First published in Kuryakin File 19 (May 2000)
Where was Napoleon when you really needed him? Illya Kuryakin grunted as he braced his feet off the icy bridge railing in front of him and pushed back hard with both legs. He was rewarded with the sound of cursing as the two Thrush henchmen pinning his tied arms were thrown backwards along with him to the pavement. They immediately began struggling to their feet to renew their attempts to throw him over the railing into the cold river below.
Tonight was going badly, he thought as he unsuccessfully tried to dance backwards out of their range . He had been assigned to what he thought was to be a routine assignment. He was to protect the safety of a government energy scientist while the man attended a ballroom-dancing exposition at the decaying Hotel Monolith on Houston Street. The Russian had expected a boring evening of munching canapes and loitering behind the curtains and potted plants. Who would have thought that a few hours later he would be fighting for his life on a slush-covered Brooklyn Bridge?
Bracing his feet, he jerked forward again on one of the two men pinning him, slamming the attacker into the nearby bridge stanchion. One arm released he twisted to face the other Thrush agent. What he met instead was a club to the side of his head, dropping him stunned to the cold pavement.
An eerie mirthless laugh began to echo in the dark night causing the hair on Illya’s neck to prickle as his vision swam. The twoThrush men began looking around in confusion, trying to locate the source of the disembodied sound on the seemingly empty bridge.
“The weeds of crime bear bitter fruit,” echoed the resonant voice cryptically. “Release that man or pay the consequences of your actions.”
Illya concentrated on trying to work his bindings loose as the distracted Thrush agents looked wildly around the empty bridge. He fought to focus his eyes as his opponents were in turns punched off their feet, lifted into thin air and tossed down into the metal bridge supports by a blurry ghost-like figure. The agent shook his head trying to clear his vision as the same wild laugh sounded again in the darkness. The sound made him shudder even as he tried to focus on the wraith itself.
His breath caught in surprise when two strong arms appeared out of nowhere and lifted him to his feet cutting him free from the rope binding him. A yellow cab screeched to a stop directly in front of them and he found himself “helped” firmly into the safety of the backseat by the indistinct figure pushing in behind him.
“Drive,” ordered the odd voice.
The cab took off with a roar, pressing the agent back into the seat cushions. Illya squinted to focus on his rescuer. The man sitting on the other side of the back seat wore an odd wide-brimmed hat with a broad band, a stylish black longcoat and a trailing red scarf with one wrap wound loosely around the lower half of his face. Under the man’s coat he saw the unmistakable outline of two large pistols concealed. The stranger’s hawk-like eyes scrutinized him back with an unnerving intensity.
“I have saved your life this night, Illya Kuryakin...” began the stranger firmly.
“What???” said Illya, rubbing his arms. His eyes narrowed in sudden suspicion. “How do you know what my name is?” The face of the stranger next to him was alternately lit and hidden by the glow of the streetlights they passed enroute. .
“The Shadow knows,” he answered inscrutably. Another peal of disembodied laughter followed.
“Be that as it may, Mr... Shadow, I would appreciate it if you let me out on the next corner,” Illya said, edging over to test the locked door handle. “I do appreciate your rescue of me tonight but...”
“I have saved your life this night, Illya Kuryakin...” began the stranger again, “and now... it belongs to me.”
“Excuse me,” Illya interrupted firmly again, still working the unresponsive handle, “It’s not that I do not appreciate your help, but I believe that slavery has been outlawed in this country for a century now.” He noted irritably that the man’s voice sounded like very much like that radio personality Orson Welles and that it was making his head hurt.
The masked stranger continued darkly as if he hadn’t heard the protest “You’ll become one of my agents like dozens of others all around the world...”
“No, I don’t think so,” murmured the blond man. “But thank you for asking. I’ll be getting off here, NOW,” he added tapping the driver on the shoulder sharply.
The driver made an abrupt turn, tossing the Russian back into the seat sideways. His face bumped up against the strange man and he detected the scent of smoke on the other man’s clothes. He swiftly righted himself, pushing back to the far corner of the cab cautiously.
“When one of my agents tells you ‘The sun is SHINING...’, you will respond ‘...but the ICE is slippery.’ This is how you’ll know it’s time to do a task for me,” continued the dark stranger.
Illya noted irritably that the driver was also mouthing the same pass phrase in the front seat. He was now convinced that this had to be some a prank perpetrated by Napoleon. “I most certainly will NOT,” he answered. “This is absurd. Did my partner put you up to this? If so, it’s not even remotely funny.” He began to slip his hands searchingly under the seat cushions and around the door frame for the listening device that he was sure had been planted there somewhere.
“I think we got a crazy one this time, Boss,” offered the driver flatly from the front seat.
“Mr. Shrevnitz here will instruct you in the way I will contact you when I need your help,” concluded the man darkly. The car screeched to a halt suddenly in front of Illya’s apartment building. The agent wasted no time in climbing out the now-unlocked, shutting it firmly behind him.
The driver slumped out of the front seat and pushed a warm ring into the Russian’s hand. “Here,” he said slowly, openly doubting the wisdom of his boss’s choice this time. “Put this on. This will identify you to other agents. Remember ‘The sun is shining..’ ,” he tested.
“But... the... ice... is... slippery,” sputtered Illya in response. “This is ridiculous...”
“Just do it, Mack,” growled Moe Shrevnitz dismissively. He climbed back in the cab and roared off into the night.
The exasperated Russian peered after the car, trying hard to read the license plate but strangely unable to concentrate on the number. Must have been that hit to my head, he decided. Moving to a pool of light under a nearby streetlamp, he examined the ring closely. His eyes narrowed as he recognized the familiar cut of the ring. “Honestly,” he sputtered, suddenly livid. This is really too much to bear. He set out at a determined clip on foot heading for a familiar destination.
“Brrrring, Brrrrring, Brrrrrrrrrrrring.”
Padding to the door in bare feet, a tousled Napoleon Solo peered out through the peephole in his apartment door. What he saw was a very angry-looking partner leaning so close to the door that his face was distorted by the convex lens. He disarmed the door’s safety devices and pulled the door open.
The Russian thundercloud stormed in through the front door as Solo said to himself, “Good evening to you too.” He secured the door behind himself and trailed after his fuming friend, tying the sash to his silk robe. “Do you realize what time it is, Illya? I thought you were on assignment tonight. This had better be an end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it situation,” he yawned still half-asleep.
“How did you do it?” growled Illya, turning on his heels so suddenly that Napoleon bumped nose-first into him. “Some sort of hallucingen gas? Post-hypnotic suggestion?”
