Chapter 1: Chapter One
Not really any spoilers, but there are characters mentioned from across the seasons and minor plot points that I have taken from them. You have been warned!
I hope you enjoy!
The janitor sombrely went about his business in the depths of the hallway of Chesapeake High. He swept away the muddy footprints of a hundred students down by the entrance of the school. He has begged the school a thousand times to put in a type of mat to reduce the mess, but what did they say? They said "Well, it is your job, isn't it? If they cleaned their feet before coming in then what would you do?" Little did they know that this janitorial position was a little more than sweeping away dirt from the football field.
He continued to make his way up to the cafeteria. He grumbled under his breath about all the millions of things he had to do by himself. Washing whiteboards, bleaching toilets, sponging up blood…
Blood? Why the hell is there blood?
He looked down at his shoes. The white sneakers were soaking themselves in a pool of darkened blood, staining themselves in a rich crimson. He lifted his foot in disgust at the liquid, only to nearly flinch away at the sight in front of him.
A long streak of red led from the pool to the closed cafeteria doors. It was as if someone took a large paintbrush, dipped in the blood at his feet and drew a crude line to the doors.
The janitor's heart increased its speed in his chest. If it went any faster it would have been able to power a jumbo jet.
"Kids, this is not funny," he called out into the darkness. "You had fun with your prank, now come out."
In a vain hope, he wished for a group of bored sophomores to pop their heads around the corner and have a great laugh at his expense, yet, not a single soul was heard giggling.
"I won't be mad! Just reveal yourselves!" This was true. A sense of relief would overtake his imagination any day.
All was quiet in the halls of Chesapeake high. The janitor felt a ball of bile rose in his throat. If there was truly no-one there, then who did this?
Against his better judgement, he tip-toed towards the cafeteria. With each step, his pulse sped up, and his brain began to imagine horrible pictures of what was on the other side.
What he imagined was nothing of the horrific presentation behind the doors.
On the floor in front of him was Ms Patty Smith, the cook for the school. One should rather say what was left of Ms Smith. The second pool of blood surrounded her head like a halo. The top of the head, where a netted cap would hold her black hair in place, was gone, including her brain. In fact, all organs were gone from the body. They were, instead, placed in different metal jars on the tables beside her. In these large jars sported different names like 'tongue soup,' 'steak and kidney pie', 'haggis pudding' and 'liver pate'. From the state of poor Patty, the janitor knew that the meat sources were not from animals.
The janitor stumbled back, his foot slipping in the blood. His voice at this point overcame its block, and he allowed a high pitch scream to leave his lips. Once he found his footing again, he ran out of the cafeteria, then the school, covered in blood and yelling about the repulsive sight that was forever burnt into his skull.
Will knew why school was closed for the day, but that didn't stop him from wanting to snoop around the school.
Most kids would abhor the sight that was described to him by Bev Katz, but something was interesting within this case. It was something more than a murder, it was a statement. But the lunch lady? And not just any lunch lady, it was Patty Smith, the most beloved staff member at school.
These thoughts ran through his mind as he walked down to the building. It was not long before he saw a group of onlookers murmuring at the sight. Parents and children alike grasped on each other as individual police officers relayed the same news:
"Unfortunately, Patricia Smith was murdered here last night." A few gasps and a million questions were blurted out of their mouths. The officers held their hands up for silence and repeated the same answer that their superiors told them to say.
"I am sorry, but I cannot reveal any more information to the public. A statement will be released at Town Hall once the detectives have more evidence to go on."
This usually satisfied the nervous citizens, and they would disperse back to their normal lives as if a murder never happened. Yet there was one person left pestering the drained cops.
"Miss, I am sorry, there is nothing more that I can give you."
"Well," said the girl, "let me through and I will find out myself."
The cop sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose to relieve the persisting headache. "Miss, you know I cannot do that. Not only don't you have any access to the scene, but you are just a kid."
"Excuse me! I am not just a kid. I am a senior at this school who happens to run Tattletime."
The old man raised his eyebrow and crossed his arms. The look infuriated the girl slightly more.
"Tattletime? You know, Chesapeake's most popular blog? The source of all information in this goddamn town!"
Will continue to observe the girl build-up of anger at the uninterested cop. Her fiery red hair matched her personality perfectly. In such a small body, she had way too much energy.
Ultimately, she lost. She flung her hands in the air and stamped her foot, swearing that she will find a way in, she will discover the truth that everyone deserves. Much to the officer's relief, she stormed down the street.
Will could not help but smile sweetly as she passed and say "Is everything alright, Freddie?"
Freddie glared at him. "Wouldn't you like to know, Antler Boy," she mumbled as she pushed past him.
A surge of blood pumped into his cheeks, and his hands clenched into a fist. Antler Boy. That damned nickname has stuck to him like flypaper. It happened One Time. But, he supposed, One Time was all it took in such a small community.
He had to shrug the comment away, chanting to himself that he, for once, knew more than that inquisitive, irritating "reporter".
Will stuffed his hands into his pockets and bowed his head as he walked by. Beverly promised to meet him here. After all, it was she who gave him the heads up about the situation. If only it was Freddie who had the best friend with a detective as a father.
He scanned his eyes around the entrance. There was no sign of her anywhere in the crowds of people. Maybe she just gave up waiting for him and went on her own; Will wouldn't have put it past her.
A strange, cold sensation tingled at the back of his neck like someone was breathing down his neck. He knew this feeling; it has happened before. And it meant there was only one person there.
"Hello, Principal Crawford," Will said, still looking straight in front of him. He stuffed his phone quickly into his pockets.
"Will Graham," the deep voice of the principal replied. "Why are you here?"
"Just waiting for a friend, sir." Will shifted uncomfortably in his coat. There was something about the way Chesapeake's principal snuck upon unknowing students that made him shiver. He turned around to face the man. Crawford's face was stoic, betraying no emotion whatsoever. Maybe it was that inhuman expression that gave him the creeps.
"Does it happen to be Beverly Katz? Don't answer; it is a rhetorical question. Where ever one of you is, the other one is sure to follow."
"I found your friend wondering down the hallway outside of the crime scene. When I caught her poking her head around the corner, she claimed that her father gave her access. Imagine her surprise when her father escorted her out with two officers."
"Oh," Will looked down at the floor, "I don't suppose you have any idea where she is now?"
"I would like to think that she was safely at home, watching tv, but if I know Katz, she is probably on the football field, trying her luck with the fire escape. I suggest you start there. Now, you must please excuse me."
Will stared at the imposing figure walking towards the group of worried neighbours. He would never understand Principal Crawford. That man was an enigma wrapped in a puzzle box. He just shook his head and began his trek to the outer fields.
The fire escape was opened. That door has never opened, not for anyone. He had heard rumours about how some of the older students use this as a smoking paradise, or after school, the more adventurous kids would have sex on the stairwell. Will never believed this nonsense, though. It was probably a random story imagined by Freddie during a dry season. After all, that is where all gossip originates from.
To the other students, it was a mythical portal that would open to the worthy, to him it was a stubborn piece of wood that had bee neglected. No emergency has ever occurred in Chesapeake, well, until now that is.
He walked through the doorway and down the stairs. I was just as he imagined: sad, dull, reeking of dead rats stuck in air filters. The walls sported a prison look with cotton cobwebs decorating the corners. The concrete stairs chipped at the edges and crumbled when touched. Will carefully made his way down to the bottom floor and out of the slightly ajar door.
This exit led to just outside the music room. A little further down to the right would lead him smack bang into the cafeteria. He knew it would be clogged up with forensics and detectives. Will was not going to make the same mistake as his friend made.
He decided that he had to enter through the kitchens then hide behind the counters. He had to know what it looked like. Beverly only described it to him over the phone. Her description of the events was not enough to satisfy him. He had to find out one way or another.
He tip-toed down the hallway, making sure that his shoes did not make a squeak. The closer he got to the kitchens, the stronger the rancid smell burned his nose. It was disgusting but a thrill.
Will was so caught up in his feelings, he did not notice the clip-clop of heavy boots coming towards him. Just as he was about to turn the corner and face Detective Katz, a hand grabbed him by the collar and flung him into the nearby storeroom.
Chapter 2: Chapter Two
Detective Katz shook his head in frustration. He told his daughter about the case in hopes that she would keep it secret, and sure, he admits, he was a little proud at the fact that she took it upon herself to go snooping around the crime scene. Heck, if he had that chance at her age, he too would have done the same. But getting caught? And then blaming him? This could have jeopardised his position if his superior heard that he was leaking the case to his daughter. And no doubt the Graham kid was loitering outside, waiting for Bev to pitch up. And when those two got together, a whole circle of hell made its way to the surface. Look, Will is a good kid, not if a little strange, but most of the times Bev is stuck in Crawford’s office is because of an idea of his backfired. Especially like that situation he got himself into last summer. Oh, how that will stick with him long after he leaves…
Detective Katz stopped. Something caught the corner of his eye. Like a figure. It was only for a fleeting moment but his gut told him that someone was there. He rolled his eyes. It had to be Will. Like usual he ignored all of the signs that told him to ‘STOP’ and continued. Must have not realised that Beverly went home. Not even his daughter would escape that quickly.
“Will,” Katz said with a sigh. “I know that you are there. I won’t be angry if you come out now.”
This, unfortunately, was the truth. Will, as far as he knew, has a mother who went down to the grocery store and hasn’t come back for sixteen years, and his father is the village idiot. The child needed some direction in his life. Maybe that is why he acts the way he acts, and why he has found solace in the friendship between his daughter and himself. For such a kid, a more direct, but less aggressive approach was needed.
