The Perfect Cover
By San Antonio Rose

            Okay, so Gil’s a healthy human male of a certain age with interests.  And yes, he’s read some stuff Von Pinn would disapprove of—or his mother, if he had one, if he knew her.  It happens.

            He also has a memory every bit as eidetic as Boris’.  The Heterodyne Boys books he rereads for fun.  Trelawney Thorpe, Spark of the Realm, in: The Seraglio of the Iron Sheik?  He’s read that once.  Every other time Wooster’s found him with it in his hands, Gil’s been about to do something neither his father nor Her Undying Majesty needs to know about.  He doesn’t even need to look at the pages anymore; all it takes is a few well-turned off-color phrases, and his proper English butler blushes and excuses himself with alacrity.  And boom, Gil’s got an hour to himself, no questions asked.  Zoing’s the only one who knows that he’s doing serious work in those hours, not indulging in fantasies of a harem of his own.

            Paris, though... Paris was both an opportunity and a problem.  He knew Tarvek Sturmvoraus was going to be there, and Father wanted Gil to keep the spectacled cobra off guard.  And there would be others; Gil didn’t know who they all were or even what countries they’d be spying for, but it was a cinch he couldn’t tell anyone the truth.  Besides, even though he already had two doctorates to his name, he was supposed to be reading in medicine and engineering at the university.  No one could know he’s a spark.  No one could know anything, though Sturmvoraus might admit they were at school together.

            Gil knew Father would have agents in Paris, too.  He also knew Father was debating the merits of arranging a political marriage for him.  That was the last thing he wanted.

            And then Bangladesh Dupree showed up to ask Father’s help in tracing the person who annihilated her pirate fleet and destroyed her fortress.  Father agreed on the condition that she keep an eye on Gil for him.  She accepted and left the meeting with Gil, rhapsodizing about Paris as they went to his room so he could pack.

            He left the door open for propriety.  She shut it and locked it with a wicked grin.  He knew no one would be coming to check on them, nor did Father have any listening devices in his room.  And suddenly he made a decision.

            “Capt. Dupree,” he said, all business, “I need a favor.”

            Her eyebrows shot up.  “Oh.  That’s a new one.  I was just planning to take a favor.”

            “Not that kind.”

            Her smile faded.  “What do you mean, then?”

            He explained his idea, including what was in it for her.

            And she grinned again, but with a different, more devious edge this time.  “You’ve got a deal.”

            They went over the details on the way to France—dives to frequent, houses of ill repute where Dupree had friends who’d cooperate, tactics and tales, diversions and discursions.  She helped him build his part, fed him lines and beat them into him (literally, sometimes).  They started treating each other less as employer and employee and more as kid brother and big sister.  And he knew that would help over the next couple of years.

            “This is a big risk, you know,” she noted as she set the airship down a few miles from Paris.  “There’s a chance nobody will ever take you seriously again if you do this.”

            He sighed.  “I know.  But it’s a chance I have to take.  Sturmvoraus is too much of a snake; there’s no telling what he and the Knights of Jove would do if they find out who I am.  We have to throw him off the scent.  I’d rather be dismissed than dead.”

            “All right.  As long as you know what you’re doing.  I’ll meet you at the Island of Monkey Girls in a few days.”

            “Right.”

            He strode off the airship and waited for it to take off again.  Then he loosened his collar, slouched his shoulders, and put on a devil-may-care grin.

            His name was Gil Holzfäller, and he was looking for a hell of a good time.

            Gil Holzfäller never studied.

            Gil Wulfenbach never needed to.

            Gil Holzfäller could carouse with the best of them.  Six beers or a bottle of wine, and he’d raise the roof of whatever club he was in.

            No Wulfenbach gets drunk that easily.  In fact, it takes something on the order of Theo’s “Electrical Acid 200 Proof Sugar Doom” to give Gil much more than a buzz.  Fortunately, he’d had enough of Theo’s concoctions by then to be able to fake a convincing drunk—and a convincing hangover.

            Gil Holzfäller was a silver-tongued charmer.

            Gil Wulfenbach never met a girl he couldn’t embarrass himself in front of.

            Gil Holzfäller was a wild-eyed adventurer.

            Gil Wulfenbach was, too, but he generally kept his wits about him better than most people thought.

            Gil Holzfäller was a rake who surrounded himself with the wrong kind of women.

            And Gil Wulfenbach never touched any of them.  None of them understood a word he said, for one thing, even when they were sober and he was speaking French, and he couldn’t get past that.  But of course, to keep up the charade, he had to let them get drunk, and he wouldn’t take advantage.  Bang was usually on hand in the morning to fill the girls’ heads with tales of exploits they couldn’t remember first-hand but would readily pass along.  And Sturmvoraus usually walked in, and out again, early enough that the visual evidence tallied perfectly with the gossip.

            Gil Holzfäller was wild.

            Gil Wulfenbach was bored.

            It was the perfect cover, and it worked like a charm.  It fooled Sturmvoraus.  It fooled Zola.  It fooled Wooster.  It fooled Othar Tryggvassen.  It even fooled Father.

            But there’s one person he hopes desperately will never hear of it, will never fall for it, will never believe it of him, will learn instead the truth about his real self.

            See, Gil Holzfäller’s not the marrying kind.

            But Gil Wulfenbach’s going to marry his Agatha... or die trying.

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