Categories > Books > Hannibal > Daylight Dies
A/N: Hello again. I’ll say it once more - if gore and torture are not your cup of tea, hit the back button now ;) Our little Starling is not happy, and the midden will be hitting the windmill in this and future chapters.
Disclaimer: The characters you recognise are the property of Thomas Harris. No copyright infringement intended.
Daylight Dies, pt 3
Policemen milled about outside the great manor house. Squad cars and an ambulance blocked the sweeping gravel drive, and white suited forensics teams combed the front garden.
Starling drew her tatty coat about herself, shrinking back into the over large hood. It had not taken much work to acquire the essentials of her disguise, a trip to a charity shop had done it. She wrinkled her nose again at the unpleasant musty smell emanating from the ancient knitted cardigan beneath the coat. The costume was that of the common or garden crazy bag lady, a frequent sight on the streets of every city.
She seized hold of the shopping trolley she had purloined from a nearby supermarket, and began to push it, mumbling to herself, down the pavement outside the drive. The trolley rustled and clanked, half full of tins, bits of junk and old clothing.
Keeping her head down, she approached the gate. Two policemen stood next to it, one smoking a cigarette. Starling stilled her own muttering to better hear their conversation.
‘Two, three people at least,’ one of them was saying in Spanish.
‘Three murders and no bodies,’ the other said, and passed his companion the rest of his cigarette. ‘Christ, you see it all in this job.’
‘Hey!’ The first policeman had spotted Starling. ‘Get back, this is a crime scene.’ He came forward briskly to move Starling away.
She drew back with an incoherent stream of babbling. The man stared at her, and shrugged. Turning back to his companion, Starling distinctly heard him say ‘crazy old bat,’ before heading back towards the house.
Clattering away with the trolley, Starling reflected on what she had heard. It was exactly as she had suspected. They had cleaned up after themselves, in a manner of speaking. She wondered if they’d taken the time to clean properly after removing the bodies. Probably not. Any DNA test the forensic team ran would undoubtedly set alarm bells ringing, and it was therefore wise for her to leave the area promptly.
The bodies themselves were probably on their way back to America right now, if they hadn’t got there already. For she was certain that her enemies in this matter were her former countrymen and comrades. They were definitely American, or at least one was. It just remained to determine who.
The number one suspect was, of course, the F.B.I. However, Starling knew that didn’t rule out other groups - a private endeavour, perhaps. Hell, even the C.I.A… She was well aware of her former government’s penchant for covert ops abroad. And when they went wrong… People never learnt.
She carried on down the road, away from the multitude of emergency vehicles. Here, there were few cars parked on the road. Most of the houses here had large driveways and garages. However, a battered plasterer’s van had elected to park by the side of the road, within sight of her house.
Starling had marked it earlier this morning, when she had rode past on the bus. There was still one man sat in the driver’s seat, and he was still reading a newspaper. The vehicle was parked on her side of the road, close to a thick privet hedge. Gearing up her unintelligible muttering, she forced the trolley in the gap between the hedge and the van. She kept her head down and pushed hard. Twigs and leaves from the hedge flew, and there was a tinny screech as the corner of the shopping trolley scratched deeply into the side of the van. The driver stuck his head out of the window.
‘Hey! What the fuck are you doing?’
Starling ignored him and carried on. The man tried to open the driver’s door, but the trolley was in the way. She slipped her hand under a noisome bundle of rags.
The driver stuck his government-issue crew cut head out of the window once more, and Starling brought her hand up out of the trolley.
His eyes widened with shock, and Starling saw him go for something under the dash. She shot him the face. There was a gentle /pop/, and an acrid smell of gun smoke and burnt plastic. Starling ripped the now useless Dr Pepper bottle off the barrel of her pistol and tossed it back in the trolley. She gave that item a healthy kick forwards, and it cleared the driver’s door.
The driver’s body tried to topple out when she hauled the door open. She seized him by the shoulders and shoved him over, ignoring the spatter of teeth, blood, skull fragments and grey matter that coated the seat and now her coat.
She climbed in and was about to shut the door when a small sound from the back of the van came to her ears.
A shark-like grin crossed her face. It was just as she suspected.
Her hand darted to her inside pocket, fingers seeking the familiar shape of a hypodermic. She found it just as a tousled blond head poked between the front seats. He was a young man, and he just gaped at her, mouth hanging open.
He had the look of a techie about him, Starling thought. He did not have the reactions she did, though. She seized a great handful of shaggy blond hair and hauled his head forward. Yelling, he tried to pull away, but Starling was a lot stronger then she looked. She plunged the needle into his neck, close to his collar bone and pushed the syringe down. It snapped off as he jerked back, but she didn’t care. That amount of ketamine would work fast. He’d be no use to himself for some time. She wasn’t a huge fan of playing doctor, but she’d had to improvise, and she needed information.
There was a thud from the back as the young man’s legs gave way and he descended into the otherworldly pit addicts of the stuff called ‘the k-hole’. She hoped he’d enjoy his bad trip.
Shutting the van door, she started the engine. It rumbled to life, and Starling pulled away. Her plan was simple - park up in the anonymous safety of a busy local multi-storey car park and see what it was she had caught.
Twenty minutes later, she climbed into the back of the van. The tech guy lay sprawled on the floor, amidst a clutter of plasterer’s tools and overalls. For a second she thought that perhaps she had made a mistake, but her trained eye spotted the blocky shape of a powerful communications set half hidden under some papers. There was a blinking red light. She considered it for a moment, then reached over and switched it off.