There was not an abashed figure appearing around the door, nor was there a sound of footsteps. However, there was a sound of something collapsing in one of the storerooms by the unusually open fire escape. He walked slowly to it, in hopes that frightening Will would send him running.
Will struggled against the strong hand of his kidnapper. His first impulse was to scream for help, but even he knew that would be foolish. Rather take a chance being a captive than facing the wrath of whatever force, police or other, was out there.
He closed his eyes and relaxed, allowing as much as his body can go limp their body. The hand that clasped around his mouth loosened and dropped down. Will pulled away to see a giant figure put his fingers to his lips as the increasing sound of feet slapping against the floor continued down the hallway towards their door.
The guy looked familiar, but in the dark of the room, there was no sure way to tell exactly who he was. Will squinted his eyes, wishing that he brought his glasses with him that day. He could make out a faint outline of a muscular, but slim, male who smelt sweet. It was weird how he smelt stood out to him more than anything else.
They waited in anticipation when they heard a crash coming from the music room further down the hall from them as if someone tripped over a drum set. Detective Katz passed the room to the opposite side of the hallway.
Detective Katz grasped the door handle and pulled it open. He already had the words, “Will Graham, what are you doing?” on the tip of his tongue, but he was surprised to see just a girl, whose face matched her hair.
“Freddie Lounds?” Katz said with relief. He was glad that it was this snooping pain-in-the-ass so he didn’t feel guilty shouting at her.
“Ummm,” Freddie shot up from her crouching position. She must have knocked over the drum set in her efforts to escape detection. After all, she was clutching the cymbals that were still shaking. “Mr Katz! Surprised to see you.”
“Detective,” he replied.
“You refer to me as ‘Detective Katz’, understand.” She nodded her head quickly. “Good, now what can I do for you, Miss Lounds?”
“Well, um, well, the guys up front wouldn’t let me in, ya know, and I thought to myself, ‘I have to find out the truth’, for the good of my followers, and everything. So, I followed Graham up to the stairwell…”
“Sorry, did you say Will?”
Freddie caught onto this change of topic. “Yeah, Mr, I mean Detective, Katz. I saw him wandering up this way and disappearing into the building. You know, he could be anywhere in here. He could be scuffing up the evidence. It wouldn’t be strange of him to do such a thing.” Then, under her breath, she said, “especially with what happened a month ago and all.”
“That is enough, Miss Lounds.” Katz cut her off. “Now would you please leave. I have more important things than listening to you babble on about something.”
Freddie bent her head and scuttled towards the fire escape. Of course, she wanted to ask some questions, but she would have to be satisfied with the fact that Will was in bigger trouble than she was.
Will exhaled after hearing Freddie and Katz part ways. He couldn’t believe that he was relieved to be in the same place as her. She saved him from certain death. Now all he had to do was wait for a bit for Freddie to leave. If he knew her personality well enough, she would be perched like a vulture, waiting for her next meal.
“Oh, thank God. I thought I was dead,” Will whispered as he looked through the slanted slots to the hallway. Not even a mouse was scuttering across the floor.
“God had nothing to do with this. I think you mean to thank me,” his original saviour said.
Will felt his skin jump a little. It was not the fact that he forgot that another guy was in the room with him, or the fact that all the pent-up anxiety was breaking through; it was the fact that he recognised the voice.
Gingerly, he felt around for the light and flipped the switch.
Will felt his heart climb its way up into his throat, and the blood left his legs. It was not long before the whitewashed room with the pungent detergents spun around his vision; his head, falling, falling, falling. A huge whack on the steel shelf was all it took to knock him out.
To an outside viewer, this must have been quite a strange sight. There was nothing fearful about Hannibal’s appearance, in fact, it was the complete opposite: the eighteen-year-old had a youthful face for his age despite the silver streaks contrasting against the dark brown of his hair. His long fingers were perfect for playing his preferred instrument: the harpsichord. And he is good at it. Just like he is good at everything else. If there was a six on a GPA, he would have had it. His artistic skills would make Da Vinci look like a failure; his voice would cause tears to form in Simon Cowell’s eyes; his scientific brilliance would create a hydrogen bomb in Oppenheimer's brain. And besides all of that, he still has time to spend with his girlfriend, Alana Bloom. All in all, everyone loved him.
All except one that Will knew and that was Will.
It was not the fact that he hated Hannibal, more to say that he, was suspicious of him. It didn’t help that Will was deeply infatuated with Alana Bloom. All of these reasons strung Will’s patience tighter and tighter before it sprung into an ungodly mess.
Hannibal stared down at the unconscious boy dispassionately. He held no ill-will against the junior, even though that debacle against him was started by Will. In fact, that evening was what sparked curiosity within him about the way this kid’s mind works. It definitely ticked a different way to the rest of the students at Chesapeake High, and he was sure as hell going to find out why.
Chapter 3: Chapter Three
So against all expectations, it turns out that I am a huge idiot. Just for future reference, in this fic, Chesapeake Bay is an actual town, not a bay that borders Maryland and Virginia. I happened to misunderstand practically everything about American Geography. Please don't judge me and read on...
Colours flashed across his vision. All around him were images of horns and fur. The dead carcass lying in the dirt. The rotten stench of the innards filled his nose with a putrid smell. The body of the deer was now him, with offal spilling across the brown of the earth, shinning black under the moonlight. A giant pair of antlers grew from his head as his body degraded into the ground. It looked like a time-lapse of a morbidly beautiful flower in bloom. The antlers twisted and turned until it plunged into another’s beating heart. Not a person, but a giant bleeding organ soaked into the snow…
Will jolted out of his dream. Beads of sweat poured down every inch of his skin; his lungs struggled to keep up with the amount of oxygen his heart needed.
A throb ebbed in his head where it smacked into the shelves. As he clutched his head, all the memories of his previous conscience minutes flooded back into his mind. The storeroom; the darkness, the figure; Hannibal…
Shit! Hannibal! He began to panic. As his mind became clear of the grogginess of the fall and the dream, he realised that he was not in the same place he fainted.
Instead of the metal shelves jutting out of the walls and the claustrophobic tightness of the storeroom, he was lying on a king-size bed, with soft cotton sheets. The duvet was a clinical white with a faint scent of lilies. To his surprise, he was in a room about the size of half of his house with a walk-in closet and another doorway that lead to an en suite bathroom.
Will slid off of the bed and walked across the hardwood floor. He was careful to not step on the woven carpet. It could have been a hundred-thousand-dollar piece of artwork for all he knew.
He had to be on the upper-side of the town: it was the only place in all of Chesapeake where dwelled. It was close enough to certain stores for convenience, but there was a clear separation between those who lived at the top of the food chain and those who lived at the bottom, like Will.
As he gingerly opened the room door, it became obvious where he was. Hannibal Lector, Chesapeake’s prodigy, lived with his aunt and uncle up in these mansions. As far as he knew, Hannibal was a child of the aristocracy, his father was a count of Lithuania or one of those eastern European places. Long story short, they died when he was younger and he had to move in with his father’s side of the family. It was a mystery to Will why they chose the arb town in the middle of nowhere, but now was not the time to question, now was the time to disappear.
Will continued to tip-toe down the hallway. Giant portraits of past ancestors, rolling landscapes of past times and an odd still-life spotted across the walls of the hallway. They didn’t register, though, even when Will past a family portrait of Hannibal with a younger girl holding hands. All that was on his mind was to find a way out of this maze of doors and stairwells. And, of course, the obvious question:
Why in God’s name did Hannibal bring me here?!
Hannibal was finishing the final touches on brunch when he heard footsteps thundering above him. He smiled as he brushed the herbs from his hands and undid his apron.
His surrogates were in Italy for the month in hopes to catch the last days of summer. If it weren’t for the fact that it was already a few weeks into the last year of school, he would have gone. It was not a big deal, though. It meant that he could have the house to himself, cook what he wanted and practice his arts in silence. Of course, Alana visits overnights, sometimes; it was not something that his guardians approved of. Now it just meant that she could walk out the front door.
And that is something Will would figure out to do if he didn’t serve the starters.
Will looked out of the window. He was three-storeys high and no amount of streamline would break his fall. But if it meant not seeing Hannibal’s face again, he would risk it.
He opened up the window and stretched his neck out. Maybe there was a handhold or a vine that he could grab.
“Am I really doing this? Surely facing him would not be that bad. I mean, it has been over a month ago.” Will then remembered what happened over a month ago and found the idea of him splattered on marble and more appealing idea.
He leant down to see that there was a drainage pipe. He had to just stretch down a bit more to grab it…
“If you wanted to leave, you just could have gone through the entrance. It is just down the stairways to your left.
Will got a fright at this sudden interruption in his concentration. He jumped and his head hit the base of the open window. Unfortunately for him, it was the same spot that he bashed earlier.
A string of curse words flew out of his mouth in quick succession as he wiggled himself back in. He turned around to face Hannibal holding a tray with two bowls of steaming soup on it.
“Um, I was, um, just admiring the view. Very nice place you have here.” Will shuffled comfortably, his eyes focusing on the ground.
“Will, don’t act so strange, I promise I won’t eat you.”
Will blanched a bright red as he heard those words. All memories of what happened on that last summer’s evening floated to the top of his brain and plagued his mind with images.
It was hot, extremely hot…
I went by the lake
The fish were beautiful
Up ahead in the trees…
“I am just joking, Will,” Hannibal laughed. “Come downstairs; the soup won’t eat itself.”
