Notes: The characters aren't mine (except for some of the townspeople), and the story is! This was largely inspired by a dream I'd had, and I knew I had to do something with the idea. The character of Jim isn't mine (he's an obscure cameo), but the other residents of the town are. Also, if anything looks like a reference to anything else, it probably is.
Two sets of footprints were visible in the sands of the Sonoran Desert, departing from what remained of a shot-up jeep that had been driving across the desert sands. Dusk was descending upon the desert, and the harsh heat was giving way to the cool blanket of the night. But, at the other end of the footprints, two men were running as fast as they could while weighed down with the gear they had managed to salvage from the jeep before they had been forced to flee on foot.
The slightly shorter one, a blond Russian, stopped to catch his breath.
"Napoleon…" he gasped to his brunet American partner. "I think we can stop and rest for a while. We have not heard any shots in hours."
Napoleon exhaled, scanning the darkening desert all around them.
"Stop and take a drink from one of the canteens, Illya," he instructed. "I'm going to check the area out."
Illya gratefully sunk to his knees and pulled a canteen from the pile of gear he'd been carrying and gulped it down. Napoleon took a second canteen and drank from it as he walked around in circles around the area, making sure that no THRUSH agents had followed them out this far.
"Well, I don't know for how long, but we have seem to have given them the slip," he declared. "I suppose we can rest if we switch off watch duty—"
He was cut off by a sigh of relief from Illya, followed by a flumph as the Russian flopped over in the sand.
"…Tired?" Napoleon asked, smiling in amusement.
The reply he received was unintelligible—somewhere between Russian and English, with the syllables all mixed up
Ordinarily, he'd have been more worried for his partner, but, this time, they had both paced themselves well after losing the jeep to THRUSH; they'd carried the gear to ensure that they had plenty of food and water, had kept themselves nourished and hydrated as they had fled, and had stopped to rest repeatedly when they'd snatched enough of a lead to afford it. With the temperature rapidly cooling down, Napoleon knew that heat exhaustion wouldn't be an issue again until the next day; if THRUSH had given up on chasing them for the night, then sleep was something that would be essential for them to make it through the next day.
Napoleon glanced back at his partner, who had already fallen asleep, looking serene as he reclined upon the sand. The American shook his head, wondering how Illya could sleep so deeply in literally any environment imaginable.
"Rest up, Tovarisch. You earned it."
Illya had been partly responsible for getting THRUSH off of their tail; he had fired back at their assailants, causing enough damage to get THRUSH to follow at a greater distance before, evidently, retreating altogether.
Napoleon sat down beside his slumbering partner, watching as the numerous stars began to make themselves visible now that the sun was gone, though they were somewhat dimmed by the light of the full moon. The moonlight allowed the shapes of rocks and cacti to be discernable all around them.
It was then that he heard the unmistakable sound of gunfire thundering from not too far away.
"Illya!" he exclaimed, shaking his partner awake.
"Chto eto? Chto eto!?" he yelped in his native tongue.
"Up. Now," Napoleon said, pulling Illya to a sitting position. "I heard a shot."
"Are you quite certain you were not imagining—?"
Another gunshot interrupted Illya.
"You were saying?" Napoleon asked, drawing his Special—loaded this time with sleeping darts.
Illya did the same, and the two of them aimed their weapons in the direction they had come from. A third shot then rang out—from the opposite direction. Baffled, the two partners looked at each other briefly before turning around.
"How did they get ahead of us?" Illya asked.
"Maybe they decided they'd try cutting us off instead of just following us," Napoleon said. "Make sure you stay low to the ground; it sounds like they're just beyond that dune. We need to know how many of them there are; cover me in case they try to come at us from behind, too."
"Be careful, Napoleon," Illya said, watching his partner's back.
Napoleon crawled on his stomach to the top of the dune, his Special still in his hand. He waited to make sure a fourth shot wasn't coming, and he then peeked over the top of the dune—and froze.
