Chapter 4

 

 

The enormous gates of Dieslinger Estate swung shut behind them with a loud dang. The Benz crept slowly up the long driveway, pausing as one of the patrolling Doberman Pincers crossed in front of it. Dieslinger Manor was a showpiece of Gothic architecture. Gargoyles accented the facia, silhouetted against the orange light shining from behind the leaded diamond dormer windows, casting their ghoulish shadows on the dark lawn. Spires and chimneys bit into the starry sky. Truly, it was monstrously gorgeous.

Dorian fairly drooled. Stefan was doing some drooling of his own. His "angel" hadn't spoken much at all in the past half-hour driving from the dub to his home. He'd found out her name was Sydelle and she was from London. When he'd asked her what she was doing in Munich, she simply smiled.

"Personal affairs." God, but she had sexy voice.

Once inside, Sydelle began to slowly wander from room to room.

"My dear," Stefan said with a slightly anxious chuckle, "the bedroom is this way."

She gave him a sultry look over one velvet shoulder. "Why limit ourselves to the bedroom, my dear?" Herr Dieslinger's eyes lit up. Oh! A kinky one! He slipped his arm around her slender waist and walked with her through the parlor, the library, the formal dining room, the dance hall and the gallery.

"Ohhhh," she breathed, leaving his side to walk slowly to the center of the gallery. Her face held a look of almost religious awe as she gazed up at the huge paintings by Rubens, Titian, Waterhouse, Rossetti, Vermeer and Durer. She whispered the name of each artist as she passed. She "oohed" over the suits of English, Russian, Indian and Japanese armour. She "ahhed" over the pieces of antique furniture, sculptures, the cases full of jewelry and artifacts from all over the world. But when she came to his latest acquisition, the carved Egyptian emerald, she didn't make a sound. "What's this?" she asked with sparkle-eyed desire. He was delighted she had a genuine appreciation for the arts yet still a woman's lust for jewels.

He came up behind her and put his arms around her again. "It is an emerald from an Egyptian tomb," he answered, resting his chin on her shoulder. She was extremely tall but he managed. "It opens up and they say it contains a perfume so exquisite that it's wearer would become beloved by all." He nuzzled her neck. "But I say your sweet scent would drive any man wild with desire."

She seemed unimpressed by the compliment. "Well, does it? Did you open it?"

"I tried, but it was stuck fast. Emeralds are fragile and I was afraid it would shatter if I forced it. Besides, I don't want to shatter the fantasy either."

He was aroused. He pressed himself against her firm round backside. She completely ignored him. "Open the case," she said. "Let me just hold it."

Stefan was bored with the subject now. "No, no. It's too fragile. Besides, all the cases have alarms. It's too much trouble to turn them off. Now come." He turned her to face him. "Let's slip into the hot tub."

Dorian began to sweat. He had to get out of this situation somehow. Now that he had a mental map of the place, he could come back when no one was home and pinch the emerald. It would be impossible to get past the alarms without his tools or get past the dogs while in high heels.

"Darling," he smiled, walking his fingers up Herr Dieslinger's arm. "Could we get a bite to eat first? I perform better when I'm not famished."

"Of course, my dear. I'll have Otto bring up some dinner to the sunroom."

"Who is Otto?"

"My butler. He used to be one of my bodyguards until he took a bullet in the head on my behalf. It damaged his brain but I couldn't bear to let him go, so now he is my butler." Stefan's expression was soft and kind when he spoke of Otto. Clearly, he cared a great deal for the man. That was a mark in his favor. Dorian had been finding it difficult to like Herr Dieslinger. Maybe that was good. It'd sure be a bitch to steal from a friend.

"Who else lives here? A wife, perhaps?" He acted coy.

Stefan feigned surprised indignation. "My! No! Only myself and Otto and my new bodyguard. But they should be asleep."

"Oh, that's good. We wouldn't want to be interrupted."

"Certainly not," agreed Stefan with a lecherous grin. He squeezed Dorian to him, crushing the thief's false bosoms. Fortunately, they were fairly realistic, and Stefan didn't notice anything unusual. Just the same. Dorian was uncomfortable with the closeness and pushed himself free.

"Am I going to have to tie you up?" Eroica asked in a flirtatious voice but actually quite serious.

"Perhaps, if the evening goes well." He took Dorian by the wrist and all but yanked him along behind himself.

