When Will was younger, his father used to play a game with him.
A man of few words, Will’s father was the sort of person to sit back and observe rather than speak. He was a sharp individual that valued integrity over profit, and he recognized rather quickly the sort of person that his son was. Will Graham’s empathy was a concern for him, not because it made him kind to those who most needed kindness, but because it also made him kind to those one should never be kind to.
Thus, the game ‘Spot the Fake’ was made.
It started with him telling his son three stories –two were honest, and one was a lie. Will’s job was to listen and observe the stories, then choose which one was the lie. His father told him, mouth grim above two painfully mismatched eyes, ‘people will smile with the brightest smiles at you, son, because you have something to give. I need you to be able to see past the smile and know whether or not they have good intentions because if you’re not careful, those bastards will eat you alive.’
At eight-years-old, it was a heavy lesson to learn, but Will Graham tried to learn it, mostly to make sure his father was proud of him.
He sorely wished he’d kept up on that game. He could have used it when he first met Molly.
He took a shaky step back at the sight of the gun, and his back pressed to the steel of the car door, cool against his shirt that clung to his suddenly clammy skin. In the distance, just over her shoulder, the rest of them walked out of the gas station, shoulders lax and heads down. Be it the expression on his face, or the way in which Molly stood, but Dolarhyde noticed them immediately. He crossed the distance in eight long, quick steps and towered behind Molly, effectively trapping Will with glittering, livid eyes.
“He knows,” said Molly dismally.
“Beverly too?” Will demanded, cutting him off. It came out more like a whisper, but it stopped whatever Francis was about to say.
“Beverly too,” Molly replied.
“I’m not getting in the car,” Will said. “You’ll have to kill me.”
“We don’t have to kill you to make you comply,” Molly informed him. She sounded distinctly world-weary, like she was repeating a rather mundane fact. “He said that we could hurt you if you resisted.”
Will’s laugh was strangled because of course Dr. Lecter said that. “I bet he did,” he murmured. Even with his world crumbling around his feet, Will was glad to know that he could sound relatively calm, as though this were nothing to him, as though there wasn’t a gun pointed towards his intestines. As though Dr. Lecter hadn’t assured Will’s on-again-off-again girlfriend that she could hurt him if necessary.
Beverly and Saul paused just behind them, hands held tightly, their mismatched eyes side-by-side as they surveyed the situation. Beverly suddenly looked far older than her twenty-eight years. Seeing her face made Will’s blood boil, even as his palms turned clammy and cold.
“Come on, Will,” Molly prompted.
“Gonna sick Dolarhyde on me?” Will taunted quietly.
“No, Mr. Graham,” Francis replied. “I won’t hurt you.”
“That’s awful nice of you.”
“But Molly will,” he continued, unheeding of Will’s jab. “She will, and I don’t want her to. Don’t make her hurt you.”
“Get in the car, Will,” Beverly urged. Her eyes cut from Francis to Molly, and she looked genuinely concerned for him. The feeling curdled in his gut, made his stomach threaten to spit up what little he’d consumed the night before.
“Dr. Lecter would like to see you. Get in the car, please, Will,” Molly requested.
“Shut up, Beverly,” Will snapped. Molly stepped closer at his tone, and she pressed the barrel of her pistol into his stomach harshly.
“Don’t make me ask again, Will,” she whispered. “I’m not the patient type.”
Her words contradicted everything he knew about her. Looking into her eyes though, two matching baby blues, Will realized that everything he knew about her was wrong, wrong and tainted because it was built on nothing but lies, a foundation that began the moment she first introduced herself at a party and declared herself an avid fan of Will Graham. The expression she gave him now matched nothing of the woman he knew before, but that was because he didn’t know the woman before –she was a fake, a copy, and this person before him was a complete stranger.
A stranger with a very lethal gun.
“Okay,” he said at last, and the weight of the gun lessened as his shoulders slumped in defeat. “I’ll get into the car.”
“The backseat, please,” Molly said, motioning towards it.
