The day was slowly going through its drawn-out death, and the last of the golden and purple light streamed in through the tall windows of Castle Eberbach. Klaus looked up from the contemplation of the notebook in front of him, a silent, weary sadness in his eyes. The notebook was a thick, calf-bound volume, its gold-embossed cover bearing the word "diary" in elegant cursive calligraphy.
Klaus sighed, then he dipped his fountain pen--it had been his grandfather's, and his father had given it to him the day of his graduation--into the tiny ink-bottle, and started to write:
My New Year resolution this time is to finally find a way to permanently eliminate that annoying Limey nuisance Eroica from my life. To organise my campaign better, I will proceed to implement a series of successive plans in an orderly manner, which I will execute one after another in sequence, until I reach my goal. I will observe either directly or through our newest long-distance surveillance devices, and report my results here as I proceed.
Klaus carefully blotted the blue-black writing, then closed the diary; he cleaned the pen's nib and replaced it into its velvet case; screwed the lid back on the blue-black ink-bottle, and finally put all three items away into the first drawer to the left of his desk. He leaned back onto the straight-backed chair, and lit a cigarette, his lighter gleaming a dull reddish-gold as the boar crest caught the last rays of the setting sun. As he leisurely blew a few rings of smoke into the air, Klaus looked at the creamy leaf of paper that was the only thing left on the clean desk. Once again he mouthed the words on his list, savouring the fullness of the vowels as a slow, scary smile chillingly lit his features in the now sunless dusk. Anaconda. Boulder. Cabin…
the anaconda-plan did not work. How was I supposed to know that the little miser routinely opens all gift packages sent to Eroica in order to save the wrapping paper and reuse it? What makes this failure all the more annoying is that I did not even manage to get rid of the stingy bug. He took a good look at the snake, screamed: "FREE hand-bag AND shoes AND overcoat!" and went on to bite the anaconda, which immediately died. At least the damn perverted fop had the good taste to look disgusted at his subordinate. I will presently move on to the next action item in my elimination plans.
Note to self: remember to tell the Alphabets that the little miser's bite is poisonous, just in case.
another defeat. Despite all my meticulous calculations, I failed to consider that Eroica's average speed when strolling leisurely in the rock garden on his estate's grounds depends greatly on his footwear. My measurements having been taken when Eroica was wearing high heels, I calculated his median speed to be lower than what it actually was on the occasion: therefore the boulder that should have hit him on the head missed him by two metres and forty-five centimetres, hitting the man Bonham instead. I do have to try again to recruit Bonham for NATO, as his head is--remarkably--even harder than Agent B's. In fact, Bonham was unconscious only for one minute and thirty-seven seconds, and scarcely necessitated medical assistance outside of a rather large ice-pack.
I thought I could trust a colleague, but I was sadly mistaken. The Cabin is, after all, a prominent fellow character in a distressingly large amount of those blasted fanfictions, together with assorted providential snowstorms, cute cats, and cosy, romantic fireplaces. So, thinking of the Cabin as a co-worker, I asked for its collaboration. All it had to do was look especially romantic, so that Eroica would want to spend the night there (I had sent him a free plane ticket to the Cabin's mountain location, trusting the stingy bug to force his master to use it). Great-grandfather Helmut's elephant trap from Africa would have done the rest; or so I thought.
I should have realised that since the Cabin felt the same way I did about those fanfictions, it would use the occasion to extract its revenge on the authors of all those wretched scribblings! The Cabin, however, really managed to wreck my plans by having a paroxism of rage at the fans, which caused it to implode into a black hole, taking with it cats, fireplace and great-grandfather Helmut's trap. I understand it being utterly fed up, and cannot entirely blame the Cabin--but couldn't the blasted thing have waited to implode until Eroica had stepped into it?
Note to self: remember to forward the Semtex-laced letters to the fan authors in the black list, as per the Cabin's Last Will and Testament.
Dorian--the Antimatter Version
I really would like to know why all NATO contractors are such exasperating sods. Our new collaborator, Herr Professor Crowley, had guaranteed me that he could produce a perfectly functioning anti-matter version of Eroica. On the meeting of the two versions, they would painlessly annihilate each other, with the additional advantage of the release of a large quantity of energy, which could greatly help the German Internal Gross Product, due to the savings in the production of electrical power. It seems that Herr Crowley's calculations were sadly, and vastly, mistaken: Nairodstein, the anti-matter version of Eroica, was a mis-shapen monster in platform boots who immediately started to babble about "a mate". The damn forehead-scarred monster took a fancy to me, of all people; and after I shot him he became extremely upset with his creator. Last I heard of them, Nairodstein was pursuing Herrn Professor Crowley across the Arctic wastes of Alaska. What else could one expect from sinister British scientists?
Eau de Cologne
I had thought that trying to beat the pervert at his own game would work, but it seems I was mistaken once again. I am starting to become slightly irritated. I blame most of this failure on Agent G, who could not keep his cover as an Avon door-to-door vendeuse. Eroica suspected immediately that the special offer of a barrel of Free Eau de Cologne "Rose Essence" hid something suspicious, and had the stingy bug taste the liquid. I am rather amazed at the capacity of the disgusting miser's digestive tube to resist third degree acid burns.
PS: Agent G sent a horribly foppish postcard from Alaska. I must remember to burn it in front of the other alphabets, so that they do not get the misguided idea that the office notice board is in need of more decoration.
I am ashamed to say that German technology is not what it used to be. I paid a disproportionate sum for the latest Krupp model of Flame-thrower, the Megafeuerblitz500, guaranteed for 99 years. It is a beauty: a light, yet capacious fuel tank, wearable either on the shoulders or with a handle, if one feels like shooting it one-handed; 10.000 Gigacal flame reaching the temperature of melting steel; 500 metres range and a 500% accuracy … Were Eroica as fast as that stupid American running bird, I should have caught him.
