Early fall in New York City was, as seasons went, a negligible time
of year. Here in the east forties, there were no trees to convey
the change of season, and brown smog obscured the autumn sky.
Marla Quinn, a library book tucked comfortably under her arm, tried
to ignore the gloomy setting while she made her way toward Del
Floria's Tailor Shop. As she started down the concrete steps
between the twin iron railings, Illya Kuryakin emerged from the
tailor shop to meet her half way across the landing. "Ah, Marla,"
he said pleasantly. "I was just going out for a bit of lunch.
Would you care to join me?"
"Thanks, but I've already had mine."
The Russian nodded resignedly, and started on up the steps.
"Illya--" When he turned back, Marla was holding out the library
book, which had Cyrillic lettering across its leather cover. "You
know, I only half-believed you when you said you'd send the library
a copy of War and Peace in the original Russian."
"Oh. So it did arrive." Kuryakin took the book from her and
thumbed through it appreciatively. "There's nothing like an
original for gaining a true appreciation of a classic. How are you
coming with the Russian lessons?"
"You want an honest answer?" Marla took the book back. "I'm
struggling. And it'll be a long while before I'm ready for this.
I don't suppose you'd be available for a little tutoring? I think
I'll be old and gray before I'll ever get the hang of your verb
The phantom of a smile curled one corner of Illya's mouth. "I
might be persuaded. On one condition." He searched the pocket of
his suit briefly and came up with two small green rectangles.
"Forbes in Section 3 had a theatre date for this evening. This
morning Mr. Waverly sent him to Lisbon. So..."
Peering more closely at the tickets, Marla read the play title.
"'Run For Your Wife'?"
Illya shrugged. "It's supposed to be amusing."
"Oh," Marla said contemplatively. "Well, I get off at 5 today.
Pick me up at 6?"
When they parted company on Del Floria's doorstep, neither of them
noticed the disreputable-looking fellow in the dark glasses
loitering just across the street. Nor did they see him pull a box-
like device from his pocket and speak into it softly.
Marla lingered a while outside the tailor shop door, perusing the
nearly indecipherable text of War and Peace while Illya Kuryakin
disappeared into the press of the midday New York City street
crowd. She had, she decided, checked the book out primarily as a
challenge to her linguistic learning abilities. But of course,
that hadn't been the only reason. War and Peace had had a much
more personal significance ever since Illya had used a previous
copy (that one an English translation) as a phony code book to
decoy some thoroughly unsavory people away from her. Lost in a
fond recollection of that incident, Marla paid no attention to the
car that had pulled up to Del Floria's curb and left its powerful
engine running. A gloved hand came out of seemingly nowhere to
snatch the book from Marla's hands. She managed a startled yelp
before one of the leather gloves was clamped over her mouth, and
she found herself being hauled up the steps and wrestled into the
back of an incredibly long white limousine. By the time her unseen
attacker with the foul-tasting gloves had let go of her, it was too
late to scream. The door of the enormous car had thunked shut and
blackout panels had instantly sealed the rear windows. With an
incongruous squeal of tires, the limo lurched into motion.
Marla turned to see a greying, overdressed woman seated across the
wide expanse of velveteen upholstery, the copy of War and Peace
open in her hands. "Interesting lunch hour reading you have here,
my dear. I'd venture to say not one in a thousand of New York's
citizenry could read it. That makes you somewhat special, doesn't
Ignoring her for the moment, Marla pounced on the inside door
handle only to find that it refused to budge.
"None of that now," the plump woman clucked. "Be a co-operative
little dear and we won't have to damage you too awfully much." She
plucked a microphone from a bank of controls in the back of the
seat before her. The blackout panels had fallen between the seats
as well, and prevented any sight of the rest of the car. "Take us
out of the city, Edward," she said into the mike. "Best possible
* * *
Illya Nickovetch Kuryakin hadn't gone very far down the crowded
street when, over the city roar, he'd heard what sounded like a cry
for help. He spun to look back toward Del Floria's, and spotted a
man in sunglasses forcing Marla into a white limousine. By reflex,
the U.N.C.L.E. Special appeared from the shoulder holster under his
coat. Several people on the sidewalk veered away from him in
sudden terror: Illya ignored them and concentrated on closing the
one hundred yard gap between himself and the limo in time to do
something -- anything.
