A Cross Section

by Mme Cusack

You remember Monsieur Z? Yes, the German whom you commended. Well, we drifted apart in the course of time, and I hardly hear from him these days. Don't start that again, Aunt P--. No, he's not another big fish I failed to land. He was younger than I, and marrying him was out of the question.

I agree, he was a pleasant, nice person. But he was an intelligence agent, in case you forgot. Supposing that he had proposed, how could I possibly have married him? I wouldn't have been so reckless as to seriously consider marrying a spy. To begin with, I don't think I could have managed with the pittance he earned by risking his own life. Suppose we got married, then what? Within a week, he might be sent out to some cold land with a false ID and mustache; after several heart-wrenching months, a dry official letter comes from NATO, informing me of his unfortunate death in a certain mission and the failure to recover his body; in the meantime, some strange men in trench coats and dark glasses may be stalking me in the hopes of retrieving the microfiche which the dead agent may have entrusted to his wife. Things could be even worse than that. No thanks.

Please don't look around right away. Turn your head casually and take a look at the two men at the table behind your left shoulder. Did you? I think they're gay. I wonder why so many lovely men are gay. No, they are not my acquaintances. It's the sight of them that reminded me of the strange incident by which I came to know Monsieur Z, and that's why I mentioned him. It was a very peculiar evening when we first met, and I still can't figure out what it was all about.

You've heard about the NATO major who is Uncle Antoine's distant relative, haven't you? That German who's notorious for his foul mouth and temper. He was about thirty-five and single when I met him. Oh, I'm sure he's still single. Anyway, how I ended up having a date with him was this: when Uncle Antoine dined with the Major's father at the club in Montreux, Monsieur Eberbach was grumbling over his son's incompetence at procuring himself even a date, let alone a wife, and asked Uncle Antoine if he knew a girl who was brave enough to meet his difficult son. So, my name occurred to Uncle Antoine's mind, and he promised the old man that he'd set up a date next time his son came to Paris. For all the strange stories about the man, I had been interested in him. First of all, he was supposed to be awfully wealthy. He was living, all by himself, in a castle near Bonn originally built in the 13th century; Uncle Antoine said the house was meticulously restored and packed with medieval and Renaissance art pieces, though the current master of the castle couldn't tell a Rembrandt from a Renoir. His ancestors were the lords of the Eberbach manor in Necker, and he, as the current head of the family, also owned a huge estate with a manor house there. Secondly, I'd heard many women rave about how good-looking he was; tall, handsome, the fabulous combination of jet-black long hair, pale skin, and the steely green eyes, etc., etc. Mathilde's friend once told me that she had never seen a sexier behind, though she was too scared to dare make his acquaintance after witnessing him barking at his subordinate on the phone at someone's house party at that. Thirdly, he was said to be a very capable military officer, the hope of the NATO army, as somebody put it. I thought that just giving it a try would do no harm; that maybe the man entertained a lofty idea about women, and still couldn't find the girl of his dreams. So, I told Uncle Antoine that I'd be happy to meet the man.

It was just as I had expected right from the start, when he gave me a call.

"Klaus von dem Eberbach," said the deep voice curtly.

"Oh, Monsieur Eberbach, Uncle Antoine told me all about you. I'm looking forward to seeing you," I said.

"... You don't need to bother, though, if you're busy."

Doesn't it get on your nerves?

"Monsieur Eberbach, I think you remember it was planned two weeks ago. I have time, and am all set. So, where shall I go to see you?" I said.

"How about a German restaurant?"

"He wants me to eat high-cholesterol German cooking?" I thought. I had to make myself clear on that. "I'm afraid not, sir. I'm on a diet, I'd prefer something lighter. Italian, for instance, if you don't mind."

He didn't sound at all enthusiastic, but the arrangements were made to meet at my favorite Vincento's on the Rue St. Bernard.