“What are you babbling about?” grumbled Solo, rubbing his nose as he moved to drop down on the couch. His eyes started to drift shut again.
“Granted, your rescue of me was well-timed but the theatrics were really a bit much, don’t you think?” grumbled his partner, pacing tiger-like back and forth in front of the couch.
“Rescue? Theatrics? What are you talking about? Have you been drinking?” he said opening one eye to peer blearily at his friend. For the first time he noted his partner’s scuffed face and wet clothing. “What happened to you tonight? Why didn’t you call on your communicator if you needed help?”
“You might have even fooled me if it hadn’t been for this,” announced the Russian, slightly calmer now. Even Napoleon would usually not carry a joke this far. He held out his right hand, now adorned with a heavy silver ring with a smoothly-polished red opal set in the center.
Solo sat up sharply and glanced down at his own hand where an identical ring sat on his smallest finger. “Where did you get that?” he asked suddenly fully awake. He pulled the ring off his partner’s finger and examined it intently. The markings were identical.
“As if you didn’t know,” scoffed the Russian, dropping down onto the far end of the couch in a grump, folding his arms together.
“No, I don’t know...not for sure, anyway,” he began. “My mother gave me this ring when I went off to join the military. Told me that it was a family heirloom, that it represented the importance of honor, of fighting for the right and made me promise to always wear it. She also insisted I memorize some odd phrase with it. Ummm.. The sun is something but the ice is...shiny I think,” continued Solo.
“The sun is shining but ice is slippery,” supplied the Russian for him, staring intently at his friend. He was beginning to sense that Napoleon was not joking with him about this.
“I just assumed she had listened to one too many radio mystery programs,” he shrugged. As Solo held the ring close to his eyes, examining it, the red opal suddenly began to pulse with a cold light. Both agents sat up startled and peered at the ring in amazement.
“Mine never did that,” admitted Solo, handing the object hastily back to his partner. “Like to let me in on what happened to you tonight?”
As Illya recounted the strange events of the evening, a sealed envelope was slid vigorously under the closed front door. Napoleon bolted for the door and opened it just in time to see the elevator door at the end of the hall hush closed. As he turned, the blond man was opening the envelope speculatively.
“It’s an address and a time,” noted the Russian flatly.
“An invitation?” asked Solo, coming over to peer at the curious ornate hand-writing.
“Apparently, or a summons. Do you think it’s a trap?”
“Only one way to find out. But that’s hours from now,” commented Solo tipping the card to read it. “I’m going back to bed. You’re welcome to use the spare bedroom and...” he added pointedly flipping the man’s scuffed apparel, “...there are clean towels in the guest bath. Breakfast will be my treat...” he said heading for his own bedroom tiredly, “...seeing as the night seems to be going so badly for you.”
Illya shot him a sour look and slipped the ring back on his right hand, eying it with caution.
After a quick call into U.N.C.L.E. headquarters, the pair took a taxi to the Times Square area and circled the block cautiously a few times, scouting out the area before heading to the specified address. It proved to be a seamy back alley near the Times Square-West 41st Street subway stop. Napoleon stepped distastefully around the piles of uncollected garbage and pushed his gloved hands deep into the pockets of his coat as he scanned the alley warily.
Illya searched the crumbling doorways for the proper address. “Here it is,” he reported, standing before an unimpressive doorway with the faded lettering ‘Wo Fat’s Imports and Novelties.’ He tried the door handle. It was unlocked.
With a slow creak, the faded door swung open revealing a utilitarian gray hallway with dusty packing crates stacked randomly along the walls. Weak yellow light bleakly lit the area from unwashed windows high in the outer wall. Cautiously the agents drew their U.N.C.L.E. Specials and slipped into the hall as the outer door closed behind them with a loud click. Illya tugged on the door noting it was now locked. He tipped his head toward the door to silently relay that information to his partner.
Solo noted that despite the carefully fabricated appearance of an abandoned warehouse, the floors were swept completely clean of dust and the cobwebs only floated loose in the highest most inacessible corners. A sham. The pair crept silently down the hall until they reached a dead end.
Illya holstered his weapon and began to feel around the edges of the wall panels looking for a hidden latch as Napoleon kept careful guard. The silence in the hallway was only broken by the the city sounds of traffic and car horns beyond the thick outside walls.
“I’ve found something,” announced Kuryakin as his hands located a spring latch. Shooting a look at his partner, he shrugged and carefully pressed in on the molding with his slim fingertips. He was rewarded with a loud click as the sound of machinery and gears cranking away behind the wall began. “Now let’s see what.....”
With a sudden loud snap, the hall floor dropped instantly out from under the two agents, spilling them down into darkness.
“Get off of me, Napoleon,” complained his partner from the bottom of the tangle of two agents. After a long dark slide, they had landed with a certain lack of dignity on a pile of soft cushions in a darkened room...but where? The two men disengaged legs and arms from one another and stood to survey the room they had slid into.
“Well, no guards have greeted us so I’m guessing we’ve found a secret entrance to something, but what?” questioned Solo, dusting off his trouser legs and snapping his cuffs.
Painfully bright lights snapped, on blinding the two agents as they were outlined in a bright pool of illumination. “Welcome to my Sanctum, gentlemen,” announced a chillingly resonant voice from somewhere in the shadows.
“That’s him,” whispered Illya aside. “Mr. Phantom, this is my partner...”
“Napoleon Solo, chief enforcement agent for the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement. Welcome Mr. Solo,” said the voice from beyond the circle of light.
Napoleon arched his eyebrows sharply and exchanged a meaningful glance with his partner.
“I have a task for the two of you. A certain formula has returned to the United States. An organization with which you have had dealings has it in its possession. Thrush.”
“Ah, our feathered friends,” began Napoleon smoothly. “Perhaps you should bring this matter up with our boss, Mr. Alexander...”
“Be quiet!” thundered the odd voice. “You two will go to Sun Yet Kitchen in Chinatown where the foreign agents will deliver the remainder of the formula to Thrush tonight at 9 PM. You must intercept this shipment. More than you know depends upon it.”
“We’ll take it under consideration,” said Illya, edging apart from Solo, preparing to spring toward the voice. Solo, noting his partner’s slight change of position, readied himself to leap to the opposite direction to divide their host’s attention.
“Yes. You will.” began the voice as the eerie laughter resounded once again. A silver ball suddenly slammed against the concrete floor between the two men, shattering and enveloping them in a choking cloud of white smoke. Napoleon nearest to the explosion, inhaled sharply and dropped like a stone to the floor. Illya, his leap interrupted, caught a whiff of the gas before stopping his breath. Landing hard he fell half-inside half-outside of the circle of light. Before his vision darkened altogether, he caught a glimpse of tailored suitpants and a pair of stylish men’s dress shoes striding up to his side. Whoever this Shadow is, he thought fuzzily, he dresses rather well.
