Once upon a time, there was a Section Chief named Jack Crawford. He was at a loss because he had no leads on a mean serial killer called Billy, but he did have a beautiful and noble trainee named Clarice Starling.
One day, the Queen’s messenger, an unpleasant man named Krendler, came to Section Chief Crawford and informed him that Billy had abducted the Queen’s daughter, Princess Catherine. He demanded that Crawford do something to find her and bring her home to the castle in Memphis.
Crawford sent for Clarice and explained that she would have to find Princess Catherine, but she had no idea where to begin. So Section Chief Crawford sent her down into a deep, dark dungeon where she found a sleek, elegant man with striking maroon eyes.
She was quite frightened and had no idea how she might go about finding Princess Catherine from here. She found herself telling the man with the red eyes all about her predicament, and to her surprise he said, “I’ll help you catch him, Clarice... but first, what will you give me if I do this for you?”
“You mean like a sort of quid pro quo type of thing?” she asked.
“Exactly,” he answered, his smile offering her a glimpse of his sharp, white teeth.
“Well,” she began, “I have some lovely café curtains...”
“No,” he snapped. “That won’t do. If we talk about this, Clarice, you’ll have to do better than that. I tell you things, you tell me things - but not about Billy or café curtains, about yourself.”
This seemed like an all right idea to Trainee Starling, so she nodded and said, “Go.”
“What is your worst memory of childhood?” the man with the red eyes asked.
“The death of my father,” she answered. “He had gone to visit this friend of his - a pig he’d met in college - out in a little straw house on the edge of town. This disagreeable wolf came along and huffed and puffed and blew the house down. They found my father in the rubble.”
“You’re very frank, Clarice. I think it would be quite something to spend some time with you outside of this dungeon.”
“Your turn - tell me about Billy,” she replied, though privately she didn’t think that last suggestion was such a bad idea.
“Well, Billy has Princess Catherine in a two-story castle and probably wants to keep her there for awhile so that she can draw trees for him - he’s quite bad at it, you see.”
Trainee Starling nodded, though she didn’t really see what trees had to do with anything.
“I don’t think that’s really enough information to track him down,” she said. “Is there anything else you could tell me?”
“Not at the moment,” the man with the red eyes said. “I think I would prefer to tell the rest to the Queen herself in Memphis.”
Well, Trainee Starling was very disappointed. She had a feeling that Section Chief Crawford would be annoyed with her, and she told the man with the red eyes this, but he still refused to say anything more.
She started out of the dungeon, but stepped in some chewing gum that a fellow named Miggs had spat out onto the ground. It got all over her shoe - which was really just a cheap pump from the Pick and Pay - but it distressed her nonetheless. The man with the red eyes called her back and folded an origami chicken for her to cheer her up before sending her off again.
She went back to Section Chief Crawford and told him all about what the man with the red eyes had said to her. Section Chief Crawford was unimpressed with the whole two-story castle thing but was a little intrigued with the tree idea.
“OK, Trainee Starling. You’ll have to go back and talk to him again.”
“But, Sir, he says he won’t say anymore without talking to the Queen,” she protested.
“If you don’t get him to talk, Starling, Princess Catherine will die and you’ll never get to be a real FBI agent. Is that what you want?”
So Trainee Starling was sent back to the dungeon for another wheedle.
“Please help me,” she begged. “If you don’t, Princess Catherine will die and I’ll never get to be a real FBI agent.”
“You’re not real FBI?” the man with the red eyes asked. “They sent a trainee to me?”
“Well... yes,” she admitted apologetically. “Does that mean you won’t help me?”
“What will you give me if I help you?” he asked.
“Well... how about an island vacation?” she offered.
“Sounds charming,” he sneered, “But I think I’d rather hear more about what happened after your father died.”
“It’s really not very interesting,” she sighed, “and it’s a long story. We really don’t have that much time for this.”
“We don’t reckon time the same way, Trainee Starling. Do you want to catch Billy or not? Princess Catherine is waiting...”
“All right,” she began. “After my father died, I went to live with my cousin Mary. She had this little lamb, and it would always follow her around everywhere. I hated the damn thing. It screamed constantly, she couldn’t shut it up. Finally, I ran away after it woke me up in the middle of the night one time too many. Section Chief Crawford took me in and now I’m in training at the FBI Academy, but I doubt it’ll turn out very well. The Queen has this assistant named Krendler, and I don’t think he likes me very much, and Section Chief Crawford can’t really stand up to him, so I think I’m pretty thoroughly screwed there. But I still want to be a real FBI agent someday - even if it isn’t all it’s cracked up to be - because my Daddy always said he admired the FBI, and I want to make my Daddy proud, and...”
The man with the red eyes interrupted her.
“I see what you mean about this being a long story,” he said. “And you’re right. It’s not very interesting. What else you got?”
“Nothing that I can think of,” Trainee Starling said in a sad little voice.
“Well, how about this...” the man with the red eyes offered, “I’ll tell you where to find Billy if you promise to meet me near the castle in Memphis after you save Princess Catherine and get out of the academy. If you can tell me my name we’ll call it even. If not, you’ll have dinner with me at this little place on the Chesapeake.”
“And after that?” Trainee Starling asked warily.
“Dessert,” the man with the red eyes replied innocently. “Then... who knows?”
Trainee Starling regarded him for a moment and thought that those maroon eyes of his were almost irresistible the way they reflected the light in pin points of red. She could certainly do worse than to have dinner with him.
“OK,” she said. “It’s a deal.”
So the sleek man with the red eyes handed her a map with directions to Billy’s two-story castle and off she went to save Princess Catherine.
The Queen was very grateful, and Section Chief Crawford seemed pleased. Mr. Krendler wasn’t too happy with the whole thing - and seemed even less so when she turned down his invitation to escort her to graduation - but overall, Trainee Starling was happy with the way things turned out.
After graduation, Special Agent Starling explained to Section Chief Crawford that she had to go to the castle in Memphis and told him about her deal with the sleek man with the red eyes.
“Damn him!” Section Chief Crawford exclaimed. “He just did that to make me say his name. He knows I hate it.”
“You know his name?” she asked.
“Yes,” he sulked. “It’s Lecter.” A look of extreme distaste screwed up his features when he spat it out.
So Special Agent Starling went off to Memphis feeling very smug and pleased with herself. She met the sleek man with the red eyes who smiled at her and said, “What’s my name, Clarice? Did Jackie-Boy tell you? And don’t lie, or I’ll know.”
She was about to say his name, but she stopped herself. His eyes were doing that thing again, and she decided that there was something about his smile... maybe it was those sharp, white teeth of his. At any rate, she wanted to have dinner with him. So she lied.
“No. He didn’t. He said you knew he hated to say it, and he just couldn’t bring himself to tell me what it was”
“Agent Starling, that was a lie. The first one you’ve told me.” His voice was stern, but his maroon eyes twinkled with amusement.
“So what are you going to do?” she asked.
“Why, take you to dinner of course,” he smiled. “But you can’t go like that. We’ll at least have to get you a decent pair of shoes first...”
And so Special Agent Starling and Lecter went off to dinner on the Chesapeake. She wore her new shoes and a long gown of cream silk, and they had such a good time that she decided to leave the FBI and go off with him to Buenos Aires, where they lived happily ever after.