Touch the glowing spheres around the dragon!
Touch the glowing spheres around the dragon!

By Any Other Name

by Kay Reynolds

 

Chapter Ten

 

Sans handcuffs, the two woke up at a more reasonable time the next day - it was still morning - and took off for town with a minimum of delay. There wasn't much point in dawdling, it was either leave or starve.

The streets were still busy in spite of it being a weekday. It was even crowded at the pub where they stopped to stuff themselves with sausage, chips, shepherds pie and, for Dorian, two helpings of trifle. Klaus gawked quietly, unsure as to whether he should be awed or nauseated.

"I can go without for a long time if I have to," Dorian explained, daubing fastidiously at the corners of his mouth with his napkin. "But when it's available and I'm in the appetite, Bonham says I can put it away like a ferret in heat."

"What a lyrical description. I am impressed by Mr. Bonham's accuracy." Klaus sipped at his coffee. It wasn't instant but then, he reasoned, little in life was perfect.

"So, what do you want to do today?" Dorian was distinctly more animated than their last trip into Duxford. Now that he was well fed, he seemed barely able to repress himself from drifting up to the ceiling, carried along by his own, natural buoyancy.

"We must purchase food," Klaus began.

"That won't take but so long." Dorian's eyes fluttered to half mast, the lashes fanning across his cheeks. His smile took on a seductive lilt. "We could go shopping."

"I suppose, if you like." Klaus ground out his cigarette feeling more amused than he thought he should be. "We could go shopping."

The bill was paid quickly then. Klaus made an effort to catch up with Dorian who was already outside on the walk. The thief stood nearly on point, slowly perusing the streets.

"That direction, I believe," Dorian said as soon as Klaus joined him and took off at a quick paced jaunt. He seemed to know exactly where he was going.

Klaus paced alongside, enjoying the exercise. It was still cold out with a promise of more ice in the air, unusual for this time of year. It was more like the beginning of a German winter than an English one. The Major hurtled along, quite content, until he noticed where they were headed.

The antique market loomed up before them like a half-finished palace or a ruin that had seen better days. The front walk was studded with a number of tacky, junk-laden shop fronts which led into a multi-level arcade affair which, Klaus realized, probably encompassed a basement as well. The Major skidded to a halt.

"No! We are not going in there!"

"Now, Klaus, just a minute ago you said we could."

"This is not shopping. This is a preliminary investigation. I will not participate in one of your larcenous operations."

"Darling, I am not planning to knock off any of these shops. These are antique dealers, love. You'll never find a more darling or more deadly lot of two-footed sharks anyplace on earth. I value my hide too much to go against that bunch. All I plan to do here right now is shop - for information." Dorian regarded him, head to one side. "You don't believe me."

"I do not." Klaus lit a cigarette. Laughed. "I love you, yes, but I cannot trust you around these all these trinkets. I will not."

"Oh, dear." Dorian was the picture of a forlorn waif, twisting a stray curl around his finger. "Then how can we ever try to find Sable and Charlie?"

"What?"

"When Charlie introduced Sable, I noticed she was wearing an exquisite Georgian brooch. Not her style at all. I think Charlie might have bought it for her here in Duxford and where else would you look for such a thing than in the antique mart, yes?"

Klaus gazed at him through a tobacco fog. "So what if we do find out that he got it here? What good will that do us?"

"Maybe no good at all." Dorian shrugged. "But then again, we might learn something. Anyway, it would give us something to do. I hate not being able to work."

That the Major could well understand.

"All right, we try it." Klaus thrust his hands in his pockets and turned towards the arcade. "But no light-finger shopping, understand? Or I will make you sorry for it."

"How sorry?" Dorian quizzed, intrigued.

"You do not want to know," Klaus promised grimly. "Let's go."

