Starling should turn to the cabinets, but she was fixed on the cell. Here she had had the most remarkable encounter of her life. Here she had been startled, shocked, surprised. Here she had heard things about herself so terribly true her heart resounded like a great deep bell.
FOLLOW this handsome couple from the opera? All right, but very carefully…
At the millennium, Buenos Aires is possessed by the tango and the night has a pulse. The Mercedes, windows down to let in the music from the dance clubs, purrs through the Recoleta district to the Avenida Alvear and disappears into the courtyard of an exquisite Beaux Arts building near the French Embassy.
The air is soft and a late supper is laid on the terrace of the top floor, but the servants are gone.
Morale is high among the servants in this house, but there is an iron discipline among them. They are forbidden to enter the top floor of the mansion before noon. Or after service of the first course at dinner.
Dr. Lecter and Clarice Starling often talk at dinner in languages other than Starling’s native English. She had college French and Spanish to build on, and she has found she has a good ear. They speak Italian a lot at mealtimes; she finds a curious freedom in the visual nuances of the language.
Sometimes our couple dances at dinnertime. Sometimes they do not finish dinner.
Their relationship has a great deal to do with the penetration of Clarice Starling, which she avidly welcomes and encourages. It has much to do with the envelopment of Hannibal Lecter, far beyond the bounds of his experience. It is possible that Clarice Starling could frighten him. Sex is a splendid structure they add to every day.
Clarice Starling’s memory palace is building as well. It shares some rooms with Dr. Lecter’s own memory palace - he has discovered her in there several times but her own palace grows on its own. It is full of new things. She can visit her father there. Hannah is at pasture there. Jack Crawford is there, when she chooses to see him bent over his desk - after Crawford was home for a month from the hospital, the chest pains came again in the night. Instead of calling an ambulance and going through it all again, he chose simply to roll over to the solace of his late wife’s side of the bed.
Starling learned of Crawford’s death during one of Dr. Lecter’s regular visits to the FBI public Web site to admire his likeness among the Ten Most Wanted. The picture the Bureau is using of Dr. Lecter remains a comfortable two faces behind.
After Starling read Jack Crawford’s obituary, she walked by herself for most of a day, and she was glad to come home at evening.
A year ago she had one of her own emeralds set in a ring. It is engraved inside with AM-CS. Ardelia Mapp received it in an untraceable wrapper with a note. Dear Ardelia, I’m fine and better than fine. Don’t look for me. I love you. I’m sorry I scared you. Burn this. Starling.
Mapp took the ring to the Shenandoah River where Starling used to run. She walked a long way with it clutched in her hand, angry, hot-eyed, ready to throw the ring in the water, imagining it flashing in the air and the small plop. In the end she put it on her finger and shoved her fist in her pocket. Mapp doesn’t cry much. She walked a long way, until she could be quiet. It was dark when she got back to her car.
It is hard to know what Starling remembers of the old life, what she chooses to keep. The drugs that held her in the first days have had no part in their lives for a long time. Nor the long talks with a single light source in the room.
Occasionally, on purpose, Dr. Lecter drops a teacup to shatter on the floor. He is satisfied when it does not gather itself together. For many months now, he has not seen Mischa in his dreams.
Someday perhaps a cup will come together. Or somewhere Starling may hear a crossbow string and come to some unwilled awakening, if indeed she even sleeps.
We’ll withdraw now, while they are dancing on the terrace - the wise Barney has already left town and we must follow his example. For either of them to discover us would be fatal.
We can only learn so much and live.