Lecter sat in his newly furnished apartment. He didn't have a lot, but the few things he troubled himself to purchase were quality. A leather sofa, loveseat and recliner, a coffee table, end table, entertainment unit, a large color TV, and stereo for the living room. One entire wall of the living room was nothing but windows looking out over the city and there was a stone hearth fireplace in the corner. His unit was an end unit, which pleased him immensely. A king size bed, dresser, bookcase, and two lamps for the bedroom. The two spare bedrooms were furnished as well, one as his office complete with medical books. Both bathrooms and the kitchen had been successfully accessorized. He stood from the couch, pouring himself a glass of Bushmill's in the kitchen before going to stand at his window, which offered an impressive view of downtown Chicago. If he used his binoculars he could catch a glimpse of Lake Michigan. He had thought about leaving the country, but after his meeting with Clarice was unable to put so much space between them. A thousand miles was nothing compared to an entire ocean.
Dressed in a light gray suit, a white shirt, and a dark gray paisley tie he decided to spend his day at the Art Institute, where Robert Billingsly had a membership as he did to most of the area museums that interested Lecter. It was a costly endeavor, but it was worth it to him to be able to come and go to the museums as he wished without having to wait in lines. The only alteration to his physical appearance he indulged in after the silicone implants were a pair of non-prescription brown contact lenses. His eyes stood out too easily, he wanted no one noticing a man with maroon eyes walking around.
He left his apartment, locking the new dead bolt behind him. One only he had a key to. The locks had been changed before he moved in, but he didn't trust anyone. Taking the elevator down from the twentieth floor to the ground floor he rode in silence with the other passenger, exiting swiftly when the doors opened allowing him to leave the confined space of the elevator car. Catching a cab on Washington Street, he enjoyed the ride to the Art Institute paying the cabbie as he got close enough for Lecter to walk the rest of the way.
He spent the afternoon studying the Impressionists, a genre he never particularly cared for but there were fewer people in this section today. The hours went by too quickly for Lecter, as they always did when he was in a new museum. Stopping in the gift shop before he left he bought a small gift for Clarice and a postcard of Van Gogh's Starry Night to send to her as well. It wasn't his favorite, but somehow he thought even the smaller version print would bring Clarice some peace.
He spent a few weeks getting adjust to Chicago and the life it had to offer. Thanks to Dr. Billingsly's impeccable references and educational pedigree he landed a job at Rush Presbyterian Hospital as an Emergency Room physician. It had been years since Lecter had treated physical problems rather than psychological problems, but he adapted easily to life in the E.R. as he did any other situation.
Never having explored Chicago or the Midwest before, Lecter found himself in a different type of life than he had grown accustomed to out east. Life was slower, almost surreal at times. People were friendly, much easier to accept the unknown. He found that Chicago had the culture he desired: museums, theater, ballet, dining, and the ability to fulfill any desire a human being could need really. The nightlife was the first thing he explored. With his hair grown and died a rather dark brown, he didn't look his age of fifty. He certainly couldn't pass him off as being any younger than his forties, but he still didn't look bad for his age he had to admit.
At work, one of the doctors on the psychiatric floor took an interest in Lecter. It was obvious to her that he had some prior work in psychiatry, she could tell by his handling of the patients that came into the E.R. that were obviously somehow troubled. He handled them with relative ease, far above and beyond a typical E.R. doctor and soon whenever he was on duty and there was a psychiatric patient Lecter's services were sought for that patient until Psychiatric could send a consult down from their floor. It was of little surprise to Lecter when Dr. Susan Palmer invited him to dinner one evening after he had finished going over his chart notes with her of a juvenile male patient that he had seen earlier that day. Lecter accepted politely. Why not, he thought. It had been over nine years since he'd had a date, and he decided he could use the company. She was younger than he was, about thirty-five with just above the shoulder blonde hair and striking green eyes was. She was always dressed nicely and well put together. He noticed she didn't have a wide selection in her wardrobe at least as far as work clothes went but everything she had was well made and fit her nicely.
It was early Friday evening in late June when he met her at a steak house she recommended near Wrigley Field. She had offered a day of it watching the Cubs play the Padres, but he declined the baseball game offer, sports not really being his cup of tea. She had told him to dress casual, so he dressed in a pair of khaki trousers, a navy Oxford button up shirt, a burgundy paisley tie with a navy sport coat. He really wasn't a casual man, and would have felt uncomfortable sporting a Polo shirt and risk being underdressed not certain what her version of casual was. At least with this he could remove the sport jacket and tie if he felt the need.
She spotted him as he entered from where she sat at the bar. He approached her confidently with a slight smile. He set his sunglasses in front of him as he took a seat next to her.
