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

By Any Other Name

by Kay Reynolds

 

Chapter Five

 

It felt wonderful to be leaving the city behind. Klaus kept to the back roads, away from the main highway heading into the Essex countryside. It was late afternoon and the sun was trying to make a last minute appearance prior to nightfall. Dorian dozed in the passenger seat beside him, propped up against the door, arms folded loosely across his chest.

Bonham had arrived at the hotel earlier with the requested bag - or bags to be precise. Klaus had waited, not too impatiently he thought, while the two had participated in a longer than usual conference. The Earl's lieutenant had not been eager to see his employer going off alone with the Major. Klaus, of course, had not said or done anything to defuse the stocky rogue's anxieties.

"You are not helping," Dorian accused as they loaded luggage into the trunk of the Mercedes.

"I beg your pardon?" Klaus said, too smug to even try for innocence.

"Keep smiling like that and you'll have the whole lot of them out searching for shallow graves within the hour."

"So, they think I am planning to do you in at last, do they?" Klaus asked. It was not a discomforting thought.

"Something like that," Dorian purred. "So if you don't want us to be trailed all the way from here to kingdom come...."

"I promise I will not kill the Earl in Duxford," Klaus growled at Bonham.

"Or anywhere else along the way," Bonham snapped back, determined.

"As you say." Klaus sighed, defeated. He climbed into the car and waited for Dorian to join him. The Earl got in and turned in his seat to wave good-bye to his trusty lieutenant. Klaus started the engine and took off. He didn't bother waving.

Minutes later, they were on the road. Asphalt stretched out between double walls of buildings and trees. The car was huge, invincible; it ate up the miles like a super-tank. Klaus cranked the window down a bit and felt the blast of a winter chill against his skin. Dorian pulled his coat more tightly around him and cushioned himself comfortably against the door, curling his leg beneath him.

"Are you cold?" Klaus asked.

"No. I like it," Dorian said softly and went silent - which Klaus very much appreciated. Well, the thief could be like that sometimes. Companionable. Professional. He took direction well enough when he had a mind to; he knew how to pull his own weight, keep his mouth shut. When he was forced to admit the truth, Klaus understood that Dorian was an able team member as well as an innovative and independent operative. The thief could be trusted on a mission. Most times.

As much as Klaus would ever trust anyone.

The outlying cityscape began to give way to less metropolitan scenery. It wasn't much more than an hour's drive from London to Duxford. The trip was only a shade longer than the travel time between West and East Germany. There had been a period in Klaus' life when that journey had been a frequent trip on his agenda. Excursions to back and forth behind the Wall, to Vladivostok, Gdansk and Moscow had taken longer but they had all gone pretty much the same in the end. Klaus remembered driving on those missions himself; he remembered piloting low flying planes and sometimes even trolling about like one of Snow White's dwarves through various tunnels and hidden passageways.

Except his team had consisted of six men instead of seven and not one of them could have been mistaken for a dwarf. Always, first, there was the Mouser, small and brown, wiry and fast - able to sniff out a path or a trap with his eyes closed. Mouser had always been companioned by Erich Karlsson, handsome Erich who always kept a woman - or three or four - because he could not help the fact that he was so charming. Then there was der Professor, Selig Zugelder, and Ludek Froehler, their man of muscle. Klaus was the youngest and newest member of the team; he remained so until the last. Young Klaus specialized in weapons and was usually paired up with their oldest member, their team leader, Major Rudolph Löwen. The dark Iron Wolf and the luminous Lionheart, they had made a good team.

"No loose ends - everybody goes home," that's what Löwen would always promise at the beginning of every mission. "Everybody goes home," that's what he said at the conclusion of every assignment. And so it had gone from the moment Klaus von dem Eberbach had accepted his first commission into the army and for the next five years afterwards.

Now there was only Iron Klaus left to carry on Rudy Löwen's credo. It didn't matter that the Major kept that vow to himself. What mattered was that everyone went home in the end, all his alphabets, all his hirelings.

