Man from u n c l e 02.., p.2

Man From U.N.C.L.E. 02 - The Doomsday Affair, page 2

 

Man From U.N.C.L.E. 02 - The Doomsday Affair
 


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  The girl clung to the boy, both her arms locked around his stout midriff.

  Solo moved out, trying to slow them down. He saw the boy lower his head, feeding gas to the machine. It popped loudly and raced past him.

  Solo leaped back to the curb.

  He wasted no time trying to figure their direction. The flower girl and her beach boy had only one idea, getting out of here.

  Solo ran to the rented car and leaped into it.

  He came out on the road and far ahead of him he saw the motorcycle swing out on Dillingham Boulevard without slowing down. The screech of brakes, the protesting clatter of horns struck at him.

  He settled down to the business of driving and attempting to keep the reckless cyclist in sight. The small vehicle bounced along the inside lane, cut in between speeding cars. They passed the Oahu prison and sped across the Kapalama drainage canal into downtown Honolulu.

  Brakes screeched as the cycle went left off Dillingham onto narrow Robello Street. Solo pulled over, slowed and made the turn. He was just in time to see the two make another left on busy King Street, again without stopping or slowing down.

  He was forced to stop at the intersection of King. The cyclists went right on Banyan Street off King, going into the Palama Settlement. Solo followed as swiftly as he could.

  The beach boy whipped his cycle right on Vineyard and right again on River Street, going to Beretania.

  Solo turned out onto Beretania, watching the cycle ahead through the traffic. He saw them slow down. He had figured they were attempting to shake him, but he felt now they had some destination in mind, a place where they could ditch the cycle and lose him at the same time.

  The boy swung his cycle right on Aala, but was forced to straighten out, blocked by a Chinese dragon dance, loud with fireworks.

  The cycle rolled uncertainly now, the boy jerking his head, looking both ways. The girl stared across her shoulder. They flicked between moving cars, forced back to King Street. Here the boy made a hard right turn into the intersection at Hotel Street and poured the gas to it. Solo kept after them, fighting through the afternoon traffic of downtown Honolulu until it ended at Thomas Square.

  The boy turned to King Street and then left again to Kalakau Boulevard, going toward Diamond Head. He sped past Fort De Russy, now in the Waikiki beach area, passing the high rise hotels, the Royal Hawaiian, the Outrigger, going left at Kapiolani Park on Kapahulu Avenue, doubling back toward King Street.

  Solo stayed in pursuit, realizing that since the beach boy and the flower girl had been forced out of Aala, they were now trying to lose him. Only the brightness of their garb and the flitting of the cycle through the cars kept him on their trail.

  The boy went left again on King Street, racing toward downtown Honolulu. Solo stepped harder on the gas.

  A traffic signal caught the cyclists at Ntiuanu Avenue. The boy sat a moment, bracing his leg on the pavement, both he and the girl staring across their shoulders. Suddenly the boy said something to the girl and then he whipped the cycle right against the light, pedestrians leaping to safety, yelling in shock and rage.

  Solo followed, seeing the gaudy-hued pair far ahead. The cycle climbed, made a turn on Pacific Heights road. Solo was forced to slow down on the narrow, twisting street, but the beach boy saw the curves as a challenge. The road curved back to Nuuanu Avenue, and again the cycle whipped right, running scared and going inland. They went past Iolani School, the Royal museum, climbing past the Country Club golf course toward the high ranges and Nuuanu Pali Pass.

  Solo glanced at his speedometer, seeing that he was doing sixty. Hillside homes and wide-spreading banyans whipped past him on the wind. On the outskirts of town he could gain on the cycle.

  He stepped harder on the gas, pulling alongside the cycle. The boy and the girl stared at him for a moment, the boy’s dark face pulled in a wind-smashed grimace, the girl showing only fear.

  “Talk!” Solo shouted across his car toward them. The car shivered on the road. “Only want to talk!”

  The beach boy slowed the cycle. Exhaling, Solo took his foot off the accelerator, letting the car slow. When the car was down to thirty miles an hour, the boy suddenly spurted forward on the road, going faster than ever.

