Napoleon Solo shifted his attaché case from one hand to the other and scanned the immediate area for any hint of trouble. He'd had a bad feeling in the pit of his stomach since Waverly had originally briefed him and his partner on this affair, and the dank, dark interior of the airport wasn't improving his suspicions at all.
"What a depressing airport," he finally ventured to the blond-haired man. "It's like something out of the Great Depression." He half expected Illya Kuryakin to come back with some comment about the Grand Canyon, but the Russian simply looked around with an expression of displeasure on his face.
"I don't know. It sort of reminds me of Brazil," Illya said, wearily running a hand through his hair.
"Brazil?" Napoleon was dumb-founded. "How does this compare to Brazil? There's no warmth, no sun."
"No half naked women," Illya interrupted, with a smile. "I was referring to the movie "Brazil" not the country."
"Oh...I guess I didn't see it."
"Not surprising, Napoleon. It was hardly your type of movie." Illya glanced around again. "Didn't Mr. Waverly say we would be met by this guy... what was his name again?"
Napoleon dug a slip of paper out of his jacket pocket and smoothed it with one hand. "Wayne, Bruce Wayne," he announced as they passed beneath a sign that read simply 'Gotham City Airport'.
They were standing at the baggage claim when an aged man approached them. Napoleon slid his hand nonchalantly closer to the P-38 he had concealed in a shoulder holster and out of the corner of his eye he could see Kuryakin mirroring the motion.
The man, if he had any idea at all what they were doing, appeared undaunted and unconcern by their actions. "Mr. Solo and Mr. Kuryakin?"
"I'm Napoleon Solo," Napoleon said, offering his hand. "Mr. Wayne?"
"Oh, my heavens, no." The man's bowler was doffed. "I am Alfred Pennyworth, Mr. Wayne's personal butler. He sent me to fetch you back to the Manor."
"Fetch us?" Napoleon repeated, exchanged a look with the Russian, who merely shrugged his shoulders.
"Yes, Mr. Wayne regrets being unable to meet you personally, but he was detained by some rather urgent business."
"Very well," Napoleon said. "As soon as we get our luggage, we'll be ready."
"Your luggage has already been attended to, sir," Alfred replied as if it were commonplace to not have to wait around for a stray bag or two to turn up.
"Well, then I guess we're ready now." Napoleon was easy going. "Lead the way." He waited for a 'follow me please', but Alfred merely nodded, replaced his hat and walked away, with both agents close behind.
Mr. Waverly had briefed them on Mr. Wayne and had mentioned in passing that the man was of the more affluent in Gotham; yet Napoleon wasn't quite prepared for the limousine Alfred led them too.
"What a way to go," Illya murmured to Napoleon as they climbed into the car.
"Sure beats your old crate," Napoleon answered, grinning at his partner. "The only time I thought I'd be riding in a limo like this was to my funeral."
"Let's just be hopeful that this is not one and the same." Illya dropped his voice even lower as Alfred closed the door behind them and walked around to the driver's side. "This whole affair isn't sitting well with me at all."
"You too? Guess great minds think alike."
"And fools seldom differ," Illya finished and leaned forward towards Alfred. "Mr. Pennyworth...."
"Alfred, please, sir. We are an informal lot." Alfred started the car and pulled out into the traffic.
"All right, Alfred, then," Illya broke off as something strayed into his peripheral vision and he turned quickly to catch a better look, but whatever it was had gone.
"Illya, what's wrong?" Napoleon followed the direction of his partner's stare, but could see nothing except for the ancient looking, and in some cases, grotesquely twisted, buildings of Gotham. There wasn't a modern structure that anywhere he could see.
"Thought I saw something," Illya answered, still scanning the horizon.
"A common affliction here, sir." Alfred apparently noticed everything.
"Affliction, Alfred?" The Russian didn't pick up on the nuance, but Napoleon did.
"He means the Batman, Illya. I thought he was fiction, though, something to scare the criminals. I'd like to shake that man's hand."
"No, sir, he is very real, although not many people get to even see him, much less meet him. He's rather elusive."
"He lives by night, dresses totally in black and pounds creeps into the ground with his bare hands. Doesn't sound like much of a living to me," Illya murmured, turning back around on the car seat.
