It had started with a game of tennis. Illya Kuryakin was posing, not for the last time, as a tennis pro in search of a willing student. The object of the search was the daughter of a THRUSH chief named Nicholas Williams. The girl was a way into the organization, although at present she was also engaged in a fantasy involving the handsome blond on the other side of the court.
Ian Kemble, the alias being used by Kuryakin, was ready to serve for match point. He saw no advantage in letting the girl, who was a formidable opponent for the UNCLE agent, win for the sake of courting favor. Kuryakin was competitive, and the role he had undertaken did not require him to seduce the young woman, or to lose the game. He was here to find a way inside the satrapy her father controlled.
“Forty love, match point…” Ian tossed the ball and hammered it with a powerful stroke, sending it into the opposing court like a rocket. The girl jumped out of the way as she swung at the ball in a hopeless effort. “Ian! You’re awful to hit it so hard. You could at least pretend that I’m good enough to beat you.” The pouting was a pretense. Janice Williams was a good player, just not as good as Ian. “You did a very fine job today; you’ve improved quite a lot Miss Williams.” Illya’s portrayal of the tennis instructor was successful on many levels, not the least of which was Janice’s infatuation with the blond her father had hired. It was a small miracle that he allowed someone this attractive on the premises, being a very protective father.
It was hot on Long Island today, and Illya’s shirt was soaked with perspiration. His desire to shower and change was circumvented by the arrival of someone he recognized as he and Janice walked back to the main house of the sprawling estate. What he now wanted more than a shower was a way to depart without raising any alarms.
“Miss Williams…’ At her reproving expression Illya switched gears slightly. “Janice, I have an appointment in the city for which I am very nearly going to be late. Can you see yourself back to the house while I take my leave of you?” Janice loved to hear Ian speak, he was so elegant, so … European. “I was hoping you’d stay for lunch, but sure, if you need to go…’ She didn’t mean it. Janice wanted to keep the sweaty blond for as long as possible, entice him into the pool and then… well, she’d think of something. “Just a minute, though, okay? Hold on, wait right here.”
Janice ran up the steps and into the house while Illya waited impatiently, hoping that the person he had seen enter through the same door wouldn’t come back out, or see him from inside.
When the door opened again Illya’s hopes for a getaway evaporated. It wasn’t Janice who headed towards him.
“Nicholas darling, will you look at this. We seem to have a visitor from that meddling uncle; you know, the one who doesn’t like birds.” The voice grated on Illya’s nerves, the crooked smile on her face reminding him of the first time he met Angelique LeChien.
“Hello Angelique.” The frostiness of his tone amused the platinum-haired THRUSH agent. She angled up too close, ran a manicured finger down the side of his face. Illya bristled at the touch.
“Oh dear, you don’t seem at all pleased to see me, Illya. Must you always be so dour?’ Angelique smiled, turning to Williams as she continued. “This, dear Nicholas, is Illya Kuryakin of the U.N.C.L.E. It seems you’ve been entertaining him while he, no doubt, has been looking for a way to hinder this satrapy. You really should be more careful about the hired help.”
Nicholas Williams was a slightly built man with a distinguished silver streak in his hair that made him seem as though he might actually be suited to the elegant home and grounds of the estate. As he looked at the man now identified as the enemy, the man who had been instructing his daughter, he signaled a guard to approach; his ire at the presence of an UNCLE agent in his home was an unwelcome sign of things to come. Illya flinched involuntarily at what he knew was likely to ensue.
“Take him down to the lower level and make sure he isn’t comfortable. Don’t let Janice see you, either. She mustn’t know what’s going on here.” A big man stepped forward and wrenched Kuryakin’s arms behind him, cuffing them in a way that indicated he was going to enjoy the assignment.
“And Jameson, feel free to interrogate Mr. Kuryakin. I think he probably has information from his travels on my estate. Find out what he knows.” Jameson nodded before replying. “Yes sir, Mr. Williams.”
