The Morgue Affair

by Jean Graham

There had been only one eventful piece of news at U.N.C.L.E.
headquarters this morning. Section 3 had reported two agents
missing. More accurately, two Section 3 men had reported in and
then mysteriously disappeared somewhere between admissions and the
third floor. Or so it was thought...

Valerie Swanson, facing a small Mt. Everest of Section 2 reports on
her desk, wondered if there might not be some way to escape all
this paperwork and get in on the investigation. She brightened
when the office door slid open and Napoleon Solo entered with a
thick sheaf of papers in hand. "Ah," he said. "You're just the
person I wanted to see."

Valerie scowled at the papers he held. "Not to give me those, I
hope. I have a few of my own."

"Well no." He cleared his throat uncertainly. "Actually it was
more along the lines of a favor -- if you wouldn't mind."

Valerie looked at him expectantly, waiting for the other shoe to

"I uh... need a dead file pulled. A very old dead file."

"You mean there are still files we don't have in the computer?"
Valerie was surprised.

"M-hm. Quite a few of them. Too old, too low-priority, too
trivial to feed the computer just yet." He glanced at his watch.
"I'd run this one down myself, only I'm due upstairs in ten
minutes. You mind taking a trip down to the morgue?"

Valerie suppressed a groan. The 'morgue' was the cavernous
basement level of New York headquarters: a concrete vault full of
just about every piece of old equipment U.N.C.L.E. had ever used
and discarded since 1947 -- including the infamous 'dead files.'
It was a depressing place to visit. Still, she reconsidered,
almost anything was better than suffocating under all these

"All right," she conceded, and accepted the file card he'd pulled
from one of his folders. "Just this once, Mr. Solo."

"Napoleon. And I'll be happy to return the favor some time. Say,
dinner and cocktails some evening at _Ma Maison?"_

Smiling, Valerie headed for the door. "I'll keep that in mind,"
she said. The door slid shut on his responsive grin.

On the way down, the elevator stopped at level 2, and Illya
Kuryakin ducked quickly through the doors. "Ah, Valerie. Good
morning," he said cordially. "Will you press level B please?"
Valerie pointed at the panel. "It's already pushed," she said.
"Don't tell me you're slumming today too?"

He shrugged. "There's an old digital translations computer
component from Section 4 stored somewhere in the morgue. I'd been
meaning to hunt for it when I had the time. It could be useful for
a project I have in mind."

Valerie laughed as the elevator doors slid open. "You missed your
calling, Illya. You should have been a mad scientist."

They stepped out onto a bare concrete floor. The elevator doors
snicked shut behind them and the car groaned as it rose up the
shaft. Illya surveyed the vast rows of dented file cabinets
stacked two-high, the low cement ceiling with its harsh, naked neon
tubes, and the afterthought add-ons of piping and conduit that
crisscrossed it all at irregular intervals. "Well," he commented
wryly, "this place hasn't changed."

Valerie wrinkled her nose. "It smells like the Manhattan subway
down here."

"Hm." Illya ran a deft hand over the nearest bulk of ancient
equipment, frowning at the grime it left on his fingers. "With one
important difference," he said. "The subways are cleaner."

Without knowing why, Valerie felt a sudden chill. Odd, since the
basement was both stuffy and overly warm. "This is enough to give
you the proverbial creeps," she said nervously.

The Russian cocked his head to one side. "Think of it as an
adventure," he joked. "Incidentally, what long-buried treasure are
_you_ hunting for?"

"Uh... P.O.-57-C-1950," Valerie read from Solo's file card. "A
very old dead file for Mr. S -- I mean Napoleon."

Illya nodded knowingly, then pointed off to their left. "That
would be down this way, if I remember correctly. Shall we share
the challenge of the hunt? I'll help you and you can help me."

Valerie started walking in the direction he'd pointed. "How? I
don't even know what you're looking for."

