Napoleon looked up from his desk as his fuming partner approached him.
“Ah, there you are,” Napoleon said, taking note of Illya’s disposition. “Mr. Waverly wants to see us--”
“Where is my cat?”
“…What?” Napoleon asked, genuinely puzzled.
“I cannot find Baba Yaga anywhere. Where is my cat!?”
“Okay, first of all, while I do live dangerously, I don’t live that dangerously, and therefore, I would never try to steal Baba Yaga from you,” Napoleon said, getting to his feet. “Secondly, seeing as though you and she were both staying in my apartment before our landlady caught us and we moved her to the office, I’ve always considered her half my cat, as well. And lastly, but certainly not least, I am wounded that you’d think I would try to steal Baba Yaga from you.”
Illya’s expression softened.
“Forgive me, Napoleon; I did not mean to accuse you,” he said. “She is usually here, in her basket in our office, and if she isn’t here, then she is usually at the commissary. But she is not here, and I just went to the commissary; they haven’t seen her all day. I am worried…”
“Worried?” Napoleon asked.
“Today is Halloween; black cats are often poorly treated around this time due to the foolish superstitions surrounding them.” The Russian’s eyes flashed. “Mark my words, if someone has made her part of a living Halloween display on their desk, I shall be haunting them for the rest of their days. And if worse has befallen her, I swear--”
“Okay, calm down, Tovarisch,” Napoleon said. “Everyone here loves Baba Yaga; they’d never hurt her. More than likely, someone was eating something she had her eye on, and she followed them.”
“That had better be all,” Illya said, darkly.
“Let’s ask around and see if anyone’s seen her,” Napoleon said. “We need to stop in and see Mr. Waverly, too; he wanted to see us about something.”
“Perhaps you should go without me and brief me later,” Illya said, his mind clearly on his missing cat as they left the office.
Both he and Napoleon paused as they nearly bumped into Mark and April, who were looking just as concerned.
“Morning,” Mark offered. “I don’t suppose either have you have seen Featherstone?”
He was referring to the yellow and orange Camelot macaw that was often used by U.N.C.L.E. agents to transport microdots—usually stuck to his legs. Though Featherstone was used to being handled by all of the field agents and the couriers, he had taken a shine to a couple agents in particular—Napoleon and Mark, most of all.
“No, we haven’t,” Napoleon said. “In fact, we’re looking for Baba Yaga--”
“Oh, there you are!” a new voice called from down the corridor. George Dennell, followed by Mandy Stevenson, approached them now. “Has anyone seen a ferret?”
“…What?” Napoleon asked, puzzled again.
“George has developed a new remote-controlled micro-camera,” Mandy explained. “The idea was to put it on the collar of a ferret, so that the ferret could sneak into THRUSH headquarters. But the ferret George was going to test it with has gone missing; I’m helping him look for it.”
“My cat is also missing,” Illya said, frowning. “And so is Featherstone.”
“The courier parrot?” Mandy gasped.
“…This can’t be a coincidence,” April said. “I think Mr. Waverly should be informed about this!”
And so the crew of six headed to Waverly’s office—and stopped in their tracks as they saw a young, light-haired girl sitting beside Waverly at his table. Baba Yaga was purring away in her arms, Featherstone was preening himself while perched on her chair, and George’s missing ferret was scurrying nearby her on the circular tabletop.
“Ah, good morning!” Waverly said, as the agents stared in utter befuddlement. “I don’t believe you’ve had the chance to meet my granddaughter? Say hello to everyone, Blanche.”
“Hi,” the child said, looking up at them for a moment before turning her attention back to Baba Yaga.
Illya stared in slight discomfiture, seeing his cat being so chummy with a stranger.
“It’s very nice to meet her, Sir, but April and I require Featherstone’s services at the moment,” Mark said.
“And I need to test the micro-camera on the ferret…” George added.
“Blanche, my dear, didn’t I tell you that you needed to ask first?”
“They followed me!” the girl protested, as the parrot and the ferret returned to where they needed to go.
“Looks like we’ve got a six-year-old pied piper on our hands,” Napoleon mused.
“Which brings me to my reason for asking the two of you here,” Waverly said, looking to Napoleon and Illya. “I have a favor to ask of you. My granddaughter wishes to attend a Halloween party tonight, followed by some trick-or-treating, and I need a couple of chaperones for her in the event of there being any… nasty birds about.”
“You can count on us, Sir,” Napoleon said, with a nod. “Right, Tovarisch?”
“Hmm? Oh. Da,” Illya sighed, as he looked at Baba Yaga purring away.
Well… at least his cat was happy. That was the most important thing.