"... That Has Such People In It!"

 

An Eroica / Sleepy Hollow Crossover

 

by Heather Sparrows
Email: kargoo at arcor.de

 

 

Bonn, Germany, Summer 1783

The boy went to the window and looked out. He had been locked in his bedroom since late morning. At least it had been light then. Now the sun was going down, and soon it would become dark.

The hours had seemed like ages to him, and he still did not know what he had done wrong. His father had brought him in, had closed the door behind him and turned the key in the lock. At first, he had not dared to move. His father might come back soon and punish him. Time passed, but his father did not come back. So the boy knelt down and prayed to the Virgin Mary and to his patron saint, as his nurse had taught him to do. She had told him praying would comfort him when he felt alone and afraid. And he felt alone, bewildered and afraid now. Too much so as to be soothed by prayer, actually.

Everything had looked well at first. His father had been in a good mood. He had given order to saddle his son’s pony and his own horse for a ride. The boy had felt happy. Usually, his father rarely even spoke to him. It had been worst during the last winter, when his mother died.

But on this day, his father had even mentioned how well the boy was managing his pony, although the child himself found nothing special in this. He could not remember how he had learned to walk, and the same went for riding.

They had taken the path along the fields and meadows, where peasants were working. They greeted their master, Graf Friedrich Anton von dem Eberbach, and his son Klaus devoutly when they rode past.

Father and son followed the path into the woods. Graf von dem Eberbach spoke about the military academy near Berlin Klaus would attend as from next week on. Berlin was far away, and secretly, the boy thought he would miss old Anna, his nurse, and Franz. Especially Franz. But he would never have told his father. His father’s will was law for everyone around him, to be obeyed without any question. Klaus was six years old now, and he was expected to become a soldier. So he would go and become a strong soldier. His father would be pleased with him. Crying and feeling sad was something for women, not for men, especially not for soldiers, that much he had learned from his mother’s death.

They reached a clearing. Graf Eberbach dismounted and sat down on a felled tree. Klaus saw that they were not far away from where Franz had his hut. Franz Gillessen was his father’s gamekeeper. Klaus had been lonely, the sons of the servants who lived in the Eberbach household being all much older than he was, about twelve years and more, or still in their swaddling clothes. So it had not been difficult for the friendly, outgoing young man to win over the child. He had taken him on walks into the woods, something Graf Eberbach had noted with a frown, but not forbidden. Klaus admired his friend. Franz was strong. He could carry heavy logs or crates without effort, he rode like the devil and could shoot very well. When he would be a man, Klaus wanted to be like Franz.

He asked his father for permission to go up to the hut and look whether his friend was at home.

"Go ahead." Graf Eberbach said. "If he is at home, tell him I will have a word with him later."

When he arrived at the hut, Klaus called his friend’s name and knocked, but no one answered. Maybe Franz was not at home, maybe he was in the small shed behind the hut and had not heard the boy calling. Klaus went to the shed. The door was closed. If Franz had been at home and working there, it would have been open. So the boy turned to go back and tell his father that the gamekeeper was not at home.

He heard a sound. A few weeks ago, he had played hide and seek with Franz, and he had found his friend just because the man had made a little noise. Maybe Franz had heard him calling anyway and was playing a trick on him now. Klaus tiptoed back to the shed door and opened it carefully —

Franz was there alright, with another man. To the child it looked as if they were wrestling. They both were naked.

Klaus stepped back. This was another Franz than the man he knew. He realised that he should never have seen this. It belonged to a strange world, the world of grown people —

Franz became aware of the boy and withdrew hastily from the other man. He seemed angry and baffled.

"Klaus! Mein Gott, Junge, was - ?"

He had intended to ask the boy what he was doing here, but did not finish his sentence. There were steps outside. The voice of Graf Eberbach. "Gillessen! Where are you?"

The two men in the shed groped for their clothes, but Eberbach was already in the doorframe, behind his son. The boy was too young to understand what he had seen, his father understood at first glance. With one movement, he threw the boy aside, took his riding crop and began to thrash the two men.

Klaus got up from the ground, numb with shock. He had fallen when his father had pushed him aside. His father’s anger frightened him. If he was beating the two men, they must have done something very bad. Neither Franz nor the other man dodged the blows or did anything to stop his father. They stood and received their punishment.

Graf Eberbach finally stopped thrashing and beating the two men. "Gillessen," he said, his voice low with anger and contempt, "and you, Heppner. You will leave my property within an hour. And if I ever see one of you again, I’ll shoot you like rabid dogs."

He grabbed his son’s arm roughly and pulled him away from the two men, away from the hut.

Klaus had not dared to speak to his father, to ask what had made him so angry. He was sure he himself must have done something very bad as well, because his father had ridden straight home with him and locked him up. He thought about what it could have been, but he could not say.

He was hungry and thirsty, and his bladder was full. What had happened? Had his father changed his mind and had shot Franz and Heppner anyway, as he had threatened to do? Or had they been thrown into prison? Bad people went to prison. Maybe they would send him to prison as well —

The key was turned in the lock and the door opened. His father came in, followed by Pastor Leuchtenberg, the priest of the local parish. The two men looked very serious, when the child stood to greet them.

"Klaus," his father said, "I will have to ask you a few questions. You know from Pastor Leuchtenberg here that it is a sin not to tell the truth."

"Ja, Herr Vater."*

"Franz Gillessen sometimes took you with him on his walks into the woods. Did he take you to his hut as well?"

"Ja, Herr Vater."

"What did he do with you? Tell me!"

The child frowned, trying to remember.

"He showed me how to whittle. He can whittle a chain. And a flute. Or a little man. — And we played hide and seek."

"And in the woods?"

"We saw a deer. And a fox. And he showed me good mushrooms and bad mushrooms."

The two men looked at each other. Then Graf von dem Eberbach continued brusquely: "Did he ever take out his organ and show it to you?"

Klaus shook his head. He knew what his father meant. The organ which you were to touch only to make water.

"Answer me, boy!" Graf Eberbach snapped.

"Nein, Herr Vater." The boy flinched, hearing his father’s sharp tone.

"Did he ever touch you, take you up into his arms?"

Klaus’ frown deepened.

"Nein, Herr Vater." he answered. "I’m not a little boy anymore." he added as an explanation. Franz would never have done such a thing, he was sure about that.

"Did Franz Gillessen ever touch your organ?" Graf Eberbach continued relentlessly.

"Nein, Herr Vater." The boy shook his head as an added confirmation of his words.

He knew he had told them the truth, but neither his father nor Pastor Leuchtenberg seemed to be satisfied. Graf Eberbach bent down to his son and gave him a hard and stern look, as if he were to read the boy’s thoughts. This frightened the child. He had told what he knew, as best as he knew, and neither his father nor Pastor Leuchtenberg would want him to lie. So what was it they wanted? He felt upset and frightened, and he did not want to cry. So he looked away from his father, down to the floor.

"Look at your father! Why are you looking away, boy?" Pastor Leuchtenberg said sharply. He was a big heavy man with a deep, thunderous voice.

Klaus looked up again. He was trembling now. His father turned away from him, as if disappointed.

Pastor Leuchtenberg came up to the boy, staring down at him through round glasses. Their lenses reflected the last evening sun. It was as if he had no eyes at all. Just blinding mirrors.

"What Franz Gillessen and Karl Heppner did and what you have seen was a mortal sin. In the Bible, such people are called Sodomites. Their crime puts them apart from humanity."

Klaus could not avert his eyes from the blinding mirror glasses, but neither could he prevent a tear from rolling down his cheek.

"Will they go to hell?" he whispered. He did not want his friend to go to hell, and he also had liked Heppner. In his eyes, they had always been good men. But Pastor Leuchtenberg and his father must know better. Perhaps the devil had already taken the two men down to hell. He had heard stories from his father’s servants about people being so bad that the devil came up in person to take them away.

"And your soul, boy, has been corrupted by the very contact you had with Gillessen and by what you saw!" Pastor Leuchtenberg continued.

The child was beyond crying now. He stared at the priest with what was pure horror. He was too young to understand every word of what the clergyman said, but the big man looming sternly over him was enough to make it clear that he himself had done something very bad.

"Will I go to hell too?" Klaus brought barely out the words.

"Not if you pray to the Virgin Mary to ask her son’s forgiveness! Not if you take the Holy Confession!"

Graf Eberbach and the priest took the child to the chapel and made him confess that he had sinned, witnessing two men together, committing an unnatural act of the flesh. Klaus repeated the words Pastor Leuchtenberg said, although he did not know the meaning of all of them. But he obeyed his father and the priest, hoping they would leave him alone and he was not to go to hell.

Pastor Leuchtenberg absolved him and made him pray the Pater Noster and the Ave Maria over and over again. About two hours later, the exhausted child collapsed.

*****

During the last week Klaus spent in his father’s house, the incident was never mentioned again. It was as if Franz and Heppner had never existed and nothing had happened. Klaus would have liked to ask some questions burning in his heart and mind, above all the question how such friendly people like the two men could be so bad, but nobody would have been there to answer his questions, and he was too young to put them into words anyway.

A week later, he had begun to forget. There were other things to cope with: Beginning school and his training to become a soldier.

Graf Friedrich Anton von dem Eberbach was proud of his son, when Klaus came to take leave from his father. The boy was tall and strong for his age. He would need to be disciplined early, and the military academy would take care of this. Klaus had a good mind, as far as his father could tell, and he had briefly considered the idea to let him take up a career as a scholar or a clergyman. But it was family tradition that the eldest son of the Eberbach line choose a military career. Besides, as Klaus was the only son, he would also have to marry and to beget children to ensure that the family name would live on. No, it was good as it was. The boy would have a good future as an officer ahead of him.

The incident with the gamekeeper seemed as forgotten by father and son as if it had never happened. Six-year-old Klaus did not know about forgotten fear and unanswered questions to come back and haunt him.

He went through a hard school at the military academy, and became a good soldier. He learned to ignore feelings of hunger, thirst, and pain. Feelings like sadness did not exist. The only thing that mattered was duty: to your superiors, to your country and the king who represented it, to your family.

He fought in some wars and learned to kill. Klaus von dem Eberbach seemed fearless, and in command, he demanded the utmost of his men. They feared him. He never socialised, and his demeanour was always brusque, if not rude. He had nothing but contempt for weakness. But as he never demanded less than the utmost of himself, he was also respected. Barely in his twenties, he was known and feared as "Iron Klaus".

At the same time, a high-ranking official noticed the young man’s potential and assigned him to his first secret mission, which he accomplished excellently. From this time on, Klaus von dem Eberbach worked as an agent for the German Crown. Among other things, his special training included foreign languages, history and economy of the neighbouring countries.

Klaus von dem Eberbach was a sharp-witted, highly trained secret weapon. And a difficult man. Nevertheless, he had never any trouble working together with other agents or contractors either from his own or from other countries. Until he met a young British nobleman, Dorian Red, Earl of Gloria. The Earl was suspected to be one of Britain’s most accomplished art thieves, but sometimes he put his abilities into service for his country.

Von dem Eberbach, meanwhile promoted to be a major, hated the foppish, affected young man almost at first sight. What he could not account for and what bewildered, almost frightened him, was the horrible rage the Earl unleashed in him. Klaus could not ignore that his rage masked a deep sadness. He would have chosen not to work with the damned Englishman, but their paths would cross again and again ...

 

New York, September 1793

"I swear, Gentlemen, I don’t know anything about construction plans my father made! — Please —"

The frightened dark eyes of the girl who had spoken searched the black masks of the three men surrounding her. She was securely bound to a chair in an empty cellar room in her father’s house. Her father and mother were lying upstairs, dead. They had killed themselves, leaving her alone ... One of the men held her brother, a boy about five. He had seen their parents kill themselves, and he was beside himself from fear, struggling against the man who was holding him, beating at him with his fists, kicking and biting. The man beat the child into his face with full force to silence him.

The girl gave a scream when the man hit the boy, and the blow she received split open her lip. Half of her face felt numb. But it helped her come back from a place of screaming insanity. She had to stay sane, to stay alive, to help her brother ...

"Please." she whispered. "Leave him alone. He’s just a little boy."

"Think, girl." The man who seemed to be the leader sounded impatient. "If you don’t know anything, think! Your father must have hidden the plans here in this house. Is there a hole in a wall, the floor or the ceiling somewhere? A secret room? You’d better think hard, young lady!"

She wracked her brain, but to no avail. She would have told them anything to end this nightmare, to make her parents live again, to be upstairs, safely in her bed —

"There is nothing." She shook her head. A sob escaped her. She bit her lip.

The third man had been silent so far, just standing by, looking greedily at her through the eye slits of his mask. She was not very attractive, tall and bony. But she was very young, and most probably a virgin. Besides, she had beautiful eyes, now full of fear. It was amazing how beautiful even the most ordinary women became in distress ... It was wonderful to see the tears run down her cheeks, he thought. She wore only a night-shirt which opened at the front, and one of her small, firm breasts was showing ...

The interrogator clicked his tongue.

"You are a very stubborn girl. Very stubborn."

"Maybe we haven’t asked the young lady nicely enough?" the lecher cut in. "Maybe not the right way?" He exchanged a glance with the interrogator.

"It might show her how serious we are." the man who had asked her questions agreed. He nodded to the other man, who approached her, his mouth grinning below the mask.

She did not know how long it lasted. Three men took turns with a body, which after a while was no longer her own. She went away, far away. Not to a place of insanity, but to a sunny garden with old trees —

The pain brought her back. Something had hit her leg below the knee, and it exploded in a pain which set her brain on fire.

"Don’t pass out on us, young lady! Where could the plans be?"

She heard someone scream and found that it was herself. "I don’t know! I don’t know! I don’t know — please — God!"

Her interrogator clicked his tongue once more. His voice sounded very angry when he spoke again. "You must know something! You are old enough to know! — But - maybe we’ll have to ask your little brother -?"

She opened her mouth to say something, but her voice failed. Her brother was still held by the man who had beaten him. He was no longer fighting now, just sobbing, looking at her with uncomprehending eyes. During the last few hours, he had seen too many things he was too young to understand.

"It’s your fault, young lady." the interrogator said. He nodded at the man holding the boy, who tore off the child’s night-shirt -

She had never thought possible what she saw now, and her brain refused to register it. She wanted to go away, far away to that good place she had been before and stay there. Forever. But she had to stay here, she had to help Johnny —

She tore at the ropes binding her, when something exploded in her head.

*****

She must have lost consciousness. Finally. It was dark. No men. — Johnny? Where was Johnny? She called the boy’s name.

An inarticulate whimper answered her. There was light, a hint of light from a small window. She could see the boy. He was huddled into a corner.

She found that she had been bound to the chair again. When she struggled against the ropes, the chair creaked and swayed. She kept on struggling. The chair finally collapsed, but there was that pain in her right leg again, striking her brain like lightning. She thought she would not be able to crawl up to her brother, but somehow she managed. He did not recognise her, beat at her and tried to crawl away, whimpering —

She must have passed out or drifted away again, when the smell woke her. Something was burning, and when she strained her ears, she could hear a crackling sound. The house! The house was burning, and they were locked in the cellar!

She did not know how she managed to reach the window, break it and push the boy out, how she managed to squeeze through the tiny window and drag herself and the boy away from the burning house, a long distance away, to a hedge, where she curled around her brother, who had given up all resistance.

//No longer think. Never think again. I want to sleep forever -//

Darkness.

New York, September 1794

The tall girl sat at the window in the apartment which had been her home during the last year. Her bad leg rested on a small stool. The man with the mask must have broken it while interrogating her. It had healed, but it had remained stiff at the knee and gave her trouble when the weather changed. She walked with a cane.

The boy, her brother, was playing in a corner. Since that fatal night, he had never been the same. He had been in a stupor for a long time, apparently not recognising anyone, not even her. Helpless as a baby, unable to control his bowels or his bladder, unable to speak, to eat alone, not walking, just crawling. If he moved at all and was not sitting in a corner, staring vacantly into the air. When he slept, he always awoke screaming.

When the stupor had lifted from him a few months ago, she had been happy and full of hope. But she soon realised that her brother would never again be the boy she had known before. He now saw people nobody else could see and talked to them. He permanently lost pieces of clothing and his toys. She had tried to teach him the alphabet, but as he seemed to be in another world most of the time, not much came of it. She remained glad, however. It was as if his soul had decided to come back from wherever it had been hiding, as if he had decided to live again. He did no longer wake up screaming. He recognised her, the doctor, the Veiled Lady. And he spoke again, calling her by her name, Josie.

The Veiled Lady had done a lot for them. She had always been there when the girl needed her, when she woke from her own nightmares, or when she needed help with Johnny. But this would be over now, because of the new doctor.

The first doctor the Veiled Lady had provided had been a friendly and gentle old man. Johnny had responded well to him. But some weeks ago, the Veiled Lady had brought bad news. The doctor had died. The new doctor did not get on well with Johnny, although he tried. The girl had not liked him right from the start.

Last week, Johnny had come down with a slight fever. When called, the doctor had been in a bad mood and very impatient. He had treated the boy roughly, and Johnny had closed up, turning away, ignoring him. His order to sit up and open his mouth ignored three times, the doctor had pulled the boy up from the bed. Johnny screamed, and the doctor had beaten him across the face.

Something in the girl had snapped then. Once again, she had been in the cellar with the masked men. Everything had become black for a moment, and when she could see and feel again, she found she had slammed the doctor against a wall, clutching his throat.

She had released the man immediately, trembling with anger and shock. She knew, if she had blacked out for a few moments longer, she would have killed the doctor. This was no exaggeration. She was as tall as an average man, and she had taken to lifting a small but heavy box for an amount of time every day, strengthening her arms and hands considerably.

She knew it was utter madness, but it had helped her cope with the anger she lately felt more and more. At first, she had only felt sadness and shame about what the men had done to her and Johnny. And fear. These feelings were still there, but now they were mixed with anger. If someone tried to touch her now, she would go for his throat, kick him into the groins, thrash him with her cane.

She would have liked to find and kill the masked men. And she had more fantasies about what to do with them than she would ever have thought herself capable of. The anger helped her cope. On the other hand, it made her restless. She would have to find a new way to live. And what ways were there to live for her? She could become a whore. After that night in the cellar, what did it matter? — But no. She knew she would never again allow a man to touch her. So the more respectable way of living, being a good man’s wife, bearing and educating his children, was out of the question as well. Besides — who would take her? She knew very well that she was not pretty, and now she had a stiff leg on top of that.

Moreover, she would never leave Johnny. His condition had improved so much, maybe his mind would heal completely, but she did not really believe it. Be it as it may, he was everything she had in the world. — What could she do? What options were open to her? Damn it, many things would be much easier if she was a man!

It was madness. But she would have to become a man to protect her brother and herself. And she better be good at it.

A coach stopped in front of the house, and the Veiled Lady got out. Very well. The girl had made her decision. She would leave with Johnny. After what she had done to the doctor, she felt she could not longer benefit from the Veiled Lady’s charity and kindness. She and Johnny owed their lives to this woman, who had never revealed her identity. Now, however, the girl would have to fight on her own...

 

New York, December 1794

The tall young man stood in front of the desk in the big study, holding his hat in his hands. The boss had taken him in only a month ago. He looked younger than his seventeen years, his features were sharp, but fine as a woman’s, the boss thought. He was well educated, and his shyness surely would vanish when he became more experienced. The boss had seen other young men grow up in his service. All in all, the youth seemed fitting for the position as the third clerk on the docks. He had a good mind, and this mattered more to the boss than the young man’s stiff leg.

The boy who had come with the youth had begun to walk around the large room, looking at the paintings and artefacts adorning the boss’s private office.

"Johnny!" the young man called him back sharply, but the stocky, grey-haired man behind the desk shook his head.

"Let him have a look."

The girl had managed to take up the life of a man. Under the name of Charles Iverson, she worked as a clerk at the docks. Everything had gone smoothly, as smoothly as it could go under the everyday fear of giving away that she was not a man by a gesture, by her inexperience. She knew very well that her co-workers did not take her seriously, but as long as they treated her like they would treat any inexperienced youth new to the job, it didn’t matter. She had nothing but her determination, her will to survive, to make a living for her brother and herself.

Johnny had taken his sister’s metamorphosis into a young man very well, whereas a child in his right mind would have had difficulties. To Johnny, it did not matter. During the day, he was in the care of a woman who looked after the children of people who had to work for their living. Mostly widows or orphans, who could not care for their children or younger brothers and sisters themselves.

Circumstances had begun to look a bit better for Charles Iverson and his brother. Until that morning. Somehow, Johnny had escaped from the woman’s care and had shown up at the dock. He often ran away and roamed the streets until he found his "brother". How he did it, remained a mystery, but he always succeeded.

When he had shown up this morning, the foreman in charge had been Dick Jones, a morose, violent man. On earlier occasions, other workers had simply shooed Johnny away, had carried him carefully out of danger, or had even brought him to his brother. Jones, however, had kicked the boy to frighten him away. He did not know that the little one was Iverson’s brother, and had he known, he would not have cared.

Anyway, no one would have been able to foresee the young clerk’s violent reaction. Seeing the foreman kick his brother, Iverson dropped his pen and hurried out to the foreman. He pushed the bull of a man away from Johnny — and the next thing he knew were two burly workers holding him back. He was trembling, and the knuckles of his fists were bloodied. The blood had not been his own.

One of the senior clerks came down from the office, and first the foreman, then Iverson himself had been sent to see the boss. This was why he was here now. Maybe it would have been a good thing to work here. But he could not stand anyone beating up on Johnny. So this would be the end of his employment —

"Charles Iverson." the stocky man with the piercing grey eyes said, looking up from the papers on his desk. "My congratulations. You have good fists and good reflexes. No one ever managed to break Jones’ nose before."

The young man remained silent. He looked straight into his employer’s eyes. That was an iron rule. Look them into the eye. If you have to take something from someone take it. But never show you are afraid. It was hard. Terribly hard.

The boss did not seem particularly angry. The incident seemed to amuse him more than it annoyed him. And behind the sharp look was something like — acknowledgement of what the young man had done.

Nevertheless, Iverson feared that the boss would sack him, even worse, look straight through his disguise. Her breasts were small, and she bandaged them firmly. She wore wide clothes and made her voice deeper. Her tall frame and wide shoulders fooled most people. But would her appearance fool the boss, as they called him? She had never heard his real name, and she suspected that his business was not all on the right side of the law —

"Johnny?" the boss said gently, alarming the young man. The boy went over to the boss. He seemed neither upset nor afraid. Again, there had been a change. He was no longer afraid of people. Instead, he looked at them as if he could see things they did not know about themselves or wanted to hide. If he had done this with the foreman, it must have unnerved the bully very much.

"The big man kicked you." the boss said to the boy. "Where?"

"Leg." Johnny answered. "And there." He pointed to his backside.

"Does it hurt more now than when he did it?" the boss asked. "We must make sure that he hasn’t broken one of your bones."

"I looked at him." Iverson said. "And he walks normally. So I think —"

"Doesn’t hurt much now." Johnny confirmed.

"It was not necessary to kick you." the boss said thoughtfully, more speaking to himself than to the boy. "He deserved what he got."

Johnny was no longer interested in the subject. He pointed to a human skull sitting on a book on the boss’s desk. The boss took the skull and handed it to him. The boy turned it over in his hands, before looking at the man.

"What’s that?"

"It’s the head of a dead man." the boss answered. "It is called a skull."

Johnny held the skull and looked at it for a while.

"You kill that man." he then said to the boss. It did not sound like a question, but like a statement.

"Johnny!" Iverson took the skull away from the boy and put it on the desk again. Probably his brother was even right —

The boss laughed.

"What is it with you?" he said to Johnny. "You are a remarkable boy. With a lot of imagination."

"He is not in his right mind." Iverson said, matter-of-factly.

"He is remarkable." the boss repeated. "Now, what am I to do with you both, Iverson? — I’ll make you an offer. I have other business. And you look as if you were the right man for it."

"What business, Sir?"

The boss stood.

"You’ll see. Come with me. Take the boy along."

*****

That day, the boss offered Iverson a position as the second manager of one of his brothels. It was a brothel for men with a taste for young and exquisite members of their own sex.

Iverson was at a loss what to do. He thought of Johnny. How would the young men react to him, how would he react to them? How could he prevent them from touching his brother? And how would they ever accept a young man their own age as a figure of authority? And what would the first manager think about him?

But it was an opportunity. A living. The brothel had a high standard. The young men working there were not only attractive, even beautiful, but also looked healthy and kept themselves clean. The rooms were luxurious, the sheets clean, the customers were carefully chosen. So Iverson accepted the boss’s offer.

The first manager kept an iron rule. He was called Paul Sykes. Having met him somewhere else, Iverson would never have guessed the man’s profession. He was middle-aged and looked like any ordinary accountant or clerk working with a "respectable" firm. He was in charge of two more brothels, ordinary ones, one sitting across the street. Iverson needed not to worry. Sykes was a professional. When he had convinced himself that Iverson worked well, he took the newcomer under his wings and helped him a lot .

Naturally, the young man tried at first to protect his brother from his surroundings. But it proved impossible to keep the curious child away from the young men and the women across the street. When he tried to lock the boy in, Johnny became restless and aggressive, whereas he was happy when he could visit his friends. Iverson made it very clear that no one was to touch the boy. He was backed up by the boss and Sykes, but this became less and less necessary.

He found himself becoming more comfortable in his position. At least during the day. At night the frightened girl came back, throwing him into an abyss of self-doubt, fear and despair. Was it right to work here? What if they were caught by the police? What if they found out he was a woman?

Sometimes, he was in the cellar with the masked men again. There was no god to pray to. Drinking did not help, only made him sick. Sometimes, when it was very bad, he vaguely thought of killing himself, but what would become of his brother? When the demons came at night, he could only sit behind his locked door, sobbing, rocking himself back and forth, biting his hands to prevent himself from screaming and waking Johnny or somebody else.

But he could not hide from his brother how he felt. Somehow, the boy seemed to understand. One night Iverson had forgotten to lock his door. Johnny slipped in, one of the women from across the street in his wake, a tall, slender young African called Elizabeth.

Iverson rose to throw them both out, before the woman would discover his secret, but without a word, she took him into her arms, in no way astonished to find the body of a woman. She brought comfort and rest for many nights to come. Ashamed and bewildered at first, he accepted the gift gratefully. He was young, and Elizabeth’s gentle lovemaking took some of the pain away. He also found out that it felt good to give back the gentle tenderness he received. Johnny’s choice had been right. She became Iverson’s lover. And his friend and confidante. His secret was safe with her.

A bit later, Johnny brought in a black mongrel puppy from the streets. By now, Iverson had come to accept his brother’s gifts. He kept the puppy, and it grew up into a huge dog. He trained it as a watch dog. When it died, he kept one of the puppies it had fathered. Thus he was never seen without a large black dog at his side, which earned him the name Dog Man.

*****

Years passed. Sykes died, and Dog Man took over his position as the main overseer of the two brothels, as the boss suggested. He and Elizabeth were lovers. Dog Man also had taken in his lover’s brother, Ares, as a doorman. The tall African became another of this closest confidants.

Johnny began to grow up, to become a man. It became impossible to keep him away from the young men and the women. They taught him, and Johnny enjoyed it. Iverson was furious when he found out, but Elizabeth and the boss calmed him down. He finally relented.

But Johnny also started to roam the streets and to prostitute himself. Apart from making him sad, it also got Dog Man into trouble with the pimps who controlled the street boys, and it was not easy to find an arrangement.

Dog Man tried to talk to his brother about it, explaining to him that it was not necessary, that it was dangerous in the streets, that in God’s name he could work at the brothel together with the other young men, but Johnny refused.

"Have to go out." he said. "This is all I can do."

Dog Man scolded himself for his weakness, but he did not have the heart to lock his brother in, or even to refuse the coins Johnny brought to him day after day.

Bonn, Germany, July 1805

Major Klaus Heinz von dem Eberbach was sitting in a corner near a window in his favourite public house. From his position he had a good view of the large room. The inn was frequented mostly by military men like him. Here he could enjoy being alone among people, because everybody minded his own business. The officers he knew had given up long ago inviting him to join their company for a drink or a talk. They had either respected his wish for being left alone by encountering his cold, inaccessible attitude, or they had learned to do so by his blunt rudeness.