Will followed Hannibal to the large, decadent dining hall. It too had marvellous artwork and gorgeous artefacts. The table was about twenty feet long and five feet wide. It was decorated with ornate crystal cigarette dishes across the length of it. The chairs lined up the sides, with their tall backs.
Hannibal put down the tray at the head of the table and one next to him. Hannibal sat down and looked expectantly at Will to do the same. Cautiously, Will slipped in and grabbed a spoon.
He shoved the boiling soup into his mouth. It burnt his tongue and throat to an extent that he didn’t even taste any of it. His eyes started to water as he got half-way through.
“Will, slow down. You will get indigestion and there is still more to come.”
Will half-heartedly slumped into his chair. There was no way around it. He had to talk. He had to get the elephant in the room out of the way.
“Why are you being so nice to me? I literally tried to get you arrested for murder. Not to mention take your girlfriend away from you.”
Hannibal shrugged. “What is in the past is past. You made a mistake, and nothing bad arose from it. I’m sure you won’t do it again?”
The way Hannibal looked at Will gave him the shivers. It was not necessarily threating, but there was a sense of caution.
Will nodded his head as the rest of his body shook. It was true. It was an honest mistake.
“Yeah, um, yes. It was a mistake. Just a happenstance of unlucky events.”
Hannibal smiled and the atmosphere changed around him. Everything relaxed, even Will.
“I don’t suppose you would like some of the main I prepared, wouldn’t you?”
Now that Will was able to breathe, he answered a simple “yes”
Chapter 4: Chapter Four
Will left the house more confused than entering it. He shoved his hands into his pocket and bowed his head as he strode down the street. Nothing was making sense anymore: the most loved person in the town was left on the ground in a disgusting state, and now, he had a peace offering, a meal, cooked by the man he accused of numerous crimes. Hell, Hannibal was more attentive to Will in those few hours than all the years combined. And not even in a bad way! Something about these last couple of hours made him feel uneasy. This quaint town suddenly has found itself in a horrible alternative universe. There was only one person who could begin to untie this knot of tumbling thoughts into a ball of sense.
Beverly Katz was staring at the ceiling. It was all she could do at that moment, considering that her father had banned all objects of entertainment of the day until he could come home and shit her out without wondering eyes of the public and the police force. For now, she has been instructed to sit in her room without any technology, or even books, and think about how this could have affected her father’s career.
She started to trace her name out in the air with her finger. This barely alleviated the levels of boredom that she had suffered, but it was something to do nonetheless.
Her heart jumped in her chest when she heard the doorbell ring. She jumped up and peered out of the window. A huge smile spread across her face as she recognised the familiar visitor. Without a second thought about her punishment, Beverly threw open the door and hopped down the staircase.
“Thank God you are here, Will!” Bev said as she grabbed his lapel and pulled him into the hall. She slammed the door behind him. “I seriously thought I would be the first person to be bored to death.”
“So, you have been grounded, huh?” A smile tugged at the corners of his lips. For once it was not his fault, not that his father ever gave a harsher punishment than a finger waggle and a night without dinner. It actually gave him an excuse to not spend money on that night’s meal.
Beverly shrugged. “Yeah, it tends to happen when ya screw up a high-level job like that, but it could be worse. I could have been punished with spending an hour with Freddie.”
Will laughed. He took off his jacket and hung it up on the rack. She continued to the kitchen and plopped herself on the kitchen counter.
While his friend continued with her story, the one he already knew, he tried to figure out how he would explain the weird encounter with his antagonist. He absentmindedly switched the kettle on and drew out a bag of tea.
Beverly stopped suddenly and eyed Will. Her eyebrow was raised.
“What?” Will asked as he put the cup to his lips.
“Your face is screwing up in different expressions. What happened?
“Well, um, nothing much.” Will put his mouth to the lip of the mug and mumbled. “Besides the fact I fainted in a storeroom into Hannibal's arms, woke up in his bed and ate brunch with him.”
“You. Did. WHAT?!” Beverly jumped off of the counter and clasped her hands on his shoulders.
Will put down his mug and related the story to her. With every word, her eyes widened just a little bit more and her mouth gaped open like a fish’s.
“So, let me get this straight,” Beverly said after he finished his eventful story, “you still were saved and fed by Hannibal Lector. The same Hannibal Lector that you accused of murdering and eating a man last a few weeks ago.”
Will nodded. “The very same.”
“And you don’t think there is some ulterior motive behind it all?”
Beverly, when she heard about the event from Will, was a bit sceptical, but she believed him. Not once had Will’s intuition betrayed him, and honestly, they were so close that she would follow him off of a cliff if he said that there was treasure at the bottom. She believed him even when proof and evidence stacked against him. Alana, unabashedly, told Detective Katz that she had been with Hannibal the whole night in his mansion. She even offered to further explain the intimate details of her stay, but Katz, who was feeling a bit uncomfortable, told her it was not necessary.
It was not only that but the evidence that followed. There were no pictures, no evidence. Only a carcass of a deer lying across the earth. And even that was put down to wolves. But, Will attempted to explain, that it was not ravaged by a predator, but rather skilfully cut like it was done by a surgeon’s hand.
No one listened to him; he became an icon of obstruction of justice and wasting the police’s time. Lounds, on the other hand, took delight in his unfortune. She could finally post something relevant, new. It was the first-time people flocked to her site just to read her version of events. Antler Boy was thus born, and for the month, and maybe forever after, it was his dubbed name.
Will was unsure about how to answer her question. Was he still suspicious of Hannibal after all of that? Was it the dim moonlight that forced him to mistake Hannibal for someone, or something else?
“Honestly, I don’t know. He acted genuinely. He could have let me get caught or make me ‘disappear’. Maybe I should just accept that I was wrong, and move on.”
Katz looked at him thoughtfully. “I don’t believe that you actually think that.”
“I know you, Graham. I know that even though you scamper away at the first sight of him or Alana, and refuse to talk about it, you still are trying to find a way to prove everyone wrong. Do you think that I haven’t seen your scribblings about that evening in your notebook?” Will looked down at his shoes, his face a blood red. “You try to reason and twist your thoughts, but you deep down in your heart believe different. I say take this opportunity and use it to your advantage.”
With this rousing speech, Will felt a strong sense of determination pound through his body like adrenaline.
“You are right.” Will smiled at his friend. “I make friends with him, and coax the information out of him. I would even have sex with him if it would mean a murder would be jailed.”
“That’s the spirit! I mean, maybe not the last part, but you get it. Anyway, let's focus on the now. How are we going to get into the cafeteria?”
Later that evening…
“This is quite an interesting meal, Hannibal,” Alana said, as she stared at the plate in front of her. “I don’t think I have heard of brains for dinner.”
Hannibal seated himself down opposite her. “It is called cervelle de veau . It is delicacy introduced to me a few years ago on a trip to Morocco. I took calf brains and spice it with chill and capers as well as sauté in beurre noir, a black butter sauce.”
“Well, one thing I can say is that you will never bore me with your food.” Alana raised her champagne flute and tapped it with Hannibal’s.
Halfway through the meal, Hannibal made a passing comment about Will’s visit.
“Sorry? Did you say Will Graham was here?” Alana put her fork down. It cluttered on the porcelain plate.
“Yes,” Hannibal said nonchalantly. “He happened to faint in the same cupboard as me. Hurt his head quite badly. I took him back here and gave him some food.”
“Wait, you carried Will Graham back here? The same guy who tried to have you arrested, and tried it on with me?”
“Yes, the same Will Graham. But I just carried him to the car I had hidden away. I drove back here.” Hannibal took a slip of the rich wine.
“But why! He has only caused us trouble since last month. Was it a way to convince him that you didn’t kill Patty?” Alana leaned across the table earnestly and grabbed his hands. “You know you don’t have to prove anything to him.”
Hannibal calmly removed her grip and took a sip from his flute. “I’m not trying to prove anything, Alana. It was rather a show of good faith. He fainted in the storeroom and I restored him. I showed that I meant no ill will against him, and maybe now he will have no ill will against me. Now let us eat. From past experience, brains lose their taste if left cold.”
Chapter 5: Chapter Five
The air in Chesapeake High was different when Bev and Will stepped through its doors. The usual jovial disposition of the students, the general buzz that one would feel on a Friday morning was replaced with solemn respect for the much-loved cook. Everyone, except Freddie Lounds.
She hopped from group to group, shoving her face and phone into their faces. She asked, wait, demanded answers to her questions. She wanted to know who was closest to her, who hated her the most, which student was the last person to see her alive…all in a disgusting attempt to full up the page of her blog.
Beverly Katz and Will Graham watched this fold out from their lockers.
"God, she never gives up, does she?" Beverly had her arms crossed as she leant against the metal door. Will shoved his science books into his backpack.
"People like her never do." He looked at his phone. "We better get going. We have missed one day of class already and Mrs Maverik will have a seizure if we miss another second."
The two juniors shrug on their bags and walk down the blocked hallway. They shoved through the crowds not because of the thought of Mrs Maverik punishing them, but because they need to put as much distance between them and the budding reporter. Of course, though, life never works that way.
They managed to get into a section of free space when the fiery-haired girl caught up to them. She blocked them just as they touched the knob of the Chemistry Lab.
"Well, well, well," she began with a giant grin. Freddie lifted her phone and began to video them. "It is Antler Boy, and his sidekick She-Hulk. Tell me, is this another murder by our very own Hannibal Lector, or is it actually you? I mean, you were caught snooping around the crime scene, and you know what they say: Serial Killers always go back to the crime scenes."
