"I once knew a woman who looked just like her." The statue he referred to could have reminded him of someone, and Napoleon grinned in spite of himself; he was lying of course, but it brought a smirk to his partner's face that revived hope of a less tense atmosphere.
"I know what you're attempting to do my friend, and I appreciate it in spite of its obvious flaws." Napoleon nodded his head agreeably, noting that Illya had exhaled at last.
"Being here isn't necessarily a bad thing, lllya. Perhaps Mr. Waverly merely wanted our opinion of his gardens.' Illya raised an eyebrow in obvious doubt of that conjecture.
"Or maybe we've been included in lunch plans…" That line of reasoning was interrupted by the appearance of Mrs. Waverly's secretary, Eloise Pierce. She was an attractive woman, fifty-ish was Napoleon's guess. Her entrance stopped him from continuing on.
"Gentlemen, Mr. and Mrs. Waverly will see you now." The two agents exchanged looks that questioned the presence of both of the Waverlys. If she were to be present, then perhaps it wasn't as dire as they had originally thought. Normally an invitation to the Waverly residence indicated a subject that was too much of whatever it was (if that rationale could be followed), for Headquarters. Come to think of it, no one had ever confirmed those suspicions, and as Miss Pierce led Solo and Kuryakin from the library that overlooked the previously mentioned gardens, they each had a distinct impression of something not quite as bad as had been thought.
Sitting at a table in what one could only surmise was the breakfast room, Constance Waverly gestured with a wave that they should join her and Alexander. Still a very pretty woman as she neared seventy, Constance or Connie, as her husband called her, filled the room with even more sunshine than it already possessed at this hour of the morning. Perhaps she was his secret, the reason why Alexander Waverly was so vigilant at trying to save the world.
"Gentlemen, please…' Once more she waved her hand, this time indicating the chairs in which Napoleon and Illya should sit.
"I am so pleased that you could join us this morning. Alexander has no doubt neglected to inform you why." She posed it like a question but they understood it to be a statement of fact. He had not enlightened them as to the nature of their visit to his home.
"No, I can see it on your faces. Well, I shall tell you then. Alexander and I are intending to fly to the Bahamas for a week and, as is our habit during these holidays of ours, we take along a security detail. Normally Section III gets the call, but this time…' Connie looked at her husband who had remained content to leave this bit of talking to his wife. As if on cue, he took up the narrative.
"Ahem… yes, well… you see Mr. Solo, Mr. Kuryakin… I, or rather we, have decided to take the two of you along with us this year. At present there is not any mission on the docket that will require your participation, although should something arise while we are on holiday…" Constance poo-pooed the suggestion of trouble.
"Yes, quite, although hopefully we shall all have a delightful time and not be bothered at all by THRUSH or anyone else. How does that sound to you?" She looked from one to the other, Napoleon's smile appearing quite willingly while Illya took time to disassemble the content before putting it back together again as a welcome respite from the rigors of enforcement.
"I for one think it sounds like a wonderful idea, right Illya?" All eyes were on the blond as he responded, although he thought Mr. Waverly had a peculiar expression on his face.
"Yes, it sounds like a very generous offer; thank you. Mr. Waverly, is there something else?" Ah, the Russian would ferret out his misgivings. Alexander did not want his wife to know of it, however, and excused himself and his agents to go over some of the details.
"Will you please excuse us my dear? I should like to go over some things with Mr. Solo and Mr. Kuryakin." Constance blew her husband a kiss and waved them all away as a maid poured more coffee. Down the hall and inside the library, Alexander Waverly offered further details about this trip to the Bahamas.
"Gentlemen, you may have already discerned that there is more involved here than a pleasurable holiday. In truth I will be meeting with the envoy of a potential new member nation. Constance is not aware of this as of yet, but she will be. She would insist that we not cancel this trip, but I am positive that you can understand why I want the two of you there with us… with me. We will be joined there by agents Slate and Dancer as well as a half dozen Section III agents. This is no small event, I assure you, and I am taking every precaution to insure that everyone involved is safe and well."
Napoleon and Illya took all of it in, adjusting their assessments of the details from a holiday to a political meeting with the possibility of trouble. It was business as usual it seemed.