He followed Dorian into the shop area, letting the Earl take the lead. Klaus watched the transformation, enjoying it. The blond dropped his roguish ways and became every bit the visiting aristo. Heads turned as he made his way through the stalls and shops. Well, they might have turned regardless. Those yellow curls, the red leather jacket and jeans - as tight as the skin on a ripe grape - were certainly eye-catching. Klaus had always found himself watching Dorian move. Yet, in the past, these sightings had brought him nothing but fury and frustration. It was interesting to discover that what he was feeling now was not so dissimilar from his previous reactions.

They made their way into one clutter-laden shop together, Klaus latching the door behind him with a firm hand. Dust motes drifted about in the air, sparkling as they caught the odd shaft of sunlight. Klaus trailed in Dorian's wake, moving relentlessly through a narrow maze of furniture, shelves and precariously stacked odd-lots. They weren't completely alone, of that he was very sure. There was a distinct edge of presence in the room. It finally popped out from behind a counter, every bit as round as it was tall, beaming at them in a way Klaus imagined the troll had grinned at those bridge-crossing goats from the fables.

"Hello, your lordship," the old man said. "Slumming?"

"Good afternoon, Mr. Dainty." Dorian beamed back a bit. "Gone straight, yet?"

"Naw. I'm just as twisted as ever. How's business with you, M'lord?"

"Interesting." Dorian shrugged like a prince. The gesture and word could have meant anything from wretched to splendid. "This is my associate, Major Eberbach."

"Meetcha." Mr. Dainty nodded, gracious as a king in his own domain. "So, you've come to see my stock, have you? Doing a bit of shopping?"

"It's the holidays. Thought we might give it a turn or two while we're in town." Dorian peered down at a tray of tiny, intricately carved figures beneath the glass counter. Then peered back up under a fall of golden curls. "Still palming off agate as antique jade?"

"Just to the tourists, my dove." Mr. Dainty threw back his head in a raucous yet somehow intimate laugh. "Just to the tourists. Pull up now. I'll close shop and brew us up a cuppa. Then we can have a look at some of my really nice treasures."

Klaus scowled. He did not especially like tea and was especially not keen on having any here. Dorian smiled at him while Mr. Dainty trundled through aisles like a tattered bobbing ball bustling towards the shop front.

"These are netsuke," the Earl explained, indicating the masquerading agate. "Absolute marvels of miniature carving. You usually find them in ivory, boxwood, cherry wood, coral or jade. Sometimes they're cast in metal. They were suspended from Japanese obi, used as practical ornamentation - counterbalances for small, compartmentalized cases. Inro - like that one over there."

"Humph." Klaus snorted. "Is that a fake as well?"

Dorian's smile tilted up at one corner. "If it is, it's a very good one and nothing to be ashamed of."

"Well, if these are such wonderful carvings, why not sell them for what they are? Why pretend they are jade?"

"This is an antique shop, a place of exotics. People expect these oriental pieces to be jade, so...." Dorian gave a little shrug. "Jade is easy enough to get nowadays. Only problem is, the common green jade which most people are used to, comes from almost any place except the Orient ... South America, New Zealand, Burma. Of course, it's usually shipped to China and carved there. The Chinese call it `New Mountain Jade.' It's soft and easy to work with, easy to scratch, too. The ancients preferred the more weathered variety. The aged materials were very hard, it took time to carve them, and skill. The pieces couldn't be mass produced." He leaned over and took up one of the netsuke, two Shishi pups twisted at play around a ball. "This is actually quite nice, darling."

"Never mind that lot," Mr. Dainty announced, with a dismissive wave of the hand. "Wait'll you see my beauties."

"Does he know who you are?" Klaus demanded in a hiss. "What you do?"

"Oh, Mr. Dainty is very aware of my vocation." Dorian replaced the dogs, picked up and caressed a long, slim piece of ivory. It was very old and carved to look like a dolphin. "He's one of my better customers."

"Another friend of your family, yes?"

"Yes," Dorian began. "My father met him -"

"In the War, I imagine," Klaus finished with a sneer while Dorian nodded in agreement. "Yes, I guessed as much. Why am I not surprised to hear this? What exactly did you father do in the War, your lordship?"