"It works for you," Napoleon pointed out and Illya grinned in response.
"Yes, I guess it does. But I only pound when they refuse to listen."
As they approached the expansive domain of Bruce Wayne, it was all Napoleon could do to keep from whistling. He hadn't expected anything quite so opulent. Casually he leaned forward, closer to the driver.
"Am I to understand that Mr. Wayne is rather well off?"
"Yes, sir," was Alfred's only comment.
"Very old, sir, the Wayne Family is one of the original founding families of Gotham. The Manor was brought over here from England in the early 1850's. We are rather proud of her." Alfred's pride was evident in his voice and Napoleon could appreciate that.
The car was parked and they were led into a high ceilinged entry hall. Alfred gathered their coats from them and went to a closet.
"Reminds me of your grandfather's place, Illya. Those ceilings were about 18 feet, weren't they?"
"Nineteen, but home was never like this," Illya said, looking around at the paintings and antiques that lined the room. "At every turn, my financial opinion of Mr. Wayne grows. I'd wager that that Rembrandt is genuine, and so is the Van Gogh."
"And Mr. Wayne dislikes them both," Alfred had rejoined them. "They were a gift to his parents from the Prince of Monaco and he keeps them for that reason."
"Mr. Wayne's parents are no longer living?"
"No, they passed away while he was young. This way, please," Alfred said. He turned and opened a closed door revealing a library, its book lined shelves stretching to the ceiling.
"He's your kind of guy, Illya, a bibliophile."
"Three generations worth," came a new, definitely feminine, voice. The woman walked up to them and held out a hand. "Bruce is no worse or better than his father and grandfather. You never have to worry about having something to read around this place." She smiled and Napoleon found his interest peaking.
"Don't tell me you're Bruce Wayne?" Napoleon put on his debonair best.
The woman laughed and shook her blond head. "I'm Vickie Vale, photographer for the Gotham Globe."
"Napoleon Solo," Napoleon said, taking the hand in a firm but gentle handshake. "This is my partner, Illya Kuryakin."
Illya bowed to her and Vickie laughed. "They told me that you'd be Russian, but I was expecting a fur-trimmed, muscle-bound, Marxist-spouting grizzly bear."
"The more engaging aspects of Capitalism have worn away most of my rougher edges, although I could probably recite some of the wit and wisdom of Joseph Stalin. It was a best seller in Russia, not that we had any choice, of course."
Vickie laughed. "I'll bet that's one book Bruce doesn't have," she said, accepting a glass of champagne from the tray Alfred had carried over to them. Napoleon was getting more and more interested in Miss Vale as the seconds crept by, but he also remembered that Mr. Waverly had stressed 'hands and preferably eyes off' the woman. It was a shame too. She looked like she could quite a handful and Napoleon adored dealing with such delightful handfuls. Rich people got all the breaks. Vickie led the way to a couch and sat gracefully upon it.
So, mindful of his 'restrictions', Napoleon merely sat back and, for the moment, permitted his partner to carry the burden of the conversation, which had remained on the safe topic of books.
Minutes drifted by and it didn't take Napoleon's practiced eye to see that Vickie was becoming more and more agitated. She was getting nervous, but Napoleon suspected it was not anger at being left to entertain two complete strangers. No, it was something else, but he didn't know what.
Abruptly, the hall door opened and a dark haired man entered. He was medium height and build, although Napoleon had to guess at the latter. The three piece suit the man wore was loose without being baggy. What drew Napoleon's attention immediately was the man's face. It looked like Mr. Wayne had now, or, at least fairly recently, been in a fist fight.
"Bruce?" Vickie was over to him in an instant, the guests forgotten. "Are you all right?"
Napoleon was betting on recently now as he watched the man wince as Vickie touched a bruise forming on a cheek.
"Some guy lost it down at the exchange. He put everything into some bad stock and it bottomed out. He went crazy and attacked the closest thing to him, which, unfortunately, happened to be me. Who are your guests, Vickie?"
Vickie regarded the man for a moment longer before brushing a strand of hair from her face and saying, "Bruce, this is Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin, the men that UNCLE was sending. Gentlemen, this is Bruce Wayne."
