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From Eroica With Love #2

Iron Klaus


The story opens at the West German NATO headquarters in Bonn. Major Klaus Heinz von dem Eberbach has just been assigned a mission by his Chief. After the Major leaves, a bit of expository dialogue tells us that he is a highly competent intelligence officer with an aristocratic background, known as "Iron Klaus" and much feared by agents on the Eastern side.

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

The Major issues orders to his subordinates, agents A and B. [These appear to be early versions of the A and B we see in later volumes but, interestingly, the curly-haired one is addressed as A, the straight- haired one as B. Looking ahead, this also seems to be the case in story #3, but by #4 the two have traded places, reason unknown.] He tells Mr A to contact London University, saying he'd like to have Caesar Gabriel identify the Eberbach family's art pieces.

We see that the Major has been ordered to fly to London and check out Caesar Gabriel. A report from a British agent says that Caesar may have extrasensory powers, and the Major's mission is to find out whether this is true and whether Caesar's abilities present any dangers that NATO intelligence needs to worry about.

The Major departs for his home, being driven by Mr B. En route, a Lamborghini Miura zooms past them. The Major remarks that he dislikes anybody who would drive that kind of car. "Only a frivolous narcissist would buy it." (He himself is in a highly respectable Benz.)

Arriving at Schloss Eberbach, the Major and Mr B see the Lamborghini parked outside. The butler informs them that an English man has arrived to view the Eberbach collection. [In this frame, there is a maidservant standing beside the butler. This is the only time I know of that we see a woman among the staff at Schloss Eberbach.]

Klaus enters a room hung with numerous paintings, where he finds Dorian in rapt contemplation of The Man in Purple. Klaus orders Mr B to prepare the art items he has listed, which they will take to the West German embassy in England. He and Dorian then introduce themselves, Klaus referring to himself as "the present head of the Eberbach family, a German branch of the Hapsburgs." Dorian calls him "Klaus Heinz", but Klaus responds "Just call me 'Major'," ignoring Dorian's proffered hand. Dorian isn't going to put up with being snubbed, and he grabs Klaus's hand and shakes it anyway. A certain air of mutual antagonism has become evident.

Dorian compliments Klaus on the art collection, and especially on The Man in Purple -- a portrait of Klaus's look-alike ancestor Tyrian Persimmon, who is featured in Aoike's manga El Alcon. Dorian's attempts to chat about the painting are greeted with "Be quiet. I'm busy," from the Major. Dorian then announces, "I want this painting."

Klaus is offended, saying that the Eberbach collection is a cultural inheritance of the nation. He admits he knows the value of that painting: "I could buy a Leopard tank with it." Dorian is horrified that anyone could think of trading such a work of art for "a mass of iron", and the two of them agree that they have totally different value systems.

Dorian calls Klaus a "model officer", and comments that he rather likes military uniforms: "They make me think of an abstinent beauty of a man... Of the passion hidden inside... It has a certain erotic beauty that makes one want to strip off the uniform that's worn so neatly."

Klaus, predictably, doesn't take kindly to this. He glares and says he has no wish for Dorian to strip off his uniform. Dorian says he doesn't care for a man who's like wire rope. But he still wants the painting...

The battle lines are drawn: Klaus says he'll never let a man like Dorian have anything he owns, for any amount of money. Dorian says his principle is to get what he wants, no matter from whom. They exchange a long glare, then Klaus tells Dorian to get out, and slams the door behind him. They are both furious and fuming. Klaus orders Mr B to bring The Man in Purple to London with them as well, fearing that Dorian might return while he's gone.

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

On a plane headed back to England, Dorian's men report on their investigation of Klaus, saying that he's the number one NATO intelligence agent and "a really tough guy." Dorian doesn't care; he says, "I will get that painting, and I will break that proud German nose of his!"

James is upset about their going to London, fearing that if they do, Dorian will meet Caesar again. Dorian reflects that it's been six months since they last met, and wonders whether Caesar has forgotten him.

