It is 6:30 on a summer morning. Dorian is enjoying a morning doze, with the window beside his bed open to catch the gentle breeze. His aesthetic appreciation, however, is interrupted by the most un-aesthetic arrival of James, who berates him for still being in bed. Yanking back the covers, James then goes on to throw a fit over the underwear Dorian has worn to bed -- an expensive pair James wants him to reserve for special occasions. Resisting James' attempts to pull off the underwear, Dorian feels that the day is not getting off to a very good start.
At breakfast, Dorian receives a phone call from Beirut. After James intercedes and makes certain the caller is the one paying, Dorian speaks with a Mr Bakhzial. The Bakhzials, father and son, are influential in the Beirut underworld. Having been most impressed by Dorian's appearance on the summit telecast [in Dramatic Spring], they offer him information on a job they think will be well suited to his taste.
The same summer morning, a different setting: Klaus wakes up at 6:30, shutting off his alarm the instant it starts to sound. He gets up -- wearing conservatively striped pajamas, with an undershirt -- and heads for the shower. Shortly thereafter, he enters the dining room of his house, now in his usual impeccable uniform, and is greeted by the butler. Klaus mentions that it feels hotter than usual this summer, but is unreceptive to the butler's suggestion that his long-sleeved undershirts might have something to do with that.
During breakfast, Klaus receives a phone call from the Chief (who is still in bed at his own house), with orders to fly out immediately on a new mission. As he leaves, Klaus tells the butler to prepare some short-sleeved undershirts for him, but squelches the butler's suggestion that he might like some sleeveless ones if he's going to be travelling to a hot climate.
Dorian has just announced to his team that they are going to Iran. They don't like the idea at all; it is only a few months since Shah Pahlevi was deposed by the Ayatollah Khomeini, and the area is politically unstable and dangerous. James, of course, objects loudly, not because of the danger but because of the expense. Dorian tells him they need to spend a little in order to gain millions: the treasure of Shah Pahlevi, a portion of which was supposed to have been hidden before his enforced exile. Dorian is intrigued by the history and drama associated with this treasure, but James is still unimpressed. He is finally won over by Dorian's offer of five worn-out pairs of underwear and becomes quite enthusiastic, vowing to make the trip inexpensive.
The Eroica team sets out for Iran, flying on Aeroflot (because it's cheap) to Istanbul. James proposes their taking a bus from there to Iran, but Dorian prefers to sneak in, avoiding major roads. On the plane, James practices his conversational Persian, limiting himself to phrases useful in haggling over prices.
At NATO Intelligence headquarters in Bonn, Klaus is reviewing a map of the Middle East. Mr Z brings him a list of the agents who speak Persian or Arabic, and Klaus gripes about how few of them there are. Mr Z is not among them, and Klaus tells him to study harder and delegates him to stay in Bonn and answer phones during this mission. [This is our first view of Mr Z in the Eroica series. He had been introduced in his own Z manga a month before this story was published.] Klaus is not happy with being sent to Iran, and grouses about the incompetence of his men, NATO agents in Turkey, Shah Pahlevi, and humanity in general.
It seems that before the Iranian revolution, the Shah had received important military information about Soviet missiles installed in the Kara Kum desert. NATO wants that information, which is thought to be still hidden in Iran, and Klaus' mission is to find and retrieve it, without alerting the revolutionary government or the Soviets.
En route to Iran on a military plane, Klaus happens to catch sight of an Aeroflot commercial plane and mutters about the "stingy idiots" who would fly on it. Over on the Aeroflot plane, James is still practicing haggling in Persian.
Klaus lands at a Turkish air force base, where he is greeted by NATO agent Giovanni Steffano and Turkish lieutenants Sanjavi and Azhali. Klaus immediately demands the details about his mission, but Lt Sanjavi suggests they have some tea first. Steffano explains that in Turkey, the culture is unhurried and it takes patience and a willingness to adapt to the local pace to get anything done. Klaus calmly retorts that he has no intention of conforming to their lazy way of life. Steffano tries to lecture Klaus on cultural relations, but is cut off by a bellow of "Shut up, wop!", Klaus' limited stock of patience having been exhausted. He once again demands a report, and the shaken Steffano tells him to contact a man whose code name is Ghedi, who supposedly knows the details of where the information can be found. That's all he has to offer, and Klaus sneers at him for not having accomplished anything more than tea-drinking. Dismissing the locals as useless, Klaus summons the half-dozen alphabets he's brought with him and departs, leaving Steffano and the Turkish officers to grumble about his impatience.