  Swearing, Solo stepped down on the gas.

  The narrow road seemed to whirl upward through the green ranges—hairpin turns, broken-back curves. Cars headed makai, south toward the ocean, swerved, their horns crying out in anguished protest.

  Solo pulled the car close behind the cyclist, blowing his horn at them.

  The girl turned, gazing at him across her shoulder, her face set, her hair wild in the wind.

  Solo shook his head, motioning her to pull the cycle over. When the boy turned, Solo waved his arm toward the roadway shoulder. The boys face rutted into a savage laugh that refused. He shook his head, then jerked his gaze around.

  It all happened at once. A car came down the road, around a curve. The boy had allowed the cycle to wander toward the middle line; now he wrenched it hard to the right as he negotiated a wide curve that brought them out on the narrow plateau of Nuuanu Pali Pass.

  Solo caught his breath, seeing what had to happen, even before the cycle’s front wheels struck the shale, volcanic rock on the roadway shoulder.

  The cycle quivered, going out of control. The boy fought it, and the rear wheel bounced far out off the pavement. The boy pulled the cycle around hard. The front tire struck a pothole. The cycle bounded upward, striking against the concrete wall and going over it. Tourists in the parking area turned, screaming.

  Solo slammed on his brakes. There was no sound as the cycle wheeled and skidded, going over and over down the sheer embankment toward the serene volcanic valley over a thousand feet below.

  Solo let the car roll until the gas-starved engine shook, gasping. Then he stepped hard on the gas, going around the curve and down the winding road toward the far side of the island.

  III

  ILLYA REPLACED the pink phone gently in its cradle, cutting off the incredulous voice of the desk clerk.

  He stood one more moment then, looking about this room, but not allowing his gaze to touch the corpse of the lovely spy. A breeze riffled the curtains, touched at his face. He tilted his head, seeing the sun-struck beach, the incredibly blue water and the buffalo-bulk of Diamond Head up the coast.

  He shrugged the jacket up on his shoulders then and strode across the room to the corridor door. He took a deep breath, opened it and stepped out into the hallway.

  “I beg your pardon.” A man’s voice, cat-soft, Orientally accented, stopped Illya.

  He turned slowly, scowling because the man seemed to have materialized from the walls. A moment earlier the pink-toned hallway had appeared deserted.

  For a brief moment they exchanged stares and Illya saw the shocked puzzlement revealed in the other’s face—a look quickly replaced by a flat smile.

  Kuryakin peered at the man’s bland smile in the saffron-tinged face. Tall, with the lean rangy body one associated with a Texan slimmed down from hard work and meager diet, pigeon-chested, knobby shouldered, the man’s narrow head had the mongrel features of a Eurasian. Thinning black hair, high forehead, bushy brows, large nose, thin-lipped mouth, his cheeks high-planed and his inscrutably black eyes tight-lidded, Oriental. He wore a brightly colored shirt, gray slacks, hand-woven sandals and he carried a heavy cane.

  Kuryakin shook his head; this wasn’t an individual at all, but rather a casual assembly of mismatched parts. He turned and moved toward the elevator.

  “I beg your pardon,” the man said again.

  Kuryakin gestured. “Sorry. No speak English.”

  “Quite all right,” said the cat-purr voice. “I speak six languages fluently, many dialects.”

  Illya shook his head again. “Sorry. I don’t understand.”

  The taut-skinned yellow face stopped smiling. “You understand death, don’t you?”

  Kuryakin stared at the long, glittering bl
ade suddenly ejected from the tapered end of the cane. The man brought it up quickly and rested its needle point lightly above Illya’s buckle.

  Kuryakin bit his lip. “Death I understand.”

  The blade remained where it was, unwavering in the bony hand. “I need to talk with you, sir.”

  “I’m in something of a hurry.”

  “Shall we talk there—in your room?”

  “My room?” Illya glanced toward the closed door of the room where Ursula’s body lay awaiting the arrival of hotel management and the Honolulu police. “There’s some mistake. This isn’t my room.”

