Red Dragon, Page 2Thomas Harris
Graham, ignoring his guest, watched Molly and the boy for as long as he had looked at the pictures.
Crawford was pleased. He kept the satisfaction out of his face with the same care he had used to choose the site of this conversation. He thought he had Graham. Let it cook.
Three remarkably ugly dogs wandered up and flopped to the ground around the table.
“My God,” Crawford said.
“These are probably dogs,” Graham explained. “People dump small ones here all the time. I can give away the cute ones. The rest stay around and get to be big ones.”
“They’re fat enough.”
“Molly’s a sucker for strays.”
“You’ve got a nice life here, Will. Molly and the boy. How old is he?”
“Good-looking kid. He’s going to be taller than you.”
Graham nodded. “His father was. I’m lucky here. I know that.”
“I wanted to bring Phyllis down here. Florida. Get a place when I retire, and stop living like a cave fish. She says all her friends are in Arlington.”
“I meant to thank her for the books she brought me in the hospital, but I never did. Tell her for me.”
“I’ll tell her.”
Two small bright birds lit on the table, hoping to find jelly. Crawford watched them hop around until they flew away.
“Will, this freak seems to be in phase with the moon. He killed the Jacobis in Birmingham on Saturday night, June 28, full moon. He killed the Leeds family in Atlanta night before last, July 26. That’s one day short of a lunar month. So if we’re lucky we may have a little over three weeks before he does it again.
“I don’t think you want to wait here in the Keys and read about the next one in your Miami Herald. Hell, I’m not the pope, I’m not saying what you ought to do, but I want to ask you, do you respect my judgment, Will?”
“I think we have a better chance to get him fast if you help. Hell, Will, saddle up and help us. Go to Atlanta and Birmingham and look, then come on to Washington. Just TDY.”
Graham did not reply.
Crawford waited while five waves lapped the beach. Then he got up and slung his suit coat over his shoulder. “Let’s talk after dinner.”
“Stay and eat.”
Crawford shook his head. “I’ll come back later. There’ll be messages at the Holiday Inn and I’ll be a while on the phone. Tell Molly thanks, though.”
Crawford’s rented car raised thin dust that settled on the bushes beside the shell road.
Graham returned to the table. He was afraid that this was how he would remember the end of Sugarloaf Key—ice melting in two tea glasses and paper napkins fluttering off the redwood table in the breeze and Molly and Willy far down the beach.
Sunset on Sugarloaf, the herons still and the red sun swelling.
Will Graham and Molly Foster Graham sat on a bleached drift log, their faces orange in the sunset, backs in violet shadow. She picked up his hand.
“Crawford stopped by to see me at the shop before he came out here,” she said. “He asked directions to the house. I tried to call you. You really ought to answer the phone once in a while. We saw the car when we got home and went around to the beach.”
“What else did he ask you?”
“How you are.”
“And you said?”
“I said you’re fine and he should leave you the hell alone. What does he want you to do?”
“Look at evidence. I’m a forensic specialist, Molly. You’ve seen my diploma.”
“You mended a crack in the ceiling paper with your diploma, I saw that.” She straddled the log to face him. “If you missed your other life, what you used to do, I think you’d talk about it. You never do. You’re open and calm and easy now . . . I love that.”
“We have a good time, don’t we?”
Her single styptic blink told him he should have said something better. Before he could fix it, she went on.
“What you did for Crawford was bad for you. He has a lot of other people—the whole damn government I guess—why can’t he leave us alone?”
“Didn’t Crawford tell you that? He was my supervisor the two times I left the FBI Academy to go back to the field. Those two cases were the only ones like this he ever had, and Jack’s been working a long time. Now he’s got a new one. This kind of psychopath is very rare. He knows I’ve had . . . experience.”
“Yes, you have,” Molly said. His shirt was unbuttoned and she could see the looping scar across his stomach. It was finger width and raised, and it never tanned. It ran down from his left hipbone and turned up to notch his rib cage on the other side.
