The New York Times Affair

ACT I: Down the Rabbit-Hole

by Trudy A. Goold

"The Man From U.N.C.L.E." is copyright © MGM/UA; "The Equalizer" is copyright © Universal. No infringement of these copyrights is intended by this story.
"The New York Times Affair" is copyright © 1998, Trudy A. Goold.
This story may be distributed electronically, as long as this copyright notice remains intact.
This story is dedicated to my beta-reader, Anna Sawitzky, who first suggested doing a MFU/EQ Crossover, and who has contributed a great deal to this story - especially involving the personalities and reactions of the Equalizer characters. It is also dedicated to LRH Balzer, whose excellent MFU stories have afforded me hours of enjoyment, and whose wonderful "The MIA Affair" this story is a tribute to.

Prologue: "Let's go!"

Friday, April 5th, 1968
Thrush Laboratory; Catskill Mountains, NY

"I don't like this."

"You said that before," Napoleon Solo pointed out, glancing at his partner.

"And I'll say it again. I don't like this."

Napoleon sighed, shifting uneasily as he looked out the large observation window, eyeing Thrush's latest device again.

It was huge, about two stories tall, and its bulk added a menacing air to the apparently innocuous scene visible from the window. According to the information Section Five had managed to glean from intercepted Thrush communiqués, the device was supposed to allow Thrush to override communications between the American and Soviet spy satellites and their control centres on the ground. That would, in turn, allow them to seize control of the satellites and relay false information to the monitoring centres.

Truth to tell, he didn't like this part of the assignment any more than Illya did. Yes, they had to take care of this thing; but ever since they'd entered the lab complex, they'd both been feeling the subliminal hum of the generators powering the device, and it was very definitely getting on his nerves.

Added to that the fact that this was a Thrush laboratory... Napoleon grimaced. Last time he'd been in a Thrush lab, he'd spent almost a week in the infirmary recovering from their 'experiments'. "I don't either," he admitted.

"Then why are we doing this?" his partner demanded. Despite the question, he bent down to affix the last of the time-delay charges they'd been given underneath the monitoring console just next to the window. The others had been carefully planted throughout the main lab as they'd walked through on their way to the observation booth.

"Because we have no choice?" Napoleon asked rhetorically. "This thing needs to be destroyed before it becomes fully operational."

Illya sighed, his shoulders slumping as he stood up. "That would explain it, then."

Both of them turned back to watch the bustle on the main floor.

"Tell me again how this thing is supposed to work," Napoleon said. The silence was really beginning to unnerve him.

Illya looked exasperated. "I've told you, Napoleon, I don't understand it entirely myself. Dr. Jacobs is a genius in the field of quantum physics. All I do know is that it has something to do with probing the fourth dimen--"

The Russian broke off abruptly as an alarm started ringing loudly throughout the complex.

The partners looked at each other in concern.

"Do you think they discovered the guards?" Napoleon asked.

Illya glanced out the observation window. "I would say that's a good guess, and quite probably accurate," he returned, using the Thrush-issue gun he held in one hand to point to the commotion on the laboratory floor.

Following his partner's gaze, Napoleon recognized the two guards they'd knocked out earlier, both dressed only in black turtlenecks and shorts, the U.N.C.L.E. agents having taken their uniforms. "Uh oh," he muttered.

"You can say that again," Illya mumbled, making a quick adjustment to the timer. "We'd better get out of here."

"The back?" Napoleon asked, unlimbering his own gun.

Illya nodded in agreement. "It is still clear at the moment," he said, gesturing to the bank of monitors. There was no sign of anyone in the corridors leading out of the booth.

"Then let's go!"

They both slipped out the back door of the observation booth only moments before the group of Thrush guards climbed up from the main floor.

Ten minutes later, the alarm sirens were still ringing, and Napoleon and Illya were both starting to feel more than a little desperate. It was obvious that Thrush knew not only that U.N.C.L.E. agents had infiltrated the lab, but also that the agents were Solo and Kuryakin. It was pure luck, they both felt, that they hadn't yet actually encountered a patrol.

They stopped at a cross-corridor that - according to the blueprints they'd studied of the complex before the mission had started - should lead them to the exit just above the creek near where they'd hidden their car.

"How much time do we have left?" Napoleon asked, taking a quick look at his watch. 11:00am.

Illya also looked at his watch, his expression sober. "Five minutes, ten seconds," he replied grimly. "And I do not think we want to be here when the charges go off."

"No, I don't think so either," Napoleon agreed. "Come on."

The two of them hurried down the side corridor, but they hadn't gone more than two yards when a voice came from behind them.


The agents froze, and Illya shot a quick glance at Napoleon. Bluff? he asked silently.

Napoleon gave an almost imperceptible nod of assent.

Spinning around, thankful that the Thrush beret covered his distinctive thatch of blond hair, Illya pointed down the corridor and snapped, "They went that way! The U.N.C.L.E. agents!"

Most of the six-man patrol seemed to accept this, and started past Napoleon. The leader of the patrol, however, frowned. "You are certain?" he demanded.

"Of course I am!" Illya half-snarled. "We're going to lose them if we don't hurry!"

"True," the leader started, when one of the men happened to glance at Napoleon.

"Hey, you're--" he started, but Napoleon was already aiming his gun and fired a burst in the direction of the patrol before the Thrush could finish his sentence.

The leader of the patrol gaped at the scene for just a second, which was enough time for Illya to knock him out with a chop to the neck. Then, knowing they didn't have the time to try to be quiet, he fired at the two Thrushes still standing, killing them both.

Illya glanced at the bodies on the floor, and then looked back up at Napoleon, his expression rueful.

"Well," Napoleon said with a shrug, "so much for a quiet exit. Let's get a move on."

They took off at a run.

"Well, here we are," Napoleon said, pushing open the heavy steel door at the end of the corridor a few minutes later, relieved that they'd finally reached the exit. "So far, so good..."

"Napoleon..." Illya began.

Alarmed by the tone of his partner's voice, Napoleon turned back to look at him. "What is it?"

"We have a small problem... it's 11:05."

It took Napoleon a moment to realize exactly what Illya was telling him.

The blast shook the network of subterranean corridors, and Napoleon found himself staggering backward, toward the long drop from the ledge to the creek. He saw Illya launch himself forward, and felt his partner's hand grab his arm just before everything dissolved into a rainbow of colours, and from there into blackness.

Chapter 1: "What's a bird got to do with any of this?"

Friday, November 24th, 1989
Paris, France

Mickey Kostmayer swore under his breath as the man he was tailing dashed across the street. The way this guy is moving, you'd almost think he was trying to lose me! he thought irritably. What is his problem?

Things all over the world had gone crazy over the past few weeks. With the Berlin Wall down, and East and West Germany preparing to reunite, the entire political climate of Europe seemed to be racing towards a change of epic proportions. And, being with the Company, Mickey sometimes felt as if he was in the middle of it all.