Napoleon awoke with a stiff neck on a park bench to find Illya’s face pressed inelegantly into his shoulder. “Morning, glory!” he mumbled, “Well...uh...afternoon, anyway.” He shifted to lift his still droopy partner off of him, shaking his shoulder gently. “Up and at ‘em. You’re embarassing the natives,” he murmured, watching the passing crowd of New Yorkers watching but not-watching in that big city style he knew so well. Napoleon focused his eyes up at the bare branches above him. Central Park. How did we get to Central Park? he questioned himself blurrily as his memory came rushing in. The Phantom. He must have dumped us here. Instinctively he checked for his wallet and his U.N.C.L.E. Special, surprised to find them both in place. He and Illya hadn’t been there long or perhaps someone had even been guarding them from a distance. It would appear that their strange contact intended to keep them intact for the time being.
“I’m cold and I’m hungry,” complained Illya, still not fully awake. He shrugged deeper into his coat.
“Not surprising, Nanook. For one it is February. If it wasn’t a warm spell we’d probably both be U.N.C.L.E.-sicles by now. And for the other, when are you not hungry?”
“Hmpph,” growled the other man, standing up and shaking blood into his limbs. “Which do we do first, eat or tell Mr. Waverly?”
Napoleon joined him on his own feet, surprised at how quickly the numbness was subsiding. “Oh definitely, eat. This is no task to pursue on an empty stomach. Italian?”
“No, Russian. It must be the accent that’s confusing you,” Illya replied, striding ahead of Solo heading toward the nearest taxi stand.
“Am I to assume that this stranger rescued you, Mr. Kuryakin, last night, then lured you both to a secret location in order to tip you off to a Thrush delivery that will taking place this evening?”
“Uh, yes sir,” answered Illya slowly, realizing once again how odd the day’s events sounded.
“We’ve deployed a detail of men to the place you say this hideout is, and they find no evidence of either ‘Wo Fat’s’ or a secret hidden staircase.”
Napoleon shot Illya a bland look of confirmation. The Russian shrugged non-comittally in response. “What did research turn up on this ‘Shadow,’ sir?” the dark-haired man asked.
“The ‘Shadow’ was rumored to be some sort of vigilante in operation in New York City in the 1930s. Rumors abounded but hard fact about him is difficult to come by since most of the the ‘reports’ came from the somewhat biased yellow journalism of the day. He was credited with everything from sharp-shooter skills to mental powers, a sort of cross between Sherlock Holmes and the comic-book hero Batman,” summarized Waverly.
Both men stared at their leader thoughtfully. They traded glances, then Illya spoke first, “Then if this stranger is indeed the original Phantom, he would have to be in his dotage?”
“Hardly that, Mr. Kuryakin,” huffed the U.N.C.L.E. chief, raising his eyebrows icily. “He’d be in his late 60s or early 70s. But in any case, if there’s a possibility of a new Thrush drug coming into the country tonight, then by all means you should make your appointment in Chinatown this evening.”
“But sir,” began Solo in protest, “Are you sure we should go without backup? It could be a trap.”
“Yes, well it wouldn’t be the first time we’ve sent you into a deliberate trap, would it, Mr. Solo? Let’s follow this puzzle out to its logical end. You may go,” he dismissed abruptly. At the two men’s silence, he reiterated “You may go, Mr Solo.” Waverly turned to engage himself in the communications panel behind him.
“Very good, sir,” answered the CEA in apparent confusion. The two men rose and went out in the hall. When the door hushed shut behind them, Napoleon turned to his partner. “What do you suppose that was all about?”
“I don’t know. Perhaps we should go to Sun Yet’s Restaurant and see,” answered the Russian evenly.
Napoleon and Illya pushed through the crowded night streets of Chinatown heading toward their rendezvous. Illya’s nose picked up the scent of incense from the Buddhist Temple wafting through the mingled fragrances of ginger, soy sauce and garlic from the many restaurants lining the streets as they trolled through the dense crowds to the address provided.
Their destination was a working class restaurant up a rickety staircase above a curio shop. The dingy hallway leading up to Sun Yet’s Restaurant had not had the benefit of paint in several decades up. The hostess, probably one of the daughters of the owner Solo guessed, met them at the door, plucked two stained menus from a stack and led them efficiently to a corner table behind a dingy screen. The large low-rent dining room was decorated with the requisite garish red paper lanterns with gold tassels, a fish tank with seven goldfish swimming around giddily, and a small altar into which cut fruit and smouldering incense was tucked. The labyrinth of paper screens partitioned the room off, creating pockets of partial secrecy around the area. Glaring flourescent light along the walls provided the low illumination in the room.
Solo pretended interest in the Chinese horoscope on the paper placemat in front of him, “I appear to be a...um... Rooster,” he announced, tracing the years with his finger.
Illya, straining to scan the room through the small hearing aid in his ear, murmured dryly, “Why am I not surprised.”
Solo raised his forefinger and took a deep breath to opine what his partner’s sign might appropriately be, just as a grandmotherly waitress with a face like a wrinkled apple shuffled over to their table to take their order. As she tipped her head in expectation, Illya lapsed into precise Cantonese to list their choices. The ama smiled broadly, replied in the same dialect and bowed slightly, then shuffled off to the kitchen to place the order.
“You speak Chinese, too?” murmured Solo, watching her rapid retreat.
“Just Cantonese and Mandarin,” the other agent replied casually.
“Why, you’re just full of surprises,” returned Solo pointedly, scanning the ceiling around the room as he spoke.
“Sssh!” returned Illya irritably, concentrating intently on the listening device.
“Shhhhhh!” he returned.
“IL-lya! Point your ‘ear’ over that way,” hissed Solo.
“Cigar smoke,” said Solo, wrinkling his nose while pointing his chin at the odorous, gray cloud forming above a table across the central aisle from them. “A very smelly and non-Chinese form of smoking. Good indication that our target lies ‘that-a-way,’ Kemosabe.”
Illya shot his partner a dismissive look, then trained his ear in that direction, and immediately began scribbling notes on his notepad as Napoleon tried to perfect the art of reading Cyrillic upside down.
Dr. Amphora, Iman Abbas, transfer serum, Cambodyses, Shiwan Khan. .. read Solo. He suspected his partner was making parts up just to confuse him. Illya tended to get spiteful when he was hungry, or when he was being annoyed, or come to think of it...
