Alexander Waverly was losing his patience. These meeting with potential members to UNCLE were getting nowhere. There were too many unreasonable demands, too much take and not enough give.
He looked at his wristwatch, checking the time. Estelle and the children should have landed by now. The thought of seeing them soon invigorated the man and he suddenly slammed his fist on the table.
That got the immediate attention of the representatives of India, Pakistan, Turkey and Israel.
Just as he was about to speak, one of his agents entered the room and whispered something in his ear.
Waverly’s bushy eyebrows immediately rose and he cleared his throat before speaking.
“If you gentlemen will excuse me, there is something of great importance that I need to attend to. Please understand if you cannot agree upon what I asked of you then these meetings are at an end. I will expect your final answers shortly, now good evening.”
He left abruptly with his agents accompanying him.
Solo was waiting for Waverly in the Old Man’s hotel room, biting his lower lip with concern. Illya’s plane with the Waverly’s had gone off course and disappeared from radar. There was a mayday, but it was broken up and garbled. As Napoleon listened to a recording of it, he knew it was Illya’s voice.
The door burst open and in charged Waverly.
“What the devil has happened?”
“Not sure sir,” Napoleon brought him up to date. “I’ve been trying to contact Mr. Kuryakin via communicator but there’s no reply.
“Is there a signal?”
“A weak one sir.”
“Then dammit man, get a fix on it and locate them. What’s wrong with you?”
“Sir we just found out, and we’re already trying to lock in on the signal.”
“My apologies Mr. Solo, you can understand my upset in this matter.”
“Completely sir. We’re doing everything possible to locate the plane and your family,” Napoleon poured a scotch on the rocks, handing it to his boss.
Alexander accepted it as he sat in a leather armchair by the window. He took a gulp his glass before setting it down on the table beside him. Pulling his pipe and tobacco pouch from he pocket, he filled the bowl and after tamping down the tobacco he struck a match and lit up.
Smoking his pipe usually calmed his nerves, allowing him to think with a clear head, but this time it didn’t. He stared down at the Briar pipe, reminding himself it had been a gift from his wife.
“Mr. Solo please find them?”
“We will sir. They’ll be found and brought back safe and sound.” Napoleon only hoped that would truly happen.
Once supper was finished; the dishes cleared and washed, it was time for the children to be put to bed. After they’d returned from the barn with Pavel they’d been unusually quiet.
Estelle knew deep down they were afraid. Little Susan seemed most concerned about Illya, and wouldn’t go to sleep until he told her a story. She supposed that was the child’s way of making sure he was all right.
“Now dear, Mr. Kuryakin needs his bed rest as well. You know he’s not feeling well.”
Susan began to pout and seemed near to tears.
“Mrs. Waverly, I will be fine for the short time it takes to tell a bedtime story.”
“Oh, very well, but as soon as it’s done you’re off to bed as well.”
“Yes Ma’am,” he droned.
Illya was led by the little girl to her cot where her brother was already asleep, and guided to sit down on a short stool beside it.
“Promise me you will go to sleep,” he spoke to her in English. “and I will tell you the story of The Cat and the Fox.”
“I promise,” she crawled under the blankets.
“Good, now listen carefully and do not interrupt me with questions please.”
“Illya I know the rules.”
He smiled upon hearing that. “Very well, I will begin the story.”
”Once upon a time there lived a man who had a cat. The cat was such trouble, that the man was sick and tired of him. So, he decided to get rid of his cat. He put the animal in a sack, took it to the forest, and left it there.
The cat found his way out of the sack and after hours of wandering around the forest, he stumbled upon a cottage. So, he climbed up to the attic and made himself a nice place to sleep. During the day, The cat went to the forest where he hunted for birds and mice. He ate well and went back to his spot in the attic of the cottage at night.
One day Fox was passing by. She saw Cat and admired him, “What a marvelous animal! I’ve lived in this forest for many years, but never met someone quite like this!”
She bowed and asked Cat, “Tell me, fine fellow, who are you? Where did you come from? What is your name?”
Cat raised his chin and replied, “My name is Sir Cat Meowstrong. I come from Siberian forests to be a warrior in yours.”
