Waiting in Dr. Frederick Chilton’s office was most commonly mistaken for the worst part of one’s visit to the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. Company on the lower floors tended to provide more humanity than anything given or received by their caregivers.
To Dr. Doemling, it was all one in the same. The task at hand consumed the better part of his mind and he had little time to consider the general unpleasantness of his current surroundings.
After a few minutes of quiet wait, perhaps intentionally scheduled to make Dr. Chilton appear more of a busy man, the doors opened and the hospital’s conductor stepped inside. He offered a sheepish smile before extending for Doemling’s hand. “Hello, I’m Dr. Frederick Chilton.”
Not in the mood for the idle chitchat, Dr. Doemling shook his hand in kind and said, “Dr. Doemling. Is the subject ready?”
“I told Barney to make the preparations. I don’t think Lecter knows what sort of visitor he’s receiving today. Not many of the psychiatric profession have attempted to speak with him in several months,” Dr. Chilton replied coolly. “I’ll walk you down there…there are certain precautions I must be assured you’ll take.”
“Of course,” Dr. Doemling agreed. “They gave me a list of things to do and what not to do.”
“I don’t expect Lecter to talk to you,” Dr. Chilton said, motioning for Dr. Doemling to follow him. They walked for a few seconds down the narrow passages before he spoke again. “He’s had a wide variety of visitors from all over the country but has refused to speak for some time. In the case that he does decide that you’re interesting enough to talk to, there are certain things you should know.
“In any circumstance, do not forget the following: do not touch the glass, do not approach the glass. Pass him nothing but soft paper. No paperclips or staples, pencils or pens. He has all necessary items at his disposal, and you are invited to remind him of that should he make a request. If he attempts to pass you anything, do not accept it. Everything you pass to him should be though the food carrier, and if it’s questionable, through Barney.” Dr. Chilton spoke like a man whom had given the same speech over and over again. It was a preconceived notion that he altered his wording from time to time to spare himself intense boredom.
When they reached the end of the line, they turned to each other, as if by instinct. Dr. Doemling turned to Dr. Chilton and again took his hand as a symbolism of gratitude. “Should he speak, you know you will be well compensated,” he said.
Though he was well aware that Dr. Chilton had been informed of this arrangement before his arrival, the man pulled off a well-rehearsed impression of one surprised. “My thanks, Doctor,” he said, opening the door to let him continue alone.
“By the way,” Dr. Chilton said as an afterthought, shutting the door behind him, “I read your book. Very nice work, I must say.”
Dr. Doemling, who received praise from colleagues, was slightly surprised to hear a review of his book so far after the publication. It was a good feeling. He nodded and smiled. “Thank you, Dr. Chilton.”
Smiling as well, Dr. Chilton offered a subtle nod before turning and to disappear up the stairs once more. When Dr. Doemling turned around, he was greeted with the sight of possibly the largest man he had ever seen. He took a minute to note the unusual distance between his eyes, as well as read the nametag on his white coat.
He opened his mouth to greet him, but was beaten by the man’s smile. “Hi, I’m Barney,” the man said. Barney had small, white teeth that seemed to glow given the complexion of his skin. “Dr. Chilton told you not to go near the glass, didn’t he?”
“Yes, he did.”
“His cell is all the way down. I suggest you walk down the middle.”
Turning to gaze down the corridor, Dr. Doemling’s nose wrinkled in disappointment. “I don’t see a chair. Do you have a chair sitting out?”
“Doctor, most people don’t stay long enough to necessitate a chair-”
“Please set up a chair,” Dr. Doemling ordered promptly. “I won’t be leaving anytime soon.”
Skeptically, Barney agreed and advised him to continue. He would catch him in a minute.
Dr. Doemling had spent a lot of time in asylums, thus the overall effect of seeing the mentally impaired no longer shook him. The first visit he ever paid had terrified him – never had he expected the unsanitary living conditions these people were subjected to. However, over time, he developed the fine knowledge that the residents were the scum of earth and deserved no better. Therefore, as he made the solemn march down the hall, the calls of the other prisoners didn’t even register.
The inmate next to Lecter’s cell made a rude comment, but he didn’t notice.
Though it didn’t come as a surprise to find his objected prisoner calmly sketching, he found it odd that this man could concentrate in such conditions. Of course, he had been imprisoned for several years. He must be used to it by now.
In a few minutes, Barney came trailing after him, holding a cheap fold-up chair. Dr. Doemling suspected there were chairs stored in a closet somewhere down here that provided easier access, but the orderly hadn’t wanted the pleasure of his company.
“Dr. Lecter,” Barney said as he unfolded and set the chair on the ground before the cell, “you have another fan.”