However, somehow the Krupp Megafeuerblitz500 malfunctioned. Not only the explosion made my ears ring for a whole week, but also all I succeeded in doing was removing all my body hair (thank God for the helmet, or I would be bald too). And worse of it all, I had Eroica pester me about the interesting and fashionable way I had "done my eyebrows", and was I thinking of David Bowie in his Ziggy period, whatever that means. Not to mention how the mechanical moron managed to use the Megafeuerblitz500 to light himself a cigarette, with no problems whatsoever.
Once my body hair has decently re-grown, I will personally visit the Krupp headquarters, and show them how the damn thing misbehaved.
Fight fire with fire. Metaphorically, this time. After the Krupp headquarters explosion, I would rather not be too literal. But I thought that one foppish pervert might eliminate another, so I sent Agent G on a mission to seduce Eroica. They would spend their time doing whatever perverted filthy acts they like best, and leave me alone. I was ready to ply G through threats and appeals to his sense of patriotism and self-sacrifice, but that part was surprisingly easy. All I had to say was, "a secret need-to-know operation requires you to seduce Lord Gloria", and he was already on the phone to order a new pink dress, as indecently low cut as possible.
Perfect--except for the stingy bug. I am wondering whether I should enlarge my elimination plans to include the pest: but I would have to find his whereabouts first, I am afraid. And G's. You see, Sir, once Agent G started his mission, and Eroica gave some signs of interest, Mr. James became acutely hostile to my man. The cat-fight was most interesting and enjoyable--what was much less enjoyable, and acutely disgusting, was the way the two little sods moved on to a truce, then to some reciprocal comfort and first aid, and finally to a shameless display of perversion, truly a tasteless and most unfortunate event.
I almost wish I still had the Megafeuerblitz500, so I could not only burn the horribly foppish postcard G and James sent from the Bahamas, but I could also reduce the whole office notice board to ashes. And threaten the rest of the alphabets with the same fate, unless they stop sniggering…
I had this idea when reading B's report on his undercover mission to spy on a skin-head group. It seems that these young idiots are wont to indulge in expeditions to beat up homosexual perverts. Moreover, they hate long hair (B is currently wearing one of G's wigs, since he is rather ashamed of his shaved head, as required by his skin-head acolyte role).
I therefore composed an anonymous letter, by cutting up an old book in gothic characters, informing a large skin-head group that the Earl of Gloria is a flaming queer, and including Eroica's London address. Yes, those skin-heads are despicable people, but I am starting to be too exasperated to care about the means, as long as the end is reached…
The skin-heads wasted no time in zooming in on their target: they bundled up a few cricket bats and motorbike chains, and turned up at Eroica's London residence. As the door opened, they ran inside, screaming and waving their weapons. I had not managed, unfortunately, to bug the interior of Eroica's urban pied-a-terre appropriately, so all I could do was to observe from outside. I sat in the observation van, and listened eagerly. The initial surge of noise, caused by the invasion of the gang inside the house, was followed by agitated and confused voices; then silence, for a long time. I was almost convinced that I had finally completed my mission, but wondered why the gang did not leave the scene of the crime, when a hideous, offensive noise pierced my ears. Soon after, the door opened, and a group of extremely bizarrely dressed people came out, followed closely by Eroica himself, who appeared not only unhurt but also happily directing them around, until they formed a line in front of the building.
I grabbed my binoculars: Eroica was glowing with merriment, and clapped his hands in time with the offensive noise. The others were none but the skin-heads, now aligned in several rows of five people each, gyrating wildly as if performing some tribal dance, and each dressed in a set of five identical, bizarre costumes. I could distinguish an American policeman uniform; a construction worker; a surprising Indian, complete with full head-dress… Before I could examine the spectacle further, the noise reached a deafening climax, and the group's semi-random movement became coordinated, cued by Eroica's long arms. He was jumping up and down, first spreading his arms straight upwards, roughly at a 60 degree angle; then he put his hands on his shoulders, and then moved them to his right, as if to form a C; he finally joined his arms over his head again, as if to form a roof over it. He was screaming, in time with the music, "it's fun to stay at the YMCA!"
I am not sure what happened, or what they were doing, but I had clearly, maddeningly, failed once again. As I left, I could still hear them screaming another song, as if to deride me: "Macho, macho man!!!"
It was very easy to lure Eroica into the Middle Ages Museum after our last mission (I am sorry I cannot name the place, it is classified). The thief was delighted at the invitation, and I had a hard time peeling him off my arm: but the reward should have been worth the suffering, or so I thought. I told him I had organised a treasure hunt in the Museum, to amuse him specially, and presently gave him the first hint: I am the place where the treasure will be found. I am not a heavy metal band, I am not Margaret Thatcher, but I have something in common with them...
The fop squealed with joy and ran towards the Torture room. I smiled. I was once again trusting German technology, namely the Valhalla Mortal Coil from Krupp. This time I was not disappointed: however, I had underestimated the thief's reflexes and his in-depth knowledge of hermetically closing devices of all sorts. Guided from the last echoed vibrations of the Valhalla Mortal Coil's mighty SNAP, I stepped into the room, ready to enjoy the view, and clean up the undoubtedly precious cultural heritage that was the oldest still-functioning Iron Maiden in the world. The sight that I was treated to was very different from what I was expecting. Eroica was glowing with triumph, holding in his hand a large gem (I have NO idea how he found such a thing on the Iron Maiden, which was empty when I rigged it), standing near the torture device and absent-mindedly tugging a lock of hair free from its lethal embrace.
You may remember how annoyed I was that we were never able to test the KGB Werewolf Serum on a human subject, due to the lack of volunteers. (I was really disappointed by my Alphabets in that occasion. Subordinates are not what they used to be). This plan would have finally yielded NATO a much-needed experimental result, and also eliminated Eroica from my life.