"Oh..." Dorian turned the dolphin about in his hands. It divided near the head, separating to reveal a concealed blade. "Dad did lots of things ... both before the War and after. He knew a lot of people, kept a lot of friends."

Mr. Dainty plunged back behind the counter and held open a curtained-off alcove. "If you're liking jade, you'll be appreciating one of my new beauties. A cup. Ming. 1368."

The Earl flashed out one of his most seductive smiles. "I can hardly wait," he purred.

Klaus followed them into the back room with extreme reluctance. This couldn't be over with too soon.

Touch the glowing spheres around the dragon!

As the Major expected, the interview took hours. Or, rather, it seemed to take hours. Every chatter-filled minute fell on his ears like an indecipherable, annoying and headache-inducing code. Dorian and Mr. Dainty talked quite a lot about a man named Lovejoy, someone whom Klaus was sure he would not like to know. They rehashed various escapades and deals, each complaining how the other had taken the advantage in their numerous transactions. The Ming cup was brought out and admired. It was tiny, no more than two inches round altogether, climbing to three inches when placed on its bronze, sleeping dragon holder.

"It is so tiny." Klaus turned it about in his hands. The piece seemed to be carved out of a beam of moonlight. "What could you drink out of this?" he wondered aloud only to be met with a horrified expression from Mr. Dainty and a shocked and slightly embarrassed one from the Earl.

"It wasn't meant to be used, darling," Dorian explained quickly. "Its purpose is purely aesthetic."

"What good is a cup if you can drink nothing from it?"

"Not really into collecting, are you, Major?" Mr. Dainty said rescuing his prize.

"No. I am not."

"Major Eberbach is a military man," Dorian said. "His interests run more towards weapons."

"Really? I happened into a pair of lovely tsuba recently. Would you like to see them?"

"Uh, the Major's tastes run more towards tanks and Glocks," Dorian interjected, quickly, trying to forestall the storm clouds brewing in Klaus' vicinity. "Actually, I was hoping that you could help us with some information. I'm trying to trace the purchase of a Georgian brooch, pre-1800, I believe. Silver with a rather lovely garnet center stone, cab-cut."

"Georgian, you say?" Mr. Dainty mused. "That's not really my specialty, you know."

"I know," Dorian agreed. "But I was certain you'd know whose specialty it could be."

"Would this be a recent purchase?"

"Yes. And probably in cash, too. An American buyer, probably using coin of the realm and very savvy. He could have been with a woman."

"A looker, was she?"

"In a tall, dark, viperish sort of way."

The dealer laughed. "Not your type then?"

"Hardly." Dorian returned an arch smile.

"Let me make a few calls," Mr. Dainty said. "I'll be right back. Help yourself to tea."

Klaus studied Dorian as the old collector left the room. "Viper-ish?" he quizzed.

"More like an asp," Dorian said. "Absolutely poisonous. You haven't told me anything about her yet to make me think differently."

Klaus shrugged, settling into his chair, trying to find a comfortable position. He lit a cigarette. "So now we will wait."

"Yes." Dorian spared a brief, fond gaze at the Ming cup, then let his eyes come back to rest on the Major. He rested his elbows on the arms of his chair and steepled his fingers before him. "Ned Dainty is at least as old as god in these parts. He knows everybody in the trade and might procure us a short cut or two. If we find out who sold Charlie the piece, you can pass the information on to the proper lot and we'll have done our part to save the free world. Ta-da." He smiled over his fingertips.

Klaus gave a curt nod and looked away, uneasy at being the focus of the thief's regard. In the past, he would have simply told the man to stop looking at him and followed up with a fist as required. He wasn't sure how to handle these situations now. Those blue eyes left him feeling so ... exposed. "What are `tsuba?'" he demanded instead.

"Hand guards for katanas - Japanese swords. Most of them are quite lovely." Dorian picked up his tea cup, took a sip and set it down again. "There's one designed by Musashi at the Imperial War Museum here in Duxford. It's very old and very beautiful. Or so I've heard."

