The Major was an early riser, but this particular morning he was so exhausted from the previous night’s activities that he slept well past dawn and only awoke when his shoulder was firmly prodded with the butt of a gun.
One second later he was wide awake and assessing the situation. Location: rented cottage in sparsely populated rural region of Tuscany. KGB agents gathered around his bed: four, including Mischa, all large. Weapons of KGB agents: one Makarov per agent, two more holstered at Mischa’s left hip and that of one of the others, and one 35mm Nikon around the neck of the nearest.
A camera. Scheisse.
Weapons belonging to the Major: .22 automatic under the pillow, despite routine objections of bed’s other occupant; one Luger in drawer of bedside table; Magnum in shoulder holster on dresser; another .22 in the pocket of Klaus’s trousers. Location of Klaus’s trousers: in crumpled heap beside bed, along with the rest of his clothes. Current location of alphabet: Germany. Number of good guys aware of Klaus’s true current location: one, namely heartbroken and reproachful butler. Allies on scene: one perverted thief, currently naked and fast asleep beside Klaus.
Klaus didn’t bother to swear. Seeing that the Russians were waiting to see what he would do, he gently shook his lover. “Dorian. Wake up.”
The Earl groaned and cuddled closer.
“Wake up,” Klaus repeated, shaking a little more firmly.
With another martyred groan, Dorian obeyed. It took him longer to grasp the situation and become alert, but not by much. Klaus kept a steadying hand on his shoulder, offering silent reassurance.
Mischa spoke at last, his face wreathed in smiles. “What could possibly have happened to make Iron Klaus sink so low?” He spoke in English; apparently he wanted Eroica to understand him, and that was the only language they had in common.
“I’m a corrupt decadent Westerner,” the Major replied acidly.
Mischa gestured to one of the others, who placed the muzzle of his gun against Klaus’s temple.
“Please-” Dorian began, but stopped at the increased pressure of Klaus’s hand. Klaus did not otherwise move.
“Do not move,” Mischa ordered, and ripped away the sheets that covered them, exposing their naked forms with their long legs intertwined. “Hold still.” The two in the bed did so. The gun retreated from Klaus’s temple and the agent with the Nikon snapped a few photos. “We took a few of the two of you asleep – it was a most charming scene – but these are needed to complete the set.”
“Keep your hands where we can see them, Major. You may be a degenerate Western pervert, but we are not so foolish as to underestimate you. You will not move while your parasitical aristocratic boyfriend gets dressed.”
“Parasitical? I resent that, you-”
“Do what he says,” the Major ordered calmly. The thief controlled himself with effort and got out of bed, reaching for his clothes with hands that only trembled a little.
“Those are my pants, idiot,” the Major said in a bored tone.
Dorian started. “Excuse me. I’m nervous,” he said, which was so clearly true that the Russians were only slightly suspicious of the exchange. He shakily pulled on Klaus’s pants and shirt. Thank God Dorian had been wearing one of his tamer ensembles the night before, a cardigan and normal blue jeans. Now the only problem was that the Earl’s waist was an inch thinner than Klaus’s. It would be a little of a squeeze.
“Frisk him,” Mischa ordered.
The nearest agent stepped toward Dorian and started patting him down. “Couldn’t the handsome one do it?” Eroica asked with a pout.
“Stop flirting with the KGB,” Klaus snapped. He would have been hard pressed to guess which was “the handsome one”; they all looked plug-ugly to him.
“You’re so possessive,” Dorian complained insincerely. The KGB agent, handsome or not, did not find Klaus’s .22, which he had counted on Dorian to remember and conceal with his sleight of hand.
“Watch that thief,” Mischa ordered the frisker, and the goon shoved Dorian against the wall and pointed the gun in his face. “Search the Major’s clothes.”
Klaus waited. Idiots should have searched their clothes first. If they had, they’d have found his .22, now concealed somewhere on Dorian’s person. He would have to mention this to the alphabet.
The clothes had no weapons in them. “Now, Major, you may get dressed. Move very slowly. Otherwise I might be startled and my trigger finger might slip.”
Klaus played along, knowing he couldn’t risk going for the gun under the pillow right now. He pulled on his own boxers – the situation was not sufficiently dire to make him wear those sissified briefs made out of that sissified silky fabric – and found that Dorian’s jeans fit him well enough.
“American blue jeans,” Mischa mocked.
“Jeans were invented by a German,” Klaus informed him. “A Bavarian named Levi Strauss. He just went to America to do it.” People always credited Americans with German inventions such as blue jeans, hamburgers and automobiles.
“So, Major, which one of you is screwing the other?” Mischa inquired, leering. Klaus glowered at him.
Dorian rolled his eyes. “Breeders. That’s all they ever ask.”
The goon who was holding Dorian at gunpoint poked him with it. “Answer the question, faggot.”
Dorian rolled his eyes again. “Which do you think?”
It was generous of Dorian, Klaus thought. This morning was embarrassing enough already. He didn’t need for the Russians to know the truth about that.
Klaus pulled on the cardigan and stood there casually as if he were alone in the room, not bothering to look directly at any of the Russians. Nor did he look at his lover. They had worked together long enough to understand each other.
The indifference annoyed Mischa, as Klaus had intended. It was clear in his tone when he ordered, “Both of you, get moving. We have a van waiting for you outside.”