"So I deduced," Napoleon said, taking the man's hand firmly. "I take it that you had him apprehended."
"Who?" Bruce seemed honestly confused.
"The guy who attacked you." Napoleon had heard of short attention spans, but this was ridiculous.
"Oh...yeah, he was taken away in one of those little coats with the sleeves that tie in the back," Bruce said, smiling, as he shook Illya's hand. "So, what do you think of our fair Gotham?"
Illya gave Napoleon a 'is he kidding' look and answered, "It's as if it were designed by a drug crazed architect. The city can't make up its mind to be Old World or Ultra Modern, so it wavers between both."
Napoleon rolled his eyes and patted Illya on the shoulder. "Forgive him, he's Russian."
"I find his honesty refreshing," Bruce answered, looking as Alfred approached him carrying a small tray that held a glass of water and several tiny white pills. Bruce opted for three of the pills and popped them into his mouth. He winced as he swallowed, but immediately smiled when he became aware of Napoleon's observation.
Alfred took Wayne's topcoat from him, saying, "Dinner will be ready in an hour, sir. When you're ready, there is a message from Commissioner Gordon and the contract for the Breslo Merger is on your desk."
"Thank you, Alfred." Wayne's voice dropped in volume as he continued to address the butler. "Would you call Clark and inform him that I'll be needing his legal advice on that contract? They're too anxious to have me sign and I don't want to get stuck with some dead end real estate. First though, would you show our guests to their rooms? It'll give them a chance to rest." Bruce winced again. "And I could use the time find an ice pack." Then he was gone, Vickie following closely behind him, obviously concerned.
The room Napoleon was shown to was just as graciously furnished as the rest of the house, although it didn't seem to have the propensity for mirrors Napoleon had observed elsewhere. He was notified dinner would be informal and he was not expected to dress. Inwardly, Napoleon was delighted. He'd neglected to bring along his tuxedo.
Napoleon stretched out on the bed, barely glancing over at his door at soft knock thirty minutes later. "Come in, Illya."
The Russian's entrance was barely audible against the thick carpet as he walked over to the bed and sat down on a corner of it. True to form, Illya had managed to again violate Napoleon's finely honed fashion sense by selecting his usual black turtleneck, black slacks and black sports jacket. Napoleon shook his head and reached down to smooth the creases out of his trouser leg. He originally had thought to remain in his suit, but Gotham City's cold air had convinced him otherwise. Now, he boasted a pair of grey wool slacks, an Oxford button down and a hand knitted cardigan sweater from New Zealand.
"Ah, Illya you are a vision in blackness, but you look like you're heading for a wake. What's wrong?" Napoleon asked finally when it became evident that Illya was not about maintain his part of the conversation.
"Our host bothers me," Illya admitted.
"But you only saw him for a few minutes."
"I've been going through UNCLE's dossier on him. It's really strange, Napoleon. It's thirty pages long and it doesn't say a single thing."
Napoleon sat up and flexed his arms. "What do you mean? How do you say nothing in thirty pages? That's impossible, except during an essay test, that is."
"Like this, for instance: the old butler says that Wayne lost his parents when he was young; the file says the same thing, but it doesn't say how. Were they killed in an automobile accident, place crash, run over by a herd of crazed rhinos or what? Cause of death is usually mentioned. And this." Illya flipped open the folder and pointed to a page. "He's taken just about every form of martial arts known to man and a couple I've never heard of. Why?"
"Illya," Napoleon chastised, returning to his original reclining position. "He's a very wealthy man and he needs protecting."
"He needs protecting? Men as rich as he is hire men like us to do the protecting for them."
"He's the idle rich, Illya. He's traveled all over the world, and done just about everything there is to do, including car racing and flying." At Illya's surprised look, Napoleon nodded. "Yes, I read the file too. After so long, you run out of things to do. Martial arts and body building could just be a way to keep busy. I mean, what would you do with all his money?"
"Find a nice quiet chair and read for the rest of my life."
"That would last all of ten minutes and you know it. Some men are more physical than others, you should know that better than anyone."
"There's something wrong with this set-up, Napoleon. I know it and so do you. Besides, there's more."
"What now?" It was obvious to Napoleon that Illya wasn't about to stop until he had everything off his chest.