Of course, if he was, he would undoubtedly know what the hell Schwartz thought he was doing. If Control was right about the contents of the microdot the German intelligence officer had promised them, then the man should be looking forward to getting it out of his hands, not trying to lose Mickey in a wild-goose chase through the Parisian streets.

The other man had ducked into a small café. Mickey strolled casually up to it and glanced in the window, smiling in satisfaction when he saw Schwartz sitting at a table near the back.

He opened the door and went in, giving Schwartz a grin as he slid into the seat opposite the German.

"You've gotten better, Schwartz," he said, trying to keep his tone as bland as possible, though he was unable to resist the sarcastic dig. No use letting the other man know just how irritated the two hours of dodging through the busy streets of Paris had made him.

"You shouldn't be here," Schwartz hissed.

Mickey gave him a look of innocent surprise. "Why not? You asked for someone to take the microdot off your hands. As I recall, we were supposed to meet at your hotel two hours ago."

"You have no idea what's going on here, Kostmayer. Just tell Control the information isn't what we thought it was."

"Then what is it?" Mickey demanded.

"That's none of your concern," Schwartz hissed.

Mickey frowned ever-so-slightly. Schwartz looked nervous - very nervous. Too much so. Hell, Schwartz was a trained espionage agent - one of Robert's and Control's contemporaries, in fact. So why on earth was he so bothered? Schwartz had always thrived on the game.

"Why don't you just give me the microdot, like we agreed, and then you can relax?" Mickey suggested easily.

Schwartz shook his head. "You don't understand, Kostmayer," he snapped, almost whispering. "This isn't something that you - or Control - can deal with. You don't know how. It's--"

Before the German could finish whatever he was trying to say, there was the sudden, surprising sound of gunfire from the street outside. Mickey half-whirled, dropping automatically into a crouch as one hand reached for the gun tucked into the back of his jeans. A figure appeared in the doorway of the café, wearing a dark jumpsuit, with a patch just over the left chest pocket. Mickey squinted - the sun in his eyes - but he didn't get a chance to see the emblem on the patch properly, as the figure pointed the gun he was holding in Mickey's direction and fired.

Mickey flung himself down flat on the floor and rolled behind an unoccupied table, getting ready to turn it over as a barricade. To his surprise, however, the figure spun and hurried back out of the café.

He was about to get up and follow when he heard a soft moan from nearby. Turning, he saw that Schwartz was down; judging from the way the blood was bubbling on his lips, the other man had been hit in the lung.

"Schwartz!" he hissed, scooting over to the German. "What--?"

Schwartz grabbed weakly for his arm. "Wallet... micro... driver's li--" He coughed, spitting up more blood. "Tell... uncle... Drossel..." His eyes rolled back, and Mickey didn't have to feel his pulse to know that Schwartz was dead.

And what the hell did he mean, tell his uncle 'Drossel'? Uh... Drossel; that's German for a type of bird, I think. What's a bird got to do with any of this? Mickey thought for a moment, shrugged to himself, and then reached into Schwartz's coat and pulled out his wallet, flipping it open to find the other man's driver's license. Now all I've got to do, he reflected, slipping the wallet into the pocket of his jacket, is get out of here without any problems with the gendarmes... Control'll be pissed off enough that Schwartz's dead, and that I can't identify who killed him; I don't want to have to need him to get my butt out of jail...

Catskills, NY

Illya opened his eyes slowly.

The last thing he could remember was frantically grabbing for Napoleon's arm to prevent him from falling off the ledge. Then... something - debris from the explosion, most likely - must have hit him on the head, because the scene in front of his eyes had exploded into a rainbow of colours, and then he'd blacked out.

Now... He was lying on something soft, probably a bed. To one side of him was a wall made of what appeared to be wood. Based on the angle of the light coming through the window, it was either mid-morning or mid-afternoon.

He sat up carefully, alert to any aches or pains he might have, and was surprised to find that aside from being a bit chilly, he felt perfectly fine. The chill could be explained by the fact that he was wearing only a dressing robe.

Having discovered that nothing else appeared wrong, he then looked around the room, and was relieved to see Napoleon lying on another bed by the opposite wall.

Standing up, however, took more energy than he had available, and he sat back down, feeling dizzy.

All right... the Russian thought to himself, running one hand through his hair. First of all, what happened? Did we manage to destroy the base? Second, where are we? Still in the Catskills? Did Thrush manage to capture us?

Before he could wonder about anything else, the door at the far end of the room opened, and a tall, stocky man entered. He didn't particularly look like a Thrush agent, Kuryakin thought warily, but one could never tell. And it was too late to pretend that he was still unconscious.

"Oh good," the man declared, a smile crossing his face, "you're awake. Feeling all right?"

Illya thought for a moment. The man was an American; from his accent, Illya guessed that he either came from or lived in Brooklyn. Not that it necessarily meant anything, but...

"Yes, I am. Thank you." The agent paused for a moment, and then added, "I'm afraid that I don't quite remember what happened to my friend and I; do you know?" If the man was Thrush, his answer would probably make that clear.

"I'm sorry, but I have no idea," the man replied. "Oh, my name's James Freeman, by the way. I hauled you and your friend out of the river early this morning.

"You're both pretty lucky I was here," Freeman continued. "You were in the first stages of hypothermia, and your friend appeared to have swallowed half the river, as well as having a nasty bump on his noggin. I'd guess that you fell out of your canoe, or something like that."

Illya frowned slightly. "I guess it must have been something like that," he replied, when he realized that Freeman was waiting for a response. "As I said, I don't really remember. I--" Abruptly, his stomach growled, and Illya flushed bright red in embarassment.

Freeman gave him a reassuring grin. "Hungry, huh? Well, that's a good sign. I've got some Campbell's soup on the stove; I've been keeping it warmed up for when you and your friend woke up. I'll bring some right on in." He started for the door, and then stopped and turned back to Illya. "By the way, just so I know... what are your names?"

Well, if Freeman was a Thrush agent he would already know; and if he wasn't, there most likely wouldn't be a problem with telling him. "I am Illya Kuryakin; my friend is Napoleon Solo."

Freeman looked curious. "Like in Star Wars?" he inquired.

Star Wars? "Sorry?"

"You know, Han Solo?"

Illya just looked at him in confusion.

Freeman looked puzzled by Illya's incomprehension, but shrugged, dismissing it as unimportant. "Well, I'll be right back in with the soup," he said. He walked out, and Illya noticed with interest that he didn't close the door behind him. Whether that was a good or a bad sign, however...

Half an hour later, after finishing a bowl of vegetable soup and checking Napoleon - who was simply asleep, with no signs of a concussion - Illya walked out of the room to find Freeman crouching by a stone fireplace in the middle of what appeared to be a sitting room, laying a fire. Illya glanced around curiously, and then the scene outside a large picture window caught his eye. He stared in confusion as he noticed that the ground was covered in snow. It certainly hadn't been that snowy when they'd arrived in the area... what had happened?