The aged waitress announced dinner as she led a parade of attendants out from the kitchen. As they began covering the tabletop with plates, cutlery and covered dishes, Illya tried to cover his notepad. Unnoticed to the two agents, one of the busboys caught a glimpse of the surveillance activity before heading back to the kitchen. The attentive granny fluttered over Illya, pushing a plate of sugared orange slices under his nose before ducking her head and scuttling blushingly back to the kitchen.
“Somebody made a hit,” teased Solo as he began to investigate the contents of the covered bowls curiously. Ignoring him, Illya returned to his surveillance activities even as he reached for the oranges with his free hand.
Suddenly the observant busboy burst out of the kitchen heading for the other side of the room, his face hidden behind a tray of teapots and cups.
Illya’s forehead wrinkled in concentration as he detected the rapid shift in subject in the target group. “Uh-oh,” he began, beginning to stand and tuck away his notebook for safekeeping. “Napoleon, it is time we...”
“Time you what, Mr. Kuryakin?” purred a cultivated British voice as the paper partition next to them was abruptly pulled down. Both U.N.C.L.E. agents scrambled for their guns only to have the action interrupted by two burly Thrush agents in bowler hats leveling rifles at their mid-sections. Wisely, they raised their hands in surrender, electing not to engage in a gunfight in the middle of a crowded restaurant.
“Why, if it isn’t Leslie Cornwallis,” returned Solo smoothly as the Thrush guards patted him down for additional weapons. “I thought you were on Thrush’s persona non grata list after that little failure in North Africa.”
The sleek Englishman returned the jibe elegantly. “It’s Duke Cornwallis, Mr. Solo. You colonials do seem to have a problem with titles, don’t you. But not quite the same problem that your little Bolshevik friend has, eh? At least you leave your betters alive. And how are you, Mr. Kuryakin?”
“Kury-a-kin???” came a querulous voice from behind the Thrush leader. “Did you say Kuryakin?” An stoop-shouldered, ancient mass of wrinkles wearing a sharply tailored Western business suit hobbled forward anxiously from behind the rifle-toting henchmen. As he got closer and irritably shoved one of the guards aside, the U.N.C.L.E. agents noted that somewhere in that furrowed face were two very astute black Chinese eyes and a Fu Manchu mustache. He pushed very near Illya and demanded imperiously “Of the Kiev Kuryakins?”
Illya returned the scrutiny silently until nudged sharply in the ribs by the Thrushman’s rifle. “Uh, yes, my family is originally from Kiev,” he admitted in a surly tone.
“Ohh, this is just too rich,” returned the singsong voice of the old man. “What a special present this is for me. We could have spent weeks hunting for the right specimen and here he drops in our lap. Going blond was not something I considered but...” sang the old man gleefully. Abruptly he turned to face Napoleon, shifting gears “...say, that is a lovely tie. Brooks Brothers?”
“Actually, yes,” answered Solo puzzled.
“Is that Midtown?”
“Uh...45th and Madison.”
“I’ll have to remember that.” He swung back around to the guards. “Take this one...” he began, pointing one clawed finger at Illya, “...to the car and tie him up once there. Cornwallis, you and two guards take that one...” he hitched his head at Napoleon, “...out back and shoot him. Nothing fancy, understand me. No pirahna pits, no sand-filled rooms...just shoot him.”
At Napoleon’s bleak look, the old man added “Sorry, old bean. Just don’t have time for the traditional villain routine, I’m in a spot of a hurry. You do understand, I hope?,” he asked with overdone solicitude. “Well good, then! Shall we go?”
Three of the Thrush guards split off the struggle down the stairs with Solo while the others proceeded to the ancient elevator in the rear of the building with the slow-moving old man and Illya surrounded by a contingent of men.
Two henchmen wrestled the Russian agent to one of the two waiting black limosines. The old man slid stiffly into the backseat of the car while one guard wrapped Illya around in many lengths of thick rope he had taken out of the trunk. Cinching the knots tightly, the guard then pushed him roughly face down into the back seat beside the old man. Illya fought his way upright and scooted as far away from the other man as he could get while they waited expectantly in silence for a few seconds with the door open, apparently listening. A sudden extended rattle of rifle fire from the nearby alley caused Illya to flinch involuntarily. From experience he knew that this pattern of shots boded ill. If Napoleon had managed to escape his guards, there should have been an irregular followup pattern of shots as he was pursued. If he had wrested the rifle away from one guard, there would have been a shoot out. The silence that followed that one volley of shots was a very bad indication.
Openly satisifed at the sound, the Thrush leader tapped on the glass to signal to his driver to depart as the outside guard pushed the car door shut. Behind their limo a matching vehicle carrying the Thrush agent Cornwallis and the guards followed. As the downtown traffic grudgingly allowed them to merge in, the Thrush leader crossed his arms amd cocked his head back a bit to focus on the young man alone in the backseat of the limo with him.
“Allow me to introduce myself,” he began urbanely. “My name is Shiwan Khan.” He paused and drew himself up proudly as if anticipating that Illya would recognize and be humbled by the name.
The agent for his part steadfastly ignored the attempt to get his attention. The old man deliberately reached out one bony finger in response and poked him. Illya ignored it. The old man poked again. Illya ignored it again. After several more persistent sharp pokes to the ribs, an exasperated Illya, his own arms still firmly tied to his sides, snapped irritably at Khan’s attacking finger.
“Ohhh, you are a vile-tempered young thing, aren’t you?” laughed the other delightedly. He grinned, “You’re definitely family!”
“Don’t be absurd,” growled the Russian, still twisting and struggling Houdini-like to loosen the thick ropes the guard had wound around him. He wondered briefly why the Thrush guards had imprudently left the old man alone in the back seat with him. Once he got free he could easily subdue him and use that edge to gain his freedom.
“No, I’m serious. Most of the upper-crust Russians have a bit of Tartar in them, and how do you think the Tartar blood got to Russia? By way of your Mongol conquerers, specifically our mutual ancestor Temujin and his armies. We did rule your barbaric country for several centuries, you know.”
At this Illya stopped cold and stared at the man. “Temujin?” he asked in amazement. “Are you serious in claiming Genghis Khan as your ancestor?”
“More than serious, young Kuryakin. The very same. And the fact that you know the birth-name of Genghis Khan is even more evidence. You are intelligent for a barbarian.”
“Thank you,” said Illya blandly. He immediately resumed struggling against the ropes to free himself while his captor watched without concern.
Shiwan Khan tucked his bony hands deep within his expansive overcoat comfortably. “I can prove that you as well trace part of your ancestry back to the same glorious man. I’ve spent several years doing the genealogy of my family tree, part of which strangely enough is your family tree. Give me a little credit, that was no easy job when one’s family tree spans over 800 years,” he pouted.
