Genre: Man from UNCLE
Word Count: 2887
Written for bradygirl_12, who wanted a Man from UNCLE Haunted house. My thanks to her for a challenging prompt and to Sparky for her beta help
The factory had been there for as long as I could remember, and that was saying something. I’d seen it as a factory, of course, then as a warehouse, a flop house, a crime lair and most recently a teen hangout. I’d walked this way for many years.
However, this was something new. It had started with a single car and a pair of men.
“What do you think?”
“The structure is still sound, the floor plan gives us ample space and opportunity. I think we’ve arrived.
I wasn’t sure what he meant, but as was my usual fashion, I settled down and watched. Time is on my side. It’s always on my side.
The cars came by the boatload, it seemed and everyone arrived carrying something, a mop, a broom, tools, canvas and later heavy curtains and plywood. There was an explosion of activity and people descended upon the factory. I waited and I watched.
Lights now burned where there had only been darkness before and the old factory came back to life, inch by inch. I wasn’t sure, not to the end, what they were doing. That’s when they hung a large sign above the door. SPOOK HOUSE – a scare a minute.
I grunted and contemplated their fate. While the factory wasn’t exactly in the worst part of the City, nor was it in the best. The only foot traffic down here were bums and rats. No one would dare chance the shadows and what hid there.
Then a nice shiny chain link fence went up and bright lights made the grounds around the factory glow. I saw the original pair arrive again, carrying boxes of equipment
“What does security look like?”
“It’s going to be tighter than tight. I’m putting in security cameras, infrared detectors and will have five Section Three groups scattered around the perimeter patrolling. Nothing and no one will get in without our say so.”
I laughed at that. No one refused me. Well, they refused, but in the end, they always saw it my way. This time is would be no different for I walk and I follow where my path leads... and my path would lead here three times.
Napoleon Solo shivered in the bitter wind and stepped thankfully inside the entry way of the factory building. It had taken them some hard work, but he felt good about all that they had accomplished. They had been running the haunted house nearly a month without an incident, except for a few small injuries. The word had spread, thanks to some enthusiastic radio jockeys and teens flocked to the haunted house. The fund for the orphans and widows of UNCLE bulged and there was talk about spreading the wealth across to the rest home. What had been a silly pipedream had become a reality and they were reaping the benefits.
He stamped his feet to try and warm them up. The hand-tooled Italian leather shoes were beautifully crafted, but did nothing against the cold. If it was this cold in October, he shuddered to think what December would be like.
“All clear?” he asked the Section Three in charge as he approached the front of the house. There were already people waiting to go in.
“So far. It’s going to be a wild night. I can’t believe they started lining up out there before dusk. And in this temperature!” He gestured to several groups of people crowding into their makeshift lobby. “I let them in an hour ago, but then we ran out of space.” He followed Napoleon inside.
“Well, it is Halloween night. What better time to visit a haunted house? Start the barrels burning outside now. That will help the crowd warm up. I’ll go in the back and see if they are ready. If they are, we’ll start a little early.” The Section Three nodded, adjusted his collar and headed back outside.
Napoleon slipped behind a gruesomely-painted screen and walked down a corridor flanked by regular intervals with curtains. If anyone looked, they’d discover that behind the curtains, there was walkway for the various people running the haunted house. But when the lights were out, it was a dimly lit hall, its walls leaning in, threatening to crush them. It was all built on illusion, of course. Nothing could be safer.
Napoleon reached a ‘Y’ in the corridor and took the left branch. This was designed to break groups up, only to reunite them further along, usually with great shrieks and shouts of surprise. Except he stopped halfway there and pushed a curtain aside and step into the spot designated as their green room, a place where the actors of the haunted house could stop and rest for a few moments, get a drink or use the facilities. It was hard work scaring people, so they ran two shifts.
There was a man hunched over a small heater, obviously trying to warm up, and it was to him Napoleon went.
“You okay, partner?”
“No, I’m freezing in this get up.” Illya’s outfit consisted of a pair of filthy torn overalls. His arms and feet were bare. He was supposed to chase people through a short maze with his scythe, but at the moment, Napoleon wondered if Illya could even stand.
He put a hand against Illya’s forehead. It was hot despite Illya’s shivering. “You’re feverish. I think you need to sit tonight out.”
“With Mr. Waverly coming? Not a chance. I’ll collapse tomorrow, but tonight, I will roam and try not to infect people.”
“Then I think maybe you need a change of costume tonight.”
“Either that or a change of location. Hawaii sounds nice about now.”
“You’d be warmer in a matter of seconds.” Napoleon consulted a clip board hanging from a portable chalk board. “Hey, they need a Grim Reaper for tonight. Both of ours have called off.”
“Figures. Where’s the outfit?”