He took a step forward, intentionally letting the wooden floorboards creak as he moved, and Freeman looked up at him.

"I must say, Mr. Kuryakin, you're looking a lot better now that you've had a hot meal," he commented. "How's your friend?"

"He's still asleep," Illya replied. He then took a deep breath. "When you pulled us out of the river... did you happen to see our boat anywhere nearby?"

Freeman shook his head. "No, I'm afraid not," he said. "There was no sign of anything except the two of you." He shook his head. "Not the smartest time of the year to go camping, I hope you realize. I was packing my van - I'm closing the cabin down for the winter and heading back to NYC - when I saw movement in the river. I hurried down there and found the two of you."

Winter?! Illya thought in absolute shock. What does he mean, closing down for winter? It's April! He managed to keep the shock off his face, however, and merely said, "Well, I certainly thank you for taking the time to look."

"No problem; I'm happy to be of help. I've got until Sunday before I have to get back to the city, which gives you and your friend a day and a half to recuperate from your dunking. I presume most of your equipment and clothes were lost with your canoe - and I've put the clothes you were wearing to the wash, since they were soaked and dirty - so I can lend you some dry clothes until yours are clean. They'll be too big for you, but at least they'll keep you warm."

"Thank you again," Illya returned. "If you don't mind," he added, "everything that has happened has left me rather tired. I think I would like to get some more sleep now."

"Go right ahead," Freeman said expansively. "You and your friend are in the spare bedroom, so you're not putting me out. Get all the rest you need. Oh, and your things..." there was a slight pause, and Illya realized that the other man was presumably referring to their guns - he'd have to come up with a plausible story to explain them - "are on the bookshelf by the window."

"All right." Illya started back to the bedroom, and then paused as a sudden thought occurred to him. "Mr. Freeman--"

"Please, call me Jim."

"Jim... what day is it? I'm a bit muddled, I'm afraid."

"Not much of a surprise, that," Freeman declared reassuringly. "It's Friday the 24th."

"Thank you," Illya repeated, and walked into the bedroom, closing the door behind him.

Sinking onto the bed, Kuryakin tried to put his thoughts in order. It was difficult, especially considering what he was contemplating, but if he was right... No wonder Waverly had wanted Dr. Jacobs' machine destroyed!

Saturday, November 25th
New York City, NY

"Here you go; he said the microdot was on the license itself," Mickey said, handing the small leather wallet over to Control.

"Good," Control replied. He opened the wallet, took a look at the license, and then slipped it into the inside pocket of his coat.

"He was kind of nervous, though. Babbling - not making much sense," Mickey continued, shoving his hands into the pockets of his jeans and leaning against the wall.

"Babbling?" Robert McCall repeated, looking surprised. "Rudolf Schwartz? That doesn't sound like him. What happened?" He handed Control a cup of coffee and sat down on the couch next to his friend.

Mickey shrugged. "I spent two hours following him around Paris; he kept trying to lose me. When I finally caught up with him, he was telling me that the information on the 'dot wasn't what we thought it was, and that we didn't know how to deal with it. He seemed really nervous - rightly, I suppose, considering what happened to him."

"Yes, well, what else did he say, Mickey?" McCall demanded.

"Well, after he got shot, he told me where the microdot was, and then asked me to tell his uncle: 'Drossel'," Mickey replied, looking confused. "I have no idea what he was talking about; like I said, he was babbling."

"Babbling is right," Control muttered in disgust. "Schwartz doesn't have an uncle. Both his parents were only children."

"And 'Drossel'?" McCall asked.

"It's German for a type of bird," Mickey commented.

"I know that, Mickey." McCall looked exasperated. "It means 'thrush'. But is it some sort of code phrase?" he continued, looking at Control again.

"If it is, it's not one that Iım aware of," Control replied, his expression irritated. "Kostmayer, you said that Schwartz told you that the information on the microdot isn't what he told us it was?"

"That's what he said. Or, at least, he said, 'tell Control the information isn't what we thought it was'. And then he told me that the information was none of my concern, and that neither of us can deal with it, that we don't know how. He wasn't going to give it to me. Then we heard the gunfire from the street, and next thing I know, there's this guy in the door of the café, pointing a gun at us. I got out of the way as he fired, and then he ran away. I was about to go after him, and then I heard Schwartz moan. That's when he told me where the 'dot was and gave me the message for his uncle."

"And you couldn't see the shooter's face?" McCall prodded.

Mickey shook his head. "It was mid-afternoon, and the café faces west. He was backlit by the sun. All I got was an impression of a dark jumpsuit - probably dark green or black - with a patch on the front that I couldn't make out; a beret on the guy's head; and that he was about 6', give or take an inch."

"Caucasian?" Control inquired.

"Yeah," Mickey replied. "I think he had dark hair, but I couldn't swear to it."

"Well, looks like that's probably a dead end," Control said sourly. "Still, it sounds like Schwartz thought the microdot was pretty important. And somebody else seems to have thought it important enough to kill him for it. I'd better go get it enlarged and take a look."

Standing up, he picked his coat up from the back of the sofa and slipped it on. "I'll talk to you later, Robert, Mickey," he said, and left.

"Tell me a bit more about Schwartz's behaviour," McCall said, as soon as Control was gone. "From what you've said, it was very... unusual."

"No kidding," Mickey declared. "I mean, I've worked with Schwartz before, on some pretty nasty missions, but I've never seen him as nervous as he was yesterday. As soon as he saw me in the lobby of his hotel, he took off. He kept trying to lose me, but he was so rattled that he wasn't doing too well."

"So, what was supposed to be on that microdot?" Robert demanded.

Mickey wandered over to a chair and sat down. He contemplated putting his feet up on the table for a moment, but knew that it would only irritate Robert... and while it would be fun, it still wouldn't get him off the hook.

"From what I know," he said carefully, "it was supposed to contain a copy of emergency GRU plans for starting a coup."

Robert stared at him in shock. "A coup?" he repeated.

Mickey shrugged. "Apparently, between perestroika and what's been happening in Germany, some of the upper level GRU people are starting to get a bit nervous about their jobs."

Robert shook his head. "I don't believe it." He paused. "Then again, this is one of Control's missions... maybe I do believe it." He sighed. "Well, would you like another cup of coffee?"

Control frowned as he picked up the first page of the report from the microdot. This certainly didn't look like a GRU - or a KGB - outline...

Then a word jumped out at him, and he stiffened. Tell his uncle: 'Drossel'... of course! Why didn't I realize that in the first place...?

He took his cellular phone out of his pocket and dialed a number he had memorized quite some time ago.

The phone rang twice, and then was picked up.