Beverly Katz lunged forward to grab the phone. Lounds managed to pull back her arm in time.
"First, I am nobody's 'sidekick'. And She-Hulk? Really? Is that the most imaginative you can come up with?"
Freddie laughed as she switched her phone off and slid it into her pocket.
"Well I'm not the one getting aggressive now, am I? Perfect name."
Beverly was about to retort back when Will beat it to her. "I was not the only one who tried to go to the crime scene," he pointed out, "you too tried to as well. Are you the one who is the serial killer?"
Before any word could be said, the announcements crackled through the old speaker.
"Attention all students. Please, can you make your way to the gym."
Freddie looked up at the speakers. "It looks like you were saved by the bell. See you later, Antler Boy."
She disappeared through the flow of the students towards the gym, no doubt finding a way to set up her phone for a secret recording.
Jack Crawford, Principal of Chesapeake High, had bad news to share with his students. He had no idea how to tell them without glares and whispers spreading across the school. And, my God, Freddie Lounds will have a field day. The unimaginable questions from not just the students, but from the teachers and the parents as well. In fact, they would be the worst.
Principal Crawford watched as streams of kids filled up the bleachers on either side of the gym. Sweat trickled down the back of his neck and soaked into the collar. Why couldn't it be one of the other board members who could have dealt with this beside him?
The last of the stragglers were herded through the door by the hall monitors, two of them being Will Graham and Beverly Katz. Will caught his eye, but his face remained neutral. It was as if he looked straight through Crawford. His sleeve was pulled by his friend towards an open spot at the edge of the bench.
Once everyone found a seat, Jack Crawford ordered silence in the gym. His opposing figure didn't make it difficult for the students to obey him.
All eyes were on him, and for once, he wished that he did not command such authority. Well, that was the reason he was chosen for the position, and why he had to deliver such news to the students.
"Good morning students," Jack cleared his throat before he continued. "Thank you for joining us, especially at such an awful time. As all of you know by now, Ms Smith, our beloved cafeteria cook, passed away on Wednesday…"
He was suddenly interrupted by a loud voice from the corner.
"Don't you mean murdered, Mr Crawford?" yelled out Freddie Lounds.
Jack pinched the bridge of his nose in a manner that showed that he was done with Freddie's attitude. He must remind himself to send her to his office.
"Yes, Ms Lounds, now would you kindly sit down and keep quiet? Can you do that for me?"
She slowly sat down as an echo of giggles and whispers rebounded off of the gym's walls. Jack held his hand up for silence.
"That being said, we cannot delay our studies for much longer. We will hold a memorial Thursday afternoon next week. Everyone's required to attend. We will provide more information at a later date. For now, the cafeteria is closed." The murmurings started again, this time it increased in volume.
"I know, I know it is not ideal," Crawford raised his voice slightly to smother the noise, "but we have been donated meals from various sources, like Garrett Farms and," he steadied himself for the bad news, "Verger Meat. On that note, we have two new students joining us today."
A thousand knives were plunging his stomach over and over again. He had to do it. He would be fired if he didn't and someone else would still do it. He could not afford a loss of a job now, especially while his wife is…
No! Not the time to think about this!
Jack took a deep breath. "Please welcome Mason and Margot Verger."
Simultaneous gasps flooded the room. Beverly and Will's jaws dropped in unison.
"The Verger twins? Oh, God help us all." Bev whispered.
"Who are they? What is the big deal?" A small voice asked from behind them.
"Well, they are the Verger Twins, heirs to the largest meatpacking dynasty in America. It may not sound impressive but they are rich. And spoiled. And nothing good ever happens when they are around, especially with Mason around."
"I heard," a boy with a thick bush of hair on his head, "that Mason has actually made children cry on purpose so he can drink their tears…"
"…Margot has a whole stable full of horses to herself, and that her father rigs races for her to win."
"My mom told me that Mason attempted to murder a maid who worked there, and even though she was put into critical care in the hospital, he was let off with a light warning."
"…that Margot was caught kissing a stable hand called Judy, and she was threatened with disinheritance if she officially came out as gay…"
A sudden boom from Jack Crawford shut up all of the students in the hall. Will did not notice, with the all of the chatter around, that two teens, both about his age, were standing next to Jack. Mason had the same demeanour as he imagined the Joker would have had as a child. His overly-wide grin showing rows of pearly whites contrasted creepily with the dark look in his eyes. One of his hands were shoved in the pockets of a very expensive jacket. The other was slung over the shoulder of an uncomfortable-looking girl. In contrast to her brother, she seemed to abhor the looks from the audience, as if she could read all of their minds, but it was the squeamish flinch on her face that told Will that having her brother close to her was even worse.
Hannibal watched upon the scene up ahead. Mason and Margot Verger have arrived. Hannibal had already met their acquaintance before; more than once in fact. His aunt and uncle had them over for dinner on many occasions. Charity Galas are another scene where they are found. One thing is for sure: they have provided and problem and an opportunity at the same time.
Chapter 6: Chapter Six
Alana Bloom reclined against the steps of the bleachers. She had heard about the Twins: almost everyone had. Most of it came from Hannibal, though, not the rumours spread by the citizens of the Bay.
Alana had a poor view of the new students. She could only see their profiles from where she stood. Mason had a round face with his nose upturned like one of his father’s pigs. Margot, on the other hand, had delicate features. An ethereal glow emanated from her skin. Alana almost believed her to be a child from the Fae. She was beautiful, even with the rainbow ring of colours circling her eyes; not even the foundation could cover up the scars that had been inflicted upon her.
While Principal Crawford continued with his generic speech about how to treat all new students (from his voice she could tell that he did not mean a single word of it), Alana was memorised by Margot. She could feel the uncomfortableness that Margot felt, as if they were linked. She did not blush or even turn away when Margot’s light green eyes met her own. Margot did not let go of that hold until Mason jerked her back to attention.
She had heard all of the rumours about the Twins. Now it was an opportunity to find out how far the truth had been stretched.
“Not only do we have Freddie here, but now them! God is punishing me. I know he is!”
Beverly muttered to herself as she walked to Biology. She hugged the books to her chest. It was a shield to her; a type of protection. If she squeezed it hard enough then nothing could hurt her.
She pushed open the door open to the classroom. She was the first one there, besides, of course, Ms Maverik. Beverly and Will lost contact when the stampede of people poured out of the hall. Now that she thinks about it, he disappeared a little before that.
“Morning Ms Maverik,” Beverly greeted her teacher before sitting in her assigned seat.
“Morning? It’s probably afternoon now,” Maverik grumbled. “That assembly took too much precious time from us.”
She got up from her seat and began to write huge letters on the board.
While she wrote the words, her other class members flooded into the room. They were unusually silent, except for a select few who murmured in their friend’s ears. This silence was understandable since a new figure appeared behind them:
A few minutes earlier:
While Principal Crawford finished his speech, Will slipped off the edge of the bench. Nobody noticed this; all eyes were on the two in the centre. There was something bad going on, or, if not, something even worse will happen. It was not just his gut that told him so, but all the evidence around him. Hannibal, the Verger Twins, the death of Patty Smith, everything seemed to be swapped into a world of opposites. A loved cook murdered, his arch-enemy turned friend, now the rich and spoiled Twins sinking to the state school level. Nothing made sense.
Will silently swung himself behind the bleaches where he would wait. Wait until everyone left in the chaos, and then talk to Principal Crawford. With all said and done, Crawford could be trusted. He was the only one besides Beverly to at least listen to Will’s claims about that night. It also helped that he knew a little more than the rest of the school. If anyone would provide straight answers, it would be him.
It was while he waited when he felt the hairs on the back of his neck rise. The familiar cologne that he smelt the day before wafted by him.
“So, you are also trying to find answers?” Will asked, not turning his head to the visitor.
“It is not every day when an occurrence like this happens,” Hannibal replied.
They were silent, listening to the whispers around them. It was strange. Hannibal’s presence still held a detection of threat, but at the same time, it felt…comfortable? Will felt at ease but alert at the same time.
He glanced over at the boy who leant against the struts. An idea popped into his head. Maybe Crawford was not the answer he was looking for.
“Do you feel like something is wrong?” Will asked.
“What do you mean?”
“Something is off. The sudden murder, now them joining us?” Will silently added his new friendship with Hannibal in his head. “It feels too weird, too connected, to be a coincidence.”
Hannibal allowed the thought to sink in. Will was waiting, hoping, that Hannibal would catch the bait that he laid out. Coaxing out answers from Hannibal might lead to that ultimate truth that they both had known all along.
“I agree with you.” Hannibal smiled at Will. “I’m glad that I am not the only one who can see it. Why don’t you come over to my place again tonight? At seven? I could make you dinner?”
Will returned the smile. This sudden invitation was exactly what he needed to get answers. Snooping around properly this time. But he couldn’t seem too eager.
“What about Alana? I’m sure she doesn’t want me around.”
Hannibal glanced in the direction of his girlfriend. Through the wood and the legs, he caught a glimpse of Alana staring at Margot. It looks like that problem would be resolved.
“She is going out with other friends tonight,” Hannibal said.
“Well, thank you. I accept your offer.” The other students had begun to leave. “I have a science lesson to get to.”
Will spun on his heel and walked towards the crowd, his heart beating faster than before.
No one spoke, no one looked. Not even Ms Maverik acknowledged the new boy. Beverly was pleading in her mind that Will would come and take his seat next to her.
Mason, with his shit-eating grin, slowly walked towards her. He was biding his time; increasing tension in the class. Everyone nervously awaited what direction he would take: The empty desk at the back or sharing the table with Beverly.