"I imagine that your sources in that respect are accurate."

"Thank you." The voice was amused. "Perhaps you'd care to see it?"

"Perhaps." At a loss and still uncomfortable, Klaus picked up a tiny enameled box from a nearby table. He turned the battered bit of blue and gold metal about in his hands. "What is this? A Victorian pill box?"

"It's Elizabethan." Dorian made a face. Blushed.

Intrigued now, Klaus investigated closer. "What is its function?"

"It's a flea and louse box." Dorian's complexion flushed a shade closer to his coat. "It's one of Mr. Dainty's prizes."

"He keeps fleas in a jeweled box?" Astonished and somewhat appalled, Klaus continued his examination at arms' length.

"No - no," Dorian said in a rush. "Don't worry, it's empty now. You know how people felt about bathing during the Elizabethan era, they considered it unhealthy. Fleas and lice were quite a common problem. Occasionally, once a couple began courting, as the relationship progressed, they ... well, they ...."

"They picked insects off of each other and kept them in little boxes as mementos of their affair?"

"Yes."

"That is disgusting."

"It was considered the thing to do in that day and age."

"Before there was television and videos," Klaus snickered, absurdly entertained. He peered at the thief in amused disbelief, "No, you are joking about this."

"Have it your way." Dorian returned to his tea, suddenly aloof, insulated by aristocratic airs.

Klaus pried the lid open. Peered inside. Then fumbled. "Oop," he yelped. "Look out!"

The box seemed to leap out of his hands and down the front of Dorian's jacket. The thief reacted on instinct, springing to his feet and brushing frantically at the front of his clothing even though he knew the offending insects had long since departed. He cracked his knee against a frail, spindle-legged table and set several delicate pieces to rocking. Torn between steadying the table, preventing damage and locating the box, Dorian proceeded at a frenzied pace.

The Major collapsed in his chair, stricken. "Look out, those flea-ghosts will claim you!" he guffawed.

"Oh, ha and ha," Dorian snapped. He set shuddering ornaments to rights and located the bits of straying metal.

"You like your period pieces to be all clean and neat and Hollywood, ja?" Klaus jeered, not unaffectionately.

"No, I just don't care for the period vermin. Or the modern lot either. It takes all the romance out of my fantasies thinking about people scratching about and such." Dorian shuddered delicately and sat down again. He placed the enameled box out of the Major's reach. "You're such an ass sometimes. Do you want to hurt Mr. Dainty's feelings by making fun of his prize piece?"

"That is a prize?"

"One of these tiny gems went to auction at Sotheby's last spring. It fetched up a price of twenty four hundred pounds sterling so I'd say it was something of a collectors item."

Klaus gawked, wide eyed.

"No," Dorian said. "Before you ask, I am not joking."

"You people, you collecting people, are insane," the Major concluded, most sincerely.

"Really, darling," the Earl drawled out. "You're only now just noticing? So in what category, do you suppose, does that place you?"

Grimacing, Klaus settled back in his chair. "Among the keepers," he answered, grimly. "Where else?"

Touch the glowing spheres around the dragon!

Even a late supper at a very good Indian restaurant couldn't do much to ease the Earl's disappointment. Dorian tried not to be discouraged. It was silly, actually, to believe they'd find Charlie and Sable on such a tenuous lead. Well, sometimes the puzzle pieces fit together and sometimes they didn't. Mr. Dainty had been able to trace the brooch to its point of purchase but the trail had quickly gone cold from there.

Now, filled with spicy curry and a lovely chilled White Zinfandel, Dorian trailed behind Klaus, wandering along the market aisles trying to work up an interest in food he didn't feel. The Major was taking his frustration in stride which was equally annoying.

"So that is the way it goes," Klaus said. "They tried tracing Kello from that other shop as well, from Mrs. Lynn's, but they discovered nothing. At this time, we do not even know if Kello and Volovoi are still in the city. If I were in their position, I would have left."

