Illya Kuryakin stared up at the signpost from the dry safety of his little sports coupe for a long frustrating moment before returning to his map. It was cold comfort to know that English maps were just as impossible to read as American ones were. He tried squinting at the sign again, but the rain was just too heavy for him to see it clearly.
"It is inevitable," the blond muttered to himself and sighed. Then, steeling himself, he got the car door open and climbed out into the downpour. Instantly, he was drenched to the skin, making getting to the post with all haste and back into the car a prime objective.
"For the love of...", he trailed off as closer inspection proved the sign unintelligible, its paint long since worn off. "Then Mr. Waverly wonders why I make such a fuss," he grumbled as he settled back into the bucket seat and reached for the heater switch. The heater immediately started to blow cold air and the Russian let his head drop. Of course, it would only make sense that he would pick the car with the broken heater.
He switched the heater off, and without another conscious thought, he picked the left fork and drove on. With any luck, he'd find the hotel or at least some obliging sort to help him.
Eventually, the rolling hills gave way to thicket and trees and Illya braked the car in front of the gate of the first house he saw, and then paused to read the sign posted upon the gate.
'WOMUMP - Wortlethorpe Municipal Moon Programme - KEEP OUT'. This didn't cause Illya as much worry; rather relief as UNCLE had heard that THRUSH was watching this little project with much focused attention, although why Waverly didn't know. No, it was the 'BEWARE - Guard Dogs on Patrol Inside Fence' sign beneath it that was his concern. He'd never really been fond of large dogs and that affair with the dogs a couple of years ago was still fresh in his mind.
He threw the car back into gear and headed on, soon driving through the sleepy little town of Torquay. Nothing really seemed to distinguish it from a half dozen other little English hamlets he'd driven through today, but this one signaled the end of his trip and for that, he was grateful. A few miles out of town, he came upon a sign post that cheered him even more and he began to wonder if some of Solo's luck was finally beginning to rub off on him. Of course, the sign pointed straight down at the ground, but that was of little consequence to him. Dryness, warmth and possibly a little sustenance would soon be at hand.
He walked into the lobby of the Fawlty Towers Hotel and looked about. It was clean, airy and neatly decorated, with the exception of a moth-eaten moose head and a crooked picture of the English countryside. This might turn out to be as easy an assignment as Solo's. Illya walked over to the desk and stood there patiently, listening to a woman's one-way phone conversation coming from the private office behind the desk. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a grey blur and he spun quickly, just as a short man of Spanish descent and reminiscent of Renfield from "Dracula" came running across the lobby.
"Baseel, Baseel, where are you?" he stage-whispered until he saw Illya and stood to his full 5'2". "Good evening, how are you today? Fine, I'll get your bill."
"But I haven't gotten a room yet," Illya protested.
"Que?" Then something caught the man's attention and he grinned again. "Excuse me."
Illya nodded politely and watched the man scurry away again. Still, no one came and finally, lest he leave too large a puddle on the carpet, he rang the bell.
"Couldn't you get that, dear?" came an exasperated voice. "I'm rather tied up at the moment."
"Not now, Basil, I'm on the phone with some very important business."
"Your wig can wait."
This went on, back and forth for longer than Illya appreciated, but eventually a tall, rather disheveled man emerged from behind a door and looked the Russian up and down critically.
"I have a reservation."
"Isn't that a coincidence? We just happen to be a hotel." The man opened a large book and continued to glare at him. "Your name?"
"Kuryakin, Illya." Illya's temper was slowly rising, but he kept his voice level.
The man ran a slender finger down a page, then another. "No, I don't see anything here."
"I have a confirmation here." Illya handed over a crumbled, folded envelope and the man took it with almost a sense of distaste.
"So you do. Just a moment please. Dear, would come here please?" The voice raised an octave during the course of the request.
"Yes, Basil, what is it?" A woman, nicely dressed, but tired looking, came to the doorway. "Good God, Basil, don't tell me you've forgotten how to check a guest in?"
"Sybil, this good gentleman has received a letter of confirmation from you, my dear, but I don't see a reservation under his name."
Sybil swung the ledger around and studied it for a long time, at least in Illya's opinion, but his judgment of time had become askew after becoming drenched. As if to emphasize who was really in charge, thunder rolled through the room.
"Honestly, this weather. You'd think it would let up in the summer. Your name again, sir?"
"Kuryakin, Illya Kuryakin." He resisted the urge to sigh and pull out his id card. He had the sense that the importance and prestige of international enforcement organizations would be lost upon this pair.
