FEET OF CLAY
By Margaret Price
Feet of clay: a weakness or hidden flaw in the character of a greatly admired or respected person.
The man had jumped out into the road so quickly that Dorian scarcely had time to avoid hitting him. He slammed on the brakes, swerved, and nearly skidded off the road. Once he recovered enough from the shock of what had almost happened, the Earl was out of the car, looking back at the lunatic he had almost run over.
“Are you trying to get yourself killed?” the Earl demanded, completely forgetting that he was in Germany and should have said this in German. Not that it mattered, as the man in the road replied in English.
“You should watch where you’re goin’!”
Oh, bugger, a Yank, Dorian thought with a groan. Then it occurred to him to wonder what the man was doing out in the middle of nowhere. He ceased to wonder as another man came up behind him and held a gun to his head.
“We need a ride, Blondie,” another American voice growled in his ear.
“In my car, I assume,” the Earl said calmly as he held up his hands.
“Hey! You catch on quick!”
Not too great a leap. Dorian wisely kept this thought to himself.
“You’re drivin’, Blondie,” the man in the road said as he came over to the car.
“Am I, indeed?”
The man behind the Earl grabbed him by the hair and yanked his head back. “And don’t try anything funny, like drivin’ to the police.”
“Do I sound like a local to you?” the Earl asked logically. “I have no idea where the local police are,” he then lied.
The man behind him apparently looked to the other man for guidance. He received a nod and then shoved the Earl back towards the car. “Take us wherever you’re goin’. And no tricks.”
Dorian got back into the car, throwing a nervous glance at the two individuals as they got in, one in the front, one in the back. They were wearing military fatigues and he frowned. Stolen uniforms or AWOL soldiers? Then he wished he could think of an excuse to turn around. The only thing at the end of the road was the Major’s cabin.
“You got food, Blondie?” the man with the gun asked.
“There’s fresh food in the boot,” Dorian replied as he pulled the car back onto the road.
“In the what? Damn, you Brits talk funny.”
“He means the trunk, Charlie. Don’t you know anything?” the man in the back seat sneered.
“Ha, ha, ha,” came the sardonic reply. “Just cuz you spent time in England doesn’t make you an expert, Frank.”
“I know more than you!” Frank snorted.
Dorian drew a deep breath and told himself to ignore them. Let them fight amongst themselves. That way they’d leave him alone. With any luck, Klaus would arrive early and beat the shit out of the pair of them.
* * *
For the first time in nearly ten years, Dorian wasn’t pleased to see the cabin appear in the distance. He and Klaus had been able to keep their relationship from the world, meeting in secret every few months and then returning to business as usual. It was Dorian and Klaus at the cabin; Eroica and the Major to the world. Dorian treasured every second he spend in the remote location alone with the man he adored. Now these bloody Yanks had gone and intruded on their private sanctuary. Damn them.
Dorian pulled up to the cabin and started to turn the car around.
“Just park it,” Charlie ordered.
“I thought you might want it backed in,” the Earl said innocently.
“So you could leave faster. It’ll be easier than backing out,” the Earl replied logically. And it will let Klaus know that someone’s here.
“Good thinkin’, Blondie,” Frank said, giving Charlie a smug look. “See, he’s smarter than you, too, Charlie.”
Again, Dorian told himself not to get annoyed as he backed the car into position and then popped the trunk, startling the pair.
“What the hell…?” Charlie gasped.
Dorian gave him an innocent look. “I thought you wanted food.”
“Yeah. Right, food.”
Frank started to snicker and Charlie shot him an annoyed look.
“Shut up and get the bags, Frank.”
“Why me?” Frank protested.
“’Cause I got the gun!”
Dorian got out and went to the cabin door to unlock it, pushing it open and sighing heavily. Bugger, I wish I hadn’t come early today. He walked back to the car, leaning in to get some of the bags out. As he did, he slipped the long white scarf from around his neck and allowed it to drop to the ground. Then he picked up the bags and led the way into the house. Frank followed with the other bags of food.
The Earl led the way to the kitchen, placing the bags on the table. He noticed Charlie had put the gun into his belt so he could use both hands to rifle through the contents of the bags.
Dorian just stepped back and let the men ransack his groceries before putting away what was left. Anything to waste time. He cleared his throat as the pair started to devour their food.
“I say, you chaps don’t mind if I light the fire, do you? It can get rather cold at night.”
The pair exchanged glances and shrugged. Dorian took this as a yes and went to the fireplace, lighting a small fire. He could always add to it later, he thought. Something that would make it smoke like the devil.
He turned to look at the men that he would later learn were indeed AWOL soldiers from the Geilenkirchen Air Base. He wondered how long it had been since they had last eaten. They seemed to be ravenous. He caught himself on the verge of asking and decided against it. The less he knew the better. Just feed them, let them steal the car, and wait for Klaus to arrive.
* * *