Napoleon went into work that morning without a care in the world. The seasons were changing once again and a cool hint of fall was in the air. He took a deep breath and sighed. How he loved his city, his life and his job. No man could have been happier at that moment.
He was greeted by a warm smile as Jessica, the receptionist, hooked his id badge to his jacket. He gave her a playful wink and strode down the hallway towards his office. Several other agents passed him and nodded their good mornings. He was just passing Mr. Waverly's office when the door opened. He saw his boss walk out of the room.
"Oh good, Mr. Solo," Waverly said, "I need to see you immediately if you please."
Napoleon turned on his heel and followed the elder man into the office. He watched, puzzled, as Waverly locked the door and made sure all security precautions were in effect. The U.N.C.L.E. chief motioned for him to sit down. Solo took his seat. Something was definitely up.
"Mr. Solo," Waverly began, "Excuse the precautions, but what I am about to divulge is absolutely of the highest importance. There is an informant within these walls."
Napoleon drew his brow deep. He would tolerate anything but a traitor.
"Several pieces of highly classified information have made their way into the hands of sources outside of our organization. And this person needs to be stopped. I already know who it is, the problem is proving it in such a way we..."
"Catch them "Red-Handed"?" Napoleon said.
"Precisely, and your choice of words is more appropriate then you realize," Waverly continued.
Napoleon felt a chill run down his spine. He looked at his boss.
"Who is it, sir?" Napoleon asked, hesitantly, dreading the possible answer.
Waverly slid a folder in Solo's direction. The agent swallowed the knot in his throat. His hands shook as he opened the folder. He looked at the photo inside. Then he looked at his boss. Napoleon picked up the photo and looked again just to be sure his eyes were not playing tricks on him.
"Forgive me sir," Napoleon said, "But there must be some mistake. He would never..."
"The lure of money, the guarantee of a better lifestyle," Waverly continued, "Can draw in even the most loyal personality, Mr. Solo. That is our informant. And I want you to get him, whatever you need to do."
Napoleon looked at his boss. He didn't care what he knew, this was wrong. He felt it in his gut. Solo stood up and walked to the window, still holding the photo in his hand. The agent looked back at his boss. He walked back to the table and laid the photo back on the folder. Solo pressed his hands against the tabletop and lowered his head.
"You need to decide. Which is most important, Mr. Solo," Waverly said, "Your loyalty to U.N.C.L.E." he pointed to the photo, "Or your loyalty to Mr. Kuryakin?"
"U.N.C.L.E. sir," Solo said almost mumbling the words.
"Fine. Keep me informed of your investigation," Waverly motioned for him to leave, "That will be all."
Napoleon walked out of the office. Waverly picked up the folder from the desk.
Illya opened the door to Napoleon's office and walked in. He looked around but no one was there. As he turned to walk out, Napoleon stepped up behind him. He noticed the expression on his partner's face.
"What happened, Napoleon?" Illya asked, "Get up in the wrong, I mean on the wrong side of the bed this morning?" The Russian smiled.
Solo walked past him and sat down at his desk. He leaned back in his chair his hands folded over his eyes as he tried to think. It couldn't be true. That's it. It wasn't true. Was it? His head began to hurt.
"Two of the girls in accounts want us for a foursome this evening," Illya said nonchalantly, "I don't think they have tennis in mind, though."
Napoleon didn't flinch. Illya leaned over and looked into Napoleon's face. The agent stared thru him.
"Remind me not to ever play poker with you. Napoleon." Kuryakin said, "NAPOLEON!" He shouted.
Solo jumped. He looked at his partner.
"What did you say about accounts?" Solo asked surprised to see Illya there.
"Nothing," Illya said, "Are you alright? You seem a bit, pre-occupied."
Napoleon shook his head.
"Just a touch of the fall funk, I guess," Napoleon said, trying to avoid his friend's eyes.
Illya's communicator pen went off. He converted the radio.
"Kuryakin here," he said.
"Mr. Kuryakin," Wendy said softly in the radio, "You're wanted in Mr. Waverly's office."
