written for Easter Egg Challenge 2014
Napoleon Solo hummed as he strolled down the concrete steps to DelFloria's Cleaners. The bell above the door tinkled merrily as he entered. “Tall and tan and young and lovely, the girl from Ipanema goes walking, and when she passes...”
Giuseppe DelFloria – one of seven nearly identical “Giuseppes” currently employed by UNCLE to screen customers approaching the secret entrance to the New York Headquarters – looked up. “Buongiorno, Signor Solo. You looking pretty chipper this morning. Gotta nice spring inna you step.”
The senior agent grinned back. “What's not to be happy about? The weatherman says it's going to be a gorgeous weekend.”
“Oh-ho! You gotta plans? A hot date, maybe?”
“You could say that. I'm sailing the Pursang up the Hudson to Cold Spring for a little R&R. She's been in drydock all winter, so it'll be the first time taking her out with the new set of sails.” He didn't mention that his companion for the weekend was the lovely Cynthia Radcliffe from R&D – she of the silky red hair and endless, perfect gams. Discretion was the better part of valor, after all.
“Itsa good, you gotta coupla day to relax. You an' Mr. K, you work-a too hard.”
“Yeah, well, don't tell that to Illya. He drew the short straw and has to man the fort all weekend.”
Giuseppe tsk-ed. “Oh, too bad.” He depressed the handle on the steam press, once, twice. The machine emitted a warm hissing sound. “Okay, you go on in. I don't see you, have a nice-a weekend.”
Napoleon's smile widened. “I plan on it.” With a wave, he stepped into the changing booth. He turned the hook on the paneled wall and watched it slide away, revealing the sleek inner sanctum of UNCLE HQ.
The receptionist – a stunner who Napoleon immediately resolved to get to know much better – reached for his badge. “I'm Melanie,” she said as she adjusted the yellow triangle on his lapel.
“Melanie – a very pretty name for a very pretty young woman.”
She giggled. “I'm afraid you'll have to do better than that, Mr. Solo. The other girls have already warned me about you.”
“I dare say, some of it's even true.”
Melanie blushed. “So I hear.”
“Of course, rumors don't tell the whole tale. Why don't you get to know me better before making a final decision? Dinner on Monday?”
“Well – ”
“We can go dancing at 21 afterward.”
Melanie cocked her head, intrigued. “You don't give up, do you?”
“Never. Seven o'clock?”
She sighed, and nodded. “Alright, Mr. Solo. Seven o'clock.”
“Wonderful.” Feeling inordinately pleased with himself, Napoleon sauntered down the hall to the office he shared with his partner. The door slid open at his approach.
Yeeeooow! YEEEEOOOOW! YEEEEEOOOOOW!
Napoleon's first thought was that Illya was practicing his Tibetan throat singing again. His second was that someone was strangling the Russian to get him to stop. “What the hell?!”
Illya glanced up from his paperwork. “Oh, hello, Napoleon. I did not hear you come in.”
“How could you with all that awful shrieking going on?”
Illya smiled. “You mean Jellyroll?”
The lightbulb went off in Napoleon's brain. “That's your cat making that horrible racket?”
“Uh-huh.” He pointed to the cat carrier discreetly placed beside the Xerox machine. An enormous Persian cat glared out from behind the bars, teeth bared in fury, its vicious-looking claws strafing the steel grate. “My apartment building is being fumigated this weekend. I couldn't very well leave Jellyroll there to be subjected to toxic fumes.”
“I suppose not,” Napoleon scowled. “Still, I'm surprised Security hasn't come in with guns blazing. Jesus, Illya, haven't you ever heard of boarding kennels?”
“Too expensive. Besides, Jellyroll can be – difficult – at times. He does not play well with strangers.”
“If I have to listen to another second of that infernal yowling, they'll have to cart me away to the funny farm in a snug white coat!”
Illya's eyes grew wide. "I am surprised at you, Napoleon. Have you no compassion for the small creatures of this world? As soon as Jellyroll realizes he is safe, he will calm down and go to sleep.”
"He'd better! I've got a ton of paperwork to finish by five o'clock.” The senior agent slid his chair as far away from the Xerox machine as the small space would allow, and sat down with a dissatisfied grunt. He began counting the minutes to the weekend.
The morning passed and, true to Illya's word, Jellyroll gradually ceased his protests. The room grew quiet, punctuated only by the careful scritch of pen on paper, and the breathing of the two men as they concentrated on completing their assigned paperwork.