"I see you found it all right, Dr. Billingsly."
She smiled slightly taking the liberty of checking him out. She wondered if he knew what the word casual meant, but shrugged it off. Not everyone was comfortable in a pair of sweats and a tank top at home like she was. At thirty-five, she had never married and had no children. She had dodged the bullet called marriage a couple of times in her twenties, realizing both times that she was simply not ready. She knew that she was appealing to most men, but at the same time she was also intimidating. She was a success without the aid of a man or parents for the most part. She had put herself through medical school, her father thinking her aspiration to become a psychiatrist foolish. She was attractive, intelligent, worked in a field that she loved, worked out daily, and while not being a perfect specimen of a human being felt she looked all right. Other than an occasional drink socially, no pollutants were placed in her body. She smiled genuinely as Billingsly sat next to her. He ordered an expensive scotch she noticed; also she noticed his surprise that the bar in fact carried it.
Lecter nodded slightly at her greeting.
"Indeed, Dr. Palmer. Your directions were quite easy to follow, even for a new comer to your fair city. Wherever did you find this place? It hardly seems your style."
He gave the small restaurant the once over before returning his gaze to her. She was dressed for a date, he noticed. She wore a casual black cotton looking dress with some multi-colored stripes forming an indecipherable pattern near her chest. The dress while not form fitting wasn't loose either, showing off the swell of her bosom rather well. In the darkness of the bar and with the way she sat, he was unable to view her legs but he had seen them at work a number of times and a better set he couldn't recall seeing on a woman in quite some time.
Susan looked at the restaurant realizing to a new comer what it must look like, a dive. She had been coming to this restaurant with her parents since she was a little girl. It was small and loud, certainly not the most romantic setting she could have chosen for a first date. Somehow she got the impression from Billingsly that wasn't the way to go with him. The bar offered seating for about two dozen, there were six or seven small booths for people to sit at while waiting for tables in the restaurant or to eat at if they cared to. The restaurant consisted of two small rooms. The first was comprised of four rows of four booths with two narrow aisles; larger booths seating four people were against both walls and smaller booths seating two were along the center of the room. There were three round tables of six in this room and then the back room, which consisted of eight tables of four. The walls of the restaurant were decorated with various Chicago historical paraphernalia; the bar was decorated with sports paraphernalia. It was small, but Susan hadn't had a bad meal yet in this place.
They took their seat at one of the larger booths, taking their drinks from the bar with them. Lecter, ever the gentleman, ordered for them both and he couldn't help but notice that Susan was impressed with the way he ordered. Ever the perfectionist and the connoisseur that he was, he had a way of making you hungry just by describing how he wanted his steak cooked. He ordered a fair quality wine; far less expensive than what he enjoyed at home but for the quality of restaurant he assumed this place to be he was impressed. He found himself enjoying the company of this woman. It was hard for him at times to think of what to say as Robert Billingsly instead of Hannibal Lecter but he was quickly coming up with an identity and a personality of his own for Robert.
Susan sat and listened to Lecter throughout the meal. He was an interesting man, obviously well traveled and well read. He had a wide variety of tastes in music, theater, art, and food but it was obvious that he had exquisite taste in them. He was interesting to listen to; his voice was soothing and had an air about it that made her wonder if he was wealthy. She wondered also if he had been raised with money. She would have thought he'd have to have been with the kinds of tastes he had but she didn't know. He mentioned having moved to Chicago recently from Wichita. She laughed, understanding how a man like him might not find Wichita very culturally appealing.
She was disappointed after they'd finished dinner when he turned down her suggestion of a movie, but her mood improved when he suggested perhaps a walk along the lake. She found that she enjoyed his company, he was the first man in a long time that treated her like a woman not a doctor when they were out together and she appreciated that. They went to the Planetarium and stood by the landing there and though she would have enjoyed talking she sensed he wasn't in the mood. He seemed lost in the dark water of Lake Michigan, and she left him to his own thoughts.
Lecter was amazed at how nice the area was she had taken him, the view was rather breathtaking. He could just imagine what it looked like during the day with people all around. He would come back another day and capture the image for his memory palace. Yes, he realized, Chicago wasn't a bad choice. He accepted her invitation to return to her apartment, discovering that she didn't really live too far from him. He didn't tell her that, not wanting anyone to know where he lived. He preferred it that way. He followed her out of the elevator and to her apartment, looking at the empty hallway while she unlocked the door and turned on the lights.