Couldn't have been more stunning, that German Major. When I entered the restaurant and headed for the table I usually reserve, he rose from his seat in a smooth, panther-like motion. He nodded at me from his towering height, casting a quick glance at his wristwatch (I was fifteen minutes late, but isn't that what we normally do?). I figured he was actually no more than 190cm, but the way he straightened himself up and looked down at all the other people with those authoritative green eyes made him seem as tall as Lucifer. He assessed me for a second and wrinkled his nose, as if muttering to himself, "171cm, 52~53kg, 88-58-90, 27~29, never given birth, yet no virgin; prêt-à-porter Givenchy, Guerlain's Vol de Nuit." Then he curled one side of his thin lips and said, "Enchanté de vous connaître, Mademoiselle," and waited for me to take the opposite seat of the booth. It still took some time before I developed an indelible dislike of the man, because I was too preoccupied by the blissful feeling that the eyes of every woman (and some men) in the restaurant were fixed upon me with open envy. He was one of those people whom you cannot help but admire from distance, but not face to face, because if you're sensitive enough, the contempt and hostility he emits make your skin tingle. I was slightly repelled by his haughtiness, but the brief visualization of him in bed encouraged me - though it didn't take me long to realize that the natural bedroom eyes and unmilitary long hair shouldn't be taken at face value. No way.

God, that was the worst date I've ever had.

The moment the waiter came with the wine list, my companion snapped out an order for a couple of items without even taking a look at it. Gianni, the waiter, and I stared at each other. I pretended that I didn't hear the German order Heineken and damn fried potatoes as an appetizer in the fashionable Italian restaurant. I ordered a glass of Amarone and asked Gianni (who was all ready to dash to the kitchen and burst out laughing) for the menu. The German deliberately took out a packet of cigarettes and started smoking - and kept on smoking all through the meal. Watching his narrowed cold stare through the thick cloud of smoke, I understood that he was determined to annoy me, and well aware that I knew it.

He was as uncommunicative as a human could be, partly because he wanted to demonstrate his unwillingness to cooperate for the moment, but mostly because he was one of those who don't give a damn even if the atmosphere becomes unbearably awkward. Besides, what was I supposed to talk about with a professional spy on whose face was written "I'm only here as a social duty, and you'd better cover yourself more appropriately with something other than that skimpy dress, 'cause it does nothing to me"? I tried, anyhow, out of obstinacy to show him that I wouldn't be intimidated so easily. To my comments about our supposed mutual acquaintances, he gave out short answers like, "Don't know him well," or "Is that right" (accompanied by no question mark); in response to harmless topics like places, movies, and music, again, "Went there on business," "Heard about it but haven't seen it," or "They say I'm an art know-nothing." It was apparent to me, though, that he just wanted to make the point that he was resourceful enough to talk about anything, but simply didn't want to waste time conversing with me. I began to regret coming to Vincento's where the chefs would start by ordering a flight ticket to Sicily to pick perfectly ripe Romanos for tomato and Ricotta as an appetizer. We should have met at McDonald's, or eaten at a noisy German restaurant as he had suggested, where no one could hear what the other people were saying.

I asked about his job.

"Oh, it's all about national and international secrets," he said, coolly, with the tone insinuating the important business he committed himself to had nothing to do with womenfolk, let alone the likes of me. He was a pure, complete male chauvinist. I felt like dragging him by the ear to some feminist organization for a public hearing.

He may have been entitled to a bit of sympathy, if his childhood was taken into consideration. His mother died of complications after his birth, and the poor baby was raised by the family's loyal butler in the castle where there were hardly any women around. So, it wasn't surprising if the man had developed a warped view of women in general and difficulty in socializing with us. Later, someone told me a plausible story as to why he'd turned out such a monster: his cruel father didn't care for his only son, emotionally abused him and sent him off to a Catholic boarding school at an unusually young age for a German child. When I went to tell Uncle Antoine about the outcome of the atrocious rendez-vous, I asked him if the rumor was true, and he laughed it off as a soap-opera version of the making of the NATO Major. For those who knew Werner (Papa Eberbach) well, he was nothing like the heartless fellow I'd heard about, but quite a popular man amongst my great uncle's generation. Uncle Antoine said he was an easy-going, witty chap for a high-ranking German military man (though he is supposed to be fairly grumpy these years with his arthritis acting up in the Swiss mountains). Werner surprised people with the great romance in his early forties; he fell madly in love with a beauty from Bruges with raven hair and hazel eyes, and married her. Though devastated by the death of his young wife, he loved his son, who resembled his mother very much, in his own way. In Uncle Antoine's memory, the boy Klaus was a healthy, stubborn boy, a bit of a handful who was a head taller than the other boys of his own age group. He was sent to the boarding school in Switzerland because the Bishop-principal of the school was a very good friend of Werner's. As far as Uncle Antoine knew, there was nothing sinister about Werner nor the relation between the father and son; though, added Uncle Antoine, he couldn't deny that the boy certainly displayed signs of becoming an oddity in the future. I'm inclined to believe that the Major was innately surly.