At London University, Caesar is lecturing to his classes as usual (surreptitiously observed by Klaus), and thinking wistfully about Dorian. Leopard and Sugar are on holiday in Scotland, but they suddenly contact Caesar by telepathy. Sugar has had a premonition that Caesar is in danger and the two of them are heading back to London right away. They warn Caesar not to "go off with strange men." Just then, a car pulls up in front of him and a man steps out and identifies himself as being from the West German embassy, saying they've come to take Caesar there to identify the art pieces. Caesar accompanies them, only realizing after he's in the car that he's done just what Sugar & Leopard warned him not to do.

At the West German embassy Caesar is greeted by Klaus, who explains that he is the owner of the art pieces to be identified. Caesar remarks on the heavy guard in the building, but Klaus says it's standard procedure for such an important collection. Caesar is delighted with the paintings. When Klaus asks him how long it will take him to identify the pieces, he replies "About 30 minutes." Klaus is disconcerted and refuses to believe this, telling Caesar not to make fun of his elders. Caesar then boosts the estimate to three hours. He looks at one painting and immediately states that it's by Jakob Zeisenegger. Klaus confirms that this is correct.

Caesar realizes that Klaus already knows the provenance of the art pieces and doesn't really need them identified. He also hears a couple of the alphabets muttering about "E.S.P", thinks of all the guards, and accuses Klaus of using him as a guinea pig. As Caesar's consternation mounts (he's working up to another attack of hysterics), Klaus tells him "All right! You are a guinea pig!" The hysterics materialize, but Klaus just says "Shut him up," and a subordinate obligingly claps a hand over Caesar's mouth. Klaus explains that their investigation of Caesar's paranormal abilities is important research and has military value, and tells him to go on with the identification. He adds, threateningly, "Don't ever underestimate me, Caesar." Caesar issues a telepathic call for help to his friends, who tell him to hold on until they can get there.

Dorian has Mr James deliver a note to Klaus at the embassy. It reads: "From Eroica with love, to my dear Major: I am going to take your 'cultural inheritance of the nation' tonight. Watch out. Eroica." Klaus flies into a fury, berates the hapless subordinate who brought in the note, and demands the file on Eroica. He orders his men to put the heaviest possible guard around the embassy, telling them "Eroica's coming to steal our national art!"

Caesar unguardedly expresses his delight: "The Earl? He's coming here?" Klaus is about to pounce on this when they are interrupted by the arrival of Tarao Bannai, who is no saner than he was in the last story. He bounds in, announces that he will catch Eroica, tries to arrest Caesar, and finally dashes out again after Klaus threatens him.

Klaus demands to know what sort of acquaintance Caesar has with the Earl. Caesar responds: "I... I like him..." Klaus is not impressed, ignores Caesar's pleas to let him stay and see Eroica, and tells Mr F to take him away and interrogate him. Caesar is borne out, shrieking. Klaus continues to order troops stationed around the embassy; some of his men suggest that it seems like a bit much for "a petty art thief," but Klaus says anyone who objects will be sent to Alaska. He looks at The Man in Purple and thinks threatening thoughts in Dorian's direction: "Nobody's ever survived once he's hated by me. That's your mistake, Earl of Gloria. I will catch you." [Klaus and Dorian quickly establish a pattern of addressing each other in thought this way.]

The embassy is surrounded by armed NATO soldiers. Caesar, being bullied by alphabets, tells Leopard and Sugar to hurry. They've arrived in London and are approaching the embassy when Sugar senses danger. It materializes in the form of Tarao Bannai and his assistants. He accuses Sugar and Leopard of being Eroica, arrests them, and hauls them off to Interpol headquarters.

Inside the embassy, Klaus's suspicions are aroused by a helicopter which is circling around the building. Dorian orders his men to start the operation and the helicopter releases anesthetic gas, which quickly knocks out the troops outside the embassy and permeates into the building. Klaus is the last one to be overcome; as he struggles to stay awake, Dorian arrives and taunts him about the painting. Klaus is unable to do more than sputter a few insults and threats before losing consciousness. Dorian and his men collect The Man in Purple and depart.