He climbed into the backseat of the SUV, crammed between Beverly and Saul who both did their best to avoid touching him. The care they took, in comparison to the sudden coldness of Molly, made his guts roil, and when Beverly’s arm brushed against his, he cringed away from it.
The SUV pulled out of the gas station and headed towards the interstate, and whatever hope Will had felt in attempting to escape was gone, decimated in the wake of what cold steel felt like against his favorite t-shirt.
It took several miles down the road for anyone to speak.
“It was the radio,” Molly explained to Francis. He hadn’t spoken, but Will noticed him gripping the steering wheel so tight his knuckles turned white. After a beat, his hands relaxed, and he flexed them before gripping the wheel again.
“The radio,” he repeated. His voice was harsh, pricking against Will’s ears with an unmistakable fury.
“It wasn’t any of us. He heard it on the radio.” Molly reached over and patted his arm lightly, coaxing. “You didn’t do anything wrong.”
Her comfort in the wake of everything happening gave Will the sudden urge to laugh, although he tamped that down. Still, an odd sort of strangled noise escaped his lips, enough that Francis looked at him through the reflection of the rearview mirror.
“Get his phone,” Molly said in the uncomfortable, disquieted silence that followed.
Saul reached for him, and Will let out a low, furious snarl.
“I’ll break your fingers,” he promised. When Saul hesitated, Will reached into his pocket and fished his phone out, tossing it towards the front seat where Molly caught it. She turned it about in her hands, considering its shape and texture, before she unrolled the window and threw it out into the screaming wind.
“He didn’t call anyone,” she assured Dolarhyde as she rolled the window up.
“He hadn’t needed to,” Francis replied after a moment of thought. “He thought we were…different.”
“Shut up,” Beverly,” Will ground out. “I’ll break your fingers, too.”
“Break anyone’s fingers, Will, and I’ll shoot you,” Molly returned before Beverly could speak. “Just do what you did before. Sit still and follow Francis’ directions, same as you did when you thought we were… ‘different.’”
Will sat still and followed Francis’ directions.
After thirty minutes of his reading road signs, Francis noticed.
“Molly,” he murmured.
Molly looked back sharply and met Will’s eyes once again, hers flashing with something he couldn’t name. “Put the bag on his head.”
When the bag was placed over his head by a hesitant Beverly Katz, Will found himself leaning back to press his head against the headrest. The interstate was a long, straight stretch, and no matter how many times he tried to count the blinks of his eyes or the curves the car took, soon enough he lost count and let himself ruminate on one solitary, dizzying fact:
He was royally, horrifically fucked.
Jack Crawford stared at the bloodbath, and he had to resist an honest urge to vomit.
It wasn’t the carnage; he was used to seeing death displayed in rigorous forms, twisted minds using their hands and their claws to carve death and destruction through the flesh of another. Years of work in the FBI had seasoned him to the practice of turning his emotions off when he observed the dead in all of its gory horror, made him impervious to the quips and jokes his forensics team tended to make to lighten the mood.
No, the nausea stemmed from the way the blood seemed to still sit in the air, even after all this time.
“That’s an unnecessary amount of blood,” Price said, crouched over a body.
“Are you shaming him, even in death?” Zeller asked dubiously. “Give the guy a break. It’s not his fault he bled everywhere.”
“I mean it,” Price protested, although not without a mild, wry smile. “If Dolarhyde was just…killing them, it’d be one thing. He eviscerated these guys.”
“Eviscerated,” Jack repeated bluntly.
“I mean, he really took a knife to them.” Price gestured to a neck wound, and he sighed. “It wasn’t enough that he got his jugular, he got him in almost every major artery afterwards.”
“Personal?” Zeller wondered.
“How many?” Jack asked. He had to force himself to ask, to move past the part where he had to walk across Will Graham’s apartment complex and step around large puddles of blood. In truth, it still felt like he was back in Baltimore, talking to the bastard that’d somehow instigated all of this, but that certainly wasn’t true. If it was, then he’d have had more time to plan, more time to prevent this.