She took his jacket from him and hung it in a small hall closet, watching him as he took in her apartment, which was modernly fashioned. Her living room consisted of a large black leather sectional, which was much more comfortable than it appeared, a TV, stereo, and a bookcase loaded with books. It was obvious no kids or pets lived in her apartment by the cleanliness of her bright white carpet. The pictures on her wall were antique floral prints that she had found at a flea market. She put the coffee on, leaving the lights on in the kitchen as she came back into the living room smiling when she saw that he had sat down of his own accord. She put a CD, Berlioz's Symphony Fantastique one of the few classical CDs she had and returned to the kitchen as the water kettle whistled. She returned with the coffee, handing him his mug sitting near him sliding her legs underneath her to get comfortable.
It had been so long since Lecter had been in this type of situation he was quite honestly not certain whether he was reading the woman correctly, but being a psychiatrist and being rather familiar with body language she was more than indicating casual receptiveness to him. He watched her contemplatively from over his coffee mug, and oddly really had no clue as to how to pursue the matter in this situation. Perhaps when he said good night. The music was appropriate though, he wondered if she realized how sensual Berlioz was. He finished his coffee and stood to leave. "I thank you for a truly enjoyable evening, Susan. The dinner was really surprisingly good; I wouldn't have looked at the restaurant twice from the street. I'll have to be sure and call on you again to familiarize myself with more places like that."
She set her mug on the glass table behind the couch unable to hide her disappointment that he was leaving so soon. She had hoped he'd stay for a while at any rate. She stood and walked with him to the door. "I hope you'll call on me without a reason, Robert. And thank you for your company. It was refreshing to go out with someone who knows how to treat a woman like a lady. That seems to be a lost art these days." Taking hold of his hands, she reached up and kissed him boldly on the lips. She had no idea why; she really had received no indications from him that his interest was more than friendly, but she was attracted to the man and wanted him to know that.
Lecter was rather surprised, but responded more than willingly to the kiss. He released her hands and placed his instead at her waist bringing her towards him. Her lips were soft and very receptive to his kiss. She used Colgate toothpaste, Listerine mouthwash, and Vaseline Intensive Care hand lotion. He could smell each intermingling to give her a unique scent of her own. Inexplicably, his thoughts went to Evian skin crème and suddenly he was no longer kissing this woman, but instead he was kissing Clarice. He could see her, smell her, and taste her on his lips. He had kissed her briefly at her house, and that memory was ingrained in his mind forever. Her lips had tasted faintly like Blistex; but that hadn't mattered to him. They were, as he expected, delicious. He stopped kissing her and pulled away, surprised at the intensity of the image in his mind of Clarice. He knew his infatuation with her was perhaps out of hand, but he hadn't thought it was this bad.
Susan stood staring at him after he pulled away, he was in front of her physically but she could sense that he was no longer in the room with her. She had no idea why he had stopped kissing her; he had seemed so willing to reciprocate for a moment. She could tell by his instinct to pull her towards him that he wanted to respond, but he had stopped so suddenly and now he said nothing. "Are you all right?" she asked dumbly for lack of anything else to say.
Lecter stared at her calmly, brought from his thoughts. "Yes, my apologies, Susan, but I should go. I'd like to end the evening with your thinking I treated you like a lady. I can call on you again socially, can't I?"
She was shocked, taken aback. He was leaving because he was thinking of her. That didn't sound right, and had it not been for his other gentlemanly behaviors throughout the evening she would have thought he was lying. She smiled widely, she spent a lot of money on her smile and she enjoyed showing it off especially to men that she wanted to kiss again. "Of course, Robert. I would like that very much." She reached up and kissed him again, but the willingness on his part wasn't there this time. He wasn't cold or unresponsive, but there was a difference. She smiled once more as she withdrew from the kiss and opened the door for him. She waved as he got on the elevator and closed the door, locking and bolting it before going to the couch.
Lecter was surprised at how easily he was able to catch a cab to be taken back to his apartment. It was about a two-mile drive and upon entering his apartment he immediately put on some music; Schubert seemed like a good choice at the moment and poured himself a Bushmill's. The image of Clarice on his mind would not fade; the whiskey did little to help his attempt. Instead it made the image bolder and more real, and made his body react to her not being there when he craved her as he did. And that's exactly what it was, a craving. It was time to pay a visit to Agent Starling again, he decided. Working twelve hour shifts at the E.R. helped him when planning for a trip, he would request to have three days on in a row followed by four days off in a row. Getting off at seven o'clock in the morning on Tuesday he would have his bags already in the car, drive to O'Hare Airport, and be in D.C. by noon. He wouldn't have to be back until Saturday afternoon for work. It would work, he just hoped that he wasn't taking a chance calling on her again so soon.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com