Anastassia Serdste was sitting in one of the physician’s lounges deep within the hospital. She looked harried, to say the very least. Long dark curls were in disarray and she still appeared to be very pale. There was something in her eyes that looked as if she wanted to cry, even though no tears were falling. The security team milled about the room silently. Hannibal Lecter sat by her side. They were whispering softly to each other when Jack Crawford burst into the room
Anastassia jumped visibly with the entrance of the large FBI agent. She jumped enough to spill the cup of coffee she was holding all over her hand. Setting the mug down with a curse, she wiped up her now reddened hand and the table. Lecter said and did nothing. He even remained quiet when Jack took a seat across the table from the pair.
“I am sorry for your loss Dr. Serdste.” The words were quiet.
“Quit calling me that Jack. You have known me, albeit it not well, for years. Please call me Anastassia.” She snapped just a bit.
“Of course.” Jack smiled politely. “What can you tell me about Dr. Coure?”
Anastassia looked flustered for a moment. Her mind was whirring so quickly over what she had seen. “She is a good person. She is kind and sweet. Jocelyn was always willing to help anyone with anything she could. She was my running partner and my lunch date. We saw each other nearly every day. She isn’t married and doesn’t have kids. She does have a boyfriend. His name is Michael Allan. Nice guy, a lawyer I believe.” Sighing softly, Anastassia lowered her forehead to her hands. It was a struggle not to cry. “We run marathons together. Jocelyn and I usually come in at the same time, give or take a few seconds. We run the Marine Corps Marathon, Boston, New York, Chicago, and occasionally one more as well every year. We always joke that the only reason we run is because we like to eat.” There was a wistful smile on the doctor’s lips.
Jack noticed that the doctor was still saying is and not was. Apparently it had not quite hit home with the woman that her friend had been murdered. “Do you know anyone else that she socialized with?”
“Mostly hospital staff, but yes I do. I will make you up a list here shortly. The four of us went to the opera together often.” Teeth sank into Anastassia’s lower lip hard and fast. Jack was for certain that she would draw blood in a moment. She did not.
“Four of you? Who was in this group?”
“Myself, Hannibal, Jocelyn, and Michael.”
“You socialized with the victim as well Dr. Lecter?”
Lecter replied smoothly. “Of course. Where Stassi could be found Jocelyn Coure could be as well.” This was the first time that Lecter spoke since Jack Crawford came into the room. He kept his responses short. It was far more interesting to watch Crawford’s wheels turn.
Jack Crawford looked thoughtful for a moment. He started to barrage the pair with questions about Dr. Jocelyn Coure. Anastassia answered most of them, Lecter filled in when he wished.
Time moved slowly. As the minutes crept past, Anastassia became vaguely aware that the clock no longer ticked. It was some digital set up so they just whirred instead. Never again would the clock tick the minutes by when she and Jocelyn were running. Never again would their shadows meet across the pavement. This morning’s run was the last. Exhaustion bull rushed her. Leaning back in the chair, Anastassia sunk down wearily.
“Jack, Is there anything else I can help you with? If not, I would really like to just go home. I have a function tonight that I must attend, even if I do not want to.”
He nodded and stood up. “I am done for now Anastassia. Thank you. Thank you as well Dr. Lecter.” With that, he made an abrupt departure after deciding to let her be. There was no reason to bring her back to Quantico.
Lecter stood as well. He offered his hand to Anastassia. She took it gratefully. With a gentle hand he ushered her out of the room, with the security detail in tow. They were headed for her home, she needed to get ready for the evening event.
It was a gala affair to benefit the arts. The only reason that Anastassia felt obligated to attend was because her mother was on the board of directors that year. This benefit was her mother’s second child. Anastassia often thought it might be her favorite. It didn’t talk back as she often did as a child. The event had just begun. It was cocktail hour in the Sculpture Court at the Walters Art Museum.
Sipping on a glass of wine, she was speaking with one of the curators of the museum when she felt a hand glide against the bare skin of her back. With a slight tilt of the head, a glance of Dr. Hannibal Lecter was caught. She knew who it was before she ever saw him. Lecter was a handsome man, although not in the typical sense. With his light brown hair and dark eyes there were times that he could look like a schoolboy still; instead of a man in his late forties. His lips could be kind or cruel; either way it was seductive. Dr. Lecter’s alpine cheekbones were his most striking feature. The entire package gave the man a stunning appearance and one that Anastassia appreciated. He looked resplendent in his tux.
