A bare office.
Marian sits across a deck from Rebecca. Both are smartly dressed, professional. Marian is sliding comfortably into late middle age, while Rebecca is younger and very much pulled together.
Marian: So, Rebecca, what bring you to the Lonely Hearts Club?
Rebecca: Well, as I’m sure you’ve seen from my application, I have very specific needs.
Marian: I wanted to talk to you about that.
Rebecca: I thought you might.
Marian: What do you mean by “ideally beheaded”?
Rebecca: Exactly what it says there, I prefer my men beheaded.
Marian: That does seem somewhat extreme. Even for what we do here.
Rebecca: Ian mentioned you were a specialist.
Marian: I am, but there’s specialism and well, specialism.
Rebecca: He said you fixed it for him, and his particular interests.
Marian: There was nothing particular about his interests. If anything, they were decidedly broad. But we’re not here to talk about my other clients.
Rebecca: So you don’t think you can help me?
Marian: Of course, I can help you. It’s just going to be a case of, greasing the wheels.
Rebecca: Money is no object.
Marian: And you?
Rebecca: Clean bill of health, no criminal records, not even a point on my driving license. Perfect credit score. Homeowner, single. Eligible, I’d dare say. You can check.
Marian: I will.
Rebecca: They you know there is nothing to draw suspicion. I assume it’s the same with most of your clients. Squeaky clean, models of a civilised society.
Marian: So, it is.
Rebecca: What next?
Marian: A few more questions. Beatified?
Rebecca: That’s vital. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that’s the priority.
Marian: That may be challenging.
Rebecca: As I said, money is no object.
Marian: It’s more a case of volume. Saints are hard to come by.
Rebecca: If they weren’t, I wouldn’t need your help.
Marian: Especially when you stipulate, they must be patron saint of beekeeping and epilepsy.
Rebecca: You asked for me to be specific.
Marian: And you have been, detailed to the letter I would say.
Marian flips through the form.
Marian: He must be respectful of marriage, but willing to beat you with animal entrails. Virgin preferred. Well, I would argue that generally goes with the territory-
Rebecca: But not always.
Marian: True. Italian. Height – no preference?
Rebecca: I’m nearly 6 foot, and I prefer heels. I don’t expect 2nd century men to be tall.
Marian reads on.
Marian: I’ll need some time.
Rebecca: I’m in no rush.
Marian: Great, then I’ll be in touch.
Rebecca: I look forward to it.
Marian and Rebecca both stand and shake hands.
Rebecca leaves through the office door and her heels can be heard walking down the hall.
Marian picks up her desk phone and props the receiver under her chin. She flips through a rolodex. She stops it with a finger nail, and dials the number.
Marian: Hi, Marian here from the Lonely Hearts Club. I think I may have something for you.
A sitting room. Modern, clean, decorated in dark colours. There is a large couch, in the centre of the room.
Rebecca enters the room with a lighter in one hand and a glass of wine in the other. She walks around the room lighting candles. She leans on the sofa and sips wine.
A buzzer goes. She walks to the wall-phone and hits a button.
Rebecca: Come on up.
Rebecca walks to the door of the flat. She leans against the wall and drinks from her wine. The buzzer goes again and she opens the door. Valentine is standing at the door, wearing a toga and holding a carrier bag.
Valentine: Yes. Rebecca?
Valentine holds out his hand. Rebecca looks at it for a second, before leaning in to kiss him on the lips.
Rebecca: Come in.
Valentine steps in. Rummages in his carrier bag, pulls out a bottle of wine.
Rebecca: Thank you. Italian?
Valentine: God, no. That utter filth. This is actually a cheeky Croatian.
Rebecca: You’re a wine snob?
Valentine: I’ve been drinking it for two thousand years. I like to think I know a little bit.
Rebecca: I’ll get you a glass. Make yourself comfortable.
Valentine perches on the sofa, putting the plastic bag down on the floor next to him. Rebecca comes in holding a second glass of wine. She hands it to Valentine, who does an awkward little half cheers, half cringe motion, before taking a sip.
Rebecca: Well done.
Rebecca sits down next to him on the sofa.
Rebecca: I’m very glad Marian managed to track you down.
Rebecca puts her hand on Valentine’s knee. Valentine jumps up.
Valentine: I must warn you, my heart belongs to another.
Rebecca: I don’t want your heart.
Rebecca: No. Marian explained to you.
Valentine: Yes. But I didn’t entirely understand.
Rebecca: It’s quite simple. I want you to beat me with animal entrails and then let me cut off your head.
Valentine: I’m not sure I’m happy with that arrangement. I’m untouched by woman.
Rebecca: I don’t want to touch you.
Valentine: No, I mean, [whispers] I’m untouched. I’ve never done anything [Valentine pulls a face.]
