Will Graham opened his eyes. The red, digital numbers that glowed back at him pronounced the hour. It was 2:02 a.m. Graham blinked twice before sitting up in bed. His heart was racing, pounding like a jackhammer in his chest. The movement as he raised himself up on his arms had let the night air pass over his skin quickly, and he shivered. He was covered in sweat. One tiny drop had collected at his collarbone and ran in a long, lazy stream down the contours of his chest to his navel.
He shuddered and took a sharp breath. He realized that he had been holding his lungs in for the last few seconds.
Had it been a dream? He reached out past the digital clock and fumbled for the desk-light. The light came on like a blinding supernova. Graham squeezed his eyes shut and leaned over on one elbow. Today was already Thursday. Molly and Josh wouldn’t be back until Sunday. They were both off visiting Molly’s mother in Poughkeepsie, New York. Graham had adamantly declined the offer to join them. They had only been gone two days. Already he was feeling pangs of regret for not being with them right now. Perhaps that was why he had awoken with such a start. Molly’s presence was not there to ease his dreamy turmoil. Her soul helped disperse Graham’s demons.
The window across the room creaked as the wind outside eased up against it. It was hurricane season in Florida, and a tropical storm had been brewing off the coast since Molly and Josh had left. Graham jumped out of bed and went to the window to look outside at the storm. A soft flicker of lightening illuminated the wet palm leaves and magnolias that lined the walkway below. It also illuminated a man’s shape in the driveway.
“Holy shit,” Will gasped outloud and flung himself to the glass, his forehead pressed there as he frantically waited for another spark in the sky to ignite and reveal the whereabouts of this figure. Graham’s fingers rubbed at his eyes angrily, and he wondering if the desk-light has created some optical spot in his vision which has fooled his perception. He blinked again as another array of lightening softly displayed itself across the ragged clouds above, but the figure was gone.
Will Graham hurried across the room and opened the closet door. On the upper shelf he tossed boxes aside until he felt the firm handgrip of his pistol. He held it out and popped open the chamber. It was fully loaded. Graham snapped the cylinder back into place and caressed the strong handgrip of the gun lovingly. He felt the air against his skin again, but more perceptibly this time as it raised goose-bumps along his forearms. He set the pistol down on the dresser drawer and snatched an old, soft knit shirt from a hanger in the closet. He slipped it over his head and pulled the taut sleeves up to his elbows.
He looked down at his bare toes against the wood floor. But as he started to search with his eyes for a pair of pants to pull on over his boxer shorts, a noise reached his ears from downstairs. Frozen, Graham strained to hear more, but the rush of blood pounding in his ears sounded like the ocean had just burst through his bedroom window. The noise had been a soft thump, almost as if a cabinet or the refrigerator door had closed by itself.
Graham hoisted the pistol again and crept around the dresser drawer to where he could stand by the bedroom door and peer barely through the wooden slates. He could see nothing but blackness. He had turned all the lights off before going to bed. Graham bit his lip. He had no flashlight up in the bedroom, he realized foolishly. If he wanted to surprise this intruder, he would have to do so without the aid of light. Graham tiptoed across the room and turned off the desk-light that had blinded him moments before. As he shut his eyes to readjust to the darkness, he stood very still and tied to ignore the fear that was starting to collect in his mind. Along with that, so were images of Francis Dolarhyde.
Graham has fallen on this very floor two years ago. Riddled and mangled with bullets from Dolarhyde’s gun, he had been stretched-out on the wooden floorboards like a rag doll. His dead adversary was at the other end of the long hallway, shot twice in the head by Molly’s shaky but lethally accurate aim.
When Graham opened his eyes, the fear was still there, but the objects in the room had their sharp edges again and the clarity of his vision encouraged him to approach the bedroom door and stealthily turn the doorknob. As he did another image came to mind of Molly. She had broken through these door slates to unlock this door after Dolarhyde has shot him so many times. She has been so quick to think, so cool-headed even in the panic that surrounded them all. She was really the strong one after all, he thought. If only he had changed his mind three days ago, he could be enjoying a nice fall vacation in New York State right now instead of chasing phantoms from his past.