Today, however, he would not be allowed to drink his beer and smoke his pipe in peace. The innkeeper had just placed a tankard on the table, when the Major noticed a young cadet, still half a boy, carefully making his way through the crowd. Klaus eyed him with suspicion. He had never seen this young man before. Must have been newly transferred to Bonn. Regular, open features, healthy complexion, tall, blonde hair.

The young man looked around as if he was trying to find someone. He was intercepted by the innkeeper, Mr Hünten, and exchanged a few words with him. Mr Hünten pointed to the corner where Klaus was sitting. Unbelievable. This cut-throat bastard of an innkeeper pointed him out to a complete stranger!

The young man came up straight to his table now. The Major’s fingers closed around the butt of the pistol in his pocket. He was off duty at the moment, so he wore a civilian’s overcoat. But he never went anywhere without a weapon.

The cadet stood to attention and saluted.

"Major von dem Eberbach?"

"None other." Klaus replied brusquely. "What is it, cadet?"

"The Town Commander wants to see you, Sir." the young man said. With a look at the untouched tankard of beer he added "It is most urgent, Herr Major."

Klaus raised the tankard and downed half of it, grimly staring at the cadet.

"Very well. I’ll call on him at once. — Wegtreten*!" he snapped, and the cadet retreated hastily. No doubt he had heard stories about the terrible Major, who could frighten grown men, and maybe he had asked himself whether these stories were true. Tonight, he would have something to tell his comrades, Klaus thought grimly.

He emptied his tankard, unperturbed by a few officers who had followed the brief encounter with interest and were now laughing at the cadet’s hasty exit. He got up, threw a few coins on the table, and motioned to the innkeeper.

"A word, Hünten." he said when the man had hurried up to him.

"Här Majur?**"

"If I see you pointing me out to a stranger ever again, I’ll rip your head off!" The Major did not speak in the local dialect, which he did when he was in a better mood.

"But Sir, I thought it was important!" Hünten tried to defend himself.

"You heard me. Good evening, Monsieur Hünten."

He left the innkeeper standing at the corner table, shaking his head, and went out into the street..

The door slammed shut behind him, and he took a deep breath of the cool, clear night air. The day had been stiflingly hot, but now there was a cool, refreshing breeze coming up from the Rhine.

"Verdammter Narr!*" the Major murmured and went on his way to the main barracks near the Sterntor. A few whores eyed the tall, broad-shouldered man with the noble face. The Major stood over six feet, and had the matching physique, moving purposefully but with the grace of a predator. His green eyes and the mass of brown hair he wore at shoulder length, kept together with a leather string at the back of his neck, did not only make him attractive in the eyes of whores. He was a sight to look at, but the whores thought better of it. His purposeful steps and grim face did not invite an approach. There were other men around, not that good-looking maybe, but certainly more accessible.

The guards at the barracks saluted him, when the Major brushed past them. A few soldiers off duty were standing in the inner yard, talking to each other. Their conversation stopped, and they hastily stood to attention. The Major did not approve of lax behaviour. It made him angry. And no one who had ever been a source of anger to the Major wanted to repeat that experience. Except that unbelievable Englishman, Klaus thought grimly.

The Commander, a rotund grey-haired man with a moustache, looked up from the papers on his desk, when there was a short rap at the door. Major von dem Eberbach walked in briskly as usual and stood to attention.

"Ah, Eberbach." the Commander said, taking a few documents from the heap of papers on his desk. "You will make a journey to England. Germany, England, and America need your service in a mission of utmost importance."

//Of course, you old fool. I know that song and dance! But Germany, England and the New World together? What can be that important to send me away when the French possess the other shore of the Rhine?//

"Details, Sir?" Klaus looked at his superior.

"You have heard about Josef von Eyssen?" the Commander asked.

The Major thought for a moment.

"The inventor who vanished? I have heard about him."

"Yes, it was a long time ago." the Commander continued. "About thirty years. He was a brilliant young man, developed some mechanical improvements for warfare. And from one day to the other, he seemed to have vanished into thin air. Of course we investigated his disappearance, but for a long time to no avail."

The Commander paused, putting the tips of his fingers together.

//Now come to the point, you overstuffed capon. Why are you bothering me with something which happened thirty years ago?// Klaus thought, but he said nothing.

"We have just learned that he went to England to work for the British Government. We had suspected something like this, but could never verify it so far."

Klaus frowned. Now things became a bit more interesting.

"He married a Briton and had a child with her. About twenty-five years ago, he went over to the New World. He was wanted in Britain, because he secretly had worked together with the French."

"Double traitor." Klaus murmured.

"It gets even better. Von Eyssen must have made some really dark connections in America. We have learned that he and his wife were murdered twelve years ago. Their house was burned down. The culprits were never found."

"Sounds like a revenge act from a criminal organisation." the Major remarked. "You know there are organisations in many big cities in Europe and America, which make a business out of crime. There are organised gangs of beggars, thieves, smugglers, pimps. There are rivalling organisations. They fight each other about territories and shares. And their methods can be very cruel. — But you said von Eyssen had a child?"

"Two, by the time he was murdered. A girl and a boy. - Police constables found two charred bodies in the burned-down house. They believe them to be von Eyssen and his wife. No trace of other remains. No clues about what happened to the children." the Commander answered. "British Intelligence has learned recently that von Eyssen had developed plans for a new kind of ship in America." he went on. "A ship moving under water, propelled by a new kind of machine. You can imagine, Eberbach, what this means, should such a ship actually be constructed!"

The Major’s frown became deeper.

"The country which can build that kind of ship would have every advantage over other countries in sea warfare!"

"Exactly." The Commander nodded. "The plans had been thought lost, destroyed when the house burned down. But new developments show they have surfaced again, and the French are after them as well. The President of America would not like to see them in their hands. Neither does the Alliance, especially the King of England."

"But who could have the plans? The criminals who killed von Eyssen and his wife? Or von Eyssen’s children?"

"This is what you will have to find out, Eberbach." the Commander said.

The Major’s face was immobile.

"Very well, Sir. But America is a large continent. And with England and France after the plans as much as we are —"

"Oh well, there are not so many places the plans could be!" the commander said. "And Britain and America are our allies in this endeavour. It is planned to build the ship together."

Klaus gave his superior a sceptical look, which the Commander ignored.

"You will ride to Hamburg immediately and take a ship to Dover from there." He handed the Major some papers. "Your passport and further documents. From Dover you will go straight to London, where you will receive further instructions and meet the British agent who will accompany you to the New World —"

The Commander stopped for a moment. He braced himself. Now came the real hard part. Eberbach was very headstrong and temperamental, and he would not take this well. He saw the necessity of the decision his English colleague, Mr Carter, had made. But Carter never was the one to tell the Major ... The commander was an old soldier, but he did not look forward to what would come now ...

"Who is that British agent?" Klaus had become suspicious, seeing his superior hesitate.

The Commander cleared his throat.

"We as well as the Britons think it useful to have someone with — experience in — opening locked doors to find the plans. Perhaps it will be necessary to — steal them —" he ventured, trying to sound calm in the futile hope this would rub off on the Major.

When the Commander hesitated to name the British agent to work with him, Klaus had known that fate had burdened him with that insolent, arrogant, conceited, disrespectful, goddamned pervert thief again. But he took a secret pleasure in making his reluctant superior say the name. He knew he was to take dangers straight on in the service of whoever reigned the country, which was falling apart, changing. That was his work. And if the French caught him, he knew they would not kill him quickly. They would try to find out a lot, before they would let him rot away in one of their prisons or work him to death on one of their ships or in one of their quarries. And whoever had employed him might no longer reign then or would not move one finger to get him out anyway. He knew that his superior knew these things as well. And sometimes, the Major thought he was entitled to play this little game in exchange for his services. He would not let his superior off the hook.

"Who is it?" he insisted with the deceivingly calm half-smile that made his subordinates fall over themselves to carry out his orders. Or run for cover.

"You know who it is, Eberbach." the Commander tried. He knew he could order the Major away, but he would not admit to having been cowed by his difficult subordinate. "Dorian Red, the Earl of Gloria."

The Major’s face was stone, but it was the quiet before the storm.

"I thought as much." was all he said.

"Very well, Eberbach, that will be all." the Commander said hastily. He wanted the Major out of his room before the explosion. "You should be on your way soon. Good luck. And safe journey. — Wegtreten!"

The Major saluted and left the room. The door slammed shut behind him.

The Commander mopped his brow.

*****

The guards in the anteroom stood to attention when the Major stormed out. But they were neither fast enough nor brisk enough. He turned around to them.

"You call this standing to attention, soldier?" he snapped at the nearest one.

"Jawohl, Herr Major!" The soldier tried to stand as straight and immobile as possible.

"I thought as much. ICH SAGE: ES IST EINE VERDAMMTE SCHLAMPEREI!* - You will join Major Losch’s cadets tomorrow morning at five. He will teach you to stand to attention. And tell him who sent you!"

"Jawohl, Herr Major!"

Klaus turned to the other guard.

"And you will join him, soldier. There is a spot on your uniform, and your boots are dirty. Looking at you, the French soldiers must think we are a bunch of marauders. YOU ARE A DISGRACE!"

"Jawohl, Herr Major!"

The soldiers stood to attention like wooden dolls for the rest of their duty. They had been inexperienced. More experienced soldiers would have known what to expect when the commander sent for Major von dem Eberbach at such a late hour and would have avoided giving the Major any reason for complaint.

*****

Klaus hurried straight away to the small guest house where he had a room when he was in town.

"Schmitz!" he bellowed.

"Här Majur?" Herr Schmitz, the owner of the guest house, a short, stout man in his forties, came from the cellar, carrying a few bottles of wine.

"Have my horse ready, I’ll leave immediately."

"Jawohl, Här Majur." Schmitz was not surprised about his lodger leaving at this late hour. It happened more than often. "Ich schecken dä Fränz en de Stall, on et Lisbeth mäht Üch jet für ongewähs zorääch."**

"Thank you, Schmitz." The Major packed a few clothes and enough money to take him to Hamburg. When he came down again, there was Lisbeth, his host’s sixteen-year-old daughter, with a bundle which she handed him with a curtsey. Klaus knew that she and her two younger sisters had a crush on him. It was annoying and irritating, but he thanked the girl politely and took his leave from the family.

When he left, he heard the girls giggle behind his back, and the voice of Lisbeth: "Su ene staatse Käl!"*

"Staatse Käl" indeed! The Schmitzens were good and honest people, but they should keep their daughters at bay.

****

A quarter of an hour later, the Major had left Bonn and was riding towards Cologne, still seething. For the next few days, he rode at a brisk pace, changing horses at regular intervals, giving himself a five hour rest every night. Normally, riding hard soothed his temper, but not this time. He was outraged. With the French in his country, he was sent to America to retrieve some construction plans for a ship of which God only knew whether it could been built anyway! — And what did these conceited British asswipes think, sending this vagabond, this thief, this disgrace of nobility on an assignment together with him? Again! Did they think him so thick that this decadent fool would be able to steal the plans right away from under his nose? He did not set much store by what his superior had said about Britain being his country’s ally in this endeavour. Neither did he trust the Americans. — But what made him rage inwardly like a wounded tiger was the pain he felt in merely thinking of the Englishman. A pain he always felt in regard to Lord Gloria and never could account for. He would have torn his heart out if it would help him to get rid of that pain ...

He was still angry when he reached Hamburg and boarded the ship taking him to England. Officially, he was travelling as Friedrich Paulus, a rich German on an educational trip.

He brooded during the whole journey across the Channel.

The White Cliffs of Dover came into view. It was raining hard, which did not improve the Major’s mood. He rented a horse and went on his way to London immediately. God help the highwaymen who would dare to cross his way ...

The next day, he reached London and checked into an inn near Gower Street. As instructed, he sent a message to Carter & Ravendale, a firm of lawyers. He and Lord Gloria would receive further instructions for their journey to the New World from Mr Carter, who was in charge of the British part of their assignment. Their meeting was scheduled for the next day at eleven in the morning in Mr Carter’s office in Oxford Street.

Castle Gloria, North Downs, England, July 1805

The Earl of Gloria was puzzling over an especially difficult lock. Being a master thief — one of the best, if not the best — demanded constant training. And learning. The locksmiths kept building new locks, which became more difficult to pick every time, and he had to keep pace with the developments. Sometimes he thought about building a lock himself and sell it. This would save him and his people some effort ...

He had just found out how the mechanism worked, when there was a knock at the door, and Bonham, his second-in-command, looked in.

"Messenger for you, M’lord."

"Thank you, Bonham. I’ll come down."

The messenger was a young man in travelling clothes, who identified himself as an employee of Messrs Carter & Ravendale from London.. He stared for a moment unabashedly at the Earl, before he remembered his good manners. Lord Gloria was indeed a picture to stare at, a tall, slender figure in an electric blue dressing gown, enhancing the colour of his eyes, a lion’s mane of golden curls framing his handsome face and falling down to his shoulders.

He took the note the messenger had brought, broke the seal and read the letter.

"Thank you." he said. "Tell your employer I will be there. — Oh, and you must be exhausted from the journey, hungry and thirsty. Go to the kitchen and let Jones give you a good meal."

The young man bowed.

"Thank you, Milord."

When he had left, Lord Gloria rang for his accountant Mr James, who also acted as his personal valet. Mr James entered, a ledger under his arm. He was a short, thin young man with quick blue eyes and wavy black hair, which constantly fell over one eye. He looked worried and wary.

"The figures for this month, Milord —"

Lord Gloria shook his head impatiently.

"I don’t want the figures now, Mr James. I want you to pack for a long journey."

Mr James’ visible eye became even more wary.

"Milord?"

Lord Gloria twirled around in a cloud of electric blue and gold.

"We’re going to London, Mr James!"

"Again?! We’ve been there only last month, Milord! And the prices the innkeepers ask for a halfway decent accommodation — they should all be hanged! And while they’re at it, they should also hang all the cloth merchants, the tailors and the shoemakers! I barely managed to pay all their bills, and —"

"- and then we’re going to New York!"

Mr James slammed his ledger on a small table flanking the big open fire. A vase toppled and spilled its contents of expensive Dutch tulips and water on the carpet.

"Milord — will you listen to me for once! Moneywise, we are in no condition to go either to London or to New York!"

"Oh!" was all the Earl said, retreating a step from the mess of broken china, flowers and water on the carpet. "Ah, it was that ugly vase from Grandmother anyway. No great harm done."

He did not show it, but lately he worried about his accountant. Such violent outbreaks were not like the Mr James he knew. Come to think of it, his Jamesie had been rather wary and reticent lately. Less tearful temper tantrums — a blessing in itself — but stronger objection to the Earl’s plans. A sulky, stubborn resistance that could not be charmed away by His Lordship. Such an outbreak, however —

He caught himself. His accountant was worried for no reason anyway.

"His Majesty the King of England wants us to go to New York." he explained.

Mr James had snatched up his ledger from the table when the vase had toppled. Now he clutched it against his narrow chest.

"So?" His voice and demeanour were still wary. He seemed in no way placated by the news that His Majesty the King of England himself would pay for their expenses.

"Last time, it took His Majesty half a year to pay!" he grumbled.

Lord Gloria ignored his objections.

"We’ll go to London first to receive instructions and to meet up with the Major." He spoke lightly, although he was well aware that his words would provoke another outbreak.

"The Major?!" The small accountant’s one visible eye widened in horror. "That horrible German? No way! You will not go to New York with that violent, ill-tempered moron!"

This was a bit much even for Lord Gloria. He would not tolerate such disrespectful behaviour from one of his employees — even if the employee in question had been his lover for some time. He did not like it, but Mr James must be shown his place.

Hands on his hips, he towered over the small accountant, his eyes blazing blue galvanic fires. His ancestors had commanded thousands of men — or at least a bunch of pirates — and he, the last Earl of Gloria to date, commanded a highly trained group of thieves. He could play other tunes with his accountant, if necessary.

"Mr James," he said. "This is my house. And in this house it is I who decides where I’ll be going, whom I’ll meet, and whom I will take with me. Besides, I will not tolerate anyone speaking ill of Major von dem Eberbach in my house. — Now go and pack my suitcases. You will accompany me!"

For a moment, Mr James met the two blue flames with a glare of his own.

"I am no serf, but a free man." he said.

For a moment, there was a tense silence, then Lord Gloria’s stern demeanour lessened a bit. He sighed.

"I know that, Mr James." he said. "But it would be very kind of you to do as I asked. Please?"

He came closer to his accountant, who for a moment seemed at a loss whether he should throw himself into the Earl’s arms or run away. The moment passed, and James stood his ground.

"Very well, Milord." His tone was icy, forbidding any closeness. He turned abruptly and left the room.

Thoughtfully, Lord Gloria twirled a strand of his curls around his slender fingers. James was strange lately, that was for sure. He discarded the thought with a shrug. It was much more pleasant to look forward to meeting the Major again ...

*****

Mr James packed the numerous clothes and shoes, fragrant oils and perfumes and countless other items the Earl would want for his journey. He was trembling with rage, a rage not directed especially towards Lord Gloria, but more towards himself and the situation he was in.

He might act foolishly more often than not, but Mr James was no fool. He knew quite well that the Earl had done more for him than anyone else. He had taken James in from the streets, had paid men who taught him to read and write, and how to behave in the company of educated people. He had given money for his training as an accountant, and had taken him in as a part of his household.

His mistake had been to make James his lover as well. Working for a bully who had taught him how to steal and how to prostitute himself, James had thought it better not to have any feelings at all. But it had been impossible not to bloom in the radiant sun of the beautiful Earl’s attentions, not to open his heart to his friendliness, not to admire his wit and beauty.

James had never thought that he, the little runt, who had managed to develop into a pretty young man, would be the Earl’s only lover. But he had deceived himself in thinking this would not affect him. His self-deceit had worked well, as long as he had Lord Gloria’s full attention when he was with him. But after a while, James realised that he bored the Earl. At the same time he began to notice Lord Gloria’s other lovers, young, roguish noblemen, mirroring the Earl’s beauty and lack of fidelity.

James understood that the Earl not only collected beautiful works of art, but beautiful and interesting men as well. Caesar Gabriel, a young genius, speaking a lot of languages, a brilliant art historian and mathematician, beautiful as a young saint — interesting for two months, then no longer. James would never have said so, would never have dared to approach the young man about it, but he saw the hurt and bewildered boy behind the genius and could understand him. He realised that he felt the same. And it made him furious. Why wasn’t he able to enjoy the privileges of being a member of the Earl’s household, to be the Earl’s accountant, and to be content with that? Hell, he was even "Mr" James, where Bonham was just Bonham, and Jones was just Jones, whereas the other members of the Earl’s group of thieves were just called by their first names. Why did he want more? And what he needed wasn’t just a man’s body from time to time. A man for a night could be bought, and no one knew this better than Mr James. Why did he want someone who would listen, share joy and trouble with him, and maybe his bed? And why did he want this someone to be Lord Gloria, of all people?

He was furious with himself, about his indecisiveness. He could not leave the Earl’s services, because he still felt deeply for him, in a mixture of gratitude, admiration, and attraction. Some would have called it love, maybe. And with the Earl’s fatal attraction to the German Major, it had become impossible to leave. James had sometimes wished deep down in his heart that just one lover would become bored with the Earl and leave him, would make him feel just once the sadness of being rejected. The terrible German might do just that, should he ever yield. But he was too much of a punishment, way too dangerous. James knew how headstrong Lord Gloria could be in obtaining something he wanted. Some people went to Africa to chase lions and tigers. James thought this was madness. And the same madness possessed his benefactor and employer in chasing the Major, whom James regarded as much more frightening than any predator would ever be. Thus he saw it as his duty to protect Lord Gloria from himself — another foolish idea he scolded himself about.

*****

Bonham shook his head, when the Earl and his accountant climbed into the coach to travel to London. The Earl was all happiness about a new assignment, together with the Major, and he looked beautiful in his new dark blue suit, his eyes sparkling. Mr James followed sulking, his face a small thundercloud.

The Earl’s second- in-command was worried about James as well. It had not escaped his attention that the accountant had become more distant and ill-tempered lately. Bonham would have preferred Lord Gloria to take him along. James looked like trouble ...

London, England, July 1805

The Major arrived at eleven o’clock sharp. He had had a dreadful night full of dreams he could not remember. Not that he laid any store by dreams, it merely annoyed him that he seemed to begin sleeping fitfully and dreaming a lot when he knew he would meet that thief again. Seeing that the Earl had not yet arrived did nothing to improve his mood.

Mr Carter was a small, thin man with a narrow, cruel mouth. Everything about him was grey — his hair, his suit, his skin. His eyes seemed to have no colour at all, and his face looked incapable of any emotion. Nevertheless, he seemed as annoyed as the Major about having to wait for Lord Gloria.

The clock on the mantelpiece showed five minutes past eleven, when Mr Carter’s secretary finally announced the young nobleman.

The Earl knew how to stage an entrance. For a very short moment, the Major felt a warmth in his heart, as if the sun had broken through the clouds on a grey, overcast day. Lord Gloria was dressed in a light grey suit with a dark red vest, tight pants, riding boots matching the colour of his vest, showing off his long legs. A lion’s mane framed his finely sculpted face, just as the Major had remembered him.

"You are five minutes late, Lord Gloria." Mr Carter said sourly.

"I apologise." the Earl answered lightly. "Je suis très désolé.*" It was obvious that he was not désolé at all, and this annoyed Mr Carter.

"You are not wasting my time, Milord, but the time of His Majesty the King." he said icily. "You are already familiar with the assignment, Major von dem Eberbach. So you will fill in Lord Gloria." He took two envelopes from his desk and handed one to each man.

"A passage on the ‘Pride of Britain’, bound for New York. You will leave tomorrow. In New York you will meet your colleagues, agents Ichabod Crane and Johannes Hardenberg. You will find details in here. — The ‘Pride of Britain’ will leave from Dover Harbour at ten o’clock sharp tomorrow morning. So there is no time to loose. — Good morning, Gentlemen."

He left the room, indicating that their meeting was over.

*****

The Major briskly hurried down the steps and left the building. He was already on his way to the stables to rent a horse. The Earl’s soft voice stopped him.

"Major von dem Eberbach?" He pronounced the name correctly. He had always done so, the Major registered grimly. He turned.

"Was?!"

Lord Gloria stood on the entrance steps, an amused smile curling the edges of his lips.

//That damn idiot!// Klaus thought. //Every single step he does, he seems to think there is some painter ready to paint him, because he is so good-looking! Who does he think he is? Some Greek god?// He could have bitten himself for thinking such nonsense. Here he was, wasting time because of that damn fop!

"Aren’t you supposed to inform me?" Lord Gloria asked.

"When we’ve arrived." the Major snapped, turned and was on his way again. The Earl followed him. They went down Oxford Street and reached Charing Cross Road. A small figure at the corner let them pass and then followed, cautiously trailing a few steps behind.

Dorian turned around.

"Come on, Mr James. We have to leave the hotel and be on our way to Dover. So we better rent a coach. Now come closer and say good morning to the Major. He won’t bite you!"

The Major’s mood had not improved when he became aware that the Earl had brought his accountant and personal valet. Of course it would work as part of the cover. If the Earl would play his role as an eccentric British nobleman and art collector, it would be fitting that he brought his own servant. On the other hand the little troublemaker would slow them down.

"That’s what you say!" he growled at Lord Gloria. In his eyes, Mr James was even worse than the Earl. Greedy, stingy, and a disgrace for the male gender. He knew that this dislike was mutual.

Mr James glared defiantly at the Major. Then his one visible eye darted longingly to the bowl of a beggar sitting at the next corner. A few pennies were in it.

The Earl knew his accountant very well. Having passed the beggar, he knew exactly what the small man was about to do.

"No." he said firmly.

Mr James pouted and left the beggar alone.

They reached the stables and arranged for a horse and a small coach. The Major was glad that he would have some time to himself before being on a ship together with Lord Gloria and this little abomination the Earl called his accountant. He left for Dover almost immediately.

*****

They met in Dover early the next morning at a guest house. The room was almost empty, but the Major had again chosen a table in a corner near a window, where he had a good view.

Lord Gloria looked a bit tired. Mr James was outside, occupied with the Earl’s luggage.

The Major indicated him with a move of his head to the window.

"You want to take him along?"

"He has been a bit — sad lately." Dorian answered. He ordered some bread and cheese.

"You’ve got to eat something." he encouraged the Major, then he referred back to the subject. "I think he needs a change. And travelling is educational."

//Oh Herr, gib mir Gedul,.// Klaus thought. //Und gib sie mir schnell!//*

He lowered his eyelids and smiled for a moment. To a spectator, it would look as if the two gentlemen were having a pleasant conversation. To someone who knew the Major, it would mean to run for cover quickly. Lord Gloria only found it most attractive.

"This is no educational trip for your favourite pet, Lord Gloria. No gift to placate him when he is sulking about some trivial idiocy! This is serious. Damn serious for you as well as for me! Send him back home to his books!"

The Earl shook his lion’s mane, smiling. But then he became serious.

"Believe me, I know this is no game. But I do not see why he should not be with me. He could prove useful."

The Major thought that Mr James would be nearly as useful as a festering boil in a bad place, but he kept himself back from saying so. He would try to keep as calm as possible not to endanger the assignment. And he’d better begin with it now. He really did not know why Lord Gloria always made him that angry. Maybe because the Earl was obviously studying him, scrutinising him, and leaving no doubt about his thoughts —

"Did you tell Carter you want to take him along?" Klaus finally asked.

"Of course." Dorian answered primly. "He had no objections."

//Hundsfott, verfluchter!**// Klaus thought.

"I have objections!" he snapped.

Dorian gave him a hard stare. His eyes blazed. The Major found himself thinking that Lord Gloria looked like an angry Greek god. Maybe Helios, the Sun God —

//What am I thinking?//

It was just for a moment, then the Earl relented.

"Of course he’ll learn nothing about what we will be doing." he said soothingly.

The Major snorted. He did not doubt that Carter had agreed to the Earl taking his servant along. And he could do nothing but put up with that. If British Intelligence decided to oblige every whim of this butterfly behaving like the spoiled youth that he was ... It was not Carter who protected and pampered Lord Gloria, that much was for sure. It must be someone in a higher place. And it was easy to guess why, the Major thought grimly.

The innkeeper brought their meals. The Major eyed his pie, bread and cheese suspiciously. He hated strange food. Dicke Bohnen mit Speck*** would be better now, even at this early hour.

They ate in silence. Mr James showed up shortly, and was sent away on another errand by the Earl.

After the meal, the Major took out his pipe and tobacco. He scowled at Lord Gloria, lit his pipe and blew foul smelling smoke in the Earl’s direction. Dorian coughed and waved it away.

"What are you smoking? The stuffing of your mattress?"

The Major gave him his reptilian smile.

"Let’s get some fresh air." he suggested, ignoring Lord Gloria’s last remark.

*****

They walked in silence for a while, until they had left the immediate harbour area and had reached the town itself. It was still early, and not many people around. Klaus scanned the area sharply, but there was no one near them who looked suspicious.

"We are to find plans for a new weapon." he finally began. "A kind of ship which is supposed to move under water."

"Now, this sounds really interesting." the Earl said.

"Fifteen years ago, the man who made the construction plans went over to the New World with his family. He was of German origin. Thirty years ago, you English had apparently offered him enough, so he had left Germany for England."

"And what made him leave for the New World fifteen years ago? A new offer?"

"Maybe. But the New World brought him no luck. Twelve years ago, his house in New York was burned down, he and his wife were killed. At least this is what New York Police assumes from the two bodies they found in the ruins. Their two children have disappeared."

"Mysterious!"

"It was believed that the plans for the underwater ship had been destroyed together with the inventor’s house. But now Mr President apparently has heard from some source that the plans still exist. And neither the Alliance, nor your King or the President would want them to fall into Napoleon’s hands."

Lord Gloria twirled a strand of his curls around one finger, which he often did when he was thinking.

