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The Disposable Man Affair
Illya Kuryakin finished his last set of bench presses and rested the bar back on its stand. He sat up, breathing heavily, and wiped his brow with a towel looking over to the boxing ring where two enforcement agents sparred. He noticed his partner half heartedly working a heavy bag beside the ring and grinned at the sight. Napoleon was on the boxing rotation of UNCLE’s Physical Training program this week and it had never been his favorite. His frequent attempts to slip out unnoticed, however, never seemed to work.
Joe Saccamano had run the gym with an iron fist for 7 years and made sure enforcement agents put their work in on every rotation. He was formally an Olympic weightlifter and took his responsibilities for employee fitness very seriously. In particular, he reviewed the fitness programs of Section II agents under a microscope and frequently added or modified each agent’s program making sure a proper balance of speed, agility, flexibility, and strength was obtained. Joe believed it was his personal duty to make sure every agent was prepared to meet any challenge they might meet in the field. He knew their lives often depended on it.
Kuryakin moved over to start 3 sets of dead lifts as another agent bounded into the ring, jogging in place, throwing shadow punches, and pushing his mouth guard in with his boxing gloves.
“Hey Solo!” Agent Burkardt threw out. “How about going a few rounds, huh?”
Napoleon, wearing full grey sweats, didn’t seem to notice. He moved around the bag throwing punches and had apparently put in enough effort to soak through the back of his lightweight, hooded shirt with sweat.
“Solo! Come on…let’s mix it up a little….let’s see what you’ve got!” Burkardt taunted.
Devin Burkardt had been an enforcement agent in New York for one year and was rather full of himself to say the least. He had a body builder’s physique and was outfitted today in classic Everlast boxing trunks and traditional, above the ankle, boxing footwear. Privately, Illya knew that while Napoleon found him a passable agent, Burkardt’s arrogance wore on his nerves. He’d never seen Napoleon take the bait when Burkardt irritated him however, so it was a surprise when his friend shrugged, and climbed into the ring.
Burkardt grinned and pounded his gloves together, pleased that UNCLE’s famous CEA had finally taken him up on a challenge. Six or seven other agents, including Kuryakin, gathered near the ring, eager to see how this unusual situation would play out. Napoleon looked down silently as Joe wound tape around his hands and laced up some gloves. He fastened the agent’s headgear on and whispered, “Watch the right uppercut, Napoleon, and knock his lights out.”
“Right, boys.” Joe called out. “We’ll do 3 rounds of 2 minutes. Watch low blows and break to a neutral corner when I tell you to. Understand?” Joe got out his stopwatch and started the bout.
Burkardt, a typical brawler, was the aggressor and bull rushed Napoleon throwing big punches and hoping to connect early for an impressive knock out. Solo focused on the man’s eyes and danced away from the blows keeping his hands up in defensive posture.
Burkardt laughed as he pursued Solo. “Jeez, c’mon, Solo…this ain’t no track meet.”
Illya understood Napoleon’s strategy. If he got caught in a corner with the stronger, more powerful man, it would all be over quick. Burkhardt continued to pursue Solo, tagging him with a few harmless punches to the body. Again, Solo moved side to side, avoiding the larger man and deftly blocked his punches. Most of Burkhardt’s punches glanced off Solo with no damage at all.
Saccamano called “time” and Napoleon turned and headed flat footed back to his corner. Burkhardt, visibly frustrated with Solo’s evasive tactics followed him and shoved Solo in the back.
“Jesus…..c’mon Solo….you got noth’in!” Burkhardt scowled.
“Get to your corner now, Burkhardt, or this fight is over.” yelled Saccamano. The gym manager watched his stopwatch and called a start to round two after a short break.
Burkhardt tried to come out fast again but was now breathing quite heavy. Solo juked and moved about the ring with his gloves up just below his eyes and Kuryakin recognized the focus in his friend’s expression. Quickly, Burkhardt jabbed to the face and Napoleon’s head snapped back. Burkhardt connected to Solo’s mouth, instantly drawing blood.
“Yeah…that’s right. That’s how it’s done.” Burkhardt bragged.
Gaining confidence, Burkhardt dropped his gloves and used them to wave Solo in for more. “Here we go, Mr. Solo.” he sneered.
Before Burkhardt could get his gloves back up, Napoleon quickly charged forward into the agent throwing fierce blows to the body and pounding his opponent’s ribs. Burkardt slightly covered up in response to Solo’s punches so Napoleon moved up to the face. He caught Burkhardt twice with two strong rights and a solid uppercut to the man’s nose. Burkhardt stumbled back into the ropes and Solo was on him in a flash throwing a flurry of punches to the face of his opponent. Burkhardt’s legs wobbled but Napoleon held him up against the ropes with one glove and continued to pound the defenseless man with more punishing blows. Burkhardt’s face was now bloodied with deep cuts to the eyes and what looked to be a broken nose. Napoleon was oblivious to the damage he was inflicting and seemed to be in some kind of uncontrollable rage while continuing to pummel his now helpless opponent.
“That’s it…it’s over….ok…. that’s it.” bellowed Joe moving in quickly.
But Napoleon was having none of it. He continued delivering blows to Burkhardt even as the man could barely stand. Kuryakin jumped into the ring to restrain his friend, distressed by Napoleon’s actions. He’d never seen his partner pursue a violent course of action unless it was absolutely necessary….and never to excess. Before he could intervene, Saccamano used his thick right arm to cuff Solo by the back of his sweatshirt and flick him to the mat like a fly. The thud of his body hitting the mat jolted Solo and he looked up to see Joe standing over him, glaring.
“Get the hell out of my gym, Solo!” he ordered. Napoleon jumped up angry, spitting blood from his mouth and slammed his headgear down in the ring. He disappeared into the locker room without a word to anyone.
- * * * * * * * * * *
“Miss Emerson,” he said, “Has Mr. Solo checked out for the day?”
“Yes, Mr. Kuryakin, he left the building about a half hour ago.” the reception agent replied.
“Did he happen to say where he was off to?”
“No, Mr. Kuryakin. Is there a problem?” she asked with concern. “Would you like me to try and locate him for you?”
“No, no…that won’t be necessary. I’ll catch up with him later this evening. Thank you Miss Emerson.” Illya replied distractedly.
Illya hung up the phone and thought for a few moments before heading out the door of the office. He took the elevator up to the sixth floor and entered medical looking for UNCLE’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Elizabeth Ray. Luckily she was leaning on the counter of a nurse’s station busily scribbling on a chart. She looked up, smiled, and waved Kuryakin over.
“Why, Mr. Kuryakin, if it isn’t one of my favorite spies of all time. How are you?” she said, warmly embracing the agent.
“I’m quite well Dr. Ray,” Illya smiled. “I wondered if I could steal a few minutes of your time in private?”
“Of course.” Dr. Ray replied looking concerned. “Let’s step into an exam room and let me have a look at you. I didn’t see your name on any of the completed mission reports. Did I miss something?”
“Not at all. You see, I’m a bit embarrassed to admit this, but I’d like to talk to you about…..about Napoleon.” Illya declared. “I know he’d have my head for speaking with you about him, but I’m really rather concerned.”
Dr. Ray set her medical charts down and motioned Illya to a seat. The Russian sat stiffly in the chair uncertain as to how much he wanted to reveal about the incident in the gym. Not surprisingly, the medical chief was ten steps ahead of him.
“If this has to do with the patient we admitted about an hour ago after the so-called boxing exhibition, I already know about it. Napoleon Solo is the last person I would expect to voluntarily be in the ring with a neanderthal like Burkhardt. What the hell was going on down there, Illya? What was he thinking?” Dr. Ray asked, leaning forward encouraging Kuryakin to express his concerns.
Illya fidgeted with his hands trying to collect his thoughts. The truth was he’d had some vague questions about his partner’s behavior over the last two months. It was nothing he could quite pinpoint, and with the busy assignment schedule they’d had, he hardly had time to give it much thought. Now, however, he realized he might have waited too long to voice his concerns.
“Basically, he totally lost control down there, Liz.” Kuryakin confided. “I’ve never seen him act like that in the field or personally. He……it was like some kind of a switch was thrown and he went into a completely violent altered state. I don’t know what would have happened if someone hadn’t intervened.”
“Have you noticed anything else with him, Illya?” the doctor asked. “You know….. any unusual changes in habits or behavior?”
“Now that I think about it, there are several.” Kuryakin volunteered. “I thought it was just our busy schedule. We’ve been out together on three long overseas missions these past two months but Napoleon has been out on at least three others on his own that I know about. None of them were milk runs either. They were fairly dangerous, complex affairs several of which had rather unpleasant aspects to them. The Thrush agent Napoleon knows, Angelique, was on one in India…I believe that was the same assignment where Napoleon experienced some disturbing drug-induced hallucinations courtesy of Thrush. He checked out ok with you afterwards if I remember correctly.”
“Let me take a peak at his file, Illya,” Elizabeth said. She buzzed the nurse’s station and asked for Solo’s medical file to be delivered to her office. “What have you noticed?”
“Well, this obviously is not clinical evidence but he’s not, shall we say, entertaining like he typically does. He’s been spending most of his time alone at home on the few nights he’s been here.”
“Probably fatigue with the assignment schedule he’s had, don’t you think?” asked Dr. Ray as a nurse brought in Napoleon’s thick medical file.
“Could be. Still, he doesn’t seem his usual social self here at headquarters either.” Illya paused. “He’s mentioned headaches a few times and doesn’t seem to have much appetite. On our last assignment he seemed more jumpy than usual…you know Napoleon…nothing ever seems to phase him. Even if he’s got a gun pointed to his head he’ll come up with some kind of wise cracking remark.”
Dr. Ray put on some reading glasses and glanced at the latest entries in Solo’s file. “Christ, the man’s been on assignment 29 of the last 33 days! What the hell is Waverly doing?” she said alarmed. “Two weeks ago when he was in, he was down 10 pounds…that confirms your observations on appetite. I tell you what. I’ll put a “watch” on him and personally make a point of running into him in the next two days. Let’s get together after that and compare notes. Oh and don’t worry, Illya, I’ll make it seem like a complete coincidence…..I don’t want Napoleon blowing a gasket over you expressing concern for him.”
“Given what happened in the gym today, that is most appreciated, Elizabeth.” Illya grinned. “I’ll check in with you later this week.”
Kuryakin prepared to leave when the doctor reached out and put her hand on his arm.
“You know, Illya, he’s lucky to have a partner and friend like you watching out for him. Besides his obvious role on assignments, he has the added responsibility of supervising the performance of 75 other agents here in the New York office alone. He looks out for his people fiercely and I’m proud to say none our Section II agent’s ever slip through the cracks when it comes to their health…physical or mental.” She paused for a few seconds wondering. “Come to think of it…….who looks out for him?”
“I’m assuming Mr. Waverly has responsibilities in regards to the Chief Enforcement Agent. He’s the only person in a position to order medical evaluations, or restricted duty for the CEA.”
