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From Eroica With Love #4

Love in Greece


We open to see James remonstrating with Dorian over the latter's sudden decision to abandon his pursuit of the Achilles statue from story #3 and to travel to Greece, where he's found a new target. He hands James a newspaper article in explanation. The article is about a young Greek shipping magnate, Yanis Fercis, who has recently inherited Fercis Shipping from his Onassis-like father. James is horrified at first, thinking that Dorian is interested in Yanis, but Dorian points out the real target in the next paragraph: Yanis is presenting an exposition in Athens, which will feature a jade Buddhist sculpture from China that has taken Dorian's fancy.

James does not approve: he hates jobs which don't produce income, and there have been too many of them lately. Dorian distracts him from his weeping and moaning by embracing him, and after a few caresses, James agrees to go to Greece. Dorian tells him to get ready at once and walks off, leaving James to realize belatedly that he's been manipulated once again.

At the Athens airport, we see an attractive young woman who has just arrived. Two men are watching her; one says he'll follow her while the other goes to report. The second one makes a phone call, which turns out to be to the Chief at his office in Bonn, and reports that Maija Bulgakow has shown up in Athens. The Chief says to keep a close eye on her, and tells a waiting subordinate (our first glimpse of Agent G) to "contact that asshole in Paris" (where Klaus is still keeping a watch on the Achilles) and tell him to report to Athens immediately. The Chief chortles with glee over assigning the Major to "chase a woman -- a very gorgeous, sexy beauty of a woman."

At Fercis shipping, Yanis Fercis is eagerly anticipating the exposition. We see that he is a vain airhead with a disco fixation, who's seen Saturday Night Fever too many times. [This story was published in 1978.] The executives at Fercis Shipping are fed up with his antics, and think that maybe if they get him married, he'll settle down.

While out walking, Yanis is approached by a lovely young woman who says that she mistook him for John Travolta at first, but that Yanis is really much more attractive. Yanis is a complete pushover and falls for her immediately.

We see the Major examining a photo of the same young woman, Maija Bulgakow, whom we are now informed is one of the KGB's most competent female spies, a Mata Hari type. Klaus is disgusted at being assigned to catch a woman, and wonders out loud whether the Chief has a personal grudge against him. ("Most people have personal grudges against the Major," whispers Mr A to Mr B in the background.) Klaus receives a report that Maija Bulgakow has been dating Yanis Fercis, and deduces that the Soviets are out to gain control of Fercis Shipping.

The romance between Maija and Yanis is proceeding apace, the two being unaware that their passionate declarations and embraces are being observed by the Major and his team. Klaus is contemptuous of Yanis for being "twisted around by a KGB spy-chick." He tells Mr B to keep watching them, and instructs Mr A to plant some bugs at the Fercis mansion and the company offices. [A and B have traded identifiers since the last story; B is now the curly-haired one and A the straight- haired, as they will remain for the rest of the series.]

Mr A arrives at the Fercis offices to plant the bugs, operating under the guise of an air conditioner repairman come to do routine maintenance. The doorman comments that "Somebody else came to check the lighting a few hours ago," arousing Mr A's suspicions. While planting his own bugs, he searches and finds others already in place. He reports their presence to Klaus, adding that they're old, outdated models. Klaus tells him to remove them, and is left wondering who else is interested in the goings-on at Fercis -- and is too cheap to use up-to-date equipment.

At the Earl's house in Athens: Dorian's team is complaining that their bugs at the Fercis offices aren't picking up anything. Dorian blames James for the failure of the devices, which he was responsible for buying. ("They were 10 years old, and very cheap.") James resents Dorian's emphasis on gadgets, saying, "You sound like the NATO machine maniac." Dorian takes great umbrage at this comparison, and accuses James of just being upset because machines cost money. James replies that he's also upset because, "You just don't 'do it' any more..." [A rather strange, out-of-the-blue pronouncement. Doesn't "do it" in general? Or with James? Either way, James seems to be associating Dorian's newfound abstinence with Klaus.]