Well, maybe not usual, but most assuredly it would be business.
The traveling party from New York flew into Nassau's International Airport under a grey sky. Constance Waverly was not pleased with the unwelcoming weather and said as much to her husband.
"I depend on these holidays to cheer me, Alexander. I am very disappointed to be greeted with grey skies and ominous looking clouds overhead." Alexander petted her hand consolingly.
"My dear, if I could manipulate the weather the same way I manage my staff then, rest assured, you would have sunshine today and everyday." Constance looked into the steely grey eyes, still bright with mischief and full of love for his wife of forty years.
"Alexander my love, I have no doubt that you would move heaven and earth for me. I will settle for dinner in our room and a good night's rest." With that she determined to not say another negative word about this trip. The primary thing was that they were away from New York and, even with a schedule of meetings that he had warned her about, Constance was confident that Alexander would do his best to make this holiday memorable for them.
Napoleon was seated next to April with Mark and Illya across the aisle from them. As they prepared for landing the four agents also observed the elderly couple at the front of the plane as they bowed their heads together in conversation.
"I wonder what they talk about. Do you think he tells her about UNCLE business when the day is done?" April liked to think that the two were, in all aspects, partners.
"I don't know, maybe. Is that what you'd like, someone who can share secrets with you and then …" He didn't finish. Somehow that line of thought might be misconstrued as inappropriate. It was, and he was immediately sorry he'd said it.
"Napoleon, really?" Illya heard April's voice as it reached a higher note than usual, and wondered at the content of their conversation. Turning to Mark he asked if he'd ever been to the Bahamas before; it was a popular holiday spot for the British, both the familiar and exotic in one location.
"I was here in sixty-five when the Beatles were filming that movie, um… Help." Illya raised an eyebrow.
"With what?" Mark's brow furrowed and then he laughed.
"Help. That's the name of the movie. I happened to be here and was called in to sort of be a bit of security around the lads. All of those screaming birds you know." Illya nodded knowingly.
"Ah, more birds… of a different feather than we normally encounter." Mark had to laugh at that, although watching Napoleon and April, it occurred to him that their CEA did very well among the former category of birds as well as the THRUSH variety.
When the plane finally pulled to a stop on the tarmac, the UNCLE entourage began preparations to disembark. Traveling on the UNCLE jet was a pleasure compared to the usually cramped conditions of a commercial liner. The Section III contingency would be responsible for the additional luggage beyond individual carry-ons and briefcases. They were also going to be serving as bodyguards during this visit and the subsequent meetings with the head of the emerging nation seeking membership with the Command.
The first order of business was the trip to the hotel, an exclusive establishment known only to a few with money and power enough to be considered for inclusion in its client list. The head of UNCLE Northwest was among those and his request for accommodations for his entire group of personnel was met with exceeding grace and enthusiasm.
Illya was quick to notice the upscale arrangements and the location on what appeared to be a private beach. April was impressed with the view while Napoleon and Mark remarked on the added inconvenience of having not one but two approaches to the sprawling estate on which the hotel had been built.
The main house had been the residence of a 19th century industrialist whose love of the island had inspired him to build a cottage reminiscent of those in the Newport, Rhode Island strand of homey estates. The term cottage was used to describe the summer homes of the wealthy, mansions that rivaled the great homes of Europe but in the American vernacular of privileged humility referred to in a way designating them as something other than a year round residence. The Russian agent scowled at the obvious folly of attempting to conceal conspicuous consumption with mere language.
The party of travelers from New York would be staying in the grandiose home that was the main attraction at this island retreat. The rest of the compound were a series of bungalows, some built as single units while others had multiple combinations that allowed for two or three separate reservations.
"I find it distasteful to think of the lives needed to support a lifestyle such as this home represents. I may not sleep well within these walls."
Napoleon made a face that April found funny, her own opinion of the sumptuous environment slightly more favorable.
"I imagine they'd be happy to put a cot out on the sand for you Illya. I mean, there's always a way to avoid being taken in by all of this …" She spread her arms out and then winked at the sullen blond.