He fired at it twice while still on the run, aiming at the tires.
But just as though it were somehow impervious to bullets, the
behemouth car screamed away from the curb and sped down 40th away
from him, dodging between two lanes of traffic and evoking angry
horn blasts as it went. Illya slowed to a stop and glared after
it, oblivious to the flurry of attention his display had created on
the street. Disgusted, he tucked the Special away and pulled out
his communicator pen. "Emergency Channel L," he said to it.
"Section 2, Number 2. I need a ground unit with aerial backup -- in
* * *
Marla stared across at her rather exotic kidnapper and finally
found her voice. "Who are you? What do you think you're doing?
Let me out of here!"
"In answer to the first question, we are Thrush. But then, surely
you already knew that." Marla hadn't, but kept quiet while the
woman went on. "I am Kara de Marque, the newest head of the New
York satrapy. And we wish to know what coded information is
contained in this book. You are going to tell us."
"Coded...?" Marla groaned. "Oh no. Not you, too! Look, there's
nothing in that book but Leo Tolstoy. Honest!"
"Oh, come now. We know you are an U.N.C.L.E. courier, and that you
used this novel as a code book once before."
"I did not! And I'm not a courier, I'm only a--"
"Please, let's dispense with useless denials, shall we? There's
really no reason why we can't be perfectly civilized about this
whole affair. Here. I'll show you." Kara de Marque touched an
unseen control and the back of the seat responded by instantly
transforming itself into a fully-stocked wet bar replete with
glasses, a mini-refrigerator and a built-in telephone. Marla
smirked at the showy display. "That's cute," she said. "Is there
a swimming pool tucked away in the trunk?"
"Thrush rewards its employees very well," de Marque said, and
poured herself a glass of champagne without spilling a drop. "If
you tell us what we want to know, perhaps we'll add you to the
"No thanks," Marla told her. "The pay scale may be wonderful, but
I have it on excellent authority that the pension plan stinks."
The joke failed to evince any humor in the aging female Thrush
agent. She glared at Marla the way a lioness might look at a plump
gazelle, downed the champagne, and replaced the glass with a
resounding clank. "Well," she said resignedly. "So much for being
civil." Another hidden control activated a panel directly in front
of Marla -- a smaller one this time that slid open to reveal a row
of clear plastic tubes. From one of them, a cloud of thick bluish
gas launched itself at Marla, who ducked too late to avoid inhaling
the acrid fumes. She fell back into the plush seat, possessed of
an immediate and overwhelming sense of euphoria. Suddenly the
limo, Kara de Marque and the entire hierarchy of Thrush all seemed
no more threatening than a hangnail.
"A marvellous thing, science," she heard de Marque's voice say,
somehow further away than she'd been a moment ago. "It's allowed
us to do away with all those ghastly needles and bothersome liquid
serums. Now tell me, what sort of code is U.N.C.L.E. using with
"Code," Marla murmured sleepily. "Code? There isn't--" Another of
the tubes spewed a jet of white smoke, and at once a smile spread
across Marla's face. She hadn't felt this good since that first
taste of forbidden sherry back in high school.
"Let us try one more time," the friendly voice said. "What
messages were you carrying for U.N.C.L.E. in this book?"
Messages, Marla thought furiously. The lady wants messages.
Couldn't bear to disappoint her; she's been so nice and all...
There must be some messages somewhere I can dredge up...
"Here is the code book," the voice said, and Marla felt something
solid and rectangular pressed into her hands. "You will read me
the messages. Now."
Squinting at the first page of the novel, Marla felt a headache
coming on. Was she supposed to be able to read this? The letters
were all funny. Must be the code they were talking about. No,
that wasn't it. She remembered now. She was learning how to read
it, but the lessons hadn't gone very far yet...
"Read," the voice urged.