"There are many open questions. Why did the children disappear? Are they still alive? How old where they when the family was killed? Could they have the plans?"

The Major emptied his second pipe at a cornerstone.

"More questions: Why did the people who have the plans lie low for twelve years? Did they obtain them just lately? Are the inventor and his wife actually dead, or is it all a deceit?"

"Maybe our American contacts know more." Dorian said. "This Crane seems to be a clever man."

The Major frowned.

"I have never heard of him."

"He wrote a book about criminal deduction. He surveys the place of a crime to find hints about the criminal. He writes about how to treat objects found at the place of a crime. He dissects crime victims to find their cause of death."

The Major thought for a moment.

"This sounds like a clever man indeed." he agreed. "You would have to watch out for this fellow!"

Lord Gloria smiled.

"That’s why I read his book. You should read it as well. I’ll give it to you. For our long voyage. — And the other one? Do you know anything about him? The name sounds German."

Klaus shook his head.

"The only person of that name I have ever heard of was a Frankfurt merchant working for us. He was killed by highwaymen on a journey to the North. His wife and son, a boy of about twelve, had been with him. They found the man and his wife in the woods, as well as his two servants and several highwaymen. All dead. No trace of the boy. But that was about fifty years ago. It would surprise me if our man had something to do with this family."

Dorian looked out at the sea. The day promised to become fine, and the ocean was considerably calm.

"It is all so mysterious." he said dreamily.

The Major gave him a cold look.

"Stop playing the simpering fool! I know you’ve got more brains than that!"

Lord Gloria bowed mockingly.

"Why, thank you, Major."

"What annoys me," Klaus went on, ignoring his companion’s last remark, "is that we have no clue where to look for the plans. And besides, we might be watched by your own people!"

Dorian laughed. It sounded pleasant, even to the Major’s ears.

"Carter would like to see me hanged rather than not." he said. "Of course he does not trust me. But I’m useful. And he has nothing in his hands to use against me. — My dear Major, I am quite aware that we are in the line of fire, doing the dirty work which others will claim as their own. But beggars can’t be choosers, can they?"

The Major looked at him, and Dorian felt himself reminded of Ares, the God of War. Major Eberbach would be a perfect model for a painter taking on that subject.

"This is the task we have." he said grimly. "Good to know that you finally understand. — Let’s go back."

When they arrived at the inn again, Mr James was eating a frugal breakfast of a crust of bread and a glass of water. He glared reproachfully at the Earl, obviously angry about being sent on an errand, while Lord Gloria went away with the Major. Dorian said nothing, just held his accountant’s gaze. After a moment, Mr James lowered his eyes to his plate.

 

Dover, England, and "Pride of Britain", July 1805:

The "Pride of Britain" was a small, fast ship, and they were the sole passengers. The captain, a man named Mainwaring, his first officer Mr Robinson and the crew seemed trustworthy and honest enough, and they knew how to sail a ship. This satisfied the Major, who was not looking forward to at least a month on a ship together with a foppish pervert and a sick miser prone to delivering pathetic scenes at every given opportunity. With the good crew, however, they would stand a small chance should they be attacked.

Although they both had never undertaken a long sea journey, neither the Earl nor the Major became seasick. When asked later about their voyage to America, they both would say that here had been nothing out of the ordinary.

Had they not been such taciturn men, Captain Mainwaring and his first officer would have told a different story. The strange German, whose name was Paulus, was up at dawn every day. He had a small keg full of water brought to his cabin and was said to lift it and put it down again at least a hundred times. He used to give Mr Robinson and the Earl fencing lessons, chasing them both mercilessly around the boat deck. The crew thought him mad, and they were afraid of him, because of his enormous strength, his agility, and his short temper. He surely was strange, even for a rich German.

When he was not driven around the deck by the German, the Earl spent his time with knife throwing, as if he were at a carnival. Although he was very good at it and never endangered anyone, this was what unnerved the Captain most of all. He was an honest, straightforward old soldier, and eccentric behaviour was hard to take for him. Not to mention that the Earl was as agile as every sailor, climbing around between the masts and sails, up to the lookout every day. He was a gentle, friendly man, but he upset the crew even more than the German, because they were convinced that a man being as pretty as a woman would bring them bad luck.

The Earl’s servant was another source for constant trouble. He was permanently seasick, but insisted on leaving his cabin every day, "to get some fresh air". Unfortunately, he never was actually well enough to manage. He hung miserably over the rail, barely able to hold himself upright.

The Captain had seen it coming. One day, the sea was a bit rougher than usual, and the ship swayed heavily. Mr James lost his balance when the ship came up on a wave, he fell forward — and was caught by a strong arm.

Both Dorian and the Captain in their cabins heard a scream and hurried upstairs. Paulus strode up to them, carrying an unconscious Mr James under one arm.

"For God’s sake, keep him in his cabin!" he thundered at the Earl. "Or at least stay near him when he’s outside!"

He shoved the accountant into Dorian’s arms, turned around and strode off.

"Wait!" Lord Gloria called after him.

To everyone’s amazement, the German actually stopped and turned around again.

"Thank you, Herr Paulus. Also on behalf of my accountant."

Paulus growled.

"Next time I’ll let him go overboard. To the sharks, where he belongs!"

Lord Gloria crossed his arms. His eyes darkened. Both men ignored the baffled Captain and the crew members who had stopped their work and were observing the scene. They stared at each other, jaws set, green eyes locked into blue ones. The tension was mounting. The spectators had fallen silent.

Then the Earl smiled.

"You are very kind, Mr Paulus." He bowed slightly, as far as this was possible with the still unconscious Mr James in his arms.

Captain Mainwaring cleared his throat.

"On behalf of the safety of your accountant, your own, that of Mr Paulus and my crew, I must ask you to keep the man indoors." he said.

The German nodded.

"You are right, Captain Mainwaring. I suggest the Cat’ O Nine Tails, though, if he disobeys."

"Captain Mainwaring," the Earl said, "I apologise for my accountant’s negligence. I promise it will not happen again."

The Captain cleared his throat once more. His eyes fell on the members of his crew who were standing idly, watching the scene.

"Now what in the name of hell are you gawking at? Back to your work, your lazy rats, or I’ll have you whipped until your skin hangs in rags from your bones!"

Hastily the deckhands returned to scrubbing the deck, others to coiling ropes, the cook retreated to his pots and pans, and the men who were off duty vanished below deck.

"Now, Mr Robinson," Paulus said, "are you ready?" They resumed the fencing lesson the German had interrupted catching Mr James.

The Earl was left with his accountant, who slowly regained consciousness. He put him into bed again.

"Why didn’t he take his chance?" Mr James asked. He had grown up in the streets, where the law was to find someone weaker than yourself , steal from him and beat him up if he tried to defend himself. The strong had never missed any chance to do so.

Lord Gloria sighed.

"James, he is no savage. He would never kill a defenceless man!"

"I thought my last hour had come, when I saw that this German was holding me." Mr James moaned. "And what about throwing me overboard next time?"

"I suggest you stay indoors for the rest of the journey, if you are not well." Dorian suggested. "Captain’s orders." He pushed away strands of black hair from Mr James’ face, but the accountant turned his back to him, facing the wall.

//Not good.// the Earl thought. //Not good at all, if he reacts this way even when he is sick.// He was puzzled about his accountant’s behaviour, but deep in his heart he admitted that he deserved Mr James ignoring him.

He had been tricked into sleeping with a man at the age of thirteen, a man who had cheated him out of his "pay", a painting Dorian had wanted. Over the years he had come to like sleeping with men, but he never would make any commitment. He had learned from his seducer, who had used him for his purposes. Now he himself collected interesting men and used them for his purposes from time to time, keeping them on the edge, stringing them along. Dorian knew it was a mean thing to do, and sometimes he was disgusted with himself. Could he not do any better than to pass his own humiliation on to his lovers?

For a long time, he had not even recognised he was doing this. His lovers had never complained, maybe had not even felt used in doing him a favour or two. James had been different. Of course, he had not belonged to the crowd of spoiled young noblemen the Earl used to surround himself with. And neither had Caesar Gabriel. Dorian had found it most annoying that Caesar had complained about his behaviour towards him, when he had just grown accustomed to dealing with James’ tearful temper tantrums. It was definitely boring that they both could not understand when an affair was over.

Then he had met the Major for the first time. And after some time he had recognised that the Major, should he ever yield to Dorian’s advances, would have his own, very different ideas about an affair being over or not. There was a hidden passion in the man which might prove destructive. But Dorian could not help dreaming about the wild, noble and elusive warrior, as lithe, graceful and dangerous as a beast of prey. He would never be able to corrupt a man with such a sincerity and innate nobility, which justified the name of "Iron Klaus". And he did not want to corrupt him. Never. He admired and respected Major von dem Eberbach, though the Major never left any doubt how much he despised someone like the Earl. Or did he?

Dorian left the cabin. On deck, he dreamily looked out over the sea.

New York, August 1805

A bit more than a month after their departure, the "Pride of Britain" reached New York, and the passengers bid farewell to Captain Mainwaring and his crew. The Captain could hardly conceal his relief. He had to admit, apart from the eccentricities of his passengers, it had been a good voyage: No lulls, no storms, no pirates, no battles. But, although no one would have said it aloud, the Captain and his men thought that next time they actually would prefer a storm or pirates.

Lord Gloria and his servant as well as the Major had presented their documents to the customs officers. Mr James, who had recovered miraculously as soon as he had firm ground under his feet again, was busy with retrieving the Earl’s luggage. Lord Gloria and the Major stood on the quay amid a lot of workers loading and unloading ships, carrying crates, baskets, and bales, rolling barrels, pushing carts, lifting heavy loads with cranes. The Major scanned his surroundings, his pipe nonchalantly in the right corner of his mouth, eyes narrowed, very alert. He did not believe for a moment that they would be left alone on the new continent. Someone would be following them — one of Carter’s agents, a Frenchman, even one of his own people. At the same time he was on the lookout for men who might pass as one of their contacts — Crane or Hardenberg. A difficult endeavour, because no one had given them any description of the American agents. Another drawback in this damned assignment. Next time, they could make a fool of somebody else. Lieutenant Bentz, for instance. About time he learned the ropes ...

The Earl stood a short distance away from him, apparently enjoying the sun and the fresh wind, taking in the colourful scenery, the hustle and bustle, the forest of shipmasts, the cries of the seagulls, the shouts of the workers. Today he wore a light grey suit and a canary yellow vest, as the Major, dressed in sombre navy blue, had noted with disdain.

Klaus emptied his pipe impatiently. He had retrieved his luggage — two bags he could easily carry himself — almost ten minutes ago. If the Earl and his lapdog didn’t hurry up, very well. He would wait no longer and try to find a halfway decent inn. After all, New York did not look as backward and godforsaken as he had expected. At least the harbour was as busy as maybe Hamburg or Dover.

Mr James finally had retrieved the Earl’s luggage and his own — all in all a big trunk, two heavy, bulky bags and a small one. He had refused the services of a man with a cart, who would have transported the luggage easily against a small fee. So he struggled along, dragging and pushing the heavy trunk, juggling three bags at the same time, making quite a spectacle of himself.

"Gottverdammter Dummkopf!*" The Major pushed through the crowd to meet Mr James. He would not have the accountant delay them any further, even if this meant to force Lord Gloria to carry that damned trunk himself! The Earl trailed after him.

"Milord!" Mr James saw the two men walking towards him. The horrible Major looked angry again. Perhaps it would be better to hurry up. He waved at his master and bumped one of the heavy bags into the back of a man who passed him by. The impact almost threw him off balance.

"Watch where you’re going!" he snapped at the man, who turned around.

"What did you say, my friend?"

Mr James realised at once that he had made more than one mistake: First: The man wore a uniform, not that of a soldier or a customs official, but definitely a uniform. Second: He was the wrong guy to snap at. Third: So far, he had thought Major von dem Eberbach the most frightening man on earth. But this man seemed to be even more frightening. He was tall, at least as tall as the Major, with the same wide shoulders and the same proud, arrogant demeanour. Black wiry hair stood wildly around his head, and his eyes were a clear blue, cold and inscrutable, set in a sharp-featured, hard face.

Another man might have been upset and angry at Mr James’s rudeness, but this man was calm, dangerously calm.

Mr James gave a frightened yelp, realising his situation. He would have left the luggage and run for safety, but it was too late. With one quick movement, the tall stranger had taken him by the neck. His lips parted slightly, revealing teeth sharpened to points. Mr James whimpered. //What is this man?// he thought with the part of his brain that was still functioning, not paralysed by fear. //A policeman? What kind of policemen do they have here? Lord Almighty!//

"You seem to have just arrived, my friend." the man with the pointed teeth remarked. His voice was harsh and had the same hard German edge as the Major’s, although his tone was calm. "Did you come with this ship?" He indicated the "Pride of Britain" behind Mr James. His grip was hard but not too much so. Just enough to prevent the accountant from struggling. It did not hurt. Yet. To the people around them, it appeared as if the two men were just talking.

And that was what the Earl and the Major noticed, making their way through the crowd.

"A policeman." Lord Gloria was a bit alarmed. "How can he get in trouble with a constable, as soon as we have set foot on firm land again?"

"I told you not to bring him along!" the Major snapped.

"Be it as it may, I cannot leave him with a policeman!"

"Answer me. Did you come here with this ship?" The grip on Mr James’s neck had increased.

"Maybe, maybe not." the accountant managed.

"Is something wrong, Constable?" a gentle British voice said behind the policeman. A tall young man with a mass of blonde hair and a dark-haired man who looked strict and forbearing had taken posture behind Mr James.

The constable’s uncanny eyes turned to them. He scrutinised them for a moment, but did not move. In a conversational tone he said in German:

"Und müsst’ ich auch wandeln im finsteren Tal ..."*

He had spoken the words by which they were to recognise their contacts.

"So fürcht’ ich kein Unheil." Lord Gloria continued after an initial moment of surprise.

"Denn Du bist bei mir." The Major ended.

The policeman released Mr James, who had not understood a word and gaped at his employer, the Major, and the constable.

"Follow me." the tall constable now said curtly. He lead them away from the docks into a quiet street where a coach was waiting. A thin barefooted girl in a ragged red dress stood by the horses. The policeman threw her a coin.

"Thank you."

The Major frowned. At a second glance, the "girl" turned out to be a young man, about seventeen years old. His profession was obvious. But although he looked thin, dishevelled and dirty, he did not look underfed or neglected.

The young man lingered around, while they were loading their luggage into the coach. He pushed a mass of unkempt dark hair away from his face, looking intently at the three new arrivals. The Major did not like this at all. But would anyone having them watched by a person behaving that obviously? Even if the boy was not spying on them, his curiosity was annoying.

His look had nothing sultry, though. It was probing, as if he wanted to see into their heads and their hearts.

//What the hell does he want?// the Major thought. His idea about the boy spying on them did not feel right. It was different, as if this boy who had never seen him before could see and know things about him he wanted to be left alone —

//Strange.// the Earl thought. //He is beautiful. And it is as if he knew me just by looking at me -//

Mr James felt as if he had been holding a shield in front of himself for self-defence, and suddenly this shield had been knocked out of his hands.

The boy sauntered up to him.

"Give me some money, Mister?" He smiled.

And Mr James smiled back. Lord Gloria had never seen that smile on him. It looked as innocent as that of the beggar boy. Then Mr James took a small coin out of his pocket and gave it to the young man. The Earl drew in his breath sharply.

"Da brat’ mir doch einer n’ Storch!"* the Major broke out.

This dissolved the strange spell, and the constable gently pulled the young man away from the three men.

"Off with you!" He pushed the boy in the direction of a lane leading away from the docks. Now a coach driver came hurriedly up to the coach from one of the public houses. Under the grim look of their guide, he opened the coach door. The Earl and his accountant climbed in, but the Major preferred to sit next to the driver.

"He’ll bring you to the hotel. I’ll meet you there in an hour."

The strange, taciturn constable turned around and left without a further word.

The coach began to move, and soon they were driving along fast, despite a lot of traffic. The Earl took in his surroundings, the people in the streets, the stately buildings. He was enjoying the drive. Mr James sat unhappily in a corner.

"What did I do?" He looked at his employer with frightened eyes. "I gave him money!" the coach jolted, and he was almost thrown from his seat, but this seemed to worry him less than acting against his principles in giving money to a beggar boy.

"How — what made me do this?"

"Don’t worry, Mr James — oops, that was close!" the Earl answered, when the coach swerved dangerously to the left. "I wonder whether the New York coachmen always drive like this. — It was just a few cents. — Oh, we have stopped!"

They had reached a wide, busy street.

"Your hotel, Gentlemen." The coachman indicated a high new building in front of them. "The Independent!"

He helped unload their luggage and drove off, after he had received a generous tip from the Earl on top of his fare.

Before they entered the hotel lobby, the Major looked around carefully. He spotted a man with an eyepatch, who seemed unduly interested in their arrival. Maybe it was just a moron, gaping at the damned Earl. No professional would behave like that.

*****

The "Independent Hotel" was decent and clean, of the sort where a man could bring his wife and children without having to fear for their safety. Nevertheless, the Major insisted on inspecting the three rooms they would occupy.

Lord Gloria stood in the middle of his room, arms crossed, watching the Major climb a chair to have a look at the panelled ceiling.

"What are you looking for?"

The Major motioned him to be silent, which was a mistake. When Lord Gloria wanted to find out something, he would find out. With one quick movement, he joined the Major on the chair.

Klaus nearly lost his balance. Damn, this bastard was so fast, and you never knew what devilish ideas he would be up to the next moment!

"What?" the Earl whispered into the Major’s ear.

"Peeping or listening holes to spy on us!" Klaus hissed back, sorely tempted to push the annoying Earl away.

There was a knock at the door, and both men jumped off the dangerously creaking chair. Mr James, who entered with a pitcher and a washbasin, had however seen them still standing on the chair together.

"Damn, I told you to lock the door!"

Ignoring the Major, Dorian took pitcher and basin from Mr James before the accountant could drop them.

"So kind of you, Mr James. Thank you very much." he said in an even voice. "Could you ask for some hot water now?" He gently pushed the accountant out of the room again.

Klaus snorted. He went to the door and turned the key, before he returned to the ceiling panels. Inwardly he was fuming.

//Damn, I hate it when he does such things! He is looking at me. If he opens his foul mouth to make one of his shameless remarks, I swear to God, I’ll break his nose!// But beneath his anger he felt a longing he had no words for, and this angered him even more.

Lord Gloria did not say another word, however. Sometimes he knew when to stop.

 

New York, August 1805, Same Day

Half an hour later, the Major and the Earl sat at a corner table in the dining room of the hotel. At this time of day it was almost empty. Lord Gloria had sent Mr James on another errand. Now he was to buy a special perfume, which they had not been able to obtain during their short stay in London. He was not expected to be back soon.

The two men had ordered something to drink, when the tall German joined them again. He was dressed in civilian clothes now and greeted them like old acquaintances. They talked a bit about their journey and their stay in New York, like men who had come on business.

When they had finished their drinks, Hardenberg said: "Let’s go now, Gentlemen."

They left the hotel and followed their guide. This time, they did not take a coach. The tall German strode ahead briskly.

The Major caught up with him.

"Who was the boy in the dress?" he asked.

"A street rat. They call him Mad Johnny." the other man answered.

He looked at the Major, and Klaus felt that a warrior was assessing another warrior, a leader assessing another leader, whether he might be trustworthy enough for an alliance. The older man’s look was not intrusive, merely as if he just knew a lot and had a right to know, because he did not want an advantage of his knowledge.

They stopped at the back of a fortress-like building. Their guide unlocked a small iron gate and lead the two men inside, before locking the gate again. A narrow passage between rough brick walls stretched out before them. Hardenberg motioned them to be silent.

"Where are we?" whispered Dorian. "What building is this?"

"The Town District Hall." Hardenberg moved briskly along the passage, followed by Lord Gloria and the Major.

"And where are we going?"

"The mortuary." their guide explained. "We meet Mr Crane there. At work."

During their sea voyage the Major had found the time to acquaint himself with Ichabod Crane’s methods through the book the Earl had given him. It would be interesting to meet the man. In spite of his conservative religious upbringing, the Major saw Crane’s methods as a step in the right direction. It was obvious why Lord Gloria had obtained the book. He wanted to keep a step ahead of the police force. With Crane’s methods commonly accepted and applied in investigation, it would become harder for thieves like the Earl not to be caught —

The narrow passageway ended in a corridor. At the far end stone steps led upstairs, and a faint noise could be heard, voices, the sound of steps.

"What’s upstairs?" Dorian asked.

"Another iron gate. And prison cells." the tall man answered brusquely.

"Mr Crane works in prison?" The Earl was a bit taken aback. Obviously he had expected the investigator to work under more pleasant circumstances.

"Under the prison." Hardenberg corrected him. "It is cooler here."

This was definitely true. And with regard to the place being a mortuary, it was a blessing, the Major thought. Especially in this hot weather.

Hardenberg knocked three times at a door to their left, then another three times. A key was turned in the lock, bolts were slid away and the door opened.

Dorian gasped.

The grotesque figure on the threshold motioned them in quickly. It must be a slender man of middle height, as far as one could make out behind a butcher’s apron stained with blood and other unmentionable things. The head was covered by a blue cap from which dark strands of hair had escaped. The face was dominated by a goggle-like contraption, magnifying one eye grotesquely, while obscuring the other by a kind of telescope. The rest of the face was covered by a white handkerchief. The hands and bare sinewy arms were as smeared as the apron. The apparition held something in his hand which reminded the Major of a medieval torture instrument. The Earl found himself thinking of a painting by Hieronymus Bosch.

In spite of the cool air, there was an overpowering smell of decay in the room. Lord Gloria took out a handkerchief and had obviously trouble not to gag.

"Welcome." Ichabod Crane said. His voice was gentle, his accent British. "I apologise having to meet you under these circumstances. But I’ll be finished with the poor man soon."

The Major took out his pipe and filled it. He stepped closer, taking a look at the human remains on the table. As a soldier, death did no longer frighten him. Lord Gloria stayed near the wall, well away from the dead man. One look at the bare feet and legs, discoloured with decay, had been enough for him. He looked as if he was about to faint.

Crane had put his strange goggles away. He looked at the two men with sharp, dark eyes. The Major was astonished to see a look of sympathy in these eyes when Crane saw the Earl’s obvious misery.

"It is not easy to be confronted with death." he said. "For a long time I used to faint when I saw a dead body." He took a strong needle and a thread and began to close the man’s open chest. His movements were quick and effective.

"You must be joking, Detective Crane." Dorian managed behind his handkerchief. The Major noted with reluctant approval that he tried to pull himself together. "In a profession like yours —"

Crane shook his head. "I had to learn how to overcome my nausea."

Hardenberg stood at the head end of the table bearing the body, arms crossed in front of his chest. His strange eyes rested on Ichabod Crane, and both the Earl and the Major noted a lot of affection in them.

Von dem Eberbach lit his pipe and studied the dead man. It was obvious that the poor wretch had met a violent death, though not as a soldier in battle — He frowned, took a step back, then stepped closer again and studied the dead man’s face.

"Lord Gloria." he said without turning around.

"What is it?" Dorian mumbled behind his handkerchief.

"Come and take a look."

"Oh dear." Dorian sighed and stepped closer.

"See if I’m not mistaken."

The Earl moved reluctantly up to the slab, trying to ignore the body fluids, the signs of decay, the still half open cavity of the body, showing the inner organs. He concentrated on the man’s face.

"O my God, yes!"

"You know him, Gentlemen?" Detective Crane asked.

"Colonel Jerome Latour, one of Napoleon’s best secret service men." the Major informed him.

"I would never have thought to see him again — like this." Lord Gloria remarked.

"What did you find out about his death?" the Major asked Crane.

The Detective indicated the body’s head.

"As you can see, the head has been bashed in, with one blow. And this blow has been administered with great force and in a very precise manner."

Klaus nodded. "Administered by someone who is accustomed to killing, I presume. The murderer must have been tall and strong to work with such force." he added.

The dark eyes over Crane’s mask looked at him with appreciation and interest. Then he lifted a hand.

"Wait. I was lucky enough to find the body undisturbed. And he must have — according to the amount of blood around the body — been killed where he was found. Which was in a northern direction near the river. There were imprints on the ground showing that the man must have been kneeling when he was killed."

"This is the reason why you insist a body never be touched or moved, except by the investigating detective." Dorian threw in from behind his handkerchief.

Crane turned around, and his eyes showed appreciation again.

"Exactly." he agreed.

He finished closing the body, removed the cap, the handkerchief from his mouth, took off the butcher’s apron and washed his hands and arms over a basin.

Although he had noticed already that he had been mistaken in his outer picture of Crane while reading his book, Lord Gloria was still surprised. He had expected a man in his forties if not older, but Crane was maybe in his early thirties. A good-looking man with a fine nose, full lips, high cheekbones, a mass of wild black hair and dark, intelligent eyes. Dorian knew male beauty when he saw it, and his appreciation showed.

Crane seemed a bit embarrassed by the Earl’s obvious admiration. He cleared his throat, gave Lord Gloria a shy, short smile and turned to the Major.

"Thank you for verifying my assumption that he must have been French."

"What made you think so in the first place?" The Major was puzzled.

"His clothes." Ichabod explained. "Their cut and make is different from ours. I asked among tailors."

Klaus nodded appreciatively.

"But can you be sure the clothes he wore when you found him were his own?" Dorian was quick on the uptake.

"They fit him perfectly."

"But why was he killed?" the Major was thinking aloud. "We have no proof that he was after the same thing that we want."

"He was not the first one." Hardenberg informed him. "Another man was killed before. In the same way."

"Is it possible to see his body as well?" the Major asked.

Crane shook his head.

"This was two months ago. I would prefer him to rest in peace. But I drew his likeness." He covered the dead man and took a leather portfolio from a shelf in the background. His movements were quick and effective, although his whole manner struck the Major as somewhat effeminate and prissy. His embarrassed reaction on the Earl’s appreciative looks had been that of a shy girl. This annoyed the Major, but on the other hand he had to give the man that he was very determined and serious.

Crane took a sheet of paper from the portfolio and handed it to Klaus.

"Renard." The Major said after a moment of study, passing the likeness on to Lord Gloria.

The Earl looked at the picture and then at the Major, visibly shaken. "You are right. ‘Le roi des voleurs’ he called himself. The King of Thieves. And now he is dead. Like Latour." He shook his head. "These two men knew their trade." he continued, and there was a slight tremor in his voice. "So the people who killed them are either very lucky or very dangerous."

He looked at the Major again, then at Crane and Hardenberg, and decided to do what he could to make the assignment succeed. The two dead men had been experts in their professions, although working for the other side. Dorian was curious by nature, and he felt an ambition as well as a certain duty towards the two men to be successful where they had failed.

The Major had similar thoughts. He resented France and the French for having invaded his home country, but he had respected Colonel Latour - in a way. Besides, the difficulties of the assignment began to interest him. To find the plans would be like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack. And the idea to fight a dangerous, yet unknown enemy drove him on.

Ichabod Crane seemed to have read his thoughts. "I doubt we will ever find the people who murdered these two men. They probably were hired assassins. But I want to find the one who pulls the strings. And I have a strong notion that the two men were killed because they were after von Eyssen’s construction plans."

"But I thought the person who has the plans wanted to sell them to the French?" Dorian asked.

"There may be two or more parties after the plans, fighting each other." Crane continued.

The Major filled his pipe anew.

"From the beginning." he said. "We were informed that twelve years ago, the house belonging to the inventor Josef von Eyssen burned down. Two human bodies were found. The police assumed them to be the remains of the inventor and his wife."

"That’s right." Crane confirmed. "Unfortunately, the bodies were charred beyond recognition. I had the remains exhumed. But with the methods we now have at our disposal, the few burned bones did not tell me anything. I hoped for a ring, a piece of jewellery, something my colleagues might have overlooked. But there was nothing."

His words made the Earl become very pale and press his perfumed handkerchief to his nose again. The mere thought of exhuming and examining charred human bones disgusted him, although he saw the detective’s reasons. His disgust however did not diminish his quick wit.