They came to a sunroom that was hardly sunny now. Stars shone through the glass ceiling. He saw silhouettes of hanging plants and potted trees all along the three glass walls. Outside, he glimpsed the edge of an enormous white stone veranda, edged by a low rail of stone columns topped off by a continuous ledge of marble.

The large shape in the center of the room was obviously the hot tub. Stefan began to undress in the darkness. Dorian knew he had to get out of there fast.

"Um, sweetheart? Where is the powder room?"

"Oh, right down the hall, second door on the right."

"I'll be right back."

"Hurry now."

"Oh, I will. Trust me."

Once outside. Dorian ran. He had to flee. Maybe the dogs were asleep. It was a hell of a long way to the front gate. There was no way to outrun a pack of Dobermans. He half-walked, half-ran through the mansion, not knowing where to go, just knowing he couldn't go back to the sunroom. He could only disguise himself so much. After that, nothing short of plastic surgery would fool the eye.

Oh, Fates, he thought, I need a miracle.

What he got was a near heart attack. He rounded a comer and came face to chest again with Lumberjack. For a moment they just stared at each other in shocked silence. Then Dorian yelled, turned and ran. Lumberjack just stood there. "Sydelle?" came Stefan's voice from far away.

A devilish thought came to him then. He stopped and looked back at Lumberjack. Dorian smiled, then gave a long, loud scream.

The giant jumped and gave him a disbelieving look. "You!" Lumberjack said. "The whore!"

"Sydelle!" Stefan called, running up to them, a red and white striped robe around himself. "What's going on?"

"Stefan!" Eroica cried, huddling close to him. "I thought I heard a noise and I just went to see what it was and I ran into this - this beast!" He pretended to cry. "This beast who attacked me earlier today!"

"What? Adolf!"

Dorian almost choked. ADOLF?!?!

"Sir, I've never seen this woman before in my life. She came careening around the corner—"

"Liar!" Dorian shrieked, playing the hysterical female role to the hilt. "You tried to carry me off. Do I have to tell Herr Dieslinger how you got that bruise on your neck?"

Stefan arched an eyebrow and turned an interested and attentive look to Adolf. "Well, Adolf? How did you get that bruise?"

Adolf surrendered with a sigh. "I thought she was just being coy. I wasn't going to rape her."

"You hit me!"

"I did not!"

"Yes you did! And you shoved me into a wall!"

"I was only trying to get you away from the fighting."

"What fighting?" Stefan interrupted.

Dorian clasped his hands together and rolled his baby blues heavenward. "Oh, this noble and handsome man came along and defended my honor! He was only half the size of Attila here but he trounced him soundly!" He finished with a smug smirk. Adolf shot him a murderous glare.

"Well," said Stefan, "it was all a misunderstanding, no? It's all over now. Adolf?" He took the man aside and the two muttered back and forth, Adolf doing a lot of scowling a headshaking, Stefan seeming to be mildly pleading with him. Finally, they turned around. Adolf s mouth twisted into an insincere smile.

"I apologize," he sneered venomously.

"Not accepted," Dorian huffed. "Stefan, take me home."

"But darling, please! There's no cause-"

"The mood is spoilt, to say the least. I'm too upset. Please, just take me home."

"Come on, now. Let's just go sit down. You can relax and collect yourself."

"How can I relax with that animal in the house? Brutalizing defenseless girls-starting fights with men half his size...shameful!"

"Now, Sydelle, it was a misunderstanding," Stefan pleaded. "Won't you stay?"

"Absolutely not. If you won't take me home, I'll call a taxi."

"Otto will take you home," he said gruffly. "I'm going back out. I do not sleep alone. This is your last chance...."

What a bastard, Dorian thought. "Goodbye, Herr Dieslinger," he said unemotionally. At least he was getting out of there.

Stefan rang for Otto and led Dorian down to the carriage house-cum-garage. Soon, a groggy, disheveled bulk of a man emerged, wiping sleep from his eyes. He was older and a bit smaller than Adolf, bald and bespectacled. He walked with a shuffle, but whether that was a result of his injury or just sleepiness. Dorian could but guess.

"I'm sorry to waken you, my friend, but the lady wishes to be taken home," Stefan said, casting accusing glances at Dorian.

Otto looked from his employer to the rumpled but still quite lovely fraulien. "It's no bother," he replied, smiling shyly and turning his eyes to the ground. He spoke with a slur.

"Thank you," replied Stefan, who got into his Benz and drove away, squealing tires. He almost ran down one of the dogs.