Marla turned several pages, hunting in vain for a phrase she could
sound out, perhaps even translate. But it was useless. The
strange-looking letters kept running together and swimming up the
page. "It says the Rome office is planning a new expansion
operation," she said, creating the message out of whole cloth and
gratified that it instantly seemed to please de Marque. "There are
currently four U.N.C.L.E. operatives under cover in the Vatican,
preparing for a possible special clerical branch that will operate
"Yes yes," de Marque interrupted. "What else?"
"Pirates," Marla said, yawning expansively.
"Pi what? What are you talking about?"
Marla suppressed a giggle. "Pirates. You know -- yo ho, yo ho?
There are plans for a special surveillance team from the Anaheim
division to monitor suspected subversive activity being carried out
aboard boats on a popular Disneyland ride." This really was
becoming inspired, Marla thought, noting that de Marque had leaned
over to peer at her with painted eyebrows knit close together.
"Then there's Paris," Marla continued, turning pages for effect.
"The new communications center under the Arch de Triumph..."
* * *
The limousine had forsaken the inner city for the Truman expressway
and headed east into a suburban area of Nassau County. Illya
Kuryakin, driving the specially-equipped U.N.C.L.E. car, kept a
discreet distance behind, biding his time until the traffic thinned
enough to use the car's special defenses against the limo. A
familiar whistle sounded from his coat pocket. When he'd opened
the communicator's frequency, a voice said, "Open Channel D."
"Napoleon? Where are you?"
"Flying the air support you asked for. I'm following your homing
beacon, about a mile behind you."
"Well stay out of sight. I wouldn't want them to spot us --
"I'm not sure yet."
Exasperation tinged Solo's voice. "You called out mobile and air
units to follow a limo and you don't even know who's driving it?"
"No, but whoever they are, they have Marla Quinn, not to mention a
rare first edition of War and Peace."
"Oh," Solo said, as if that answered everything. "Well have you
had any clear shots?"
"Not until now. They're heading into a residential sector. I
should be able to hit them with one of the smaller rockets. Hold
The big white car had left the expressway and made its way down a
side road into an area of 1950s style tract housing. When the last
of the intervening traffic had cleared, Illya carefully aimed the
U.N.C.L.E. car's special rocket launchers at the limo's tires,
doublechecked the controls, and fired. The tiny missile that
streaked toward the lumbering white car in response should by all
rights have stopped it dead. But like the bullets he'd fired at it
in front of Del Floria's, the rocket seemed to have no effect at
all. The limousine slowed, then shot off down the narrow street to
scream around the nearest corner, burning rubber as it went.
Illya disgustedly threw the U.N.C.L.E. car into a higher gear and
went after it, taking the corner with minimal tire squeals. A
voice from the pen in his pocket was politely inquiring as to what
the hell had happened. "You can come on up," Illya said to it
without taking his hands from the wheel. "Either I missed, which
is unlikely, or this gunboat has armor-plated tires. In any case,
they know we're onto them -- and they're making a run for it."
"I'll be right there." The frequency clicked off, but Illya didn't
bother to close his end. He was too busy holding onto the wheel
while he careened around another corner behind the fleeing
The noise of the U.N.C.L.E. helicopter had only just become audible
overhead when the limo streaked down a sidestreet and screeched to
a stop before the wood-and-metal barrier of a dead end. Illya
braked and skidded to a halt several yards away. He'd pulled his
Special from its holster and was about to get out of the car when
abruptly, the limo backed up, shifted, and...
Illya didn't wait for what he knew was coming. He hit the
launching controls and sent a missile point blank into the oncoming
limo's radiator. Smoke poured from the impact point, but the big
car kept on coming straight at him. While he struggled to shift
gears and turn, more rocket fire rained down on the limo from above
-- Solo firing from the copter. But again, the only effect was a
profusion of white smoke.
There wasn't enough time to run. It was all Illya could do to
throw the U.N.C.L.E. car into reverse and floor the accelerator.
With a screech and a bone-jarring lurch, the little car shot
backward bare seconds before the limo roared through the space it
had just occupied and vanished around the corner, trailing smoke.
The U.N.C.L.E. helicopter streaked after it.