“Those heavy robes.”
“I’m there.” Illya didn’t even bother to change from his overalls. He just pulled the robe on over them. “Ugh, this smells like paradichlorobenzene. No wonder the people wearing them called in sick.”
“Moth balls, Napoleon, didn’t you even take chemistry in school?”
“Only the biological kind.” Napoleon smiled at a passing secretary, dressing in a blood-stained nurse’s outfit. “Oh, nurse…”
“Oh, Napoleon!” Illya’s rebuke was murmured, as if surrendering to a lost cause.
“All right, all right. Here.” He handed Illya back his scythe. “Go reap something. I’m going to open the main doors. I’ll let you know when Mr. Waverly arrives.”
The first report came as a frantic whisper for help from a young agent.
“Guys, I need help right now. Call an ambulance. There’s been an accident.”
“What’s wrong?’ Napoleon gestured to one of his agents who ran for the phone and he hunched closer to his communicator.
“I don’t know. Someone got spooked and fell, ripped his arm open.”
Napoleon waited by the back entrance and was shocked at the sight on the gurney being wheeled out of the back of the factory. The sheet covering the man was stained black with blood, a severed arm resting between his legs.
“What the hell happened?” He pulled down the sheet and there was another jolt, this time of recognition.
“I don’t believe it!”
“I know this guy. He’s THRUSH.”
“Was. This man is dead.”
“He’s here. Repeat, the Big Bird has landed with his eggs.” Napoleon’s mouth twisted at the euphemism. Why they couldn’t just say that Mr. Waverly had arrived was beyond him. After all, they were using a secure channel.
“Keep a close eye on him. Have you closed off the part of the maze where the accident happened?”
“We rerouted it around the area, but I swear, Napoleon, there is nothing there even remotely sharp.”
“Acknowledged. I didn’t think there was.” He paused for a minute. “Have you seen Illya? He’s dressed as the Grim Reaper tonight.”
“Yeah, not too long ago. He was headed for the laboratory.”
“Figures. I should have made him a mad scientist instead of the crazed farmhand.” There was a responding laugh and Napoleon smiled. “Keep an eye on him. He’s not doing well tonight.”
“He looked half dead this afternoon.”
“I think he’s finally catching the flu that the rest of us got two weeks ago. He wanted to stay for Mr. Waverly, though.”
“I’ll watch out for him. Out.”
It’s a little funny watching people watching me. Most of the time, people are wary of a stranger and keep their distance. At this time of the year, they seem to find strength in numbers. He didn’t even become aware of me until I was standing right beside him. He reeked of death and made mockery of all I stood for. It took very little effort to disarm him, no pun intended.
A little boy sidled up to me and clung to my robe as we passed over the rat pit. His wails at the seemingly half eaten corpse were truly blood curdling. Yet no one seemed to care. Tonight, terror was an accepted companion.
“Oh dear, I knew he was too young for this.” A woman came up to us and scooped the boy up. He was nearly as big as she was. “I’m sorry. I tried to tell him, but monkey see, monkey do.”
I nodded in total agreement. Of course, children saw monsters in all the shadows until adults told them otherwise. There were times when I wished the adults listened more to their children.
She was looking around, being jostled by the group eager to make their way to the next horrific sight. “Can you see a way out? I think we’ve both had enough.”
I raised my scythe and caught one of the guide’s attention.
“What’s wrong, Mr. Kuryakin?”
“Could you get us out of here?” The woman didn’t wait for me to answer. It’s best that way.
“Oh, sure, come this way. Too much for you, little man?”
“The rats were enough for me.”
“Don’t worry. They’re her pets.”
I gave the guides high marks for looking out for little ones and the faint of hearts. They also knew when to leave the young girls clinging to their dates alone. All in all, they had not done a bad job. I applauded their use of light, shadow and psychology. Why bothering putting in extra effort when most of their guests scared themselves silly?
I wandered the corridors aimlessly, unsure of where my path would lead. It was easier that way. People watched me, but never challenged me. It wasn’t until I’d reached their version of a mad scientist’s laboratory that the mist lifted and I saw with clear eyes.
God, forgive me.
Napoleon was flipping through the duty roster for tomorrow. He was determined to give as many of his current on-duty agents the day off as possible. The tear down of the house could wait. UNCLE owned the property, so time was on his side.
He looked up as one of his junior agents stumbled into the makeshift office. Then he was on his feet. The man’s face was white.
“Willoby, what’s wrong?”
The ashen face turned towards him and then the man bolted, grabbing a wastebasket and losing his dinner into it.
A breathless Section Three was on Willoby’s heels.
“What is going on?” Napoleon demanded. Willoby had collapsed to the floor, panting.
“You know how they have those head displayed on pikes outside the dungeon?”
