Alexander Waverly frowned with irritation as an insistent beeping dragged his attention away from the mound of paperwork in front of him. He glanced at the pre‑dawn dark outside the office window. Ungodly hour for anyone to be calling, he thought, although somewhere in the world no doubt the hour was quite godly and no doubt one of his agents was there. "We never close," he muttered dryly, quoting an advertisement he had seen on a shop window the previous evening, and thumbed the channel open.
"Solo here, sir," came the familiar voice, along with the steady thrum of an engine. "We reached Kampala last night and are headed now for Lake Albert, where we will find out if Mr. Kuryakin actually knows how to land a seaplane."
The communicator picked up a faint "Hmmph" from another familiar voice.
"We'll be going on foot into the Ruwenzori for the meeting," Solo continued. "We should reach the rendezvous with Mba by late morning your time if everything goes well."
"Very well, Mr. Solo," Waverly said, scanning a request to be guest speaker at a fundraising banquet for the ACLU and scribbling a polite refusal for Rodgers to send out. "Check in with me again before you begin discussions. Mr. Mba may be the best hope to surface so far for bringing stability to Uganda, but our involvement in his cause must be circumspect. We have had further reports that a member of the military, a Maj. Amin, is keeping a particularly close eye on his activities."
"Yes, sir. Solo out."
Another precious half‑hour of quiet and the faint peep that announced Rodgers had arrived and was at her post. Tea, at last. His hand was on the intercom button before he remembered. Rodgers, usually a congenial and efficient subordinate, had for the past few days been rather surly when asked to fetch his tea and had even corrected him once, suggesting she be called Mizzz Rodgers. She had dropped that particular demand, but the next day he had found an article by that Steinem woman on his desk, something about a club called Playboy. Waverly removed his hand from the intercom.
Five minutes later, the door whooshed open and Rodgers was striding quickly to his desk, her hand filled with papers but no teacup. The papers brought the pile back to its original height. He sighed.
In a voice that sounded almost sympathetic, Rodgers reminded him of his regular meeting with Dani Moss from personnel at 10 o'clock and with budget director Dean Nichol (or "Squeeze Every", as Waverly had heard him referred to by the staff) at 4 p.m.
Beep. Beep. Beep. "Jim Davis, sir."
"Ah, Mr. Davis. How is the Sudan?"
"Ah, yes. No doubt. You have made contact with our friend?"
"Yes sir. We met this morning on the El Obeid road. I'm afraid what he told us was true. He brought a sliver of the metal, no bigger than a fingernail, laid it on the road and threw a rock at it. Boom, two‑foot crater."
"Are you sure no deception was involved?"
"As sure as I can be sir. He gave me another sliver and I did what analysis I could with the kit I brought along. We exploded that one just by throwing it against a rock. Same result. He went to get the larger sample and I'm at my hotel waiting for the money to be delivered by our courier."
"Did he give you any hint of the source of this substance?"
"Only that he believes it was purchased from someone in East Germany. I doubt that it originates there, though. If I were a betting man I'd put my money on a Thrush lab in the U.S. somewhere. Didn't our latest agent briefing mention that Dr. Runyon had been spotted in Washington? If this is his handiwork, he could have set up shop anywhere. It would be pretty ironic if we're paying $3 million in the Sudan for a piece of metal manufactured down the street from your office."
"Mr. Davis, we are in the irony business," Waverly said dryly. "Let me know when you have made the purchase."
Five minutes, and Rodger's voice, uncharacteristically breathless, was informing him that "Mr. Kennedy is calling."
Waverly ran through his mental Rolodex of staff. "Kennedy from research and development?"
"Oh, no sir, Kennedy from Washington, D.C."
"Which one, Miss Rodgers?
"Oh, ah, Bobby. Robert. The attorney general."
"I see. Well, now that we have that cleared up, put him through, if you would." Waverly tsked. Rodgers had talked to her share of international power brokers without a flutter. What was it about those Kennedy boys?
"Mr. Waverly, this is the attorney general. How are you, sir?"
"Well, Mr. Kennedy. And yourself?"
"Couldn't be better. We're enjoying a fine spring day here in Washington. How is New York?"
Waverly glanced toward the window. "It appears to be raining. Mr. Kennedy, what can I do for you?"
"Two things, actually. The first is the allocation for U.N.C.L.E. I'm afraid we are having some difficulty justifying it to Congress. With the U.N. being such a high‑profile organization just now, several of our friends in the House are questioning the wisdom of giving so large a sum to what is, in their eyes, a parallel organization."
"I am sure you have pointed out that this organization is not in the least a shadow of the United Nations," Waverly responded firmly.
"Indeed we have, sir. We in the administration continue to support the mission of the U.N.C.L.E., although I can't pretend that it hasn't cost us something politically."