Slowly, Dr. Hannibal Lecter looked up. He was inhumanly pale, all except for his maroon eyes that connected with Barney’s for a fraction of a second. The standard prison uniform he wore was a deep blue, and looked as though it had been recently dry-cleaned. Dr. Doemling thought he might have seen something flicker in kind between them.
“Thank you, Barney,” Dr. Lecter said as he stood. His hands were blackened from his drawings. His voice was soft and fluid. There was an air of intelligence about him, the same sort of intelligence carried by a crocodile.
Barney was gone without another word. He did not look at Dr. Doemling.
As soon as the orderly was gone, Dr. Lecter’s eyes reflected a certain sense of disinterest. He briefly glanced to Dr. Doemling before taking his seat once more and resuming with the drawing.
“Hello, Dr. Lecter. I’m Dr. Doemling.”
Dr. Lecter, completely immersed in his work, seemed to not have heard him.
“Dr. Lecter? Dr. Lecter?” Dr. Doemling repeated.
Dr. Lecter continued sketching.
“Dr. Lecter,” Dr. Doemling began, trying not to appear too flustered by Dr. Lecter’s obvious disinterest in his unexpected visitor.
“My name is Dr. Doemling. I have just recently been published in the ‘Journal.’ Perhaps you have read my work.”
A slight smile came across Dr. Lecter’s face, so slight that it could have been mistaken for a twitch or a nervous tick.
“Dr. Lecter,” he continued, “I would very much like to talk with you. I and many others in the mental health field find you a fascinating case study, and I would very much like to discuss your illness with you.”
Just then, Dr. Lecter rose from his seat slowly and began to approach the glass as he then stood facing him. His maroon eyes peered at Dr. Doemling as he held his gaze. His lips curled up as he then said in a very soft, raspy voice, “What illness, Doctor?”
“Why, your illness, Hannibal.”
“Excuse me?” Dr. Lecter said, now showing the only emotion since Dr. Doemling had approached his cell as he said now obviously irritated, “Did I permit you to address me by my given name?”
“Well, I assumed since we are colleagues…”
“We are not colleagues, Dr. Demling, is it? We have never worked together nor shall we.”
“Doemling, Dr. Lecter, Doemling...”
“As in dumb?”
Dr. Doemling tried not to blush as he said, “Yes.”
“And you think I’m ill?” Dr. Lecter said, now in a calmer tone.
“Well, it would appear that way, wouldn’t it?”
“To your trained eye, Dr. Doemling, I would rather doubt it.”
Dr. Doemling tried to remain calm as he continued his “interview.”
“Dr. Lecter, I would very much like to talk with you. Do you think that we can discuss your ‘madness’ as professionals?”
“I’m ‘mad’ now am I, Dr. Doemling? I must say, you are rather frank, aren’t you?”
“I’m just trying to get the root of your problems, Dr. Lecter.”
“And you think you are amply qualified to discuss me with me, Doctor,” Dr. Lecter said, remaining calm and ever the gentleman in his tone and manner.
“Dr. Lecter, why are you pretending there is nothing wrong with you? The court found you insane and remanded you here. Do you think they were wrong? Did you fake insanity just to get out of going to prison?”
Dr. Lecter remained calm and professional as he held his stare on Dr. Doemling, blinking very few times as he said, “Dr. Doemling, please allow me to say that you are simply another face blinded by ego and persuaded with a bad wardrobe, not to mention rather incompetent. May I ask where you received your degree?; ‘The Home Shopping Network,’ perhaps- or was it the Sears Catalog? You are beyond the point of being rude, you have now entered the realm of the ridiculous and I certainly hope that your students are quite mentally challenged so as to spare them the inconvenience of finding out how naive you are.”
Dr. Doemling tried the best he could to put on his ‘poker face’ and not register any emotion as Dr. Lecter calmly stood there while he continued his verbal onslaught, “One more thing, Dr. Doemling, please allow me to review your most recent article that appeared in this quarter’s ‘Journal’.”
He paused to give Dr. Doemling an inkling of hope that perhaps his words wouldn’t be quite as acidic, but was quickly disappointed when Dr. Lecter went on to say, “I can honestly say it was a true pain to read. I can only imagine how health-hazardous it was for you to write it…”
“I was wondering, did you have assistance with it, a collaborator? The elementary writing was rather tedious to look through, the references and so forth used and reused. I never thought a professional capable of plagiarism,” Dr. Lecter smiled nicely, perhaps to pour salt on the wound. It worked. “Are you proud of your work, Dr. Doemling?”
“Immensely,” came the steamed reply.
“Hmm…so I thought. The rest of our hopelessly brain-dead country seems to agree with you. I must wonder if any of your so-called critics had ever once picked up a book before injuring their intellects with your…‘esteemed’ work.” Dr. Lecter stopped to smile, his eyes trailing off to the side for a minute, as if to take a moment for reflection. “Nevertheless, I suppose to place faith in such obviously great minds is a danger all in itself.”