It all went as planned until the moment in which we brought a captured James near the Gloria estate, injected him with the Serum, and released him. The moon shone full in the sky, and I felt replete with the satisfaction that comes from serving one's country, and from getting rid not only of Eroica but also of the despicable stingy bug.
Herr Professor Crowley supervised the operation and ran the observation of the results (yes, he is back from the Arctic wastes, nobody quite knows how. There are disquieting rumours of magical powers, which proves that NATO is full of old maids and idiots). His explanation of events after the experiment with the Serum--apart from all the strange stuff about the Magickal Powers of Pentacles--was basically that we should have used a less peculiar subject for our attempt. Herr Crowley seemed unfavourably struck by the fact that we picked James up from a rubbish heap, and that we had the greatest trouble in preparing him for the experiment, which involved washing him and separating him from his rat friends. It might be that the Serum, injected into a non-entirely human specimen, produces an inverse reaction, quite like the one we obtained when the Serum was injected into a rabid dog. Just as the dog became extremely docile and sociable, the stingy bug stopped his godawful howling at once, stood up, and politely excused himself for the sorry state of his clothes. He then said: "I really must take a shower, get new clothes that are not patched, and make sure I have not bothered His Lordship with my unreasonable demands. Take this fifty pounds as a sign of my appreciation, Doctor: I have never felt so well in my life!"
Before we could recover from our shock, the former miser was out of our reach, and he was knocking at the castle door. I had a last glimmer of hope, namely that the shock of the new James might kill Eroica: alas, I was to be disappointed again. Before the door could open, James jumped as if in pain, convulsed and then fell to the ground, howling at full volume. As we could clearly hear him explain to a puzzled and wary Bonham: "AAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!! I can't understand how, but I just gave away some moneyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy…"
As Herr Professor Crowley said just before the dog, rabid once again, bit him: "The effects of the Serum are extremely short-lasting, and wear off with uncanny speed."
Children should not be seen OR heard. I actually think they should not be produced at all; or in the event they already have, they should be carefully and quietly be kept under custody, preferably unconscious, in specialised locations. I base my belief on the grounds of the extreme cruelty and nastiness of children: which is why I planned to use the little monsters to try to get rid of Eroica once again.
The plan was simple: I discreetly started the rumour that the Midwich Kindergarten was hiding a large chest of jewels, buried under the children's favourite playground. Let Eroica deal with a bunch of youngsters suddenly deprived of their territory.
Soon, my Kindergarten surveillance team called me to say that Eroica had been seen in the grounds. I hastened to the location, as I was eager to witness events, and I was just in time to see Eroica, James and Bonham ridiculously dressed up as children in short trousers and seaman's shirts. At the sight of Bonham's legs two people in my team were sick: I gritted my teeth and kept watching. The thieves were carrying some shovels disguised as oversized sand-playing tools, and they started to dig in the middle of the playground. All seemed to be calm, but then a group of blond-haired, blue-eyed children (a group of brothers and sisters? They all looked very much alike) advanced towards the gang. In a calm yet menacing air one of them asked: "What are you doing to our playground? Who are you? You are as different as a cuckoo in our nest." I could see that Eroica was affected by their stare, as he lost his usual panache and stuttered something along the lines of "we're looking for a trea--I mean a brick wall, yes a brick wall..."
It is extremely galling! I was anticipating some very spectacular violence, as the Midwich children started to close in on the thieves, when the damned stingy bug saved them. Again. He took out some sort of tin whistle, said "if it works for my rats it might work on children too", and started to play. The children stopped, and then started to sway in rhythm to the music. They formed an orderly conga line, and danced around the garden: step, step, kick; step, step, kick... Bonham's face was alight with delight as they passed in front of him in an orderly manner, so that he could hit each of them on the head with his shovel, each time screaming "Hamelin One, Midwich Nil".
I am not sure whether I hate children more than I hate Eroica. Not to mention the stingy bug.
Lord of the Rings
I was perusing the shelves of Castle Eberbach's library, looking for some relaxing reading before sleep when I discovered a book I had not re-read in a long time: actually I had only opened it once, when I was completing my task of reading the whole content of the family library alphabetically, to profit usefully of the free time during my school holidays. I very well remembered how the frilly nonsense of the volume (elves! Humph!), not to mention its sheer size, had quickly put me to sleep. For a while, I even used to lull myself to sleep mumbling excerpts from the book's appendices, as a change from my usual "Mary Had a Little Lamb" sing song. Anyway, as I looked at the heavy, leather-bound edition of The Lord of The Rings, an elimination-related idea formed into my mind. All I had to do was to "accidentally" hit Eroica with the volume, under pretence of suggesting some less lecherous pastime for his leisure hours.
I kept the book with me for a while (and very useful it was during interrogations--the most hardened criminals quailed and confessed at the first intimation that I would read them the full volume without stopping for food or drink): finally, Eroica managed to slink into my office without authorisation. As he waffled on, I mustered my nerve and forced myself to smile amiably: scarcely had I said "why don't you read something wholesome instead", and slung the heavy volume towards that unsufferable grin, than the idiotic stingy bug jumped up saying something about the gold-embossed lettering being glittery but not gold. I am not sure how it happened, but I ended up hitting the little idiot full on the head. He briefly crumpled to the ground, to Eroica's indignant consternation--and to mine, albeit for a different reason.
However, James did not tarry in his recovery, and then the full import of my mistake was revealed. He stood up and then promptly crouched to the ground, a stranger-than-usual glint in his eye, and a bizarrely guttural and whiny tone of voice. He eyed me obliquely and said: "it is our precious, and we wants it!" He then made some sort of adenoidal-sounding grunt, and jumped up to grab my Eberbach signet ring with his sharp, pointed teeth. What else could I do? While I vainly tried to shake him off my hand, I quickly searched the ordnance survey maps for the location of the nearest vulcan...