Near the Iranian border, two caravans move across the desert. We see that the first one consists of Klaus and his men, in full Middle Eastern regalia, or a reasonable facsimile thereof. Klaus says that the best way to cross the border is as a caravan, since they aren't inspected too closely.
The guards at the border question Klaus, as he doesn't look familiar. He says that he recently inherited the caravan from his father, and they readily let him pass. Behind him, he hears one of the guards say, "You must be European," and turns to see which of his men has been spotted -- but it's the leader of the caravan behind them who's being addressed. ("What a flashy man," thinks Klaus.) The man is explaining that he was a BBC reporter who was adopted into a Bedouin family while making a documentary. This satisfies the guards, but when the man turns to move on, he and Klaus meet face to face -- and yes, of course, it's Dorian.
There is a moment of stunned silence as the two recognize each other and each realizes that the other can give away his identity. To forestall this, they throw themselves into each other's arms, staging a greeting as of old friends reunited, to the confusion of their respective followers and the fascination of the border guards. Under cover of the embrace, Klaus pulls a gun and tells Dorian not to say anything unnecessary. Dorian holds a knife to Klaus' throat and tells him to keep quiet. They agree not to betray each other and Klaus starts to move away, but Dorian -- never one to pass up an opportunity -- suggests that they should "fool the audience a little more." Embracing Klaus, he kisses him repeatedly. Klaus can't object out loud without blowing his cover, and Dorian takes full advantage of this, ignoring his whispered remonstrances and look of stark terror.
Eventually one of the border guards hesitantly asks if they could finish up soon, as a line is forming behind them. Dorian apologizes graciously for the delay. (Klaus is speechless.) The guard tells Dorian, "Your wife's been crying all this time," indicating the wailing James in the role of a veiled Bedouin woman, and adds that he can understand why Dorian runs after men, "your wife not being beautiful and everything." The two caravans finally move on, leaving the guards happy at having "something to talk about for at least a month."
Dorian cheerfully parts from Klaus, who refuses to answer any questions and marches his men off in a hurry. James is still in a jealous tantrum, having timed the embrace between the two at a minute and thirty seconds. Dorian explains that they were actually threatening each other, whereupon James breaks into babblings about "the intense aesthetic of sadism," and passes out from heat exhaustion. Leaving the others to attend to him, Dorian gazes after Klaus and wishes him luck.
Klaus, meanwhile, is frantically swabbing his face with antiseptic alcohol (provided by one of the alphabets, who wryly comments, "I don't think he has rabies, sir,") and is still appalled at the recent meeting: "He licked all over my face in public!" He decides that, while he hates lazy Turks and wops, he hates Dorian even more.
Teheran, Iran: Dorian, back in European garb, strolls through the streets. Its 7:00, and he has an arrangement to meet someone. He sees a small, solitary figure in a chador, who shows him a flower and asks whether he knows what it is called. "Its called 'Eroica', little brother," replies Dorian. This is the expected response, and his new acquaintance leads him away.
Klaus, also back to normal clothes, enters a crowded nightclub populated by tough-looking men. They are being entertained by an attractive belly-dancer who, seeing Klaus sitting alone at a table, approaches him and tries a bit of a come-on. Klaus ignores her advances, and says he wants to see Ibrahim Allashid. This gets the attention of some strong-arm types nearby, and Klaus is escorted in to see Allashid, in an opulent office full of armed bodyguards. He greets Allashid by the code name of "Ghedi", and accuses him of having been so successful in his "cover" that he's forgotten his real business. Ghedi says he doubts Klaus' identity, and insists that he demonstrate his trademark one-handed firing of a .44 magnum automatic. Klaus obliges, blasting a hole in the middle of the domed ceiling. Ghedi is suitably impressed, and Klaus demands that he reveal the location of the military information.
Dorian's guide has taken him to an ornate house occupied by a turbaned man and a dozen or so very pretty young boys. The proprietor is disappointed that Dorian isn't interested in boys, but Dorian says he'd prefer that they "ripen for four or five more years." Mr Bakhzial has claimed that this man knows the whereabouts of the treasure. Dorian asks about it, but the man has the local custom of conducting no business in a hurry; he speaks of a "welcome feast" and orders one of the boys to bring in drinks. They are served by Haalun, the dark-haired boy who escorted Dorian to the house. His employer says Haalun used to attend the palace before the revolution, and was a favorite with several of the ministers. (The turbaned man seems to be running something along the lines of a high-class agency for catamites.) He offers Haalun to Dorian, adding that he can reserve ahead for four or five years, since he doesn't care for young boys. Dorian tries to bring the topic of conversation back to the treasure, but is told, "That is for tomorrow." He walks out in disgust.
