINUED
Chapter 10: Dreams in the Mind Palace
The night passed and Will dreamed of the window in Hannibal's bedroom. In this dream a dark pine forest separated him from a medieval castle that stood on the other side of the mountain, lit from within as if for a banquet. Hannibal waited for him there. Will wore a handsomely tailored suit with a watch on his wrist and he floated across the forest.
A string quartet played from somewhere. Will touched down in a snow-covered field lit by torches and the castle doors opened on a ballroom resplendent in full Nazi regalia. Ivy twisted around marble columns. Flags with the eagle-and-swastika emblem hung from the walls. And Hannibal sat at the head of the table while masked members of the Reich waltzed across a tile floor. Will felt a gun inside his coat and kept his hand on it.
Hannibal rose from his chair and stepped in close. A soft ticking came from his breast pocket. "I missed you."
"Why would I lie?"
"So you were thinking about me." The corner of Will's lips turned up mischievously. He took Hannibal's arm. "Only good things I hope."
"My favorite things. Your teeth especially."
"Not anything else?" They danced, Hannibal leading so effortlessly that Will's feet seemed to glide an inch above the floor. "Not the sound of my voice? The shape of my mouth? The noise I make when I bite down?"
Hannibal took Will's tie in his fist. The waltz was muted now, as though it were playing from the next room, yet still they swayed with it. Boom tick tick, boom tick tick. "You should not have skipped your appointment."
"I thought you were angry with me."
Torchlight flickered over Hannibal's features. "...no, I'm not angry with you."
"Will you help me escape?" Will reached inside for his gun.
"I'll think of something."
Hannibal caught and embraced him. His eyes were deep wells. He snapped the watch from Will's wrist without breaking the stare. Will's gun fell to the floor. As Hannibal clutched Will's jaw and slid two overly long fingers inside his mouth and down his throat, he said, "You can no longer afford to refuse my offer. The Russians have already seized everything east of the river. They will claim anything and anyone of value. They will not claim what is mine."
Will gagged as the watch slid down, deep down inside his guts where it wriggled like a live fish and ticked in time with Hannibal's awful clock. Will wished for the agony to stop, for the dream to end, but he did not wake up. Hannibal was very real. And Will felt every moment of this violation.
Hannibal's fingers pulled out and Will fell on all fours and coughed violently. Hannibal merely smiled and retreated into the shadows toward the music.
Boom tick tick, boom tick tick. Tick tick. Tick tick.
TO BE CONTINUED
Chapter 11: The Belgian Whorehouse
Will wasn't particularly worried about his appointment with Lecter until he found the package on his bed. About the size of a book but lighter. He looked around at the snoring prisoners, then dressed and hid it inside his shirt to open later. He had a vague premonition it had to do with his dream but when he tried recalling it he only got scraps, something about a party and arguing with Hannibal.
Will walked into the radio lab that morning to find Gideon in his shirt sleeves hip-deep in a hole in the floor. Pipes lay scattered, a black line across Gideon's forehead where he'd smeared the back of his hand. His rucksack was packed. His uniform lay crumpled in the corner.
The radio played an eerie hiss as Gideon turned to meet Will's gaze. Dark circles ringed his eyes. "They ate Hobbs."
"Spetsnaz. That's what you get, playing footsie with a bunch of interdimensional fifth columnists. And now Chilton’s gone missing. Time to am-scray my friend."
Will fingered a fishing reel in Gideon's camping gear. "You're going fishing?"
"I hear the trout is excellent in Sweden." Gideon lit a cigarette. "Come with me. I could use a good mechanic."
"Doctor Lecter and I have an appointment."
"An appointment. Yeah I'll bet he does." Gideon laughed, blowing a desultory stream of smoke at the radios. "This operation stinks. Haven't you been listening to the emergency bands? Whoever's sending out those messages, no one's been able to locate the origin. Underground army base? Some hick rebel faction in the mountains? Little green men from fucking Pluto? Radar's picking up squat, it may as well be transmitting from the earth's core. There's nothing like this on the books. Isn't anyone the least bit curious?"
Will plucked the cigarette from Gideon's fingers and crushed it. "What can you tell me about the Belgian whorehouse?"