"Yes?" came a strong, familiar voice.

"It's me," Control said. "Something's come up that I think you should be aware of."

"I'm listening," the man on the other end of the line prodded.

"Rudolf Schwartz."

There was a pause, and then, "What about him?"

"Was he one of yours?"

There was another pause, longer this time, before the reply came. "Yes. Why?"


Control heard the other's startled intake of breath. "Are you certain?"

"I have a microdot here. Schwartz transferred it to one of my people before he died. Right now, I'm looking at its contents. Yes, I'm certain."

"And you intend to...?" came the prompt.

"I'll bring it over to you."

"I'll have someone meet you at the regular entrance," came the reply, and then there was a click as the line was disconnected.

Control picked up the report, attached the microdot to the first page, and slipped it into a brown envelope which he then put into the inside pocket of his coat. Then, after making sure that he had left no clues as to what he'd been doing - just in case - he left the building, hailing a taxi.

Catskills, NY

Napoleon woke up instantly as he heard a creak from nearby. Staying as still as possible, he tried to take in his surroundings without showing that he was awake.

He was lying on something soft - a mattress, most likely. His hands and feet weren't bound - a pleasant surprise - and he could smell pine... and... chicken soup?

"You can open your eyes, Napoleon."

Illya. Wherever he was, his partner was there as well; which was good. Better than he had hoped, once he'd realized that he was no longer in the Thrush laboratory.

Opening his eyes, he saw Illya sitting on a chair beside the bed, with a table to his left.

"Wha' happened?" he mumbled.

Illya's eyes flickered around the room for a moment. Following his partner's gaze, Napoleon noticed that the room they were in was reasonably large, with another bed on the opposite side, just under a window; the walls appeared to be wood; and, surprising him, the door was wide open.

"Illya?" Napoleon slowly pushed himself into a sitting position, studying his friend carefully. Illya's expression was blank, stony; something had upset him. Either that, or they were under observation; it had been a very long time since Napoleon had seen Illya's 'Russian mask' when they were alone together. "Is something wrong?"

The light blue eyes met his, and Napoleon had no trouble reading the message in them. I'll explain later; just follow my lead. He nodded in acknowledgment.

"No... well, yes. It seems our canoe and all our supplies have gone missing," Illya replied. Looking at him again, Napoleon suddenly realized that the slight blond was dressed in clothes that were much too large for him. They made him look even younger than he was.

"Oh?" he prodded. Canoe? What is he talking about? Are we under observation?

"It appears that we had some sort of accident," Illya continued carefully. "The owner of this cabin, Jim Freeman, found us in the river yesterday morning. You had a bad bump on your head, and - to hear Mr. Freeman tell it - you had swallowed half the water in the river. No sign of a concussion, just a bump. I was apparently in the beginning stages of hypothermia."

Napoleon blinked in surprise. "How could that have happened? I mean, I can understand how I got a bump to the head, everything considered, but hypothermia? Surely it's not sti--"

Kuryakin held one finger up in an urgent signal for silence. "As it happens, the river is quite cold. And the jumpsuits we were wearing were ripped to shreds."

"But we're not scratched up," Napoleon protested.

Illya shrugged. "I don't know how it happened - it was only the jumpsuits that were destroyed," he said, but Napoleon could tell that the younger agent wasn't quite telling the truth. Kuryakin might not know, but he did have an idea. However, he had promised to follow Illya's lead, so he didn't protest the statement.

"All right... well, we're obviously better now, so..."

"It's four o'clock in the afternoon, too late to head back to New York City," Illya told him. "Mr. Freeman doesn't have to leave until tomorrow, so we have an opportunity to get our strength back. He's going to drive us in."

"That's very kind of him. A good Samaritan?"

Illya shrugged, understanding precisely what his partner meant by the comment. "So it appears. He is correct about our canoe and supplies having disappeared; I checked." The Russian shifted uneasily, casting a quick glance toward the door. "Would you like some soup? It's quite good, and you haven't eaten anything for at least the past thirty-six hours."

At the thought of food, Napoleon felt his mouth begin to water. "I'd love some," he replied.

Illya nodded and got up. "Stay there; don't try to stand up," he ordered. "You'll get dizzy. I'll be right back." He disappeared out the open door, and a moment later Napoleon heard him talking to someone else.

All right, Solo, think, Napoleon ordered himself. Illya keeps saying 'canoe' rather than 'car'; obviously this Jim Freeman doesn't know who we are - unless he's a Thrush agent, of course, but Illya seems to be pretty certain that he isn't. From what Illya's said, it sounds like we're supposed to be campers - that works, I suppose.

But there's obviously a very definite problem, he added, shifting his pillow up and leaning back against it. They'd been partners too long - and knew each other too well - for Illya to hide that from him. Something having to do with the explosion, I wonder? And what about that strange flash of colours...

Illya appeared in the doorway with another man - from his size, most likely the one who had lent Illya the clothes he was wearing. "Napoleon," the Russian said, coming in and placing the bowl he held down on the table, "this is Jim Freeman. Jim, this is Napoleon Solo."

"Pleased to meet you," Napoleon said politely. "I understand we have you to thank for saving us."

Freeman nodded. "I just did what I could to help," he replied. "I understand from Illya here that all your supplies and stuff were in your canoe."

Oh, damn it... Napoleon thought, suddenly realizing what that meant. They'd left everything but the time-delay charges, their pen/transceivers and their Specials with the car. "Yeah, that's right," he replied, shooting a glance at Illya. The Specials and our tranceivers? he asked silently.

Illya tilted his head in the direction of the other bed. Safe.

Has he...

Yes; I'll tell you later.

Wonderful. So their host had seen the U.N.C.L.E. Specials. Napoleon found himself wondering just how Illya had explained their presence. Of course, this meant that it was much more likely that Freeman wasn't a Thrush agent; if he was, he'd have recognized the Specials for what they were.

"Listen," Freeman was saying, oblivious to the direction of Napoleon's thoughts, "I've just got to do a final check of the grounds. I'll be about three-quarters of an hour to an hour. You finish up your soup, and get some more rest; we'll leave at about ten o'clock tomorrow morning."

"All right," Illya said, and then sat down in the chair again as Freeman disappeared.

As soon as they heard the sound of a door closing, Napoleon turned to his partner. "How did you explain..."

"I told him that they were tranquilizing guns," Illya replied, leaning back in his seat. He suddenly looked exhausted, the 'Russian mask' vanishing as though it had never been. "That we were doing a study of the wildlife in the area."

"So we're still in the Catskills," Napoleon concluded.

"I... ah... in a... sense, I suppose," Illya said, rubbing his forehead with one hand. "You'd better get started on your soup; if you're feeling anything like the way I was feeling yesterday, you'll be asleep again within the hour."

