We open in Grindlewald, Switzerland, where Dorian is currently residing. He tells James that he's getting bored in Switzerland, and wants to go somewhere like Spain or Portugal. James, predictably, complains that Dorian is too extravagant.
James has brought a newspaper article which he thought would be of interest to Dorian. (It's in a newspaper James picked up at a used book shop: "A week late and it's free, you know.") The article concerns the recent discovery of a statue of Achilles, found during construction work at Oxford University. Dorian likes the statue and resolves to steal it -- but not, as James had hoped, to hold it for ransom; Dorian wants to keep it.
In Oxford, England, we see a young man walking along at night. He hears footsteps behind him, then two men emerge from the shadows and accuse him of being a NATO agent. They're from MFS, an East German organization, and demand that he hand over the military scheme he's obtained. The NATO man manages to break away from them and runs into the building of Merton College where the statue is being kept. Knowing he's being pursued, he looks for someplace to conceal the information he's carrying. Meanwhile, the MFS agents set off the alarm while searching for him, and are forced to flee. The NATO guy also escapes in the confusion.
We move to the NATO Intelligence Office in Bonn, where the hapless agent is being raked over the coals by the Major. The agent had hidden the information (evidently in a microfilm capsule) under the skirt of the chiton on the Achilles statue, and wasn't able to retrieve it after the alarm was set off, as the statue was placed under heavy guard. Klaus is irate at the fellow's failure to bring back the capsule, and peremptorily orders him to Alaska in punishment. [Although he's not named here, this was apparently Mr J. In The Alaskan Front, when Klaus arrives in Alaska he is met by what appears to be the same man, and greets him as Mr J.]
The Chief offers Klaus sympathy of dubious sincerity, but points out that a subordinate's error is the responsibility of his immediate superior officer, and assigns Klaus to retrieve the information personally. Klaus is horrified at the idea of having to grope under the skirt of a statue he considers indecent. The Chief insists and, after exchanging a few insults with him, Klaus dutifully accepts the mission. He stalks off, thinking irate thoughts at the ancient Greeks for their taste in clothes, and rounds up his men for a trip to England.
Meanwhile, Dorian and his crew are flying back to England with their own designs on the statue. They receive information that it is being moved to the British Museum for safekeeping. James is upset, because this means going to London and he is afraid Dorian will meet up with Caesar Gabriel again. Dorian wonders how Caesar is doing, and whether he's become any more "manly" after associating with Major Eberbach. However, Dorian wants to obtain the statue as soon as possible, so he postpones any idea of visiting Caesar.
The Major and his men assemble outside the British Museum, where the Achilles is to be delivered. Soon a truck, carrying the 3 m. statue in a large crate, pulls up and the NATO men stop it and order the driver to open the crate. Before he can comply, however, they hear an odd sound and the crate suddenly lifts straight up into the air. Looking overhead, the men see a shadow and realize that it is a black zeppelin, which has dropped grappling apparatus and seized the crate. Klaus and his men open fire on it, but it rises quickly and sails away. As it does so, a note flutters to the ground: "From Eroica with love: I am taking Achilles with me. I'll take very good care of it, so you needn't worry." The Eberbach temper is a bit ruffled by this, and Klaus considers how to track down Eroica, thinking, "I'll get you this time."
On the zeppelin, Dorian's men call the operation a great success and comment on all the ammunition which was directed at them. Dorian himself thinks that it reminds him of "a particular man", whom he thought was supposed to be in Bonn. The zeppelin lands in the woods and they see a helicopter pass overhead, searching fruitlessly for them. It's a NATO copter, and Dorian is once again reminded of Klaus. He can't figure out why Klaus would have anything to do with the Achilles statue, however.
Dismissing this line of thought for the moment, Dorian agrees that the operation was a success and suggests flying to Portugal with the statue. James objects, saying that it's too expensive to transport it by air, and suggests sending it on a ship instead. He even has one picked out: the Mediterranean cruise ship Michelangelo. Dorian thinks that's a suitable name for a ship to carry the sculpture, and agrees.
