The Seven Hours Affair

By Jean Graham

There's a one -eyed yellow idol
to the north of Khatmandu,
There's a little marble cross
below the town,
There's a broken -hearted woman
tends the grave of mad Carew,
And the yellow god forever gazes down.
-- J. Milton Hayes,
"The Green Eye of the Yellow God"

When the door of his private office at the rear of Vanya's came
open, Illya Kuryakin found himself looking up from his daily
accounting sheets into the face of a man he instinctively knew was
not a designer. A buyer, perhaps. But the eyes seemed to lack
even that much intelligence.

"I am Carl Vancouver," the man said, "from Hazeltine's of London?
We have an interest in Vanya's fall line, and I wonder if I
might..." He went on -- for much too long, Illya thought -- about
styling trends and import duties and a dozen other marginally
related topics. But before he had uttered the second sentence, his
listener had known that he was none of the things he claimed to be.

Perhaps it was his over-eager approach, or the near-black eyes that
spoke of trades unrelated to fashion entirely. But more than
anything else, the giveaway had been his well-clipped British
accent, beneath which lingered the faintest intermittent trace of
another inflection. Ukranian, Illya decided, and wondered for the
third time that week what peculiar sort of game the KGB was playing
here. A month ago, this thing had begun with the portfolio artist
who'd turned out not to be from the agency he'd cited at all. Then
had come the decidedly overdeveloped "model" who'd simply wanted to
talk to him about her "difficulties" with the other girls. So far
in this week alone he had met with a bogus lighting technician and
a seamstress, both of them strangely intent on taking up a few
minutes of his time for some ostensibly unimportant conversation.
Now here was Vancouver, prattling on about things he knew not of,
and with the discernible traces of a Russian accent. Sloppy of

Perhaps, Illya considered, the time had come to call this bluff.
And though the trick to that lay in making Vancouver show his hand,
there were ways...

In the midst of Vancouver's well-rehearsed speech, Illya muttered
a reference to the ancestral line of Party Chairman Chernienko that
included a particularly vile Russian obscenity.

Instantly, Vancouver's face fell. The fury that had begun to build
in his eyes was quickly checked, but too late to save him.

"Get out, " Illya said to him in Russian. "And tell your people
that whatever game it is that they are playing, I'm not

Vancouver glared at him coldly for a moment, then turned on his
heel and strode out of the office like a miscreant pupil on his way
to the principal's office. Illya went back to his books and
dismissed the incident. Dismissed it, that is, until U.N.C.L.E.
saw to it, the following morning, that he was rudely reminded of

The agent, a thin, business-suited redhead who hadn't been shaving
very long, brushed past Illya on the way into Vanya's and
wordlessly handed him a small green slip of paper. He did not have
to read the notice to know what it contained. The form was known,
for some reason long-forgotten, as a "Jenny," and was a tersely
worded summons that ordered the recipient to report to Section One
-- immediately. Jennys were issued to an infrequent few. The few
that U.N.C.L.E. had reason to suspect might have somehow breached
its security.

The KGB's mysterious visits had suddenly begun to make a bizarre
sort of sense.
"We will investigate that possibility, of course, " Sir John said
coolly. The ring of eager-eyed young agents, cloned timberwolves
in bargain basement suits, glared at Illya from their assigned
positions around the table. He pointedly ignored them.

"The fact remains, Mr. Kuryakin, that regulations will require a
thorough inquiry. These clandestine encounters with operatives of
the KGB would perhaps be less cause for suspicion had you reported
them to this office. You did not."

"A retired operative on voluntary reserve has never been required
to report in," Illya said calmly.

Sir John looked annoyed. "Contact with potential subversives is a
matter that must always be reported. You're well aware of that."
The manila folder he'd been holding was passed primly down the
nearest line of clones and into Illya's hands. In Alexander
Waverly's day, it would have been a vinyl-bound dossier delivered
to him on a rotating table top, and the bright-eyed ring of
observers would not have been present at all.

Inside the folder were detailed reports of each unexplained visitor
to Vanya's, replete with case histories proving that each was
employed by or in some way connected to the KGB. And there was
something more. Something Illya had not known and was less than
pleased to learn. Each of his visitors had, incredibly, been
somehow involved with the aborted Yugoslavia operation of ten years
before -- the operation in which Erika Toren had died.

"You will note a certain correlation, Mr. Kuryakin." Sir John
produced another file -- one that was vinyl-covered -- and flipped
it open. "The Yugoslavian mission that precipitated your
resignation from U.N.C.L.E. ten years ago appears to remain of some
vital interest to the KGB. Have you any idea why?"

"None," Illya answered truthfully.

"You were not aware that each of these persons had connections with
the KGB?"

"Not in the beginning."

"And you didn't know they were all involved with Yugoslavia? You'd
never seen any of them before they came to Vanya's?"


Sir John and his minions did not look convinced. With a scowl, the
new head of U.N.C.L.E. referred to the dossier in front of him. "I
see there are seven hours still unaccounted for in your report of
the Yugoslavian affair, Mr. Kuryakin. Might this sudden interest
of the KGB's be in some way related to that unexplained period of

Illya's immediate discomfort at this question was not lost on his
audience. "I don't see how it could be," he said.

"Why were the seven hours deleted from your report?"

After a lengthy pause, Illya said, "If you don't mind, I'd rather
not discuss that."

"But I do mind," Sir John persisted. "There are people from
National Security -- people with whom we must cooperate, Mr.
Kuryakin -- who have recently become convinced that Erika Toren
passed vital information to someone before she was killed. That
some one might have been you."

Illya, who did not like the accusatory tone this interview was
taking, quietly closed the manila folder that had been open in
front of him, and folding his hands over it, studied them for a
long moment before speaking. "Everything," he said, "that was of
any significance to the operation was included in my report."

"Not quite everything. There are still those seven hours."

"That had nothing to do with my assignment."

Sir John closed the Yugoslavia dossier with visible exasperation.
"Then I see no reason not to tell us what occurred. If necessary,
I will order you to do so."