“Hannibal, you are acquainted with Jean Grueryer, yes?”
Lecter extended a free hand, the other still against the warm skin of Anastassia’s back. “Yes we have met at several functions. You are well Jean?” He inquired politely.
The other man gave a sniff and a sneer. A hand was not extended in kind. He was none too pleased to have the conversation with Anastassia interrupted. “Not as well as I was three minutes ago.” Jean Grueryer shot Lecter a cold stare.
With a show of affection to Anastassia, Lecter kissed her lightly on the corner of her lips. She blushed beautifully. “Well then I am sorry to give you the bad news that I need to sweep this young lady off for a few moments. I am sure our paths will cross again Jean. Perhaps, one of these days, I will be able to have you for dinner.” The dinner parties in the Lecter residence were well renowned.
Lecter led Anastassia off and far away from the other man.
With a whisper, she spoke. “Thank you. I needed saving desperately there.”
Guiding her through the sculptures, Lecter paused. “Your greatest asset at times is your manners my dear. It is also your worst enemy.” They kept walking. There was a small area curtained off within what would normally be the lobby of the second floor. Somehow they had managed to duck the ever patrolling security force that was with Anastassia at all times. Pausing there, in the quiet and privacy, Lecter looked into the bright eyes of his younger companion.
“You are holding up well ma Stassi?” He trailed a single fingertip along her cheek while speaking.
“Yes.” She did not elaborate.
Leaning in, he kissed the top of her forehead. Lingering there he caught her scent. The warmth of soap and shampoo were kissed with the sweet and spice of her perfume. There was an underlying scent as well. It would be undetectable to virtually anyone but him. He could taste the scent of her fear, her anxiety, and the dread that weighed on her shoulders. The scent of her fear was utterly erotic to Lecter.
Hidden behind the curtains in the sectioned off area, they took the opportunity for the silence and to people watch through a slight parting in the cloth. Part of the entertainment for the evening was the Tallis Scholars performing. Peter Phillips would be conducting tonight. They didn’t realize that they had walked into their final warm up.
Staying hidden when the brief performance began, Lecter stood behind the lovely Anastassia. Her dress was of a heavy black matte silk that clung gently to the curves of her sleek form. The boat neck style of the dress gave a look of being completely proper. The neckline perched just below the collarbone. It was not until she turned around that her completely exposed back was presented. At the hip, the dress flared very slightly. It was to allow movement. Both right and left sides were slit from the floor to the mid-thigh. Her hair was pulled up, and smoothed into an up-twist. Just a couple of tendrils were allowed to fall, and curl about fair cheeks. The makeup was minimal, letting her beauty speak for itself. Anastassia Serdste was stunning in the dress.
They watched. They listened. Time stood still. Neither could have told a soul how much time had passed while they stood there, enchanted by the music. Lecter pulled Anastassia back to him. The front of his slacks pressed against the rounded curve of her bottom. She could feel him there. Warm and half aroused. A shiver raced down her spine when she felt the lips brush along her skin. Lecter trailed a kiss across where the curve of her neck met her collarbone. He felt, rather than heard, her gasp.
Perhaps it was the scent of her fear mingling with the sweet sounds of the music.In this moment in time he wanted nothing more than to take the woman before him. So he did.
Sweeping a hand across her bottom, he pulled the dress to the side. A foot slipped between her heels and he pressed long legs further apart. It took a bit of maneuvering. The scrap of silk that she called panties were torn away. Lecter’s own hand found his zipper and he took her in an instant. Never one to deny himself pleasure, he didn’t deny himself this time either.
They moved together. Their cries of pleasure were kept silenced by the music. Keeping everything slow, moving to the tempo of the music, they found ecstasy in each other’s arms. Lecter slid his hand to the front of her dress. Deft fingers worked their way beneath the heavy silk and found the slick little pearl. Anastassia nearly convulsed immediately. Lecter backed off. He wanted to keep her on the brink of orgasm for as long as he possibly could.
