Categories > Books > Hannibal > Hannibal Family Values

Living La Vita Lecter

by screamingferret 2 reviews

The family holiday to Florence begins to go horribly wrong...

Category: Hannibal - Rating: G - Genres: Drama, Humor - Warnings: [V] - Published: 2006-02-05 - Updated: 2006-02-06 - 4848 words

Disclaimer: Hannibal and Clarice are the property of Thomas Harris. No copyright infringement is intended.

Living La Vita Lecter


The hesitant tap roused Emma from what had hitherto been a soundless sleep.


Resolutely, she rolled over and stuffed her head under the pillow. Nevertheless, it came again, louder this time.


An irritated growl rose from her throat as she stumbled out of bed, to the door. A solemn delegation awaited her outside. Three pairs of maroon eyes and one pair of brown stared up at her. Maul, the dog, gave a delighted whine and sprang past Emma's legs, into her room. The mastiff leapt up onto the bed and proceeded to make himself comfortable, turning around several times before settling happily into the messy tangle of sheets.

Emma looked at the children. The children looked back.

"Yes?" she asked, not quite hiding a yawn. Tycho and Gabriel both stared pointedly at their older sister. Jade straightened her 'Britney!' top and shuffled her feet, studying the plush carpet nervously. Finally, she spoke.

"Mommy says you're leaving," she muttered, going red. Emma sighed. It was going to be one of those mornings.

"You'd better come in," she told them. Obediently, the three shuffled in. Emma closed the door quietly as Jade and her brothers settled themselves on the edge of the bed. "Okay. It's true, I am leaving next week. I'm sorry, but I have to go home..." Liar. The word rose, unbidden, in her mind.

Gabriel's lower lip quivered. "Is it because you don't like us anymore?"

Emma shook her head. "Gabe, love, that's not it at all. I love you all very much."

"But we don't want you to go!" Jade announced, looking to her brothers for support.

"Yeah. You're cool. You play Jedi Knights..."

"An' I got McDonalds!" Tycho ventured, beaming at the memory.

There was a small silence. Naturally, Jade broke it. "Then why are you going, Emma? Is it because you don't like Mommy and Daddy? They like you."

Ah. What could she really say to make them feel better? Sorry, kids, but I won't work for serial killers? I'm a vegetarian?

"Your parents have been very kind," Emma said diplomatically. Another silence hung timidly in the air. The children gave each other a meaningful look.

"Oh. That." Gabriel said finally, nodding slightly when she flinched. Jade simply stared.

"Oh, they'd never do that!" she exclaimed, horror-struck.

Gabriel clamped a hand over his sister's wayward mouth. Smiling at Emma, he hauled the larger girl off the bed and out the door. "C'mon, Tyke. Maul!" The big dog, hearing his name, scrambled off the bed, gave Emma a wet lick on her knee and trotted out. Tycho was the last to leave.

"Please won't you stay?" he pleaded, his eyes big and imploring. "Please?"

"I'll think about it," Emma promised breezily, putting the duvet back on the bed. Giving her a brilliant smile, Tycho left, banging the door behind him.

It was a while before Emma dared to go down to breakfast. However, since the Mon - the Mont - the whoevers had arrived home from New York late the previous night, she felt reasonably certain they'd still be in bed. Which, thankfully, they were. And the breakfast-room was deserted, the children off amusing themselves. Emma threw herself into a seat. The peace was blissful.

Bliss, however, was interrupted by a very tired-looking mother-of-three in search of coffee.

Emma gave her employer a wan smile as the other poured coffee from the pot and helped herself to toast.

Clarice studied the younger woman for a moment, before speaking around a mouthful of toast, a habit her husband deplored. "I was hoping you would be down here. Can we talk?"

The request was polite and totally non-threatening, but Emma gulped. "Sure." Here we go, she mused. How come they never mentioned this sort of thing in child-care classes? She suppressed a slightly hysterical giggle at the thought of Parenting for Psychopaths 101, and sipped her coffee to cover the moment.

Clarice set her coffee mug down, twiddling briefly with the handle. When she spoke next, it was with an American accent stronger than Emma had previously heard. "Henry and I were disappointed to receive your resignation."

Emma ducked her head, hoping the woman hadn't heard her snort, because if his name was Henry, then she was the Queen Mother.

