6 Years Ago:
“Mr. Graham, can you please tell the court how you first met Dr. Lecter?”
Will shifted in the uncomfortable wooden chair and tried to look towards the prosecutor’s face, like they’d practiced. He managed to get to his chin and stared it down. “I met Dr. Lecter two years ago when I was searching for a therapist.”
“Was he recommended to you?”
“I have a bad habit of being too thorough. I extensively researched various therapists for quite some time before even calling to set up an appointment with any of them. He was recommended by several psychiatric journals, reviews online, and through word-of-mouth from professors at the school I’d just started attending.”
“Which school was that?”
“George Washington University.”
The prosecutor nodded and looked away from Will, pausing for a sort of dramatic buildup that Will had been coached to wait for. He shifted once more and spared a glance towards the defense’s side of the courtroom, something he’d been attempting to force himself not to do. Seated between two defense attorneys and two guards, Dr. Hannibal Lecter was the picture of serene calm. If he minded much that Will was taking the stand against him, it didn’t show. In the quick pass over that Will gave him, he’d have almost said that the doctor appeared pleased.
“You traveled a little under an hour once a week to see your therapist?”
“He was a good therapist.”
“I’d like for you to describe the events which took place on the evening of April 10th of this year, Will. You’d been seeing Dr. Lecter for almost two years at that point?”
“Tell me about that night in your own words.”
Being as stressed as he was, that was difficult. The speech and inflection of the attorney was a smooth, rocking cadence that gave way to a sense of ease and self-assurance that Will desperately wished he had. He could feel his mouth parting to scent the room the way the man across from him did, like he could taste the emotions around him and react accordingly.
“Due to my classes and travel, my appointments were at 7:30 P.M. I was early that evening due to a class being cancelled in the afternoon.” He licked his lips, desperately wishing that he had a glass of water. “I normally waited in the waiting room until he opened the door.”
“Why didn’t you that time?”
“The door was ajar. I heard…a noise.” He paused the way he’d been told to, a brave man in a horrendous situation that didn’t know how to put to words the horrors he’d witnessed. It wasn’t entirely a lie, in truth. “I thought maybe Dr. Lecter was unwell, or that something had happened, so I opened the door.”
“What did you see?”
“I saw Agent Jack Crawford on the ground with a knife wound to his stomach. He was bleeding, and he was clawing his way towards his jacket on the couch towards what I supposed was his phone.” He blinked, each click of his eyelids a snapshot from that memory, a thing burned into his skull, so much so that he eat, slept, and dreamed it as though it’d happened to him instead.
“What did you do?”
It took longer than it should have for him to answer, lost as he was in the scene. The rug he’d spent the better part of two years digging his heels into was soaked, an oddly beautiful gloss to the stains as each straining grunt made more blood ooze from the opening along Jack’s stomach. His skin, despite its darker tone, was pale, sweat staining the collar of his shirt as he struggled. He was dying, and he knew it, knew it like he now knew what his own blood felt like on the outside of his body, knew it like he knew the tone of his own voice.
He blinked rapidly and shook his head, trying to shake loose the way he’d panicked. He was ashamed to discover that as his eyes had glazed over, as he’d retreated into himself, his gaze had sought out Dr. Lecter, honed in on him.
Dr. Lecter smiled faintly and bobbed his head as though he were encouraging him to continue. It could have been another therapy session to him, for all the calm he exuded.
“I’m sorry,” he said, and he rubbed his soggy palms onto his recently purchased dress slacks. “I…I took off my jacket and used it to staunch the blood flow, and while I did that, I called 911. Agent Crawford was in shock, and he kept saying to me, over and over again, ‘It’s Hannibal Lecter. Hannibal Lecter did this.’”
“Did you see Dr. Lecter?”
“Not at that moment, no,” Will replied. There was a speck on his glasses, and he stared at it rather than look back over to where Dr. Lecter was watching with rapt attention. “I didn’t realize he was in the room until I heard a noise at the door. He was…walking out of the room. In his hand was a curved knife.”
“I present to the court the weapon in question, a standard linoleum knife.” The prosecutor crossed the room and retrieved a plastic bag that housed the weapon Jack Crawford had almost died beneath. “Did you try to engage him in any way, Mr. Graham?”