Please Will please Will please Will please Will come. Where the hell are you!
Beverly squeezed her eyes shut and waited for the dreaded moment where he would pull up the chair and plop down. The worst part is that there was nothing anyone would, or could, do about it. Crossing Mason was like crossing a snake: keep out the way and don’t look it in the eye. He was a bully and bullies always got their way.
Fingers were crossed and prayers mumbled. Beverly was not exactly devout in any religion, but now maybe the time that she would start.
Just as Mason neared her, the door of the classroom flung open. Will made quite a dramatic entrance for the quiet nerd of the class that even the new-comer was caught off guard.
“Sorry I’m late, Ms Maverik,” Will said as he strode to his desk. Usually, he would be polite, and greet the teacher properly, but he saw Mason Verger inching his way to the reserved desk. He skidded across the floor and into his chair before Mason could even touch the desk. Beverly sent a quiet prayer to God and made a silent promise that she would go to church on Sunday. Mason, on the other hand, looked annoyed. It was the first time, after all, that someone would actually dare to go against him. He was obviously going to sit down in that spot, so why did this nobody defy his wish?
“It is alright, Mr Graham,” Maverik sighed, “it is not like you missed much.” She looked up at the still-standing student in front of Will. “Mr Verger, please take your seat. We have wasted much time already.”
Mason stared at Will and bared his teeth, like a dog attempting to assert its dominance.
“You may have won this time, but next time, you will not be as lucky.”
He sauntered to the back of the class and plopped down in the wooden seat. He smiled at the teacher and said in a snarky tone, “You may continue, teacher.”
Chapter 7: Chapter Seven
Just quickly! Disturbing content up ahead! You have been warned!
The whole day after the incident tormented Will. Every time he put his foot on the floor felt like a step towards danger. It was not only him, though, that felt this looming sense of paranoia: the rest of the students bunched themselves in tighter groups, even the known loners found a partner to sit with. Freddie was the only one who actively sought the conspiracy behind the new arrivals, discarding the old story about Chesapeake High’s Killer. She flittered from the tight-lipped groups to hear their stories. This was easy. Rumours were the main of the day and all she needed was the closely listen to their conversation to get ammo. That being said, even she was not brave enough to face Mason himself.
Will stuck to Beverly’s side as if their skin was sewn together. Usually, on Friday’s, Will would part ways with Bev and seclude himself in the town’s library. Today was not a usual day, so Will walked back to the Katz residence.
They were silent until they knew that they were alone. Then Will told Beverly why he was so late to science: all about his suspicions on the chain of events, and now his invitation to dinner with Hannibal.
“So, what are you going to do when you get there?” Beverly asked as they entered her house.
“To be honest, I have no idea. Gain his trust, I suppose. I could lie about going to the restroom and search his house? I don’t know. I will analysis the atmosphere when I get there.”
Beverly nodded as she closed plopped onto the couch. She looked at her best friend up and down, her eyebrows narrowing.
“Just out of interest, but what are you going to wear to dinner?”
Will looked down at his clothes. He was wearing a red and black plaid shirt with a well-worn pair of jeans. His shoes were sturdier than most, and besides the flaking fake leather, it was quite presentable.
“Um, like this,” Will said.
Beverly pulled the closest pillow to her chest and hugged it, “I may not be the most fashionable person around, but even I know that you need to look a little more decent than that. You should go home and get fresher clothes.”
Will gritted his teeth. He hated going home. It was a crappy, disgusting bungalow that was littered with beer cans and microwavable dinners. His father no doubt was sleeping on the couch or sobbing over a picture of his ex-wife. If Will was lucky, maybe his father had attempted to find work down at the harbour.
Bev noticed the look on his face. “Oh, um,” she began, but stopped in search of an idea, “maybe…um…maybe my dad has something. Just wait here.”
“God, I feel stupid,” Will mumbled as he pressed the doorbell. He tugged at the tight blazer to relieve some of the constriction. Bev put too much gel in his hair and the shoes were too big. She was kind enough to lend it to him, but he felt like a moron in the clothes.
The door opened to reveal his host. Hannibal himself wore smart shirt and trousers, but around his waist was a slightly grease-stained apron. It didn’t ruin his look; in fact, it added a sort of charm to his look. Handsome was the first thought that popped into Will’s head. The second one was I must look idiotic compared to him.
Will looked at his ginormous shoes and mumbled his greeting
Hannibal smiled, wordlessly stood back to allow Will to shuffle in.
Once he entered the house, he was hit by a wonderful wave of aroma. Will closed his eyes and took a long, appreciative sniff of the spices. He was not used to the tantalising smell of dinner in the evening. Will’s mouth was watering at the thought of properly cooked food.
“Whatever you are making, it smells amazing,” Will said as he turned to Hannibal.
“Thank you,” Hannibal said, his eyes glimmering. “I do try my best. Would you like me to take your coat?”
Will nodded as he attempted to peel off the second-skin blazer. Hannibal finally had to help him by pulling the sleeve off of his arm with two hands. He nearly stumbled back onto the floor when it finally came off.
Will felt his cheeks heat up at the incident. The night was not going as he wished. Hannibal put the blazer on one of the racks and lead Will towards the kitchen, where a stool was prepared at the counter.
“You do not mind us talking while I finish preparing, do you?” Hannibal asked as he rolled up his sleeves.
The scent of the spices was the strongest there; he certainly did not mind at all.
“What are you making?”
“It is nothing too fancy, I’m afraid. It is homemade pasta with onion, peppers and pork sausages. It is a wonderful meal when it is cold outside.”
Will didn’t mind that it was a simple meal. He had worse in his time.
For about ten minutes, Will watched Hannibal skilfully sauté the onions in the tomato-based sauce, while alternating with stirring the pasta.
“Tell me Will about your family life,” Hannibal said as he continued to cook. The question took Will slightly aback. Freddie made it widely know to everyone about Will’s life. His neglecting mother and his incompetent father was no secret to anyone.
“Um, there is not much to tell. Nothing is a secret about me anymore. Ask Freddie Lounds posted every on Tattletime.”
“I don’t read her blog. I am not interested in rumours written by that girl.”
“Well, you’ll be the first,” Will said as he rested his chin on his hands. “Anyway, we should discuss the matter at hand: the arrival of the Twins.”
“Will, you are not in a hurry, are you?” Hannibal calmly asked as he continued to cook.
Will thought back to his father, then said, “No.”
“Well then, let us enjoy the meal. We have plenty of other time to talk.
Hannibal finally finished and brought the cooking to the table. He placed the bowl down in the same spot Will sat in previously and poured him wine.
“Uh, I can’t drink alcohol; I'm only seventeen,” Will said as the red liquid poured into the glass.
“In some European countries, sixteen is the legal age, others eighteen. Here it is twenty-one. Lucky for us, this is sparkling grape juice.”
He turned the bottle around to show the label. It was indeed sparkling grape juice. Imported from France as well.
“Back in Lithuania, the age for drinking is eighteen,” Hannibal continued. “I'm technically still a citizen, so I allow myself the occasional glass now and again. Nothing too extreme, though.”
Hannibal sat down adjacent to Will. He raised his glass of sparkling juice and began a toast.
“To a new friendship.”
Will lifted his glass and clinked it with Hannibal’s.
“To a new friendship,” he repeated.
Throughout dinner there was silence. Will enjoyed every second of the dish; every second of delicious homecooked food in his mouth. He had to stop himself from licking the bowl after he had eaten.
“This was the best meal I have had in a long time,” he said as he picked up the bowl. He followed Hannibal into the kitchen and placed it down in the sink.
“It was just an ordinary dish. Like I said, nothing special.”
“Yeah, well, my dad never does more than microwavable meals, so this is a step up.” Will leant on the counter and watched as Hannibal filled the sink up with soapy water. “Beverly always orders take out when I stay over for the night. This is the first time in years I have had a proper homecooked meal.”
Both of the boys were silent as they cleaned the rest of the kitchen: Hannibal washing dishes and Will drying them. It was a thick silence as if their thoughts were making all of the noise.
Hannibal offered Will coffee and a selection of confectionery goods. Will looked at the time on his phone. It was creeping up to half-past eight. He didn’t realise how late it was, and yet they discussed nothing. Like Hannibal was putting it off.
A thought suddenly clicked in his head.
Hannibal isn’t analysing the Twins; he is analysing me! Fuck! I should have known that something was up. How could I ever think that he wanted to be friends with me?
“Um, well, I don’t want to stay too late, ya know. I have to wake up early tomorrow, and I have had a long day. I don’t want to impose more than I have to.”
“We haven’t even begun to talk about the Twins. I thought we could do it over dessert.”
Will searched Hannibal’s eyes, wondering whether he was telling the truth.
Maybe I’m just being paranoid, Will thought. Maybe I am overthinking this. It has happened before.
“Well, a cup of coffee would be nice,” Will decided. “Maybe a cake or two
Hannibal smiled, “Of course. Why don’t you sit in the lounge while I brew it? And take these cakes.”
He handed over a china plate filled to the edges with chocolate eclairs, custard tarts, and mini milky looking cakes that he could not identify.
Will carried the platter into the lounge. When he reached the room, he realised it was less a lounge and more like a library. All around him were books that were packed tightly into oak shelves. They reached to the tip-top of the ceiling. It was disorienting to being surrounded with an array of books on every subject and the covers in every colour. He had to set the plate down, recline back into one of the leather chairs, and close his eyes.