“Oh, dear Sir Cat Meowstrong,” said Fox, “I knew nothing about you and your arrival. Please, come with me, be a guest at my house.”
Illya paused, seeing Susan was already sound asleep.
“Sweet dreams to you,” Illya whispered, brushing the child’s blonde hair from her eyes.”I will tell you the rest of the story another time.”
Estelle had been listening in, helped him to a seat by the fireplace, as Illya insisted upon joining she and Pavel for another glass of piping hot tea.
Except for Illya, the others stared at the fire, letting its hypnotic effects have its way with them, though the agent finally broke the spell by speaking up.
“Pavel you know they will find the plane by tomorrow and come looking for us and I suspect it will not be my employer. You have been most kind, but I cannot permit you to be put in danger. We will have to leave soon.”
The former priest chuckled.”And just what do you think you are going to do? You are blind.”
“Thank you for reminding me. I do not know yet.”
Pavel changed the subject. “Where are you from my son? I hear Moskva in your accent but you are not from there are you?”
“No. I was born in Kyiv but was raised in a Moskva orphanage.”
“At first I was afraid you were Secret Police but it is easy to see you are worried about KGB. Still you carry a gun and I assume you to be very capable of using it.”
“In that you are correct. I work for an organization called the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement, otherwise known as U.N.C.L.E. It is tasked to help maintain political and legal order anywhere in the world and is multinational in makeup and international in scope. We protect and defend nations regardless of size or political persuasion. I am...was, on loan to them from GRU. I took an oath to serve my new employer and KGB did not take kindly to that.”
“That seems like a very lofty thing. This Uncle does not operate here in Soviet Union I take it, and hence your concern over KGB.”
"Actually U.N.C.L.E. operates in Communist and Third World countries the same way that it does in the Western nations. As I said, KGB was not happy when I refused to spy for them, and for that reason I am a target.”
Mrs. Waverly finally rose. “Illya, please go to bed soon? I bid you both a a good night.”
As hearty a woman as she was, Estelle was still up there in years and the day’s events were finally taking a toll on her. It was time to lay down before she fell down.. She climbed in beside Susan and Thomas. Once under a blanket. she fell into a deep sleep.
“How long did you live in Kyiv my son?” Pavel spoke softly.
“I was nine years of age, living on the streets after my family was murdered by the Nazis.” For some reason Illya felt comfortable telling this man about himself; normally these were secrets he’d shared with no one except Napoleon.
“Eventually I was put in a concentration camp outside the city along with most of the other street orphans, none of whom survive. I escaped when I was ten. Had it not been for the Red Army rescuing me from starvation when they retook Kyiv, I would have died.” *
“Thank you for sharing this with me Illya. I am sure it is not easy to speak of such things to others.”
“No it is not. I do not wish to be pitied as that is what people will think…’they would feel sorry for me thinking I had such a terrible life.
“Pity is not such a bad thing Illya. It shows people care.”
“Oh really? Pity is insulting. It is like offering the gift of sight to people who have 20/20 vision.” Considering he was blind as a bat, he didn’t hesitate giving that as an example.
“People never want to get to know me. If they knew my story, I would be that ‘poor man’ to them. The true me would never matter to them, only the superficial me, the sad one. I would be nothing but a charity case to them, as they would be kind to me merely to make themselves feel better.”
“Illya you are quite bitter for one so young. Life is too short to let yourself live like that. You should let it go.” Pavel suddenly quoted from the bible.
“When I was a child, I was speaking as a child, I was led as a child, I was thinking as a child, but when I became a man, I ceased these childish things. this is what you should do my son. You should not concern yourself with what others might think of you, knowing your past.”
“Thank you Father Pavel, I will keep that in mind. Now if you could please show me back to my bed as I am quite fatigued.”
“Remove anger from thy heart, and put away evil from thy flesh.” Pavel responded.
“...for childhood and youth are vanity,” Illya finished the quote.
“Ahhh so you have read the bible.”
“It is merely a book,” Illya said as he climbed into his bed. He pulled the covers up and rolled to his side, turning his back to Pavel as the man got in the bed beside him.
“Good night Illyusha,” the priest whispered.
“Good night...Father Pavel.” Illya said from beneath the blanket. “Sleep well”
“And you my son.”