"Don't." Kuryakin's open defiance made clone mouths drop open up
and down the table. Sir john's, however, was not one of them.

"You spent more than a month in Yugoslavia before the mission was
aborted, " he said patiently. "Why such guarded secrecy over a
mere seven hours?"

"I told you. That had nothing --"

"--to do with the mission," Sir John interrupted. "So you said.
But I'm afraid I must ask you to reconsider just the same. Both
the NSA and the CIA have vital interests in this matter. As do we.

The information to which Erika Toren had access--"

"--I think we have discussed this long enough." The circle of
mouths dropped open again as Kuryakin rose and walked away from the
table, but Sir John appeared to take the retired agent's arrogance
in stride.

"Mr. Kuryakin," he said, and watched Illya turn back from making
his way to the door. "I'm not certain you fully understand the
gravity of this matter. National Security has been known to order
suspected double agents 'sanctioned.' U.N.C.L.E. would have no
power to block such an order."

Illya half-smiled at Sir john's delicate use of the NSA's pet term
for what amounted, in the end, to government-ordained murder. That
threat, however, disturbed him far less than the accusation that he
had colluded with the KGB.

"You could make this a great deal more pleasant for us all," Sir
John had continued, "if you would simply complete that report."

He was not surprised to receive no answer. Kuryakin merely stared
at him for a prolonged moment before asking a matter-of-fact
question. "Am I in custody?"

Inwardly, the head of U.N.C.L.E. cursed this man's damnably
stubborn refusal to cooperate with him. Those missing seven hours
could place both U.N.C.L.E. and Sir John in a wretchedly awkward
position. He cleared his throat and half-answered Illya's
question. "Just don't leave New York, Mr. Kuryakin."
When Napoleon Solo appeared at Vanya's that afternoon, Illya was
glad to have been caught outside his office amid the noisy cutting
and sewing machinery. Inside, the possibility would have been far
greater that one of U.N.C.L.E.'s electronic bugs he hadn't yet
managed to find could pick up their conversation.

"My answer is still the same," he'd said to Solo over the roar that
surrounded them. "I don't want to discuss it."

Solo, never easily dissuaded, pulled a folded sheet of paper from
his suit pocket and pressed it into Illya's unwilling hands. "You
should have let Sir John finish what he was trying to tell you, my
friend. The information Erika Toren had to deliver to the NSA
concerned the Cerebus Project. You might remember hearing of that.

This is a copy of Section Five's projections on the possible
increase in either U.S. or Soviet military strength should the
Cerebus missiles be constructed. The plans are ten years old, but
the designer was said to be a man ahead of his time. With minor
improvements afforded by current technologies, these missiles could
significantly shift the balance of world power."

Illya, scarcely glancing at the figures on the paper, handed it
back again. "Erika Toren knew nothing about weapons systems. She
was a research chemist, not a nuclear physicist."

"She knew where the stolen plans for Cerebus were hidden. Or she
was about to find out. You and Janus were supposed to get her out
of Yugoslavia as soon as she'd received the information."

Illya gave him a grim look. "Janus forestalled that particular
possibility by living up to his name." He walked away and Solo
followed, too painfully aware that he was treading on the thin ice
of something acutely personal.

"Illya -- you've got to know Sir John was not exaggerating the
NSA's penchant for 'sanctioning' treason suspects. They're
notoriously unsympathetic about this sort of thing."

"Naturally. I wouldn't expect the domestic version of the KGB to
be anything less."

The bitterness in his tone surprised Solo a bit. They walked
through a multi-panelled door and out into a small plant-filled
courtyard behind the block-long complex that was Vanya's. Illya
left the door open, letting the noise of the construction room
through. He wondered absently whether he should have checked the
courtyard for bugs, then dismissed the thought. If they were
listening -- any of them -- let them listen.

"You seem remarkably unconcerned," Solo was saying, "for a man the
NSA seems bent on sanctioning for selling secrets to the KGB."

"They haven't ordered any sanction. And I haven't sold anything to
anyone because there is nothing to sell."

"The KGB seems to have gone out of its way to make things appear

Illya frowned. "So I've noticed. I'd planned to look into that
this afternoon."

"Paying a call on the local KGB?"

"Something like that."

Solo considered a moment before diving in with both feet. "You
mind company?"

He'd half expected an angry refusal, but Illya's only response was
a familiar curl of lip and a procession through the patio gate that
clearly invited Solo to accompany him.

Emerging onto the sun-drenched street amid scurrying hoards of
summer shoppers and three-martini-lunch execs, they walked four
blocks to the red brick facade of a restaurant Solo recognized as
the Russian Cafe. It had been here that he'd recently "run into"
Illya again for the first time in over a decade.

They'd no sooner crossed the threshold than a dour-faced waiter
appeared and proceeded, with all due ceremony, to show "Mr.
Kuryakin" to his usual private table. After they'd ordered and
been served vodkas, they took up the discreet surveillance of a
table in the opposite corner of the restaurant, where five business
suits were enjoying the remnants of an ample meal. One of them was
the man who'd visited Vanya's yesterday, the man who'd called
himself Vancouver. While they watched, one of the party of five
went off to the men's room and returned. Two others said their
farewells and left the cafe. When at last Vancouver got out of his
chair, Illya made ready to follow. He would admittedly have
preferred that his target leave the building, but as fate would
have it, Vancouver headed, alone, for the men's room.

Solo had no clear idea just what Illya had in mind, but he also
knew better than to ask. They followed Vancouver into the relief
station and Illya made a pretense of washing his hands while Solo
discreetly latched the door and hoped no one would attempt to come
through it while Illya conducted his interview.