As he is leaving the house, Dorian is approached by Haalun, who offers to tell him where the treasure is in return for a favor. Haalun was in the palace at the time of the revolution and saw the treasure being hidden. He speaks wistfully of perhaps seeing Dorian again in five years, and the favor he asks for is merely a kiss, which Dorian willingly gives him.
Klaus is briefing his alphabets on the location of the military information: it is hidden inside a wall in the palace, which is now guarded by the revolutionary government. He says it's best to send just one person: "Who is best suited for this?"
Nighttime at the palace: the guards outside are approached by two veiled figures, ostensibly women. One of them explains that her companion is suffering from heatstroke, and asks the soldiers to help support her to her home. A guard agrees to help out, and walks off with the two.
Shortly afterward, the uniformed man apparently returns. He claims to hear a noise from inside the palace, and offers to go inside to check. The rest of the guards are bored and unsuspicious. We see Eroica's team watching from around a corner, the soldier who assisted the "women" tied up and gagged nearby.
Dorian walks cautiously through the dark palace, discarding the headscarf of his uniform, which he finds too stuffy. He is seeking a hall at the back of the palace, where the treasure is hidden inside a wall. Just as he gets there, however, he stumbles across the unconscious body of one of the guards and realizes that there must be someone else lurking in the palace.
Suddenly, he is illuminated by a flashlight beam. He switches on his own flashlight, which reveals Klaus, dressed for the job in a form-fitting black outfit. They stare at each other in astonishment for a minute (though they should both be getting used to this sort of thing), then Klaus demands to know what Dorian is doing there -- and in a uniform, yet. Dorian turns the question back on him, and goes on to comment on how sexy he looks in the black turtleneck and trousers. As usual, this sort of talk makes Klaus nervous, and he attempts to ignore Dorian while searching for the concealed opening in the wall where his target is supposed to be hidden.
However, Klaus soon realizes that Dorian is still standing behind him and regarding him with a lascivious gaze. He whirls around to snap at him about it, telling him to go away and do whatever it is he's there to do. Dorian explains that he'd like to, but Klaus is in the way -- Dorian's objective is inside the wall with the green tiles, which is exactly what Klaus has been working on. They both have deep misgivings upon realizing that their targets are located in the same place, but decide to find the hiding place first and argue about it later.
A square section of the wall is designed to come out, revealing a small passage. It's only big enough for one person, and Klaus orders Dorian to go in first, having no intention of letting Dorian ogle his rear end as he crawls into the tunnel. Dorian comments, "Too bad I won't get to see a very thrilling sight," but obligingly goes first, leaving Klaus to cast a critical eye over his rear (and to give him a kick when he doesn't move fast enough.)
The passage leads to a ledge overhanging a gap between the inner and outer walls of the palace. Hanging over this ledge, with Klaus holding onto him by the belt, Dorian finds a small shelf below it with a box carefully placed there. He grabs it, and Klaus hauls him back into the hall, a bit over-vigorously. ("You're lighter than I expected," he explains.)
Dorian picks the lock on the box and opens it to reveal a dazzling collection of jeweled ornaments. Klaus insists on sorting through them first, and picks out a dagger in an ornamented sheath. "Hey, is this 'artistic'?" he asks Dorian, who says that it's impressive, though not to his own taste. Klaus takes the dagger, telling Dorian he can do what he likes with the rest. As he's turning to leave, Dorian calls him back and drapes an elaborate emerald necklace against his neck (while Klaus gets that deer-in-the-headlights look), commenting, "Emeralds look very nice on a brunet." Before Klaus can stalk off again, Dorian finds another dagger, this one in a heavily jeweled sheath, much more elaborate than the one Klaus picked out. He is delighted with it, though Klaus scorns it as vulgar.
The two are startled by a voice yelling for "Sallaha" -- the other soldiers have grown concerned over the prolonged absence of the one Dorian was impersonating. After a moment's thought, Klaus says they should exchange clothes: "You don't look like a soldier at all, even in a uniform!" Dorian suggests that Klaus is just getting self-conscious in his tight outfit, but agrees to the trade. [Klaus is evidently able, when it's necessary, to overcome his usual qualms about undressing with Dorian around, as he goes through the costume switch without vaporing about it.] With Klaus now dressed in the soldier's uniform and Dorian in the black sweater and pants, the two prepare to leave. Klaus hands Dorian a spare gun -- and then points his own gun at Dorian, saying "Put 'em up!"