The sweet torture made her bite down on her lip, causing the soft flesh to swell. Rocking back against him, Anastassia’s head rested upon Lecter’s shoulder, her body arched. The music was finishing when they did. The pair stayed that way while their private performance ended.
It was only after the practice stopped did Lecter pull away from his once protégé. He fixed her dress and smoothed out the silk with care. The torn undergarments were placed in his pocket with a smile. He then righted his own appearance. An arm remained looped around her slender waist when he whispered in her ear.
“My apologies ma Stassi, I was a rude cad.”
Murmuring in return, she smiled gently. Reaching back to stroke fingers across his smooth jaw, the response was delicate. “No need to apologize Hannibal. I rather like it when you are somewhat of a cad.”
Ducking out of their hiding place, neither of them had realized that they had not been alone. Hidden in the same shadows, a man watched. Rohan Finn Hammerli stood quietly in the darkness. He was struggling with the emotions that stormed within him.
She had been there. She had been there so very close and yet because of the other man he could do nothing. Of course Hammerli knew who Dr. Hannibal Lecter was. It would be hard not to in Baltimore society. He had watched Lecter many times before and suspected him to be a killer just like himself. The thought of that alone made him smile.
What ended that smile abruptly was the fact that Lecter had been with Anastassia. It was well known that they were companions. It was not known to what degree they were involved. Hammerli knew now. She seemed less pure in one sense to him. Yet in another, because he saw her in the moment of ecstasy, he knew for certain that she would be able to enjoy his love. Jealousy prevailed in the case of Anastassia, turning sharply one of the pillars was punched with every ounce of energy the man could muster. Hammerli felt the cracking of his knuckles. He felt them break. This part of the evening was over for him. Still he would wait and watch. Right now there was something else to be finished.
The dinner and the auction had been beautifully done. Much money had been raised for the museum. It was drinks and dancing now. This was a rather small affair by most standards, just a little over two hundred people. A song called Dream Catcher played and Lecter kept Anastassia in his arms for the waltz. They danced beautifully together. Moving in unison, they became as one. Their eyes stayed on each other; the élan vital – that essential spark of life – was like a fire bursting from both. When the song ended he bowed to her and she in turn curtsied. Hand in hand they walked off the dance floor.
Anastassia was nearly assaulted. Jael Serdste hugged her daughter tight. With a low chuckle, Anastassia greeted her mother. “Hello Mom. You did a beautiful job organizing all of this.”
Turning to Hannibal Lecter, Jael did the same thing. She hugged the oft times strange man. “Hannibal! It is good to see you as well.”
He returned the hug. He was rather fond of Anastassia’s parents. “The pleasure is all mine, Jael.” He replied smoothly.
Jael looked at her daughter. A smile formed, Anastassia looked so much like herself when she was the same age. Jael was still a beautiful woman by anyone’s standards, but there was something special about her daughter. “You know your father is about ready to tan your hide do you not young lady?”
Anastassia had the decency to blush. “I have no doubt Mom.” She knew her mother was referring to the disappearing act of earlier.
“Ach! What am I going to do with you, child? I assume she was at the very least with you Hannibal.”
Lecter smiled politely. “But of course. I rarely let Stassi out of my sight these days.”
Jael Serdste kissed the man’s cheek softly and with tears in her eyes that did not quite fall. “Thank you Hannibal. There are not enough words to express my gratitude to you.”
Hannibal was about to reply when a loud crash and a scream caused all three of them to turn sharply.
A body had landed where they had just been dancing moments before. It had fallen from the third floor. At first the reaction was as if it had been a jumper committing suicide. It took everyone a few minutes to realize that the person was male and naked.
Anastassia started to rush over to the body to see if the man was still alive. The physician portion of her brain had taken over and she moved swiftly. Although not swift enough for Lecter, he grabbed her wrist and pulled her back to him.
“There is nothing that can be done ma Stassi.”
The stunned silence of the crowd was interrupted first by the high pitched scream of the sirens getting closer. The security staff for Anastassia was corralling the crowd. In just that span of a few moments of chaos another scream cut through the night. The body was that of Jean Grueryer.