Red face now, the stench of raw humiliation hovered above him. Dr. Doemling was a proud man, a proud man now ashamed to allow the ravings of a declared lunatic to cut so deeply. And it did cut. Were it a knife, he might as well be a dead man.
“I wonder,” Dr. Lecter now said, capturing him with his eyes once more. “Have you read any of my work?”
“Several pieces,” Dr. Doemling said, clearing his throat at some attempt to regain dignity. “The one that comes to mind is the piece you did on surgical addiction. Was that the Journal of Clinic Psychiatry? I forget.”
“Yes…I believe so.” Dr. Lecter crossed his arms behind his back and elevated his head slightly. “I reviewed you, doctor, here is your chance at vindication. Please use it wisely.”
“Premature and irrelevant,” Dr. Doemling said immediately. “It was obvious you were uneducated on the subject material, and making allegations that you could only assume to be accurate.”
Throughout the entire statement, Dr. Lecter did not so much as blink.
The beat of silence was perhaps more insufferable than the initial insult. Dr. Lecter’s eyes sparkled, revealing anything but offense.
“We like using big words, don’t we?” he retorted after a minute. “Are you in need of a kiddy dictionary, Dr. Doemling?”
“It hardly appears so,” he retorted.
“I am compelled to wonder if you even read my article.”
Dr. Doemling smiled smugly. “Simply because you can’t take one negative review?”
“Not at all. I am most stable in my work, doctor. Perhaps if you were, you wouldn’t allow the opinion of one alleged ‘madman’ suffering from an indisputable ‘illness’ stir you so, wouldn’t you agree?” Again, Dr. Lecter offered his nicest smile. And again, Dr. Doemling felt wounded.
“Dr. Lecter. I believe I have proven myself worthy of the title, wouldn’t you agree?”
“I will decide what you have proven on my own terms, Hannibal,” Dr. Doemling replied spitefully.
Dr. Lecter looked at him carefully, up and down, perhaps imagining how he might taste. That thought was chilling, and Dr. Doemling was not easily disturbed.
As though sensing his thoughts, Dr. Lecter chuckled. “Are you concerned that I’m seasoning you up? Better rare or well-done, you tell me…”
“Are you threatening me?”
“Of course not. You would enjoy that too much.” Dr. Lecter looked away, the interest vacating his eyes. “Is there anything else, Dr. Doemling? You are beginning to bore me.”
“Why yes, Hannibal, there is,” Dr. Doemling said
“And what might that be?”
“I would like it if you could quite possibly give my article a favorable review in the next ‘Journal’.”
“And why on earth would I do that, Dr. Doemling, considering your visit here was most unwelcome and your work less than stellar.”
Dr. Doemling stood there hoping for an opportunity to quickly try to change Dr. Lecter’s mind. He had come here with a plan. He knew that if he could get Dr. Lecter to not only review his article, but to discuss anything with him, it would be a feather in his cap, but the visit had not gone as expected for him. It did, however, go exactly the way Dr. Lecter had wanted it to.
“Dr. Doemling, I am going to give you only a few more moments of my time and then I am going to say good afternoon.”
Dr. Lecter stood motionless, his hands clasped behind his back and didn’t take his eyes off of Dr. Doemling for a split-second as he said,
“I’ll bet you were a skinny child weren’t you? Skinny and scrawny. You kept to yourself, you read, you collected baseball cards, you slept in the same room with a sibling. You were a ‘Mama’s boy’ who had all he could do to go and deliver your newspapers in the morning without wondering what ‘mommy’ was making you for breakfast.
“You had no friends, boy or girl. You sat home imagining what your life would be like when you ‘grew up’ and prayed it would be better than mom and dad’s. You swore you would ‘make it’ one day...that you would become either a doctor or a lawyer because the money was good.
“You vowed that you would marry a pretty girl, one who was ‘good in the sack’ who you wouldn’t get sick of too quickly and who wouldn’t mind it too much when you did.
“You had your 2.5 kids; bought your big house and your fancy car and now you think ‘what’s left?’…well I’ll tell you Dr. Doemling what is left.”
Dr. Doemling stood there motionless as his mouth began to open and his eyes began to water. The words were so close to the truth his chest began to hurt.
“All that is left, Dr. Doemling is for you to get on with your petty life, keep on living the charade that it has become and never come here again. Not only do I refuse to give your article the solicited ‘rave review’ that you ask for, but I will give it such a negative one that you will be quite fortunate you still have a practice and are taken seriously by the psychiatric community ever again.”
Dr. Doemling stood there, feeling numb as the words reverberated in his ears. Each word became like a pinprick as it poked little holes over and over into his overblown ego.
Dr. Lecter continued to stand in place as he smiled pleasantly and finished his conversation.