"There must have been servants in the house when it burned down. Where have they been?" he threw in.

Hardenberg took over. "Von Eyssen must have been a very cautious man. From what we could find out, there have not been many servants in the household. The cook and the maid both had their evening off when the house burned down. We questioned them. Most probably they have nothing to do with what happened. We strongly suspect the male servant of having been in league with the assassins, but he had disappeared, like the two children."

"How did you find out that the plans still exist and have not been destroyed in the fire?" the Major asked.

"A high Government official received an anonymous letter, offering the plans in exchange for a considerable sum. This was early this year." Hardenberg answered.

"It was ignored at first." Crane continued. "Then another letter arrived, and the anonymous writer enclosed a page with drawings, showing that he actually had something to offer. A renowned scientist and engineer was consulted. He confirmed that the page contained fragments of the design for a ship which can move underwater. The third letter contained a suggestion how to establish contact."

"And?"

"Nothing came of it." Ichabod answered. "The Government official answered the letter, signalling that he was prepared to establish contact, but there never was an answer. We assume that the person who tried to sell the plans either became afraid or was prevented from taking further steps."

Dorian sighed.

"So we are trying to find the plans. A start would be to try the von Eyssen children. Are there any pictures of them?"

Detective Crane pulled another sheet of paper from his portfolio.

"Shortly before the tragedy, von Eyssen had a family portrait made. We could obtain a study for this portrait." He handed the paper to the Earl.

The study showed four people, a man in his late forties, strong-boned and tall, with a hard, sharp-lined face. If his likeness was to be believed, Joseph von Eyssen had not been a friendly, outgoing person. His wife had been in her thirties, dark wavy hair framing an oval face. A beauty, her features showing determination and a sharp mind. Next to her stood a boy of perhaps five. He obviously had inherited his mother’s beauty and her dark, lively eyes. The fourth figure in the study was a girl of about fifteen years of age. She was tall and resembled her father strongly, except for the mass of dark hair and the big eyes.

The human figures in the study were elaborately drawn. In contrast, the setting in which they were portrayed remained vague and sketchy. They were grouped around a big table, and there was a clutter of books, papers and what seemed to be mechanical devices around them.

"I would like to see the actual portrait." The Major said, after he had taken a good look at the study which the Earl had handed to him. "I would like to have a closer look at these papers and instruments. Was the portrait in the house when it burned down?"

"No." Crane informed him. "The maid said it was to be delivered a few days after the fire. The artist had it in storage when the family was killed."

"And where is it now?"

"It vanished." Hardenberg said.

"Vanished?" Lord Gloria asked.

"We questioned the painter." Crane continued. "After the tragedy, he was at a loss what to do with the portrait. The whole family having been killed, no one would pay him. He kept the picture with the intent of one day selling it to someone who had no idea of the tragedy behind it. So the portrait remained in storage and he forgot about it."

"And when you reopened the case and questioned him, he found out he did not have it any more?" The Earl waved away a waft of smoke from the Major’s pipe.

Crane shook his head.

"He reported the theft a few months earlier. His apartment was ransacked while he was out of town for a few weeks to visit a relative. He had kept an inventory of the few pictures he had in storage. So he found out that the portrait of the von Eyssen family was missing, but at that time, the theft was treated as a routine case. I only learned about it two months ago, when I was assigned to reopen the von Eyssen case."

"Did the burglars take other paintings?" the Earl asked.

"The von Eyssen portrait was the only item he reported missing." Hardenberg said.

"After twelve years. This is puzzling." The Earl finally put his handkerchief away.

"So let’s repeat the facts." the Major said. "Von Eyssen fled from Germany to England, then to America, because he thought he would find someone who would be prepared to pay more for his inventions. He and his family sat for a portrait. The portrait was finished, but von Eyssen must have made ruthless enemies. Part of his family was murdered, part of it vanished without a trace. Why the murders? What were the assassins looking for? The artist kept the portrait in his possession for twelve years. After twelve years, the portrait was suddenly stolen from his apartment."

"These are the facts." Hardenberg confirmed.

"So the portrait must be important." Lord Gloria joined in. "How do we proceed, Gentlemen? I suggest I’ll visit art galleries and dealers. Maybe, by chance, I’ll be able to have a little conversation with the artist who made the von Eyssen portrait. He might tell me more than he would tell a policeman." His eyes sparkled, he was in his element.

"A very good idea." Detective Crane said.

"I shall try to find out more about von Eyssen." the Major continued. "What do we know about him?"

"Very little so far." the Detective answered. "Twelve years ago, my colleagues tried to find the murderers and the missing persons. They did not look much into von Eyssen’s past. He wrote two books and was an assistant Professor at the University. So it would be a good idea to try and find out more about him."

"Very well." the Major said.

"We have started to observe pawn shops, art dealers, thieves specialised in art." Hardenberg said. "Without much success, so far. We’ll proceed."

"I will deal with the study." Detective Crane said. "Since I started to work with New York Police, I have been making sketches of people who are registered in the files. Criminals and missing persons. It may sound absurd, but I want to compare them with the likenesses of the von Eyssen family. Of course, my files don’t go a long way back, but it might be helpful. We should leave no stone unturned."

"You draw sketches of criminals and missing persons?" the Earl asked. "And you keep a file system? A very good idea!"

"It might be helpful to study how special offenders work." Crane answered, looking intently at Lord Gloria. He knew perfectly well that the Earl studied his methods to keep ahead of the police force, but at the same time he could not help to feel glad that someone understood his ideas. What an irony! His superiors had a hard time to see reason, but this British nobleman, suspected to be a master thief, appreciated his methods.

//Sometimes I think I have fought that lonely battle for too long already.// he thought, before he caught himself.

"More questions, Gentlemen? Any further suggestions? — Very well then. Mr Hardenberg will lead you back. Thank you for coming here."

"It was a pleasure to meet you, Mr Crane." Dorian said warmly, shaking the Detective’s hand and giving him his most irresistible smile.

//He is actually making eyes at him!// the Major thought, and at the same time he wanted to kick himself for the anger this thought instilled in him.

Ichabod was embarrassed by Lord Gloria’s obvious admiration, but also flattered. Admiration from other men and the often blatant desire behind it made him still uneasy. Again, he turned to look at the Major.

//He blushes.// the Major thought. //He blushes like a girl!// He saw that Hardenberg’s eyes had become cold and hard as stone. Deep in his heart the Major could understand this. If the Detective and the Constable were a couple, Hardenberg was defending his territory. Klaus found himself thinking that should he ever have a relationship, he would exactly feel the same about a rival as Hardenberg must feel now. But he would never want such a thing —

"We’ll meet again in two days." Detective Crane bowed to the two men, and Constable Hardenberg lead them back into the street.

"We’ll be in contact, Gentlemen." he said curtly and left.

 

New York, August 1805, Same Day

The two men watched the Constable walk away in long strides, before they left the alley themselves. Dorian was still smiling, his steps light, almost dancing, easily keeping pace with the Major, who stared straight ahead, as if annoyed.

"What’s the matter?" Dorian asked nonchalantly after a while. "We haven’t lost our way, have we? I’m certain we crossed this street —"

An icy stare silenced him.

"Just be warned!" the Major said in a menacing tone, which earned him a puzzled look from azure eyes.

"I do not understand —"

"You understand me very well!" Klaus snapped. "Wipe that ‘I-get-what-I-want’-smile from your face. Don’t even think of it!"

Dorian gave the Major a sidelong glance.

"Jealous?" he asked softly.

"Dummkopf!" Klaus hissed, emerald eyes blazing.

"You are even more beautiful when you look like that." Dorian went on.

"Und wenn Ihr das Maul nicht haltet, brech ich Euch den Hals!*" the Major said in a conversational tone.

"I want to live." The Earl demurely lowered his eyes. "By the way, there is a man with an eyepatch following us. — I would never antagonise a soldier! Or a constable."

"A very wise decision. — Turn right!"

Dorian did not ask any questions, but turned immediately into the street leading to the right, while the Major turned left at the next intersection.

//The only good things about that fop are his instincts.// he thought. //He knows when we are followed and does not ask stupid questions.//

The Major saw that Eyepatch seemed at a loss whom to follow when the two men had separated, then decided to follow the Earl. No doubt Lord Gloria would shake him off, even on unfamiliar territory. Eyepatch obviously was an amateur. But maybe he also was a decoy ... Klaus looked around carefully for other people watching him, but did not find anyone.

He reached the hotel and was half glad to see Mr James. He had feared that the damned little bastard had gotten himself into trouble again.

Half an hour later Lord Gloria arrived. The Major could hear him fussing over the perfume his servant obviously had managed to obtain. And he heard the small accountant’s cold, brief answer. Not good. Not good at all. The last thing he needed for this assignment were two perverts behaving like a bickering married couple.

*****

The Earl and the Major met again in the public room for supper. Klaus noted that Lord Gloria looked a bit exhausted and assumed that the pet accountant was the reason.

"Report." He demanded brusquely of the Earl, who was dressed in navy blue for a change, his vest a silver grey. He smelled of flowers, but not annoyingly so. And the navy blue made his eyes darker. It suited him well, the Major thought.

"Watchdog lost?" he barked.

"Of course." The Earl sounded miffed.

"Anything else?"

"No."

There was an awkward pause. Then Dorian spoke again..

"There will not be any trouble. I promise."

"Then keep your promise." was all the Major said. He found it difficult to accept the fact that Hardenberg and Crane were like the Earl, and most probably a couple. Before he had met Lord Gloria, he had hardly given any thought to such men. There had not been a reason. And now they seemed to be at every corner! The Major would never have admitted it, but he felt as if he had lost his way in a swamp, where the next step could lead him into treacherous depths.

 

New York, August 1805, Evening of the same day

Dog Man stood at the window. It was dark outside, but he had not lit any candles, so his eyes had adapted to the darkness. The big black dog had joined its master, sensing his loneliness.

Johnny had not returned yet, but Johnny had no concept of time. Dog Man knew there was no reason to be worried, but he was. He wished he had never bought the book from the stall of used books. But he had been unable to resist, when he saw his father’s name in his familiar handwriting on the front page. How had the goddamned book come to that bookseller? His father must have given it away, so it had not been burned with the rest of everything the family had possessed. But how had it come to that bookseller? He had found three very thin sheets of paper, hidden in the front and back of the cover. It had struck him like a blow: These papers must be part of the plans the people who had destroyed his family had been looking for!

He had lost his mind for a while, at least this was how he regarded it now. Instead of leaving the whole mess alone, he had tried to find out more. He had even written to a Government official, had even enclosed two of the sheets he had found. But he had never received an answer.

It had been the boss who had shaken him awake. The boss had not been amused. He had informed Dog Man that he might have involved himself in affairs too big for him. The boss did not know why Dog Man had a special interest in the plans, but he ordered him to lie low, at the same time giving him information about his father without knowing it.

"The guy who designed these plans was wanted by the Germans and the Brits before he came over here. And the French might want the plans as well. There might be more to lose than to gain from these papers. A lot of people must have been after them, and probably they were the reason why they killed that guy! — If you know what’s good for your health, keep out of this line of business. If something comes up from this, you will be on your own!"

He had never seen the boss so angry. And afraid. And he wondered how the boss had found out.

Nevertheless, he had promised to obey, for Johnny’s, Elizabeth’s and her brother’s sake, for the sake of his own life. But he had not told the boss that he still had another page of the plans... He was still undecided: Part of him wanted to find out who had wiped out his family, who had destroyed his brother’s life and his own. The other part told him that the boss was right, that he should be glad to be alive and well, and that it was best to leave the matter alone.

Dog Man saw the familiar figure in the red dress come into view. He gave a sigh of relief.

*****

When Dog Man entered his bedroom, Johnny was talking to someone only he could see. He was holding a small coin.

"You have been poor, and you’re afraid of bein’ poor again, of livin’ in the streets, cause he doesn’t want you anymore. But you could come and live with me and Dog Man and Elizabeth and Ares and Dog. You need not be afraid, you know."

"Whom are you inviting to live here with us?" Dog Man asked. He kissed Johnny and tried to comb the young man’s wild hair with his fingers. Johnny hugged him.

"Man." he said. "Gave me money. Beautiful little man."

"What does he look like?" Dog Man asked. He was convinced they were talking about someone only his brother could see. The coin might have come from hell knew where.

"Blue eyes, black hair. Small and thin. Pretty, pretty face. And he’s sad."

"Well, you told him there’s no reason to be sad." Dog Man remarked. He was not sure whether the people or ghosts Johnny saw actually existed or whether they were only in his mind. It didn’t matter anyway. If they existed for Johnny, then they existed for Dog Man as well, at least as long as he was with his younger brother. "Do you think he really would like to live with us?"

"Dunno." Johnny said. "Maybe."

He curled up close to Dog Man, and soon his regular breath showed that he was asleep.

Dog Man held him in his arms. So peaceful. Johnny seemed to have forgotten the bad things from the past. He had been a child. Dog Man wished he could give up the past as well, just enjoy being with the people he loved — Johnny, Elizabeth —

In the early morning hours he finally found some sleep.

 

New York, August 1805

While Lord Gloria, every inch the eccentric British aristocrat, visited art dealers with his frowning accountant, who feared his master might actually buy something, the Major spent the day in various bookshops and at the University, persuading the custodian of the library to admit him to the reading room. He read extensively all day and talked to the custodian and his assistant, without finding out anything they did not know already.

In the evening, he returned to the hotel, where he met the Earl.

"Now?"

It had taken Lord Gloria a while to get accustomed to the Major’s bluntness. It was a German thing. Baroness Chelmsford used to say that the Germans had no manners at all. Be it as it may, this evening the Earl could not resist needling the Major a bit.

"Good evening, Herr Paulus. Did you have a pleasant day? I must say, the art galleries are worth a visit. Excellent. The art dealers I visited today are a different thing. What they have for sale — deplorable, dear fellow, deplorable! Nothing we haven’t seen or heard of already. — But I must hurry. I’ll go to the opera this evening."

"The tickets cost a fortune!" Mr James said reproachfully.

"Ah, Mr James, don’t be so cruel! We worked all day, and we deserve a bit of distraction now!"

He twirled around, facing the Major. "Mozart. ‘Le Nozze di Figaro’." He hummed a few bars from Cherubino’s song "Voi, che sapete" and then continued, singing in German:

"... ein heimlich’ Sehnen ("Wherever I am, a secret longing

zieht wo ich bin draws me

zum fernen Schönen to the distant beauty.

mich traulich hin.

Und wird vor Leiden I feel his suffering,

um seinen Harm,

und dann vor Freuden and his joy warms my heart —")

mein Herze warm —"

The Major gave him a cold look, turned abruptly and left the room, almost pushing the accountant out of his way.

"Milord?" Mr James sounded anxiously. "What did you sing?"

"I just addressed the beautiful aria to him." Dorian answered.

"Why can’t you just leave him alone?!" Mr James complained. "You always have to annoy him! And what if he’ll kill you one day?! What will become of me then? You are heartless!"

He hurried out and slammed the door.

Dorian let himself drop on a stuffed chair, burying all ten fingers in the mass of his hair.

"Dear me!" he said to himself, thinking on, //I was just in a good mood and what happens? Both the Major and Jamesie throw a tantrum. Alright, I was mischievous again. Did I tease the Major once too often?//

He sighed, got up and went to the wardrobe , choosing the clothes he would wear to the opera. It would be no use to ask for Mr James’s assistance now.

//But it is so apt!// he thought defiantly. //It expresses what I feel for the Major, and I could not put it better!

"Sonst war’s im Herzen (Before, my heart was free and easy.

mir leicht und frei.

Es waren Schmerzen Pain and fear were strangers to me.

und Angst mir neu.

Jetzt fährt wie Blitze Now pain, then lust,

bald Pein, bald Lust,

bald Frost, bald Hitze frost and heat

durch meine Brust ... strike me like lightning ...

... es drängt und folgt mir ... I am haunted,

allüberall, wherever I go,

und doch behagt mir and yet I enjoy

die süße Qual. the sweet torment.)"//

He went to the opera with a sulking Mr James, who after a while stopped sulking and threw him fearful glances. Mr James had noticed as well that the singer playing the central role of Figaro was a tall, good-looking man with a certain resemblance to the Major, the baritone voice adding to the general impression.

"... du wirst nicht mehr die Herzen erobern, (... you will no longer conquer hearts,

mein Adonis, mein kleiner Narziss ... my Adonis, my little Narcissus ...)"

When Lord Gloria looked as thoughtful and determined at the same time as he did now, Mr James was highly alarmed. And he could not even run to Bonham for help! - On the other hand: Why bother? The Earl never listened to him anyway. Let him walk to his doom in pursuing the Major!

Arms folded, Mr James leaned back, his pretty face showing grim determination.

*****

Meanwhile, the Major sat in his hotel room, trying to concentrate on what he was reading about mechanical devices for military use. It was a difficult endeavour. He was annoyed with himself. Why did the goddamned fool always manage to get to him? It was a bit stiff, singing parts of an aria, changing the text so it fit a male person! What if someone else in the hotel understood German? Would this idiot never understand that he was wasting his time on him? He was not an object of affection! Not for anybody! He was a soldier, for God’s sake! —Hardenberg must have been a soldier once as well, maybe a mercenary, but a soldier nevertheless. Now he was a policeman, another figure of authority. And yet — he permitted himself to love Crane and to be loved by Crane. Of course, Crane would never sing out his love for all to hear. — If only Lord Gloria showed something of Crane’s serious determination, he would be able to put up with a lot of other foolish eccentricities. But then — you could never determine when the Earl might be serious for once ... Yes, to get him into bed, to add the inaccessible Major to his collection!

Klaus snorted.

"He should have gone to see ‘Don Giovanni’." he said to the empty room.

 

New York, September 1805

The next days brought no results in connection with the plans, the missing portrait and the search for von Eyssen’s children. Strangely enough, it seemed as if they were no longer observed. No man with an eyepatch, no one else who might be suspicious.

Hardenberg interviewed workers at the harbour, Dorian spend a lot of time with art dealers, while the Major spoke to people at the University, gaining access to von Eyssen’s books and drawings. Detective Crane brooded over the portrait study and over his files. All to no avail.

Then a minor incident, apparently completely unrelated to what they were looking for, gave Crane a clue.

The day was infernally hot. No one envied Detective Crane, who since the early hours of the morning had been working on a man they had pulled from the Hudson, where he must have been drifting for a few days. The Major again sat in the cool, dark library of Harvard University, Hardenberg was on day duty as a constable. Lord Gloria was having lunch with Mr Charles Askew, an art collector he knew from London, a specialist in portraits, from the Italian Renaissance until today.

Mr James was half dozing on a bench in the shadow of a tree outside Mr Askew’s house, half watching the passers-by, when something red caught his eye. It was a red dress, and it belonged to the boy who had asked him for money the day they had arrived in New York.

Mr James slid more into the shadow, to the far end of the bench. What if the young man would see him and beg for money again? He had asked himself many times in-between what had made him give a coin to the boy in the first place, but he had not found an answer. Except that he was lonely and hungry for warmth and closeness, and the young man was beautiful. At least in Mr James’s eyes. Sure, he was a street rat, and not in his right mind. And yet his eyes had been so clear, seeing things other people would not see ...

Again, Mr James was remembered of his dilemma. He knew he should be grateful. He lived in a rich house, cool in summer, warm in winter, he had more than one suit, two pairs of shoes, several shirts, enough to eat every day. All he had achieved in life he owed to Lord Gloria. He could read and write, he had learned a profession. Not bad for someone who had never known his parents, who did not even have a family name. So why was he unhappy? One of the most beautiful men he had ever seen had been his lover for a while, but who would be able to keep such an adventurous and restless man by his side? Certainly not Mr James. And it hurt to know that the Earl played with him — a kiss here, a caress there, even a promise of more — to get an extra allowance for the new suit he had ordered with a tailor from Savile Row from his unwilling accountant...

He had resisted all of Lord Gloria’s attempts in that direction lately. But it was rather unnerving and exhausting. James felt it would be madness to leave, but he would go insane if he stayed with the Earl.

The door of an inn farther along the street opened and a pair of men, obviously drunk, stumbled out. Instinctively, the accountant slid even more into the shadows. He knew that sort of well-dressed young rogues. They were mostly trouble. Big trouble. Bored and ready to play nasty jokes on everyone who might be an easy target.

They had been debating for a moment in which direction they would go, now they were coming towards the art dealer’s house. The young man in the red dress went in the same direction. He had passed Mr James on his bench without seeing him.

The two drunks had seen the boy and followed him, giving catcalls. Despite the hot sun, Mr James shivered in the shadows. The two men would not be content with a little teasing. They would want fun.

//Why don’t you go faster?// James thought. //You must have noticed them. Run away! They’re too drunk to catch up with you. Run away, for God’s sake!//

But then he saw that the boy was limping. He must have hurt one of his feet.

"Hey, Darling!" James heard one of the men call. "What about a kiss?" He made smacking sounds with his lips.

The boy had realised now that he would be in trouble. The two drunks thought he was a girl, and they wouldn’t be pleased when they found out he was not. He seemed to be in pain. He tried to walk faster, but one of the drunks caught up with him and kicked his heels. The young man stumbled and almost fell, caught himself and limped on hastily.

"Oooops!" the rogue shouted.

Mr James trembled with anger. He had gone through that himself. Some drunken, brainless idiots were looking for someone weaker than themselves to tease, maybe even torment him, and no one else bothered. There were enough people around, but either they looked away, wanting no part in this scene, or worse, they stopped and looked, laughed, waiting what the little whore would do. No one intervened to help.

The drunk who had caught up with the boy now grabbed his arm, jerking him around.

"Ey Sweetie! I was talkin’ to you!"

The boy struggled to tear himself free.

"Lemme go!"

The other rogue had caught up with the pair. His companion shoved the boy into his arms, and the man held the squirming figure, bending down for a kiss. Suddenly he stopped and started to roar with laughter.

"Ey, Charlie, that’s no girl! It’s a boy!"

//Alright, you morons, now you know. Let him go!// Mr James prayed from the shadows.

The man called Charlie did not see the funny side of the encounter. He looked rather insulted, and the other’s laughter fuelled his anger. He grabbed the boy away from his laughing partner and shook him brutally.

"What business do you have, running around in a dress, you stinkin’ little rat?" he screamed. "What?! — Hey, what?! — I asked you a question!" And with every sentence, he beat the young man into the face with full force.

Mr James had jumped up from the bench. His hands clenched and unclenched.

"But maybe some dirty old pervert brings it up when he can have the ass of a boy wearing a dress?! — What, you little bastard?! — Answer me!" He beat the boy again, and when the small figure fell to the ground, he started kicking him.

All this happened very fast. The young man was curled up in the dirt, trying to evade the drunkard’s boots, the other drunk was still laughing like a madman, some passers-by stood and gaped, but no one tried to stop the violent drunk, who was working himself into a frenzy.

"That’s enough!" A young man’s voice, not very deep, but rather loud.

The laughing rogue stopped his silly bray, and the other one was so perplexed, he actually stopped kicking the boy on the ground.

"Leave him alone!" A small young man in a well-worn brown suit, dark curls covering one eye, the other blazing with fury, had appeared from nowhere and was standing in front of the violent drunk, between him and the boy on the ground. His words had not been a plea, they had been a command.

If someone asked Mr James later how he had come out of his hiding place and found himself standing in front of the rogue, he could not tell. But there he stood.

For a second, there was a deadly silence. Then the silly drunk started to laugh again, which made the other one even more angry.

"What?!" he roared. "What did you say?!"

"Leave him alone!" Mr James repeated with all the menace he could muster. He was almost beside himself, still trembling in a mixture of fear and anger.

"Huuuuuuuh! Now I’m afraid!" the laughing drunk gasped mockingly, bending over with hilarity about his own joke.

"Piss off!" the violent man spat at Mr James.

The accountant was not sure how the two rogues would react further. It was possible that they had "played" enough with the boy, had lost interest and would let them go, if James took the young man with him. But it was also possible that the violent one would attack them again. And Mr James had his doubts that any of the onlookers would help them. But he had no choice. Trying to keep an eye on both drunks, he bent down to the young man.

"Come on." he said. "Let’s go."

Just as the young man in the red dress was getting wobbly to his feet, aided by the accountant, the silly drunk pushed them. They stumbled and both fell to the ground.

"Fallin’ over each other in the streets, in the middle of the day!" the laughing rogue shouted.

"Bastard!" The violent one kicked Mr James. He aimed at the stomach, but Mr James rolled away, and the man just caught him in one of his thighs. The rogue bent down to pull the small man up from the ground, when he felt a hand on his shoulder. Strong fingers gripped the cloth of his coat and shirt and pressed down on the muscles beneath.

The drunk pulled himself free and whisked around, looking straight into a handsome face framed by a mass of blonde curls. The tall young man in the light brown suit and golden brocade vest looked foppish. His strong grip and his wide shoulders told another story, however.

"Why not pick someone your own size?" he asked politely. "I assure you, it is more worthwhile."

The laughing drunk had stopped his silly bray again, and there was a murmur from the steadily growing crowd of spectators. The violent drunk found his voice again.

"Huh? What do you think you are, Mister? The Archangel Gabriel? — Come here, pretty face, I’ll make a man out of you —"

He had not finished the last word when his head flew sidewards, first right, then left, from two heavy blows the fop had landed. The drunk stumbled backwards, and there was another murmur from the crowd.

"I hate being called ‘pretty face’." Lord Gloria said. "And a silly excuse like you should keep his mouth shut about making a man of someone. Really."

He stood his ground, ready to strike again should it be necessary, but the laughing drunk seemed to have gathered a few brain cells and drew his companion aside.

"Come on, let’s go, Charlie. If someone will call a constable —"

"I’m here." The tall, forbearing figure of Constable Hardenberg approached the crowd, which dispersed very quickly, leaving only the boy in the red dress, Mr James, the Earl, his host, and the two drunks, who had not been fast enough to vanish with the crowd.

Hardenberg looked at the rogues with his cold, inscrutable eyes. The pair sobered up considerably under his icy stare.

"Trouble again." the Constable stated.

The violent rogue found his voice first: "Not us, Constable! The little whoreboy in the red dress here approached us, begging for money, and he would not take no for an answer."

The terrible eyes fell on Johnny and Mr James. Johnny shook his head without a word.

"That’s a lie!" Mr James answered, pale and still trembling. He was afraid of the Constable, but he would not leave the young man, who now wiped blood from his nose and tried to smile at him.

"The two men were violent." Help came unexpectedly from the art dealer, a thin, nervous man with a goatee. "I myself saw the boy lying on the ground, and this man kicked him." He pointed to the violent rogue.

"Aw, you don’t know what a bloody nuisance they can be!" the drunk defended himself.

"He is no match for you." Dorian said calmly. "It would have sufficed to warn him off."

"My companion and I were attacked by the other one!" His lame defence earned him a quizzical look from clear blue eyes.

"I admit, my accountant can be frightening sometimes." The Earl sounded amused, but he looked approvingly at Mr James.

"The boy never approached the two men." Mr James’s voice still trembled a bit, and his thigh hurt like hell. "He was just walking along the street, when they came from the inn down there and went after him."

The Constable’s stern eyes turned to him.

"You would repeat this at the Watch House?"

"Yes." Mr James said.

"Fine, then. We’ll settle this at the Watch House." He took the two rogues by their upper arms and pushed them forward. Although they both were strong, burly men, they made no attempt to run away. They would not have gone far anyway, because Lord Gloria followed right behind the Constable.

"Don’t want to go to the Watch House." Johnny whispered.

"Don’t worry. It’s alright." Mr James assured him. He helped the limping young man along, and when the Earl saw that they both had their difficulties to walk, he took the two smaller men around the shoulders and helped them along. Mr James realised that the Earl was giving him a hand, so he let it happen. Johnny had put his head on Lord Gloria’s shoulder, but smiled at the accountant.

"You’re trembling." he said.

