The thug was drawing his arm back to punch Illya, when he unexpectedly found himself lying on his back, with a heavily bleeding nose. Illya glared down at him.
“Next time, I suggest you accept the replacement drink when it is offered.”
Napoleon and Illya sat in silence as they waited for their boss. Eventually, the old man gave them his attention.
“I am informed that the Section 7 secretarial pool are not filing your reports when they should be,” he told them. “Why would this be?”
“I honestly couldn’t say Sir,” Napoleon replied, with a shrug.
“I believe there are varying reasons,” Illya stated. “Many have recently had a lot more to do, some are having health issues, while others seem to be a little unmotivated. These are all things which happen in an office from time to time but, this time, it all appears to have occurred simultaneously.”
“How would either of you suggest we resolve this issue?”
A grin appeared on Napoleon’s face.
“I’m sure that, between us, Illya and I can provide inspiration.”
(sorry about this one. It wrote itself. I couldn't resist)
“Are you sure about this Napoleon?”
Illya was clearly unsure. Napoleon grinned impishly.
“Absolutely, nothing to worry about. I come here all the time. It’s a great way to relax after a heavy workout.”
“Napoleon, I’d sooner shower. What is so great about a sauna? I dislike hot temperatures.”
Napoleon opened a door and shoved his partner through.
“Through that other door there. Trust me, Illya. Have I ever steered you wrong?”
“Frequently!” Illya stepped through the door. He was met with a bevy of elderly ladies with easels. The teacher steered him to a chair.
“Welcome to our life-drawing class!”
(Just to let you know, those who have been following this story, I may come back to it...tell a little more about Millie and Carrie, and what if anything came next...)
A Letter, part 12
Napoleon, his surviving daughter Carrie and her grandparents stood watching the coffin lowering slowly into the grave. Carrie dropped a single white rose onto the lid of the coffin, tears on her cheeks. Tom and Elsie led her away to wait by the car. Illya moved in beside Napoleon, fighting memories of his own. Napoleon’s shoulders were shaking, but he was making no sound.
“We’ll destroy THRUSH one day, my friend.” Illya said softly. “I swear we’ll make them pay for killing Millie.”
“Millicent Rose Solo, fifteen years old, killed by THRUSH.” He raised red eyes to Illya.
“This is not over!”
Napoleon rubbed his head and sat up. He hugged the girl.
“It’s alright Carrie, it’s only a scratch.”
He opened his communicator and called UNCLE for assistance, then looked up as his partner finished tying up their prisoner.
“Illya, we need to find Tom and Elsie…Carrie, where are your grandparents? Are they alright?”
“Tied up in the garage, daddy. They’re okay.”
Illya touched Napoleon’s shoulder.
Left behind, Carrie’s eyes filled with tears, and she started to weep.
“I’ve lost Millie, daddy. My twin sister, and I’ve lost her.”
Napoleon wrapped her in his arms, and they both wept.
The girl's eyes widened in shock, and the Thrushie started to growl angrily. To his fury, Napoleon gave a laugh.
“If that was my daughter, she would know how to deal with you!”
The girl looked terrified, but she gave a slight nod, raised her right boot and stamped on her assailant's right ankle as hard as she could, and as his powerful grip on her loosened, she twisted and dropped to the ground. Illya felled him with a knockout punch. The gun went off. Blood spattered the toy elephant. The girl dropped to her knees.
“Daddy! Daddy!” she screamed.
“Have you decided which one to take yet? He asked.
Illya managed not to show that his partner had startled him.
“It matters not which vehicle we use, as long as it serves its purpose.”
“Keep telling yourself that, Tovarisch,” Napoleon replied, with a knowing grin.
“Daddy, help me!”
Clearly a THRUSH thug, complete with the THRUSH insignia on his shoulder, the man wore a brutish grin.
“Now I’ll get my position back, when I bring in the infamous Napoleon Solo. An’ I get the Russian for good measure!”
Napoleon’s face remained a blank.
“Who are you, and who is this girl? She’s not my daughter!”
It was a small room, scarcely larger than a box-room, but it was a pretty, girlie room, with pink flowered wallpaper, and bedspread to match. A pile of soft toys sprawled untidily across the bed, and a large poster of Elvis decorated the wall. Illya made to withdraw, to give Napoleon some privacy with his grief, but Napoleon grabbed his arm.
“Please stay, Illya.”
“How did she die?” The Russian asked softly. Napoleon picked up a small fluffy pink elephant and held it to his face. A voice behind them made them jump and whip round.
Kuryakin could practically make himself invisible in an empty room. In a crowd, in which Napoleon was holding court, he could go absolutely unnoticed; an ideal situation for planting listening devices or trackers.
This was one of the things which made them the perfect partners.
“So…Dimitri loved cats, he loved cows…he hated milk! He loved his papa…”
“All little boys love their papas.”
Illya shook his head.
“No, he really loved me. He almost never saw me. The KGB were…I could only safely see him two or three times in a year, for just a few minutes. He was just three when he died…I was going to give him my balalaika…”
There was a long pause, then Illya shook his head and smiled sidelong at the tear in his partner’s eye.