"Which bit? Half of the radio transmissions we intercepted mention a Belgian whorehouse. Gotta be talking about the launch site aimed at Antwerp." Gideon unearthed another pipe, sweat rolling inside his shirt. "Unless you're thinking of the fairy tale."
"What fairy tale?"
"You know, mysterious stranger sneaks into a whore's bedroom and says he'll make her a queen so long as she never sees his face before their wedding night and then she looks anyway and bang! the spell is broken and she never sees him again? That's the cleaned up version anyhow."
"What's the non-cleaned up version?"
"Man I don't even like to think about that." Gideon pulled out another cigarette. His hands shook too hard for matches so he lit the tip in a candle flame. The radio crackled a thin monotone message but the words were unintelligible. "The whorehouse was where I first met Lecter. One of Himmler's aunts ran the joint, perfect cover for officers to meet and get debriefed by their handlers. They named a cocktail after the place. One part cream, one part campari. The cream curdles just enough to make a nice honeycomb inside the alcohol. Looks like bloody brains."
"He and I didn't say much, both of our projects were sky-high security clearance so I mostly listened to him lecture about Italian art, but the strangest thing happened."
Gideon jabbed his cigarette in the air. "Okay let's level. We've been straight with each other this whole time, I've done some evil shit in my day, but you don't think I'm crazy, right?"
"You're asking me?"
"I knew about Lecter before we both joined the SS. He was famous, even back then. Created a vaccine for smallpox when he was seventeen. What's he doing in a backwoods post like this? What's so special about this place?"
"What does this have to do with the whorehouse?"
"Himmler's aunt had a system for agents coming in for clandestine assignments. You go up to the bar and ask for the key to room three, go upstairs, knock twice, talk to a man who doesn't exist, wait half and hour, then drop cash on the bar and leave. There was a line of men waiting for room three that night. You had to answer a few questions before you got a key. Then it's Lecter's turn and when they found out he had Spetsnaz training the barkeeper sent him to a different room. He was gone for hours. Like ten times longer than the rest of us. When he came out he was wearing that creepy fucking Halloween mask." Gideon watched the cigarette burn close to his knuckle. "Then there's that package he took home with him."
"What was in the package?"
"Ah there's a question. Lecter said he didn't have the 'need-to-know' approval to open it. I did some quiet inquiries in Berlin, everything about that night is documented---code names, locations, time stamps---except for the fact that he received a package. Not redacted, not blacked out, completely off the record. Fuckin' weird."
"You haven't told me about the real fairy tale."
"Like you're going anyway in a hurry." Gideon leaned in, clearly enjoying the attention. Twin candle flames reflected in his eyes. "Don't quote me on this, I heard it from a barmaid in Brussels. It was 1816. Or maybe 1861, the villagers don't like talking about it. They spit and clutch their crucifixes, they'd never seen such unholy weather. Story was, a handsome stranger met Old Scratch in a whorehouse during the worst part of the storm and bargained away his good looks for a title in Hell. You never heard that one? Lecter loved hearing it. It must have been a quite a scene. Rain, lightning, the devil standing there with a razor and a box to hide your face inside. That part always gave me nightmares."
Will nodded politely, believing none of it.
Later, after Gideon removed the last pipe blocking a hidden tunnel and said his goodbyes and shut the concealed floor panel behind him with nary a seam to indicate it's presence, Will sat at his station pondering the package before him. It wasn't Hannibal's style to give something without a note.
He tore into the paper. Hannibal's voice whispered in the back of his head. You should leave that alone.
The radio whipped back and forth between channels, skidding from one conversation to the next and stopping on an ear-piercing scream that resolved into feedback. Will paled. Likely a faulty antennae on the roof, he told himself. He turned down the volume on the amplifier and returned to his package.
Hannibal's shade sat beside him. Even in Will's imagination Hannibal was smartly dressed and sitting in the office chair. There's a reason I didn't look inside. Did war prepare you for this?
Their night together felt unreal. If not for the bruises Will would have dismissed it as another faulty daydream, and warmed at the memory of Hannibal's voice, his hands on his skin, forcing him onto the bed...he shut his eyes for a moment until the dizziness passed.
