The Death by Chocolate Affair
Author's comments and acknowledgments:
The premise for this story is from an actual industrial accident from the late 60's. It is important to remember that, at this time, many of the industrial safety regulations we have today did not exist then. The details written here are from a late 60's perspective and may seem out of sync with what is correct today. I have tried to be as accurate as possible with historical information.
I would like to thank "St. Crispins" for her permission to use certain elements of her St.Crispin's Day Society universe. Please note that this work is not part of that universe and does not fit into the time-line of that universe or any other.
Oh, yes—the disclaimer—full respect to the holders of the rights to MFU. This is an amateur work of fiction intended for the entertainment of MFU fans and Illya Kuryakin and Napoleon Solo worshipers wherever they may be.
Thanks for taking a look.--wz
THE DEATH BY CHOCOLATE AFFAIR
Prologue: "Is this any way to run a field office?"
If there was one thing Chuck Yeagley knew, it was faces, or more accurately, names and faces. He had an uncanny ability to remember a name attached to a face either through introduction or by picture, such as, from a mug book. This ability had been quite an asset in his work, that of a field agent for the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement and it had served him well throughout his career.
But, that was in the past. Six months earlier, he had reached his fortieth birthday, and the end of his tenure in Section Two. Like all retiring agents, he went grudgingly, but he went. Other agents in Section Two had not been as lucky as he: they went feet first, and six feet under, and that was when there had been enough of them left to bury.
Chuck still wanted to be "out there", so he settled for administrative work in Section Three with an outpost office of the Philadelphia branch of U.N.C.L.E. The outpost, ninety miles west along the banks of the Susquehanna River in the Pennsylvania capital city of Harrisburg, was mostly an observation station and minimally staffed, so Chuck did not have to physically be in the office, but check in with his supervisor on a regular basis. Ever the law enforcement officer, he joined the security staff of the nearby Hershey Chocolate Corporation as a supervisor, where he could keep his sidearm without raised eyebrows.
Hershey, Pennsylvania was not exactly a hotbed of THRUSH activity, but in the tourist season, the population of the town swelled and he had opportunity to observe the faces that came through on the factory tours. Once in a while, he recognized a face or two, pictures seen in local newspapers or on television newscasts, though nothing of importance. It was not the fieldwork he had been used to, but it was still work for U.N.C.L.E.
He checked in at the Harrisburg office late one Friday afternoon in August to catch up on news and intelligence, but mostly, to pick up his paycheck.
"Well, look at you!" his boss, Randall "Randy" Holmes commented when Chuck poked his head around the corner to greet him and he caught the trappings of bow-tie and ruffled shirt. "You're all decked out. Big date tonight?"
Chuck snorted a laugh. "I wish. The 'school' is having a big social tonight. All the local muckity-mucks are supposed to be there and a couple of big-wigs from Philadelphia, New York, and D.C are coming, too." The "school" was the Milton S. Hershey School for orphaned boys, set up by Milton S. himself back in 1909 because he and his wife, Catherine had been unable to have children of their own. The Hershey Chocolate Corporation was the sole financial base of the school as per the Trust set aside in his will. "They want extra security on for tonight."
"At least, you get to dress up for the occasion. Almost like old times, eh?"
"For you, maybe. This is one of the few times I've ever had to put on one of these 'monkey-suits' and, frankly, I'm not thrilled about having to wear it this time." He snapped his fingers. "Oh, that reminds me. I'd like to take along one of those pen communicators tonight, just in case."
Randy raised an eyebrow. "You're not expecting trouble, are you?"
"Hardly. Not in this back-water place, but I'd like to be prepared, just the same."
His boss reached into the top right drawer of his desk and pulled out the slim, silver cylinder. "You'll have to set it to the Philadelphia office channel. I'm going out of town for the weekend, and there won't be anybody here to monitor the frequency."
Chuck smiled broadly. "So you and Sandra are going to the beach again, huh?"
"Family reunion, and about as far away from the beach as you can get. Cleveland."
"Lucky you. Is Sandra going along?"
"She's the only thing that'll make the trip bearable."
Chuck slid the pen communicator into his inside jacket pocket. "I'll be thinking about you all weekend."
"I'm sure you will. Take it easy, okay?"
"Don't I always?" He settled his jacket onto his shoulders and took debonair stance. "Bond, James Bond."
Randy rolled his eyes. "Get outta here—" But he couldn't help chuckling.
The social was proving to be as boring as Chuck anticipated it would be. He dearly wished he was able to partake of what appeared to be some very expensive champagne, but as he was on duty, his flute was filled with ginger ale. Well-dressed men and women meandered about the hotel ballroom chatting with other well-dressed individuals. An orchestra played softly off to one side, and a few couples were dancing. The menu consisted largely of hors d'oeuvres, most of which he found unrecognizable. After the first one he sampled turned out to be a liver pate, he was reluctant to test the rest of the fare. So, he traversed the perimeter of the ballroom and tried not to feel out of place.
He passed a group of women who appeared to be chatting about their duties as house parents. The living arrangements for the school consisted of large home-like dormitories housing approximately twenty boys each. Each dormitory was overseen by a married couple who was responsible for the day-to-day care of the boys in their charge. It was highly responsible position and the employees were paid well for what could sometimes be a daunting job.
At the fringe of his earshot, he heard one of the ladies mention a new director. That gave him pause; he didn't know the school had hired a new director. He wondered if this individual was the reason for the social. Suddenly, the evening seemed to have purpose, and he began to scan the faces of the guests for possibilities. There were a lot of people in the room he didn't know, but he had a fair idea of what he was looking for. The man in question would, undoubtedly, be in the company of other school officials and members of the Board of Trustees, and he did know who those people were. There—in the far corner, opposite the orchestra, stood a rather short, nondescript individual surrounded by the Principal of the School, the President of Hershey Chocolate and several members of the Board of Trustees. He doesn't look like a director, Chuck thought, but then, he mused, he didn't look like an UNCLE agent, either. He nonchalantly worked his way over to the cluster of men and this new director.
He was hoping to peruse past the group without making himself known, but the President caught his arm. "Mr. Yeagley, come and meet the new director of the Milton Hershey School." He pulled him into the circle. "Chuck Yeagley, meet Dennis Jenks."
Chuck extended his hand automatically, even as warning bells were going off in his brain. He knew that name! But from where?
Dennis Jenks grasped the hand firmly. "Hey—you aren't that Air Force pilot, the one who broke the sound barrier—?"
In spite of himself, Chuck forced a chuckle. "No, Mr. Jenks, you're thinking of Chuck Yeager." It happened to him all the time. Usually it was amusing; right now it was all he could do to play along.
"Mr. Yeagley is one of our senior security supervisors. Comes to us from the Philadelphia police department with some quite impressive credentials."
"Thank you, sir." Chuck feigned embarrassed modesty. In reality, he was racking his memory for information on the man whose hand he still grasped. "I hadn't heard of your appointment."
The President of the Board of Trustees piped in: "Mr. Jenks comes to us with some impressive credentials of his own. He's been the director of numerous schools both here in the US and in Europe."
Europe—another cog slipped into place in the puzzle Chuck was desperately trying to solve. All of his instincts were telling him that this man was not who everyone believed him to be. He ventured an innocent sounding question. "Europe? That is impressive. Where in Europe, if I may ask?"
"Switzerland," the man answered agreeably. "I'm afraid that was rather a short tenure, however."
"Mr. Jenks lost his wife while in Switzerland, and the memories were too great for him to continue there," the Board President explained.
"I thought a change of scenery would help me—adjust." Jenks added.
Suddenly, Chuck had the answer, and it was not a good one—this man standing before him was Captain Dennis Jenks, ex-director of the École Figliano (The Children's Day Affair) near Geneva, Switzerland, where he had been training orphan boys to become Thrush assassins. Agents Solo and Kuryakin from the New York office had stumbled upon the school while re-conning travel arrangements for the Section One meeting last year. As he recalled, Jenks and his wife, Yvonne, also known as Mother Fear, had nearly succeeded in their plans to wipe out all of Section One. Mother Fear had been killed, Jenks was taken into custody, and the school was turned over to the Swiss government.
Jenks, however, had never seen the inside of a prison, for the moment he learned his wife was dead, he became catatonic, completely unresponsive. He was taken to a local mental health sanitarium where he remained unresponsive for two-and-one-half months. Just when the doctors began to think his illness would claim him for the rest of his life, he escaped without a trace.
Now Dennis Jenks stood not ten feet away from him, smiling, the picture of health. Chuck realized the weight of the situation immediately. He was going to do here, in Hershey, what he had tried to do in Switzerland, and who knows where else. He had to be stopped before he had the chance to get his network in place. I need to call for help, he thought urgently. If he could just remove himself without arousing suspicion— "If you will excuse me, I really should be getting back to work and I'm afraid nature calls, as well. Nice to meet you, Mr. Jenks." He made a hasty exit past the hot beverage table and into the hallway towards the restrooms.
Once inside, he checked for occupants and finding none, reached into his jacket pocket for the slim communicator. He was able to extract and attach the microphone end easily, but the antenna seemed to have a mind of its own, and he struggled for what seemed to be eons to extend it. Give me the cigarette pack over this thing any day, he thought. "Open Channel L," he said with a heavy sigh.
A young female voice answered: "Channel L is open."
He was ready to speak, but the unfamiliar voice threw him for a moment. "Leslie?"
"She left ten minutes ago. This is Maureen, I'm new."
Great— "Maureen, this is Chuck Yeagley, serial number 257648."
Not Maureen, he thought— moron— "Chuck Yeagley—and, no, I'm not the Air Force pilot who broke the sound barrier—I work out of the Harrisburg office. I need for you to get your supervisor."
"I can't—she just left, too."
"I need to talk to somebody in charge. Where is everybody?"
"They all went over to Shibe Park for the double-header."
"The Phillies have a double-header today."
"They're twelve-and-a-half games out, for Crissake! Maureen, listen, I need to talk to somebody in Section Two—now!"
The line went silent at that moment while the flustered communications operative went to look for someone in authority. Chuck took a deep breath to calm his own frazzled nerves. He could only hope that no one decided to use the rest room within the next few minutes. Suddenly, from behind, he heard a sharp snap, and a fraction of a second later, something pricked the back of his neck. His hand went instinctively to the spot and his fingers touched the feathered end of a tranquilizing dart. He spun around to find the owner standing in front of a closed stall door, a THRUSH dart pistol in his hand.
The man smiled. "You don't look anything like Chuck Yeager."
Chuck pulled the dart out of the flesh of his neck. "No, but right now I really wish I was Chuck Yeager." The communicator in his hand crackled. He put the cylinder to his lips and managed to whisper urgently: "It's THRUSH!" before it was pulled from his hand. His last conscious thought was: Is this any way to run a field office?
Act I: "What's a Hershey Factory?"
Two-and-a-half weeks later, New York Office
Illya Nickovetch Kuryakin looked up from his spread of papers, notebooks and quantum physics journals as Napoleon Solo, CEA of the New York Office and his partner, appeared in the doorway of his office. He laid down his well-worn slide rule and dropped a three-inch nub of a pencil. "Please, tell me we have an assignment," he said with a pleading sigh.
Napoleon smiled at the mildly exasperated look on his partner's face. "You look like you already have more than you can handle right there."
A small scowl of frustration furrowed the Russian's brow as he surveyed the contents of his desk. "A project from Mr. Waverly. Some of Dr. Matsu's (Her Master's Voice Affair) research seems to have alternative applications useful to us and I was asked—" He sighed. "—correction, ordered, to look into it."
Napoleon came into the room and leaned over the desk, interested. "Have you found anything?"
Kuryakin shook his head. "Nothing definitive at this time. It's going to take a lot more work."
A condescending grin parted the CEA's lips. "I'll be happy to give you all the time you need. After all, the Old Man did ask—I mean, order."
"Not at the expense of fieldwork, he didn't."
"That's right; you haven't had a really good concussion for several months."
"Don't patronize me, Napoleon," Illya growled.
"Touchy today, aren't we?"
The blond-haired agent sighed heavily. "I would just like to put this research on a back burner for a while."
"This is unusual for you to be bored with research. Are you coming down with something?" He reached out to lay his hand on his friend's forehead as if to test for a fever.
Illya deflected away the hand. "Hardly, except, perhaps, a little of what you Americans call 'cabin fever'? It's been over two weeks since our last assignment."
Napoleon chuckled and leaned on his friend's desk. "So, you're bored, huh?"
"In a word, yes. Now, are you going to tell me we have an assignment or do I have to go to Mr. Waverly and threaten to defect to THRUSH?"
The CEA straightened. "Well, it just so happens there is something Mr. Waverly wanted a Section Two agent to look into."
"And what might that be?"
"It really doesn't sound like something you'd be interested in."
Illya stood up. "At this point, my interest is piqued for anything. What is it?"
Solo shook his head. "I don't think so. It's beneath your abilities." He turned to leave.
"I could use an easy case for a change."
"It's just an investigation."
"Napoleon, I'll do it. What are the details?"
"Are you sure?"
"How many languages would you like me to tell you in? Yes, I'm sure!"
Napoleon smiled his coy little smile. "That's all I needed to hear, tovarisch. Be in my office in ten minutes after you clean up this stuff."
Illya's mouth dropped open slightly as he realized he had just been manipulated into something his partner had been slated to do, but didn't want to. "Good," he said tersely, "it'll take me that long to implement something on your behalf that I've been wanting to for a long time."
Napoleon shrugged his shoulders, unconcerned. "I don't know what you're so mad about, Illya. I told you it wasn't something you'd be interested in."
Now it was Illya's turn to grin, but it was decidedly more fiendish. "Remember, Napoleon, I don't get mad, I get even. See you in ten minutes."
Exactly ten minutes later, Illya rapped on Solo's office door and on invitation, took a seat in front of the CEA's large desk. "So, what's the investigation about and where?"
"The where is Philadelphia, well, actually, out of the Philadelphia field office. The office administrator wants someone from Section Two, New York, to investigate the death of a retired agent who—"
"A retired agent? Really now—"
"Perhaps, you'd like to let me finish before you start to object vehemently."
Illya sighed heavily and crossed his arms in a gesture of annoyance. "I'm listening."
"Good. The retired agent was part of a field outpost in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. His body was found in a cocoa bean silo at the Hershey factory several days ago."
"Napoleon, I'm just a poor Russian immigrant, and English isn't my first language. Would you please explain what you just said? Where is this Harrisburg, and what are a cocoa bean silo and a Hershey factory?"
"Well, Harrisburg is the capital of Pennsylvania, about a hundred miles west of Philadelphia. The Hershey factory is where Hershey bars come from—" When Illya's eyebrows rose in confusion, he continued: "You know, the chocolate bars with the almonds in them? Hershey kisses? The little silver-wrapped chocolate things? How can you be addicted to chocolate and not know about Hershey kisses?"
"I prefer Swiss chocolate; best chocolate in the world."
"And you're a Russian snob. Hershey's chocolate is known all over the world since World War Two. American GI's were always giving them to the European kids."
"I must have missed that part."
Napoleon couldn't help but catch his partner's sarcastic tone, and he was suddenly contrite at his hasty remarks. Illya had lived though hell as a child in war-torn Europe, and he felt bad for making light of it. "Sorry."
His partner shrugged it off. "I'll have to sample the local cuisine when I get there. Can I assume that a cocoa bean silo has the same basic function as a corn silo?"
"That's what I was thinking."
"So how did this retired agent find his way into a silo filled with cocoa beans?"
