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Nice view, innit? I spend a lot of time these days just sitting here looking out over that view. Mountains, water ... snow in the winter.

The Swiss bank account paid for that view. I can sit and look at it for the rest of my life if I want to.

How long have I known Lord Gloria? Oh, Christ. A lifetime. I was twenty-two when I met him. That's a long time ago now.

I met him in London, at a small commercial art gallery in Soho. They were holding an exhibition - a bunch of young artists nobody had ever heard of. Nobody ever got to hear of most of them either, but that's the way it goes for a lot of artists. The place was run by a young bloke who was a painter himself, but he figured out early he could make more out of selling the stuff than creating it.

I was giving them a hand with setting up the exhibition, doing the lighting. You know, make sure the lighting shows the work to best advantage. In those days, I was knocking around on the art and music scenes.

I had a day job. Electronic systems technician, with a security firm. We used to build alarm systems for small businesses and private clients. They took me on as a general dogsbody, but found out soon enough that I had a bit of a flair for thinking outside the square - figuring out how best to place the sensors, where the villains might see a weak spot, that sort of thing. The pay was good. We were at the cutting edge, not many small outfits doing what we were doing with customised systems. When a job was being quoted, they always sent me along to scope out how complicated it was going to be. My old gran was a cleaning lady; she used to say she enjoyed seeing inside other people's houses, seeing how the toffs lived. I got to see inside a lot of people's houses, too. Amazing what some people have in their homes...

Anyway, that was the day job. Night times, I worked with a band. I'd known one of the guys at school; that's how I got hooked up with them. I was their sound engineer, lighting man and roadie all rolled into one - and I drove the van. They played rhythm and blues, with a lot of top 40 tunes mixed in - to broaden the appeal, they said. What they meant was, to get hired. They got a lot of work - we were out four nights a week most weeks - but we didn't make a hell of a lot of money. I enjoyed it, though, and I got to meet a lot of people.

I got the job working on the art exhibition through some people I met when the band played at the Art School. I met a guy at that gig who was a student there. We had a thing going for a few months, and then when that ended we stayed friends, kept in touch.

The day before the exhibition opened, we were hanging the paintings, setting up the lighting and what have you, when a bunch of guys rocked in to have a preview of the works on show. And one of them was the Earl of Gloria. I remember I was sitting up on top of a ladder with a screwdriver in my hand when they walked in. Four or five guys, all done up in the height of bohemian fashion, all gorgeous - and in the middle of them: Dorian Red. Tall, handsome, all that blonde hair. He stayed around for an hour or two, talking to everyone.

We'd finished doing the set-up, and I was packing up ready to leave - and there he was, standing there looking at me with a half-smile on his face and a calculating look in those big blue eyes. Cocky bastard ... but then, he had a lot to be cocky about.

"I'm Dorian," he said. I introduced myself.

He suggested going for a drink. I wasn't about to say no. We went to the pub, had a few drinks, then went for a curry. You know, he was the most interesting bloke I'd met for a long time. He was smart, well-read ... and although I'd had him down as a cocky bastard, he didn't come across as conceited when you talked to him.

After a few hours in his company, the most natural thing in the world seemed to be that we would end up in bed.

Christ, he was beautiful.

We ran into each other a bit over the next few months. Art exhibitions, galleries; he even turned up at one of the band's gigs. He didn't acknowledge me; didn't seem to notice I was there. I sat behind the sound desk in the dark, watching him all night. There were guys all over him on the dance floor and at the bar, but he didn't seem to be particularly interested in any of them. At the end of the night, when the band started to pack up, he came over. Didn't say a thing, just stood there with the half-smile and the knowing eyes. We went out into the alleyway behind the pub and fucked up against the wall. Without a word. Moaning and grunting like animals in heat.

Not long after that, Dorian turned up at my place one night. It wasn't hard to track down where I lived - the thing that surprised me was that he'd bothered. He was the Earl of Gloria, for fuck's sake; I'd assumed he was just slumming it, hanging round with artists and students and musicians. But it turned out he had something on his mind. A business proposal. He told me about his other activities ... now, that took me by surprise!

"Why me?" I asked him.

"Because you understand security systems," he said. "My sources tell me you're good. They say the systems you design are the best. You don't think to a formula."

