Her cheap shoes (well, really, just because they were inexpensive didn't mean they weren't quite serviceable) clacked down the stone corridor. The corridor itself was familiar by now, but by no means had the asylum dungeon bred contempt. If anything, she felt more creeped out each time she had to parade herself past them--all of them--the murderers, the rapists, the crazies, the scum. They watched her as she went by. Some of them leered, some of them scowled and muttered threats, and some of them--this was the creepiest of all--watched. That was all. Just watched as she passed by, not moving a muscle except for their eyes, never letting her out of their sight until she was past the view of their cells.
It was supremely strange, she acknowledged, that she couldn't feel at ease down here until she was standing before the glass-fronted cell of Hannibal Lecter.
Today he was reclined on his bunk against the stone wall, watching her through hooded eyes, a faint smile teasing his lips. "Good morning, Clarice."
She summoned a smile. It still didn't come easily, though she was disconcerted to believe that it should. "Good morning, Dr. Lecter. How are you today?"
"Intrigued," he said calmly. "I'm waiting most anxiously to hear what kind of deal you've managed to finagle with Jackie Boy Crawford." Wow. No kidding around today, no attempts to worm out information about her past. Yet. He wanted to get right to the point.
Starling suppressed the surge of triumph she felt, and did her best to look somewhat apologetic. "Well, Doctor, the thing is…"
He raised his eyebrows. "Surely even Jack Crawford would not put poor Catherine's life on the line merely to haggle with me?" he asked. "A room with a view. Would that stick in his craw so very much? Ah. No pun intended."
Clarice thought, sourly, that that was a pretty lousy pun for someone who'd gotten on her case about making one in their very first meeting. Add that to the fact that they'd just found something stuck in the craws of Buffalo Bill's victims, too. A death's-head moth. And now Catherine Martin was missing. They were running out of time.
Cut to the chase, then. "I can't speak to that, sir. I told him about your request--the federal prison, the view you wanted, everything. He said that there had been a new development…he'd found something else to motivate you." Her amusement mixed with real apprehension. Hannibal Lecter, whatever else he was, was not a man to be toyed with.
But Lecter didn't look annoyed. He only looked amused. "Dear me," he said. "More skeletons in my closet? I could have sworn I boiled all the bones down for stock."
"Um." She hoped he didn't expect her to laugh at that. "Not exactly, no. It seems, well, with the Buffalo Bill case gaining so much notoriety, and with the FBI--that is, me--talking to you, it seems that public interest in you has revived." Had it ever. She remembered, trying not to wince, the Tattler article that had called her the 'Bride of Frankenstein.' "And, well, Mr. Crawford is sort of the man in charge of all the notes on your case file, all the, um." What were they calling it? "The good stuff."
"So?" Lecter asked, still looking unperturbed.
"So. Well, you can't deny, Doctor, that your, ah, career, has been a little dramatic. I mean, you have to admit it makes a good, that is, a compelling story." She managed a hopeful smile.
Lecter's eyes narrowed. "Agent Starling, I have accumulated, over the course of our past two meetings, a modicum of respect for you. I would hate to see that store diminish."
Right. She took a deep breath. "They're going to make a musical about you."
Dr. Lecter regarded her for a moment, raising his eyebrows again, before he said politely, "I beg your pardon?"
"A musical. You know. It's supposed to be sort of like Sweeney Todd, I think. I've never seen Sweeney Todd, though. But--"
"Yes, sir. A Broadway style musical."
"Ah." Lecter rose to his feet and moved, sinuous and prowling, to the glass. Starling swallowed hard. "Clarice, I do admit, this cell gets a little dull, but as yet I have no need for story hour. So why don't you…"
"It's not a story," Starling blurted, scarcely believing she'd dared to interrupt him. "I'm sorry, sir, but here." She tugged out the sliding drawer through which food was passed to him, and laid a sheaf of papers inside. "It's the proposal Sir Andrew showed to Mr. Crawford. Well. A photocopy, anyway--"
"Sir Andrew?" Dr. Lecter's face gave away absolutely nothing.
"Yes. Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber."
"Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber."
