Genre: Man from UNCLE
Word Count: 3234
For ssclassof56. I hope you enjoy the story and if I can figure out how to embed that gif, I will. Also my thanks to sparky955. Happy Halloween!
“It’s gonna be a blast. Outta sight, man.” The young man on the phone was nearly dancing with excitement. “The Bobby Five is playing. They have a far out gig.”
Illya looked up from the book he was reading, Quantum Theory. Volume III: Radiation and High Energy Physics, edited by D.R. Bates. Whoever thought he would be a good bodyguard for this young man was sorely mistaken.
“Yeah, my babysitter is still here.”
“Bodyguard,” Illya muttered, pushing his glasses back in place with a forefinger.
“Whatever you gotta call yourself to look in the mirror, dude.” Back into the phone, he said, “I’ll talk to you later. Keep it hanging.”
Reginald ‘Fast Lips’ Voltave, the son of a visiting scientist, was THRUSH’s latest target. THRUSH felt if the scientist was prevented from addressing the UN, they would have a chance to make their move. Two other UNCLE agents had met unfortunate ends watching this package. Illya was determined that he would not. “
The house was in lock down now. The only reason the boy was being allowed to go to this party was that it would be held at an UNCLE-vetted property with and it was the one way Reginald would cooperate.
“Hey, UNCLE dude.”
Illya looked up over the top of his glasses at Reginald. “Yes?”
“Gotta tell you, the butler did it.” Reginald walked away laughing at Illya’s confused expression.
Illya had to admit that this had been an experience. He’d not spent a great deal of time with a young American teenage boy before and it was very… enlightening. In fact, Illya had spent much of the last three days just trying to figure out what the boy was saying.
Illya’s communicator chirped and he set down the book. “Kuryakin.”
“Illya, how’s everything going?”
“Fine on this end. Yours?”
“The same. We have replaced all the staff with our people and there will be security on all the doors.”
“What about the band?”
“They’ve arrived and have been taken to a safehouse until tonight.”
“Hang in there, partner. It will all be over tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow.” Rock and roll music started blasting and Illya winced. “Why does that presently seem so far away?” That was when the scientist would address the UN and then he and his son would be whisked away by another agency, out of UNCLE’s hands.
“Keep your chin up and your eyes open.”
“No one will be sleeping here, I assure you.”
Napoleon watched the five young men on the stage from the wings. They were busy testing their equipment, doing mic checks and basically getting the feel of the place.
“We picked a great place for a Halloween concert.” The Bobby’s Five’s manger and agent, Leroy Tub, watched the young people as they worked. There was something odd about the man, something that made the hair on Napoleon’s neck stand up. He’d been cleared, so it wasn’t the THRUSH threat, but there was something not quite… right about him. Tub was in his mid-fifties and seemed oddly distant.
“I beg your pardon?”
“Don’t you even know the venue’s history? About the night that it happened?”
Napoleon decided to play dumb. Certainly, they’d gone over the building from top to bottom before agreeing to permit their young charge from attending this evening. However, their concerns were very different than the run-of-the-mill. “Venues have history? What happened?”
“This building, man! You practically have to swim through the karma.” At Napoleon’s blank look, the man’s sunglasses came off. His eyes were bloodshot and wrinkled from fatigue and his face was splotchy. “You never heard?”
“I think it is safe to assume that I have not.”
“Back in the late 20’s early 30’s, there was a hot jazz band playing here. Soulful Sounds was rocking the place when a fire broke out. Management told them to keep playing to keep the audience from panicking. It sort of worked. They got nearly everyone out, but the roof collapsed over the stage and killed all the members of the band. It was a real tragedy. It was said that for the longest time you could stand outside the ruins on Halloween night and hear them playing. It’s when the fabric that separates this world from the other world is the thinnest. It is then that mysterious things can happen.” The manager walked away.
“I am sorry to hear of their sacrifice, but I do not believe in such things,” Napoleon said, drily. He did his best to keep a smirk from his face as his eyes followed the man as he moved slowly from the stage.