They waited for Vancouver to finish his business in the stall, and
when the john flushed and he released the door latch to come out,
Illya moved in from the other side of the door. The two of them
vanished back into the stall, and Solo leaned against a sink loudly
whistling the Soviet national anthem while the sounds of scuffling,
gurgling and perforce, Russian cursing, floated from behind the
metal door. Solo's Russian was sparse, but he understood enough of
the conversation to discern that Illya was demanding the name of
whomever had ordered the KGB's invasion of Vanya's. Vancouver,
wheezing and sputtering after repeated dunkings, finally uttered a
name in between some rather colorful imprecations on Illya's
ancestral line. There followed a muffled thump, and Illya emerged
from the stall with water stains darkening his coat sleeves. He
left Vancouver behind, a soggy Russian czar snoozing peacefully on
his porcelain throne.

While Illya dried his hands and murmured something about getting
too old for this sort of thing, Solo unlocked the restroom door to
the persistent rapping of an elderly restaurant patron and tipped
an imaginary hat to him on the way out. "Sorry," he said. "The
latch must have been stuck."

They made a hasty exit past Vancouver's friends and out of the cafe
before the old man in the restroom had time to discover Sleeping

Illya managed the improbable in the next block by hailing a vacant
cab, and when they were firmly entrenched in the war zone that
was New York City's post-noon traffic, Solo was mildly surprised to
hear Illya request a destination of LaGuardia Airport. He cleared
his throat and politely inquired as to where they were going.

Illya's answer was mindful of the cab driver's eager ears. "I've
had a sudden insatiable urge to visit my Cousin George."

The phrase would not have made proper sense to anyone but Solo. It
was an old jest; a name they had given years ago to the man who
headed the KGB's primary U.S. satrapy in Washington D.C. The
office had changed hands of late -- these days Cousin George was a
reputedly ruthless character known only as Orlaud.

If Illya was headed for Washington, it was in direct defiance of
Sir John's order.

"Your uncle isn't going to like this, you know."

"That," Illya said sullenly, "is his problem."

"So you take a plane, just like that? With no luggage, no shaving
kit, nothing?"

"I'm in something of a hurry."

"Uh-huh. And you're just going to walk up to Cousin George's door
and knock, I suppose."

"Naturally. "

Solo sat back and quit trying to argue. Whether or not Illya ever
consented to tell him what this was really all about, Solo intended
to stand by him. Even if it meant incurring the bureaucratic wrath
of U.N.C.L.E., the NSA, the CIA, and the rest of the whole damned
country. They'd known each other far too long for any semblance of
distrust to divide them now...
Less than two hours after Solo and Illya had flagged down their
cab, a graying, steel-eyed man in his mid-fifties strode into Sir
John's private office in U.N.C.L.E.'s New York headquarters. His
name was Hamilton Wells, and he was the chief of surveillance
division for the National Security Agency.

"You have a report on Solo and Kuryakin?" he asked before Sir John
had motioned for him to take a chair.

"I was under the impression, Mr. Wells, that your people were
handling that particular surveillance operation. "

Wells scowled. "You told Kuryakin to remain in New York, did you
not? Approximately two hours ago, he met with another known KGB
operative before leaving with Solo on a flight to Washington D.C.
Kuryakin is running, my friend. Straight into the waiting arms of
the KGB."

Sir John permitted his consternation at Wells' tone to show. "Does
it occur to you he may only be trying to find the same thing we

Wells, peering coldly at his own steepled fingers, was resolute.
"There are far more cooperative ways of going about that."

"You don't know Kuryakin. "

"I know he's guilty of both insubordination and collusion with
enemy agents. Now the stage appears set for high treason as well.
For the sale of U.S. military secrets to an enemy power. We
require no further evidence."

"For what? The possibility remains, Mr. Wells, that the NSA could
be grievously mistaken."

The NSA agent rose from his chair and prepared to depart. "That's
possible, yes. But not likely. In either case, this country
cannot afford to risk allowing the Cerebus project to fall into
enemy hands. I no longer have options, Sir John. Nor do you.

Sir John did not like the sound of that. "What do you mean?"

"I've ordered Kuryakin sanctioned. Immediately."
Napoleon Solo navigated the rented Ford Tempo out of the airport's
Avis lot and wondered, not for the last time that day, whether
Illya knew what he was doing. Dunking a KGB flunky in the john was
one thing; walking into the office of the head of a U.S. satrapy
was quite another. And what was even more discomforting, Illya was
unarmed. He'd learned that when he'd cleared his own U.N.C.L.E.
special with airport security and watched Illya walk through the X-
ray screen without so much as a communicator pen to set off the
alarm. What he could possibly expect to learn from Orlaud without
any visible means of persuasion was impossible to guess. But Solo
had the unsettling feeling this was going to be trouble any way
they turned.

Ten minutes from the airport, his suspicions were confirmed when a
black Chrysler Imperial appeared in the Ford's rear view mirror and
made no pretense of the fact that it was following. Illya had seen
it too.

"Well, " Solo quipped. "Whom shall we say is calling? The KGB?
NSA? CIA? Or maybe even our good old friends from THRUSH..."

"Look out!" Illya's shouted warning came too late for an evasive
maneuver. The Chrysler had gunned its engine and rammed them,
sending the Ford spiralling off the highway onto the gravel
shoulder. Horns blared, echoed by the other cars on the road that
had swerved to avoid them. Solo hit the door latch and rolled out
before the Tempo had completed its spin-out, and he could see,
coming up, that the passenger door was open: Illya had rolled out
as well. What Solo saw in the next moment was less reassuring.
The Chrysler's driver, a man in a regulation dark blue business
suit, stood spreadeagled on the shoulder with a Magnum .357
clutched in both hands. He was aiming past the Ford, out of Solo's
line of sight -- at Illya.

The U.N.C.L.E. special was in Solo's hand before his conscious mind
was even aware that he'd reached for it. He dropped the blue suit
with one silenced shot, hitting him square between the third and
fourth ribs. And when he remembered, seconds later, that the
special was loaded with sleep darts, he found himself wishing it
had been bullets...

Traffic whizzed past them as Solo bolstered the special; traffic
oblivious to the deadly little scene that had just been played out
on the freeway's edge. Illya finally reappeared from behind the
car, his expression unreadable. With one foot, he turned his
would-be killer over and looked down into a bearded, sun-tanned

"You know him?" Solo asked.

