The film takes place 10 years after the events depicted in The Silence of the Lambs. In the opening scene, Barney, one of Hannibal Lecter's minders at the Baltimore mental hospital, talks to a disfigured and paraplegic man, Mason Verger (Gary Oldman) and Verger's personal physician Cordell (Zeljko Ivanek), about the conversations Barney had with Lecter and Lecter's relationship with Clarice Starling. Next to Barney, sits a a pink dessert box tied with string.
BARNEY: Sometimes Dr. Lecter and I would talk when things got quiet enough. About the science courses I was taking and -
DR. DOEMLING: Some kind of mail-order courses in psychology?
BARNEY: No, sir. I don't consider psychology a science, and neither did Dr. Lecter.
A small laugh from behind the lights.
MASON: Barney, while you were working at the asylum, you observed Clarice Starling and Hannibal Lecter interacting.
DR. DOEMLING: Talking to one another.
BARNEY: Yes. Yes, it seemed to me that they -
DR. DOEMLING: I can see you're eager to justify your consulting fee, but why don't we start with what you saw, not what you thought about what you saw.
MASON: Cordell, don't be like that. Barney's smart enough to give us his opinion. Barney, give us your opinion of what you saw. What was it between them?
BARNEY: Most of the time, Dr. Lecter didn't respond at all to visitors, he would just, for instance, open his eyes long enough to insult some academic who was there to look him over. With Starling, though, he answered her questions. She interested him. She intrigued him. He thought she was charming and amusing.
MASON: Uh-huh. So Clarice Starling and Hannibal Lecter became ... friendly.
BARNEY: Inside a kind of formal structure, yes.
MASON: And he was fond of her.
MASON: Thank you, Barney. Thank you very much for your candor. And keep all those wonderful items from your personal Lecter treasure trove coming. I've enjoyed them immensely.
BARNEY (rises, picking up the pink box): Mr. Verger -
Verger: Oh I almost forgot. I might be able to get a cookie now, what do you think, Cordell?
Cordell: I think it would kill you.
Barney opens the box. Verger stares long at it in reverential silence. Finally -
MASON: How much?
BARNEY: Two hundred and fifty. Thousand.
MASON (in awe, whispers): Cordell, cut a check for two hundred and fifty thousand dollars.
Inside the box, is the restraining mask used to cover Lecter's face when he was being transported.
Panel Van: Clarice Starling (Julianne Moore) is dead, laid out in fatigues across a bench in the back of a ratty, rattling undercover van. Other agents sit perched on the opposite bench, staring at her lifeless body. A block of dry ice tries to cool down the heat from all the bodies in the van
BURKE: How can she sleep at a time like this?
BRIGHAM: She's on a jump-out squad all night; she's saving her strength.
Garage: The panel van arrives and backs into the garage. There is a gathering of men and vehicles - marked and unmarked DC police cars.
The back doors open from the inside and Starling steps out, well rested and alert. She approaches the men gathered around a car with street plans across the hood.
STARLING: All right, everyone, pay attention. Here's the layout -
BOLTON: Excuse me, I'm Officer Bolton, DC Police.
STARLING: Yes, I can see that from your badge, how do you do?
BOLTON: I'm in charge here.
STARLING: Officer Bolton, I'm Special Agent Starling, and just so we don't get off on the wrong foot, let me explain why we're all here. . . I'm here because I know Evelda Drumgo, I've arrested her twice on RICO warrants. DEA and BATF, in addition to backing me up, are here for the drugs and weapons. You're here because our mayor wants to appear tough on drugs, especially after his own cocaine conviction, and hopes he can accomplish that by having you join us here today.
BOLTON: You got a smart mouth, lady.
STARLING: Officer, if you wouldn't mind, I'd appreciate it if you would let me continue.
STARLING: All right. Take a look. The fish market backs on the water. Across the street, ground floor, is the meth lab. Evelda Drumgo is HIV positive. She will spit and bite if she's cornered, so you should watch it. And if you happen to be the one who puts her in a patrol car in front of the news cameras, Officer Bolton, you don't want to push her head down, she'll likely have a needle in her hair.
Later, the panel van containing Starling turns into the center of the fish market as the rest of team all move to their assigned positions. Over the radio, Starling details the plan to apprehend Drumgo.
STARLING (on radio): We want to take her inside the building, not out in the street. We can get closest with the van. If it looks good, on my signal, we hit the front, DA hits the back, DCPD backing them up. She'll have her watchers out at least three blocks around. They've tipped her before, so let's not make spectacles of ourselves.
STARLING: Pretty busy today.
BRIGHAM (on radio): I agree.
Brigham approaches a market concession and pulls out some money.
BRIGHAM: Can I please get a cup of coffee.
Drumgo's henchmen arrive in a couple cars, one a Cadillac.
STARLING: You see that?
BRIGHAM: That's a roger.
The henchmen go to a building door and Evelda Drumgo (Hazelle Goodman) comes out with bodyguards. Five henchmen in all.
STARLING (over radio): God dammit, it's her. Three guys, they are all packin'. She's carrying something. She's got a baby. Hey Brigham, it's too crowded, there are too many people, I say we call it off, what do you say?
BRIGHAM: I agree. All units, stand down.
The other teams confirm over the radio that they copy, but Bolton ignores the order.
BOLTON: This is Bolton, stay on target.
BRIGHAM: I said all units stand down, Bolton, right now.
BOLTON: Too late, we're moving in.
STARLING: Hey Bolton, he said it's off. Stand down now. She's carrying a baby. I repeat, she's carrying a baby. All units stand down.
Bolton continues to ignore the order and readies his gun
BRIGHAM (on radio): Keep that gun down, Bolton!
This catches the attention of one of Drumgo's henchmen.
Henchman 1: Damn, we got pigs!
Henchman 2: Light his ass up!