"Oh, Illya won't mind sleeping in a good bed, he just feels duty bound to complain about the money being spent and the fate of those who serve." Illya made his own face at that.
It took only a few minutes to designate rooms and assignments. Mrs. Waverly intended to change clothes before lunch; that meal was being prepared in the house's state of the art kitchen and would be served in the dining room. Everyone was expected for lunch, and although her preference would have been to eat outdoors, the approaching storm was forcing them all indoors.
Mr. Waverly called his agents together for a briefing in the upstairs study, a smaller version of the large library on the main floor.
"All of this marble is going to be murder in heels. I think my tennis shoes are going to get more service than I anticipated."
The floors were all highly polished Italian marble, brought over on ships and labored over by the finest craftsmen of their day. No expense was spared in the construction of Longmire, the name chosen by that long ago industrialist.
"I believe the appropriate attire for this mission will be casual rather than business. Of course I'm not sure what that means for you April." Napoleon winked at the relentlessly enthusiastic Miss Dancer; she had brought enough clothes for a month of vacations and was confident she could pull off island casual without any trouble at all.
Mark had remained mostly quiet during all of the 'moving in' procedures. Now as they all waited for their briefing to begin, April moved in a little closer and nudged her partner, smiling at him and hoping to cajole a little more conversation out of him.
"What's up Slate? You haven't said ten words since we arrived. Are you having a Kuryakin moment among all of this grandeur?" April brought out the best in Mark, he couldn't resist her good humor.
"No, just … well it is rather grand now, isn't it? I understand Illya's discomfort though, all of this money poured into a home that was only used for part of the year. No wonder we have people like THRUSH, they want a piece of this, to live like this and act like kings."
April considered that, wondered what it would be like to have survived the London Blitz, or the horror of the German invasion of your homeland. Mark and Illya had very different views of the world because of what they had lived through as children, she really didn't have a clue about what the world must look like to them.
Napoleon sat down next to Mark, followed by Illya. The four of them were the only Section II agents on the island, and their jobs would be to protect the Waverlys and make certain that the meeting was not interrupted or threatened in any way.
It would be easier said than done.
The second day in the Bahamas started out with sunny skies and a brisk breeze coming in from the Atlantic. Breakfast was served on the large portico in a section bordered by a high hedge of brightly hued bougainvillea. It formed a natural wall against the incoming winds that were part of coastal living.
The large table seated eight, but on this morning it would be the Waverlys and their four Section II agents. Louis Sterns and Rahjesh Bhatt, the men from Section III, were considered on duty and maintaining security around the house. Their breakfast had been at a slightly earlier hour.
Sitting down around the fully laden table, each person admired the array of fresh fruit that accompanied the Eggs Benedict being ladled onto each plate. In spite of any misgivings about conspicuous consumption, the Russian among them had decided to not eat would be a foolish form of protest and entirely too wasteful for his socialist aesthetic.
Constance Waverly delighted in entertaining, and her husband’s corps of agents was no exception in her pursuit of the title hostess. She especially enjoyed having such charming company here and was particularly fond of Mr. Solo. This was a man who knew how to charm and cajole, making the best of a situation and putting everyone at ease. The young woman, Miss Dancer, she found very attractive and wondered if her British partner, Mr. Slate, wasn’t inclined to think so as well.
Mr. Kuryakin... now he was a puzzle. Handsome in a boyish way that reminded her of a younger brother who had not survived the influenza epidemic; that was the reason she had a lump in her throat when he was present, or perhaps not. Mr. Kuryakin sometimes looked as though he bore the weight of the world. She wondered if that were possible.
The conversation was light and breezy, much like the morning itself. Mr. Waverly did not want to discuss UNCLE business in front of his wife, she was here on holiday and he intended to keep her mind free of anything related to his work. She worried about him, and in this place he was determined that she should be free of that.
In spite of all good intentions to remain free of work related conversation, after the plates had been cleared and all that remained was a pitcher of fresh orange juice, Napoleon’s communicator began to warble. He excused himself and rose from the table, followed by Illya.