"What if they can't leave?" Dorian asked.

"My people continue to explore that possibility." The Major scanned a stack of canned goods, made a military decision, then moved on. "Still, it is difficult to believe their objective could be in Duxford. If they were on holiday, it is now suicidal to stay. If they have had to meet with someone, that could have been accomplished already or, what is more likely, their rendezvous could have been postponed or rearranged."

"Charlie was concerned enough to make his way out to the safehouse and warn me off."

"Perhaps he did not want you following after him." Klaus paused and, this time, he looked at Dorian. "There is no other place you can think of where we might check his whereabouts?"

"He said something about visiting an exhibition at the Imperial War Museum but, since he was playing at his tourist-and-the-little-woman act, I didn't take him seriously."

"Anything else?"

Dorian shook his head. "Charlie's never been easy to keep track of. Generally, he's the one to guess when you need him, not the other way around."

"Then do not concern yourself. You have done all you can."

"I'm not worried exactly," Dorian returned slowly. "I just hate not knowing, not being able to puzzle it out."

"As I have told you before, this is work - it is not a game. You must not take it so personally."

"You do."

"Because it is my job."

"Well, what am I supposed to be then?" Dorian demanded, irritably. "Some sort of tagalong, an innocent bystander or what?"

Klaus paused and studied the thief for a longer minute. His expression remained carefully neutral although green eyes had gone quite intense. "I have never been exactly sure of what you are, Dorian Red. I am less certain now than ever," he said. "However, the word `innocent' does not immediately leap to mind."

A smile that was almost a grin cracked through the Major's stern exterior. Dorian felt his stomach muscles tighten and go all hungry again.

"Let's find those supplies and get the hell out of here, all right?" he suggested.

Klaus nodded. "So help me look."

Dorian tried to concentrate although it was difficult to completely dismiss the day's activities. Throughout the late afternoon, they had pursued leads from the antique market with all the enthusiasm of hounds on the chase, not that it had actually accomplished anything except to fill time. But then, Dorian mused, he had seen one or three rather lovely things in the shops. He considered a moment, then shook it off. No, it was best to stay on the good side of the dealers, they had far too many interests in common.

At one point during the day, Dorian had wandered off on his own while Klaus performed official things with official people. A call to home quarters had been in order. No surprises there, all seemed to be in order, except that Mr. James wasn't speaking to him. Dorian tempered his distress with the understanding that, when his Stingy Bug finally decided it was time to chat again, he would be in for a non-stop tirade that might take days to hear out. Get real, the Earl corrected himself. We're talking weeks at least ... if he'll ever run down. James is not exactly the most forgiving type.

"What are you sighing about back there?" Klaus demanded, marching into the produce section. "Did your dinner not agree with you?"

"My dinner was excellent." Dorian plucked up a fat, purple grape and munched it down. "No, I'm was thinking about...." He stopped and grinned. "Well, actually, I was thinking about your in-laws."

"What?" It was a sound of distress.

"Mr. James is not going to be happy about our recent ... development. As for the rest of my staff -"

"What about them? Why should we have to tell them anything?"

"Not `we,' love - me. Although it's lovely of you to offer."

"Offer? I did not offer anything."

"Come now, darling, you can't expect them not to guess or for us to try to hide it from them." Dorian helped himself to another grape. The fruit was delicious and quite hit the spot. He looked around for strawberries. "Don't you trust your people?"

"I trust my people," Klaus snapped. "But I did not expect to be sending out announcements." He batted at Dorian's grape-filching fingers. "Stop that, you thief. That is stealing."

"How else are you going to tell if they're good or not?"

"It is stealing."

Dorian regarded the ceiling. "So I'll take care of it at the check out."

"How will you do that? Did they weigh you coming in? Will they be weighing you going out?"

"Balls, Major, get a grip. It's just a grape."

"It was not just one grape. It was at least three grapes."

"It was only two - and now it's a cherry, too," Dorian returned. He picked one up and dangled it, teasingly, before his lips. He made quite a show of eating it.