More time to protect Will Graham.
“He got every single one in his unit, Jack,” Zeller replied. That quieted them as they mulled over the death of their fellow agents. “Five.”
“How do their stomachs look?” Jack asked.
“He’s got a Glasgow smile,” Price said, gesturing. “And it looks like…”
“He used a linoleum knife,” Jack cut in as Price inspected the wound. “I’ll bet my damn marriage on it.”
Price looked a breath away from asking about Bella, but Jack’s withering stare silenced him. He rubbed his eyes and inhaled the stench of blood, wishing that he was back home with Bella, enjoying a lovely dinner of takeout Chinese rather than dealing with this shit. He felt her concern like pinpricks across the back of his neck, and he was helpless to ease her worry. Time had made the distance easier to handle, being separated from his soulmate as he was, although it made the emotions between them stronger every time he returned home.
“Get them bagged and tagged. I want a full autopsy so we can see if he left any information behind about where they were going or what they were doing,” Jack said, stepping around another large puddle. The carpet was soaked with it; the landlords would have to either find a damn good wet-vac, or they’d have to replace it entirely.
All expenses paid by the FBI, of course.
“What do you think we’re dealing with here?” Price asked. He skirted the body and moved onto the next one, gesturing as a few more specialists stepped into the room. “We’ve got a newly-freed cannibal, at least five little helper bees, and potentially four hostages. Maybe more helper bees, maybe less hostages?”
“We’ll run background checks on everyone. His friends that were allowed access to the apartment had to give identification, so we can look them up.”
Jack hmm’d lightly and nodded. “For now, let’s not be so dumb as to think Agent Dolarhyde was able to corral four hostages into an SUV, keep them compliant for the duration of his drive, and get them where he wanted to go in one piece.”
“Drugs and fear tactics are good weapons,” Zeller pointed out. He crouched down beside another body and tilted his head, studying the wound patterns. “He could have gotten them one-by-one, and by the time they were all put away, he could do as he pleased.”
“The question is, where’d he take them?” Jack murmured. He swallowed down the bile that rose up, fast and sharp in the wake of a deep inhale.
Zeller and Price both looked up at that, and they stared at one another in the living room of Will Graham’s apartment, expressions grim.
They didn’t have to ask ‘what was Lecter going to do to them’ because Jack Crawford was many things, but stupid wasn’t one of them. If they didn’t find Will soon, no one had to try and guess what his fate would be.
Hannibal ‘the Cannibal’ Lecter had a bold enough track record that they could say with utmost certainty that this wouldn’t be the last of the carnage. Things were just getting started.
The inside of the cloth bag was hot.
It took less than five minutes of him breathing before the fresh, cool air ran out and he was left with the taste of his own morning breath. He hadn’t had time to brush his teeth when Francis had woken him, after all. He wasn’t quite sure how long it took for the heat to make him fall into a not-quite sleep where his head bobbed and his breaths came short, but he was certainly aware hours later when the bag was lifted. The space around him was suddenly cool, and he took a long, heavy gulp of air, sitting up with a lurch.
To the side of him, Beverly held the bag with that same, god damned expression she’d had in the parking lot when he was informed of her not being his friend, but something rather sinister instead. He focused on the spot right next to her black eye, and he smiled crookedly.
“I hope he’s paying you a fair amount,” he commented dryly.
“Dr. Lecter doesn’t have to pay us,” Saul said from the other side of him. “Come on.”
Will wasn’t quite sure if he liked this Saul, serious and curt, or if he liked the one from before who joked even in the most uncomfortable of first-meetings. He continued to stare at that spot on Beverly’s face until she looked away from him, climbing out of the SUV with awkward, jerky movements.
When Beverly motioned for him to get out, he slid along the seat and climbed out after her, logging that information away for later. Dr. Lecter didn’t have to pay them to abduct him. He had willing, eager participants in whatever game he was playing, so much so that money was of no concern for them. That, in of itself, was an unsettling thought. If one was being paid, they could be swayed by other money offers, promises of immunity, deals with the FBI or other government organizations, or even a cost/benefit analysis.
