Lovingly, she picked up one of her dolls from her collection. She had finally finished sewing a little black suit complete with a white shirt and narrow black tie to fit over the linen cloth that was the body of the doll. She smoothed out the fabric and brushed away the small pieces of lint that found their way onto the black fabric. She held the faceless doll to her breasts in an adoring hug. “I have special plans for you, my love.”
An insistent buzz wormed its way into Illya Kuryakin’s sleep drugged mind. It was his day off damnit! He thought he had turned his alarm off the night before. Eyes still closed he slapped blindly at the clock radio with his right hand, missed, and slapped even harder than before, effectively beating the alarm into submission. Ah silence. Lifting his left arm up he peered at the glowing hands on his watch. Five o’clock. He debated going back to sleep but realized that he might as well get up.
Her night had not gone as planned and she burned of fury as a woman scorned “How dare he! I’ll show him that no one turns me away.” She opened a drawer at her sewing table where hundreds of small photos lay in a jumble. She pawed through them until she found the perfect one. She trimmed it with a pair of scissors before affixing the photo to the newly finished doll’s head. Upon finishing she held the doll up to the early morning light pouring through the window. “It’s perfect! Now you will see the errors of your way, my love.” Noticing the time and realizing that she would be late to work she lay the doll down as she prepared for the day. The face of Illya Kuryakin, UNCLE agent, stared up from the doll.
The shower had not yet begun to steam as Illya looked into the mirror above the sink. The reflection in the mirror stared silently back at him but spoke volumes. The dark circles under his eyes coupled with the the dry cottony taste in his mouth gave evidence to the late night he and Napoleon shared with a couple of women from the UNCLE secretary pool.
After dressing she returned to the doll and with a vicious grin she raised a straight pin up and stuck it into the right hand of the doll.
He picked up his shaving mug and brush and razor and stepped into the shower. Brushing the lather vigorously onto his face, Illya noticed that his right hand ached badly. Must have hit the clock harder than I thought, he mused. However, by the time he had finished his morning ablutions he could barely hold anything in his right hand. It wasn’t the first time he had to dress himself one handed but before such a procedure was a result of being injured in the field, certainly not from something as mundane as slapping the alarm button on his clock.
How does that feel, my love? Are you hurting, yet? She pushed the pin in deeper...ever so slightly.
The warble of Illya’s communicator redirected his attention to the inside pocket of his suit coat that he wore the night before. Without thinking he grabbed for the pen with his right hand. The pain caused him to hiss audibly as he answered. “Illya? You okay?”
“I am fine, Napoleon. What are you calling about on our day off?”
“Well, partner, I’m sorry to say we are being called in by the Old Man.”
“Did he say what was so important?”
“You know how he is, Illya, he’s saving it for when we get there. I’ll pick you up in twenty. Solo out.”
The two agents immediately made their way to Mr. Waverly’s office where they found their boss at his customary spot in front of a wide television screen. Sitting next to him and in quiet conversation with him was a woman who appeared to be in her mid to late thirties. Not a necessarily beautiful woman, Napoleon observed, but certainly a handsome woman in the much the same way as Katherine Hepburn was.
“Gentleman, this delightful young lady is Miss Taintor. She has come to me with a rather fantastic story of intrigue. I thought it best for her to tell you the details. Miss Taintor, this is my chief agent Napoleon Solo and his partner Illya Kuryakin.” The woman stepped forward and shook hands with Napoleon. He noticed she had a gentle grip but not weak wristed.
She noticed that the agent walked through the hallway slightly rubbing his hand. “Hhmmmm, I think you need a little more. She reached into her large purse and pulled the doll out then jammed the straight pin so forcefully that it went through the doll’s hand. For added measure she jammed another pin into the doll’s right shoulder. Next she approached Illya but he merely nodded with with a small bow. However, Miss Taintor was rather insistent and held her hand out.
Illya reached out to shake it. The instant she gently clasped his hand a searing pain burned a path from his fingers up to his shoulder. He screamed and collapsed to the floor before blacking out.
The Russian woke to find himself in medical. He was still fully clothed so he assumed that he had not been there long. Napoleon and Mr. Waverly stood by his bed. Both looking quite concerned. “Wh...what happened,” he asked.
“What do you remember, young man?”
“Not much, sir. I remember shaking that woman’s hand and feeling a searing pain, that is all.” Illya looked at his right hand fully expecting to see it bandaged yet, it wasn’t. It looked perfectly normal and actually felt fine. Dr. Burton came in.
“Well, doctor? What did you find out?”