Klaus moved toward the door, outwardly resigned, inwardly tense and waiting. Dorian cast a fearful glance around at the Russians. He was hamming it up, but since he always did, it looked natural. As the two of them approached the bedroom door, Dorian huddled close to Klaus as if for reassurance. A second later, the nearest Russian shoved Dorian roughly away from Klaus, but that second had been enough for Dorian to slip the gun to him. Scarcely had the Russian finished shoving before Klaus’s fist connected with his jaw. Before he even had time to stumble, he found himself in front of the Major, facing his comrades, Klaus’s left arm in a vise around his neck, pressing against his windpipe. The others scarcely had time to take aim before Klaus’s .22 shattered Mischa’s right hand, then his left kneecap. Snarling with rage, the huge Russian sank to the floor.
Klaus swiftly dropped the .22 and appropriated the Makarov belonging to his human shield. He aimed it at the KGB agent nearest Mischa and smiled, a sight which as usual unsettled his opponents.
“I’d be just as happy to kill you all,” Klaus said cheerfully, “but procedure says I should at least try to take you alive.”
“Kill him, you cowards!” Mischa snarled. They both glanced at their superior, frightened.
“But sir! He’ll kill Ganya!”
“It is an honor to die for the proletariat!”
Apparently Mischa was alone in this opinion. The other two dropped their weapons, and Ganya visibly relaxed. Thank you, Comrade, Klaus thought. You’ve probably just given me three defectors with that bit of honesty. Klaus kept the Makarov trained on the agent near Mischa. “Disarm him,” he ordered, and the man obeyed. Mischa had to be disarmed; he was an incredibly tough man; it was only a matter of time before he overcame the pain enough to manage an attack even with two bullets in him. If he hadn’t been such a valuable captive, Klaus would have killed him already.
Dorian was standing well out of the way, alert. “Put all the guns into the wardrobe. Then find something to tie up our guests with,” Klaus ordered. Dorian complied. All he was able to find was a couple of extension cords and Klaus’s ties. As he bound the first of the agents, he looked as if he would like to make a joke, but when Klaus met his mischievous glance with a quelling look he restrained himself.
Dorian trussed up the second agent and moved toward Mischa, but Klaus wasn’t going to risk letting Dorian that close to him. “Stop. Give the extension cords to Ganya here,” he ordered, releasing the man’s neck and giving him a little shove. “You, Ganya. Tie the Cub up. And do a good job, unless you want to investigate the communist belief that there is no afterlife.”
Ganya might perhaps have tried something had his superior not been so ready to sacrifice him on the altar of the worker’s paradise. Klaus watched carefully as Mischa was bound and finally had Dorian tie Ganya to a chair. He examined the Russians narrowly, but saw no way any of them could escape. “Eroica. I’m going to check the other rooms. You stand here in the doorway and yell if any of them tries anything.”
“Jawohl, Herr Major.”
“Stop that. You don’t even sound like a soldier.” He quickly donned his shoulder holster with the Magnum and cautiously moved through the cottage, Makarov at the ready. There was only one agent in the living room, and Klaus knocked him out and disarmed him with little trouble. If his alphabets had made a mistake like that, he’d have had them all in igloos before the week was out.
He peered out the window. The only remaining agent he could see was at the wheel of the van, smoking a cigarette. Klaus went into the kitchen, climbed out the window – there was no back door – and circled around behind the van. The driver never had a chance to see him before Klaus yanked the door open and pulled him out, throwing him onto the ground on his back. At a disadvantage, the Russian held up his hands in angry surrender.
“I hate it when you bring work home with you,” Dorian said a couple of minutes later as Klaus herded the two new acquisitions into the bedroom and bound them with their wrists together, back to back.
“What about that time Interpol came pounding on the door of our hotel room looking for that damned Van Gogh?”
“It wasn’t a Van Gogh, it was a Vermeer, and I didn’t even steal it. It was – someone else. Really, if I had done it, do you think they’d ever have traced it to me?”
“Never mind that. You have to get out of here before I can call the nearest NATO office to sweep up the trash. Get your bag and take that Russkie’s camera.”
Dorian obediently started stuffing his belongings into his travel bag. The Russians’ eyes bugged out when they glimpsed the things Dorian pulled out of the drawer of the bedside table. Klaus pretended not to notice. Dorian glanced around dubiously as he zipped up the bag. “I don’t like leaving you alone with all these Cossacks. They’ll tell NATO I was here; I might as well stay.”
Klaus shrugged. “I’ll say they’re lying. Who’ll believe what the KGB says about me? Get that camera. And the film.”
Dorian complied. When he was finished, Klaus walked him out to his flashy red Ferrari. “It is too much to have to deal with the KGB before breakfast,” Dorian announced in a martyred tone.
“Go to that hotel you like in Florence and give your stingy-bug a stroke by ordering one of those huge gourmet breakfasts you like.” Klaus gave him a light shove in the direction of the car’s door.
Dorian shoved back, not quite as lightly, before opening the door. “I’ll wait for you there. Come as soon as you can.”
“We’d better stick to hotels in the future.”
The Earl paused. “I thought you were worried about being seen.”
“I am. But at least the KGB can’t just pull up in front of a hotel in a van and stroll in with Makarovs.”
Dorian kissed him quickly before getting into the car.
“Have a nice day at the office, darling.”