Struggling again with the shift lever, Illya had a fleeting moment
to realize he'd backed over a curb and onto somebody's lawn. Heads
were peeking furtively out of doors and windows up and down the
block. Oh well, there'd be time to apologize to the citizens
later. Right now, they had to stop that limousine.
"You're right, Illya," Solo's voice said from his pocket as he
maneuvered the car back onto the street. "It is armored. Any idea
yet who it is we're shooting at?"
"In a vague sort of way, yes. I got a good look at the license
plate a minute ago."
"The lic--?" There was a pause while Solo apparently fished out a
pair of binoculars and discovered that the vanity plates on the
limousine were smugly engraved with the letters THRUSH. "Subtle,
"Like the proverbial ton of bricks. Now how do you propose we stop
"Leave it to me," Solo said. "I have a new gadget to try out."
Illya rounded a corner and came back within sight of their prey.
It was speeding down a long, wide street with the helicopter in hot
pursuit, almost on top of it. As Illya watched, something vaguely
resembling nylon netting sprayed from the copter's bow and formed
a greenish patch on the street ahead of the limo. The stuff seemed
to grow tentacles, and when the speeding car ran into it...
The scream of tires brought more heads to more windows. Doors
opened. Police sirens were already howling in the background. The
white limousine, still steaming, sat crooked in the middle of the
street with heavy threads of green netting entangled in its front
axle. Illya, noting that Solo was landing the copter in the street
beyond, had started out of the U.N.C.L.E. car when suddenly the
limo's front door shot open. Instinctively, Kuryakin ducked.
Bullets whined off the car and pavement next to him. A figure in
black chauffeur's uniform darted across the street and between the
houses, firing as it went. Heads ducked from the windows and
doors. Somebody screamed. Illya hurriedly slapped a new clip into
his Special and headed after the chauffeur, but he hadn't gone far
when more gunfire forced him to take cover behind a scanty lawn
shrub. Peeking around the brown leaves, he took aim at the shadows
between the houses, fired, and was rewarded with a loud groan and
the whump of a falling body. The Thrush chauffeur had just
contracted for a two-hour nap.
Another sleeping figure -- this one a middle-aged woman with
atrocious taste in clothes -- was laid out on the pavement when
Illya made his way back to the crippled limousine. Napoleon Solo,
the U.N.C.L.E. helicopter still winding down behind him, was
bolstering his Special and leaning into the back of the big car.
He came up again with the limp form of Marla Quinn cradled in his
Ignoring the gathering crowd of gaping residents and the scream of
the arriving police sirens, Illya put his own gun away and walked
toward them. "Is she all right?"
Before Solo could answer, Marla stirred in his arms and muttered
something only semi-coherent about spying on Thrush headquarters
with vials of electronically bugged breath mint sprays. Solo gave
Illya a quizzical look, then shook his head, rightfully dismissing
the comment as the drug-induced nonsense that it was.
Sirens warbled to a halt and car doors slammed behind them.
Napoleon Solo handed his drowsy burden across to Illya. "Mr.
Kuryakin," he said formally, "I believe this particular package is
yours? Oh -- and this..." He produced the Russian copy of War and
Peace from somewhere and tucked that neatly into Marla's folded
arms. She hugged it and dreamily murmured Illya's name. That
evoked a grin from Solo, but the icy look in his partner's blue
eyes defied him to say anything.
"Marla..." Illya shook her gently. "Wake up. We have a theatre
date tonight, remember?"
"Charming," Solo quipped, unable to resist making some comment.
"She'll probably sleep through at least the second act."
Illya-shot him a withering look, turned, and carried Marla off
toward the waiting U.N.C.L.E. car.
Solo watched them go with a bemused smile that faded only when a
beefy hand clamped itself to his shoulder and he turned to stare
into the collar button of a very large (and very disgruntled) New
York policeman. "Awright, buddy. You the guy responsible for this
"Well, ah... No, not exactly. You see, uh..." Solo squirmed free
of the big man's grip and went frantically hunting through suit
pockets for his ID card, all the while side-stepping back toward
the idling helicopter. The cop followed, close on his heels.
"I've got a card here someplace..." Solo went on searching
pockets. "Tell you what, officer. Let me tell you about my