He was brought out of his hypnotic state when he heard the footsteps upon the floor. Hannibal carried in a tray with a beautifully designed pot, two mugs, a small jug of milk and sugar. Two side plates were carried along. The delectable smell of expensive coffee caused his mouth to water.
“I didn’t know how you liked your coffee, so I just brought everything to you.” He placed the tray down on the coffee table, next to the platter of treats. Hannibal sat down in the opposite chair.
“I hope I brought everything that you need. I feel like it is the time of night that once you sit down, you will not be able to get up again. Don’t you agree.” He bent over and poured himself coffee. He put a pinch of sugar in and drank the liquid. Not even a droplet of milk in the cup.
“I suppose I do,” Will said as he put together the ingredients for his perfect cup of coffee. Hot, milky, and sweet. He picked up the plate and picked up the gelatinous, milky dessert.
Hannibal eyed Will’s expression as he inspected the interesting pudding.
“That is a melk tart. It is a South African dessert. Very popular. I am surprised that it is not more mainstream.”
Will took a bite out of pudding. It was…different. The biscuit base and the cold custard pudding were nothing like he tasted before. The sprinkling of cinnamon was what made it perfect.
Will nodded to show his agreement. It was a dessert that should have been more mainstream.
“Anyway,” he finally said as he swallowed his bite. “We should get to the point. What do you know about the Twins?”
“Them? Just as much as everyone else does. Mason is a sadist with disgusting kinks, and Margot is a closet lesbian who refuses to disappoint her father. She hates him, and he has a demented lust for her…”
“Sorry? Mason is in love with his sister?” Will felt his stomach churn. He had heard disgusting things about Mason, but this was one of the worst.
“Not love, lust. You see, Mason has some sort of complex that illegal is satisfying. His father lets him get away with anything, which basically means that he is untouchable. Through the past two years, I have known him, I have seen him reducing himself into an abhorrible low just so he can orgasm. He drinks toddler’s tears, and if he has enough, he uses it as a type of lubricant. I do not want to even think about what else he does to children.”
Will felt like he wanted to throw up. He had seen crime scenes from Katz’s cases. He has read reports with Beverly from murder’s, but this is the first time he wanted to vomit the thoughts out of his mind.
“You, you know a lot about him,” Will said as he tried to settle his stomach.
Hannibal shrugged and sipped the coffee. “I did a psychological profile on him. I find psychiatry rather interesting. I am planning to become one after school. Either that or a surgeon. Haven’t decided yet.”
The two boys continued to talk about their new common enemy. The more Will heard, the more he wanted to be sick. At one point, though, his vision clouded over and he fainted on the floor.
Chapter 8: Chapter Eight
Alana had no idea how she got there, or how for that matter. It went so fast that she didn’t realise that she was eating dinner on the Verger Estate. Opposite Alana was Margot, who bowed her head as she continued to eat; Mason made himself comfortable next to his new guest.
It began with an excuse, she thought. A small one to Hannibal. That I could not come over for the night. I had to help Mom.
That small excuse spurred her determination to find out more about the Verger Twins. Margot, surprisingly, interested her more than the creepy, sadistic brother. So unassuming, so quiet; if Alana understood anything is that those who never speak hold the most secrets.
It began with a simple conversation at lunch between the senior and the junior. Margot was guarded, replying only with single syllable answers. Yet, somehow, an invitation to dinner arose from it.
“So, tell me, Alana,” Mason’s low voice snapped her out of her daze, “what are your plans for the future?”
His fingers were linked, his posture bent and his eyes cold eyes focused on her.
“Well, um, I am planning to have a gap year in Europe, then study in Vienna. I have family over there,” Alana said. She tried to avoid his gaze, yet it still felt like it was burning into her skin. Alana automatically rubbed her cheek as if it would soothe the pain.
“Oh, how interesting. Father has a few villas dotted around Europe. We go there every summer, don’t we, dear.”
Margot cringed at the poisonous way he referred to her with that term of endearment. It was not even that. All words, all pet names, that he called her became a bitter taste on her tongue. Nothing he said to her felt sincere, everything felt forced.
She nodded quickly then returned to her food. She stabbed the prong into the slabs of meat. Pork lost its appeal after the tour of the farm.
“It is wonderful in summer. Father took us to Italy one…”
She got up suddenly, ignoring polite social norms. Both Mason and Margot were surprised at this movement from their guest.
“Will you excuse me. I need to go to the toilet. Could you direct me?”
For the first time since Alana met the Twins, Margot spoke.
“I will show you. Follow me.”
She pushed her chair away, put her napkin down on the table and walked through the door. They were both quiet when they reached the end of the long hall.
Margot stopped suddenly and turned to Alana. Her eyes were shimmering; Alana swore that a tear dripped onto her cheek.
“I don’t know why you want to be here. I don’t know why I invited you, but it was a mistake. I suggest you leave my house. You do not want to get involved.”
Alana retreated back into her mind as Margot pushed past her. Why did she make that excuse? Margot has a point: it is a precarious situation she found herself in. Yet…the look in the girl’s eyes. The unhappiness, the fear. Alana sighed as she opened the bathroom door. She chose a dangerous path, one that she would not backtrack on.
Will woke up in the same bed as before. The silken sheets, the elegant surroundings, all were the same as the last time. Although, it was his stomach that felt pain instead of his head. The saliva in his mouth was thick and his throat was dry.
What…what happened? Will thought as he shoved himself into a sitting position. He rubbed his face to get rid of the sleep in the corners of his eyes. He forced his mind back to the previous night: there was a library, and desserts, and a hot cup of coffee. He was talking to Hannibal. What were they talking about? Something serious, something disgusting.
His stomach clenched. That was the same feeling that he felt last night. The same feeling when Hannibal told him about…
Will’s hands froze. His eyes flew open as he remembered the events from the night before. It was the Verger Twins. Mason specifically. And about Mason’s personality.
All of the disgusting thoughts rushed back into his mind. This time his stomach did not have the strength to keep it down. He rushed to the en suite and threw up into the toilet.
Hannibal found his new friend with his head inside the porcelain bowl and his arms wrapped around the base of the toilet. His clothes from the night before were soaked from sweat and his hair was plastered to his face.
It isn’t his fault, Hannibal thought as he bent down to examine the exhausted Will, not everyone handles a mixture of horrific imagery and knock-out pills well.
Will groaned as Hannibal prodded him. He was at the point that he was dry heaving air out of his body. Everything ached.
“I am sorry,” Will mumbled into the bowl, “I am not used to rich food. Must’ve gotten to me.”
Hannibal gently lifted his fringe and put a hand to his sticky forehead. Will enjoyed the relief the cool touch and unconsciously held Hannibal’s hand in the place. They locked eyes for a second before Hannibal broke the silence.
“You are just a bit hot. Nothing to worry about. Let’s draw you a bath and I will get some rehydration fluid.”
Will was too weak to protest as Hannibal helped him towards the tub that sat in front of the clear glass pane windows. It would have felt awkward for such a public area for an activity usually considered private, but there was no-one below; just an expansive garden with flowers of every kind growing. And anyway, Will was too ill to even think that thought.
Hannibal put the plug into the bath and drew the warm water from the taps. He tested the water out with his hands before he was satisfied with the temperature. He let it run as he turned his attention to invalid on the floor.
On his knees, he slowly began to strip Will of his clothes. First the vomit stained shirt, with the impossible cuffs, then his socks. Hannibal leant in closer to Will and began to unbutton the trousers he wore. Will focused his eyes on the boy in front of him. His cheeks flushed and pulse began to race. Not just in his heart, but everywhere. Everywhere.
“Um, Hannibal, I think I am fine here. I need that rehydration fluid you were talking about. Just leave me here and I can sort myself out.”
Hannibal didn’t acknowledge his request; he just continued to shrug the pants from his legs. Will felt a panic hit him as Hannibal flung away the formal dress and tug at the elastic band of his worn boxers.
Calmdowncalmdowncalmdown, Will thought as he lifted his ass to rid him of his final piece of clothing. He squeezed his eyes shut and thought of anything else.
He thought of going home to his father. Mr Graham would not even acknowledge his arrival if he was awake. It would be awful. He would be ignored and feel forgotten.
Yet he doesn’t feel forgotten. He cannot conjure up that neglected feeling that many lonely nights brought him. Hannibal’s cologne reminded him where he was, and more importantly, what was happening. His minty breath on his neck and the cool touch of his hands reminded Will that he was not alone at that moment. He was very, very close to someone.
Hannibal helped the stark-naked Will up. Will opened his eyes to see a soft, but meaningful smile right back at him. He helped Will into the bath and turned off the taps.
Hannibal’s eyes flickered down Will’s body and back up again before he pushed himself up.
“I will wash your clothes and get you some fluid. Enjoy yourself.” Hannibal said before he bundled up the clothes and walked out the door
Enjoy yourself? Will thought as the door closed Why did he say it in that way?
It took him two seconds before he realised the innuendo.
He looked down at his pelvis and saw the reason for the smile.
He had a massive erection.
Chapter 9: Chapter Nine
Will sunk lower into the bath with the hope that the water would drown him. He never felt so embarrassed in all of his life, not even with Freddie dubbing him Antler Boy, not even when he peed his pants in third grade.
“It was nothing,” he told himself. “It was just the heat of the room. Heat causes my arteries to dilate, which means there is a higher pumping rate throughout my body. That happens to men all the time in the summer.”
His hands splashed the warm water onto his face. The vessels in his cheeks felt like they were vibrating with the rapid flow of blood. Of course, his theory was plausible! But down in the deep, dark recesses of his heart he knew that there wasn’t really solid proof for it. Male scientists tweaked the results to prove something to their partners at home.