Graham stepped out into the hall, the pistol held tightly in his hand as he let it hang by his side. His hunter instincts were attuned to moments like this when he would shut off all his other moral instincts and focus his mind into what he referred to as “killer mode”. He used this technique during his FBI days when he would pass through a victim’s house or office after a violent crime had been committed there. The aura of the killer’s mind still hung in the air, and he would tap into this somehow, stepping into the mental skin of the predator, his eyes carefully probing the particular details of the place before reaching the actual bloodstains. It was always an unnerving sensation. Under a burden of guilt he could sometimes feel the thrill of the hunt, the excitement of sneaking up on people unawares, and the little flicker of power that comes with every step as he crept close and closer to the victims. Then it would all stop and come back into focus as the bloodstained sheets or blood-smeared walls affronted his eyes. The state of mind would vanish and he would be himself again—William Graham, FBI special investigator. During an argument once Molly had accused him of finding delight during those brief, delirious moments when he fancied himself as the killer he himself was hunting. He denied it, of course. It clearly not delight he felt—it was something more than that, something more primal. It was also the reason he had left the FBI. He could no longer reconcile himself with the mental methods he needed to use to do his job well.
Graham stopped at the edge of the stairs that led down to the living room. The ceiling fan above his head rotated slowly, creating a luscious soft breeze on his face. Graham strained his ear, but he heard nothing more that the quiet whoosh of the fan above as its four pale, cream-colored arms steadily sliced through the humid air, one after the other. Tentatively, Graham edged one bare foot onto the top step, which was followed by a loud creak of wood as he put his full weight down on it. Graham winced at the sound. He quickly tiptoed down the stairs, his one free hand trailing along the railing as he went. He hadn’t caused another sound due to his pace. He balanced himself there, his toes dangling over the very bottom stair, his heart racing. He realized, quite suddenly, that his own breathing could give himself away. It rushed in and out of his nostrils loudly. It matched the rhythm of his heartbeat, fast and pulsating. He consciously tried to suppress it, but his breaths made him want to gasp aloud for more air. He swallowed hard and steadied himself as his eyes carefully probed the walls of the living room. A blue manatee painting on the wall stared back at him with inanimate serenity.
Graham left the stairs and moved into the kitchen. The countertops and objects there betrayed nothing out of the ordinary. Graham stood squarely in the middle of the kitchen tile floor, and turned slowly in a circle, his eyes moving over everything to catch any detail. He froze when he saw the refrigerator. A paper note was hanging on the handle. Graham squinted to see the writing on it, but it was too dim and he stood too far away to read it. Taking a few cautious steps forward, he noticed that it wasn’t a handwritten note, but rather a newspaper clipping of some sort, with a sliver of a headline that he still could not make out clearly. Against his better forensic judgment, Graham reached out and snatched the clipping from the refrigerator door-handle. The scotch tape that held it there made a soft sound was it was plucked away. Graham held it between his fingers and read its entirety.
Memphis, September 20 --- A FBI manhunt ensues following the escape of the notorious cannibal killer Dr. Hannibal Lecter from a high security Tennessee police facility late last night. Witnesses say Lecter murdered two of the guards and a third man, an ambulance driver, who had arrived to assist the injured guards. Lecter had been moved from his residence at a local Baltimore Mental Institute as he was apparently collaborating with FBI agent Clarice Starling concerning the recent Buffalo Bill murder spree. Lecter’s whereabouts are still unknown, but some speculate that he may have already left the country. Meanwhile, FBI chief Jack Crawford informs us that Lecter is once again on the FBI’s Most Wanted list.
The newspaper clipping slipped away from Graham’s fingers as his muscles slackened involuntarily. He stood, paralyzed, in front of the kitchen refrigerator, his mind stubbornly denying comprehension of the words he had just read. Graham robotically reached out and opened the refrigerator door. The electric light from inside illuminated Graham in icy blue tones. Before him, on the upper shelf near the icebox, was a medium-sized human heart. It glistened, still wet with fresh blood.