Dorian murmured something and shifted position. The sunset bathed the curve of his cheek and brow in brilliant gold, it turned his hair into a flaming corona of curls. Dorian dreamed; his eyelids flickered with some hidden vision, the black velvet-lace of his lashes fluttered briefly. He was so different from Major Löwen. There were no grounds for comparison between them.

And yet there were times....

Klaus shook his head, concentrating on other matters. He remembered how, on that last trip behind the Wall, he had dozed, wedged against the side door while Löwen drove. Perhaps much as Dorian was sleeping now. It had been springtime then, the land green and sweet-smelling with the promise of summer to come. German spring's brought such a radical change in mood and climate, so exhilarating after the stark, blue-white cold of winter. Klaus had felt no concern at the time, no tremor of misfortune. Only relief at re-joining the team and escaping annoying family obligations. His natural pessimism had been eased by the warming weather. Besides, it was the sort of assignment his team had successfully pulled off dozens of times - not that they had treated this one with any less concern. Still, Klaus had felt enough trust, enough confidence in himself and in Löwen to allow himself to daydream as they made their way past the stops and starts that took them behind the Wall and into enemy territory.

Had he ever slept as well since? Despite all his trademark bravado, Klaus had certainly never felt as self-assured. He couldn't afford that kind of mistake again. A smile washed over his face as a singular wave of self-loathing arrowed home. Klaus never thought about that last mission over the Wall if he could help it. Subsequently, he could never forget it. Could never let it go.

And now, Dorian Red with his supreme impetuousness and ingenious naiveté wanted to bring it all out into the open. Just like that. Klaus could have laughed - and driven them straight off the road and into the nearest tree. He took the turn into Duxford instead, stabbing out his cigarette in the ash tray, decelerating abruptly.

The thief started and came awake. Dorian righted himself in his seat and gazed around with sleep-heavy eyes.

"Are we at the house yet?"

"Nein," Klaus' answer was curt. "We are in Duxford. I am thinking we should stop for supplies before we go to the cabin. Unless you want to eat c-rations all the time while we are there."

"No thank you." The Earl shuddered delicately. He yawned and stretched out his sleep-cramps as far as the space inside the car would allow him. "I seem to be doing a lot of this - sleeping. It feels divine."

Klaus made no reply although he allowed his face to relax back into its usual scowl.

"Oh, look." Dorian peered about at the streets and buildings. "They've put up the Yule greenery. You can smell it everywhere. Isn't it wonderful? It's so marvelously pagan. I love these natural decorations."

"What is natural about cutting down a lot of defenseless trees and sticking them about inside the houses?"

"Define `defenseless.'" Blue eyes sparkled, very amused.

"Well, there they are, the trees in the woods, bothering no one. Then some person with an ax comes and chops them down and puts them inside some room where they do not belong and covers them with tin foil and glass." Klaus shrugged, eloquently. "What can they do about it?"

"They can fall on the ax-wielder while he's chopping them down. They can trip you up and cause you to stumble down a hill and break a leg or arm or two. They can stick you with nasty little green needles which then become infected. Then it's off to hospital with you for the holiday, tra-la."

Klaus regarded the Earl with grave suspicion. "You are making fun of me again," he said.

"I'm not mocking you, darling." Dorian's smile was soft in the coming twilight. "It's called teasing. And this is a stupid conversation."

"Ja. It is."

"Well, look out there. We've agreed on something."

A dark brow dropped down over one green eye, the other lifted high. "Do not let it go to your head," Klaus advised sternly.

"Have you ever seen Christmas in the States?" Dorian asked, changing tracks as they scanned for a place to stop.

"Yes. I have." The Major's voice was grim.

"Interesting, isn't it? Sort of like an all-over Las Vegas in shades of red and green with a chorus line of jolly fat men instead of ladies in feathers," Dorian mused. "How about that shop over there?"

