Man from u n c l e 02.., p.4

Man From U.N.C.L.E. 02 - The Doomsday Affair, page 4


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

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  Sure, he’d be freed then—but he might as well be dead.

  He struggled, his nerve centers frantically ordering his numbed muscles to move, even to twitch, to show any sign of life at all.

  He tried to cry out, and he could not even speak. Whoever had put him here meant to see he stayed here until he was framed for a crime he had not committed, or until his true identity was established and his usefulness destroyed.

  He stared furiously, frustrated and enraged, at his hands, at his feet. And he was struck fiercely again with the simplicity of the attack. First, Ursula’s face was blown away by a mechanism concealed in a lei—flowers given a hundred times a day to visitors to Hawaii. Now, a visitor to the jail was carefully searched, and allowed to enter the cell-block with a lethal fountain pen—who even looked at a fountain pen in a man’s pocket?


  SOLO STRAIGHTENED up in the littered alley and put his back against the wall. Around him, the refuse barrels were overturned, a stocky beach boy folded neatly over one of them, the other three lying face down in the scattered garbage.

  Solo felt a stab of pain going through him and he touched gingerly at the fire in his side. He tried to keep his face expressionless, disliking the thought of giving in to the sharp burn of abrasion and contusion marring his face. His eye was swelling, purpling, and he tasted blood in the corner of his mouth.

  He experienced some small satisfaction when he looked at the four young thugs sprawled unconscious around him. The hell with them. He had not bowed to them, though his jacket was knife-ripped and stained with rancid refuse. His shirt was torn.

  But he had another lead—the silver whip—despite the deaths of Ursula and the flower girl and her beach boy. He tried to smile. He had walked into a wall—and he looked it. Solo raised the back of his hand and drew it across his mouth.

  After a long time, when he was sure his legs would support him, he straightened from the wall and gave his opponents a sardonic bow, but carefully and not very deeply. Even so, the sky and the littered pavement changed places for a second.

  He turned to walk away, but a movement caught his attention and he stopped.

  The stocky boy folded across the barrel was coming around. Solo turned to him, almost sadly, caught him by the collar and forcibly lifted him to his feet, bracing him against the wall.

  Solo shook him, both hands holding his bright shirt.

  “Who hired you to do this?” He kept asking the question until he saw those dark eyes focus, and comprehension return to them.

  The boy shook his head. Solo saw fear and admiration in the youth’s face where there had once been only cold contempt. “No. No, sir. Nobody. You see, Kaina was our friend…”

  “Who did he work for?”

  “With us, sir. At the beach.”

  “Who else? Answer me! Who else?”

  The boy shook his head, frightened. “No. No, sir. No one.”

  Solo stared at him, seeing that the boy was not lying. He was too frightened to dissemble.

  Solo was calm. He held the youth’s shirt, forcing him to meet his gaze.

  “And this girl? Polly Jade Ing? What about her? What do you know of her?”

  “I have known her many years. She and Kaina. They were to marry.”

  “Did you know who she worked for?”

  “Only with the Chamber—that’s all. I swear it, sir! Are you a cop? Some kind of a cop?”

  Solo sighed, deciding that the attack on him was a matter of vengeance, the need to cleanse Kaina’s honor, and nothing more—unless you counted the need for violence that had spurred them.

  He tightened his grip on the boy’s shirt. “I’m going to give you a chance to get out of here, away from these others. If not, I’ll put you right back to sleep with them—”

  “Oh, no, sir. No. That won’t be needed. I should be at work already. I am much late already. There’s no need.”

  “Then get out of here. Move and keep moving.”

  “Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.”

  When the boy was gone, running through the littered alley, Solo remained where he was for another moment From the pocket of his jacket, he removed the sender-receiver he had used in the hotel room to summon Kuryakin. Now, after checking the alley and finding it empty and silent, he pulled out the antennae and said into the speaker:

  “Bubba. Acknowledge. Acknowledge.”