Back at his castle, Dorian admires the painting and once again criticizes Klaus's preference for a mass of iron. Mr James says it makes him think of a mass of money, and Dorian tells him he's an incredible creature as well. "I don't need to be credible," says James. [And how fortunate for him that is.] He is upset because Dorian has sent a man to London University to check on Caesar. The fellow returns and reports that Caesar was taken to the West German embassy to identify some art pieces, and hasn't been seen since then. Dorian realizes that Caesar must have been in the building while the raid was going on, and is concerned about his being in the power of a man like the Major.

At Interpol headquarters in Amsterdam, Leopard and Sugar are fruitlessly attempting to convince Tarao Bannai of their innocence. He tells them the embassy is claiming that Eroica didn't show up the previous night, and this reinforces his conviction that the teens are Eroica. Caesar tells them, however, that Eroica did come and steal the painting, but that the embassy people are hiding the truth to save face.

Klaus, who is not in a good mood, is trying to get information on Eroica from Caesar, who denies any knowledge of the Earl's whereabouts. A subordinate comes in and summons Klaus to a communications room, where he takes a phone call from Dorian. Dorian proposes a trade: the painting in exchange for Caesar. Klaus refuses the deal: "You've insulted me by taking what's important to me. Now, it's my turn to take what's important to you." Dorian says that in that case, he'll just snatch what he wants.

The alphabets have traced the call from Dorian, and Klaus sends them to check out the source. Meanwhile, he plans to take Caesar to Bonn, over the latter's protests. Caesar begs Leopard and Sugar to help him, but they say they can't get away from Tarao Bannai.

Klaus takes Caesar and departs for Bonn, observed by Dorian's men who are watching the embassy. On the plane, Klaus receives a report that his men found the Earl's place empty, and Klaus realizes that there may be trouble ahead.

They land at a military base in Germany, where a group of men is waiting to take charge of Caesar. One of them introduces himself as Lieutenant Colonel Otto Reinevalt. He wears a trench coat with the collar turned up and his hat pulled low, so his face is not clearly visible. Klaus becomes suspicious and demands that he remove his hat. The man protests, but Klaus, no respecter of rank, knocks it off. The Lt Col. is revealed as a bald man; he says he didn't have time to put on his toupee that morning. Klaus lets him leave with Caesar, but just as they are walking away another uniformed man comes running up, shouting "They're Eroica's men! I'm Lieutenant Colonel Reinevalt!" Before Klaus can react, the newcomer punches the bald man, grabs Caesar, and runs. In the process, his hair spills out from under his hat, revealing him as Dorian. Klaus and his men set out in pursuit, but the fleeing pair reach Dorian's Lamborghini and drive off, crashing through the gates of the base. Now Klaus is really angry, thinking "I'll follow you no matter where, Earl of Gloria!"

In the car, Dorian complains about the stuffiness of the uniform and quickly removes it; he's wearing one of his sleeveless shirts underneath. Caesar, leaning against him, is on the verge of passing out. Dorian contacts James, who is in a helicopter, by radio and orders him to come pick them up. Just then, there is an explosion which barely misses the car. Dorian realizes that they are being pursued and fired on by Klaus in a Leopard B-1 tank which he has commandeered from the base. It is a new model engineered for one-man operation (and, evidently, unusually high speed), and Klaus continues to chase the car on the Autobahn, taking occasional practice shots at it. [He doesn't hit it, which leaves open the question of whether he was actually trying to. Makes some nasty potholes on the highway, though.]

We get a brief glimpse of Leopard and Sugar; the latter is having a sudden psychic vision of a tank chasing a car on the Autobahn. Tarao Bannai tells her she's been reading too many silly girls' comics. This, by the way, is the last we ever see of Leopard, Sugar, or Tarao Bannai.

