Word count: 1594
Notes: My thanks to sparky955 for her beta. And, yes, I know it's not Halloween yet.
They were just two kids. Napoleon though there wouldn't be any harm with letting them into the car, but Napoleon couldn't be more wrong.
Napoleon guided the UNCLE car to a stop and put it in park. “Where the heck are we?” The parking lot was empty and poorly lit. There wasn’t anyone around. In fact, they hadn’t seen a hint of any life since rolling into town. Granted it was nearly midnight, but he’d been expecting an all-night diner or truck stop.
“Besides lost, you mean?” Illya looked up from the map for a moment and then back down. “Did you take a right on Oak Street or a left?”
“A left, I think. Was Oak the one by the abandoned school or the closed laundromat?” Napoleon rubbed his eyes wearily. “I was ready for a break, too. Do you get the feeling that everyone’s out of town?”
“Or something. With all the bells and whistles in this car, you’d think they would have some sort of guidance system. Right now, I’d even settle for radar.”
“Dreamer.” Napoleon rolled his shoulders. “We should never have left the freeway.”
“How was I to know you’d get so turned around back there?” Illya shook the map as if that would free its secrets to him. “To your credit, though, the signage here is terrible. And there’s the fog.” As if it illustrate the point, a cloud of fog drifted past the car.
Napoleon sighed and rubbed his eyes. “Well, it’s after midnight now. I guess we should just get back to the freeway. Mr. Waverly will have our badges if we miss the rendezvous. “
“It wouldn’t be the first time—“
The rap on the window startled both of them. Illya even went so far as to reach for his weapon before realizing it was just a couple of kids. They were both young with hooded sweatshirts. The hoods fell down over their faces so only their noses and mouths were visible.
“What are kids doing out here at this time of the night?” Illya murmured. “I don’t like it.”
Napoleon scanned the parking lot quickly, but there was no sign of another car or hint of movement. “You’re right. It is odd.” His line of work made him cautious, even when it came to dealing with children. Without rolling down his window, he asked “May I help you?”
“Let us in,” the shorter of the two said. “We’re cold.”
The taller one continued. “We were going to see a movie and forgot our money. Let us into the car.”
Something struck Napoleon curious about the whole thing as there was no movie theater in sight. There was an uncomfortable prickle at the back of his neck and he’d learned from experience to pay attention to it. “Why don’t I call your parents instead? What’s your names?”
“No, let us in. We can’t come in unless you let us.”
“What a strange thing to say. What do you think?”
“No, Napoleon. I don’t like this.” Illya looked around, then gasped as the children were suddenly by his door.
“We don’t have guns. We aren’t going to shoot you. Let us in.”
“If we were going to kill you, we’ve have done it by now. Let us in.”
“Let us in.” The request was now a demand and Illya’s eyes widen. He grabbed Napoleon’s arm even as his hand was unconsciously reaching for the door latch.
With a start, Napoleon jumped and looked at Illya. “I wasn’t… I didn’t want to…”
“Let us in!” Their hands pounded on the glass at the windows and the hood fell back revealing the face of the taller boy. Where his eyes should have been were just black voids.
“Drive, Napoleon!” Illya shouted as if he doubted the strength of the bulletproof glass and the dense steel of the car.
The car suddenly jumped to life and roared out of the parking lot. As they pulled from the parking lot, there was a loud wail, almost a keening sound.
“The parking lot is empty,” Illya murmured.
“I can still see them in the rearview mirror,” Napoleon answered back and he urged the car on faster. It cut through the abandoned streets and within a matter of minutes, they were back on the freeway, back among other cars racing towards their destination.
Neither man spoke for a very long time, instead watching as the scenery blurred past. Napoleon’s eye kept flicking back and forth to the mirrors, almost as if he was afraid what he might see.
Finally their exit loomed ahead and Napoleon guided the car down the off ramp and into the town, bustling with early morning activity. He pulled into a diner and found a parking spot close to the front door. He turned off the car’s engine and sat quietly, staring at his hands.