  He saw that faint uncertainty in the man’s lean face, as if Illya was not the one he’d expected to find here.

  The doubt was transient, quickly gone. The blade inched into the fabric of Illya’s shirt.

  “Inside the room, sir.”

  “I don’t even have the key.”

  The man stared at him a moment, produced a key ring, shook one out. Still holding the blade fixed on Kuryakin, he inserted the key, unlocked the door and swung it open.

  “After you, sir,” he said.

  “If you must talk, couldn’t we go somewhere for a drink?” Illya asked.

  “Inside the room,” the man said. He touched at him with the blade.

  Illya bowed and preceded the tall man into the room. They did not speak, both of them gazing fixedly at the lovely corpse.

  Illya, looking up, felt he glimpsed the faintest tug of satisfaction about the thin lips.

  “Friend of yours?”

  Illya shrugged. “She just came in to use the phone.”

  “Surely not in that condition.”

  “Who are you?”

  “You may call me Sam for the little while we will be in contact.”

  “What do you want?”

  “Must I want anything?”

  “Obviously you do, Sam.”

  “Perhaps I already have what I want.”

  Illya nodded. “Then you’ll excuse me if I leave, since I am in a hurry.”

  As he spoke he began to move toward the door. The tall man took one long step and brought up the dagger-like blade, touching its glittering point at Illya’s Adam’s apple.

  “I insist you stay.”

  “You underline your invitations so tellingly.”

  Illya stepped back toward the center of the room and the blade relaxed. Illya said, “You mind if I smoke? It’s permitted even before a firing squad.”

  Sam shrugged. “‘Where do you get the impression that I am less than friendly toward you? Smoke, by all means.”

  Illya shook out a cigarette, faced the tall man and flicked his lighter, wondering if he would ever get an opportunity to develop this film.

  He glanced around, seeing the Scotch on a table.

  “Would you like a drink?”

  Sam seemed to be listening for something, but he nodded, his smile bland. “Please.”

  Illya poured Scotch over ice cubes in two glasses. He saw Sam was watching him carefully, but when he returned his lighter to his jacket pocket, he brought out a small white pill between his fingers. He passed his hand over his own glass, lifting the other and extending it toward the watchful Sam.

  Sam shook his head. “I’ll let you drink this one. I’ll take the other.”

  Illya frowned. “But—”

  “My dear young fellow. I don’t know whom you think you’re dealing with here. If you hope to outwit me, don’t do it so clumsily.”

  “But—”

  “Oh, I know. You snapped my picture with the Japanese-made camera-cigarette lighter. I would object, but I don’t think it matters—where you’re going.”

  “Do you mind giving me some hint as to where this might be?”

  “And then you attempt to confuse me by heavy-handed legerdemain. The hand is quicker than the eye, eh? We love it that Americans and Russians oppose us in league with each other—the stupid unsubtle Americans and the heavy-handed Russians. You drop something in this glass and then permit me to see you apparently doctor the glass from which you will drink. Not even very clever, my heavy-handed friend.”

  “If you say so.”

  The black eyes smiled now, in cold assurance. “You will drink down the glass you hold out now for me. Drink it down. How do you say in the States—chug-a-lug?”

  “Cheers.”

  Illya held the glass of Scotch to his lips, hesitated just that fraction of an instant that would be dramatic and yet not overdone. He drank the liquid off, holding his breath.

  As Illya drank, Sam smilingly took up the other glass and held it to the sunlight. Satisfied that it was free of sediment or any other contamination, he sipped at it, watching Kuryakin with ill-concealed triumph.

  A heavy knock on the door stiffened both of them to alert attention.

  Sam finished off the Scotch, set the glass down on the table. “For your hospitality, thank you.”

  “It was my pleasure.’

  “You will wait until I am on the balcony and have closed the doors. You will then admit your guests.”

  “We’re eight stories up—”

  “Do as I say.”

  Illya shrugged and waited until the tall man crossed the room, retracting the blade of the dagger into the cane as he went. He stepped out on the balcony as the knocking grew louder and more impatient. He closed the doors and Illya saw his lean shadow through the fragile pink curtains.

