Neither of the UNCLE men had bags to pack, although Illya was wishing he'd had a change of clothes. Something about remaining in the ones supplied by Deneauve made him uncomfortable in more ways than just the tight fit. There was nothing to be done about that, however. He and Napoleon made their way downstairs, willing to stay and cultivate the trust of the Thrush chief who was so pliable in their hands as the plan gained momentum, and the documents neared their destination. For Illya's part, as long as Genevieve was safely tucked away in the secret room he felt confident that everything would move along without a hitch. His partner felt the same, and so they appeared together in the doorway to the living room as Deneauve turned to greet them with his ever present, insincere smile.
"Ah, gentlemen, come and join me. Sergei, you have rested, yes?' He let his eyes brush over the young Russian, still hopeful of retaining him here a little longer.
"Supper is being prepared for us and will be ready very shortly. I am so pleased that you will be joining me". With that a servant appeared, indicating that the meal was indeed only awaiting their presence in the dining room.
As they made their way towards what would prove to be an excellent offering from the host's kitchen, each man considered plans that would be underway before the end of the night. Napoleon had his exit lines well rehearsed, as did Illya. They would leave together with the announcement of traveling early the next morning, necessitating a trip back to Paris immediately after supper.
For his part, Ethan Deneauve was anxiously waiting for a phone call confirming the delivery of the documents his man had couriered to Thrush Central. A jet had been waiting for the man in Paris, and with a flight time of only about three hours, his speculation of the grand results would be fulfilled shortly. The day had been profitable for him, and the additional satisfaction of knowing Genevieve was now under his power only heightened the man's sense of invulnerability. As the men were finishing their rustic French fare, albeit prepared with a technique befitting the finest French chefs, Deneave ordered a meal to be taken to the girl. He had neglected to check on her earlier, his infatuation with Willem had been so complete. Certainly he was in the good graces of a very important man, and something like a female fetish could wait a little longer.
Now, though, he knew she would need attention. Illya caught the instruction as it was whispered in German to the attendant who had come at Deneauve's command. He needed a distraction, something to avert attention away from the inevitable discovery of the girl's escape. It would be better if they were gone before that alarm went off.
"Willem, how much time before we need to leave for Paris?" The question was abrupt, signaling Napoleon that there was something going on, something he had missed.
"Ah...it is getting late. Ethan, at the risk of being rude, we must embrace the phrase 'eat and run', as our time is limited now that the evening has gotten away from us. In spite of poor Sergei's experiences, you have been an excellent host". The inclusion of poor Sergei's unfortunate treatment was intended to put the Frenchman slightly on edge, making him all the more intent on trying to please his guests. As they all rose from the table, Illya was barely able to maintain his usual blank expression; his concern for Genevieve and the need to depart nearly overcoming his cool veneer.
Deneauve's men would naturally go first to the cottage at the end of the main passage, out near the road. What Illya had determined to do was to ride out with Napoleon, then double back to the little hidden cabin that was nestled into the landscape on the opposite side of the property. With the cover of night, he should be able to get to her unobserved, and then they could take a slightly altered route and meet up with Napoleon farther up the road. It was all he had, but it needed to be done quickly, before Deneauve got his men underway, before anything came back from Thrush. There really was not any room for error.
Deneauve's two guests were departing amid handshakes and refined observances of how well things had gone, inspite of the little mishaps with the girl and the bad information about Sergei and his brother. Now all was well, and Willem was only too glad to report back to Central on the excellent operation and management that he had found within Deneauve's chateau satrap. The handsome Thrush was secretly thrilled, his expectations high and his anticipation of the evening's next event adding to his euphoria. Genevieve would be the next point of entertainment, and he would have her clean up and present herself to him after the two men were gone. He hated to lose Sergei, for the sight of him and the girl might have been a very pleasant diversion from all of the business of the day. Ah well...another time, perhaps. For now, the girl would suffice.