"I’m still angry about these two —" Mr James stopped himself. //I should have minded my own business.// he thought. //But I could not stand and watch these two bastards beat him up. I could not, and I don’t know why. Of course, now we might be in trouble.//

 

New York, Central Watch House

Mr James did not know whether to be relieved or to be even more worried when they arrived at the Watch House and found Detective Crane on duty. The Earl had told him about the famous policeman whose book he had read, and he was as astonished as his employer had been about the good-looking young man sitting at a desk in front of them.

"Dog Man will be angry." the boy in the red dress whispered to Mr James.

"Who is Dog Man?"

"Dog Man." Johnny shrugged.

Mr James did not ask further. Surely Dog Man was the boy’s "protector", meaning his pimp. And if Dog Man was angry, this would mean some kind of punishment, depending on what sort of man he was. Mr James knew about such things.

They were asked to wait on a narrow bench in a small anteroom. It was uncomfortable, but at least it was more quiet than the main room, where Crane had his desk, and where constables walked in and out, dragging someone after them, or were shouting at each other or at visitors demanding their rights.

Mr James had begun to clean Johnny’s face with a handkerchief Lord Gloria had given him, when a young constable came in, carrying a bowl with water and a rag. Now the accountant could clean the boy’s face properly. Again, Johnny smiled at him.

"Jamesie." he said.

Lord Gloria looked interested. Mr James dropped the rag.

"Wha — how -?" he stammered. No one except Lord Gloria had ever called him "Jamesie", and the Earl had not mentioned that name in the young man’s presence.

Mr James took up the rag with trembling hands and rinsed it in the bowl. He managed a smile.

The first drunk, the violent one, whose aggressiveness meanwhile had given way to whimpering self-pity, was called in.

//It must be accidental that he came up with that name. Purely accidental.// Mr James thought.

"See it here." Johnny pointed to his forehead, as if answering the accountant’s thoughts. He lifted his foot. "Hurts."

Mr James knelt down and took the slender ankle. He drew in his breath with a hiss.

"Milord!"

Lord Gloria knelt down beside him. There was a nasty cut at the heel, still bleeding and full of dirt. The two men cleaned the wound as well as they could, and dressed it with another of the Earl’s handkerchiefs. Mr Askew did not want to stand back and gave up his handkerchief as well.

The second drunk was called in.

"When we’ll be finished here, we’ll take you to a doctor." Lord Gloria said.

Johnny shook his head.

"Dog Man will."

"It is important." The Earl insisted. "You will get very ill if you don’t see a doctor."

"Aright." Johnny said, repeating patiently: "Dog Man will." He seemed in pain, but Dorian’s hair fascinated him. He patted the Earl’s head. Mr James suppressed a grin.

He was called in, reluctant to leave the boy with Lord Gloria.

The first thing he told Detective Crane was that the young man should see a doctor because of the gash in his foot, and the policeman went out himself, looking after Johnny’s foot. He repeated Lord Gloria’s words that the boy see a doctor immediately, because a doctor had the right means to make the foot better, medicine they did not have here at the Watch House.

Then he listened to Mr James and did not interrupt him. He made some notes, and thanked the accountant politely for his help. Mr James was taken aback by the policeman’s politeness. He had never met a well-educated, friendly constable before, and he wondered how Crane would treat someone from the streets. He had been very kind with Johnny.

Mr James returned to the anteroom and sat with the young man. Lord Gloria and Mr Askew were called in, then the boy.

Mr James went with him, but Johnny was no longer shy and afraid, and told his story. Crane listened again, without interrupting, and made notes.

Suddenly there was a commotion outside. The young constable who had brought the water came in.

"There is a man outside, calling himself Dog Man. He says, he comes for the boy."

"Bring him in."

Dog Man entered, a tall, slender young man, his dark hair closely cropped, nothing softening his sharp features and the sadness of his dark eyes. He leaned heavily on a cane with a silver head while he followed the young constable to Detective Crane’s desk. A giant black dog with amber eyes followed him.

"I have come to fetch my brother." he said, addressing Ichabod Crane. His voice was rough, but not very deep, his tone arrogant. "What happened?"

Detective Crane frowned. His demeanour became cold and reserved in a few seconds. In Mr James’s eyes he now behaved more like a policeman. Still polite, but with an iron edge.

"So you are his brother." he said to Dog Man. "Your name?"

Dog Man hesitated for a moment.

"Iverson. Charles Iverson."

"Thank you. Your brother told me he was harassed and beaten by two drunks."

Dog Man’s eyes darkened with anger. The giant dog had trotted up to Johnny and licked his face.

"We have the two men here. They say your brother asked them for money, but a witness denies this. He says the two men went after your brother to harass and beat him."

"Jamesie told them to stop!" Johnny limped over to Dog Man and pointed to Mr James.

"You did?" Dark eyes took in the small accountant.

"Another witness saw the gentleman here try to put a stop to one of the two drunken men beating your brother. When the violence escalated, this witness got involved as well, before a constable arrived."

"What’s the matter with your foot?" Ignoring Crane, Dog Man knelt down in front of Johnny. He was upset to see his brother limp and wear a makeshift dressing around his foot.

"You should get him to a doctor as soon as possible." Detective Crane continued.

"He had hurt his foot and could not run away when the two drunks went after him." Mr James threw in.

"I see." Dog Man said. "Well, we should be off, then." Seeing the wound on his brother’s foot cleaned and dressed had calmed him down a bit. Indicating a bow to Detective Crane and Mr James, he wanted to leave with Johnny, but Crane called him back.

"Just a moment, Mr Iverson. Do you encourage your brother to wear a dress and to beg?"

Dog Man turned around. His eyes burned into Crane’s.

"Of course not. It is the only garment he wants to wear. And I do not encourage him to approach people in the streets. He is harmless, Constable. I cannot very well chain him to his bed, can I?!"

Detective Crane answered Dog Man’s hard look.

"For the young man’s own safety, I suggest you find someone to look after him." he said firmly.

"Come, Johnny. Up, Dog!" Dog Man limped to the door, when the Detective addressed him again.

"If you want to sue the two men —"

Dog Man gave a harsh laugh.

"No, thank you, Mister!"

He left with Johnny, and Detective Crane dismissed Mr James, the Earl and Mr Askew, thanking them again. The two drunken rogues were detained and would be kept at the Watch House overnight.

Detective Crane remained sitting at his desk, thinking. There was a certain resemblance between Dog Man and the boy called Johnny. They could actually be brothers. And both their faces reminded him of someone, but he could not make the connection. Not yet. He refined and finished the rough sketches he had made of Dog Man and Johnny while talking to them.

He looked up when a red-faced man demanded his attention. "Constable!" he gasped, "You would not believe it!"

Crane dealt with what he would not believe, but he made a mental note to find out more about Mr Iverson later.

 

New York, the Independent Hotel, same day

 

"What a day!" Lord Gloria fell down on his bed.

Mr James, ignoring him, went to his own room. He held a bleached-out piece of cloth in his hand, sewn together to form a rose. Johnny had given it to him, before he had left with his brother. He had torn the rose from his dress and had pressed it into the accountant’s hand.

Mr James was sure that the young man, who was not in his right mind, would forget him soon. He however would not forget the boy easily. The grateful dark eyes, the absolute trust and admiration, as if he, Mr James, of all people, were someone important! —

He heard heavy steps on the corridor, and a knock at the Earl’s door. The Major always knocked like a policeman demanding entrance into a smugglers’ den or a brothel. There was the murmur of voices, then the Earl knocked at the door to Mr James’s room.

"Mr Paulus and I will go out." he said and put a small note on the bed next to Mr James. It said "Crane, 147, Northern Street". Mr James nodded. It was nice of Lord Gloria to tell him where he would go, for a change, but he was not really interested.

When Lord Gloria had closed the door again, Mr James remained sitting in the dark, lost in thoughts.

 

New York, Evening of the same day, Detective Crane’s Apartment

Ichabod Crane’s apartment was a vast attic room filled with books, medical instruments, scales, chemical equipment and anatomical models. Constable Hardenberg was already there when the Earl and the Major arrived.

"Maybe we found out something important." Detective Crane said as a greeting.

"Yes?" The Major.

"You remember the young man in the red dress? Today, he was involved in an incident with two drunken rogues. Lord Gloria and his accountant helped him and made their statements at the Watch House."

The Major frowned.

"The young man’s name was given as John Iverson. His brother came to collect him, apparently notified by someone who witnessed the incident. The brother’s name is Charles Iverson, better known as Dog Man."

"And who is this person? Why is he important?" the Major asked impatiently.

Hardenberg took over. "Dog Man came to New York about ten years ago. He is the manager of the ‘Broken Mirror’, an establishment near the harbour. Officially, it is a public house, unofficially, it is said to be a brothel, as is the ‘Blue Rose’ opposite."

"He never came to the attention of New York Police." Detective Crane continued. "Until today, when he collected his brother. I thought I had seen their faces before, but could not remember where. I made sketches of them, and I think I found something. It may be in my imagination, but I want your opinion — excuse me —"

He took some papers from his desk and hurried to the window, holding the papers stretched as far away as possible from his body. The Major caught a glimpse of a spider sitting on the papers.

Crane shook the papers out over the windowsill and closed the window, then turned abruptly, grimacing, before he caught himself again. "There."

Hardenberg had not moved during the whole scene. Apparently his partner’s fear of spiders was not new to him. The Major however thought that his associates in this assignment were some of the strangest people he had ever encountered. A man who could not stand a harmless spider near him, but had no qualms to open a decaying human body surely qualified as odd.

"I don’t like them either." Lord Gloria said with a smile. "They tend to get in my hair, I don’t know why. Silly creatures."

Crane did not answer, but he blushed for a moment. He put a few books aside, clearing a space on the big desk. Then he opened a drawer and pulled out the study for the von Eyssen portrait.

"This is the picture we all know." He took more sketches from the drawer, holding them in his hand. "What I tried, Gentlemen, was to take on each of the four figures separately. I imagined how they would look now, after twelve years. I gave less attention to von Eyssen and his wife, because I think they are actually dead. The same goes for the boy, because it would be too much speculation involved to draw a picture of him as he must be now — a young man of about seventeen or eighteen."

Lord Gloria was fascinated by Crane’s explanations, and the Major looked interested.

"Remained the girl." Detective Crane continued. He put the first sketch on the table. It was taken from the portrait study. In the following sketches the girl "aged", slowly but steadily. The face became more mature, the features sharper, the body a bit fuller, but the frame remained wide-shouldered and angular.

"It is mere speculation." Crane explained. "And it led nowhere, until today, when I met Dog Man."

He put the sketch he had made of Dog Man on the table, next to his drawing in which the girl had become a young woman in her twenties. Dog Man and the young woman looked very much alike.

"Amazing!" Dorian exclaimed.

"How good is the likeness?" The Major indicated the drawing of Dog Man.

"Very good." Lord Gloria answered. "As Detective Crane said, I was present at the Watch House, and I saw the man. Mr Crane is right! Dog Man could be related to the von Eyssen family! — And more: Do you see that Dog Man and the boy Johnny have the same eyes, that their features are similar? When Dog Man came and said he had come to collect his brother, I never doubted they were related!"

The Major frowned, looking at the pictures.

"Your theory?"

"Don’t you see?" the Earl was excited. "Von Eyssen’s daughter and Dog Man could well be the same person! — And if you compare the young man Johnny in the recent sketch and the sketch of his mother — the same oval face, high cheekbones, and the same eye-form!"

"A wild story." the Major cut him short. "Von Eyssen’s daughter living as a man. And her brother obviously mentally ill. Were there any hints that von Eyssen's son had a mental illness?"

Crane shook his head.

"No. But what do we know about how they spent the last twelve years?"

The Major looked up. He had decided to go with Crane’s theory.

"Be it as it may — we should pay this Dog Man a visit. Now."

"Right." Constable Hardenberg agreed.

The Major consulted his watch.

"Constable Hardenberg and I will leave now. Detective Crane, you will follow with Lord Gloria in half an hour. You know the house?"

"I do."

"Very well then. Stay outside and watch."

"Alright." Ichabod Crane said, going along easily with the Major’s taking over command.

The Major and Hardenberg left.

Ichabod Crane took the drawings, looking at them one by one, before pocketing them carefully.

"I believe you are right, Detective Crane." Lord Gloria said. "But - what would happen if you were wrong?"

Crane took a deep breath, frowning.

"I’d correct my methods. And I’d look for a new position. The Chief of New York Police would not tolerate harmless citizens being harassed because of some unfounded ideas by an eccentric detective. But believe me: I would not have called you and Mr Paulus if I would not be very sure that I’m correct."

New York, Dog Man’s House, Late Evening of the Same Day

Hardenberg and the Major reached Dog Man’s house near the harbour. The Broken Mirror was packed with sailors, soldiers, dockhands and ladies of the night, but the two men had their doubts about finding Dog Man here. He managed the public house and would leave serving the customers to his employees.

They went around the house to a side door and Hardenberg knocked. A small window opened in the door, and the face of an African came into view.

"We’d like to have a word with Dog Man." Hardenberg said.

"He expecting you, Gentlemen?"

"I do not think so." the Major answered.

The window in the door was closed without a further word from the African, and the two men posted themselves left and right of the door, if someone should try an attack. The door was however opened a short time later, and the African stood aside to let the visitors pass.

They stood in an entrance hall. There were no other doors or windows, the hall was bare, although the walls were covered in expensive wallpaper, and the whole high room was lit by lanterns fixed to the walls. A staircase led up to the first floor. Thick carpets muffled their steps when they followed the servant upstairs.

The two men and the African reached a landing, as bare as the entrance hall downstairs, the walls covered in the same wallpaper. Three doors were on the left, and three on the right, all closed. One door right in front of them stood ajar.

Dog Man greeted his visitors at the top of the stairs, dressed in the sombre grey suit he had worn in the afternoon, leaning heavily on his cane. The giant black dog stood next to him. He motioned the two men into the room where the door had been ajar. In contrast to the stark entrance hall and landing, the room was adorned tastefully and expensively, but not overdone. The walls were covered with bookshelves, there was a big desk, a table with three chairs, the same wood as the desk, another thick carpet covering the floor. The desk was cluttered with papers and files, and the room was brightly lit by candles, like the stairs and the landing.

Dog Man motioned them over to the table and offered them seats. He showed no surprise about his late visitors, although his dark eyes scrutinised the two men closely.

"What can I do for you, Gentlemen?" he asked, when they were seated. "Do you want a drink? Wine? Brandy?"

Hardenberg wordlessly shook his head, and the Major reclined the offer as well.

Dog Man sat down on the remaining chair, keeping his right leg outstretched. It seemed to give him pain.

"We want answers to a few questions." the Major began.

Dog Man lifted an eyebrow.

"If I can answer them in any way, Gentlemen, I’ll be at your service." he said. If he was upset or afraid, he gave no hint.

"Does the name Joseph von Eyssen mean anything to you?" the Major asked.

Dog Man did not flinch, but the two men sensed that he was as alert and cautious as he could be. The dog sat up, sensing its master’s alertness.

"I have heard the name." Dog Man said after a moment, carefully weighing his words. "As far as I know, he was a famous scientist. But he is dead now, isn’t he?"

The dog began to growl, but was sharply rebuked by its master.

"We have reason to believe you know a lot more than just having heard the name." the Major continued his questions. "He was a very skilled inventor, working for the British Government, selling his inventions to the French at the same time, before he came to the New World. Yes, he is dead now. And his death was no accident, but murder."

He watched Dog Man sharply. The man shifted slightly in his seat.

"Why are you telling me this, Gentlemen?" he asked. "What is it to me? And may I ask who you are, coming to my house, asking me all these questions? Why do you believe I knew more about this man than I just told you?"

The dog growled, hackles raised.

"Quiet, Dog." Iverson said. His voice had a slight tremor.

"Von Eyssen had constructed a special kind of warship." the Major continued. "And we have good reason to believe that the people who killed him were after the construction plans."

Dog Man had become very pale. The Major did not like what he would have to do now, but it would be the only way to find out the truth. They had briefly spoken about how to proceed on their way here. Hardenberg had agreed to the Major’s plan.

"The von Eyssen family consisted of four people." von dem Eberbach continued relentlessly. "Joseph von Eyssen, his wife, a daughter, fifteen or sixteen years of age, and a son of about five. Von Eyssen’s house burned down, and the remains of two dead bodies were found in the ruins. The police believes them to be the bodies of grown-ups. The servants in the household were not present when the tragedy happened."

"I still do not know why you are wasting your time, telling me these things, Gentlemen." Dog Man repeated. Outwardly he was calm, but his eyes were burning.

"There was no hint at all that von Eyssen’s children perished in the fire." the Major continued. "They seem to have vanished from the face of the earth. Did the men who were after von Eyssen’s construction plans not get the information they wanted from the inventor and his wife? Did they take the children with them, to learn what they knew? They must have been very desperate. What did they do with the children?"

Dog Man stood, holding the growling dog back by its collar.

"As I said, you are wasting your time, Gentlemen. I cannot help you. I cannot answer your questions."

"I believe you can help us a lot, Miss von Eyssen." Constable Hardenberg said.

He had hardly finished his sentence, when Dog Man pointed to him, and the giant dog jumped. The Major had drawn his pistol in a second, but Hardenberg was even faster. He caught the mighty animal in the air and held it, though the dog furiously tried to maim his hands, arms and face.

The Major saw Dog Man’s face, distorted by fear and hatred, and horrified at Hardenberg holding the giant dog, not hurting it, merely keeping it from attacking. He saw every bite wound close as fast as it appeared, and it shocked him as much as it horrified Dog Man.

For a moment, the Major and Dog Man stared at each other, before Dog Man broke eye contact. It was one of the moments in which the Major hated his profession. Crane had been right. Dog Man’s reaction proved it. She was von Eyssen’s missing daughter. They had put her under a cruel pressure. She must have her reasons to live as a man now, and they forced her to remember things she probably had tried to forget for the last twelve years. She was a woman, but it would be better to go along with her role as a man, and to treat her accordingly.

Iverson had fallen down on his chair again, broken for a moment. Then he looked up.

"Don’t kill the dog." he said. "Stop, Dog!"

Obediently, the dog stopped struggling and trying to bite. It growled faintly and licked its muzzle, then just panted from the strain. Hardenberg put the dog down, stroked its mighty head, then let it go. It went over to its master, sitting at his feet.

Alarmed from all the noise, the tall African came in, followed by an African woman. Dog Man spoke gently, persuading them to leave him alone with his visitors. Reluctantly, they left again.

"Did the same people send you who destroyed my family?" he asked bitterly when the two Africans had left. "I’ll tell you everything I know, which is not much. Under one condition: My people can leave unharmed and vanish without your pursuing them."

"No one will leave this house until we have learnt what you know." the Major said firmly. "But rest assured, Dog Man, we have nothing to do with the people who murdered your parents. We are no inquisitors."

"But who are you?"

"We work for the Government." Hardenberg said.

"Prove it!"

"It was you who wrote the anonymous letters to a Government Official" Hardenberg shot at him. "Why?"

Dog Man put a hand to his throat.

"And I thought they had never reached their destination."

"Why did you write three letters, even suggesting ways and means to contact you and then fall silent all of a sudden?

"I never got an answer to my suggestions."

The two men looked at each other. There had been an answer, but it must have been intercepted. The Major thought of the two dead French agents.

"You can be glad to be still alive." he said to Dog Man. "Someone found out about your correspondence with the Government Official, but he does not know who sent the letters. Lucky for you."

Dog Man wiped his mouth and chin nervously, doubt and fear in his eyes, while he looked at the two men. After a while, he took a deep breath.

"You want the plans." he said. "And I want the goddamned plans out of my life. I wanted to find out more about them. I wanted revenge at first. This was why I wrote these letters to the Government Official in question. But now, the only thing I want is you — them - staying away from the people I consider my family."

"If you say you are the only one who can help us, we have no business with your loved ones." Hardenberg answered. His eyes were cold and aloof as usual, but not without a hint of pity.

"I have made a terrible mistake and endangered people who mean a lot to me." Dog Man continued. "Gentlemen, I believe you. And I believe that you might be able to find the people who present the danger to my family."

"If you help us find the plans by telling us everything you know, we will also find the people who have them now." Hardenberg said.

Dog Man bowed his head, looking at the carpet beneath his feet. His voice was very low, when he began to speak.

"I swear to you, Gentlemen, I did not know anything about these damned plans, when three men broke into my father’s house that night in September 1793. They found Johnny and me first. Our bedrooms were closer to where the men had come in. Our father had been still awake. Mother was with him. He saw that the men had taken us, and he did something very strange."

"What?" the Major asked.

Dog Man absentmindedly stroked his dog’s head.

"He took a pistol and shot our mother and himself, leaving Johnny and me alone with the men. It happened very fast, they were dead before I could realise what he had done. Father knew we didn’t know a thing. But how could he think the men would not harm Johnny and me?" He spoke slowly, caught up in his own nightmare.

"They locked us into the cellar." he continued. "I heard them run through the house, moving heavy things, I heard cracks and thuds and glass breaking. They must have overturned furniture and emptied cupboards and racks in their search for the plans. I was afraid. Johnny had seen Father shoot Mother and himself. I tried to comfort him, but I was not very good at it."

Dog man was still stroking his dog’s head, but his horrified eyes did no longer see the room and the two men in front of him. His voice was still rough, but behind it was the higher voice of a young girl, shocked and frightened almost beyond words.

//Enough to drive a grown person insane.// the Major thought. //Let alone a child.// He looked at Hardenberg, whose eyes appeared grey and sad.

There was a long silence, but then Dog Man continued.

"I don’t know how long we were in the cellar. It was dark. The men came down again. They dragged us to another room and bound me to a chair. One man held Johnny. They asked me where the plans were and I asked back what plans they were talking about. I said I did not know anything about my father’s work. They beat me, and then they raped me, asking me in-between where the plans were. I could not tell them, Gentlemen, because I didn't know! All the time, they forced Johnny to watch! But the worst thing was when one of them started on Johnny —" Dog Man’s voice broke. He shivered and breathed deeply before he was able to continue.

"He was like every other little boy up to that day. Bright for his age. That day, he lost his mind." A strange sound escaped Dog Man’s throat.

The Major thought about what he had just heard. He was experienced in hearing confessions. He knew when someone was playing a charade and when someone was telling the truth. The three men must have been desperate to get the plans.

Dog Man lifted his tortured face to look into the Major’s eyes, then into Hardenberg’s, before lowering his head again.

"I should have made something up." he continued. "To buy time. But I was too frightened to think clearly."

"How did you and Johnny get away?" The Major felt he must bring the man out of that dark hole, back to the present again.

Dog Man shook his head, shrugging helplessly.

"I do not remember properly." he answered. "I do not know how long it lasted. What I remember is that they broke one of my legs — I must have passed out — and then I smelled smoke and fire, I heard flames crackle, and the heat — the heat! — Johnny screaming in a corner — I grabbed him and there was a window — we must have crawled out. — And don’t ask me who helped Johnny and me, Gentlemen — I don’t know up to this day. I remember a man with an eyepatch looking after us, and a tall woman, always dressed in black. I never saw her face, she always wore a veil, but her hands and voice were old. She looked rich. She must have been — she paid the doctors for Johnny and for me. We owe her our lives. — But I had to go — a woman would perhaps understand —"

//Lord Gloria would perhaps understand.// the Major caught himself thinking. //Lord Gloria, given to whims and emotions, but with an open heart. The goddamned fool would find this sad story romantic! But perhaps he would find some words to comfort her — him -//

"All I knew then about these accursed plans was what these men had told me." Dog Man continued. "Construction plans for a ship my father had designed. — And then I found this book from my father’s library at the stall of a bookseller. He must have given it to someone — he gave his books away freely — but there were these goddamned pages in it — parts of construction plans! — Yes, I continued the bad game my father must have been playing all his life: I offered them to the French and to our Government — I don’t know — it was foolish — I hoped to find out more, to find the rest. I stopped, because I realised what I was doing. And I swear, I do not know who gave the book to that bookseller!"

He opened his vest and shirt, removed a small leather sheath from his body and handed it to the Major. It contained a sheet of paper, showing the drawing of a kind of vessel, with measurements and sketches of details, as well as mathematical formulas.

"This is the page I kept. And of course I wracked my brain where my father could have hidden the goddamned plans. Did he prepare other books like the one with the three pages I found by accident? — But I have another idea."

"Yes?" Constable Hardenberg asked.

"Shortly — shortly before — these men came, a painting of our family had been finished. I remember the sittings — they were so boring, and yet it was so strange." Dog Man actually smiled now.

"What was strange?" the Major asked, putting away the page of the construction plan carefully.

"It was a summer, almost as hot as it is now. Sitting still for the portrait was very boring for Johnny. Because of him, the sittings could not last too long, which was a blessing." For a moment, Dog Man was lost in his memories of this summer, when everything still had been in order, at least for the two von Eyssen children.

"We all sat around a big table which was covered with sheets of music. I had been taking piano lessons, and Father wanted me to bring all these sheets with me to the sittings."

"Do you have an idea what they were for?" the Major asked. "Did you ever see the finished portrait?"

"Yes." Dog Man answered. "As I said, it was finished shortly — before the men came. I found it strange then, but now I know why: In the portrait, there were no musical sheets. Instead, the papers in the picture showed numbers, formulas and drawings of mechanical parts!"

"So you think your father hid the major part of the construction plans in your family portrait?"

"I think so." Dog Man confirmed. "It took me a while to find this out."

"And when you had found out — what did you do?" the Major asked.

"I tried to get hold of the portrait." Dog Man answered. "The artist was still located where he had been when he portrayed my family. I visited him, pretending to be interested in his art, and I found out he still had our family portrait. But before I could buy it from him — it was stolen. And then the two Frenchmen vanished — were killed — the page I sent them is still missing -"

He stopped, because the door opened, and Johnny limped in. He wore his usual red dress and a bandage around his foot. His eyes were bleary with sleep. The dog rushed over to him and wagged its tail when he petted it. Then Johnny went over to Dog Man, hugging him.

"You’re sad." he said.

"Everything is alright, Johnny." Dog Man assured him gently. "Go back to your room. Get back to sleep."

But Johnny had already limped over to the two visitors. He smiled at the Constable and turned to the Major, who gave him a stern look.

"Johnny!" Dog Man warned.

Johnny looked at the Major as if thinking about something.

"You didn’t lie." he said after a moment. "And the blonde man was your friend. He didn’t lie to you either. The man with the curls doesn’t lie as well. But you’re lying now!"

"What? — Johnny, leave the Gentlemen alone!" Dog Man warned and got up to take Johnny away from the Major.

"The blonde man didn’t do anything bad with you. You didn’t lie to the old man and the priest. But you’re lying now. You say: I hate the man with the curls. And it’s a lie!"

The Major towered over the young man, and for a moment it looked as if he wanted to put his hands around Johnny’s throat. But then he dropped them and turned around. He felt as if he was falling backward, backward to a sunny path through the woods, the sunlight shining through the branches, back to the day when he had found his friend Franz, his father’s gamekeeper, and a stable lad naked in the shed near Franz’ hut in the woods. His father’s devastating wrath, when he had followed his son and saw what the boy had seen. The questions his father and Pastor Leuchtenberg had asked him — He had tried to forget, but the two men in the shed had haunted him when he had become a man. Deep — deep inside he knew he wanted to try what Franz and the other man had done. He knew it was what he wanted, as much as he might deny it. And it made him inwardly cringe with shame, cry out from pain, and scream with rage. The young man was right. This was why he hated Lord Gloria: A permanent reminder and temptation —

The Major felt he was close to actually yelling at the boy or at Dog Man. It was the way he had learned to release tension. A way which also helped to keep up his authority. But now —

He turned around. The young man was playing with the dog, oblivious to what he had said just a moment before. And he saw Hardenberg’s eyes on him, sympathetic, as if the man knew what was going on in his thoughts.

Dog Man was very pale, looking bewildered, because he sensed that his brother had told the Major something important, and he was frightened the strange German would harm the boy.

Eberbach shook his head to indicate that he would do no such thing. He felt something he rarely had ever felt before, not for himself, not for others: compassion. Dog Man might be a shady figure, he had tried illegal ways to survive, to solve the puzzle of his life — but could von Eyssen’s daughter be judged after what had happened to her?