Motivations of the emotional variety, though, weren’t so easily dealt with.
He was led around the SUV that was parked in a wraparound gravel driveway. Looming over them sat an imposing, grandiose plantation home, windows lining the front and columns supporting a beautiful balcony that overlooked the driveway. It was an old home, but the paint on it looked fresh, and the shutters seemed new. Someone had taken great pains to place potted plants in between the columns, flowers ranging from lilies to roses to foxglove.
Two large, solid wooden doors parted, the mouth of the entryway spewing forth a number of people that spilled out along the marble steps in an organized chaos. At the sight of them coming towards him, Will tried to stop his forward motion, but Francis grabbed one arm and Saul grabbed the other, their muscle and weight propelling him forward against his will.
“Come along, Mr. Graham,” Francis urged.
“I don’t want to go in there,” he said, and he jerked against their grip. It was futile, though, and looking into the faces of adoration around them, Will knew he’d find no aid.
Their small group walked the gauntlet of onlookers, expressions ranging from outright delight to mystification, and one person felt so bold as to reach out and touch him.
“It’s Will Graham,” someone whispered.
“That’s Will Graham.”
“It’s really him!”
“He’s going to be so pleased…
Will flinched from the scrutiny, bumping into Francis, but that seemed to only embolden the others. They closed in around him, hands reaching, touching, grasping at the hem of his shirt as they stared; his skin prickled, tingled, burned until he wanted to rip it off of himself.
Someone managed to touch his face, and he cringed, stumbling over his feet. Francis caught him, and he seemed to see something in Will’s eyes because his expression of stone-walled intent softened ever-so-slightly.
“Give him room,” he said to the crowd. His tone brooked no argument.
They stepped back just enough for Francis to lead Will up the rest of the steps, and they entered the house uninterrupted. Breaths slipped from his lips in short, small gasps.
“His room is up the stairs and to the left,” Molly said. Once they entered the house, she strolled past them and headed towards the right where French doors led to what appeared to be a parlor. Will’s gaze followed her, then roamed about, noting the lavish details of the main hallway. Saul and Beverly broke to the left where another hall lay, and just ahead there was a second set of double doors, leading deeper into the bowels of the home. He wondered if he should make a break for it. Probably not the time, not with Francis holding onto him.
“Will you walk on your own?” Francis asked him.
Francis motioned to the stairs off to the side, and Will walked up them, noting the lack of squeaking steps or faded carpeting. This was a well-cared for place, every inch of it spotless with nary a dust particle in the air. The banister looked smooth and freshly polished, a deep, dark wood that gleamed underneath the yellowed light of a chandelier.
Just to the left at the top of the stairs, a door sat open, inviting him. Will walked in, stuffing his hands into his jacket pockets so that Francis couldn’t see him ball them into fists.
It was just as clean and decorated as the rest of the house, from its curtained windows to vases lining the fireplace mantle. A large, four-poster bed sat centered, a trunk at the bottom with a fresh set of clothes folded on top. Will noted the two windows and a door that led either to a bathroom or a closet.
“Here is your bedroom, Mr. Graham,” Francis said. He hovered in the doorway, one breath away from entering. Reaching the center of the room, Will paused and turned to look back at him, frowning.
“…What is going to happen next?” Will asked.
“You will remain here,” Francis replied. “I will go and work, and someone will come to get you when it’s time.”
Will noted that the farther away from the FBI and Crawford he got, the less agitated Francis’ words sounded. He took his time speaking, found ways to avoid having to use the letter ‘S’. He took a step closer, and Francis tensed.
“Don’t leave me in here, Agent Dolarhyde,” he urged quietly. “Don’t leave me in here like this.”
“You will remain here, Mr. Graham,” Francis replied.
“I don’t belong here…please just let me go. I’ll find a way home, I won’t tell anyone about this…just let me leave. Let me go home.”
