"Once again, with closer attention to the prepositions this time."
When Illya placed the workbook back in front of her, Amanda Farrell
resisted the temptation to groan. It would be her third effort to
accurately translate the Dostoevsky paragraph, and she was
beginning to wonder if this attempt to master a working knowledge
of Russian was worth the gruelling effort.
"Did anyone ever tell you," she said to him in Russian,
that you're a relentless taskmaster?"
"Frequently. Call me when you've finished. I'll be down in
The automatic door of the U.N.C.L.E. headquarters office rumbled
open before Illya reached it, admitting Napoleon Solo.
"Morning," he saluted. "How's the student?"
Illya nodded. "Passing. You wanted to see me?"
"Actually, no." Solo hefted a dossier. "Sir John sent this down
for Amanda - it's a report on U.N.C.L.E.'s last operation in Kiev.
Thought it might be of some help."
"Fine." Illya headed on out the door. "Just don't keep her too
long. She has four more translations to finish before we leave
This time Amanda let the groan escape, though Illya had already
gone out the door.
"Don't let him get you down." Solo smiled and dropped the dossier
to the table, beside her workbook. "His bark's a lot worse than
"Really?" Amanda was dubious. "Did you ever take his crash course
in Russian grammar?"
"As a matter of fact, yes. I can't say I passed with flying
colors, but I got by. Languages aren't my forte, I'm afraid.
Illya, on the other hand..."
"Speaks twelve languages and is at least semi-fluent in
half a dozen more," Amanda said. "I don't see, how he does it."
Solo shrugged. "We all have our... er... areas of expertise. Just
be sure you're adequately able to pass for Russian and try not to
talk any more than you have to. Illya will take care of the rest."
"I hope so," Amanda said. "I gather he knows Kiev fairly well."
Solo headed back to the doorway. "I guess he ought to." The
closing door nearly severed his final words. "He was born there."
Amanda stared at the grey metal door, feeling slight consternation
that in all their sessions together preparing for this mission,
Illya had never told her that. He was so aggravatingly close-
mouthed, so totally enigmatic. Posing as his wife on this
assignment was not going to be easy. A newlywed Russian couple
with government permission (forged in this case by U.N.C.L.E.'s
documents experts) to tour Kiev -- such a couple would surely be
affectionate, caring, in some way demonstrative of their love for
one another. She'd begun to wonder if the very stoic Mr. Kuryakin
were even capable of any of those feelings -- or of their pretense.
Well, however well or poorly their ruse was accomplished, they
would have to remain in Kiev long enough to rendezvous with Alexi
Dmitriov, the Russian dissident who knew the whereabouts of a vital
strip of microfilm. Amanda knew little about the nuclear missile
schematics that were contained on the film. But U.N.C.L.E. had
accepted Interpol's challenge to smuggle the film out of Russia,
and she had been chosen as Kuryakin's assistant for what was to
become her first mission behind the iron curtain.
It was frightening in many ways. But in many other ways, it was
also more than a little exciting.
Their flight was relatively uneventful: the forged passports
carried them into Ukraine without incident. At Berdichev, they
changed identities, becoming Emil and Tatiana Yuzhya, Ukranian
newlyweds, and travelled by train on to Kiev. There, they hired a
car, and for the first time, Amanda began to see a far less
pragmatic side to Illya Kuryakin.
"That is the Dnieper River," he told her as they drove over a
lengthy suspension bridge. "The barges carry grain south all the
way to the Black Sea." He gazed at the buildings they were passing
with an almost wistful expression. "Very little has changed here
in thirty years. The river changes least of all."
"Did you live near the river?"
"I used to watch the barges every morning from the west window."
As he guided the rented car into downtown Kiev, Amanda ventured a
somewhat personal question. "Do you think we could go back to the
house you lived in, to see if it's still there?"
Her erstwhile husband shook his head, and a wan smile curled the
corners of his mouth. "Nostalgia was never precisely my calling,"
he said in Russian. "But Kiev's Upravlenie Shkola will, quite
probably remain standing forever."
Amanda fell silent, having recognized the term he'd used from their
recent exhaustive studies of Soviet culture. The Upravlenie Shkola
was a government-run state school, an institution that reared young
wards of the state with an eye toward eventual service in either
the Soviet military or in one of the myriad Russian intelligence
agencies, such as KGB. Upravlenie students were invariably
children "unattached" to families: they were given over to the
school in early infancy, barring any possibility that
familial/emotional ties might one day interfere with their
dedicated service to the state.