“Mr. Solo, this is Louis, and we have been notified of a big problem just up the coast. A wreck has washed ashore, and first reports indicate that it belongs to the party of representatives that were to meet with Mr. Waverly.”
Napoleon let out an involuntary sigh at the news. Illya had anticipated trouble, it seemed inevitable if past experience were any indication, and it usually was.
“Okay Louis, are there any other details you can tell me?” Dread accompanied that statement. No doubt there would signs of THRUSH involvement in this.
“Uh, yeah. Napoleon, it looks like there was an explosion of some sort. Two bodies have been found so far; it’s almost as though they were blown off the boat.”
Mr. Waverly was not going to be pleased, he had spent considerable time in preparation of this meeting; safeguards had been in place. Apparently not enough.
“Louis, try to keep a lid on this, turn away anyone who isn’t Bahamian law enforcement. We’ll need a team up here ASAP to start going over that boat for any clues as to what caused this. I imagine there will be some signature elements that will lead us straight to THRUSH Central.”
“Will do Napoleon. I’ll keep you posted on anything that comes up here.”
“Thanks Louis. Solo out.”
Napoleon and Illya looked at each other with the resigned expressions of men who were accustomed to wading into the thick of battle.
“I suppose this means our holiday is now officially over.” Illya was now relieved of his uncomfortable position as a guest of the great house. Work would supplant the Russian’s sojourn as a member of the elitists who inhabited such gratuitous splendor. Napoleon thought he caught a glimmer of relief from his partner.
“Is that a twinkle in your eye, tovarisch?
“I wouldn’t call it relief, but I would rather be working than assuming the life of one who actually needs servants in order to live comfortably. I mean no harm, it is just not my preference.” He made no apologies for standing apart from the bourgeoisie, not here nor anywhere else he might find himself.
Napoleon nodded appreciatively. You could not accuse Kuryakin of trying to blend in on everything, certainly not when it came to personal convictions.
‘‘I suppose we need to inform Mr. Waverly in private; no doubt he will want to spare Mrs. Waverly the anxiety of knowing THRUSH is most probably close by.”
The two men walked back to the table where the Waverlys, Mark and April were still seated. As if on cue, Constance excused herself and made her way back into the house. She had been married to Alexander far too long to not recognize when there was work to be done, conversations to be carried on in private.
All eyes were on Napoleon now as he explained the conversation with Louis Sterns, the probability of an attack on the boat transporting the delegation from their hotel down to this location. Alexander Waverly let the news sink in, his furrowed face looking older than it had during the carefree conversations of just an hour ago.
“Are there no survivors? This is a blow to our relations with Ingara. They were seeking inclusion and protection, something they will now have no confidence in, seeing as how THRUSH has most probably perpetrated this atrocity within mere miles of our own location. We have failed them most miserably.”
That felt like a reprimand to the four agents seated at the table. Should they have been more diligent, sent more men or even gone themselves? Where were the security personnel that should have been safeguarding the Ingara delegation?
“Did the security detail accompany the delegates on that boat?” Illya was beginning to wonder about the motive behind this attack. Perhaps it wasn’t as clear cut as might be at first surmised.
Napoleon looked up, suddenly interested in where this line of reasoning might be going.
“Let me have Agent Bhatt check into that. He speaks the language and will be the most effective in getting a story out of the people involved.” Napoleon opened his communicator and set the course of action in motion. In the meantime, all four agents agreed that Mr. Waverly needed to be sequestered until they were certain of his safety; perhaps this attack might be intended to divert attention away from the head of UNCLE.
“Sir, I believe it is not unreasonable to have at least two additional teams of agents fly in today and join us. You and Mrs. Waverly may also be targets.” Napoleon was unwilling to put his boss at risk unnecessarily, and he felt certain that the Old Man would never put his wife in harm’s way.
“Very well Mr. Solo, I’m placing this entire scenario in your hands. I expect regular reports on your progress.”
That was it, and Napoleon Solo was ready for the task.
It was an hour later when the four UNCLE agents found themselves looking at the remains of the Ingara delegation’s vessel. The boat was shattered, a mere shell of what had once been an impressive thirty foot boat. The wreck had washed ashore with no signs of life, no bodies; only prior knowledge of its occupants could verify that there had been any.