"Thank you. Kuryakin out," he closed the pen. "I'll see you later, Napoleon."
Illya walked out and headed down the hallway. Napoleon slipped from his office and went to Illya's. He walked into the room. Every time Napoleon came here he had to smile. All of the other agents had at least a photo or two on their desk or on the walls. Illya's office was very straight forward, very cold, very Russian. The only thing on his desk was his metal he had received from one of their earlier missions.
Solo made a quick check for anything out of the ordinary. The office contained only what was supposed to be there. No hidden files, no secrets. He opened the top drawer of his partner's desk. Solo smiled as he picked up the photo of himself and Illya take shortly after they had been assigned as permanent partners. We made a great team, Solo thought. There was no way that Illya could be anything other than a great U.N.C.L.E. agent. He put the photo back and returned to his own office.
It was quitting time once again. Napoleon stepped out into the cool evening air. He took a deep breath his chest expanding wide. He relaxed and watched as several of the girls left for the day. They looked at him and smiled but kept walking. My reputation has finally caught up to me, he thought.
Illya stepped out the door. He stopped when he saw Napoleon. The Russian brushed his hand thru his blond hair and came up the steps to sidewalk level. For a moment neither of them said anything. Solo looked up the sidewalk.
"Any plans for this evening?" he asked, trying not to look at his friend.
"Not really. How about you?" Kuryakin asked.
"I think I need a drink," Napoleon said, "That's as good a place as any to start. Want to join me?"
Illya just nodded. They took off to the nearest bar.
The two agents sat in a corner booth. They had their drinks but neither of them was really that thirsty. It was almost twenty minutes before anyone said anything. Napoleon cleared his throat. Illya looked at him.
"Can I ask you a blunt question?" Napoleon said.
"Have you ever, well, questioned Waverly's judgment?"
"A couple of times," the Russian said finally taking a drink, "Not to his face of course. That would be a breach of protocol. You never question your boss. You simply follow his orders. Regardless." He took another drink.
Solo nodded. Spoken like a true U.N.C.L.E. agent.
"How about you?" Illya asked.
"A few times," Napoleon said, "Once to his face." Solo downed his drink in one swallow.
Illya smiled. He remembered that time too. If Napoleon hadn't stood his ground, he would have been on the island when U.N.C.L.E. blew it up. He thought of all the times Solo had saved him from disaster. Of course a few of those times, Solo had actually been the one who got them in the positions of peril to start with. He laughed slightly.
They were waiting for the waiter to refill their glasses when a man approached their table. Napoleon slowly unbuttoned his jacket making it easier to go for his weapon if necessary. He watched the rather large man get closer. Illya looked up. The man grabbed the agent by the shoulders.
"Illya!" he shouted, his accent nearly as thick as his bushy beard.
Napoleon watched as his partner tried to release the grip that was blocking his air. The man let him go and gave him a hard slap on the back. Kuryakin lost his balance and nearly fell to the floor. The man took hold of him again, pulling him up like a ragdoll. Solo listened as the two men rapidly conversed in Russian. He saw Illya looked cautiously around the room, and then he looked at Napoleon.
"I'll be right back," Kuryakin said, "Order me vodka."
Napoleon watched as Illya and the other Russian walked to the far end of the bar. They spoke low and very close together. Illya took something from his inside jacket pocket and handed it to the man. His eyes glanced towards Napoleon, who was looking down at his drink. Illya gave the man a hard pat on the shoulder and returned to the table.
"Misha Vasilakos," Illya said, "Lives in my building. Little low on rent this month, he says. Probably needs money for a woman if I know him."
"You have enough money to pay your rent and a friend's?" Napoleon said taking a drink, "Then you can pay for the drinks."
"I think it's my turn anyway," Illya said, taking out his wallet.
Solo looked at him. The seed of doubt that had been planted by their boss was beginning to take root. What had Illya passed to the other man? It didn't look like money. It looked more like an envelope of some kind. Maybe Waverly was right. No, Solo, you can't let your imagination run away with its self, he thought. There is a perfectly reasonable explanation for..Solo eyes widened. He leaned forward.
