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From Eroica With Love #5

Dramatic Spring


Dorian is telling James to demand a larger ransom amount than usual for their latest haul, because Dorian has been appointed to host the annual International Conference for top-level criminals and he wants to make a good impression. It's a very exclusive affair, and being chosen as the host is a great honor and mark of esteem among the criminal community. He plans to hold the conference at his castle in the North Downs. James protests that the castle is out of repair and gripes about the expense generally, but Dorian overcomes his objections with a kiss. This sends a rapturous James scampering off to cancel all the latest budget cuts, much to the puzzlement of Bonham and the other members of the team.

Meanwhile, Klaus is involved in preparations for a diplomatic peace summit which is, coincidentally, to be held at a mansion in the North Downs. We see him en route to the site in a Cadillac, accompanying the American ambassador. Klaus is irked because a Soviet representative in a Volga is in front of them on the road and there isn't room for the Cadillac to maneuver around and get ahead of it (or give Klaus an opportunity to throw a wrench at it, which he longs to do.) He snarls about how he hates Yank cars like the unwieldy Cadillac, and only likes Benz or BMW. The American ambassador patiently reminds Klaus that his mission is to co-operate with the Eastern agents to protect the summit from terrorists, and that throwing a wrench at the Soviet ambassador's car would not be a good idea.

They arrive at the mansion, which belongs to a London University dean who has produced an impressive dissertation on world peace. It doesn't take Klaus five minutes to get into an exchange of insults with one of the Soviet KGB agents, who makes the mistake of approaching him and trying to be friendly in the spirit of co-operation. [Diplomacy is not Klaus' strong suit.] After the Soviet stomps off in a passion, Klaus proceeds to snub a CIA agent, who then also squabbles with the KGB man. World peace is off to a great start....

The agents are shown into the library of the mansion, where the meeting will take place, and begin checking it over for security arrangements. Klaus -- smoking, as always -- absent-mindedly drops ashes from his cigarette into a vase, to the outrage of the dean's wife. She informs him that the vase is a great piece of art, not an ashtray. The KGB agent sneers at him, which sets off another round of insults until they are asked to go outside.

On the outskirts of the mansion's grounds, A and B are chatting with some other agents about how difficult life is with "Iron Klaus" around, when the subject of the conversation stalks up and demands a status report. He comments on how much traffic there seems to be near the mansion, and one of the other fellows agrees that it's unusually busy for the area. A passing car pulls up and stops, and an attractive woman in it greets one of the CIA agents, saying, "Tell your boss I said hello," before driving off again. The CIA man is appalled, recognizing her as a notorious blackmailer and scandal-maker in American politics, and rushes off to tell his chief. Another agent comments that the lady's companion in the car was a well-known Mafia boss. Other cars pass by, and they all seem to be heading to a castle on a hill over the way. Klaus asks to whom the castle belongs, and is told it's the home of Dorian, Earl of Gloria. It takes moment for the name to register with him, but when it does he loses his cigarette in shock.

Dorian is greeting his guests, a diverse and well-dressed group, at the castle. Everyone is present except for M. Gabin, a French syndicate gangster, whom Dorian plans to fetch from Paris in his private plane. The blackmailer calls M. Gabin a "grumpy old grandpa" who is only interested in watching videotapes of old TV series and movies these days, but Dorian hopes to persuade him to attend the conference anyway.

The Mafia boss, Volovolonte [a longtime admirer of Dorian's, whom we will meet in several later stories], says he's a bit disturbed by the fact that the neighborhood seems to be crawling with intelligence agents from all over the world. Dorian admits that it's odd and is just thinking about the possibility of NATO being involved, when Klaus makes an appearance.

Dorian tells the assembled criminals, "It's just an old acquaintance of mine." He and Klaus exchange what pass with them for social pleasantries -- Klaus says it's a pretty good castle, though his own is a bit better. Then he demands to know what is going on with all these suspicious guests. Dorian retaliates by asking what he's doing, and says that their "good-natured criminals' conference" has nothing to do with Klaus or his mission. The lady blackmailer tries to flirt with Klaus a bit, but that gives him the creeps and makes him even more irritable.