“Hmmmmmmmm. Houston, we have a problem.” she said sarcastically.
- * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
“Napoleon.” the Russian yelled. “Where the heck are you? I know you’re here….if it’s cocktail hour, how about letting your partner in on it? Napoleon…..?”
“In here.” Solo called out from the kitchen.
Illya walked in to find his friend sitting on a stool by the kitchen counter, a bag of ice on his lip and a healthy glass of scotch in hand. The accompanying bottle was half empty. Napoleon sat in a t-shirt with his grey sweatpants still on from that afternoon.
“Well, well Napoleon. Thanks for the invitation. I’d love to have a drink with you after work tonight.” The Russian said lightheartedly. “Are we boycotting the shower after workouts these days?”
“Illya, let me pour you a drink. What brings you out on a social call tonight?” Napoleon said sloppily.
“Oh, nothing in particular.” Kuryakin said accepting a glass. “I just thought I‘d see why Mr. Calm, Cool, and Collected put one of our own agents in the hospital today. Did you forget who the good guys are?”
Illya watched his partner out of the corner of his eye for a reaction.
Ahhhh, no, not really.” Solo mumbled into his glass. “Burkhardt’s a jerk.”
“Right……a perfectly acceptable reason for you to break 2 of his ribs not to mention the 8 or 10 stitches his face needed.”
No reaction. Napoleon was plastered! He drained his drink and reached for the bottle when Illya grabbed it from him and turned Solo’s glass upside down.
“Enough for tonight, partner. Let’s get you a shower and then to bed.” Illya cajoled Napoleon into the bathroom and turned on the water for him. “In you go, Rocky Marciano. Never thought I’d see the day where you would go near a boxing ring unless you were wearing a tux, had ringside seats, a beautiful woman on one arm and a glass of champagne in the other.”
“Hmmmmmm, first time for everything. “ Solo stepped into the warm water and rested the top of his head against the tile, eyes closed.
Afterwards, Illya guided Napoleon to the bedroom and pulled the covers up over the agent after he collapsed into bed. Solo was instantly unconscious.
“Good night, Napoleon….sleep well partner. We will have a conversation about this in the morning.” Illya said softly.
He turned out the lights and activated the security system before gently closing the front door behind him on the way out.
- * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
“Good morning, Mr. K. Where are we off to today?” Napoleon asked.
“Mexico…... a diplomatic escort. More your type of assignment I should think!” replied the Russian sourly. “You look a little peaked this morning, Napoleon…tough night?” Kuryakin posed the question to test his friend’s memory of the previous night.
“You should know, partner. Thanks for lending a hand last night. I should be back from Panama in two or three days. How about we get together then for dinner?”
“Count on it, Napoleon.” Illya said with a grin. “In the meantime, try not to decimate any resistive Thrush agents with that nasty right uppercut of yours. Keep that type of thing up and there might not be any nasties left for us to go after.”
“Right, right…..” Solo said without humor. “Be safe out there Illya…...keep your head up, will ya?”
“You as well, Napoleon. See you soon.” And with that Kuryakin was off to UNCLE’s helipad for the short ride to the airport.
Napoleon had 2 hours before his flight and sat down to deal with a mountain of paperwork which he could never hope to complete. Discouraged, he leaned back in his chair, closed his eyes, and sighed heavily.
“Is that the sound of a distressed CEA I hear?” asked Dr. Ray, peeking her head around the corner with a friendly smile.
“Elizabeth…..good to see you. Please come in and save me from this endless sea of bureaucracy. What brings you down this way….slumming with the hired help?” said Napoleon with an attempted grin.
He rose from his chair and walked around the desk to greet her. Elizabeth entered the room and extended both her hands at waist level, palms up, offering them to Napoleon’s. As Solo’s hands met hers, she dropped her hands unexpectedly, and looked down to see both of Napoleon’s hands shaking noticeably. Solo looked away, shoved his hands in his pockets and sat on the edge of his desk. Dr. Ray was somewhat shocked at Napoleon’s appearance. His eyes had dark circles under them, his lip was swollen, and his suit literally hung on his body. Not at all like the impeccably dressed, perfectly groomed man she’d come to know and admire.
“Napoleon, my dear, you look absolutely terrible.” Liz said honestly. “What in the world have you been doing with yourself to look like such a ragamuffin? Have you secretly exchanged identities with Illya?” she teased.
“Well…… that’s an amusing theory, but I’m afraid the truth is…. I’ve just been burning the candle at both ends, Liz. I’m not only behind on reports, but it seems I am well overdue with Section II personnel ratings, a critical incident debrief, and the latest recruit assignments out of Survival School…..at least according to the boss.” Solo offered.
Napoleon, still sitting on the edge of his desk, turned around to reach for his coffee cup. Experimentally, Liz reached out her hand to softly touch his leg.
“Hey” Solo exploded sharply, jumping off the desk and spilling his coffee on the floor.
“Oh Napoleon, I’m so sorry…I didn’t mean to ……” Liz sputtered.
“No, no….not to worry. I…..ah…..its….its fine really.” Solo said mopping up awkwardly. He took a deep breath and guided Dr. Ray towards the door. “I’m sorry, Liz, I need to get to the airport. Thanks for popping in….good to see you….”
Before she knew it, Solo had shepherded her out the door and into the corridor with the door sliding closed after her. “The man is a train wreck.” She said softly to herself.
- * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
He sighed thinking about what might be on her mind this time. UNCLE’s CMO was one of a very few who could go toe to toe with the Old Man, and override his orders. Invariably this meant an agent he desperately needed was unavailable for assignment. If Elizabeth wanted a few minutes of his time, he could not deny her, however he knew it was probably not good news.
Lisa Rogers, Waverly’s executive secretary buzzed him on the intercom indicating the doctor’s arrival and within seconds, the door slid silently open and Dr. Ray strode in.
“Good afternoon, Alexander.” she said crisply. “Always a pleasure.”
“Indeed doctor.” Waverly cut to the chase. “How can I be of help to you today?”
“I’d like to have you examine a couple of reports my staff has put together. It concerns the mission assignments for Section II over the last two months.”
“I see. Branching out into other UNCLE sections, Doctor? I wasn’t aware that medical had responsibilities in the area of agent assignments. Are you not busy enough attending to the medical concerns of this organization?” Waverly jabbed.
“This report is only in the interest of the health of our agents, Alexander. Something I’m sure you are as concerned about as I.” Elizabeth shot back.
“Hmmmmmmmm. Yes, well…..what do you have then?” Waverly spoke while he gazed at several other documents on the conference table.
Dr. Ray laid her reports on the table and spun them around to the UNCLE Chief. He picked them up giving them a cursory glance and looked up at Elizabeth with a blank expression.
“What exactly am I supposed to learn from this report, Doctor Ray?”
“Alexander, I’m not sure if you are aware of the schedules that some of our agents have been keeping. For example, Mr. Solo and Mr. Kuryakin have been out these past two months 32% more than any other teams from Section II. For Mr. Solo, when his individual assignments have been added to the mix, it’s been closer to 39%.”
“Mr. Kuryakin and Mr. Solo are far and above my best pair of operatives, Dr. Ray. I’m sure that the crises of the world can’t be counted on to happen for the convenience of our assignment schedule. Surely you don’t expect the activities of Thrush to be adjusted so that we may even out the assignments of our agents.” Waverly lectured.
Elizabeth bristled at Waverly’s remarks and fired back. “Why, I would think with your supreme omnipotence, something like that could be arranged easily, Alexander.” She said stone-faced.
“Elizabeth, what do you need today?” Waverly sighed. “Has Mr. Solo not been meeting his responsibilities in regards to the medical condition of Section II operatives?”
“No, Mr. Solo, as usual, is very efficient and thorough in regards to the status of each agent.” Elizabeth said carefully. Could the Old Man be any more obtuse?
“Then, if you’ll forgive me, I have many things to attend to this afternoon, Dr. Ray. You may see your way out.” Waverly said as he turned to his communications console.
“I’m afraid not, Alexander. I’m here this afternoon to talk about the mental health, or general lack thereof, of Mr. Solo.”
“Mr. Solo? Preposterous. I see no indication that Mr. Solo is having any difficulty in regards to his assignments.” Waverly argued. “Quite the contrary. He is on his way back from Panama as we speak having recovered a critical piece of microfilm that has eluded us for at least a year.”
“Wonderful. However, Mr. Kuryakin has expressed concern over Napoleon’s lack of appetite, nervousness, lack of emotional control, and weight loss.” Dr. Ray continued. “Earlier in the week I stopped in to see him and he was jumping out of his skin with hands shaking like a frightened schoolboy.”
Waverly addressed the Medical Chief, “Elizabeth, Mr. Solo is a grown man and a professional. He is perfectly capable of addressing any difficulties he may be having.”
“I couldn’t disagree more.” Dr. Ray replied. “Mr. Solo reflects the degree of invincibility that you demand from him. Napoleon will execute any order, any assignment, any project that you hand to him. He’s capable of nothing less. The result is that he is currently in a state of utter exhaustion and shows multiple signs of a severe stress reaction. These symptoms do not go away with time, Alexander. They must be addressed clinically and that takes professional expertise and a whole lot of time.”
“Elizabeth, are you ordering Mr. Solo on medical leave?” Waverly snipped, growing weary of the discussion.
“At this time, I’m not convinced that is necessary but it certainly might be after an in- depth evaluation.”
“Has Mr. Solo expressed any concern over his health or his performance in the field?”
“Of course not, Alexander. He would be the last person to……..” Liz started.
“Then this meeting is over and I’ll take your concerns under advisement Dr. Ray.” Waverly interrupted. “Good day.”
“Very well, Alexander. I’ll continue to monitor the situation. But I’d highly recommend you give Mr. Solo a significant reduction in missions over the next few months as well as advising him so seek counseling through medical to address his stress levels.” Dr Ray said over her shoulder as she headed to the door. “If Mr. Solo is pushed to the point of breakdown, understand you’ll probably never get him back.” Elizabeth disappeared into the hallway.
Twenty four hours later both Solo and Kuryakin sat in the UNCLE Chief’s conference room waiting to be briefed on their next assignment. Mr. Waverly had his back to the agents finishing up several overseas relays while the agents sat. Illya noticed the lack of small talk from his partner but he was content with the silence between them.
Napoleon sat, chin in hand, flipping mindlessly through a folder in front of him. Illya had not been able to meet with Napoleon yet or follow up with Dr. Ray although he hoped to do so before he and Napoleon left headquarters again. He was relieved they would apparently be going on assignment together. Both men seemed to prefer this to individual missions. If something was seriously wrong with his friend, at least Illya would be there to protect him from any danger they might face. Solo could always be counted on to do the same for him and had proven so numerous times.
Waverly spun around and addressed the agents. “Gentlemen, it seems a return trip to India is in order. This time, Mr. Kuryakin, you will be accompanying Mr. Solo.”