The two stared at each other, Shiwan intently and Illya sullenly, for several seconds. Then Shiwan continued suddenly, “The Kiev Kuryakins in particular stand out as some of the more accomplished members of Temujin’s Russian bloodline.” He paused, waiting for a question that never came, then began again, “There was Iliescu of Kiev who served as an apprentice to both da Vinci AND Michelangelo in Florence during the Renaissance, and your very own great-great grandfather ‘Mad Boris’ Kuryakin who single-handedly slayed...”
“YES, I am more than aware what my psychotic ancestor did to earn his nickname, thank you!” growled Illya, trying not to listen while the old man continued his narrative.
“...yes, the Dnieper ran red that Spring, it is said,” Shiwan chuckled to himself.
As the limo siddenly pulled to a halt and the Thrush guard opened the door, Shiwan Khan pulled a lethal pistol out of the huge sleeve of his coat and handed it to the guard before stepping out. At the agent’s surprised look he grinned again. “Oh yes, you don’t think me a fool, I hope? I only had the guard wrap those ropes around you to give you something to do on the trip over here. If you had gotten loose, I wouldn’t have hesitated to shoot you. Wounds heal, you know.”
Illya paused at the obvious ruthlessness of this statement and regarded the back of the old man’s head silently. Maybe we are related after all, he considered ruefully as the guards wrenched him out of the limo into the back of a darkened building close behind the doddering Shiwan Khan. [*][*][*][*][*][*][*]
In the dim alley behind the restaurant, the Thrush men assigned to execute Solo threw him roughly against the wall while Duke Corwallis kept him under close guard with his rifle at the ready. The U.N.C.L.E. agent brought his fists up preparing to leap on the nearest guard when the senior Thrush agent behind him clipped him roughly in the back of the head with his rifle butt, dropping him flat to the pavement. Even as he dizzily struggled to his knees, he heard the argument going on between the English Thrush agents.
“Khan said to off him, but if we take him down to Thrush HQ, I’d lay my bets on there being a sizeable reward for bringing him in alive, y’know? Think of what all’s in his head ‘bout U.N.C.L.E. operations.”
“But I hear tell keeping holdin’ him is like trying to keep hold of a barrel of eels,” returned the other dubiously.
Cornwallis considered his companion’s arguments. “We could shoot out a kneecap or two, that ought to slow him down some...” he mused, taken with the idea of a large reward for bringing Solo in.
Where was Illya when you really needed him? thought Solo as he finally managed to haul himself upright, fighting nausea from the blow to his head. As he braced his hands back against the wet brick wall of the alley his mind racing to pick his best move, an eerie laugh rang out from somewhere in the darkness.
“Leave that man and leave this place NOW...” ordered a disembodied voice.
To the U.N.C.L.E. agent it seemed the voice was as much in his head as in the alleyway. Must be the hit I took, he considered, placing one shaky hand to the back of his head and coming away with the warm stickiness of his own blood. I knew I shouldn’t have picked the wool blend for today, Del Floria can never get all the blood out of wool. There goes another suit.
The three Thrush men were equally confused about the source of the voice as they wildly began scouting around the alley for the source. As one prepared to speak, a blurred image charged him from the left, tossing him bodily over a trash dumpster flat into the wall above. As the stunned man dropped into the open trash container, his startled companions began spraying the area with a single riff of bullets. Solo instinctively hit the deck and stayed as low as he could.
From the right another vaguely man-shaped blur seized the rifle from the second guard, slamming him across the face and dropping him in an unconscious heap on the litter of the alley.
Cornwallis, his eyes wide, threw down his weapon and began frantically climbing a nearby fire escape. The same blur surged up the ladder and the man soon found himself dangling upside down by one foot two stories above the pavement. Napoleon shakily rose to his feet in amazement, struggling to focus his eyes on what or who was holding the dangling guard.
“Who sent you?” questioned the grim voice.
“Ah...put me down...I mean don’t put me down...ah...Thrush.... Help me!” he appealed to Napoleon, his eyes wild with fear.
The U.N.C.L.E. agent watching from below shrugged and gestured ‘How?’ even as he sought to outline the topmost figure in his vision. He thought he saw a cape and a red scarf but he couldn’t be sure. He scrubbed his eyes once more, uncertain whether to stay or make a run for it himself.
“Why?” demanded the same sepulchural tone.
“We were couriering the rest of Dr. Amphora’s serum to the Chinaman for an experiment. We weren’t told his plans, all I know is that he’s highly placed in Thrush Asia. Please don’t drop me,” he wailed.
“WHERE did they take the other U.N.C.L.E. agent?” came the resonant question in reply
“Ah...please let me down...ah...I don’t know,” begged the Thrush agent.
The Shadow fixed the man with an intent stare, deciding he was telling the truth, then released his grip on the dangling man’s ankle.
Cornwallis screamed even as he landed in a stunned heap in the food garbage of the Chinese restaurant. Rats scattered, running away from the sudden crashing addition to their smorgasbord.
Napoleon decided to follow suit, but as he attempted to wobble away he found his unwilling knees beginning to buckle. Incredibly in the next second, he found himself pinned to the wall, supported by the two steadying hands of the stranger abruptly standing before him. How could someone move that fast? he thought, even as he got his first good eye-to-eye look at his rescuer.
Two piercing black eyes looked out over a red scarf concealing the lower half of the man’s face.
Napoleon squinted, unsure as to whether the man had pupils or not. The effect was unnerving.
“We meet again, Napoleon Solo,” announced the voice with what the agent felt was unnecessary drama.
He felt the giddiness of pending unconsciousness begin to rise. “So it would seem, Mr...uh...Shadow,” he replied groggily. “You know, I don’t feel so...” he almost got out as the darkness of the garbage-strewn alley surged up to swallow him.
“Mmm...ah!” startled Napoleon as he awoke in disconcertingly plush surroundings. He snapped his eyes open only to realize he was cozily propped up in a winged brocade chair with a thick wool blanket tucked around him. The chair was situated in front of a crackling fireplace and a snifter of brandy sat near at hand in a small pool of golden light under a Tiffany lamp on the hardwood side table beside the chair. He felt plush carpet of the thickest nap beneath his shoes. It was a room of supreme affluence.
The heavy wood paneling and thick draperies of the room muffled all sound from outside the room, leaving it silent except for the crackling logs. Other than the subdued light from the single lamp, the room was only lit by the fireplace. Dancing shadows from that fire added to the otherworldly atmosphere of the small room.