Illya shook his head.

Kneeling, Solo searched the sleeping man's clothes and came up
empty-handed. "No ID," he said, not surprised. "You want to make
book he's NSA?"

Illya's gaze travelled from the unconscious hit man to Solo and
back again before he turned and headed abruptly for the car. "For
all I know, " he said over the roar of the passing traffic, "he
could work for U.N.C.L.E."

The Tempo's door slammed, a prelude to the grinding restart of its
engine. Solo hurried to the passenger side and barely made it in
before the small Ford pealed angrily out from the shoulder and
rejoined the highway stream.

The man in the blue suit dozed face up beside his slightly dented
Chrysler. It was more than twenty minutes before anyone stopped to
check on him.

Some minutes later, Illya guided the Ford off the highway, and they
had not travelled far in their new direction when it became
apparent that they were being followed yet again.

Solo saw Illya's frequent glances to the rear view mirror and
resisted the urge to turn around and look. "Not another one," he
lamented. When Illya nodded, he added wryly, "You ever get the
feeling the whole frigging world was out to get you?"

"Constantly." Illya made three rapid turns in succession, and their
pursuer, a grey Mercedes SL, made them too. Their fourth turn,
however, ran them square into a culde-sac from which there was no
exit. The Tempo squealed to a halt with the Mercedes hot behind,
and Solo rolled out, falling into police-position behind the open
door with his U.N.C.L.E. special levelled at the driver of the
other car. The two men inside, faced with this unexpected
confrontation, glanced at each other. Then, with surprising calm,
they put their hands in the air and got out of the car.

Hardly the NSA, Solo decided. Perhaps the KGB...

He'd been about to demand that they identify themselves when a
movement from inside the Mercedes drew his attention away. Illya
had seen it in the same instant, but neither of them had realized
the danger fast enough to avoid its consequences. The muzzle of a
flare gun -- or something akin to one -- had come over the back
seat of the Mercedes, and before Solo could react, fired its
missile straight through the windshield, spidering it into a
thousand tiny radii. The pop of its shattering glass was twinned
by the Tempo's, and an acrid yellow smoke began filling the Ford's
interior. Illya had reached out for the door handle a split second
too late to escape the gas. He collapsed beside the canister that
had shattered the window; a tiny cylinder that continued to spew
yellow smoke.

Solo fired blindly at their attackers; saw them scatter and run for
cover. Shortly, though, his hand refused to grip the special any
longer, and it clattered noisily over the car door, tumbling to the
pavement. Moments later, he joined it there.
Illya Kuryakin opened his eyes to the glare of a rectangular light
source just over his head, and wondered absently for a moment if
he'd been left to awaken in the office of some unsuspecting
dentist. Unfortunately, the rest of his surroundings belied that
suspicion. The first clue lay in the paucity of furniture, the
second and most telling in the sight of an unconscious Napoleon
Solo tied to a chair against the wall. The lamp above Illya did
look very much like a dentist's fixture, though, as did the chair
to which he was... tied? No... his bonds, unlike Solo's, were hard
and unyielding. Metal.

Voices approached the door, which opened to admit two men in lab
coats. The younger of them had the distinctive look of an
underling. The other, wearing his authority like a badge, was
Simone Orlaud, head of the KGB's Washington satrapy.

The underling, whose plastic lapel tag labelled him EDDISON, peered
at Illya from behind the glaring lamp and said caustically, "So.
This is the notorious traitor Kuryakin. He doesn't look so
dangerous to me."

Orlaud ignored the remark. "Go and wake up the other one," he
ordered. "I want them both conscious." To Illya, he added
casually, "I should apologize for the manner in which you were
brought here. I'd intended to allow you to walk into our hands, as
that was the desired result of our little month-long charade. But
we hadn't counted on the random factor of Mr. Solo."

"Careless of you," Illya said, feeling suddenly conspicuously
foolish strapped to the dentist's chair under Orlaud's gloating
scrutiny. Eddison, off to his left, had revived a reluctant Solo
and was puttering now with something on a nearby lab table.
Several somethings, Illya realized, though it was difficult to see
just what with the glare of the lamp in his eyes. One sound he did
recognize. Eddison had inserted a cassette tape into a recorder
and depressed the record switch.

"I abhor wasting time, " Orlaud announced. "Therefore, we will
come directly to the point. You are in possession of information
I require. Had we known sooner that you possessed it, we might
have had this meeting many years ago. But we learned only recently
that Erika Toren had obtained information on the whereabouts of the
Cerebus missile plans before she was killed."

"For one who abhors wasting his time, you do a lot of it," Illya
told him. "I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about."

"Neither do I," Solo added from the chair near the wall. "What's
this all about?"

Orlaud ignored Solo, speaking instead to Eddison. "Make it just
two cc's to start, he said. "But mind you, don't put him under.
I want him capable of talking to us."

"He will be." Eddison turned from the table with the point of a
hypodermic needle glistening in his hand. "I've never lost one

While Eddison moved to Illya's side, Solo strained to loosen the
coarse ropes that held him to the chair. The knot at his left
wrist gave a bit.

Illya started at Eddison's less-than-gentle insertion of the

While the KGB's backs remained turned, Solo continued to worry the
loose knot.
The questions were all wrong. Wrong questions, wrong reasons for
wrong questions; everything wrong.

There's an unpleasant joke in all of this somewhere, Illya thought
as the unpleasant voice began to demand its impossible answers.
But it will be on him. I know nothing of what he wants... what he
really wants. And the rest... I don't want to remember...

The voice, all the same, demanded a response, and the drug forbade
that he deny it. They wanted to know about Erika, about
Yugoslavia, about Janus and the aborted operation. All so long
ago. All things he had tried for ten long years to forget. He
strengthened his resolve against the needle's persuasion and gave
the KGB a single word in answer.


"Fine," Orlaud's deceptively calm voice replied. "We will begin
again, then. What is your name?"

Illya told him.

"And your place of birth?"