  He frowned, waiting. The call should have carried at least five miles. He glanced around him, thinking he wanted to clear out of here. A man could get hurt in this island paradise. Further, he wanted to communicate to Illya his need to pursue the clues offered by that silver whip.

  “Bubba. Acknowledge, please.,

  He spoke calmly and clearly, but without emotion. He touched at the darkening spot beside his mouth.

  He pressed the button, listening.

  He made one last effort. “Bubba. Come in please. Acknowledge.”

  There was no answer and he stopped listening. He reset the antennae, replaced the set in his jacket pocket and walked toward the train station in the distance, carrying the soiled, slashed coat across his shoulder.

  He decided that Illya had gone off alert, because it was basic computing inside the machinery of Kuryakin’s unemotional mind that if he did not hear from Solo, it was no signal to hit the panic switch. If anything he became calmer than ever, certain he was on a DC-7 winging stateside.


  SPRAWLED on the cot in his darkening cell at the Honolulu jail, Illya looked through the bars at the lighted corridor, at the guards and trustys moving around out there in the onion yellow light.

  He struggled violently, in a way he had never struggled before. It had nothing to do with actual movement, action of any kind. His body was stilled as if in a catatonic trance. His eyes were still tear-clouded, burning from the fluid sprayed into them. The struggling was all inside his mind.

  He began to be filled with a distracting terror that this paralysis might be permanent. Suddenly this cell was like a tiny box, a cheap coffin. He wondered if this were what it all finally added up to: lying helpless in an alien cell, among strangers. It had never occurred to him that he would not have to pay for having served U.N.C.L.E., the things he had done for the united command, and the misdoings in the years before he had joined them. He had not looked for a reward—no more than a few hours off once in a while to enjoy his collection of jazz. But it was bad to know one was so alone, and helpless.

  Lying there, he watched the cell-block door open and then close. Trustys were carrying tin plates of food to the inmates. He wondered how long it would be before they came and found him like this. He struggled again, ordering his hands to move. He didn’t want to be found here like this.

  He heard the distant ring of a telephone. It was silenced and he sweated, concentrating on moving his hands.

  Inside his skull he laughed when his fingers twitched, and then bent, and then straightened. Now he concentrated fiercely upon his feet and his legs, forcing his conscious mind to ignore the bite of acid in his eyes and nostrils.

  His feet moved. His legs moved. He did not know how long it was but finally he was able to sit up on the edge of the cot. His clothing was sweat damp, and he was wide-eyed and tense.

  He reached out his arms, found support and pulled himself to his feet. He attempted to take a forward step, but lost his balance and sprawled outward. He caught himself on the lavatory, and then dragged his legs after him, straightening.

  He turned the tap water on full. Slowly he lowered his face into the rush of water. He let it run for a long time.

  The burn lessened in his eyes, and the sting ceased in his nostrils. He kept bathing his face with the water. He realized that feeling had returned to his legs, and his hands and forearms ached with the returning strength. He bent slowly forward and immersed his face in the water.

  He stayed as long as he could hold his breath like that. He heard the trusty shout at him from the bars, telling him his food was there. He
managed to turn his head and nod.

  He straightened up at last, massaging his face with his hands, and rubbing them briskly along his arms, trying to escape the last traces of the drug as quickly as he could.

  He walked to the bars, took up the tin tray of food. He ate slowly, holding the tray, then he replaced it on the floor where it could be collected.

  He went back to his bunk then and sat down on the side of it. He glanced through the bars at the corridor, then bent over and removed his right shoe.

  Holding the shoe, he turned the heel and shook out a heat-bomb pellet, thinking about the force concentrated inside it. From his tray he got a spoon and scooped out a small hole under the bars. He set the pellet inside it, checking the corridor across his shoulder. He pushed a half-dozen cigarettes around the pellet, securing it. He flicked light from his cigarette lighter, setting fire to the paper.

  He stepped down from the bunk then, and walked leisurely across the cell. He dropped the spoon back on the tray and leaned against the bars, trying not to watch the fire flickering in the paper around the heat-bomb pellet.