Starling's policing talents detected disbelief. And fear. "I see," she said slowly.

"You do?"

"The children have already begged you to stay, Emma. They are very fond of you. As am I."

Shifting uneasily, Emma considered her next move. "It was a mistake coming here," she said at last. "I feel that it's better if I leave now." The words 'if you'll let me' hung unspoken above the breakfast table.

Clarice leaned forward. "Not at all," she said earnestly. "Honestly, Emma, you're the only one we've had so far who's had any effect on those horrors of mine."

Emma clapped her hands over her mouth as harsh laughter escaped her. Starling regarded her steadily. If they gave her a J.C.B, she wasn't sure if she could dig this hole any deeper.

"Name your price, Emma. Money is no object."

She bet it wasn't. "I'm sorry, Mrs /Montero/, I really am - "

Clarice sighed. "Why don't we stop this pretence? I know you know who I am. I don't know how you figured it out, but it's patently obvious you've drawn some conclusions for yourself. You may call me Clarice."

A fragile silence followed her words. In it, Emma considered her options. She was not one to have hunches, and of all the times to be right... She had a sudden, unpleasant vision of her family huddled around an open grave, standing amid the cold grey drizzle of an English afternoon, shaking their heads and talking in hushed voices. "But she was such a NICE girl" Auntie Enid would be saying to anyone who would listen. "Really, these foreign countries are no place for nice English girls..."

"It was a terrible thing," Uncle Peter would be telling Barbara, his next-door neighbour. "Found her in an alley, you know. Missing her -"

With a shudder, Emma tore her thoughts away from the morbid image. Uncle's fascination with gory details aside, she had no wish to be found in an alley /anywhere/. In any condition, other than a healthy one.

Clarice was speaking again. "I hope you'll change your mind," she said quietly. "Please, give us a chance. Come on holiday with us. Tuscany is lovely this time of year."

"What, and end up in an alley in Florence instead? It might be more up-market than Buenos Aires, but no thank-you."

Starling's jaw dropped, and belatedly, Emma realized that she had spoken aloud. Smiling feebly, she attempted to undo the damage. "Uh. Um, oh hell. I'm sorry, Mrs Mon - Mrs, uh, Starling. Oh /bugger/."

Inwardly, she cringed. Evidently, that hole could get deeper. She wondered what to request as an epitaph.

It took a moment for Emma to realize that Clarice was laughing. "Emma, I assure you, that was the last thing on my mind."

Perhaps it would be something tasteful along the lines of 'She was such a nice girl, but her mouth did tend to disengage from her brain at times'. Which could only be said was the gospel truth.

Starling smiled reassuringly. "You don't need to worry on that account, my girl. Hannibal's far too impressed with the way you deal with the kids. So - will you join us for Florence? The children really are upset, you know." She left it hanging.

Emma winced at the name being spoken aloud. "Do I have a choice?"

"Of course" Clarice said calmly, buttering a slice of toast.

Which, naturally indicated otherwise. "How can I refuse?"

Clarice Starling smiled. "Thank you. I hoped you'd change your mind."

"Mm. But - let's get this sorted. I know diddly, okay?"

"Absolutely," Starling assured her. "But it's certainly easier if you call me Clarice. Mrs Montero in public, of course."

"Of course." She wondered if this was the moment to request easily identifiable meals.

Moments later, Emma choked on her toast as a distinctly unwelcome voice growled "Good morning, Emma..." in her ear. With a small scream, she leapt from her chair, upsetting both it and her coffee. He stood behind her, a cheerful morning smile upon his features.

"Clarice rolled her eyes. "Hannibal! Don't tease." she scolded as the good doctor courteously held the door open for Emma as she fled the room.

"She spooks too easily," he observed, his eyes gleaming with amusement.

His wife snorted. "Darling, if you had tried that with me when I was her age, I imagine that I would have shot you."

"Undoubtedly," he murmured, kissing her. After helping himself to bacon, the doctor spoke again. "Talking of firearms, what happened to that .45 you keep under the pillow?"

She gave Lecter a blank look. "It's still there."

"Are you sure? I didn't see it when I made the bed."

Starling shrugged. "It's there somewhere, Hannibal. By the way, Emma agreed to stay."