"That's what you have to find out. The Philadelphia office wants you to take one of their Section two agents with you. They have a few rookies who need breaking in."
A look of despair crossed the Russian's chiseled features. "A training assignment? No wonder you wanted to pawn this off onto someone else!"
"You're much better at striking fear into the hearts of young recruits than I am, Illya."
"Suddenly, Dr. Matzu's work is looking very attractive. Can't you find some other poor, unsuspecting durak to do this?"
"Don't you go spouting off your Russian vulgarities at me, my friend. You just about begged me for this case."
Illya glared at his partner, knowing Solo was right. "And you don't want to hear the Russian vulgarities I'm thinking right now. You owe me, Napoleon. You owe me big time! The next two courier runs are yours."
"Deal. C'mon, Illya, look on the bright side. Central Pennsylvania is supposed to be very beautiful country. Rolling hills, farmland, lots of fresh air. It'll be like a vacation."
"I don't need a vacation."
"You said you were bored."
"I'm not that bored."
"I could make it an order."
"You wouldn't stoop that low—"
"Just do it, Illya. Think of it as charity work."
The blond Russian growled low in his throat. "I'll do it, but I won't enjoy it. And make it the next three courier runs."
"You drive a hard bargain, Kuryakin, but I accept your terms. Here are your tickets. Plane leaves at two."
Illya glanced down at his watch as he reached for the envelope with the tickets. One o'clock. Oh, good, he thought, And I was afraid I was going to be pressed for time.
"Call me when you get to Harrisburg."
Illya looked up. "I will, but you may not like what I will be calling you." He tucked the folder under his arm and strode out the door. He did not catch Solo's sigh of relief.
The plane ride was uneventful, though, perhaps due to his own boredom, Illya found the rivalry between the two flight attendants in seeing to his needs amusing. Normally, it was Napoleon's prerogative to flirt and flatter, but just this once, the usually somber Russian decided to have a little fun. He was surprised how small an effort it took to suddenly have both of them falling over each other to bring him coffee, a magazine, pillow or some other amenity. He would have been equally embarrassed had he heard them in the galley sighing over his blue eyes, blond hair and "tantalizingly sexy" accent. Evidently, he was not the only one "playing" on the flight.
By four-thirty in the afternoon, he was in the Philadelphia headquarters accepting another cup of coffee from another appreciative young woman, the secretary of the head of U.N.C.L.E. Philadelphia.
The chief of the headquarters, Bernard Louis, sipped his own coffee. "I must admit, Mr. Kuryakin, I'm rather surprised that Mr. Waverly sent one of his elite on a simple training investigation such as this."
So am I, he thought sourly; aloud he said, "I think I can speak for Mr. Waverly that younger agents can benefit from our experience and expertise." A small smile touched his lips as he added, "And he is notorious for putting us into positions that humble us."
Louis appeared to choke on his coffee which made Illya conclude that the Philadelphia chief had also been subject to Waverly's administrations. Neither man seemed wanting for elaboration on that subject, so Louis pointed to the file folder on the table between them. "This is all we have so far on the case you and Mr. Manetti will be working on. Speaking of which—" He pressed a button on the console on the table and spoke into the speaker. "Where is Mr. Manetti?"
The secretary answered immediately, "He just came in, sir."
"Send him through," Louis said, and closed the channel. "Mr. Manetti is young, but eager to learn."
Kuryakin laid down his cup. The first thing he needs to learn is punctuality. The steel door opened and the agent in question, an incredibly young man of medium height with dark curly hair, hurried in. He stopped short when he saw the occupant of the chair next to his boss and inhaled a small gasp.
"You're Illya Kuryakin—" he stuttered.
Illya stood up. "Yes, I know. Do you know it's not nice to keep your partner waiting? Especially your senior partner?" Secretly, he was taking a great deal of satisfaction in seeing the much younger agent shrink back from him, shaking his head. The expression on the kid's face looked like he didn't know which to do first: faint or wet his pants.
The chief played along. "Better watch it, Mr. Manetti. Mr. Kuryakin eats agents like you for breakfast," he said with a grin in the Russian agent's direction.
Kuryakin decided that they had intimidated the "rookie" enough for the time being. "Join us, Mr. Manetti, and learn something."
A shaky smile formed. "Yes, sir, Mr. Kuryakin, sir." He took the seat Illya offered but waited until the older man sat before he slipped into his seat.
Illya scanned the file Bernard Louis had given him earlier. "Mr. Louis, I'm a little unclear about the particulars here. Was this agent on assignment?"
"No, Mr. Yeagley was retired from the field approximately six months earlier." He noted the silent snort of a chuckle from the Russian. "The name?" he ventured.
Illya raised his eyebrows in mild surprise, but Louis continued before he could speak.
"He was always getting ribbed about his name."
"I don't get it," Manetti said. "What about his name?"
The chief and top field agent exchanged amused glances. "You've never heard of Chuck Yeager, Mr. Manetti?" Illya said, not surprised when the younger man shook his head. "He was the one who broke the so-called 'sound barrier' in 1947. Quite an achievement at the time."
"I was only two years old then."
"I thought, perhaps, the name might have come up in one of your history classes."
Daniel looked down at his hands on the table. "Must've been absent that day," he muttered softly.
"A word of advice, if I may, Mr. Manetti."
The younger agent looked up.
"Never close the book. There is always more to learn."
"Take his advice, Mr. Manetti," Louis added. "I think you know what I mean."
Manetti nodded dejectedly; it was evidently a sore spot with him.
The UNCLE chief turned back to Kuryakin. "Getting back to your question, Yeagley was not on assignment as far as I know. He was part of the field outpost in Harrisburg, and they are strictly an observation operation."
"And the circumstances of his death?"
"Listed as an industrial accident."
"Is that in error?"
Louis took a deep breath. "To be frank, I really don't know. I get a call from Randy Holmes in the Harrisburg office and he tells me something fishy is going on. And then he sends me this report with a note attached that says he also sent it to the New York office. Aside from being pissed about him going over my head with it, I don't know what to think."
Illya was also beginning to smell an ulterior motive on Napoleon's part: his partner was well aware of his penchant towards puzzles. But it still did not explain why Randy Holmes preferred not to have Philadelphia handle the investigation. "Well, I must say, Mr. Louis, my curiosity is piqued. I should like to start the investigation here by talking to some other agents who worked with him at one time or another. Get some insights into the man. Did he have a partner?"
Louis nodded. "He retired from the field about the same time as Chuck did and transferred to New York. You might even know of him. His name is Russ Crandall."
Russ Crandall! The name sent a wave of ill feeling to the back of Illya's throat that he could almost taste. Yes, he knew Russ Crandall, and every time he had to have dealings with the man, he decided he liked him even less than the time before. If there was a redeeming quality at all, it was the knowledge that Russ felt pretty much the same way about him, and was not shy about expressing it. It was this well-known mutual-loathing that kept them from ripping the other apart, for the entire cadre of Section Two and Three agents in the New York HQ had the unspoken and ongoing assignment of keeping the two at opposite ends of the building at all times. Kuryakin breathed a deep sigh through his nose before answering, and a slight tightening of the jaw was his only outward reaction. "Yes," he said evenly, "Mr. Crandall and I are acquainted."
"Chuck was the only one who actually got along with Russ. I think THRUSH liked him better than we did."
A hint of a smile touched a corner of Illya's mouth. "I believe I can safely say that Mr. Crandall has remained true to form."
Both Louis and Manetti echoed an enhanced (and somewhat relieved) copy of the New York agent's smile. Nice to know some things never change.
"So, aside from Mr. Crandall, is there anyone who can give us information on Yeagley?"
"Well," Louis replied, "I can tell you, as his superior, he was efficient, methodical, and thorough. Just what you'd expect from an U.N.C.L.E. agent. I know I was sorry to see him retire."
"And what about his superior in Harrisburg, this Randy Holmes? There's not much in the report, except that Yeagley's death seemed 'fishy'; no clarification on what he meant by that?"
"I tried to get him to say more on it, but he wouldn't. I think he wants to brief you in person."
"Then, perhaps our time would be better served if we went to Harrisburg right away instead of waiting until tomorrow. How long a drive is it?"
"About two hours if you go the Turnpike. I'll have Leslie make hotel reservations for you. We have several secure rooms at the Penn Harris, which I think you'll find comfortable. Is there anything else?"
Illya shook his head. "I can't think of anything at the moment. Mr. Manetti, do you have anything to add?"
The younger man almost jumped in his seat. "What?"
"I sincerely hope you've been paying attention. There will be a test later."
"No-no, Mr. Kuryakin, I was just trying to figure something out."
"Yes, Mr. Manetti?"
"How in the hell did this Chuck Yeagley manage to get into a silo? They're over one-hundred-and-forty feet high."
A pair of surprisingly patient blue eyes met his question. "That's just one of the things we have to find out. Are you ready to proceed?"
Daniel Manetti smiled. "I'm with you, sir."
Illya stood. "One more thing, Mr. Manetti—"
The younger man looked up quizzically.
"Don't call me sir. I'm your senior partner, not your drill instructor. Understood?" He did not wait for an answer to that question, but gathered the file papers, and shook Bernard Louis's hand in farewell. "We'll be in touch." Then to Manetti, he added, "Let's go. You're driving." He strode through the door with Daniel Manetti following like an eager puppy dog.
Act II "The stars in his eyes might get him killed."
Unlike the plane ride, the two-hour drive from Philadelphia to Harrisburg seemed interminable. Manetti suddenly appeared to have found his comfort level when Illya asked a general question about the area and the younger agent began to ramble on like a tour guide. By the time they reached the Harrisburg exit on the Turnpike, Kuryakin knew more than he ever wanted to know about south-central Pennsylvania. "You may have missed your calling, Mr. Manetti. You have a definite aptitude for tourism."
Daniel cleared his throat embarrassingly. "Sorry, it's just that I grew up in this area. I was one of the Hershey 'Cows'."
"I'm afraid I don't follow you. A 'Cow'?"
"Well, that's what the 'townies' called us Milton Hershey boys."
"Now you've really lost me. What's a 'townie'?
"They're the people who live in Hershey, as opposed to the boys who lived at the Milton Hershey school."
"Right. We got the name because a lot of us worked on the school farms."
"How did you come to live at the school?"
"My folks died when I was two. My only family was my grandmother who lived in Hershey. She got me into the school when I was five."
Kuryakin nodded in understanding; he was all-too familiar with the situation in his own upbringing.
"So, I guess I make the perfect UNCLE agent: no family ties."
"It is one of the desirable situations," Illya observed. "However, there are many other factors which will determine whether or not you will qualify for the adjective of 'perfect'.
Manetti sighed. "Like you and Mr. Solo."
Illya looked over at him, an eyebrow raised in confusion. "What makes you say that?"
"You guys are legends. Why, the stuff I heard at Survival School—"
"Don't be so quick to believe all that you hear, Mr. Manetti. Mr. Solo and I have been successful in the past because of our training."
"And Solo's Luck," Manetti added under his breath.
"Yes," Illya had to concede, "he is quite uncanny in that respect."
"Is it true that you consistently shoot perfect Tens on the firing range?"
Illya sighed heavily to conceal the embarrassment he suddenly felt. "I didn't say you had to discount everything you hear," he said evenly. But he had to close his eyes and mentally cringe when his younger "partner" uttered a wow of impressed adoration. "Just drive, Mr. Manetti," he said, purposely hardening his tone of voice. The last thing he needed was to be the object of some misplaced hero worship.
They checked into separate rooms at the Penn-Harris hotel, on Kuryakin's request. If Solo had been with him, he might have opted for sharing a room, but the ride from Philadelphia had given him a great urge to guard his privacy from the much younger agent. Manetti took no offense and seemed to look on it as a privilege of seniority. Before entering his room, Illya gave him an assignment: contact Randy Holmes and set up a briefing for as soon as possible.
"What about dinner?" was Manetti's response.
"Suggest that to him, by all means. We'll split the cost of his dinner for our expense accounts."
The younger agent's eyes widened. "You mean you're not going to pick up the whole thing?" His answer was a piercing, steely glare that made him want to slither under the closed door of his hotel room. "Right," he said softly, "we'll split it."
"I'm going to report in to Mr. Louis and meet you in the lobby in fifteen minutes." His tone suggested that the meeting with Holmes had better be a sure thing. Daniel nodded and fumbled for his room key. He heard Kuryakin's door click shut before he had even slid the key into the lock.
As Manetti let himself into his room, it occurred him to that not only was he going to have to arrange this meeting for the required time, but also the restaurant would have to satisfy his new mentor's stringent requirements as well, whatever those might be. Surely, he mused, the stories that filtered in from the New York office about the Russian's frugality had to be true. He wondered what other faux pas he would commit during his tenure with the legendary and infamous Illya Kuryakin.
Inside his room, Illya hoisted his suitcase onto the bed and reached inside his inner jacket pocket for his communicator. After a brief call to Philadelphia, he placed a second: "Open channel D, please. Kuryakin, here."
Immediately, a female voice answered. "Channel D is open. How's Pennsylvania, Illya?"
"Agreeable, Heather. Is Napoleon there? He's expecting this communiqué."
Napoleon's baritone replaced Heather's higher pitched voice. "What have you got so far?"
"Not much, except that this deceased agent was partner to Russ Crandall."
"No wonder you didn't want to take this assignment! I could understand that, but why did you have to palm it off on me?"
"You're not going to believe this, Illya—"
"Will you let me finish? Russ Crandall asked me to put you on this case."
"He asked specifically for you to take this case."
"And I've got to ask why. What's his ulterior motive in all of this?"
"Actually, he was quite sincere. I could see that it galled him to say it, but he said he knew you would find out what really happened to his partner, that you're the best investigator UNCLE has."
"He said that?"
"Would I lie to you, tovarisch?"
"Do you really want me to answer that?"
"Never mind. Any other leads?"
"We may know more when we talk with the head of the Harrisburg office."
"Russ seems to concur with Randy Holmes's assessment that Chuck got into some kind of trouble he didn't expect and somebody's trying to cover their tracks because of it."
"My new partner is setting up a meeting with Randy Holmes as we speak. I'm hoping he can give us a few leads."
"How is the new partner?" Solo was sure he could hear a deep sigh of frustration from the Russian.
"Incredibly green, incessantly talkative, and abrasively reverent. It appears that a highly exaggerated reputation has preceded me."
"Will we have to widen the doorways for you?"
"I beg your pardon?"
"So that your swelled head can pass though?"
"Very funny, Napoleon. I don't want this—child—thinking I'm some kind of 'super secret agent'!"
"You could always make a really serious blunder. I'm sure that would sober him."
"You're full of helpful suggestions tonight."
"Just part of the job, my dear Illya. Speaking of which, you'd better get back to your job. Your fan club awaits you."
"I can hardly wait."
"Put him in his place, partner. Now. The stars in his eyes might get him killed."
"Worse, they could get me killed. I will do what is necessary."
"I have every faith in your abilities, my friend. Call me when you have news."
"I will, oh, and Napoleon?"
"The next four courier runs are yours. Kuryakin, out." Illya collapsed his communicator and put it away. His next stop was the bathroom to freshen up before his next encounter with Daniel Manetti.
"So, Mr. Manetti, where and when are we meeting Mr. Holmes?" Illya said as he approached the younger agent in the hotel lobby.
"He wants us to meet him at the office." Manetti handed over a slip of paper. "This is the address. He's going to call in an order for Chinese food and we can pick it up on the way."