"What do you like to do in your spare time, M. Eberbach? Any hobbies?" I asked.

"I've newspapers and magazines to read. A part of my job."

"Oh, that's all?"

"... I fix electric appliances and plumbing occasionally."

Never heard of the master of a castle working on drain pipes and toilets as a hobby, have you? He stared at me unruffled and added that he'd do carpentry, car maintenance, or whatever was required.

"I'm a man of order, and everything in my place must be immaculate," said he, soberly. I nodded and blinked. "Among other things, I don't tolerate crooked curtains, dust-covered moldings and clocks that don't keep good time." He smiled uncannily. "All the clocks in my residence must keep accurate time and strike simultaneously. And the appliances." He tapped the ash off his cigarette. "Not a single servant of mine knows how a motor should sound, let alone how to repair it, so it's my routine to check the vacuum cleaners and lawn mowers whenever time allows. Faucets and pipes, too. If you live in an old, extensive house like mine, there are always one or two faucets not tight enough and dripping. The joints of tiles and bathtubs need attention, too. I won't stand a speck of mildew on grout." He leaned back on the seat, crossed his long legs and observed me through lowered lids.

"It appears I drive my servants insane if I stay home too long. Fortunately for everyone's peace of mind, my work hours are long, most of the time."

I tried my best to demonstrate that I was by no means cowed by the description of the paranoid personality he was fabricating to chase away an objectionable spousal candidate.

"Why, can't you hire someone to take care of those?" I asked.

"Oh, I do, but those people don't know a thing," was his reply.

"How wonderful. You'll make a great husband. I've heard the Germans are handy, but you seem to excel the average by far. Whoever she is, your future wife is a lucky woman." I stared at him in the eyes, and got a blatant snort. Ignoring it, I added, "My brother lives in Hanover with his German wife, who complains that Jean can't even change a light bulb."

"Where in Hanover?" For the first time, he showed a shade of interest in our conversation.

I told him that Jean was working at a big tire company in Hanover. He said that he had attended a military academy there for some time, and that one of his subordinates came from the town, too. I tell you, that was the only moment I saw tenderness on his stern face. So, half out of curiosity and half to get the conversation going, I asked about the poor man who had to work under this insufferable boss. He told me about him – Z – like a morose misanthrope beaming at the chance to talk about a dog, his only friend. The animated deep baritone was pleasing to the ear, the smile heartwarming; the man could be absolutely gorgeous, if he'd only act like a human being. Then, it flashed upon me what he really was.

He was gay. I couldn't be wrong. The underling called Z might be the lover he took everywhere with him, or might not. But everything began to fall into place. I was staring at him too intently, perhaps. Detecting my curiosity, he immediately shut his mouth, pulled his mental curtains, and resumed the sullen position behind the screen of smoke.

By the time we finished our entrees, he almost succeeded in exasperating me. Gianni came, eyes twinkling in the anticipation of another topic to share with the kitchen staff. I was so fed up I forgot I was on a diet and ordered a huge tiramisu. What do you think the German asked for?

"Just give me Nescafé Gold Blend, will you? Can't stand Italian coffee. No cream, no sugar."

Gianni, who was polite enough not to look at my face, stifled his laughter and left our table, and I saw his back trembling (I don't remember how many times he brought the day up when I went to the restaurant by myself later). My patience was running out and I couldn't conceal my anger, which seemed only to please the man. The tiramisu came, and I realized I had no appetite after all. I abandoned my manners, rested my elbows on the table and poked at it until the stuff became a pulpy mess on the plate. The silence reigned over us, as I gave up on any effort to keep up the appearance of a dating couple. The German looked at his watch and my plate alternately, and the people at the other tables finally started frowning at us, offended by the cloud of smoke he built up around him (Gianni changed his ashtray three times). He remained as cool as a cucumber, though. When I was thinking how gratifying it would be if I threw my dessert plate at his face, ...

"Oh, it's you, Major!" a pleasant voice said in slightly affected English. I looked up and saw the loveliest creature I'd ever seen standing by our table, smiling a beatific smile and watching me and my date by turns. He was a perfect male beauty, a Greek youth sculpture come to life and moving about, vivified by the marvelous colors Nature had blessed him with. His blue eyes sparkled and changed hue incessantly; the curved lips were the healthy rose color every cosmetic company is forever after; long, rich, curly blond hair reaching to his wide shoulders adorned his chiseled features like a golden cloud hanging in the heavens. He was almost as tall as M. Eberbach, on the slimmer and more supple side. I gaped at his face, perhaps for too long, and blushed to my neck. The man smiled at me mischievously as those who are accustomed to being admired and worshipped often do.