"I would like to help you find the plans, Gentlemen." Dog Man finally said, watching his brother play with the dog. "Not that rough, Johnny, we are indoors, not in the park."

The Major looked at him, forcibly calming his inner turmoil.

"We’ll leave you now, Dog Man. But we’ll be back with more questions: The man with the eyepatch: what did he look like? — Names. People your father worked with. Friends and acquaintances. — Except the portrait, one page of the plans is missing. You send it to the French. The French agents have been killed, and I think whoever has the portrait also has the missing page. And it might be someone your father knew. - But get some rest now. Then think. We’ll contact you again. " These were the most compassionate words the Major had ever spoken to someone he had interrogated.

Dog Man seemed to appreciate this. He bowed his head in consent. Then he stood.

"One more question. How did you find out about me?"

"A sketch from the portrait." Hardenberg answered curtly.

They left Dog Man, who brought his brother to his bedroom and lay down next to the young man, hugging him tightly. Although he wanted to think and was convinced he would be unable to sleep, he was so exhausted he was already asleep when Ares the African had shown his visitors out.

 

New York, Detective Crane’s Apartment, Next Day, Early Morning

They met Detective Crane and the Earl in the street and returned to the detective’s apartment. The Major was completely matter of-fact.

"You were right." he said to Detective Crane.

"Dog Man?" Crane asked. "How did he take it?"

"Bravely. He says most of the plans are shown in the family portrait. He gave us the page he had. And it was him who sent the letters."

"Does he know where the portrait is?" Lord Gloria asked.

"No. But he seems as interested as we are to find it."

"Can he be trusted?"

"Yes." Hardenberg answered. "He agreed to help us, and I think he will do so. We’ll visit him again soon to learn whether he has an idea which one of his father’s friends, colleagues and acquaintances could be interested in the plans."

 

Streets of New York and the "Wild Boar", Early Morning

After their meeting, when he had left Crane’s apartment, the Major roamed the streets for a while. Pickpockets and other shady figures took one look and decided it was better for their health to leave the tall man with the wild eyes alone and look for easier prey.

To say that the Major was not in a good mood would have been an understatement. He felt bewildered, ashamed and furious, and he needed to be alone. He had to think, to think about himself, about what he would do. There was an old German proverb saying that children and fools tell the truth. The boy had been right. The Major knew that he was lying, lying to himself. He had tried to forget what he was, tried to ignore what he wanted since it had become clear to him — when he had found out that he admired one of his classmates. He had liked to be in the boy’s company, he had loved the strong body, the blonde curls and blue eyes, the handsome, open face. He had known that his feelings for Wilhelm exceeded normal friendship, so he had never tried to become the boy’s friend, had kept well away from him. He had never dared to talk to anyone about what he felt. He had closed up his fears deeply into himself.

It had upset him even more when he had become older, that the attention and interest he received from girls and women left him cold. Of course he had visited brothels with his comrades, but more to prove his manhood and to prevent awkward questions than because he actually enjoyed it. And although he had prayed a lot to be delivered from this evil, God had never heard his prayers, never given an answer. Or Klaus had not heard it.

Finally he had stopped thinking about his curse, as he called it — until Lord Gloria, this shameless, decadent pervert, had crossed his path, embodying everything the Major had come to hate. The Earl dressed foppishly, had effeminate manners, indulged in pleasures and interests the Major considered a waste of time; he loved paintings, sculptures, poetry and music. And at the same time he had a sharp mind when it was not occupied with something idiotic, he was graceful and strong, easygoing and an optimist. The Major had never seen someone as headstrong and persistent. And beautiful —

"You did not lie." the mad boy had said to him. "But you’re lying now." His fears had made him close his eyes and lie to himself. He wanted to end these lies. — But how could he do this in a decent way? He was an officer, a descendant from a very old and noble family. He had his duties. On the other hand — he would never be able to become a husband to some girl from a similarly old family and a father to their children. — He felt trapped like a wild animal in a cage. Ignoring what he wanted was no longer an option. He might as well ignore a battle injury, let a bullet fester away in his body. It would kill him if he did such a foolish thing, as well as it would kill him not to face up to himself. But how — how could he do this in a decent way?

He became aware that footsteps were following his own. The street had been deserted for a while, the creatures of the night having retreated to their holes. Not enough prey about anymore —

He turned around, his pistol drawn, and recognised the tall figure of Hardenberg coming up to him.

"I know a tavern which is still open." the Constable said in German, and although his Hessian accent made the words sound gentle, there was something in his voice making it clear he would not accept a refusal. Not even from Iron Klaus.

The tavern, which was called the "Wild Boar" was not far away, and it was clean enough. A lot of the patrons seemed to be constables on their way to and from duty, although at this time of day, it was almost empty.

They sat down at a table and ordered some beer. The Major took out his pipe and filled it. He did not ask Hardenberg why he had followed him. Deep inside, he was glad to be no longer alone with his thoughts.

"Why do you torture yourself so much?" Hardenberg’s soft Hessian accent contrasted strangely with his hoarse voice.

Klaus looked at the tall man. Hardenberg’s uncanny eyes were fixed on him, their expression inscrutable, as usual. He looked strong and solid, but at the same time as if coming from another time, another place. How could this be? The Major thought of how the man had prevented the dog from jumping at his throat, simply holding the powerful animal, unmindful of the wounds it inflicted. He had seen the wounds heal in an instant, and he understood that Hardenberg was not entirely human. He had heard about Revenants, Wiedergänger, people who came back from the dead, and he had believed these stories to be fairy tales to frighten women, children and fools. For a moment, he thought of devils and demons, but his instincts worked generally well, and he felt no reason to be alarmed about the Hessian. He was interested to hear what the man would have to say.

Hardenberg seemed to have followed the Major’s thoughts.

"Sometimes we have to change our ways." he said. "We see what we can learn from others."

"Change our ways — how?" Klaus asked irritably.

"Maybe we accept an offer." the Hessian answered. "Maybe we ask ourselves what we can learn from a person we think we do not like."

His ominous way of expressing what was obvious irritated the Major. He looked angrily at Hardenberg.

"What could I possibly learn from an indecent fop?"

"You have never wanted to see how decent, serious and loyal he can be." the Hessian said calmly.

"He is a thief!" Klaus looked around and lowered his voice, but no one paid attention to the two men. "How could I make myself intimate with a common thief?!"

"This is what you will have to decide for yourself. Will you let your unresolved feelings towards this man forever interfere with your assignments? Or will you face up to them? This would be true courage, worthy of your name!"

The Major’s eyes blazed. How dared this — man to speak to him like this?! He felt an urge to challenge Hardenberg to a fight. The Hessian’s look was hard to decipher. The strange eyes seemed to mock him, there was amusement, but also a deep understanding.

"Sometimes we think it is easier to face the demons from hell instead of our own demons." he said.

More than ever, the Major felt in a trap. Violent ideas came to mind. Shoot himself. Shoot the Earl. Laughable. Impossible. Suicide or killing a civilian in cold blood were the acts of a coward and would besmirch the name of his family forever. Challenge the Earl at the next opportunity. Choose pistols. Unfair. The Earl would not stand a chance against him. Winning a duel that way was no honour. Besides — he recognised he felt no inclination at all to hurt Lord Gloria. Not any more. There was one other way left, however — to face up to Lord Gloria’s beauty and what it did to him. To throw all caution, all lies to the wind —

Mercifully, Hardenberg lowered his gaze, when he saw the anger vanish from the other man’s face.

"The sun will be up soon." he said in his usual abrupt way. "Let’s finish our drinks and leave."

 

New York, September 1805, the Independent Hotel, Same Day, Early Morning

If the Major had made a decision, so had Mr James. He had been sitting in his room in the darkness for a long time, holding Johnny’s cloth rose.

His relationship to Lord Gloria was a paradox he could not quite understand: His "education", his change from the street rat, the petty thief, the boy whore men forgot the moment they pulled their cocks out of him, into someone who could read and write, who had learned a profession, who had some manners, must have cost the Earl a lot of money. It was difficult to understand that someone should spend a lot of money for a pastime which bored him after a while. This must be something people did who had never been poor. Some of the Earl’s acquaintances bred dogs or horses, and had been bored with it after a while. Perhaps Lord Gloria thought about him as other noblemen thought about their race horses or their dogs. Even what he said in his capacity as an accountant seemed to bore and annoy the Earl now. Let alone his reminders that once there had been more between them.

He had been foolish in his tearful temper tantrums, in his lapdog-like affection. No more of this. Mr James found out he possessed a quality he had never thought about before: dignity.

His fingers caressed the little piece of cloth. He was afraid, well aware that what he would try now was as sentimental and foolish as his affection for the Earl. But somehow he knew it would be the right thing to do.

When it dawned, he washed himself, put on a fresh shirt, brushed his hair and his suit and left the hotel.

 

Same Day, Dog Man’s House, Later that Morning

He roamed the streets around the harbour, exchanging a few words here and there. Two hours later, he had found out where Dog Man’s house was. The "Broken Mirror" was closed at this time of day, but he went around the house and knocked at the side door, as the Major and Constable Hardenberg had done.

Ares refused to admit him at first, but Mr James could be persistent. Their voices rose Dog Man and Johnny. When Johnny heard who was at the door, he tried to push Ares aside to open the door himself. Dog Man yielded to his brother’s pleas, and Mr James was admitted.

Johnny hugged and kissed the accountant, but left obediently, when Dog Man gently asked him to do so. Mad or not, Johnny seemed to know when it was better to obey his brother.

"What is it you want?" Dog Man asked when the young man had closed the door behind him. He sounded tired, although his attire — a dark blue suit this time — was impeccable.

Mr James mustered all his courage.

"I offer you my services as an accountant and as someone who will look after Johnny."

Dog Man seemed not impressed.

"I see. — You are with the blond Englishman, aren’t you? He can pay you more than I can. Why would you leave his services?"

Mr James sighed. How should he explain to a stranger what had driven him away from the Earl?

"It is not the money —" he began, but was immediately interrupted by Dog Man.

"Of course it is the money! You are an accountant." Dog Man went over to his desk, sitting down behind it, folding his hands on the table in front of him. His voice sounded bitter and weary. His face was hard.

"Or is there a little cloud on the horizon? Is the Sun-God not in his best mood today, and his worshiper feels he doesn’t get enough attention?"

Mr James’s one visible eye widened in shock. He opened his mouth to say something, but Dog Man continued relentlessly: "It lasts twenty-four hours, then His Majesty will be in a better mood again, and his lapdog will creep back to him, wagging its tail!"

The small accountant balled his fists. What had he expected? He had hoped Johnny would want him, but Johnny was not the one who decided matters in this household. He had known he would have to convince Dog Man, and it would not be easy. But he would no longer let anyone treat him as if he was dirt ...

"You hardly know me, Sir." he said as calmly as possible. "Why do you insult me like this?"

Dog Man got up again and paced the room.

"I manage two establishments." he said. "And I’ll always stay clear of eloped husbands or wives, sons, daughters, lovers or servants. I’ll never get between a fighting couple. So keep me out of whatever it is between you and your master."

"It is not as you say, Sir!" Mr James objected, but Dog Man had not yet finished.

"It is true, Johnny loves you, because you stood up for him against these drunken bastards. If Johnny loves someone, this is forever, unlike with many other people. What if I said yes, I’ll take you on, and then you’ll change your mind, because you’ve made up with the Sun God? Johnny cannot understand such changes of mind. And I do not want him to be hurt because of a petty fight between an English Lord and his accountant! Do you get that, Mister?"

//Why am I still here?// Mr James thought. //He doesn’t want me around anyway.// But there were Johnny’s hugs and kisses — he wanted to be near the young man, he would give him all his love and care —

"You made yourself perfectly clear, Sir." he answered, controlling his anger. "I do not want Johnny to be hurt either. I would like to look after him, and I would care well for him, I promise. My employment with Lord Gloria is over."

Dog Man stopped his pacing in front of the small accountant, towering over him. He grudgingly admitted to himself that he might have been wrong about the young man. He had done his best to insult him and to drive him away, but the little runt had kept himself well, had answered his questions politely, had made clear that he was serious.

"Does your master know you’re here?" he asked the accountant sharply.

"No Sir." Mr James answered honestly.

"Very well." Dog Man went to his desk again. "Speak to your master first. And if you still want to work with me, come back this evening. Bring a letter from him saying he dismisses you from his services. It could do no harm if he says something about your qualities as an accountant. — Good morning."

With these words, Mr James found himself out in the street again.

 

The Independent Hotel, Same Day, Later

And so it came that a very nervous Mr James surprised Lord Gloria, who had just gotten out of bed and took his first cup of tea, with the words: "Milord, I ask you to relieve me from my duties as an accountant in your services."

Despite his nervousness, the small accountant looked very determined, and the Earl recognised immediately that it would be better not to try anything to change James’s mind.

"Why so suddenly?" he asked instead.

Mr James nervously rubbed his hands together, but he met Lord Gloria’s eyes when he answered.

"I think I can be of better service elsewhere, Sir. It would be very kind if you wrote a few lines to the extent that you release me from my duties."

Dorian nodded. If he was honest to himself, he had seen it coming, but he had always pushed the thought away. He would miss James, no doubt. And not only in his capacity as an accountant. He suppressed a sigh.

"I regret that you want to leave, Mr James, but I suppose you have made up your mind."

"Yes, Sir."

Dorian bit his lips. It hurt more than he wanted to admit.

"Very well, Mr James, it shall be as you wish. I’ll write a few lines, and — thank you for your years of service."

The accountant bowed and left the room. He felt like crying, but he would not give in to that feeling. Deep inside, he knew that his decision was right.

The Earl remained sitting at the small table in his room, thoughtfully twisting some of his curls round two fingers. He felt a bit as if someone had just emptied a pitcher with cold water over his head: surprised, indignant and hurt. But on the other hand, Mr James had not been happy at all during the last months, and this was his fault. He had taken up an affair with James, and had never definitely ended it. For years, he had let his accountant dangle at arm’s length, had let him suffer, had kept him in the dark. He had supposed it would be clear to James as well that the affair was over, when the passion had left, when boredom had set in. Of course, a certain affection, a certain fondness had remained, as with many of Lord Gloria’s former lovers. And it had been so comfortable having James around, bending him round his fingers with a few gentle words, a few caresses, maybe even another night in bed, which still had proved a welcome change from time to time. He had felt alright with this arrangement. But he had never bothered to find out how his accountant felt about it.

Another encounter a few months ago with one of his former lovers should have been a warning to him. During their last meeting at the house of a mutual friend, Professor Caesar Gabriel, a young art historian, had been very cold and formal. Unlike on former occasions, Caesar had not tried to recapture Dorian’s attention, his affection, and — he was ashamed to admit this — it had hurt his vanity, although he had been happy and relieved at the same time, rightly assuming that Caesar had found another lover. Yes, he had been ashamed about his vanity, seeing very well that he had hurt the young professor, had enjoyed the young man’s unabashed adoration, then had pushed him away like a child who becomes bored with a toy. He knew that the attractive, brilliant youth deserved better, and that he had brought the could reserve upon himself. Nevertheless it hurt.

A hotel servant came to take the tea away, which Lord Gloria had hardly touched. He asked for a pen, paper and ink and wrote the letter of recommendation Mr James had requested.

When he had finished, he remained seated at the table, lost in thoughts. He knew he could get almost every man he wanted. Almost. Perhaps it was time to change, to become more serious. There was one man he definitely would be serious about, he knew it. But he doubted very much that the man he wanted most of all would ever want or even like him.

*****

As if on cue, there was a knock at the door and the Major entered, looking as if he had not slept at all during the night, but very determined. He went over to the window and scanned the street, careful not to stand directly in the window frame.

The Earl was surprised to find the Major visiting him. He doubted that there were any news related to their assignment. He also doubted that there was anything going on in the street, which deserved observation. The Major looked out of the window, but he seemed distracted, not as if he was actually watching. Dorian knew that the Major would have a better view from the window in his own room. This had been the reason why he had insisted on the hotel room he now occupied. So why had the Major come at all? To have a talk? Hardly. Lord Gloria was not the person the Major would seek out for a pleasant talk.

It was nice to have him here, though. Dorian looked at the Major’s back and thought about how wonderful it would be if he just could go over and put an arm around these wide shoulders, bury his fingers in the auburn hair and caress the strong neck — Lord Gloria quickly caught himself. He would only get himself into trouble.

"Good morning, Mr Paulus." he said to the Major’s back instead. "How are you?"

Instead of answering the question, Klaus barked at the Earl: "What do you think of all this?!"

"I wonder who has the portrait now. And the missing page." Dorian answered, surprised that the Major should ask his opinion.

Klaus turned away from the window.

"It sounds like complete nonsense to me. Having a family portrait hanging on the wall, for everybody to see, depicting secret construction plans!"

"Nobody would think they were in a place where everybody can see them." Dorian objected. "Who would recognise them as important construction plans? Only someone who knew about them and would be able to read them. To everybody else, it would be the whim of a scientist to have himself and his family depicted with attributes of his work. This was common in earlier centuries. The wealthy craftsmen and merchants in sixteenth century Germany had the artist often paint them with props hinting at their profession —"

"Very well." the Major interrupted Dorian’s lecture. "If we only had any clues where to look for the damned thing!"

"We’ll all keep searching." Lord Gloria said. "And maybe Dog Man will have an idea."

There was a pause. The Major, who had begun pacing up and down stopped right in front of the Earl.

"Thank you, Lord Gloria."

Dorian’s blue eyes widened in astonishment.

"For what, Mr Paulus?"

"For — for the lesson in Art History."

The Major left abruptly, before the surprised Earl could say a further word.

//What on Earth was that?// Dorian thought, when he began to choose his clothes for the day and the evening, when they would meet at Constable Hardenberg’s house. //He never asked my opinion before, and he definitely sounded as if he actually was grateful for my explanation.//

 

 

 

Dog Man’s House, Same Day, Later

Meanwhile, Mr James had packed his few belongings and paid his share of the hotel bill out of his last wages. Hard as it was on him, he would not leave this debt to the Earl.

He wandered the streets for a few hours, and when it had become evening, he went to Dog Man’s house again.

When he was admitted, he took out the letter Lord Gloria had written and handed it to Dog Man, who read it carefully.

"He speaks very favourably of you. Did you read it?"

Mr James tried to answer, but suddenly there was a big lump in his throat. So he just shook his head. He had of course thought of opening the unsealed letter, but had not brought himself to doing it. He trusted Lord Gloria not to be mean and write something bad about him. Besides, he had been afraid of Dog Man noticing the letter had been opened already.

Dog Man handed him the letter. It said:

"To whom it may concern:

After a three-year period of training with Messrs. Hackensack & Blott, Accountants, of London, Mr James was employed as an accountant in my household at Castle Gloria, North Downs, England. His tasks comprised a full inventory of all movable and non-movable assets in my house, to be updated constantly. Furthermore, Mr James had full access to all of my accounts and exercised a strict control over my expenses.

At all times, Mr James proved to be absolutely correct and honest. He conducted his tasks always to my fullest satisfaction.

It was his own wish to leave my services, and I see him go with deep regret.

For his future career, I give him my best wishes.

New York, 28th September, 1805

Dorian Red,

Earl of Gloria"

Mr James swallowed. He had not been mistaken. The Earl had been very generous and forgiving. He took a deep breath and handed the document back to Dog Man.

"Keep that letter." Dog Man said. "It will be of more use to you than to me. I have read it. That’s enough. It says you are a good accountant, and I need one. The last one working with me was a drunk, and he left my books in a mess." Dog Man indicated the papers littering his desk. "So I relieved him of his duties."

Mr James swallowed again. He did not dare to ask where his irresponsible predecessor was now.

"Unfortunately I am not very good with figures." Dog Man continued, walking up to Mr James and lifting his chin with two fingers. "But don’t try to cheat on me, my little beauty."

Dog Man’s voice was gentle, but his gaunt face and dark eyes had become hard.

"No, Sir." Mr James answered, meeting the cold eyes steadily.

Dog Man’s look became more gentle.

"I’m not interested in men." he assured the accountant. "But Johnny likes you a lot. This means he will do as you say. Mostly."

Mr James nodded.

"He was not born — like this." Dog Man continued. He mustered Mr James sharply. "You look as if you knew something about the strange ideas some bastards have in enjoying themselves with the innocent and defenceless."

Mr James nodded again. He knew very well about such people, who were aroused by fear in the eyes of a child, by tears, by begging and cries of pain. They made him sick.

"I could not prevent it." Dog Man continued. "And now some people say I neglect him, having him run around in that dress. He loses all his other clothes. Takes them off, gives them away, forgets them. You will also hear that I send Johnny into the streets to sell himself. The truth is, he does it of his own free will. Time and again I have tried to explain to him that I do not want him to do this, I have tried to keep him in the house. But he does not understand. He is harmless, he bothers no one, if someone says no, he will look for someone else, and there has hardly been any trouble. So why not let him go where he wants?"

"What do you think I could do for him?" Mr James asked.

"Have an eye on him as much as possible. Try to make him wear decent clothes. Besides - I don’t have the time to teach him how to read and write. I think it would be worth a try." Dog Man answered.

"I will." Mr James promised.

"Very good. — There is something else you must know: He often sees people and things nobody else can see. To him, this is nothing special. He also may just see a person and know things about him. You know, things like that you’re sometimes called Jamesie, sometimes things that go deeper and might annoy people, because they want to hide them."

" I have noticed when he looks at me." Mr James said.

"He doesn’t talk about these things often, and usually, they do not upset him. If he gets upset — you like men in bed, and I think you like him a lot. Sleep with him. It will calm him down."

"Very well." Mr James said, unfazed by Dog Man’s down-to-earth advice. His own preference for men was obvious. He was sure that Dog Man had agreed to employ him because of his training as an accountant, but had also guessed about his street-rat background. Dog Man would know about such things. He would not hold it against him. After all, it would be of help in dealing with Johnny. Dog Man might have guessed where Mr James had grown up, but Mr James also saw things: The hair on Dog Man’s upper lip which was too fine to pass for a beginning moustache. The wrists, which were a bit too slender for a man. The small Adam’s apple — things only someone would see who had spent some time with men who earned their money as women and some women who lived as men. It did not surprise him, and he doubted he would ever use his knowledge against Dog Man, but it was simply good to know.

"This will be all for the moment." Dog Man interrupted his thoughts. "Welcome to my household, Mr James. Ares will show you to your room. When you’re settled in, I’d like to have a look at the books with you."

*****

At night, Johnny came back from one of his excursions. He seemed not surprised to find Mr James in his brother’s house. For him, James belonged here, and he welcomed him in his own way. James enjoyed the gentle way of making love, the caresses and kisses, and he answered likewise. It felt good and comforting.

Later that night, he remembered someone he had forgotten for a long time — but never completely, when he came to think of it: They had been children. The other boy had been about five, he himself older, maybe eight or nine. They had been friends, the youngest of a bunch of maybe ten boys, living together in two rooms with a man who taught them how to beg and steal. He also sent them into pubs, where they crouched under the tables and sucked off men for a few coins.

One day his little friend had been gone. James had asked where he could be, but all he got as an answer was a kick in the ribs from the oldest boy and a gap-toothed grin.

"You’ll know soon." was all the other boy had said.

Some days later, James had been told to go with a man who had asked for a little boy virgin, and he guessed what might have happened to his friend. James had survived, but he supposed that the younger boy had not — another dirty, half-starved urchin more or less, what did it matter? Some of the men were utter bastards, some halfway decent — even giving something to the boy whose body they used. James learned about the power of money — you could buy someone just to molest or even kill him. Money bought everything — revenge, freedom, a good life, safety, love — or so he had thought. And money had become the most important thing in his life —

Johnny reminded him of his childhood friend. James took from Dog Man’s words about his brother that Johnny must have been raped as a child, and he had survived at the price of his sanity —

His lover interrupted his thoughts, and James gave himself over to pleasure again. It was the best thing he could do, and he would do everything for Johnny. His last thought before he slept that night, Johnny’s head leaning on his shoulder, his hand in one of the sleeping young man’s hands, was that for the first time ever he felt like being truly at home.

 

New York, September 29, 1805, Constable Hardenberg’s House

Constable Hardenberg owned a house on the Northern Road leading out of town. It was small and simply furnished, lying a distance away from the few other houses scattered along the Northern Road.

The four men met up there that evening and discussed in detail what Hardenberg and the Major had found out from Dog Man, but they did not find any new results.

It had been hot and humid all day, and while they were sitting together, a thunderstorm broke loose. The storm came in violent, erratic gusts, hurling grains of sleet against the windowpanes. It had become late, and Lord Gloria and the Major had just been talking of riding back to town.

The Major decided to wait out the worst and then make his way back, but Hardenberg shook his head.

"The road might be blocked by fallen trees, or it might be flooded in parts. Be my guests for tonight."

Another gust of wind hit the house and made the windowpanes and shingles rattle. A flash of lightning, immediately followed by crashing thunder made both Detective Crane and the Earl flinch.

"I for my part will be glad to stay here, Mr Hardenberg." Lord Gloria said.

The Major frowned. He was not inclined to stay, but sat down again to wait out the worst.

The thunderstorm seemed to wander a small distance along the Hudson valley, only to come back with full force.

"I cannot offer you much luxury." Hardenberg continued. "There are two small rooms under the roof."

"I am sure they will be very comfortable." the Earl said quickly. "Thank you very much, Mr Hardenberg."

The Major still frowned, but finally relented. Trying to get back to town in this thunderstorm would be madness.

So Hardenberg lead them up a narrow staircase. The two rooms were very small, with narrow beds. But the sheets and blankets were clean and fresh.

"Wonderful." Lord Gloria said. "Thank you again."

"You are welcome." The Hessian lit a candlestick on a small side table and left the room. It could have been the flickering light from the candle, but Dorian thought he saw the hint of a smile in the strange man’s inscrutable eyes.

He undressed to his shirt and trousers and stretched out on the bed gratefully. No sound from the room next to his. The Major had closed the door firmly, as soon as their host had shown him into the room, there had been some rustling, and then silence. He was probably already asleep.

The thunderstorm had lessened a bit, but there were still strong gusts of wind, the thunder grumbled, and it was still raining heavily.

After a while, there were steps on the stairs, then another door was opened and closed again. Detective Crane and Mr Hardenberg seemed to have retired for the night as well.

Dorian envied them. Again, he thought of the Major. Fruitless. Futile. In vain.

He blew out the candle and dozed off.

*****

The Major had quickly closed the door behind him and had sat down on the narrow bed. He felt like trying to ride a horse he could not control. His thoughts were racing. His father, whipping the gamekeeper and the stable hand. His father and the priest interrogating him, trying to make him tell what they wanted to hear: that Franz Gillessen had touched him. He had not said so, because it would not have been true. Another thought: Why had Graf Eberbach not given the two men over to the authorities? Why had he merely whipped and banished them? Perhaps he would have killed them himself, had his son not been present. As a six-year-old, his father had frightened him almost to death, now he understood that Graf Eberbach had been worried about him. And he had every reason, the Major thought grimly. Had he been superstitious, he would have suspected the gamekeeper had cursed him and his father. Being as it was, it was an interesting irony of fate that he should be like the men his father had tried to protect him from. — And why were these men to blame at all? Franz had been a decent person, and, as far as Klaus could remember, his father had never complained about him neglecting his duties as a gamekeeper. Hardenberg and Crane were very decent men as well as good policemen. And Lord Gloria — he might be a thief, but beneath all this foppish nonsense, he could be serious if he wanted to. He was strong and intelligent. And beautiful. — Well, as everywhere, a situation was what you made of it: He was Iron Klaus, and Iron Klaus had decided to give up the lie that he hated this thief, this foppish pervert. It was even a lie to call him thus, without recognising the qualities he had. On some occasions he had learned that the Earl had a certain sense of honour, and that he was absolutely loyal to his people — But the lie went even deeper. It was not only about Lord Gloria. It was about him, Major von dem Eberbach, Iron Klaus, admitting that he preferred men.

It was one of the most difficult truths the major had ever faced. And one of the most difficult decisions he had ever taken. With a sudden resolve, he got up from the bed, took the candle, went over to the next room and knocked at the door.

