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(Original work excerpted from Thomas Harris' Red Dragon.)



...from paperback pg. 99:

Graham stood up. "Thank you, doctor. I want to see Lecter now."

The steel door of the maximum-security section closed behind Graham. He heard the bolt slide home. Graham's simmering hate for the place stirred briefly in the back of his mind at the sound -- then dispersed as goosebumps down his neck and shoulders.

Graham knew that Lecter slept most of the morning. He hadn't used to, not in the Tuscan hills where gazing at the dawn could revive the dead. But here, trapped indoors, there was no sun to wake with. He looked down the corridor. At that angle he could not see into Lecter's cell, but he could tell that the lights inside were dimmed. It had bothered Graham endlessly, in his time in this place, that there was never any total darkness. He unconsciously ground his teeth at the thought, willing it away.

Graham wanted to see Dr. Lecter asleep. He wanted time to brace himself. If he felt Lecter's madness in his head, he had to contain it quickly, like a spill. If even a little bit of it got to Graham, the act he was putting on for the plebeians would fall away, and he would lose his chance.

To cover the sound of his footsteps, he followed an orderly pushing a linen cart. Dr. Lecter is very difficult to slip up on. As is fitting, he thought, glancing at the security camera back at the section door.

Graham paused partway down the hall. Steel bars covered the entire front of the cell. behind the bars, farther than arm's reach, was a stout nylon net stretched ceiling to floor and wall to wall. Through the barrier, Graham could see a table and chair bolted to the floor. The table was stacked with softcover books and correspondence. He walked up to the bars, put his hands on them, took his hands away. Reconsidered how it might look to linger too close for too long.

Dr. Hannibal Lecter lay on his cot asleep, or convincingly pretending, his head propped on a pillow against the wall. Alexandre Dumas' Le Grand Dictionnaire de Cuisine was open on his chest. It reminded Graham too well of evenings in the villa's library in Tuscany -- he wondered if he was showing the heat on his cheeks.

Graham had stared through the bars for about five seconds when Lecter opened his eyes and said, "That's the same atrocious aftershave you wore in court."

"I keep getting it for Christmas."

The inside joke was assurance -- they were the same people they'd been the last time they'd locked eyes.</p>

Dr. lecter's eyes are maroon and they reflect the light redly in tiny points. Graham felt each hair bristle on his nape. He put his hand on the back of his neck.

"Christmas, yes," Dr. Lecter said. "Did you get my card?"

"I got it. Thank you."

Dr. Lecter's Christmas card had been forwarded to Graham from the FBI crime laboratory in Washington. He took it into the backyard, burned it, and washed his hands before touching Molly. The actual message Lecter wanted him to read had been published in the China Mail several days earlier, using a book code. The FBI would never know it for what it was.

Lecter rose and walked over to his table. He is a small, lithe man. Very neat. "Why don't you have a seat, Will?" (Eyes flickering to the chair at his desk, suggesting.) "I think there are some folding chairs in a closet just down that way. At least, that's where it sounds like they come from."

"The orderly's bringing one." (The implication that Graham was too good to get it himself -- patrician's pride -- blossomed sweetly in the space between them, and the conversation paused for a moment while Lecter acknowledged it.)

Lecter stood until Graham was seated in the hall. "And how is Officer Stewart?" he asked.

"Stewart's fine." Officer Stewart left law enforcement after he saw Dr. Lecter's basement. He managed a motel now. Graham did not mention this. He didn't think Stewart would appreciate any mail from Lecter. Graham had stopped by the motel himself and left Stewart a note in Lecter's handwriting, just for fun.

"Unfortunate that his emotional problems got the better of him. I thought he was a very promising young officer. Do you ever have any problems, Will?" (Now that I'm gone?)

"No." (Yes.)

"Of course you don't." (I miss you too.)

Graham felt that Lecter was looking through to the back of his skull. His attention felt like a fly walking around in there.

"I'm glad you came. It's been what now, three years? My callers are all professional. Banal clinical psychiatrists and grasping second-rate doctors of psychology from silo colleges somewhere. Pencil lickers trying to protect their tenure with pieces in the journals."

"Dr. Bloom showed me your article on surgical addiction in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry."

"And?"

"Very interesting, even to a layman."