"Well, well, Klaus is dating," said he, gazing at M. Eberbach, and then at me again.

"I knew Klaus had an eye for ladies. Would you allow me to introduce myself? I'm Dorian Red Gloria. Enchanted to meet a lovely mademoiselle," he said and held out his hand. I shook it and introduced myself, too, wondering why the German hadn't uttered a word and didn't even bother to introduce us to each other, which was the minimum social courtesy he should have demonstrated. It was then that I realized the NATO major had lost his cool as well as color.

"Lord Gloria, you..." he stammered.

So he was an English peer.

"I've finished dinner myself. Would you mind if I joined you for espresso, Mademoiselle?"

"I do mind, idiot! Haven't you ever heard of manners!?"

He bellowed, for God's sake, in the restaurant, where everyone was stealing glances at the Bermuda Triangle of our table. Now who needed to be spoken to about manners, I thought. Utterly unperturbed, the divine creature winked at me, as if we were sharing a little secret. I thought it was a disgrace to let the unpleasant German humiliate him.

"Oh, do join us! I don't mind at all. Monsieur Eberbach, as you seem thoroughly bored tonight, I think we should welcome your friend as a savior who will rescue us from this misery."

"Verdammt, he's no friend of mine!" The Major crushed the cigarette filter with his teeth.

"Monsieur Eberbach is afraid that I'll steal a lovely lady from him. He's a very, very jealous man, you know? By the way, Mademoiselle, have you ever tried their osso-bucco? It is absolutely superb!"

The tall man slid on to the seat right next to me in one fluid motion, and ordered an espresso from Gianni who rushed to our table to spy on the course of events. With his upper body turned toward me, his head slightly tilted, Lord Gloria smiled and stared at me with incredible eyes of Mediterranean blue, whose intensity disconcerted me a little. It wasn't my delusion that the man scrutinized me with much interest. Then, the German, who was sitting bolt upright like an electrocuted sea horse, spoke.

"We'd better leave. This is ridiculous."

"But, Monsieur Eberbach, that would be rude to Lord Gloria," I retorted.

"Call me Dorian, my fair lady." He smiled, showing a slight dimple in his left cheek.

Sunny Dorian and the dreary German Major were poles asunder in every aspect; the suave English Earl knew how to entertain and charm people with little effort. He and I had a nice, lively chat, which couldn't have been lovelier. It was gratifying to be with two spectacularly good-looking men, even if one was an exasperating blockhead. To be more precise, the realization that the blockhead was really vexed satisfied me. He glowered at us and kept on drinking his Nescafé in silence. He suddenly rose from his seat.

"Gloria, don't talk any of your nonsense to her while I'm gone. Understood?"

The Earl cast a sidelong glance at the Major.

"What sort of nonsense are you worrying about, Major, Darling?" He batted his long eyelashes.

The campy air he purposely put on was so cute. The Major looked daggers at us, and dashed to the men's room without answering. No wonder, after consuming gallons of beer and watered-down Nescafé. No sooner had the tall figure disappeared into the corridor to the restrooms, than the English Earl turned to me. With his smile gone, he said to me soberly,

"Mademoiselle, let's get out of here before he comes back."

I was aware that it was too frivolous to leave a sort of social obligation like this with a person I had only met less than an hour ago, but I got to my feet and followed the Earl without a second thought; among other things, the idea of making a fool out of the German was irresistible. Well, Aunt P--, it's easy for you to criticize me for being thoughtless, but I suspect you would have done the same if you'd been in my shoes. I didn't have time to think it over or pretend to hesitate, as I had to make up my mind before the Major was back from the men's room, and apparently he didn't want to leave the two of us alone together for whatever reason. The check? We had the Major take care of it, including the Earl's dinner. Both Lord Gloria and I knew the maitre d'; Lord Gloria used his sunny smile and quickly had it out with him, and we fled to his car without waiting for the valet service.

After that, things began to take on a puzzling aspect.

He sat me in his red Maserati's passenger seat and closed the door hurriedly. Then he sat behind the wheel and stepped on the gas pedal. He changed lanes frequently, crossed the amber lights with a narrow margin. Despite his extravagant driving, though, I realized that the man next to me was not quite like the person at the restaurant, and hadn't uttered a word since we left there.