There was a rustle from inside. The Major knocked again, his knocks sounding much too loud in the quiet house for that time of night.

The door was opened, revealing Lord Gloria. His hair was tousled and he was barefoot, wearing only a shirt and trousers. Obviously he had been sleeping, but now he seemed alert and attentive. Without a question , he let the Major in, closing the door behind him. He looked serious, but not annoyed at the disturbance. Only a bit wary, and Klaus could not blame him for that. He had insulted the Earl more than often, had been foolish enough to close his mind and eyes against Lord Gloria’s beauty and open friendliness - alright, often enough against mockery and teasing as well.

They stood in front of each other, the Earl — Dorian — saying nothing, just standing at the door, waiting patiently and attentively what his nightly visitor might have to say.

"Come here!"

That was an order, and Dorian thought it better to obey without any question. The Major seemed tense, but at the same time very determined. He pulled Dorian into a rough embrace. It was what the Earl had dreamed of, fantasised about since he had met the strange German for the first time, almost two years ago. The Major just held him close, and Dorian could smell tobacco, leather, horse, and the man’s healthy musk, the muscular body pressed against his own. He could feel that the Major wanted him, as he felt his own body ache for the other’s touch. The question what had caused the Major to change his mind seemed secondary at the moment.

The Major took some curls in an iron grip, pulling the Earl’s head away from his shoulder where it had been resting to look into the man’s face. If he had found a hint of smugness, triumph or amusement there, he would have turned vicious. But there was only honest desire.

In the Major’s own face, Dorian saw shame and resentment, anger and bewilderment, pride and lust. For a moment, he was afraid. This was no devoted James, no shy Caesar Gabriel or another of his easygoing, boyish lovers. This was a warrior, perhaps ready to make a truce, to grant a favour. Any betrayal of this man’s trust would however bring death and destruction. But he would never betray the Major, and this thought gave him courage.

He kissed Klaus, caressing his face and hair. His soft kisses and caresses were answered impatiently, demandingly, before the Major abruptly released him.

"I want to see you."

Without hesitation, Dorian stepped back, took off his shirt and stepped out of his trousers. He was beautiful. Long, well-shaped legs. Wide shoulders, narrow hips, finely rounded buttocks. Fair skin. His face, hands and lower arms slightly more tanned than the rest of his body. And he seemed to feel no shame at all, when he first turned around slowly, then closed the distance between himself and Klaus with two graceful steps..

It took the Major a considerable effort not to step back. Dorian had a right to see him naked as well. So he let the Earl open his shirt, take it away, let him open his belt and the buttons of his trousers. Dorian’s touches sent pangs of arousal through his body. Klaus had never thought it would feel so right to be touched by a man, that he would so openly admire Dorian’s beauty, his lithe body, which was nevertheless muscular and definitely male, that he would want to give another man pleasure and to enjoy his intimate touches. But he did just that. It felt good and right. He let his own desire and curiosity guide him, and his touches became less rough, more gentle. He enjoyed Dorian’s kisses and caresses, found himself pushing into Dorian’s expertly stroking hand. It took him longer to satisfy Dorian, having hardly ever touched himself, let alone another man, but the reward was worth it: pure lust and joy in the Earl’s beautiful features, his eyes a deep violet blue. He felt joyful and elated by watching his lover, by making him gasp and cry out with pleasure and desire.

Dorian was happy. There would be so much more to try, to discover —. But more of his dreams than he would have ever thought had already become reality. The Major’s tense irritability had vanished. He looked more beautiful than ever, his hair tousled, his green eyes sparkling. The special Major frown was still there, but it was no longer doubtful and hostile.

Klaus interrupted his lover’s thoughts by taking him into an embrace, kissing him. Dorian answered the kiss. They did not speak, just lay in each others’ arms.

*****

Klaus did not remember having drifted off to sleep, but the next thing he noticed was a ray of morning sun in his face. And a warm body curled up next to his own. He was accustomed to being immediately awake, knowing in an instant where he was and what was going on. - Lord Gloria. Dorian. He moved carefully, turning to one side, propping up on one elbow, to have a better look. His lover was still asleep, lying half on his back, his beautiful hair touched by the sunlight, one hand resting under his cheek. With his fine features, determined jaw and long lashes, he looked innocent and wilful at the same time. A thoroughly depraved, sinful creature — at least in the book of a lot of god-fearing people.

The Major found himself thinking that he did not care. If he would have to go to hell for what he had done together with Dorian, he would go. He would no longer let himself being blinded by his own fear, instilled by that long-forgotten incident from his childhood, and his own stubbornness. The Earl — Dorian — surely was strange, his opinions about duty and morality obviously completely different from those of the Major. He was a thief, but there was no falsehood in him. Klaus felt more at peace with himself than ever before. He would never have thought it possible to lie naked next to another man and to be comfortable and at ease, to love it even. To enjoy Dorian’s warmth and the healthy, musky smell of his skin, spiced with just a whiff of that obnoxious perfume the little weasel had bought for his master —

A knock at the main door downstairs. Loud. Impatient. It must be early. Who could this be at that time of day?

Dorian sat up, also fully awake in an instant.

Another hard knock. The early visitor would not be discouraged.

The Major’s curse was some unintelligible Bonn colloquial. He was out of bed the next moment and dressed hurriedly. The Earl followed suit.

 

New York, September 30, Constable Hardenberg’s House, Early Morning

"Who is it?" Constable Hardenberg called. They heard him walk down the stairs.

"Dog Man! I must talk to you!"

The entrance door was opened and the Hessian admitted the visitor.

"Sit down. I want the other Gentlemen to hear what you have to say."

The Earl and the Major hurried down the stairs, followed by Ichabod Crane.

They found Dog Man standing near the door in the downstairs room. He looked pale, exhausted and dishevelled. And he was out of breath.

"I do not have much time." he said. "I have been at the Watch House already, and a constable told me where to find Mister Hardenberg." He turned to the Major. "You’re here. Good."

He gave a short laugh, looking at the Earl and Detective Crane. "I should have thought that you were all in it! But well -you asked me to think about who could know anything about the plans. Burgomaster Van Rijn came to my mind. You should have a look at Burgomaster Van Rijn, Gentlemen!"

"Was he a friend of your father’s?" the Major asked.

"Not exactly a friend, no." Dog Man caught his breath. "Or maybe yes. Our family was invited a few times. The Burgomaster’s eldest daughter is about my age. We played together when we were children. She has four younger sisters, the youngest was still a baby when I saw them last. That was shortly before — it must have nothing to do with what happened — I do not want to say that — I do not know!"

"Exactly how long before the assault on your family die you last visit the Van Rijns?" the Major asked.

"There was something else." Dog Man said. "About — I do not know exactly, it might have been two or three months before my parents died — there was a difference between my father and Van Rijn. I remember Johnny asking when we would go and play with Paula and Margaret, and my father answered him that we would not go to see them ever again. Later that day, Mother explained to me that Father and Mr Van Rijn had had an argument, something related to Father’s work."

"Tell me more about that Burgomaster." the Major demanded.

"Clemens Van Rijn has been Burgomaster for ten years now." Detective Crane answered. "He is a very pious man and has theft, burglary, begging and prostitution mercilessly prosecuted."

"Poor people will go to prison, but rich people will go free." Hardenberg remarked.

"Unfortunately, this is true." Crane agreed. "He does not see — or better: does not want to see — the people sending the petty thieves, beggars and prostitutes out into the streets. These people often wear the mask of respectability, hide behind a respectable trade. And the Burgomaster does not see or does not want to see behind that mask."

"His profession?"

"A merchant in silk and oriental spices. He also owns a few houses. It is said he made his fortune himself, did not inherit much from his father."

"I daresay you and the Burgomaster are not on amiable terms?" Dog Man remarked.

"What do you think?" Crane asked back.

"Do you think he himself wears a mask?" Lord Gloria asked.

Detective Crane shrugged.

"Who does not — in one way or the other? Who does not have something he wants to hide? His office and his respectability protect him. He increases his fortune by means and ways I do not like, but so do many people. Evicting poor tenants at the first delay of paying their rent and replacing them by wealthier tenants is not against the law. — In general, he is said to be hard in business, but a good father to his family. A respectable man if there ever was one."

"I see." The Major turned to Dog Man.

"The friendship between him and your father ended abruptly, you said?"

Dog Man looked at his watch. "I must go back." he insisted. "As I said, he may have nothing to do with what happened — but yes, it was as you said."

"What did you think of him when your families still saw each other?"

"I never liked him. Perhaps because I felt that his friendliness towards us was not heartfelt. I always had the idea it would be bad for your health if you ever came between him and something he wanted."

The Major frowned.

"Be it as it may, we should have a look into the Burgomaster’s affairs."

"And at his house." Lord Gloria added.

The Major gave him a withering look.

"Even if he was after the portrait, he would hardly hide it in his own house!"

"But it would be a safe place! Who would think of him hiding the portrait there?" Dorian objected.

The Major crossed his arms.

"So let’s assume you are right. What do you suggest?"

The Earl smiled.

"I have an invitation." he answered. "I had the pleasure of being introduced to the Burgomaster’s charming wife by one of the art dealers I visited. We had a most interesting conversation about the Italian Renaissance in general, and Giorgione in particular. She invited me to tea and showed me around the house. She wants to redecorate parts of it and I gave her some advice. On this occasion, she was kind enough to invite me to a dance which is held tonight."

"I have to go, Gentlemen." Dog Man said. He turned to leave, when Hardenberg called him back.

"Don’t try anything, Dog Man." he warned.

Dog Man smiled bitterly.

"As I said, Van Rijn and his family must not have anything to do with what happened to my family. — Gentlemen —" He bowed and left.

"I’ll talk to him again later." Lord Gloria offered. "He might help us."

"I just hope he will not make trouble!" the Major snapped.

"Mrs Van Rijn has two more daughters to give away." the Earl continued. "She is not prejudiced, and although the English aren’t much liked here at the moment, she invited me. And I am sure she will appreciate my bringing a friend, Mr Paulus, an admirer of the New World!"

"So I shall make conversation with some women, acting as a decoy, while you will excuse yourself and roam the house in search for the blasted portrait?!"

"I’d be most obliged." Dorian gave the Major a loving glance, which was completely ignored. "The house is not very big, I have been there before, and there could be no harm in having a look where the portrait — and maybe the other missing page of the plans — could be hidden."

The look the Major gave him was not especially friendly.

"I do not like it either." Detective Crane said. "But I’d hardly get a permission to search the Burgomaster’s house, accusing him of being involved in the von Eyssen Case. As Lord Gloria said, no harm will be done by just having a look. We should not miss the opportunity. Mr Hardenberg and I will be near the Burgomaster’s house this evening — just in case."

Lord Gloria threw back his hair, and his eyes sparkled. "Thank you, Gentlemen. I’m sure, I will enjoy myself this evening!"

"No doubt!" the Major managed between clenched teeth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New York, Same Day, Burgomaster Van Rijn’s House, Evening

As he had foreseen, Lord Gloria enjoyed the dance in Burgomaster Van Rijn’s house. He was as brilliant and charming as usual, enchanting the ladies, and even taking in some of the gentlemen. To Mrs Van Rijn’s regret, his companion, Mr Paulus, was more taciturn and withdrawn, despite her efforts to interest him in one of her younger daughters.

Burgomaster Van Rijn, their host, was a giant of a man. With his bony frame, long face, piercing dark eyes and beaky nose, he gave the impression of an alert vulture. His wife was small in comparison, with a round, friendly face and intelligent grey eyes. The daughters were all tall and dark like their father, but without his vulture-like features. They were all beauties, or at least promising. And, as the Major observed during the opportunity of a dance with seventeen-year-old Paula, the second-youngest Van Rijn daughter, they seemed not to be silly and shallow, but self-assured and well-educated.

As usual on such occasions, the Major was never fully at ease. While making his rounds through the ballroom, talking to as many people as he could bring himself to talk to, while dancing with some ladies, he observed the guests sharply all the time.

The whole plan was one of the flamboyant Englishman’s foolish ideas. He should never have given his consent. The Major found himself worrying about the Earl, worrying about last night, about how he would get on with Dorian in the future. Dorian — He actually felt a smile tug at the corners of his mouth and suppressed it quickly. No time for such nonsense now, goddammit!

The arrival of an illustrious guest, Professor Abraham Van Helsing from Harvard University, gave Dorian the opportunity to leave the ballroom. The Major saw that the Van Rijn family was busy making the Professor comfortable, introducing the short, stout, bearded man with the grey mane of hair and the abrupt manners to the other guests.

The Major had exchanged a glance with the Earl before the latter slipped from the room unnoticed. Now things would become serious.

*****

Dorian avoided the busy kitchen and anteroom and made his way through the remaining rooms on the ground floor, moving as noiselessly as a cat. There was nothing which looked like a good hiding place, as far as he could see on his short survey. He had expected as much. If the Burgomaster had the portrait, if it was hidden in his house at all, it would probably be in one of his private rooms, possibly in his study or his library. And these rooms were upstairs.

Hurrying up the brightly lit staircase, he fleetingly appreciated the taste of the person who had decorated the house. The furnishing spoke of wealth, but it was never overdone. He had suggested very few changes to Mrs Van Rijn on his earlier visit.

Upstairs, Dorian took a candlestick from a table on the landing and hurried along the corridor. He wondered whether he would find any locked doors. Probably the Burgomaster had locked his study. It would take time to pick the lock.

He noticed a few interesting old Dutch Masters gracing the walls, and one or two vases and bowls caught his fancy. Delft. The name Van Rijn was of Dutch origin, and they seemed to be proud of it. Pity he had no time for a better look at the paintings and vases.

He moved fast and sure-footed, doing a quick survey of every room, thanking his good fortune that he had been trained to look for secret compartments in walls or floors. He knew it was like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack, but so far they had been extremely lucky. It had been a chance meeting with Dog Man, and Detective Crane’s instincts and deduction had proved them right. So maybe they also could rely on Dog Man’s instincts with regard to the Burgomaster —

Only two rooms left on the upper floor. Remained the cellar and the attic, but no time to look there. If he did not find anything in the remaining two rooms, he would have to go back, or his disappearance might be noticed.

Another unlocked door. Dorian opened it slowly and carefully, taking a quick inventory of the room — obviously another living room — and drew in his breath sharply. The light from the candles illuminated the figure of a tall old lady in black sitting in an armchair, completely still and very upright, like a statue. Her eyes were frightening, the iris completely milky. She stared ahead, unblinking, her face pale white and ghost-like against her black clothes.

The woman was obviously blind, but she had heard the faint noise of the door opening and the hiss from Dorian taking in his breath.

"Who is it?" she asked in heavily accented English.

Dorian had not encountered the blind old lady on his first visit, and Mrs Van Rijn had not mentioned that someone except her husband and four of her daughters were living in the house. Furthermore, he had not expected that someone living in this house would not attend the dance. So what to do? A blind, elderly lady would not be left unattended. A servant or a nurse was probably not far away. But if he acted fast, he would be able to get away and return to the ballroom before someone came who could see him —

The old lady spoke again.

"Who are you? And what are you doing here?"

What to answer? It would be foolish to say he had lost his way.

"I have been hearing you for a while." the lady continued. "You have been opening doors and walking from room to room as if you were looking for something. You move fast and without much noise. A friend told me about you. You must be the young English nobleman."

Dorian gasped. Who on earth was this blind old lady? What could she possibly know about him? And what else did she know?

"Am I right?" she asked urgently, looking at Dorian with her dead eyes. She must locate him by the sound of his breath. "Do not leave, please! — You are this gentleman?" Her voice sounded urgent, despaired

"Yes." Dorian finally managed. "But how -?"

"No time." she interrupted him. "I have to speak to you. I need your help. Yours and that of the German officer. — I was glad to hear from my daughter-in-law that she invited you again. I would have sought to meet you one way or the other anyway."

"But —"

She interrupted him with an imperious gesture of her hand.

"No time for questions, young Gentleman. Only that much: the son of a friend from my youth has a position in the Government. So I know what you are looking for and who you are. I found out only yesterday that you are right to look here. The portrait is in this house."

Dorian shook his head, bewildered.

"How do you know?"

"Yesterday I was not feeling well at all, and my servant Willem hurried to call my son. Willem knows as much about the portrait and the whole matter as I do. He knocked at the door of my son’s study, did not wait for his answer and hurried in, because he was afraid it would be the end for me. He saw the canvas showing the von Eyssens on my son’s desk."

Her face contorted in pain, and her eyes filled with tears.

"I might die soon. My heart - it fails me. Alright, I am much better now than I have been yesterday. So I told them to go on and hold their dance. I wanted to be alone, to think When I began to feel a bit better, Willem told me what he had found. I sent him with a message to find you, but you were not at the hotel. So I hoped to find out whether you had actually come to the dance today and to get a message to you or the German. But now you have come on your own."

"So the Burgomaster — your son — does have the portrait?" Dorian whispered.

Again her face contorted in pain, and Dorian could not say whether it was the pain of disappointment and disbelief against better knowledge or the pain of her failing heart.

"I did not want to believe it. But it is true. The portrait is the last proof. My son was behind the tragedy of the von Eyssens. I overheard a quarrel between him and von Eyssen one evening, not long before — From this day on they were enemies. — The poor girl — and the little boy — it must have gone out of hand — he cannot have wanted what the doctor told me had happened to them!"

She lowered her head and cried silently.

//She says the same thing as Dog Man. His father and the Burgomaster quarrelled, and the two families were no longer in contact. — And she knows about the girl and the boy — she must be Dog Man’s Veiled Lady the Major told us about!// Dorian thought. //She must have cared for the von Eyssen children. Did she suspect her son having his hands in it even then?//

There would be no time now for these questions.

"Mevrouw," he said gently in Dutch, "the portrait?"

The old lady caught herself.

"Forgive me. I know my son is not a good man. But with five daughters of his own, he should be capable of having a teenage girl and a little boy — children he both knew — raped and tortured? How is this at all possible? — I — forgive me — my son’s study is locked, and only he has the key. There is a hidden compartment in his desk. It is possible he keeps the canvas there. The man from the Government — he says you know about such things. You have to get the portrait — hurry!"

She gasped, and her head fell to one side. Dorian hurried to her, but she waved him away.

"Ring for Willem — and hurry — and — please — I could not tell — haven’t told — anyone so far. My daughter-in-law and my granddaughters are innocent. They do not know anything about — what their husband and father did — as Josephine and Johnny did not know — please — spare my family!"

Dorian pulled the bell-rope which would summon the servant and hurried out — almost colliding with the man with the eyepatch. So he was Willem, Mrs Van Rijn’s trusted servant. It had been the old lady who had sent her servant to watch him and the Major. To find out whether she could trust them? — No time — He hoped the old lady would stay conscious and prevent her servant from fetching the Burgomaster or his wife.

"Your mistress needs help." He slipped past the surprised servant and hurried to the last room he had not inspected yet. This must be the Burgomaster’s study.

As the old lady had said, it was locked. Dorian took a few skeleton keys out of his pocket. This lock was easy. He closed the door carefully and looked around. The desk was huge, with a lot of drawers. Dorian had given some time to the study of desks and the different mechanisms of hidden drawers. Now, however, he regretted not having pursued this subject in depth. He made a mental note to catch up on hidden drawers when he would be back home safely. Bonham would have to buy different desks with a lot of locks and hidden drawers, now that James would be no longer there to complain about the expenses —

Now where could that hidden compartment be? It would have been helpful to know how big it had to be to hold the canvas, and how big the canvas was. A family portrait usually was not too small. This one could not be, if anyone was to decipher the plans.

Dorian’s slender fingers slid around drawers, knobs, panels all around the desk. There must be a hidden mechanism, a spring, which would open the drawer. His sharp eyes scrutinised the desk as closely as possible in candlelight, looking for a crack which had no reason to be where it was, indicating a hidden drawer or compartment. Of course it would be much better to do such a thing by daylight, but then again, he was trained to work by the light of a lantern or a candle —

*****

//Where the hell is he?// the Major thought. //Damn it, he is taking much too long!// The Earl had been gone for almost an hour now. Too long for the quick survey they had planned. There might be two reasons: Either the goddamned fool had been caught by someone — very unlikely, the Major thought, knowing Lord Gloria. Or he tried to trick them all and vanish with the canvas to England — if it was there at all. Knowing Dorian, the Major did not think this was entirely out of the question. The Earl of Gloria could be as brazen as that. But how far would they come in building the ship without the three pages Dog Man had found in his father’s book?

//If he’s gone with the portrait, God help him!// the Major thought grimly. — Be it as it may, he had to see to the matter, had to disappear unnoticed to find out what was going on. He scanned the ballroom again. The Burgomaster was nowhere to be seen.

//Verfluchter Hurendreck!*//

*****

Dorian squatted down and looked under the desk. The mechanism to open the hidden compartment or drawer must be easy to reach for someone sitting at the desk. Its purpose was to hide secret documents easily and quickly. Probably there was a button or a panel to press or push on the underside — and there was a rectangle of wood fitted into the underside of the desk, which otherwise was made from one piece of wood. It could be pushed in, and a side panel swung back, revealing the hidden compartment Dorian had been searching for. In the compartment was a rolled canvas. Dorian took it from its hiding place and unrolled it. Right. There was the von Eyssen family looking back at the spectator, as he had seen them in the sketch. The bearded inventor with his proud, ruthless face, the dark beauty of his wife, the tall girl with her father’s sharp features and her mother’s beautiful eyes, the boy, a vivid, bright child obviously — And there were the plans. As Dog Man had said. The table around which the family was grouped was littered with models, construction plans, sheets with mathematical formulas, some details were hidden in a drawing on a wall in the background, there were sheets of paper on the floor —

Steps in the corridor, a key was turned in the lock, the door flew open, revealing the Burgomaster, holding a candlestick. And a gun.

For a second, Dorian saw the cold cruelty in the man’s eyes. Under different circumstances this man would not hesitate to shoot him down. Now, however, he would perhaps be content with doing what was obvious: To play the respectable citizen who protected what was his own against a thief. Dorian’s first reaction was to throw his own candlestick at the Burgomaster, run to the window and jump out. Not one of the professional, well-planned retreats he preferred, but the only way out he saw at the moment.

The next instant, before Dorian could throw the candlestick and make a dive for the window, before the Burgomaster could alarm his servants, a tall figure appeared behind Van Rijn, and something hard was pressed between his shoulder-blades.

"Drop your gun!" the Major ordered.

Startled by the sharp command from a man he had not heard advancing, the Burgomaster obeyed. The Major kicked the gun away from him, and Dorian snatched it quickly and pointed it at Van Rijn.

"Who are you?" the Burgomaster demanded.

"Two people who have found what they were looking for." Lord Gloria said. "To avoid a scandal, we’d all better go back to the ballroom now."

"Thieves! I will —"

"Quiet!" the Major commanded. "It is up to you, Mr Van Rijn. You’ll keep quiet and let us leave with the canvas. Or there will be a scandal."

"I do not know what you are talking about!" the Burgomaster said. "I bought that portrait from an art dealer —"

"Twelve years ago, you tried to persuade your friend, the inventor von Eyssen, to sell his plans for a special warship to the French, something he had already done with other inventions, when working in England." the Major interrupted him. "For some reason, von Eyssen refused. Maybe he thought of his family."

"You —"

"Your friendship came to an end on that evening. And it was you, Burgomaster Van Rijn, who paid some very cruel people to make von Eyssen hand over the construction plans!"

The Burgomaster’s face became ashen.

"How do you know?" he whispered. "I — it went out of hand. I never intended -"

"What you intended or not is of no concern. Your henchmen lost their nerve. Who would have thought that von Eyssen would shoot his wife and himself, in front of his children?" Dorian took over. "It must have unnerved your men. They searched the house and did not find a thing, which unnerved them even more. — And you must have heard that only the remains of two bodies were found in the ruins of the von Eyssen house."

"They told me the girl and the boy had not known anything, so they killed them before they set fire to the house." the Burgomaster said. He began to realise that more things must have gone wrong than the hired killers had told him. He thought it had all been settled when he had paid another man to dispose of the three men and to bring him proof of having fulfilled his task. "What could the police probably have found in the ruins? How could they say they found two bodies instead of four? The body of a small child —"

He stopped, frightened from the look in the Major’s eyes.

"The small child had to watch his father shoot his mother, then kill himself. He had to watch his sister being raped by several men. And one of these bastards had a weak spot for small boys."

"What? How -? I do not know what you mean!"

"The von Eyssen children were not dead when your henchmen set fire to the place. They were locked in the cellar." the Major continued, his face and eyes grim. "They managed to escape from the fire and found people who cared for them."

"My God! So they are still alive?"

The Major did not bother to answer.

"You have five daughters and a wife." Dorian said. "How would you feel if something like this happened to them?"

"Are you threatening me?" the Burgomaster managed.

Dorian laughed. It was a short, sharp, bitter laugh.

"We have what we came for." the Major said. "No one will learn about the things we just told you, if you’ll keep quiet in turn. Then no one will harm you or your family."

"How can I be sure about that?" the Burgomaster’s voice was a mere whisper.

"You’ll have to take our word for it." Dorian answered. "But we really should all go back to the ballroom now. Your guests and your wife might be wondering where you are."

The Burgomaster might be a cruel and ruthless man, but only as long as his money, his influence and his office protected him. True, he had sent the men to force the secret from the inventor, taking into account that they would threaten to hurt von Eyssen’s wife or daughter. He had counted on von Eyssen giving up the plans quickly, seeing his family in danger. He had never intended anyone to die, but hearing that the whole family had been killed, he had taken it in his stride. More important was that his henchmen had not found the plans. He had concentrated on finding them, had taken up a rat race with some members of the mob, who were after the plans as well. He had followed the same line of thought as Dog Man later, but he as well had found the portrait stolen. He found out that the two Frenchmen had the canvas. Organised crime was faster. They killed one Frenchman, as he had found out, and he had the other one killed, before the man could leave for Europe with the canvas and one page of the plans. He had never thought that his machinations would be found out. But these two men, whatever they were — Government agents, members of a criminal organisation — had him in a trap.

He slowly retreated, his eyes assessing the Earl, then the Major. He licked his lips.

"You don’t have all of the plans."

Neither of the two men affirmed his statement.

"If I give you everything I have of von Eyssen’s plans, will you spare my family?"

"You have heard our answer." The Major said.

"Very well." Van Rijn pressed a panel on the wall, revealing a small compartment. He took out an envelope.

"Another page of the plans."

The Major’s expression revealed nothing, when he looked briefly at the paper and then pocketed the envelope, but he knew that Colonel Latour’s death had been Van Rijn’s doing as well. How easy — having people killed and never moving a finger. He felt a deep contempt for the man’s hypocrisy. Well, his machinations would be over.

Shaken, the Burgomaster went back to the ballroom, barely maintaining his dignity and joviality as a mask for his guests. He explained his absence and his worried appearance with his mother’s illness, and the festivity ended soon. The Major and the Earl took their leave from their hosts and the other guests as quickly as their good manners allowed them, the canvas hidden safely in Lord Gloria’s flowing cape.

 

New York, Constable Hardenberg’s House, Same Night

They met again at Hardenberg’s house, and Dorian briefly informed the others about his encounter with the blind old lady and the man with the eyepatch. The Major reported how they had confronted the Burgomaster.

"And he gave in that quickly?" Detective Crane seemed surprised. "He must be more of a coward than I thought."

"He is a cold man, but his mask of respectability seems to be very important to him." Lord Gloria said. "He seemed shocked about hearing what happened to the von Eyssen children. But I think his biggest concern is that no one will learn the truth about his role in the tragedy."

"He seems to have underestimated how many parties have an interest in these plans." the Major added. "The whole affair went out of hand very quickly."

"But he might have second thoughts about having given up the plans so easily." Crane objected. "And he might try to find von Eyssen’s children to silence them."

"Good luck!" Hardenberg remarked grimly. "If Dog Man keeps a low profile, as he has done so far, Van Rijn will never find him." He took the rolled canvas and the envelope from the table and put them safely into a leather sheath, which he hid in his cloak. "I’ll have to be on my way now."

The Major stood.