Here it comes, Waverly told himself, and it did. "As to the second matter, I am renewing my request for your help in convincing Hoover of the existence of the Mafia and the need to crack down on the organization. I'm sure your agents are well aware of the international threat posed by…"
"Mr. Kennedy, as I told you before, my agents are well aware of an international threat, but it is not this Mafia. It is an organization that has already spread its tentacles into virtually every nation, with deadly result. Battling that menace is our remit. The Mafia -‑ and I will grant you its existence is not in question -‑ appears to be mainly a concern in this country and, as you know, we do not involve ourselves unnecessarily in local police matters. As for Mr. Hoover, well, I'm not sure how I could be of assistance in bringing your dog to heel."
There was a pause, then the flat Bostonian voice came again, colder. "Very well. You've made yourself quite clear. Allow me to do the same. The Mafia is growing fast and one day soon I expect it will make this invisible, unproven Thrush of yours look like a Boy Scout troop. As an international peacekeeping agency, I would expect the U.N.C.L.E. to be intensely interested in preventing such an organization from extending its stranglehold in several nations of the world. I sincerely hope such a shortsighted attitude does not endanger your organization's funding from the coffers of the United States."
"Extortion is something I would expect from your Mafia, Mr. Kennedy. I sincerely hope that your brother's ‑‑ the President's ‑- romantic dalliances don't come to light," Waverly responded. "That is something my agents hear about in every corner of the globe. I look forward to receiving assurance that our agreed upon allotment from the United States government is approved and on its way. Good day sir."
The line was dead.
Waverly tsked. Foolish to bait an aggressive young animal, perhaps, but really, the insufferable arrogance of the pup to attempt such heavy‑handed blackmail And this obsession with the Mafia - a group of hoodlums. The organization would no doubt collapse of its own paranoia and viciousness.
Waverly picked up his pipe and a suspiciously light humidor. Empty. Yes, of course, there had been that rather tense session with the South African ambassador the previous afternoon, what he referred to as a three‑pipe meeting. Waverly remembered quite clearly tamping the last of the tobacco into the pipe with the intention of finding someone to fetch a refill for him. The difficulty with the sort of belt‑tightening he had been forced into of late was that there was no one available to see to the amenities. He didn't even consider approaching Rodgers. Putting the stem of the empty pipe in his mouth, he sucked mournfully, contemplating what Kennedy had said. Was he underselling this Mafia? There had been a number of reports of late…
He jumped slightly and glared at the communications console. "Who is it?" he demanded.
"Cohen, sir, in the lab."
"Mr. Cohen, how did you manage to by‑pass Miss Rodgers?"
"Oh, just something we've been fooling around with, sir. It's not quite ready for application."
"No," Waverly informed him, "it is not. Next time you wish to contact me, kindly confine yourself to proper channels."
"Yes, sir." The technician's voice bore no trace of repentance. "Sir, the boat is ready for launch. We thought you might be willing to christen her."
"The boat, Mr. Cohen? Would this be the hole into which our R&D money has been poured for the past several months?"
"Yes, sir. Can you come?"
Waverly stared with distaste at the pile of papers. "Yes, Mr. Cohen, I believe I could use an outing. I will be there shortly."
The stroll through the gunmetal madhouse hallways, as a visitor had called them, was invigorating as always. The sustained level of focused busyness spoke of an efficient and well‑oiled organization ‑‑‑ an image that occasionally slipped out of focus as he dealt with the details of day‑to‑day tasks. But the faces were so young. Waverly sighed. Had he and his colleagues ever been so young, even in the idealistic years of The War? The first one, he reminded himself, feeling for the moment very old.
Cohen, his auburn hair twigged into spikes by his fidgeting fingers, his lab coat flapping open over a dingy shirt and garishly‑striped tie, waited at the door to the lower-level labs. He led the way through the rabbit warren of lab tables and makeshift offices to a heavy security door. The door whooshed open, admitting the pungent aroma of the East River.
Cohen's crew waited impatiently on the concrete dock, next to a squat craft of seamless, gleaming metal with a series of vents visible just beneath the water line.
"Mr. Waverly, the Typhoon," Cohen said, with a grand sweep of his arm. "Wind over water. Virtually silent. No telltale wake. Invisible to radar. Top speed 40 knots. And a ride so smooth I'd hold my baby boy's bris on board. See, what we did was create a variation on the drive system used in the submarine we developed two years ago... "
"You must tell me about it in detail when we have more time," Waverly interrupted firmly. "Your specifications are impressive, Mr. Cohen. I assume you've had the boat outside?" He gestured toward the heavy metal doors at the end of the dock, discouraging unwanted visitors.
"Oh, yes, sir. Several times. We've even run a few informal maneuvers with the Coast Guard."
"'Informal' meaning unapproved, I assume?"
"Well, sir, we did want to give it a good test," Cohen said. "We ran rings around them last Wednesday night, when we had that fog. They didn't have a clue. Would you like the tour, sir?"