Klaus slowed the car, gazing at the store in question. "Looks expensive," he said.

"Oh, yes. It just sends off the most delicious vibrations, doesn't it? Cheese, wine, scones...."

"Won't your Stingy Bug complain?"

"Absolutely. When he finds out. But he's in a great state of anguish and cannot be disturbed just now."

"I wondered why he did not come to see you off with Bonham and the others." Klaus parked the car. "I was very glad not to see him. Still, I wondered where he was."

"You don't really want to know." Dorian got out of the car.

Klaus' curiosity began to escalate towards distress. "Mr. James will not be arriving later?"

"No." Dorian sighed. Shook his head. He jammed his hands in his pockets and rolled his eyes heavenward in a mixture of supplication and frustration. "Mr. James is convinced that you and I have finally done the deed. Bonham tells me he is not to be consoled and is wallowing about in some extreme state back at the castle - and having the time of his life. The rest of the crew have ordered out and have tapped the wine cellar in celebration."

"Done what deed?"

"It," Dorian said, significantly.

"What?" Klaus insisted, baffled.

"What people usually do in hotel rooms."

The Major scowled, annoyed. "I do not understand why you cannot just speak plainly to me. These unnecessary evasions-"

Dorian grabbed Klaus' scarf and jerked him in close. He leaned over and whispered briefly in the Major's ear. Let Klaus go and stepped back. The colors that proceeded to dance over the Major's face rivaled Las Vegas at New Years. The purple bit was extremely interesting.

"What?!" Klaus roared. "What?!" That one word was the most comprehensible of the several the Major chose to vent at that point. Arms waving, winter air blistering, Klaus stalked away scattering a trio of children playing ball with their puppy in the parking lot. Dorian watched him continue down the street. The Major was easy to track for some distance just from the sound of his voice - as well as the clusters of shoppers who darted out of his way in droves. The Earl smiled and lit up one of his fragrant brown cigarettes.

Well, whatever was eating you raw seems to have disappeared for a while, hasn't it, love? Dorian reflected. He leaned against the Benz and watched the darkness settle in like a velvet comforter. The children went back to their games; the crowds jostled them-selves back to window-shopping. Dorian took in a great breath of spicy smoke and released it. The tip of his cigarette glowed, a tiny matchlight in the night. He paused for a moment, caught by the ember of that little flame.

Bright light, night light.... Dorian's attempt at rhyming humor became another sigh. `Warmth, warmth, more warmth! for we are dying of cold and not of darkness. It is not the night that kills, but the frost.' De Unamuno was right. The frost of the heart, the soul - it always prefaced an end. `To fall into a habit is to begin to cease to be.' And his Major was well locked into his habits, wasn't he? The habit of isolation and unrelenting self-judgment.

Dorian flicked his cigarette into the street and let it burn. Turned his back and walked into the store. He could not bear to see it extinguished.

Touch the glowing spheres around the dragon!

The store manager, Mrs. Lynn, was a darling woman, exhibiting the perfect combination of homely charm and professional acumen. She took one look at the Earl as he entered her shop and instantly insisted on brewing up a late tea. It was just as well. Dorian knew he would end up with a spot of time on his hands waiting for Klaus to cool down. At any rate, he was happy to find that his instincts had been right on target again. Mrs. Lynn's store was a treasure trove of palatable delights and he enjoyed having the opportunity to sample and choose at his leisure.

"Wait until you try this goose liver paté," Mrs. Lynn cooed in her gravel-coated tones. "It's covered in such a lovely truffle aspic."

Dorian accepted the offered tidbit with a mixture of bliss and apprehension. He hoped it wouldn't prove to be too irresistible. His senses were on overload and he had already purchased much more food than even he could justify as necessary.

