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From Eroica With Love

The Road to Rome Leads to Fortune

Summary by Mme Cusack

Part I

Dorian, Bonham and James were back in London. Dorian's residence was infested with rats that came along with James and multiplied quickly.

James, freshly determined to sell the fake Cranach to Sabaah, readied himself for the trip to Kuwait. He glued a world map over the painting so that he wouldn't lose his way this time.

Dorian called the Baktzials in Beirut for James to check Sabaah's whereabouts before James set out on the journey. According to Baktzial Jr., Sabaah, who was into Roman antiquity lately, was in Italy looking for a villa with Roman remains. James nagged Dorian to ask for Volovolonte's help in his search for Sabaah. Dorian complied on condition that James would take the rats away with him. Volovolonte gave his word to Eroica that he'd take care of James in Italy.

Like the Pied Piper, James blew on the whistle and all the rats left with him like the ebb tide. The neighborhood cats followed the procession, and the rule of nature replaced the rats with them.

Just as James left, Laurence visited Dorian with an audacious request: Mr. L's friend Mr. M had failed in business and tried to sell the paintings he owned, which proved to be fakes. To help out his friend, Mr. L ordered Laurence to find a way to sell the counterfeits at the highest prices possible, however dirty the means would be. Tricked by the SIS's team play, Dorian found himself agreeing to assist their scheme. In return, however, Dorian demanded a complete house cleaning and repairs of the furniture damaged by rats at the SIS's expense.

Rome. Volovolonte's boys were working hard to locate Sabaah, while Eroica's accountant and cats were basking in the joy of begging by the Colosseum. The Italians found a shady art dealer who had met an Arab who looked for a villa with national cultural remains. The dealer suggested to the billionaire that he should extend the hunting area, since the Roman Empire stretched across the continent; with luck he might be able to find unregistered Roman remains someplace else. Sabaah told him that he would go to his house in Paris.

In Paris, James and the two Italians learned from Sabaah's servant that he had made a lucky find and gone to England. James's trip to Rome and Paris turned out to be a fool's errand. Outraged, he ordered the poor Italians to locate Sabaah's destination in England.

Meanwhile, Eroica, Bonham and Laurence visited the residence of Dr. Eaton, an art historian who presided over "The Fake Salon," an eccentric club whose members cherished counterfeit art works rather than authentic pieces. Dr. Eaton was a famous collector of forgeries. Laurence learned from Dorian that some counterfeit artists' works were popular and could fetch high prices.

Dorian introduced Laurence to Dr. Eaton, who had already found prospective buyers for three of Mr. M's fake paintings. High bids could be anticipated, as they were painted by popular forgers.

Dr. Eaton took Dorian and Laurence to the room where he stored his extensive collection of fakes. Dorian's acumen didn't overlook one authentic Roman relief casually placed among the fakes. He pointed it out to Dr. Eaton, who confided to Dorian that the relief was hidden there at an antique dealer's request.

The Roman relief was smuggled from an excavation site on someone's property in the suburbs of London. Due to the owner's circumstances, neither the site nor excavation work had been reported to the authorities; the owner, whose business had suffered losses, planned to sell the mansion. His realtor suggested a repair of the fountain in the backyard before putting the house on sale. During the repair, they dug up Roman remains underneath the fountain. It was not welcome news for the owner, who was in urgent need of money. If the discovery were known to government, the sale of the house would be suspended for a long time. Therefore, the realtor colluded with an antique dealer, an acquaintance of Dr. Eaton, to dig out all the pieces and sell them secretly. Dr. Eaton whispered to Dorian that the unearthed articles were gathered in one room of the house, where he would be happy to send Dorian.

Eroica saw the trick. The Roman relief was the bait to lure the customers who had an eye for genuine art. Outside Dr. Eaton's residence, Laurence declared that he would expose the illicit sales of national cultural heritage. Dorian advised him to wait until all the fake paintings of Mr. M were sold.