Lecter's eyebrows rose. "Really? How ever did you persuade her?"

"With some difficulty. The poor girl is convinced that she's going to end up on a menu."

He sighed. "An inevitable conclusion to draw, really. I hope you reassured her on the matter."

"Naturally." Starling poured herself another coffee.

"Perhaps I should talk to her myself. Reassure her that I'm a humanitarian at heart." He grinned wickedly.

Clarice looked at him. "You leave her alone. She's jumpy enough without you coming out with those one-liners they love to quote in the papers. We won't see her for dust if you say things like /that/.

The doctor gave her his blankest look. "As if I would."

In a bathroom not very far away, the subject of their discussion was trying very hard to enjoy a relaxing bath. Ever since she was a little girl, the bath had been a place of refuge for Emma. In a house full of horse-mad adults and over-active, over-argumentative and altogether too-nosy-for-their-own-good brothers, the bathroom had been the only place one was guaranteed some privacy. This is, if the lock had decided to work that day. The bathroom in the Lecter's mansion was rather splendid, with a tub you could swim in, real gold plating on the taps and a frog-shaped bath-mat (the master of the house had, however, drawn the line at penguins on the shower-curtains).

Emma slid into the bathtub with a sigh, sinking until only her head was visible above the bubbles. She was trying to relax. It was difficult, since she had just agreed to accompany the FBI's Most Wanted on a family holiday.

Unaccountably, she laughed. The whole situation was just so damn surreal. She could imagine sending her mother a postcard from Florence. 'Dr Lecter sends his regards...' Mother's face would be quite a picture, at that. At least, she mused, she would have an interesting chapter or two for her memoirs.

Emma reached for the shower radio. She twiddled with the tuner for a moment until she found BBC World Service. She was just beginning to calm down, humming along to something by Tom Jones, when her tiny bit of peace was shattered yet again.

The bathroom window exploded inwards as a gunshot boomed out across the gardens. "What the FUCK?!" she screeched, as, showered in broken glass, she leapt from the tub like a scalded cat. Behind her, an innocent bottle of shampoo exploded in a fountain of sticky green liquid. Emma pushed trembling fingers into the mess, wiping it away. She saw the bullet embedded in the tiles, stared at it for a few seconds and daintily toppled backwards onto the frog mat in a dead faint.

Twenty minutes later, Clarice was reviving the by-now gibbering au pair in Dr Lecter's study. The good doctor himself had been left to deal, very sternly, with his children. Emma, on her third glass of brandy, watched hazily as Clarice refilled the glass and passed it over. The golden-brown liquid barely touched the sides of the tumbler before Emma had downed it and held the glass out for a refill. Wordlessly, Clarice complied.

A silence.

"I apologize for my children," Clarice said eventually, judging that Emma should be able to talk by now.

Emma turned to look at her. "Where did they get it?"

Starling shifted. "I left it under my pillows. Just in case, you understand. They are not allowed in the master bedroom - "

She was cut off. "Just in case of what? Just in case the penny drops with the local authorities? Or just in case you two fall out?"

There was a sigh. "Just in case of - well - anything, really." She looked at Emma. "Are you all right?"

Emma shivered. "What do you think? They nearly bloody killed me."

Clarice took a sip of brandy herself. "One can become accustomed to being shot at," she said with a rueful smile.

"If it's all the same to you, I'd rather not, I think," Emma said shortly, pulling her bathrobe tighter around herself.

Fiesole - Tuscany. Three days later.

Despite the parental threat of abandoning this year's holiday, proceedings had gone on apace and here they were in the historic town of Fiesole, not twenty minutes drive from the great Florence herself.

Emma was exceedingly glad to arrive. She privately felt that if she'd had to listen to Jade singing 'We're All Going On A Summer Holiday' one more time on the journey, she would have followed Dr Lecter's shining example of humanity and given the girl a pair of concrete Wellington boots and a free swim in the Arno. However, they were at their destination now. The villa itself was exquisite. It was the stereotypical Tuscan house - white plaster and terracotta tiles, complete with olive trees and numerous hanging baskets overflowing with gaudy geraniums.