Rebecca: Oh, I see. But you are patron Saint of Love-
Valentine: Not like that. I did a few marriages when some utter cock of a Emperor forbade it, got dumped in prison and wrote a couple of notes to a gaoler’s daughter who was nice to me. It all got a bit out of hand after that, especially in the late nineteenth century.
Rebecca: So, where did the bees come in? And the Epilepsy?
Valentine: No idea. Jobs just get doled out once you become as saint. I’m also responsible for plague, fainting and travelling. Well, not responsible, it’s more a sort of admin role with a bit of intervention in the right circumstances. Also, there’s roughly a dozen of us.
Rebecca: A dozen?
Valentine: Yeah. We all just sort of got merged into one story. Very messy. Though one of us was a pope?
Rebecca: You were a pope?
Valentine: No one of the other Saint Valentines. If it makes you feel any better, there’s hundreds of St Christophers.
Rebecca: So, this is all very charming but back to my original proposition.
Valentine: I just don’t think I’m up for it. I’m more than happy to hear your request for any help with Coronavirus or hive population decline, if you’d like?
Rebecca: I’d much prefer it if you whipped me with a pig intestine.
Valentine: Not really my bag. Also, I think you are confusing your Christian orthodoxy with pagan rituals.
Rebecca: I am?
Valentine: Yes, the whipping with bit of dead animal – I think that’s Lupercalia? Very unpleasant business. Happened in a cave. Used to sacrifice a dog and a few goats, have a bit of a dance and then flagellate each other with whatever unhappy livestock happened to get in the way.
Rebecca: Sounds delightful.
Valentine: Something about health and fertility. Unless you were a goat.
Rebecca: You’re funny. I didn’t expect you to be funny.
Valentine: Thank you.
Rebecca: Please come and sit down. I’m sorry for coming on so strong.
Rebecca moves along the sofa. Valentine sits down.
Rebecca: Would you like more wine?
Valentine: No, thank you. I’m driving.
Rebecca gets up and puts her wine glass on a side table. She leans on the table, regarding Valentine.
Rebecca: Why are you here?
Valentine: You asked me to come.
Rebecca: But you know what I wanted you to do, and I assume you had made up your mind not to do it, so why bother turning up.
Valentine: Well, I didn’t want to be rude. Also, I didn’t know if you wanted anything else. Maybe a quick prayer, a teeny-weeny blessing. That kind of thing.
Rebecca: So what’s in the bag?
Valentine: Oh, that. Just a bit of dinner.
Rebecca moves quickly around the table, grabs the carrier bag and empties it on the coffee table. A pile of offal wobbles and dribbles onto the floor.
Valentine: I’m a saint, you can’t say that to me.
Rebecca: You just bottled it. Well and truly.
Valentine: No, I just really like tripe. It’s an Umbrian delicacy.
Rebecca: Bullshit. You were all up for it and then wimped out when you realised you were going to get your loin cloth dirty.
Valentine: Do you know how hard it is to get blood out of linen?
Rebecca: I’ve got a bottle of peroxide and a washing machine. I can get blood out of anything I bloody like.
Valentine: You twenty first century types are so smug aren’t you, with your technology and your running water. Can’t find a fucking man to smack you a few times with an intestine though, can you?
Rebecca: That’s a low blow.
Valentine: That’s no blow at all, because I am not doing it.
Rebecca grabs a piece of guts from the coffee table and throws it at Valentine. Valentine ducks and it hits the wall with a wet slap before sliding down. Rebecca and Valentine both watch it.
Valentine and Rebecca pause.
They both lunge for the offal. Suddenly there is raw intestines flying around the room. Valentine grabs a length of innards and whips it towards Rebecca. She turns her face away as it slaps across her front. Valentine goes for it again, as Rebecca fights and screams – part pleasure, part fury. Soon they are grappling each other over the coffee table, writhing in the gore. Rebecca rolls Valentine so that she is straddling him. She reaches down and grips either side of Valentine’s neck. She squeezes. Valentine gasps and struggles. Then, Valentine’s head pops off. Rebecca scream.
Rebecca: I love you!!
Rebecca looks around the room at the mess she has made and the head in the carpet.
Rebecca: Whoops. Better get the peroxide.
A bare office. Marian sits across a deck from Rebecca.
Marian: So, Rebecca, what brings you back to the Lonely Hearts Club?
Rebecca: As you know, I was very pleased with the last arrangement.
Marian: We greatly appreciated you feedback.
Rebecca: I thought you might.
Marian: So, what now?
Rebecca: Well, this time, I think I want a man who knows how to take an arrow or two. Or three.
Marian: Rebecca, I think I have exactly the saint for you…
Marian picks up her desk phone and flips through a rolodex, before dialling a number. She looks at Rebecca and smiles.
Marian: Ciao, Sebastian. Long time no speak! I think I have someone here who’d be very keen to meet you.