Will unfolded the wrappings and held up his prize to the light. It was a half-mask, a madhouse muzzle for potential biters, except that it had been polished to a high shine and appeared to have never been worn. Perfectly ordinary. Not exactly the Faustian horror Gideon's campfire yarn had built him up for.
"Why a mask?" Will wondered.
Too late, too late. Shade Hannibal shook his head. Will jumped as something enormous thumped on the roof directly above his head, and the radio whined. Someone spoke clearly this time.
"There are no faces in Hell, Mister Graham."
Will clapped his hand over his mouth. Hannibal echoed in his head yet the words had come spilling out with Will's voice. He turned, the apparition was gone. How long had he been talking to himself?
He stood to look out the window and see what had fallen off the roof, and as he did so the radio needle jumped to the far left side of the spectrum and words drifted through the receiver. Did he catch a little Italian? He checked the other emergency bands, but they were all silent for once.
The Russians are coming. Hannibal whispered.
The rocket launch against Belgium must be in progress. They'll be too busy to watch for escape attempts. Will thought. Gideon's uniform was twice too big and the mask wouldn't cover his eyes, but... Changing into this imperfect disguise, he fastened on the mask and ran down the stairs two at a time, leaving the empty box behind.
It was only when he stepped outside that he remembered part of his dream. The strange music. He heard it now, from a car radio across the empty courtyard.
Behind him, shadows scampered across the rooftop, flashlight beams shining directly into the radio lab window where he'd been a minute ago. Glass shattered. A light pointed directly at him and someone cursed in Russian.
Will was about to dart into the safety of the dormitory when headlights flipped on. Gideon's car? Will couldn't see any plates. The passenger door opened and a breath of chill air lifted the hair on his neck.
What are you waiting for? Hannibal asked. Will peered into the shadows, but all he saw was a swirl of leaves where Hannibal might have spoken. He got in the car.
The driver never said a word. They roared past the front gate, Camp Mullerin quickly shrinking in the rearview mirror, and sped down a country lane dotted with farms that blurred in the fading twilight. The trees grew closer together. Will watched soldiers patrol the fields with leashed hounds and he hunched inside his coat.
When an hour had gone by with no people in sight, Will said, "This is where I get off."
The driver nodded. The car stopped and Will stepped out.
A gas lamp burned beside a break in the trees, a lone reminder of civilization. The driver did not tip his head toward the light where Will might see his face, and raised his hand in salutation. He drove off.
Dim light appeared across a wide gulf through the branches, a house on a mountain-top, another puzzle piece from Will's dream. A crossroads sign pointing west to France swung drunkenly in the wind. He reached up to steady it. He stared at it for a long time, feeling his heart tick. Beat, hearts beat. he told himself.
The moon hid behind a cloud right as the gas lamp flickered and blew out. Will turned slowly as music played from the black slot between the trees.
Hounds bayed down the road, flashlights dancing ahead of men's voices. Taking a last look at Camp Mullerin in the distance, Will turned up his collar and walked into the forest.
TO BE CONTINUED
Chapter 12: The Castle
Candelabras lit the castle foyer.
"Ah, you made it." Hannibal, cutting a debonair figure in his black overcoat, white shirt, leather pants, and thigh-high jackboots, set aside his tea and took Will's hand. "Come Mister Graham. A castle orgy waits for no man." He led Will to a dressing room, past windows where army technicians waved to someone on the second floor and a V-2 rocket the size of a school bus lowered into view on a winch-and-pulley system. Will tried to get a better look but was pulled along.
"I'm a bit underdressed." Will turned on his heel inside the sumptuously appointed room and tugged at his ratty uniform.
"I predicted as much." said Hannibal. He tore Will's shirt off as if it were made of paper and tossed it on the bed. "So I had my tailor flown in."
"I didn't realize it was that kind of orgy. I would have worn a tie." said Will, undoing his belt, "Who left the mask for me this morning?"
Will listened to Hannibal's boot-heels on the stone floor as he circled behind him. "Are you jealous?"