Illya noticed Solo stiffen at the mention of India. This had been his last individual assignment where the illusive Thrush beauty, Angelique had again interfered and Napoleon had endured three days of drug-induced terror at the hands of Thrush. As Waverly continued, Illya noticed Napoleon’s breathing becoming more rapid and shallow. A light sweat broke out on his face.
“Miss Rogers, you may begin, please.” Waverly said as the lights dimmed and a screen lowered into the room.
Waverly stood up from his chair as the briefing began. As slides appeared on the screen, Miss Rogers efficiently narrated.
“The Thrush installation in Bangalore was functionally disabled following Mr. Solo’s mission there last month. However, after his capture, interrogation, and subsequent rescue, the facility was never completely destroyed. It was determined that it would not be necessary to return there just to level the base. All intelligence indicated Thrush would not attempt to re-open their headquarters at that location.
Last week, however, UNCLE surveillance indicated significant activity at that location with approximately 45 Thrush personnel moving into repaired buildings. Radio cross traffic has picked up information that a new bureau chief, a female, has been named to direct Thrush activities in the area. Mylaya Dessaro has apparently been promoted to this position with the removal of Angelique LeChene and the former base commander, Charles Botonwich.”
Pictures of Angelique and Botonwich closed the slide presentation. Illya glanced at Solo and saw him look down from the photo staring hard at the table. It was common knowledge that Solo had a long and complicated history with Angelique. At the drop of a hat, they could go from being sworn enemies to intimate lovers and their liaisons persisted over a period of 3 years. Some kind of strange agreement existed between the two. When push came to shove, they would inevitably aid one another in making a quick getaway or daring escape. It was almost protective. Kuryakin had no use for the woman but understood and reluctantly tolerated the peculiar nature of their relationship. Waverly, on the other hand, used every opportunity he could to show his displeasure with Solo over their trysts. The room lights came up and the screen disappeared.
Waverly spoke first. “Hmmmmmmm….Angelique….I dare say she……”
Before Waverly could finish, Napoleon sprung to his feet screaming like a wounded animal and knocking over his chair behind him. He swept his arms across the table and sent maps, reports, files and cups flying into the air. Breathing hard with fury in his eyes he advanced towards Waverly, fists clenched.
Solo shouted at the Old Man, “Shut up! Just shut up….you hear me! What the hell do you know about it? You son-of-a-*****! Just shut up!”
Waverly’s eyes widened with astonishment. He stepped backwards from Solo and fell clumsily into his chair. Kuryakin jumped up from his seat and moved to intercept Napoleon as he crossed the room. Illya braced himself to block the agent and grabbed his friend by the lapels of his jacket. Solo eye’s continued to bore ahead into Waverly’s as he struggled to get past the Russian.
“Napoleon” Illya hissed with teeth clenched, trying to break the agent’s stare while shaking him. “Napoleon!”
Kuryakin tried to position himself to interrupt his partner’s line of sight to their superior. The two men struggled but Solo’s frantic state made it relatively easy for Kuryakin to control his friend. He slowly wrestled Napoleon towards the sliding door and gave him a final shove into the reception area when the door automatically opened. Illya followed the CEA to prevent him from trying to reenter Waverly’s office. As Napoleon charged towards the door, Illya grabbed him again and slammed him into the wall. He held the agent against the wall, and desperately tried to snap Solo to his senses.
“Napoleon…..it’s me. It’s Illya. Look at me….. Napoleon! Take it easy…..it’s ok. It’s ok. Easy……” Kuryakin said still holding tight to the struggling agent.
Illya noted the sweat pouring down Solo’s face and watched his chest heave as his eyes started to show recognition of his surroundings. Without a word Napoleon shoved Kuryakin off him and stormed down the corridor passing two security agents, guns drawn, who raced towards Waverly’s office. Kuryakin waved off the agents and let them know the area was secure as a stunned Lisa Rogers tried to make sense of the impossible scene she had just witnessed.
The blond agent watched Napoleon disappear and stood still trying to collect his thoughts. He took a deep breath and looked at his watch figuring out the current time on the west coast. He ran a hand through his hair, straightened his jacket and calmly turned to the frazzled secretary.
“May I please use your telephone, Miss Rogers?”
- * * * * * * * * * * * *
At 5’6” with an athletic, swimmers build, she purposely chose the stairs and jogged up to the 5th floor without much of a sweat. After greeting the secretaries in the office, she threw her briefcase into the office and then went back to check messages. Happily her meeting had been postponed and her schedule looked uncharacteristically clear through lunch so she made every effort to sneak out before anyone could notice she was free. Dr. Weiss was three steps away from the perfect escape when she heard her secretary call out down the hall. Damn…she’d almost made it! With a sigh, she turned back to see what required her attention.
“Dr. Weiss….long distance from New York….shall I take a message?” the secretary called out. Not many calls came her way from the east coast and when they did, it usually was a very urgent matter.
“No, I’ll be right there to take it. Hang on and transfer it to my office for me, will you? she asked with anticipation.
When work called from New York, it was usually quite interesting and provided her with exceptional case studies for her advanced research in neuroscience. She grabbed a notebook and prepared to take the call.
“Cameron Weiss.” She spoke into the telephone.
“Hello, Dr. Weiss.” a familiar voice spoke from the other end of the line.
“Illya! My goodness it’s been too long! I don’t think I’ve been back your way for two years now….is the spy business so slow that UNCLE is no longer in need of my services?” she teased, closing the office door with her foot.
“Much as I’d like to say that’s true, I think we’ve got a situation here where your expertise is very much needed.” Kuryakin replied.
“Really? You know I love working with UNCLE, even if I have to keep it hush hush from my colleagues here at the university. What’s up? Usually it’s Napoleon who calls me when there’s an agent dealing with trauma issues. Napoleon’s not hurt is he? Illya….has he been…….”
“No…no…he’s quite alive and….should I say….kicking.” the Russian quipped. “Actually Cam, it is Napoleon who needs your help. I’m afraid circumstances over the past few months have spiraled out of control and this morning he attempted to assault Mr. Waverly.”
Cameron nearly dropped the telephone out of shock. “What? That’s not possible. What in the world……”
“I’d rather go into details when I see you if you could see your way clear to come to headquarters as soon as possible.” Illya said.
“What about Dr. Ray?” Dr. Weiss inquired. “Is she seeing Napoleon? Is she treating him?”
“We have spoken but as yet have not had time to compare notes. Dr. Ray did voice her concerns to Mr. Waverly before Napoleon’s incident in his office. I believe she requested a reduction in mission hours and a medical evaluation.” Illya reported.
“I’m sure that did a helluva lot of good.” Cameron snorted by way of reply. “Jesus that man is stubborn.”
Illya returned to the practical details of the call. “Dr. Weiss, can you get here to New York as quickly as possible?”
“Not a problem, Illya. I’ll catch a flight this afternoon and be there as fast as I can. Look, let’s not alarm Napoleon at this point by letting him know I’m coming. Why don’t you and Dr. Ray pick me up at the airport and we’ll figure out how to proceed from there?” she paused. “And Illya, please try hard not to worry. As his partner and best friend, I’m going to need you in on this. If things are as bad as you say, he’s going to need your strength. Think you can handle it?”
Illya nodded into the phone and said, “I’ll do whatever is required if it will help Napoleon….and Cameron….thank you.”
“Of course. You know I’d do anything for that man. We go back a long ways and Napoleon was the one who brought me to UNCLE in the first place. See you later today, Illya, and thanks for calling. I’ll have my office get you flight information as soon as it’s taken care of.” Dr. Weiss finished up and ended the call.
Cameron collected her things and closed her office door. As her secretary looked up, Dr. Weiss asked her to get the next possible flight to New York and fill out a temporary leave of absence form for the department head. “Off on some kind of secret mission?” the secretary laughed, unaware of how close she was to the truth. “Something like that.” replied Cameron. And with that, she was gone.
- * * * * * * * * * * * * *
It seemed impossible to her that anything could touch the man. Her mind drifted back to the first time they met in Korea, 1950. Cameron was a surgical nurse in a field hospital in one of the busiest and unstable parts of the war zone. The hospital frequently saw ten to fifteen new critical cases every day in addition to the forty or so GI’s who were recovering…trying to get strong enough to be transferred to better facilities in Seoul or, if lucky, back stateside.
Their medical center, such as it was, was in the heart of Pusan and multiple divisions were assigned to keep the perimeter of the city secure. Pusan was strategically important to the allies and its protection was a priority. The North Korean’s had pushed towards the city throughout a brutal, frigid winter. They mounted several offenses attempting to cross the Naktong River near Taejon. Had they achieved that goal, Pusan would have undoubtedly fallen.
Late one snowy afternoon in February, a Lieutenant stepped into the infirmary, took off his helmet and rubbed his hands together trying to shake off the cold. He moved towards the coffee and grabbed a cup, then hesitated as he noticed her nearby.
“Buy you a cup of coffee?” the soldier asked smiling.
Although his uniform was dirty from being in the field, he looked strangely put together and carried himself with an ease that suggested he hardly noticed the holy horror of Korea.
“Why thank you, Lieutenant, but the coffee here is free.” she replied formally.
Captain Weiss had seen more than her share of attention from soldiers who came through the hospital and she knew how to keep them at bay.
Undeterred, the handsome Lieutenant smiled warmly and replied, “Why of course it is. May I bring you a cup then? Let me guess….cream, no sugar?”
“How did you know that?” The nurse queried. This one was a charmer.
“Just lucky I guess. Let me introduce myself. Napoleon Solo at your service.” He bowed slightly. “And you would be……Miss Weiss, I see?"
Cameron enjoyed the reference to the female gender. As much as she loved her work, she often grew tired of drab utilitarian fatigues and the military climate. It was refreshing to be treated like a lady.
Lieutenant Solo handed the steaming cup to Cameron and pulled a seat out for her which she gratefully accepted.
“Miss Weiss, I’m looking for a man from one of the units in the 24th Infantry. A private named Stefan Charles. I believe he came in yesterday with multiple wounds and I’d like to check on his progress.” Solo explained.
“Yes, Lieutenant. Private Charles is recovering from surgery. He’s been rather restless and unable to sleep but is doing fairly well. You can see him down towards the end of the room…tenth bed on the right.”
Cameron directed as she checked the charts at the table where she sat.
“Thank you Miss Weiss. It was a pleasure to meet you.” Solo said, grinning.
He winked at the nurse and went on his way. Cameron turned back to her charts smiling. About an hour later, Weiss returned to the hospital after stocking the drug cabinets from a shipment that had just arrived from Seoul. She glanced down the rows of beds and was surprised to see Lieutenant Solo still sitting bedside with the private he was visiting. As she watched, she saw the patient sitting up in bed, somewhat animated, and gesturing as he continued telling the young Lieutenant some sort of story. Solo’s chair was pulled over towards the head of the bed and he leaned forward listening and chuckling along with the private.