The lab crew, who apparently took their dress code from Cohen's example, escorted Waverly from dock to deck, passing him from hand to hand like an unsteady maiden aunt. He was shown the flat deck, the cramped cabin, the concealed automatic weapons ports (a design borrowed from drug importers, Cohen informed him) and the remote guidance system. "So, if anyone swipes our baby, we just call 'er up and she comes right home to papa," a bespectacled young man explained, patting the apparatus proudly.
"Impressive, gentlemen, very impressive," Waverly said, but to the sailor's soul in his breast, the boat was simply ugly. He was guided carefully back to the dock and handed a bottle. Waverly squinted at the garish label. "Ripple?"
"It seemed appropriate, sir," Cohen explained with a grin. "Besides, with the price of champagne, we figured the gesture was what counted. Always looking out for that bottom line," he said virtuously.
"Hmrnm. No doubt," Waverly said skeptically. Feeling a little foolish, he hefted the bottle. "I christen thee Typhoon," he intoned, and brought the bottle down with an echoing smash against the blunt nose of the boat. The lab crew cheered and crowded aboard, attempting to sweep Waverly along with them. He pulled free, pleading an important meeting, and watched them out the external doors, their lab coats whipping in the wind. Cohen was right -‑ at least the ungainly thing was virtually silent.
Dani Moss was waiting in his office when he returned, her hands neatly folded in her lap, her legs sedately crossed at the knee. Waverly glanced guiltily at his pocket watch. 10: 10.
"Miss Moss, I apologize," he said.
"It's all right sir, there are only one or two issues we need to discuss. The monthly statistics are there on your desk. With the hiring of Mr. Washington and Mr. Jefferson and the Rodriguez brothers, our diversity numbers are looking good. We now have 28 percent female employees but, as you know," she put a slight emphasis on the phrase, "they are woefully under‑represented at the level of field agent."
"Yes, yes, Miss Moss." Waverly had no desire to re‑engage what had become a source of contention.
"Yes, well. The self‑insurance plan is coming together nicely, which should solve a number of problems. Our current carrier is threatening again to cancel coverage for a handful of agents, most notably Mr. Kuryakin, and the rates really are becoming burdensome.
"Your quarterly letter to employees was due to my office Friday. Again, I encourage you to consider the theme of mutual respect; I've gotten another complaint about sexist language. And, I really wish you would speak to someone at the U.N. They've hired away another of our translators Cuban Spanish, again, and with this situation brewing between Cuba and the U.S. we really can't afford to be without one."
"Thank you, Miss Moss, for a concise and thorough report. I will certainly see what I can do about the pillaging of our ranks."
"And the letter, 500 words, as soon as possible," Moss reminded him as she rose to go.
"Um, of course, of course."
As she walked out, Waverly returned to the file of papers. Request from communications to buy another dozen secure telephones for agents' homes. Approved. Copied report from U.N.C.L.E. Far East agent‑in‑place in Saigon predicting increased violence from opponents of the Diem regime. Request from ordinance to purchase fragmentation grenades and flechettes from a French supplier. Rejected with a shudder and a suggestion that the money be put to improved protection vests and sleep darts. Menu from the commissary for the Summit Five meeting scheduled at a Maine fishing lodge in ‑- good Lord, was it just three weeks? Bahadur Shastri would not eat the pot roast scheduled for Saturday night, he noted, but otherwise the selections were adequate. Notification from Avis that a surcharge would have to be paid to cover "excess liability" whenever an agent rented a car.
Waverly glanced at his watch and frowned. Solo and Kuryakin should have checked in by now. He swiveled to the communications console and opened the channel with practiced ease.
"Solo here, sir." The voice was breathless.
"Mr. Solo, I was awaiting your call."
"Yes, sir. I’m afraid the rendezvous didn't work out as we had planned. Mr. Mba was dead when we arrived and his group either killed or captured by a military patrol. We have managed to elude them so far. We're on the Albert Nile in a boat I, um, borrowed. Unfortunately, Illya broke his leg during our escape. We're heading for Unibese now."
"Broke his leg, you say?" Waverly interrupted.
"Yes, sir. We had to make sort of a fast retreat and he fell off a cliff." Kuryakin's voice in the background made some sort of mumbled objection. Solo continued, "It's a fairly clean break just above the knee, but I had to carry him most of the way out."
Waverly sighed. "Very well, Mr. Solo, no doubt Mr. Kuryakin is suitably grateful. Pity about Mr. Mba. Carry on. And, good luck."
With an effort of will, Waverly put aside fruitless fretting and returned to matters at hand. Request from Cohen for deck chairs for the Typhoon. Denied. Notice from the New York utilities office that sewer rates would be going up again at the end of the quarter. Demographics report on current employees from Dani Moss; the figure for female field agents was highlighted. Which reminded him…
"Miss, um, Rodgers, could you come in here a moment, please?"