"Those facial contusions, he was deliberately calling our attention to them to keep us from noticing the other." Illya paused and stood, tossing the folder down onto the bedspread.
"Well, don't keep me in suspense, Smart Russian. What were those bruises hiding?"
"Didn't you notice his side? I'd stake my reputation on him having a knife wound, Napoleon."
"No, actually, I didn't. You're getting carried away, old friend. How could you tell that? If he did, he'd be in the hospital, not preparing to sit down to dinner with us. He probably just pulled a muscle or something. We are here to do a job, Illya, and I intend to see that we do it. If we don't nab LaFuuro now, we may not get another chance for quite some time."
"We don't even know he's here, Napoleon."
"Gotham City boasts one of the highest crime rates in the country. LaFurro will be here, count on it."
"I wish I could. I just prefer my cases a little more up front."
"And that reminds me of our dear Miss Vale. She's quite a woman."
"Wayne would tie you into a knot, Napoleon, if I didn't do it for him. Can't you think about anything else, for even a limited amount of time?"
"Well, I did try it once. Worse thirty -wo seconds of my life," Napoleon said, grinning at his partner. "Relax, Illya, nothing is going to go wrong." There was a tap on the door and Illya moved to one side of it, gun drawn, his expression serious. At his nod, Napoleon rose and walked over to the door, taking care to stay well away from the front of it. "Yes?"
"It's me, Vickie. I've come to get you for dinner."
"If I were only that lucky," Napoleon whispered to his partner as Illya holstered his gun. "I'll be right out."
"Great. By the way, have you seen Mr. Kuryakin? He's not in his room."
"Oh, I'm sure he's around here somewhere." Napoleon opened the door and grinned over at his partner. "He has a nasty habit of turning up when you least expect him."
"Reminds me of a guy I dated once," Vickie admitted and then noticed the Russian, "Oh, you're in here." She couldn't help but see the folder and papers that remained spread out on the bed. "You must be working on your case."
"Something like that," Napoleon said, taking Vickie's elbow and steering her clear of the room as Illya gathered up the file and tucked it under his arm.
"Just exactly why are you two here? Bruce hasn't said anything about it, but I have the feeling it's because he doesn't know much more than I do."
"We would prefer to discuss it with both of you together at dinner this evening," Napoleon was purposefully vague. He never cared for putting innocents in peril, even ones that seemed as well equipped to handle themselves as Bruce Wayne. Sometimes, like now, he didn't have much choice in the matter.
His answer seemed to appease the woman and she led them down a massive flight of stairs and into an elegantly furnished dining room.
Napoleon sat back in his chair and regarded the last swallow of Chambertin-Clos du Beze in his glass. It had been an excellent evening from the venison pate appetizer to the game hens broiled with garlic, cheese and wine to the Gateau Mont-Saint-Michel. To his right, Vickie was laughing while Illya finished the last of his dessert.
"You can appreciate it all you'd like, Illya," Vickie said. "But you didn't see Frank attacking that thing with a blow torch."
"A blow torch? You can't be serious." The Russian was dubious.
"To the contrary," Bruce Wayne spoke up from his seat at the head of the table. "Using a blow torch to carmelize sugar is an old pastry chef's trick." He turned to Napoleon. "What did you think of the wine, Mr. Solo?"
"Excellent choice," Napoleon said, toasting him and then regarding the man for a long moment. Whatever Wayne had taken earlier had evidently taken effect, for the man no longer appeared in pain with every move, but at the same time, he seemed more distracted and more ill-at-ease than this afternoon. Wayne's brow would furrow in thought or his eye narrow with concentration when the conversation did not demand it. Vickie quite often drew Wayne's silent attention, but Napoleon couldn't slight him that. He'd love to pay the woman more attention, but his breeding did account for some things.
"So, tell me, Mr. Solo," Bruce asked, toying with his water glass. "Why are you here? Mr. Waverly indicated that the world's safety might depend upon your presence."
"It does, in part." The time had come to speak and he chose his words carefully. "Have you ever heard of a man called Arthur LaFurro?"
Bruce thought for a moment, pulling his glasses off. "I can't say that I have, although the name seems familiar." He glanced over at Vickie, who merely shook her head and sipped at her coffee.
