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A Great and Gruesome Height

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Jack is tired.

Since the clusterfuck that was Hannibal Lecter’s orchestrated escape, he hasn’t had a moment to rest. Funerals, and hearings, hounding Price and Zeller as they worked their way through the evidence from the cliffside. Dodging Freddie Lounds’ persistent questions even when every other reporter fell in line.

There was a period of less than twenty-four hours there at the beginning, when he watched the recording left behind, when he’d clung to the hope that they were dead. It settled heavy on his shoulders and sour in his stomach, thinking of how he’d let down Will yet again. As much as he was filled with regret at the thought of telling Molly her husband wouldn’t return, it was preferable to the alternative.

He was putting off that inevitable conversation when he’d received the call about Bedelia du Maurier’s poisoning. Then he’d clung to hope a little while longer, that maybe Will wasn’t involved, until he’d heard back from the forensic team at the doctor’s home. She’d remained tightlipped about what happened, but both Will and Lecter’s fingerprints were all over the place, and Jack’s hope evaporated like so much smoke.

Will liked to play his cards close to the chest, and Jack had bet everything that Will was still his man. Now he has the endless procession of hearings, and Kade Prurnell haunting his every step. It’s only a matter of time before he loses it all, but one way or another, he’s taking Hannibal Lecter down with him.

This might be the nail in his coffin.

“Agent Crawford?” The officer meets him just inside the front door of the house. She looks about as haggard as he feels, and speaks with a strong accent. “You might want to take a moment to prepare yourself. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

No, he doesn’t imagine she has, here in this relatively peaceful, affluent slice of paradise. Who would look at this mansion, open to the fragrance of mango and jasmine, and the hypnotic crash of the ocean waves on the shore, and imagine something so horrifying could have taken place here? Who would have looked at the charming, intelligent gentleman and his handsome young husband, and imagine they were capable of such brutality?

Jack pats her on the shoulder as he passes into the house. He’s seen the pictures Freddie Lounds has already posted on her site. No amount of threats or court orders--nothing short of an act of god--was enough to stop her from making those public. The house is much as it was in those photographs, and Jack walks through it feeling like an interloper.

In the study, a dozen scattered evidence placards--the pool of blood and the trail leading across the room to the open rolling door. Dried red handprints on the carpet, the side of the coffee table, the doorframe. The desktop, covered in bodily fluids. Jack closes his eyes, pinching the bridge of his nose.

Jack knows he’s putting off the inevitable, and forces himself to cross the threshold onto the back patio. He clears his mind of the feelings of lingering guilt, betrayal, and loss, and observes the scene with as much detachment as he can muster. There's no intuitive leap here. Nothing the evidence doesn't spell out plainly.

The director, Alexander Rook, is seated at the head of the table, face staring blankly back. His eyes have been removed, but they are nowhere to be seen. This man who, according to Lounds, was attempting to blackmail them, whose computer has been found with notes of his interviews with them, who thought he understood them and could somehow share their true story with the world? This man was blind. He saw nothing. He understood nothing.

The other man, Peter Anders, is laid out on the table, his head on Rook’s plate. Both their chests have been split open wide, ribs cracked to expose the chest cavity, hearts exposed. It’s hardly the most artful of the crime scenes left by either of them, but there is a certain poetry to it that Will no doubt appreciates.

“They’ve swapped the hearts,” Zeller says, interrupting Jack’s thought process. He gestures to the heart in Anders’ chest cavity, held in place with vibrant blue thread. “I’m assuming it was Lecter, from the precision of the cut and the skill of the stitching.”

“Awww,” Price says, clasping his hands together at his chest. “That’s kind of sweet, isn’t it?” Jack doesn’t bother glaring at him in disbelief; Zeller’s already got that covered.

“Yeah, real sweet, serial killers declaring their love for one another with murder and mutilation. Put it on a greeting card,” Zeller snaps.

Price holds up a finger. “Don’t forget the exchange of bodily fluids. The amount of semen in the study has to be from at least two different sources.”

Jack waves a hand to forestall further bickering and stave off that mental image again. He’s already well aware of the fact that he’s the one who drove Will right into Hannibal Lecter’s waiting arms yet again. He’s already reminded of what a spectacular fuck up that had been on his part, on a daily basis. Now, apparently, he has to face the exact nature of Will’s longing.

Maybe Jack doesn’t have Will’s crystal clarity, but it’s not too difficult to see, even if he doesn’t want to. The two of them having sex in front of their captive. He can’t help but wonder if that might have been his intended fate, once upon a time. The way the carpet was matted, the width of the drag mark. He can see the victim pulling himself across the floor, until something brought him to a sudden stop. Someone. The two of them working together to open up the chests of their victims, discussing just what message to leave behind.

It’s all too easy to put Will in his proper place in this crime scene. All he has to do is look at Hannibal’s previous murders to see where this diverges from those. Hannibal would never leave the trail of blood and bodily fluids behind on his own. He’d only ever left what he wanted the FBI to find his carefully tailored design.

This...this is Hannibal’s design married with Will’s. Will wanted Jack to see this. It’s a taunt. He wanted to make it damn clear, the choice he’s finally made.

The FBI is going to cut him loose sooner or later, but Jack is the one that put this whole tragedy into motion. It’s his mess to clean up, and whether he does it under the aegis of the government, or on his own, he’s going to bring them both in, or die trying.