The three headed for the property in question. Through field glasses, Dorian saw Sabaah coming out of the mansion. Evidently he was there to take a look at the Roman remains. Eroica had just decided to frustrate the oil profiteer's impudent plan when they saw James dashing toward the house. Dorian stopped him by throwing an apple at him.

Dorian reminded James that the world map should be removed from the Cranach before James presented it to Sabaah. James found that he had made a mistake of using wrong glue. The painting underneath would come off with the map if he tried to peel it off. It would take some time to get the painting back into the original shape. James sank down to the ground in despair.

His high spirits were recovered quickly, though, the moment Dorian said he was going to steal the unearthed pieces. James beamed at the thought that they could make a fortune by selling them to Sabaah at prices ten times higher than the market values.

Part II

Royce, the owner of the mansion, was vexed by the whole situation and particularly by Minton, the antique dealer who had requested Dr. Eaton to authenticate the finds and was hanging about his residence. All Royce wanted was to sell his house as quickly and possible, but the business of Roman rubbish was wasting time. Minton greeted an aristocrat with long, curly blond hair who came to see the unearthed articles. The room to which Minton guided Dorian was like an archeology classroom, filled with small artifacts with little artistic value. Dorian had to hide his disappointment from the antique dealer, who emphasized the academic importance of the finds from the period of Hadrian. A man called Dr. Lucas popped into the room, and Minton made no attempt to disguise his hostility to him. Lucas was Dr. Eaton's rival and was there to appraise the finds at the request of Sabaah, who wanted to doubly make sure whether they were authentic Roman artifacts or not. Lord Gloria took his leave of them, reflecting that Sabaah had become cautious now, perhaps from the bitter experience of having forgeries palmed off on him.

Dorian went back to the hotel where they were staying until his residence was ridded of the traces of the vermin. He showed the report provided by the art dealer to his crew and Laurence, and gave his opinion that Sabaah wouldn't be interested in those boring articles. An idea flashed into James's mind: get eye-catching, fake Roman antiques from Italy and sell them to Sabaah at outrageous prices as the ones unearthed and stolen from the mansion he was considering buying. James called Volovolonte's men and demanded that they ship some forged antiques to England overnight.

Meanwhile, Laurence decided it was his duty as an SIS agent to forestall Sabaah's attempt to take national cultural heritages out of England. He made an anonymous call to Sabaah at his hotel room and warned him that he mustn't buy any of the pieces from the mansion's backyard, because they were really all fakes, whatever experts thought of them. Dr. Lucas happened to be there to explain to Sabaah his opinion on the artifacts from the property. Lucas said the call could be a check from another person interested in the finds, as he had met a young aristocrat called Lord Gloria at Royce's house. Sabaah started at Eroica's name and his involvement. However, the moronic caller who simply repeated that the finds were fakes didn't quite sound like an accomplice of Eroica. Sabaah decided that the warning could be ignored.

Next day, Dorian visited Dr. Eaton's residence at the art historian's request. He was shown a beautiful old cameo and asked what he thought of it. In excitement, Dorian asserted that it was from Ancient Rome, which pleased the scholar, because the cameo was actually an excellent counterfeit from the Renaissance period. Eaton asked Dorian for a bewildering favor: he wanted Eroica to sneak into the Royce residence and place the cameo among the dug-out articles, so that Lucas would make the error of authenticating it as an art work of Ancient Rome, which would give Eaton a chance to mock his rival. Dorian warned him that such an attempt would make all the other pieces look dubious, including those Dr. Eaton had authenticated himself, and that it would obstruct the business of the art dealer who had commissioned Eaton in the first place. The scholar, engrossed in the idea of gloating over Lucas's mistake, didn't care. Dorian agreed to do it if Dr. Eaton helped him sell a fake 'Judgment of Paris' as a true Cranach (Bonham had painstakingly removed the paper from the painting). Eaton promised that he'd guarantee its authenticity and cook up a plausible origin and history for it.

Laurence came to Dorian's hotel to tell him that Mr. M's paintings had been sold successfully, and caught sight of James, who was sneaking around struggling with a crate. Laurence was easily drawn into James's stupid plan: go to Royce's excavation site under cover of darkness, bury the fakes from Italy there, have them unearthed, steal them, then sell them to Sabaah as genuine antiques.