"Very well. You drive since you know the area." He tossed the car keys in Manetti's direction.
Daniel seemed eagerly pleased to chauffeur his mentor once again and easily caught the keys. "Sure thing, Mr. Kuryakin." And he turned to bound for the front door.
Kuryakin caught his arm before he could take a step. "Mr. Manetti, I'm going to only say this to you once—we both know that as an agent, you're a fledgling, but you do not need to advertise that fact to the rest of the world. As far as anyone else is concerned, we are agents of Section Two, both highly trained and competent. If you fail to project that image, I will personally stuff you into a shipping carton and mail you back to Philadelphia C.O.D. Do I make myself clear?"
Daniel's expression was like a puppy that had just been caught dirtying the floor.
"Yes, sir," he said contritely.
"It's Mr. Kuryakin or Illya," Kuryakin corrected softly. "You are my partner; no more, no less. Now, let's see to our duties, shall we?"
Daniel nodded and preceded him to the car. They arrived at the U.N.C.L.E. office ten minutes later with the Chinese food in bags on the floor at Kuryakin's feet.
Illya looked at the small store front building, a modest sign in the window advertising it as a tax preparation facility, and quickly scanned up and down the street for anything that appeared to be suspicious. "Let's go inside," he said softly.
Daniel nodded and shut off the engine. "I hope that food tastes as good as it smells."
A small smile touched the Russian's lips as he handed Manetti the paper bags. "Agreed. It's way past my dinnertime."
The two men went into the dimly-lit storefront, past the so-called front desk and toward the door to the back offices which had brighter light shining from underneath it, indicating occupancy. Illya knocked but there was no answer.
He frowned slightly. "Strange." He looked up at Manetti. "He is expecting us, isn't he?"
"Yeah, I told him it would be less than fifteen minutes. Maybe he's in the john."
A gun appeared in Kuryakin's hand. "Perhaps." He reached for the doorknob, turned it slowly, and pushed open the door. A man sat at a desk facing them, but did not move even as the door swung fully open. When Illya approached, he could see clearly that the eyes that stared back at him had no life in them.
Manetti tossed the bags he was carrying and pushed past Illya to assess the condition of the man behind the desk. The older agent approached more slowly, knowing there was nothing to be done for the man, except, perhaps seeing that he got a proper funeral. Daniel felt the neck for a pulse, and looked up at his partner. "But I just talked to him not twenty minutes ago—"
"Whoever you talked to, Mr. Manetti, it wasn't this man. He's already going into rigor. I suspect we were lured here to find him like this. But why, I wonder." Illya began to prowl the room, looking for clues.
He had not even taken two steps when he heard Daniel's sharp intake of breath and a sputtering, "Oh, shit!" He looked up just as the younger agent yelled at him: "Mr. Kuryakin, get out—Now!" and flung himself at the body in the chair. A moment later, a shock wave catapulted Illya across the room and into the wall lined with file cabinets where he lay stunned from the blast and his untimely collision with the metal cabinets.
Act III "I Believe It's My Partner"
The dust from the explosion had started to settle when Illya's senses returned to him. The room was dark and eerily quiet, though he could hear the approach of sirens and knew assistance was on its way. Before they arrived, however, he had to find Manetti in the rubble.
"Manetti," he called out thinly, but there was only silence. He pulled himself to his hands and knees, ignoring the stabbing pain in his right shoulder, and crawled toward his partner's last known location. His hand touched a shoe, giving his groggy mind a jolt of adrenalin. "Daniel—"he breathed and grasped at the foot. It yielded easily—much too easily—and when his eyes adjusted finally to the darkness, he saw it was indeed a shoe and a foot, but that was all; the appendage ended in a bloody stump slightly above the ankle.
When he reached what was left of the desk the body had been sitting behind, he discovered the chair, the body and Daniel Manetti were gone. All he could do was sigh heavily and try to get to his feet. Both brought their own brand of discomfort. He stumbled away from the scene to the outside door where he was greeted by a concerned-looking police officer.
"Are you all right?" the officer said grasping his coat, but pulled back as he felt soft wetness on the material. "What's all over your clothes?" he asked queasily.
Illya looked down at his clothing. Bits of bloody tissue clung to the fabric. He looked up at the officer. "I believe it's my partner," he murmured, and collapsed into the police officer's arms.
For an UNCLE agent, waking up was often a mixed blessing; granted, it meant you weren't dead, but what you were waking up to might make it much less than a blessing. Oh, yes, it was very much a mixed blessing when Illya opened his eyes and the first thing he saw was Napoleon smiling at him.
"Welcome back," the handsome, dark-haired agent said softly. Illya struggled to sit and was pushed back onto the bed."Not so fast, my impetuous Russian. I promised the doctor I wouldn't let you do anything foolish."
Illya would have pushed him away if he hadn't felt like death-warmed over, so he half-growled at his friend instead. "Let go of me, Napoleon. I'm all right."
"Hardly, tovarisch. You have eight stitches above your right eye, a green-stick fracture of your right collarbone, and, congratulations, you're caught up on your scorecard for concussions. You know, I think this is a record even for you. Not even one day into an assignment and you're getting yourself blown up. I can't let you go anywhere without me, can I?"
Napoleon's good-natured teasing only accentuated the sense of failure that he felt for having lost a man and seemingly, for no good reason. The job was dangerous; no one doubted it for a moment, but they had scarcely begun the investigation, and Manetti had been so young— "What day is it?" he asked softly.
"It's the next day. You were less than cooperative in the ER, so the doc gave you something to make you sleep through the night." When Illya didn't answer, he added. "This wasn't your fault, Illya."
"If not mine, than whose? I should have been more suspicious when I saw the body—it was Randy Holmes' body, wasn't it?"
"Well, we don't know. There wasn't enough left of it for an ID." Solo reached into his pocket and pulled out a picture which he handed to Illya. "That him?"
"A clean-up crew from Philadelphia came last night to sift through the debris and collect whatever remains they can find."
"Something is very wrong here. Manetti shouldn't have died."
"From what we could tell, if he hadn't shielded you from the blast, you both would have been killed. If you want to honor his memory, concentrate less on his death and more on finding the ones responsible. We already have a pretty good idea who that is, don't we?"
"Indeed we do." The blood agent sighed. "Napoleon, the pep-talk wasn't really necessary."
"I thought it was. I sensed a gloomy mood coming on and you're no good to me gloomy."
"So where do we go now? Holmes was going to brief us last night. Anything he had to say went with him."
"Well, it just so happens, the cleaning crew found a file in the office safe that has what we're looking for. I talked with Bernard Louis this morning and there are some new tidbits that came to light after he sent you and Manetti here. We've still got a case, my friend."
Illya suddenly felt less like death-warmed over. "Marvelous, so let's get out of here and get to work."
"Not so fast. The doc wants to keep you until tomorrow just to make sure there's nothing more sinister going on in your head than what's already there."
"C'mon, Napoleon! You know doctors are just over-solicitous babushkas. They might need this bed for someone who's really sick."
"They want you to rest."
"I can do that in my hotel room."
"Maybe they know you like I do, that you won't rest in your hotel room."
"I promise, I won't do anything more strenuous than prop up my pillows."
"Maybe I can talk him into letting you out later this evening, if you're sincere enough. "
"So, go talk to the doctor! I'm perfectly fine—" The sentence died on his lips as a pretty nurse came into the room carrying a tray.
Napoleon looked up at the nurse and then at his friend. Smiling, he stood up. "I'll go badger the doctor." He turned to leave.
Solo paused. "Yes, Illya?"
"Don't be too hard on the doctor. After all, he must have a good reason for wanting me to stay here."
"Well, in case you get bored, I brought the file we were talking about and my notes on the additional information."
"I'll be sure to read—" His sentence was cut short as the nurse pushed a thermometer into his mouth. Illya stared at her as she took his pulse, a crooked grin on his face.
"Nurse," Napoleon said, the smile still on his face, "I'm not sure how accurate your readings are going to be—"
Illya cut him off tersely. "Don't you have somewhere you need to be, Napoleon?"
Solo chuckled. "So I do. I'll be here later this evening, my friend."
"No hurry—" Illya plucked the thermometer from his mouth and reversed it to place the proper end under his tongue. No hurry at all, he thought.
Solo had barely slid the room key into the lock when the door to the next room opened. "'Bout time you got back," the man in the doorway said.
Napoleon straightened, annoyed at the tone of voice. "Since you asked, Illya's going to be just fine. He'll be released this evening. You can thank your lucky stars that he won't be one hundred percent when he finds out you're in on the investigation. Though, I have seen him take on three Thrushes at one time when he had two bullets in him."
Russ Crandall snorted. "If you're trying to intimidate me, Solo, it's not going to work. My only interest in the little Commie is that he's good at solving puzzles, and I want to know what happened to my partner. Remember that."
Even pulling himself to his full height, Solo was about two inches shorter than the retired agent, but he wasn't gong to need it to put Crandall in his place. "And you'd best remember that you are here at my pleasure and Mr. Waverly's. Step out of line and you'll deal with me, and my enmity towards you isn't as well-controlled as Mr. Kuryakin's is."
Crandall frowned slightly, but otherwise did not react to Solo's dressing-down of him. "So what are we going to do until tonight?"
"We're going to go sight-seeing."
"Sight-seeing!? Are you out of your mind?"
"Not at all. That way we'll be able to look around with some degree of anonymity and, at the same time, let the little thrushies think UNCLE's backed off. They may lower their guard." Solo walked back to his room door. "I'll see you at the car in a half an hour."
Later that afternoon, Napoleon sighed heavily as he closed the door to his hotel room, and pulled on the knot of his tie. It had not been a good day, at all. The weather had been steamy, the town had been bursting with tourists, the tour through the chocolate factory had gleaned nothing and Russ Crandall had been a royal pain in the neck. True, the day had been a waste of time, but he didn't need his companion reminding him of it throughout the entire experience. Even Illya with his tendency towards the cynical, didn't come close to Crandall's pessimistic outlook. He was almost looking forward to seeing his partner's reaction to the unwanted assistance. But, then, he thought, we'll have to find a way to get rid of the body—and he chuckled softly at the idea.
Act IV "Personally, I like to keep the body count down, if I can."
That evening, Solo pushed open the door to his partner's room and found the blond Russian immersed in the pages of the file he had left. Without looking up, Illya grumbled, "You're late."
"What's the matter? Did the pretty nurse that was here before turn into a pumpkin?"
"More like a witch. The nurse who came on at three and I had a small disagreement over some painkillers. She went to talk to the doctor. If we hurry, we can be gone by the time she gets back—which reminds me, where are my clothes?"
Napoleon held up a small satchel. "The ER made short work of what you were wearing last night. Hope it wasn't your favorite tie."
Illya opened the satchel, nodded slightly with approval of Solo's clothing selection and pulled out short-sleeved casual shirt that buttoned its full length.
"I thought a pull-over would be rough with that broken collarbone."
"That was very thoughtful, Napoleon, but it's only cracked. It should be fine in a couple of days." He slid the shirt over his shoulders and buttoned carefully. Cracked or not, the thing hurt and he was not about to aggravate it. The pants followed easily, but the shoes and socks were much less comfortable. "So what did you do to pass the time today?"
"Got in some sight-seeing: went on the factory tour, checked out the amusement park, the rose gardens and the hotel. And I bought you some Hershey kisses at the 'world-famous' Hershey drugstore."
Illya stood up from tying his shoes. "Sounds exciting. Sorry I missed it. Did you happen to pick up any information on your travels? Or at least a pretty woman to share your Hershey kisses?"
"That would have been a little difficult with—" Napoleon began and caught himself. He sighed heavily and walked to the window, his hands in his pockets. "There's something you need to know."
"Judging from your abrupt change in demeanor, I'm not going to be thrilled with your news. Well, you may as well get it over-with."
"Russ Crandall's back at the hotel waiting for us," Solo said quietly. He looked up at his friend when the reply was equally as quiet and very controlled.
"Perhaps you'd care to explain why he's back at the hotel waiting for us."
"He made a big fuss over what happened last night and told Waverly he wanted to be in on the investigation. I think the Old Man gave in just to get rid of him."
"Remind me to thank Mr. Waverly for his consideration of us," Kuryakin complained. "So, do I have a wide latitude on how far I can go to put him in his place?"
"You're awfully calm about this. I was expecting you to take it out on me."
"Don't worry, I will. You know that I have a long memory. And the next six courier runs are yours." He tucked the case file under his arm, walked past Napoleon towards the door and tossed the empty satchel at him. "Let's go. I've got a colleague to throttle."
The dark-haired agent followed, plagued by the mixed feelings his partner had elicited. He wasn't sure if he should be worried or excited that Illya was going to take on Russ Crandall, at last.
Solo opened the door to their hotel room and stepped aside to allow his partner to enter first. He could sense the tension in the bearing of the Russian, but he was not sure of its source: the tension that was always there during an assignment, or the knowledge of who was in the room next to them and an unwanted confrontation to come. Illya pulled the pillows from under the bedspread, threw them against the wall and flopped down on the bed with his back against them. "So, where's our 'friend'?"
Solo was thinking the same thing. "Maybe he finally got smart and decided not to antagonize you."
Kuryakin snored a laugh. "And maybe I'll be offered a job with the CIA."
"Good point. I expected him to be waiting for us. Think I ought to check on him? Maybe THRUSH paid him a visit."
A small smile touched the corners of Illya's mouth. "The head of the Philadelphia office made a remark that he believed THRUSH liked him better than we did. Maybe that was the key to his success."
"Well, it certainly explains a lot, though maybe they just threw him back because they couldn't stand him either."
"Maybe you should check on him. I'd hate to have to spend more time on this assignment rescuing him, and then be berated for not getting there soon enough."
"Oh, you mean like you're always doing to me?"
"But I do it with a lot of affection, Napoleon. Don't forget that."
"So that's what it is. I always thought it was sarcasm."
"Well, that, too. Sarcasm mixed with just the right amount of affection. Keeps you humble."
"An admirable trait in a spy or so you keep telling me."
"A swelled head would prevent you from getting out of tight situations." At this point in the conversation, Illya was almost grinning from the banter at his partner's expense.
"Enough already. You're enjoying this just a little too much, my friend. As much as it might pain both you and me, I'm going to check on our associate. Why don't you call room service and get us some supper sent up? I didn't eat before I came to get you, and even if you did, I doubt if you'll turn down food, especially if I'm buying."
"Actually, I missed supper, too, thanks to the wicked witch of the west. I'll have to see if they offer a sampling of the local cuisine." He picked up the phone on the nightstand, then paused, and put the handset back into its cradle. "Napoleon, if Crandall is in his room, you don't need to invite him over. He's an appetite depressant, if I ever saw one."
Solo smiled. "Don't worry, I won't. I want a nice dinner, too. Be right back." He went to the next door in the hallway and rapped softly, but there was no answer. Illya was finishing the dinner order as he entered. "Strange, he wasn't there."
"He might be downstairs eating. Or even in the bar giving the bartender a hard time."
"Part of me is saying I should check to make sure."
"And all of me is telling you to let it alone. I'll be much more tolerant of him on a full stomach. Then I could throw up on his shoes and say it was the concussion that made me do it."
"Just the same, I'm going to go down and check. After the way this assignment started for you, a little caution would seem to be in order. Don't worry, I won't bring him home with me."
"Well, hurry. The food is on its way up. I can't guarantee that your food will be safe once I get started."
"Hell of an incentive, Kuryakin. Try to control yourself. I'll be right back."