Cameron had witnessed many officers “visiting” soldiers in the hospital and typically this involved walking the rows of beds, greeting each man briefly, and giving the same “get well soon and let’s get you back to your unit” line. She sat down again to update charts and found herself watching the interaction between Solo and Private Charles. The Lieutenant was relaxed and appeared to have all the time in the world although Cameron knew this to be impossible. He spoke only to ask a question or two encouraging the private to talk and then sat listening while maintaining eye contact that was warm and kind. At last, Solo stood up and shook hands with the injured man. The private smiled and laughed at something the Lieutenant said and then Solo turned to depart. He walked towards Cameron and picked up his combat helmet preparing to leave.
“Miss Weiss? I wonder if I could have a word.” Lieutenant Solo inquired.
Cameron prepared herself for the inevitable pick up line.
“Private Charles has been through some rather horrific enemy encounters and I wondered if you might be able to spend some extra time with him…you know…just visiting and such. I think it would help his recovery.”
“Private Charles won’t be returning to the unit, Lieutenant. He’s being shipped stateside in two weeks.”
Solo smiled. “I’m not here to get him back to the unit. I think he needs some help to deal with the ordeal he’s been through. You mentioned he wasn’t sleeping. He’s also been having nightmares and reports feeling very nervous. Could you keep an eye on him for me?”
Weiss checked her chart and replied, “Of course Lieutenant. I’d be happy to. I wonder why Private Charles has not reported any of this to the medical staff here.”
“It was probably nothing he thought was important.” Napoleon commented. “Thank you so much again for all you’re doing here, Miss Weiss.”
“Lieutenant Solo.” Cameron began slowly.
“Napoleon.” She smiled. Then she thoughtfully asked. “What happened……I mean….to Private Charles…..what was the horrific thing…..you know….. "
Napoleon’s smile faded and he softly answered. “It’s all horrific.”
The young Lieutenant turned and left. Cameron Weiss sat back at her desk and thought about what Napoleon said. She had noticed many of the GI’s in the hospital had symptoms similar to Private Charles. Hyperventilation, irritability, shaking, withdrawal, and others came to mind. She vowed to study this in her work and hopefully encourage the nursing staff to watch for these signs and learn to address them however they could. She paused and looked down the line of beds to Private Charles.
He was sleeping like a baby.
For the next 9 months, Cameron would occasionally see Napoleon come in to visit one of his men. He playfully flirted with her each time but both of them knew they had no time and little energy to follow up any inclinations they might have. Over time, they developed a fine friendship and she enjoyed sharing with him the information collected on what she came to call, “gross stress reaction.” He genuinely seemed interested in her work and soaked up the information like a sponge.
The next November, he dropped by to let her know his division was being moved to Inchon. They hugged each other and wished each other well and Cameron thought that was the last time they would see each other. When the war ended, she was discharged and completed medical school at the University of Wisconsin and was then accepted into a doctoral program at Stanford specializing in trauma/stress reaction. She became one of the early authorities in the field and accepted a position on the staff at Stanford not long after completing her PhD program. She was shocked, when one day in 1964; she received a call out of the blue from one Napoleon Solo.
“Is this the delightful Captain Weiss I’m speaking to?” a lighthearted voice said.
“Captain? What….no…this is….Dr. Cameron….ah…I mean…..who is this?” she sputtered.
“Lieutenant Solo, again, at your service, Camy.”
“Napoleon! Oh my God, Napoleon! How are you? Where are you? How did you find me?” she gushed with excitement.
“Well, sweet, it seems that life post-Korea finds me firmly rooted in the spy business and I wouldn’t be very good at my job if I couldn’t locate a neuroscientist or two now and then, would I.” Solo said.
“Spy work. Now, why am I not surprised, Napoleon?” Cameron replied grinning. She was delighted to talk with her old friend but instincts told her there was a reason for the call. “You’re not calling for social purposes I presume?”
“You’re right about that, Camy. It’s rather hard to explain in detail but the short version is that the organization I work for would like to contract with you to help some of our agents now and then when the situation arises. It would require you to come to New York occasionally; we’d of course pay all your expenses and compensatory salary. It would have to be kept a secret, however, from everyone in your life there in California.” Solo explained.
“This is serious stuff your into, isn’t it, Napoleon.” Weiss responded.
“Deadly serious, Camy.”
Cameron thought for a moment and then spoke. “And am I to assume your boss is already on board with this little project of yours, Napoleon?”
Napoleon chuckled into the phone. “Well, let’s say that’s a work in progress, Camy. I’m confident however; you’ll be able to persuade him when you meet him tomorrow morning. Check with your secretary. She has a ticket for you to fly out tonight. I’ll meet you at the airport and we can catch up then.”
The phone went dead before she could protest. Dr. Cameron Weiss flew to New York that night and met with Alexander Waverly and her friend, Napoleon the next day. She was amazed to learn about the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement and especially about the enforcement agents who put their lives on the line every time they went out on behalf of UNCLE…on behalf of the world.
Napoleon was just as sure about the necessity of trauma treatment for their agents as Waverly was skeptical, but they agreed to a test case the first time Napoleon felt Dr. Weiss might be needed. Cameron had worked with 3 of Napoleon’s agents over the next couple of years and all of the cases had resolved quite successfully.
As her plane descended and the familiar skyline of New York appeared, Dr. Weiss now thought about her current case. She had a sense of foreboding and tried hard to quell her emotions over the trouble Napoleon was in. A sense of determination replaced her doubts as she thought about just how imperative success in this case would be. She would find a way to bring Napoleon back from whatever hell he had descended into.
She would find a way.
- * * * * * * * * * * * * *
“Illya, is Dr. Ray meeting us tonight?” she asked noting the doctors’ absence.
“Elizabeth is currently in surgery at headquarters, Cam. I’m hoping she can meet with us tonight. The situation has changed somewhat since we last spoke.” Kuryakin explained, grabbing Cameron’s luggage.
“What’s happened, Illya?” Dr. Weiss asked gently.
“Napoleon has disappeared. He was called to Mr. Waverly’s office this morning and was told he was on indefinite medical leave and would be completely restricted to the medical unit until further notice.”
Dr. Weiss raised her eyebrows. “I’m sure that went over well.” She said. “Yes, well…..Napoleon threw his credentials down on the table and resigned. He left the building and hasn’t been seen since. He never went back to his apartment. I’ve had agents check the airport and train stations…. he’s gone.” Illya said miserably.
“Illya, no one knows him like you do. Think. Where would he go?”
“Believe me, I’ve been going over every conversation I’ve ever had with him to come up with ideas. Napoleon was a diplomat’s kid, Cameron. His home is everywhere and nowhere. My hunch is he’s still here in the city somewhere. But if Napoleon doesn’t want to be found, he won’t be.” Illya paused, running over possibilities in his head.
“Wait a minute…I might just have an idea where he could be. It’s just possible……” Illya grabbed Cameron’s hand and pulled her outside to the first waiting cab.
They piled in and the Russian spoke quickly to the driver. “Port Washington.” He said simply.
“Illya!” Cameron spoke excitedly. “Of course….his boat…The Pursang!”
“Don’t get your hopes up yet, Dr. Weiss. It’s a long shot at best but it’s the only thing I can come up with.” Kuryakin paused, “Cam….if Napoleon is on the boat, what then? My orders are to bring him back to headquarters willingly or not.”
Dr. Weiss stared ahead at the New York traffic. “No. That’s the last place he needs to be. Let me handle Waverly on that.” She paused. “Nope…we’ll see if we can get him back to his apartment and we’ll work out of there. Now, if Napoleon is uncooperative….well….I have some of the latest and greatest sedatives on hand in my bags.” She grinned.
“I have sleep darts with me if that could be of help.” Kuryakin added.
Dr. Weiss grabbed Illya’s arm. “Let’s try to avoid that if we can. I’d like to take UNCLE out of this as much as possible. Any association with the organization could set him off. No guns, no beeping communicators, nothing that could take him further away from us. Do you understand, Illya?”
“Of course, Cameron. Any other suggestions that might be helpful?” Illya asked.
“Well,” she instructed. “Keep your tone light and don’t barrage him with questions. Try not to back him into a corner. No matter what he does or says, keep your voice calm and neutral. He needs to know we are on his side. My guess is he will be quite withdrawn. He must feel that he has friends around him whom he trusts. We have to be those friends, Illya. And, whatever happens, we have to take him back with us now. If he slips away here, who knows what might happen to him.” Cameron’s blue eyes were intensely serious.
Kuryakin nodded. “I see. Do you want to come on board with me?”
“Not initially. My presence might alarm him and escalate his anxiety. Let me watch how things are going and try to get onboard unnoticed.”
Kuryakin laughed, “Not likely, Dr. Weiss.”
"You’d be surprised, Illya. Extreme trauma can diminish abilities that are deeply ingrained, even in spies!” Cameron smiled.
“Let’s hope so.” Kuryakin replied. “The last thing I want is to get into it with Napoleon again.”
“Good.” The doctor responded as the cab rolled up to the pier. “Keep your fingers crossed he’s here, Illya. We’re not going to have many chances at this.”
Kuryakin nodded and they both got out of the cab. Illya pointed to Solo’s 30 foot sail boat two rows over. No one appeared to be on board the sleek, beautiful sailboat painted red and white, bobbing slightly in the harbor. As Kuryakin drew closer, he motioned Weiss to stay back. He sighed with relief as he saw the back of Napoleon’s head in the forward cabin looking over nautical charts. Before he could speak, Solo’s voice called out.
“Permission to come aboard, Mr. Kuryakin.” He said not looking up.
Illya hopped on the open stern side and noticed broken glass from a bottle carelessly left on deck with a few drops of blood headed towards the cabin. He moved inside the cabin and saw Napoleon’s right hand wrapped with a small towel, saturated in blood.
“Good afternoon, my friend.” Illya started. He noticed a good sized supply of food and liquor on the seats. “Heading out on vacation, I see?”
“Permanently.” Solo stated flatly.
“Where to?” Illya asked before remembering Cameron’s advice.
Solo didn’t reply. He turned away from the charts and sat down motioning Illya to a seat.
“I’m guessing this is not a social call, Illya. Let’s see. Mr. Waverly has issued you an order to bring me back to headquarters dead or alive to be locked up in medical until he sees fit to spring me.” Solo’s voice had a sharp edge to it. “Is that about the size of it?”
“That’s the rumor, Napoleon. But I’m here today just to talk. What’s a short visit between long time friends?” Illya said.
“Here. Let me make it easy for you.” Solo stood up and turned away from the Russian.
He leaned over the table and put his hands behind his back, ready to be handcuffed. “Isn’t this the protocol to bring unwilling prisoners back to headquarters? Go ahead, Illya. Isn’t that what you’re here for?” He said bitterly.
Kuryakin glanced back at Dr. Weiss still on the dock. He did have handcuffs on him and if this was the easiest way to secure Solo, should he take it? Cameron didn’t move but shook her head “no” earnestly.
“Don’t be ridiculous, Napoleon.”