"That's all right. Neither do I. Exactly. I only know that it's
down here. Somewhere." His voice echoed hollowly off the double-
high wall of file cabinets that towered like metal cliffs on either
side of them. "The P's are toward the end of the aisle."

Valerie was surprised at his familiarity with the morgue's
haphazard layout. "You come down here often?"

"No. But I make it my business to know every part of the building,
including this one. Here's your file."
Valerie stared up at the file marked "P," which thanks to the
space-saving double-stack system, stood at least 4 feet above her
head. "Wonderful," she said. "Do I look for a pair of stilts, or
is there a ladder?"

Illya turned to search down the aisle behind them, spotted a tall
metal storage cabinet among the files, and went toward it. "They
used to keep a step ladder in here somewhere."

He pressed the closet's latch, pulled, and seemed surprised to meet
with resistance. "It isn't locked," he announced. "Seems to be
stuck..." He rattled the handle, then grasped it more firmly,
braced the cabinet with his free hand and gave the door a hard
pull. With a squeal of bent metal, it came open -- and the limp
form of a man in a dark blue suit tumbled out onto the floor.

Valerie stifled a scream. In an instant, the ever-present
U.N.C.L.E. Special had appeared from beneath Illya's coat, but his
gun found no target down either end of the long, deserted aisle.
Still holding the weapon ready, he knelt to examine the fallen

"Who is ... who was it?"

"Philips, from Section 3. One of the men reported missing this
morning." Straightening up, he carefully pried open the cabinet's
other door, then abruptly shut it again.

Valerie paled. "Not the other one, too."

He nodded. "DeSario. It looks like they've both been strangled."

Valerie glanced nervously around them. "With what? Who would want

"I don't know. But I intend to find out." Without putting away
the Special, Illya pulled the slender pen communicator from a
pocket and opened its frequency. "Emergency channel S, please.
This is Kuryakin."

The pen did not respond. He shook it, reconnected the microphone
cap, and tried again. Still nothing.

"What's wrong?"

"Something's jamming the frequencies."

"Jamming? Here?"

"Come on ..." He slipped the communicator back into a pocket and
gruided Valerie back down the aisle the way they'd come. "Let's
get out of here first and ask questions later."

Not about to argue, she hurried with him back to the elevator, and
anxiously pressed the single control. Nothing happened.

"Illya... Illya, the light isn't coming on."

He stared at the unlit button for a moment, pressed it a few times
to be sure, then stood near the doors and listened. "The elevator
isn't moving," he said.

Valerie was fighting an unreasoning panic. "Where are the stairs?"

Illya looked grim. "There aren't any. Not down here anyway."

"But there have to be. The fire regulations--"

"--were circumvented for security reasons. Something U.N.C.L.E.
should perhaps reconsider at the next executive board meeting."
The last few words were strained with his effort to pry the
elevator doors open. They remained stubbornly shut. "It would
appear," he said resignedly, "that someone wants us to stay here
for awhile." His thumb released the Special's safety catch as he

Valerie shivered. "I don't like this," she said meekly.

"That makes two of us."

She jumped when the shrill whistle of the communicator suddenly
sounded from Illya's pocket. He snatched it out and hurriedly
upended the cap. "Kuryakin," he said anxiously. "I have a code 4
on level B. Give me Section One immediately."

The voice that replied was not the one he'd expected. "Section One
can't hear you, Mr. Kuryakin. I'm afraid no one can hear you."

Illya stared at the pen as though it had just sprouted fangs and
bitten him. "Who _is_ this?"

"Your good friend Martin Bruin from data research. You remember.
The guy who suggested you look for that digital component? You
took your time getting here."

"Martin?" Illya frowned, perplexed. "What is this? What do you
mean, no one can hear us?"

"You're my honored guest for the next few hours, Illya. You were
supposed to be alone, but no matter. I took care of the other two
'extras' before they could ruin my little surprises. I'll take
care of this one -- along with you."

