Somewhere above the downpour, thunder growled and rumbled. The
Chicago suburb stretched under the clouds, most of its houses still
under construction. Soil from unplanted lawns streamed onto the
new sidewalks to form muddy brown puddles.

Running footsteps echoed eerily on the rain-soaked concrete.
Illya Kuryakin and April Dancer rushed across an empty street,
vanishing into the shadow of a half-finished building. With their
backs against the cold plaster of a wall, they peered warily back
out at the grey afternoon.

"Any sign of him?" Illya wiped raindrops from his U.N.C.L.E.
Special with a handkerchief while April, less fastidious, cleaned
her own smaller .38 with a quick swipe against her sleeve.

"I haven't seen him since he first took a shot at us," she said.
"Did you get a good look at him?"

Illya pulled, checked and reloaded the Special's clip. "Yes. "


"His name is Leskin. Stefan Leskin."

"From where? Thrush? NSA? The KGB?"

Illya frowned. "Perhaps all three. Stefan was that sort of--"

A bullet sheered plaster from the wall between them, and sent both
of them running again, to the rear of the house and back out onto
another wet sidewalk. This section of the housing development was
partially occupied, judginq from the cars parked in some of the

April followed Illya at an angle across another of the streets,
striving to keep up with him without slipping on the slick
blacktop. They ducked behind a parked car when another shot from
their unseen pursuer's gun scored the asphalt near their feet.

"Why is he doing this?" April asked, breathing hard. "And why do
I get the feeling he's not trying very hard to hit anything?"

"You might say he's a sore loser," Illya said. "I left him in a
Shanghai jail two years ago under... less than favorable

April's next question was cut short by an adenoidal voice coming
from the new house behind them. "Hey!" it shouted. "Hey, you! Get
away from my car!"

They turned to see a plump woman in an orange flowered muumuu
shuffling down the walk from the front door. April said, "Oops."

Illya's exclamation, muttered under his breath in Russian, was less
polite. He started to rise, casting a cautious glance back over
his shoulder, and opened his mouth to explain. But the moment his
right hand -- along with the Special -- came into view, the woman
in the muumuu began to scream.

"Ralph!" she bellowed. "Ralph, help! Anybody! Hellllllllp!"

A new downpour enjoined her wailing, drenching them again, and
Illya, despairing of any effort to reason with Mrs. Muumuu, grabbed
April by the hand and pulled her after him. "Let's get out of
here," he said.

They left the hysterical suburbanite standing there in the rain,
still hollering for Ralph, who had thusfar shown no sign of

"I knew we never should have left the car," April complained when
they'd taken feeble shelter against another wall.

"Cars with flat tires don't travel well," Illya replied. He was
cleaning the Special again. "If we'd stayed, we'd have been
sitting ducks."

Thunder rumbled above the sheets of rain. April brushed wet limp
hair off her forehead. "I think I'd rather be a sitting duck than
a drowned one."

She'd barely finished the words when again, silenced bullets began
pinging off the wall near their heads. They both dropped, and for
the first time, Illya returned fire. The Special's soft report was
almost completely lost in the sound of the rain.

April brought her .38 up, only to find she had nothing to fire at.
"Where is he?" she asked.

"I don't know. I'm guessing."

"Wonderful. Then how can he see us through all that rain?"

"Probably using a Thrush scope rifle."

They got up to run again, and the wall along the path in front of
them was promptly stitched with several bullets. When they turned,
the performance was repeated on the other side.
"I gather," said April, "that Comrade Leskin would like us to stay

Illya hadn't heard her. He was occupied with a door in the wall
that she hadn't noticed before. It was locked, but he'd already
inserted a slender pick into the keyhole and was hastily trying to
jimmy it open. Leskin's suddenly increased assault indicated he'd
seen the door too, and wanted to drive them away from it.

"Here," Illya handed her the lockpick. "I'll keep him busy. See
if you can get it open."

"But if someone lives here--"

"Never mind that." The Special coughed twice while he answered her.
"Just break in and worry about awkward questions later."