"Here it is, Basil, Sylvia Caratokin. Men are so hopeless, especially certain ones." She walked back through the door behind the desk and disappeared.
"Why don't you jump off the edge of a cliff and see how helpless I am...?" Basil muttered while he corrected the spelling in the book. He thumped down upon the bell and almost immediately, the same small Spanish man appeared.
"Take the gentleman's luggage to room 12, Manuel."
"Suitcases," Basil roared. "Room 12!" In frustration, he looked around until he found something behind the desk and held up a hasty sketch of a nude woman. At Manuel's blank stare, Basil glanced at the card and his face reddened. "That blasted Polly and her drawings." He hunted around a moment longer, finally holding up a sketch of a suitcase and a number 12. There was a dawning of understanding and Manuel scurried off.
"You can't get good help these days. He's from Barcelona," Basil said and he smiled at the blond as he turned the register for him to sign in. "So, what sort of name is Kuryakin? It sounds almost...Russian." Basil chuckled at the thought, as if the thought of a Russian in England was preposterous.
"It is." Illya set the pen down, having, on impulse, signed his name using the Cyrillic alphabet.
"Little Commie blighter," Basil murmured as he retrieved his register.
"Excuse me?" Illya pretended to have not heard.
"You speak English well," was the shouted response as his key was passed over.
Illya backed away a step and nodded. "Thank you. I have a Ph.D. from Cambridge. They prefer that you speak the language before admitting you."
With that, Illya turned and trudged wearily up to his room, all too aware that the man was muttering a blue streak behind him. Somehow, as wet and tired as he was, the opinion of the desk clerk didn't matter much. He'd been exposed to that sort of bigotry much of his Western existence.
Manuel had set his suitcase on the luggage rack. He was preparing to leave as Illya entered and he smiled politely at the guest
"Gracias," Illya said, and Manuel's face lightened even more. "¿Cómo estás esta noche?" (How are you this evening?)
"Usted habla español." The relieved response demonstrated to Illya that the man was as much a victim of the desk clerk's prejudice as he was. Manuel offered his hand. "Mi nombre es Manuel. Si necesitas algo, yo soy el hombre para preguntar ." (My name is Manuel. If you need anything, I am the man to ask.)
"Occasionally and when the need arises, yes, I do speak Spanish. Tell me; is that man, Basil. Is he always like that?" Illya shook the hand firmly and then slid out of his top coat. It had proven ineffective against the weather and Illya made a mental note to leave it hanging in the closet when he checked out. Until then, he hung it back in the far corner, well away from where he'd hang the rest of his clothes up.
"Oh no, sir, today is one of his good days."
"Wonderful, I can't wait to spend more time with him," Illya said. "Manuel, what time does the dining room open?
"At eight, half past twelve and at seven thirty." Manuel was using the moment to look about the room.
"Did you lose something?"
"Something small, my Siberian filigree hamster," the Spaniard admitted and Illya frowned. He'd never heard of such a thing and he'd spent more time in Siberia than he'd preferred.
"I shall keep my eye open for it." Illya handed over some money. "Thank you."
"No, thank you, sir, but do you suppose we could talk again later?"
"Yes, later." Illya had the feeling that the man was delighted to have someone to speak to in his own language and it was that and not Illya's character that attracted him. He was not offended; Illya understood the feeling, especially to his first few months in Paris as he struggled to learn French. Afterwards, he'd learned then to keep his ears open and his mouth closed. It was amazing what people would say when they thought you didn't understand the language.
He looked towards the bathroom as he peeled off his wet jacket and draped it over the foot board of the bed. At least they had hot water, Illya thought, as he stepped into the bathroom to retrieve a towel for his hair. A shower would feel very good, but it would have to wait for just a few minutes longer. He went back in the bedroom and retrieved his communicator from his jacket pocket and twisted it on.
"Overseas relay please." He sat on the bed and stripped off his pants while waiting. He was slipping out of his gun holster when contact was made.
"Waverly here." If the Russian found any surprise at the head of North America's UNCLE office being up at 3 in the morning, it was short lived. He'd learned from experience that the man never seemed to sleep, eat or ever be more than an arm's length from a communicator.
"Kuryakin, Sir, just checking in."
"Good, you arrived safely. Have you established contact yet?"
"No, sir. I have located the WOMUMP operation, but it seems to be heavily guarded. I'm hoping to get in there tonight."
"Don't take any chances, Mr. Kuryakin. We just want to know what THRUSH is up to, not have to rescue you."