Dorian decides that he'll have to get information about the jade Buddha directly from Yanis, though he's not happy at the prospect.

At the Parthenon: Yanis is attempting to recite Byron's poetry in praise of Greece to Maija, and getting bogged down by about the third line. Maija, outwardly admiring, is thinking to herself what an idiot he is. A new voice chimes in to complete the poem: Dorian, eccentrically but fetchingly attired. [See illustration.]

Dorian introduces himself to Yanis and Maija, gallantly kissing the lady's hand (which provokes a jealous outburst from Yanis.) He offers Maija a jade pendant, and mentions that he's heard of the jade Buddha at Fercis and would love to see it. Maija says she'd be interested, too, and suggests that Yanis order the executives to bring it out of the vault where it's kept. Yanis agrees, and invites Dorian to a party at the Fercis mansion on Saturday night, where he'll be able to view the Buddha. Yanis and Maija depart, Maija thinking that Dorian looks familiar and wondering where she's seen him before. Dorian realizes that Maija isn't really the type to fall for a dimwit like Yanis, and wonders what she's up to.

Observing from a distance, Mr B tells the Major that a man is leaving the ruins -- "a very good-looking man." The Major snaps at him for his choice of adjectives, but is otherwise uninterested. Mr A, monitoring the bugs planted in the Fercis offices, reports that an executive meeting is going on, and he and Klaus listen in.

The Fercis executives are discussing Yanis's romance with Maija, which they regard with great disapproval. They're concerned about the future of Fercis Shipping as well, with such an idiot in charge. One of them announces that he has something important to tell them: the late president of Fercis, Yanis's father, had an illegitimate daughter, a month older than Yanis. An arrangement had been made with the mother, giving the girl the Fercis name and a monthly allowance for her upbringing. They went to New York, but their present whereabouts are unknown.

The executives decide to search for Daphne Fercis, saying that she's a rightful heiress of the Fercis family and could be used to keep Yanis from maintaining sole power.

Klaus, listening in on all this, orders Mr A to contact the New York agents and have them find out about Daphne Fercis, who would be 22 or 23 years old by now. He also says to contact Bonn and summon Agent G.

In Bonn, the Chief is telling G to fly to Athens immediately. G, looking rather like Sugar Plum in a suit, is thrilled at the idea of working with "that strapping major". The Chief tells him, "Come back soon. I will miss you, you know."

Back at the Fercis offices, the executives have refused to allow Yanis to display the jade Buddha at the party. Yanis has a tantrum about it and storms out. Klaus and his team are still listening; at the reference to the Buddha, Klaus thinks, "That curly-haired bugger would be trying to get it, but that's no concern of mine..."

Klaus tells Mr A to begin their operation, which starts with a phone call to the Fercis executives, ostensibly from the New York City Public Welfare Department. It informs them that Daphne Fercis has been located, much to their delight. Klaus tells Mr G that his role will be crucial from now on, and any error will be inexcusable.

A car pulls up to the Fercis offices. The executives watch excitedly from a window as Klaus appears -- in the guise of a New York City Public Welfare employee, though the executives say he "looks like an FBI or CIA agent" -- followed by G, now in drag as "Daphne". Klaus introduces himself to the executives as "George Johnson" and delivers the ersatz Daphne, complete with her identification papers: birth certificate, green card, passport, social security card, and rice ration book. [Yes, rice ration book. That's what it says.] The executives readily accept that this is really Daphne Fercis. Klaus wishes "Daphne" the best of luck and prepares to leave, but is delayed by G staging a rather melodramatic farewell, clinging to him and sobbing on his shoulder. Klaus mutters threats about Alaska, and succeeds in prying himself loose. The executives thank him for his help, and he extricates his hand from G's grip and stalks off, thinking that he'll send G to Alaska as soon as the mission is completed.

[Click here to see scanned pages from this scene.]