Before leaving London, Dorian decides to visit Caesar. James tags along to complain. They sneak into Caesar's house, where he is sound asleep. Dorian, looking at him, remarks that he doesn't seem to have grown any "manlier", but he's still a beautiful boy. Giving him a kiss, Dorian says that he's going to Portugal now. James, who has been whining and carrying on in the background, spots a car pulling up to the house and the two of them leave quickly.
Caesar has managed to sleep through all of this, but wakes up immediately after Dorian leaves, with the memory of a dream about him. Suddenly he hears his name shouted, and Klaus storms in. [Caesar's house might as well be a public thoroughfare for all the privacy he gets.] Caesar says something about just having had a very strange dream, including a realistic kiss. Klaus accuses him of being sexually frustrated, and suggests that he go outside and dash around the house as a remedy. [Now we know why Klaus does all that running on his days off....]
Klaus demands to know whether the Earl has visited Caesar recently. Caesar wonders whether his dream was prophetic, or if Dorian had really been there. Klaus asks about the dream (but says "Omit the stuff about the realistic kiss.") Caesar remembers hearing Dorian's voice say something about going to Portugal, but can't provide any other information.
Caesar timidly asks what the Earl stole this time. "He snatched my precious skirt," Klaus replies. "But I have to flip it for a mission, so I have to go get it back." This, understandably, boggles Caesar's brain, and he decides to go dash around the house.
One of Klaus's men reports that a neighbor saw a man with long, curly hair in the area, which confirms Klaus's suspicion that Dorian had been there. Klaus tells his men that Eroica has gone to Portugal, and orders them to track him down. They protest, saying that Portugal is a big country, but Klaus does his quietly threatening bit on them, and they charge off in a panic to search. [I think Klaus is much scarier in this mode than when he rants; he gets a chilling little half-smile and speaks quietly. We see it when he's interrogating suspects, and occasionally turned on his men for effect, but he doesn't seem to use it on Dorian much, if at all.]
Klaus leaves Mr E to supervise Caesar (telling Mr E to "sing him a lullaby"), and leaves with the rest of the crew. The narrative informs us that Caesar had a terrible nightmare about the Earl and the Major fighting over a skirt, and was subsequently ill for a long time. This is the last we ever see or hear of Caesar. [Pause for applause.]
We see the ship Michelangelo about to leave Southampton on its journey to Portugal. The crew check the freight, remarking on the large crate containing the statue. Among the passengers are the very wealthy Baronne de Brioche of Paris, who travels with some 20 trunks of baggage, and several hard-faced and suspicious-looking men.
Lisbon, Portugal: Dorian and his crew have flown here ahead of the statue and are waiting for it. We see James, Bonham, and Jones out fishing. [This is our first introduction to Bonham and Jones, though we don't find out their names until later.] They remark that Dorian is getting impatient for the statue to arrive, although it's not due for another week, and has taken off by himself on a side trip to Spain.
The three are approached by Klaus, who asks, "Excuse me, but have you seen this man around here?", showing them a photo of Dorian. He claims that this is an acquaintance he's searching for. Dorian's men are thrown into thinly veiled consternation; they know who Klaus is (and he knows who they are, though neither side is letting on.) James insists rather frantically that he saw that man in a Monaco casino. Klaus thanks them politely and departs, telling his men to follow them. The three, a bit panicked by "the NATO guy", carefully wait five minutes so they won't look suspicious and then head back to alert the rest of the gang. Klaus, watching them leave and not impressed by their "casual" act, thinks: "The Earl doesn't seem to have competent subordinates either. I'd love to sympathize with him about that, but that's for after I get the Achilles back."
We see Dorian in a sports car, on his way back to Portugal. He has just stolen a painting from a church in Toledo, Spain. We get a glimpse of it; it's a portrait of Tyrian Persimmon (The Man in Purple) as a young boy.