That, too, could be answered. Kiev. He had been born in Kiev.
He'd answered the same question just moments ago, but somehow it
was easier now. Easier to talk about whatever they might ask.
Anything... Even Yugoslavia.

There are seven hours missing from your report, Mr. Kuryakin.
U.N.C.L.E. cannot accept an incomplete account of a matter as vital
as this...

No relation to the mission? You must let us be the judge of that.
You will kindly complete the report...

We regret that we cannot recognize 'personal reasons' for such a
deletion. You must understand that there are other parties
concerned with this matter. Parties to whom we must answer...

But there had been nothing to tell them. Nothing to know. Except
that Erika Toren was dead and U.N.C.L.E. was to blame. They had
known about Janus. They'd had reason to suspect him. Yet they had
said nothing; done nothing. And Janus had been assigned as backup
to a mission he had never intended to complete.

Illya fought to rebury the memories, struggled to force them back
into the limbo they had occupied for a decade. But they refused to
be buried. Their dark tide caught him, dragged him under and held
him in an airless void, flooding him with images that defied any
logical chronology. Images of Erika.

The unbidden memory that came first and strongest was that of Erika
dying in the arms of a uniformed stranger. The memory of trying to
reach her, only to be caught and dragged back by the Yugoslavian

Then there was Erika as he had first seen her; sullen, distrustful,
determined she would need no "protector," and particularly not one
from U..N.C.L.E.

Erika a scant two weeks later, far from sullen or distrusting
anymore, laughing at his expression of bewilderment. "Illya...
dear, gentle, oh-so-pragmatic Illya. Did a woman never say to you
before that she loved you?"

Erika on the floor of the train depot, blood pooling on the grey-
white concrete beneath her. A voice that had uttered in Serbo-
Croatian that it was over now. The woman was dead. The cold metal
of handcuffs biting into his wrists, binding them behind his back.
Strong hands, angry hands, pulling him away...

Erika sitting on the overstuffed sofa in the parlor of the
hostel/boarding house where they had each taken rooms, engrossed in
one of her volumes of avant garde poetry. Reading the esoteric
verse to him aloud and laughing at his often unorthodox
interpretation. Her laughter had been infectious...

"You are released, Kuryakin. It seems your most generous uncle has
arranged for your extradition to America. But heed one word of
warning. Do not return to Yugoslavia."

His uncle had arranged.

U.N.C.L.E. had betrayed him. Allowed Janus and the KGB to strand
them. U.N.C.L.E. had left Erika to die. And now they would not
"accept" the seven hour gap in his report. Fine and good. They
could accept his resignation instead.

The depot on the night they were to leave... overshadowed by grey
clouds and a cold half moon... and Janus, who was to have delivered
their forged passports, had not arrived. Something was wrong.
Very wrong. The border guards had come, searching the depot,
looking for them.

Hiding in the shadowed depths of a storage kiosk... Erika pressed
tightly against him, trembling with the cold and because she was
terrified... She'd begun to whisper random lines from one of the
poetry books, making a litany of the words...

The kiosk door had been wrenched open, letting chill night air rush
in. The voice of a guard had ordered them to come out, to
surrender... And Erika had panicked. She'd bolted from the tiny
shelter, knocking the guard aside in her frenzy to run for a
sanctuary that hadn't existed. Illya had tried to stop her, too
late. Too late to reach her before the submachine guns had cut her
down. Too late even to touch her before they had caught up to him
and forcibly pulled him away.

Erika on the cold slab floor of the trainless depot.

Erika dying.

Not real. It wasn't real. It couldn't be. Not the Erika who,
short hours ago, had been his -- truly his, as no woman before her
had ever been...

So very few women in his life... Fewer of the few who had become
anything even vaguely akin to emotionally (or physically) intimate.
And not one of those few had ever confessed to anything so ethereal
as love... until now.

The night before he was to have smuggled her out of Yugoslavia,
Erika Toren had become the only woman he might ever have professed
to love; the only one for whom he might have rearranged his
solitary life; the only one who had ever touched him, changed him,
completed him.

So little time to know her. Seven hours. One short night to plan
a future that would never be.

Too little time...
Eddison's youthful face wore a smirk when he snapped off the
cassette recorder, "All very touching, to be sure," he jeered.
"But scarcely useful."

"That," Orlaud said, "remains to be seen. How long until he can be
questioned again?"

"A few hours, perhaps. It's best to let one dose wear off before
administering another."

Against the wall, unnoticed, Napoleon Solo had finally worked his
left hand free and had loosened the bonds on his right while
Eddison and Orlaud were intent on Illya's wandering monologue.
He'd put both hands back beneath the ropes before Eddison, had
turned to shut off the tape.

"And you, Mr. Solo," Orlaud said, turning. "What might you add to
this dreadful little tale of woe?"

Solo restrained the impulse to wrap his newly-freed hands around
the man's scrawny throat. "Oh, not very much," he said instead.
"Only that you're a thoroughly insensate son of a bitch."

Orlaud smiled tightly. "Give Mr. Solo a rather larger dose," he
said to Eddison. "A lethal one."
He picked up a clipboard and became suddenly intent on writing
something there. Eddison, still smirking, jabbed another
hypodermic through the rubber seal of an unlabelled bottle, filled
the marked cylinder to capacity, and started toward his next

Solo let him get within a few feet before aiming a forceful and
well-placed kick directly at the crotch of his trousers. It
connected. Eddison doubled over with a yelp of pain. Solo, coming
out of the chair, snatched the hypodermic from him with one hand
and slugged him with the other, spinning barely in time to find
Orlaud nearly on top of him; Orlaud with an automatic pistol coming
out from beneath his lab coat. They collided over Eddison's prone
figure, Solo struggling to force the gun away and remembering after
prolonged seconds that he still had hold of the hypodermic. He
wrenched it -- twisted it -- into Orlaud's ample stomach and jammed
the plunger down, evoking a bellow of both rage and pain. The KGB
chief dropped his weapon, broke out of Solo's grip and stumbled
away, clutching feebly at the protruding hypodermic. He sputtered
something that never quite became a word before he fell backward
over the unconscious Eddison lay still. By the time Solo reached
him, he was already dead.