It had taken the best part of an afternoon for Emma to explore the grounds. The gardens were immaculately kept, yet artfully dishevelled. Following the sound of cooing had led her to a picturesque courtyard. A great bronze pig rose from a fountain, water trickling from his tusked jaws. The source of the sound proved to be a dovecote, inhabited by six pairs of the pretty birds. Even more interesting than the immense gardens, however, were the stables.

Clarice had made a beeline for them upon arrival. She had not emerged by dinner-time and Emma had been politely asked to go and retrieve her. She found Starling in one of the stalls, largely by following the stable noises - human clucking and the clatter of dropped brushes. The recipient of Clarice Starling's undivided attention was not (for once) her husband. A bay Barb stallion stood patiently in his stall as Clarice fussed around him like a mother hen. The compact bay was dozing, his ears drooped back and one hind-leg slightly cocked, his weight balanced carefully between the remaining three legs and a convenient wall. Starling, trying to squeeze past, gave him an exasperated slap on the shoulder. "Get over! Anyone would think you were a mule, not a fiery steed of the desert."

The bay gave her an offended look, shifted his weight over and pointedly went back to sleep.

Clarice retrieved her dandy-brush from the floor and dropped it into the grooming-kit. She looked at Emma. "Like to ride him tomorrow?" she asked, glancing at the Barb. Emma regarded it suspiciously.

"How long since he's been ridden?"

Starling shrugged. "I don't know. I haven't had the opportunity to ask Stefan."

Shaking her head, Emma declined. "No thanks. You can go first. Dinner's ready, by the way."

"Oops. Don't want to upset Hannibal - just coming..." She disappeared into the tack-room for a moment, reappearing with her coat. "Let's go."

With the morning came the sun. And the birdsong. It seemed to Emma that the whole bird population of Tuscany was perched outside her window, giving it their all. She gave up the idea of further sleep, and instead lay in bed, staring at the ceiling.

It might not be too bad, really, she mused. The prospect of locking the kids somewhere in the attic and going riding appealed to her greatly, but she rather regretfully concluded that it was their holiday, not hers.

That morning, the stables were indeed the focus of attention. Clarice, Emma and Gabriel were going riding. Starling had elected to ride the bay Barb, name of Saran. Saran was not in a cheerful mood this morning. Whether it was disgruntlement at being woken up so early in the morning, or just a general bad temper Emma couldn't tell. The horse was becoming increasingly restless. By the time Dr Lecter came down to see them off, Saran was practically dancing with impatience. The doctor ran his hand down the horse's finely curved neck, whispering soothing nothings in his ear. Saran was not impressed, particularly when Dr Lecter went to tighten the girth.

The stallion spun away from him, revealing his bloodline in the fluidity of his movement, head flung back, hooves barely touching the cobbled yard. Fire barely contained in skin and bone, bred of the desert for speed, endurance and intelligence. Muscles bunched beneath the soft hide as he swung his hindquarters around, the power of tightly coiled steel springs in the kick that connected solidly with the doctor's groin.

Lecter went dead-white, doubled up and wheezed.

"Dad!" Jade exclaimed, scandalized as he hissed something in Latin and sat down hard.

Emma grabbed Saran's head as Clarice slid off the stallion's back, rushing to her husband's side. Dr Lecter glared at the horse as he spat out classically educated swearwords and clutched at his crotch.

Although it was probably unwise to laugh at the world's most notorious serial killer after his delicate anatomy had come into contact with the business end of an angry horse, Emma rather heartlessly found that she was trying not to grin. After putting Saran back in his stall, she saw that Clarice had gently encouraged her husband to get off the floor and was leading him away back to the house.

Silence reigned in the villa - until Clarice undertook to examine the afflicted part. After five minutes of listening to the argument through the thin walls, Emma relocated to a pleasant, sunny terrace with a view of the local countryside. The children were absent, which was just as well. Jade had been in fits of giggles over 'Daddy's Accident' while both Gabriel and Tycho had gone almost as white as their father. No doubt they were off with some of the children from town - out of everyone's hair for the day.

It was the most relaxing day Emma had enjoyed since they'd all disappeared off to New York for the premiere of the Silence Of The Lambs. So relaxing, that she rather cynically found herself wondering how long it was going to last.