  He made a mental countdown, watching the corridor. The sound the pellet would make would not be huge, but it would be enough to be heard all over the cell block.

  As he waited, he tried to compute the time he would have, running across the cell, lunging upward against those bars that would be ripped free along the bottom, but perhaps only loosened on the sides. He would have to go out that window in whatever space was blown loose by the heat-bomb. He knew it was going to be small.

  At the instant the heat bomb exploded, the wall quivering with the mild concussion, Illya heard the shouts along the cell block, the pound of shoes as men ran in the corridors.

  He did not waste time to look over his shoulder. He sprang up on the bunk, shoving with his hands, finding the bars still friction-heated. He thrust outward with all his strength, twisting as he pushed.

  He breathed a small prayer of thanksgiving because three courses of bricks beneath the window had been blown loose and his weight against them sent them falling outside the jail. Holding his breath, he pushed upward on the bars, worming his head into the opening.

  Illya’s head and shoulders were outside the window. Behind him he heard the shouting of men, the ring of keys, the clang of metal. It occurred to him that surely Lieutenant Guerrero would have a special torture and inquisition set-up for captured escapees. Guerrero would never stop tormenting him if he were caught and returned now. What better admission of guilt than an escape attempt?

  Illya pressed downward on the bricks of the outside of the jail, thinking that he was like a woman trying to get into her girdle, only what he hoped to accomplish was to work his body through an opening too small to accommodate it.

  He turned and twisted, feeling his hips sliding through, feeling the cut of the bars, the scraping of the broken wall, and feeling the pain, too. The worst pain was the fear of being caught by the legs from behind, of being dragged back into that jail, squirming like a fish.

  He pushed harder, feeling more bricks give, feeling his hips twist through the hole. A hard hand clutched at his ankle. Panic gave him forward thrust. He lunged outward, his hips freed. He lost his balance and went tumbling down toward the paved alleyway.

  He struggled, trying to turn his body, attempting to land on his feet like a cat. He didn’t make it. He struck hard, and flat, the breath blasted out of him.

  Breathing painfully, Illya sat up and looked around. From above him, he heard the warning shouts of the jailers, the crack of a gun. He scrambled on all fours to the shelter of the wall, trying to buy enough time to recover his breath.

  He stared down at his feet, realizing for the first time that whoever had caught at his ankle had jerked off one of his shoes.

  For a moment he slumped, feeling the chill of defeat. How far could he get in one shoe? He couldn’t lose himself in a crowd; he’d have eye witnesses to every move he made.

  A gun fired above him and the bullet splatted in the pavement near him, galvanizing him into action, and shifting a gear in his brain. This was a vacation spot, wasn’t it, a land of gaudy shirts, shorts, bikinis—and bare feet?

  Trying to control his desire for frantic haste, Illya pulled off his remaining shoe and his socks and tossed them away. He rolled up his slacks above his ankles, leaped to his feet and ran along the street.

  Behind him sirens whistled and alarms flared. Armed men ran from the police station into the street.

  Illya pulled his shirt from his trousers, and forced himself to saunter through the gathering crowd gaping at the curbs.

  A taxi driver stood beside his hack, watching the uniformed men spilling from the police headquarters.

  “Cab,” Illya said, opening the rear door and stepping inside the taxi.

  The driver pulled himself reluctantly from the excitement. Behind the wheel, he grinned over his shoulder. “Where to? And you ain’t the guy they’re looking for, are you?”

  Illya shrugged. “What do you think?”

  The driver started the car, flipped down the meter flag and pulled away from the curb. He made it only to the center of the street when he was halted by two patrolmen armed with rifles. “Where you headed?” one of them wanted to know.

  The driver shrugged, jerking his head toward the rear. “I don’t know. Got a fare here.”

  Illya was lying back casually, his bare feet up on the seat. He grinned vacantly at the cops, hoping they had not seen him inside the jail. “Waikiki, driver. Let’s get away from here; I can’t stand violence.”