Will Graham staggered backwards from the sight with so sudden a rush that he tangled his own feet together. He tumbled sideways and smacked his brow sharply on the edge of the countertop before crashing to the floor. Wincing, Graham felt his skull throb from the sharp blow. The shock of the impact took away the numbness of his disbelief. As he stood to his feet the adrenaline and the horror mixed in such a way that nausea resulted. Graham retched. Unable to help himself, he vomited on the floor, gasping after each repeated coil quivered up from his stomach to his throat. As he sidestepped the mess with his bare feet, Graham moved across the floor to turn on the kitchen light. The bright outflow of illumination added more reality to the scene. Graham crumpled against the light switch, exhausted and sick. He wiped the back of his hand across his mouth as he reluctantly let his gaze drift back to the open refrigerator.
Weakened, Graham tried his voice cautiously, “Doctor Lecter?”
Fear had tightened his tone into something altogether feeble. He cleared his throat and spoke again, more boldly this time.
“I like your house, Will.”
Graham instinctively aimed the pistol in his hand towards the all too familiar voice that drifted towards him from the darkened dining room.
“It’s very colonial in a way, not unlike those quaint little Caribbean bungalows the French built a century or so ago.”
The soft clink of silverware on china mingled with chewing sounds. Someone was eating at Graham’s dining table.
“And that charming private pier, such a nice touch. You have done well for yourself, haven’t you Will?”
Graham held his breath as he moved towards the dining room. In the dimness a figure sat at the table. Graham’s fingertips traced the edge of the wall and found the light switch. It came on in a gentle orange glow above the cedar-wood table. Hannibal Lecter was smiling.
“It’s been a long time, Will.”
“I won’t miss this time, Doctor,” Graham explained as he leveled the pistol.
“Before you do anything rash, Will, you’d better ask yourself one question, “Hannibal quickly countered, his senses alarmed by Graham’s trigger-happy irrationality.
“Ask yourself whose heart it is that I’ve torn out and laid to rest in your icebox.”
Graham’s eyes flickered in a side-glance and he wavered.
“Sit down, Will. Let’s talk. I already helped myself to some of your leftovers—I hope you don’t mind,” Lecter explained smoothly, his eyes widening as he thoroughly examined Graham’s face from across the room, “Being on the run has a way of stirring my appetite. Nice Chablis, by the way.”
Lecter lifted the wineglass to his lips and sipped the drink with a long, savoring sigh, “Besides, I thought I owed you a visit.”
Graham remained standing, speechless. His knit shirt clung to his chest with sweat. Beads of perspiration glittered along his upper lip and his tanned brow. His mouth felt like it has been stuffed with cottonballs. The concept that Hannibal Lecter was serenely sitting in his dining room, sipping on a dry Chablis was akin to picturing a wild tiger there. It was unfathomable and absurd.
“How did you do it, Doctor?”
“Do what, Will?”
“Didn’t you read the newspaper? I was lucky,“ Hannibal’s expression tightened as he spoke, “Isn’t that what you said to me once?”
Graham lowered his gaze and glowered back, “No one ever said you never held a grudge, Doctor Lecter. What is it you want from me?”
“Oh, nothing much, “Hannibal took another sip of wine, “We have some unfinished business to resolve, Will. It shouldn’t take too long, though.”
Will Graham let out an exasperated sigh, “Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t put one in your head right now.”
“Because, “Lecter raised a fork to his mouth, his eyes lighting up perceptibly as he examined the meaty morsel before him, “I have answers to questions that you need to hear.”
“You have nothing to say to me, Docter, “Will flared, his face flushed with anger, “There’s no secret wisdom behind your insanity, no truths behind your word games, and no mysticism behind your bullshit!”
Graham’s voice boomed across the table, each word getting louder than the next. Hannibal Lecter remained placid, methodically chewing the leftovers he had chosen from Graham’s refrigerator.
“Be careful , Will.”
“Fuck you, Doctor.”
“Really? That’s an interesting proposition, William, “Lecter hissed, his tongue clicking urgently behind his teeth, “I wonder how far you’d really go to protect your precious family.”
“This is between you and me, Doctor Lecter. Leave my family of out of this.”
“Yes, that’s right Will. How’s your scar after all these years? I’ll bet it still itches from time to time, “Lecter asked, watching Graham’s faltering expression closely, “Yes, I thought as much. I’m sure it itches that certain corner of your brain, the one you’re stumbling around in right now. The corner that makes you hesitate and doubt yourself, and curse your own impotence.”