April fought to manipulate the pick until finally it clicked in the
lock, allowing the thin door to swing open. Under a new barrage of
bullets, she and Illya rushed inside, slamming the door behind

A swift glance at the room told them the house was unoccupied --
and unfinished. Paint buckets and ladders sat at irregular
intervals along the walls; plaster and other debris littered the
hardwood floor.

April brushed futilly at her wet clothes and wrang water from the
tail of a thoroughly soaked blouse. She looked up to see Illya
once again cleaning raindrops from the all-important Special. But
she also saw that the left sleeve of his white shirt was stained
with a streak of bright red. She reached out to gently grasp his
arm. "You've been hit."

He glanced at it, then shrugged. "It's only a scratch."

"Roll the sleeve up and let me see how much of a scratch."

With a half-smile, he walked away from her to the nearest window
and peered warily out at the thinning rain. "I'm afraid you'll
have to mother me later. For the moment, perhaps you'd like to try
reaching Napoleon again." With that, he took up a watchful stance
beside the window, gun in hand.

April lay her own .38 on a convenient ladder and searched in a
sodden pocket for her communicator. Upending the cap and pulling
down the miniature antenna, she was rewarded with an immediate
crackle of static.

"Open Channel D," she said to it. "Napoleon, will you please come
in? We've been trying to find you."

After a moment, a familiar voice came over the frequency. "That's
what Wellington said," it quipped. "What can I do for you?"

Exchanging relieved glances with Illya, April replied, "Where are
you? And how long will it take you to get here?"

"Well in answer to the first question, I'm in a cab halfway between
the airport and the hotel. In answer to the second... where are

April gave him hasty directions to the housing development, and
briefly outlined their predicament. "You might meet a few local
police on your way in," she told him. "We just ran into a
concerned citizen in a bright orange muumuu."

"Sounds exciting." Car horns blared under Solo's response.

"We tried to reach you before," April said. "But communications
were out."

"Yes, headquarters thinks the airline's frequency was interfering
with ours. Have to have Section 5 check that out. You two sit
tight. I'll see if I can bribe the cab driver and be there within
twenty minutes. Solo out."

April had just replaced the slender pen-like instrument when a
clattering noise came from somewhere beneath them. Both she and
Illya spun simultaneously, pinpointing the area it had come from as
an open door leading to a set of concrete steps. "Basement," Illya

April shook her head. "That's impossible. He couldn't have gotten
into the--"

Something popped and glass shattered from the window near Illya.
They dropped as Illya returned fire over the shard-littered sill.
"Whoever is down there," he said, "it isn't Leskin."

April retrieved her .38 from the ladder and started a circuitous
route to the basement door. "Fine. You keep him busy. I'll check
out the bogeyman."

Illya, preoccupied with his vigil at the broken window, didn't
answer. Outside, the rain had stopped for the moment, and the only
sound was the steady drip drip of runoff from the eaves above.
With plaster and broken glass crunching underfoot, April made her
way to the open door and slowly descended the shadowy stairway.
More clattering echoed from below as she moved. Whoever it was
wasn't trying very hard to keep his presence a secret. Clearing
the end of the wall, she peered into the dimly-lit basement to see
a man in coveralls bending over a forest of electrical wiring. He
might be on the level -- or he might be Stefan Leskin's accomplice.

"All right. Just hold it there."

The man stiffened, and the tool he'd been holding clanked noisily
to the cement floor. "L-look, lady," he stammered. "Don't shoot.
I only got ten bucks on me. Honest."

"Stand over there, against the wall," April ordered. Nervously,
he obeyed, and April swiftly checked him for any hidden weapons.
Finding none, she turned him around again, but didn't lower her
.38. "Who are you and what are you doing down here?"

She could see the confusion in his eyes. Was this crazy, dripping-
wet woman a burglar, a cop, or...? "M-my name is George Miller,"
he said rapidly. "I'm an electrician. I work for--"

"Sh!" April cut him off as gunfire erupted anew above them.

George paled at the sound. "Look, whoever you are, I don't want
any trouble. I'll just take my tools and--"

"Be quiet," April said. "Upstairs -- and hurry."