Illya had arrived prepared for the task dressed in shorts and tee shirt. He removed his canvas deck shoes and waded out to the far side of the wreck in order to get a better look. Approaching from the port side, he launched himself over the railing that was still hanging on as though with some real purpose, and landed precariously on what was left of the stern. His partner yelled from the water’s edge.
“Be careful Illya, it looks pretty unstable to me.” Napoleon was a sailor, and it saddened him now to see what had befallen this very fine craft. It wasn’t the same type of boat as his own, but it was a waste of craftsmanship that struck a sentimental chord in the CEA.
Illya was moving carefully, his usual catlike agility useful once more as he maneuvered past gashes beneath and on all sides. The damage was irreversible, the method less obvious.
“I don’t see what caused this. An explosion seems likely, but it will take some time to locate the source. Normally there would be very little left of the boat, certainly not enough to wash ashore in this condition.”
The Russian’s blond head ducked into the remains of the cabin, and then was followed by his body as he began searching for anything that might indicate the nature of the catastrophe. April was watching, anxious about Illya’s safety and equally so about who might be watching all of their movements. Someone had done this, and that someone was probably close by.
Illya reappeared, making his way around the starboard side. Still he found nothing conclusive, causing his natural curiosity to jump into yet another gear as he intensified his search. It seemed as though the damage had actually blown in on the boat rather than out, as it would with a normal explosive device. Thoughts began to formulate about something that would create an implosion rather than an explosion. But, if that were the case, how had the bodies been thrown overboard?
Illya circled the perimeter as best he could until he reached a spot that was impassable. He threw his legs over the rail and jumped into the water as he neared the bow, disappearing from view.
“Where is he? Why is it taking so long?” April was worried, and without thinking about possible dangers began to wade into the water towards the crippled boat.
“April! April, give him a minute. He’s fine...’ Napoleon hoped his partner was fine, the man could swim like a fish.
“He probably just found something to investigate.” Almost like a period to that sentence, Illya appeared and walked in out of the cerulean blue water. He was holding something in his hand.
Napoleon heard April’s sigh of relief and wondered once again just what exactly had gone on between his partner and Miss Dancer. Mark was wading out to meet Illya and took the item when it was offered to him, commenting as he turned it over in his hand.
“What do you think it is Illya? Did this blow up the boat?” The questions would be answered, but it might take a while. Illya was breathing deeply after holding his breath underwater.
“Illya, what did you find?’ Napoleon reached out for it, his fingers running over the serrated edges. “What is it?”
Illya turned to look back at the wreck, then around again at the other three.
“I’m not sure, but it doesn’t belong on the hull of that boat. It was stuck, those edges were holding it in place.” Illya proceeded to try and explain what he had found and to share the theory he was developing.
“I think that this … device, for lack of a better word, caused an implosion and created this.’ He pointed towards the wreck. “I do not know how it worked, but perhaps the labs can decipher the mechanics of it.’’
A Section III agent walked up to the quartet, a box in his hands into which Illya placed the spiney orb. Orders were given concerning its transport and a reiteration of the need for extra security, and extra diligence during the journey back to New York.
Napoleon gave some directions to the divers who would report to agent Bhatt. He decided that the best course of action now was to return to the estate and make certain Mr. and Mrs. Waverly were safe; New York would be the safest location for them now.
The Ingara delegation had been made up of three representatives from the provinces of that country, as well as the Secretary of Finance. The group was intended as a voice for the government of the small nation as it sought out the solidarity found within UNCLE’s framework of nations. If THRUSH could gain control of Ingara it was probable that they would also make a move on the two countries at its borders. This act of terrorism against the delegation was a clear sign of the Hierarchy’s intentions, and a warning to UNCLE that violence would touch anyone who interfered.
This meeting in the Bahamas was a mere formality as far as Alexander Waverly was concerned. UNCLE was already committed to Ingara, and regardless of whatever misgivings might arise from this event, Waverly was determined that THRUSH would not undermine the fledgling nation’s attempt to align itself with his organization.