Graham raised the pistol again, aiming it squarely at Hannibal’s forehead. A long moment passed, and Graham’s arm began to quiver.
“You can’t do it, can you? Men like you need a reason to kill, “ Lecter observed, taking another bite of food.
“I have plenty of reasons, “Will explained, snarling.
“And yet you still fail to act on them in time, “Hannibal noted calmly, “I could give you plenty more.”
Graham felt his left eye twitch. Something about Hannibal’s tone of voice, the slight upturn of his mouth, and the little tilt of his head made the hair stand up on Graham’s skin. He edged forward to lean against the dining room table as the blood in his guts ran cold, “What are you saying?”
“You know me so well, Will. You profiled me, didn’t you?” Hannibal said as his voice spat venom and his eyes blazed, “Why don’t you use your intuition and figure it out?”
Lecter’s voice trailed off in a breathy rattle. He pushed himself away from the table and stood slowly to his feet, squaring his shoulder’s with proud menace.
“…Or maybe you’re wondering why Jack Crawford didn’t call you yesterday or the day before that,“ Lecter continued, “Puzzling, isn’t it? Maybe he didn’t realize that you’d be the first person I’d want to see after my escape.”
Graham withered under Lecter’s hypnotic control as if his emotions were being deftly juggled by a killer who stood motionless across the dining room table from him. He felt his own vulnerability and yielded with acute shame.
“He must have had a reason.”
“Oh yes,” Lecter added with a sickly wink, “Like a fly caught in a web, eh William? Struggling only makes the spider move in faster, as you know. And you’re being most extraordinarily calm about all this. It makes me wonder where you’ve left your good sense!”
“So you came straight here then, “Graham queried cautiously, “After your escape in Tennessee, I mean…”
“Well, not exactly, “Lecter smiled.
“Maybe you should sit down,” Hannibal Lecter gestured to the chairs around the dining table, “You look a bit pale to me, Will, despite your handsome suntan. How I’d like to examine you more closely.”
“Why?” Graham snapped, “So you can cut me open like you did before?”
“Now you’re getting the picture.”
“That’s not like you, Doctor, “Will swallowed hard, trying to steady his inner convulsions, “You’re not as simple-minded as that. Who did you kill before you came here?”
“Maybe I’ve changed, “Lecter walked towards Graham, “Maybe my tastes are simpler now.”
Graham aimed and fired his pistol. The shot grazed past Lecter’s left shoulder with a violent explosion. It impacted in the depths of the darkened house, imbedding itself into the wall somewhere. Lecter froze, a strange expression of disappointment on his face.
“Don’t move!” Graham shouted as he staggered a few steps backwards towards the kitchen doorway. With his left hand he fumbled
around the edge of the kitchen wall for the phone which hung there. With trembling fingers he nudged the handset under his ear and started to dial the pushbuttons on the wall pad. A blank look washed across his face at once. There was no dial tone.
“Ever been to Poughkeepsie, Will?”
Will Graham let the phone fall from his hand and clatter against the wall. It bobbed up and down on the tightly curled cord like a hanged man at the end of a noose.
“You haven’t? Of course you have, Will,“ Hannibal said, taking a cautious step forward.
Will felt as if his feet had melted into the floor, solidifying him there. A dizziness crept up on his senses as he grappled with Lecter’s words. His mouth opened loosely as he tried to form words, but he lacked the ability to articulate his shock.
Hannibal loomed closer, his eyes growing wider, “Don’t you see, Will? I had to take the one thing you had denied me many years ago. But instead of your heart,“ Hannibal spoke each word with cruel calculation, “I had to take it from your wife and your son.”
“Don’t fucking lie to me, Doctor, “ Graham said, quelling the panic that was starting to show in his voice.
“Why would I lie to you, Will?” Hannibal asked, “Go look again for yourself!”
“I don’t have to look again, I know what I saw!” Will shouted back, raising the pistol towards Hannibal to retard the others approach, “You killed someone and chopped them up and put a part of their body in my refrigerator. I know Molly and Josh are safe. You bluffing.”
“It seems to be working…”
“Where did you go after Memphis, Doctor?”