Napoleon found Russ Crandall in the restaurant seated across from a very pretty, albeit, distraught woman, who appeared to be in her late thirties. To his surprise, he could see that Russ also held her hand gently, his expression one of condolence, but he was sure he saw more than that in the eyes that never wavered from the woman's face. Curiosity, both professional and personal was urging him to join the pair, though it was a sense of propriety that made him hesitate. This was definitely a private moment between them and should be respected. On the other hand, Russ was Section Three now and not bound to report anything learned from this meeting if pertinent to the case. As CEA of Section Two, Solo could judge for himself the importance of the meeting. He entered the restaurant and approached the couple.
"I was hoping I'd find you here when you didn't answer your door," he said cordially.
A scowl formed on Crandall's lips. "Can't you see I'm busy?"
The woman seated opposite him pulled on his hand. "Stop that, Russ." She looked up at Solo, smiling. Despite her demeanor, he could see that she had been crying. "I'm sorry, I didn't get your name."
Napoleon was ready to answer, but Crandall spoke first. "His name is Napoleon Solo."
"I don't believe I've ever heard of anyone with a more unique name. I'm Dawn Buchmoyer, Mr. Solo; Dawn Yeagley Buchmoyer, Chuck's sister. Would you care to join us?"
Again, Crandall supplied an answer before Napoleon could speak. "He just came to find out where I was. He really doesn't want to stay." He looked, his expression hard. "Do you?"
"Thank you, yes, I would love to join you, Mrs. Buchmoyer. As a matter of fact, I think it would be appropriate for my partner to join us as well. You don't mind, do you, Russ?"
"We'd both be happy to have you and your partner join us." She cast a warning glance in Russ' direction.
Napoleon reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out his communicator. "Open Channel A—answer your pen, Illya."
It was nearly fifteen seconds before the slender pen returned a rather terse reply. "I thought you said you'd be right back. Dinner's here."
"Pack it back onto the cart and bring it downstairs. There's someone here I think you'd like to meet."
"Who is she?"
"How do you know it's a 'she'?"
"With you, it's always a she. I'll be down in a few minutes, cart in tow. By the way, did you find Crandell?"
"He's with the 'she'. I'll explain when you get here. And don't worry, Mr. Crandall is being very accommodating. Solo, out." He tucked the thin cylinder into his inner jacket pocket, smiled and took the seat adjacent to the pair already seated. "How long have you known Russ, Mrs. Buchmoyer?"
She shot a glance in Crandall's direction and smiled a small knowing smile. "It must be almost ten years now. Chuck brought him home for a holiday on one of the rare times when he was available."
"And how much do you know about what your brother did for a living?"
"Well, not as much as I wanted to know—or maybe, now, considering what's happened, more than I ever wanted to know. You're with a peacekeeping organization, and your work can be dangerous."
"I guess you figured out the dangerous part on your own. Actually, your brother was retired from active service when he turned forty. The dangerous part is supposed to end."
"The police told me it was an industrial accident. That he was working on top of one of the silos they store the cocoa beans in and he must have lost his footing and fell. They said he suffocated from the cocoa dust."
"But you don't believe that."
"No, Chuck worked security for the chocolate company. He wasn't a laborer. He had no reason to be where they say he was."
"Did he tell you what he was doing around the time he disappeared?"
"Chuck never spoke about his work, before or after he left UNCLE."
"Well, I hate to break this to you, but he didn't leave UNCLE. Section Two agents, if they choose can move to Section Three or administrative work within the organization. He was Section Three. The so-called job at the chocolate company was a cover."
"Then you believe my brother was murdered," Dawn said softly and tears filled her eyes again.
It was that moment when Kuryakin appeared table side with a cart laden with food. Napoleon looked at the cart and then up at his partner. "Are you sure you didn't forget anything on the menu?"
"Actually, it's not as much as it looks." He smiled enigmatically at Dawn. "Though I am quite willing to share with a lovely lady." And he bowed ever so slightly.
Napoleon made introductions. "Dawn, this is my overbearing partner, Illya Kuryakin. The lovely lady, my friend, is Mrs. Dawn Yeagley Buchmoyer, the sister."
"Indeed? I would be most interested in whatever you have to tell us."
"It was Russ' idea to bring her here."
Illya looked down at his adversary who had been sitting uncharacteristically quiet. "We are in your debt, Mr. Crandall. I was unaware that Mr. Yeagley had living relatives. It was not information that was provided."
Crandall looked up. "You might have asked me before you left New York." His voice was terse.
"I might have if I had known that he was your partner. It was also information that I had not received before I left." He looked down at Napoleon, who gave him an apologetic raise of the eyebrows.
"I'll explain later," he said softly.
"I'm sure you will, Napoleon. Mr. Crandall, I need to speak with you privately. I believe the hallway just outside is available?"
Crandall shifted his weight with an air of defiance. "I'm fine here."
Solo bumped the man's shoulder. "I think you should take Mr. Kuryakin's suggestion. Let me make it an order: Go out in the hall and talk with Illya. You'll find him a reasonable fellow."
Crandall stood up, but it was obvious that he was obeying under duress. He followed the shorter man to the door. Once in the hall, Illya turned around to face his adversary. "Mr. Crandall, if there is to be a properly functioning team on this investigation, there are some things we need to establish. One, who is the senior agent. Mr. Solo sent me because he said you requested it. Considering our history in the New York office, I'm somewhat dubious about your motives. That aside, I am here, and it is my investigation. Secondly, I don't know why you are here, which only makes me question your motives further. Thirdly, if you are a member of this team, you have a professional responsibility to report your activities, such as the meeting with Mrs. Buchmoyer."
"That's Mr. Kuryakin," Illya corrected.
"I don't like you."
"Old news, Mr. Crandall. The feeling is mutual and that's old news, too. However, I can be civil. Apparently, you can't, and that makes you a liability to the investigation. At this point, I would rather be working with a THRUSH double-agent than with you. Something needs to change, and the most logical thing is your attitude. So, answer me this: why are you here?"
Crandall stared at Illya harshly, but the Russian would not budge. He continued to stare back, but with a calm aura that radiated his intention not to be moved until he had his answer. Finally, he sighed heavily and looked at his feet, outmatched. "It's Dawn," he almost whispered.
"You mean Mrs. Buchmoyer? Please, continue, you have my interest."
"This really is none of your business, and it has nothing to do with the investigation."
"As lead agent on this assignment. I'll decide what is my business and whether or not it impacts the investigation. Tell me all of it."
Crandall sighed heavily and continued to stare at the floor in obvious embarrassment, He began to speak again, softly, but with more volume than before. "I fell in love with Dawn the first time I met her, but she was engaged to someone else. I did everything I could to convince her to marry me instead."
"Mr. Waverly is not fond of agents marrying. It makes them a target for extortion."
"I didn't care, I was going to quit UNCLE if she married me. But she said no."
"And you became the bastard we all know and loathe today," Kuryakin finished.
"It's obvious you've never loved someone so much that you would give up your life for that other person."
"A fair statement, Mr. Crandall, but presumptive. So, keeping mind what you just told me, I ask you again: Why did you come here?"
"Dawn was widowed about a year ago. I was hoping to convince her to marry me this time. Until Solo interrupted us," he finished with a half-growl.
"Mr. Solo was concerned about your whereabouts as you were not in your room."
"I don't need a babysitter."
"I'm sure you don't, but more than one person besides your partner has died so far and, personally, I'm one who likes to keep the body count down if I can, especially when it comes to our side."
"I'm not interested in helping with the investigation. There'll be no need to keep tabs on me."
"Very well, but I still want you to check in with either me or Mr. Solo every twelve hours. There is something very unsettling about this assignment. Let's just say I don't want to find you inside a cocoa bean silo."
Russ relented and nodded his head. "I will check in every twelve hours."
"Very good. For what it's worth, Mr. Crandall, I hope you are successful in winning the lady's heart."
Crandall looked at him in puzzlement.
"We all deserve to find happiness in this world, and as an agent in Section Two, you did much to make that happen for a lot people. I feel comfortable saying that it's your turn now."
"I still don't like you."
Illya laughed out loud. "Good luck, Mr. Crandall." He turned on his heel and took a step towards the elevator, before pausing. "If you would, tell Mr. Solo that I would appreciate it if he brought the cart back to the room with hot food on it." He continued his way to the elevators.
Half an hour later, Napoleon wrapped their usual "all's well" code on the door and let himself in. "Your order is here, Mr. Kuryakin."
Illya lay on the bed farthest from the door, apparently asleep as he did not respond to the return of his partner. Solo wheeled the cart to the foot of Illya's bed and spoke to him again. Illya came wake as he almost always did when unexpectedly roused: with an instinctive reach for his weapon and an ingrained instant alertness.
"You interrupted my dream," he said, slowly sitting up the rest of the way.
"Was she beautiful?"
"Why must you always assume it's a woman?"
""Well, isn't it?" Napoleon grinned: it was one of many ways he enjoyed beleaguering his Russian friend. The trick was not to push too far or suffer retaliation, and Illya had a long memory.
For the moment, Kuryakin would not take the bait. "Forget I said anything. What's on the menu?"
"How should I know? I just had the kitchen reheat what was on the cart."
Illya slid to the foot of the bed. "Good. Wheel that cart over here. I could eat, as you Americans say idiomatically, a horse. In reality, I really have eaten horse-meat."
Solo wrinkled his nose. In reality, so had he when he served in the Korean war. There was no stigma against alternative meat choices there, and when one is hungry enough, one will eat almost anything. He was not inclined to formulate a list. He picked up a plate from the cart and sat down at the writing desk opposite the bed where Illya was now relishing his long-overdue supper.
"I had a very interesting chat with Mrs. Buchmoyer after you left with Crandall. Seems he's been enamored with her for quite a while."
"That's the same story I got from him. He was going to quit UNCLE if she married him. He was very candid about it. She refused him--"
"--and he never got over it. It explains a lot about why he became the way he is."
"It's juvenile to blame the world for your personal tragedies, " Illya said with distaste. "Everyone has had them."
"Well, some are able to cope better than others." He chuckled at a thought that just occurred to him. "I guess that means that Russ is more of a lover than a fighter."
Illya looked up and shook his head incredulously. "Please, Napoleon, I'm eating. Anyway, Crandall's motive for accompanying you was to see if he could renew the romance. She was widowed a year ago."
"Yes, she told me. I'm afraid he's going to be disappointed again."
"I hope she holds off with that revelation until after we've finished the investigation. Otherwise, he may feel compelled to join us again."
"We can't have him traipsing about on his own."
"I gave him a direct order to check in every twelve hours. He's not interested in helping us."
"As long as he stays out of the way, I'm okay with it."
"Good. I'm going to finish my supper and you're going to tell me what other information you have, including your rationale for keeping me in the dark about Crandall and Yeagley's partnership. When Solo opened his mind to protest, Illya held up his hand. "You assigned this case to me, my friend. Don't pull rank on me now." He smiled slyly. "Remember my motto."
"Yeah, I know. You don't get mad, you get even. Okay, I didn't tell you about Crandall because I really thought you wouldn't do it if you knew he had been Yeagley's partner."
"Well, I might have given it a few minutes consideration but Yeagley was Section Two at one time and he deserves justice, especially since he had to put up with Crandall as a partner. And if that wasn't reason enough, Dawn Buchmoyer deserves justice even more. She's a victim as much as was her brother. More so, maybe, because she's an innocent."
Solo smiled. "You always did have a soft spot for the innocents, didn't you?"
"It's why we fight, my friend. Let's go over that material you gave me this morning. I've got a few questions."
ACT V "Dried blood doesn't smell like chocolate."
"So you're telling me that Yeagley reported a problem, but the only person on duty to take his call was a new hire who, when she didn't know what to do, had to physically leave her desk and an agent in trouble to find someone who could help him? Napoleon, that borders on criminal. Where was everyone?"
"Ah, I believe Mr. Louis said that unbeknownst to him, a rather large detail of agents and personnel, including the new hire's supervisor went to the ballpark for a double-header."
"For a baseball game?" Illya was incredulous. "I had a reasonably high opinion of the Philadelphia office until now. Sounds like a re-evaluation of staff might be in order."
"Well, that would be for Waverly to decide. When he gets our report, he may do just that."
"They had no idea what happened to Yeagley. THRUSH took him and he knew no one would be coming to rescue him."
"It's always a possibility. You know that."
"Officially, yes. But I know you would do anything not to let that happen to me. As would I for you. No one should die with out hope, and that's just what happened to him."
Kuryakin couldn't help an involuntary shudder and decided a change of subject was in order. "Do you have any leads on Randy Holmes' lady friend?"
"I tried the phone number listed in the file, but there was no answer. One of us should visit her. She may not be aware of his death."
"I think we should both go. You can console while I unobtrusively look around."
"Do you really think you'll find anything?"
"One never knows. At this point, any scrap of information could prove useful."
"I think the task of breaking the bad news can wait until tomorrow. You look like you could a good night's sleep."
"Normally, I would argue with you, but I'm afraid you're right. Getting thrown across a room in an explosion really does take a lot out of me." He got up from his seat on the bed and headed to the bathroom. "I'm going to brush my teeth, pop a couple of aspirin, and enjoy a few hours of oblivion."
Solo smiled. "Or you could pick up where you left off on your dream."
"No, thanks. It was a repeat anyway."
"The Kiev one?" Napoleon asked softly.
Illya nodded. "Only this time, I was looking for Hershey Bars," he added with a small smirk and disappeared into the bathroom.
An agent on assignment can never count on having a full night of restful sleep, even when that night was to be spent in the comfort of a hotel room. Partners of long-standing tended to be in tune with the other's personal habits. Solo knew his friend and partner was not having a restful night when he heard him get up to use the bathroom twice and it was not to relieve himself.
When the Russian returned from the bathroom a third time and instead of laying back down on the bed, began to rummage through his suitcase for one of the several books he always brought with him when on assignment, Napoleon asked softly, "You all right?"
"I can't sleep. Nothing unusual."
"You sounded like you couldn't keep your supper down either. How bad is the headache?"
"About what you'd expect. Look, I'm really all right."
"No double vision? Anything like that?"
"I know the symptoms of a concussion, Napoleon, " Illya replied with annoyance. "In my career, I've had enough of them in varying degrees."
"Agreed, and you were in the bathroom puking at least twice that I know of."
"Three times and the third time I had nothing left to give. Why all this concern? I've had worse and still was able to function. Sometimes, I even manage to rescue my partner. Remember the Nazarone Affair?"
"Yeah, I do. You're sure you're okay? It's only been a little over twenty-four hours."
"I'm sure, Napoleon."
"Why aren't you sleeping?"
"I'm not sleepy." But Solo was unconvinced. "Okay, I'm having some unsettling dreams, about Daniel Manetti, the rookie who threw himself on the bomb to save my hide."
"And we're going to get those people responsible."
"I know that and I'm all right. I understand the psychological reasons quite well. But it doesn't mean I'm immune from the effects."
"We still have a few hours before we go see Randy Holmes' girlfriend. You should try to sleep."
"I'll read a little. I brought a very boring Physics journal with me. That should do the trick."
Napoleon fell asleep shortly after he laid back down, but it was not before he saw the journal slip from Illya's hand as his breathing became slow and regular.
tarried over breakfast, putting off the undesirable task they had before them for as long as possible. "I'm glad I'm not a homicide detective," Napoleon mused. "I don't think I could ever get used to telling someone their loved-one is dead."
"I would think you'd need to worry if you did get used to it."