As the UNCLE men were pulling out of the circular drive and heading for the road to Tours, Illya prepared to jump out and head back towards the hiding place where he had left Genevieve. Napoleon would continue on for a mile and then pull into a grove of trees that should hide him sufficiently in the waning light. He opened his door as Napoleon slowed for him to roll out and into the low grass on the side of the road. Just in case anyone were watching, they needed to keep up the pretense of being together in the car. Napoleon then opened a channel and called Genevieve on the communicator Illya had left with her. "Open channel F, Genevieve, are you there?" He listened for the scratchy sound of the other device as she opened it and responded to his call.
"Napoleon? Are you coming for me now?" Her voice sounded distant and tinny through the UNCLE marvel. The wonder of it struck the girl as she spoke into it now, then heard the man on other end reply:
"Illya is coming for you. Don't go out until you hear his voice. And whatever you do, don't open the door to the passageway. In fact, block it with something...just in case". He and Illya had decided it was a possibility that the Thrush men might go in that direction and find the door leading into the hiding place. Since the Russian had come back that way, he hadn't been able to block it himself, and had neglected to consider it as he left Genevieve there...alone. "Yes, Napoleon, I will do it. I will do it now...thank you. I will see you soon, then...oui?" She let it hang in the air, as though there was some uncertainty.
"Yes, just do as I said and wait for Illya. He'll be there". She closed the little pen contraption and went to the back room. Looking around she decided to use the bed, it was lightweight. She managed to get it up on it's side and propped it so that it blocked the use of the door handle. For good measure she pulled the little table over and placed it there as well. At least it would be difficult, should anyone try and come through. And the noise would give her time to get out...
"Please, Illya...be here soon". She sighed and then settle down to wait for him.
Deneauve's man was afraid; the girl was gone, evidently back to the cottage by the road. He decided to go look for her first, before telling the boss of this little problem. Perhaps he would not need to know at all, if she could be found quickly. The temptation to proceed without alerting his boss lost out to the man's better judgement. Knowing that only he would be made to pay for any time that was lost locating the girl, the cautious Thrush guard hurried back to the main floor just as the two guests were departing. As Deneauve closed the door and turned back into the foyer, he was greeted by the agitated man whose duty it was to report the upsetting development.
"Monsieur Devneauve, the girl is...she is gone". His expression held no comment on why she was there to begin with, only his remorse that she had escaped.
"Gone...how? Are there any signs of another person there?". He knew of course who would have done this...Sergei. But where would he...' Immediately he knew she would be either in the cottage by the road or down another passageway.
"Take some men with you and search the passageways, in all directions...and hurry!" With that he stormed back to the dining room to see if Sergei had left any clue. Seeing nothing, he proceeded upstairs to the bedroom the man had used. If Sergei had done this, then what part had Willem Vanmeter played in it? He dared not accuse the Thrush official, so perhaps it was without his knowledge. The wiley Russian had no doubt deceived the American, there was no other explanation.
As the three men searched through the dark passages, they decided to split up and let one go in the most obvious direction while the other two would take the newly discovered second opening. Perhaps the less traveled one would prove to be the correct choice. Pushing back the cobwebs and illuminating their steps with powerful flashlights, the two men kept a quick pace as they raced to the end. A door was visible, the latch looked as though it had been recently handled, some of the dusty metal showing areas that were less so. One of them took it in hand and pushed...nothing. There was something against the door, so the two of them heaved against it, causing some movement. Finally, with an extra effort and a determination to get through, they shoved against it with great force and the door gave way; the screeching of an impediment slowing their entry, but not stopping it.
Genevieve heard the racket from the door in the room behind her. Terrified of who might be coming through it, she quickly got up from her perch on the quilts and headed for the door at the front of the little hideaway. It was too late, the Thrush goons came barreling through the room towards her, catching her as she tried to exit. Her screams were loud enough that Illya, who was nearly there, heard them and quickened his pace as he ran towards their secret room. It took only a few seconds for the Russian to understand what had happened and jump into the frey, knocking one man out with a swift right to his jaw that caused a sound like breaking stones. The other assailant had Genevieve, a gun to her head as Illya swung around to face them.
"I'll kill her. I think you know I will, so just take a breath and put your hands up...above your head". The instructions were banal sounding as Illya took in the situation. He could take this man, but he wasn't certain of how the girl would react; she might not get out of the way in time.