I'd never talked to him much about my day job. Obviously, he'd been making some inquiries.

He said, "I need someone like you who understands the systems that are designed to keep us out. Someone smart, who can get around those systems. Someone who can stay ahead of the changes."

Well, I thought about it. And the more I thought about it, the more I liked the sound of it. A life of crime? When I thought of it then, it seemed more like a life of challenges - developing tricks, solving puzzles. And being with Dorian.

Of course I said yes.

He knew I would.

I moved in to the Castle, and into Dorian's bed.

There were some others living there as well. We operated as a team, lived as a family. It was a closed community, and we protected its secrets.

Dorian was a good thief. Bloody brilliant, in fact. That was obvious the first time I saw him in action. All focus and intelligence and athletic grace. And audacity! He never took foolish risks - everything was always calculated right down to the last possibility - but some of the things he was willing to try were beyond belief. And he always brought it off, too. Skill. Talent. He had them in spades.

We shagged like rabbits the first year I was there. The new boy, the current favourite.

I wasn't his only lover. All the other guys had warmed his bed when they first joined the team, and he still shared it round with all of them from time to time. I didn't need anyone to tell me that one day another new recruit would join the team and I'd become an occasional partner, not a regular one. And he had affairs outside the community. He was pretty generous with his affections in those days.

Did I love him? Well, I suppose I did. I mean, who wouldn't? He looked like an angel, fucked like a demon. Had a brilliant mind. Yes, of course I loved him. He didn't love me, though. Not really, not genuinely in love. He was fun and sexy and a very caring lover, but he never gave his heart away. Not to me, not to any of us.

I'd been with Eroica about two and a half, three years, when we got caught up in some giddy scheme of his that involved a skinny young art professor. For someone who could be as focused and decisive as he was with his professional activities, Dorian could still fly off in pursuit of a whim. Anyway, what happened with Caesar bloody Gabriel turned out to be almost inconsequential - except, that it led to Dorian meeting Klaus von dem Eberbach. An intelligence officer with NATO, of all things. I would have said at the time that he wasn't Dorian's type. But I would have been wrong.

I've lost track of how many jobs we pulled over the years. The team worked like a well-oiled machine. We did some pretty chancy things, and I'm still amazed at some of the capers we pulled off. We worked with Major Eberbach's NATO team sometimes, too - pulled off some even more amazing things with them.

And what held it all together was that we all worshipped Dorian. At some level, we were all in love with him at some time, and that love usually mellowed down into a deep regard that was just unshakeable. We would have gone through fire and brimstone for him. I know I would have. Still would, even now.

As for Klaus, it took him a while to give in to the inevitable, but he came to feel that way about Dorian too. Of course, Dorian was ready to lay down his life for Klaus almost from the start. Oh, he gave his heart away to Klaus, all right.

Because I was part of all that, I lived life on the edge for nearly forty years. I've had more adrenalin coursing through my system than most people would think possible. I thrived on it; we all did. The danger was a drug. And we never got caught.

It was time that caught up with us in the end. Eroica was still thieving at fifty-five. But by then the sheer physicality of what he did was getting harder. Technology was developing at a rate that was increasingly hard to keep up with. And the world was becoming a darker, more ruthless, more ambiguous place, particularly if you were operating in the shadows like we were.

Dorian used to read that Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu. You know, "The Art of War". One of the things Sun Tzu taught was that a good soldier knows when to quit the field. So Dorian retired. We quit, while we were still good. Before the decline set in.

Eroica is still a legend. The master thief who never got caught. The wizard of the shadows, who loved the artworks he stole.

I haven't seen him for years. His nephew lives at Castle Gloria now, waiting to inherit the title. Dorian's not quite a recluse, but he and Klaus keep a low profile, easing into luxurious old age.

The rest of us ... well, we all had our Swiss bank accounts, building up the funds we might need if we had to disappear some day.

I never had to disappear, but when the time came, I was able to come here and create some tranquillity for myself after that life of overdosing on adrenalin. I sit here on the balcony and I look out over the lake, watch the seasons change. I'm content, I suppose. I don't want for anything.

No, I don't - I've got everything I need.

You can never go back. The only thing I would want is impossible. To be young again, young and daring - when the world was there for the taking and Dorian Red was my lover.


1 February

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