As the car carrying the top four agents from UNCLE Northwest turned into the large estate that was serving as the Waverly’s Bahamian retreat, a pair of THRUSH’s best had them in view through powerful binoculars.
“If they bring out Waverly we’ll be ready. He’s our target, but everyone else is fair game in order to get to him.” Herman Capp wanted to retire from the job he’d had for twenty years, and he didn’t want it to be an ‘official’ THRUSH retirement; kill Waverly and he’d likely get a pass on the usual treatment.
The man with Capp was younger, more zealous than the older operative. If Jason Miller got his chance he’d take out the entire entourage of UNCLE agents. He had plans for advancement, not retirement, and this was his ticket to the top. Miller had made it clear that his was a rising star.
“Sonny boy, you need to reign it in. We’re not here to advance our careers, we’re here to take out UNCLE’s top man. If they reward us for it, that’s fine too. Just don’t get ahead of the plan.”
Miller scowled at his older companion. He hated it when the oldtimers tried to tell him what to do.
‘‘Yeah, yeah, fine… just don’t be surprised if I end up as your boss old man.” Herman Capp filed that remark away, he’d deal with Miller if the need arose.
Napoleon had called ahead and spoken with Mr. Waverly, relating to him all that they had ascertained from the wreckage, along with Illya’s conjecture about the implosion. It was something new in the THRUSH arsenal of weapons, but Waverly was confident his labs would figure it out, find a way to combat this threat.
Napoleon glanced out the window as Illya pulled into the long drive in front of the beautiful house where they were all staying. There was a change in plans and he was assimilating the necessary precautions for carrying them out.
“Mr. Waverly and Constance, Mrs. Waverly, are heading back to New York. He is very concerned that THRUSH may launch an attack and …” April was quick to pick up on what came next.
“He expects an attack here?” Everyone’s attention was riveted on Napoleon now.
“Yes, he expects it. He also thinks THRUSH already knows where we are, there has been some chatter, intel seems to confirm it. Mr. Waverly has their things ready to go, they will be meeting us and we’ll transfer to the limo immediately.”
“Is there going to be an UNCLE presence remaining here?” April assumed that agents Bhatt and Sterns would remain to oversee the clean-up, so there remained little else to do. The Ingara mission was over, all communications would resume in New York.
Napoleon nodded in response to April’s question just as they pulled up in front of the entrance. Mark got out and took his place behind the wheel of the limousine in which they would travel to Nassau. Everyone’s luggage was already loaded into the trunk of the big Lincoln, and Constance Waverly was smiling as she emerged from the big house. Her husband trailed behind, his communicator in his hand as he gave some final directives to his men.
“Mrs. Waverly...’ Napoleon held out his hand to assist her as she descended the steps, then turned away when Mr. Waverly called to him. Illya was at her side to help her in when shots were fired. Napoleon fell down on top of Waverly as April took aim at a glint of light from a spot in the distance. Concrete shattered from the bullet striking a large planter as Constance was pushed into the limo by Illya who then turned to shoot at whatever he could determine was shooting at them. Napoleon got Mr. Waverly into the back seat and was climbing in after him when he saw Illya recoil, as though from being shot.
“Are you hit?’’
“I’m fine, get in!” He shouted at his partner and turned towards the opening, falling in and landing hard against Mrs. Waverly. April, sitting in the front next to her partner, gave Mark the signal to step on the gas and get out quickly.
Constance was aware of Mr. Kuryakin’s weight against her, so much so that she placed her hand on his chest to help him sit upright. When she felt something wet beneath her fingers she gasped aloud at the realization of what had happened.
“What is it Constance? What…?” Waverly saw it then, as did Napoleon.
Illya was barely conscious, the pain of his wound battling with blood loss. He mumbled something in an effort to keep the intruding hands from invading his body. Too many voices, too many hands…
“Vy poluchite strelkov ?” Illya’s question was punctuated by labored breathing.
“What did he say? O Alexander, he’s still bleeding…” Constance was alarmed in spite of her familiarity with the danger inherent in the lives of these agents. To be faced with it, like this…
“He asked if we got the other THRUSH shooters. Da Illya… Can you hear me? Illya!” April was trying to keep calm, but she was fearing the worst based on all of the blood she saw.