And Illya had grown up in such a place...
Amanda wanted to say, "I'm sorry; I didn't know," but she swallowed
the cliche unspoken. It was better to drop the subject. When --
if -- he wanted to tell her more, he would.
They travelled in unbroken silence for a time, until the little car
came abreast of a city park. It was here they were to meet Alexi
Dmitriov. Leaving the car parked on a side street, they walked
north toward the park's interior, trodding fall-brown grass that
was well-carpeted with leaves and pine needles. The washed-clean
scent of last night's rain still lingered in the air, and from
somewhere in the city a bell tower chimed the morning's tenth hour.
Amanda wondered absently if the tower were attached to a church, or
perhaps graced the facade of some government building instead.
Abruptly, she found herself brought up short by Illya's
outstretched hand. "What's wrong?" Her voice automatically became
a whisper. His response was a gesture: one hand signalling both
silence and caution. She followed his gaze forward to a stand of
berry hedges, where a lone figure waited in the shadows of the
overhanging pine branches. It should be -- and was -- Dmitriov.
But something was wrong. He came toward them with the abject look
of a lost child, or more, Amanda thought, like a man driven by some
"Priyatel Alexi," Illya said to him, and the address surprised
Amanda. She hadn't known they were acquainted, and she had never
heard Illya call anyone other than Napoleon Solo "friend."
Dmitriov grasped Kuryakin's hand, but dispensed with further
formalities. "We have very little time, my friend," he said in
Russian. "Gustav Kreller knows of our meeting. You will have to
reach the Bodruga warehouse before his Thrush operatives do, and
remove the microfilm before it falls into their hands."
He had scarcely completed the rush of words when a spasm of pain
overtook him. Illya caught him as he fell, guiding him swiftly to
a nearby concrete bench. Amanda saw Illya take the man's pulse,
and his expression grew subtly more concerned. "We'll take you to
a hospital, Alexi," he said.
Dmitriov's hand staid him. "No. Please listen, Illya tovarishch.
Twelfth aisle, twelfth crate, left, center..." He winced, biting
off the words as another spasm gripped him. In a moment he had
slumped forward, nearly falling off the bench before Illya pulled
him back, once again testing for a pulse. Amanda could tell by his
face that this time there was none.
"A slow -acting poison," he said quietly, and rose to leave
Dmitriov ostensibly napping on the bench. "It's one of Kreller's
favorite means of disposing of 'undersirables'.
Amanda understood. Gustav Kreller was an East German who
ruthlessly spearheaded all of Thrush's iron curtain operations.
And if this particular strip of microfilm were to fall into
"We have to reach that warehouse." He pulled her from the bench in
one swift motion, and headed back for the rented car. They left
Alexi Dmitriov behind them in the shadows, a mystery for the local
authorities in which U.N.C.L.E. could ill afford to be involved.
They had scarcely come within sight of the car when Illya stopped
walking, and for the second time that hour, Amanda followed his
gaze. Someone was standing beside the car, nonchalantly inspecting
its interior like a thief casing prospective 'merchandise.'
"Who is that?"
Illya drew her back behind a hedge, out of sight. "His name is
Davis. Daniel E. Davis. An American Thrush agent."
"They don't waste any time, do they?"
"Let's just hope they haven't been thorough enough to surround the
park. Come on." He guided her west away from the waiting Thrush
agent, and onto another city street where a line of black taxis
stood waiting. They got into the back seat of the foremost car,
and she heard Illya request a destination of the Bodruga warehouse.
Before the driver had taken them a full kilometer, however, it
became apparent that the taxi was being followed. Somehow, Amanda
was not surprised to glimpse Daniel Davis in the cab's rear view
mirror. Nor was she surprised to see that Illya had already
"Maybe he's working alone," she said hopefully.
Her bogus husband gave her a dour look before addressing the taxi
driver. "I've changed my mind," he said. "Please take us to the
Lenin Museum." The driver nodded almost imperceptibly and swung
the car into an abrupt left turn. Amanda watched Daniel E. Davis
follow suit behind them.
"How far is the Lenin Museum?" she asked.
"About seven blocks ahead. Perhaps you'd care to view a few
"Just so long as they're not bird exhibits."
When the cab pulled up in front of the museum building, Davis' car
had dropped out of sight. Illya counted rubles into the driver's
hand, then guided her cautiously into the ornate building.
"How long do we spend seeing the sights?" Amanda wondered.
"Perhaps until the man from Thrush loses interest in us."