"As you can see, it's nearly a pudding as opposed to a true paté,"

Mrs. Lynn continued. "But isn't it positively sinful? And, of course, it's just the thing for that lovely Beaujolais you've picked out. I know - the experts would probably recommend a Bordeaux or Cabernet, but I feel this requires something a tad more delicate, something lighter to complement. It's so rich."

"Stop, you fiend," Dorian protested, laughing. "I can't swallow another bite. How will I ever load all this in the car...?" He shook his head, despairing.

She tossed him an imperious frown. "Them that can't make room for the finer things in life just don't deserve to have them."

"Mrs. Lynn," Dorian announced. "You are the last word in temptation."

"Well, you know what they say," a hale American voice boomed out behind them. "The devil was an angel, too."

"Wicked Charlie, good evening to you." Mrs. Lynn's cheeks dimpled like a girl's. It was not an unflattering look for her. "Up to no good as usual?"

"When I'm in the company of such a darling woman as yourself, it's all I can do to control myself."

The old lady didn't blush, she'd been the object of such high-flown flattery before. However, her dimples deepened appreciatively. She welcomed the newcomer up to the counter.

As for himself, Dorian knew that voice. He knew that name, too, and wondered if the bearer would own up to the rest of it - expatriate American, Charlie Kello, a legendary dealer in illegal arms. The Earl placed his teacup on the counter and turned about.

"Hello, Charlie," Dorian said. "It's been a while hasn't it?"

"Too long," the man agreed, accepting the offered handshake. He wouldn't use Dorian's name in public either until they were alone. "How've you been?"

"Good. And you?"

"Splendid. Excellent. Couldn't be better." That seemed to be true. Charlie clapped his hand on Dorian's shoulder while he pumped his hand. From any other person, the hale-and-hearty would have been too much but these grand gestures had always suited Charlie's robust personality. And, of course, Dorian spotted the black haired woman standing just behind the American's elbow. That meant another story was lurking about. The Earl would have wagered money that Charlie Kello was in love again.

Dorian wondered what her specialty was. Surveillance? Assassination? Terrorism? She had the look. He was suddenly reminded of people who kept spitting cobras as pets. Kello had always played with a rougher crowd than Dorian had ever been comfortable with.

Charlie exchanged a few additional pleasantries with Mrs. Lynn, then led Dorian towards the rack of Hungarian wines where they could speak more candidly.

"It is good to see you again, my boy," Charlie insisted in the genuine affection that had endeared him to so many - even while he was providing the weaponry and explosive devices to take out a vehicle, a business, a village in Africa, a barracks on the Palestinian border. Charlie's was a non-denominational organization and anyone with the right amount of capital was a welcome disciple.

"It's lovely to see you, too," Dorian agreed.

Kello bathed him in one of his great, ear to ear grins. "When are you going to give up your life of law, stop toiling about for NATO and come to work for me, Eroica?"

"Never." Dorian grinned back. "Your affairs are much too final for the likes of me. You know how fond I am of beautiful things. I can't say as how I'm that keen on blasting them to bits. Or people either."

"Now, you know I'd never use a man of your talents for any of the rough stuff. Come on, we'd have such a time of it. You're the best at security penetration I've ever known. A hell of a cracksman. Positively gifted. Better, even, than your Dad."

"Charlie ... we've had this discussion before. I'm afraid I've still got to pass," Dorian insisted with firm courtesy. "Yes, I know you knew my father and you worked in the resistance together. But you've gone far beyond all that. I can't begin to guess what you'd want me for. I don't know if I want to." The Earl smiled, hoping to soften his rejection. "Surely you've done well enough for yourself by now. I'll wager there are whole countries that aren't as well off as you are."

"It's not the money as you very well know," Charlie said. "It's the game."

"Your sort of game is far too rich for my tired old aristo blood." Dorian shook his head. His diversions had never resulted in genocide. "Besides, you know what I'm like with modern weaponry."

"I seem to recall a tank somewhere in your collection."

