CHAPTER THIRTY FOUR

Maggie had no idea what was going on. She looked at Hannibal, confused. He watched Face for just a moment. Acting on instinct, he whipped off his gloves. It took force to get Face's hands apart, but he did it. When Maggie saw he was trying to put his gloves on Face, she grabbed them and shoved them on while Hannibal held the resisting hands.

"Face, it's okay now, they're gone, Face, they're gone, look..." He held the gloved offenders up where Face could see them.

He felt the gloves go on. He was almost afraid to look, but he had to see, to be sure. Yes, they were gone. He would be okay now. They were gone. Under control. Hidden again. He looked up at Hannibal, trying to focus on the shimmering figure. Hannibal had known how to fix it. How? How had he known?

Because he was Hannibal. Hannibal. Not some monster. Not someone out to hurt him. Someone who could figure out the gloves. Maybe someone he didn't have to fear. Someone who wanted to protect him. Save him. Maybe even someone who could forgive the killings...? Maybe. Maybe not.

Hannibal looked back into Face's eyes, watched the wildness slowly disappear. And there was something else. When he looked again at Hannibal, there was no fear of him. No anxiety. There were questions. That's all. It still wasn't the old Face. But it was a hell of a lot closer than it had been only minutes before.


*****

Maggie left Hannibal with Face and returned to the tree lot to get the car. The sheriff had arrived and was questioning the driver. Maggie hurried over.

"Hank, let me explain..."

"Hi, Maggie. No need. I know what happened. Several people saw the whole thing. I do need to talk to Peck. Get his side of the story." He looked closely at the doctor. She looked strained and pale. "Look, I know this wasn't his fault. And it kinda sounds like maybe he's got bigger fish to fry - I think you know what I mean, Maggie. So, uh, look, just have him stop by the office sometime and file a report and we'll close this up. I mean, unless he wants to file charges against this jerk."

"No, there won't be any charges, Hank. I'll see that the report gets taken care of. Thank you."

Hank nodded and turned back to the driver. The paramedics were helping him into the ambulance. Hank figured he'd be out the next day and then the troublemaker would be out of his town.

A few minutes later, Hannibal was helping Face into the back seat of Maggie's car. Face leaned heavily against him; Hannibal wasn't sure Face even knew he was moving. On the ride home, Hannibal kept his arm around Face's shoulders, and he never squirmed or pulled away. He just sat, eyes straight ahead. Hannibal could only wonder at what was going on inside that mind. He kept seeing Face after he had pulled him off that guy. That look in his eye. He'd been on the Jazz. He had been ready to kill a man with his bare hands and had been thrilled in the action.

Hannibal thought he understood the thing with the gloves. Now. And he realized that Face, without the gloves, had been hiding his hands in his pockets, not as an affectation of indifference to them, but in trying to protect himself - and them - from the hands he apparently blamed for what he had done. If he kept those hands covered, he could control the darkness. That's what he'd been trying to do in the alley. Gain back the control over the murderer who lurked so close to the surface. The murderer Stockwell had created. The murderer who no longer felt any restraints and had to be kept at bay by any way Face could think of. Even if it meant closing his whole being off from everyone else.

Depression? Yeah. But much much more...