Will Graham was allowed outside in the early morning.
He’d grabbed a change of clothes from his pack, having ignored the now obvious hints that the other clothes within the room had been provided for him. He stood out in the fog, and he inhaled the humid air, cool only because of the early morning. It was going to be a warm day, much like it often was in a place like that.
Will may have had a bag put over his head, but he could recognize the good old, country south when he saw it.
The trees were hardwoods beyond the lush, well-maintained yard: maples, oaks, river birches, hickory, and beeches. The dense thickness of them was apparent even from where he stood, off to the west side of the house, standing among the dew and the grass. He wasn’t allowed to walk in the forest, Francis said, but he could walk around the yard. A kind sort of exercise, all things considered.
There was a pond in the back that he stood beside for a long time, staring down in it. It was a large pond, devoid of too much algae and grime. It was difficult for him to wrap his mind around the idea that Lecter hadn’t paid anyone to put so much effort into the space around them. It was difficult because of the implications, because of the idea that adoration for him was so utterly strong that they’d break their backs to give him a lovely mansion of sorts to lounge about in as he attempted to force his old patient’s eyes to change color.
Thankfully, they hadn’t changed color. He woke with two very, very blue eyes.
“Judging by the interstate we were on last before Molly had a bag put over my head, I’d say we were in Georgia,” Will said casually, glancing back to Francis. Francis stood a respectable distance, standing at a stiff ‘parade march’.
“I can neither confirm nor deny,” Francis said.
“You don’t have to,” Will assured him. “It’s not quite wet enough for Florida, and we drove farther than South Carolina. I’m guessing Georgia.”
Francis said nothing to that, a stoic expression on a carefully constructed face of calm.
“Marine Corps?” Will guessed, studying his stance. “Yeah...Marine Corps. My dad was in the marines, long before I was born. When he thought he was stuck waiting for something a long time, he’d stand like that, too.”
“Did Dr. Lecter tell you to call me that, or have you decided that’s just how you’ll speak to me?” Will asked. “Because if he told you to call me Mr. Graham, that’s a load of horse shit.”
“I respect your position in this house,” Dolarhyde said, and he stumbled over his ‘S’ once more. It made his shoulders tense, and he ducked his head. “Please…just enjoy your walk.”
Will sighed, tucked his hands into his jacket pockets, and enjoyed his walk.
It wasn’t right for him to needle at Dolarhyde, but he’d woken with an honest anger, now that the shock was abating. Dr. Lecter was going to try and induce a full connection because he couldn’t handle the idea of his psyche reaching for something that didn’t reach back? He was going to try and force Will to connect to him so that he could justify something in this world changing him the way he oftentimes changed other people?
God, if he were a saner person, the thought alone would have crippled him.
He wasn’t a saner person, though. That’s why Hannibal Lecter honestly thought that he could change him.
Will glanced to the side as he meandered along a gravel path. Beverly stood closeby, her steps silent in the grass.
“Go away, Beverly,” he said pleasantly.
“I just want to talk.”
“Do you honestly think that you can salvage this mess out of the maw of madness?” he wondered. He realized instantly that he’d picked up on Lecter’s tone and words, and he gritted his teeth. He hated when he did that. “Better put; why do you think that I want to talk to you?”
“You don’t understand,” she said.
“I don’t,” he agreed, and he kept walking. “And I honestly don’t want to.”
“If you’d just listen-”
“You know, I’m getting that a lot from you people. If you’d just listen, if you’d just trust me, if you’d just get in the fucking car, if you’d just look into my eyes…everyone here, despite claiming to care about my well being, seems royally hellbent on giving me a laundry list of to-do’s, even as you all say, ‘if you’d just.” He paused to savor the sound of his voice coming out dry, sardonic, and perfectly in control. “I suppose that I shouldn’t be surprised at your lying, though.”
“Look, Will, we’re friends, and I honestly care about you,” Beverly replied.
Will barked out a harsh laugh, hands curling into fists in his pockets. “No, we’re…we’re not friends. The, uhm, the light of friendship wouldn’t reach us, Beverly, not for a thousand years. Not after this.”
“You pretended to give a shit about me! For the better part of four years, you slowly gained my trust, got to know me, became the person you thought would appeal to me so that you could sidle in close and spy on me for Dr. Hannibal Lecter.” When his voice grew, he paused to take a deep, slow inhale. “What…could possibly make you think that now that I’m well aware of just the kind of person you are, I would ever want to consider you a friend, let alone think fondly of you?”