Starling thought about making a flip remark about echoes, and then decided that was probably the worst idea she'd ever had in her life. "Yes, sir. He's written lots of musicals, actually, he's quite famous. You've probably heard of him. Well, there was CATS, of course, and The Phantom of--"
Dr. Lecter abruptly seized the sheaf of papers from the tray and began rifling through it. It was hard to tell, underneath the cell's artificial light, but Starling could have sworn that his face was a little paler than it had been.
As he read, Starling continued, "But Sir Andrew wants Mr. Crawford's information before he will proceed. He thinks it'll make everything more true-to-life, you see. It'd have to go through a few layers of red tape and all, but Mr. Crawford's considering giving it the go-ahead."
Lecter looked at her. His eyes were wide and his lips were drawn into a tight, thin line. It took Starling a minute before she realized that he looked absolutely horrified.
Nevertheless, his voice was completely steady as he said, "What exactly does Sir Andrew mean, may I ask, by more 'true-to-life'?"
"He wants the tapes of your interviews, your trials, all that. For lyrics. I think he said he was especially impressed by the way you insulted the D.A. at your initial hearing. He says he can definitely work that into a show-stopper."
"--stopper, yes, sir." Starling pointed at the sheaf of papers in Lecter's hand. "If you look in the third section, Doctor, you'll see his main outline. A big song to kick off--probably your initial capture by Will Graham--and then it turns into a retrospective of your victims, who you killed, why you killed them, all that. In the middle, there's a ballad, I think."
"Yeah." This was where she could not laugh. Could not, could not, could not. "It's your big solo. You--I mean, the actor playing you, of course--gets a chance to explain his motivations in song, about how he's misunderstood, and the world just doesn't get him."
Lecter stared at her.
"By a window. In the moonlight," Starling added.
"What--" Lecter stopped, and cleared his throat. "What, may I ask, will be the title for this--thing?" he continued, his voice slightly less choked.
"Um. It's in the papers," Starling said helpfully, "but I think right now, they're planning to call it just, Hannibal! The Musical."
His eyes seemed to drill all the way into her skull. "There was an exclamation point in there somewhere, Agent Starling," he snarled. "Do not lie to me. I heard it."
"Uh, yes, sir. After 'Hannibal.'"
Still clutching the papers, Lecter whirled, stalked to the back of the cell, and then returned to glare at Starling as if he wanted to smash through the glass and eat her eyeballs for dinner. Which he probably did. "At the age of twelve, Agent Starling," he said hoarsely, "I composed my first solo violin piece. It was performed at the Rudolfinum in Prague the following spring, along with a select few other compositions. By the time I was sixteen I had expanded it into an entire symphony. At the age of twenty-nine I was voted onto the Board of Directors for the Boston Symphony Orchestra." He bared his small, sharp white teeth. "I saw Kiri Te Kanawa's opening night in La nozze da Figaro in Covent Garden in 1971. I personally published an article in The New Yorker that condemned Rodrigo's ludicrous Concierto de Aranjuez as overblown and overrated pomp and circumstance. Tell me, Agent Starling--how is the score for this musical described?"
Starling thought hard. "Well," she said, "I think Sir Andrew told Mr. Crawford that it would be 'rollicking, toe-tapping'--"
"Say no more." Lecter sank back down to his cot, no longer looking at the papers. Instead, he was staring at the still-bare wall of his cell--Chilton sure was taking his sweet time about returning the drawings--at some horror in the distance, visible only to him. "And what, pray tell, does this have to do with Catherine Martin? As if I couldn't guess."
"Mr. Crawford says that if you cooperate, he won't release the information to Sir Andrew. And Sir Andrew's said that if he can't get that, he won't make the musical. It's still just in the idea stage right now."
"And if I don't?"
"Mr. Crawford'll pull every string he has to get the National Endowment for the Arts to pony up part of the bill for production."
"Who would be playing me?"
"They're talking about this guy named Michael Crawford. He and Sir Andrew have worked together before. Right now he's playing the Phantom of the Opera--"
"--himself. Well. How appropriate."
"I guess Sir Andrew thinks so, sir."