No alarms. Neither Orlaud nor Eddison had had time to trigger one.
But Solo had no idea where they were, and getting out of here might
not be easy. There had to be a set of keys, to open the door and
Illya's handcuffs... He found them in Orlaud's coat pocket. On
his way past the table, he snagged the cassette tape and dropped it
into his own pocket.

Illya was only half-coherent when Solo helped him out of the
elevated chair, but he managed to stand on his own. No one
challenged their exit from the makeshift laboratory. Had Orlaud
perhaps designed it that way? There were traps, Solo thought, and
then there were traps within traps... But there were no other KGB
operatives in evidence as they emerged into the evening air. This
place looked like a Virginia-side country farm. The grey Mercedes
with the splintered windshield was parked not fifty feet away, in
front of a paint-peeling farmhouse that sported glowing lights
behind two windows. The rest of Orlaud's party, no doubt.

They pushed the car several yards down the road before getting in
to start its engine. Solo guided it onto the only road, and
lacking any knowledge of which way to go, simply drove in one
direction. One road, he figured, would inevitably lead to another
They'd driven for some time in silence. Illya leaned uncomfortably
against the passenger door, rubbing at the back of his neck with
one hand. The drug was wearing off.

"Illya..." Solo hesitated, suddenly aware of an almost tangible
embarrassment. "Do you remember any of that? Any of what you told
Illya, looking all the more uncomfortable, said nothing, leaving
Solo to conclude that the answer was yes, but the question had been
a mistake.

"Sorry," he said honestly. "If it's worth anything at all, I wish
I'd been there ten years ago. Maybe things could have been

Empty words. It had been over for ten long years, Solo realized,
and today, Orlaud's drug had ghoulishly disinterred the corpse.

"Here." Solo pulled the cassette tape from his pocket and handed
it across. "Orlaud is dead, and I don't think our friend Eddison
will be much help to his keepers in the KGB without that tape."

Illya's hand made a clenched fist over the cassette. "It wouldn't
matter," he said quietly. "There is nothing on it that could
possibly be of any use to them."

He proceeded, all the same, to pull the thin tape from its casing,
breaking it at intervals and wadding the remnants into tight little

Solo indulged a sudden hunch. "Did you by any chance establish a
Felspar code with Erika Toren?"

Illya looked at him oddly. Felspar, U.N.C.L.E.'s name for any
personal code known only by the two agents who employed it, was the
same method by which he and Solo had years ago tagged the head of
Washington's KGB satrapy "Cousin George."

"A Felspar code was standard operating procedure. Why do you ask?"

Solo frowned. "It occurs that an awful lot of people are damned
certain Erika Toren was aware of the Cerebus plans' whereabouts,
and think she must have passed that information on to you. "

"An awful lot of people are mistaken."

Solo let it drop. After a time, the Mercedes' headlights caught
the green and white of a road sign pointing the way to someplace
aalled "Bristow." It was not until the outskirts of the town had
begun to appear that Illya spoke again.

"Find the local public library," he said.

"The lib-- What for?"

"Never mind what for. I have a sudden urge to broaden my
intellectual horizons."

Solo scowled. This was more like the old Illya -- aggravatingly
inscrutable. "It's after six p.m.," he said. "Library's probably
"A bookstore then. You may be right about the Felspar. But I'll
have to find a copy of the book we used to decode in order to be

"You remember something that might be important?"

"I don't know yet. Let's just find that bookstore."

They found a second hand book shop in a mini shopping mall on the
town's main drag. Solo waited in the car until Illya re-emerged
carrying a legal tablet and two paperback books: Modern Poetry XII
and a dog-earred copy of Michener's Hawaii. Under the glare of the
SL's domelight, he opened the first book and swiftly copied the
words of a poem onto the tablet, leaving ample room between the
lines. Solo watched the text of an avant garde poem called
"Transcending" take form on the paper. What he did not know was
that on a night many years ago, a terrified Erika Toren had recited
these words while she and Illya had hidden from the Yugoslavian
guards in a cramped storage shack...

Their private Felspar code had assigned non-consecutive numerical
values to letters of the alphabet; those numerals to be multiplied
by a second set of numerals broken down into groups of four. Four
to designate page, paragraph, line and word in the decoding volume.
It was an old but effective cipher. Illya was playing Solo's hunch
that Erika might have tried to entrust him with her secret. But he
had only to work out the first few "words" to see that the decoded
cipher translated into gibberish.

Solo looked resignedly at the failed effort on the paper.
"Anything's worth trying once, he sighed. "What now?"

Illya had been leafing through the poetry anthology, glimpsing many
lines of verse that he recognized. He had seen many of them
before, in other volumes, in Erika's collection. There had been
more than thirty books of poetry in her small library, not all of
them in English, and he had read through each of them... or
listened to Erika read them aloud. She'd once made a gift of one
of them to him... He could no longer remember the title. But it
had been a gift; nothing more than that. No coded documents
secreted between the pages, no random markings. The KGB would have
confiscated it along with the other belongings in his room, and
they, too, would have found nothing. Except...

There had been one thing. The rather strange statement she had
made when she had given him the book. Words that in all these
years, he had never once considered might have had another meaning.

"Take it home with you, Illya. To New York. And when I've done
what I must do, please try to understand."

There was, he'd told her, nothing to understand. He had not been
permitted to know what information she would deliver: it was safer
that way. His only function had been to protect her, and to get
her safely out of the country. What else was there to understand?

There had been something marked in the gift book. A page folded
down. He'd thought it odd at the time -- Erika never folded pages.
What poem had it pointed out? Something about a green-eyed god...

Modern Poetry's index yielded nothing. Illya went back into the
book shop, leaving Solo in the car a full twenty minutes with the
growing apprehension that Orlaud's henchmen would soon be prowling
the streets in search of the stolen Mercedes. When Illya finally
returned, it was with a long string of notations on the legal pad.