In the car, Klaus asks what Maija Bulgakow is doing. B reports that she's inveigled Yanis into buying her some expensive jewelry. Klaus says to keep a close watch on her, but not to let her notice their presence. A and B notice a smear of lipstick which G has left on the Major's collar, but decide not to point it out to him, in the interests of keeping the peace (and keeping G alive.)

Saturday night, Dorian arrives at the Fercis mansion for the party. He is greeted by Maija, who tells him that the executives refused to let Yanis have the Buddha. Dorian says he'll leave, then, since he's only interested in seeing what he wants to see. "And you mean to obtain whatever you like, no matter what?" asks Maija knowingly, adding that she's seen him before.

"If you know who I am," replies Dorian, "it means you're not doing clean business either." He says he's not interested in who she is, though. Maija, who has turned away from him, is startled by a click behind her and whirls around, but it's just Dorian lighting a cigarette. He reflects that she's probably carrying a gun, and must be a spy from the Soviets. "The Major'd be happily flying here with a tank on his shoulders, if he knew." Dorian chuckles to himself.

Maija demands to know what he's snickering about, and Dorian says he was just thinking of a NATO officer. "Do you know 'Iron Klaus', by any chance?" Maija admits to knowing something about him.

[Click here to see scanned pages from this scene.]

Suddenly, Yanis comes rushing in, calling for Maija. He's babbling incoherently about his presidential position being in danger. Maija can't get a lot of sense out of him, but marches him off to find out what's going on.

Dorian's men, who have somehow invaded the party, now find him and report that there are no valuable art pieces in the house. James has something to add: he's discovered that the bugs they planted were removed, not malfunctioning. And they'd been replaced by expensive new ones, which James has, of course, collected (and now plans to sell.)

Suddenly the party is startled by loud shrieks of outrage from Yanis, who is being introduced to his "sister" and informed that she is legally his co-heir to the Fercis empire. Maija is irate, though handling it much better than Yanis; her mission is to gain control of all of Fercis shipping, not just half of it, and she realizes that with the support of the executives, Daphne might be able to oust Yanis completely.

"Daphne", dolled up like a prom queen, is introduced to the guests. All the marriageable young men in the house, including the sons of the executives, make a general rush in her direction. Dorian, getting a good look at her, immediately recognizes that "she" is a "he", and decides to go introduce himself, much to James' distress.

Dorian does a very neat job of cutting Daphne out of her crowd of admirers and taking her off in a corner to talk privately. "I don't have any particular interest in cross-dressing," says Dorian, "but are you having fun?" [Dorian, of course, does do some cross-dressing himself, but not until much later in the series, and generally just for purposes of disguise.]

G, who is not too quick on the uptake and has been completely bowled over by Dorian, replies, "Yes, it's just wonderful!" before realizing what he's said and going into a panic. He pleads, "Oh, please don't tell anybody! I don't wanna go to Alaska!" Dorian assures him of secrecy, much to G's relief.

Dorian returns to his men and deals with hysterics from James, who regards G as a rival. He starts to leave, but on his way out a servant gives him a message.

We see a car parked on an otherwise deserted street at night. Dorian, in rather dashing cloak, broad-brimmed hat, and tinted glasses, approaches it and is invited to get in by Maija. She tells him she wants a deal: she can find out where the Buddha is and help him to get it. In return, she wants him to seduce Daphne. She also reveals that she knows he is Eroica, and suggests that he might make a good KGB agent.

"Shall I seduce a prime minister or an Arab oil king?" asks Dorian. At Maija's shocked reaction, he adds: "It sounds like the KGB's file on me is missing something. Tell them to add 'homosexual' to it." He nevertheless agrees to the deal with Maija. She leaves, and as he watches her departing car Dorian thinks to himself that he's not going to watch a "cute transvestite" be threatened by a woman like that. Maija, for her part, looks forward to getting rid of Dorian and Daphne.