“No. I thought that if I moved, Agent Crawford would die.”
“Thank you, Mr. Graham. No further questions.”
He could sense the appreciation and awe from onlookers in the room. It felt like a rash that spread along his neck, hot and itchy, and he nodded and glanced to the judge with mismatched eyes and a face of stone.
“Defense, your witness.”
The defense attorney had matching eyes and an uncomfortable smile. When he stood and crossed the room, Will felt distinctly pinned to his chair, and he couldn’t have moved if he tried.
“Mr. Graham, I’m sure Agent Crawford is grateful for your brave and quick actions that led to his life being saved,” they began with a thin-lipped smile. “I have a few questions for you, though, if you don’t mind.”
Will nodded. He didn’t have a choice in the matter, in reality.
“What were you seeing Dr. Lecter for?”
“I’d rather not say,” Will replied, far curter than he’d have liked. “That’s personal.”
“Mr. Fisker?” the judge prompted.
“While the details of his therapy are certainly his right to have remain private due to confidentiality laws, your honor, I’d like to submit this letter provided by Dr. Bloom, a psychiatrist that guest lectured often at GWU. It is a letter from her to the head of the psychiatry department discussing the mental state of student Will Graham.”
The judge accepted the letter and pushed glasses up on the bridge of his nose in order to read it. As his hand touched the standard printer paper, a cold sweat broke out at Will’s temples, and he looked back to Dr. Lecter, eyes widening.
The bastard was smiling.
“Will Graham is a unique case due to his hyper-empathy disorder, a disorder still being discussed within psychiatric circles today due to its relatively newer discovery and study. Your honor, the pure empathy that Will Graham can display for anyone in a room means that his mind can be swayed simply by high emotion and the power of suggestion. He first was given recommendation to see a psychiatrist due to his almost withdrawing from his first semester of school because of delusions he was suffering after the death of his father. In his own words to Dr. Bloom, ‘I sometimes think that he may be alive, and I will see him just ahead of me in the distance. I can literally make myself see things, but I am powerless to stop the images once they appear.’”
“Your point, Mr. Fisker?” the judge prompted.
“I motion that Mr. Graham’s testimony be struck from record due to his inability to recount past occurrences with complete accuracy. His memory, as malleable as it has been proven to be by esteemed psychiatrists apart from Dr. Lecter, is such that as he attempted to save the life of Agent Crawford, the agent informed him that Dr. Lecter attacked him. His hyper-empathy caused him to fully believe in what he was being told, causing the delusion of seeing him departing to occur. Mr. Graham’s mind is not stable enough to stand up in a court of law.”
“I didn’t imagine seeing him leave,” Will snapped, his cheeks burning red with anger and embarrassment.
“The traits that have been given to Dr. Lecter are claims of an intelligent psychopath, your honor. An intelligent psychopath, armed with a deadly weapon, would have simply attacked Will Graham before he could have made the call that ultimately saved Agent Crawford’s life. In the scenario provided, he only saw Dr. Lecter after Agent Crawford told him to see.”
The courtroom was quiet, save for the stenographer typing. After a stilted few seconds, even that paused. An air conditioner in the back of the room gurgled and complained, and somewhere down the hall, a door slammed shut. Will curled his fingers into his knees and dug his nails into slacks he’d paid far too much for, all for the sake of looking professional as he testified against his own therapist.
“I’m going to call a recess,” the judge said at last, setting the letter down. “Councilors, my office. We’ll meet again here within the hour, at approximately 1:20 P.M.”
His gavel made a sharp cracking noise, and Will jumped with the sensation of it. At the motions of one of the agents off to the side of the prosecution, he rose from the stand and made his way off of it, his skin going numb and cold all over as he realized that despite his best efforts, his mind that –in the words of Dr. Lecter –was supposedly a gift, was now being used as a weapon against him instead.
All the while, Dr. Lecter remained smiling.
Will was given an official tour of the house and all of its winding hallways. There were over fifteen bedrooms that Will could see, many of them housing bunkbeds or neat, straight rows of twin sized beds lined from one wall to the other. The rooms and halls were spacious, newly painted and refurbished with modern lighting and technology. Lining the many walls were oil paintings of what Will recognized as things that had once inhabited Dr. Lecter’s office and home.
