The German had that faintly shellshocked look that newcomers tended to get about three hours after arriving in this tiny California town. Though he was handling having been rescued by a five foot tall teenage girl better than most macho men did.
“And the demon that attacked you was imprisoned in this statue four hundred years ago,” the tweedy Englishman told him, opening a dusty leatherbound volume. Why did it have to be an Englishman? Pity the bloody island hadn't sunk into the ocean millenia ago, it would have saved everyone all sorts of trouble.
“If we can find the statue,” Klaus's cute little blonde rescuer was saying, “we can put the demon back into it, but we don't know where it is.”
Klaus looked at the drawing, an old woodcut of a statue of a young man clad only in strategically placed gems.
“I can make an educated guess.”
A young woman was behind the counter. She was fairly tall, trim and fit, with dusky skin, black hair and a confident smile. “How can I help you?”
“I need to talk to Rally Vincent.”
She held her head a fraction higher. “That’s me. What is it?”
Dorian's eyebrows lifted, but Klaus wasn't much surprised. There were more male gunsmiths than female ones, sure, but he had encountered his share of gun-loving women at firing ranges over the years. He took out the assassin's automatic, a custom job, and laid it on the counter. “Did you make this gun?”
She took it up and examined it expertly. “Sure did! I took a 1006 and completely dehorned it and melted the edges and the slide. I even retuned the internals and did a full action and tune job on it, and accurized it."
"And you fully ramped and throated the barrel," Klaus noted, and pretended not to notice Dorian's expression on hearing that. Pervert.
"You noticed!" She patted it proudly. "And then I gave it a soft satin vapor honed finish."
"You did. Excellent job." When the mission was over, Klaus was going to commission a gun from her himself. Give her a pile of money and let her loose on the project and see what she gave him.
"Why are you asking about it? Surely Solokoff didn't sell it! He loved this piece.”
Klaus held out his NATO credentials to her. “I'm afraid your customer is a professional assassin. He committed a murder using that gun. I’m trying to apprehend him.”
Her eyes widened, outraged. “Then let me help you. I won’t have anyone killing people with my guns!”
“Isn’t that what they’re for?” Dorian asked blankly, and got a withering look from both of them.
The problem with belonging to an old family was that over the centuries they accumulated things, and people came to ogle them. Klaus's sense of family duty ordained that when a book expert – his last name was Corso, but he was a Yank, not a wop – wanted to examine Tyrian's copy of The Nine Gates of the Kingdom of Shadows, Klaus automatically gave the okay and commissioned Conrad to watch the man like a hawk. This time the Major was able to be away from the Schloss, so if Corso happened to be a pervert like some of the damned sightseers the place attracted, Klaus didn't have to put up with being one of the sights.
He'd thought that would be the end of the matter, except that Corso's client Boris Balkan had actually broken into the Schloss's library that night. For the first time something good came of Klaus's association with a certain thief; it had made him install the latest state-of-the-art security system, and while it might not have kept out the person it was intended to thwart, it did mean that the entire Schloss was awake and the police alerted before the shards of window glass had hit the floor. Klaus apprehended the overconfident millionaire with ease, despite the man's close personal relationship with Satan.
Later all the papers speculated that it was Balkan's expensive lawyers who got his sentence softened to commitment in a mental institution, but to the residents of Schloss Eberbach, who had listened to Balkan's confident explanation of why he would escape and walk free, knew better.
All Klaus had done - all he had done - was say that she was a good shot. That was all! There was no reason for the thief to be carrying on like this.
Even while the agents of NATO and NCIS were all sitting around the table of maps and charts working out the plan of attack, he wouldn't let it rest. Like when Ziva took a swig of her Berry Mango Madness and put the bottle down. Eroica snatched it up and started reading the ingredients aloud.
"My, my. Fifty-five grams of high fructose corn syrup." He handed it back to her. "Better have two, you're an American now."
" Goyische fop ," she replied with an innocent smile. Her refusal to get riled up was only making Dorian angrier.