"Charlie, darling, give it up on me."

"Well, at least I tried. Again," Kello said, regretfully. "You're not too put out with me are you?"

"Of course not." Dorian laughed. "It never hurts to let a fellow know he's still wanted."

"You are an aristocrat?" the woman spoke up at last. Her voice reeked of Russian vodka and Moscow midnights.

"Of one of the very oldest British families. His relatives predate the Norman invasion. Probably welcomed those Frenchmen to the shore and relieved them of their valuables - and their hearts - all at the same time." Charlie placed his arm around her and drew the woman forward. "Eroica, let me introduce Sable Volovoi. My new partner."

"A pleasure." Dorian offered his hand, retreating as quickly as courtesy allowed. Volovoi looked too predatory to encourage a lingering touch. But then Charlie had always liked his women vampish, dangerous and capable. He liked to spend money on them, too.

"What a marvelous Georgian brooch," Dorian said. "I've always liked the cabochon cut on a garnet. They're such underrated stones. Faceting makes them look as cheap as red glass."

"Charlie gave it to me," Sable said. A smile flashed like heat lightning across her serious Russian face and vanished just as quickly.

"Charlie always did have marvelous taste," Dorian said. He began to wonder when Klaus would return. Surely the Major had achieved cool-down by now.

"Don't be fooled by that angelic smile, Sable, my dear. I'm afraid my friend Eroica has more of an eye for your jewels than ... anything else."

"What an insulting remark," Dorian purred. "I wouldn't lust after just any old jewel."

Laughing again, Charlie missed his lady's inquiring glance. Dorian regarded them both inquisitively. Charlie looked marvelously rugged in his tweeds and boots. His thick brown hair had grayed at the temples; his warm, dark eyes were surrounded by a nest of laugh-lines. He appeared quite the visiting squire. As a boy, Charlie Kello had worked with Dorian's father. For a time, the American had been a permanent guest at the family estates. But the Earl had to wonder. Had Charlie always been such a cheery purveyor of carnage? It was hard to believe some of the stories that circulated about him but Dorian knew for a fact that most of them were true.

Standing beside him, Sable Volovoi was a stark contrast in attitude. She wore one of those simple but expensive black dresses beneath her fur-lined coat. The look was elegantly understated and copied item for item from the latest Italian Vogue. The only unique piece in her wardrobe was Charlie's brooch. She was years younger than her American lover but the set of her jaw, the glint in her eye, even the way she held herself made Dorian doubt that she had ever called herself any man's daughter. There was an alien quality about her that transcended any clash of cultures or ideology.

What kind of partner is she supposed to be? Dorian wondered. Partner in bed and crime of course, but ... oh, Charlie, I'd look out for this one. What have you gotten yourself paired up with now?

Lost in speculation, he didn't hear Kello's next question.

"I beg your pardon?" Dorian asked.

"Just wondering what you were up to in Duxford," Charlie repeated.

"Would you believe I'm planning to abscond with Mrs. Lynn's recipe for paté?"

"No." Charlie's grin tightened.

"It's the truffle aspic that really does it for me," Dorian confided to Sable Volovoi.

She didn't smile at all.

"Seriously," the American persisted. "Are you here for the Air Show or what?"

"Air Show?"

"There's a branch of the Imperial War Museum here where they house dozens of antique aircraft. There's quite a few vintage World War II planes," Charlie explained. "Restored fighters. They've even dredged up and outfitted a glorious old Lancaster."

"Is that so?"

"There's going to be something of a spectacle to launch the holiday season, a genuine Air Show. That's why the crowd." Charlie smiled again. "Sable's going to get her ear bent listening to my old war stories."

"I'm here on holiday, too." Dorian offered out. "Just passing through, actually. I wasn't planning to stay in town."

"Too bad. We could have spent some time together. Where's the entourage?"

"Back in London."

"That's odd. You never travel alone."

