Incident on a Lonely Road in New Jersey
Things are not always what they appear to be---
Disclaimer: All respect to the copyrights of the owners of the characters portrayed in this little romp. I earn no proceeds from their use, but it certainly was fun to use them. Hope you all think so, too. This story first appeared on File 40, but like many others have found, it doesn't hurt to spread yourself around a little.
Thanks for reading---
There were times, Illya Kuryakin mused, when this job could actually be considered fun. Having intercepted a Thrush courier enroute to an exchange rendezvous with his usual efficiency, he donned the other man's black trenchcoat, and dark fedora to meet the contact himself. The courier, now safely tucked away in the trunk of his car, had easily yielded up the contact codes with the promise of protection from what was now his "former" employer. A tranquilizing dart had eliminated the possibility that the courier would have any argument about his accommodations. Illya now sat in the front seat of the courier's car, parked along an unmarked road in northern New Jersey, an hour's drive from New York City. His own car was well hidden on a turn-off, a quarter of a mile away. The contact was due to arrive at any minute.
He waited ten minutes in the dark, eyes flickering from the road in front of him, to the rearview mirror and the vista behind him. A moment later a pair of headlights approached, slowed and passed him without stopping. He sighed heavily. Waiting was not high on his list of "things I like about my job". He much preferred the action to waiting for the action to happen. Another car approached, but it, too, passed. He watched the red glow of the headlights in the rearview mirror as they disappeared down the road.
Illya was beginning to think the contact was not going to show, when he saw a dark, car-like object, approach very slowly and stop twenty yards in front of him on the opposite side of the road. The parking lights glowed briefly, went out, and went on again. Five seconds, later they went out, and the pattern repeated. A thrill of excitement ran up and down his spine as he recognized the "question" part of the initial contact code. He answered, flashing his lights twice, a pause, and two five second long flashes. The other car responded with three short flashes, and Illya replied in kind. The driver's side door on the other car opened, but the dome light remained out, as a dark shape got out of the car.
In the darkness, Illya smiled his wolfish grin of satisfaction. So far, so good. Now, it was his turn to get out of the car. He opened the door and let the dome light illuminate him as required, confident in his disguise. The two men approached each other, each hidden from the other in the darkness of the night and their attire.
The contact, who was nearly Illya's size and build, spoke first. "A storm is moving in from the west."
Thanks to his "package" in the trunk of the car, Illya knew how to respond. "The prediction was for clear weather," he said, matching the other man's tone.
"I wouldn't put my trust in weathermen," the contact said.
"Yes, they are always wrong," Illya replied, then, on his own, he added. "You're late. Did you have any trouble?"
"No, I thought it was better to arrive at the end of the time window." He produced an envelope from his coat pocket. "This list might actually get through this time. Drop site number five by seven a.m."
It did not matter that Illya had no idea where that was. "I understand." He started to reach for the envelope when it was suddenly withdrawn.
"I suggest you make no sudden moves," the contact said, "or I will be forced to kill you where you stand." His other hand raised, and Illya could see the faint outline of a weapon in its grasp.
"Then, you would be killing your own courier."
"You are not my contact. Who are you?" The other man demanded.
Illya knew there was no way he had slipped on the code phrases. "You are mistaken," he insisted. "I am your contact. Lower your weapon."
The gun remained where it was. "My contact is my brother."
Damn! Illya thought. The man in his car failed to mention that little piece of vital information. "It looks like the joke is on me," he said aloud, a touch of a smile pulling at the corners of his mouth.
"Who are you?" the courier repeated, lifting his gun higher. "And where is my brother?"
"Your brother is waiting for us in my car and I," Illya said, as the smile broadened to a grin, "am your brother's keeper."
"You're an UNCLE agent," the courier growled.
"Nothing gets past you, does it? So, I guess we now have a little negotiating to do, don't we? Say, perhaps, your brother, and fellow THRUSH agent, for that little envelope you're carrying?"
"The gun and I don't think much of your first offer. I propose a counter-offer: I keep the envelope, you lead me to your car, release my brother, and I won't kill you after you do."
"I've never known a THRUSH to keep its end of a bargain. The species is such a greedy animal, you know."
"It's just very protective of what belongs to it."
"But it seems to care more for its holdings than for members of its own kind."
"We understand each other, then. If this envelope doesn't reach its destination, my brother and I will be killed."
"They never mentioned that in the recruitment brochure, did they? The hive mentality only works when the workers are kept in the dark. U.N.C.L.E., however, would reward you for your service and protect you from unpleasant outcomes if you should choose to cooperate. And it starts with lowering the gun you have pointed at me." He smiled inwardly, as the gun was slowly lowered to the other man's side. He was about to speak again, when, suddenly, from the road ahead of his, a pair of headlights approached, at what appeared to be high speed.
Instinctively, his hand fished into his coat for his handgun, and he grabbed for the man standing between him and the oncoming car. "Some of your friends come to join the party?" he growled.
But the other man did not move or speak as the car screeched to a stop in front of them.
"Listen, friend," Illya said in the man's ear, "I have no desire to become the guest of honor at this little gathering, so if you don't mind, I'll take my leave and cut my losses."
The man's next words stopped him dead in his tracks. "It's not THRUSH, it's them."
Two men got out the black sedan, both dressed in exactly same attire as Illya and his "contact": black suit and tie, black trenchcoat and black hat. As they walked towards them, Illya lowered his gun and said partly to his companion, partly to no one at all, "What in the hell is going on here?"
The older of the two men spoke: "Well, well, well, if it isn't old Beej. Are we playing spy again?" Both of the men chuckled as if the situation was a grand inside joke.