You know how much I dread the duty of carrying on my family's name, getting married and having children. It is an obligation I would rather decline, but duty is duty. So, why not try to sweeten the pill by making this a useful occasion to rid myself of Eroica's unwanted attentions? I would get married, and he would leave me alone. And nowadays walls can be totally soundproofed, which would greatly help to forget the existence of any children until they turn at least eighteen.
This scheme encountered two problems: the first one was finding a suitable bride. All the young and respectable girls I approached had one of two equally inexplicable reactions: either they started to laugh loudly and indecorously, stuttering "closet case… beard, no thanks" among tears of merriment; or they screamed "psychopath, run for your life"--at least I think that the second part of the phrase was that, as they were already rather far away when they uttered it.
Note to self: Women can run incredibly fast when they want. Maybe I should consider hiring females for some missions, if anything else fails. On the other hand, any Alaska-scared alphabet, even B, can run equally fast. And they are less trouble than women, even G.
The other half of the problem presented itself as I was disconsolately leafing through a mail-order-bride catalogue, and thinking that most Polish girls were hairier than Misha's hat. Suddenly, Eroica snuck up to me, as he is damnably wont to do, took a look at the catalogue and laughed gleefully. I informed him that he had ten seconds to explain his glee, before getting shot, and he said: "Darling, I always knew you were a practical man! It's really sweet of you, thinking of a beard from Poland before we start our affair, so we can keep it more easily covered! I suggest you set the day for the wedding as early as possible, so I can start visiting more. Can I be best man, too? I love weddings!"
Apart from all those strange references to facial hair, which I attribute to Eroica sneaking a peek at Ludmilla, bride number 45, and her indeed well-covered chin, the sentence made a horrible sort of sense. I would be sabotaging myself twice! Well, this plan has not worked either, but at least I know better than to get married in the near future now. Despite the worrying rate of failures in my enterprise so far, I must find some small mercies where possible, so that I do not lose morale and keep working towards my objective.
This attempt failed so ignominiously I do not have the heart to dwell on it, or even think about it. No comment.
Salmonella can be lethal. Salmonella is often caught by eating raw seafood. Once the potbellied chief announced to me that I would have to investigate an international terrorist cell posing as fish dealers, I knew what I had to do. I asked whether I could take Eroica with me--which had the satisfying side effect of sending the chief to hospital with alarming heart disease symptoms--and of putting me in the best position to execute my plan.
My strategy for the mission was simple: while the alphabets took care of the terrorists, I would take care of Eroica. I told the fop that I suspected the terrorists of smuggling vital information in microfilms disguised as pearls, and stuck in the oysters. He was supposed to help me break into the terrorist warehouse, and sample the suspicious seafood.
Soon, we were inside the warehouse: I produced a bag of lemons (my protection against salmonella, as I had to try the oysters, too) and Eroica produced a silver oyster opener and a silver candelabrum. I have no idea where he hid that in his catsuit, which is highly indecent and completely pocketless, and I suspect I really do not want to know. He gave a little laugh, smiled demurely as he arranged the tools and lighted the candles, and said: "Our first candlelit dinner, and we have oysters! Isn't it so romantic, darling?" I hit him with his own oyster opener, mostly out of habit and lest he could suspect something, and passed the first 12 molluscs.
What infuriates me most is that the plan failed--once again--because of the damned stingy bug. I should have known that my gut has never entirely recovered from the damage inflicted on it by the stingy bug's spoiled cake.
I was the one who became sick with salmonella: and to add insult to injury not only did I have to spend the whole night in the bathroom, I also had to listen to Eroica brazenly and shamelessly panting and mewling on the other side of the door. As he said: "Don't you find oysters terribly aphrodisiac stuff, too, darling?"
Note to self: remember to send the Chief a get well card accompanied by a gift set of 24 oysters which I will have left out of the fridge for a few days.
I could never explain or understand Eroica's fascination for the stupid portrait of my ancestor in pumpkin breeches, but one should not look at a gift horse in the mouth, as they say. I accidentally came across this newspaper article about a crazy Viennese painter who was abandoned by his lover so he built a life-size doll that looked exactly like her, and took it everywhere for a few years, as if it was a real woman.
I threw away the newspaper, disgusted at the rubbish that can be found even in respectable publications these days; the despicable rag landed at the foot of the Pumpkin portrait. A-ha! The Austrian madman's doll gave me an useful elimination idea after all. I would commission a life-size doll that looked like The Man in Purple, and send it to Eroica. The Pumpkin's TNT core would do the rest...
It was not easy to have the doll made, especially since the doll-maker insisted on misunderstanding my reasons for needing a life-size replica of myself, and sniggered in the most uncouth and infuriating way every time I had to go and pose for the doll (I did not dare send the portrait, as it is a too-precious cultural heritage of our Nation). I clenched my teeth and thought of being rid of the fop soon; through chanting excerpts from my favourite childhood stories I could finally get through the sittings. The likeness of Tyrian Persimmon, down to the ridiculous clothes and hat, was now sitting in my armchair in my study, while I proceeded to stuff a couple of TNT sticks up its frilly pumpkin breeches. Obviously, that was where Eroica would zoom in.
It was not an easy task, as it was a dark and stormy night, but I finally rappelled off the ceiling of Castle Gloria and landed on the little balcony where I knew Eroica's bedroom was, Pumpkin doll at the ready. I rapped on the glass pane gently, lighted the slow combustion fuse, and jumped off the balcony.