Dr. Hannibal Lecter did that with a linoleum knife. It happened a year before Molly met Graham, and it very nearly killed him. Dr. Lecter, known in the tabloids as “Hannibal the Cannibal,” was the second psychopath Graham had caught.
When he finally got out of the hospital, Graham resigned from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, left Washington and found a job as a diesel mechanic in the boatyard at Marathon in the Florida Keys. It was a trade he grew up with. He slept in a trailer at the boatyard until Molly and her good ramshackle house on Sugarloaf Key.
Now he straddled the drift log and held both her hands. Her feet burrowed under his.
“All right, Molly. Crawford thinks I have a knack for the monsters. It’s like a superstition with him.”
“Do you believe it?”
Graham watched three pelicans fly in line across the tidal flats. “Molly, an intelligent psychopath—particularly a sadist—is hard to catch for several reasons. First, there’s no traceable motive. So you can’t go that way. And most of the time you won’t have any help from informants. See, there’s a lot more stooling than sleuthing behind most arrests, but in a case like this there won’t be any informants. He may not even know that he’s doing it. So you have to take whatever evidence you have and extrapolate. You try to reconstruct his thinking. You try to find patterns.”
“And follow him and find him,” Molly said. “I’m afraid if you go after this maniac, or whatever he is—I’m afraid he’ll do you like the last one did. That’s it. That’s what scares me.”
“He’ll never see me or know my name, Molly. The police, they’ll have to take him down if they can find him, not me. Crawford just wants another point of view.”
She watched the red sun spread over the sea. High cirrus glowed above it.
Graham loved the way she turned her head, artlessly giving him her less perfect profile. He could see the pulse in her throat, and remembered suddenly and completely the taste of salt on her skin. He swallowed and said, “What the hell can I do?”
“What you’ve already decided. If you stay here and there’s more killing, maybe it would sour this place for you. High Noon and all that crap. If it’s that way, you weren’t really asking.”
“If I were asking, what would you say?”
“Stay here with me. Me. Me. Me. And Willy, I’d drag him in if it would do any good. I’m supposed to dry my eyes and wave my hanky. If things don’t go so well, I’ll have the satisfaction that you did the right thing. That’ll last about as long as taps. Then I can go home and switch one side of the blanket on.”
“I’d be at the back of the pack.”
“Never in your life. I’m selfish, huh?”
“I don’t care.”
“Neither do I. It’s keen and sweet here. All the things that happen to you before make you know it. Value it, I mean.”
“Don’t want to lose it either way,” she said.
“Nope. We won’t, either.”
Darkness fell quickly and Jupiter appeared, low in the southwest.
They walked back to the house beside the rising gibbous moon. Far out past the tidal flats, bait fish leaped for their lives.
Crawford came back after dinner. He had taken off his coat and tie and rolled up his sleeves for the casual effect. Molly
thought Crawford’s thick pale forearms were repulsive. To her he looked like a damnably wise ape. She served him coffee under the porch fan and sat with him while Graham and Willy went out to feed the dogs. She said nothing. Moths batted softly at the screens.
“He looks good, Molly,” Crawford said. “You both do—skinny and brown.”
“Whatever I say, you’ll take him anyway, won’t you?”
“Yeah. I have to. I have to do it. But I swear to God, Molly, I’ll make it as easy on him as I can. He’s changed. It’s great you got married.”
“He’s better and better. He doesn’t dream so often now. He was really obsessed with the dogs for a while. Now he just takes care of them; he doesn’t talk about them all the time. You’re his friend, Jack. Why can’t you leave him alone?”
“Because it’s his bad luck to be the best. Because he doesn’t think like other people. Somehow he never got in a rut.”
“He thinks you want him to look at evidence.”
“I do want him to look at evidence. There’s nobody better with evidence. But he has the other thing too. Imagination, projection, whatever. He doesn’t like that part of it.”