  He said, “All right. I’m coming.”

  The knocking was repeated, louder this time.

  He opened the door, seeing across its threshold the troubled face of the hotel manager and the chilled face of two men he supposed to be Honolulu homicide detectives.

  They entered the room and then the three of them paused, staring down at the dead girl on the pink shag rug.

  “How did this happen?” The hotel manager whispered it, sick.

  “I don’t know,” Illya said. “I was not in the room.”

  “Who is she?”

  “I do not know. I got in the room by mistake. The wrong room. I found her here.” He hesitated, glanced toward the balcony, and added, “There was a man with her. A tall, Oriental-looking fellow.”

  One of the detectives, slender and mahogany dark, said, “And where is this man now?”

  Illya inclined his head toward the balcony. “He went out there when he heard you knock.”

  The detective jerked his head toward the balcony. His fellow, a stout man in his thirties, his temples flecked with gray, strode across the room. “He’s armed,” Illya said mildly.

  The detective paused at the door, removed a snub-nosed .38 police revolver from his belt holster. He turned the knobs, threw open the doors.

  The balcony was bare.

  “Very amusing,” the detective said at Illya’s shoulder.

  “I didn’t think he’d hang around out there,” Illya said.

  “We are on the eighth floor,” the detective reminded him.

  “That’s what I told him,” Illya said.

  “Oh?”

  “Yes. He didn’t seem unduly impressed.”

  The detective did not smile. “Neither am I,” he said.

  “I was afraid that would be your attitude.”

  “I better warn you. Anything you say may be used a against you.”

  Illya shrugged. “I have just one thing to say.”

  “Yes?”

  “Have you ever had those days when nothing seemed to go right?”

  IV

  SOLO WALKED SLOWLY in the mid-morning heat reflected from the red-brick streets around the train station, College Park. He felt as if he were moving through an unfiltered nightmare where nothing went right and even the buildings seemed to waver rubber-like when he looked at them.

  He’d been prowling for a long time. It had taken much indirect questioning to learn the names of the two young people who’d blasted over the bluff at Pall Pass.

  “Polly Jade Ing,” they told him. “She was the girl who sold
leis. Kaina Tamashiro worked as beach boy at Waikiki. They planned to marry.”

  Beyond this, there was little he could learn. It consumed two hours to learn that Polly Jade Ing’s parents had returned to China six months earlier. She had lived over a tailor shop near the carnival park, on River Street. Her room revealed nothing to him except that she was a casual housekeeper who wrote no letters and kept none if she received any. She had a weakness for flashily colored spiked-heel slippers, shifts, and seemed unable to find a satisfactory hair lacquer. A dozen different brands lined her cluttered dresser.

  The Honolulu Star listed Kaina Tamashiro’s address as only Aala Street. Solo had asked at a dozen houses, but the dark eyed people stared at him and shook their heads. Most of them did not even speak.

  Solo sighed, walking in the sun. He no longer believed that either Kaina Tamashiro or the pretty Polly Jade were any more than pawns in the deadly game that had caused Ursula’s death. But he had to keep pushing it now because they were the only link to whoever had hired Polly Jade to deliver the lethal lei at the airport. And Polly Jade had known there was something wrong with the deal; that was fear he had seen in her face, fear that had made her run, fear that had sent her to her death. Clearly she had been hired by a more devious employer than the Honolulu Chamber of Commerce. The lei had been deadly, and Polly Jade had known this when she had tossed it over Ursula’s head—obviously she’d even known that only the upward pull on the lei would detonate it.

  What else Polly had known he’d never be able to learn. But perhaps the beach boy might be involved—he had run, too, and had seemed to know why he was running. Anyhow it was a lane he had to follow all the way because he had no leads except a silver whip—and a letter of meaningless jargon.

  Solo was near the shabby depot of the small-gauge railway when he first noticed the young boy. The child was the color of beer in the sun, about nine. He wore a flowered shirt, brown shorts. He was barefooted. Each time Solo glanced over his shoulder, the boy was somewhere near him.

 
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