Hannibal Online


Part I Washington D.C. Chapter 1

You would think that such a day would tremble to begin...

CLARICE STARLING'S Mustang boomed up the entrance ramp at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms on Massachusetts Avenue, a headquarters rented from the Reverend Sun Myung Moon in the interest of economy.

The strike force waited in three vehicles, a battered undercover van to lead and two black SWAT vans behind it, manned and idling in the cavernous garage.

Starling hoisted the equipment bag out of her car and ran to the lead vehicle, a dirty white panel van with MARCELL'S CRAB HOUSE signs stuck on the sides.

Through the open back doors of the van, four men watched Starling coming. She was slender in her fatigues and moving fast under the weight of her equipment, her hair shining in the ghastly fluorescent lights.

"Women. Always late," a D.C. police officer said.

BATF Special Agent John Brigham was in charge.

"She's not late - I didn't beep her until we got the squeal," Brigham said. "She must have hauled ass from Quantico - Hey, Starling, pass me the bag."

She gave him a fast high five. "Hey, John."

Brigham spoke to the scruffy undercover officer at the wheel and the van was rolling before the back doors closed, out into the pleasant fall afternoon.

Clarice Starling, a veteran of surveillance vans, ducked under the eyepiece of the periscope and took a seat in the back as close as possible to the hundred- fifty pound block of dry ice that served as air-conditioning when they had to lurk with the engine turned off.

The old van had the monkey-house smell of fear and sweat that never scrubs out. It had borne many labels in its time. The dirty and faded signs on the doors were thirty minutes old. The bullet holes plugged with Bond-O were older.

The back windows were one-way mirror, appropriately tarnished. Starling could watch the big black SWAT vans following. She hoped they wouldn't spend hours buttoned down in the vans.

The male officers looked her over whenever her face was turned to the window.

FBI Special Agent Clarice Starling, thirty-two, always looked her age and she always made that age look good, even in fatigues.

Brigham retrieved his clipboard from the front passenger seat.

"How come you always catch this crap, Starling?" he said, smiling..."Because you keep asking for me," she said.

"For this I need you. But I see you serving warrants on jump-out squads for Christ's sake. I don't ask, but somebody at Buzzard's Point hates you, I think. You should come to work with me. These are my guys, Agents Marquez Burke and John Hare, and this is Officer Bolton from the D.C. Police Department."

A composite raid team' of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the Drug Enforcement Administration SWAT teams and the FBI was the force-fit product of budget constraints in a time when even the FBI Academy was closed for lack of funding.

Burke and Hare looked like agents. The D.C. policeman, Bolton, looked like a bailiff. He was about forty-five, overweight and yeasty.

The Mayor of Washington, anxious to appear tough on drugs after his own drug conviction, insisted the D.C. police share credit for every major raid in the city of Washington. Hence, Bolton.

"The Drumgo posse's cooking today," Brigham said.

"Evelda Drumgo, I knew it," Starling said without enthusiasm.

Brigham nodded. "She's opened an ice plant beside the Feliciana Fish Market on the river. Our guy says she's cooking a batch of crystal today. And she's got reservations to Grand Cayman tonight. ?'e can't wait."

Crystal methamphetamine, called "ice" on the street, provides a short powerful high and is murderously addictive.

"The dope's DEA business but we need Evelda on interstate transportation of Class Three weapons.

Warrant specifies a couple of Beretta submachine guns and some MAC 10s, and she knows where a bunch more are. I want you to concentrate on Evelda, Starling.

You've dealt with her before. These guys will back you up."

"We got the easy job," Officer Bolton said with some satisfaction.

"I think you better tell them about Evelda, Starling," Brigham said.

Starling waited while the van rattled over some railroad tracks. "Evelda will fight you," she said. "She doesn't look like it - she was a model - but she'll fight you. She's Dijon Drumgo's widow. I arrested her twice on RICO warrants, the first time with Dijon.

"This last time she was carrying a nine-millimeter with three magazines and Mace in her purse and she had a balisong knife in her bra. I don't know what she's