"A layman...layman -- layman. Interesting term," Lecter said. He'd made similar remarks to Crawford at one time, and Graham sensed it was a subtle comment on the futility of their little game of pretend. A little longer, and they could get to their actual conversation. "So many learned fellows going around. So many experts on government grants. And you say you're a layman. But it was you who caught me, wasn't it, Will? Do you know how you did it?"

"I'm sure you read the transcript. It's all in there." (Even where it isn't.)

"No it's not. Do you know how you did it, Will?"

"It's in the transcript. What does it matter now?"

"It doesn't matter to me, Will."

"I want you to help me, Dr. Lecter." The time for delicate crafting of the conversation, knowing that Chilton was listening and watching, had finally ended; now to actually discuss what they needed to discuss.

"Yes, I thought so."

"It's about Atlanta and Birmingham."

"Yes."

"You read about it, I'm sure." In the papers, and in their secret correspondence.

"I've read the papers. I can't clip them. They won't let me have scissors, of course. Sometimes they threaten me with loss of books, you know. I wouldn't want them to think I was dwelling on anything morbid." He laughed. Dr. Lecter has small white teeth, and Graham fondly recalled the taste of the inside of his mouth, staring at them. "You want to know how he's choosing them, don't you?"

"I thought you would have some ideas. I'm asking you to tell me what they are."

"Why should I?"

Graham had anticipated the question. A reason to stop multiple murders would not occur readily to Dr. Lecter. Having spent so much time in the same lines of thought, Graham had struggled to think of any good reasons either.

"There are things you don't have," Graham said. "Research materials, filmstrips even. I'd speak to the chief of staff."

"Chilton." Distaste and amusement on both sides -- the same regard the two men would hold for monkeys at the zoo. "You must have seen him when you came in. Gruesome, isn't it? Tell me the truth, he fumbles at your head like a freshman pulling at a panty girdle, doesn't he? Watched you out of the corner of his eye. Picked that up, didn't you? You may not believe this but he actually tried to give me a Thematic Apperception Test. He was sitting there just like the Cheshire cat waiting for Mf 13 to come up. Ha. Forgive me, I forget that you're not among the anointed. It's a card with a woman in bed and a man in the foreground. I was supposed to avoid a sexual interpretation. I laughed. He puffed up and told everybody I avoided prison with a Ganser syndrome --" 'a facticious disorder, a mental illness in which a person deliberately and consciously acts as if he or she has a physical or mental illness, said the voice in Graham's head as if reading off the dictionary entry -- "never mind, it's boring."

"You'd have access to the AMA filmstrip library."

"I don't think you'd get me the things I want." Playing at hard-to-get, and Graham had to suppress the urge to smile.

"Try me."

"I have quite enough to read as it is."

"You'd get to see the file on this case. There's another reason."

"Pray."

"I thought you might be curious to find out if you're smarter than the person I'm looking for."

"Then, by implication, you think you are smarter than I am, since you caught me." Lecter glanced down and left - subtle motions of his left hand, writing in Morse code. -.- .. -.. -.. .. -. --. : kidding.

"No. I know I'm not smarter than you are." .- -.-- . : aye.

"Then how did you catch me, Will?" s t o - 'state the obvious'.

"You had disadvantages."

"What disadvantages?"

"Passion. And you're insane."

"You're very tan, Will."

Graham did not answer.

"Your hands are rough. They don't look like a cop's hands anymore. That shaving lotion is something a child would select. It has a ship on the bottle, doesn't it?"

Graham tapped out yes, I hate it with his right hand, so the camera wouldn't see. He had let Molly's son choose the bottle for him when they went to the grocery store. It was suitably awful that only he and Lecter would notice the other, subtler scents beneath: rosewater on his skin, and infusion of thyme on his breath. Graham wanted to evoke the right mood before seeing Lecter in person again.


(Adapted from Red Dragon, by Thomas Harris.)

Author's Notes: When I decided to try writing a three-part Hannigram series with Triptych of Pain, I knew the general outlines for the first two parts, but the third - Paradiso - is continuing to evade me. Rather than go chapter-by-chapter and section-by-section, I ended up writing this "adaptation" of the canon so it feels more in line with my story's intended plot.

This probably won't end up being the actual Paradiso but I thought it would be fun to show I was at least doing *something* recently, instead of being inactive. :)
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August 4, 2016
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