“Here, help me …” Constance motioned for Napoleon to help position Illya’s body, laying his head in her lap as she continued to hold her hand against the wound. “Give me that scarf.” Barking out orders now like the wife of Alexander Waverly might be expected to do, she pointed at her silk scarf as Napoleon followed the line of sight she presented.
“Mr. Slate, get us to Nassau as quickly as possible.’ Waverly turned to his wife. “Constance, he’s young and he’s strong.” Mrs. Waverly’s concern was not assuaged by her husband’s reassurances. Illya’s color was gone now, his breathing increasingly labored, and he was still bleeding.
“Youth doesn’t stop bullets Alexander.” She bit back a sob as her hand held tight against the wound; her eyes sought out some sign of life in the Russian. Napoleon was concerned as well, but his duty now was to protect Mr. and Mrs. Waverly. He thought they had eliminated the snipers, but with THRUSH you never let your guard down. The road to Nassau might be like a minefield.
Jason Miller had avoided being shot to death, unlike his fellow THRUSH, Mr. Capp. The prime objective now was to catch the big Lincoln limousine and kill the occupants, all of them. Picking up his own and Capp’s rifles, Jason jumped onto the motorcycle that waited for him and gunned the engine to life. He figured he could easily catch the limo before it reached Nassau, and set about to do just that, his lust for Waverly’s blood now energizing his actions.
In the limo everyone was concentrating on Illya and the road ahead. Mark drove the big limo, careening and speeding, like a formula 1 race car. Illya was still breathing but the wound was severe, his head still cradled in the lap of Constance Waverly as she smoothed his hair and prayed silently that the young Russian might live. Napoleon watched helplessly from his seat next to Mr. Waverly, his heart in conflict with the fear that this time Illya might not survive.
Mrs. Waverly, although concerned with Illya, was not unaware of the rest of the passengers in the limo. She had been observing Mr. Solo when it occurred to her that he seemed a little off.
“Mr. Solo, are you bleeding?” The question took Napoleon by surprise, he hadn’t been aware of being hit…
“I don’t think so, do you…?” He reached up and felt at a spot on his neck that was stinging slightly. When he looked at his hand there was blood.
“I… I wasn’t shot.’ Then he remembered the shattering of the giant pots on the steps to the big house.
“Concrete. I must have been hit by the exploding planters. I’m fine Mrs. Waverly, really. I’m sorry if it startled you.”
Constance could only shake her head. The man was bleeding and apologizing for it. These men and women were remarkable.
Without warning Mark felt the car shake. He put everything he had into holding it on the road but a pair of bullets had blown out two tires. The limo went into a spin and then hit a palm tree, coming to a stop as it slammed against a big rock and skidded onto the sand. The occupants held onto whatever they could, Napoleon throwing his body over Mr. Waverly’s in an attempt to save him at all costs.
From a distance Jason Miller viewed the result of his work, certain that he would easily overcome those inside when he arrived at the crash site. As his bike pulled up beside the limo he strained to see past the tinted windows, and with the brashness reserved for the truly uninitiated he pulled open the front passenger door with his rifle ready to finish the job.
April Dancer was dazed momentarily by what happened to them but she saw Miller as he approached. Waiting to see what the assassin would do next, she was fully prepared for him when the door swung open. The impact was swift and lethal when she shot him, the result final.
“Do you think he’s alone?” Her question was for whoever could answer. Mark had banged his head against the window but seemed all right, no blood was visible.
“How is everyone? Mr. Waverly?” Napoleon was checking his own body, looking closely at Waverly, Constance…
“Illya! April, how’s your communicator? We need that helicopter to come to our location.” Napoleon was helping Mrs. Waverly to sit up, and helped her to the other side of the limo to sit next to her husband. He gathered up his partner who had fallen onto the floor, a lifeless form whose chest was now a mass of bloody cloth.
“Illya, can you hear me?” A groan, recognition or pain, but it indicated life and for that Napoleon was grateful.