As he's starting to lecture Dorian, he is interrupted by voices yelling for him. The KGB and CIA agents come running in, shouting that neo-Nazi terrorists have bombed the American embassy in Bonn and implying that it's somehow Klaus' fault, he being an expert on the neo-Nazis and their movements. "I can't be everywhere," Klaus replies, but the irate CIA man yells at him, calling him "Nazi" and "Gestapo". This is a big mistake: Klaus collars him and says, "My dad was a tank commander in the National Defense Army! The National Defense Army defended the country! It's completely different from Hitler's frigging SS and Gestapo!" In his chilling, quietly threatening mode, he adds, "If you mix me up with those shameless worms..." The CIA agent, terrified, apologizes and says he won't say it again, and Klaus lets him go. The KGB guy sneers at the American, who starts calling him names, until they are all silenced by a deafening roar of "IDIOTS!!!" -- from Dorian.

Dorian tells them not to cause a silly international incident, and reminds them of their missions. The KGB and CIA men dash off back to the summit site, telling Klaus that orders are not to disturb the criminals' conference. Pausing on his way out, Klaus asks Dorian, "How did you learn to yell like that?" Dorian replies, "I just imitated you, Major." Klaus warns Dorian not to interfere with his mission, to which Dorian responds, "Roger, National Defense Army." "Idiot!" says Klaus, in an offhand way that is starting to sound for all the world like a pet name.

[Click here to see scanned pages from this scene.]

Dorian orders James to lock the gate after the departed agents, and fears that the mood of the party has been spoilt by their intrusion. The guests reassure him, however; they were much amused by the squabbling agents, and impressed (though not intimidated) by Klaus. The blackmailer still fancies him, but Dorian tells her Klaus is more interested in neo-Nazi terrorists than women. This reminds Volovolonte that a neo-Nazi borrowed some money from his organization recently, saying something about throwing the world into chaos. He offers to let Dorian relay the information to Klaus, though Dorian figures he'll just get yelled at for "interfering".

Klaus and the other agents are viewing footage of the destruction wrought by the bombing, and are told that the perpetrators have contacted both the American and Soviet embassies with a message claiming that there is already a bomb in place at the summit site, which will be detonated if the summit is not cancelled. Agents scurry off in all directions to hunt for the bomb, leaving Klaus musing over how the terrorists -- a "German disgrace" -- are trying to create distrust and confusion. He summons the alphabets and tells them they're returning to Bonn, giving orders for them to check the lists of neo-Nazi sympathizers and investigate any who have been in England recently.

At the mansion, the search for the bomb continues. The CIA and KGB agents are becoming quite congenial in their mutual blaming of NATO and Klaus for the whole situation.

In Bonn, a harried-looking Klaus answers the phone at his desk and is greeted by Dorian, lounging at home in his rather elaborate bed. Dorian gives Klaus the information provided by Volovolonte, including a description of the man who borrowed the money for the neo-Nazis and details of the transaction. "We appreciate civilian co-operation," says Klaus. Dorian, being Dorian, then tells him he sounds tired and adds a few helpful suggestions: "Why don't you take a long, hot bath and sleep well every once in a while? Smoking too much is really bad for you, you know. Are you eating properly?" Klaus tells him to get married and be someone's wife, and says he doesn't have time to listen to "silly bullshit". "I'll pray for your fortunes of war, Mr Tank Commander," replies Dorian, who blows him a kiss and hangs up before Klaus can get out the inevitable bellow of "Idiot!"

[Click here to see scanned pages from this scene.]

Klaus hands the information to Mr B, telling him to check it out. A call comes in from Mr E in London, saying that a prime suspect has turned up there, and Klaus immediately calls for a car and heads back, leaving the alphabets marvelling at his tenacity.

In London, James is out shopping, accompanied by Bonham. He's buying new underwear for Dorian, ostensibly because he wants Dorian to be well-dressed, even down to his underwear, when going to fetch the Parisian mobster, but really because James wants to appropriate Dorian's old underwear for himself. He makes a pest of himself in the store by demanding to see every pair they've got, then chooses exactly one: rather ordinary briefs with a black "X" embroidered on the waistband, in a box which was tucked inconspicuously off in a corner. He starts to haggle with the stressed sales clerk over the price.