"I didn't say I was." Dorian frowned. He took out a cigarette and lit it up. "Really, Charlie. What's with the third degree?"

"Excuse me, M'lord," Mrs. Lynn called from the counter. "There's no smoking in here."

"Right you are," Dorian agreed and made his way towards the door. "Pardon me," he advised Charlie and Sable. "I'll just step outside."

The Earl slipped through the door to the sidewalk with the sense of escape. His intuitions rarely failed him; this time it was screaming that outside was best.

The streetlights were on and the holiday decorations cast their unique shadows about. The traffic on the walk and the streets was still fairly thick. The children were still playing toss-ball in the parking lot. Their puppy yipped and scurried about with the inexhaustible, clumsy speed of those who are discovering the world for the first time. Farther down the street, Dorian noted a man walking head and shoulders above the rest of the crowd. Klaus von dem Eberbach moved through the shoppers, tourists and natives like a boulder rolling through a meadow. He carried a full case of dark German beer with all the strain another man would have used to lift the Sunday post.

"That's Iron Klaus," Charlie said. The pair had followed Dorian outside.

The Earl smiled and nodded.

"I thought you said you were on holiday?" Kello continued.

Before Dorian could answer, a short and potentially ugly series of events began to unfold before their eyes. A leather-clad punk boy crossing through the parking lot with his mates caught the children's ball as it bounced past. He didn't actually have to make an effort, it just bounced up as if thrown to him. He held it briefly, studying it with flinty-eyed scorn while the puppy shrilled, demanding, at his feet. One of his mates made some half-snarled, derisive comment. Then, with the single-minded and instantaneous cruelty that is born to certain creatures, the youth turned and hurled the ball into the street, straight into the busy traffic. The puppy dashed after it.

Dorian shouted, protesting, warning - too late - and started forward. One of the children, a little girl, screamed. The prankster shared a laugh with his mates. No one else seemed to notice. All around them, people went about their business without a glance.

Except for Klaus, he had seen the action, too. The Major hefted his packages under one arm and lengthened his stride. He stepped out onto the street, leaned down and scooped the animal up in a one-hand catch. Then he returned to the sidewalk and completed his journey to the storefront. Klaus deposited the beer on top of the trunk of the Mercedes and dropped the puppy back into its owne'rs arms. He spared a quick acknowledgment of Dorian, murmured, "Excuse me," and crossed over to have a talk with the young men in the parking lot.

Dorian fairly glowed.

"Isn't he magnificent?" the Earl murmured - to no one in particular, actually. It was just something he felt needed saying. However, Charlie Kello and Sable Volovoi were there to catch it.

"Not bad," the American admitted.

Sable said nothing but, glancing at her, Dorian saw the heat lightning had returned to her eyes. He couldn't suppress a shiver.

Meanwhile, Klaus commenced his `discussion' with the young man in leather, locking his fists onto the youth's jacket front. It was impossible to hear what the Major was saying in his low-voiced growl, but the listener had gone positively rapt with attention. The youth's pasty complexion was going paler with every passing second; his eyes kept growing larger and more round. His friends seemed fascinated as well.

"So you've finally captured the German stiff," Charlie said.

"Nobody captures the Major." It was Dorian's turn to go bristly. "It's always the other way around. As you can see."

"Absolutely. You know, we'd love to stay and chat more but...." The American nodded in Klaus' direction. "We're not on friendly terms just now."

Dorian watched Charlie and Sable disappear into the crowd with more than a little misgiving. His intuitive bells were clanging like a siren. He wished he could have had some time alone with Kello, just a moment to drop a word of caution or two. What the hell was he up to now - and why did it have to be here of all places?

The Earl heard the small, distinctive sound of breaking bones followed by a lusty, deep-throated wail. He turned about again to spy the Major delivering a few complimentary disciplines - an elbow to one tough's lower jaw, a fist to another's stomach. Klaus kicked the feet out from under the last one and stepped on him as he headed back to the car, dusting off his hands.