The young man moaned, twitching on the oily floor.
Starling smiled grimly to herself as she ferreted around in the junk and came up with a sturdy length of wood, a hammer and some nails.
She knelt on the floor by the techie and gently turned him on his back, sliding the length of wood under his shoulders. It was short, so she bent his arms at the elbow, raising his hands up level with his shoulders, and placed them on the plank.
Taking a large nail from a handy tub of the things, Starling positioned the point over the palm of his hand. His eyes flickered open, and for a second Starling though he was coming out of the k-hole already. However, he just stared blankly at her for a second or two, before they closed again. In a way, she found that disappointing.
With a powerful swing of the hammer, Starling drove the nail through the soft meat of the operative’s hand and into the wood. She heard the fragile bones crunch beneath the heavy blow, and blood trickled up from the wide head of the nail.
His scream was pathetic, a lost little whimper as he almost came out of his trip, but not quite. He tossed his head back and forth, aware but unaware and incapable of comprehending what was happening to him. She bashed another nail through the wrist of the same hand, just to be sure, then repeated the procedure with the other. By the time she finished with the hammer, he seemed to be coming out of it. That was a shame, Starling reflected. For him, anyway. She hadn’t even started on his feet yet.
She tossed the hammer into a corner, and took the opportunity to have a quick look out of the front windows. There were plenty of shoppers going to and fro, but nobody seemed to be paying her particular attention. Nevertheless, there was a corpse slumped in the passenger seat with half its head missing. She shoved it further down towards the floor and grabbed an overall from a hook to sling over the body. As she did so, her hand touched something familiar. Gunmetal. Starling pushed the other filthy overalls aside, and her eyebrows shot up. They were loaded for bear, by the looks of it. Two MP5s with maglights and extended clips, a bullpup shotgun and a tranquiliser gun reposed in a rack hidden behind the greasy boiler suits.
She picked up the bullpup and turned it over in her hands. It was an ugly thing, squat and brutal, but superbly well designed for its role as a close range assault weapon. She had never been a fan of shotguns, and these days she preferred the simple elegance of a knife even over her usual pistol. Dr Lecter’s influence extended even to her choice of weapons.
Thinking of the doctor again caused her throat to tighten, and angrily she tried to push the thought away. She had to focus, and thinking about him was not going to help her. Even so, she couldn’t help but wonder what was going to be left of her once all this was over. Was the doctor’s influence on her so great that she had lost herself?
No. She had found herself, that was it. She had found herself, and now she had been cut loose, cast out. It was these men who were responsible, not Dr Lecter. With him, she knew herself. He had helped her, not held her back.
A louder moan from the man on the floor drew her out of unwelcome introspection. The tech guy had come round. His eyes opened slowly, his pupils massive. His head lolled to one side, and he saw his hand, brutally nailed to a piece of wood. The moan grew in volume and panic. He turned his head to look at his other hand, and his chest heaved.
Starling stepped back just in time, as the young man vomited copiously down his t-shirt. Annoyed with both him and herself, she kicked him in the ribs. There was a primitive kind of satisfaction in offering simple violence to a bound enemy. It had taken the doctor to get past her sense of fair play and teach her that.
After all, nobody else played fair. Why should she?
It was good that he was awake. She had kind of hoped that he would be for the next stage of the procedure. There was a roll of duct tape in a toolbox, and Starling tore a length off. The tech guy’s eyes bulged and he wiggled his head from side to side, trying to avoid her hands. The movement aggravated the wounds in his palms and wrists, and he cried out.
It was the first time he had spoken. The ketamine must truly be wearing off now, she mused as she got the tape over his mouth. She had chosen the drug because of its ease of purchase, and because a good dose of it rendered most people insensible. One of the effects of a smaller amount, or the stuff wearing off, was increased garrulity. She counted on that, too.
There was a small saw in the toolbox. To add to the effect, it was rusty. Starling took it and knelt beside the unfortunate young man. His muffled incoherencies washed over her as though it were the sound of some small animal in pain. In a happier time, she would have put him out of his misery. Since she was /un/happy, however…
Starling tugged off his trainers and his greasy socks. He tried to pull his feet away, but the drug still in his system made that difficult. She seized a foot, and held it firmly between her knees. She slid the saw under his ankle, and located by feel his Achilles tendon.
His eyes widened in horror as he realised her intent. Watching his face, meeting his eyes, she slowly and cruelly drew the blade back across the tendon. She felt wet trickle through her fingers - tendon fluid and blood pooled on the dirty floor. His scream failed to emerge from the duct tape over his mouth, but his agony was evident.
She dropped the now useless appendage, and grabbed the other. He didn’t even find it within himself to resist, and Starling contemptuously sawed through his other tendon. It parted with a soft sound, she almost fancied it snapped. When she rose to her feet, she could see the soft white threads of cord hanging out of the vicious tears in the back of his leg. They looked like the ends of overcooked spaghetti.
His eyes rolled up into his head and his frantic breathing slowed as he passed out. Satisfied, she threw a dirty sheet over him. He was crippled, incapable of going anywhere. She intended to question him at her leisure, but first she had to leave town.
The plan was beautifully simple. She preferred it that way - more room for improvisation. There were people she needed to consult, but the means for that were all in her head anyway. She never needed to go far to talk to Crawford these days.
Climbing back into the front seat, Starling started the engine and pulled out into the stream of traffic leaving the multi-storey.
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