a Friend for Dinner
(A small room. It
might be a monk's (or prisoner's) cell or just a hotel room. Only a table and two chairs.
LECTER (without turning around): Same terrible cigar as always, Dr. Van Helsing. And there is -
VAN HELSING (unimpressed): Bah! Your new servant announced me!
LECTER (continues): And there is something else...
(He turns around, sniffing like a beast of prey, taking up the scent.)
LECTER: A faint smell of perfume, as if a lady had touched your cheek. But not today. - I suppose, the beautiful Madam Mina...
VAN HELSING (with an icy stare): When I was young, I used to defend a lady's honour with my sword. (He touches the scar on his forehead.) But now I've mellowed out a bit.
LECTER (clicking his tongue): Hacking three beautiful young ladies to pieces you call "having mellowed out a bit". My dear colleague -
VAN HELSING: Ja?
LECTER: Where did you get that interesting scar?
VAN HELSING: Vienna, in 1876.
LECTER: Not Transsylvania in 1874, when a young student, later to become a Dr lit., Dr rer.nat., Dr phil. etc., was the only survivor of an expedition to the Carpathian Mountains, seeking shelter in the castle of a certain Vlad Dracul, and meeting his beautiful - fiancées?
VAN HELSING (hurt): You see a lot, Doctor. But I've got some interesting news you don't see!
LECTER: Oh, what news? Thrill me with your acumen, dear colleague.
VAN HELSING: All good things to those who wait. First: I'm hungry. Feed me!
LECTER: Very well. (He rings a bell.)
STEVENS: You rang the bell, Sir?
LECTER: Yes, Mr. Stevens. What do we have for dinner today?
STEVENS: You ordered lamb chops, Sir, very rare. I suggest Stilton and a nice port for dessert.
VAN HELSING: I thought we had had the last of him three weeks ago!
LECTER (aside): Lord Almighty!
STEVENS: If I may say so, Sir, there is a slight misunderstanding on your part. I suggested Stilton cheese for dessert, not Dr Chilton, who, indeed, if I may say so, has gone the way of all flesh.
VAN HELSING (to LECTER): Funny chap. I like his humour.
LECTER: As he confided in me, he's been working on it for the last thirty years. - But what are the news, dear colleague? Impress me! (to STEVENS) Thank you, Mr. Stevens, that will be all for the moment.
VAN HELSING: There has been another one.
LECTER: Another what? Another arrest of a serial murderer?
VAN HELSING: Another meeting of these madmen or - women calling themselves "Hopkinsianer" or "Hopgoblins".
LECTER: That's news indeed. - The fans of that gifted Welshman who played us all... I know one of their presidents, a very remarkable young woman who sometimes calls herself Helena Hanff...
(STEVENS enters with the wine, serves both gentlemen with a glass. Then he takes posture behind LECTER'S seat.)
LECTER: Where did they meet this time?
VAN HELSING: In Hamburg. There have been nine people this time. There must be a nest somewhere. (He looks a bit annoyed at STEVENS.) This butler of yours...?
LECTER: He doesn't hear a thing. A classical case of over-identification with his profession.
VAN HELSING (distrustful): If you say so. - As I already said, ten people from the East and West, from the North and from the Middle. The South was a bit reluctant to come.
(STEVENS shows every sign of listening with interest.)
LECTER: And why were you invited and I was not?
VAN HELSING: That small bat-loving secretary from Bonn did it. And at the last minute I decided to go incognito.
(STEVENS refills their glasses, listening intently, now taking posture behind VAN HELSING'S seat.)
VAN HELSING: I distorted my voice on the answering machine. And I left the message deliberately short and mysterious to give them a little puzzle. And then I rendered myself invisible...
(STEVENS leans forward, very interested, almost touching VAN HELSING. VAN HELSING looks up at him, then back to LECTER.)
VAN HELSING: Deaf as a lamp-post, I see. That man's all ears!
LECTER: Always eager to learn. As long as he never questions anything his employer does... How do you manage to become invisible?
VAN HELSING: I don't know myself. Mr Coppola didn't explain. But it works.
LECTER: And who was there, in Hamburg?
VAN HELSING: Their hostess was this very active and creative Hopgoblin whom they call "Multiple Meyer". - Their female president Bettina had an escort of four: The operating operator, trustworthy Mr. Bosse, and that chef, Daniela, who silences not only lambs. Then an acolyte, Gaby Blume, with the certain "y" who was initiated this weekend into the secrets of being a Hopgoblin, and this bat-lover I mentioned before. These fivesome did not fear rain, hail or traffic jams and rules, nor a forgotten town plan of Hamburg to reach their destination.