The soldiers have entered the palace and are searching for their cohort. Suddenly Klaus appears, holding Dorian at gunpoint. In his best commanding-officer mode, he berates the soldiers for not being around to help him capture the intruder, and for letting someone get into the palace in the first place. He orders them to go assist the unconscious guard in the hall, and marches Dorian outside.
More soldiers are waiting outside the palace, and Klaus tells them he's taking Dorian to headquarters. One of the men, however, is suspicious because he doesn't recognize Klaus, and asks what regiment he's with. Klaus stalls him for a moment, then decks him with a punch. This cues Dorian to knock aside another guard and make a run for it; when one of the soldiers starts to fire at him, Klaus shoots the rifle out of his hands. Klaus jumps into a nearby Jeep -- while Dorian attempts to provide cover fire and nearly nails Klaus in the process, Dorian's aim with firearms being notoriously bad -- and drives away. Dorian soon manages to elude the pursuing soldiers, scaling a wall and watching them charge past below him. He then rejoins his admiring followers, leaping gracefully down from the wall.
Safely back at his hotel, Dorian looks over the items he's brought back: the jeweled dagger, the emerald necklace, and a few other expensive odds and ends. [I'd love to know where he was carrying them; the black outfit didn't leave a lot of room for concealment.] James is disappointed at such a small haul, but Dorian tells him the dagger alone is worth at least a hundred million pounds. However, he dashes James' avaricious dreams by saying he has no intention of selling it. James then suggests selling the gun Dorian got from Klaus. Dorian objects, saying, "This is a gun he personally lent to me." This throws James into another jealous fit, and Dorian gives in and lets him take the gun off to sell on the black market. Finally left in peace and quiet, Dorian muses over difficult personalities like those of James and Klaus...especially Klaus.
Klaus himself has rejoined Ghedi and is examining the dagger. Unfortunately, the microfilm capsule he's looking for is not in the dagger's sheath, where he expected to find it. Ghedi points out that he said it was in an "extremely beautiful jeweled dagger with artistic value"; the one Klaus carried off is handsome, but more practical than artistic. Klaus yells at Ghedi for not having given a more precise description. It occurs to him that the dagger Dorian was exclaiming over must be the one in question, and he orders Ghedi to locate the art thief Eroica, saying that he stole the dagger. Ghedi says that he'll get his men on the job "tomorrow", but after Klaus shows signs of becoming very unpleasant, hastily revises that to "right now, immediately!"
When Ghedi summons his men into the office to give them their orders, Klaus is taken aback to see that one of them is carrying a very familiar-looking gun. The man says he just bought it on the black market; Klaus asks him if the seller was an Englishman, describing James, and the man confirms it, adding that he got a great price on the gun, one-fifth the usual going rate. [An unusual slip on James' part; was he so anxious to get rid of any link to Klaus that his bartering skills were affected?] Klaus is horrified, and considers this a brutal insult to his pride. He's already mad at Dorian for interfering in his mission and taking the dagger; now he demands that Ghedi track down Eroica in six hours, tops.
Dorian, strolling through a garden in the morning, receives a visit from Haalun, who is saddened to hear that he's planning to leave so soon. As a parting gift, Dorian presents him with the emerald necklace. Haalun, a perspicacious child, says, "Don't you have somebody else in mind who deserves it?"; Dorian answers, "Well, I don't know about that...."
Haalun says he'll never forget Dorian, and hopes to see him again in five years. They say good-bye, and Dorian walks away, wondering whether he'll still remember Haalun in five years. Dorian is very much a creature of the present, and he is content to leave Haalun behind as part of the romantic dream of Persia.
Back at the cute-boy agency, Haalun's employer is praising him for his success in receiving such a valuable gift. He hears a car pulling up, and tells the boys to go greet the arriving customer, which they scamper off to do. The "customer", however, is unimpressed: "What a creepy bunch of brats!" says the Major. The owner is puzzled at his lack of interest, thinking -- to himself, fortunately -- "He sure looks like he's into this...."
Klaus says that he's searching for the Earl of Gloria, and demands information. The owner denies all knowledge of him, and is backed up by the boys. Suddenly Klaus notices Haalun in the crowd, wearing the emerald necklace. He demands to know where the boy got it; Haalun, all wide-eyed innocence, tries to pass it off as a present from "a certain owner of an oil company," but Klaus says he was at the palace and saw the Earl with it. Haalun gives in and tells him the Earl has left for Beirut.