"But I--"


He moved, doubtless convinced he was about to be embroiled in some
kind of scenario from "Bonnie & Clyde." He went up the stairs like
a man going to his execution. "I don't want any trouble," he
repeated. "I'm just an electrician. Nothing else. Honest!" His
eyes widened when they reached the upper floor and Illya, in the
midst of loading a fresh clip into the U.N.C.L.E. Special, turned
to look at them.

"Stefan decided to launch a frontal assault," he said with a
cursory glance toward April's companion. "Who's your friend?"

"George Miller. He's just an electrician."


"I've only got four rounds left," April told Illya, tapping the
barrel of the .38. "And no incidental armory. If you're not a
better walking arsenal than am, we may be in trouble."

Illya turned back to the broken window, through which damp air and
traces of new rain were blowing. "I have this clip and one
miniature thermite grenade. Not very promising, but it may be

"No bombs, spare guns or exploding buttons?"

"I'm afraid not."

"We're in trouble."

George Miller stared dubiously from one of them to the other.
"What are you people?"

Illya looked at him as though noticing him for the very first time.
"Do you have a car?" he asked abruptly.

Wide-eyed, Miller nodded. "A truck. It's, uh... parked out back.
But I--"

"Why?" April interrupted, studying Illya intently. "What do you
have in mind?"

"Getting the two of you out of here."

"Oh no. I'm not leaving you here alone to--"

Another volley of bullets flew in through the window and thunked
into a plaster wall. The silenced whisper of Illya's Special
answered twice. Suddenly disinclined to argue the point, April
grabbed Miller's trembling hand and headed for the back door. "All
right, George. Let's go."

She turned back to offer Illya the .38, but he shook head. "Keep
it," he said. "And hope you don't need to use it."

George had a sudden brainstorm as they headed out the back. "This
is a movie, right? One of them James Bond jobs? Hey, I gotta hand
it to you guys. You're really good!"

George's truck was a battered '57 Chevy pickup. It hadn't carried
them two blocks through the drizzle when April spotted a taxi
coming toward them. It had to be Solo, following the homing beacon
of the U.N.C.L.E. communicators. She had George pull over and ran
into the street to flag down the cab. George watched the well-
dressed man emerge from the car's back seat and hastily pay the
driver. He and April conferred quickly, then headed at a trot back
toward the scene of the gun battle.

"Movie people," George clucked to himself. "Don' even got sense
enough to stay out of the rain." With the windshield wipers moving
at a steady click-swush, he guided the ancient Chevy on down the

April had already forgotten George Miller. When she and Solo
arrived at the scene of the stand-off, it was just in time to see
a dark-clad figure run out of the nearby construction zone. Illya
emerged from the house to follow it, meeting Solo and April on the
sidewalk. "He broke cover," Illya said in mid-stride. "He may be
out of ammunition."

Solo fell into step without further question, his own Special
already in hand. The three of them trailed the fleeing figure down
a rain-slicked incline between buildings, emerging onto a wide,
green lawn that squished soggily underfoot. The lawn led to a
spacious model home ablaze with lights and crowded with potential
buyers. The rather affluent sales party was in full swing -- and
Stefan Leskin had just disappeared into the midst of it.

"Wonderful," April remarked when they'd all three halted midway
across the spongy lawn. "What do we do now?"

Solo cast a discriminating glance at either of his companions.
"Well I don't know about you two dampened spirits," he said,
straightening his tie and holstering the Special. "But I'm going
to crash a party." With that he headed resolutely for the house.
April and Illya went after him, their drenched clothing
notwithstanding. Illya's shirt sleeve was a rain-diluted mottle of
red streaks from his 'scratch.' It drew baffled stares from the
people they passed on the way in. Following his lead, April
pretended not to notice, and moved through the throngs of happy
home-buyers, keeping an eye out for Stefan Leskin. She'd seen him
only as a dark-clad blur, and didn't know exactly what to look for,
but then neither would Solo. Only Illya would know Leskin on