Napoleon frowned, even as he reached for the spoon and started in on the bowl of soup. Illya had been right, it was quite good. However, he wasn't about to let the food distract him from his questions. "What do you mean, 'in a sense'?" he demanded.

Placing his own bowl of soup back on the table, Illya took a deep breath. "Do you remember asking me about how Dr. Jacobs' machine worked?"

Napoleon nodded, remembering quite clearly. "You started to answer, but the alarm cut you off. I gather it's relevant?"

"Very much so." Illya slumped a bit further into his chair. "As I started to tell you while we were in the lab, it had something to do with probing the fourth dimension. His work was very abstruse; almost entirely made up of high-level quantum mechanics and mathematical theories. I was under the impression that Mr. Waverly was mainly concerned about the effect it was supposed to have on the spy satellites."

"But now you've changed your mind?" Napoleon prodded.

His partner swallowed. "Do you know what the fourth dimension is?"

"Time," Napoleon replied immediately, and grinned at the momentary look of surprise that crossed Illya's face. "I may not have your degrees in physics and quantum mechanics, but I do know that much." Then his grin slowly faded as the return of Illya's grim expression stirred an uneasy feeling in the back of his mind. "What is it, Illya?"

"The device was already in partial operation when we arrived at the laboratory," Kuryakin said slowly. He seemed to be struggling a bit to get his thoughts into a logical order, which worried Napoleon - it was very unlike his partner. "I think... I think that the detonation of those explosives did something to the device - which did something to us."

"Why?" Napoleon asked, fighting back a yawn as he started to feel the exhaustion Kuryakin had warned him of.

Illya frowned. "I'm not sure, but I think that they must have been starting a test run, or perhaps--"

"No, not why did the explosion affect the machine; why do you think it did something to us?"

"You're not going to believe it," Illya warned.

"Well, try me," Napoleon said firmly.

His friend took another deep breath. "Today's date is Saturday, November the twenty-fifth, 1989."

Napoleon stared at him blankly for a moment.

"You're right," he said finally. "I don't believe it."

Illya shrugged helplessly. "Nonetheless, it is true. According to what was said on the radio this morning, it is November the twenty-fifth, a Saturday. The calendar in Freeman's kitchen is for the year 1989. His car is like no car I have seen before - but it is a Ford. And, as I told you, I went to look for our car this morning - I told Freeman I was looking for the canoe - and I found what was left of the Thrush lab after the explosion. Judging from the erosion, at least one and a half to two decades have passed since it was destroyed.

"And..." he added slowly, "no one has responded to my attempt to open Channel D, but the transceivers are not being jammed; I took mine with me to the lab site, and then came back here by homing in on the signal from yours. I do not wish to believe it either, but Thrush does not - or did not - have the resources to construct something this elaborate on this scale, so I am forced to believe the evidence of my senses. And all that evidence suggests that we have somehow been moved forward in time."

Napoleon buried his face in his hands. "I don't know if I can handle this, Illya," he said slowly. "If you're right - and for the moment, we might as well assume that you are - then we've 'come forward' over 21 years. The number of changes... do you think that we'll be able to handle it?" He looked back up at his partner.

Illya met his eyes. "We are still together," he declared. "The two of us have been able to deal with the impossible before. If we look on this as being another assignment..."

Napoleon nodded slowly. It wouldn't be easy, of course. They'd have to be very careful, and very clever. But then, as Illya had pointed out, they were the top two of Section Two. They would cope. They had always done so before. They could - and would - do so now.

Chapter 2: "The United what?"

New York City, NY

It was ten-thirty pm when Control finally arrived at O'Phelan's. Both McCall and Mickey were already starting to get impatient by the time the Company official walked through the door.

"Well?" McCall demanded as soon as Control sat down.

"Well what?"

McCall looked exasperated. "Was the information on the microdot what you expected it to be?"

Control rubbed his forehead with one hand as Pete came over and put a single malt down in front of him. He gave her a nod of thanks, and then took a sip as she headed back to the bar.

"Schwartz was right," he said after a long moment of silence. "It wasn't at all what I expected." There was another pause, and then he turned to Mickey. "Kostmayer... what were Schwartz's exact last words?"

"Exact last words?" Mickey repeated.

"Yes, exact. Don't insert anything; just tell me the words he said to you," Control ordered.

Mickey thought for a moment, recalling the scene, and then said, "Tell uncle Drossel."

"There, you see, that's what got us confused, Robert!" Control exclaimed. "Schwartz didn't mean to tell his uncle; he meant to tell U.N.C.L.E."

"Huh?" Mickey said, completely confused.

"He meant the U-N-C-L-E," Control explained, spelling it out. "The United Network Command for Law and Enforcement."

"The United what?" Mickey asked, still confused.

At the same time, McCall protested, "U.N.C.L.E. disappeared in 1969, Control. You can't seriously mean that Rudolf expected you to contact an organization that's been defunct for 20 years, can you?"

"Hey, McCall, Control, what exactly is this U.N.C.L.E.?" Mickey demanded again.

McCall turned to face him. "It was a semi-covert organization that was founded just after World War II - by a group of five men known as Section One - to deal with threats to global security and stability. It fell under the umbrella of the United Nations."

"One of U.N.C.L.E.'s most persistent and dangerous foes was a highly sophisticated criminal organization known as 'Thrush'," Control added.

Mickey's eyes widened in comprehension. "Drossel!" he exclaimed.

Control nodded. "After I got a look at the information the microdot contains, I did some digging around. It turns out that Rudolf Schwartz was an U.N.C.L.E. Section Two agent - Operations and Enforcement," he explained at Mickey's puzzled look - "in Europe during the sixties. He joined the BND* in '69 when U.N.C.L.E. disbanded. It was believed at the time that Thrush had been destroyed, and between that and Vietnam, U.N.C.L.E. lost the support of both the Americans and the Soviets.

"As for the microdot... well, it appears that Thrush is not dead," Control said, sighing. "I don't know how Schwartz got a hold of it, but the information it contains certainly proves that Thrush is once again a threat to global security."

Mickey and McCall looked at each other. "Oh?" McCall said warily.

Control nodded.

"And what exactly are you expecting us to do about it?" McCall demanded.

Control relaxed slightly. "I was hoping you'd offer to help, Robert," he said. "And yes, I could definitely use some. I didn't understand all the information that was on the 'dot, but what I did get is the fact that Thrush apparently has people in the Company, which means that we have to deal with this unofficially."

"What exactly is 'this'?" McCall demanded, glaring at him. "And that wasn't an offer."

Control leaned back in his seat, ignoring McCall's protest. "Thrush apparently has a base here in New York. The microdot didn't say exactly where it was located, but it did provide the names of some personnel that have been assigned there." He took a brown envelope out of the inner pocket of his coat and handed it to McCall. "Names and pictures, as well as what information we have on them. I want you and Mickey to use that information to locate the base, and then we'll move on to the next stage."

