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By Margaret Price


Dorian sat in his darkened hospital room, silently staring out at the clear night sky. He thought he had experienced every terror imaginable in his incredibly full life, until this newest terror appeared out of nowhere to threaten him in a way he never expected.

There was a soft knock at the door. “Lord Gloria, you have a visitor,” the nurse said quietly.

“I don’t want to see anyone,” Dorian replied coldly. God, I did not just say that, he thought, closing his eyes against the light spilling in through the open door.

“So, after all these years, you turn me away?”

Dorian jumped at the sound of the familiar voice and opened his eyes to see Klaus taking a seat in the chair near the end of the bed a moment before the door closed and the room was plunged into darkness again. The Earl’s mouth dropped open and he found himself at a loss for words.

“Shall I leave?” Klaus asked calmly.

“How the hell did you know I was here?” Dorian heard himself demanding.

“I may be retired from NATO, but I still have very good sources of information.”

Dorian put a hand to his head, not quite able to take it in. It had been nearly twenty years since he last saw the Major. Has he been keeping tabs on me all that time? “You must do,” he said as he sat up further in bed. “I certainly couldn’t find out anything about you. Everything was classified. All I know is that you got some award for bravery and vanished. I thought you’d either gone into deep cover or fallen off the face of the Earth.”

Dorian suddenly realized he was babbling and stopped, asking, “What the hell are you doing in England?”

Klaus waved a hand in the air. “I’m not here to talk about me,” he said evasively.

“Oh? Does that mean you’re here to talk about me?”

“I understand you had emergency eye surgery,” Klaus said calmly. “I should think that you, of all people, would find that…frightening.”

“Frightening! Major, I found it bloody terrifying!” Dorian snapped.

Klaus nodded. “But it was successful, correct?”

Dorian wished the angry expression on his face wasn’t hidden by the darkened room. He was still afraid to turn on the lights, even on the lowest setting. Afraid that it might damage his eyes somehow, despite his doctor’s reassurances. “I’m not blind, if that’s what you’re asking,” he said coldly.

There was a momentary flash of light as Klaus lit a cigarette.

“You’re not supposed to smoke in here.”

“Call security and have me thrown out, then,” Klaus replied tersely as he closed his lighter with a snap.

Dorian gave an annoyed growl, seeing the end of the cigarette glow red as the German took a drag from it. “Are you disappointed that the surgery failed?” he snapped. “Were you hoping to find me blind and helpless? That something had finally happened to stop me from doing all the things you disapprove of?”

Klaus sat silently waiting for the ranting Earl to finish. “If this is how you are after a success, I’d hate to see what you’d be like if the surgery had failed.”

“Bastard. And you used to call me malicious.”

“What would you’ve done? Huh? Do you know?” Klaus went on. “You say you love beautiful things, but have you ever really looked at them? You fixate on a so-called thing of beauty only to lose interest when something new strikes your fancy.”

Dorian opened his mouth only to close it again. This was true and he knew it.


“I…” Dorian began hesitantly.

“You’ve been trying to steal that damned pumpkin since the day I met you,” Klaus said coldly. “Because you say it’s beautiful. A work of art. A great masterpiece.”

“It is!”

“Describe it.”

Dorian blinked. “Pardon?”

“The painting. Describe it,” Klaus challenged. “You should be able to. You’ve certainly looked at it enough.”

“Major, I haven’t seen ‘The Man In Purple’ in nearly twenty years.”

Klaus gave a derisive snort, taking a puff on his cigarette. “I thought so. All this crap about beautiful things is just talk. Bloody shallow—” He got no further and a small smile came to his face as Dorian started to describe the painting in exacting detail, from the type of wood used in the frame, to the size of the portrait, to the intricate details of the background.

When he finished, Dorian crossed his arms and gave a curt nod. So there.

“So, you do remember,” Klaus said approvingly. “And you didn’t even have to see it, did you?”

“I know what you’re trying to do, Major,” Dorian said coldly.

“Really? And what’s that?”

Dorian heaved a heavy sigh. “Don’t play games with me. Not after all this time.”

Klaus sat back in his chair. “You know I don’t play games, Lord Gloria.”

Dorian gave a mocking laugh. “That’s all you ever did do! Mind games! Spy games! Head games!”

“Reality games?”

A pause. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“I’m trying to make you see that—”

“Trying to make me see!” Dorian interrupted. “Oh, very droll, Major!”

Klaus sighed but did not reply. He could tell there was another tantrum coming on and was not disappointed.

“Do you know the full details of why I’m here?” Dorian asked accusingly, waving a hand in the air. “I expect you do. You know everything, don’t you? Well, I’ll tell you anyway. I was rushed here because I had something called ‘acute angle-closure glaucoma.’ That’s a fancy name for something that can make you go blind within hours.” He drew a deep breath before going on. “You must think it’s very funny.”

“Funny?” came the bewildered reply.

“Yes. Do you know what they call glaucoma? ‘The silent thief of sight.’ Ironic, don’t you think? The best thief in the world having his own sight stolen.” Dorian turned away, a hand going to his mouth. Just the thought of what might have happen brought all his terrors back again.

“I can see this was a waste of time,” Klaus said as he got to his feet. “Have a nice wallow in self pity, Lord Gloria. I never realized you were this good at it.”



Dorian heard the Major moving slowly towards the door and sighed heavily. “Here, let me at least turn on the light so you don’t walk into the door.”

“Don’t bother!” Klaus snapped angrily, his tone startling the Earl. “I’m not afraid of the dark.” He pulled open the door and left without so much as a backward glance.

Dorian sat staring after him. Nice going. He comes to you after all these years and all you can do is argue with him. He gave the mattress a kick and wished he had something to throw across the room. Now he’ll go back to Germany and you’ll never see him again. Bloody marvelous.

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