Cautiously he reached out one arm, then another, realizing to his amazement that he wasn’t chained, tied, strapped or otherwise restrained. The setting was unusual but he had literally lost count of the number of times he had woken up in this state; disoriented, nauseous from a head blow or an injury and with his mind racing with the need to find the best course of action he could to get out of the situation alive. Somedays he thought ruefully to himself, I think I’m getting a little old for this line of work.
“Yes, you have indeed chosen a dangerous line of work for yourself, Napoleon Solo,” rumbled that strange inside/outside voice from somewhere startlingly nearby.
He tried firmly to locate the speaker. “Actually it sort of...chose me,” he responded, scanning about carefully into the dark perimeters of the room. “My mother said something about it being in my blood.” He shrugged the blanket off and reached up tentatively to touch the throbbing back of his head. The wound had been cleaned and dressed with a gauze bandage. “Could you tone down the stereo effects, please. You’re giving me a splitting second. A second splitting headache,” he winced.
“As you wish,” returned The Shadow mildly. “Your mother also used to say that my mind-speaking gave her a migraine.” The odd tone in his voice was still there but tempered to a less resonant edge.
“My mother?” returned the agent suspiciously, turning to peer at the position from which the voice was originating. “What do you know of my mother?”
The same cloaked man sat casually in a far chair, well back in the velvet shadows of the book-lined room. His face, lit only by the edges of the firelight, was still hard to discern for the agent, but he did notice that the man’s hand was graced by an exact replica of his own ring. “I knew your mother ...quite well,” admitted the voice slowly. “She was one of my first agents after I returned to New York from Tibet in the 1930s. Her resistance to my mental skills astounded me.” The eyes over the scarf mask crinkled almost imperceptibly in what may have been amusement, then the look vanished. “That ring you wear was given to her by me.”
“Really?” answered Napoleon in superficial casualness. His mind was racing, trying to remember if his mother had alluded even in passing to hanging out with costumed crimefighters in her youth. Somehow he thought that would had left an impression.
The Shadow motioned toward the snifter of brandy with one hand. “Please, help yourself, it’s completely safe.”
Napoleon sat up and picked up the glass cautiously, letting the heat of his hand warm the liquor while swirling the golden-brown brandy and sniffing the heady fumes carefully. He detected an undertone of something additional, but made it a point not to display that discovery on his face.
“Yes, you’re right. It has herbal extracts in it, but they’re all perfectly safe. They will help you regain your strength quickly.”
The lack of personal inner dialogue that he was experiencing with this man present was beginning to make Napoleon uneasy. He shifted his posture slightly to conceal more of his face from the other man and decided to risk a sip. Not bad, he considered. His dull headache from the blow did begin to lift almost immediately. The minute I finish the brandy, my next step is going to be out the door to find Illya. I hope that my odd companion doesn’t intend to block me in that effort or things could get tricky, he allowed himself, half in planning, half in broadcast threat to his host.
“Now to the issue of finding your friend,” announced the other man efficiently, not quite answering Solo’s unspoken words. “We know that the man who took him was none other than Shiwan Khan, a very old enemy of mine. Once he was a powerful mentalist, even surpassing myself, but after an...accident...during one of our encounters, he became unable to accurately use those powers. He has spent his time since then building a powerful crime empire in China, one of the foundation stones of your own nemesis organization, the one you call Thrush. His return to the United States is the very thing that has called me from retirement.”
Solo peered at the odd man over the top of his snifter. He could sense something familiar about him, but he couldn’t quite put a finger on it. He watched the shadowy figure intently, waiting for him to continue.
“This formula he has taken possession of, what do you know of it?”
“If it is indeed the Amphora formula, it was employed by rogue Thrush assassins several months ago to try to resurrect their dead cult leader’s memories into a descendant’s body. Two of our agents foiled the plot and the temple was levelled. It was reported that the remainder of the formula was lost. Evidently it was not.” Napoleon sat the snifter down and rose to his feet. “I really must be going now. Your old nemesis has my partner somewhere and I need to find them both.”
“And how do you anticipate doing that?” asked the Shadow, making no move to block Solo’s departure.
“At U.N.C.L.E., we have some tricks of our own...” began the agent.
“Shiwan Khan left your partner’s communicator pen behind in the street if you were anticipating using that to find him.”
Solo scrubbed his hair back in growing impatience. “I‘m guessing here that you have a better idea?” he asked.
The dark eyes of the other man crinkled in amusement. “You read my mind, Mr. Solo. Yes, actually I do,” he answered, waving his be-ringed hand at the agent. [*][*][*][*][*][*][*]
Wherever it was that Shiwan Khan had taken me, it is cold, grumbled Illya to himself. Cold and damp. Once again he tried to peer out through the narrow eyeslits of the metal case he had been shut inside. He had only caught a quick glimpse of the upright metal sarcophagus from the outside before the Thrush agents had untied him and hustled him over to it, forcing him inside and padlocking the cover shut from the outside. It was an enormous over-sized mummy case of sorts, apparently made of silver. He had quickly read the inscription ‘Kha Khan Dei Potestas in Terra. Sigillum Imperatoris Humanitatis’ just before they had managed to shove him unwillingly inside. His mind played with the translation ‘The Power of God on Earth. The Seal of the Emperor of the World.’ More of Shiwan Khan’s delusion of being a descendant of Genghis Khan, he suspected.
All of Illya’s attempts to rock the huge coffin off its feet had been unsuccessful due to its enormous weight. He had felt his way around the entire inside door, unable to find any possible hinges or locks to pick. Not really very surprising, he concluded. Most people shut in coffins are not actively trying to get back out, he noted grimly.
The noises in the stone chamber outside had quieted down after a few hours. He strained to hear any outside sounds that might tell him where he was. Only crypt-like silence met his ears, not even the sounds of a ventilation system or traffic met his straining ears. The room also had the slightly moldy smell of underground stonework and he could see heavy timbers above him in the ceiling. If he were in Europe he would have thought he was in a castle dungeon, but castles were fairly rare in New York City and they had not been riding in the car long enough to be anywhere else. He was perplexed.
After scanning the narrow slip of room he could see from the opening and noting nothing of value, the agent finally decided to catnap and save his energy for that inevitable time when the Thrush leader returned for the next step of their encounter. He atttempted to curl into as comfortable a ball as he could against the metal back of the sarcophagus and drifted into an uneasy sleep.
Even using the frequency information that the Shadow provided to Napoleon, the technicians at U.N.C.L.E. HQ took several long hours to locate Illya’s weak intermittant signal on a grid by grid search of New York City. By early evening, the technicians had finally narrowed the search to Morningside Heights, then to the Amsterdam Avenue area, then to the city block between West 113th St. and Central Park North.