"He's an international terrorist," Illya muttered. "He likes to blow stuff up, kill innocent people, that sort of thing. Probably pulls wings off butterflies too for all we know."
"What Illya means," Napoleon felt it necessary to interrupt, "is that he's single handedly killed more of our agents than any other man in the history of THRUSH. UNCLE has been after this man for years."
"Thrush?" Bruce repeated, looking as though he'd drifted off in the middle of the conversation.
"The bad guys," Illya explained, opening the file folder that had set by his plate for the entire evening. "We, on the other hand, are the good guys. We have reason to believe that LaFurro is running low on funds and that means he'll be resurfacing again."
"And we think Gotham City is where he'll do it. Despite the in-roads that The Batman has made, Gotham still has a dark past. Just the sort of place where LaFurro would feel right at home."
"I'm afraid you lost on me on the 'running low of funds' part," Vickie said. "Could you explain that a little more?"
Napoleon gave the woman his best patented Solo-smile and nodded, "Of course, whenever LaFurro's money dries up, he involves himself in one of his favorite past times, kidnapping. He'll go into a city, use the most financially attractive person as a target and collect the ransom. This is the first time we feel we might be able to head him off."
"And UNCLE wants him very, very badly," Illya added, with a tight smile on his lips. "Not to mention me."
"And you want to set Bruce up?" Vickie stood, her blues eyes wide with anger. "I won't allow it! It's not fair!"
"Calm down, Vickie." Bruce reached across the table to take her hand and smiled at her. "I haven't agreed to anything yet. Is that your angle, gentlemen?"
"Close," Napoleon admitted, taking a swallow. Now came the hard part. "We want to use Miss Vale as bait."
"Out of the question." There was no room for argument in his voice. "Vickie is too precious to me to risk her life."
"She wouldn't be, sir. Napoleon and I would be with her and then there's always you."
"What about me?" Wayne pulled the collar of his sweater away from his neck. "I can't do anything."
"To the contrary," Illya said, tapping the folder. "There's not much you can't do. You're over-qualified for even an UNCLE agent. Your martial arts training runs for nearly an entire page. If she were with the Batman himself Miss Vale would not be in better hands."
"I'm not sure he would agree with that. Even if we were to consent to this, what makes you think he'd choose Vickie as his target? There are more important men in Gotham City than me."
"But none richer. Besides, I'd be willing to bet you'd do anything, pay any amount of money to protect Miss Vale, particularly since she's three months pregnant."
"I am?" Vickie was dumbfound, but no more than Wayne, who turned to her with a shocked look.
Illya held up a sheet of paper, "She is now. We thought you might appreciate hearing about it before it was leaked to the press at midnight."
"You are pretty sure that we'll go along with your scheme." Bruce had settled back in his chair, breathing deeply, obviously working to control a temper that was mentioned in their files as explosive if unleashed. "We still haven't agreed to anything."
"But you see, Mr. Wayne," Napoleon said, softly. "You really don't have any choice. LaFurro is coming, if he's not already here, he will kidnap and it will, most certainly, be your Miss Vale. We are offering protection against her death."
Napoleon nodded, continuing, "None of LaFurro's kidnapped victims have ever been recovered alive...or whole. He likes to cut off parts of their anatomy to prompt the marks into paying the ransom."
"Oh God," Bruce whispered, bringing his fingers up to rub his eyes. "What have I done to you, Vickie?"
"Love, Bruce, that's all." She looked over at the two agents and smiled gently. "What do you want us to do?"
Illya Kuryakin strode across the bedroom, pulled aside the heavy curtain and looked out on the darkened lawn that stretched out in front of Wayne Manor. It would be difficult to cross that expanse of open area without being seen, which practically ruled it out as one of LaFurro's escape routes.
Of course, they didn't know much about LaFurro's actual methods, just second-hand knowledge and that made it worse. All Illya wanted was to get his hands around the maniac's neck for five minutes, that was all. And, yet, he'd been waiting and watching for three days now, to no avail.
"I still don't like leaving you here alone," Bruce was saying as Vickie settled into the bed. "I'd feel better if I were here."
