The workroom was strewn with fabrics, some of them in shreds, the tables cluttered with the implements that were normally arranged in neat rows. One sewing machine was on the floor, up ended and probably damaged beyond repair. It was a mess, and obviously the work of vandals or thieves.
Regina Mills had arrived for work at her regular time of seven o'clock, ready to get her day organized; she had a schedule to adhere to if the House of Vanya was to have a collection to show. Seeing the disarray that greeted her had stopped her at the doorway, and the dread of informing Mr. Kuryakin caused her heart to sink as she visualized the cold blue stare that she knew would accompany him when he arrived.
Regina knew enough to not touch anything or try to clean up the space. Mr. Kuryakin must have been psychic to inform his employees of the proper protocol should something criminal occur within the business; otherwise how would he have foreseen something like this? Who in their right mind would vandalize a sewing room?
When Illya Kuryakin received the phone call from Regina Mills about her discovery it confirmed what he had suspected for days: working for UNCLE had brought back the old threats and suspicions. His business was now under more scrutiny than it had been for years, and the intrigue of the spy trade had returned in full bloom from its dormant years beneath the successes he had achieved in the fashion industry.
He looked around his apartment. It was finely appointed with a scrupulously applied casual elegance that defied definition by any standards. His old affinity for simplicity transcended his hard won affluence, and the years of his youth that were filled with lack and little else seemed to still permeate his style.
Illya snorted his trademark derision at the term: style. He had astounded the spy world by trading in his life with the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement and embarking on a most unexpected, and inexplicable career in fashion design. Even he wondered at times why this world rather than the other, until remembering the events that led up to his resignation. Too many deaths still gave the Russian nightmares that he wouldn't wish on his old enemies in THRUSH. Combined with years under the grueling dominion of the Soviet system, Illya's service at UNCLE had left him bereft of hope and swimming in a sea of remorse for his lack of family and love… He still lacked those things. But, he no longer shed blood for a living.
Some men leave a violent life and take on the devotion of religious orders or sell their services as security advisors. Neither of those paths would have worked for Kuryakin. Beneath the still waters of the blond's exterior there had been some turbulent, hungry appetites that still ruled him at times. He had no desire to quell them completely, nor did he wish to exchange his expertise for money. At least not as someone's security lackey.
Turning to fashion had been lunacy on the surface, but Illya's years in Paris had netted him some friends in the industry, and years of frugal living had garnered a sizeable off shore bank account. Those two elements had fueled part of the business, but the key thing for Illya had been a desire to distance himself completely from anything remotely like the life he had been living up until the moment he walked out of Del Floria's for the last time.
Illya Kuryakin was a type of Renaissance man, given to artistic pursuits as well as intellectual. A collection of impressive degrees did not keep him from his musical and artistic pursuits, although not many people gave much thought to the latter. Napoleon had heard him play guitar and piano occasionally and noted, sometimes with a certain amount of amusement, the sketches that were left lying about.
After Napoleon's initial shock at finding Illya in the rag business, as he had put it in the bar one night, the American half of UNCLE's once premier pairing had eventually remembered his friend's various talents and concluded that parlaying them into a specific genre of work was not as far fetched as originally thought. Illya was a methodical thinker, and design was very methodical in his hands. The lines had purpose and beauty, something that was completely consistent with the Russian's personality and temperament.
Napoleon also suspected that Illya had used his business as a decoy at times. Once a spy, always a spy.
The two friends now stood staring at the destruction and disarray within the Vanya workroom. Napoleon had no idea that fabric and thread could make such a mess.
The Russian sighed, his patented melancholic, resigned expression of disbelief at the chaos of life. Illya picked up a strip of green dupioni silk; it had been destined for a design he was particularly fond of.
"This is going to cost a fortune to replace. I'd better have Monique call the insurance company. Excuse me, please, Napoleon. Feel free to look around. I have a feeling this is related to that last venture we were involved with."
Napoleon thought back to New Orleans and the man in the flowered shirt. They had lost him in the crowds of Mardi Gras, mistaken another fellow who must have been sent in as a decoy, in spite of his ignorance concerning their mystery man.
"Do you suppose that THRUSH is still involved? This looks to have been a pretty thorough search, as though there was something specific to be found. Is there anything you want to tell me, tovarisch?"
Illya hesitated in the doorway at that question. How much should he tell his former partner? Former? No, they were at it again and this time there was more at stake than the world. Illya's world no longer revolved around UNCLE, nor did Napoleon's. It was lunacy, but these affairs of late were more of a hobby than a vocation to the two middle aged men. The man who had once been the heartthrob of every woman at headquarters was older, and slightly grey at the temples. And Illya was no longer a tow headed foreigner with a disarming accent. The hair was dark blond now, and the accent decidedly less exotic among the increasingly exotic city of New York.
"Let me finish up in here with some phone calls and we'll go have a talk. I suppose there are a few details I might have left out during some of our previous conversations."
To Napoleon that sounded like an understatement of gargantuan proportions. When Illya said 'a few', what he meant was that there was a portfolio of information coming that would fuel their conversation for hours.
It was going to be a long day.