“I do care about you, Will!” she snapped. “That is real! That is honest!”
“Whatever shred of real honesty you claimed to have shriveled up and died the moment you watched Molly point a gun at me and did nothing,” Will replied.
That made her hesitate. An odd shadow passed over her face, and if Will had been closer, he could have seen the emotion shifting in the corners of her eyes, bleak somehow as her lips twisted down.
The moment passed, and the expression was gone.
“Dr. Lecter…is a good person,” she said after a long, pained silence. “He sees things that no one else does. He views the world in an entirely different light, like nothing I’ve ever seen.”
“That’s because he views human beings as animals,” said Will dryly. “Beverly…you may think this is somehow right or somehow…justifiably good, but you are putting your faith and trust in the hands of a very bad man.”
“You simply need to see him from a different perspective,” Beverly replied easily.
“Under his orders, I was kidnapped. Under his orders, Francis Dolarhyde murdered at least five FBI agents, and four others aided in the escape of a criminal, not before murdering at least two innocent people at the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. That was after another person under his command walked into a police station and murdered a police officer just a few days before. Can you say that it’s worth it? What you’re giving up for someone like that?”
“…I don’t know that yet,” she said honestly, “but I’m willing to find out.”
“You know that sooner or later you’re going to have to pay the piper, don’t you? Are you going to be willing to pay that price?”
Beverly held his intense, probing stare, her lips pursed and her eyes narrowed.
“I guess we’ll see,” she said, and she raked fingers through her hair before adjusting her stance.
“I guess we’ll see,” Will agreed.
“Mr. Graham, it’s time for breakfast,” Francis Dolarhyde said from behind them. Will turned to him, no longer standing at parade rest, then looked back to Beverly, brows raised.
“We have a specific breakfast time,” he said informatively.
The three of them ventured across the lawn back to the house, their passage marked by the dark shapes of their feet cutting through the dew.
“Dr. Lecter said that you’ve likely puked up anything of substance last night,” Beverly said when they reached the door. “You didn’t consume anything with protein, so he requested a remedy for that.”
Will didn’t want to admit that she was right –alone in his room, thoughts gave way to a discontented nausea that brought everything up, the wine burning in his throat hours after.
“…I wasn’t sure quite how the meat was sourced,” he said after a beat, darkly.
“We’re not all cannibals,” Beverly retorted.
“You just blindly follow one, I know.”
She looked like she had a quick rebuttal for that, but when they walked down the hall towards the dining room he’d just visited the night before, she let the matter drop. Which was just as well; at the swell of voices carrying down the hall, Will’s muscles tensed, and the ease in which he condemned Beverly was gone, replaced instead with the sensation of hands reaching out, grasping for him. He was painfully, completely aware of Francis following behind him, just a step-and-a-half away, and he wondered if he’d be so quick to keep them off of him, should they try to touch him again.
The curtains had been opened in the dining room, bathing the rich mahogany walls with natural light. The flowers from before remained, although they’d been moved to a small table against a wall off to the side. That gave room for the twenty or so people that crowded along the chairs, eagerly discussing the morning events, punctuated with yawns, sniffles, and the sort of dry cough one can only give when they’ve just woken up.
As Will walked in, such chatter stumbled to a stop. Will was painfully aware of far too many eyes on him, their mouths in various shapes of surprise or intrigue, mouths half-full of what looked to be semi-chewed eggs and sausage.
“Come on,” Beverly coaxed, and she blessedly led him through a door to the side that opened up to the kitchen and away from so many prying eyes.
“Good morning,” Lecter greeted from an island counter. Standing poised beside him, Molly sipped a cup of coffee and observed him over the rim of it.
“…Good morning,” he managed after a beat. When Molly met his gaze, his lip curled, and he had to look away before something nasty fell out of his mouth.
“I’ve made omelets. It’s been some time, but I do believe I remembered the recipe after all these years,” he said. Molly and Beverly laughed appreciatively, and Will managed a grimace.
An uncomfortable pause followed, one bred from the memory of what a butter knife felt like pressed to his pulse just the night before. Being blatantly rude to Beverly was one thing, but when he’d exhibited too much emotion in front of Lecter, things hadn’t gone so well.
“Thank you,” he said, much too late for it to be considered polite, much less in conjunction with what Dr. Lecter had first said.