“Hey, don’t doubt the Tubman,” Harold, the lead singer, said as he set his guitar down into its stand. “He’s a seer. He knows this stuff because he’s been there. He’s had a long history with this building. That’s why we’re here.” Tommy nodded in agreement, too busy tuning his guitar to speak.
“They rebuilt the place and this will be their grand opening. We’re an opening act for an opening!” Gus, the bass, giggled at his joke.
Jerry, the drummer stuffed his sticks into his back pocket. “Yeah, dude, we’re gonna even try to channel them. We’re gonna do the group’s biggest hit, Fire Burning Me Up. Tubman thought it would be a fitting tribute.”
Napoleon realized now that the blotches on the manager’s face were actually scars. That was… interesting. “Tell me more,” he said to the closest band member.
“The first time this place burned down it was Halloween night, 1931. Twelve people died, including the band. The structure stood abandoned until 1941 when a wealthy entrepreneur decided it would make a good gentlemen’s club.” Harold’s voice took on a lecturing edge and Napoleon remember reading in his briefing that the man taught second grade in real life. “Halloween night they were celebrating when a major power surge created a short in the main line into the building. The highlight of the night was a young woman leaping from a giant jack o’ lantern. Sadly, because it was on a metal cart, she and the waiter pushing it were electrocuted when it hit the water and killed instantly, along with a half dozen other party goers.”
“But, dude, guess what music was playing in the background?” Jerry said, grinning. He was a plumber during the day and Napoleon tried to picture the man cramming himself under a sink.
“I am at a loss.”
Tommy, an accountant by trade, spoke up. “Fire Burning Me Up. Creepy, huh?” He played a few chords on his guitar and the lights took that moment to flicker. The band member looked up at the instruments.
“Probably just an unfortunate coincident,” Napoleon said, softly, as if trying to convince all of them.
The last member of the group, Gary, joined them, his guitar slung over one shoulder. Like his fellow band members, he played at night and worked during the day. He was a reporter. “In 1952, a water main exploded and flooded the basement. The next morning, the owner went down to check out the damage, flipped on the light and ZAPPO! He’d been making fun of the Soulful Sounds just beforehand and was whistling…”
He paused for effect and the entire band said as one. “Fire Burning Me Up!”
“If that is indeed the case, then why are you willing to take the risk?
“Tubman said that if we could raise the Soulful Sound tonight, he would be able to help them cross over.”
“I see.” Napoleon shook his head. “If all that you say is true, you are taking a risk.”
“No we’re not.” Gus, another accountant, motioned him closer. “We’re all wearing rubber-soled sneakers and we all have fire extinguishers at our positions. Nothing is going to happen and the song is gonna be the highlight of the evening! Do you know Tubman hasn’t even let us perform it together? He says the song holds too much power.”
Napoleon smiled and nodded, but he knew better than to believe in such nonsense. He threaded his way through the tangle of electrical cords into the backstage area. The dim light cast shadows and Napoleon could well understand how stories of ghosts could come to haunt such a place. As long as they didn’t pull a weapon and shoot at him, he would let bygones be bygones.
He checked his watch and approached a small cluster of agents. “You’re security tonight?”
One older agent nodded, looking none too happy with the prospect. “Are they going to be all that wild?” he asked as a small group of screaming teens ran past. “I already have a headache.”
“To be honest, I don’t know. As long as we keep The Baby safe, that’s all that matters.” He checked his watch. “Illya should be en route now, so good luck and keep your eyes open! And do me a favor, will you?”
“Have someone check the all circuit breakers here and make sure the fire extinguishers work. I have a bad feeling we might be heading into something.”
“I don’t know, which bothers me even more.”
“You got it.”
“Thanks and be careful tonight. Remember, you are The Establishment.” Napoleon walked a short distance away and pulled out his communicator. “Open Channel D. Shelia, are you there?”
“Lock, stock, and almost, sad to say, sick of chocolate. What can I do for you?”
“I need you to do some research for me. See what you can find on Leroy Tub, aka Tubman.”
Illya pulled the sedan up in front of the theatre, the windshield wipers struggling to keep up with the rain. A person ran up and opened the passenger door. Illya recognized the man as one of their Section Three agents and checked his reaching for his weapon.
“Hey, Illya, Napoleon said to take him in and to his seat.”
