Tobias Budge is a character first introduced in a seemingly minor role as a friend to Franklyn (but to Franklyn, Tobias is his best friend), although it is later revealed that he is in fact a highly cultured serial killer, much like Hannibal Lecter, and he'd been looking forward to killing Franklyn at some point. He works as a cello instructor to children and also owns a string shop called Chordophone String Shop, where it is heavily implied (and later explicitly revealed) that the strings he sells as catgut strings are really made from the guts of his victims.
The first of his murders that is seen on screen is that of a trombone player named Douglas Wilson, whose vocal cords, still inside his corpse, were treated with chemicals and fashioned into a makeshift cello and played through his gaping neck wound. It's later revealed that this murder was meant to put on a show and draw Lecter's attention; Franklyn tells Lecter in their next therapy session that Tobias made a morbid "joke" about wanting to play a man's vocal cords like a violin, and when Lecter questions why he would ever say this to him, Franklyn realizes it was because Tobias knew he would relay it to Lecter. Realizing the message, Lecter goes to meet Tobias in his shop, and the two soon have dinner together in Lecter's home, where they begin to openly discuss their secret pastimes.
Tobias explains that before discovering Lecter was a serial killer, he originally intended to kill him, only to change his mind after witnessing him commit a Chesapeake Ripper murder, and he tells Lecter he'd like to have a friend who shares a similar outlook on the world as him. Lecter apparently does not share the same sentiment, and when Tobias questions why he bothered to treat him to dinner, Lecter tells him he was going to kill him. The two of them quickly part ways, and Lecter later tells Will Graham he should investigate Tobias.
Will soon shows up at Tobias's shop with two police officers, but after he briefly steps outside, he returns to find the two officers murdered; the first was stabbed through the neck, the other is garroted with cello strings. Tobias attempts to garrote Will as well, but after a long struggle, Will manages to shoot Tobias in the ear. He flees and makes his way to Lecter's office, interrupting Lecter's session with Franklyn, and Franklyn, who naively still believes Tobias is his friend and a good person at heart, pleads for him to turn himself in. Lecter then snaps Franklyn's neck before Tobias can kill him, and the two of them begin to fight; after a long struggle, Lecter tricks Tobias into trying to punch him through his library ladder, allowing Lecter to break his arm. In his crippled state, Tobias is then overpowered by Lecter, who strikes him in the Adam's Apple, and bludgeons him to death with his Stag sculpture. Hannibal subsequently claims that Tobias killed Franklyn and implies that Franklyn was more aware of Tobias's crimes than he initially claimed.
- "He's been saying very dark things." (Franklyn)
- "This takes a steady hand, a confidence. He's killed before, but not like this. This is a skilled musician trying a new instrument." (Will)
- "This isn't how he kills. Normally, he doesn't kill for an audience." (Will)
- "I believe he wants to show someone how well he plays." (Will)
- "The strings have to be treated. You can't just open somebody up and draw a bow across their innards and expect to produce a sound." (to Will)
- "I was looking forward to that." (after Hannibal killed Franklyn)
- "Do you really have to ask?" (when asked by Hannibal if he had killed the trombonist)
- "Actually...I was going to kill you." (to Hannibal)
- "I'm not going to tell anyone what I saw you do and do well." (to Hannibal)
- "Report Tobias for what?" (upon entrance into Franklyn and Hannibal's session)