Angelique watched as Illya was led away by Jameson and another guard. The Russian’s back was straight, defiant in an obvious way. Dressed as he was in white shorts and shirt, it seemed a trifle inconsistent with the image of a dangerous UNCLE agent, but she knew that he was just that. Her next thought was of the blond’s partner, Napoleon Solo. This was going to be difficult to explain.
The blond THRUSH agent was aware of how angry her host was at the moment. It was never easy to be bamboozled by the enemy, especially when one’s child was the avenue of entry. Angelique hoped that Kuryakin wouldn’t be too badly damaged, for she did truly want to keep her relationship with Solo intact. Not only was he an excellent lover, but it was her policy to never close a door when it might someday lead to a place she needed to be. Her commitment to THRUSH was only as firm as their treatment of her.
“Nicholas darling, please don’t do anything permanent to the dear boy. I really don’t see that he could know very much. Just rattle him a bit and send him back to his UNCLE. They’ll get the message, I’m sure, that your operation is not to be trifled with. N’est-ce pas?”
Nicholas Williams didn’t like Angelique LeChien. She reminded him of his late wife; the woman he had sent to an early grave with the help of his henchman Jameson. Miss LeChien would do well to not interfere with his handling of the UNCLE agent.
“I shall do as I please, Angelique my dear. I understand your relationship with Victor Marton makes you feel as though nothing is outside your reach, however this is my territory. You will do well to remember that. N’est-ce Pas?” Angelique smiled her crooked smile and nodded her head. Kuryakin was on his own, it seemed. There was nothing she could do to help him. Unless…
Illya came to sitting in a straight backed chair, hands bound behind him and a buzzing in his head that indicated some type of abuse. As he opened one eye and then the other the image of a large man came into focus.
Wham! That’s right, he was being used as a punching bag by this giant named Jameson. Illya’s ears were ringing, probably not a good sign.
“So blondie, what do you know about Mr. William’s business? You really ought to reconsider this strong silent act you’re putting on.”
Wham! Not an act, you Neanderthal.
“I have no information. I’ve only ever just played tennis with…” Wham! Wrong answer. “You’ve been snooping around for two weeks, you know something.”
Wham! Illya passed out. Again.
Napoleon Solo had a date to get ready for, but he was worried about his partner. Illya hadn’t reported in on time and that usually meant something had gone wrong. Williams’ estate was not an easy target, and the opportunity to place Illya there as a tennis instructor had been a stroke of luck. That luck seemed to be waning, something that was becoming increasingly the plight of Kuryakin. Chances were that he was locked up somewhere enduring some form of physical punishment. Napoleon just naturally assumed the worst when it involved his partner; experience was beginning to dictate a pragmatic approach where the Russian was concerned.
Solo decided to take a drive out to Long Island and check on his missing partner. The date with Eileen would have to wait; Illya would be very upset if Napoleon let a woman stand in the way of a rescue, assuming that one was necessary. Before Napoleon turned the key in the ignition, his communicator began to warble.
“Solo here.” A woman’s voice on the other end had a message.
“Someone named Angelique called to say you might need to see about liberating your vodka from the wine cellar. Do you know what that means, Napoleon?” Wanda was a smart girl, but the message was a little bit cryptic, even for her. “Yes, I certainly do understand. Please tell Mr. Waverly that I’m going to go and retrieve Illya from the clutches of the evil THRUSH on Long Island. We should be back before midnight. I hope. Solo out.”
So, Angelique was involved somehow. Napoleon had to smile at the memory of their last rendezvous. The woman was intriguing, beguiling… intoxicating. Just his luck to be smitten with a woman like her. Yes, just his luck.