Exchanging glances with a terrified Valerie, Illya said, "You
killed Philips and DeSario? Why? What are you doing, Martin?
Where are you?"

Almost smug in its soft hiss of static, the communicator declined
to answer. Illya glared at it for a long moment before he gave up
and finally put it away.

"Who is this guy?" Valerie managed to ask.

Kuryakin was preoccupied with checking the Special's clip. "He's
an U.N.C.L.E. electronics expert. And it seems he has a concurrent
membership in Thrush." The clip snapped back into place: the gun
rested ready in his hand.

"Let's look for another way out of here," Valerie suggested.

"There isn't one. I think we'll have to look for Martin instead."

"You mean... he's down here somewhere? With us?

"I'd bet on it." Illya started walking in a new direction and
Valerie reluctantly followed. They headed down a shadowy aisle
lined with dead computer banks, shelves of smaller, dismantled
equipment, and several bulky somethings draped in dust-opaqued

Valerie shivered again. "What do we do now? Play hide and seek?"

"Something like that."

"Are you sure we can't just stay by the elevator? I mean, someone
from upstairs should come looking for us pretty soon, shouldn't

"That may take time." He stopped midway down the aisle and
listened, glancing up at the piping over their heads. "I have the
feeling Mr. Bruin is counting on no one coming to look for us for

Valerie moved on down the aisle a short distance in front of Illya,
and froze when his sudden shout startled her. "Don't move! Stay
there. Right there!"

She stood still, waiting for him to catch up with her. "What is
it? What's wrong?"

He knelt near her feet to examine something. Valerie looked down
to find a wide metal rectangle set into the concrete beneath her.

"You're standing on a trip plate," Illya said.

"A what?"

"Just don't move." He went rumaging hastily through junk on one of
the nearby shelves until he'd come up with a large boxy piece of
old equipment, which he carried back and carefully placed beside

"Stay there," he admonished again, and went back in search of
something more.

"Illya... please... what is this thing?"

His voice was muffled under the sound of more rummaging. "If my
guess is correct, it's a weight-release-activated mine. It
explodes when you step off the plate."

Fighting the inane urge to bolt and run, Valerie said, "How did you
know that? In time to warn me?"

"I heard it click." He reappeared with another bulky something-or-
other that sprouted disconnected wires and vacuum tubes. This he
stacked on top of the other one. "Our friend Martin seems to have
gone to a great deal of trouble to make the morgue live up to its
name. Let's hope we can disappoint him. I want you to step very
slowly off the plate -- one foot at a time."


"That equipment should counterbalance the mechanism and prevent it
from detonating."

_"Should?"_ Valerie echoed. "That doesn't sound very reassuring."

"Would you prefer to stay here?"

Valerie considered that, then set one foot cautiously off onto the
floor. Illya crouched close to the ominous plate, listening. "All
right," he said. "Now the other one. Slowly."

"I'm never going to complain about filing reports again." Valerie
closed her eyes, and took the second step. Two thudding heartbeats
later, she found Illya's hand grasping hers and pulling her on down
the aisle.

"At least,now," he said, "we know what he meant by 'little

"I don't understand how he managed to do all of this," she said as
they walked. "Right under our noses..."

"Yes. I'll have to have a talk with Section 6 about that."

"A lot of good that does us now. If we don't--" Valerie stopped in
mid-sentence. Illya had been moving a short way ahead of her, and
this time it was she who saw the danger a split second before he

"Look out!"

Both of them dove for cover as the huge steel storage bin that had
been suspended over the corridor tilted and spilled its liquid
contents onto the spot where they'd been standing. There was a
hideously loud hissing noise. Valerie found herself climbing one
of the rivetted shelves with Illya close behind as the spilling
liquid sloshed across the floor below. She glanced down to see the
concrete smoking under the onslaught of a shower of acid: the shelf
they were climbing on creaked ominously.