Thankfully, Lecter didn’t seem to mind. He set a plate down to the side of the island where stools had been pulled out, and Will sat down, accepting a fork with a dip of his head.
“The tomatoes are coming in only a little late in the season, but they taste wonderful,” he assured Will. “Ladies, if you’ll give Will the privacy of eating in here, there should be more than enough room at the table.”
Molly and Beverly left, although the look Beverly shot him as he began picking bits of sausage out of the omelet clearly said behave.
“It’s a protein-packed meal in order to replenish anything you lost within the last few days,” Hannibal said conversationally, washing his hands at the sink. As he dried his hands, Francis set a plate in front of the stool beside Will, adjusting the fork just-so. Will wondered if Lecter had ever had the chance to stab someone with a fork before.
Maybe that’d be the weapon of the day, if he didn’t keep careful control of his mouth.
Dr. Lecter hung his apron up on a hook by the pantry, and he sat down on the stool beside Will, his back straight and his presence far closer than Will would have liked. Beside his own hunched, curved posture, Lecter’s was impeccable and professional.
“The spinach is to replenish electrolytes,” he said, motioning to Will’s plate.
“I don’t even have the ability to puke in private,” Will muttered, savagely setting another bit of sausage to the side. He stopped, turning the fork around in his hand. “…Thank you for breakfast,” he added hastily.
“It was an educated guess that I made based off of what I know of your personality, actually,” Lecter said. “No doubt if you did manage to sleep, the images of fallen agents whose faces you’ll now forever remember haunted you at your most vulnerable.”
He was right about both of those things, although Will didn’t want to admit that. He picked another piece of sausage out of the omelet and set it to the side by the steadily growing pile. He tried very hard to pretend that he didn’t notice Hannibal watching his every move, taking notes. Before, when he’d been nothing more than his therapist, Will had always felt under a microscope, each inch of his person noticed and noted. While at the time it had been unsettling but ultimately helpful since he was trying to get better, now it was a grating sensation, the notion that each move he made gave away some sort of aspect to his character that he didn’t want to share.
“Do you suppose that I am feeding you something other than pork?” Lecter wondered after Will dug out a particularly large chunk of meat.
Will gripped the fork tightly and focused on the task at hand. “After the first year of therapy with you, Dr. Lecter, you wished to congratulate me on my progress by inviting me to dinner,” he said, staring at his food. “You told me that you’d made rabbit with braised potatoes and fresh herbs, and I ate everything on the plate that night. It was probably the best food I’d ever had.”
He spared Hannibal a glance as he unearthed another piece of sausage. “About two years later,” he continued savagely, “during one of your court cases, the prosecuting attorney listed dates in which the Chesapeake Ripper had murdered his victims. One of the victims you’d killed, Marissa Schurr, had died just one day before that dinner. She was missing several vital organs, as well as the meat just along her spine.”
“You believe that I fed you Marissa Schurr.”
“No, I know you fed me Marissa Schurr. When Agent Crawford was secretly investigating you, you invited him to your home and fed him Nicholas Boyle, brother to Cassie Boyle.”
“He vomited the dinner and ran tests on the meat,” Hannibal said dismally. “An ingenious plan, all things considered.”
“Yeah, so I’m not entirely convinced that it’s not your plan to do the same now. Half of your amusement, I think, was keeping us ignorant of your general machinations.”
“How is Agent Crawford?” he asked.
“You saw him less than a day before your escape. How was he then?” With all of the sausage successfully removed from the eggs, Will allowed himself to eat, chewing over the cooked spinach with a curl to his lip. He hated spinach.
“I asked if he ever woke with stomach pains. He informed me that the only pain he suffered was the fact that I was still alive.” He didn’t sound upset by the statement. Out of the corner of his eye, Will saw his lip twist into a small, delighted smile. “I’m sure he is enduring stomach pains now.”
Will had nothing to say to that. Instead, he focused on his meal, and Lecter followed suit, the sounds of forks clacking against china the only noise in the otherwise silent kitchen.
After breakfast, he was led back through the dining room where the numbers had dwindled down to about ten, Hannibal walking just ahead of him. Will didn’t so much as watch him as he watched the others in the room, noting the way adoration and –horrifically enough –hope lit up their eyes, mouths curling into soft, pleased smiles. He’d seen similar expression on the faces of those in churches, eyes turned towards statues of Gods and saints. Hope. Blind faith.