Dorian sighed. Had Nijinsky ever been as graceful in delivery - or effective as his Major? The leather-boy had launched into a little dance amongst the other parked vehicles, clutching his ball-throwing hand to his chest and shrieking tearful obscenities.

Dorian continued beaming as Klaus opened the car door. The Major put his beer in the back seat, dropped a couple of cartons of cigarettes on top.

"Well, hello, darling," the Earl said, brightly. "Feeling better now?"

Touch the glowing spheres around the dragon!

"Stop looking at me like that," Klaus snapped. He was behind the wheel again.

"Like what?" Dorian asked, all innocence.

"You know like what. Stop it."

"This is not an expression of lust if that's what you're thinking. This is the look of pure admiration."

"There is a difference?"

The Earl laughed. "At this stage of the game? Probably not." However, to be agreeable, Dorian turned his attentions to the passenger side-window where he proceeded to address the passing scenery. "I thought the way you rescued that little dog was amazing. You saved the day, Major. Well, at least the moment. And I'm certain those bastards will think twice before they try that sort of thing again."

"Or make more effort to keep their evil hidden. They will not be so anxious for an audience next time."

"Do you really think those boys were evil?" Dorian turned wide blue eyes towards the Major again.

"What else would you call it?" Klaus navigated the twisting roads. It had become quite dark and he needed to concentrate on his driving. Besides, he was determined to ignore the Earl's attentions.

"I don't know ... an impulse?" Dorian frowned. "Perhaps someone has treated him badly and we saw the result of it. I'm sure he didn't take up that kind of thing overnight."

"That is probably true - but what of it?" Klaus spoke with intense concern. "How do you explain why one mistreated child will grow up and never indulge in such actions and why another will surpass his abuser? What about children who are not mistreated at all and grow up to be monsters? Where do they all come from, Jacques Mesrine, Gundolf Köhler, Ted Bundy, the Kray brothers, Brian Keenan, Alice Crimmins - Victor Marsh - all of them? If we had a formula to tell us what to do to prevent these things, I think we would follow it. I hope we would."

Klaus searched for the upcoming turn. He glanced towards Dorian, captured by the Earl's continued silence.

"Before, we talked about the fairy tales. They do not stray so very far from the truth, I think," the Major went on. "A stepmother pays a man to kill a child and carve out her heart. A weak man marries a woman who torments his only child in order to advance her own. Parents deliberately abandon their children to starve in the woods rather than share what little they have. A young girl throws bread intended for the poor into the mud to use as a stepping stone so that she will not soil her new shoes."

Dorian listened, absorbed, his hands knotted around each other.

"There is evil," Klaus insisted. "When you know what will cause a person pain, to go out and perform those actions, that is evil. The dog would have died. The children would have been hurt by it. And the person who killed the animal would have been grieved, as well."

"You thought of all that before you stepped out there?"

"No. I didn't think about it. I just did it."

And that's what I cannot understand, Dorian thought. You keep talking about what a terrible man you are - and then you perform some completely marvelous deed. But you won't take the credit you deserve....

"So, Major," Dorian began again, trying a new subject - and hoping to change the old one. "What kind of dog did you have when you were a boy?"

"I didn't have a dog."

"I don't believe it. All men have had at least one dog in their life."

"Well, I did not." Klaus turned onto a road so confined that branches and shrubs scraped along the sides and hood of the Mercedes. "So we will not talk about it any longer."

"All right."

Chastised, Dorian returned to silence which was just as well since Klaus needed to attend to his driving. A few miles later, the Major turned onto another road which opened to a large area of open land dotted off with a loan cottage and shed. Klaus drove towards it, pulled up and parked. He began to open his door and step out but Dorian placed his hand on the Major's arm, stopping him.

"I ran into someone at the store in Duxford," the Earl began, hesitantly. "An old friend ... a friend of my father's...."