“After Memphis? That was the easy part. It was after I escaped that this plan came into my head. I just couldn’t leave the country without seeing you first,” Lecter said, smiling, “So I stopped by a library in Virginia and looked up some information on you. It’s amazing how careless the FBI can be sometimes, Will. But, my standing here is evidence enough of that fact.”
“I told you already, I went to Poughkeepsie.
Your mother-in-law owns a very nice, quaint home there. I went to the door
and introduced myself as an old colleague of yours. She believed me, and let
me inside to wait for your wife and son, who were arriving that very afternoon.”
Graham moved back into the small kitchen again. Clinging to the refrigerator door, Will reeled as he glimpsed the human heart that rested therein with a look of grisly disgust on his face.
Hannibal watched him from the doorway intently, “They arrived around 6 o’clock. I was having tea in the living room when they both walked in. You’re wife recognized me right away from the old newspaper clippings you’d probably shown her.”
Graham uttered a little groan in his throat as Hannibal spoke. Visibly weakened, he leaned against the refrigerator for support, his arm dangling over the door. His eyes remained transfixed on the heart.
Hannibal winced mockingly, “Perhaps I should spare you the details then.”
“Doctor, “Will said, his voice strained, “Enough bullshit, just tell me whose heart this is!”
“It’s yours, Will, romantically speaking.”
Will gagged, “This can’t be happening…”
Lecter scowled, “You’re not being very cooperative, Will. Your imagination used to be part of your charm. I hope you haven’t lost it over these past few years.”
“Shut up and put your hands behind your head, “Graham said, “I’m taking you in.”
Hannibal blinked, unresponsive.
“You heard me!” Will shouted as he kicked the refrigerator door shut, angrily aiming the pistol at Lecter, “I said hands in the air! Now!”
“You seem to be an exceedingly bad shot even at close range.”
“Hands in the air, Doctor.”
“No, “ Lecter took two steps back into the shadows and disappeared from Will’s sight.
“God damn it!”
Will Graham hurried through the kitchen in pursuit. As soon as he turned the corner he felt a hand grip his shoulder and spin him around from behind. Then he felt a quick jab of a sharp instrument entering his lower abdomen—ironically in the same place where Lecter had ripped his guts open before years ago.
Graham yelled out in pain, startled and confused. Hannibal Lecter held him close in discomforting proximity, breathing into Graham’s ear with predatory delight.
Graham gargled an inaudible response as Hannibal pried the pistol out of Graham’s fingers and let it drop to the floor with a heavy thud.
Graham gripped Lecter’s shoulders as he stiffened in pain while the cold knife blade seemed to linger endlessly in his innards from Hannibal’s thrust. Lecter moved the blade upwards and Graham lost his balance in agony, falling backwards. Lecter caught him and gently eased him down to the floor, yanking the dinner-knife out simultaneously. Groaning, Graham lay on his side, a pool of blood gathering underneath him.
“God!“ Graham choked.
“Shhhhhh….” Hannibal hissed as he crouched over Graham, “This isn’t as bad of a wound as before, Will. But is certainly does bring back memories.”
Graham tried to bolster his withering strength, weakly pushing Hannibal back as he leaned in with one hand, “Don’t touch me!”
Lecter hovered over Graham with darting eyes and rolled him onto his back, “I’m a Doctor, Will. Let me take a look-see.”
Graham put both hands up defensively this time, but Lecter easily swiped them back down. He lifted Graham’s knit shirt up from Graham’s waist to his breastbone, exposing the abdomen that was freshly wounded and bloody. The indent of the old scar could still be seen beneath the trail of glistening blood that oozed steadily from the new injury.
“Ah yes, “Lecter exclaimed, “Such a handsome scar. Just like I imagined it would be...”
Graham struggled up on one elbow and lifted his head to see what Lecter was planning to do and he caught his breathe in horror. A bloody knife flashed before his eyes. He kicked violently in reflex to this vision, and managed to back away from Hannibal and edge towards the pistol that lay a few feet away.
“I wouldn’t do that, Will.”
Graham responded with a painful grunt as he hoisted himself one inch closer to his weapon.
“Doctor, “Graham said, trying to judge how much more effort would be needed to get closer to his weapon, “Why did you come all this way to torture me?”