“I hope I got a good seat. You wouldn’t even let me know what the number was,” Reginald muttered.
“That was so it couldn’t accidently slip out in conversation. You are taking a big risk insisting upon doing this.”
“I’ve been waiting for this show for weeks!”
“Weeks…” Illya repeated and shook his head. “I’m amazed you were able to survive that long.”
The boy muttered something that Illya didn’t catch and he didn’t care. He was just happy to see the back of the teen. A moment later he saw Napoleon and raised his hand in a half wave.
“Mr. K, are we all ready to go?”
“Another hour and I would have turned him over to THRUSH myself.” Illya sighed long and low. “Napoleon, when did we become the enemy?”
“To whom? THRUSH?”
Napoleon laughed and slapped Illya on the shoulder. “When we turned thirty, my friend. We became The Establishment.”
“Parents provide them food, shelter, an education, clothes, and then are treated like second class citizens in return. They lie, they hide the truth, and they act as if we never were young once. I am never becoming a father.”
“Well said. Are you going to come in and watch the show?”
“Is it true that they are opening with Fire Burning Me Up?”
“That’s what I’m told.”
“I’d like to hear that. There is a certain mystique that surrounds the song.”
“So I’ve been told.”
“Apparently the group’s manager is something of an expert on Soulful Sounds. He was telling me about the history of this particular building.”
Illya tipped his head back to study the old theatre. “Why?”
“Apparently this is why they performed last.”
Illya shook his head. “Two blocks that way. It’s a park now.”
“Then why…?” A muffled roar from inside told him that the concert had started. “Illya, something’s wrong? Something is going to happen tonight.”
“The group told me that they were doing Fire Burning Me Up as a finale. I think the manager has something planned.”
“Wasn’t he vetted?”
“Yes, but… one of us needs to get in there.”
Illya looked at Napoleon and nodded. “Leave it to me.”
Napoleon breathed the night air deeply, his head pounding from the music and adrenaline. After an hour of amplified screeching, even the traffic seemed a welcomed, if muffled change. He hadn’t spotted Illya, but he knew his partner was a chameleon, so he wasn’t surprised.
He felt his communicator vibrate and pulled it out. “Solo here.”
“Finally. I’ve been trying to call you for an hour.”
“Sorry, I was in the concert. You can’t hear anything in there.”
“Is it great?”
“It’s loud. What do you have for me?”
“Oh, sorry, I couldn’t find anything recent on Leroy Tub, after 1931. Strange coincident, that was the name of the Soulful Sounds’ manager. He was killed with the group in that fire.”
“If he’d survived, how old would he be?”
“Mid-fifties, I’d say. And it’s a good thing he didn’t.”
“Why do you say that?”
“It was rumored he started the fire. He was trying for a fire effect, but things were still pretty primitive back then. Supposedly, he started a real fire, but it got out of hand and killed the group, along with some of the audience.”
“Thanks, Sheila, I owe you dinner. Solo out.” He tucked the communicator away and went back inside. He could feel the energy of the crowd and started to work his way down to the row of guards before the stage, searching until he found the lead.
“When they start to perform Fire Burning Me Up, keep the crowd back.”
“I think the manager is going to try something and I don’t want anyone hurt.”
“We’ll do our best.” He caught an armful of young girl and pushed her back gently. The girl didn’t even notice.
Napoleon patted him on the arm and began to wade towards backstage. One security guard thought to challenge him, but thought better of it when he saw Napoleon’s ID.
“In closing, we just want to thank you all for a fabulous night.” Backstage, Harold’s voice seemed muted. Various deckhands stood around in clusters and Napoleon approached the closest group.
“Have you seen the manager?”
“Tubman? Dressing room.” Napoleon followed the point and nodded, moving quickly in that direction. He knocked on the door. “Mr. Tub, may I speak to you for a moment?”
“No.” The man’s voice was strangled and Napoleon didn’t hesitate. With one kick, he knocked the door in and pushed into the room.
Leroy Tub, his half-naked body a mass of scar tissue, stood there within a circle drawn on the floor. Candles lit every flat surface and gave the man a maniacal look. “Stop!” Napoleon ordered.