"That could make for a lengthy visit."
"Possibly. But if he is alone, we may be able to get past him.
Would you like to guess which door he's watching?"
Amanda paused to ponder the stern expression on a bust of Lenin.
"The back one," she answered. "Thrush agents are notoriously
They spent the next twenty minutes learning more about Nikolai
Lenin than they'd ever wanted to know, then left by the east side
door and walked the near-kilometer back to the park and their
rented car. There was no sign of Daniel Davis. No sign, at least,
until they'd driven out of the city proper en route to the
warehouse. Amanda noticed the pursuing car this time almost as
soon as Illya did.
"Daniel Davis?" she asked.
Illya nodded. "He's nothing if not consistent."
"Have you run into Mr. Davis before?"
"On numerous occasions." Illya kicked down the accelerator, and the
small rental car lurched forward. They swerved around three
corners, screamed through a curve and finally shot from an archway
into open countryside. But when Amanda turned to look, the Thrush
car was still in hot pursuit. "Mr. Davis doesn't give up easily."
Illya scowled, foot easing up on the accelerator. "Then perhaps
we'll try another tactic." He hit the brake. Tires squealing, the
little car skidded right to a whiplash stop on the asphalt
shoulder. In a moment, Davis' larger Moskvitch sedan roared past
them, brakes screaming with Davis' effort to halt. Illya didn't
give him time. He gunned his own engine back to life, spurring the
compact Volga forward again. Now they were behind Davis.
Amanda hung onto the madly-tilting dashboard, aware for the first
time that the rented car had not come equipped with seat belts.
"What are you going to do?" she shouted over the roar of the
"Attempt," Illya called back, "to discourage him."
With the grinding whine of too many RPMs, the smaller car squeezed
in behind the Moskvitch's right bumper and nudged it, once, twice,
three times. Holding on, Amanda silently prayed for the continued
absence of pedestrians, cross-traffic and Russian policemen.
A metal-wrenching screech accompanied the fourth and final "nudge"
Illya gave the speeding Moskvitch. The black car struck a painted
steel guard rail, snapped it in two and barrelled over into a
shallow ditch, coming to rest nose-first in the mud. Amanda could
almost hear the blistering curses of a very angry Thrush agent.
But they didn't wait to hear what Mr. Davis had to say. The
warehouse, and Dmitriov's microfilm, awaited.
* * *
"What if there's an alarm?" she worried as Illya prepared to break
a pane of glass on one of the small warehousd's rear windows.
"Not likely," he answered. "Breaking and entering is not a common
Amanda didn't need to ask why. She had no doubt that ten years in
a Siberian labor camp was ample deterrent for any would-be burglars
here. Glass popped, crashing with a sharp echo to the floor
within. Illya reached through to open the window and they moved
swiftly inside, glass crunching under their feet.
"Dmitriov said 'twelfth aisle, twelfth crate, left, center,' Amanda
recalled. "The twelfth from what?"
Illya regarded the thirty-odd rows of wooden crates that were
illuminated only by dusty sun shafts from the surrounding windows.
"Perhaps from the front door," he guessed.
They traversed the length of the building, only to find that there
were two bay doors at the front, and multiple aisles to either side
of each. Amanda sighed. "Now what?"
"You try the left. I'll go right."
They separated, each counting off aisles until they'd reached the
twelfth one, whereupon both disappeared into the shadows. Amanda
counted crates. Eight, nine, ten... the rows of wooden containers
came to an abrupt end, leaving bare dusty floor. No twelfth row.
She turned and headed back the way she'd come, passing the double
front doors, counting crates to the right now until she'd reached
the twelfth. She'd been about to start down the passageway when an
unfamiliar voice echoed from the aisle.
"Far enough, Kuryakin," it said. "I'll take it from here." Amanda
crept down the neighboring aisle to a miniature mountain of
uncrated canned goods and peered cautiously around them. She saw
Daniel Davis holding Illya at gunpoint, a flat of canned salmon
between them on the floor.
"I had no idea you were fond of sea food," Illya said wryly.
Davis smirked. "I acquired a sudden taste." He raised the pistol.
"And now that I have, I won't be needing you anymore."
"I really think you should locate the microfilm first. I can't
verify that it's in there. I was only playing a hunch."
"I'll take my changes." Davis started to squeeze the trigger, but
at the last moment spun and fired wild at a sound from behind him.
He came face to face with a wall of toppling cans that promptly
buried him under three solid feet of red-label salmon. When the
dust had settled, Illya stepped back into view to find Amanda
inspecting Davis' one exposed hand. "Thank you," he said.