Dr. Burton shook his head. “Nothing, Mr. Waverly. It’s the damnedest thing I’ve ever seen. There is no inflammation or redness. Nothing is broken. No torn ligaments or pulled muscles. There is nothing wrong with Mr. Kuryakin’s hand, sir.” He turned to Illya. “Are you having any pain now, Agent Kuryakin?”
“That was a little taste of what’s to come, precious.” Gently, she withdrew the pins.
Illya stared at his hand, worked his fingers into a fist and then stretched them out. His hand felt just fine.
“No, doctor. It is as if there is nothing wrong at all. I had a bit of pain this morning when I first got up but even that is gone now.”
“Well then, may I suggest that you get out of bed and that you and Mr. Solo prepare for your next assignment.”
“Gladly, sir!” Kuryakin hopped off the bed. Together he and Napoleon headed for the elevator.
“I can’t tell you, Tovarisch, how much you had us worried. I’ve never seen you react in such a way. Are you sure you’re alright now?”
“Absolutely, but I am at a loss as to explain what or why that happened.” “
Here’s something a little different, love. This will teach you to tell me you don’t dance well. Without the use of your legs you’ll never be able to dance with anybody ever again.” She took an extra long pin and pierced the doll’s lower back where its spine would have been.
Just as the elevator car arrived Napoleon watched his stoic partner turn white, grab at his back and once again drop like a rock.
Napoleon tried to catch the man as he went down. “Illya! What’s wrong?”
“Nap...o...leon, I...I...cannot feel my legs! What is wrong with me?”
Solo called out for a gurney and two orderlies gently lifted the Russian onto it before wheeling him back to the examining room. The chief agent saw the terrified expression on Illya’s face and quietly held his friend’s hand trying to lend some sort of emotional support.
“Mr. Kuryakin, can you feel anything at all in your legs?”
“Please try and move your toes.”
“I cannot. Doctor what is happening?”
“I honestly don’t know, son. I’ve never seen paralyses come on so suddenly especially with no obvious sign of traumatic injury. There is nothing to indicate that you should be experiencing anything like this!” The doctor clasped his patient’s shoulder. “Hang in there, Agent Kuryakin. We’ll get to the bottom of this mystery. Mr. Solo would you mind staying with your partner while I’m gone. I have some research to do and I would like to confer with some of my colleagues.”
“Of course, doctor.”
As Dr. Burton left the room Napoleon turned his attention to Illya. It tore at him to see the fear and hopelessness in his friend’s face.
“Hey, partner. Hang in there. I’m sure that Dr. Burton and his colleagues will find an answer soon. Are you in any pain?”
“No, no pain but Napoleon I cannot move my legs! What is going to happen to me? If I can no longer function I will be sent back to the Soviet Union.” Illya stared at his folded hands. “My handlers will have no use for me. I am as good as dead.”
As she listened to the conversation by way of one of the bugs she had planted in throughout the medical unit she laughed maniacally. “Oh yes, my little Communist. I wouldn’t want you to die by the hands of your handlers...that’s my job, my sweet.
“I won’t let that happen, Illya. I don’t believe Waverly would allow it to happen either. We’ll work something out.”
For the next week, Kuryakin endured multiple blood tests, x-rays, and prodding but the doctors could find no reason for the agent’s condition. A small gathering of doctors along with Napoleon Solo and Alexander Waverly stood by Illya’s bed. “I’m sorry son, but once again, we cannot find any explanation for your condition.”
“Wait,” interjected Napoleon. “Tell me you are not implying that all of this is in his head.”
“Ahhh, but it is in his head, in the true sense of the word, Napoleon. But I can’t have him suffering for too long.” She slowly pulled the pin out of the doll’s back.
Dr. Burton sighed. “I’m not implying anything, Agent Solo. I’m simply saying that we have found no plausible cause for his paraly.....”
At that moment Illya’s leg moved. Illya stared at the appendage as if it belonged to someone else.
“Do that again, Mr. Kuryakin,” Dr. Burton commanded. And he did. Illya moved his legs at will and in every imaginable way that the doctor asked. “Mr. Kuryakin! Can you feel this?” The doctor had grabbed Illya’s left foot and poked it with his pen. The patient nodded. “And how about now?” He had grabbed the other foot. Again Illya nodded. “How do you feel?”
“Absolutely fine.” The relief in Illya’s voice was apparent to all. He even lifted his legs over the side of the bed and stood up. He was a little wobbly at first and Napoleon quickly stepped up to his side to lend him support. “I am okay, Napoleon. Really! Just a little wobbly from being in bed for so many days. Doctor, I would like to get dressed and go home. I am, understandably, anxious to get out of medical.”
“Well, I’d like to keep you here to observe you and try and figure out what caused your paralysis...”