The time I spent under the shade of the balcony, waiting for the explosion, was most unpleasant: I had landed in one of those damned rambling rose bushes the idiot insists on. I waited, and waited, and waited. And then realised that something was very wrong. The fuse was supposed to last four minutes and two seconds, and according to my watch eight minutes and four seconds had already passed. Where was my explosion? Cautiously, I climbed back up using the ramblers and peered inside. Predictably, Eroica looked very happy, and was cuddling the doll, petting its hair and cooing nonsense into its ears--a most disturbing sight. So much so that I was momentarily and understandably petrified. I must also have made some sort of strangled noise, since Eroica looked up and laughed delightedly: "I should have known! Another present from you! Oh, darling!"
The degenerate stood up and made as if to fling himself at me--at which point I recovered my wits: I pushed the damnable fop aside, and grabbed the doll, shaking it. Nothing. Exasperated, I grabbed its breeches and I pulled them down in my search for the defective explosive. I barely had time to register the aghast, amazed expression on Eroica's face, when the idiotic doll suddenly exploded in my face!
The worst hurt was to my pride: as the heavy smoke clouds started to dissipate and the fluffy stuffing of the doll gracefully and slowly sunk to the ground, I was left standing in the tattered remains of my clothes, grabbing the sadly mis-shapen remains of the--literally--blasted doll. And to top my humiliation and rage, Eroica had to laugh and joyfully shout: "Bip, Bip!!!"
My latest mission took me to a crocodile-infested swamp in Florida to help those inept Yanks catch some nasty deranged outlaw. Not only was I ordered to deal with the Yanks, but I also had to take Eroica with me. Why do all those nasty, larger-than-life bad guys always have the best safes to put their incriminating secrets in?
Anyway, sometimes the bad can be turned into good: in preparing for the task, I noticed that the area was riddled with very dangerous quicksands. A plan began to form in my mind. Well, to cut a long story short, after a plethora of adventures, daring acts and fortuitous escapes, we found ourselves in the quicksand-ridden swamp, just as I had anticipated. As I was holding the map, it was not difficult to lure Eroica into a trap: soon, he was stuck in quicksand, and sinking fast. I took out my cell phone and called for the Alphabets to pick me up.
I was safely ascending, attached to our helicopter's rope ladder, when I turned to take a last look at Eroica's final resting place: and I almost fell off in surprise! Eroica was levitating, slowly hovering a few feet over the quicksand, legs crossed in the lotus position, hair floating freely around his face, a concentrated but serene expression. He opened his eyes and gave a little smile, accompanied by his oh-so-irritating shrug: "It's just a little trick a gentleman friend of mine from India taught me once. There was *no* way I was going to get my hair all wet and sandy, after all the time I spent on it this morning! Safe trip, darling!!"
I was so angry I was incoherent, which prevented me from ordering the Alphabets to shoot down the fop: he kept floating peacefully in the air until a small, patched-up helicopter approached him, picked him up and sputtered away. This attempt obviously had a very bad Karma.
It always works in films. Yet I should know better than to believe stupid American fairy-tales.
Well, I thought that it would have been easy to entice Eroica into a trip to Paris (this time I had sent cheap but not free tickets, to fool the stingy bug), and then tie the bugger to the underground rails. There is a train every two minutes; so I would have given it about half an hour to make extra sure, and then I would have alerted people to the fine mist of yellow hair, as if finely chopped, floating up from under the metro tunnel.
As I said, it always works perfectly in American films: the frail, lovely lady is tied up to the rails, the perpetrator laughs evilly, and steam engine Chattanooga steamrollers on in a deafening chorus of train noises and bad soundtrack. But I forgot that this was France. The whole RATP network, which is laughingly charged with managing the metro system, went into a general strike: no trains until further notice. Damn. How I hate those Frenchies.
This idea I got from the Alphabets. They thought I could not see or hear them, so they were all gathered around the water cooler, where A was explaining to his colleagues how he had bought his wife a new steam cleaner, capable of disinfecting and sanitising anything in the house just with a jet of high temperature, finely vapourised steam. Steam to clean and sanitise any type of filth! I was so taken with this new idea for my plan that I even forgot to yell at the Alphabets for wasting time chatting instead of working: I ran to the closest appliances shop and purchased an exemplary of the ExSteaminator, by Krupp, of course.
In a few hours I was in England, ExSteaminator at the ready, hiding in a (literally) sorely familiar rose bush and waiting for Eroica to show up. I would be free at last, and cleanly ridden of his presence! Soon, the fop showed up, dressed in a frightfully tasteless Tyrolean gardener ensemble (except for the silk scarf and jewellery), and came straight towards the rose bush, pruning shears at the ready. I sprang out of the bush, and before Eroica could recover from the mighty startle I gave him, I pointed the ExSteaminator and opened fire until I ran out of water.
The cloud of steam was very slow to dissipate, so at first I could not see much: imagine my surprise when I felt a hot, wet and slinky touch trying to grab me in a shameful and unmentionable place! Next I heard Eroica's damnably smooth voice whispering in my ear: "Darling, I know you're really trying your best to express your true feelings, but you should have simply told me what you wanted and I'd have booked us a sauna... I know a wonderfully discreet little establishment in London, very clean and private! Well, anyway, here we are in our little personal steam-room... Don't know about you, but my clothes are all wet and they are shrinking fast, so I think I'll take them off now... Shall we do the same with yours?"
I squealed and fought: it was only by repeatedly hitting the fop with the ExSteaminator nozzle that I managed to free myself from his grasp, and regain my freedom. I ran and squealed, ran and squealed, ran and squealed. When I was sure I was free and clear of danger, I could finally stop, get rid of my clothes and regain my normal voice. On one thing Eroica was right: my clothes had been shrinking, down to the underwear.
In my desperation, I asked again for Herr Professor Crowley's help, despite growing rumours concerning his involvement with creepy occult activities. Herr Crowley is currently involved in genetic experiments on insects, in his so-called "Lord of the Flies" project. He therefore suggested we use a specially modified species of Tsetse-fly, which would cause Eroica to fall asleep for an unspecified, but hopefully very long, length of time. (Crowley's most optimistic estimates place it in the vicinity of 666 years).