"Point well taken. Well, let's get this business over-with." The two men went to Napoleon's car and Illya pulled the Central Pennsylvania map out of the glove compartment.
"There's not much of a map of Camp Hill, which, by the way, is west of here, across the river. It might be prudent to stop at a gas station for directions."
"Where's your sense of adventure, tovarisch?"
"Another commodity I, for one, get in more than ample supply. Just stop at a gas station on the opposite shore."
The directions given by the gas station attendant was very helpful and several minutes later, they pulled up in front of a small house in a quiet neighborhood. "No car out front," Solo observed. "Maybe she's working."
The pair got out of the car and approached the house. "There's a garage in the back," Kuryakin said. "And I hear a radio playing."
Solo rapped on the front door. A few moments later, a woman answered, dressed in a uniform. Napoleon assumed his best cordial manner. "Miss Sandra Weller?"
The woman nodded. "What's this about? I'm ready to go to work."
"Is there any way you could call in sick on short notice?"
She shrugged. "I suppose I could, but why would you ask me to do something like that?"
"Miss Weller, my name is Napoleon Solo and this is my partner, Mr. Kuryakin. We are agents with the U.N.C.L.E. Perhaps, you have heard of it?"
She shook her head. "What, is it like the FBI or something?"
"Something like that. May we come in? We have something very important to discuss with you."
"Do you have any ID? I need to be careful. That's what my boyfriend keeps telling me. He's a cop, you know."
Both of the two agents produced their 18K gold identification cards and showed them to the woman. "They look like they're made of gold."
Napoleon smiled. "They are. Your boyfriend, his name is Randall Holmes?"
She nodded. "Yeah, Randy. Is that what this is about? Is Randy okay?"
"We really would like to come inside to talk about Randy."
Sandra Weller pushed on the screen door, inviting them inside. She followed them as they went to the living room. "What's wrong with Randy?"
"Miss Weller, I'm afraid I'm not the bearer of good news. Randy's been killed in the line of duty."
He watched in sympathy as her eyes grew large and then filled with tears. "No--"
She did not pull away when Solo put his arms around her in comfort.
With the woman crying softly in his arms, Napoleon nodded almost imperceptibly to Kuryakin, who turned quietly on his heel and went towards the kitchen to fetch a glass of water. While there, he would also discretely check the area for anything suspicious. He was back a few minutes later, but Sandra Weller had not moved from her place in the center of the dark-haired agent's arms.
"I brought some water," Illya said softly, hoping a new voice would stir her from her reverie.
She lifted her head from Solo's shoulder. "What?"
"My partner got you a glass of water. When you're able, you might want to consider calling in sick. I think this situation counts as a good reason."
She accepted the glass of water, but still seemed to be somewhat dazed. "I don't understand. Randy was an administrator, he didn't go outside of the precinct building."
"My partner and I are sorry for your loss," Illya said, "but I'm afraid your boyfriend was not entirely honest with you about his profession, He was a member of our organization, retired from active service, and he was an administrator. Just not for the police department."
"Can you tell me what happened to him? I mean, if he wasn't active anymore, there'd be less chance of him getting into a situation where he could be killed, right?"
Napoleon answered, "Technically, yes, but not always. I can't give you the details, but he probably died very quickly."
Sandra shook her head and rubbed her forehead. "I should notify his family, make some kind of arrangements."
"Our organization will take care of all of that."
"Good." She nodded. "Please, let me know when the viewing is."
"There won't be a viewing, Miss Weller. But there will be a service." Several services, he thought. "In the meantime, we have a few questions to ask you."
Sandra sighed heavily. "Oh, my, I didn't even ask you to sit down or offer you some coffee."
"That's all right."
"Well, we can sit down now, can't we?"
The two men smiled. "Yes," Napoleon said and they all found seats on the living room furniture.
Illya began with the questions. "Did you know Chuck Yeagley?"
Sandra nodded. "He was a good friend of Randy's. We would go out with him and his girlfriend on occasion."
"We weren't aware that Mr. Yeagley had a girlfriend."
"Well, he didn't really. I mean, there were a lot of different women, no one steady."
Illya nudged Solo on the shoulder. "Sounds a lot like you, Napoleon," he said with a slight smile.
The dark-haired agent gave his partner a "knock-it-off" glare, and continued with questions. "What did Randy have to say about Mr. Yeagley's disappearance?"
"He didn't tell me about that," she said automatically, then realized what had been said. "Oh, God! Chuck's missing? And he's one of your people, too? How long?"
"He's one of our people, yes. But he's not missing anymore. He was found several days ago in one of the cocoa bean silos at the Hershey Chocolate factory."
"I read about it in the paper. That was Chuck?! The newspaper never said who, just that it was an industrial accident."
"That it was truly an accident," Illya said, "is highly questionable. Mr. Yeagley would have had no reason to be anywhere near those structures. We've come to investigate exactly what did happen."
"I know Chuck was concerned about something for the past couple of weeks, but he never told me what it was. Sorry."
"Did Randy leave anything here with you, say for safe-keeping?"
"No, I don't think so."
"Do you mind if we look around a little? We'll leave everything the way we found it, I promise."
Sandra nodded slowly, then looked up. "I do remember something Randy mentioned almost three weeks ago about Chuck. He said Chuck had a gig for the Milton Hershey School up at the Hotel and jokingly, he said that he was jealous of how good Chuck looked in a tuxedo, like James Bond, almost."
"The Milton Hershey School?" Napoleon asked.
"It's a school for orphaned boys," Illya explained. "Daniel Manetti told me he graduated from there."
"A school for orphaned boys," Solo mused. "Now that sounds familiar. Are you thinking what I'm thinking, Illya?"
"I am, but going out there will have to wait. I made an appointment with the Dauphin County coroner's office while you were paying for breakfast and flirting with the hostess."
"You take the car, then. I'll search the house and she can drop me off at the hotel." He smiled warmly at Sandra. "That is, if the lady is agreeable."
"I'd feel a lot better with you here."
Illya stood. "Miss Weller, I leave you in my partner's capable hands." He walked up to Solo and added, sotto voce, "Do I need to say it?"
Napoleon raised his eyebrows and gave his partner an innocent "what-do-you-mean?" look.
Illya answered with his best "you-know-what-I-mean" expression.
"Worry not, my friend. Duty first."
"Oh, something new, for a change. I'll see you back at the hotel."
"I'll check in with you every half hour."
"Good," Illya said, then reached inside his inner jacket pocket. "Which reminds me, I gave explicit orders to Mr. Crandall to check in with me every twelve and he has not done so yet this morning." He reversed the microphone end of the slender silver cylinder and extended the antenna. "Open channel A. Kuryakin to Crandall, come in, please."
A full thirty seconds passed before he got a response and the voice on the other end sounded annoyed and rough.
"Sorry to awaken you, Mr. Crandall, but you were instructed to check in every twelve hours. It's almost fifteen."
Illya heard a low growl from the pen, but the grumbling he was expecting never happened. Instead, the voice became contrite. "Sorry, it was a rough night. I'm afraid I over-indulged a bit."
"I'm not asking for particulars. But while I have your attention, I would like to enlist you as a back-up. Mr. Solo and I may have a positive lead and we need you to monitor channel A should we need assistance. We'll check in with you every half hour."
The voice's tone became more animated. "Where are you going?"
"Mr. Solo will be here with Randy Holmes' girlfriend for about an hour and then will return to the hotel. I will be at the Dauphin County coroner's office for an undetermined amount of time and then will come to the hotel to pick up Mr. Solo. We'll be going to the Milton Hershey School after that."
"Chuck worked for Hershey as a security officer."
"As Miss Weller has already told us. Is there anything else you haven't told us that might be helpful, Mr. Crandall?"
Crandall could hardly mistake the sarcastic tone of Illya's voice. He knew the Russian agent was not pleased. "No, I don't think so."
"Continue to consider that question. Any other helpful information will be greatly appreciated."
"I would really like to go with you to the school."
"Interesting. Then, I gather you are, once again, interested in this case."
"Yes," was the short, succinct reply.
"Does your renewed interest mean you were unsuccessful with Mrs. Buchmoyer?"
The voice became harsh. "You know damn well it does."
"And I'm reluctant to rely on an agent who is dealing with what is, obviously, a very emotional personal problem."
Solo touched his partner on the shoulder and motioned for him to cover the microphone. After Illya did, he said quickly," If it's all the same to you, I'd rather have you in reserve if I get into a sticky situation than him. At least, if he's with me, I can give him a swift kick to the rump if necessary."
"Are you sure?"
"All right, better you than me." He removed his hand from the microphone. "Very well, Mr. Crandall. Mr. Solo is agreeable to your suggestion. He'll meet you at the hotel shortly. I will remain as back-up. Kuryakin, out." He closed up the communicator and slipped it into his jacket pocket, shaking his head. "I hope you know what you're doing, my friend."
"I can keep an eye on him if he's with me."
"You're not his babysitter, Napoleon."
"No, but I've been where he's at right now."
Illya nodded in remembrance (The Terbuf Affair). Solo had been in a funk for weeks after seeing his old flame again. "But you were able to not let it affect your job. I'm dubious that Mr. Crandall can do the same."
"Work was what got me through it. And you. Maybe the work and I can get him through it as well."
"As I said before, better you than me. I've got to get to the coroner's office. Good luck and keep in touch."
Napoleon smiled at woman before him. "I'd like to thank you for your help. I think you may have given us a key piece of information. Is there somewhere you can go for a few days? It will be safer than staying here."
"You mean the people who killed Randy and Chuck may come after me, too? But, why?"
"Miss Weller, we are dealing with people who have little regard for anyone but their own, and sometimes not even then. If they find out that you talked to us, they could decide to come after you."
She blanched visibly. "My God--" she stammered. "I-uh-I have a sister in Philadelphia."
"That's good. Spend a few days with her, and, if you feel it's necessary, we can provide protection." He reached into his inside jacket pocket and pulled out a card. You call that number in Philadelphia and tell them I gave you the number. They will send someone to look out for you, if you want. Okay? Now, while you're packing, I'm going to check your house to see if Randy may have left anything here for us to find."
"I think I would have noticed."
"More than likely, you wouldn't have. It won't take long."
By the time Sandra had finished packing, Solo had checked her home for secret stashes of information. There were none, and that told Solo that though Randy Holmes may have been suspicious of his co-worker's disappearance and so-called accidental death, he had no evidence to the contrary or even a solid lead to investigate. Though, Napoleon thought, it probably explains why he was killed. There had been a lead, and THRUSH quashed it before anyone could follow it. Rediscovered, he and Crandall were about to follow it to see what had to be so carefully hidden that three UNCLE agents lost their lives because of it.
Illya Kuryakin read over the preliminary coroner's report. "What you have here would seem to confirm the official cause of death."
"I wasn't going to go any further with it until someone from UNCLE authorized it."
"That implies that there is more here than is apparent."
"And you would be right."
"But you didn't feel the need to proceed on your own, or contact us directly. May I ask why, Dr. Andrews?"
The coroner shrugged.
"Have you been threatened in any way?"
"Let's just say my superiors recommended rather strongly that I not to pursue this death as zealously as I normally would. I'm approaching my twenty-year retirement; it was a strong motivation."
"It was probably wise to heed that advice. Otherwise, you might not have lived to see your twenty-year retirement. Until this case is concluded, UNCLE will protect you, if you wish. And what we discover here today will not be part of the official report." He handed the file to the coroner. "Let's take a look at Mr. Yeagley."
The body was placed on the examination table and the two men donned protective garments. "The petechial hemorrhaging in the eyes and face is consistent with death by strangulation or suffocation, but I was not permitted to examine the lung tissue to confirm that he suffocated on the dust from cocoa bean storage."
"Which would lead me to believe that perhaps the suffocation were due to something other than cocoa bean dust," Illya said, finishing the thought, "and someone doesn't want that information discovered."
"With your permission, we can discover that now."
The Russian agent nodded. "I defer to your expertise." The doctor picked up a scalpel, ready to make an incision, when Illya help up his hand. "Wait a moment. I see something odd. Do you have a swab?"
The doctor handed him one, and bent down with Kuryakin to see what had caught his eye. Illya inserted the swab into one of the body's nostrils and ran it around the cavity. Then he withdrew it, examined it closely, and extended it to the doctor.
"What do you make of that?"
"I thought it was just dried blood and didn't take it any further ."
Illya took a cautious sniff of the material on the swab. "I thought so, too, at first. But dried blood doesn't smell like chocolate."
The coroner gave the agent a disbelieving look. "Even if he suffocated in the silo, it shouldn't smell like chocolate. Raw beans don't smell like that."
"Indeed. They have to be roasted first before they smell like chocolate. And cocoa bean dust wouldn't be this dark. This looks more like cocoa powder, used in cooking and flavoring. I think you're going to find his lungs are full of the stuff. So how would it be possible for a person to suffocate on cocoa powder?"
"Not accidentally, I can tell you that much."
"Doctor, I believe I have all the information I need. You could do an autopsy, but I doubt Mr. Yeagley is going to tell me anymore than I already know or suspect."
"Don't you want proof of torture?"
"I know the people we're dealing with here. He was most certainly tortured." Kuryakin removed the surgical gown and went into his jacket pocket for his communicator. "Open Channel A. Kuryakin to Solo."
A few moments later, Napoleon answered. "Having fun with the coroner?"
"Not as much as you would be. I've confirmed that Yeagley was murdered."
"And not by falling into and suffocating in a silo filled with cocoa beans, I presume."
"Actually, it's not that far off the mark. He suffocated on cocoa powder, the kind used in baking."
"Just when I think THRUSH can't get any more bizarre, they manage to do it. I wonder whose bright idea that was."
"The answer may be out at the Milton Hershey School. Have you gotten back to the hotel yet?"
"Just pulling into the parking lot now. Russ and I will be heading out there in the next fifteen minutes, if he's relatively sober."
"Wait for me, if he's not, and I'll go with you instead. I'm still not convinced this is the best course of action."
"Work is therapy, Illya. Though, it might be a good idea to bring in some troops from Philadelphia to clean out the nest if this proves to be a THRUSH operation."
"I agree. They could be here in a half hour or so if they flew in by helicopter. Also, would you contact the 'clean-up' crew from the other night and ask them to pick up Yeagley's body at the coroner? Have them use a local mortuary as cover."
"I'm on it. Anything else?"
"No. Good luck on the hunt."
"Right. I'll be in touch. Solo, out."
Illya put away his communicator. "Thank you for your assistance, doctor. Someone from our organization will come to claim the body later this afternoon. He will be from a local mortuary. In the meantime, it would be wise to forget about our little discovery and today's meeting."
"The people who did this, THRUSH, you called them. Where are they from?"
"The organization has no political boundaries, if that's what you mean."
"How do you know that what is happening here is their handiwork?"
"We know what to look for. Their 'signature' is all over this."
"You must have been fighting them for a long time."
"Yes, I have been one of the more fortunate."
The doctor raised his eyebrows. "How so?"
Illya looked down at the corpse in front of them. "I'm still alive," he said softly.
"If it's all the same to you, Mr. Kuryakin, I'd like to continue exploring what your friend's body might be able to tell us. Is there a way to get in touch with you if I need to?"
"The men who will coming this afternoon will be able to reach me. I doubt you will have much to tell me before then,. You realize you could be putting yourself in danger."
The doctor shrugged. "From what you say, it's worth the risk."
"Perhaps. Just be careful. The men who will be coming for Mr. Yeagley's body will have identification cards like this one." He flashed his gold UNCLE card. "If they don't, you would still be wise to release the body and play innocent. I've accepted the danger I face, you haven't." Illya extended his hand "Doctor, you've been very helpful, thank you."