“Ah, Dr. uh...Burton...”, Mr. Waverly interrupted, “I think this young man has had enough ‘observation’ to last him a while. Let’s allow him to go home and relax.”
Dr. Burton relented. “All right, but you must promise, Agent Kuryakin, to come right back if you have any difficulties. And I don’t want you home alone.”
“Ah, with Mr. Waverly’s permission, he can stay with me.” Napoleon looked toward his boss for nonverbal confirmation. Waverly nodded.
“Then you are free to go, Agent Kuryakin. But remember, you promise to return immediately if something else happens or you just don’t feel right.”
Illya nodded, too emotional about his recovery to speak further.
“Oh my poor dear, you have had a rough time of it haven’t you. It won’t be long sweets, it’ll soon be over.”
Napoleon pulled into the underground garage of his apartment building. As he parked the car he looked over to his partner. “A ruble for your thoughts, partner.”
Illya turned from the window and faced his best friend. “I am just extremely relieved that the paralysis is gone and my life can get back to normal, Napoleon.”
At a lost of knowing what more to say he chose to change the subject. “I bet you’re hungry! Let’s a order some Chinese food from Ping Wong’s and relax.”
When the two agents entered Napoleon’s apartment, Napoleon made the phone call to the restaurant while Illya went into the kitchen to grab some beers. As Illya walked back into the living room he handed a beer to his friend and took a swig of his before sitting on the couch. Napoleon noticed his friend to be quieter than usual. “Are you okay?”
Illya sat forward his forearms on his knees letting the bottle hang loosely from his hands. He let several moments of silence pass before speaking. “You know, Napoleon, while I am certainly relieved that I have recovered I cannot help but think about what Dr. Burton said. I know he did not come out and directly say it, but what if I am just imagining it.” He paused taking a deep breath. When he continued his voice cracked ever so slightly. “Napoleon,” he turned to look at his partner, “what if I am going crazy?”
“You are not going crazy, Illya! I don’t know what is causing this, but you are not crazy.”
“Well, I am glad you are so sure, my friend, because I am not!”
“Well you’re not really going crazy, love, but I’ll do my best to make it seem so. Just wait a few minutes, my dear. The end is soon coming.
Illya stood up and began pacing the room gesturing with his arms. “If it’s not all in my head what the hell is causing these things to happen? First my hand, then my legs. I do not understand why...”
Once again a pin, this time dipped in arsenic, `was lifted high into air and brought down with a force filled with anger. The pin pierced drawing of the doll’s heart.
Napoleon had briefly looked away to answer the door bell. Their order had arrived. Before he got to the door he realized Illya had stopped talking mid sentence. He turned to see his friend’s wild eyed look as he grabbed frantically at his chest. Napoleon ran to him in time to catch his friend as he collapsed to the floor. He lifted Illya up to lean against him as he sat down on the floor with his friend. Illya looked up and mouthed the words, “help me”, before losing consciousness.
Three somber men sat at the round table in Mr. Waverly’s office. “He has all the outward symptoms of a myocardial infarction!” Exclaimed Dr. Burton, “but..”
“Let me guess,” Solo interrupted, “there was no sign of one when you examined him.”
“I’m afraid so. Not only that, but he has all the symptoms of having been poisoned yet his blood work is negative for any substances that could cause such reactions.”
“So now what?”asked Mr. Waverly. “I can’t have my agent going in and out of these medical crises without reason!”
Dr. Burton looked down a brief second before fixing a steady gaze on Waverly. “I think it’s time sir, to admit Mr. Kuryakin into UNCLE’s psychiatric unit.”
“Now wait just a damn minute!” Solo rose out of his seat and stood threateningly over the doctor. “You know Illya as well as any of us. Hell, you’ve been his doctor for over five years. You know he is not the type to have bouts of psychosomatic illnesses. You can’t lock him up in a psych unit. That would put him over the edge. That move alone would kill the man.”
“Sit down, Mr. Solo!”
Mr. Waverly gestured at Napoleon’s seat. Napoleon reluctantly returned to his chair. Waverly turned to Dr. Burton. “Are you sure, doctor, there is nothing else we can do?”
“I’m sorry, sir, but at this time it is the only thing I can think of to help the young man.”
“But don’t you understand, doctor? It would kill Illya. He’s a proud and strong man. It would kill him!”
“Mr. Solo, it is you who doesn’t understand. You heard me say that he not only has the symptoms of a heart attack but also of being poisoned. Mr. Kuryakin IS dying. Unless we figure out what mental issue is causing these crises I can guarantee that your partner will be dead by the end of this week...if not sooner!”
