Steven Shields had found the quaint little town of Angieville with the help of some detective work and a trail of communiqués between Napoleon and Illya, and headquarters. His intrusion into this affair had gone mostly unnoticed by people in New York, except for Heather McNabb. She had continued to keep an eye on the young agent, not trusting him for a reason she couldn't quite explain.
When Heather had discovered Agent Shields was gone for an undisclosed period of time due to a family event, she immediately became suspicious. Call it instinct or experience, she didn't much care. The first thing she did was run a background check on him and confirm that he didn't have any close family to speak of. From the looks of it, he hadn't even been in contact with anyone for the past several years, so the likelihood of his being called for anything short of an inheritance seemed remote.
The second thing Heather did was to attempt to contact Napoleon. It occurred while he and Illya were inside the Birdseye mine, and unable to receive the transmission. Unknown to Heather, Steven Shields was approaching the mine even as her call went unheard.
With a rumbling from within the ancient rock chasing them mercilessly, Illya and Napoleon reached for daylight and open spaces. They emerged from the doomed mine in a cloud of dust, surrounded by other anxious men who had escaped the interior to find that their livelihoods were, quite literally, being blown to bits.
Illya was fairly certain that the damage would be minimal to the areas already being mined. The primary focus of his destructive intent had been the control room and the coils that had produced the extreme magnetism; he had taken no pleasure in destroying something of such promise. It was only a little comfort to the scientist within Illya Kuryakin that he had gotten a small piece of the coiling materials, something that Egret had kept close by; an obvious reminder of genius to her very large ego, but now a souvenir for the Russian.
It was very likely that the mine could be reopened under a very different type of management. Mr. Waverly would already be involved in discussions with benevolent and trusted partners with whom he might launch a new venture, saving jobs and promoting industry in the region.
At present, a more vexing situation was facing Solo and Kuryakin, unbeknownst to them, of course. Shields, full of bravado and with the intention of somehow eliminating the Russian, showed up just as the explosion was rending the interior uninhabitable and witnessed the outpouring of people from what appeared to be the only entrance to the mining operation.
What a great bit of luck, a perfect opportunity to pick off Kuryakin in the confusion. Neither Illya nor Napoleon was expecting to run into a rogue UNCLE agent, and both were completely unprepared for an assault. All might have been lost had Heather not finally gotten through to Napoleon.
"Solo here… cough…''
"Napoleon, are you all right?"
"Heather? Yes, I'm…we're fine. Just a little dusty …"
"Okay, Napoleon, listen to me. Steven Shields is coming to where you are, and he's used a lie to cover his tracks…something about a family crisis. Well, there's no family, so I'm thinking no crisis either. He has some strange stuff in his background, and… well, I'm a little concerned."
Napoleon was trying to take in the information as he looked around, and was watching Illya navigate through the groups of men, checking for injuries and taking a roll call of the employees. As Heather began to list off some of the peculiarities in Shields' background, the red flag ran up the pole when she got to this:
"Napoleon, buried deep within his profile was an oblique reference to an organization that… I still don't know how it got past the recruiters… sigh…'
It was difficult for Heather to put this into words, so she read it from a manifesto she had discovered in her research on Shields…
"The purpose of the Russian Eminent Destruction Society (heretofore referred to as REDS) is to remove any and all foreign and domestic threats to The American Way (what is heretofore referred to as TAW) by whatever means accessible to agents operating in deep cover assignments within assigned enforcement and espionage groups, both federal and private."
Napoleon exhaled a long breath. This was incredible. Heather deserved a raise for this one. The world needed another politically charged organization about as much as New York needed another deli.
"Okay, Heather have you notified Mr. Waverly? And, do we have any idea where Shields is, exactly?"
"I'm on my way to his office now, Napoleon. I wanted to let you know first because…"
At that moment, Napoleon spotted Steven Shields slithering between some cars about thirty feet away.
"He's here. Son of a bitch, the guy's got some nerve."
Heather squeaked a little breathy reply, suddenly afraid for the two men she favored above all the other agents in New York.
"Oh, Napoleon… do be careful. He's dangerous… and mad. Like in crazy mad."
Napoleon was watching Shields, but remained hidden behind a tree trunk that was unscathed from the explosion. Illya was walking back towards him, another local man having taken over the job of assembling the workers and taking names.
"I've got it, Heather. I'll be in touch. Solo out."
Shields didn't see Napoleon yet, but that head of blond hair had finally sent out a signal to the new enemy. Illya stopped abruptly and dropped to the ground just as Napoleon yelled to him to get down, a slice of a second before a bullet lodged in a tree above where his head had been.