Illya found himself in the dark, with only a glimmer of light coming in from a small window above a small alcove. He seemed to be in a wine cellar. Jameson was gone, taking a break probably. It was hard work beating up a man who was unable to fight back. Illya began to pull at the bindings, tugging first one way and then another. He made no headway with his efforts. A sound diverted his attention from the struggle, and the click clack of stiletto heels alerted him to the presence of the woman responsible for him being in this situation.
“Hello Angelique. Have you come to gloat?” Ice wouldn’t melt in this room with that tone of voice chilling the air. The woman winced a little at the ill will indicated. “Honestly, Illya, I didn’t mean for you to be brutalized like this. What was I to do? You are in the business of spying, and I am in the business of protecting the interests of THRUSH. We are, as they say, at an impasse.’ Kuryakin was still glaring at her through the eye that wasn’t swollen shut. “Please, don’t look at me like that. Really, the Cyclops effect is most unsettling.”
Illya was livid, but not as much with Angelique as himself. He should never have been in this situation; he had been sloppy. Obviously.
“Napoleon will not be pleased with your complicity in my situation, you know that. I expect he will be here shortly; are you going to betray him as well as me?” Angelique had the nerve to smile at that. “For your information, I have informed him of your predicament. At great risk to myself I might add. If Williams ever gets wind of this, he will…” She didn’t get to finish that sentence as Nicholas Williams descended the cellar stairs.
“If Williams gets wind of what, Angelique? Of you aiding and abetting the enemy? Tsk, tsk… I’d say you are in a bit of trouble now, my dear.”
Just then Jameson stumbled through the door, a sleep dart clearly protruding from his neck. He collapsed in a giant heap, revealing a well dressed man with a gun.
“Oh, Napoleon darling, how good of you to show up just now. I’m quite certain that your friend here is much in need of a rescue.” Angelique purred her pleasure at seeing Napoleon again, in spite of the disapproving glare on Williams’ face. “You are a traitor, Angelique! I’ll make sure Central knows about this, and then…”
“Daddy? Daddy, what’s going on here? Oh! Ian, oh my God, you’re hurt.” Janice had found her way down to the wine cellar, following after the stranger she had seen drive up earlier. To her horror, the blond of her dreams was bruised and bloody, and her father seemed to be responsible.
“Janice my dear, don’t come in here!” It was too late. Janice was untying Illya’s bonds, crying at the distressing sight and the thought of her father tormenting the beautiful young man just because she was in love with him.
“I knew you disapproved of Ian, but daddy… O I never thought you’d go this far to keep us apart.” Illya looked puzzled by this outburst, but Napoleon was smiling in spite of the seriousness of the situation. Janice would really be upset when her father was hauled off to jail for his criminal activities.
Illya, for his part, was struggling to stay upright. The beating he had taken at the hands of Jameson was taking its toll on the slender agent, and he accepted the support of Janice as they made their way out of the cellar and up the steps to the floor above.
Napoleon was busy calling in to Headquarters; a crew would be out shortly. He handcuffed Williams and left him attached to a large column next to a row of French wines. Nicholas Williams hated the French, and Victor Marton and Angelique LeChien… the entire lot of them could rot in hell as far as he was concerned.
Napoleon escorted Angelique upstairs where they were met with the sight of Illya being given some type of first aid at the hands of Janice Williams. Two more THRUSH guards were sleeping in a heap near the front door. It seemed all was under control.
Janice Williams wasted no time helping Illya up the stairs to the main floor. She was livid with her father for what he had done to the man she knew as Ian Kemble. Of course it was nothing new for the young woman to catch her father doing something criminal, even cruel. She was young, not stupid; The types of people she’d seen in her father’s company had cemented her opinion of the man years ago. Now, Ian, or whatever his name was, certainly could not be deserving of the treatment he had received. Even if he worked for the other side, whoever that might turn out to be, Janice couldn’t stand the thought of marring the blond any further. She insisted he accompany her to a more comfortable location where she could tend to his … umm… needs.
“Ian, don’t argue with me. Just come in here and I’ll get a washcloth and …’’ Illya stopped at the door of an elegantly appointed bedroom. He had no intention of going inside this girl’s boudoir. She recognized the reluctance. “Janice, I need to get back to my … where I work. And my name is Illya. Illya Kuryakin. I work for the U.N…” She stopped him. “UNCLE. Yes, I know the name, I’ve heard my father use it often. I guess he works for someone that UNCLE considers unlawful, right?” As previously stated, Janice wasn’t clueless by any means.
“Yes, your father is part of an organization called THRUSH, and they are a criminal group. I am sorry to have to tell you this.” Illya did regret having to break the news. He needed to go, Napoleon was still downstairs with Angelique. No telling what that might lead to.
Janice saw the look in his eyes, the flight mode was in full operation. “Fine. I just wanted to make sure you weren’t hurt too badly, and to give you a place to clean up. You look awful, you know.” Illya gave her a slight grin, and a glimmer of hope had he been fully aware.
Napoleon called in for the crew he had put on stand by; he estimated they would be arriving in less than fifteen minutes. That allowed him time to speak to Angelique about her involvement in the current situation. “My dear, you seem to have landed square in the middle of things. I hope you didn’t have a hand in how my partner was treated by Mr. Williams. He holds grudges, you know.” Angelique managed to look wounded by the implication. “Napoleon, darling… you know I wouldn’t want any actual harm to come to your grumpy Russian partner. He was already under suspicion, and I had to play along. There was quite a lot of risk in what I did, alerting you to this little drama.” The pout on her lips had the desired effect, luring Napoleon into a kiss instead of a reprimand. “All right, I forgive you. I don’t know about Illya, but I’ll try and make him see your side of things.”
Napoleon was looking around the main floor, amazed at the lack of THRUSH personnel on hand. Williams must have more people than the few guards he had encountered. He wondered if Angelique knew where they all were. “Honestly darling, I think Central had cut him off financially. He couldn’t afford more men, and the only thing he had going for him was that little… Oops. I’m not supposed to say anything about that.” That brought a smile to Napoleon’s face, and he used his index finger to poke the end of her nose in a playful manner. “You are something, you know that. So, where exactly is this little ‘oops’ that you shouldn’t be telling me about? Lead me to it and I will guarantee Illya forgives you. Well, as much as he is capable of forgiving you of anything.”
Illya and Janice had reached an agreement concerning the shower she insisted he take. He had a clean pair of shorts and a tee shirt in his equipment bag that was stashed in his car. Janice assured him of privacy while she retrieved the bag. It would be a relief to get beneath the hot water, and since Napoleon had yet to appear… Janice was a persuasive young woman in addition to being attractive. Illya decided she was old enough to invite him into her bedroom, although he had no intention of taking advantage of the situation.
“Towels are in the cabinet, just make yourself at home Ian… Illya, I mean. Wow, you really are a spy or something, aren’t you?” He shrugged his shoulders as she spiraled deeper into her infatuation. “Something like that.”
Napoleon and Angelique passed Janice as she headed out to Illya’s car to fetch his bag, causing all three of them to pause in their respective paths. “Janice, where are you going? Where’s Illya?” It was Napoleon who asked the question, but Angelique was curious as well. Perhaps that little blond had some steam after all. Janice was only too happy to report that she had offered Illya her shower. “Really? Illya is in your bathroom taking a shower? Well, I never…” Napoleon let that sentence drift off as he tried to imagine what would make his partner be so lax about completing his assignment. This entire situation was very strange, even for them.
Janice, who had changed into a pale blue dress and kitten heeled black patent leather shoes, looked positively radiant as she turned toward the door. She called over her shoulder to the other couple… “He’s in my room, at the top of the stairs.” Napoleon and Angelique exchanged amused looks and decided to go take a look. A low whistle was Napoleon’s response to the lush furnishings in the classically designed bedroom. The water could be heard running in a steady stream, and before either of them could say anything they heard Illya’s voice singing contentedly.
“He has a nice voice. Do you sing darling? I don’t think I’ve ever heard you sing.” Napoleon grinned at his companion, listening to his partner and wondering what could make him sound so … happy. “I leave the warbling to my friend. Although, I’m beginning to think we might make some music together, later tonight…” Angelique put her finger to her lips and then to the handsome man whose offer she was going to decline.
“Not tonight, Napoleon. Oh, I am sorry, but … well, all things considered, I think it best if I’m not seen in your company after news of this gets out. You understand, of course.” He did. Regrettably, he did.
Janice returned, slightly flushed and a little disappointed at the crowd in her bedroom. She hadn’t actually expected these two to come up here and … hmmm… interfere. “Oh, hi there. Again. I suppose Illya will want his privacy.” That should have been enough for most people, but Napoleon was going to look out for his partner’s honor. He was pretty sure the Russian didn’t have any designs on the young woman, but time was wasting and they really did need to get back to the city and report all of the day’s events to Mr. Waverly. “Thank you Janice, you’ve been very helpful. I think I’ll just make sure Illya is okay and … there you go now. We’ll be out in a bit.” With that he shooed the women away, certain that Angelique would disappear effortlessly and that Janice would sulk outside her own door. Nothing to be done about it. Work was work and today it was all about the job. At least now it was all about the job.
Illya finally emerged from the bathroom, a towel tied securely around his hips. Napoleon was lounging in a silk upholstered chair, glad that he hadn’t been the one whose clothing was ruined. The steam followed the blond as he surveyed the room, his eyes finally settling on the man who had saved him once again from the hands of THRUSH. The brutal hands, something that made him shiver slightly. Honestly, a person never really got used to being beat up like that.
“Ah, tovarisch, you feel better I trust.” Napoleon was all grins, and wondered if Illya had actually looked forward to finding Janice here instead of him. It wasn’t evident, but the thought had crossed Illya’s mind that Janice was, after all, a very pretty young woman. Still, it was better this way, nothing complicated. Janice would definitely have been complicated. “I see you have saved me a second time today, Napoleon. Thank you.” They exchanged knowing smiles.
Better for the hot shower and clean clothes, Illya felt as though his assignment had not been a total waste of time. At least Williams was out of business. Napoleon had a little something extra though, a surprise for his busy partner. “Angelique let me in on a little secret, Illya. The contents of Williams’ safe include that list you were after, and she assured me that it would more than compensate for your discomfort today. I believe Mr. Waverly will be pleased, and perhaps you can forgive Miss LeChien for her part in your unfortunate experience downstairs. What do you say?”
Illya didn’t say much, but as he rolled his eyes heavenward he decided to not do any violence to the annoying blonde. Another day, perhaps, he would catch her in the act and finally be rid of her treacherous, duplicitous… of her.
Napoleon sensed some of what his friend was thinking, but decided against letting it spoil his enjoyment of the THRUSH temptress. Life was too short to be limited by the details. “You ready, IK? How about dinner at Luigi’s, my treat. It’s the least I can offer for the day you’ve had.” Illya smiled. He understood the gesture and the ploy. “Thank you, Napoleon. Nothing tops off an interrogation like a good dinner. Besides, I missed lunch.”
As the two passed through the foyer of the big house, Janice was nowhere to be seen. A young Section III agent had caught her eye, and she decided Illya was probably not her type after all as she offered to guide the young man upstairs to her father’s office.
Angelique managed to slip by everyone and into the sleek convertible she had arrived in. Napoleon wouldn’t see the platinum haired beauty for several months.
Dinner that night was a celebration: another day survived in the battle against evildoers. Illya ate enough for an entire family under Napoleon’s affectionate watch, glad that his friend had survived with only minor damage. More and more the two were becoming like brothers, and it seemed impossible to imagine a day when they wouldn’t be partners.
But, that’s another story.