Illya had had a very productive day in the labs. He had finally overcome a problem that had been preventing him from successfully installing a tiny camera into an eyeglass frame and he was feeling rather proud of himself as he stepped into the elevator on his way to his office. Technology is advancing by leaps and bounds!, he was thinking as he leaned against the back wall. UNCLE’s main computer used to take up an entire room and now, it only takes up half that space!
The door to his office slid open to reveal Napoleon at his desk, pencil stuck behind one ear and head in hand, seemingly lost in thought. “Hello, Napoleon!” he began to say, “I solved the ‘clicking noise’ problem! The camera is silent now! My prototype…” He ground to a halt when he saw the CEA wasn’t really listening. “Is something wrong, Napoleon?”
“Huh? Oh. No, not really. It just occurred to me that today is August 28th.”
“Yes, it is. So?”
“Two years ago today, I hugged and kissed Angelique goodbye at the Mandarin Hotel.*”
Illya rolled his eyes as he sat at his desk. “I know; I was there. And?”
“And…I miss her. She hasn’t surfaced anywhere. THRUSH apparently still thinks she’s dead. I was certain she would turn up as a freelancer and that hasn’t happened. She’s just…gone.”
“Having just heard the obvious ravings of a lunatic, I have to say that I am even more grateful that viper slithered out of your life. I for one do not miss her. I was certain that I was going to have to kill her one day to avenge your death. I would not have minded that, but I would have minded breaking in a new partner after ten years in the field together.”
“I know you disliked her, Tovarisch; understandably so, but there was something about her, something vulnerable. In many ways, she was like a little girl playing Grown – up. Sometimes, when we were together, and all the makeup was off her face, I got a glimpse of that girl. It was that girl that I slept with; the Angelique you knew would show up in the morning after a shower and some time at the vanity.”
The Russian opened his mouth to argue, but then thought, What is the point? Instead he said, “Fine, Napoleon. I concede that you knew her better than I.”
The CEA’s eyes widened slightly. “You’re not going to denigrate her? Hmph, it must be a full moon.” His phone rang before he could say more. “Solo. Hello, Lisa. Yes, he just walked in; we’re on our way.” He hung up, stood and began to unroll his shirt sleeves. “The Old Man wants to see us,” he said as he put on his jacket and shot his cuffs.
Illya picked up his suit jacket from the hook it hung on and slipped into it. “Then let us not keep him waiting.”
Ten minutes later found both men in their usual seats across from Mr. Waverly. He had watched them enter, unlit pipe clenched between his teeth and began speaking without preamble as soon as they were settled. “Gentlemen, apparently THRUSH is once again pursuing some cockamamie scheme to take over a sovereign government. This time it’s the United States.” He held his hand up to forestall questions. “Section IV intercepted several communiques between THRUSH Central and someone in Louisiana going by the name…” He glanced at the file in front of him. “Francois Hebert. Yes, that’s it. While it was clear from the missives that he had received a rather large amount of money from the Central Committee during the course of the last year, it was not clear what the money is financing. There were also some phrases during a telephone call that we can’t decipher.”
Napoleon’s brow furrowed. “Phrases, Sir?”
“Yes. This Hebert fellow apparently is Cajun and used slang that stumped our translators who explained that Cajun French is quite different than what one would hear in Paris or, for that matter, Port au Prince.”
“So, you want Ill…Mr. Kuryakin and me to go to Louisiana to find out what’s happening and shut it down, whatever it is?”
“Half – right, Mr. Solo. I want Mr. Kuryakin to head to the South to investigate Mr. Hebert and his project while you head to Europe to locate the source of the money THRUSH is sending him and stop it.” He began to rotate the table’s Lazy Susan and stopped when the file reached the CEA. “All the information we have is in that folder. Both of you are booked on flights leaving JFK tomorrow evening. Your itineraries are also in there as are the identities you will be assuming. Standard reporting procedures, Gentlemen. Good luck to you both. Dismissed.”
“Yes, Sir,” the agents replied in unison as they stood. Illya followed Napoleon out the door. They nodded to Miss Rogers and strode silently to the elevator bank.
When they returned to their office Napoleon remarked, “It’s after six. I suggest we pick up some dinner and go to my place to study this information.”
Less than two hours later, the men were sitting in Napoleon’s living room, bellies full of Italian takeout, reading and discussing the information the Old Man had given them. “So,” Illya said as he removed his glasses, “I am to be British journalist Nigel Bellamy of The Daily Mail sent to Houma, Louisiana to research and write an article about alligator hunting. The season starts the day after tomorrow.” As he spoke, his accent became decidedly more upper class English. “Who are you supposed to be?”
“Antonio Felice of the Palermo Felices, a wealthy family who made their money during World War II, supposedly by selling secrets and arms to the highest bidder and stashing the money in Swiss bank accounts.”
The Russian looked up and frowned. “How is it possible that this family was never tried for treason or had its wealth confiscated?”
“The Italian government, after the execution of Mussolini, had other, more pressing concerns than going after Luca Felice, my ‘grandfather.’ The speculation and the rumors were there, but there was never any hard evidence. Now, the Felices are legit, Luca is deceased and my ‘cousins’ run the family olive oil business. I am the womanizing, fashion – loving, hard – partying ‘black sheep’ of the family living off my considerable inheritance while I add to it by making shadowy investments that sometimes cross the line into illegality.”
Illya snorted, “Sounds like the perfect cover for you, my friend, but why that one, you think?”
“Intelligence has reason to believe that THRUSH is funneling money through a vineyard somewhere between San Remo and Ventimiglia. The name Felice is well known in Northern Italy, but they are such a secretive lot that most people have never even seen a picture of any of them. I live in Nice, France which is about forty – five minutes away by rail. I’m to let it be known I’m looking for a new investment. Hopefully, I’ll get a little birdie’s interest and sabotage THRUSH’s operation.”
The blond stretched out his arms and legs and arched his back mightily until he could feel bones cracking. “Admittedly, you do make a good scoundrel. For once, we will need to keep in contact with each other; if you manage to disrupt the cash flow, I will need to know that as it might force Hebert to do something drastic. And if I discover what Hebert is planning, we may need to coordinate if you have not located the money source.”
Napoleon stood and went to fix himself a drink. “I don’t know if you know this or not, Tovarisch, but some of the best food in the country is made by Cajun cooks. Don’t get so sidetracked with eating that you start to gain weight. You won’t be able to outrun the ‘gators.” He poured a shot of vodka and handed it to the Russian. “You’re not the only one who doesn’t feel like breaking in a new partner.”
Illya downed the shot in one gulp and prepared to leave. “Do not worry, Napoleon. I will be as careful as I expect you to be. Happy hunting, moy droog.” And with that, he strode down the hall and exited.
Napoleon followed to lock the door and reset the alarms. Happy hunting, indeed.
*ref. “Predators and Prey”