“Open Channel D,” Illya was talking into his communicator. “We are at the rendezvous site.”
“Understood. You made good time. I will let the courier know you are in position.”
“Thank you. Channel D out.”
“What happened back there, Illya?” Napoleon stared at his hands as they held the steering wheel. It was as if he was afraid to let go.
“No idea. Maybe nothing. We still have an hour before our courier arrives. Let’s get some coffee.” Illya popped open his door and grappled his way out, nearly collapsing. “When I find out who designed this car, I’m going to have a few choice words with him.”
Napoleon was quiet as they entered the restaurant. Illya led the way to a booth and slid into it.
“What can I get you, sugar?” The waitress had a pot at the ready. “Coffee?”
Illya flipped his mug over. “Please.”
“And how about you, honey?”
“What? Oh, yes, please.”
“Are you okay?”
“Just tired from driving all night,” Illya said, as he scanned the menu. “I could use some juice and No. 1 please.”
“And your friend?”
“The same.” Illya handed the menus to her and smiled.
“Got it.” She tucked the pencil behind her ear as she walked away.
Illya waited until the woman was out of ear shot. “Napoleon, are you sure you are okay?”
“You know, I’m not sure.”
However, a substantial breakfast helped restore his good nature and a smooth transfer from the courier to them further brightened his mood. By the time they headed back out to the car, he was back to his usual self.
“I like it when a delivery works out like that.” He tossed the keys to Illya who caught them one-handed. “Your turn.”
Illya reached for the door handle. “How far…” he trailed off.
“Illya?” At the lack of response, Napoleon hurried around the car. “What’s…? Oh.” Marring the sleek finish of the car’s exterior were dirty handprints and scratches. “It really happened, didn’t it? I’d just about convinced myself it hadn’t. What are we going to say if someone asks?”
“We… lie. And we find a carwash.”
They climbed back into the car and headed back to the local office. Napoleon was happy to turn over the briefcase to the Section head. Tom Hawkings was a tall, good natured man who was equally good at tell a joke or saving your life, but he’d gotten quiet these days. An explosion had left him nearly blind. “You fellas didn’t run into any trouble, did you?” he asked as they walked through the corridor. He kept the tips of his fingers on the wall.
“No, it went like clockwork,” Napoleon answered. Illya was too busy rubbing his eyes tiredly.
“You… uh… didn’t happen to stop along the way, did you?”
Napoleon and Illya exchanged looks. “No. Why?” Napoleon asked.
The section chief stopped, ran his fingers through his hair and smiled, almost guiltily. “You can’t tell anyone back at HQ about this. I didn’t want you to think we were all a bunch a kooks out here. There’s a town about eighty miles from here and it’s some place we locals all tend to avoid. It was just found abandoned one day. Seven hundred people just disappeared over night. All over the walls was written something about beware of the black-eyed children. A few folks have tried to figure out what happened, but…” He trailed off and sighed.
“Never figured it out?”
“Never saw them again. They just vanished.” He shrugged his shoulders and started walking again. “Still no harm done since you didn’t stop.” He stopped in front of a door and toggled the release switch. “Here you go. It’s not much, but at least you’ll be able to get a little sleep before you have to catch your plane.”
Napoleon looked into that black void, took a step back and shook his head. “You know, I think we’re just going to head straight for the airport instead. Mr. Waverly has chartered a plane for us and we should be able to hop it early and get a start on our reports.”
“Oh, okay. If you’re sure…” Hawkins sounded troubled as he looked into the room. “It’s all ready for you, though. Just an hour’s sleep would make the difference.”
“Yeah. We’ll just let ourselves out. Let’s go, Illya.”
Confused, but obligingly, Illya fell into step with him, leaving the section chief behind.
“Just a gut feeling, Illya. The sooner we are out of here the better.” And Illya really didn’t have to know that he’d seen a pair of children, both wearing hoods, standing in the corner of the room.
Based upon the urban legend of The Black Eyed Children. More can be found here if you would like to learn about them: