It was a stunning view of the city beyond, bright lights and a vague outline of the coastline. The view up close was equally stunning to Napoleon, and as she came closer he realized that her movements were becoming more seductive with each step.
“Napoleon, why must you put me in this situation? You know I adore you, but this silly business of being an agent for the U.N.C.L.E. has put a damper on my ardor.”
Napoleon considered that, but he gave in only to his amusement at her having spelled out the acronym for his organization. He always wondered at people doing that.
“Vanessa my love, why should we be bothered with little details like the people we work for? I’m quite certain I can make you forget your allegiance to THRUSH if you’ll just give me… oh, say the rest of the evening.” She sighed, a sound that Napoleon was accustomed to. He seemed to have that effect on women.
“Seriously, darling … I’m afraid this time we must say goodbye … forever.” And with that she raised the arm that held her dainty little pistol with the mother of pearl inlay, smiling sweetly as she aimed it at the man of her dreams. Well, one of her dreams. Truth be told, she was equally smitten with the Russian, although he had never given her any indication that the attraction was mutual.
The blond was actually no longer a problem, her trusted henchman Andrews had seen to that. Now it was simply a matter of doing away with Napoleon, much as it pained the lovely THRUSH vixen.
Vanessa regained her sense of duty and tensed her trigger finger, pulling ever so slightly against the hard metal. As the noise of her gun firing filled the space on the terrace, Napoleon winced at the probable impact, anticipating it but unable to avoid it.
Instead of the dreaded outcome, Solo looked up to see Vanessa fall to the floor, a pool of blood forming beneath her voluptuous form. Illya stood in the doorway, his suit ravaged from the near drowning he had endured at the hands of Andrews, late in the employ of THRUSH.
It was impossible to ignore how close it had been, but Napoleon triumphed over the near tragedy of his own death with an expected quip to his Russian partner.
“Cutting it a little close, don’t you think?”
Illya had begun walking towards Solo, who remained tied to one of the pillars that supported a light filled roof on this elegant balcony. He stopped to examine the body of Vanessa Gilbane. What a pity. Napoleon watched as the blond moved, his familiarity with his partner keen enough to note that the man was wounded in some way, beyond having been simply roughed up.
“Hey, you better cut me lose before you pass out, tovarisch. You don’t look too good.” It was a glibness peppered with concern; Illya really did look as though he was ready to drop any minute. The blond managed to walk across the expanse of the large outdoor room, reaching his partner with a wheezing sound as accompaniment. Illya’s hands were shaking, something he had controlled well enough to shoot Napoleon’s would-be assassin.
“What happened to you, Illya? Vanessa said you were dead.” That produced a small smile as he successfully cut the ropes that bound Solo. When he was done with the task, the Russian sank to his knees, no longer able to support himself by sheer will power.
“Illya! Illya, don’t quit on me now, partner.” Napoleon managed to drag his friend to a sofa that was flanked by matching torchiere lamps and a mass of large pillows. The irony of being surrounded by so much luxury while death was being doled out… Napoleon sighed in resignation to the absurdity of his calling. No, it wasn’t the calling, it was the people who made it necessary.
Kuryakin was out cold. His clothing was damp, and Napoleon surmised that he had been in water, possibly survived drowning by the looks of it. On closer inspection Napoleon found that Illya had also been stabbed; he recalled seeing Andrews with a large blade in his belt. Now the assumption was made that he had died by it, and by his partner’s hand.
“Oh Illya. You do manage to get yourself into the deep end, don’t you?” Satisfied that the Russian wasn’t going to die just yet, Napoleon located a phone and made a call to the number guaranteed to reach Mr. Waverly.
“Mr. Solo? What is your situation?”
“Well, sir … Vanessa Gilbane is dead, she was shot while attempting to kill me. I believe her associate, Andrews, is also dead.”
The pause on the other end required Napoleon to wait.
“I see. And Mr. Kuryakin? And the microdot?” Napoleon had almost forgotten about the microdot. He walked over to the body of Vanessa Gilbane, the phone cord long enough for the effort.
“Yes, I have it.” He plucked the faux mole from between her ample breasts; it hadn’t been there the night before.
“Very well then. I expect you and Mr. Kuryakin back here …”
“Sir, Illya has been stabbed and, from the looks of him, nearly drowned. I believe Andrews was responsible for that. If you could have the L.A. office send out some medical help … “ Waverly jumped on that immediately, not willing to leave his men to bleed to death.
“Someone is being dispatched as we speak, Mr. Solo. Take care that your partner doesn’t die before help can arrive, and do try and stay out of trouble for the rest of the evening.”
“Yes sir, I’ll do my best.”
“See that you do, Mr. Solo. Waverly out.”
Napoleon turned around to see his partner watching him, listening to the conversation as it came to a close. Illya was sitting up, leaning into the sofa in a way that informed Napoleon of the pain he was in.
“Medical is on the way here. It seems we’ve eliminated the opposition, so we might as well enjoy the view.’ The agent eyed his partner, took note of the pallid complexion. “Don’t die on me, okay.”
Illya leaned his head on the back of the sofa, then straightened up a little to prove he was still alert and … not dying. “I will be fine, Napoleon. It was just …”
“Oh, just a scratch. Right. That’s why you passed out. How did you get back here, and where is Andrews?”
Sometimes Illya Kuryakin really did seem a little scary to his American partner. Neither man killed indiscriminately, but it seemed to come easier to the Russian. The women who swooned in his wake would be shocked to discover how easily he did his job, and what that job entailed.
“He tried to drown me in the pool downstairs, a type of gymnasium I think. When that didn’t work he pulled out the knife and …’ A grunt of pain stopped the narration for a moment. “He managed to gain an advantage, but he made the mistake of thinking his job was done.”
That was all Illya would say. He never bragged, never gave drawn out explanations or tried to make the deed seem admirable. He merely did his job and survived. Napoleon didn’t ask any more about it, but he was glad that Illya had lived to save his own sorry hide. He wasn’t going to enjoy writing a report that included explaining how Vanessa had gotten the upper hand and … well, he would cross that bridge tomorrow.
It was less than thirty minutes before the medical and clean-up crews arrived. The police would be notified in time, but first it was necessary to examine everything for whatever THRUSH elements may still be in this penthouse. The medics bound Illya’s torso up tighter than a corset, causing the Russian to curse in breathy gasps. He would live to fight another day, and Napoleon would live to help him.
Right now they had a hotel room to occupy and room service to be called. Rest. Napoleon wondered once again about the old saying, and as was always the case, couldn’t remember exactly how it went.
No rest for the weary. Or was it no rest for the wicked?
Either way, he didn’t get nearly enough.