The party-goers were, for the most part, too foggy with champagne
to pay them much attention, which April decided was just as well.
Their motley trio made its way through the revelry and out onto a
broad covered patio, where long tables offered a variety of food,
and champagne cascaded from a huge metal punch bowl with a fountain
sprouting from its center. People milled under the patio canopy,
avoiding the off-and-on threat of the rain. Music mingled with
scattered conversation. Solo, April and Illya split up and lost
themselves in the crowd. April found herself heading out across
the back lawn, thankful that although the grass was still sodden
underfoot, the rain had let up for the interim. She passed between
several chatting clusters of real estate entrepreneurs, rounded a
backyard hot tub, and came back within sight of the patio in time
to spot a "waiter" who looked oddly out of place beside the banquet
tables. His uniform was at least two sizes too big for him, and
rather clumsily concealed under the raincoat he held, the tip of a
Thrush rifle peeked out.

April looked for Solo and Illya in the crowd, spotted neither, and
hastily decided on a direct assault. Marching boldly up to the
table, she picked up a tray of hors doeuvres and thrust it toward
the startled Leskin. "You call these hors d'oeuvres?" she said in
an overloud voice. Several heads swiveled at once in their
direction. "I've seen better looking cheese on a mouse trap! What
kind of catering service are you, anyhow?"

Leskin sputtered something unintelligible, then his face became an
ugly sneer and he started to raise the rifle from under the
raincoat. April threw the hors d'oeuvres tray in his face, ducked-
under the table and seized him by the ankles. The rifle chattered,
shots flying wild. She heard glass break as Leskin sprawled in
front of her. Someone screamed. A blond-headed figure came flying
over the table then, scattering more glassware, and tackled Leskin,
knocking him down again before he could recover from April's daring
ankle attack. They rolled once on the soggy lawn and came up
swinging. Illya went down under the bigger man's aggressive
tackle, and was about to meet the business end of the recovered
Thrush rifle when April kicked Leskin hard in the backside and sent
him sprawling again. There were more screams.

Solo appeared at last and leaped into the fray in time to trade
punches with Leskin. On an afterthought, April snatched the
fountain-section of the punch bowl, hefted the big metal basin and
upended it squarely over Leskin's head. He crumpled under the
barrage of champagne. Before he could recover enough equilibrium
to remove the punch bowl, April retrieved the flower-shaped
fountain piece and swung it at the bowl with all her might. There
was a resonating WHANG. Leskin groaned once and fell over.

Napoleon Solo, brushing damp grass from his suit, gazed first at
the bowl-headed Leskin and then at April. "I didn't know you were
musically inclined," he said.

"She isn't." Illya Kuryakin, not bothering to straighten the ruin
of his own clothing, lifted the bowl off Leskin's head and tapped
it lightly. "It was at least a full quartertone flat."

April scowled at him as Solo took her arm and began guiding her
toward a back gate. "It's getting a little too crowded around
here. Shall we?"

Several curious partiers had been headed toward them, and
surrounded the snoozing Leskin in their wake, chattering questions
he wouldn't be able to answer for at least an hour.

"There's just one thing I really want to know," April said to Illya
as they made their way back out onto the street. "What did you do
to Leskin in Shanghai?"

The Russian agent shrugged. "He was working for Thrush at the
time. We were contending for a certain microdot, and the contact
happened to be one of the local 'madames.'"

Solo's interest was immediately piqued. "And?"

"The local authorities intervened and arrested us both. Stefan
couldn't speak Mandarin."

April was already confused. "And you do?"

"Of course."

"So you could answer their questions," Solo put in, "but he

"Essentially, yes."

"And I take it you told them an interesting tale?"

Illya smiled reminiscently. "I led them to believe he was one of
the bordello's... er... 'managers.'"

Solo winced. "What'd they do? Throw him in prison and lose the

"Are you kidding?" Illya shook his head. "They detained him for
three and a half months trying to get him to give them a cut of his
action. And in the meantime, of course, Thrush fired him."

Laughing, they continued three astride down the street. A light
rain had begun to fall again, but none of them cared.

The End