When he first wakes up, he doesn’t remember. His past is a haze. His present is a trap. He thinks this hospital is the other hospital and they are treating him for a fever; he even asks the nurse if Georgia Madchen is well enough for visits. Beyond his window’s sterile shades a shadow passes. He assumes it is Dr. Lecter bringing him chicken soup again. But the shadow is one of the guards stationed outside his door. And Dr. Lecter…
Like a monolith Jack looms over him, mouth thin, wary eyes searching his face and body for signs of illness, signs of madness. They come to rest on Will’s arm, the bandage there.
“You shot me,” Will says.
“You escaped from lockup.” Jack’s voice is sturdy. He offers no apologies. “You stole an ambulance. You remember stealing an ambulance?”
Red and blue flashing lights filter through the haze of Will’s mind. He nods. He also offers no apologies. “I had to find out who he was. The real copycat.”
Jack deflates. He had thought this kind of talk would disappear with Will’s illness. Will knows how he sounds, and he knows how Jack thinks he sounds, but nothing could be more important than telling him the truth.
His voice thrums with a perverse excitement. “I found him.”
Jack sighs, humoring him for old times’ sake. “The copycat?”
“Dr. Hannibal Lecter.”
Jack rubs his face and says nothing.
“Think about it, Jack. He has detailed knowledge of the cases. He was there in Minnesota. He was a surgeon, he has anatomical knowledge, and…he knew me. He knew what was happening to me, but he didn’t want me to see. He’s been playing us since the beginning. He’s been playing you—”
“Enough,” Jack booms, and the walls seem to shake. “You kidnapped Dr. Lecter at gunpoint. You tried to shoot him. You should be glad he isn’t pressing charges.”
Will starts to laugh, high-pitched, flirting with hysteria.
Jack cringes. “Look, Will. You’ve been very sick. You’re still confused. Let the doctors here do their work and we’ll talk when you’re clearer.”
Will stops laughing. “I am clear. I’m clearer than I’ve been in months. Now that I’m not under the gentle care of Dr. Lecter, I see everything.”
“You killed five people,” Jack says, quietly. “I am operating under the assumption, the fervent hope, that you didn’t know what you were doing. But you killed those people, Will. Now, you don’t want to face that, and I don’t blame you. But Dr. Lecter is a good man. He feels he let you down. He sat with you every day while you were under.”
“Don’t drag him into this,” Jack finishes.
Will pins Jack with his eyes. He knows how pathetic he must look, gaunt and gray-skinned in this hospital bed. He knows Jack feels responsible for putting him there, not just for the gunshot wound, but for all of it. He can feel Jack’s guilt like a third person in the room with them.
“Do me this one favor,” he whispers. “Just look into him for me. I’m not asking you to believe, Jack. All I’m asking you to do is look.”
Jack is conflicted. Will presses on.
“Everything I’ve done for you. All the people I’ve caught. Just catch this one for me. That’s the least you can do.”
Two weeks later, the IVs come out. The doctors have declared him well enough for transfer. No handcuffs this time: they strap him down on a gurney, load him into a van like a piece of heavy furniture, and within the hour he is under the care of Dr. Chilton at the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane.
“Mr. Graham,” he says, nodding as the orderlies roll the gurney past him. He is fifteen pounds lighter than when Will last saw him, and there is a new jumpiness in his beady eyes. “It’s time for that special visit you promised me.”
Will sleeps those first few days. He is still recovering, or so he tells himself. He would rather be hazy than have to think about what it means to be here, in this place, surrounded by the very killers he caught, the people whose thoughts he lived and breathed. Even now he can feel their violent fantasies oozing through the bars of his cell, seeking to infect him. Chilton comes to see him every day, an eager light in his eyes, brandishing a clipboard with the full battery of psychopathology tests. Will ignores his questions. He lies on his mortuary slab of a bed with his eyes closed and lets his mind paint him pictures of Wolf Trap. Dr. Chilton makes his first diagnosis and the next day the orderly brings a tab of Celexa with Will’s breakfast, and watches him with gentle unblinking eyes until he swallows it.