"You're Russian, aren't you?"
"Actually, I'm Ukrainian. Do you find my nationality a problem?"
"No, I was just thinking that an organization that can bring together the kinds of people who put aside political and cultural ideals for a common good sounds like an organization I'd like to work for." The doctor smiled. "What kind of a recruitment plan do you guys have?"
Illya echoed the doctor's expression. "I'll see that one of our representatives contacts you. Do svidanija."
Act VI : "If you've seen one school for orphaned boys, you've seen them all."
Solo rode unhappily in the passenger's seat of the rented car with Russ Crandall behind the wheel. The older man was bleary-eyed, but otherwise concealed his hang-over well. Napoleon, himself, had performed his job under similar conditions, but Crandall was an unknown quantity, perhaps even to himself. Russ, in his usual persuasive style, refused to listen to reason, and he had the keys to the car, so Solo was stuck with him. Thank God he had Illya in reserve.
"We're going to play this very casual," Napoleon said as they pulled into the parking lot of the administrative offices. "I am going to let you go in alone at first. Jenks knows me, but he doesn't know you. I might be able to slip around the outside and cut off any escape route."
"What reason do you want me to give for seeing him?"
"Let's go from the angle that you're one of the local police officers and several of the boys have been causing trouble in town. That should get his attention without arousing suspicion."
Russ nodded. "That's actually a pretty good idea, Solo."
"Coming from you, I feel honored. Remember, we're not taking him at this point. We're going to need the back-up team Illya called for. Right now, we're stalling for time."
"I know what to do," Crandall said, opening the car door. "He'll never suspect a thing."
Napoleon got out of the car and made his way to the side of the building, while Crandall went in the front door. Something didn't feel right about this situation, but he hoped it was only the uncertainty of what Russ was going to do that niggled at the back of his mind. He placed himself beside the window he hoped was the one in Jenks office. Otherwise, he wasn't going to be listening to much of Russ' performance. He planted a small listening device on the glass of the window in an area that it would be hidden from inside the room. With the earplug in place, he would be able to hear everything that transpired.
Crandall started off well. He introduced himself as a detective with the Hershey police and stated that several reports had come to him regarding some shenanigans allegedly perpetrated by several boys in the school. Jenks acted like the caring administrator: he wanted to know who had lodged the complaints. "Several townspeople," Russ replied. "They wish to remain nameless at this time."
The answer didn't sit well with Jenks. He wanted proof that it had been boys from his school.
Solo tensed, wondering how his unknown quantity would respond and questioned again his rationale for bringing Crandall along over his partner's objections. The unknown quantity responded beautifully with a reasonable answer. "I apologize making this sound like a murder investigation. We'd be grateful if you could pass the word among the faculty to counsel the boys from giving in to their impulses. If the message comes from you, I'm sure it would carry a lot more weight."
Napoleon sighed with relief and his opinion of Russ Crandall took a more positive turn. His relief was short-lived, however, when Jenks' tone of voice changed.
"Who are you?"
Oh-oh, Napoleon thought with a twinge of panic and yelled inside his head, Get out of there, Russ!
Crandall didn't waver from his persona. "Russ Crandall of the Hershey police. Is there a problem, Mr. Jenks?"
Jenks opened a drawer in his desk and withdrew a revolver. "I'm afraid there is, Officer Crandall. There is no Hershey police force. The local law enforcement is the Derry Township police, and I happen to know them all by sight. Who are you?"
"I'm sorry, Mr. Jenks. I'm not at liberty to tell you that." He flinched as something sharp pricked the back of his neck. He pulled a small feathered dart from the spot and turned to see a man in a dark gray jumpsuit pointing a weapon at him that he recognized as a THRUSH dart gun.
"I'm afraid you will be telling us everything very soon, Mr. Crandall," Jenks said.
Crandall frowned. "You killed my partner," he growled.
"See? You're telling me already—UNCLE. Actually, I didn't kill your partner. I told her it was a bad idea to make it look like an industrial accident, but she never would listen to anyone. Thinks she knows it all—" He watched in amusement as Crandall succumbed to the sleep dart and crumpled to the floor, then looked up at the man with the dart gun. "Check the grounds outside. He's probably not alone."
Jenks looked down at the figure on the floor. "Well, she'll glad for a new test subject, at least." He picked up the phone. "Send the wagon around to my office. I have a delivery to make."
When Napoleon heard the conversation between Crandall and Jenks take a sharp turn downhill, he quickly disengaged listening device from the window and sprinted towards the driveway. With luck, he might be able to stay out of sight until he had an idea where they planned to take the incapacitated agent. From his hiding place, he pulled out his communicator and whispered: "Open Channel A. Solo to Kuryakin."
His partner answered almost immediately, as if he had been anticipating trouble.
Solo wasted no time on amenities. "We've got trouble, Illya. Jenks is here, and he's taken Russ. I don't know where they plan to take him at this point. How long before the cavalry arrives?
"Half hour, at least. What went wrong?"
"Russ didn't know a piece of specific information and Jenks caught him on it. They darted him and plan to move him to another location."
"Do you think you can follow them when they move Crandall?"
"Not right away. The car is parked right in front of the building. Where are you?"
"On the way to your location. I should be there in a few minutes."
"A few minutes is too late, my friend. The car is here and they went inside to get him."
"Then our best bet is to capture Jenks and close down his little operation."
"He's got to be working with someone else. He doesn't appear to be dealing with distractions on his own. We don't have a lot of time to waste."
"Agreed. I'll be there in a few minutes."
The car carrying Crandall had been gone for nearly five minutes before Solo saw his partner pull up.
"Jenks still in his office?" Illya asked as he approached Solo.
The dark-haired agent nodded. "Unless he has a back way out. He may not be planning to hang around."
"Then let's pay him a visit. I'm sure he'll be happy to see us."
The pair went in the front entrance and found Jenks in his office, cleaning out his desk. The director of the school was caught off-guard but quickly went for his gun.
Solo raised his with a smile. "Now, Captain, let's not be rash."
"Mr. Solo, Mr. Kuryakin, what a pleasant surprise. What brings you to the Milton Hershey School? Would you like a tour?"
"No, thank you. If you've seen one school for orphaned boys, you've seen them all. We're here for a nice chat. You know, to see how things are going, what you've been up to since you left us."
"You seem to have caught me at an inopportune time. I was just about to leave for a prior engagement."
"The operative word is 'caught', my friend," Illya said, his gun also raised. "I'm afraid you'll have to reschedule. We want to know where Russ Crandall is being held."
"Well, I'd love to stay and chat with you boys but this is a pressing engagement."
A subtle change of expression caught Kuryakin's attention and he turned to see a man at the doorway behind them brandishing a THRUSH dart gun. He acted without thinking; as the dart gun fired he threw himself at Napoleon in a tackle, removing him from the line of fire. The dart missed Solo, but caught Jenks in the shoulder. Jenks pulled out the dart and threw it across the room at the shooter angrily. "You idiot!"
The man fired again, but Illya was faster. His sleep dart hit the THRUSH just as he was firing, throwing off the aim. The two UNCLE agents scrambled to get out its way.
Solo got to his feet and saw Jenks sprawled in his chair, overcome by the first sleep dart. "Pleasant dreams," he mused with a smile. "Well, Jenks isn't going to be a problem for a while." When he got no response from his partner, he turned. "You okay, Illya?"
Kuryakin sat, feet flat on the floor, an arm resting across each knee. He was still holding his gun, but breathing heavily. "I've got a medical update—That cracked collarbone isn't cracked anymore."
Solo took a step towards his friend. "It's broken. Not surprising, considering you tackled me. A verbal warning would have sufficed, you know."
When Illya spoke again, his voice sounded strained. "I wasn't going to take the risk that could get out of your own way fast enough, much less make sure Jenks and the shooter were taken care of. You're good, but not that good."
"So now you're just going to sit there wallowing in your injuries and let me clean up here?"
"Well, actually, I thought it might be more dignified if I just stayed here on the floor."
"Illya, what are you not telling me?"
"That last dart nicked me on the ankle. I figured, based on the speed the drug took affect on Jenks, that it's one of their faster-acting formulas, but I didn't receive a full dose, and so I had a little time before—" Abruptly, Illya's upper body rolled unceremoniously backwards to the carpet, his head making a quiet thud as it hit the floor.
Solo looked down at him. "You're right. That was much more dignified." He sighed heavily. "So, now I'm alone with three unconscious men. Thanks a lot, partner. I think this counts as several courier runs you now owe me."
Act VII "A fresh lead is a potent analgesic."
Illya was in a sour mood, the likes of which, Solo had not seen for a long time. First, his right shoulder throbbed from the now, broken collarbone. Secondly, the after- effects of the THRUSH sleep dart had escalated his headache to almost migraine proportions and aspirin did little to dull it. Lastly and most annoyingly, Jenks lay unconscious from his full dose of the knock-out drug in a bed down in the medical section of the Philadelphia office even after the two hour drive. Medical wasn't sure when he would be ready for interrogation.
The Philadelphia office had taken over the process of ferreting out the remainder of the THRUSH personnel working with Jenks, and with the help of the state police, were taking them into custody. Bernard Louis was handling the task of informing the heads of the chocolate company and the school about what had been happening under noses. Meanwhile, Solo and Kuryakin were back in their Harrisburg hotel room, dry-docked without a lead until Jenks could be questioned. Napoleon returned to the room with coffee and sandwiches to find his partner awake, and sitting up. He noticed that Illya had not opened the draperies.
"Welcome back. I thought you might be hungry," he said softly as he laid the food on the small desk.
Kuryakin grimaced in the dim light. "Kindly lower your voice, Napoleon," he grumbled. "I'm dying here."
"I can see you're going to be lots of fun until Philadelphia calls back with information from Jenks."
"Well if my headache from the dart is any indication of what the full dose is like, he'll wish we had just killed him outright. I swear they purposely doctor the formulas to make the after-effects just like an alcoholic binge, but without the fun of getting there."
"Want some aspirin?"
"I've already taken four and my stomach is rebelling on those."
"I guess food is out of the question."
"Only if you feel like cleaning it up later. If you don't mind, I think I'm just going to sit here and wallow in my injuries for a while."
Solo smiled. "That's the spirit. I'll do you a favor and not open the draperies."
"You're so good to me, thanks."
"Not really, I just know what the consequences would be if I did open them."
A communicator warbled and Illya moaned, holding his head. "Get that, will you? And quickly."
"I don't care—just make it stop."
Solo pulled the communicator from his partner's jacket pocket. "Solo here."
The voice on the other side sounded confused. "Is Mr. Kuryakin there?"
"He's somewhat incapacitated at the moment. I'm his partner. Who is this?"
"This is Dr. Andrews from the Dauphin County Coroner's office. I wanted to tell Mr. Kuryakin that I have new information regarding the death of your agent."
At the sound of the coroner's voice, Illya became more animated. "I'll talk to him."
Solo handed him the communicator. "This is Kuryakin. What did you find?"
"Oh, I thought Mr. Solo said you—"
"I got better. What do you have, Dr. Andrews?"
The pair of agents listened while the coroner reported what he had learned. Solo watched his partner's expression change from skeptical to incredulous. Yeagley's cause of death had been confirmed as suffocation from cocoa bean dust, not the powder, and oddly, his stomach had been full of raw cocoa beans. "Then, I discovered something really strange." the doctor added. "There was a silver wire embedded in his brain. Otherwise, there were no obvious signs of torture." Illya thanked the doctor for his time and terminated the connection. He looked up at Napoleon.
"That blows a gigantic hole in my theory. I'm back to square one."
"Maybe not. There has to be a connection."
"If there is I don't see it. Napoleon, what would induce someone to snort cocoa powder up their nose as if it was cocaine or heroin?"
"Maybe they would if they expected it to act like cocaine or heroin."
"But it wouldn't and the coroner tested the powder for cocaine and opiate residue: none for both. And swallowing raw cacao? He had to have been out of his mind."
"It reminds me of someone trying to feed an addiction. You've seen addicts, Illya. They aren't in their right mind—all they can think about is getting their next fix."
Kuryakin inhaled sharply as his mind made a connection. "Addiction—yes. Napoleon, remember when you were briefing me on this mission and you teased me about not knowing what Hershey Kisses were? You asked me how I could be addicted to chocolate—"
"--and not know what Hershey Kisses were," Solo finished. "Chocolate isn't physically addicting, though. Not even psychologically addicting."
"But you feel good emotionally when you eat chocolate."
Solo smiled. "So that's why you eat it."
Kuryakin gave him an impatient look for the remark, then continued, "I recall reading an article about the discovery of brain chemicals which fit into the same receptors that opiates do. Scientists had been wondering for years why the so-called addictive drugs even had receptors in the brain. They concluded that there must be compounds in the body for those receptors."
Solo leaned forward suddenly, his expression intent. "Illya, do you remember the affair in Rumania where THRUSH had implanted electrodes in wolves' brains to get them to do whatever they wanted?" (The Vampire Affair by David McDaniel, Ace Books, ©1966, MGM)
"Yes, but I thought the Budapest office cleaned out that satrapy of its equipment and staff."
"Maybe they missed someone. It's beginning to make sense, my friend."
The Russian nodded. "And Dr. Andrews mentioned finding a silver wire in Yeagley's brain. The brain can be electrically stimulated to produce endorphins. Now, if the endorphins were released in conjunction to ingesting chocolate, especially if there was some kind of withdrawal period, a subject could be easily convinced that the chocolate was addicting."
"Jenks may not be the only operation working here."
"Though I can't imagine two or more higher-ranking operatives co-operating with each other enough to conduct separate projects in the same geographical area."
"Maybe we've stumbled into the very beginning of each operation. We need to look around some more."
"What do you suggest?"
"A little tour of the area. Russ and I already hit the tourist spots. We can check out places not listed on the 'sights to see while you're here' list. You feel up to that?"
"If you're driving." He stood up and reached for the brown bag Solo had brought back. "I think I will have something to eat, thanks."
Napoleon chuckled. "I guess your headache's better."
"A fresh lead is a potent analgesic. Let's go."
Two-and-a-half hours later, the lead had gone nowhere and Illya was nearly sick to his stomach with the return of his headache and the continued ache in his shoulder. Kuryakin made a beeline for the elevator while Solo paused at the front desk to pick up a message that had been left for them while they were out. Once Napoleon opened the door, the Russian pushed past him and gingerly crawled the length of the bed where he lowered his body to the mattress and pulled the pillow over his head.
"Want some aspirin?" Solo said softly.
A muffled voice emanated from under the pillow. "Quiet—I want quiet. And dark."
"I'm going to go downstairs to the bar then. Dawn Buchmoyer left a message for one of us call her."
Illya's response was a half-moan, half-growl from beneath the pillow. "Sweet dreams, tovarisch." And he turned out the light.
The message from Dawn Buchmoyer yielded a phone call with anxiety barely-controlled. "I've been trying to get a hold of Russ all day! When I told him nothing had changed between us, he stormed out of my house. Later, he called me and he was so drunk--"
Napoleon convinced her to come to the hotel and meet him in the bar. He waited to speak until she had taken a seat behind the cup of tea he was pouring for her when she entered. "We have a problem," he began, "Russ has been captured. We don't know where they've taken him."
Her face grew dark. "Well, aren't you going to look for him!?" she spat back at him.