He said sitting down calmly in front of Solo. He sat quietly and waited for his friend to speak…giving him room….giving him time. Solo sighed and sat down in his seat, looking exhausted.
“I’m not going back, Illya. I’m done. I can’t do this anymore.” He looked at the Russian. “I won’t go back with you, Illya. Do you understand?”
Solo stood up and stared down at the charts. He seemed to drift away but fidgeted with his hands, not quite knowing what to do with them. Kuryakin spoke softly to him hoping to somehow reach his friend and convince him to reconsider his plans.
“Napoleon. Please, give me a minute before I go. We’ve been through a lot together. You know you can trust me.” Illya started earnestly. “I’m very concerned about you. You’re not yourself. Please come with me. I’ll help you work through this…we’ll do it together and things will get better. We don’t have to go back to headquarters. Please, don’t give up like this…..”
“Give up?” Solo thundered. “When have I ever given up, Illya?” He stood fuming, pounding his fists on the table. “I’ve done everything they’ve asked me to do. I’ve given everything. It’s never enough. Don’t you see that? It’s never enough.”
Illya rose from his seat reaching out his hand. “Please, Napoleon…let me help……”
UNCLE’s CEA, swatted Illya’s hand away and reached across the table grabbing him by the throat. Solo suddenly felt the sharp sting of a needle being jammed into his thigh. Looking down with astonishment he saw a clear liquid being forcefully injected into his body. He turned to view his assailant and saw the face of Dr. Cameron Weiss who was now withdrawing the syringe and stepping back to face him.
“Camy?” Solo whispered. A look of confusion and betrayal came over his face.
“Let go now, Napoleon. Everything is going to be ok.” She said soothingly, placing a hand on Solo’s shoulder as he slumped down into a chair.
Dr. Weiss watched Napoleon fight hard to maintain consciousness. His head fell backward and he blinked rapidly trying to clear his head. Solo looked up, trying to reach out and find her arm, a look of hurt still on his face.
“Camy…….no…………..” he slurred. And then, Napoleon Solo slipped into darkness.
- * * * * * * * * * * * .
Sourly, Napoleon addressed them, “Don’t let me interrupt anything.”
Cameron responded first. “Hello, Napoleon. Glad to see you up this afternoon. How did you sleep?”
“Involuntarily, I believe.” was the curt reply. “What the hell did you do to me, Cameron? Or maybe the better question is why?”
“Mr. Solo.” Cameron began, standing up. “I am here in New York on special assignment…an assignment I have every intention of completing successfully. The outcome of this assignment requires not only your presence but your cooperation. Seeing as how your cooperation was in question yesterday, I took the necessary measures to ensure your compliance. As you know, this will all go a lot better if you agree to work with me, however, I am prepared to remain here as long as necessary until you come to that conclusion.”
“Fine.” Solo retorted. “Stay as long as you want. But don’t count on me to stay with you. In case you missed the news flash; I am out, Dr. Weiss. Done. I don’t want anything more to do with any of you. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some things to pack before I leave.” Napoleon turned to go back to the bedroom.
“Unfortunately, that is not one of your options here.” Cameron said. “We have agents outside the front door as well as your alternate exit to make sure you stay right where you are, Napoleon. You will remain here until I say otherwise. If you choose to take issue with that, you’ll find yourself on the wrong end of a sleeping dart with a massive headache awaiting you 2 hours later. And in the end, you’ll still be exactly where you are right now.”
“This is not your problem, Cameron.” Solo shouted back. “I do not work for UNCLE anymore. You have no right to keep me here and I don’t want your help.”
Dr. Weiss did not back down. “Listen, Napoleon, I don’t care whether you work for UNCLE or not. Frankly, your wishes at this point are immaterial. You are in deep trouble my friend, and what’s more, I’m sure you know it.”
Cameron crossed the room to stand in front of Napoleon, yanking his hands up. “Care to tell me why your hands shake uncontrollably? How about the way your clothes hang on you like a POW? Not enough?” she marched over to the trash can and kicked it over, watching assorted bottles fall out. “How about your attempts to self-medicate, Napoleon? How is that going? And while we’re at it, you haven’t exactly been the model of self-control lately. You tried to throttle your boss…oh excuse me, you’re ex-boss 2 days ago and you’ve got circles under your eyes the size of potato sacks. You’re irritable and withdrawn…. you break out in a cold sweat at the mention of an assignment. You’re angry as hell and don’t have one single clue about how to deal with it. Now…you look me in the eye right now and tell me you don’t need help.”
Solo kicked the coffee table and flipped it over sending books, glasses, magazines, and Chinese food flying. He moved quickly to the kitchen reaching up to the liquor cabinet and found it empty. Dr. Weiss followed him.
“That’s not an option anymore either.” she called out.
“Jesus!” Solo yelled, slamming his cut hand on the countertop.
He grabbed his hand, wincing, and retreated back to the bedroom slamming the door with enough force to make all the lamps in the apartment shake. Illya stood up.
“Um, what was that you said again about a calm voice and not backing him into a corner?” he asked innocently.
Cameron looked over gave and him a quick wink. “Strategy, Illya. A little thing called strategy.”
- * * * * * * * * * *
Cameron came in towards him but remained silent, sitting down in one of the room’s comfortable chairs. After a few minutes, Napoleon swallowed hard and spoke, barely above a whisper.
“I can’t sleep, Camy.”
“I know.” She replied simply.
Solo remained standing, looking out the window. “It……….they always start…..” Napoleon fell silent.
“Nightmares.” Cameron said. Napoleon only nodded. “We’re going to have to find out what those are about, Napoleon.”
“Yes.” He replied, tears welling in his eyes. Napoleon sat down in the chair next to Cameron. He turned towards her with a look of dread on his face.
“It will get worse before it gets better.” She said truthfully.
“God, Camy, I’m so tired.” Solo said weakly.
“Let me help, then.” The doctor said, opening her hand to reveal two small white pills.
Napoleon was silent. Cameron joined him in the silence quietly waiting for her friend to make his decision. She knew how inherently opposed agents were to sedatives of any kind but Napoleon had reached a crossing point. He would have to decide to trust her. He would have to relinquish control to her and acknowledge that she, for now, knew what was best for him. Such a leap was difficult for a man like Solo…it went against all of his training, but Cameron was confident he could take that important step in time and she was content to wait until Napoleon was willing. There could be no other way.
Napoleon sighed and took the 2 pills from her hand, looking at her for some kind of reassurance. She smiled at him and was pleased to see him smile slightly in return. They had a long way to go, but it would be all right. She felt sure of it.
Napoleon took the medication with a couple of swallows of water from a glass on the table.
“C’mon slugger.” Cameron joked. “To bed with you.” She linked arms with Napoleon and steadied him as he climbed under the covers. She sat down on the bed next to him and touched his cheek softly, looking deep into his eyes.
“You know how it is now……no arguments, right?”
“Ok.” Cameron nodded in return and sat with her hand on his arm as he drifted off to sleep.
- * * * * * * *
“Good morning, Sleeping Beauty.” He said with a smile.
“Illya. What are you still doing here?” Solo asked still buried in the covers.
“Isn’t it obvious? I’m on vacation.” The Russian replied.
“Some vacation.” Napoleon commented.
“You have your ideas of fun and I have mine, Napoleon.” He shrugged.
Looking Solo over, Illya said. “Listen, I doubt the ladies will be able to control themselves with your current display of scruffy manliness. A shower and shave for you is in order, my friend.”
“Ladies?” Napoleon asked.
“Indeed. Dr. Ray just arrived with what seems to be a medical mini-lab and I believe an in-depth physical is on the schedule.”
Napoleon rolled his eyes but took several deep breaths and remembered his promise to Cameron. He took his time in the shower and managed to get a fairly decent shave in with one minor nick. He dressed in khaki pants, white shirt and a navy sweater and sat down out of sheer exhaustion. After a minute to collect himself, he headed into the living room.
Dr. Weiss and Dr. Ray were talking over a report while having a cup of tea. Illya, unbelievably, was in the kitchen rooting around in drawers and taking something out of the oven.
“If that’s something you’ve prepared, we’re all doomed.” Solo commented.
“Relax, it’s take out, reheated. I won’t be responsible for any further deterioration of your health, Napoleon.” Kuryakin smirked.
Elizabeth, Cameron, Illya, and Napoleon gathered at a table to share a bite. Napoleon took a relatively small amount of lasagna on his plate and attempted a few bites before pushing it aside. Cameron noticed but didn’t comment. It was too early for that and she wanted to pick her battles. Napoleon’s appetite would come back in time. Solo spoke to Cameron.
“Am I to assume the prison guards are still on duty outside, Warden Weiss?”
“They are, Napoleon.” Cameron said cheerfully.
“So much for trust.”
“Trust must be earned, Mr. Solo” Elizabeth piped up. “Besides, it’s one of a very few compromises we had to make with Alexan……..” she abruptly stopped not wanting to bring UNCLE into the conversation.
Solo dropped his fork loudly and stared at Cameron. Before he could speak she skillfully smoothed things over.
“Not to worry, Napoleon. All of us are here on our own time. When we are done, and you are back to your charming, handsome, capable self…..all decisions will be in your hands and your hands only.”
Napoleon appeared to relax. “Come to think of it,” he asked. “How did you manage to get permission to bypass headquarters?”
Liz and Cameron looked at each other and laughed, “We didn’t ask!”
“Elizabeth,” Napoleon was curious. “What about UNCLE’s medical resources?”
Illya jumped in playfully. “Oh don’t worry, you’ll get the bill.”
With trouble averted, Dr. Weiss brought over her notes and started to brief the small group on the basic plan she had developed.
“Napoleon, I’ve talked with both Elizabeth and Illya extensively about the last month or so. I’ve gone over your assignments and the accompanying trauma symptoms you’ve developed. I’ve gone over all the reports. First, I’d like to get a complete medical exam and run some tests. The nature of the drug used on you in India has me thinking there might be some residual effects going on and that certainly isn’t helping. Dr. Ray will take a number of blood samples and we should know about any lingering effects of the hallucinogen used on you by tonight. Elizabeth is going to handle the physical part of your recovery and you’ll work with me on the emotional part.”
“And I, of course, am here for housekeeping purposes.” Illya said with a straight face.
“God help us all.” Solo chuckled.
“In the meantime, Elizabeth and I both agree we should get you on an IV for hydration and nutrition. That will give us a head start on getting a little of your strength back. You and I haven’t talked at all so we’ll start on that right after your physical. She paused. “And Napoleon, initially there will be a lot of prescribed rest.”
“An interesting use of words, Camy” Napoleon observed. “You mean I have to be knocked out.”
“Call it what you will, Napoleon. I’ve looked at this from every possible angle. My feeling is that your trauma point has something to do with the assignment in India. I don’t believe that you even fully remember what that might be, but we’ll explore that together. If you can’t remember, we’ll look at other options. Either way, you will handle things better if you are fairly well rested. The nightmares you experience simply won’t allow you to get the sleep that you need right now.” She explained carefully.