Armed with this information, Napoleon contacted the phone number provided as a message drop by the Shadow. Feeling slightly absurd, Napoleon dialed the number. “Uh...I need to get a message to...to the Shadow,” he began uncertainly, feeling like he was a character in a radio drama suddenly.
“The pass phrase, Mack?” barked the Bronx accent on the other end of the line.
“You gotta supply the first half of the pass phrase,” prompted the impatient voice, making no effort to hide the fact that he thought Solo was deficient in his ‘agent of the Shadow’ skills.
“Oh...right. Um... The sun is slipping?” Solo wrinkled his forehead, scanning his memory desperately for the ridiculous phrase that Illya had scowled about being told to memorize the first night he met the Shadow. He really wished he had been more awake during his partner’s diatribe.
“The ice is sunny?”
“Not even close.”
“Look I don’t have time for this.” Silence followed. “Okay, how many chances do I get?”
His question was met by a long exasperated sigh.
Several near misses and two hints later, Napoleon broke the code and left word with the intermediary to have the Shadow meet him outside Morningside Park at 8 PM.
As Solo lurked against an iron park railing with his hands shoved deep into his trenchcoat pockets, a yellow cab roared up to the curb and the driver leaned the window and barked, “Hey Mack.” Solo scowled as he immediately recognized the voice of his abrasive point-of-contact. The cab driver jerked his thumb at the back seat and Solo climbed in, not at all surprised to see another passenger already sitting in the darkness of the cab.
“The signal is weak and intermittent, but he’s here somewhere,” reported Solo, tempted to try to get a good look at his mysterious companion, but torn by his desire to scan the neighborhood from the cruising cab for some clue as to where Illya was being held. “We’ve had the area under observation for several hours, but nothing unusual was reported, and no known Thrush agents were spotted.”
“What would block the signal?” led the Shadow.
“Well, soil with mineral deposits, metal plating, thick stone walls....” Solo suddenly looked up to see the construction scaffolding around the partially-finished cathedral of St. John the Divine looming above him.
Motioning to his driver to pull over, the Shadow asked “Shall we go?”
This one is going to cost me, thought Solo to himself, as he pried open a side wooden door to the cathedral and kicked in some nailed boards to gain entry. “I’ve never had to break and enter a church before,” he muttered to his companion, openly less than pleased with the idea.
“In a good cause,” returned the other, scanning the area carefully.
The two crept quietly into the nave of the cathedral. Napoleon had always had a soft spot in his heart for Big John, as the edifice was called. Construction needed to finish the building had been delayed for several decades, but in spite of this the space, the spirit and the intentions of the place were still palpable. The nave had a familiar smell of wood polish, incense and wax that Solo associated with churches. The footsteps of the pair clipped hollowly in the open area as they searched for some clue.
Napoleon shone his flashlight along the walls looking for some sign of disturbance or opening but found none. The Shadow moved ahead coming to a halt in front of the third bay on the left. He stood staring up at the stained glass window as the rising moon cut colored beams into the cathedral from outside.
Solo stopped beside him and swept the area with a flashlight beam, seeing nothing out of place. “Nothing is here, shall we proceed?” he whispered.
“No, this is what we seek.”
“This is the Crusader Bay, a tribute to thousands of misguided men who sought salvation by pursuing mystical goals, only to fail miserably. This would appeal to Shiwan Khan’s sense of irony.”
“But nothing is here,” pressed Solo.
“The clouded mind sees nothing,” answered the other cryptically as he furrowed his brow in concentration.
Suddenly, to Napoleon’s astonishment, what had been solid stone floor in one corner blurred and revealed itself to be a heavy wooden trapdoor. His mouth all but fell open in shock. He rubbed his eyes and looked again, “That was not there,” he asserted firmly.
“But it is now,” announced the Shadow dryly as he reached for the heavy metal ring. “You first.”
Solo mugged his response at the other man, positive that in spite of the darkness and his silence, the Shadow knew fully well what had been on his mind when he did so.
In the cold crypt beneath the cathedral, the Thrush guards had just finished strapping a struggling Illya onto one of two shining aluminum surgical tables that seemed oddly out of place in the barren stone room. As his head was being firmly strapped in place by one guard, he could hear Shiwan Khan puttering around across the room at a preparation table of some sort. The old man chattered happily to himself as he prepared two large syringes of an oddly glowing blue liquid. He nodded to the nurse standing beside him to carry the tray containing those needles over to the empty table near Illya.
“You’re probably wondering what I’m doing,” surmised Khan as he reached unsteadily for his walker and began to hobble inch by inch over toward the agent.
“Not really,” answered Illya stiffly. He really hated these villain gloating games but he needed more time for Napoleon and the cavalry to arrive. “But you’ll undoubtedly tell me,” he forced out from between clenched teeth.
“I have been waiting for this year to arrive for quite some time,” chattered the old man as he neared. “The portents are good because this is the year of the Dragon. At last the day of the Mongol warrior is at hand.” The drama of the statement caused him to dissolve into a coughing fit. When he finally regained his breath, he apologized, “Pardon me, I have not been well.”
At Illya’s blank look, the Thrush leader back-tracked and tried again. “The Dragon is one of a set of Chinese horoscope animals from a cycle that repeats...”
“Yes, yes, I know about Chinese astrology,” bit out Illya, hating to be taken for ignorant. “I was just disputing your melodramatic declaration about Mongol warriors.”
“You are such a bitter creature,” smiled Khan, now close enough to pat the Russian on the face paternally. “I will enjoy occupying your mind.”
The agent glared at him coldly. Now would come the part of the capture game that he despised the most, discovering what hideous fate the villain planned for him.
“Yesss, I thought that would arouse your interest. The formula you tried to intercept was the last few ounces of Dr. Amphora’s memory transfer formula excavated from the tomb of Cambodyses where your agents tried to bury it.”
Illya remembered the formula that April and Mark had set out to recover. It had never been positively tested but the claim was that it could be used to reincarnate an ancestor’s memory into one of their descendants, allowing the ancestor another lifetime. He paled as he remembered Shiwan Khan’s gibbering about the two of them sharing a common ancestor in Genghis Khan.
“You really intend to risk both our lives to try to relocate into a younger...my...body?” Illya was appalled. “You’d be risking your own life as well.”
“Do you think me mad?” barked the old man. “All I will be risking is a few brain cells. Nothing I didn’t already lose to your barbaric Western surgeons after they performed a lobotomy on me after my magnificent battle with the Shadow many decades ago. That operation cost me most of my psychic powers.” He frowned at the memory as he rubbed the thin white hair covering his still visible scar. “You, however, my young Kuryakin, will lose out either way. If the procedure takes, you will be me. If it does not, the serum will kill you.”