McCall frowned. "Just what are you up to, Control? What do you mean, 'the next stage'? I haven't yet agreed to help you on this..."

"Thrush has to be stopped, Robert," Control replied emphatically. "And since, as you said, U.N.C.L.E.'s been defunct for 20 years, that leaves the problem to us. I'd appreciate it if you could get started tomorrow morning, first thing."

"In other words, you want us to take on an international criminal organization, just the three of us," McCall said sardonically.

"Well," Mickey commented, sotto voce, as they waited for Control's response, "that's one impossible thing before breakfast..."

"I'd say that about covers it," Control replied calmly. "And cheer up, Mickey; at least I'm not expecting you to do six impossible things."

Sunday, November 26th

Napoleon Solo leaned wearily against the utility pole, staring blankly at the building in front of him. 21-1/2 years ago - or, to his mind, four days ago - it had been Del Floria's Tailor Shop. Now, it was a magazine store, and Napoleon had the sneaking suspicion that there was no longer a door that led to U.N.C.L.E.'s New York Headquarters in the back.

He sighed. We're in New York City with no identification, one pair of clothes each, no knowledge of the year - much less the past two decades - and about $3000 in cash, in a year where that doesn't go anywhere near as far as it did in 1968.

It was pure luck that they had even that much money. He'd only been carrying about $400; he had absolutely no idea why his partner had been carrying so much more than that in the middle of the Catskills, and he didn't think that he wanted to know.

"We have even more problems than we thought," Illya's voice said from behind him, and Napoleon turned to see his partner standing on the sidewalk, as a cab pulled away. He wasn't surprised that Illya had known exactly what he was thinking; it had been that way since the beginning of their partnership, and had saved their lives more times than Napoleon cared to think about.

"Yes, I know," he replied, and gestured to the magazine store. "Del Floria's is gone."

Illya didn't look at all surprised. "According to the historical files at the library, so are Thrush - and U.N.C.L.E."

Napoleon's eyes widened in shock. "What? Waverly would never..."

Illya shrugged. "I did not have time to do in-depth research," he said, coming over to stand next to Napoleon. "It took me a while to understand the new cataloguing systems, and I also wished to update myself on recent events." An expression of wry amusement crossed his face for a moment. "And there have been a number of very interesting recent events - the Berlin Wall was apparently taken down two weeks ago."

Napoleon's eyes widened in astonishment. "'Interesting' sounds like an understatement."

Kuryakin nodded. "Perhaps 'unbelievable' would be a more appropriate term... However," the Russian continued with a shrug, returning to the original topic of discussion, "I agree with you; I do not think that Mr. Waverly would permit U.N.C.L.E. to disappear. But - officially - it no longer exists."

"So we look for signs of it existing unofficially," Napoleon concluded, meeting his partner's eyes.

Illya nodded in agreement.

"But first, we'd better find someplace to stay," Napoleon continued. "And we're going to need a way of getting some more money; $3000 won't go very far, based on the prices we've seen."

"I've rented us a room at a motel, paid for two nights," Illya told him. "It's not the best part of town, but it will do for the moment."

"Good." Napoleon rubbed his forehead for a moment. "I don't want to rely on the offer Freeman made us; I'm still not sure I trust him."

Just before he'd dropped them off in front of the United Nations building, Freeman had handed Napoleon his card and told the two agents that if they had any problems, they could just give him a call.

"And I do not think that he could give us the sort of help we need," Illya agreed.

"So, let's find something to eat, and then go to this motel you've found us, and try to get a good night's sleep. And in the morning, we start looking for Waverly, or anyone else from U.N.C.L.E. who might be able to help us."

Tuesday, November 28th

Mickey sighed, slumping a bit further down in the van's driver's seat. He'd spent most of the night here, in front of Andrew Brathe's house, waiting for him get up and go wherever he was going.

Despite Control's request that they start Sunday morning, it had taken all of Sunday and most of yesterday to just compile a list of addresses - it appeared that this 'Thrush' liked its people mobile, because there had been only one address on Control's list that had still been correct. The two of them had been all over the city, trying to trace these people down.

However, once they'd done that, they'd discovered a rather interesting fact.

Every single one of the names on the list was presently located in Manhattan. Most of them had moved from Queens in the past month. Everything considered, both he and McCall thought that it quite likely meant that the place they were looking for was located somewhere in Manhattan.

He sighed again. Mickey hated surveillance assignments. He'd much rather be doing something - anything - rather than just sitting here and waiting. Surveillance was Jimmy's specialty. But Control had been adamant; unless he deemed it absolutely necessary, no one aside from McCall and Mickey were to work on this.

The Company agent was just about to pour himself a fourth cup of lukewarm coffee - it kept him alert, at least - when the door of the house opened, and Brathe came out.

Slumping down further, Mickey watched as Brathe got into his car; he waited until the man had driven past the first stop sign before starting up the van and swinging in behind his quarry.

April Dancer scowled as she glanced down at her watch. 10:00. Where was Mark? He'd promised to be here twenty minutes ago.

Running her hand through her shoulder-length, silver-streaked hair, she glanced up and down the street. There was still no sign of her old partner, much less the bright yellow Porsche he'd bought himself last month as a retirement gift.

And, of course, no sooner does he retire from Computer World International when we get word that Thrush is back in business... I think even Illya would have been impressed by his command of Russian expletives.

Her mood became a touch melancholy as she considered the last thought. For some reason, she'd been thinking of Napoleon and Illya a great deal over the last couple of months; it was strange. Or, then again, maybe it's not, April thought after a moment. Considering what's been going on in global politics over the last several years - and months - maybe it isn't that strange. After all, their partnership gave the lie to the concept of the Cold War...

April was just about to head back into the house and call Mark's cell phone when she caught sight of a telephone repair van driving slowly up the street. Instincts honed by two and a half decades of covert operations started screaming at her, and she reached for her gun. Before she managed to draw it, however, the van stopped just past her house and two men - dressed in the familiar Thrush uniforms - jumped out of the back, guns already aimed straight at her.

April instinctively flung herself down and to the right, using the wooden fence surrounding her front garden as a shield while she grabbed her gun from the holster at the small of her back. It was loaded with sleep darts; hopefully, she'd be able to get all of them with what she had, since she'd gotten out of the habit of carrying a spare clip while she was at home.

Stupid, she thought bitterly, as bulletholes appeared in the fence just above her head. You should know better by now, Dancer! And even if you didn't think it necessary before, you should have changed that habit as soon as you heard Thrush was back in business... Carefully, she peered around the side of the fence, and managed to get off a shot that hit one of the goons firing at her. He went down, and April felt a touch of triumph. At least all those hours on the Company practice range have kept my marksmanship up...