Klaus's men have been watching Maija. Klaus asks them for a description of the man she has just met, but Mr B says it's too dark to see much other than that he is "very good-looking". He is once again reprimanded for his adjectives.

The Major thinks that Maija must have hired a free-lance hit man to take care of Daphne. He gets a phone call from G, who confesses having been found out by a stranger at the party. The man has just called and asked G to go for a drive with him. Klaus, predictably, explodes at this, and demands a description of him. "Avoid overused expressions like 'good-looking.'"

G provides a physical description and, as an afterthought, Dorian's name. Klaus's previous explosions were mild compared to the one he has in response to this (we see G cowering behind furniture across the room from the phone.) His men timidly inquire what's wrong, and Klaus tells them, "Eroica again. He's started fucking around near me again." It dawns on Mr A that the "good-looking" man Mr B saw at the Parthenon must have been Eroica, and he gets berated for not having recognized that at the time. Klaus realizes that Dorian must be after the jade Buddha, and hopes he will just steal it and not interfere with the mission.

Maija watches Dorian and G leave for their drive. She then calls up one of her contacts and provides information about the car and its route, planning to have an "accident" arranged.

The Fercis executives have discovered the bugs planted in the office. They bring the Buddha to the house and put it in a safe there, thinking that will be more secure than the office. Maija, eavesdropping, hears them mention that air-conditioning and lighting maintenance men had shown up unexpectedly, speculating on whether they might have been spies who planted the bugs. Leaving the house, she realizes that she's being followed, and concludes that the Western agencies must have been watching her since her arrival. She remembers Dorian's reference to "Iron Klaus", assumes that he must be in league with the NATO forces, and vows revenge.

Klaus and a couple of the alphabets are following Dorian's car (a red Maserati, to Klaus's disgust.) Mr A is somewhat concerned about G's safety, but Klaus says that G's mission is to be a decoy and he should be aware of the danger. They notice another car behind them, a rattletrap covered with patches. "Must be Eroica's stingy accountant," says Klaus, and tells the others to ignore it.

It is, indeed, James and Bonham in the following car. James is alternating between wailing because Dorian is dating G, and exhorting Bonham to slow down so he won't use so much gasoline. Bonham is looking frazzled.

On a cliffside road in the flashy Maserati, Dorian is trying to persuade G to accept his help in disappearing, explaining that his life is in danger from a large organization. G is torn between his wish to confide in Dorian and his loyalty to, and terror of, the Major. Suddenly, another car roars onto the road behind them, pulls up alongside, and starts trying to push Dorian's car off the cliff. Dorian attempts evasive maneuvering, and yells at G to open the door.

Klaus, seeing the attack, orders A to speed up, draws his gun, and climbs halfway out the window to give himself a clear shot. He fires, hitting the attacker's car, which promptly crashes. A yell from Mr A draws his attention back to Dorian's car, which is just going over the cliff. Klaus watches helplessly as it tumbles down to the ocean far below. As he stands on the cliff, looking rather stunned, he hears a voice behind him and turns to see Dorian and G, a bit scratched up and battered, a few yards away.

Each of them wonders what the other is doing there, and Klaus accuses Dorian of getting in his way once again and of trying to seduce his subordinate. Dorian is surprised to learn that G is one of Klaus's men -- "I didn't expect you to use a transvestite." Klaus says that he'll do anything for his mission. Dorian asks whether that mission is to catch a KGB woman; Klaus snarls at him to "Shut up and steal that frigging Buddha!"

Dorian suggests that their paths are fated to cross. In his poetically romantic fashion, he says, "I think an entanglement of wire rope and a rose vine is a rather sadistically wonderful combination." Klaus's reply is equally characteristic, and no less evocative: "If you say any more of that frigging nonsense, I'll dump gasoline over you and burn the shit out of you!" He has grabbed Dorian by the shirt to emphasize this; Dorian, quite calm, says, "Let go. I'm not built to shoot a Magnum with one hand, unlike somebody."