He waited until she had crossed the expanse of floor. "Mizzz Rodgers, I would like to call on your communications skills, if I may. I have a letter to staff due to Miss, ah, Mizzz Moss and I would appreciate it if you could frame a statement of our support for sexual and racial integration for my signature. We are limited to 500 words."
"'Our support for integration'?"
"Indeed. I find that I am having difficulty expressing the depth of my commitment but I have noticed that you are quite eloquent on the topic. Would this afternoon be too soon?"
Rodgers regarded him through narrowed eyes for a moment. Finally, she squared her shoulders and nodded. "You'll have it," she said, and left. Waverly frowned after her. When had Rodgers started wearing flats?
Beep, beep. Beep. "Jim Davis, sir. $3 million paid out and one two‑foot bar of grayish metal accepted. I shaved off a bit and tested it before payment, of course. I'm afraid the mattress in my hotel room is a total loss."
"I suppose that was necessary, Mr. Davis?"
"I sure wasn't going to give him $3 million for a piece of tin, sir."
"Yes, yes, I understand. Well, be diplomatic with the hotel staff. Now, I suppose, the question is how we are to get the metal home."
"Yes, sir. Our friend delivered it wrapped up in a quilt and he was sweating bullets until he got out of here. He said he thought cold temperature might inhibit its explosive properties. Unfortunately, it's 98 degrees here now."
"I suggest an order of ice from room service while we consider our options, Mr. Davis. Out" Waverly's stomach rumbled, accompaniment for the unsettled skies outside his window. He pushed away from the round table, told Rodgers he was going to lunch and headed toward the commissary. He should have known better, of course; by the time he arrived, a dry tuna salad on wheat toast was waiting for him, with carrot sticks and a cup of a noxious Middle Eastern milk concoction called yogurt on the side. Doctor's orders, communicated through Rodgers. Waverly sighed and forced it down. The only thing to save a meal like this, he reflected, was a good pipe, and then he remembered the empty humidor. Suddenly, an excellent idea occurred to him, and he hurried back to his office to make a call.
"Miss Moss," he began, once she was back in his office, "I believe I may have a solution to your difficulty with the interpreter. I happen to know a very likely candidate myself; I can't think why it didn't occur to me sooner. A young woman, first generation Cuban‑American, living here in New York. Personable, bright, eager for new opportunity."
"Who do I have to kill?" Moss asked.
"I expect you have only to make her the offer," Waverly said. "The young lady is currently employed in her father's business, The Tobacco Shop. It is at 2439 East 76th St." He glanced at his pocket watch. "I believe she would be there now as a matter of fact."
Moss turned a determined face toward the door.
"Miss Moss." Waverly held up the empty humidor. "I assume you will want to look the young woman over before offering her a job? This might be a good cover. Isle of Dogs, number 22, if you wouldn't mind."
Moss gave him a suspicious glance, but walked out with the humidor under her arm. Waverly's sigh of satisfaction was interrupted by the communicator. It was Davis, sounding worried.
"Sir, I'm afraid there's a bit of a problem. The authorities here are aware the metal is missing. They're practically dissecting everyone who tries to leave the country, X‑raying baggage, metal detectors, the whole bit. I'm not sure I can make it out with the bar."
"Understood, Mr. Davis. This is unfortunate, not insurmountable, I am sure. Let us each take a few minutes to consider options."
The empty pipe was cold comfort as Waverly rocked studiously in his desk chair.
Suddenly he leaned toward the communications console. "Miss Rodgers, we have an agent‑in‑residence in the Sudan, do we not? I'm thinking of a doctor in the south of the country."
"Dr. Havez," Rodgers said without hesitation. "He has a clinic in Juba."
"Ah, yes. Alert him, if you would, that he will be receiving a visit by three of our agents. One will be in need of treatment for a broken leg. Another will bring a brace to be incorporated into the cast."
"Yes, sir. Understood."
He flicked a switch. "Mr. Davis."
"I believe I have a solution to our problem. Take the bar to the clinic of a Dr. Havez in Juba; communications can give you the exact address."
"A clinic, sir? The road to Juba is not great, as I recall."
"I have every confidence of your ability to deliver our goods in one piece, Mr. Davis."
"Well, I suppose I could pack it in the pillows. . . ."
"And ice, Mr. Davis," Waverly suggested. "And unless the condition of the shock absorbers on buses in the Sudan has improved vastly since I rode on one, I would suggest you avoid public transit. Good luck, Mr. Davis."
Another switch. "Mr. Solo."
"Here, Mr. Waverly. I believe we're far enough down the Albert that we've lost them. Timbo landing is just ahead, according to our field map."
"Well done. How is Mr. Kuryakin's leg?"
"Not great. I've braced it with an extra paddle and he's off in morphine dreams, but I need to get him to a hospital."
"I have arranged treatment," Waverly said. "One of our own people runs a clinic in Juba, in the Sudan."