"So would I," Vickie murmured, bringing her hand up to caress his cheek. "We need to make this as easy for this guy as possible though, no complications that might get either of us hurt."
"I, personally, would be curious as to why a woman who's just found out she's pregnant starts sleeping alone."
"We pregnant women do strange thing, Bruce, surely you know that."
"I haven't had much experience with them, sorry."
"Maybe someday you will."
Illya tried to blot out as much of the conversation behind him as he could, concentrating on the darkness, attempting to pierce the night with his eyes. He felt a little like a voyeur.
"Illya will be right outside my door and Napoleon will be downstairs. Nothing can happen. Besides," Vickie smiled and put her arms around Bruce's neck. "I've got the best bodyguard known to man."
There was something in her tone that made Illya realize she wasn't talking about UNCLE. Involuntarily, he turned, dropping the curtain, "Who?"
"Who else?" Bruce said, an element of wistfulness creeping into his tone. "My only real rival for Vickie, The Batman." He looked over at the Russian and smiled. "I'm sure he's gotten wind of this and likes it about as much as I do. At least he's in a position to do something about it. I feel so damned helpless."
Illya nodded, understanding the man's frustration. There had been times when Napoleon had been in danger and he'd been unable to act. Of course, it was a little different relationship, but he could still appreciate the millionaire's feelings.
"Mr. Kuryakin, could you excuse us for a moment, please?" Wayne's voice cut into his thoughts and Illya cleared his throat.
"Of course. If you need me, Miss Vale, I shall be outside."
Illya found a chair that looked like it was designed for discomfort and settled into it. Alfred had been kind enough to leave out a pot of very strong coffee and Illya poured himself a cup. With any luck, LaFurro would strike soon. He'd watched their innocent partners in this grow more and more anxious, Wayne was even jumping at noises now. There was no denying the man was on pins and...Illya paused, brow furrowed. Was it needles? Yes, he decided, needles was right. Vale didn't seemed terribly concerned, but if she was right and The Batman had joined up with him and Napoleon, well, he wouldn't be worried either.
Wayne came out of the room, leaving the door ajar. He wearily waved a hand to the agent. "Keep her safe tonight, Illya."
"We will or die trying, Mr. Wayne. Sleep well."
The man murmured something under his breath and walked down the hall towards his own bedroom. Illya watched after him for a moment and shook his head. "What strange things love does to a person," he murmured to himself as he brought out his communicator. "Open Channel D, please."
"Channel D is open. How are things on your end, Illya?"
"We've just tucked Miss Vale in for the night and I have a feeling Wayne is going to be suffering from insomnia again."
"Wish he'd relax and let us do our job. His wandering around that mansion makes me nervous. Hold on." A few tense seconds later, Napoleon's voice returned. "Sorry, false alarm. I'll check in at the usual time."
Illya flicked his watch up and nodded. "Okay. Oh, And, Napoleon, if you see something tonight, make sure you look twice before you shoot it. Remember, bats travel at night."
Every few minutes, Illya stood and looked in at the sleeping woman, then walked over to the window. He didn't know why he felt LaFurro would use it as a means of entrance. It hadn't been mentioned in any of the reports, nor was it particularly indicated that he worked at night or even that he worked alone.
LaFurro was the biggest crime figure in THRUSH and they knew less about him than they did about Bruce Wayne. It was that lack of information that dug at Illya, made him wander back and forth between the hall and this window and wonder if Napoleon felt the same way.
In the bed Vickie, asleep, murmured something and rolled over. Illya glanced at her and headed back for the hall.
The door was ajar when he reached for it and a warning bell went off in his head a split second before the door was kicked open, catching him and knocking him back into the room and over an ottoman.
Immediately, Illya was on his feet, reaching for his gun and Vickie sat up in bed, surprised by the noise.
"Don't even think about, my Russian friend," came a growl from the doorway that made Illya's blood run cold. LaFurro stood before him, his gun practically a cannon, with the light from the hallway framing him. "And you don't have to worry about your partner. He's either asleep or dead, I didn't check which."
"Vickie," Illya shouted, automatically placing himself between the woman and LaFurro. "Get out of here!"
