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.