Light kept trying to force itself past his eyelids. Finally, Napoleon Solo opened his eyes. As he took in his surroundings he realized he was in UNCLE’s medical unit. How? A rescue team must have invaded the asylum and found him.
He turned his head as he heard the door open. Nurse Roberts, a pretty redhead whom Napoleon knew intimately, came in to check on her patient. She noticed that he was finally awake.
“Well hello, handsome! It’s about time I got to see your baby brown eyes! How are you feeling?”
Napoleon didn’t answer her. Instead he said, “I need to see Mr. Waverly, immediately. I need to tell him what happened.” The memory of the affair came rushing back. His voice quavered, “I need to tell him about Mr. Kuryakin.”
“It’s going to be okay, Napoleon. I’ll call him. He is quite eager to speak with you.” Nurse Roberts patted his shoulder and left.
Alexander Waverly, Chief of U.N.C.L.E. Northwest arrived fifteen minutes later. “Hello, Mr. Solo. I’m glad to see you awake. We were beginning to worry about you!”
“How long have I been here, sir?”
“About seven days. The bullet missed important structures, but you had developed quite an infection. The doct...”
“Sir,” Napoleon interrupted with a slight sob. “I, uh, I killed Illya. I killed my best friend...” his voice faltered.
“Ah, yes, quite. We’ll talk about that when you come back to active duty. Meanwhile I have an agent under orders to take you home and stay with you until you’re on the mend.”
“Sir, did you hear what I said? I killed Il...”
“And I will deal with that later. Now gather your belongings. The agent will be down to collect you in a few minutes.” The Old Man turned and left.
Napoleon couldn’t believe his ears. How could his boss be so cavalier about Illya’s death and the fact that he, the Russian’s partner, was the one who killed him?”
True to the Old Man’s word, Napoleon heard the door open. He was gathering his belongings from the closet made cumbersome with his left arm in a sling and did not see the agent come in. “I’ll be just a minute,” he called over his shoulder.
“Take all the time you need. Do you need assistance?” Replied the softly accented voice.
Napoleon froze. He was going mad, that’s it. The stress of the last affair had gotten to him. “Napoleon, are you alright?” That voice! It could only belong to one person. Napoleon spun around. Standing before him was Illya Kuryakin. His head covered by a baseball cap, slightly paler than usual, but it was Illya nonetheless. Napoleon walked up to his partner and gave him a huge one armed bear hug before stepping back to look him over.
Illya Kuryakin chuckled. “It’s a long story my friend. Let’s get you home before all the children start walking the streets then I’ll tell you all I know.” Chuckling again at Napoleon’s confused expression he said, “It’s Halloween, my friend. The streets and sidewalks will be filled with ghosts, goblins, and witches.”
The next hour found the two men sitting quietly in Napoleon’s living room. Each held a drink. Napoleon, much to his disappointment, drank a Coke, as the medicine he was taking prevented him from drinking alcohol. Illya held his usual vodka.
Staring at the condensation building on his glass, Napoleon finally asked, “So what happened, Illya?”
The Russian took a deep breath. “It wasn’t my brain, Napoleon. The whole thing was a sham to impress the THRUSH officials so they would continue funding his research.”
“But I saw what he did! I saw him shave your head and make the incision.”
Illya removed the cap he was wearing then rubbed the baby soft blond hair that was beginning to grow back. A thin scar stretched across his forehead from temple to temple. “Yes, remember the television went black as the incision was made? Well, according to one of the captured guards, both you and the THRUSH officials were watching the procedure on close circuit tv. Boucher purposely had the feed cut so none of you could see that he did not follow through with the surgery. I was lucky on several accounts, Napoleon. First, he really was a good surgeon. The incision he made was right on one of my brow lines. His cut was precise enough that our doctors believe that I will heal with minimal scarring. The pain was excruciating causing me to black out so I was unaware that he did not complete the surgery. He then drugged me so I was unaware of my surroundings.”
“You said lucky on several accounts, Illya. How else were you lucky?”
Illya laughed. “Mr. Waverly saw how I looked bald and made the comment that he actually preferred me with the length of hair I usually have. He will not be bothering me about my hair being too long anymore.”
That comment drew a smile from Napoleon. “Well just don’t push it too far, my friend. If you start growing sideburns and getting too shaggy he may change his mind.” He paused, taking a drink from his glass. Then asked, “Illya, if you were drugged and unresponsive, how did I hear your voice asking me to kill you? I did hear you didn’t I?”
The Russian sighed. “You did. While he was torturing me during the first few days, he recorded everything I said. He then expertly spliced the tape so that he could make it sound like I said many things, then he played them back for you to hear them. The rescue team found the tapes. He wanted you to kill me so non
“I thought I had, you know. Killed you that is,” Napoleon whispered. “I was almost glad that he shot me so I could die with you. I don’t think that I could have lived knowing what I did, especially now that we know it was a hoax.”
“Napoleon, it would have been the right thing to do if Boucher had been successful. What man would want to have his disembodied brain kept alive merely to serve as entertainment for a madman?”
“Illya, how did our people know when and where to find us?”
“After you killed Boucher, apparently you loss consciousness. Meanwhile the concoction Boucher had injected in me had finally worn off. When I came to myself I saw you on the floor bleeding out. I unwrapped the bandages from my head and used them to stop you from bleeding.
“I discovered that the wires leading from my head to the electric current and supposedly to the brain were merely attached to me by tape. The doctor had a remote control that every time he pressed a button it would make me convulse. It was how he made it look like that whatever he did to the brain was also affecting my body.”
Both men fell silent, contemplating just how close Illya came to a fate truly worse than death and then death itself.
The silence was broken by the insistent ringing of the doorbell. Illya got up, grabbing the bowl of Halloween candy as he did. Looking through the peep hole he saw a group of six kids in costume. He opened the door and invited them in. Each child waited patiently for their turn at the candy bowl. Illya, now used to the routine after living so many years in the US, dutifully admired all of the costumes. Two were dressed as football players, one witch, one devil, and a princess. Illya knew he had counted six. The sixth child shyly stepped over the threshold holding tightly to a bag. “Tell me about your costume?” Illya asked. “It looks like you are a doctor.”
“Oh yeah. I’m a surgeon...a neuro...neura...something ologist. I don’t remember the name. Wanna see what’s in the bag?”
The boy reached into the bag. Napoleon saw his partner straighten up and the blood drain from his face. He quickly handed the boy the whole bowl of candy, ushered him out the door, lock it, and turned off the hall light before sliding down the wall and sitting on the floors. As the child left Napoleon could see that the boy held a sticky, slimy lump that looked exactly like a brain.