Hannibal slid his cold hands along the front of Will's body and down into his unbuttoned slacks. "Don't ask dangerous questions."
Five oldish gentlemen in masks and Luftwaffe caps and nothing else passed a stinky joint between themselves while booking it down the castle corridor and discussing the price of oil. It wasn't until Will took a proffered hit off the reefer that he realized all his clothes were back in Hannibal's dressing room and a thin silver chain looped his wrist.
Will inhaled. He bent over coughing and the old men laughed. The smoke made the room bend like reflections in a steel mirror. At the end of the hall a white-gloved servant lifted the cellar door and gestured them all inside.
This must have been an older section of the castle. The floor went from wood to marble tile to ancient flagstones black with evil-looking mold, as though Hannibal were pulling Will backwards through time.
"I dreamed about you again." said Will.
The older gentlemen had taken a side passage and left them alone in the dark. Hannibal scratched a match against his boot and lit a torch, the flame spitting and casting a medieval glare on everything. "And what did you dream?"
"That you gave me something. I can't recall very clearly."
"Another means to kill me?"
"No." Will glanced down at Hannibal's wrist, saw the pale shadow where a watchband had been. "Just a moment of your time."
Hannibal stood with the torch between them. "I need you to do something for me tonight."
"I won't kill anyone."
"You won't have to."
"If I do this, will you take me away from here?"
"Don't worry. It's all been arranged." An icy wind pulled the flame horizontally. "I made a place for us."
Hannibal ducked under a low beam through the cramped tunnel that brushed his shoulders one minute and the next opened onto the edge of a high-vaulted chamber. Will looked down and immediately clutched his coat.
"Don't let me fall."
"I won't." Hannibal whispered, wrapping the chain in his fist, "I have you."
They stood on a crumbling third-story balcony with no rail. Shafts of moonlight pierced the stained-glass windows. Apple branches as thick as a grown man grew through the ruined ceiling and scented the air with it's fruit. Wet skin glistened in the candle light.
The five oldish gentlemen lounged on cushions beside two whores, sisters who sat in a rope swing suspended from one of the tree branches. They were seventeen, perhaps eighteen, their breasts having just sprouted that winter. They were clearly pleased by Will's good looks and the fact that he didn't smell like denture paste. Will felt Hannibal against his back.
"I'm not going anyway." Hannibal pressed close to Will's ear. "Their clients are royal and were especially invited. I need to hear what they're saying."
Someone giggled and a curtain was hastily drawn right as Will looked in it's direction. The girls smiled. He grit his teeth and shuddered as Hannibal pushed him down into the cushions with one hand between Will's shoulder blades and kept the hand there. Soft legs wound around Will's waist.
One of the oldish gentlemen slapped Will's ass. "Fine lookin' choice, Lecter. What you got here, another scientist?"
Will's cock slid easily inside of the first girl and Hannibal's hand clapped over his mouth to keep him quiet. The man raised his glass to Will. "Cheers."
"Are you a doctor?" asked a second man.
"Please, we're all 'doctors' here." said a third man drolly. He nodded to the others for introductions. "Doctor Lecter, meet Doctor Heteroodyne, Doctor Atomic, Doctor Analog, and Doctor Megavolt."
Wine was found for Hannibal and they clinked glasses while the girls fucked themselves on Will, cheeks flushing as their ankles crossed over the small of his back.
"You know, Eisenhower's got a big fireworks show planned for the Pacific theater." said Doctor Megavolt. "Big explosion. Probably punch a hole in the atmosphere. I can't go into details."
"Is that so?" said Hannibal. Will bit his hand, but if Hannibal felt it he gave no sign.
"Suffice it to say, we've got something way bigger in a hangar off the coast of Tunisia." said Doctor Heterodyne.
"Americans won't know what hit 'em." said Doctor Analog.
"Drop it on Kansas, irradiate every wheat field in a thousand mile radius, raise the price of bread. Watch the little fuckers fight for it." Doctor Megavolt raised his glass and shook the ice to a passing servant. "Another Courvousier?"
"When was the last time we had a good famine?" wondered Doctor Atomic.