"Juba? But that's got to be a hundred miles from here."
"Indeed, and it will require a border crossing, but I have no doubt your ingenuity will get you and Mr. Kuryakin there promptly. Mr. Davis will meet you there. He is making a, er, delivery which Mr. Kuryakin will bring on to the United States."
"Sir, Illya's in no condition to play courier."
"I'm sure it will not be a burden for him. Juba, Dr. Havez' clinic. As soon as possible, Mr. Solo."
Report from communications on the rash of UFO sightings in the Midwest; he scrawled a note to have the Topeka office keep an eye on developments. Pass‑through report from U.N.C.L.E.‑Europe suggesting a possible U.S. connection to the activities of a criminal organization operating in Sicily. Waverly reread the report and set it aside for later consideration. Complimentary tickets from the New York arts commission to the opening of a new musical, Oh! Calcutta. He vaguely recalled hearing the name of the production, but couldn't call up details. Apparently it was the season's hot‑ticket performance, just the thing to take his aunt to for her 90th birthday.
"Sir," it was Rodgers on the speaker, "Mr. Dennell asks if you would take a look at monitor 27, in the garage. There's something suspicious going on, apparently."
Waverly turned to the communications console and keyed up the monitor. The camera was focused on a white van, Runyon Extermination Service lettered on the side. The van was parked, apparently empty, between the rows of automobiles. Innocuous enough, except monitor 27 kept an electronic eye on the lower level of the parking garage reserved for agents' cars and the van was parked much closer than was comfortable to the facade that held the agent's entrance.
"Mr. Dennell," Waverly barked into his microphone, "where is the driver of that vehicle?"
"Rowe says two men bolted as soon as they stopped the van. We have them pinned down a few rows over, but they're pretty well armed." Dennell's voice was a little breathless, and Waverly wondered again whether giving the man complete responsibility for security, after that business with the rings, had been a wise decision. Electronics was Dennell's strong suit, not firepower.
"How did the van manage to access the lower level?"
"They used the public entrance off the street and somehow managed to scramble the controls on the agents' gate." Dennell sounded puzzled and a little defensive that his security system had been so easily breached. "The alarms worked, of course, and we sent a group of men after them. They just stopped the van and took off on foot."
Waverly stared at the van thoughtfully. "Have you examined their vehicle?" he finally asked.
"I'm sending a couple of men now to check it out."
"Mr. Dennell, no one approaches that vehicle except a trained member of our bomb squad," Waverly said firmly. "Is that understood?"
"Yes, sir. But it doesn't make sense for them to go to the trouble of driving down here with a bomb. We're shielded enough at this level to…"
"Mr. Dennell, I believe that van may be a bomb," Waverly said. "Does the name Charles Runyon mean anything to you?"
"Charles Runyon? There was something about him in the last notices to agents, wasn't there? Is he that researcher who's working on some sort of metal alloy?"
"An explosive metal alloy, Mr. Dennell." Waverly informed him.
"Very explosive, by Mr. Harris' account."
"My god, that thing must weigh over 2,000 pounds."
"Exactly. Please instruct our agents to move the firefight outside, if possible."
"Yes, sir." Dennell was gone.
Normally, he would have sent Kuryakin down to look over the bomb; damned inconvenient of him to be in Africa with a broken leg. "Miss Rodgers, come in here please," he ordered. The door was opening as he flicked off the microphone.
Rodgers crossed the room and took a seat at the console behind Waverly's desk, her usual spot in times of crisis when communication was critical.
Waverly flicked his own communicator on. "Mr. Dennell, what is our status?"
"Clear, sir. The baddies were more than happy to leave the area. We think one of them is down but the other is trapped near the street entrance. We've shut down the garage and notified New York police. I believe they are intending to evacuate the buildings to east and west of us. I've offered the help of some of our personnel." Dennell's shakiness seemed to have passed and Waverly nodded with satisfaction. "The bomb squad is ready sir. We're sending in just one tech to avoid disturbing the van more than necessary."
On the screen, Waverly watched a short figure dressed in a black coverall and carrying a small case like a doctor's satchel cautiously approaching the van. Rodgers pushed back her chair to watch, too. "Who is that?" Waverly demanded.
"Looks like Margie McAllister," said a male voice from behind them. Waverly spun to see Nichol standing on the far side of the table, a folder in his hands.
"Ah, Mr. Nichol. I'm afraid we will have to reschedule our meeting. Something has come up."
"So I see," Nichol said, his large, pale eyes fixed on the screen. Without invitation, he took a seat.
"Did you say you believe that is Miss McAllister?" Waverly demanded. "Why would an accountant from your office be working with the bomb squad?"
"She switched over several months ago," Nichol said. "You must have signed the transfer yourself, sir."
Waverly turned to look at Rodgers, who was staring intently at the screen. "Really," he said. "I don't remember doing so. Did I sign such a document, Miss Rodgers?"