Alana visits him. Her eyes are full of disappointment. He asks her how Jack is coming with the investigation and she doesn’t know what he means.
“He’s going through all the evidence,” she says hesitantly. “They’re conducting door-to-door interviews in Wolf Trap—”
“Not me!” Will barks, annoyed. “I know he’s investigating me. But what about Dr. Lecter?”
Alana shuts her eyes. “What about him?”
She opens her eyes, suddenly steely. “Hannibal isn’t to blame for what happened to you.” Will can hear in her voice that this speech is rehearsed. “Any more than Jack is to blame, or I am. Which is to say, Hannibal is very much to blame. He had a responsibility to you and he didn’t help you. He—well, he should have caught the encephalitis, there were neurological symptoms he could have noticed. He feels terrible for what happened, Will. He’s still reeling from it. It’s been a blow.”
Will leaps off his bed so quickly that her shoulders jump in alarm. “Please tell me you’re not seeing him alone.”
“He was my mentor at Johns Hopkins,” she says, simply.
Will runs his hands through his hair over and over. “He killed Abigail. He planted evidence in my house, knowing I would be too—too out of my mind to understand what was happening. And I’m sure you’re right, Alana. He should have seen the encephalitis. A psychiatrist of his caliber, with his medical background—how could he miss it? Unless he didn’t miss it. Unless he knew all this time exactly what was wrong with me, only he did everything in his power to keep it from me. For weeks he advised me not to get a brain scan, and when I did, he murdered my neurologist. Dr. Sutcliffe must’ve known about the encephalitis, he knew, and he wanted to tell me, and Dr. Lecter couldn’t have that, oh no, because then the game would be over, and if there’s anything Lecter wants, it’s that the game should never end. Dr. Sutcliffe had the power to take Lecter’s toys away, so Lecter killed him. Yes,” Will nods to himself, triumphant, “yes, that’s what happened.”
Alana just looks at him.
The triumph bleeds out. “You don’t believe me,” he says.
“I believe in you. You understand how other people think, Will. All that perception, all that insight, you have to turn it around, point it at yourself and eventually you’ll understand why you’re thinking this way. Why these delusions are more comforting to you than the truth.”
Will shakes his head. “They’re not delusions.”
“I know Hannibal. He couldn’t do any of the things you’re accusing him of.”
He looks at her set face, her stalwart expression. That’s the problem with Alana. She is so heartbreakingly loyal. He says:
“Then you don’t know him as well as you think you do.”
After that, she refuses to discuss Hannibal with him. She speaks to him of Jack, of his case, of the need to find a lawyer with a good grasp of mental health law. He asks her questions about the dogs, advises her on what to feed them, how best to get them to sleep through the night. They don’t talk about their kiss, but it hovers between them, poisons their conversations in much the same way Hannibal does.
He has no one to talk to about Hannibal Lecter, so he builds the case inside his mind, slowly and methodically. He sits on his bed and doesn’t move for hours, his eyes straight ahead, his fingers laced for prayer. The pendulum swings. He is Hannibal Lecter, arranging the bodies with the same meticulous flair that he uses in his speech, his dress, his work and his cooking. Cassie Boyle impaled on a severed stag head, left in a field like a buffet for the crows. Marissa Schuur mounted in the cabin, a crucifixion presented for Abigail to find. Dr. Sutcliffe unrecognizable, not a Glasgow Smile so much as a Glasgow Scream. Georgia Madchen, ingeniously immolated in her glass coffin. And Abigail…God knows what happened to Abigail. Hannibal took other people’s methods and improved on them, with the discipline of a scientist, with the vision of an artist. Yes, the artist metaphor was the more apt. Hannibal created his work for an audience, an audience of one: for Will, the only person with the ability to see him, to understand. And it is easy, so easy now for Will to understand him, and it only gets easier as the pendulum swings, as the days wear on.
Chilton begins to voice the opinion that Will is experiencing periods of catatonia.