"Where did you get that wad of cash?" Solo said looking at the money.
It was all large bills and there were a lot of them. Kuryakin quickly closed his wallet. He put it back in his jacket's inner pocket.
"That's getting a bit personal isn't it?" Illya said drinking his vodka shot down.
He dropped a bill on the table, said good night to Solo and left. Napoleon watched him leave. Illya looked back thru the window and saw Solo order a double.
A very pretty young woman walked up to Solo's table and leaned seductively against it. Illya saw him offer her a seat. Good. Napoleon would be tied up for an hour or so. That would give him time to do what he had to do.
Illya checked the hallway. All clear. Good thing the apartment was on the corner. He jimmied the lock with his pick and slowly opened the door. Kuryakin slipped in quietly, listening for any sounds of life. Then he began his search. The desk, anything that had drawer was checked. The sofa, the cabinets. He looked for anything that might be a trigger for a secret hiding place, but came up empty. The Russian made his way into the bedroom.
He checked the dresser, the bed and finally the closet. Nothing. He stood for a moment and thought. Was there any place he forgot to look? He opened the nightstand drawer. Illya shook his head. One thing was certain, there was no lack of protection in this bedroom.
"He must buy this stuff in bulk," Illya said to himself, "Damn Napoleon."
Illya heard the door open. He looked franticly around the room for someplace to hide. He heard the footsteps coming closer to the bedroom door. Kuryakin saw only one avenue open to him. The agent made a dive and was under the bed in a flash. He saw the door open and two pairs of shoes enter the room. Illya tried to lay as flat to the floor as possible. He could hear the passionate moans as Napoleon and his young lady kissed. From his vantage point, the Russian watched as shoes, clothes and blankets fell to the floor. His chin banged into the carpet as the bodies fell onto the bed above him, the underside of the bed hitting him in the head. The sounds of active foreplay and the motion of the bed became increasingly disturbing to the Russian. Suddenly it all stopped. He heard Napoleon make a heavy sigh.
Monica raised herself up and gently kissed Solo's bare chest. Her fingers caressed his body. He felt her warm breath against his cheek as her lips found their way to his earlobe. She tenderly kissed his ear.
"What's wrong, Napoleon?" she whispered in his ear.
"I'm sorry, Monica," the agent replied, "But my heart just isn't in this tonight."
"It's not your heart I want," the woman said, grabbing him.
Napoleon gasped. Illya smiled to himself.
"Thank you. That's just what I wanted to hear," Napoleon said flatly, "Maybe you should just go home."
The woman looked at him. He was serious. She grabbed her clothes from the floor and dressed. Illya thought how funny it was that it took her longer to put them back on then it did to take them off. He watched her storm out of the room, trying to put on her shoes as she left. He saw Napoleon retrieve his pants from the floor and he was trying to get them on as he followed her out of the room. He saw Solo stop her and try to explain. Illya watched as the girl smiled at his partner. He couldn't hear what they were saying but he could see them clearly. He watched as Monica put her hands on Napoleon's trousers. He saw Napoleon lay his forehead against her head.
Everyone in the building heard Napoleon's cry as the woman suddenly grabbed the zipper of his pants and pulled it quickly to the top. Solo doubled over and fell to the floor. He had grabbed his pants but not his underwear. Napoleon held his body and watched the woman as she stormed out, slamming the door behind her.
Illya was out the window and down the fire-escape by the time Napoleon recovered enough to get back to his bed.
The next morning at work, Napoleon was limping slightly. He was in pain but he tried not to show it. The agent was getting his id badge when Illya came in behind him. Illya tried to hide his smile as he looked at his partner. Jessica was hooking his badge on when she saw his chin.
"What happened to you chin, Agent Kuryakin?" the girl asked sweetly.
Napoleon looked at him. The bottom edge of Illya's chin was bruised and slightly skinned. He looked like a child who fallen over the handlebars of his bike.
"I tripped," he said, "Caught it on the sofa arm. Thank you."
Illya stepped through the doorway. Napoleon limped in behind him. He looked at the Russian's face.
"That looks more like a rug burn to me," Solo said, "Hit the sofa, you said?"