Before she had time to congratulate herself any more, however, the other Thrush agent saw her, and aimed in her direction. Ducking back behind the fence, she shook her head, irritated with herself. She was in the middle of a firefight, for Christ's sake... it was no time for self-congratulation.

She crouched behind the fence for another moment, a frown crossing her face as she realized that the gunfire had stopped. Wondering what had happened - had a cop car shown up, or one of her neighbours? - she started to stand up enough to peer over the top of the fence; and then froze as she abruptly felt the muzzle of a gun press against her back.

"Put the weapon down, Dancer," said a vaguely familiar voice.

Carefully holding her finger off the trigger, April placed her Special on the ground. You're getting too old for this, April... she thought ruefully.

"Now turn around; slowly."

Standing up, April obeyed, turning to face her captor.

The hair had gone silver - much like her own - but the face was the same, and the ease with which the other woman held the dart gun said that, like April, she was still in practice.

"Lovely to see you again, darling," the woman said, and then fired. April felt the dart prick her skin, and then collapsed to the ground, her vision going black as the tranquilizer dragged her down into unconsciousness. The last thing she knew was the sound of police sirens approaching.

The Thrush agent looked down at the unconscious April Dancer, and smiled coldly before beckoning for the two men by the van who were still conscious to come and get her.

Two blocks away from their destination, Napoleon and Illya shared a look of concern as they saw a third police car turn the same corner they were going toward.

"There appears to be a problem," Illya commented. His tone was cool, but Napoleon could see the worry in his partner's eyes.

"Yes, it looks that way," he agreed. "Come on; the sooner we get there, the sooner we'll find out what's going on."

Four minutes later, they turned onto the street to see the three police cars parked haphazardly in front of one of the houses. Yellow crime scene tape was stretched around the sidewalk and fence, and there was a large crowd gathered just outside the blockade formed by the tape and the police cars.

"Let's see what happened," Napoleon said, glancing around worriedly. He hoped his fears were wrong, but...

Joining the crowd was easy. Trying to catch a glimpse of the scene, however, was more difficult - for Napoleon, at least. Illya managed to slip smoothly through the packed group of people. He stood by the yellow tape for a minute or two, and then headed back to Solo.

"Well?" Napoleon asked, as soon as Illya reached him.

His partner touched one arm. "Let's move away - I don't think we want this overheard," he said quietly.

"Right," the senior agent agreed. He trailed after Illya until they were out of earshot of both the police and the crowd. "So, is it...?" His voice trailed off.

"It's the same address," Illya replied grimly. "1714. However, although the fence has a number of bulletholes, there's no sign of any bodies. And..." Illya held his hand up to emphasize what he was about to say, "it appears that someone involved left some things behind."

"Oh?" Napoleon studied his friend's face. "And what sort of things would those be, pray tell?"

Illya took a deep breath. "A rifle and a beret. Both of them had emblazoned on them a very familiar symbol." The light blue eyes met his. "It appears that the information I found in the library yesterday is quite inaccurate. Thrush still exists, and it seems that they have kidnapped April."

Despite the seriousness of the situation, Napoleon felt a thrill of anticipation. The world had changed a great deal... but this, he knew how to deal with. Looking at Illya, he could see that the Russian felt the same. "It looks like we now have something we know how to handle," he commented, feeling a tight smile tug at the corner of his mouth.

Illya nodded, meeting Napoleon's smile with one of his own. "Yes, it does."

Thrush Headquarters; New York City, NY

April opened her eyes slowly, and found herself looking into the worried face of Mark Slate.

"You all right?" he asked quietly.

"Unh..." she mumbled in reply, pushing herself up.

They were in a small cell, with two cots, one of which April was on. Standing just outside was a guard, clad in the familiar black jumpsuit, reading what appeared to be a porno magazine.

"What happened to you?" April asked, returning her attention to Mark. He was developing a nasty bruise around his right eye, and looked as though his head was killing him.

"I drove into a gas station to fill up the Porsche's tank, and I got jumped," he replied, gingerly touching the black eye. "They punched me in the face, and then someone behind me knocked me out. What about you, luv?"

"I was waiting for you to show up, and got ambushed by a telephone repair van," April replied. "Two guys kept me busy by shooting at me while our favourite black widow* snuck up behind me, and shot me with a trank dart."

"Lovely..." Mark muttered sourly. He rubbed the back of his head. "So Angelique's involved? Looks like all the old guard's getting called up."

April nodded in agreement as Mark sat down on the other cot. "The question is, however, why grab us? I mean, it's not like we're in the field for U.N.C.L.E. any longer..."

"Ah, but that's not quite true, now, is it?" Angelique's voice asked. Turning around, the two agents saw her standing just outside the cell, an amused smile on her face.

"What do you mean?" April demanded, sounding confused - or, at least, she hoped she sounded confused. How much did Angelique - and therefore Thrush - know?

"Oh, come, Dancer," the Thrush woman said, shaking her head reprovingly. "You may be officially a member of the CIA's Directorate of Operations, but we all know that - despite what most of the world thinks - U.N.C.L.E. never actually disbanded. Even if we hadn't realized that before, Rudolf Schwartz made it obvious when he discovered the microdot."

"What are you talking about?" Mark asked.

Angelique looked almost disappointed. "Really, darlings, it won't do any good to pretend, you know. U.N.C.L.E. is not the only one to have infiltrated the various intelligence organizations. I must admit, the BND was harder to get into than the CIA or the KGB, but we managed. Schwartz made the mistake of mentioning the microdot in the presence of one of our people. And since we were already watching you, it became obvious when you were reactivated that despite Schwartz's unfortunate death, he managed to get the information through to U.N.C.L.E. And as for your position with U.N.C.L.E..." Angelique smiled.

She took a notepad out of her pocket and held it up. "Mark Slate. Cover: sales representative and software technician with Computer World International, retired last month. Rank: Number Three, Section One. April Dancer. Cover: covert operative in Langley's Operations Directorate. Rank: Number Five, Section One."

Mark and April looked at each other. Neither was particularly pleased by the fact that Angelique knew they were Section One, but it certainly explained why they'd been taken. Together, the two of them knew almost everything about U.N.C.L.E.'s present operating status.

"You see?" Angelique continued, her tone becoming more cheerful. "We do know these things.

"Now, I'm afraid I don't have time to explain the details of what will be happening to you right at the moment; there are some other things I need to deal with. A bit later, however, we'll sit down, and have a nice chat about the old days." With that, the Thrush agent turned and walked away, as graceful as ever.

The two U.N.C.L.E. agents exchanged another glance.

"We're in trouble," April commented.

Mark nodded. "I'd say that about sums it up, luv," he replied, lying down on the cot and staring up at the ceiling. "I'm going to try to get some rest; wake me up when you come up with a plan, will you?"

April rolled her eyes in mock exasperation as she settled back against the wall. Then she glanced at the guard. "Hey!" she called.

He turned around and looked at her for a moment.