"What…!?" he asked, sounding baffled.
"How many of them are there?" Illya asked.
"None that I can see," Napoleon said. "Illya, it's a town—a small town, preserved like an Old West town!" He laughed. "It must be one of those reenactment towns!"
Illya now scrambled to his side, blinking as he saw the sight. The fourth gunshot now rang out from somewhere in the town.
"Should we not go down there and see to that gunfire?" Illya asked.
"It's probably just actors, but we'll check it out anyway just to make sure," Napoleon said. "Grab the gear; we might even find lodgings for the night. It'll be a tourist trap, but it'll be better than sleeping out here on the sand."
"I was doing fine until you woke me up," Illya said, but he went to get his gear.
Napoleon gathered his half of the gear, as well, and the two headed towards the town, still holding onto their Specials. A large sign greeted them as they crossed the town line—
WELCOME TO MOONLIT GULCH
The buildings were all made of wood, looking like they belonged in the 1870s. Live horses lined the streets, drinking from troughs.
"They've certainly gone all-out with this whole restoration thing," Napoleon said. "But just in case there was trouble, we'd better find out the source of those gunshots…" He trailed off at the sound of a loud commotion.
A crowd was gathered outside a building labeled "Moonlit Gulch Saloon and Inn." They seemed angry about something, and were trying to force their way in to the building. A man—the bartender, by the looks of it—was struggling to keep them out as a woman-a saloon girl, it seemed, in a green dress with a matching feather boa-yelled at them to back off.
"Napoleon…" Illya said. "I do not know if this is supposed to be part of the show, but these people look truly infuriated. We should intervene."
Napoleon nodded and drew his ID.
"Ah, excuse me!" he called, causing the crowd to turn to him. He held up his ID. "I'm Napoleon Solo of the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement. What seems to be the trouble here?"
"It's the law!" one of the crowd exclaimed.
Within minutes, the crowd had dissipated.
"Well, you two sure showed up at the right moment!" the saloon girl said. "Drinks on the house for these two lawmen, Clem!"
"Right away, Miss Ferris," the bartender said. "Come on in, Boys."
Napoleon cast Illya a baffled look.
"Perhaps it was an act?" the Russian offered.
Napoleon shrugged and followed the others inside the saloon. Oil lamps and candles illuminated the room.
"What'll it be, Boys?" Clem asked.
"I'll take a scotch," Napoleon said.
"I don't suppose you have vodka, do you?" Illya queried.
"What?" the saloon girl asked, as she looked back at Illya as he spoke. She then looked from him to Napoleon. "Clem…! Clem, look!"
She pushed an oil lamp closer to the two agents, who exchanged glances again.
"Well, I'll be…" Clem mused.
"Kid!" the saloon girl exclaimed, startling Illya with the sudden outburst. "Kid, you're alive!?"
Napoleon stared, baffled now as Illya's utter confusion pushed through his usually neutral expression.
"Ah, Miss Ferris? I think you may have mistaken-" Napoleon began.
"Oh, come on now, Lionheart; for you and Kid, it was always Karen," she said, grinning widely at the both of them. "I'm just glad to see you well, but this solves all our problems now that you're back!"
She let them both go as Clem offered them the scotch and vodka as Karen headed halfway up the stairs that led to the lodgings.
"Jim! Jim, it's alright! Kid's alive! He and Lionheart are back!"
"Napoleon, what is going on here?" Illya asked. "Is this what they do to all the tourists?"
"Your guess is as good as mine," Napoleon said.
"So…" Karen said, as she ran back to them. "You two are lawmen now? That's a step up from vigilantes—must've been a wild three days. Still, good that you're keeping innocents safe while on the side of the law now. You'll be able to help Jim!" She gave them another look. "Can't say I approve of the new duds; you look like city slickers now!"
"Ah, Miss Ferris—" Napoleon began.
"Karen!" she corrected him.