Herr Professor Crowley volunteered to deliver the flies to their target; the idea was to insert the flies into the inside of a cored apple, and offer Eroica the fruit. He would bite it, and in turn be bitten by the fly, thereby falling asleep on the spot. The delivery went well, despite some misgivings about Herr Professor's attire (he insists in wearing a long black cape, complete with an ample hood, at all times. Most spectral, and off-putting, not Eroica's style at all). Eroica, however, probably intrigued by Crowley's outlandish attire, let him in, and gladly accepted the red, shiny apple. One bite of the apple, one by the fly, and Eroica fell to the floor, sleeping soundly. Crowley swiftly retreated, leaving a household in turmoil.
I followed the events from the surveillance van, to make sure I had succeeded. After the initial confusion, Bonham had managed to organise things a bit: the unconscious Eroica had been arranged on a bed, clad in a white sleeping gown, hair carefully arranged: a most aesthetic result, which I am sure Eroica would have appreciated. I have to say that it was a rather moving sight; all of Eroica's men were surrounding the bed, variously mourning the calamity, and trying valiantly to bear the extremely loud wailing being continuously emitted by the stingy bug.
Just as I was reaching for the champagne bottle I had expressly set aside for the occasion, I was hit by a sudden silence. James had stopped crying. I went back to the video camera: the little miser was indeed silent, and was looking very serious. He looked intently at the sleeping Eroica, and whispered: "It's too late now, but I want you to know I loved you of true love: here is my true love's kiss." James moved closer and kissed Eroica.
Just before I hit him on the head with the champagne bottle, Herr Crowley said that the stingy bug's organism must have some anomalous property, maybe even caused by some lingering effect of the KGB Werewolf Serum; such a property, through the exchange of bodily fluids in the kiss, caused Eroica to wake up and my plan to fail. Again.
The measure of my desperation can be gauged by the fact that I appealed to the FBI for help. I heard that a certain Agent Mulder has great experience with unexplained, paranormal phenomena. This could be the only way to complete my plans; since Herr Professor Crowley had disappointed me so far, I was even ready to try the Yank version of the supernatural.
I have to say that Herr Mulder proved to be even more bizarre than Herr Crowley, which is saying a lot. His first requests were a bag of sunflower seeds and an NTSC VCR: then he disappeared off into the basement (he insisted on claiming the lower floor's broom compartment for himself) because "he needed to think". I really would like to know what there is to think while watching a tape called "Bigfoot does the Cleveland Football Team"--but I understand that when it comes to Eroica no plan is too complicated or bizarre.
After a few days Herr Mulder re-emerged from his broom compartment, asked for more sunflower seeds, a razor to shave his palms, and explained his plan. He said that his research indicated that a group of aliens called "the rebel alliance" was scouring the galaxy looking for "their last hope"--this last hope being a rather vague and after-the-fact concept: indeed all they needed was good-looking people dressed in clinging white clothes, which could be claimed as blood relations no matter how improbable. I could see the point: good-looking, clinging clothes, improbable... If we had managed to attract their attention, Eroica would be doomed--they would claim he was "their last hope" and whisk him off a reassuring number of light years away.
Herr Mulder wanted to send an adequately slinky white dress to Eroica, but I told him it was not really necessary, as the fop already had more than enough of those. So we arranged for a picture of Eroica to be broadcast over the galaxy via the Arecibo radio-telescopes, and we staked out Castle Gloria, waiting for the aliens. Not a moment too soon--Herr Mulder munching on his sunflower seeds, biting his nails and dropping his gun every five minutes was starting to severely irritate me--not to mention that the only place we could find to hide in was the same old and extremely thorny rose bush-- a flying vehicle zinged in on the horizon and landed on the front lawn with a soft whoosh. Eroica and his gang immediately ran towards the alien object, and stood in front of it, puzzled and uncertain.
The aliens appeared to be just like Herr Mulder: not very impressive. The spacecraft, a sort of disc-like thing, was patched and rusty, and looked as if it was cobbled together and repaired many times over. A hatch creaked open and three aliens got off. Two of them were humanoid, but the third one looked like a huge furry monkey. As the animal appeared, I could hear Herr Mulder make a sort of whistling noise, but soon my attention was diverted by the other two aliens, as they appeared to be arguing heatedly. They stopped in front of Eroica and his group, and we could see them clearly: it was a man with dark hair, and a short woman with a strange hairdo that made her look remarkably like Mickey Mouse. She was saying: "I think that message was a dupe--whoever heard of this stupid backward planet anyway? And it's far, far away--too far to spend three weeks travelling to it in a small spaceship with no showers and a big smelly wookie!" The yeti-like creature howled and made some sort of alien gesture that involved his middle finger.
The alien man took out the picture of Eroica we had sent into outer space, and looked alternately at it and at the group in front of them. I could see Eroica catch a glimpse of the picture, do a double take, and smile broadly at the man, fluffing his hair and assuming a provocative pose. He mewled: "Hello, pilot! Looking for someone?" Then Eroica quickly and deftly caught the stingy bug just before the little bundle of disgust could bite the alien man's ankle, and lifted him by the scruff of his neck as the bug growled and hissed, little legs uselessly kicking in the air.
Simultaneously, the woman with the Mickey Mouse hairstyle turned her attention away from mirroring the furry alien's gesture, and zoomed in on Eroica. I could hear the frost in her voice as she said: "And this *thing* is supposed to be my thrice-removed cousin, who was secretly raised in this ass-backward hole to escape from Daddy? I don't think so! Bad enough that I've been saddled with the dumbest and least-resembling twin brother this side of the galaxy, not to mention a stupid husband who believes any message he gets on his inter-stellar CB radio: this is where I draw the line! I may have a family of freaks, but this is too much!"
