The Silence of the Lambs


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In East Memphis, Tennessee, Catherine Baker Martin and her best boyfriend were watching a late movie on television in his apartment and having a few hits off a bong pipe loaded with hashish. The commercial breaks grew longer and more frequent.
"I've got the munchies, want some popcorn?" she said.
"I'll go get it, give me your keys."
"Sit still. I need to see if Mom called, anyway."
She got up from the couch, a tall young woman, big-boned and well fleshed, nearly heavy, with a handsome face and a lot of clean hair. She found her shoes under the coffee table and went outside.
The February evening was more raw than cold. A light fog off the Mississippi River hung breast-high over the big parking area. Directly overhead she could see the dying moon, pale and thin as a bone fishhook. Looking up made her a little dizzy. She started across the parking field, navigating steadily toward her own front door a hundred yards away.
The brown panel truck was parked near her apartment, among some motor homes and boats on trailers.
She noticed it because it resembled the parcel delivery trucks which often brought presents from her mother.
As she passed near the truck, a lamp came on in the fog. It was a floor lamp with a shade, standing on the asphalt behind the truck. Beneath the lamp was an overstuffed armchair in red-flowered chintz, the big red flowers blooming in the fog. The two items were like a furniture grouping in a showroom.
Catherine Baker Martin blinked several times and kept going. She thought the word surreal and blamed the bong. She was all right. Somebody was moving in or moving out. In. Out. Somebody was always moving at the Stonehinge Villas. The curtain stirred in her apartment and she saw her cat on the sill, arching and pressing his side against the glass.
She had her key ready, and before she used it she looked back. A man climbed out of the back of the truck. She could see by the lamplight that he had a cast on his hand and his arm was in a sling. She went inside and locked the door behind her.
Catherine Baker Martin

peeped around the curtain and saw the man trying to put the chair into the back of the truck. He gripped it with his good hand and tried to boost it with his knee. The chair fell over. He righted it, licked his finger and rubbed at a spot of parking-lot grime on the chintz.
She went outside.
"Help you with that." She got the tone just right-- helpful and that's all.
"Would you? Thanks." An odd, strained voice. Not a local accent.
The floor lamp lit his face from below, distorting his features, but she-could see his body plainly. He had on pressed khaki trousers and some kind of chamois shirt, unbuttoned over a freckled chest. His chin and cheeks were hairless, as smooth as a woman's, and his eyes only pinpoint gleams above his cheekbones in the shadows of the lamp.
He looked at her too, and she was sensitive to that. Men were often surprised at her size when she got close to them and some concealed it better than others.
"Good," he said.
There was an unpleasant odor about the man, and she noticed with distaste that his chamois shirt still had hairs on it, curly ones across the shoulders and beneath the arms.
It was easy lifting the chair onto the low floor of the truck.
"Let's slide it to the front, do you mind?" He climbed inside and moved some clutter, the big flat pans you can slide under a vehicle to drain the oil, and a small hand winch called a coffin hoist.
They pushed the chair forward until it was just behind the seats.
"Are you about a fourteen?" he said.
"Would you hand me that rope? It's just at your feet."
When she bent to look, he brought the plaster cast down on the back of her head. She thought she'd bumped her head and she raised her hand to it as the cast came down again, smashing her fingers against her skull, and down again, this time behind her ear, a succession of blows, none of them too hard, as she slumped over the chair. She slid to the floor of the truck and lay on her side.
The man watched her for a second, then pulled off his cast and the arm sling. Quickly, he brought the lamp into the truck and closed the rear doors.
He pulled her collar back and, with a flashlight, read the size tag on her blouse.
"Good," he said.
He slit the blouse up the back with a pair of bandage scissors, pulled the blouse off, and handcuffed her hands behind her. Spreading a mover's pad on the floor of the truck, he rolled her onto her back.
She was not wearing a brassiere. He prodded her big breasts with his fingers and felt their weight and resilience.
"Good," he said.
There was a pink suck mark on her left breast. He licked his finger to rub it as he had done the chintz and nodded when the lividity went away with light pressure. He rolled her onto her face and checked her scalp, parting her thick hair with his fingers. The padded cast hadn't cut her.
He checked her pulse with two fingers on the side of her neck and found it strong.
"Gooood, " he said. He had a long way to drive to his two-story house and he'd rather not field-dress her here.
Catherine Baker Martin's cat watched out the window as the truck pulled away, the taillights getting closer and closer together.
Behind the cat the telephone was ringing. The machine in the bedroom answered, its red light blinking in the dark.
The caller was Catherine's mother, the junior U.S. Senator from Tennessee.

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