Chapter 8

Klaus phoned headquarters from a tavern in town. Taverns and clubs were the only things still open at night. At least this one was a quiet, unnoteworthy one. His chief told him that NATO agents were at the theatre, waiting for the auction. They hadn't dismantled the bombs, nor had they arrested any of the Ashirakians. They were waiting for all the crows to gather. It was dangerous but necessary. If the Ashirakians at the theatre were arrested, the others would be warned and flee at once with the rest of the treasure before NATO could find it. Still, Klaus was to stay out of the picture. Just spy. With all dutiful intentions, he planned to do just that. It didn't keep him from cursing under his breath as he drove back to his hotel; he was still a slave to duty.

However, who could have predicted that Azhan would pull up alongside him and fire a shot at him? After that, duty or not, Klaus had to get involved. Azhan pulled ahead and Klaus was in hot pursuit. He reached under the seat and withdrew his massive weapon. He fired at the back tires. People on the streets screamed and ran for cover. Azhan turned a sharp comer and tore into the nearly empty streets of outer Munich.

Dorian leapt from rooftop to rooftop, drawn by the sounds of gunfire and squealing tires. Below him, he saw a shiny black Saab burn up the road, followed by a dark blue BMW. The sound of Klaus' .45 was unmistakable. Like cracks of thunder echoing up the canyon of buildings. Dorian followed.

Azhan took a comer too sharply and spun his car wildly into the middle of an intersection, coming to rest facing Klaus. Klaus shot into the windshield. Azhan threw open his door and began firing wildly at Klaus as he ran into an all-night liquor store.

Klaus ran to the door and pressed himself to the outside wall. He heard Azhan shouting at the storekeeper to get down on the floor. Klaus threw the door open, ready to shoot. The aisles were empty. The storekeeper lay face down behind the counter. Suddenly Azhan popped up from behind a long shelf and fired. He missed. Klaus crouched down and waited for Azhan's next move.

Dorian climbed down and crept over to the pay phone outside the liquor store. He knew it was foolish to be so close to the gunfire, even more foolish to risk Klaus seeing him. After all, it wouldn't look at all suspicious for Dorian to be found dead in front of a battle scene. Klaus would have the perfect alibi for shooting him.

Still, he had to call for reinforcements. Maybe Klaus could handle this himself but Dorian wasn't taking any chances where his beloved was concerned. Not after what had happened to Otto: a big burly man killed by a mere boy.

Shots rang out inside. Dorian blurted the situation into the phone to the Munich police. The Egyptian burst from the door. Dorian dove into Klaus' car, the only solid shelter on hand. He hid on the floor of the backseat. He expected to catch unholy Hell when Klaus found him there but to his shock and horror, it was the Egyptian who climbed into the driver's seat, apparently unaware of Dorian's presence. Klaus fired at him, but the Egyptian drove off, shooting his own car's gas tank, exploding it.

Klaus took the shopkeeper's motorcycle and gave chase. Police sirens wailed behind him. Ignoring them, he awkwardly reloaded his gun, trying to keep the bike steady.

The Egyptian turned into the touristy side of town. He sped down streets of quiet, closed giftshops and tea rooms. Dorian peered cautiously over the seat. The Egyptian was driving with kamikaze devotion. Dorian was afraid to raise up higher to see if Klaus was in pursuit. So he watched to see where his abductor was headed.

He turned into a cul-de-sac.

At last, thought Dorian, he's trapped. But the madman kept driving, rocketing toward a large, beautiful building at the blind end of the street. The theatre!

Dorian gave a cry and sat up, hitting the driver alongside the head. The Egyptian's foot remained mashed on the gas pedal. Dorian gave the wheel a sharp turn. The man hit him and fought for the wheel. Dorian clawed at his eyes. The Egyptian gave a cry of pain and rage and pulled at Dorian's hands. Dorian looked up in time to see the huge cement fountain in front of the theatre bare down on them like a comet.

Klaus turned onto the street just as the car exploded. Bits of burning, twisted metal flew everywhere, as well as a human-shaped object which was hurled from the back window, slammed into the side of a building, then slid onto a balcony. Klaus stopped the bike under the balcony. Blood rained down on him. Long golden curls streamed through the iron slats of the balcony floor.

"Dorian!" he cried and kicked in the front door.

This was an historical show house open during the day to tourists. Fine, polished furniture and antiques were set about with doll-house precision. Klaus barely noticed. He bolted up the carpeted stairs and found the balcony on which Dorian lay, leaking life onto the pavement below.

"Dorian," he gasped, rolling the Earl onto his back. In the few places on his face that weren't covered in gore, his skin was pallid and chalky. The Earl's eyes opened, one more than the other. He moved his lips, trying to speak.

"Shush," said Klaus. "Don't waste your energy. Whatever it is can wait until you're better."

Eroica's lips said a soundless "no", and he kept trying to speak. Only faint groans escaped.

Klaus could see a veil of death covering Dorian's features. Perhaps Dorian could too. Klaus knew what Dorian was trying to say. It was ridiculous and sentimental but heartbreakingly touching that his last words would be to tell Klaus that he loved him. So like Eroica.

Still, the dying thief struggled to speak. Klaus thought he heard him say his name. He held the shattered doll in his arms. Dorian's blue eyes were now deathly grey.

"Klaus..." he finally whispered. He closed his eyes and went limp in Klaus' arms.

"I know," Klaus whispered back. "Mein Gott, I know." Tears welled up in his eyes. His beautiful butterfly was gone. Crushed. The sudden coldness of being alone cut him to the marrow. He held Dorian to him and kissed his ashen, bloody lips. If only he'd done this when Dorian was alive. If only he'd been kinder to him. Had Dorian died thinking Klaus hated him?

He pulled away and gazed at the tragic angel. The sight of bright, glittering blue eyes gazing up at him with surprise and delight almost made him scream. First came shock, immediately followed by relief and then anger.

"Dorian Red Gloria," he growled, "if you do not die I will kill you!" His mind was reeling. Dorian had been at death's door - beyond it! Now, these eyes were bright and clear, if pained. The veil of death was lifted. Dorian was still hurt terribly, but somehow, he'd pulled himself up. It was the kiss, no doubt, but had it just given him the will to live or had it really brought him back by magic?

Klaus lifted Dorian in his arms. Vain, to think his kisses were enchanted. This wasn't a fairy tale, after all.

Police and NATO agents were all over the scene below. Klaus carried Dorian inside and laid him on a bed.

"I'll go call for an ambulance," he said. Dorian tried to reply, but only mumbled.

Klaus paused at the door and looked back at him. So now what? He had his second chance. He could start being nicer to Dorian. He could begin to let himself... care about him. The sudden horrific pain at the thought of losing him was astonishing in retrospect. Dorian meant more to him than he'd thought. He still didn't love him, at least, not in the way Dorian wanted, but there was something there.

Something that had obliged him to kiss him. Not out of passion. He'd think about that later. Right now, he had to get help. He turned and went downstairs, licking the taste of blood from his lips.

 

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Eroica