"Where are we going?" I asked.

"That, indeed, is the problem," he said, not to me, but to himself.

If I had been sensible enough at the time, I could have thanked him for rescuing me from the formidable date and asked him to take me home. But I still hadn't come out of my dream of romantic adventure yet, and I turned my head to look at him. He looked dour, and heaved a deep sigh.

"Is there anything wrong? You look like you don't feel well."

"... Oh, guess I'm all right. Just beginning to have a slight headache."

"Oh, I'm sorry."

An awkward silence hung between us. When I was about to open my mouth and ask him to drive me home, he forestalled me.

"Mademoiselle, what relation do you have to Major Eberbach?"

It was the cold tone of his voice that startled me. I looked at him again, and was chilled by his icy glance. This was a cold-hearted interrogator, not the prince charming I'd met an hour ago. It suddenly occurred to me that the man could be an evil agent like those in the 007 movies, who had some terrible business with the NATO agent. The German said he was not his friend, remember? I admit I was momentarily seized by the fear of being taken to the other side of the iron curtain or something like that, but rejected the silly picture immediately.

"What relation... Well, truth to tell, I don't even know him well enough to establish any kind of relation yet; I just met him tonight at the restaurant."

"You're, then, not his... girlfriend or fiancée? Have no special relation with him of that sort?"

"Of course not!" I snorted. "Our date was a mere social obligation. Our families are remotely related, and his father asked my great uncle to set up a date with him when he came to Paris. Did you see how rude he was to a woman he'd only met for the first time? That man was utterly uncooperative and looked as though he couldn't wait to get rid of me. Really, I was about to flee from the restaurant when you appeared and rescued me."

"You don't fancy him, then?"

"Fancy him! I'd like to know if any woman could ever develop a liking for that man!" I fumed. "Dating a gay man is one thing, which is no big deal or even fun occasionally, but being treated like the dregs of society by a woman-hater is quite another."

The tires skidded and the Earl narrowly escaped a head-on collision with an oncoming taxi, the frantic and angry honking of which immediately disappeared behind us.

"You said he's gay? Did he say that to you!?" Lord Gloria turned his head fully to me and spoke incredulously. I pointed at another car coming toward us and reminded him that he was again crossing the center line.

"No, he couldn't possibly say that to anybody, but isn't it obvious to you? I must say it's rather surprising if you weren't aware of that."

"Good Lord, it never occurred to me," said he, widely grinning. He started sniggering as if he'd heard the funniest joke ever.

"He's wearing an iron mask and hiding in an iron closet. Maybe it's not easy for a straight man like you to detect people like him, but they often fail to deceive the opposite sex," I said. The Earl roared with laughter, slapping the steering wheel with both hands while he kept on driving at a reckless speed, which really made me nervous this time. He wiped his tears off and gave me a delightful smile, showing dimples in both cheeks.

"What a marvelous clairvoyant you are, my little darling," said he. His laughter relaxed me, and I prattled about how the Major talked to me about women in general.

"And he told you to 'get thee to a nunnery!' did he not?" he asked. "He has a thing about nuns; I know that much at least."

"Nuns! How apt! I think he should marry a matreshka if he wants to satisfy his father. A woman with no vagina but with one baby after another in her belly is perfect for him. Honestly, he never lowered his guard except when he talked about his subordinate called Z; Z did this, Z did that, Z said so and so yesterday, so endearingly. Sounded as if the man was his lover. As a matter of fact, they are staying in the same hotel now."

The Earl asked me sharply, "Oh, is Z in Paris, too?"

" Monsieur Eberbach told me he took him along on an assignment. Do you know Monsieur Z, too?"

"Yes," he answered, then looked at me strangely. "We are acquainted through the business, so to speak." Then he sank into a pensive mood momentarily.

While I was wondering what could possibly be the business connection between the florid English playboy aristocrat and the grim German intelligence agents, he suddenly asked me, "Which hotel, do you know?"

"What? Oh, the hotel where the Major is staying? I think it's L'Hôtel XXX."

"Let's go there, then. I have business to talk with Mr. Z anyway. It's a good opportunity. Oh, of course, if you have time," he gave me a dazzling smile and made a screeching, illegal U-turn. "There's a nice bar in the hotel, and I haven't offered you an after dinner drink yet."

The question what we'd do if we came across the Major at the hotel was stifled by his entertaining chitchat during the remaining drive. By then, it dawned on me that the Earl was by no means making a pass at me, but it didn't matter really; he was such an agreeable man just to be with.