Napoleon appeared to mull this over and then looked to his closest friend, Illya, for comment. The Russian nodded. “It’s a good plan, Napoleon. Let’s go ahead with it. I’ll be right here." Satisfied, Solo turned back to the two physicians.
“Let’s get started then.”
- * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Solo was true to his word and obedient with her frequent orders for sedation. Secretly he was relieved to have a break from the nightmares although he knew the time was coming when these would have to be faced. While Napoleon made progress, Cameron was meticulous in controlling topics of discussion in the apartment. Nothing had been specifically said, but no one, Solo included, ever brought up Waverly, UNCLE, or the future.
The agents posted at the doors disappeared midway through the week. Cameron had even allowed Napoleon to leave the apartment to do some light jogging outside on the condition that Illya remained by his side. Both men found this relaxing and enjoyable.
Cameron’s memory work with Solo was a little slower to progress and she had started to push a bit more. They worked twice a day at reconstructing the events that took place in India and Dr. Weiss felt as though she knew exactly where the “trauma point” lay. In the mornings, she would start Napoleon from the beginning of the mission, asking him to recall the tiniest details from the moment he left UNCLE Headquarters in New York. They worked on what he saw, what he heard, smells, colors, weather, food he ate, people, and conversations. Every day she would have him repeat the story and it seemed each time he would recall more information. Typically this would take up to 3 hours in the morning.
After lunch, Napoleon would sleep for a bit and then they would begin again, this time starting from the very end of the mission, and working backwards. Dr. Weiss called this technique “sandwiching” the trauma point and it had been successful in helping her pinpoint a very specific stress origin point in most cases.
A very clear picture was starting to emerge. Everything had been fairly routine up until a gun battle in the depths of a Thrush supply building. Solo initially left the UNCLE Delhi office alone for reconnaissance. Once in Bangalore, he mapped the entire Thrush complex and skillfully maneuvered to sabotage the security systems moving in and out of the various buildings at will. This, in preparation for an all out assault by a small group of UNCLE agents along with Napoleon scheduled for the next day. The night before the mission, Napoleon returned to his hotel room to find Angelique waiting for him in his bedroom. They spent the night together and parted ways in the morning.
As far as the specific details around the gun fire during the raid, Napoleon consistently stumbled. Initially, Napoleon’s stress levels started to rise when describing his arrival at UNCLE’s Delhi office. Cameron had him close his eyes and breathe deeply but perspiration always broke out leaving him soaked. Different parts of his body would jerk almost like a seizure, but Napoleon seemed unaware of it. Sometimes he would rise and pace back and forth; a nervous energy coming out of him seemed to fill the whole room. Solo’s anxiety continued to escalate and his upper body would begin to shake. It was then that Dr. Weiss would start to back off and try to settle her patient back into a more relaxed state. Invariably this would leave Napoleon highly frustrated and agitated as he struggled to remember details but found them hopelessly illusive. Over time, Cameron desensitized Solo to the point where he could remain somewhat calm, until the time in the retelling where Angelique joined him in his hotel room. He remembered their lovemaking explicitly but seemed to lose all details the next morning.
Cameron pushed Napoleon to this point several times, but could make no further progress without him completely falling apart. His only memories of the actual shooting were of three UNCLE agents shooting from the upper level of the building down to the open ground level where several THRUSH agents were bunkered in. Solo was also on the ground level shooting at the enemy from across the warehouse. He remembered firing from a prone position. At this point in the description, Napoleon’s heart pounded as if it was coming through his chest and the fear in his eyes could only be relieved by Cameron having him lay on the couch while she placed her hands on his chest and gently coached him to slow his breathing down. Sometimes he would clutch her arm, his eyes intensely begging for her help. These sessions left both of them exhausted.
That night at dinner, Napoleon seemed especially tired and excused himself early. Cameron made the difficult decision to let him go without sedatives for the night. If she couldn’t make any more progress during daytime, maybe it was time to see if his recurring nightmares could shed any light on what happened in India. In the meantime, she was waiting for reports on the affair to arrive from India. Illya had been checking for them at headquarters periodically and at this point, anything that provided concrete information on the incident would have been a godsend. They were running out of options.
Illya arrived back at Napoleon’s apartment that night along with Dr. Ray who was dropping by to update her medical files. They found Cameron plowing through some leftovers while standing in the kitchen. She waved them in, happy to see both of them after a long day.
“Hello Cam,” Illya said. “How did things go today?”
“About the same Illya. We keep hitting the same brick wall. I don’t know how much more I can push Napoleon on this.” She replied flatly. “If those reports don’t help us out the only other idea I have is hypnosis.”
Illya scowled at the idea. “Just a minute…..both Napoleon and I have been on the receiving end of attempted hypnosis and believe me nothing good can come of it….if it even works at all.”
Cameron shook her head. “I’m guessing that was hypnosis where suggestions were being planted against your will. I’m talking about something completely different, Illya. We’ve come a long way on hypnosis. Hypnotherapy is now used quite often in neuroscience circles where memories have been blocked. It’s a useful tool and it just might come down to trying something like that if we…………..”
Dr. Weiss’s comments were interrupted by loud, blood curdling screams coming from the bedroom. The three of them rushed in to see Napoleon thrashing in bed as if being attacked from all sides. The sheets were ropes around him from head to toe. His body flailed about frantically and he was drenched in sweat.
Illya and Cameron ran to him on different sides of the bed and Elizabeth rushed to get her medical bag. Cameron tried to grasp one of Solo’s arms and wake him as Illya grabbed Napoleon from the other side. They held him gently in the bed, desperately trying to bring him to consciousness. Napoleon’s eyes opened but he had the same crazed expression Illya had seen in Waverly’s office. Elizabeth came towards them with a syringe and looked at Cameron. Dr. Weiss shook her head, hoping they could ride this out.
“Napoleon! Come on, Napoleon, wake up!” Cameron said. “Wake up! We’re here…wake up! Napoleon!”
Illya continued to try and reach his friend. “We’ve got you Napoleon…..….take it easy….”
They noticed Napoleon responding with a slight relaxation in his upper body. His eyes regained some focus and seemed to recognize them but as Solo came to; he became disturbed at the recollection of his nightmare. His breathing became almost a pant and he shook his head back and forth trying to distance himself from the dream. Cameron and Illya still held him. His face drained of color. Cameron moved closer, holding him tight.
“Tell it, Napoleon. Now. What happened?” She said forcefully.
“I can’t……….don’t…..don’t….” he gasped in terror.
“Now, Napoleon. All of it.” She pressed.
“No.” he pleaded. “Please…….I can’t…….no!”
Illya attempted to calm Solo. “Napoleon…..look at me. I’m here. We’re all here…take it easy….you’re safe…...come on, breathe now.”
Napoleon closed his eyes. “It’s all dark……….dark……it comes from all sides. It’s dark.” He started.
“Where are you?” Cameron urged.
“I don’t know….I don’t know….” His voice rose.
“Ok” Cameron said. “It’s dark…what is coming, Napoleon?”
“Shots…..all of them….from all over…..I can’t….”
“Are you shot?” she interrupted.
“No…no……...God, it’s the car……it….it runs me down…I can’t get away from it.” Solo croaked.
Cameron pushed on. “What car, Napoleon?"
Napoleon started to sag in their arms and tears ran down his face. “God, no……you should be gone…..”
“Who? Napoleon….who is it….who should be gone?” Cameron asked.
“I don’t know……..I don’t know……..” Solo yelled.
“Ok, ok…..that’s enough for now.” Cameron soothed. “Just relax now….it’s ok…..you did well, Napoleon……breathe, ok?”
Solo slowly opened his eyes and looked at Illya perplexed. “Illya……..what’s happening?”
Kuryakin slowly let go of Napoleon’s arm. “I don’t know…..but it’s ok….you’re doing ok……just breathe.”
They all sat in silence trying to make sense of the nightmare. Elizabeth came forward slowly and spoke softly.
“Hey, you’re drenched. Let’s get you a shower, all right?”
Napoleon nodded and swung his legs onto the floor tentatively. He was helped into the bathroom and turned the faucets on, still looking a little dazed. Liz, Illya, and Cameron headed into the living room to make tea. While Solo was still in the shower, the three compared notes.
“What do you think, Cam?” Illya asked.
“Well, he’s never mentioned much about the shots before and I have no idea what the thing is about a car. I have no idea who the person is either.” Cameron shook her head. “But as frightening as this is, it’s progress. Napoleon knows what happened. It’s there somewhere. He just can’t access it right now.”
“Do we really have to access it? I mean, can’t we just help him to forget?” Illya suggested.
“Not if we want him to be better. Usually when a traumatic event happens that is suppressed, it’s the patient’s way of protecting himself. The event is just too difficult to bear. The problem is, when the event is suppressed over time, it tends to become magnified or exaggerated.” Cameron shared.
Liz said. “Until the damn breaks.”
Dr. Weiss nodded. Napoleon entered the room with a soft, white robe fastened around him. He was using a bath towel to dry his dark hair and the color had returned to his face. He pulled a chair up to the table and accepted some tea from Dr. Ray.
“I hope we don’t have to do that again.” He said meekly.
Dr. Weiss smiled at him and said. “I think it’s time to take another step, Napoleon. You can’t take this much longer and we’re close…really close.”
“Jesus, Camy…I don’t think I want to know about a next step after this,” he admitted.
“Napoleon, now listen.” She said carefully. “There’s been a lot of progress on this over the past ten years and it’s been helpful to a lot of people. I’d like to try hypnotherapy.”
The word hung in the air.
“Yes….you see, your trauma point revolves around the shooting. We know that. But for protection, your brain has put you more or less in a state of disassociation from what actually happened that day. Hypnotherapy will let us tap into your imaginative memory to access what your brain has blocked.”
She explained. Napoleon sighed and rubbed both hands over his eyes. Sensing his apprehension, Dr. Cameron Weiss grabbed his hand and looked Napoleon right in the eye.
“Do you trust me?”
“I do.” Napoleon replied.
“Then take this last step with me.” She held eye contact with her long time friend and waited.
After a long pause, Napoleon spoke. “When?”
- * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
She and Dr. Elizabeth Ray had an appointment with Mr. Waverly at UNCLE Headquarters that morning before the hypnotherapy session scheduled for the afternoon. She’d charged Illya with the responsibility of keeping Napoleon occupied while they met with Waverly. Cameron didn’t want to take any chances of Solo becoming anxious before their session and didn’t want him to even know about the meeting with Waverly.
Napoleon called out to Cameron and Illya alerting them that breakfast was ready. As Cameron arrived at the breakfast table, she saw Napoleon had added a sharp looking tie to his outfit and was prepared to formally serve them. The table setting was beautiful. Illya sat and dug in with gusto as soon as Napoleon set his plate down. Cameron preferred to take in the delightful visual before starting. There was a full platter of freshly cut fruit in the middle of the table and squeezed orange juice by each setting. Delicious hot coffee steamed from three mugs on the table. Napoleon brought her a plate of beautiful, freshly baked breakfast crepes with scrambled eggs, roasted red peppers, and feta cheese. He bowed playfully as he served her.