"Shut it, limey," Klaus snapped, and returned to issuing orders to the lot of them. "Agent A and I will be on the north door. Z and Agent DiNozzo here," he tapped the blueprint, "and Agent David, you're small enough to fit through the window to the basement-"
"As long as she doesn't break a nail," Eroica interrupted.
Dimpling, she held up her fingers, showing her unpolished, close-clipped nails, and then looked pointedly at Dorian's, which were not long or painted but had clearly been professionally manicured. Dorian curled his well-kept hands into fists and glared at her.
Klaus was about to tell him to shut up again, but he had seen Ziva sparring with Agent Z earlier. If Eroica annoyed her enough, well, getting walloped by a female half a foot shorter than him might tamp him down considerably. Not to mention being very amusing to watch.
Ziva and A left to fetch equipment. Klaus was so intent on double-checking the rotation schedule of the guards that he didn't realize that Eroica was changing into his catsuit right there in the room until the damned fop was completely naked. And as usual, he was displaying no sense of modesty whatever, and dawdling to make it as difficult as possible for Klaus to avoid looking.
"Hurry up and get your clothes on, idiot," Klaus ordered.
Only a few seconds later, Dorian was to wish he had taken this advice. Because the door flew open and Ziva marched in, A in her wake, both carrying small arsenals. Seeing the thief in a state of undress, she stopped in surprise, but did not bother to avert her eyes while Eroica frantically grabbed for covering.
A slow smile spread over her pretty face as Eroica hastily pulled on his skin-tight black trousers. "That's funny," she said.
Scarlet-faced, Eroica demanded, "What?"
She met his eyes impishly. "You don't look Jewish."
It put images in Klaus's mind he really could have lived without, but on the bright side, the alphabets never let Eroica live it down.
These international conferences were so fucking boring. And the terribly important people at them were nearly all idiots, even the German ones. And Klaus kept getting stuck being one of the military consultants, for some fucking reason.
Most of the time, instead of trying to talk sense to the assembled idiots, Klaus would just sit there and doodle. Sometimes he drew detailed though clumsy sketches of Leopard tanks or Magnums, but other times, badly drawn, uncomplimentary depictions of the so-called dignitaries he was having to listen to.
That was what he was doing now, exaggerating the American diplomat's perfectly coiffed hair (it made the guy look like a Ken doll) and the Czech's bushy eyebrows. The drawings looked like a kid had done them, but so what? Art was for fops and perverts.
One of the aides came by with fresh coffee (not Nescafé, that would of course be too much to ask) and Klaus looked up from his paper for a second. That was when he noticed what the woman next to him was writing. Or rather, drawing. It was a doodle of the British minister, as unskilled and unflattering as the ones Klaus had drawn, the limey's overbite magnified a hundredfold.
She was an American, he knew that – he'd heard her say a few words to someone before the speeches and hearings had started. She was quite fat, which of course he didn't approve of, but her stern expression and the way she carried herself gave her a no-nonsense air that reminded Klaus favorably of many of the nuns who had taught him in school. Besides, she was clearly a hard worker with a good brain; a black woman who had attained a high enough rank in a government agency to be at this boring conference had to be. He covertly looked at her name badge: Amanda Waller.
Klaus had never passed notes in class, not having anyone of like mind to pass them to, but there was no reason not to start now. He pushed his paper over to her without a word.
Her grim expression didn't change. For a second Klaus actually thought she was going to be angry. Instead, she took a sheet from the bottom of her stack and shoved it to him silently. It was of the woman the Italians had sent, who had made the mistake of getting a haircut which would have been more appropriate for her fourteen-year-old daughter. Ms. Waller had been merciless in her depiction. It took all of Klaus's control to keep a straight face.
Just then the Canadian representative took the stand. Klaus and Amanda both drew stick figures of the man, showcasing his sour expression. Really, the man looked like he'd just eaten a lemon. Klaus made sure to feature the man's stupid looking bow tie. When they were finished, they traded drawings.
For the rest of the day, Klaus and Amanda Waller doodled every speaker and then traded their drawings. When it was over, they went about their business without having exchanged one word with each other. It was the most fun Klaus had ever had at a conference.