"Yes, sir, I'll report in at the regular time. Kuryakin out." Illya tucked the instrument back into the jacket pocket and started for the bathroom. On an impulse, he picked up his gun from where it lay on the bureau top and resumed his path to the bathroom.
Not that the hot shower did an awful lot of good, for it was still raining just as hard when he went out later to check up on the WOMUMP property. brushed his wet hair off his forehead and cautiously approached the fence, prepared to dash for cover should the need arise. The head-high mesh fencing didn't appear to be electrified or interwoven with barbed wire, and no dogs raced up to challenge him. Of course, the place was large and they could just be off some place else. The rain obliterated any clear view of what was going on, if anything, at the main building. In the nearby field stood a small rocket set up, a sign on it reading, 'Caution Automatic Rocket Control Box. Fantastically delicate - Do Not Touch'. Further investigation proved it to be exactly what it said it was. Apparently, WOMUMP was serious about shooting off a rocket. But for what purpose, Illya did not care to think about, especially with THRUSH behind it.
It was late when he returned to his hotel and the constant rain had done much to chill him. He headed up the stairs, eagerly pulling off his jacket in an attempt to warm up...again. The action revealed his shoulder holster just as a young woman came rushing down the stairs, her arms wrapped around some towels. Her eyes widened and Illya hurriedly tossed the jacket over the offending sight, inwardly wincing as wet fabric started dripping down his back and into his pants.
"Wet night out for a walk," she tried for casual conversation while edging around him carefully, back to the wall. She kept the towels in front of her as if using them as a shield.
"Yes, it is," Illya answered politely, wondering whether or not he should even try to explain. "But it is England, after all."
"I put some fresh towels in your room for you. Looks like you'll need them."
He watched as she nearly ran across the lobby, behind the desk and into a door behind it. So much for keeping a low profile - Illya had a feeling the entire hotel would know that he was carrying a weapon within the hour. Waverly would have his guts for garters if he found out.
Sunrise found him hunched in a small thicket near the main building of the WOMUMP project, eyes behind binoculars, mouth alternating between a thermos of hot coffee and breakfast rolls. It was interesting how fast the hotel staff responded to his needs now and he had a feeling the news of his chance meeting with the maid had something to do with it.
He stretched out, doing his best to ignore the damp ground and focused his binoculars upon the two men scurrying about the immediate area. It looked like they were doing some sort of experiments with rodents, but he couldn't be too sure. It certainly had attracted the interest of a ginger-colored cat, who never let the mice from his sight. Must be hungry, Illya decided, and turned the binoculars into another direction only to choke in surprise. Two sets of spyglasses were fixed on him from a thicket not far away.
Illya swore softly and pushed closer to the ground. Eventually, his observers either grew bored or had gotten their fill of him, for they disappeared, leaving the blond a little weak-kneed. He rolled over onto his back and pulled out his communicator.
"Overseas relay, please," he said, more than a bit annoyed that he'd been so easily discovered. This was something that was supposed to happen to a greenhorn, not an experienced field agent. On the other hand, if THRUSH was indeed interested, it would have only made sense to have their own agents keeping an eye upon the experiments. It could well be that this assignment was over before it began.
"Solo here. How is cheery old England?"
"Napoleon!" Illya was glad to hear his partner's voice. "How did it go?"
"Not well, unfortunately. We barely managed to get out of there at all, much less with any usable information. Galdroon didn't make it, neither did Standish or Hawkins."
"I'm truly sorry to hear that. They were good agents. Please give my condolences to their families."
"The price we all have to be willing to pay. How are things going with you?"
"Very wet and, unfortunately, I think I've just been spotted by our feathered friends."
"Don't have one yet, short of pulling me and assigning this to someone with a bit more finesse or luck." Illya paused, and then cleared his throat. "Napoleon, do you know what this is all about? I did a bit of after-hours surveillance last night and there is next to no security, unless you want to count posting warning signs of 'do not touch' to be the new ideal."
"I'd never withhold information, Illya. You know as much as I know, old man. There is supposed to be possible THRUSH involvement due to a family connection to one of the WOMUMP scientists, a Mister Cuthbert Frugg."
"Napoleon, he looks like an escapee from a Saturday movie matinee and about as dangerous. Still, they are serious about launching a rocket. I've seen the set-up, but it's crude to say the least and I'm sure that's not where the danger lies. I'm going to concentrate on the men, not the project."
"You don't have much time, Illya, especially if you've been spotted."