Solo was taken a little aback at her reaction; this was not the intensity of emotion he had been expecting. "We spent the last two-and-one-half hours doing just that. We don't know where else to look. Our people took the leader of the operation at the school to Philadelphia for questioning. We're hoping now that Jenks will give us the information we need."
Dawn shook her head and lowered it to her hands. "I should have never told him what I told him. But I was afraid he'd start to badger me like he did before. This is all my fault."
Napoleon laid his hand on her shoulder. "Dawn, it's not your fault. Russ is an adult and he will eventually come to accept it."
"The thing is I do care a lot for him. I just don't know if I'm ready for another relationship."
"You said before that you had no children."
She nodded. "When I couldn't get pregnant, we had tests. Paul was sterile. We were trying to adopt when he developed Hodgkin's Disease. I'm a nurse so I knew what that meant for our future."
"I'm okay. I miss Paul, but I have my work and the family farm to take up my time."
"The nights are still long, I'll wager," Napoleon said sympathetically
"I work nights, Mr. Solo."
Solo shook his head, a small smile touching his lips. "Touché, Mrs. Buchmoyer."
It was the groan of wood being forced apart that awoke Illya from sleep and into an annoyed awareness that included his headache. His first thought was that he would have a sweet revenge on his partner for his utter lack of consideration, but a moment later, he realized that the sound he was hearing would have no connection to Solo if he was in the room. A quick scan of the room showed that Napoleon was not there and that the sound was coming from the connecting door leading from Russ Crandall's room. And Russ was heaven-only-knew-where. Therefore—
Illya rolled off of the bed, gun drawn, and stood by the closed adjoining door, listening as the intruder forced the lock. He waited until the man was a step inside the room and raised his gun to place the barrel against his temple. "Good evening," he said softly.
The intruder stiffened but made no other move.
"How nice of you to stop by to chat. It just so happens that I have some questions you can probably answer. Won't you take a seat?"
The man still made no move. "I'd rather stand."
"Suit yourself, but you may get very tired before we're through. First, you will toss the weapon you have onto the bed. Then, you will tell me where Russ Crandall is being held."
"I don't know what you're talking about."
Illya sighed. "I can see this is going to be a long, painful evening." He pressed the barrel of the gun harder against the man's temple. "And I'm in such a disagreeable mood as it is."
The man gasped and began to sputter words: "Okay! Okay! I really don't know where he is, but I was sent to find out what he's worth to you to get him back."
Illya lowered his gun. "I beg your pardon?"
"The person that has him is crazy. She likes to experiment. That's what she did to the other UNCLE guy. She did something to him and he went insane. They dumped him in the silo and he started gobbling up cocoa beans like he was starving."
"And how do you fit into all of this?"
"I want out—Like I said, she's crazy. Even for THRUSH. I want out of here, away from her."
"And just who is this lovely lady that I am to save you from?"
"Doctor Dabree." (The Brain Killer Affair)
Illya lowered his gun further and took a step backwards. "You're right. She is crazy." He went to his jacket and pulled out his communicator. "Ope—" was all he was able to say before a tranquillizing dart caught him in the back of his shoulder. The silver pen slipped through his hand as he reached to pull out the feathered barb. He moaned dolefully. "I haven't gotten rid of the headache from the last one—!" A second man joined the first and each grasped an arm. "Just for the record—" Illya said, as he wobbled back and forth between them, "I want you to know, you guys really disgust me—" He slumped unceremoniously into their grips and they dragged him back though the connecting door.
ACT VII "Sadistic, psychopathic, and she reads Shakespeare. I think I'm in love already—"
An hour-and-a-half later, Napoleon unlocked the room door and went inside to discover his partner missing, with his communicator and weapon on the floor next to a small feathered needle. He picked up the dart and scowled. "Dammit all to hell—" Now, he not only had a missing colleague, but a missing partner as well. The dart meant that Illya had been removed with little or no struggle and had not been able to activate the homing device cleverly hidden in the gold band he almost always wore. As he had not yet heard from Philadelphia Medical about Jenks, it was a good bet that it would be morning before he could even expect a signal from his partner. The only thing he had to do was sleep, but with Illya gone, it was the last thing he was going to be able to do.
The first thing Illya sensed was a sixty-cycle hum from overhead, which he identified as most likely a fluorescent light fixture with a failing ballast. Then, he realized that he lay, spread-eagle, on a mattress, with all four appendages manacled to the bed frame to maintain his position. So far, not too bad. Then, he heard his surname emanating from other side of the room in the most unpleasant tone and volume, followed by a flash of exquisite pain that clamped around his forehead like a vise. He moaned softly to himself; one element of the situation he could handle with some distress, but both?!
The voice assaulted him once again. "I can hear you, Mr. Crandall—even Mr. Solo can hear you—" He sighed heavily. "Kindly lower your voice, please."
"What happened to Jenks?"
"He was incapacitated by one of his own darts and by now, I assume, is being questioned by someone from the Philadelphia office. We needed him to tell us where they had taken you."
"I've got no idea where we are, but I know Jenks isn't in charge of it."
"My 'escorts' told me that much. Seems Dr. Dabree has surfaced again."
"She put a goddam electrode in my head and she did the same thing to Chuck. It drove him insane. The woman is a sadistic mental case!"
Illya looked up at his secured hands, then down at his feet. "For once, I agree with you. The electrode is there to stimulate endorphin production. She managed to convince your partner that he was addicted to chocolate and had to use any means he could to satisfy his habit. It made him snort cocoa powder up his nose like cocaine and he gorged himself on raw cocoa beans before the dust suffocated him. Do you know if I've been similarly equipped with an electrode?"
"I don't think so. When she saw it was you, she mentioned something about Solo's pound of flesh."
"Wonderful. Sadistic, psychopathic, and she reads Shakespeare. I think I'm in love already—"
"So, how are we going to get out of here?"
"I'm afraid we may have to rely on the cavalry for this one. We didn't have a way to track you, but we do have a way to track me." Illya manipulated the gold band on his left ring finger, touching a special area which activated a homing signal. "Napoleon should be able to find us pretty easily now."
"So that's what the ring is for. A number of women in the New York office suspect that you left a wife back in the Soviet Union."
"They suspect a good many other things, too, so I let them."
"Why would you do that?"
Illya smiled slyly. "Mr. Crandall, don't you know it's all part of my charm?"
Crandall looked at his fellow captive with a confused expression, then realized that Kuryakin was toying with him, and scowled. "If we get out of this, I'm gonna wipe that smirk off of your face, Kuryakin."
"I'm looking forward to you trying—and it's Mister Kuryakin."
The telephone in his room woke Solo from what had been a succumbing to exhaustion almost an hour before. Groggily, he looked at his watch to see that it was just past six-thirty a.m. and wondered who would be calling him at this hour. His partner, perhaps? He reached for the phone to answer.
The woman's voice on the other end precluded his partner, but now he was alert and heard a soft beeping sound emanating from his communicator. "Come up to my room, Dawn. I think I may have some good news."
A few minutes later, there was a rap in the door, and Solo opened it. "Come on in and sit down. I do have some good news."
"I sure hope so, Mr. Solo. I couldn't sleep at all last night worrying about Russ."
Napoleon smiled. "Well, it just so happens that I have a way of finding him."
"Where is Mr. Kuryakin?"
"He was kidnapped last night. I got back to the room and he was gone."
Dawn gasped, "Oh, no! Mr. Solo, that's terrible news!"
"It was, at first, but Mr. Kuryakin has a tracking device on him which he has just activated. I think we can assume he is with Russ."
"Why didn't he activate his homing device right away?"
"I suspect he had another run-in with another tranquilizing dart. I'd better start following the signal soon, because Illya is usually in a very bad mood when he wakes up from one of those. In his present condition, he won't tolerate Russ for very long."
Dawn jumped to her feet. "Well, let's get going!"
"Wait a minute. I don't recall mentioning you in the rescue party."
"You may need a nurse for medical assistance. I'm going along."
A small smile touched Napoleon's lips. "That's what I said. I think you should come along."
Solo was glad for Dawn's persistence for when they reached the parking lot, he saw that she had driven a farm pickup truck, complete with a winch on the front. Depending on the condition of his fellow agents, the truck would be perfect. Dawn got behind the wheel and turned east out of the parking lot.
Dr. Agnes Dabree entered the room housing the two bound UNCLE agents and stood beside Kuryakin's bed. "Mr. Kuryakin. Napoleon Solo's partner. What a pleasure to finally see the man who murdered my beloved David."
"And the pleasure is all yours, I'm sure."
"I must admit, I'm not prepared to administer the retribution I've been planning for you and Mr. Solo. I didn't expect you to actually come to me."
"We like to be a surprise whenever we can."
"Where is our friend, Mr. Solo?"
"I'm afraid he won't be able to join us. He went back to Philadelphia with your colleague, Dennis Jenks to assist in the interrogation."
Dr. Dabree wrinkled her nose in distaste. "Jenks is a pitiful excuse for a THRUSH operative. His wife, Yvonne, was worth ten of him. She really lived up to her nome de guerre." Though Illya tried to remain passive at the mention of Mother Fear, Dr. Dabree detected a fleeting sign of remembered horror in the blue eyes. "You've had dealings with Yvonne, haven't you? She was a psychiatrist, you know."
Illya swallowed before answering. "We spent an afternoon together. She left a lasting impression." He still bore the scars, both physical and mental, from her torture.
"I'm afraid I lack her imaginative ways when it comes to dealing with UNCLE pests."
"I've heard otherwise. Do you have the same plans for Mr. Crandall and me that you had for Chuck Yeagley?"
She smiled. "Yes and no. Your friend, Mr. Crandall is already prepared—"
Across the room, Crandall yelled, "I'll kill you with my bare hands before I let you do to me what you did to my partner, you sick bitch!"
Dr. Dabree looked at Crandall for a moment, then turned back to Illya. "Quite the charmer, isn't he?"
"He's just angry that you drove his partner insane and then killed him."
"How do you think Mr. Solo will react when I take my revenge on you?"
"I'm afraid I wouldn't be able to give you an accurate response. Napoleon can be very unpredictable at times."
"I guess I'll just have to live with the anticipation then."
"Sorry I couldn't be more helpful. However, I do have a question. What is your purpose in sticking electrodes in people's heads and causing them to become addicted to their own endorphins?"
"Why, Mr. Kuryakin, I had no idea you knew so much. How did you find out such things?"
"Mr. Crandall's partner told us."
"You're speaking in riddles now."
"Not at all, Dr. Dabree. A dead body can speak volumes to one who knows the language. Mr. Yeagley's body led us to Jenks and then to you. If you don't want to find yourself in a cell next to him, I would suggest you release us both and pack up this little chamber of horrors."
"Nonsense. We're so well hidden here that no one can find us. And we won't make the mistake again of dumping the bodies of our specimens." She turned her head towards the door as two THRUSH henchmen entered. "Mr. Kuryakin will be staying with us for a while. Get rid of him," she added, pointing to Crandall. "Make sure he doesn't come back to haunt us like the other one did." When she turned her head back to Illya, she wore a smile that sent chills down his back. "I'm going to enjoy making Solo pay his pound of flesh with your body." She turned on her heel and strode confidently from the room. The two henchmen followed her excitedly discussing the options for their task.
"So, now what?" Crandall said, looking over at Kuryakin. "Solo's certainly taking his good old time getting to us."
"Russ, I have had more than enough of your cynicism. Just shut up or I'll be forced to break these chains just to come over there and gag you." He paused and looked up at his handcuffed hands. "Break the chains," he murmured.
"What is it?" When Illya didn't answer, Crandall growled: "Kuryakin—!"
"That's Mister Kuryakin, Mister Crandall. It looks like we're not going to have the time to wait for Mr. Solo. They left the right handcuff open a little more than the left. I might just be able to wiggle my hand through—" He pulled his thumb across the palm of his hand to make his hand as small as possible and tried to force his hand through the small opening. "Of course, " he said, his voice reflecting the discomfort of the effort, "it works much better if the hand is covered with a slippery substance—"
"I don't care if you have to spit on it—just do it! They're going to be back any minute—!"
"I swear, I'm going to help them get rid of you!" Russ' complaining, however, was enough of a distraction to allow Kuryakin to force his hand through an opening too small to accommodate it in spite of the pain. The hand fell to the mattress and Illya sighed heavily. "That's one—" he breathed. "I have a lock pick for the rest of them. He fumbled with the inside of his mouth for a few moments and produced a small piece of metal. Then he reached up to his left hand to work on the lock, ignoring the pain in his shoulder from the broken collarbone and his newly-throbbing right hand. In less than a minute, he had freed himself and went to the other bed to free Crandall.
He had just placed the lock pick in the first handcuff, when they both heard voices in the hall on the other side of the door. Kuryakin muttered several words in a language Crandall didn't know and withdrew the lock pick.
"What are you doing!?" Crandall hissed.
"There's no time—" He pulled the ring from his left ring finger and slid it onto Russ' right hand ring finger. "We will get you out of this—I promise." He ran to the door just as it was opening.
The two henchmen walked in, smiling. "Well, Crandall, we have just the place for you. A nice big quarry not far from here. It's a great day for a swim—"
Kuryakin attacked both men, flooring them with just enough force that they were unable to retaliate immediately. Illya paused at the door. "Russ—I promise!" And he was gone, but he heard Crandall cursing him the whole way up the hall.
Illya had little trouble getting out of the building, but was stunned when he saw where he and Crandall had been kept. Agnes Dabree was indeed well-hidden, but in plain sight on the campus of the Milton Hershey School in a three story building across a main road from several group homes. A brass plaque on the front door read "Hershey Hospital", but it was apparent that the building had long been abandoned in favor of the huge medical facility just a few miles down the road. In their travels, he and Solo had passed this very building more than half a dozen times.
Traffic along the road was heavy as commuters were traveling to work and with the length and direction of the shadows, Kuryakin estimated that it was still relatively early in the morning. His internal clock told him that he had activated his homing device not more than a half hour ago. Solo would still be enroute from Harrisburg. There were two main roads through Hershey, but he decided that the homing device would more than likely draw his partner to the south and the road he was walking along. There was a good chance that they would meet up soon.
He had just crossed a street called Cocoa Avenue when a pickup truck pulled over to the curb, and the passenger rolled down the window. "Need a lift?" Solo said casually, but his expression conveyed the relief he felt seeing his partner in one piece and free.
"You're a sight for sore eyes, Napoleon," Illya said as he pulled on the door. "But there's no time for amenities. Move over and I'll explain as we go." Kuryakin got in quickly and began a monologue of information. By the time the truck reached the old Hershey Hospital, Illya's tracking device had told them that Russ had been moved and was heading east. "They're planning to dump him in a quarry, but I don't know where."
"This area is loaded with quarries from limestone mining," Dawn said.
"They could be in more of a hurry now that I've escaped. Dr. Dabree will, no doubt, pull up operations and beat a hasty retreat. I can't believe we passed her hide-out as often as we did and didn't notice anything." He shook his head.
"Well, it looks like we're getting close. The signal is getting stronger." Solo motioned for Dawn to turn down a side road. "Bingo," he said. "and there they are. Step on it, Dawn."
As their truck approached the swimming hole/quarry, the trio watched in horror as the two THRUSH men picked up Russ' bound body, and tossed it and the attached weight over the side of the rowboat. Dawn cried out and skidded to a stop. Solo and Kuryakin bounded out of the passenger's side.
"I'll take care of the goons in the boat," Solo said, weapon drawn.
Illya caught his arm. "Bullets," he said, his voice hard.
Napoleon paused. "What?"