Dorian continues to flee from the tank, telling his men on the radio that he's headed for the North Sea. He and Klaus are thinking at each other again, and it seems to be turning into something of a mutual admiration society: "So, you're escaping into the North Sea? You're doing pretty well, Earl of Gloria." "Major, you're wonderful. But I won't surrender either."

Dorian reaches the rocky shore of the North Sea and drives over a lightweight bridge onto a small, barren island. Just as he reaches it, the car is damaged by another shot from the tank and comes to a stop. Klaus follows him over the bridge, but only just makes it to the island before the bridge collapses behind him -- it wasn't designed to handle tanks. He gets out to investigate, and is greeted by Dorian with a gun. Rather than threatening Klaus, though, Dorian leaps into the tank and shoots out the radio, preventing Klaus from contacting his men. He then drops the gun and tells Klaus that they're both stranded, on an equal footing. They both have subordinates heading for the island, and the first one rescued will be the winner.

The weather is cold, windy, and damp. Caesar, not exactly resilient at the best of times, is about to collapse. Klaus suggests he get in the tank, as it has a heating unit. As an afterthought, he tells Dorian (who is shivering a bit in his sleeveless shirt) that he can come in as well. This brings us to...

The Tank Scene:
The three of them are in the tank, which Dorian remarks doesn't seem to be getting warm at all. Klaus discovers that Dorian's shots broke the heating unit as well as the radio. ("Sorry, I'm pretty bad with machines," says Dorian.) It's quite chilly in the tank and Dorian, who is holding Caesar, asks Klaus to take off his uniform tunic. Klaus's initial reaction is a bit paranoid: "Are you trying to strip me and rape me!?" But Dorian explains that he just wants it to wrap around Caesar, and Klaus grudgingly complies, not without passing a few comments on Caesar's general wimpiness.

Dorian decides the tunic isn't enough, and wants Klaus to sit close to the two of them to keep Caesar warm. Dorian and Klaus wind up sitting together, with Caesar -- who is probably only semiconscious, and at any rate is silent and quite inconsequential during this entire scene -- huddled down between them. The two of them have their arms around each other to surround him, but Klaus keeps his hands stiffly extended, refusing to actually hold onto Dorian. They are both glaring and pointedly avoid looking at each other.

After a while, the silence becomes rather unnerving. Klaus suggests that they talk about something. ("Avoid indecent subjects.") Dorian offers to sing a love ballad, but Klaus vetoes both that and Dorian's next offer of the German national anthem. Dorian tells him he's fussy and suggests that Klaus sing something. (They are still deliberately not looking at each other.) Rather surprisingly, Klaus agrees: he sings the Panzerlied, a very lyrical WWII German tank force song. Dorian is intrigued, and watches Klaus with interest as he sings. When he finishes, Dorian says he's heard the song in war movies, and Klaus replies that his father, a tank commander, used to sing it all the time.

"You really like a mass of iron, don't you?" marvels Dorian. Klaus agrees, and adds: "Well, my lord, you told me you like beautiful things. The color of highly polished steel is also a very beautiful thing, you know."

Dorian hears this with a look of wide-eyed wonder -- it's obviously a whole new idea to him, and it instantly changes his perspective on Klaus. He says he likes the song, and asks Klaus to sing it again, which Klaus willingly does. While he sings, Dorian thinks: "Major, you who find beauty in the color of steel may be as big a dreamer as I am. You're wonderful, Major. Really wonderful..."

Dorian rests his head against Klaus's shoulder. Klaus immediately protests, saying he's not singing a lullaby. Dorian doesn't move; he says, "It's the very first time I've been chased by a tank, you know. I'm tired." Klaus gripes a bit more, but Dorian tells him to "shut up and cope," and settles happily against him, ignoring Klaus's threats to put him under arrest when the other NATO agents arrive. We see a picture of the three of them: Caesar slumped down and almost invisible, Dorian leaning against Klaus, arms around him and his head nestled on Klaus's shoulder, and Klaus staring straight ahead, looking resigned and really not all that put out. And now, rather than having his hands extended as before, he has his arms wound around Dorian and is holding him as closely as Dorian is holding Klaus.

