Chapter 6

The theatre proved to be a dead end as far as treasure was concerned. It was a gold mine, however, in Ashirakian loyalists. The doors were all guarded by men with conspicuous bulges under their jackets. Those doors that weren't guarded were locked, but Klaus was trained in the art of picking locks, (though perhaps not as skilled as Eroica), and gained entry.

It only took a quarter of an hour or so of hiding in shadows and lurking behind curtains to figure out that the Egyptians were rigging up explosives in the theatre seating area-where the buyers would be gathered for the auction. It took less than a minute for Klaus to get the hell out of there.

Now how to find the treasure? That was the proverbial needle in a haystack. For all they knew the Egyptians could have scattered it across Europe by now. What he needed was a sign from God.

As he sat at a red light, it came to him. Not a revelation but a turn of fortune. He saw the Egyptian woman from the tavern drive past, headed uptown. He made an illegal turn and followed, keeping a careful distance.

She led him to an antique store not far from his hotel. She went in through a door in the alley. Tourists and Muncheners came and went through the front door, untroubled. Klaus put on his shades and tucked his hair down his collar. He peered in through the window. No Egyptians. He went in.

The shopkeeper was an elderly but robust man. He gave Klaus a smile that was clearly forced. No doubt he was uneasy about having strange foreigners taking over his storage room. The backroom door opened. Klaus slipped back behind a grandfather clock. The shopkeeper lowered his face and pretended to be going over receipts. The other customers left eventually and the Egyptian man who'd entered said to the shopkeeper, "I think it's time you closed for lunch."

The shopkeeper glanced over to where Klaus had disappeared.

"We have customers."

The Egyptian looked around. "Where?" Then loudly, "Is anyone here?"

Klaus kept silent.

"Close the shop."

Klaus crouched down behind a standing bookshelf and peered over the dusty tomes. At once, the shop was filled with Egyptians, including Azhan and the woman. They pulled down the blinds and lifted a trap door in the floor. The shopkeeper backed unobtrusively into the comer behind his cash register. He kept glancing nervously over in the direction of where he last saw Klaus, but Klaus had stealthily moved across the room and now hid in a rack of vintage clothing. Marabou tickled his nose as he peered between an evening gown and a military coat.

They withdrew crate after crate from the floor and carried them into the back room. There was a metallic scraping sound, then the dark storage room was flooded with sunlight. It didn't take a second to realize they were moving the treasure. Klaus had to follow. But how to get out?

The Major crept along behind the clothes racks. There was a lot of noise from the Ashirakians' toil and talking, so he made it to the storage room door unheard. He could only see the silhouettes of the Egyptians on the wall opposite. He'd have to poke his head around the comer of the door to see inside. Ashirakians walked back and forth not a foot away from where he crouched behind a jewelry counter. He pulled out his gun and waited. Eventually, all the crates were loaded and the vehicle they were shipping in drove off.

"Lunch is over," sneered the Egyptian who'd told him to close. One by one they disappeared into the back room and then shut the door. The shopkeeper pulled up the blinds and unlocked the door.

At once, Klaus leapt up over the counter and grabbed him. "What were they driving?" he demanded in a whisper.

The shopkeeper glanced nervously at the closed back room door. "I know nothing," he replied flatly.

Klaus gave him a fierce look. "I'm with the government. You tell me now or I'll haul you in."

The man licked his lips and glanced again at the door. "A black lastwagen. No windows." He inhaled sharply and closed his mouth tight, as if he could suck back in the words so the Egyptians wouldn't know.

"Where did they go?"

The man just shook his head and turned abruptly away.

Klaus bolted out and raced to his car bolstering his gun as he went. He glimpsed a black lorry crossing a distant intersection. There were certainly more than a few black trucks in Munich but there was a very good chance this was the one he ought to be following.

"Wow..." breathed Mandel uttering the first word of English Dorian had heard him say. "How do you do that?"

Dorian posed provocatively in the bathroom doorway of Mandel's flat.

"Not a bit of padding. It's all in the ruffles and pleats." He strolled into the room clothed in a dressy black jumpsuit and black ankle boots, his hair tamed into a French twist and held in place by two needle-sharp stilettos, deceptively decorative.

"You look great," the boy exclaimed. "But you're going to wear that to steal the jewel? Isn't it a bit much?"

"I'm wearing this to get into the manor. Otto is expecting Sydelle."

"What about me? I don't have to dress up do I?"

"No, love. He won't even see you if everything goes as planned. Are you sure you want to do this?"

"Hey, I keep what I steal, right? Herr Dieslinger has wealth to spare. What's a few gold candlesticks and maybe some jewelry? You can keep your art-I need stuff to pawn."