"Yes, sir," she said, eyes still on the screen. "You did."
The figure, clearly female when he saw it in profile, circled the van cautiously, consulting a hand‑held instrument. Gingerly, she slid in through the open driver's door. A moment later, a female voice with a light dusting of Irish lilt, came from the communications panel: "OK, I'm inside. The van is empty except for a box bolted to the floor about one foot by two by six inches deep."
There was a pause, punctuated by faint metallic sounds. "OK, it's open. Well, what we have here appears to be your standard Thrush‑ type exploding nasty."
Another pause, then a soft whistle. "Oh‑oh. Spoke too soon. There's a second something underneath. I can't see what it is because it's welded into a shallow box underneath the decoy. Some weird kind of metal; the sensor readings are garbled. I'll have to cut it open…"
"Miss McAllister," Waverly cut in. "Do not attempt to cut that box. We have reason to believe that it, and the van itself, are constructed of a highly explosive material. Can you tell when the device is set to go off?"
"Um... it looks like 37 minutes, sir. But that doesn't make sense. Why deliver a bomb and then give us half an hour to fiddle with it?"
"No doubt they wanted to give themselves leeway for the drive over," Waverly said. "Besides, I'm not sure 'fiddling with it' is an option that is available to us. You might test a very small piece of the metal, if you can remove it without using force, just to be sure it is what I suspect."
He sank back in his seat. "We can't drive it out; even if the streets were clear we wouldn't have enough time to get it out of the city."
There was a loud pop from the communicator. On the monitor screen, they saw McAllister staring at a hole in the garage floor about 10 feet from the van. "Wow," she said. "That was one of the bolts."
"I don't understand," Nichol said. "I mean, they had to put the thing together somehow. If they soldered that box in, why can't we unsolder it?"
"According to Mr. Davis's source, the metal is inert at low temperatures," Waverly said. "No doubt they have devised a means of working when it is in a chilled state." He paused. "Miss Rodgers, ask catering how large the cafeteria freezer is."
After a moment, Rodgers turned back with a shake of her head. "It's a walk‑in, but nowhere near big enough."
"An ice plant," Nichol suggested. "A meat‑packing plant?"
Rodgers was already scanning a New York street map. "Nothing close enough."
"I wonder how cold it has to be," Rodgers said, glancing toward the gray skies outside the window. "The rain always seems to cool things off."
"Yes," Waverly said slowly. Then, "Miss Rodgers, check on the whereabouts of Mr. Davis and Mr. Solo and Kuryakin."
Davis's voice was on the communicator seconds later, sounding significantly relieved. "All here at Dr. Havez's clinic, all in one piece, sir," he said. "I ended up renting a helicopter, and so did Napoleon, from Timbo. We figured speed and safety were worth the cost."
"Dr. Havez has been warned to use caution with the metal?" Waverly asked.
"Yes, sir. I told him to handle with care. He seemed to know just what you wanted done with it and I can't say I was sorry to turn the thing over to him. Last time I peeked, he had Illya's cast just about done."
"Mr. Davis, I want you to tell Dr. Havez to remove the cast immediately," Waverly said. "I
need for you to test the metal's tolerance to salt water."
"Find out how the metal reacts to being immersed in salt water. Immediately, Mr. Davis. Leave the channel open while you do so."
There was the sound of a door opening, followed shortly by a confusion of voices. Eventually, Davis returned. "He's doing it, sir, but he's not happy about it. Neither is Napoleon."
Davis' voice was replaced by Solo's. "You had an explosive metal put into Illya's cast?" he demanded. "Not to put too personal a spin on it, but that leg has value to me. And to Illya."
"Mr. Solo," Waverly soothed, "I assure you the risk is minimal, so long as the leg is packed in ice. It is vital that we get that metal out of the country and our options are limited. I'm sure if Mr. Kuryakin were capable of speaking for himself, he would agree."
"'Minimal risk'." Solo still sounded skeptical.
"Indeed. You know how careful people are about banging around a broken limb. Now, please return this communicator to Mr. Davis."
"We dunked a piece in saline solution, sir. No reaction," Davis reported.
"Good, good. Thank you, Mr. Davis. You may re‑package Mr. Kuryakin." Waverly closed the communication and opened another. "Mr. Cohen, we have need of your craft. Please have it waiting at the dock, with a loading ramp, within five minutes. And open the outer doors."
"Five minutes? What's…"
Waverly closed the channel.
"Miss McAllister, how much time do we have?"
"Twenty‑two minutes, sir." Her response was immediate; she must be bending over the timing device, Waverly decided.
"We need to move the van. Are there any signs of sabotage to the operating system?"
After a minute, McAllister responded. "Everything looks to be in working order, sir, although there's not a lot of gas."
"That is not a problem; we aren't moving it far. Now, for a driver…"
"My dad owned a diaper service, sir," she cut in. "I was driving his van before I could reach the pedals."