Klaus looks at him in silence for a moment, with the expression on his face that he occasionally gets when Dorian slips past his defenses. Then he says, "Come on. I can at least give you some mercurochrome."

As they walk back to Klaus's car, Mr A comes running to tell Klaus that Maija Bulgakow has escaped. It seems that Mr B, who was supposed to be watching her, took time out to visit the restroom and Maija hopped a flight to Rome. Klaus says she may head for Austria; that's a spy refuge, and she won't be welcome at home after having failed her mission. He orders B to chase her down.

Mr B then adds that Maija has stolen the Buddha as well. Dorian overhears this: "She stole MY Buddha?!" Klaus, anticipating trouble from that direction, warns him sternly not to meddle. Dorian says he doesn't want to interfere in Klaus's mission, but insists on getting the Buddha back to save his own reputation. Klaus starts to drive off, then halts the car suddenly and yells "Use this!", tossing a bottle at Dorian. The lid comes off as it flies through the air, and Dorian ends up liberally spattered with mercurochrome. "Glad it wasn't gasoline," he muses.

[Click here to see scanned pages from this scene.]

James and Bonham pull up, their creaky car having finally reached the scene. James runs up to Dorian, wailing "You're all bloody! Did that transvestite bite you?" Dorian explains that it's only mercurochrome. He orders them to contact the rest of the team, saying that he's going to get the Buddha back from Maija at any cost, in spite of the "big obstacle": "A NATO-made wire rope that decorated me with mercurochrome!"

On a plane in pursuit of Maija, Klaus receives information that she has transferred to the TEE. We see that Dorian and his crew, in their own plane, are also tracking her movements.

Klaus's men report that Maija has boarded a local train. The NATO team switches to a helicopter -- a military carrier copter, which Klaus gripes about, but Mr A says it's what they gave him when he mentioned that the Major was asking for one. They realize that they've got company overhead: a familiar-looking zeppelin has appeared. Klaus grumbles, but is not surprised. Dorian, in the zeppelin, thinks that a carrier copter suits the Major very well.

Maija gets off the train, observed by all the interested parties. She realizes that pursuit is not far off and decides that the Buddha is getting in her way, so she hides it in a nearby cargo truck. Then, she climbs into the back of another truck herself.

The two lookalike trucks are travelling together, and both leave at the same time. Klaus and Dorian have each noted which one is of interest: Maija is in the one on the left, the Buddha in the one on the right. Both of them prepare to go into action. The trucks enter a tunnel, and the helicopter and zeppelin move ahead to wait for them at the other end.

While in the tunnel, the trucks are routed onto one lane by some roadwork, and when they emerge -- you guessed it -- they have switched places, unbeknownst to the predators hovering above. The copter and zeppelin both swoop down with grappling apparatus and seize their respective trucks, to the utter consternation of the truck drivers and Maija.

Klaus is pleased; he orders his men to carry Maija back to Bonn in the truck, and even goes so far as to say, "Good job, everybody!" Dorian is also pleased, saying he'll take the truck to Grindlewald before setting down to inspect the Buddha.

Mr G is gazing sentimentally at the departing zeppelin when he is interrupted by several of the other alphabets. It seems they have checked the truck they're carrying, and found that Maija is not aboard -- all they've got is the Buddha. They argue over who's going to tell the Major, and G ends up with this thankless task. When he approaches, timidly, Klaus compliments him on a job well done and promises to tell the Chief about it when they get back to Bonn. G can't work up the courage to say anything.

A similar scene is taking place on the zeppelin: Dorian's men have heard a woman's voice coming from the truck they're carrying, and realize that they've got the wrong one. James makes a feeble attempt to tell Dorian, but is forestalled when Dorian speaks of a "special reward" for him when they get back.

We see both of our heroes sitting back and thinking complacent thoughts, while their respective underlings huddle anxiously, trying to work up the courage to break the news. The helicopter and the zeppelin fly off into the distance, in different directions.


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