Dorian smiled at the boy. "You'll be rich, I promise you. By the end of tonight, you'll have everything you want."

Mandel grinned but Dorian noticed how the boy glanced for a fraction of a second at the empty pillow, then down at the floor. "Yes."

Dorian started to say something encouraging but at that moment the door burst open. Four men, all Egyptian, rushed forward to grab them. Dorian nabbed a chair and broke it over one man's head.

"Eroica!" cried Mandel as two others grabbed him. He went to help the child but the fourth man swung a dagger at him. Dorian leapt back and tripped over the man who lay dazed on the floor. As his pursuer lunged down for the kill. Dorian rolled out of the way and wrested the dagger out of his hand.

He bounced up and jumped squarely on the would-be stabber's back, winding him. The other two had dragged Mandel halfway down the stairs.

"Let him go!" shouted Eroica, thundering down the stairs after them. One man turned to fight while the other kept running with Mandel. Dorian had the advantage of being at the top of the hill, so to speak, as well as armed, and easily over-balanced the man who went sprawling on his back, a gash in his shoulder from the dagger.

He was met at the base of the stairs by Mandel who had managed to wriggle free. But the last Egyptian was there as well. Dorian swung the dagger at the dark man, keeping him at bay.

"This way!" cried Mandel, ushering Eroica towards a side door. It led into an alley and the pair dashed off towards the busy street. But just as they neared the exit of the alley, one of the men stepped out in front of them, a leg of the chair he'd been struck with held like a cricket bat in his hands.

Dorian really didn't feel like being the ball and so they turned to run the other way, but it was blocked by the fourth Ashirakian. Soon, they were joined by the other two as well. The situation looked bleak: two Egyptians at either entrance, closing in on them.

"Eroica..." Mandel whimpered, his eyes wildly darting back and forth between the two ever-nearing menaces. The boy was shaking almost as if in a seizure.

I've got to get him out of here before he goes off his onion, thought Dorian. He handed Mandel the bulky dagger, then withdrew the two stilettos from his hair. "I hope you know the neighborhood," he muttered to Mandel and with a flick of his wrists, pierced both of the men that blocked the way leading back into the building. The two at the front of the alley stood frozen in shock, affording Eroica a split second head start. He took Mandel by the hand and ran him down the alley, over the wounded men and into a rather nasty backstreet.

"This way," Mandel said, and they took off. They wound their way through alleys and over fences till they reached a busy street.

"Safe," panted Dorian. It was so nice to see pale faces again. They stopped to catch their breaths.

"If they're onto us, we'd better find Major Von Eberbach and warn him," said Dorian. Suddenly there was a screeching of tires. A car careened around the corner. Dark faces glared with deadly intent at the two.

"Oh, shit," groaned Mandel. "Back into the alley!"

It was far too narrow for the car to go through. The car screeched to a halt at the entrance and the windows went down. Gunshots rang out and bits of brick wall spattered around them.

"Guns!" was all Mandel could cry out.

"I noticed," replied Eroica. They rounded the corner onto the backstreet again.

"Now what?" Eroica panted, more to himself than to Mandel. The car suddenly darkened one end of the street.

"Come on!"

They took the first available side road. A dead end. A six foot cement all barricaded them in.

"We can jump it!" Dorian said encouragingly.

"I can't," his young companion protested. "I can't run another step."

"You must! They'll-" The car stopped at the alley entrance. Mandel decided he could run after all.

Dorian leapt onto the wall as bullets whizzed by. "Come on," he cried, pulling Mandel up. On the other side of the wall was about a four-story drop into rush hour traffic. Fortunately, there was a foot-wide ledge where the base of the wall and the backs of the buildings beside it met the sloping sides of the trenched freeway.

Sidling carefully, Eroica and Mandel worked their way towards an overpass. The Ashirakians leaned over the wall, firing their guns. A shot grazed Mandel's shoe and he almost fell.

"Fuck!" said Mandel-his second English word. The gunshots ceased and the men disappeared from die top of the wall. Either to reload, or more likely, to get onto the overpass for a better shot.

"Follow me," said Eroica and, with great British dignity, scooted down the incline on his ass, using his hands and feet as brakes.

"I'd better be damn rich by tonight," muttered Mandel and followed suit.

Klaus gave the steering wheel a sharp blow with the heel of his hand. Just his luck to be caught in a traffic slowdown during a chase. The truck was long gone. He dosed his eyes and leaned his head onto one hand, his arm resting on the door. This highway led to Augsburg but there were a thousand turn-offs before there.

What a day. He needed to call his agents to have them dismantle the bombs at the theatre but there was no phone in this rental car. He'd lost the treasure and the Ashirakians and now he was stuck in traffic. Things couldn't get worse.

And then they did.