"You find what you went looking for?"

The Russian nodded, but he did not look pleased. "I begin to think
I should not have involved you in this, Napoleon. Perhaps you'd
prefer not to go any further."

Solo took the legal pad and scanned the deciphered words without
answering his partner's statement. The poem from which Erika's
message was derived was J. Milton Hayes' "The Green Eye of the
Yellow God," which he vaguely recalled having read in some long-ago
literature course. Beneath the lengthy set of mathematical figures
Illya's Felspar had gleaned from the lines of verse was the final
decoded paragraph.

'At 47 x 72 one yellow god conceals another. When I've reached
him; when I've burned the secret he holds, they will sanction me,
because I will have seen to it that neither of the powers in this
ideological war should have gained undue advantage over the other.
For once in my life, I will have followed a conscience I knew to be

'Please understand, Illya, that I knew full well what I was doing,
and though I may wish that there had been another way, there was

'Know, too, that I love you.' --E

Awkwardly, Solo cleared his throat and handed the tablet back.
"What more involvement is there?" he asked. "All you have to do is
deliver these co-ordinates to U.N.C.L.E. and see to it our friends
in the NSA are satisfied you're not a KGB conspirator."

Illya's response was not what he'd expected.

"I have no intention of delivering the co-ordinates to anyone. I'm
going to finish what Erika began."

"That could be more than a little dangerous."

"So I've been told."

"Those co-ordinates," Solo said, calculating, "are somewhere in

"Yes. Kadaman. It's a park recreating a Nepal village. It's just
outside Jonquiere, at the edge of a water treatment facility.
That's all the information the bookstore's only Canadian atlas had
to offer."

"M-hm. And I suppose we're going there. Any idea how? The NSA is
going to be watching the airports a bit more diligently than they
were in New York."

"I'll find a way."

Solo's eyes fell on the phone booth just outside the door of the
book shop, and an idea was born. "What do you say," he suggested,
"we try evening the odds just a little?"
Within two hours, they were aboard a private jet chartered by the
Solo Computer Corporation, en route to Jonquiere, Quebec.
Independent wealth, Solo decided, most definitely had its
advantages. They were served dinner in flight, and managed to
catch a brief nap before landing. But Illya, impossible to
dissuade, insisted on pressing on to Kadaman, though Solo didn't
know what he could possibly hope to find in the dark.

A village in miniature, Kadaman covered no more than three acres,
a collection of landscaped huts, bridges and pagoda temples
liberally garnished with statuary. It was equipped with sodium
vapor street lamps, an apparent vandal deterrent that dyed
everything in sight an unearthly pinkish-orange. Finding a yellow
god under these circumstances was not going to be easy.

As they walked the sculptured pathways, searching, Illya asked,
"Did your briefing by chance happen to inform you who hid these
plans to begin with, or why?"

"The man who designed them. A defected Red Chinese physicist named
Do Chien Fong. He told the NSA he'd destroyed the blueprint. Do
you have to ask what happened to him after that?"

Illya didn't. But he wondered why Do Chien Fong hadn't used the
secret of the blueprint's hiding place as a life insurance policy
instead of claiming he'd destroyed it. Maybe he hadn't trusted
himself not to weaken under the NSA's -- or the KGB's -- persuasive
methods. In spite of everything, he'd managed to get word of
Cerebus' location to someone in Yugoslavia. Someone who had
ultimately passed it on to Erika Toren.

They split up after fifteen minutes to cover more of Kadaman's
acreage. Nearly an hour later, Illya found the god. He was a one-
eyed, six foot hunk of granite sitting on a stone pillow, and he
was painted a flat yellow that turned peach in the lamplight -- but
he had a tell-tale padlocked metal door set into his behind that
left no doubt he was the right god.

Illya was examining the rusted lock when a figure with a gun in its
hand stepped out of the shadows.

"Mr. Kuryakin... I'll have to ask you to come with me."

Illya stood, surprised to discover that the voice belonged to one
of Sir John's bright young agents. This one, if he recalled
correctly, was named Kowalski.

"Come with you where?"

Kowalski opened his mouth, but all that came out was a startled
squeak: something cold, hard and metal had just been pressed into
his ribs from behind, and the hand that shortly appeared to relieve
him of his weapon belonged to Napoleon Solo.

Illya turned back to the idol, his single word of disdain echoing
Solo's thought. "Amateurs."

"But you don't understand," Kowalski protested. "The NSA followed
you here. This guy named Wells. Sir John's been trying to stop
him from carrying out a sanction order!"

"For Illya?"

Kowalski nodded. The subject of the conversation, however, was
ignoring them, intent on burning through the idol's padlock with a
heat tablet and reaching in to explore the cavity it revealed.
Except for a multitude of musty spider webs, it appeared empty,
until a closer examination of its roof yielded crumbling plaster

Solo left Kowalski standing alone and helped Illya punch a hole
through the statue's false wall until he could reach into the new
opening. Illya's hand came out with a miniature plaster duplicate
of the ugly yellow god.
"Congratulations, " Solo quipped. "It's a boy."

Momentarily puzzled, Illya hefted the smaller figurine, weighing it
in each hand. "But not a very heavy one," he noted. "In fact, I'd
wager he was hollow."

Abruptly, the demigod plummeted to the concrete sidewalk and struck
with a dull pock, sending plaster arms and legs flying. In the
center of the wreckage lay a small rolled bundle of papers.

"Cerebus, I presume," said Solo.

Illya had scarcely retrieved the bundle from the plaster shards
when three more figures materialized out of seemingly nowhere, all
of them with guns.

"I'll take that." Hamilton Wells stepped forward, extending his
free hand. He finally had what he wanted. First Cerebus' plans,
and then Kuryakin. A profitable night, all told.

Solo eyed Kowalski as his weapons were confiscated. "Did you
invite these party crashers?" he asked.

"I told you, Mr. Solo. They followed you. Even private jets have
to file flight plans."