At home, James proudly shows the underwear to Dorian, who is bathing. Dorian is unimpressed, and says he likes the ones he's got now better. James, however, has already taken those for himself. Dorian, resigned to wearing the new underwear, tells him not to do anything stingy to the guests and leaves for Paris.

In a car, waiting for information on the suspect who was sighted earlier, Klaus has been napping for 32 minutes while Mr A keeps watch. Mr C shows up with food and cigarettes; Klaus complains mildly about the "Yank food" (a burger), but starts to eat it anyway. On the radio, Mr B reports in with information on the man Dorian described: he's an explosives expert and was in England two weeks ago, but then fled to Beirut. Klaus orders B to request the co-operation of the Middle East intelligence organizations in tracking him. He loses interest in the burger after one bite, and orders Mr A to eat it, then steps out for a moment to relieve himself. Before he can finish, Mr C comes running up shouting that the suspect has spotted his NATO pursuers, and is being chased down Liverpool Street. Klaus hurries back to the car and joins in the chase.

The suspect, a rather degenerate-looking young man, is quickly corralled and captured by Klaus and the alphabets. Klaus demands information on the bomb, roughing the fellow up a bit and threatening him with a gun, commenting, "I'm very irritated from hunger and lack of sleep." The man tells him that the explosives expert put the location of the bomb in code; the terrorists were to retrieve the coded message only if their demands were met. Klaus asks for the location of the message.

We see Klaus and a couple of alphabets entering the same store where James was shopping earlier. It seems the coded message was hidden in a pair of men's briefs in this store, secreted back in a corner at the bottom of a heap of others. However, after a quick enquiry, the NATO men find that this pair has been sold. The sales clerk gives them a full description of the looks and behavior of the customer who bought it, which Klaus can't help but recognize: "There's only one bugger in the entire universe as stingy as that."

James is happily hanging out clothes to dry on a line when he is interrupted by the arrival of Klaus and his men. Over James' wails of protest, they examine all the underwear (Klaus wearing gloves so he doesn't actually have to touch them), but none of these pairs are the one they're looking for. Klaus demands to know what became of the ones James bought that morning, and James says the Earl's wearing them -- and has departed for Paris.

At M. Gabin's house in Paris, Dorian is attempting to persuade the aging gangster to attend the conference. M. Gabin is reluctant; he'd rather stay at home and watch videos. Dorian tells him that if he comes to the conference he can get a front-row seat watching the political summit, complete with intelligence agents and neo-Nazi terrorists. Gabin is won over by this idea; he decides to go along, with his video camera so he can tape the proceedings.

Before they go, however, Gabin has one request for Dorian: he wants tapes of the old "Superman" TV series, and asks Dorian to steal some for him. Dorian agrees, and leaves in search of the tapes. Gabin begins to pack for the conference, but is startled by the entry of a fed-up-looking Klaus, who orders his men to search the house for the Earl. Gabin explains that Dorian has gone out to steal something, and Klaus storms out again, shouting something about needing the Earl's underwear.

A puzzled M. Gabin relates the whole scene to Dorian upon the latter's return with the videotapes. Dorian is just as baffled as Gabin, especially by the cryptic reference to his underwear. They decide to leave before Klaus comes back.

Klaus, meanwhile, has been checking all the museums in Paris, assuming those to be the most likely locations for Dorian's thieving, but has had no luck. Suddenly, some of the alphabets come rushing up with the news that Dorian has left, flying back to England. Once again, Klaus takes off in pursuit.

Back in the North Downs, it is morning on the day of the summit. An official says that the house has been completely searched, and nothing resembling a bomb has been found; they are assuming that the bomb threat from the terrorists was a bluff. At Dorian's castle, most of the guests have headed over to the mansion to watch the activity surrounding the summit. Dorian has dropped M. Gabin off there to join the festivities, but comes home himself and tells his crew to expect "a very scary guest," who will be arriving shortly.

Right on cue, Klaus turns up and charges into the castle, where the staff direct him to Dorian's room. He stalks in to find Dorian sitting on the bed. [Interestingly, he appears to sleep in a single bed, though with an elaborate canopy and coverlet.] Pointing at Dorian's trousers, Klaus commands in stentorian tones: "Take them off!"