Will continued this debate in his head. Many factors should be considered. The obvious was not one of them…
“Oh, God! What does Hannibal think of me?”
Will could explain it away when Hannibal came back with his clothes and fluid, but somehow, he knew that it would just make the situation worse. What reason does Hannibal have to believe him? His lips were just centimetres away from his own.
Deeper into the bath he sunk. He could just run away, never to face Hannibal again. Pros, no awkward conversation, no acknowledging the fact that it happened. Cons, he has no clothes, just a fluffy towel to cover him up. And even so, he felt like someone forced him to drink ten gallons of alcohol. He would probably fall flat on his face or break his skull in an untasteful manner.
All he could do was wallow in the steaming water, praying that the elephant wouldn’t be talked about.
Hannibal didn’t knock when he opened up the door. In one hand he held the rehydration fluid in a tall glass, the other held a soft, fluffy gown.
In silence, he set the gown down on top of the side table that held only a vase with a single daffodil. He moved the vase away to make space for the gown. He then put the liquid next to Will.
Will had curled up into the foetus position; his back towards Hannibal. He didn’t turn over when he heard the clink of the glass on the tiles.
“Will, I brought up your rehydration fluid, and for now a gown. Of course, it is just until your clothes are ready.”
He ignored Hannibal by staying in the same position. He didn’t even grunt a reply.
Hannibal smiled to himself. Little Will was ashamed of his perfectly understandable reaction to such a situation. He could have left and avoided this earlier, but Hannibal had to know. Will’s dysfunctional life meant he was vulnerable. Being vulnerable meant he was easier to forge a relationship.
He considered if he should bring it up again.
No, it will only push him further away. Leave him be.
Hannibal cleared his throat.
“I have studying to do. If you need help, just shout. I will be next door. I will come back with your clothes.”
Hannibal turned on his heel and walked out of the door. He closed it quietly behind him.
Beverly stared at her phone, waiting for the call to come in from Will. She told him specifically to call her the moment he left. Then why hadn’t he called her? She collapsed onto her back and flung her legs up ninety degrees so that they lined up perfectly with the wall. Her phone was precariously dangling from her one hand. She had made a decision.
Her father watched his daughter through the crack in the doorway. He knew a little about whatever debacle she and Will managed to get themselves into this time. All he cared about was that his suit would be returned without a tear or stain in it. It was a relic, he knew, from his younger days, but that didn’t mean that it could be destroyed without a second thought.
Detective Katz sighed before gently closing the gap. He had a bad feeling in his gut. The worst part was that he was not only powerless to stop whatever had started, but he would be unable to prevent his daughter from joining the fight.
Will pried himself from the bathtub, let out the dirty water and wrapped the towel around him. He knew at one point he would face Hannibal properly. Eye to eye. But how was he supposed to look the same man in the eye who saw his penis erected and aroused? He looked down with relief to see that it had assumed the normal position.
All thoughts were interrupted when he saw the gown vibrating. A blue glow emanated from the cotton pocket.
Shit! I forgot about Bev! Will walked over to the green gown and put it over his now dry body. He pulled his phone from the pocket to see the profile of Beverly staring back at him.
“Hi Bev,” Will said as he tied the fabric belt around his waist.
“What the hell is going on!” the voice from the other side of the phone shouted back. “I waited the whole night for a call from you. What happened?!”
“I will tell you later. He is next door and I can’t risk him overhearing me,” Will replied in a stage whisper.
“You’re still at his house?”
“Like I said, I will tell you everything later.” Not exactly everything, some things needn’t be repeated. “Right now, I need to get dressed.”
“Get dressed?! What…?” Will hung up before any more questions would be asked. He needed to gather his thoughts, his story before he blabbed to anyone.
He slipped his phone back into his pocket and looked tousled his hair back to its natural nest of curls. A passing look in the mirror was given: just enough time to check if he was presentable, but not long enough spark thoughts and remind himself of the embarrassment he was.
Will took a deep breath before exiting the bathroom. His stomach would not stay still for a minute. He looked around, squinting his eyes since he forwent his glasses. No-one was there. It was empty except for a neatly folded pile of clothes on the bed. As he walked nearer to it, he discovered a small, neatly handwritten note on top of the mound:
I apologise for my sudden rush. I somethings that call for my attention. Here are your dry clothes. Just let yourself out.
PS. Here is my number.
Will stared at the note. Hannibal was willing to leave Will in his house…by himself? That was a trusting move on his host’s part. Not to mention leaving his number. After that shameful incident, Hannibal still wants to chat with Will? None of this made sense, but then, what that week did?
Chapter 10: Chapter Ten
"This is a trick, I am not stupid," Will said as he searched through Hannibal's room. Nothing of interest popped up. No knives, no poison vials, no decapitated heads. The most disturbing thing was how this adolescent boy had kept his room so neat. Will then made his way through the house, glancing over strange artefacts and hidden cupboards. Again, nothing out of the ordinary for a house that belonged to a wealthy family.
When he exhausted all of his energy searching for the hidden surgical room, Will decided that his time was wasted in this house. The family must have a cabin somewhere in the surrounding forest, and where he hides his victims. Cold enough to store them for later consumption.
Will sighed as he left the house. Everything that he planned perfectly in his head went wrong. He was to leave early the previous night with answers, now he left late that morning coated in shame as if he had a regretful one-night stand. Instead of the evidence he pursued, he had found himself in a deeper hole of questions.
Alana sipped her coffee, awaiting Hannibal's entrance to their usual booth. It was unusually quiet for Starling's Café. It was the hustle and bustle of teens getting their hangover cures that created its prized atmosphere, but today it was deadly silent, a ghost town. She knew why…everyone knew why…but people feared to admit the deadly change they felt in their town.
A young waitress came back to Alana with a plate of fried bacon and eggs. Alana would never admit it out loud, but the Starlings' food provided her with more comfort than Hannibal's fancy entrees.
She slid the plate across the plastic placemats with the utensils to go along with that.
"Hannibal not here yet?" She asked as she pressed the tray against her slightly stained apron.
"No, he is probably just stuck in traffic," Alana said as she picked up her knife and fork. "I will call you when he comes."
Clarice gave her a sympathetic look before turning on her heel. Alana watched Clarice float to the back of the room and push through the swinging doors that led into the kitchen.
Alana knew what Clarice was thinking: there is no traffic in Chesapeake, especially on a Saturday morning, and especially when Starlings' was not full. She pulled out her phone to check on any calls or messages that she missed. There was nothing. She checked the time to see that she had been sitting there for almost half an hour alone. She felt a slight tightness in her chest. Fear, she thinks as she absentmindedly cut her toast. Hannibal never forgot their dates, so why did he start now?
As she processed all of the events that could go wrong, she heard the ring of the bell to signify the door opening. She popped her head over the cushioned seat to see Hannibal strolling casually into the room. He seemed neither flustered or out of breath as she would have expected, but calm and collected.
Hannibal gave a small wave to Clarice who just stuck her head through the door to see who came in. Clarice grinned and disappeared behind the door again. He pecked Alana's cheek before sitting down.
"Morning Alana, see you have ordered already."
"Yes," Alana said coldly, "I was getting hungry waiting for you."
"Oh, yes, sorry for my late arrival. I had to deal with something."
"Was this something in a place that had phone reception?"
Hannibal looked quizzically at his girlfriend. "Of course, I was at home."
"Then why didn't you at least call me? Even a simple message with, 'I will be late' would have sufficed." Alana was about to say more but Clarice was nearing them with a cup of coffee.
"Hey, Hannibal, got it the way you like it. Sugar, skim milk…the works."
"Thanks, Clarice." She was about to walk away before Hannibal stopped her. "Oh, before I forget, how are the lambs?"
"The sweethearts are perfect. We found the hole that the coyote got through and patched it right up. No more losses, thank God."
"That's good, Clarice," Hannibal said as he took a sip from the coffee mug. "Say hi to your uncle from me."
Clarice nodded before walking over to a new customer that came in. Hannibal noticed her raised eyebrows.
"Ah, Clarice's uncle and aunt own a farm back in Montana. She visited them over the holidays. She was awoken with this awful scream from the sheep pin. Turns out a coyote got through."
"How the hell…?" Alana shook her head, forcing her head to stay on topic. "Never mind. Why didn't you call me? What was more important than our weekly coffee date?"
"I had a visitor to deal with; someone incredibly…valuable.," Hannibal said, then taking a sip from his cup. One thing he tried not to do was lie. What made a good liar was to be truthful. "Anyway, how was your visit to the Verger household?"
"It was fine," Alana began before she realised that she didn't tell Hannibal where she really went the night before. She made an excuse that her mom had hurt her back and Alana was needed that night. "Wait, how did you know I went there?"
Hannibal shrugged, "I saw how intently you stared at Margot yesterday," Alana blushed deeply, "and when you decided to skip our Friday night dinner, I thought something was off. Of course, it might have been the fact that I send a message asking how her back was when she replied with 'I don't know what you are talking about. I have no problems. Have fun with Alana."
He pulled out his phone and showed her the message to her mother, just to prove a point.
Alana sunk in her chair. She had no right to beret Hannibal when she lied to him.
"Ok, so yes. I did go to them. I wanted to do a little investigation. This sudden appearance during such a time is a bit suspicious. I didn't tell you because…"
Why didn't Alana tell him? Certainly, there was a reason. Was it something to do with the thrill of an investigation? Or was it something deeper? An image of Margot standing on the stage with her angelic glow popped in her head. The slim outline, the shimmering curls…
Alana mentally shook that image away. No. That was obviously not it. There was something else, but she couldn't put her finger on it.