The alien man sighed and looked up at the sky, a resigned expression on his face. The monkey-like creature made a loud, rude noise. Eroica looked at the alien woman with narrowed eyes, and started to swing a still-kicking Mr. James, preparing to use him as a human cricket bat; she reached for a sort of metallic-looking stick hanging at her waist with one hand, and for an alien-looking very large submachine gun with another. The temperature suddenly became very, very hot.
At this point, to mine and everyone else's surprise, Herr Mulder suddenly jumped forward from our hiding place in the blasted rose bush, pushed aside the startled group as they stood poised for a serious fight, and flung himself at the big yeti-like creature, screaming: "Samantha always had the best deals, as she was the baby of the family... I want to be kidnapped by aliens, too -- fly me to the stars, you gorgeous furry brute!"
The yeti-like creature howled "CHEEEEEEEEEWWWWWW", slung Herr Mulder over a shoulder and quickly dived into the spacecraft. Before anyone could do anything, the two of them had lifted off and disappeared into the sky.
Not only do I still have Eroica underfoot, I also have to decide what to do with the two aliens I was left to contend with. First I had to intervene to stop the cat-fight between the Mickey Mouse-haired woman and Eroica; then I had to kick the stingy bug until he let go of my ankle. Then I had to avoid being hit by Eroica as he thought the whole wretched situation had been orchestrated by me. Then the woman turned on me too, her metallic stick somehow become a long column of humming light. She assumed a combat stance, but before she could attack the man grabbed her from behind and screamed: "For God's sake, run for your life, man! I won't be able to hold her for long!" Sometimes, even an Eberbach knows when enough is enough; besides I was starting to develop a dreadful headache. I turned around and left, heading to my office and to the large bottle of aspirin in the third drawer on the right of my desk.
Once I can face the idea of dealing with the aliens again, I think I will send them to the FBI instead of Herr Mulder. I think that I should be glad of small mercies, since at least I got rid of that psychopath, and I will soon give the Yanks a headache bigger than mine.
Who would have thought that receiving intelligence on the disgusting pervert's filthy habits could fill me with a positive, joyous feeling. I was wearily going through the report of the latest shipments of goods delivered to Castle Gloria, when I had another brilliant idea for Eroica's elimination. The list was pretty much the usual. Gucci package: handbags, two, and shoes, seven pairs; Yves Saint Laurent package: dinner suits, three, shirts, twelve; Del Monte package: very ripe bananas, six bunches; Good Vibrations package… At this point I usually skip a line, since the time I found out that the pervert regularly orders condoms in the shape of popular cartoon characters¾however, this time my eye fell upon one of the disgusting items: an "electrical vibrator". Electrical! Time to put into use some of the electricity produced during the failed antimatter experiment! I resolved to intercept the next package from California, and to employ our healthy German technology to "enhance" any electrical appliances to be delivered to the pervert's house. A fitting end, if one wants to see the philosophical side of it...
As planned, a new package arrived, and with the help of Herr Professor Crowley's lab assistants, one of those vibrating instruments of sin was rigged to electrocute the miscreant; the package was afterwards delivered as planned. I sat down and waited for the electrical grid in the North Downs to register a dip. Which did not fail to happen with indecent haste.
I had already detached the little wire mesh from the champagne bottle when I was surprised by an enthusiastic knock at the door. It was, unbelievably, Eroica! His hair was somewhat singed and it crackled with static electricity, but he appeared otherwise unharmed. More than that, he was disgustingly enthusiastic and full of energy: he jumped me and would only be detached from my neck by repeated applications of the butt of my Magnum to his head. Throughout this unpleasant episode, and before he could be carried away for application of an ice pack, he kept maniacally smiling and laughing, and screaming "I KNEW you cared about me! That was FANTASTIC, how did you know I like a little shock from time to time?!?!"
Another failure. If I did not have a wholesome German morale and strong fibre, I might start feeling a tad disappointed.
It dawned on me that Eroica's responsibility to carry on the name of his family is as heavy as mine, and that he might at some point be forced to marry and have children. This responsibility, and the obligations attending a family, would keep him too busy to be bothering me unduly. It might work better than my previous attempt in this direction, as he would get married instead of me.
I discreetly contacted Eroica's mother, who no doubt would help me in this project, since Eroica himself has no inclination to get married: and here I had my first disillusion. Mrs. Red is currently living in Montecarlo, and is busy ruling over her three daughters and their families. My request for help was met with a glacial: "Men are for castrating. So get lost, Kraut. I don't care about your faggotty schemes to make your little friend pay attention, even if this little friend is my son. I left him to his own devices a long time ago, and I have no intention of wasting my time now. It's about time the bloody Glorias come to an end anyway. One less family means less men on the earth. Now, where are my scissors?"
My second disillusionment came when I tried the brute force method, and procured a very attractive woman, whom I introduced into Eroica's bedroom in a state of undress. I was at this point expecting one of two things: either Eroica would use the occasion to do, at least once in his lazy life, his duty, and propose; or, more likely, he would get so scared from the naked woman that he would jump out of a window, or have a massive heart attack.
The trap being set, and Eroica having entered his bedroom, I waited for screams or falling bodies' noises. I waited for a long time, and when I could hear nothing I cautiously peered from the draperies behind which I was hiding (I could not resist being there in person for this one).
The bed was empty, but a light was coming from the dressing room. Eroica and the woman were both there, busily and happily trying dresses on, and chattering about "this year's fashion is so androgynous, I adore it" and such things. It is good that I have so much experience in parachute jumps, as I was so livid with rage that I jumped out of the window. My ankle will only take two more weeks to heal, or so the doctor says. I trust it will only take a week, if I can scream at it loudly enough. The book on self-healing recommends talking to one's body, so I yell "heal, you damn thing" in front of the mirror at least once a day.
Note to self: remember to send a fake love letter, in Mrs. Red's writing, to Father. Something like, "please come here and sweep me off my feet with your don't-take-no-for-an-answer manliness".