"You heard me. Between the eyes."
"There's no need—"
"They'll die a lot quicker and it's more compassion than they just showed Crandall. Napoleon, just do it." He pushed past Solo to reach for the rope in the bed of the pickup. A quick estimate gave him about fifty feet—more than adequate for his needs. He went around to the other side of the truck, pulled the driver's side door open and grasped Dawn's arm to snap her out of her emotional state. "How much cable is on the winch?"
She looked at him, uncomprehendingly.
"Dawn! Listen to me! The winch on the front of the truck—how many feet of cable?"
"About twenty-five feet—why?"
"Can you pull it out manually?"
He pulled her from behind the wheel. "If you want to help save Russ, put a lid on your emotions and do what I tell you. Pull out the cable and take it down to the end of the pier, and hurry—" He hoisted the rope over his left shoulder and jogged to the end of the dock where Solo stood watching an empty rowboat bob on the water. He dropped the coil and began to pull off his shoes.
"They never knew what hit them," Solo said, turning to see his partner tying the rope around his waist. "What do you think you're doing?"
"I'm going to go get Crandall. I promised him that I would get him out—"
"You can't do that—it could be thirty or forty feet deep there!"
"Napoleon, we don't have time to argue about this! He's been down there almost two minutes. Give me five minutes; if I don't pull twice on the rope by then, I want you to haul me back up. If I can't find him in that time or if he's deeper than fifty feet, it won't matter anyway."
"You're not in any condition to dive that deep—"
"I'm a stronger swimmer than you, and I can hold my breath longer—"
"Not that long," Solo insisted.
"That's why I'm depending on you to revive me. You do remember how to do that, don't you?"
Napoleon sighed heavily and nodded, resigned that he wasn't going to talk his friend out of something he had already decided on.
Illya jumped into the water. "Wish me luck," he said with a slight smile and began to swim out to the rowboat.
"Good luck, my brave, foolhardy friend," Solo whispered and began to toss coils of rope into the water.
Dawn appeared beside him with the hook end of the cable from the winch in time to see Illya surface dive and disappear. "Can he do it?" she asked softly.
Napoleon looked up at her, and faked a confident smile. "I wish I could tell you how many times he's done it before." But he was grim as he took the rope and attached it to the hook.
At twenty-five feet below the surface, Kuryakin passed the bodies of the two THRUSH agents on their slow descent in the murky water and continued toward what appeared to be a large dark object he estimated to be fifteen feet below him. A few moments later, he was face to face with the object, and it was, indeed Russ Crandall, bound, gagged and eerily still. Illya reached out to feel for a carotid pulse, and a small thrill churned in his stomach when he felt the weak throbbing.
Now came the most difficult part: he needed to transfer the rope from himself, attach it to Crandall, and cut him loose without using precious energy fight his own buoyancy. But it would also mean he would be shortening the time he had before losing consciousness himself. He untied the rope from his waist while he exhaled enough air to keep himself from rising. Then he wrapped the rope around Crandall's torso and tied a square knot. He produced a pocket knife he had found in the truck's glove compartment from his pants pocket, and tugged hard on the rope two times.
He saw the rope begin to grow taut, which was his signal to slip down below Crandall's body and cut him loose from the weight he was tied to. However, when he put his knife to the rope, he realized it was made of thick manila hemp that was strong and tough. As he sawed through the resistant fibers, he began to hope fervently that his partner had kept current with life-saving techniques. He was becoming acutely aware that both he and Crandall were going to have need of them. Long moments later, the rope gave and the bound body was pulled upward so quickly that Kuryakin had to push off from the weight left behind to catch up to it. He desperately clawed at the feet receding from him; by sheer will alone, he wedged his hand between Crandall's bound ankles as conscious awareness slid into silent oblivion.
Solo caught his breath when the rope on the pier twitched twice. Dawn already had the truck running and was waiting for Napoleon to give her the signal to engage the winch. Though she had it running at its top speed, the cable rewound with maddening slowness. Suddenly, she saw Solo grasping at something in the water. She stopped the winch and ran down the pier to help him pull Russ from the water.
They laid him face up on the pier and Dawn checked for a pulse. "There's no pulse—I'll have to try CPR."
"Do what you can," Solo said, but his mind was obviously not on the body on the pier. He was instead, looking into the water.
"Napoleon, where's Illya?"
"I don't see him," he answered urgently, scanning the water. Then he saw a pale object at Russ' feet. "Pull him further up onto the dock," he told Dawn. As Russ' body came completely out of the water, Illya's arm and then his head broke the surface. Napoleon grabbed for the fabric at the shoulders and physically lifted his friend onto the pier. Napoleon stared at the pale, blue-tinged face and the half-open blue eyes that stared sightlessly back at him. "Damn you, Illya—" he began, but Dawn's hand on his arm brought him back to himself.
"Napoleon, do you know mouth-to-mouth resuscitation?"
He looked down at her and nodded. "It's just that he's such a stubborn Russian--"
"Why don't you tell him that after you revive him?"
"You might have some encouraging words for Russ, too, after you save his life--"
She knelt down beside the drowned man. "I just might--" And she pinched the nostrils closed, and bent to press her mouth over Crandall's. Napoleon followed suit on Illya and within two breaths, was rewarded with a loud gasp, giving way to a trachea-clearing coughing spasm. Solo sat back on his heels and watched as the color returned to his partner's face. Then, he moved to help Dawn with Crandall. With both of them performing CPR, Russ returned to life, coughing and spewing water all over Dawn who had been the one doing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. She responded with a joyful cry, bordering on a laugh and threw her arms around Napoleon.
"Hey," a voice caught their attention, and they looked over at a waterlogged Illya Kuryakin, who had rolled over and was supported on an elbow. "You wouldn't, by chance, have a towel on you, would you?"
Dawn and Napoleon both laughed. "You're never satisfied, are you?" Solo said. "I just saved your life, you stubborn, crazy Russian!"
Kuryakin rolled over onto his knees and stood up on wobbly legs. "But will you still respect me in the morning?" He grinned for a moment, then grimaced and held his shoulder. "I'd settle for a couple of aspirin."
"We have to get these two to the hospital," Napoleon said. "If you can help Illya to the truck, I'll carry Russ."
Act VIII: "We few, we happy few, we band of brothers"
Two days later at a Funeral Home somewhere east of Hershey.
The local funeral home was barely large enough to accommodate both the Holmes and Yeager families and the well-wishers. The first room on the right was full of out-of-town guests, bound together by the photographs and the bronze urn resting on a large table. Two women stood beside the table, the older one greeting the guests and introducing the younger woman beside her as Randy's fiancé. Sandy Weller held Randy's mother's hand in a tight, supporting grasp.
In the room across the foyer, amid two dozen floral arrangements, sat an open casket bearing the body of Chuck Yeager. The mortician had worked his magic, for the face of the fallen agent bore no trace of the manner of his death or the time preceding it. At the foot end of the casket stood Dawn Buchmoyer and standing beside her, protectively, was Russ Crandall. Dawn introduced him as Chuck's partner and her dear friend, and Russ was as happy as one could be at funeral.
No one took much notice of the ceramic urn behind Chuck's casket bearing the name of Daniel Manetti.
After the funeral service had concluded for both families, the visitors and families were asked to leave. Dawn begged Russ to allow her to stay, but he said that it was against tradition. He escorted her to the door where he was met by a cadre of dark-suited men waiting in the foyer. At the other doorway, stood Illya Kuryakin, cradling the urn of Randy Holmes in the crook of his left arm. His right arm was supported by a sling.
At Russ' urging, the men in the foyer filed silently into the room bearing the casket and took seats that the funeral director had had placed for just this ceremony.
Illya followed and placed the urn he was carrying beside Daniel Manetti's.
As ranking agent, it was Napoleon's duty to officiate. Instead, he asked that Russ come forward to share his experiences with Chuck Yeagley. Crandall did not like to talk in front of people, especially peers who regarded him as a pain in their sides, so his eulogy was short.
Bernard Louis had come up the ranks through Section Two, and thus had the privilege to attend the ceremony even though, officially, being an administrator in Section One, he was supposed to disavow the workings of the Society. As Chuck's superior, he spoke of the man's loyalty, honor and finally, sacrifice. Louis was the segue in the ceremony to honor the other two fallen agents. He ended his eulogies by pulling Chuck's UNCLE special from his own shoulder holster. All of the agents in the room stood up.
Bernard Louis slid a loaded magazine into the gun and placed the weapon into Yeagley's shoulder holster. Illya Kuryakin, in turn, pushed Yeagley's gold UNCLE identification into the breast pocket of the jacket. Napoleon Solo pulled the silver communicator from his own breast pocket, permanently disabled the device and added it to Yeagley's breast pocket. Then he turned to face the assembly and began to recite the St. Crispin's Day soliloquy from Shakespeare's King Henry V (Act IV, scene III). It was the signal for each agent to approach the casket to pay final respects to their fallen brother. Every agent carried with him the outward mark of his allegiance to all other UNCLE agents: a long, thin scar, paralleling the lifeline of his right hand, made the night before their graduation from Survival School, when they swore loyalty on their own blood. And each agent would press the scar of his hand against the scar of the dead agent, and perhaps, say a word or two.
The last farewell, traditionally, went to the agent's partner, if possible, and Russ lingered, whispering to his friend. No one dared to eavesdrop on the last conversation made between partners. Only after Russ had turned away from the casket and went to the door in a search for Dawn Buchmoyer, did Kuryakin slowly approach the casket and reach out for Manetti's urn. Randy Holmes' urn would be interred in Ohio, and Yeagley had a spot in his family's plot.
Solo met him outside in the parking lot. "Are you ready?"
Illya said nothing, but merely handed the urn to his partner.
"Got the place all picked out, have you?" he said as he followed the blond-haired agent to the car. Illya got in the driver's side and started the car while Napoleon placed the urn on the front seat between them and sat.
Kuryakin was silent for the entire fifteen minute drive, when he finally pulled off the road beside a green pasture filled with black and white dairy cattle lazily grazing beside a small stream. "This is where Daniel Manetti grew up. He went to school and worked on the dairy farms. We were a lot alike. And I think he would approve of being laid to rest here in this peaceful place."
"Want me to tag along?" Napoleon asked gently, but he was almost certain of the answer.
"Actually, I'd like to do this myself." He picked up the ceramic urn, got out, and walked around the back of the car. Solo watched as his friend climbed over the white fence and walked slowly towards a tree growing beside the creek. Illya stood without moving for nearly two minutes after which Napoleon saw him upturn the ceramic vessel, allowing the contents to spill onto the ground. Then, to Solo's surprise, his friend dashed the urn on a rock, shattering it to pieces. He picked up the piece on which the nameplate had been attached, and stuck it upright into the ground. He was still for another half-minute or so before returning to the car.
"What was that all about?" Napoleon asked.
The Russian shrugged. "I was saying good-bye, that's all."
"You broke his urn, Illya."
"What was I going to do with it after I dumped out the ashes? Save it for you?"
"You might. Or you could save it for you."
"That's really morbid, Napoleon. I don't need to be reminded that some day I could end up as soot in vase."
"Well, today you're going to end up at Dawn Buchmoyer's house. She's having friends and family stop by for refreshments after the interment service. She insisted that we come. I'm betting there will be a lot of local cuisine for you to try."
"Say no more, my friend. I'll even let you drive."
Solo smiled as he slid across to the driver's side. He was looking forward to seeing how things were shaping up between her and Russ.
Epilogue: "He's like a kid in a candy store."
The pair arrived at the Buchmoyer farm and were met by Bernard Louis at the barn where the cars were being parked. "Where did you spread the ashes?" he asked.
Napoleon was about to answer, when his partner smoothly cut him off. "In a place known only to Mr. Solo and myself and I'd like to leave it that way, if it's all the same to you."
Louis nodded. "I was merely curious. Russ Crandall asked me to speak to Mr. Waverly about a transfer. He wants to head up the outpost here in Randall Holmes place."
"I'm sure Mr. Waverly will grant it," Solo said.
"I'm going to head back to Philadelphia. Please extend my condolences to Mrs. Buchmoyer."
"I will." They watched the Philadelphia chief get into his car and head down the drive to the road. "Well, it seems that our friend has found a reason to stay. Let's go congratulate him."
They walked around to the back of the house where neighbors had laid a veritable feast on two long tables. Illya gazed over the assortment of dishes hungrily. "I wonder what they do for a happy occasion—"
Solo grasped his partner's arm. "Dawn's over there. We should pay our respects."
"Must we do it now? I'd much rather see what some of those cassaroles are all about."
"You just don't want to talk to Russ."
"That's about the size of it."
"You almost died saving his life and now you don't want to talk to him?"
"I still don't like him very much."
"Just come over with me and say hi. He's not about to start anything here."
"I just want you to know that if he does, I'm going to put my fist in his face."
"Cool your heels, tovarisch. You've already got one messed up hand. You break the other one and you won't be able to feed yourself. And I won't feed you either."
"A good point. I'll eat first."
Solo caught Illya's arm again as the blond agent tried a course change and pulled him in the opposite direction. "Now. Get it over-with."
Fifteen seconds later, the antagonists stood facing each other. Napoleon took Dawn by the hand and offered his sympathy for Chuck's loss. Then, each of them looked at the two agents beside them. Finally Solo said, "Hello, Russ, congratulations on the transfer. It'll be a good move for you."
"You'll put a in good word for me to Mr. Waverly?"
"Absolutely, though, I don't think it will be necessary."
Russ looked down at Kuryakin who stubbornly continued to hold his tongue. "You risked your life to save mine, Illya. I don't know how I could begin to tell you—"
"Well, at least, you pronounce my given name better than Napoleon does." He looked up at his partner. "Sorry, old friend, but it does only have two syllables, you know," he added with a slight smirk.
Russ sighed with exasperation. "How do you put up with this guy, Napoleon?"
"I think I'll go check out the local cuisine while the two of you discuss it. Dawn, would you care to accompany me to explain what it is I'll be eating?"
Napoleon and Russ watched as Illya and Dawn headed into the crowd of neighbors and friends."Well, sometimes, the answer isn't all that clear—"
"I was trying to thank him."
"He knows that. He has a problem with sentimentality, he thinks it hurts his image."
"You mean his image as a hard-ass?"
Solo smiled. "Yeah, something like that. I'll tell you, the best way to thank him is to give him the respect he deserves and to be the best damn station chief you can be. What do you say we go over to the table and see what they've got? Besides, watching Illya eat can almost classified as a spectator sport."
Solo and Russ walked over to survey the food-laden tables and were met by an excited blond Russian holding a soup bowl of a thick stew-like soup. "Napoleon, you'll never believe this—this reminds me of the kulesh my grandmother used to make!" He turned to Dawn. "What did you call this again?"
Dawn grinned. "Chicken corn soup with rivels."
"Yes, that's it—and they have a pie called shoofly—which is more like a cake and another pie called 'snitz' made with dried apples. You're not in a hurry, are you, Napoleon? I mean, this could take a while—"Illya turned and headed back to the table eagerly.
Russ shook his head incredulously at the seemingly Jekyll/Hyde transformation in the blond-haired agent. "He's like a kid in a candy store."
Napoleon smiled a knowing smile. "Russ, I think you're beginning to understand our tovarisch. Let's get something to eat before there's nothing left. Shall we?"
(roll credits with great music)
You can find "St. Crispins" exceptional writings on the St Crispin's Day Society at file40
(Be sure to read "Devil's Attic Affair" and "The Uncertainty Principle", too)