"You have a pack of cards?" April asked. "Otherwise, I'm going to die of boredom."

The guard shook his head, and returned his attention to his magazine.

"Wonderful... if Angelique doesn't get back soon, whatever she has in mind might even begin to look good to me by the time she returns..." April muttered, and decided that Mark might just have the right idea. Lying down, she closed her eyes and tried to join her partner in sleep.

Mickey frowned as he studied the warehouse through the lens of the camera. Brathe had taken a long, very elaborate route to get here, and had apparently been satisfied that if he'd had anyone tailing him, they had been lost.

Why he might think that someone was tailing him was a question that Mickey couldn't answer, but he blessed the fact that he'd had the presence of mind to stick a tracker on the bumper of Brathe's car last night - as well as the fact that Brathe hadn't noticed it. His quarry was quite a skilled driver, and at least twice, the tracker was the only thing that had kept Mickey from losing him completely.

There were four other vehicles parked near Brathe's car: a telephone repair van, a blue four-door sedan, a black limo, and a very nice silver Ferrari. He took photos of all of them, including the license plates of the Ferrari and the limo; with luck, they'd be able to identify the owners of those two, at least. He also took a number of photos of the warehouse, from various angles.

He was just about to phone McCall when a silver-haired woman in a lovely blue dress came around the far corner, followed by two older men. He snapped a quick picture of the group - none of the three had been in the photos Control had gotten from the microdot, which meant that they were probably higher-ups - and then slipped on a pair of headphones and pointed the sensitive receiver at them.

"Don't worry," the woman was saying calmly as the receiver started picking up their conversation. "They were searched thoroughly while they were unconscious. Neither of them was carrying any sort of homing or tracking device, and the guards removed their communicators and guns."

"Are you absolutely certain?" one of the men demanded. "You know that we cannot afford to have U.N.C.L.E. locate this warehouse. We can't afford to underestimate U.N.C.L.E.'s resourcefulness, any more than we can afford to become overconfident in our own skills."

Huh? I thought McCall and Control said that U.N.C.L.E. was supposed to be dead! Mickey thought, confused.

"Believe me, our people know how to locate tracking devices, gentlemen. After all, many of them do come from your satrap. If there should be problems - which there won't - you will have only yourselves and your people to blame. And as for underestimating U.N.C.L.E. - I have fought them before, gentlemen. I know better than to discount their abilities. Nonetheless, even with the information from the microdot - assuming that they are successful in decoding it - U.N.C.L.E. is not prepared enough to stop us."

"Angelique, my dear," the other man said, shaking his head as Mickey made a mental note of the name, "you have just kidnapped two of U.N.C.L.E.'s Section One personnel. I do not believe that they will be willing to just write off Mr. Slate and Miss Dancer."

Mickey wasn't close enough to see properly without using the camera's telescopic lens - which he couldn't do while he was listening to the conversation - but he got the impression that the woman sneered. "Of course they won't. It's Section Two and Three agents that are expendable, not Section One. But as I said, they're not prepared enough to stop us - at least not yet. And by the time they are prepared, we'll be finished here. There won't be anything left for them to do but clean up the mess.

"Now, if you will excuse me, gentlemen, there are other duties that I must attend to. Make sure that our two guests receive a proper meal at noon; after all, we don't want them thinking that our hospitality is lacking, now, do we?"

The two men looked at each other, and then nodded in reluctant agreement.

"Good." The woman got into the Ferrari, and a moment later, took off. The two men didn't seem to be overly interested in talking as they returned to the building, so Mickey took the opportunity to get another picture of them, and then pulled out his cell phone and dialled McCall's number.

"McCall here," his friend answered.

"McCall, it's Mickey. I've located the base - a warehouse near the docks - but it seems that we have a few complications to deal with," Mickey said.

He had no trouble hearing the apprehension in Robert's voice when he answered. "What complications would those be, Mickey?"

"Well, first of all, it seems that these Thrush guys believe that U.N.C.L.E. still exists," Mickey started. "I managed to catch a conversation, and U.N.C.L.E. was mentioned as a potential threat. Secondly, they seem to believe that U.N.C.L.E. knows about whatever information was on that microdot Control has. And third, they've apparently kidnapped two people whom they believe to be U.N.C.L.E. agents."

There was a pause on the other end of the line before McCall answered. "All right, Mickey, I want you to come back to my apartment along with whatever information you've managed to get. I think Control has some explaining to do. And then we'll work on how to rescue those two people you mentioned."

"I'll be right there," Mickey replied, and hung up. He rapidly put his equipment back in the van, and then started back to McCall's place. He wasn't going to miss this confrontation between McCall and Control for anything.

New York City, NY

McCall looked up as the door opened, not surprised to see Control walk in.

"You have something for me, Robert?" his friend inquired.

"We're just waiting for Kostmayer," McCall replied. "We think he's managed to find Thrush's present base of operations."

Control's eyes widened in surprise. "That's quick, even for the two of you," he commented, sitting down on the couch. "Where is it?"

McCall shrugged. "All I know so far is that it's a warehouse in Manhattan, somewhere near the docks. Mickey didn't tell me more than that." He paused. "You do realize that all the address information you gave us was out of date, don't you?"

Control shrugged. "I gave you all of what we had."

Oh, I doubt that. I doubt that most sincerely, McCall thought, but he didn't say it out loud. Instead, he reached into the cupboard and took out two mugs, putting them down on the counter next to his. "Would you like a cup of coffee?"

His friend rubbed his forehead with one hand. "I would say no, but I have the feeling I'm going to need it," he replied.

McCall nodded.

He'd just finished pouring coffee in both mugs when there was a knock on the door. A moment later, it opened, revealing Mickey Kostmayer, his arms full of equipment.

"Mickey, come in," McCall said, giving him a tight smile. "Control's already here," he added, walking over to close the door behind the younger man.

Mickey nodded in understanding, a faint grin of anticipation crossing his face before he walked into the sitting room and dumped what he was carrying onto the table.

"So, what have you got?" Control demanded, as McCall went back into the kitchen to get the coffee.

"Surveillance pictures of the warehouse, the cars, and three people who weren't anywhere in the information you gave us," Mickey replied, handing him the roll of film. "I've also got a very interesting conversation on tape." He held up the cassette, and then slipped it into the tape player he'd also brought up.

"Oh?" Control queried. "Sounds like you've been busy."

Mickey shrugged as he raised the mug McCall handed him to his mouth and took a grateful sip, delighted to actually get hot coffee. "It seems like they've been even busier," he returned, as McCall sat down in a chair. "If you want to start listening to the tape, you'll see what I mean."

Then, as Control pushed the 'play' button, Mickey yawned and leaned back against the counter to watch the sparks fly.

Go to Part 2 of The New York Times Affair: Act 1
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Last modified October 6th, 1999.
Trudy A. Goold/