"Over the top!" Illya said urgently from below her. "Hurry!"

Valerie hurried. She scrambled over layers of grimy what-nots on
top of the shelf and reached the safer haven of a file cabinet on
the other side just as a loud groan preceded a crash, then several
crashes. Illya leaped from the collapsing shelf barely in time,
rolled over the top of the file and dropped neatly to the floor on
the other side. "Come on!" he called. "It could eat through the
cabinets too."

Valerie kicked off her shoes, edged over the side of the 20-foot
drop and jumped. Illya caught her at the bottom, and she breathed
a heart-felt thank you.

"You're welcome," he said noncommittally, then added, "Put your
shoes back on. If Bruin has any more tricks like that up his
sleeve, you may need them."

Valerie retrieved the shoes. "If Bruin is down here," she said as
they began moving again, "there must be some way to find him."

The U.N.C.L.E. Special, having vanished somewhere during the ordeal
of the trip-plate, had reappeared in Illya's hand. "Maybe there
is," he said thoughtfully, and pulled the communicator back out of
his pocket. "Here." He handed her the Special. "Hold this. If
anything moves, shoot it." He began pulling the communicator apart
while she watched, the bulky Special an uncomfortable weight in her

"What are you doing?"

"Some creative rewiring." In a moment's time, he'd dismantled the
transceiver's small cap and reconnected several of its miniature
wires to the base of the pen.

"What does that do?" Valerie asked.

"Theoretically, it reverses the polarity of electronic impulses to
the micro-transmitter receptor modules."

"Uh-huh. What does it do in English?"

"If Bruin calls again, it should give us a general idea which
direction he's transmitting from."

_"If_ he calls again..."

Nodding, Illya stuffed the rewired pen back into a pocket and
reclaimed the Special. "We could try staying put for awhile," he
suggested. "If we're not moving, he may get impatient and call to
goad us on."

The words were no sooner spoken than the pen began to warble its
familiar two-toned signal. He pulled it out again, but instead of
speaking to the instrument, he began turning a slow circle with it
while a soft electronic squeal sounded from its microphone.

"Can he hear us?" Valerie wondered.

"No. He'll probably think his acid trap got us." Illya stopped
turning and pointed down the aisle toward the basement's shadowy
rear wall. "That way."

They walked slowly, their footsteps echoing hollowly on the bare
cement. Illya stopped again before they'd reached the aisle's end.

"What is it now?"

He pointed with the Special to a point near the floor. "Trip
wire," he said calmly.

Valerie squinted. All but invisible, stretched across the pathway,
was a thin silvery wire. "Thorough little bugger, isn't he?" she

Without comment, Illya handed her both the Special and the
transceiver pen, which was now emitting a low, steady squeal. Just
beyond the aisle's end, she could see the morgue's back wall, a
series of alcoves filled with miscellaneous discards.
"I never realized U.N.C.L.E. was in the surplus storage business,"
she commented. "Why do we _keep_ all this junk?"

Illya was examining a locker near the end of the trip wire and had
carefully pried open the door. "The motto of bureaucracies
everywhere," he said distractedly, "is 'Never throw any scrap of
paper away without filing a report of it in triplicate first.'" He
tinkered with something inside the locker, and in a moment came
away with a long reddish something in hand. "Dynamite," he said
helpfully. "Old-fashioned, but effective." He yanked out the trip
wire and tossed it across the aisle, then produced a cigarette
lighter from somewhere and blithely lit the end of the dynamite's
short fuse.

Instinctively, Valerie backed away. "What are you doing???"

"Drawing our friend out into the open." He stepped to the edge of
the last file cabinet, squatted, and rolled the sizzling dynamite
across the floor to the wall -- to the base of the one alcove that
had appeared to be sealed off. Valerie saw now that the 'seal' was
a hastily-constructed false wall -- and a likely hiding place.

