Illya drove like a man possessed as he shot through the streets of Manhattan, heading towards Innuendo. He called Napoleon to explain his concerns, where he was going and why.
"Open channel F … Napoleon it's Illya."
"Where are you? I'm in the lobby …"
Kuryakin took a deep breath before continuing.
"I'm picking up Marion and Nicolette first."
"You think they're in danger?"
"Yes. Why did they call you into UNCLE Headquarters, Napoleon? What's happened?"
A long pause was ended with a nearly whispered reply.
"He's dead, Illya. Someone shot him, point blank, in his office. It's someone within the Command."
Illya felt once more the icy fingers of treachery clawing at his throat. Janus had been a traitor, had cost the life of an innocent and what remained of Illya's commitment regarding the job of saving the world. How could someone manage this in the middle of headquarters?
"Good god, Napoleon! In his own office? Who else was present?
Napoleon felt himself changing back into the unmistakable shroud of the intelligence community; his guard was up and everything was subject to a scrutiny that bordered on paranoia.
"I don't know, Illya. The girl, Friday… was remarkably calm, but I've found her to be very competent. I don't think she's a suspect, but now will no doubt be in danger as well. She might have seen something."
Illya pulled up to the curb in front of the restaurant. The interior was still busy with the late night crowd, and he spotted Marion in the front window; she was conversing with one of the wait staff. Having signed off on the conversation with Napoleon, Illya caught a movement near Marion that seemed to distract her from the conversation she was engaged in. A woman in a long jacket approached her; her face was partially hidden by long hair that hung over on side of her face. There was something familiar about her…
Too late, Illya realized the woman to whom Marion was now speaking was an enemy they had both known and beaten. Twice her plans had been spoiled, and Illya had killed her lover all of those years ago. With his heart pounding in his ears, Illya nearly broke down the glass doors as he barreled into the waiting area. What had he missed? Marion turned to speak to him, her eyes wide as she clutched at her throat.
"Gervaise … Ravel … I'm … "
Illya caught Marion as she faltered and fell into his arms; he had no chance to apprehend the retreating Gervaise Ravel, the crowds had swallowed her.
Illya saw the pinprick then, just inside the elbow of Marion's right arm. It was inflamed, and the poison already completing its task as Marion choked out her last words.
"… loved you … take care of…"
"Marion, no… Marion…"
A screech from another female voice now fractured the crowd.
"Mother! Oh my god, mother…"
Nicolette was sobbing as she knelt down beside her father. This couldn't be happening; was it a heart attack, a stroke?
"Illya, what happened? Why is she …?"
The distraught man enveloped his daughter with one arm as his other still held her mother, who lay dead from some obscene poison.
If Napoleon thought the events of this evening distressing, he had yet to hear the news of Marion's death. Still waiting for Illya to pick him up at his building, the new Chief of UNCLE Northwest began to worry that something had befallen his friend. When his communicator began its warble, there was some relief on the face of the former agent.
"Solo here, is that…?"
"Marion's dead, Napoleon. Gervaise Ravel is behind it, and no doubt the death of Sir John as well."
Napoleon was stunned, not sure he had heard correctly what Illya was telling him.
"What? Illya, what are you saying…?"
"Marion is dead. Gervaise Ravel killed her, with a poison dart of some sort. She got away, Napoleon. I imagine you are in great danger, as am I most probably. We need to find out who within UNCLE is connected to her.'
A pause went unimpeded by more questions.
"This is about revenge, Napoleon. I killed Bufferton, and now she's after the people I love. You sent her to prison."
"And so she is gunning for me as well, perhaps to humiliate me as she was, no doubt, humiliated by her incarceration. Shall I call a cab…?"
"No. I'm going to leave immediately and come for you, and I'm bringing Nicolette with me."
Napoleon understood, although he wasn't entirely sure that UNCLE Headquarters was a safe place for any of them.
"I'll call Friday … uh, Janice. I guess she's my girl Friday now…"
The humor was lost, and Napoleon's voice trailed away at the realization of just how much trouble lay ahead. Gervaise Ravel was not a kind hearted woman on the best of days, and after all of these years and the amount of vengeance she was likely to be after…
"Illya, I am so very sorry. I know how much Marion meant to you."
"I'm going to talk to the police and let them know the details.'
The irony of life was in the details, he mused to himself.
"I suppose I should identify myself as an UNCLE operative?"
"Yes, do that. And tell them that Nicolette's life is also in danger, and that you're bringing her to Headquarters for safety sake."
"All right, I suppose there's no avoiding it now."
"Avoiding what, Illya?"
"I am officially working for UNCLE. Again. See you in a few minutes, Napoleon. Out."
Both men put away the pen like implements as they each resurrected the steel edged profiles of years past.
Illya had relinquished Marion's body to the M.E. that arrived with the police, quickly explaining the situation and his relationship to UNCLE, the need to take his daughter and get her to a safe house of some sort. In this new decade the communication between agencies seemed to be better hewn, with fewer hindrances to overcome.
Nicolette was still crying, a few friends huddled around her to save her having to watch as the body bag containing Marion was removed. The night had been almost celebratory before this happened; Illya and Napoleon had dined here only a few hours ago, and then her mother had come to pick her up, saying that Illya would be by to get them shortly.
What had happened to change the life of Nicolette Lindsay-Kuryakin in such a violent, hateful manner? One instant she was laughing and watcher as her mother joined in a conversation with Lucas Weller, one of the servers, and now … Marion was dead.
"I'm an orphan now."
The words slipped out as her friends consoled her, but no one contradicted Nicolette. It was so awful, and each of them knew their parents would receive a phone call before the night was over.
The restaurant had closed its doors immediately upon realizing what had transpired in the lobby. Within a few minutes the police were on the scene and by the end of the first half hour Illya was rushing towards Napoleon's building with Nicolette next to him. As the car pulled up to the curb, Napoleon was already exiting the door. Nicolette offered to sit in the back seat but Solo declined, not one to need a front seat, especially now.
No one spoke initially; Nicolette still sniffed back tears as Illya stared resolutely ahead. Finally, reluctantly, Napoleon cleared his throat.
"I am so sorry. I can't believe what has happened."
Illya didn't know if he could reply. His throat was thick with emotion, the image of Marion dying in his arms something that would haunt his dreams just as the faces of those dead men often did. And now Marion was dead because of one of them.
"Mother was so beautiful, tonight especially. She was so happy…"
Napoleon placed a hand on Nicolette's shoulder as the girl began to cry in earnest. Illya wanted to pull the car over and just hold the girl, but all he could do was take her hand in his and hold it tightly. The three of them continued on in silence until they reached the underground parking garage of UNCLE Headquarters, where they were met by two Section II agents and two additional Section III agents, all of whom had been waiting to escort the new Continental Chief to his office.
There was no irony quite like the kind that reminded you life travels in circles. The men had met Marion Raven during an affair involving Gervaise Ravel, and now here they were with Marion's daughter ready to begin the same hunt for the very same woman who had provoked their involvement twenty years earlier.
This time the beautiful blonde was Illya's daughter, and Gervaise Ravel's intentions were the same: Kill her.