“Your turn. Tell me something about Millie.”
Napoleon heaved a shaky sigh.
“Fifteen years ago, my wife Martha was killed in a car crash. She was eight months pregnant when it happened. I was unconscious for three days. I woke up with a broken arm, broken ankle and concussion, to find my wife dead and my baby daughter delivered by emergency caesarian.”
“Who took care of her?”
“Martha’s parents. Millie suffered a loss of oxygen for a time, until they managed to… anyway, she had learning difficulties, but she was so loving…she looked so much like Martha…”
His voice broke.
“She was my baby!”
Illya held his partner close until Napoleon grew calmer. Finally, wiping his eyes, Napoleon tried to smile. He almost managed it.
“I wish I could be more like you, Illya…” He paused when Illya shook his head.
“No, don’t wish to be like me, my friend. Don’t even try. It hurts more, and the pain lasts much longer.” He smiled slightly. “If you are ready, perhaps we should continue our journey, and you can tell me about your Millie.”
This time Napoleon managed to smile back.
“Okay…if you first tell me about your little Dimitri.”
“Very well . . .”
Illya stared at his partner, momentarily stunned into silence. Napoleon gave him a hard look, and rubbed the palm of his hand across his face, almost angrily, then banged it against the steering wheel.
“You want me to drive?” Illya asked him. “You’ve had a terrible shock, and…”
Napoleon rounded on him.
“ No I don’t want you to drive, Illya! I’ve lost my little girl, not my…..not my…marb….”
His voice gave out and he turned a pair of wet eyes to his partner.
“Illya. . .how do you deal with this?"
Illya's smile was bittersweet.
"I don't." He whispered.
Illya racked his brains. He had met all of Napoleon’s family, or so he’d believed. Who could Millie be? Napoleon was so upset, it was clear that Millie couldn’t possibly be a beloved family pet. He had no brothers or sisters with that name. Somehow though, he felt it would be an intrusion into his friend’s grief to ask, so he remained attentive.
“I’m sorry, my friend. I am here for you.”
Napoleon nodded, and in pity, Illya watched a fat tear roll down Napoleon’s cheek.
“I know you’ve been there yourself, Illya. Millie was my… Millie was my daughter!”
“My doctor allowed me to leave on the proviso I agree to having people check on me three times a day.”
“And who will be doing that?”
“Well, today, Harriet is coming at ten, Marie at three, and Joan at eight. Tomorrow it will be . . .”
Illya held up his hand to stop him and wondered just how many women would be visiting Napoleon.
It was a sultry, firefly filled evening as Solo and Kuryakin sat out in the backyard of the safehouse in which they’d taken up residence. Their car was in need of repair and since there was no urgency in returning to New York, Waverly approved their stay.
Rather than a hotel, the unoccupied house would be more cost effective, much to the approval of Accounting.
After taking a taxi to a small grocery store for some supplies, the partners headed home and settled in, barbecuing burgers and kabobs outside on the grill.
Laying in a pair chaise lounges, they sipped beer to the sounds of chirping crickets.
“Isn’t this the life tovarish?” Napoleon blew a smoke ring from the large cigar he was smoking.
“If you call perspiring while being bitten by mosquitos the life, then your standards have been lowered.”
Napoleon clicked his tongue.”I meant the peace and quiet, as well as the fact that no one is trying to kill us.”
“Oh, then in that case I do agree...this is the life,” Illya swallowed the last of his beer. “In the meantime I am going inside to escape the blood sucking bugs.”
“Suit yourself tovarisch.”
Illya sat beside his partner, watching as he drove. Silent, and white-faced. This was not like his partner at all. Finally, two hours into the journey, he spoke up.
“Napoleon...this is worrying me. Will you please talk to me?”
Napoleon let out his breath as though he had been holding it, and belatedly nodded. He pulled swiftly into a lay-by and turned off the engine. For several minutes he sat, staring ahead, before turning slightly in his seat. Illya saw his face was white and drawn.
“Illya…” he said, half reluctantly, his voice cracking. “I’ve lost Millie. My Millie is dead!”
Illya found his partner up on the roof, gazing out across the New York skyline. The sun had just started its journey to the horizon, and was sending golden rays reflecting from the many windows.
The two stood silently for almost twenty minutes, watching the sun setting. Finally, Napoleon crumpled the letter that he was still holding.
“Illya, I have to go home. Right now. Will you come?”
Illya’s response was immediate, full of concern.
“Of-course I’ll come. Need you to ask? Napoleon, what has happened?”
But Napoleon wasn’t listening. He was gazing across the city, tears in his eyes..
Illya barely glanced up as his partner entered their office.
“There’s a letter for you on the cabinet.” He said, threading a fresh sheet of paper into his typewriter and winding it on. He heard a sharp intake of breath and glanced up. Napoleon was staring at the open letter in his hand as though hypnotized, a look of shock on his face. Alarm bells rang.
“Are you alright, my friend? Can I do anything?”
Wordlessly, Napoleon shook his head and left the room. Illya watched him go, full of concern. Whatever was wrong with Napoleon? What could have happened?