  The cops pulled their heads back from the car and waved the cab on. Illya sat up, turning, giving them a wide grin and a bye-bye wave. At the same time he was saying to the driver, “Is this as fast as you can go?”

  The driver, suddenly alerted, stiffened and stepped on the gas. He said, “You armed, mister?”

  Illya turned, his face blank. “They so seldom arm the inmates, Charley. Just drive.”

  He watched the driver’s knuckles whiten on the steering wheel. When the cabbie made a sudden move to turn a corner, it was as though Illya could read the slow process of his thoughts—around the corner and back to the police.

  Illya leaned forward and laid the side of his hand against the cabbies Adams apple with only the slightest pressure. “I think this is far enough. You stop when you make this corner.”

  “Okay. Okay. I got nothing against you, buddy. I just want to keep my license.”

  “I have my little ambitions, too,” Illya told him.

  He stepped out of the cab while it was still rolling, and strolled through the crowd. A bus was pulling in to the curb at the far corner. He ran across the street and boarded it.

  When he heard police sirens behind the bus, he touched the cord, alighted and walked swiftly down the side street. He had gone less than half a block when a Volkswagen swung around a corner ahead of him and cruised toward him. He paused, watching it, vaguely troubled without knowing why he should be. There were three men crowded into the small car—and then he recognized the driver. It was the man with the lethal fountain pen.

  There was an arcade at his left; Illya stepped into it and strode along it, going past the shops that lined it toward a walled court lighted with afternoon sun. He winced, seeing the cul-de-sac, and knowing there was no chance his friends in the Volkswagen hadn’t spotted him, just as they must have been watching the jail. Sam and company meant to see that he was framed for Ursula’s murder, and kept incarcerated.

  Near the rear of the arcade Illya paused and looked over his shoulder. The Volkswagen pulled into the curb and the three men unwound themselves from it, spreading out to search for him.

  He stepped into the alcove of a curio shop. From this shadowed concealment he watched his friend of the deadly fountain pen stride toward him, his dark eyes searching the stores, watchful and alert.

  Illya waited until the man passed, then he stepped from the alcove. “Were you looking for me, friend?

  He heard the man gasp, turning. He didn’t let him get all the way around because he was too immersed in the memory and rage of what had happened to him in that jail cell. The man threw up his arm to shield himself and Illya drove his extended fingers into the unprotected armpit, and then clipped him across the neck with the side of his hand.

  He didn’t wait to see him fall. He moved through the astonished bystanders, ran across the curb and leaped into the unattended Volkswagen.

  He burned away from the curb with the accelerator pressed to the floor. The two men ran after him, shouting, guns drawn. Over and above the wail of horns and the shouting, he heard the scream of approaching police sirens.

  He roared out on King Street and kept the small car on the upper level of the speed limit, heading toward Diamond Head. When he reached Waikiki, he swung into the drive outside the pink hotel where he had posed as bellhop, where Ursula had been slain.

  A beach boy sunned himself, waiting for a bus. Illya called him over. “I promised to send this car into Vic’s Garage over near Aala Street. You know the place? If you’ll drive it there, you got yourself a free ride downtown.”

  The boy grinned, his teeth gleaming. “Mister, you got yourself a deal.”

  Illya did not even wait to see the Volkswagen driven out of the hotel parking area. He tried to move nonchalantly around to the service entrance, but inwardly he admitted he was running, even if he did manage to keep his pace to a sedate-looking stroll.

  Five minutes later he came out of his room in the service quarters of the hotel wearing fresh slacks and jacket. He glanced longingly toward the cabs that would get him away from here before the police or the men from Sam overtook the Volkswagen and learned from the beach boy where he had gotten the little car.

  Telling himself that nothing was ever easy, Illya went up in the service elevator to the eighth floor, where he found Ursula’s room sealed by the law, with appropriate notice on the door.

  He entered with a passkey, and once inside he relaxed slightly. He laid out the developers and the small plastic cups, his receiver-sender, a binocular-loupe, a small infrared light, and the film he’d developed earlier for Solo.

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