"Look, Karen, there seems to be a big misunderstanding here," Napoleon said. "I told everyone out there that my name is Napoleon Solo."
"And I am Illya Kuryakin."
Karen looked to each of them.
"You appear to have us confused with others," Illya continued. "I am sorry for this misunderstanding-"
"Kid! You're alright!" a dark-haired man was now descending the staircase; he warmly gripped Illya's hand. "You weren't looking good when Lionheart rode outta town with you on that wagon. But you're okay!" He looked to Napoleon. "And you're looking good, too, Lionheart!"
"Jim…" Karen said, softly. "Jim, I'm sorry for getting your hopes up; I could have sworn it was them…"
Jim looked to Karen, his face falling.
"Then Kid is…?"
"I don't know," she said, shaking her head. "You'd better get back upstairs before that crowd comes back here."
"Look, if it's not too much to ask, can you fill us in?" Napoleon asked. "And what was up with those shots we heard earlier?"
"Those shots were for me," Jim said. "Name's Jim Nation; I'm a traveling man, just looking to make my way. I got into an incident in Kansas—had to kill a man in self-defense. I was found innocent at the trial, but… the man's friends and cronies didn't like that. They've been after me ever since the trial, and saw to it that my name was slandered all over the state. That was when I met Lionheart and Kid—two well-meaning vigilantes."
"And these two resemble us?" Illya asked.
"Uncannily," Jim said. "They were a great couple of guys—set me up with money and provisions and even rode out here to Arizona with me. But my reputation still preceded me; it took a lot for me to make friends here—but the rousing endorsement from Lionheart and Kid helped."
"Why the angry mob outside?" Napoleon asked.
"Someone killed the banker three nights ago," Karen said. "And Old Man Winstrate and his son Jerry both swear it was Jim."
"But it wasn't me!" Jim insisted. "I was with Lionheart and Kid that night! They're my alibi."
"But something happened to Kid?" Illya finished.
"He wanted to do better than just clear my name," Jim said, passing a hand over his eyes. "He wanted to find out who really killed the banker, so later that night, he went out to find out while Lionheart stayed here to protect me from the mob. I don't know what Kid found out, if anything, but he staggered back in here with a bullet in his chest and collapsed."
"Lionheart took it very badly," Karen said, quietly. "We all loved that blond, but Lionheart… Well, Kid meant the world to him. And we had no doctor here; he knew the only chance he had at saving Kid was to get him to the next town. He borrowed a wagon and rode out of town with Kid that night; we haven't seen them since, and we spent the last two days trying to keep that mob out of here for Jim's sake—some shots were fire tonight, just before you showed up. …You know, you two could pass for Lionheart and Kid even in the middle of the day if you lost those duds; when we saw you, we thought you were back and that Kid was alright—especially after Mr. Kuryakin here asked for a vodka. That was Kid's favorite drink."
"Sorry to disappoint you," Illya said. "Has the local lawman found out anything?"
"We don't have a lawman here," Clem said.
"No…?" Napoleon asked, with an arched eyebrow.
"That was another one of the things Lionheart and Kid wanted to change around here before this all happened," Jim said.
"Aha…" Napoleon said. "Illya, could I speak to you for a moment, please?"
Illya shrugged and followed Napoleon to the entry of the saloon.
"What?" he asked.
"Illya, I have a suspicion that this is a line they give to all the tourists," Napoleon said. "And we get to decide whether or not we play along."
"I have no desire to play along with anything. I am tired from running from THRUSH all day, and I wish to sleep," Illya stated.
"Fair enough," Napoleon said. He headed back to the bar. "Ah, we were wondering if you had any vacancies?"
"Just the room that Lionheart and Kid were staying in," Karen said. "You can stay there for the night."
"How much?" Napoleon asked.
"For you? You can stay there free for a night," she said, handing him the room key. "Think of it as a thank-you for helping get rid of that nasty crowd. We couldn't have done it without you."
"Oh… Well, thank you," Napoleon said, with a nod.
