Feet hit the ground with a practiced rhythm. A flash of brightly colored shoes and the intake of breath could be seen, but it was still effortless. This was an easy run. Pausing, the runner waited. Dancing in place to keep the momentum going, a glance at a watch was given.
First eight miles were all done in about 9 - 10 minutes each. The runner mused, not bad, acceptable at the very least. The run was along the Inner Harbor of Baltimore Maryland. The loop was not quite three and a half miles. This route would be done three times before finishing. It was now time to slow down a bit for a cool down with less than three miles to go. The runner danced looking out over the water while waiting on their companion, whom arrived just a minute or two later.
“I am impressed Hannibal.” Anastassia grinned at him. “You are doing better than I thought you would.”
Lecter shot the younger woman a look and kept the pace while noting that they were slowing down some. “You are not the only one that likes to keep fit ma Stassi. Although, I will fully admit I much prefer the warmth of my home on the treadmill over this.” He shot a look over his shoulder. “I do believe that a couple of agents are plotting your demise alas.”
She laughed warmly. Turning around, Anastassia began to run backwards. “Pfft. They need to be in good shape. They should thank me for helping them.”
Lecter shook his head fondly at the woman. “I should paddle your bottom myself for allowing you to get me up this early.”
“Bah. It is – “ She looked at her watch. “- six in the morning. It is not too early. Besides, you did volunteer to do this.”
“Remember my dear; my day does not start until nearly nine.. I would normally just be awakening now.”
“We need to get you out in the fresh air more Hannibal.” She responded dryly.
“With the crime scenes I must go to with Will and Jack, believe me ma Stassi, I get enough fresh air for one man.”
“You know you could come running with me most mornings Hannibal. Wouldn’t it be nice to share that little bit of space together so early?” She was teasing him. Anastassia knew all too well that he was doing this to appease her.
“I could also have a lobotomy. Neither idea seems to fill me with much joy.”
“One of these days I will get you to join the cult of marathoners.”
“It wouldn’t be just the agents plotting your demise at that point ma Stassi. I would join them in the work.”
“You would never get away with it Dr. Lecter.” She laughed.
“Enough forensic specialists and I believe it would be your undoing.”
“You make a fair point Dr. Lecter. Perhaps I should behave.”
“You learned a new word. Excellent.”
Chatting while running was a gift from the heavens above. So, she continued the dialog with her companion. “Have you heard any more about what is going on with Sharon Tarsa?”
Lecter watched her ponytail bob and move; she was lovely to watch at any time. “Other than the FBI is keeping track of her? No.”
Anastassia made a face. “I swear to god, they keep me in the dark more than my parents did about sex when I was a child.”
He smiled. “Ma Stassi, you were a precociously bright child, I am sure you knew something.”
“But of course, I understood the clinical aspect of it. I did not understand how sex and love were sometimes equated to each other.”
“Do you understand now?” He was curious.
“Well no. Sex is a physical action. Love is an emotion. They can go hand in hand but they don’t have to. There is no need for them to.” She shrugged and shook her head. It sent the ponytail bouncing even more.
“Sometimes I am gravely concerned that I have harmed you more than I have helped you ma Stassi.”
“For what reason would you say that Hannibal?”
“I taught you the physical aspects of sex. No one has ever bothered to help you know the love part of it.”
She had to stop herself from rolling her eyes at the man. It would have been rude and inappropriate, so she did not. The urge was still strong to do so. “Hannibal Lecter, I know you love me in your own way. I know you care about me in your own way as well. I did not ask to be romantically involved with anyone. I do not think I have the make-up for that. I enjoy my life greatly. That is far more than most people can say.”
“Still, it makes me curious to what would have happened with your life if we did not take on a new aspect to our relationship.”
Anastassia made a face at him. Leaning in, while keeping the pace perfectly, she kissed his cheek. “I don’t know what I would do without you Hannibal.” The words were somber.
“Let us hope neither of us has to find that out any time soon.”
“Are we still going to the Kennedy Center this evening?”
“If you do not kill me first with this running, yes.”
“Is it the National Symphony or the National Opera tonight?”
His brow shot upwards. “You are normally better at remembering than that ma Stassi.”
“You never told me.”
“It is a delightful treat for you that I have planned. Yo-Yo Ma is playing at the opening of the season tonight.”
She beamed brightly while they ate up the miles from their destination. “Thank you Hannibal. Ah, the cello played by a master. Perfection.” She paused for a moment, bringing a hand upwards to her forehead she cringed dramatically. “We sound like an old married couple. Egads!”
“Are you saying that you have no desire to marry me then Anastassia Serdste?” He teased her with the statement.
She laughed at him and took off in a sprint. The wind in her hair and the salt from the harbor licking at her cheeks, Anastassia felt free. She felt joyous and more relaxed than she had been in weeks. Turning around once more and doing that little dance. She started to sing and dance. It was like something from an old vaudeville show.
you want a boxer
I will step into the ring for you
And if you want a doctor
I'll examine every inch of you
If you want a driver
Or if you want to take me for a ride
You know you can
Touching the brim of an imaginary fedora she bowed down. It was one of her favorite Leonard Cohen songs, I’m Your Man. Frowning slightly, it had been a rather short sprint. Where was Hannibal? Actually where was the security team? She had never left eyeshot. Then she saw it. One of the agents was on the ground. Something had happened. A sense of panic grabbed her throat, tightening it. Reaching into the pocket of the running shorts, she grabbed the alarm on the keychain and activated it. She started to run again. This time it was not for pleasure. It was self-preservation. There should have been a security team running up ahead as well. There were only about four agents in total running with her and Lecter, but they were all seemingly gone.
Rohan Hammerli was a physician of a high caliber. He had done his own run behind the lovely woman. When passing one of the men on the security detail, he scratched them and with a hypodermic needle deposited into their body a small amount of a toxin. The needle that was used had a high concentrate of calebas curare in it. Sharon Tarsa had done the same thing but up ahead. The toxin took a bit of time to work in the small quantities that had been administered. Yet, within 15-30 minutes the agents were all down. Nobody bothered to send out an alarm until Khryssa herself did. Lecter was taken out in another way. Hammerli wanted him alive.
Anastassia was tall, but lean. Between the running and her diet she was able to keep very fit. Pounding the pavement harder, those long legs stretched far and fast. Turning the corner she saw people. Eyes closed but briefly, thanking someone or something. She didn’t even feel the blackjack hit right at the base of her skull. When she hit the pavement Anastassia Serdste was effectively unconscious.
When she came to, she had no idea how much time had passed. All she knew was that she hurt. Her body ached from head to toe. A shake of the head to try and get her bearings, she didn’t say a word. There was a bare flicker of light from the corner of the room amidst the complete darkness. It took her a moment to realize it was the flare of a match being struck.
“Good morning my sweet, it is so good to finally have you here with me.” The unfamiliar voice spoke softly.
“Soon my love, very very soon.”