"Let her go. Deneauve will get over it, and you can simply tell him that she was already gone. Why stand in the way of us now...how does it benefit you?" What were the chances the man would respond to this line of reasoning? Probably none. Still, there was nothing to lose by trying, so Illya went on...
"Deneauve is just going to keep her here like a prisoner. Are you so far gone that you can do that to a woman? Let her have her life back...please". That last was for effect, but it seemed the grip on her was lessened just slightly as he took in the argument for mercy. Perhaps he wasn't as far gone as some of the other Thrushies they'd run into.
"Oh, don't try and reason with him, Sergei. I think perhaps I shall simply keep you both, since you seem to want to stay together". It was Deneauve, he had followed the men through the passage and was smirking in his peculiar way, nothing reaching his eyes by way of expression. The man was a lunatic...so typically Thrush.
"Deneauve, let us go. I told Willem I would meet him back in Tours, that I had business to finish with you. He will be expecting me". Illya had to try something, anything, to convince the Frenchman that this was a lost cause. "Oh, I don't imagine he'll worry too much. After all, we're such good friends now, you and I. Willem will understand". Ah, but he wouldn't. Napoleon wouldn't, and he would come looking for him. It was not acceptable to have both of them caught here, though. The documents were already at Central by now, and the plans would begin to unfold the way UNCLE had orchestrated it to happen. He needed to get out of here, with Genevieve, and without alerting Thrush of the deception.
"Alright, Ethan. I will stay...for now. What do you want from us?" Genevieve looked at Illya with an expression of alarm, her unspoken questions begging for an answer.
"Sensible of you, Sergei. Why don't we go back to the house and...discuss this among ourselves. I'm certain we can come to an understanding, and something amenable to each of us". Illya had no intention of returning with the man, but he feinted a start in the direction before turning and backhanding Deneauve, yelling at Genevieve to get out and start running. He hoped that Napoleon was aware of the time enought to guess that something was wrong. He might have started in this direction by now.
The man to whom Illya had made his plea was ready to pounce as Illya swung at him, landing a vicious blow to his midsection, then a hard chop to the back of his skull. He went down with a whimper and was out. Deneauve had regained his footing and raised the gun to shoot, his hand shaking with fury over the betrayal of this ungrateful Russian upstart. Illya took that uncertainty and knocked the gun from his hand as he battered his face with a severe punch from his right fist, sending the Frenchman back into a wall as his knees buckled beneath him.
Three men were down as Illya surveyed the room. He had one incendiary with him; Napoleon had given it to him, foreseeing the posibility of a need to destroy this place. As he left, he tossed it into the room behind him, counting to ten as he began to run across the park once again. He glanced back and saw Deveauve in the doorway and then a blast that obliterated the view and everything within it. The plans were safe, and so was Genevieve. He caught up with her just as Napoleon was in sight, heading towards them and motioning towards the explosion.
"What happened?" The CEA of UNCLE Northwest was back to being an UNCLE agent...no more pretense. He immediatley surmised that here had been danger, and was equally certain that his partner loved nothing more than blowing up things and places.
"Well, what do you think, Napoleon. I had to make certain that Deneauve couldn't report this to Thrush. It will take a while for his men to get this figured out. The passage is blocked now, as well as the entrance from this side. I don't think they'll even figure out it's him for some time". Illya had Genevieve by the elbow, steering her towards the car. It had been a close call, but now they were certain there was nothing to impede their departure, nor anything to stop the plans made by UNCLE concerning the Thrush documents that had been doctored and passed back to Central.
When they were all three safely in the silver Mercedes, they began to make plans for their trip back to Paris. Etienne was waiting for them, along with several agents from the Paris office and an UNCLE helicopter, all on the outskirts of Tours. Illya and Napoleon needed to get on a flight back to New York, and reluctantly would leave both of the women to travel together back to the Paris headquarters.
When they reached the clearing where the helicopter had set down, waiting for the two men from New York, Illya pulled Genevieve aside to say his goodbyes. She had relagated their encounter to an affair of the heart that would never play itself out. One time, and that would be all that was between them. She understood, not that it made it easier. Nevertheless, she wouldn't have missed it for the world; he was worth the heartache.