Illya nodded a thanks, as well, and followed Napoleon up the stairs, the both of them carrying their gear. Napoleon unlocked the door, revealing a rather small room with a single, large bed. Napoleon sighed as he unceremoniously dumped his half of the gear, kicked off his shoes, and reclined on his half of the bed, feeling suddenly exhausted.
"Napoleon?" Illya asked.
"Huh?" the American mumbled, sleepily.
"Where is the light switch? I'm having trouble finding it."
"Do we really need that now? Get over here and go to sleep."
"At least turn the lamp on so that I do not fall and break my neck!"
Napoleon sleepily reached for the lamp on the bedside table, fumbling for a switch. When he didn't find one, he turned and looked at it more closely, frowning as he realized that it was an oil lamp.
"Seriously?" he muttered in annoyance, as he lit it with a match. "I get that they want to keep things looking authentic, but they can't even give us modern conveniences in our rooms, at least?"
"As you said, Napoleon, it is a tourist trap that is still better than sleeping on the desert sands," Illya sighed, reclining on his half of the bed. "Dobroy nochi."
"Good night," Napoleon echoed, dousing the lamp.
They both dozed for about an hour; it was the sound of gunshots that awakened them again. Illya scrambled for his Special by force of habit and ended up falling off of the bed, flat on his face. Napoleon awoke and cursed in frustration as he stood up, lighting the oil lamp again with one hand while grabbing his Special with the other.
"This is ridiculous," he said. "I'm all for the acting out of these historical recreations, but not in the middle of the night! What do they expect us to do!?"
"I do not know about them, but I, for one, would appreciate it if you stopped standing on me."
"Oh, sorry," Napoleon said, hastily removing his foot from Illya's back and then helping him up.
More shots rang out now, and the duo quickly headed downstairs.
"They're after me again!" Jim said, taking refuge behind the bar with Karen and Clem. "They won't listen when I try to tell them that I'm innocent!"
"Mobs rarely listen to anyone," Illya said. "They are a writhing mass that operates under one unchangeable mind."
"Very poetic, Tovarisch," Napoleon commented, suppressing a smirk in spite of the situation. "Now give them a couple warning shots—aim high. If that doesn't stop them, then give them a taste of the darts."
Illya gladly obliged, and the shots coming from outside soon stopped.
"Alright, that's enough!" Napoleon called out. "I already told you, we're the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement; we're more than willing to make multiple arrests for any of you foolish enough to try to bring any further harm on anyone in here!"
"You've got yourself a killer in there, Lawman!"
"That's Old Man Winstrate!" Jim said. "That's the one who claims he saw me kill the banker! He had words with Lionheart and Kid about it—said that they didn't know what they were talking about and were just rambling cowards."
"Well, in that case, he's about to get the shock of his life," Napoleon said, grabbing one of the lit oil lamps. "Illya, come with me to the entrance—we're going to let them see our faces."
Illya's eyes widened in sudden realization, and he went along with Napoleon's plan. The swinging doors, now shut, mostly blocked their anachronistic suits from view. Napoleon then held up the lamp, allowing the light to illuminate their faces.
The reaction was everything Napoleon had hoped for.
"It's Lionheart and Kid!"
"That's right, he's alive," Napoleon said. "And he knows everything—the one who killed the banker, and the one who attacked him! First thing we're going to do is collect the evidence—and then round up the guilty one before the night is over!" His eyes narrowed. "So anyone who wants to avoid being arrested for obstruction of justice had better stay out of our way!"
The crowd dispersed even more quickly than before the first time. Old Man Winstrate and his son were the last to leave, trying to glare daggers at either them or at Jim inside. They eventually left, as well.
"That was a risky move, Napoleon."
"I'm just playing their game, Illya. That's what this whole thing is about, after all. The sooner we win the game, the sooner we can sleep."
"That was a stroke of genius!" Karen commented, as she and the others came out of hiding. "Pretending to be Lionheart and Kid! That'll get the murderer moving to cover his tracks!"