"You should not ride alone, Mr Hardenberg."

The Hessian shook his head.

"It will be safer if I go alone." He smiled, revealing his sharpened teeth and left the room.

The Major wanted to follow him, but both Lord Gloria and Detective Crane held him back.

"I have an idea as if someone trying to intercept him would meet an unpleasant surprise." Dorian said with a smile.

Detective Crane lifted an eyebrow, smiling back.

"You could be right."

The Hessian would deliver the portrait to the Government official who had assigned him and Detective Crane. He would also despatch messages addressed to Mr Carter in England and the Major’s superiors in Germany.

*****

With Hardenberg on his way, Detective Crane suggested they all get some sleep and offered them the two rooms from last night.

The Major thanked him and went to the small chamber without a further word. He needed to be alone. To think.

So most probably the Earl had not intended to steal the canvas from under their noses. The Major believed that Dorian had actually met the Burgomaster’s old mother, who had told him where to find the portrait. Dog Man had been right. Van Rijn was the cowardly bastard responsible for the tragedy of his family. It was to hope that Dog Man would be sensible. The Burgomaster would have to live with his conscience burdened by the death of many people. He seemed to have no trouble with that, but the threat of his reputation being damaged by a trial revealing the violent deaths of von Eyssen and his wife, let alone what happened to their children, seemed to get to him. Klaus was sure the man would keep quiet. He might be seething in helpless fury alright, he might live in constant fear he and Dorian might breach their promise and maybe set the von Eyssen children on his track. It was only a small punishment for what he had done, but it would suffice to keep him silent.

Despite his initial misgivings, their assignment had been successful. Remained one thing: Lord Gloria. Dorian. He had been worried about the irresponsible fool, genuinely worried. And not only because he had feared Lord Gloria would cheat them. He had been worried about the damn thief himself. Seeing his worries justified, the Burgomaster pointing a gun at Dorian, had pained him in a way hitherto unknown.

He would have liked to talk to Hardenberg now, to ask him whether this was a part of what people called love. To worry about your loved one getting himself into danger, being hurt or killed. Was it also part of loving someone to adore silly things like graceful movements, the way a few curls were twisted round two fingers, the mixture between mischief and innocence in a pair of deep blue eyes, a heart-warming smile? Was it part of — God damn it! — being in love, when your heart opened up, when you suddenly could understand that Hardenberg himself not only admired his lover’s sharp mind, but also his boyish, slender grace, the pretty, expressive face, the way he could still blush — when you saw beauty in many people — and when you threw all caution to the wind?

He thought about how beautiful Dorian had been in candlelight, how gracefully and naturally he had presented his beauty, how innocently he had slept, the first rays of sunlight in his hair.

The Major sighed. Would he ever be able to think clearly, rationally again? — He would, if he had to —

There was a knock at the door, and Dorian looked in.

"What?!" the Major barked.

Dorian came in and closed the door.

"What?" he repeated with a gentle reproach in his voice.

//So much for thinking clearly and rationally.// the Major thought. He could not help taking Dorian into his arms, holding him tight, feeling the slender body against his own, the delicate smell of his hair, his skin. He kissed the finely shaped nose and jaw, before his lips met Dorian’s. He was not surprised when the other’s lips parted, his mouth slightly opened, a teasing tongue met his own lips, playfully demanding entrance into his mouth. It was granted.

Much later they were lying on the bed, Dorian curled around Klaus, lazily caressing his lover’s hair. One fingertip traced the fine curves of Klaus’ ear. Then Dorian bent over the Major and whispered a few words. The Major turned around alarmed, sitting up and facing his lover.

"Are you sure?"

"Please, my love. — But wait." Dorian got up, went to the chair where he had put his clothes and took a small jar from the pocket of his vest, coming back to the bed.

"What have you got there?"

The Major extended a hand imperiously, and Dorian handed over the jar. Klaus opened it, frowning. He dipped two of his fingers into the jar, felt the texture of the ointment and sniffed his fingertips.

"It makes the passage easier." Dorian explained.

He made himself comfortable on the bed, lowering himself back on his elbows, spreading his legs. It was clear that he wanted what he had suggested, so Klaus slicked two of his fingers generously and touched the tight opening, looking into Dorian’s face. The Earl spread his legs wider, pushing his lower body up invitingly. There was nothing obscene in this movement, it was completely natural. The Major was surprised by the tight warmth when he obliged and his fingers slipped into Dorian. After a moment, he began to move them in and out carefully. It felt good, and Dorian seemed to enjoy it, throwing his head back with a gasp He had told Klaus about the spot he would have to find, and when the Major found it, Dorian pushed himself upward, biting his lips in delight.

To see his lover’s mounting pleasure made the Major want him, want him without any scruples, without any doubts. He knew it was what he had always wanted, longed for. So he breathed deeply when Dorian took the jar, slicked him and guided him in. Nothing mattered now, only Dorian, his long legs clasped around the Major’s waist, pulling him deeply into his glowing body — beautiful and delicious.

It was a bit difficult to find a rhythm at first, but Dorian adjusted to Klaus’ thrusts as best as he could, pulling him in deeper every time. The Major closed his eyes for a moment, and when he opened them again, Dorian was frightened. Green eyes, dark with desire, burning in triumph, a warrior was making love to him, a warrior fighting his own demons. He had always known it would be different to be with the Major, but even in his wildest dreams he had never thought of such burning passion, such hunger and need, finally unleashed after having been dammed for so long — Dorian found himself elated and overwhelmed by that passion, unmatched by anything he had experienced before. Was this the cold, rational, matter-of-fact Major? Deep inside, however, he had always known about this wild, passionate, dangerous side in Klaus von dem Eberbach’s nature —

When it was over, Dorian felt himself swept into a hard embrace, Klaus still in him. He was not sure what would happen now. It might be possible that the Major was worried about having hurt him, it was also possible that he became violent. He looked into his lover’s face, smiling more reassurance than he actually felt.

The Major did not smile back, but Dorian had not expected him to do so anyway. It was enough to see acceptance and something like affection in Klaus’ eyes.

"Thank you." the Major said, kissing the surprised Earl.

New York, Mr Longford’s Residence, A Day Later

Constable Hardenberg had returned during the night. In the morning he told the other men that they were expected in the afternoon at the New York residence of Mr Longford, representative of Mr Jefferson, the President of the United States.

When they arrived, they found two other men in Mr Longford’s company: Lord Carruthers, representing the Crown of England, and General Carl-Friedrich Graf zu Aufsess, a representative of the Major’s superiors. The three important men listened to what their agents had to say. Few questions were asked as to how and where they had found the portrait, and what they had found out about the people who had tried to sell the construction plans to the French Government. Not a word was said about Dog Man’s role in the machinations. They had found von Eyssen’s daughter by chance, Detective Crane told the three diplomats. She had suffered innocently for her father’s double-play, and she had given them an idea where to look for the plans. The young woman was living a quiet life now, and with regard to what she had been through, they had given their word as gentlemen not to disclose her whereabouts.

The Van Rijn family would have a mighty protector in Mr Longford, who, in accordance with the President, would try to avoid a scandal and hence would not disclose the Burgomaster’s role in the conspiracy. The diplomats noted favourably that Van Rijn had given up the plans immediately. Most probably, there would be consequences for the Burgomaster, but they would be mild in regard to what he had done.

The Major handed over the last missing page of the construction plans, the one Dog Man had given him, to the German general, telling him it had been the last one in Van Rijn’s possession.

The men congratulated their agents on their success, and a few polite words were exchanged.

Hardenberg said nothing. His inscrutable gaze rested on Mr Longford.

//He looks a lot like his father.// he thought. //Colonel Longford has not seen me in a long time. I wonder whether he would recognise me as the leader of the army of mercenaries wreaking havoc among his men about thirty years ago, sent by the British to end the rebellion in the colonies. Now I am a citizen of this New World, and I work for Longford’s son. The British representative is sitting at the same table with an American, all within thirty years. With a bit more time on your hands, you’ll get another view of things, it seems. What is time? What are plans? What enemies? And yet, there has been so much blood and suffering because of these construction plans. And soldiers will continue to bash each other’s heads in, whether the scientists will be able to build this strange ship or not. And me? I am just watching and learning...//

They took their leave from the diplomats. The canvas and the three papers would be taken to a secret place where scientists from America, Britain and Germany would come together to decipher them and to build the strange ship which would be able to swim under water.

 

New York, October 10, 1805

Their assignment being over, Lord Gloria and the Major prepared for the journey back to Europe.

On their last evening in New York, Dorian managed to persuade Klaus to go to the opera with him. The Major had never pretended to know much about the fine arts, but sometimes he loved music. It was "The Marriage of Figaro" again. And this time, Klaus understood what Cherubino expressed in his aria: the pain and joy of love. He felt Dorian touch his hand in the dark for a moment, and answered the secret touch, without taking his eyes from what happened on the stage.

*****

During the interval they spotted Dog Man. They had not seen him again since the morning when he had told them about his suspicion regarding the Burgomaster. Now he casually came over to the two men.

"Did you find what you were looking for?" he asked, studying the programme bill at the pillar in front of him. "You need not say anything, Gentlemen, I know. - And he will go free in exchange for lying low. There is no actual proof that it was him behind what happened to us."

"Right." Dorian answered. "But no one knows or will learn about your identity either. So you should lie low as well."

Dog Man turned to him, and the Major moved to Lord Gloria’s side. The man looked outwardly calm, but his dark eyes were blazing with rage.

"It is easy for you to give good advice." he said bitterly to Dorian. "We had a bad time with Johnny. He was not well at all, seemed to be in another world, fighting bad men who hurt him and his sister, fighting his parents not to die and leave us alone."

"I am very sorry to hear this." Dorian said, genuinely worried. "Is he better now?"

"Two days ago, he suddenly came back again." Dog Man continued. His eyes searched Lord Gloria’s face, as if he wanted to find out whether his compassion was genuine. "But these attacks — he was innocent. Why does he have to suffer, and that bastard goes free?! A bastard who let it happen that a small child was hurt beyond belief!"

"He did not know about it." the Major said. "He planned to frighten your father into handing over the plans by hiring men who would threaten his family —"

Before he could say more and before Dog Man could answer anything, they saw Johnny hurry up to them. He looked pale and seemed to have lost weight, and there was still a hint of shadows under his eyes. But he was beaming, and his eyes sparkled. He wore a suit, shoes and a tie, and his hair had been combed.

"Was looking for you." he said to Dog Man.

The tall man’s attitude changed at once, his eyes and face becoming gentle, although he tried to give his brother a stern look.

"So. You were looking for me. And where is Mr James? Did you run away from him?"

"Mr James?" Lord Gloria asked.

"Yes. Your former accountant is with me." Dog Man said. "And I am glad he is."

"And I am glad to hear this!" Dorian answered. He turned to the boy. "Good evening, Johnny. You look beautiful. That suit fits you magnificently!"

Johnny beamed again, then looked at his feet, a bit embarrassed.

"Nah, you look beautiful." He looked up again. "You know, Jamesie’s no longer sad."

"This is very good." Dorian said. "And what about the opera, Johnny? Do you like it?"

The young man nodded eagerly.

"Beautiful music! — And the ladies are pretty. But you would be prettier!"

Dorian smiled. "But I don’t sing so well, Johnny."

The boy grinned. Then he looked at the Major, who had followed the conversation without saying a word himself, just frowning. Johnny frowned as well. He produced a paper from somewhere in his pockets, handing it to the Major. Perplexed, Klaus took it from him. It was a drawing, showing something like a coach without horses. It was definitely a coach, designed for moving, because it had many wheels, and it looked armoured, as if designed for war purposes. The drawing showed it cut in half, and there was a cannon inside the coach, its barrel protruding from the front, and the figure of a man inside operating the cannon.

Dorian had to smile at the Major’s perplexed expression. Klaus handed the paper back to Johnny, but the young man shook his head.

"Is yours!"

Lord Gloria gave his lover another look. He and the two brothers were just witnessing something rare: Major Klaus Heinz von dem Eberbach too puzzled to be stern and forbearing.

The Major looked at the paper, his frown increasing. "What is it?" he finally asked Johnny.

"Iron coach with a cannon in it!" The young man sounded impatient, as if the Major must know what he meant.

Klaus looked at the drawing again. It was well executed. After all, the boy was an inventor’s son. For a moment, the Major saw what Johnny could have been — another brilliant inventor — had he not lost his mind — or had he? The coach he had drawn would never work. Not now, at least. A coach without horses! But maybe it would be possible to use the power of steam or this strange electricity to such purpose one day —

The Major caught himself.

"Hm. — Thank you!" he said.

Johnny had spotted Mr James, who hesitatingly approached the small group. He was obviously glad having found Johnny and Dog Man, but seeing them in conversation with the Earl and the Major made him awkward.

"Good evening." he greeted timidly. "Milord, Major. — I was just looking for Johnny. Sorry, Mr Iverson. He ran away."

"Perhaps it was a good thing he did, Mr James." Dog Man said to the perplexed accountant.

Johnny went over to Mr James and smiled at him.

"Not angry?"

Not even Dorian had ever seen such a bright smile on Mr James’s face.

"Not angry, Johnny. But the opera is not over yet. I think we’ll go back to our seats now. The interval will be over soon. — Gentlemen —" He bowed to the Earl and the Major and left with the young man.

Dog Man looked after them for a moment, before he turned to Dorian and Klaus again.

"Well, I must be off too, Gentlemen. I will think about what you told me. Maybe you are right." He extended a hand, which Dorian took gracefully. The Major pocketed the sheet of paper and took Dog Man’s hand as well.

"One thing more." Dorian said. "The Burgomaster’s mother was the Veiled Lady you mentioned."

"Are you sure?"

"I met her in his house. She knew about what happened to you. So she must be the person who helped you. I also saw the man with the eyepatch. He is her servant."

"I see." Charles Iverson said. He nodded. "Well then. Good-bye, Gentlemen. And a safe journey." he added as he limped away.

 

 

New York, October 11, 1805

The next day, they took their leave from Detective Crane and Mr Hardenberg.

"It was a pleasure meeting you and being able to work with you, Detective Crane." Lord Gloria said.

"If we meet again, Lord Gloria, I would like you to demonstrate your abilities in picking locks." Crane answered with a smile.

"I’d love to!" Dorian laughed. "By then, you will have developed more of your special methods, I think."

Crane sighed. "There is still so much we cannot verify with the scientific equipment we have now. I think we have just begun, and amazing discoveries lie ahead of us."

"Do you think your methods would be able to prevent crime some day?" the Major asked sceptically.

Detective Crane shook his head.

"I would like to think that when people were no longer starving, when most of them had a basic education, enabling them to do honest work, there would be less crime. But we are dealing with human nature here, and a part of human nature is greed and violence. Another part is generosity and nobility, and every human being is capable of both. A certain individual may turn away from crime, but crime will never be extinguished, as some idealistic souls believe. But reason and justice will always be worth fighting for!"

"Well spoken!" the Major extended a hand. Then he turned to Hardenberg.

"You were right." he said, referring to their conversation in the public house after the interrogation of Dog Man. He looked sharply at his taciturn, uncanny compatriot whom he had come to like during the last few weeks.

"Who are you?" he asked.

Hardenberg looked at Lord Gloria and Detective Crane, who had begun to walk along the quay, a short distance away. Then his strange eyes went to the Major again.

"You may never have heard the name Johann Friedrich Hardenberg." he began. "Johann Friedrich Hardenberg was a merchant. On his journeys to other countries, he was entrusted with important secret missions. He was a spy. Fifty years ago, he and his wife were killed on one of these journeys, apparently by highwaymen. Their son Johannes, a boy of twelve, vanished without a trace."

"I know the story." the Major said. "But fifty years are a long time! You cannot be this merchant’s son."

"I am." Hardenberg said. "The boy escaped the highwaymen, met some defected soldiers. He was trained by them, became a mercenary himself. As the leader of an army of mercenaries, he was sent over to the colonies in British pay. The mercenaries were defeated. Near a small godforsaken village in upstate New York, Hardenberg was killed by a few enemy soldiers."

The Major had never listened to a story that unbelievable, at the same time knowing it was true.

"Twenty-five years later, a young police constable from New York was sent to this village. A rich citizen living there had beseeched the Burgomaster of New York — Van Rijn — for his help. There had been a lot of murders, and the constable had been pestering his superiors with new, uncomfortable ideas. So he was sent to this village. He found out that a scheming woman controlled the ghost of the dead mercenary for her purposes, and he was able to break the spell. But the Horseman, as he was called, would not leave the constable alone. He asked once more for his help, and the constable gave it of his own free will. Out of love, he took the Horseman with him to New York. The Horseman wanted to learn more about human nature. So he became a constable as well."

The Major gave Hardenberg a long look which was answered with an unflinching gaze from wintry eyes.

"If someone else had told me this story, I would not believe it." he finally said.

Detective Crane and Lord Gloria came back and joined the two men.

"Time to go on board." the Major said.

The anchor was lifted, a good breeze filled the sails, and their journey back to Europe had begun.

"’Oh brave New World, that has such people in it!’" Lord Gloria recited, looking back at the forest of masts, indicating the harbour.

"And Mr James." the Major remarked dryly. He for his part was glad the accountant had decided not to return with Lord Gloria. This would make the voyage a lot easier, no doubt.

Dover, England, November 1805

Five weeks after their departure from New York, a rough journey behind them, the Earl and the Major arrived in England again. They were greeted by the news of Lord Nelson’s glorious victory over the French at the battle of Trafalgar. There was triumph because of the victory and sadness because of Nelson’s death in battle.

Both men were exhausted from the long journey and glad to be on firm land again. They stayed at a guest house in Dover for the night.

Dorian ordered a bottle of wine to celebrate the British victory.

"Nelson has rendered our work obsolete." he said, pouring a glass for the Major. "Well, c’est la vie."

"I don’t think we worked in vain." the Major objected. "One day, they will build the ship." He downed his glass and filled it anew.

There was an awkward pause. Both men felt sad, because their ways would part the next morning.

"I take it I could not persuade you to come with me to the North Downs for a few days?" Dorian finally said. "You will want to go back to Germany immediately now."

"I have to get there as soon as possible." Klaus answered. "I have neglected my duties as an instructor for too long. Lieutenant Berger is not strict enough with the cadets."

"The poor boys!" Dorian exclaimed. "Why don’t you give them a few days more to relax?" He sighed. "I know it would not be wise to come with you to Germany now, with the French in your country." He smiled his mischievous Dorian smile. "But what if I did it anyway?"

The Major looked angry, when he took the Earl by the shoulders. "No." he said firmly. "No, you will not!"

"Alright, don’t get upset." Dorian soothed. "Just one of my foolish ideas."

Klaus knew him too well to be fooled. Dorian had relented much too quickly. He let go of his lover and paced the room, which gave the Earl a good opportunity to admire the Major’s dangerous grace and agility. Klaus was furious with himself for being worried and upset and angry at Dorian harbouring such a dangerous idea. Oh, he would like to see the Earl in his home town, and he would care the devil about what people had to say about the flamboyant beauty. He would, however, care about what would happen should the French discover Dorian’s true identity.

"I would not like to see you hanged for high treason if the French caught you! We have a French government in Germany!" Klaus hissed. "It would be too dangerous!"

"And what if the French found out about you?" Dorian asked.

"This is the risk of my duties." the Major answered curtly.

"Maybe it would be the risk of my duties as well." Lord Gloria said.

"To take that risk without a real necessity would be foolish." The Major’s tone indicated that he regarded the discussion as finished.

"You would not like to see me die." Dorian said affectionately.

"You goddamned fool!" was all the Major answered.

"Well then — could we say farewell?" Dorian suggested with an inviting smile.

The Major, who normally was not afraid of anything, felt that he dreaded the next morning. But he would try to enjoy their last night together.

 

New York, December 1805

It had started snowing heavily, and most of the people who had come to attend the funeral of old Mrs Van Rijn left the small churchyard in a hurry. Many people had come, the Van Rijns being one of the oldest and richest families in New York.

Only yesterday, the Burgomaster had resigned from his office. He had also given part of his business into the hands of his son-in-law. Ichabod Crane knew that he had been forced to do so. He had been given the choice between a scandal affecting his family and a silent retirement into political obscurity.

//He has aged a lot during the last months.// Ichabod thought. He had attended the funeral of his former superior’s mother following an inner nudge. His instincts had not betrayed him. The churchyard had become empty, except for one late visitor, slowly limping through the snow.

Dog Man stood at the grave for a few moments, his head bowed. "Thank you." Detective Crane heard him whisper when he came closer. "You saved my life. Rest in peace. — Maybe you’ll want to visit Johnny? He might be able to see you, you know —"

He heard Crane’s steps and fell silent. The two men stood next to each other. Neither of them spoke.

"You didn’t give me away." Dog Man finally broke the silence.

"I promised not to." Crane answered. "Besides — you didn’t give me any reason."

"But you had me watched."

"This is why I know I had no reason to warn Van Rijn about you."

Dog Man smiled.

"You know," he remarked lightly, "I had my fantasies about killing him alone, slowly and cruelly, without involving his family. It made me sick. And would it have changed anything? Would it have brought Johnny back to his senses? Would it have healed my leg, brought my parents to life again? No. My accountant would say: A waste of money, manpower and effort."

"A wise decision." Ichabod remarked. While talking, they had walked away from the grave, reaching the street. It was still snowing, but the flakes did no longer fall that densely.

"Elizabeth is pregnant." Dog Man continued after a while.

"Ares’ sister?" From observation, Detective Crane knew the tall young African woman, who was Dog Man’s lady.

"Johnny." Dog Man explained. "It’s the closest way I can come to giving her a baby. I’ll educate the child as my own, of course."

"My best wishes for you all." Ichabod said.

Dog Man smiled.

"Thank you. We’re all looking forward to the baby."

He disappeared behind the curtain of falling flakes.

Crane thought that he wished Elizabeth’s and Johnny’s child a healthy entrance into the world and a strong condition. Maybe one or two brothers or sisters would do no harm. A family of his own would keep Dog Man occupied in a positive way.

He would see how it all turned out. Surely he would meet Dog Man and his family again one day or the other. This would make it bearable to see Van Rijn walk the earth as if he had never done anything bad in his life. At least the former Burgomaster would never have a public office again.

 

Bonn, Germany, April 1806

The Major had returned to Germany via Holland and had resumed duty as if he had not been away. Five months had passed, a hard and cold winter had given way to another spring, and not even the Major could ignore the trees becoming green again, the sun becoming stronger, flowers beginning to bud and bloom. He had taken over a new assignment during the winter, which involved smuggling a secret document out of the country. And he schooled the cadets mercilessly, as well as the promising young men who would work in his line. Work prevented him from thinking of a pair of sparkling blue eyes, of a mass of blonde curls framing a pretty, intelligent face, a smile like the sun on a spring day, the light smell of a perfume, silken skin, strong hands, a gentle, mocking voice —

It seemed as if Lord Gloria had taken his warnings to heart — for a change. No word from him.

If the Major ever thought about the American episode, he tried to think of Detective Crane, the brilliant man combining the bravery of a medieval knight with the timidity of a young girl. Or of his companion, Johannes Hardenberg, who actually had come back from the dead to learn about patience, compassion and creative ways to resolve conflicts, although he looked still fearsome enough to assure that in a public house full of thugs, thieves and prostitutes everybody would behave. He also sometimes thought of Dog Man, who might be a brothel manager, but also had been brave enough to face his horrible past. Of Johnny, the strange young man who saw things ordinary people could not see. Maybe that weasel of an accountant would actually be useful with Johnny, no — too dangerous to think something like that, too close to —

*****

When he returned from the barracks after a long hard day on a spring evening, he was intercepted by Lisbeth, his landlord’s daughter, just as he wanted to go upstairs to his room. Lisbeth still admired him, although meanwhile she was engaged to Franz Plass, a friendly, industrious young baker from the neighbourhood.

Now she stood, blushing, looking at the cleanly scrubbed stone floor, nervously removing an imaginary stain from her white apron. The Major was glad that neither Maria nor Billa*, her two younger sisters, were present.

"What is it, Lisbeth?" he asked, sounding a bit impatient. He was tired.

"Papp säht, ich soll Üch sare, Ihr hat Besök, Här Majur."** Lisbeth managed, still looking at the floor.

"Who is it?" the Major asked sharply.

"En jong Frau. Se säht, se wör Ühr Kusin."***

"Meng Kusin?"****the Major repeated. "Where can I find her?"

 

"En de Stuff."* Lisbeth said, curtsied and ran away.

The Major had no cousin, neither male nor female, so he made sure to have his pistol ready in his pocket when he went to the guest room. Probably it was only Golzem. Golzem was one of the young men he trained as spies. He was small, slender and pretty, and sometimes disguised as a woman for an assignment. The Major felt himself become angry. Golzem had no business to seek him out here, disguised as a woman at that! He would tear the young man’s head off — who did he think he was? Lucrezia Borgia?

He opened the door to the guest room without knocking. The young woman in the blue silk dress, who had been sitting at a window, drinking a cup of chocolate, looked up. It was not Golzem. The cadet was not that tall, and he did not have such a mass of golden hair, barely held back by blue ribbons matching the colour of the dress.

"Cousin Klaus." A familiar voice said. "Wie schön, dass Ihr endlich heimkommt!"**

The Major caught himself in an instant and played along.

"Cousine Jacoba! Welch unerwarteter Besuch!"***

He could have wrung the goddamned fool’s neck, admiring his courage and the perfection of his disguise at the same time. And he felt how much he had missed Dorian, with every fibre of his heart.

"I won’t be able to stay long." "Cousine Jacoba" continued in German. "I am just passing through, and I thought why not stay a day and a night in Bonn and visit Cousin Klaus."

"Cousin Klaus" frowned. "Are you travelling alone?"

Dorian took his arm. "Ah, you know I am a bit eccentric, I do not care much for conventions, dear cousin."

"You should!" Klaus reproached his lover sternly, but his green eyes were sparkling.

*****

Early the next morning, he took his lover to one of his secret hiding places, a small house in a godforsaken village between Bonn and Bad Godesberg, called Dottendorf, and they celebrated their reunion. Between kisses, Klaus berated Dorian for being foolish enough to come to Germany without anyone to accompany him, but Dorian laughed his misgivings away. It was as if there had never been a five month separation.

After a long time, they lay on the bed, satiated, Dorian’s head resting on Klaus’ chest.

"How did you find me?" Klaus asked.

"I overheard your landlord talking to a young man about ‘Här Majur’, and I thought this might mean ‘der Herr Major’. It was just the way he said it that I thought it might be you. So I became Jacoba, as you called her, looking for her cousin, Major Klaus von dem Eberbach."

"Hmmm." Klaus grumbled. Maybe it would be time to leave the Schmitzens ...

"I had a letter from Mr James." Dorian said. "Dog Man will become a father."

"Huh?" The Major opened his eyes.

"Oh, come on, darling, there is no mystery involved! Johnny is the real father to Elizabeth’s child. He seems to be doing well. He signed the letter together with James."

"Good for him. Anything from Crane or Hardenberg?"

"Still going strong, as it seems."

"Hmmm." Klaus closed his eyes again and tried to follow his thoughts. Probably it would always be like now — a few hours together, between assignments, never enough time, never any certainty if and when they would see each other again. But it was more than he had ever thought of for himself. It was good as it was. For the time being -

"I have never been to Bonn before." Dorian interrupted his thoughts. "You must show me around."

"Hmmm."

"That composer everyone is talking about, Maître Beethoven, was born here."

"I know."

"Do you like his music?" Dorian continued. "It is powerful in parts, in other parts gentle." He sounded thoughtful.

"Hmmm."

"Let me see — about two years ago, I attended the first performance of his new symphony. " Dorian chatted on, sitting up and straddling Klaus. "You know, it is called ‘Eroica’". He hummed a few bars from the main theme. "The name sounds good. Eroica. What would you think if I called myself by that name?"

Klaus opened his eyes again in a green blaze, but there also was a spark of mischief.

"That would be like you." he answered. "Conceited and flamboyant. But just like you. Yes, just like you. Eroica."

 

THE END

 

Eroica
Sleepy Hollow