No sooner had we perched on the stools of the bar and ordered drinks, than the Earl rested his hand lightly on mine and said, "Darling, would you excuse me for a moment? I have to make a call to Mr. Z in his room. Will be right back." He winked at me, and disappeared like a genie.

I'm sure I was left alone, sipping a screwdriver, for more than fifteen minutes, when I started feeling it strange - he should have been back by then at the latest - when someone spoke to me from behind in a thick German accent.

"Pardon me, Mademoiselle G--?"

My first reaction was, of course, that it must be the NATO Major, so I grabbed my purse and was about to dash to the exit, then I recovered my senses enough to remember that the Major's voice was deeper than that behind me. I turned the stool 180 degrees and looked up at the man, and there M. Z was standing shyly. The young man looked like he had hurriedly put on his suit and combed down his hair; his tie was not straight and his hair still moist.

"Yes, I'm G--, and you are?" I asked warily. There was something strange going on around me.

"My name is Z. I think you've heard about me from Major Eberbach, Mademoiselle," said he, uneasily.

"Oh, I see. Yes, the Major talked about you when we dined together awhile ago."

"The Major just called me. I was told to drive you back home for him, because the Major had received an urgent order from Bonn office to fly to Marseilles. Please accept his sincere apologies, Mlle G--."

"That's absolutely all right with me, he can fly to the moon if he wishes, but what happened to Comte Gloria?" I inquired a bit curtly to the stiff and formal man, who suddenly opened his eyes wide and his mouth as well, as though something got stuck in his throat.

"What? Comte Gloria? What does he have to do with... Do you know him?"

"Do I know him, really. I was with le Comte until several minutes ago. He left me saying he'd make a call to you and be right back, but he's still gone. I'm waiting for him, not your Major, Monsieur Z."

For some unknown reason, M. Z lost his color and looked nonplused, swallowed hard, and sat, as if there was no choice, on the stool next to me. He ordered a double scotch, but looked like he'd rather grab the bottle of whiskey if he could.

"Pardon me. Eh, would you mind telling me what happened to you tonight in exact order? I'm sorry, Mademoiselle, I know I am being too personal, but it's important to know when it comes to circumstances involving Lord Glor... , ahem, I mean..."

In one gulp, he downed the contents of the glass that conveniently arrived in front of him, choked and had a fit of coughing. I handed him several napkins, and told him about my "date" with Major Eberbach at the restaurant, the appearance of Lord Gloria, our escape from the restaurant, and the arrival of M. Z himself ( of course I didn't tell him every detail of what I talked about with the Major and the Earl). He listened to me intently, then touched his stomach as if he suddenly felt ill. Before I could stop him, though, he ordered another scotch and a drink for me.

"This is on me, Mlle. G--. Wow, I'm thirsty." He loosened his tie and looked at me with a forced smile. His perturbation made me uneasy and worried - I didn't want to end up taking care of a sick young man in a hotel bar; besides, there was something about him that appealed to my maternal instincts. So, instead of questioning him about what le Comte's disappearance might mean, I accepted his offer of a cocktail, because he obviously was trying very hard to please me to smooth over whatever he considered to be the problem.

Only one drink out of courtesy, I thought at first, but one became two, and I started having a good time with the man. I remember Z talking nonsense like, "Wonder what happened to Lord Gloria. I don't understand why he's not back yet," or "The Earl is playing a trick on us. He rather likes doing things like that," but by then, I wasn't even sure the ethereal English lord really existed or not.

He drove me back home that night, and we started seeing each other when we could. Either he drove to Paris or I flew to Bonn occasionally. But we knew, from the beginning, that it wasn't going to last long. Our worlds were so much apart, his and mine. His job was too demanding and didn't allow him to seriously fall in love. I have to confess he was also too straight-laced for me.

No, Aunt P--, I didn't dare ask him if he and his Major had a relationship of that sort. Naturally there was a tacit understanding between us that we should avoid the subjects of that night and the Major and the Earl, and I didn't want to talk about the job he was engaged in. It still pains me to think that the nice man's vocation was to take part in cold-blooded international deceptions and conspiracies.

I couldn't tell if he was bi, though I wouldn't be surprised if he was. But as far as the Major is concerned, I'm ready to wager he was gay, which is as certain as that the phony Earl was a rotten womanizer.

So this is why the sight of men like them in restaurants makes me remember that night. And what strange lives intelligence people live.