“Who are all of these people?” he asked Dr. Lecter as they walked down the hall.
“Attempting to glean information, Will?” Hannibal wondered.
“…Trying to understand what I’m seeing.” Among other things. He hadn’t seen a single cellular device or telephone yet, but he reasoned that he hadn’t seen all of the rooms just yet. Once he could locate a phone, he could find a way to get ahold of Jack.
“These are dear friends that have come together to help me in my time of need.” He didn’t sound the way one sounded when referring to a dear friend; if anything, there was a distinct turn of his mouth as he spoke, and Will wondered what sort of person suit he’d put on to convince them that he was their savior. He thought of the hands touching him before and cringed.
“Are they all…?” His voice trailed off.
“Some.” A young woman walked by them and stopped just long enough to bob her head respectfully. “Some are disparate youths seeking shelter from a society that has rejected them. Others simply found a place where they can be accepted, regardless of their differences.”
“So you’ve made a summer getaway camp for psychopaths,” Will said, although he immediately chastised himself. He couldn’t call it ‘surviving’ if he kept running his mouth and made Hannibal angry enough to make him dinner.
Rather than chastise him, Lecter surprised Will when he instead laughed, pausing in the main hall to really, truly look at Will, as though he were seeing him for the first time.
Will tried very, very hard to not look at his mismatched eyes.
“I have missed our conversations,” he said fondly.
That time, Will was smart enough not to say anything in return.
Jack sat across from a pretty, young woman with mismatched eyes and wondered where all her love had gone. If blood hadn’t stained the front of her shirt in a sloppy, haphazard manner, her appearance would have suggested a trip to a mall, not an attempted murder. She was dressed to blend with a ponytail tucked into a baseball cap, a white t-shirt, and medium wash denim pants. Jack wasn’t the sort of person have a damn clue about differences between medium wash from a light wash, but Zeller had noticed right away. This was a woman meant to blend into a crowd.
Thankfully, even while being stabbed, Bowman was quick on the uptake.
“We ran your prints, and they don’t match your identification, ‘Alyss Conners’,” Jack said at last. He’d let the silence sit suspended around them for quite some time, simmering in an underlying rage that was contained with only the slightest control. She hadn’t seemed to mind it, in truth; one brown eye and one hazel eye blinked at him lazily, casually. Her thin lips parted, and she let out a soft huff of breath.
“That’s odd,” she said. She had a distinctly high-pitched tone, the sort of voice that would normally get her whatever she liked.
“They did match the prints found at the scene of a crime in Kansas City from nine years ago, though,” he continued like she hadn’t spoken. “Suspect Kelly Brown, wanted in conjunction with the murder of four family members: Jason, Steven, Linda, and Bryce Brown.”
“My name is Alyss, not Kelly.”
“We know you’re working for Lecter. We’ve been pulling visitor records, and you’d started going to see Hannibal for at least 3 years under various misnomers. Thankfully, face recognition was able to pull you up and save us time.”
“I’m currently unemployed, actually,” she informed him lightly. “I hope to fix that, though. I want to work with soulmate counseling.”
Graham was attempting to finish his residency with soulmate grief counseling. Jack leaned in at that small jab, his mouth rippling with a silent snarl.
“Where’s Will Graham?”
“It must hurt to see your fellow agent die, Agent Crawford,” she commented. “In a TattleCrime news article, Freddie Lounds once said that you ‘walked with death’. Everywhere you go, death follows. How does that feel?”
“Agent Bowman isn’t dead, Kelly,” Jack replied with a gritty smile.
That took her aback. Her expression of sweet calm faltered, a twinge of panic lurking around her eyes before she struggled to compose herself, teeth bared.
“You’re lying,” she decided.
“He’s in surgery right now, but things are looking good. Whatever mission Lecter gave you, you failed.” He relished in her unease at his completely serious tone, a spasm near her mouth. It was a balm against the burn of her words. “You were supposed to kill Agent Lloyd Bowman and get away, right? A shadow of death that could strike wherever. Except you failed on both counts, Kelly.”
“You won’t find Dr. Lecter,” she hissed, and she bared her teeth. Her canines were sharper than normal, peeking out over lips the color of pink rose petals. “I may have failed him, but you won’t find him. You who walks with death and brings it in your wake, you will only hurt those around you in your quest to save Will Graham.”