"Very well, Miss McAllister. Proceed to the delivery entrance and we will direct you from there."
"Excuse me, sir. You want me to drive the van into headquarters?"
"Through headquarters to the dock, Miss McAllister. Carefully, if you please; I don't need to remind you a collision would be unfortunate."
Nichol was leaning over Rodgers's shoulder as she called up a floor plan of headquarters on the computer.
"Mr. Dennell," Waverly said, "I assume you heard my conversation with Miss McAllister? We will want two volunteers from your department to precede the van, clearing hallways of personnel and movables. See to it, please. Also, have someone contact the Coast Guard to maintain a clear passage up the river to the ocean."
Waverly flipped through several monitor cameras until the screen showed the van, idling just outside the large doors where equipment was delivered. McAllister looked scarcely more than a child behind the large steering wheel, but her face was set in a determined frown. The doors slowly slid open, revealing two enforcement agents. Behind them, other figures frantically shoved and carried crates and equipment out of the way. Cautiously, McAllister eased the van forward.
Hastily calculating the width and height of hallways based on the floor plan, Rodgers and Nichol guided the agonizingly slow progress of the van right out of the delivery area and right again past U.N.C.L.E.'s extensive repair shops and the R&D labs. Waverly clicked from camera to camera, keeping the van in sight as it rolled slowly down empty hallways. Lights on the communications console flickered as Rodgers called ahead to one department after another, anticipating the course the van would have to take to avoid tight corners, dead ends and doorways.
Waverly chewed his pipe stem and glanced at his pocketwatch.
"Mr. Waverly, this is Cohen."
Waverly jerked in surprise. "Mr. Cohen, I have spoken to you already about using proper channels," he began.
"Yes, sir. Sorry. The Typhoon is ready at the dock. What are we loading?"
"A bomb, Mr. Cohen. Please have the remote control system up and functioning."
"Yes, sir. Where are we going?"
"As far out to sea as we can, in the time available."
"We sink it," Waverly said. "We are dealing with an explosive agent that becomes inert at low temperatures. So, we sink the bomb to the coldest depths possible in the time available."
"And the Typhoon?"
Waverly did not respond. He was watching on the monitor as McAllister backed the van as she attempted to round a close corner. Rodgers sucked in a breath and Waverly hunched his right shoulder and leaned, willing the van to fit the available space as its bumper brushed within an inch of a doorjamb. Then McAllister was around and putting on as much speed as she could down the last corridor leading to the lab.
Cohen and his crew had shoved desks and tables and chairs haphazardly out of the way, clearing a path to the dock doors gaping invitingly but McAllister braked to a stop outside the lab.
"It's too narrow," she said, despair in her tones.
"It can't be." Nichol leaned back to stare at the monitor. "According to our own charts, that door should be at least six inches wider than the van."
"Well, it's not," McAllister snapped.
Suddenly Cohen and two others, still in their lab coats, were at the van, working quickly, removing mirrors, rubber guards from the running boards, door handles. They backed away from their quick strip job and the van eased forward. McAllister's communicator picked up the protracted squeal as metal rubbed against metal. The van inched through the squeeze as the sound of McAllister's harsh breathing filled the office. She may well have been the only one who was breathing, Waverly thought. Finally, with a last appalling shriek, the van was inside the lab and headed for the dock. Without a pause, McAllister drove up the ramp, parked on the flat deck and dashed back to the dock, past a lab tech who was frantically fastening something to the rear bumper of the van.
The tech jumped up, throwing his arms high, and the Typhoon was rising in the water and making speed toward the Coast Guard escort waiting on the choppy East River.
Rodgers slumped. Nichol dropped into a seat across from Waverly. "Well, I'm glad that's over," he said. "If headquarters were blown up, I'd have to completely revise my capital budget."
Of course, it wasn't over, Waverly thought. There was still the busy East River to navigate, with the Coast Guard boats too slow to keep up, let alone lead the way.
"So far so good, sir," said Cohen's voice suddenly. Waverly jerked around to the console.
"Mr. Cohen, I have told you repeatedly. . . ."
"Yes, sir. Sorry, sir. I've managed to hop a ride with the Coast Guard. Typhoon's ahead of us, of course. She seems to be riding smooth and she's nearing the mouth of the river. Keep your fingers crossed."
Minutes passed with agonizing slowness, then Cohen was back. "All right!" he said gleefully. Sank like a rock. There was a sort of burp on the surface, I suppose that was the triggering mechanism going off, but you were apparently right about the temperature, sir."
"Thank you for your report, Mr. Cohen," Waverly said. "I share your disappointment at the loss of the Typhoon…"
"Oh, we didn't lose her, sir. We attached a cable to the van when it was loaded and let it trail, then when the Coast Guard cutter caught up to the Typhoon, we just reeled it in from a distance and pulled the van overboard. I'll be bringing my baby home, safe and sound."