“Because I like you, Will, “Lecter said, “And I want to give you the best death possible.”
He stood over Graham now, triumphant, watching his victim crawl across the floor like a lame animal. He stepped across Graham’s body and with one kick of his foot sent the pistol sprawling over the wood floor and into the depths of imperceptible shadows. Graham followed the scraping noise of the receding gun with his eyes, despondent. It glinted once before being swallowed by the darkness.
“You didn’t come here to kill me,” Graham insisted, looking up at Lecter as he clutched his bleeding abdomen, “You came here to leave a witness to your escape. Isn’t that it? “
“Partly, “ Hannibal confessed, crouching down to meet Will’s gaze, “And to pay you back for all those years I spent in Baltimore, isolated and trapped like a caged animal.”
Graham met Lecter’s gaze brazenly, even though the sweat was starting to pour from his brow, “Right, such a waste…”
“Waste? What do you mean?”
“You, Doctor! A wasted life! Your talent, your mind…you’ve wasted your life and your intellect on nothing but bloodlust!”
“Bloodlust?” Hannibal growled, flinching, “Is that what you call it?”
Graham felt himself being lifted to his feet. Hannibal hoisted him up by grabbing Graham’s tattered blue-knit shirt with two fists. He threw Graham onto the dining table, flat on his back. Graham cried out as his skull smacked down hard on the surface. His mind reeled but he opened his eyes in time to see Hannibal still holding onto him, smiling like some nightmare doctor, resplendent in his fine white dress-shirt, which seemed almost luminescent in the dim light.
“Yes, that’s what I call it—“ Will gasped.
Lecter lingered over him for a long moment, his eyes glinting murderously, “Do you dream much, Will?”
Graham shook his head, recalling the phrase from a long ago conversation, “What?”
“Dreams, Will. That’s how I’ve learned to live all those years in prison. The imagination is a thing as potent and as liberating as a drug is to the nervous system.”
A glint of a sharp knife caught Will’s eye again and he flinched, “It’s not the same for me, Doctor. I’ve never enjoyed the gift of imagination—it’s part of my work, and that’s all.”
“Hmm,” Hannibal mused, wielding the knife a bit closer to Graham than before, but hesitant, “Then I hope you can use your imagination for investigating the death of your family. I’d hate to see your talent go to such a waste, as you call it.”
Graham snarled at the cold, calculated cruelty of Hannibal’s words, “I don’t believe you,” he said.
Graham’s heart leapt in a surge of panic, “Doctor, don’t!”
Hannibal leaned down over Graham and proffered the young man a quick kiss on the cheek. His strangely carnivorous breath grazed Graham’s face with frightful intimacy. Will shivered mutely, taken aback by the gesture. Then, very softly, Hannibal stepped back into the shadows like a phantom, a quiet and knowing smile on his lips.
“Keep in touch, Will.”
“Doctor Lecter…?” Graham called out as Hannibal disappeared from sight, hoisting himself on his elbow as he peered into the darkness, “Doctor Lecter?”
Will Graham remained prone on the table, waiting fearfully for Hannibal Lecter to re-emerge from the shadows with a hungry and vengeful growl. Graham saw nothing and only heard the steady patter of rain outside. A hollow feeling gathered in his gut. Graham looked back towards the kitchen doorway, cognizant of the killing prize Lecter had left there for him. Could it really be Molly’s heart? What about Josh? There was only one organ he had seen. If Hannibal was telling the chilling truth, he must have hidden another body part somewhere else in the kitchen.
Moving, Graham accidentally kicked the plate Lecter had been eating from when he had first discovered him there. Curious as to what the Doctor had fished out of his own refrigerator for leftovers, Graham forced himself into a sitting position and slid off the table. Reaching across, he pulled the plate towards him and peered down at it. Graham saw finely cut slices of the meat Hannibal had left uneaten. It was raw and looked strangely familiar and grayish to Graham.
Suddenly, that dreaded imagination grabbed a hold of Will’s mind like a seizure and he knew what it was. Hannibal had been eating another body part—another heart. Josh, his son.
Graham stared mutely at this evidence until the dawn, listening for hours on end to his own ragged sighs of despair.