“Did they find what once belonged to you?” he asked, pausing before one. “Or did they replace them?”
“Much of my art went to auction, but it was recovered.”
Will nodded, not at all surprised to see Leda and the Swan as part of Lecter’s collection. There was something depraved and carnal about the swan pressed close to her thigh, her dress hiked up her stomach so that she was exposed to the world and all its censure. No one liked to talk about the fact that Zeus tended to rape most of the women who bore his children. Hera definitely like to ignore that tidbit when she exacted her revenge. Dr. Lecter paused with him, much too close for comfort.
To be fair, anything not involving a 6x8 cell with bars was much too close for comfort.
“How did you find this house?”
“I had this house placed in my cousin’s name a few years before Agent Crawford began his hunt for me. It had been a precaution taken with little thought to what would happen later, but I’m pleased with the decision.” He didn’t press closer when Will moved away from him. The space was given with little resentment or anger.
“Don’t you think they’ll try and track your cousin down? Or any family you have here?”
Lecter laughed lightly. “If I didn’t know better, I would say that it almost sounds as though you’re concerned that they’ll find us.”
His voice had definitely been pitched that way, although the honest emotion tied to it was more hope than anything else. Will hadn’t been aware of Lecter having a cousin in the states, but if they could locate information on the cousin, Jack would be one step closer to finding him.
“They won’t, though,” he continued when Will didn’t speak. “This has been pieced together for some time, Will, comprised of many parts that have come together to run as a singular, cohesive plan. So far, there hasn’t been a single snag.”
“You’ve been working on this for years, I know,” Will said bitterly. He thought of Beverly and Molly, a sore in his mouth that he kept tonguing over.
“All good plans take time and patience, Will,” he said. “Come, let me introduce you to some of the people.”
Downstairs was a maze of parlors, living rooms, sitting rooms, tea rooms, and a library that’d been remade into a large security office. Computers and hardware sat in an organized chaos, and a large map had been pinned to a burnt ocher wall. Their entry was noted, eyes drifting over him to fixate on Hannibal immediately. Francis covered the map from Will’s view and greeted Lecter with a dipped, submissive head.
Seeing him before Hannibal was far different than seeing him beside Jack. Where there’d been a perfect, calm assurance to his mannerisms with Jack, a slow, deep, and mellow personality that moved as a shadow, as he stood before Hannibal, that persona was stripped away. There was a vulnerability in his eyes, the way they dipped down rather than meet Lecter’s gaze. His large, broad frame somehow shrunk, like he could take all of his muscle and his deadly capabilities and make them smaller in Hannibal’s wake.
“Dr. Lecter,” he greeted. “Mr. Graham.”
“If he likes, Will can go by Dr. Graham,” Hannibal said lightly. “He’s completed his degrees, after all. His residency was soon to be finished, too.”
Francis looked to Will expectantly, although he wouldn’t meet his eyes.
“It’s not like I’m going to be practicing psychiatry anytime soon,” Will stated bluntly.
“Mr. Graham, then,” Francis decided.
“I thought it best to introduce him to the main security here at the house,” said Hannibal, looking about. “I see Matthew is still here.”
“I’ll be leaving soon, sir,” a man said, walking over to them. He had a Baltimore way of curling his letters in his mouth before discarding them, thin lips twisted into a semi-permanent smirk. His close-cropped hair was professional, his beard neatly trimmed, and when he looked Will over, Will was more than capable of tasting the disdain that rippled off of him, dank and heady in the air.
Will thought to make a joke about his wearing a Sherriff’s uniform, but at this point it was becoming far too exhausting to be surprised by these people.
“Sherriff Brown has been a valuable asset to our cause here,” Hannibal informed Will. “He was more than eager to help in relieving me of the Baltimore State Hospital.”
“You used to work there?” Will asked. There was a surprised pause at his question. “You sound like you’re from Baltimore,” he explained.
“Matthew used to work there, yes,” said Lecter.
“I take care of the town here, now,” Matthew said. There was a sudden conscious attempt to give his tone a southern drawl. Will wondered if he had a hard time fitting in at his department, if the good old southern boys gave him trouble when it came down to brass tacks. “And I help Dr. Lecter however I can with the big house.”