“Of course.” Napoleon repressed a grin. He’d sat for one and the skewered head was not a bad likeness, less the corruption.
“One of them is real. A guest found it. Willoby managed to get her away from it before she realized.”
“How did you know?”
“Friday in class, the professor posted the five top assassins in THRUSH. He was number two.”
“Just came out of the house. He and his grandchildren are enjoying punch and cookies.”
“Watch him.” Napoleon stole a glance at his watch. “Nearly midnight. We have to close this place down. This can’t be a coincidence. I need Illya.”
“I saw him at the lab. He was helping a young woman and her kid. He’d had too much.”
“Get him here now and I want a security detail around Mr. Waverly and the children. Somehow, THRUSH found out he’s here and they aren’t going to stop.”
I grow weary of these corridors and of the pointless screams. There is something wrong, something that I can’t place. My head is whirling again, the images stretched and grotesque. I long for rest but I know the night is young and the time is growing short. My second guest had been eager to get ahead in in career. I felt it was my job to help him. I certainly couldn’t let him hurt anyone here.
Still, a moment or two would not be amiss. I found a dark corner and paused, longing for a deep cleansing breath, not one laced with sawdust and mothballs. It is not enough and I turned to walk away and tripped. Something is on the floor. Something or someone. I paused, but it is not for me to rescue him, even a touch--
“Hey, hey, Illya!”
At the voice, I moved back into the shadows and immediately two men, both holding pistols approached. They knelt by the lump and then lifted it up. “Illya? Crap, get an ambulance.”
They made much fuss, talking into a pen and pulling the dark robes off the unconscious man. I winced at the noise and continued to walk. That’s when I saw the other man, hiding, smiling cruelly. He also had a weapon, a rifle and he was aiming it at an approaching man. My brother. Everything settled then and I knew what needed to happen. It was all so clear, so easy now. I loved easy.
Napoleon ran up, his tie askew, his breath rough.
“Where is he?”
“They’re just loading him into the ambulance.” The agent pointed, then he paused. “Did you hear something?” But Napoleon was on the move again, racing toward the exit.
He stumbled over something, but he couldn’t be bothered to stop. Not now. He exited the factory, looked around for his bearings and headed for the ambulance.
“How is he?”
“He’s running a helluva fever and hallucinating, I think. He said he saw Death. We’ll get him to Medical.”
“Thanks! I’ll be along in a bit.”
The attendant suddenly looked at Napoleon. “Hey, are you okay?”
“Of course. Why do you ask?”
“You have blood all over you.”
Napoleon looked down and frowned. His pant leg was glistening black in the half light of the parking lot. “What the hell?”
He looked back at the door. “Don’t go anywhere.” Just inside the door, he found what he was looking for. The man had been gutted, slit stem to stern.
Mark Slate trotted up to Napoleon and slammed to a stop. “Bloody hell… what is going on?”
Napoleon flicked his lighter one and leaned closer. “Another assassin. Mr. Waverly?”
“On his way home. I tucked him into his car and vetted the driver. His grandkids couldn’t stop talking about it. You got a hit on your hands.”
“And another corpse. Would you tell the ambulance to go and to send a wagon back. I don’t know how I’m going to explain this.”
“Maybe ask Illya.”
“What? Illya’s being loaded into the ambulance.”
“I just saw him walking back to the green room. He’s the Grim Reaper, yeah?”
“Illy’s strapped to a gurney outside.”
“Then who did I see?”
“I don’t know, but I’m going to find out.
The work lights popped on then, signaling the end of the evening. It meant everyone was out of the house. Now he’d get some answers.
Napoleon raced past several fellow UNCLE employees, all congratulated themselves on a job well done. They might have called out to Napoleon, but he didn’t hear them.
Ahead he saw a black robed figure and skidded to a stop. He grabbed a shoulder and spun him.
It wasn’t the first time Napoleon had come face-to-face with Death. In fact, by now he was an old friend. Now he stared, his breath coming in hard pants.
“You did this?”
A slow nod.
“Why?” Napoleon thought furiously for a moment. “It’s not his time, is it?”
A slow shake of the hooded head.
“Thank you. Thank you for keeping him safe... both of them.”
Another nod, then the figure slipped into the shadows and was gone.
Mark caught up with him. “Did you find him?”
Napoleon smiled grimly at that point. “Death has left the building. Let’s go get cleaned up and get out of here.”
The factory had been there for as long as I could remember, and that was saying something. I’d seen it as a factory, of course, then as a warehouse, a flop house, a crime lair and most recently, a haunted house. I’d walked this way for many years.
No one refused me. Well, they refused, but in the end, they always saw it my way. This time was no different for I walk and I follow where my path leads... and my path led here.