Thinking it was a Thrush ambush, Illya threw a questioning glance back to his partner, only to have Napoleon skirt away through a maze of trees that had seemed out of place earlier, but now served as a screen against the new onslaught.
Illya noticed that the workers from the mine had taken cover, wisely, and were off to the opposite side of the small clearing that marked the parking lot and entry area. Illya raised his head above his shoulders, just barely, to follow Napoleon's path with his eyes only. As he scanned the area he saw him: Steven Shields was creeping along, hugging his body close to the cars that were parked and heading, more or less, towards where he lay stretched out on the ground.
"Chyort! Now what?"
He muttered to himself, wondering how to get away without making himself a target. He reached for a gun only to come up empty. In the rush to get out he must have lost it. He hated not having his shoulder holster.
Napoleon was making a stealthy approach to Shields' right, still unseen by the unscrupulous imposter. UNCLE's top agent didn't have time to try and figure out how this had happened, but when he got back to New York, there would be a full investigation and revamping of something. He wasn't certain yet what that would entail, but this couldn't happen again.
Illya was watching Napoleon's progress and trying to not give it away. Shields didn't know he'd been spotted, and might even think that he'd hit his mark. Illya was a sitting, no lying duck. Flat on the ground with no weapons in an oversized Thrush uniform.
'I'm doing great… just great'.
Two or three men who had seen Napoleon and Illya in the restaurant finally recognized the blond on the ground and caught on to what Napoleon was doing. These men were hunters, and it didn't take long to figure out whom the object of the brunet's hunt was. It was entirely possible that this guy had caused the explosion, in which case he was now responsible for them all being unemployed. That didn't sit well, and it was a matter of few words to take action.
Six of the men started off on a route that ended up coming in behind the man from REDS. Since Shields had been so completely engrossed in his own progress and had kept his eyes on Illya, he never saw the men coming in from behind and to his sides. Before Napoleon could emerge and challenge the rogue agent, the men from the hills of Tennessee had completely surrounded Shields and were suggesting, in a most compelling manner, that he drop the gun before they took out his backside with a load of buckshot.
Steven Shields turned swiftly to challenge, but the sight of six big men and three shotguns aimed at his middle gave him pause. Napoleon stepped out from behind a tree, and Illya got up to join the crowd of angry miners.
"Ah, gentlemen, let's not shoot anyone just yet. I have someone who's going to want to speak with Mr. Shields."
The smile on Napoleon's face was not borne of amusement, and Shields knew it. His only hope would be to turn the crowd against the Soviet agent, and convince them of what he believed to be true: this was their enemy.
"Solo, how can you continue to work with this Communist? He is the reason we're at war, he represents an evil and dangerous nation."
A couple of the men mumbled, not sure about the comment.
Napoleon didn't hesitate.
"Shields, Mr. Kuryakin represents the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement, the same as I do. It is obvious, however, that you do not represent UNCLE, and are in fact the more dangerous individual among us. You are going to be handed over to Section III agents, and debriefed by me, personally, at UNCLE HQ.''
Illya walked up behind the crowd of men, still puzzled about what had been going on for the past ten minutes. It wasn't enough to blow up a Thrush mining operation, but now there were UNCLE agents shooting at him. Some days were more perplexing than others.
One of the men had gone to his truck and returned with a length of rope appropriate for securing Shields to a tree, which he did gladly. Illya got some pats on the back and offers of home cooked meals to take the edge off of getting' shot at. That was enough to give a man an appetite, he was assured.
It took the better part of the day to clear out the area, have Shields picked up and transported to Atlanta for holding purposes, check back in at the motel for showers and a change of clothing and then one last trip to the Angieville Café. The story of the explosion and shoot out had spread through the little hilltop community, and the arrival of the two agents was greeted with a standing ovation. Illya ducked his head down, as was his usual response to accolades (unless performing, of course), and Napoleon bowed in an extravagant manner, much to the delight of Margie, the waitress from their first night in town.
The last glimmer of daylight was reaching through the spotless windows, filtered only slightly by the crisp white curtains that hung as they had for years upon years. The rattle of chair legs and conversation resumed as the night became embedded as part of the history of the region.
The two men from UNCLE ordered a repast fit for kings, and in doing so established another bit of folklore for the region. They would be telling a story for years to come about the blond man with the funny accent who could eat more than any five men, and his good looking friend who could make women swoon with just a smile.
The cotton pickin end.