"Get down," Illya said, guiding her back several yards. They
crouched against a bank of lockers until the fuse finished its
brief burn. The explosion rocked the floor, and debris rained down
on them. A klaxon alarm went off, howling a deeper-toned version
of the transceiver's signal.

"Stay here," Illya said. He moved through the haze of dust and
smoke to the alcove, where the demolished "wall" had revealed what
had once been Martin Bruin's secret base of operations. Now it was
a smoldering ruin, a mass of jury-rigged electronic gadgetry that
had been carefully designed to operate the basement's lethal traps.
But Illya did not find a body in the rubble. Valerie became aware
of that only when she saw a shadow move into the alcove behind
Illya, and realized in the same moment that she still had his


He spun, and was immediately tackled by the hulking Bruin. They
went down together in the ruin of the alcove, sending dust flying
while the alarms continued screaming. Valerie tried to aim the
Special at Bruin and found she could not get a clear shot.
Desperately, she searched for some other weapon while the two men
struggled together up and out of the alcove, trading blows. Illya
knocked Bruin away from him with a savage kick. In the moment they
were separated, Valerie re-aimed the gun and fired, but her shot
whined off the metal of the file cabinet beside Bruin. Cursing,
she fired again, but he had already moved out of her gunsight to
re-tackle Illya.

Valerie ran the short length of corridor toward them, debris
crunching under her feet. Bruin had Illya pinned with both hands
at his throat. Valerie flipped the Special over and brought its
butt end down hard on the back of Bruin's head. He bellowed. One
hammy hand flailed up and back, reaching for her. Valerie hit him

She heard the sickening crunch of skull fracturing under hard
metal, but incredibly, Bruin did not keel over. He left a dazed
Illya lying in the rubble and came at Valerie with murder in his
eyes. She tried frantically to reverse the Special again, but his
huge hand reached out and tore it from her grasp. Valerie turned
and scrambled around the corner of the file cabinets. They
teetered ominously at her touch, damaged in the explosion, and a
desperate idea was born. Valerie threw herself against the files
and pushed in the direction they leaned with all her strength.
Metal groaned, creaked and gave. The steel mountain screeched,
rumbled... and went over.

The resounding crash was mingled with a muffled scream. Valerie
stumbled back around the corner in time to meet Illya, who was
painfully rubbing his throat and surveying her handiwork. From
under the fallen cabinets, Martin Bruin's motionless hand extended
with the U.N.C.L.E. Special still clutched in its fingers. Illya
knelt and retrieved the weapon, taking a pulse as he did so.

Valerie swallowed a large lump in her throat. "Is he...?"

"Very." Illya holstered the Special and stood up. "I think," he
said, looking over the mangled ruin of the spilled cabinets, "this
could give a whole new meaning to the term 'dead file.'"

The alarms were abruptly cut off, and they heard a soft explosion
followed closely by the clamor of running feet. In a moment,
Napoleon Solo and a small battalion of U.N.C.L.E. agents had joined
them at the scene of the fracas.

"You're a little late," Illya chided.

Solo noted the hand protruding from under the file cabinet. "Uh-
huh... And so is he. Who was it?"

"Martin Bruin. He was a double agent, probably working for Thrush.
He killed Philips and DeSario, and booby-trapped the basement.
Section 6 will have a lot of questions to answer on just how he
managed that."

Solo nodded uncertainly, then turned his concern on Valerie. "Are
you all right?"

Before she could answer, Illya, brushing dust from his suit, said,
"She's fine. But she's been wasted in the documents section. You
really must see about landing her a field assignment."

Solo grinned appreciatively. "I'll do that."

Illya placed a protective arm around Valerie's shoulders. "We'll
be taking the afternoon off," he said to Solo.

"You're what? What for?"

Illya and Valerie stepped through the ranks of gaping agents and
disappeared around a corner. Illya's voice floated back over the
dusty top of a dead computer bank. "I'm taking a lady to lunch."

The End