"Ha - now there is evidence," Klaus crowed. "What will you do with the stone?"

Dorian didn't take a moment to act. "There's only one thing to do," he said darkly. "Leave a false trail."

He grabbed Klaus by the lapels of his coat and pulled him in close and hard. The Major's protest was buried beneath expert lips and tongue. Afterwards, the thief danced back quickly, ducking under a well-placed fist.

"The ball's in your court, darling," Dorian laughed. "Or, rather, the stone. Swallow that one - if you can!"

Livid, Klaus mustered his dignity. He pulled out a very clean pocket handkerchief, held it to his lips and coughed once. Discreetly. He replaced the linen with as much self-control as he could generate. There were only a few shoppers in the area but they continued to stare regardless.

The Major's expression registered through Dorian's laughter. He sobered quickly. "Now, Klaus," he began. "Think a minute, will you? There are witnesses."

"They cannot save you." The Major's fist closed on Dorian's jacket front. They regarded each other - very close. "You cannot behave like this with me where others can see," he hissed. "You idiot!"

Dorian experienced one fleeting moment of utter panic. The next thing he was aware of was cold, darkening twilight. He seemed to be leaning over the car. Even the loosest definition wouldn't name the action as standing.

"Can you hear me?" Klaus was asking.

Dorian shuddered. The voice racketed through his aching head. He lifted a hand to his face.

"Stay here by the car," the Major growled. "I will finish paying for the groceries and the damages."

Dorian placed both palms down on the fender when Klaus left, bracing himself up. His head was still swimming, his eyes teared and all the outside lights looked like sparkly-blurs. He didn't like being hit. He especially hated being slapped, it was such a contemptuous act. And, of course, no one knew how to dish out shame like Klaus von Eberbach. Dorian scowled and felt his jaw ache more fiercely for it. He sucked in a cautious breath, caught his lip between his teeth. It didn't make any difference that he'd probably deserved it, going all light headed, acting the clown again. That understanding just made him feel more stupid. He didn't like feeling stupid, either.

Serve him right if I left, Dorian thought and swallowed back tears. If I just walked off and said to hell with it. He could call Bonham to send a car; London was less than an hour away. Better still, he could hire one himself and be home even more quickly.

Still frowning, Dorian pushed himself up and settled his backside against the car, resolutely facing away from the store. He folded his arms over his chest and thought dark thoughts, not the least of which was how humiliating it was that his feet refused to carry him away towards a phone. It seemed he could not quite make himself go.

If you had any sense at all.... He scolded himself fiercely, then cut that line of thought and searched for cigarettes. But that's the problem, isn't it? he thought, lighting up. You haven't got any sense. None at all. Dorian sighed and blew out a stream of spicy smoke and frosted breath. Get off it, you ass, the thought process continued relentlessly. He's not a prize in a game show, he's a man. Supposedly the man you love - Klaus is not a fool and he's not to be trifled with.

Dorian finished his cigarette and ground it out with the toe of his boot. His eyes were still very bright. But I'm not a dog or a child to be cuffed about whenever he feels like it either.

Eventually, Klaus reappeared, this time leading a line of bearers carrying an assortment of bags and boxes. Dorian's eyes widened, impressed.

"Are you preparing for a siege?" he asked, genuinely curious.

Klaus unlocked the car doors, reaching inside to pull the latch for the trunk. "Get in," he said curtly. "You look like you are about to fall over."

A flash of anger returned. "You're not even sorry, are you?"

"Just get inside the car."

Dorian thought about it. Then decided he'd had enough of market scenes for the day. Fighting in private was better, the making up was so much more stimulating. We are always going to fight, Dorian warned himself. Don't know why you ever thought that would stop. Still....

The Earl started to shake his head, then thought better of it. He slid into the car and closed the door. Settling in the darkened vehicle, his hand brushed against a small, hard, square surface. He closed his fingers on the object and brought it up to eye level. A tiny smile played over his lips. It was a small, white gift box tied with a bit of red ribbon. He gave it a shake, heard a definite rattle from within.

