By Margaret Price

When did it happen? How did I lose control of the situation?

Klaus sat back, reflecting on the chain of events that had suddenly spiraled out of his control. Eroica had been brought in to steal an important document while his own men created a diversion and dealt with another situation elsewhere. As bad as it was to have the pervert involved in his mission, the idiot had gone and flounced off, leaving his fucking stingy bug of an accountant behind!

Klaus had been pleased that the little insect had had the sense to keep his distance. Then one of his alphabets appeared telling him of a problem they were having procuring the trucking equipment that was needed. Apparently, the local merchant was demanding more money than was originally negotiated.

Before Klaus knew what was happening, James had completely taken charge of the situation. After dressing down the hapless alphabet for having backed down in the first place, he was on the phone with the merchant, berating the man for his unprofessionalism and threatening legal action for breach of contract. Within an hour, James had not only secured the equipment in question, but also had gotten it upgraded and at a lower price.

Then the manager of the hotel the Major was using for his base of operation was banging on the door. He had decided that he wasn’t charging enough for the number of rooms that NATO had procured and felt he should be entitled to some more of the government funds. He had the misfortune to storm into the room in which James had ensconced himself.

Klaus sat in a stupefied silence as the diminutive James laid into the hotel manager, who was more than twice his size. It was like watching a flea take on a lion and win. After the manager had stated his demands, he found himself being overwhelmed by the accountant’s extensive list of the inadequacies of the rooms in general and the hotel in particular. When the manager finally left the room, he was thoroughly cowed and had agreed to give NATO a discount because of the “inadequate” accommodations.

This scenario played out for the remainder of the day. The moment one crisis was dealt with, another would pop up, only to have James pounce on it like a cat with a mouse. Only whatever the particular “mouse” happened to be, the encounter ended the same way; with an agreement to a reduced rate, an upgrade of whatever-it-was, and an abject apology.

When the wayward Eroica finally returned, having stolen the document in question. He apologized profusely for having left James behind, knowing how much he annoyed the Major.

Klaus had merely growled a reply as the pair vanished into the night, heading for God only knew where. He looked down at the microfilm in his hand and shook his head. The mission was completed in record time, it seemed, and they were all going back to Germany.

For the first time in anyone’s memory at NATO Headquarters, Major Klaus Heinz von dem Eberbach returned from a mission with no overtime expenses and completely under budget.