Night fell. There were three intruders in Royce's property: Bonham, who put the cameo in the collection room, and James and Laurence, who buried the fakes and trod down the earth over them.

Laurence remembered his call to Sabaah the day before, and thought he had better undo the warning. He rang the Kuwaiti again, telling that the information given the previous day was wrong, and that all the finds from Royce's backyard were genuine. After a moment, Sabaah asked the caller if he was Eroica's accomplice. Laurence's flustered denial convinced Sabaah that the person at least had some connection with Eroica. Sabaah made up his mind to meet his old enemy and find out what he was up to.

Next day at the Royce, Minton greeted Earl of Gloria, accompanied by Bonham, James and Laurence. Dr. Eaton was also there. He excitedly whispered to Dorian that Lucas was already taken in. They went into the collection room, where Lucas was raving to Sabbah about how valuable the Roman cameo was. Dorian ran away from the room at the sight of Sabaah. Sabaah went after and caught him, far away enough that their voices couldn't be heard by the others; he hissed to Eroica that he wouldn't escape if he had a clean conscience. Eroica explained to Sabaah that he didn't want to get involved in the quarrel between the two scholars. Sabaah threatened to turn Eroica over to the police; Eroica retorted that he'd report the Roman remains to the authorities so that the Kuwaiti's plan would end in vain. The two glared at each other until Eaton came and dragged them back to Lucas, demanding that they both witness his rival's misjudgment of the cameo.

Minton burst into the room, exclaiming that quantities of artistic pieces had been found on the site. The two scholars hurried to the backyard. Royce and his wife were devastated at the accursed discovery. Dorian frowned dubiously at James and Laurence, who remained uncharacteristically quiet at the sensational news. Eaton and Lucas announced that the materials the newly found pieces were made from showed that they were counterfeits recently fabricated in Italy, not genuine Roman artifacts. Minton added that he knew this kind of junk was commonly sold in Italy. James and Laurence scurried away from the scene, and Dorian and Bonham pretended not to notice.

The backyard was thrown into confusion. Sabaah said that if they were fakes, all the other pieces must be reexamined thoroughly. Lucas scoffed at Eaton's authentication. In return, Eaton revealed the fact that Lucas couldn't distinguish the counterfeit of the Renaissance period from the Roman pieces. Lucas blamed his rival for plotting a childish trap against him. Minton urged them to find the culprit who buried the fakes, for it could have been harassment by another antique dealer.

Royce lost all patience with the farce. He bawled at them to throw every piece back into the holes, bury them, and restore the backyard as it had been. He had quite enough of Roman remains and antique art.

Sabaah stopped Dorian outside the Royce mansion and asked if it was Eroica's doing. Dorian laughed it off and said he would have done better. Sabaah said that, as he had lost interest in the jinxed property, he would go back to Kuwait and work on a new scheme. Dorian didn't miss the opportunity; he told the Kuwaiti that a tough customer like Sabaah shouldn't leave England empty-handed, and that he could sell him an authentic 'Judgment of Paris.' Sabaah was distrustful at first, but was eventually persuaded by Eroica's sales pitch.

Back in their hotel room, James burst into tears and wailed at Dorian that he shouldn't have sold the painting at market value. Dorian called Volovolonte to thank him for the favors he did for James in Rome. Volovolonte took pity on Eroica, who was obliged to live in the hotel, and invited them to Rome, adding that his boys were also looking forward to seeing Eroica's accountant again. James was torn between the fear of the retaliation of the abused Mafia underlings and the expectation of an extravagant vacation in Italy. He clung to Dorian's back, begging for his forgiveness and protection. Dorian assured that he wouldn't desert him regardless of what he did in the past or would do in the future. He stroked Jame's hair gently.

"I love you, Mr. James. Let's go to Rome together."

Royce's mansion was soon sold. The current residents of the house don't even know that there are Roman remains buried in their back garden.


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"The Road to Rome" summary copyright Mme Cusack.