Dorian draws entirely the wrong conclusion from this, and while he's surprised, he is not at all unwilling. Commenting that this is a good place for it, he starts to undress, to be interrupted by Klaus: "No need to take the top off. All I need's the bottom. Hurry up!"

"You really are a direct man. Or are all military men like this?" asks Dorian, but Klaus just tells him not to jabber and threatens to undress Dorian himself if the he doesn't get a move on. Dorian obligingly removes his trousers, and Klaus -- wearing his gloves again -- demands that he hand over his underwear. He passes this to the alphabets, telling them to hurry and decode it; they're running out of time.

"Is that all?" asks the disappointed Dorian. He says that for a moment, he'd thought Klaus had finally decided he wanted to "do it". Klaus boils over at this. Meanwhile, James is pestering the alphabets to let him have the underwear back. Klaus yells at James for delaying the investigation, Dorian snaps at him for having bought the underwear in the first place, and both of them go stomping off in a huff. James resumes his pleas to the beleaguered alphabets.

[Click here to see scanned pages from this scene.]

Meanwhile, the U.S. President and Soviet Prime Minister who are meeting at the summit have arrived at the mansion. The guests at the criminal conference have made their way past the usual security lines, thanks to the lady blackmailer's influence with the CIA, and are watching with interest. Klaus, anxiously awaiting the decoded information on the bomb, sees that Dorian has also arrived.

The world leaders are seated in the library of the mansion, where the vase Klaus earlier mistook for an ashtray, now filled with flowers contributed by the KGB agent, decorates the table in front of them. An alphabet comes running up to Klaus with the results of the decoding. Klaus reads the paper, then turns on the KGB agent in a fury, demanding to know how long ago he put the flowers in the vase. Nonplussed, the KGB man says, "About 30 minutes ago. So what?" Klaus informs them that the flower vase is a plastic bomb, which will explode about 40 minutes after water is put into it.

The KGB and CIA agents are more disposed to quarrel than to take effective action, and finally go running off to consult with their bosses, leaving a frustrated Klaus wondering what is the best way to get the vase out of the room. Dorian, who has wandered up in time to hear all this, offers to steal it. Klaus tells him it's a bomb, not an art object, but Dorian says, "Remember, I'm a professional, too," and Klaus lets him go, not without misgivings.

The President and Prime Minister are engaging in casual chit-chat before the formal summit begins. Behind them, we see Dorian descend the chimney and start to creep toward the table. [Dorian manages to come down a chimney, wearing a light-colored spring suit, and remain spotless. Thieving is far from his only talent.] He has almost reached the table when the two men notice him. Dorian promptly stands up, in full view of the cameras and much to Klaus' horror, and tells the leaders, "I live in a castle nearby. I just dropped in to say hello to you two." Appropriating the vase, Dorian hands each of the confused men a flower, says a few congratulatory words about the summit, scatters the rest of the flowers around the room, and exits, carrying the vase. His criminal cohorts are wildly enthusiastic; the summit personnel utterly baffled.

Dashing out of the house, Dorian meets Klaus and hands the vase off to him. Klaus makes a run for an open area in the mansion's grounds, away from any buildings or people, with Dorian following him. Finally, Klaus hurls the vase as far away as he can, and he and Dorian dive for the ground just as it explodes.

The explosion is heard back at the summit. The KGB and CIA men immediately reassure themselves that any information leaks about the summit's location must have been the fault of NATO. Meanwhile, the criminals excitedly discuss Dorian's appearance on the telecast.

Klaus and Dorian are stretched on the ground, as leaves and grass blown up by the explosion slowly sift down around them. "You really did make a grandstand play, you show-off," complains Klaus. Dorian says, "Couldn't help it, could I? I really like to stand out."

"That's why I hate you, very much..." mutters Klaus, but without his usual vehemence. He drops his head on his arms and lies still. After a minute, Dorian asks, "Major, are you dead?" Klaus, without moving, replies, "Yeah..." "Be dead for awhile, then," says Dorian, and Klaus, before falling asleep completely, tells him, "Wake me in thirty minutes."

We close with Klaus stretched out on the grass, sound asleep, with Dorian keeping watch over him and enjoying the spring breeze: "A spring that is so very dramatic...."

[Click here to see scanned pages from this scene.]


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