"Charlie Kello."

"Yes." Dorian wasn't surprised that Klaus knew the American, simply resigned.

"I saw him standing there behind you when I came back with the beer," the Major explained.

"He was with his new partner. A Russian woman. Sable Volovoi."

Klaus' eyebrows lifted. "A lot of people are looking for that one."

"Why?"

"The information was so classified, it wasn't in the files. She is considered very dangerous."

"Oh."

"I thank you for telling me about them," Klaus said. Then, after a short pause, "You know I will have to contact headquarters."

"Yes, I thought you would.... I don't know why I did it." Dorian spoke in a rush, distraught. "I don't know why I said anything at all. I've known Charlie since I was a child. Everybody likes him ... I like him. He's not an evil man, not like what you were saying."

"Charlie Kello has directed an operation that has resulted in the deaths of thousands - if not millions of people. He plays no favorites, holds to no ideology. He will sell anything to anyone - including terrorists. Terrorists make up the majority of his customers."

"My father met him when he was a boy in Paris. It was at the end of the War," Dorian said softly. "His parents had been killed. Charlie was with the Resistance. That's where my father made contact with him, worked with him. Dad took care of him, brought him home for a time. Afterwards, Charlie returned to America." He sighed, defeated. "No one knows what happened to him but, somewhere along the way, Charlie stopped thinking of wars as having any purpose or principle - only sides to choose from. And which one could meet his price."

Klaus lit up a cigarette and thought for a moment. Then shook his head. "Perhaps nothing happened to him," he said. "Such are the games men like Charlie Kello play. Money is only his way of keeping score. It does not matter how he gets it or who is harmed - just that he does."

"Oh, God, Klaus. That's a terrible thing to say."

"It is a terrible way to be." The Major opened the car door and slid out. And I notice, you do not disagree with me, Herr Dieb, he thought as Dorian followed him outside.

"Thieves like games, too, you know," the Earl said curtly. "You've pointed that out often enough. And it's true."

"Ja. Natürlich." Klaus almost laughed. "But, as I have said before, you are no killer. Idiot." He tossed his cigarette away. "Let's go."

The Major marched up to the front door of the cottage with Dorian following close behind. Klaus performed a series of complicated rituals with locks and computer pads which the Earl observed and filed away for later use. The safehouse wasn't very impressive looking from the outside. The motif seemed to consist of reconstructed hovel. Dorian hoped it would be nicer inside.

It wasn't.

"Oh. My." The Earl gazed about the interior, too stunned to show any reaction other than dismayed surprise. Klaus's face registered a similar expression. "Well," Dorian began and swallowed. "This is different."

"I do not think anyone has been here in a long time."

"Not since Churchill was a boy at any rate."

"Well, there have been many cutbacks in such operations since the end of the Cold War."

"Obviously." Dorian took another step inside. From the far back of the room, something scurried away in the dark. "What was that?"

Klaus shrugged. "I have no idea. Rats, perhaps?"

The Earl's luminous blue eyes widened perceptibly. "Rats?" he gasped.

"Are you afraid of rats?"

"I don't actually care for them very much."

"Well -" Klaus loosened his magnum in his shoulder holster. "I will see to it that they keep their distance." He frowned, fists on hips, scanning the room with narrowed, offended green eyes. "This is a disgrace. I can see that we have plenty of work to do here." He suddenly slapped his hands together and rubbed the palms briskly. Startled, Dorian jumped about two feet. "I think we should begin by starting up the generator," Klaus concluded. "I am thinking it should be in the shed."

"All right."

Klaus led the way back outside feeling much more energetic. He had a mission - a generator to restore and a safehouse to repair. Actually, if one gauged the work load correctly, one could consider this to be lots of missions. "I have tools in the trunk of the car," the Major announced, almost gleeful. "Let's get started."

"Oh, grand," Dorian acquiesced dismally. "Let's."

 




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