“No I don’t think so,” rang out a familiar voice. Napoleon Solo entered the room swiftly from the steps leading to the cathedral nave above. His announcement was punctuated by two sharp puffs from the U.N.C.L.E. special, as the lone Thrush guard and the nurse fell to two tranquillizer darts.
“Napoleon, it’s about time you showed up,” grumbled the Russian.
“I’m glad to see you too, Illya,” quipped Solo lightly as he began circling the room to come in behind the old man.
“I thought I had you killed,” growled Khan peevishly. “Most impolite of you to disappoint me like that.” He paused and brightened as the name sunk in. “Napoleon? Are you Napoleon Solo by any chance,” asked Khan abruptly. “Oh this is just too coincidental,” he said dancing his fingers together. “Do you realize that you too play a role in this little drama, Mr. Solo.”
Napoleon frowned at the old man’s fearlessness. Instinct told him that something dangerous was going unannounced here. Khan was not even bothering to back away or reach for a weapon, his confidence indicating that this rescue attempt may not yet be a done deal.
“Your grandfather was a scientist for the Department of Defense was he not?”
Here we go again, thought the agent as he continued to edge closer. “You seem to know so much, you tell me,” he murmured evenly as he continued to edge in, never letting his eyes move off the old man. The hair on his neck was beginning to prickle. As a precaution he flipped his Special from darts to bullets, all the while keeping it firmly aimed at the Thrush leader’s chest.
The old man continued chattering in the same drawing room conversational tone. “He was working on an implosive device. I once almost used that bomb to re-establish my Mongol empire from here in New York, only to be defeated by the despised Shadow and his blond disciple, Margo Lane.”
Although this was not exactly news to the agent after the Shadow’s announcement of yesterday, he sensed something more was coming. “Move over there, away from the table.” He motioned with the gun.
The old man slid along the surgical table still holding Illya, seemingly using it to support himself. “Oh yes, Mr Solo, your mother, Margo Lane Solo, was a close and personal friend of the Shadow. In fact it was rumored that he actually was your...”
I don’t want to hear this, grimaced the agent silently.
“Napoleon...” warned his partner uneasily.
Moving faster than Solo would have deemed possible, the ancient man snatched up one syringe of blue liquid and pressed the needle firmly against the Russian’s jugular. As the senior agent moved forward instinctively, the old man cautioned, “Ah! It really wouldn’t do for me to waste this entire syringe full of serum now would it Mr. Solo.” He jabbed the needle a little deeper, drawing a bead of blood from Illya’s throat. Solo froze in his tracks.
“On your knees, Mr. Solo,” he demanded, making a threatening move on the syringe plunger with his thumb.
Grudgingly the agent complied, slowly dropping to his knees on the stone floor. He still held the U.N.C.L.E. Special hoping for an opening.
“What a wonderfully karmic week this has been,” Khan sang. “First I find an unexpected relative with whom I will soon have a marvelous bond. Then to have the son of the hated Margo Lane before me on his knees helpless. How very wonderful,” he preened.
Napoleon felt a fog beginning to pass over his conscious mind. Creasing his brow with concentration, he put his free hand to his forehead to fight it.
“Now put the gun to your temple, Mr. Solo..” ordered the Thrush leader. He paused savoring the moment. “...And sacrifice yourself to your Khan.” He grinned maliciously and watched, all but holding his breath in anticipation. At Illya’s shocked look he added, “I said my powers were reduced, not gone. You should have seen me before the accident.”
Napoleon fought the compelling voice ringing both inside and outside his head, repeating the suicide instructions. Despite his internal battle the gun and his hand began to rise of their own accord. No, he denied silently, concentrating his will against the action.
Sharply two voices rang out as one, “Napoleon, stop!” The agent felt the U.N.C.L.E. Special fly out of his hands and clatter into the far wall.
Illya, the source of one of the voices, looked over in amazement at the flying weapon. “I didn’t do that,” he supplied.
“No, but I DID,” supplied an eerie, disembodied voice. The source of the voice materialized beside the kneeling agent into the familiar form of...
“YOU!” shrilled Shiwan Khan in outrage. “I thought...I hoped...you had died of old age by now!” Enraged, he stepped away from Illya and took two stumbling steps toward the cloaked figure of the Shadow, who was helping Napoleon to his feet. “I will kill you with my bare hands if I must, I will rend you limb from limb, I will boil your eyes in...in...” Khan’s face turned beet red and he raised both hands to his throat, choking as the breath seemed to freeze in his throat. With a shriek, he collapsed in a twitching heap in the floor. The Shadow watched dispassionately from across the room.
Napoleon stumbled over to Illya and rapidly began unstrapping him. Once his partner’s hands had been freed so he could finish the job himself, Solo leaned back against the table to contact U.N.C.L.E. HQ on his communicator pen and request an ambulance be sent for the crumpled Thrush leader.
“Where did he go?” asked Illya suddenly, looking around the room for the Shadow.
They both scanned the room thoroughly. Solo shrugged and offered, “The Shadow knows.”
“Congratulations on apprehending Shiwan Khan and recovering the Amphora formula gentlemen. Mr. Khan will be a long time recovering from his burst blood vessel, but when he does we are sure he will be an excellent source of information on Thrush Asia,” concluded Alexander Waverly as he shut the briefing file. “And you’ve found no further evidence of this ‘Shadow’ or his Sanctum or even the mansion you remember being in?”
“No sir,” responded Napoleon distractedly. He was covertly staring at Mr. Waverly’s ring. Why had he never noticed the similarity in the design of the Waverly Ring and the ring the Shadow had worn? In fact...
“We assume that the Shadow vigilante must have been using some hallucinogenic drugs on us, sir. Our memories of the events seems to be... a bit foggy.” Illya watched as Waverly nodded thoughtfully, filling his pipe from his humidor of Isle of Dogs Number 22. The Russian suddenly remembered the smoky smell he had detected on the Shadow’s clothes the night he was rescued from the bridge. His brow creased in suspicion.
“He claimed to have the skills to fog people’s vision through sheer force of concentration, sir, but I forget exactly what he called it,” added Napoleon, his mind racing back to some of the many times that Mr. Waverly had perplexed entire rooms of people at staff meetings with a few seemingly innocent statements.
Three pairs of eyes met over the briefing table as Waverly stood up and strolled to the door. “Ah, that then would be ‘The power to cloud men’s minds,’ wouldn’t it , gentlemen?” supplied the senior U.N.C.L.E. official enigmatically. In a cloud of pipe smoke he vanished from the room.
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