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A Thousand Dreadful Things: France

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Hannibal gracefully slipped along the opulent stalls of the French marketplace, glancing across the rows and baskets of vibrant late summer produce. The fruits were delicately warming under the early morning sun and their sweet perfumes mingled and caught in his nose, reminding him of honey and overly-ripe plums. Today he was on a mission for chanterelles. It was late September and he was rejuvenated by these still-warm but fresher days. The autumnal colors were just beginning to peek out from among the rich summer greenery that surrounded the marketplace. Young sweet radishes, tender frisée, plump green artichokes, and the last of the summer tomatoes caught his eye as he recalled each flavor in his mouth and nose. He leaned forward and inhaled the warm air over the piles and crates of fresh greens and herbs and, sharing his desires with the vendor, he watched, smiling with delight, as they bundled and wrapped his selections.

He was, by all accounts, happy here. His new estate looked out over verdant rolling hillsides and a seemingly endless vineyard. His chateau was tucked within the lush Northern Burgundy region of France, and it was both beautiful and secluded. His mornings were often spent delighting in the sights and smells of this fragrant and abundant marketplace. His evenings were mostly enjoyed in solitude, allowing for careful contemplation. Hannibal was never above an evening of meditative reflection, but one does grow tired of such a simple life. While he now only lectured and taught – no longer practicing psychiatry – he had refused to compromise one particular indulgence: his diet. It continued to remain rich and varied in all aspects.

Back at his vineyard, Hannibal greeted Anouk, his housekeeper, as he delivered his purchases to the kitchen. Anouk was intrigued by Hannibal’s uncharacteristically good mood. He seemed downright enthusiastic to be alive.

“You seem particularly taken by your visit to the market, Hannibal,” she said in her sweet sing-songy French accent. Anouk was young and beautiful, a demure woman, both sweet and caring, and along with household duties, she happily tended to any extraneous tasks that Hannibal asked of her. She had a fondness for Hannibal, and though she was hired help, they often referred to each other in more informal terms. That is, unless Anouk sensed a particular intensity to the way the man carried himself. Hannibal, too, found comfort in having Anouk around him. She was elegant, charming and, most importantly, unobtrusive.

“It's a good day for the mind, and I do believe the palate. Do join me for dinner,” he insisted with a smile, unpacking his parcels.

“Of course,” she smiled. “I can handle these if you would like to enjoy your walk in the vineyard,” she suggested, and Hannibal nodded his gratitude as he departed through the patio door at the far end of the kitchen.    

Outside among the hedgerows that lined the gardens surrounding the house, Hannibal strolled, inhaling the scent of the vineyard as it floated through the breeze. It was the harvest season, and he noted in the air scents of a sun-warmed D’Anjou pear, the flesh of a Fuji apple, and the sweet smell of fermentation, as they wafted around him while he walked. Today was a very good day indeed, for he had just received the news he had been hoping for and it had set in motion a plot.