Otto wordlessly ushered Dorian into the back of one of the remaining cars, a Saab, and got into the driver's seat.

After a few minutes of silent driving. Otto glanced into the rear-view mirror at his passenger. "Are you all right. Miss?" he asked, his voice tinged with genuine concern. Eroica was touched.

"I'm all right. It's just been a rotten day to be a girl. I've been more abused and molested today than a hooker's ass at a Shriner's convention."

"What?"

"Oh, nothing. It's just been a bad day. Men just don't know how to treat a lady anymore these days." He kicked off his torturous shoes.

"Not all men, surely. Miss," Otto replied, blushing. "If I ever had a girlfriend as fine as you, I should treat her like a queen."

That would be appropriate, Dorian smiled to himself. "Do tell."

Otto grinned and turned his face aside so Dorian couldn't see. "I don't know," he slurred. "If I had Herr Dieslinger's money, I'd spend it all on you-I mean, my girlfriend."

A plan was forming in Eroica's crafty mind. Not a particularly nice plan, for he hated to use people, yet being nice sometimes got you nothing. He leaned over the seat. "I'd love to find a man as kind and generous as you. Otto," he purred.

Otto beamed. "Maybe a few years ago, I would have had a chance at a fine lady like you. But now...." He gestured at the scar on his bald pate.

"Stefan told me you were hurt protecting him. That is so noble. So brave." He touched Otto's shoulder.

"I have worked for Herr Dieslinger for ten years. We have our differences but I like him. Besides, it was a job."

"It was still noble," Dorian replied sincerely, and stroked the site of the injury with his fingertips. "You would die for the one you loved, wouldn't you? Even if it wasn't your job?"

Otto glanced at him out of the side of his thick-lensed glasses. "Where do you live?" was all he asked.

Dorian decided it was best if nobody knew where he was staying. He named an inn a few blocks from Der Lustic Waldgeist.

As Otto headed into that side of town. Dorian knew he had to act fast. Lonely Otto could be his ticket back into the Dieslinger Estate.

"Otto," he began, touching the man's shoulder, neck and bald head, "Would you like to see me again?"

Otto almost hit a parked car. "What?"

"I'm sorry," Dorian said, and retroceded into the back seat. "I realize now you were only being kind to me. I am a tramp. I know it. That's why I'm treated so badly."

"No, no," Otto gasped. "Please, you mustn't think that. Oh, Miss...." in his excitement, his speech was almost unintelligible. "You are too fine for someone like me."

"You," Dorian sighed guiltily, "are exactly what I need."

***

Azhan returned to his room at Der Lustic Waldgeist at two-thirty that morning. He gave a series of short whistles and a panel in the wall next to the wardrobe opened up. Two Egyptian men crawled out and dusted themselves off. "Saied! Yahiza!" Azhan greeted in a whisper, embracing both men. "Did you have any trouble finding us?" he asked in their native tongue.

"No, brother," replied Saied, a young man with a long thin braid down his back. "Has that vulture sold any more of our beloved Prince's treasure?"

"Yes," replied Azhan. "But I know where they all are. Our fellow Ashirakians are even now preparing to reclaim them."

"And what about the gathering? Have the parasites been summoned?"

Azhan shook his head. "Mattias Pfarr was there. But do not worry. Rakia and the children will send word to them. And when they have gathered to squabble over our Prince's sacred treasure, we will destroy them all."

"But we must hurry," said Yahiza. "Already, Cairo and Munich are working together to reclaim the treasure and steal it away to be put into a museum. If we don't get it all back ourselves soon, we may lose it and the curse will destroy Ashirak."

"But the body of Prince Semankhanzir is missing! Surely his curse will fall on us."

"Not if we can sacrifice another. We have the deathmask. He will accept a sacrifice, another soul to guard Ashirak."

"We should sacrifice Pfarr," spat Yahiza.

"No. Prince Semankhanzir would not approve of such an ugly man. The sacrifice must be as beautiful as the Prince himself or else all children born in Ashirak will be as ugly as toads."

On the other side of the wall, Eroica listened through a glass. He didn't know this dialect of Egyptian but he did recognize the words "Ashirak" and "Semankhanzir" and knew it had something to do with the stolen treasures. Was that why Klaus was here? If so, he'd have to steal the emerald fast before Klaus stuck his aristocratic nose in Eroica's business.

 

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Eroica