The younger man said, "Where's Jeeb?"
Illya stepped out from behind "Beej", his gun raised. "Who are you and what are you doing here?"
The two men did not move or even raise an eyebrow.
"That," Illya said, with annoyance plain in his voice, "was not a rhetorical question."
The two men looked at each other. "Do you want me to take this one, Dee?" the younger one said.
The older man smiled, his dark moustache curling over his lips. "Sure, Kay. Go get'em, kid."
The younger man stepped forward to take Illya by the arm. "Let's go over there and I'll explain everything."
Illya motioned with the gun. "I believe I'm quite comfortable where I am."
The man shrugged. "Okay," he said pleasantly and began to reach into his coat pocket until a word of warning from Illya stopped him. "My identification?" he asked.
Illya nodded. "Slowly, if you don't mind—and even if you do mind."
The man continued to reach into his coat pocket. "My, you're a jumpy fellow."
"It goes with the territory. I'll see your identification now."
The other man produced it, and Illya took it. "New York City Police? What are you doing in New Jersey?"
The other man smiled, showing two rows of white teeth. "I showed you mine. How about if you show me yours?"
Illya stared at him for a moment, then realized the man was asking, in a kind of sophomoric way, to see his ID. He produced his gold UNCLE card and returned the officer's in the same motion.
"UNCLE, huh? What brings you out on a night like this?"
It was Illya turn to smile, but his was a humorless one. "I asked you first."
"Oh, yeah, you did. Well, Beej, here, is out of his jurisdiction. He and his brother are not supposed to leave the five boroughs."
The man called "Dee" spoke: "Speaking of Jeeb, where is he?"
Beej shook his head. "Ask him." He motioned towards Illya.
"He's under my gentle care," Illya said.
Dee frowned. "Beej, you know we don't care what you do for fun, but you're not supposed to leave your area."
Kay smiled at Illya. "We can handle it from here. You can leave."
Illya had had enough. He pushed the man facing him aside and stood to confront Dee. "Look, I don't know who you two think you are, but this man," he pointed to Beej, "and his brother are couriers for a subversive organization, andmy prisoners."
"Hey!" Beej protested. "I didn't agree to that!"
Illya extended his hand. "Give me the envelope, Beej," he said, his voice hard. "I'll keep your brother. He was much more agreeable than you. You can take your chances with THRUSH."
Beej took Dee by the shoulders. "Dee! Kay! You gotta help me here! If I don't pass on the information, they're gonna shoot me in a place that won't grow back!"
The UNCLE agent stared at Beej, his expression incredulous. "What did you just say?"
Kay looked at him blandly. "Oh, you heard it right." When Illya looked at him with disbelief, he calmly fished a weapon out of his coat and pointed it at Beej. The three others all reacted in distinctly different ways.
Dee rolled his eyes at Kay in a "not again" expression. Beej snarled a curse at him. Illya raised his gun to point it at Kay and blurted out: "What do you think you're doing?"
"Providing a demonstration," Kay said and fired his weapon and Beej's head. The man's head blew apart on impact, flesh flying in all directions.
Illya, completely taken aback, stared in angry disbelief at Kay's callous disregard for life. His only thought was that this Kay could teach THRUSH a thing or two about ruthlessness. But, he was completely unprepared for what happened next.
"You insensitive prick! That stings!" The voice came from Beej's direction, though higher pitched. As Illya turned his head in that direction, his mouth dropped open in utter shock when he saw Beej's head growing back!
"Shut up," Dee said. "God, what a baby!" He walked over to Illya, who stood, gun hanging loosely in his hand, still staring at Beej. "You okay, young fella?"
Illya found his voice. "What's going on here?" he said, subdued.
"You'll have to excuse my partner," Dee said. "He gets a little gung-ho, at times."
The Russian agent continued to stare at Beej's rejuvenated "head". "He's not human, is he?"
"Boy, nothing gets past you, does it?" Beej quipped.
Dee laid his hand on Illya shoulder. "There's a perfectly logical explanation for all of this."
"I would love to hear it, so that I can try to make some sense of the report I'm going to have to write later."
"Well, you see, we need to talk about that a little." And Dee reached into his pocket, pulling out a pair of dark glasses and a silver metallic cylinder.
Before he could react, a flash of red light hit him full in the face, and the world dissolved into nothingness—
Dee and Kay deposited the docile UNCLE into the front seat of his car, and popped open the trunk lid to free Beej's brother, Jeeb.
"Why don't you guys give up this cloak-and-dagger nonsense and get into another line of work," Kay said. "Maybe you could open up a pawn shop or something, Jeeb."
The two aliens and their "companions" climbed into their respective cars and drove off, leaving Illya behind the wheel of his car, staring off into space, a blank expression on his face. As soon as the cars were out of sight, he blinked once, and consciousness seemed to flow back into him. A look of confusion furrowed his brow for a moment, and then he noticed an envelope lying beside him on the front seat. He picked it up, a little puzzled until he recognized it as the envelope the courier had been carrying. Suddenly, the situation was clear to him: the mission had been accomplished, he had the list, and courier and his contact were in the trunks of their respective cars awaiting rescue from unknown parties.
It was nice to have a mission go according to plan for once, Illya thought with satisfaction, and turned the key in the ignition. It made the task of writing the report so much easier. He had an hour's drive ahead, another hour to deliver the list and give his preliminary report, and then he could go home and get a well-earned night's sleep. He allowed himself a self-indulging smile and pulled away from the side of the road. Yes, it had been a very successful mission—