"Da; that is true," Illya added. "Napoleon, we had best go and find the evidence before it is destroyed."
"Fellas…" Jim said. "I'm obliged to you."
"Don't thank us yet; we haven't got the evidence yet," Napoleon warned him. He looked to his partner. "Let's get going."
"Where do we search first?" Illya asked. "The bank?"
"Best place to start," Napoleon agreed.
"You can use Lionheart and Kid's horses to get there quicker," Clem said.
"With all due respect, an automobile would be better," Illya said.
"…Never mind," Illya said, with a roll of his eyes. "We'll borrow the horses. Where are they?"
"They're hitched out back, and they left them when Lionheart took Kid on the ox cart; with you two looking like them, those horses will likely listen to you just fine. The white one, Storm, belongs to Kid; the brown one with the white mane, Epona, belongs to Lionheart. If you want to reach the bank, keep going down this road until you reach the undertaker's at the end of town, and then go left."
"Thanks," Napoleon said, with a nod. He headed out and to the back, with his partner right behind him.
The way down the road was clear, though the both of them could see people staring at them from behind the windows of buildings as they rode the horses through the town. And Illya was beginning to feel uneasy.
"Napoleon, may I ask you something?"
"Do you not find it strange that no one took issue with the fact that we are two armed, out-of-town agents attempting to apprehend a murderer?"
"Yes, but, like I said, it's probably all part of the act," Napoleon said, with a shrug. "This whole thing—the lack of electricity, these horses, that mob… It's all what you see in the movies. Saying that we have two lookalikes is their way of getting us involved in the story to find the murderer."
"Exactly my point," Illya said. "Napoleon, our weapons are real; they have no possible way of knowing that we have loaded them with sleeping darts. If they are actors, would they not be more concerned with the fact that we are armed with real weapons on a quest to apprehend a murderer?"
Napoleon suddenly pulled on Epona's reins, pausing to consider the implications of what Illya was trying to say.
"How do you explain it?" he asked, at last.
Illya shrugged, helplessly.
"I cannot," he said, simply. "But it was Sherlock Holmes who said, 'Once you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.' …Only, I am not sure what impossible things we can eliminate."
"Alright…" Napoleon sighed. "You're the quantum physicist. Would you consider it impossible or improbable that we've somehow slipped between time periods and ended up a hundred years in the past?"
"There is still so much we do not know. I would say that it would be improbable—highly improbable."
"Maybe we'll find some less improbable things as we go along," Napoleon sighed, urging Epona forward again.
Illya rode alongside him, and then indicated a building ahead.
"Look, Napoleon—the undertaker's place!" Illya stared for a moment and then suddenly pulled on Storm's reins.
"I want to check something," Illya said, getting off of the horse and drawing a lockpick from his pocket to open the door of the undertaker's shop.
"Napoleon, this will be our way of knowing whether or not this is an act or not!" Illya said. "If the banker is truly dead, then…" He trailed off, staring at a closed, wooden coffin in the center of the main room, visible as he opened the door.
Napoleon had now reined in Epona and had followed Illya inside, staring at his partner as he approached the coffin.
"You seriously aren't considering-?"
"We must know for certain," Illya insisted, gently opening the lid. "I apologize, Sir, for this intrusion…"
"Never mind the pleasantries, Illya. Is it the banker?"
"He is dressed like a wealthy man; it's more than possible," Illya said. "And I would say that he has, indeed, been dead for three days."
"Are you really sure?"
"I'll have you know, Napoleon, that in addition to quantum mechanics, I also took some courses in medicine; I developed a bit of an interest in pathology and had considered getting a second degree."
"…I'm not even surprised."
"Nothing about you surprises me anymore."
Illya shrugged and gently closed the lid of the coffin.
"So," he said. "A man really is dead, which means that we really are after a murderer—who apparently shot my doppelganger and would, presumably, have no qualms about shooting us, either."