“Lucky for Dr. Lecter,” Will replied, deadpan.
“We haven’t heard anything yet,” Francis said, looking from Will to Hannibal. “If they have anything, it’s not…good enough to make a move.”
“You were sufficient with your evidence, then,” he said, pleased. Francis’ intent gaze lightened at the compliment. “Once we hear word from Alyss, let me know.”
“I will have gotten a call by this afternoon,” Matthew assured him.
Matthew left with another glance tossed towards Will’s way, and Hannibal made quick work of the rest of his guards: Sam, Howard, Matt, Glen, and Rick. Their faces blurred, melted together in the sort of mush that made Will uneasy to look at for too long. He considered it luck that they didn’t reach out to touch him again.
They left the room, the implication by the introductions made abundantly clear from the gun holstered at each of their hips: Will would be detained if necessary.
He was taken to a large, spacious office next, the chandelier overhead an antique that threatened to drop at a sideways breeze. Will skirted around it and took quick stock of the room, from its open, wide fireplace to the large bay windows that gave way to the sprawling backyard he’d walked along earlier. Books lined the shelves from floor to ceiling, and the musk of male cologne hung along the chairs and desk.
“It looks the same as your old office,” Will said when he realized Hannibal was waiting for him to speak. He shifted his stance and tucked his hands into his jacket pockets, eyes drawn outside where he spied Molly walking with a young boy.
“Does that bring back pleasant memories or disquieting ones?”
“You tried to see another therapist after everything that occurred. It lasted a month before you never returned.”
“Therapy lost its…charm after everything,” he replied. “I didn’t see a reason to return.”
“Were you afraid that if you returned, you would somehow find another therapist whose personal desires extended towards a less socially acceptable avenue of interest?”
That was an awfully fancy way of saying that Hannibal Lecter genuinely enjoyed killing and eating people. Will bit along his bottom lip, found a piece of peeling skin, and tugged it so sharply that he tore flesh. Just outside, Molly held the child’s hand and swung their arms, sunlight gliding across her cheekbones and giving her a halo of light. He wanted to strangle her with it.
“…Not even I’m that unlucky,” he managed. His tongue glided along the tender skin, lapped up the blood that beaded with faint dots of red. He kept his back to Hannibal. “I didn’t want to talk about you in therapy. Dr. Bloom wanted me to stop internalizing everything, but I just kept…holding it in. It was a waste of her time and mine.”
“It must have hurt you when you realized that your perceptions of me weren’t quite what you supposed.”
It had hurt, but not in the way Hannibal was implying. “I didn’t blame myself for being blind,” he said, harsher than intended. “We were blind because you wanted us to be blind. I don’t blame myself for that.”
“What did you struggle with reconciling, then?”
“Are you trying to psychoanalyze me right now?” he asked, turning away from the window. Molly and the child had disappeared downhill towards the pond. “Missing the days when I paid you to climb into my head?”
“You have a unique mind and a valuable way of thinking. I won’t feel guilty for wanting to understand it further.”
He wasn’t going to say it, stuck as the words were in his throat, jamming up and making breath stutter to a stop. He wasn’t going to give voice to the fear that of course the only person in the world he’d been able to be completely honest with was a psychopathic cannibal; Will Graham was not a man that shared the ugly thoughts in his head very often. What did it say about him that the first time he’d been able to consistently remove them and place them before an unjudging person, it was the same person that just the day before they’d met had taken the brain from a judge and placed it on a set of scales in order to display his displeasure in the judge’s last ruling?
What did it say about Will Graham that for two years, his source of mental stability and clarity had come from the lips of a serial killer?
“…Do you think that by attempting to…do this, you’ll somehow be able to make my eyes change?” He looked to Hannibal who stood poised beside a rich mahogany desk, his three-piece suit a blend of greys, greens, and off-white plaid. “Do you think that by trying to pick up where we left off six years ago, you can force a connection?”
“What do you think, Dr. Graham?”
“I’ve been told that my line of thinking is considered rude in polite company.”
“You once informed me that I should practice the art of ‘say it rude,’” Hannibal countered. “When one can’t think of the kind form of rephrasing, they should simply speak their mind. You said that there was something to be said about transparent honesty.”