He felt the car bounce as something heavy landed on the hood. He opened his eyes in time to see two pairs of feet leap from his hood to the car next to him.

"My God," he groaned. "EROICA!"

The thief stopped and turned in genuine surprise. "Why hello, darling!" he gasped. "Fancy meeting you here."

"Eroica, what the hell-Mandel?" He rolled his eyes. "What have you gotten this boy involved in?"

A bullet pierced his windshield, imbedding in the dashboard just in front of him.

"I believe they're onto all of us," Dorian smiled sardonically. "Perhaps you'd care to join us?" The unknown gunmen fired a few more rounds into traffic. If they were after Mandel and Eroica, he'd best lead the gunfire away from the civilians.

"Where are they?" Klaus demanded, opening his car door and crouching down behind it. Dorian opened the passenger side door and he and Mandel hid likewise.

"The flyover," he gasped, pointing up at the overpass.

"All right. Let's go."

They darted through the stopped cars, away from the overpass. "Get down," Klaus shouted to the civilians as shots pierced their cars.

The sides of the freeway trench became shorter and shorter until the road came level with the ground. They were now quite far away from the gunmen who'd fled the approaching police.

They half-stumbled, exhausted, into the first building they came to: an office building. In the spacious, well-decorated lobby, they collapsed in sweaty, gasping heaps on the sofas. The lobby attendant peered over her horn-rimmed glasses at them.

"Can I help you?" she intoned in an uffish, nasal voice.

"Certainly," Eroica panted. "You could bring us some water."

She gave him a cutting glare and picked up the phone.

When Klaus had regained his breath, he grabbed Eroica by the lapels, lifting him to his feet. "What the hell was that all about?"

"Not my fault, really, darling," Eroica replied in English. He really sounded elegant speaking his native tongue. "They came to us."

"Why?" Klaus demanded, shaking Eroica violently.

"Don't hurt him!" cried Mandel. "It's not his fault. They must've seen me talking to you."

Klaus released Dorian. Poor kid, he thought, looking at Mandel. He's really in over his head. He was sorry he had gotten involved. It was all that damned Eroica's fault!

"If you hadn't made him do your dirty work for you-" he scolded Eroica.

"Because I can't tell you anything! You blow up at me all the time!"

"And why shouldn't I? You're always up to no good. Always sticking your nose in places it's not wanted!"

They were arguing-Eroica in English, Klaus in German. Mandel could only understand half of the conversation but it was enough. "He stuck his nose in my business and saved my life!" he shouted. They stopped arguing and looked at him. "It's not his fault I'm here. Well, it is, but not his fault they tried to kill me this morning. If Eroica hadn't saved me, I wouldn't be here." He went over and put his arm around Eroica.

Klaus felt his fire fizzle. Damn. Why did Eroica have to be so noble? Now, who could he take his temper out on? Himself. Later.

The building's security guard stepped off the elevator and came over to them. "Is there a problem?" she asked.

"No," replied Klaus. "We just had a little car trouble."

Dorian pulled a compact out of his pocket and sat down to fix his makeup. "Can we use the phone?" he asked in a sweet voice.

The officer did a double take, then turned a quizzical look to Klaus. "To call a tow truck," Klaus continued, straight-faced.

"Sure," she replied with a sidelong glance.

"Thanks," said Eroica. "Klausie-poo? You want to call Mr. Chief? He's always so reliable."

Klausie-poo was too worn out for another fight. He just gave Eroica a warning glare but the flippant blond was busy finger-combing his unruly ringlets. He did glance up for a quick, conspiratory smile. Klaus felt a strange wave of emotion, no longer than a heartbeat. The words "I love you," rose unexpectedly to his lips, but didn't pass them. Startled and unsettled, he turned to the desk.

"Don't tell them I'm here," said Eroica, leaning over the back of the sofa. "Unless you wish me to tag along."

"You will not get further involved in this affair," Klaus hissed, leaning close to Eroica's upturned face. "It's too dangerous. You were almost killed out there. We all were. You will go back to England and forget the Perfume of the Gods."

Dorian's eyes lit up. "How did you-Klaus! How on earth did you know?" Those blue eyes sparkled with wonder and delight.

"I know you," Klaus replied and accidentally smiled.

"You just don't want me to get it because you're afraid it will work and you won't be able to resist me anymore."

"Believe me, Red Gloria, I will never want you," he muttered in English, hoping no one else would be able to understand.

"Never say never," the Earl replied pertly. "Now go call your little friends. Tell them they're onto you."

Klaus had more to tell them than that but he didn't let Eroica know it. "Go home, Eroica," he reiterated, going over to the main desk. "I mean it."

"Oh Klaus," the Earl sighed. "You know me better than that."

 

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Eroica