LECTER: Impressive.What do you think, Mr.Stevens?
STEVENS: I am afraid, Sir, I am unable to assist in this matter.
STEVENS: I did not follow the conversation, Sir. If I may say so, it distracts me from serving.
VAN HELSING: Or following our conversation distracted you from serving. My glass is empty!
(STEVENS refills the glasses.)
LECTER: And what about dinner?
STEVENS: I will see to it very shortly, Sir.
(STEVENS makes for the exit, but remains on stage.)
VAN HELSING (thinks, STEVENS has left): Why on earth do you have a butler?
LECTER: I miss Barney's services. (STEVENS twitches.) And the man is accustomed to serving Americans. He desperately needed a change after a lifetime in Darlington Hall. Too many memories. - But back to your memories of Hamburg. What about the other guests?
VAN HELSING: There was their reliable cashier Ute and two witty young ladies from the eastern part of Germany, Anne and Krisl.
LECTER: And what did they all do?
VAN HELSING: They exchanged photographs and newspaper articles, there was a slide show which they watched till their eyes became square, and BB Productions presented a short scene featuring you.
LECTER (smiles): Was it any good?
VAN HELSING: It was. The idea was very good. Of course they hadn't read the script 150 times. After all, they're only amateurs.
LECTER (raises his glass to STEVENS): To the professionals!
STEVENS (coming back to the table and raising VAN HELSING'S glass): To the professionals!
VAN HELSING: Ey!
STEVENS (puts VAN HELSING'S glass back on the table, refills it): Awfully sorry, Sir. Memories overwhelmed me.
VAN HELSING (contemptuously): If I allowed my memories to overwhelm me...
LECTER: Vienna, in 1876...
VAN HELSING: Baltimore, in 1990. Did you learn meanwhile whether the lambs stopped screaming?
LECTER: They never do. And with Hopgoblins they never do either. - And what else did these Hopgoblins do?
VAN HELSING: They invaded a nearby Chinese restaurant, ate and talked, and talked, and talked.
LECTER: And nobody noticed the awful smell of your cigars? It could have given you away.
VAN HELSING: Multiple Meyer doesn't smoke. Strict regulations. The five terrible smokers had to go outside. I followed them whenever they went. So I passed unnoticed.
LECTER: No argument between non smokers and smokers?
VAN HELSING: Nothing serious. No militant non smokers were present.
LECTER: How good for you. - Did they make any plans for the future - these disciples of Sir Anthony?
VAN HELSING: They plan to go to Wales this November to see a play with him.
LECTER: And perhaps meet him - look him into the eye.
VAN HELSING: Invade his dressing room!
STEVENS: Watching him change! (He looks very embarrassed.)
VAN HELSING (matter-of-factly): Bollocks! - They just want to interview him!
LECTER: We shall see. - And what else did they talk about?
VAN HELSING: Various topics. Pigs and the childrens' programme on TV in East Germany, the forthcoming elections, dialects ... etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. And they're spoilt!
STEVENS: Bad language?
VAN HELSING: The facts of life, rather. Utterly spoilt! When I was young, ladies weren't that spoilt!
LECTER: Yes, quite unlike these two young ladies poring over "Arabian Nights". And surely they all deserve your special treatment: Stakes through their hearts and off with their heads!
VAN HELSING: No. I didn't see any signs of anaemic behaviour or long teeth. (He takes a photograph out of his pocket and looks at it.) I've got a photograph. They all look remarkably healthy. No signs of syphilization. Regrettably none of civilization either.
LECTER: Show them to me. (VAN HELSING hands him the photograph. LECTER looks at the photograph. His nostrils twitch as if he were taking up a scent again.)
VAN HELSING: Cute little vermin, ja?
LECTER: I'd like to kiss them all. (He produces the famous sound between hiss and slobber.)
STEVENS (alarmed): Oh, here we go again! (to VAN HELSING): Hold him, Sir!
(Exits, comes back with LECTER'S strait-jacket and hockey mask. VAN HELSING takes a small cross out of his pocket and holds it towards LECTER.)
STEVENS (helping LECTER into the strait-jacket, putting the mask on LECTER'S face): Now, calm yourself, Sir. You promised Miss Starling not to be naughty again, until her next visit.
(LECTER offers no resistance.)
VAN HELSING: Hear, hear! (He puts the cross back into his pocket, waves his digit towards LECTER instead.) Make no mistake! They mustn't be stopped!
LECTER (very calm): As I come to think of it, life certainly will be more interesting with them in it.
© 1994 by Gabi G. (Idee und