"I know. Don't worry; I'll get some information...somehow. Kuryakin out."
Illya studied the menu before him and contemplated the morning's events. It had been a total wash, in his opinion. The men, he stopped short of calling them scientists, had puttered around and gone through the motions of testing and recording the results, but Illya couldn't see to what ends. He'd never gotten the visit from THRUSH that he'd been anticipating and his stomach muscles were sincerely happy about that. The last such meeting hadn't gone well for them and Illya was always appreciative when he got a break. Yet, that in itself made no sense. He'd slowly angled his way around the complex until he'd arrived at the spot of his observers, but all that remained was a small stack of Cadbury chocolate bar wrappers. Again, that made no sense. THRUSH didn't usually leave bits of their presence behind. Dutifully, Illya had collected them for testing and returned, mildly depressed by his lack of success, to the hotel.
For all its strangeness, Fawlty Towers did, at least, have a good menu. He was glad for this fact as he'd gone without anything else more substantial than sweet rolls. He was ready for a decent meal. A noise at his elbow drew his attention and he smiled up at the woman he'd met on the stairs the previous night.
"You're a waitress too?" Illya smiled, trying to put her at ease, but she gave him the impression that the dining room staff had drawn straws and she'd lost.
"Uh huh, I also watch the desk, deal with the tradesmen, you know, Jack-of-all Trades."
"That sounds all too familiar, believe me. I don't believe I caught your name last night."
"Polly," was her strangled response as she darted a look over her shoulder at the kitchen door. Whatever she saw there made her hurriedly refocus her attention upon the Russian. "Are you ready to order?"
"I think I'll try the veal and a green salad."
"It's too early in the day for me." Then, as an afterthought, he added, "Besides, I'm on duty." Perhaps that would help them to know his intentions were pure.
Polly's face blanked and she dropped the pencil, and then her pad. Immediately, she went for them, as did the passing Manuel. They met beneath Illya's table with a resounding crash and Kuryakin rose, intending to render aid just as Basil Fawlty rushed in to the dining room.
"Oh, Polly, you all right?" came the Spanish-accented question, still from beneath the table.
"Si, I'm fine. Manuel, you're kneeling on my pad."
"Sorry." Neither showed any inclination of movement from beneath the table and Illya smiled in spite of himself...
Basil scowled and walked over to the table, tapping on it lightly. There were twin thumps as both man and woman stood too quickly. They fought their way clear and stood up, sheepishly looking at their employer. Illya winced as Basil smacked Manuel firmly on the head and pointed to the kitchen. Polly didn't give him the same chance.
"Is everything all right here? Would you like a wine list? Please excuse them...he's from..."
"...Barcelona, I know," Illya finished. "There is something that you can help me with, though. A few miles down the road, there's a moon project going on. Do you know anything about it?"
Basil paused to caress his chin with a long-fingered hand as he thought. "No, can't say that I do. That would be near Wortlethorpe, wouldn't it? There's an odd town from the word 'go'." Basil stopped to lean closer to the blond agent. "Word has it that their church was saved by mice," he whispered conspiratorially.
"How interesting, especially for those people fond of rodents," Illya whispered back.
"What do you mean?" Basil straightened suddenly, bumping into the passing Manuel and sending a cascade of dirty crockery to the floor. "You idiot, why don't you watch where you're going?"
Manuel cringed as Basil drew back a hand for another resounding smack, but the limb was caught in a firm grasp.
"Don't hit him; I abhor physical violence, if you know what I mean," Illya said, while patting his left side. It had the desired reaction. The tall man whitened, nearly cowering before him.
"Don't shoot me. Anything you want, money, food, my wife, particularly my wife..." Basil apparently didn't see or care that his wife had appeared beside him.
"Mr. Fawlty, all I really want is an idea of whom I can talk to in Wortlethorpe, my lunch and a chance to go about my job in peace. I promise no harm will come to you or any of your staff or guests. My organization prefers to maintain a low profile."
"Try the Rector at the church," Sybil suggested as she set a plate down before him. "Here is your lunch and I shall see about the peace. Basil, the kitchen!"
"But he's a spy," came the whispered protest. "He's here to overthrow the Queen."
"I'll overthrow you, preferably into a pile of..." It was obvious who the real powerhouse in this relationship was.
Illya chuckled and turned his attention to his food. He was only half way through his veal and quite pleased with it, when two old women approached him. He dabbed his mouth and stood as they stopped at his table.
"It is you! I knew it was you!" The shorter turned to the other. "You see, Hazel, I told you it was him."
