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From Eroica With Love #12

The Laughing Cardinals

Summary by Mme Cusack


The alphabets were trembling before the ice-cold Major who had just recovered from diarrhea [see Paradise Party]; he was threatening them with the possibility of relocating all (except Z) to Alaska. When the tension reached its peak, he was summoned to the Chief. A NATO agent called "Otto", stationed in Rome, was killed in Switzerland when trying to contact the Major. His recorded last message was: "Send my message to Major Eberbach. 'Laughing Cardinals.' Tell the Major it's 'laughing cardinals.....'" Otto was found dead at a public phone booth in Lucerne. With no other clue, Klaus assumed that Otto had obtained some kind of crucial information in Rome, and fled to Switzerland where he was murdered. Klaus assigned his men in several spots on the routes Otto might have taken, and headed for Rome with A and B.

Eroica was in Switzerland to check the residence of a snobbish supermarket owner. The rich man and his mansion didn't impress him, but there he met and was fascinated by a beautiful, innocent young monk, Sebastianus, who came to make a direct appeal to the supermarket proprietor not to demolish their abbey in Lucerne to build another business in his chain. The landlord of the impoverished abbey had sold the property to the supermarket owner. Dorian drove Sebastianus and another monk back to their abbey to get the details.

The Major and his team started the wild-goose chase after the enigmatic keyword "Laughing Cardinals" in Rome. They realized that the KGB was already trying to stall their search. His men in Lucerne reported the KGB had been tracking Otto before his death. The three shook off the KGB and took a flight to Milan.

Eroica discovered that the abbey now owned by the wealthy snob was filled with the beauty of the medieval age. Determined to obtain the abbey for himself and protect its beauty, he set a little trick on the crucifixion so that tears came out of the Christ's eyes in front of the spectators. Things went as he planned, and the word was spread that the miracle was the Lord's lament for the abbey's demolition, which forestalled the snob's plan for the time being. Incidentally, Klaus' agents visited the abbey with Otto's picture, looking for the clue to "cardinals". A monk told them Otto had come to the abbey. The alphabets were staggered to see Eroica there; he told them there were many frescoes of cardinals in the abbey.

It was not Eroica's intention to invite Klaus and his much too realistic mission into his quiet world of past beauty. However, Klaus and his men intruded into the abbey and found a strange fresco which had five cardinals with eerie smiles on their faces. Klaus guessed Otto had hidden a microfilm somewhere inside the long crack running across the fresco, tried to dig in the crack and provoked Dorian's anger. Klaus and the KGB started shooting at each other in the abbey. Dorian hit the Major's head hard with a broken wing of an angel statue. He declared Klaus that for this one time he was absolutely determined to get in his way to protect the world he cherished. Klaus locked up Dorian in a small cell and stole the entire wall containing the fresco from the abbey.

The KGB and Eroica started chasing the Major and the fresco. The truck with the fresco and all of Klaus' men was snatched by the KGB group led by a tough agent called "Akegarasu" ("crow of dawn"), Mischa's favorite pupil. Klaus' Mercedes with himself inside was thrown into a freezing lake. Dorian attempted to help him, but nearly drowned himself and was rescued by the Major. Klaus, Dorian and Bonham ventured to retrieve the fresco and rescue the alphabet soup held as hostages in the castle Ardler high up on top of a steep mountain. They climbed the rocky cliff in the middle of the night. The following conversation occurred during the climb:

Bonham: I wonder where Mr. A and everyone else are confined.
Dorian: Probably in the turret. It's strongly built and has only one door. Turrets were often used as prisons in the old times.
Klaus: That's right. When I was a kid, my dad flung me in there when I was mischievous.
Dorian: Did the darkness scare you?
Klaus: I sulked and slept.
Dorian: My mother often shut me up in the tower. It was always Father who came to get me out.
Klaus: So that's the kind of environment which makes one a homo, huh? I see.
Dorian: Mind your own business! Don't waste your energy talking daft!

The KGB had found the microfilm inside the painting. Klaus had a close battle with Akegarasu, but Dorian's skill with a crossbow helped him knock down Akegarasu and get the microfilm. He promised Dorian that he would have the fresco fixed and return it to the abbey.

Fed up with the incompetency of the alphabets, Klaus finally ordered all of them (except Z) to go to Alaska. The indiscreet decision, however, lead Klaus and Z to suffer in an inferno of paperwork.

Dorian went back to his abbey to indulge himself in dreams of the medieval age (and the beautiful monk), but what was waiting for him was James' maddening obsession to dig out a pure gold cross buried somewhere in the abbey's lot (which was a lie Dorian had made up to convince James the abbey was worth purchasing).


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"The Laughing Cardinals" summary copyright Mme Cusack.