Francis’ eye twitched, and a muscle spasmed in his neck. He rolled his neck back and forth, popping it, before he tossed Will’s overnight bag into the room, letting it hit the ground with a solid, desolate thump.
“You are home, Mr. Graham,” Francis Dolarhyde informed him, shutting the door.
The windows were barred from the outside.
Quick scrutiny of the room revealed a full bathroom with a walk-in closet, as well as a wardrobe that housed even more clothing than what was already hanging up. Inside of the trunk, several books of various genres rested, and the dresser held socks, underwear, and more than enough flannel to hang oneself with.
The door, naturally, was locked.
He took stock once more, noting the soaps and shampoos that lined the counter underneath the sink, as though one couldn’t have been sure what the visitor would like to use. By the third glance over the room, Will’s hands were shaking, and his breath started to sound more like a wheeze.
He was trapped in a house by Hannibal Lecter. He was going to be killed by his old therapist.
That is, if his on-again-off-again girlfriend didn’t get to him first.
He pressed a hand to his mouth to stifle the hysterical laughter that managed to tear its way up his throat, and his pacing became more erratic as he tried to dispel the energy that rippled just underneath his skin. Jack Crawford showed up, and Hell followed in his wake. In reality, that seemed to always be what happened, Jack showing up to ask questions and leaving Will to wade his way through a river of blood in the aftermath.
God, if he lived through this, he was going to find a way to ensure he never saw Jack again. The poor bastard.
He scoped the room out once more, then resumed pacing. Time crept with the sort of sluggishness that made him tremble, made his hands jittery as they fumbled with whatever he could find in his pockets –a pen with a chewed up cap, as well as a stick of gum.
He saved the gum for later, and he twirled the pen around in his hands, chewing furiously on the cap as he paced.
Time passed; his pacing gave way to him huddling into the farthest corner from the door, hands pressed to his eyes like he could somehow erase everything that he’d seen. Occasionally, he’d look down at his shoes, gaze fixated on the rim of red around one of them. Francis Dolarhyde had murdered several FBI agents. He’d put his trust in a killer.
The sound of the door knob rattling shook Will from the dark thoughts he had, images of dead bodies and the many colorful ways in which he supposed Francis could have killed them. He scrambled to his feet and pressed his back to the corner, tucking the pen away before whoever was on the other side of that door could see. He just had to wait. He just had to wait for his moment, and then he’d take his chances.
Dr. Hannibal Lecter stepped into the room, and it suddenly felt colder.
While time had given Will slightly shorter hair and a trimmed beard during his residency, it had made lethal edges of the once good doctor. His deep-set eyes were dark, his cheekbones high and hollowed from whatever food he’d been forced to live off of. His flat, thin lips held lines at the edges, although from frowning or smiling, Will couldn’t say. Rather than the jumpsuit he’d worn in what few photos the press had released, he was now dressed much the way he’d once been, before Jack Crawford had had the misfortune of walking into the sharp end of his knife. He’d even gotten his hands on an obscene red, purple, and black argyle tie.
He eyed Will, as well as the distance between them, and Will’s chest tightened, twisted so sharp he thought his heart would rip out from his skin. His heartbeat skipped, then rushed like the frantic flutters of a hummingbird’s wings. He felt distinctly trapped.
There was something different though, something in the way that the light reflected off of his eyes that made Will look again, even as he held his breath, even as he dug his shoulder blades into the wall painted a rather ostentatious shade of cobalt. It was something in Lecter’s eyes that took him aback, and it took far too long for his mind to process it, as obvious as it suddenly was:
One eye blue, the other maroon.
“Hello, Will,” Hannibal Lecter greeted kindly.
“No,” Will whispered, horrified. It wasn’t real. What he was seeing as an illusion, a delusion brought on by stress and mortal terror, a deadly, potent combination when one was abducted by their on-again-off-again girlfriend at polite gun-point.
This wasn’t real.
“Oh, yes,” Lecter replied breezily. “You and I have some things that we need to talk about, I think. There are some things you may have missed while I was locked away.”