Hazel perched her glasses on the tip of her nose. "You're absolutely right. Why do I doubt you, Agatha?"
"Quite all right, my dear, quite all right."
"May I help you ladies?" Illya had given up being confused by anything that was happening during this trip.
"Yes, you can tell us what sort of bird you were watching this morning."
Illya hesitated, "I beg your pardon?"
"It was you hiding in that thicket, wasn't it?" Hazel asked as Basil was edging past. "What were you watching?"
"Uh, thrush," Illya tried and it seemed to satisfy the two.
"What sort of thrush?" Agatha asked, a moment later.
"I can't say that I've seen many of those in the area. I'm afraid you due to a major disappointment if you don't start looking for something else. We are from the Wortlethorpe Ornithology and Crocheting Society. Hazel is the honorable chairwoman this year." The pride and sense of accomplishment was strong in her voice.
"How proud you must both be," Illya said, smiling slightly at the pair. It was obvious that they were both a bit...he had to search for a moment for the correct word...dotty.
"Yes, yes, we are," Agatha glowed, and then she looked down at the table. "We mustn't keep you from your lunch. If you do find any interesting birds, we do hope you'll keep us informed."
"Absolutely." Illya sat and sighed as they walked away. He would not even wish this assignment on his worst enemy. Then, his communicator sounded. It wasn't as bad as it might have been for he was nearly the only one left in the dining room, except for the staff of course. The on-off beeping of the communicator sent the manager to the floor in a flurry of arms and legs.
"What was that?" Basil was panic-stricken at the sound.
"Not to worry," Illya muttered, reaching into his coat for the instrument. "It's just my arming device. I'm blowing up in five minutes." It was supposed to be a joke, but at the ashen face, he began to doubt his sense of humor. "It's just my answering service," Illya tried to explain, but Sybil waved him off.
"Don't worry about him, sir. If it wasn't this, it would have been something else. He's a natural coward, especially when it comes to physical pain of any sort." She turned her attention back to her husband. "Basil, you heard the man, it's his answering service. You said yourself that he was a doctor. Now come out of there."
"But he's armed...with a gun!"
"It's all right," Illya said, wiping his mouth and dropping the napkin to the table. "It would probably be better if I leave instead. Please give my regards to your chef - the veal was very good."
Illya hurried to his room and pulled out the communicator. "Open Channel D. Kuryakin here."
"Mr. Kuryakin, your delay had us concerned," came the voice of his superior.
"Sorry, but it couldn't be helped. What's wrong?"
"We have just received word from our inside man at THRUSH. Apparently, the uncle of Cuthbert Frugg is leaving THRUSH Central on his way to England. He should arrive there tomorrow morning. Have you found out anything more about these two scientists?"
"No, I'm about to leave to talk to the Rector about them."
"Rector, Mr. Kuryakin?"
"Yes, sir, at the church in Wortlethorpe," Illya said and he could almost hear Mr. Waverly slowly counting to ten. "I've been led to believe that he is the man with all the answers as to the comings and goings in this part of the world, sir."
"Very well, Mr. Kuryakin, and try not to muck this up. We definitely need to maintain an upper hand in this matter."
"Yes, sir, I completely understand. Kuryakin out." Illya sank back on the bed and ran a hand through his hair. This was really what he deserved for falling for that old tired line about the glamour of the spy business. If the new recruits had any idea of what awaited them on the other side of graduation, he suspected UNCLE would have to recruit hard and long for volunteers.
Illya yawned and blinked sleepily; barely able to keep his attention on the fiasco before him, although by rights it should have been more than enough to keep him awake. The two ladies from the bird society had decided that they needed to observe the nest of a six-toed titwillow or something like that from his window and had started knocking on his door long before daybreak. Sleep after that had been an impossibility and he'd finally fled the room for the relative quiet of the thicket. The sun was out and it was a glorious day, just right for a moon launch, he decided. Unfortunately, the warmth of the sun was now putting him to sleep. Cows and sheep grazed nearby him and he had the uncomfortable feeling that he'd knelt in something he shouldn't have.
A car pulled up to the group of people milling about drinking tea and talking, and Illya's sleepiness vanished as Hithanian Frugg stepped from the vehicle and marched straight up to one of the two men that were the center of attention. There was no mistaking the family resemblance between the two, same long pointed noses and chins, black limp hair and goatees. These two were related, although Illya could well imagine that one was the black sheep. He just couldn't tell which one it might be at this point.