"Well, that is good news, Mr. Cohen. I hope you realize what an important part your innovation and that of your team played in averting destruction today."
"Oh, yes sir. In fact, we have another project in mind that I'm hoping you can work into the budget this year. It's a notion for 'chips' of micro‑circuitry that could vastly reduce the size of computers. See you need to…"
"Yes, Mr. Cohen, we must talk when there is more time," Waverly interrupted. "Safe journey home."
With a groan, Rodgers rose and stretched. "Well, I'd better get back to the grind," she said.
Nichol also rose, picking up his folder. "I'II set up another meeting time, sir," he said. "I expect cost overruns wouldn't be very interesting just now."
Waverly nodded. "Thank you both, your assistance was very valuable. Oh, and Miss Rodgers, please get the paperwork started to award Miss McAllister the H‑1 Award. Not, thank God, posthumously."
Rodgers smiled. "Yes, sir. I'm sure it will mean a lot."
Waverly coded in the communicator. "Solo here."
"Ah, Mr. Solo, how is the patient?"
"As well as can be expected, I suppose." Solo's voice was cold.
"I am heartily glad to hear it. Please inform Mr. Davis that he is to accompany Mr. Kuryakin to New York. I have need of you elsewhere, Mr. Solo."
"Sicily, Mr. Solo. We received a rather interesting report of criminal activity there that may have extended to the United States -‑ the Mafia that Mr. Kennedy speaks of so vehemently. I want you to poke around there, see what you can pick up on the connection. Perhaps that young woman, the one with the uncles, could be of assistance."
"Pia. Yes, sir." The tone was a good deal warmer.
"Do not forget your objective, Mr. Solo," Waverly reminded him. "When you return, I may ask you to share your findings with Attorney General Kennedy directly. I don't believe you have met the Kennedys, have you? I expect you might hit it off with them. I will see you upon your return."
Waverly laid the microphone aside with a nod of satisfaction.
"Sir," it was Rodgers' voice, "Ms. Moss to see you."
Moss strode across the room, the humidor held in her hands. "What has been going on here, sir? I came back from the tobacconist and the police wouldn't let me get within a block of the building."
"We had a bit of a scare, Miss Moss, but all ended well," he answered, his eyes on the humidor.
Following his gaze, Moss stepped forward and set the container on the table in front of him. "Isle of Dog, number 22," she announced, and smiled. "The young woman is perfect. She starts next week."
"I am happy to hear it," Waverly said. "I have no doubt your instincts about her suitability will be borne out."
Obligingly, Moss excused herself and left. Waverly eased the tight lid off the humidor. It pulled free and the sweet, satisfying aroma of his favorite blend wafted over his face. He drew the smell deep, fumbling blindly for his pipe. Nothing was so completely relaxing as a pipe too‑long delayed.
The pipe was only half packed when the door whooshed open again. It was Rodgers, carrying a tray. Amazing. His grandmother's flowered teapot was on it, with the matching cream pitcher and sugar bowl and a heaped plate of pastries.
"Sorry," Rodgers was saying as she set the tray on the coffee table in front of the cushy leather couch Waverly so seldom used, "there weren't any scones available on short notice. We'll have to make do with chocolate chip cookies and a piece of sponge cake."
We. And there were two cups on the tray. Waverly shrugged, bemused. Well, things did change, and the tea was clearly a peace offering.
He sat in one of the straight‑backed chairs across from the couch, accepting a cup filled with steaming, black tea. He treated himself to a hefty dollop of cream. Perfect. Rodgers could, when she chose, make a very decent cup of tea.
He bit into a cookie from the plate. His grandson was inordinately fond of chocolate chip cookies, and now he understood the appeal.
Rodgers dropped onto the soft couch with a sigh. She raised her cup in the sir. "Cheers," she said.
"Good comrades," he responded and Rodgers smiled.
They ate and drank in comfortable silence for several minutes. Waverly glanced to the window at the lights beginning to twinkle on against a slate gray evening sky.
"Miss Rodgers, you should be getting home."
"Nope. I've still got that letter for Dani Moss to write."
"That is not necessary," Waverly said. "I believe I can now express my esteem for our female agents."
Rodgers rose. "Actually, sir, I'd like to do it. Besides, I've got people from all over the building breathing down my neck for those." She pointed toward the pile of unexamined papers.
"Miss Rodgers, you are a slave driver."
"Yes sir." Rodgers walked out and Waverly drained his cup and settled at the desk again. He got the pipe drawing well before he reached for the top paper.
Routine field agent report, dated two days previously, about a suspicious laboratory, with extensive coolant needs. Location: New York City. Waverly raised his eyebrows at the address, six under city blocks away. He thumbed the communicator. "Miss Rodgers, please report to my office with whomever is the on-duty chief of operations. We have work to do."