“You wouldn’t like it either if you had it. Promise me something, Jack. Promise me you’ll see to it he doesn’t get too close. I think it would kill him to have to fight.”
“He won’t have to fight. I can promise you that.”
When Graham finished with the dogs, Molly helped him pack.
Will Graham drove slowly past the house where the Charles Leeds family had lived and died. The windows were dark. One yard light burned. He parked two blocks away and walked back through the warm night, carrying the Atlanta police detectives’ report in a cardboard box.
Graham had insisted on coming alone. Anyone else in the house would distract him—that was the reason he gave Crawford. He had another, private reason: He was not sure how he would act. He didn’t want a face aimed at him all the time.
He had been all right at the morgue.
The two-story brick home was set back from the street on a wooded lot. Graham stood under the trees for a long time looking at it. He tried to be still inside. In his mind a silver pendulum swung in darkness. He waited until the pendulum was still.
A few neighbors drove by, looking at the house quickly and looking away. A murder house is ugly to the neighbors, like the face of someone who betrayed them. Only outsiders and children stare.
The shades were up. Graham was glad. That meant no relatives had been inside. Relatives always lower the shades.
He walked around the side of the house, moving carefully, not using his flashlight. He stopped twice to listen. The Atlanta police knew he was here, but the neighbors did not. They would be jumpy. They might shoot.
Looking in a rear window, he could see all the way through to the light in the front yard, past silhouettes of furniture. The scent of Cape jasmine was heavy in the air. A latticed porch ran across most of the back. On the porch door was the seal of the Atlanta police department. Graham removed the seal and went in.
The door from the porch into the kitchen was patched with plywood where the police had taken out the glass. By flashlight he unlocked it with the key the police had given him. He wanted to turn on lights. He wanted to put on his shiny badge and make some official noises to justify himself to the silent house where five people had died. He did none of that. He went into the dark kitchen and sat down at the breakfast table.
Two pilot lights on the kitchen range glowed blue in the dark. He smelled furniture polish and apples.
The thermostat clicked and the air conditioning came on. Graham started at the noise, felt a trickle of fear. He was an old hand at fear. He could manage this one. He simply was afraid, and he could go on anyway.
He could see and hear better afraid; he could not speak as concisely, and fear sometimes made him rude. Here, there was nobody left to speak to, there was nobody to offend anymore.
Madness came into this house through that door into this kitchen, moving on size-eleven feet. Sitting in the dark, he sensed madness like a bloodhound sniffs a shirt.
Graham had studied the detectives’ report at Atlanta Homicide for most of the day and early evening. He remembered that the light on the vent hood over the stove had been on when the police arrived. He turned it on now.
Two framed samplers hung on the wall beside the stove. One said “Kissin’ don’t last, cookin’ do.” The other was “It’s always to the kitchen that our friends best like to come, to hear the heartbeat of the house, take comfort in its hum.”
Graham looked at his watch. Eleven-thirty P.M. According to the pathologist, the deaths occurred between eleven P.M. and one A.M.
First there was the entry. He thought about that . . .
The madman slipped the hook on the outside screen door. Stood in the darkness of the porch and took something from his pocket. A suction cup, maybe the base of a pencil sharpener designed to stick to a desktop.
Crouched against the wooden lower half of the kitchen door, the madman raised his head to peer through the glass. He put out his tongue and licked the cup, pressed it to the glass and flicked the lever to make it stick. A small glass cutter was attached to the cup with string so that he could cut a circle.
Tiny squeal of the glass cutter and one solid tap to break the glass. One hand to tap, one hand to hold the suction cup. The glass must not fall. The loose piece of glass is slightly egg-shaped because the string wrapped around the shaft of the suction cup as he cut. A little grating noise as he pulls the piece of glass back outside. He does not care that he leaves AB saliva on the glass.