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

This charming tableau is interrupted by the sound of a helicopter: rescue is arriving. It turns out to be a military copter with agents A and B aboard. Klaus says they'll take Caesar to a hospital, and bring Dorian along with them as well. Mr B tells him the helicopter will only take four people -- one will have to stay behind. Dorian offers to stay, and Klaus agrees, saying "As soon as he's hospitalized, I'll be back to arrest you." [It seems to me that if our intrepid NATO agent really wanted to arrest him, he would simply have had A or B stay behind on the island, taking Dorian with him then and there -- especially since he already knew Dorian's followers were on the way.]

Klaus orders Mr B to take off his overcoat and gives it to Dorian, who thanks him politely. Klaus can't resist making one more snide remark about Dorian's "flashy clothes". As he turns to leave, Dorian tells him, "I think a tank is a really nice thing, too. I think I like it." Klaus responds, "Then guard it well so nobody can steal it. But I don't think anybody fancies to."

As the helicopter flies off, we see Dorian sitting cheerfully on the tank, wearing Mr B's overcoat, and thinking: "Did you forget, Major? I am a very fanciful man..."

In the helicopter, Caesar wakes up and asks where the Earl is. Klaus says he's waiting back on the island. Caesar suddenly starts begging him to go back, insisting that the Earl is leaving. At first Klaus thinks this is ridiculous, but he recalls how devious Dorian is and how he's on that island with the precious Leopard tank. Klaus orders his men to fly back to the island at once.

They arrive at the island to find Dorian and the tank gone. In the distance, they spot a tanker ship and realize that Dorian has taken the tank away on it. [And don't ask me how he managed to load it, or why he had a tanker ship conveniently waiting around in the first place...] Klaus bellows at Mr B to chase after the tanker in the helicopter, but Mr B says it doesn't have enough fuel. Caesar whimpers because the Earl has left him again. Mr A returns from searching the island, having found The Man in Purple and a note left for Klaus: "My dearest Major: I liked your Leopard tank very much, so I decided to take it with me. In exchange, I'm returning your painting of equal value. Please take good care of Caesar. I wish you'd teach him some of your 'virility'. Eroica"

Klaus is torn between being aghast, irate, and admiring, thinking "What a man..." He declares that if Dorian's obsession is to pursue beauty, his own obsession will be to hunt down and catch Dorian. Just then, Mr B informs him that the tanker ship is flashing a semaphore message. It reads: "FROM EROICA WITH LOVE GOOD LUCK." Klaus grumbles, saying "He even left me with this brat to take care of!" (Caesar is still sniveling.) Klaus then tells Mr B to send a reply. Mr B, knowing his commander, asks "Shall it be 'IDIOT GO TO HELL' then?" But Klaus, staring out at the tanker, says "No -- 'GOOD LUCK.' Damn it!"

On the tanker, Dorian's crew is asking whether he's sure it's safe to leave Caesar behind. Dorian replies, "Major Eberbach is a trustworthy man. I believe him." James says that Dorian's trademark is supposed to be beauty and eroticism, and complains about having to transport the large and unwieldy tank. But Dorian gazes fondly at the tank, thinking "It's something the Major loves so much. If you look at it closely, you can see the beauty he saw in it..." He muses on the possibility of meeting Klaus again.

Back home at Schloss Eberbach, Klaus completes his report on Caesar Gabriel. It says that there is no evidence of Caesar's possessing paranormal ability. He tells Caesar, who is evidently still in his custody, that Leopard and Sugar have been released by Interpol. Caesar is looking at The Man in Purple, back in its accustomed place, and says that it really is a wonderful painting. Klaus stares at it himself, thinking that he's never really looked closely at it before, and wondering whether he values it as much as the tank after all. "I guess it must be really good, since that Earl was so devoted to it. And maybe I... Well, I don't know."


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