The peace ended three days and several hours after Dr Lecter's unfortunate accident. The only item on the list for today was shopping, in Florence, no less. The children had clamoured for this, and Emma herself was eager to see the city. Her previous recollections of fair Firenze were coloured by a rosy, alcoholic haze. The opportunity to shop, shop, shop was just too good to miss. So it was in a good mood that Emma wandered the villa, looking for an unoccupied bathroom. The main one was firmly locked. As Emma approached it, she became aware of a voice. Someone was singing in a very pleasant baritone. She halted in astonishment as she made out the words.

"Although this is a fight I can lose... the accused is an Innocent Man... Oh yeah I am... an /Innocent Ma-a-an/..."

Emma smirked, wishing she had a tape recorder. Someone was evidently feeling better. She tapped politely on the door. "Doctor, would you mind turning that down, please? We can hear it downstairs."

There was a sheepish silence from within. "Of course, Emma," replied the baritone. "Sorry to have disturbed you."

"No trouble, Doctor." Emma shook her head. They did say that he was insane, after all... She wandered off down the hallway, humming the tune to An Innocent Man to herself.

Finding an empty bathroom was a task in itself. Having found one, Emma was not particularly surprised when, a few moments later, there was a tap at the door. "Emma?" It was Gabriel, his voice slightly muffled through the panelling. "Mom says we're leaving in ten minutes."

Florence. Child of Ancient Rome, darling of the Renaissance. The names of those who have made it famous echo across time, whether by fame or infamy: Dante, Giotto, Brunelleschi, Michaelangelo, Donatello, Botticelli, the Medici. And, in certain circles, Hannibal Lecter. The second Monster of Florence, if indeed he was not the first, a popular theory among Florentines.

Monster of Florence or not, the doctor certainly knew where he was going. Leaving the car outside the no-traffic zone in the city centre, he led his brood on foot through the streets, across the Ponte Vecchio, into the heart of Florence. The bleak, battlemented Palazzo Vecchio reared above them, overshadowing the piazza in which they stood.

"The Piazza della Signoria," Dr Lecter announced, sounding for all the world like a tour guide. Emma, only half-listening, found her gaze being dragged up the Palazzo wall, finally coming to rest on a balcony several floors up. The balcony. She chanced a glance at Dr Lecter, who was by now posing for a photo with Tycho, and swallowed hard.

Fortunately, Emma was rescued by Clarice, who having observed her go slightly green, decided to take her shopping.

"Henry!" she called. "Emma and I are going shopping. We'll see you outside the Uffizi later, okay?" He nodded and waved them away. Starling explained as she and Emma left the square. "He'll lecture for hours if you let him. The history of Florence is fascinating, but for God's sake never let him get into Professor mode."

Emma giggled, despite herself. "Professor mode?"

"Oh yeah. He'd make a great teacher. He was giving a lecture on Dante, I believe, when he threw Inspector Pazzi off the balcony with a rope around his neck." There was a pause.

"So he'd make a good teacher then?" Emma asked carefully. Starling just smiled.

Shopping in Florence was a somewhat chaotic experience. Emma rather muzzily remembered the shops on the Ponte Vecchio, and getting dragged in to a very upmarket pharmacy, where Clarice seemed to go mad. Three hours and several shopping-bags (each) later, they stood outside the famed Uffizi Gallery, waiting for the rest of the family to turn up. Clarice peered up and down the street. No sign of Lecter or the children (and it was not inconceivable that they were wandering the streets independent of either parent). Starling fished in her pocket and pulled out a rather crumpled packet of Dunhill International. She lit one up, looking rather guilty, and passed the packet over to Emma.

"Can't he smell them?" Emma wanted to know.

"Of course. There's not a lot he can't smell. But what I do on my own is my private business. Unless it somehow endangers our freedom, he won't interfere."

A lot of women would kill for a husband like that, Emma reflected. Of course, Starling already had.

An hour later, Emma had come to the conclusion that you could definitely have too much of a good thing. She was certain her brain was unable to cope with the culture overload. It was impossible to take it all in. "I'm a Philistine," she told Dr Lecter ruefully as they trailed out of the Duomo Baptistry. He laughed, showing his small, white teeth.

"No-one ever saw or understood Florence in a day," he told her. "Take some Aspirin and we'll stop in a cafe. I know a good one..." and he was off again, family trailing in his wake. Like a brood of ducklings, Emma thought, amused.