"The lady is leaving with me," LaFurro said, chuckling. "Or at least most of her is. We will see how anxious Mr. Wayne is to help UNCLE after this, I don't think we'll have to worry about yours or Mr. Solo's future participation." The gun never swayed from Illya's chest. "Now, Miss Vale, for your health and the health of your unborn child, come with me or I shall air condition Mr. Kuryakin in front of you. Have you ever seen a man gut shot, Miss Vale?"
"Stay where you are, Vickie. If he shoots, he'll wake every dead man in Gotham City and he knows it. He's banking on your being soft hearted."
"And do you think I'd be stupid enough not to have a silencer for this?" The gun was pointed up at the ceiling for a brief second and Illya launched himself at the man.
LaFurro was twice his size, but that didn't bother Illya - too much. He caught the man in the chest and tackled him to the floor. They struggled for a moment, both trying for the upper hand. Illya blocked a punch and had one of his knocked aside. Illya didn't think about Vickie Vale, his possibly dead partner or even if Wayne had managed to not meet up with this madman. He concentrated his full attention on gaining control in this fight.
An elbow to his mid-section lifted him into the air and Illya collapsed onto the carpet, gasping for breath, helpless for the moment. "Pay backs are a bitch, Kuryakin, remember that," LaFurro whispered in the Russian's ear as he rose shakily and aimed the gun at Illya's head.
"More than you could possibly imagine," a hoarse voice came from the doorway and LaFurro turned. The gun dropped slightly at sight of a figure, its face partially hidden by a black horned mask, a cloak flowing out behind it and the yellow emblem of a stylized bat appearing to glow in the darkness.
"Batman," Illya whispered, crawling up on one knee.
"Costume party's next door down, freak," LaFurro snarled, unloading a shot at the Batman. The dark figure merely sidestepped as if it were a swarm of gnats and the bullet buried itself into the mahogany panel behind him.
"Wrong, slime, the party's here and it's just starting." With a graceful kick, Batman sent LaFurro's gun sailing up into the air and Batman followed through with a gloved fist to LaFurro's face. It could have been Illya's imagination, but he swore he could hear bones breaking. He used Batman's presence to scramble for LaFurro's gun.
LaFurro fell backwards against the bed, his hands holding his face. Vickie, frozen until now, started to move, but LaFurro was too fast. A blood-smeared hand lashed out and suddenly Vickie found herself being twisted around in an iron grip that brought a cry to her throat.
The Batman took a step towards them, but LaFurro, blood streaming from a shattered nose and split lip, swung the woman around in front of him. "Not so big now, are you? Go ahead, make me hurt her. I love to hear women cry."
Illya slowly moved his weight forward on the ball of one foot and braced the other against the floor. Lafurro was concentrating so hard on Batman that the UNCLE agent had been all but forgotten.
LaFurro twisted Vickie's arm up higher behind her back and Vickie cried out again. It was time and Illya sprinted forward, butting LaFurro in the stomach with his head, sending him past the caped figure and into the hall. The impact left Illya dizzy and wheeling, but at least the woman was safe.
Whatever madness that drove LaFurro on made him practically unstoppable. The maniac was up and stumbling down the hall before Illya could even right himself.
"Lock the door," Illya heard Batman ordered Vickie, then the man was beside Illya, helping him to his feet. "You all right?"
"LaFurro's getting away," the Russian said, starting off after the THRUSH agent.
"Let me take him."
"Like hell I will," Illya returned, taking a deep breath. "He's our responsibility, not yours." Illya took a step and his head swam. He felt a supportive hand on his arm and leaned against it for a moment. "However, I am not stupid enough to refuse any help you might offer."
"Good. Follow me." The Batman was off and running, with Illya close behind. The cloak was swung back as Batman stopped, knelt and inspected the carpet. The drops of blood made the trail impossible for anyone, save a blind man, to miss.
"The armory," Batman whispered as they rounded a corner.
"Wayne has an armory?" Illya asked, dumbfound. "Why couldn't he just collect stamps or something?"
If Batman found any humor in the question, it went unnoticed as he pulled one of the double doors open. "Better let me go first."
Carefully, the gloved hand slipped around the door frame and found the light switch. At that moment, there was a strange twang a thwack, and the Batman shuddered, snatched the hand back quickly.