Illya traded his binoculars for a camera and began to snap away. When the THRUSH agent was situated on the grandstand, a signal was given and the WOMUMP rocket took off with a mighty roar, dipping and diving like some kind of crazed metal wasp. In fact, it was all Illya could do to manage from getting trampled by the fleeing crowd or people and animals.
The rocket was soon out of sight and Illya wondered just how far the thing might get before burning up or coming back down. Until then, he decided his best bet would be to keep an eye on the THRUSH agents.
Illya found the men in the main building of the WOMUMP complex. With the dogs frightened off by the launch, Illya now dared to venture right up to the buildings. Frugg was drinking tea and glaring as the two scientists worked feverishly on a monitor, obviously one connected to the rocket. Cuthbert Frugg turned often to his uncle, smiling weakly. Illya studied the piece of equipment from his vantage point at the window. While it was obvious that it was a cut-rate instrument, it would probably do a lot better if it were plugged in. From what he could tell, they were all going to be there for a long time.
He decided to make use of the break and moved away to hide behind a Quonset hut marked WOMUMP Classroom 2.
"Overseas relay please," Illya yawned into the instrument. Almost immediately, a voice came back.
"You're still there?" Illya was dumbfounded. Usually, both men had a turn around time of 24 hours between assignments. "That must be some report you're working on."
"No, that was done yesterday. Now, I'm working on clearing off my desk."
"Why this sudden flurry of domesticity?" Illya asked as he peered into a window not far from him, just to be sure he didn't have any eavesdroppers. Not far from the window was a cage with a brown and white rat in it. Attached to the side was a slightly-nibbled card. 'Fawlty Towers Rat' it read in scrawling handwriting.
"In lieu of being fully operational, it's the best I can hope for," came the exasperated answer.
"What? Were you hurt? You didn't tell me." Illya was concerned, although he knew the injury must be a minor one.
"Just a broken arm. I...ah...tripped on my way into the plane. I have to get all the paperwork cleared away before I take some vacation time."
"Have you thought about where you'd like to go? The hotel I'm staying at is quite nice and they have a very attractive maid."
"I'll give it considerable thought, thank you. Was this just a social call or did you have something to report?"
"Sorry, I forgot about it. WOMUMP managed to get their rocket up, but I don't think we'll have much to worry about. They are currently following its progress with an unplugged monitor. THRUSH is here, but so far he seems unimpressed..." Illya broke off at the sound off approaching footsteps. He quickly capped the instrument and pressed back against the metal of the hut.
"Don't ever, ever bother me again, Cuthbert, and don't even think the word THRUSH. They are not interested in two-bit scientists, especially the ones not worth even that much." The man stopped on just the other side of the Russian and too preoccupied with how he was going to explain this to his superiors or just in a hurry to leave, stalked past the UNCLE agent, close enough to touch him. An instant later, a car's motor started and Illya slumped to the ground in relief.
"Napoleon, are you still there? Did you hear?
"Loud and clear and I think we can write off THRUSH involvement in this. Why don't you tie up any loose ends there, old man, and head for home?"
"Napoleon that is music to my ears. Kuryakin out." Illya tucked the slender device away. "There's just one more thing to do." He stood and began to examine the window casing.
Illya closed the suitcase and glanced around the room one last time. If it hadn't been for work, this wouldn't have been such a bad stay - a tad odd, but not bad. At least he couldn't complain about being bored. Last night, he met an old gentleman in the bar and they'd had a long, colorful discussion between drinks about the Prussian wars.
There was a knock on the door and Illya opened it to reveal a forever-smiling Manuel.
"You are leaving us," he asked in Spanish as he closed the door behind him.
"Duty calls," Illya explained and then he held up a finger. "Nearly forgot this. I remembered that you were looking for something small a few days ago."
"Yes, my pet hamster, Baseel."
"Would this happen to be Basil?" Illya took the rat from his pocket.
"Baseel!" was the joyful cry as owner and pet were reunited.
"I found him over at WOMUMP. Apparently, he was in the running to be a rat in space."
"Thank you so much. I have missed you," Manuel talked to the furry creature affectionately while reaching for Illya's suitcase.
"That's all right. Why don't you put him away some place safe? I can get my own suitcase."
"I am going to miss you, Mr. Kuryakin."
"Believe it or not, I'm going to miss all of you, Manuel, especially Mr. Fawlty." Illya tugged the door open and Basil toppled in followed by Polly and his wife. The three looked up at the Russian and each smiled weakly. "Believe me when I say, this is a stay I'll never forget."