"Tell me, Agent Starling, do you think if I pressed for it, I could get my sentence changed to the death penalty?"
Starling forced a laugh. It wasn't too hard, actually. "I don't think we need to go that far, sir, do you? I mean, all you have to do is help out the investigation, and all this just becomes an unpleasant memory." She paused. "You know, I think Sir Andrew wrote a song about that, too, didn't he? 'Memory--all alone in the moonlight'--"
"Agent Starling! I beg you!"
"It's not that bad," Starling couldn't resist saying. "I mean, I always kind of liked Jesus Christ Superstar."
Lecter's eyes nearly eviscerated her, this time. "Never speak to me again."
"If you say so, Doctor, but I'll have to give Mr. Crawford an answer."
"Jack Crawford can go to hell!" Hannibal Lecter roared, and indeed, all the fires of hell seemed to be burning in his eyes. Against her will, Starling felt her stomach drop somewhere down around her toes. "And he can take Sir Andrew with him. I hope they have a very happy eternity being roughly sodomized by various demons."
"Okay. Mr. Crawford said, if that was your answer, then I was supposed to get your input on something else."
"Sir Andrew wants to know if you'd like the ballad to be titled 'Love Is a Flower Yet to Bloom' or, what was it? 'The Sorrow of Being Me.' That was it."
For a moment, the banked fire in Lecter's eyes flared into a flame so bright and terrible that Starling was tempted to break into a run down the corridor, and never to return. Then, in a voice so low she could scarcely hear it, he whispered, "Get out your pen."
Starling hastened to comply.
"Buffalo Bill's real name is Jame Gumb. That's not James, but 'Jame' without an 's.' His residence, to the last of my knowledge, is in Belvedere, Ohio. He also raises those death's-head moths you have undoubtedly discovered but neglected to tell me about. Will that be sufficient?"
Starling's jaw dropped, and then she scribbled down everything as quickly as she could. "Thank you, Doctor," she panted. "Oh, thank you, thank you--"
"Be silent," Lecter snapped, and shoved the papers back through to her. "I will hold Jack Crawford to his word, Agent Starling. If I find that word of this musical is so much as being breathed anywhere near a production studio, I will break out of this cell, no matter what or how long it takes, and dine on his dainty entrails."
Not on hers, then. Starling trembled with a relief she told herself she shouldn't feel. "Understood, Doctor."
"Now get out of my sight." He pivoted on his heel and stared at the back of his cell.
"Yes, Doctor. Doctor?"
"My patience is nearly evaporated, Agent Starling."
"I know. I mean, I'm sure. I just wanted to say…" She gulped. "I'll still talk to Mr. Crawford. About getting you your view. You're right--it's not too much to ask."
He turned slowly around to look closely at her. "You will, won't you," he murmured, and she saw his old, small smile creep across his lips again.
She squared her shoulders. "Yes, sir, I will. I can't promise anything--"
"That's quite all right, Clarice. I enjoy your non-promises. What will be, will be. I could say that for you in Spanish, if you like."
"I know it in Spanish, Doctor. Que sera sera."
"You are a temptress. You should leave, or people really will talk."
Starling decided not to tell him that people really were talking already. "Thank you, sir. I expect Catherine Martin'll want to thank you too." If they found her in time. Starling refused to consider the alternative.
"So long as you are her escort, she is welcome, though I cannot promise she will leave with complete peace of mind. I shall miss our little chats, Clarice." His voice was light and mocking. His eyes were not.
"Well, maybe I can come back," she mumbled, trying not to blush. "I mean, there's bound to be more questions, eventually." Oh God, what? What the hell was she--what? But still…she was the only person who'd ever been able to get information out of Lecter, so far. They'd probably want her to try again, over something else. That was all.
Lecter made a sound like a purr. "You do that. And Clarice?"
He smiled. His eyes burned. "Do you know, the thought of being all alone in the moonlight with you…is not really so repellant."
Note: I got the idea for "Hannibal! The Musical" from the story "Practical Joke" by A.A. Aaron, who briefly mentioned it as a sort of throwaway joke. I thought I'd throw it away for a little longer.