"Don't mention it. What are wives for?"
He nodded at the still hand in hers. "Is he--?"
"No, but I think his chiropractor's going to be doing a land-office
business." Amanda looked at the mass of fallen cans and grimaced.
"Did I just lose the needle in the haystack?"
Illya climbed to the top of the open crate from which the flat of
cans had come. "Fortunately, no. Dmitriov said 'center.' That
flat came from the left corner."
Amanda joined him on top of the crate. "But they're stacked three
deep," she noted. "There are three 'center' flats."
Illya's hand ran swiftly over the exposed can tops in the top
center flat, scanning tiny numbers that Amanda hadn't noticed till
now were stamped there.
"How can you know the serial number?" she asked, incredulous.
"Dmitriov didn't give us a number."
"Call it another hunch." He lifted the top flat, handed it to her,
started scanning the one below. In a moment, he plucked a can from
the crate and hefted it in one hand. "The number is out of
sequence," he said, and turned the squat can over to pry the
attached key from its base.
"We have to get out of here," Amanda worried. "If anyone heard
Illya nodded, hooking the key into its tab and twisting. Amanda
heard the hiss of an escaping vacuum seal. From under the steel
mountain beneath them, Daniel Davis groaned softly.
"Illya, will you please..." she began.
"Here." He handed her the opened tin and immediately the pungeant
odor of fish assailed her nostrils. "There's nothing in here but
fi--" She cut the complaint short when she noticed that Illya had
carefully begun uncurling the metal sealing strip from around the
aluminum key and was peeling something from its inner side:
something long, dark and thin. The microfilm. "OK. Can we please
get out of here now?"
They jumped back to the floor in time to see the hand protruding
from the cans move slightly. "What about him?" Amanda asked. "If
he tells the police about us--"
"They're going to find him here."
"True. But he won't tell them the truth. They'll convict him of
attempted burglary and he'll probably be taking a long, cold
vacation somewhere in Siberia. I refuse to be sorry. Let's go."
A muffled groan came from under the cans as they moved away, almost
as though Davis' semi-conscious state were responding to Illya's
insult. Amanda started to say more, but Illya, tucking the micro-
film into a pocket, led her away. Somewhere in the distance,
police sirens were warbling.
* * *
Napoleon Solo regarded both of them, some hours later, over a
restaurant table laden with Russian delicacies. "Well, Mr. and
Mrs. Yuzhya," he said formally. "It's certainly been a pleasure
dining with you. It's not every day, you know, that a lowly
American tourist can have a dining experience like this one."
"To be sure," Illya responded in deliberately accented English.
"The pleasure was ours, Mr. Anderson."
Solo smiled, and slipped a hand into the pocket of his suit jacket,
where the bundled roll of film now rested. Shortly, he would
conceal it inside one of U.N.C.L.E.'s specially-designed smuggling
devices; perhaps a dummy electric razor or a hollow bar of soap,
and carry it out of the U.S.S.R.
Amanda sipped at her glass of cognac and idly wondered how Daniel
Davis and the Kiev authorities were getting along. "Well," she
heard Solo say, "what about the two of you? Now that the... uh...
honeymoon... is over, will you be going home?"
Illya feigned confusion at the question. "Over? It hasn't begun --
yet. And you forget, my friend. I am home." He toasted Amanda
with his glass. "I thought perhaps a brief cruise to
Dnepropetrovsk, a few evenings on the shores of the black Sea at
Zhdanov, then possibly skiing in Poltava. What do you think?"
Amanda looked at him, totally lost for an answer.
"Rokoshniya," he said pleasantly, and rose to pull out her chair
for her. "Shall we go, moya Sena?"
Solo started to object, but was precluded by the appearance of the
waiter, who looked anxiously at Illya in expectation of his
payment. "An excellent repast," Illya said in Russian, and dipped
a hand at Solo. "My cousin here has graciously offered to pay the
"Now wait a minute--" Solo started to rise, was blocked from
following his departing friend by the waiter's outstretched hand,
into which he started stuffing ruble notes.
Illya guided Amanda away from the table, and the two of them
approached a nearby side exit. "Your uncle isn't going to like
this, you know," Solo called over the waiter's shoulder.
Illya turned to send him a brief farewell salute, his knowing smile
saying more clearly than words that their mutual uncle could go
climb a Ukranian tree.
"Do svidaniya," he said briskly, and disappeared out the door.