The morning sun felt so good. Not that Illya Kuryakin would admit that under pain of death, but the older he got, the more appealing it was to just sit in the sun and let it bake his bones. An hour or two of this and he felt like he could take on the world again. Well, at least for a few minutes and then the old aches and pains resettled. Getting old was definitely not for the faint of heart.
Still, it behooved him to look like he was doing something productive so he flipped open the Daily News and scanned the front page. World events he knew about, sometimes more than he wanted to. As the head of Section Three, it wasn't necessary, but once an enforcement agent, always an enforcement agent. However, what was happening in his own city was often more of a mystery.
A sense of being observed tickled the back of his neck and he let the paper drop slightly so that he could scan the area around him. At this time of the day, the park was bustling with people, taking a break from their work day to grab lunch or just some time outside while the weather was good.
Then he saw him, a young man of possibly twenty, certainly no more. His lips twisted into a wry smile. When did a man of twenty become young to him? There was something oddly familiar about the man, his face, his stance, perhaps the cut of his shoulder. Illya wasn't sure. He'd gotten to a point in his life where even strangers looked familiar - so many faces over the years and so many of them gone now. Some were missed more keenly than others.
The young man watched him watching him and apparently came to a decision. He started to move, with the grace and ease of youth, and stopped a few paces away.
Illya watched for an abruptness, something that might indicate danger. He was armed and, if push came to shove, he had no compulsion of dropping the man where he stood if he felt threatened.
"Mr. Kuryakin?" The young man's voice had a definite Boston twang to it, if Illya wasn't mistaken.
"Illya Nickovich Kuryakin?"
"Yes." Illya watched the young man become more anxious and suddenly unsure of himself.
"I don't want to sound stupid, but you don't know me."
"That is apparent."
"But I know you. You were a friend of my father's."
As if that narrows down the field , Illya thought. "It is possible. I've known a great many men in my life."
"No, I mean you really knew my father."
"Again, that is likely. Perhaps if you were to tell me your father's name it would help."
Illya's brow furrowed as he studied the young man, so nervous and apprehensive. He was obviously concerned at to the response he would get. It took him a moment to sift through the names, so many names, to come up with, "Leon?"
"You remember me?"
"Vaguely, I changed your diaper once or twice, but you were only about five months old at the time."
"Yeah, it's been a few years." He gestured to the bench. "Can I sit down?"
"Of course." Illya moved the newspaper to give him room. "Why are you here?"
"I was hoping you could tell me a little bit about my father. Mom, well, she was pretty tight lipped about him. She just said that he died young, before his time. Every time I asked, she just blew me off, but she'd never let me out of her sight long enough for me to do any real digging. I guess she was afraid of what I might find."
"And how is today different?"
"I'm sorry for your loss."
"No great loss, not really, but thank you. We haven't been close for years. I was at Cambridge when I got the call and it took me awhile to get stuff straightened up there, at least enough so I could get back and straighten up the mess here."
Illya sat patiently, waiting for the young man to come to a point, assuming that he had one. So many younger people today didn't.
"Anyhow, I was going through some of her things and I found a picture. It was of you and Dad. I recognized you from some stuff I'd seen at school. Professor Travany sends his regards, by the way."
"He's still teaching? He must be over a hundred."
"And he's still brutal about lab notes." Leon grinned and Illya could see Napoleon in that smile and those eyes. Yes, this was definitely Napoleon Solo's son. "Anyhow, one thing led to another and here I am. I figured if anyone could tell me about Dad, you could."
"How did your mother say he died?"
"Ruptured appendix when I was about two, I think. She never spontaneously talked about him. There's just so much I want to know. What was he like? Was he a good man? Was he a scholar or a blue collar worker? There's so much I don't know and I want to."
"Why don't you ask him yourself? "
"What? How could I do that, he's dead. I told you."
"He's walking towards us as we speak." Illya nodded to Napoleon as he approached, balancing a cardboard tray of drinks in one hand and paper sacks in the other. He glanced back at the boy and he was gone. Illya blinked and looked again. Have I dreamt the whole thing? How odd, he thought as Napoleon handed him the sacks and gratefully lowered himself to the bench.
"Sorry it took so long, but I think everyone in Manhattan had the same idea we did."
"The first warm day of Spring usually has that effect."
"So who was the young guy you were talking with? If I was the jealous type, I'd say you'd tossed me over for a younger man." It was an old joke they shared. It meant nothing and it meant everything.
"A ghost from your past." Illya took a coffee cup and sipped the contents, then made a face. "No, that one is yours, I believe."
"My mistake. A ghost?"
"Your son, Leon. You do remember you have a son?" Illya stopped at his friend's suddenly ashen face. "Napoleon, what's wrong? Are you ill?"
"I never told you this, Illya. Hell, I never told anyone, but Leon is dead. He died when he was about two. From a ruptured appendix, according to his mother. I went to the funeral."
"Where was I?"
"Omstead, I think, on the trail of that diamond smuggler."
"Napoleon, despite what his mother told you, this young man is your son. He's your spitting image."
"But why after all these years...?"
"His mother told him you were dead... of a ruptured appendix. Apparently she was a woman of very little imagination." Illya sipped the coffee and frowned at the cup. "There's sugar in both of these?"
"Is there? Sorry."
"She is now dead and Leon came upon certain documents while going through her effects. His search led him to me."
"So, why vanish? Is he that worried about me being a monster?"
"Just the contrary, a little in awe of you, I think. Perhaps frightened of having the one thing he thought was forever to be denied him. No matter."
"No matter?" Napoleon nearly shouted at the blond. "I might have just missed the one opportunity I had and you blow it off?"
Illya held up his communicator in one hand. "After you finish your lunch, you can track him. I'd be a very poor spy indeed if I missed the chance to drop a tracer on him at the first opportunity."
"Boring afternoon at the office. This should prove much more... entertaining, old friend."
The young man watched the two from the security of the bushes. He couldn't believe that his mother lied all these years. He couldn't believe that his father was right there, practically in front of him and he lacked the courage to look him in the eye. And he couldn't believe that Kuryakin had tried to bug him. He studied the tiny transmitter with a practiced eye. As much as the boys back home would love to get their hands on this kind of UNCLE technology, that just wasn't going to happen. This was a personal matter. He left the safety of the bushes and approached a mounted police office.
"I say, old chap, I seem to be rather turned about here." His accent was very British now. "I was looking for the Metropolitan?"
"Just follow this path about half a mile and you'll see if on your right, sir."
"Ta!" He gave the horse a friendly pat. "Beautiful bit of horse flesh, you have there, sir."
The policeman likewise patted the horse's neck, completely obvious to the small tracking device that was now attached to his saddle. "He's a good one."
"Thanks again." He watched the policeman ride away and smiled. Maybe it was true what they said after all, spies like him were born, not made.