"Enough chit chat," Wells growled. Then to Illya, he said,
"Whatever game you'd intended to play with that blueprint is over,
Kuryakin. Give it to me."

Illya's hand moved, began to extend toward Wells. For a moment,
Kowalski was convinced he would actually comply without a fight.
Solo, more wise, knew better. Wells' eager hand had no sooner
closed over the scroll of paper than he found himself taking an
unscheduled flight through the air. When his two companions rushed
forward, Solo and Kowalski promptly dispatched them to join their
boss on the concrete, sprawled amid the broken remains of the god.

From somewhere south of them, shouts echoed, and a bullet whined
off the yellow idol's left flank. Solo snatched one of the fallen
NSA agent's guns and ran, following Illya into the trees. Kowalski
had bolted in another direction; Solo forgot about him and
concentrated on keeping up with Illya, who had neglected
(intentionally?) to relieve the dazed Mr. Wells of his weapon.
Solo had the fleeting worry his friend might be attempting to
fulfill a death wish. He was heading out of Kadaman toward the
roar of water that had underscored their hour-long search of the
park. The treatment plant.

Footsteps pounded after them: another bullet whistled past Sblo and
thunked into a tree. Getting too old for this, he thought, echoing
Illya's earlier statement. The tortured lack of air in his lungs
evoked the memory of something he'd said not long ago.

"This all seemed much easier fifteen years ago," he'd complained,
and Illya's wry response over the communicator had been, "It was."

They're getting closer...

He wanted to shout it out loud, only Illya wouldn't have heard him
over the nearing roar of the water.

They're going to catch us, my friend. Because they're all under
thirty... all in their prime... and we aren!t anymore...

The thought wasn't far removed from its fruition. Two concrete
abutments and a wire fence posted with NO TRESPASSING signs guarded
the entrance to a causeway over the water. By the time Solo broke
from the cover of the trees to meet it, Illya was already on the
other side, heading for the peak of the walkway, a point just above
the booming turbines that churned water 200 feet below.

Solo reached the fence, started over it... and five separate pairs
of hands grabbed him from behind, hauling him down, jerking the
borrowed automatic from his grasp. Five shadowy faces glared down
at him, all of them incredibly young. He could see that half a
dozen more of them were swarming over the fence like U.S. Marines
storming an obstacle course.

The hands hoisted Solo to his feet as the miniature explosion of a
heat capsule blew open a gate in the chain-link fence. From the
darker cover of the trees stepped a recovered Hamilton Wells. He
proceeded briskly through the gate with two words for the
underlings holding Solo. "Bring him, " he said.

Illya Kuryakin, breathing raggedly, reached the causeway's zenith
and peered over the concrete barrier at multiple waterfalls created
by the turbines below. When the first wave of Wells' minions
trotted into view, guns ready, it was to see their quarry holding
the Cerebus scroll at arm's length -- over the edge of the railing.

They broke ranks to let in Wells, who, with unconcealed malice,
levelled his own gun at Kuryakin's chest. "Your Russian friends
will gain nothing that way," he said.

"Precisely," Illya replied coldly. "And neither will you." The
rolled sheets of paper, their binding removed, had begun to absorb
the moist air and uncurl. They fluttered in the updraft from the
falls below.

Solo and his five escorts had arrived on the scene in time to
witness Wells' agitated reaction to Illya's threat. "That is the
only existing copy of the Cerebus design. Its creator is dead. If
you drop it, I'm going to see that you join him."

"I don't think so, Mr. Wells."

The new voice belonged to Sir John, who had arrived with a
batallion of armed agents and quietly surrounded the NSA party.

Good God, Solo thought. This is worse than a C-grade western. One
Mexican stand off on top of another. Kowalski, he noted, was among
the rescuing troops.

"Stay out of this," Wells snarled. "It's no longer U.N.C.L.E.'s

Sir John, the only one of his contingent not brandishing a weapon,
said, "That's where you're wrong. U.N.C.L.E. remains an
organization with some small influence in the governments of many
nations. Your superiors are recalling you, Mr. Wells. Your
sanction order for Mr. Kuryakin has been revoked."
Wells deliberately ignored him. Extending his right arm, he raised
his automatic to a point level with Kuryakin's eyes. "You will
hand over those papers," he breathed. "Now.

Illya looked steadily at the short, greying man with the gun and
thought of Do Chien Fong, who had died to protect these scraps of
paper, and of Erika Toren, who had died intending to destroy them.
Slowly and deliberately, he opened his fingers.

Cerebus caught the wind simultaneous with the obscenity Wells had
shouted. Screaming, he rushed at Illya, struck him with the
automatic, and shoved him savagely out of the way before stepping
onto the narrow wall to snatch at the slips of flimsy paper. The
onlookers froze, stunned, as Wells successfully snagged one of the
flimsies and with a maniacal laugh, leaned further over to grasp
desperately at still another.

Half of the NSA troops started forward too late to reach their
crazed superior before he overbalanced and, still laughing, tumbled
over the edge. He fell like some animated cartoon character,
shrieking and grabbing at the wafting missile plans all the way
down. The papers followed him, at length, into the waiting jaws of
the water turbines.

A dazed Illya made it back to his feet in time to see the last
scraps of paper vanish into the maelstrom that had already
swallowed Wells. Scraps of paper... The last of Cerebus. The last
of Janus' treachery. The last of Erika Toren.

Confusion reigning, NSA and U.N.C.L.E. agents alike had rushed to
the wall to peer over at the scene of Hamilton Wells' grisly death.
While they gaped, a no-longer-captive Solo drew Illya away and
offered him a handkerchief for the cut cheek Well's blow had left.
Sir John watched them walk, unaccosted, into the trees, back toward

They'd reached the yellow god, with the broken shards of its ten
year old secret still littering the pavement, before either of them
spoke. Solo found, as usual, that his Russian friend's expression
was unreadable.
"Are you all right?"

Illya looked one last time at the one-eyed face of the yellow idol.
Then he pointedly turned his back on it and headed with Solo back
toward the waiting car.

"Yes," he answered softly. "Now."

The End