“Where’s Will Graham?” Jack demanded. His tone darkened in response to hers.
“You’ll never find him,” Kelly hissed.
“Tell me, and we can maybe think of a deal, Kelly.” It was a lie, but it was a good one. Even if he took care of her attempted murder of a federal agent, she was wanted elsewhere for other murders. Things didn’t look good for Kelly Brown.
“Over my dead body,” she snarled.
“That can be arranged. The death penalty is still legal in Missouri.”
He stood up and gathered the papers into a file, heading from the room with a straight, confidant step. Just outside, Zeller straightened from his slouch, and he fell in step beside Jack as they headed down the hall.
“He’s still in surgery,” he said, and Jack grunted. Bowman was still alive, even if only just. It was good news. Good news was hard to come by whenever Lecter was in the mix.
“Also, I did checks on everyone. Molly Foster, single mother with a son by the name of Willy. Twenty-seven, widowed, but the death of her husband is from cancer, not murder. No soulmate, and no word on where her son is. Her face was pulled from the cameras at the BSHCI five different times, although she signed in to see Lecter under a different name each time.”
“I want to see where, when, and how she first came to find this guy. Do we have letters of correspondence?” Jack wondered.
“Beverly Katz, a student in the GWU graduate program for criminology. She was being scoped out by the FBI, but… this essentially ruins her application. She has a soulmate, Saul Yancy, who visited Dr. Lecter five years ago and used his real name. Beverly Katz visited Dr. Lecter only once, although she used a pseudo name.”
Jack nodded and walked into the autopsy room where Price was busy peering through a microscope. He tossed the folder down, loosened his tie, and tried to roll her words off of his back.
Everywhere you go, death follows.
“Agent Francis Dolarhyde.” At that, Zeller paused, a frown creasing the space between his brows. “We pretty much know his professional career. Before that, though, he was bounced from foster house to foster house, abandoned by his mother, cared for by his grandmother for a short while before she died, then taken in by his mother once more before he was back in the foster system until he graduated high school and joined the marines a month later.”
“How many times did he visit Dr. Lecter in his spare time?”
Zeller glanced up from his folder and frowned, uncomfortable. Jack didn’t care, though; while Dolarhyde may have been an agent, he certainly wasn’t one any longer. Jack had placed his trust in him to keep Will Graham safe, and Francis Dolarhyde had spit on it.
How does that feel?
“Quite a few times, actually, each time under a false name with a different guard working,” Zeller said reluctantly. “We’re going through as much information as we can, and Dr. Chilton is giving us his full cooperation.”
When Jack didn’t speak right away, Price lifted his head and cleared his throat.
“While he was looking at that, I looked through a few things, too,” he said. Jack turned to him expectantly. “Namely, the backpack of your Saul Yancy, soulmate to Beverly Katz. It seems that in the rush, he left a few things behind, namely a Nalgene bottle with very stale, very warm water in it.”
“Okay,” Jack said blankly.
“Well, I decided to study the diatoms in it, on a hunch,” he continued.
“You studied the diatoms on a hunch,” Zeller repeatedly bluntly.
“People have hunches,” Price replied defensively. At Jack’s aggravated sigh, he continued, “Diatoms are unique and can house specific ‘fingerprints’, so to speak, like people can. You study the diatoms, compare them to other diatoms, and you can find a general water source. Where this was water from a tap rather than bottled water…”
“We can try and hunt down just where Saul was before he made his way to Graham’s apartment,” Jack finished for him. His gut tensed, and he idly rubbed the scar. It did that often enough when he was stressed, a reminder of just how close one walked the line between life and death in situations like this. If Bowman lived, they’d have to compare scars.
“Sounds like a long shot,” Zeller murmured. Despite the misgivings in his tone, his eyes lightened perceptively.
“That’s what I thought, but I decided to give it a shot while you were doing your background sleuthing and face recognition project.” Price paused to savor the moment. “Looks like our guy Saul came from a place in Georgia before he made his way to Graham’s apartment that fateful night. Specifically either the Piedmont region, or the Upper Coastal Plain.”
“That guy really needs to drink more water,” Zeller said triumphantly.
“I’m pretty damn glad that he didn’t,” Jack replied. He felt the beginnings of excitement unfurling just under the place where Lecter gave him his crooked smile. “Get me on the phone with the Atlanta HQ,” he said, grabbing his phone. “I want my ass in the air in under an hour.”