This really is the very last time I listen to Herr Professor Crowley's ideas. He came to me one day, babbling about a new project, "an experiment with sound". He then took out a tape recorder and played me, in order: the sound of a mad hyena; a child having a temper tantrum; nails on a blackboard; a heavy metal song... At this point, he looked up the barrel of my Magnum, chuckled nervously and said: "I think you get the idea". The idea being that he would combine all the most unpleasant sounds in the world, and obtain a Sound that Kills. Since I suspected that this weapon would not be allowed by the Geneva convention, I reserved Herr Professor Crowley's experiment for my personal extermination plan.
Soon the whole staff was sporting thick ear protections, and Herr Crowley could be seen mock-conducting and playing air guitar in the corridors. Finally, he came back to me with a CD labelled "Xylophone Concerts: Relax and Enjoy": a fake label to pique Eroica's curiosity and make him listen to the Sound that Kills. We sent the CD to Castle Gloria, disabled the audio surveillance system and sat to watch the video. The stupid fop smiled delightedly at the package as if it was some billet-doux (we had taken pains to make sure that the Bonn postmark showed) and went to his hideously sinful relaxation corner. He soon was equipped with a drink, an outrageous tunic-like sort of frilly dress, and a CD player remote control. He settled himself on the chaise longue, face regrettably away from the surveillance camera, and started the CD player. He did not go into conniptions, as predicted by Herr Crowley, but he seemed slightly startled. However, to our great surprise, he listened to the whole CD, then he got up and took it out of the player, apparently completely unscathed.
While Herr Crowley babbled and cried and pulled out his hair I turned up the surveillance sound again, just to hear what the fop was saying as he walked off, shaking his head with a puzzled but happy expression. "Not sure at all what Klaus thought he was sending me here, but a xylophone concert it's not! Well, maybe that's his idea of a romantic song -- he does have some strange musical tastes -- but I think I could bear it only because I am used to hear James cry... Well, the important thing is that my darling is obviously coming round: he serenades me now!"
Desperate straits require desperate remedies. I forced myself to invite Eroica to a romantic sailing trip across the Mediterranean, just the two of us (witnesses are always a nuisance).
I was so sure that Eroica's last words would have been: "But, darling, are you sure that tying the anchor rope to my ankle is a traditional propitiatory ritual among seamen?" Well, that is exactly what he said, but I had miscalculated his dexterity in untying the most intricate knots. He was out of the water again in no time, babbling excitedly about "How did you know I adore role-playing? Can I be Houdini again?"
The weekend on the boat went downhill from there. I think I snapped my jaw closed so many times that I might have chipped a tooth.
I never would have thought that I would commit such a disloyal and base act: but I was reaching the end of my tether, and still I had not succeeded. I had thus resolved to sacrifice one of my healthy, fine German boys: Z. I have always known that Eroica had set his lecherous sights on Z, and had to warn both of them off repeatedly. Reversing my previous course of actions, I pushed them towards each other: the objective being to divert the fop's attention from me. Despite the waste of losing such a good man as Z to thorough ruin and corruption, I would have gained peace of mind. I had resolved further to punish myself for my baseness by making a point of observing the debauchment of my poor boy through the surveillance equipment still installed at the North Downs castle.
After some painful and undignified manoeuvres, Z was finally invited to spend a nice evening at Gloria castle. As the boy rang the bell of the mansion timidly, and was ushered in by an amused Bonham holding a muzzled and straight-jacketed stingy bug on a leash, I suddenly was seized by an unbearable anxiety: what if the surveillance equipment failed and I missed Z's capitulation marking the success of my plan? I hurried to Castle Gloria, climbed the usual rambling rose, and stood on the tiny balcony of Eroica's bedroom.
The pervert had, of course, already whisked poor Z to his bedroom, and was busily removing items off him. First the flowers, then the chocolates, then his dinner jacket... No matter how hard I clenched my teeth to assuage my growing fury, eventually I could not bear the deer-in-the-headlights expression on the face of the boy, and I kicked the French window open just before Eroica could remove Z's underwear. I know I was screaming, and that Eroica and Z had a most peculiar expression that went beyond sheer terror, but I cannot remember much after that--the blood went to my brain. I know that I am feeling much better now, relaxed and, well... mellow. It must be the knowledge that at last, and despite all the struggles and losses, my plan finally must have been successful.
The day was slowly going through its drawn-out death, and the last of the golden and purple light streamed in through the tall windows of Castle Gloria. Dorian looked up from the contemplation of the notebook in front of him, a silent ,contented glow in his eyes. The notebook was a thick, calf-bound volume, its gold-embossed cover bearing the word "diary" in elegant cursive calligraphy.
Dorian sighed, then he dipped his fountain pen--it had been his grandfather's, and he had stolen it from his father the day he went to boarding school--into the ornate ink-bottle, and started to write:
I finally made it!!! As you know I was almost at my wits' ends, having gone through all sorts of plans from Allure to Besame Mucho, but I knew that making Klaus jealous by pretending to seduce Z would finally work--or at the very least would provide me with a very nice fling, the boy is pretty. Klaus was so manly as he burst into my bedroom, clearly not fully in control of his mental faculties, kicked poor Z out and then... Oh, it was so wonderful I cannot even write it down!!!
Dorian looked appreciatively at the lavender writing, then closed the diary; he flung pen and ink sideways, leaned back into his plush, comfortable armchair, and lit a cigarette. Klaus' purloined lighter was gleaming a dull reddish-gold as the boar crest caught the last rays of the setting sun. As he leisurely blew a few rings of smoke into the air, Dorian looked out of the window at the lovely rose bushes now in their second summer bloom, a slow, satisfied smile spreading on his beautiful face and lighting his features in the now sunless dusk.
December 2001-July 2002