"Just zip it Napoleon," Illya said, sharply, a sly smile on his face.
Napoleon stopped in his tracks. He watched Illya disappear down the hallway. Solo limped to his office and was so happy to sit down. He reached in his desk and took out his file on the Russian. He ran a hand across his hair as he made notes from the previous night. The cash, the man in the bar, it just didn't add up. Illya could no more be an informant then he could. Still, where did the bankroll come from?
"We should be out tracking THRUSH not tracking one another," he said aloud.
Napoleon got out of his chair and went to the door. He had to do some footwork, pain or not. He left the building and headed to the one place he knew he could find answers. Little Russia.
Little Russia. It was a small section of lower Manhattan, but by far the most impressive. Where Chinatown and Little Italy had their individual charms, the Russian section had them beat. The sidewalks had been painted with brightly colored folk art. The bars, though dark and unassuming on the outside, were warm and welcoming on the inside, filled with wonderful music, tiled bars and columns. Napoleon had been here before with his partner. It struck him funny that the people here were so different from Illya, even though they all came from the same country. Perhaps it was just his upbringing that made him so dark and sullen. Napoleon didn't know a lot about his partner's early years. The tight lipped Russian never talked about them.
Napoleon went into one of the bars. He was walking to an empty table when someone grabbed his shoulders. He was turned around quickly. Napoleon felt himself lifted into the air. He looked into the man's face. The dark eyes glistened at him thru a bushy brow, the man's thick beard only inches from Napoleon's face.
"Ah, you are Illya's friend. I know. I see you with him, all the time," Misha said giving Solo a friendly shake.
"Right, I'm Illya's friend," Solo's voice broke with the shaking, "I have an aversion to heights, so if you wouldn't mind." He nodded downward.
The man gave a powerful laugh and stood Napoleon hard on the floor. Solo adjusted his jacket and tweaked the crick out of his neck and shoulders. He looked up at the man.
"Illya is not here," Misha said, giving Solo a hard pat on the back throwing him off balance, "He is a good man, Illya. A very good man. He helped my family come to this country, did you know?"
"No, I didn't," Solo said surprised.
"Yes. He is a good man," Misha repeated, "You have a drink with me, yes?"
"Sure," Napoleon said.
Misha motioned to the barkeep and two shot glasses were sat down by the men. Solo watched as he filled the tiny glasses. Misha picked up one, Napoleon the other. They raised their glasses.
"To Illya Nickovetch Kuryakin," Misha said. His glass clicked to Solo's
Misha tipped the glass and swallowed its contents. Napoleon tried the same and nearly choked to death. Everyone in the bar began to laugh. Solo's face was red, his eyes were watering and his throat felt like it was on fire. He doubled over. Napoleon put one hand on the bar to steady himself the other clutched his throat. He finally managed to sit back up. He looked at the man.
"Do you not like Vodka?" Misha asked.
"Yes I do but what was that?" Napoleon said coughing.
"Vodka," Misha said puzzled.
"Here you get real Vodka," the barkeep said, "Not the watered down stuff they sever on 5th Avenue."
Napoleon looked at the barman. Why did he specifically say 5th Avenue? Napoleon lived on 5th. He looked at the man behind the bar. Solo realized he wasn't going to get anywhere here. Illya was a hero apparently, so he wouldn't find out anything. He thanked Misha for the drink and left.
Illya was pacing his office. He brushed his hair back from his face and stood for a moment, his hands resting on his hips. The gears in his brain were grinding. He turned and walked out, down the hall and into Napoleon's office. He looked around. Solo wasn't there. He walked back out and was going back up the hall when he saw the young receptionist.
"Jessica have you seen Agent Solo in the last hour or so?" he asked.
"Yes, I did," she replied smiling, "He left for the day." She looked at her watch. "About an hour and a half ago. He didn't seem to be feeling very well."
"Thank you," Illya said. He headed for the front desk.
Illya tried to think where Napoleon might have gone. An hour and a half gave him a good head start. But with the pain he was in he couldn't go far very fast. He took out his communicator pen and called security.
