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The Road Less Travelled By

copyright 2004, by JStarz

Disclaimer:    These characters were created by Thomas Harris.  They are used herein without permission, but in the spirit of admiration and respect.  No infringement of copyright is intended, and no profit, of any kind, is made by the creator, maintainer or contributors to this site.

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“’lo?”

“Is this Clarice Starling?”

“Mmmhmm.”

“Are you drunk, Clarice?”

“Slightly…may I ask who’s calling?”

“Yes, you may.”

“Well?”

“I said you could. I promised nothing in return.”

“If you’re trying to sell me something, you’re going about it in a really bad way.”

“Rather, I’m calling to collect something that is owed.”

“What the hell are you talking about?”

“More than slightly.”

“Huh?”

“You are more than just slightly drunk. Otherwise, you would have known who I was a long time ago.”

“I know who you are, I just wanted to cling to ignorance as long as possible.”

“I see.”

“Where are you, Dr. Lecter?”

“Close enough to smell you.”

“…really. And what do I smell like?”

“Mustard gas and roses.”

“Pilfering from Vonnegut. Shame on you.”

“You know of him?”

“I wish I could believe him.”

“What do you mean?”

“I wish I could believe that there’s nothing in my life I could have changed. I…”

“Clarice.”

“Go away.”

“All you have to do is hang up.”

“Did this all have to happen, Dr. Lecter? And did you fucking have to be there to remind me of why I fell?”

“Clarice.”

“What?”

“This is the first time you’ve ever drank out of self-pity, isn’t it?”

“I wish.”

“Rage, then, I suppose. Rage at having to shoot a mother. Rage at being blamed for other deaths you did not cause.”

“You never had to worry about that.”

“Indeed, the FBI’s record for my body count is slightly lacking in fact. Let me help you, Clarice.”

“Help me how?”

“Why, help you find out if you truly want what you say you do.”

“Huh?”

“I apologize. Once I begin speaking in riddles it’s hard to stop.”

“No shit.”

“…I want to help you discover if you truly want what little Billy Pilgrim realizes, that you have no control over events in your life.”

“And how the hell do you plan to do that?”

“Where am I, Clarice?”

“My head hurts.”

“I told you before…I am close enough to smell you. Your breath reeks of sour whiskey, and your sweat clings to your body like a tired warrior. You hunch over in your battered armchair, tears glistening in red-rimmed eyes, your neck arching like Rodin’s Thinker in the moonlight.”

“Oh shiiiit.”

“Where are you going, Clarice? I can hear your movements through this earpiece.”

“How the fuck did you get into my house?”

“The door was unlocked. Of course, I doubt that you would remember.”

“Why are you doing this?”

“Is that fear I hear in your voice? Why Clarice, I haven’t even told you the purpose of my visit.”

“Ow! God--damn--table…”

“I assure you, Clarice, I am not in your kitchen.”

“You just had to flip all the circuit breakers, didn’t you?”

“Of course. It wouldn’t be nearly as fun otherwise.”

“Is that why you’re here, to poke fun at a drunk?”

“Clarice, I’m hurt. I thought you knew that I was better than that. No, I just want you to know that you control the outcome of this night. Clarice, come down the steps. I am on the first floor.”

“Comforting words…you have my gun, too, don’t you?”

“I give you my word that I will not harm you, Clarice. What happens tonight will be totally up to you. Does that comfort you?”

“Knowing you and what you could mean by that, no.”

“We do not subscribe to the same meanings as the rest of society, Clarice. We are not content like them with simple name-calling. When you say ‘killer’, I doubt that my face is the first one that comes to mind. That honor falls either to your own or those of your darling F…B…I.”

“If…if you just wanted to taunt me, you could have done so without putting yourself in harm’s way.”

“That’s assuming that I believe you are a danger to me, which you are not. If you were, you would have ended this conversation long ago and called the police. Which you have not.”

“Maybe I simply miss the mind games, Doctor.”

“Mmmm…I agree, it’s been far too long.”

“Must there be a winner to this game, Dr. Lecter?”

“That is the choice before you, is it not? I have given my word that I will not harm you. All that is left for you to find out is how well you can guarantee your own actions. Ms. Mapp returns home in ten minutes from her date, what will you do? Tick tock tick tock…”

“What exactly are you saying, doctor?”

“Clarice, even in your inebriated state, my point should be quite clear. You have worn out your welcome at the Bureau. Now, will you continue to barge your way stubbornly through the walls they have constructed before you or will you consider…other options?”

“Am I hearing you correctly? Did you break into my house to dangle the possibility of a life with you in front of me to see if I would bite?”

“I am presenting you with a choice, Clarice. As much as it was your choice to follow a career in law enforcement. Or your choice to rescue Catherine Martin, to allow me to dwell inside your mind, to shoot a mother carrying her child. And a choice tonight to leave your door open for me, I would guess that you feel you did not have as much choice in any of these matters as you might have hoped…Why so silent, Special Agent Starling? Do you feel that you too have become unstuck in time? Do you feel like you have been dropped into your current situation with no idea of how or why you got here? Does this lack of responsibility comfort you, or does it anger you?”

“You told me in the beginning of this conversation that you would collect something that was owed. That doesn’t sound to me like I have much choice in this matter. What have you come for?”

“An answer, Clarice. You owe me nothing more or less than that.”

“No.”

“I see.”

“No, I mean…no, the lambs haven’t stopped screaming yet.”

“I see. And do you want them to?”

“I don’t know…I don’t know. It gives my life a purpose, doctor. And that comforts me.”

“Clarice, why do you fill your life with a purpose that haunts you at night? Why do you insist on doing penance for some imagined crime?”

“Do you always have to make things this difficult?”

“Yes, Clarice. I want this to be a difficult decision. You would feel cheated otherwise.”

“Damn you.”

“Already been done, Clarice. Your precious Bureau did the honors the day they locked me away as an aberration of society. Much like they would dearly love to lock you away where they would be free to probe the workings of your mind and find out what makes you tick. Will you let them, Clarice?”

“Your use of leading questions is positively disgusting, doctor.”

“Do you object?”

“…no.”

“I have led you to the crossroads, Clarice. I have laid the choices before you. If you choose to stay, I will not interfere. If you choose otherwise, your name will be spoken with fear and hatred after they have forgotten everything else about you. Yet my promise still holds, no harm will ever come to you, Clarice.”

“…”

“Clarice?”

“I hear Paris is beautiful this time of year.”

“Have you ever been there, Special Agent Starling?”

“No. And don’t call me that.”

“What brought about your sudden change in profession?”

“I had…no choice in the matter in the end, Dr. Lecter. My decision was made long ago. And yes, that knowledge does comfort me.”

“That’s my girl.”

“The Mustang’s outside. I’ll leave before Ardelia gets home. Hannibal Lecter, where are—”


“Hello Clarice.”



FIN

copyright 2004, by JStarz

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