Klaus finished up with the groceries, locked the trunk and got in at the driver's side. "We will talk when we get back to the safehouse." He paused momentarily. Dorian was now smiling at him with vast approval - which struck a very odd note. He couldn't remember the thief ever responding this pleasantly after a physical altercation and couldn't believe that the recent change in their relationship would bring about such a development. Perhaps he had finally rattled those odd brains loose. Klaus hesitated, keys jangling from his fingers. "I do not like hitting you," he said quietly. "But if I must, I will do it. We cannot behave as ... as lovers, not in public."

"Why spoil the illusion? Tons of people believe we've been getting it on together for ages," Dorian protested.

"But they do not know, not for sure." Klaus frowned. "They cannot know about us," he insisted, determined. "They must not."

Dorian stiffened, uncomfortably. "Is it that dreadful someone might think you're one of those people? A faggot?" The word sounded particularly ugly coming from his lips. "Klaus, there are plenty of homosexual men and women in service all over the world. Look at your chief. You'd need a score card to keep up with the bed partners that one goes through. He has quite an eye for pretty men - you have to agree."

"No ... you don't understand."

"You're right. I don't think I do." Dorian smiled and shook his head, suddenly very near tears again. Still, he didn't have much heart to fight, Klaus sounded almost defeated. He'd never heard that tone of voice from his Major before. "But don't get your hopes up. It doesn't mean I'll stop loving you." He reached out and covered Klaus's hand with his own. "Sorry, it doesn't work that way."

The Major pulled away. "People will see us," he said, stiffly.

"People always do. Or hadn't you noticed?"

"I try not to."

Better, Dorian thought, relieved. Klaus was sounding only weary and aggravated now - which was much more acceptable. Dorian returned to his gift. He gave the box another rattle and tugged at the bow string.

Klaus glanced at him, placing the key in the ignition. "What have you got there?" he asked. "Not another miniature tea cup?"

Dorian froze - only briefly. In the next breath, his hand darted out and locked onto Klaus' wrist. "This didn't come from you?" Blue eyes were bright with alarm. "You didn't toss this in for me to find when you unlocked the door?"

"No," Klaus returned. "That is not your purchase?" The frown deepened. "What have you stolen today?"

"Two grapes and a cherry."

"Open the box."

Dorian complied. He found a note first, folded over and lying across the top. Held it so Klaus could read it, too.

`You admired this so much, we both thought we should let you have it,' the choppy print advised. It was signed, simply, `Charlie and Sable.'

Beneath the tissue lay Sable's Georgian brooch. The garnet glistened in the streetlight like a drop of blood.

"Get out of the car," Klaus snapped. "Now."

Adrenalin soaring, Dorian got out. They dashed away from the vehicle, regarding it with keen expectation some yards away. When the quiet persisted, Klaus walked back. Dorian followed behind, standing by his side when the Major popped the hood and peered within. Dorian took out a small flashlight and played it over the engine.

The motor looked just the way it should, all the plugs and belts, bolts, filters and gears properly in place. It was a fine example of German engineering, immaculately clean and efficient looking - except it smelled like marzipan which was completely inappropriate. And, of course, the explosives and the copper wiring didn't really fit in either.

Dorian knew about explosives even though he never used them, It was necessary knowledge in his line of work. This was a simple set up, rigged to blow the second the engine fired. From what he knew of it, he reasoned that there was enough semtex rigged up to take out the Mercedes and a good chunk of the market place as well.

"Will you look at this?" Dorian said. He sounded almost pleased. "Apparently, Charlie and Sable are still here in Duxford."

"I am thinking the same. What a quick and agile intellect you have, mein kleiner Dieb." The wolf was grinning, too.

"You're smiling at me," Dorian observed. "Best have a care, love. People are watching, we've got witnesses again."

"Ach...." Klaus shrugged. "I will shoot them later."

 




Quietsiren Design

Home Back Next Email