Back on the Michelangelo, things are happening. The sinister men we saw earlier emerge with guns and proceed to take over the ship. They seize the Baronne de Brioche and take her to the captain's cabin, where they inform her and the ship's officers that they have placed several bombs on the ship. They demand ten million lire from the Italian government in exchange for the ship, and fifty million francs from the Baron de Brioche to ransom his wife.
In Lisbon, Dorian has arrived back at his residence. As he walks in it appears that no one is home, but the television is on. Remarking that Mr James will get mad, he starts to turn it off but is interrupted by a voice which says, "I'm watching it, if you don't mind." An armchair facing the TV swivels around to reveal Klaus, gun in hand. He remarks on Dorian's once again wearing a "flashy" red shirt.
Dorian is startled, but recovers quickly and appears quite pleased to see Klaus. He says that if he'd known Klaus was going to show up, he'd have brought some wine. The two of them cheerfully discuss wine for a minute: Klaus doesn't like the "pink Portuguese stuff"; Dorian suggests he might prefer Mosel's Wehlener Sonnenuhr, and Klaus says that he likes the color of the bottle. "A very nice green," Dorian agrees.
After this chatty little exchange, Klaus gets down to business. He demands the Achilles statue and Dorian refuses. Klaus then reveals that his men are holding Dorian's crew at gunpoint. Dorian says that the statue isn't there, and admits that he has shipped it to Portugal by sea. When he names the Michelangelo, Klaus explodes with fury and tells him it has been seajacked. He indicates a news report on the TV, which details the situation including the plight of the Baronne de Brioche, whom Klaus immediately dismisses as a "bourgeois bitch". Dorian agrees. [The landed aristocrats heard from.]
Dorian points out that he and Klaus now have a common interest: they both want to retrieve the statue, intact, from the ship. He suggests that they join forces and work together. Klaus actually looks rather interested for a moment, but then rejects the offer, saying he has no intention of cooperating with Dorian. He rounds up the alphabets and stalks out, leaving Dorian thinking, "You're wonderful, Major. Whatever you do is always very, very like you."
But Dorian has no intention of allowing the Major, however wonderful, to get to the statue first. He comforts Mr James' remorseful tears over having insisted on the sea transport, and says it's really all the fault of the "bourgeois bitch" on the ship. Then he rounds up his men and leaves, vowing that if Klaus wants the Achilles for the sake of a mission, Dorian will take it for the sake of principle.
We see some continuing news coverage of the Michelangelo situation: it's been three days, the Baron de Brioche is trying to haggle over the ransom amount (he's not all that keen on his wife anyway), and the Italian government is stalling about paying up as well.
Dorian and his crew are in their submarine. They've been monitoring the news reports, and Dorian says that they need to get to the statue before the seajackers become impatient and blow up the ship. He suggests that they save the Baronne as well, though his men are less than enthusiastic, saying that it would have been much better if the hostage were a cute boy.
Cut to another submarine, this one populated by the NATO crowd. They've spotted Dorian's sub, and Klaus toys with the idea of launching a missile at it. Mr B reminds him that they're not at war right now, and anyway, they've got a rescue to complete first. Klaus isn't interested in rescuing the Baronne; he says, "I don't like her. Leave her alone."
Dorian is giving orders to his men: "We're invading from the starboard bow. The operation starts at 12:00 midnight." Klaus gives orders to his men: "Enter from the port quarter. The operation starts at 00:00!"
On the Michelangelo, the Baronne is telling the seajackers that her husband will probably try to bargain over the ransom. The leader of the gang says they'll just keep her as long as they need to, and orders her off to bed, muttering after she leaves about what an "obnoxious woman" she is. [Nobody likes the Baronne, though she really doesn't seem to be all that bad.]