"That still doesn't explain why everyone here looks and acts like it's a century ago," Napoleon pointed out.
"Maybe it's some sort of mass hypnosis—or some sort of chemical in the food or water that causes them to live in one big delusion," Illya said, with a shrug.
"That certainly sounds more plausible than the thought of us or this town slipping through time," Napoleon said.
"Da, but we can figure that out later; right now, we must find the murderer first and foremost. Look, Napoleon! There—you can see the bank through this window!"
"Okay, but remember, the murderer might still be there now, trying to cover up the evidence," Napoleon said, plainly. "Stay behind me and be careful."
The two darted off towards the bank.
Napoleon saw the footprints approaching the bank as they approached—there hadn't been any people going into the bank since the banker had died, leaving only one telltale set.
"This set of prints going into the bank looks fresh; there's someone in there, alright," he said, drawing his Special.
"Da, but it would be best if I went in first."
"I can pretend to be Kid—unnerve the killer by saying that I already took the evidence before he had a chance to look."
"That's a very dangerous game to play," Napoleon said, with a frown. "What's to stop him from just shooting you before you get the chance to do or say anything?"
"You would, of course," Illya said, plainly. "I would assume that you would be covering me."
"…Of course," Napoleon echoed.
"Then there is no problem; wait for one minute, and then follow me," Illya said. He gently crept towards the entrance, pausing as he found it unlocked and ajar. He looked back to his partner and nodded one before slipping into the darkened bank, Special at the ready.
With only a small sliver of moonlight able to creep in through the windows, Illya waited for his eyes to adjust, quietly inhaling and exhaling as he attempted to get his bearings. As his vision began to clear, he could make out the banker's stall, and a large safe behind it. The Russian slowly made his way over there, flinching as the floorboards creaked under his steps.
It was as he got closer that he realized that the door of the safe was ajar. His eyes widening, Illya opened it, and then chanced shining a flashlight into it, revealing it to be emptied of all of its contents, save for one moneybag. As Illya picked up the solitary moneybag, he quickly established that whoever had killed the banker had robbed the safe—and was probably planning to leave town, assuming they hadn't fled already.
He turned towards the door, ready to call out to his partner, when he froze. Napoleon had indicated that the solitary set of prints had only gone into the bank. There were no prints leading out of it.
The thief and murderer had to still be here.
The door of the bank opened again as Napoleon slipped inside after waiting five minutes.
"Stay outside!" Illya yelled, but even as Napoleon attempted to retreat, a figure emerged from the shadows behind the door, and Napoleon suddenly stood rigid. Illya winced. "Gun in your back?"
"…Unfortunately…" Napoleon said, sounding much calmer than he felt.
"Drop your gun, Lionheart," the shadow-hidden figure ordered. "You too, Kid, unless you want to see if Lionheart gets to be as lucky as you were when you got shot."
Napoleon sighed and tossed his gun down, but his hand was already going for one of his exploding buttons. He cast a silent look to Illya, who gave a nod of understanding and threw down his Special, as well.
"The moneybag, Kid. Bring it over here—slowly," the assailant ordered.
Illya walked over to the corner as Napoleon patiently waited, his fingers still on the exploding button. He held out the moneybag, waiting as a hand reached out from the shadows, reaching for it—
Illya suddenly aimed the flashlight in his hand behind Napoleon, the beam catching the perpetrator in eyes. The man recoiled out of reflex, and Napoleon chose the moment to set off the explosive button. The small explosion knocked the assailant back, and Illya chose the moment to recover both of their fallen Specials.
"Behind the banker's stall!" he called to Napoleon, as the assailant opened fire. The two of them used the counter as a shield as Illya handed Napoleon his Special, and the two of them returned fire.
It was as Napoleon looked over the counter to get a better aim that a bullet grazed his shoulder; he let out a quiet hiss of pain. Illya quickly glanced over at him, saw what had happened, and furiously fired at their assailant.