"Channel D open, Wallace here," the security chief answered.
"This is Kuryakin. Can you get me a fix on Agent solo?" Illya asked.
"Agent Solo...Current location..Coming out of the East Village, heading up fifth," Wallace replied, "Do you need assistance Agent Kuryakin."
"No assistance needed thank you. Contact me if his location changes. Kuryakin out."
Fifth Avenue. Illya picked up his pace as he headed the six blocks over to the avenue. If he was lucky he would intercept or come up behind Solo. Behind would be best, he thought, that way I can watch his movements without being seen.
Sure enough, by the time Illya hit fifth and forty-second, Solo was ahead of him by half a block. The Russian kept his distance as he followed Solo.
Napoleon heard someone say his name. He looked around quickly. A tall slender man in a black trench came up and grabbed his hand, shaking it vigorously. At first, the agent was at a loss, and then he recognized his old childhood friend, Christopher. The men shook hands and gave one another a friendly pat on the back. They stood for a few moments, and then Illya watched them disappear into a small restaurant. He made his way into the restaurant and managed to get as close as possible to his partner.
"Napoleon, you look like hell," Chris said shaking his head, "The hedonistic lifestyle starting to catch up with you?"
"I'm not that bad," Solo said.
"Oh yeah," Chris said sarcastically, "When any of the guys in college needed supplies for their dates they bypassed the drug store and went to you." Both men laughed.
"Actually, I have a really difficult job to do," Solo said, "And it's starting to get to me."
"Got to fire someone?" Chris said.
"Sort of," Solo said. More like firing squad if the accusations were true.
The rest of their conversation was closely exchanged whispers. Illya saw Napoleon take out his wallet and remove a small card. He quickly scribbled something on the back and handed it to the man in the black trench. Chris looked at the card, and then slipped it into his pocket. He smiled and gave Solo a pat on the shoulder.
Illya slipped his cigarette pack camera out and got a good shot of the man. He slipped unseen from the restaurant and continued his surveillance of Solo from a distance. He watched as Napoleon made his way home. Illya headed back to headquarters and by afternoon he had a name to go with the photo.
Kuryakin sat at his desk. He pulled a file from the locked top drawer, opened it and began to make notes on what had happened during the course of the day. He took a clip and attached the photo to one on the sheets. Illya slumped back in his chair and put his hands over his face. He drew them down slowly as he leaded forward, his elbows resting on the blotter. The Russian shook his head.
Napoleon's temples were throbbing. If he had to do this any longer his head was going to explode. He took a sip of coffee and looked out his apartment window. Night was slowly settling on New York as he thought back two days passed. Everything started off so well, and then the entire world seemed to go crazy. Solo rubbed his hands over his eyes. His doorbell rang. Solo sat his cup on folder laying on his desk and went to the door.
He opened the door to find Illya standing there. The men just looked at one another a moment.
"Come on in," Napoleon said extending his hand.
Illya nodded and walked in. He was always amazed by Solo's apartment. It was large, warm and welcoming. Very much like Napoleon's personality. Soft earth tones everywhere, the large fur rug in front of the fireplace. He walked over and sat down on the small sofa. Napoleon saw the Russian lean forward rubbing his hands together. Solo sat opposite him in his favorite leather wingback chair. He studied the other man's body language.
"Is something bothering you this evening, Illya?" Solo finally asked.
"I've been thinking about something you said a few days ago," Kuryakin said, "About questioning Waverly's judgment. He put me on an assignment that, quite honestly, I'm having difficulty finding any fact to back up. I cannot see how the information he has and what I have could possibly.." Illya held his hands out, his fingers trying to mesh together. "You know what I'm saying?"
"Yeah, I do," Solo said glancing towards his desk, "Illya, you and I have been partner's a long time."
"Four years now," Kuryakin said, "Long time for one team to work together."
"You know it. And, I hope, in those four years we have developed a bond, a trust in one another. That ability to never second guess one another's actions. To never doubt one another. Am I right?"
Illya nodded his head. They had. Illya could think of no-one else he would trust with his very life. And Napoleon felt the same way. They were to completely different personalities, but that was why it worked.