“…And for you, madam.” he smiled.
Cameron was overwhelmed and delighted to see Napoleon looking and feeling so well. She secretly hoped that the rest of the day would continue that way.
“Oh, waiter” she called to Napoleon before he sat down.
“Madam?” Napoleon responded, again bowing.
Cameron reached over to grab Napoleon’s hand and looked up into his expressive brown eyes.
“Will you marry me?” She asked teasingly.
“Of course, madam. Your every wish is my command!” Napoleon answered, chuckling softly.
When breakfast concluded, Dr. Weiss returned to her bedroom to collect some papers and prepare for her meeting. When she reentered the living room, Napoleon and Illya were deeply engaged in a chess game. Again, Cameron was pleased to see her friend involved in an activity that stimulated his mental acuity. Napoleon was better. She headed out the door and looked back once more at the two friends, and sighed.
For Napoleon, one more step to go.
- * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
“Ready to enter the lion’s den?” she asked Dr. Weiss.
“I am if you are.” Cameron replied. “I’m glad we’re in this together! What’s with meeting in his private study?”
“Usually that’s a peace offering.” The doctor answered. “Hopefully he won’t be in one of his more crusty moods.” Elizabeth shared.
Lisa Rogers let them know that Waverly was ready for them. As they entered the study, Dr. Ray looked back at her and asked,
“You have that archived film I asked for?”
“I do, Dr. Ray.” She replied. “Just let me know when you’re ready.”
The two women stepped into the room and Alexander Waverly rose to greet them. He extended his hand to shake both of their hands and welcomed them kindly. He poured coffee for the two before pouring for himself and offered them a seat at a small, round table.
“Dr. Weiss, it’s very good to see you. Thank you so much for coming to New York. How is Mr. Solo’s treatment progressing?”
Cameron gave her honest assessment. “I think things are going very well, Alexander. Given the state he was in, Napoleon is remarkably resilient. We still have one major hurdle to clear but I’m hopeful.”
“You believe that Mr. Solo will come back to top form, then?” Waverly asked.
“More than back.” Cameron replied.
“And your recommendations?” The old man asked expectantly.
Cameron responded evenly, “I have none.”
“I beg your pardon?” Cameron repeated herself and explained. “I have none, Alexander. Whether Napoleon returns to UNCLE or not makes no difference to me. Frankly, with what has happened to him, I’d stand up and applaud the man if he told you all to go to hell. I’m concerned only for his happiness and well-being.”
“I see.” Waverly answered. Silence.
Dr. Ray cleared her throat and tried to ease the tension. “Alexander, should Napoleon elect to return to UNCLE, there might be some ways we can prevent such a situation from happening again.
“Oh? Please proceed then, Dr. Ray.”
“Alexander, I wonder if you have a realistic idea about what your Section II agents are often exposed to out in the field. Let me see if I can enlighten you.” Elizabeth began carefully. She pushed a button and asked Miss Rogers to run the short film. “I have here some film recovered from a Thrush prison during “The Welbeck Abbey” affair last February.” Elizabeth said. “Do you recall that affair, Alexander?”
“If memory serves, I believe Thrush was attempting to locate my private entrance to UNCLE Headquarters in hopes of breeching security.” Waverly replied.
“That’s right.” The doctor replied. “This is what happened when Mr. Solo refused to reveal that information.”
The screen lit up to show a grainy, fairly unfocused scene in black and white, apparently filmed in a small Thrush holding cell. Napoleon was facing the wall, his arms manacled above his head. His captor lashed him repeatedly with a whip and his shirt had been sliced open enough that blood was streaming down his back. After at least twenty lashes, his captor tired and Solo was released. He sank to the concrete floor. The nearby guards swarmed him and kicked him viciously, apparently enjoying their opportunity to lay into UNCLE’s CEA. Elizabeth again pressed the intercom and spoke to Lisa Rogers.
“Miss Rogers, would you run that again and add in the audio?” She asked.
Waverly spoke softly. “That’s not necessary, Elizabeth.”
“Yes it is, Alexander.” She said sternly.
The screen came alive again this time with anguished screams and moans as Napoleon endured the cruel torture. He fell to the ground and was silent. The only remaining sounds on the film were from the laughs and jeers of the guards who continued to inflict pain on the downed agent.
“Good God.” Waverly mumbled, clearly distressed.
“Alexander, this is the reality out there.” She began. “You have the luxury of sitting here in your protected surroundings, moving agents around like chess pieces while they are often subjected to terribly cruel and horrific things in order to bring success to their missions. Did you see what Mr. Solo endured to protect UNCLE…..to protect you? Can you see he would willingly lay down his life for you without a second thought? Don’t you think you owe him something in return for that kind of loyalty, Alexander?”
Waverly turned to fact the two women. “I understand, Doctor Ray. But this is the job that Mr. Solo accepted. This is what he…..”
“That argument only goes so far, Alex.” Elizabeth interrupted. “I’ve watched how Mr. Solo manages the well-being of our agents. He has an excellent understanding of what it takes to keep them functioning well in the field, plus the compassion and empathy to know when they can’t. He doesn’t view them as some kind of disposable resource that can be used up and carelessly tossed aside. I don’t know if Napoleon will come back to us, but if he does, you sure as hell better make it your business to see he is taken care of like everyone else around here is. You could stand to learn a thing or two from him in that regard, Alexander. I treated Napoleon after this affair. Do you know how long it was before you sent him out on another assignment?”
Waverly remained silent.
“One day. He had one day off.” Elizabeth sighed.
Waverly fumbled over his next words. “It seems you’ve given me quite a lot to think about here, Elizabeth. I’m afraid I’ve been very remiss in regards to Mr. Solo.”
Cameron took the opportunity to address UNCLE’s Chief. “It’s something that can be fixed, Alexander, should Napoleon decide to return.” Dr. Weiss paused thoughtfully and then continued. “Alexander, what do you want for Napoleon?”
“What are your hopes for him in the future?” Cameron rephrased.
“Mr. Solo will take over for me.” He replied. “He’s already been selected for that, groomed for that if you will. That’s common knowledge.”
“I’m talking about as a man, not an agent. Would you like to see him marry, and have a family, as you have?” Dr. Weiss asked quietly.
Waverly looked out the window of his study, sighed and nodded to the two women.
“I see what you’re saying, Cameron. You’ve both given me a lot to think about. I only hope your advice to me has not been too late. It would be terrible if we lost Mr. Solo due to my insensitivity and callousness.”
Cameron smiled knowing their objective with Mr. Waverly had been accomplished. “We’ll know about that soon enough.”
- * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Cameron had asked Elizabeth to be present during Napoleon’s session specifically to monitor his vitals during hypnotherapy. She’d frequently done this herself but preferred to have someone else there so she could focus on guiding the session. Illya and Napoleon stepped through the door not five minutes later, both clad in sweats and breathing hard from their run. Napoleon headed to his bedroom for a shower and Illya used the shower in Cameron’s room.
It was time to get ready and Cameron prepared a comfortable area in the living room where the session would take place. Elizabeth got out her blood pressure cuff, stethoscope, and a portable EKG unit that would monitor Solo’s heart rate. Dr. Weiss pulled up two chairs to the sofa and had a notepad ready for Illya to use in transcribing dialogue during the afternoon. She folded up Solo’s shoulder harness and his empty UNCLE Special and placed it discreetly on the couch. Satisfied that everything was ready, both women moved to the dining room table to await Solo and Kuryakin.
Illya reached for the brown envelope once all four of them were seated. “This arrived at headquarters this morning and was couriered over. All we have is the shooting schematics and ballistic reports so I don’t know if it will shed much light on the situation.”
He spread the paper out on the table and began explaining the layout of the Thrush storage building. First he pointed to UNCLE’s men.
“Here, lying down on the ground floor is Napoleon who is designated “U1.” Everyone else is relative to him. So, the other UNCLE agents are on the second floor at 3:00 from Napoleon’s position.” Illya pointed to his right. “The Thrush agents are T1, T2, T3 and are on the first floor at 12:00 to Napoleon. Eventually, one other Thrush agent appears on the 2nd floor, 9:00 to Napoleon.”
Napoleon stood up, feeling slightly queasy, and spoke to the three. “I…..ah….I think I’ll step outside on the balcony a minute and get some fresh air.”
The others nodded with understanding. Illya continued. “Down at the bottom here, it tells us the sequence of the shooting. Napoleon shot three times at T1, T2, and T3…killing one operative. He then had a “trigger pattern” shooting at T4 who came out on the 2nd floor after the incident began.”
Cameron stopped Illya at that point. “Trigger pattern? Illya, what does that mean?”
The Russian explained. “All enforcement agents are taught to use lethal force as little as possible. We use sleep darts if we can, then shoot bullets to injure if that is required to control the scene. The exception to that is in the case….say…..of an ambush or surprise attack.”
“And then you have a plan…….” Cameron started.
“Not so much of a plan, as an ingrained response.” Illya said. “From the start of survival school we are taught in the case of an ambush to respond quickly and lethally. We don’t think. Each agent has their own “trigger pattern” and we practice this response over and over in every possible scenario. Mine, for example, is three shots, top to bottom, center mass. It’s automatic.”
“Jesus, Illya, remind me never to throw a surprise party for you two.” Cameron gulped. “What is Napoleon’s trigger pattern?”
Kuryakin responded, “Three shots in a tight triangle, mid-forehead.”
Elizabeth summarized. “So we know that T4 was a surprise, because Napoleon used his “trigger pattern.”
“Precisely.” Illya responded.
Cameron sat back in her chair thinking. “Well, it does clarify some of the events and it will help me guide Napoleon through the shooting. I think it’s time we got started.”
Illya stepped outside to the balcony telling Napoleon it was time and they gathered at the couch where Cameron and Elizabeth had set up. Illya sat in a chair next to Dr. Weiss and Elizabeth next to Napoleon on the couch as she started hooking him up to the medical monitoring equipment. Solo looked a little like a lost soul as all the preparations were made around him. He looked to Illya, who nodded firmly at him, trying to reassure his friend.
“Napoleon, please put on your shoulder harness.” Cameron instructed. “Then place the gun on your right leg. I’ll give further directions once you’re under.”
Elizabeth turned on the EKG machine and the rapid beeps of Napoleon’s pounding heart could be heard loudly in the room. He jumped and laughed nervously as Elizabeth turned the sound down and watched her screen.
“All right. Let me tell you how this will work and then we’ll go through some relaxation exercises before I put you under.” Cameron began softly. She put a reassuring hand on Napoleon’s knee. “Once you’re relaxed, I’ll put you under for just a minute and we’ll practice coming out of hypnosis quickly should your vitals become too elevated or in case I think the situation is too overwhelming. Ok?”
Napoleon nodded and waited for Cameron to continue. “If I want you to come out the hypnotic state, you’ll hear the phrase “back out.” Then you’ll hear me count to three and you will immediately wake up. Let’s give just that part a try.”