Napoleon placed the last dossier into the Out Box, and sat back with a sigh, rolling his shoulders to relieve the tension. “I'm starving. What say we go get some lunch?”
“I thought you would never ask,” Illya replied readily. “Just let me feed Jellyroll.” He swiveled his chair to face the cat carrier. “Uh-oh.”
Napoleon turned. He looked down into an empty cage. “Where's the cat, Illya? WHERE'S THE CAT, ILLYA?”
“He – seems to have – escaped.”
“Well, you'd better find him, quick! That beast has already ruined three pairs of my best trousers –”
“He cannot have gone far. It is a very small office.” They looked under the desks and chairs, crawled behind the file cabinet, and checked the storage closet, all without success. “He is a magician, that one,” Illya sighed.
“He's a pain in the ass.” A sudden flash of movement caught Napoleon's eye. “There,” he whispered.
Illya's eyes noted the furry tip of a tail flicking out from under the base of the Xerox machine. Communicating with gestures, the two men flanked the machine and prepared to ambush the beast beneath. “Now!”
At that precise moment, the door slid open. “Gentlemen,” Mr. Waverly began, “ I thought it prudent to inform you that –”
With a hiss of delight, Jellyroll sprang from his hiding place, raking his claws along the inseam of Napoleon's trousers in his eagerness to escape. “Oh, damn! Not again!”
Illya lunged for the cat, but even his gymnast's speed was no match for the wily feline.“Chyort!” he cried as the beast eluded his grasp.
Jellyroll darted between Alexander Waverly's legs and, as the Old Man stumbled, flew out the door in a flash. Waverly toppled to the ground, landing on his temperamental left hip, felled like a mighty oak in a forest of lesser trees.
The two agents were at his side in seconds. Illya's face was pale. “Sir, are you –?”
“Doctor, now,” he growled, glaring up at the two men. “Explanations later.”
As they waited for Doctor Rousseau to arrive, they listened to Jellyroll's progress down the long corridor, his journey punctuated by shouts, shrieks, items clattering to the floor, and the occasional stream of curses, emphatically delivered in a variety of exotic tongues.
Alexander Waverly glared up at the two agents from his bed in Medical. “Well? What do you two men have to say for yourselves?”
Illya and Napoleon glanced at one another. “How are you feeling, sir?” Napoleon asked contritely.
The eyebrows descended like stormclouds upon the Old Man's face. “As you can see, Mr. Solo, I am not at my best. But perhaps you already surmised that?”
Napoleon correctly assumed that the question was rhetorical.
“We found Jellyroll,” Illya muttered. “Sleeping in the gymnasium. I have brought him to a kennel.”
“A wise decision, Mr. Kuryakin,” Waverly snapped, “albeit too late to avert my little mishap. I daresay the beast's adventure was exhausting. He could do with a rest. I know I can.” The Old Man attempted to sit up straighter, winced at the pain and thought better of it. He settled back against the pillow.
“The doctors tell me I am to be sidelined at home for the next two weeks with a badly bruised hip. As a result, Mr. Solo, your weekend leave is hereby cancelled. In fact, since you will be replacing me in the center chair for the next fourteen days, you will be working a double shift. Is that understood?”
“But sir –”
“Is. That. Understood?”
Napoleon bowed his head in acquiescence. “Perfectly, sir.”
“You, Mr. Kuryakin, will assist your partner in that endeavor. And no hiding out in the Lab.”
Illya nodded unhappily.
The eyebrows descended once more. “Well, gentlemen? What are you waiting for? Get on with it.”
They made their escape with as much dignity as the situation would allow, following the long corridor to the elevator. They did their best to ignore the chastising glances of the physicians and floor nurses along the way.
“I was going sailing this weekend,” Napoleon sighed. “With Cynthia Radcliffe. And I had a date to go dancing with Melanie from Reception on Monday.” He shook his head at the thought of what he would be missing. “I swear, Illya, I'm going to spend the next fourteen days getting even with you for messing up my life!”
“Your dedication inspires me.” Illya's blue eyes twinkled. “It could be worse, you know.”
“Jellyroll could work for THRUSH.”
Napoleon would have replied but, at that moment, the emergency claxons began to blare. “And so it begins.” The two men exchanged weary glances, and jogged down the hallway toward Waverly's Section I office.