The shooting stopped, followed by a loud thump.
"I believe you got him," Napoleon said, calmly holding a handkerchief to his shoulder. "Nice work."
Illya merely grunted in reply, walking over to the tranquilized assailant and turning him over with his foot; he then trained the flashlight beam on their assailant, who was lying on a pile of moneybags.
"Isn't this Old Man Winstrate?" Illya said, frowning.
"Yes, it is," Napoleon said, recalling him from the crowd from earlier. "Obviously, he decided to use Jim as a scapegoat, knowing that it would be easy to convince the townsfolk that an accused murderer would have killed the local banker. He could then depart with the money—only Kid started poking around and complicating things."
"And so he shot Kid to stop him from finding out the truth," Illya added. "I suppose the fact that he was found here with the money is more than enough proof."
"This and the murder weapon," Napoleon agreed. "There may not be a local lawman, but I'm pretty sure I saw a jail down the street. Let's set him up there for the night—or what's left of it. We can deal with him in the morning."
"Fine, but we deal with your arm tonight."
Napoleon's response was a disgruntled mutter under his breath.
And Old Man Winstrate was soon in a cell with the keys in Napoleon's possession as they headed back to the saloon-and-inn. Karen was shocked to see that Napoleon was bleeding, but both she and Clem were impressed to hear that the true murderer had been apprehended—and Jim was just grateful.
"I don't know how I can ever repay you guys," he said. "I'm just sorry that he winged you."
"I've had worse," Napoleon assured him, earning a chiding from Illya as he tried to shrug his shoulders. "…And I'm lucky enough to have the most attentive nurse I could possibly have." He grinned up at Illya, who gave him a very forced smile in response—and then proceeded to use some vodka in lieu of disinfectant. Napoleon winced, but didn't say anything about the sting.
"You are lucky to have someone as patient as I am to patch you up," Illya insisted, as he now wrapped the wound in strips of cloth he had disinfected in vodka, as well.
"I'm lucky!?" Napoleon repeated, incredulously. "Do you know the number of times I've had to patch you up?"
"Alright, you're both all squared away," Karen said, amused. "Anyway, are you two fixing to stay long…?" She trailed off. "Lionheart! Kid!"
"No, no—I'm Napoleon; he's Illya—"
"No!" she exclaimed. "It's Lionheart and Kid!"
Napoleon and Illya looked to the entrance of the saloon; even in the dim light of the oil lamps, they could see two figures, their faces mirror images of their own. The brunet was supporting the blond, whose chest was wrapped in bandages.
Jim was at their side to help them while Illya absently continued to bandage Napoleon's shoulder as they stared. Jim and Lionheart guided Kid to a barstool, the two newcomers staring right back at their doubles as Jim, Karen, and Clem described what had happened.
"We have heard all about you," Illya said, at last.
"Ah… thanks for letting us borrow your horses," Napoleon added.
"Glad they could be of service," Lionheart said, speaking in an echo of Napoleon's voice.
"And also glad you apprehended the guilty party," Kid added, sounding like an accent-less Illya. "But I think we can all use a rest now."
"Oh, Fellas, I told these gentlemen to take your room," Karen said, apologetically.
"They can have it for tonight," Lionheart said. "I want to take Kid to the doc's for the night, anyway. I patched him up myself, but I want an expert's opinion on how good a job I did."
"I'll help you get him there; I still owe you," Jim offered, and he looked back to Napoleon and Illya. "Thanks again, Fellas; I owe you, too."
"It was our pleasure," Napoleon insisted, as they all stood up.
The two U.N.C.L.E. agents watched Jim leave with their counterparts before wishing Karen and Clem goodnight and heading back to their room.
"Well, Illya, what do you think about our lookalikes down there?" Napoleon asked, kicking off his shoes again and collapsing onto his half of the bed again.
"They say in some cultures that there are seven people who look exactly alike," Illya mumbled. "I, for one, am too exhausted to dwell on it."