As Klaus is heading back for his car, Haalun runs after him and asks for a favor in return for having answered his questions. Klaus calls him a "shrewd brat" and offers him money to "go buy an ice cream or something." But Haalun says he doesn't want money. "I can't give you cigarettes. Wait 'til you turn 18," says Klaus -- but that isn't what the boy wants, either. Just as he did with Dorian, Haalun asks for a kiss.
The result, however, isn't quite the same. Klaus is stunned at first, asking one of the alphabets to confirm whether that's what the boy really said. When Haalun tells him, "The Earl has done it," Klaus looks even more horrified and then explodes: "Idiot! A child is supposed to study and exercise in sports and carry on a healthy, constructive life! You should never engage yourself in foul homosexual activity!" He hustles his men into the car and practically flees, leaving Haalun and his employer in puzzlement. "Maybe it's because he's a very bad kisser," suggests Haalun.
In the car, Klaus is still ranting about Haalun having placed him in the same category as Dorian. He receives a phone call from Ghedi, who informs him that Dorian has left for Beirut. Klaus thanks him and says he's also leaving for Beirut now. After hanging up the phone, Ghedi announces a party to celebrate the Major's departure.
Dorian is back in Beirut, visiting the Bakhzials, whom he has presented with a pearl necklace from the treasure trove as a souvenir. They discuss the theft and Klaus' unexpected appearance. Dorian remarks that he's really been too busy so far to enjoy the "grand fantasy and drama of the Silk Road." Mr Bakhzial, senior, comes up with the idea of lending Dorian their Jeep so he can go driving and see the country. Dorian likes the idea.
Klaus, at the airport, receives the information that Dorian is heading to Damascus in the Bakhzial's Jeep. Deducing that he will probably make a sightseeing trip to Palmyra on his way, Klaus orders his men to prepare a helicopter for pursuit.
Dorian and James are speeding across the desert in the Jeep, with James complaining about Dorian's exceeding the "economical speed." Dorian is, nevertheless, enjoying himself, and stops at Palmyra to revel in the ruins of its ancient splendor. His reverie is interrupted by the approach of a helicopter; binoculars reveal that Klaus is aboard. Dorian and James take off in the Jeep, but James points out that they have very little gasoline left and won't get far.
On the helicopter, the pilot is also warning that they're running low on fuel. Klaus takes a rifle and fires at the Jeep; Dorian swerves and the Jeep overturns, spilling him and James onto the sand. The helicopter lands and Klaus approaches. He demands the dagger, saying he'll give it back to Dorian when he's finished. Dorian hands it over and Klaus quickly extracts the microfilm capsule, then returns the "vulgar, showy" dagger. When Dorian asks what happens next, Klaus says he's going to turn him over to the ICPO (Interpol). Dorian doesn't care for that idea, and he and James make a rush for the helicopter, in which they succeed in taking off, while Klaus and his men grab the Jeep. Klaus is unperturbed, knowing that the fuel in the copter is nearly gone and they'll just end up stranded in the desert before long. He tells his men to get the Jeep back upright so they can get moving, but they soon report that it seems to be damaged -- and has very little fuel left. "That's why he snatched my copter!" thinks Klaus. "What a shrewd son-of-a-bitch! Eroica!"
Dorian is admiring the sunset from the helicopter, but James distracts him by pointing out that the fuel meter reads zero. They end up making a hasty landing somewhere in the middle of the desert, where they'll have to radio for help. Dorian is irked at Klaus having "cheated" him, and while he's on the radio, also sends out a message for any KGB agents who might be listening in, telling them that "Iron Klaus" of NATO is stranded in the desert near Palmyra. We see that some KBG men are in fact listening, including Polar Bear, whom we met in Dramatic Spring and who has no cause to remember Klaus with any fondness. "This is my thanks, Major," thinks Dorian, "though I know you'll escape somehow."
Klaus is waiting impatiently for his men to get the Jeep running, and grousing about Dorian having interfered with his mission once again. Feeling spiteful, he uses the Jeep's radio and calls up the ICPO, telling them that the thief Eroica is stuck in the desert north of Palmyra, with a jeweled dagger stolen from Pahlevi's palace. ICPO says they appreciate NATO's cooperation. "Knowing him, he'll escape nice and clean," thinks Klaus, "but he'd better have some chilling experience first."
Dorian watches the crescent moon over the desert and thinks of Klaus: "I'll pray for your fortunes of war, Major. From Eroica with love, good luck..."
Klaus ignores the crescent moon as he works on the Jeep, muttering, "How dare you give me this frigging car, Earl? Wait in the middle of the desert for the ICPO to come and pick you up!"
"All is as Allah wishes.... Insh'Allah!" concludes the narrative.