His hand in the tight glove snakes in through the hole, finds the lock. The door opens silently. He is inside. In the light of the vent hood he can see his body in this strange kitchen. It is pleasantly cool in the house.
Will Graham ate two Di-Gels. The crackle of the cellophane irritated him as he stuffed it in his pocket. He walked through the living room, holding his flashlight well away from him by habit. Though he had studied the floor plan, he made one wrong turn before he found the stairs. They did not creak.
Now he stood in the doorway of the master bedroom. He could see faintly without the flashlight. A digital clock on a nightstand projected the time on the ceiling and an orange night-light burned above the baseboard by the bathroom. The coppery smell of blood was strong.
Eyes accustomed to the dark could see well enough. The madman could distinguish Mr. Leeds from his wife. There was enough light for him to cross the room, grab Leeds’s hair and cut his throat. What then? Back to the wall switch, a greeting to Mrs. Leeds and then the gunshot that disabled her?
Graham switched on the lights and bloodstains shouted at him from the walls, from the mattress and the floor. The very air had screams smeared on it. He flinched from the noise in this silent room full of dark stains drying.
Graham sat on the floor until his head was quiet. Still, still, be still.
The number and variety of the bloodstains had puzzled Atlanta detectives trying to reconstruct the crime. All the victims were found slain in their beds. This was not consistent with the locations of the stains.
At first they believed Charles Leeds was attacked in his daughter’s room and his body dragged to the master bedroom. Close examination of the splash patterns made them reconsider.
The killer’s exact movements in the rooms were not yet determined.
Now, with the advantage of the autopsy and lab reports, Will Graham began to see how it had happened.
The intruder cut Charles Leeds’s throat as he lay asleep beside his wife, went back to the wall switch and turned on the light—hairs and oil from Mr. Leeds’s head were left on the switchplate by a smooth glove. He shot Mrs. Leeds as she was rising, then went toward the children’s rooms.
Leeds rose with his cut throat and tried to protect the children, losing great gouts of blood and an unmistakable arterial spray as he tried to fight. He was shoved away,
fell and died with his daughter in her room.
One of the two boys was shot in bed. The other boy was also found in bed, but he had dust balls in his hair. Police believed he was dragged out from under his bed to be shot.
When all of them were dead, except possibly Mrs. Leeds, the smashing of mirrors began, the selection of shards, the further attention to Mrs. Leeds.
Graham had full copies of all the autopsy protocols in his box. Here was the one on Mrs. Leeds. The bullet entered to the right of her navel and lodged in her lumbar spine, but she died of strangulation.
The increase in serotonin and free histamine levels in the gunshot wound indicated she had lived at least five minutes after she was shot. The histamine was much higher than the serotonin, so she had not lived more than fifteen minutes. Most of her other injuries were probably, but not conclusively, postmortem.
If the other injuries were postmortem, what was the killer doing in the interval while Mrs. Leeds waited to die? Graham wondered. Struggling with Leeds and killing the others, yes, but that would have taken less than a minute. Smashing the mirrors. But what else?
The Atlanta detectives were thorough. They had measured and photographed exhaustively, had vacuumed and grid-searched and taken the traps from the drains. Still, Graham looked for himself.
From the police photographs and taped outlines on the mattresses, Graham could see where the bodies had been found. The evidence—nitrate traces on bedclothes in the case of the gunshot wounds—indicated that they were found in positions approximating those in which they died.
But the profusion of bloodstains and matted sliding marks on the hall carpet remained unexplained. One detective had theorized that some of the victims tried to crawl away from the killer. Graham did not believe it—clearly the killer moved them after they were dead and then put them back the way they were when he killed them.
What he did with Mrs. Leeds was obvious. But what about the others? He had not disfigured them further, as he did Mrs. Leeds. The children each suffered a single gunshot wound in the head. Charles Leeds bled to death, with aspirated blood contributing. The only additional mark on him was a superficial ligature mark around his chest, believed to be postmortem. What did the killer do with them after they were dead?