In her room, the Baronne muses about how boring it all is, especially since the seajackers are so unattractive. Looking out the window, she sees a submarine surfacing alongside the ship and is delighted when Dorian emerges from it. Assuming this is the hero come to rescue her, she calls from the window. Dorian's men are even less enthusiastic about rescuing her, but Dorian starts to scale the side of the ship with the aid of a rope and grappling hook.
When he reaches her window, the Baronne is hanging out of it and ready to climb all over him, much to his dismay. As she clings round his neck he asks her to close her eyes for a moment, then calls down to Bonham on the deck of the sub below. Bonham yells that he'll catch her, and Dorian drops the Baronne down to him -- just as Bonham, saying, "But, I changed me mind," walks away and lets her land with a thump on the deck. The Eroica crew wonder what to do with her, and finally decide to "just leave her around somewhere," dumping her on an inflatable raft which they set adrift. The Baronne is last seen sitting on her raft and complaining about having been cast in an "abuse-a-beautiful-maiden comic."
Having done his humanitarian deed for the day, more or less, Dorian dashes for the freight room. He encounters two of the seajackers and dispatches them neatly with a kick and a punch, then pulls a gun on them and demands to know where the explosives are planted. Unfortunately for Dorian, another of the gang sneaks up behind him and bashes him over the head with the butt of a gun. The others start to beat him up, when another of their number charges in with the news that the Baronne has escaped. They wallop Dorian again for good measure, then the leader recognizes him as Eroica. He says this is a great catch; they should be able to get lots of ransom money for him. Dorian tells him that holding him hostage won't do them any good; his miserly accountant will spend the rest of his life trying to beat down the price.
"I agree with that," says a new voice on the scene, and the gang whirl around to find themselves confronted by Klaus. He promptly decks a couple of the seajackers, and when the leader tries to pull a gun, whips out his own and shoots the other's out of his hand. All without losing his cigarette, too. The seajackers flee, yelling in terror.
Klaus is left alone with a somewhat battered Dorian, who says, "That was impressive." Klaus replies, "I'm a professional." Dorian, looking dejected, says he thought he was a professional, too, but Klaus points out that Dorian is a thief; that's a different field. He adds, "Now that you've learned a lesson, don't stand in my way," and starts to walk out -- but then he stops to look back at Dorian, who is obviously pretty shaky. After a moment's consideration, Klaus goes back over to him, pulls Dorian's arm around his shoulders and puts his own arm around Dorian's waist to support him.
Dorian leans against him rather limply for a moment but, not too surprisingly, begins to perk up quickly given this kind of attention. The following conversation ensues as they walk along:
By this time they have arrived at the part of the ship where all their men are gathered (having presumably taken care of the seajackers, whom we don't see again.) They are greeted by exclamations from both parties that they have been unable to find the Achilles. They order the men to search again, and check the receipt James is carrying to verify that the statue was loaded on the ship. Klaus starts to accuse Dorian of having pulled some sort of trick, but their incipient squabble is interrupted by the ship's captain. He's come to thank them for saving his ship from the seajackers, but they're not interested in that -- they demand to know where the statue is. The captain replies, "Oh, you mean that sculpture? We left it at the first port after Southampton, at Calais in France."
It seems the British Museum had alerted all transport facilities about the stolen statue, and when the ship's crew checked their freight and discovered it, they turned it over to the authorities in France. The captain says it's been sent to the Louvre, to be placed on public display.
"Achilles doesn't wanna be yours, your lordship," jeers Klaus. Dorian replies, "Looks to me like he's running away from you, Major." Each repeats his determination to get the statue, and to keep the other from getting it. After another staring contest (these are getting to be a habit), they both dash off for Paris, leaving the befuddled captain to wonder what is going on.
At the Louvre: Dorian has come to view the statue, and to evaluate the guard which has been placed on it. He spots a familiar face on the other side of the crowded room: Klaus is also doing a bit of reconnaissance. They exchange appreciative glances, and the story ends with both of them speculating to themselves on which will be the first to achieve his goal.