Upon hearing those words she shivered with delight. Oh yes, her victim would die and die painfully. No one will ever be rejected by him again.
Napoleon opened his mouth and then shut it. The doctor was correct, he had not understood what desperate condition Illya was in. “Isn’t there anything you can do, doctor?”
“We’re doing everything we can, Mr. Solo,” he answered quietly. “Everything we can.”
Alexander Waverly’s com buzzed. He flipped a switch on the console. “Report please.”
Quietly she floated into the medical unit’s room. As she approached the bed she drew the Illya doll, poisoned pin still in its heart, from her purse and stroked it lovingly. “We could have had so much fun, my dear. We would have been so happy together, but you wouldn’t allow it to happen.” As she spoke, she became agitated stroking the doll more roughly. “Well, if I can’t have you, my sweet...” she began to shake the doll vigorously... “then no one will, not even your partner who thinks he’s God’s gift to women. He’ll be so distraught from losing his best friend he will never be able to function effectively again as an agent...and then he will die.”
“Sir, this is Agent Aston in medical observation booth 5. I’ve been keeping an eye on Agent Kuryakin’s room as you ordered. I think you need to come down, sir. Something odd is going on.”
“We’ll be right down.”
Warning bells sounded bringing doctors and nurses to Illya’s room at a full run. The Russian agent was having a full blown grand mal seizure. The doctors paid little attention to the woman from the secretarial pool standing by the bed. They merely pushed her out of the way as they assessed Kuryakin’s condition.
No one was paying attention to her as they were too focused on the emotionally bankrupt man in front of her. “He could have been mine. He should have been mine!” She raised the hat pin high into the air before bringing it swiftly down towards the doll’s head. “Die you bastard!” She screamed.
Before the pin could puncture the fabric of the doll’s head and mar the photograph of Illya Kuryakin, a hand reached out and grabbed her wrist hard arresting any further downward motion. “I’ll take that if you don’t mind, Eloise.”
Napoleon roughly wrestled Illya’s date from the past week and took the pin from her.
She screamed, “He should have been mine. We would have been perfect together.”
“I think not, Eloise.” He shoved her into a corner disgusted by what she tried to do. He held the doll in his hand, appalled by what it represented.
Gently, he laid it down on the side table by Illya’s bed. Immediately, the seizure stopped.
“It’s a voodoo doll!” Agent Aston exclaimed. “I’ve heard of them but didn’t know they really worked.
“Neither did I! Harry, take this bitch down to detention so I can interrogate her later.”
“Never!” Eloise shrieked. She abruptly pulled another doll out of her bag and drove another long pin into its head. She screamed in great pain and collapsed.
One of the doctors bent over her, checking her pulse. “She’s dead! But how?”
Napoleon retrieved the doll she had stabbed from Eloise’s lifeless fingers. It was a doll with her face, pierced by the pin directly into the middle of it’s head. “Good riddance!”
Napoleon reached for the Illya doll to pull the pins out.
“No, Napoleon! It could kill Illya!”
The warning came from one of the nurses that had recently been transferred from New Orleans. “I have relatives that practice voodoo. The doll needs to be neutralized carefully.”
“Do you know anyone who can do that, Miss ah...”
“ Cormier, sir. But yes I do. I’ll contact her immediately.”
A month later, a much improved Illya Kuryakin and his partner, Napoleon Solo drove into a secluded wooded clearing in upstate New York. Illya held a wooden box which contained the linen wrapped voodoo doll. The pin had been removed and the doll liberally sprinkled with sea salt. Napoleon carried a large carafe of Holy Water from his church. Together they walked over to a cold running brook. A small waterfall sent its swift currents over a small cliff of granite rocks.
Illya lifted the lid of the box while Napoleon slowly poured the Holy Water over the doll immersing it completely with the liquid. Illya refitted the lid, knelt down as he put the box on the ground and methodically nailed the lid down with seven galvanized nails. They found a large river rock and placed the box under it. As they stood up, Illya could feel a heavy weight lift from his shoulders. He shuddered visibly, not realizing just how burdened he had felt.
“Are you okay, Illya?” Napoleon’s concerned expression couldn’t hide the stress and worry he had for his partner over the past one and a half months.
“Never better, my friend. Never better. But I think I’ll curtail my dating schedule for a while,” he chuckled. Napoleon laughed with him.
“Well let’s get the hell out of here. It’s a long drive back to the city.” As one they turned back down the trail they had taken. They backed the car onto the road, put it in drive and never looked back. “Good riddance,” Illya mumbled under his breath. Weeks later as the shallow brook reflected the light of a full moon a river rock began to rattle and vibrate back and forth hard enough to fall away to expose a strange wooden box.