“Too late.” The candles flared. “It’s begun. You can’t stop me now.”
“Sure I can.” Napoleon pulled his weapon and fired. Leroy looked stunned as the sleeper dart hit him. He crumpled slowly to the floor. “Nighty, night.”
He grabbed an extinguisher from the wall just outside the dressing room and put out all the candles. There was shouting and screaming that nearly blocked the melody of Fire Burning Me Up. Napoleon headed for the stage.
He pulled out his communicator and shouted, “Red alert, red alert, get everyone out of the building.” He broke the glass of a fire alarm and pulled it, then raced down the stairs to the theatre’s house. It was strangely empty. He ran about halfway up, then turned and looked at the stage. Instead of the Bobby Five, there were five skeletons playing instruments and singing Fire Burning Me Up at the top of their lungs.
“What the hell…?” shouted a man as Napoleon ran up to him. He pulled off his headphones. “What’s going on?”
Napoleon could do nothing more than stare. Suddenly Leroy Tub staggered out on stage and Napoleon murmured, confused, “What? That charge is good for an hour!”
The band stopped and stared at him.
“You did this,” one accused. “You trapped us.”
“And I’m the one to free you!”
“Don’t trust you,” another rasped. “Murderer! Killer!”
“I made you famous! I made you a name!”
“You made us a footnote!” screamed the drummer. He threw his sticks aside and launched himself at the manager. The others followed and the screams made Napoleon’s blood turn cold. Without thinking about it, Napoleon pulled his weapon and fired, but the bullets simply whizzed through the skeletons.
“You can’t!” he shouted, approaching the stage. “Leave him alone.”
“Too late.” There was nothing left of the man except a shredded bloody mass. Almost instantly, even that was gone, leaving behind a pile of bones. They stepped away, swaying slightly. “It is done.”
“We are free at last.” The skeletons began to crumble and shapes rose from the piles of bones. They all headed towards Napoleon, who held his ground. “Nonbeliever, believe this!”
As they plowed through his body, Napoleon gasped and then collapsed.
He came to, staring up at the worried face of Harold. “Hey, old dude, are you okay?”
“I’m 32. I’m not old.” Napoleon struggled to sit up.
“Napoleon!” At the shout he turned. A stranger was running up to him and it wasn’t until he saw the face that he realized it was Illya. “What happened?”
He shuddered and Illya helped steady him. “I… I don’t know. The band? Are you okay?”
“Yeah, it was weird. One minute we were singing and the next...” They all exchanged unsure looks. “It was like waking up from a dream.”
“What is that?” Jerry pointed to a pile of bones.
“Sadly, that is the last remains of Leroy Tub.”
“Tubman? No!” Gus shook his head. “It can’t be.”
Napoleon rubbed the cold spot on his chest. “It’s a long story and I think I’d like to leave now.”
He remained quiet all the way back to his apartment until he suddenly roused himself from his stupor. “THRUSH – the boy!”
“Never mind, Napoleon. I turned him over to the United Nations officials early. After I explained all that had happened, we thought it would be the best.”
Napoleon lapsed back into silence then, permitting Illya to lead the way up to Napoleon’s penthouse and open the door. As soon as Napoleon was inside, Illya went straight to the bar and filled a tumbler with Scotch.
“Drink this,” he ordered as Napoleon sunk down onto the couch. He returned to the bar for his own glass of whiskey. When he turned back, Napoleon was staring at the empty glass. Illya carried the bottle to the couch and refilled Napoleon’s glass.
“You are welcome.”
“No, I mean, thanks for not asking… not pushing me for answers.”
“I have seen many things in my life, Napoleon. Some of them had explanations, some did not. A group of young men turning into skeletons and back falls under the last heading.”
“Then you saw them, too! I’m not crazy.” He drained his glass again.
“Yes, I did, and no, you are not. That does not make the situation any easier, however.”
“Actually, it does.” Napoleon suddenly felt the effects of the alcohol and took a deep breath. “I think I’m going to hit the sack.”
“Would you like me to stay?”
“That would be good, just in case.”
“Of nightmares?” Illya asked as the clock struck midnight.
“Of roving ghosts, goblins and things that go bump in the night.”