Will gritted his teeth. “I think you’ve got a cult following you for reasons I don’t quite understand, and I think you’re just using them for whatever game you’ve got going currently –a big, honest ‘fuck you’ to Jack Crawford. I think you’re going to try and force a staggered connection that –even when no manipulations are added –has a less than one percent chance of occurring between two willing participants because becoming part of some ‘common rabble’ is ‘insupportable’ for you.
“You said that they’re your friends, but you had absolutely no qualms in sending one of them that was clearly mentally unstable into a police station so that she could commit suicide-by-cop. You’ve somehow manipulated other people into ingratiating themselves within my life in order to spy on me for you, and they say that it’s not for pay –what hold do you have over them? What have you promised them that they’re willing to sell their lives away at your whim?”
“If you’re upset about Molly, know that she genuinely enjoyed your company. She informed me that you were a good person,” said Hannibal. When Will set to a furious pace across an oriental rug, he sat down and tracked his route with half-lidded eyes.
“She…you…” He floundered, digging his nails into his palms. I fucked her the night before you escaped. You told her to do that, didn’t you, you son-of-a-bitch? You told her to fuck me? “Dr. Lecter, soulmate connections are based off of some form of commonality among two people that our psyche can see before our conscious mind does. It makes that leap, and in the space and time when we dip into REM sleep, it establishes the connection between the individuals. It can connect due to shared beliefs, personalities, desires, feelings, or even memories and sensations.” A beat before he added, “You know this.”
“Yes, and my mind connected to yours,” Hannibal said.
Will blanched and stopped his pacing to face Hannibal, hands planted on his hips. “Mine didn’t connect back,” he said, attempting to sound calm. His tone was almost plaintive. “You of all people know that my hyper-empathy makes connections with soulmates a tricky environment.”
“Which is why you’ve spent the better half of your life avoiding eyes, yes,” Hannibal agreed.
“It’s not…fair to them that if I even did connect back, there is no guarantee that it was due to a genuine connection. It could have been my empathy, my…sub-consciousness reaching for that space in which it became someone else. Your reaching, your…finding of me is not an indication that there was even something between us to connect to. My empathy disorder may have only made it seem that way because I can empathize with anyone. I can connect to anyone.”
It would have been a much better argument if he could have maintained calm. It was difficult to do so, though, when was staring down a cannibal who sat with such poise and tranquility that Will was certain he was imagining the many ways in which he’d potentially flay Will alive. He took a shaky, uncomfortable breath of air and looked away from him, worrying over the wound on his lip. His hands dug into his hips, and he imagined bruises forming in small, uniformed ovals.
“That is what makes it so special,” Dr. Lecter said at last. Against his olive skin and ashen hair, the blue eye stood out far more than the maroon, giving him an eerie, unearthly look. “Your grasp and understanding of the thoughts and behaviors of others makes the likelihood of a staggered connection far more likely because you’re able to see what first drew my subconscious to you.”
“That’s what you don’t get, Dr. Lecter,” Will snapped, exasperated. “I can understand it, but that is not enough. The aspects of my person is this untapped potential, like you’re the first person that’s ever seen that in me and tried to take advantage.” And succeeded, he thought bitterly. “You’re a murderer. You’re a serial killer, you’re a cannibal, and my potential for that darkness doesn’t matter because I will never be that person. You can’t force a staggered connection with me because the things you have hope that I will come to understand are the things about you that I’m completely and unequivocally repulsed by. I don’t find any aspect of that interesting, let alone appealing.”
Hannibal stood, and he crossed the distance between them at a leisurely, calm pace. Be it the look on his face or the way his hips twisted, but Will had the sensation of being prey, a predator crossing the distance between them to end him. He’d gone too far, said too much, and it didn’t matter that Jack could maybe hunt Lecter down through his cousin that owned a plantation home when Will managed to get himself killed on his second day there –
-Hannibal withdrew his pocket square and pressed the corner of it to Will’s bottom lip.
“…You will,” Hannibal said simply. Will snagged the handkerchief away from Hannibal, glancing from him to it, marking the small specks of blood along its white cloth. When he looked up again, he was disquieted by the pleased, secretive smile he was being given, like he was in on a joke whose punchline was told too fast for him to catch.