"We never did find out what's making everyone think it's the 1870s."
"We can dwell on that tomorrow, too; right now I just want…" Illya trailed off with something in Russian before falling asleep midsentence.
Napoleon chuckled to himself, yawned, and soon fell asleep, as well.
It was the morning sun beating on his face that awoke Napoleon the next morning. He kept his eyes shut as he turned over onto his side. He winced; the mattress suddenly felt very uncomfortable—and didn't feel like a mattress at all. In fact, it felt like sand.
Napoleon opened his eyes, blinking as they beheld reddish-brown sands, a clear sky, and desert brush all around him—and his partner still asleep.
Napoleon scrambled so that he was sitting upright, once again looking around. There was no room, no saloon-and-in, and no town at all. He slapped his forehead and cursed aloud—he'd fallen asleep while on watch and had dreamed that whole affair! It was a mercy that THRUSH had not found them during the night!
Illya now stirred awake at Napoleon's sudden outburst.
"Napoleon? What is it…?" The Russian trailed off as he opened his eyes and looked around. He, too, sat up.
"It's nothing, Illya," Napoleon sighed. "I fell asleep on watch duty. That isn't like me; I'm sorry…"
"Neither of us were on watch duty; we were in an inn!" Illya exclaimed, and Napoleon froze, going pale as he realized that it couldn't have been a dream if Illya remembered it, too. "…We were in the inn… right? The one in Moonlit Gulch?"
Illya looked back at Napoleon, equally baffled as he was.
"Where is Moonlit Gulch?" Napoleon asked. "Where're Karen, Clem, and Jim? And what about our two lookalikes?" He ran a hand though his hair. "Illya, were we hallucinating all of last night?"
Illya didn't say anything; his gaze fell on Napoleon's shoulder. Napoleon quickly unbuttoned his shirt, staring at the bandages that were still there. Gingerly, he touched the spot where the bullet had grazed him, and he winced. Illya checked his Special, confirming that he had fired several sleeping darts.
"Napoleon, where did everyone and everything go?" he asked, quietly.
Napoleon shook his head, at a loss.
"What was that you were saying about the impossible and the improbable last night?" he asked, at last.
"I don't know anymore," Illya said, quietly.
There was a quiet snort behind them; the two agents turned around to see two horses standing behind them—the same brown mare with the white mane and the same white stallion. And draped around the mare's neck was a green feather boa.
"Those are the same horses," Illya said. "And Karen's boa!"
"Well…" Napoleon sighed. "We need to gather our gear and get out of this desert. I guess this time, we really have gift horses we shouldn't look in the mouths."
Illya sighed, as well.
"Da," he agreed. "The sooner we get to civilization and to an airport to get us to New York, the happier I shall be."
They began to load their gear on the horses; it was as Napoleon lifted the last bag that he noticed a plaque set in the sand.
"Illya!" he exclaimed. "Look at this!"
The Russian scrambled to his side to read the plaque.
Site of Moonlit Gulch, a popular waystation during the latter half of the 19th century. The town was abandoned during the turn of the century, but many travelers in the desert claim that the town, its residents, and even passerby are visible on bright, moonlit nights.
Napoleon and Illya exchanged glances again.
"Napoleon… do you really think…?"
"I don't know what to think," Napoleon said. "All I know is that I'm glad that whatever it was that happened here wasn't part of an official affair, because no one would believe it if I wrote this in a casefile."
Illya let out a weak chuckle and a nod.
"I agree. Now let's leave before anything else happens."
They quickly leaped upon the horses and began to ride off, but as they took note of the fact that the moon was nearly done sinking beneath the horizon, they were unable to resist a look back.
And there, just for an instant, the town flickered into view, along with a hazy image of Karen, Clem, Jim, Lionheart, and Kid waving to them, before it all vanished once more.
Napoleon and Illya exchanged glances again before shrugging at each other and continuing off on their next adventure.