Meanwhile, Etienne and Napoleon were saying their goodbyes as well. Not one to miss an opportunity, the American was conveying his goodbyes with a kiss that would guarantee the young lady was waiting for his next trip to Paris, his mouth full of promises that he would keep, just like always. Illya's farewell kiss remained on Genevieve's lips longer than he had intended, the effort to pull himself away from her now leaving him sad and drained, both physically and emotionally.
"We won't be seeing each other again. There isn't any future for us, and I won't rob you of whatever you might have waiting for you with someone else. Do you understand?" He'd already been through this, but a sense of responsibility after their tryst in the little secret room made him feel somehow obligated to her, and reluctant to leave her...
"Illya, I understood before you said anything. We are who we are, and your work is who you are...for now. If that ever changes, please look for me. I may still be here...rien n'est jamais compl tement fini, mon amour". She kissed him again, and then walked back to where Etienne was waiting for her, never looking back at the pale blond who watched her as she ducked into the Mercedes. 'Some things do end, mon Genevieve...' This was a woman who would be impossible to leave, if ever he let his heart become commited to her. Unlike his partner, affairs of the heart had consequence; he never could be frivolous about these things, so he guarded his heart and emotions and those of the women as well.
The Russian's thoughts turned quickly then from the departing women back to their flight to Paris, and then to New York. If he lingered over the memory of the past day, beyond business that is, he would soon sink into one of his mute and resolute melancholy moods over the aborted love affair. It was his choice, but it was for the best. There was nothing to recommend remaining involved with her so long as his life was in the hands of UNCLE.
The flight to Paris was quick and uneventful. Thankfully, they were able to board their plane to New York with ease as well, taking their seats for the transatlantic flight, and grateful for the opportunity to sleep and hopefully rid themselves of the edge that remained from the past two days. It was almost unbelievable that this had all been accomplished in 48 hours; Thrush had the errant information that UNCLE had placed within the documents delivered by Deneauve's man, and operations were already underway that indicated the ploy was working perfectly. After checking in with Mr. Waverly, Napoleon had been informed that by the end of this day, Thrush would spend millions of dollars investing in dummy companies operated by the Command, as well as commit their personnel to assignments designed to entrap them in bogus schemes that appeared to be easy conquests for the power hungry criminals. Both Napoleon and Illya were grateful that their part in all of it was over; nothing remained except the obligatory reports over which at least one of them would labor. "So, my friend, how did it feel to command the attention of Monsier Deneauve? He seemed as though he would have done anything to gain your approval". Illya had been impressed, yet again, with his partner's ability to charm even a snake like Deneauve; the man had fairly drooled over the prospect of being recommended by Willem Vanmeter.
Napoleon smiled in that curious fashion he had, curling his lip as he considered the power he had commanded.
"You know, Illya...I should feel a little guilty about it, considering how it's all turned out. Somehow, I just can't drum up any sympathy for the man. And his plans for you...' He affected a shudder when thinking of how the Frenchman had leered at his partner. "He had his eyes on you, tovarisch.' He paused, examining his partner again and the strange appearance he'd taken on.
" I'll be glad when you're back to normal". His eyes smiled at Illya, the affection and concern so real that the Russian was suddenly glad, no longer tormented by what might have been. This was his life, and his friend and partner helped make it good. Righting wrongs, saving the world...
"I'm glad you have my back, Napoleon. And I'll be glad to see myself again. I don't know this man..." His words trailed off and the man next to him understood. What they did for a living, who they met and got involved with...none of it seemed real some days. But what they did mattered, and sometimes that made the sacrifice worthwhile.
"Dinner at my place tonight?" The senior agent knew they would eat and then drink, maybe until the early morning hours and possibly until they couldn't see straight. It was alright. Illya could stay the night, and in the morning they'd go into headquarters late. But they'd go in together...friends...brothers...compatriots in a war few knew they were fighting.
"Yes, that sounds good'...another pause as he examined his hands, looking for the right words...
"Napoleon...I liked her very much". That was all, but he knew his friend understood what those few words conveyed about the heart of his Russian partner. "I know, tovarisch. Someday..."