He receives her in the parlour, and hopes this will be the type of book where the narrator describes the scene when they first meet their interview subject. He has been assured that the parlour is quite nice; not by his own eyes, which aren’t good for much but hazy impressions these days (smoke is bad for your eyes, and being on fire is even worse– who knew?) but by the decorator, to whom he had shown the photos of his old home covered in the blood of FBI agents and asked for her to make him a home that projected an image of being as far away as possible from whatever image that image projected.

Some people would perhaps question the wisdom of hiring a decorator to furnish, at great cost, a home whose primary occupant cannot see most of the furnishings. Some people, of course, do not understand the value of image. Freerick Chilton does, which is why he was able to get inside the mind of the image-obsessed Chesapeake Ripper, and… what did he do, again? His mind is somewhat fuzzy on this point. It has been somewhat fuzzy on several points for quite a while, except on the point which goes something along the lines of “Will Graham must die.”

Many people have tried to tell him, in the gentle voices that they use with the very sick and the very stupid, that Will Graham is already dead. Freddie Lounds had not told him that. She had leaned over him and whispered he’s alive dramatically into Frederick’s ear, and promptly gotten a tuft of her hair stick in the tarry gumminess of what was at that point passing for his skin.

Ideally, Frederick would write this book on his own. The last one had done quite well, after all, and he’d written it all by himself (with only a ghostwriter to do the actual bit with the words, of course) so he’d been certain that he would be able to write the next one by himself, too. But then he’d encountered roadblocks– only small things, like the inability to use a keyboard, or a pen, or talk in a way that either a machine or most people could understand, or remember much of anything, and then had come the medical bills, and Freddie had been right there with her offer of a collaboration, so. Here they are. Her name will be larger than his on the cover– but, after a little bit of thought, he had decided that that may be for the best. There will be an author photo too, won’t there? Perhaps she will even allow him to place his hand on her shoulder, carefully, for the dust jacket. He would need the assistance of his nurse to get it there, but it would be worth it. Anyone reading familiar with Lounds’ previous work would likely assume that she’d written the whole thing herself, fabrications and all.

“Tell me about your first impressions of Hannibal Lecter,” says Lounds, in her soothing voice like flat water with sharks circling underneath.

Frederick thinks. He remembers dinner parties and conversations about patients. He remembers feeling special, like surely he must be someone very important simply by virtue of being allowed to interact with this man who clearly understood the way the world worked in a much deeper and more meaningful way that Frederick ever had. Frederick had thought, once, that perhaps the study of psychiatry would offer up the secret to human behaviour, specifically his own behaviour, specifically how he could behave at the very least like an acceptable person and not an utterly ridiculous one, at least hopefully not the kind of person that other snigger at on their way down the street because they know, they just know that you’re doing it all wrong, all wrong.

And if it held those secrets, he had hoped that perhaps psychiatry might also be able to teach him how to become an obviously, visibly better sort of human, the type who turned heads when he walked into a room because he simply carried an indescribably aura of power and majesty, the kind of person that others would give anything to be. A kind of person like Hannibal Lecter.

But psychiatry hadn’t taught him any of that. And neither had Lecter. And now here is is, minus most of his skin, still trying his hardest to not look like a fool. But at least, in this endeavour, he has a model whose ability to goad through words he knows through painful personal experience to be unparalleled: Will Graham.

“Lecter, formerly Dr. Lecter, was from the beginning a prodigious liar,” he pronounces, though his pronouncements are quiet and raspy these days. “The man never told an honest truth or represented himself for who he truly was in his life. Everyone was taken in, for a bit, but the scales fell from my eyes first, of course.”

That’s good, there. He imagines Hannibal, a compulsive truth-teller if ever there was one, who seemed to have developed puns more as a form of self-preservation than for any other reason, reading that, and thinks it good.

“And when was that?”

“Oh, around the time that Will Graham entered by care,” he tries to say breezily. “I daresay that poor, sweet man he told me things, under the influence of drugs that he begged to have administered to him, that he never told anyone else. Even Lecter.”

“So,” says Lounds, “You were close, you and Graham.”

“Oh, as close as the appropriate boundaries of a patient-psychiatrist can be,” he says. “I wouldn’t want to be misinterpreted. Not close the way your– what did you call them– murder husbands are.”

“Yes, I think your relationship with Graham would require a different sort of moniker,” says Lounds contemplatively. “‘Chilly Willy,’ perhaps. And after Graham’s release from your care, how did your relationship with Lecter evolve?”

“I knew,” says Frederick, “And he knew that I knew, and I knew that he knew that I knew. I’m very insightful that way. He winked at me once, you know, Lounds. It was like a tiny guilt-induced seizure, all contained within the socket of one eye.”

“You think Lecter felt guilt?”

And now, now comes the coup de grâce; if there is one thing that Frederick knows will send the murder husbands into murderous apoplexy against Freddie Lounds, it is this. “Oh, I know so,” he says. “Lecter lives with the guilt of what he did every day. It eats him alive from the inside, as if every victim were alive in there and getting back their own by gnawing on him right back. He is an empty husk of a man, no room inside of him for love or art, filled purely by vivid regret.”

His words hang sour in the air for a few moments, and Frederick is panting slightly.

Eventually, Lounds makes a small smacking sound with her tongue and he hears her rustling around, getting ready to leave. “Well, I think all that talking tired you out,” she says understandingly. “We’ll pick up right here tomorrow, perhaps.”

“Let’s,” says Frederick. He sinks back into his chair and closes his eyes. It was only an initial interview, but it was productive. His PIs are tracking the murder husbands through South America; their wages come from the advances on the bestseller Lounds is currently writing; and soon after its publication, she will be dead, and he will be the sole remaining resource on the story of Hannibal the Cannibal.

It’s enough for now.