"With a little luck, we could start World War Three." said Doctor Analog. "We're having a shindig next week at my estate Doctor Lecter, you're welcome to bring your friend along, think he'll come?"
Hannibal's fingertips dug into the side of Will's face, relishing the pre-coital tremors. "He's certainly breathing hard."
TO BE CONTINUED
Chapter 13: Bluebeard's Crazy Ex
They switched topics. The whores snoozed, flush and covered in Will's sweat. The string quartet had stopped for a cigarette break. Will pushed himself up on his hands. Tree branches cast their shadow on his naked body as though he were veined with darkness. He looked around. A row of forty or so mattresses receded into the shadows, couples walking from bed introducing themselves before pulling a curtain shut, though he noticed furtive glances toward a back door guarded by two servants...
"There you are."
Will turned. The woman wore a black leather boustier, a Luftwaffe cap tipped at a rakish angle, two pistols, a rapier across her back, and a mechanical leg. Her mask had dueling scars across the mouth. Her hair was so blonde it was nearly white.
She took two champagnes from a passing waiter. "Don't forget to hydrate. Didn't Hobbs tell you I was attending the awards ceremony?"
Will took the glass and reached back into his memory of that unreal conversation on the roof, trying to sound informed when really he was guessing. "You worked for Hobbs. One of his researchers? He never gave out names. I'm afraid the Russians stuck a fork in him."
"Don't pick out flowers for his grave just yet. Spetsnaz prefer to make eye contact with their dinner. Hobbs will probably live for days."
"You sound like Doctor Lecter."
"And you sound like me before I married him. A piece of advice?" She gave her knee a quick wrench and tossed the leg aside. "Don't get attached."
She mounted him with strong gloved fingers on his wrists. Instead of growing pink her skin took on a pearly luminescence when she got worked up. The tree creaked and a shower of white blossoms cascaded behind her.
She bent close. "Hannibal's angling for a new job. Guess with who."
"America or Russia?"
She laughed. "The Devil has more than one name."
She wrapped her good leg behind his neck and twisted upward until Will's eyes rolled white. "I can see why he married you." said Will breathlessly. He pressed his mouth to her creamy thigh. "Where's your leg?"
"I lost it."
"You should be more mindful of your parts."
"I'd say the same of you. How long since he gave you the clockwork heart?"
"I don't know what you're talking about."
She gave his chest three little taps, one heavy and two light. Boom tick tick. "Time is currency. Especially for men with a deadline. A literal deadline. We are all food for the darkness, and every meal Hannibal brings to his Masters buys him a few more years. How old do you think he really is?"
"Is that what this is? He's going to feed me to a bunch of Third Reich cultists?"
"Oh no, there's worse to come. Race wars. Two new suns in Japan. Unmanned murder drones circling the sky like it was Jurassic times. And he plans to see it all. With a companion at his side."
"Maybe you should accompany him."
"He has better taste than that."
Will was about to reply when he heard the scratch of a pencil. He turned his head and found Hannibal sitting cross-legged, an ancient leather notebook against his knee, looking up every now and then to study Doctor Du Maurier. The pencil moved from side to side shading her in. He sketched with practiced ease.
"Why aren't you married anymore Doctor Du Maurier?" asked Will.
"I have a hard time reconciling my respect for Hannibal as a physician with my disgust for his Machiavellian bullshit."
"And yet you'll sit for a portrait on top of a stranger?"
"Hannibal has drawn many portraits of me. The drawing does not define the person, be I the scientist or the spy, the wife or the ex-patient..."
"...or the missing Judas from a painting."
She tilted her head. "My my, Doctor Lecter's given you quite the education."
"Like he gave you a new leg?"
"Careful. He has excellent hearing. But no, I am many things but..." She lowered her voice to almost nothing. "...I am not the traitor."
Hannibal closed his notebook and rose to take Du Maurier's chin in his hand. He looked down at her with satisfaction, the wise creator with his handiwork. "I need him back. Hop along mon petit chou."
Will's forehead furrowed. "My little sweetheart?"
Hannibal lifted his mask to kiss the back of her hand. He showed altogether too many teeth as he did so. "My little cabbage."
TO BE CONTINUED