"I didn't tell you because I didn't want you to get involved," Alana wiped her hands with the napkin. Of course, it was that! "Especially your family knowing them so well. I just thought it would have been safer."
Hannibal was silent for a moment, then a smile tugged at his lips.
"Alana, I totally understand." He stretched out his hand and interwove his fingers with hers.
"Of course! I forgive you for lying to me. Your heart was in the right place."
"Thank you. That means a lot." Alana leant back in relief.
They continued their Saturday routine as normal. With her secret out, Alana completely forgot that it was, in fact, Hannibal who should have been apologising.
Chapter 11: Chapter Eleven
“What happened?” Bev asked as she opened up the door to a dishevelled Will.
Will did not meet her eye, instead pushed past her and straight to her bedroom. There he pulled off Detective Katz’s formal suit, pants included and rummaged around for the spare sweatpants he kept hidden away.
He was pulling up the clothing when Beverly entered the room. They had an unwritten code that dressing in front of each other was fine, as long as both parties kept limited to underwear.
“What happened?” She repeated. Her arms were crossed and head cocked to one side. “I don’t think I have ever seen you this unnerved. Tell me everything.”
Will sighed as he flopped his back onto her bed. He was going to have to tell her what happened at one point, he might as well tell her the full story. Of course, a few moments would go unmentioned.
“Well, I got some interesting stuff about the Twins. Turns out some of the rumours are true. Except they fail to mention that Mason gets turned on from wanting to fuck his sister.”
Bev responded with the same aghast expression as he did the previous night.
“God that is disgusting! I shouldn’t be surprised, but still. Ugh, this makes me sick to the core.” She fell down on the bed next to where Will sat. She clutched her hand on her stomach and squeezed her eyes.
Her friend nodded solemnly. He knew all too well the awful feeling that came with the thought.
“Yeah. When Hannibal told me it, I passed out onto the floor. I woke up this morning in his bedroom where I found myself spilling my guts into the toilet. He was nice enough to wash my clothes for me and let me recover.”
Not to mention physically undressing me and my boner primed and ready.
Beverly propped herself up on her arm and placed a cool hand on Will’s forehead. It was hot and sticky. It did answer the question of why he looked so pale, yet something else was bothering her. It was like Will was not letting on more than he knew.
She began to ask, but it was no use. Will fell asleep while she cooled his skin. He was breathing in his soft, rhythmic way that she was used to hearing.
Beverly shuffled her butt to the edge of the bed and pushed herself off. Her feet silently tip-toed out of the room. Just one look behind her to check that Will was ok, before closing the door.
“I do not like this one bit,” she mumbled. “Nothing but bad things can come from it.”
It was then she swore that she would help Margot no matter what. It was then she unknowingly signed her death warrant.
Chapter 12: Chapter Twelve
No matter where the student came from, whether they were a son of the elite or a daughter of a system, everyone feared the morning they would return to school. The old feuds between the jocks and the nerds were forgotten, and finding acceptance in the cheerleading squad was not important anymore. Within a week, the environment twisted from a modern American school to the aftermath of the apocalypse.
The strain energy vibrated within Will as he walked into school. The air reeked of fear and of the unknown and everyone could smell it.
Beverly gripped Will’s arm as they cautiously made their way to their lockers. Will’s eyes fluttered hither and thither to see if he could spot the familiar arrogant stance of Mason Verger. He had not forgotten the threat dished out to Will on the previous Friday, and he assumed that Verger did not either.
They stuffed what was needed into their bags before making their way to the first period: English.
They entered a partially full class. Mr Hanson had already settled down in his seat with an aromatic mug of coffee wafting throughout the room. In the other hand was the copy of their assigned book for the term, 1984.
Will nodded to the teacher before settling down in his normal seat. He respected Mr Hanson. He was a man of a few words, but those words were powerful. Every lesson was like being apart of a military drill: no-one messed about, and if they did, they were not sent to Principal Crawford’s office, but rather forced to write a two-thousand-word essay on the sound grass makes when it grows by the next lesson. If it is not up to standard, Hanson would count it towards a final grade. Will has heard the school legends about past students, but he had never seen it with his eyes.
Of course, until that day.
It turns out this was yet another class that the Twins would share with Beverly and Will. As expected, Mason trundled in late with his sister attached to his side. Will and Bev looked at each other and shared the same thought.
“Morning everyone! Isn’t such a wonderful day today!”
Mr Hanson calmly put down his book and looked up at the two tardy arrivals. He was not fazed at the fact that he faced one of the most powerful families’ children.
“Mr Verger please sit down at your table. I ask all of my late arrivals to enter the classroom with quiet respect for the other students. We are not here to play games.”
Mason Verger was slightly taken aback at the harsh response of the English teacher, but he regained footing quickly. Mason grinned his awful grin at Mr Hanson. It showed animosity towards the teacher
“Sorry sir, I won’t do it again,” he gave a dramatic bow before walking to his desk. It so happened to be behind Will’s and Beverly’s desk. Will shivered at the thought of Mason breathing down his neck. When Mason squeezed past them to get to his table, he winked at Beverly and shot a threating glare at Will. Unconsciously, Will reached over to grab Beverly’s hand for comfort.
Mr Hanson grunted before turning his back to the classroom. He began to write on the board on the topic that he planned for that day.
“So, Mr Graham,” Will heard in his ear. Mason’s voice was dripping in poisonous intent, “had a nice weekend?”
Will kept his eyes on the board, not daring to respond. In this case, he was more afraid of what Hanson would do to him than Mason.
“Oh, not talking to me? How rude after I asked sooooo nicely.”
Will continued to ignore him. He began making notes on the symbolism of the clock striking thirteen.
“Anyway, I looked up about you. Turns out you are not as innocent as you seem…”
“Mr Verger,” Hanson called from the front of the class. “I ask you to stop disrupting Mr Graham and focus on this topic.
“Yes, sir! Sorry, sir!” Mason replied. He saluted Mr Hanson before stooping over his book.
“Hmph.” Hanson returned to the board. He began talking about what he wrote.
Mason leant into Will’s ear.
“Tattletime is a wonderful place to get information.”
Will gritted his teeth. Beverly squeezed his arm as to remind him to not give Mason what he wanted.
“Turns out there was a big thing about how you tried to frame Hannibal for murder. ‘Hannibal the Cannibal’, as Freddie said. You were so desperate for pussy that you prepared to put a fellow student into jail. Tut tut tut. Shame on you.”
Will’s fists tightened and face burn up. He chanted soothing phrases in his mind.
“I admire your tenacity, though, but if you are so desperate to lose your virginity, you have a perfectly good girl next to you. She has that oriental charm; skin is soft; breasts perky. I bet her cunt is as tight as her…”
Will felt emotions take over him. All of his anger bubbling up in him exploded into a fiery rain of hate.
“ENOUGH!” Will yelled as he twisted his body around and punched Mason right in the nose. The class gasped at this sudden act of violence. Will ignored the protests from Bev and Mr Hanson to stop. All he could focus was pummelling the shit out of Mason.
Mason loved it. He continued to laugh as Will hit him again and again. Mason did not even fight back.
It was only when Mr Hanson pulled the boys apart when Will realised what he had done.
Will sat outside Principal Crawford’s office. He was awaiting the verdict brought out by the seniors inside. That included none other than Mason’s father.
Tears streamed down Will’s face. What had he done? What possessed him to lash out like that? The answer was simple. Will can bare people trash talking him, but anyone insulting his only friend. Now that was another problem.
The door opened and Mason trailed out with Father in tow. Will had the satisfaction to see the bloody mess that he caused. That satisfaction drooped away when Mason smirked at him. Mason’s eyes said, ‘You are in more trouble than you have ever been’.
His father didn’t even acknowledge Will, as if the poor boy was too below him to even be considered.
“Will Graham, come in please,” Jack Crawford’s voice called from his office. Will stood up and wiped his tears away. He was to be strong when facing whatever was to come his way.
He shuffled in. Crawford indicated that he sits on the chair in front of him. With a bowed head, Will complied.
“You are lucky that Mr Verger is not going to push charges on you,” Principal Crawford said. “Getting into a fight with Mason Verger was not the brightest of your ideas.”
“Yes, sir,” Will mumbled. He wanted to protest. He wanted to explain that it was, in fact, Mason instigated the fight. Will’s word against the physical evidence of Mason’s face was not going to help his case at all.
Jack Crawford leant back in his seat. In one hand he was fiddling with a pencil; the other was tapping the desk.
“However, that does come at another price. You are to make a public apology in assembly tomorrow. He requests that you are to tutor his daughter Margot every afternoon.”
At least it is her. Maybe this a blessing. I could find out some more interesting things about the family.
“And finally, he asks you to visit the school therapist to help you deal with your anger issues.”
Will winced. It was not the act of visiting the school councillor that he didn’t like, it was the fact that the therapist was Dr du Maurier, one of the coldest people he had ever met.
He sighed. There was nothing he could do. Going against Principal Crawford was unheard of, usually because dead men tell no tales.
“Yes, sir. I shall.” Will got up and began to walk to the door.
“Wait, Will,” Crawford said in a gentler voice.
Will nearly tripped over his own shoelaces. Never in his life had he heard warmth in the man’s voice, never mind him referring to Will as, well, just Will.
Will turned back to face his principal.
“Yes, Principal Crawford?”
“Off of the record, you did a nice job of bruising his eye.”