Cameron had Solo sit back and breathe deeply. She spoke softly to him and gradually he seemed to drift off to sleep, but remained sitting up. She asked him a few simple questions and he responded to each with a clear “yes” or “no.” Cameron seemed satisfied and instructed him to “back out.” She counted to three and Napoleon was instantly awake. He looked to the others inquisitively, wondering what had just happened.
“That was excellent, Napoleon. You did great.” She said. “How do you feel?”
“Fine, Camy.” He answered. “Fine.”
“Ok, then don’t worry about a thing, Napoleon.” She encouraged. “We’re all here and I won’t let anything happen to you. I promise.”
It was time.
- * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
“Napoleon, I want you to go all the way back to your hotel room the morning of the shooting in India.” She said. “Are you there?”
“Yes.” He said, eyes closed.
“Describe where you are and what you see.” Cameron directed.
“I’m in the hotel room with Angelique. I am dressing and getting ready for the mission.”
“Good.” She replied. “Now listen carefully. You will now have the same conversation with Angelique as you did that morning. You will tell me everything you said. You will remember every word. Speak every word out loud. Reach for your gun and put it in your holster just as you did that morning. Do you understand?”
Napoleon was silent for a second or two before he began speaking. A broad grin came across his face even as his eyes remained closed.
“No, no, sweet. It’s time for business, I’m afraid.” He said impishly. “Unfortunately play time is over.” Napoleon, still grinning, cocked his head slightly as if listening. “Hmmmmmmmmmm. As inviting as that sounds, I’m afraid I’ll have to decline. Duty calls, you know.”
Again there was a pause. Napoleon reached for his gun and started to put it in the shoulder harness. He stopped and held it out.
“My goodness, it seems that my clips have somehow disappeared. Now, love, you wouldn’t know anything about that would you?”
He held out his hand waiting to receive the stolen ammunition. “Thank you.” he said gallantly as he “put” the extra clips in his pocket.
Napoleon shrugged his shoulders as if putting on a jacket. He tugged at each of the “sleeves” of the jacket, straightening it. He lifted his chin and held it in the air remaining silent for a moment. His hand then patted an imaginary tie.
“Well now, this is absolutely perfect. This is almost as good a knot as my mother used to do.” Again Solo smiled heartily and chuckled. Napoleon then leaned forward, and whispered in Angelique’s ear. “Now sweetheart, I want you to do a small favor for me. After all we’ve meant to each other, that’s not much to ask, is it?”
He turned his head slightly to the left and was silent. “I want you to call in sick to work today. You see, I’m giving a little party over at your office very soon now, and I wouldn’t want you to get caught up in any unpleasantness.” He whispered smoothly. Again there was a long break as Napoleon “listened” to Angelique.
“Hmmmmmmmm, I see.” Napoleon continued. “Well I have a little saying of my own. “Those who think to run away, live to play another day” n’est ce pas?” Napoleon turned his head as if watching her walk to his right. He spoke again.
“Yes, well, be that as it may, I’ve arranged some transportation for you downstairs. The driver will take you to a lovely little café about 5 miles into town where you can enjoy a delicious breakfast, my treat of course, and then you may spend the day at your leisure.” Napoleon nodded his head as he listened. “Wonderful. I knew you’d see the wisdom of my ways.” He said affectionately. “Until next time, then, au revoir, darling.”
Napoleon was then silent. Dr. Weiss nodded as she listened and then gave Solo additional instructions
“All right, Napoleon. I want you to go to the warehouse now. You go into the warehouse and the shooting starts. I want you to take out your gun and fire just as you did that day. Tell me where you are; tell me who you are shooting at. Tell me everything that happens.”
Cameron looked over to Elizabeth who pointed her thumb up indicating Napoleon’s rising heart rate. Illya sat forward in his chair, transfixed at what was happening.
“Napoleon, do you hear me?” Dr. Weiss said.
“Yes.” He said haltingly.
“You will tell me everything. Do you understand?” she repeated.
Solo took his weapon out of the harness and pointed it straight in front of him. It shook terribly in his hand. He held it out and the gun clicked twice. He looked up and to his right. Cameron verified what the UNCLE report had said.
“There are 3 of your agents to your right on the second floor?”
“Napoleon.” She pressed. “Where do you fire next?”
Solo again straightened his gun in front of him and fired once. His breathing became sporadic gulps of air and tears started down his face. Dr. Weiss looked at a worried Dr. Ray who shook her head, signaling Cameron to stop. Dr. Weiss ignored Elizabeth and continued on.
“Now someone else comes in, Napoleon? What does he do? Tell me what he does?”
Napoleon gasped out. “He fires..…….he fires at…….. he….…….”
Before Cameron could get another question out, Napoleon turned his gun sharply to the left and fired upward three times.
“All right, Napoleon. The shooting is over. The shooting is over. What is happening now? The shooting is over.” Cameron urged Solo on.
Napoleon’s face was contorted in pain and tears continued to stream down his face.
“No……I can’t…..please…….” He begged. Cameron forced him to stay in the warehouse.
“What are you doing now? Tell it, Napoleon. Tell it right now.” Elizabeth interrupted.
“Cameron, please, enough.” Dr. Weiss shook her head in refusal.
“I………I………I send two men………”
“Where do you send them?” Cameron bellowed.
“Where the three Thrush men were killed?” Cameron offered.
“Yes.” Napoleon’s upper body shook.
“Where do you send the last agent, Napoleon? Where does he go?” Weiss pushed him relentlessly. Napoleon hesitantly pointed up and to his left.
“He goes to where the other Thrush man was? The one on the left? Is that it?”
Solo nodded, his grief inconsolable. He started speaking rapidly perhaps hoping he could escape the nightmare in front of him, if he only told it fast enough.
“I........he calls me….he… …..…..I look and he calls…..I climb the railing……. …..up to……...up where..….God, the car…..I can’t see…..he’s there.. ….. he’s dead……….you should be gone…..I………..I didn’t know………God, I didn’t know…….” Solo screamed until he had nothing left.
His head hung down. He was utterly spent and wasted. Cameron held her breath and prayed.
“It’s Angelique. I killed her.”
“Jesus Christ!” Cameron said incredulously. She sat back in her chair momentarily, stunned at the development. “Napoleon…back out. You hear me? Back out. One….two…..three.”
Napoleon opened his eyes slowly and raised his head. He looked at Cameron and shook his head, hoping beyond hope he was wrong. He looked at Cameron asking the question with his eyes. Was it true? She looked at him sadly and nodded. Within seconds the color drained from his face. He ripped the wires from his body and ran towards the bathroom vomiting violently. Cameron went to him as he sat back on the bathroom floor, hands covering his face. She knelt down to him and reached out her arms with compassion. Napoleon fell forward into her, racked with sobs. His face was buried in her shoulder as she enveloped him. She leaned her cheek against his head and closed her eyes, content to be there for him as long as he needed. His cries were unending.
She was there for all of them.
- * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
They had spent the last couple days in quiet conversation about revelations from the hypnotherapy session. As his strength improved, Napoleon seemed to enjoy long walks outdoors, sometimes talking about the mission in India, sometimes talking about the most inconsequential of things. Cameron thought she was watching someone come back to life before her very eyes. She dropped the groceries on the kitchen counter and opened the sliding doors to join her friend out on the balcony.
“Want some company?” she asked Napoleon.
“With you, always.” He replied.
“I picked up my plane ticket this morning. I’ll be heading back in two days.” She shared.
Napoleon opened his eyes and sat up. “Back to the ivory tower, I presume?”
Cameron smiled. “That and teaching, meetings with woeful graduate students, reports, conferences, and publishing research. Christ, it will take me six months to write up this case! You’re going to make me a very famous neuroscientist, Napoleon Solo."
“I aim to please.” Napoleon grinned.
She looked at him with curiosity. “What about you, Napoleon?”
“Well that’s the million dollar question now, isn’t it Camy?” he answered.
They were interrupted by Illya popping his head out the sliding doors. He’d returned to work two days ago and while not officially assigned on any missions, he made himself busy in the lab during the day. He was, of course, thrilled to see Napoleon recover. He fervently hoped Napoleon would return to UNCLE as his partner but vowed not to press his friend or try to influence his decision. Patience.
“Where’s lunch?” Kuryakin grumbled.
“Hello to you too, Illya”. Solo deadpanned.
Cameron giggled and told Illya to help himself to the food she brought in. Never one to linger for socializing, Illya disappeared into the kitchen. Napoleon mulled over his thoughts and spoke again of Angelique.
“You know it’s funny, she was the enemy…..but not the enemy. We had glorious times together. And even though we were on different sides, we always looked out for each other….it was like an unspoken agreement existed….like……there was…..…..”
He paused. Cameron looked out over the city. “I think the word you’re looking for is trust, Napoleon. Did you love her?” she asked sincerely.
“No….. but I did care about her.” He said truthfully. “And it occurred to me that she held up her end of our funny little agreement until the very end.”
“How so?” Cameron asked.
“She could have….and probably should have… taken me out with her first shot. From her position, I was completely exposed. I never would have seen it coming.” He said solemnly.
“Don’t ever forget that you held up your part of the bargain too, Napoleon.” Cameron said. “You tipped her off to the raid and arranged for her safety as well.”
“Yes.” He murmured. “Trust is a rare thing in this business, Camy.”
“I can’t even imagine.” She said honestly. “We all have to have it somewhere, though. Even spies.” There was silence between them. Napoleon reached out his hand and grabbed Cameron’s, smiling.
“I’m lucky to have it in the most important place of all, Camy.”
She raised her eyebrows to him, questioning. Napoleon Solo nodded his head towards the inside of the apartment. As Cameron looked in, she saw the venerable Russian wolfing down a sandwich at the dining room table. She watched him with a smile. Napoleon was right. Illya was his partner, friend, and most importantly, family. She couldn’t imagine one without the other. Napoleon seemed to be reading her mind.
“Now where else would you find someone whose idea of great vacation is to hang around a man having a nervous breakdown!!?” Napoleon laughed.
The two of them walked into the dining room to join Illya. Kuryakin sat relaxed with his suit jacket off, tie loosened and gun and communicator resting in the middle of the table. Napoleon and Cameron stood with their arms around each other, grinning and watched the Russian pack the food away. Illya stopped mid-bite and looked up at them sheepishly.
“Whummph?” he asked with a mouthful of food.
Dr. Cameron Weiss laughed out loud and knew she would remember this moment the rest of her life. She had never felt more important, or more proud of the work she did. She felt immensely grateful to know these two men…these brothers…. for whom she felt a special kind of love. Her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of Illya’s communicator suddenly beeping on the table. Without thinking, Napoleon grabbed it and responded.
“Open Channel D.”
Illya and Cameron smiled and nodded to each other, acknowledging the importance of Solo’s response. They had their answer.
Napoleon Solo was home.
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, Apr 26 2011, 2:47 AM EDT
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