Dusk had fallen, and still the Lecters showed no sign of returning to the car any time soon. Tagging along at the back of the party, Emma felt superfluous to requirements. Hannibal, Clarice and their children all spoke Italian like natives, and even Tycho knew his Botticelli from his Bartolommeo, and could quote great chunks of Machiavelli. Feeling a little like a spare groom at a wedding, Emma dawdled behind to light a cigarette. When she looked up again, they were gone.

Cursing under her breath, she hurried down on down the street. There was no sign of them. Emma hauled up short when the street ended in another piazza. It looked like she was back at the Vecchio. "Oh bloody hell," she muttered aloud. "Dr Montero?" No answer, although several people looked around.

Growling choice obscenities, Emma strode across the rapidly darkening square. Leaving the piazza, Emma picked the widest, most populous street and went down it. With a bit of luck she'd get back to the Ponte Vecchio, cross it and be able to find that car-park. It hadn't been too far from the river.

A shadow flickered at the edge of her vision. Turning her head slightly, Emma saw dark figures lurking on one side of the street. She picked up her pace, hearing one laugh behind her.

Someone tapped her on the shoulder. "Wha -? " She spun around, expecting to see Dr Lecter looking angry. Instead, a young man smiled at her cheerfully.

"Are you lost?" he asked in accented English, sounding concerned. "I can help you."

Relieved, Emma smiled back. "I'm looking for a car park. We came over from the bridge - " she gestured in what she hoped was the direction of the old bridge " - and, yeah, I'm lost."

He grinned. "I know the place. Follow me."

They backtracked up to the Piazza della Signoria. The square was illuminated now, the Palazzo Vecchio quite magnificent against the night sky. Mystified, Emma turned to her rescuer. "Um, aren't we going the wrong way? For the river, I mean?"

He gave her another smile. "No worries. I know where I'm going. There is another bridge not far from here. That is where cars are left."

Only slightly reassured, Emma followed her guide for what seemed like ages. He did indeed seem to know where he was going, cutting down side-streets and across squares, now heading for the river, now going away from it. When he disappeared into a dark side street, Emma didn't think much of it. She followed, her footsteps echoing on the old stone. She followed - until she realized there was no-one in front of her to follow.

The blow came from behind, sending her sprawling to the cobbles. Emma instinctively rolled away, raising her head to see. A movement above her, and the sudden fire of a boot as it thudded into her ribs. She curled into a tight ball, tasting blood on her lips.

'Shitfuckshitfuckshitfuck' was about all her terrified mind could conjure, and it did little to improve matters.

She crawled away during a pause in the rain of blows, then hands grabbed her ankles, dragging her back across the stone, scraping her face on the street. The hands came again, tore at her clothes, tugged at her jeans. Emma kicked out hard, rewarded by a grunt of pain as she caught him in the groin.


He lashed out, striking her in the side of the head, and Emma screamed. It felt good to scream. She screamed again and again and again, not realizing or not caring that her screams were soon joined by another's. The other's voice fell silent after a few moments. The blows had stopped.

Hands on her again, and she hit out once more, another scream rising in her throat. She felt her fists connect with something solid. Somebody caught her wrists, holding them away.

"Emma. /Stop/." An unmistakable tone of command, the unmistakable voice of Hannibal Lecter. "It's /me/, Emma. Only me."

She stared up at the shape looming over her. He released her wrists. "Dr Lecter?" she said hoarsely.


"God, I'm glad you came."

"Can you get up, Emma?"

She blinked. "I think so. Where is he, sir?"

A pregnant pause.

"Oh." Almost relieved, Emma twisted away from Lecter. She put her hands on the cold stone to push herself up, and her hands encountered something sticky. He lay not two feet away, blank eyes staring into hers. Emma gazed at his face, pale in the shadow and twisted into a mask of horror. She looked steadily at it until her stomach betrayed her, and she was heaving every meal she had ever eaten onto the pavement.

Dr Lecter waited until she had finished. When it was over, he put his hands out and helped her up. She staggered against him, smelling of blood and vomit and fear. He put his arm around her. "Come, child. Home."

Sobbing quietly, she allowed the doctor to lead her away.
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