“Napoleon, the copter is on its way, twenty minutes out.” No one spoke for several minutes as the trauma of the crash began to sink in. Everyone had survived, the shooter was dead…
“He’s going to make it Napoleon. He has to.” April couldn’t break down, couldn’t cry and betray everything Illya had become for her. Even if they weren’t still involved, she knew her life would be altered forever should he die; she didn’t think she would be able to withstand the grief of it.
Mark got out of the car and did a scouting expedition of the area. There was virtually no traffic on this road and right now it was completely empty. In addition to the call for a helicopter, a team had been dispatched to the estate to search for any other THRUSH who might still be near or on the premises. Alexander Waverly would have an accounting for this, both for the sake of his wife’s safety, and the life of his operative. Kuryakin had taken a bullet while protecting Constance, and he would not be viewed as expendable… not today.
As Alexander held his wife near to him, Napoleon did what he could to help make Illya comfortable. The bleeding had started again, no doubt due to being thrown to the floor. Mark and April were standing guard outside the vehicle, not speaking of this near tragedy. Illya would live, tragedy would be averted once again.
Not a minute too soon the helicopter came into view, blowing sand and sending palm fronds fluttering as it lowered onto an open patch of beach. A medic was onboard and he was shown to the patient immediately, his actions now all that lay between Illya living or dying here on this lonely stretch of road. Once stabilized as much as possible, the men carried the stricken agent to the helicopter, followed by Mr. and Mrs. Waverly.
“Sir, you and Mrs. Waverly will be met by a pair of Section III agents at the airport. The UNCLE jet is standing ready.” Napoleon had the details already, and was anxious to get his boss back to New York. The lure of a luxury working vacation had long since lost its appeal; Illya was near death and he was unwilling to leave this island until the Russian was beyond the grasp of eternity.
“Very well Mr. Solo. I shall see you all back in New York. I intend to get to the bottom of these events as I deal with the Ingara situation.”
Napoleon, Mark and April watched the helicopter rise and head back to Nassau. It was difficult to not be with his partner, but the CEA knew Illya was in good hands. The wait would be used to discuss the events of the past few days, anticipate what might come next.
It was two days before Illya awoke from a deep sleep engineered by drugs and the seriousness of his wound. Intubated and restrained lest he try and pull the breathing tube out, the blond was rumpled and agitated by his situation. When at last the tube was removed he drank down some water and found himself without a voice. Russian diatribes were less threatening when muffled, something that would last for a couple of weeks at least.
Napoleon was close by, and had been waiting for his partner to wake up after being assured he would live. While the bullet had done some damage the surgery to repair the wounded agent was completely successful. The three agents who weren’t hospitalized had celebrated the news with an evening food and drink, the latter as much to quiet remaining apprehensions and settle their nerves.
Back in New York, Mr. Waverly had successfully completed his business with Ingara, dispatching a contingency of operatives who joined forces with that nation’s military to put down the THRUSH threat and help to initiate free elections for the fledgling country. UNCLE would stand with them now, much to everyone’s relief and gratitude.
Mr. Waverly summoned Solo and Mark Slate back to New York in order to take on an assignment that would have normally included Illya. April was left to escort the Russian back aboard the UNCLE jet, sent to fetch the recuperating agent. Aboard the jet, they settled into their seats, glad to be returning home and relieved to be doing so in one piece, more or less.
“Don’t say it, please. I know you were afraid for me, but it ‘s over now. I am fine, well except for my voice.” He croaked out his words, still struggling to avoid clearing his throat and further irritating it.
“I know you are darling. I was only going to say that, if you need me to I will come and stay with you, until you’re completely well.” April knew what that might lead to, and after this very close call she wondered if perhaps she needed to be with Illya, to watch over him and make certain he was safe. If she were honest with herself, she wasn’t completely over her Russian.
“Do you think that would be wise April? I mean...’ Illya stopped, it was too much effort to speak. Instead he shrugged his shoulders as if it to say it was up to her. He was still tired from his ordeal, and having April close by … It would be nice.
April leaned over and kissed him, conveying to him that the topic was settled. Now all he needed was to be well enough to thank her.