"What happened?" Illya edged closer for an inspection. The hand appeared fine, but Batman flexed it as if to ease pain.
"Crossbow. Just bruised it, but now I'm mad." The man pulled back to his full six feet and kicked the other door in, knocking it from its hinges.
LaFurro stood at the far end of the room, in front of a huge mirror, the crossbow in his hands and a wild look in his eyes - a man who knew he was about to die.
"You've made me angry, LaFurro," came Batman's rasp as he slowly approached. "That's very, very unhealthy. In your case, it's deadly." There was something in the man's voice that warned Illya to stay back, but the Russian found himself unable to resist watching.
LaFurro brought up the cocked crossbow and aimed it at the yellow bat symbol on Batman's chest.
"Go ahead, take a shot," Batman taunted. "Make it your best - you won't get a second chance."
LaFurro apparently decided it was worth the risk and let the arrow fly, but Batman was moving, a bat-shaped something in his hand. He threw it and it crashed into the crossbow, sending the arrow up into a woven grass and leather armor display. It crashed to the floor and LaFurro tried to use the incident to move again, but Batman's eyes never left the THRUSH's face. Batman started to advance slowly upon LaFurro, a half smile on his lips.
The kidnapper fell back, throwing the now useless crossbow at his attacker. It was deflected with a casual hand and the Batman drew nose-to-nose with LaFurro.
"I want to kill you," he rasped. "Scum like you don't deserve to live, to have a chance to escape and kill again."
"But I will. And next time, it'll be Wayne's kid I'll be after and I won't be asking for money."
"How do you know it's Wayne's child she carrying? It could be mine."
LaFurro paled for a moment before spitting a mouthful of blood in Batman's face and Illya watched a smile appear on Batman's lips.
"It was incredible, Napoleon," Illya Kuryakin shifted his position on the edge of the couch and Napoleon Solo winced at the movement. "He just mopped the floor up with him. If he was an UNCLE agent, we'd get rid of THRUSH in a matter of weeks."
"I'm sure we would." Napoleon said, making an attempt to share some of the Russian's enthusiasm. It wasn't easy, considering the bruise he now sported from LaFurro's blackjack. His head was pounding much too hard to allow him to get terribly excited. "It was nice of Batman to leave us a few pieces to cart away to prison."
"It was just a shame the King of the Wicker People had to get it," Vickie said, a little wistful. "He's always been my favorite display."
"He's more like a basket case now," Wayne offered, hands jammed into his pants pockets. "Wicker basket, that is."
"Oh, Bruce, how could you?" Vickie groaned at the pun, but Wayne just smiled. "What will happen to LaFurro now?" she asked Napoleon.
"He'll go back to jail, where he can find a nice dark corner to hide in." Napoleon attempted a smile. "They tell me his mind has completely snapped. I don't think he'll be doing much more kidnapping."
"Thanks to you two," Illya acknowledged gratefully.
"Thanks to Batman, you mean," Vickie corrected. "I just screamed and Bruce slept through the whole thing."
"It was an unfortunate time for my insomnia to break," Wayne said, shrugging his shoulders. "It's okay though, I would have just been in the way. It would have been nice if he hadn't kicked the door quite so hard. I'm going to have to have the entire frame replaced." He smiled as Vickie caressed his shoulder and then his head turned at the sound of a faint beep. "Alfred has the car ready. Are you sure you feel up to traveling, Mr. Solo? There's more than enough room at the Manor for the two of you to spend another evening. I'm sure Mr. LaFurro would be just as comfortable at Arkham as wherever you'll be taking him."
"No, we really have to get back to New York," Napoleon said, regretful. Illya stood by to help him if necessary, but Napoleon managed to get to his feet with little effort. "Thank you for all that you've done. Many innocent people will be spared because of your selflessness."
"It's always important to help, however we can," Wayne said softly, holding out a hand to him. "Take care and let us know if you ever come back to Gotham City. You'll always be welcomed here."
"We appreciate that," Illya said, offering his hand. As Wayne reached out, Illya noticed the man's hand. It was horribly bruised and a sudden thought occurred to Illya. Batman had hurt the same hand, just bruised he'd said. Bruce Wayne, the Batman? Then Illya looked into a pair of cool blue eyes and grinned. Naw...