"What would you do if you couldn't be a U.N.C.L.E. agent?" Solo asked. He motioned to Illya if he wanted a drink.
"Just coffee, black," the Russian said, brushing his blond hair back from his face.
Napoleon got up and fixed two cups of coffee. He handed one to his partner. Kuryakin smiled as he took a sip. Solo had put just a slight drop of vodka in the cup. He held the cup with both hands and looked at Solo.
"I don't know what I would do if I couldn't work for U.N.C.L.E.," Kuryakin said, "I worked so hard to get there. People have no idea what it was like back home. This job has given me more satisfaction then anything I have ever had. And that includes anything in my personal life. Despite my background I was taken into the fold as if I had been born inside the walls of the agency. I never cared about or for anything until I was taught by my friends here how to care. Not be an agent? I don't even want to think about that."
Solo saw the intense honesty in Illya's expression. He could see his partner's eyes, unblinking as he spoke of his love for his profession. This was not the statement of an informant. He had been an agent too long himself. Even the best liars, the best spies he had ever encountered could not have said anything as open, honest and eloquent as what Illya had just told him.
"We all have things in our personal lives that probably could stand a bit of readjustment," Solo said, "But as far as being an agent, I feel the same way. You know my past, being shifted around while my parents made the Diplomatic circuit. I never had anything stable in my life until I came to U.N.C.L.E. I'll stop being an agent when I'm dead. It's like fresh air in a stale world. We need air to live, without it, we die."
The two agents sat in silence for awhile. Then they began to open up to one another more than they ever had before. Illya told him about helping several of the Russian families get to the states, something he couldn't have done without his U.N.C.L.E. connections. The money he had was to buy their transportation papers and passports. Misha had owned a farm outside his hometown of Kiev, but the government took the land and forced him out. Illya got him to America first, his wife and children a few months later. The envelope Illya had given him contained the papers to bring his sister to America.
Napoleon told him about running into his friend Christopher. They had gone to college years ago. Chris had a job in Washington DC with one of the intelligence agencies there. He lost his job because of his excessive drinking; his wife left him for another woman. Solo smiled slightly when he heard Illya make a small snort of a laugh. Life may not always go your way, he thought, but no-one said it was going to.
The next morning, Illya and Napoleon arrived at work and were immediately summoned to Mr. Waverly's office. They walked in with their assignment files in their hands. The two agents sat at the large conference tables.
"Mr. Solo, what did you find out," Waverly asked coolly as he folded his hands together.
Napoleon stood up. He pushed the folder towards his boss.
"Permission to speak freely, sir?" Solo asked.
"Your information was incorrect, sir," Solo said taking a deep breath, "After a thorough investigation I didn't uncover one fact to substantiate your claim. If anything, my investigation uncovered exactly the opposite. Loyalty, honesty and complete sense of purpose are the only things I found."
Waverly smiled slightly. He looked at Illya.
"Your report, Mr. Kuryakin," he said.
Illya rose to his feet. He gave his boss the folder.
"I found absolutely nothing sir," Illya said, "I'm afraid I do not have Napoleon's eloquence with the English language, but my investigation found that there was nothing to find."
Waverly stood up and took the files, opening them to the agents. Napoleon and Illya looked down at the folders. They had been investigating...each other! They looked at Waverly, puzzled.
"The investigation was a red herring, gentlemen," Waverly said, "I wanted to see what you would do if you thought your partner was a traitor. I didn't expect you to find anything. If you had, well, I shudder to think what might have happened. Congratulations gentlemen. Dismissed." He waved them out.
Napoleon and Illya looked at one another. Waverly was wrong again. Where they didn't find anything on one another, they found out quite a bit about one another. Both men knew that if push came to shove each could count on the other to give up everything to protect and defend their partner. They walked out of the office with a complete sense of peace and trust.
"Buy you a cup of coffee?" Napoleon asked his partner.
"Why is it, when you buy, its coffee? When I buy, its alcohol," Illya asked.
Napoleon laughed and gave him a slap on the back. The partners headed for the staff canteen.