Dr. Doemling, smoldered and scathed in every way imaginable, stood there, the torn image of a man, and tried to gather the remains of his dignity. “You seem to have a lot of repressed anger,” he noted sourly.
Dr. Lecter laughed, flashing him with his small white teeth. The thought of what monstrosities this man had committed with those incisors made him shudder. “I don’t repress, Dr. Doemling,” he replied. “If I repressed, tell me, would I be here? No. We stand not ten feet apart, barricaded from any means of contact. I must find a way to reach you somehow. Those wounded tend to know not to crawl back for more. Well…” He drifted off, offering a simply shrug, “in most cases.
“Do be glad we are separated,” Dr. Lecter concluded. “From what you have shown me today, you would not have been a happy camper should I have gotten a hold of you.” Again, he smiled. “Is there anything else, doctor?”
“Speak up. My hearing is starting to fail me.”
“Do you enjoy this? Is this some sort of game to you? You realize you’re in here for life, don’t you?”
“Thank you very much for reminding me. I do tend to forget from time to time.” Dr. Lecter shook his head in disappointment. “Dr. Doemling, if you can’t say anything nice…well…you know where that leads you. Go back to your fancy car and big house. Quite frankly, with the eternity I have to spend in here, there are plenty of activities to keep one occupied aside from speaking with a presumed doctor who wishes to diagnose what he cannot understand. Fill your life with things instead of people and live in the mask of artificial happiness you have crafted so brilliantly for yourself. Write your papers, poorly written and filled with facts from elementary education. Blame everyone but yourself for your failure, and die horribly miserable twist of a man with nothing left to accumulate his life but a car passed down to the kids, and a bankbook your descendants will shred in two no more than an hour after you’re placed into the ground.”
Through this all, Dr. Lecter remained smiling, as though he were the picture of optimism and good fortune.
Sufficiently broken in half, Dr. Doemling could not help the tears from flowing down his face. Never had he considered himself a weak man, one subject to find such ability to cry within himself. Hell, even through his mother’s funeral, he remained silent, somber, but silent. Watching his kids first steps, nothing. His wedding day, nothing. Graduation, all high school, college, and graduate school, nothing.
But now, it was as if all those days were turning on him, emerging from the black pits of his subconscious and forcing him to tears he didn’t know he was capable of shedding. What this man said hurt much worse than anything had had been put to endure.
Thoroughly satisfied, Dr. Lecter’s eyes danced as he took a sip of Dr. Doemling’s pain, finding it most enjoyable. It wasn’t often Dr. Chilton issued him a toy to play with; one so delicate was this shell of a man.
“LOOK AT THE BABY CRY!” the man in the cell next to Dr. Lecter’s screamed obnoxiously, pounding up and down on his mattress. “CRY, BABY, CRY! WAAHH!!”
The ravings of a lunatic, one obviously incompetent, only made the tears flow harder. Dr. Doemling was ashamed and more than ashamed. He wished he had a gun handy.
“Do forgive Miggs,” Dr. Lecter said pleasantly. “He seems to be in a foul disposition today. Go on, Dr. Doemling, run away and compose yourself.”
Ready to take this advice, he turned and started the walk away. The thought of facing the orderly like this made him sick to his stomach. He hastily drew the tears away from his face, knowing evidence of his small tantrum had deposited nicely around his eyes. The redness would take a while to clear.
“Have a lovely day,” Dr. Lecter called after him. It was the last time he would speak for several weeks.
Dr. Doemling, angry now, clinched his fists into tight balls.
Later than evening, Dr. Lecter sat at his table sketching. He mused on the day’s events as a smile came across his face. It wasn’t often that he had the pleasure of breaking a man as rude as Dr. Doemling and it gave him a sense of satisfaction that he found most enjoyable.
As Dr. Lecter continued sketching, he heard distant footsteps as he then looked up and saw Barney with a small white envelope in his hand.
“Good evening, Dr. Lecter,” Barney politely said as he then went to put the envelope into the food carrier. “This just came for you.”
“Why, thank you, Barney,” Dr. Lecter said as he rose from his table, took the envelope that was passed through to him and sat back down.
Barney walked away as Dr. Lecter held the envelope to his nose and quickly determined by the remnants of cheap aftershave who the author was.
He grinned as he took the letter out and began to read:
I would like to take this opportunity to inform you that I have decided against writing about our visit for the next quarter of the ‘Journal.’
I know you think you are smarter than me. You think you are smarter than everyone. Perhaps you are.
Consider this letter a professional courtesy.
Dr. Doemling, PHD
Dr. Lecter then took the letter and slowly began to rip it into little pieces. He felt like throwing it up into the air like confetti, but decided against it.
Instead, he decided to flush it down his commode.
copyright 2002, by
Diana Lecter & Drandmrslecter
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